April 8, 2009

Hannah's Journey - Part 8 (A journal of my mother's affliction with Alzheimer's Disease)

This is a journal of events that my mother has been going through since 1989 and leading to her eventual stay in a nursing home. In order to keep each part of the journal I have been keeping over the last year and a half brief, I will post this journal in parts, as I entered them. All of these postings can be found in the folder in the sidebar called Hannah's Journey.

----04/08/2009 - I have not added anything to "Hannah's Journey" since August 28, 2008, as my mother's health has remained relatively the same. She is slightly more confused which shows in the form of random sentences of different subjects running together. This makes it difficult to determine what is accurate and what is not. She may make a statement that she had such a terrible day and that someone slapped her across her face. We can't really discount this a completely false as there have been news articles concerning other public nursing homes in the Pittsburgh area, about abuses. There was a news item of some workers in question at another facility related to the one my mother is in, but there has been no evidence that there have been similar occurrences where she is. It is possible that another residents may behave abnormally and have not been seen by the staff. My own mother was, at one point, restricted from using silverware as she threatened to harm others. In their nightmarish state, these types of behaviors do occur. The best we can do is continue to visit, question and speak to the staff about anything we have questions about. It is a terrible, terrible thing to go through, for the elderly themselves and for their entire families!

As a member of the nearly 80 million Baby Boomers going through the various life changing issues of getting older, I have been being watching my mother slip into the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease over the last year and a half. This led me to begin a quest of researching what this disease is all about and what we all need to do to prepare as we see our parents living longer, but not necessarily healthier lives. The numbers of aging adults becoming Alzheimer victims is rapidly growing, not only due to longer life-spans but to the numbers of us approaching our senior years.

Here is a short list of some important things to better prepare families with aging parents:

1. PREPARE - We ALL need to prepare ourselves and our parents for the side effects of living longer lives. Families need to sit down and talk about these issues as future caregivers of our aging parents.
2. SEEK HELP - Do some research on what resources, such as The National Society on Aging, and in your local community to support seniors. This involves not only financial but things such as what are the best caring places, retirement or nursing homes in your area.
3. DECIDE & DO - Once you have some ideas about things you need to do about housing and care, make a list and sit down with your aging parents and calmly explain your concerns in a caring way about their lifestyles and what EVERYONE wants to do to help. Hopefully, if this discussion occurs early enough, while the senior can care for themselves, it can be discussed as ways to help them live the lifestyle they want, whether it be desired to live with someone or independently in a retirement home or the home they currently live in. There are many resources that can help seniors live in their current homes and receive care that is covered by their insurance, medicare or medicaid.
4. ACT - It is one thing to think about all of this, but quite another to actually begin the process. If a family has done the research and had the discussions with their elders, then actions must occur as soon as possible before things like falling, accidents or disease begin. Being prepared will make all of these issues much easier to go through, although it is NEVER easy to get old, but at least being prepared can prevent worse case scenarios.
5. FORGIVE - As we see our parents undergo the many phases of aging, we need to remind ourselves to go easy on them as well as ourselves. For example, Alzheimer’s can turn a loving parent into a totally different person who may express their fears in bouts of anger, perhaps even violent at times. It is very difficult, but we have to remember who they were, the sacrifices they made for their children and that these actions are just random, unconnected thoughts in their brains, much as dreams or nightmares. Lastly, as we must make hard decisions about our aging parents lives, we must remember to forgive ourselves as doing the best that we can and are taking the heavy responsibility of getting them the best care that we can!

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