Do You Know How Much Personal Space Your Loved One Prefers?

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Quick: How much do you touch your loved one? How often do you hover? There are no right answers to those questions because everyone is different. But it's worth realizing that there's a "sweet spot" in personal space for each caregiving duo.

Finding it and respecting it can make a huge difference in quality of life for both of you.

Realize that everyone's needs are different.

The most common scenario is that older adults receive too much personal space from caregivers. There's a tendency to be a bit standoffish with older adults. As a result, many elders are "touch deprived." After a lifetime of the physical contact of spouses and children, they may have few opportunities for basic human touch. Many older adults actually crave touch, and they benefit from more physical contact, not less.

But not everyone feels that way, of course. People with dementia are sometimes made more sensitive to touch -- sudden motions scare them.

Don't assume -- experiment, and ask.

Find ways to gauge what your loved one prefers. Learn to read body language: Watch for flinching as you approach, for example, or nervous movements that indicate discomfort.

It never hurts to ask. Be specific: "Do you like when we hold hands in the car?" "Do you mind if I rub your shoulders?" "Would you like a hug?"

Factor in your own touchy-feely preferences.

Your loved one's needs aren't the only consideration here. It helps to have a sense of your natural caregiving style. If you're a hugger and a flutterer but that makes your loved one uncomfortable, for example, you may need to hold back a bit. If you tend to be reserved but your loved one would benefit from more demonstrative touch, try to force yourself out of your comfort zone to provide it.


over 4 years ago, said...

Dear Roykom, Please continue to appeal, nay badger, nay never give up on appealing for coverage for these at-home services on the basis of compassionate care. You are unable, not unwilling to do these things for your mother. You will have to apply at least 9 times. DO NOT take no for an answer. Good luck.


over 4 years ago, said...

Thank you so much for all your articles. Over the last year or so I learnt so much that helped me take care of my father (& mother). My dear Father has since passed away and now it's just my mother and myself. In March she had a TKR (knee replacement) and has just started driving again. She is now 75 and I am her disabled 51yr son. I could not help her with her bathing etc and had to get in nursing services and now sit with a huge bill $2800+ that I have to pay off as the medical insurance won't cover it, so now that my problem is more financial than caring stresses, I FEEL for you all out there that have issues with your loved ones and inconsiderate institutions. My prayers and hugs to all at Caring.com and carers. God Bless.


over 4 years ago, said...

GeneG - I would love to send you both a hug and a prayer, however it seems that you have that feature turned off. Consider yourself hugged strongly, and prayed for.


over 4 years ago, said...

Thank you, anonymous.I have taken that position with our second pay insurance carrier and got good results. I am approaching confronting my husband's neurologist over care and not meds. I am in e-mail contact with our State Representative who is sponsoring a bill for Alzheimer's relief and our states healthcare committee staff.....it's like trying to nail jello to a tree. I am known for my extensive, indeph records - one dr. asked me to close the notebooks and I refused.Another doctor uses my records instead of his own - his are not like my daily logs/elevaluation sessions/investigative procedures, etc.I have never asked a health care agency for a single thing but after a year of living and coping with this disease I must rachet up my pursuit of better treatment. My husband is my life. Ca-Claire, yes we have been members of the same church for decades. We receive a DVD of Sunday services, we meet our financial responsibility but that's it. It's as if my years of service to the church when our four children were little girls have been forgotten. One of our daughters is a missionary - the other three are devout believers but none live near enough to lend a hand from day to day or in a emergency. Prayers are lifted regularly by employees of the firm from which I retired. I am surprised often by the kindness of strangers who open doors, etc. Thank you, CaClaire and you, too, anonymous wherever y'all are. I'm down here in the deep south, USA.


over 4 years ago, said...

Unfortunately, my husband had the stroke 15 months after we married, and passed away 3 years later. I did receive the $250 for End of Life Services, and when I am 60 I can look into receiving survivor benefits....


over 4 years ago, said...

CA-Clare: If you have been married at least ten years, you are entitled to his pension, too. Look into it! Also, to all people applying for benefits that are denied, the average number of times you have to apply is 9!!! Ask for the Medical Director's name of every company you are dealing with. Record every phone call of each flunkie you deal with because they LIE, and finally, tell them you are going to an attorney because you or your loved one is not getting adequate care in a timely manner. That is the legal term for malpractice and you will get results. Lastly, put everything in writing and cc all involved.


over 4 years ago, said...

