What Happens When You Get Old? – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 50 August 5, 2020. On this caregiver radio program, Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, answers the question for Aging Parents: What Happens When You Get Old? Tips for aging, health and wellness are shared. Guest Dr. Suma Chand from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the St. Louis University School of Medicine shares tips to Manage Feeling Hopeless or Depressed as an aging adult or a caregiver.
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What Happens When You Get Old?
00:04 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
00:47 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves and loved ones, all tied together with humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver.
01:09 Pamela D. Wilson: During this program, I’ll answer the question of what the heck happens when you get old? Caring for aging parents can increase awareness of how health and wellness activities—if you engage—can contribute toward a healthy old age. There’s a great deal of talk about proposed legislation to fund universal childcare and in-home elderly care—billions of dollars. I support the childcare and elder care, but not by funding universal care. My reason for not begins with the cause. Which is a bad foundation. Healthcare in the United States does not emphasize health and wellness prevention enough—really at all. Until we agree that a lack of health education is the problem, we can’t create solutions to childcare and elder care by developing concrete, consistent, and easy-to-use plans to educate the public. In my opinion, throwing money at a problem without having a solution—this problem is going to continue to grow and grow at greater expense to the cost of all residents here in the United States. Women, at 60% of the caregiving population, are the most affected, with men at a growing 40%. Caring for aging parents or being an older adult suffering from poor health results in feeling hopeless and depressed at times.
02:33 Pamela D. Wilson: The guest for our health and wellness topic for the show is Dr. Suma Chand, who joins us with suggestions to manage feeling hopeless and depressed around the idea of what happens when you get old or when you’re caring for yourself or aging parents. Dr. Chand is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive behavior therapy. She is currently Professor and Director of the CBT program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at St. Louis University School of Medicine. She offers cognitive behavioral therapy to adult and older adults who experience depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress, insomnia, and eating disorders.
03:20 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s return to the question of what happens when you get old. I’ll start by offering background information of what being old means. We’ll talk about how older adults feel about aging, we will look at solutions to increase awareness of health and wellness activities that we can learn while we are caring for our aging parents, and through this experience, we can learn to focus on prevention so that we as the caregivers and aging adults all live a healthier, happier old age. So let’s get started with these ideas.
03:56 Pamela D. Wilson: According to research, there are categories of being old that link to what happens when you get old. If you are in your 60s to 70s and you’re relatively active and healthy—by research standards—you are considered the young old. As we age into our 70s and 80s, if we have a diagnosis of multiple chronic illnesses and we’re starting to slow down physically and cognitively—so our brains are slowing down—we are considered old. After this, as we move into our 90s and beyond, researchers consider us the old-old. Anything before age 60, you might be considered middle-aged. Between age 50 to 65, you might fall into that senior citizen category. And as you know, if you are 50 years or older, you know that AARP, the Association for Retired Persons, begins sending you invitations to join their group as early as your 50th birthday.
05:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s talk about what happens when you get old around the idea of aging or caring for aging parents with a focus on aspects of health and wellness. There are many theories around health and wellness that look at a whole person as being made up of physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational wellness. During this program, we’re going to talk about the top three: health and wellness related to physical, social, and emotional health, because these apply most to caregiving situations, caring for aging parents, self-care, and health and wellness for all adults, which is the focus of this caregiving radio program.
05:44 Pamela D. Wilson: An interesting part of what happens when you get old is that we at any age might not recognize that we have more control over our well-being than we think. Why is that? It’s because conversations and education about health and wellness, they don’t begin in grade school. They don’t continue or begin in middle or high school. We don’t talk about it in college or later. That lack of education, in my opinion, is the gap that results in caregivers now as young as 20 years old caring for sick parents in their 40s and 50s. And this trend of caring for aging parents, it continues from generation to generation. What if we made the subject of what happens when you get old a mandatory component of education in the United States? We would honestly be less surprised about what happens. How much money might be saved in healthcare premiums, healthcare expenses, treatments, and the reduction in individuals who are more susceptible to viruses, like the coronavirus? By supporting health and wellness education, we could have a healthier population, but the United States doesn’t do this. It’s easier for all of us to be led to think that government spending has to solve these gaps instead of government investing in education for the public.
07:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Seriously, as citizens, aren’t we worth it? How many of you want to be old and sick? How many of you want your children to be old and sick? How many of you caring for aging parents want them, or yourselves in later years, to be reliant on government spending to take care of you? Wouldn’t you rather be in control of your own life and your own well-being? The problem is, we can’t get there with the government putting funding in the wrong places. They’re plugging gaps instead of correcting the foundational issues, which is a lack of focus on health and wellness education. Let’s be realistic. Healthcare is a money-making business. Hospitals, doctors, insurance companies make money off sick people. Health insurance—it doesn’t pay for prevention—it should.
07:54 Pamela D. Wilson: The only people who can change this faulty thinking and wasteful spending are us—the healthcare consumer—you and me. We have to start speaking up against financial irresponsibility and wasteful government spending, but it takes education. It takes us having these conversations about what happens when you get old, the challenges of caring for aging parents, and the importance of health and wellness education beginning in grade school and continuing throughout life. Having this be supported by corporations who today only focus on childcare but not elder care.
08:28 Pamela D. Wilson: We’re going to continue to talk about physical, social, and emotional wellness in the second half of this program. Up next, we have Dr. Suma Chand. She is Professor and Director of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. She’s going to share with us tips to manage feeling hopeless or depressed. More information for caregivers is on my website at PamelaDWilson.com, in my caregiving blog, my library, all of my videos. I have a program there, which is a program for working caregivers; it’s called Helping Elderly Parents Stay at Home. This program is available through corporations and groups. So if you are a caregiver, make sure that you’re sharing information about this program, my website, with the people that you work for—with those corporations. This is Pamela D. Wilson. You’re with me on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back after this break.
11:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Joining us is Dr. Suma Chand, an expert in cognitive behavior. Dr. Chand, welcome to the show.
12:06 Dr. Suma Chand: I’m happy to be here on your program today. I hope to be able to provide some good information to all your listeners today.
12:13 Pamela D. Wilson: Thank you. So my first question for you is caregivers, and older adults can find themselves depressed because of life changes and transitions. Some see taking medication as a negative. You specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy. What is it, and can it be an alternative to medication?
12:32 Dr. Suma Chand: Let me start with the first part of your question, that is, what is CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy? So CBT is a form of psychotherapy that has been established as what is known as an evidence-based treatment, or in other words, it has been tested by a very large number of research studies, more than 1000, actually, and found to be an effective treatment. Now, it has been found to be useful for a number of psychiatric conditions, including anxiety disorders and depression. In fact, research has also established that it’s an effective treatment for caregiver distress.
13:09 Dr. Suma Chand: Now, let me elaborate a little bit more. CBT is based on the cognitive model, which was outlined by Dr. Aaron Beck. And this model explains how our thinking is linked to our mood and behavior. Now, when a person becomes distressed, or develops depression or anxiety symptoms, his thinking tends to become unrealistic. It is sort of not really exactly rooted in reality. There is some amount of distortion and exaggeration in the thinking, and typically it has a negative toll. So naturally, this kind of thinking would then impact mood and behaviors also negatively. And this will lead to the symptomatology being maintained.
13:51 Dr. Suma Chand: So in CBT, the focus is on modifying the dysfunctional thinking so that it will then become balanced and functional, and that, in turn, will have a beneficial impact on mood and behavior. CBT also involves problem-solving in each session. In addition to that, clients are also helped in developing emotion regulation skills so that they’re not overwhelmed by the negative emotions. Another important aspect is that of modifying behaviors that are unhelpful and adopting instead behaviors that are likely to lead to better outcomes. So I would say CBT is very much a learning process for the client because it involves comfortable learning of skills and strategies. The end goal, really, is to help patients become independent and really become their own therapist.
