Do you agree with everything you see or hear? We all have concerns, issues and situations to deal with but it is our choice how to respond. Picking your battles can be specifically important for caregivers as you are advocating for a loved one. However, there is a time and a place when you should / need to speak up. Simply put, some matters will not require the same priority as others. Read on for our top down thoughts on when to sound the alarms, when to take decisive action, and when to walk away to keep the peace.
Determining Where Mom/Dad Should Live:
You will likely get strong resistance here from your parents and siblings. Stubborn seniors often dig in their heels and refuse to leave their own homes and for good reason – abandoning a familiar home where one has lived and raised family often means acknowledging that help is needed. Brothers and/or sisters may dwell in nostalgia and not wish to see parents leave the family home and then list the property for sale. Stand firm here and thoroughly weigh the alternatives. Where is your parent’s current home … is it close to required resources? Is it convenient to visit? Is it appropriate for your parents (a larger home requires more management and upkeep)? Is it safe for your parents (stairs may become more difficult for seniors to climb/descend and falls may easily occur)? Will your parent’s home require modifications to allow your parents to remain living there?
Owning your own vehicle can provide you great convenience with getting from Point A to Point B and demonstrate independence. Operating a motor vehicle, however, requires acute senses and quick reaction time – both of which can be negatively affected by age and health problems (my mother had Parkinson’s disease and experienced difficulty, reduced flexibility, and pain when shoulder-checking while she was driving … therefore, she didn’t always shoulder-check for other drivers making passengers like me increasingly nervous). When this happens, your parents are not only risks to themselves, they are also risks to others. Giving up the car keys doesn’t come easily but it often has to be done. My sisters and I approached our parents on a unified front and explained our joint worry about them driving. This was something that they couldn’t argue. Offer viable transportation alternatives or consult with your parent’s doctor (parents may listen to medical professionals more so than their own children …).
Noting Signs of Abuse:
Senior abuse can take any number of forms: physical, mental, emotional, and/or financial. If you notice any of these signs (e.g. unexplained injuries / bruising, anxiety, withdrawal from touch, sudden/mysterious bank account withdrawals), take action by meeting with and reporting to an appropriate authority immediately. Take note that you will need substantiated proof.
Choosing Community Services:
Depending on where you live, any number of community services can be available (e.g. senior’s associations, driving services, adult day senior’s programs). While it is important to find a good match with the outside caregiving help that you need, you don’t have to prioritize this point. Instead, why not explore all the available options (i.e. try one senior’s driving service each week), compare, and then make an educated decision based on what you learn?
Delegating Caregiving Tasks:
There can be many caregiving tasks to complete (both routinely and irregularly) and determining who does what may seem significant; however, remember that these choices can easily be changed. If a sibling chooses not to help out with a specific job or finds it uncomfortable for any reason, choosing someone else to do it instead will be preferable to trying to convince him/her to take on the work.
Arguing the Facts:
My father had Alzheimer’s disease and I learned very quickly that his stories became twisted or completely false. Instead of arguing with Dad, I simply smiled and agreed with him. You will never convince a parent with Alzheimer’s of anything else and you will only frustrate all parties involved by showing doubt. And, at the end of the day, does it really matter if Mom / Dad remembers the family vacation was in Florida rather than Hawaii?
By choosing when to speak up and when to hold your tongue, you can better focus on what needs to be done and have more energy to tackle what is really important.