May 8, 2000 -- To join or not to join? To stay in my own home or move to a
retirement community? That is the question I faced, when, like so many of us
oldies, I found myself alone and ailing after my husband died.
Mine was a familiar story. We had retired in Santa Fe to spend our waning
years in a spacious adobe house overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountains. He
was healthy, I was frail from a radical mastectomy and bad osteoporosis. It
seemed likely I would be the first to go, but fate intervened. He died of a
sudden heart attack, and I was left to cope with the remainder of my life.
As a caregiver, you can't always make your loved one healthy. But by making sure that he or she gets good medical care -- and fostering a healthy environment and lifestyle -- you can make a real difference. Here are some key caregiving tips.
Medical care. Make sure your loved one gets to doctor appointments. Caregivers may also want to tag along to at least some appointments and serve as medical advocates. Come up with a list of questions and concerns to discuss with the doctor beforehand...
I had a friend who bought a one-room studio in the city's El Castillo
Retirement Residences, a "campus for seniors," the brochures said. I
visited her, liked her compatible companions and the fact that she lived in a
bower of green by the Santa Fe River, near the cathedral and the downtown
plaza. The buildings had a pleasant hacienda flavor.
I decided to follow my friend's lead to avoid becoming a burden on my
family. A $1,000 refundable deposit put me on a waiting list for an apartment
while my health and bank accounts were examined. Would the house doctor agree
that in spite of my problems I was well enough to live independently? Would my
pensions and other investments be deemed sufficient to afford the price of
admission and the monthly maintenance and dining-room fees? Satisfied that I
met the requirements, I was allowed to buy a two-bedroom apartment, which I
remodeled a bit before moving in.
Thus settled, I am now entitled to total care for the mind, body, and soul,
from "independence" to "assisted living" to "MedCenter
care" until I die, freed from the hassles of home ownership. Maids, nurses,
helpers, and maintenance men see to my daily garbage collection, weekly laundry
service, and transportation to doctors' appointments, grocery stores, church,
movies, plays, and concerts. The community also offers an array of in-house
drama, art, music, and exercise programs. I go to yoga and chi gung classes to
improve my breath and balance.