Thoughts I Didn’t Plan on Thinking

Today we are in my brother’s truck having a rare family road trip. It’s a change for me not to be driving. It leaves me free to look out the window at the gray, somewhat foggy fall day. The leaves are turning but the colors are muted and dull. There is still a lot of green out there so maybe we’ll have a better autumn brilliance in a few more days.

We are going to Eau Claire, a small city two hours away, to visit Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic. An ophthalmologist/plastic surgeon has been working on Mom’s right eyelid after removing a small basal cell carcinoma. This is our fourth visit due to complications of the surgery and repair. Mom has been struggling with ointments, painful eyes, poor vision and a sense of being really tired of this whole process. We don’t know what to anticipate today.

We have so many medical options for anything that goes wrong with our bodies these days. And things do go wrong sooner or later – that is a given. There are many decisions to be made because of this, some we make for ourselves and some others make for us. Swirling all around these calls for decision are issues like the value of life, quality of life, the comparison of one life over another, our views of death and suffering and medical accountability. It’s deep water and not fun to navigate.

This week I was sitting in my husband’s hospital room as he slept. In the common room where I could see and hear them, a family was sitting with their youngish looking son who had obviously been in an accident of some kind resulting in brain trauma. Like my husband, he was there for intense rehab and he was showing good improvement. I had a moment of guilt as I compared him to my elderly husband, with numerous comorbidities, struggling to show progress at all who was taking up a valuable bed in the facility. I felt sorry for the doctor who had to decide to move my husband out to a nursing home for rehab, and I understood what she had to consider. Because we’re having trouble finding another suitable place, he is still here at Miller Dwan in that bed.

My husband spends time thinking about what purpose God could have for him that he was allowed to survive this stroke. He is so tired, and to look at him on some days, you might think he was half dead already. I think he looks half dead, which makes me get busy waking him up, shaving the stubble, sitting him up and telling him to open his eyes before the next therapist arrives. I want him to look valuable, hopeful, worthy of the time and effort they are putting into his rehabilitation. He has indicated he wants that and I am his advocate. It’s a job.

I’ve asked him to think about what he would want if he were to have another stroke. Would he want to go through again what he’s experienced the last two months? He said he hadn’t thought about it. How can that be? He has so much time to think. So many things happen to us because we can’t imagine what we might have to decide, but now he knows and doesn’t have to imagine.

Last week there was an article in the local paper by Garrison Kieller of Prairie Home Companion fame. He also had recently been hospitalized and had experienced many feelings my husband recognized, a lot of mention of bodily functions. He had a good laugh when I read the article to him. Helplessness and dependency is not just happening to Dennis Dietz. And at some point, it could easily happen to any one of us.

I’m thinking about my future, although I know there’s no getting “control” over this realm. It seems to help me to do mental role playing around the possibilities, that way I’m not completely surprised by some of what actually happens. My choices play into my future so I try to make good ones (most of the time) but my best choice has been in believing that God is in control, and that he doesn’t plan on wasting any of my experiences. I can accept that hardship is part of life, and that circumstances can be beyond awful at times. Endurance is needed but there is help along the way in many forms. My belief is that the outcome is good, and it is sure. Just sayin’…

Northwoods Journal: July 11, 2022

My senior assisted living community has gone down by two – a whole 50%. I still have the husband and Mom to help but my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s, have gone south to live near my uncle’s children.

Me and Mom. Glad I still get to help her. She’s fun.

They lived near a town, about 25 minutes away, out in the country where we had trouble getting cell service. They had neighbors, but I was always worried about them being able to contact someone if they needed help. My aunt was disabled with Parkinson’s, and nearly blind. My uncle was the main caregiver for her and he was getting tired. On top of that there was the difficulty of keeping warm and plowed out during our severe winters. Something had to change, and it did.

