Denial Is Not A Strategy – Planning for Unexpected Eldercare Challenges

By Valerie
June 10, 2010

There are days where being in denial is better than coming face to face with reality. Like when your child is so misbehaved in the grocery store, you actually believe this small evil person is not your next of kin and you start looking for the mother with the rest of the passersby. Or when you go to zip up those pants and you are furious with your husband for shrinking them in the wash, again.

In my line of work, families are often in denial. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them. Denial was our family’s middle name as we were caring for our father and grandmother.

It’s really heart wrenching to watch our parents or grandparents become frail or deal with the aftermath of a stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other chronic illnesses. Whether it’s the loss of health, the decrease in independence, the anticipated loss of a spouse or the disenfranchised grief with dementia, family caregivers rarely take time to sort through the range of emotions associated with these losses.

Sometimes it’s denial and other times, life keeps moving us forward with equally important priorities such as work and raising a family. Mostly though, caregivers are surprised by the number of challenges they face, or the ones they didn’t expect, such as the following:

Think Worst Case Scenario

Yes, it’s morbid and at best uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you rather have had a discussion about an Advanced Health Care Directive with your parents than having to make the decision to take them off life support? What would your family do if the primary caregiver were no longer able to care for your aging loved one? Who would step in? Who would coordinate the care? Would dad want to live in his home, move to yours or go to a supported housing facility? Who would pay if private care were needed? Is there enough to pay?

Evaluate the Situation

Seniors and their families want to scan the overall picture and find out what’s working well and what isn’t. This provides a benchmark to compare with down the road if health or mental abilities change. This includes:


Putting Together a Care Plan

Once you’ve assessed the situation, families are best to prioritize concerns and issues. If possible, stay objective. Writing things down is always helpful. Start by:

The bottom can fall out when you least expect it. Do you have a safety net?



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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC