Walking into Age …Have you Loved Enough?

By Francine Van, Guest Contributor

I live a simple life, my place has basic needs without the richness of excess, although for me, it houses so many life treasures both lived and unlived.  I feel the gratitude of pure luck being born in this country, at this time in the universe, or was it all intended just as it is?  Stories from other countries cannot be ignored when pushed into your face telling of despair and desperation.  Neglect and terror scream for focus and I am reminded of the luxury of even considering a search for purpose.  Survival is purpose for many.  When we are young, this society and school pushes reform into the norm, yet individuality is what we seek as we grow. Be different is good advice. Age brings wisdom, as popularity loses importance.

I pray for the children that never know the meaning of love.  Hostages for a human race that kills its own and kills our habitat sincerely keeps me in question.  The possibilities and technology available, with a new generation more compassionate, gives hope our abilities can overcome.  We can create a new world with balance and union.  Globalization is a key requirement. Contributions to the cause are becoming visible spraying hope in new places and people. Watching societies put focus on helping “one” and saving “one” yet will turn away when hundreds of thousands are killed, raises concern. No discussion needed, we all know the answer.  I will not be here to see the result in this body.

Death, in contrast forecasts change in perception.  Can death be love?  Our elders, including myself, express desire to exit without waiting for natural pathways to death. Life swerves and for some the road is too difficult to bear. Death appears to be the freedom from the burdens of this life, and even if not burdened, the promise of a rebirth to a better space of energy. The fear of how you will die seems more fearful than the dying itself. Our world is over populated with new threats of death. There are no saviours. We are living in a war zone; it is just not identified as a structured war. There is no exit from death. We are all on this road.

For now, find a level of contentment. When love exudes through your pores, know this vibration of contentment can be achieved as the norm.  This aliveness secret can be lost in our busyness of life but was known by many of our historic teachers giving advice to live in awareness and mindfulness.

Have you loved enough?

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Posted in Elder population, Quality of life, Retirement | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Practice of Using Volunteer Workers

By Francine Van, Guest Contributor
I took note of the definition of ‘workers’ vs. the definition of ‘volunteers’ in the dictionary.  While a worker is one who works for another for wages or a salary, a volunteer is someone who does work without being paid for it, because they want to do it. The vision of volunteer vs. worker appears blurred as I search volunteer opportunities. Leaving one position, I learned it was refilled with an employee, and I realized the balance required for companies. I do not want to hinder employment for someone on unemployment.

Non-profit and charity businesses further distort this criteria. Their volunteer opportunities can take lengthy training, require commitment for duration of time, have schedules to report, and track you like an employee. These openings are hidden jobs. If you are seeking a non-paying position you can most definitely find one.

I find numerous volunteers actively engaged in various activities and wonder if the market is over saturated with these helpers. The baby boomers are bored and the students flood the remainder of the market with their required community service hours to graduate or obtain work. I will gladly give up my service to help our younger generation get hired. Some will not. Some will even protect and discourage other volunteers.

On the flip side, I find some activities in my volunteer gig as “make work projects” to keep us busy for a shift, not contributing to the cause, and I find this annoying. I want to give my time to contribute to the betterment of a giving society that helps those in need. Period.

I am not there to take a job. I am not there because I have nothing else to do.

I continue as a student of life and hope to offer some wisdom on occasion through my experiences. I look after grandchildren, I look after my mom in care at a long term residence, I look after friends who are recovering from surgeries or fighting depression at this stage of life, and I find myself overwhelmed at times. I am realizing I have become involved in many unpaid jobs and wonder where all that free retirement time has gone.

Be careful, perhaps you are already volunteering and do not realize it. I needed a week off to get a rest and write this story.

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NOTE – Refer an earlier blog on volunteerism and seniors at this link:
https://goldenwavemovement.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/volunteerism-and-seniors/

Posted in Retirement, Retirement planning, Volunteerism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Retirement or Restart

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Retirement can be an opportunity for rebirth – a time to set in motion a new chapter in life.  It would even be regarded as an opportunity for a career restart.

