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What to do When Caring for an Older Adult Becomes Too Difficult

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senior women in wheelchair

Caregiving for an older adult, especially a parent, is hard. It is perhaps one of the most emotionally challenging experiences many face. If you happen to be a member of the “sandwich” generation, which is simultaneously caring for children and one or more parents, then the task difficulty level is geometrically increased.

It is necessary to accept that things have changed. When parents begin to depend on their children for care, roles are reversed and emotions can often increase and cause stress for everyone.

It is important to “take it slowly.” This is uncharted territory and the process should unfold as needs change. Older adults may become angry and frustrated as they decline cognitively.

Anger is natural.

When roles reverse and the adult child is taking care of a parent, the one thing elders have always had in the relationship is lost. Their authority over you, even though you are now an adult, is not easily relinquished and parents can become verbally abusive and stubborn as a result.

Offer options, not orders.

Instead of just stating what you want a parent to do, give options so a bit of autonomy is retained. It is important for older adults to continue to feel they are in control. As far as it is practical, let them make the decisions about their own care and situation.

Continue to treat them with respect.

Affirm they are still of value to you by showing respect and love. Ask for their advice about something going on in your life or about a difficult decision you are facing.

Mind your own emotional health.

No one knows your emotional “buttons” like your parents or siblings. In an emotionally-charged environment, you need to build a protective barrier for when hot-button issues like money, childhood mementos, rivalries, family possessions, and other sensitive topics arise. Your own emotional (and physical) health is important. You cannot adequately care for someone else if you are not well. Caregiver support groups also offer are a wonderful way to communicate with others in your same situation. 

But … what to do when caring for an older adult becomes more than you can handle?

There are options. Your needs will direct the search to find the very best fit for both the older adult and the family. Assessments by health professionals, geographical location, physical and medical needs, preferences, lifestyles, and financial matters will all play a part in the final selection. There are different adult living settings available. Sometimes a home residence is best, but in many cases, the amenities and activities of a larger community will be more suitable.

Here is a brief description of options for each type:

Adult Day Care

An adult day care center is non-residential with support for the health, nutritional, social and daily living needs of adults in a professionally staffed, group setting. Most adult day care centers provide meals, meaningful activities, and general supervision. The social care model focuses on socialization and the medical model may include a skilled assessment treatment and rehabilitation goals to improve participants health and guide their progress.

Adult day care is especially helpful for caregivers who are caring for someone with dementia.  Often called respite care, an older adult can attend adult day care when the caregiver needs rest or relief from the daily responsibilities of caregiving.

Home Care

Home care can include several types of services, delivered in a person’s home setting. Visiting Nurses Associations (VNA) works with physicians, to provide patients with rehabilitation, nursing, social service and specialized care tailored to each individual’s unique needs and situation. Hospice care’s professional, interdisciplinary team is devoted to optimizing the remainder of life for patients with support and peace of mind for the people closest to them. Both VNA and Hospice services are typically covered by insurance. A variety of other options are also available on a private pay basis, from assistance with activities of daily living, companionship, and housekeeping, paving the way for clients to enjoy healthier lives and happier outlooks.

Assisted Living Communities

Designed for older adults for whom some level of care less than nursing is needed, assisted living communities offer a wide range of services. Communal meals are offered, but apartments or condominiums also include kitchen facilities. Housekeeping, amenities, activities, and supervision round out a secure living plan.

Skilled Nursing Care

Unfortunately, some older adults require medical care and supervision with 24-hour nursing. Skilled nursing may be temporary for convalescent care or more long-term, but may be needed in certain situations where independent living or assisted living is no longer feasible. Some skilled nursing centers offer “memory care” services for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, within a separate, secure environment.

Memory Care

Many older adults benefit from the supervision, stimulation, safety, and specialized care found in a community residence offering what are called “memory care” programs. Memory care is for people living with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Sometimes known as life-care communities, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are where a “continuum” of care needs -- from independent living to assisted living and skilled nursing care – can be met. Various levels of housing and care may be situated on different floors or wings or in different buildings, physically adjacent buildings or located on the same campus. The emphasis of the CCRC model is to enable residents to stay within the same environment if and when their needs change and a higher level of care is required.

Contact Us

In addition to housing, healthcare, and programs for seniors, SALMON Health and Retirement communities offer support groups and resources for caregivers and family members. To learn more about the options available to you and your loved ones, contact us today by calling 800-446-8060 for more information.