If your days on Earth were numbered, what would you want to do most?

This question is sometimes talked about, but when push comes to shove what would you really like to do as your time comes to an end?

For most of us it would involve an activity we enjoyed, perhaps where we felt the most peaceful within ourselves and with the world.

This Vietnam vet requested to do just that … he wanted to go fishing one last time.   I’m sure it took some inventive thinking and extra effort on the part of this man’s family, friends and caregivers but they made sure it happened for him.

Why?  Why do this?  Simply for this reason: make every moment count.  Take every day you have whether 1 or 100,000 or 1 million and find joy in the living of that day.

Gone Fishin’

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Oh where is my …

Have you ever gone to leave the house and searched forever to find your car keys?  Yup!  Happens to all of us, we place something in a specific place and then later when we go to find it we cannot find it.

Normally, for most of us this happens on occasion but for someone with dementia this may be an everyday occurrence, possibly multiple times a day.  When we go to help a family member with dementia in their home it is often to help them find these missing items, which are often right out in the open or in the most obscure location imaginable.

Sometimes when our loved one with dementia misplaces something they will start accusing people of stealing from them.  Family members or complete strangers are all potential suspects and these accusations can be emotionally very painful.  As painful as it may be to have your loved one accuse you of stealing from them may be it is important to keep in mind that it isn’t really THEM making the accusation, it is the DISEASE.

Dementia destroys the brain and especially in the beginning it destroys not only memory but also the ability for rational thought and logic.  So when they can’t find something they want (memory problem) and they know they didn’t do anything with it (again memory problem) then it is obvious that someone stole it even if no one has been in their home (logic problem) and if you happen to come into their field of vision or thought then you are the guilty party (rational thought problem).  This is all symptoms of the disease, the same as a rash is a symptom of an allergic reaction.

The best thing you can do during these times is to reassure your loved one that you will help them find whatever they are looking for, and don’t blame them for anything.  You will need a lot of patience, love, understanding and patience. (Yes, I did put patience twice.)

Check in often, I will post more about patience and loving while caring for a family member with dementia.

Christmas Traditions

good memory

When I saw this meme I was taken back to my childhood and my memories of Christmas.  We had wonderful traditions that centered around time spent with family.   Sure, as kids we got presents from grandparents, aunts, uncles, our parents and Santa, but if you ask me about the presents I couldn’t really give you specifics.  I can tell you about the time spent making memories with my whole extended family.

Our Christmas would start by going to a midnight church service on Christmas Eve.  After church we would migrate to our dad’s parent’s house for a potato pancake breakfast.  There we would play with our cousins, rough house with Grandpa and perhaps watch Christmas specials on VHS.  There would be lots of laughter and fun.

Around 3 AM we would stagger home with our parents telling us that we were not allowed to get them up before 7 AM.  (They, of course, still had to play Santa.)

Seven AM on the dot would have us sending the youngest in to wake Mom and Dad.  We would have our own Christmas at home with us four kids and Mom and Dad.  Eventually Mom and Dad would go to have a nap and we would spend a blissful morning and early afternoon playing together.

About mid afternoon we would head over to Mom’s parent’s house for an early dinner.  Once again there was lots of laughter and fun.  We would play with our cousins.  Aunts and uncles would often join in with the insanity.  There were presents, but mostly I remember the boisterous antics of the time spent together as a family.

I used to look forward to Christmas for those times.  I still look forward to it because it offers a chance for me to make this time special for the next generation the way it was for me.

I have since lost all of my grandparents, sometimes I wish we could have just one more Christmas together.  Since we cannot, I take solace in the good memories they left and work to follow in their example.

Beware, they’re warehousing our loved ones and rolling in the money!

Excuse me for a moment while I step up on my soap box.

Let me start by stating a couple of facts:

1. The population of the United States is getting older, our largest generation of the last century (Baby Boomers) are now in their 60’s and 70’s and many are starting to need nursing care.

2. It is very expensive to stay in any type of nursing or assisted living facility.  In the United States the average monthly cost for assisted living is $3,550.  This price varies state to state from just under $1,000 to up to $10,000 – PER MONTH!

OK, so here comes the ranting madwoman on a soapbox.  In the United States there is very little regulation regarding how many caregivers (nurses and CNA’s) are required per resident!  Some states have no rules regarding caregiver to resident ratios and in states that do have regulations the ratios are unrealistic and woefully inadequate.

Residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities cannot receive the basic care they need in a timely manner because the staff are overworked, understaffed and often have insufficient supplies.

Imagine your loved one is in a nursing home, due to age they are now incontinent, they are weak and unstable on their feet so cannot get up to do anything for themselves, basically they rely on someone else for even the most basic of care needs … this can describe the vast majority of people living in nursing and assisted living.

Now, imagine you are a caregiver, C.N.A. or nurse working in your loved one’s facility.  You entered your profession because you care about people, want to help them and have a heart for the elderly.  You want to not only be able to meet the physical needs of your charges but also help to enrich their lives.  You recognize them as human beings who still mean something in the scheme of life.  You love being able to look someone in the eye and be able to communicate to them that they matter to you.  When you show up for work you are expected to provide care for as many people your employer can legally assign to you, and in many states that is unlimited.  You aren’t in this for the money either as most caregivers are paid minimum wage or possibly a bit over but not much.

