First Published December 15, 2016 in Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column in Simply Clear Marketing & Media, formerly Central Coast Life, Tolosa Press – Title is “Caring Is A Most Precious Gift.” I hope to post more regularly in this blog and when appropriate I plan to add behind the scenes comments — triggers that brought the concept of the stories to print. People ask where do I get my ideas for the column – from others often, but mostly I see something/someone that is interesting to me and decide to share.
The picture above is of Hank Hall and a service friend that may or may not still join Hank and his military buddies at the French Cafe every Saturday morning at 9am. They meet for coffee and whatever and talk about their experiences in the service 80-90-plus years ago. Their memories of the times are sharp and their tales are animated. I saw them in October and will try and find the column I wrote about them. It was a glorious day for me to share their memories. Hank was the photographer from the Cayucos Seniors when I first met him. He also came from my hometown of Bakersfield. He couldn’t always be there so wanted me to take over – but he was the professional photographer – I was the point and shoot photog!!
But today’s column is different. I meet with Meredith Bates, now retired after years of providing Senior Services through her own company. I now see her at St. Timothy’s and told her I wanted to revive this column. She was willing but since she was retired and I was facing a deadline, I decided to talk to Kasey Watson, owner/operator or Garden House of Morro Bay – also from Bakersfield. In fact, we worked together at KGET-TV (NBC) years ago. Both women know all the signs of aging and understand the respectful loving care a senior might need – maybe not how to move around from here to there, but to move around within their aging lifestyle with dignity. That’s all we all want as we age – to keep on with the little creaks in our arthritic bones independently doing as much as we can. The lucky one’s have family to help, but help comes in many packages all year round.
Hope you enjoy – and heed.
During the Christmas season I wish everyone health, happiness, and safe travels plus peace and prosperity in 2017.
Nevertheless, the holidays can be as stressful as they are joyful. Routines are exchanged for a flurry of activities that include gifting and gorging. It is also the most likely time of the year for extended family and forever friends to make time for each other. I suggest we pause the chaos to take a closer look at how our loved ones are doing, including our parents who typically say they are just fine.
Kasey Watson is the owner/operator of Garden House of Morro Bay, an award-winning home for seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s and dementias. “By the time a family investigates bringing their loved one to Garden House, they are usually in crisis. We have to help the caregiver or family member as much as the resident who needs our fulltime care.” By having discussions before a crisis demands immediate action, she concluded, families would become better managers of whatever happens. And with decisions mutually agreed upon, resources can be investigated in advance to implement plans as needed.
Watson cited an example of a spouse insistent on taking care of his wife. For better or worse was their vow and although an admiral effort, both failed to thrive. When he passed away the adult children found Garden House. With an extended team of caregivers to help provide monitored nutrition, medications, socialization and regular sleep patterns, their mother re-gained physical and cognitive strength. Quality of life could have been better for both of them if action had been taken sooner.
“Everyone at every age and circumstance has a purpose,” said Watson. “Our goal at Garden House is to provide quality of life for families as we manage our residents’ predictable decline. I hope someday we recognize aging is a process of living and dementias are diseases. We wouldn’t ignore finding the best treatment for a broken hip or cancer diagnosis.”
Thus, the greatest gift within a multi-generational family spending the holidays together might be a non-intrusive assessment of changes in our loved ones and a discussion of a future plan to deal with the inevitable toll age could exact. It could mean celebration our loved ones are purposefully engaged and doing “just fine.” On the other hand, there might be “red flags” we need to address with a more immediate action plan before a crisis.
Watson recommends the Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org to discover information and area resources regarding aging — its potential issues and opportunities. Who hasn’t laughed over our own stress-caused confusions and forgetfulness, which can happen at any age, but rather than toss the behaviors off as simply the normal aging process, look more carefully.
“Seniors living away from family learn to hide issues,” Watson said. “Is one partner answering for the other? Do they still engage in family activities and enjoy the grandchildren? Or are they spending more time at home alone – retreating and uninterested?” The “red flag” list goes on: Granny was always stylish. Is she now neglecting her appearance? Does Papa seem angry or make inappropriate or unfiltered comments? Are they taking more medications, but don’t know what for? Does Papa need to follow a sequence to accomplish simple tasks then get frustrated. Must he start over or abandon the task? Is Granny’s sweet tooth a new eating habit? Are there unexplained dents in the car? Do you see unusual bruises or wounds yet they can’t tell you how they got there?
Watson suggests positive actions that will have long term benefits. “Mom has spent her whole life cooking and cleaning. Why not gift her a housekeeper simply for the deep cleaning? Maybe Papa could use a helpmate to clean the garage or weed the garden. “There are legitimate people out there to help with tasks like paying bills, shopping or driving to appointments,” Watson said. “We are raised to be independent, but by introducing help into the home before there’s a crisis makes it easier to accept later if or when they really need help.”
The greatest gifts don’t always come neatly wrapped in holiday gift bags. Caring enough to pay attention and have that conversation about the quality of our lives as we age might be the ultimate gift we’ll prize long after 2016 moves us to the next phase of our lives.
PS….I made my kids read this!! Happy New Year, 2017