Today, I switch roles from the caregiver blogging perspective to that of the care receiver–
specifically, the aging parent.
If you’re a caregiver/son, daughter, please read this post.
You need to put yourself in their shoes.
But I don’t want to live with my adult children!
I don’t blame you. Me neither.
(And I wrote the book, Mothering Mother–and my mom lived with me the last (almost) three years of her life!) But that’s my point–my mother lived on her own–with Parkinson’s and early dementia until she was 89 years old!
We’ll all be in this predicament one day–if we live that long–so we need to be empathetic.
My kids are grown, responsible, and we all love each other–and I still don’t relish the thought of permanently living with them! I am a big proponent of family caregiving–but do it when the time is right.
No one wants to give up their independence.
We like things our way, our household “rules,” TV shows, and favorite laundry detergent. Things seemingly insignificant choices give us a sense of autonomy and joy to every day life.
I don’t want to be a burden.
I hear this a lot. I feel it on a personal level, but know that when it’s necessary–cancer, end of life, when it’s really needed, then it’s not a burden. It’s a privilege–
Ad you still have much to give.
Encourgement, humor, appreciation, family togetherness is a rare and precious gift and should not be under-appreciated.
I feel privileged to have children. And I know if/when I have to, we would all do our best to make it work. I’m grateful I have the option if I needed it.
There are many people who do not have children. Or their children are not able or willing to help.
No time for a pity party. Get busy! Use this as a catalyst to get busy doing just that–planning your life–for quality and purpose.
If you don’t want to live in a care facility (prematurely, and hopefully never) or with someone else–family member or not, then I (and you) better have a plan.
Note: Decide today to be okay how your life turns out–either way. Who knows what wil happen?
Have you heard of the aging in place movement?
The National Aging in Place Organization is about collaboration and education to live at home as long as possible.
Aging in Place includes building/altering your home so that you can stay there safely as long as possible.
It might also include a ramp, ample doorways and bathrooms for wheelchair accommodation, safe flooring, and even a space for live-in care. It’s up to each individual to make these arrangements to suit (by anticipating) their needs. This term is also loosely used to help individuals begin to plan for their future in terms of how and where they want to live as life progresses.
Aging in place might even include moving so that you are living in an area where retirement and aging is not only enjoyable, but that you also have ample resources within your community for the care you might need.
Or…it might include living close enough to your adult children so that they can easily check on you and manage your care without having to live with you. ( I know of three families in our neighborhood whose mothers/parents also live in another house in the neighborhood).
Recently, after Tropical Storm Faye, I saw one of the son-in-laws picking up debris out of his mother-in-law’s yard. At least he didn’t have to drive an hour or two to do this little chore–or worry about someone charging her an exorbitant price for a job that took less than an hour.
How to Arrange Your Life So That You Can Live at Home Longer:
(consider one or more of the following suggestions)
- Move your bedroom on the first/main floor
- Do a computer search or call your council on aging and get a list of all your community’s resources now. Don’t wait until you need help to start this process.
- Consider redoing your main bath to accommodate a wheelchair/walker–and make your shower easy to get in and out of
- If your spouse has passed away, consider a roommate. Finish a garage or basement if you’d like it to be more private and separate. This $10-20,000 investment (if it’s done well) could give you added years at home–you could even trade rent for care.
- Be sure that if you choose to do this that you both sign a contract for renting, you get driver’s license info, run a background check and never ever give them access or personal/financial information.
- Even though there are risks involved, having someone live with you or on your property can provide a certain sense of security, companionship, and allow you to stay home much longer than living alone.
- Consider an alarm system if you feel you live in an area where you’re vulnerable to break-ins. Check with your local police to see if this is a common occurrence. Elders can be targets for easy crimes.
- Don’t blab to every cable and lawn guy that you live alone. Always act like your son/nephew is in the house, coming home, on the phone. Even if you don’t have one–never let others think you’re always alone. Don’t be an easy target!
- Consider “the button,” a monitoring device you wear in case you fall. There are systems that will call and check on you morning and night (of course, you pay extra for this), but it might give you and those who love you a peace of mind to know that you can call for help at any time.
