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Trends in aging: Learning to age in place

By By Wendy McHaney
July 26, 2013 at 2:26 a.m.


When my grandmother had a debilitating stroke in her mid-50s, my grandfather was suddenly faced with a lot of tough choices that he was not prepared to face.

While my paternal grandmother had the means to live out her retirement in a high-end continuing care facility, my maternal grandmother was not as fortunate.

Initially, my grandfather placed her in a nursing home since he needed to continue working and could not care for her. But after a few months of living apart, he desperately wanted her back home.

As it happened, one of my grandmother's close friends, a recent widow who was having trouble making ends meet, offered to move in with my grandparents and care for my grandmother while my grandfather was at work. After my grandmother moved back home, a metamorphosis took place in my grandfather.

He was a large man with a short fuse prone to loud, angry outbursts for the smallest perceived slight. Once Grandma came home, he was a loving, doting husband with a sweet disposition. who seemed happiest when he was caring for my grandmother.

Observing this change in him, as well as the recovery of my grandmother after coming home, had a profound affect on me. I still have vivid memories of the various physical and speech therapists who came to work with her - particularly the former Miss Pennsylvania, my grandfather's favorite, who taught her to sing "Happy Birthday" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

My grandmother lived at home until she passed away 15 years later. , and my grandfather lived at home until he passed 10 years after that. As my grandfather's health and mental capacity began to deteriorate, remaining at home became increasingly difficult, especially since none of his children lived in the same city.

My uncle took over his finances, and my mother and her sister visited as often as they could and tried to manage his revolving door of caregivers from afar - revolving because my grandfather frequently fired his caregivers insisting that he did not need any help.

Living through this with my grandparents significantly affected both me and my mother.

My mother purchased a long-term care insurance policy many years ago because she wanted to be able to afford whatever care she needed. She also wanted to have the option to live at home despite any age-related infirmaries.

I switched careers after 11 years as an attorney and opened a home care company to assist seniors in their homes and manage their care to ease the burden on their families.

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series focusing on aging in place. The next installment highlights the various services that allow seniors who to remain in their homes.

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit seniorhelpers.com/victoria

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