Posted in Caregiving

How It Looks Isn’t How It Is

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Every so often Oprah has a show with some big socialite or other well-to-do individual who has been in a domestic violence situation.  Over and over Oprah will say, “You never know what goes on behind the doors of someone’s home…looks can be deceiving.”

It took me to that tickle file in my brain with stories of caregivers who held on taking care of someone at home because if they put their loved one in a nursing home it would “look bad”.  What does look bad mean?  Are you, the caregiver running for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality in the Miss/Mr America pageant?  We’re worried about how we look to others including our own families. 

My mother-in-law took care of my father-in-law at home for over ten years before we convinced her to place him in a nursing home.  At the point we placed him he had deteriorated considerably from small strokes that followed the years after his massive stroke.  He was falling out of bed in the middle of the night (she’s a whole 98 lbs soaking wet and he was a bigger guy) so eventually she began calling the fire department to help get him in bed.  You may have a fireman fantasy, but they don’t like doing these types of calls on a regular basis.

I spoke with another gentleman this week whose mother has Alzheimer’s.  He had built a suite onto his home for his mother and she lived with him for over three years.  The tipping point, as it is for many if not most people, when deciding about a nursing home is the incontinence issue.   The research shows that incontinence is often the straw that breaks the camels back when making the decision to place someone in a nursing home.

Then there’s the issue of trying to be the hero.  A family where the man has Parkinson’s Disease (quite severe at this point) and his wife keeps him at home.  She does have some help getting him dressed the morning and put back in bed in the evening, but he’s a bigger guy and their in their late 60’s early 70’s.  A couple of times she has gotten hurt trying to help him get up when he has fallen out of the wheelchair.  What good does it do either of them to be trapped in this tug-o-war of guilt, shame, and emotional pain.  The decision is difficult, but we have to consider safety, health, and fairness on both sides of the aisle.

Only you know the true story of your caregiver/loved one relationship.  The decisions about care can be quite complex.  I’ve consulted with hundreds of families over the years to come up with a plan that is (according to Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) a win-win situation.  Being a martyr, a hero, or a servant takes it’s toll….is it a price you can pay?

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