Archive for category Death and Dying issues
Have you ever considered the complex job of being a caregiver for an elderly individual? Did you know that in the United States, the vast majority of care that allows older people to live at home is provided by family members?
Imagine this scenario: you are an older adult, doing all the caregiving for a spouse with dementia. You are trying to keep your life-long partner at home. You have adult children, but they live hours away, or in a different state. Your spouse with dementia can no longer drive, manage finances, or cook. Your spouse is now having trouble with simple tasks, like showering. To make things more complicated, you just found out you have stage 1 cancer. Can you manage alone? Can you afford paid help? Are you able to ask others for help? Below are some of the many tasks caregivers provide.
-provide personal care (i.e., helping with a shower)
-do household chores (clean dishes, do laundry & vacuum)
-run errands (grocery shopping, purchasing supplies, clothing)
-manage all aspect of finances
-complete yard work, and home maintenance
-provide transportation (ie, to the doctor’s office, to church, to the pharmacy)
-keep a calendar up-to-date (this can become complex depending on the diagnosis)
-coordinate or arrange volunteer or paid services (i.e., sitters)
-take time to provide companionship (i.e., going for a ride to get a favorite treat)
-shop for birthday or holiday gifts for other family members
-do end-of-life planning (i.e. creating a Living Will, updating legal documents, or even pre-planning funeral arrangements)
Some caregivers do all of this, with no help at all. It is easy to see how a spouse who is elderly, could easily become anxious, over-whelmed, depressed, and sheer exhausted- placing their physical or mental well-being on the “back burner”. Let us all take the time to reach out to the elderly we see at our place of worship, in our neighborhood, through or work, or in our extended community and ask how they are doing? Could they use some help? Or perhaps don’t ask, just bring over some cookies and start a conversation to show you care.
We all know infants and teens need a lot of sleep, because their bodies are changing so rapidly. But, when we consider adults, and the elderly, we often don’t associate sleep as something we “need”. Some people are even proud- stating to others, that they only need “5 or 6” hours of sleep.
I recently read a fascinating article regarding our “catastrophic” lack of sleep, and that research shows that it is linked to a host of fatal diseases. A professor at Berkley states that sleep deprivation affects “every aspect of our biology”. A lack of sleep has been “linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and poor mental health among other health problems”. The article goes on to say that anything less than 7 hours of sleep is bad for our health. Many view the need for more sleep as a trait of being lazy. In short, the article states that a lack of sleep is killing us, and that we need to change our view of sleep and get more of it on a regular basis!
For more, read the article below.
Currently, I am working as a hospice volunteer coordinator. Recently, I put together a list of items, or stories a parent or grandparent might want to write down and pass on. It was the passing of my grandmother, that made me think of such a list. Nene died this winter; she was 98. She hadn’t been able to communicate much for years, and the opportunity to ask these type of questions, sadly is gone.
When I think about what is the most valuable item a person could leave for another person, I think it might be an “All About Me” journal. This journal could be passed on for generations to come. If you have an elderly person in your life, or someone who is on hospice, this is a terrific thing to do.
Purchase a good quality journal (acid free paper), have the person write down the answers in their own writing (printing-not cursive), or have another individual write down the answers. If there are multiple children, find a way to make a copy of it. Finally, attach personal photos in the journal. Consider the best time to share it. An individual who completes it him or herself, may want to share it with the “receiver”, or wrap it up and place it aside for a special gift for some time in the future.
*Click below, and continue on next page for my list:
This was a very touching story of a young man named Chris (aged 31), who took in an elderly neighbor named Norma who was dying from Leukemia. He credited her with “changing his life for the better and helping to teach him to be a kinder, gentler and more compassionate person”. After she died, he posted her photo on Facebook and he wrote this message:
“To love another is not about living struggle free or never experiencing hurt or loss, but to fully and deeply open our hearts to one another without fear. Each of us is lovable even with all of our differences. Love has no boundaries”.
Do you work with seniors who have end-stage (or advanced) Alzheimer’s? Have you found it challenging to connect to them in a meaningful way? It can be difficult without knowing something about what they used to enjoy. Below is a story of Eugenia, a senior who was 100 years old and was told that she didn’t need a volunteer. Not only did she have an advanced case of Alzheimer’s, she was partially blind and had hearing difficulties.
A volunteer coordinator decided to place a volunteer with Eugenia every day of the week. Each day volunteers read to her. Volunteers also oriented Eugenia to her surroundings and the time. Week after week, Eugenia continued to be unaware of the companionship she was receiving. But one day, a young volunteer sang his university’s fight song. Then it happened- Eugenia’s feet began to tap. She bobbed her head and lifted her eyes. With all eyes on Eugenia, she looked up and spread her lips and smiled.
It took time and patience. It took finding what Eugenia needed to connect to the outside world. Her smile meant so much to those volunteers- they had finally made a connection. What she needed was music!
According to this 2015 article from New York Times, federal statistics showed that “nearly half of white Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in hospice before death, compared with only a third of black patients”. The article said that black Americans are far more likely than white Americans to choose life-sustaining interventions.
Black Americans tended to have more mistrust for the medical community and a lack of education as to the benefits of hospice care. In this regard, it is imperative for hospice workers to reach out to this community through education (Hospice 101) and the sharing of how the program has positively impacted the lives of African-Americans in particular.
Modern technology has produced something very special- a new companion for the elderly who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It is a Robotic Pet and it acts similar to a live pet, but it never runs away, has to be fed, or must make an expensive trip to the vet! These pets give these seniors a true companion and would be terrific for any activity program. The video is short, but very sweet and shows how these pets can make a real difference to your loved one. You can find these at Walmart.com.
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