Ellen's book will strengthen and guide you in your role as caregiver to an elder parent or relative, and help you understand your own physical, emotional, mental & spiritual needs.
Elder Care Category
Until she read my first book, Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin, my friend’s mother, who lives in Saudi Arabia, thought people in the west were uncaring of their elders. But after reading my story she realized the loving care that I and most other women, men also, take of their aging parents, even though we don’t always live together.
Most families and cultures all over the world feel this way about their elders, caring for them in the best way possible, giving them lots of love. We had the privilege of visiting the Jampaling Elders Home in Dharamsala on the annual cleanup day. This is what we discovered there.
Hope you enjoy this excerpt from An Indian Sojourn:
By mid-morning 70 volunteers have turned out at the Center, a record number. The group walks together down the main road, then along a pleasant, treed pathway carved into the side of a hill, to the Jampaling Elders’ Home, located behind the Dalai Lama’s Temple. There are few people on the path, but we do encounter several cows. One will not budge, and almost knocks a woman down the steep hill. Finally somebody encourages Bessie along with a stick. As we approach the home, we see myriad strings of Tibetan flags blowing in the breeze.
Jampaling houses 150 elders, and consists of several substantial looking brick buildings, including dormitories, a kitchen and a garage for the vans used on temple outings. A mixture of lay people and retired monks and nuns live here.
My initial reaction on viewing the inside is one of shock; I am measuring it through my personal filter and it does not match up to the comfort level expected for old folks. The corridors of the dormitory are narrow and dark, rough and cold from both a physical and esthetic perspective. My mother’s care homes, although simple, were palatial in comparison.
Floors and walls are made of cement; each room has two narrow beds piled with heaps of soiled-looking bedding and a couple of small shelves for personal items. Every surface is covered with built up dust. In room twelve, our assigned room, an old gentleman sits on his bed; a staff member gently convinces him it’s necessary to leave, so the room can be cleaned. Reluctantly shuffling out, he indicates that we should not touch his things, but we must, because lying on the shelf is a bag full of food crumbs and garbage, a red flag for rodents.
The volunteers strip the place, removing all the bedding and mattresses. Scarves wrapped tightly around heads and faces, they’re dusting the walls and ceiling with brooms and rags. Dust floats everywhere; clearly it has not been thoroughly cleaned for some time. Staying in the room is not an option without a covering, so I go outside to find another task.
Despite the physical conditions of the home, the staff are obviously caring and compassionate. The facility is not overcrowded, a luxury in this country. Still, seeing these beautiful Tibetan elders living so roughly disturbs my sensibilities.
The noon dinner gong rings and residents form a line outside the large kitchen, each with their plastic bowl, plate and cutlery. Many pass me by as I sweep the stairs, on their way to their nourishing meal of hot soup and curd. Each bows in a traditional manner as they pass; I return the greeting, the encounters give me a warm feeling.
Through one of the friendly English speaking staff, I’m able to briefly interview one of the men. This gentleman is 75 years old and has been living at Jampaling for five years; he’s very happy here, he tells me, because he’s near the Dalai Lama, the staff treats him well and he has friends in the home. The age range of the residents is mid-60s to 94, with a 30-year-old blind man the exception, as there is no specific facility available for him.
The cleanup over, we’re served Tibetan milk tea, cookies and potato chips, and relax in the sun with some of the residents. Two women dance together for a few moments, then one continues alone, moving gracefully and unselfconsciously in a traditional Tibetan number. It’s lovely to watch her and we all clap after each song. When I try taking her picture, as some other volunteers have done, I’m rebuffed by a middle-aged man, possibly the facility manager. No explanation is given for this action.
We are pleased to announce that Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End and Yours Begin is now available on Amazon Kindle
For this week only, you can purchase the book for only 99 cents. If you find it helpful, please let others know about it by writing a review and telling friends and family.
Below is an excerpt from Surviving Eldercare. You can also watch the video on Amazon’s Ellen Besso Page (bottom right side of the page)
Who Are You?
Women are caregivers
• Do you worry your parent might be lonely or unsafe when you’re not with them?
• Do you feel there must be more that you could be doing?
• Are you tired, stressed, resentful, guilty or physically unwell?
• Do you get frustrated and angry with other family members?
• Do you feel sad, powerless or fearful about your parent’s declining condition?
If any of the above issues resonate with you, you have joined the growing ranks of midlife caregivers. The MidLife Caregiver could be any woman… she’s the next door neighbor, the person in the next office, the woman in the grocery store, or maybe she’s us. We often don’t know the stories of other women’s lives until we stop and talk with them, then we find we share many similarities. I am a life coach, a counselor and a mother and I am one of you. My brother Johnny and I have been responsible for our mother’s well-being for the past ten years, ever since she asked us for help and opted to move to our community from Vancouver Island. During the first five years Johnny’s role was that of self-appointed case manager, looking after many details of our mother’s life, including hiring and supervising in-home care. His stress level increased over time as mom’s Alzheimer’s worsened, she became less safe and her needs more urgent. Sometimes there were phone calls to him late in the night.
