The allure of a ringing phone

Living in the DC metro area has made me numb to politics. However, stories like the recent one FCC threatens carriers with ‘regulatory intervention’ over robocalls are hopeful. However, that means there is still a lot of scammers out there making calls and reaching our loved ones. And too often they are very successful — which is why they keep calling.

The tools I implemented in my own home as well as for my clients no longer work. Many of the calls are sneaking through the protections that used to be so effective.

The reality is that now the ONLY defense is to NOT ANSWER THE PHONE. If you don’t recognize a call, let it go to voicemail. When you listen to voicemail, be careful to discern who is legitimate. That part is tough.

What I see in the homes of my clients that are isolated is how excited they are to hear a ringing phone. Regardless of my recommendations, they generally just answer. The insult to injury is how difficult it is to contest and win the credit card charges when we later find out which ones were successful.

If your loved one is still at home and you can, you might consider posting a note on or near the phone:

  • The phone scammers are smart and crafty.
  • Don’t answer unless you know the caller.
  • Never give out ANY of your personal information.
  • Don’t give anyone your Credit Card numbers over the phone.
  • Call me if you need some help following up on: _______________________

Sometimes, all you can do is work to help defend those that need help. Please let me know if you have any solutions that are working for you and your loved ones now. Interested.

Loneliness and It’s Impact on our “Healthspan”

desert-lonlinessOn a personal level, the topic of loneliness has become a growing issue in my community, and not just an issue for older adults. As we move through our own life circumstances, friends come in and out of our lives. The good friendships formed when you volunteered at your kid’s elementary school grow weak when the kids end up in different middle and high schools. I have a pack of crazy tennis mates and when one was facing breast cancer and another had a knee injury, our connections grew thinner. We still work to find ways to connect off the tennis courts, but it’s harder with all the other family and work priorities. Those transitions can present real pockets of loneliness in every adult life.

I have shared my concern over the aging in place movement in prior posts. When you are no longer driving and are now living alone in your home, the impact of loneliness on your health is a very real issue.

As reported by the Village to Village network in their August newsletter Loneliness has recently been called a medical epidemic and labeled an “adverse signal” alongside hunger, thirst and pain. A growing mountain of research is linking loneliness to physical illness as well as to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness eclipses obesity or heavy smoking and studies confirm that loneliness shortens the lifespan by 7.5 years and, even more importantly, shortens the “healthspan” even more. “Denying you feel lonely,” warns one top researcher “makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger.” Loneliness is everybody’s business.

For someone with cognitive issues, not only does the loss of short term memory make it hard to make new friends, it makes it hard to participate in a host of social activities. I am seeing this in the clients I serve. What I learned after caring for my parents is that delaying a change can actually be detrimental.

When we moved my parents from Independent to Assisted Living (at the insistence of their community which we were grateful), my parent’s were the happiest they had been in a year. Trying to managing their larger apartment and maintain their lives was too much for them. They were now closer to a host of activities and out in the community more. I was physically ill for 3 days up to the move and pleasantly surprised by my parents joy with their new, smaller apartment.

The process of the move for someone with cognitive issues typically brings a step-down in capabilities. I watched it my mom when we moved her from Assisted Living into Memory Care. However, she bounced back and had periods of joy in her new community doing a host of new activities they offered.

As the care partner you are faced with so many choices. I hope you will consider how much isolation and loneliness can have on your loved ones and really consider when it might be time to make a change. There are really MANY great options in my community now. What about yours? Wondered.

If you are active on social media, do you know what happens when you die?

facebookThe owner(s) of the online site(s) you accepted the “terms and conditions” to before getting access dictate your digital rights on their service. Our world moved faster than the laws and after years of frustration, many of the online giants are starting to do more to address the issue of digital asset rights for their users. Google created an “Inactive Account Manager” but it is only a very broad safety net. The shortest term for inactivity is 3 months.

As a caregiver, we know how many issues surface for those who are unable to manage their own lives. Imagine if the person you were caring for was an active blogger or a great photographer and sold rights to their images online. Would you have what you need to access their accounts? For most of us, we might just need to get into email to be able to respond to friends of the person you are caring for. The power of attorney doesn’t cover this realm, yet.

Given that more people face a crisis or permanent disability before they die, the only way to ensure your loved ones have access to help you is to hand over a list of your usernames and passcodes. For a free tool to better understand and document you information, you can download a copy of “Taming the Internet: Keeping Track of Online Passcodes.” 

According to Slate, Facebook is rolling out an option that lets users choose to have their account wiped out upon death. The other option is to designate a hand-selected “legacy contact.”

I’m glad Facebook has done something, however, since 7 out of 10 Americans that turn 65 will need 3 years of care before they die, we must recognize that someone needs to be able to assist us long before we leave this planet and this isn’t just an issue for older americans. At the age of 40 nearly half of Americans will face a disability lasting 90-days; are you prepared to let a loved one step in and help you when you need it?

I encourage you to set up a system to be able to share the digital keys to your estate, should someone need to act on your behalf, if even only temporarily. As a reader, you know there are so many things you don’t have access or information about, even for those of us with durable powers of attorney. I hope you will take me up on the offer to download a free copy to at least get your digital house in order. Offered.

 

No one cares about me

threeringcircusMy caregiving journey has moved from tasks I can manage by myself to a three-ring circus. Under the three tents we have:

  • The Assisted Living Community: The center ring that has the overarching task of care, but also has the least amount of bandwidth with very busy employees who care for many residents with a wide variety of needs.
  • Hospice: The second ring that is our resource to help my Mom be comfortable as she moves through the final stages of her dementia.
  • Personal Daily Assistants (PDA): Now that my Mom is unable to leave her bed, we have hired additional personal assistants who can be with Mom from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to keep her company, comfortable and cared for.

As we move through this change, we are hitting a few bumps in the road. Today an adjustable hospital bed arrives  and I start getting calls from all three parties. I was told I would be called when it was scheduled, but was not contacted. In the course of one hour, I speak with all three and we put a plan in place to manage the simple task of removing one bed and inserting the new one until I can drive over.

When I arrive my mom is half asleep. The morning PDA tells me Mom has been up most of the morning with all the bed-moving activity. I sit by her bedside and wait for her to stir.

I made a pledge when this journey started that I would always tell my parents what was going on at least once. I wanted to not just repay them with respect, but treat them as I would want to be treated.

When my Mom wakes I ask her how she’s doing. She starts to ask questions. It’s hard for her to speak now; her voice has changed and she has trouble forming words. She asks where her bed went and what happened to require this new bed.

I tell her that her back hurt so much she didn’t want to get out of bed two weeks ago. All tests came back negative and they tell me it’s osteoporosis. I let her know they ordered this bed in hopes of getting her comfortable. We spend the next hour cycling through her asking to get up but being unable to stand any movement. As soon as we get ready to help her move she yells “Wait a minute, wait a minute.”  We never have the chance to really help her move out of the bed, she seems to be afraid that moving will hurt too much. The PDA is with me and we try to arrange the bed to get her more comfortable. She is frustrated at this new development and just wants to do things for herself. She keeps asking how she ended up this way.

In the midst of all this, she states “No one cares about me.” My brain stalls as I imagine how lonely and frightened she must be even now when I’m sitting next to her. She doesn’t always know I’m her daughter, she doesn’t remember that her other daughter just visited and spent three days with her, she doesn’t know that her two sons immediately made plans to visit when I told them that hospice was recommended. My first instinct is to put my hand on her hand and I lean down to give her a kiss on the head and tell her I love her and that all of us care about her. I immediately walk out of the room before the tear falls from my face. Juggled.