Sunday, December 25, 2016

Aging Parents. Holiday Depression. When Chanukah and Christmas Share the Same Day


At a joyous time for so many who are young(er) and an emotional time for so many who are old(er) and have suffered loss, one wonders whether having the first day of Chanukah begin on the exact same day as Christmas compounds the number of lonely, sad, depressed people in the world. 

Countless articles and studies about holidays bringing on depression are available. Advice for sufferers and information about available support exist in abundance. Googling "holiday depression" produces 1,220,000 results. Even here, on this blog since its inception, holiday ideas for helping elders feel supported, cared about and loved exist. 

What do we know and what can we do to reduce holiday loneliness in those we care about? Speaking personally--which I try to avoid--is my onIy option. I know from my counseling training that I can't be objective when my husband died just over 6 months ago. That's the reason for the larger gap of time between my last post and this. I simply couldn't figure out how to write on the subject again. With a different perspective I've reread my prior posts and can comment. (Click links below and check out ideas.) 

To view entire post please visit my other site

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving and the Circle of Life: Transitions--2016

                     Traditions and Transitions Impact Aging Parents
                                   and the Elders We Care About

Last year my annual Thanksgiving post focused on turning over a tradition, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, to the next generation. For me it signaled a major transition. We had hosted Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends since the first year of our marriage--whether we were in the East, West, or Southwest. Little did I know that now, a year later, my husband wouldn't be alive. But since I'd relinquished the Thanksgiving tradition last year, being a guest for Thanksgiving this year was easy and welcomed at a time of many transitions that aren't always easy....or welcomed.

Please visit my other site to view entire post.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Help Aging Parents: Halloween--a Treat for All Ages (updated 2016)

Taking aging parents and elders we care about to see the Halloween displays
Who doesn't enjoy Halloween decorations! They're becoming increasingly widespread. Indoors and out-of-doors these decorations are so much more elaborate than the orange, carved, candle-lit pumpkins--and perhaps a black cat or witch-- sitting on the front porches of our childhood homes. However.....aging parents and older people we care about may not have the pleasure of seeing them. Here's how to remedy this--

Whether in the country or the city, various-shaped, and even white-creamy-colored-pumpkins, along with Halloween themed inflatables--plus ghosts skeletons, and witches--are common sights.

To view entire post please visit my other site

Halloween Pumpkins

Friday, October 21, 2016

Old Parents, Breast Cancer Surgery and Dental Work: Options–Do All, Less, or Nothing

Is it Better to do Nothing or--at least--Less?  
and A Woman Rejects Mammograms at a Certain Age

A friend just drove to upstate New York to be with her 70-some-year-old mother who was having a lumpectomy. While her mother didn't want her to make the trip, she was glad to do it so she could help out a bit. That's what daughters do, right?

I thought about Sr. Advisor, R, who in her early 90's, decided against any more mammograms--period. Her rationale: if they found something suspicious she wasn't going to do anything about it anyway, so why impact her life with knowledge that would only cause stress and concern--for herself and for those around her. When R died in her sleep at 101, it was assumed old age was the reason.

To view entire post please visit my other site

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lifting Aging Parents' Spirits in the Fall--6 Ideas

Fall foliage and Walkers in Central Park 2015

Do we notice mood changes in elders when less daylight makes days feel shorter? 

September 22nd. The beginning of Fall-- the Fall Equinox. Hours of daylight lessen. Days feel shorter. Darker days darken some people's mood. Clearly the elderly aren't immune and may be even more at risk if they live alone or are inclined to "see the glass half empty."

