Saturday, 1 July 2017

Top 10 Tips: Meeting an Elderly Client at Their Home For the First Time

Be Brave and Make Your Initial Introduction Count!

Knocking on the front door of a client's home for the first time is always an anxious few seconds, but understandably even more nerve-racking if you are a newbie to the caring caper.

In fact, I recall the day of my first shift ever... standing at the top of the steps, staring at a stranger's doorbell (of someone I would shortly be helping undress for their shower) and wondering if it was not too late to turn and run for the hills!

I remember too, thinking how I hadn't really been forewarned on the reality of what to expect when arriving at a skeptical senior's house for our first meeting.  I knew that I needed to be confident and professional in order to gain trust, but it turned out to be instinct I relied on to provide my client with a warm friendly vibe that put them at ease. 

I wanted them to know that not only was I was good at my job, but I was genuinely kind, empathetic - and that I CARED too.

Luckily for me, my first client was the most adorably grateful old gent who didn't give a toot that I was a learner.  He was just so relieved to have me there.  Which I guess at the end of the day is what it's actually all about... THEM.

And NOT you!

So I thought it might be helpful to list some essential, yet often under-appreciated pointers, to ensure the inital meet 'n' greet with your new elderly client is as successful as it can possibly be. That brief, but impressionable moment where you get to reveal your amazing self and to plant the seed for a future (hopefully) mutually respectful working relationship.  

Although take note: if your client suffers from any form of memory loss issues, you may be repeating these steps all over again - and again - and again......every time you visit them.

But that's no problem to an exceptional carer as yourself, is it?

Aged Care Worker Visits
Ding Dong, 
anyone home?

1.   Face them head-on with a big fat SMILE.
Appearing at your client's door with the cheeriest face you can muster, will often be enough to knock the wind out of a potentially bad-tempered elder’s sails.  Include a hearty 'smile' in your voice as well to hopefully nip a grumpy mood in the bud before they've had a chance to remember what they were cross about in the first place! 

Trust me, it works a treat - and what have you got to lose?  

2.   Use Formal Address - ALWAYS.
Make a promise to yourself as an accomplished carer, to always use your client’s official title - especially for that initial meeting eg: "Hello Mr Smith/Mrs Jones".  Older generations were bought up believing that this is an integral sign of respect - and it's never to be messed with.

If you are unsure of their marital status (you will come across the odd hard-nut spinster out there who’s never married but who will soon let you know if you dare assume she’s a Missus) -  in this case, it’s best to opt for the full name approach 

For example:  “Hello... Marjorie Brown, is it?”

And as daunting as it may seem, you should always attempt to pronounce your client’s surnames too.  Even the culturally curly ones that contain just about every letter in the alphabet!

I will never forget standing outside Mrs Gina Kantezkantopituolos’s front steps in a cold sweat at the thought of insulting her by stuffing up her name and having her hate me forever.  She actually confided in me later that she’d appreciated me having a crack (as feeble as it was) because most people never even tried.  

She'd eventually become known as ‘Mrs K’ anyway, "for efficiency's sake", she said.

Fortunately, 'Gina' and I eventually got on so famously she insisted I call her by her first name.  Phew...problem solved.

3.   Introduce Yourself - CLEARLY.
You'll discover as you become more experienced and worldly, that some of your more frail or unwell clients may have whole armies of carers, case managers, nurses, health workers, specialists and home support people galore coming and going to their home on any given day of the week. 

So to avoid confusion or client embarrassment it is vital that you clearly state your name, rank and serial number when you meet for the first time.  That is before you launch into your work.  

That is - tell them where you are from and what you intend to do to them!  

There is nothing worse than arriving with your bucket and mop to do a Domestic Assistance duty - only to turn round and discover your client has stripped off down to her petticoat in anticipation of having a wound dressing changed by who she thought was the District Nurse instead.  

Whoops!  Awkward....much.

Elderly people receceiving home services

And who are you, Dear??? 

4.   Determine if your elderly client UNDERSTANDS you
This is not as silly as it sounds.  And an experienced careworker can determine a lot about someone who appears to be hard of hearing or can’t comprehend what is happening (ie: knows what you are babbling on about).  

You’ve got several logical explanations:
  • your client is deaf (the obvious and most common one)
  • your client's English isn't flash 
  • your client is unwell - mentally or physically
  • your client is in a very, very, very bad mood  ( it too late to run away?)

