One truth I have found to be fairly common among our elder population is that they prefer to maintain the status quo. They’d rather not ask for help or talk about their deficiencies. They’d rather not change anything!
However, the reality is when we fail to take proactive action, we may fall victim to having to react in a crisis. In many situations with our aging loved ones, the opportunity to make a change is when they have a hospitalization.
Through the years, most of our aging loved ones have made incremental adjustments in their way of living in order to adapt to their changing abilities or inabilities. They may or may not recognize how they have adapted over the years. While a family can provide their loved one with evidence that they are getting weaker, are unsafe alone or may be a fall risk, our loved ones generally don’t want to hear or accept that information. They’d rather continue with things as usual, until that one fateful day when they indeed have a crisis.
Perhaps they fall, hit their head or break bones. Whatever occurs, this crisis will most likely require a trip to the hospital emergency room. Their injuries may be serious enough for a hospitalization and even a rehabilitation facility stay.
If families have had trouble in the past with productive conversations about making changes for safety or health concerns, this crisis event is now an opportunity to have that discussion. Clearly something is amiss. All is not OK. This is exactly the time to address issues.
While in the hospital or rehabilitation facility, you’ll have access to doctors, nurses, specialists, social workers and case managers who can all provide guidance in making the best decisions for your loved one’s health and safety. They can offer ideas you may not have considered. They can share resources that will be beneficial. They can also help to arrange for medical equipment to be delivered to the home, they can assist with placement in a facility, they can arrange medical transport and they can serve as a communication liaison to arrange for in-home services, including home health and hospice. Lean on these professionals to offer their insights and help you and your loved one navigate through the decisions that need to be made.
Let your loved one know that things need to change. Then offer them choices. Some choices may be minor, such as getting rid of throw rugs or decluttering, while some choices will be major, such as suggesting help in the home, agreeing to hospice care or moving to a personal care facility. The bottom line is that now is the time to suggest and make these changes.
Always be honest with your loved one. Be mindful that their ability to reason may be compromised by dementia or other illnesses. Continue to be gentle, encouraging and empathetic. Stay calm and focused on them when voicing your concerns, articulating your thoughts in a positive way. You want to make them feel as in-charge as possible by letting them make decisions, but you’ll need to be firm that change is needed as “status quo” is no longer an option. Don’t miss this opportunity.