It happens every day, you know. But when I hear about it happening to friends or friends of friends, it makes me so sad. It’s not inevitable that it has to happen this way. Yes, we are all going to get older and as we age, our bodies will wear out and things will happen. However, when we fight that to avoid it, and fight against each other, it makes it harder than it should be.
Let me tell you the recent story of Anna and her husband, Greg.
It started about a year ago when Anna’s mother-in-law, Jean, had a stroke. It left her partially paralyzed and unable to manage on her own. She was lucky to have her husband, Bob, with her to help, although Bob was in the early throes of Alzheimer’s. With Jean losing her mobility, they couldn’t stay in the home they had lived in and taken care of for close to 30 years.
Anna and Greg helped the couple sell their home and take a residence in a retirement community. While they were managing day-to-day, there was a significant shift in Jean’s personality. While she had always been brusque and demanding, she became prone to outbursts and a growing meanness. It was tough for Anna and Greg to face the hostility as they did the best they could to make sure Jean and Bob were safe, taking their meds, and eating. Greg took over the finances because neither Jean nor Bob could do it any longer. But Jean questioned every expense and payment, accusing Greg of squandering and stealing their money.
It was tense and the stress was almost too much for Anna and Greg, but they felt it was their responsibility to care for Greg’s parents. As much as they tried to get Jean and Bob to work with them to find solutions, the more Jean fought with them. Bob was quiet and just said, “Well, you know how she is.”
Finances were extremely tight and when the monthly fees in the retirement community went up, the couple had to move and they couldn’t find another retirement facility that was within their budget. The only alternative was an apartment on their own.
Then one morning, Bob twisted around when doing the dishes and fell. He hit his head on the counter and Jean couldn’t get him up. Instead of calling 911, Jean called Greg, saying only that Bob had fallen. Greg hurried, but didn’t know it was life threatening. When Greg arrived, Bob was still unconscious on the floor.
Greg called 911 and the ambulance took Bob to the hospital. Jean told Greg to go, that she would be okay on her own. Greg called Anna to come stay with Jean and went to the hospital. When it was determined that Bob had broken his hip and would have to have surgery, Jean decided she wanted to go to the hospital. Anna had to get Jean into their vehicle and maneuver Jean’s electric scooter wheelchair onto the carrier attached to the back, secure it, and take Jean to the hospital. Having never done this before, Anna was unsure how to make sure the wheelchair wouldn’t fall off and it took time. All the while Jean was yelling at her and calling her names because it took too long and she was ready to go – NOW.
They got through the surgery and Bob was sent to a rehab facility. The next day, the arrhythmia began. Bob had a pacemaker and it reacted to the heart’s wild pumping. The physicians were doing everything they could, but they could not manage to get the heart back into a normal rhythm. The result was that after two days, Bob died.
But it wasn’t over. No, far from it. For now Jean had no one to help her get through the days. She told Anna and Greg that she wouldn’t allow any home healthcare nurse or aid coming into her home. Several days passed with Anna and Greg helping her every day with basic hygiene and food preparation. They discovered she wasn’t taking her medications and she told her son that she wouldn’t take them if she didn’t want to take them.
The last straw for Anna and Greg was when Jean’s doctor told her that she needed 24-hour care. Jean didn’t say much until they were in the car going home. Then she said the doctor was wrong and she’d be just fine on her own. She didn’t need anyone to do anything – and they better get used to that.
Anna and Greg know she’s wrong, but they feel powerless. At this point, they are just waiting for the next crisis and a solution that they know Jean won’t like will be forced on them all.
There are several tragedies in this story:
This is the sort of situation that adult children and their parents deal with every day. While it may be true that health issues and emergencies will arise, handling them together with a plan makes it much easier to wade through the troubled waters.
Anna and Greg feel like they are just waiting for the final blow, helplessly on the sidelines. The best advice for adult children is to start the conversation with your parents EARLY. Don’t wait until it is an emergency situation. Have a “just in case” plan. Talk about and address these issues:
These aren’t easy topics to discuss, but, it is in everyone’s best interest to get them out into the open and on the table. Yes, parents want to maintain their privacy and independence. Their adult children just want them to be safe, healthy and happy.
The daily call made by Keeping In Touch Solutions care callers is one piece of the puzzle to build peace of mind for everyone. Your mom looks forward to a call every day, especially if she can’t get out on her own and lives alone – like Jean does now. You can go to work without tension on your shoulders from the worry about Mom – you know someone, besides you, is checking on her and maybe even reminding her to take her meds.
Just like your kids listen more to others than you sometimes, your parents may be more likely to listen to someone else when being told to do something. Maybe Mom will take her meds if the care caller reminds her it’s in her best interest.
Start the conversation, even if it’s a little tense. When things aren’t shared until a tragedy strikes, everyone is surprised – and that’s not always a happy surprise.
When you need help to get started or find resources, contact us at Keeping In Touch Solutions. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.
A daily check-in call could be the lifeline, the joy you give someone that makes the biggest difference in their perception of what old age is like.
Contact me at 317-480-1038 today. Let’s make a difference together.
I’m Diana Beam, Founder of Keeping in Touch Solutions. It is my heartfelt desire for every person to live a happy and healthy life in the place they call home, no matter what their age. You can’t put a price on peace of mind for your parents and yourself. It’s priceless . . . and significant.
For that reason, the goal of every Keeping In Touch Solutions program is to provide a caring connection and service that both the elderly and their caregivers can rely on to make living that good life easier.
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