Community outreach

New ad campaign portrays caregivers’ call for help

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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.

Alzheimer’s: Laughter and Forgetting

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Alzheimer’s: Laughter and Forgetting.

The attached article, from the magazine, Seattle Met, is a stellar example of a therapy that is not medicinal or chemical, nonetheless, it’s a therapy that works.  Imagine that – and without drugs???

  • Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
    Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Viewing art at a museum and painting to express oneself afterwards. What kind of wackadoodle therapy is that?

It is a very successful therapy – that’s what!  Here: Now is an arts enrichment program developed in partnership with the Frye Museum, Elderwise, and the regional  Alzheimer’s Association, in the greater Seattle, Washington area.

The above article focuses primarily on the younger onset Alzheimer’s disease scenario, highlighting the experiences of Cathie Cannon and her partner, Sharon Monaghan, the latter who was diagnosed with this life-changing disease.    As the author of the article, Ann Hedreen, states

Art – looking at it, talking about, making it – is powerful medicine, one that gives Sharon a way, however fleeting, to live peacefully in the moment, no remembering required.  Even in its very name, Here: Now is about living in the moment.

So I’m going to let you discover the healing power of art, as told by those who can explain it far better than I ever could: Cathie and her partner, Sharon.

The complexities and joys of feeling deeply.

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You know how people sometimes say, “I’m tall, because I got all the extra height that no one else got in my family,” or “Everyone else got the smarts in the family – I got what was left over.”

My kindergarten photo.

Well, for me, I think I received all the leftover emotions and feelings of every person born on May 18, 1953 because I have such deep feelings about all that goes on around me.  I’m delighted that I’m sensitive, yet I’m aggrieved as well.

How does this trait manifest itself in my life?

I can’t readily clear my mind when disturbing global or local events occur because I’m wondering how those affected are doing.

How are the survivors of a mass murder handling the mundane task of waking up each morning and putting one foot in front of the other?

How does a mother carry on after burying her child who was killed in the same car accident she was in when, through no fault of her own, a semi-truck lost its brakes and careened into her little Volkswagen?

How can anyone claim victory when a bomb takes out some enemy insurgents, and in doing so, innocent men, women, and children lose their lives?

I know I’m no different than you.  I’m certainly not special; many people experience feelings deeply.  But sometimes for me, it gets in the way of rational behavior, manifested in the following way:

When I say something to someone, I rethink and rethink, and rethink yet again whether or not I said it the right way, or with the right voice.

Or knowing that I’ll be having an important conversation with someone, I might even practice saying what needs to be said prior to offering my thoughts to someone else – and God help me, sometimes I even write it down.

Arrrggggh!  That was certainly something I inherited from my father – God rest his soul.  In my eyes, my father had the quintessential talent of preparing his words in such a way as to make the greatest positive impact on others.  Regrettably, it’s that attention to detail that sometimes gets in the way of spontaneity.

And sometimes, even when I’m convinced that what I’ve done or said is correct, I’m still very hard on myself, feeling that I’ve done or said something wrong, even when what I was trying to do was something right.

Maya Angelou has a wonderful saying that Oprah Winfrey often borrows:

“When you know better, you do better.”

Which I’ll take a step further:

When you do the best you can – with what you know – you’ve done the best you can.

I’ll take comfort in that statement and continue to be the sensitive, somewhat paranoid, person that I am.  For the most part it has worked for me, but more importantly, I hope it has worked for others.

Important Article on Hiring a Caregiver Privately

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Important Article on Hiring a Caregiver Privately.

The senior care industry is a dangerous maze wherein even the well-educated and well-intentioned providers of care fail to put any “care” in their caregiving.  Whether at an assisted living facility or at home with private care, the path of least resistance is oftentimes the one taken and the accompanying attitudes reflect such feelings:  “Man, I just gotta get over this shift!  These people are driving me crazy!”  “I know, I’ll just stick her in front of the TV while I catch up on my Facebook posts/soap operas.”

Don’t worry everyone – I’m not saying that there are NO ethical, compassionate caregivers, there definitely are – but attention must always be focused on those who don’t provide stellar care because the vulnerable amongst us are at the mercy of their care people.  Those hidden in a private home are the most susceptible.  Why?  Because there are very few sets of eyes observing the day-to-day happenings.  At a facility, the existence of ongoing traffic – family members, visiting ministries, long-term care ombudsmen/advocates – provides some sort of monitoring that a private home does not and can not provide.

The attached article – link above – is quite thorough.  Please take the time to review it.

Getting lost in a “Peek-a-Boo” world.

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A fellow Blogger, Frangipani Singaporenicum, submitted an excellent article, “Mom is Back,” about the hurdles experienced when her mother traveled by airplane back home after a visit with one of her daughters.  Frangipani’s siblings weren’t fully aware of the breadth of their mother’s disease so they thought that the mother would be in good hands at the airport because they had arranged for an airport escort to get the mother to her airplane destination.

Unfortunately, what could go wrong did go wrong.  “Frangipani’s” mother has mixed dementia, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and found herself in unfamiliar surroundings when she became separated from the airport employee – a stranger in the mother’s eyes – who was supposed to assist her.  Getting lost in an unfamiliar environment is something that comes quite naturally to those with any type of dementia.   And as often happens when a person is lost, we try to get un-lost.  That attempt brought her mother to another airline terminal where a kind gentleman, noticing her distress, found the assistance she needed to get on the correct plane at the right time.

