Caregiving Spectrum Extremes: Ignore the Need

Option #1: Ignore the Needs

Over the next three days, we will review three scenarios as to how Adult Kids “take care” of the declining Senior in their life. On one side of the spectrum, children ignore the need(s) of their parent(s). On the other hand, some just too much to their own demise. Others fall in the middle. We have seen all three. Read along with me and let me know – which is the closest to the scenario in your real life situation?

Ignoring the Signs

Adam knew his Mom & Dad were declining physically and cognitively but thought he was too busy to do much about it.  He reasoned that Mom and Dad had cared for themselves for years and thought they would be fine. Besides he doesn’t really know what to do and “doesn’t want to interfere” so he just stays a step removed.  Adam calls Mom & Dad occasionally and asks if they need anything. He even stops by their house a couple of times a month to check on them. For the most part, however, Adam generally turns a blind eye; quick to ignore the needs of his parents

Adam’s Dad has Alzheimer’s and his Mom had Congestive Heart Failure.  Between the two of them, they are functioning – barely. They receive home delivered meals and otherwise eat whatever Adam brings during his bi-monthly grocery runs.  A member of their Church stops by occasionally to bring in meals and visit. Even a couple of Mom & Dad’s neighbors stop by once a week to bring a few groceries or a meal to Mom & Dad.

Alarm Bells Start Ringing

A few weeks ago, one of the neighbors called Adam to tell him that his Mom & Dad needed more assistance.  Adam told the neighbor that he was checking on them periodically. He said that the last time he visited Mom & Dad, he even asked them if they needed anything and they said they were fine, so he didn’t know what else to do. Even if Adam wasn’t trying to ignore the need on purpose, he was missing the signs of decline.

Mom is getting around on her walker as she tries to help her Husband, whose Alzheimer’s is getting worse.  He has fallen twice, but she can’t get him up. Last month when Dad fell, she tried to catch him – which caused her to fall and injure her back. As you are reading this, it may be blatantly obvious that Mom & Dad needed far more help. However, it is very easy to become so focused on our lives that we ignore the needs of others.

This time, when she called 911 again, they were worried about Mom & Dad’s well-being and reported the situation to their State’s Adult Protective Agency.  The State obtained a guardianship of Mom & Dad as a result. After a period of required hospitalization, the state mandated a safe environment where they could receive the care that they needed. Adam’s parents were then moved into a Nursing Home by the State, where they now receive skilled care.  

Private Pay

Mom and Dad’s money and other assets are being used for their Nursing Home care.  Eventually, either their home will be sold and these proceeds also used, or the State will recover against it after Mom & Dad’s death.

Unfortunately we have seen situations like this (and even worse) where the declining Senior is just not getting the care and assistance that they need.  In situations like this, it is sad but fortunate that the State steps in to provide necessary care. However, much headache and financial loss can be ignored if people would not ignore the need of others!

But even this process is far from perfect.  We have seen cases where it seemed like the State was too zealous – providing “assistance” where none was needed. Conversely, we have seen situations where intervention was desperately needed but the State was too busy to do anything about it.

Care Journey Plan

All of this could have been avoided if Mom & Dad would have proactively drafted a Care Journey Plan before their decline began.  It would have detailed the type of care that they wanted and needed if and when they became incapacitated AND would have stated where the care was to be provided and how it would be funded – private pay or government assistance.  But most people don’t know they have this option and thus do not pursue it.

This situation could have been avoided if Adam had been much more proactive in providing care or assistance to his parents.  If he could not do it personally, he could have taken the lead in assisting his parent’s to coordinate proper care in the home. He should not have allowed himself to ignore the need in his parents’ home. However, many times the parents do not want outside assistance (as discussed in our next blog). In situations like this, the Adult Kids often have to be much more proactive in obtaining the needed assistance.

When a parent starts to lose cognitive or physical health, an Adult Child often doesn’t know what path to take.  They didn’t foresee the change in their parent’s health coming and really don’t know what to do about it. It’s like the Adult Child is in shock and things are moving in slow motion.  In some cases, everything works out for the best and in some cases, like the situation mentioned herein, the results are not good.

Why do so many Ignore the Need

Adam’s situation is unfortunate, but not that unusual.  The Adult Kids love their parents, but a combination of factors result in inaction:

  1. The kids are busy;
  2. They have a busy job;
  3. They have their own family with lots of family activities and time demands;
  4. Families may have more than one Adult Child. They may have differing opinions as to how best to approach the situation; which may lead to more inaction or even conflict;
  5. Parents may have promised each other that they would never go to a Nursing Home and really want to stay at home;
  6. Mom & Dad may overestimate their abilities and think they can provide for their own care at  home with no outside assistance;
  7. Loved Ones know their kids are busy and really don’t want to interfere. When the kids ask, Mom & Dad generally say, “we’re fine”.

When parents start to decline, proactive planning is critical. Even though Mom & Dad may not “want to talk about it” and the kids are “too busy” best results can happen where the family engages in a Mom Centered Family Meeting (MCFM).  We will discuss that process in an upcoming article and will discuss ways that you can get assistance in setting up a MCFM Plan for your family.

Next Step

There are often options available that would benefit you and your family.  What things are you doing to help care for the declining Senior in your life?  Please drop me an email at support@helpmehelpmomma.com to let me know.

In our next blog, we will talk about the opposite situation – a situation where the Adult Child is doing everything – to her detriment.  Join us for that discussion.

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Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

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