Here’s an Interesting Article

This article, published in the NY Times magazine June 20, 2010, entitled My Father’s Broken Heart

Support for the caregiver

Modern medicine and surgeries have transformed our lives. It’s miraculous to be able to overcome illness and injury. Who doesn’t hope for a cure, a way of “defeating” threats to our lives?  But  for some of us, we might be impacted by the medical process in ways we are not prepared for.  Perhaps the person with the medical condition does not completely return to full independence. Or in the case of aging, our frail elders just need increasing assistance as year after amazing year goes by. Or it could be a combination of both of the above.

With regards to aging, in 1996 when I first began working professionally with older people, it was unusual that we’d see someone over the age of  100. It was a marvel and cause for celebration and for taking endless photographs of the elder. Now, we can see in the paper that people making it over the age of 100 is no longer big news. And it’s almost commonplace to meet nonagenarians – many of whom are still active in community life and can manage very well independently.

Likewise younger people of all ages are surviving against all odds medical conditions that until very recently were considered fatal. And like our elders, lots of these survivors return to a normal, active life.

However some who undergo surgery or are given medications to help with illness may not be so fortunate when it comes to being independent. Yes, they may have survived conditions that used to end life, but sometimes at a cost. Sometimes they find themselves with many more dependency needs – and where do they naturally turn? To their  spouses, families, friends and communities. And so while the numbers of illness survivors is skyrocketing, so are the numbers of family/community caregivers.

Caregiving is probably one of the most rewarding ways we can give back to other people. Also it can be one of the most exhausting, lonely, invisible, emotionally confusing periods in our lives.

Since the population of caregivers is growing astronomically, there are so many thoughtful writings, discussions and ways to support caregivers popping up.  There are more caregiver hotlines and support groups coming together.

I have a few  articles and names of national caregiver groups to share with you. And I will soon be offering a caregiver support group for spouses and partners, here in Boulder. Stay tuned!

After the Caregiving Ends – NYTimes.com

Caregiver Burnout

The Reluctant Caregiver – NYTimes.com

Articles about Caregiving – Los Angeles Times

Groups/hotlines for caregivers:

Well Spouse Association | Well Spouse Association

Empowered Caregiver Network | More Than Just Coping

Frailty and Dementia

Frail older people:

The frail state is one where vitality is low or lacking altogether, and a person has less strength and resilience to withstand physical and emotional stress. Frailty renders a person vulnerable to illness and injury.

Older people with memory loss and confusion:

Working with elders who are living with various degrees of dementia (including Alzheimer’s) is an area of my work that I especially appreciate. I find I have a temperament and the skills most needed for working with memory loss and confusion. Dementia is a condition that is often misunderstood.  Dementia: irreversible memory loss and confusion, caused by strokes, Alzheimer’s  type plaques and tangles in the brain, Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative conditions of the brain and nervous system.

Dementia can be considered mild, moderate or severe according to the following criteria –

Mild – an experience or even can be remembered but without its details and nuances: questions and storeis are repeated: there is a pull towards social withdrawal and isolation.

Moderate dementia – longer term memory is accessible but short term memory is very impaired; personal care can be accomplished but it frequently requires prompting and some assistance. .

 

I often work with older people who are more alone in their lives. There are increasing numbers of older people who do not live near family, who have outlived many friends or who find themselves alone much of the time, even if living in a facility. And some have families that may live in the area but are very busy. The elder may still be able to manage their day but without someone to really talk to and be listened to with plenty of time, the possibility of losing their mental and physical abilities increases Also tracking their medical needs becomes more serious.

 

Severe dementia – personal care requires close assistance; ability to reason and understand information is seriously impaired.