by Joy Loverde
What a busy week for eldercare. Questions emailed from family caregivers were pouring in. Must be because school is out for the summer and the focus is now about issues related to the entire family and family dynamics. Here are a few of the questions I received this week about aging parents and family caregiver issues.
My husband and I are thinking about asking Mom to move in (we have three teenagers). My friends tell me I’m making a big mistake. What do they know that we don’t know?
Sounds like your friends have first-hand experience with the pitfalls of living with elderly relatives. And they might be right. Before you call the moving van, conduct a thorough family consensus.
Start with Mom. Find out if she has any conflicts to resolve with your family members. It is imperative that you clean up underlying issues before the move. On the business side, how will this relocation affect her health insurance coverage and medical care? Lastly, is Mom prepared to pitch in financially?
Your spouse and children also have an important say about Mom’s moving in. Do they resent this arrangement? Are they willing to spend time with Mom on a daily basis?
Assess the quality of life Mom would have moving to your locale. Will she have transportation outside of your services? Will she have daily access to a full range of activities including going to church, maintaining friendships, and shopping?
Finally, how will this decision affect your marriage, time with your children, personal and professional commitments? What is the plan when you are unavailable to tend to Mom’s needs? Is your family financially and emotionally stable? Certainly, moving Mom in is a kind and loving thing to do, but be sure you iron out the details to avert family feuds down the road.
Mom is very bitter about being older. No matter what I do, she tells me it is wrong. When I approach her about taking better care of herself, she always screams at me and says I don't understand. She also refuses to follow doctor’s orders. Help! This is driving me nuts.
Beneath Mom’s tantrums and criticisms is a woman who is frightened of the losses she is experiencing namely her health and independence; and her only emotional outlet may be to lash out at those closest to her. The more afraid she is the more frequent the outbursts.
At times like these, I know it’s tempting to strike back and tell her she’s being unreasonable, but that response will only add fuel to the fire. Her verbal attacks are signals that she feels unheard and deprived of expressing her emotions. You have a better chance of gaining her cooperation by validating what she says. This approach does not suggest that you agree with her; rather it serves to offer Mom the relief she is seeking.
The goal -- to dismantle her negative, angry remarks -- can be achieved by offering loving gestures and words of compassion. The next time she lashes out at you, quickly establish a non-threatening communication environment -- sit back in your chair and uncross your arms and legs; look into her eyes when she speaks, and resist the temptation to interrupt. Give Mom the idea that you are really listening. When the time is right, offer validating statements like:
This has been hard for you hasn’t it, Mom?
I’m sorry this is happening to you.
I’m sorry you’re sad (angry).
You must be very angry at… I’d be mad too if that happened to me.
I wish you well.