A Freedom Village independent resident shares why she chose to move to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) from a 55 plus retirement community (Laguna Woods), Three months later she was blessed with a quick rehab recovery at Freedom Village Skilled Nursing Care after breaking her hip. Author Diane Masson shares a tip from her book, “Your Senior Housing Options.”
Have you felt like a number instead of a person at your HMO or heath provider? What happened? Frustration? What about vulnerable seniors who may or may not have an advocate at their doctor and hospital appointments? If sane adults can’t advocate for themselves, how can a senior with dementia?
A few weeks ago, I went to my HMO (Kaiser) for a simple endoscopy procedure. It was a 5-minute procedure that required me to be under anesthesia in a twilight state. Anesthesia has not always been my friend. So I came armed with all my previous anesthesia experiences (the good and the bad). The doctor was informed of my concern through the nurse. The doctor acknowledged my concern (relief on my part) and said she would give me the same twilight anesthesia as a recent colonoscopy. I agreed to this, because it had been a good anesthesia experience for me.
Well, I awoke after the procedure to a nightmare of nausea and another bad anesthesia experience. A week later, my husband compared the anesthesia of the colonoscopy with the anesthesia of the endoscopy. Low and behold, they had given me 25 extra milligrams of Demerol for my endoscopy. That was not what I agreed to with my doctor. Why would they give me more than necessary? Was it because I was on a conveyor belt of medical procedures for that day? When I shared this experience with others, a couple of friends shared more stories.
A coworker was given anesthesia during a colonoscopy and felt them begin the procedure. The medical team jumped when she said that she was still awake. Then they gave her so much anesthesia that it took her three weeks to recover.
Another friend was given 50 mg of a steroid, when it should have been a 10 mg dose. The doctor continued to overdose my friend for three months. My friend is still feeling the affects of being overmedicated. It was determined my friend never needed the steroid in the first place but they have to slowly wean him off the steroid. It takes months to do this.
My own mother-in-law was given psychotropic medications in the emergency room. Amy had to lie on a gurney for three days because there was no room for her in the psych ward. She has still not recovered from what they did to her. Psychotropic medications do not mix well with dementia.
My mom with dementia went to the hospital for abdominal pain. They wanted to do an exploratory surgery. We (my family) said no to the surgery because our mom has dementia. The doctor understood, because my mom could lose more of her memory going under anesthesia. He did not convey our wishes (no exploratory surgery) to his team. When I went to visit my mom at lunchtime, she was not in her room. It turned out they were prepping her for surgery. My husband and I raced to that floor of the hospital to stop them. We got there in the nick of time. The doctor profusely apologized. Really?? The POA says no surgery and the HMO is going to do it anyway? Ridiculous! It turned out she had a urinary track infection and lived another five years.
How do we protect ourselves? How can caregivers protect and advocate for seniors?
This can be a controversial and personal question. Many people say that you should not lie. My husband was one of those people who believed it was wrong to lie to anyone, even my mom with dementia.
After my sister died my mother, with severe short-term memory loss (dementia), inquired about her daughter Shannon. My honest husband told her that she had died. Her reaction would be like any mother learning this terrible news. A week later, my mom asked my husband about my sister, Shannon, again. Before I could respond, I had to witness my mother’s intense pain of learning that her daughter died for the second time.
Every time she asked the question about my sister and got the answer that she died, it was like the first time that she ever heard about it. She couldn’t grasp her daughter’s death in her long-term memory. What a blessing? Right? Wrong!! It is so hard to lose a sister and not share that loss with your own mom. She just was not mentally capable.
It was time to train my husband how to handle the sister question, so he could be prepared. Next time my mom asked where Shannon was today, he would say that we had not seen her in some time, but we think she is doing great (in heaven of course). My mom was satisfied with that and let it go.
What about a spouse passing? This one is tough if the senior husband and wife lived together or regularly visited his or her spouse with dementia. The loving spouse may be in the dementia person’s long-term memory.
This happened to my mother-in-law, Amy. She would ask about her husband every time we visited her. She would inquiry, “Where’s Bill?” or “Did Bill come with you?” He had not died, but was hospitalized after a heart attack. It was so hard on her that her husband of 65 years was suddenly gone.
These senior spouses (my in-laws) never lived together again. Within a few months my father-in-law was put on hospice. Amy lived in a licensed assisted living community. Sadly they were two hours apart. She always asked about him.
It was heart breaking to witness their last visit as husband and wife. They just held hands and looked at each other. A month later my father-in-law had passed away.
