June 3, 2013
For most people, it’s not easy coming to terms with aging and admitting that things a person once took in stride are now causing difficulty. Pride is at stake, and fear of change and of the future can loom large. It is somehow easier to be an ostrich – to bury one’s head in the sand and pretend it will all go away. But that is not going to happen. Aging is, unfortunately, a one-way street.
As the child of an aging parent, it can be distressing to see a loved one decline; but how do you approach the subject of getting them help without being perceived as interfering and controlling? It is heartening to bear in mind that many situations that start off badly do have happy endings.
TRUE AMADA STORIES
Take the case of one of our clients we will call Theresa. Theresa is legally blind and was living with her daughter and son-in-law – who are both retired and love to travel. Travel, however, meant leaving Theresa alone; which her daughter Maria was not at all happy about. When Maria suggested bringing in an Amada caregiver, her mother completely refused and insisted she was fine on her own. After much bargaining, Theresa reluctantly agreed to a caregiver, but only on the days Maria was away. At first she was stubborn and somewhat taciturn, but gradually grew to like her caregiver so much that she asked Maria if she would increase the hours. Theresa now has a full time live-in caregiver and feels happy, relaxed and secure.
At Amada we know that no two cases are the same. We have other clients we will call Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith needs care but her husband feels it is wrong to bring in someone else to do things he should be doing himself. He struggles, but his pride won’t let him admit this. The problem has been solved by Mrs. Smith and her daughter; who have arranged for a caregiver to come in who tactfully allows her husband to do as much as he can. Mr. Smith is still not entirely happy with the situation, but is encouraged by Mrs. Smith to go out on his own for a coffee or to the library while the caregiver is in the house. He is beginning to enjoy that freedom.
Based on our experience, here are some of the approaches that we at Amada have found successful:
- Research: do your research so you have all the information at your fingertips when you approach the subject.
- Know the alternatives: Amada can help you find out about the different senior housing options available in your community. Ask about arranging a visit to one of these communities with your aging parent. As a first step, we often suggest having lunch at the community to get a feel for the place.
- If you know in advance that your parent is adamant about staying at home, Amada can help you find out what in-home caregiving services are available.
- Have a meeting, not just with adult children – but include caring others as well. A best friend may have greater influence than “the kids.”
- A doctor’s input can be invaluable if you feel your parent is at risk living alone. Seniors usually respect their doctor’s advice and take it seriously.
- Be persistent without being pushy. Ongoing encouragement, discussion and patient suggestions may eventually be heeded. The ideal situation is when the parents reach the conclusion themselves that a different living situation would be a good idea.
WHAT IF LOVED ONES ARE A DANGER TO THEMSELVES?
The worst-case scenario is that a parent suffers a fall or an injury and that this is what forces the change. If a parent resists all suggestions and help, you cannot force them. There are no laws against adults, even aging ones, making silly decisions. As responsible, caring family members, we have to encourage our parents to be aware of their own safety and overcome their fear of change.
Legal steps are a last resort, but may be necessary if you really feel your loved one is at risk.