Vail Daily column: Learn how to advocate for an aging loved one | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Learn how to advocate for an aging loved one

Judson Haims
Visiting Angels

My friend Beth’s 77-year-old mom, Ruth, called her a couple weeks ago crying and panicked. Ruth was backing out of her driveway when she heard a loud crash. She hadn’t seen anything behind her while looking out of her rearview mirror and her driver-side mirror. However, when she strained her neck to look out the passenger side mirror, she saw part of a baby stroller lying on its side.

Ruth started to panic and shake. She told Beth it took her a bit of time to regain her faculties and get out of the car to see what she had done. When she got out of the car to see what had happened, she almost dropped to her knees — out of relief. She had backed into a neighbor’s kids’ toy baby stroller. A neighbor, who had seen the event unfold, ran to assist a visibly shaken Ruth.

It took Ruth a couple of days to call Beth and tell her what had happened. Beth told me she was at first furious as she listened on the phone to her mom explaining the event. After some time of listening to her mom, Beth realized she needed to be supportive and not critical or angry. Beth cried together with her mom on the phone and consoled her as best she could. Two days later, Beth flew out to spend two weeks with her mom. Beth’s brother also flew out, and together, the three developed a plan to collaborate in assisting Ruth in remaining independent.

I see many families struggle in learning how to manage and assist their aging family members. As an adult caregiver helping my mother and her husband, I have personal experience and stories to share. If you are currently, or soon may be in, a position of having to assist an aging family member, then you don’t have to break trail yourself. Many have walked the walk before you and may be willing to share information to make your journey easier.

In my experience, there is not one specific piece of advice to guide someone through the process of assisting an aging loved one. You must be prepared to play many roles, including nurse, financial consultant, scheduler, nutritionist, organizer, nurturer and, most integral, advocate.

Many people have difficulty advocating for themselves, let alone someone else. Learning how to advocate for an aging loved one is not tough; you only need the fortitude and desire. A good advocate is objective, listens and helps evaluate information; promotes independent judgment and is collaborative, sensitive, understanding and assertive.

Resources and education on assisting our aging can be found locally from Eagle County Healthy Aging, Eagle County libraries and the Alpine Area Agency on Aging, an association of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. You are also always welcome to call me.

Nationally, helpful information can be found at the National Council on Aging (202-479-1200), The National Alliance for Caregiving (301-718-8444) and AARP (888-OUR-AARP).

I have learned personally and from my clients many best practices when it comes to advocating for an aging loved one. Next week, I will provide tips about what you can do become an observant and effective advocate.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.