By Guest Author: Marcia Conard
In this day and age of advanced science and medicine, people are living to riper, older ages and the elderly and their loved ones are faced with many tough decisions. Some of the baby boomers are already starting to tip the scale of being more on the elderly end of the scale, but many are finding themselves in that group that are caretakers or potential caretakers.
Okay, so those subtle changes you were starting to notice in Mom or Dad (or other elderly loved one) are becoming more distinct. As busy as your life is and as much as you don’t want to add something more on your plate, these changes simply aren’t going away. It is time to start working on some of those “tough decisions.” Things you need to consider are, of course, what is changing. Does your loved one(s) live in their own home? Do they live alone or with someone else? Are they mobile not only in walking and getting around the house and yard, but also with regard to transportation to do their shopping, getting to appointments, and places to handle their other needs? Are they still able to handle the day to day chores around the home (ie cooking, cleaning, laundry, other)? Are you the only one available to assist them, or are there other family members or friends that can help? What a wonderful blessing if you have others you can build a “team” with and make the needed decisions and handle the caretaking with. If there is no one else, You Can Do This!
If Mom and Dad or other loved one(s) don’t live alone, do they complement each other to continue living in their current housing arrangement with some assistance or changes that will make things easier and safer for them? Are they contending with stairs and need to be on one level? Can changes be made in their current housing arrangement to accommodate their needs to better suit their capabilities? Is it possible to have someone come in once or twice a week to help with chores that are simply becoming too difficult? This may mean that you are that “someone” to provide the assistance, and Yes I know I am talking about things that incur costs which brings us to Mom and Dad’s or other loved one(s) finances and what they can afford.
So many questions! So many “tough decisions” to be made! Many of the decisions to be made are based on “what is changing” with your loved one(s). Remember, you are not alone. Millions of households across our great land are immersed in the same situation. Fortunately our society is very aware of what is happening with our older generation and there are many options available to accommodate a whole host of things that they need. Do you know others going through the same thing? Compare notes. What options and resources have they explored? Maybe you will discover a starting place for you to begin on your journey through these “tough decisions.” If not, start exploring options on your own. Your local Council on Aging can be a very valuable resource. The yellow pages or your local public library can provide references to explore and contact information as well.
I know this is scary and you want to make the right decisions, but can you imagine if it is scary for you, how scary it is for your loved one(s)! The most important things are that they are safe and have the best quality of life going forward as possible. What could be harder for any of us than starting to lose bits and pieces of our independence?
It could be that some of the changes to be made are simple at first. It may be time for your loved one to consider using a cane or walker. Maybe a pillbox will help organize and be a great reminder of when to take medications and supplements. Possibly someone can come in once a week or twice a month to keep the house clean. Yard work and snow removal can be hired done. “Meals on Wheels” may be an option in providing some meals. These are all simple options that may keep your loved one in their own home a little longer.
Maybe it is time to downsize to a smaller home. Is your loved one willing or do you foresee convincing them to move is going to be met with resistance? If you think you are running into a brick wall on this subject, don’t pressure but continue to move forward. What is right for your loved one? A smaller home? An apartment? A condo? An independent or assisted living facility? Do your homework. What should the long range plan be? If a smaller home is chosen, will another move be necessary in a year or two? That can be a lot of stress on an aging loved one. This means you need to have a good handle on what the mental and physical capacity of your loved one(s) is and what it will become. Based on this information, line up some places to consider for a move and approach your loved one(s), “Let’s go for a ride and take a look. No pressure. We are just looking.” Don’t line up too much in a day or afternoon as they can’t handle a marathon of appointments like they use to! Let them sleep on it, but sit down for a discussion soon so they know you are serious and it is tough decision time. It’s okay to revisit a place(s) you looked at. Spend time there. Let them ask questions. Is it a facility where meals are served? If so, ask to try out the dining room. Is it an option to move into the facility for a “trial” period? Any or all of these things will increase your loved one’s comfort level and lead to a decision. It will be important to enthusiastically support the decision and assist with the packing and move.
Whew! Lived through that, now don’t forget to visit and support them as they become acclimated to their new environment!
Take a moment to reflect upon this experience and the ones to come. One day this is going to be you needing to make changes based upon your own physical and mental health changes. What have you learned? How do you want to prepare? Who should be involved with you? Start the process and sit down with your family, so that you are all on the same page and perhaps the “tough decisions” to be made by you and for you may be a much easier task when the time comes!