Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Halloween Surprise for Aging Parents

Halloween comes just before the elections this year.  And aging parents, whether blue, red, white, green, purple or whatever, no doubt have some pre-election angst like everyone else.  So an unexpected, decorated pumpkin may lift the spirits, even when older parents are the bobbing-for-apples, trying-to-ride-a-broomstick type.

Since it's almost Halloween, prices will be very low.  Pumpkins need not have a perfect shape--in fact the larger pumpkin is quite lopsided.  You only need a big skewer, a thiner turkey skewer (to poke holes for the tender stems), whatever you have in the garden, something to cut it with, and a glue gun. The entire process (minus pumpkin purchasing) takes about 15 minutes.

If you find a creature on sale (pharmacies are no doubt the best bet now--probably near the candy least that's where I found the little scarecrows today), glue-gun it on the top.  Then use your creativity. I bought a plant at Trader Joe's with the larger of the chrysanthemums, then cut two blooms from the center for the larger pumpkin.  The plant looks undisturbed--perfect on an end table in the house .

After decorating the first pumpkin two years ago, I was told that the flowers actually lasted as long as some bouquets (because of the moisture trapped inside the pumpkin).  It was so much easier than carving a pumpkin--at least for me--and the old couple I took it to (as well as their caregiver and daughter) still talk about it.

I'm off to take them the larger pumpkin.  Tomorrow the smaller one goes to an elderly woman who lives alone.   Happy Halloween!

Go to my new site:  same blog + pumpkin photos, more tabs and a larger, easier-to-read font

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Helping Parents Age Well Into Old, Old Age

Tuesday's NY Times always includes its Science Section, which yesterday presented Part 2 of Jane Brody's Personal Health column focusing on people who aged well--those who have "extreme longevity".
"Delaying Body Decline" and "A Supportive Environment" are two important factors in aging well.  Rather than paraphrasing the column, please click on the link below.
The second factor, "Supportive Environment" was not what I expected. It's not about the people who surround and care about an older person.  Rather it has to do with making certain adjustments in an older person's home--some of which I never thought of.  These adjustments should give our parents an even better chance to age well longer in their homes.
Check out Jane Brody's column for your parents and for yourself.  column

...and visit my new site (same blog, additional information):

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday's post delayed until Wednesday

Sorry to have to delay today's post.  When an elderly parent has a health event some established patterns may need to be temporarily changed.  As important as learning when to "let go," is the learning to:
  1. Prioritize and do what needs to be done
  2. Permit some slack where possible to reduce stress and have a bit of time to regroup--or even take a nap!
Tomorrow afternoon I will hear Gail Sheehy (writer and author of Passages among other books) discuss her new--and we are told--"most personal" book Passages in Caregiving.
Until tomorrow-----

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When Aging Parents Make Us "Crazed," Suggestions for Regrouping

Sometimes--more often than sometimes with older parents--stuff happens; you feel used up, there's nothing left to give or share.  Who takes care of the caregiver?
Perhaps we need to look for ways to do it for ourselves.  Can we turn the "on" switch off for a time and regain our equilibrium?
The following suggestions have worked for me and for others I know.  Basically they provide a time out when our mind can go into neutral and our thoughts float free. For multi-taskers, health benefits accompany some of the suggestions below.
  • I like to walk on the high school track near my home.  8 times around (2 miles) definitely does it. The repetition of walking clears my head, untangles tangled thoughts that seemingly have no answers. Suddenly problems fall into place and I have answers and a plan of action. (Obviously walking has an added bonus: good exercise.  While it may seem daunting when fatigue prevails, the repetition necessitated by walking on a track never fails to clarify problems and illuminate plans of action.)
  • Some people relax in the shower or tub. Their mind floats free and they have the experience described above.
  • Others say mindless hobbies can allow your mind to float free---ie. knitting, (one person who used to hook rugs tried it again with the hoped for results), jogging, weeding the garden, playing piano...
  • And sometimes a short break for something pleasurable, promotes uncluttered turning off, then restarting the computer.
When you need an uplifting, heartening short break, click on the link below, watch to the end. This older parent--an 80-year-old great-grandmother actually--seems to have aged well indeed. The video will take you out of yourself; you'll be able to smile, relax, and regroup for a few minutes.  And isn't that necessary at certain times as we try to help our parents age well.

