Caregiving course offers training many adults need

Caregiving course offers training many adults need

Like many, I entered the role of caregiver without any preparation.

My husband and I began caring for our elderly neighbors, Fred and Hildy. Over time we were dealing with a dizzying array of doctor visits, personal care needs, and physical and cognitive health issues without any of their family to lean on.

I had a few things going for me. I was compassionate, motivated to help and not afraid to ask questions. The problem was, who should I ask questions of?

Celebrating the family caregiver

Celebrating the family caregiver

Wanda takes pride in the care she provides to her husband, Jim, as he goes through his journey with dementia.

Before COVID, Jim attended the Senior Concerns Adult Day Program. Wanda felt his weekday presence there helped slow the progression of the disease as he engaged in conversation, activities, meals and exercise with others in the program.

In addition, the respite she received during the day helped her feel refreshed when Jim came home and needed more of her time in the evenings. Jim had developed sundown syndrome, a term used to describe a range of behaviors—often including agitation, confusion and restlessness—that occurs during the transition from daylight to darkness.

To comfort her husband, 

A life is changed in the blink of an eye

A life is changed in the blink of an eye

This month, another adult child was drafted into the world of caregiving. Her name is Janet, and she is a 50-something schoolteacher with a husband and two adult children.

One would think that the most logical subject of her caregiving would be her frail 86-year-old mother who lives 2,000 miles away. And in some ways, you would be right. But that is only half the story.

Janet grew up one of two children. Her older brother, David, was a special needs child. Back in his day they may not have put a name to it, but he does not make eye contact, has learning impairments and only at age 50 was he stable enough to get his driver’s license.

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Joanie and her husband lived a full life, busy careers and wonderful vacation trips after retirement.

Today, Joanie sits silently, alone in front of her television, eating her dinner.

Joanie’s life partner died five years ago at the age of 74, and now that he’s gone, a week can go by without her connecting with a single human being.

Hearing-impaired, she has settled into a life of seclusion.

Joanie possesses the financial net worth to enjoy life, activities, trips, outings and events, but what she lacks is a social network. She is one of millions of seniors suffering from social isolation.

AARP estimates that more than 8 million older adults are affected by this trend.

Socially connected seniors are those who have relationships present in their lives, who have friends or family they can rely on and who are satisfied with those relationships.

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.”

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.

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

With a yearlong waiting list to enter a skilled-nursing facility for long-term care, my father was placed on palliative care at home recently. While it may not seem so, it was an early Christmas gift for our family.

The occupational therapist who had been helping teach my mother and sister how to safely transfer my father asked my father’s physician about a palliative-care consult, and the physician put in the order.

My father has advanced Parkinson’s, but he is not near the end of his life. He doesn’t have pain, but his breathing is labored, he has significant fatigue, he is depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and he has bowel and bladder issues. For all intents and purposes, he is homebound.

The local home health agency that was providing occupational therapy also has a palliative care and hospice division. So the same agency sent a new person to the home to evaluate my father.

The yin and yang of caregiving

The yin and yang of caregiving

On a recent trip home to New Hampshire I felt the yin and yang of family caregiving or, more specifically, the interconnected and sometimes opposing forces of the local family caregiver and the long-distance ones.

While my mother is the primary caregiver for my father, my sister Carla, who lives less than 5 miles from my parents, assists them with all their needs. She picks up groceries, accompanies my parents to appointments, sits with my father so my mother can run an errand, attends doctor appointments and joins my mother on her respite outings.

She’s also the one who is enlisted to help transfer my father when he falls, fix the internet or TV when my mother’s skills are outmatched or interpret complex insurance and financial forms.

About four years ago, as my parents realized their needs exceeded their abilities, all three daughters suggested Mom and Dad move closer. Their choices included New HampshireConnecticut and California.

Spa day

Here’s a snippet from a recent phone conversation I had with my mother, who speaks with a thick New England accent.

Mom: “Yesterday I took Daddy for his checkup with the doctor. The doctor asked Daddy how he was doing. Daddy pointed his finger at me and said, ‘I think she’s had it with me.’”

Me: “Why would Daddy say that?”

Mom: “I told the doctor I was very tired and maybe not as patient as I should be. I said I just needed a good night’s rest and I would be fine. Dr. Nguyen told me I needed to go to a bar (pronounced baah).”

Me: “What?? He told you to go to a bar? Man, I like this doctor.”

Mom: "No, no, not a baah—a spa!"

A future look at caregiving

A 2009 study concluded that the majority of family caregivers are white, female, employed, average 50 years of age and help in the care of a relative, often their mother.

The support systems for seniors and their family caregivers are built around this pattern.

Since the world is changing at lightning speed, I wonder what caregivers might look like in 2050.

The first step is to take a look at the changes coming to the senior population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 our population will be older and more ethnically and racially diverse. Minorities in the senior population today represent one-third of the population, but

RSS

Archive