Haims: Aging at home requires collaboration and a celebration (column)
Everyone celebrates the birth of a child and the beginning of a lifecycle. We bring meals, gifts, attention, and are supportive of the family in the celebration of the new life.
Throughout the passing of years, most cultures celebrate milestones achieved in aging such as baptisms, sweet 16s, bar or bat mitzvahs, and milestone birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
The enthusiasm and passion for aging should continue throughout life. Why is it that we celebrate a new life with excitement and enthusiasm — expressing pride as our loved ones become independent and self-sufficient, but lose this enthusiasm and commitment to help as our loved ones age and could use a little assistance?
When was the last time that you brought a meal over to an aging neighbor or aging family member who wasn’t your parent? Do you ever think about giving your cell/home phone number to an aging neighbor and letting them know that if they ever need something, you’ll be there to assist? At any age, standing on a ladder or chair to change a light bulb could be a fall waiting to happen. Further, a wet bathroom floor or stairs may pose even greater risks.
There is a family in Edwards who befriended an aging neighbor. The husband (I’ll call him Ed) is in the construction trade and observed that during the winter, it had become a daily routine to see his neighbor (I’ll call him Jack) shoveling snow off the front doorsteps.
Ed shared with me that after a two-day big snowfall, he had not noticed Jack shoveling. Ed knocked on Jack’s front door to check in and became concerned when nobody answered. He walked along the front patio to where he could look in on the den and saw Jack on the floor.
Jack had fallen, hurt his leg and was stuck between a heavy wood coffee table and the couch. Since recovering, Ed’s kids have made it a daily ritual to check in with Jack. They love hearing stories of the years when he flew B-25 bombers.
Ed’s wife has done much to embrace Jack. She makes extra food and frequently makes time to sit with Jack for meals. She also makes herself available to him to run errands when the weather is poor. Of course, this is only when Jack acquiesces to her kindness.
Jack could have been faced with a situation where he had to move to an assisted living facility. After more than 40 years living here in the valley, this would’ve been a loss to our community where Jack raised his kids, buried his wife, volunteered so much of his time and passion, and touched the lives of many.
What forces our aging loved ones from their homes into assisted living or full-time nursing facilities is not necessarily declining health as many might think. Rather, it is often the challenges in living environments that prevent them from living independently.
How can you make a difference?
As a community, we should look at and consider how we can emulate Johns Hopkins’ CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders) program. This program sends handymen, nurses and occupational therapists into the homes of seniors aging in place to see how far a few thousand dollars can go in preserving people’s independence.
The CAPABLE program has proven that a $3,000 investment in an elder and their home can translate into reducing potential inpatient and outpatient hospital costs of about $20,000.
On a personal basis, just be personable, caring, and observant. Consider opening the communications channels with an aging neighbor by offering your contact information in case of an emergency. Ask if your neighbor would be willing to share their contact information and maybe the contact info for one of their friends or family members in case of an emergency.
An offer to assist with house chores, errands, or even a nutritious meal and conversation is rarely seen as being obtrusive or offensive. Be more than a neighbor, be a caring friend. This is what contributes to our great communities.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526
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