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When To Know Help Is Needed

When To Know Help Is Needed

Many families sooner or later face the problems and stress of giving care to a spouse or elder parent with some degree of dementia or physical decline. In each case the spouse or children, all feel the anxiety and stress of worrying about the safety and well being of the older loved ones. If you are anxious for your loved one, and feel overwhelmed by the unrelenting demands, that is a clear sign that not only is the family member not be safe for any number of reason, but outside help is needed.

If dad or mom has suffered falls, that can be due to inability to walk or use stairs with good balance, insufficient eyesight, or the brain just not letting them know when they need to step or hold on. Another sign is if they become insecure or fearful, and follow the healthy spouse or child around the home. A healthy spouse is like a security blanket, so the one with dementia is afraid to lose sight of the spouse, much like a very young toddler wants mommy in sight. With failing memory, the needy spouse may ask the same question over and over, and sooner or later, this unrelenting following and questioning can drive the healthy spouse or caretaker child to distraction. Sometimes the dementia can lead to anger and frustration which is taken out on the caregiver.

Missing meals or forgetting to take medications are obvious signs but the problem is not knowing that, if you do not live with a parent. For that reason, a way must be found to verify if meals are being eaten. Quizzing mom or dad might work, but they may be defensive so checking the refrigerator would help to see if food has been eaten. If you are getting constant calls about simple matters that may show awareness by the elder that they can no longer make themselves remember or make decisions. Years ago a client was stopped by the police for running a red light and when it became apparent that he did not know where he was, or how to get home, the police called the family with the unfortunate news.

The caregivers themselves will soon feel the strain of constant calls for help, and unrelenting worry about a parent in decline. When that stress starts to drag down the stamina of the child, that is a clear sign that outside help is needed. It is not easy for most of us to admit that we may not have the time, the stamina, or even the physical ability to daily or hourly serve the needs of someone who cannot remember to eat, to toilet properly, to bathe, or be safe. In short, before stress levels rise to the frustration, is the time to know help is needed. Physical safety, nutrition, and well being should not be put off because the very caring and loving spouse or child deeply wants to believe that they can do it. At a certain point, their own health and well being will be at risk – this is called caregiver burnout.

Government programs that can help pay for outside help include Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance for wartime veterans, and the Connecticut Home Care for Elders Level II, and Medicaid. At the high end for those who qualify, Medicaid could pay up to $6,500 per month for care at home with a live-in aide. VA Aid and Attendance, for a married veteran that qualifies could pay up to $2,727 per month.

Some sources for information are,, Ask friends who have gone through the same difficult decline of a loved one. Or consult with an elder care attorney who knows the programs available and possible sources of payment.

The key is not to go it alone to the point where you are so stressed that your own health suffers. Without you, your spouse, or parent with dementia may be forced to a nursing home. And don’t let feelings of guilt prevent you from seeking the assistance that is directly needed for the elder person. It benefits both that one needing care and the healthy family member. If you feel stressed and anxious, don’t wait until you are at wits end. That is sign enough that your loved one needs more help than you can give.

Attorneys Stephen O. Allaire (Of Counsel) and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. Allaire (Of Counsel) and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.




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