As parents age, denial sets in for adult kids

Fear is often root cause

As parents age, denial sets in for adult kids
In my conversations with home-care agencies, residentialcare facilities and hands-on family caregivers, I hear an almost universal challenge: family members who are in denial about their senior loved one’s mental, physical or emotional health.

 

“Dad has never been violent,” says the son whose father with dementia punched the female caregiver in the chest.

“I visited Mom last week and she seemed fine to me,” says the daughter who’s been told her mother is taking and hoarding the possessions of other residents.

“I think you’re exaggerating,” says the brother who lives hours away after being told by his sibling that their father is ready for hospice care.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Denial is a psychological defense we use to reduce our anxiety when dealing with a stressful situation.”

Seniors and smartphones: a good fit?

Seniors and smartphones: a good fit?
My friend John surprised me last week when he told me that for the first time in a year he’d hauled out his computer to do some work. He said, “If I can’t do it on my smartphone these days, it doesn’t get done.”

 

John’s specific demographic is embracing smartphone technology at a rapid pace. John is under the age of 70 and has a household income over $75,000 and a college degree.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of older Americans whose annual household income is $75,000 or more say they own smartphones, compared to 27 percent of those living in households earning less than $30,000 a year. Two-thirds of seniors with bachelor’s or advanced degrees report owning smartphones compared with 27 percent for those who have not gone beyond high school.

A smartphone is 

When is it the right time to move?

When is it the right time to move?
My parents have new neighbors. Jack and Carole, both in their early 80s, realized their cape-style home in Rhode Island was too much for them, with bedrooms on the second floor and the washer and dryer in the basement. They would soon need some help and decided a one-story home, minutes from their son in New Hampshire, was a good choice.

One week after they purchased their new house, Carole was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

On the day of the move, after the furniture and boxes were placed in the home, Carole came out of her son’s car to enter the house. She had a walker with tennis balls on the bottom. My mom watched as Carole took a few steps and then had to sit down.

Jack and his son went into the house and grabbed a kitchen chair. They sat Carole in the chair and carried her into the house.

My mom took the transport wheelchair we have for my father and brought it over to Jack and Carole. She asked them if they would like to borrow it and they were greatly appreciative. They had not planned on Carole needing something like that.

As my mother relayed this story to me last week, I was struck by the challenge that many seniors face in knowing when it’s the right time to move.

While most seniors want to age in place, for some that may not be a realistic option.

Influx of seniors challenge emergency room system

Influx of seniors challenge emergency room system

The number of older people in emergency rooms is expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years, doubling in the case of those older than 65 and potentially tripling among those over 85.

Our healthcare system is in critically short supply of primary care physicians and geriatric specialists to treat seniors. As a result, many seniors end up in emergency rooms rather than being treated in the community.

The emergency room can be an overwhelming place for seniors, as they must enter an unfamiliar environment, field rapid-fire questions, then experience fear and anxiety about the diagnosis that awaits.

Are our emergency rooms prepared for this significant growth in senior patients? The answer might be no, unless we heed a call to arms in the following critical areas.

Supporting a grieving parent

Supporting a grieving parent

Last week I asked my mother if there was something she thought I should write about in my column. Quick to reply, she said, “How does one cope when their spouse is dying?”

“What do you mean by cope?” I asked.

“Are there things I should do? Are there ways to prepare for what is to come?” she replied.

Our family has spent 20 years thinking about my father’s final days, ever since his Parkinson’s diagnosis. In the last few years, we have prepared practically, legally and financially for the end of his life.

The one scenario we’ve not tackled: How should we be feeling as my father’s death draws near?

Website collects senior resources into one easy-to-access place

Website collects senior resources into one easy-to-access place

I’ve recently discovered some programs that can help solve many of the challenges facing seniors.

There are so many sources of help available today that it’s nearly impossible to have a handle on all of them at one time. Having a robust list by topic is very helpful.

As with any rapidly growing market, there’s continuous innovation, making it even more difficult to keep up. Having one site with the latest innovations would be really valuable.

And with so many resources, it’s often difficult to sort out what is reputable and what is not. So I was pleasantly surprised when I happened upon the website www.programsforelderly.com.

It’s not a nonprofit endeavor, so you will see ads, but the content is so rich that it’s worth the distractions.

 

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Imagine your longtime neighbor is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. He’s been in and out of the hospital over the last few months. He rarely sees his only child, a son who lives on the other side of the country.

You pay your neighbor a social call upon his recent return from a hospital stay.

When he doesn’t answer the door, you peer into the window and are alarmed to see he’s on the floor and not responding to you as you call his name. You call 911.

Paramedics arrive. You stay to answer any questions you can. As you stand by, you hear that your neighbor hasn’t let the home health agency personnel in for their nursing care visits to monitor his health. And he hasn’t eaten the Meals on Wheels food that had been delivered.

When caregiving becomes too much

When caregiving becomes too much

Over the years, I’ve watched family caregivers perform heroic acts in caring for their loved ones. I’ve seen spouses and adult children give up their work and social life—and essentially any semblance of freedom—to devote themselves 24/7.

Many of these individuals began their caregiving journey years earlier, perhaps somewhat in the dark about the changes that would occur as their loved ones’ physical, mental and personal needs increased. These caregivers continually added more duties to their plate, often more than any one person should ever be expected to do.

I’m both reassured and troubled by this phenomenon.

New hobbies really help late in life

New hobbies really help late in life

Retirement can be a perfect time to learn something new. Look at former President George W. Bush, who began to paint after leaving office in 2009.

Bush told friends and family he found the art form relaxing. He hired a teacher to help him, telling her he wanted to discover his “inner Rembrandt.”

After painting a series of portraits of military personnel he’d met and wanted to honor, Bush published “Portraits of Courage,” a book of those works.

“I know each person I painted,” said the former president. “I was thinking about their backgrounds, their service, their injuries and their recovery.”

Linda, a 69-year-old widow, also chose something new after a major life change. Ten years ago she was deep in depression after the sudden death of her husband. She recently wrote to tell me, “I was blessed to find a wonderful group of people that helped put a smile on my face.”

Linda joined the Boots and Slippers Square Dance Club of Simi Valley.

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

A widow with no children, Linda has volunteered for Senior Concerns’ Bargain Boutique and Thrift Shop for the past three years. On Jan. 17, her life changed dramatically.

Scheduled to work at the boutique that day, Linda did not show up for her shift. Concerned, Karina, the boutique manager, called Linda at home. There was no answer.

Karina began to worry. She discussed the situation with boutique volunteer and Senior Concerns’ staff member Denise. They knew Linda lived alone with her St. Bernard, Cooper. Both women called and called but got no response.

After almost two days of trying, they found one of Linda’s neighbors, who had a key to her house. The neighbor 

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