Those of us who have children – and please bear with me while I make this comparison – know how easily a child can wander away from our purview.  We make a quarter turn at the grocery store to get a box of cereal off the top shelf and “POOF!” our child is nowhere to be found.  I’m very familiar with this feeling because it happened to me many years ago when my adventurous daughter wandered away – causing me near cardiac arrest – and was subsequently prevented from exiting the grocery store by a Good Samaritan grandmother who knew better than to let my daughter run out into the parking lot.  “But I only turned away for a second!”  That’s all it takes.

So too can a person with dementia wander away because of something that attracted him; or more likely, with your back to him, he didn’t recognize you any more and walked away to try to find you.  “But how can I keep my eye on him at all times?”  You just have to.

SOME TIPS OF THE TRADE. 

SVG restroom symbols
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Public restroom challenges.  If you or your loved one needs to use the bathroom, find one of the family bathrooms that now exist in many public places so that your environment is controlled, and everyone’s needs are met.  Don’t think for a second that you can say to your husband, “George, you stay here while I run into the ladies’ room.  I’ll just be a minute.”  Be prepared to call security when you come out of the ladies’ restroom because in George’s mind, you disappeared, and the time frame of a minute means absolutely nothing to him.  And forget about sending your husband into the mens’ room by himself to meet his potty needs.  You’ll be waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and he just a) may not do his business; and b) may not come out on his own.  If no family bathrooms are available, stand at the entrance to the public restroom and announce yourself: “Woman entering with husband who needs assistance!”  You’ll find that those within will cover up what needs covering and not call security on you.

Medic Alert
Medic Alert (Photo credit: Nikita Kashner)

Medic-Alert jewelry.  The Alzheimer’s Association strongly recommends purchasing a Medic-Alert/Safe Return device which provides 24/7 emergency response service.  At least if your loved one gets lost, they will be reunited with you sooner.  This service is available in 50 countries, and in 140 languages.  The service speaks for itself so please check the link attached to research the many benefits of this membership service that, quite frankly, brings priceless peace of mind and provides a healthy dose of safety for your loved one.

Now they see you – now they don’t.  The examples cited above would not be complete if I didn’t add a personal experience from my days of being my father’s primary long-distance caregiver.  My dad lived in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon.  When first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he was very functional and remained in the assisted living apartment on campus that he had shared with his wife prior to her death in January 2007.

I stayed at a nearby hotel when I visited my father but spent most of the day with him on outings and/or spending time with him in his one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.  At one point during an apartment visit, I announced to him that I was slipping into the bathroom, 10-feet away, and would be just a minute or two.

I was glad to have locked the bathroom door because partway during my “sit” dad was frantically jiggling the doorknob from the bedroom side of the door shouting, “Irene!  Where are you?!  Are you o.k.?  What’s going on?!!”  I was less understanding at the time and returned my own crazed shout of “Dad!!!  Leave me be!  I’m just going to the bathroom!!!”  Knowing what I know now, I would have exited the bathroom and apologized for frightening him, and made every attempt to make him feel safe again.  As Oprah Winfrey often says, “We do better when we know better.”

This unintended  “peek-a-boo” event proved to me that my father did not have an understanding of the passing of time, but more importantly, that if he couldn’t see me, I wasn’t there.  Back to the example of children, but this time, you’re the child.

You’re at play in your bedroom, having just left your mommy gleefully singing in the kitchen while she did the dishes.  Your dolls are lined up on your bed, you’re engaging them in discussion, and all of a sudden you notice that mommy isn’t singing any more.  You toddle out to the kitchen, and mommy isn’t where you left her!!!  “Mommy!  Where are you?!  Mommy – I’m scared!!!  Help me Mommy!!!!!”   Your mother steps out of the adjoined laundry room and calms you down – “Irene, I was just five feet away; I didn’t go anywhere, I’m right here!”  You run into your mommy’s arms and feel safe again.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia are very unpredictable diseases.  What can be predicted, however, is that the onus will always rest on us to compensate for our loved one’s challenges.  As I’ve mentioned in previous articles addressing dementia, we have the ability to adjust to the diseased person’s reality; not the other way around.  It’s hard work for us, but it’s an impossible task for them.

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

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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?

But how am I supposed to do THAT?

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But how am I supposed to do THAT?.

What a terrific article provided in the above link from the “Taking Care of Mom and Dad” blog site.  The information provided in this article is valuable, and as Kelli mentioned on her blog, it’s not just specific to the state in which it originated, Oklahoma.  The information provided is applicable everywhere because let’s face it – every caregiver pretty much needs the same questions answered and this site has many one-size-fits all solutions for all caregivers who are grasping to stay afloat on their caregiving journey.

This same website can also direct you to your own state’s valuable resources by clicking on the applicable section on the Homepage.  It’s as easy as that!  And don’t we all need something to be easy every once and awhile?

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 6

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In yesterday’s post, a Seattle Police Detective defined elder abuse as:

  • sexual abuse
  • physical abuse
  • financial exploitation
  • neglect

In Part 6 of Seniors for Sale: Placement perils and successes, Michael Berens, Seattle Times reporter, delves into the senior housing placement industry, focusing on one placement company that placed a client in a Tacoma-area Adult Family Home (AFH) with a history of safety and health violations – elder abuse –  even a fatal event, but because the placement company had not done its research, it was not aware of the home’s previous infractions and kept placing unknowing vulnerable adults in the home’s care.

