As a care partner, the role we play/assume/hold in our relationships needs to adapt as someone we love goes through the stages of change from whatever physical, emotional or spiritual challenge they’re facing. Whether change occurs simply as a function of age or worse, trauma or illness, the dance becomes complicated as the situation progresses. This is a very real and difficult dance and one that requires the partner’s thought, reflection, reality orientation, strength, and commitment.

When our health changes, we don’t always view the world from the same lens we once did. Our focus changes, our priorities adjust and if we have some level of dementia occurring (whether acknowledged or not), our ability to see something from someone else’s point of view is no longer possible. Re-read that last sentence, please.

Because we love and respect someone, or don’t want to be involved or butt in, families typically, and somewhat obviously, continue to allow significantly challenged loved ones to continue to pave their own way, even as they see and experience poor consequences because of decisions they’ve made. Picking up the pieces can cost time, money, hospital stays, physical and emotional rehabilitation and more. Typically, this dance continues as we simply try to respect their wishes: “I don’t need/want help. I want to stay in my home.”

We’re afraid to take the lead because we don’t want to disrespect; but we’re feeling uncomfortable because of the number of times some variation of disruption (repeated falls), or worse (broken/bruised/sprained body parts) is happening again! The water was left running (flood) or the stove was left on overnight. Medications aren’t being taken regularly, diabetes isn’t being managed, or we’ve bumped another car! You would be shocked to know how many times these glaring calls for help are unintentionally ignored. We are avoiding; we are wishing it wasn’t happening. We are crossing the line toward neglect. This is where it gets hard.

So, when do we dive in and get involved? As care partners, we balance safety and dignity daily without even thinking about it. When safety is consistently absent from the daily routine, THAT is your impetus for change. That deficiency becomes objective criteria so you don’t have to make a subjective decision to move toward adapting to an environment that will be a better fit. You can feel justified.

Review your situation. What’s normal? What’s not? What’s new and happening with enough regularity that it causes discomfort/fear/worry/angst? What’s holding you back? Ask yourself: is it our job to provide one more chance to fulfill someone’s wish to maintain (imagined) independence? Or is it our job to step up and help create an environment that doesn’t facilitate those disruptions and calamities to happen again?

As with any changing role, that transformation can most certainly happen – with grace, love, patience, understanding, and flexibility. It’s just much easier to demonstrate all those qualities when we’re being proactive vs. reactive.

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP is Director of Care Management for Visiting Angels East Valley
Reach her at 480-833-8247 or