Tag Archive | Aging Parents

Golden Years, Cherished Memories

MemoriesAging, for most, is a harsh realization. One day you’re in your prime the next you wake up older, a bit gray…a little slower. Time has suddenly slipped past. Somewhere between active and early morning stiffness, the line between middle age and elder blurred.

Albums line  bookshelves and walls  are covered in generations of photos that leave nail holes and dusty shadows on the paint.

I recently installed an emergency alert button for an aging friend’s mother.  Once the unit was installed I pulled the button from the box. My friend’s mom stood staring at her living room wall covered in family photos.

“Here’s your button. Just slip it over your head and wear it 24/7.” Her stare deepened and I could tell she’d not heard me. “You okay?” I asked.

She jerked. “Oh, I’m sorry. I was just looking at my family.”

“And they’re a beautiful family.” For the next half hour the woman pointed to photos sharing the relationship and sweet stories about each one. Before I knew, we were on the coach thumbing through old photos of her husband during World War II. For this woman, her walk through the family albums were bathed in the richness of cherished memories.

There is more to our elderly than creaking bones and sagging skin. In them we find our history. Our connection to what once was…different times, stronger values, ethics that seem to have slipped away from younger generations. Wisdom. Strength. The ability to seek out hope in a time when hope seemed fleeting. These are moments, we as baby boomers need grasp  and hold.

Our world pushes us into an extensive busyiness, that in turn, forces us to allow the valuable moments found in our aging parents to slip past. We are their legacy, their contribution to the world.

Take time and enjoy the richness found in your parents and grandparents. If you are fortunate enough to still have great grandparents, then do not let the opportunity pass to know the little things about them. Your life will be blessed and your appreciation for them and their struggles will become real. In the midst of the dusty photos, you’ll find the deep love and sacrifice our seniors have made so our lives are better.

Our parents and grandparents deserve the best. Care for them as such.

Grief and the Aging

By Cindy Sproles

Photo Courtesy www.freedigitalphoto.net By Arvind Balaraman

Photo Courtesy
http://www.freedigitalphoto.net
By Arvind Balaraman

Grief. It took his breath and pressed against his chest.

Thomas stood at the side of his wife, Marie. He grasped her hand and held tight. She opened her eyes and a tear seeped from the corner. Marie took in a deep breath, then relaxed. She was gone.

Thomas and his two daughters were prepared, or as prepared as they could be. After sixty-five years of marriage – a lifetime together, he felt Marie’s fingers loosen from his. They stood quiet, staring at Marie, unable to speak. The nurse rushed into the room and immediately began to search for a pulse. She blew on the stethoscope to warm it and placed it gently against Marie’s chest.  Within seconds, she glanced over her glasses and nodded.

What now, were the only words Thomas could muster together. “What now?”

Marie’s daughters stood firm by their dad. Together they walked him through the funeral arrangements and burial, but when the day arrived to leave their dad alone at home, both daughters were distraught. Though Thomas had managed well through the formalities of Marie’s death, the girls knew that first night he was to be completely alone grief, could overwhelm him and take his life as well.

Death is hard, regardless of the circumstance. It’s a little easier to accept when a loved one has lived a long life like Marie, but even at best, it’s difficult. Statics from Harvard sociologists say men are 22% more likely to die after the death of a spouse, compared to 17% for women.  “Women seemed to be wired differently when it comes to coping with loss. It’s part of their nurturing nature,” according to sociologists.

Families find it sadly true, that after the loss of one parent, the second will pass away within months. According to Harvard’s sociologist, this is not uncommon. Aptly named, widowhood effect, physicians find true physical changes happen in the surviving spouse.  Weakness leading to falls. Stress leading to heart issues, lack of appetite and failure to remain properly hydrated, all translate to a decline in the surviving spouse that often leads to death as well.

