Decluttering, downsizing, professional organizer Toronto

My mother, your mother

Recently, I wrote and passed my exam for a Specialist Certificate in Aging through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.  I’ve already shared my notes from How to Say it® to Seniors, by David Solie, a book I recommend for both professionals, like myself who deal with senior clients, as well family members struggling to communicate across generations.

Today I’d like to bring your attention to another great book from that reading list: My Mother, Your Mother: What to Expect as Seniors Age, by Dennis McCullough. Dennis brings his experiences both from his journey with his mother, through the 8 stages of later life, and from his professional work in medicine. He advocates slow medicine in all the stages, meaning he supports making better, more appropriate decisions slowly, and over an extended period.

He covers the 8 stages of later life—stability, compromise, crisis, recovery, decline, prelude to dying, death, and grieving—with a wonderful sense of compassion and empathy. Each stage has a practical task for the caregiver.

  1. Stability asks you to empathize with the senior and start the discussion of how decisions are to be made.
  2. Compromise, which starts with the senior beginning to experience health problems, asks you to educate yourself and to create an advocacy team.
  3. The crisis stage, generally brought about by hospitalization, requires you to jump immediately into action. The education and advocacy team that you established in the compromise stage will serve you well here.
  4. Recovery asks you to re-establish empathy in order to understand the combined toll of illness, hospital stay, and the difficulties of physiotherapy.
  5. Decline, when frailty and/or dementia enters the picture, calls for you to be on the watch for loss of identity and personal dignity. This is where you need to be a strong advocate for your family member.
  6. Prelude to dying requires you to accept chronic uncertainty and to advocate for palliative care to help relieve pain and discomfort.
  7. Death, as a stage, can begin with talking about the location of dying and death—hopefully at home or in hospice instead of a hospital.
  8. Grieving asks you to think about the legacy of your family member and how they want to be remembered, and to find support for yourself after supporting them.

Dennis McCullough writes with such care and kindness that I came away changed by his perspective. I think this book is a great resource for anyone living with or caring for seniors on any level.

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