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Archive for the ‘Elder and Senior Care Issues’ Category

Infidelity in Elder Care

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When two nursing home residents Art and Frieda started to hold hands, kiss, and generally enjoy one another’s company, family members became livid. Why? Art and Frieda are married, however, not to each other.
When family members tried to intervene by contacting and asking the nursing home staff to prohibit contact between the two, the ethics governing body responded that the autonomy of the couple superseded the wishes of the family. Not only that, but when it came to taking care of the elderly, the staff had no right to keep the two apart nor administer medication to ‘dampen’ their desires. This case, reported from Sweden, reflects that infidelity is a growing problem for senior citizen homes, nursing home staff and nursing home patient family members. How should family members respond to this type of infidelity in marriage?
Family members can help each other by first assessing whether this attraction is due to who Dad really is (talkative, funny, gregarious) or if some personality change has taken place due to the dementia. After the initial shock, families who see Dad spending time with someone in the nursing home who is not his wife often report how happy he looks and how much joy they seem to share. If a personality change has occurred the attraction may be a reflection of this different personality and not a reflection of the dad they love and remember.
If a cognitive deficit has taken place (long term memory loss) then families must consider: if we cannot recall past promises are we morally bound by them? Many poignant movies have been written about an individual successfully wooing his partner who has forgotten her vows due to brain injury or dementia.
This is a romantic portrayal, however, and the reality is spouses of unfaithful dementia patients feel betrayed. Emotional distress increases if Dad has had a history of infidelity. Family members can respond to this by supporting Mom, one another, and getting outside help if needed.

Compassion Fatigue: Seeking a Caregiver Support Group and PTSD Support

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

What does a caregiver have in common with a soldier, firefighter, and doctor? Compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue (CF) stems from the daily sustained amount of compassion and energy required when caring for an individual with special needs or a chronic health condition.

Symptoms of CF can be similar to the signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and may erupt as caregivers begin to absorb pain from the individuals they are caring for. Mental health symptoms such as anger, fatigue, depression, anxiety, loss of joy, and hopelessness are common. This is detrimental to both parties and ultimately deteriorates the quality of care being provided. Ultimately the caregivers may need the same kind of PTSD support.

We know self-care benefits caregivers but many times caregivers neglect their health and ignore the early warning signs of CF. As they push themselves to maintain the strength to forever care for their loved one, a superhuman mentality prevails and self care takes a backseat. This may lead not only to the symptoms of CF but also relationships issues.

As the mother of a young child with special needs, I know first-hand self care is critical in maintaining longevity as a caretaker. The first step is awareness. If you are uninformed about CF you may not understand the behaviors you must change and the ramifications if you do not. The second step is to re-train your thoughts about self-care. It is not selfish to refuel yourself as you care for your child. Think about the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first – if you are not OK you cannot help your child.

The third step is to retrain your behavior as you retrain your thoughts. Simply stated one must exercise, connect with other grown-ups, talk, cry, journal, meditate, dance, eat healthy, sing, take a warm bath, pick flowers, doodle, pray, and most importantly, laugh out loud. A caregiver support group may be a good outlet for sharing your experience with others. If you find you are doing these things and not gaining any pleasure or benefit, talking with a professional can help.

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