Tag Archive | Seniors

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.

Love Them Gently Into the Golden Years

Photo courtesy of www.openculture.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.openculture.com

Written and released originally by recording artist, Otis Redding, Respect became the signature and hit for R&B singer, Aretha Franklin and the anthem for many who appreciated what respect meant to them.

The very nature of humans teeter on respect. Our self-esteem, our confidence, even decision making, pends on how we feel about ourselves. When we feel pushed down or brushed off, the very thing that builds us, tears us down.

Our country is seeing the last of those veterans who served in World War II, laid to rest. Those who were an active part of this nations greatest technological, industrial, and medical technologies era are slowly fading. The age of work ethic, strong sense of family, and personal responsibility fades with them. As the new fast-paced world of instant messages and cell phones over take our seniors, it leaves behind the one thing valued most by them – their respect.

At a slower time in this country’s history, a man was known by his integrity and his word. If he committed to a task, he completed it regardless of issues. It was, by all due rights, what earned him the title of respected.

Our seniors are caught in a time warp. Nestled between the old and the new. In their lifetime, they’ve seen the invention of every major life’s convenience known to man. Yet, in the midst of the of all this development, our seniors – the creators of these modern conveniences, are forgotten. Treated as second class. Disrespected. And it has only served to break them.

In this world of instant gratification, the youth of our country grow impatient when grandma can’t operate a smart phone or granddaddy gives up on the newest remote control. Instead of showing grace or offering assistance, they quickly snap at them, leading seniors to feel less than adequate and incapable.Senior woman contemplating

It’s important to remember how the aging process works and then practice the necessary methods needed to uplift their aging loved ones rather than tear them down.

According to a recent article posted on WedMD.com,  Dr. Kenneth Minaker, MD, chief of geriatric medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School stated, “Aging is a life-saving process,” he says. “It is a process of lifelong adaptation to prevent us from developing cancers that would kill us.” Though we look at aging as a deterioration of our bodies, in essence, it’s an adaptation of our bodies to help us adjust as we slowly complete the life process.

Outside of the obvious decline in eyesight and hearing, reflexes, movement, and mental aspects begin to slow. The mind processes slightly slower. The ability of being agile lessens, joints and muscles tighten and stiffen. Our ability to problem solve lessens somewhat. The result of these things reveals itself through frustration and agitation.

Learning to be an encouragement to our aging parents is important. Make a concerted effort to offer them the respect they have earned in a lifetime of hard work, and family rearing. It’s enough to come to the realization that our bodies do not function the way they once did, but when seniors are constantly treated as second class or as a problem to the family, the respect is gone. And when the respect leaves, aging parents falter.

Practice these tips to learn a deeper respect for your aging parents:

Reflect over your own life – Regardless of our age, we have a past. Grant you, the past of a twenty-year-old is nothing compared to that of a eighty-year-old, but the fact remains, taking a small amount of time daily to reflect over your own life’s choices, successes and even failures, softens your attitude toward others. Self-reflection allows us to look into ourselves and take notes, which in turn, help us self-correct.

Joe, a thirty-year-old computer analyst, entered his workplace frustrated a co-worker had parked in his space. Even though it was an open parking lot, spaces were not labeled, Joe parked in the same spot everyday. Three rows back, second from the end, just enough space to get in easily and exit quickly. Today, a co-worker took his parking space. Madaline, an older receptionist, greeted Joe daily as he entered the building. Her smile and sweet nature was a joy.  Joe bolted through the front door angry. Breezing past Madaline, he remarked wasn’t it time she retired because she just didn’t “get” the needs of the employees any longer.

Self-reflection gave Joe the perspective he needed to understand his actions toward Madaline were  unwarranted and hurtful. Not only had he insulted Madaline out of anger, but as his elder and having forty plus years in the company, he disrespected her.

Elderly Man Touching ChinSpend time with the elderly – Take note of the company you keep. Do you spend time with seniors outside of your grandparents? If not, ask yourself why. Many times, aging seniors frighten us. Not because of who they are, but because of what they represent to us. In them, we see our own immortality. Our future; and that can be scary. However, making the effort to spend quality time with seniors allows us the opportunity to learn about our past and to understand the aging process is natural and nothing to be feared. Sensitivity develops and a deeper compassion for those who “can’t move”  as fast as they once did.

Notice the seniors around you – Pay attention to the seniors who surround you. Take note of their value and contributions both past and present. Build them up. Thank them for their wisdom and service. After all, without them, we would not be.

