Communication with the Elderly and the Need for Assisted Living
Exodus 12: 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Timothy 5: 8 "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Yes, we all know our responsibilities to our aging parents and most of us sure try our darndest. We also know that when there are social and personal needs, entrepreneurial business steps up to service those needs. That need to which I now refer being the care of the elderly. I’ll spare the reader the explanation and description of the kind of a society we have today, ie. the restrictions of time, and the stresses, both psychologically and financially on the citizenry. So the needs are being met by actually replacing cultural patterns of home care for our parents by business or government. May I say that it wasn’t long ago that generations often lived together in the same house, my Italian family being one of them. Three families and three generations all in one home in Brooklyn - uncles, aunts, cousins, parents and grandparents. Now, even Italians in this country are disconnected from each other.
In today’s society, the decision to have assisted living facilities taking care of our elderly relatives needs both guidance and counseling for all involved. Guidance will take care of the needed information and counseling for the decision making and personal adjustments once a decision is made. Clarity, proper attitudes, emotional stability and interpersonal trust will help in all of the travails of the process. How is this done?
Just what is the condition of the aged relative considering an assisted living facility in which to live? Have there been recent cognitive and physical changes? What is the status of present living facilities? Are there financial issues? What are the roles of current family members as it exists now?
Speaking of family members, how much trust exists among each? And do they communicate with each other on matters open to discussion. Yes, open to discussion, for there can be a denial of a myriad of issues present. There can be denial of cognitive, physical, financial and living facility status. Are there any cognitive issues among participating family members? Mama/papa will get better. Mama/papa just needs a walker. If only her children and grandchildren would chip in some more, their time and money. Are there insects or mold in the present home? Would someone be responsible for visitations or rotation of services? Just how knowledgeable is the family about all of the needs confronting the elderly relative. This requires an objective role of professional counselors and advisors who see it from the outside. Christian counsel is preferred to help ease any apparent conflicts.
Here evolves the gist of the process. Should there be dysfunctions of the process amidst the family concerned the following will manifest. Firstly, any denial of issues will cause an unclarity and even unreality of the progressing situation and thus compels outside help in guidance. Secondly, the ensuing frustration for any arising situation will be the result of that unreality and denial. This includes the quality of care, time involved in care taking, and any home deficiencies existing for that care. Failure to function on the level intended then leads to depression, individually or collectively for both care taking family and the elder family member. Depression inevitably leads to anger or even violence. Family care takers may eventually reach the acceptance phase and of course that is all for the better. All social, financial, emotional, cognitive and physical concerns can finally be faced, and begin anew, the better for all concerned. How much better it could be with the guidance and counseling required.
Toner, Mary Ann and Barbara B. Shadden. “Counseling Challenges: Working with Older Clients and Caregivers. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders. Vol. 29: 68-78. Spring, 2002.