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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Health & Fitness

Slow transition best when shifting seniors to home care

Tribune correspondent
Published:

One of the most common dilemmas of caregiving is getting someone to admit they need help. Just the thought of independence being in question is devastating.

More than half of seniors will refrain from ever asking for help, even from one of their own adult children or siblings. This attempt at self-preservation is usually the cause of many family spats, and can escalate into some intense altercations that go way beyond the simple silent treatment.

Unfortunately, those suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia can become experts at maintaining the appearance that all is well during the earlier stages of the disease, some to the point where they are endangering themselves.

Seniors who survived the Depression and World War II are often passionately private people and quite stoic. They come from a proud upbringing and will fight for every last bit of independence they have.

Women from this generation took pride in being homemakers and being the caregivers for their families. Men were known as breadwinners.

This makes it a lot more difficult for them to accept benevolent assistance from anybody, all the way up to when it's time to start to climb Jacob's ladder.

People from those days have grown up knowing there were only two choices available for their own aging parents: home or the nursing home. They really didn't have the alternative of home care in those days, and the few who did had the money for it.

Now, the real problem lies with trying to get your loved one to accept having a stranger at home to help.

Most will put up a battle with even having a daughter or son running the household.

It's best to try to ease someone into this new lifestyle gradually. Say you wish only to try this new caregiver for an hour or two. Then gradually increase the length of time they spend together. It's important that your loved one still feels in control. Say if this doesn't work, you'll find someone else.

You will have to hear a lot of accusations of how the person is stealing, gossiping, etc.

My dad would become extremely verbally abusive at times. But if the caregiver is a professional, she should be able to brush those remarks off her shoulders.

And eventually, you may slowly get your loved one to adapt. Eventually, he might actually look forward to the caregiver's visits.


Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver for his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His books, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness" can be found at www.commonsensecargiving.com.

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