Retirement is when we have more of that precious commodity…free time!  It is when we can take the opportunity to learn something new that can stimulate us. Unfortunately many of us have fallen into society’s pattern for our lives – working and being productive. Sadly, that is to be productive according to society’s definition of success, not ours! There has to be more. This belief is difficult to dismiss when spending hours in a perceived unproductive mode while indulging our interests.  We thus have to make sure that those interests will captivate our spirit and drive us to live a full and satisfied life.

Many of us considering retirement are weighed down by important questions before making that life changing decision.  We wrestle with many questions:  Is it time to retire? Can we afford to retire? What will we do to occupy our time after retirement? We need to find creative ways to enjoy life or pursue an alternate career while maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. More time on your hands will allow you to wander and experience the wonders of our world if you can afford it.  We do however have to keep our expectations in line with the reality of our financial circumstances.

Family responsibilities often play a role in how we manage our time. Caring for others, such as your children, grandchildren or elderly parents may require obligations and place demands on your time. These responsibilities can be satisfying despite the challenges and frustrations that oft time seem to accompany engaging with family. Social interaction with family can, however, be a rewarding experience. It could ease the sense of isolation that some retirees experience. Emotional health is equally as important as physical health, especially at this important chapter of our life.

As we contemplate how to spend time, hesitation and even some confusion can become obstacles to implementing a good plan.  That concern can be lessened by doing research at the library. Libraries offer great free resources, as do colleges that have continuing education courses.  The library is an excellent resource as it provides access to a range of helpful information on how to have a fulfilling retirement.  There are also local community centres, clubs, and social groups that provide networking opportunities to ease one into the restart.

Workshops and classes can open many avenues in making retirement more productive and enjoyable. We have an opportunity to link up with all kinds of people in various age groups and from a vast array of cultural backgrounds. If you are interested in the arts you can take classes to learn how to draw, paint, write or even learn to play a musical instrument or anything else that may inspire or interest you.

A second career is also considered by some of us. This option may or may not offer a salary especially if you are a volunteer. That choice might depend on your financial circumstances. Volunteering in community centres or becoming a member of a social group can help you keep busy and give you a sense of being productive. While minimum wage jobs may offer some type of obligation, they may not sustain you emotionally. Your spirit or psyche might need more. There is the option for entrepreneurship for those who have the determination and passion to set up their own business.  Establishing a business is challenging so lots of hard work and resilience will be essential.

Enjoying retirement often has more to do with the choices we make, like embracing hobbies.  Finding a hobby of interest is another activity to consider. If you choose what you enjoy, the surroundings will fall into place. It becomes the most important calling.  Activities of interest can help to ignite the restart as you carve out your destiny at this time life.

You know you are on track with your destiny when you feel alive —that special spark that harks back to your youth.  During this time you will find that your purpose changes with life experiences and with age. This restart can be a most enthralling experience that you can explore and enjoy. The sky is the limit …. the fire of youth may have receded, but the passion should still be there in the embers.

Posted in Career restart, Health, Retirement, Retirement careers, Retirement hobbies, Volunteerism | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Love Giver

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By Francine Van, Guest Contributor
“Well te rusten,” was our nightly gesture, a Dutch phrase translating to “rest well,” and the only ritual practiced daily that brought peace to my inner world.

Two years, two people, and two very different relationships endured between a mother and daughter. A lifetime of personalities had settled comfortably, and required new vigor for a caring role reversal, as we merged lives.

The light bulb idea was mine as I suggested mom move in with me. I offered an extra bedroom at the condo I purchased for my retirement at a small lakeside community. I found her increased needs entailed exhaustive attention when she lived alone, and required daily visits to bring food. I cleaned, arranged appointments, paid her bills, and became her taxi. More seriously, reminders of regular routines like bath time, med-time, mealtime, and locking her door were also necessity.

