Aging Class Helps Younger People Better Understand the Elderly

An aging class called Ageless Wisdom is now being offered by UPMC Senior Services.  It is being taught by gerontology educator Betty Robinson.

This is interesting because we should face the need  for better understanding of our elderly.  We can’t always identify with  their daily struggles.  Of course, we often think we can.  After all, many of us are either part time and full time caregivers. Could we be wrong?

I have shared some of the struggles since my Dad’s recent injury.  I still feel inadequate  as I help care for him. That’s in spite of the fact we are doing better adjusting to the scores of tiny challenges his new disability brings.

Dad has difficulty climbing in and out of bed, not to mention his wheelchair.  Dressing and bathing are now major challenges.  All the little things those of us who are younger take for granted can be huge mountains of struggle for seniors.

The aging class helps students feel the normal changes many seniors go through as they age such as macular degeneration and other eye diseases.  These problems can cause driving and walking problems as well as trouble taking medications.

We don’t realize that the elderly can’t always see the colors of pills and that helps explain why they often get their pills confused and mixed up.

All of this illustrates a story I saw on the news tonight about a 93-year old woman’s house catching on fire.  Fire fighters found her in her bathtub when they arrived.  She had been trying to escape the fire and believed that was the safest place in the house.

Getting into the minds of our elderly is important as we learn more about aging and what it does to us mentally as well as physically.   The more we can feel empathy for them  the better compassionate care we can provide.  Understanding them will also help us understand ourselves  since we will be taking their place as we age.

More about Ageless Wisdom

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A long Convalescence Begins

We are now into day five of my Dad’s recovery from his last fall.

It has been a roller coaster ride of sorts and we have experienced quite a few ups and downs as we care give ourselves.  In spite of it all, we have had success but we measure it carefully, just in case anything else may happen to set him back.

One of the worst moments was last Saturday night, as I was standing in line to get Dad’s prescription filled.  I received a phone call from my brother.

Moment Crisis Hits Bottom

“What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’ve never been in a situation like this before,” he said.

The tone of his voice kind of alarmed me.  He had always been the older strong one in the family; a take charge kind of guy, not easily rattled.  But this time he sounded stumped.

“We’ll have to figure it out as we go along.  We’ll have to take it one hour at a time,” I said as felt my phone hand shaking.

Actually, what were we going to do?  Dad was going to need constant care.  It would either have to be a nursing home or we’d have to do it ourselves.   Either option was not good.

That was then and this is now.  It’s amazing how far you can go in only a few days.

We are figuring it out

That’s probably because we didn’t have a choice.

But now we’re getting used to our new schedule.  We have the toilet set up even though he doesn’t like it.  Thanks to the toilet liners changing a bed pan is now into the 21st century.   It has really improved from what it was over 30 years ago when we took care of my grandmother.

I’m still concerned about his bed which I think is  too high.  He wouldn’t allow us to lower the mattresses on the new bed frame I had bought.  ( I got it for $50 instead of $100.) So we’re saving it for later when he changes his mind.  And I also worry about new things such as will he forget to put the brakes on his wheelchair?

We’ve had friends who have  called  and a few have visited.  It means a lot.  We know they care and small kindnesses go a long way.  I’m finding out how important such small remembrances are to people in a crisis.

One of the most meaningful calls came from a tenant who found out Dad had broken his arm.   She gave me encouragement and told me not to get discouraged.  She has been caregiving  at least two of  her relatives for years.  I felt much better after talking to her.

Future Care Giving Options

We’ve been given a name of a lady and her daughters who can come to do only the tasks we specifically may need.  That’s an improvement over the agencies which insists you order care by blocks of time.  In other words, you’d have to order a caregiver for at least four hours at at time which would come to about $100 per visit.  It can certainly add up very quickly.  That’s a little too corporate for my tastes, but so far we’re doing okay on our own.

However, it’s going to be a long winter and my Dad will not be free of his cast until around April.


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New Year Brings New Care Giving Challenges

Orthopedic implants to repair fractures to the...
Orthopedic implants to repair fractures to the radius and ulna. Note the visible break in the ulna. (right forearm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have just entered a new year and a new era in our caregiving.  It has gotten more involved and more intense  during the last week.  Dad has fallen several times because of muscle weakness and has fractured several ribs and broken his wrist.

