Retired teacher and author, Sue Matthews Petrovski, shares insights from her new book, “Shelved: A Memoir of Aging in America” with us. Mrs. Petrovski, 85, lives in the Denver, CO area with her husband, who is living with dementia. Mrs. Petrovksi was a primary caregiver to her own mother when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and served as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association.
One day, her husband came home and there was a big yellow scratch down one side of the car and he did not know how it got there. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and the family took away his car keys. After he was diagnosed with dementia, they made the decision to move from their home of 47 years where they had raised two children. The couple now resides in a senior living community. In her book, she writes about the pros and cons of residing in an independent living community. Issues she has brought up are a desire to have a say in the menu they are served and insight into the budget. “They do to you and for you and not with you,” she said in one interview for her book.
A: The house is very important to some of my friends, and if that is so, and their health will allow it, that is where they should stay, particularly if they have a social life in their church or some other outlet. To stay in a house, and babysit that house, without friends or a social life can be very lonely.
A: The time we have age we have after age 65 can be 30 or more years. Shall we just wait to die during this time? I am enjoying this time because I have found something to do. I write, I lead a class in writing, I attend other groups and I have made some incredible friends. Let’s not forget that it’s an age when one’s health is a concern, but every age has its worries and problems. These final years are the time to go beyond parenthood, work-related activities, etc. and concentrate on ME, MY LIFE and MY LEGACY.
Everyone is different, so there is no one pattern for these years any more than for our earlier years. I encourage others to try to maintain a positive attitude, exercise and keep the mind busy. Research shows that getting in one’s wheelchair, seeing the negative in one’s life and dreaming of past happiness that seems to be over is a recipe for an unhappy old age.
PLAN AHEAD. Old age is expensive and even though most of us prefer to simply live our younger life and not think about old age, it’s like not thinking about the ending of a book you are writing—the book of your life. It pays to plan and think ahead to that last chapter.
There might be some jobs out there better suited to a specific age in life, but caregiving can—and is—done by people from all ages and stages of life.
It might be time to start thinking about being together again. Well-being is not just about exercise and nutrition, but also relationships and emotional sturdiness.
Too much caregiving without support can lead to burnout and other ailments for a family caregiver. Learn how to avoid injury, stress, and maintain well-being.