Community outreach

New roommate paradigm: adult children & their parents.

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Historically, it’s the adult children who move back into the parents’ home, oftentimes because of financial issues.  Apparently that is no longer the sole definition of multi-generational living.

In a USA Today article, Who’s moving in? Adult kids, aging parents, Haya El Nasser writes, “(A)bout one in seven say they already have a ‘boomerang kid’ – an adult child who moves back home – or elderly parent living under their roof.”

This brings about two unexpected events:

  • The parents who enjoyed their empty nest and started to reestablish themselves as a couple, instead of just as parents, suddenly have an adult living with them who just happens to be the kid they gave birth to 30 years ago; or
  • The adult child who strove to establish his home with his spouse and their 2.5 kids suddenly have a parent living with them requiring just as much attention, if not more, than the young children they themselves brought into this world.

The USA Today article above focuses on a rising trend towards families deciding to purchase larger homes than they would have previously considered with the anticipation that it would be more economical to have other adult family members living in – and contributing to – the same household.  Talk about a paradigm shift!  Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders says, “I remember when I was in college, no one wanted to be near their parents.”  That thought certainly resonates with me.  When I was single in my 20s and early 30s there was no such luxury of renting a place on my own and living-at-home was definitely not an option.  At one time I had two roommates so all three of us shared the same bathroom, kitchen and common living space.  Inconvenient and not as private as we would have liked?  Certainly – but the only way to afford housing and have the ability to put away money for our future was to split costs with other like-minded adults.

A Pew Research report earlier this year showed that “the share of Americans living in multi-generational households is at its highest since the 1950s.”  OMG!  As a Baby Boomer who was born in 1953, I just have to repeat, “OMG!!!!!”

My focus today is on the caregiving issue – that adult children and/or Baby Boomers find themselves with the added responsibility as caregiver to a loved one.  In my article Start your retirement – start your job as a family caregiver I address the caregiving aspect of Baby Boomer retirement which sometimes evolves into multi-generational living.  Our quality of life definition tends to change as family caregiving is added to our lives.  But it’s a fact of life for many of us and one that very few can escape.  But herein lies the problem…

Most of us aren’t prepared for that eventuality.  Those of us who are counting the days until retirement kid ourselves into believing that caregiving happens to others, not to us.  And our adult children find it difficult to wrap their minds around that type of living scenario whilst in the midst of their hectic career development and ever-changing family dynamics.

So what happens?  We find ourselves in an emergent situation that requires immediate action that may not be well-thought out because we don’t have the time to make a well-informed decision.  We all know that the worse time to make a life-changing decision is in an emergency.  There is a wealth of information available at our fingertips – the worldwide web is replete with helpful resources.  Even this website has many articles written on the subject.  As you browse through this website’s categories, be sure to enter a search term in the “Search My Site” box located at the right-hand side of each content page.

I’m not suggesting that you finalize plans that might not be implemented until many years down the road – or at all.  What I am suggesting, however, is that we all become aware that a) these issues exist and could very well happen in our own lives; and b) we’re going to do what we can now to make wise decisions later.

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Diary of a Singaporean Cabby: An Old Lady with Dementia & Dignity.

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Diary of a Singaporean Cabby: An Old Lady with Dementia & Dignity.

The attached link, written by a blogger in Singapore, describes his experience as a cab driver when he picked up a woman with dementia who needed to get from Point A to Point B but who lacked the cognitive capacity to effectively do so.

Personally, I think he excelled at compassion and even though he feels he could have done more, I respect him for what he did do.  We don’t want to entertain the thought of someone who might have taken advantage of this woman but there are many who would have looked at this situation as an opportunity to exploit her vulnerability.

I congratulate you, Lim James, for showing all of us that goodness exists, and it exists in your soul.

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR

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Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR.

English: Logo of NPR News.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I strongly encourage you to read the above article.  Too often physicians with insufficient training on elder-health issues dismiss the early signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia as simply being age-related developments.  Doing so presents the risk of missing the small window of opportunity in which to treat cognitive issues early on, rather than when they have fully taken up residence in a patient.

