Surprise! Paying an Unannounced Visit to Your Aging Parent and Caregiver

Have you ever dropped in unannounced, just to check on your aging parent and his or her caregiver?

If not, you should.

There is so much more to true daily caregiving beyond just feeding, dressing and medicating a patient. Environment is everything. Does the caregiver speak compassionately to Mom throughout the day? (Does she speak to Mom at all?) Is there light music playing in the background to elevate the mood at home or in Mom’s room in the facility, or is the caregiver glued to her cellphone and texting while blasting endless angry hours of daytime television at your dad to keep him “occupied?” How often are the sheets changed? How often does your parent get outside for some sunshine and fresh air? Where did they go on their last outing? How do they pass the time?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answers to these questions, but do make it a point to try to find out more about the daily atmosphere in which your parent is living. If distance or other physical obstacles prohibit you from dropping by, enlist the aid of a friend or relative, or even a clergyperson who lives in the area.

If the thought of showing up unannounced on anyone’s doorstep , even at the home of your own parents, makes you break out in hives, then phone ahead without much notice— perhaps just prior to hopping in the car and heading over.  The whole point is to see what the atmosphere is like on any given day and at any given hour. Feel free to bring Mom’s favorite snack or beverage, a plant or flowers to brighten the home, a box of tea, etc., as an ice-breaker. “May I pick anything up for you and Mom while I’m still out?” is a friendly and non-threatening conversation starter.

What to look for when dropping in unannounced on your aging parent and caregiver:

  1. Glance around the main living area to see whether it’s clean and tidy, or whether yesterday’s lunch dishes are still stacked in the sink (or worse, haven’t even made it to the sink). Dad’s bathroom should be wiped up for his safety and sanitation, his sheets should be clean and fresh—certainly not soiled. Above all, your parent should appear to be groomed and wearing clean clothes. Other signs of trouble: Extreme body odor, greasy, unkempt hair, overgrown fingernails, raw, angry skin in need of care, bad breath.
  2. On a similar note, is your parent dressed, or is Mom hanging out in her bathrobe and nightie at 3:00 p.m.? Daily routine is important to us all, and simply being allowed the dignity of ritual washing and grooming, along with fresh clothing, can make for a happier day and a greater feeling of productivity in any human being.
  3. As you sit and make conversation with your parent, take a look at his or her view of the world. Can Dad reach his books and his iPad from his chair? What surrounds him to help him stay occupied? Can he look out the window, or at photos of family members? Can he reach the telephone if he wants to make a call or to answer one made to him? Make any necessary adjustments while you’re there—a pillow, a handmade blanket from the guestroom, a photo album brought to your parent to peruse … these can all improve anyone’s mood by surrounding them with love.
  4. Chat with your parent.  While still keeping the visit upbeat, ask Mom directly how she feels about the quality of the care she’s receiving. While it’s true that you may have to take some of what she says with a grain of salt thanks to the effects of aging, if there are any complaints, you should hear them out and see if they ring true to you.
  5. Don’t forget to engage in conversation with the caregiver herself. Is she friendly? Does she seem put out by your visit? A true professional would welcome the added brightness this visit brings to her patient’s otherwise ordinary day. It is okay to ask about excursions and doctor’s visits. In fact, you have every reason to do so. Use this as a springboard to better ongoing communication between the two of you. If the caregiver pushes back, she may not be easy to get along with, and that could mean that your parent also has trouble getting his or her own needs met by this person. This is also a great opportunity to see how the caregiver presents herself outwardly in other ways. Is she dressed in clean, professional clothing? Does she reek of cigarette smoke? Perhaps your dad has had to give up smoking. Can you trust this match? We all have good and bad days, so just take this visit as what it is—a welfare check on your aging parent.  Of course, should you see anything truly alarming, deal with it immediately. Don’t forget, always listen to your gut …

If you need any help sorting through these or other issues you encounter while navigating the difficult waters of eldercare, please reach out to me.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aging, Assisted Living, health and wellness, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Surprise! Paying an Unannounced Visit to Your Aging Parent and Caregiver