The question then becomes, how do families help prevent the widowhood effect?  First and foremost, families should encourage and allow the remaining spouse an opportunity to grieve naturally and fully.  This process is different for every individual. Spend time talking about the loved one.  Discuss the circumstances around their loss, reminisce joyful moments, and encourage healthy tears. Often, families assume a time frame of grieving on the surviving parent, expecting them to pass through the phases of acceptance, and then move forward.  Sadness, loneliness, broken-heartedness is normal. Should this time exceed a reasonable amount of time, talk with your parent’s physician to decide, according to that parent’s health and personality, how to move forward. Don’t rush to clean out personal effects as the process of sorting through these things tends to be very therapeutic.

Provide nutritious meals and stress the importance of good exercise and proper rest.

Finally, spend quality time with your remaining parent. Involve them in family activities, encourage them to reconnect with friends, even become involved in community activities. Helping parents re-enter their normal life’s activities is important.  There is nothing stronger than the bond of a life-long marriage. The stability found inside these relationships is a life force.  When it’s suddenly taken apart, adjustment is difficult.

Take time to discuss end-of-life decisions as a family. Learning the desires of your parents will help you guide them through a difficult season.

Starting Seniors NEW in a New Year

Now that the holidays have come to a close and the decorations are down and stored for the year, it’s a prime opportunity to sit with your senior and sort out the upcoming year. Being organized is the best way to start a new year, especially if your loved one has been ill through the previous year.

Arranging and rearranging the needs of our seniors can be a long task but the effort more than repays you when the time comes. 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 bills and EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) forms arrive in their mail boxes, they can be easily filed and accessible.

Update personal files. It pays to update medication lists twice to three times yearly. Sort through medications and dispose of old prescriptions then make note of new ones. It’s always wise to make several copies of this list and keep them in your files for fast and easy access in the event of emergency or new doctor visits. Place a copy in your car and in the car of your senior (should they still be driving) along with a list of important phone numbers i.e. doctors, hospital of their choice, key family members so you and your loved one are always prepared.

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.

Make arrangements with banks and lending institutions so that key family members are able to access funds in the event of an emergency and your loved one is unable to manage their personal business.

Verify Insurance co-pays and coverages. The new year brings new co-pays and changes in old coverages. Take time to contact insurance companies and verify deductibles and co-pays. Inquire about old coverages, especially the most used ones, and verify nothing has changed. If changes have occurred, have the companies mail an updated coverage sheet so you are prepared. As unstable as the economy is, never assume that insurance remains unchanged.

Logs and calendars are important. Keep a log book of Doctor visits, what the issue was and anything discussed, any medication changes and referrals. We tend to think we won’t forget instructions, but if an emergency arises the details are easily forgotten or confused—dates in particular, so keep a log book.

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.

Taking these advance steps will bring your loved one into the new year with a new sense of security. Be ready for the new year with advance preparation. You’ll be glad you did.

Facing the Fear with Aging Parents

Cindy Sproles

Fear is debilitating and it comes in various forms. As children, we depended on the strength and comfort of our parents when we were afraid. It was their tender words, soft voice and tight hugs that brought us peace.

How does fear attack our aging parents and how can we help relieve the anxiety?

Fear Attacks the Senses

Fear first attacks that which we take for granted. It begins in the simplicity of the five senses. Taste, smell, hearing, touch, and sight.

Perhaps your parents do not hear as well as they once did. Where once our loved ones did not fear someone approaching them from behind, they now cannot hear the approach of others and they’re easily startled. Their sight may be failing and the fear of falling or losing the recognition of those they love comes into play. A hug that was once gentle and short may become clingy and long. The need to hold your hand or arm may become apparent.

It’s important for family members to realize these simple changes and tenderly address these fears with their aging parents, keeping in mind the fears are valid. Ask yourself the questions, how would I feel if I couldn’t hear as well, or I couldn’t see like I used to? The deterioration of the senses robs our seniors of their confidence—a confidence that made them the tower of strength we knew as children. It’s frightening when you are faced with the loss of daily living skills.

Fear Attacks Personal Independence.

