Quality of Life

The Journey of Grief: A Personal Snapshot

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The Journey of Grief: A Personal Snapshot.

Grief
Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grief – when one experiences a loss, there is no way around this emotion.  It has no clearly defined end.  It manifests itself differently for every individual.  The writer of the above article shares the personal side of how this emotion presented itself in his own life in this continuation of his series of articles on grief.

This “personal snapshot” is a follow up to his first article in the series that addressed an event in ones life for which everyone’s grieving experience takes on a slightly different character.  I  hope you’ll read the article attached above, and his previous article – also available on his website.

Capturing a moment, or two, with your loved one.

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If For a Moment in Time…..

Michael Jackson in 1984
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attached article, written by a fellow blogger, needs no introduction other than for me to tell you that Margo beautifully describes a perfect evening with her hubby who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago.

December Calendar “Celebrations.”

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As with my November list of “celebrations” the last month of the year is filled with many notable – and not so notable – events, some obvious – some not so obvious:

  • Dec. 1:  AIDS Awareness Day; Rosa Parks Day, Playboy Magazine first published (had to add something for everyone)
  • Dec. 3: International Day of Disabled Persons
  • Dec. 5:  Volunteer Day
  • Dec. 7:  Pearl Harbor Day – Remembrance Day
  • Dec. 8: Hanukkah begins – through the 16th
  • Dec. 10: Human Rights Day (UN) – adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Dec. 11: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) established
  • Dec. 12: Bonza Bottler Day – an excuse to celebrate when the date and the monthly number are the same
  • Dec. 13: Ice Cream and Violins Day – why the heck not?
  • Dec. 14: NASCAR founded (1947); I had to add this one for my husband
  • Dec. 15: Bill of Rights Day (US)
  • Dec. 18: 13th Amendment (US) ratified abolishing slavery
  • Dec. 21: Winter Solstice
  • Dec. 24: Eggnog Day; Remember to Read the Instructions Night (seems appropriate as parents everywhere set up bicycles, toys, etc.)
  • Dec. 25: Christmas Day
  • Dec. 26: Boxing Day (Canada, UK); First Day of Kwanzaa
  • Dec. 27: Howy Doody television show premieres on NBC – only Baby Boomers would know this one
  • Dec. 28: First American test tube baby born (1981)
  • Dec. 30: The Wonderful World of Disney television series is cancelled (1980) – again, a Baby Boomers staple way back when
  • Dec. 31:  New Years Eve – marking the end of one miserable year and the start of a better year; also, the Official end of WWII (1946).

Lighten up Mondays.

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One evening, a family brought their frail, elderly mother to a nursing home and left her, knowing that after all the research they did to find a great place, she would be well cared for.

The next morning, the nurses bathed her, fed her a tasty breakfast of an omelet, sausages, and pancakes, and set her in a chair at a window overlooking a lovely flower garden.

She seemed okay, but after a while, she slowly started to lean over sideways in her chair.  Two very attentive nurses immediately rushed to her side to catch her and straighten her up.  Again, she seemed okay but after a while, she started to tilt to the other side.  The nurses rushed back, and once more moved her upright.  This went on all morning.

Later the family arrived to see how their mother was adjusting to her new home.

“So Ma, how is it here?  Are they treating you alright?”

“It’s pretty nice here,” she replied, “except they won’t let me fart!”

The glaring difference between Ann Coulter & John Franklin Stephens.

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An Open Letter to Ann Coulter.

In all of my busyness, I was not aware of this gentleman’s response, contained in the link above, to Ann Coulter’s usage of a word that evolved people no longer use when describing those with Down Syndrome or other learning disabilities.  During the most recent U.S. Presidential Election, I watched the interview in which Ms. Coulter used the R-word.  She made no apologies, and she even scoffed at the idea of having to be politically correct all the time.  I was horrified, but I didn’t do anything about it.

John Franklin Stephens did something about it – and did so quite eloquently.  You are a hero to me Mr. Stephens, and you are a hero to the rest of us who have a heart of compassion towards others.  A great definition of compassion is as follows:

Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but of civilization. – Nicholas Kristoff, Seattle Times columnist.

I think that as a society most of us are trying to be more civilized, rather than less.  That doesn’t appear to be the case with Ms. Coulter.

