21st Century Living

Where do you seek happiness?

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I came across a quote the other day from Marie Mountain Clark, one of an elite group of women who completed U.S. Air Force pilot training in the 1930’s.  Ms. Clark died in 2008 at the age of 93.

“It is natural for a person to seek happiness in life; however, I believe that this desirable aim is never achieved if one attempts to find it directly.  Instead, happiness is found indirectly as a by-product from devoted service to the lives of others.”

Thank you, Marie, for words by which to live. 

Whether you’re in your 20’s, 50’s, or 80’s, life is too short.   We absolutely have no guarantee of the next minute, month, or year.  Why occupy what time we have, regardless of how long it might end up being, with tasks that provide no assistive value to others?  Does this mean that we all quit our jobs and start a life that rivals Mother Teresa of Calcutta?  Not by any means.  What it does mean, however, is that in the hours that we’ve been given, let’s make as many of those count.  A very wise man once said, “Do all that you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways that you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as you can.” – John Wesley

Define your passion; follow your heart; and make a difference in someone’s life.  If your eyes and ears are open, you’ll know what that is.

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Creating the next chapter of your life.

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Do you seek new direction in your life?

Are you in the process of recreating yourself?

Well I’ve learned that it’s easier to know which direction you should go if you’re already in motion.

Painting Pasaulio sutvėrimas IV (Creation of t...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world may have been created in a week, or zillions of weeks; either way, a lot of energy went into that creation and the world-in-process was not a stagnant one.

Trial and error.  I constantly look for ways to improve myself and increase my effect upon the community around me.  If I’m not contributing to a cause – regardless of how big or small – I figure, “Why bother?”  But if I wait around for some sort of change to occur, I’m going about it in the wrong way and believe me, I’ve experienced enough trial and error to write a book on the subject.  The trial and error approach works, however, if a person becomes well-informed and doesn’t take financial or personal risks that they can’t afford.  After all, sometimes we need to discover what doesn’t work for us in order to find out what does work for us.

Living or playing to your strengths.  My Baby Boomer direction was greatly influenced by Marcus Buckingham, one of the world’s authorities on employee productivity.  (By the way, his DVD series Trombone Player Wanted, is worth looking into.)  He suggests that to make your greatest contribution, it’s best to play to your strengths most of the time.  I have taken to heart Mr. Buckingham’s strong caution against veering off ones strengths path.  After all, when I’m creating a new me, why would I choose to do the lame-o, same-o with all its inherent dissatisfaction?  That’s like doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  That sure hasn’t worked for me.  In addition to playing to my strengths, I also play to my passions.  As a Baby Boomer creating my life’s next chapter, it makes sense to deliberately avoid activities that drag me down and weaken me and run to those activities for which I am most impassioned and inspired.

Find your niche and go for it.  I know what I like to do and what I’m good at so I try to consciously remain open to opportunities that directly relate to those strengths.   I thoroughly enjoy working with an older population of adults but I know what part of that experience I’m able to do, and what I’m not able to do.  For example, I know my limits on “clinical atmosphere” so any involvement with older adults excludes my participation in a nursing home or hospital environment.  But throw me in the midst of adults living in assisted living or dementia residential settings and I will make new friends of everyone with whom I come in contact.  Add to that my enjoyment and effectiveness as a public speaker, I look for every opportunity in which to use those abilities.  As a Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman, I have the privilege of meeting with and advocating for residents in LTC settings.  Additionally, I provide resident rights presentations at those facilities and at non-facility venues such as senior centers and city forums.  It’s the best of both worlds for me – interaction with my target audience and feeding my passion for public speaking.

hallway with doors to monks' cells at the form...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recognizing an open door when you see one.  On a recent Oprah’s Next Chapter episode, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lady Gaga and at one point asked the singer how she came up with new song or album ideas.  This is the gist of what Lady Gaga said: she imagines herself in a hallway, there are doors all along the hallway but she knows there’s another door coming up further down the hallway that is more appropriate but it’s not readily visible.  Through trial and error she eventually finds the correct door/song inspiration.  How does she know that’s the door through which she is to walk?  When the door finally opens, the light floods in, she is able to block out all distracting noises, and her wishes and thoughts rise to the surface as a basis for her next song/album creation.  I’ve opened some wrong doors in my life as a result of incorrectly thinking that just because a door opens, that means I’m supposed to walk through it.  Again, trial and error comes into play and discernment takes a front row seat.

Not every door that opens is going to be the correct one.  When I’m in exploratory mode, I have to be very careful not to walk through the first door of opportunity that comes my way – regardless of how enticing.  When I make this mistake,  I quickly discover that I’ve committed myself to the wrong project and have had to withdraw myself shortly thereafter.  I didn’t look before I leaped – not a safe, or advisable practice to be sure.   It’s worth me taking the time to weigh my options; write a list of Pros and Cons; ask trusted individuals for their input; and then make an informed decision.  If it’s right for me, it’ll wait for me.  If this new opportunity allows me to play to my strengths and my passions, everyone benefits and there are few, if any, casualties along the way.

