Last fall Jane Gross, journalist and author of A Bittersweet Season, spoke about her experiences supporting and caring for her elderly mother. The presentation at Brethren Village, a retirement community in Lancaster, PA, shares observations, experiences, things she wishes she had done, and much more.
A great article in the December 14, 2015 Washington Post, The On-Demand Economy: Changing the Way We Live As We Age, explains how many new online services such as food delivery, rides on demand. and home services are making life much easier for elders who want to remain independent as long as possible. Most of these connect with easy-to-use smart phone apps.
The article authors, Luke Yoquinto and Joseph Coughlin, are affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, a group that connects new ideas with technology and aims to improve the health and quality of people’s lives, especially as they age.
Lots of people are working all over the place at the Green House Homes at Woodland Park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) the staff is in training, the furniture is arranged, and everywhere people are making last-minute tweaks.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the kitchens?
One of the homes will be ready for residents in two weeks. VMRC is about to add a new community to its vibrant and caring culture. Grand opening ceremonies are January 5th and 6th at VMRC.
I will be blogging from the events on Saturday and Sunday.
It snowed last week in the Shenandoah Valley, and I took this picture of one of the new homes at Woodland Park.
BTW: These homes have mountain views!
Who knew that when we installed all sorts of grab bars and railings in our house — intended to help our elder parents — they would be useful to me years before retirement?
I am using these accommodations all the time just now because I have a cataract, and those relative small but important changes in our house are coming in handy.
My cataract is not caused by aging. In the spring of 2012, about seven months ago, a detached retina required immediate surgery. I wrote about my experiences to provide clear and objective reports about the process of retinal surgery and my recovery.
My surgeon performed a vitrectomy, successfully correcting the problem and maintaining my vision, but he warned me ahead of time that a side-effect of the surgery is the development of a cataract. I say side-effect rather than complication because almost everyone who gets this type of surgery develops a cataract. Sure enough, about three months after my surgery I began to develop one.
We’ve all had experiences trying to accomplish a task that is way too hard — and one reason it’s so difficult is because the environment is not designed to help a person function and work efficiently. Many of us have watched our aging parents grow frustrated, especially in medical settings, where equipment and furniture is overly complex and where even simple things, like light switches, sometimes look like they belong in the complex control panel of an airplane. And it’s not just elders, but patients in general. In the biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple Computer’s Steve Job, then seriously ill and hospitalized, noted that hospital equipment needed dramatic redesigning.
To learn more check out Empowering Patients Through Design, a short article at Wired Science reporting on a speech at the Wired Health Conference. The October 15, 2012 article describes Michael Graves’ presentation, explaining how he became a hospital patient and then discovered that he could no longer function efficiently — even in a rehabilitation setting. The medical rooms, equipment, and other materials were poorly designed for people with disabilities.
Graves, a renown architect, found a new calling, combining his professional knowledge with his experience as a patient and becoming a proponent of human centered design. This type of architecture aims to make health care environments, as well as other settings, more comfortable and user-friendly. “I decided that since I was a designer and architect and a patient, I have the credentials to do this,” Graves said at the conference.
In health care human centered design focuses on every part of the patient’s care experience from hospital and patient rooms to floors, light switches, and even signs. Graves and his group have designed hospital furniture that takes the specific needs of patients into consideration.
These tips for adult children and their families look like common sense suggestions. Often however, when family members seek an assisted living community for an elder parent, they need to make decisions quickly without much time to read all of the fine print and ask the less obvious questions. Sometimes time constraints can put common sense at the bottom of the list.
Check out item number eight in the Smart Money list, “We pay people to put you here.” A family needs to know a lot about the placement service itself before considering its recommendations for an assisted living community.
Our family was most fortunate to discover Chesterbrook Residences in Northern, Virginia, where my husband’s mother lived for nearly two years. Their policies were transparent and clear.