Be considerate of seniors’ well being – Learn patience. Take extra steps to assist a senior in the store, or on the street. Be kind and understand their hearing is not what it used to be. More so, treat them with respect. They’ve earned it. Treating a senior with respect lifts their spirits, encourages their health, and strengthens their desire to maintain.

Finally, be respectful – Remember, our seniors are from a different age in time when things were different. Manners were important. Practice good, old fashioned manners. Call them Mr. or Mrs. unless they request otherwise. Stand when they enter a room. Say thank you and please. Today’s world preaches for us to meet the youth of America, “where they are.” When in retrospect, the same should apply to our seniors. Meet them where they are. Help them where it is needed and be respectful of their past position and current status.

Respect comes in scores of ways. Our seniors deserve our patience and respect. Practice these skills and see how your own life improves.

The Natural Progression of Life

elderly-handsDeath is a hard subject, one most individuals prefer to ignore. The popular idea of, if it’s not thought about then it’s not a reality, hides beneath the surface. Yet, death is very much a reality. No one has a magic “get out of jail free” card on this one. Death will, at some point, touch every individual.

The thoughts of giving up a loved one are sometimes more than we can bear. Life without that person is unimaginable.

In an article by Craig Bowron, MD, published in the Washington Post (February 17, 2012), Dr. Bowron brought to light many thought provoking ideas every family should consider when it comes to the natural progression of life for their aging parents. Some of his ideas are heartbreakingly shocking and they deal not with the aging, parent, but with the families and their duty to care effectively for them.

Dr. Bowron noted how and why life expectancy has risen since the 1900’s. Improved medical advances certainly played a role, but the simple development of improved diets, cleanliness, and urbanization decreased infant and maternal mortality by thousands. Still the primary cord that rings true in our present day world is the lack of family involvement until death’s knock suddenly arrives.

Simply translated, in the early years of our nation, as age stole away the elderly’s abilities, they came to live under the same roof as their children. Families as a whole, shared the sometimes lengthy and harsh suffering their aging parents experienced, changing their view on death. Death, in these times came as a welcomed visitor, allowing their parents to slip away with dignity and in an environment they felt loved and cared for. It was, by all due rights, normal.

Today’s world separates families. Children move across country in search of a better life, leaving aging parents behind. Though they may keep in touch, distance does what it does best – it takes away the connection.

For many, the care of an aging parent is not intentionally ignored, rather it’s skewed by the distance. The inability to be actively involved in the day to day routine of a senior’s health issues has vanished. As a parent’s health deteriorates, children no longer experience the progression of illness or disease. Instead, they assume all health issues are fixable. Medical technology is amazing. There are things that can be done to stop this process. Care is tossed into the hands of medical professionals and exceptional results are expected. Dr. Bowron goes on to state, “…our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.”

Take this story as an example. A seventy-one year-old man, strong in appearance, apparently healthy is stricken suddenly with stage 4 lung cancer. His children have always been actively involved in their parent’s lives. As a close knit family it was natural for the children to step alongside their mother in the decisions and care of their father.

The prognosis from doctors was bleak. Radiation would be a temporary solution but ultimately his comfort should take precedence.heat

Entertaining the idea of death was not an option for this family however, after only one month into his treatment they realized the desires they longed for, were their own.

Their father willingly submitted to the care the family suggested. Though his thoughts were that compliance would make this season easier on his family, when they asked him to consider traveling to a hospital that specialized in this type of cancer, he said no. They suddenly understood his treatment was not about them, it was about what was best spiritually, mentally, and physically for their father.

Studies have shown the effects of prayer on those who suffer extreme illness. Though every patient may not recover, they have a lower stress level, peace, and personal acceptance level for their treatment and prognosis. As Christians we understand the power behind prayer and we understand the will of God may not be our will. God knows best in every life. And here in lies the truth in caring for aging parents who are ill. Trust in the natural progression of life and the will of God.

When we stand toe-to-toe with death, it forces us to reach for preservation. The ultimate desire to extend the life of an individual only to cause them more pain and suffering pushes us into a catch twenty-two – the love we have for our aging parents verses the  natural progression of life.

There are exceptions to every rule. Families who intentionally do not participate in the care of their elders then demand medical interventions out of an unrecognized guilt. The attitude of “I’ll fix this,” allows them to take control and paint the picture of love and care that serves as personal satisfaction rather than gentle and loving care. When death claims the life they’ve stepped into repair, they find their comfort in blaming the medical profession. They could have done more.

