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.
If you provide caregiving support to a family member, take a few minutes to read a short article about Five Facts About Family Caregivers at the Pew Research Center website. The short article offers details from a survey that collected information about participants’ views concerning caring for aging parents, part of a larger Pew project that focused on Family Support in Graying Societies.The image at right is one of the graphs from the article.
The information presented in this report includes data collected from participants about their views on family caregiving in the United States including:
- the different people for whom family members provide care;
- the ages at which people are most likely to become caregivers;
- that most family caregivers are unpaid and not providing financial aid to the family member for whom they offer support;
- how emotional support appears to be a significant part of the caregiving responsibilities; and
- the rewards and stress that caregivers experience.
In addition to the graph at the right, the article features several more images that depict survey data and much more information, especially if you click to look at the more comprehensive report. Pew reports that surveys were conducted from October to December 2014 among 1,692 adults in the United States, 1,700 in Germany, and 1,516 in Italy.
I’ve written a number of times about 24-7 monitoring services and personal safety devices. My mother-in-law was supposed to wear one around her neck for — well, 24 hours a day. Except that she didn’t. At first she wore it. Then she took it off with the rest of her jewelry each evening. Then she only wore it when we visited. Finally we cancelled the service, because she found the it was too intrusive.
When it comes to supporting elder parents, so much is about respecting their wishes and not assuming that your good idea is good for them. It’s also about asking what they want and how they wish to be helped.
Paula Span’s article To Reach Seniors, Tech Start-ups Must First Relate to Them describes the predicament well. The October 26, 2015 piece explains how ideas that people have for elder adult products are often not at all successful and, more importantly, not what people want. She also writes about the preoccupation of many product developers with monitoring seniors — something that seems important to well-meaning adult children but not to that many seniors. Continue reading
When we think about dying, about the end of our lives, we may look to the experts for guidance — to those people who have long experience with various aspects of aging and the medical issues that complicate the process of dying. We assume that these people have their own end of life details all worked out.
Robert N. Butler, M.D., the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, and his wife, Myrna Lewis, a social worker who specialized in support for older women, had all of the details worked out, and they shared all of this information with their daughter. Their preparations, so well conceived and worked out, assumed that Dr. Butler would pass away before his wife, but this did not happen. Just like anyone else, these two experts were confused at the unexpected turn of events. Moreover, when his wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, it became clear that while they prepared and saw to the arrangements for the end-of-life, being prepared for death is a lot different than being ready to die.
In her article, Alexandra Butler writes that despite the uncertainty and challenge of watching her parents die, she was very glad that they had made the preparations for palliative care with no extraordinary interventions.
No one wants to die. Some people handle this by avoiding the topic — and the preparations. Others handle it by speaking incessantly about the expectation of dying. Still others, work hard to ensure that each minute detail is in place, so that family members spend time saying good-bye. Dr. Butler, who is also the individual who coined the term ageism, was prepared, but as his daughter points out, he was not ready.
- Our deaths are the last message we leave for those we love.
- In a world where so many of our fellow human beings live with threats of terror and destruction, if you are lucky enough to imaging you might have any measure of control over how you die, that is a privilege that would not go to waste.
Alexander Butler’s perspective offers support and encouragement to those of us — adult children and aging parents — as we navigate the the final years of aging.
Those of us lucky enough to have aging parents who live long and remain nominally healthy are often struck by the wisdom we hear as they ruminate about relationships and love in the past. To really understand what they are getting at we must toss away any notions that our parents are merely clinging to the “good old days” and instead gaze through a prism that acknowledges their wise and long-term perspective.
Karl Pillemer, Ph.D. writes, “What elders have that young people don’t is something special: the view from the end. For them it’s no longer a mystery as to how everything will turn out — it’s already happened.”
Dr. Pillemer is the author of 30 Lessons for Loving. I wrote a short Valentine’s Day post, Elder’s Share Wisdom About Love, sharing a Next Avenue review of the book, and was intrigued. I bought the book and posted it here on this blog as my current read. Now I’ve read the book and have more to say.
Those of us with elder parents spend a lot of time thinking about age and change. As adult children, we observe the aging of our parents, but not infrequently we wonder aloud how they got so old. At the same time we don’t always notice how we, too, are growing older.
In October 2014 the New York Times Magazine published a feature by Susan Minot, Forty Portraits in Forty Years, that described the remarkable photographs of the Brown sisters. The photos, shot with the four women in the same order and with somewhat similar poses over 40 years, demonstrate with singular clarity how we grow older. Photographer Nicholas Nixon took the pictures, which were recently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Continue reading