THINGS OUR KUPUNAS HIDE FROM THEIR FAMILIES
One of the problems with aging is that the person slowly and steadily loses his/her independence. And fear sets in. Well-meaning family members and often, not-so-well-meaning ones, begin taking over the elderly person's life. Many times, this means control over their finances.
Financial abuse is very common. This is when a family member, friend, or a helper raids the elderly person's assets. Some bully them into signing over the house so that they may be able to obtain a loan for themselves. Most of the time, the elderly is aware that this is happening and fear that other family members will find out and trouble will erupt within the family. Or, the fear could be that the caregiver may decide that the elderly person can no longer handle his/her finances and thus, the kupuna will lose more control over his life.
Equally difficult for the elderly is elder abuse. Abusers could be paid caregivers, neighbors, friends or family members. Like in financial abuse, it is a crime to abuse the elderly. But, the elderly may not choose to reveal what is happening to family members for fear of losing more of their independence. So the abuser, in most cases, go free.
Many elderly don't report falls to anyone for fear of being forced into a wheelchair or walker. They sometimes experience pain and also don't report it because they don't want their family members to worry excessively. Same with dizziness, which many experience because of medications or other health issues. This often results in serious health issues getting worse because treatment is not provided.
One of the causes of family disputes is the loss of driving privileges. The elderly will not report accidents or driving citations to family members because they fear the loss of the freedom that comes with being able to drive a vehicle. It also is could be an indication that the elderly person is losing mental awareness, mobility and vision.
The caregiver needs to be aware of changes in behavior so that problems may be addressed before they become serious. When the elderly's money supply becomes limited, the elderly will cut back on food, medications and limit personal hygiene to cut back on electricity and water costs. Sometimes this change in money supply is caused by the elderly making frivolous purchases on T.V., internet, and telemarketers. If you notice new items around the house, it may be a good idea to check credit card charges and checking account balances to see if in fact, frivolous purchases are being made.
The caregiver must be gentle and sensitive to the elderly's desire to remain independent. Develop a trusting relationship with the elderly and keep communication open. Let them know that you are partnering with him/her and do what you can to enhance the person's life rather than restrict it.
Social services can offer some help. The family doctor can also assist. Watch for new bruises, track their medications and refill their prescriptions so you have a handle on things.
Eventually, the elderly person will lose all independence and rely on the caregiver for everything. In many cases, the elderly accepts their new position in the life cycle and the fear is no longer there as long as a trusting relationship exists. It is up to the caregiver to continue to honor the kupuna and remind him/her of the great contributions he/she made during his/her lifetime. We are grateful for their contributions and we ought to remind them of that as often as we can.