“Thanks, but I don’t need any help.”

The old saying goes, that it’s hard to sell underarm deodorant to someone who doesn’t think they smell… Similarly, much of the barrier in getting help for elders, who very much need it, is difference of opinion.

Memory, visual, and other sensory losses can mask problems that are obvious to others but remain invisible to the elder, for example: personal hygiene, home cleanliness, and household management. If you don’t see that the clothing is dirty, you won’t realize it needs laundering. If you can’t identify the freshness of food, you may be cooking and eating something you shouldn’t.

Bringing these observations to our loved one is no easy task. We must respect their role in the family as the one known for always “doing for others,” while delicately recognizing that they are now the one needing the help themselves. This threatens their sense of self, their own personal pride, and even in some cases, their identity. Many of our elders are from a generation who always “did for themselves” and did not ever take help easily. If they are waiting for the rainy day, it’s difficult to tell them that it’s pouring.

Planning for “the talk.”

A great place to start this conversation is at a family meeting. Take inventory and identify the issues, establish priorities, and see what the options are. The meeting will focus on:

  • Reducing risk

  • Prioritizing intervention

  • Becoming familiar with locally available care

  • Maximizing health insurance benefits

  • Activating Long-Term Care Insurance, if applicable

If your family can manage this on their own, great. If you need help, there are many knowledgeable resources in the community. If you don’t know where to start, call your local Council on Aging. Aberdeen Home Care also has professional Nurse Case Managers that can facilitate this kind of meeting in your home, and help you get one of the most difficult conversations started.

Written by Joanne MacInnis, RN and Certified Dementia Practitioner.

Originally published in the Manchester Cricket Newspaper, May 2018. 

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