14:39 Dr. Suma Chand: With regard to your question about medication and CBT, I would say that CBT can be an alternative to medication for some individuals, but not necessarily all. This would really have to be decided on an individual basis, depending on the severity of the disorder, also the complexity of the case. For example, in the case of mild to moderate depression, CBT can be an alternative to medication. But in the case of severe depression, a combination of CBT and medication works best. The person can start off with a combination of CBT and medication, and as the symptoms improve, they can taper and reduce the dosage of the medication and even stop over time under the supervision of a psychiatrist.
15:24 Pamela D. Wilson: I read a couple of your articles, and one of them talked about the internal thoughts that you’re talking about, the unrealistic thinking, and the dysfunctional beliefs. How does that all relate to stress and anxiety, and depression?
15:36 Dr. Suma Chand: Yes, this is an excellent question, actually. If you give me the opportunity to explain a little bit about how CBT works. So let me start with a thought. Now, we all tend to have thoughts popping into our minds constantly. Our mind is truly never empty of thoughts. We’re trying to make sense of what is going on around us. So a lot of our thoughts tend to be interpretive and explanatory. Now, in CBT, we refer to these thoughts that keep popping into our minds as automatic thoughts. And these are, we call them automatic because these are the immediate, automatic, interpretive kind of thoughts that occur without too much of analysis. Now, unfortunately, in individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety, they tend to typically have very frequent thoughts that are negative. That are exaggerated, they’re distorted, and not really rooted in reality in the way in which they perceive themselves, their life, and all that’s happening around them. Now, the question is, where do these automatic thoughts come from?
16:36 Dr. Suma Chand: So this is where underlying beliefs come into play. So these automatic thoughts really have their roots in underlying beliefs that the individual has developed through various experiences he or she has gone through in life. Now, the beliefs that have a significant impact on us are what are known as core beliefs. These are the core beliefs about ourselves. Like, “I’m a good person, I’m a lovable person,” or “I’m likable. I’m fairly intelligent or smart,” or we can also have negative beliefs. And that’s what happens with clients who are depressed or anxious. They can have negative beliefs, that, “I’m inadequate, I’m inferior, I’m unlikable.” In addition to that, in CBT, we also talk about intermediate beliefs. So these are assumptions or rules that, again, all of us develop through various experiences in life. And these intermediate beliefs, they act as a guide on how we live our lives, and they’re also linked to our core beliefs. Now, in the case of individuals who are anxious or depressed, it has been found that their underlying beliefs are typically, again, negative and unhelpful and not really valid, either.
17:46 Dr. Suma Chand: For example, a depressed caregiver may have an assumption that, “If I take any help from others, it means I’m less than—I’m inadequate,” and a core belief that, “I’m incompetent or inadequate.” And these kinds of beliefs will be operating pretty strongly in them. In addition to that, these beliefs tend to be held very rigidly. There’s no flexibility about it. And they also operate in a very generalized manner, in the sense that it operates in various areas of their life. Now, having such beliefs will naturally trigger highly self-critical, self-blaming thoughts in many situations, leading to feelings of distress. And behaviors like that, of working very hard, not taking any help from anyone, which can then lead to burnout and depression. So in therapy, CBT therapists would work with clients to not only help them become skilled at modifying their dysfunctional automatic thoughts, but also modifying the dysfunctional beliefs so that they become more balanced and functional. It is this modification of the dysfunctional belief that really leads to more long-lasting changes because once the dysfunctional beliefs become actually functional and balanced, they will not trigger the dysfunctional automatic thoughts but functional ones. And this, in turn, will have a beneficial impact on mood and behavior.
19:06 Pamela D. Wilson: So Dr. Suma Chand, we are going to continue our conversation coming up after this break. Listeners, the podcast to this radio program for caregivers, and all of The Caring Generation podcasts are on my website. This one will be up in a week, just in case you know somebody that couldn’t make it to listen live to the program tonight. You can go to my website, PamelaDWilson.com. Click on the Caring Generation page, the Media tab, and the shows are there. This is Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
21:54 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host for The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. We’re back to continue our conversation with Dr. Suma Chand on the subject of managing feeling hopeless or depressed and the benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Dr. Chand, some caregivers feel that their situation is hopeless. I know some caregivers who have thought about suicide. How do you help individuals work through these feelings?
