Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Aging Parents--3: Mothers

Holiday Gifts for aging/old/older mothers continues but first--
Sr. advisor, R, was able to join--with wheelchair-- the family Thanksgiving celebration.  And it was a gift for her and for the 12 of us. In our efforts to help parents age well, we were careful not to exhaust her--although not completely successful.  A lot of stimulation is fun, but uses energy that is in shorter supply in older people making it difficult for them to gear down after such experiences.  But it made for good sleeping for R that night, once back at the rehab center.
Giving mobility-challenged older people the gift of an outing, if one does this alone, may merit practice with loading and unloading a wheel chair or walker; and may present initial stress.  The staff at care centers is helpful, we found, offering a mini lesson.  In our case, the actual transporting to and from our car was no problem and went more smoothly than the mini lesson.
R says this first outing gave her the confidence to go out again. My husband thinks a drive; I think a drive with lunch.  We'll see. Of one thing we're certain, she will not go out holiday shopping. That said, she did ask for one of her catalogs and a looked-forward-to appeal letter so she could order Christmas gifts for those special people (younger than we) who live near and are dear to her; and to make certain a local food bank gets its annual Christmas donation.
Holiday Gifts for aging/old/older mothers continued from:
Draper's & Damon's (800-843-1174) advertises a "full selection of misses, petites, and women's" clothing.  They also have: flat-front pull-on pants as well as those with all-around elastic waist bands, Alfred Dunner, Da Rue, additional unnamed manufacturers, and many separates shown with color-coordinated jewelry.  This takes the guesswork out of coordinating a stylish outfit. Skirts (both long and a bit below-the-knee styles ) and coordinated sporty jackets and pants in velour and other fabrics round out their offerings.  If you link to them you will also learn of their store locations (in 6 states).
Coldwater Creek (800-262-0040), with stores throughout the country, presented a fashion show at our Woman's Club using some 70+-year-olds members (among others).  I was impressed with the stylish transformation--do I dare say--that CC 's clothing made in some of the women with less than perfect figures.  (Not surprisingly, those models ended up purchasing the clothing they modeled--and more.) Coldwater Creek has clothes suitable for all ages. The variety of styles and coordinating colors make it easy to put a good-looking outfit together.
Chico's (888-855-4986), like Coldwater Creek, has many stores whose location you can easily find on the web. Clothes are suitable for all ages, with attractive clothing and jewelry suitable for older mothers.  Check out the shawl-type cardigans (no buttons)--warm and cozy while giving a contemporary look
I visited a Chico's and a Coldwater Creek store today. The sales people were most helpful suggesting clothes for older women. Also go online. If you like what you see and it conforms to your mother's challenges and needs, you may be surprised at what works for older women.
If you believe in "look good, feel better," an attractive addition to an older woman's wardrobe can accomplish this--another way we can help our parents age well.

 If you haven't done so, check out my new site: Same blog,  more resources.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gifts for Aging Parents--2: Mothers

There's a never-worn St. John knit hanging in my closet.  Normally a very pricey label, it was so inexpensive (these are the "buys" you can find in NY) I couldn't resist getting it for my mother years ago--her size, her color, two piece. But she never wore it.  Why?  At age 83, she tactfully told me that she didn't wear short sleeves because of flabby arms. Who knew?
Something to think about after we celebrate Thanksgiving and the shopping begins: our aging parents' particular wants and needs, as well challenges, when selecting clothing.  Can can they button and unbutton easily? What about hooks and eyes? clasps to necklaces? things that zip, button in back etc. etc.  Do they want to downplay/hide certain parts of their body??
Senior advisor, R., has always had success with catalogs.  And she always looks well-put-together. Older people and non-computer-types still shop this way, although almost all catalogs include an e-mail address for shopping on an 800 #.
The list below is carefully selected from catalogs I know older people like, with flattering styles for older people as well as others.  While clearly not all-inclusive, in addition to daywear, these catalogs offer accessories, jewelry and sleepwear plus other gift ideas.  I definitely believe in "look good, feel better." The following can help achieve this as we try to help parents age well.
For older women (as well as others), check out: especially Alfred Dunner and Koret, two manufacturers whose clothes aging mothers can wear and look well-put-together.
  • Alfred Dunner's pull on pants coordinate with tops.  The all-around elastic waist bands, while easy to pull up, can be an issue for certain figures; but not necessarily, when hidden under coordinated tops.
  • Koret eliminates the all-around elastic problem on some clothes by manufacturing flat front pants and skirts with elastic in the back or has "hidden elastic" in the waist that expands up to two inches on each side. features attractive clothes by other manufacturers than those in The Tog Shop, with the exception of Da Rue, a more expensive line that appears on random pages.  My mother loved this maker's "blouson" a decade ago.
Note: Since we're trying to help aging parents with "perfect" gifts that also help them age well and avoid problems:
  • Check the "cozy" gifts: slippers (be certain the soles are non-slippery), robes (are snap-down the front preferable to zipper-types?).
  • Beware baggy pants, due to the "pull-up" feature. While they're no problem for some, they do nothing for certain aging figures, unless hidden under tops and/or jackets.
  • Check whether or not clothes are washable
  • Check return policy
  • Google a manufacturer--I notice both Alfred Dunner and Koret have on-line outlets.
To be continued Saturday.  Happy Thanksgiving.
For the same post plus more information visist my new site:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aging Parents Holiday Gifts Part 1

