I will do, and pretty much have done, everything possible to keep my 93-year-old dad happy and healthy. Those of you who are the family caregiver can probably rattle off a list of things you never thought you would do; but when the time comes you step up, shut up and get it done. This should be the caregivers’ creed: step up, shut up, get it done.
Well the flu is traveling the halls of my dad’s assisted living community and sure enough he caught it. For my dad a cold is synonymous with pneumonia. The germs bypass sore throat, sniffles and runny nose. They go right to gunkie (I don’t think this is a medical term. It may not even be a word. But, you get the point.) cough, projectile sneezing, shortness of breadth, ashen coloration and poor sleep, which immediately diminish his cognitive abilities causing a dazed look to take over his once alert face.
Don’t get worried. With care from an amazing medical team, a round of strong antibiotics, cough syrup, and the use of the miracle nebulizer 3x’s a day to help him breath, he’s back to his old self.
I am thrilled he’s healthy again! For his sake and mine. You see…I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Since becoming responsible for my dad, I’ve turned into a Purell carrying, hand washing, disinfecting wipe, antibacterial loving type of gal. I think being a germaphobe comes with being a caregiver, since caring means doing whatever possible to keep germs away.
During the month it took him to recuperate, I had to check my germaphobic tendencies at the door and walk into his room knowing a million tiny germs were flying around just waiting to take me down. I tried to get him to sneeze into his elbow, sleeve or a tissue, but each sneeze seemed to come faster than he could react. I washed and sanitized the mouthpiece to his nebulizer three times a day. I picked up tissues. I gave up, stepped up, shut up and got the job done. Goodbye and good riddance pneumonia of 2014.
Photo Credit: iStock
There are thousands of great books, blogs and websites — all loaded with tons of valuable information — to help adult children navigate the unchartered and choppy waters of caregiving.
But, if you are like me, when I found myself thrust into the role of caregiver, I was overwhelmed by the situation, the speed at which everything was happening and the severity of the decisions that needed to be made. I was in act and react mode. I just wanted the CliffsNotes version of how to care for a parent. The fewer words the better.
So to help other new caregivers, here’s a short list of essential resources to start with:
- Assisted living checklist:
- Assisted living template to compare communities:
Documents Prepared Families Cannot Ignore
A memoir told in drawings, cartoons, photos and writings by Roz Chast, New Yorker cartoonist. This book is wonderful! It makes you feel less alone in the caregiving process. It makes you laugh. It makes you sad and cringe. And, it paints a realistic picture of caregiving.
Last week my dad decided to have lunch in his room, instead of eating in the dining room, since the Giants were playing an afternoon game. No big deal. All he does is ask the concierge at his assisted living community to have his lunch delivered to his room. And, for the record, the Giants are #1 in the MLB standings with 37 wins after two months of play. You’ve got to boast while you can.
But, I digress. Back to the reason for the post. His lunch didn’t get delivered to his room. But, I happened to stop by at 12:45 so I went to the dining room and picked up his meal. I didn’t think twice about this. Nor did I mention it to the concierge to reverse the small in room dining fee. I learned to pick my battles early on when my dad moved to assisted living. And, this was a nonissue.
Unbeknownst to me, my dad mentioned the little oversight to the concierge. And, what resulted was the most heartfelt apology, which read:
“Dr. Mr. Yano
I hope you enjoy some of these treats when you watch the Giants play. They are doing amazing this year :-). I truly am sorry that I forgot your lunch order last week. You don’t ask for much so it bothered me even more that I let you down. Please know that I am here to help in any way I can and I find pleasure in doing so.
Note to my nephews who say, “my bad” as a form of an apology; this is how it’s done.
There are personality tests to find the right college, career and spouse; now there’s a personality test (of sorts) to help determine who’s best suited for life in assisted living. According to the article on Caring.com titled, Who Does Well In Assisted Living, Who Doesn’t, people with these six traits will fare best.
- Appreciative realists
- Extroverts who’ve become Isolated
- Adaptable types used to life’s transitions
- Those with family nearby
- People who are attracted to amenities
- Those with mild dementia
I can honestly say that my dad possesses the top five traits and I believe this made his transition to assisted living easier. But, what’s so interesting is that prior to his move to assisted living, I would not have thought he was: isolated, adaptable at 89 years of age, or someone who liked amenities (such as dining out, scenic excursions on the bus or participating in the men’s club). So as you read the list above, be objective. The parent you see might be different from who they really are. And, moving to assisted living might bring out a new side of your parent’s personality, which had grown dormant over time.
I just read about UrbnMat and it sounds like a great idea for older adults, who want to garden without all the heavy lifting required or who may have a smaller yard due to downsizing during retirement. The set up is so simple: (1.) roll out the UrbnMat on to 6″ of soil, (2.) attach a garden hose or you can water by hand, (3.) put the 30 labeled GrowUps Plant Starters in the corresponding holes on the UrbnMat. Happy gardening!
You are never too old to make a new best friend.
My dad met Len the day he moved to assisted living, and as luck would have it, they lived across the hall from each other. Different circumstances bought them to their new residence. My dad was on the verge of becoming a widower and Len was battling cancer. It didn’t matter what their circumstances were or that my dad was in his late-80s and Len was in his mid-70s.
What mattered most was their shared love of sports (Giants baseball and 49er’s football), their shared history of growing up in the Bay Area and their ability to laugh. They laughed like schoolyard boys at times. They laughed about all the chicken dishes being served in the dining room (chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, chicken with rice, chicken enchiladas, etc.), they laughed about the foibles of growing old, and they laughed about the hardship of life.
Today is Len’s birthday. I know my dad misses his laughter and friendship. We all do.
There it sits. Propped up on my dad’s desk, in all its construction paper, glue and felt marker glory. The outline of pencil used to trace the big white heart, still peeking through. The artist signature (Estaban Z.) and “I Love You” written in sparkly silver marker.
It doesn’t matter that my dad doesn’t know the boy who made the card. All that matters is that my dad likes the card. So to Estaban Z. — and your classmates who made cards for the residents of my dad’s assisted living community — you did a great job! Thank you.