Elderly Parents Want Constant Attention – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 106 October 6, 2021. On this episode, caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson offers reasons elderly parents may want constant attention and how the actions of adult children caregivers may have unintentionally contributed to the situation. Learn solutions to help parents become more independent.
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Elderly Parents Want Constant Attention: Problems & Solutions
Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
What Caregivers Can Do When Elderly Parents Want Constant Attention
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, eldercare consultant, and author. This week’s episode is a mini-pod or a mini-podcast episode created to specifically to respond to situations and questions listeners share with me on social media, in my online caregiver group, or by completing the caregiver survey on pameladwilson.com. Thank you for your continued requests and for sharing this podcast of over 100 episodes with everyone you know.
The topic for this show is what to do when elderly parents want constant attention. Part of this answer depends on the stage of your caregiving situation. For example, recommendations for caregivers who are just beginning to help aging parents will be different from family caregivers who may already be spending 20 to 40 or more hours a week in care situations—versus caregivers who are living with parents in their homes or vice versa.
Additionally, the suggestions for persons caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will be different. Regardless of the stage of your care situation the tips I’m about to offer – with all of the steps if you follow them, can make your care situation more manageable and minimize caregiver stress. Let’s begin by talking about the early caregiving stages when elderly parents begin to desire or need constant attention.
Caregiving Tasks Begin Small and Grow to Engulf the Lives of Caregivers
This can begin with small requests like grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions, doing yard work, and other tasks around the home that seem to be routine. What most adult children and aging parents fail to realize is that NOW not later is the time to ask parents how they want to live versus how they may have to live.
You might be wondering what I mean by how parents want to live versus how parents may have to live. Let’s talk about this for a moment. Dealing with elderly parents who want constant attention or need constant attention can be the result of not having early discussions about caregiving boundaries. The assistance needed from adult children can increase when elderly parents refuse to acknowledge the changes that accompany getting older.
If we’re honest, no one wants to get old or need help. If we’re being realistic, we will all age and need help. Let me share an example that illustrates how you want to live versus how you may have to live. A friend of mine in her 50’s recently got up on a ladder to change a light bulb in a tricky location in her house. She knew that she probably should have waited for her husband to help. But, like most people, she wanted to get the job done.
How You Want to Live Versus How You May Have to Live
As a result, she fell and injured herself. She stayed at home lying in bed and refusing to go to the hospital until 4 days later when her husband made her go. The result? She had a broken back and will be going through a year of exercises and recovery. She couldn’t work for 6 months. This little idea of I want to change the lightbulb incident changed her life. The fall permanently changed her physical abilities that will be limited permanently by the back injury.
Her ability to work and many parts of her life that she took for granted are now changed. The way that she may have wanted or dreamed of living is very different from how she will live here forward from today. Aging has this funny way of giving us a false sense of security. We think – well, I used to do this all the time. Without thinking about what enabled us to do this all the time?
Let’s say that you used to go out and chop wood all day to have firewood in the winter. How old were you then? What was your daily level of physical activity? How was your strength? What other questions should you ask? How has my physical body and my routine changed since the days where I chopped and carried wood all day.
An Inability to Assess Safe or Unsafe Activities
Aging parents talk to you about their driving abilities all of the time by saying, “I’ve driven a car since I was 16 years old—why would I stop now.” Here are a few tips to answer that question. Mom or dad, is your hearing, vision, memory, reflexes, and body strength as good as it was when you were 16? If not, then your driving skills aren’t the same.
The problem is that no one wants to admit that they are weaker or less able than they were 5 or 10 years ago. Most adults, according to research, have an unrealistic assessment of their physical abilities and the quality of their health especially in comparison to other family members or friends.
If your elderly parents want constant attention, it’s highly likely that they are in poorer physical or mental condition than they were several months or years ago. Start asking or tracking the number of hours per day that you or an aging parent are active. How many hours are you or a parent sitting down? How many hours are you or elderly parents standing or walking or participating in any type of activity? The more you sit the less fit you become.