What does the next chapter of your life look like?  How are you going about writing that chapter?  I’d love to hear from you because I’m pretty sure I have quite a few more chapters of my own to write.

What are YOUR Lack-Of-Customer-Service Pet Peeves?

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Here are just a couple of mine.

Today I experienced the inevitable straw that broke the camel’s back regarding poor customer service that inspired me to write this article which, I warn you, will be full of complaints and negative energy.

I’ll start off with the incident that inspired the diatribe you’re about to read:

The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Ten...
The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grocery check-out lines.  Purchased my weekly dose of grocery items today – a mere $225 worth.  From the start of the transaction to its bitter end, the checker didn’t utter one word.  No baggers were in sight so I started to bag my own groceries, even though there were two employees standing five feet from me at the self-checkout area with nothing to do other than to watch this Baby Boomer bag her own groceries.  (Bagging groceries by employees is still a common practice at most supermarkets in Washington State, including this one.)  The transaction ended with the checker putting a couple remaining items into a bag, handing the receipt to me, logging off his register, and walking away.  Mind you, all my grocery bags still remained on the checkstand counter, leaving me no option but to personally place them in my grocery cart.  I feel a letter to the manager forming in my brain – not the first letter I’ve written to grocery store managers.

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...
I don't know why THIS guy is so happy! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Assembly line doctor visits.  I’m convinced that doctors are required to meet a certain patient quota per day – at least my doctor is.  The last few times I’ve visited her, she’s rushed me through the visit, even going so far as to do the following: 1) using a hand gesture to hurry me up – picture her hand going in horizontal circles in front of her while I’m trying to explain my reason for the visit; and 2) two weeks after major spine surgery this same doctor expressing her impatience by saying, “Hurry Irene, this appointment needs to end!”  Sorry to have messed up your day, doc! How callous of me for talking to you about my horrific and painful surgery experience!

A surgeon’s god-complex.  I just have to mention the aforementioned surgery experience.  A neurosurgeon operated on me a year ago to perform an anterior cervical spine disc replacement and vertebral fusion: a four hour surgery, one night in ICU, a full year of recovery.  At my two-month post-surgery appointment with this god-surgeon, I explained how difficult it had been going through such a drastic surgical experience.  His comment, and I quote, “It wasn’t that drastic of a surgery.”  Ahem.  My comment, and I quote, “It may have been the 5000th cervical spine surgery you’ve attended but it was my first!”  Imagine him minimizing my surgery, thereby dismissing my discomfort and recovery experience?!  Grrrrrr.

Before my blood pressure rises to unsafe levels – which would take a lot because my normal BP is 96/65 – I’ll stop right here to let you vent about YOUR frustrating lack-of-customer-service experiences.


Start your retirement – start your job as a family caregiver.

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You’ve worked your entire life; you’ve lined up your retirement leisure activities; you’re ready to start the first day of the rest of your life, but instead you start a new job: caregiver to your sibling, spouse, parent, or other family member.

Or perhaps you retired early to take on your caregiver job because there was no way you could do it all: continue your full-time job while moonlighting as your loved one’s caregiver.  It doesn’t work or it only works until the caregiver runs out of steam.  One way or another, your retirement years sure don’t resemble what you envisioned.

The CNN article, As baby boomers retire, a focus on caregivers, paints a frightening picture but one that is painfully accurate.  The highlighted caregiver, Felicia Hudson, said she takes comfort in the following sentiment:

Circumstances do not cause anger, nervousness, worry or depression; it is how we handle situations that allow these adverse moods.

I agree with the above sentiment to a very small degree because let’s face it, the nitty-gritty of a caregiver’s life is filled with anger-inducing depressive circumstances about which I don’t think caregivers should beat themselves up trying to handle with a happy face and a positive attitude.  It just doesn’t work that well in the long-term.  It’s a well-known fact, and one that is always talked about by the Alzheimer’s Association, that caregivers don’t take care of themselves because they don’t know how, or don’t have the support, to stop trying to do all of their life’s jobs by themselves.

“I’m obligated because my parents took great care of me, and now it’s time for me to take care of them.” 

or

“For better or worse means taking care of my spouse, even though she’s getting the better of me, and I’m getting worse and worse.”

The problem with the above sentiments is that oftentimes the adult child or spouse start to resent the person for whom they are providing care.  It’s like going to a job you hate but being held to an unbreakable employment contract; your employer is a loved one with a life-altering or terminal illness; and you’re not getting paid.  “Taking care of a loved one in need is reward enough.”  No, it’s not.

I’m not bitter, I’m simply realistic.  Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs any of us will hold and we can’t do it all by ourselves.  My blog article, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport, encourages each person in a family caregiving situation to create a team of co-caregivers to more effectively get the job done.  And please take a look at the other articles found in that same category of Caregiving.   I hope you will find encouragement in those articles – some based on my own experience, and some from other caregivers’ shared experiences – especially when a positive attitude and a happy face just isn’t working for you.

Watching each other’s backs.

