National Public Radio
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?
Planning for a wedding? FUN!!!!!
Putting together an extended vacation to a tropical paradise? EXHILARATING!
Figuring out how to help mom and dad with their increasing care needs? UNEXPECTED!
A recent National Public Radio (NPR) Story: Preparing for a Future that includes Aging Parents addresses the unexpected, and the unplanned for. Whether because we’re kidding ourselves or we really believe it, we oftentimes can’t imagine our parents as anything but the energetic, robust, independent mom and dad with whom we grew up. And if we don’t live near them, we’re falsely sheltered in our assumption that mom and dad are doing just fine; at least they were the last time we saw them during the Holidays! If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we’ll admit that our infrequent visits with the parents shock us greatly as we notice a bit of feebleness in their manner, because as the above story states, “time does what it does.”
Surprisingly, only 13% of some 4,000 U.S. workers surveyed for the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report considered that the need for long-term care would affect their household. We love to live blissfully ignorant, don’t we? We have so many of our own stresses and pressures associated with running our family household, we’re just not going to entertain having to be on-point with our parents’ needs as well. Guilty!
I became a long-distance caregiver in the Seattle, Washington area for my father who lived in an all-inclusive facility called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon. The first eight years he lived there were worry free because my father was one of those robust parents who was on the path towards living to a ripe old age. He did live to a ripe old age, dying at the age of 89, but from the age of 84 until his death, Alzheimer’s invaded our family’s peaceful existence, and I found that even as a long-distance caregiver, I was on-point 24/7.
Caveat: my parents had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance so none of us three offspring were financially responsible for my father’s care. But anyone who has been a caregiver for a loved one knows that care isn’t always equated to monetary expenditure. In my case, the constant need to travel to Southern Oregon to monitor his care and be the designated (self-designated) sibling best equipped to coordinate his care with the facility’s staff, lead to my decision to temporarily leave my career, which was, coincidentally, one in the long-term care housing industry. By the way – the answer was not to move him up to the Seattle area. His financial investment in this CCRC up to that point rendered that an untenable option.
Even though I absolutely relished this opportunity to give back to my father – and I truly did – it was very difficult on my household and me. My health temporarily suffered. Everything I did revolved around being available for my father and hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice. I lived in a five year period of dreading the ringing of my home phone or mobile phone because it most likely meant that something needed tending. And getting home and finding NO voicemails in our phone system was cause for celebration.
But enough about me.
Are you prepared for the eventuality of attending to your parents’ care or are you already on that journey?
Or maybe you are already caring for a spouse with medical or cognitive needs. How are you managing that difficult task?
Let us hear from you. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. It’s time to face the piper and be as prepared as we can for the inevitable.