22:22 Dr. Suma Chand: Right. So hopelessness is a part of depression, and the more severe the depression, the greater the feelings of hopelessness, and the greater the hopelessness, the higher the risk of suicide. So I cannot stress enough the importance of caregivers seeking professional help early on if they recognize that they’re getting depressed. Of course, there’s no doubt that caregivers are facing situations that are difficult, and that in itself can trigger feelings of hopelessness. However, if they also suffer depression, it will not take much for them to slide into deeper feelings of depression and feelings of hopelessness. It will also be more difficult for them to pull themselves out of such mood state. So they do need professional help.
23:08 Dr. Suma Chand: Now, in therapy, if there’s suicidal ideation, that would be addressed first. Starting with a safety plan so that they’re able to get out of that mindset where it happens, and help is needed. So once the suicidal ideation begins to recede, therapy will then move towards other areas such as mood improvement. Now, in individuals who are clinically depressed, what happens is that their cognitive functioning can get impacted, their ability to concentrate, to remember, and most importantly, to be able to think logically and problem-solve, gets impacted. So in CBT, caregivers will be supported and helped through the process of finding solutions to their problem. And this refers to problems related to their life, but also to the difficulties they face in dealing with some of the problems. Behaviors that they may be facing if they’re taking care of loved ones with dementia or head injuries. So this would really involve in CBT educating and training caregivers in using behavior strategies that would be helpful in modifying such behaviors with their loved ones. That social support is extremely important. Yes, Pamela?
24:23 Pamela D. Wilson: Keep going because you gave me a thought. [chuckle]
24:27 Dr. Suma Chand: Okay, [chuckle], so if caregivers have social support, it really helps with depression and hopelessness. Now, social support comes in different forms. It comes in the form of emotional support. Of course, that’s extremely important to be able to talk to somebody who listens and validates your feelings and supports you. But there are other forms of social support, which are also extremely important, like informational support. It’s very important that they have good resources for information. Practical help, by way of support and help in taking care of the loved ones. Taking over some of the responsibilities. Giving the caregivers respite. Therapy would also involve working with caregivers so that they’re able to find ways in which they can seek and improve their social support system. Of course, cognitive restructuring, which I’ve already talked about, performs a very big part of creating hopelessness and depression as well. I just covered some of the more important strategies.
25:25 Pamela D. Wilson: And so when you were answering that question, you were talking about poor concentration and not being logical in problem-solving, and then before, you were talking about how caregivers feel like they’re not good enough, they don’t want to ask for help. So, how does, you wrote this article about behavior management. How does CBT help with the frequency and severity of those behaviors and those thoughts?
25:48 Dr. Suma Chand: So are you talking about problems of—problem behaviors that we see in dementia patients, is that what you’re talking about? That is what my article is about.
25:58 Pamela D. Wilson: Well, so behaviors and caregivers who say that “I’m stupid. I can’t do this. I should be able to do this. I shouldn’t ask for help,” kind of their pattern of behaviors that—it leads to negativity.
26:10 Dr. Suma Chand: Right. That is dealt with completely through care. With the cognitive restructuring, because like I talked about, this thinking is not really rooted in reality. Many of these caregivers who is talking about them being stupid or not capable or inferior, they’re far from any of that. So their thoughts are pretty distorted. Anybody looking at them and knowing them will say, “Oh, no, she’s doing so much, she is so capable,” but you would find these very sane, intelligent people viewing themselves as being inadequate, not capable. So there’s a lot of cognitive restructuring work that we would do with caregivers. Sort of identifying these hotspots which make them feel so bad at the moment, identifying them. Then working with them on sort of examining these thoughts and looking at how valid they are on that. Typically, they will find that they’re not really valid, so modifying those thoughts and then identifying the underlying beliefs, like I talked about. So the cognitive restructuring work plays a big role in changing that kind of thinking.
