Thursday, March 6, 2014
I frequently hear of seniors relocating to be near family. That makes sense. If something were to happen, it stands to reason that a person would want to be surrounded by those who know them best and could theoretically provide the best care. Unfortunately, there is not always a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow and many seniors find themselves in a strange purgatory between family and the unfamiliar.
Even in the most optimal scenario, the realities of adapting to a new environment and routine are daunting. Relocation is a difficult process at any age not simply because of the physical aspects of the transition but for the emotional difficulty of founding new friends as well. I have seen this relocation scenario play out a number of times with eerily similar results.
A grandparent (we will call her Eleanor) relocates to be closer to her family. In the absence of any friends of her own in a new environment, Eleanor's family becomes her only community. Over time, she begins to feel like an unwanted house guest. She can't put her finger on anything specific at first but with each passing week it becomes clear that relations have begun to sour. Soon Eleanor's adult children begin to clearly resent the fact that their family has gained a new(old) member. Smiles and pleasantries are less frequent on both sides which leads her to feel unappreciated and distanced from the family she gave everything up to be near. Sensing that her welcome has run out, she spends less time with the grandchildren for whom she moved to be near and more time in the cute little townhouse she purchased. Suddenly, the isolation she always feared would find her if she lived far away has located her only a few short blocks from her daughter's family. She never wanted to be a burden but a burden is exactly what she feels like.
Certainly there are seniors who manage to make late life transitions work. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule. So here are four quick and easy guidelines for making transitions work for everyone.
1. Set Babysitting Boundaries-
Young children not only add stress to a marriage, they can critically complicate a multi-generational living situation. Set clear parameters for healthy interaction AND distance. Openly and honestly discuss the role you each want to play in each other's life. For some, Sunday lunch and babysitting once a month may be plenty to foster the relationship and preserve the wanted family dynamic. For others, interaction may be much more or less frequent. In either scenario, have this talk with both adult child and adult child's spouse before making a move of any kind.
2. Design Your New Life-
If you can remember that high school boy/girlfriend whose world revolved around you then you understand the importance of having a life of your own. The activities you enjoyed in a previous community should be deliberately cultivated in a new environment. Sit down with your family and establish a plan to engage in the community of which you are going to become a part. From bridge clubs to swimming, soup kitchens to church groups; it is vital that a grandparent be actively engaged in something other than just the life of their family.
3.Take A Vacation...To Your Old Life-
The bonds which have been formed over decades should not simply be cast aside when a move occurs. In many instances, that is the unintended result. Like any relationship, old friendships must be intentionally cultivated in person. Deliberately set dates on which you will return to spend time with your old friends and neighbors. Let nothing prevent you from honoring these commitments. Make sure that your adult children understand and are similarly dedicated to helping you maintain your connection to the life you are leaving behind.
4. Family Meetings-
Take your adult child and their spouse out to dinner once or twice a year (sans kids) in order to continually cultivate an open dialogue. Use this as an opportunity to express your gratitude for the active role they are playing in helping you age successfully. Revisit the plan you created to stay accountable or amend it as needed. Listen to each other and understand that the family dynamic will constantly change as everyone ages together.
A multi-generational family can be a tremendous blessing to everyone involved. Making it work requires a significant initial investment of both time and vulnerability as well as the careful tending of master gardener. If you choose to plant the seeds, you can't be afraid to get your hands a little dirty.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
On Sunday, I watched the Academy Awards with my wife. Truth be told, we were both asleep by 9:30 and missed most of the major awards. We were, however, awake to see the award given to this year's Best Documentary Short, The Lady in Number 6.
The film is the inspiring story of the world's oldest living holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, and the optimism with which she lived her life in spite of having endured one of the most horrific ordeals imaginable. Not a traditional holocaust movie, this documentary focuses on Alice's committed belief in the power of music to uplift and transport us to a higher plane.
When asked about her experience during the holocaust, Alice posits a surprising response. "Sometimes it happens that I am thankful to have been there because this gave me..eh...I am richer than other people. My reaction on life is quite another one. All complain 'this is terrible.' It's not so terrible."