Caregiving: Grief, Guilt, Exhaustion, and Discrimination.

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Managing Caregiver Guilt, Grief and Exhaustion – AARP.

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

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

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

Pretending to be a normal person is exhausting
(Photo credit: TNLNYC)

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

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

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

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

The Experience of Loss and Grief.

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Divorce As An Experience of Loss and Grief.

Sit down some day and take the time to write down as many experiences of loss that you can recall during your lifetime.  Quite naturally, you will list times of grief resultant from a death in the family, grave illness, and the like.  But there are other losses that we experience that can have just as much of an impact on our lives.  The end of a marriage is one of those.

Courtroom in in . The Classical Revival courth...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The article linked above does a great job at shining the spotlight on the loss that is experienced when a marriage ends through divorce.  Even if both parties to the marriage come to a mutual decision on the matter, the parties oftentimes enter a period of mourning.  Understandably they feel a certain sense of relief at the conclusion of the divorce process, but a feeling of loss becomes a very unexpected part of their lives going forward.

My thanks to this Blogger for giving couples permission to acknowledge the loss they are feeling at the dissolution of their marriage – even one for which they were both on board.

Being Thankful

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful.

My fellow blogger in Singapore posted the photo linked above and also wrote a poem to go with it.

Very well done if you ask me.  I hope y’all check it out.

New roommate paradigm: adult children & their parents.

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Historically, it’s the adult children who move back into the parents’ home, oftentimes because of financial issues.  Apparently that is no longer the sole definition of multi-generational living.

In a USA Today article, Who’s moving in? Adult kids, aging parents, Haya El Nasser writes, “(A)bout one in seven say they already have a ‘boomerang kid’ – an adult child who moves back home – or elderly parent living under their roof.”

This brings about two unexpected events:

  • The parents who enjoyed their empty nest and started to reestablish themselves as a couple, instead of just as parents, suddenly have an adult living with them who just happens to be the kid they gave birth to 30 years ago; or
  • The adult child who strove to establish his home with his spouse and their 2.5 kids suddenly have a parent living with them requiring just as much attention, if not more, than the young children they themselves brought into this world.

The USA Today article above focuses on a rising trend towards families deciding to purchase larger homes than they would have previously considered with the anticipation that it would be more economical to have other adult family members living in – and contributing to – the same household.  Talk about a paradigm shift!  Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders says, “I remember when I was in college, no one wanted to be near their parents.”  That thought certainly resonates with me.  When I was single in my 20s and early 30s there was no such luxury of renting a place on my own and living-at-home was definitely not an option.  At one time I had two roommates so all three of us shared the same bathroom, kitchen and common living space.  Inconvenient and not as private as we would have liked?  Certainly – but the only way to afford housing and have the ability to put away money for our future was to split costs with other like-minded adults.

A Pew Research report earlier this year showed that “the share of Americans living in multi-generational households is at its highest since the 1950s.”  OMG!  As a Baby Boomer who was born in 1953, I just have to repeat, “OMG!!!!!”

My focus today is on the caregiving issue – that adult children and/or Baby Boomers find themselves with the added responsibility as caregiver to a loved one.  In my article Start your retirement – start your job as a family caregiver I address the caregiving aspect of Baby Boomer retirement which sometimes evolves into multi-generational living.  Our quality of life definition tends to change as family caregiving is added to our lives.  But it’s a fact of life for many of us and one that very few can escape.  But herein lies the problem…

Most of us aren’t prepared for that eventuality.  Those of us who are counting the days until retirement kid ourselves into believing that caregiving happens to others, not to us.  And our adult children find it difficult to wrap their minds around that type of living scenario whilst in the midst of their hectic career development and ever-changing family dynamics.

So what happens?  We find ourselves in an emergent situation that requires immediate action that may not be well-thought out because we don’t have the time to make a well-informed decision.  We all know that the worse time to make a life-changing decision is in an emergency.  There is a wealth of information available at our fingertips – the worldwide web is replete with helpful resources.  Even this website has many articles written on the subject.  As you browse through this website’s categories, be sure to enter a search term in the “Search My Site” box located at the right-hand side of each content page.

