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When Caregiving Gets Awkward

As an adult son, daughter, spouse, or even grandchild, you want to help a loved one when they become ill or their abilities change as the result of natural aging. But are there some things that you would prefer a professional caregiver do instead?

Let’s get real: not everyone is prepared to bathe their loved one or discuss potentially embarrassing topics.

Have you found yourself in one of these predicaments?

1. You notice that a loved one doesn’t smell the same. A change in a person’s odor can be a sign of illness so the first step is to schedule an appointment with their health care provider for a check-up. They may also need to see a dentist, so add that to the checklist. Have they stopped bathing or showering? Are they changing their clothes? Has their diet changed? These are all things to investigate with as much kindness as possible and to get medical professionals involved for support too so the advice comes from a trusted third-party.

2. Speaking of smells, how does their home smell? As senses dull due to aging or illness, a person’s ability to sniff out food that has gone bad or the need to take out the trash can become an issue. Is the solution to hire someone to help out with weekly housekeeping? Or can a caregiver add light housekeeping to their responsibilities when they come over for medication reminders? Having a clean and fresh-smelling environment might lift their spirits and provide something to look forward to consistently.

3. Back to that lapse in bathing…if you’re an adult daughter, for example, are you comfortable giving your elderly father a bath? Is it even safe for you to physically support him as he enters and exits that slippery area? There are many reasons why elderly people stop bathing themselves: fear of falling, symptoms of dementia that mean they forget the frequency or steps involved, inability to control water temperature, and more. Hiring a professional caregiver to take on this task is a good option, but then this person needs to be scheduled at a time that is best for your loved one for optimum results. Learn more about the safety hazards in the bathroom.

4. Your loved one won’t go out to eat with you or anyone else, or sit across the table from you to share a meal at home. It’s time for some delicate detective work so that they can once again partake in this pleasant shared activity with others, in part to decrease potential feelings of loneliness. Again, this might be a health problem that needs to be addressed by a dentist or their healthcare provider. People who have dentures may need to get them refitted or there could be mouth or tooth pain to fix. If you’re eating with a loved one who is unable to keep their food and drink from spilling or ending up on their clothes, it’s time for some compassionate conversations to help them find a solution to the chewing and swallowing problems they are experiencing.

5. All of the above topics can mean it’s time to have “the talk” with your loved one. We’ve provided tips for this possibly emotionally chat. Often one of the first signs that someone’s ability to be completely independent shows up is in their driving. Check out these suggestions for how to address their safety—and that of others on the road too—in this article. Even once you’ve practiced the conversation in front of a mirror, met with their healthcare provider, and done research on local long-term care options, this can be a very challenging talk for families and friends. Be prepared to listen, put yourself in their shoes, show respect, and be patient as they process their options such as home care services and using a caregiver.

Becoming a family caregiver can happen gradually with a few errands and evolve into more personal care that requires training to do safely. Caregiving can also happen suddenly after an accident or illness such as a stroke, but the needs for personal and companion care might be the same and prove to be overwhelming for family and friends. Hiring a home care professional can be an act of true kindness in the face of an awkward situation to preserve the relationship you both know and thrive in.

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