She describes meeting German soldiers after the holocaust and their shock at her amiability towards them. "They would ask: 'Don't you hate us?' I would never hate. Hatred only brings hatred."
When asked how she can look at so many horrible things to which she was a victim with such a positive outlook she says: "It depends on me. Everything is good and bad. I look at the good side."
Regarding her status as the world's oldest living holocaust survivor she states: "Only when we are so old, we are aware of the beauty of life."
Sadly, Alice passed away only a few short days before the film documenting her remarkable journey was honored before the world. I think receiving that award would have made her smile.
I would highly recommend spending $5 and taking 30 minutes out of your life to view The Lady in Number 6. It is available for both rental and purchase at www.nickreedent.com.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
It is nice to see Mr.Rogen use his fame and personal experience to bring desperately needed attention AND FUNDING to this tragic disease. Kudos.
Monday, February 24, 2014
'What if everything you knew to be true turned out to be a lie?'
Such was the question that the movie The Truman Show posed. In the film, the main character lives in a completely fabricated reality. Everything from the relationships he shares to the experiences he has are elaborately scripted and engineered products intended to please a watching television audience. Truman's entire life is lived inside the bubble of a giant dome which houses his "town." His friends, his family, even his wife are all actors, paid to play their part. Ultimately, this ruse is revealed to be nothing more than a cruel ploy to produce a television show. But what if the intentions behind a hoax were more honorable?
In the Netherlands, they have sought to answer that question.
In 2009, Hogeweyk, or Dementiaville as it has become known, opened its doors in the town of Weesp in the Netherlands. A first of its kind Alzheimer's housing concept, Dementiaville creates a world that closely resembles reality but keeps Alzheimer's and dementia patients safe. From the outside, Dementiaville looks like an ordinary town. There are shops, streets, salons, and even restaurants all designed to fabricate a normal life experience. Yet it is a fully enclosed and secure environment for the residents inside.
The living quarters within the village are designed to cater and feel completely normal to persons coming from a wide range of backgrounds. Each apartment is meticulously decorated in specific genres and is occupied by 6-8 persons including plainclothes caretakers who pass as normal residents of the village. A person of means would live in an upscale or "Goois" genre apartment thus making the transition from their authentic lives more amenable. When the resident of that apartment began to need assistance in certain areas of daily life, one of their roommates would be willing to lend a hand. Little would the resident know that their assistance would actually be coming from a qualified caregiver posing as a roommate in order to stave off any appearance of an abnormal existence.
The statistics regarding Alzheimer's and dementia are as staggering as they are tragic. While there are occasionally reports of some new wanderdrug or miracle cure on the horizon, reality for families currently dealing with this tragedy is that there is very little that can be done. Hogeweyk changes that reality. Families are now free to consider a whole new world of possibilities for the people they care most about. It may be a completely fabricated existence but to the residents of Dementiaville, it is home.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Recently, there has been considerable hub-ub in the media about age discrimination. According to a recent article on MSN Money, job hunters over the age of 55 report having a difficult time landing a job. On average, older job hunters reported spending 47 weeks looking for employment before finally landing a gig.
Federal laws protecting anyone north of 40 yrs against discrimination have been on the books since 1967. In spite of our well intentioned efforts, discrimination against older adults continues to thrive in this country.
Can we have a grown up conversation about discrimination? A real conversation where everyone puts on their big-boy(girl) pants and agrees not to throw a temper tantrum if they don't like what they read?
-How dare you!
-Of all the...!
-I am taking my toys and going home!
Phew. Now that we are rid of those people we may continue.
I openly discriminate. I discriminate in my daily life. Last night I was approaching the check out lines at Super Target. One checker was clearly superior to the other options. One checker had multiple piercings and tattoos. One checker was a female. One checker was African-American. One checker was older. One checker looked to have been a member of some sort of Bieber-cult. I surmised my options and discriminated. It would serve no purpose to tell you which lane I chose nor which checker was working my selected lane. After all, you have undoubtedly exercised the same tactics of discrimination and fully understand the scene I am describing.
While it may be unpopular to admit, I discriminate as a business owner as well. I discriminate against the tardy, the slovenly, the inarticulate, the way-too-casual-for-a-job-interview, the resumees that havint bin pruufred and the Dutch.
