I cared for both parents for years prior to their journey to that big golf club in the sky. Daddy had advanced heart disease, Mother had Rheumatoid Arthritis, cancer, and major side effects from her meds - daily nausea and debilitating dizziness.
I learned a whole lot from my experience, from handling stereotyping doctors (old means don't bother) to ensuring quality of care in a facility - and doing it all pretty much alone (2 sibs lived in another state, the other was unable to handle the stressors and unpleasantries of care).
Here's what I learned that I hope will help you when/if your turn comes, whether it's an elder or a non-elder loved-one.
One of our generational characteristics is that we have no problem taking control of situations; in fact, we get cranky when we lose control, or perceive we’re losing control, of the things that impact our lives. Well, use this characteristic well when it comes to ensuring that the elders in your life are cared for well. Don’t park it at the doctor’s office door, or before entering the facility in which your parents live.
First: Be a full partner in care, not a passive consumer
Second: Hold your healthcare professionals accountable for quality care
Do not accept non-answers, condescension, vague answers, answers in medical jargon, or the attempt made by so many doctors to treat your questions as silly or unnecessary – you would not accept this of any other service provider, and a doctor is no different.
In fact, seek out the leaders in the specialty associated with your loved one’s diagnosed condition, wherever those health professionals are – do not limit yourself to your geographical area or even your State. The doctor who saved my father’s life numerous times, when all the doctors here in Tampa had sent him home to die, is located in NYC. Also remember, this is a business, so do not accept guilt trips, hurt feelings, or any other unprofessional reaction on the part of your doctor – if that happens, find another doctor.
As for facilities, here in FL, oversight of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities is lax at best, a bad joke at worst. Even if it’s better in your State, don’t rely on others, whether government entities or facility/medical staff, to “do the right thing” by your elder, or yourself. That’s up to you…and you alone.
Handling yourself with you elder loved one
- Be clear, not condescending.
You can't imagine what it's like to lose your cognitive abilities, but you can probably pull up a memory of anger related to being treated like a fool. Choose your words, your demands and your tone with care -- and love -- when communicating with your aging loved one.
- Be supportive, not judgmental. Losing control of dexterity, losing the ability to bathe, dress and feed yourself, losing the ability to make it to the bathroom in time -- all of these things can lead your loved one to despair.
- Be kind, and try to understand what your parent or loved one is going through when s/he has an accident.
- Be firm, not dictatorial.
There are decisions you'll need to make for your parent or loved one's well being. Stop there. Putting unnecessary rules and regulations on your aging loved one's behavior will only sow seeds of resentment. Give her/him as much independence as possible, whenever possible. You'll both appreciate it.
You have been officially alerted...