Getting Things Ready for Grandma

There is nothing simple about being a caregiver. It’s a job we do because we love someone so much and someone has to step up and do it.  It’s very hard work and sometimes physically and emotionally exhausting.  Many times you feel unsupported and alone in this position.  You will be surprised to find out who you can count on (and who you can’t)!

This blog will serve as a resource to caregivers who have taken on the wonderful and beautiful responsibility-and burden- of providing care to their loved one.  You will follow my experiences, by trial and error, in comedy and tragedy.

I will discuss and review products truthfully that I am actually using and provide resources to help you provide quality care to your loved one whether they live in your home, in their own home or are in a senior facility.  I will also provide information regarding rules and laws that affect seniors.  I will submit my opinions and vents regarding senior care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.  I will be honest and factual based on my experiences. If you don’t agree with me, it’s ok. I’m not out to make enemies but I am definitely out to help our population that needs an advocate.  If my experiences can help one person, I’ve done something to sleep well at night.

As a caregiver of my Grandmother for over ten years I have learned to adapt, think quickly, research and develop ideas and equipment to help ease the work and responsibility that comes with this “job”.

My grandmother is 91 years old.  She is a former NYC Roxyette who worked at the Roxy theater back in the day.  She performed in the USO and was quite the looker.  She had a pretty exciting and colorful life in her younger years.  She had three children and a few grandchildren.  She practically raised me and spared me from the poverty and struggles that followed my mother.

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In the last ten years she has had a few stokes and developed dementia.  She has no short term memory.  Her long term memory is affected but still in tact.  She gets confused with too much change and anxious quickly especially when out of her house or away from her cat.  When the dementia worsened and it became unsafe to leave her home alone she moved into assisted living. I wish I knew then what I know now.  Those experiences, throughout six years and three facilities was extremely disappointing. With staffing issues and heavy turn over it was rare that quality care was received. Stolen items, lack of personal hygiene, dirty rooms, and many broken promises led us to live with day to day worry and guilt about my grandmothers safety and the care she was receiving in a senior facility.

I grew increasingly upset about the assisted living care she was receiving every time I visited, which was very often.  We changed facilities a few times and nothing ever really improved.  It was the same thing in a different building.

In 2013 I came across an affordable small house in a development a few miles from where we live. Somehow I wanted to find a way to make this work for my grandmother.  I wanted to do everything I could to improve the quality of her life. I was going to attempt it, with the support and help of my husband.  If it wasn’t an improvement she could return to assisted living.  I felt like we had nothing to lose.

We excitedly purchased the house and began working on it.  We decorated the house in my grandmothers taste doing everything we could to make the house familiar and comfortable.   We took every item from her life that she still had, which after six years of assisted living was not much, and placed it in the house. We hung family pictures or her old artwork in every room.  We even decorated with furniture that resembled items from her past. We customized the house for her needs and disabilities (which we will get much more into). So opposite the way things are normally done, we took her out of assisted living to move to independent living in her own house.

My husband and I operate a private school that has a special needs program and are very familiar with catering to differences and disabilities.  Being in education, finances are limited.  We needed to make a customized set up specifically for our Grandmother that was affordable and manageable.

With new technology and life experience and the disappointment of the assisted living experience we felt this change could only be an improvement for her overall quality of life.  We were absolutely correct and could not be happier we made this decision.  Regardless if this situation lasts for many years or is only temporary, we know it’s an improvement and we are thankful each day she is able to live a little more comfortably.

With all sorts of senior proofing and special needs tricks and an affordable home automation system with surveillance cameras and motion detectors we have customized an affordable option to help us provide care for her. Care that we control. Care that we can update, change, increase as we want.  I will be giving details and descriptions of each item, tool, trick in future posts.

Grandma has been residing in her new home,  with her cat for five months. She has no idea what State she is in and believes it is our house and we live in the guest room (dementia) but she is so much happier and more comfortable.  She gets out of bed daily (which she did not at the assisted living facilities except to eat) and watches tv, looks out the windows, and moves around the house. We are very involved and visit her almost daily.  We have several companions and CNAs who come in daily for specific tasks.  We have figured out a schedule and routine that is working  for her to keep her safely in her own home with her cat (her life line).  She is cleaner, eating much better, and has a better level of quality companionship.

Unfortunately, she recently had another (serious) stroke which has her partially paralyzed. She is unable to walk or sit up independently.  Her left arm is completely paralyzed.  She is currently in rehab doing therapy. Once she is a little stronger she will return home.

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Although she cant remember what the house looks like or any details about it she continues to repeat she wants to go home.  She knows the feeling, the comfort, she has at home.  So, In the meantime we are making changes and updates in the house for her increased disability.

We are realistic.  We know Grandma turns 92 next month.  We want whatever time she has left to be comfortable and as pleasant as possible.  We know that if we are unable to make things work in her house a nursing home is always an option.  Its a last resort but an option.  We know when its time for her to go with God, the ideal time would be in her house with her cat (and us) by her side.

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In the hospital, saying “hi”.

Providing care for another person is a full time emotional job.  Every person and family has to assess what they can do financially, what they are willing to give up,  how much time they can dedicate,  and who they can rely on. Whether your loved one is in their own home, at home with you, or in a senior facility there are products and resources that can help improve the care they receive.   When you know your options  it helps you make better decisions.   Whether you are naturally a caretaker personality or a provider out of necessity only,  you have stepped up as the responsible and selfless few who have chosen to respect and dignify the people you love. We are respecting and loving our elderly family members and role modeling to our children.   The world needs more people like that!

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