...Often the adult children need to travel south to handle sudden hospitalizations or other emergencies. This causes problems with jobs and kids at home. So they beg their parents to come "back home." Parents balk. "This is my home, now. I don't want to leave my friends. I don't want to leave my church. I don't want to live in the cold and risk a fall on the ice." Then there's the reverse...
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.
End-of-life discussions may not seem to fit with the commonly cheerful image of the holiday season. After all, who likes to talk about potential death? Yet, too many people die in a manner they would not choose. When we consider that the true reason for this spiritual season is to celebrate our faith, what could be more fitting than incorporating the message that we want the best for our loved ones for their entire life - and that their life will include the death process?
If a caregiver is anxious because of job stress, he or she likely takes that anxiety home in some form and transfers some of it to the person they are caring for. This is not intentional, but even body language can transfer anxiety. The person being cared for picks up on the anxiety of the caregiver. His or her anxiety may stem from not knowing what is causing the person caring for them to be stressed, so they blame themselves. Or they may just absorb the feeling of generalized anxiety that radiates from the caregiver.
Nobody invites dementia of any type into their lives but once dementia is a part of the family it will be part of the holidays. The person with dementia will have good days and bad days and will change as the disease progresses. One thing we can count on, though, is that a loved one with dementia will need special consideration. How does a caregiver cope with the holidays and remain sane?
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
... metabolisms slow naturally as we age, which can affect digestion, but when things come to a screeching halt, it can cause discomfort and anxiety. Although most people prefer not to talk about their bowels, if this issue does not resolve on its own or worsens, it can lead to serious health problems like impaction, anal fissures and bowel incontinence.
I love stories. When I was a teenager, I’d encourage my grandparents to relate stories of their young years struggling to survive on the wind-swept prairie. When I grew older, I was fascinated by the stories my parents and in-laws told of their early years of growing up during the Great Depression. Little did I know at the time that peoples’ stories would become the springboard for my life’s work. Now there is mounting evidence that encouraging our elders to reminisce about their past is therapeutic as well as enjoyable.
As you watch your parents or other beloved elders age, you worry. Should they have housing upgrades? Can they continue to live independently? Your intention isn’t to take over their lives but you genuinely want to start the conversation about possible future changes. How do you do this without causing a backlash?