Sep 5, 2012 / 5:00 am
The death of a senior is traumatic. Families need to be able to grieve and bring closure to the death of the seniors.
We are a society that brushes dying and death aside as it is too painful for us to watch and feel emotionally. Memories of the seniors need to be honored and remembered by people who cared. In addition, it is as important to realize that the physical presence of the senior is gone. This is a major loss that needs to be acknowledged.
Grief and closure of the loss of the physical presence of the senior can be assisted by a funeral service. The funeral is not for the senior who has died as much as it is for the people who have to live on with the senior no longer physically in their lives. Rituals are an important part of life.
There are memorial services that provide a Celebration of Life for the senior but the death of the senior is not acknowledged.
Often every part of the death of the senior is denied. There is no viewing, even a private one for the family. There is no service with the casket present. There is no service at the cemetery when the casket is lowered into the ground and the earth placed on top. Even at the gravesite the mound of earth is covered so that it will not be upsetting. Everything is done to assist the mourners to not lose control of their emotions.
So often the cremated remains of the senior are taken and spread by the family at a location that was special to the senior. Some members of families need a place to visit that acknowledge that this senior lived on this earth. Human beings need this connection. When the cremated remains are spread this connection is lost.
Frequently the senior’s body will go from the hospital to a closed casket at the service without all of the family members or friends having had a chance to view the body. For many people part of the grieving process is seeing the senior’s body.
Cemeteries are scared ground. They are a safe place to evoke emotion. They are locations where generations of families can come to visit and connect with the senior.
Without a place that marks the name and the dates that the senior lived we run the risk of becoming a forgotten generation. This is a disservice to the coming generations. They need a location to go to connect with their ancestors.
Even the obituary allows for the announcement and reality of the death.
Children need the opportunity to grieve and bring closure to the death of the senior. They are not being protected by being kept from the funeral.
After the death of a senior, part of the grieving process is the need to talk about the senior again and again. Friends should not worry about discussing the senior with the families. It will help the person who is grieving.
Aug 29, 2012 / 5:00 am
Recently daughters from three different families told me about how over-medicated their elderly parents were. Many people have heard of situations like this especially with seniors who are requiring more attention. One daughter was told that her mother who was recuperating from an accident would have to move to a facility on a permanent basis where she would receive more care and less stimulation. Luckily for the mother, her daughter stood up to the doctor and told him to reduce the amount of medication her mother was on. This took the daughter a number of confrontations to have this done. Eventually, when the medication was reduced her mother returned to her former personality and was able to return to live in her own home.
This drastic change is not going to happen in every case but I do know of other cases where when the medication was adjusted or reduced, the senior became more lucid and present.
When seniors are in a vulnerable state and not able to speak for themselves, it is so important for them to have an advocate. The advocate is usually a family member who lives close by and is not intimidated by the healthcare system.
The majority of the people who I have worked with in the healthcare system are great and truly caring but totally overworked. It is the system that does not work. Families must be clear about what they expect for their parents from the healthcare system and then follow-up to ensure that it is done properly.
Families need to trust their instinct if they think that their parents are being given too much medication. A current list of dosage and frequency of all of the medications that their parents are taking should be maintained. Know the purpose for each medication and which doctor prescribed it. Review the list with the senior’s doctor to see if an adjustment needs to be made. If you are not satisfied, then go see another doctor. Seniors can be under the care of a number of doctors and all of the doctors need to know exactly what the medication mix is.
The medication list should be available to take to the hospital in case of an emergency. It will help ensure that the seniors are receiving the proper care as quickly as possible.
If the seniors are living in a facility, then the families should review the medical chart on a regular basis to know that there has not been any change in the medication, frequency or dosage. If there has been a change, find out why the change was made and who made the decision. Again, if you are not satisfied with the answer then stay vocal until you get an answer you are satisfied with.
Ultimately, a caring family member is often the only voice a senior has. I truly feel for seniors who do not have anyone to be an advocate for them.
Aug 8, 2012 / 5:00 am
I still have many families contact me asking how they can get their parents to realize the benefits of moving to supportive housing. They still have the perception that it is a place for ‘old’ people or that this is where you go to die.
These perceptions are so far from the truth. Living in a supportive housing residence can add to the enjoyment of a senior’s life. It is at least worth the time of seniors to tour the supportive housing locations and stay for lunch.
