Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Living Alone is No Longer an Option

alzheimers-s12-light-switch Many of us live in Never Never Land: We’re never going to get old and we’re never going to need help.

Of course, just the opposite is true. According to clinical bioethicist Viki Kind, author of the book “The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices for Those Who Can’t,” “Only 10 percent of us get to die fast; the other 90 percent will endure long-term health issues.”

So what do you do if your loved one can no longer live alone?

That problem is all too real for Cathy. Her 83-year-old father lives alone in New York City. He’s been having difficulty remembering things, and a day before his planned trip to California for the holidays, he experienced a fall. He’s now in the hospital, and Cathy must help her father make decisions about his living arrangements.

“I’m not even sure where to start,” Cathy said. “Should I move my dad near me or help him find a place in New York? What happens if he doesn’t want to move or have someone come to his home to help care for him; how can I honor his wishes but also be sure he will get the care he needs?”

When the hospital discharge planner asked Cathy about her immediate concerns for her dad, Cathy said, “I’m concerned about my dad’s ability to care for himself. Some days he’s sharp as a tack and other days he’s very confused. During times of confusion he doesn’t remember to take his medications and he forgets to eat. I had concerns about Dad even before the fall, but now this situation will force us to do something.”

Cathy also expressed concerns about how to cover the costs of her dad’s care.

“Any choice at this stage, like assisted living or in-home care, is very expensive,” she said. “Dad gets by on his Social Security and has very little savings. A year of care could wipe him out, so I am hoping and praying we can find a longer term affordable solution.”

How do people like Cathy make decisions for their loved ones? Viki Kind advocates applying the Platinum Rule by treating those in our care as they would like to be treated.

Kind says, “I am a big advocate of person-centered decision-making— make choices that are in the best interest from the perspective of the person you are caring for.”

Kind continues, “For Cathy, making decisions that respect her father’s wishes over her own would follow a person-centered approach. And embarking on the conversations ahead of time will prepare Cathy to act upon her father’s wishes at the time when he is unable to advocate for himself.”

If you’d like to learn more about when living alone is no longer an option, the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging will be hosting a TOTV program at 1 p.m. Wed., Jan. 5 at city hall.

Speakers for the 90-minute program include Kind; Carol Knowles, long-term care insurance specialist; Kathy Terry, ombudsman at Long Term Care Services of Ventura County; and Robert Triplett, lawyer and estate planning specialist.

A free meet-the-speakers light lunch reception will precede the program from noon to 12:45 p.m. Reservations are required for the reception and can be made by calling (805) 449-2743.


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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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