Go to my new site: for additional resources and information.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aging Parents: People Who Have Aged Well

"Extreme longevity"--what it takes, how to prepare for it, and why certain people are especially well suited for it.
Highly regarded, long-time Personal Health columnist, Jane Brody, examined the subject in the first of two articles entitled: "Secrets of the Centenarians" in yesterday's NY Times Science Section.
Ms. Brody focused on the youngest of the 8 people featured (youngest 99, oldest 103).  In answer to the secret of the 99-year's longevity, the role of genetics is discussed. (They play a part.  According to one geneticist, centenarians are 20 times more likely than the average person to have a long-lived relative. But genetics is only about 20-30% according to a Swedish identical twin study.  "Lifestyle seems to be the more dominant factor.")
The 99-year-old thinks it's "attitude" and cites three critical elements: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience. She also gets regular exercise, eats carefully, and follows her doctor's advice. (See audio slide show online at and click on each photo to hear interview.)
My thoughts immediately shifted to senior advisor R, 97, now in rehab and making progress after her fall and resulting broken hip 3 weeks ago. These same qualities have guided her disciplined life. R has said many times she doesn't know why she has lived this long, but as long as she's alive she's going to do her best to make the best of it.
Coincidently, last week our local paper featured a remarkable 99-year-old who spoke at a fundraiser--a former journalist who, in her younger days, interviewed Arctic explorers; arranged and escorted a secret mission that brought 1,000 Jewish war refugees to the US; covered the Nuremberg trials and was appointed a special assistant to Interior Secretary Harold Ickes during the Roosevelt Administration, among other accomplishments. Although she hobbled to the front of the room [to the podium], using a walker, "her mind was sharp, her words perhaps a bit slow, but moving and clear," according to the reporter.
As parents live longer, we try to help them age well.  People who achieve "extreme longevity," may have something intrinsic--resolution, resourcefulness, resilience, attitude, the discipline to exercise and eat carefully and follow doctors' advice….
Perhaps the best we can do is remain caring, supportive, nonjudgmental sons and daughters, help when asked and be there for them as necessitated by health events. And make certain when we make suggestions about their life style, decisions, needs and values that these suggestions make it better for them, not easier for us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Aging Parents: Fall Prevention-- Alert Pendant/Bracelet

Why isn't this relatively inexpensive, old technology as important to older people indoors, as an umbrella is to them outdoors when it rains?
It needn't be worn continuously--as explained in my October 10th post, but can be left near the door so that when a living-alone senior enters his or her homeit's right there; and when the senior goes out, it's left right there.
Since the statistics--that people over 65 are at greater risk of falling and the risk increases with age--are widely known….
  1. Is it that older people who are fit don't think they risk of falling in their homes?
  2. Do they assume if they've taken or take tai chi and/or other fall prevention classes they are exempt?
  3. Do they fear paramedics will break down the door to rescue them, thus causing damage to their home?
  4. Is it the expense?
There are undoubtedly countless reasons older people reject a piece of "alert" jewelry.
To set the record straight:
  1. Most people fall in their homes.  Denial may be at work.
  2. Fall prevention classes have clearly been shown to reduce the risk; but that doesn't mean falls don't happen.
  3. The alert monitoring companies give instructions for lock boxes or other ways to make keys available so paramedics can unlock, not break down, the door.
  4. There is an expense, but weigh the expense vs. parental emotional as well as physical pain, suffering, and adult children's time, energy, and stress.
Fear of falling is one of older people's most prevalent fears.  Falling and breaking a hip spells trouble: a long recovery and initially--if not forever--greatly diminished independence. (No need to spell out how this impacts caring adult children's lives.)
Falling alone in one's home means needing to painfully, slowly crawl to the telephone--usually high up off the floor and thus a challenge to pull down even when one finally reaches the phone's location.
If a hip is not initially broken, but has suffered only a hairline crack, what are the odds the hip will suffer a complete break due to crawling?
We try to help our parents age well. Wearing an "alert" pendant or bracelet can clearly help maintain quality of life.  It's an invaluable gift and hopefully a thoughtful discussion will convince parents of its value.  (I'll try to compile a list of well-thought-of companies, whose alert pendants older people like, for a post next week.)

Also check out my new site" Same post plus informative tabs and pull-down menu.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Downsizing Aging Parents' Homes--2

