Requiem for the status quo was picked up by a publisher two years ago this month. The eBook and audiobook will continue to be available on Amazon through Black Rose Writing until the end of 2019. I am arranging for different publishing options for the paperback version, however, and will be releasing that paperback later this year.
In the meantime, my publisher and I reduced the paperback price for the month of February so those who want to add this book to their library can do so at a discounted price. If you are a Prime member, shipping is FREE! When I self-publish my novel I’ll be sure to send out an announcement so you’ll again have access to the paperback version through Amazon. And of course, the eBook is still available on Amazon and will continue to be available forever and a day. (I will self-pub the eBook at the end of the year.)
Let these recent reviews encourage you to get your copy today!
Jill W. I’ve never written a review when I’m only halfway through a book, but I wanted the author to know sooner rather than later, how much her book has affected me emotionally. My family has been dealt the dreaded card of dementia so reading REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO has been difficult since we’re living Coleen and Patrick’s nightmare now. I find myself only able to read pieces at a time because the author has done a superb job of making Patrick and his family’s battle with this horrible disease, so real. Last night as I read, I found myself laughing and then crying. This book is a must read for anyone touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Ann C. Irene Frances Olson writes believable fiction. Her characters are kind, funny and endearing — even in their flaws. When Colleen takes over her father Patrick’s caregiving because of his advancing memory issues, the reader can’t help but be moved by the tender relationship between them. The effervescent Colleen finds herself in a challenging life situation — pulled between her father’s condition, her working life, her brother’s disdain for her father’s illness and her own desire for companionship. Having experienced the devastation that Alzheimer’s can bring to a family, it was both heartbreaking and a joy to follow Colleen’s path. Yes, there was loss, but the author helps us see the beauty and courage in facing the inevitable challenges of aging and how it’s possible to do it with grace and love.
Jason This book is about the many faces of Alzheimer’s, from those how bear the thief in their brain to those who must cope with and care for loved ones. The story is straightforward and written with love, it is a daughter’s anthem of love for her father while also being a support for others facing the journey of incremental loss. Colleen describes it best when she identifies Alzheimer’s as a thief robbing us of our memories and our future. If you or a loved one are walking this journey, this story is sure to give both a sense of how to make this journey possible and how to mourn with others on the path.
I have been closely involved in matters regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia for eighteen years now: long-term care (LTC) housing, memory care, Alzheimer’s support group facilitator, and Washington State LTC Ombudsman. But it took me becoming a published author of a novel that focuses on a family’s Alzheimer’s disease experience before I finally found my Alzheimer’s community.
AlzAuthors is a group comprised of over 170 published authors (as of this writing) who have published fiction and non-fiction books reflective of their personal Alzheimer’s experience. The six members of the AlzAuthors Management Team (Team) is the Alzheimer’s community about which I speak.
The Team’s motto says it all:
We can sing a lonely song, or form a choir and create harmony.
Without exception, the authors featured on our site and each member of our Management Team had the experience of struggling with the learn-as-you-go-task of caring for someone with cognitive impairment. We all made mistakes, and we learned from them, but we also had successes, and we celebrated them.
As a recent addition to the AlzAuthors Management Team, I became even more convinced that my personal Alzheimer’s community resides within this group. The support, the kindness, the giving nature reflected within the Team is incomparable in my experience, and we are not just keeping it to ourselves. AlzAuthors is spreading their influence into numerous parts of the world…which is kinda why they asked me to join the team as their Global Outreach Coordinator. The six of us know our presence is evident in more countries than just the United States, but our imagination and passion is boundless so we have set out to become a household word in small and large communities throughout the world.
Why AlzAuthors? Because this 100% volunteer group has brought together some of the best books on Alzheimer’s and other dementia in one central location: our bookstore. We’ve categorized those books to make the personal caregivers’ or professionals’ shopping experiences an easy one with categories such as: Caring for Parents or Grandparents, Caring for Spouses or Partners, Living with Dementia, and Children and Teen books, to name a few. We know a caregiver’s “free” time is limited or non-existent, so we’ve done our best to make their shopping experience an easy one. They simply click on the cover of the book they’re interested in and they are taken directly to Amazon to make the paperback, eBook, or audiobook purchase.
We’re working hard so you don’t have to.
And finally, we understand the journey of unpaid (family & friend) caregivers because:
- We have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia.
- We know the pain of being forgotten.
- We all have witnessed decline.
- We have provided countless hours of caregiving.
- We know many others have experienced the same and we believe in the power of sharing those stories.
I was asked to write a story or two for an anthology of short, short, stories that would be read to seniors with cognitive impairment. I jumped at the opportunity. That anthology, The Mighty Ant, is now available in paperback on Amazon.
