Guest Author - Cathy Brownfield
“Mother always was so sharp,” ‘Carolyn’ says. “I never dreamed that things would turn out this way.”
‘Mary’ was diagnosed with a mentally deteriorating condition several years ago.
“She told me that when she couldn’t take care of herself any more, we should put her in a nursing home because she never wants to be a burden to us. Later she said she doesn’t want to go to a nursing home. She wants to die in the house she’s lived in for nearly 50 years.” Carolyn sighs. “I don’t know what to do. I want to do what is in my parents’ best interests. I don’t want to take over and be bossy. But I want to know that my parents are safe when I’m not with them.”
Adult children around the world are faced, not just with caring for their elderly parents, but the technology that is extending length of life which causes the elderly to outlive the retirement benefits they had set aside during the years they worked. How can families meet the needs and quality of life that they want for their elderly parents? How do they make the right decisions in their parents’ best interests?
There are consortiums held around the globe, studies, reports…Madrid, UK, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands. The United Nations Economic and Social Council and the World Health Organization are involved in finding answers to the difficult issues of providing for the well-being of the world’s elderly and preventing their abuse. But all of those efforts don’t seem to help Carolyn very much at this point in time.
Mary’s reactions are slower, her thoughts less clear. She had a stroke a couple of years ago. Carolyn isn’t sure if her mother showers daily or shampoos her hair often enough. Dad tries to keep up with her mother, especially since she burned up “another” roast in a pan on top of the kitchen range.
“I’m taking care of her,” Dad insists. “I follow her to keep an eye on what she’s doing.”
“But what if something happens to you?” Carolyn asks.
“She won’t be able to stay by herself,” he answers. “I don’t leave her home alone. I take her with me. If I can’t take her, I don’t go. Or I wait for someone to come and stay with her.”
The question is ever in Carolyn’s mind: Should I insist that my parents can no longer live alone?
Surprisingly, perhaps, self-neglect is the most prevalent form of elderly abuse, according to the Clearinghouse on Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly (CANE).
“Self-neglect,” advises CANE, “is the result of an adult’s inability, due to physical and/or mental impairments or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care tasks including: providing essential food, clothing, shelter, and medical care; obtaining goods and services necessary to maintain physical health, mental health, emotional well-being and general safety; and or managing financial affairs.”
The AARP publication, “Domestic Mistreatment of the Elderly: Towards Prevention,” advises that most families who undertake the care of their elderly loved ones do not understand that the care period for an individual over age 70 is five to six years, and the demands require the caregivers to sacrifice their own plans to meet the needs of their needy loved ones. Most middle class families, the document advises, are hard-pressed financially to meet those needs. For more information, contact your county’s Department of Human Services or Agency on Aging.