By Colleen Hollestelle
Owner and Founder of AgingEmpowered
A seventy-three-year-old superhero solemnly pokes at his hamburger in a suburban sports bar. He shakes his glass of ice, dips his chin, and squints his eyes to emphasis his points. He describes the exhaustion, frustration, failures, mishaps, and successes of caring for the love of his life, who can be overtaken by his archnemesis, Alzheimer’s Disease. There are winning days–literally–in which she hits the big-time jackpot at the Ameristar Casino. There are days she shoots pool, cracks jokes, and sings along to Adam Lambert. But there are also days in which her disease transcends time and place, taking her to a place not so winning. She expresses feeling scared, lost, and tries to “go home,” which is a never-ending pursuit of seeking comfort that eludes her. Back in the sports bar, as we discuss all of the options for the next steps to alleviate the burdens of care for the superhero–including moving her to Memory Care–he delivers why he wants her to live at home. “10 minutes a day,” he states, squinting. The first ten minutes of the day, before the confusion sets in, she is warm, loving, and more like her “old self.”
Let that sink in. Ten. Minutes. Per. Day. It was then I realized the magnitude of the undertaking Care Navigators accept. AgingEmpowered does not exist to fix or solve everything, but instead, preserve the already established precious moments and turn them into hours, days, and months of quality time between older adults and their caregivers and families. AgingEmpowered champions and celebrates the successes of aging well and offers strategies to overcome the times when clients declare, “What is happening to me? This was never supposed to happen.” AgingEmpowered meets older adults and their families where they are in the aging process, (and literally where they are at a suburban sports bar,) to enhance well-being.
Balancing being a family member and a caregiver is challenging. It makes everyday people do extraordinary things–which is why they’re superheroes. This Superhero evolved from working in manufacturing to be a blossoming domestic engineer. He is a whiz at scheduling manicures and hair appointments; his wife has the whitest slacks in the neighborhood! He serves ham sandwiches in bite-sized pieces and has figured out how to play her favorite show, Friends, 24/7. But even superheroes have overwhelming days. Research suggests 17% of caregivers experience a decrease in health status during caregiving, and 1/4- 1/2 meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. Unfortunately, Aging Life Care Professionals are not the kryptonite (shucks!) to diseases and caregiving stress, but we’re close. What Aging Life Care Professionals can do is offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise to extend 10 minutes a day to more quality moments and enhance caregiver well-being. Some days, even superheroes need a Care Navigator.