My aunt had a crisis on Friday, July 1st, and after a week in the hospital recovering it was obvious that she needed nursing home placement. I was surprised to find out that there were no available beds for her level of care anywhere in our small community. None. But there was a place for her in a care center in the town where my uncle’s daughter lived, and they were willing to accept her. I am in awe of the social workers who helped get this done so quickly that it about took my breath away. I also think it was God’s plan to give my uncle some good time with his daughters after many years of just seeing them for occasional visits.

Caregiving… my aunt and uncle didn’t require my time on any regular basis, but more as a problem solver and go between with their doctors. I helped a little with their legal and financial affairs and often with their tech problems. Cell phones and computers drove my uncle to frustration. So, you would think I would feel free and have lots of extra time now that I don’t have those responsibilities. I guess that’s partly true – but I’m mostly aware of how quickly it all happened and how I miss them. Strange.

And that is one of the strange things about caregiving. It’s often hard, restricting, physically tiring, stressful, and has distasteful elements but it is also rewarding and more meaningful than a lot of other things I might be doing. Although I’ve been a paid caregiver and felt the weight of responsibility for my clients and the importance of being faithful and dependable, being a family caregiver is that and so much more. There are no 8 or 12 hour shifts, seldom a vacation, no weekends off, no differential for nights and no overtime. There are times when it feels like I’m handing over my life to someone else.

But, it is my life, and I know I made intentional choices that determined my present circumstances. Like many other aspects of life, the challenge is in taking what comes to me and making something of it. I must make plans but I must also expect the unexpected and figure out how to respond. I want to respond to situations in ways that won’t make me disappointed in myself at some later date.

In case you haven’t noticed, preaching to myself is one of the ways I’m meeting those challenges. It helps me to remember that God has given me specific skills to use for the good of others, and that he will strengthen me and keep me in the game until I’m no longer needed. Knowing that I am in the right place, at the right time, for a good purpose makes me satisfied and gives joy. What more could I ask?

A to Z Challenge: Z for Zeitgeber

The last letter of the alphabet! This was an interesting and challenging experience, as always, and I am so grateful for all the connections and comments. Thank you all for reading and encouraging me, and other caregivers.

Zeitgeber

I ran across this interesting word as I was studying a book called “The Paleo Approach” by Dr. Suzanne Ballantyne. Zeit means “time” in German and geber means “giver”. A “time giver” is “anything that influences your circadian clock”. Your circadian clock is all about your body’s routine. And routine is one of the most important tools of caregiving.

Examples of zeitgebers are the light and dark cycle, food intake and activity. Regular times for meals, for exercise and for sleep are beneficial to all of us, but especially for the very young, the elderly and for those with dementia. Being able to depend on a routine gives the impression that things are under control, and having any sense of control is comforting.

Routines

Routine is not the easiest thing for me as a caregiver. I am the queen of spontaneity, and will usually go out of my way to break up a routine. But now, I have things I do pretty regularly. One of the most important reasons I’ve developed routines is because they help me not to forget stuff I would otherwise probably forget. Routines also cut down on decision making because we have already decided what and when. And of importance, the routines help my husband know what to expect at various times of the day.

Circadian Rhythms and Sleep

The light/dark cycle is probably the most important zeitgeber, and the one I have the most trouble with. Being outdoors in sunlight during the day, and in the dark at night greatly affects circadian rhythm, which in turn affects the immune system, mental ability, mood, alertness and energy level. Ideally, the husband and I should get as much light exposure as possible during the day. We both should cut down on our screen time at night as well. Blue light from our computers, phones, TVs, and LED fixtures signals our bodies much like daylight does. It suppresses melatonin production. Blue light not only signals through the retina of our eyes, but even our skin has sensitivity to it. In contrast, low light and darkness signal the production of melatonin and bring on relaxation and sleep.

It is dark outside. Due to my circadian rhythms, I am getting sleepy. Take care of yourselves as we go through these strange times. Good night to all.

