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The Joys of Aging

 

By Cindy K. Sproles

It’s normal to hear negative phrases about aging. Aching bones, slipping memory, stubbornness. After all, it is aging. Our bodies begin to tell us it’s time to ease out of the busyness of life and relax. Slow down.

Of course, aging is difficult. Who wants to admit they are entering their golden years? And it never seems to slowly approach. It happens overnight. One minute we’re racing about with our grandchildren, the next the race seems to have dissipated. Aging, despite the fact we know it will happen, is a shock.

When you are the child of an aging parent, reality may seep in when you suddenly notice the difficulty of your parent standing from a sitting position or when you finally take notice of the wrinkled skin on their hands. We’ve been so accustomed to having active parents, especially with our children, that seeing that large energy shrink, is hard. The transition from an active parent to one who requires a bit of assistance takes some adjustment.

Aging is simply part of the circle of life and it’s not to be taken lightly. Many senior parents now require additional help. Maybe it’s assistance with household chores or more so, assistance with the daily activities we take for granted. Things like dressing, brushing our hair or teeth, putting on our shoes. Either way, our mindset must change. The changes can be an inconvenience, but it’s important not to let the negative take away the joy of our parents.

It’s no secret that some

 

issues with aging cause our loved ones distress. Things like Alzheimer’s or different dementias. There are times, these hiccups take the person we love and twist them into someone we’ve never met. This is the time when joy is important.

Learning to find the good in every situation is not only scriptural, but it’s the perfect way to handle our lives. How do we find joy in something like Alzheimer’s? Grant you, it’s difficult, but again, it has to be a mindset.

Take time to recount the moments that brought laughter and fun into your family with your aging parent. Spend time chatting about those things. Even more so, include your loved one in on those conversations. Sometimes, a memory is sparked, a moment of peace may seep over your parent. When parent’s thoughts stream to a spouse or parent who passed years prior, that is fine. Use those memories to start conversation with your loved one. Ask questions about that person or the time frame your parent may be recounting. Don’t spend valuable time trying to convince your aging parent that the person they are speaking about, passed away years earlier. Their mind is in what is present to them at the time. Instead, roll with the flow. You may be surprised at what you learn about the past of your parent.

The point is, there are fun things. . .things that brought you and your parent laughter and pleasure in the past. Search for the joy in those things and bring them to light. Doing this not only revives little memories for your parent but it sparks a whole new set of conversations with your siblings and children. For example, my grandmother passed away over 25 years ago. To this day, when any of the family gathers, the same old stories are spit out over and over. Laughter rings through the house and the hard parts of grandmother’s illness are swallowed up by the joys of her life. There is never sadness, instead, our homes and lives are enriched continually those wonderful memories.

When aging grows difficult for your family, stop. Rethink. Seek. Find the joy that brought laughter and happiness from years prior. Those memories will once again bring a new joy to the hardships of aging.

 

 

Photos courtesy of microsoft free photo gallery

Easing into the New Year

Photo courtesy morguefile.com & a2jc4life

Organization is the best way to end the year and begin the next, especially if your loved one has been ill. Arranging the needs of our seniors can be a long task, but the effort more than repays itself. Follow these suggestions to start “new” in the New Year.

Make a portable carry file with individual file folders inside. Name each file with individual Doctor’s names, addresses and phone numbers. As medical, pharmaceutical bills, and EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) forms arrive in the mail, they can be easily filed and accessible. If the expenses are extensive, you may be asked to produce past paid invoices for physicians or even hospitals.

Update personal files. Update medication lists twice to three times yearly. Dispose of old prescriptions. Note of new ones. Make several copies of this list and keep them in your files for easy access in the event of emergency or new doctor visits. Noting when a drug is added/subtracted, purchase date, and if the drug has been suspended, when and who suspended it. Update all dosage changes. Changes will be in order of date for easy reference. Keep a copy in your car in case of emergency.

Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney. Be sure Power of Attorney and Power of Medical Attorney are in place and keep copies with key family members as well as in your loved one’s personal file. Carry copies to doctor’s visits and add them to your senior’s medical files. Place copies of these papers along with Living Wills, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), and other end-of-life requests in an envelope and tape them to the refrigerator or inside a cabinet door in the kitchen in the event EMT or Paramedic services are required.

Banking needs. Make arrangements with banks and lending institutions so key family members are able to access funds in the event your loved one is unable to manage their personal business. Simply being listed on the signature card at the bank does not give you access to funds in the event of the loss of a parent. Check with all banking institutions, life insurance, 401K providers, and retiree benefits to be sure the proper paperwork is in place otherwise, accounts can be locked by the institution and made inaccessible.

