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Caring for you

And how are YOU doing?

My granddad passed away suffering the effects of diabetes.  During the last 10 years or so, his inability to move independently meant that most of his years were spent at home.  Care was provided by Anna (his wife) and his children (including my mother). 

I can remember being out with either my grandmother or mother, when upon meeting a friend/neighbour the conversation always went too, “And how is Jacob/your dad doing.”  It was how every conversation started….a sincere and compassionate concern for the health of my granddad. 

The conversation was always about my granddad! 

My friend June owns a durable medical equipment store in Florida. As customers come into her store June greets each one with a hug….followed by the question, “How are YOU doing?” 

During this initial exchange I have seen customers stiffen, almost like they were trying to resist the hug wondering to themselves what just happened, only to relax and respond to this jester of affection by saying….“not well!” “I’m tired.” “I’m burning it at both ends”  “If only the rest of my family would take some of the responsibility.” 

There are plenty of things in life we sign up for.  Things we anticipate!  Things to do!  Places to visit! Friends/people to see!  What one rarely signs up for however is to be a caregiver for a spouse or parent.  This new title or role comes to someone simply because another person (most likely a loved one) has been diagnosed with an illness or experienced some form of physical limitation.  And so it is the caregiving spouse/partner/child who makes the trip to pick up the prescriptions, arranges and provides transportation to medical appointments, and searches out alternative living arrangements etc. etc. etc. 

Caregiving spouses/family members experience mental and emotional stress, exhaustion, fatigue, loneliness  isolation at rates significantly higher than most of their peers.   And yet rarely, if ever, do we see these individuals as the ones needing our compassion, assistance and support! 

The desire of many seniors today is to “age in place” or “to stay in their own home” for as long as possible.  Maybe they do not believe the care at a senior community will be suitable or maybe the financial burden of moving into a community is more than they can afford.  Whichever it is, the option of staying at own home is directly linked to one’s ability to remain healthy and independent or failing to do so, in having a spouse/partner healthy enough to provide care.  Many times the move into a senior community is not planned and or co-ordinated….it’s simply the reality that comes once a caregiving spouse is no longer capable of providing care.

How are YOU DOING? Truly it is all about the caregiver. 

What would I like baby boomers to know:

1. About wheelchairs/rollators?

To a baby boomer, the wheel chair is the ideal product to move a mobility challenged person. Wheels chairs are relatively inexpensive and can double up as a chair and as a transport device suitable when moving a senior from one room to another.   To a senior however, the wheel chair is simply one appliance before the gurney. 

I cannot recall the number of times, when speaking with families charged with caring for an elderly person, that they experience an ahha moment.  All along they thought mom was just being mom (stubborn and uncooperative).  Many would share where their mom had taken the wheel chair or the rollator and placed it in the hallway…hoping that someone would borrow it for the day.

Interesting, seniors desire to be in their own home…using their own furniture….is that too much to ask?

2. About the styles of furniture available (not available) should one decide to “age in place”?

At some point as we age, the living footprint inside our homes becomes limited to the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen.

And while there is plenty of equipment designed to enhance the safety and dignity of seniors for use in the bedroom, bathroom and living room there is little available specifically for use in the kitchen (other than daily living aides).   The CADDIE is one product which enables a senior to sit in his/her favorite chair and still be be moved up to the table to be part of the family mealtime experience.

3. About Retail Therapy

My wife enjoys hunting…more appropriately stated, my wife enjoys the hunt!  She relishes the opportunity to peruse through shelves and departments of as many stores as she can find searching for that one specific item. Her travels take her into hardware stores, clothing stores, craft stores, art museums and supplies, shoe stores….you name it she has been there…retail therapy knows no bounds.  If someone wants to know in which store something might be available within the city of Lethbridge, my wife is the person to contact.  Not a compulsive buyer...pure joy comes in tagging the exact product required….at deep deep discount pricing.    

And yet in all of her years of shopping, never once has she darkened the door of a durable medical equipment (DME) store.  Never once has she planned for the day that either she or I or another family member would become mobility challenged….or receive a medical diagnosis which requires access to specialized equipment.  This goes into where?   All of this came as a surprize to her when a family member started showing early signs of dementia….and the process began of providing for her needs.  

Making that first trip into a DME was awkward….as she did not know what she was looking for or why one product might be better suited than another.  So after years of shopping this was a whole new world to her.  Gone was her ability to relate to products and she was now at the mercy of the store attendance to appraise her of the products purpose. 

Unfortunately this is typical of most baby boomers.  In denial we never thought this day would come, recognizing now that if our parents are requiring use of this equipment….we too are not far behind.  Thus, it should not surprise us that most baby boomer struggle in the early phases of giving care simply because this all new territory for them.