Monday, April 29, 2013

Eldercare Tip: Ideas on Writing Thank You Notes for Mother's Day

With Mother's Day approaching, you may be stumped for a gift idea.  Does your aging mother need any more clothes to fill the already stuffed closets?  Or jewelry, or slippers or a robe?  Probably not. How about a thank you note to show appreciation for who she is and what she has done?

Thanking your mom is important.  Why?  She can read and reread the words and be assured of your love, even when you are far away.  A thank-you also shows your acknowledgment of the wonderful things she has done for you and your family, even long ago.

To start, make two lists:  BEING and DOING.

1.  Under BEING, write adjectives that come to mind when you think of her.  Perhaps loving, patient, kind, hard-working, other-centered.  These, and other words you think of, show her essence.

2.  Under DOING, write specific things that she has done for you and for other members of the family.  My mother-in-law's list includes driving an hour to attend all our family functions and making pies, even when she might prefer to retire from the job.

3. Now COMBINE the lists into sentences.  Here's a sample.  I'm going to ask other members of our family--adult grandchildren and great-grandchildren--to write their own.

We don't take time often enough to tell you how much we love and appreciate you, Mom.  You have been a source of loving support to three generations:  your children, grandchildren and now, great-grandchildren.  We love your generous gifts, whether they are afghans for new babies, or homemade jam or pies.  

More than that, though, we have wonderful memories of you rocking babies, attending all our family dinners, and even trying to teach our boys how to make pies.  Hard working, loving and kind are a few words we could use to describe you.  But they don't say it all, by any means.  

Happy Mother's Day, 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eldercare Resource: Finding a Great Senior Care Referral Agency

"I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."  These words of six-year-old Alexander in Judith Viorst's read-aloud book ring true for many of us Boomers as we face obstacles relating to our aging parents. We're tempted to say, with Alexander:  "I think I'll move to Australia."

We don't wake up with gum in our hair, or lose our best friend, or get tricked out of our life's savings by a pesky big brother. Instead, we get a wake up call:  our parent has had a stroke, broken a hip, or needs more care.

Pulling the blankets over our heads won't help.  Yet there's no doubt that finding excellent care for your parent is daunting.  In King County, where Seattle is located, there are nearly 1100 adult family homes, plus hundreds of assisted living communities and home care agencies.

A senior care referral agency often will help.  Referral agencies help people find in-home care, retirement or assisted living communities or adult family homes. At their best, these agencies save time, energy and even money. Yet they're not all alike.

An excellent senior care agency:

1. Thinks outside the box and sees the person as paramount.  Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work, meets with families in person, including the elder when possible.  Often the question: “What’s going on now?”  unleashes a torrent of response.  Then comes an extensive discussion, about diagnoses, medications and physical needs.  But there’s more.  Your aging parent is far more than the sum of her maladies.  He or she is unique, enjoying things that make life worth living. Not long ago, the daughter of an 93-year-old woman asked Silver Age to find an adult family home in a specific geographic area that would accept a cat, and allow a conversion to Medicaid funding. Very few adult family   homes accept pets, so the search began in earnest. Today, though, both Mother and her cat are now happily settled.  Ditto for a 90-something married couple, who needed assisted living for him, and future memory care for her, in a specific area of Seattle.
2. Pre-qualifies housing and care providers.  Excellent referral agencies are committed to visit adult family homes and assisted living communities in person, and to enter their information into an extensive data base.  At Silver Age, our database contains profiles of 900-plus providers:  home care agencies, retirement and assisted living communities and adult family homes.  It includes licensing and inspection records,  level of care services provided, source of payment accepted, and more.  When a family says, “Mother speaks only Chinese; can you find a place for her on the Eastside?”  we can.  We know which homes accept pets, smokers, and diagnoses with difficult behaviors.
3. Tours with the family and connects them to resources.  Some referral agencies schedule tours with providers and send the family out on their own.  The best agencies make it a practice to accompany clients on visits and provide transportation.  Often the time in the car in between communities or adult family homes is productive for discussing what the family liked, didn’t like and what questions might remain.  Silver Age continues to tour with families until they find the home they like best.  When questions arise during the decision-making and move-in process, we will refer clients to elder law attorneys, movers and health care professionals.

A senior referral agency won't do all your work for you.  But a good one will help tremendously.  Most of all, you will feel less alone.  And less like moving to Australia.  Although maybe that's not such a bad idea?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Two Ideas on Talking With Your Parent Who Has Dementia

If your parent has dementia, chances are you know the frustration of wondering how to communicate. Especially when your parent says something that's simply not true. Or totally unreasonable.  For example, a woman may say, "I'm worried that my husband won't come to pick me up," when her husband has been dead for years. Or she refuses to take a shower, when she's always been fastidiously clean.

Two tactics can help.

Tactic #1:  Refuse to correct.  It's better to be silent than be right, since the conflict you set up in correcting her increases tension between you.  If she believes that her dead husband is still alive and starts looking for him, it's best not to say, "Your husband died."  Even though it's true. That statement can either trigger a resurgence of grief or an argument over whether her spouse is dead or alive. Instead, you can either say something neutral, like "Oh," or "Tell me about him" or "You must love him very much."

If your parent makes a misstatement with a health care provider, resist the impulse to tell the doctor, "It wasn't that way," or "She's wrong about that."  I've seen lots of well-intentioned adult children correct their parent in front of the doctor, only to spark an anger attack because the parent feels disrespected. Doctors and nurses know that the report of a person with dementia isn't going to be 100% accurate.  Not even close. You can make any needed corrections later with the provider in private.

Tactic #2:  Remember the Five Minute Rule.  Caregivers who work with people who have dementia know their memory is often short. That's why they refer to this as the Five Minute Rule. Your parent can refuse to eat, to take a shower or to get dressed.  Rather than fighting, which ups the stress level, it's best to leave and return in a little while to make the request once again. Often time will change their reaction.

Can you think of other strategies for communicating with a parent who has dementia?

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