A colleague of mine recently came to me with a story that I hear frequently. After receiving a call from his mother’s assisted living facility, informing him that she had fallen, he decided that she needed more assistance at her apartment. Not knowing where to turn for help, he explored various options within the health care arena. After experiencing several “bad fits” and one incompetent caregiver, he finally found the care his mother needed.
Too often, middle-aged children look for quality care for their aging parent only to receive service that doesn’t achieve the ideal care situation. The care of a loved one is not something to submit to the trial-and-error process. Most concerned middle aged children want the type of assistance that achieves three main objectives:
- Their parents receive the attention they need. This can be anything from weekly companionship to more personal needs like toileting and meal preparation.
- The caregiver is professional, dependable and certified to competently complete their tasks.
- The relationship between caregiver, parent and family members is beneficial to all parties. Everyone involved in the caregiving process should feel comfortable and secure.
Despite these common motivators, family members often struggle with the fact that their senior relative needs help. They might put on emotional blinders, not wanting to accept that fact that their parent is physically or mentally declining. Another instance happens when children live far away from their senior parent or cannot make regular assessments of their well-being. One of the first steps in receiving quality care is that children and parents alike accept that the assistance is needed. This is further complicated when children feel that by calling in a caregiver, they are falling short in their responsibilities to their parent. It is important that families talk about their feelings about care and think of the extra assistance as a needed supplement to their existing care regimen.
One instance in which extra help is needed is after a hospital stay. Whether they undergo a major surgery, chemotherapy treatments or even a trip to the emergency room, seniors are thrust into the outside world with no assistance during their recovery.
With aging often come mental lapses. We all have “senior moments”, but when these occur more frequently or for more major reasons, it may be time to evaluate a loved one’s living situation or create a memory regimen for them. If a senior parent is officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, consider professional care.
Loneliness is a strong emotional for seniors who live by themselves. While a parent might not offer the exact words, “I am lonely”, they might say “Why don’t you and the kids come out for a visit?” or “I wish you could come over more often”. They may express interest in getting a pet or chatting online, both of which are options to consider, but there are also programs and care companies that can send a caring individual to spend time with an elderly relative.
One of the main worries I hear from concerned children and grandchildren regards their elder relative’s immobility. As in my colleague’s experience, falling is not only common among senior citizens, it is dangerous. Also, when arthritis sets in, cooking, cleaning and other daily activities become difficult, if not impossible for many seniors.
Many hospital case worker and medical professionals are aware of the many types of care available. Consult with your doctor or your parent’s physician to see what care is best given your parents’ needs. When their needs are non-medical, such as household help, medication reminders and personal care, home care is an option. If their requirements are medical, such as IV changes or wound cleanings, you need the expertise of a skilled nurse. If your loved one wants more of a sense of community than one companion, many great assisted living and retirement complexes are available.
Once you recognize your loved one’s need for care and their specific needs, you can make an informed decision about the care they will receive. When ideal caregiving is achieved, worries seem to evaporate and family relationships grow as a result of high quality care.
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