We have another discussion
on our site about the importance of being an assertive
senior. This is a page that talks about seniors needing
to ask the tough questions about their health and well-being
from their doctors, and to challenge their doctors and their
caregivers when they believe that they are not being cared for
properly, or if they believe they are receiving an incorrect
diagnosis, advice - or if they are being ignored. We felt that
this was an important subject since many aging parents and seniors
are less equipped and capable of 'speaking up' when necessary,
and are less likely to show their assertiveness at the times
when they need it the most.
seniors to show their assertiveness to make sure they receive
the care and attention that they need and deserve.
So what happens when
a senior is not only unassertive about their health can care,
but are to the point of being stubbornly nonchalant or indifferent?
This is where their attitude, whether they realize it or not,
can become unfair to everyone involved - especially family and
I'd like to
share a personal story about stubbornness, and how it is affecting
wrote, and did a video last year about my mother-in-law who
was facing stage-3 cancer.
She is 82 years old, and aside from this, she has been a model
of health and independence throughout her whole 'senior existence.'
She's the type that eats all-organic foods, exercises and does
yoga, and for an 82-year-old, she looks fantastic. She's lived
alone for the past 15 years or so, and has been in the same
house in a small town for about 50 years. She still works, just
because she wants to.
Very obviously, she
is a person who cherishes her independence.
During her struggle
with the cancer, she, at times, was very unassertive, and did
not press her doctors about all of the possible options for
her treatment, or even what the correct diagnosis was, or the
severity of it (which was, at times questionable). She even
went as far as to not even acknowledge that she was sick (by
doing so, she felt that she wasn't giving her illness 'more
power' over her). We, as her family, were forced to make numerous
trips to see her, and accompany her to her appointments to act
as her voice of reason, and support with her doctors and caregivers.
We believe that had we not stepped in, she would not have been
cared for as well, and in turn, may not still be with us today.
a year to the good news. She has apparently beat the actual
cancer, which we are all thankful for, and thrilled about. She
had several months of being back to her normal, energetic, independent
However, some new, unexpected
issues have come up that have challenged our whole family, and
have made us question whether she is receiving the type of care
she needs. We are also questioning whether her doctors are addressing
her issues correctly.
As a result of the chemo
that she received, she has developed a serious disorder that
makes the muscles in the body extremely weak - to the point
of not being able to walk but only a few steps before needing
to rest. Driving is definitely out of the question, which is
a huge problem, since she lives alone.
The problem for us,
as her family that lives well over 1000 miles away, is that
again, she is not acknowledging that she is very ill again,
and for us to get the straight story from her over the phone
is very difficult. She is being stoic, and quite stubborn about
her health, and about maintaining her independence. She refuses
to ask neighbors or friends for any help whatsoever, and any
advice that we, as her family, offer her is usually immediately
dismissed. We have contacted several neighbors who are more
than willing to help her, and to check in on her, but she refuses
the help as, in her words "She does not want to be a burden."
Our other idea, which
was also dismissed was to call her local Area
Agency on Aging to find out what services might be available
to help her with her "ADL's" or "Activities of
Daily Living. We found out that there are services in her area
to help her with transportation to shopping and appointments,
and even caregivers who can check on her by phone, and in-person
several times a week. This all would be a perfect solution for
the time-being - however, she dismissed this idea since it has
a lengthy application process (in her view) and since she still
believes that she doesn't need help.
has now crossed the line into being unfair to her family.
Because she refuses
to be helped, and won't ask for it even when it is readily available
to her through her neighbors, and through her community services,
the burden then is on her extended family, all of whom live
in different states. Unfortunately, our time and monetary resources
are finite, and there will be a time that she will need care
more than just the occasional "checking in."
We feel that
the time is right for her to start looking into assisted living.
My mother-in-law fortunately
lives in an area where there are numerous excellent assisted
living facilities - many of which already have her friends living
there as residents. In such an environment, she can focus on
truly healing, and not worrying about things like navigating
her steep staircase to take her laundry to the laundry-room
in her basement, or keeping up her lawn and garden, shoveling
snow, or worrying about making it to her appointments without
getting into an accident.
her to consider assisted living as an option will not be easy,
and unfortunately, it will more-than-likely take something serious
happening, like a fall, for her to realize that she is not a
young 70 any more. She has issues, and she needs the help -
and the help is available.
In the meantime, we,
as her family, are burdened with the stress, guilt, and anxiety
of not knowing each day if she has groceries, if she has managed
another day without a fall, if she's made it to her appointments,
and what the true story and reality is of her condition - an
position that is unfortunate, unnecessary, and unfair for anyone
to find themselves in, especially if local help is readily available.
Asking for help should
not be a source of shame or embarrasment, or a forfeit of independence.
Regardless of age, we all need help from time-to-time, and we
should all be thankful that we live in a country where federal
(largely started with the Older Americans Act of 1965), state,
local and private resources that are geared specifically to
help the elderly (and to offer relief to family caregivers)
are readily available.
- Article by the
staff at Assisted Living Directory