Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who Takes Care of the Elders?

Thank you to this blogger who shared her agony watching an elderly couple with 5 children try to navigage through some serious problems by themselves. She asked, "Where are their kids?" Many people answered, with responses varying from, "I can relate - I'm not there for my parents, either" - for a variety of reasons - to those who said, "I'd be there no matter what."

Those of us who live the Sandwich Generation life - or worse, the super-sandwichers, those who have children AND grandchildren, parents AND grandparents (like me) and are balancing a career that is demanding and energy-consuming have some super-challenges.

There is no way for me to be there for my oldest daughter, who is graduating from college this weekend, AND my 73 year old mother, who needs someone to drive her to the train station to visit her 95 year old mother back east.

That's just one example of what feels like every day of my life. I know I'm not alone in this incredible challenge.

For my part, if I have to choose between the needs of my children and my parents I choose my children almost every time - my mother has had a full life; my kids are just starting on their life journeys and still need parenting.

So who helps the parents/grands? Thank God for kind, generous people like you, who, in your professional capacity listen, support and care.

It takes more than a village with our current longevity - it may, in fact, take us all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Technology and Independence

Last week I attended a great presentation at the Oregon State capitol building in Salem, presented by CAST (Center for Aging Services Technology) and Orcatech (Oregon Center for Aging and Technology).

Although it's exciting to see all of the brainpower working on the task of helping older people stay independent as long as possible - the number one concern of aging boomers - at the same time it is a bit discouraging to see the time lines of availability of these products. Many of them are still in development and won't be available, at the earliest, until late 2008.

The day after this event I attended a fund raiser for a local foundation, the Jessie F. Richardson foundation, for their work helping seniors in Nicaragua. At the fundraiser the point was made that over 70% of the world's senior citizens will be in developing or 3rd world countries within the next 15 years. Makes the work of this foundation and others like it seem even more important. Check it out!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Compassion Fatigue - right on target

For a beautiful first-person account on the art and rewards, as well as the challenge and fatigue of caring for an aging loved one (or Ancient one, as this person words it), read this blog entry - Bet me.

I truly think the description of caregiver burnout as "compassion fatigue" strikes at the heart of the issue. Caregivers give of their time, energy, physical labor and their love for hours at a time, day after day. Even paid caregivers working in assisted living communities or other senior care settings do so with incredible compassion toward the persons in their care - why else would they do this difficult work, when often Starbucks or Burger King pays more?

It is because they are devoted to making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable; of being where they are most needed. Not just making a living - but making a real difference.

As a profession of senior care providers, we need to continually search for ways to help caregivers cope with compassion fatigue. We need to offer support, encouragement, "mental health breaks" and opportunities to re-energize with laughter and fun.

These are some of our society's most important quiet contributors. We need to take good care of them.