One of the most common dilemmas involved in caregiving is persuading aging parents or friends that they need outside help. Just the thought of their independence being in question is humiliating and terrifying to them.
More than half of all seniors will refrain from asking for help, even from one of their own adult children or siblings. This attempt at privacy and self-preservation is usually the cause of many family spats, escalating into intense altercations that can go way beyond the simple silent treatment.
Unfortunately, those living with dementia often become expert at maintaining the appearance that all is well during the earlier stages — and beyond. Sadly, some maintain that impression after they begin to pose a danger to themselves or others.
Many seniors who survived the Great Depression and World War II eras are passionately private and often quite stoic. They come from a proud upbringing and will fight for every last bit of independence.
Women from this generation took pride in being homemakers and the caregivers of their families. Men traditionally were the breadwinners. This makes it a lot more difficult for them to accept benevolent assistance from anybody, all the way up to when it’s time to start to climb “Jacob’s Ladder.”
In by-gone eras it was an accepted fact of life that if grandma or grandpa became ill they would live with one of their children, grandchildren or, in some instances, a cousin or other relative. Nursing homes and private home care seem to have arrived in postwar America. It families were so busy chasing “The American Dream” during the ‘50s, ‘60s and so on that institutionalizing ill and/or elderly relatives became the norm.
Now the real problem lies with trying to get them to accept having a stranger in their home to help them. Most will put up a battle even with having their own daughter or son running their household.
It’s best to try to ease them into this new lifestyle. Ask them to give the new caregiver a try for an hour or two, and then gradually increase the length of time they spend together. It’s important that your loved one still feels that they have some control. Assure them that if it doesn’t work out, you’ll find someone else.
But, be prepared! You will hear a lot of suspicious accusations that the intruder is stealing from them, talking behind their back, etc. My dad would become extremely verbally abusive at times. But if the caregivers are professionals and well trained in dementia care, they should be able to brush off those defamations.
Hopefully you can help your loved one gradually to adapt. Believe it or not, he or she actually might begin to look forward to the caregiver’s visits.
One problem lies with state regulations. In Florida, as in most states, the lawful requirements for home care agencies to provide training in dementia care is below standards.
It is important that caregivers coming into a home struggling with dementia are trained on communication and behavioral issues, and have a clear understanding of the different types of dementia related diseases.
Last, but certainly not least, professional caregivers must learn to check their attitude at the door. If they’re having a bad day and they walk into a home struggling with dementia, I guarantee everyone’s day is going to get worse.
For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father, after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” and his other books “While I Still Can” and an expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.