Challenges of Aging
The fight continues to stay independent in the “golden years.”
Advances in science and medicine may be helping us live longer, but not necessarily healthier or more independent lives. Aging and disease affects all of us in one way or another. Our body and our mind may become enemies as they refuse to interact together making our so called “golden years” more of a challenge than a joy. Emotional and possibly financial distress increases an already difficult situation.
I recently visited a friend’s mother who had moved from her home to an assisted living retirement facility. The facility was beautiful, with every amenity one would expect. When I remarked how lucky she was to be staying in such a nice place, she answered “this place is nothing more than God’s waiting room.” Although surrounded by pictures of her family and a few belongings she brought from her home, this was not her “home.” Leaving her home, the familiar surroundings, and even missing the view from her kitchen window, added to a growing list of loss including the feeling that she had lost her identity. The comforts of her home, the familiarity of her routines, and much of her independence had vanished.
More and more older adults are fighting to keep their independence and more than 90 percent of them report that they would like to stay in their own homes as they are faced with the issues of aging. The challenges an older adult needs to face in order to continue living in their own home and enjoy a high level of independence are often not clearly defined. However, and in spite of all the resources available it seems that no one is truly prepared for the challenges that staying at home bring. Children and other family members are very often unable to provide what is required and expected to make their loved one’s wish to stay at home possible. The toll on a family member caring for an older adult, even when combined with love and all good intentions, can be severe. This is where thoughtful consideration must be given to hiring a qualified caregiver.
So what should you be looking for? A caregiver should never be just a set of extra hands. Skills, knowledge, training, honesty and reliability are bare minimums. A caregiver must be the personal cheerleader for our loved one. A caregiver is love reflected in the daily tasks of keeping a patient mobile, alert and comfortable, taking away the inevitable frustration and depression when mobility, the ability to think or perform simple day to day tasks are slipping away. Caring and love are synonymous to the services a qualified caregiver provides to each patient. No matter what condition our loved one is in, the caregiver is tasked to make them live as independently as they can, with the dignity and the respect they have earned and deserve. A caregiver must have the sense to do what it takes, running the extra mile to show their patient those little daily reminders of love, kindness, humor, companionship and involvement.
This is where a placement agency reflecting those requirements and concerns can be an invaluable ally in finding the right caregiver/patient match. Initial interviews, background checks and training are the most basic responsibilities of the agency. Later, a comprehensive review of the patient’s condition and living arrangements must be completed. Finally a plan, including a budget, must be presented along with carefully selected caregivers. At that point, the patient and family members will have the opportunity to interview prospective caregivers and make an informed decision whom to hire. If for any reason the match is determined not to be perfect, the agency should promptly provide alternate caregivers. Lastly, the placement agency must monitor the caregiver’s activities at all times while with the patient. Top notch agencies will use personal as well as technical monitoring to assure that your loved one receives the individual care, attention, and love they merit.