What’s a Caregiver to Do When an Elder Won't Accept Outside Care?


Perhaps the caregiver's biggest dilemma is what to do with their loved one when they themselves need health care. I'm facing such a dilemma right now.

Those of you who've been following this blog know that my husband has dementia and difficulty walking from injuries he sustained in an accident, many years ago.

Now I've been told that I need a knee replacement. (Actually, I didn't have to be told! My extremely painful "housemaid's knee" was no longer responding to cortisone injections, so the handwriting was on the wall.)

Charlie no longer drives, uses a cane (he should be using a walker, but the stubborn man refuses), has fallen several times recently, has occasional bowel accidents – and still he tells me he'll be fine by himself while I am hospitalized!

There are several options for someone to look after him while I am incapacitated; he is rejecting all of them.

After years of fighting the GMO labeling/organic food fight I find myself stocking the fridge with TV dinners. The cupboards are overflowing with all kinds of quick fixes for meals.

Won't Monsanto love me?

I bought a "grabber" so I can reach things on the floor without bending over, borrowed a walker (the one Charlie won't use), ordered the HurryCane (don't bother – I can't run any faster than I can with my other cane), and am on the search for a gizmo to raise the toilet seat.

But I still haven't solved the problem of what to do with Charlie.

Respite care? It will probably take a straightjacket to get him there.

Home Health Care Aid? "They'll steal everything in sight," is his response to that.

A certain family member was suggested, "She can't take care of herself. How can she take care of me?"

You see where I am going with this? Nowhere!

Today I talked to the Visiting Nurse that assists our senior living community. She suggested I contact the VA. Charlie has an 80 percent government disability, so they can assign him a caseworker to help figure it all out.

Of course that will mean taking him to the VA hospital – thank heavens there is one about five miles from here. I think maybe, if they tell him what he needs he will listen.

Why is it they always listen better to someone else than the one who is caring for them? Is it just plain stubbornness, or is it their way of showing they still have control of their lives? The latter I think.

It's hard for a person with dementia who is still aware enough to realize they are losing control of their body and their life. They use every means possible to hang on to what little they have left in the way of dignity and pride.

At least, by talking to the Visiting Nurse today, I have taken a step in the right direction towards solving the problem. I have another month to figure it out. I'll keep you posted.

And if any of you out there who have had a knee replacement would like to advise me not to do it – I can be easily swayed. I'm dreading it!

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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Regarding your knee replacement, remember a replaced, artificial knee can never be as good as the one you were born with, unless there has been significant traumatic injury. I work with many seniors who have had one knee surgery, and they tell me they would never do it again, and of course refuse to undergo the knife on their other knee. Research at NIH proves that Acupuncture is very beneficial for painful knees. Chiropractic care, which is covered by Medicare, is another conservative method that benefits the entire musculoskeletal system and connecting joints, including knees. Your chiropractic physician or acupuncturist may also be able to help you with nutrition and herbs to promote joint healing. I would try every conservative approach, besides just radical drugs and surgery, before giving up on your knee. Nature is always on your side and works best when supported naturally.
I'd like to share what we had to do with my mom who has vascular dementia when we all needed a break. We worked through our GP who explained to her that she needs to go to hospital (stepdown facility). It worked, she stayed for 3 weeks with no problem.
I don't envy you. I face the same situation with my husband. He thinks he can take care of himself, but he can't so I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I now have an aide come in once a week so I can get out for a couple of hours without worrying about my husband. Best thing I could do. He complains about it. Says he doesn't need a "baby sitter". I told him it's more for me than him; then I just leave. It isn't easy, but if I don't do this for ME, I will go completely crazy. You need to take take of yourself or you'll both be in NH with no choices. Do what you have to do NOW! Remember, his power of reasoning is gone. You have to make the decisions and stick to them. Good luck!