Heart-Based Elder Care

Self-Portrait - Laurie and Dad

Self-Portrait - Laurie and Dad

That’s a picture of me and my dad. I’m currently visiting him in Encinitas, California (Dec 16 – Jan 1). One of the many purposes of my visit is to research local options for all levels of elder care.

But not just any elder care. I want my dad to be on the receiving end of heart-based elder care if and when he needs it; heart-based elder care with a holistic approach. In other words, people who have his best interest—body, mind, and spirit—at heart.

While here, my goal is to help my dad understand that there are many ways to approach optimal rest-of-life wellness, stress, pain management, and comfort. My desire with the research findings I present, is for him to make informed decisions as he crosses various bridges associated with the ageing process.

My objective during this visit is to maximize his self-confidence and independence, and to help him integrate complementary and traditional approaches in an effort for him to reach and maintain a state of balance.

In addition to working with healthcare and associated insurance benefits, we’re working on financial and legal aspects. Hands-on we’ve been doing lots of breathwork, cranial therapy, and reflexology. I think he’s actually having fun—at least I hope so.

In a recent email discussion about elder care with my friend Barbara K. she said:

“I have witnessed so many people headed for the 20-year chronic disease and disability in retirement sentence. I have listened to that lesson and, like you, practice good eating, exercise regularly, watching that cholesterol level, and working this brain on both sides. The women in my family live into their 90s and I can either do that vertically and independently, or horizontally and dependently. Genetics pretty much determines how long we live. Lifestyle determines how well we live.”

George Burns, the comedien who lived to be 100, is famous for saying: “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”

Leaving you with that wonderful food for thought, please know that my next post won’t be until I return home on January 2, 2011.

Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan


© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

42 thoughts on “Heart-Based Elder Care

  1. That will be awesome and so much better for him. I wish we could have done that for mother, but the Alzheimer’s has gotten too bad and she needed to be in a more secure place with 24/7 care. She finally passed into total peace.
    That disease is such a devastating and long time way to spend the last years of life. I pray that will not be your Dad’s circumstance.

  2. Laurie…hoping you find that wonderful place for your dad so that you can feel comfortable with his care when you return home. I’m sure having you there providing your healing therapies has improved his well being substantially, if even for a short while. God bless you in the New Year!

    • Cheri – Right now my dad is thankfully still able to stay in his own home. My whole goal is to keep him there for as long as possible. I’m simply dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s researching any/all possibilities that may arise. There are many avenues for elder care: from in-home care, to nursing homes, and a multitude of options in-between. It’s nice to know there are choices.

  3. Hi, Laurie — what a wise and wonderful daughter you are. We all need to do more to support the elderly population here in America. They were the ones paying our taxes and fighting our wars while raising us. We need to set an example for our children and devote (as you say) heart-based care. Have a happy new year out there in California!

    • Barbara – Our elders most certainly did pave the way, and I am grateful.

      I’m seeing on the news that your neck of the woods is getting a healthy dose of snow. I remember a few crippling snow storms you had last year – you and Jonathan lost power for an extended period of time and had to cook on a camp stove if I remember correctly. Hopefully this year’s blizzards are quite that severe.

  4. Hi Laurie, this caught my attention because I’m thinking of ways of best looking after my mother too, who’s in her 80’s and coming to be with me for a few month.

    My sister has set the stage by starting her on gentle yoga and breathing exercises and changing the way she eats.
    Her own sense of humor and courage do the rest, but it’s not easy when I will need to be out of the house; not sure of the options in that case.

    Hope you get your ducks in a row

    • Meenakshi – It sounds like you and your sister have done some serious heart-based planning – I applaud you both. As for what options are available when you need to be away from home…

      I highly recommend that you contact your local senior citizens center. They are a treasure-trove of information. Many of them even have “day care” programs that you can drop an elder parent off at while you take care of what needs to be done, and then come back by and pick them up again. They could also probably point you in the direction of temporary, part-time, in-home compassionate care givers.

  5. “My objective during this visit is to maximize his self-confidence and independence, and to help him integrate complementary and traditional approaches in an effort for him to reach and maintain a state of balance…”

    Indeed Laurie, indeed. Enjoy that precious, even priceless time with your Dad Laurie. We’ve had some health-related issues with our father here in in northern New Jersey over the past several days, though it’s in the line of an upper-respitory infection. As others here have noted, you are as supportive and compassionate as anyone out there.

    • Sam – I do hope that your father is recovering from his upper-respiratory infection. You want definitely want to nip that in the bud and prevent it from turning into pneumonia.

