This past December, my family experienced its first major health crisis when my 92-year-old father fell and fractured his hip. The holidays were a blur as he underwent hospitalization, surgery, and four weeks of in-patient rehabilitation in rapid succession. A college professor who had been professionally active into his 80s and physically active until the time he fell, my father struggled with the ensuing loss of autonomy.
The unfamiliar surroundings and acute illness contributed to delirium, and my ordinarily calm and thoughtful father became confused and agitated. During this traumatic time, my family, and especially my mother, had to deal with many of the challenges that are, sadly, all too familiar to you, our readers.
At his side at the rehabilitation facility nearly constantly, my mom slept in a bedside recliner because my father felt safer with her there. Although I was able to provide her with brief periods of respite, the sleep deprivation and constant vigilance took its toll on my mother. My dad is home now, but he still needs extra care. As I advise my mom regularly, it is imperative for caregivers to take regular breaks for the sake of their own health. In “Waiting Room,” we bring you one example of a program that provides relief for some of the 43.5 million caregivers in the United States.
The program, aptly called My Time for Free Time, provides breaks for caregivers by engaging their loved ones in structured activities once a week for three hours. Founded in 2015 in The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, the program is run by Bob Janson, a resident of The Villages, who supervises the volunteers and meets regularly with caregivers to ensure they are getting the support they need. Today, more than two dozen families take advantage of the program. Every Thursday, participants engage in crafts, art projects, music, and games—all for free.
Because caregiving can also involve young children, our story in “For the Caregiver” offers advice for parents of children with special needs who are “mainstreamed” into public education, including finding appropriate services and connecting with patient organizations and other families in similar situations.
Finally, we have some exciting news to share with our readers regarding the future of Neurology Now. With the April/May 2018 issue, we are unveiling a totally transformed print and online experience. The content will continue to meet our high standards of excellence, complete with expert advice from members of the American Academy of Neurology and our editorial board of neurologists. But we will provide even more in-depth resources and information for people with neurologic conditions, their caregivers, and anyone interested in brain health.
In April, be sure to keep an eye out for a “new face” to the magazine when it arrives in your mailbox or when you see it in your doctor’s office.
Until then, be sure to take time for yourselves.
Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA, FAAN