You’ve had an advanced health directive, often called a living will, drawn up along with your other legal documents. This vital document tells medical people how you should be treated if you can’t speak for yourself. It also names a health proxy to speak for you. This advanced directive is also included in a Power Of Attorney for health. You congratulate yourself on getting this task done. You’re confident that your wishes will be followed no matter what happens to your health.
Dear Carol: I’m an only living child, age 62, and my parents are both in their 90s. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep up with my parents’ needs even though they are in assisted living. They not only want me to take them to all of their medical appointments, which I want to do, they also want me to attend every event at the facility. When I remind my parents that not only do I work, but that I’m getting older and have health issues of my own, they act surprised and then forget all about it. I feel guilty if I miss anything. How do older caregivers keep up with it all? - Angie
...Some people go as far as taking the person in the car and driving around the block, then re-entering the house. This can work for awhile, but not likely that long. No matter what you do, you will hear it again: "I want to go home."
Dear Carol: My parents are together in a wonderful nursing home close to where I live. I visit most days after work, spend a lot of time there on weekends and use my vacation hours for their medical appointments. I’m also on call for emergencies. I’m not married, so I can’t quit my job. A married woman who I thought was my friend throws guilt my way because she takes care of her mom in her home. She says that I’m not a real caregiver and that I just keep an eye on my parents and I make too big of a deal of what I do.
...Anti-psychotics were frequently prescribed when people had dementia. For some, a light dose may have been just the right thing, but one medication doesn't suit all elder issues. Gradually, nursing homes came under more intense scrutiny for safety and most states put strict guidelines in place about hygiene, restraints and, of course, medications for the convenience of the staff.
...My parents built a house that would accommodate the different generations, with some privacy for all, and Grandma came to live with us. The home wasn't huge by today's standards, but it was nice and well designed for our needs. The arrangement worked.
One would think that with news coverage, television specials and even movies based on characters with Alzheimer’s disease, the stigma of dementia would ease. There shouldn’t be any more reluctance for people with Alzheimer’s disease to relate news of their dementia than if they had a cancer diagnosis. Yet the stigma that surrounds dementia as well as most mental illnesses is regrettably alive and well, often forcing people to erect a protective wall of denial around their symptoms rather than seek help.
Dear Carol: I’ve cared for my mom, who has a personality disorder, for most of my adult life. She now has mid-stage dementia, as well, so I took an early retirement because of her needs. She recently moved into assisted living where they have a memory unit that she can move to when she needs a higher level of care. The staff members tell me that she’s happy there and from the looks of the other residents I can see that she could be. However, when I visit, she cries and clings to me and tells me she hates it and I need to take her home.
...While not every certified nursing assistant (CNA), nurse or even housekeeper was able to answer my loved ones' every need immediately, overall, these people were exceptional. When I did have a concern, the caregivers and I were always able to address the problem in a satisfactory manner.