Reprinted with permission from The Herald-Leader
By Karla Ward: Kward1@herald-leader.com
Jane Wilson got her pilot’s license in her early 20s, so it’s no wonder that at 93, she walks around the block in her neighborhood each morning and rides an exercise bike regularly.
“The main thing is that at my age, I still feel good and can do whatever I want to do,” she said.
Part of the secret to that, her family says, is a little-known service that Hospice of the Bluegrass provides to help Wilson and others live independently longer.
Hospice’s Extra Care is a private-duty nursing service that provides in-home care not only for terminally ill patients.
“Hospices have great expertise at managing people’s care in their homes,” said Liz Fowler, president and CEO of Hospice of the Bluegrass. “People need that before their final days.”
A PBS special on healthy aging features Wilson and Extra Care. The 30-minute show, “Senior Moments,” premiered on KET at 3 p.m. Nov. 13.
The team that created “Senior Moments” said they included Wilson’s story because their goal is to help an aging population and caretakers to “set a path toward wellness,” and having a safe home environment is part of that.
The show includes segments filmed at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; and the Rancho La Puerta spa in Baja, Mexico.
“I find and share stories about people committed to helping others achieve greater well-being,” “Senior Moments” host and executive producer Debra Koerner said. “When I do this, there is the potential to change lives.”
Wilson, who suffers from dementia but doesn’t have a “terminal” diagnosis, has lived an adventuresome life. Besides getting her pilot’s license in her 20s, she studied journalism in college and raised eight children.
“Mother has been the best mother anybody could have,” said Wilson’s daughter Amy Shelton. “She’s always been there for us, and now we’re able to be there for her.”
It’s important to her family that Wilson remain in her home for as long as possible, Shelton said.
“That’s our goal,” she said. “To keep her here where she’s happy.”
Private-duty nursing, paid for by Wilson’s long-term care insurance, has helped meet that goal, Shelton said.
Once a week, Sue Fundaro, a licensed practical nurse, comes to Wilson’s home to help with bathing and cooking. But she also spends time keeping Wilson engaged in life.
Fundaro and Wilson bake together, make crafts and decorate for the holidays.
“Every day is special, and I want to make every day the best that I can,” Fundaro said.
She tries to learn what’s normal for each of her patients, and she stays alert for changes that could signal a problem, Fundaro said.
She also suggests changes in the home, such as adding child locks to doors for dementia patients who are prone to wander.
Avoiding falls is another major consideration, because a fall can cause not only physical pain and mobility problems but can force an older person out of their home and into a medical facility.
Simple adjustments — getting rid of throw rugs, keeping walkers nearby and moving side tables closer to an older person’s chair so phones, remotes and other needed items are within reach — can help prevent those accidents.
Fowler, the hospice CEO, said the first step for every family with an aging adult should be to start a conversation now about what the person wants as they age.
Her own parents, who live independently in a farmhouse, opened the conversation with her over the summer, prompted by friends who had experienced falls and had to move out of their homes unexpectedly, she said.
“They’d rather do this planning while their healthy,” Fowler said.