Life, Elder Care and All the Rest!

Welcome to my very first post on Life Gems!  This is a new journey of expression for me and I hope you’ll feel encouraged to add your own thoughts and comments along the way about what is working and what is not in your life exploration.  And if you have questions along the way, please ask!  I’ll do my best to answer them as you post them. 

I may be sharing personal parts of my own story from time to time.  Whatever you find here, my intention is that you do come across Life Gems that help in your own personal search.  I also hope that this can serve as a soft place to land when you’re looking for answers or even just a place to be without having to think so hard!

As for me, I’ve have had quite a journey myself and hopefully whatever is shared whether by me or by you the reader helps to bring us all a little bit closer to an understanding of how to roll with what life has to offer.

I’ll start with something that is near and dear to my heart.  Elder Care.  You can even broaden that to care of a relative or a parent who is not elderly.  Life happens and you can’t control or know what will happen next.  Don’t you find life has lots of surprises along the way?  Maybe what you thought or expected of the world isn’t quite happening the way you thought it should? 

Last December marked the end of an era for me regarding my parents.  I was with my mother when she died in 1985.  Again, I was with my father when he passed in December 2009.  Each parent had a very different set of circumstances around illness and death.  Does it feel uncomfortable for me to use the words death, died, passed?  I’ve had a very intimate experience with all of these words and more.  They are not scary for me.  Instead I tend to gravitate towards them. 

I find the whole experience and journey when we’re heading out of this world to be every bit the miracle of birth.  Being open to what this experience has to offer is rife with tender moments of love, tears, sadness, grief, abandonment, being alone, being with family and very deep, rich moments of warmth and meaning.

Can it be devastating to lose a relative or a friend?  Absolutely!  But knowing how we will respond to, handle or otherwise process this experience is just not knowable until it happens to you.  Whether you are caught off guard or it is an expected event doesn’t always dictate how it will affect you.

My mothers death left me unable to even speak of it for years without bursting into tears.  My father’s passing has been surprisingly much more mellow for me.  I prayed that his passing wouldn’t knock me sideways and make me unable to function.  Knowing just how intense and deep my emotions can run when these events occur, it was a very real fear of mine that I would be so devastated as to be unable to work and meet with my clients for an unspecified period of time.

To my relief and surprise, I was OK.  

For almost 10 years, I was totally immersed in the care and quality of life of my father.  He loved being married and had just lost his most recent wife.  The pastor and others were calling me concerned about how he was doing.  He was falling down with grief and in a very vulnerable state.  He lived several states over from me in Tennessee so anything I did would require careful planning on my part and some swift action to rescue him from a potentially dangerous situation.

He had already come to visit me once 2 years prior at the urging of his then girlfriend, Virginia, later to become his wife.  My reasoning was that I wanted him to be informed on the living situation of each of his children.  He was already well into his 80′s and it was a given that he would need to move closer to one of his children when he was no longer feeling strong enough to handle the challenges of day-to-day living.  Having visited all of his other children, my home was the last stop on this journey. 

My conversation with him centered around wanting him to feel as informed as possible so that he could choose what area of the country and the living situation that would suit him best when that time came.  In essence, I was preparing him for this next stage in his life and was hoping to help him embrace it rather than fear it.

Fast forward 2 years and we were now at that point in his life.  He had just lost his wife, Virginia, and was unable to think clearly.   It was not unusual for the pastor to see him inebriated and it was apparent he was an easy target for anyone who crossed his path.  I called him to start that conversation with him about who he wanted to live with.  Having his bills paid was always very important to him.  So, another part of the conversation was concerning who he wanted to give Power of Attorney to in case he was in the hospital and needed someone to pay his bills.  I always kept these conversations focused on what he wanted and encouraged him to think about who he would choose to do certain things for him.  The emphasis was on making sure he would get what he wanted as opposed to just having life dictate what he would get.

These conversations served as seeds for thought.  We didn’t talk about these topics except just a few times to make sure all of the bases were covered for him.  He didn’t need to give an answer yet.  I just wanted him to start thinking about his answers.

A few short months later, I had flown from Colorado to Tennessee to help him and hopefully talk him into coming back with me or moving in with one of my sisters or my brother.  It was a mission to lift him up and out and place him in safety.  The whole family was on edge and afraid for his life.  My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when after seeing him, he proposed that we go to his attorney first thing the next morning to give me Power of Attorney.

He had thought about what his answers would be.  He decided to live with me.  I live in a very beautiful area right near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  All of the majesty and drama created by these mountains appealed to him.

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So this ends part one!  Not knowing how this blog would start, it feels like this is developing into a story.  I can continue the story if  you like.  What might be helpful to know is that my experience of caring for my father brought me into contact with so many different agencies and services.  If you’re caring for someone or have at the very least the responsibility of overseeing someone’s care, this might be a great forum for you to visit to find information.

Organizations, types of services and individuals I have worked with are the Veteran’s Administration, AARP, Medicare, social workers, hospice, assisted living, full service nursing home, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, attorneys, ombudsman, the legal system and many others too numerous to list.  If you have questions, ask!  I’ve had both wonderful and then some very ugly encounters depending on the situation.  The ugly encounters were dealt with through the courts.

Just some reassurance here.  This blog is meant to cover life in general.  Elder care is just something I started with.  Anything is game for discussion!

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