Sure, there’s nothing yet that prevents or cures the disease, but being able to manage the symptoms early on certainly adds to the quality of life that both the patient, and their loved ones, seek to experience.

For those of you who have taken on the role of advocating for your loved one: when you escort your loved one with early memory loss or confusion to the doctor’s office, do not back down when he/she concludes the symptoms are to be expected due to advancing age.  NO!  Those symptoms could very well be indicative of disease-related dementia, OR the symptoms could be caused by medication side-effects (blood pressure medication, seizure medication and the like) or other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infection (UTI.)

It’s all about advocacy.  Do you go the easy route and take the doctor’s word for it, or do you push for worthwhile diagnostics to rule out any other serious or life-changing causes?

Alzheimer’s “exit-seeking” behavior at 35,000 feet.

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At a certain stage during the course of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, a person can exhibit exit-seeking behavior.  It is believed that the person exhibiting this behavior is actually trying to get home, or back to a familiar place, or even seeking a feeling of comfort rather than simply trying to escape from their current location.

Confused face with question markThis “exiting” can take place just about anywhere, even at the person’s own home – resulting in a dangerous scenario where a wandering vulnerable person could easily fall into any number of  horrific situations because of their inability to get back to the safety of their home (be it a personal residence or a long-term care facility.)  Exiting behavior also takes place in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and yes, even airplanes at 35,000 feet above the ground.  This latter scenario happened on a recent flight I took from Dulles International Airport (DC area) to Seattle International Airport (Seattle, Washington.)

Just a half hour into our five-plus hour flight, a female passenger of approximately 75 years of age became very agitated during our ascent and before the fasten seat belt sign was switched off, she climbed over the passengers in her row, carry-on in hand, screaming all the way to the back of the plane from Row 34.  I was seated in Row 35.  “Wow, she must really have to use the bathroom!” I thought.  A flight attendant tried to get the passenger re-situated in her seat to no avail.  Complicating matters was the fact that the passenger was from another geographical continent and not only did she not speak or understand English, it was determined that other passengers who had flown with her from that same continent (not any relation or connection to her) also could not understand a word that she said.  In essence, she was speaking gibberish.  That was the first sign to myself and the flight attendants, that a) this woman was flying alone; b) she was in severe distress; and c) she most likely had some sort of dementia and was trying to exit her environment.  Not an easy task, nor one any of the United Airline employees were about to allow. Read the rest of this entry »

Too old to drive? Tips for families of elderly drivers

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Too old to drive? Tips for families of elderly drivers.

My oh, my – such a difficult subject to broach with a family member when you know that he should put down the car keys and let others do the driving for him.  The article linked above from NBC Nightly News is a good source of tips on how to handle this very familiar problem.  I address this issue in my article: Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial.  Although dementia is usually one of the most talked about reasons for taking away someone’s car keys, there are other reasons that are just as important that must not be ignored:

  • Age-related slow reaction times;
  • Medications that might cause dizziness and/or slow reaction time; and
  • Impaired eyesight and hearing.

Not wanting to hurt a loved one’s feelings should not be the reason to avoid this subject matter.  Let’s face it, your loved one’s safety and the safety of absolutely everyone else is at stake here.  There are already so many dangers on the road with drivers talking or texting on their cellphones, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, doing any number of distracting functions such as eating, personal grooming, changing a tune on your I-Pod, or being distracted by children or dogs in the back seat.  Now add someone who is impaired by age or cognitive disease and the risks to others increases greatly.

If you or a loved one are facing this important and difficult step, please read the attached NBC article linked above and also take the time to look at my article, Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial  that provides encouragement for how you might take care of this very important matter of safety.

Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass.  As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.

Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding.   Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives.  Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.

The above article introduces us to

  • a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
  • a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
  • a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.

These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life.  I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for  a replacement job.  That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.

Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?”  No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are –  and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills.  We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.

World Alzheimer’s Day.

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World Alzheimer’s Day video:

The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling.  It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.

Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.

The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America.  If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.

Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.