Remembering an Elder Mom Who Deeply Disliked Dependence

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If you are not a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog, take a few minutes to read the post by Perry Klass, M.D., She Wasn’t So Ungrateful After All. Dr. Klass, a pediatrician and a writer, penned this May 27, 2014 remembrance of her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, also a writer, who lost much of her sight and needed the support of her adult children. Actually Dr. Klass’ essay was more than a remembrance. It was a tribute.

If you are a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog you probably did read Mrs. Klass’ (the mom not the physician) 2013 blog post, A Very Ungrateful Old Lady, vividly describing her frustration as well as the challenges she faced as she increasingly depended on the support of her adult children. If you did not read it, please do. Mrs. Klass died about six months after her article was published.

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The Green Houses are Here — at VMRC!

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If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time or even occasionally, you know that I’ve been keeping track of the new Green House Homes at Woodland Park with descriptions, pictures from the groundbreaking, and many construction images. The new neighborhood in Harrisonburg, Virginia, will be a special community that enables elders who have traditionally needed support in a nursing home, to live in a home setting while continuing to maintain much independence. Check out all of my posts about Woodland Park below.

The good news is that the these three beautiful homes at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community are almost finished. The grand opening weekend is January 5th and 6th. After that, move-in begins, with each home welcoming residents and establishing itself over a two-week period (6 weeks total).

I toured one of the Woodland Park homes recently. Finishing details were in progress, but already the house was filled with light and space, a private room for each resident, a kitchen that anyone can use, and lots of common areas, including a great (and grand) fireplace. The houses are constructed to be accessible — but almost nothing looks institutional. The goal of these homes is to provide a place where elders can live and “maintain self-care abilities longer, experience less depression, and receive timelier intervention as health conditions change.” (VMRC website). Basically, these beautiful buildings look like — well homes.

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Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Book Review

pb_rgb_72dpi1A few  years ago, when my mother-in-law was sinking deeper and deeper into dementia, my husband and I suddenly realized, with some help from professional geriatric counselors, that the devious brain disease had been lurking for some time. Although we had noticed a number of memory issues and behaviors, we continually chalked them up to mundane issues of aging and personality. By the time we realized what was really going on and got serious about supporting his mother, she was well into the fourth stage of dementia, and we had missed many opportunities to offer support.

When I first read Inside the Dementia Epidemic by Martha Stettinius, I could not put it down. Right in front of my eyes, the author described and documented almost every step that her mother (and ours) experienced, first early on and then as it progressed incrementally. I wish that the book had been around for us to read five or six years ago.

Inside the Dementia Epidemic should be required reading for anyone who is beginning to notice changes and to feel concern about an elderly parent. Stettinius writes clearly, though not without emotion, about her caregiving role and her mother’s developing illness, sharing observations, explaining how her mother was changing, noting the effects of caregiving on her family’s life, and documenting the many caregiver support services that she found to be personally helpful. She describes the nuances of aging parental finances, sharing what she learned, pinpointing her mistakes, and highlighting the difficult decisions that she and her husband made.

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Woodland Park Green House Homes-Finishing Details: November 22, 2012

The New Homes at Woodland Park.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I am grateful that I had a chance to tour one of the Green House Homes at Woodland Park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Woodland Park is a part of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, and it’s almost finished!

I learned today that when people visit one of the beautiful homes, they will ring a doorbell, just like when a visitor arrives at any other house. Wireless access will enable residents to connect their own devices, but an iPad with Skype and FaceTime (and technical support) will be available to any resident who wants to make a video phone call to family members or friends.

Each Woodland Park home has ten bedrooms, a great room common area with a fireplace, a sunroom, and a media/television room. The kitchen is a work of art — with accessible appliances and counters that make it easy for people in wheel chairs to access.

Watch for more pictures and information about the grand opening. Woodland Park move-in day is fast approaching!

Check out the pictures below.

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Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses Loom Large Despite Medicare

Adult children who help aging parents should check out the Washington Post article At End of Life, Medicare Beneficiaries Spend Thousands Out-of-Pocket. Reporter Sarah Kliff explains that a recent study, Out of Pocket Spending in the Last Five Years of Life (abstract), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, examined the amount of money that aging Medicare recipients spend on health care during the last five years of life. The abstract leads to the first two pages of the study, freely available.

According to the Post article, “The average Medicare beneficiary spent $38,688 out-of-pocket during the last five years of life.” This is in addition to the portion that Medicare covers. The Post article also features two excellent charts.

Click here to learn more about the study.

Researchers studied people who died between 2002 and 2008 using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), based at the University of Michigan. HRS is a large nationally representative study funded launched in 1992 and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

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Read — Making the Best of What Could be the Worst – Atlantic Article

Image from Dr. Bycok's website.

Read the March 7, 2012 Atlantic article, Making the Best of What is Often the Very Worst Time of Our Lives.

Whether we are helping to support aging parents right now or thinking about the years when we become elderly adults, we all know the situation. Our health care system and long-term care options are not prepared for the generational tsunami that is aging at this moment in time, and no workable solutions are in site to manage the big picture.

The Atlantic magazine piece is an excerpt from a book, The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life , by Ira Byock, the director or palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Quotes from the Article

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