Many of these placement service companies operate state-wide and/or nation-wide, and believe that there is no way that they can help as many people as they do if they are required to visit each and every home/assisted living option available to the public that they are trying to assist.  These companies are oftentimes characterized as Bed Brokers – an industry that is growing exponentially without much scrutiny or State controls.

CAVEAT: Just as in every assisted living situation – there are good senior housing options and there are bad senior housing options – so too there exist reputable senior placement companies, and not-so-reputable placement companies.

I personally think that these companies can be helpful to those looking for a senior housing option that suits their, or their loved one’s, needs.  I caution those using these agencies, however, to understand that not every option out there is listed with placement companies.  If a senior housing company does not choose to be listed with a placement service company, that option will not be offered, even if that particular housing option might be the very best choice for some families: cost-wise, location-wise, and even service-wise.

In a news update, Michael Berens’ article, State gets tough on referrals for elder care, we see that attention is now being directed at these placement referral companies in the hopes that those they serve – vulnerable adults in need of some sort of daily care – are protected from those companies who are simply aiming to make a profit at the most vulnerable time in an elder’s life.

As I mentioned in previous articles found in my blog category, Senior Housing, there are numerous resources available for those looking for senior housing for themselves or a family member.  Please go to that category and type in a search term in the space located on the right-hand side of the page to find the topic that interests you most.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 5

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Part 5, of Seniors for Sale: Hiding Harm: the human toll, is one example of the lack of reporting that goes on in some assisted living residential settings – in this case – an Adult Family Home (AFH).

When you watch the video link above, you’ll be shocked at how a particular accident happened – and its after effects on the victim –  and you’ll be horrified at how long it took before it was reported to the police.

Perhaps this statistic will provide a partial explanation:

only 16% of all incidents of elder abuse are reported.

The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only are many caregivers not reporting incidents of abuse that occur; surprisingly, family members fail to get beyond the denial stage when they discover that their loved one just might be in danger in the very location entrusted to his/her care.  They can’t believe that the caregiving solution they found for their loved one has turned out to be disastrous in every way.

The police investigator for this case states the following:

We don’t tolerate domestic violence, but that’s not always the case with elder abuse.

The final episode of Seniors for Sale will be submitted tomorrow, Saturday.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 4

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Seniors for Sale, Part 4: Suspicious Deaths

It doesn’t get much worse than the video attached above.  Two suspicious deaths are the focus of this episode of the Seniors for Sale series.  The two cases discussed in this video occurred at the same Adult Family Home (AFH), Houghton Lakeview, located in a very swank area of Kirkland, Washington.  It goes without saying that this Adult Family Home was shut down.

The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Family members whose loved ones died at the hands of these caregivers speak out about how the abuse was discovered, and how the State of Washington did, or did not, effectively respond.

One of the family members whose father died at the hands of the caregiver/owner of the Adult Family Home poignantly stated:

It’s unfathomable to realize that we were paying these people to abuse our loved one!

Conviction results (attached) of one of the suspicious deaths was reported by the same Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Berens, who wrote the series, Seniors for Sale.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 3

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What Needs to be Done?  is the subject matter of Part 3 of  Seniors for Sale.  In this episode, the viewer is encouraged to do research about a facility, Adult Family Home or otherwise, prior to considering a move to that senior housing alternative.  In my article, “Avoiding the pitfalls of selecting Senior Housing,” I provide helpful resources that everyone can use in order to find out:

  • if any complaints have been filed against a particular home;
  • if the State issued any citations, and the nature of those citations;
  • if the Long-Term Care Ombudsman office received particular complaints and the nature of those complaints.
The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one has to go into this housing search blind.  Please view the very brief video provided in Part 3 of this Pulitzer Prize winning series by Michael Berens of the Seattle Times, then click on the attached article that I’ve provided for your assistance.  Although the links I provided relate to resources in the State of Washington, similar resources exist nation-wide.  Check with your State Ombudsman office or Department of Health and Social Services for your State’s equivalent.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 2

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I provide Part 2 of Seniors for Sale – Janice and Elaine.

The Great Seal of the State of Washington
The Great Seal of the State of Washington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attached link connects you to Part 2 of 6 of this Pultizer Prize winning series written by Michael Berens of the Seattle Times.  Please don’t give up hope.  Once all 6 of these episodes have been provided – one per day – I will provide you with story outcomes and repercussions in the Adult Family Home industry in Washington State.  Keep in mind – as I indicated in my first submission –  although this horrific situation took place in the State of Washington, this type of abuse goes on in other states, and countries as well – whether in group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities or similar senior residential settings.

Are there stellar Adult Family Homes (AFHs) in Washington state?  Absolutely.  But of the 2,900 AFHs in the state, 446 of those were cited for major violations since 2010.  The industry certainly was not regulated well enough to avoid such violations.  That is changing.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 1

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My local newspaper ran an investigative report about the Adult Family Home (AFH) industry in Washington State.  Depending upon where you live, a similar  assisted living home may be called a Group Home.