Downsizing?  Moving to assisted living or a nursing home?How to best accomplished this as we try to help parents age well.
As we would expect, independent-living parents who decide by themselvesto make a move, leads to the best outcome. They maintain control.  They decide when and where and have full responsibility.  This doesn't mean adult children play no part.  They can can "weigh in" when asked, but don't run the show.  Suggestions may be particularly helpful to--and welcomed by--aging parents who move to be nearer their children and grandchildren.
"Partnering" is a popular concept.  While partnering with older parents to make this kind of decision sounds fine, it's tricky.  If children badger parents enough, chances are older parents lose the will to argue and give in to something they really don't want.  Result: if parents are unhappy, children end up with additional problems and wonder why parents agreed to the move in the first place.
This is undoubtedly why some unhappy, independent aging parents who may need a bit of help, have checked themselves out of assisted living, returned to living independently and figured out how to get the help they need.
Keeping independent-type parents' homes unsold/unrented until parents are comfortably and happily settled, prevents their being "trapped" in a possibly unhappy living situation.  It's a good solution, when affordable. Check out my post about Rodney's sobering--but true--story.
Yet some older people thrive in assisted living. They may have friends there. They may have felt isolated living alone and enjoy the socialization; or in the case of a friend's mother (whose husband dominated when alive), she loved the "assisted part"--prepared meals, amenities, the activities-- she was like a bird let out of a cage.
The biggest challenge: older parents who resist moving, but need to move because their needs can not be met otherwise. Given the situation, their doctor may be in the best position to explain to why moving is necessary.  Getting help from a geriatric social worker, who has helped families deal with this problem countless times, is another good option. If there's a threat to life and limb, sometimes there's no choice: we do what's necessary in a caring way that won't leave us with unnecessary guilt.
When we do our best to help aging parents, don't we ultimately help ourselves?  As we deal with these issues, two thoughts are worth keeping in mind:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Aging Parents; Fall; Broken Hip; Care Center

Independence vs. Broken Hip
We try to help parents age well and we're aware of the statistics. After 65 the chances of a fall increase; ditto the damage which  increases as people's bones become more  brittle. Down the line we realize that many people age, and suddenly look more fragile.
So I write yesterday's planned post today, from a rehab center where my 97-year-old mother-in-law and a senior advisor, R, is recovering after falling 10 days ago in her home and having surgery to put a pin in her hip.
R., (on my new site click on the "senior advisor" tab) like many older people fortunate to have (as she calls it) "a good brain," values her independence above all. She took precautions to prevent falling in her home and has never hesitated to gracefully ask for help (your arm) when she feels unsteady.  She never dreamed she would fall in her home and thus, rejected the idea of a pendant that would alert someone she needed help.
The result: she fell in her living room, while walking to the kitchen, having noticed a decorative object on a desk had been moved by her every-other-week cleaning person.  She reached over to move it, lost her balance, and grabbed a nearby chair.  But it wasn't heavy enough to hold her upright. Both fell on the carpet. The next three hours were spent crawling on the carpet to her bedroom and a telephone; she called a nephew; he called 911, then came to her home.
I share R's experience to help aging parents and other older people who live alone and resist bracelets or necklaces with those pendants. While they won't prevent falls, they do prevent skinned knees with carpet burns, and pain and possible further damage from crawling to a telephone.   And they don't need to be worn all the time.
Indeed, a woman in her mid-80's who shares an apartment with her son in the northeast, only wears the bracelet when she enters her Florida apartment--where she live alone in the winter.  She says she leaves the bracelet near the door and puts it on the minute she enters that apartment.
While we do our best to help our aging parents, the odds can catch up with even the most smart, independent and remarkable seniors....evident from the older people with broken hips in this rehab center.  We can only try to reduce the damage. Perhaps R's experience can provide an opening for discussion with older parents who live alone without one of those pendants.
Also go to my new site:  Same blog, more "bells and whistles."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Aging Parents--Post Delayed

Sorry--Still away and unable to write a substantive post.  It's especially frustrating because senior advisor, R, less than a week ago fell, broke her hip, had surgery and is now in a care facility for two weeks of rehab, as I understand it.
You know from reading about her (see sidebar), that she's my mother-in-law and is remarkable.  Although presently on the West Coast, I'm flying out to help her tomorrow and will relate her experience.
It's instructive, which is the purpose of this blog.  There's also a definite tie-in to last week's posts that I want to share as soon as I'm certain I have correct details and dependable internet access.
Until Saturday, when I should have internet access----

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Aging at Home or Elsewhere: Helping Help Aging Make the Right Move

I'm away once again and may not have internet access for Saturday's post.  In any event, "fall fashion" will probably be postponed again because the camera isn't behaving.
*                *                  *                    *
I'm momentarily using my niece's computer. She's eleven.  Her parents are not old and her grandparents are no longer alive.  She doesn't know any aging parents; indeed I'm no doubt the oldest person she has regular contact with.
While I would like to have had time to write my post, Lilli wanted to start her own blog. Took her about 5 minutes.  That's it for my time to write--except:
Hi everyone this is Susan's niece, Lilli! You can check out my brand new blog, here! Your grandchildren/children might enjoy my site, and you might too!
*                   *                 *                 *
(I probably won't have my own computer access until Oct. 9th--but who knows?? Check on Tuesday.)