Your Aging Parents and Medications: Putting Systems in Place Makes Everyone’s Day go Better

If you are an adult caregiver for your aging parent(s) and you have your own family, job and chores that you need to work around, then you are well aware of the stresses of being a member of today’s sandwich generation. One of the first hurdles you will face is worrying about Mom and Dad’s medications. Are they being refilled and picked up on time? Is Dad taking his high blood pressure medication? Does Mom remember to take her thyroid pill one hour prior to breakfast? You likely find yourself worrying about this very thing during meetings at work or while tending to your children’s care. Getting your parents’ medications properly organized can help alleviate a great deal of this stress. Below, are some ideas:

  1. Put together a list of each parent’s current medications, including the name, whether it’s generic or brand, dose, time(s) of day it’s taken, and any special instructions. Type each list up using an easily-accessible document editor such as Word or Excel, and then store them in more than one cloud space. That way, you cannot only access the lists at a moment’s notice, but you can share them with any health professional who may need it. If one doesn’t have a Dropbox account, perhaps he or she uses OneNote or Box? Additionally, favorite these lists under your own main cloud source, allowing them to be viewable without an Internet connection. You never know …
  2. Print the list and tape to the front of a kitchen cabinet at your parents’ home (or have someone who lives close by to them do so for you). Keep a copy of both lists in your vehicle and your folks’ vehicles as well (if they are still driving).
  3. Talk to someone at the pharmacy where your parents fill their medications and arrange to have all of Mom and Dad’s prescriptions put on automatic refill. Additionally, ask to have your phone number, along with your parents’ number(s), added to the pharmacy’s notification service. You will be notified not only whenever a prescription is ready for pickup, but also when there is an issue with a refill, such as a denial from the insurance provide, or the need to phone a doctor to authorize a new refill. (Note: This is a good time to transfer all prescriptions to the same pharmacy so that the pharmacist can be on the lookout for any previously overlooked dangerous drug interactions.)
  4. If you’re going to help oversee Mom and Dad’s safety by putting together their weekly meds, you may as well put together a month’s worth of daily pill bundles for each parent. Buy a distinctively-colored specialty pill box for each parent (easily found online through a key word search or at a local apothecary, near your town’s hospitals), then label “Mom” and “Dad” on the respective receptacles. Fill accordingly.
  5. If your parent or parents do not have 24-hour caretakers, how can you be certain that Mom and Dad are taking their medications? First off, you are all now set up for a greater likelihood of success. You know that the medications are being refilled, have been collected, and you know that these prescriptions have been carefully doled out as per their written instructions. During the first weeks of your new system, come check on the pill packs yourself (if that is possible), or have a trusted neighbor or friend of your folks come do it for you and report back. You can also help Mom and Dad set up recurring timers on their Smartphones or tablets, or you could purchase specialty timers, even vibrating alert watches, developed for just this use.

 

Still, there is absolutely nothing to replace watchfulness on a caretaker’s part, as medication hoarding and stashing—either to take all at once later or to throw away without taking at all—is an all-too-real problem for many families of the elderly.

I hope that this list provides you with a little bit of guidance and comfort moving forward in caring for your own aging parents. I’d love to hear if you put any of these ideas into action in your own family, or whether you have other helpful suggestions.

If I may be of assistance to you, please reach out to me here on my “contact me” page at any time.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

Posted in Aging, health and wellness, prescriptions, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Your Aging Parents and Medications: Putting Systems in Place Makes Everyone’s Day go Better

Having “The Talk” With Your Aging Parents: Pick up the phone and do it today

 

Last week I checked in with a friend from whom I’d heard neither hide nor hair in months.  “I was worried,” I told him. My friend went on to explain to me that he and his wife were feeling incredibly overwhelmed and had not had time to connect socially, as their days and nights suddenly revolved around the care of his ailing parents and their ongoing affairs. As if that weren’t enough, this friend and his wife are parents to their own three children, who range in age from first grade through high school, and both parties work full time.  “We’ve been feeling very ‘sandwiched,’” he said (though I’m still not sure whether or not that was a joke).

