Wendy Johnstone, Keystone Eldercare Solutions
Having a health issue, receiving a diagnosis or experiencing an age-related loss uncovers the complex world of decision-making process and maintaining control for older people. Family caregivers may not see discussing the aging person’s wishes as a priority, especially if there are issues with cognition – but family caregivers don’t always know as much as they think about the aging person’s needs and preferences for care and support.
Research shows that when difficult decisions about future care are made together, it can result in an increase in health, feelings of being in control and well-being of both care recipients and caregiver.
It’s important to remember that seniors receiving care are experiencing their own roller coaster of emotions, knowing that they need help but fearing a loss of control and independence. They are overwhelmed by decision-making, fear becoming a burden on the family, and feel anger and resentment toward the aging process.
L – Listen and Only Listen.
Turn off your inner voice and do not pass judgment about what they say – just listen. This is often a big step in gaining their confidence so they may tell you more.
O – Omit the Advice.
Experts agree that imposing your way of thinking or giving unsolicited advice will yield undesirable results. In not so diplomatic terms, you’ll tick off your loved ones and they’ll probably dig their heels in further. You are inadvertently signalling that your loved one may be incompetent to make decisions, taking away their control and independence.
V – Validate and Then Ask Questions.
Rephrase and repeat what you hear so that they know you heard them, before asking questions. You may not agree with them, but asking for details allows everyone to think through the response. This approach allows the person you are caring for to be directed in their care and decisions in an open and non-judgmental manner.
E – Empathize.
Put yourself in their shoes and think to yourself, “If I were Dad and the effects of the stroke made walking or talking difficult, how would I feel?” Understand how they are feeling lets you support them by saying things like, “You must feel so frustrated by your stroke. I know how much you love to hike Dad.”
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist (MA, Gerontology) who helps seniors and their families through the many transitions associated with the aging process. She can be reached at 250.650.2359 or online at www.keystoneeldercare.com.