Quality of Life
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.