by, Dale Carter
We see our parents struggling with their living situation, and we have tried every way possible to talk with them about it, but they refuse to accept help in their home. What can we do? On a high level, the mention of services brought into the home can make your parent think, “This is the first step to losing my independence. If this happens, what’s next?” Whether they consciously or unconsciously have this thought, they will want to fiercely grab on to the life they know and resist any change.
- Your parent may treasure their privacy, so even the mention of bringing a home aide or visiting nurse into their home, may be unsettling.
- Your parent may be financially conservative, wanting to be frugal and responsible. They’ve lived through the Great Depression. They see their health care costs rising, and the instability of world economy.
So, with those thoughts in mind, how can we approach the conversation in a more empathetic way?
- Begin by listening to your parent. Have a relaxed conversation away from your homes, perhaps in a park or some other peaceful setting. You’ll be amazed at how this can break the cycle of a “stuck” conversation. Ask a big question like, “Mom, what has been the most difficult part of aging for you?” She’ll have to dig deep to answer that, and you’ll learn about her values, wishes and goals. And, you will then be able to find common ground and build trust as you work together in the future, in finding the right option for your parent.
- Observe. Become like a quiet shadow beside your parent. Envision yourself as a caring friend. Watch how your parent moves, what they struggle with, what makes them happy, how they interact with their friends and the outside world. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed or disturbed by what you see. By all means, do NOT jump into solution-mode. I love this quote by James Thurber, “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” This is what we need to do as we seek to understand our aging parents.
- Reach out to your Area Agency on Aging. Now that you have listened and observed, you will need to reach out and learn about options and resources. Every part of the country is covered by one of these agencies, funded by the federal government. They offer a hotline staffed by trained elder advisors. They maintain a comprehensive listing of community resources, and most now have a geriatric care manager on staff. No matter where you or your parent are in the country, you can go to their website and plug in a zip code to get the contact information for your Area Agency on Aging. Simply explain your parent’s need(s) and ask for assistance.
- Reach out to a geriatric care manager. So, you’ve tried the listening and the observing. And, you reached out to your Area Agency on Aging and gathered resources and options. But, your parent will still not consider accepting help. Then it is time to have a professional step in and assist. Your Area Agency on Aging can recommend a geriatric care manager. This professional usually has a background as a social worker or nurse. Such individuals have the experience and sensitivity to meet with your parent in their home and do a holistic assessment (of your parent, their living environment, their support structure) and then make recommendations. They are trained to know that each elderly person and each family are unique in their needs and wishes. They will be able to frame their recommendations in a way that will help your aging parent understand it is in their best interest.
Filed under adult children of aging parents, Alzheimer's Disease, assessments, care giving, care planning, caregiver burnout, caregiving, dementia, elder care raleigh nc, family meetings, Geriatric Care Management, Having a conversation, long term care planning, NC, Raleigh, senior care, sibling relationships, support groups
by Maggie Almeida
Caregiving itself is an art. Many today are part of the Sandwich Generation who find themselves caring for both young children and teenagers as well as aging parents. Caregivers need to be professional multi-taskers to address everyone’s needs and not neglect their own. So what should a good caregiver focus on? As many know, it’s a balancing act, but there’s an order to follow starting with the caregiver himself.
Step number one is to look out for number one; me, myself, I, the big cheese, the head beagle (just ask Snoopy). This may sound selfish, but it’s really the most unselfish place to start. After all, if number one is not well, you cannot take care of your other charges. If you have a good attitude, you can even overcome your own health issues with greater ease. Those you care for also notice because they naturally behave as they see you behaving. This is called mirroring. One wise caregiver told me that her husband with Alzheimer’s was manageable because she knew that when her demeanor was calm, so was his. If she raised her voice, so did he. You can see where this leads. The caregiver had total control of her life as long as she managed her own emotions.