“What about siblings? What financial arrangements did your parents have laid out for this time in their lives?” I asked

“None, it turns out. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along …” was the pained answer my friend offered. His only other sibling lives across the country with her own family. Their parents, who are in their 70s, had never planned for the inevitable day in which they would require some assistance. There were no financial arrangements in place, no living will for either parent, no retirement savings, no nothing. My friend was trying to stay afloat amidst his simmering anger and shock, having basically doubled his family in size as well as in responsibilities, practically overnight.

“I mean, everyone gets old, right? Can you believe this?” he wanted to know.

I sure can.

Seems that for whatever reason—in my opinion a mix of both pride and fear—many of us in the baby boomer generation have aging parents who will either never make plans regarding their own twilight years, or if they do, will fail to discuss them with their adult children, who therefore will be working blind when that day comes. No one likes to think about death or the terrible possibility of a prolonged hospital stay and/or illness, and so perhaps it seems easier to put those thoughts away until tomorrow (and then the tomorrow after that …). And for those folks who never managed to save enough money for those later years? Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. While it is painful to have to ask one’s child to help out, it is a great deal kinder to warn those adult children of what is ahead for them, so that they can get a plan in place. Your children love you and will forgive your fallacies. We are all imperfect beings.

There is never a guarantee that tomorrow is coming for anyone. So, adult children with aging parents, if you have yet to hear about such end-of-life planning from your own parents, you need to make a phone call.

This evening after you’ve put your own kids to bed, please call your parent(s) and have The Talk. Here are a few key topics you should discuss:

  • Do your parents have an updated will? Tell Mom and Dad that you don’t care to know what’s in it, nor who gets what. You’re only concerned about where you can find it. If the answer is no, there is no will, then find a reputable attorney who specializes in estate planning and bring your parents to this person.
  • Do your parents have a power of attorney for their health care? In other words, can someone other than your mother legally make decisions for Dad in the event that he’s incapacitated? This is so important as both parents age. While you’re on the topic, ask your parents how they feel about end-of-life issues, as painful as this may be. (Would Mom like to be kept on a ventilator past a certain number of days, etc.)
  • What are your parents’ long-term wishes on moving from their current home? Where would each parent live in the event of losing the other?
  • Finally, and this one is perhaps the toughest for most families, ask your parents about their finances. How is their debt load? Is their home paid off? Where do they keep their important paperwork? Do they have a banker or financial representative with whom you can connect when the time comes? This is not about judgement but about planning—ideally taking stress off of everyone by getting ahead of a crisis.

If you get a reaction along the lines of, “Can we talk about this tomorrow?” along with a “promise,” go ahead and schedule a time for the discussion and then follow through with the conversation.  It’s on you at this point to get the information your entire family depends upon.

I realize that this topic, as are so many of our more important familial conversations, is rife with feelings. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time, via my “Contact me” page.

Wishing you all the best,

 

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

Posted in Aging, health and wellness, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Having “The Talk” With Your Aging Parents: Pick up the phone and do it today

Show Mom and Dad How Much You Care … With a Package!

There’s nothing quite as thrilling as receiving a package in the mail. Even if you already know what’s inside, there’s still that sense of exhilaration as you race to cut open the packaging and get inside the wrapping as quickly as possible.

Last week a friend of mine was telling me about all the packages she’d received for her recent birthday, from friends all around the country. Each gift was a surprise, and each brought her immense joy. She was stunned that people took the time out of their lives to remember her in this most thoughtful manner. This friend described to me the thrill she’d felt from the moment of finding each package at her doorstep through tearing into the package at hand.

All of this got me to thinking: What a simple tool we have within reach to bring happiness to someone we love. Why not start with our parents? For those adult children who even still may not have the easiest time communicating in words with their aging parents, a “caring package” can do the talking.

I realize that the thought of gift-giving seizes many of us with fear; but this is not so much a box of gifts as it is an unexpected package, full of thoughtfulness. Think about your mom or your dad … the best times you’ve shared together and the stories they’ve told. Think about their favorite places, trips, foods, memories … Think about your own family, the hobbies your kids enjoy, and the trips you’ve taken together. These are all clues from which you can gather. The treasures you put together for your parent can be as inexpensive as hand-drawn pictures from your children to their grandmother, or can cost as much as you’d like to spend—a plane ticket, perhaps. The point is to the ignite joy in your parents, a joy they can revisit each time they look at any of the mementos reminding them of the love and care that went into creating their packages.

Here are just a few ideas to spark your own creativity:

  • Ask your child(ren) to draw a picture of themselves, your family, the family pet, etc.
  • Take a quick family photo with your Smartphone, then print it yourself, or have it printed at your local copy store. You can even upload a batch of photos to an online photo store and have an entire photo album printed, so that Mom and Dad can keep abreast of the latest goings on at your house
  • Does Dad have a dog? Enclose a few homemade dog biscuits, or a hand-painted “man’s best friend” picture frame
  • Show Mom you remember the little things by including her favorite candies (only if she is not on a special diet, please)
  • Enclose a pre-paid card for the local movie theater, so that you can treat the folks to a movie, “on you”
  • Order and include a postcard from a place you all visited as a family when you were young
  • Create a coupon book for Mom, with coupons for a girls’ day out, mani-pedi, or just a visit twice a month
  • Write a hand-written thank you note for all your parent(s) have done for you

What if your mom or dad happen to live in the same town as you, or, heaven forbid, what if your parent is not always as lucid as he or she once was? In my opinion, parents who live close by still deserve (and love!) surprises, and as for the second scenario, this is all the more reason to send a caring basket, box or even a bushel . I’m pretty sure that the acts involved will be a helpful exercise for you, the adult child, and you never know what spark may be lit within the heart of your parent upon receipt of this wonderful gift.

I’m always here to bounce around ideas for better ways of navigating the treacherous waters of life within the sandwich generation.

All the best,

 

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, health and wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Show Mom and Dad How Much You Care … With a Package!

A Lovely Match: Senior Pets and Senior Citizens

Want to know a major health risk for the elderly?

Loneliness.

Loneliness leads to health problems that manifest in every physical way, not to mention the fact that feelings of aloneness can, over time, take away anyone’s desire to stay well.

Even your aging parent is at risk. Those of us who are currently among the sandwich generation do our best to see to our folks’ needs, but we have our own lives—jobs, children, partners/spouses, households to run—and to think that we be everything to everyone is unfair to all of us.

But this is not news.

What your parent needs is a constant companion … someone who makes the days seem sunnier, the air cleaner, the lure of a walk around the block more appealing.

You guessed it. I’m talking about a four-legged companion. Spring is the perfect time to help your mom or dad find just the right pet to love.

Scott, are you out of your MIND?” you might be thinking right about now, followed by some thoughts along these lines: “Think of the upkeep! The expense! Mom is going to want to take the cat to the vet every time it sneezes!”

How about we think of the bright side instead, and of these proven facts: pets make for good medicine. In the case of dogs, they get their owners out of the house, into the fresh air, every single day. I’ve have more than one client tell me that were it not for the comfort their “best pal” provides, they might not even have the drive to get out of bed and face the day, much less with a smile. (It’s hard to be in a bad mood when a dog is wagging its tale and acting its ever-goofy self.) Plus, it’s nice to feel needed, which for many aging people is the greatest medicine in the world.

Pets show love and adoration to their owners. They love us whether we are young, old or frail. For folks whose own health precludes their getting out and walking even a tiny dog, their loving tone and soothing hand is more than enough comfort for an indoor, adult cat.

Your parents could very well still make wonderful pet parents for the right pet, most notably for a pet in need of a foster home due to its own tragic family circumstances—perhaps the loss of its own human caregiver.

Senior animals can be the perfect match for senior citizens. There are human volunteers who devote their time to placing animals with decent caregivers. This is where you, the adult child, can put your Google-sleuthing skills into play. Check Facebook and the usual online search engines for pet fostering or pet adoption opportunities for senior citizens in your parents’ state. If you don’t find a direct match, send out queries to those you do find who happen to be in nearby states, as often, there are “angels” who are willing to drive a pet several hours to its new home. If your mom or dad has a penchant for a particular breed, join the Facebook group for said animal type. There may also be a local meetup group (found at meetup.com) nearby, dedicated to in-person playdates for group members—really, for the pets, none of whom drive. Think of it all as “pet networking,” realizing that someone within these volunteer networks will become aware of new situations as they arise and perhaps be able to connect you with the right channels.

