June 7, 2020 Eldercare Discussion

We discussed eldercare & aging issues—including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, basic eldercare resources, pandemic challenges of care partners and loved ones, online compassion meditation and other coping strategies 

Aging & Elder Care

–  We began with participants discussing their personal aging and/or caregiver challenges and coping strategies associated with the current coronavirus pandemic—including those related to quarantine, social isolation and grieving for affected loved ones.

–  One participant described how she was successfully recovering from a recent heart attack and the insertion of stents to restore proper circulation to the heart muscles.  Another participant was getting ready for what was described as minor back surgery.  We agreed that these obstacles were good reminders of the suffering of aging and illness that can happen to us all at any time—with or without the added suffering from a pandemic.  They reinforced the need to prepare our minds now by developing our spiritual practice so we can better cope with the uncertain but likely challenges of aging and dying.

–  Another participant described the difficulties of becoming a recent care partner of a frail parent who moved from out of state to congregate housing in the metro area.  The multiple social and physical needs of her parent (including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and a recent stroke and fractured hip) as well as the added challenges of the pandemic and worries about the rising costs of care were at times hard to bear. 

–  For those eldercare partners new to our group, we discussed ways to find practical eldercare advice and help via online resources as well as from the taxpayer-supported, nationwide Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).  The  AAA serving the Atlanta metro area, Empowerline (formerly called AgeWise Connection), is administered by the Atlanta Regional Commission.  For no-cost round-the-clock help call (404) 463-3333 or visit their website at https://www.empowerline.org/.  Additional links to practical and Budhhist-inspired eldercare resources are available from…

Our original DLM Eldercare Website http://www.DLMcare.org

Our new Buddhist Eldercare Website and Blog https://BuddhistEldercare.com

–  When our members attend a monthly meeting in the DLM Center Library/Meeting Room for the first time, we describe our two shelves that hold our collection of about 25 eldercare and aging books—most with a Buddhist perspective— which are available for viewing or borrowing.  These include extra copies of a highly-recommended eldercare and aging book that we give to each first-time attendee.  It’s an account of the final years of an advanced Buddhist practitioner (written by his Buddhist spouse) who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It’s ideal for those care partners and their loved one who are interested in Buddhist perspectives on coping with this progressive mind-altering illness.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other spiritual leaders and several DLM members have recommended the book.

Hoblitzelle, Olivia Ames. Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2010. Print.  [This was originally self-published as The Majesty of Your Loving.] http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/535490559

–  In discussing how to support a care partner whose mother had Parkinson’s Disease, these Parkinson’s Foundation resources were suggested:

–  Parkinson’s Support Groups in Georgia

Support Groups

–  The Parkinson’s Foundation (https://www.parkinson.org/PD Health @ Home wellness and education online events will now be scheduled every weekday for summer and beyond.  http://www3.parkinson.org/site/R?i=I2LojzOSTIRL9m9ZEdfA_g

–  Another participant expressed concern about her parents who have dementia and recently moved here to a supportive senior residence.  Due to severe pandemic restrictions on visitors to this residence, another family member from out of state wants to rent a local AirBnB house and have the couple stay with her for a several-days visit.  However, the participant felt that this would be unsafe for her parents who would likely become disoriented in a different residence, might contract the coronavirus, and whether or not infected would need to shelter in place for two weeks when they returned to their residence.  Two of our health professional participants, who had the most experience with dementia, strongly advised against such a move and recommended speaking to the parents’ doctor(s), who would almost certainly oppose this arrangement.  

–  The parent of another participant was described as now being content with living in her new apartment in a safe, well-regarded elder high-rise in Atlanta.  Although visiting her had been severely restricted due to the pandemic, the participant is now able to visit with her in her mother’s courtyard.  However, the high cost of this residence is becoming a concern.   We discussed the desirability of consulting a geriatric care manager to help explore other more affordable housing as well as speaking to a lawyer specializing in elder law to investigate whether her mother might qualify for Medicaid, should skilled nursing be required at a future time. 

End-of-Life Care

–  One longtime eldercare meeting participant who moved to Louisiana several months ago to assist his dying mother and a frail sibling, reported that his mother died peacefully before the start of the pandemic and the family was able to give her a memorable New Orleans-style jazz funeral sendoff at the funeral home.

–  We also discussed potential ways of supporting an out-of-state sibling who has a chronic neurological disease and dementia and currently wishes to die.  Although there was not much our member could do to help aside from remote social support, we agreed that an anticipated move to a more supportive living environment in the home of another sibling might help that loved one.

–  With Covid-19 morbidity and mortality continuing to grow in the U.S. and worldwide—it’s clear that there is much suffering by its victims as well as the much larger number of friends and family members who are unable to be there to help or comfort their loved ones in their final days. 

–  One participant described the practical and emotional difficulties of supporting her mother in her group residence when she died of non-Covid causes just before the lockdown.  That participant also described the even more helpless feelings of persons she knows whose loved ones were hospitalized with Covid-19 and the social isolation felt by the patients themselves—including one who was an orphaned elder with no family.   

As someone who leads several eldercare support groups and has been trained in Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), she said that Emory University’s online Compassion Practice and Fellowship sessions can be very helpful to care partners during these challenging times.  Their website describes the basis for this program…

“Feeling stressed, anxious or disconnected in the face of the uncertainty brought about by the novel coronavirus is both incredibly common and completely understandable.  This invisible adversary is challenging us to think simultaneously about self-care and the greater good while our routines are being upended.  The only way we can confront the problem and slow the transmission of COVID-19, however, is by practicing kindness toward self and others.  Through a recognition of our common humanity and our deep interconnectedness to all people, we can summon the courage to not give into despair over the things we cannot control, while focusing on what we can do…..”

–  During the pandemic, Emory’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics (CCSCBE) offers free, live CBCT compassion practice and fellowship sessions three days a week via Zoom as follows.  To access, see: https://compassion.emory.edu/cbct-covid19-response.html

Tuesdays and Thursdays (twice each day) at 7:30am and 7:30pm (Eastern U.S. Time Zone)

Sundays at 9:00 am (Eastern U.S. Time Zone)

–  We ended the meeting with a discussion of some advice given to DLM members by Geshe Phende-la on how to deal with conflict and coping in difficult situations such as the global pandemic.  He has said that when we remain still in the midst of chaos and generate feelings of warmth and caring, we can positively affect those around us.  When a participant asked whether Geshe-la would say that Covid-19 is here to teach us, Dolma-la responded that he would not say it was placed here for us, but rather that we had the responsibility to change ourselves and that by keeping us indoors the pandemic gives us a great opportunity to study Buddhist teachings and grow our spiritual practice.

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