Step number two would be to give your attention to the next most vulnerable person you’re caring for. If it’s a child, have the older generation help since they may be acting childlike now. They may be able to play simple games with a child that you don’t have time for. Age and ability specific jigsaw puzzles, puppets, lying down with a child to get them to take a nap, or any other play related activity.
If your children are older, and you need to focus on Mom or Dad or Aunt Sally, have the older children help you in caring for your aged loved one. Keep it small and simple, but their involvement can mean the world to the older relative. It esteems them and they feel useful, as if the child needs their guidance. Some children feel esteemed when they’re asked to help and it also builds their character to practice acts of kindness toward the elderly. If they want an example of the positive impact of a grandmother on a pop star they all know, look at Will Smith. Even while accepting an American Music Award he gave the credit to his grandmother. She must have been inspirational, but he also allowed himself to be inspired by spending time with her. Parents can make this happen and enhance the whole family dynamic as well as build its heritage.
In conclusion, look at multi-tasking as building blocks. Today many families are fragmented because a caregiver in the sandwich generation gets burnt out on both ends. As they focus on caregiving, there are levels of trust and affection that we build. When the stress gets too much, sometimes the “tower of family solidarity” gets knocked down. Someone yells or cries. This doesn’t mean that the tower is erased from memory. Go back and do something nice for yourself because you are the cornerstone of your tower. The other blocks will be added again and again. Focus on the big picture because your part in caregiving is a temporary role in a continuum. As soon as your duties end, you may be the one needing care.
Filed under adult children of aging parents, Adult day care, aging drivers, Aging In Place, Alzheimer's Disease, anxiety and the elderly, assessments, care giving, care planning, caregiver burnout, caregiving, caregiving and the holidays, dementia, Depression and the elderly, elder care raleigh nc, employee stress, family meetings, Geriatric Care Management, Having a conversation, NC, Raleigh, respite, senior care, sibling relationships, support groups
~Paula Spencer Scott
No, it’s not all sweetness and light taking care of an aging loved one. They can make us mad. Very mad. Very, very, very mad.
Take, for example, some things I’ve heard caregivers say (or, uh, said myself. . . though I won’t say which ones!):
- “I try to do something nice for her and she ignores it, or complains!”
- “She makes me so mad because she doesn’t trust me!”
- “I could throttle him when he launches into that same story again. . . .”
- “How can I help but lose my temper with my mom when she ticks off the aides I’ve so carefully hired?”
- “Why why WHY does he keep doing that? He should know better!”
- Fill in your own blank!
What follows when our loved ones make us angry is often worse than pure anger: It’s anger mingled with guilt. We feel guilty because often the person can’t help being the way he or she is (dementia, depression, difficult illness). We feel guilty when we keep the upset feelings bottled up and simmering inside. We feel guilty when we snap and say something rude or sharp to the person. We can’t win.
So here’s one guilt-soothing thing to remember about caregiver anger: It reveals something very important about you.
No, not that you’re short-tempered or foul-natured. Not that you lack self control. Not that you’re uncaring or mean. Not that you’re even doing anything terribly wrong, really.
Getting mad at your loved one when you’re a caregiver reveals this about you: You’re human.
You’re only human.
So stop beating yourself up for what are, let’s face it, often perfectly natural responses to extreme stress. Do work on reducing the causes of that stress. But don’t add to your misery with a needless layer of guilt.
If you neverevereverever get mad, hats off; you’re human, too, though with a much longer fuse than the rest of us. But if you’re like the rest of us, you’ve gotten mad before, and you’ll be mad again.
And it’s okay. Because it’s normal.
Filed under adult children of aging parents, Aging In Place, Alzheimer's Disease, anxiety and the elderly, care giving, care planning, caregiver burnout, caregiving, caregiving and the holidays, dementia, Depression and the elderly, elder care raleigh nc, employee stress, family meetings, Geriatric Care Management, NC, Raleigh, respite, senior care, sibling relationships, support groups