Seniors: When Presence is Required, Caregiving for Family

Nov 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

One of my cousins, an only child, has been diagnosed with cancer, requiring radical surgery. He lives alone, has friends, but is limited in the number of family who live near by. We are among that family and we are all senior citizens. When we learned of his diagnosis, we called him immediately and indicated that we would be making our way to our Texas home, where he lives close by. We know, as do most, how important it is to be aware of When Presence is Required, when caregiving for family and friends is needed. Loneliness and isolation are not desirable when faced with serious and life threatening illness. My cousin and I both enjoy the luxury of being an only child. That luxury comes into question at times like these.

Presence is Required when someone in our circle is met with the anxiety, fear and concern which needs the availability of a shoulder, an ear, a heart and a strong embrace. If that is not our role, what is? Being there is a major contribution. Asking “what can I do” implies the willingness of presence. Don’t ask, if you don’t mean it. Have your bags packed, if that’s what it takes, if you do.

Beyond presence then, there is sensitivity of knowing how and what to do to be helpful. That has to be worked out between you. There are many chores, routines, ordinary tasks which will need attention. None should be out of bounds. All should be be put on the table, with timelines for getting them done. Preparations for time away, household duties which must be met on a regular, almost daily basis, will need addressing. If the person lives alone, then all the more reason to review with care matters that, if left unattended, can create later problems. Preparing the house for the return of the patient and his/her recovery will also be important.

A person who has lived independently may show reluctance or protest someone coming in and assuming responsibility. While this may seem noble, be assured that the need is there and the individual needs to know you would not be there if you did not want to be helpful. Just don’t get bossy.  Allow the patient his/her dignity and involvement in directing what is going on under his/her roof.

When the phone rings, check to see who should answer it. When persons call wanting to offer their own form of aid, inquire if they can bring food, take the cleaning to the laundry, and other sundry activities that require doing. When the patient shows sign of improvement and is ready for visitors and other activities, encourage and enable that to happen.

The focus here should always be on the patient. When presence is required and you have volunteered to offer your own, maintain sensitivity and humility, understanding and comfort throughout your time in being present.

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