21st Century Living
A fellow Blogger, Frangipani Singaporenicum, submitted an excellent article, “Mom is Back,” about the hurdles experienced when her mother traveled by airplane back home after a visit with one of her daughters. Frangipani’s siblings weren’t fully aware of the breadth of their mother’s disease so they thought that the mother would be in good hands at the airport because they had arranged for an airport escort to get the mother to her airplane destination.
Unfortunately, what could go wrong did go wrong. “Frangipani’s” mother has mixed dementia, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and found herself in unfamiliar surroundings when she became separated from the airport employee – a stranger in the mother’s eyes – who was supposed to assist her. Getting lost in an unfamiliar environment is something that comes quite naturally to those with any type of dementia. And as often happens when a person is lost, we try to get un-lost. That attempt brought her mother to another airline terminal where a kind gentleman, noticing her distress, found the assistance she needed to get on the correct plane at the right time.
Those of us who have children – and please bear with me while I make this comparison – know how easily a child can wander away from our purview. We make a quarter turn at the grocery store to get a box of cereal off the top shelf and “POOF!” our child is nowhere to be found. I’m very familiar with this feeling because it happened to me many years ago when my adventurous daughter wandered away – causing me near cardiac arrest – and was subsequently prevented from exiting the grocery store by a Good Samaritan grandmother who knew better than to let my daughter run out into the parking lot. “But I only turned away for a second!” That’s all it takes.
So too can a person with dementia wander away because of something that attracted him; or more likely, with your back to him, he didn’t recognize you any more and walked away to try to find you. “But how can I keep my eye on him at all times?” You just have to.
SOME TIPS OF THE TRADE.
Public restroom challenges. If you or your loved one needs to use the bathroom, find one of the family bathrooms that now exist in many public places so that your environment is controlled, and everyone’s needs are met. Don’t think for a second that you can say to your husband, “George, you stay here while I run into the ladies’ room. I’ll just be a minute.” Be prepared to call security when you come out of the ladies’ restroom because in George’s mind, you disappeared, and the time frame of a minute means absolutely nothing to him. And forget about sending your husband into the mens’ room by himself to meet his potty needs. You’ll be waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and he just a) may not do his business; and b) may not come out on his own. If no family bathrooms are available, stand at the entrance to the public restroom and announce yourself: “Woman entering with husband who needs assistance!” You’ll find that those within will cover up what needs covering and not call security on you.
Medic-Alert jewelry. The Alzheimer’s Association strongly recommends purchasing a Medic-Alert/Safe Return device which provides 24/7 emergency response service. At least if your loved one gets lost, they will be reunited with you sooner. This service is available in 50 countries, and in 140 languages. The service speaks for itself so please check the link attached to research the many benefits of this membership service that, quite frankly, brings priceless peace of mind and provides a healthy dose of safety for your loved one.
Now they see you – now they don’t. The examples cited above would not be complete if I didn’t add a personal experience from my days of being my father’s primary long-distance caregiver. My dad lived in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon. When first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he was very functional and remained in the assisted living apartment on campus that he had shared with his wife prior to her death in January 2007.
I stayed at a nearby hotel when I visited my father but spent most of the day with him on outings and/or spending time with him in his one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. At one point during an apartment visit, I announced to him that I was slipping into the bathroom, 10-feet away, and would be just a minute or two.
I was glad to have locked the bathroom door because partway during my “sit” dad was frantically jiggling the doorknob from the bedroom side of the door shouting, “Irene! Where are you?! Are you o.k.? What’s going on?!!” I was less understanding at the time and returned my own crazed shout of “Dad!!! Leave me be! I’m just going to the bathroom!!!” Knowing what I know now, I would have exited the bathroom and apologized for frightening him, and made every attempt to make him feel safe again. As Oprah Winfrey often says, “We do better when we know better.”
This unintended “peek-a-boo” event proved to me that my father did not have an understanding of the passing of time, but more importantly, that if he couldn’t see me, I wasn’t there. Back to the example of children, but this time, you’re the child.