The answer for all of these situations is to slow your speech down, maintain eye contact and modify your voice and tone accordingly. You can find out later on when you are friends, what the real story is. 

Use hand actions if you need to and don’t be afraid to yell.  I can spend entire days bellowing at older adults who have hearing issues.  Then I come home at the end of the days only to continue the trend with my poor family...sorry boys!

5.   COMPLIMENT your Client
One of the best bits of never-fail advice I can offer any carer (or anyone wanting to make some like you) is that you need to find something about your new client to compliment them on.  

Just something, whatever it is.

It could be that their hair or make-up looks nice; you love the sparkly bits on their handbag; their pretty-coloured lippy or you notice the cute pearl buttons on their beige cardigan. 

Or, if you are struggle to find something personal to say about your client, then admire the lovely photo of their grandchildren instead... or the beautifully manicured lawn... or the fabulous blooms on their camelia bush.   

Old people feel proud and pleased with themselves when they are told they have something that others might appreciate or find attractive.  It has huge impact and lets them know they are valued and more importantly - that they are still a person.  

Plus it’s a superb way to break the ice and show that you at least seem interested in them. 

Who knows, you might even CARE for goodness sake.

Elderly people love Camelias
Gee, look at the gorgeous 
colour on YOU!

6.   Acknowledge your client’s SPOUSE
As an observant careworker, it’s important to be aware that your new client may live with a spouse (or other family member). These onlookers can offer valuable insight on the person whom you may be about to shower or spend time with in, say, a Respite capacity to allow their regular family member (ie: caregiver) to get some time away from the house.

It is in your best interests therefore, to completely ‘butter up’ these people and get them on side. They will have a plethora of useful information about their mum or dad that will make your job significantly easier if you take heed of it; information that you won’t find on the Care Plan or in the medical notes.

For example:  
  • "Mum only likes using the pink towels… never the green ones as they were Dad’s towels and she will get upset if you try and use them for her shower." 
  • "When you take Uncle Reg on his walk to the library… he loves going via the paddock so he can say hello to the horses on the way.  He needs to stick to this routine or he will get quite moody and then we will ALL pay later tonight!"
Little things like that, but it's important stuff. And it's what will help you develop a good healthy rapport and eventually, a trusting relationship with your client  (and with their live-in family).

7.   Acknowledge PETS
Older adults just LOVE it when you show interest in their animals.  And I can guarantee you, every time a coconut... they will instantly like any carer who does this.  

I’ve broken down many a barrier by patting mangy old dogs, admired ugly weepy-eyed cats and even whistled at the odd tatty budgie in its cage. Fake it til you make it, don’t they say? 

It’s definitely worth it in the end, so do whatever it takes - scratch flea-bitten ‘ol Yella behind the ears, win over the confidence of your brand new judgmental client… you can always disinfect the hell out of yourself in the car later!

Old people love their pets
But Mrs Stevens, Billy hasn't moved in over an hour...

8.   LISTEN to your client
Every legendary aged-carer knows that Communication is what it’s all about. Speaking, but also – listening.  So when you’ve rattled off your initial intro, make sure you take the time to hear what your new client has to say in response.  

And if their speech is slow or they are struggling to get words out (for whatever reason) - DON’T be tempted to talk over them or pre-empt their sentences. 

Show patience and be respectful to whatever they are telling you. 

Be open-minded and NEVER make judgement. 

Sounds a bit like the Ten Commandments really…Thou shalt not Pass Judgement on thy old client! 

Let’s face it; most of this is common sense.  

Isn’t it?

An astute careworker can evaluate a lot about a new client in that initial meeting at the door.

Body language, the way they talk, their hearing and vision, their coordination and mobility – all can reveal potential physical health problems, mental conditions or even emotional issues.  All situations that are handy for you to be aware of even before you’ve entered their home - and their life.

Take note of bloodshot or droopy eyes, the condition of their skin, breathlessness, disorientation or confusion, complaints of pain and weakness can all mean something is not right and as their carer you will need to investigate further.  If only to pass it on by reporting your observations to a supervisor for further assessment or review.

Unfortunately, not only can you hear and see signs but you can smell them too. Take note of cigarette smoke, gas, rotting food odours (ick) or stinky human excrement smells (double ick) … these are just a few indications of the way your beloved senior lives and that there may be serious health problems afoot. 

