About Us

We come from a family of long-lived people. Grandpa lived to age 92, aunts and uncles lived well into their eighties and nineties. They believed a person died when their time came so, as with many people of that generation, there was little thought or discussion given to end of life issues.

Our own father lived to see his 100th birthday. He was mentally alert and physically healthy until he fell one afternoon. He did live for several days after the fall but was adamant about staying home to recover, absolutely no medical intervention! We honored his wishes knowing the medical interventions deemed necessary were he admitted to the hospital would be painful and invasive. He knew there was the very real possibility he would not be able to return home. Dad died peacefully at home holding our mother’s hand. We all felt fortunate that he was able to die on his terms.

That’s where the smooth sailing ended. Our mother, already sliding toward dementia, rapidly became more confused. Mom was becoming more disoriented, she was unable to attend to personal hygiene effectively, meals were from take out restaurants, doctor’s visits were few and far between and social contact was next to nothing. Our attempts to intervene to try to get her needs addressed were met with resistance to any change in the status quo. All the undercurrents that flowed under our family turned to raging torrents and family relationships imploded.

Then the inevitable happened, Mom fell and fractured her pelvis. When she arrived at the hospital in severe pain, frightened and disoriented, her doctor forbade any return to her home. We were left with the task of finding, in a short period of time, a good skilled nursing unit/nursing home that could care for her medically and also address her dementia. Family relationships were strained to the breaking point. There we were, a clinical psychologist and seasoned registered nurse and we were completely unprepared, how do you find a quality nursing home that had beds available at the last minute? How do you deal with hostile family members? How do you handle a frightened, disoriented parent?

After hours of stumbling through internet research on nursing home ratings, then touchy communication with resistant siblings and lastly a field trip to the highly rated homes that had bed availability, we found a wonderful place for Mom.

But wait, this isn’t the happy ending yet. We were still dealing with decisions about Mom’s care, decisions about the family home (still occupied by a sibling) and decisions about her finances.

We have slowly and painfully worked through many of these issues. During this whole process we kept looking at each other and saying, “If only there was a handbook to show us how to deal with all this.” So, we decided to turn a painful learning experience into something that would help those of you who are dealing with some or all of the same issues.

Our respective backgrounds and interests, as well as our experience with our parents’ aging, seemed to dovetail in our writing of this guide. We have speaking experience and have done radio and TV appearances.  This is our first experience as authors.

Dorothy

Dorothy Hansen, Psy.D., P.L.L.C., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, specializing in family and individual therapy in Denver, Colorado. She is married and has three grown sons.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth

Betsy Sherry, BSN, M.Ed., is a Registered Nurse with 28 years of experience in Community Health, designing and implementing school health programs. She and her husband have raised three children in Seekonk, Massachusetts.