Aging while caring for aging loved ones

Ruth Kivela, a resident of Virginia, Minnesota, began to experience the aging journey when she married her late husband in 2004. Ruth was 59 and her husband was 64. Her husband was a disabled veteran of the Air Force and didn’t let health problems get him down. “A wonderful, wonderful man who always had a smile no matter what,” says Ruth.

Two months after their wedding, Ruth’s husband lost his left leg and left hip. “The doctors advised me to go home and build a new life as my husband was not likely to leave the hospital,” says Ruth. However, her husband recovered, and Ruth became his full-time caregiver. “My husband passed away in 2008 and was the best patient and husband I could ever imagine. I miss his smiling face and sunshiny disposition.”

One of the most challenging parts of getting older for Ruth is experiencing her own health challenges. Now 73, she has undergone hip surgery and cataract surgery and has survived cancer. Ruth suggests keeping a nutritious diet as one way to maintain health with age. “What most folks don’t realize is that nutrition is so important to seniors,” says Ruth. “Poor nutrition leads to poor health.”

Ruth Kivela

Ruth says the best part of aging is having the right resources and services available to age at home. “Luckily, I am provided with the services and durable medical supplies I need to age in place. Home health care and homemaking help allow me to maintain my apartment in my senior housing facility,” says Ruth.

Ruth expresses concern for her best friend across the hall, who has Alzheimer’s disease and no family. “Mostly she gets help from her elderly neighbors: companionship, dog walking, cooking, trips to the clinic with a cognizant friend to remember the visit with the medical providers. Sometimes just hand holding and reassurance. Generally, that means me and a couple of other kindhearted friends. It is more cost-saving for us to do the things needed than to transfer her to a long-term facility. But what about when we can’t do these chores anymore? Who will?”

Ruth wishes more people understood the complexity of the aging process, including our responsibility to help seniors age well and ensure their caregivers have access to the right resources. “Home caregivers tend to take better care of their care receivers then they do of themselves,” says Ruth. “Seniors need support. Caregivers need support.”

“We are all aging,” Ruth reminds us. “We start aging at birth.”

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