How to Get All Eyes on Grandma
Just when you think you are in a groove or rhythm, life throws you a curveball. Suddenly life wobbles or even spins out of control. This is especially true with eldercare. Even geriatric experts get surprised. My surprise came on a recent trip to my hometown for a family wedding. While with grandma, a minor pinprick procedure from the prior week resulted in managing wound care. This included getting materials for wounds, multiple doctor visits and some specialty support.
First off, whenever possible while visiting our hometown, we stay with my wife’s mother. Grandma has passed the 90-year mark and is doing pretty darn well. But “darn well” doesn’t mean always self-sufficient, flying solo, or never in need of some extra help and support. It took less than two hours on the ground to witness the collision of my vacation and vocation. I quickly realized that my arrival for a wedding would also include helping a senior and family navigate life’s transition on a very personal level.
This chapter in Grandma’s life started a few years ago following a freak accident while visiting us in Colorado. It took all eyes on Grandma to see her through hospitalization, rehab, insurance coverage, and continuing care plans in order to deliver her safely back to her condo in the Midwest. The eyes on grandma were three siblings, a couple of spouses, adult grandchildren, doctors, PT/OT, neighbors, and friends, and these are just the folks on the opening credits. There was an ensemble backing them up.
And because none of us are aging alone, support from neighbors, family or friends can be unreliable. Having a neighbor pick up mail, take trash cans out, or periodically pick up curbside orders for my mother-in-law was in jeopardy at times because a neighbor was experiencing some health changes too. The neighbor’s help was uncertain at times, and some days the real question was, “who should really be helping whom.”
Rosalynn Carter summed up caregiving pretty well when she said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” We all live on this slippery slope, only the degree of slope is different. So, when we talk about finding help with seniors, here are a few lessons learned from my collision of vacation and vocation:
Keys to Help With Seniors
- Eyes need to first be on the overall physical and mental health of Grandma. Would she benefit from the extra set of eyes that come with someone helping with work at home? Would a care community be better to limit the effects of isolation and have even more eyes to help? Seriously make a list and, just like the best care communities’ staff do, compare notes about her eating, mental clarity, memory, or mobility with some part of your grandma’s supporting cast.
- Rethink Grandma’s living situation. Are there changes that need to be made to the current living arrangement for safety or engagement?
- What new sources of available funds should be explored, and are there programs or organizations that can help?
- If there has been any lapse in driving because of COVID, then skills may have declined too. So, don’t just restart driving like we do when we return from vacation but also don’t just rule it out. AAA offers some great tips on Senior Driver Safety & Mobility, which includes a senior driving assessment. This would be a great place to start.
- As the caregiver now, practice your own self-care. I was reminded of this with the new messaging on Southwest Airlines. “Masks are required to cover your nose.” Regardless of your vaccination and mask status, view or preference, you need to be certain of your potential to not make Grandma sick. In order to have eyes on Grandma, you must work to stay well and not allow sickness to limit your abilities. Ms. or Mr. Care Giver, not only have to practice self-care but in 2021 that includes not getting COVID.
- Take precautions against COVID. What will it take to keep you well so your eyes can be on Grandma, what is your family’s backup plan? When enlisting help with seniors, we need to be sure of the health status of all who come in contact with grandma, from the neighbors, and friends all the way up to some handyman doing in-home repairs. Take an inventory of the supporting cast’s health, precautions, and means of protection from COVID.
- Consider the best location for Grandma. I recently had a call from another part of the country from a family searching for help with seniors. The siblings lived in different cities, and Grandma in a third. First, they want to transition Grandma to a care community, but they also want to have one of them with eyes on her too. So they need to decide which sibling’s location makes the most sense. When finding help with seniors, consider what location would be best for grandma so that the family can best take care of her needs.
- Work with professionals. When seeking help with seniors, the advice of professionals can’t be overstated. Professional senior care advisors know the landscape of your region, the safety records, staffing success, incidents, and COVID position of communities being considered. Internet searches don’t tell the whole story of who has the best care community in your area. This is very fluid because of staff and local practices. The same goes if you are saying Grandma only needs help two or three days a week and is going to stay at home. Know the track record of the professionals. I’m picky for clients or family and thus I’ve created a trusted network of resources. You need to do that too or find someone in your area who does.
- MAKE IT FUN. Nothing makes everyone feel better than family fun and visits. This fall while one grandchild was putting out the pumpkins and Halloween décor and asking Grandma where each piece came from the other child just played, and all eyes were on Grandma.
Rick Adler is the founder of Senior Placement of Denver. He’s a senior and a part-time caretaker. Vocation collisions do occur. 720-665-9948 | Caring Senior Placement Services | Senior Placement Agency of Denver / [email protected]