The idea of cozy, apple cider, pumpkin pie and beautiful fall foliage may be off their radar--replaced by gloom, doom, and loneliness as they contemplate--literally--darker days ahead

Adding some spirit-lifting ideas for this group has become tradition for Help! Aging Parents. But we're a bit earlier this year and why is that?
Visit my other site to view entire post

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Image result for "I get by with a little help from my friends sheet music image
Caregiving. Caregiver support. One size never fits all. We have our own ways of approaching and handling things.That said, a reference to this Kiplinger's magazine article, Pitching In When Caregivers Need Help, was glaring at me as I began moving older Newsworthy articles from the column at right, to "Newsworthy Archives" (above). Having just gone through months of what qualifies as "caregiving," I'm thinking the idea for finding additional help as offered by Kiplinger's  three listed sites below may appeal to many.
 To view entire post, please visit my other site

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Help Aging Parents–and Us! PINs & Passwords

Picture this: Our with-it aging father banks online and has a smart phone. But we don’t know his PINS (personal identification numbers), passwords or where–or even if–there’s a list of them somewhere. This didn’t trouble us when we bragged about his ability to use new technology, but it becomes a gigantic problem when a health event that affects his memory occurs–namely: he can’t remember his PINS or passwords.

To view entire post, please visit my other site.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Help Parents Age Well--With Hugs and Love--Until the End

 Importance of Hugs and "Love You's" for Older, Hospitalized Adults
                                    (Seems obvious, doesn't it)

"Hugs" and "Love You"--two expressions generously shared these days.They make us feel valued, nurture our souls, support emotional and physical well being.  They're exchanged countless times by friends and family in our younger years, lessening in old age, and problematical for hospitalized elders and those who love them, especially at life's end.

Hospitalization makes hugs and personal sharing tricky. Aides come in to draw a drop of blood and take temperatures numerous times daily. Physical barriers exist between us and the person in bed. IV poles, monitors, drips, lines, tray tables, night stands--and those bed rails--defy making easy physical contact....unless one has super-long arms or is a contortionist. Hospital regulations, loss of privacy and constant interruptions interfere with that special, loving connection we ideally want with our love ones. And touching is a powerful part.

 The Question:
How do we convey our love and caring to one restricted to a hospital bed?

I'd forgotten how hard it was to give my mother a hug when her small body lay in that wide bed with bed rails up to keep her safe. I forgot how ludicrous I thought it was when elderly people are so weak they need help to turn over, yet have bed's rails blocking  access.

Here's the recipe to combat that isolation and bring some normalcy and love into the equation:

To view entire post please visit my other site

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aging Parents: When We Invest Ourselves in Caregiving

When we work hard at something, expend great effort--perhaps even go beyond what we thought were our limits--we've invested ourselves. Indeed, when we've put a lot of ourselves into something it permeates us. Be it caregiving or whatever, it becomes a significant part of life; the major part of life; and for some individuals--their life. Over time it's easy to lose perspective and upset the needed balance to be emotionally and physically healthy.

                               "You've got to take care of yourself."

How many times do caregivers hear that? We needn't be geniuses to know that food and sleep are necessary for physical health and stamina; but there may be precious little of both due to circumstances beyond our control. It's also easy to get so caught up in the demands and decisions that we forget priorities. We may think about our needs, but other demands supersede.

To view entire post, please visit my other site

Saturday, August 20, 2016

When We No Longer Have Aging Parents--or a Spouse

"I've stepped to the front of the line." Although R had been
widowed for years prior to her elderly mother's death, she often
said that after her mother died. It wasn't until later that it made
an impact and I understood the meaning. I sensed her feeling:
no longer was someone ahead of her to protect her.
Psychologically, did she still feel her 90+ year-old mother had
been  a protector? a buffer? a first line of defense? I wondered.

Indeed, she had us: her son and me, her daughter-in-law. We could and would share her responsibility and be there for her. That said, she cherished independence and was an intelligent, fully functioning, involved woman. Although grateful, she must have considered us back-up.

Please visit my other site to view entire post

Monday, May 16, 2016

Caregiving and Time for Self

  • One reality is that we can't stretch a 24-hour day.
  • A second reality is that--and we all know this, but easier said than done, those entrusted with caregiving must take care of themselves.
  • A third reality: it's hard not to push ourselves....just this one time or just a little bit more...but it's not good for us if it must continue over an extended period.
  • And the last reality--at least for me--is that my time for keeping up with my blog remains in short supply for the time being.
Having set mental markers in my head to warn me of when my ability to remain helpful to anyone, even myself, is at risk--I have asked for help several times since my husband's surgery to replace his aorta and mitral valves on February 4. 

