Watching each other’s backs.

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I found myself walking with horse blinders on my head at a grocery store the other day.  I was on a mission – picking up a few items and moving on to the next errand on my list.

Huell's image on a milk bottle
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As I passed a woman in a wheelchair, I thought I might have heard her say something but I moved on a couple steps until she repeated herself: “Excuse me, could you help me?”  I then turned around to find that she couldn’t reach the half gallon of milk that she needed because it was on a shelf 8 feet off the ground.  Unless someone helped her she would have to cross milk off her shopping list.  My 6 feet of deaf human self easily grabbed the milk off the shelf.  I only wish I had been tuned in to someone other than ME so I had responded immediately instead of being asked twice.

Was I a BAD person for not responding quicker?  No – but I sure wasn’t watching my neighbor’s back.

Seattle actor, Brian Sutherland was watching his neighbor’s back as told in the Seattle Times article, “A bad guy on the screen becomes a real-life hero.”    This 27-year old man saw a suspected purse snatcher steal a 69-year old woman’s purse and chased him down – managing to retrieve part of her purse’s contents and return them to her.  But that’s not all!  Once he returned the items to the woman he decided to go after the thief!!!  Read the linked article I’ve provided and you’ll think Brian was doing some stunts in a movie in which he might have acted: leaping over fences, darting through alleyways – he was amazing!!!

I’m not saying that the average Joe, or Jill, should attempt what he did but what I am saying is that we should have the same commitment to others as Brian has.  Brian is quoted as saying, “We need to be watching each other’s backs and standing up for each other.  There’s no good reason why somebody who’s lived to 60 or 70 should be jacked on the street in broad daylight.  Our society should just not work that way.”

I agree Brian.  And there’s no good reason why someone in a wheelchair should have to ask for help twice.  I blew it the other day because my selfishness initially made me deaf and blind to a woman who simply needed a half gallon of milk.

I’ll do better next time.

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The Contentious Alzheimers Patient: You Can Be Right or You Can Have Peace

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The Contentious Alzheimers Patient: You Can Be Right or You Can Have Peace.

This article from The Alzheimer’s Reading Room provides much wisdom and guidance when it comes to making choices when communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles on my Blog, “If you don’t insist, they can’t resist.”

Caregivers: learning from our mistakes.

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“Once bitten, twice shy.”  The Chinese and Japanese proverb has a variant:  “One year bitten by a snake, for three years afraid of a grass rope.”

Perhaps Champagne is the answer?
Perhaps Champagne is the answer?

How does one who is as imperfect as myself apply this Proverb without writing an article that goes on and on into perpetuity?  All of us can think of circumstances in which we fail to learn by experience and continue doing the same stupid/inadvisable thing over and over again expecting different results.  As I said, my life is rife with examples, but this article centers around caregiving – especially as it applies to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  CAVEAT: I would never write on something about which I had not experienced.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I’ve paid for my mistakes.

I’m so tired of my spouse/father/mother asking me the same question over and over again and supplying her with the same answer over and over again!

Anyone with a loved one who has any type of dementia has lived in this unending vicious cycle.  We think that if we just answer the question one more time she’ll remember and not ask the question again.  Or we think that if we just spoke louder – or slower – she would certainly remember and life would be infinitely improved.  Not happening.  Answer the question once, and then move on to another topic.  Change the subject; redirect your loved one by doing something that will distract her; or simply don’t respond at all.  What ever you do, don’t aggravate the situation by reminding her that you’ve already answered that question numerous times so why don’t you stop already!!!???  Take a deep breath and remember: your spouse isn’t the one asking questions over and over again and frustrating you beyond all measure – the disease is asking the questions.  I know – intellectually you understand that concept, but your eyes see and hear your spouse pestering you for an answer over, and over again, so it’s very difficult to get beyond the emotion of the situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

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Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia..

This post, from a wonderful Blog about caregiving, http://www.letstalkaboutfamily.wordpress.com provides an excellent idea.  It’s never too late to start this project for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Long Term Care Insurance scares me.

