Updated: Dec 10, 2021
It was an early Saturday morning and I had awakened and grabbed my phone just before it started to blare and cause my family to grumble. It was 6:35 AM, I was just in time to start getting up and getting ready for my bike ride with my neighbor. I quietly got out of bed, put on my coffee and continued with the rest of my morning ritual.
As I brushed my teeth, I glanced out the window to see that the sun was making its way towards us, and I knew then it was going to be an enjoyable day. My neighbor is a snowbird, and it was his first weekend back in Columbus, Ohio and I could not wait to talk with him and hear his stories about his hikes, bike rides and kayaking. Those activities do not seem like a lot for a winter in Florida, if it was not for the sake that my neighbor is a spry 72-year-old who makes the outdoors his priority. He is agile and athletic. I affectionately call him Captain America, which he seems to embrace.
As I prepared my bike for its first ride of the year, I heard the ring of the doorbell, which was odd at that time of the morning. I opened the door and saw it was Cap. There he stood, and I could not believe what I saw. He had a look of disappointment on his face and a sling around his arm. Brien, I am so sorry, he said. But I cannot take our ride today because I fell off my bike trying to not hit a damn squirrel. I tried to immediately put him at ease and said, “hey buddy, it’s no problem, but are you alright”? He told me he was fine, but he had been riding on a trail by himself and had taken a nasty fall and had broken his arm. By yourself, I exclaimed! He said yes, lucky for me, some other biker’s rode up after a while and helped me to get back to my car and call my wife. I know I should’ve ridden with someone, but I will be fine. It was easy to see that he was disappointed. He told me to have a good day and went back home.
When the Captain shared that story with me, I could not stop thinking about what could’ve happened if there wasn’t anyone on the trail that day? All I could think about was my friend needing some help. My mind went through all the possibilities I could imagine. I found myself just showing gratitude for his safety. It made me think of my mom, who is just around his age, and other loved ones in that demographic. That group is mostly known as the Baby Boomer generation, with birthdates that range from 1946 to 1965. These were the folks that were born in the years just after World War II. I am in generation X, which was the mid 1960s to 1980s. I’m no spring chicken either, but when I think about safety, my mind generally rests on our seniors and our children. I am sure many of you can relate.
Our seniors are not the old folks from back in the day. They are very active, participating in outdoor activities, traveling, nightlife and even dating. Over the last few years, the pandemic has slowed things down, but everyone has figured out ways to maintain their sanity and some sort of normalcy and the elderly have not been an exception. As I have continued to work in healthcare and also with my own mom, I’ve learned that caring for our seniors must be a priority. Do not get me wrong, I am not talking about parenting our parents when I suggest that we care for them, but what I truly am describing is our involvement in their care, safety, and wellbeing. To be a valuable contributor to our parent’s well-being and our peace-of-mind as their children, we must have clear communication, participate when asked, and meet them with compassion.
For the bulk of the last 30 years, I’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio while mom has remained in Cleveland, Ohio. Even with being almost 200 miles away from mom, I’ve had times in which I had to be directly involved in her care plan. A great way to gain insight is to meet the Primary Care Provider or PCP. Continuity of care (COC) is how care is coordinated within a complex health system. Continuity of care helps to reduce disruption through collaboration and communication among participating practitioners, receivers of care, and other service providers, including pharmacies and care-givers. In general, the primary care physician is the main point of contact for COC and is the best person to ensure that all providers are on the same page. It is with taking time and actively listening that the discussion is had. It is important to know the details that parents are willing to share. If you are unable to attend follow-up visits or checkups, be sure to set aside time to get as many details as possible, including prescriptions, and additional follow-up visits, etc. Remain positive and try not to interrogate the parent or loved one, so they are comfortable and willing to share the details.
Managing competing priorities can be difficult to do at times. Being an active participant in our parent’s health can be daunting and may take time away from other priorities. However, it is necessary to be an active participant in the health of our seniors as much as possible. Participation can be discovering resources that can help, such as transportation, caregivers, home modifications or even technology such as personal response systems (i.e., medical alerts). There are many tools and resources that can be useful. There are also community centers that support seniors and enable them to find resources that they may need. Active participation is also checking the current environment for safety issues and being aware of red flags of declining health. Being there for our parents is not always having to be there physically, it is also being supportive and locating resources and tools that can be of help to the older person.
When we are being positive, supportive, and demonstrating care and concern, we are demonstrating compassion. For me personally, I must be careful to meet my mother with a spirit of compassion just so I do not overwhelm her or stress her out as she says. It is having the right spirit in the engagement and discussion, so you are there to help and not hinder or cause a problem. Our seniors are seeing the world in which they have known change around them. I think of things like making payments over the phone or new currencies like bitcoin that I even have challenges in understanding at times. When we meet our loved ones with compassion, they may feel empowered or may feel like they have an ally in this ever-changing world. Love is what love does, as my mom often says to me. Be sure that if you are a Gen X’er that you meet the Baby Boomers in your life with love, compassion, patience and understanding.
My neighbor and I have had quite a few fun rides over the summer. He has not let the fall stop him. Now that it is getting colder in Ohio, he is back in Florida still living his best life, hiking, biking, and kayaking. I hope we can all be active in the health of our parents, loved ones and other friends.
3rd Act Medical Alerts — Our one goal is to help people stay safe.