No, pet care is not cheap, but here again, a little research can go a long way. One example is this organization, Pets for the Elderly, which will pay the cost of adoption through its nationally-affiliated shelters. The program, which began in 1992, has since placed more than 57,000 dogs and cats within the elderly population since that time. PAWS’ Seniors for Seniors is dedicated to bringing senior citizens together with senior dogs and cats (over age seven), at a very low cost. The Humane Society’s national homepage is but one organization that lists ongoing low-cost options for pet care by state.

These are the leads I came up with after spending just a few minutes on my own computer, seeking out keywords such as “seniors,” “animals,” “low-cost,” “fostering,” and “adoption.” Try it this weekend and see how happy it makes your own mom and dad.

If I can be of value to you and your own family, please be in touch.

Warmest regards,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aging, health and wellness, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A Lovely Match: Senior Pets and Senior Citizens

Look Before You Click

 

February 28, 2016

For as many times as I’ve discussed malware and phishing scams here on this blog, even I almost fell for one of these computer-hacking scams just the other day.

There I was, hurriedly working through my emails, when I saw an alert from PayPal letting me know that my account was in danger of being placed on a credit hold status, potentially affecting my ability to both make purchases and accept payments for invoices sent to others.

Well, I had just made a purchase using my PayPal account; that much was true. But doesn’t PayPal deduct my payments directly from my bank account, as per the settings within my account? And I know full well that there is a perfectly good credit card connected to my account as backup payment method so this did not compute for me. As far as I knew, my recent transaction had been paid for and was soon to be on its way to me.

The email read, “Contact us by March 5, 2016 at (link to email) or (link to phone), in order to avoid interruption in your PayPal service.” I took a deep breath and felt certain of the one thing not to do: I knew not to press either link. No way, no how. If this was malware, and I suspected it was, there would be no coming back from clicking through either link. That is how a virus is delivered to my hard drive.

A little more deep breathing … then I told myself that I could handle this. First, I logged into my Dropbox safely, via an open browser tab on my computer and not through any links in that email. Looking around, I saw no alerts. More important, I saw that the funds from my most recent transaction, my first overseas transaction for whatever that’s worth, had indeed been withdrawn from my bank account.

Next, I logged into my bank account. No alerts there either.

Feeling more certain that this was a scam artist at work, I looked carefully at the questionable email. What is it I always tell readers is the telltale dead giveaway of an email scammer?

Typos. Ridiculous typos and/or horrific grammatical and/or punctuation offenses.

This email only contained only one, but it was a biggie: the return email address was: customeriinformation@PayPal.com. Everything else in that letter was perfect, right down to the PayPal logo.

Got’cha.

Looking back, I feel a bit ridiculous that I ever considered the possibility of this being a factual customer service request. As I have been sure to remind everyone as often as possible, large companies, particularly financial institutions, do not send emails; they send snail mail. However, we are all prone to momentary panic when it comes to our credit and our finances, and that’s how dishonest people have come to make a living off of our hard drives and our contact lists.

Sometimes, everyone needs a little talking down from that mountain. We all go there, no matter how centered, how grounded we may be 99 percent of the time. Stress wreaks havoc on our emotions and our thought processes, and there is little more stressful than running a household, parenting, and looking out for your parent’s (or parents’) well-being concurrently. If I may be of help to you or someone you know in structuring a healthy family discourse, please reach out to me.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.

 

 

Posted in Aging, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Look Before You Click

How to Help Keep your Aging Parent(s) Nourished

 

Nourishment. It’s something most of us take for granted, in terms of our ability to get to a grocery store or farmer’s market at leisure, as well as our ability to pay for the food that keeps our bodies fueled. Besides, with our busy lives, it’s unlikely that we’d forget to feed ourselves or our children, spouses or significant others, right? Mealtimes are worked into a part of our daily routine.

