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.
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.
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?
In yesterday’s post, a Seattle Police Detective defined elder abuse as:
- sexual abuse
- physical abuse
- financial exploitation
In Part 6 of Seniors for Sale: Placement perils and successes, Michael Berens, Seattle Times reporter, delves into the senior housing placement industry, focusing on one placement company that placed a client in a Tacoma-area Adult Family Home (AFH) with a history of safety and health violations – elder abuse – even a fatal event, but because the placement company had not done its research, it was not aware of the home’s previous infractions and kept placing unknowing vulnerable adults in the home’s care.
Many of these placement service companies operate state-wide and/or nation-wide, and believe that there is no way that they can help as many people as they do if they are required to visit each and every home/assisted living option available to the public that they are trying to assist. These companies are oftentimes characterized as Bed Brokers – an industry that is growing exponentially without much scrutiny or State controls.
CAVEAT: Just as in every assisted living situation – there are good senior housing options and there are bad senior housing options – so too there exist reputable senior placement companies, and not-so-reputable placement companies.
I personally think that these companies can be helpful to those looking for a senior housing option that suits their, or their loved one’s, needs. I caution those using these agencies, however, to understand that not every option out there is listed with placement companies. If a senior housing company does not choose to be listed with a placement service company, that option will not be offered, even if that particular housing option might be the very best choice for some families: cost-wise, location-wise, and even service-wise.
In a news update, Michael Berens’ article, State gets tough on referrals for elder care, we see that attention is now being directed at these placement referral companies in the hopes that those they serve – vulnerable adults in need of some sort of daily care – are protected from those companies who are simply aiming to make a profit at the most vulnerable time in an elder’s life.
As I mentioned in previous articles found in my blog category, Senior Housing, there are numerous resources available for those looking for senior housing for themselves or a family member. Please go to that category and type in a search term in the space located on the right-hand side of the page to find the topic that interests you most.
Part 5, of Seniors for Sale: Hiding Harm: the human toll, is one example of the lack of reporting that goes on in some assisted living residential settings – in this case – an Adult Family Home (AFH).
When you watch the video link above, you’ll be shocked at how a particular accident happened – and its after effects on the victim – and you’ll be horrified at how long it took before it was reported to the police.
Perhaps this statistic will provide a partial explanation:
only 16% of all incidents of elder abuse are reported.
Not only are many caregivers not reporting incidents of abuse that occur; surprisingly, family members fail to get beyond the denial stage when they discover that their loved one just might be in danger in the very location entrusted to his/her care. They can’t believe that the caregiving solution they found for their loved one has turned out to be disastrous in every way.
The police investigator for this case states the following:
We don’t tolerate domestic violence, but that’s not always the case with elder abuse.
The final episode of Seniors for Sale will be submitted tomorrow, Saturday.