The Knee Bone's Connected To ...

Such a face! Daddy Bones@ age 12, gracing the book's cover.


 How to Keep Your Sanity Intact When a Loved One Needs a Nursing Home  

It’s estimated that more than 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.

Studies show that extremely stressed caregivers can age or die prematurely. 

“Bette Davis said ‘old age is no place for sissies,’ but caring for an older loved one isn’t for the feint of heart, either,” says Bones. “I loved my dad and we were very close, but the strain of ‘putting’ him in a nursing home was so overwhelming for all of us that I felt like I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.”

Becoming aware of some of the don’ts” of long-term care can make daily life easier for nursing home residents and for their family caretakers,” she notes.

Bones offers some key examples from her Nursing Home Checklist:

· Ask clergy, family, and friends - especially those in the health care field - to recommend outstanding nursing homes.

· When touring a nursing home, ask other visitors for frank feedback about the facility. Don’t just inspect the “sample” room, look into residents’ rooms to check for cleanliness.

· Assure your loved one that you will be their ongoing advocate.

· Visit your loved one often and at varying times of the day - and night. This alerts all of the caregivers that you are keeping an eye on your loved one.

· Get to know the staff, especially your loved one’s immediate caregivers.

· Thank the employees for the thankless job that they do.

· Put your loved one’s name on all their belongings, including clothes and personal products. Never leave money or valuables in their room.

· Place a quilt, photos and other small touches to create a “homey” room.

· Put a brief bio and picture of your loved one at the entrance of their room to “introduce” them to staff and visitors.

. Bring old photos when you visit your loved one - it will give you something to look at if conversation lags.

. Bring different edible treats to spice-up the resident's menu.





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Goodbye, Girl's Best Friend

We had to say goodbye to our beloved Sammy Girl last week.

I have mentioned before how our story began about a dozen years ago, when I begged my hubby if we could take in my niece's dog, Sammy. A dog-lover, he had to put down his Old English Sheepdog, Reggie, just a few years beforehand, so he didn't want to fall in love with another dog and experience the heartbreak again. So Dave said no, and when I persisted, said no again.

Despite his protests, the next thing he knew, Sammy was marching through our door with a look of "who are these people?" on her frazzled face. But Dave relented, two-year-old Sammy settled in and we slid into a routine that would carry her through the next decade-plus: A walk every morning, sleep during the day in my third floor office, hang with me and Dave in the evening and then make her way upstairs to her dog bed, which was nestled right next to our bed, and wait for us to follow suit. Trips to the shore? Hop in the car and get ready for a swim, Sammy. Invited to my sister's house for holidays? Come on, Sammy, let's go celebrate. Drinks at a cafe's sidewalk table? Belly up, girl, it's Happy Hour.

Where we went, Sammy followed.

We had our share of adventures. There was the lady and her dog who yelled at me (the lady, not the dog) for allowing Sammy to run free in the park when I thought there was no one around. When I mouthed off right back at Miss Grouchypants (nobody puts baby in the corner) and she approached us, it became clear that she was a strong women who could take me down in a flash. So, still sparring with her verbally, Sammy and I slowly backed out of the park, swiftly strode home and made sure we avoided the World Wide Wrestling dog owner again.

At the same park, a big red dog viciously attacked. After the owner wrestled the animal off of Sammy, she apologized, saying that the mutt was "a rescue on antidepressants." Sammy and I looked at each other as if to say, "Sister, you better increase the dose FAST because those current meds ain't working."

Beside a few other dog attacks that shook me more than Sammy, we continued to make tracks uneventfully and faithfully every morning - snowstorms, icy temperature in the teens, broiling heat that made us beg for a shaded street - all around our neighborhood. We got to know all of the other "dog people" in the area, not to mention students walking to the grade school on our block, crossing guards and the regulars who waited every weekday at the bus stop. Many of them liked to bend down and give Sammy a pet. Ever the aloof female, she'd accept their affection with an air of nonchalance. 

In the last year, Sammy's arthritis limited our walks to a just a short stroll around the block on good days (sorry, Dr. Oz, no cardiovascular benefits from that) and only to the corner on days when she'd just stop, turn around and head for home, the international dog signal for "Mom, I've had enough."

Despite taking daily arthritis prescription medication (1-800 PetMeds' directions on the bottle: "Do not take with alcohol." Good to know!) Sammy began to limp with every single step she took.

Gradually, she also lost most of her sight and her hearing. With her diminished senses, climbing up or down steps was like flopping into an unknown abyss. 

Although she had been a terrific traveler, car rides made her pant uncontrollably and pace relentlessly in the back seat. I couldn't get her 58-pound body into my car and had to wait until Dave could pick her up and plop her in.

During the summer, Sammy had reached the point where it took her a good ten minutes to awkwardly lay down and she sometimes did so with a wince. Rising up was an even worse ordeal, paws spreading out as her muscle control diminished. She tumbled down the hardwood stairs several times, so we put up a baby gate to prevent her from climbing them alone. When she went upstairs for the night, I'd be at the top of the steps to haul her up the last few feet and Dave would be behind her, ready to catch her if she fell. 

She also started having some "accidents," a trend that was new and unfamiliar territory for her.

On her last night, she became stuck under our bed, flailing helplessly as she dug herself under, deeper and deeper. Her cries awoke me at 2:30 am and I desperately tried to pull her out, but everywhere I touched her, she yelped in pain. When I finally wiggled her out, she was shaking and inconsolable.

Having her put down was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, which is saying something from a vintage gal who has witnessed her share of deaths in the family.

I can't explain why losing her has hit so very hard, but it has.

She was an old dog who was probably in a lot of pain, but to me, she was Sammy Girl, always at my side, by my bed, on my walks and in my heart.

Goodbye, good girl. I hope you are at peace and I can't thank you enough for the privilege of your nonjudgmental, loving and tail-wagging company.


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Reader Comments (3)

So sorry for your loss. Having loved and lost many a faithful dog, I know the love they give.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRegina Sokas

Oh Sammy Girl, the pipes, the pipes are blowing...
(sung to the tune of Danny Boy)

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermaryfran shields

How sad, such a cute dog.

January 14, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteraffordable celebrex online

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