So often, with elderly seniors we have set perceptions that we are not aware of. If we see a senior walking with a cane, we often think that the senior is weak and frail. However, have the same senior using a pair of walking poles and we think that the senior is energetic and cognitively with it. Either could be the case.
One of my clients walked with a real purpose in her stride. However, she had dementia and as soon as she left her home she was lost. One day, she did leave. No one on the street paid any attention to her because she appeared to be fine. The RCMP was called in to find her.
Families become frustrated when other people visit with their elderly parents for 30 minutes and then comment to the families that they do not understand why they get upset with their parents. Seniors with dementia can speak to strangers in a kind and thoughtful way and then speak to their family members very harshly. They can accuse them of terrible things. If you are with the senior for a length of time who has dementia, then you start to hear them ask the same questions or make the same comments repeatedly. Listening to this can be very tiring to family members, especially those who are not trained or meant to be caregivers. This is when elder abuse may happen, which it totally unacceptable. Call the health authority in the area for guidance and assistance.
Years ago, I was flying from London to Toronto and was seated next to an elderly man who was a Chaplin during World War II. He told me the most fascinating stories about his assignments during the war. Then, I was working with another elderly client who was tall, elegant, attractive and had dementia. She was telling me about her days as a model. These stories too were most interesting. However, they only happened in her mind.
Some seniors with dementia can be very convincing that is why it is important that when the seniors go to a doctor’s appointment that a family member is in attendance to tell the reality of the situation. Also, it is important for someone to be physically present to check-in on seniors to see how they are doing. Often, when family members are speaking with seniors by telephone the seniors will say that everything is fine and that they are eating properly, which is what is real to them. When in fact, the home could be dirty, medication is not being taken properly and meals consist of toast.
All of us have filters through which we see seniors. We need to be aware that we should see every senior as they really are and not judge them by how they look physically or by speaking with them for ten minutes. As with anyone, to truly know seniors you need to spend time with them. They always deserve dignity and respect.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.