Another storm passes

storn cloudI return to visit my Mom a few hours after she was found on the floor. We aren’t sure if she fell since no one saw what happened and my Mom doesn’t remember. Within an hour of the “fall” that resulted in EMTs being called, she gets up and is moving around. For several months she has been walking more stiffly and taking shorter steps. There appears to be no change in her movement, speech or behavior. I discuss with the staff that I would just like to keep an eye on her and let them know I would be returning later in the day.  When I return she is still sound asleep and the night shift has set aside a meal for her should she awake and be hungry.  For several months, she has days that she sleeps through. So this isn’t out of the ordinary either.

I return to check in on my Mom the next day. The EMTs had asked if I noticed any changes in my Mom when they were assessing her. While she seemed to have more trouble sitting up in bed initially, I wonder if we just haven’t seen her try lately. I remember being surprised when I realized how long it was taking her to dress now. There seem to be no other changes in her movement and the day after she is back and engaged in the morning and afternoon activities the community offers.

I know that as the family member, I am probably going to be the first one to notice changes in my Mom. I remember being dumb-founded at how long it took for any doctor to initially diagnose my parents. A month before my father passed away and well into moderate Alzheimer’s, he got a 29 out of 30 on the mini-mental or folstein test often used as the first gate down the pathway to a dementia diagnosis. I tell those that ask that if you are noticing a change in behavior, you need to pursue your concern. It’s important to request a Neuropsychological Evaluation that will take at least two hours and is administered to understand where there might be cognitive decline.

My siblings and I will continue to keep a vigilant eye on my Mom. I can’t imagine how our health care system can effectively manage those individuals without someone who can be their medical advocate.

For now, I feel like the skies are still gray, but the thunderstorm has passed. I feel a butterfly in my gut as I imagine what the next crisis might be. Squeamish.

The financial costs of aging in place … are you sure?

retirementfundsAs I face the reality of the high costs of my Mom’s care, I’m working on creating my ideal aging story line. What I realized as I have watched my parents was that while most of us bought into the traditional concept of “retirement” with open schedules and the pursuit of hobbies, that model undermines healthy aging. We all want to live a life with purpose and that doesn’t stop in retirement. The idea of free days conflicts with staying engaged, accountable and productive. I decided I needed to change my life so that my pursuit of purpose didn’t feel like work. I found it when I launched MemoryBanc.

To help me plan better for the rest of my life, I’ve been reading up on as well as attended an event recently hosted by AARP on what to consider if you want to “age in place.” The real number is much more complex than just adding up the changes you may need to make your home more livable. As I recently mentioned, my Mom is living in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that involved a very large sum of money that was used as a down payment and considered “pre-payment” toward needed services. Even with that she’s paying a base fee of around $7,500 a month to be in Assisted Living. As I recently shared, some months have been closer to $12,500 as we have had to hire extra assistance since typically Assisted Living is not designed for individuals with cognitive loss.

If you want to stay in your home, you should consider how it might suit you should you develop mobility issues. However, my parents only temporarily faced that issue when my Dad broke his hip and needed a place to rehabilitate. Thankfully, one of the benefits of the CCRC agreement was that my Dad could move into their skilled nursing until he was able to manage on his own. My Dad was able to recuperate and as soon as he could manage stairs, they were back in their 3-level town home.

I believe there are other factors more important to consider than the cost of adapting your home for your aging lifestyle. In our case, both my parents developed memory issues (Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s). They were unable to recognize their inability to manage. Had they not been in a CCRC, my siblings and I would have had to petition the court for conservator and guardianship of my parents. If you know someone with dementia, you know that while they might not remember if they just ate dinner, they will know that their child has taken them to a public court proceeding and is charging that they are unable to manage their own affairs. None of us could have foreseen this scenario, but we were days from filing the petition when their CCRC acted and helped us manage a move into Assisted Living. Even with estate plans in place, we were faced with this difficult choice.

I haven’t gotten very far but do know that now, there are no perfect answers. What I hold true is that having your family members involved and having these discussions early are the key to making the most of the rest of your life.Studied. 


Related stories.

The Financial Costs of Aging in Place

Life Regrets? Seems many are toting some baggage!

50isNiftyUSA TODAY just shared a recent survey that showed life regrets can shape later years. As someone who has been caring for a loved one, I’m focused on not repeating history.

I have been reading the studies and have made several changes in my life in an effort to build a new and improved aging storyline. In 2012, I shared the 5 ways I planned on aging better than my parents which included cultivating meaningful friendships, documenting the little but important things, questioning and understanding my health state, finding work I enjoy and continuing to work as well as exercising and eating right.

I am a very competitive person and once I set my goals, I work to knock them down and make them part of my life. I have accomplished my goals and will add that after I appeared on Dr. Oz, I have incorporated more fish (or fish oil) into my diet.

While watching and caring for two parents with dementia would never be the path I would choose, it has changed me in many positive ways and helped me find work I enjoy and something I will continue to do for as long as I am physically and mentally able.

I was a little saddened that the study revealed that for older Americans:

  • 48 percent have the support of friends and family
  • 32 percent are happy about their living situation
  • 30 percent are well-prepared financially
  • 29 percent are in good health

Those all seem like very low percentages to me since you can easily flip them to say 52% percent don’t have the support of friends and family, 68% are unhappy with their living situation … you get the point.

Of the regrets, in the top 5, Americans included “keeping legal documents organized”. My parents had done the financial and estate planning and I had the legal documents. The legal tools don’t always work, and they don’t include all the information you need to assist someone if they need support.

As I celebrate my 50th birthday today, I’m proud to have launched MemoryBanc in order to help others organize and protect their important papers and documents. The recognition from AARP Foundation as an “older-adult focused innovation” fueled me to pursue my upcoming book with AARP. For any of you looking for a solution to collect and organize your personal papers, please take advantage of a 10 percent discount using coupon code “GRACE” to order the MemoryBanc Register. Celebrated.

Even my 11 and 16-year old Forget and Misplace Things

kidthinkFor those of us watching a parent with dementia we battle our internal fears that we are fated to follow in their footsteps. The medical community doesn’t have all the answers, and from the research I’ve read as well as based on what Dr. Oz told me when I appeared on his show, I have more control over my senior years than heredity. For several years I’ve been making incremental changes in my life to guide my footsteps in a different direction than my parents — both medically and socially.

I was catching up with a girlfriend who mentioned she was worried because her husband seemed a lot more forgetful lately. I told her that forgetfulness doesn’t always equate to dementia or mild cognitive impairment. My kids forget and misplace things. My friend commented that the difference must be that the young don’t fear that forgetting something means they have an early sign of dementia. We laughed recognizing the truth in her comment.

I recently read two articles that were helpful. The first Forgetfulness Not Always What you Think by WebMD. We can expect that recalling information may take longer and forgetfulness alone doesn’t mean dementia. My Dad’s personality change was very noticeable and my Mom had more subtle personality changes. These symptoms appeared years before any diagnosis.

A recent article published by AARP entitled: 8 Treatable Conditions That Mimic Dementia. It’s worthwhile reading. If not for you, then for those other people in your life that may not realize the complications medications and other conditions can present.

I still hear from many people who believe getting forgetful and mean as you age is normal. We can all recall the one neighbor from our childhood who fits this stereotype. Dementia is complicated and the disease makes it hard for the person to recognize as well as human nature makes it difficult to accept the limitations it might bring to your life. I hope to educate as many as I can on how to recognize the symptoms and manage when you may be a witness to something you can’t control. Experienced. 



Medical Colonialism: The New Aging Option?

thailandAs my siblings and I watch the impact of the choice my parents made, we grapple with the realization that we don’t want to follow in their footsteps. For more than twenty years my mother told me they would make sure they did not do to us what their parents did to them. Unfortunately, because of the dementia, my parents had no idea how difficult my life became when they failed to follow the plans they had made.

I came across this story today: Some with Alzheimer’s find care in far-off nations. The husband, who is from Switzerland, shared he is considering a community in Thailand for his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s because it is “not only less expensive but more personal.”

This statement is something my siblings and I are facing. My mother is safe and cared for, but we know the staff does not have the time to spend with those in Assisted Living that their families believe would occur.Many are very loving and well-trained, but we are all struggling with how to squelch the loneliness and isolation my Mom is facing. She won’t join in the activities they offer and without short-term memory, it’s difficult for well-meaning friends to help. My Mom’s always been a lone wolf.

I shared the story of the woman who fell on the way to change her television, and recently there have been other incidents that are disturbing in that on the surface, they illustrate the inability to provide vigilant and personal care for each resident. I truly can’t imagine that a business could really provide the type of care each resident deserves. It’s why I consider myself a caregiver, even through my Mom is in an Assisted Living facility.

I’m not sure sending off a loved one to another country is the right answer, but I’m not sure I’d mind aging in paradise. Conflicted.

Other Related Stories:

Having a Medical Advocate from fellow blogger Butch

Five Steps for a More Affordable Retirement (Huff Post)

The Sinister Tentacles of the Aging Process

Egad. Ibuprofen bothers my stomach now. That NEVER used to happen and I remember wondering what was wrong with those lily-livered people who wanted that special coating on their Advil.

It’s been going on for a few months, but I didn’t recognize it until just yesterday. I had some minor surgery on my ear and they gave me ibuprofen. I noticed my stomach hurt and started to think about what I’d recently eaten. Were the leftovers last night bad? Have I failed to get enough greens into my diet? Do I need to split up my vitamins into batches?

I told my husband and he confessed that for two weeks his stomach has been bothering him. He was taking ibuprofen because his knee was starting to hurt.

I’m 47 and he’s 46. That doesn’t seem old. Now in what seems like an “all of a sudden” moment, we are both having trouble taking the pain reliever.

How many signs will come and go that we will ignore that we are aging. We make jokes with our friends, but I recognize that I will fight aging just as fiercely as my parents. I hope I recognize and can accept when I need to consider adapting some new routines or accept limitations due to my health or the safety of others.

For now, I just asked him to get the coated kind when we need the refill. Lily-Livered