_____________________________________________________________

This evening Dennis, my husband, came out where I was sitting and apologized. Not knowing what he was apologizing for, we talked and I discovered he had read the X post. He was saying that he was sorry for making things hard for me. I was surprised that he had not read other posts this month, even though he was aware that I was writing on the subject of caregiving. He was sweet, and humbly aware of the impact that his illness has had on me and on our relationship. It’s moments like this that make me know that he is more than just my patient. He is still very much my husband.

Forty-seven years and counting…

A to Z Challenge: Letter Y for Yelling

Well, it’s not just about yelling. It’s about communicating. When communication is not easy, and is possibly frustrating, yelling can be involved and it begins with Y. I am an opportunist when I have to be. Most of these problems have to do with diminished hearing, poor eyesight, and diminished attention.

Yelling makes people look mean.

Is there a lot of missed communication going on at my house? Sometimes it feels that way. Here are some common scenarios…

The husband thinks I’m listening to him (he may have seen me close by) and starts talking to me while looking elsewhere. He doesn’t know I’ve left and am two rooms away. When I realize he’s talking away to an empty room, I come back, frustrated and have to ask him to repeat.

In the morning when he comes out for his cup of cocoa and sits in the corner recliner. He doesn’t usually have his hearing aids in yet. I ask him what he wants for breakfast but he doesn’t hear. I raise my voice until he tells me I don’t have to yell. We both feel embarrassed.

In the morning he comes out for his cup of cocoa and he DOES have his hearing aids in. I ask him loudly what he wants for breakfast and he jumps and puts his hands over his ears.

“What?! You didn’t tell me that!” This is often said about something that was being discussed in conversation with a group of family or friends. I can understand that it’s hard to admit (or even know) that you’re not hearing what you can’t hear. It’s easier to fake it and assume that someone will get your attention if it’s important. But, dear hard of hearing person, no one knows you haven’t heard…

If you’re caring for an elder, it’s safe to assume that most everyone who is up there in age has some degree of hearing loss. Okay, I don’t have young ears either.

Hearing in noisy environments or over a phone are other risks to good communication. My uncle, who hears fairly well in face to face conversation, gets a little nervous with phone conversations. He sometimes asks me to join him on calls with his financial advisor, not because I’m a financial genius either. He wants to make sure he is hearing things correctly. And who hasn’t faked it in a noisy restaurant? Nod and smile, that would be me.

To make matters more complicated, people who are hard of hearing often hear their own voice through bone conduction. It sounds very loud, so they talk softly and can barely be heard. The husband does this with the result that he can’t hear me and I can’t hear him either. Somehow, even when I’m not angry, having to yell makes me feel like I’m being mean. I don’t like yelling.

We are getting better at communicating. Here are some things we’ve done to lessen the volume and make sure important things are heard.

1. I try to get the TV volume or other noise, turned down before I speak.

2. I look at the person I’m talking to so I know if they are listening, and if they know I’m talking to them. I try to get my husband to do this as well.

3. I communicate plans for the day, important news, etc… directly when there are no competing voices. I try not to assume something has been picked up from conversations with others.

4. Whenever I see confusion, I ask questions to see if there is a misunderstanding.

5. I often leave a written note.

So, back to yelling. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make for good communication and most of the time, even if I’m not mad or frustrated, it makes me feel like I’m being mean and ineffective as a caregiver. When I’m well rested, in my right mind and remembering my above mentioned tips, the communication is much improved. Just sayin’…

A to Z Challenge: X for Exasperated

(Ex is how you spell X, so this counts.)

Today I am exasperated. It’s a degree of frustration right before one’s head explodes. It happens fairly often in my caregiving world, particularly with my husband.

It’s not that this never happened before, when he was well. We were a fairly normal couple and we had our ways of getting past the rough times and keeping peace. We were both responsible and expected to act like mentally competent adults. Now, as with any situation where a spouse has a mental deficiency of any kind, doubt enters the picture and roles may change.

