It’s important to understand, in the first instance, that some people are happy to live the way they do. They may not have lived this way in the past, however some are happy to make a trade off with the standard of living they have now, with their ability to retain their independence. People who are competent to make their own decisions can decide how they want to live. Care must be taken therefore to not make judgments about others living conditions.
Having said this, it is often obvious to others, that the person is not coping well or their safety is at risk.
Talking with older people about such issues can be difficult. Some older people are fearful about becoming dependant on others and may deny what really is going on and in some instances become angry and defensive. They may also blame themselves for their circumstances or feel that you are trying to take control of their life. And, in some instances e.g., a person with dementia may lack the insight to understand their situation.
Helpful tips about talking these issues through include:
- making time to talk about it when you are both feeling ok,
- encouraging the person to speak about any fears they may have e.g., worried that this conversation will lead to them ‘going into care’,
- listening carefully and not minimising what they are saying,
- expressing your concerns,
- being honest about what you can and can’t do to assist them,
- talking through all the options together,
- encouraging the person to make an independent decision if possible.
If you are still concerned and are not making any progress, and you are feeling responsible, and you are the caregiver/supporter, tell the person that you would like an independent opinion e.g., the older person’s service in your area/NASC or General Practitioner (GP). If there are public health issues, you should refer the situation to the GP or your local public health unit. Go ahead and make this contact. You are the person seeking help for yourself.
Carers New Zealand is a national charitable trust to help carers of all ages. Their web site contains extensive information http://www.carers.net.nz