I am one of 33 contributors to this collection of short stories for seniors who suffer from dementia and other related memory or cognitive disorders. This book is the culmination of a project from editor and contributor, Jessica Bryan, who is a caregiver and advocate for caregivers. Several years ago she began to notice that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, lost focus and could no longer read lengthy books. Jessica began reading to her mother and found that simple, short stories were easier for her to understand. The Mighty Ant is filled with these kinds of fiction and non-fiction stories.
The proceeds from the sales of the books will be donated to a local Council on Aging. The generous contributions of authors like myself have come from all over the world. The result is a book with different perspectives, reminiscences, and tales that reflect not only local culture, but a variety of customs, ethnicities, and lifestyles.
I am honored to have my two stories titled, A Neighborly Friendship and A Sweetheart of a Story included in this collection. A Sweetheart of a Story was selected as the final story in the book because the editor felt it was the perfect selection to provide a sweet ending to the anthology. Buy a copy or ten or more for yourself and others…perhaps your local memory care community would love to include the reading of this book to their senior activity schedule! Currently only $12 for this 322-page large print storybook.
How resilient are you?
How readily do you bounce back when you’ve been cut off at the knees? when you’ve experienced a long streak of bad luck? when your hopes and dreams are just that: hopes, and dreams?
I am inspired to write this brief piece today because of an extraordinary act of resilience that I witness about this time each year.
Eleven years ago my daughter opened up a bridal party business that was very successful. She started the business in August 2003 and the Grand Opening of the store occurred in March of that same year. One of her vendors, a custom jewelry designer, sent her a live plant in celebration of her store’s opening. The sweet smelling floral plant was appropriately named, Bridal Veil (stephanotis floribunda).
I had the privilege of working at my daughter’s boutique from its inception, and then off and on when she needed extra help with the bridal parties. Approximately two weeks after her store’s opening, the Bridal Veil plant had come to its seasonal end so I took it home and planted it in my backyard, just underneath my kitchen window, cutting the greenery down to the dirt. And every year about this time, the Bridal Veil shoots break through the ground and seem to announce, “Spring is back and so am I.”
I am certain that you know people who have exhibited far more heroic and miraculous resilience than this silly plant’s arrival each year – so have I – but I still can’t help but be impressed and pleased, each and every year that it does. It has survived 100 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and 10 degree temps, not to mention a blanket of snow that manages to cover it when the snow starts falling around Washington State.
But each year, it comes back, and each year, I’m still surprised and as pleased as Punch! Definition: feeling great delight or pride.
Many of us would give up at the first degree of scorching heat and we certainly might throw in the towel when the snowflakes start to fly. I don’t want to be less resilient than the stephanotis floribunda.
Please answer the following two questions:
- What were you doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot? (West Coast Pacific Time for that was 10:28 a.m.)
- What did you feel as a result of his assassination – either right then and there and/or the days and weeks following?
I was in my 5th grade classroom at St. Bede the Venerable elementary school in La Canada, California, when suddenly, the school’s public address system came on in our classroom, broadcasting what appeared to be an urgent radio message. The Principal of the school gave no preamble to the radio broadcast, it simply became suddenly audible in our classroom. When I was able to focus, as a fifth grader, on what was being said, I recall hearing “The President of the United States has been shot; John F. Kennedy was shot during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas and is not expected to live.” (Or words to that effect.)
My teacher, Sister Mary Fahan told us kids to put our heads down on our desk and pray. It seemed so startling to me – it was a heavy moment for which us fifth graders didn’t have 100% understanding, but the young boys and girls in my classroom felt the heaviness of the moment anyway. Many of us were crying at the words coming forth over the speakers in our classroom – urgent and shocking words that stuttered from the radio announcer’s mouth.
School was dismissed and when my sister, Mary, and I were picked up by our mom, we climbed into her red and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon and joined our tears and fears with those of our mother’s.
Then for the remainder of November and into early December, it seemed as though the only story being covered on our little black and white (somewhat brown and white) television screen were the news updates and somber funereal activities inherent with the death of a President.
I recall that after I recovered from the initial shock of the incident, the impatience of a nine-year old took over due to the bombardment of constant television coverage that echoed around the walls of our house. I yearned for normalcy, and for me that meant a return to TV episodes of Lassie reruns and new episodes of My Three Sons. Perhaps what we experienced during that 1963 tragedy is not unlike what the children of the 9/11 era felt when their lives were invaded by the tragedy that marks their young lives.
Unfortunately, there seem to be enough horrific world events going on that each and every generation’s children will have memories about which they will reflect as they enter their older years; just as us Baby Boomers reflect on November 22, 1963 and all the other tragedies that have invaded our lives since then.
Ms. Froma Harrop’s Opinion piece, linked above, challenges all of us Baby Boomers to not surrender to the other groups coming up in the generational ranks.