Being a caregiver to my parent, who is frail physically and has severe dementia, is a much bigger responsibility than I expected it would be. For the past five years I’ve been the ‘point woman’ who oversees mom’s care. I’ve provided hands-on care including personal hygiene, taken mom on weekly outings and to appointments, hosted occasional overnight visits, bought all her clothes and toiletries and paid her bills. Additionally, I’ve given her consistent emotional support and connection to a world that slowly, year by year, slips from her grasp.
Most adult women are already caregivers of some kind or other – for kids, family, friends or coworkers. Some of us have professional careers in caregiving also (such as nurses, care aides, counselors, teachers, doctors). Although gender roles are somewhat more flexible now, when it comes to caregiving our roles and responsibilities as women are very often still assumed. We don’t feel we have much choice.
By midlife many of us are confronted with an additional caregiving responsibility – one that we may not have anticipated or given a lot of thought to previously. Only thirty-five to forty percent of women interviewed had considered and discussed the possibility of being a caregiver to their parent, according to a Journal of Women & Aging study done by Laditka & Pappas-Rogich.
The challenge of aging parents coincides with perimenopause, menopause and the beginning of new projects and transitions. We may still have adolescent or young adult children at home, or we’re grandparents by now. The ‘sandwich generation’ label that describes women squished between younger and older family members fits many of us.
The US Department of Health Womens’ Services reports that female caregivers make up seventy-three percent of all caregivers. Our average age is around forty-six (I was forty-nine when I began caregiving for my mom). Caregiving seems to be ‘women’s work’ in a way that housework was in previous generations.
Men are socialized to assume fewer caring responsiblities throughout their life than women. Additionally some research suggests that males have a different view of caregiving than women in a couple of ways. The male approach emphasizes delegating responsibility and also recognizes that there are limitations to what one can accomplish. It seems a healthy philosophy to me, and perhaps women could benefit from these ideas.
Unpaid caregiving can take many forms
A daughter who shops for her aging parent, one who lives in another province or state and hires a private local care manager, a son who manages his parent’s finances, a daughter-in-law who visits her parent in their care home and takes her on outings, or an adult child who lives with their parent all constitute caregivers. Long distance caregiving, sometimes called ‘the geographic crunch’ or ‘suitcase caregiving’, is a worrisome job, and it is becoming more common as baby boomers and their parents age and live farther apart.
For two periods of time during the past ten years I’ve lived a forty-minute ferry ride plus a short drive from my mother. We were on opposite sides of the inlet between North Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, waiting for a bed to become available for her in a care home during each of these periods. It took the better part of a day to visit her and take her on an outing.
As she deteriorated, I felt badly about leaving her at the door of her apartment, and later saying goodbye to her at her care home, although to a lesser extent. Even though my mother had others nearby, I was unsettled and worried about what might happen when I wasn’t there, and about not being able to get to her if she had an accident or heart attack in the night when the ferries weren’t running.
When someone who is dear to us passes away, our relationship with them doesn’t end, it transforms into a new form. We must come to terms with that; that’s the process of grieving. I believe that, as their body, mind and spirit changes into a different form, so does the relationship we have with them. We must surrender the connection that was in order to form a new bond.
We can’t predict how we will feel when the anniversary arrives. It’s just a day after all, we think, but it’s a special one. As the first anniversary of my mothers leaving drew closer over the past couple of weeks, I began to recapture some of the feelings and memories of that time. The first year is the most important, my friend Lee tells me, because we re-experience with our senses the sights, smells and sounds of that time, along with the feelings. It’s important to take some time to talk about the relationship we had with that person, the qualities we remember about them.
The loss of our mother, particularly of the mother-daughter bond, can be a primal experience. It’s about safety in the world. In my case, the feelings I’ve experienced anew have caused my physical body to go out of alignment; my low back tightened, my right neck and shoulder spasmed and hurt. My body was speaking to me loud and clear.
This morning, the actual anniversary of the day Mom passed on in the early morning, the atmosphere in my room felt exactly the same as it did one year ago. During meditation an awareness came to me; our revisiting, on this first anniversary, of the feelings and sensations that took place at the time of death is due, at least in part, to the presence of our loved one around us in a much closer way on this day. Their spirit is with us.
Not everyone would choose to think along these lines, but for those of you who do, I hope this comforts you.
Ellen Besso, Martha Beck certified life coach and trained counsellor, is committed to helping midlife women enrich their lives. She is the mother of an adult daughter and was caregiver for her elderly mother and a close friend who recently passed away. Ellen’s personal goal is to live and work in a spiritual, heart centred way. She is the author of Surviving Eldercare & has numerous articles published on midlife and eldercare.
