As people age, they are likely to find that balance issues, arthritis, neurological diseases, and other health problems become a threat to their quality of life. People facing these problems often find that being evaluated and treated by a physical therapist can be a significant step toward improvement in safety and mobility, or at least stabilization.
In the New Year, because your loved one’s situation hasn’t changed, you might think that nothing can improve your own situation. But if you are open to change, you may find that the symbolism of the New Year does offer opportunities to make your life better. Resolve to improve your life through better self-care.
"Elder orphan" is a term used by medical professionals to describe individuals living alone with little to no support system. In a research article published in Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, in July 2016, "Elder Orphans Hiding in Plain Sight: A Growing Vulnerable Population," Maria T. Carney, M.D., and her colleagues, sought to help clinicians identify adults with multiple chronic diseases who are aging alone and are geographically distant from family or friends. Identifying these individuals might well increase the availability of services for this population as a whole.
Dear Carol: My dad has always been blunt with his words and loud when he’s unhappy with some service but lately he’s become publically belligerent over the slightest irritation. I find this humiliating. A recent example was when we went to a fairly nice restaurant and there was a spot on his spoon. It was just a water spot and could have been wiped off, but he made a huge scene. The waiter apologized and brought him clean silverware but Dad kept shouting that this is no way to run a business. I wanted to crawl under the table. Is this just old age affecting him? He’s 76 and he can’t drive anymore because of his eyes so we try to help out. I’m not sure what to do about his behavior or if there’s anything that I can do. What would you suggest other than not take him out in public, which, I’ll admit, we have considered. GE
Dear Carol: The New Year is arriving and I’m trying desperately to make my annual list of things that I’m happy about and the things that I want to improve on. This year I’m struggling. My once healthy mom had a sudden, massive stroke in October and is now in a nursing home. She’s always been vibrant, both physically and mentally, as well as a kind, loving mother and grandmother. Her volunteer work is a local legend. Now, she’s barely able to speak beyond a mumble. She can’t eat without help. Her mind is muddled and the doctor says that she is unlikely to improve. When I look at her I feel my memories of her, as she was, disappear and I feel sorry for myself. I feel guilty about my self-pity because I know that this should all be about her, but I can’t help it. All I can see is the horrible present Mom’s past fades away. How do I get anything positive out of this New Year knowing that Mom’s future is so bleak? KW
My dad went into surgery with a smile and hope. He came out with severe dementia. Something unexplainable at the time had happened and Dad became a statistic – one of those “poor outcomes” we hear about. My head knew this tragedy was permanent, but my heart wanted my “real” dad back. The kind, loving, intelligent man whose love for me was steadfast. I wanted him back. Unfortunately, my family and I had to learn to accept the fact that Dad would never be the same.
While many of us have spent years as family caregivers, some caregivers are new to this challenge. So new, in fact, that they have yet to realize that they are caregivers. So new that they haven’t had time to even consider the stress that they are under – stress that will likely increase, rather than decrease if they don’t begin to develop some self-care strategies early on. According to AARP and other resources, more than 42 million Americans are faced with the challenge of providing care to their older family members and/or friends. Caregiving can take a tremendous toll on the caregiver’s personal health and overall wellbeing, and yet, according to the organization, many caregivers don’t think of themselves as caregivers and can be reluctant to ask for help.
Researchers in the United Kingdom have found that elderly people are more likely to be moved into a care home after spending time with their families over the Christmas holiday than at any other time. The reason? Families who live at a distance tend to spend a longer time with their elders during the holidays. After a few days together, adult children notice issues with their parents’ physical or mental health that may not have been obvious during shorter visits or from telephone conversations. Some of these changes are thought to be due to chronic loneliness which can sometimes be alleviated through more in-home personal care. In other cases, the opportunity to socialize in a care home may be better fit.
As I watched my 90-year old grandparents grieve the loss of many friends. I had to wonder how much fun it is to be the last one standing. My parents faced much the same situation. Mom, who once loved getting Christmas cards, found that not only did the number of cards she received dwindle, the ones that she did get often contained sad news of death or disease. As she and many other older folks have said, "aging isn't for sissies."
Dear Carol: Last year Christmas was a mess and I’m determined to make this year better. Dad had a stroke two years ago and uses a wheelchair and mom has rheumatoid arthritis and uses a walker, so they both need a place with easy access. That would be my house. Both of my brothers, their wives, and their children join us. Along with our kids, the total of children is five. They are good kids but noisy which bothers my dad. Also, my brothers have opposing political views so I’m praying they don’t get into politics. To make things even more complicated, Mom is super judgmental and finds something to complain about in everything said by anyone even though they didn’t say anything that should offend her. I love my family and this isn’t about the work of hosting a holiday dinner. My siblings bring side dishes so I don’t have to do everything. It’s the personalities all together for eight hours and two meals that I dread. How do I handle this potential mess better than before? MW