Are you done at 61? Closing the door at 64? Barely alive at 75? Or are you skipping to my Lou at 82?
Come on everyone – don’t throw in the towel! As Ms. Harrop said in her Opinion piece, “there’s nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is.” I’m not saying that us Baby Boomers and older don’t have age-related changes – of course we do – but that doesn’t mean that nothing remains for us in the years ahead. In my recent blog article, A surprising fete by a Baby Boomer! I complained about a Florida reporter’s characterization of something that a 55-year old woman was able to accomplish – even at her advanced age. Click on the link to my article to get the full gist of my whining diatribe.
I am not advocating that you suddenly decide to beat 64-year old Diana Nyad’s swimming record, unless, of course you feel like doing so. I am advocating, however, that you explore what you’re able to do and capitalize on it. Start a new business, volunteer for organizations that you support, or just keep working at your current job as long as you still want to. Who’s stopping you? My former father-in-law turned 90-years old on September 18, 2013, and he still plays tennis and is still working at his commercial real estate development company. If Jimmy were to stop working, he’d probably collapse and die on the spot. Why? Because he enjoys being active and productive. So should you.
Don’t let the younger folks – anyone less than 50-years old – have all the fun! You can have fun too! I turned 60-years old this past May. I’ve always been an active person exercise-wise but most of that centered around taking lengthy neighborhood walks and gentle hikes. My exceptional and persistent daughter, Erin, decided I could do more. She purchased six sessions of Bar Method classes for each of us and presented it as my birthday/Mother’s Day gift. “It’ll be fun! Once you get there, I know you’ll love it.”
Very presumptuous on her part, but she was right! After six sessions, Erin dropped out (she has other mind-boggling exercises that she does) but I continued with the program. The biggest lesson that I learned through this process is that I can do more than I thought I could do. Bar Method is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible. After the first six lessons, I was able to conclude that a) it didn’t kill me; b) it didn’t disable me; and c) I kicked ass! That’s right – I kicked ass. I am in a class of mostly 20-50 year olds, and I not only keep up, but sometimes I outlast the younger students. I go to class once a week and two to three additional times a week I exercise to the Bar Method DVDs at home – courtesy of my husband who installed a ballet bar in our exercise room. Thanks hubby!
If you lack confidence, go find some! If you’re hesitant to go it alone, find someone else with your same interests, and go for it together.
You are not done yet. To quote Ms. Harrop, “Every age group brings something to the party. And for every generation, the party’s not over until it’s over.”
What are you waiting for? Come join the party!
Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters. She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”
Ah, respite – what a delightful concept. Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks. For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be. Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.
Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting. OMG, MIK? (Oh my god, am I kidding?)
No – I’m serious. I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box. I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.
Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday. (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.) But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting. Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card. You liked that feeling – didn’t you? Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you. That’s a one-on-one attention connection.
Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:
I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?
Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.
I like the above article and every single article that mentions some sort of steps moving towards diagnosis and treatment, even steps that are stunted right out of the block.
Stillness gets us no where. Although limited, at least this article discusses some progress towards shutting down Alzheimer’s and other dementias. During a time where very little good news is forthcoming relating to this disease, I’ll take anything – thank you very much.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Questions Answered | PBS NewsHour. We need all the help we can get in order to make well-informed decisions about any caregiving journeys that might occur in our future. The attached article shows a snapshot of one adult daughter’s 24/7 caregiving journey with her mother.
Perhaps you’re saying that you don’t anticipate your parents requiring any caregiving assistance in their frail years (perhaps your parents have already passed so no need exists there.) Do you have any siblings? close friends? a significant other? If you answered “yes” to any of those designations, the possibility exists that you will be called upon – or you’ll volunteer – to be of assistance to someone who needs help with their activities of daily living (ADLs).
Taking care of a loved one is no easy task. It doesn’t matter how much you love the person, your patience and your abilities will be tested. I truly admire the subject of this PBS article. Rebecca Wyant is the full-time caregiver and guardian of her mother, Mary Wyant, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 65. Mary moved in with her daughter in 2006, is now 74 years old, and Rebecca is in her seventh year of personally providing her mother with full-time care.
How does Rebecca do it? She thought she was prepared for the task but soon discovered that finances, and creative ways of managing her mother’s care, are dwindling resources. With that said, however, Rebecca states that she is the only person who can provide the care that she can. She agrees that professionals could provide the care, but absolutely no one could possibly care for mom as Rebecca can. That part of the video disturbs me a bit, and I’ll tell you why.
I was an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator for several years and heard the voiced concerns of those daughters, sons, and spouses, who carried a great deal of guilt on their shoulders for not being able to keep up with the care of their loved one. They did provide the care initially, and then found their abilities wanting – and their health declining. They eventually made the very difficult decision to place their loved one in an assisted care setting.
Here’s the story of “Constance” and “Robert.” Constance first came to my support meeting at the age of 80 having already taken care of Robert at home for the previous three years since his diagnosis. Constance’s health started to decline due to lack of sleep – Robert’s dementia had no respect for the clock. Added to that dilemma was the fact that she had no existence outside of her house. She was trapped! Her friends abandoned her, all the social activities in which she had participated fell by the wayside, but she refused to move her husband into an assisted care setting, even though she felt they had the finances to support such a move – many do not and have no choice but to provide 100% of the care. “No one can take care of Robert like I can. I would never do that to him – placing him in someone else’s care. That’s my duty as his wife; a duty I take seriously.”
Fast forward one year later, and Constance had no choice but to place Robert in an adult family home with five other residents; it was either that, or she would have been forced to relinquish her caregiving role because, quite frankly, she ran the risk of dying before Robert. Once she relocated Robert to a care home, the well-trained staff provided all the assistance Robert needed, and Constance could now have the sole role of being his wife. She visited him almost daily until the day he died one year later.
Constance admitted that she wished she had moved Robert to the adult family home earlier than she had because she realized that being a committed wife didn’t have to include caregiving that risked her own health. She relished her reprised role as his loving wife when she visited him – none of the other care staff could fulfill that role but her – and the staff did what they do best, providing all the care her husband needed.
This is the nugget I want you to come away with from my above commentary: guilt and obligation are normal emotions that might prevent you from making decisions that may very well be in your best interests and those of your loved one. Please believe that allowing someone else to take care of your loved one does not equate to you shirking your familial duties. It does, however, tell me that you know your limits, and you know what is best for your personal situation in the long run. Additionally, it shows that you value your long-standing role as a daughter/spouse/partner/sibling, more than any new role as a care provider. There’s something to be said about retaining your given role in a relationship.
Caveat: as I indicated above, finding affordable care outside of ones home is no easy task, and you may have no choice but to provide the needed care for your loved one. But if you are able to find trusted family or friends who can “spot” you from time to time so that you can enjoy a needed time of respite, please do so. You’ll be far more able to carry out your caregiving task if you take care of yourself first. See my article: Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.
Associated Press News story – Japanese climber, 80, becomes oldest atop Everest.
The above article chronicles a “competition” between two gentlemen in their 80’s who endeavored to become the oldest person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. I’m happy to say that 80-year old Yuichiro Miura reached the summit successfully on May 23rd, 2013 and became the oldest person to do so. Following on his heels is an 81-year old Nepalese man, Min Bahadur Sherchan, who will make his attempt some time next week, most likely making Mr. Miura’s 15 minutes of fame just a bit of has-been news as the Nepalese man takes his place as the oldest to successfully reach the summit. Not many of us – alright, none of us – will reach the summit of Mt. Everest or even care to do so…
and that’s okay.
We all have Everest moments, don’t we? Yuichiro Miura’s goal to summit Everest is not our goal. Mr. Miura stated his reason/goal to climb Everest: “It is to challenge my own ultimate limit.” We all have our personalized goals that involve reaching our own ultimate limit. I’ve had many of those moments in my 60 years of life – some of them exercise related, but more importantly, most of them were personal growth related. The most recent exercise goal has been the successful completion of two one-hour Pure Barre exercise classes…with three more to go in order to fully utilize the gift package that my daughter Erin gave me in honor of my 60 years. We’re doing this together, and please know that my 37 year old daughter is in far better shape than I am … and that’s okay. I am no expert on this type of exercise, and believe me, within minutes of completing each session, I’m in excruciating pain. But that’s okay because those exercise sessions didn’t kill me nor did they disable me; they simply made me realize that I was up to the challenge of doing more than I thought I was able.
Isn’t that the key? Maybe your Everest goal is finally having the courage to talk to someone about matters that concern you; or your Everest goal is changing jobs – or changing relationships; or perhaps your Everest summit is completing your high school or college education? Whatever your goal – whatever your Everest – when you reach that goal you are no less newsworthy than Mr. Miura or Mr. Sherchan. Quite frankly, what these octogenarians are doing is fabulous and I respect and honor their accomplishments – but I don’t admire their accomplishments any more than those of which you and I are the proudest. Mr. Miura stated that a successful climb would raise the bar for what is possible and that he had a strong determination that now is the time.
Now is always the time – because it’s the only time we have.
I’ll complete the remainder of the exercise gift package that my daughter gave me. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy some more sessions to continue on that journey – maybe I won’t. What I do know, however, is that I will always set goals, and I will always do my best to reach them.
When you do your best – you’ve done the best you can.
I hope you’ll feel proud enough of your Mt. Everest moments to share them with all of us. I, for one, can hardly wait to hear about them.
Lest you think that Alzheimer’s has nothing to do with you, look at the following statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- By the year 2050, nearly one million new cases will be diagnosed each year – that’s one American developing Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds. Taken further, that most likely equates to nearly one and a half million new family caregivers each year – considering that at least one family member will be involved in managing a loved one’s care;
- Ten million Baby Boomers will get Alzheimer’s;
- On average, 40% of a person’s years with Alzheimer’s are spent in the most severe stage of the disease;
- The number of Americans that die each year from Alzheimer’s disease has risen 66% since the year 2000;
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States;
- Today, there are no Alzheimer’s survivors – none.
Please take time to read the article I’ve attached above and consider the following: We are going to pay for Alzheimer’s one way or the other – now, or later.
This is a disease that will affect you, your children, your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond. Burying our heads in the sand won’t solve anything. Please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as contacting your state’s congressional leaders asking for greater federal funding for Alzheimer’s research. Why? Because of this staggering statistic:
According to the National Institute of Health, the federal government currently spends much less money on Alzheimer’s research, prevention, and cure than on other conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and HIV.
- $6 billion for cancer;
- $4 billion for heart disease;
- $3 billion for HIV/AIDS; but just
- $480 million for Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m not comfortable with those numbers – are you?
In a recent NY Times post, Catherine Rampell writes about how the economy is affecting Baby Boomers; more specifically that it’s not just a matter of postponing retirement, it’s the need to hold down more than one job to meet the daily – and future – essentials of their lives. Ms. Rampell is quick to point out, however, “(I)n the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to have been most injured.” Certainly that seems to be the case as I have heard that Generation X and the Millennials have complained that Baby Boomers are to blame for the state of the economy – present and future.
Of this I am certain – each generation before us, and every generation after us, will contribute positively and negatively to the world as we know it. I have to believe that every generation has pointed their fingers at generations other than theirs, and talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly that permeates their times. Let’s look at those generations as posted on CNN, American Generations Through the Years: (figures and personalities provided by the Pew Research Center and CNN)
G.I./Greatest Generation: Pre-1928; Kate Hepburn and George H. W. Bush
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1945; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tina Turner
Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan
Generation X: 1965-1980; Jay-Z and Tiger Woods
Millennials: Post 1980; Christina Aguilera and Mark Zuckerberg
We’re all struggling in some way, and we’ll continue to struggle as we mimic the overall consensus felt through all generations. There are carefree times, and then there are all the rest of our days, and we get through them, because we must. We’re better for it, but it doesn’t feel like that while we’re going through it. I have to look to Brendan Marrocco, a twenty-six year old Iraq war veteran who lost all his limbs because of a roadside bomb in 2009. In an Associated Press story, in the Seattle Times, Brendan said he could get by without his legs, but he didn’t like living without arms. “Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality … You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost for a while.”
The end of January 2013, six weeks after getting a double arm transplant, Brendan said the following at a coming-out press conference about how he’s made it thus far:
Just not to give up hope. You know, life always gets better, and you’re still alive. And be stubborn. There’s a lot of people who will say you can’t do something. Just be stubborn and do it anyway.
Sobering words, and ones that force us to reassess our current situations. I’m not trying to minimize what you might be going through, nor of what’s going on in my life. It’s just that I personally can’t help but focus on Brendan’s plight and then consciously turn my eyes away from my me-ness, and towards other-people-ness. Is Brendan worse off as a Millennial who lost so much but gained a huge dose of intestinal fortitude, defined as strength of character; perseverance? If it were me, I would be wallowing in a very deep pit of self-pity. That doesn’t seem to be Brendan’s current location.
I have been asked to hold workshops at two different Middle School/Junior High Schools in the next few weeks in an attempt to show that the gap between us Baby Boomers and the pre-teen/young teen population isn’t as big as one might think.
The age group of this audience is not one with which I have ever worked but I absolutely love stretching my skill set so I’m very excited to take on this task. I hope to deliver a workshop that engages the younger age group and leaves them with the tools needed to be more comfortable connecting with people in older age groups.
Description of the workshop, submitted to the schools: There is so much to be shared between generations, but we often miss out because we feel as though we speak different languages – and sometimes we do. For example, when you say that something’s “filthy,” your grandparents might have said it was “boss.” Believe it or not, your grandparents, and your great grandparents, were your age once so you do have that in common, and while it’s true that there is a lot to learn from older generations, they can learn a lot from you, too.
That’s where you come in. We all know that there are obvious differences between the two generations, given the advancement of technology and the like, but I think a closer look at those differences brings about the realization that many similarities exist but they are just dressed differently.
I covet your input so please feel free to leave some suggestions and/or comments below.
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.
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.”
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.
Kind of like the movie “Network” in the iconic scene where the actor Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, says, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more!”
What is often left out from that quote is the statement made just prior, “I’m a human being. My life has value.” I think some spouses in their 50’s through their 80’s decide that after decades of a somewhat dissatisfying, or perhaps an abusive, marriage they realize that they have a whole lifetime ahead of them and decide that they deserve better. In an article from the AARP June 2012 Bulletin, one of the reasons for a late-in-life divorce centers around the fact that longer lives mean more years with an incompatible spouse. And even though the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.
Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University says, “If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic.”
Wow!!!! I had no idea! I’m fortunate in that my second marriage at the age of 47 is still one in which I am very happy now twelve years later. There are those, however, with whom I am acquainted who stick to the dictum of “in sickness and in health, until death do us part” even through an abusive relationship (verbal, physical or otherwise) and, because they’ve been in it for the long haul, e.g., 30 plus years, they feel that they have no choice but to stay.
Why do those with abusive spouses – both male and female – cling to their marriage?
As I mentioned above – one reason is certainly the commitment to vows that were made at the height of a romantic relationship. And there are other reasons. An excellent therapist with whom I am acquainted who leads support groups for the abused told me that over the years, as abuse has prevailed in the household, the one being abused adjusts to each added level or intensity of abuse and becomes acclimated to each added degree. Added to this unwarranted commitment to their abusive spouse, they fear the unknown, even though it may bring about an abuse-free life. And without the help of good friends and powerful resources, a spouse in an abusive relationship may not have the tools that will give them sufficient confidence to make a decision that will benefit them the remainder of their life.
Divorcing later in life can often result in less time to recover financially, recoup losses, retire debt, and ride the ups and downs of the economy.
Some Baby Boomers out there have relished the security that their spouse or significant other has provided them in the form of financial stability. They’re thinking that perhaps it’s worth putting up with this person with whom I am incompatible to guarantee a comfortable enough life until one of us dies. Well – certainly that is a factor – but I personally believe that an individual’s life contains far more value than any bank account can provide. If someone is feeling devalued in their relationship, they have short-changed the remainder of their life. And if someone truly craves, absolutely longs for greater self-worth, nothing will stop them from satisfying that need. I guess you have to look at the options and determine if you’re willing to go with it:
living in a mortgage-free home without financial concerns with someone who tears you down, or renting a one-bedroom apartment with thrift store furnishings, that frees you from a relationship that has prevented you from being your true, and valued self.
But who will take care of me in my old age?
A 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP survey found that 66% of caregivers were female, with women providing on average 22 hours per week vs. 17 hours for males. In a divorce situation, “older men may make out better financially than women, but they don’t fare so well at finding someone to take care of them when they’re older. They often don’t have alternative care networks the way women do,” says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. When asked who they will turn to when they’re older, single men often cite paid help – a pricey and somewhat difficult option to find. Some older divorced people have children or other family members who can assume the caregiving role, but not everyone does.
Gray divorce is occurring and there are certainly many factors to consider. I guess I’m of the belief that a bad marriage is not better than living alone. Whether you’re a Baby Boomer – or of any other generational group – only you can decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to obtain your sense of personal value. As far as I know, we’ve only been given this one life. This is not a dress rehearsal and there are no do-overs.
The June AARP Bulletin had a brief piece on the fixtures of our every day life that either have already gone by the wayside or will do so in our lifetimes.
How many of you still have the following items as functioning items in your household or in your day-to-day living?
Answering Machine: a machine that records phone messages either on tape or digitally that is NOT a voice mail service with your home phone.
Home phones: many younger than Baby Boomer age are dispensing with their home phones and relying 100% on their cell phones. In most households that equates to at least two telephone numbers per household. I know it works for all of our adult children, but we’re still holding onto our land line – along with our cell phones of course.
Phone books: the internet and Smart Phones, have taken the place of this yellow book for the most part. I was in my car dealership getting my oil changed the other day and a customer walked up to the receptionist and asked her, “Do you have a phone book?” The look on her face summarized it all for me; it seemed to say: “Is this guy for real?!!!”
Printed encyclopedias. Research now-a-days can be done on-line (computer, tablet, phone) and, quite frankly, is far more accurate and up-to-date than volumes of books whose content is so very limited.
Rolodex. Every e-mail program has a Contacts function with ease of updating being a real bonus. I remember holding onto my Rolodex at work, even though I had also put info into my computer’s Contacts file, just in case I needed it. I dumped the Rolodex a couple months later.
Floppy discs & drives. Most people under 21 don’t know what this storage device is. Confession: when cleaning out my home office the other day I got rid of an unused box of those antiquated and limited storage items.
Film!!!!! Again, cleaning out my home office I found a roll of unopened Kodak 35mm film. I didn’t throw it away, however, because THAT is a collector’s item!
Analog clocks. All of my decorative clocks in my house contain numbers that go around a square or round face – you remember those don’t you? Many children now-a-days are only accustomed to the digital clock and can’t tell time without it.
Stationary & note cards. For me this is the most grievous vanishing fixture in my life. I will NOT stop sending letters and cards by snail mail – unless of course the postal service vanishes before I’m six feet under.
Toilet paper – WHAT!!!!! AARP reports that eventually, toilet paper will be replaced by toilet-seat bidets that will wash and dry at the touch of a button. Please say it isn’t so!!!!! Maybe they figure the wash & dry could add an additional benefit that would make us smile? I still don’t like the idea.
How many of you are now using items that you swore you’d never allow into your household just a decade ago? And what are you holding on to?
In an earlier article, “Retirement planning – its not what you think,” I talked about the planning required to have a quality of life after retiring from one’s job that relies on spending your time in a way that pleases you, and benefits others.
My closest friend, Sophia (not her real name), is in her 80th year of life and for the seven years that I’ve known her, Sophia has struggled with boredom, but not just boredom per se. Sophia wants to matter; she wants to make a difference; she wants to contribute to the world around her. In a recent e-mail to me, Sophia said:
“There are too many active Seniors roaming around the coffee shops and Malls wondering what to do next. Even my friend Walter, at age 97, felt a sense of accomplishment yesterday when he washed all the bed linens and remade the queen bed – this done using his walker, back and forth.”
Sophia epitomizes the bored retiree that I discuss in my article, “Voices of the bored retirees.” We often think that when we retire we’ll be satisfied with being able to golf whenever we want; sleep in as long as we want; work in the garden whenever we like, and read all the books we’ve stacked up, but not had the time, to read. My father was one of those retirees who longed for the opportunity to be on the golf course as often as he wanted. A month post-retirement, he was bored with it all.
Another quote from my friend Sophia: “I really believe that much that we call Alzheimer’s is just a simple lack of interest in remembering what no longer matters. There is definitely a veiled space that occurs now and then when it is either too painful to remember, or not worth it to try. This, in addition to physical pain and boredom, can reach a kind of black hole.”
I know my friend very well, so I know that she doesn’t support that type of Alzheimer’s reasoning, but what she said really resonated with me. Too often we focus too much on what doesn’t matter, and far too little on what can matter greatly in our remaining years. Gerontologist S. Barkin believes that we have a responsibility to actively walk through our retirement (or Baby Boomer) years:
“What do we want to do for the remaining time in our life? We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present, and our future paths.”
Most of us, even when we’re enjoying the relaxation we so richly deserve in our retirement, truly strive to create a new purpose for our life. We want a reason to get up in the morning. We strive to contribute to the community around us.
Does the retirement age need to be raised in order for that to occur? Or can we be just as effective, and less bored, by cultivating a lasting purpose after we’ve entered the long sought-after retirement phase of our lives?
O.K. BABY BOOMERS OUT THERE:
- What’s your plan?
- What’s working – or not working – for you?
- What’s your cure for boredom?
Why can’t I remember how to use this can opener?
How in the world did I get lost driving to the supermarket – a route I drive at least once a week!
My words are getting all jumbled up and my sentences aren’t making sense.
What’s happening to me?
Are you one of the many people who started to take a medication to resolve a condition, or at least to make it better, only to end up with distressing – and life-changing – mild cognitive impairment?
How long did it take for you and your doctor to realize that this horrific change of condition was caused by a medication that was added to your health regimen?
What types of expensive, and grueling, tests did you go through prior to coming to that conclusion? Did any of you go through neurological testing?
And how long did it take for you to feel “normal” again once you took your doctor’s advice to either go off the medication or replace it with a medication that did not cause cognitive decline?
I am personally aware of several people who experienced cognitive decline after taking the Pfizer drug, Lyrica (pregabalin). This drug was originally intended for treatment of neuropathic pain and as an anti-seizure medication, but was approved for treatment of fibromyalgia in 2007. Additionally, cholesterol-lowering statin medications oftentimes cause the same cognitive outcomes. And with the Pfizer drug Lyrica, increased depression – even suicide or newly diagnosed depression – were directly linked to this drug.
As Baby Boomers, we’re entering a phase where, depending upon what ails us, we start adding prescription medications to our health regimen in an attempt to have a high degree of health and well-being.
We need to be completely aware of how a medication may affect us, but it’s unfortunate that most of our awareness is dependent upon the Patient Information Sheet provided by the pharmaceutical companies. These information sheets are sketchy, at best, and carry only half-truths, at worse.
Do you have similar experiences you can share? We’d like to hear from you because awareness, and education, will help us all.
Planning for a wedding? FUN!!!!!
Putting together an extended vacation to a tropical paradise? EXHILARATING!
Figuring out how to help mom and dad with their increasing care needs? UNEXPECTED!
A recent National Public Radio (NPR) Story: Preparing for a Future that includes Aging Parents addresses the unexpected, and the unplanned for. Whether because we’re kidding ourselves or we really believe it, we oftentimes can’t imagine our parents as anything but the energetic, robust, independent mom and dad with whom we grew up. And if we don’t live near them, we’re falsely sheltered in our assumption that mom and dad are doing just fine; at least they were the last time we saw them during the Holidays! If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we’ll admit that our infrequent visits with the parents shock us greatly as we notice a bit of feebleness in their manner, because as the above story states, “time does what it does.”
Surprisingly, only 13% of some 4,000 U.S. workers surveyed for the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report considered that the need for long-term care would affect their household. We love to live blissfully ignorant, don’t we? We have so many of our own stresses and pressures associated with running our family household, we’re just not going to entertain having to be on-point with our parents’ needs as well. Guilty!
I became a long-distance caregiver in the Seattle, Washington area for my father who lived in an all-inclusive facility called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon. The first eight years he lived there were worry free because my father was one of those robust parents who was on the path towards living to a ripe old age. He did live to a ripe old age, dying at the age of 89, but from the age of 84 until his death, Alzheimer’s invaded our family’s peaceful existence, and I found that even as a long-distance caregiver, I was on-point 24/7.
Caveat: my parents had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance so none of us three offspring were financially responsible for my father’s care. But anyone who has been a caregiver for a loved one knows that care isn’t always equated to monetary expenditure. In my case, the constant need to travel to Southern Oregon to monitor his care and be the designated (self-designated) sibling best equipped to coordinate his care with the facility’s staff, lead to my decision to temporarily leave my career, which was, coincidentally, one in the long-term care housing industry. By the way – the answer was not to move him up to the Seattle area. His financial investment in this CCRC up to that point rendered that an untenable option.
Even though I absolutely relished this opportunity to give back to my father – and I truly did – it was very difficult on my household and me. My health temporarily suffered. Everything I did revolved around being available for my father and hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice. I lived in a five year period of dreading the ringing of my home phone or mobile phone because it most likely meant that something needed tending. And getting home and finding NO voicemails in our phone system was cause for celebration.
But enough about me.
Are you prepared for the eventuality of attending to your parents’ care or are you already on that journey?
Or maybe you are already caring for a spouse with medical or cognitive needs. How are you managing that difficult task?
Let us hear from you. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. It’s time to face the piper and be as prepared as we can for the inevitable.
You’ve worked your entire life; you’ve lined up your retirement leisure activities; you’re ready to start the first day of the rest of your life, but instead you start a new job: caregiver to your sibling, spouse, parent, or other family member.
Or perhaps you retired early to take on your caregiver job because there was no way you could do it all: continue your full-time job while moonlighting as your loved one’s caregiver. It doesn’t work or it only works until the caregiver runs out of steam. One way or another, your retirement years sure don’t resemble what you envisioned.
The CNN article, As baby boomers retire, a focus on caregivers, paints a frightening picture but one that is painfully accurate. The highlighted caregiver, Felicia Hudson, said she takes comfort in the following sentiment:
Circumstances do not cause anger, nervousness, worry or depression; it is how we handle situations that allow these adverse moods.
I agree with the above sentiment to a very small degree because let’s face it, the nitty-gritty of a caregiver’s life is filled with anger-inducing depressive circumstances about which I don’t think caregivers should beat themselves up trying to handle with a happy face and a positive attitude. It just doesn’t work that well in the long-term. It’s a well-known fact, and one that is always talked about by the Alzheimer’s Association, that caregivers don’t take care of themselves because they don’t know how, or don’t have the support, to stop trying to do all of their life’s jobs by themselves.
“I’m obligated because my parents took great care of me, and now it’s time for me to take care of them.”
“For better or worse means taking care of my spouse, even though she’s getting the better of me, and I’m getting worse and worse.”
The problem with the above sentiments is that oftentimes the adult child or spouse start to resent the person for whom they are providing care. It’s like going to a job you hate but being held to an unbreakable employment contract; your employer is a loved one with a life-altering or terminal illness; and you’re not getting paid. “Taking care of a loved one in need is reward enough.” No, it’s not.
I’m not bitter, I’m simply realistic. Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs any of us will hold and we can’t do it all by ourselves. My blog article, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport, encourages each person in a family caregiving situation to create a team of co-caregivers to more effectively get the job done. And please take a look at the other articles found in that same category of Caregiving. I hope you will find encouragement in those articles – some based on my own experience, and some from other caregivers’ shared experiences – especially when a positive attitude and a happy face just isn’t working for you.
- “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.”
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:
- lack of purpose
- 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!