Many families have good hearts and intentions with respect to loved ones and their care.  Oftentimes, people wear blinders when it comes to some of the realities we face.  Blinders sabotage the best of intentions.

Dad’s not eating and is losing weight.  His teeth hurt but he won’t go to the dentist.  Mom’s toenails are so long she can’t get her feet into a pair of shoes but refuses to let anyone touch them.  Grandma’s mostly with it, except for when she isn’t, and didn’t notice the water leak all over the floor, until she fell. The house smells like ammonia from the urine soaked bed, but no one’s willing to discuss it because we don’t want to embarrass or hurt anyone’s feelings.  These may sound like dramatic instances, but this is every-day stuff professionals see regularly.

If you walked into those situations blindly, what would you think?  We see consistent family involvement; we also see neglected areas of care because families won’t acknowledge uncomfortable situations.  Or, because so many of Mom/Dad’s choices appear normal and acceptable, these peculiar situations are deemed their choices vs. the consequences of being unable to make a sound choice in these specific instances.  “They’re fine.”  “What gives us the right to undermine their decision – it’s their choice” are common claims of helplessness. 

When someone is at risk or unsafe, that becomes our impetus to step-up and guide the adjustment.  If we are their chosen decision-makers or POA (power of attorney), it’s imperative.   Bulldozing in and becoming the boss isn’t the answer!  We need to start a discussion and/or a slow dance – to find a creative and productive way to handle a delicate situation while maintaining dignity.

Express love, use empathetic words to validate fears or concerns, and provide two choices you can live with so people see options and feel in control. Change the focus away from the activity itself to the bigger picture with a desired outcome. 

Be respectful – acknowledge change – for your sake and theirs!  Guide wisely – proactively, not re-actively, and neglect will no longer be part of the equation.

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP, Aging & Dementia Care Specialist

Reach her at 480-203-8548 or