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insurance, n. A thing providing protection against a possible eventuality.  Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition; 2004.

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Auto insurance, home or renters insurance, and health insurance – we understand these policies and know that more likely than not the need for the aforementioned insurance policies will rear its ugly head in the near or distant future so we pay the premium for said policies, hoping we won’t need it, but sleeping better at night because we have it.

Why is purchasing long-term care insurance such a difficult step to take for me and my husband?

  1. Unquestionably, it’s expensive;
  2. Fearfully, companies who offer this product are going out of business left and right and may leave us holding an empty bag;
  3. Definitely, it’s a real difficult type of policy to understand; but
  4. Undeniably, the financial need for it can outweigh the cost of purchasing it.
New Orleans, 1942. Doctor at Marine Hospital p...
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My husband and I have still not made an effort to look into it further.  Here are my two reasons based on family experience – both of which tend to contradict each other:

My father’s long-term care insurance policy.  My father had a long-term care insurance policy for which he paid premiums for at least 20 years – no small amount of money to be sure.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 84 and died five years later.  His care needs at the retirement facility in which he had lived for 13 years didn’t meet the insurance reimbursement threshold until his final month of life.  As with most policies, the insurance holder’s care needs must meet a defined level of care before the insurance company kicks in their assisted living care reimbursement payments.  When that happens, the insurance holder no longer pays any more premiums.  Twenty years of paying premiums for one month of reimbursement benefit.

My sister-in-law’s long-term care policy.  My brother and sister-in-law purchased their long-term care insurance policies when they were in their late fifties.  Less than a year later my sister-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and approximately two years later drew benefits from her policy.  A couple of years of paying premiums for what will be years of reimbursement benefit.  If that isn’t the good news/bad news of long-term care insurance I don’t know what is!

I have no excuse. I know the devastating costs of long-term care because in my past professional life I worked for a senior housing provider and they represented the Champagne & Chandelier variety of assisted living.  But even the generic assisted living providers charge high rental rates and as ones’ care needs increase, so do the care fees.  This isn’t avoidance behavior on my part and I’m not squeamish about the subject of health and ones’ eventual death.  I’m just finding it hard to take this leap into signing up for insurance, even though it holds the assurance of fending off the potential of total personal financial collapse without it.

How are you Baby Boomers dealing with this subject?  If you finally bit the bullet and purchased a policy – how did you finally take that leap of faith?

I AM NOT LOOKING TO BE BOMBARDED BY SELLERS OF INSURANCE AS A RESULT OF THIS BLOG ARTICLE SO PLEASE DON’T GO THERE.  But I welcome other constructive feedback for those of us on the brink of making this difficult decision.

Light bulb moments.

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U.S. Patent by Thomas Edison for an improved e...
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Q:  How many car salesmen does it take to change a light bulb?

A: I’m just going to work this out on my calculator, and I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.

Q: How many bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb?

A:  Two; one to assure us that everything possible is being done while the other screws the bulb into a water faucet.

Thomas Edison built the world's first large-sc...

AND FINALLY – FROM THE INVENTOR HIMSELF:

Thomas Edison spent years trying to invent the electric light, testing and retesting.  Finally, late one night, he got the bulb to glow.  He ran out of his laboratory, through the house, up the stairs to his bedroom.

“Honey,” Edison called to his wife, “I’ve done it!”

She rolled over and said, “Will you turn off that light and come to bed!”

Sufficient caregiver training: vulnerable adults deserve nothing less.

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Local and Federal governments have more red on their accounting ledgers than black.  Citizens balk against any raise in taxes, regardless of how infinitesimal the increase.  The same citizens demand more services from their government.  How does one get what they need without paying for it?

THEY DON’T.

