Q: Dear Regina, I find that being a caregiver needs maturity. I often see young people with no patience with older persons and have to ask: Do you find it necessary to put a minimum age on hiring or training a person to be a caregiver?
A: I can certainly understand your concern. I do know with some people over time with age there is an expected understanding of maturity. However, have you known “a mature person” to be labelled as a grumpy old man or bitter old lady? Or “that nurse has become so hard and bitter?” Yes there is expected maturity with age but it is not always true. And it is not always true that a young person does not have maturity.
I don’t find putting an age limit or maximum age on training people wanting to care for another person to be ethical. Younger people can have the maturity to care for another person based on their up-bringing experience. Rarely do I find a young person with a lot of heart who comes from a spoiled environment where everything is handed to them with a “silver spoon” to be a balanced caregiver, although it can happen. Likewise you can find a young person who come from an environment that had been unloving and yet has profound love for other people. Those are rare but it happens. And there is concern about many of our young people who really do not care or respect our elderly with value. This is becoming a culture of electronics replacing interacting with our older population. However, I usually find younger people who have a heart to care for elderly if they were brought up by families that did things together with a mixture of family members of different ages.
Caregiving is not for everyone. Often times families are put in a caregiver role by circumstances and not by choice. In that case the person needs to understand their own limitations and boundaries and care enough to ask for help. Many times a caregiver of a terminally ill loved one is focussed on caring for that person that they do not have time to think of themselves.
Caregiving is not as easy as some people may think; especially if you are caring for someone with dementia. If you want to become a caregiver you better know who you are and are willing to learn new skills that require change on your part and not to expect the person with dementia to make logical decisions.
Q: Dear Regina, My dad needs to stop driving. He has had small accidents. Praise God no one has been hurt but he does not feel he needs to stop driving. My brothers think he has dementia but my dad thinks he is ok. How do you get an older person who is not making good judgement to stop driving?
A: This is always scary. Getting an unsafe driver to turn in his keys is a huge independent ability to give up for anyone. I would have your dad get his eyes checked. I am sure that if he has dementia that his peripheral vision is diminished. Get a professional that is not biased that he will respect that can tell him that they are concerned about his driving. If he worries or complains about money you can connect that these little accidents can add up and cost him a lot of his hard working earned money and people are looking to take his money.
Early dementia symptoms are often expressed with concern for money in the individual. The key is to find something about your dad that will help him make that decision himself because he is an intelligent man. He must feel valued and that he can make good decisions. And remember this is a temporary decision for him, so you will have to continue to repeat the conversation until he forgets about driving.
Those of you who want to learn more about how to care for people living with dementia may contact Angels of the West Indies for class schedules and information. This week we were in Grenada teaching a group of students sponsored by Catholics Can Cook. They are active in helping their community with geriatric and dementia care. We have introduced Purple Angel Aware and any company wanting more information on how to help your employees be friendly towards those living with dementias contact us.
Quote from DailyCaring: Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.
— Samuel Butler
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