Adults who care for their aging parents must take special care to not place their own health and well-being at risk.
It’s no surprise, but caregivers often fall into that category of special people who are living their lives in isolation—and immense frustration—as they provide personal care for their loved ones.
Unwittingly, though, this community of compassionate caregivers often place “their own health at risk” through long hours of going-it-alone with little outside help. Indeed, the real heavy lifting often falls, primarily, to those living closest to the at-risk parent.
The family drama is, at best, a cruel tragedy, owing to the once child-centered life of the very parent sitting before you; then, the role reversal emerges, whereby the ‘child’ is now consumed as the parent-centered caregiver.
But the pushback coming from the elderly in these situations can border on the bewildering, making the caregiver wonder if the resistance is a sign of early dementia, or simply reflects a characteristic of their demeanor as they continue to reject help of any kind.
Too often, in the preliminary phase of identifying medical needs, or the state-of-mind of the loved one, the caregiver is eager to solve the list of problems, be it the aging parent’s living situation, or medical needs.
Unfortunately, the stress can heighten on both sides when the caregiver attempts to use logic in presenting the reasons why the loved one must agree to certain arrangements for their own good.
Determine if it’s a matter of cognitive impairment.
It’s not uncommon for the elderly to undergo some degree of emotional change after a hospitalization from a traumatic fall, for example. Often, it can take weeks for the frail to regain their “best thinking abilities.”
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the brain to become “vulnerable or damaged” as we age; brain impairment can also occur due to medications.
Ultimately, then, the caregiver must be diligent in getting to the cause of the loved one’s resistance. This might take the form of medical testing, and maybe even geriatric counseling.
The importance of being ‘heard.’
We know how important it is to have our feelings validated. It is even more so for the frail, who may be exhibiting irrational thoughts, thereby rejecting all attempts by the caregiver to offer logical solutions.
Still, validation is crucial for the elderly’s sense of independence and feelings of self-worth. As such, caregivers must be respectful of their older parent’s position, knowing that certain issues are likely to “trigger emotional responses.”
One way to counter these bursts of irrational thoughts is through the practice of “active listening.” Instead of demeaning the elderly’s thinking, the following response might help defuse a touchy situation:
“‘I really care about you, and I’d like to make sure I understand more about what you’ve been feeling about in this situation.’” Dr. Leslie Kernisan, practicing geriatrician.
It’s all about ‘safety and longevity.’
Always, the trade-offs come with the choice between safety and longevity. And, at some point, we are made painfully aware just how threatening our good intentions can be to a faltering parent.
At some point in the aging cycle, it becomes painfully aware to caregivers that the parent can not have both at the expense of some assistance.
If a loved one shows signs of dementia, then it becomes obvious that independent living is no longer an option and some form of intervention, now or in the near future, will be necessary.
What you need versus what your parents are needing.
Unfortunately, feelings of ‘guilt’ can drive caregivers into making questionable choices. What’s more, the ‘fear’ of the unknown can cloud decision-making as well. In the latter case, motivation to ‘control’ a situation might also cloud the decision that can ultimately provide comfort and happiness to our loved one.
Contact us to learn more about the options available to you as you plan for retirement and the long-term care journey.