In our January 2016 Network News, we featured an article “Stepping Over The Invisible Line!” , which addressed the ever tricky question of knowing how to tell if someone we are caring for needs more help. Once the discovery is made that more support is needed, the following question from family caregivers is often, “So now what?”
Mary cares for her aging father. They live in the same city. She works full-time. When she called the Family Caregivers of BC for some caregiver support, she summarized her story, “We had the agonizing and awkward discussions about the “elephant in the room” – the fact that my dad’s health was failing and he needs more than I can provide. Truth be told, I’m feeling more overwhelmed and stressed because I now realize the extent of the issues.”
In Mary’s case, when she and her dad put their boxing gloves down, they both admitted her dad’s health was much worse and that he faced both financial and housing issues. It was the first time Mary fully realized the serious nature of her Dad’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (in fact, she had to look up its meaning) and his diabetes.
Her dad also admitted that he hadn’t done any upkeep to the family home for at least five years and was too exhausted to start now. Financially, Mary’s dad had recently suffered a loss with a few investments that were going to help pay for his long-term care.
In Mary’s case, the “what’s next” is to take stock of what’s working and what’s not with her dad’s situation, including:
- Current medical and health issues, i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems;
- The ability to independently perform the basic activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, meal preparation, medication management, ability to drive or get around town, etc.;
- Current living arrangements, social network and activities;
- Formal services being accessed, if any;
- Who else is helping, i.e., children, neighbours, parish, friends, and;
- Financial situation and the ability to pay for services
Help determine “what’s next with this visual aid
Many families find it helpful to use a visual aid. Divide a piece of paper with two columns and write a list of what’s currently working in one column and a list of problems or anticipated issues in the other column.
Prioritize the challenges and problems. In Mary’s case, she and her Dad felt their first priority was to better understand his health issues and options for treatment. Close behind was to openly discuss finances as it related to future health care costs. Mary travels south for six months of the year and she and her Dad needed to talk about who was going to help while she was away and if there was money for private care and services, if needed.
Both of them were reluctant to talk about the house. So they didn’t but they will. Prioritizing the issues at hand and having a game plan gives both Mary and her dad more peace of mind and some clear direction going forward.
Another great resource is this Decision Making Tool worksheet.
Author: Wendy Johnstone, M.A. Gerontology