Many days I am so conscious of having to watch over our world, unaided, while my husband (my patient, is what it feels like) does what he can do, sits and watches TV or looks at his phone. When he wants to talk to me about his angst over politics or his ideas of how to conquer coronavirus, I want no part of it. I want him to do some meaningful task that would help get chores done. I want him to show concern about finances or make a “to do” list like I have to do most days. It exasperates me to have a live-in patient instead of a husband.

And at the same time I begin to feel very guilty for being angry. I am not the only one missing out on our retirement plans. He is sick and I am well, at least for the moment.

For these reasons, caregiving for a spouse, or a live-in family member is not easy emotionally. It usually starts out being a 24/7, 365 days a week job, until burn out sets in, so it’s not easy physically either. I need support and this is how I get it.

1. I have identified people that I can talk to safely, even when frustrated – ones that are regularly available to me and don’t mind if I vent.

My physically present support group that I could not do without.

2. I have joined a couple online support groups. They understand what it’s like and have encouragement/advice for all situations. They always show me I’m not alone in the way I feel.

  • Facebook group: Lewy Body Dementia Carter’s
  • Facebook group: LBDA Care Partner Support Group

3. I have a place I can go, in the house, to get away to watch a movie or read a book while the husband is occupied or napping. It’s a true multi-function “she room”.

4. I haven’t had to do this, but if needed I would hire help to cook or clean, or just be in the house for a few hours while I escape.

5. I try to spend time with my husband doing something we both can enjoy (like reading a good book) to give attention and alleviate guilt (mine).

6. I give myself grace to not be perfect, but to try again to do a good job and to love well.

A to Z Challenge: Letter W for Washing (Feet)

You will believe this more as you age, but truth is that something as simple as foot care gets really difficult when you can no longer bend over and get close to your feet. Problem feet should go to a podiatrist, but most elderly people, like my mom and my aunt, can be cared for at home quite easily. I soak their feet for a few minutes in a basin of warm soapy water (and I always hear “oh, that feels so good!”) then gently clean under the nails and clip them. I finish with a foot and lower leg rub with lotion. If you’ve ever had a pedicure, that’s basically what it is, without the polish.

Your person’s feet are pretty important and it is good practice to look at them carefully. The best time is when you are washing them. Look between toes for cracks that indicate fungal infection, which is easily treated. Check heel and ball of each foot for callus buildup and remove some of that dead skin with pumice stone. Toenails that get too long are like having little daggers on the feet. They get caught on pant legs, wear holes in socks and even cause bloody scratches on legs. That’s when I usually get requests for some foot care.

Circulation is often poor in the lower extremities which leaves feet open for pressure sores on the heel and other bony parts. I know what it’s like when I start to get a blister from shoes that rub, or when I stub a toe and rip a nail off. It hurts, but your elderly person may not even feel the pain if they have neuropathy. It is a tragedy when an injury progresses to an infection, or even worse, to gangrene. Good caregiving means catching these problems early (even better, preventing them).

There is a surprisingly spiritual side to taking care of feet, which usually rank low on the list of body parts that get cared for. It’s an act of service to wash and care for another person’s feet, as Jesus did, recorded in the Bible. It’s also kind of hard to let someone do such a common, lowly act for you, which is how Peter felt when Jesus did it for him. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but think of that when I’m helping someone in that way.

Another benefit I’ve noticed, as I sit on the floor with someone’s foot in my lap (I do it that way but you can be a bit more professional if you want). My people talk to me. There’s something that happens with caring touch that makes others feel safe, and open. Maybe it’s just because they know I’m an audience that won’t be jumping up and running away any time soon. Talking is therapy. It is good and requires nothing but that I listen.

Caregiving for other’s feet has made me aware of how important my own feet are to me. I have to take care of them if I want to be mobile. Yours are important to you, so take some time and give them some care, caregiver.

These are actually my feet and I am proud to have all my toenails grown back after losing some of them on last year’s Grand Canyon hike. It takes a long time!

