While the 1990s song by the Smiths has nothing to do with family caregiving, the title of it gets to the heart of the matter. Whether or not your family members have been open about the matter of who will take care of your elders and how that will happen, the matter of when usually remains a tricky matter. For example, even though Annie Oakley talked for at least ten years about us taking care of her, now was never the right time, because she was always fine and capable to take care of herself. At lease that was the world as seen through Annie’s eyes, which in and of themselves were not all that precise. Added to this issue is that the family members who live close by see things changing gradually, and so often don’t see the changes as they occur. And, last but not least, is the matter of the elderly person faking it like crazy, perhaps out of pride, out of hope, or out of true self-denial. In cases in which the decline of the elderly person is gradual the denial of everyone involved can go on for decades before something or someone forces the hands of the family members to take action.
When is the time for long term care? Since I have been talking with people about caregiving situations, here are some of the situations that have helped family members realize that the time was now to take action to make arrangements for care of their family members:
- a fall
- a major or series of health issues
- a sudden drop in weight
- an apparent worsening of hearing or vision
- loss of cognition
- a car accident (either with care recipient at the wheel or as a pedestrian)
- a visit from a police officer following complaints about the care recipient’s driving
- observations by doctor
- worsening of condition of dwelling or grounds
- clothing not being changed and/or cleaned
- loss of interest in previous passions
- increase in interest in mail received from people claiming the care recipient having won huge amounts of money, etc.
Aside from family members simply not wanting to face up to their reality, in many cases the family members simply are daunted by the work that must be done to provide everything that is needed to ensure the safety of their elder going forward. With ‘now’ finally knocking and getting an answer, the flood gates open and, particularly if you have not yet set the wheels of care in motion, the to-do list seems to grow the more we do, as we peel back the layers of help needed by the elder, who simply wants to turn back the clock and be able and capable to stay put.
Most often this is a phase of extremely mixed emotions for everyone, and one that can be made much less difficult with advanced planning. When People have no idea of where to begin, often a call to the elderly person’s doctor is a good starting point, or to your local health care centre or clinic. These professionals should be able to send potential caregivers in the best direction for action to take place, for the sake first and foremost of the elder, and then for everyone involved to take action and get the issue in hand.
Yours in caregiving …