The hard truth is, death is the natural progression of life and though we should make every effort to use medicine as a means of healing, there is something to be said for the quality of life. Acceptance of the progression.

The family of this elderly man, sought out their father’s desires. They cared for him, kept him comfortable, and allowed him the dignity he requested. He accepted treatments but when he drew the line, the family stepped into the role of support. Though his loss was devastating, they rested in the peace of their father’s wishes. Their faith turned to a deeper trust that God’s will was to take precedence over their own desires.

Four months later, the man passed as his family kissed him and offered him permission to leave them. And there was peace.

This article, by no means, advocates that families opt out of medical care or lifesaving measures. These things are truly personal preference. Modern medicine is a blessing and for many, the lifesaving advances are miracles. However, what this article does advocate, is the awareness, acceptance, and compassion for caring for an aging parent , and the importance of understanding their end-of-life desires. It advocates personal and family involvement, long before illness strikes building deep, strong bonds that live on after the loss of a parent.

???????????Care for your parents. Remember, even in the busyness of your life, the priority of family stands greater than anything else. Discuss end-of-life decisions with aging parents to know their wishes. The conversations are hard at best. It may be extensive measures are the choices of the parent. And then, it may not be. Either way, there is peace in knowledge. Knowledge allows a family to prepare and then in the throngs of hardship and loss, accept the progression.

Loving Care for Aging Parents – Part One

Senior woman contemplatingWhen the time arrives to add caregivers into the daily routine of your aging parent questions rise. Who do you hire? Where do we look for reputable help? What attributes do caregivers need? The list continues to lengthen with questions from salary, taxes, transportation, and on and on. Questions quickly become hesitation and hesitation turns to fear when the answers are not easily found.
In this two part series you’ll find ways to help you begin the journey of adding a caregiver into the routine of your parent.

Begin by making a list of the specific needs of your parent. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choices verses the true needs. Finances will play into the need as well. However, don’t be stopped by finances, rather make your list of needs as though there are no financial issues. This will allow you to quickly narrow down “wants” verses real needs.
List the answers to these questions to help launch you into finding the needs of your parent:

*Is your parent mobile?
*Are they able to take care of personal hygiene?
*Are they a fall risk?
*Are there memory issues?
*Can they manage dressing alone?
*Is driving still an option?

This list of questions will help gage your thinking process to the important issues. Once you’ve answered the questions then you can begin to look at how to meet the needs of your aging parent with wisdom.

Move Toward Personal Affairs

*List doctors, hospitals and specialty physicians that work with your parents
*Secure a Power of Attorney for both finances and medical care
*Gather Medicare insurance cards or private pay insurance as well any long term health
*Check with the bank and add one reliable person to help with finances (ie paying bills, budgeting funds,
etc.)
*Locate the house deed and titles to any vehicles
*Locate living wills and wills for the estate, even check to see if pre-funeral arrangements have been
Made.

Factor in Finances

*List all savings, regular checking, 401K’s or bank CDs to get a clear financial picture of assets
*Consider a reverse mortgage to provide funds for care
*Make a budget

Once you have all these items in place, call a family meeting and discuss who will manage the process. Include your parent, even though there are times this may not be possible if a parent is unwilling…try.

Finances immediately press the stress button for most families. Relax. This is definitely important but it’s not a reason to panic. It’s simply an obstacle that must be worked around. With this information in place you can now look logically at the future care of your parent.

Narrow the List

Once you are aware of all the needs, necessities and assets, begin to look closely at the exact needs of your parent. Can they manage well enough to remain at home or is their care beyond a home setting. Keep in mind, it’s a proven fact the elderly thrive in their own homes. If at all possible, make “their home” the goal of their place of care.

Taking these steps will help get you on the road to preparing for long term care for your aging parent. In part two of Loving Care for Aging Parents we’ll discuss putting a plan of care into action.

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.

Be and “Elder” Elf

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By Cindy Sproles

The holidays have arrived. Christmas trees, decorations, parties, a flurry of friends and family, keep us filled with joy and fun. However, the fun does not always resonate with our seniors. There are a number of things that “put a damper” on such a festive season. It’s important to become sensitive to those things that may trigger hardship or sadness for our elders.

Despite the stumbling blocks the holidays bring, we challenge you to put on an elf hat and become an “Elder” Elf. What does an Elder Elf do? It’s simple. Make visits, calls, visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Make yourself available to those seniors who may be lonely or forgotten for the holidays.

