10 Government Programs You Can Access for Your Elderly Parents

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10 Government Programs You Can Access for Your Elderly Parents.

This VERY comprehensive article is designed for a person’s elderly parents but guess what…us Baby Boomers need to be aware of these resources as well so I want to pass this article along to you!  It helped me – I hope it’s a great resource for you as well.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia: Advance Directives

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Most people don’t want to talk about end-of-life issues but all of us know it’s a topic requiring early discussion and appropriate timing to be of any use when emotional, and sometimes emergent, decisions must be made.

Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer's patient in No...
Image via Wikipedia of a patient for whom Dr. Alzheimer provided care. This patient became the model for diagnosing Alzheimer's dementia.

My siblings and I benefited from my parents’ end-of-life documents that dictated their wishes should we need to become involved.  My mother died in her sleep in 1994 so no active involvement was necessary but my father, suffering with Alzheimer’s for five years by the time he died in 2007, gave us a gift by spelling out in detail his end-of-life wishes set in place at least a decade before he died.  Think of an Advanced Directive or Living Will as a gift to your loved ones.  It certainly was a gift to my siblings and me.

An organization in Washington state, Compassion & Choices, worked with Seattle University Clinical Law Professor, Lisa Brodoff, to create a new advance directive for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  This same law professor was instrumental in the passage of legislation in Washington State creating the Mental Health Advance Directive for people with mental illness.  This statute is considered to be model legislation for other states wanting to expand the rights and planning options for people with mental illness.  Bravo Washington State!!!

Although not yet available, the new Alzheimer’s/Dementia Advance Directive will be based on one created by Professor Brodoff for a 2009 Elder Law Journal article titled (excerpt attached): Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease with Mental Health Directives.  The new Alzheimer’s/Dementia advance directive is not intended to replace existing end-of-life documents such as a Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, but is designed to work in concert with those documents to ensure that any issues important to the patient with dementia that are not addressed in standard advance directives are honored as much as possible.

What additional issues are addressed in the new advance directive for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia?

Potential issues that might be addressed are preferences regarding:

  • care in and outside of the home;
  • financing of said care;
  • caregiver choices;
  • involuntary commitment;
  • consent to participation in drug trials;
  • suspension of driving privileges; and
  • any future intimate relationships.

To get on the mailing list in Washington state to receive a copy of the new advance directive contact Compassion Washington: by email, info@CompassionWA.org or by calling their office at: 206.256.1636 or Toll free: 1-877-222-2816.  At the very least, regardless of where you live, using their model as a guide when creating your own Advance Directive may be helpful when such Directive affects the life of a loved one with dementia.  Being prepared for the unexpected, or even what you indeed suspect might be a future health issue, provide peace of mind for the patient and for his or her caregiver. 

That’s a priceless gift to be sure.

The Best Alzheimers Caregiver Tool of Them All, Harvey

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The Best Alzheimers Caregiver Tool of Them All, Harvey

There is no such thing as easy caregiving – anyone who has been, or is currently, a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia can attest to that fact.  The good news, however, is that every once and awhile we’re fortunate enough to be exposed to glorious snippits of wonderfulness that help us through the day.  Here’s hoping that this link does just that for you.

 

Final vacation jokes: A man walked into a diner…

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A truck driver stopped at a roadside diner.  His waitress brought him a hamburger, a cup of coffee, and a piece of pie.

As the trucker was about to start eating, three men in leather jackets pulled up on motorcycles and came inside.  One grabbed the man’s hamburger, the second one drank his coffee and the other one took his piece of pie.

The truck driver didn’t say a word.  He got up, put on his jacket, paid the cashier and left.

One of the bikers said to the cashier, “Not much of a man, is he?”

“He’s not much of a driver either,” she replied.  “He just ran his truck over three motorcycles.”

Final vacation jokes: At St. Peter’s gate…

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Three men died and went to heaven.  Upon their arrival, St. Peter asked the first guy if he had been faithful to his wife.  The man admitted to two affairs during his marriage.  St. Peter told him that he could receive only a compact car to drive in heaven.

Then St. Peter asked the second man if he had been faithful to his wife, and the man admitted to one affair.  St. Peter told him he would be given a midsize car to drive.

The third man was asked about his faithfulness, and he told St. Peter he had been true to his wife until the day he died.  St. Peter praised him and gave him a luxury car to drive in heaven.

A week later, the three men were driving around, and they all stopped at a red light.  The men in the compact and midsize car turned to see the man in the luxury car crying.  They asked him what could possibly be the matter – after all, he was driving a luxury car!

“I just passed my wife,” he told them.  “She was on a skateboard!”

A mixed bag of jokes while on vacation: No.1

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In a panic, a traveler called down to the hotel’s front desk soon after checking in.

“Help!” he yelled.  “I’m trapped inside my room!”

“What do you mean, trapped?”

“Well, I see three doors,” the man explained.  “The first opens to a closet, and the second to a bathroom.  And the third door has a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging on it.”

What’s a person to do when their common sense has taken a hike?

A mixed bag of jokes while on vacation: No.2

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With Valentines Day approaching, I can’t resist this one:

A gentleman entered a busy florist shop that displayed a large sign that read:

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS!

“Wrap up one rose,” he told the florist.
“Only one?” the florist asked.

“Just one,” the customer replied.  “I’m a man of few words.”

A mixed bag of jokes while on vacation: No. 3 and 4

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A business woman is sitting at a bar.

A man approaches her.

“Hi honey,” he says.  “Want a little company?”

“Why?” asks the woman.  “Do you have one for sale?”

Question:  What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?

Answer:  I don’t know, and I don’t care.

A mixed bag of jokes while on vacation: No. 5

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At a party the hostess served a guest a cup of punch and told him it was spiked.  Next, she served some to a minister.

“I would rather commit adultery than allow liquor to pass my lips!” he shouted.

Hearing this, the first man poured his punch back into the bowl and said, “I didn’t know we had a choice!”

Come on, you KNOW you want to laugh.  It’s o.k.  It’s just a joke.

Techie Jokes for your weekend

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There’s a new telephone service that lets you test your IQ over the phone.

It costs $3.95 a minute.  If you make the call at all, you’re a moron.

If you’re holding on the line for three minutes, you’re a complete idiot.

Guilty as charged.

Another techie joke

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Did you hear about the high-tech ventriloquist?

He can throw his voice mail.

One more techie joke for the weekend

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Two executives in expensive suits stopped off at a small country bar.  As the bartender served them, he heard a muffled “beep! beep!” sound and watched as one of the men calmly removed a pen from his inside coat pocket and began carrying on a conversation.  When he was done talking, the exec noticed the bartender and the other customers giving him puzzled looks.  “I was just answering a call on my state-of-the-art cellular pen,” he explained.

A short while later, another odd tone was heard.  This time the second executive picked up his fancy hat, fiddled with the lining and started talking into it.  After a few moments he put the hat back on the bar.  “That was just a call on my state-of-the-art cellular hat,” he said matter-of-factly.

A few stools down, one of the locals suddenly let out a loud burp.  “Quick!” he exclaimed.  “Anybody got a piece of paper?  I have a fax comin’ in!”

Financial fraud against the elderly: it’s a family affair.

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A trusted family member would NEVER financially exploit their loved one – right?

WRONG.

All classes of people, and most age groups, become victims of financial fraud.  The elderly, however, have been hit particularly hard.  A recent Puget Sound Business Journal article (a Washington State publication) provides some astounding statistics for the state of Washington:

  • reports of elder abuse grew by 30% in five years;
  • 4,121 cases were reported to Adult Protective Services in all of 2010 and that number was already reached by November of 2011;
  • the Washington State Office of the Attorney General only receives a fraction of the financial abuse cases because many go unreported; and
  • the National Center of Elder Abuse in Washington, D.C. states that only one in 25 cases of elder abuse are ever reported.

So who are the perpetrators?  These thieves are neighbors, caregivers (family related or not), best friends, and  trusted financial professionals.

But nationally, nine out of 10 financial exploitation cases involve family members. 

This type of abuse begins innocently enough “let me help you pay your monthly bills mother.”   The adult child becomes a signatory on the bank accounts, keeps up with mom’s bills, but also pays him or herself a little here and there and before you know it, mom doesn’t have the financial means to live out her days.  Certainly most family members are trustworthy and respectful of their elders and look out for their elders’ best interests but the statistics certainly paint a horrific picture, don’t they?  And what’s worse, if the elderly victim has Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it doesn’t take much effort for anyone – family or stranger  –  to enrich their own bank account while draining mom and dad’s.

It’s virtually impossible for government agencies to monitor cases of elder abuse.  The local agencies that help the indigent elderly are strapped financially.  Budgets are being cut resulting in decreased staffing, and caseloads that are unmanageable and overlooked – but not for lack of trying!

So what can you do to protect those vulnerable adult victims that seemingly go unnoticed in our local communities?  I provide some suggestions in my blog article, Elder Fraud: a few things you can do to protect your loved one.  This article assumes that family members are trustworthy and selfless in their interests.  Fortunately, that’s probably you, but obviously, elder fraud is a national problem so it’s vital that everyone be reminded of how easily thieves can take advantage of the older generation.

I’m certain this topic affects many of you and at the very least, angers the rest of you.  I covet your input and look forward to your thoughts on this matter.

Three weekend jokes to ponder: Number 1

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“What are you so happy about?” a woman asked the 98-year-old man.

“I broke a mirror,” he replied.

“But that means seven years of bad luck.”

“I know,” he said, beaming.  “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Three weekend jokes to ponder: No. 2

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One day a man spotted a lamp by the roadside.  He picked it up, rubbed it vigorously and a genie appeared.

“I’ll grant you your fondest wish,”  the genie said.

The man thought for a moment, then said, “I want a spectacular job – a job that no man has ever succeeded at or has ever attempted to do.”

“Poof!” said the genie.

“You’re a housewife.”

Three weekend jokes to ponder: No. 3

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A juggler, driving to his next performance, is stopped by the police.  “What are those machetes doing in your car?” asks the cop.

“I juggle them in my act.”

“Oh, yeah?” says the doubtful cop.  “Let’s see you do it.”  The juggler gets out and starts tossing and catching the knives.

Another man driving by slows down to watch.  “Wow,” says the passer-by.  “I’m glad I quit drinking.  Look at the test they’re giving now!”

Voices of the bored retirees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snail Mail (personal) vs Electronic Mail (impersonal)

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I’m thrilled that instant information rules our day for the most part and I’m SUPER thrilled that we can communicate via Blogging, but I’m also a proponent of posted/written communication.

First of all: Blogging.

I think us Bloggers relish the opportunity to “be published” on the Internet because  not many of us will ever have a byline in a syndicated newspaper, and book-publishing just seems too hard a goal to attain.  With that said, however, I write with this in mind: job counselors often advise employees to dress for the job they want, not for the job they currently hold, so I’m Blogging with a publishing intent that takes me out of my home-office and into the homes of others.  If I can’t get others to read my articles, I may as well be writing in a personal journal.  So blogging is a great venue in which to reach the masses.

But I LOVE the written word.  I own a Kindle, actually, I’m on my second Kindle, and that’s the only way I read books, be they fiction or non-fiction.  I’m such a voracious reader, I’m convinced Kindle was invented just for me.  🙂  So when I say I love the written word, what I’m really saying is that I love letter writing.  I own stationery, n. paper and other materials needed for writing, and I have a large accordion file that holds greeting cards, n. a decorative card sent to convey good wishes. (Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004.)  I love sending cards and I love receiving cards, but mostly I love sending them.

Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist wrote a piece that appeared in our local newspaper on January 13, 2012: For The Love of A Letter. She writes how wonderful it is to receive a piece of mail with our name on it, written in hand, which becomes “a bit of humanity among the bills and slick circulars.”   She correctly states that the written letter is becoming a dying art, so much so that the United States Postal Service faces a very bleak, if not brief, future.  Certainly e-mail is quick and doesn’t require one of those pesky, ever-changing-in-value postal stamps.   Evites are quick and oh so engaging – NOT- as we read respondents’ comments about why they can’t attend.  But Evites are pretty darn impersonal.  Ted Kennedy Watson, owner of two Seattle shops with all things paper, states in Ms. Brodeur’s article that he “gets ‘hundreds’ of emails a day, some invitations to events that, en masse, lose some of their luster.  You start to feel more included than invited.”

En masse communications – you’re simply one of the many e-mail addresses in someone’s global e-mail address book.  I know we’ll always rely on this form of instant communication – I certainly do – but Ms. Brodeur hits it on the nail when she says that she hopes that “we don’t tweet or tap away the value of putting thoughts to paper, of taking the time.”  (Even a “Dear John” written letter is more personal and respectful than a “Dear John” e-mail or text message.)  She talks about letters that she’s saved over the years which instantly brought to mind one of my most valuable letters; one which I keep in my fireproof safe: the last letter my mother ever wrote to me.  My parents still lived in Hawaii when I moved to the Seattle area in June of 1994 and my mother and I spoke on the phone at least two times a week.  But it was her letters that I relished the most.  One of those letters arrived in my mailbox on September 22nd, 1994.  I read it, placed it to the side, and went about the rest of my day.  Two days later my mother died in her sleep quite suddenly and inexplicably.  When I received the news in a phone call from my father that day I frantically looked around for my mom’s letter hoping that I had not tossed it in the recycle bin.  Glory hallelujiah – I had not.  So two days before my mother died, I have her thoughts on paper, in her handwriting, and signed “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the second page.

Somehow I don’t think a saved e-mail could ever render the memories and the sentiments that my mother’s handwritten letter does every time I retrieve it from the safe to read it.

Facebook (I have an account) and Twitter, and other social sites can continue to do what they do, but let’s not dispense with the antiquated and/or archaic practice of putting pen to paper.  Please?

Chilly jokes for those of us buried in snow: No. 2

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Two guys, Jimmy and Johnny, were standing at heaven’s gate, waiting to be interviewed by St. Peter.

Jimmy:  “How did you get here?”

Johnny:  “Hypothermia.  You?”

Jimmy:  “You won’t believe it.  I was sure my wife was cheating on me, so I came home early one day hoping to find the guy.  I accused my wife of unfaithfulness and searched the whole house without any luck.  Then I felt so bad about the whole thing, I had a massive heart attack.”

Johnny:  “Oh, man.  If you had checked the walk-in freezer, we’d both be alive.”

Chilly jokes for those of us buried in snow: No.1

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Two ministers died and went to heaven.  St. Peter greeted them and said,

“Your condos aren’t ready yet.  Until they’re finished, you can return to earth as anything you want.”

“Fine,” said the first minister.  “I’ve always wanted to be an eagle soaring over the Grand Canyon.”

“And I’d like to be a real cool stud!” said the second minister.

Poof!  Their wishes were granted.

When the condos were finished, St. Peter asked an assistant to bring back the two ministers.

“How will I find them?” the assistant said.

“One is soaring over the Grand Canyon,” St. Peter replied.  “The other may be tough to locate.  He’s somewhere in Detroit – on a snow tire.”

Greetings Baby Boomers! What’s on your mind?

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I love to write; I love to talk; but I also really, really, love to listen.

I placed this Blog entry in the Personal Struggles category of my Blog because I’m struggling to assure that what I’m providing on this Blog meets your needs and interests.

Sure, my ego would be stoked by having more Followers and more page hits – and I welcome all that have an interest – but that’s not my biggest concern.  What’s missing for me is reader input in the form of Comments.  A lack of comments is not the readers’ fault, rather, I think I’m missing the boat regarding the nature of my Blog entries because they don’t encourage Comments.

Are my articles too long?  Are they not sufficiently pertinent to your ongoing interests?  Is the subject matter too limited in scope?  If so, in what direction would you like me to go?  I’ll go just about anywhere with my Baby Boomer Content because I’m not an expert on a zillion topics but I am interested in at least that many.

If you have the time, I’d love to hear from you.  And I can pretty much promise that I won’t be offended by any constructive criticism you provide.  Society is like a bird.  It has two wings, and a bird can not fly when one of its wings is broken.  My wing isn’t broken, it just needs to be pointed in the right direction.  I hope you’re willing to help me do so.  I love what I do and cherish this venue where I can hone my skills and increase my knowledge because along with listening comes the benefit of learning something new.  I can hardly wait to hear from you.

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?

Open Wide and Say Ha! Three medical jokes for your week.

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FIRST JOKE:

A woman accompanied her husband when he went for his annual checkup.  While the patient was getting dressed, the doctor came out and said to the wife, “I don’t like the way he looks.”

“Neither do I,” she said, “but he’s handy around the house.”

SECOND JOKE:

Three doctors were on their way to a convention when their car had a flat.  They got out and examined the tire.  The first doctor said, “I think it’s flat.”

The second doctor examined it closely and said, “It sure looks flat.”

The third doctor felt the tire and said, “It feels like it’s flat.”

All three nodded their heads in agreement.  “We’d better run some tests.”

In this Blogger’s humble opinion, I guess that’s a hint at why the health-care system is broken.  Yes?  No?  Probably.  Which leads us to the LAST JOKE of the week:

A physician went to heaven and met God, who granted him one question.  So the physician asked, “Will health-care reform ever occur?”

“I have good news and bad news,” God replied.  “The answer is yes, but not in my lifetime.”

Honesty is NOT always the best policy.

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Bear with me – don’t judge me quite yet.

You are not destined for Alcatraz just because of a little well-placed dishonesty.

If you are primarily responsible for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, or perhaps you assist an elderly relative who relies on you for help, do you find yourself telling little white lies?  Do you stretch the truth a bit in order to keep the peace?  Without doing any harm to your loved one or anyone else, do those little white lies help you accomplish tasks on behalf of your loved one, thus improving their life?  Congratulations – you understand that honesty isn’t always the best route to take and you’re in good company.

How do you jump over the hurdles of negotiating with a loved one for whom you provide care?  Here are a few examples that come to mind.

Scenario one: the need to get creative in order to leave the house for personal business.  For example, if telling your wife that you’re going to a caregiver support group meeting makes her mad, sad, or distrustful of your intentions, (“I’m sure you’re going to say bad things about me!”), why not tell your spouse that you’re going out with the guys, and you promise you will be back in two hours.  Then make sure you’re back on time!  If you’re not comfortable with that lie, by all means, every month you can continue to explain how helpful this caregiver support group is to you and how much it helps you be a better husband; and month after month your wife will not understand your rationale and will feel ashamed.  Knowing that you’re going to a support group only confirms how miserable she’s made your life. Read the rest of this entry »

Life can turn on a dime.

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If ever there is an example of how life can turn on a dime, it’s Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ tragic experience.  January 8, 2012 marks one year since Ms. Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with her constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

The bullet traveled 1000 feet per second into her brain and not only did she survive, even her neurosurgeons termed her recovery a miracle.  Is Ms. Giffords back to 100%?  No.  Will she be?  There is a strong hope that she will.  As her husband said to Diane Sawyer when asked if he’s holding out too much hope: “You can’t have too much hope!  That’s not practical!”  In her ABC special on 20/20 chronicling Congressman Giffords’ and her husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly’s journey, Diane Sawyer characterized their endeavors in this manner:

 The courage & love you bring when the life you live, is not the life you planned.

Life turns on a dime in many ways: in relationships; in difficult financial times; and in sickness and in health, to name just a few.

Some of you reading this Blog are in the midst of a life trauma that you certainly didn’t plan, and from which you wish you were released.  What challenge do you face?  Did you see it coming?

One story of life’s changes. I volunteer as a Facilitator for an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group.  Every member of our group has a loved one with some sort of dementia diagnosis.  Some are in the early stages, some are in the middle stages, and three in particular recently experienced the end stage.

RRRING!  A telephone rings in the middle of the night and life changes for caregivers gearing up for the Holidays with their family.

In the wink of an eye, life as they knew it took a sharp turn.  It’s the Holiday season and suddenly one set of caregivers hires in-home hospice care for their parent and another caregiver rides in an ambulance with her spouse to a local hospice center because of a terminal change in health.   Within days both sets of caregivers arrange memorial services for which they hadn’t planned at this stage of their loved one’s life.

BANG!  Six lives are lost, and Gabrielle Giffords’ and Mark Kelly’s lives change forever.

Congresswoman Giffords loved spending time with her constituents.  The night before she was shot, she took a long bike ride with a friend and was eager for the next day to begin.  A week later she and her husband were to undergo in vitro fertilization so they could start planning the birth of their first child together.  And those attending this gathering, both staff and general citizenry, hoped for a successful and enjoyable experience.  The bottom line is that you can’t plan for what you can’t see coming.

Oftentimes when we hear of tragedies such as those mentioned above, we naively say to ourselves, “Those are the types of things that happen to other people; not us.”  Well, the truth of the matter is, those types of things happen to people, and that’s us.

Congresswoman Giffords’ neurosurgeons stated that they don’t know where in the brain one finds charm, optimism, humor or charisma.  Certainly no where in the brain can one find sufficient prescience that allows us to see what’s coming around the corner.

No matter how hard we try; no matter how careful we are; life turns on a dime.  And sometimes, the life we live becomes the life we did not plan.

I received inspiration for this article from the caregiver heroes with whom I am acquainted, and from Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly in their book: Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.

