Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Downsizing: Energy, Organization, Loss, Change--For Aging Parents and For Us Too?

Tuesday's post presented today, Wednesday, June 29th
Downsizing to help aging parents? A sobering thought: in a way that might surprise you, it applies to us too.
Personal experience: I've been writing about helping parents age well for about a year now on WordPress--hoping that sharing my unpublished book/manuscript with the world will, increase the number of older people who age well, as well as my parents did and my mother-in-law does.
Rewind to last summer. My parents had died, my then 96-year-old mother-in-law was aging well out west, and my husband and I were settled in our home of many years, enjoying our routines. While some people were thinking of moving to Florida, thoughts of giving up our home didn't enter our minds.
I'd joked about a city apartment being the best place to age well. "When you're really ill, the doorman can call a taxi, dump you in the back seat," and tell the driver which ER to take you to," I'd laughingly say. Then someone at the NY Times read my mind, I guess, and addressed the subject  http://helpparentsagewell.com/2010/07/page/2
Then our 18-year-old feral cat died.  We took it for granted we could never move while she was alive--although loving and loyal, the "feral" in her would not allow her to age well in a new environment according to every veterinarian who had contact with her.
Since I give careful thought to the ideas expressed in my posts. Suddenly it occurred to me, why not at least look at apartments in NY City---for the future of course. We were theoretically too young to have to move or even want to move.
But moving--we are; and selling our home--the "For Sale" sign goes up this weekend.  I'll skip the details of apartment hunting and how we ended up with what could be a perfect apartment but needs serious renovation that I had no inclination to do....but am presently doing.
Nevertheless, I want to talk about the major components of downsizing: Energy, Organization, Loss, Change as they impact aging parents and us. And I will try to post a bit each night, since large swatches of time are currently in short supply. Do check in.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Help Aging Parents: When Life (and Death) Get in the Way

When parents need us, we are there--if we can possibly manage it and are committed to helping them age well.  And so it is today, that a dear friend, Edie, was laid to rest in NY.  She was almost 101 years old and she did age well.

My day has slipped away from me and I will post on this blog tomorrow also. But tonight I want to take a few minutes to write a bit about Edie--a fine, can-do, petite woman I knew through the Woman's Club--who I grew to love and admire over the years. Then, using Edie's example, I want to add a bit about how family contributions help old/older people age well.

You may have met Edie in previous posts: quoted for her wisdom about old peoples' driving and cited for her always-in-order, stylish appearance among other things.  She was intelligent and well read, and her good eyesight enabled her to read, as well as write a note on a January letter to me (dictated to her daughter, who then printed it out so Edie could add the note) in her very legible, somewhat shaky, handwriting.
While Edie lived here in NY all the time I knew her (with a daughter who has health issues and her daughter's husband), she was close to both daughters.  A year ago around Mother's Day, Edie's far-away-living Tennessee daughter came to NY to take Edie back to live the rest of her years with her and her husband--a mutually-agreed-to move, from what I can tell.
The far-away Tennessee-living daughter is Edie's youngest. She came to NY periodically.  On those trips she and Edie shopped for clothes at Talbots--one of Edie's favorite stores and obviously another option for clothes suitable for old women. She also went to Edie's hairdresser's and left money to continue Edie's weekly hair appointments.
We know how important hair is in looking "put together." While clearly looks aren't everything, they are a major part of a first impression.  And Edie's first impression was yes old, but well-groomed and nicely dressed.  Additionally, the weekly hair appointment got Edie out of the house and into real life at the hair salon with all the gossip and friendly chatter that involves.
Another plus was the fact that after she stopped driving at 90 something, another family member or friend drove her to the beauty salon each week. More contact with others, more socialization, more stimulation--all of which as we know helps people age well.
Once in Tennessee, Edie's younger daughter, a teacher, became caregiver during her nonscheduled working hours. She arranged for someone to be at home with Edie during the day while at school.
I'm sure many of us are familiar with the routine. We put our life on hold until the end of a long day and then take care of our own responsibilities. Papers needing to be graded awaited Edie's daughter at night.  So once the night was hers, she began another kind of work. But she wouldn't have changed that for anything, she says.
I began writing about old people and change in the last post. While change is difficult for most old people, Edie seems to be an exception.  The fact that it was a mutually-agreed-upon change, was no doubt a big factor. Edie also liked the gentler pace of Tennessee.
While Edie lived with her NY daughter and husband for many years, we all knew about her yearly trips (in her 90's) to Tennessee as well as to Texas and California to see her grown grandchildren. Shortly after arriving in Tennessee last summer, Edie's daughter and husband drove her to Texas to visit one granddaughter and her family. More stimulation, more social contact. "Can you imagine we're driving all the way to Texas?" she wrote me.
Edie's was a life well lived. She was a member of that remarkable generation--widowed relatively young with two daughters, always upholding her end while moving everyone forward in the most graceful, positive way.  And her family happily gave back, which was almost unnecessary until she approached 100 and finally needed them What goes around, comes around.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Aging Parents: Older/Old People and Change

