I really hate to admit this, but sometimes, we humans can’t even approach the thought of a much-needed change in our lives unless and until a crisis occurs.
I see this with clients all the time, they might be caring for a loved one who desperately needs assisted living or even memory-care placement, but that individual wants nothing to do with such a change in their life – it feels like too much choice, autonomy and freedom would be ripped away. So, they resist.
The caregiver is left to either act on their behalf (often with durable power of attorney or guardianship) or wait until something calamitous occurs which will ultimately force the change. For many elderly people (especially those with cognitive losses) that event or crisis is usually a serious fall that leads to life-changing injury or another form of health crisis.
In the end, the change that was needed occurs, but instead of having it happen in collaboration with the one who needs it most, it may be brought about by events that make it clear, the current situation is not sustainable (like staying in one’s own home, living without supervision, or continuing to drive). Change is hard under these circumstances.
I remember when this happened in OUR house (it’s been several years since the event) but, my husband, who has always enjoyed cocktail hour, was still making his own drinks. He was a very particular bar-tender, especially when constructing a Manhattan, his favorite evening libation. But he reached a point where he couldn’t remember how many he’d drunk – one became two, two stretched to just a little bit more and then, his lack of judgment precipitated an injury!
He became sufficiently inebriated that he fell, headed toward the refrigerator in search of more ice. He suffered a compound fracture of his tibia which required surgical fixation, followed by several weeks of rehabilitation. Since then, the liquor has been under lock and key – we both learned the hard way!
What’s the change in your life (or your loved-one’s life) that you need to initiate? Is it about housing or nutrition or some other issue related to safety? Is it a conversation about driving, about drinking or some other challenging topic? Do you need to set boundaries, make some rules that will create safety-guards in order to avert that crisis? You probably know exactly what’s coming, but the thought of raising those issues is painful!
While we CAN change the circumstances of life for those whose lives we manage (as family members, spouses or caregivers) through pre-established legal means or court-orders, we would often prefer to have such matters managed with conversation, collaboration and even co-creation. Getting ahead of the crisis is one way to save yourself (and your loved-one) from the consequences of waiting too long.
The crisis for your loved-one will ultimately create some chaos for you…while it may be their injury, it will end up being YOUR emergency, with trips to the emergency department or urgent care, hospital visits, unexpected expenses, schedule disruptions and making explanations for your absence from work!
You may not be able to avoid all of that (sometimes we’re even grateful for the crisis, because it alters the trajectory in a positive directions), you can get your own approach to the necessary changes in order. That can mean:
- Looking into potential solutions to the situation or problem, finding what’s available locally.
- Discovering the limits of your “enough” – enough protections, expenditures, assistance – to keep your loved-one safe.
- Examining your own personal limits – how much sleep you need, what you can do personally vs. what you may need to delegate to someone else!
- Sorting through the cost of crisis – is it worth averting, or should you simply let it happen (as the precipitating event that finally brings change)?
There are no easy answers when you sense that a crisis may be coming. But, you don’t have to puzzle through it alone. I’m always available to coach you through the complexities of such decisions and discussions – we all need a coach, sometimes! Let me know if I can help!
Wishing you well in all that you do – especially on behalf of others, who are vulnerable and in need of your care!