I taught the family not to share his death. Amy could not handle it. It would have been too confusing for her because of her dementia. At the time the psychotropic medication combined with the dementia allowed very little clarity in her brain.
What are your thoughts on this conversation? Would you tell a dementia person over and over that someone died? Would you tell them once?
Diane Masson has worked in senior housing for 18 years and is the regional marketing director for two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern CA (Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet). Her first book “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” is being utilized by senior housing professionals across the country. Her new book is an all-encompassing answer guide for seniors called, “Your Senior Housing Options,” designed to help seniors navigate choices quickly. Learn more tips at: Tips2Seniors.com
Here’s a quick summary of “Your Senior Housing Options,” including the costs and consequences from tips2seniors.com. It walks you through a dementia scenario including all the choices for a vulnerable senior. This video can empower an independent senior to plan ahead or help an adult child put their parent in a quality senior community.
Meet Betty, a senior resident, who was born in 1926 as a child of the depression. Her life was different back then and every family was very frugal. When she grew up and went to work, ladies wore dresses, hats and girdles. It was just the way of the world back in the thirties and forties.
According to Betty, the young people today have not experienced the depression nor the constant thought of frugalness. She said, “Your generation has a freedom that I never had. You have a choice of how to dress at work. It is more casual than in my day. Plus, I would never be able to keep up with the technology. I’m so impressed with the technology and all that you can get done in a short time span.” Betty admires what the workforce of today can accomplish.
As she walked into the exercise room at her Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) with her walker, Betty said, “I can’t use all the fancy equipment in here, but I can keep walking. Even when I watch TV, I am walking in place and using my arms and staying active.” She proceeded to show off about four arm exercises that she utilizes. It was a very impressive demonstration.
Here’s the best quote from spending time with wonderful Betty: She said, “I can’t stop the years from slipping by. I am just so happy to say that I have had a fabulous life.”
What a delight during this time of the year to share a senior’s story. Betty is a senior who has been living at a CCRC for 10 years and is still fighting to stay active and keep her brain engaged and dementia-free.
Do you have a senior story to share? Maybe your senior story is a friend, neighbor, parent or resident at your senior living community? Please share in the comments…
Last week the Tips2Seniors blog discussed: “Seniors in Denial, Relying on Friends and Family.” Every single one of us knows a senior who is struggling in their home. Some seniors silently suffer and others have a whole network of support from family and friends.
Ultimately when a loved one or neighbor tries to have “The Talk” with the senior it can have five typical results:
Denial: “I am not ready yet. I am just fine living in my own home.”
Shutting down: “I don’t want to discuss this.”
Anger: “Why are you questioning my ability to be independent? Leave me alone.”
Confusion: “Don’t you want to come see me everyday? I don’t understand.”
Acceptance: “I understand that I have become a burden. Maybe it’s time to look at what my senior housing options could be. Will you help me look?”
In my 17-year senior housing career, sons, daughters and spouses have asked me the same question, how do I have “The Talk.”
Here are my 7 Tips to have “The Talk.”
Set the stage for “The Talk”. You know if it is better to have “The Talk” in public or private with your senior.
Public talk: Take them out to eat in a public location (so they can’t yell at you or they can’t escape into their bedroom).
Private talk: Buy or make your seniors their favorite cookies. Serve the favorite cookies with their special coffee or tea at their dining room table.
Tell your senior how much you love them.
Then share your concerns, be very factual. Such as:
You have fallen twice.
You missed your medications three times this week.
I come over here every day to help you.
Explain your fears in loving detail. Every day when I call you my heart stops till you answer the phone on the third ring. I can’t handle the stress. It is making me sick with worry. I can’t keep this up. If something happens to me, you will be in jeopardy. (It is okay to cry and show your emotions. This is very emotional.)
Recommend a solution to explore senior housing options together. I know you don’t want to move but it will be healthier for you and healthier for me. Let’s do this together.
There is a book that can teach us how to find a great retirement community versus a mediocre one. Here’s the book, it is called, “Your Senior Housing Options.”
Depending on your senior, read it to them or you each read it on your own. Use the tips and advice in the book to find the best senior housing arrangement.
If this article struck a cord with you, please share it on social media to help a friend or neighbor going through a struggle with a senior.
Give the gift of knowledge:“Your Senior Housing Options,” is an easy read with illustrations. It walks seniors and their adult children through the costs and pitfalls of navigating senior housing and includes the “7 Deadly Sins of Searching for Senior Housing Options.”
News Flash: Diane Masson’s interview on Generation Bold Radio broadcasted on Sunday, December 6th on the BizTalkRadio Network syndicated to 33 stations across the country.