"Old people don't adjust to change well," says an 85-year-old friend, talking about her long-time friend who completely recovered from a stroke, is once again living independently, but has changed from a woman of strength and determination to someone who acts relatively helpless...a woman whose "piercing intellect" has softened.
"Illness can change people," she continues, "I think it's the prospect of a change in their life--the prospect of not living life as they would like to.

Yes. But that's just a piece.  According to our senior advisor, psychiatrist Dr. Bud, "it's not just the 'prospect.' It is change.  It's a loss....Body integrity is involved here and there's a need to make compromises due to the loss. The loss itself can be a profound change and there may be fewer options to replace the loss (ie. can no longer do daily exercises, walk any distance, play golf).....Anticipating loss in ourselves or in others isn't something we normally think about."
So Dr. Bud gives us another tool to help parents age well when we understand the profound effect of loss that can accompany change in older people.  We gain an important awareness that can increase our sensitivity and our ability to reach out and offer support.
For example, Dr. Bud says "it may be helpful to confirm that something is lost, but not everything." Recognizing this may help a person to change--to reassess him or herself and his or her capacity for involvement in other things--or in doing things another way.
*                             *                               *                           *
Throughout our lives we have heard about the importance of being a good listener. Having someone to talk to, not necessarily to gain advice from, but having someone who actively listens in a caring way, provides its own feedback.
When people of any age feel free to express uncertainties and feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental, not-telling-you-what- you-should-or-shouldn't-do-environment, options often become evident, solutions can appear. Clearly family members and friends, who are good listeners, play an important role in helping older people surmount the bumps in life that require changes.  And that has to help aging parents continue to age well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aging Parents: Continuing to Help Aging Fathers on Father's Day

Happy Father's Day
There's nothing better than making someone feel special and these cakes are truly works of art, aren't they?
I am not a baker but I do think if Dad were alive, I might just get some of those sheets of marzipan, some food coloring, and--using a packaged mix--try the cake below.

The cake at the top needs, I think, some kind of colored butter cream frosting in addition to the marzipan-- to make the sweater vest--which I would probably do in one color since it would still look nice and would only need one food coloring. On second thought, possibly I would go to the extra trouble of making the cake at the top. Dad would no doubt be wearing his sweater vest over a sport shirt--as he did every day, so Father's Day would probably be no exception and he would be "tickled" when he saw that cake.
If inspired, you can Google many photos of Father's Day cakes, complete with recipes, and I'm guessing all are easier to make than the ones above. So I'm including a link with photos and difficulty levels:http://www.wilton.com/ideas/browse.cfm?cel=Fathers-Day&cat=Cakes, should you be inspired.
In the final analysis I think we know it's the warmth of being together that pleases parents most.
With every good wish for a Happy Father's Day
Visit my other site: http://helpparentsagewell.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Aging Parents: A Round-Up of Gift Ideas for Father's Day