10.  YOU'RE IN!
Well done...  Go, you good thing!  You’ve passed the strip-search and interrogation stage and your new client has allowed you to enter their world.  

Hey, that's a good thing!

So keep up the excellent work, maintain pride in what you do, trust your little voice because HEAVEN HELP YOU NOW...



Working with elderly people

It seemed like such a good idea at the time... 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Constipation: A Real Pain in the Butt !!

When Elderly Bowels are ALL SHOW - but NO GO.

Being constipated STINKS.  And you can bet your pants there's very little amusing about trying to write on the topic either!

Certainly nobody likes talking about constipation, let alone having to endure the often excrutiating pain associated from suffering with it.  In fact truth be told, and much like being constipated... I’m finding it hard work bearing-down to squeeeeeze out some thoughts on it.

Let's face it, as distasteful (and stinky) as the subject of constipation is... and as much as we might poo-poo it, the fact remains that as human beings, sooner or later we all have to ‘go’. 

The problem is of course when you CAN’T go.

And although we are each so physiologically different (and what’s normal for one isn’t necessarily normal for another)… most doctors generally consider that five days (or more...eek!) of NOT being able to evacuate your bowels, means you pretty much to some degree, have become constipated. 

Unsurprising to me, is how merely mentioning the word constipation in the presence of my elderly clients can result instantly in a defiant screwed up nose or clenched teeth.  Which is a worry because if there’s one thing bunged-up old people don’t need - is MORE clenching!

Unfair as it may be though (and for a whole toilet-load of reasons), it is becoming typical... nay, almost expected, that chronic constipation become more prevalent the older we get.

Oh, the joy!

Constipation in Old People

Pleeease let today be the day...

11 Reasons Why Seniors are Prone to Constipation:

  • An ageing colon, as per the rest of an elderly peep's body, is just not as peppy as it once was
  • Some medications (eg: pain meds) have constipation as their pesky side-effect
  • Diuretics cause people to wee more - resulting in an increase in fluid loss ie: Dehydration is bad
  • Retirement can mean a more sedentary lifestyle ie: slow down your life = slow down your bowels
  • Dietary changes (eg: during travel) or a loss of appetite mean a lack of proper nutrition involving ample quantities of fruit n veg.  You can never have too much fibre, Fibre, FIBRE!
  • Drinking less allows for more chance of the dreaded Dehydration (again, that's baaad)
  • Frequent digestive tract issues can mean the likelihood of constipation is also increased
  • Various medical conditions are symptomatically linked to constipation – MS, Diabetes, Parkinsons
  • Being sick and/or bedridden for long periods encourages a lower metabolism rate.  You can't remove it - if you dont move it!
  • Depression, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep can all contribute to a sluggish bowel due to upset bodily functions and a hormonal balance thats's thrown everything out of whack
  • Blockage in or around the bowel/colon regions can physically prevent the elimination process from occuring...  an indication that something medically sinister may be afoot (a-bottom?) 

Mind you, it's not only pensioners who battle with the anguish of infrequent faecal evacuation.  Most of us at some stage in our lives, have been 'privy' to the gassy, smelly delights associated with constipation.  And we know only too well how much it can disrupt our quality of life by zapping our energy levels and leaving us feeling uncomfortable, bloated and… well, just SHIT really.

Sadly, it's the older generation who seem to get struck more frequently with ongoing bouts of chronic constipation - and usually as a symptom of an underlying age-related health condition.

And then I helped an old lady write in her Poo Diary!

I'll never forget the time I arrived at the home of one of my sweetest client's for the very first time.  A charming and unassuming lady, Mrs Annie Turdsworth was the most kindly person you could ever meet – real cookie-baking, jumper-knitting 'grandmother' material.

On this particular day, I found her pouring over a pile of paperwork at her kitchen bench. 

It turns out, Annie has put up with a lifetime of suffering from various ongoing gastrointestinal complaints and long story short, since the day she turned 65, has been diagnosed with the crappiest lot of bowel disorders imaginable.  Ranging from IBS to diverticulitis and now most recently at age 87, they have decided she may have colon cancer.

And being that the specialist needed to know what her bowels were dishing out, Annie was instructed to keep a record of every time she 'went' to the toilet; how her stool looked, its colour, texture and shape etc. 