I’m not suggesting that you finalize plans that might not be implemented until many years down the road – or at all.  What I am suggesting, however, is that we all become aware that a) these issues exist and could very well happen in our own lives; and b) we’re going to do what we can now to make wise decisions later.

When the Mind Says Goodbye – Alzheimer’s Reading Room.

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When the Mind Says Goodbye is a thoroughly touching mini-video (less than 5 minutes long with beautiful music accompaniment) chronicling a married couple’s journey as best friends in early childhood, all the way through their marriage –  currently a more than 87 year-long relationship.

This couple, George and Adriana Cuevas, show us how a lack of words does not have to limit ones ability to relate to, and comfort, a loved one.  I hope you will take the time to observe this loving couple as they walk through the hallways of Adriana’s memory care unit, and as they sit side-by-side with only touch and eye contact as a communicator.

It seems to work for them.  How lovely that their marriage commitment lives on, even when the mind has already said goodbye.

November calendar “celebrations.”

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Thanksgiving Background
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Get ready everyone – there are so many worthy-of-mentioning “holidays” in November, you’ll be blown away!

Month-long celebrations:

  • Peanut Butter Lovers Month
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month www.alz.org
  • National Hospice Month www.nhpco.org
  • National Adoption Awareness Month – my favorite because both my sister, and my niece, are adopted and my life is better as a result!  www.adoptioncouncil.org.

Some of the daily celebrations:

1st:  Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

2nd:  Plan Your Epitaph Day – would you trust just anyone to tell the truth?

6th:  Marooned without a Compass Day – a/k/a Election Day

7th:  Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

8th:  Cook Something Bold Day (well, it is Peanut Butter Lovers Month!!!

11th:  Veterans Day – thank you every Vet of past & present military conflicts!!!

12th:  National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day

13th:  World Kindness Day – pass it forward everyone!!!

15th:  Clean Your Refrigerator Day and America Recycles Day – it figures.

15th:  Great American Smokeout – see November 19th if participating

17th:  National Adoption Day – I love you Mary and Kristina!!!

19th:  Have a Bad Day Day – see November 15th

22nd:  Thanksgiving, followed by…

23rd:  Sinkie Day – casual eating while standing at your sink www.sinkie.com

23rd:  Black Friday – the busiest shopping day of the Holiday season and Buy Nothing Day (I don’t make up the rules)

26th:  Shopping Reminder Day – do we really need this reminder?

30th:  Stay at Home Because You’re Well Day – because it’s more fun than staying home when you’re sick!

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR

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Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR.

English: Logo of NPR News.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I strongly encourage you to read the above article.  Too often physicians with insufficient training on elder-health issues dismiss the early signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia as simply being age-related developments.  Doing so presents the risk of missing the small window of opportunity in which to treat cognitive issues early on, rather than when they have fully taken up residence in a patient.

Sure, there’s nothing yet that prevents or cures the disease, but being able to manage the symptoms early on certainly adds to the quality of life that both the patient, and their loved ones, seek to experience.

For those of you who have taken on the role of advocating for your loved one: when you escort your loved one with early memory loss or confusion to the doctor’s office, do not back down when he/she concludes the symptoms are to be expected due to advancing age.  NO!  Those symptoms could very well be indicative of disease-related dementia, OR the symptoms could be caused by medication side-effects (blood pressure medication, seizure medication and the like) or other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infection (UTI.)

It’s all about advocacy.  Do you go the easy route and take the doctor’s word for it, or do you push for worthwhile diagnostics to rule out any other serious or life-changing causes?

Health Care Reform and Medicare Myths vs. Facts – AARP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myth 6: The law is going to bankrupt America;

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

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

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

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

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

Alzheimer’s “exit-seeking” behavior at 35,000 feet.

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At a certain stage during the course of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, a person can exhibit exit-seeking behavior.  It is believed that the person exhibiting this behavior is actually trying to get home, or back to a familiar place, or even seeking a feeling of comfort rather than simply trying to escape from their current location.

Confused face with question markThis “exiting” can take place just about anywhere, even at the person’s own home – resulting in a dangerous scenario where a wandering vulnerable person could easily fall into any number of  horrific situations because of their inability to get back to the safety of their home (be it a personal residence or a long-term care facility.)  Exiting behavior also takes place in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and yes, even airplanes at 35,000 feet above the ground.  This latter scenario happened on a recent flight I took from Dulles International Airport (DC area) to Seattle International Airport (Seattle, Washington.)

