Many years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Puerto Rico. Many people pass briefly through on the way to other Caribbean destinations. We talked with people with ties to Puerto Rico and decided to see more of the island by staying for two weeks and renting a car, staying in some of the smaller towns. Here are a few of my photos, while dated, show the beauty we found along the way.
I share this because I can validate the descriptions of the island as a special place with extreme physical beauty and proud and welcoming people. The people of Puerto Ricans have suffered due to Hurricane Maria and the lack of support from the federal government. It is a different response than was given to other US disasters.
A co-worker of mine tells me her family, including her 98 year old father, get by day to day with food and water not a sure thing, and they are not in a remote location. I don’t believe her story is unusual.
Take a look at this interesting story of Jason Maddy, who with a group of US veterans that call themselves “Grunt Rescue” took it upon themselves to go to Puerto Rico and help those in the isolated towns to get the assistance they need. You can look him up on Facebook, it seems to be legitimate. There are multiple posts from concerned family members who can’t get to family in remote areas of the island.
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!
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.
Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a story about a family I met-the family of a woman who is in the midst of undergoing treatment for a cancerous brain tumor. She has two adult children but is used to handling her own affairs. However, she is currently finding it difficult due to her need for help with walking and caring for herself. Her adult children are concerned and supportive, but they are also adjusting to the new relationship with their mother. She is technically an older adult, but is still in the workforce and is on a medical leave from her job. Her insurance coverage is limited for the extent of the treatment and care needed. She had to move from one facility because her coverage ran out before she was ready to return to independence. She will have more big treatment decisions and will need help from her kids. Her son shared how hard it’s been trying to figure out the best course of action. This family has a difficult road but there is also hope-she stands a good chance to get better. I think her family is a factor.
This was a reminder to me that there are many individuals in the aging community who are not well but who may return to independence after an episode of illness. There is a stereotype among professionals that aging services are the equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This is not the case and some individuals do recover. May is Older Americans Month and Im reminded it’s a good time to notice any sort of ageism we see and be careful not to perpetuate these stereotypes.