Understandably, as we move through our twilight years, many people have a difficult time accepting that they need help. This is particularly true with the current generation of seniors we’re caring for. Many have been through very difficult times, some traumatic world events, and consider themselves tough, hearty, and self-sufficient.
They also consider it a badge of honor that they can persevere through hardship or lean economic times.This is definitely something to take pride in, and most of us show respect to these survivors. However, this kind of pride can become a major obstacle to our senior loved ones receiving the appropriate care and supervision they may need.
There are many familiar stories out there of aging moms, dads, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who simply refuse to even consider receiving in-home senior care. And many will tell you to forget about transitioning them into an elder care facility!
Compounding Problems with Dementia
Perhaps their vision is failing, yet they continue to drive themselves around unaware of the major risks and hazards to themselves and others that they create on the road.
This is compounded tenfold if the person is suffering from early stages of dementia, cognitive impairment, or show signs of Alzheimer’s. The changes in personality that sometimes accompany this decline can add to the stress that’s already tough to manage.
It’s common for dementia patients to become verbally abusive or say things that are just downright rotten. Their words can feel like a gut-punch. We sometimes regress to our childhood responses, which only makes matters worse.
There are several things to keep in mind that can help get out ahead of these situations before they advance too much. The first is to start the conversation about senior care before the decline sets in, and while the person is still sound of mind and rational. Once those qualities diminish, your work gets a whole lot harder.
Patience is key. Ask broad-ranging questions about the day-to-day activities and routines and give the person lots of time and space to answer.
It may take a few attempts to get to the bottom of a particular issue or whatever is creating confusion, and you may even have to lose a few battles to get there, but you are also likely to glean useful information that can help you strategize how to get them the care they need with as little drama as possible. Remember to grant them control when possible. It is always easier to work with someone when you are viewed as an advocate instead of an adversary.
When you are in these conversations with your senior loved ones, ask questions that probe deeply into the reasons behind the stubbornness. Irrational behaviors are often fear-based, so try to identify where the fear is coming from, whether it is the fear of losing one’s privacy or independence, or fear that the cost of care will be a burden on the family.
These are difficult things to own up to, so be gentle, listen with compassion, and make an effort to validate their feelings, rather than make counter-arguments.
Bringing in Support of a Senior Care Manager
When you’re making a move to put a caregiver in place, keep the senior loved one involved in the decision-making process. Let them make any choices that are appropriate and provide options for them to choose from. The more empowered they feel through the process, the more likely that are to accept the results.
Outside support can be invaluable as well. Sometimes it might take a social worker, medical professional, elder care manager, church official, family friend, or even a caring neighbor to suggest that the person might need a little help.
It is often received from a more neutral perspective when it comes from a third party rather than an immediate family member. Begin early in assessing and recruiting your options for who might be a good fit for this role.
Writing down individual problems or concerns, as well as solutions that have already been implemented, can help you feel a sense of accomplishment, stay on task, and effectively prioritize where your efforts are best placed at any given moment.
Language is also a big factor. If you characterize the incoming senior caregiver as someone who can help cook meals, clean up, do laundry, and otherwise take laborious tasks off your loved one’s plate, they may be more receptive than if you refer to them as an in-home senior healthcare provider. The imagery you create with your language can make or break your efforts.
Most importantly, take your time. Don’t rush through decision-making, and don’t try to be a superhero. If you wear yourself down too much, you’ll be less able to be of service to your loved one, to your own needs, and those of any others who may also be depending on you for support. Speak to a senior care manager to help with these tough decisions with your elderly loved ones.