Oh dear, you can imagine... the demure and deeply private Mrs Turdsworth was appalled!

Luckily, her doctor had a copy of the Bristol Stool Form scale (BSF) to wave in front of her and put her mortified mind at ease.

As a simple user-friendly picture rating system, the BSF enables people like Annie (who would rather DIE than discuss their bathroom habits out loud to anyone) to utilise the handy dandy illustrations to best match up with the appearance of their own stools.

So rather than having to say horrific words like “runny” or “hard pebbles”,  Annie could instead work discretely off her BSF guide and record the corresponding number of the day into her Poo Diary (that is, once she got over the terror of looking into the toilet bowl!)

Elderly people with Constipation

What kind of STOOL am I?

And I'm flattered that Annie feels brave enough to open up to me about something as personal as bowel movements (or lack thereof)...although it took a while for her to gain confidence.

“I think today Dollie, I’m more of a 2 than a 3” 

Together we mark it off in her book along with the food she’s consumed in the last 24 hours, all nice and neatly, for the doctor to peruse later.  Annie then pops the diary into an empty chocolate box, twists a large rubber band around it and then tucks the whole sordid package away out of sight in a drawer beside her bed. 

At the other end of the Constipational spectrum, I should definitely make mention of another of my cherished clients, Mrs Maggie Cementballs.  Not only does the brazen 94 year old Maggie NOT require a picture chart to categorise her faecal formations, but because she is deaf (and refuses to wear hearing aids) – we get to discuss it LOUDLY. 


You have to laugh.

All kidding aside though, it would be fair to say dear old Mags suffers with what must surely be some the most crippling waste elimination woes in the entire universe.

Throw in a blossoming set of haemorrhoids, ongoing colon surgery and a couple of rectal prolapses - there’s not much poor Maggie hasn’t experienced when it comes to digestive complications and the torturous impaction her bowels insist on putting her through. 

And she is more than happy to give me the full detailed account on her constipation problem-o-the-week.  I recall last week’s pooping particulars went something like this (note: this is in SHOUT format):





“CRIKEY MAGGIE, YOU JUST CAN’T!”  I bellow back, with my extra concerned face on.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that I or anyone else can do for the long-suffering Maggie.  Due to her advanced age, doctors have advised that further surgery just isn’t viable ie: it would most likely kill her.

And therefore all they can do is pump her full of pills, top up her pain-killers and assist her to manage the condition at home as best she can. Not much fun when you're a frail old girl in your nineties and much like every other poor soul having a crappy time in the bathroom - all she ever really wants from life is a happy ending.



Constipation in old people

Tell it like it is, Maggs!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Happy WEAAD-Day, To You!

Despicable, Unfathomable... is it really going on?

Here's the thing.

Not only was I not aware that June 15th was official World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - but to my shame,  I absolutely (ruly truuuly) had no idea it was even a thing.   

Which considering I have been employed in the aged-are industry for many years now - is quite dreadful really.  I mean, what was I doing on WEAAD day last year?

So as I waltzed into work this morning, it was a surprise to me when I was duly presented with a purple ribbon to pin most purposefully onto my shirt front.  I was then directed to a row of purple posters dotted about on the walls which, as well as ordering me to END ELDER ABUSE - also contained info I might need to "learn up, in case a client asks you about it".  

Still slightly in surprise mode, I then pondered how it really is a sad state of affairs when the United Nations has to officially acknowledge that we now actually need an internationally recognised day of awareness for Elder Abuse.  

Purple ribbon against Elder Abuse
Get your PURPLE on!

And so I perused the purple posters to get the stats.

Did you know... that around 6% of all people over age 60 will cop some form of abuse in their lives?  

If you add that up, that's about 60 million people world wide (according to the purple poster) which to me, sounds like a hugely horrendous amount of older people having a bloody bad time with dreadful things being done to them.

AND... (according to said purple poster), that by 2050 the number of elderly people over age 65 in Australia will have doubled - which means elder abuse will escalate by twice as much also. 

Doubled?  Surely not!

AND... Were you also aware that elder abuse doesn't just mean the obvious physical attacks on dear little old granny.  Ah no!

People can badly mistreat older family members in emotional and psychological ways too.  Not to mention another biggie (and also the theme of this year's WEAAD day): Financial Exploitation.