      Please know that as “supportive and compassionate” as I’ve been, I’ve also wanted to scream, kick, and cry. This elder care business is heart-wrenching, emotionally draining, and beyond frustrating. My envelope has been pushed to the bleeding edge several times. I’m no saint, by any stretch of the imagination. I just keep pretending that my dad is me and I continually ask myself, “How would I want to be treated?”

      • Hi Laurie

        I can fully empathise with you.
        When we had to find care for my mum it was one of the most difficult things.
        Some of the people were great, others were well disguised psychopaths.
        In mum’s final weeks she was incapable of voice communication, but we could tell from her body language what she was feeling.
        We suspected that one of the nurses was effectively torturing her.
        It was one of the most difficult times of my life – now almost a decade ago.
        She required 24hr care, and we could not give it to her, as I wasn’t even home 5 days a week.

        What you are doing seems to me to be as much as anyone can do.


      • Ted – What you shared regarding the suspicions of your mother’s treatment is in great part responsible for my tossing my cooking 3 times so far during this trip: Once inside a “care” facility when the foul smell of it crashed over me like a wave; and two other times (both away from the facilities) when the negative side of my imagination caught up with me in a gut-wrenching way. If I trust my instinct (and I do), there are some places we entrust our elders to that are far worse than the scariest movie we’ve ever seen – only this isn’t Hollywood and special effects, it’s real.

      • Readers – I’ve just visited Sam Juliano’s Monday Morning Diary (December 27th) [the link function doesn’t seem to be working right now] and gotten a great lead on a movie. As I told Sam:

        “Your Monday Morning Diary has caused me to add __________ (you’ll have to go over there and see for yourself 🙂 ) to my must-see movie list. I particularly enjoyed reading about the angel with a snow shovel who came to your rescue when you were stuck in a seedy part of town in a blizzard.”

      • Hi Laurie

        Yes – I know those feelings well.

        It is one of the profound problems with the economic incentive structure within the systems that we have.

        To make as much money as possible, the administrators pay caregivers as little as possible.

        This means that they tend to attract three types of people to the very low paid positions.

        The first type is great, but rare – they are those who are truly devoted to the care of others.

        The second type are far more common, and they are basically incompetent and uncaring, for a whole bunch of reasons that for the most part are not under their volition.

        The third group are the scary ones, and they are the psychopaths who enjoy exercising power over others, and imposing pain. They are often very cunning, and leave no obvious traces. Thus the systems set up to protect the incompetent from the worst excesses of management and capitalism end up protecting the psychopaths.

        Unfortunately there is no easy way to avoid it so long as we retain monetary systems as our fundamental guiding structures.

        It seems to me that all we can do as individuals is to be as aware as we can, when we have the opportunity.

      • Ted – Sadly, I’ve found it to be a money machine that not only chews through finances like air, but elderly people (and their families) as well. So far, I haven’t found anything less than $3,500 per month and that’s for the scary — no way in hell — places. When you hit the $10,000 to $14,000 per month range, it starts getting decent. Needless to say, we don’t have those kinds of funds.

      • This Eldercare business is heart-wrenching, emotionally draining, and beyond frustrating. My envelope has been pushed to the bleeding edge several times. I’m no saint, by any stretch of the imagination. I just keep pretending that my dad is me and I continually ask myself, “How would I want to
        be treated?”

        Thanks for reminding me and outlining my feelings a few weeks ago and now…smile…you pinpointed it so well here…

        THANK YOU!

  6. Your Dad is in the best possible hands…yours. You and Julie have his well-being and future care in your capable hands, he should be able to relax now and enjoy the best life has to offer, looking over a life well lived and and forward to days of leisure knowing that the organization has been taken care of. Anytime a parent remains well enough to maintain and remain in their own home, it is best place for them. After all, who really wants to go live with their kids? After all the time and trouble it takes to raise them, you feel like you deserve an independent old age. It’s wonderful that you are seeing to that now for him instead of waiting until later when things might not seem as clear.
    One day when my Dad had been for his check-up and the doctor quizzed him on his diet, He said, ” Doc, I know you are against it but I’m not giving up my bacon!” This good doctor told him , ” Charles, at your age ( 77) it’s the Quality of Life, not the Quantity, that matters.”

    • Sandi – I didn’t even see this comment here from you. I can’t imagine how I missed it (this elder care is turning my brain into a little point on the top of my head). You’re darned tootin’ – my goal is for dad to stay in his own home for as long as possible. And you’re right about parents not wanting to live with their kids – I think he’d rather poke himself in the eye with a sharp stick than come live in our small house with three dogs (one the size of a Buick) and SNOW!

