Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eldercare Testimonial: Home Care for Mom Saved My Sanity

Early dementia and a stubborn streak.  Not a good combination, especially when it's YOUR parent who refuses to move from her home.  The doctor says she must not live alone, yet she refuses to budge.

In-home care by a professional who understands dementia could just be your answer.  It was for John, who lived in the Midwest, and his brother and sister-in-law who lived in Washington.  For months they texted one another in the wee hours of the night, and during the day as well. "Guess what Mom did now? Her doctor says she makes such a ruckus in his waiting room that she's banned from his practice."  "Mom called 911 again, sure she was dying."  And when dementia caused her to forget to take her anxiety medication--or take too much--all hell would break loose.

Despite her doctor's advice, Mom refused to move.  At this point the siblings determined she was still competent--at least for awhile--so they didn't force the issue.

They did come up with Plan B a few months ago. They came to me, wanting a referral for a good home care agency.  Within days they'd selected an agency which I found for them.  Soon a caregiver came out to meet Mom. At first it was simple:  Her caregiver came in twice a week. She encouraged Mom to take her medications, took her to appointments and out to lunch, went on walks with her, and shopped for groceries and prepared meals, etc.  A great deal of the job was companionship, and also checking in with the family.

"Having structure to her day and things to look forward to has made all the difference," says John. "She seems happier.  And for the first time in several months, all of us are getting a good night's sleep."

John and his siblings know that at some point more care will be needed, either into the home or at an assisted living.  They've already begun planning for that fact.  Yet for now, home care works.

"For us, home care is a great first step."

Do you have any firsthand experience with home care?  How has that gone?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kermit the Frog Croaks Out Eldercare Advice

"It's not easy being green."  

Kermit the Frog of Jim Henson's Muppet fame croaked those words long ago.  Yet they still seem timely these days.  Especially for Boomers learning the ins and outs of eldercare.

We're humans, not frogs. Yet we are green  nevertheless. Green in the sense of being over our heads, hopping into newfound territory with little preparation.  How do we cope with our parents' dementia?  How do we understand their physical disabilities?  How do we teach our children about their elders and their needs?

We're green.  Fortunately the green feeling fades--at least somewhat--as we learn.  Knowledge helps, whether it's through friends' telling their stories of what's happening with Mom and Dad, or our looking online at information relating to their specific disease.  But the best source of learning about aging often comes from the elders themselves--our parents, their peers and others.

My parents died in 2003 and 2004, both at 77.  Young these days.  But they taught me many things about aging.  They, too, felt "green."  Daddy's Parkinson's was always giving him new symptoms; just when he got used to a whispered voice, his hands began shaking.  Then later, swallowing presented a problem.

I don't know what issue you're facing with your elderly parent.  Are you tackling the driving issue?  Or a host of medical diagnoses?  Or caregiving?  

We all feel green at different stages of our lives.  As a kindergartener walking into the classroom on the first day of school.  As a junior higher, trying to navigate the halls of a new school building.  And as Boomers now, many of you are wondering, "What happened to the dad or mom I knew for so many years," and "How do I relate to him or her?"

We probably always will feel green on a certain level. Yet being green actually isn't so bad.  It's not easy, Kermit says.  But it shows that we are alive, that we are growing, that we care.
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