Verify Insurance co-pays and coverages. Verify deductibles and co-pays. Inquire about old coverages and verify changes. If changes have occurred, ask companies to mail an updated coverage sheet so you are prepared. Never assume that insurance remains unchanged. Healthcare is changing continually. There is no longer security in what you “once” had. Failure to keep up-to-date on insurance can cost your loved one thousands of dollars.

Logs and calendars. Keep a log book of Doctor visits, reason for visit, items discussed, any medication changes, and referrals. It’s easy to forget instructions, but if an emergency arises the details are easily forgotten or confused. The faintest pen is better than the sharpest memory. If there is an in-home caregiver having this log book provides up-to-date information for the care of their patient, but for you, it provides accountability in how those caregivers are providing services. Write upcoming dates on a large calendar so seniors can see the appointments clearly. Keeping a calendar can be one of the best things you do for your aging parent. It adds a sense of security and routine to their lives and it reduces stress and worry. Large erasable calendars are wonderful.

Personal Emergency Response Button. PERS units are valuable assets for aging parents. Units are placed in the home and the client wears a button around their neck. In the event of a fall or an emergency, parents simply press the button. A call center responds immediately securing the necessary emergency help necessary. PERS units save lives by getting immediate response to family members.

Caregiver services are available to offer respite to families. Many seniors may need minimal assistance bathing, dressing, and help with daily living skills. Caregivers placed by in-home, non-medical companies can provide this assistance. Seeking caregiver services through a company provides families with the security that individuals coming into the home are safe, reliable and fully meet state licensure requirements for in-home care.

Start the year by being prepared. Taking these advance steps will bring your loved one into the new year with a new sense of security and ease.

Keep the Holidays Joyful

Photo courtesy morguefile.com & a2jc4life

As the holidays approach and life becomes especially busy, it’s important to remember our aging parents.

Joey’s mother sat in her recliner by the fireplace. “Mom, let’s put up your Christmas tree.”

“Don’t bother. No one to enjoy it.” She slumped deep into her chair. “I get so I start dreading the holidays in the middle of summer.”

Joey’s mother isn’t unusual. Many seniors feel especially lonesome during the holidays. Memories of a spouse long past, drift back. Their own immortality glares them in the face. The inability to make their home the bustling source of activity it once was hits hard.

Holidays can still bring joy into your aging parent’s life, it simply requires a little extra effort.

Don’t overdo decorations. For seniors still living in their private residents, don’t overdo. It’s easy to zip in, bring down all the normal decorations and spice up the house for the holiday. But for the aging parent, it may be too much. Sometimes the best of intentions fall short. Instead of seeing the joy of the holidays, your loved one may worry about funds for gifts they are unable to afford or hosting a dinner for the family they are unable to prepare. Use discretion and decorate gingerly, bringing out things that are simple yet pretty. Ease aging parents into the holiday spirit.

Change the giving process. Give parents permission to skip the purchase of family gifts by turning the tables. “This year we are celebrating you and all you do for us.” Find a family tradition you can expound upon. It’s a long running joke in our family about socks. Everyone gets a special pair of socks from mom. Small bags and boxes are passed out and as everyone opens their socks the family cheers. It’s silly, but fun and something that Mom can continue to do even in her 90’s, that brings laughter and joy. Find a fun family tradition and let go of the expense of gift giving for your aging parent.

Family meals. Rather than your parent being responsible for feeding the troops, make the holiday meals a carry-in. Treat parents by taking the work out of special meals and clean up.

Include parents in individual family events. Don’t forget to invite and bring aging parents to individual family events. Welcome them to Christmas morning in your home or “day after” events. Some families have “leftover days” where their adult children gather to finish off what’s left from large holiday meals. The point is, include your parent. Sometimes the greatest loneliness occurs the day after the holiday.

Small surprises. Surprise loved ones with sudden visits, lunch dates, or little gifts. Revive the joy of the holidays with family. Family is the legacy of aging parents. Make it a focus.

Despite what we do during the holidays, there is always a little sadness when we miss those who’ve passed. Respect those moments. Talk about them. Share fun stories and sweet memories. Loneliness quickly passes to that warmth of sweet memories. Ring in the holidays by setting a joyful atmosphere. It’s never too late to build memories.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Proactive

photo courtesy www.pixabay.com & geralt

photo courtesy http://www.pixabay.com & geralt

Proactive is not just an acne scrub. It’s vital to your aging loved one. The world keeps families swamped with activity. Between summer sporting activities, friends, camps, and work, rest for the weary seems hopeless. It’s hard enough to keep up with the kids and their activities, much less manage an aging parent but here in lies the problem.

