Elderly in large family gatherings

Of course we all want to include our elderly whenever there is a family event.  They are the reason we are here?  But, sometimes large gatherings can be very stressful for elderly or people with disabilities.  Consider the following:

1.  Hearing – What to us may be normal noise can be very loud and confusing.  Mom preferred that we visit her one family at a time.  She said that all the noise and commotion made her nervous.  She loved us coming but handled it much better when there were only two or three of us.

2.  Children – Children like to play with things.  They can be loud and playful.  We accept this as kids being kids.  When the grandkids were jumping around near mom, she was afraid they would either fall on her or knock something into her.  Because she was fragile (without really looking it), this could have caused a major problem.  She was on a blood thinner and any cut or hard bump could have been serious.  She also was nervous when small kids came to her house because of her medication.  In order for it to be handy for her, we left it on the table as a reminder to take it but when grandkids came around, she was afraid they would get into it.

3.  Medication – Anyone who takes medication has to have it on a fairly regular schedule.  Make sure if you are having someone to your home to make sure they have their medication with them and that they remember to take it.  It is easy for them to forget with all the excitement.

4.  Bathrooms – Some elderly have problems with either incontinence or bowel problems.  Make sure that they are close to a bathroom and have supplies in case they are needed such as pullups.  We never traveled without some.  Of course you have to be discreet but that is easily done as long as you think it out ahead of time.

6.  Diet – Keep in mind that texture and taste has to be taken into consideration.  Chewing and swallowing is affected with alot of medical conditions.  Make sure plenty of fluids are available.  Spices should be kept to a minimum on some dishes so they can eat without having problems later.

7.  Transportation – Make sure that someone is going to pick them up and take them home.

8.  Length of stay – It is easy for elderly to tire out.  They may have a rest schedule at home.  Try to limit the time they are away from home or provide an area where they can lie down for awhile.

Although you have to take all these things into consideration, it is also important for our family members not to be forgotten.  If they don’t want to attend for whatever reason, maybe take a plate of food to them or drop in later just to say hi.  Loneliness can be very depressing and many seniors suffer from it.

Having the talk – What to do when your parents should no longer stay home alone.

nursign hoFor the sake of these posts, I am going to post as if the person(s) we are talking about are your parents.  Naturally they don’t have to be.  It could be a family friend, other relative, etc.  More specifically, I will be referring to ‘she’ as this is mostly coming through my experience with my mother.

Additionally, I am not a lawyer or doctor so make sure you double check all I talk about here with your legal or medical team.  The laws in my state may be different than in your state.  This is all meant to be a guideline, not a rule.

Talk……sounds simple right.  But, how do you talk to your parents about what is going on in their private lives without sounding like you are interfering?

My mother was always a private person.  We could discuss kids, work, home life, etc. but we really did not talk about what she wanted for the future.  When she started to get older, it became necessary to discuss some very sensitive subjects.  For me, the easiest way was just to ask.  Depending on your family situation, this could be done at a family meeting or just one-on-one.  I would definitely let them know if you are going to discuss this with all family members as your parent might want to be ready.

What did she want done when her health got so she couldn’t stay at home?  Of course, she said this would never happen.  I told her that I would like it if I could move her in with me as long as our health allowed it.  She didn’t say yes or no, just ignored it.  She did say she didn’t ever want to go to an ‘old folk’s home’.  In her mind that was a place that people went to die.  The very word made her think of the sights and smells that use to be in some facilities.  I told her that nursing homes and/or assisted living facilities were much improved from what they were.  She still insisted that she did not ever want to go to one.  I promised her that if it was in my power, she never would go to one.

Where she wanted to be buried at?  This was easy as my father was buried in a double plot that already had a headstone on but I live in a different state so I wanted to make sure she wanted to be brought “home”.  It just made sense that she did but she flatly refused to make any funeral arrangements or discuss it at all.  This is understandable as it means thinking about dying.  I think the older you get, the harder that is.

Who did she want making decision for her if she could not make them herself?  Since Mom had gone through a very serious illness previously, I suspected she would want me to do this as I knew her medical conditions but I did not want to assume something so important.  Also, due to a health condition I had, I wanted to make sure who would be second in line.

Would she want to be kept alive if there was no hope?  This one was very difficult.  No one wants to think of this possibility.  This took a lot of thought as to what no hope meant.  To some it might mean if they were hooked up to a breathing machine, dialysis, feeding tube, etc.  After much talking, we decided that if there no way she could live without all that machinery and no hope that she would ever be off it, that she would rather not be here.  She had seen her own mother being kept alive during a fight with cancer when there was no hope and she didn’t want the family to go through that.

Who should make her financial decisions?  Due to her earlier illness, I was already on her checking account and safety deposit box but I wanted this to be clear.  I was not on her savings account, my oldest brother was.

Where all her financial papers are?  Does she have multiple checking and savings accounts?  Where are they?  Does she have life insurance?  Where is her health insurance through?  Does she have both Medicare and secondary insurance or Medicaid?  Does she have CDs, IRAs, etc?  Are there any other assets that you need to know about?  Where is the deed to the house, title to car, etc?  What all automatic deposits or withdrawals come out of her account.

Of course, just talking about all this did not make it legal.  We would have to go see a lawyer and get both financial and medical powers of attorneys,  a living will and a regular will.  More about that later.

The most important this is to start talking about this BEFORE it is too late.