How do caregivers define success?
In a recent interview, author Louise Penny said of her husband, a doctor who now suffers from dementia, “I only want him safe, healthy and happy.”
The problem is that ‘safe’ means restricting the person from doing things they can no longer manage. Dementia may already be causing frustration, depression, anger, and sometimes aggression towards their caregiver. Adding in such restriction can only exacerbate the situation. As a result, ‘happy’ goes by the wayside. Without the peace that comes from happiness, or at least general contentment, health is often impacted as well.
‘Safe’ seems to be the only condition a caregiver can control, but are the repercussions worth it?
When Mom was in Assisted Living, my brother and I were called in by the manager.
“Your mother is going to the bank across the street and taking out large amounts of cash. She carries it loose in her purse, and walks up and down Whyte Avenue that way. It’s not safe!”
Mom always took out $2000 in cash to manage her household bills. Memory was driving her to carry on this practice. If we tried to restrict her, she wouldn’t understand. She would, however, find reference to financial elder abuse in her brain, something she’d read up on a lot when her dementia took her into a paranoid stage. Past experience told us that if we interfered, Mom would become obsessed with how to report us. Trust would be lost, and she would refuse our help.
We decided, rightly or wrongly, not to interfere. I trusted that God could keep her safe. A few months later her dementia had progressed to where she could no longer manage the process of navigating the way to the bank. In the meantime, she was able to carry on as her brain demanded.
What do you think? Is the expectation of a “safe, healthy and happy” recipient a reasonable measure of success for a caregiver? If not, what should the goal of the caregiver be?
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