Loneliness and depression can, and will, slip in like a thief in the night. It’s easy to assume aging parents are doing well, especially when they are still able to drive and maintain their daily activities. The best rule of thumb is simply to never assume anything.

Joe and Mary were married 50 years. Joe suddenly passed away. Mary, always active and somewhat the decision maker, seems to work through the loss like a champion. Her children were amazed how she handled the loss of their dad. Mary mourned for a short time, but then it was life as usual. Her children saw her weekly, spoke with her on the phone constantly but suddenly Mary became ill.  After a brief stay in the hospital her children thought she was fine. Instead, Mary had a slow, continual weight loss. She grew quieter at family gatherings, but not so much that the children thought it odd. Little changes occurred slowly over time – almost unnoticeable. One day, Mary’s daughter opened the refrigerator to pop in a casserole.  She was stunned. Vegetables were black, milk curdled, foods were moldy. Reality set in and though Mary seemed to be fine, the children realized she was depressed.

It’s not uncommon for very active aging parents to grow depressed. One must remember the era in which they were raised – a time when emotions were shoveled over the shoulder and “the just get it done” attitude kicked in. Depression was not recognized when our 80+ parents were youthful. The world was a different place, where people moved ahead despite the hardships. Many doctors referred to this as “survival mode.” Parents moved ahead simply because they had no option.

Despite having a good family, Mary’s kids did not see the importance of being proactive. They didn’t see the changes because they were slow and subtle. The children were horrified this happened to their mom. They thought their visits and calls were sufficient. After all, it wasn’t like they’d abandoned their mother. She was an active part of their lives.

Being proactive is not only being present physically with parents, but it is truly walking a fine line between no attention and over reacting. So how do family members become proactive? Follow these steps to help assure your aging parent is on track.

*Have those heart-to-heart talks – Take time to reminiscence those happy times past. Gently dig a little deeper into the heart of the surviving parent. Reassure them emotion is acceptable, even show your own emotion. Sometimes a good cry is exactly what is needed to pass through grief in a healthy manner.

*Accompany loved ones to doctor appointments -Keep in mind, as they grow older, loved ones do not always pay close attention to physician instructions.  Keep a notebook of dates, times, and reasons for doctor appointments. List instructions and verify the need for all medications.

*Keep an eye on the refrigerator -If foods are spoiling, it’s a clear sign your loved one is not eating. Carve time to prepare a meal for your parent in their own home. This will allow the opportunity to observe the refrigerator contents, pantry, and see exactly how much food parents are consuming.

*When conversation begins to wain from chatty to quiet, it’s time to get to the source of the silence. Depression comes in many forms. It’s not always sadness.

Learning to be proactive takes practice. It’s taking the step of due diligence to step into what has always seemed private to your loved one. Remember, their spouse is no longer there to take this role. Sometimes it feels awkward, but gently is the working word. Be proactive in your aging parent’s life even when they seem well. You’ll become keenly aware of changes and begin to ward off bad things before they happen.

Choose Your Battles – Effects of Dementia on the Family

MP900442315 By Cindy Sproles
Entering the “golden years” of life should be a joyful and exciting time. For most, the years when retirement becomes a reality and life grows less stressful, is a wonderful time. If aging parents have planned well, their homes are paid for, expenses are overall less, and this season of life, by all due rights, should be a time to relax and enjoy. But what happens when the hopes and dreams of a well-planned retirement shifts?

According to the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention, there over “5 million individuals with age-related dementias.” One in six women, and one in ten men over the age of 55 will be affected by some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Thanks to cutting edge research, new methods of treatment, including medications, cognitive skills tasks, and physical activity are being developed to help manage dementia.

In an article from Helpguide.org, dementia includes a various assortment of symptoms from memory loss, personality changes, to impaired intellectual functions. Along with the decrease in memory, impaired judgment, faulty reasoning, inappropriate behaviors, loss of communication skills, and disorientation accompany the disease. All of these symptoms mean frustration for the affected parent and the family members.

It is still a mystery as to why our affected aging parents become obstinate to those they love the most, but the key to dealing with any form of dementia is learning to pick your battles. Frequently, well-meaning family members find themselves continually correcting facts with  their seniors who deal with memory loss. For example, a senior may say, “Isn’t that yellow couch pillow beautiful?” The pillow is actually blue.  There’s no need to correct the loved one, when the color of the pillow really doesn’t matter. The instinct to help the loved one remember the color blue comes with good intentions. However, correcting a senior over something this simple is frustrating and leads to agitation.

