HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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McVicker cared for her aging parents for 10 years while raising her children and working as a development director. She had discovered her father sent $68,000 to scammers in Canada who told him he had won the Canadian lottery and needed to pay taxes on the winnings. Other events could trigger the sudden need to find an appropriate place for an ailing parent.


“It could be a phone call that says, ‘Mom’s in the emergency room; she’s broken her hip,’” McVicker said. “We encounter that crisis and we haven’t had the con- versation about where they will go.”


As difficult as it may be, the time to discuss all the options is now.


“The best gift families can give each other is to talk about it sooner rather than later,” McVicker said. “By not bringing up the topic, it makes all the aspects of caregiving – financial, emotional, physical – difficult.”


With people living longer, caregiving can easily be a 15-year unpaid job. “Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint,” McVicker said. She helped her parents stay in their own home for several years, but eventually they moved to a continuing care retirement community. “There’s a point at which you either need to hire skilled people, such as RNs, or move to a place that can provide the level of care it takes,” McVicker said.


People sometimes hesitate to move a parent into another type of facility because the parent has said, “Don’t ever put me in a nursing home.”


“We say OK, and as the situation deteriorates, we feel limited by that promise,” McVicker said. “There are so many great options now, but our parents have in mind the old nursing home ‘warehouse’ model and don’t understand how different and how engaged and how their health can even get better by being in some of these other situations.”


McVicker advises making visits to different care facilities with your parent before he has to choose one. This can help him see what the facility is like and he can talk to staff and residents about their experiences.


It’s most important to reassure the person that she will be involved in making the decision about where to live and to make sure they understand all their options.


“We should say, ‘I will be there for you. I’m going to listen to you. Out of safety and support and love, we will make those decisions together,’” McVicker said.

As parents and other loved ones age, a prime concern is finding a place for them to live. Many senior housing options are available, forming a continuum of care that seeks to make the transition to each stage easy.


You could choose to help your parents age in place in their own home, hiring home care personnel to help with daily living activities such as cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, taking medications and bathing. You might make modifications to the house, such as installing easy-access tubs and showers.


You could choose to move them into your own home and care for them yourself. Or you could find an independent living community where your parents would interact with people of the same age and have moderate supervision. This option is best for those who are still in good shape mentally and physically and can take care of themselves without assistance. But if their health begins to fail or they suffer a setback such as a heart attack or stroke, the next option could be an assisted living facility. Here they will be closely monitored by staff and get help with daily living activities. These facilities offer apartment-style living and often have amenities such as exercise rooms, restaurant-quality dining and opportunities for shop- ping and other off-site activities.


When the care recipient becomes incapacitated to the point where

FINDING THE RIGHT LIVING OPTION FOR YOUR ELDERLY LOVED ONES

he or she needs more intensive care, you can choose to place him or her in a skilled nursing home. Residents receive 24-hour supervision, health management support, physical or occupational therapy if necessary, meals and medication. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia can be placed in a memory care facility especially designed for these challenging conditions.


Continuing care retirement communities encompass the options of independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing on one campus, so an elderly person can smoothly transition from one level of care to another as needed in a familiar environment. This option is becoming increasingly popular.


Unfortunately, many people put the decision off until a crisis hits.


“I wish I could say people get proactive, but I’ve learned everybody waits for that crisis,” said eldercare expert Barbara McVicker, author of Stuck in the Middle: Shared Stories and Tips on Caring for Mom and Dad and Before Things Fall Apart: Preparing to Care for Mom and Dad.

TANYA J. TYLER

Tanya J. Tyler is the Editor of Living Well 60+ Magazine

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