Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Love You, Dad

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my father's passing. He was quite a man, my dad. Not rich by monetary standards, but rich in all the things that mattered. Rich in friends, rich in talents, rich in family life and rich in God's love.
Growing up, my sister and I spent more than the average time with our father while mother was working. She was a nurse and took night duty while we were young. He took us with him wherever he grandma's house, or my uncle's house, or another aunt's house. He came from a large family and my dad was a family man. Dad built the house we lived in and went on to build one for a sister and her family and a brother and his family. I can still see us in my dad driving with me standing on the seat of the truck in the middle (those were the days of no seatbelts) and my arm around his shoulder. My sister 2 years older than me was by the door. We usually sang songs most of the 10 miles home so my dad wouldn't have two sleeping girls to carry into the house. I found this out at a much later age! And I thought it was just for love of singing songs such as "Standing on the Corner" (watching all the girls go by), How Much is That Doggy in the Window" or "Hey Good Lookin!"
As the years passed, my dad played softball for our church team as well as an independent league. And he was the pitcher. He could throw hard, hit hard and run fast. I was totally amazed. That was MY dad! He and Mom were youth group leaders for our church for years and dad was always taking us somewhere, skating, bowling, or church. Dad and Mom always took us to church. Mom sang in the choir but Dad was a quiet kind of guy. He sat back loving the Lord and let others talk or sing.
Dad was diagnosed at 45 with rheumatoid arthritis. He continued to play softball until he was 51 years old. He was a fighter! He lived 37 years getting progressively crippled up and trying every pill or treatment for the disease the doctors ordered, many with intolerable side effects. Hydrocephalus was discovered at a late age and incontinence became the greatest insult to his dignity. Stroke after stroke didn't take him down but finally, at age 82, his kidneys shut down and he lay on a respirator for 2 days until my sister and I could get to the hospital from out of state. Once there, my mother had the doctors remove the respirator according to my dad's wishes. He was conscious with a scratchy throat and dry mouth. But the first thing he asked my mother for was a "mooch". He got that kiss and one from each of his girls. And more kisses as we sat with him.
If there is one regret I have, it would be not telling dad more that I loved him. I wish I had told him... he was my hero. In my eyes, he could do anything. He was larger than life! I was so proud of him and the way he lived his life. My mother is living close to me now and I am her caregiver. I won't have any regrets this time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've Fallen and Can't Get Up!

Many older people who live alone are capable of caring for themselves in many ways. They may take a little longer getting things done, but they are still able to fix their medications for the week, cook for themselves and pay their bills the same as always. Living independently is important to our older folks, in fact, the number 1 consideration according to polls taken by AARP.

At some point, getting around may be the greatest obstacle an older person faces. Many seniors who still drive a car have serious trouble getting into and out of the vehicle as well as ambulation difficulties around the home. Physical impairment such as arthritis make walking with a cane or walker a necessity. Vision problems and side effects from medications can make it difficult for the senior to function alone.

One of the greatest fears of family members and caregivers is the senior falling and not being able to get to a phone to call for help. Unless the caregiver or neighbor is in contact with the senior on a regular basis. a fall can be devastating with help out of reach for hours or even days.

Good News! There are services available for those who live alone! Medic Alert is just one of several companies who act as a go between with the person who has an emergency and the emergency services, i.e. 911. A person who signs up for this type of service chooses an emblem to wear in the form of a bracelet, necklace, or other item that is kept on their person at all times. In the event of a fall or other emergency, by pressing the emblem, the victim sets in motion the emergency response team. This can be a great reassurance to both the elderly person as well as the family. Of course, there is a cost for the service. Nothing is free these days. But the cost could be worth the peace of mind.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Financial Strain of Caregiving