Mom had difficulty with the decision; one day she ruled favourably in the choice, but then the next remained non-committal. She unfortunately forgot her final decision to move with me.

This trek with mom began with hope, a journey of love, and seriously railroaded off the tracks days after we moved. A nasty transition ensued, as I unpacked and she sat staring out the window.

She was vocal about her unhappiness, but silent in her retreat with this disease. My sense of hopelessness surfaced, not understanding how I was capable of providing the essentials of life, yet could not fix this situation for her. I knew she could not live alone.

I grimly noted my loss of privacy and social life. Resentment simmered, knowing she was not at fault. I never realized the encompassing work caring for a loved one, who became a disgruntled, unrepentant guest. Sorting my emotions became a dilemma, and feelings of suffocation arose. My lakeside dream crumbled, and my retreat changed into a prison.

A day-away program was a Band-Aid in assisting with her care, or was it for my care? Support was the goal, but the ultimate result attached me to their schedule. Respite care was exceedingly difficult to obtain, if at all. My freedom nevertheless diminished.

We weaved our existence around each other, but the oppressive energy in my home radiated. I became her total support system, yet wondered if I was helping her at all.

“What day is it?” was her morning question, this habit repeated every day, and it would not be an exaggeration to mention it could reoccur again a few hours later. Groundhog Day, the movie, once had me laughing at the repetition, but now the regurgitated theme troubled me, this reality inferred in my life.

My questions multiplied with lessened expectations of mom’s capabilities. Her mental functions deteriorated with no known navigation, and living with this disease of dementia, presented the most confusing, non-patterned survival. Each personality piloting this brain maze will live it differently, and the love givers live this same life!

“It takes a village.” is a common saying for raising children and I have learned the meaning also holds true for elder care. No one can go it alone.

Two years passed and my quest for additional help towered. I fell deeper into my misery, depression lurking for both of us. How could I make life decisions for another human being? She is here to live her own unique journey, so I struggled with this challenge.

The call came at four p.m. on New Year’s Eve. A bed at a long-term care residence was available immediately for her. No time to worry, we were rushed through the preparations, instructions, and tests. She appeared to understand, had wanted this move, but I still wondered if it was all clear to her. I felt grace in action the way the universe fell into place that day.

She explored the new surroundings without hesitation. She was back in the city she had called home.

She now seems content residing across the street from her old apartment. A new slice of life sprouted in this nursing home, mom unfolding with a re-energized spirit, and choices of a manicure or bingo her only concern.

Long-term residence care survives criticism by various standards, yet continues to provide elder care housing, as society searches for improved, alternative options. I must end with a shout out of thanks to this village currently supporting mom’s needs.

A fresh relationship surfaced for us too, and I am pleased we have recreated a new, old friendship. She has taught me endurance and adaptability.

Love overwhelms me again.

Posted in Caregivers, Dementia, Elder Care, Long Term Care | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Time Passing By

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By Francine Van, Guest Contributor

Two years have passed since my last blog at this site. I reflect and remember my exploration of my inner desires to find my creative purpose in this world with retirement fresh. I have made several attempts in different directions, just following the moment of interest and as the expression goes, just as I was making plans a purpose found me.  A year as caregiver for my mother has taught me many things and my creative purpose is not one of them! The presence of death becoming a little closer, my pursuit is becoming a pressure of endurance in my efforts to raise my level of contentment.

I am one of millions always searching or longing for more, and believe I will follow my heart to keep my spirit alive and excited in whatever ways nourish me. I struggle with draining useless tasks that consume us, some required in this society and limit our freedom. I am always seeking new innovative explorations and look forward to comments of advice and suggestions.

I recently heard a comment about life being a changing set of circumstances you have to figure out and was inspired to write this free verse poem to describe my life at the moment.

This quote captures the essence of what I am experiencing at this time.