Holiday Gifts: Thanksgiving and Beyond
My thoughts continue to focus on aging parents who have had to relinquish control. R. is still in rehab; but we can bring her to be with us for part of the day on Thanksgiving. This year especially, it is something that R. has been looking forward to. She calls it a gift--to be in a normal atmosphere, temporary as it will be. Makes me think, once again, do we realize what we take for granted?
I am reminded by a recent e-mail from reader in his 60's: Dear Susan, It took me about four months when I broke my hip to put weight on it.  The part I hated the most was staying in  rehab.  It felt like jail time to me....But you have to learn to dress yourself and do all the other stuff which we just take for granted.  Tell R to hang in there.
I read this to R. and was amazed at how affirming it was for her.  She said, "yes, I feel like a prisoner."  Affirming one's situation or feelings is an intangible gift at any age, but is especially meaningful for old or elderly people.
Intangible gift ideas for Thanksgiving day:
1.  Conveying the feeling of being wanted (and getting them out of "jail," if doable). I realize what's doable for one, may not be doable for another.  I think of a woman in her mid-80's, still-sharp mind, mounting issues due to cancer, in a hospice facility.  She wanted more than anything to spend Thanksgiving with her grown children.  With help, she was could have made the short ride to their home; but her devoted children feared she would resist returning to the facility and knew they couldn't care for her at home (as they had previously done). They visited her on Thanksgiving...had the meal at home without her.
Granted, these are tough calls.  Could the facility have given the woman, for example, a 4-hour pass which she knew about so she understood she'd need to return? Creative thinking ahead of time, can sometimes lead to good solutions for all.  So we need to ask ourselves: "Is it easier/better or us, or easier/better for our parents?"
2. Affirming that they can legitimately contribute...May take creative thinking based on abilities:
  • The oldest man at our Thanksgiving gatherings strings the fresh cranberry necklace to adorn the turkey.  (Necklace idea from an oldGourmet magazine.)
  • Ask a senior to say grace--or to give thanks for the men and women, at home and in far-away places, who put their lives on the line to protect--and have protected--us and our country.
  • Assuming they no longer cook or bake, ask women for help with flowers for the centerpiece, or putting a flower in the bathroom, or setting the table, or just looking over the table to be certain it looks get the idea.
Being asked to contribute and conveying feelings of being wanted--intangible gifts--  promote feelings of self-worth at any age, feelings that are often in short supply in old/older people as we try to help them age well.

For the same post plus more information go to my new site:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rehab, Respite, Short-term Care, Hospitalization=Loss of Control

Why Rational, Agreeable Aging Parents Can Turn Grumpy:  4 Insights
My dad was extraordinarily independent.  I knew that; but I didn't know how much he valued his independence until a respite weekend--just three nights and two days-- at "the home" was suggested.
My brother (who lived with our father) wanted to go to the beach for the weekend. There was help during the days to cook lunch and dinner and clean up; my brother was there at night and it worked fine.
Dad was a relatively healthy 90-something-year-old at the time who, every week, visited old friends at "the home" who lived in independent or assisted living.  So you can imagine my brother's surprise when Dad vehemently rejected the idea, with so much emotion that my brother was taken aback.
*                            *                             *                                 *
Currently R is living at the rehab center.  No option initially.  She needed to recover and move forward after surgery on her broken hip.  This is her 47th day there; 97-year-old bones don't recover as fast as younger bones and she accepts this fact.
Looking back over R's adjustment, I understand my Dad's emotional refusal and my mother-in-law's initial feelings. Thus I want to share insights that I believe are valid--for aging parents who value their independence and probably for most older people in general.
  • Older people take pride in being independent.  It sets them above the stereotype.  It raises self-esteem and confirms capability.
  • Older people don't welcome change; they're usually more comfortable and confident in known surroundings.
  • When they must go to an institutional structure (unfamiliar routines and rules) they must adapt, which isn't always easy.
  • Think: putting your child in kindergarten the first day.  New people, new expectations, and to be successful adapting to the regimen and beginning to make new friends.
The value of special support from adult children at these times certainly helps parents age well.  Loss of control is scary. Normally pleasant people can become grumpy and demanding, if not depressed.  Needing to navigate new turf with new ground rules can prove daunting, especially when older people feel helpless and are dependent. As they gain and feel more control (know the nurses, adapt to the routine, understand that it isn't going to be like home) things do improve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aging Parent, Broken Hip, Schedules Interrupted

