One of the essential elements of caring for an ailing loved one is ensuring that the basic elements of respect and dignity remain as intact as possible for our elderly loved ones and their family members. This is often easier said than done, especially when the caregiver IS the family member. Roles, whether husband and wife or parent and child, become blurred and morph into something else. Rather than enjoying the golden years of growing old together, a husband may now be the primary caregiver of his wife, who is now completely dependent on him for eating, bathing, even toileting. Rather than taking advice from our parents, we are now called upon to direct them in even the simplest activities of daily living, arranging their medications and doctor’s appointments, etc. Dependency of this type often shifts the entire dynamic of the relationship, leaving the caregiver exhausted, frustrated, and sometimes resentful, and the care-receiver feeling guilty for being “a burden” on their family.

Unfortunately, there is a void in our health care system when it comes to caring for people who are elderly or disabled. To fill this void, families find themselves relying on other family members, friends, and friends of friends (usually paid “under the table”) to piece together care for their loved one. This is often seen as the only option. Although the floor of basic safety may be met, it comes at the astronomical price of exhaustion for the caregiver, tense relationships between caregiver and care-recipient. This arrangement also breeds animosity among family members, with each feeling they are carrying the lion’s share of the burden. I see it every day.

There IS a way to preserve the dignity of our aging loved ones and preserve the nature of their personal relationships with each other. What’s more, there is a way to do this without breaking the bank. At PBM, I work with clients every day to establish in-home care for elderly loved ones paid for by Medicaid. When appropriate care is in place, and not dependent on the charity of friends and family members, husbands and wives can live as a married couple rather than nurse and patient. They can take walks, share meals and conversation, play a game of checkers, or relax in their easy chairs. Children can spend time listening to their parents’ stories rather than bathing their parents, cleaning their parents’ home, and arguing with their siblings about who is the most helpful.

If your spouse, parents, or other loved one needs assistance at home, we can help.

If you have any questions about the above material or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact us at (716) 204-1055.

Alzheimer’s Disease, Long term care, Perspectives on Aging