Rose’s family knew that she was having some memory problems as well as balance issues when walking, but they told themselves that she was getting long okay and was safe to stay at home alone. After all, of Rose’s three grown children, only one lived near her, and all the kids had their own families to tend to in addition to working. Rose told herself this as well. She didn’t want to be a burden to her kids and she didn’t want anybody in her house. She was 86 but she could still take care of herself…until one day.
That one day, Rose was in the attic trying to get down some Christmas ornaments. She was standing on a chair and fell, crashing to the floor. Rose felt a searing pain down her leg and she wasn’t able to stand up. She lay there crying, not knowing what to do. She felt so confused. There was no phone in the attic, and no windows to call out for help. She couldn’t get herself up and every time she moved, it hurt so bad that she stopped trying. Rose lay on the cold, wooden floor of that attic with no food, water, or help for 2 days before the neighbors got worried and called the police and her family. By the time they found her, Rose was confused and dehydrated, in bad shape. She had broken her hip when she fell, had a mild concussion and bruised ribs as well. She spent a week in the hospital and then another 3 weeks in a rehabilitation unit within the nursing home after hip surgery to repair the fracture. During her hospitalization, she was diagnosed with middle stage Alzheimer’s dementia. When it came time for discharge from the rehabilitation unit, Rose’s children felt she was no longer safe to stay at home alone and sent her to a memory care unit in a local nursing home. Rose felt like she had done something wrong. Because she fell, she could no longer live in her home and she felt her children didn’t care about her. She didn’t get to set her affairs in order or say goodbye to her beloved home and neighbors.
Recently, I have noticed this alarming trend in the care of older adults. Family members know a crisis is coming, but still they wait. They wait to get help into the home. They wait to tell the doctor what is going on. They don’t seek help or even want to talk about the physical and mental problems they see in their older parent. The older adult is afraid of losing independence so she hides her problems. Sometimes the older person doesn’t realize how serious her memory problems are until there is a crisis. Often the family is too busy or overwhelmed to deal with the realities of what is happening to their loved one. Maybe the older person refuses to have help…until that day when she no longer has a choice.
Planning ahead at the first sign of problems is a positive step for older adults and their families. It avoids the crisis scenario that so often happens. Waiting for the crisis to occur puts everyone in an uproar when it does. Wouldn’t it be better and easier to avoid the crisis by planning ahead? Getting an assessment from the physician done early and making plans for help in the home as soon as it is needed can help avoid all the negative feelings and emotions that come when a catastrophic event occurs suddenly. You may even be able to avoid traveling down the crisis road altogether.
So, don’t wait for the crisis to happen. Be proactive. Take action now. Taking the time to explore assisted living options or arrange for some help in the home could make all the difference in your loved one’s quality of life and will help preserve positive family relationships for the future.