“Elder care” is something that almost all of us will have to think about at some point, and for me, it’s recently become a personal issue. My relative’s brother – I’ll call him Jay – was at our holiday dinners and birthday parties for as long as I can remember. As a school teacher, he always took an interest in me and my siblings. Last month, I stopped in to see him and recognized that he had some memory loss, or what clinicians call “cognitive issues specifically around executive functioning.” Jay never married and now, in his late 80s, was hospitalized. Having helped older people transition to care – both personally and professionally – I offered to attend the family care planning meeting before his discharge. Once there, I realized how much I’ve learned along the way to make my family’s journey a bit easier right now.
In this instance, it is no longer safe for Jay to live at home, yet he doesn’t need the care of a nursing home. What are his options? In the end, we all agreed that Jay would move to a continuing care retirement center (CCRC) that had both an assisted living facility and a memory care unit. The cost is steep – around $7000 per month.
All of this left me so sad…
- For Jay who was so bright and now is struggling so much – and so aware that he is struggling;
- For his siblings who are watching him suffer and having to make care decisions in addition to the care they now require;
- For our elders who led such good lives and may not be able to afford this care.
And I wonder…
- What will happen in our society as we have more and more elders with some form of memory loss? I’ve heard that 40% of people over the age of 85 have cognitive impairments. This is the fastest-growing segment of our population.
- And who will care for our elders and advocate for them when fewer and fewer children are interacting with their elders?
And I hope…
- That we can come up with affordable solutions that deliver great care. The Massachusetts Gerontology Association will be asking and hopefully answering some of these questions at their spring meeting. Similarly, the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative is tackling this issue; read its Statement of Values here.
- That through intergenerational programs, we will raise up a new generation of youth who become advocates for older adults both professionally and personally. In fact, the assisted living facility we visited expressed interest in learning more about intergenerational programs, which we know can improve the lives of older adults today and help future generations be prepared for aging.
As I read Generation United’s weekly eNews, I came across this quote: “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” — Charles Swindoll, clergyman. I’m grateful that Jay and his family made deposits in my memory bank and I’m happy that I have the opportunity to repay him in love and time and advocacy.