Posts Tagged ‘best friends’

Caregivers are feeling the pinch just like everyone else, but there is a difference. Many caregivers are used to caregiving on a dime. They’ve been on a “controlled” budget for years, and yet they may be reeling from their shrinking savings, or a recent change in insurance coverage that leaves them short. Another worry. How can caregivers make ends meet and not compromise case for their loved ones?

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with two very saving people. My parents were married in 1929 (and we all know what happened that year, managed to find jobs through the depression, then Daddy fought in WWII. I’m one of those kids that grew up with stockpiles of canned goods in every closet.

My mother was the original recycler–bread wrappers, aluminum foil, buttons, shoe strings…you name it and it got reused. But when my mom got Alzheimer’s and I became her caregiver, let me tell you, all that worrying and hoarding turned ugly. She fixated on things (part of the disease), and sadly, fear and worry grew with age. Being a sand-gen mom meant I had to keep everybody going–meals, laundry, meds, doctor appointments, kid’s needs filled my head and my heart and my hands. As it should be.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to clip coupons or turn lights off in unused rooms. You know to put extra water in your soup and buy day old bread. I’m more concerned you’ll take “saving” too far and not get the things you really need.

It’s not easy, but I want you to know that you can do this. You can figure out how to handle your finances even in this tough, crazy time.

Caregivers possess a very important skill: ingenuity.

We’re problem solvers par excellent. We’ve had to figure out how to budget our time, our strength, our groceries, and even our sleep. And if you’ve gained a skill in one area, you can transfer that ability to another area.

So I’m going to give you some strange advice: Don’t go crazy with cutting back.


Because you have enough on your plate.

Because you’re probably already pretty saving.

Because you already have enough to worry about.

Because it’s best to concentrate on one or two areas where you really can save or get help.

Because your loved needs you to care more about your relationship than saving six bucks at the grocery store.

Because time is precious–even more precious than money. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy you hear in the news. It’s easy to panic. But panic won’t help. Turn off the news. Put on a CD, some music, a book on tape–whistle, call a friend.

Your role as a caregiver, (which also means you’re a spouse, a daughter, a son) means that you don’t get to freak out. You have many hats to wear. Your job is to keep the big picture in perspective–managing everything from your home to your health, from your loved one’s health (including mental health), and even dealing with issues of the dying process–grief, hospice, and death. You have to know when to forget the world and just hold hands.

If you’re considering doing without something–lights, heat, filling up your car with gas, renewing your license, foregoing that doctor’s appointment, or eating red meat–ask yourself this question: Can I live with the consequences of doing without this? If the answer is no, or it’s really taking a chance, then it’s not worth the risk. You can actually wind up spending more money by doing without something necessary–and then trying to play catch up.

 Caregive on a Dime:

  • Is your car older and paid off? You might want to consider changing your coverage and drop your comprehensive coverage. Your insurance will go down, but realize that if your car is stolen, vandalized or weather damaged, it won’t be covered. You’ll only be covered if you “collide” with another car. 
  • Ask your doctor before changing your prescriptions to the generic version. Why? Not all geriatric meds work the same. I know someone who had a reaction when switching to generic–it caused major problems. 
  • Ask. Ask your bank if you should refinance (assuming your home isn’t paid off). Ask for a discount. Ask for assistance. You’re entitled to services you probably don’t even know about. Call up your senior center or your elder affairs office and start asking for help.
  • Consolidate houses, cars, and incomes. More and more families are doing the multi-generational living thing. It makes sense–brothers, sisters, ex’s, and parents are all figuring out ways to live together.
  • Ask if you qualify for any prescription programs or trials. Ask your doctor, your pharmacist, or your elder affairs office for more details.
  • While coupon cutting and sales can help, a caregiver is stressed for time. Don’t kill yourself driving to three stores to get your basic groceries.
  • You can get free or reduced price supplies for adult diapers, food supplements, and other home health aid products. Check at www.qualityeldercare.com, or www.elderdepot.com, or  www.agingpro.com. Keep asking and keep looking for what you need.
  • Choose to be happy right where you are. Live small, but find ways to give yourself a few creature comforts.
  • Watch out for depresssion. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s easy just to hunker down and try not to move–but that’s not healthy. Be sure to do the simple things–take your vitamins, stretch, call a friend, and get outside at least ten minutes a day for that very necessary vitamin D.
  • If things get mad, make some noise. I call it having a “Shirley MacLaine Moment.” Remember Shirley in Postcards from the Edge when she lets loose on the nurse in order to get pain medication for her daughter? Sometimes you have to let loose. Yell, demand, make noise. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t cave in and give up. Don’t go hungry or do without needed medication. Call up a local church, shelter, senior center and tell them how bad your situation is–oh, and don’t forget those relatives you rarely ever hear from–call them too. But don’t cry wolf–a lot of people are in dire circumstances–and you may only get one shot at help, so use it wisely.