A to Z Challenge: Letter V for Vagus Nerve

I wrote many of my A to Z posts back in March when coronovirus topics were just ramping up. Since then I have begun to weary of anything virus related, and so for my own comfort I am trashing my previous topic “Virus” and opting instead for something I care more about “Vagus nerve”. How odd, you may think, but I am okay with you thinking that.

This has nothing to do with my post. I had a hard time finding pictures of the vagus nerve so instead you’re seeing this favorite barn picture that I’ve wanted to post for a long time. Like it? (It’s so wonderful to have my own blog where I can do whatever I want. )

Caregiving for people with dementia is one of the hardest and most frustrating roles. It is only going to involve more people as time goes on. Here is your daily dose of statistics:

– 5% of people over 65 have dementia

– 20% of people over 80 have dementia

– 60% of those having dementia have Alzheimer’s

– 20% of those with dementia have Lewy Body Dementia

So you can see that a sizeable number of people are going to be affected both as victims of dementia and as caregivers. It’s pretty important that general knowledge about these conditions increases and that is part of my aim in sharing my caregiving life.

Research is bringing much to light about how dementia develops, its causes, and its treatment. I am amazed in particular at the early signs and symptoms that are often not recognized as such. How much could be avoided if we knew early on what our bodies were trying to tell us.

So, what about the vagus nerve, you are probably wondering? This summary article (click here) gives a good overview of this most important nerve in our bodies. It’s divided into right and left to serve different sides of the body, but spoken of as one. It is the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system and the major parasympathetic influencer. It regulates heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, and even the mechanism of speaking. That’s a lot of essential stuff. It is the 10th cranial nerve. It starts up there where all the dementia problems start.

If there were definitive tests for dementia, ones that could detect it early, before it had devastated cognitive areas of the brain, how great would that be? We would be more concerned about chronic constipation, hard to control blood pressure, low heart rates in non athletic persons and other symptoms that get tossed into the “old age” bucket and treated with a pill.

The husband had all these problems years before his cognitive symptoms, the ones that got his attention, began. I remember the many blood pressure medications that he went through, and the multiple times he would react to them in extreme ways. He would have drops in pressure that would leave him dizzy and weak, and spikes that would alarm us. This continues now and is one of the fluctuations I’ve come to expect from LBD.

And I don’t know what his heart rate does to him but I know that having 50 or less beats per minute would make me feel strange. He tires so easily and complains of dizziness on a regular basis.

I’m not into writing about other people’s digestion or bowel habits but don’t we all know what problems can arise in these areas?!! Think honestly. There’s also the difficulty that dementia victims have in swallowing and speaking that results from impairment of the vagus nerve. There are days when my husband knows that it feels hard to swallow and he needs to be extra cautious about what he eats and how fast he eats it. I notice his weak voice and how some days it will be unexplainably stronger, making him sound like his old, normal self again.

Research is showing that up there in the brain where it all gets important is where we find protein deposits, call them plaque, Lewy bodies, or whatever. The vagus nerve is commonly affected and is responsible for many early signs.

What I say to myself about all this, and what I say to readers is that you can change what is happening in your body by lifestyle changes – simple things that take will power and determination but cost little and mean a lot over time. We cannot rely on pharmaceuticals to come up with remedies because it is not in their business interests, and they are businesses. We are people and we must investigate and do what is in our own best interest, whenever we can. We are the guardians of our own bodies. When we choose stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, and a multitude of other poor choices, we get the bad things that come with those choices. It can be sad.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t write about ventilators?

A to Z Challenge: Letter U for Unusual Behavior

Dementia does a number on the brain, creating unusual thoughts and behaviors. It helps to know ahead of time what these can be. As a caregiver of my husband who has Lewy Body Dementia, I have joined a couple online support groups. I have learned more from them and from a couple of books than I have from any of our doctors. Doctors don’t have the time to educate patients about complex possibilities that may or may not happen to them.

