Sep 29 2013 | 5 Comments
ELDERCARE – MOVE FAST AND DON’T BE SCARED
I am a full-fledged member of the sandwich generation, right in the middle of parenting my children while taking care of older parents.
Many of us have our kids later, and our parents are living to be older, therefore one out of eight Americans is presently taking care of a child and a parent simultaneously.
As people live longer the problems they face increase and the bigger the business it becomes. Last year at home health care for the elderly was a 56 billion dollar a year business. That is not taking in all the living facilities, rehab centers, etc.
I learned by fire during the year I helped my mother recover from a debilitating surgery that left her in a wheelchair.
While the health issues are distressing, complex and often times confusing, the options and people dispensing everything from advice to services might be the most confounding part of all.
The moment you find yourself dealing with an elder parent, out of nowhere suddenly appears every type of “elder aid”. There are people who dispense pills, count pills, pick up pills, veto pills, concierge doctors, concierge nurses, concierge everything. If there is a way to cash in on older peoples frailties and their kids fears and confusion it’s out there to suck you in. This is not to say all people involved in eldercare are out to get you. There are many reputable, competent people and environments that will help you and your parent. The hurdle you must clear is discovering the right ones.
I found myself back in the middle of elder care land this weekend when we went to Florida to help Glenn’s father who suffered a stroke, and is in that precarious place of either living a diminished life or fighting his way back to the existence he recently enjoyed.
Florida being the epicenter of elder life has more options than perhaps anyplace on earth. It’s a veritable Epcott of eldercare services.
In two days I learned things my stint in California eldercare never taught me. There are actually places with five levels of geriatric living. Now they don’t like to call it geriatric, as they like to get you when you are young, ish, like even our age.
In fact every time we drove through an “adult” development, translation, older person’s enclave – no kids allowed. The starting age is 55. Being that exact age, these signs caused me to shudder. I’m not ready for this.
And I’m not ready for assisted living, but I do need to know about all the different levels that exist. I need to know how much a person needs to be able to pivot their walker in able to allow them access to independent living quarters as opposed to assisted.
How much assistance exists in assist?
There are as many answers as there are places. In Florida the eldercare living establishments seem to be as common as McDonalds.
I am convinced that the best thing one can do when faced with the myriad of choices involving older people is to educate yourself as quickly as possible.
There is a certain amount of learning as you go along. But ask endless questions. Expose yourself to as many options as you can as quickly as you can. Time is of the essence. This weekend in two days Glenn and I visited six types of facilities. I picked places that were all vastly different. We entered some knowing they would not be right, but we learned something everywhere we went. Armed with more info we found ourselves better able to start eliminating and suddenly able to articulate concerns and ask better questions of doctors and health care workers.
It’s very hard to watch a parent age and become feeble. Nobody wants to put their aging parent in any kind of home. The goal is to keep them at home with an in home helper of some sort. But that often requires a level of mobility that no longer exists. Often it requires more funds than are available. The best thing you can do in that case is kick their butt.
This sounds like tough love, but it’s the most productive thing you can do. I did it with my mom and now she’s up and scampering about.
I tried to do it a bit with my father -in -law this weekend. But at the end of the day he is not my parent.
I have a short hand with my mom that allowed me to just take over and set the goals and rules and find the right people to help her achieve them.
People say it’s easier if you have siblings to help. I m not so sure that is true. Important decisions must be made decisively, and quickly, and are never done elegantly by committee. It’s important not to let egos get in the way.
Be careful of any group or organization that says they will help you figure it all out.
They are there to help themselves. Arming yourself with knowledge, relying on your intuition and choosing the route of care that will help them regain either their full former life or a portion of it is key. Usually that is rehab of some sort.
Force them to go. Threaten if needed. Set goals and rewards, things to look forward to and fight for.
Depression and the lack of will is one of the biggest demons you will face. You have to lovingly, but forcefully not let them give into this.
If you enable them to throw in the towel, the choices suddenly dwindle to very few.