Of course I realize that sort of discrimination is not the issue at hand. Age discrimination according the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 only refers to the discrimination of persons older than 40. Could it be that in senior care, as in life, that sort of discrimination is a really good thing?
DISCRIMINATION- [dih-skrim-uh-ney-shuh n]
1. the act or instance of making a distinction
2. the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person belongs rather than on inidividual merit.
3. the power of making fine distinctions
Scene: A young lady walks into my office and wants to become a caregiver. I greet her upon arrival and proceed to conduct an interview. Through the interview it becomes abundantly clear that she has never worked with seniors, has little if any relevant experience and is unable to cook anything more advanced than Ramen noodles. Say it any way you want in order to make it more politically correct, she is just too young to be a caregiver.
In fairness, there are those younger persons who have wisdom beyond their years and go on to make phenomenal caregivers. (My wife jokes that I have been an 76 yr old man since my 19th birthday.)
Scene: An older man walks into my office and wants to become a caregiver. I greet him upon arrival and proceed to conduct an interview. He was a caregiver for his late wife for many years prior to her passing. He is a war veteran with a passion for history and volunteers at his local food pantry three times a week. Say it any way you want in order to make it politically correct, his age helps to make him a prime candidate.
In both instances, I have exercised discrimination. If I were hiring computer programmers for the latest social media gizmo the outcomes would likely be reversed and I could potentially find myself in the cross-hairs of the EEOC. But why? Why do we claim discrimination when it does us wrong and never admit when it serves us well?
At Home Instead Senior Care- Chapel Hill, we are proud to say that we practice discrimination. We actively seek mature CAREGivers who know what it is to grow older and have a passion for people struggling to maintain their independence. We are in desperate need of family members who, older or younger than 40yrs, have seen the difference that a great CAREGiver can make. We know the impact that we are able to make if we exercise discrimination. Additionally, we know the cost of turning a blind eye to the red flags which present themselves during our screening process. If I were in need of in-home care in Chapel Hill for a family member or loved one, I would expect nothing less.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Tennyson once quipped that "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
Isn't that sweet. Meh.
Lost love is never easy to cope with and trite, poetic words do little to console the lonely on Valentine's Day.
When most of us think about love lost we think of tragic circumstances or events which separate soulmates. We hope that one day the stars will align, the gods will shine on us, fate will lend an ear, and we will be reunited 'cause it feels so good.
Admittedly, love cut short is tragic. But what about love that runs it's course?
For a senior who has spent their entire life loving and serving one person, is the end of that relationship any less tragic?
As is so often the case, my mind is drawn to an obscure scene from a not-at-all classic movie, Deep Impact. At one point in the movie, the astronauts who are about to sacrifice themselves in order to save the world are saying good bye to their loved ones down below. The elder astronaut, Spurgeon Tanner, is a widower and has no one to whom to issue his farewell. Regarding his deceased wife, he opines to a fellow astronaut : "You're a married man; you know what it's like. Every marriage has it's[sic] good years and bad years. We ended on a really great year."
Commander Tanner expresses an emotion that I believe many seniors feel when they remember their lost love: gratitude. Gratitude for the years of laughter. Gratitude for the years that they stood together through impossible times. Gratitude for joy. Gratitude for the heartbreak made a little less painful by the person by their side. 'Tis better methinks.
Sadly, many seniors are denied the privilege of reflection by the people closest to them. We mistakenly assume that the remorse we feel about lost love is common to them. We project our own feelings that "It would be too painful for her to discuss" or that "Talking about Mom is just too hard and would only upset him." We are wrong to make those assumptions. The sting of loss cannot possibly overtake the sea of treasured moments a senior and their spouse spent a lifetime accumulating. In avoiding those often tender topics, we deny the seniors in our lives the simple joy of reminiscing.
Reject the temptation to think of 'love lost' when considering the seniors in your life this Valentine's Day. It is better to think of theirs as 'love completed.' Chances are the senior in your life has an amazing love story that they would love to tell. Giving them that opportunity could be the greatest gift you could give them today and every day moving forward.