One of the big issues for caregivers of the elderly is making a living while providing care. Many family caregivers provide daily services such as transportation to doctors or grocery shopping while maintaining a full time job. As the loved one ages or illness dictates, more and more time is needed for dispensing medications, cleaning & doing laundry, or just companionship. The caregiver may find herself or himself arriving late for work or taking time off for appointments more than "the boss" feels necessary. Wages could be docked for missed time , or worse, termination of the employee.
The long distance caregiver has a different dilemma, but as potentially financially crippling as the local caregiver. Trips to visit the loved one can be costly flying or driving. Once there, the caregiver often pays for overlooked or needed items. If the trip was initiated by a crisis, a fall and hospitalization perhaps, the caregiver may have taken emergency leave to be at the bedside of the loved one. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a good thing but the leave is WITHOUT PAY. Not everyone is covered under this act and not everyone can leave a job for any length of time without pay. (see more on FMLA at )
Caregivers in the workplace as well as those not in the workplace are looking to replace or add to their income. I am one of those caregivers who left the corporate world 5 years ago. I was a long distance caregiver who is now a local caregiver. Flexible time is the only option for me. I have found through starting my own business that it CAN work. As our economy changes, I've been researching legitimate work-at-home options and will have more on that to offer other readers of this blog. I'd love to hear from anyone who can help in my research of things tried or that you know is legitimate for others to make money working from home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Never Too Soon to Plan

My sister and I began talking with Mom and Dad about health proxies and power of attorney long before Dad spent his final years in a wheel chair. Rheumatoid arthritis struck at age 45, followed in later years by strokes and other conditions. Our mother became his primary caregiver. My sister and I both lived hundreds of miles away from our parents. This made it even more important that we talk about what their preferences were as age and illness progressed. Like many other seniors, they wanted to stay at home as long as possible. Insisted on it, in fact. We looked at their financial information, insurances, health plans, wills and every piece of the puzzle to plan for the years ahead.

Boomers everywhere who have elderly parents need to initiate the conversation on living preferences and care BEFORE it becomes necessary. According to research by the AARP, too many still wait until a crisis strikes and try to make major changes to our loved ones lives. It's not always easy, I'll admit. If Dad doesn't want to discuss it, work on Mom and try to ease into things. Gather articles from the newspaper or the internet on topics you want to discuss with them. Use these while you talk or leave them to read at a later time. There may not be as much resistance as you think once you break the ice. Knowing how to plan can give enormous peace of mind to all involved.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

People Who Need People

Everyday in the newspaper and on television, we see ads for dating services or other matchmaking services. Singles groups are organized in our churches along with support groups for divorced men and women. People everywhere are lonely. And for various reasons. Many of our older generation experience loneliness due to isolation while caring for a loved one. This can go on for years! Families live at a distance and older friends have their own infimities or have passed on. Many find themselves unable to tell loved ones or doctors of their loneliness and depression becomes very real. The University of Chicago recently reported a study showing that not all lonely people need other people. They attach an object or pet with humanlike qualities and this substitution provides the social support they need. I know having a pet can be a joy for some while others must find another substitute. What's the old song? Oh yea, "People who need people...are the luckiest people in the world. " Be a person someone needs today. Spend some time with them or make a phone call. You'll be surprised how good it makes YOU feel.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Labor of Love

It's a new day and my daughter-in-law and new granddaughter arrive this evening. It will be a big weekend for great-grandma,84,who needs frequent naps but that fits right in! They are really coming to see her since she doesn't travel much anymore. I was there right after the birth and enjoy any reason to spoil her a while. It reminds me how the roles are reversing in life as we age. Here is a new life totally dependent on mother, and my mother, an older life, becoming more and more dependent on daughter. It is indeed a labor of love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let's Face it. Who Likes Exercise?

Today was a little unnerving. I took my mother for a follow up visit to a memory care specialist. She has some issues going on that have given us both concerns over just what this is. Or could be. The specialist apparently has a few "concerns" as well, nothing concrete but suggests she go ahead with the full battery of tests to see if it could confirm that the big "A" is coming on. I've been reading some on the brain and alzheimer's as well as other forms of dementia. Studies have shown that exercise, physical as well as mental, can help in postponing the progression of the disease. So what's on my mind now is how to encourage an 84 year old woman with bad knees to exercise. In her case, walking is best. Fortunately, we live in a state where bad weather is not an issue. Motivation is. Not just my mother but me! Let's face it. Who really likes to exercise? We're told it's good for just about everything. It's time to find out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Understanding Medicare

This time of the year can be confusing for those of us who have loved ones over age 65 on Medicare. There are so many health plans being dangled in front of our elderly, they hardly know which way to turn! If your loved one is not represented by an agent you can trust to explain your options in a clear and concise manner, I would advise you go to for help. All medicare approved health plans are listed by state and county, with links to benefits, providers lists and more. Between January 1st and March 31st, 2008, those currently enrolled in a medicare health plan may change plans ONE time, so understand what the premiums are, co-pays and deductibles, as well as what the prescriptions drug costs are since they have to live with it until next year.