Keep life simple, appreciate life, and keep it all in perspective. You’ve lived long enough to see good times and challenging times. The only constnat is change. Please know that there are people out there who care, so don’t sit behind your front door and give up.  Hope is your greatest weapon. Hope is food for your soul.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother

Read Full Post »

Boston Legal has a new storyline. Denny, played by William Shatner, has Alzheimer’s.

What’s great is that Denny is and always has been a bigger-than-life character who says and does outrageous things, is and was a shameless but rather harmless womanizer, and while he’s irritating and embarrassing, he’s brillant as a lawyer, and endearing.

Sounds like many people I know who also have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the great equalizer. I was recently talking to a support group, and one woman’s husband had been a construction worker all his life, and another woman’s husband was a lawyer and taught at Yale. Both had Alzheimer’s, and the women sat next to each other sharing comfort and support. It didn’t matter “who” they were or what they did. On that day, what mattered was a strength, love, and committment their family members gave that kept them going.

Alzheimer’s may alter a person’s personality, but the true sorrow comes when it obliterates it.

This usually happens toward the end stage of this disease, in stage six or seven, in years three to eight, depending on the person’s age and other complications.

As frustrating, scary, and utterly exhausting Alzheimer’s is, the real sorrow comes when your loved one is truly lost–lost to movement, thought, and emotion. Then, you long for the cantankerous days, the fights, the chaos because that’s when they were ironically, alive.

Denny Crane is played flawlessly by William Shatner, and his Alzheimer’s was not addressed at first. You simply knew what he said or did was…off. I have to admit, I thought of it, but I have experience. He’s young, in his sixties. Less than 10% of the people who get Alzheimer’s get it that young, and the numbers increase with age. Those above 85 years old have a 50% chance.

Denny’s quirkiness covered his dementia.

Are you blaming quirkiness, fussiness, meanness instead of looking at an underlying problem/issue?

Then, Denny was diagnosed, and they had several episodes of dealing with this as a law office, as co-workers, as lovers, and as friends. Last week’s episode dealt with Shirley Schmidt’s  father (she’s played by Candice Bergen) who was hospitalized and sufferiing with the last stages of this horrendous disease.

Shirley asked for a morphine drip. That’s usually considered palliative care and is used by regularly by hospitals and hospice and is reserved for diseases such as cancer that usually have a lot of pain. Alzheimer’s isn’t known for its physical pain. The nurses and doctors knew her reasoning.

Morphine drips are also used to allow a person to die. The dosage is increased, and the person simply drifts out. It’s considered humane for someone who is suffering.

The doctor’s refused. I’m not surprised. Candice got a court order. She had to tell Denny he couldn’t argue the case. His best friend, Alan Shore, played by James Spader argued the case.

Is physical pain the only kind of pain there is? Is it any less ethical to give morpheme to a person with Alzheimer’s who can no longer eat, communicate, or swallow on their own?

 Alan became quite empassioned. He couldn’t help it. He related it to Denny, to his best friend, and in many ways, you could see he was grieving what will come. What would he do if it was Denny? At the end of the closing, he told the court that his best friend had early stage Alzheimer’s, and that he had already vowed that no matter how hard it would be, he would find a way for his friend to leave this world with dignity.

They won the case. Shirley’s father was allowed to pass quietly and peacefully with his daughter by his side.

The last scene of Boston Legal always takes place on a penthouse patio overlooking the city. Denny and      are smoking cigars and drinking scotch and pondering life. Two best friends who may eventually become caregiver and care receiver.

Denny tells Alan that he heard his closing arguement, and then, like a couple of ten year-olds, he asks if his best friend would like to spend the night.


I’m not trying to get into the ethical debate of euthanasia, mercy killing, or anything else you want to call it.

What I wish to say is that Alzheimer’s is no longer a disease that’s mentioned in whispers.

It’s rippling ( or ripping) into our homes, our communities, our movies with such recent hits as Oscar nominated Away From Her, and now it’s making television.

What Boston Legal is doing right is that they’re not in a hurry with the storyline and so far, they haven’t written off this complex and entertainig character. 

They had 9.29 million viewers last week.

They’re showing the progression of Alzheimer’s to 9.29 million viewers.

This may not be their only agenda, but they’re a messanger. all the same. 

They’re portraying a character you already love, and love to hate, and now, after years of this crazy, quirky, shock-talking guy you care about whether you want to or not, and he hapens to have Alzheimer’s.

He’s your Uncle Joe, and this hits you in the gut. If he can get it…

As Alzheimer’s increases, I hope the media follows producer’s David E. Kelley’s lead and creates intelligent, vibrant discussions iand storylines in which Alzheimer’s is a part of–something we can learn, talk about, laugh about..and even cry.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Family Advisor at www.caring.com

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon and in most bookstores



Read Full Post »