As part of Family Caregiver Week, The Family Caregivers’ Network Society, a non profit organization based in Victoria, is offering several programs. One of the events is a free one hour tele-workshop, Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin, given by me on May 10th from 7 to 8 p.m.
Registration information for all courses is below:
Caregiving from the Heart: Connecting through Curiosity & Deep Listening
Communication is most effective when we take time to connect from the heart. Making connection a priority in our caregiving relationships helps to alleviate assumptions and barriers, and increase compassion and understanding for each other. In this experiential playshop (yes, you will get to play), explore how curiosity and deep listening can bridge relationships and close the communication gap. Learn to ask questions that help to clarify needs and assumptions and that engage the heart versus the mind. And learn to listen not just to people’s words, but to the person behind the words – to hear what they are saying at the emotional level. Connect from the heart with family and friends and strengthen your capacity as a family caregiver.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Multi-Purpose Room, Salvation Army Citadel, 4030 Douglas Street, Victoria
Vince Gowmon, Certified Professional Life Coach and founder of Remembering to Play Events.
$25.00 for FCNS members $30.00 for non-members
Registration: Contact FCNS at 250-384-0408 or register on-line at www.familycaregiversnetwork.org. Payment can also be mailed to 526 Michigan St., Victoria, BC V8V 1S2. Space is limited. Deadline to register is May 1st.
FREE BC-Wide Tele-Workshops
Family Dynamics and Caregiving: Separating the Past From the Present
Monday, May 7, 2012 Noon – 1:00 PM
Allison Reeves, Registered Clinical Counsellor
The stresses of the caregiving relationship can often cause past unhealthy family dynamics to reappear and make the whole situation even more difficult for both individuals involved. Knowing how to separate current caregiving issues from those on-going family dynamics can make resolving these issues a whole lot easier. In this tele-workshop you will learn how to more easily distinguish what is solvable in the immediate moment and what isn’t; you will feel more empowered as a caregiver with this knowledge. The focus of the session will be on what you can do differently and not on how to change what the person receiving care may or may not be doing.
Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End and Yours Begin
Thursday, May 10, 2012 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Ellen Besso, Midlife Coach and Author
This tele-workshop will help you find the balance between the demands of your life as a family caregiver and your need for personal and professional time. Learn how to distinguish between tasks that are absolutely necessary and those that are not, and to delegate some of the responsibilities you now carry alone. Build a team of trusted others to help share the work with you and to support and encourage you in this exacting role.
Registration: To register call the Care-ring Voice Network at 1-866-396-2433 or register on-line at www.careringvoice.com. Connect to the tele-workshops simply by using your telephone.
Ensuring Your Elderly Loved One’s Happiness at an Assisted Living Facility
by Amber Paley
Elder abuse is a subject we’re hearing more and more about as of late. From that news follows concern; not just for the vulnerable elderly population, but for our own loved ones. And when the time comes that we can no longer provide our loved ones with the care they need, assisted living facilities become something we all have to deal with. But how can we know we’re choosing the right facility for our loved one and that he or she will be happy there? Below you’ll find tips for ensuring that your loved one stays happy and healthy.
Thoroughly Research All Potential Facilities
Before ever stepping foot in a potential nursing home for your loved one, do your research. Read about others’ experiences at those facilities and find out if there have been problems at the facility in the past. Also, check with Consumer Reports, which put together a report for nursing homes that are high quality and those that are low quality. Note: This appears to be for U.S. only.
Get a Feel for Potential Facilities
After researching facilities, start visiting ones that fit your loved one’s needs. Ask employees and the nursing home administrators questions about patient care and safety procedures. Ask to see past governmental inspection reports on the nursing home. Ask what the staff to resident ratio is and whether or not staff members have to undergo a background check before being hired. Observe other residents and get a general feel for the facility you are visiting. Make sure that the facility is one that’s environment is positive for your loved one. Chances are that if something rubs you the wrong way or you just generally get a negative feeling about the home that you should trust your intuition.
Consistently Check on Your Loved One
After choosing a nursing home for you loved one, consistently check on him or her. Statistics show that those residents who have a strong family presence are less likely to be abused and neglected than those that don’t. Ask your loved one how they feel at the facility, if they like it, and if they are being treated properly. Look for signs of physical abuse on his or her body periodically. If you notice any mood changes or you notice that your loved one is less mentally available than before, then investigate further; either of these things could be a sign of abuse. Also make note of how other residents act or appear; for instance, do residents seem like they are bathed regularly and given adequate food and water? Do staff members seem to respond quickly to resident’s calls?
Overall, taking an active role in choosing your loved one’s facility and in their life after they’ve moved to the facility are imperative to ensure that he or she is happy and receiving adequate care.
Copyright 2012, Amber Paley
Amber Paley is a guest blogger and article writer bringing to us information on how to ensure your loved one’s happiness in a nursing home.
Amber spends much of her professional life writing about elderly abuse in nursing homes. Visit Amber’s site and read more.