Fathers Day Cake made by Esperanza
The cake should look familiar--from my last year's Father's Day post. Today I'm rounding up gift ideas from my past posts and adding some. Indeed I'm also adding some hidden agenda items that enhance aging parents' quality of life, designated **. (You've probably thought about them but never had the courage to act.)  Since Father's Day is Sunday, here's the list--by categories--that should help us last-minute shoppers.
  • Cane (measured correctly) or walking stick
  • Hat (to shade a bald/potentially balding head)
  • Sport shirt. (Dad liked long sleeve ones to protect his arms from skin cancer--a definite concern as he aged.)
  • Sleeveless cardigan (not over the head) sweater vest. Easier to get off and on if buttons aren't a problem. Older people run cold. Dad wore it at home. It also looked good under a jacket when he went out. (This style is hard to find.)
  • An easy-to-use umbrella--opens/closes with the push of a button. Note: there has been a lot of rain this spring. (Totes makes one.)
Computers--especially designed for seniors: Check the 6 options in my May post http://helpparentsagewell.com/2011/05/28/computers-especially-for-seniors/  .
  • A-Plus Senior Computer
  • Big Screen Live
  • Eldy
  • GO computer
  • WOW computer
  • Pzee computer
  For the even less-technology-talented, check out 
  • Magazine Subscription
  • Netflix
  • Subscription to newspaper--hometown, financial
  • Tickets to sporting events etc.--accompany Dad or for Dad and a friend.
  • A short outing with Dad (fishing trip, golf game, movie, zoo, his old neighborhood if it's near--you might learn additional family history).
  • Membership to the YMCA
  • Membership to a gym
  • Membership to Silver Sneakers
  • A good blood pressure gauge may be a gift that helps parents age well, possibly recommended by doctor.
  • A great pair of shoes for walking
  • **This medication reminder was featured in a local hospital's magazine, sent to seniors in surrounding communities.  http://www.guardianmedicalmonitoring.com/medication-management.asp.  Good idea for forgetful fathers (and mothers)?
Hearing:  Hearing loss in older people is a problem for everyone.
Usually I pay little attention to company's emails sent to my blog's gmail, but because of the Times article--this interested me.  Click on the amplified phones picture for Clarity's offerings. A few phones (which may or may not meet your parents needs) are on sale for Father's Day.
Google "telephones for hearing loss" for additional phone options.

  • **An appeal for an appointment with an audiologist (write a nice note)
  • **Assistive listening systems: for TV watchers who need very high volume (http://www.hsdcstore.com/FAQs/DigitalTV.htm), while others in the room DON'T. Educate yourself. Scroll down to "Assistive Listening Devices."
  • Starbucks VIA ready brew individual instant coffee packets--regular or decaf in 3 or 12 packs for coffee lovers. Microwave in mug. Pricey. Dad probably wouldn't buy it for himself.
  • A massage or a professional shave
Vision: We know aging produces vision changes in many.
  • Large print books (for dads who still like the feel of a book)
  • The Kindle or other electronic book, where the font can be enlarged--a Godsend I hear
  • The mini-maglite, small flashlights that give great light in dark places.
  • Pocket magnifying-glass takes up little space, is light weight, not pricey (less pricey at Staples), remains lit without having to keep a finger on any button, great for reading (menus/bills) in dark restaurants.
This is getting too long; will try to add to it tomorrow.  In the meantime, the "hidden agenda" part was inspired by an old event in my life.
The first Christmas we were married, my husband gave me a gift he thought I should have (cookbook).  But then he had another gift for me that I really liked.  We still laugh about it.  But the additional gift made it very OK.  OK--you get it.
Since helping parents age well is important, is there a gift that would enhance your dad's well-being? Something he would have resisted if you suggested it, but probably won't refuse especially if it's combined with something he'd really like? These are the ** gifts. You can laugh with him if your "hidden agenda" is discovered. But he will know your heart's in the right place.
Also visit my other site: http://helpparentsagewell.com   Same blog, more resources

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Help Aging Parents: Do We Become Parents to Our Parents-- Part 2 of 2

When aging parents can no longer do for themselves...
If we agree that we are our parents' children; if we acknowledge parents' natural desire to have their children look up to them with respect, how do we reconcile a popular belief (or is it an attitude?) that--when parents get to the point where they can no longer do for themselves and we must take over responsibilities similar to those of parents with young children--we become parents to our parents?
Shortly after publication of her book, They're Your Parents Too, Francine Russo, spoke to a group in NY last year.  I asked her thoughts about being parents to our parents when they become dependent.  Her response was to the effect that feeding a parent isn't the same as feeding an infant.  The task may be the same; the relationship is entirely different.
Do we see ourselves as parenting our spouse if he or she has disabilities or neurological problems that require us to do the caregiving dependent parents may require?  I think not. With parents, as well with a spouse, isn't respect and upholding dignity an overarching aspect of the relationship? Regardless of the situation or duties required of us, can that be ignored?
A friend who instinctively does it right took care of her elderly father after surgery that left him temporarily incontinent. Wanting to maintain her father's dignity and sensing his unease when she had to help with certain things she quipped "Dad, I've been married for a long time now--don't you think I've seen it before?"
I haven't forgotten her sharing this with me some time ago. I remember thinking what an adult, respectful way to handle an awkward situation.
Since we can't get inside people's heads to know how much they're processing (even when we may think "nothing,") can we take the risk of making a loved one feel like a child? We may be devoting ourselves to help aging parents, we can feel weary, exhausted, and unappreciated. But is it worth undoing it all if--even for a nanosecond--we make our parents feel diminished?
I remember my mother at one point after her stroke saying something like "I took care of you as a child and now you're taking care of me."  I also remember my response (which I must admit to this day I'm happy to think I made). It was something like "You're right,  Mom, and you know what--now it's payback time so don't give it a second thought."
I do think when we help parents age well--or at least as well as possible--right up to the end, we have few--if any-- regrets.  And that's a gift we not only give our parents--but ourselves as well.
Visit my other site: http://helpparentsagewell.com   Same blog, more resources

