The Fearless Cregiver


Gary Barg - Editor-in-chiefPlop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz.


These days it is hard to turn anywhere in the aging services community and not hear the phrase “Aging in Place.”  This is a terrific concept and one dedicated to ensuring that our loved ones can live in their own surroundings for as long as possible before they need long-term care placement (if ever).  Not one to be reminded of my own rapidly creaking joints and slowing metabolism, I like to consider it “Living in Place” as opposed to Aging in Place – but hey, you say tomato….

In my family, the concept of Aging in Place is, well, rather an age-old one.  In the case of my grandfather, when he became frail and needed support to remain in his own home, we hired a home care aide.  But at the same time, we also constructed an elaborate call and scheduling system for the family to ensure that we were in touch as much as possible, while still allowing him his own sense of privacy.  This is a concept I like to call “Transparent Caregiving.”  He felt that he was still in charge, but we always kept him safe from harm.

One of the greatest challenges we faced had to do with the intersection of my grandfather’s increased hearing loss with, frankly, his vanity.  A member of the last generation of true gentlemen, he would never hesitate to kiss a woman’s hand when she entered a room, would never be seen without wearing at least his sports jacket, and he absolutely would not consent to using hearing aids. This made us extremely concerned about his safety if ever a fire or other emergency should strike his apartment while he was alone.

The interesting thing was that only when his memory started to fail did he change his mind and consent to hearing aids. In fact, after he was fitted, he and I resumed our long conversations about a wide variety of topics. The conversations might have been noteworthy due to his memory challenges, but at least I know he heard me.       

Silent Call - Stay Safe in Your Own HomeAll of this happened before the days of personal emergency response systems, medical monitoring and even the Internet, so we didn’t have a lot of the tools around that caregivers have to choose from today. Finally technology has caught up and now we have a wide spectrum of support and equipment to help create a strong safety net: for fall and wandering prevention, instant interactivity and the safety challenges that can come with hearing loss.  When the time came for long-term care placement, we knew it was the best possible option. Although, with the technology tools available today, I think we could have extended the time that Gramp was able to live at home somewhat longer.

I have one last Aging in Place memory to share about Gramp.   I don’t ever remember Gramp taking Alka-Seltzer before bedtime as I was growing up, but as his memory disorder increased, we found ourselves constantly replacing hearing aids.  Somehow, he would always find a way to plunk them into the water glass on his night stand. 

At least we knew he was safe…. “Oh, what a relief it is.”      



  Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine
Friday, June 10, 2011
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