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Finding the Time for One More Project

The words of many family caregivers I have visited came flooding back, as I lay on my back wedged in my mom’s new bathroom vanity. I was tightening the last of the connections for the new sinks I just installed. Caregivers frequently speak with tears in their eyes as they voice their frustration and exhaustion of juggling two households while trying to honor the requests of their parents. Too often the requests for minor maintenance and remodeling are the tasks that are the tipping point of weariness for many that are working and still raising children at home.


This generation is the War Generation, responsible for the suburbs, neighborhood schools and parks.  Homeownership is a symbol of success. They grew up in the depression, were resourceful, and paid cash for most purchases. They took care of all they owned and performed most of their own repairs.  Now their home is where they want to remain. For many, utilizing the reverse mortgage program, their home may help finance the remainder of their years.  Understanding this  about this generation explains the focus of the  requests surrounding issues of their home.


The appreciation of their home and desired to maintain its value does not decrease with age. Decreased mobility and limited transportation forces many aging seniors to remain at  home for the majority of their day. A local business specializing in barrier free living for aging in place really describes it best with the company’s name, “Remain Home”.


Sometimes, for the caregiver the thought of tackling another project is more time consuming and exhausting than getting them accomplished. Discussing needs for home maintenance and improvement may help strike a balance for time line, resources, and scope of project   In the past few months I have helped my mom with a few home maintenance projects. I will admit, worrying about how I was going to get these done wasted much more time than completing the  tasks themselves.


My mom recently asked me what she did to deserve my help. Well, besides the standard answer that along with my dad, she raised me with Christian values, paid for my education, and put up with my; how about all the hours of babysitting, all the piles of clothes that were folded, all the birthday cakes that have been made, and most importantly her unconditional love?


I still have the jobs of caulking her shower and repairing the tub, and then there still is her kitchen floor to retile. All will be done somewhere between her timeline and mine.

Too often safety for seniors is a discussion focused around dangling cords, throw rugs, wall bars, or PERS and make no mention of personal medical information. HIPAA laws have been enacted to protect the privacy of our medical information but some individuals share it with no one, worried about loss of independence and placing themselves at risk.

Recently a good friend had an acute medical emergency while away from home in a remote area of the state. She was going to go away by herself but at the last minute invited a friend to come along; a decision that may have saved her life. She was airlifted from the small local hospital to a regional medical center and her family was called. She had shared none of her health status with her children so they were unable to offer any information to assist the physicians caring for her. As news of her status spread, her medical information was pieced together and her primary physicians were finally contacted. She has made a full recovery.

Everyone has the right to privacy concerning their medical information but someone you trust should have the key to it or know the name of your primary physician. Always sign a HIPAA consent form at your physician’s office. The electronic medical record would have data but nothing is as good as a professional exchange of information, which is why health care professionals use data to support their holistic assessments.

There are secrets we all carry to our graves but our medical information should not be one of them.

Wisdom Does Come with Age

Research is now supporting what we have said for years – wisdom comes with age. There is much known about the physical effects of aging on memory. Sensory, information processing, and episodic recall slow with age: semantic and implicit memory are unaffected with age; and wisdom increases with age.

How is wisdom defined? Based on years of research Baltes, Staudinger, Scheibe, and Kunzmann describe wisdom as:

*dealing with the important matters of life and the human condition

* knowledge with extraordinary scope, depth and balance applicable to a certain situation

* superior knowledge, judgement, and advice

* well intended and combines mind and virtue

As caregivers we often gather data with all of our senses, process it, come to a conclusion and offer one solution either to solve a prolem or just unsolicited in our desire to “fix” things. We do not understand why it is not accepted or those that we are trying to help must “think” about it. I hear too often from my clinets and older family members that they feel their family or friends that are caregivers are trying to take over their lives. Frequently this type of help is counter productive, making those needing assistance more resistant to help or advice.

Understanding the aging body’s physical abilities as well as cognitive processes will assist us in being better caregivers and resource providers. Those we love and are providing caregiving assistance to, are processing the details with wisdom. Take the time to sit down and listen and hear what they have to say. These moments too, can be memory making, and a life experience adding to our wisdom.

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