Just a half hour into our five-plus hour flight, a female passenger of approximately 75 years of age became very agitated during our ascent and before the fasten seat belt sign was switched off, she climbed over the passengers in her row, carry-on in hand, screaming all the way to the back of the plane from Row 34.  I was seated in Row 35.  “Wow, she must really have to use the bathroom!” I thought.  A flight attendant tried to get the passenger re-situated in her seat to no avail.  Complicating matters was the fact that the passenger was from another geographical continent and not only did she not speak or understand English, it was determined that other passengers who had flown with her from that same continent (not any relation or connection to her) also could not understand a word that she said.  In essence, she was speaking gibberish.  That was the first sign to myself and the flight attendants, that a) this woman was flying alone; b) she was in severe distress; and c) she most likely had some sort of dementia and was trying to exit her environment.  Not an easy task, nor one any of the United Airline employees were about to allow. Read the rest of this entry »

Movies About Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Movies About Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thanks are due to the author of this article, linked above, who provides a list of movies with an Alzheimer’s or other dementia story line.  How timely, as my husband and I were discussing last night how a few of the novels we’ve read recently have an Alzheimer’s story weaved through the book.

I told my husband that this seeming anomaly is not surprising due to the pervasiveness of the disease in so many households throughout the world.  In my family, my father died from Alzheimer’s complications in 2007, and my sister-in-law died at the age of 69 from mixed dementia.  I know there are many of you who at the very least know of someone affected by the disease.

Bette Midler Discusses Her Life Lessons – AARP

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Bette Midler Discusses Her Life Lessons – AARP.

You know you’re a Baby Boomer if you:

a) know who Bette Midler is; and

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!!!

The Silent Cry of the Caregiver – AARP

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Challenges of Providing Care for Spouse or Parents – AARP.

A 2012 issue of AARP The Magazine contained an exceptional and gritty article about caregiving.  The focus is primarily on the role a spouse plays in taking care of a dying spouse – in this case, a wife with ovarian cancer – but the caregiver may also be attending to an ailing spouse or parent with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Sick woman in bedIn the article linked above, Bill Newcott discusses how he hunkered down and tried to fix what ailed his wife.  The first paragraph of the article will grab you:

It’s the one vow that can really come back and bite you in the butt: “…in sickness and in health.”  On your wedding day the phrase conjures up visions of tiptoeing into a sun-drenched bedroom with lunch on a tray for your wife…What you don’t expect it to mean is crouching in the harsh fluorescent glare of a hospital treatment room and holding her head to yours, trying not to faint as a technician inserts a large needle between her ribs to suction two liters of fluid from her lungs.”

The role of a caregiver is one that not many will be able to avoid.  Currently across America 43.5 million people are caring for a loved one who is 50 years or older.  I’ve done it.  My brother’s done it.  Chances are, you’re doing it too.

AARP Caregiving Resource Center  is a magnificent tool for all of you who are involved in caregiving.  If you’re sitting there saying you don’t have time to check out this caregiving resource, you need it more than you can imagine.

Please start taking care of yourself and check out the resources that have been developed just for you.

Women who struggled for equality | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Here’s to the memory of Gloria Steinem and the other women who struggled for equality | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

This is a well-written piece from my local newspaper, the Seattle Times.  There’s a similar article in a recent Newsweek issue entitled American Women Have It Wrong or “Why women should stop trying to be perfect” that discusses the struggle in which many of us women find ourselves – regardless of the generation – thinking we can do it all, trying to do so, and paying the price.

Both articles are worth the read and at the very least will provide great dinner-table conversation opportunities.

