“What do you do when the phone rings at 11:00 at night, and it is the Emergency room telling you your parent fell, broke her hip, will have surgery and be discharged within a couple of days?”, asks our own Cheryl Wilson, CEO for St. Paul’s and Board Member of the Howell Foundation as she kicks off her presentation at the last Howell luncheon. What level of senior care can you give?
According to Dr. Kawas, also a lecturer at the past Howell Luncheon, research is showing that half the children born today are expected to live past 103. An estimated 2 million people in the US is over 90. By 2050, it is expected that 3% of the population –around 6 million individuals– will be part of the ‘oldest old’ segment of the population.
That means that the need for care giving will also exponentially grow.
Are you prepared?
Working with senior citizens gives Cheryl the opportunity to share the most important things to make sure your loved one is taken care of well into their old age. Her suggestions?
1.- Have a plan!
Having a conversation with your kids is always difficult, especially when dealing with issues that make a parent vulnerable. We as ‘kids’ are used to see our parents strong and taking life head on. Eventually, we grow up and go on our way, and our parents are settled in to live the rest of our lives. Or so we think…
What is for sure is the clearer the information about what to expect as caregivers and what our family member wants and needs is crucial. If your parents have not talked to you about what they want in their old age, make sure you have information on their funeral arrangement, their lawyer and their financial planner. What would they like to do if an accident were to happen? How are they expecting to be taken care of? What about DNR and advanced directive? Should we go into wills and trust funds, or do you want to take a breath?
But seriously, what happens when you do get that call? Around half of patients are discharged to a nursing facility that was not the first choice. Is it accessible? What if it is too far away? Does it have the rehab capabilities your loved one needs? Should you be thinking of home instead, and how will you manage?
Kill those ‘what if’s” and make sure instructions are in your plan! Talking about future care matters!
2. Engage, engage, engage! Much has been published on the efficacy of inter-generational programs, where young and elder interact in social settings as a means to stimulate seniors. Some of the most interesting programs include music, singing and activities that stimulate the brain. Cheryl is optimistic about all the research taking place with Parkinson’s disease and babies… yes, you read correctly. Apparently, the shaking diminishes when a Parkinson’s patient holds a baby in its arms!
3. Nutrition, with a social component. People are social beings by nature, and nothing is better than a meal in good company!
4. Exercise. Research shows that stretching every day after 80 goes a long way. Other forms of fun exercise include walking, swimming and dancing. Going places gets you your vitamin D, so make sure you wear extra sunscreen.
There is much more information to consider when becoming a care giver. Communication and being informed is only the first step. If you are in the process of becoming a caregiver, make sure you talk to your doctor’s team and care providers to plan for the best care for your loved one!