Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Night at the Tattered Cover

On June 1st, 2015 I addressed an audience of forty plus family, friends and individuals interested in the subject of eldercare at the Tattered Cover on Colfax in Denver, Colorado.  The subject was my new book, The Takeover: An Unexpected Caregiver's Story which chronicles the offbeat and upbeat experiences of moving my parents from Chicago to Denver at the ages of 90 and 95 and then supervising their care.

First I talked about the circumstances that led me to move my parents at their advanced ages.  This was followed by some of the roller coaster rides that I experienced, the issues that I was faced with, and the takeaways of what I learned. In between these discussion points, I read a few excerpts from the book.

To back up my personal story and make me look more “legitimate,” I had asked Rosanne Collison, owner of Kinsman Care, a geriatric care management company to follow me and summarize some of the most important parts of caregiving.  Whereas I talked about incontinence, falls and ER visits, Rosanne explained the hot spots to identify when a caregiver is in need of relief:  resentment, anger, guilt, weight gain.

Afterwards, lots of books were signed and lots of comments were made.  Amazingly, even since the book came out at the end of October, the reactions are always fresh and revealing.

One woman asked me who I thought made the best nurturer.  Was it a man or a woman?  Which sibling might be better suited?

A single man of 70 wanted to know if I had any suggestions on where to go to look for senior housing.

The subject of "quality of life' was mentioned by another person attending.

Another lady came up and said that the idea of having an adventure in old age such as my mom and dad had when they moved to Denver inspired her to not be afraid of change regardless of one's age.

To see so many people open up about a subject no one wants to discuss gave me solace that we can make the growing old thing more comfortable and more user friendly.  That’s my hope and I’ve made a vow to myself to keep working at it.

What a great night!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Takeover News

It's been a busy few months for me as I try to make people aware of the presence of my new book, The Takeover: An Unexpected Caregiver's Story.

Some of the highlights:

--Being accepted by the Tattered Cover to shelve my book in the Rocky Mountain Authors section at all three Tattered Cover Bookstores.

--Becoming a contributor to the Colorado State AARP blog on caregiving

--Being invited to give a book presentation at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax on June 1st 2015.

--Making my first presentation in Vail at Bnai Vail's April Havurah.

--Being interviewed by Ryan Warner of Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio

In between I have had tremendous feedback from family, friends, acquaintances and their network connections.  Just a few are described and paraphrased below:

---As a professional, I enjoyed hearing about the perspective of the consumer who was the caregiver.

---The book made me feel like I was not alone.

---The Takeover helped me come to terms with my own decisions.

---I loved the appendix.

---I want to give this to my children so they can start thinking about the subject.

---I couldn't put the book down.

---It's not "sugar coated."

Now I am looking forward to my Tattered Cover presentation on June 1st.  I especially am looking forward to the audience participation.  When you're writing your book, you want to hear the feedback in the hopes that you have connected with your reader.

More to come.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Introducing my new book, "The Takeover: An Unexpected Caregiver's Story"

It has been more than two years since both of my parents have passed away, and I have just completed writing "The Takeover: An Unexpected Caregiver's Story" about my experience of moving them to Denver and caring for them until they passed away.

As I say in the preface of my book, it is a book that I wish I could have read "when I began the difficult task of caregiving for both of my elderly parents at the age of 90 and 95."

The book focuses on both my mom and dad and on me as their caregiver as well as those around me who also were impacted by my new role.

I think it's an upbeat book that shows the highs and lows of this period of life that many of us will face.   It's about coping and it's also about how one naive person navigated the very complicated world of eldercare.

I invite you all to read the book.  Starting Friday, September 11th, the e-book will be available at Xlibris.com.  It will also be available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com starting the week after.