Typical health issues related to ageing such as Alzheimer's or Dementia, can mean older adults are easy prey to a so-called 'caregiver' with alterior motives.  Thanks to cognitive decline and a decrease in capacity to understand or control one's own personal affairs, bank accounts, insurance papers etc, the need to rely on others becomes more demanding.

Unfortunately, so too, is  the increase in tempatation for family members to craftily 'adjust' offiicial documents for self-serving purposes.

Horrific to think that a trusted son, daughter, grandchild or step-nephew-twice-removed could sink so low as to take such blatant advantage of a frail older loved one.

Neglect is another form of abuse that's also hidden within families and can be ultra tricky to detect because victims are loathe to report mistreatment due to shame or embarrassment.  But these forms of abuse are all a violation of basic Human Rights and quite frankly, bloody disgraceful!

As carers visiting clients in their own homes, there are warning signs the purple poster tells us we should watch out for in our clients and their behaviours... as well as any related physical concerns (heaven forbid) we may observe.

Things such as:
  • Bruises, burns or other new marks on the skin
  • Changes in general physical appearance: weight loss, lethargy, weakness
  • Unexplained actions such as clumsiness or forgetfulness
  • Being unusually quiet or withdrawn, or appearing more socially isolated from family or friends than usual
  • Depression, confusion or fear of being alone with a certain family member 

My experience with 'abused' elderly peeps is fairly limited I have to say.  I haven't knowingly encountered anything untoward on my daily travels where I have had cause for concern for my client's welfare.

Or have I just not noticed it? 

It worries me now, even after all this time that I could be oblivious to the various forms of elder abuse. Perhaps there's been awful things happening to my clients right under my nose?

The bruises I noticed on the lovely Mrs Wotsit's arm during her shower last week...Were they the result of being 'put in her place' by her son with anger management issues and a nasty drinking problem?

Or the time poor old Mr Thingamebob tells me he's a silly duffer after falling flat on his face from tripping on the kitchen lino... Had he been beaten by a nephew of dubious origins wanting money (and the car) in a hurry?

Or hearing Mrs Saynomore tell me that she intended to stay in her house forever and that "they'll have to take me out in a box"...  Yet discovering her home advertised in the 'For Sale' column of the local paper thanks to an impatient grandson with a filthy gambling habit.


Although it appears now - we must.

Which reminds me of an incident once... visiting a client with slow-onset Dementia still living in the family home and whose dazzling glass china cabinets strangely became more and more depleted of their expensive contents over a period of several months.

Apparently there was an attempt at an inquiry when the neighbour caught on and made noises to the authorities.  But it all fell flat due to the woman's absentmindedness and failing memory.  Her three beloved sons 'borrowing' stuff from their mother somehow got classed as 'looking after mum's assets' instead.

And it all became null and void once the woman relocated into a nursing home. 


Abuse against older people

Get mad like Mickey! 

I can report that none of my clients noticed the pretty purple WEAAD ribbon I wore during my visits today.  Or if they did, they chose not to say anything about it.  

I, too, didn't feel the need (or have the time) to start prattling on and drawing attention to the  once taboo topic of Elder Abuse.  

Not because I didn't want to talk about it... perhaps it's more that I'm still in denial that anyone could sink so low as to take advantage of their innocent, frail and vulnerable rellies in such a cruel and heartless way.

Similar to abuse of children really. And we all know how we feel about THAT!

Maybe that's the problem right there.
Perhaps we are all too busy NOT talking about it... you know?

Pesky purple posters - it's all their fault.


Stop abuse on elders

Go pick on someone your own age!! 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

When Old Dogs Learn New Cooking Tricks


What the Bloody Hell is a Pomegranate?

I've been having some interesting discussions with my elderly clients lately - and it's all about FOOD.

In particular, are the seniors who've realised it's getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of all the bizzare, ugly-shaped fruit & veg on display at the supermarkets at the moment.  

With elbow-controlled shopping trolleys, they drift furtively by... but with no idea what these new species are, what they 'do' or how to even peel one, there's little chance they'll be cooking with them any time soon.  If I had to do the stats... I'd say it would be kale, pomegranates, avocados (the smashing of) and the phenomena known as "keen-wah" which appear to be causing the most angst among my Over 70's mob. 