      I love what your dad’s doctor told him, “It’s the quality of life, not the quantity, that matters.” I agree whole heartedly 🙂

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  8. Very well said,Laurie.We forget /omit to take care of ourselves and that leads to bad consequences.Changing the lifestyle that is culprit can spare us a lot of pain down the road.Taking better care can make a difference in enjoying old age,and the less reliance on pharm.drugs,the better.
    You do bear a resemblance to your dad and I think your determination and sense of purpose do come from him.I wish him the very best of care and a Happy New year to you all.

    • Roamer – You said it beautifully: “Changing the lifestyle that is a culprit can spare us a lot of pain down the road.”

      In regards to your observation. “You do bear a resemblance to your dad…” Our faces are the same shape, but I’m actually a cookie-cutter image of my mom (who is no longer living).

  9. Hi,
    Thank you for your very timely post as I am on Eleuthera with my Dad (80) and he is in need of such care at this time. He is confused and challenged at times yet appears to be happy. A moving time for the family to come to the realization that research is best done before you are at this point. What a blessing for you to be with your Dad during this holiday season, safe travels back to the windy city.

    • Lisa – Your words, “…research is best done before you are at this point” are vital. A “preemtive strike” (so to speak). I’m so glad to know that your dad “appears to be happy.”

  10. Glad you are enjoying your time with your dad–look like he’s having fun, as well! I so admire your approach to elder care. Hope you can discover just what he needs. Have fun AND safe travels…

    • Kathy – I can’t say with honesty that I’m having “fun” – but I’m most definitely learning a lot. Right now I’m gaining knowledge. Once I put it into effective use, it will go through the alchemy process and become wisdom.

  11. Good luck with your search for the best care for your father. It is clear that you love him very much.
    I wish you many more happy years together.
    My mom passed away in the home community (of my youth) surrounded by, not only a devoted family but also, an entire community of caring people.
    So I know what you are looking for is out there. With the type of positive energy you pour into the universe, I know you will find it.
    All the best to both of you

    • Leanne – It sounds like your mother had a wonderful end-of-life experience. I’m confident that it was in no small part due to your efforts on her behalf. Thank you for your encouraging words.

      Any news on the publication date of your soon-to-be-released boo, The Sweater Curse ?

  12. Thank you, Laurie.
    And thank you for asking about my soon-to-be thriller–the last word I got from my editors was, “soon”. So, holding firmly to that word, I’m working on my WIP and having fun on my blog.
    Thank you, as well, for adding The Sweater Curse to your blog roll.
    Congratulations on be welcomed into your second magazine.
    Long may your inspiring words fill your readers with joy.

  13. Dear Laurie. My positive thoughts and prayers are with you on your journey to find the healthies, most comfortable and safe care for your father. I understand the journey you are on. Your “Green Brain Research” will serve you and your father well. I know how difficult the task is when it has to be accomplished in a short amount of time and or long distance. However, I’m confident you will discover what you are searching; and have peace in your heart about caring for your father. Take good care, Sheila. My best wishes for a Healthy, Happy and Peaceful 2011 for you and your family.

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  15. Hi Laurie, and Happy New Year! I hope you arrived back safe and sound. Your Dad is blessed (as we all are) to have you in our lives! Having been there when my Father-In-Law passed, and his final lesson to me was how to have a peaceful death. Very opposite of Mom’s medical event…such a contrast. Your words are our lessons; thanks for sharing with us. Peace to all…..

    • Cindy – So good to see you here! If I have my druthers, I opt for a peaceful transition over a medical event any day of the week. And I’m doing all of the preventive stuff in the meantime to enhance the quality of my life Point A (now) and Point B (then).

      [Take care on those roller skates as you go zipping along toward the Light]…

  16. This is a big deal Laurie, and I applaud your efforts. I am in the same boat with my mother. We are currently planning our approach to care as she turned 80 this year.

    We do have an assisted living, Alzheimer, and critical care facility here in Nashville for $5,000 a month that does not smell. It is the only one, but at least there is one. It is very nice.

    The idea of a holistic assisted living community with stepped up care options is real appealing. I am hoping with us Boomers hitting that time, someone will break out and differentiate themselves with a new more wholesome heart based model.

    Great Post!

    Thank you!

    • Ben$5,000 per month for something that doesn’t smell. Isn’t that sad? It just breaks my heart. As a boomer myself, I’m doing everything I can now so that when I’m “elderly” I can stay in my own home for as long as possible. Ideally, I’ll simply die in my sleep in my own bed, in my own home. Your mother is very, very fortunate to have you – someone who’s planning for her care. Namaste’

    • Barbara – Most people use the term “end-of-life” and since none of us knows when that is, my thought is that we should focus on wellness for the rest-of-life — regardless of where we are on life’s path. Glad you like the phrase 🙂

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