You can make queries about interviews and guest requests directly to me at mimip03@comcast.net.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Last Chapter

Dad passed away the night after Fathers' Day.  We're pretty sure it was a peaceful passing after a fitting good-by.  My cousin Mimi arrived from California on Saturday to visit Dad one last time.  She had just returned from a two-week jaunt to Europe and was recuperating from oral surgery.  She was also on deck to visit us in Vail next month.  Despite all these obstacles, she arrived to give her cousin Lennie one last kiss.  My father had the biggest smile on his face when she stood next to him bedside to stroke his arm and talk gently to him about how much he meant to her.  Keith and I were with her and it was a very special moment.  On Sunday we returned in the morning to give him our Fathers' Day card and a very inexpensive DVD on National Monuments that I had bought at Target.  The card said it all:  "A Dad gives advice and encouragement when you need it, a dad cares about the things that mean most to you, A dad shares all your success and happiness because a dad loves with a love you never outgrow.  You've always been the best kind of dad in all the most important ways.  Happy Father's Day."  As weak as he was he still read the entire card by himself and then let me open his gift.  Mimi and I returned later on in the afternoon and we could see that he had taken a turn.  He seemed agitated.  We did not stay long, but before we left, he held my hand and gave me one last squeeze.  He signaled that he wanted me to turn off the light and that was the last time I saw him.  His usual caregiver arrived at 7:30, the nurse called me at 8:30 to give me an update, and the final call came just after midnight.

My brother and his family were on the way to Denver from Chicago before heading down to their new home in Albuquerque.  They arrived the next day.

The funeral was lovely but very small.  Mom had died only three months ago.   Adam flew in from Los Angeles and several close friends of Keith's and mine attended along with my father's cousin Bob.

This week has been a flurry of activity as we close up Dad's apartment and sort through all the legal and financial paperwork.  In between I feel a tremendous sense of loss, partly because this is my last parent to die, and partly because there was a strong bond between my dad and me and I miss him terribly.  He was such a gentle man as well as a gentleman.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm Crabby

Dad stayed in bed all day and night yesterday.  That's happened once before, and hospice says it's normal at the end of life.  Today Dad is up again, but barely.  His teeth aren't in his mouth and he's not wearing his hearing aid.  I'm fed up to my ears with the Assisted Living facility.  Yesterday I left him in a fetal position facing the wall and when I came back three and a half hours later, he was in the same position and badly in need of a diaper change.  "I just came on," said the caregiver in charge of the floor for the day, absolutely exempting from any blame on the current situation.  I was the one that initiated the help.  He didn't come into Dad's apartment on his own, and I waited quite a while to see if someone would come in. The caregiver goes to get the plastic liners that protect the sheets from excessive moisture and discovers that he's out of them.   He says he'll borrow some for Dad "later."  "Hospice is supposed to supply them," he says.  "Hospice says Dad should be turned every two hours.  Will you be back in two hours?"  I inquire.  I am leaving at 5:15 and the private caregiver I now hire to get Dad through the night doesn't come until 7:30.   "I'll change him in two hours," he promises. "How will you remember?" I ask.  "Oh, I'll remember," he says.  "Sure," I think to myself.  "If I make a special request, he'll accommodate me, but what about the others?"  "I'll write it in the book," he says.  The book is for one day.  I'm fed up to my ears.  I've had incident after incident and I'm over it.  I call hospice to find out what needs to be done and that it's not being done.  Today I e-mailed the head nurse at the AL facility with a copy to the Hospice director to sort out what should be done and when it should be done including toileting, "repositioning," and hydrating.  Then I called up Hospice and asked them to deliver some new plastic bed sheets.  Now the Hospice director is going to call a "meeting" to straighten it all out.  I hope Dad is still around when they decide to schedule something.  Really, it makes you wonder what you did.  Not only that, my some-time care manager has checked up with Hospice periodically on her own to see how Dad is doing.  I wonder why she doesn't call me.  I think that's really more appropriate.  Bottom line is that it's always about money.  The care manager wants more business, Hospice is getting more business faster than they know how to manage it, the assisted living facility keeps its costs down by hiring way less help than they really need to be a full service institution and besides that they wouldn't know how to manage if they did hire someone.  In my up coming book, I'm going to factor out the costs of staying in a home with full time care as opposed to staying in a nursing home as opposed to staying in an assisted living facility and supplementing the nursing care.  Bottom line is that the people you hire are your responsibility.  It's an art to figure out how to have the best quality.  You could leave the assisted living facility (at this point that would be totally traumatic for Dad which I told the head nurse last week when Dad fell out of bed and they were considering sending him to the emergency room) and go to a worse nursing home.  I mean, you really take your chances on your choice and once you've made the choice you have to try your hardest to make it work.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In a Holding Pattern

