Do you have fond memories of a family member your mother, father, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or even a long-time family friend? You remember them as strong, able to conquer anything. Now every decision seems like a major obstacle. When you see them these days their wit isn’t as sharp. You don’t hear their laughter as often, maybe not at all. They seem a little afraid, disconnected, lost.
At some point you or someone else close to them needs to make difficult decisions before they have an accident or get lost. All too often we hear news stories of elderly individuals who have disappeared or we see their license plate numbers and descriptions on the Texas.dot lighted signs along the interstate highways. They need help. Who’s going to provide it? Maybe you’ve already decided to step in. If so you’re not alone. According to a poll conducted by Gallup in its Healthways Well-Being Index on caregiving in America, one in six American workers reported providing care to an aging family relative or friend in addition to working a full- or part-time job in 2011. Gallup conducted telephone surveys of caregivers in every major city across America of caregivers who spent significant time running errands, helping with tasks around the house and providing companionship for their loved ones.
One of the people I most admire is a friend who has taken care of two aunts, her mother and mother-in-law—all diagnosed with dementia. She and her husband have done this most of their marriage, long distance while working in full-time careers raising two children.
There were other relatives living closer but the extra help and breaks this couple provided were not only appreciated; they were necessary for the family members who provided daily care. While one aunt had a daughter nearby, the other aunt’s son had died in a car accident, and her husband had also died leaving her virtually alone. At first when my friend and her husband visited, they saw little declines in each family member. Then they started noticing behavior changes, forgetfulness in how to accomplish tasks their loved ones had easily done all their lives and difficulty in making even simple decisions.
So when do you know that it’s time to intervene for a loved one? Though they may not ask for help if you’re sensitive to changes in their behavior and know them well, you may see a specific need or sense that something is just not right. A change in medication can sometimes trigger an unintended reaction. Calling the physician or the pharmacist to report the patient’s reaction is important so that adjustments can be made in dosage, timing or possibly eliminate that medication. Sometimes, a medicine prescribed by one physician interacts with another medicine prescribed by another physician. The two doctors may not know about all the medications the patient is taking, and the patient may forget to tell them.
It’s vitally important to have someone accompany your loved ones to their doctors’ appointments to help them in and out of the car, fill out paperwork, report the facts and ask questions no matter what diagnosis they have. These patients often don’t see and hear as well as they once did, and they may forget important details or misunderstand the doctor’s instructions.
Keeping the same routine is helpful for many who are elderly, especially those with dementia. Changes can be upsetting. By anticipating potential problem situations, you might avoid them altogether.
Being a caregiver for an aging relative or friend can be a rewarding experience whether you do it full or part time. It’s a role that you can grow into and embrace. Sometimes you’ll see a glimpse of that younger beloved relative or friend, see life from their perspective or even make some new memories to cherish later.
Written by By Suzy Lundquist – Agape Home Care