” You do not grow old; you become old from not growing.”
Think About the Kind of Care You Want
# Educate yourself on ‘the system’ – in our province it’s a moving target- ever changing- I liken it to trying to grab jello – it’s complex – I often found it impenetrable. Find out what support services are available for seniors. Were they designed for people who did not live as long as we are expected to? What jurisdictions fund what programs or services? Write letters. Ask your candidates questions. Baby boomers must take action now and design and demand what you want your care to look like:
What does quality care look like to you?
How can the system be responsive to individual needs?
Do you want to age in place? At this point, this option is cost prohibitive and only works if you are wealthy. Often aging in place means more work for your caregivers.
If you need 24 hour medical care what does that look like?
My in-laws were adamant that they not want to go into an assisted living facility. They also resisted most offers of help. What this meant for my husband and I was that we were their support. We brought meals, planted flowers, mowed grass and shovelled snow. Do you want that responsibilityon your care-givers? After a medical crisis, and with the assistance of a transition nurse who would not release my father-in-law from hospital until home-care and meals on wheels were in place, we had some help. What a relief for us. Littledid we know this was not as wonderful as we initially thought. Home care in Alberta is limited and workers seemed rushed and stressed. Also the workers rotate so just when my mother-in-law was comfortable, a new care aid arrived. We did discover that there was a mobile blood service who would come to their home to get blood samples, thus saving us. It always felt like one step forward and two back.
Have you looked at assisted living facilities and long-term care? When my husband and I were looking for his parents we got tours and most times wegot a feeling of how it was run quickly. What was the ratio of medical aids to clients? What times were meals hosted? My parents moved into an assisted living facility, of their choice, that had breakfast at 7:00a.m. and lunch at 11:00 and dinner at 4……all to accommodate the long-term care residents in the other part of the building. We never asked about meal times! My dad liked to sleep in so this was an issue, and after dinner it was a very long evening for them. Plus the nutrition cart only came by occasionally……. while the staff assured us there were snacks in the fridge, my parents were not up to going to find them.If you want to be in control, I suggest you start to seriously think about what will you do if something happens to one of you. Or if you get to a point where you cannot care for yourself. Figure it out now. Don’t make your caregivers….
Our friends and I used to joke that we would have the carpenter in the group build us a group home. We would know all residents and hire staff to help. The kids wouldn’t have to visit us so often as we all knew everyone so one visit would please us all. We would hire a cook, a cleaner, a care aid, buy a van to haul us around, have a driver we could use (not us!) and a nurse practitioner. While we laughed about it in our 40s we now wonder if it isn’t the way to go!
When we checked out the cost of many of the private “active living” facilities we knew we couldn’t afford them.
Here are some more thoughts about aging you might want to think about and discuss with your partner or potential caregivers. Let everyone know your thoughts and wishes. (See the thought for the day at the end of this article)
# Be ready to graciously accept or pay for help even when you don’t think you need it. If someone suggests you might benefit from support, accept it. While you might not want it, think about your caregiver and if you hire some services you will be giving them peace of mind. They may be worried about you. Think of others instead of yourself.
Areas to have conversations with your ‘truth teller’ include:
cleaning …as we age our eyes age and we don’t notice dirt like we used to. If you aren’t able to keep up, what will you do?
hearing aides…one friend’s children were convinced she had dementia until she started wearing hearing aids. Have you had a hearing test lately? It might be time.
mobility aids such as canes, wheelchairs, walkers, suitable footwear, washable clothes etc. If you are tippy or using the furniture to move around the room, it’s time to think about some kind of support. Look at your shoes. How safe are they?
driver service…if you are unable to drive and want to retain your independence hire a taxi, take a bus or look into finding a regular driver. Have you had that conversation with your partner or caregiver to give them permission NOT to become your driver?
meal preparation and grocery shopping…eating healthy is a huge precursor for remaining healthy (tea and toast won’t do it!) Think about what you would do if you couldn’t prepare meals.
Our daughter told me that her grandparents bathroom was ‘gross’ and something had to be done. I had no time to become a cleaning lady so my husband and I tried to approach the subject. A strong NO was our answer. Finally when we thought it was becoming a health issue my husband took his parents for a day-long outing and myself and a cleaning lady cleaned the main floor. My in-laws were so angry they didn’t talk to us for weeks. Finally when things cooled down they decided they would allow a cleaning lady once every two weeks.
Both sets of parents thought nothing of having us drive them to appointments. I wondered if they subconsciously thought since we were the ones who said, “no more driving” they decided then we could do it!……For me it meant a 50-60 minute drive to pick them up, a 50 minute drive into the city for an appointment, then back. By the time I got home I would be exhausted from lifting walkers, wheelchairs and negotiating parkades etc. My husband’s parents decided to take a driving service one day to see one of their relatives. ( We were out of town) It cost them close to $100 and they were shocked and yet never seemed to realize the time and effort their caregivers put in. They never used the service again and we remained their designated drivers.
5. Move your body every day. Go for a walk. Swim, take an exercise class. Find a television show program for chair exercises. Walk around your home or neighbourhood. Find a friend or neighbour who likes to go for walks. If you try a new activity or exercise, begin slowly so you don’t injure yourself. Regular exercise is important for your overall well being. My husband says once you retire exercise needs to become your job.
Thought for the day:
“We always think old age is 10 years older than we are!”
