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 A Rich Life

I wrote a caregiver communiqué last winter to highlight the challenges coping with senior falls and what we would need to do to help our loved ones live safely at home. My dear friend Barbara Rich, who was the Betty in this story, passed away last week, with her beloved daughter and truly Fearless Caregiver Wendy (Donna in this story) at her side. I’d like to share the story once again in her honor. Our thoughts and prayers are with Wendy and her family.

When I returned home to South Florida after college in the early 80s, my close group of new friends and neighbors included Betty. Betty was more than 20 years older than the rest of us, but could outthink, outdance and had more energy than any of us.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I received a call from Betty’s daughter Donna, who lives in a neighboring county. She told me a horrific story that culminated with Betty’s hospitalization and admittance into a nursing home for rehabilitation. The week earlier, Betty had fallen in the bathroom and found herself jammed between the bathtub and the commode. Betty was in her mid-70s and fiercely independent; she did not have a medical alert system and even refused to give Donna a key to her apartment. After two days of not hearing from her mom, Donna broke down her mother’s front door to find her weak and dehydrated in the bathroom.

Unfortunately, Betty had become part of a frightening statistic. Last year, 13.3 million seniors have fallen at home and most in the bathroom. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls account for 25 percent of all hospital admissions and 40 percent of all nursing home admissions. Tragically, 40 percent of those admitted do not return to independent living and 25 percent die within a year.

Thankfully, Betty will recover. But the greatest damage the fall caused was not to her body, but to her confidence. Since the fall, Betty has not ventured far from her apartment. She seems frailer than ever before and, even though the therapist insists that she does not need the walker anymore, she refuses to give it up.
I can do no more than wish Betty had a medical alert system in place when she fell, but am grateful she has one today. My holiday wish for you is that you take the time to analyze if your loved one is in need of “Transparent Caregiving” and if so, that you start the conversation with them about installing a system. It’s one conversation that shouldn’t wait for the New Year.

On a side note, I have been hearing Barbara’s lilting laugh in my mind all week. One reason to smile.

Gary Barg

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