There’s no magic to maintaining or improving health for adult children or parents except for establishing routines to become more physically active and strong. To answer the question of how you or aging parents want to live versus how you may have to live is the commitment you make today to improving or maintaining your health and level of physical activity. No one but you can do this.
Actions of Caregivers Can Make Elderly Parents More Dependent
Caregivers doing too much for an aging parent as the result of wanting to be helpful or having the best of intentions can result in elderly parents who want constant attention. The more time and attention you give—the more they want because they begin to rely on you too much to the exclusion of other people in their lives.
Because caregivers keep saying yes and feeling guilty about saying no, this self-sufficiency has a way of nosediving when one person becomes increasingly dependent on another. When you’ve reached the point when elderly parents want constant attention, ask yourself. what you have done to contribute to this situation? What tasks have you taken away from parents that they still could be doing for themselves even though the tasks may take much longer than you doing them?
Stop doing things your parents can still do for themselves or you will make them less able and more reliant on you. Even though there is an acceptance and a reality that accompanies aging, it is possible to distinguish between risky things to do like climbing ladders alone versus walking down the stairs using double hand railings to do the laundry.
Here’s an example, an older adult who should use a walker for balance and stability. This person decides that a foldable grocery or laundry cart would be an appropriate substitution because the walker and the grocery cart both have handles. The logic not considered is the purpose of the walker versus the foldable cart.
When Good Judgment Becomes Faulty
While they look similar, most walkers are sturdily constructed to support weight and balance for older adults to reduce the likelihood of a fall. A foldable grocery or laundry cart makes it easy to move things around – like a wagon did when you’re a child. The foldable grocery cart is not a physical or balance support nor is its purpose to reduce the possibility of a fall.
So what happens when mom uses the foldable cart instead of the walker? Mom falls, breaks a hip, and needs constant attention due to bodily injuries that may take time or never heal. There is a level of insight and judgment that it takes to compare and contrast the use or purpose of a walker and a foldable grocery or laundry cart. This judgment is called executive function.
Executive function involves problem-solving skills of comparing one item or scenario to another and the ability to think about something in more than one way – like asking the question, am I safe to do this thing even though I’ve done it many times before. It’s the idea of reasons why elderly parents want constant attention that involves caregivers and aging parents using these executive function skills.
Anticipating What Might Happen Next
For example, paying attention to the little changes you may be seeing in an elderly parent specific to memory, physical abilities, and daily habits. Are parents as good at organizing and planning as they once were? Do mom and dad stay focused on projects through to completion, or is there a lot of distraction, uncertainty, or changing thought patterns. Has mom or dad become more emotional about day-to-day activities which, in turn, sets off your emotions?
Are mom or dad more self-centered or narcissistic about their interests and less concerned about interactions with you, your siblings, or others? Is there a denial that behaviors or actions are becoming a problem that will lead to greater care needs? Know that health diagnoses can cause many of these gaps in executive function translating to elderly parents wanting more attention.
No matter your level of caregiving expertise – new or the fact that you’ve been doing this for years, it’s helpful to be able to anticipate what comes next and how you and your aging parents will respond. The challenge is knowing what you are looking for if you have little or no prior caregiving experience. Let’s use a non-related example to make this easier to understand.
Caregiving Solutions Are Not One-Size Fits All
You want to create a website and you think it’s as simple as finding a graphic program to create “what a website looks like.” Things you might not know to consider include needing a website URL which for me is pameladwilson.com. Then you need a website server or a hosting site, a program like WordPress so that you can identify a theme and create the pages. Then you need to write content that is search engine optimized. There are many steps and processes that it takes to build, run, and keep a website updated. It takes time
Caring for aging parents to avoid creating relationships where elderly parents want constant attention is no different than the process of building out a website or completing any other detailed project that requires a level of experience and expertise. Unless you can anticipate what might happen it’s difficult to come up with a plan or run through scenarios to avoid or minimize the issues. More on this after a break.
