Tag Archives: sandwich generation

Watch Out for Well-Attired Caregivers

21 Jul

Sadly, elder abuse is far more common than most of us realize. It’s certainly not an unfamiliar concept to me. Both my mother and my late uncle were victimized by paid caregivers.

A few years ago,  my brother and I were given three hours notice that my mother was to be released from hospital but would require around-the-clock care for several months. We didn’t have a clue how to hire a care giver. All we knew was my mother really wanted to go home and the hospital wanted its bed back.  Lorna was the only applicant I spoke with and I hired her immediately. She seemed trustworthy and competent. And she was immediately available.

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Tribute to an Excellent Caregiver: Yes They Really Do Exist

18 Jul

Having written about Lorna, one of two caregivers I had to fire for cause, I think it’s only fair I devote time to Lea, the best PSW I hired. In case you’re curious, between my uncle and my mother, there were nine.

Lea was my Uncle Benny’s caregiver during the last years of his life. She was hired after I let four others go when he moved into Cummer Lodge, a long-term care home.  I didn’t think he would need private caregivers in a nursing home, but I was very wrong.  After two weeks of daily calls about frequent falls and aggressive behavior, it was  becoming clear my uncle wasn’t getting as much care as he needed. But by then the people I let go had all found new jobs.

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Just Exactly How Old is Old?

12 Jun

Old ladies aren’t supposed to run around and jump up and down and play games all the time. Old people are supposed to sit around talking about the weather…” *

One of my brothers likes to remind me about a time when I was 16 and I referred to his then 30-year-old boss as ancient. Now contrast my naive teenage words of wisdom with those of my seven-year-old:

The other night I was reading a book to my son in which a group of second graders were concerned their gym teacher would soon die if she didn’t start curtailing her many athletic activities. As I read the words “Miss Small is a quarter of a century old. That’s like ancient,” my son could be heard shouting “No it isn’t you dumb heads. She’s 25! That’s not old! Old is like 90!”

Obviously my son at seven has a better sense of  what it means to be old than I did at 16. I bet we all have a different opinion about what age we consider to be old.  So just exactly how old do you think is old? And do you really think age matters?

*Gutman, Dan. Miss Small is Off the Wall, Harper Collins, 2009.

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Is it Alzheimer or is it Selective Memory?

6 Jun

My mother is somewhere between stage five and stage six in the progression of her alzheimer disease. This means gaps in her memory and thinking have become more and more noticeable. She also requires increasing amounts of help with daily activities.  As long as I can remember my mother has had selective memory. As her dementia has progressed, her ability to remember things the way she would like to remember them has become even more so. For example:

She can remember an expensive leather suit she really thinks she ought to have with her in the nursing home, but she can’t remember it’s been at least 30 years since she wore it.

She can remember I haven’t shared a copy of her tax statement but she can’t remember her failing eyesight made it virtually impossible for her to read or understand any of last year’s.

She can remember wanting to call the police to have me arrested when she discovered I had removed all her lovely high heel shoes from her home. And she regrets not doing so. But she can’t remember tripping and falling repeatedly before her Imelda Marcos-like footwear collection was culled.

She can remember just about anything of value she’s ever owned. But she can’t remember that almost all of these items are no longer of use to her.

She can remember she has grandchildren. But she can’t always remember their names. Not that she cared much for their names anyway.

Most mystifying of all, she can remember she needs to see any number of medical specialists, but she can’t remember she has Alzheimer’s.

Except for the Memories,We Fade Away

26 May

It has  been a year since we unveiled my uncle’s monument.  I am certain that both his life and his death following a four year struggle with Lewy Body disease have made me a better person. This is a look back at the time shortly after his passing in December, 2012.

My uncle before Lewy Body got to him.

My uncle before Lewy Body got to him.

Earlier today I got really emotional when I saw my uncle’s hand-writing on a document I had just been given. Why I could get so choked up over a set of initials in blue ink got me thinking about how quickly an ordinary person’s mark on this earth fades away after death. No matter how extraordinary that individual might be to us, the signs of their presence within the context of the greater world will inevitably become fainter and fainter with each passing day. So much so, that even the smallest reminders of a time before my uncle’s descent into dementia are reason to rejoice. Or in my case, tear up.

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My Papa Didn’t Like the Rolling Stones

17 May

Jewish custom has it that when an individual visits a grave, he or she is supposed to leave a stone behind on the monument. I’m not entirely sure  about the origins of this ritual, but it most likely reflects the biblical practice of marking the site of a grave with a pile of stones. I didn’t have any when I visited my father’s grave last week so I left a hockey puck instead.

I haven’t mentioned my father before. He was the parent who did not get to grow old and for who aging issues would never be a concern.

I am already 10 years older now than my dad was in 1969. That was the year I was in the second grade and he died of cancer at 41. As the anniversary of his death was coming up and I was attending a funeral at the same cemetery, I stopped by his grave afterwards to pay my respects.  And as always, to have a good cry about the parent I wish had lived to old age.

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How Going Back to School at 50+ Helped Me Get My Professional Groove Back

16 Apr

My going back to professional life after five years out of the workforce required perseverance and a plan.  Going back to school part-time for upgrading was what made my efforts succeed.  I engaged my brain in vigorous exercise (which aging experts highly recommend for staving off dementia) and I landed a job in a field of communications that was just getting started when I thought my career was ending. I’ve since completed one program at the University of Toronto and am two-thirds the way through a certificate in digital strategy and communications management.  When a representative of U. of T.’s School of Continuing Education heard how I went from dubious doubter to converted  zealot, she asked me to tell my story to a reporter. And I happily obliged. The piece appeared in yesterday’s print and online editions of The Toronto Star.

Read the article here.

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