I am thrilled to have today's post written by Barbara Friesner, author of The Ultimate Caregiver's Survival Guide. Barbara is an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been featured on NY1 TV's "Focus on Seniors", "Coping With Caregiving" and on radio shows across the country.
As care manager, first for her grandmother and now her mother (with dementia), Barbara learned first hand how overwhelming, stressful, and time consuming elder care can be. As a result, Barbara started AgeWiseLiving to help others navigate through this challenging time, and avoid the emotional and frustrating task of finding the answers themselves and trial-and-error implementation.
The holidays may be over, but for many caregivers, the concern lingers on. I’m getting a lot of calls from people who saw their parents for the first time in months and were shocked at how they have aged. Therefore, in addition to questions to ask your parents, there are also questions to ask yourself.
➢ Is your loved one clean and well groomed?
➢ Is s/he properly dressed with clean clothes?
➢ Has s/he gained or lost significant weight?
➢ Is s/he walking well (eg: good balance and posture)?
➢ Do you notice changes to his/her hearing, sight or speech.
➢ Is s/he is more timid, apprehensive or withdrawn?
➢ Do you notice a change in short term memory? Does s/he seem confused and/or lose her/his train of thought easily and/or often? Does s/he ask the same questions and/or tell the same stories over and over?
At their home:
➢ Has the neighborhood changed? Does it look safe?
➢ Is the exterior of the house maintained?
➢ Is the interior of the house neat, clean, and well maintained?
➢ Is the refrigerator stocked with fresh (or at least edible) food?
➢ Do you notice excessive clutter and things like piles of unopened mail, lots of sweepstakes offers, etc?
➢ If the home has stairs, can s/he navigate the stairs safely or does it look like s/he is now living on the ground floor because of an inability to navigate the stairs?
What you see can run the gamut from "everything is fine" to "something is definitely wrong". If you see something critical or alarming, obviously you have to take action immediately. If you don't see anything out of the ordinary, then take the opportunity to start talking. The more you talk now, the easier it will be to talk about difficult topics later.
Some do’s and don’t’s for bringing up the conversation:
➢ Do know, understand, and respect the importance of their emotions. They’re going through a difficult, emotional time.
➢ Do know, understand, and respect the importance of their generational experiences. It’s human nature to think that everyone – especially our parents – think the way we do but they don’t. Understanding where they’re coming from is critical to your success.
➢ Do bring up difficult issues gradually – starting with the most urgent concerns. Don’t try to do all at once – you can’t cover everything in one conversation.
➢ Do find a quiet time – perhaps over a cup of tea – and allow time to stop and reintroduce later.
➢ Don’t think in terms of “parenting the parent”. The best you can hope for is a collaboration
➢ Do look for the underlying cause rather than addressing the symptoms. For example, your father has a couple of fender-benders so you want to take away the car. But before you do, ask yourself if the problem is with his driving or could it be something else such as a problem with his eyes?
➢ Do help them see why change is in their best interest (You can make anyone want to change).
For more information about talking with your aging loved one, please check out Barbara's website, www.AgeWiseLiving.com.
Barbara E. Friesner
Author of “The Ultimate Caregiver’s Survival Guide”