Monthly Archives: September 2014

Caregiver thoughts #5

I came across this article, which talks about what sort of parameters or values we might impose on robotic caregivers as that technology develops:

The 6 values developed by Professor Tom Sorell are:
· Autonomy – being able to set goals in life and choose means;
· Independence – being able to implement one’s goals without the permission, assistance or material resources of others;
· Enablement – having, or having access to, the means of realizing goals and choices;
· Safety – being able readily to avoid pain or harm;
· Privacy – being able to pursue and realize one’s goals and implement one’s choices unobserved
· Social Connectedness – having regular contact with friends and loved ones and safe access to strangers one can choose to meet.

I think it might be useful for us more biological caregivers to keep these things in mind as well.

For my part, I’ve prioritized things as keeping my cared-for a) safe, b) comfortable, and c) happy, which kind of play into the proposed 6 values.

My “Safe” and Professor Sorell’s “Safety” are pretty much the same, with maybe an element of “Privacy” thrown in. How safe do you feel when everyone is watching your every move (the NSA not withstanding)? Safety includes things like removing hazards from the environment (loose rugs that can cause a fall), providing assistive devices, overseeing medications, and not just providing transport to the doctor’s office, but being there to discuss issues with the doctor and make sure instructions are understood. It can also include instruction and advice, like what to do with those funny looking Emails or the various scams that come around regularly (“answering the door does not mean opening the door”).

I think everything else elaborates on my “comfortable” and “happy”. I want my cared-for to be as independent as he’s capable of (and I have my own selfish reasons for that), so he can do the things he wants to do. For those things that he wants to do but can’t, I try to provide the “enablement” so they can happen anyway, whether that’s providing transportation, arranging tickets, or just putting up grab bars on the wall so he can get around – safely.

Independence, autonomy, and privacy can be a tricky thing when dealing with someone who’s aging. At some point, if we live long enough, we’ll all become less independent, autonomous, and have to give up some privacy. The trick is to have this happen gracefully, and only as required. If your cared-for is legally competent, you have to respect that and let them make their own decisions, be they financial, social, or medical. You’re there to advise and make sure all the information is communicated and understood. For example, make sure the doctor has heard all the complaints, and your cared-for understands their options. Then enable that chosen option. The question of competence has to be evaluated on a regular basis. If your cared-for decided to buy a swimming pool that just won’t fit in the yard, or, heaven forbid, starts getting into auto wrecks, you may have to make changes. But this needs to be done with great care, and not just because you don’t like that new friend they made.

I have to give a pat on the back to my cared-for. He made his own decision to not drive any more, and for this I am Eternally Grateful. This is a Huge step away from independence in our society, and that he did it on his own and before anything bad happened is worth the highest praise.

Humans are social creatures. Try to make sure your cared-for is not trapped in the four walls any more than necessary by providing every possible opportunity to “get out”. Take them along on errands. Look for shows they might enjoy. While in the four walls, I try to find ways to get people in touch with him, provide things to do (which can be a challenge for someone who has trouble hearing and seeing), make sure they have music, and I stay in touch myself while I’m away. And don’t squander the time you’re home with your cared-for: find things to do together, whether that’s playing a game. cooking, or watching a TV show together; don’t hide away somewhere behind a computer writing blog postings or some such nonsense. Hmmmm….

[I've collected all these caregiver thoughts under the category Caregiving for easy reference. You can follow the link here or on the lower right side.]