New arrivals to our caregiver support group confirm what’s being reported in the medical literature. Dementia in the land of aging parents has reached a tipping point and now become the overwhelming concern of 80-90% of our attendees.
The vast majority of these caregivers are daughters of families fraught with denial, escalating conflict and sibling sabotage. Struggling to honor an aging parent’s wish to remain in their own home, these women find themselves caught up in a drama that is unraveling on all fronts, an experience they describe as “failing in place.”
I work in an assisted living community, and this is one of the best books I’ve seen for adult children struggling to engage with their aging parents in discussing the difficult life transitions they’re facing, from needing more help in the home, giving up driving, or having to move into senior housing or assisted living, among other issues.
I give many copies away and recommend it frequently. One of my clients, after reading the book, told me that it helped her understand her parents’ perspective and what they were going through much better, and gave her strategies for helping the whole family cope with what was going on in their lives. It’s difficult for parents to stop being parents, and for adult children to have to become the decision makers and assume control.
It’s a messy game being a caregiver of aging parents where things can fall apart at the worse possible time. This inspiring TED Talk by Brené Brown reminds us that the shame of unrealistic expectations can unwind our most determined efforts to do the right thing. It also reminds us why, when we’re open to it, caregiver support groups can literally save our lives…
Elderspeak was first coined in the 1980s by social scientists to describe what sounded like baby talk directed at older adults.
It is defined as a communication style based on stereotypes that older adults are less competent, so younger communication partners simplify their communication, attempt to clarify communication, and alter the emotional tone of messages when communicating with older adults.
Elderspeak’s style of speech includes:
Everyone knows falls in older adults is bad news. They are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in this age group. Every 22 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. That’s 66 deaths a day.
It’s not a case of where we don’t how this happens. We do. We have extensive data about the risks, screening, and evidenced-based management of fall prevention. But it takes an informed, steady collective response to implement what we know to prevent disaster. This quiz is designed to find out what we all know about the fall epidemic in older adults as a first in mapping out a collective response. I’ve included the answers to make it easy…
Although demanding and stressful, the problems of aging can be contained or eliminated. Lost prescriptions can be refilled. Unsafe staircases can be modified. Transportation for an unscheduled medical testing can be arranged. Solving problems means eliminating uncertainty and most caregivers are well versed in how to do this.
In sharp contrast, the dilemmas of aging defy containment or elimination. They demand sustained engagements with uncertainty, a challenge most caregivers are ill equipped to handle. Consider the following example:
I was asked to write an article about the context of caregivers of aging parents. What’s the scope and depth of their role? What are the issues they have to navigate every day?
I found it was easier to create an infographic that portrayed the profound complexity of the task. It proved useful with family members who seem to minimize what it takes to fulfill this demanding role or couldn’t understand why reinforcements are necessary.
As aging boomers are quickly discovering, the end game of being old is a non-linear quest to preserve control against overwhelming odds. Namely, it’s the challenge of absorbing wave after wave of losses while simultaneously shoring up residual choices. Given the uncertainty and complexity of the game, what will help aging boomers succeed in their quest? Part of the answer lies in the quality of their “control assets.”
Control assets are game tools that help older adults overcome losses through tactical partnerships and recovery planning. They don’t change the game’s final outcome but they can dramatically alter the quality of the game’s experience. Control assets are best understood as essential resources and planning options that include:
In the communal world of pre-WWII, aging parents almost always moved in. It was expected because there was usually a local family network that closed ranks and helped take care of the elders.
In the dispersed world of Boomers and the generations that followed, it became a different story. Minus the familial scaffolding, the challenges proved more daunting despite the desire to do the right thing.
It still may turn out to be the best choice for a family. But before they move in, a few screening questions will help clarify the scope and depth of what this choice involves.
It turns out that the power of attorney you so carefully arranged for an aging parent may be rejected by their bank or brokerage firm because it wasn’t drafted on their form. Of course you find this out when your aging parent is incapable of managing his or her own affairs and ironically most likely deemed unqualified to sign a new form. This important article outlines the game plan for yet another inconvenient truth of the aging journey…