Aging Gracefully

Growing old is not for the faint of heart. In developed countries, like America and many European nations, people are living longer.  Aging brings with it burdens of unanswered questions, unexpected injuries, and debilitating illness. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, families are responsible for providing 80% of the long-term care for their aging relatives. In the United States, about 45 million individuals are currently caring for an aging family member. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle contends 70% of people over age 65 and older will need some form of long-term care.

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“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV)

 

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Family caregivers jump in to help as their loved ones encounter a myriad of ailments such as the following:

·       Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

·       Alzheimer’s Disease

·       Brain Tumor

·       Dementia

·       Dementia with Lewy Bodies

·       Depression

·       Frontotemporal Dementia

·       HIV-associated Neurocognitive Dementia (HAND)

·       Huntington’s

·       Hypoxic-Anoxic Brain Injury

·       Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

·       Parkinson’s Disease

·       Traumatic Brain Injury

·       Stroke

·       Vision Loss & Blindness

·       Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

 

The above list doesn’t include unexpected things like falls resulting in fractures or injuries affecting knees, hips, and other body parts. Hip fractures can lead to serious complications, including death.  Ankle injuries occur frequently and take a long time to heal. Any of these incidents can catapult a family member into a caregiver role to help nurture a beloved family member in need of care. In some cases, this may involve short-term care. In other instances, longer care is required, disrupting the norms and routines of daily life for all involved. Aging gracefully is a complicated endeavor wrought with dynamic complexities, financial concerns, and familial stress.

Many seniors find themselves in the financial crux of not being rich or poor enough. On the one hand, less than 10 percent of families can afford insurance policies that cover the costs associated with long-term care. On the other hand, many people must rely on Medicare because they are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Unlike Medicaid, Medicare does not cover most long-term care expenses and only pays for some of the costs associated with short-term care.

As the number of Baby-Boomers growing old continues to increase, more families will find themselves tasked with taking care of an aging parent or relative. Some family members may find that it is necessary to put their life on hold while they look after their loved one parent, grandparent, or aging sibling.

Reuniting under one roof after years of independent living is fraught with challenges as well. Grandma’s house may be a fun place to visit, but it may not be ideal for making home for extended family. In the same token, saying goodbye to the place they call home is difficult and can be heartbreaking for elderly people not ready to give up their independence.

 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27 (ESV)

Many of us put off contemplating our own mortality for as long as possible. Unless your name is Samantha Stevens, you are going to grow old and face dying. Aging gracefully takes gumption and a good deal of financial planning. Dying ain’t cheap. 

So what can we do to ensure that our loved ones have the opportunity to age gracefully?

For starters, get the conversation started early. From experience, we’ve found that these conversations vary from person to person, just like the situations and conditions vary as well. Plan ahead, discuss options, fill out important paperwork like HIPAA, a DNR, and Living Wills. Work through the challenges you run into as prayerfully as possible. Recognize that if you are a believer caring for an elder parent that is a non-believer that you do not share the same viewpoint on the “Golden Years”. A believer’s approach to dying will vary tremendously from that of a non-believer due to opposing attitudes, beliefs, and values.

Remember: You may be the only Bible they read.

Biblically, the answer for believers is clear. Our first ministry is to our family. They comprise the sheep nearest to us and we are responsible for tending to them, particularly in times of difficulty. If we don’t shepherd our loved ones, who will?  That’s why having a church family is so important. The church comes alongside members who are caring for their loved ones. They may bring food, stop by for a visit, send a card, or take time to call. Sometimes, they offer a helping hand or lend a listening ear. Caring for those we love is a concept rooted in biblical teachings. Each generation helps the other generation.

When we do this, I believe we reflect the love of our Heavenly Father, which is always the right thing to do regardless of the era or age we live in.

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (ESV)

Photos via Pixabay and edited with Pixlr

Source(s):

Family Caregiver Alliance (2017) https://www.caregiver.org/

CBS Sunday Morning (2014) Aging in America: Stuck In the Middle. CBS News. CBSNews.com https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aging-in-america-stuck-in-the-middle/

 

Topsy Turvy

Mom and I crammed into the small doctor’s office. A wheelchair makes any room seem smaller. Mom waited patiently in the corner where the physician’s aid had set her. Rolling in and out of rooms has its share of challenges. A wheelchair quickly makes you realize how ill-equipped we are in our day-to-day life to accommodate the four-wheel monstrosity.

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The nurse came in to check Mom’s vitals. She greeted Mom first, with a friendly hello and a warm smile. She turned to me and nodded, “How do you do? Are you the caretaker?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m her son.”

The nurse smiled. “Then you’re her caretaker.” She and Mom both chuckled.

Caretaker?

Honestly, I really hadn’t contemplated my role in Mom’s recovery much. I’m her only son. She lives alone. She fell and virtually shattered her ankle and now needs someone to look after her while she heals. It hadn’t occurred to me to answer the question life asked any other way. It’s simply what you do.

My wife, Sweet T and I are just both grateful that we can pull this off. It’s not easy and certainly not without sacrifice. But it’s probably hardest on my Mom who can’t get around on her own and do basic things that she’s accustomed to doing. If you know my Mom, she’s a social butterfly. Particularly since my Dad died. She took care of Dad for the last five years of his life after he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage brought on by a stroke. It limited her ability to live a “normal” life. She’s been a bright spot in the lives of others since God called Dad home.

top·sy-tur·vy

adv.

1. With the top downward and the bottom up; upside-down.
2. In or into a state of utter disorder or confusion: “turning our ordered life topsy-turvy” (Anne Tyler).
adj.top·sy-tur·vi·er, top·sy-tur·vi·est
1. Turned or positioned upside down; inverted.
2. Confused or disordered.
n. pl.top·sy-tur·vies
The quality or condition of being topsy-turvy.  
topsy-turvy. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved August 11 2017 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/topsy-turvy

You don’t realize until you are faced with taking care of another human being just how many things you take for granted. You certainly can’t anticipate the drastic change to your routine that it brings. Add a little distance between you and your home base and you discover new challenges. It takes commitment and a strong relationship with your spouse. It helps having your in-laws living next door.  And it demands more than you alone can give. It takes a whole village of friends and church family…including a sea of doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers. Hopefully, when it happens–and odds are it will—you’re prayed up, because you’re going to draw heavily on your spiritual bank account.

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Mom continues making progress every day since her fall three weeks ago. We’ve been thankful for friends and church family who have stopped by to see her, write cards, and give her a phone call. Terri’s folks have been tremendous in helping cover the home front. Technology helps close the gap between here and home, which is something Terri and I are both thankful for as well. In the old days, we would have had to make a fire and send smoke signals.

On top of it all, we had to say goodbye to our beloved 16-year old healer, Danny, as he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Although we knew his time on Earth was drawing to a close, it is still deeply painful. Like I’ve said before–life is downright hard sometimes. But, that’s what God is for.

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Leaning on the Lord in difficult times, depending on God to give us strength, to heal our hurts and our wounds–these are the moments that we can draw closer to Him Who Made Us. Apart from faith, I couldn’t do it.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Philippians 4:19 The Message

Whitney Houston, 1998  “God Will Take Care of You”