For most seniors, moving from their home of many years into an assisted living facility is difficult. For some, it's nearly paralyzing. Even if they are moving to a very nice assisted living environment, the move will likely mean a significant loss of space, especially if they are leaving a house. Downsizing – the term often used for weaning ourselves from long-time possessions – can be hard for anyone. When it's more or less forced upon someone because of age or infirmity, the process becomes even tougher.
...Most of us move and sit automatically without thinking of how it affects our bodies. With age, however, our habitual movements can translate into poor posture and sore or damaged joints. Mary Derbyshire has some words of wisdom to help us age with less pain, and the approach to movement that she teaches is, well, painless. Derbyshire has taught fitness and movement for over 35 years.
The stories in this fine book showed us how others have gone through similar things with their families and that is somehow reassuring. There are some helpful suggestions but mostly there is the recognition that others went through the same thing. All we can do is our best. That is greatly reassuring during these difficult emotional times. If you are a caregiver, this is a must read. - Delores Edwards
Pain management can be a problem for aging bodies. With the current focus on removing opioids as a go-to solution, doctors are working hard to provide alternatives for their patients. Dr. Denis Patterson is a Board Certified Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine, and Rehabilitation physician and he is the founder and owner of Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists in Reno, Nevada. I’ve had questions for some time about what doctors are suggesting for pain management for aging bodies that may be suffering from old injuries or current issues such as severe arthritic pain, so I asked Dr. Patterson if he would be willing to provide us with information from the perspective of a specialist. He did so in this email interview.
Summer is a time when it’s generally easier for elders to be out and about than when snow and ice are an issue. Even if our loved ones have dementia, severe arthritis, lung issues or a combination of ailments, there are things we, their caregivers, can do to relieve a sense of being left out of life that can affect people in their situation.
Think about the personality of your ailing elders and consider excursions or entertainment that they may enjoy. A short outing of some type can leave a lasting memory, or it can simply mean that there were some enjoyable moments, but either way, you’ve done something positive for them. Remember to take into account the fact that heat can be dangerous to elders, so prepare for outside activities by educating yourself about how to keep elders safe in the heat.
Finding activities for people with dementia can be challenging. For example, my dad’s dementia was caused by failed surgery during his 70s. He was always interested in archaeology, science of any type, space exploration and a variety of human cultures. I focused his activities on those things he loved. The music of his youth was another priceless tool to help him get through the days. What activities or topic of interest would work for your loved one?
...I am aware that many people under age 65 need assistance from their adult children or other sources because of health problems. That being said, having arthritis or heart issues, for example, doesn’t make a person cognitively impaired. Therefore, when we offer to help in these situations, the elders’ opinions and wishes must be taken into consideration. I know only too well that watching our parents get older is difficult. Ideally, they were once our anchors. No matter how difficult life became, there was comfort in knowing that our parents were around, even if they were half way across the country. Now, when we see their joints needing replacement, their skin wrinkling, perhaps even their memory recall slowing, we cringe. Whether or not we wish to admit it, we are afraid. We know that our parents are not immortal. One day we will be without them.
This is National Healthcare Decisions Week (formerly "Day"). This book is a wonderful guide for deciding what you would want in the future. (Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword to the second edition).
"Code Blue!" A voice cries out in the Emergency Department. "Is there a doctor who can 'tube' a patient in Cardiac Cath Lab?"
These beginning lines of "Wishes To Die For: Expanding Upon Doing Less in Advanced Care Directives," by Dr. Kevin J. Haselhorst, prepare the reader for an adventure in self-examination.
The first chapter, titled "Self Determination," describes the author's own internal battle to balance his training as a doctor who cures at all costs with the wishes of his patients. Through his book, Haselhorst gently encourages us, the potential patients, to examine our right to decide how and under what circumstances we will be allowed a natural death.
In "Wish 10: Pre-Stamp Three Coins in the Fountain," Haselhorst writes, "I cannot remember the last time that I wished for a feeding tube, dialysis or ventilator." The author is not negating the importance of these treatments, but he is stressing that we must keep a record of our wishes up to date. He challenges us to examine what we really want at each stage of life. Any of the above efforts to increase our chances for survival may be a correct choice under some circumstances, but there often comes a time in our lives where less treatment is in our best interest. Unless our current wishes are made known, we may not be able to choose the manner in which our life comes to a close.
While reading the book I highlighted, underlined, and clipped colored markers on pages, thinking to myself that I must include this quote or that paragraph as I wrote. Before long, I realized that scores of quotes would be needed to do this work justice. The complete book with everything in context is needed before the reader can grasp the manner in which Haselhorst guides readers through their own journeys of self-examination.
That being said, what Haselhorst writes toward the closing of his book comes close to summing it up. He says that, "Death with dignity is only realized through the empowerment attained from engagement (of the patient)."
To address this belief, Haselhorst has designed a wristband similar to the well-known Livestrong Foundation wristband. The difference is that this band is bright yellow on one side and embossed with the words "Alpha care," meaning that the patient wishes doctors to keep trying all routes to keep him or her alive. The reverse side is a subdued blue and embossed with the words "Omega care" indicating the patient's wish to be allowed a natural death. With a twist of the wristband, a patient can communicate his or her current thoughts.
"Wishes To Die For" is an intellectual book, best-absorbed chapter by chapter. In my opinion, it's well worth taking this journey with the author to help us clarify our own beliefs. For more about Haselhorst and his work, visit www.wishestodiefor.com. The book "Wishes To Die For" is available at Amazon.com.
Previously published as a Minding Our Elders column for the Forum: Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
It’s far too easy for onlookers to view someone with dementia as unable to feel pain. Since the disease eventually renders most people helpless and cognitively inexpressive, they can't articulate what hurts or why they are upset. Caring researchers have now brought new insight to this issue. In an article on altered pain processing in patients with cognitive impairment, Medical News Today states that new research shows how wrong previous ideas about what people with cognitive disorders could feel have been.
An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol Bradley Bursack also has an excellent web site devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman
Hospice care is palliative care, but palliative care is not hospice. The difference between these two types of care is something that I have found difficult to clarify myself let alone explain to others. However, this care is a fundamental part of treating any chronic or terminal illness.
Wouldn't it be nice to be a caregiver who had only loving thoughts every moment of the caregiving day? Maybe there are caregivers like that. If you are one of them, I truly congratulate you. Most of us who have been through years of caregiving will not fall into that category. Here's a sampling of caregiver thoughts that I've heard people talk about. You'll likely feel better just reading them.