Be aware of the following things and take action:

*Loneliness is a major source of depression – The holidays spur times of deep reflection for everyone. Fond memories of loved ones past swirl in our minds as we pull out the Christmas decorations. For aging parents, the loss of a spouse or even children, surface and the longing for times past rise. Be mindful of those elders who have lost their spouse. Invite them to spend time with you, call, visit, include them in your holiday activities.

*Take note of the things that cause stress – For some aging parents, the festive hoopla is confusing, i.e. Alzheimer’s patients, those with dementia. Festivities sometimes cause confusion and stress. Simply be mindful of those needs and adjust visits and interaction to fit their needs.

*Give seniors permission to NOT purchase Christmas gifts – It sounds a little harsh, but the truth is, many seniors will overspend their already slim budget, in order to purchase gifts for grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those gifts can sometimes number in the 50’s depending on the number of children. Be sensitive to the small retirement budget of elder parents and give them permission to stop the Christmas spending. Initiate a “name drawing” or a dirty Santa Christmas where only one gift is purchased rather than buying for every family member. It’s a hard habit to break but one that will relieve enormous stress from your aging parents.

*Note holiday safety – Scams will be on the rise, opportunity for robberies and even identity theft – Take the necessary precautions to firm up security for your aging parents. Be sure deadbolts are in place, windows and less used doors are locked. Encourage seniors to never give their social security or bank information to anyone over the phone. Place charge cards and debit cards in a secure location. Keep an eye on bills and if your aging parent has difficulty getting to the street for their mail, check with the Postal Service about adding a mailbox at the door of a parent’s resident. Safety is always first.

One other suggestion. If your aging parents have since passed, adopt a senior at a nursing home or hospital. Look in your church at seniors who may be alone and make them part of your Christmas season. Assisted living and nursing home facilities maintain a list of those who have no family. Make Christmas stockings by gathering items such as toothpaste, skid-free socks, lap blankets, short devotional books, fragrance free sensitive skin lotions, close-heeled house shoes, soft cookies to deliver to nursing homes. Something so small can make such a wonderful difference.

This Christmas, be an Elder Elf. It’s our job to care for our aging parents and friends. Put on the elf ears and become a senior’s special elf.

Elder Abuse

This country has recently seen a number of incidents of elder abuse and fraud. In lieu of these issues it’s important that families and friends of the elderly understand the types of abuse which plague our seniors, educate themselves and become an active force in recognizing and protecting these individuals.

The word alone will send a chill down your back. And in a world of such uncertainty, not only are children attacked but our elderly are prime targets as well.

Abuse rears its ugly head in more forms than just physical attacks and it’s important for us as caregivers of the elderly, to understand the methods which plague our senior citizens.

Mental Abuse – Many times impatience brews in family members and friends as seniors become increasingly more dependent. As their mental capabilities deteriorate and the level of understanding normal daily routines falters, individual will become “curt” or “short” with parents. Frustration rises because seniors may be a bit more contrary than in the past. It’s not uncommon for individuals to “brow beat” parents, verbally attacking their sense of dignity and degrading their sense of self-worth.

Financial Abuse—Our parents have worked hard through the years scrimping and saving for their retirement. At best, many live a meager lifestyle. Unfortunately, predators do not pick and choose their victims by wealth, rather by vulnerability. Elders fall victim to phone scams, door-to-door salesman, slick con men, even well-meaning neighbors who will take advantage of someone who is unable to care for him/her selves. Worse yet are family predators: those within the immediate family, who freely take from the finances of their seniors without permission or under the smoke screen of “caring” for their needs. Families will come to blows over a small senior savings long before the death of a parent, leaving elders feeling unloved and unwanted.

Nil-Care Abuse—Nil-care happens when caregivers, whether family or friends, become more concerned about what will be left in the will of their senior if finances are spent on their care now. Seniors will suffer from lack of medications, in-home assistance, facility care, even food and clothing when greed becomes the driving factor in their care.

Harsh, you ask? By all means. Abuse, in any form, is cruel—especially when it’s dealt from those we think love us.

Providing in-home care is not inexpensive, but many times it is the best route to protect our aging parents, by allowing a third-party watchful eye. An in-home caregiver can provide the additional space between family members to help keep a clear and safe care plan for seniors.

Though nothing is fool-proof, however hiring a state licensed and bonded in-home company can provide that watchful eye and help maintain and preserve the valuable parent-child relationship that aging can steal away. Be aware daily of the signs of elder abuse and remember, they do not always come in the form of bruises.