Too Much or Too Little Help!
Over the years we have seen two basic ways that families look at when providing help for a declining parent. Both ways work and neither are “better than the other”. What works is what’s best for each individual family. Here are the two different approaches.
Mom Doesn’t Want Our Active Help
In these situations, the adult kids may actually live at a distance from Mom OR they may live in the same town but are very busy. Mom has always been independent and has always tended to her own business. The adult kids stay in touch and visit as they can, but Mom is pretty much on her own.
But what about when Mom starts to decline? With these families, they want to help Mom to retain her independence but want to do what they can to help. These families look at things such as: Can Mom continue to stay in her own home? Does the home need any functional improvements, such as rails, wheelchair ramps or wider doorways? Does she need assistance with other activities such as mowing her lawn or cleaning her house? Are home delivered meals available? Can any other services be provided that will help Mom to remain as independent as possible at home?
The obvious problem with this approach is the gaps in care of quality of life that may be needed for the parent. Sometimes the kids are too hands-off and can’t see some obvious changes that need to be made to allow their parent to continue to stay at home.
We Do Too Much For Mom
In these situations, the family takes ownership. Sometimes this step is a natural progression from the “we help Mom from a distance” stage. As Mom starts to decline, they do anything and everything possible to personally help their parent. They help the parent stay at home and if that’s not possible, they select an appropriate assisted living or nursing home then serve as their advocate.
The only problem with this approach is that well-meaning kids often move in too quickly and do too much to help. I’ve been told by various seniors that they “felt the kids were taking over” and had relegated them to the sidelines. Maybe the senior just needed a teaspoon of help and the adult child brought in a 5 gallon bucket. This type of overkill can have a counterproductive effect on a seniors willingness and ability to continue to thrive.
Other seniors have confessed that they were afraid to share their needs with their adult kids for these very reasons. Maybe Mom is taking care of Dad at home and they want to remain at home. The problem is that being a full-time caregiver at age 82 is taking a toll on her.
Mom is Afraid
However, Mom is afraid that if she tells her kids how hard it is for her, that they will insist that she and her husband move to a nursing home or assisted living facility. So when the kids call to see how things are going, Mom says that they are going “fine”.
Which “help” approach is the best? Obviously a mix of both. If the kids can find a way to help where needed while allowing the parent to continue to be as independent as possible, that’s the sweet spot of planning. This is often possible with open communication between the parent and the kids. This is the goal of a Mom Centered Family Meeting. Communication is the key to effective planning and implementation of that plan.
What actions do you need to take to improve the stability for the declining Loved Ones in your life, while reducing your stress at the same time?
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