Advised by their GPs or concerned family members (and splashed all over the lifestyle mags)... that these weird but wonderful so-called 'Superfoods' are *blueberry jam-packed full of disease-fighting nutrients. And that by consuming these natural beauties, elders decrease their chances of developing a chronic illness, rehabilitate faster if they do, and subsequently, increase their chances of living forever:  WIN-WIN-WIN!

*Blueberries = a big Superfood player (but at least we already know 'em)

Elderly learning how to cook mod food
Hope you Avo nice day!

Which got me thinking that it's not just Technology that an older adult is pressured to come to grips with in today's frantically progressive world.

It's also what we EAT.

Having grown up in a time where food wasn't the obsession that it is now, it's understandable why the mature-ager might find some of the latest meal trends confusing and intimidating. People are living for longer that's true, but it's a scientific fact that age-related health issues such as Diabetes, stroke or heart disease (that would have once killed you in your 60's) are now being managed more efficiently, purely by what we stick in our mouths.

Unfortunately along the way, food over-sensitivity, allergies and intolerances have become almost commonplace and it's been a huge learning curve for many 'old-school' folk to not only embrace the modern ideals toward the food they eat, but to accept that their own health may be in jeopardy if they don't.

Noticeable too, are the peculiar codes added to the menus of our favourite restaurants which offer the diner-outer all sorts of solutions to their dietary dilemmas.   Shown as GF, LF or V for example, they tend to baffle those who may be too afraid to ask and so it's easier just to ignore them.  

No such thing as a Nut Allergy when we were kids. Oh, except when I first met my Douggie at the school dance – he was nutty alright!”

How can being a Vegetarian be good for you? Eating too many greens... GIVES ME THE SQUIRTS!”

Special Dietary Requirement? That's me making sure I have a wine with dinner!”

Not sure about this 'organic food' my day, it was just called FOOD”

Gluten-free, you say. So, I have to eat less glutes?!?!”

Not to mention all the latest cookbooks. encouraging us to replace the tried-and-true ingredients of our classic recipes - with slinkier, healthier alternatives. Gone are the days where a chook is bunged into the oven in a layer of lard or has a wheelbarrow load of salt tipped over it to enhance flavour! 

Instead, poor old mum, has had to climb out of her lifelong culinary comfort zone to produce broccoli from a steamer (rather than boiling the be-jeezus out of it like she's always done). 

No longer can she fry meat in a pan as she did in ye days of olde either. Ah no!  It must be grilled delicately on both sides and then dabbed at repeatedly with a roll of triple-ply paper towels to ensure every last dot of oil has been safely extracted.

She then has to learn to shop and chop, great sprigfuls of fresh herbs, fancy-schmancy spices and hearty wholesome marinades (please, no additives!), in the quest to present modern adaptations of traditional feasts to her fussy grown up family.  

Which can be blimmen hard work when Grannie has a dicky knee, arthritic hands and poor eyesight!

But I do find it hugely inspiring when my brave clients at least give it a go! Embracing their new 'foodie' adventure and taking an active interest in maintaining their own health with the exotic, albeit freaky-looking food choices they can now make.  And even more impressively - is the trendy cooking techniques they've learnt to cook the stuff!

One of my clients, for example, 89 year old Bert is a lovely chap who nearly fell to bits after his wife died recently. However, he pulled himself up by his apron strings and found new vigour in teaching himself how to bake bread in a breadmaker he found at the back of 'the wife's' pantry. 

Whenever I visit Herb now, I always make time for a compulsory munch on a slice of his latest creation (which he's as proud as punch to share over a cuppa and a yak). None of your boring bready rubbish either - last week it was pumpkin seed & honey oat with cranberry chunks. Delish!

Elderly learning to cook modern ingredients

Love ya work, Bert!

It's funny though, I find the biggest motivator for the my elderly clients to climb aboard the Superfood bandwagon and include more fresh raw ingredients in their diet, is the theory that it lessens the chances of them developing Alzheimer's disease.  Whether that's true or only slightly true-ish... it seems my Beloveds are more willing to fight for the health of their brains over maintaing the physical strength of their battered bods!

Indeed, it turns out that you can teach a dog of more advanced years new tricks... it merely depends on whether the dog in question is willing (and open-minded enough), to give the tricks a crack.