The fear of losing their independence follows. It’s a difficult and trying time when our aging parents come to grips with the reality that they cannot do for themselves any longer. For the bigger part of their lives they’ve been responsible for their finances, their shopping, housekeeping and medical decisions. One senior compared the loss of his independence to being locked inside a box filling with water and being unable to tread water long enough to keep from drowning. It’s important we as children realize the value of our parents and the need for them to be as active as possible for as long as possible in their personal affairs.

Losing one’s independence often leads to the fear of loneliness, and from that, the fear of dying alone.

Learning to look for early signs of fear in your aging parents is important. Open the lines of communication early. Talk with your parents. Ask them what their wishes and desires are and then act with compassion when the time arrives to face these difficulties. Be encouraging, be available and be willing to listen. Our own well thought out responses will aid in the transition of this season of life.

Recognizing the needs of your loved ones and putting the necessary help they may need early on with caregivers will help ease the fear of the unknown. Remember the golden rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” and then act on that rule.

Water! Water!

By Cindy Sproles

Marybeth was the new charge nurse in a prominent nursing home facility. As she perused the hallways after resident meals were served, she noticed carton after carton of unopened milk, 8 oz. glasses of cellophane sealed tea and cups of coffee…all untouched. “My residents aren’t taking in fluids.” She commented to the board. “I want to begin a campaign to encourage our people to drink more water.”

So she did. It took time, but Marybeth and her CNA’s poured cups of ice water, inserted straws and even gently placed the straws to the lips of weaker residents. Small cups of crushed ice were given to residents throughout the day. Two months passed and Marybeth and her staffed noticed a number of unique things. First, more of the residents were sitting in the lounge area. They were alert, chatting and social. Better yet, many who would normally refuse to walk, were tooling around the halls on their walkers.

Life at the residence had greatly improved and Marybeth gave the credit to her staff for their continued efforts in encouraging their patients to drink more water. “Things changed after we begin to hydrate our patients.” Water is a vital and healing source for the body and since our bodies are largely made up of fluids, it can’t help but improve the quality of life.

More and more Americans are switching their sights from sugar-filled drinks to water. Good old fashioned water. Nothing seems to truly quench a thirst over H2O. However, for our seniors drinking enough water is tough.

According to the American Medical Association as our bodies age our scale that balances the need for fluids and the desire for them, shifts. Thirst decreases. And the less we drink the less we want. This especially dangerous for our seniors.

Seniors need water and the hurdles happen when this desire plummets. Water hydrates not only thirst but the entire body. Well hydrated bodies sport brains that function better leading to stronger memory and thought process. Water acts as a lubricant to joints and muscles helping keep the body well-oiled and moving.

Aging adults will sometimes suffer with constipation thus adding fiber to their diets. Fiber increases stools and as a result draws more water from their systems. Drinking plenty of fluids aids in digestion and increases bowel functions. Being well hydrated helps aid in more elasticity in the skin, helping ward off dry skin, dry eyes and scratchy throats.

Kidney issues are common in seniors as well. Without proper hydration, the body cannot function to flush out impurities and toxins that build in the system. In a nutshell, water not only washes your dishes at home but it cleanses your body.

Encourage aging family members to keep water freely throughout their house. Adding a glass by the bed, one by the recliner, another in the laundry room and even water in the garage makes for a readily available reminder to reach for a sip.

Watch for symptoms of dehydration in your loved ones by checking for sunken and darkened eyes, drowsiness, confusion, labored or slurred speech, dizziness, chronic muscle aches, labored breathing and weakness. Few realize how important water is to the lungs. By keeping them moist and soft rather than dry and hardened, breathing (especially for those seniors with COPD and other pulmonary issues), is much easier.

Water increases the body’s ability to function properly and learning to avoid high-sugar drinks is one small step in helping improve your aging parent’s quality of life. Whether it’s cold tea, filtered water or flavored no-sugar or calorie water…drink. Water, water…who has the water? Keep a glass handy.