October calendar “celebrations”

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The start of October is fast approaching so it’s time to see what is in store for us. I have many October occasions to tell you about in this posting, starting with those somewhat unknown ones associated in general with the month of October:

  • Adopt a shelter dog month
  • Clergy appreciation month
  • Eat country ham month
  • Cookie Month
  • National popcorn popping month
  • National vegetarian month
  • National pizza month and, appropriately
  • Sarcastic Month

Now a few day-specific “celebrations:”

  • October 2: National custodial worker day
  • October 2: Name your car/automobile day
  • October 3: Virus appreciation day (Sickness virus or computer virus????)
  • October 5: Do something nice day
  • October 7: Bald and free day
  • October 7: World smile day
  • October 9: Moldy cheese day (I guess this could also be a co-celebration of Clean out the fridge day?)
  • October 12: Moment of frustration day
  • October 13: International skeptics day (I don’t believe it)
  • October 17: Wear something gaudy day
  • October 19: Evaluate your life day
  • October 22: National nut day (the edible or the friend-type?)
  • October 27: Make a difference day
  • October 30: National candy corn day
  • October 31: Increase your psychic powers day (I bet you already knew that)

There were so many I could have posted but I just put a few out there, hoping that you have more to add.

Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass.  As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.

Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding.   Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives.  Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.

The above article introduces us to

  • a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
  • a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
  • a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.

These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life.  I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for  a replacement job.  That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.

Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?”  No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are –  and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills.  We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.

World Alzheimer’s Day.

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World Alzheimer’s Day video:

The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling.  It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.

Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.

The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America.  If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.

Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

What A Difference A Year Makes.

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What A Difference A Year Makes.

I congratulate Chris MacLellan, the Blogger whose article is linked above, for coming to the realization that:

  • caregiving is a noble and worthwhile job; and
  • caregiving can be bad for one’s health.

All of us at one time or another have turned the focus away from our own well-being onto that of others to the detriment of our emotional and physical health.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attend to the needs of others – we must if we’re to be a supportive society – but it’s important to be aware of what we personally need in order to remain healthy.  It’s a difficult balance to reach, but it can be done.

My article, “Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first” addresses the mistaken notion that we can do it all.  We can’t.  Our reserves will always run low and our fuel tank will always near empty unless we feed ourselves with that which sustains us.  Chris discovered what he needed to do.  I hope we all come up with the winning formula that allows us to take care of ourselves while we take care of others.

Life is a series of reboots.

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060526-N-9543M-001 New York City (May 26th, 20...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katie Couric is redesigning her news career with a daytime talk show; and Jeff Probst of the “Survivor” television series has done the same.  I guess you don’t have to be a normal non-celebrity middle class person to be bored or unsatisfied with life to have an excuse to recreate yourself.

In my article, “Creating the next chapter of your life” I focus on the tendency of some of us to seek new ways in which to express ourselves and/or additional ways in which to make an impact on our small portion of the world.  This is certainly a topic that rarely leaves my thought process as witnessed by some of the other articles I’ve written, including: “Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime,” and “Voices of the Bored Retirees.” 

But I’m not the only one who is currently redefining or recreating ones life.

I am personally acquainted with a 79-year old woman, a 64-year old man, and a 63-year old,  59-year old, and 36-year old woman, who are actively pursuing a transition from one chapter of their lives to the next.  Personally, I feel that such a pursuit is good for the psyche; it brings a fresh outlook on what we’re still able to accomplish, and, equally as important, might prove beneficial to others as we stretch our wings – and perhaps even our comfort zone – in our efforts to make the most of our talents.

Does this mean that if a person spends decades in the same career they are less evolved or community-focused?

Hell no.  I happen to be married to a wonderful man who has been with the same company since he graduated from college more than 30 years ago, and not only is he doing all he can, and then some, in his career, he also reaches out to others for whom his other non-job skills – and there are many – can be used.  And boy do we need those dedicated employees in this world who are not only committed to their chosen career path but who also defy the odds – and improve the economic forecast – by staying with the same employer.  I’m glad some of you are doing that, and doing it so very well.

I think I can credit, and thank, my limited attention span for the catalyst that keeps me on the look out for that “something else” that might be out there for me to do.  Fortunately, most of the reboots I’ve experienced have worked out for the better.  Not all of them are money-makers, but I can honestly say that they have all had a more positive than negative impact on the world around me.  I’m the only one who has to account for whether or not I’ve been a “good and faithful servant” of this life that I’ve been given and I’m committed to keep trying until I get it right.

Baby Boomers’ Greatest Fear: Loss of Independence.

