Balancing Independence and Safety: Day 14 of 30 Day Family Caregiver Series

Balancing Independence and Safety: Day 14 of 30 Day Family Caregiver Series




“ Consider how hard it is to change yourself  and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” ~ Jacob M. braude






There are practical daily life activities that caregivers and their


loved ones face every day. How we handle these situations


determines the extent of healing and the respect and dignity your loved


ones experience. We need to know when to sit back and let them be


and when to step in and help.Click to Tweet

There is a difference between care giving and care taking.  Their dignity

We must hone our communication skills


to effectively manage situations that arise with conflict. In my case,


our communication strategies required significant shifts with my dad


as a result of his TBI. There is a difference between care giving and


care taking. Often, we think by doing things for our loved ones we are


helping them. In reality, the very thing we think is helping them


actually serves to create sadness, inferiority, anger, hostility, and


adversely affect their well-being.

In sum, it can have a reverse effect


and take away what little independence they may have left.


We need to be prepared with the right tools to handle these


situations to avoid hurting our loved ones emotionally. Whether


practical matters involve the home or communication with family and


friends, understanding where your loved one is coming from can help


you promote a sense of independence and dignity. Click to tweet  

They will respect  you and they will respect themselves.

Words have power. Use them wisely and well



The consequences of brain injuries or other illnesses are unpredictable.


In total, my dad had multiple surgeries, seizures, a brain infection, several


blood clots and TIA’s, (mini-strokes), just to name a few. He suffered continual


short-term memory loss, cognitive deterioration, and lost full use of his right arm.



My dad was a proud man. He rarely asked for help and always


took care of those in need. He became frustrated with himself for not


being able to do things he used to be able to do or talk the way he used


to talk or remember things that came easily for him to remember. I


watched him evolve from being a good patient early on in his recovery


to being an agitated, hostile, angry, and stubborn man.


At first, I wanted to jump and do things to make things easier for


him. While I think I had a good gauge on his limitations, I think we all


misread his abilities at first and did things for him without giving him a


chance to try doing for himself.



Eventually, I learned to relax more and specifically do things for him unless


he asked which usually happened after he tried something repeatedly, got


fed up and gave up. The exception to this hands-off rule was when he learned


to walk with a walker. He was so unstable that someone always had a grip on the back


of his shirt, his arm, or with a gait belt around his waist. This strategy


and intuitive knowing saved him from falling countless times.


I felt so sad seeing my dad this way. As a side note, prior to the


accident, he was in a doctoral degree program. He valued education


and was a lifelong learner. Never one with a shortage of books, CD’s,


tapes, periodicals or magazines to keep his mind sharp, we wondered


whether he would ever be able to read again, much less return to


school and obtain his doctorate degree.




Then, there were times he tried putting aluminum foil in the microwave,


a non oven proof container in the oven, go outside with his socks and keys,


yes, only his socks and keys! Then, there was the one and only time he


tried driving. Driving is a huge no no for someone in his condition and in particular


when he had seizures. I took his license away and that was such a tough


thing for me to do on so many levels; yet, it was required for his safety and the


safety of those around him. We tried our best to balance things and, for


the most part, we did a good job. It’s a tough job out there for caregivers


to figure this out. My biggest piece of advice is to assess their capabilities,


risks and do what you can to treat your loved one with respect when


they need tough love.











Here are some recommendations as you assess independence and safety:




  • Allow your loved one as much independence as possible. It may be painful to watch them take an hour to put on a shirt. Allow it anyway.


  • Be patient.


  • Swiftly address potential safety and legal issues with mobility such as driving. It’s a balancing act. One thing I used to say to my parents is, sometimes, the wheelchair is the independence.


  • Respect their concerns and positions on issues. Use effective communication strategies such as the use of “I statements” to facilitate mutual love and understanding. That will go a long way towards agreement.



YOUR TURN: Have you been a caregiver? What issues about keeping your loved ones safe have you faced? PLEASE COMMENT BELOW!





6 replies
  1. Maura Raffensperger
    Maura Raffensperger says:

    Trying to preserve my mother’s dignity is one of the things I struggle with at least once a week.Today the challenge occurred at an eye exam. The tech asked my mother (in a wheelchair) if she could transfer to the exam chair. My mother answered ‘yes’ as I was saying it would be difficult. Mom wanted to try on her own, so I stood back. She hasn’t been able to stand without assistance for over a year, so I just waited until mom recognized she wasn’t going to be able to do it without help.
    Maura Raffensperger recently posted…Think and Grow Rich Book ReviewMy Profile

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Hi Maura, I love your name. I’ve never seen the name “Maura” before. What an amazing daughter you are to allow your mother to try things she isn’t able to do for the sake of preserving her dignity. You knew she couldn’t hurt herself because she couldn’t move and you were there ; yet you allowed her to determine she couldn’t stand without assistance. Nice job!

  2. Single Mother Ahoy
    Single Mother Ahoy says:

    Great post, and so true – we seem to forget that there’s still a human being inside of the body that can’t quite manage what it used to. My dad had brain damage before he died, and it drove me mad that my sister spoke to him like he was a child; although he couldn’t speak, you could see he understood enough to know he was being treated like a toddler.

    Then again, the same goes for toddlers, I suppose: there’s a fine balance between helping, and doing it for them.

    Popping over from Ultimate Blog Challenge
    Single Mother Ahoy recently posted…Review: Ozeri Blood Pressure MonitorMy Profile

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Single Mother Ahoy, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I hate hearing about adults who talk to brain injured patients as if they are children. In my opinion,, this is one of the worst things we can do for their healing, their mind, body and spirit. so sad. I like to say that the difference between doing for others vs. taking care of others is their dignity. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Alexandria Ingham
    Alexandria Ingham says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s health. My grandma was very much the same before she died. She broke her hip and the last year of her life was torture for her. Not on the same scale as your dad, but she hated just not being able to get out of bed easily. She almost gave up, but my dad talked her round after bringing everything she needed downstairs so she could work on better between the living room (her new bedroom) and the kitchen. She never did get back upstairs, but she had a more positive outlook on life when it came to the last few months with her. I think getting some independence back really helped.
    Alexandria Ingham recently posted…How Not to Become a Freelance WriterMy Profile

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Alexandria, thanks so much for stopping by and for your great post. Your dad certainly did a fabulous job at making sure your Grandma was functional and able to use the resources around her. What a great thing he did. No doubt his actions helped her have a positive outlook on life and increased her quality of life until she died. Thanks so much for sharing.


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