The Crisis Is The Solution

phone pad 911

by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

Lily, 92, lived alone in a huge house in Greenwich, CT, with no family nearby.  Her middle-aged daughter, Sue, lived in New Mexico, and her adult grandson, Charlie, lived in Georgia.  Both had been very worried for some time about Lily, who was becoming increasingly frail, but they simply could not convince her to move nearer to one of them or to accept help at home.  Lily had been widowed for many years and managed perfectly well for a long time, thank you very much.  She saw no need for change even though she had recently given up driving and was using a walker to get around.

Although falling was constant danger, Lily would not consider a stair lift to help her get to her bedroom on the second floor because that would spoil the décor of her home.  Nonetheless, the house was getting noticeably rundown — she could not attend to the considerable upkeep required to maintain it.  But she did not share financial information with her loving family because she considered money a private matter.  As a result, Sue and Charlie were in the dark as to whether there were sufficient assets to take care of Lily.

One day a shocked housekeeper found Lily lying on the floor in the kitchen and called 911.  Lily was rushed to the hospital where she stayed for almost a week.  No one knows exactly what had happened or how long Lily lay there waiting for assistance.  After numerous tests, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, dehydration and anemia.

Sue and Charlie flew to Connecticut for consultation with Lily’s hospital team regarding treatment options and rehabilitation plans.  Clearly this was a life-changing medical crisis that would make it impossible for Lily to return home to business as usual.  When she was discharged from the hospital, she went to a residential rehabilitation program at a fine local nursing home.  Based on her recovery path, the medical team had helped determine her options.  Ultimately, Lily decided to move to New Mexico to be near her daughter and settled in nicely at a local assisted-living facility.

So, as frequently happens, the crisis became the solution to the problem of how best to provide the appropriate level of safety and care for this frail elderly woman.  The involvement of a team of experts in the post-hospital planning got the family off the hook; it was much easier for Lily to accept the authoritative advice of medical professionals than to accept advice from her family.

Pearl of wisdom:  A crisis is a terrible thing, but also a terrible thing to waste!  Use it as an opportunity to make changes that have long been needed but resisted by the older adult.

Joan Blumenfeld is a Geriatric Care manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For more information see her web site at © Joan Blumenfeld 2011

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