Not surprisingly, the researchers say that caring for an ailing spouse is extremely difficult emotionally and physically for either gender. However, the researchers discovered that three years after the death of their spouse, surviving wives reportedly fared worse than surviving husbands...Another important issue that researchers face is that men and women tend to report caregiving differently.
Dear Carol: My mother has advanced dementia, so her short term memory is nearly non-existent. Dad died when I was a child, so it’s been over 30 years since he passed. Mom eventually accepted reality and moved forward with her life, though she never re-married. Now, she’s asking when Dad’s coming home. I told her the truth and she completely fell apart in grief. I thought that after such a long time she’d been okay with the answer but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What should I have said? I hate lying to my mother and I don’t want to treat her as I would a child. JMC
This post is about another study, my friends, but this one is more personal for me. A report in the February 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine titled "Study examines antibiotic use among nursing home patients with advanced dementia," reminds me of a situation with my mother-in-law. Alice was in a very good nursing home and flourishing. Before she was admitted, her life in her condominium - no matter how much attention and care we gave her - had become unsustainable. She was afraid and paranoid. She couldn't look out the windows because she imagined bad things, so she kept her shades drawn all day. She was even afraid to retrieve her newspaper from the hallway. She wouldn't go out.
Dear Carol: My mother, at 76, had been doing exceptionally well. Her health was good except for high blood pressure. Her mind was active and quick. That all changed after a series of small strokes. Her doctor has said that these small strokes are the cause of Mom’s mental changes which have been diagnosed as vascular dementia. She used to be so level headed but now she’s confused, disoriented and frightened. I thought dementia developed slowly and that people had time to plan. Now I feel completely blindsided. I’m told this will just worsen and that she can’t be cured. I feel that this suddenness is almost worse than watching the gradual development of dementia. How do I handle this and move forward? SCR
Some situations, of course, leave no room for laughter. But some tough times can offer moments of levity if we choose to recognize them. My sister, Beth, and I experienced what to some people may be a rather macabre situation during the three days our mother was going through the death process. If we hadn’t maintained our senses of humor, I’m not sure how we would have handled those sad, seemingly endless days.
Dear Carol: My mother, who is 81, has been happily involved in her life at a good assisted living facility near our home. She’s been hospitalized several times because of heart issues but this hasn’t affected her feeling of independence. Mom takes her medications and has been doing well. I took her in for a mammogram because of a breast lump which ended up being non-cancerous but the scare opened my eyes to the need to talk more with her about her final wishes. Her mind is still good. She assigned me Power Of Attorney years ago for both finances and health care, but we haven’t discussed in depth what she would want done now if one of her health problems worsens. I’m afraid that if I bring up the issue she’ll think that I’m expecting her to die any day! How do I begin? Mel
As a seasoned caregiver of multiple elders, I can choose to torture myself with my perceived failures at being a perfect caregiver, or I can choose to forgive myself for being imperfect, and recognize that I did the best I could at the time. You have the same choice. Much like an adult who realizes that he or she has a "wounded child" living inside – a child who suffers from unearned self-blame or low self-esteem because of life events – many adult caregivers carry the guilt from their "infant" caregiving years to their grave. They spend precious time thinking about how they should have understood someone's needs better, could have been more patient, would have done any number of things better, if only they knew then what they know now.
...Unlike these other serious illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia are extremely difficult to categorize into neat stages of progression that are typically used to determine whether hospice care is appropriate. Life expectancy is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint for a patient affected by AD and related conditions like vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.
A study by Ohio State University in conjunction with the National Institute on Aging has shown that adult children caring for their parents, as well as parents caring for chronically ill children, may have their life span shortened by four to eight years. For this study, Ohio State University’s Ronald Glaser, head of OSU’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at OSU, teamed with Nan-ping Weng and his research group from the National Institute on Aging.
Forgiveness nearly always changes lives for the better, even if one of those lives is about to end. Whether we are the forgiver or the person being forgiven, the blessings flow both ways. To me, forgiving one another for being flawed human beings is an important key to a reasonably serene life. However, this mutual understanding is not always easy to come by.