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{ } AGING with an Attitude No Place for Blind Spots in Caregiving Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides living-assistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive one-on-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independently of Visiting Angels. 78 B lind spots are the areas of the road that cannot be seen while looking forward or through either the rear-view or side mirrors. To ensure safety when driving, you turn your head to make sure there isn’t another car or person “in the blind spot,” Easy fix. But when you have an emotional blind spot – that gets trickier. How so? Turning your head when driving can be scary for beginner drivers but most of us don’t experience fear when we turn our heads. But when you are faced with an emotional “blind spot,” that is personal and you may not be comfortable facing certain facts about yourself or someone you love or look up to. Facing the truth is not always easy. One day I received a call from the wife of someone I know. The couple had conservatorship of care for someone who used to work for them and she had dementia. After a decade of taking care of hundreds of clients with dementia and the many years of training, my staff and I have had, it is safe to say that we have a good understanding of this challenge. The caller, who apparently has siblings and in-laws in the medical field, began by saying “the agency we work with better realize that we have a lot of doctors and nurses in our family, and we know dementia.” She may have made that comment to be intimidating but I was relieved to hear it. I know, however, having dealt with so many medical personnel, that their backgrounds don’t necessarily make them experts in dealing with dementia. Dealing with clients with dementia is tough. So when a client’s family understands this challenge, it is good news. Before our company conducts an assess- ment, we ask such questions as “what type of dementia is it” and “what stage is it.” In this case, I could tell that the caller did not have the answers and was not willing to admit it. She had a blind spot. Despite my effort to guide her to “turn her head” to over- come it, something kept her from working through it. I was glad that she did not call back – working with families who won’t work through blind spots triples the difficulty of helping those in our care who have dementia. What blind spot do you have about your Mom or Dad or someone you love that you are caring for or setting up care for? What blind spot do you have about yourself that GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 could be affecting the care you provide or you are setting up? Daughters can easily have that blind spot when Dad needs help—it can be tough to accept that someone you adored and revered, is showing signs of limitations, of weaknesses. Sons may have a blind spot whe Mom cannot take care of herself anymore. She now needs help in doing even the basic task of keeping herself clean. Many people have a blind spot about their situation. One local realtor called me one day, concerned that her Mom seemed upset all weekend: “I hired you people so my Mom is not on me about not visiting,” she yelled. “Your caregiver can never replace you.” I told her “We can give her the best care, make her laugh, distract her from missing you — but we cannot ever replace you.” She hung up on me. She couldn’t get past her blind spot. Agencies like ours work with people in many situations, from clients that really just need companionship to those who have reached the hospice stage. We work hard to bring meaning to the lives of those we care for, and certainly do not see ourselves as a stop gap, there to fill a void. We can help family members “turn their heads and avoid blind spots.” Some agencies will just work with what they have to work with, others will tug at you and try to point to “a blind spot,” if it means offering better possibilities for our clients. If you tell your care providers to mind their own business, they will — if the blind spot is not creating an unsafe environment for your loved one. What is your blind spot preventing you from seeing? Is it the extent of care that your loved one needs? Is it that they really need you to be more present when you visit? Are you ignoring your Mom or Dad’s needs because of worries about finances? Do you need to accept that you cannot do this alone and it is time to take Mom or Dad to a nursing home? Is it that you cannot keep up with Mom’s need and you may need to help her adjust to the lifestyle in an adult living community where others can be there to socialize with her? If you don’t “turn your head,” what consequences might you or your loved one face later? If facing some reali- ties is “just too hard,” give permission to some- one (even the agency or your independent care- giver) to alert you to the blind spot. But, please don’t let blind spots keep you from securing the best care for yourself or your loved one!