The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Washington State, no more than 6 residents can live in an Adult Family Home.  These “businesses” popped up all over Washington State over the past several years as entrepreneurs realized how much money they could make taking in residents and charging thousands for rent and resident care.  At this writing, there are close to 2,900 AFHs in the state.  Since 2010, 446 of those were cited for violations of health or safety standards.  Caveat: there are many Adult Family Homes that are doing an extraordinary job, but it’s the bad ones that make the Headlines and that’s the way it should be.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  I thought it appropriate to provide Michael Berens’ series, “Seniors for Sale” in six parts this week, but I provide it with a warning that this Pulitzer Prize winning expose can be very difficult to read, and watch.  Nevertheless, awareness is key, so I hope all will benefit from his extensive work on this piece.  Whether you live in the United States, Singapore, the United Kingdom, or elsewhere globally, abuse occurs world-wide and it’s the vulnerable adults in this world who are its targets.

Seniors for Sale – I provide this link to Part 1 of the series – “Ann.”

ADI World Alzheimer Report 2012 Caregiver Survey a Must DO | Alzheimer\’s Reading Room

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ADI World Alzheimer Report 2012 Caregiver Survey a Must DO | Alzheimer\’s Reading Room.

I know that all of us want to see an end to Alzheimer’s disease.  Many of you have Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and even more of you are helping to take care of your loved ones.

Rarely has there been an opportunity to provide input in such an international forum.  This survey can be completed around the world.  It is not just intended for one country.  The primary topic of the attached survey revolves around the stigma attached to dementia.  You will be asked questions about how your loved one is treated, how you are treated as the caregiver for your loved one, etc. Your responses are entirely anonymous.  You will not be asked to provide your name, nor a physical address, nor your e-mail address.

I hope you’ll consider filling out the online survey.  It was VERY quick, so you need not spend a lot of time on the survey.

The results of this survey will appear on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room website on World Alzheimer’s Day – Sept. 21, 2012.

Raise the retirement age and cure boredom?

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In an earlier article, “Retirement planning – its not what you think,” I talked about the planning required to have a quality of life after retiring from one’s job that relies on spending your time in a way that pleases you, and benefits others.

My closest friend, Sophia (not her real name), is in her 80th year of life and for the seven years that I’ve known her, Sophia has struggled with boredom, but not just boredom per se.  Sophia wants to matter; she wants to make a difference; she wants to contribute to the world around her.  In a recent e-mail to me, Sophia said:

“There are too many active Seniors roaming around the coffee shops and Malls wondering what to do next.  Even my friend Walter, at age 97, felt a sense of accomplishment yesterday when he washed all the bed linens and remade the queen bed – this done using his walker, back and forth.”

English: Golfer teeing off
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sophia epitomizes the bored retiree that I discuss in my article, “Voices of the bored retirees.”  We often think that when we retire we’ll be satisfied with being able to golf whenever we want; sleep in as long as we want; work in the garden whenever we like, and read all the books we’ve stacked up, but not had the time, to read.  My father was one of those retirees who longed for the opportunity to be on the golf course as often as he wanted.  A month post-retirement, he was bored with it all.

Another quote from my friend Sophia: “I really believe that much that we call Alzheimer’s is just a simple lack of interest in remembering what no longer matters.  There is definitely a veiled space that occurs now and then when it is either too painful to remember, or not worth it to try.  This, in addition to physical pain and boredom, can reach a kind of black hole.”

I know my friend very well, so I know that she doesn’t support that type of Alzheimer’s reasoning, but what she said really resonated with me.  Too often we focus too much on what doesn’t matter, and far too little on what can matter greatly in our remaining years.  Gerontologist S. Barkin believes that we have a responsibility to actively walk through our retirement (or Baby Boomer) years:

“What do we want to do for the remaining time in our life?  We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present, and our future paths.”

Most of us, even when we’re enjoying the relaxation we so richly deserve in our retirement, truly strive to create a new purpose for our life.  We want a reason to get up in the morning.  We strive to contribute to the community around us.

Does the retirement age need to be raised in order for that to occur?  Or can we be just as effective, and less bored, by cultivating a lasting purpose after we’ve entered the long sought-after retirement phase of our lives?

O.K. BABY BOOMERS OUT THERE:

  • What’s your plan?
  • What’s working – or not working – for you?
  • What’s your cure for boredom?

Crenezumab: a drug that might prevent Alzheimer’s.

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Pharmacy Rx symbol
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a NY Times piece, Testing a Drug that may stop Alzheimer’s Before it Starts, it was announced that a drug, Crenezumab, is set to be tested early next year on families who carry the single genetic mutation for Alzheimer’s  – people who are genetically guaranteed to suffer from the disease years from now but who do not yet have any symptoms.  Most of the 300 participants for this study will come from one extended family of 5,000 members in Medellin, Columbia who have been horrifically affected by this disease throughout their extended family.

This Colombian family’s story is presented in an astonishing video within the article’s link above.  For decades, these family members started showing Alzheimer’s symptoms in their mid-40’s and the progression was so rapid that they advanced to full-blown dementia by the age of 51.  The effects on a society, and a family’s dynamics, is eye opening to say the least.  Let’s face it, in this video when a Colombian pre-teen is shown feeding his father, the role reversal is unmistakable.

The Study’s 300 family member participants will be years away from developing symptoms – with some being treated as young as 30 years old – but the hope is that if this drug forestalls memory or cognitive problems, plaque formation, and other brain deterioration, scientists will have discovered that delay or prevention is possible.

