Why we need a Village: Example #1
contributed by Helen
My friend L moved here a few years ago to take care of her mom. At the time, her mom was fine but L knew that the family had had several members of her mom’s generation fall prey to dementia. L called me a few months ago, and asked if we could have lunch and talk through some supports for both her and her mom, since one of L’s issues was that she was seeing behaviors that suggested some memory loss, and she wanted to know what resources this area had for her. She was fighting an uphill battle, since her siblings hadn’t noticed anything wrong and were skeptical of L’s reports.
As we sat down to lunch L shared some information with me about her own health issues: she had some severe allergies, and some chronic conditions. We talked a little more about some of the symptoms her mom was having, like a recent inability to remember how to find her destination, a local drugs store only a few blocks away, or the way to her husband’s grave, which she typically visited weekly. As we talked about resources such as the Alzheimer’s Association and JABA’s adult day care programs, I asked L, “Does your mother have a medic alert pendant? Do you? “
L just looked at me as I said, “Two things occur to me. First, your mom should certainly have a medic alert system in case you and she get separated anywhere, or she gets up at night and something happens. But you have some high-risk concerns for yourself, like allergies that require an epi-pen. If your mom is able to help you today, she won’t be able to help you in an emergency much longer. If you are the caretaker, we need to make sure you are well-positioned to be of help.
“I never thought about that,” she said. Three weeks later, she had a medic-alert bracelet identifying her allergies, as well as medic-alert pendants for herself and her mom. They are practicing using them each month, and have educated their extended family, all of whom live at least 100 miles away, about them. And she is talking with her siblings regularly to help them understand the challenges she sees with their beloved mother.
In fact, I tell all of my friends and neighbors who live alone that each should have a personal emergency response strategy. Each one of them is one mis-step away from a devastating injury. Who will know if you have fallen and injured yourself if you fall in the bathroom, trip over a rug and hit your head on the floor, or any of multiple other opportunities you have at home and in your yard for a life-changing emergency? Being prepared is more than the Boy Scout motto!