- Wear the thing! My mom was terrible about leaving it on a piece of clothing she wasn’t wearing, forgetting where it was–and caregivers, family members–if your loved one has memory loss, this may not help them. They won’t necessarily remember they have “the button” on, or even what it’s for!
- Get rid of clutter now! Clutter can cause you to fall and gets to be a real hassle for those caring for you. Don’t leave this to your family to do later–give those sentimental items to your family members now so that you can see the joy on their face when they use their grandmother’s dishes or wear a family heirloom piece of jewelry
- Gather all your important documents–insurance info, cards, prescriptions, life insurance, house insurance and living will. Place these items in a portable box and let your loved ones know where it is–for easy access.
- Do that living will now–don’t make your loved ones have to guess or fight over whether you’d want to be put on a ventilator or not. Be clear. Make several copies and give them to all the important peopel–one for you, your main doctor, the hospital you’re likely to go to, and one or two loved ones/guardians who would get to you quickly in times of emergency.
- Get a recliner chair that can lift you out easily (consider this your next purchase when the current chair needs to be replaced)
- Eventually consider a bed that is motorized–this added expense really helps if you have back problems and can sometimes be covered on insurance
- Place tread on any slick floors inside or outside your house to avoid slipping
- Remove any throw rugs that might trip you–(you may need to do this later or if you tend to shuffle)
- Begin to think about your options if/when you can no longer drive–is there a senior van in your area? Friends/neighbors who you can ride with or will pick up a few items for you? Even consider a taxi–most areas have taxis (even if you’ve never used one in your area before, they’re probably there). Don’t sit at home and waste away–even if your eyes or your coordination begin to wane, you can still get out and enjoy life.
- Continue to be a part of your local church/temple. Make friends–you need them, and they need you! Churches and community organizations are there to help. Let them. Helping others make us feel good–don’t be so stubborn and independent that you don’t allow someone else to give and feel good. If someone is willing to pick you up to take you to Sunday School or choir practice–let them~ You still get to go to an activity (which is good for you), and they feel like they’ve helped someone. Win-win.
- Get to know your neighbors. You can all keep an eye on each other. Be nice to the kids in your neighborhood–they can rake your leaves or bring you the mail. Most children and even teens long for a grandparent and don’t get to see theirs enough. Wave! Smile, get to know their moms and dads so they trust you. Bake a cake and take it to them. Cultivate relationships. Old-fashioned neighborliness and friendship never grows old and is never out of style.
- Choose where you want to pass away. Hospice offers you the choice to spend your last few months/weeks/days at home and can offer palliative care (pain management). Most people choose to be in their own home and to surrounded by those they love. Let people know now–most areas of the country have access to hospice. The diagnosis is that you have a life-limiting condition with a diagnosis or a year or less to live.
- Don’t wait until the last minute–ask for hospice. Anyone can refer you to hospice (including yourself or your physician). Also know that many cities have more than one hospice with varying levels of care and options. Check them out to see what’s available to you.
Plan now. If you’re over 50, then you better start planning. Having a 401K isn’t enough. It doesn’t take care of the details and quality of life–and money won’t fix everything.
Adapt your house to suit your aging needs.
If it’s not too late, and you need to, move closer to family so that it’s not hard for them to drop by and check on you.
And…or…live in a community that is “elder friendly,” with lots of resources.
Stay involved with people. Accept their help. Give back any way you can. A smile, a hug, homemade cookies will get you lots of friends. Neighbors are important. Do more than wave. You might need them one day.
Stay/get involved in church and other community activities. The more plugged in you are, the more people you have in your life, the more your mind/body stays active. Staying active will keep you at home.
No longer driving is not the end of the world. Figure out how to make it work–taxi, community van, church members/neighbors.
Consider a roommate or a family member living arrangement. Just be safe, sign a contract, and do a background check. ( I know of several nieces/nephews who are young and starting out in life by sharing a house with an aunt or grandmother).
Get help when you need it–hiring day-time care is cheaper than a care facility. There are many great companies such as Comfort Keepers who are licensed, bonded, flexible and reasonable–usually less than $20.00 an hour.
Wherever you are and whatever life throws at you–continue to smile, see the good, and find ways to give and receive love.
Carol D. O’Dell, and I hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon, other online stores and in bookstores. Kunati Publishing