You’re at play in your bedroom, having just left your mommy gleefully singing in the kitchen while she did the dishes. Your dolls are lined up on your bed, you’re engaging them in discussion, and all of a sudden you notice that mommy isn’t singing any more. You toddle out to the kitchen, and mommy isn’t where you left her!!! “Mommy! Where are you?! Mommy – I’m scared!!! Help me Mommy!!!!!” Your mother steps out of the adjoined laundry room and calms you down – “Irene, I was just five feet away; I didn’t go anywhere, I’m right here!” You run into your mommy’s arms and feel safe again.
Alzheimer’s and other dementia are very unpredictable diseases. What can be predicted, however, is that the onus will always rest on us to compensate for our loved one’s challenges. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles addressing dementia, we have the ability to adjust to the diseased person’s reality; not the other way around. It’s hard work for us, but it’s an impossible task for them.
A businessman was dining at a fancy restaurant and – so the story goes – met Lee Iacocca (extremely successful President & CEO of the Chrysler Corporation from 1978 to 1992 and considered the 18th-greatest American CEO of all time.)
“Mr. Iacocca,” he gushed, “the American business hero! I’ve studied your career, and any success I’ve had comes from emulating you. Would you do me a favor? I’m with some colleagues. Please come by my table, say ‘Hello, Harry,’ and let me introduce you. It would mean so much to me.”
Iacocca agreed. He waited for the man to sit down and then walked towards his table.
“Holy smoke!” cried one of Harry’s friends. “It’s Lee Iacocca, and he’s heading this way!”
“Hello Harry!” Iacocca said. “Introduce me to your friends.”
Harry looked at him blankly, “Come back later, Lee,” he said. “Can’t you see we’re trying to have some lunch!”
Kind of like the movie “Network” in the iconic scene where the actor Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, says, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more!”
What is often left out from that quote is the statement made just prior, “I’m a human being. My life has value.” I think some spouses in their 50’s through their 80’s decide that after decades of a somewhat dissatisfying, or perhaps an abusive, marriage they realize that they have a whole lifetime ahead of them and decide that they deserve better. In an article from the AARP June 2012 Bulletin, one of the reasons for a late-in-life divorce centers around the fact that longer lives mean more years with an incompatible spouse. And even though the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.
Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University says, “If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic.”
Wow!!!! I had no idea! I’m fortunate in that my second marriage at the age of 47 is still one in which I am very happy now twelve years later. There are those, however, with whom I am acquainted who stick to the dictum of “in sickness and in health, until death do us part” even through an abusive relationship (verbal, physical or otherwise) and, because they’ve been in it for the long haul, e.g., 30 plus years, they feel that they have no choice but to stay.
Why do those with abusive spouses – both male and female – cling to their marriage?
As I mentioned above – one reason is certainly the commitment to vows that were made at the height of a romantic relationship. And there are other reasons. An excellent therapist with whom I am acquainted who leads support groups for the abused told me that over the years, as abuse has prevailed in the household, the one being abused adjusts to each added level or intensity of abuse and becomes acclimated to each added degree. Added to this unwarranted commitment to their abusive spouse, they fear the unknown, even though it may bring about an abuse-free life. And without the help of good friends and powerful resources, a spouse in an abusive relationship may not have the tools that will give them sufficient confidence to make a decision that will benefit them the remainder of their life.
Divorcing later in life can often result in less time to recover financially, recoup losses, retire debt, and ride the ups and downs of the economy.
Some Baby Boomers out there have relished the security that their spouse or significant other has provided them in the form of financial stability. They’re thinking that perhaps it’s worth putting up with this person with whom I am incompatible to guarantee a comfortable enough life until one of us dies. Well – certainly that is a factor – but I personally believe that an individual’s life contains far more value than any bank account can provide. If someone is feeling devalued in their relationship, they have short-changed the remainder of their life. And if someone truly craves, absolutely longs for greater self-worth, nothing will stop them from satisfying that need. I guess you have to look at the options and determine if you’re willing to go with it:
living in a mortgage-free home without financial concerns with someone who tears you down, or renting a one-bedroom apartment with thrift store furnishings, that frees you from a relationship that has prevented you from being your true, and valued self.
But who will take care of me in my old age?
A 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP survey found that 66% of caregivers were female, with women providing on average 22 hours per week vs. 17 hours for males. In a divorce situation, “older men may make out better financially than women, but they don’t fare so well at finding someone to take care of them when they’re older. They often don’t have alternative care networks the way women do,” says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. When asked who they will turn to when they’re older, single men often cite paid help – a pricey and somewhat difficult option to find. Some older divorced people have children or other family members who can assume the caregiving role, but not everyone does.
