As geriatric care managers and co-owners of Life Transition Resources, we get lots of questions from clients who are in difficult situations on how they manage issues with mom and dad, or mom or dad. One of the questions that we commonly get is, my parents need help, but they won’t accept any help. What do we do? And so want to talk about that for a minute.
When you have a parent who is experiencing some physical decline and you’re watching the signs and feeling helpless, it’s really hard to know what to do. When you make suggestions for help and the parents resist, saying, “No, no, we are fine, it’s all okay, butt out, there are many responses you can hear.
One of the things that I recommend is to start compiling the list of evidence detailing how their health is declining and why you are so concerned. Some signs to look for: 1. Are house maintenance project left undone? 2. Has there been a fall? 3. Is there a dent in the car, unexplained scrap down the side of the car? When you start to see this signs and compile new evidence, bring together your support team, siblings, a neighbor, a trusted physician, whoever you would envision as being supportive and being someone your parent would accept at a family meeting. Then, lay out the evidence using language like this:
“These are some examples of what has occurred recently.”
“Here is what we all see.”
“This is why we think you need some help.”
“I understand you’ve been resistant to this every other time in the past,when we’ve recommended that we hire a service or you give up the car, but we are concerned about your safety. We care about you being safe, you being well cared for, supported, and experiencing the best quality of life. These are the things that we see that indicate you are not thriving in this current environment. And we want to be part of the solution, to help you get all your needs help in your environment and be as happy as you could be.”
Then have your suggestions ready. If the issue is driving, to yank a person’s car away and leave them no options for them to see the future is devastating. So you’ve got to have a resource at the ready. If that’s the phone number for the taxi company and instructions on how to call the taxi, offer to take the first few trips with them. Talk about how much money they will save giving up the car, selling it, and not paying insurance. That money can now be directed into their taxi fund.
If its lawn care or house maintenance, have some handyman ready to help and offer to be the person who will supervise the work.
If it’s showering assistance, and they’re not bathing regularly, shower aids should be engaged a couple of times a week. Have those resources available.
If all of this is too overwhelming for you, then there are resources you can call, the Area Agency on Aging. Andrea and I, as geriatric care managers, know area resources and have guided and directed families to find the services that they need to help their parents thrive when they’re experiencing physical limitations.
Good Physical Health Accompanied by Significant Cognitive Decline
I would like to address the matter which where the aging person is physically in pretty good shape, but his cognition that is impaired. And maybe they have a dementia diagnosis. And they’re not making good decisions and there are a whole lot of questions about whether or not they’re safe in their home. Maybe the neighbors are seeing that things aren’t as well cared for as they once were. Maybe routines aren’t being followed as they used to be followed, or they’re repeating themselves. Friends are reporting to you that they’re noticing changes in appearance and some confusion and some memory issues.
These are all signs that it is time to create a safe environment for your parent, all the while preserving their dignity and their independence, as well as the relationship you have together. And walking down this tricky path can take a lot of finesse, can take an entire team to help make sure all of these things are preserved. It is primarily important to get a supportive voice from your mother’s or father’s physician, as well as engaging an attorney to make sure that important legal papers are in place in case you need to make decisions on behalf of your parent. Get acquainted with the bank, too. If there are other accounts, you may want to try and be a co-signer on them.
It’s really important that there be a kind of invisible team wrapped around your parent: friends, neighbors, and professionals. Law enforcement, too, should be given a heads up, especially if there are wandering issues. Make sure your parent has an identifying bracelet, so that if they’re not sure where they are, and they don’t have their purse or wallet, you can still be contacted.
It’s a gradual process. It takes a lot of patience. And eventually, when perhaps a crisis arises or there is a significant decline, then you already have established documentation as to what is happening. And somebody who is an experienced professional like a geriatric care manager or an elder law attorney can certainly help you walk through all of these steps and help your loved one transition as best as he or she can.