Flexibility when an aging parent's health event interrupts their children's lives--important.  We know. We also know there are only 24 hours in a day.  Squeezing things in and omitting and prioritizing take on new importance. This is my life at the moment.
I flew out to be with senior advisor R, my 97-year-old mother-in law, who has just spent day 45 in rehab.  "They" (whoever that is) say it takes 90 days before older people's hips have healed /mended or whatever enough to be able to put weight on the hip.  That means 45 more days at the rehab center and R is crossing off each one.
The physical therapy is excellent, which is the reason we selected this place. It is convenient to her home, several thousand miles from ours, but not from where we stay when we're here.  However, we must drive over an hour daily--which is the reason I just came out again.  My only-child husband has been doing that daily drive for three weeks (flying home  2 weekends); I can give him some time off.
And so I'm on my way to the rehab center--with a stop at the local library to post this.  This article, in Wednesday's NY Times, A Woman's Journey From an Artist's Barn To a Mansion's Wall is an interesting, enjoyable read that I want to share with you.  It features a woman of privilege and wealth and a centenarian of neither privilege nor wealth from what I gather, whose 64-year-old daughter (with whom she lives) accompanied her on an unusual trip back in time.
I wonder if living with her daughter (who possibly never married since she uses her mother's last name which is, of course, her "maiden" name) contributed to her reaching 100 years of age and seemingly aging so well.

Do go to my new site-- posts, but more information and carefully selected (by me) resources.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Help Aging Parents: Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

The Christmas season began in stores near me days before Halloween arrived.  Personally I like to savor each holiday before moving on to the next, but this year I am as premature as those I am critical of.  While Thanksgiving is two weeks away, because of my schedule I just finished--because I had to-- three holiday gift baskets for people in a nearby nursing home, to be delivered on Dec. 2nd. It's fun to create 

While this delays my intended post, it's clearly a part of helping older people age--hopefully happier if not well--so I'm featuring it today.  You will find some inexpensive gift ideas that older people in nursing homes--or not, whether long or short term--will appreciate.  The suggestions below are within the guidelines of the nursing home near us.  Guidelines may differ so check them out and remember the gifts recommended below are for strangers:

  • chap sticks
  • soaps, lotions or creams with no scent/fragrance
  • comb and brush
  • small stuffed animals
  • pens, pads, stationery
  • sunglasses
  • neckties
  • slippers, socks
  • mittens, gloves, scarves, shawls
  • decorative boxes or containers
  • scrapbooks, photo albums, picture frames
  • candy canes (no other food but this)
  • holiday decorations
As you can see from my basket on the right, I've chosen a game theme using 2 of the above items (candy-cane striped pen with santa at the top and stuffed animal), plus a Sudoko book, playing cards, magnifying glass, candy-cane striped pen with santa at top, teddy bear, and vase that will hold seasonal greenery as we get nearer December 2.  Missing are to-be-added-later lottery tickets that bring some excitement to older people who probably lack that kind of excitement --especially if they are long-term care seniors.

Our Garden Club's nursing home gifts are displayed on a long table as part of the Woman's Club annual holiday open house.  Also featured: garden club members' tables decorated for Christmas and Chanukah.  People never fail to ask if they can purchase the baskets made for the nursing  home.  Probably because they look great, not because of the contents. Each must have fresh and/or dried flowers, leaves, pine cones etc. as part of the decoration...nothing artificial. Cost: around $12.00. The nursing home project, as our garden club calls it, has become a tradition.  By the time the above basket has the greenery and lottery tickets within, and is wrapped in  cellophane, someone would have to be in a very bad way not to have his or her spirits lifted just viewing this gift.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Aging Parents: Muscle Weakness, Less Exercise--Do We Inadvertently Enable It?

