There comes a time when most older adults need some form of assistance to get by safely, but eldercare is a topic that can create stress and strain between parents and their adult children. It's an age-old struggle: mom or dad does not want to give up any power, but changes in abilities are making independent living difficult, or even dangerous.
A geriatric care manager might be able to help your relative preserve independence, while helping you to define and meet their changing needs.
Enlist your loved one in care decisions.
It's important for seniors facing degenerative changes to have as much control over their situation as they can, and geriatric care managers are advocates for their clients, making sure that the older adults they serve never feel as though they are being pushed into anything.
In fact, according to Peggy Slade-Sowders—the Director of Episcopal Retirement Homes’ geriatric care management program Living Well Senior Solutions— while families are an important part of the caregiving process, the first responsibility of eldercare is to provide assurance and peace of mind for elder clients.
If you have a parent (or other senior loved one) who is resistant to care, one effective strategy is to show how accepting at least some help isn't a loss of control, but a way to preserve it. Accepting this minimal intervention might be a small inconvenience compared to the long-term consequences of a neglected health problem.
Your discussion with your loved one should be couched in those terms. You want to show that making these kinds of decisions is actually taking control rather than losing it.
Explain that accepting care doesn't make someone a "burden."
In fact, accepting eldercare may be a way for seniors to make sure that they aren’t “burdening” their families.
Many seniors refuse help until conditions worsen to the point that a serious incident occurs, and at that point they may have no control at all. By being proactive, some lifestyle changes may be avoided altogether. A good geriatric care management plan will seek to limit the impact of eldercare services on your loved one's independence.
Let's say, for example, that your senior relative has trouble bathing and dressing due to chronic arthritic changes or reduced mobility, they may be bathing less often and sitting around the house in the same robe day after day which increases the risk of developing skin infections, or even open bed sores, that would require hospitalization.
Instead of maintaining a relatively independent life at home, your loved one may suddenly be in an acute situation where family members must arrange, and in some instances pay for, professional nursing care.
A geriatric care manager would have been able to work with you and your loved one to head off this kind of preventable health condition. In this case, she might have recommended having a health aide come to your loved one's home once a day to help with bathing and dressing.
A loved one who tries to rationalize his or her resistance to care by expressing a desire not to be a burden should be reminded that worry about their wellbeing can be just as burdensome as the actual provision of care.
If your relative would at least consider bringing in some outside help, it could go a long way toward helping to increase his or her longevity, and to giving you peace of mind.
Talk with your senior loved one about geriatric care management. Consulting with senior healthcare specialist, such as the geriatric care managers at Episcopal Retirement Homes' Living Well Senior Solutions program, may enable him or her to stay relatively independent for a longer period of time, and avoid the hard feelings and strains on relationships that can come with senior care decision-making.