Shining a light on the uniqueness all caregiving situations share
Meet Mary and her son, Rick.
Mary is a 92-year-old client of ours. She is a senior wanting to remain independent and in her own home. Rick is a new caregiver to an aging parent.
Theirs is a story of learning and understanding, respect and dignity.
We first met Mary when she was 90 years old and living in her own home. Widowed for about 7 years, her two children lived at a distance.
Like most seniors, Mary’s preference was to stay in her home for as long as possible. She had lived in the same house for 40 years and loved her neighbourhood. She felt safe and in control living there. Everything she needed to do was within walking distance or a short drive.
Mary took pride in being on her own, and she didn’t think she needed any support. In fact, her exact words were, “I am fully capable of looking after myself and I don’t need anyone helping me.”
And it was largely true.
Mary was independent and managing her personal care habits, laundry, home maintenance and meals. She had someone to clean every two weeks. She wasn’t cooking anymore but had her routine of cereal in the morning, heating soup for lunch, popping frozen meals in the microwave, boiling water for tea or coffee, etc. She was reading the paper and getting out for a walk every day.
But family and friends were noticing changes (or signs) in Mary that caused them some concern:
Because of her particular type of memory loss, it was difficult for Mary to have insight into her cognitive changes – she literally didn’t understand why everyone was concerned. She didn’t think her family needed to be worried and would often dismiss their pleas for her to get more help.
Rick and his sibling felt stressed about their mom’s increasing support needs. They didn’t know what was normal and if their worries and concerns were valid. They were also feeling somewhat helpless to assist from afar.
Mary’s memory loss made it much more difficult for Rick to have conversations with his mom. She would often dismiss him or simply say, “There’s no need to worry about me, I’ve got it all covered.” Or when he did make some headway, Mary would forget about the conversation they had during their last visit and they’d have to start all over again.
Like so many family caregivers, Rick was going through a common range of feelings and emotions:
Rick wanted to respect his mom’s wishes and dignity, but he also worried for her safety. He decided to reach out to us for advice and guidance.
One of the starting points we had in our consult with Rick was to have him answer the following questions:
After considering these questions, Rick made a few decisions. He would discuss his concerns with his mom (again), ask her to make an appointment with her physician and then ask for permission to talk to her doctor so he could better support her. He planned to start journaling his phone calls with his mom to keep track of any unusual changes. And he would consider paying a friend or private caregiver in the community to do a weekly check-in with his mom and to establish an on-the-ground local presence.
This was just one of the first conversations we had with Rick. There would be more conversations, assessments and acquisition of supports for everyone involved. In dealing with eldercare challenges, quick fixes seldom occur – but strategies and solutions do exist.
It’s very common for an aging parent or spouse to not want more support or not to want to accept help. And it’s also normal for the children of aging parents to be feeling worried and unsure of how to approach things.
But learning what signs to watch for and observing how things change can allow caregivers to respond while doing the utmost to respect needs, desires and dignity.
And if any of this sounds familiar, know that while every case is unique, the situation and surrounding emotions are both common and normal.
Should you need any help as you face eldercare challenges, please get in touch with us at Keystone Eldercare Solutions for resources and direct support.
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– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC
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