When changes need to be made go to the center
By Mary Thompson,
Past President Council on Aging
During my more than 25 years working with seniors including the last five years I have also been working with seniors who call the Council on Aging for help I have learned that caring can be a very difficult task at times. I am certain that many other people who are trying to help find it this way as well.
When someone needs help it can be a very frightening time for them. When someone has to give up control and become dependent there is usually a high level of tension and confusion for all involved. This may also be compounded by physical or mental challenges to some degree. The helpers are often unsure of what to do next so it can be a very trying and confusing time for them as well. My experience has taught me that the best way to improve the situation or solve problems is to put the person in need in the center of all we are doing.
The things I hear most often are:
Who can I trust? I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want my children to have to take care of me. How do I maximize my decision making independence and independent living? What services are available? Can I afford them? How do I downsize? Do I have to move? What happens when my support people and I disagree?
Support people also have similar concerns and questions.
Hurting though helping…a great example of when the best intentions can cause division and upset is Charlie’s story.
Charlie had an injury and was in hospital recovering. His daughter, Sarah, felt that it would be a good idea to make his home safer by getting rid of some of his stuff that she deemed was not needed or redundant. Sarah knew that Charlie would not be cooperative so she didn’t tell Charlie.
Charlie was more than upset when he got home, refused to speak to Sarah, and called our support line to get some advice. I called Sarah and discussed the situation. I listened to both sides and suggested a meeting to try to resolve the situation. It was resolved that Sarah had no right to get rid of anything and she recognized she had crossed a line and apologized. They discussed that going forward there would be more discussion and an effort to try to see things from each other’s side. Charlie agreed to try to minimize clutter.
Two years later Charlie is still living independently and he and Sarah are working cooperatively.
Far too many times we hear:
“I am doing this for your own good.”
“ I can’t be worried about you.”
“ If you won’t make changes I won’t help you.”
“You must comply or there will be consequences.”
There is a tendency for people in a dependent situation to agree and give in so as not to be a problem. They stop talking and often become withdrawn, depressed, and angry. That behaviour is often confused as a part of the aging or disease process. Imagine how you would feel if you felt you had no voice and your life is slipping away.
It is so much more effective to actively listen and take a moment to be the other person.
Good advice for both the support person and the person who is being helped.
It may take a little more effort initially but the results are amazing.
Although not all disagreements and heath issues can be resolved, as difficult decisions must be made and there may be unhappiness and hard feelings. when I am the person that must make those decisions, I find comfort in knowing that I put the other person in the center and worked as hard as possible to honour and support them.
Let them know they are the ‘center’ that they are being heard and listened to that they are loved and respected.
(Published: Spotlight on Seniors - Summer issue 2015)
An Elder Abuse Prevention Advocate began to look into his own case the case and found that he had been tricked into a Long Term Care facility by one of his POAs. He certainly had some cognitive and memory challenges and should not be living at home without support. It is true that he was determined to qualify for admission to a Long Term Care Facility. We must understand that just because someone qualifies they don’t have to go into care if other appropriate arrangements can be made. He did not go there willingly and wanted out immediately but they would not release him. The Power of Attorney was determined to hold him in LTC. He had activated the Power of Attorney claiming his father was not competent and his father now had no say in his life. This is another common misconception. A POA has the obligation to act not only on the person’s best behalf but to act as if they were the person.
We made arrangements for him to meet with his lawyer who determined that there were certainly aspects of his life he was not capable of managing but he was competent to change his POA. The daughter, in concert with the Advocate, arranged for fulltime home care for the client so that he could live at home. For one and a half years he enjoyed his freedom and his life. He had three wonderful caregivers who helped him have autonomy and security. He was able to continue to travel.
Each day that he was “free” added to his joy of life and he reveled in his freedom. Unfortunately, he recently passed away BUT instead of being confined to LTC he enjoyed life to the fullest. He did what he was entitled to do; live on his own terms.
What motivates family to confine seniors when they do not want to be? Sometimes it is a mistaken understanding of their loved ones capabilities and a genuine concern for their safety. Often it is a lack of knowledge of other options. Financial considerations are also a factor. Not everyone has the means to pay for private homecare and their needs are too complex for the family to manage.
Sometimes it’s just easier to put a loved one into care where they no longer have to be responsible for being part of the care system.
All too often it is done to preserve the estate of the senior so the family can inherit more money. Every dollar not spent on health care is a dollar that the family will get when the senior passes on. This motivation is becoming a far too common reason why seniors end up in care rather than living the life they want, the life they earned.
If you see a senior being pushed into LTC, report it. It is Elder Abuse.