Sutton, MA Elder Care - a walk in their shoes...
I have been working with the elderly in our community providing many different types of services over the years. A discovery that I came across during this time - was that the aging process creates the need for a different presentation by service providers to our older generation. Proper communication is a key factor regardless if medical or social in nature. For instance, I found through many trips to the emergency room -or other facilities that my father could be a “yes” man in certain situations. Now, I knew my dad was NEVER a yes man his entire life – so why now? Basically, as he aged, his hearing became affected, subtle memory issues crept up, word retrieval difficulties at times, slower reflexes. While these are all very typical effects of aging, they are not usually significant enough to address individually. Sometimes I would watch him listen to a complete explanation from a medical professional and say “ok” – only to find out later that he did not hear or understand the whole conversation! Thus the need for advocacy became apparent. Many of these visits presented other older people in the same situations, some had family to accompany them -- but many did not.
Here are some tips that I used to recognize whether someone is comprehending an explanation or not.
- Make sure the provider (doctor, nurse, etc…) is speaking in a loud and clear manner to your elder. You might ask if the elder understands what they are being told or if they can hear the conversation that is taking place.
- How is their decision making process? Do they appear to understand what can happen if they do not follow proper medication or safety instructions? This could be a good time to discuss and reinforce directions and instructions and even ask questions yourself to reinforce.
- Make notes from the appointment with step by step instructions - (helpful at times on MD stationary if dementia issues).
- Pay attention to facial expressions or body language – if someone is staring blankly it usually indicates they may not be grasping the point or even hearing the whole conversation.
- Never be condescending to the elder - but be sure to repeat what the doctor/nurse is saying and present that it is for YOU to make sure you understand.
Advocacy is critical depending on your elders capabilities – or lack of – our oldest generation is usually more apt to agree with what they are being told by people in positions of authority without asking questions.
I established Senior Comfort Services to become an advocate, to acknowledge the needs of older adults and learn from them, and to make a difference in their lives. The outcome was an opportunity to create rewarding relationships between caregivers and the population they serve that needed a little assistance to remain independent at home. Wherever home may be.