The same cannot always be said for the elderly, unfortunately. For whatever reason, be it an inability to easily shop or drive, physical difficulties that make cooking a challenge, forgetfulness, depression, loss of income, decreased hunger due to medication, illness, etc., I think we all recognize that mealtime just isn’t the same when we’re talking about cooking for a party of one. It can be downright lonely, and so mealtime often goes by the wayside. Nonetheless, food is fuel. Here are some ideas to help keep your aging mother or father fed, fueled, and hopefully in fighting form:

  1. Grocery delivery

Don’t even ask first. That way there will be no arguing nor any embarrassment. If you don’t live in the same city as your loved one, call a delivery service and have essentials delivered regularly. Stumped? Put in a call to the manager of the grocery store nearest your mom or dad and ask which delivery service is currently available in the area.

  1. Keep it easy

Remember that people who live by themselves, especially those who are slowing down, do not generally enjoy the cleanup or the trouble involved with the cooking process. Send easy-to-prepare, nutrient-dense foods in order to make sure they’ll be eaten. (Of course, adhere to any dietary restrictions.) It’s okay to send some pre-packaged foods by manufacturers you trust, in addition to an array of packaged protein drinks. However, this nifty microwave steamer makes tasty and healthy meals in just three minutes out of your favorite fresh protein and a side of vegetables, and at this price, it’s certainly worth sending one to your own parent for a test-run.

  1. Consider hiring a personal chef

This website could be a good place to find answers to related questions and/or begin your search. (For example, this is where I learned that a private chef usually lives in with one family and serves that family’s needs in entirety, down to grocery shopping. A personal chef works for several families or clients at once, serving different and specific needs.

  1. Invite Mom or Dad along for dinner, wherever that may be

Who doesn’t enjoy getting out for a good meal? Sure, it may be out of the way, but next time you and your significant other or the family are having a meal out, don’t forget to include the person who probably gets out the least these days, your parent. Better yet, schedule a standing lunch or dinner date for yourself and your Mom or Dad. If you don’t live in the same city, utilize technology and dine together from the comfort of both of your kitchen tables while breaking bread together virtually. Sure, this may take a little bit of planning and some patience on your part initially, but soon enough your aging parent will likely be looking forward to meals once again. (I’m betting you will, too.)

Do you have any other sticky situations within your sandwich generation family that I can help you with? Please contact me so I may be of assistance.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

Posted in Aging, health and wellness, nutrition and diet, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on How to Help Keep your Aging Parent(s) Nourished

Transitioning into Residential Living

 

After months of back-breaking work, you’ve finally got your elderly parents out of the family home and settled into their new assisted care residence; yet something’s still nagging at you…

Ah, yes. That would be your dad, who is calling you at all hours of the day and night to complain about everything—the staff, the food, the surroundings, and especially the other residents. It’s all terrible, he says. Awful. Couldn’t be worse.

As if you weren’t already feeling enough emotion over the realization that your parents could no longer safely care for themselves in their life-long space and the fact that yes, they truly are in the late stages of life, now you can add tremendous guilt to the mix.

Don’t fret. In all likelihood, your aging parents will indeed settle in to their new surroundings. They’ll probably even flourish. This is a difficult time for everyone involved, fraught with emotion and change.

Usually, the passage of time and just a bit of hand-holding can help ease your parent(s) through this rough patch and into happier days ahead. Below, seven suggestions for transitioning Mom and Dad into successful residential-care living:

  1. Spend time in person with Mom and Dad

Making arrangements to be on hand during those first few days can be especially comforting for not only your parent(s), but for you as well. Just being available to accompany Mom to her first meal in her new residence can make a big the difference in her level of comfort. (We all remember the first day of school or being the new kid at summer camp, right?)

  1. Encourage new activities by initially joining in

This is great if you happen to live in the same city. Read up on all of the activities within the residence and start attending one. The more social and learning activity you can find within your parents’ senior residence, the more your own parents might be enticed to take part in these (and other) activities as .

  1. Tell the staff about your parents’ favorite activities, foods, etc.

This provides a nice jumping-off point for conversation as staff get to know your folks. If allowed, send some of your family’s favorite delicacies for Mom or Dad to share.

  1. Find yourself a main point of contact on the staff for both daytime and nighttime shifts Introduce yourself, even if by phone, to your parent’s main caregiver during both the day and night shifts. Ask them what time is the best time for you to call in for an update, and do so daily that first week or two (and for as long as you need). Don’t settle for a generic, “Dad’s doing great!” answer. If need be, work up the chain of command until you feel as though you’re getting reports with satisfactory amounts of information on your parent’s progress.
  2. Call your mom daily—morning and night, if necessary

Speaking of phone calls, don’t get lazy with them—an easy thing to do when you know that your parent is in a safe place and being checked on by caring staff members. A quick “good morning” can help set the tone for your parent’s day, especially when settling into a new place. Ending the day with a check-in to see how the day was, even if you know all you’re going to hear is negative-speak for the first little while, can help ease your parents back into a familiar and comforting routine.

  1. Hang a calendar, or arrange for a nurse to do so for you, with visible, scheduled dates of upcoming visits, Skype/FaceTime chats, family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other events, along with a list of telephone numbers

Your parent can be included in the family’s goings-on without missing a beat.

  1. Decorate with mementos and family photos from home

Try to engage your parent in decorating the new digs. Hang family photos and favorite mementoes within clear view. Replicate the comforts of home by bringing favorite blankets and pillows Mom had in her own home, or, offer to make things special by picking out all new bedding and accessories in a particular colorway or theme. Do the same with favorite reading chairs.

During this time, acknowledge your parent’s feelings, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. You, too, are going through a time a transition. Most of all, you want to be available for your Mom and/or Dad, but not to be there so much that they don’t try to meet new friends and work toward developing a new routine.

I’d like to help you and your family through this and any other time of uncertainty the aging process brings, and help restore a sense of calm and communication. Please reach out to me so that I may be of help.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aging, Assisted Living, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transitioning into Residential Living

The Four Most Unexpected Behavioral Changes in the Elderly – Is this Normal? Part IV (Final)

 

In parts I, II, and III of this series, we’ve explored changes in hygiene, anger, and paranoia as three of the most unanticipated changes in behavior that you may have noticed beginning to occur in your own aging parent. More than that, I offered my own opinion on when the line between “normal aging” and “time to see a physician” might be crossed in each scenario. (To read any or all of my prior posts, please follow this link.)

 

Today we’ll close this series with what I consider to be the fourth most unexpected behavioral change that any adult child anticipates seeing in his or her aging parent: depression. I’m including it here because it is so vitally important that it should never be ignored. (So there’s the answer to when it’s time to see a professional right there: always seek help for your aging parent who is showing signs of depression. I will provide a comprehensive list of symptoms further down in this post.)

 

  1. IV. Depression

I’d like to differentiate here between that which is “normal” and that which is simply under-recognized and/or under-treated. Depression is not necessarily a typical function of aging, nor should we ever settle for this way of life for someone we love. However, there is a strong likelihood of depression’s co-occurrence along with the presence of certain debilitating, long-term diseases and certain unpleasant life events, such as the death of a loved one or the social and economic status changes that may correlate with aging.

Again, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of seeking help for an elderly person who is suffering from depression. Like other illnesses mentioned in the earlier posts, this is yet another malady which impacts older people far differently than it does younger ones. In the elderly, depression increases the risk of death from other illness, is associated with an increased likelihood of cardiac disease and stroke, as well as inhibits the ability to recuperate from most any medical setback.

The good news is, unlike other medical conditions, depression is highly treatable with a combination of medicine and/or psychotherapy. Unfortunately, the older generation in which our parents came up is known for being both more stoic as well as more conscious of keeping certain types of personal information under wraps. Many seniors don’t necessarily think of depression as a health problem per se, but more of something to be “handled on one’s own.” It’s unwise to leave this particular change in behavior to the detection of others. This one is really up to us, the adult children, to detect, and to point out to health care professionals.

