Protecting the Dignity of the Elderly

elderly

Part of feeling good about ourselves as Caregivers is to know we’re doing a good job. We typically take charge of the health and often emotional needs of our loved ones. We need to see that their dignity is respected, also. It’s easier to do when you live in the same home. But, some people are managing the care of a loved one who lives in an assisted or skilled nursing home. They can’t be there twenty-four hours a day.

Two of the three people I took care of over sixteen years lived in assisted living or dementia care facilities. It’s important to be very familiar with the staff at facilities. The management can be lovely people, yet not aware that a staff person doesn’t understand the needs for your loved one. It’s the Caregivers job to know that there is a good relationship with each of the staff people and the resident around the clock. I’ve been told by management that they really appreciate an involved Caregiver who visits often and takes care of some of the little things that it’s hard for a facility to do. Personal touches that make life more pleasant. And, it’s good that the working staff is aware that they are appreciated for doing a good job. Praising them to management is good. On the flip side, staff is going to be more on their toes if they know the resident is watched over closely.

The way I could tell that the dignity of my father or my friend wasn’t being respected was by their mood and attitude. If they’re unhappy when you arrive, or speak to them on the phone, you need to ask questions. They may have a hard time telling you what’s up because the memory may not be good anymore. They might not remember why they’re sad. But, you can say something like: have you seen Mary (the staff person) this afternoon? Was she here cleaning things up? She seemed like a nice person when I met her. How’s she doing? Between each question, listen carefully. It’s amazing what can come up. You can’t be a drill sergeant, of course, and you can’t believe everything you hear. Depending on the level of dementia, what your loved one tells you may not be accurate. But, there’s a reason they’re sad and you need find out how to fix it. It’s complicated. I’ve seen too many people dismiss a mood by chalking it up to old age. As if the sad person doesn’t count anymore because they’re old. Using good judgement, you can ask the staff person who’s been around that day what they think is going on. They’re used to being accused of a lot of things so you have to take them into your confidence looking for a solution, without accusation. But, if your good instincts see a potential problem, you can make suggestions for fixing the situation and stay on top of it. I think management only needs to be told if it persists and you can’t solve it on your own. Finesse is the key word here.

My dad, who had Parkinson’s Disease, was always a sensitive man. When he cried for no apparent reason when I came in to pick him up one day, I could tell that his feelings had been hurt. He couldn’t speak well anymore so it was like a guessing game to figure out what was causing his sadness. After a few questions I learned that another resident at his table in the dining room was making remarks about him being anti-social. He spoke even less at the table because he was embarrassed by his difficulty. I asked if he would like to move to another table, he perked up and said there was a nice lady that he could sit with. I spoke to management and had him moved. Sadly, they would not have paid close enough attention to his mood to know there was a problem. That’s were we come in.

My father was a man with a certain dignity. He was nearly ninety and couldn’t defend himself anymore. I needed to protect him and his manhood. He had protected me all my young life. When he’d come for a visit and stay with my husband and I over the years, he’d check that every door and window in the house was properly locked before going to bed. He was still making sure I was safe. Now it was my turn to take care of him.

Until soon, I wish you love and fond memories.

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Hugs,

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