Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--The Reluctant Care Partner

Few people seek out the role of care partner. Of those who do, most of them are paid to fulfil the role, and only a small portion of those feel called to the position. For the most part, the role of care partner is thrust upon family members who embrace it more or less reluctantly.

For some, the "reluctant" is definitely more.

Some people try to live in denial for a long as possible, thinking that if they don't admit the diagnosis, it won't be true. They refuse to see the losses that are obvious to others or attribute them to unrelated issues.
 "She's developed a hearing/seeing problem, and that's why she can't keep up with the conversation."
"He's having a bad day. Everyone has those."
"She's just stubborn."

Denial is a difficult river to travel on.The inevitable end is the realization of truth, and that can be devastating when you've been building a fantasy to protect your emotions. Along the way, you may experience anger, there will inevitably be fear and profound sadness. Denial isn't pretty.

Even without denial, the reluctant care partner may struggle with anger. Why did life take this unexpected turn? Many times a wife or a child will think, "I didn't sign up for this."

Or, the care partner will focus on who the person was before their disease. With each passing day, the losses become glaringly obvious, and they may feel that they no longer know the person, or that they've lost them.

All of this adds up to a tsunami of pain.

How can we help?

Helping the reluctant care partner requires time and sensitivity. They may not be open to much advice, and most of the coaching needs to be done indirectly.

1) Give time. As the reluctant care partner processes what they are going through, it will help them to have frequent breaks. Even if the time away is for mundane tasks such as grocery shopping, they will appreciate the relief.

2) Give understanding and a listening ear. If they want to talk, be there to listen without judgement. Care partners often spend hours on their own, coping with their situation, and a listening ear can be welcome.

3) Give practical help. Housecleaning, a few meals for the freezer, running errands--all of these can give the support needed to help them adjust.

4) Be positive. You know that an elder, even one who is physically frail and has dementia, has much to offer. Model this by the way you interact. Treat the elder with love and respect, and show a genuine interest in them. Talk with them, ask questions, listen, laugh together and show how you are enjoying the relationship. One of the most difficult tasks for the reluctant (or any care partner) is to accept that the person they love has changed, and that's okay. They are still a valuable, contributing person. This realization is a stretch for many, and you will need to lead them gently toward this understanding. Show them how you are enjoying their elder.

The reluctant care partner isn't a bad person. They have been handed a difficult task, and they are grieving and struggling to find their way through. A smile, a hand to hold and an encouraging word can be the lifeline they need to bring them through.

Care Partner Wednesday--The Reluctant Care Partner

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