How Love and Concern Can Dehumanize Seniors

care for older people, elderly home care service, private pay home care, taking care of elderly parents, in home care Minneapolis, in home senior care providers, senior citizen care, senior home assistance, home help for the elderlyAmericans are busy.  We schedule our days full from end-to-end, and life becomes a series of items on a checklist.  Sometimes, our elderly parents become one of those items.  We need to take them to appointments, schedule doctors’ visits, talk to case managers, and address issues with the in-home nurse.  After that, we have a full battery of business and personal obligations to meet—kids to transport to sports practices, early morning meetings to attend, and emails to answer.

No wonder it’s so easy to get task-focused with our elderly parents.

We see this at times when we complete our initial assessment for non-medical senior care services.  As part of our services, we perform a free initial assessment to determine what a potential client’s needs are.  This is an important time for us to get to know the client in order to make a good match with one of our at-home caregivers.

What happens is that sometimes “Daughter Sarah” wants to be present during the interview, which usually works out well.  Sometimes, though, it causes problems.  Daughter Sarah is there to make sure certain issues are addressed, but before long, Daughter Sarah is jumping in to answer questions for her mom, contradicting her, and steering the conversation.  Although it’s not intentional, by the end of the visit, she has robbed her mother of her voice.

I once had an assessment like that where the son flew in from out of the state to line up services for his mother, who was experiencing some memory loss.  During this visit, her kids were making all the decisions for her, and people were frequently running in and out of her home to talk about her.  It was the same way at my initial assessment.  I would ask “Dottie” a question, and her son would jump in and answer for her.

She was none too happy with all the assisted home care services he was scheduling for her, and it became apparent why.  No one asked her if she wanted help or bothered to try to convince her that she needed help.  When a concern about her memory arose, the family and care providers talked about it, but they never talked about it with her.  To her, the concern was much ado about nothing, but no one ever listened long enough to find out why.

Toward the end of my conversation with her, after her son was gone, Dottie turned to me and said, “I like you.  You treat me like a human being, not a character from a storybook.”

How powerful is that?  And how unfortunate that she was ever made to feel otherwise.

Paul Blom, Owner

March 13, 2013

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