We began talking with her a year ago. She was 86, spry, mentally sharp, unsteady on her feet, used a walker, and had fallen “maybe a couple of times, but wasn’t hurt, just some bruises.” Her house was seriously cluttered. She couldn’t get around using the walker because there wasn’t room for it. She didn’t want to do anything until she talked with “her boys.” Her boys were in their 50s, with families, jobs, homes. The son who lived nearby came to his mom’s 3-4 times a week. The son who lived out of state came one weekend a month. The boys said, “Mom, you need some help, more than we can give.” Mom said she’d think about it, maybe next month. Eleven months passed. A meeting was set up for Monday among her, her boys and CfY.
The boys had just come from Suburban Hospital. She’d fallen the previous Thursday evening, wasn’t found until Saturday morning. The injury was severe. Her right leg was amputated at the thigh. C-diff infection set in. We talked about rehab, building a ramp, refitting the bathroom, de-cluttering. Three weeks later she died.
Sad. Frustrating. Avoidable. …and not uncommon. Most seniors want to stay in their homes (AARP) fiercely. Age in place. Keep control. Remain independent. After 14 years professionally, and a decade personally, we’ve learned the ultimate irony: the biggest threat to someone losing their independence, and sometimes life, is fear of losing independence. Determining if and when your loved one needs caregiving assistance demands objective observation. Usually, it’s defined by FUNCTIONAL ABILITY, not by age. It’s important to:
-Ask revealing questions,
-Pay attention to the telltale signs,
-Look for patterns of consistent neglect.
The following questions are a tool to help determine if in-home care is needed. Just as difficult, they can help direct how to talk about it.