Page 31 - Healthcare News Senior Planning Guide 2022
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with them? What happens when they say, ‘I’m fine,’ ‘I’m not leaving my home that your dad built,’ ‘yes, I am taking my pills,’ ‘yes, I am eating’ (but there’s no food in the fridge, or too much, or it’s expired), ‘yes, bills are being paid’ (despite the stacks of unopened bills), ‘no, I don’t know why the bank has called you; I didn’t take large sums of money out of the bank.’ Or when you have to ask, ‘where are your dirty clothes? Have you been wearing the same clothes every day?’
These are real stories of real people. Like the parents who retired to Florida and have done quite well for 20 years, but one spouse dies, and the widow develops dementia. Every time you visit for a weekend, it seems OK, manageable, and there’s food in the fridge. All seems well, in fact, until neighbors start calling you saying, ‘your mother was wandering around outside at 2 in the morning,’ or ‘your mother had a slight car accident,’ or ‘your mother seems confused.’
It breaks your heart; how can you tell your mother she has to move to an assisted-living community? You wait a bit longer, partially in denial, partially in guilt, and then something happens that moves the needle. You want mom and dad to make the move back up north — you want to keep an eye on them, you don’t want them to be a burden to neighbors, and you don’t want to drop everything and hop on a flight everytime something happens — but they refuse.
You say, ‘I promised my father I would never have my mom go to a home.’ But what is a home? It’s not the kind of nursing home they are thinking of, as assisted living did not exist when those promises were made. Those promises may no longer be in effect
“It breaks your heart; how can you tell your mother she has to move to an assisted-living community? You wait a bit longer, partially in denial, partially in guilt, and then something happens that moves the needle.”
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when their safety is at stake.
So, when do parents lose their negotiating rights? When safety can no longer be guaranteed, when
general nutrition is going by the wayside, when medications aren’t being taken, when mobility makes continued living in the homestead dangerous, when depression and isolation set in, when memory deficits bring danger to themselves and/or others, when a fire starts in the kitchen from the stove being left on, when judgment is skewed, when rational thinking is no longer a given. Applying rationality and logic to someone who no longer has the ability to reason will not bring about clarity and lucidity; it will only bring frustration to both parties.
Many families tell me they want their parents to be part of the decision-making process, and at some point that is no longer a possibility, even though they think that’s the right thing to do. You may be sacrificing their well-being. If they cannot take their medications anymore, how can you expect them to
say, “great, this assisted living sounds fabulous; it’s just what we need”?
That is not going to happen; it probably will never happen. Adult children, you need to take control, pull the reins in, and drive the decision. Blame it
on the doctor if you must. Have the doctor, clergy, your friends, or other family members join with you in steering the decision. Be loving, nurturing, and proactive. But don’t wait for the crisis to happen. n
Beth Cardillo is executive director, of Armbrook Village Senior Living in Westfield and a certified dementia practitioner. Armbrook Village offers a support group on the last Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m., virtually on alternating months and in person the other month, with dinner included. Call (413) 568-000 or email for more information.
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