Living long enough to put your foot in your mouth.

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Many years ago I attended a very large wedding at my church.  Big bridal party; all dressed to-the-nines.  While mingling after the wedding prior to walking into the church reception hall, I chatted with a couple who would be getting married a couple months hence.

“Weren’t those groomsmen’s shiny gray tuxedos atrocious?” I said.   “What were they thinking when they decided on those colors?!!!”  To which the future bride and groom then stated, “Uh – those are the exact same tuxedos we chose for our upcoming wedding!”    Oops.

I give you the above real-life example as a lead-in to the following wedding joke humor:

“How lovely you look, my dear!”  gushed a wedding guest to the bride.  The guest then whispered to the bride, “Whatever happened to that dizzy blonde your groom used to date?”

“I dyed my hair, ” replied the bride.

Oops!

What would your loved one want?

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More frequently than I can tolerate, I have visited long-term care (LTC) facilities during Holiday celebrations: July 4th, Christmas, New Years Eve, etc., and I find residents in the dementia wing with accoutrements, e.g., July 4th hats, reindeer horns, festive party hats, that the resident with Alzheimer’s or other dementia would NEVER consider wearing if they had a choice.

My suggestion: before you allow anyone to adorn your parent, spouse, grandma/grandpa, aunt/uncle with a party adornment, ask yourself this question:

What would ______ want?

 Why do facility employees feel obligated to dress up their residents with what can only be described as hideous garments/accessories during Holiday seasons?  It’s demeaning.  It’s borderline abusive.  It’s just not right unless the resident himself has chosen to wear such accessories.

Becoming a clown does not equate to living a dignified existence.

My father, on the right, with his brother. My dad was in the Canadian artillery during World War II.

Prior to living in long-term care facilities, these senior citizens lead distinguished lives, fought in wars, managed households and families, and most likely survived tough financial times.  These men and women just happen to be older now, but no less important; no less dignified. In one of my earlier articles, Be an advocate for your aging loved one, I stated, “If your loved one no longer has a voice in which to defend or advocate for herself, who better to do so than you?”  Chances are in these costumed situations during the Holidays, your loved one doesn’t even see themselves in a mirror, and if they do see themselves, the image they’re seeing may not be comprehensible to them.  Would they want to look like a child wearing a season-appropriate party hat?  Would they have worn that hat in public prior to the advancement of dementia?

This brings to mind another article, Senior citizens are NOT children!  In that article, I broached the topic of talking down to Senior Citizens by using cutesy names: caregivers do it, customer service employees do it, DON’T YOU DO IT!  We have to get out of the mindset that our older population is somehow less worthy of respect simply because of their advancing age.  If anything, the opposite should be occurring.  All of us should honor the lives that were – and the lives that still remain.  This station in life, these circumstances, are not who they are.  They are simply where they are right now.  Use the memories that you retain of your loved one to promote the true person they are.  Don’t let others – caregivers or well-meaning friends – define your parent/spouse/family member.  It is my firm belief that regardless of the severity of a person’s Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the essence of the person remains in tact.   Make it your responsibility to enhance other people’s understanding of your loved one by correctly defining their true essence.

Dignity and quality of life are a right, not a privilege.

Secret letters – no longer a secret.

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Grandma was preparing dinner when her grandson Bradley came into the kitchen.

“What has grandma’s darling been doing all day?”

“I’ve been playing mailman,” replied Bradley.

“Mailman?” asked grandma.  “How could you do that when you had no letters?”

“I had a whole bunch of letters,” said Bradley.  “I found them in that old trunk up in the attic, all tied up with ribbon. I put one in every mailbox on your street!”

Negotiating to Yes

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Negotiating to Yes.

I really appreciate this article by Lark Elizabeth Kirkwood because teamwork is a theme/process that is applicable to so many areas of our lives.  Employed in a small or large company? Applicable.  Volunteer for non-profits?  Applicable.  Family members trying to play on their strengths in a caregiving situation?  Applicable.

Thank you Lark for showing us that teamwork isn’t just for sports teams any more.

A granddaughter’s first wedding.

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Attending a wedding for the first time a little girl whispered to her grandmother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?”

“Because traditionally, white is the color of happiness,” her grandmother explained.  “Today is the happiest day of her life!”

Her granddaughter thought about this for a moment.

“So why is the groom wearing black?”