This drug trial has a long road ahead of it, but the study will be one of only a very few ever conducted to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease.  In an Alzheimer’s world where very little good news is forthcoming, it’s nice to see even a slight glimmer of hope.

Alzheimer\’s Reading Room: \

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Alzheimer\’s Reading Room: \.

This article is a delight to read.  It describes one family member’s perception of having been “chosen” to be the caregiver for his grandmother.  As a result of that choice, he developed a product that can be, and is, used widely in assisted living and dementia care units.  What a terrific outcome for everyone!

Blogger Awards for You and Me!

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Thank you “Let’s Talk About Family” fellow-blogger for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  That’s the kind of feedback I like!  More importantly, everyone should check out her Blog because her insights into the ups, and downs, of caring for parents is very insightful and well worth following.

I have been so blessed by the input I receive from the many Blogs that I follow.  I’m going to use this opportunity to make some nominations as well! (I could list many, many more, but to begin with at least, I’ll list just a few that always stand out to me.)  First of all the steps that the nominees need to take to award others who are worthy of singling out:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you for an award;
  2. Copy & paste the award logos in your blog, as well as in the sections devoted to your nominations, below;
  3. Be certain to link the person who nominated you for an award; in my case, you’ll see that I’ve linked “Let’s Talk About Family” when I thanked her for nominating me;
  4. Nominate your own choices for awards;
  5. Place links to their Blogsites so that others can view their fine work;
  6. Say a few things about yourself so that others understand a bit more as to where you’re coming from – and where you’re going:
  • My first name is Irene and I live in the Seattle, Washington area.
  • I’m a Baby Boomer who loves to share knowledge about the challenges, and delights, of being in this age group.
  • My working background of the past 20 years includes being a paralegal in law firms as well as for corporations; an Executive Assistant and Office Manager for a senior housing company; a Business Manager in an assisted living/dementia care facility; an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator; and a certified long-term care (LTC) ombudsman for the county in which I live.
  • I became a LTC ombudsman in 2008, thereby leaving the senior housing industry, because in my mind one can never do enough for the vulnerable adults who live in long-term care residential facilities.  In order to assure that vulnerable residents experience a dignified existence and a high quality of life, I had to switch sides and become their advocate.
  • I will always try to write something about which I am familiar and that I have also experienced.  I’m not an expert, but my goal is to always provide input that I hope will prove valuable to others.
  • My mother died in 1994 and from 2004 thru 2007  I was the primary long-distance caregiver for my father who lived in an assisted living community’s dementia care unit.

Now onto the award nominations!

Versatile Blogger Awards:

Day by Day with the Big Terrible A (Alzheimer’s, of course.)  This blog is very reader-friendly.  This blogger is a wife who is taking care of her husband.  Her mini-entries very clearly reflect the struggles she, her husband, and her family face but she also makes room to celebrate the little victories that sometimes are hidden within the caregiving struggle.  I think all of us can find comfort in this woman’s efforts, and her ability to describe those efforts deserve 5 Stars!!!

My Simple C.com.  This blog is an online community that seeks to connect professional caregivers with family caregivers.  The resources and suggestions are quite good and are provided without the intent of selling anything.  Virginia Lynn Rudder works for a company called Simple C, but she clearly has a goal of providing information in an easy to read, comprehensive, and supportive manner.

Elder Advocates.  Lark E. Kirkwood experienced something that no one should ever have to experience.  A guardianship was put in place limiting access to her father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and who has subsequently passed on.  Please visit her site because she provides many valuable resources relating to a prevailing problem for vulnerable adults: elder abuse & fraud.

BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD.

Flickr Comments by FrizzText.  This Blogger really knows how to take a photo and knows how to find them so that we can take a break in our very busy days and simply enjoy his view on our world.  Please make a point of stopping by and you’ll be representing one of the more than 100 countries that partake of his Blog site.

Baby Boomer + Aging Parent = a changing paradigm.

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Planning for a wedding?  FUN!!!!!

Putting together an extended vacation to a tropical paradise?  EXHILARATING!

Figuring out how to help mom and dad with their increasing care needs?  UNEXPECTED!

Logo of NPR News.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent National Public Radio (NPR) Story: Preparing for a Future that includes Aging Parents addresses the unexpected, and the unplanned for.  Whether because we’re kidding ourselves or we really believe it, we oftentimes can’t imagine our parents as anything but the energetic, robust, independent mom and dad with whom we grew up.  And if we don’t live near them, we’re falsely sheltered in our assumption that mom and dad are doing just fine; at least they were the last time we saw them during the Holidays!  If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we’ll admit that our infrequent visits with the parents shock us greatly as we notice a bit of feebleness in their manner, because as the above story states, “time does what it does.”

Surprisingly, only 13% of some 4,000 U.S. workers surveyed for the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report considered that the need for long-term care would affect their household.  We love to live blissfully ignorant, don’t we?  We have so many of our own stresses and pressures associated with running our family household, we’re just not going to entertain having to be on-point with our parents’ needs as well.  Guilty!

Taking a walk with my Dad.

I became a long-distance caregiver in the Seattle, Washington area for my father who lived in an all-inclusive facility called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon.  The first eight years he lived there were worry free because my father was one of those robust parents who was on the path towards living to a ripe old age.  He did live to a ripe old age, dying at the age of 89, but from the age of 84 until his death, Alzheimer’s invaded our family’s peaceful existence, and I found that even as a long-distance caregiver, I was on-point 24/7.

Caveat: my parents had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance so none of us three offspring were financially responsible for my father’s care.  But anyone who has been a caregiver for a loved one knows that care isn’t always equated to monetary expenditure.   In my case, the constant need to travel to Southern Oregon to monitor his care and be the designated (self-designated) sibling best equipped to coordinate his care with the facility’s staff, lead to my decision to temporarily leave my career, which was, coincidentally, one in the long-term care housing industry.  By the way – the answer was not to move him up to the Seattle area.  His financial investment in this CCRC up to that point rendered that an untenable option.

Even though I absolutely relished this opportunity to give back to my father – and I truly did – it was very difficult on my household and me.  My health temporarily suffered.  Everything I did revolved around being available for my father and hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice.  I lived in a five year period of dreading the ringing of my home phone or mobile phone because it most likely meant that something needed tending.  And getting home and finding NO voicemails in our phone system was cause for celebration.

  But enough about me.

Are you prepared for the eventuality of attending to your parents’ care or are you already on that journey?

Or maybe you are already caring for a spouse with medical or cognitive needs.  How are you managing that difficult task?

Let us hear from you.  Not talking about it won’t make it go away.  It’s time to face the piper and be as prepared as we can for the inevitable.

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

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Duct-tape Moving Van

Think of a moving/relocating experience you’ve had with all of its inherent tasks of purging of items, packing what remains, and leaving all that is familiar as you move into uncharted territory.  In your new neighborhood you’re starting all over again to find: new friends;  a new supermarket with the best deals; perhaps the best school(s) for your children; a new church; and new ties to the community.  Not exactly an enjoyable experience.  It took you some time to adjust to your new community and feel that you fit in, didn’t it?

Now imagine doing the same thing as someone who is at least 70 years old with failing health, no family nearby, and perhaps with a compromised cognition level.  Vulnerable adults move into a long-term care (LTC) housing environment because of a condition, or combination of conditions, that make living independently no longer an optionBecause of this disruptive move, another disorder – adjustment disorder – makes their move a perilous one.

A loss of context in a new environment.  In my work as an advocate for vulnerable adults, I had the privilege of hearing a wonderful speaker, George Dicks.  At the time, Mr. Dicks supervised the Geriatric Psychiatry Service clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.  He was also a contracted instructor for the University of Washington, teaching courses on Gerontology, Psychiatric Consultation, and Mental Health.  He emphasized that residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities struggle to look for context within their new environment.  For example, context is hard to come by when your daily bath occurs at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of in the morning or evening as was the case prior to the move.  And forget about finding comfort in routine because the demands on LTC staff are such that caring for numerous residents on their shift can’t possibly assure a routine on which the residents can rely.

Just providing care doesn’t mean that a staff person is caring.  Everyone who moves into a long-term care facility will have difficulties, but those who are cognitively impaired face an especially arduous adjustment.  As I previously mentioned, staff are hard pressed to provide individual care to their residents, and oftentimes are poorly prepared to handle the disorders that walk through the door.  Just getting through their daily shift is troublesome so trying to learn the habits and routines that are so vital for quality of life of the resident with dementia is a very time-consuming task.

a hand holding unidentified white pills
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quite frequently, the only contact a staff person has with a resident is when they are making demands of that resident: “time to take your medicines Mrs. Jones;” “let’s get that soiled clothing changed Mr. Smith;” “open your mouth Mrs. Clark so I can feed you.”  Providing for  basic needs is not providing care.  Why?   Because the staff are requiring something of the resident.  There is no connection.  When a staff person interacts with a resident, absent a provision of care, that’s a better definition of care.

How to lessen the effects of adjustment disorder.  Those living in a long-term care housing situation oftentimes feel as though they left all their power, and all of their basic human rights, at the door.  They are constantly surrounded with reminders of their condition – all those other residents who look as lost and helpless as they do – and it seems that the only time anyone pays attention to them is when someone is demanding something of them in the form of providing some sort of assistance with their care needs.  If every staff person spent just five minutes of non-task-oriented time with each resident during their shift, those residents just might start feeling better about themselves.

  • Walk with a resident for a few minutes by simply accompanying them in the hallway and reassuring them along the way.
  • Play music the residents like in the common areas and in their rooms – and don’t assume that you know what they like to hear.  Take the time to find out what gets their feet tapping.
  • When you walk past a resident, greet them, smile at them, just as you would if you were in a social environment instead of a clinical environment.  Again, do so even when you’re not providing a care service.  Your friendly, heart-felt greeting may just make their day.
  • Start a dialogue with residents that allows them to open up to you about who they are; what their lives were like prior to arriving at the facility.  If you need to jot down some of their stories so you’ll remember them later, do so and continue the dialogue the next time you see them.  Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise to a resident when you asked them, “Tell me more about your grandson Charlie.  He seems like a real character!”  Wow – you were actually listening, and it shows.  Now you’re connecting with the resident.

If you are a staff person in a long-term care facility, can you put your grandma or grandpa’s face on your patients/residents faces thereby having a greater incentive to connect with those receiving your care?  Or if that doesn’t work for you, do what you must in order to add an element of care to those you serve.  Just because you’re helping the resident perform a task, doesn’t mean that you’re providing the care that they really need.

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.

You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t | Documentary about Alzheimer’s | Independent Lens | PBS

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You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t | Documentary about Alzheimer’s | Independent Lens | PBS.

I hope everyone has an opportunity to see this PBS documentary which airs March 29, 2012.  What an eye opening foray into the day-to-day life of a person whose own identity escapes them.

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.

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.

Examining our gratitude levels

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By the time you read this article, I hope you’ve already read the reblogged article I posted entitled “Up Your Gratitude,” published in a Parade Magazine article earlier this year.  That article was part of the inspiration for this article and can be found in this same Blog category.

I recently watched an Oprah Network special wherein Oprah visits families of Hasidic Jews.  One of the families had NEVER seen a television show in their lives and didn’t even know who Oprah was until her staff approached the family about this project of interviewing a Hasidic Jewish family.  This family consisted of the husband and wife and 9 children, the oldest of which was 17 years old and the youngest, 18 months.  If you can believe what the 17 year old son said – and I think I do – he has absolutely never watched TV and is an extremely happy teenager.  The couple’s 15 year old daughter loves not having the normal pressures associated with young teen girls.  “There’s no pressure” she explained.

Hasidic schoolchildren in Łódź, circa 1910s.
Image via Wikipedia

None of the children had ever heard of the names that Oprah tossed into their conversation: from cartoon characters such as Micky Mouse and Sponge Bob Squarepants, to Beyonce and other well-known entertainers.  Nope, they had no idea what or who she was talking about.  Considering they had never heard of Oprah, that’s not at all surprising.

And yet they were extremely happy and grateful people.

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ABOUT RELIGION – it’s about the lack of wanting more,wanting better, and wanting bigger as it relates to consumerism.  Each person Oprah interviewed talked about the lack of pressure in their life to want, want, and want even more.  As a matter of fact, the wife in this family of 9 children, who is pregnant with her 10th child, said the only time she had a feeling of wanting more was when she was able to upgrade to a better wig when her earnings increased.  (At a certain age, Hasidic women must cover their hair as a gesture of modesty, be it a scarf or a wig.)  So when this woman was able to get a better wig she experienced an “Aha” moment – getting a better, more natural looking wig satisfied a want for something more that she hadn’t ever experienced.  Gratitude abounded in this household that most definitely doesn’t resemble our idea of a “normal” frantic-ridden, electronic guided, household.

Time to check my own gratitude level – and level of personal satisfaction.  When you receive not-so-good service at an establishment, do you trash its character to others so that they are aware of the establishment’s failings and will curtail their support of its business?  It’s easy to complain about something isn’t it?  It’s harder – but better – to compliment someone who does a great job:

  • Writing a note to the manager of a salon you frequent, complimenting the stylist who always does such a great job on your haircut and/or color.  It’s not enough that you tell the stylist how satisfied you are.  Tell the one who signs his paychecks and sets his schedule – that’s where the thank you also needs to go so that your favorite stylist receives something for his/her efforts.
  • Going out of your way to thank someone in person, or by thank you note, for their volunteerism at church or other community venue;
  • Calling or writing a note, not texting, not e-mailing, when you’re grateful for something you received as a gift;
  • When your coworker does a great job, or your child does something in the home without being asked, or when you are simply grateful for the commitment your spouse has to his or her job that assures constant financial support in the home – acknowledge their efforts instead of simply appreciating them in your own mind.

Who benefits from appreciative thoughts if they are not expressed to the person who inspired them?  Gratitude expressed provides more benefit than you can imagine.  Don’t you want to start a ripple effect of gratitude in your small corner of the universe?  Get that ripple going – you’ll be better off as a result, and everyone to whom that ripple touches will benefit as well.

Up Your Gratitude: ThankYou Notes Can Have Profound Effects | Parade.com

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Up Your Gratitude: ThankYou Notes Can Have Profound Effects | Parade.com.

The attached article, published on January 1, 2012 in the Sunday newspaper’s Parade Magazine section, had a great impact on me; so much so that I wrote my own blog article today, about the effects of gratitude on one’s life.  I hope you enjoy both articles.

Voices of the bored retirees.

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  • “I’m trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.”
  • “I’m a frustrated fish out of water since retiring two years ago.”
  • “I’m desperate to find something to fill my time!”
  • Woman in her 80’s: “What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life?  I feel helpless and hopeless without worthwhile connections.”
Are you living past the sunset in your life?

I attended a class four and a half years ago comprised of people in their 50’s through their 80’s.  This class was designed to make our Senior years count.  I just now stumbled on notes that I took in that class wherein each class member was asked to make a comment about their current state in life.  The above four comments are just some of those statements.

Desperation and sadness all around me.  I recall now that the mood of this class was one of desperation and sadness as those who yearned for retirement their whole working life found themselves frantically trying to fill their days.  Their feelings were summed up in these words:

  • depressed
  • lack of purpose
  • short-sightedness
  • emptiness
  • loss of self

Gerontologist, S. Barkin puts it this way regarding our responsibility to be actively walking through our senior years, and I paraphrase,

What do we want to do for the time remaining in our life?   We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present and future paths.

As I mentioned in my article, Retirement planning: it’s not what you think, all of us have a history of life skills that should not be put up on a shelf and never used again.  Instead we should be retooling those skills into something that is meaningful and enjoyable to us and beneficial to others.  The students in my class had many thoughts – mostly unfocused and therefore not very productive – but those thoughts had yet to turn into action.