A large majority of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are incontinent and wear adult diapers.  Many are obese should require two caregivers to be involved in any care to prevent the possibility of the senior taking a fall or injury of the caregiver.  Most require assistance in dressing, eating, bathing, and many other activities of daily living that we perform for ourselves without much thought.

Sleeping a solid 8 hours during the night is also something that rarely happens with residents, many nap during the day and aren’t tired at night or just don’t sleep more than a couple of hours.  Most get woken during the night on a regular basis by caregivers needing to do personal care such as changing adult diapers, showering, vital sign checks, and for giving medications.

Here is a scenario that is all too likely to be true and happening near you:

Mr. Smith’s family has placed him in a nursing home after he started having problems falling at home and being confused about his medications.  His family looked at many places in their hometown so they could visit often and finally chose a facility that was fairly new, with beautiful, comfortable decor and wonderful programs and amenities.  The rooms seem spacious, Mr. Smith will have his own room and will be able to have some of his own furniture and belongings there.  While the price per month makes his family shudder, they have just sold Mr. Smith’s home and the profits should cover the cost for a few years.

So, Mr. Smith is now in his new “home” and must rely on the staff to assist him with all of his personal care and proper dosing of his medications.  This is where the difficulty starts, depending on the number of residents, the level of care needed, state regulations and the time of day Mr. Smith may have to compete with anywhere from 10 to 20 to even 50 or more other residents to get the help he needs from the caregiver assigned to his room.

Mr. Smith needs to go to the bathroom, he dutifully presses the call button to summon his caregiver to assist him to the bathroom and he waits.  Five minutes pass and he’s feeling very uncomfortable with his full bladder.  Ten minutes pass and he’s contemplating trying to get to the bathroom by himself.  Fifteen minutes pass and he’s now trying to stand up.  Twenty minutes pass, he stood up briefly, fell on the floor when he lost his balance and to add insult to injury lost control of his bladder when he fell.  He is now lying on the floor, potentially hurt and in a puddle of his own urine. Finally, twenty-five minutes after he pressed his call button, his caregiver enters his room.

His caregiver wasn’t slacking off, didn’t ignore the call light because they didn’t care, quite simply they were in the middle of assisting another resident and couldn’t get away.  They also very likely had several other residents that had hit their call button prior to Mr. Smith.  It is actually quite common for caregivers in a facility to forgo their breaks during a shift in order to care for their charges, they are that dedicated!

In the end what happens is residents don’t get the care they need in a timely fashion which can lead to falls, injuries, sores developing from sitting in their own waste, infections and premature deaths.  They don’t receive the personal and social interaction to remain alert or feel like a human being and begin to fade away into themselves and/or become depressed.

Caregivers see this happening, they know what’s going on and that their level of care is substandard because of the incredible workload heaped upon them by their employers, they feel like they’ve failed, they’re tired, they’re injured, they’re depressed and they burn out.  I can’t tell you the number of caregivers I’ve spoken to who are frustrated by the overwhelming number of residents they are required to care for and the limited time and resources available to provide adequate care.  There are hundreds of forums out there for C.N.A’s with huge threads on frustrations over the under-staffing at their facility.

There needs to be a huge outcry from this country regarding resident to caregiver ratios in nursing and assisted living facilities!  This is not just a situation where a worker is being pushed to produce more for an employer.  This is Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle being put in danger, so that some corporation can have higher profits.  This is putting caregivers in danger so some CEO can claim a larger bonus.  This is about human beings, residents and caregivers, being dehumanized into a number on a spreadsheet column.

I hope I’ve opened your eyes, I hope I can reach people and do my part to affect a change.  Our loved ones deserve it!

Who cares for the caregiver?

Be gentle with

A caregiver is someone who gives from the heart to the point of forgetting about their own needs.  A caregiver will miss out on sleep, ignore their own health needs, miss out on time with friends and other family and basically put all their needs on the back burner.

stress

Taking care of yourself as a caregiver is very important.  This means doing what you can to get enough sleep, take care of your own health and take time to have some personal time.  In caring for yourself as a caregiver you are making sure that you will continue to be able to provide excellent care.

This is easier said than done.  Believe me I know!  As a caregiver it is easy to get caught up in the needs of your loved one and forget your own needs.

You need to create a support system of family and friends who will step up and give you a break, even if it is only for a couple of hours a week.  If you don’t have the kind of relationships where you would feel comfortable asking for this help, there are companies that specialize in providing respite care.

integrity

If you know someone who is a caregiver ask them if there is anything you can do to help.  It can be something simple like helping with yardwork or housework.  You can offer to visit with their loved one so the caregiver has a chance to run some errands or go out for coffee with another friend.

You don’t have to be a professional caregiver to help care for a caregiver, you just need to be willing to step in and offer your support.