It’s important to understand, depending on the severity of the dementia, your aging parent is aware their memory is not serving them efficiently. They grow frustrated and irritable when they cannot control the thoughts they once managed successfully.  There comes a time when  therapeutic fiblets  are considered not only appropriate, but necessary. Therapeutic fiblets are those necessary lies that allow affected seniors to maintain a high quality of life over a life of anger, frustration, and feelings of disrespect. Our nature pushes us to tell only the truth to our aging seniors. Never lie to your elders. But when the world of reality for your aging parent is thirty years prior and not today, forcing current facts on them sends them into a state of chaos.  Should your parent think they are living with their spouse, who in reality passed away twenty years earlier, is forced into current reality, they are put at risk. One of two things can happen: 1) they will accept the news and begin the mourning process over  2) the parent will adamantly deny the truth. Therapeutic fiblets become a necessary fact in dealing with dementia.

Diagnosis for dementia and Alzheimer’s can be a slow process especially in the early, milder phases.  Memory slips are easily hidden or brushed to the side, but as the disease progresses and loved ones drift forward and back in time, what becomes most important is their quality of life. It is vital family members understand dementia is a progression. Though simple word games, and reading are good ways to help exercise and maintain the brain, they are not fixes. Dementia does not improve, rather it only leads to eventual decline. Learning to choose the important battles are important.  Providing a stress free environment becomes the primary goal so patients are relaxed and comfortable. Debating the day of the week or the color of a couch become less important and allowing a good quality of life takes the lead.

As loved ones slip deeper into themselves, recognition fades, names seem to go to the wayside, but the love that is felt by a caring family never leaves. Dementia is difficult at best, but holding tight to the joys of that wonderful parent are precious.

*Develop good habits and routines early on, i.e. putting the keys in the same bowl by the door every time, using post-it notes for reminders, securing a personal emergency response button.
*Simplify choices by paring down clothing in closets or lessening dishes and kitchen utensils. Rid the home of clutter. The fewer decisions that must be made for your loved one, the better.
*Have an on-the-road driving evaluation made to assure operating a vehicle is still a good choice.
*Chat with family and friends. This keeps the mind alert. Social interaction is vital to help maintain memory skills.
*Emphasize the joy in life.

Visit https://www.alz.org/ (Alzheimer’s Association) for additional information on caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Treat Them with Dignity

Cindy Sproles

Today’s society has lost a huge part of its compassion. The world of media brings loss, pain and tragedy into our lives at an overwhelming rate. As a people, we’ve become desensitized to the core values we were taught as children.

Baby Boomers were raised by parents or loved ones who believed in the validity of a handshake and the importance of treating others as they themselves expected to be treated. They held tight to work ethic, honesty, integrity, faith and dignity.

As our parents age, they are faced with the realization and loss of these basic staples of life. It’s a painful process when they must accept the inability to stand alone –lose their independence.

When your patience runs low or you feel the deep frustration that accompanies an aging parent, keep in mind what is hard for us as children is tenfold for our parents.

Remember as parents age and begin to repeat questions, that when we were children we constantly asked “Why?”

When they can’t seem to recall your name, remember there was a time when the only name we could repeat, was theirs. When their movements are slow and tedious, keep in mind, it was their loving hands which steadied us as we toddled. If a meal ends up on their clothes instead of in their mouths, don’t forget who patiently taught us to feed ourselves and then gently swiped the goo from our fingers.

Remember as our parents continue to grow older and personal cleanliness becomes a problem, it was they who walked us through potty training and who bathed the mud from our childhood antics, then re-cleaned the tub for the ump-teenth time. And when they lose their confidence after a fall, remember the numerous times they held us close after a tumble, then encouraged us to forge ahead. It was our parents who cheered us through the rough times as a child and who allowed us to lean against them as adults.

When you are frustrated with the added “stuff”—walkers, canes or wheelchairs which have to be lugged out the door and to the car just to take them to the post office, keep in mind the diaper bags, the bottles, the extra clothes, snacks and “stuff” they toted off their shoulder, while you rested on their hip, legs dangling and arms squeezing their necks. It was a chore then and it’s still a chore, but worth the effort—worth the love.

And most of all, when they meet with the fears of forgetfulness and the anxieties of being in unfamiliar surroundings, remember how they stood in the background, just in view, encouraging you to step forward, “You can do it.”

Finally, when the reality that they cannot be left alone digs deep into their hearts, remember they never left us alone, afraid, or ignored us as small children, but they kept us close at hand, always watching, always present…always there.

When the roles reverse, remember to love and treat the aging seniors with dignity and honor—for without them, we would be nothing. Everything we learned…we learned from our parents. If for nothing else, they have earned the right.