I didn’t write for six years. My parents and my husband’s parents would be shocked and then heartbroken to think they had caused my caregiver burnout.
I don’t blame them. I was responsible. I wanted to support them. They had been great parents for us.
For 37 years I was the front-line family caregiver. Bob’s parents left this world in 2009 and 2011; my dad passed away in 2015; and when my mom passed away in 2017 I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted.
My supportive husband and brother lightened th load. We were not financially burdened, as is the case with many family caregivers. As the writer and editor of a provincial family caregiver newsletter I was aware of resources, programs and assistance.
What I discovered though, despite community supports, my responsibilities became that of a full-time patient coordinator. Our medical system was complicated and there was no such thing as one-stop shopping.
Friends started to ask for advice when they began their caregiving experience. I directed them to the proper resources, pointed out programs they might not be aware of and provided much needed empathy for their journey.
Consciously I added “Let this experience make you think about how you age. What can you do to make the caregiving journey easier for your children or designated caregivers?”
I’d also caution caregivers to not just step in and help. Was there better ways to support, without taking away control?
Governments are spending huge dollars for care of seniors. Do we need to think differently about what aging baby boomers need?
It is my hope that this blog causes you to think about the way you age and to consider some tough questions and then take plans.
I have been talking to friends who have had the honour of caregiving for a loved one. We have brainstormed things we think would have made our journey easier and came up with ten questions to think about.
Even my mom at 92 would say “I still feel the same inside… until I look in the mirror or try to move!” We would laugh about this and yet now I totally understand.
So it doesn’t surprise me so many people put off these types of discussions because we all think we still have time……As we age we know that a fall, a stroke or serious accident can change our life in a moment. Don’t wait. Do it now! Be prepared if you want to save yourself, your partner or those who will want to care for you heartache and angst.
I will share a few each day in subsequent blogs. I hope it will start you thinking and doing some early planning.
Appoint a ‘truth teller’ who will honestly advise you about your present condition; your truth teller helps you see what you can’t or won’t acknowledge. It’s important that this person will note your physical, emotional and intellectual changes. Make sure you have clearly articulated that you want your truth teller to have difficult, honest conversations with you. Your partner or someone your age is not a good choice. I think we all know stories of one spouse or good friend ‘covering up’ for another and when a crisis occurs everyone is shocked at how fragile one partner is and how much the other one was covering……. From the age of about 60 my dad and mom began to say to my brother and I that we were to tell them when we thought they were no longer able to care for themselves in their home or drive. They would often tell us this. We both thought it was rather early and yet when the time came it was a relief to know we had their permission, even when they seemed surprised by our comments or even angry. We were reassured it was what they wanted.
2. Consciously build community. Willingly participate in groups; be social; plan opportunities to talk to others; get yourself out most days even if it is just for coffee or to people watch. Social isolation is a huge factor in mental decline while aging. Know why you get up every morning – what is your daily purpose? human interaction is as necessary as food, water and exercise. Plan something every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t make others responsible for your entertainment. Often this falls on your caregivers and they feel it is yet another responsibility. My mom would often say she was so bored or wished she could drive and I always felt guilty and thought I should think of something to help her or go out and drive her somewhere. This was a case of her not wanting to spend money on a taxi or take a bus. I’m already talking to myself saying that when I no longer feel safe driving or the kids tell me to give up my car I will do my best to remain self-reliant. And if I have reached a dementia-stage they have my permission to ignore my commentsand not feel guilty. They will remember I’m “just not myself.“
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Tomorrow school begins for many Canadian students. It always makes me think of new beginnings.
What are you beginning today? I thought today is the perfect time to launch my BLOG….. Rewire Before You Expire….a blog that I hope will help baby boomers think about aging.
Over the winter I took a course on Memoir Writing. It inspired me to begin writing again. Besides cooking, baking and reading, I find joy when writing.
While a memoir isn’t in the cards for me, I would like to write another book about aging. Everything we read today is full of warnings about the plethora of aging baby boomers. We’ve been an action-oriented generation. Let’s not let aging just happen. Let’s think about what we need and then how we can achieve it.
What will happen to us as services dry up and costs skyrocket? None of us want to be a burden to our children. What can we do?
First we have to educate ourselves. It’s time to think about uncomfortable topics and make plans. If you’ve been as blessed as my husband and I who had parents in our lives for over 60 years we have plenty of background information.
How can we apply that to our situation? That’s what I have been pondering for the past year. I have spoken to caregivers and read countless books and research pieces. Now it’s time to put the fingers to the keys and begin.
I hope you will join me and enjoy the journey!
Please excuse the mix-ups as I am learning the technology associated with the BLOG…. I like to challenge myself and this has certainly done that!
I have been an author, communications consultant, professional speaker, and communications coach for over 30 years. As a popular weekly newspaper columnist I understand the value of building relationships.
Happily married, most days, for over 4o years, I’m blessed to have grown children and five grandchildren.
Being able to support our four parents as they aged has been significant in my life choices as I age.
We down-sized, from a large two story home to a small high-rise condo when I was 61 and purchased a trailer in Palm Springs, where we enjoy our winters.
Lately I have been researching and thinking about how we age as baby boomers. I’ve talked to many seniors, healthcare professionals and caregivers. Now I want to pass along a few tips add tricks I’ve gleaned over the past 37 years as a family caregiver.