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Answering the Difficult Questions About Aging

By Gary Beagle

(Page 1 of 3)

I recently had to assist my 78 and 82 year old aunt and uncle, respectively, who were dealing with some pretty typical issues – fear of losing independence, an awkward reliance on family members and their changing status in their own community. As a professional fiduciary, I do this for a living and thought I would be able to jump right in and give them the benefit of my experience.

My aunt and uncle have no children, but do have community support from friends. In my conversations with my aunt, she shared that my uncle, not her, was getting more forgetful. These conversations went on for about six months.

When I actually visited them, I discovered that they were not coping as well as they had said. For example, my uncle is a Methodist minister and still had a small congregation in a neighboring town. I discovered that he would get up to preach and halfway through the sermon forget what he was discussing and end up preaching on three or four subjects. Because he had been a stable and positive influence within his community for over 50 years, people overlooked his ramblings. Ironically, his congregation continued to grow during this period.

The most revealing incident that showed me the extent of his lapse of short-term memory occurred at a local restaurant when he introduced me to a resident. In the course of the conversation, he asked how her mother was doing. The woman was a little taken back since my uncle had conducted her funeral the previous week.

If one individual is having physical or memory problems, usually a spouse will fulfill the role of caregiver in order to maintain some semblance of their previous life style. But what happens if that individual is having problems as well?

In my infinite wisdom, I contacted the aging services within their county to see if there were support services available. What I found was one caseworker for the entire county. Because my aunt and uncle had some assets, they were not eligible for help. I went to Plan B and contacted the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers to obtain names of qualified individuals to provide case management. I located an individual 50 miles away and had her begin the process of getting my aunt and uncle on the right track. I thought I had it all under control.

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