I’m not a politician – and never will be.  I’m not a brilliant person nor do I fully understand all the nuances inherent in government bureaucracies.  About this one thing, however, I am absolutely certain: many valuable services that were initially set in place for those considered vulnerable in our society are still desperately needed for even a modicum of dignity and quality of life.  Did the needs suddenly disappear?  NO.  Did the vulnerable in our society somehow experience a miracle and are now fully capable of managing their lives on their own?  NO.  The needs are still there and the vulnerable in our society are being pushed to the wayside and are slipping through the cracks.  Do I like paying taxes?  NO.  I guess I’m wondering how to generate funds for needed programs without “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  Taking from one program and sliding it over to a different program robs other needed services.  If ever there was a Catch-22, this is it.

Let’s look at caregiver training.  In Washington State, in the year 1996, caregivers were only required to pass First Aid training, CPR and HIV training, the Fundamentals of Caregiving training (22 hours), and had to successfully pass the State’s criminal background check.

In a Seattle Times article printed January 23, 2000, Push on for more caregiver training, the following statement begins the article:

With a first-aid card and some training about CPR and HIV, you can find yourself a challenging new job caring for the elderly and infirm, bathing them, feeding them, and fielding punches from them.  For this you can make about $7.50 an hour.  At McDonald’s, you can make more slinging burgers and fries.  It’s a wonder anyone cares for the elderly and infirm at all.

The year 2000.  For the third time in four years, the Washington State’s long-term-care ombudsman (who is independent of any government agency) pushed for more training for caregivers.  “The Legislature and the industry both need to step up and say this is an important key profession…People who take care of human beings are important people.”  State bill I-1029 passed which would increase the number of required training hours and implement specialty training for residents with special needs such as dementia, mental health, and developmental disabilities.    Implementation of this Bill’s provisions was delayed and set to go into effect March 1st, 2002.

Fast forward to February 2002.  Let’s look at another Seattle Times article, Caregiver-training issue causes split in state’s long-term-care community.  After the Bill from the year 2000 passed, the Department of Social and Health Services didn’t get the training curriculum revised in time for the March 1st, 2002 implementation so the State Legislature delayed the start-up of the new training requirements to September 1, 2002.  Private providers of long-term care – those not accepting Medicaid – would have to foot the bill to provide employee training, most certainly passing the costs along to their residents.  Long-term care facilities that accept Medicaid payments would rely on the State Medicaid program to provide the mandatory additional training and the State contended that the budget does not exist to provide the mandated training voted into law from initiative I-1029.  Time to go back to the drawing board.

Bear with me.  Fast forward to November 2008.  Let’s look again at another Seattle Times article, Voters back more caregiver training.  In 2008 a revised caregiver training Bill was passed requiring a training increase from 34 to 75 hours for new long-term care workers and required caregivers to undergo a Federal criminal background check.  This bill passed overwhelmingly.  It’s great that the citizens of my fair State decided that anyone taking care of the vulnerable should be held to a high standard.  Oops – in the same voting cycle, initiatives that would have imposed taxes on candy, soda pop, and other piecemeal purchases failed big time.  These miniscule, microscopic taxes would have saved vital services for the vulnerable and would have helped the State pay for the “mandated” new training.  No money – no increased training – no Federal background checks.

One more time.  Fast forward to November 2011.  Washington voters asked to boost caregiver training again, Seattle Times.  The Legislature delayed the implementation of the 2008 Bill because of budget cuts.  And during the voting cycle of 2011, a re-worked caregiver training initiative made it to the ballot once again as Initiative I-1163, right in the middle of an ever-increasing budget crisis, and the Washington State voters overwhelming approved it.  Implementation of the new training and background check requirements are set to start in 2012.  Lawmakers pushed implementation to 2014 but the good news is that the Legislature won’t be able to delay implementation of the new requirements without a two-thirds majority.  As of March 1, 2012 – the Washington State legislature has yet to finalize any enactment of the Bill protecting vulnerable adults; those that the voters of my state approved – and voted for – numerous times since the early 1990’s…stay tuned…

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN YOUR STATE?

HOW IS YOUR STATE PROTECTING YOUR VULNERABLE ADULT POPULATION?