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A full-page newspaper ad for hearing aids, walkers, and safe bathtubs drew my attention the other morning:

“Seniors fear loss of independence more than death.”

My husband & I, still youngsters in our mid to late 50’s.

I agree with that catch phrase, even though the final act of death brings its own fear level centered around how it will occur or whether or not it will be painful.  But the loss of independence creates greater fear in me because of what it could mean:

  • perhaps having to move out of my private residence;
  • having my car keys taken away from me and being reliant on others for all of my transportation needs;
  • being told what to wear, what and when to eat, and when to go to bed;
  • not being able to bathe privately; reliant on someone else to make sure I get the job done right;
  • speaking of which, needing assistance on the toilet OR having an alternate means of evacuating my bowels – ugh!;
  • you name it – anything for which I am reliant, dependent, or beholden to someone else, scares me half to – well – death!

But maybe that’s just me.  Maybe I’m super sensitive to this issue because of my work with vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities.  So I asked friends, family, and others with whom I’m acquainted what stands out as their greatest fear in their Baby Boomer years.  Here is a summary of numerous responses to my query:

  • loss of independence which oftentimes involves chronic illness and/or dementia that drains the household finances;
  • loss of independence resultant from dementia as it seems to be  prevalent in so many families;
  • loss of independence thereby putting the burden of care on my spouse;
  • loss of mobility;
  • flatulence!

I couldn’t resist listing the last response because it made me laugh while contemplating a subject matter that brings little humor to the table.

While taking a walk with a neighbor the other day, he concurred with the above, also adding that if a person had unlimited finances, loss of independence wouldn’t hurt as much: use of your own private driver, 24/7 caregiving in your own home, the best Chef money could buy so you’re not relegated to institutional “cuisine.”  But you know, I’m not so sure that being able to afford all of the above would make me feel less dependent upon others than if I had a standard of living like most everyone else.  Sure, the amenities are better, but the underlying cause for needing those amenities remains the same – the inability to do things for myself.

Now that we’ve all agreed that living an independent life is very precious to us – I know we understand more clearly why our parents or other loved ones fought the aging process every step of the way.  I thought I was very empathetic to my father when he had to surrender his car keys.  But now that I’m a wee bit older than I was at that time, I’m thinking I had no inkling of what my father went through as little by little he lost the independence he had enjoyed for eighty-some years.

But how can we prepare so as to avoid a complete loss of independence?

Well, if you find the magic formula, please let us all know.  As for me and my household, I’m concentrating on the here and now in preparation for the future.  Here’s my contribution:

  • Exercise like your life depends upon it – because it does.  That doesn’t equate to running marathons or riding the Tour de France, rather, it’s participating in a variety of exercise options to which you know you can commit.  What works for you – not what everyone else is doing.
  • Enjoy the food you eat but don’t be addicted to it.  My husband and I have dessert every night and we use butter instead of margarine when we cook.  Those are luxuries that we decided to enjoy while making sure that the rest of our diet is balanced and more healthy than not.
  • Speaking of balanced, we love our wine, so nightly, we enjoy a glass during those post-workday (and post-exercise) moments while we catch up on our respective days.  Oh, and we also enjoy another glass as it goes so wonderfully with dinner, don’t you think?
  • Use your brain in ways that you don’t use it while at work.  There’s still no fool-proof method of preventing Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but you’ll feel better about yourself if you continue to challenge what you know – and what you don’t know.
  • Seek peace amongst the chaos.  In my article, Where do you find peace?, I explore both how to find peace, and how to keep that peace from slipping away.  Rather than repeat what I previously said, I hope you’ll find time to read my “peaceful” article.

Now it’s your turn.  What are you doing to avoid what many of us fear the most?  I know many Baby Boomers would benefit from hearing what you have to say.  We’re all in this together – regardless of how far from each other we live – so let’s work together towards attaining the goal of remaining independent as long as we possibly can.

It’s time to spring clean our lifestyles…..

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It’s time to spring clean our lifestyles…...

WHAT you say?  It’s not Spring!!!  Well, in Australia, September 1st is the first day of Spring so I’ve connected an article from a fellow Blogger in Australia to illustrate her thoughts on new seasons being a time for change – hopefully for the better!  I hope you enjoy, I know I did.

