Last month I have been dealing with my dad’s terminal illness. I have had my moments of frustration as many of you have in taking care of loved ones with chronic illnesses like PD because sometimes what we think is best for them is not what they think is best for them. So how do you decide when to step in and when to watch from the side lines (cautiously holding your breath). This question is extremely complicated of when to override their needs and desires for safety sake?

For example my dad is very frail getting extremely weak and has fallen twice but still insists in using a walker instead of wheel chair which makes me cringe. It is important not to fall into a trap as a caregiver of assuming what the person with chronic illness or PD needs or wants. It would be best to ask that person what their wishes are. An honest and frequent dialogue can go a long way in maintaining the personal dignity of the care recipient or patient as well as that of the care partner who will not come across as a tyrant but rather truly caring individual.

Learn to compromise– avoid disputes and old issues from getting in the way! During chronic illness especially as a loved one reaches end of life; this is the time to stick together! So as to make him or her feel like he/she still has some independence …so instead of forcing wheelchair in the case of my dad, I explain my concern for him of falling again.

You must Reiterate your concerns in a compassionate manner – I explained to him that we had been lucky until now not to have broken any bones thus far. But, as his bones are frail and weak any small apparently insignificant injury even a simple bump from sliding off the bed can lead to a hip fracture or wrist fracture. However, if we are to not use wheelchair, then we must have a safe plan in place. So, he was instructed to call someone first prior to getting up either from bed or sitting to alert them of his intentions of wanting to be mobile. He then was to Sit at side of bed if reclining for few minutes rather than  jumping up from laying ( although  this is more theoretically purposes just so that he remembers to take it easy because in all honesty he is not jumping anywhere when movements are extremely slow, deliberate and  laborious); these recommendations are meant to safeguard him from getting orthostatic, dizzy and avoid subsequent falls. Furthermore, I again instructed him on appropriate safe use of walker and asked for him to carry safety belt around so if he does slip it would be easier for me or my mom to catch or lift him up.

Learn to coordinate: some of us are better at this than others. If you are good at delegating and seeing the big picture- this is your calling. Nothing is more important than having a game plan! For instance, I am good at this … While my mom tends to daily needs of my dad I can step back and see what needs to be done so I can guide my mother and assist her in getting things done. For instance dealing with matters of insurance, are documents in place?  Are Wills done?  Over see funeral arrangements if dealing with end stage disease and terminal as is my dad’s condition? Are other legal documents in order?

Because, as we know when we are dealing with the task of caring for someone 24/7, we can become so overwhelmed we sometimes can’t see the trees for the forest. This is especially the case when death is imminent, our judgment can become clouded and we may become paralyzed with grief! Be the one that initiates conversation and steers it in a positive direction to get things that need done taken care of.

Learn to facilitate: emotions tend to run ramped when dealing with a chronically ill loved one.  It is hard to step outside your situation and see things objectively. This is when a friend, pastor, social worker, healthcare professional or in my case a relative that does not live there all the time comes in handy. They will ( I-you can ) provide valuable insight into the situation, give impartial advice to diffuse a stressful situation by offering prayer and even referring to other counseling services, support groups and other resources on line and to other community organizations that may be able to assist with specific needs. (i.e. Help find a sitter)

Learn to listen: this is the most difficult task of all! Some of us hear but don’t really LISTEN. Listening takes special skills understanding and putting one in the other person’s shoes. When we are in a stressful situation we all desperately need to be heard so everyone talks but No one LISTENS! Often times no words need to be uttered to have truly listened and made the person you are caring for feel special, unburdened, understood and loved. The same rules apply for the caregiver … ask them to tell you their story. This simple act can allow them an outlet to relieve their stress and open the door of communication and a way for you to offer assistance in the area of their specific need. (E.g. My dad still wants to maintain some semblance of dignity and independence/ mom wants not to have  him break a bone and hurt herself in the process if he falls). So, we came up with specific compromises on how to do things like grooming in a manner that is safe and convenient for everyone.

Lastly but not least learn to socialize: again if you are a leader or a take charge kind of person or event planner, this would be right up your ally… After all we are social beings …most of us even the shyest of us (we) thrive when we are in bonding with others either individually or as a group. Therefore, it is important to plan social outlets to get the caregivers out of their stressful situation from time to time to avoid depression, loneliness, feelings of helplessness, spiritual exhaustion which might lead to suicidal ideation but also to remind them they are individuals that have unique talents and gifts. It is important to Do the same for the patient – (to avoid same type of feelings) the social activities can be done together or separately-best if done separately from time to time.  Help organize activities for family, individual etc. Put your imagination to work. Even if it means taking them out for an unexpected ” ice cream ” run or whatever their favorite activity may be like in my dad’s case fishing (even if it’s just in a pond, bucket, or fish tank because he is now too sick to go outdoors far away from home fishing as he would like) and my mom -shopping! (Of course don’t forget to get someone to watch patient while care giver goes out).

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Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org; http://www.aan.org, http://www.defeatparkinsons.blogspot.com All materials here forth are property of Defeatparkinsons. without express written consent, these materials only may be used for viewers personal & non-commercial uses which do not harm the reputation of Defeatparkinsons organization or Dr. M. De Leon provided you do not remove any copyrights. To request permission to reproduce release of any part or whole of content, please contact me at defeatparkinsons101@yahoo.com contributor http://www.assisted-living-directory.com Contributor http://www.lavozbrazoriacounty.com