Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stumped about finding care for a parent? Think "where" before "when"

Decisions, decisions. The falls, the frailty, the forgetfulness may have you convinced that your aging parent may need help sooner than you had imagined.

"Tomorrow this must happen," you think.  But unless your parent has dementia, is in danger, or in the hospital or rehab and can no longer live safely alone, I'd suggest you pull back mentally and consider the "where" before the "when" of obtaining in-home care or moving from their home.

Your parent is competent?  If so, you might have a conversation that begins like this:

 "Where do you see yourself  living when home becomes difficult to manage?"  Many answers are possible, but the most frequent response--that of 92% of Americans--is "I want to stay home, with help, if needed.  But home, definitely."

If HOME answers the "where" question, you and your parent can plan how to make the home safer and how to research home care options WHEN it's needed.  And perhaps talk with others in their neighborhood about good providers.

But suppose your parent has another idea such as "I want to live where I can get meals, housekeeping, transportation and help with care if needed.  But I'm not ready now."

Choosing the specific WHERE makes the WHEN question easier to navigate.  To help your parent find the specific location, you can do any number of the following:
  • Together, make a list of the "must-have's" in terms of location, cost, levels of care, affiliation, etc.
  • Do some online research to eliminate communities that don't seem to fit your criteria.
  • Tour several communities and ask lots of questions of the marketing director.  Talk to residents, too, to see how they like living there.
  • Do repeat tours to any communities that are especially appealing.
  • If your parent wants to "save a spot," he or she may put down a deposit for a waiting list.  The deposit is usually refundable.  It works to sustain interest.  And waiting list members are often invited to community events and even free weekends so they can sample community life.
For seniors who are mentally competent but becoming frail, the WHEN decision can be lengthy as they sort through the options and finally decide.

Starting with the WHERE can give you and your parent peace of mind.  If an emergency arises, you've talked through the options ahead of time.  Less panic and more peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

On Giving Up Worrying (About My Aging Parent) for Lent

Worry.  Specifically over our aging parent.  It robs us of sleep, it saps our energy; it kills our effectiveness.

One year as Lent approached, I asked myself, "Could I give up worry for Lent--one moment at a time?"

After all, one year I'd given up chocolate for Lent.  When I announced my goal, my kids' reaction was disbelief, "You'll never make it.  You're the worst chocoholic ever.  Worse than Ruby."

Ruby, our Hungarian hunting dog, sniffed out chocolate anywhere and everywhere.  She wolfed down an entire chocolate cake one Halloween and a half dozen fundraising chocolate bars on another day. 

But yes, I managed to live without chocolate for 40 days.  But could I live without worry?  This was a pattern ingrained in me, worse as I thought about my dad, who struggled with late-stage Parkinson's. But worry wasn't doing me any good, or anyone else, for that matter.

My strategy was simple.  I tied a rubber band around my left wrist.  Every time I experienced a "worrying" thought, I snapped the rubber band.  Not to punish myself, but to give a gentle reminder that my worries didn't produce anything productive. I also let a couple of people know about my plan so they could hold me accountable.

I'd like to say the rubber band therapy totally cured me of worry.  But it didn't.  It did bring to light the extent of my issue so I could work on it. One thing that helped tremendously was to add a simple prayer, "Help me!" as I found myself in the worry mode.

Easter came.  And the end of rubber band therapy.  Did the worrying end?  Not totally.  I no longer wear a rubber band bracelet.  But the prayer, "Lord, help me!" is still with me, to pull out and use, not just during Lent, but all year long.

Happy Easter!

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