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Stepping Into The Hornets Nest – Elder Care part 4

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By Tammera J Karr, Ph.D., FAAIM, BCIH, BCHN   ©2016

Many of you may have childhood stories like my husband and father of baldfaced hornet encounters.  When these stories are being told, there is always someone who steps in the nest first who walked away relatively unscathed, while others are repeatedly stung and attacked.

Dealing with difficult family affairs, especially those involving the elderly can hold these moments as well. What is the old proverb – good intentions pave the way to hell. Those dealing with difficult, at best seniors,  siblings, spouses, or even live-in care providers, will have moments they question their sanity for agreeing to be the “responsible one.”  There are volumes of unknown laws,  considerations, and medical pitfalls for the elder person to live with and for the designated family members to navigate – often under extream stress.

This is a perfect storm for migraines, high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, insomnia, panic attacks, stroke, heart attacks and those are just the family members, not the elders. With seniors, it becomes easy for them to be over medicated, loss of appetite, outbursts of tears or anger, retreating into themselves, incontinence, or personal endangerment with erratic decision making.

The best-laid plans of mice and men,  all of a sudden change, rapidly when you decide to bring mom or dad into your home. They actually go out the window if your elders are more than you can handle, and they must be placed in a memory care facility for medication and mental evaluation against their will.  These are the times it is important for you to have documentation, be prepared for allegations of elder abuse, neglect or miss appropriations of resources; waged by other family members or even the elder in question.

Now, this certainly isn’t the case for everyone, but trust me there are those out there who have had their lives turned upside down by situations like these. Family caregivers begin reacting not responding to the crisis at hand, later regretting some of the decisions made in the heat of the moment. Relationships can be irreparably damaged.  Some of this could be avoided with careful planning before saying yes to our loved one’s requests to care for them, or before asking someone to care for you.

Everyone reading this who has elder family members or spouses should begin with attending classes on planning for the senior years. Classes are often free and offered through churches, senior services, and the veterans administration. Learn how to set up medical information portals to review medical records including medication lists. Ask questions about credit scores and banking liabilities before agreeing to be involved with financial decisions. And if it is a married couple needing simultaneous care investigate conservatorships, powers of attorney, medical guardianship’s, and advanced directives; all carefully before a crisis happens.

Talking but not heard, may be the case for both the elder family member and for those caring for them. This was brought more fully to my attention by Therese Johnson, Gerontologist, and Senior Care Consultant. Therese stressed the importance of validation communication with older family members.  She directed my attentions to the work of Naomi Feil and her book the Validation Breakthrough ; Validation is a way of communicating with older adults with Alzheimer’s-type dementia. This approach reduces stress, enhance dignity, and increase the happiness of the elder family member and those caring for them.

Since its inception in 1989, Validation has helped thousands improve their relationships with loved ones with dementia. Caregivers who use these techniques validate older adults’, rather than focusing on disorientation and confusion.

Research in the United States and Europe show trying to make older family members deal with the realities of what is happening, which can push them farther into disorientation and confusion, isn’t the best approach; it is better to talk to older folks in a different fashion, which allows them to come back to reality through validating their frustration, anger, fear and sense of loss. Many individuals in their seventies are then able to resume their lives with modest supervision.

Now I’m not known for my patience, which may mean my personality is not well suited as a caregiver. All the more reason to do homework before saying yes to that special older person.

When caregivers are under the hornets-nest-stress, they often look to foods to sooth, which in turn can create health problems for the care provider. Muddying ones ability to think clearly, support energy and healing ability of the body. Here is when others can be so invaluable to the struggling caregiver. Friends and family can provide nourishing food, and provide opportunities for caregivers to have safe conversations to detox from the problems of the day. Nothing can refuel the exhausted caregiver  as efficiently as a nourishing meal with laughter .

Here is to transition without the sting.

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