27:13 Pamela D. Wilson: And so you mentioned that this is like a learning process. Does it take a long time to succeed? Is it forever counseling, or do people see results in a couple of months, or how does that work?
27:26 Dr. Suma Chand: Yes (static), it’s time-bound. It’s not definitely not a forever type of therapy. People are learning skills and strategies in the course of therapy, and their thinking patterns and beliefs also change for the better. In time, they learn the skills. They learn the strategies that will really enable them to become their own therapist. So typically, they start with weekly sessions, graduate to bi-weekly, then monthly, and two-monthly, and gradually, the sessions are tapered and stopped. But the door is always left open for booster sessions. So if they have some problems they need to talk about, they can always come back, and typically, they won’t need more sessions. They may just need a couple of sessions to tide over a difficult period.
28:10 Pamela D. Wilson: And where do you, where do people find people like you? Is there a website they can go to? Is there an association? [chuckle]
28:16 Dr. Suma Chand: Yes. Yes. There is Academy of Cognitive Therapy, where you—they have their Find a Therapist section, where you can look for certified counselor to be as a therapist. There is the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy. They also have a similar system that you can find a therapist. Then you have The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, they also have tools that you can use to find therapists. Yes, definitely, you can find them.
28:49 Pamela D. Wilson: Wonderful. Dr. Chand, thank you for joining us. Listeners, I will put links to those associations that Dr. Chand mentioned in the transcript for the show. You can share, like, and follow The Caring Generation with helpful information for caregivers and aging adults on all your favorite podcast apps, including Apple, Google, Spreaker, and others. This is Pamela D. Wilson, your host on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
31:34 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, in TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, health, and everything in between. Practical tips for caregivers and aging adults are in my Caring for Aging Parents Caregiving blog on my website at PamelaDWilson.com.
32:03 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s return to the question of what happens when you get old. The likelihood of caring for aging parents increases. Which leads to an opportunity to learn about health and wellness. How? You ask. Let’s begin with common experiences of what happens when you get old. For example, increased visits to doctors, if you have health issues. Chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma. Taking medications—not one—but sometimes several. Emergency room visits falls, fractures, physical aches, and pains that make it more difficult for us to get around. Hearing and vision problems. Needing someone, a caregiver to help us. The idea of physical wellness relates to what happens when you get old. My amazing, beautiful, charming, thankful grandmother, Mary, always said to me, “It’s no good to get old.” She was in that category of 90-plus persons of the old-old. But she had a positive attitude, and she kept going in spite of having arthritis and health concerns. I honestly would be blessed to have her positive outlook and attitude when I am 94.
33:10 Pamela D. Wilson: So back to the idea of caring for aging parents who can also experience stomach problems, incontinence, arthritis pain, malnutrition because of having a poor diet. A lot of health concerns. These are all of the worries that we think about when we think about, “Oh, my gosh, what happens when you get old?” Then we have the emotional wellness aspects. The depression and the hopelessness that we talked about with Dr. Chand. Caring for aging parents involves managing our emotions as a caregiver. Keeping positive in spite of all of these issues. Helping aging parents manage health conditions or managing these for ourselves—if we are aging. We want to create realistic plans to help aging parents remain at home. While realizing that things do change in the blink of an eye.
33:57 Pamela D. Wilson: A fall can result in a hip fracture or heart attack. It throws our world upside down. Not to mention, caring for aging parents, and trying to work full-time, raising children, all of those normal parts of life that we can struggle to keep up with. The United States does need a plan to begin education about health and wellness in grade school and continue this throughout life. The benefits could reduce the need for mental health services. Forty percent of caregivers are depressed and stressed. A focus on health and wellness beginning in grade school also could address current concerns about populations disproportionately affected by chronic disease and the coronavirus. Health and wellness prevention in education—it could be for everyone everywhere.
34:39 Pamela D. Wilson: Another aspect of what happens when you get old is the realization of independence. That ability to continue to live at home independently—it can be threatened by negative health concerns. Caring for aging parents involves discussing about their desire to remain at home. To maintain a current lifestyle and be independent. The issue is that nowhere in life, and this points back to that lack of education about health and wellness, do we talk about what happens when you get old so that you can remain healthy and independent. We don’t talk about this until we’re caring for aging parents, or we are the person stressed about having health issues that change the pattern of our daily life. I have many conversations about what happens when you get old with clients and caregivers of aging parents. Let’s talk about some of the pluses and minuses. I’ll start with a little humor.
35:29 Pamela D. Wilson: Ladies, when you get older, you no longer have to worry about those boys snapping your bra straps. How many of you remember that from grade school and how you couldn’t wait to start wearing a bra? Today, many of us ladies, we want to give up wearing that bra. Let’s face it. They’re uncomfortable. On the other hand, if we’re still younger and we’re in the workforce, we may be hesitant to give up our Spanx that offers leggings, skinny jeans, pants, trousers, activewear, even compression undershirts for men these days. Aging adults tell me that with retiring comes a freedom of having more control over your life. That is a plus if you want to remain active, stay up late, sleep in, and choose what you want to do when you want to do it. On the other hand, if you have health issues, your time could be consumed by doctor appointments, managing medications, and struggling with physical concerns.
36:21 Pamela D. Wilson: There are pluses and minuses to what happens when you get old that are in your control. For adult children caring for aging parents, you might be experiencing similar health issues. The stress of caregiving can result in caregivers experiencing as many physical, emotional, and social challenges as aging parents. For both aging adults and adult children caring for aging parents, there is an increased sense of vulnerability. If we have health issues, we may realize that our bodies will become more challenged with time. The risk of poor health can increase. Fear of needing help from others becomes a real fear. Sorrow and loneliness can become part of what happens when you get old. For couples, part of what happens when you get old is that you start thinking about what will happen if or when one of you passes away first, or what happens when one of you becomes sick, and you become the caregiver. Becoming a spousal caregiver can be stressful.
37:22 Pamela D. Wilson: More on spousal caregiving is in The Caring Generation podcast called Spousal Caregivers and Caregiver Resentment. Becoming a caregiver can derail many of our plans in life, especially plans that we made for career, family, and retirement years. By talking about caregiving concerns early in the process, we can avoid regrets about caregiving responsibilities. We can make plans so that our aging parents and ourselves are healthier when we’re older.
37:51 Pamela D. Wilson: After this break coming up, I’m going to continue to share more insights about what happens when you get old and are caring for aging parents in addition to conversations that we can have today so that we can begin talking about health and wellness so that we can feel more in control of our lives. As Dr. Chand discussed, caregiving education is so important. Seeking help as a caregiver before you fall into that trap of feeling overwhelmed and rushed, and that life is out of control, it’s so important. Don’t wait—don’t delay to get help. There is a lot of help on my website. You can follow me on Facebook. You can join my online caregiver support group. It is called the Caregiving Trap. There are many other caregivers there in similar situations. We share information, people post their life situations, ask questions. It’s a great support for caregivers. My Facebook page is PamelaDWilson.page. You can find the Caregiving Trap Group there. This is Pamela D. Wilson on the Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We will be right back after this break.
40:07 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Information for corporations and human resource departments about caregiving training and education onsite, online, through webinars, videoconferencing, and virtual training programs is on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. Educational programs for caregivers and aging adults are so important to help the United States transition from investing in programs that solve elder care issues and health problems. Prevention can go a long way, and if we begin focusing on it when we’re younger, by the time we’re middle age, we will have healthier habits, and by the time we reach that old, old age of being over 90, we actually will have fewer health issues, and we’ll be living a better quality of life.