We all feel nervous when it comes to trying new things – there's that fear of failure, feeling unsafe and exposed. Or the big one... looking silly to others. And with older generation, it's understandable to have the mindset that they've made it through all the obstacles of life; they've come through the war living on sausage meat and sawdust.  They've already done all the learning required for survival so "there's nothing more I need to know, thank you very much!"  

A perspective that sadly means their ability to grow by learning new tricks, gets lost in the despair and gloominess of 'being old'.  Sitting in a chair with a rug over their knees is now all they can cope with.

Which, thankfully, is NOT the case for Bert and his Breadmaster 2000.  He informs me his latest project is a Wholemeal Caramel, Apple & Quinoa Pecan loaf.  And just for fun, it's also going to involve (winkity, wink)...A RUM SWIRL.

What's a girl to do?  

Roll on next Tuesday!

Cheers (and crazy happy healthy eating to you!)

old people new food

Arrrrgh me hearties, it's a fact

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Yes, THAT Alzheimer's Poem

Leaving our Loved Ones "Sad and Sick...and Lost"

Every time I visit 82 year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem. 

She has it up on a wall of her home, just above the toaster, on the kitchen bench.  I know it by heart now because it's so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) - while I'm waiting for her crumpets to pop!  

It's a short, but popular verse and most of us carers have encountered it on our travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always feel annoyed whenever I read it because as far as desribing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer's disease - it's pretty spot on.

It's also quite sad.

Elderly and Alzheimer's

We all know this one, right? 

The story goes, that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot had an outstanding career as a principal in some hoity-toity private school for boys (at the time the youngest female to obtain such a role).  She never married, didn't have children and had no real family to speak of.  Therefore she had bucket-loads of money tucked away ready to spend totally on herself, whenever she needed it. 

That day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.  Being such an insightful person however, she decided early on that she would set herself up for when the time came, when she could no longer work or take care of herself.  

Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Ms Ruth Cuddlepot! 

Instead, she arranged her affairs and teed-up the lawyers so she could be completely looked after and cared for in her OWN home - no matter what.  She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble and she would eventually "lose my marbles completely!"  Apparently that's how Ruth used to say it although I didn't know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all her background reading. 

Needless to say, she was a very clever lady. Although, by the time I had the pleasure of caring for Ruth Cuddlepot she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was. 

Ruth had instead evolved into 'Ruthie'.  

And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzhemimer's, Ruthie had become a frail, but openly happy and affectionate elderly woman.... WHO LOVED TO HUG! 

Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big fat welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift.  I looked forward to it in fact!  

There she would be, sitting at her favourite spot on a chair in the sun at her enormous loungeroom windows... the spot where she had the perfect view of her garden and a watchful eye on the next visitor she could throw her arms around and give a great big squeeeeze to!  

Really if it wasn't so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.

Alzheimers disease in the elderly
Ruthie's window...
 - waiting for her next hug-ee!

Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy!  

Which is fine by me because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I'm also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients).  Remembering each carer's name, rank and serial number is understandably not high on the priority list for some Seniors - especially when they no longer know their OWN name!

I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day - the hugs stopped.  Another cruel stage of the Alzheimer's curse... Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.

Without much warning her moods were up and down and she couldnt stand being touched.  Not even a hand shake or a gentle pat on the shoulder.  You just wouldn't dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the wall in what looked like the ultimate frustration within Ruthie's mixed up mind. 

This most heartless and indiscriminate disease had finally taken hold of her ... it has been just awful to watch.

Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carer's, we were told last week that she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.  Quite honestly, it looked to me that they just didnt know WHAT to do with her!  

After all Ruth's organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to at home by an army of paid care-working bees - it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.  

I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this part of her illness?

Perhaps she'd anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn't know where she lived, and 2) she wouldn't care?

I hoped so for her sake.

The poem was right and the best of Ruth had gone. 

Yes, we had failed in standing beside her.  Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so!  Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well.  And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after an elderly client in their home, then the people in charge needed to move to plan B.  

I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated 'indefinitely' into a High Care facility.  Just like the poem had foretold: she was now sad and sick and lost.  Her beautiful forward-thinking brain now full to the brim on medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for the staff's own protection, we were told).

I have deliberated about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? And I know it sounds completely selfish but I don't think I could bear it.  

The worse part is finding out she doesn't even have a window.