With good nutrition and proper health care many people are living much longer and usually with good quality of life. Sometimes though elderly people do require assistance and often for longer periods of time than others have in the past.
I was blessed to have both of my parents well into their 80’s. I lost my Dad last year at age 87. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease but had his mind right up until the end. My Mom is still living and just turned 85 in September. Her overall health is pretty good given her age, but she has some physical challenges. She is still as spunky as ever. When I’m not at work and writing the Dewey Hop blog, much of my time (past and present) has been spent caring for my parent(s), driving to doctors appointments, trying to help with whatever needs done, and just visiting and spending time with one or both of them just to mention a few things.All of this can be overwhelming at times but one of my sisters and her husband also do quite a bit to help.
My sister and I have worked out a system of sorts. Our current arrangement is that I am at Mom’s house 6 out of 7 days a week to check on her, run errands, visit, and generally help out with laundry and whatever else comes up. I live 5 minutes away from Mom so I usually swing by after work and in the afternoons on the weekends. I spend shorter amounts of time at Mom’s, but go more frequently. My “day off” is on Tuesday. My sister, who lives out of town, stays all day with Mom on Tuesday. Her job is to get all of the shopping accomplished while her husband takes care of all of the yard work and some general maintenance (if needed). Mom looks forward to getting to spend the day shopping. She is taken where ever she needs or wants to go (grocery store, Walmart, pharmacy, bank, etc.). My sister takes Mom to any doctor’s appointments that are scheduled on Tuesday; otherwise I take her. Mom has a service that comes in and cleans every two weeks (everyone background checked). Friends take her out to eat once a week and she has other activities scheduled at various times throughout the week such as going to the beauty shop and church activities.
When Dad’s Parkinson’s disease was getting progressively worse, my parents had their entire home outfitted with safety items such as grab bars, a chair lift, a lift recliner, walk in showers with seating, hand held shower sprayers, etc. These household features turned out to be a great thing for my Mom as well as they have enabled her to continue living in her own home. She is able to get up and down the basement steps to her laundry room safely and we do not have to worry about her taking a tumble down the stairs. She’s able to maneuver around her home with assistance of a walker and cane in addition to the other safety features. Mom is able to take care of her own grooming, bathing, and cooking needs.
Mom uses the Life Alert service so we do not have to worry about her quite as much when she is home alone. She has frequent visitors and neighbors who all help to keep an eye on her when we can’t be there with her. Mom still drives herself to church on Sunday mornings and to a hair appointment once a week. She is able to drive well enough to go through drive throughs at various places if she wants to (fast food, bank, pharmacy, etc). She does not drive after dark or out of town. In the winter time if the roads aren’t real clear she either decides to stay home or someone drives for her. Mom’s eyes are getting worse though and she says that when her license expires (in the not too distant future) that she will not renew it. She knows that we will make sure she is driven anywhere she wants to go, but this does mean giving up more independence so it is a hard thing for her.
With improvements in healthcare and life span, I wondered who is actually considered “senior” or “old.” I read through a lot of information in books and depending on the publication “senior” and / or “old” was anywhere from 44(!) to 100+. Later after trying to verify some information I read I came across this:
I’ve shared all of the above because I know that every family works out eldercare based on individual circumstances, family make up, and needs. Perhaps our family can help other families currently thinking through how to set up care.There are health, safety, and financial aspects to address. When I reached the books on eldercare I was really curious to find out if there is anything else we can be doing for my Mom to make her life easier and still maintain a high quality of life for her. Of course, all families have to deal with how to care for their elderly members as well as take care of the caretaker(s) needs. Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents by Claire Berman addresses all of these concerns.
I believe this book would be helpful to many who are caretakers. While it is written with elderly parents in mind, it could also offer some suggestions for those with handicapped family members. This book covers topics all the way from parents needing minimal assistance through nursing home options and end of life decisions. If you have situations anywhere in between these topics, this book probably covers them. Additionally the author shares some of her own experiences while caring for her elderly family members and discusses the guilt that caregivers can have when they finally manage to squeeze in some time for themselves. Claire Berman shares many examples of how people care for their loved ones when the caregiver is an only child, when there are multiple siblings, when family members live far apart from each other and the stress that results from these and many other situations. If you are in or nearing this stage of life (either as the caretaker or the elderly person who may require attention in the future) I would recommend this book to start some family discussions. As long as the elderly parents still have their wits about them, there is no reason why they can’t help make decisions about their care.
The Complete Guide to Eldercare by A.J. Lee and Melanie Callender, Ph.D. shares much of the same type of information mentioned above, but also includes practical ways and suggested agendas for family meetings. This book provides a chart to help families decide which skills their elderly members have and seeks to help to objectively figure out what sort of care is needed. It is loaded with information that families should consider before making a long term decision about loved ones.
For some families there are added psychological issues and diminished mental capacity on top of dealing with physical limitations, health, and finances. Sometimes living arrangements aren’t so clear cut. If you find yourself in this situation, Elder Rage -or- Take My Father…Please! by Jacqueline Marcell is the book for you. Jacqueline learned everything the hard way and then wrote this book so you don’t have to learn the hard way. This book will be enlightening to anyone dealing with the elderly–or even if you are the elderly!
Elder Rage is full of information and humor that will have you not wanting to put the book down. In it you will learn such things as how to get accurate diagnosis and care for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, ways to encourage someone to give up driving, behavior management skills, and where to find important resources to get proper care for the elderly. I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you and/or your parents are still young enough to qualify, Jacqueline Marcell encourages everyone to invest in Long Term Care (LTC) insurance which would have saved her thousands of dollars. Accompanying the book is a companion website elderrage.com which can also help to point the reader to appropriate resources.
American Benefits for Seniors by Matthew Lesko highlights many resources available to seniors either at extremely low cost or free. I am giving this book an “honorable mention” because a book like this is quickly outdated if there are time limits on certain offers or government policies are changed. However, I did still find this book helpful in finding some resources. The way I explored this book was to skim read it (this isn’t the kind of book that you must read every word) and then try to look up the mentioned resources online. While one could still explore it the old fashioned way through snail mail, you may end up wasting postage costs only to find out that the information has become outdated. I was rather successful looking up some “senior offers” online. Some of the offers have conditions (age, location, income, etc) while others didn’t. One of the offers that I decided to explore just to check it out was an offer about how to get free fresh produce and fruit from local farmers’ markets. This is a great offer…my only problem is that I’m not old enough (yay!) and my mother doesn’t meet the criteria. I’m sure though that this book could be helpful for many and it’s kind of fun to explore new things and ideas on the internet. If you decide to explore it, please let me know what you think!
Do you currently or have you ever been a caretaker for an elderly family member? Do you have any helpful suggestions for people already in this stage of life?