42:20 Pamela D. Wilson: So what happens when you get old? We begin losing friends and family members to death. How many of you have already lost a best friend? Somebody that you went to college with? Maybe someone that you’ve worked with? Adult children caring for aging parents lose their parents. That finality of life becomes something that we may realize as inevitable. We can realize that time is limited, and all we have is the here and now. These thoughts pose concerns for what happens when you get old. One is that death is not as scary for some people as the thought of being left alone by a spouse who passes away. The other is a concern about society’s ability to provide compassionate care. There are debates about that. The elderly frequently face bias from healthcare providers. And if you don’t have an advocate, you are more vulnerable to not getting the care that you want than most people.
43:13 Pamela D. Wilson: So let’s change a little bit and talk about solutions for what happens when you get old, or if you are an aging adult, or caring for aging parents. For all of us, the idea of health and wellness prevention involves this idea of change. If we’re honest, most of us resist change because it seems like a lot of work. Think about this: A change to improve your health is an investment in yourself. Aren’t you worth it? Is the quality of your life worth the effort? Would you rather have more control over your life or less?
43:44 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s talk about medical care and the idea of going to the doctor for checkups, routine care, and possibly taking medications. Most consumers, because of a lack of health and wellness education, don’t go to the doctor unless they’re really sick. So they’re not going for preventative visits. More men resist going to the doctor more than women. That regular medical care, those checkups, they can catch health issues early before they become severe. There’s more on this in The Caring Generation podcast called Why is Patient Education and Engagement so Important?
44:16 Pamela D. Wilson: So there’s four parts to talking to ourselves about change. The first is thinking about change: Do I want to change? Should I change? What do I need to change? The second is actually wanting to change. Thoughts of “I want to be healthy. I want to live a good, old age, and so I’m going to go to my doctor to have my health evaluated. I’m going to get my blood pressure checked, my cholesterol, all those important measures.” The third question is, “Do I have the ability to make this change? Do I have a primary care doctor?” So many people don’t. There’s a tendency today to do the easy thing and see what I call the doc in a box. It’s the doctor at an emergency clinic or a walk-in clinic at a drug store, and it’s okay in emergencies, but it’s not a long-term situation. In a perfect world, you have a doctor who’s known you for years, and that is very helpful for managing your healthcare. Then we have number four on this idea of change. It’s the need to change. So, if I don’t make the effort to participate in regular medical care, what could happen? I might end up with all of the health issues that my aging parents are experiencing.
45:18 Pamela D. Wilson: Caring for aging parents, it’s a major learning opportunity for caregivers because you can make changes in your own health and your well-being. So let’s say that we see the reason for change, we want to change, we have the ability, we understand the need to make the change. What’s next? This pulls us into the perspective of caring for aging parents. So let’s say your mom or dad has three medications that they could be taking, but they’re forgetting or they’re making excuses why they don’t need to take that medication. You could say something like, “Oh, mom, I understand that you don’t think taking your medication is important. I don’t believe the doctor would have prescribed them if they were not going to help you feel better or prevent you from feeling worse. What do you think about finding ways to make sure that you take your medications every day?”
46:02 Pamela D. Wilson: You could also ask about the pros and cons and also apply this to yourself as a caregiver if you also have medications that you should be taking, but maybe you’re not. How will the medication help you feel better? What are the negative consequences of not taking that medication? If you can’t answer those questions, ask your doctor to explain in detail so that you understand. Part of the reason that consumers don’t take medications is because they don’t realize the long-term consequences of high blood pressure, having a stroke, having a diagnosis of dementia, a heart attack. All of those problems are health complications that medication can help avoid. Is the effort of taking blood pressure medication worth avoiding those health consequences?
46:48 Pamela D. Wilson: What happens when you get old is thinking about the long-term. What will your health be like in one year, three years, or five years, if you don’t start getting preventative check-ups? What will your health be like if you don’t take your blood pressure medication? How will all of this show up in your daily life, whether you feel good or you don’t feel good? Your ability to go to work to support your family? Time with your spouse or children where you actually feel good? How will it affect activities that you enjoy? Health and wellness is this long game that has effects that begin in our 20s and carry throughout life. This is proven research. This is why I’m going back to the idea of mandatory health education beginning in grade school and continuing throughout life, that it can make a significant difference for everybody. But only if we’re willing to make changes in our health, our wellness, and our lifestyles. Sometimes we do have to give up some foods we love, or start exercising, or start looking at other things to turn our health around because we actually have more control than we think.
