Friday, 19 July 2013 10:06

Our Elders, Our Actions: A Friendly Reminder ‘Don’t Wait’

By Clare Colamaria | Families Today

It’s been two years this month that I have been writing this column—sharing with my readers, advice, stories, many resources, and perhaps sometimes topics that touch very close to home. Well, when I first started writing, I would ask you passionately, please “do not wait for a crisis to happen before you take action.”

It is time for me to reiterate that statement and share with you just some of the reasons why you should not wait for a hospital visit or other form of crisis before taking action and what can be avoided by being aware and being proactive of changes in your loved ones’ daily activities or character. A Senior’s Choice has been working with families for just over four years now, and during that time we have evaluated and worked with many different family dynamics, medical conditions and financial categories. But, there always seems to be one common thread that becomes a major discussion during our consultation, and that is “when is the right time to make a transition in care or living environment?” 

Here are a few pointers that will help you figure out when it’s time to seek consultation and examine what your next step should be:

1. When the little voice in your head keeps telling you there are now critical issues with which to be concerned.

2. When your loved one now needs constant reminders for daily activities that were never an issue previously.

3. When your loved one’s doctor appointment schedule becomes their social calendar and becomes your social calendar.

The three statements above are broad, but this is where you take the first step in determining that it is time to evaluate the red flags that are waving in your face and or eating up your thoughts. This is the time when a plan needs to be developed and a timeline for care transitions need to be put into action. Just the thought of where to start and how to do this can be extremely exhausting and overwhelming and in many cases, it makes family members procrastinate the motions. 

This is where the trouble begins. 

The longer you procrastinate, the higher the chances are that a crisis will occur causing more distress and anxiety for you, your loved ones and everyone’s lifestyle. It’s only a matter of time. It is inevitable that further decline, heartache and tougher decisions will need addressing. 

So, when and how do you get started?

I can tell you this; it baffles my mind how many families fall into the same loop. I wonder, am I the only one out there preaching “Don’t Wait for a Crisis!” 

I know I’m not, but why aren’t families listening to the experts? Fear? Guilt? Money? Family? They think they know a better way? What are they trying to prove and to whom? Is it the aging loved one digging their heels in and refusing to acknowledge they may need some assistance or lifestyle transition? We all know the saying “knowledge is power,” so if you had someone gather all the information you needed based on your unique circumstances, to assist you in making a more informed decision in regards to your aging loved ones care needs or your own care needs if you are the one with your heels dug in, would you use them or would your first reaction be to avoid the help? Start there!

For those of you who honestly don’t know or who have not yet experienced what can happen when you wait until a crisis happens, here are a couple quick little scenarios for you to envision. Remember, every one’s circumstances are unique but this is how quickly life can change. 

 Let’s say Joe is a 75-year-old male and his wife Mary is 73. They live in a cute ranch-style home and are still active attending social events and outings. Joe has high blood pressure and arthritis in his back but otherwise mentally sharp and as active as his arthritis allows him to be. His wife Mary has recently been experiencing short term memory loss but otherwise in good health. Joe sees what’s going on but fails to say too much to Mary as not to upset her or create alarm. Other family members also notice the memory decline but figure Joe has it under control since he’s not really complaining about it. Time goes on; let’s just say eight months pass. 

Now, Joe is constantly reminding Mary to do the simplest daily tasks, such as to lock the door, turn off the lights, close the refrigerator door, eat breakfast, take her meds, take a bath etc. Joe is now stressed out, worried, physically and emotionally exhausted and suffers a mild heart attack, sending him to the hospital. Now who is going to watch over Mary while Joe recovers, and once Joe is released home who will care for Joe? You now have a double crisis on your hands. Who takes the lead now? 

Peggy is 87 years old, lives alone since her husband passed away four years ago. She’s doing great! Or so she says—she wants to remain in her home till the end. Her three children do not live in the area but call frequently and visit several times a year. They worry about their mom and wish she would move into a smaller apartment, or better yet an assisted living residence. Because of her age and her medical conditions (Type II diabetes, osteoporosis, poor vision), it is only a matter of time before something happens and sends Peggy to the hospital. It could be something as simple as tripping on an area rug while carrying her laundry basket to the washing machine. Was it her poor vision that caused this or just an accident? Well, now you have a whole new set of circumstances to address and find proper resources for. Do you think Peggy will be released from rehab back to her house if no one is there to care for her? Now what are her choices and who will guide her in making the next one?

I just created those two scenarios. I could go on and on but I think you get the message—at least, I hope so. Please be aware of the subtle or not so subtle signs and seek the help you need for everyone’s peace of mind and your loved one’s safety and healthy lifestyle.

My friendly reminder to you is this: Do not wait for a crisis to happen! 

Clare Colamaria is the Founder of A Senior’s Choice, a company designed to consult and assist families with ever changing life transitions. For more information or to seek a consultation call 518-424-2527 or go to their website at aseniorschoiceonline.com.

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