How do caregivers determine if a situation is high risk?

Why won't my Mother accept help? My father won't stop driving and he has had numerous accidents this year. What should I do?

“Why won’t my Mother accept help?”

“My father won’t stop driving and he has had numerous accidents this year. What should I do?”

“My Great Aunt denies needing any help despite evidence of missed meals and unwashed hair. Can you get her to accept help?”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to these questions or a magical spell, for that matter.

Canadian society, as a whole, places value on maintaining control and independence. This doesn’t change with age and as long as an individual is cognitively competent, they have the right to make their own decisions.

When should caregivers intervene then? By this, I mean, how do caregivers determine whether the situation is considered high risk?

A caregiver or family member should step in when an aging loved one is behaving in a way that is not normal, or when a parent’s behaviour doesn’t fit with a required action.

For example, we received a phone call from a woman who was concerned about her neighbour. She noticed her frail elderly neighbour walking around at four o’clock in the morning, inappropriately dressed, looking for her husband. Her husband has been dead for 10 years.

This is an instance when immediate assistance is required. Probably the best course of action is to notify Home and Community Care in the Comox Valley at 250-331-8570.

Probably one of the most challenging situations is when an aging parent is in the early stages of dementia. Typically, the elder is aware that something isn’t right with their brain but can’t quite figure it out.

Missed medications, unhealthy weight loss due to missed meals, burning pots or causing floods are often red flags but unless combined they may not be considered a high-risk situation.

All situations involve a great deal of grey where some degree of risk exists. If you aren’t sure whether to intervene, often taking a step back and simply observing with objectivity is a good place to start.

If you feel you still can’t evaluate the situation objectively, consider engaging with a professional, be it a case manager with Home and Community Care, family physician or a private agency. Trained professionals can help make an assessment to determine the level of risk along with some ideas for planning next steps.

Trying to get at the root of resistance by patiently asking your loved ones will often shed more light into the situation. It may not result in acceptance of assistance immediately but may start to break down some of the walls.

Be compassionate and put yourself in their shoes. Would you react any differently? If you reach a deadlock, do not give up. Be patient and come back to the focal point, “What are the wishes of the older person?”

For some family members, being prepared to set firm boundaries and sticking to them is can be the best solution.

Ultimately, unless there is a major risk to others, or an aging loved one is deemed incompetent to make decisions for medical reasons, your aging loved one has final say regardless of how you feel about the decision they choose to make.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.

Just Posted

Printmakers association and fair in Cumberland

The Comox Valley Printmakers Association is holding a members’ exhibition and print… Continue reading

Cumberland mayoral debate announced prematurely; Leslie Baird declines invitation

Eduardo Uranga hoped to hold the debate Wednesday evening

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: Care-A-Van offers more than just care in a van

Mobile clinic brings medical and social services to the Valley’s most vulnerable

Comox Valley Regional District seeking input on development of Tsolum River Agricultural Watershed Plan

This fall, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is inviting the community… Continue reading

Naked man jumping into Toronto shark tank a ‘premeditated’ stunt: official

The man swam in a tank at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Workers at BC Interior mill strike as negotiations resume in Kelowna

Picket lines went up at 4 a.m Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Tolko Lakeview Division in Williams Lake

Courtenay’s Dingwall Road to be temporarily closed for construction

Next week, the intersection of Dingwall Road and McQuillan Road will be… Continue reading

Fall-ing for unseasonably warm weather on Vancouver Island

Environment Canada forecast calls for sunshine through weekend

Toronto Police ID B.C. man as naked shark tank jumper

David Weaver, of Nelson, is wanted on mischief and assault charges

In Florida, families seeking the missing amid storm damage

Five days after the hurricane slammed into the Florida Panhandle, people are struggling to locate friends and loved ones.

Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on a 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

EU’s Barnier hopes Brexit deal possible in ‘coming weeks’

Britain is set to leave the European Union in March, but a Brexit agreement must be sealed in coming weeks to leave enough time for relevant parliaments to ratify it.

Earth samples show dust from B.C. pipeline blast not a health threat: Enbridge

Enbridge says earth sampling shows mineral and metal composition is well below provincial and federal standards for urban and residential areas.

Most Read