The Gift of “No Gifts

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Here come the holidays. Long before Halloween ended, stores began the Christmas holiday push. Gift giving catalogues have hit the mail, on-line shopping has begun, even morning news shows have started sharing holiday gift specials. The world says, “It’s time to shop!”

Several years back we let my mom “off the hook” for Christmas shopping.  It wasn’t hard to see how quickly our family had grown. Shopping for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild, though it was joyful and fun for mom, was financially taxing on her small monthly pension. In fact, it was unreasonable.

My mother is no different than any other aging parent. Christmas has always been the time when they could shower all the “grands” with loads of gifts. After all, the world insists Christmas is about giving. But many aging seniors are not fortunate enough to devote two or three months of pension to assuring gifts are under the tree. Yet they spend this money without hesitation.

For grandparents, the joy of purchasing gifts is something they look forward to on a yearly basis. It’s something they plan to do, one way or the other. So when your aging parents are faced with the grind and guilt of holiday purchases – offer them a new alternative.

Refocus the Christmas holiday to family. Invite the crowd over to a potluck dinner –the working word here is “potluck.” Feeding a small army is expensive when you consider the price of a turkey to be approximately $25 and a ham as much as $30. The question then arises . . .will one be enough? One meal for a family of 25 can soar as high as $300.  None of us set out to bust mom and dad’s budget – we simply don’t think about the cost. Encourage a potluck dinner where each portion of the family provides a part of the meal. Suggest parents provide their family’s favorite dish and everyone else will bring the fixings. You will not only save hundreds of dollars for your aging parents, but you will preserve their pride in providing Christmas dinner. A potluck allows mom to decorate the table, pull out her prettiest dishes, and spend time with those she loves without spending the day slaving over a hot stove.

Draw names. If your family insists on exchanging gifts as a whole, then consider drawing names. This cuts the cost of gift giving in half.

Set a dollar limit. Set a feasible dollar amount on gifts. If you have parents who insist on purchasing for every family member, setting a dollar amount will help curb the cost. This is equally as true when drawing names. The idea is to control spending.

Silly Santa or Family traditions. Taking gift giving back to the joy of fellowship draws families closer. Find a family tradition that brings out the fun around the Christmas tree. In our family, there is a joke about getting only socks. Yearly my mother spends a great amount of time (and little money), making sure she wraps one or two pairs of socks for each family member.  The fun comes when gifts are passed out and everyone knows what’s in the box. Each box of socks that is opened brings a rousing cheer and applause for being accepted into the family for another year. The holidays aren’t about gifts, they are about family fellowship and love.

Some families choose the chaos and fun of Silly Santa (otherwise known as Dirty Santa). Again, gifts are inexpensive, and fun.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Handmade or sentimental giving. In our case, mother is a quilter. Each year she makes small quilted items – wall hangings, beautiful fabric bowls, potholders, or table runners. After all the gifts are opened, she has everyone pick a number then she sifts through a bowl and draws the winner. The gift may be a quilt or a magnificent wall hanging . . . the trick is, it’s made by her and for every family member the gift is sentimental.

Family cards. If your aging parents are like most, they want to purchase something. Consider prepaid gift cards to local restaurants or stores. $5, $10, even $20 cards are appreciated and much more affordable than going “all out.”

Make Christmas about your aging parents. Make the majority of the gifts under the tree, gifts for mom and dad. Give them photos of your family. Gift cards to the local grocery store or gas stations. Hire a cleaning service for a monthly visit. Purchase and paint a room in the house. Pre-pay the electric bill for a month.  Most of our parents have all the trinkets they need around the house, make your gifts practical. Your parents will appreciate the efforts.

Time. Our lives grow busier and busier each year but time is the greatest gift you can give your aging parent. Daily or weekly phone calls, visits, inviting them to your home for dinner or even a weekend stay. Going to the park, a meal out, a movie – nothing is more precious than your time especially if your parent has lost a spouse.  Remember the holidays, though joyful on the outside, can be the most painful for a single aging parent. They’ve spent over half their lives with the one they loved and now that person is gone. Seniors face loneliness, depression, and heart ache during the holiday seasons. Memories flood back as they decorate their tree and then take it down.  Your time with your parents is vital.

It’s been said that regret is a horrible bedfellow. If you have disagreements with your aging parents, put them behind you. Move ahead with forgiveness, peace, and love. Make every effort to spend quality time with your loved ones during their golden years. Unchecked efforts become deep and inconsolable regret after they are gone.

Make this holiday season a joyful and memorable one. Cut costs. Refocus on family. Make your gift to parents, the gift of no gifts. This year change up the game and allow the reason for the season to take first place in your Christmas plans.