Thank you GeneG for the good wishes. I have had to stay healthy - in the past 6 years, I have had to care for both my husband and my parents, and now with just my Dad left, I still have to keep up the energy, as he still needs me. Keep up the faith yourself, as well. Do you belong to a church, I know that I would be lost without the moral support from my church....


over 4 years ago, said...

I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your experience, CAClaire. I hope you stay in good health and are able to qualify for SS when you reach qualifying age. I am not surprised at the army pension going to his first wife in view of the miles of red tape restrictions placed on choices at any given time. I don't usually give advice but I suspect I am quite a bit older than you so I'll say this.....stay focused on staying healthy and happy with an eye on financial security....you deserve it. God bless!


over 4 years ago, said...

I understand very well how you feel zambezi and GeneG. After my husband's stroke, his disability was not so much physical, but mental. His logic was broken, and since he did not recognize that as a problem, he did what he wanted. I worked full time - turned out I could only average 60% time due to problems with caring for him, tried to care for him and keep our assets intact (luckily, the house was in my name only), with no help from the medical community. No one would write a letter activating the POA which we had in place a few years before his stroke, yet the Neuropsychologist and the Rehabilitation physician would not allow him to go to work and kept warning me to keep an eye on him. When he died I was saddled with the additional debt he had incurred on credit cards, some of which I did not even know about, to the tune of $28,000. And I had to handle it with $3,000 less per month in income (army pension went to former spouse, and since I was 10 years younger, can't collect SS for at least 6 more years - he's been gone 3). Finally, I am almost done with the debt, and on May 1 2012 was able to finally get back to work full time, since Mom passed away Jan 6 2012, and Dad is OK, although lonely and needing more time from me. My work insisted it was time that I work full time.


over 4 years ago, said...

Thank you, zambezi for understanding my position. I identify strongly with your caregiver experience. I wish I had a magic wand to scrape away Medicare/insurance company/charitable groups filters to reveal their undersides. I have studied this disease daily either as my husband's primary caregiver or as a professional seeking information. God help people who are not physically or emotionally able to do that. Long on time and short on rest 24/7. It's 4:20 am where I live and my day has just begun. Thank you for your response it helped me to know once again that others share the challenges I face.


over 4 years ago, said...

Dear Gene, I am very sorry to hear you experienced a no-show when it came to desperately needed care but I am not surprised. An intake co-ordinator came to my house and wasted 4 hours of my time interviewing me. I had been up all night caregiving and was sitting at the table, exhausted, in only a t-shirt and undies. At the end of that time, she told me my needs were not covered by their services. Stupid bitch! I could have been sleeping or doing laundry during those precious hours. What a waste these medical morons are. They try to fob off all care on the patient's family so the insurance companies don't have to take any responsibility! Hugs to you!


over 4 years ago, said...

My DH is always talking to strangers and almost nose to nose, and I feel the discomfort of the other people, I try to explain he has alz/dem.


over 4 years ago, said...

Oh dear, anonymous how I feel for you. My husband's doctor said the behavior of his early years would be acerbated with time - and it has. You are absolutely correct - Medicare and other services with their hands out do not cover care expenses. I finally contacted one Alzheimers agency in a city closeby and was greeted warmly with promises to serve. In the next day's mail I received a manual listing care facilities all at patient's expense, cards to give to people when my husband has a public emotional outbreak with that city's (not my town's) emergency numbers to call, a promise that their representaive would call to collect info. She called, asked when she could come for an assessment and we agreed she'd call me in the next couple of days to schedule an assessment. All I asked for was someone to call to take care of my husband if I have a sudden need for a medical care or an ambulance since I an in cancer remission and do all of the driving. She never called and it's been weeks since that conversation. I hope someone with Alzheimer's national organization reads this post and asks for information about this agency's poor service. God help you, Anonymous and thank you for telling your unvarnished truth..


over 4 years ago, said...

Being a burned out caregiver for over fifteen years has worn me out. I am not only burned out, I am incinerated. There is no respite, no end to the endless demands, total narcissism that was there when my mother-in-law was younger and is only acerbated by her advanced age of 96. I wish she would drop dead. She exists. She does not live. And I cannot stand anymore. Furthermore, Medicare and other services do not cover sharing the endless care and its time all these "happy" little articles focusing on how we can better a life that it is no longer able to be better and focus instead on helping the poor caregiver who has given up everything for nothing in return!