After a few days of walks in the nice sunshine and my father in a relatively good mood, yesterday, a cooler, cloudy and rainy day was not so good.  Dad wasn't happy that I had to take him downstairs for a haircut or with the fact that my husband and I could not stay for the beginning of the five o'clock ballgame because we had to babysit for our grandchildren.  The caregiver's report from the prior day indicated that Dad went for a walk and sat outside in the pavillion for a while, but judging from the fact that Dad did not answer my phone calls, I knew he wasn't happy with me despite what I considered to be a good report.

This has been a bad week for me in Dad’s assisted living unit. First, there were no more trousers left in his closet with four days to go before the laundry was done. Part of this problem was that Dad kept needing new trousers. The other part was that at least two pairs were missing. My answer was to wash the trousers in the laundry room though I pay for assisted living to do it and then go on a search for the missing trousers. The search produced no results and means that I must add purchasing new trousers to my never ending to do list.

Then I went to charge Dad’s cell phone. I keep the charger in the kitchen portion of Dad’s tiny apartment. It is officially missing. Noone knows where it is. Guess what I do today? Go to the Verizon store and buy another charger.”

Today I have scheduled a volunteer from the Jewish Family Service to pay Dad a call.  The idea is to introduce him to a person who could fill in as companion.

Dad doesn't like anyone else but my husband me around, but to be honest, when we get a break, we feel so much better.  So whether Dad likes it or not, he's stuck with those we hire to fill in for us.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not so good

Dad's best friend of 50 years was here last weekend.  With his daughter and son-in-law, they visited together with Dad for the four days that his friend was in Denver.  I know Dad enjoyed this thoroughly and I think now he's experiencing a bit of a setback as life returns to normal.  In the past two days, he's called me up in a very anxious state and insisted that I come immediately to see him.  I am beside myself and yesterday asked the Hospice nurse what she thought about transferring him to a nursing home.  After my husband calmed me down, we decided it's better to keep him where he is since the nursing homes are much further away and we'd wind up having to travel greater distances every time he expressed his anxiety which we know would continue to occur.  I think now that his friend has left, there is nothing in the immediate future for him to look forward to.  The biggest problems we have with him other than this new anxious state is that he no longer eats and his liquid diet doesn't provide enough nourishment.  That makes him weak due to the continuous loss of weight and healthy muscle and tissue.  I have been to Whole Foods numerous times to try and provide the right supplements.  One icky greenish can was fifty bucks which I more than happily purchased and realized afterwards was not a good deal.  Every caregiver has a different theory on how to encourage him to drink the right stuff, i.e. only Diet Coke because the real stuff has too much sugar, put whipped cream on his bottled smoothie, no more strawberry milk shakes because they have too much sugar, put Ensure into a tiny cup so he'll not find it overwhelming to finish.  In between I find diet supplements to put in water with only a modicum of success.  We have been forced to watch his intake because he has edema (swelling) of his right hand.  Since we started watching his diet and have elevated his hand, the swelling has gone down.  We are very fortunate that Dad does not have pain.  Other than constantly trying to figure out how to go on and not being able to move, he seems comfortable.  At this point it is hard to think of ways to keep him occupied.  He is still alert enough to know what's going on, but he'll shut you off if he doesn't like the subject matter.  With my husband, who has the most influence, we watch baseball and golf and occasionally the news.  When it's nice out, we take a late afternoon walk.  A caregiver comes late in the afternoon two days a week, and a volunteer from Jewish Family Service is expected to start visiting next week.  The Hospice team checks in on him weekly.  What else can we do?  Not being one to give up, I am planning to go to the library to find some DVD's that have short biographies about people Dad used to admire.  We'll see.  We tried the Game Show Channel and he nixed that.