Supportive Housing provides accommodation and meals for seniors, in addition to many other services. The average age of the residents is 82 years. The intent of Supportive Housing is to make the seniors feel at home while having their meals prepared and housekeeping done for them. Supportive Housing allows the seniors to come and go as they choose and still be part of a community.
Seniors who move into Supportive Housing are active people. Over time they may need to use walkers or other devices to assist with ailments due to aging. One of the best aspects of living in Supportive Housing is that the seniors always have company. This alone will aid in improving their overall wellbeing. Even if the seniors only come down for meals and then return to their suites they have had some interaction with others.
It is important to determine the needs and wants of the seniors to ensure that they move into the Supportive Housing residence that best meets their needs. The needs of the families must also be taken into consideration, especially if there is only one caregiver. It is always best if the seniors themselves made the decision to move.
Living in Supportive Housing allows seniors to be with other people who can relate to what is happening in their lives – an illness, the death of a spouse or war time memories. Often new friendships develop between the seniors and they begin to watch out for each other.
There are no furnishings in the suite which allows the seniors to bring their special belongings with them. Most suites will have a small fridge and perhaps a microwave. Usually all utilities are included in the monthly rent. At some residences the seniors are responsible for their cable television and telephone.
Having the 24-hour emergency call system can be a comfort to the seniors and their families. When seniors are living in Supportive Housing and they push the emergency call button, assistance is there in minutes. If required the family or an ambulance will be called.
The move into Supportive Housing can be a major stress reliever for families. Another set of eyes is watching out for the seniors. The families will usually be informed of any changes that have been noticed in the seniors. This could include changes in hygiene, quantity of food eaten and overall manner of the seniors. It is then up to the families to investigate the reason for the change and take action to correct it.
Aug 1, 2012 / 5:00 am
So often, with elderly seniors we have set perceptions that we are not aware of. If we see a senior walking with a cane, we often think that the senior is weak and frail. However, have the same senior using a pair of walking poles and we think that the senior is energetic and cognitively with it. Either could be the case.
One of my clients walked with a real purpose in her stride. However, she had dementia and as soon as she left her home she was lost. One day, she did leave. No one on the street paid any attention to her because she appeared to be fine. The RCMP was called in to find her.
Families become frustrated when other people visit with their elderly parents for 30 minutes and then comment to the families that they do not understand why they get upset with their parents. Seniors with dementia can speak to strangers in a kind and thoughtful way and then speak to their family members very harshly. They can accuse them of terrible things. If you are with the senior for a length of time who has dementia, then you start to hear them ask the same questions or make the same comments repeatedly. Listening to this can be very tiring to family members, especially those who are not trained or meant to be caregivers. This is when elder abuse may happen, which it totally unacceptable. Call the health authority in the area for guidance and assistance.
Years ago, I was flying from London to Toronto and was seated next to an elderly man who was a Chaplin during World War II. He told me the most fascinating stories about his assignments during the war. Then, I was working with another elderly client who was tall, elegant, attractive and had dementia. She was telling me about her days as a model. These stories too were most interesting. However, they only happened in her mind.
Some seniors with dementia can be very convincing that is why it is important that when the seniors go to a doctor’s appointment that a family member is in attendance to tell the reality of the situation. Also, it is important for someone to be physically present to check-in on seniors to see how they are doing. Often, when family members are speaking with seniors by telephone the seniors will say that everything is fine and that they are eating properly, which is what is real to them. When in fact, the home could be dirty, medication is not being taken properly and meals consist of toast.
All of us have filters through which we see seniors. We need to be aware that we should see every senior as they really are and not judge them by how they look physically or by speaking with them for ten minutes. As with anyone, to truly know seniors you need to spend time with them. They always deserve dignity and respect.
Read more Connecting Seniors with Care articles
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- Health Authorities differ in the services Jul 18
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- Possible loss of independence Jun 27
- Residential care facility investigation Jun 20
- Don't call me a 'senior'! Jun 13
- Protecting seniors' interests Jun 6
- Seniors and summer May 30
- Assisted living & family involvement May 23
- Using electric scooters safely May 9
- Understanding BC Health Authorities Feb 29
- BC Seniors: Action Plan Feb 22
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