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I found myself walking with horse blinders on my head at a grocery store the other day.  I was on a mission – picking up a few items and moving on to the next errand on my list.

Huell's image on a milk bottle
Image via Wikipedia

As I passed a woman in a wheelchair, I thought I might have heard her say something but I moved on a couple steps until she repeated herself: “Excuse me, could you help me?”  I then turned around to find that she couldn’t reach the half gallon of milk that she needed because it was on a shelf 8 feet off the ground.  Unless someone helped her she would have to cross milk off her shopping list.  My 6 feet of deaf human self easily grabbed the milk off the shelf.  I only wish I had been tuned in to someone other than ME so I had responded immediately instead of being asked twice.

Was I a BAD person for not responding quicker?  No – but I sure wasn’t watching my neighbor’s back.

Seattle actor, Brian Sutherland was watching his neighbor’s back as told in the Seattle Times article, “A bad guy on the screen becomes a real-life hero.”    This 27-year old man saw a suspected purse snatcher steal a 69-year old woman’s purse and chased him down – managing to retrieve part of her purse’s contents and return them to her.  But that’s not all!  Once he returned the items to the woman he decided to go after the thief!!!  Read the linked article I’ve provided and you’ll think Brian was doing some stunts in a movie in which he might have acted: leaping over fences, darting through alleyways – he was amazing!!!

I’m not saying that the average Joe, or Jill, should attempt what he did but what I am saying is that we should have the same commitment to others as Brian has.  Brian is quoted as saying, “We need to be watching each other’s backs and standing up for each other.  There’s no good reason why somebody who’s lived to 60 or 70 should be jacked on the street in broad daylight.  Our society should just not work that way.”

I agree Brian.  And there’s no good reason why someone in a wheelchair should have to ask for help twice.  I blew it the other day because my selfishness initially made me deaf and blind to a woman who simply needed a half gallon of milk.

I’ll do better next time.

Long Term Care Insurance scares me.

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insurance, n. A thing providing protection against a possible eventuality.  Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition; 2004.

Result of a serious automobile accident
Image via Wikipedia

Auto insurance, home or renters insurance, and health insurance – we understand these policies and know that more likely than not the need for the aforementioned insurance policies will rear its ugly head in the near or distant future so we pay the premium for said policies, hoping we won’t need it, but sleeping better at night because we have it.

Why is purchasing long-term care insurance such a difficult step to take for me and my husband?

  1. Unquestionably, it’s expensive;
  2. Fearfully, companies who offer this product are going out of business left and right and may leave us holding an empty bag;
  3. Definitely, it’s a real difficult type of policy to understand; but
  4. Undeniably, the financial need for it can outweigh the cost of purchasing it.
New Orleans, 1942. Doctor at Marine Hospital p...
Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I have still not made an effort to look into it further.  Here are my two reasons based on family experience – both of which tend to contradict each other:

My father’s long-term care insurance policy.  My father had a long-term care insurance policy for which he paid premiums for at least 20 years – no small amount of money to be sure.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 84 and died five years later.  His care needs at the retirement facility in which he had lived for 13 years didn’t meet the insurance reimbursement threshold until his final month of life.  As with most policies, the insurance holder’s care needs must meet a defined level of care before the insurance company kicks in their assisted living care reimbursement payments.  When that happens, the insurance holder no longer pays any more premiums.  Twenty years of paying premiums for one month of reimbursement benefit.

My sister-in-law’s long-term care policy.  My brother and sister-in-law purchased their long-term care insurance policies when they were in their late fifties.  Less than a year later my sister-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and approximately two years later drew benefits from her policy.  A couple of years of paying premiums for what will be years of reimbursement benefit.  If that isn’t the good news/bad news of long-term care insurance I don’t know what is!

I have no excuse. I know the devastating costs of long-term care because in my past professional life I worked for a senior housing provider and they represented the Champagne & Chandelier variety of assisted living.  But even the generic assisted living providers charge high rental rates and as ones’ care needs increase, so do the care fees.  This isn’t avoidance behavior on my part and I’m not squeamish about the subject of health and ones’ eventual death.  I’m just finding it hard to take this leap into signing up for insurance, even though it holds the assurance of fending off the potential of total personal financial collapse without it.

How are you Baby Boomers dealing with this subject?  If you finally bit the bullet and purchased a policy – how did you finally take that leap of faith?

I AM NOT LOOKING TO BE BOMBARDED BY SELLERS OF INSURANCE AS A RESULT OF THIS BLOG ARTICLE SO PLEASE DON’T GO THERE.  But I welcome other constructive feedback for those of us on the brink of making this difficult decision.

Five Sources of Hope for the Deeply Forgetful, Dementia in the 21st Century

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Five Sources of Hope for the Deeply Forgetful, Dementia in the 21st Century.

I’ve found the Alzheimer’s Reading Room to be very helpful in my efforts to continually improve my understanding of Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  The good news?  Subscribing to the Reading Room is free!  I hope all benefit from this attached article about dementia in the 21st century.