The first step is to decide what is significant to you and act on it.

Aging well starts with the mind but it’s in the doing that makes it count.  We all have a choice when we find ourselves at a loss of purpose: we can stay stuck, or we can actively make a difference in the local community around us.  Baby Boomers are the first generation of peoples to have such a long life span.  We’re living longer so we have more time to pass our knowledge down to others and use our skills in a valuable way.  As the sports company Nike says in one of their ad campaigns:  JUST DO IT!

Retirement planning – it’s not what you think.

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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?

Senior Citizens are NOT children!

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An epidemic has taken hold of this Nation.  Adults 70 years or older are being infantalized.  Adult children have decided that their parents can’t do anything without their guidance.  Service employees, e.g. restaurants, retail store clerks and the like, feel compelled to talk down to their Senior customers.  Caregivers in long-term care (LTC) facilities further degrade the residents with baby talk.  These residents downsized their living space; don’t downsize who they are by treating them as anything other than who they are: intelligent adults.

Only you can put an end to this epidemic.  If it is not eradicated by the time you reach the Senior Citizen age, you too will be subjected to its horrors.

Adult children.

Mom moves into your house because of a financial or medical reason, and suddenly Mom has no say in what goes on in her life.  Everywhere she turns, her son and daughter-in-law are bossing her around in the guise of trying to do what is best for her.  Mom wants to stay up late reading or watching TV and she’s told she should go to bed.  Mom wants to do this activity, or that activity with friends outside of the home and she’s told not to leave the house because the son and daughter-in-law want to make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble.

PA-LEEEEEZE!!!!!

Your Mom raised you and somehow you turned out o.k.  She must have been a good parent, teacher, guidance counselor, child supporter, you name it.  Just because she is living under your roof doesn’t mean she’s lost her right to have a say in matters that go on in the household.  Ask her opinion from time to time.  Let her somehow contribute to the functioning of the household, e.g. day-to-day participation in household functions, helping you with decisions you’re making about your own lives.  Doing so will restore her pride and make her feel less superfluous.  It’s quite o.k. to be concerned about her well-being – you should be – but you can do so without suffocating her.

Service employees.

My mother with my daughter Erin, circa 1976.

Why is it that wait-staff, retail sales clerks and the like feel an immediate need to speak super loudly to a Senior citizen customer?  In my work with the elderly, I made this very mistake by talking loudly to a LTC resident I had just met.  She finally interrupted me, put her hand on my knee and said, “Irene, I’m old; not deaf.  Please stop yelling at me.”  So simply lower your voice and don’t call her a pet name such as “Sweetie,” “Hon,” etc.  I’ll never forget my mother’s phone call to me many years ago when she was barely over 70 years old.  She went to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to renew her driver’s license.  After filling out the paperwork and getting her photo taken, it was time for her to leave with her newly issued license.  The DMV clerk then said quite loudly, “Now Sweetie – before you leave, make sure that you have everything with you that you came with.”  My mother called me that evening, both angered and in tears, bristling at the way in which she was treated.  In my mother’s eyes, the DMV clerk downsized her intelligence and abilities and that thoughtless act forever changed my mother as a result.  Please treat your Senior consumers with respect and with dignity.  They know they are older than you are – you don’t have to remind them of that fact with your ill-placed attitudes and gestures.

An aside:

Here I am, 58 years old, with my hubby. Only HE is allowed to call me Dear.

When I was 58 years old, a couple years ago, I picked up some items at my local grocery store and used the self-checkout counter to purchase my groceries.  As I was leaving the store, the retail clerk said, “Thanks Dear!”  A male customer who was older than me also went through the self-checkout at the same time but that retail clerk didn’t say a cutesy name to him!  Oh Boy – she didn’t know what she had just started.  I didn’t make a scene.  I left the store, wrote a letter to the manager and included this blog entry/article with a suggestion that he update his store training to include my suggestions about how to treat Senior Citizens.  He wrote me back to thank me and stated that he planned to provide updated sensitivity training to his staff.  BRAVO!

Professional LTC caregivers.

Oh boy – I see this a lot.  Caregivers who, God bless them, have a job that not many of us would willingly perform – especially at the low hourly wage at which they are paid.  I admire you and I respect you.  You’re a better person than I because I don’t have what it takes to do what you do.  But please address your patients/residents by their given names.  I would even go so far as to suggest that you call them by their surname until they give you permission to use their first name.  “Good morning Mrs. Smith.  It’s so good to see you today!”  That’s a far more respectful greeting than the following:  “Good morning Sweetie Pie.  Let’s get you ready for breakfast, shall we Hon?”  YUCK!  God help the person who addresses me that way when I reach my Senior years.  I’m a friendly person at heart, but I too would bristle at any condescending treatment directed towards me.  (And considering how I reacted to the cutesy name directed at me in the supermarket a few years ago (above) I may not be quite as civil in my later years.)

BOTTOM LINE FOR EVERYONE CONCERNED.  These Senior Citizens with whom you have contact survived the Great Depression and at least one World War.  Surely they have the ability, and the right, to be treated with respect and given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making their own personal decisions.  Don’t take away their ability prematurely.  Eventually they may not have the ability to function independently, but it doesn’t do them any good for you to hasten the time in which that may happen.