As baby boomers, not only are we getting close to retirement years, we all face many issues with aging parents. I know! My mother is still living and soon to be 90 years old in June of 2008. Amazingly, she has had great health just about all of her life. One issue she has had in the last 10 years is some hearing loss. We have gone through our share of hearing aids and that is a story I'll post another time, as it is long by itself! We were used to her being healthy and still living on her own in a retirement residence. Then she fell, for no apparent reason on a level service and broke her hip. When a senior falls and breaks their hip, it is almost always the beginning of going downhill from there. She was in the hospital recovering from surgery and physical therapy for 2 weeks amazingly well!... but she seemed to be going through the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. It just got worse for those two weeks.
We all knew she had showed signs of some minor confusion for the last year, but nothing like this. In fact, we even mentioned it to her doctor and he started her on Aricept which is the primary drug for Alzheimer's but it only slows it down. It is not a cure. She was also under pain medications, so we thought she would get better after getting off that, but she did not. After the two weeks, since no one in the family could watch her 24 hours a day, she had to go to an assisted living home, which we knew would be temporary as it was soon to be the holidays and we would be off work for two weeks. She got worse and even though the assisted living home had people who were very caring and did their best, they were understaffed and it was a depressing place.
As I say, I know there are worse conditions, but you could smell urine in some furniture that was being used and it just needed better cleaning and it was gloomy and my mother seemed to be totally out of her mind. We thought there would be no return from this. However, we took her home for the holidays while we were off and she could walk very well by then, she just needed some physical therapy at our house which we arranged, but was doing well, physically. The first week at our house, I thought I would lose my mind because she was babbling out of her mind, getting up all hours of the night, making strange noises, talking back and forth to herself like there was two people right there. She went to my sister's house the second week of Christmas and still was pretty bad but started getting better. She quieted down and slept better. Well, as time went on and I read more and more about this disease, I found out that are many people who were having bad side effects from the Aricept, so we talked to the doctor and we stopped it. The very next day she improved tremendously!! She has been about where she was before this all happened ever since. She is going to move back to her apartment in the retirement home she lived in. Good thing I kept it!!! It seems like a miracle!!! I mean, I know that this may not last long, but we have learned a LOT about what all of us baby boomers need to do to prepare for this and I will be adding more information as I can.
What we doing next is that we found a fantastic program in our local area called Community Life (there is link below). This is really a day care program for seniors but their main purpose is to care for seniors health and well being so that they can continue to live in their homes or with family, but can go to the center every day if they wish (Mon - Fri) to be active, address health concerns like hearing, teeth, eye care, medications, appearance, meals, activities, day trips, the list goes on....
These adult day care places are all over the country under different names but are government funded through Medicaid. The government has realized that it is much more cost effective to pay for these centers and prevent seniors from having to go to nursing homes where 24 hour care needs paid for. It's just cheaper this way. So it's a win... win for everybody. The only thing that everyone may not like is that you must turn over your primary doctor care to the doctor at the center, as they take care of all medications. If one is very partial to their current doctor, this can be a difficult decision. But the benefits well out balance this and if hospital care is needed they are affiliated with the local hospital anyway.
I will post a list of web sites in this posting, one of which is a Online Community Forum where I found others going through this same thing and about taking her off of the Aricept. Other things I will put in future postings will be what you need to do financially. Things such as living wills, wills, putting all assets in some other family members name, power of attorney, etc. Here is the list of sites about aging:
National Institute on Aging - www.nia.nih.gov/ which is leading the federal effort on aging research
American Society on Aging - http://www.asaging.org/index.cfm is an association of diverse individuals bound by a common goal: to support the commitment and enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families.
Govbenefits.gov - http://www.govbenefits.gov/govbenefits_en.portal is a partnership of Federal agencies with a shared vision - to provide improved, personalized access to government assistance programs.
Alzheimer's Association Online Community - http://alzheimers.infopop.cc/eve/ubb.x is an online forum where people share issues they are undergoing to help each other deal with all aspects of aging parents.
National Council on Aging - http://ncoa.org/ is a nonprofit organization with a national network of more than 14,000 organizations and leaders. Our members include senior centers, area agencies on aging, adult day service centers, faith-based service organizations, senior housing facilities, employment services, consumer groups, and leaders from academia, business, and labor.
National Institute of Health Senior Health - http://nihseniorhealth.gov/ makes aging-related health information easily accessible for family members and friends seeking reliable, easy to understand online health information. This site was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Pension Rights Center - http://www.pensionrights.org/ is the nation's only consumer organization dedicated solely to protecting and promoting the retirement security of American workers, retirees and their families.
Senior Citizens Resources USA - http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors.shtml is a Senior Citizens' Resources of the US government.
I know this is a lot of information.... but take your time and check out the sites and start learning what you need to do. Don't let yourselves get caught off guard and have to scramble to find out what to do. This time will come to many of us.
Live and Love well....we can make it when you have others to help you and there is a lot of help out there!
Take care.... and keep coming back to my blog for more info....