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Crisis Intervention

Along with the rewards, there are many challenges in helping an aging family member. It is hard to know where to turn for help, and what advice to accept. It is often hard to approach family members with these concerns. Family dynamics can be difficult when faced with a crisis. In addition, it is often difficult for the senior to accept that some changes may be in their best interest. For seniors who have been independent their entire lives, accepting help is often very difficult. A care manager can play a vital role in this process by helping the family assess the needs of their loved ones objectively, and interacting with the senior, his/her spouse and the entire family to help find solutions that everyone in the family can accept.

Here are some suggestions to consider, based on our experience working with families facing these types of struggles:

  1. Try to understand the person’s fears. Common fears include loss of independence, autonomy, control and dignity. Financial concerns are also common for individuals who have lived frugally and saved their entire lifetimes.
  2. Discuss these issues before a crisis. Plan ahead and initiate conversations early. Encourage family members to execute legal documents relevant to estate planning and advance directives. Crucial documents include the following: Advance Directives (health care power of attorney and living will); Financial Power of Attorney; Last Will & Testament or Trust.
  3. Consult a professional care manager, trusted friend or other professional (e.g. pastor, physician) trusted by your loved one.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities in which your family member asks for or requires help (such as post-hospitalization, help with small tasks).
  5. Explain all the options available and offer the person choices. For example, if you are concerned about a loved one living alone, you may need to explain your concern and talk about various options, letting them choose what type of help they are comfortable pursuing.
  6. Approach the concerns from the individual’s perspective; find out what you can do for them, what things they feel would help.
  7. Don't fight the “small battles”. Concentrate on the main issues and prioritize.
  8. Be firm about issues that affect your loved one’s safety and welfare. Outline your concerns clearly with specific examples.
  9. Remember that, as adults, we all have the right to make some poor choices. But when issues of safety for your loved one as well as the public are concerned (which arise for instance when unsafe driving is an issue), action must be taken.
  10. An objective, professional assessment can serve to convince and buffer you from being blamed as the source of change. Our care managers have a different relationship with clients than do the clients’ adult children. Often the same advice, coming from a professional who has a different relationship, is accepted better.
  11. Engage professionals when necessary. Options that can be sought as a last resort when safety is affected include Adult Protective Services and the process of guardianship. Planning ahead and avoid these options, which can be emotionally traumatic, time consuming, and expensive.