The Caring Generation is not limited by time zone or location—caregivers worldwide can listen any time of day. Visit my website pameladwilson.com to check out my caregiver course online, Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home and Beyond, with 30 hours of webinars and other information featuring practical steps for taking care of elderly parents, spouses, and how to make a plan for aging and health.
Taking the course is like binge-watching a Netflix series where you learn about all the things you never expect that can happen in a compressed period of time and you can always go back and watch it again. This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiver expert, consultant, and author on the Caring Generation. Stay with me. I’ll be right back.
15:41:33 This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, expert, and advocate on The Caring Generation program for caregivers and aging adults. Whether you are twenty or 100 years old, you’re in exactly the right place to learn about caregiver support programs, health, well-being, and other resources to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead.
If you’re not sure how to talk to your children about caregiving issues, if you’ve tried to talk to your aging parents and that didn’t go so well, let me start the conversation for you. Share The Caring Generation podcasts with family and friends. There are over 100 episodes. Let’s return to solutions for elderly parents who want constant attention.
Begin Early to Create a Support System of Care
This idea is easier at the beginning of care relationships but still can be accomplished in all stages of the process of caregiving. If you are the primary caregiver, the idea is to involve other people and services, thus providing care options. Admittedly this may not be possible if your brothers and sisters refuse to be involved. However, to the degree that a brother or sister can or is willing to participate—involve them.
This can be challenging for caregivers who think that they have to do it all for mom or dad. For caregivers who think that there is only one right way to do a particular task and for caregivers who are overcontrolling, bossy, resentful, or angry, this can be a challenge. If this sounds like you, then you have created a situation where elderly parents want constant attention.
Unless you are willing to be flexible, think differently, or implement change you may be stuck where you are until you change your beliefs and your habits about the way you think things should be. When involving siblings and others, the key to success is to be very specific about the involvement without adding so many restrictions that family members refuse to help.
Involve Family, Friends, and Others
So, for example, can your brother or sister initiate phone calls or video calls with mom or dad once each week. It would be ideal if the day and time were scheduled and placed on a calendar so that parents have a routine and know when your brother or sister will call.
What about siblings combining financial resources to pay for a housekeeper, or an in-home caregiver to complete routine tasks or support socialization for aging parents? What about finding volunteers willing to visit? There are many ideas to support independence for aging parents.
More Tips for Caregivers on These Episodes of The Caring Generation
Listen to these podcasts from The Caring Generation for more of these ideas. What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help, How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia, Setting Boundaries with Elderly Parents, What is Assisted Living, The Costs of Caring for Aging Parents and What Are Adult Day Programs. These episodes will give you many more ideas to minimize frustrations resulting from elderly parents who want constant attention.
Let’s take the idea of senior care one step further for aging parents, mothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law. In many families, there is an expectation that the family can rely on the family for care. While this may be true in many families, this is true to a limited extent in other families. From my 20 years of experience, there are situations where parents age and only need a limited amount of care and others where elderly parents want constant attention due to having extensive health problems.
Early interactions with adult children caregivers set the stage for parent’s expectations. Having discussions about the quality of life and parents participating in their care and medical recommendations by physicians is essential to maintain the health and well-being of caregivers.
While you may be thinking that you will never become an exhausted, burned out, caregiver—this situation quickly arises when an unexpected event all of a sudden places demands on your time of 20, 40, or more hours a week while you’re trying to work and do all of the activities you were doing before parents needed care.
The Importance of Setting Limits
Time may come when parents need more care and investigating options for independent living, assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home becomes the reality. Even when more care is needed elderly parents may refuse to move.
While you can’t force a parent to do anything if they are mentally capable, you can set limits on the amount of time you are willing to spend when elderly parents want constant attention. Care communities offer a wide range of services to help aging adults remain independent and reduce dependency on adult children caregivers.