Gray divorce is occurring and there are certainly many factors to consider. I guess I’m of the belief that a bad marriage is not better than living alone. Whether you’re a Baby Boomer – or of any other generational group – only you can decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to obtain your sense of personal value. As far as I know, we’ve only been given this one life. This is not a dress rehearsal and there are no do-overs.
Don’t you dread being on a commercial flight when the person next to you starts up a lengthy conversation? Here’s one that has a bit of humor tied in with it:
Striking up a conversation with the attractive woman seated beside him on a coast-to-coast flight, a would-be Romeo asked,
“What kind of man attracts you?”
“I’ve always been drawn to Native American men,” she replied. “They’re in harmony with nature.”
“I see,” said the man, nodding.
“But, then, I really go for Jewish men who put women on a pedestal, and I can rarely resist the way Southern gentlemen always treat their ladies with respect.”
“Please allow me to introduce myself,” said the man. “My name is Tecumseh Goldstein, but all my friends call me Bubba.”
The June AARP Bulletin had a brief piece on the fixtures of our every day life that either have already gone by the wayside or will do so in our lifetimes.
How many of you still have the following items as functioning items in your household or in your day-to-day living?
Answering Machine: a machine that records phone messages either on tape or digitally that is NOT a voice mail service with your home phone.
Home phones: many younger than Baby Boomer age are dispensing with their home phones and relying 100% on their cell phones. In most households that equates to at least two telephone numbers per household. I know it works for all of our adult children, but we’re still holding onto our land line – along with our cell phones of course.
Phone books: the internet and Smart Phones, have taken the place of this yellow book for the most part. I was in my car dealership getting my oil changed the other day and a customer walked up to the receptionist and asked her, “Do you have a phone book?” The look on her face summarized it all for me; it seemed to say: “Is this guy for real?!!!”
Printed encyclopedias. Research now-a-days can be done on-line (computer, tablet, phone) and, quite frankly, is far more accurate and up-to-date than volumes of books whose content is so very limited.
Rolodex. Every e-mail program has a Contacts function with ease of updating being a real bonus. I remember holding onto my Rolodex at work, even though I had also put info into my computer’s Contacts file, just in case I needed it. I dumped the Rolodex a couple months later.
Floppy discs & drives. Most people under 21 don’t know what this storage device is. Confession: when cleaning out my home office the other day I got rid of an unused box of those antiquated and limited storage items.
Film!!!!! Again, cleaning out my home office I found a roll of unopened Kodak 35mm film. I didn’t throw it away, however, because THAT is a collector’s item!
Analog clocks. All of my decorative clocks in my house contain numbers that go around a square or round face – you remember those don’t you? Many children now-a-days are only accustomed to the digital clock and can’t tell time without it.
Stationary & note cards. For me this is the most grievous vanishing fixture in my life. I will NOT stop sending letters and cards by snail mail – unless of course the postal service vanishes before I’m six feet under.
Toilet paper – WHAT!!!!! AARP reports that eventually, toilet paper will be replaced by toilet-seat bidets that will wash and dry at the touch of a button. Please say it isn’t so!!!!! Maybe they figure the wash & dry could add an additional benefit that would make us smile? I still don’t like the idea.
How many of you are now using items that you swore you’d never allow into your household just a decade ago? And what are you holding on to?
The difference between Men’s and Women’s Brains is a very entertaining video, and I think you’ll all find something in this humorous video that might resonate in your own life.
Please take the time to view the video, especially those of you who don’t think you have 13 minutes in which to be entertained by humor that might make a difference in your mood and/or your behavior today.
I wish the best for all of you on this first full day of Summer 2012.
What a terrific article provided in the above link from the “Taking Care of Mom and Dad” blog site. The information provided in this article is valuable, and as Kelli mentioned on her blog, it’s not just specific to the state in which it originated, Oklahoma. The information provided is applicable everywhere because let’s face it – every caregiver pretty much needs the same questions answered and this site has many one-size-fits all solutions for all caregivers who are grasping to stay afloat on their caregiving journey.
This same website can also direct you to your own state’s valuable resources by clicking on the applicable section on the Homepage. It’s as easy as that! And don’t we all need something to be easy every once and awhile?