Making the Best Choice Medically for Mom & Dad

One of the toughest challenges I faced when caring for loved ones with dementia were the medical choices for non-dementia care issues that erupted and threatened my parent’s well-being.

A recent opinion piece in The Washington Post by an Emergency Room physician titled Doctors are torturing dementia patients at the end of their life. And it’s totally unnecessary illuminates the reality of the choices families face when caring for aging parents.

My family faced these difficult choices twice.

My father in a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s had a tumor on the back of his tongue. Knowing our parents were doing better together than they would alone, and in the hope that we would eliminate the pain my dad was feeling but could not verbalize sent us on a path to try and treat his tumor. After a week of medical visits we saw that our dad was not up for a fight with cancer. We worked to find him some relief through hospice care. Thankfully, his end came quickly.

When my Mom broke her hip in her Memory Care community and ended up in the hospital, I knew the end was near. The recommendation was to perform surgery but that required we lift the Do Not Resuscitate order. My mom no longer knew my name and I wondered if the stress of the trauma resulted in another stroke. I had to repeatedly ask that we let “nature take its course” while the hospital kept trying to certify my mom for surgery. My mom was clear that qualify of life was more important than quantity, and I knew the surgery would be painful and not provide improved quality to the rest of her life. Thankfully, the medical team agreed that she was able to survive surgery and we moved her into hospice care.

I still end up in tears recounting both of these stories, however I know it is important to make sure other families know that it could be one of the greatest acts of love you offer by taking the path of least medical intervention. I’m glad to see Dr. Geoffrey Hosta share his medical insight that reaffirms the choices my family made. At least I know we did our best to honor their end-of-life wishes. Reflected.

Develop a regular social calendar – Healthy Habit 14

busy calendar

Studies are showing that half of Americans feel lonely and isolated. Lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social connections. Loneliness contributes to poor health and emotional well-being. Being alone is different than being lonely.

I see it in the clients I work with who are adamant they want to age-in-place. They lose a spouse, their friends move away or they lose their ability to safely drive and don’t want to use a cab to get around. Often, it’s just the fear or inability to be able to do something new. They insist they are not social people – I get it. I am a proud introvert and savor those blocks of time when I can recharge my batteries in solitude.

However, my clients that insist they are fine alone at home with no activities start to have more health issues and I see a general decline in their cognitive abilities as we sit down to pay bills or discuss a home maintenance project.

You will find more on this topic in this Inc. article: Loneliness Is as Lethal As Smoking 15 Cigarettes Per Day. Here’s What You Can Do About It

If you are caring for a loved one at home, see if you can find a local adult day care center where they can meet others and have an opportunity to try something new in a safe environment. If they are physically mobile, maybe you can find a local walking group they can join for both social and physical engagement.

My husband and I are trying out pickleball, and I am always on the hunt for a good seminar on practical topics. Those give us the opportunity to make new connections and stay socially engaged in our community.

I continue to enjoy tennis which wonderfully combines exercise with the social engagement. It has expanded my local network of friends and acquaintances threefold. I hope by having the habit of using a calendar and by being on the hunt for ways to engage new ideas with my husband and my own, I will ensure that I continue to nurture my need to be socially connected. Practiced.