Interest in the arts as enhancers of life's quality is pretty well understood. Studies have shown the healing effects of music. I wrote about one such study in "Music Therapy Helps Some Regain Speech After Stroke." No matter what our age or health situation is, music, as well as the other fine arts and crafts, help most of us live life more fully. Assisted living centers, nursing homes and adult day services have for years focused on music and art as entertainment, as well as therapy, for their residnts.Lately, however, the movement seems to be gaining even more steam.
“How can I get Dad to shower and change his clothes?”
The issue of elders who were once reasonably clean adults refusing to take showers and wear fresh clothes is one that is far more common than most people think. Sometimes the issue is depression. If we have a parent who no longer takes an interest in staying clean or wearing clean clothes, it’s wise to look at depression first. A checkup with a doctor is a good idea, especially if low energy is also part of it, or if they just don’t care about anything at all. Depression isn’t always obvious to an observer.
Are you sick of arguing with Dad over his driving? Is Mom unable to handle her checkbook, but she'll be darned if she'll let "you kids" take over? Is your older brother dead set against Dad going to a locked Alzheimer's unit, even though he's wandered away from Mom's care three times, once in the dead of winter? Family problems can get sticky. Well, we all know that. But when our parents are getting to a point where it's evident that they can't make decisions for themselves, but they are too strong-willed or set on maintaining what they view as their independence, sometimes a trained third party can help wade through the pool of family dynamics that has remained stagnant for decades.
I think most of us approach the idea of sharing the care of an elder with a lot of trepidation. We have cared for them with one-on-one loving attention. We know their history, their preferences, their tempers and their needs. Bringing others, no matter how experienced, into the equation is counterintuitive.
However, for many of us, the time comes when we have no choice. Over the course of two decades I cared for seven elders. All but two spent some time in a care facility. During the 15 years I visited daily, I saw three changes of ownership. Each was good, though the last (and present ownership) has been the best, from the viewpoint of a family member.
Boomers and caregivers – make yourselves heard! As I’ve mentioned before, Minding Our Elders is expanding in all directions. This includes the weekly newspaper column. If you read a newspaper online, in print or both, and you’d like to see the weekly Minding Our Elders column run for your benefit as well as that of others, please take a moment to e-mail or call your local newspaper editor. Go to either the Life Styles editor (or whatever they currently call that section, the managing editor or the executive editor. Let them know what you want.
Believe me, newspapers are fighting for their lives. They want to know what readers are looking for. Most newspapers are trying to lure the twenty-somethings into their readership net. Nothing wrong with that. But in doing so, many are ignoring the vast audience of boomers who are caregivers, as well as their senior readers who want information for themselves or who are caregivers for their spouse and want support for that daunting task. Minding Our Elders, in print and online, is an affordable way for them to provide this support. The popular column has been running since 2005, so it has history on its side.
Ask the editor to go to www.mindingoureldersblogs.com and click under my photo where it says “email me.” They can tell me what they need. I will send them column samples, my electronic Media Kit, links to my national blogs and forums – anything they want. This is your chance to make a difference. I’m asking for your help so that others may be supported during their elder care journey.
This is an issue that is not discussed as openly as it might be. A good article on the subject, by June A. Schroede, is titled, "Are Caregivers Responsible for Their Parent's Debt?" The article is posted on Agingcare.com and begins:
"I was recently asked “Am I responsible for my parent's debt? What if as a caregiver, I recently discovered that my father has several thousand of dollars of debt. Are parent debts transferable?”
The answer is ‘No!”
This question often comes up in cases like this, but even if you have power of attorney you are not liable for his debt nor can they be transferred to you (unless you cosigned for them or are listed as a joint debtor)."
Fellow blogger Christine Kennard wrote a very concise post on the seven stages of Alzheimer's. I'm passing that onto you here:
Seven Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
. One of the most commonly used is the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) developed by B Reisberg and colleagues. It is used to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from caregivers and patients with Alzheimer's disease; " How long have we got?" and "What stage of the disease is he/she in?".
"Don't ever put me in a nursing home!"
How often have we heard that? And how many of us have fallen prey to making a promise not to let this happen?
Generally, the elder asking you to make this promise is remembering a visit to a friend or relative, often years back, and has decided all nursing homes are dreadful places. Unfortunately, some still are. But nursing homes, originally modeled after military hospitals and - yes - prisons, were arranged for efficiency of staff. They were set up to take care of people with as little staff time as possible. People have had good reason to fear living in a nursing home.
One of my co-bloggers on the Alzheimer's site is Leah, who has vascular dementia. Leah's insight, humor and courage are a huge inspiration to many. I am particularly taken with the following post:
Holding On To Hope
For those with vascular dementia…or for that matter, for anyone with the beginning of any form of dementia…it is important to keep HOPE in their life. This is not to say that one should expect a miracle, although praying for one is not out of the question. It is to say that without hope, one just withdraws within and shrivels up. Giving up is one of the biggest deterrents to living a full life. I have been writing this blog for almost two years now. When I was diagnosed with vascular dementia, I must admit that I went into a downward tailspin for a while.
An article on a drug that may prevent long-term damage from traumatic brain injury hit me between the eyes. My dad suffered a closed head injury during World War II. After weeks in a coma, he learned to walk and talk again, and lived a relatively normal life into his early 70s. By then, fluid was building up behind scar tissue and he was getting a little fuzzy. Doctors said a shunt must be put in his brain to drain the fluid. This operation is relatively safe and done even on children with brain fluid diseases.