Some sobering statistics

Without help, depression in the elderly can take a deadly turn. Statistics on suicide and the elderly are downright staggering. Suicide among older with males is disproportionately higher than all other age demographics. Additionally, World Health Organization Studies show that approximately 70 percent of those elderly people who have committed suicide had seen their primary care doctors within just one month of their deaths.

 

As the primary family member and/or caretakers in your parent’s life, the burden falls on us, the adult children, to stave off any difficulties or uncertainties our parents may face, including illness. In fact, a National Institute of Mental Health study shows that intervention by close family members is key to decreasing suicidal thoughts and successfully improving depression in the elderly. That’s pretty much the magic formula: inclusion; along with professional treatment and appropriate follow up.

Signs of depression in seniors

The symptoms of depression in the elderly include:

  • Apathy/slow movement and/or speech
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and other interests
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Unexplained physical aches and pains
  • Irritability/anxiety/worry
  • Feelings of worthlessness (worrying about being a burden, self-loathing statements)
  • Neglecting personal care and hygiene
  • Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased use of alcohol and other substances
  • Changes in eating habits/weight loss
  • Sadness

If you suspect that your aging parent is suffering from depression, please don’t ignore the signs. Take your loved one for proper care. Above all, a senior who is suffering from depression needs someone who can be there to follow through with visits, phone calls, and help with medication planning and follow-through. Make sure your Mom or Dad gets out of the house for walks, visits to the library, outings to the mall, etc.

If I can help brainstorm in any way, please reach out to me.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, The Middle Ages | Tagged | Comments Off on The Four Most Unexpected Behavioral Changes in the Elderly – Is this Normal? Part IV (Final)

Unexpected Behavioral Changes in The Elderly – (Is This Normal?) Part III

Part III

In Parts I and II of my series on unexpected behavioral changes in your aging parent, we’ve discussed the ins and outs of both changes in personal hygiene and increasing agitation. Today we’re going to be looking into paranoia, our third unexpected change in behavior that you may be seeing in your own aging parent.

  1. Paranoia

Does your aging mother call to complain that her nurse/housekeeper/neighbor is stealing from her? Worse, does your mom even accuse family members—or YOU—of taking the craziest minutia from her home? Nothing you say can convince her otherwise. Maybe she watches her cleaning person like a hawk, following the woman from room to room, certain that this poor lady is the reason behind your parents’ diminishing window cleaner supply.

“You owe me a pill. I counted and one’s missing.” This is another common complaint from those who are slipping into the grips of such paranoia. I have a client, a working mom of two whose mother-in-law lives with the family and requires full-time assistance (such as being driven to and from all medical appointments in addition to her own errands), who’s almost always accused of either stealing, dropping, or somehow otherwise misplacing a pill between her harried drive from the pharmacy and back to the house where they all live.

Why is the mother-in-law even counting what’s in her pill bottles, anyway? What’s that about?

The truth is, the mother-in-law may or may not have even counted her pills. She may just be angry (at any and everything); she may be trying to exert some form of control, reminding the daughter-in-law that she’s always watching out for the family’s safety. Who knows? Maybe counting the pills is somehow soothing.

I’m always going to suggest a medical appointment for an older person whose demeanor has changed to this level. What needs to be deciphered, for example, is whether or not Mom believes she saw her neighbor sneaking into her home in the middle of the night to steal her houseplants (a hallucination), or whether Mom is so overly anxious about her own health, finances, abilities, etc. that she’s started to become paranoid about the world around her and is therefore lashing out with anxiety-induced accusations.

Often, some elderly folks may be helped by taking medication to help alleviate the very real anxiety that can come along with growing older. Here’s one more tip: Have Mom tested for a UTI (urinary tract infection). Simply stated, routine medical hiccups do not always manifest in the elderly in the same manner as they do in the general population at large. A physician who is knowledgeable in caring for seniors will recognize sudden onset of paranoia as a reason to take a urinalysis, which is a great deal less costly (and frightening) than a brain scan.

In the meantime, if I can be of help to you and your family during this time of change, please reach out to me so that we may start a dialogue.

All the best.

Scott

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

Posted in Aging, The Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Unexpected Behavioral Changes in The Elderly – (Is This Normal?) Part III