Happy Birthday to My Four-Legged Child

By Attorney Jane Lee

Yoda

As with many decisions made in my early 20s, the decision to get Yoda, my miniature dachshund, was an impulsive one. While still attending law school, on my way to class one day, I spotted a man walking two of Yoda's relatives, and something about them made me pull over and ask him where he got them.

He directed me to a breeder, a couple of hours away, in a farm town called Pevely, Missouri. Soon enough I found myself the proud parent of a male puppy dachshund - - you know one of those "wiener" dogs! (Ooh, I really don't like it when people call him that!)

The first time I picked him up, he had those long perky ears and a grunt that could only be described as the one Yoda, from Star Wars, would make. Hence came the name Yoda!

Is my dog as wise as the Yoda from Star Wars? Not exactly. But he is pretty smart. When Yoda is hungry or thirsty, he'll go over to his food dish and start clanging it, just in case I wasn't aware it was empty. I strung up decorative Christmas bells several years ago on the inside of the front door (which has been there ever since) and he rings them whenever he wants to go outside.

As with any child though, I have to watch what he eats! A propensity to overeat and resulting back problems are common with the dachshund breed. Even a few extra pounds are too much for his back to support. I learned this the hard way; he got overweight, slipped a disc and his hind legs became totally paralyzed. Fortunately, he was okay after an operation, but now he's on a strict diet!

The poor guy does love to eat though, regardless of his diet. He once even mistook a toy for food, and my vet had to fish it out of him. But, as many of his breed are, Yoda is intensely protective, loyal and even affectionate... but only with me! Unlike other dogs, who will go to whomever is willing to pet or feed them, Yoda only comes to me. And he loves to curl up and sit on my lap.

This July of 2014, he'll be 13. The Star Wars Yoda made it to age 900, right? Happy birthday Yoda! Here's to the next 887 years!

Adult Care Givers Need to Take Care of Themselves, Too

Vacation Home

With all of us living longer in this country, we are witnessing a cultural phenomenon never before experienced by previous generations. Adult children in their forties and older are now responsible for the care of their aging parents - some on a permanent and full-time basis. Many of these seniors are moving in with their children. But what happens when the adult children caring for elderly parents want or need to take a break from their duties?

Being on either end of caregiving can be very stressful for both the adult child and the elderly parent. When a break is needed, who is available to stay with or check-in on Mom or Dad? What if the answer is no one?

Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma that affords caregivers with peace of mind and some much-needed time off to relax: Respite care. This care solution provides adult children and their families with time away from the care giving, while leaving the elder parent in capable hands.

Respite care can be provided for one afternoon each week or continuously for several weeks (or more) when a longer break is needed. Depending on the circumstances, services can range from traditional home-based care to short-term institutional care. Here is a brief survey of several common alternatives.

Adult Day Care

These programs are intended to give companionship to the infirm and disabled who must have assistance or supervision during the day. Adult day care provides relief to family members or regular caregivers who may be responsible for their own children or may need to run errands, without worrying about their loved one being safe and content. Find local adult day care providers in your area by running a search through your favorite internet browser.

Informal and Volunteer Respite Care

Although not a formal program, informal and volunteer respite care is provided by other family members, friends or community volunteers (e.g., church or hospital auxiliary) who will take over the care for a short time. Start by contacting your area's civic and charitable organizations to see if they have a program or a responsible person willing to lend a hand.

In-Home Respite Care

In-home respite care typically includes the following levels of assistance for elderly persons who are impaired to a greater degree:

  1. Companion services to help the family caregiver supervise, entertain or just visit with the senior when he or she would like company;
  2. Homemaker services to assist with housekeeping, meal preparation or shopping;
  3. Personal hygiene care services that are designed to assist the elderly person with bathing, dressing or using the restroom; and
  4. Skilled medical assistance that can help family caregivers with the medical needs of the elderly parent, such as the proper administration of medications or monitoring his or her blood pressure or insulin level.

When evaluating a program, you should confirm whether it is licensed by the state (if required) and if the caregivers have the qualifications necessary for the job. Here are some fundamental questions you should ask:

  • Does the program keep an active file on the senior's medical condition and needs?
  • How are the caregivers vetted?
  • What kind of training do the caregivers receive?
  • How are they supervised?
  • Are the caregivers insured and bonded?

You can make your mini "respite" vacation happen. With some advanced preparation, due diligence and flexibility, implementing a respite care plan will help you enjoy time away to recharge your batteries or give you time for other responsibilities. Just as important, however, you will know that your elderly loved one will receive the care and attention he or she needs.