Attention-Seeking Due to Alzheimer’s or Dementia is Normal
Now let’s talk about aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that result in elderly parents wanting all of your time and attention. Persons with memory loss eventually lose their ability to care for themselves and to remember what happened 5 seconds ago. A degree of insecurity can arise where parents seek reassurance that you are nearby or they talk about going home to see their deceased parents or wondering if parents are working.
When this stage of Alzheimer’s disease arises you may feel guilty about leaving a parent or in-law to take time for yourself. The earlier you establish a pattern of leaving and having others provide care the easier will be this transition. The act of waiting to involve others in the care of a parent with or without Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss can place more stress and guilt on caregivers who unintentionally created the expectation that no one else would be involved in care.
Early Boundary Setting Can Reduce Guilty Feelings
This is a good news-bad news story of having good intentions that backfire when you do hire care or move a parent into a care community and each time you leave, elderly parents are crying or screaming and you feel guilty for leaving them behind. In retrospect, setting boundaries about the care and assistance you can provide and having early discussions can avoid situations where elderly parents want constant attention.
There are also other situations where parents have undiagnosed mental health issues that all of a sudden come out of nowhere. I know families who denied or excused the behaviors of elderly parents until an elderly parent moved to a care community and hit or seriously injured another resident. Or until the neighbors called adult protective services on mom or dad who is out in the yard making threats to neighbors and other passers-by.
While some of these issues may be contained or hidden within families, as increased exposure with hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and care communities result, few issues can remain hidden. Mental health issues, memory loss, and unexpected behaviors are areas where families want to be aware and prepared for unexpected caregiving events.
Prepare for Unexpected Situations By Creating a Care Plan
This type of discussion and planning ahead can avoid children being threatened by hospital or other care community staff saying that the children must take aging parents into their homes. In my opinion, no matter the circumstance, if you feel that you cannot care for an aging parent due to hands-on care or medical needs or behavioral or mental health issues—refuse to be threatened by medical providers who say you must care for a parent.
On the other hand, do your best to be supportive of identifying alternate care communities or community services to support elderly parents who want constant attention. Participation doesn’t always mean that you become the only caregiver. It does mean that you care enough about a parent to make sure that care is available and provided in some manner even if not by you.
Separately, listen to The Caring Generation podcast called 24 7 Care for the Elderly. Care communities can also threaten families by saying that you must hire or provide 24-hour care for aging parents being released from a hospital or nursing home. This is not always the case. But many caregivers don’t know any different.
Many solutions exist for elderly parents who want constant attention and many other caregiving issues. When working with the healthcare system it is important to not be naïve. Instead, become educated to understand the concerns of healthcare providers so that you can get the care you or an elderly parent need. Becoming a caregiver for a loved one is a job, like any other job you will experience.
Caregiving is a One-Of-A-Kind Experience
It’s a job resulting in great self-satisfaction and pride knowing the care you provide for a parent. It’s also a one-of-a-kind experience that will consume all of the mental and physical energy you possess if you don’t find ways to enlist the help of family members and service providers early in the process. Many caregivers wait until it’s too late. Until caregivers arrive at a point of burnout that does not support good care for aging parents, spouses, grandparents, or other family members.
Caregivers and aging parents who want constant attention can become self-absorbed in their own issues and worries. The path out of feeling engulfed by duty, responsibility, and limitations on life is to be realistic but hopeful. Gather as much information as possible, and create a plan to move ahead. If you are an aging adult or a family caregiver, not sure what to do, not sure of your options visit my website pameladwilson.com to schedule a 1:1 eldercare consultation today.
Caregiver Support Is Here
On my website, you’ll find my FREE caregiving library for family and professional caregivers, over 100 podcast episodes from The Caring Generation, my Caring for Aging Parents Blog, my book: The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes, online caregivers courses and more.
Thank you for joining me on The Caring Generation – the only program of its kind connecting caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about caregiving, well-being, health, and everything in between. Invite your family and friends to listen each week.
I’m Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, eldercare consultant, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and pleasant journeys until we are here together again.
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