Living as a Senior in Whitecourt: Part I – When Life is Ending
It is springtime and new life is blossoming all around us. Farms come to life with the sounds of baby animals learning about their new world. Flowers push through the soil and the buds on the trees open into leaves. Yet in the midst of all this new life, there are some individuals whose lives are coming to a natural end. Fortunately, Whitecourt has some excellent facilities and resources to help seniors live their final days in comfort and dignity.
One such resource available to Whitecourt residents is Extendicare. The Extendicare facility is located in Mayerthorpe and services Whitecourt as well as the other surrounding communities. Mayerthorpe is a peaceful place to contemplate a life well lived as well as lovely place for friends and family visiting loved ones in long term care. Extendicare is dedicated to giving each resident the best quality of life experience regardless of their mental and/or physical state as evidenced by this quote from their website:
“(At) Extendicare Mayerthorpe, we understand each resident’s quality of life depends upon an approach to care that combines input from residents and family members with individual assessments from our multidisciplinary team. This approach addresses the uniqueness and requirements of each resident.”
Another resource for Whitecourt residents is respite care. To learn more about respite care, an interview was conducted with care worker Dolores Fletcher. Fletcher explains basics of respite care: “Simply put, it is having a person that takes over the caregiving of an individual for a period of time thereby permitting the primary caregiver to take some time off their caregiving responsibilities. Primary caregivers can be overburdened at times when caring for sick or elderly family members. Having some time off, even if it is only a couple hours a week to run errands or just to have time for themselves, allows them to recharge their energies.”
Respite care can take place in the family’s home if that is the place the loved one chooses to spend their final days. Understandably, this can be a difficult and sad time for the family. Fletcher has some great advice for families coping with the upcoming loss of a senior member. “Enjoy the time you have with them. Don’t dwell on the fact that they are about to die. Focus on doing things together as much as abilities will allow. Caregiving can be 24/7 at times. It is vitally important to squeeze some fun activities into the day.
Seniors have a wealth of memories they like to share. If they can articulate, record their life story on CD or DVD for future generations. Encourage other family members to visit and call often.
If the person is open to last arrangements, now is the time to that. Discuss funeral arrangements and pre-plan with the funeral home. That does not have to be a morbid time. Make the discussions a matter of fact affair.
Does the senior have a lot of anger or resentment issues? Can the caregiver encourage forgiveness so the senior’s last days will be peaceful? If the senior is very sick and bedridden, take the time to talk to them even if they seem to be unresponsive. Many times the person can hear and understand even if they cannot respond. Let them know that if there were wrongs they committed, they are still loved and forgiven. Don’t let your loved one die with feelings of guilt over past injustices.
Above all, exercise patience. Maybe the senior has many anxieties they need to talk about. Some seniors can be very demanding because that is all they have left as some measure of control over their life. They can be scared about death or worried about leaving behind other persons who depends on them.”
Fletcher weighs in on the differences between assisted living facilities and ending ones days at home. “Being in your home until you die is the ultimate solution for living. Having trained staff care for the senior in their home helps the senior retain their dignity and comfort. Of course, if respite is not available then seniors’ lodges and other assisted care facilities is the next best solution. Assisted living can be quite fun for some people. There are other seniors to interact with, entertainment and activity coordinators.”
The end of a life is always a somber affair, but there can also be joy in celebrating a life well lived. When the person passes on, they leave us with fond memories to cherish.
You can learn more about Extendicare at (780) 786-2211 or on their website at http://www.extendicarecanada.com/mayerthorpe.
To learn more about respite care in Whitecourt, contact Whitecourt Community Health Services at 780-778-5555.
We will discuss more about living as a senior in Whitecourt over the next few weeks.