Knowing that "ify" balance and loss of confidence contribute to aging parents' concern about falling, and just having written about falling and "alert" pendants, reminded me of one of those "ah haa!" moments.  I realized that Mother, recovering from a stroke, was not conscientious about doing her physical therapy exercises at home. For one thing, she needed to walk more.
Being a far-away living child, I wanted to make the most of my time with her. My suggestions only made her feel less adequate. I wanted to empower.  What better than a short outing to Nordstroms? We'd have fun. She'd have to walk.
Underway and armed with handicapped tag (and walker just in case), I felt tension thinking about the availability of a  handicapped parking space.  But there it was--just waiting for us.
As I was preparing to get out, then help Mother out--flash of brilliance: "Why am parking so close? The primary purpose of this outing is for Mother to walk more...I'm trying to help an aging parent, not trying to park as close as I can which limits her walking."
When parents can--and need to--walk more, doesn't it make sense to avoid the handicapped space?  Of course we needn't park blocks away--but we know our parents, we can guage their capability (if uncertain check with doctor) and gradually increase it.
Walking--as we know--is a best exercise and costs nothing (unless we do a lot of shopping).
If parents need the stability of your arm, check out the dignified, preferred way of doing this in my August 21st post. And of course shopping carts at the big box stores, grocery stores etc. provide the stability to make walking easy for older parents.
Bottom line: skip the handicapped spaces, unless there's a good reason to use them. This is just one more way we can help our parents age well.
Check out my other site:  Same blog, additional information and resources

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Help Aging Parents With "Alert" Bracelets and Pendants

"Alert" Pendants and Bracelets: 
Belt-loop attachable?  Often. 
Waterproof for Bathing? Usually.
Worn Regularly?  Not
"I'm very careful.  I exercise regularly. Of course I know about them, but I never thought I would need one," elderly, broken hip victim.
"Yes, I have one.  I'm not certain of the name....Life something, I think.  You know I have the bracelet on my nightstand, but I never wear it," 90-year old woman who still runs her own business.
"I wear it in Florida because I live alone there.  I keep it on a little table by the front door, that way I can leave it there when I go out and it's there to put on when I come back," 85-year-old woman.
Senior advisor, psychiatrist Dr. Bud, MD, tells us that getting older and realizing age (think: using an alert pendant) gives "a heightened awareness of our fragility, vulnerability, our not being immune to age-related problems...It helps," he adds, "when older people have the wisdom to acknowledge that their reflexes are not the same as those of younger people."  That said, not all older people have the wisdom as seen in the above quotes and in well-publicized statistics.
Deciding on an alert system is step one.
9 Things to Consider When Making the Decision:
1. Cost
2. If there's a trial period
3. Cancellation/return policy: read the fine print.  Among other things, it seems some people have signed a 3-year contract without realizing it can't be broken, short of death.
4. Ease of installation
5. What is the range (will the button work if I fall in the laundry room?)
6. If a hearing aid is compromised due to a fall, can the fall victim hear the monitor's voice?
7. How--and how often--the "alert" pendant is tested
8. Whether the alert/alarm signal goes directly to a trained person, is outsourced, or goes to a central place then redirected to a trained person.
9.  Portability if, for example, staying with daughter for a week.
ABC Good Morning America reported (5/13/2009) the following facts:
>"Every 18 seconds an older adult is in the emergency room because of a fall," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
>1 in 3 adults over 65 will fall every year.
>falls cause 300,000 hip fractures a year
An additional fact from psychology books: denial, a psychological mechanism, is powerful and unconscious and can prevent us from seeing the obvious; it protects us emotionally from having to deal with something until we are ready.
We don't want an aging parent's alert pendant to sit--unused-- on a nightstand in the same way older people leave hearing aids in a drawer, never to come out again. The consequences from an elderly person's falling and not being able to get up or get help--are more dire than the consequences from their not using a hearing aid.  Of course adult children know this.  The facts given above are to provide objective information to skeptical parents who resist the idea of a an "alert"pendant.
While there are many options, making the selection can be tricky.  Ask a friend who wears one. Some that my limited sample of older people liked, others didn't like.  A 2008 NY Times NewOld Age Blog, suggests the difficulties.  If you have time to read the comments, one commenter says his company conducted research and found has the best product. You decide.
Helping parents age well often takes more than a 24-hour day.  This information will hopefully save time.