On Aging’s Slippery Path, Who Will Watch Mom?

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I don’t think I will ever forget following the ambulance taking Mom. I felt helpless as I watched the doctor give her stitches above her eye in the hallway because all the rooms were full. Somehow, even amidst the blood and bruising, she appeared elegant and beautiful in her own way. She had relaxed because she was feeling safe and cared for, and soon she was making jokes about being beat up by the sidewalk. We learned it should be just a matter of the stitches and some time before she would be back to her routine … or would it?

This was the second time, in a matter of just a month, that we were in the ER getting stitches for Mom. Her feet seemed to have gotten less sure of her, but it seemed she hadn’t caught up with the idea. After one incident she had forgotten my phone number and had some difficulty reaching me for help. I wanted to surround her in a fortress of bubble wrap to keep her safe, but that was not a practical solution. I was deeply concerned, not just for her current injury but for the larger issue at hand, the looming unsure future. My frame of reference regarding my mom had suddenly shifted as I realized we might both be facing a new phase in our lives. I had realized this might one day happen. I knew it happens to other people, the ones whose parents were not as healthy and stubborn as mine, but I had not seriously accepted that I would need to prepare for the possibility any time in the near future. Suddenly that future was knocking on the door and I was not ready to answer.

The shift in life when older adults begin to need extra support services can be very stressful and unsure, both for the adults and for their caregivers. So many possible issues can begin to surface. Financial worries, safety concerns, insurance woes, trying to ensure needs are met, and even deciding what roles will be filled by multiple family members can cause a huge strain. Oftentimes, a battle begins to ensue between concerns for safety and independence, with the older adult wanting to be on their own as much as possible and the caregiver wanting to shelter them from further harm. Sometimes it feels like a rain of stress and worry pouring down.

We might wish we had an umbrella, and I found out we do! The Golden Umbrella is an invaluably precious resource in our community. It is a non-profit organization, has been serving seniors and their caregivers for over forty years, and specifically helps sort out these types of issues. When the balance of safety and independence is in question Golden Umbrella is able to provide a well informed, neutral advocate’s perspective. It can then offer services or refer families to resources.

Two of the resources available are Adult Day Program and Adult Day Health Care Programs. At these programs, participants come to the Golden Umbrella and have engaging activities, entertainment, a nutritious meal, time with friends, crafts, gardening, and can even have their hair done at the salon! There is plenty going on. Although it might just seem like good times, activities are filled with purpose. According to Program Director Kay Hudelson, this program is specifically designed based on research driven, best-practice care that has been shown to benefit seniors in many ways. The stimulation, social environment, games, and other activities promote mental function and memory retention. In addition, the healthy dietary and physical activity components of the program enhance strength and physical health. The program environment, which includes supportive, caring staff and a wellness model, has been shown to reduce risks and can lead to extending the time seniors can continue to live in their homes.

The Adult Day Program and Adult Day Health Care programs are currently enrolling new participants. Both programs are needed to meet varied needs of care, with Adult Day Health Care including a more comprehensive medical support model with supervision and medication management by nursing staff, and physical therapy.

Participation in the Adult Day Program is a great way for seniors to have time in a safe, beneficial environment and it is also helpful for caregivers who need to have the time away. A recent study from Penn State found that participants in adult day programs experience a significant improvement in quality of life, while their care providers also reported feeling better and having less stress. The number and specified days for participation in Adult Day Program are flexible and private pay is accepted.

Golden Umbrella helps plan for seniors’ changing needs. Being pro-active and anticipating these transitions can help disabled adults and frail, elderly seniors remain independent longer. According to Executive Director Larry Montgomery, it is better to call or drop by before a crisis, no appointment is necessary.  Take the time now to allow their trained staff to help you to prepare for the future.

Golden Umbrella can be reached at (530) 223-6034 www.goldenumbrella.org, 200 Mercy Oaks Dr   Redding, CA 96003.

jennifer-graceJennifer Grace is a CSU San Marcos graduate with a passion for prevention and strengthening community. She is a consultant whose clients include Golden Umbrella and she enjoys working with local schools and community groups. Jennifer can be reached at graceconsulting@live.com

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