I get excited when I read about studies that find that nutritional foods and/or already available drugs can help people with Alzheimer’s. Many studies show promise of a miracle drug in the pipeline, but if you or your loved one is at risk or already coping with Alzheimer’s symptoms at this time, reports on these studies don’t do much more than cause frustration. People want help now.
Culture change is the current buzz word for nursing home care advocates. The days of military style nursing homes set up for staff efficiency are beginning to wane as families demand better care for their loved ones, and boomers look at nursing homes and realize that one day they may live in one. This push from vocal advocates for vulnerable elders, with a little Boomer pride thrown in, is shaking up the industry. Not as fast as many of us would like, but nursing homes are, indeed, changing.
There’s been a lot of publicity about “Jan’s Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s.” The author is well known and his publicists have been generous with review copies. The publicists say this book “reads like a novel.” When I received my copy and I had read it, I had to agree. “Jan’s Story” reads like a novel.
Gail Sheehy is the author of 15 books, but is best known for her book Passages, which remained on the New York Times Bestseller’s List for over three years. She’s an out-spoken advocate for Boomers, urging them to use each turning point in life to advantage. When Sheehy’s husband became ill, she was personally faced with a turning point of gigantic proportions – one even she hadn’t expected. She became a caregiver.
My family was fortunate. Because at one time I had five elders as well as two children who needed my care, and three of those elders needed skilled nursing care, there was little choice but to look into nursing homes. My community happens to have some very good facilities, and one of the finest is just two blocks from my home. As I said, we were fortunate. It's true that all of our elders' money went into nursing home care, but that's what it was for. The care was good to excellent. We can't complain.
Older homes that seniors hang onto often have bathrooms and bedrooms on a second floor. I've seen seniors sleep on the living room couch because they don't want to make the trip up the stairs to go to bed. This is often unhealthy for their bodies, and if the only bathroom is up a long flight of stairs, they still must climb. Stairs are not only an obstacle because of the energy it takes to climb them, they present a real hazard when it comes to falls. Change can be hard for anyone and elders are often reluctant to change the way things have always been.
Caregivers of folks with early on-set Alzheimer's face unique challenges, not unlike those who care for parents or children who have suffered debilitating brain injuries. These younger people often don't quite belong with the older generation found in many adult day care settings. Adult day care, or day services as some are called, is one of the newer forms of caring for people who need help during the day.
Recently, I wrote about turning 65 and my foray into Medicare territory as a personal journey. Though I’m not retired, I did manage to get signed up for Medicare Part A – the Medicare we can get at 65, which at least partially covers major medical costs. For those who have a work history qualifying them for Social Security, there is no charge.
As with so many things in life, firsthand experience often exceeds “book learning.” The most compelling reason for me to work long and hard in the elder care field stemmed from my two decades of eldercare. With a combined total of seven elders to care for, I learned a great deal. I’ll always be grateful to the professionals that helped me along the way, including in-home care staff and a fabulous nursing home. However, I find that as a writer on elder care, most people first want to know my personal experiences as a caregiver, then my experience with professionals.
Dear Readers: Many of you are caring for the father who once cared for you. You see him partially paralyzed from a stroke, or you see his once vital brain diminished by dementia. You are doing your very best to care for him. But you wonder, “Am I doing well enough?”