Almighty God Intervened, and Intervenes, Spectacularly – And Continues to Do So Today

Our care giving dilemma derives many of its frustrations and heartaches from our parents’ and society’s centuries-old expectations that care giving for the elderly “is the children’s job.” This assumption is still the status quo even though you have no medical or gerontological training. It assumes that you will know the following:

-when, how and how much to intervene

-how to manage insurance benefits

-how to evaluate a nursing home

-how to cope Alzheimer’s disease

-how to resolve a host of other new and life altering care giving dilemmas.

The assumption also holds that you will find time to intervening variable continue: -nurturing your children -being a good partner -working in your career -maintaining your own personal time and space The fact is that the world is a much different place than when our parents cared for their parents. They probably lived closer together, the women did not work outside the home and doctors spent more time with their patients, and the options for eldercare were very limited at best.

Now families may be scattered across the country or continents, both partners have spent years creating families and careers and there are so many options for a functional life expectancy that it takes a geriatric professional to understand them. Even so, in many families guilt wins out, and we continue the status quo.

But wait…We are the first generation, ever in the entire history of the world, to face the difficulties of living in a time where we may spend more years caring for elderly parents than we spent caring for our children.

How do elder-caregivers cope in a world where less than 1% of doctors are trained in geriatric medicine? Where up to 140,000 deaths annually occur from Adverse Drug Reactions yet only 720 out of our 200,000 pharmacists have geriatric training? And the entire care giving system relies on poorly paid workers with only 40 hours of training for effective and compassionate care? Add to this the inherent determination of most parents to keep their adult children from knowing anything about their medical needs or financial status and it’s easy to see why continued attempts at intervention may seem like a waste of time. They’re not. Education, planning, and communication can help overcome much of our parents’ resistance to our help.

Most elder-caregivers know the drill: without orientation, training, or significant assistance, “you are expected to know how, when, and how much to intervene, how to manage medications, how to evaluate a nursing home, how to cope with Alzheimer’s Disease, and how to resolve a host of other new and life altering caregiving dilemmas.”

One of the hardest tasks many caregivers face comes at the beginning of the care giving cycle: knowing whether or not to intervene, how to go about it, and which responsibilities should you take over?

Why Parents Refuse Help

Begin with the premise that like you, your mother treasures her independence and wants to continue making her own decisions. She realistically assumes that if she tells you something is wrong, you will want to help her and do something about the problem. If she is ill, she knows that in order for you to help her effectively, you must involve yourself in her private life, and that may jeopardize her independence. The result of your actions may mean the loss of her driving privileges, a move to an assisted living community or a nursing home. It may force her to admit she can no longer take care of herself and that she may have begun an irreversible slide into dependency. She senses that from the moment you begin to help her, nothing in her life or your relationship will ever be the same. She is absolutely right. Do it anyway. You will find a way to comfort your mother through the necessary changes, but for now, your assistance may be the only way to help assure her health and safety.”

Before you decide to intervene Take a step back and ask yourself these questions: Have your parents’ habits really changed? Did they manage their affairs the same way ten or twenty years ago? Is the difference simply that now you see the situation from an adult perspective rather than the way you viewed it as a child? If you’ve been truly objective and you still believe your parents are at risk and that you aren’t trying to change their long-established habits to meet your view of how they “should” live their lives, then trust your instincts and intervene.

Judie Rappaport is one of the leading experts in cargegiving for the elderly and the co-author of Eldercare911 The issue of inteverning with elderly parents has been gaining attention as Baby Boomers come face to face with the issue of caring for aging parents.