No Help Wanted

by Sandra Lee Buxton

Offering assistance to anyone has its challenges, however when that person is a family member, it can feel like a roller coaster ride. This emotional experience is more difficult when a memory deficit or processing problem is part of the mix.

Parents continue to see their offspring as a child, a meddling child at that, and a spouse, well that takes on a life of its own. There are no cookie cutter solutions or one fail safe plan, but here are some barriers to be aware of. Monitor voice tones and facial expressions during conversation since that will be “heard” louder than words.

Also be mindful that in dealing with memory deficits, your world and the other persons reality are totally different, both are deemed to be “right.”

  • Accept that the situation is difficult and that you arenot happy. Try to understand where the frustration is coming from. It can be an anger issue from offenses actual or perceived recent or from years gone by. It is not unusual that resentment be felt that involvement is necessary at all. A undercurrent of stress is magnified if you are caring for a person who is not a “nice” person and maybe never has been.
  • Use empathy by putting yourself in their place. As an adult it is difficult to be told what to do much less how to manage your life. Friction is to be expected especially if it come from an adult child to a parent or many times a wife to her husband. Loss of control is terrifying, and to be told to give up your home or to stop driving is a devastating message.
  • Avoid the power play and threats. The person to whom you are speaking will bristle and stop listening. Angry people can’t hear, so use periods of silence if there is an emotional flare up. It also closes communication “to tell it like it is” the individual will become defensive and “push back” further.
  • Engage the services of an outside professional. An authority figure can provide the same information as the adult child or spouse but it will be received differently. It is perceived that the outsider really wants to help and family members just want to interfere. Physicians, attorneys, RNs, financial counselors, are just a few professionals that may be able to help navigate this difficult time. RNs who are accustomed to managing various aspects of care and service can help with a strategic plan. RN Care Managers work with other professionals, the client and family members to accomplish specific goals.
  • Be knowledgeable about State Laws and legal options. Just because a Power of Attorney is in place does not mean that you can take over another’s life choices. We should all have an advocate but also the right to make our own decisions while competent.
  • Important decisions take time. Some things cannot be rushed and revamping a lifestyle is one of those. Begin the “what if ”conversations so that a seed is planted and ideas are discussed before a crisis and without strong emotions. Consider these: What if you were too sick to care for yourself, what if you had to move, what if you couldn’t drive, then what?
  • Make small changes, as an example bring in assistance for just a few hours a day, one day a week. After becoming accustomed to outside help, the value is usually seen and it is easier to increase the hours when indicated. A respite is needed for all caregivers to enable some “me” time.
  • If possible encourage the loved one to announce the “time is right” to make lifestyle changes. In cases of denial, impaired judgment or a health crisis, it may be necessary to make decisions quickly and just move forward but expect negative fallout. It will take patience and encouragement for the changes to be accepted or even tolerated.
  • Set boundaries for when you are or are not available and stick to it.
  • Don’t jump every time the parent or spouse perceives an“emergency.” Let them know that appointments or transportation need to be mutually agreed upon and enlist an outside source to step in on occasion.
  • Look at options together. Do research on what type of in home care is available and choose an agency with a trusted reputation. If a move is anticipated then visit facilities with and without appointments. Visit after 5 p.m.when all of the Administration staff has left; see what meal time looks like and look in on leisure activities. Obtain advise from a professional who understands the Naples community and has had assisted living and long term care experience.
  • It’s normal to think “I’m doing all of this and I am not appreciated for it.” You’re right, it’s frequently not appreciated related to their processing problems. Know that what you’re doing is right even if their perception of reality is wrong. Take care of yourself with breaks from the caregiver role.

Making lifestyle changes for yourself is difficult but when making them for others it can be overwhelming. Remember that you don’t need to do it alone, nor should you. Rely on trusted professionals to make the transition smoother, falling into the “I can do it all” mindset will not produce a winner, just two tired and frustrated people.

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