Hallucinations

Often one of the early symptoms of LBD is hallucination. Interestingly, the things people see are usually not scary. They see small animals, children, or people who just sit and look at them. What they see is very real and vivid to them and they may or may not be aware that the visions aren’t really there. The advice I hear most often is that it can make the person anxious if the caregiver tries to argue them out of what they think they see. It is best to acknowledge that they see something, and then distract them.

I heard an interesting possible explanation of this at an LBD conference given by Mayo Clinic. It’s like a filter is missing or damaged in the LBD brain. The missing filter results in their dreams being very real and acted out when they are asleep (REM sleep disorder) and also allows dreams to sneak through when they are awake as hallucinations. I may not have explained the connection accurately, but there may be a connection between the two conditions of REM sleep disorder and hallucination – fascinating.

Hallucinations can also occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s Disease. My aunt has mentioned that she sees animals (cat, rabbit, etc…) once in a while but she knows they are hallucinations. It’s still distressing to her. The husband has not had hallucinations, or has not told me about them if he has…

Delusions

These are beliefs or impressions that are not rational. Last summer the husband had delusions about electricity causing some of his symptoms. We went to surprising lengths to dispel his theories, which were many. (Read a bit about that here.) Nothing worked and he thought he would die quickly (and it would be my fault if I didn’t explore all possible remedies). Fortunately, that period passed and has not returned. I am grateful.

Delusions can be very distressing to all concerned, and as with hallucinations, it doesn’t work well to try to point out that the person is delusional.

Capgras Syndrome

It’s sometimes called “imposter syndrome”. People in the support groups have such stories about this. Usually the person with dementia is sure that their caregiver, or someone close to them who they recognize, has been replaced by an imposter who looks just like them. Often the caregiver deals with it by leaving the room and coming back as themselves. They report that they got rid of the imposter. It doesn’t always work. There are a lot of strange variations to this one. So blessed the husband does not have this problem!

“Show Time”

Another common occurrence. At home there can be all kinds of problems and complaints, misbehavior, and general trouble which the caregiver has to deal with and tells others about. But when the others, usually family members or doctors, are present the person with dementia goes to great lengths to be normal. They put on a pretty effective act. Of course this causes others to doubt the caregiver’s word and that is frustrating. Not being believed sometimes means not getting the help the caregiver needs. We don’t have this problem either, thankfully.

Sundowning

I’ve mentioned this before, in my R post about rest. Some of the most desperate caregivers are those who have not been able to get their patient/loved one to go to sleep for numerous nights in a row. Of course they are exhausted. They have to be hyper vigilant that their person doesn’t leave the house (think special locks on the doors), try to drive the car (without a license) or make some unthinkable mess doing something they shouldn’t be doing. We don’t have to deal with this problem either.

My husband and I are noticing that he has been greatly improved since our bad month last summer. He has been given hope that his dementia can be reversed, largely through lifestyle changes and diet. We also pray and believe that God can heal. Something seems to be working and we are thankful for every good day.

We were having fun.
The husband and I acting demented.

A to Z Challenge: Letter T for Touch

There is a magic in caring touch.

I guess it’s “old school” now, but when I was a new nurse, patients were put to bed at night with a brief back massage, if they wanted it. It did more good than sleeping pills to comfort and relax. I’ve always found this amazing, and have never forgotten how powerful it can be.

Our culture bombards us with so much erotic touch that we sometimes forget there is any other kind. Everyone, regardless of age or gender needs touch for physical and emotional well being. You hear of therapeutic touch in the neonatal ICU when family members are encouraged to come in and hold infants at risk. There are touch techniques that calm anxiety and panic. The elderly who are alone, without family, may never get touched by anyone. Our skin has nerve endings everywhere and we are in better health if these nerves are stimulated in a comforting way. Therapeutic touch can point out where we are hiding our tension, pain and stiffness, and make those entities lessen, even disappear.

I recently had a cast taken off my left hand and the occupational therapist massaged the surgical scar beneath it. I’m not used to being disabled in any way so this focused attention to touching my hand and arm felt a little weird, but really good. I learned to self massage, but it’s not quite the same as having someone else do it. Therapeutic touch leaves me sure that, at least for that moment, I am the center of someone’s attention. How often do we get that feeling? One of the reasons medical massage is so popular these days is that it meets those emotional and physical needs.

If you are a caretaker, think about those times when you might be able to use therapeutic touch for the benefit of your client or loved one. It might take a while to build confidence if this is not your custom, but you may find that something as simple as a hug, a hand on the shoulder, or a pat on the back can do wonders.

Teepa Snow gives an interesting demonstration of how to calm an anxious dementia patient by using therapeutic touch. I haven’t had to use this yet but I’m tempted to try it on the next anxious person I meet, dementia or not. Check it out.

Click here for video demonstration.

A to Z Challenge: Letter S for Senior Living

Years ago (before baby boomers started getting old) the elderly either aged at home or they went to the “nursing home”. That’s what we called it then, and it was the place you went right before you died. No one wanted to go there.

I don’t remember exactly when assisted living became a common thing, but I remember at one point my mom saying that she didn’t think it would be so bad to stay in a facility like that. I was surprised that she sounded so positive about it, but then, that’s the way she is. She’s never wanted to be a burden to her children.

Water’s Edge – 1 and 2 bedroom apartments with garages if needed

She had her name put on the waiting list for an assisted living apartment at Water’s Edge, a complex attached to our local small hospital. A couple of winters ago, her name was next on the list and she was contacted. I happened to be visiting at the time. She decided that since she had help, she would try it out for a few months and see what it was like. We moved her in. I got to stay with her for a week.

Moving day, car loaded, excitement, work…

Senior living, for those who can afford it, has become something quite different from the “nursing home” of olden days. There is every level of care available, at different price points. Many people are totally independent and are just paying for the apartment, knowing that it is in a secure building and that they can easily transition to more care should they need to. Others appreciate being able to have meals prepared for them, socialization and exercise options, and regular check-ins with nursing personnel.

One of these inside each apartment. If you didn’t check-in with them each morning, they would send someone down to check on you.

It was an interesting experience for both Mom and I, and I am glad that we were able to familiarize ourselves with the concept of assisted living. The stigma and fear of it has evaporated. After a couple months, that got her through the worst of the winter, Mom decided she did not need even their minimal level of assistance, so she moved back to her condo.

Mom signing out, staff likes to know where you’re going and if you’ve returned. That’s kind of nice, kind of necessary.

I am wanting to tell anyone who is a caregiver, that it is okay to consider an assisted living facility for your loved one (your person) when their care is more than you can handle. And if you can move there with them, don’t wait until you’ve burned out doing everything yourself. Go there. Some of them are very nice and very practical places to live. Check them out and see what your choices would be before you are in desperate need. You will be glad you did.

Water’s Edge, where Mom stayed, is probably typical of many assisted living situations. Many of them are associated with hospitals and offer increased nursing care, rehab care, memory care, and other specialized services that might be needed. I lived close to another one in Florida and they also hosted events and concerts that were well attended by residents. They really do try to offer all the things that people like to have (yup, there is Bingo).

The price tag may seem high to some, but do not forget that they often take care of cable TV and internet, electricity and other services, all in one bill. If you like their menus, you won’t have to grocery shop for yourself as much. There will be no lawn to mow, and no house maintenance costs. There may be a free gym with programs and equipment provided. And what value do you give peace of mind? They normally have someone on staff who can answer financial questions, and help you with insurance arrangements, or find government programs that might be available.

Many people, like Mom, just prefer to stay in their own home as long as they possibly can, with minimal help. I am glad Mom has that option, and I am glad to be her helper. But, should she need more help than I can provide I know she will be okay with senior living.

Have you ever visited an assisted living facility or care center? What did you think of it?