48:00 Pamela D. Wilson: More practical tips, proven solutions, and support for caregivers are in my book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. Information about the book is on my website, PamelaDWilson.com. We’re heading out to a break. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, expert, and speaker. This is The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
50:40 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host, this is The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Let’s talk more about health and wellness education—in grade school, whether it’s in middle school, high school, college, and beyond, including caregiving education in the workplace. If you are a working caregiver, definitely advocate for caregiving education. Talk to your HR departments. You can contact me through my website. I have a program called Taking Care of Elderly Parents, Stay at Home, that I offer through corporations to working caregivers.
51:23 Pamela D. Wilson: So let’s wrap up on the subject of what happens when you get old, and you might be caring for aging parents or yourself. If you are an adult child caregiver, you may feel like all the pressure, all of the burdens are on you to seek out education about health and wellness and to learn all of the things that honestly could be taught in primary and secondary education, but they’re not. For you, one of the questions is, do you want your health to be similar to that of the experiences of your aging parents? If not, you want to think about what you’re willing to do. Is it a support group, is it an online course? If you’re caring for your aging parents, how can you encourage them to be more active participants in their own care? If you’re that aging adult, what steps will you take to improve your health? We all want to remain at home. We don’t want to go live in nursing homes when we’re older. Independence is so important.
52:23 Pamela D. Wilson: The idea of, “This is just what happens when we get old, we get old and sick,” not always true. This idea of “This is what happens when we get old” is a faulty belief. And sometimes I believe that it’s promoted by some doctors who are paid by a healthcare system that, of course, is rewarded for treating sick people. If you think about health and wellness, how much do we, as consumers, want to support that system that is geared towards sick people, but not geared to help us? To help us learn how to stay healthy, to help us engage in preventative healthcare. Rather than being sick, why don’t we rather be healthy? That takes us back to the questions that I posed at the beginning of this program. Is supporting legislation to fund universal child care and in-home elderly care to the tune of billions of dollars a good idea? The answer. Do your own research. As caregivers, make your own decisions. Learn about healthcare. The question is, why not solve the issue at the foundation of the problem? Which is our healthcare system here in the United States? Do you think insurance companies would fight that? Probably. What about the healthcare system that is financially rewarded if there are more sick people? The healthcare system only makes money if we have medical problems and if we’re sick. How is that system working for people who are disproportionately affected by chronic health issues? It’s not.
53:48 Pamela D. Wilson: The system that we have won’t work, in my opinion, by continuing to throw more dollars into a system that makes more money treating illness, rather than helping us, as consumers, prevent illness. Education is one of the pillars of society that helps advance all of our lives. Whether it’s health, our income, our ability to raise families, buy a home, live in safety. Research confirms that learning helps preventative health concerns. It helps us address health issues. We all have to be the change that we want to see. We have to advocate for what happens when we get old, especially if we’re young today. As your grandparents have probably told you, the years pass quickly, and one day, all of us will find ourselves aging, caring for aging parents or a spouse, and thinking all of the things that we might have done had we only known,—had we learned to make our health better earlier in life.
54:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Next week, we’re going to talk about care transitions, what caregivers don’t know about nursing home rehab. Dr. Lynn Flint, in the Division of Geriatrics and Hospital Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is going to share her research with us. It’s called Rehabbed to Death. Caregivers and aging adults continue to advocate for your needs. Improve your work-life balance. Ask for the help. Ask for the education that you need from your workplace, your families, from the groups that you are in. Caregiver support, articles, videos, online programs, they are all on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. You can also check out my Caregiving TV channel. It is on Roku. Invite your family and friends to join us here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation radio show. Check out my website, PamelaDWilson.com. If you have show ideas, you can click on the Contact me button and send me an email. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, author, and speaker. God bless all of you caregivers. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week, until we are together here again.
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