We discovered all of this partly by accident on Saturday after our barber came by to cut Dad’s hair. He noticed the swelling of the arm and  told my Dad in no uncertain tones that he needed to go to the neighborhood clinic ironically named Neighbor MD.  Sometimes it takes an outsider to make the points.  Aging parents don’t always listen to us, of course.

My  nephew and I were able to get Dad into Neighbor MD before they closed.  After long series of  x-rays we received the bad news.  We were told to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on Monday.

The good news is  we were given a CD of the x-rays so they won’t have to be taken again.  We’ve also discovered a good pleasant place to go for emergencies which is an alternative to that dreaded emergency room.

Monday’s visit gave us the bad news.  It was a bad break of the ulna bone and it will take three months in a cast.  They wrapped him up in a mummy -like orange cast for the colors of University of Tennessee.  It’s bright and probably glows in the dark for all we know.

Had he been younger they would have done surgery and it would have healed faster, but because of his age, (86) they ruled that option out.

We will have to make changes to our living arrangements.  Both Mother and Dad need more help now with daily needs.  Currently, my brother and I are working all of that out but we’re new at this and are learning on the job.

One example is my brother bought a baby monitor for Dad’s room.  It’s  loud and takes some getting used to, but if young parents can do it, I guess we can too.  We finally figured that thing out and it does help.  I knew exactly when he was getting up during the night.

Today, I’ll be out trying to buy a frame for his bed.  We bought one for mother a few months ago and it has been a lifesaver.  The frame sits on the floor and will make your mattresses much lower so you can get in and out of the bed much easier.  For around $100 it is good money spent well.

All of this goes on as my brother and I try to keep up our daily schedules.  I still have to meet with the painter to redo one of our condos this morning- still have to take care of another tenant’s complaints about his carpet, etc.  Property management goes on 24/7 regardless.

Throughout it all, we have a lot to be thankful for.  My brother was telling us about a teacher at David Lipscomb University.  The man’s father was placed in hospice care yesterday and he has to drive to Birmingham to be with him.  Then he will drive back to Nashville to teach one class on Wednesday morning.  At least all of us are in the same town with our parents.

Another one of my brother’s friends has revealed they don’t think his father will live past Thursday.  They are making funeral plans now.

We’re at a difficult time in our lives, but by helping each other we can face our new challenges in care giving.



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New Year’s Resolutions and Tips for Caregivers

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards
English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions again.  Those of us who care give probably haven’t had that much time to think about making resolutions for another tough year of taking care of our aging parents or relatives, but here is a very good list from Senior Helpers in the Rio Rancho Observer.

The list includes taking time out to take care of ourselves.

This is an important point because it is so easy to overlook.  We’re so busy caregiving for others we often don’t worry about ourselves.  We need to be healthy to get it all done.  Many of us are working 16 hours per day or longer.  Sometimes we’re up and down during the long nights and we’re not as young as we used to be.

We need to snatch cat naps when we can and we need proper exercise.  Taking a few minutes off for a “mini vacation” to the mall or eating out with friends is not being selfish.  Taking your dog out for a walk is a good way to refresh.  If we feel guilt, one of our resolutions should be  to get over it.

Another resolution covered is to get support from family and friends.  It’s okay to ask for help.  I have practiced this myself during the last few months and it is a lifesaver.  Not only have I discovered family members are willing to help but they want to.  They can take a lot of the strain off of you even with the simplest of errands.

I have also been amazed with businesses which have also helped us.  I will admit many of these are members of our church but we have a CPA and barber making house calls and they have been glad to do it.

We have even had a computer man to pick up the computer and bring it back after maintenance.   The point here is to ask.  You’d be surprised at the responses.  But another important point is we live in an urban area and we are close to their homes and businesses. That certainly helps.

I have to mention one of the biggest headaches care givers face is car problems.  We have relied on the same business for over 30 years, which is McDuffy Goodyear.  They helped me with a major car scare last summer, even giving me a ride home after they discovered my car was too dangerous to drive.

(I had  decided to stop by their shop suddenly when I didn’t like the way the car was responding.   I had been too busy to realize I had a huge brake  problem.)

Building up your network of outside helpers is a must.  I can’t stress that enough.

Here’s the rest of the list from Senior Helpers.

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