“It gets to the point where it’s too much,” he said.
Stein, he said, “knew precisely who to call.” While she helped the family get a wheelchair ramp, guiding them through the myriad services helped most. One thing Bartow learned: plan ahead.
“My suggestion is you’re heading down this road. Meet someone like Nancy now, because it’s coming. It might not be today, but there will be a crisis and you’ll need to speak to somebody.”
And planning ahead can also avoid problems stemming from family dynamics, which can be exacerbated in times of crisis.
“Family dynamics can bring challenges,” Miele explained. “That’s a big challenge, when the families are not in agreement. So we really try to encourage people to plan ahead and avoid having to make those decisions when a crisis has occurred.”
It is also important for seniors to take an active role in planning. Be part of the conversations, or even instigate conversations, with children and families, Miele advised.
“To maintain their own independence, they need to be involved in the decisions early,” she said. “The way to maintain independence is to accept help.”
Created in 1988, the Alliance on Aging, a nonprofit dedicated to elder care issues in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, set as its main objective maintaining independence. It offers an array of services including home-delivered meals, recreation, adult daycare, personal care, legal help and transportation. Its network can also provide training, support and respite for caregivers and family members.
For Kappe and her sisters, what she calls the “crisis du jour” has subsided. While they’ve seen their share of home health aides come and go — one left after her father contracted MRSA, another had a car accident and couldn’t get to work — their geriatric case manager kept the ship on course, eventually assembling a reliable team. Gould’s finances are now under control and his legal issues sorted out.
“We just had a very poignant 80th birthday party. And my aunt and 86-year-old uncle with an oxygen tank and my other uncle, who’s 92 with a walker, came. So they were at one end of the table and at the other end were all their caregivers. So I sat at that end and I thought, wow, this is his life now. This is his family, too.”