Free Caregiver Resource eBook: 8/26/12 Only!

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Free Caregiver Resource eBook: 8/26/12 Only!.

I should have posted this earlier than today, but I hope anyone needing this valuable resource – and it’s FREE today Sunday, August 26th!!!!! – will be able to take advantage of it.  I know I will.

Thank you, Kelli, for being generous with this offering.

 

 

Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What defines you?

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Your unemployment status?

Your loneliness?

Your illness?

Your, ___________ fill in the blank?

I learned something today for the umpteenth time and it came from someone who died two days ago at the age of 54 as a result of a 14-year battle with benign, but aggressive, meningioma brain tumors.  Kathi Goertzen underwent numerous surgeries; endured countless chemotherapy and radiation treatments; and sought out additional therapies in other countries.  But these tumors mercilessly came back again, and again, and again.  Nerves in her face were destroyed making it difficult for her to speak as clearly as she wished.  Similar nerve impairment gradually affected her ability to swallow, and therefore, eat.  And what makes all of those symptoms more notable, is that Kathi was the consummate news anchor at a Seattle ABC affiliate, Komo4 News.  Kathi was on camera for over thirty years and even when she was no longer able to sit at the anchor desk, Kathi powered through as a field reporter both in the United States and abroad.

Giving up was not in Kathi Goertzen’s DNA.  It became obvious to all of us – and I never personally met her, she was simply one of the news anchors I admired the most – that Kathi virtually defined the word “tenacious.”  Throughout the years, Ms. Goertzen spent countless days in the intensive care unit (ICU) of local hospitals with her husband, two daughters, parents & siblings, and her Komo4 News family standing by her as the most supportive cheerleading team of its kind.  And once she got over that bump in the road, she carried on in her media career, and as an extraordinary wife and mother – the latter which she considered her most important roles in life.  A recent video tribute to Kathi, which can be found at the Komo4 News link, shows interviews with Kathi in which she said that she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her; she didn’t want all the attention that this unfortunate condition drew to her.  And then there was this statement, paraphrased from the video tribute:

These tumors don’t define me.  I won’t let them!

I immediately thought of the many times I let hardships and circumstances define who I am.  Oh, it’s so easy to give in to the tendency to feel sorry for ourselves isn’t it?  To pay more attention to the bad than the good.  It’s scandalous to think that in my several decades of life I have given the hardship (whether it be chronic pain, relationships, job struggles and the like) the upper hand, thereby giving power to that which should have never been given purchase in my life.

Thank you Kathi for getting through to me on this very important issue: circumstances don’t define me, I’ve only ALLOWED them to do so.

Kathi Goertzen Foundation raises research funds to find cures for brain cancers and tumors. .

Ambiguous loss – the experience of caregiver spouses

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Caregivers Of Spouses with Dementia Report Sadness, Loneliness, Less Enjoyment | Alzheimer\’s Reading Room.

Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

The article above reflects what is offered by Pauline Boss in her book Ambiguous Loss.  I highly recommend the above Alzheimer’s Reading Room article as well as Ms. Boss’s book for any spouse who is taking care of their wife/husband at home or if your spouse is already living in a dementia care unit.

The author, Pauline Boss, explains it this way: when a loved one dies, we mourn the loss; we take comfort in the rituals that mark the passing, and we turn to those around us for support.  That doesn’t happen when a loved one is still alive, but the losing occurs nonetheless.  And this period of loss may go on for years prior to the spouse’s final departure through death.

One of the statements that Ms. Boss introduces is that “it is o.k. to love a shell.”  Anyone who is married to someone with dementia knows that, in essence, a shell is what their spouse becomes with advanced dementia.  But if the “surviving spouse” is able to draw on the memories of their marriage, they find themselves able to love their spouse regardless of the disease.  Unfortunately, the memories remembered are no longer shared memories; joint reminiscing no longer occurs.  Your wedding anniversary passes without any acknowledgement by your spouse, and although that’s just one of the burdens during this long period of loss, it’s a difficult one to bear.

Caregiving is a difficult, 24/7  task.  I honor you on your journey, and I hope you find comfort and direction in the above resources, as well as the resources that the Alzheimer’s Association provides.