One of the subtle skill sets a caregiver must develop is how much and what kind of assistance to give. As caregivers we are often working with individuals whose physical and mental abilities are waning. However, if we intercede too much we often hasten this decline. A good example of how to deal with this was when my mother-in-law gave up driving. An expedient solution would have been for me to drive her to all her commitments or make arrangements for a driver. Since her retirement community offered a van as did the local senior center she started scheduling rides to all her extra activities. I still drove her to her doctors, shopping and family functions. But by using the van she had to schedule rides, plan her time, use a calendar, call and interact with dispatchers and drivers, physically get up and in the van and as an added plus get to socialize with others riding the van. A time did come when she physically could not ride in the van, but during the time that she could she was able to maintain her independence, meet new friends and have a positive attitude about life. As I write this blog she now has a local senior as a driver, which she schedules when I am unavailable.
Grocery shopping for me has always been a surgical strike in and out, but for my mother-in-law it is an avocation. When she first moved here seven years ago grocery shopping could be an hour and a half event. We would go systematically up one aisle and down another. She was fascinated with new products and their convenient packaging and preparation. However, her favorite aisle was still the cookie aisle. Over the past years as a result of her physical issues one of her favorite pastimes has become quite limited. We dealt with this problem by matching her declining physical ability with our shopping strategies. First we stopped going to the large chain stores and started going to smaller neighborhood markets, which she could navigate with greater ease. Another tactic was to go to the grocery store and she would shop in one area like produce or meats and I would take a second wagon and pick up the rest of groceries on her list (she would still handle the cookie aisle). Now that she is less ambulatory we stop at farm stands and specialty stores. It would have been simpler for me to do the shopping for her or have a local market deliver it. However, I feel it would have hastened her physical and mental decline and deny her one of the joys of life she cherished. Use it or lose it is a mantra with which most seniors are familiar. However, as a caregiver you have to carefully balance an individual’s abilities and lifestyle with the tasks required of them and that above all allows them to live life.
– By contributing Hello! Home Care writer, Bill Mishico