The African proverb, “It takes a village,” also applies to caring for elderly loved ones. With the help of others, everyday care becomes much more manageable, but sometimes difficult choices need to be made. Examples of everyday care choices include:
- when to stop driving
- how to manage money
- whether to purchase or use support services
- when to accept care from family members and
- when to bathe and what activities to do
Many of our clients reach out to us for help, not just for care, but for the care plan so that everyone can coordinate and work together. The important part is taking your loved one’s values and preferences for care into consideration. Then, the plan can help lessen the emotional and financial strain of care over time.
Time constraints, sadness over loss and the stress of new and difficult tasks can be a great burden to family caregivers, so we help facilitate structured group discussions between family members and a care receiver to act as an advocate. If possible, we support the active participation of the care receiver in developing the care plan.
We seek to recognize the strengths of care receivers with cognitive impairment and encourage them to express their own values and preferences. Our goal during an assessment is to facilitate a mutual understanding of care preferences so that we know what care receivers want. These discussions often allow family members to recognize one another’s rights to make their own choices even if there may be disagreement. If health or safety are at risk, we provide assistance to reach agreement.
Questions that may help family members talk about values and preferences include:
- How much should be spent?
- Who will head up care arrangements and decisions?
- What help is needed now and what help is needed in the future?
- Would homecare be an option?
When the more general questions are addressed, we can begin to develop the components of a care plan, such as:
- When do you like to bathe? Is a shower OK?
- Would you rather have someone you know help with bathing or someone you don’t know?
- Do you mind if someone of the opposite sex helps you with baths?
- Do you like to exercise? How often?
- Do you like to go outdoors? Or, do you prefer being inside, near a window?
- Would you rather be alone most of the time or have company? Do you like conversation? Radio or television? News or music?
Resistance is common and these discussions can be challenging, but they are also rewarding. Communicating values about everyday care will improve everyone’s decision-making skills, promote autonomy, and improve caregivers well-being. Overall, we can help to improve a whole family’s quality of life.