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Navigating the journey of aging by glancing forward and looking back


93b6c72016c20905fe1134e288b2a19b2fa1f9f5By Mark Friedman
“The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” is a stunny documentary about the possibilities of aging. It sits beautifully rendered in the New York Times Op-Doc series.
This three year labor of love is a vision of how world renowned photographer and co-creator, Phil Toledano, 47,  imagined his aging and later years might possibly play out.
The impetus for the project came from a telephone call that every adult child dreads. His mother had suffered a fatal brain aneurism. While Toledano had been busy with his photography career and family, he quickly  learned that she had been quite successful at protecting him, for years, from his father’s increasing and debilitating struggles with dementia.
Toledano awakened from the loss of his mother as his father’s primary caregiver. Ill equipped to manage this responsibility, he struggled to find the right care. More importantly, he was overcome by his inability to connect with his Dad.
The 25 minute film is powerful. His “look forward” is not bleak by any measure, often quite funny, sardonic yet always thoughtful. We learn it is Toledano’s photography that became the “language” by which father and son would communicate, and he ends the project with full appreciation “of the value of what’s in front of me.”
Learning from Legacies
By contrast, Mary O’Brien Tyrrell is a Memoirist, also known as a personal historian. Tyrrell, since 1994, has helped hundreds of seniors capture and tell their life stories. Once a cottage industry, family histories are now big business for entrepreneurs, writers, journalists and others that help our seniors, veterans, great grandparents and others who want to share their memoirs, major life moments, rememberances, accomplishments, and themselves. Today, this sharing is done in everything from hard-bound books, CD’s, DVD’s, YouTube videos, and other digital formats.
In today’s world it is easy to be cynical about legacy, personal memoirs and family histories, yet there are no more vidid truths than those told by grandparents and seniors.
Stories Tell us What and How to Navigate
When I think of the work of these two storytellers (because that’s what Toledano and Tyrell really are), it occurs to me that seniors and adult children have to become increasingly skilled as consumers of care options as they navigate the process of aging, as they, and only they will otherwise be called upon to fill the gaps on a short-term or permanent basis.
In Toledano’s film, he can envision himself in any number of possible Identities, some of which require caretaking beyond his scope of current understanding. He himself was ill-prepared to care for his father with dementia. Toledano’s story puts a spotlight on aging. His perspectives joins a tremendous movement of people and organizations like Next Avenue and the Caregiver Summit which are focusing on the aging experience and bringing light and joy to its process.
In the case of Tyrrell’s work,  what she is doing, consciously or not, is helping to inform another generation that in order to live well, we must also learn to take care of each other.
When Home Care Becomes Part of Navigating the Journey of Aging
I am a huge fan of aging in place, as friends and colleagues well know – wherever that “place” may be. Home Care is becoming an important option for families, especially as adult children (The Sandwichers) become part of the decision-making process surrounding “what’s next” for Mom, Dad, or a loved one.
Four things come to mind as I advise families along the Journey of Aging and, specifically when hiring Home Care:

  1. The Growing Importance of Recovery Care: It’s important your Home Care company has a strong approach and philosophy to recovery care at home. Today, so many parents are getting knees and hips replaced or having cardiac procedures when they are well into their 70’s and 80’s. Nobody wants to stay in the hospital or rehab a day longer than they absolutely must.  Our parents want the familiarity of home.

But, home can be tricky, especially when 1 out of 5 seniors end up back in the hospital within the first 30 days home.
It’s essential that elders take the right medications, eat properly, maintain their therapeutic regimen and follow the discharge orders. All too often they do not. Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore has an holistic approach that engages the whole family in this important support. Our Going Home Safe program was developed with a total focus on creating conditions for making home the best place for recovery.

  1. Proven Expertise in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care: With more and more seniors struggling with these diagnoses, it is essential to find a Home Care company with care managers and caregivers specifically trained, skilled, and experienced in this complex disease. We understand how intricate this care can be for the entire family and can provide support, practical tools, and education for family members. Importantly, an agency must take great care in matching caregivers specifically to your loved one.
  2. A Client-Centric Approach and Philosophy of Care: With the proliferation of companies offering home care, it is important when hiring Home Care to understand the underlying principles of how the company does business. Caregivers should be full employees; rigorously recruited, trained and certified. Your parent or loved one should be the center of everything. A nurse-developed client-centric, customized care plan for each senior IN care makes a difference. The emphasis must be on flexibility and transparency and strive for no surprises, ever. Lastly, your services and care should be 100% guaranteed.
  3. Strong Community Connections: A good Home Care company knows “home” is where the senior ultimately belongs. Home may well be an independent, assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing community. Look for an agency that has a proven Transitions Care program that helps manage the emotional journey from home to an assisted living or other community for our clients. As we get to know our families, we gain important understanding of what is a good fit for a loved one.

It’s a good month for reflecting both what might lie ahead, and the legacy to leave behind.
It is also a good time to take stock of how prepared you are for Navigating and Negotiating the options for helping a loved one age in place. Because, after all, we owe it to our great generation, as well as the next, to guide them wisely.
Download a FREE GUIDE about what to look for in a Home Care Company:  “Getting the Right Home Care by Asking All the Right Questions” A Guide to Home Care”.
To learn more about the Programs and Services of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore, visit, www.SeniorHelpers/com/Boston. Or call 617.500.6999
image001About the Author
Mark Friedman is the Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore. Passionate about seniors and healthcare, the goal of his agency is to set a new standard in home care in Massachusetts. First by delivering an exceptional home care experience in a combination of highly trained and high-touch caregivers. And secondly by becoming a significant connection for elders to resources and services in the 75 communities his company serves.
Reprinted from the September 2017 issue of the South Shore Senior News