Meet Martin’s wife: Alice, who had Parkinson’s and its’ accompanying dementia and several common diseases including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate/rhythm & taking blood-thinning medication) over active bladder (incontinence), glaucoma, heart disease and poor circulation.
They needed help
These two shared a two-story house in my neighborhood with adult children living about an hour away and across the country in California. Fiercely independent, I first met them when Martin was struggling to take out the rubbish. He wore braces to support his weakened legs and always appeared exhausted, but pleasant. As we got to know one another better, I suggested that my children and I take out the weekly rubbish, shovel their driveway, and get groceries when needed: neighborly support. This worked for a while, but I knew so much more was going on in their house. I had made offers to assist them; a discounted neighborly rate even. They were too proud and stubborn to accept help, certain they could manage as they always had.
Then it happened. The first fall.
His first panicked call to me to take them to the hospital so Alice could be evaluated. She had fallen and hit her head, confused, with a large laceration, and blood everywhere. Their once immaculate house piled with day-to-day items left untended with his care-giving responsibilities. Martin had been able to move her to a kitchen chair: he refused to call an ambulance, “costs too much!” Thus began a slide down the road of no return. Frequent falling, unplanned ER visits and hospital stays, unplanned doctor visits. Their adult children were, for some reason, not dialed in to the increasing health and care needs exhibited by their parents. Stopping by every 2-3 weeks for a couple of hours, buying groceries, but not seeing the bigger picture that these two octogenarians we no longer living safely in their home without structured support.
Simple Solutions – Not Simple To Implement
- Home safety evaluation
- Regularly scheduled home health aide visits
- Skilled nursing and physical therapy
- Utilizing a medication box for medication safety
- Home delivered meals
- Moving their bedroom down to the dining room to avoid using steps as frequently
- Hospice care
So much of the pain, confusion and falls could have been avoided, if the children took the time to really look around their parents home and saw their parents declining health. This is not an easy realization but one that is critical for increased happiness and longevity.