The Danger Zone: When the Care Needed Exceeds the Care Being Provided

April 1, 2013
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How do you know when your loved one needs more help than you can provide? Oftentimes it is a crisis that forces families to examine this question. I have seen many families in crisis become forced to re-examine their approach to caregiving and make major changes in both their loved one’s and their own lives. John F. Kennedy once said “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” Although families only want what is best for their loved one, most do not know the right approaches to take to deal with their loved one’s situation as efficiently as possible. Because of this they become dependent upon systems to help guide them through the process. “Systems” can include hospitals, nursing facilities, etc. Unfortunately not all systems are client centered. Advances in technology, shorter hospital stays, limited discharge planning, and increased costs have all placed greater burdens on our caregivers. Trying to stay one step ahead and out of crisis is not an easy task even for caregivers with the best intentions. Studies continuously show that it is these same caregivers that are at a greater risk of burden, caregiver burnout and depression. It is therefore imperative that families are given the correct information and support to help guide them through this process.

Discovery Fit & Health published an article outlining five warning signs that could indicate your loved one may need more help than what is being provided. The signs are as follows:

1) Healthy but Can’t Live Alone Safely
The first sign is if they need help with daily tasks. This can include bathing, cooking, eating, changing clothes, going to the store or walking up stairs. Many seniors who are healthy still have difficulty with these tasks simply due to the aging process. For example, slower reflexes can effect one’s ability to drive thus limiting independence. In this situation, there are a few options that the family can explore. Home Care can be brought into the house or an Assisted Living Facility may be an appropriate option. Investigating transportation and shopping services may also be helpful. This would allow the individual to maintain a sense of independence while still receiving assistance with the tasks they struggle with.

2) Early Stages of Alzheimer’s
The second sign is if your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This disease may seem easy to accommodate at first, but caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s becomes increasingly difficult due to the progressive nature of the disease. Discovery Fit & Health suggests discussing long-term care options immediately after one is diagnosed. This can include companion care, home care, or an Assisted Living facility. It is also important to make sure your loved ones legal and financial affairs are in order immediately after diagnosis as well. This will help to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are respected and that they are part of the decision making process.
If you suspect that your loved one may be exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia please click on the following link to view a list of 10 warning signs compiled by the Alzheimer’s Association:

3) Physical Impairment or Disease
Physical Impairment or Disease is another warning sign. Many conditions require around-the-clock care that is difficult for loved ones to provide. As quoted, “When it seems like a relative is spending as much time at a medical facility as he or she is at home, advanced care options need to be explored. The risk of accidents, infections or disease-related episodes can be vastly diminished by making sure a loved one will have the level of professional care that is needed.”

4) Decreasing Hygiene or Changes in Personality
Decrease in hygiene or a change in personality is the fourth indication that your loved one may need more assistance than is currently being provided. The article states, “If you notice signs that an older family member is no longer able (or seemingly interested) in living with a basic amount of dignity, socialization and contentment, that person may very well benefit from the care, attention and understanding that can be provided by care facilities.” In addition to exploring home care or Assisted Living options, a person in this situation may benefit from attending a Social Day Program. Social Day Programs are known to provide a sense of purpose in one’s life, which often decreases feelings of depression.

5) Too Great a Burden on Family
The last factor to consider is if the burden has become too great on the family. If the “demands created by caring for an aging parent outweigh the logistical, financial or emotional resources available” then it may be time to explore the possibility of a long term care facility. Although you may feel as if you have to do everything, it is important to realize that you cannot always do it all on your own and that it could be in your best interest and your loved one’s best interest to consider placement in a facility.

To read about these five signs in more depth please visit: The Life Care Plan utilizes the elder care continuum and connects your concerns about long-term health care as you go through the later stages of your life with the knowledge and expertise of an Elder Law Attorney and an Elder Care Coordinator who will be with you and your loved ones every step of the way to assist you in making the right choices.

Written and Compiled by: Suzanne Paolucci, LCSW, Elder Care Coordinator & Jennifer Wilson, Social Work Resource Assistant

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