Helping your parent cope with an elder health care crisis can seem endless. The stress of surgery and being hospitalized can bring out new symptoms. New complications can arise as a result of the original illness or surgery. It seems that the more your parent tries to heal and get home, the more enmeshed he becomes in the medical system.
My friend, Mary has already spent four weeks in a skilled nursing facility for treatment of a pressure sore that developed while she was in the hospital having heart surgery. We were so hoping that her latest treatment would be effective and she could start planning to go home.
Instead, we were upset and Mary was especially devastated when her wound care nurse recommended a new, more aggressive treatment. Mary’s wound had made some progress healing over the past ten days but not enough. Tears, frustration and confusion followed.
Why had heart surgery with a scheduled hospital stay of five days turned into a never ending string of elder health care setbacks with Mary still away from home after six weeks? Mary was beginning to doubt that she would recover fully and get back to her formerly active life.
What can you do when an elder health care setback drags on?
- Have good support for you, so you can support your parent. Managing my own emotions so I could be there for Mary when she heard the bad news was difficult.
- Be a supportive listener to your parent. Let her share her fears and frustrations.
- Keep a positive tone when discussing problems with your parent. Vent your anger and frustration elsewhere. Focus on what has been overcome as a way to stay positive.
- With your parent’s permission, be involved in treatment decisions and discussions with her medical team. It always helps to have a third party listen and ask questions.
- Keep a list of questions that occur to you and your parent when the two of you are talking over the issues.
- When questions come up, create clear accountability about who will answer your questions and when he will get back to you.
- Keep track of the treatment plan and follow up on treatments or therapies that have been recommended but not yet implemented.
- When emotions run high, seek to slow down or simplify the conversation so you and your parent do not feel overwhelmed.
Have you guided your parent through a series of elder health care setbacks? What are your suggestions?
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