“life begins at the end of your comfort zone” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Posted in Baby boomers, Caregivers, Connected seniors, Elder Care, Quality of life, Retirement hobbies | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Inadequate Standards For Elder Care Facilities

More and more serious concerns are being raised about the standard of care provided by many elder care facilities. Concerns range from overcrowding, insufficient staff, untrained staff, staff abuse and to dangerous and sometimes deadly confrontations that occur between residents suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer.

When ageing relatives are no longer able to care for themselves it can be a challenging time for families. Unlike how things were done in the past where families and the community worked together to take care of the elderly, that job is now increasingly undertaken by health care institutions. Elder health care is rapidly becoming a booming business. Similar to other businesses, elder care institutions focus more on profits and the bottom line but less on their frail and fragile clients. Hence the elderly are often victims of substandard health care services due to an absence of proper monitoring and regulations.

Earlier this year it was reported that over 10,000 Canadians were abused in the elder care industry. That is a staggering amount of abuses occurring annually in these facilities. (Refer to: Renewed focus on seniors violence after 91-year-old woman dies following fight and  CareHomes_TenThousandAbused) Elder care facilities that are supposed to be safe havens for the most vulnerable among us are failing them. A case in point is the recent ruling to take away the licence from a retirement home. This underscores the dire need to improve the standards that govern health care facilities. Clearly there is a need to regulate and monitor how elder care facilities operate. (Refer to: TheStar_RetirementHomes)

Like everything else, care facilities don’t provide identical services. Facilities are graded and the varying costs are intended to reflect where that institution fits with regard to level of service. Costs will vary depending on whether the facility is rated from high-end to mediocre. This raises the question of affordability for seniors of modest income. Seniors who cannot afford to pay those hefty charges have to opt for less expensive care facilities. Yet, many troubling incidents of abuse and violence have occurred in high-end facilities. Many of the victims also have mobility issues. Recent reports have revealed that even high-end facilities that have had a good reputation are now under scrutiny regarding the safety and care of the elderly in their care. Those high costs charged by institutions are not justified. It seems to be mostly about corporate profits.

Unfortunately, there are not many options available to an abused elder when unpleasant or violent incidents occur. In most jurisdictions victims can seek recourse through a ‘complaint line’. Providing a complaint line is a small step in addressing this serious issue. It is not an adequate mechanism to address what is becoming a very serious obstacle in protecting our elders. Adequate regulations and criteria should govern how elder care facilities should operate. These regulations and criteria have to be formulated by a regulatory body such as a task force, ombudsman or watchdog. If the criteria are not met then clients should not have to deal with stifling red tape to seek redress. Speedy legal justice should be embedded within the criteria.

While concerns focus on the standards at facilities the role of family members is important. Relatives need to check up on their elders, especially those suffering from isolation or mental health problems. There are also too many instances where dementia sufferers wander away from the facility and are later found dead.  The last federal budget introduced the 2013 Canadian Action Plan which allows a ‘Caregiver Tax Credit Supporting Caregivers’ for a family member with physical or mental impairments who prefers to be cared for in their own home. ( Refer to:  http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/blog/supporting-caregivers-through-family-caregiver-tax).

The 2013 Canadian Action Plan tax relief option is for those who prefer to live out their lives in the comfort of their own homes. It is a good start as that option recognizes that home care is a more effective way to reduce health care costs. Moreover it can quell concerns about the type of care provided by some care homes. While it is helpful, it hardly covers the financial burden of hiring a personal caregiver not to mention the physical and emotional burden on relatives who are still in the workforce. Caring for elderly relatives suffering from isolation, mobility issues or serious mental health problems presents a big challenge for families. Providing adequate care for our elders will become an even greater challenge with the rapidly expanding ageing demographic in a world that is still wrestling with an uncertain economic future.

It is essential that effective standards be put in place to stop the rampant abuses that are increasing in elder care facilities. Society`s attitude toward our vulnerable aged and infirm citizens needs to undergo a dramatic transformation.

Posted in 2013 Canadian Action Plan, Alzheimer, Caregivers, Dementia, Demographics, Elder abuse, Elder Care institutions, Long Term Care | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments