Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Aging Parents.Medications: A Potentially Healthsaving/Lifesaving Tip

My physician told me she is suggesting all of her patients do the following. Should there be an emergency this can certainly help aging parents, as well as all adult children, who depend on a medication to remain healthy

First: On a piece of paper the size of a driver's license, write (or set the computer to that size, then print) the names and dosages of all medications.  Use front and back of paper if necessary.  And--if room-- you can * those taken once a day or write 1xdaily, 2xdaily etc.

Second: take the driver's-license-size paper to be laminated. Fedex-Kinko's and Staples have laminating equipment... check the "copy center" or "photo" area.  Cost seems to be between 99 cents and $1.25, but may vary depending where you live.

Third: place laminated medication card in wallet, behind the driver's license or --if parent no longer drives--behind the ID card.

In the event of an accident, the first thing people look for is ID. The medication list will be in full sight as the ID is pulled out.

Most parents depend on a medication to prevent health problems. Assuming no cognitive impairment, most know the names and dosages. Some aging parents wear a medical bracelet with necessary information. Many do not. This laminated list is added insurance in our efforts to help parents age well and avoid potential problems. It can help us too!

Go to my new site: helpparentsagewell.com.  Easier reading, more information.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Aging Parents: Leaving Home For The Last Time

A No Doubt Often-Repeated Scene as Adult Children Try to Help
 Aging Parents Change Living Situations

An elderly well-dressed, frail-looking mother in a wheel chair. An adult daughter getting snacks at the airport before boarding a plane.  Apologies about the mother's wheelchair blocking access to the cash register.  My response--not wanting to make the elderly mother feel bad for causing the 'roadblock'--  "No problem, I'm not in a hurry."

We ended up sitting near each other in the same boarding area to take the same plane to another state.  Bits of conversation.  Had the mother and daughter been vacationing  in San Diego?  Question directed at the mother.  "No, she's coming to live nearer me and my sister,"  answered the daughter.

Additional conversation disclosed that the mother had lived in the San Diego area since she was a teenager.  Dismantling her home was a major job; a moving van was transporting her furniture to an assisted living facility.  The daughter then busied herself with something.  Her mother sat quiety in the wheel chair.  I read my magazine.  I don't know what made me glance up and look towards the mother and daughter again but I thought I saw the elderly mother's lip quivering.

Later, after boarding the plane and beginning the walk to my seat, I glimpsed the daughter sitting by the window--looking out. Her elderly mother sat next to her in an aisle seat, looking down at her lap--a tear running down her cheek.

My friend  Katy's observation, made several years ago, leaped from my memory bank.  "It's like pulling a flower in the garden up by the roots."

P.S. Katy helped her parent age well in her own home until she died in her 90's.

Please check out my other, more readable site: http://www.helpparentsagewell.com/ --with more "bells and whistles"--to see this post.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The San Diego Zoo: Perfect For You; Aging Parents Too!

While on vacation, my writing time is very limited and access to wireless is ify at best.  Never-the-less, this week and next, I will try to post on schedule (Tuesdays and Saturdays) if possible.

Tonight I'm wondering: Why do we see zillions (slight exaggeration) of adult children pushing all types of strollers at the San Diego Zoo, but very few aging parents (or even adult children pushing wheelchairs with seated aging parents) enjoying the attractions that zoos offer? Is it that an aging or old parent no longer enjoys this?

We've been invited to stay with friends at the beach in the San Diego area. Walking barefoot in the sand and putting feet in the ocean feels good!  So does breathing the fresh air.  And sunsets on the Pacific ocean are magnificent (see  photo in August 17th's post).

But I want to talk about Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, which we visited today. Just minutes from downtown San Diego by way of the freeway (if it isn't loaded with traffic), this park is a visual treat, with acres of amazing vegetation, wonderful landscaping and beautifully designed buildings (many housing exhibits) from a bygone era. Simply driving through the acres of park is a memorable experience
The zoo, however, is the major attraction for us.  With top professional attention given to endangered species, conservation, natural habitats, the latest in animal care, and no doubt more animals than any other zoo in the US, it's in a class by itself.  AND it's user-friendly to every age.  Wheel chairs, strollers and some kind of little motorized vehicles, along with trams and gondolas make the entire zoo accessible.

But be forewarned: because every animal from A-Z can be seen in its natural habitat, if our goal is to  help aging parents by giving them a fun outing, it's important to know the limits of parents' energy.  Thus, it's necessary to prioritize what's of most interest (there are plenty of friendly, workers and volunteers who can help you). I've learned 3 hours is my max, but as little as an hour at the San Diego Zoo can be a highlight for young and old if it's well planned.

Check weather, go early to beat the heat in summer, take handicapped parking permit and bring or buy water on a hot day.  Remember: aging parents often don't feel thirsty, but dehydration is dangerous.

To help aging parents, who like nature and animals, have an outing they'll always remember, plan a trip to the San Diego Zoo if it's doable.

Help! Aging Parents will soon move to its new site: http://helpparentsagewell.com  Check it out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Aging Parents: Does Fear of Falling Undermine Parents Confidence to Walk?

         Two Suggestions Can Help Aging Parents Walk With Confidence
"If you don't use it, you lose it." Sound familiar? When fear of falling undermines parents' confidence to walk.... what happens?  Less exercise. Muscles weaken. Potential weight gain. Basically nothing good--as we know.  And the problem is compounded when vanity prevents an aging parent from using a recommended cane or walker.

I noticed a shopper with her cane in the shopping cart at the grocery store the other day. I thought about my mother whose tia's and falls made her walk with uncertainty, except when she went grocery shopping and could push a shopping cart like everybody else. When adult children can take parents grocery shopping, it's a win-win.  Everyone gets needed groceries and children can rest assured that parents have ample, healthy food.

(Sorry, shopper picture disappeared--it's on my new site--see end of post)

1.  Find stores where shoppers use shopping carts. The weight of the cart adds enormous stability, which promotes confidence to walk around like everyone else, minus the pervasive fear of falling that accompanies so many older people when they walk.

While the grocery store is the most obvious place shopping carts are used, check out--to name a few-- Target, Costco, Home Depot, TJ Max, Marshalls, many major pet supply stores, some toy stores... Once accustomed to looking, we notice more opportunities and taking parents can make for a fun outing.

2. Think twice before using aging parents' handicapped parking permits when going out with them. When parents can walk and need exercise, it might not be in their best interest to use the handicapped parking space.

Why? Because there are ways to have them walk with you that instill confidence, while giving them opportunities to walk further and feel "normal."

Walk arm-in-arm: Marie, a sturdy-on-her-feet octogenarian, was overheard offering her less-sturdy-on-her-feet friend her arm, saying "Do you like chicken? Grab a wing." Walking arm-in-arm shouldn't be a big deal.  It happens naturally with men and women all the time.

For extra support: with your parent's arm in yours, move your elbow in towards your hipbone so your arm hugs your parent's arm against your body and your hipbone provides additional support. Done correctly the extra bracing adds to your strength should your parent begin to lose balance and gives your parent an added feeling of stability.

This latter suggestion has the stamp of approval from a highly respected nurse-author-geriatric care manager to whom I demonstrated this method.  She likes it because she says you aren't pulling or leading your parent (which is usually the case). As we look for ways to help parents age well, check it out.  Go for a walk with your parent.

For additional excellent information click  http://nihseniorhealth.gov/, the National Institute on Aging site, then click F (see Falls and Older Adults).  This site is a terriric resource for older people. 

Visit my new site: http://helpparentsagewell.com  the spacing is correct, view photo, and click a tab--perhaps "blogs and sites I like."  The site is almost completed

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Help Parents Age Well With a Short Summer Outing

Sunset  Pacific Ocean  Seaside, Oregon
The Coast--The Shore
When it's less than an hour and a half ride (usually doable for older people who may even sleep part of the way), a drive to the coast offers a change of scenery. Some say the sea air wets the appetite. No doubt fresh fish and clam chowder help.

Beach towns: attract people of all ages, usually have an abundance of restaurants, interesting shops, and places to stay.  Even the smallest, quietest towns have a favorite eating spot. Sticking a toe in the water, or walking barefoot in the sand--independently or on your arm--can be an added bonus for parents. Old-timers said saltwater was good for feet. Breathing the fresh air is another plus.

The options to help aging parents have a change of scenery are only limited by time and interest. Destinations to places of quiet and beauty, charming towns, museums, vineyards, or a ride in the country--are among the possibilities.

Lakes, rivers, mountains, and national parks offer so much natural beauty, with picnic tables at most places of scenic interest and/or dining in nearby small towns. Major attractions like Multnomah Falls in the West (Columbia River Highway out of Portland, Oregon), may have a good restaurant (check to see if reservations are advised). Touristy or not these natural attractions take people "out of themselves" and into what's real. Clearly a change for aging parents who are inside most of the time and appreciate (or once appreciated) nature.

Driving with my parents to small towns they used to frequent near their home but didn't get to any more, was a welcome outing. And some towns, like the historic towns in New England, they loved. There are well-known towns like Saratoga, NY (pretty town, famous horse racing track) that, depending on where parents live, can be a short outing to a popular destination. Simply driving around those towns and having lunch or a midday meal, helps parents age well...gives them something to think and talk about for a long time.

Small museums in New England: The Clark's (www.clarkart.edu) world class paintings in Williamstown, Mass., the Norman Rockwell Museum (www.nrm.org) in Stockbridge, Mass. and the Bennington Museum (www.benningtonmuseum.org) in Vermont with its Grandma Moses collection, are gems. The latter should be uplifting. Grandma Moses was still painting at 100.

Check out my new site: http:helpparentsagewell.com. It's almost complete.  Same post, same  photo (which upset the layout and spacing when I uploaded it here), plus tabs with more information.. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Dementia, Mobility-Challenged, 90 year-old Sisters
Meet After Two Years for a Summer Outing

What better to enrich a parent's summer than a change of scenery!

Two cousins arrange for their elderly mothers (90 and 96), living two hours apart, to meet for lunch half-way between the cities where they live. One mother is mobility challenged, one has dementia. Sounds like a difficult summer outing; yet I'm told all went very well and the elderly sisters had such a good time.

This kind of outing takes special planning plus. Selecting a quiet location with a nice view, an hour's drive from each sister's residence was key. It limited driving time to two hours, broken up by lunch. Tuesday's post suggested parks with picnic tables and restaurants that were handicapped accessible. Public golf courses with nice dining facilities provide another option.

The daughters drove their mothers and each brought along a caregiver to help so everyone could relax more. The mobility-challenged sister's mind was sharp. The dementia-afflicted sister can identify everyone in a 50-year-old photo and enjoy what's happening at the moment, but forgets the latter quickly. A good time was had by all, with the daughters feeling especially happy about the success that their careful planning achieved.

While neither sister lived independently, both appreciated being taken out to see new things and have a meal. And, as we see, "When there's a will there's a way." Indeed when adult children can help aging parents who are burdened by these major challenges, it's a win-win for everyone involved.

So when we know our parents can get out--to see a doctor if nothing else, and if we want to give them a change and add enrichment to their lives--which takes planning and effort--Tuesday's post will provide additional details

Please go to my blog helpparentsagewell.com Same blog, with photos and more "bells and whistles." Last details almost finished.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Ideas for Getting Isolated-Feeling Parents Out of the House

Short Trip Ideas to Help Aging Parents Enjoy a Change of Scenery
Part One: General truisms and short outings
  • If parents can get out to have you drive them to the doctor, they can manage these short trips.
  • A change of scenery adds something to life; we know that. While we take for granted the many changes of scenery in our every-day-life, older people who don't drive and/or lack initiative often complain they "look at the four walls."
  • Feeling "isolated" can make anyone "dumb down," lose interest, feel cranky.
  • Inertia can easily set in--making an effort becomes too much of an effort.
  • Or an invitation may provide a jump start.
  • If an invitation to accompany you doesn't meet with enthusiasm or acceptance, trick them into going. How? Using the "I need your help" plea, have them accompany you on a quick errand, then add one of the suggested short trips. Or attach a short outing after the trip to the doctor's office.
  • Provide something appealing to eat/drink--as simple as an ice cream cone or as elaborate as a meal.
I accidentally learned that next-to-last last truism when I took my--we-thought-almost-dying--mother for her first geriatric appointment at the teaching hospital. She went in like a limp rag. After tests and time with the geriatrician we wheeled her to the car, carefully seat-belted her in the back seat, and began the short ride home. We passed gorgeous rose bushes that mother noticed and quietly commented on. I asked if she had enough energy for me to drive her past some other homes with beautiful flowers and she said "yes, if you make it short." Voila!

Short Summer Outings:

A scenic and relaxing drive. Final destination could be a place to eat. Every city and town has a restaurant (sitting in a restaurant provides entertainment--people watching) and parks. (Check Parks and Recreation Department for picnic tables, other amenities and handicap access if applicable.) Possible sites: overlooking water, gardens, beautiful views. Nature is renewing.

Major botanical gardens, zoos, and museums often have facilities for lunch as well wheel chairs and are handicap accessible. Tailor length of visits to parents' needs (which obviously don't include waiting in long lines), so it makes sense to avoid the busy times.

Stimulation helps parents age well. Pulling an unmotivated parent out of a funk is a good feeling. We need to remember people change, not much. An unmotivated, cranky young person will no doubt be an unmotivated cranky old person. We cannot perform miracles--alas! But when parents feel better, don't we feel better.

Please go to my new site http://helpparentsagewell.com. You will be able to view the photo that's included in this post.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Aging Parent Safety: Taking Away the Car and the Keys--Maybe Not

    Doors Unlocked
    Burglar Alarm Off
    Parents Happy
    Children Concerned

    Ninety-year-old Eloise always left one door unlocked. Easier for the paramedics to get in if she pushed the button on her alert pendant. The always-unlocked door worried her children but efforts to have Eloise change her ways were of no avail.

    Eloise prided herself on hr independence and the fact that she had posted DNR signs in every visible location--should emergency personnel need to come to her home for something serious.

    And then there was the peeping Tom. That frightened her and her 50-something year-old children. Nevertheless she was insistent--she couldn't work the burglar alarm, and needed to keep one door unlocked. The paramedics had been there before and no doubt would be there again.

    What Do the Car and Car Keys Have to do With This?

    If your parents are like mine were--and experienced the emergency vehicles, sirens etc. responding to their push of the burglar alarm company's button, they didn't want to go through it again unless they were dying. "The whole neighborhood was awakened. It was embarrassing."

    Yet an acceptable alternative exists. Note the red panic button on the remote device that enables us to lock and unlock our car from afar. We've heard the awful noise pushing that panic button creates. What's better for frightening off a would-be intruder? (OK, I admit-- possibly an old person with "the shakes" pointing a loaded shot gun.)

    Also a car in the driveway is a deterrent--signaling people of driving age are home. (One of our non-driving senior advisors has kept the car.) So taking the car away from non-driving parents may not be a good idea when we're trying to help them age well and give them protection. (Note: leaving the key may be unnecessary; the remote is necessary.)

    Additionally, keeping the keys and remote in a place that's easy to reach from the bed at night and in an easy-to-get-to place (a pocket) when out of the home, makes the panic button a great asset for fending off bad people--at home, in parking lots--anywhere near the car.
    * * *

    Sorry about the spacing. Please go to http://helpparentsagewell.com to view this blog (and the picture that belongs with it) correctly.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Helping Aging Parents and Aging Pets: Deciding--Is it Better/Easier for Us or Better/Easier for Them

    Is it Better for Us or Better for Them?
    This is not about the life and death of an aging parent; but then again, it is. Our 18-year-old cat was a parent of four before she came under our care—a stray one-year-old, who we found struggling to get suet we’d hung from a limb for the birds during the March 1983 blizzard. She came fleetingly and sporadically at first--to eat chicken I put out for her--and ultimately worked her way into our garage, our home, and our hearts.

    She was fiercely independent; resisted any obvious help we tried to give for many years. Didn’t want Inclement weather or not, she wanted no help from us. She enjoyed roaming around our property but was accustomed to handling her own affairs. Only the food did she accept, but not if she thought we were watching (which we did through a window).

    As she aged, her needs gradually changed. She gradually accepted more from us, on her terms of course. Protection from other animals, who sometimes ate her food, sent her into our heated garage when we put her food there. A cat door enabled her to come and go at will. And in winter she jumped up on a box near the radiator, where we immediately added a carpet remnant for her comfort. She kept us at arms’ length but obviously knew we were there for her.

    When her life and limb were threatened after a cat fight, we trapped her and took her to the vet’s. He suggested she might be better as an indoor cat in another home—my husband and I took that to mean he thought I was a bad mother. But we knew this cat well. We tried putting her food in our kitchen. Not one paw would cross the threshold unless we left the back door to the outside or the door to the garage open for a quick get-away. She was miserable cooped up.

    When another cat found the cat door and thus our cat’s food, she became secure eating in the kitchen with any door to the outside closed—until she was finished eating whereupon she meowed to leave. And of course, we complied.

    During another bad winter three or four years ago, she decided to explore the main floor of our home and ended up sleeping on the carpet in front of a floor to ceiling window. It was then—at age thirteen or fourteen—that she started to become a house cat. While she spent as much time as she could outside, she came in to eat and sleep and began to let us pet her on a regular basis. She expanded her territory in the house until she had been in every room from basement to attic. She had favorite places to sleep, but never on the furniture. And catching her for her yearly check-ups at the vet’s became less of an ordeal.

    We came home one March night and saw her sitting in the living room, looking out the floor to ceiling window. But she didn’t move—didn’t hear the door shut it seemed. We called her name, but she didn’t hear that either. At 18 years of age, we knew some aging event was taking place.

    And so we learned she was almost deaf and had kidney failure. We were told we could give her fluids and it was easy to do. We tried—it was easy—but it involved holding the cat. Although she finally loved being petted, she never liked being held. And she evaded us for days after catching her and doing the fluid routine. So it came down to: is it better for her to live a little longer, feeling threatened by us that she would be given fluids; or should she live less long and feel secure.

    I thought back to a friend’s 90-something-year old mother who liked to have a drink or two but wasn’t allowed because of a medication---whereupon she stopped the medications. When her child (my friend) asked my opinion, I put the question to her to answer. Live longer or live happier? Her mother continued to drink and lived a very long life. My friend helped her parent age well.

    We watched out for our cat for 17 years. She died just outside the door to our bedroom the other night. And now she’s gone—leaving an unimaginable sadness. When you put a lot into something, it means a lot to you. And when you put even more than a lot into something, over time it penetrates and infiltrates every fiber of your being. Those who are dedicated caregivers know this.

    We help aging parents; we help aging pets. And it’s very hard to say goodbye-- even when we’ve done our best and feel good that we let her (in this case) live life and ultimately leave life her way.

    * * *

    Comments below not working again. Nor is font size. Click on helpagingparents@gmail.com to comment....or go to my new site: http://helpparentsagewell.com. Same blog and posts, added tabs, comments space works as do my replies, still needs my photo--we're working on that.