Thursday, 1 January 2015

Elderly and dependent ~ introduction to the series ~ finding the way forward

Kowhai flowers
for cheer
and encouragement
The decline into disability and infirmity in old age presents big challenges, to those who are elderly and also to family and friends.  In this series of articles I want to share what I have learnt from personal experience in the hope that it will be helpful to others.

When my mother suffered a bad fall nearly a year ago the effect was shattering: it was clear that she could no longer live in her own home.  Not only was it shattering for her with physical pain and the distressful uprooting of her whole way of life, but also for us, her family, as we scrambled to cope with her care and take over management of her affairs. 

For many of us the territory is uncharted and there is no overview: the services and facilities are there, but we may not know how they function, and although some explanations are forthcoming large areas are likely to be completely unknown.  I am still working some things out.  If I had known better what to expect and what was expected of me things would have been a great deal easier.

I well aware that not everyone has family to assist them, and also that elderly people will want to gain their own understanding and consider their futures for themselves.  For this reason, although I write as a daughter, I am writing for the elderly as well as for those who care for them.  It all helps.  Preparation, both practical and psychological, is important and for those who do not have family this is all the more valuable.

It's a huge area, which I won't attempt to cover in full.  I do hope however, that readers will find a good range of information and ideas which provide a helpful background and useful reference points.

The bulk of content relates to elder care in general: 
  • preparation and ground work
  • identifying and attending to a raft of personal care issues and working out who will handle them 
  • lots of practical ideas about how to go about these
  • the importance of establishing solid relationships with the medical practitioners of our choice
  • legal protection 
  • having good routines for paying bills and handling paperwork
  • and above all addressing family ties and obligations, and if there are none, of supportive friendships 
These issues are common to us all, wherever we live.

A portion of content is specific to the New Zealand context, the details of which will no doubt change over time.  For this reason I have not attempted to dwell on technicalities, but leave these for the further investigation of readers. 

In my mother's situation much of the responsibility and workload fell to me, but I have not done it alone.  There has been support from other members of the family and good professional relationships have been established over time.  It has taken a long time for my mother's life to be established in a new pattern and in a completely different place.  The length of time was one thing I had no idea of but will come as no surprise to those of similar experience.

As the series is based on directly on my experiences and my mother's I have altered some details and identifying features to maintain her privacy.  I refer to my mother as 'Ellen'.  

I wish all readers health, strength, and above all, the energy to keep on keeping on!  If we keep our eyes open and our wits about us we can do it; good solutions can be found.  I have chosen the yellow Kowhai flower as an emblem for this series for cheer and encouragement.

Given the scope of the subject I will be writing about it from time to time and not necessarily in a logical sequence.  For this reason I have established a list of articles on a page of their own and will add links to it as I publish new articles:  

Click on the link below to find a complete list of articles in this series:

No comments: