Tag Archives: AARP

False positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Treatable Conditions that Mimic Dementia – AARP.  I am so pleased that AARP published this article about false positives for Alzheimer’s disease.  Because of the high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, we have all become very sensitive to any abnormal cognitive challenges in our lives.  A few people have said to me, “I keep losing my keys.  I forget where I place them.  Do I have Alzheimer’s?”  I’m not a medical professional but I have been trained by several in the profession.  Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia, had this response to that type of question, and I paraphrase:

If you forget where you’ve put down your keys, you may not have dementia.  If you forget what they are or what they’re used for, you could very well have dementia.

Several years ago I underwent extensive neurological testing due to troubling cognitive symptoms.  Turns out, the cause was a medication I was taking.  Once I went off the med, I was 100% fine.

Several years ago I underwent extensive neurological testing due to troubling cognitive symptoms. Turns out, the cause was a medication I was taking. Once I went off the med, I was 100% fine.

The attached AARP article provides possible reasons for cognitive abnormalities that are not Alzheimer’s disease: medication, urinary tract infection (UTI), diabetes, thyroid, and depression to name a few.  That being the case, even if you forget what the car keys are for, you still may not have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

In my attached article, Medications: harbinger of cognitive decline? I address just one of the causes for a false positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  Please read that article, to be sure, but also read the attached piece by AARP.  You deserve to have peace of mind by finding out if your symptoms, or those of a loved one, are reversible.  And by all means, be bold enough to demand that your treating physician rule out all other possible conditions before putting you through the grueling neurological testing that many physicians prescribe as first steps, rather than the last resort when determining the cause of a patient’s cognitive decline.

Caregiver Stress – no one is immune

Life as a Caregiver and Dealing With Stress Caring for Aging Parents – AARP.  The attached article, written by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor for NBC News, shows us that even doctor-caregivers are not immune from the stress brought on by caregiving.  A year after Nancy and her siblings moved their parents to live near her, Dr. Snyderman became “one of almost 44 million U.S. adults caring for an older friend or family member.”

My dad and I, five years before I became his caregiver; 13 years before he died from Alzheimer's.

My dad and I, five years before I became his caregiver; seven years before he died from Alzheimer’s.

Statistics show that caregivers tend to patients who are loved ones, an average of 20 hours each week – many times on top of part-time or full-time employment.  Before long, Dr. Snyderman came to the realization that she had forgotten to check in on how she was doing.  She gained weight, she slept only a few hours a night, and she experienced burnout – not unlike what many of us have felt as caregivers – or former caregivers – for family members.

In my article, Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first, I address the importance of caring for yourself first, and the patient second.  “No way,” you say, “my mom/dad/spouse come first; they need me!”  You’re absolutely correct – they do need you, but if you get sick or disabled, you can’t be there for them.  That’s why you need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then on the person for whom you are providing care.

Most of us learn the hard way.  We get burned out and emotionally or physically incapacitated, and then we start taking care of numero uno.  Do yourself – and your loved one – a favor.  If you’ve been ignoring the signs of stress that are enveloping you, stop being such a hero and start taking care of yourself.  You will benefit from such care, and so will your loved one.

A difficult but necessary conversation

‘The Other Talk’ Helps You Discuss Tough Decisions With Adult Children – AARP.

When your children attained the age wherein having “The Talk” about sex and other scary things became unavoidable, you simply jumped in and  winged it – wanting to explain as much to your kids as they needed to know but trying not to lend any encouragement towards participation in said scary things.  Didn’t you feel better once you checked that “To Do” item off your child-rearing list?  I know I did.

My father in mid-stage Alzheimer's.

My father in mid-stage Alzheimer’s.

“The Other Talk” is that which you need to have with your adult-sized children, regardless of how uncomfortable you – or your children – are about topics such as: illness, death, and finances. Acccckkkkk!

My mother and my daughter, circa 1977.

My mother and my daughter, circa 1977.

Or perhaps it’s the other way around.  The adult children are broaching these difficult topics with their parents in the hopes that said parents will do something about these unavoidable issues.  Regardless of who is on the receiving end of these discussions, they should be considered mandatory in every family.

Consider this scenario: Dad is dying of cancer and in a coma.  Your mother has already passed on, and you have no idea what your dad wants.  His cancer is inoperable and he’s having more and more difficulty breathing and he hasn’t had any nourishment by mouth since he went into a coma.  Does he want breathing assistance?  Does he want intravenous liquids and nourishment?  Does he want pain medication to help him through the extreme pain that cancer causes, even if the medication hastens his death?

What’s a son or daughter to do?  Wing it?

Let’s look at another scenario: Mom is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and is unconscious more than she is conscious.  There is no reversal possible of the debilitating effect this disease has had on her body: her doctor tells the family that their mother’s ability to swallow is greatly compromised, her breathing is becoming more and more labored, and she has shown no interest whatsoever in food or liquids.  Her body is in the active stages of dying.

In this scenario, dad is still living and cognitively competent and he has told the family and your mother’s doctor that he wants every single measure possible to be employed to keep his bride of sixty-five years alive.  You, however, have a copy of your mother’s living will/advanced health care directive – as does your father – which contains conflicting wishes to those of your father.  Your mother wants no extraordinary measures employed – not a respirator, not a gastric feeding tube, no intravenous nourishment, nothing except for medication that will make her as comfortable as possible as she leaves this world.  When your mother was fully aware and cognitively healthy, she had her wishes incorporated into a legal document, determined to take the responsibility of making such decisions out of her loved ones’ hands.

What’s a son or daughter to do?  Follow mom’s wishes.

What a gift that is – carrying out your loved one’s wishes when she is no longer able to verbalize them.  It would still be a gift if mom’s wishes were clearly spelled out that she wanted everything done to keep her alive as long as possible.  The point is not what was decided that is important – it’s that the decision had already been made – a decision that remained in the hands of the patient/family member.

Both of my parents gifted me and my two siblings with documented specific wishes for their life and death.  My mother unexpectedly died in her sleep on September 24th, 1994 at the age of 77 – something she had wished and hoped for her entire life – who doesn’t?  My father died on October 13th, 2007 at the age of 89 from complications of Alzheimer’s and cancer.  There was no guessing when it came to the time when us three adult kids rushed to his bedside.  He was comfortable in his death, and we honored him by following his wishes for no intervention.  Did I want my dad to die?  God no.  I wanted him to live forever; but none of us gets to do that, so I’m glad that my father was allowed to take his last breath and leave this world his way.

Caregiving: Grief, Guilt, Exhaustion, and Discrimination.

Managing Caregiver Guilt, Grief and Exhaustion – AARP.

Sally Abrahms’ article linked above does a fantastic job of addressing some common emotions felt by the family caregiving community – those who provide free caregiving services to their loved ones.  Let’s look at the three emotions she mentions and also look at the struggles many caregivers experience at their place of employment.

Grief.  We grieve the loss of the person who is still with us.  “When someone dies, it is an overwhelming and horrible experience, but it is the end of something,” says Suzanne Mintz, cofounder of the National Family Caregivers Association.  “But with a caregiver, the grief is perpetual; it goes on and on and on.”  Until you’ve experienced the ambiguous loss of your loved one, you can not say that you understand that particular type of grief.  This ambiguous loss may result from a loved one’s dementia, debilitating disease, or other conditions that rob the patient of their physical or cognitive abilities.  Ms. Mintz states that when one person receives a diagnosis, you both receive the diagnosis.  You both experience the gradual loss of the life you once had and you know it won’t be coming back.  That is a grief that keeps on giving because as time goes on, more and more of ones previous abilities disappear right before your eyes.

Guilt.  “I wish this would all be over so I can get my life back.”  Oh my gosh, did I just say that?  Many of you have felt that way and then struggled to rid yourself of the ensuing guilt.  But guilt is constant – whether it manifests itself in believing that you are not doing enough for your loved one, not doing enough for your family, feeling negative towards the one receiving your care – it is constant.  And it is normal.  These negative feelings don’t make you a bad person.  Rather, they are proof that you are a sensitive, aware and evolving being who hasn’t yet perfected the art of living.

Pretending to be a normal person is exhausting

(Photo credit: TNLNYC)

Exhaustion.  Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on you and if not attended to early enough, they are killers.  In my article, Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first, I address the need to place yourself as more important than the person for whom you are providing care.  “Gee, that’s pretty darn selfish!”  Not at all.  If you get what I’m talking about, you’ll agree that your loved one’s care is fully reliant on your ability to provide it.  You can’t do so if you are on the brink of exhaustion, or worse, you die before your loved one, which is more common than you would like to think.  You need a caregiving team.  That team may consist of other family members and/or neighbors and acquaintances.  You can’t do it all by yourself.  If you’re a solo caregiver, check out the article, Solo Caregiving.  This article provides tips on how to get the help that you need from those around you.

Discrimination.  According to the recent report, Protecting Family Caregivers From Employment Discrimination, “roughly 42% of U.S. workers have provided unpaid elder care in the past five years” and that number is expected to rise to about 49% by the year 2017.  With so many family caregivers out there, especially with the incidences of Alzheimer’s and other dementia on the rise, we all hope that employers will be more inclined to help their employees.  But discrimination does occur in the workplace in the form of: limited schedule flexibility, denied leave or time off, and even dismissal from ones job.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects some caregivers but is an imperfect protection that is not required of employers with fewer than 50 employees.  Additionally, of those employers required to adhere to FMLA guidelines, the employee must have been with their company for at least twelve months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year.  With no FMLA protection, your job is at risk – especially in an economy when so many other workers would be glad to put in the hours that you’re not able to fulfill.

A word to employers.  I know that it’s hard to maintain success while some employees just aren’t pulling their weight.  But I think you’ll agree that some of you need to be more sensitive to the struggles experienced by your caregiver employees – employees who have never let you down prior to this difficult time in their lives.  These exhausted souls can’t tread water fast enough – won’t you help them?  Please do what you can to make reasonable accommodations that will lessen this temporary turn of events in your employees’ lives.

Health Care Reform and Medicare Myths vs. Facts – AARP

Health Care Reform and Medicare Myths vs. Facts – AARP.

During this highly contentious and rude political season, it’s really difficult to discern fact from fiction.  Oftentimes we get caught up in the rhetoric spoken by Talking Heads and dismiss what we’re hearing based on which Talking Head is doing the talking.

For the most part, I’ve trusted what the AARP has put out regarding issues and candidates over the years so I felt fairly confident in posting this article.

If you want clarification about the following myths, please take the time to read the above link.

Myth 1: The new law cuts Medicare drastically, so I won’t be able to get quality health care;

Myth 2: I’ve heard that Medicare Advantage plans will be cut or taken away;

Myth 3: I’ll have to wait longer to see my doctor – or I won’t be able to see my doctor at all;

Myth 4: If I have Medicare, I will need to get more or different insurance;

Myth 5: The new law “raids Medicare of $716 billion”;

Myth 6: The law is going to bankrupt America;

Myth 7: The new law will drive up premiums astronomically;

Myth 8: If I can’t afford to buy health insurance, I’ll be taxed – or worse;

Myth 9: I’m a small-business owner and I’ll pay big fines if I don’t provide health insurance to my employees;

Myth 10: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) basically turns our health care system into universal health care.  So now some government bureaucrat will decide how and when I get treated;

Myth 11: If my state doesn’t set up an insurance exchange, I can’t get health coverage.

Bette Midler Discusses Her Life Lessons – AARP

Bette Midler Discusses Her Life Lessons – AARP.

You know you’re a Baby Boomer if you:

a) know who Bette Midler is; and

b) know that she is affectionately called “The Divine Miss M.”

It’s comforting to know that us normal Baby Boomers aren’t the only ones getting older.  Even world-renowned actors and singers fall victim to the passage of time.  Ms. Midler turns 67-years old on December 1, 2012, and I have to say that she looks fabulous in the October/November 2012 issue of AARP Magazine!  Let me provide some additional Baby Boomers that should ring a bell with you:

  • Tom Cruise 50-years old;
  • Madonna 54-years old;
  • Jay Leno 62-years old;
  • Meryl Streep 63-years old;
  • Cher 66-years old; and
  • Dustin Hoffman  and Warren Beatty 75-years old.

In the article linked above, Ms. Midler mentions that she came to the realization that, “Life is not your  personal express lane…It doesn’t all have to be about me!”  She also talks about dreams, destiny and deciding what matters.  I like that last point – deciding what matters – because oftentimes I find myself sweating the small stuff and you know what they say, “it’s all small stuff.”

Enjoy!!!

Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime.

I read in the Seattle Times newspaper recently that a dragonfly, in its nymph stage, lives in the water for up to four years while it is growing & developing.  When it finally emerges from its skin, it only lives a few months.

I know there are other insects who have an even briefer adult life, but this substantial insect caught my attention for one specific reason – although its post-nymph life is brief, it goes for the gusto during its brief time on Planet Earth.

English: Broad-bodied Chaser (a dragonfly) Lib...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s believed that dragonflies have existed on Earth for approximately 300 million years – wow! – that’s older than us humans!!!  I guess they’ve had a great deal of time to learn how to make their individual lives count.  As nymphs, growing & developing under water, a special appendage on their head helps them to spear their food – small fish, other insects, yum!  When full grown and ready to emerge, the dragonfly climbs out of the water, sheds its skin, and waits for its wings to dry before getting down to business.

By the time their wings are developed, they are considered full-grown adults and have only a few weeks remaining of their lives.  Their primary goal during this winged stage is mating – so when you see two dragonflies flying through the air attached to one another, it is almost always a male and female mating.  I guess they are able to fly while “distracted” because they can see nearly 360 degrees around themselves at all times – no obstacle will get in the way of these industrious bugs!  And I can’t help but state that they present an entirely new definition of the mile-high club.

But this article isn’t really about dragonflies and their mating-in-flight capabilities.  It’s about how you and I choose to live our lives because in the grand-scheme of things, our life span is just as short as an insect’s, if not – relatively speaking – shorter.

Considering how old the world is, even if we live to be 100, it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the years that have preceded us, and the infinity that will carry on after us.

I wrote two articles on this Blog site about making the most of our lives – especially as we near retirement.  Retirement Planning – it’s not what you think; and Creating the next chapter of your life explore whether “the rest of our lives” post-retirement will bore us and benefit few; or excite us and benefit many.   This topic interests me greatly because I witnessed first hand what an unplanned retirement can look like.

A few months into my father’s retirement, my mother started to complain about my dad’s inactivity – phew, not fun!  Before long – and in the midst of great boredom on his part – my father got the hint, climbed off his golf cart, and pursued volunteer opportunities with AARP.  You see, he realized within a few months of retirement that he wasn’t satisfied not contributing to the larger community around him.  The long and the short of it is that both my mother and father eventually established a state-wide volunteer program to help the elderly and low-income individuals with their annual tax returns.  My parents recruited other like-minded retirees, put them through training, and by the time of my parents’ real retirement, this tax-aide program had helped more than a million people in the course of 20 years.

But that was them.  That’s what my parents could do and enjoyed doing.  We have to discern what an appealing retirement looks like for us.  I don’t begrudge anyone a relaxing and enjoyable retirement – I’m all for it – but let’s not waste our previous employment skills by putting them on hold as soon as we leave our J-O-B.

My husband surprised me the other day when he stated that he’s already thinking about what he’ll do when he retires – four years hence.  I’m thrilled that he’s already considering his options, and who knows?  Maybe we’ll team up and do something meaningful to both of us, just as my parents did many years ago.

New ad campaign portrays caregivers’ call for help

New ad campaign portrays caregivers’ call for help.

A recent NBC Nightly News story focused on the role of caregiving as adult children take on the parental role vacated by their parents.

Imagine, if you can, handling all that you normally do in your hectic life and adding between 20 to 60 more hours to your workload.   Haven’t arrived at that point yet?  Of this potentiality you can be certain – all signs point to that being in your future.  Whether your involvement is characterized by general care for an aging family member, or specialized care for a family member with cognitive decline, caregiving is most likely a task to which you have not devoted much attention.

It is said that 1,200 people per day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  Let’s re-categorize that statistic: 1,200 caregivers are created every day.

The new ad campaign, a joint project between AARP and the Ad Council, was created to address the impact of family caregiving with the graying of the population.  This ad campaign seeks to provide resources for those who are thrust into this role for which they are ill-prepared.

“Although they often don’t identify themselves as ‘caregivers,’ more than 42 million Americans perform some form of consistent care for older or impaired adult relatives or friends, according to a 2009 estimate.  It can range from paying bills, to driving Mom to doctor appointments, to more hands-on care such as bathing, and even tasks once left to nurses such as the care of open wounds.”

Taking a walk with my wonderful Dad in 2007.

And as many of us who have been in that caregiving role can attest, ones’ active role goes on and on when behind-the-scenes caregiving occurs, dealing with finance and insurance issues and the like during  our alleged “free” time; a time when others are settling down to watch their favorite TV show or to read a good book.

This extraordinary AARP/Ad Council project is broader than another effort that is part of the new National Alzheimer’s Plan that can be found on the federal government’s website, www.alzheimers.gov.  But both of these projects address the loneliness inherent with the caregiving task when so many caregivers feel, and become, isolated and adrift in an ocean of frustration and despair.

FINALLY some resources are being directed to the tidal wave of caregiving issues that Baby Boomers face.  It may be too little too late, but it’s more than has been available up to this point.  My hope is that the generation in which our children live will have sufficient resources to deal with us Baby Boomers because if our children think this caregiving task is going to jump their generation, they’ve got another thing coming to them.

And I apologize ahead of time for what awaits you.

Baby Boomer gray divorce – I’m just not gonna take it anymore!

Kind of like the movie “Network” in the iconic scene where the actor Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, says, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more!”

Gavel (PSF)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is often left out from that quote is the statement made just prior, “I’m a human being.  My life has value.”  I think some spouses in their 50′s through their 80′s decide that after decades of a somewhat dissatisfying, or perhaps an abusive, marriage they realize that they have a whole lifetime ahead of them and decide that they deserve better.  In an article from the AARP June 2012 Bulletin, one of the reasons for a late-in-life divorce centers around the fact that longer lives mean more years with an incompatible spouse.   And even though the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.

Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University says, “If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic.”

Wow!!!!  I had no idea! I’m fortunate in that my second marriage at the age of 47 is still one in which I am very happy now twelve years later.   There are those, however, with whom I am acquainted who stick to the dictum of “in sickness and in health, until death do us part” even through an abusive relationship (verbal, physical or otherwise)  and, because they’ve been in it for the long haul, e.g., 30 plus years, they feel that they have no choice but to stay.

Why do those with abusive spouses – both male and female – cling to their marriage?

As I mentioned above – one reason is certainly the commitment to vows that were made at the height of a romantic relationship.  And there are other reasons.  An excellent therapist with whom I am acquainted who leads support groups for the abused told me that over the years, as abuse has prevailed in the household, the one being abused adjusts to each added level or intensity of abuse and becomes acclimated to each added degree.  Added to this unwarranted commitment to their abusive spouse, they fear the unknown, even though it may bring about an abuse-free life.   And without the help of good friends and powerful resources, a spouse in an abusive relationship may not have the tools that will give them sufficient confidence to make a decision that will benefit them the remainder of their life.

Divorcing later in life can often result in less time to recover financially, recoup losses, retire debt, and ride the ups and downs of the economy.

Some Baby Boomers out there have relished the security that their spouse or significant other has provided them in the form of financial stability.  They’re thinking that perhaps it’s worth putting up with this person with whom I am incompatible to guarantee a comfortable enough life until one of us dies.  Well – certainly that is a factor – but I personally believe that an individual’s life contains far more value than any bank account can provide.  If someone is feeling devalued in their relationship, they have short-changed the remainder of their life.  And if someone truly craves, absolutely longs for greater self-worth, nothing will stop them from satisfying that need.  I guess you have to look at the options and determine if you’re willing to go with it:

living in a mortgage-free home without financial concerns with someone who tears you down, or renting a one-bedroom apartment with thrift store furnishings, that frees you from a relationship that has prevented you from being your true, and valued self.

But who will take care of me in my old age?

A 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP survey found that 66% of caregivers were female, with women providing on average 22 hours per week vs. 17 hours for males.  In a divorce situation, “older men may make out better financially than women, but they don’t fare so well at finding someone to take care of them when they’re older.  They often don’t have alternative care networks the way women do,” says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.  When asked who they will turn to when they’re older, single men often cite paid help – a pricey and somewhat difficult option to find.  Some older divorced people have children or other family members who can assume the caregiving role, but not everyone does.

Gray divorce is occurring and there are certainly many factors to consider.  I guess I’m of the belief that a bad marriage is not better than living alone.  Whether you’re a Baby Boomer – or of any other generational group – only you can decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to obtain your sense of personal value.  As far as I know, we’ve only been given this one life. This is not a dress rehearsal and there are no do-overs. 

Your thoughts?

Baby Boomer Nostalgia – vanishing fixtures in our lives.

The June AARP Bulletin had a brief piece on the fixtures of our every day life that either have already gone by the wayside or will do so in our lifetimes.

How many of you still have the following items as functioning items in your household or in your day-to-day living?

Answering Machine: a machine that records phone messages either on tape or digitally that is NOT a voice mail service with your home phone.

Home phones: many younger than Baby Boomer age are dispensing with their home phones and relying 100% on their cell phones.  In most households that equates to at least two telephone numbers per household.  I know it works for all of our adult children, but we’re still holding onto our land line – along with our cell phones of course.

Phone books: the internet and  Smart Phones, have taken the place of this yellow book for the most part.  I was in my car dealership getting my oil changed the other day and a customer walked up to the receptionist and asked her, “Do you have a phone book?”  The look on her face summarized it all for me; it seemed to say: “Is this guy for real?!!!”

Printed encyclopedias.  Research now-a-days can be done on-line (computer, tablet, phone) and, quite frankly, is far more accurate and up-to-date than volumes of books whose content is so very limited.

Rolodex.  Every e-mail program has a Contacts function with ease of updating being a real bonus.  I remember holding onto my Rolodex at work, even though I had also put info into my computer’s Contacts file, just in case I needed it.  I dumped the Rolodex a couple months later.

English: 3" floppy disks, as used by Amst...

3″ floppy disks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Floppy discs & drives.  Most people under 21 don’t know what this storage device is.  Confession: when cleaning out my home office the other day I got rid of an unused box of those antiquated and limited storage items.

Film!!!!!  Again, cleaning out my home office I found a roll of unopened Kodak 35mm film.   I didn’t throw it away, however, because THAT is a collector’s item!

Analog clocks.  All of my decorative clocks in my house contain numbers that go around a square or round face – you remember those don’t you?  Many children now-a-days are only accustomed to the digital clock and can’t tell time without it.

Stationary & note cards.  For me this is the most grievous vanishing fixture in my life.  I will NOT stop sending letters and cards by snail mail – unless of course the postal service vanishes before I’m six feet under.

A white toilet paper roll

A white toilet paper roll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Toilet paper – WHAT!!!!!  AARP reports that eventually, toilet paper will be replaced by toilet-seat bidets that will wash and dry at the touch of a button.  Please say it isn’t so!!!!!  Maybe they figure the wash & dry could add an additional benefit that would make us smile?  I still don’t like the idea.

How many of you are now using items that you swore you’d never allow into your household just a decade ago?  And what are you holding on to?

Moving Mom and Dad – or your spouse.

Moving Mom and Dad – Leaving Home is an article from the June/July 2012 AARP Magazine.  Statistics on aging are astounding, and scary.  “By 2020 some 6.6 million Americans will be age 85 or older.”  That’s an increase of 4.3 million from the year 2000.  Time to celebrate – right?  We’re living longer – and in some cases – thriving in our older age.  The reality of the situation, however, is that eventually we’ll need some sort of assistance with our activities of daily living (ADLs) that might require a move to a care facility of some sort.

The stories presented in the attached article describe family instances where emergent circumstances warranted an emergent decision to move a parent into some sort of care facility.  The best case scenario, as this AARP article suggests is that you, “dig the well before you’re thirsty.”  Nice sentiment – but not always possible.

I have written numerous articles for my blog that address the difficulties the caregiver, and the one needing care, go through when making the decision to choose a long-term care (LTC) facility for a loved one.  Below are links to each of those articles.  I hope they prove beneficial to you.

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them.

Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport.

Selecting a Senior housing community – easy for some, not for the rest of us.

Avoiding the pitfalls of selecting Senior Housing.

Adjustment disorder: a long-term care facility side- effect.

Be an advocate for your aging loved one.

Visiting a loved one at a long-term care facility.

Caregiver guilt.

Retirement communities: the good and the bad.

In the April 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin, two articles caught my eye.  The first article, “To be a Bride Again at 100″ (attached is the video link) celebrates the marriage of Dana Jackson, 100 years old, to her groom, 87 year old Bill Stauss.  This is a love story between two residents of a nursing home in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  This nursing home celebrated their love, and their death-do-us-part vows, in such a lovely way.  The management and staff of the nursing home exhibited a wonderful sense of community and support of Dana and Bill.  Whether they realized it or not, the staff at the Rosewood Health Care Center helped the newlyweds exercise their rights as long-term care residents.

The second article in the Bulletin’s column, What an Outrage, “Barred from a fine dining restaurant,”  shines a spotlight on a Virginia retirement community that not only did not exhibit a sense of community and support, but they quite literally violated the rights of a husband and wife living there.  When the husband’s care needs required him to switch to the skilled nursing care portion of the retirement community, while his wife remained in the independent living portion of the community, their meals together were abruptly stopped.  The wife could continue to dine in the fine-dining restaurant of the retirement community, but her husband was barred from doing so.  He and the other sixteen nursing care and assisted living residents were required to eat in their own separate dining room.

Harbor’s Edge retirement community had a couple non-fatal choking incidents involving three of its nursing care and assisted living residents in 2011 so a new rule was put in place segregating the more inform from the less infirm, even going so far as to ban the more infirm residents from attending events where food was served.  Keep in mind, residents in this retirement community make a sizable deposit to live there, to the tune of a half million dollars, PLUS a $5000 monthly fee.  I guess money doesn’t buy happiness but it sure should have bought these residents the right to eat where they pleased!

The outcome: the Virginia Department of Health was contacted and soon thereafter, the ban was lifted.  In Washington State, laws are in place to protect the residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities so that these residents can experience a dignified quality of life.  Vulnerable adult residents are guaranteed specific rights by law.  Revised Code of Washington )RCW) 70.129.020 Exercise of Rights, says in a nutshell that a resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility…The resident has a right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights.  The remainder of RCW 70.129 further details all the civil & resident rights afforded vulnerable adults in the State of Washington.  If in your experience you suspect that someone’s long-term care resident rights are being violated, please contact the long-term care ombudsman program in your state by visiting the attached weblink for the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

What great, and not so great, experiences have you had relative to long-term care residential living?  I would love to hear from you so we can celebrate the good, and expose the bad, for all of our benefit.

Retirement planning – it’s not what you think.

How do you define using your time in a meaningful way?  If you’re getting ready for retirement – or are already retired – how are you going to spend those 40+ hours you previously filled at your job?  “That’s easy!”, you say. “I’m gonna do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it: sleep in, read, play golf, travel; I’ll have no problem filling in the time!”

Now fast forward a year or two: you’re bored; your spouse is sick of you just hanging around the house; you’re feeling like there’s something more you could be doing; and even with doing whatever you’ve wanted to do, something’s missing. You wish there was more to this long sought after retirement phase of your life.

How do you envision using your free time?

You’re not alone.  The founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura L. Carstensen, correctly states in a recent AARP article, that “people are happiest when they feel embedded in something larger than themselves.”  As we all know, we are living longer.  In order to make good use of these added years, we need to ask ourselves what we can offer others in these bonus years of our lives.  Should we continue in what might be our restricted scope of the past: getting by, doing what we can for ourselves and our family, but rarely reaching out beyond that confined scope?  If you feel as I do, that’s not nearly satisfying enough.

What should our lives look like now that most people spend as many years as “old people” as they do rearing children?

How should societies function when more people are over 60 than under 15?

Ms. Carstensen is certain that today’s generations of older people will set the course for decades to come and that “change will happen, one person at a time.”  I personally think that too often we think that any “doing” that we do must be grandiose in scale; or remarkable and newsworthy in order to be worthwhile.  If I felt that way, I don’t think I’d even make an effort to give of my skills, my time and my passion to my community.  Why bother?  It won’t do any good, right?  WRONG!

“If every person over 50 makes a single contribution, the world could be improved immeasurably.”

Is this the sunset of your life or just the beginning?

Think about it: us Baby Boomers have a history of life skills that can benefit so many!  How sad it would be if the engineer, the lawyer, the CPA, the household family manager, the medical professional, and other highly skilled people put those skills on the shelf, never to be used again?  What a waste!  I’m not saying you continue to be that engineer, lawyer, and the like in your retirement.  What I am saying, however, is that your past experience, regardless of its nature, can be used for the good of others but perhaps reshaped into a different form.

The bulk of my employment experience has been in the legal field and the senior housing industry, but at this stage of my life I’m not specifically involved in being a paralegal, or a senior housing manager.  What I am doing, however, is combining those skills and directing them towards areas for which I am very compassionate, e.g. advocacy for older adults, and counsel for those taking care of a loved one with dementia.  You too can contribute to your local community by applying your skills in ways that benefit others and are meaningful to you.  I would be of no use to anyone if I didn’t believe my personal Baby Boomer motto:  Committed to strengthening my community one person at a time -  not one society at a time; not one State at a time, and certainly not the world.  But I can motivate myself to strengthen my community one person at a time.

At what do you excel and what do you like to do?  As an older adult, perhaps retired, you now have the luxury of doing what you LIKE and WANT to do, not just what brings home steady income and puts food on the table.  Whoo hoo!  What a luxury!!!

LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS SOME MORE:

What are you doing now to plan for a satisfactory remainder of your life?

How are others currently benefiting from your knowledge-base and how did you find the new venue in which to share your knowledge?

If you’re retired: How satisfied are you in this stage of your life?  If you’re satisfied: why?  If you’re not satisfied: why not?