Denial can be an internal mechanism of protection. It can protect us from certain emotions we want to avoid, or refuse to accept. But sometimes it can be a hindrance in acknowledging the truth, or dealing with the reality of a person or situation. When an elderly parent or caregiver is in denial, it may quickly lead to unhealthy situations.

Sometimes, denial can be compounded by distance. But it also may occur right in front of us. For example, having a long distance telephone conversation with my mother – who is clearly not feeling well. But she denies sickness in order to avoid the truth of a hospital visit. Or, my mother denying the fact that my father has become a risk while driving, and allowing him to continue “because he has always done that”.

Caregivers need to be cognizant of right vs. wrong when caring for an aging parent or loved one. I will highlight some areas to monitor below, and next week.

1.) Elder confusion (or abuse) can be both subtle, and overt. Years ago, my mother had a roofing contractor come by the house, and tell her the driveway needed re-paving. This was the same contractor who had performed the work 2 years prior. He then submitted an exhorbitant invoice, and she innocently wrote a payment for the amount. It was stealing.

Denial can also be (somewhat) unintentional, personal, and subtle. A wife who yells at her husband to get up off the couch and cut the lawn, or go up in the attic, or take out the garbage, may not understand they are actually being abusive. The wife is urging the husband to “be what he once was”, but he may not be physically or mentally capable of such functions.

2.) Seniors can become disoriented.
Certain memory banks in the brain have been rendered inaccessible due aging or disease (alzheimer’s). The brain doesn’t remember directions or locations as it did before memory impairment. This can lead to frustration, panic, and anger.

3.) Seniors can have a home accident.
We had a case of an elderly woman starting a fire in her kitchen. She made two mistakes…placing flammable materials in the microwave, and setting the cook time too high. Or, sometimes the simple act of standing from a previous sitting position can cause fainting, and disorientation. A fall can easily break brittle bones and cause significant bodily damage. Leaving your elderly parents unsupervised can lead to accidents all over the house…in the kitchen, bathroom, stairway or outside.

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: