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September 30th, 2016

Aging with Grace…

When you become the main caregiver for a loved one, many times other family members are involved. This involvement can take many forms from financial support to active physical support or in some instances, no support at all. Each situation/family is different and each person within the family handles the emotional stress of having an ill loved one differently. That being said, family needs to come together and support each other through this difficult time. Below are a few scenarios/suggestions/tips to help you and your family work through this sometimes challenging process.

Q) My father is caring for my mother who is bedridden; how can I get him to let others help out? My siblings and I have offered to stay with mom so he can run errands or take a break but he’s determined not to “bother” us. We don’t want to make him angry or upset but we truly want to help out.

A) If you haven’t already done this, try having a discussion with your father about how important it is to everyone who wants to help out and spend time with him and your mother. Be prepared to offer him a list of dates and times that you and your siblings have set aside to be there. Offer to complete a household chore you know he doesn’t like doing or schedule one of you to stay with Mom and another sibling to take Dad out for lunch or shopping. This is likely to be a gradual process, so don’t get upset and frustrated. Sometimes, just being there and spending time with him and your Mom is the most persuasive method. Of course if you notice that your Dad is beginning to experience caregiver burnout or struggle with illnesses of his own, the family may want to enlist help from the family physician.

Q) My mother’s health is failing and she still lives alone in her own home. How do we begin a discussion with her about the possibility of moving in with my brother or me or even to an assisted living facility? She’s very independent and used to making all her decisions by herself.

A) You don’t mention how she is failing (physically or mentally) which will make a difference in how you approach this discussion.

- If your mother’s mind is clear, an open discussion between the three of you is a good starting place. Let her know you aren’t trying to take control of her life and that you’re concerned about her safety and well-being. There are many options available for elders in this situation depending on whether or not she wants to continue living in her own home and is financially able to continue there. Some options available are home sharing, housekeeping and repair services, home health services, adult day services, senior housing, etc.

- If your mother has an illness that includes dementia or other cognitive issues, your approach is likely to be more about you and your brother deciding what would be best and then deciding how to share that information without upsetting or frightening her. In this situation, some of the options available are adult day services, assisted living facilities, personal care attendants, etc.

Consult with your local Council on Aging or Home Health agency for a more comprehensive list of available services.

Q) I’m taking care of my mother who has dementia and none of my siblings are helping at all. I keep hearing that they want to help but nothing ever comes of it. All I get are complaints about what I do to care for her. This is making me angry and frustrated. How do I get them to be helpful?

A) If you haven’t had a family meeting to discuss Mom’s situation, begin with that step. Prepare a list of things you want/need your family’s help with and let them choose what they can do to help. Also enlist their help with how to resolve things that come up in the future. Involving the family in making decisions regarding Mom’s care will also deflect any criticism directed towards you. If you have already been through this process and it hasn’t worked, consider enlisting help from a mediator, social worker or geriatric care manager.

The answers to the above questions are not meant to be all inclusive. Each individual situation is different. Please discuss your own personal situation with your family, friends, case managers, mental health professional, family physician, clergyman or whoever supports you. If you don’t have a support system in place, please reach out to any of the above resources and begin building one.

If you have topics you’d like more information on or questions you’d like answered, please email me: DearGrace@pibarre.org or write me: Dear Grace, c/o Project Independence, 81 N. Main Street – Suite 1, Barre, VT 05641-4283

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