Quality of Life

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.

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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.

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?