I was confronted with a difficult realization today when talking with a co-worker. We were working with an older couple, the wife has Alzheimer’s dementia and he is her very devoted caregiver. My Coworker and I discussed the husband’s reluctance to provide needed information to access services. She pointed out to me that they were African Americans from the deep South and may be fearful of outsiders, based on past experiences with systematic racism. I then realized that so many old wounds are being opened with the recent public demonstrations of white supremacy/white nationalism. Older people are reliving the racism of the past.
Here is a great article with information we can all use. You don’t need to be a full time activist, but all of us ordinary people need to DO SOMETHING!
Everybody has a different reaction to health problems, but one response I consistently hear is, “why me?” A fair question. Life isn’t fair.
Another person recently stated over and over, “I’ve fallen apart, mentally and physically”. When he learned that his assets were depleting, he told his friend and POA, “just take me out back and shoot me.” I told him we could do a LOT better than that for him while thanking him for his service and explaining the publicly funded long term care available to him.
Another visit comes to mind when I was talking with a woman in a nursing home who just had her leg amputated. I saw her staring at my feet, exposed due to the sandals I was wearing. I was suddenly aware that I was reminding her of the leg she will never have back. Why me, she seemed to be thinking.
Then there was the individual I called to remind of some needed paperwork he had not submitted. “You have no idea what it is like to be disabled”, he stated. There is no response to that statement.
There is no place to hide when discussing matters of such importance with people. It is a part of being human myself and acknowledging the humanness in others. Again and again, I am reminded of how fortunate I am and how I must come across to people, many of whom are isolated and have little contact with people other than care providers. It is at these times that I realize the significance of this type of work, even though it is not very glamorous.
Abuelita translates to mean “dear grandmother” in Spanish. I visited the adult day program for older Hispanics recently and found several abuelitas there. I was meeting with a woman who had three younger generations there with her for the meeting, including a newborn, the baby’s mother, grandmother and great grandmother, all taking care of each other.
Around the Center, some men were playing dominoes and some of the women were helping with chores-sweeping and wiping down tables, occasionally breaking into song, singing along to the Spanish crooner playing.
Having dementia is difficult, but when compounded with a language and culture barrier, its even more so. There is a commonly held belief that Hispanic families are tight knit and don’t institutionalize their elders. This may have been true in the past, but now, family members may or may not be available to care for Abuelita 24/7. Adult Day Care is a great resource for many, but is an absolute necessity if an older family member needs 24 hour care and the Caregivers are working or in school. It also helps to give caregivers a respite break.
NADSA link Adult Day Services Locator
The long term care programs that cover the cost of adult day programs are part of the Medicaid dollars that are proposed to be drastically cut. Please consider contacting your Senator and asking that the Medicaid funding cuts are taken off the table!
One of the most wonderful parts of seeing clients in their homes and connecting older adults with long term care programs is supporting individuals and families in home settings. Along with keeping families together, it allows older adults to have their pets around, improving quality of life for all involved.
One of the most memorable pets I’ve met is Terry the cat-a very large grey cat. His owner, Marie, lives alone and has a limited support system. She told me that he comes running when she calls him Baby.
On one occasion a few years back, I brought my puppy into my workplace, which was an adult day center. One frail woman fell to her knees when she saw the puppy and held the dog with tears in her eyes. “I used to have a dog just like that and I miss her so much”, she said.
In the book, “A Man Called Ove”, there is a heartwarming subplot about his relationship with a stray cat. When Ove peacefully passes away, the cat curls up on his chest.
Pets help us to live in the present moment. It’s important to remember even when someone may be older, possibly ill or have a dementia, animals will likely provide the joy and feeling of connectedness.
I hope you enjoy this slideshow that outlines specific reasons why animals are wonderful companions for older people.
I was finding my way through a big hospital recently, following the purple diamonds on the floor to get to my destination. Every time I go there or any hospital, I am struck with how impersonal and institutional these settings are. The big business of health care takes precedence over the personal experience of people in the midst of a health crisis.
Many times I’ve see a person in a bed rolling past. The lack of dignity is remarkable.
I am reminded of my own experience with my Dad , a retired physician, when he was ill, walking along side his hospital bed when he was rolled to a CT scan. It was a helpless feeling and the CT scan wasn’t the answer for him or me.
We follow instructions because we trust it is for the best. However, there are some valuable perspectives that challenge our blind faith in health care. I plan to share some of these ideas in future posts.
I went to a training this week and was reminded of the importance of listening to what people tell us about what is meaningful in their lives. The presenter sang a version of The Rolling Stones You Can’t Always Get What you Want, but instead he sang “You get what we think you need”. The takeaway here is that people tell us all the time what they need from us, yet we let our assumptions distract us from the real message, and we make quick interpretations and assumptions.
I think this applies to all of us-we all need to be better listeners, in particular to Older Adults. What makes life meaningful for them? How can we keep those things intact when people need support from family friends and formal service providers.
A recent conversation with my Mother in Law, an expert family cook who now has her meals provided by her assisted living, reminded me of this. She lit up when discussing the special glaze she made for her ham loaf. We discussed how much we enjoyed it at holidays and provided an opportunity to ask her how she made the glaze. I saw the same spark of interest when she discussed the way she prepared rhubarb, which she has often called “the Spring tonic”. Here is a photo of her preparing her own rhubarb sauce where she resides.