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Aging Parents: Do We Become Parents to Our Parents? Part 1 (of 2)

...and/or do we remain their children forever
Contributing factors are varied.  Let's look at the "children forever" part first:
Back to Childhood: To help parents age well we need to keep in mind: "People change--not much."  I've often repeated this quote from the former head of human resources for a highly regarded Fortune 500 company. As grown ups, we can look at our parents with fresh eyes if we try (it's perhaps easier when we live far away).
See complete version on my other site: http://helpparentsagewell.com       

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today's Post Delayed Until Tomorrow

Now and then we have situations that put our lives on overload and since I can't make a 28-hour-day, I must put today's post on delay.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Aging Parents: The Value of Walking With Your Parents if You're Over 44

An October 10, 2010 Jane Brody column in the NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/health/26brody.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general continues to be timely as she discusses age-related changes. I was reminded of this column as I passed a former neighbor's home, where a garage sale was in progress.

I hadn't seen my former neighbor, Jane, since last fall, yet I had known  her well and watched her children grow up.  Her husband died prematurely and last fall she introduced me to an important man in her life, Pete.  He was moving here, she said, to be with her.

She shared that Pete was an only child; didn't want to leave his mother out west.  So although his mother was in her late 80's she too was moving here into a really nice apartment they had furnished for her, complete with her recently-shipped-out furniture.

I gently questioned about leaving friends, doctors, other supports behind and was told Pete's mother never went out, just sat home and watched TV, so it really didn't matter whether she was here or back home. It was the same TV, the same furniture, only now she could be near her son plus Jane. And they could both help her.

As I looked at the sale items neatly organized on the lawn and driveway I spotted a walker. Since another neighbor was a partner in this garage sale I asked "who's walker was that?"

"Oh, that was Pete's mother's, she died a few months ago."
"I remember she was coming out here," I said.
"Yes, she came, but it turned out she had a lot wrong with her that we never knew about," Jane offered.  "She had congestive heart failure among other things. I guess I should have realized.  During the years I've known her she stopped walking unless it was absolutely necessary.  She used to go into the market with us to shop, but made excuses to stay in the car the last few years.  And all she did was watch TV.  I realized her figure changed--I guess from so much sitting--her waist, hips, legs got bigger from sitting around and the congestive heart failure, I guess." I offered my sympathy.

Jane Brody's column immediately came to mind. We learn that lifestyle choices we make from midlife on can influence the damage from age-related changes and impact our functioning in late life.

Then a book by Mark Lachs, director of geriatrics at the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System becomes the focus. Dr. Lachs identifies two major influences (among others) that impact how well older people function and we learn that we start to deteriorate (my words) without realizing it at an early age.

Around age 30, for example, muscle strength begins its decline until we ultimately have muscle weakness. While this doesn't impact healthy people until they're 80-90, lifestyle choices, whether we make them at 50 or 90, can allow us to postpone that rate of decline.

Dr. Lach writes, for example, that if you begin walking daily at age 45, you could delay immobility to 90+. Conversely, immobility can impact a couch potato as early as 60.

Check out Jane Brody's column and check out Dr. Lach's book, Treat Me, Not My Age, (Viking) http://treatmenotmyage.com/.  Think I'll give his book to a 45-year-old friend; it could also be a Father's Day gift.

Older people may prefer advice from a book or, as I've often, mentioned "from their doctor" more than from us adult children. If this book can help us and help our parents to age well--it's a win-win.

Check out my other site: http://helpparentsagewell.com   More information--see tabs.