Health & Wellness

Caregiving as a Baby Boomer – Joan Lunden’s experience.

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Caregiving is not for wimps as is evident in a recent CNN article, “Caring for loved ones the ‘new normal’ for boomers.”  This article highlights the challenges that former “Good Morning America” host, Joan Lunden, faced when helping her mother transition into a long-term care (LTC) housing facility.  Even with all the resources at her fingertips, it took three LTC housing moves before Ms. Lunden found the one best-suited for her 88-year-old mother.

Where will your search for senior housing land you?

My article, “Selecting a Senior housing community – easy for some, not for the rest of us,” addresses the challenges inherent with even beginning ones search for senior housing.  Just like everything that is new to our experience, there are an entirely new set of vocabulary terms associated with long-term care housing so it helps to understand those terms prior to starting off on your journey.

Additionally, the article “Avoiding the pitfalls of selecting senior housing” addresses the ways in which you can discern whether or not the housing community you’re considering has had any run-ins with licensing, the Department of Social Services, and the like.  You will be pleased to know how easy it is to check up on the facilities you’re considering just by making a few phonecalls or perusing websites that provide vital information to consumers about incidents that might have been investigated at the facilities.  No one needs to go into this task blindfolded and uninformed.  The better informed you are, the better the chance of success in choosing the most appropriate senior residential situation for you or your loved one.

What has been your experience as someone looking for long-term care housing options?  Certainly all of us can benefit from the experiences of others just like yourself so I hope to hear from you in the form of blog comments soon!

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Where do you find peace?

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Do you find peace within the circle of your family; or does meditation or prayer, an inspirational book, or music fill your soul?  Wherever the source – how do you keep that peace from slipping away?

On the Threshold of Eternity
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certainly when we’re exposed to sorrowful or earth-shattering news, any semblance of peace and calm seem to disappear, such as: acts of terrorism – both domestic and abroad; heartless school shootings; bigotry and hatred; and even devastating illness.  How many times has your armor been pierced by such circumstances?

Too many to count. So how do we find peace amongst the chaos?

We can find peace in many small ways – probably the easiest way to do so is to acknowledge the beauty that surrounds us.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a creationist or an evolutionist, the beauty you see is the same.  It’s always refreshing when I walk through my local plant nursery, Molbaks, to see the intricacies of flowers and their natural, yet seemingly unrealistic, colors.  How did that happen?  How can so much detail just happen and we had nothing to do with it?  I relish the peace I feel when roaming the rows and rows of flowers and I capture that moment and take it home with me.

Português: Céu rosa com nuvens um pouco antes ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And the colors of sunrises and sunsets – what a joy to behold!  Even though my house is located in such a way as to not be able to directly see the sun’s rising and setting, I still have the privilege of seeing its aftereffects in the pink and ruby colors of the sky.  My mother’s favorite color was pink, so when the sky is beautifully colored in that tint, I credit my mother for this natural artwork, somehow executed from her heavenly resting place.

Celebrating even the smallest of victories in one’s life.  Time and again I remind myself to acknowledge the small goodnesses and victories in my life.  I learned this practice shortly after having a fairly major orthopedic surgery several years ago.  The recovery and rehabilitation were lengthy so I had to take comfort in even the smallest signs of improvement so that discouragement didn’t creep in to rob me of the positive steps I had made towards recovery.

So too is it important to pay attention to all the emotional windfalls that come our way.  A huge lottery windfall – such as recently happened (December 2013) in California and Georgia – isn’t the type of emotional windfall I’m talking about.  We can experience far more authentic emotions that are not tied to money or things.  Someone greets me with a smile or has a word of encouragement that I absolutely needed at that moment?  That feeds my soul.  I greet someone else with a smile and a hug?  Even better – now I’m paying it forward!  It’s been said many times before that the richest and longest lasting gifts are those that don’t cost a cent.  As trite as it may sound, it’s still absolutely true.

Where or how does one find peace when hit with a wall of hurt – whatever that hurt may look like?  In my experience, I have to force myself to look away from the hurt/pain/stress/negativity in order to clearly see some peaceful element, regardless of how small, that will convince me that all is not lost, because I still have this, whatever “this” may be.  When we consciously turn away from the wall of hurt, we then have the ability to find some element of peace, somewhere, in our purview.  That doesn’t mean that we ignore what is required to resolve the hurt that came our way, but we make a conscious decision to redirect our focus elsewhere so that all the focus isn’t on the hurtful things that have come our way.

Dona Nobis Pacem.  I really like this blog entry entitled, Dona Nobis Pacem, from a blog written by Kathy that focuses on her quest to find peace after the death of her mom to pancreatic cancer.  To be sure – finding peace is a journey, it’s not just a decision one makes – and Kathy’s article addresses the work required to attain peace.  But initially she had to make a decision to simply start on that peace-finding journey, and doing so, she’s nearing her quest.  I hope you will visit Kathy’s site and take the time to also watch the video she attached that highlights the song Dona Nobis Pacem – Give Us Peace.

Retirement communities: the good and the bad.

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

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

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

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

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

Alzheimers Test, the Alzheimers Questionnaire Alzheimers Reading Room

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Alzheimers Test, the Alzheimers Questionnaire Alzheimers Reading Room.

No test for Alzheimer’s disease is fool proof and I would venture to say that ALL tests of this nature aren’t black & white.  There are many gray areas when attempting to discern the presence of Alzheimer’s or other dementia in its earlier stages but as is often said, knowledge is power and certainly some information and guidance is better than none.  I hope the article linked here will prove helpful to you.

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.


Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

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Making Memory Books for People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia..

This post, from a wonderful Blog about caregiving, http://www.letstalkaboutfamily.wordpress.com provides an excellent idea.  It’s never too late to start this project for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

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.