Contributing Writer: Maryann Makekau, founder Hope Matters
Never before have I been so focused on aging. The more I walk alongside those already wearing old age shoes the more intense my thinking becomes. It’s not half bad.
It’s often quite the teacher. The smarts I have gained are the by-product of a class I never signed up to take. I literally dove in a classroom pool – full of caregivers – when life took a drastic turn.
There was no question; I had to be part of the solution.
Now nearly four years into caregiving for my parents, my thinking about old age has been remodeled again and again.
Relocating from New York to Florida wasn’t in my parents’ plans. And, it wasn’t in mine. They had struggled against “unfriendly” features of their home for years.
Dad couldn’t get past the comparisons. How can adding a downstairs bathroom cost four times what they had spent for an entire house 49 years earlier? His list of someday-repairs became as overwhelming as contending with Mom having Alzheimer’s.
Then, it all came crashing down when she fell down the stairs and suffered a disabling pelvic fracture. Well-meaning people had cautioned us along the Alzheimer’s route.
They said, “It only takes one fall … it changes everything,” with a blended look of stress and sulk.
Sixty years of making it through sickness and health, good times and bad, better or worse, my father’s to-do list was suddenly beyond repair. There was no going back; the price of change was far too steep.
My siblings swore he left a trail of heel marks from north to south. Florida was on mother’s bucket list but it was never on his. Still, Dad complied, “for her sake.” It only takes one fall … it changes everything. Before you can blink an eye, it will remodel your thinking about old age and the foundation beneath.
The fact is, very few equip themselves for the demands of old age. They are learning how to be old, just like we are learning to caregive – both in these never before worn shoes. The journey often feels like a sink or swim, but we just keep on swimming.
Our thoughts, our homes, and even the core of life itself often need remodeling – especially when Alzheimer’s knocks on the door.
My parents’ needs and our mid-stream home renovation became one slow-moving intertwined project. We did some sight-seeing once Mom healed from the fall. The “season” only lasted a year but it gave us fabulous memory-gems, of the heart-type Alzheimer’s can’t erase.
Subsequent falls, losing ability to walk and speak, and having every aspect of her human-doing taken by Alzheimer’s, that is our season of challenge now.
When we started our project, the goal was to do-it-ourselves and hire only where we could not.
“It’s important to evaluate your home to understand where it’s not meeting your needs,” Mike Good suggested in Sixty & Me magazine.
Caregiving has remodeled our thoughts on old age too. In slowing down, our questions have become more focused. How do we want to be cared for when it’s our turn? What do we need in place and why? Will our design ideas stand the test of time?
Aging in Place is defined as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level, according to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes, yet fewer than 14 percent of pre-retirees anticipate needing any assistance.
An oversized accessible shower is already proving its value. Caregiver stress and age-related wear and tear led me and my husband into shoulder surgery.
On the contrary, the roof-deck built for us to enjoy an outdoor meal is failing the test of time.
We have backed up to remodel, amid remodeling. I can see more clearly. This is how my father’s list of someday repairs became overwhelming – especially after Alzheimer’s burst through their door.
Here we are, soon to celebrate 35 years married and 60 years of age. It’s not half bad. In fact, we would do it all over again. Evaluating our home, making sure it fits our needs, equipping ourselves for the demands of old age; ultimately it is all part of the journey.
As Lily Tomlin smartly noted, “The road to success is always under construction.”
We compiled ideas and products most likely to stand the test of time. We hope to age in place. We are focused on the goal: do-it-ourselves and hire only where we cannot.
In the words of Mike Good, Is your home ready for aged related challenges, including Alzheimer’s?
Perhaps it’s time to remodel – old age comes faster than you think!
About the author: Maryann Makekau founded Hope Matters to make a difference in hurting lives. That motivation began to bless a friend in need and resulted in two series of children’s books plus Spanish translations. Her expertise in the mental health field spans over 20 years. Maryann is an author, speaker, blogger, entrepreneur and military veteran. Her ability to deliver compassionate writing and practical tools for families going through difficult journeys has magnified hope in countless lives. She strives to change the course of Alzheimer’s by operating several memory cafes where participants are immersed in the arts, tableside. She is a caregiver for both her parents and in many ways for others as well.
Learn more at http://www.hopematters.co/
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