To view entire post please go to my other site

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Aging Mothers: "Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond"--Jane Brody's 4/26/16 Column is Timely for Mother's Day and for Us

With Mother's Day just a week away, the Well column in Tuesday's NY Times, Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond, is timely and worthwhile....

Reading Jane Brody's Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond gives us insights into mothers and grandmothers--and even ourselves; and for creative adult children, it could spark ideas for Mother's Day gifts.

To view entire post please visit my other site

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Help Aging Parents--Post Written, but Vanished--Caregiver Stress?

What a surprise to awaken this morning and find yesterday's I-thought-published post missing---gone, nowhere to be found. Help! Aging Parents' goal is to share the best information and some creative ideas to help the elders we care about age as well as possible. With my husband's recent heart valve surgery, I've been more focused on helpful caregiving ideas and yesterday decided to offer some personal reflections. For the first time in the history of this blog, they vanished.

I had written about stress--our cancelled plans to fly this past Tuesday to warm weather and sign the closing papers for the sale of my husband's mother's home. Doctors gave the necessary permission two weeks ago, following my husband's heart valve surgery in February. But all changed at the end of last week when the new mitral valve developed a hole.

To read full post please visit my other site.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Aging Parents: Medical and Dental Procedures--When More May Be Too Much

If our parents live long enough, there will no doubt be times when we are--or will be--hesitant to have them experience more misery and/or pain due to unpleasant procedures. But it happens. And if we/they are responsible, the memories can fill us with later regret: the wish-we/they-had-done-differently kind of memories.

To begin, it helps to remember we aren't perfect. Most of us are lay people. We act out of love, concern, caring and compassion or what people we respect suggest. That's emotion or instinct. Even when presented with facts and solid information we can make can older people.

In the case of both my parents, there are things I wish had been different. Sr. Advisor R, my m-i-l, said several times there were things she wished she had done differently. For Leo, well-researched "more" worked. For my Uncle Harry, possibly not understanding long-term implications led to an earlier death.

To view entire post, please go to my other site.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Passover and Easter 2016: Thoughtful Ideas and Gifts for Aging Parents/Elders

IMG_2981          2016  
                                         Easter March 27
                                     Passover: April 22-30

Ideas for adding pleasure to the lives of Aging Parents and the Elders We Love
Small bunnies add whimsey to spring baskets. Wouldn't they bring joy to aging parents or to seniors in a care facility?
To view entire post, please go to my other site

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fun for Aging Parents--Watch the Baby Bald Eagles Live in Wash. DC

Eagles (eaglets) have hatched high up in a tree at the US Arboretum in Washington DC. 

 Watching live streaming, courtesy of the Arboretum and American Eagle Foundation (the latter supplied photo here) is captivating--wonderful entertainment for all ages, but think about the stimulation for older people!

And then think about those who are homebound or in care facilities. Take a laptop, notebook, iPad (a cellphone's screen may be a bit small for aging eyes) to aging parents or elderly friends if they don't have one. If they do have one, email the link below or add the link for them.

To view entire post please go to my other site

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Help Aging Parents: Caregiving--A Caregiver's Story

As parents age, concerns about heavy-duty caregiving are common. The NY Times published a powerful piece in early March. Elizabeth's experience as told to NY Times science/geriatrics-writer/columnist, Paula Span, will resonate with many caregivers, Alzheimer's caregivers or not.

            Living with the parents I'm losing to Alzheimer's:
two excerpts--

     One night recently my dad was so confused, up so many times, and I was exhausted and full of frustration and anger and overwhelming grief. I just went in there and cried in his arms, begging him, “Please, go back to sleep.” He didn’t understand, but he was holding me and crying, too, and saying, “I’m so sorry. I’ll do better. I’ll do better.”

To view entire post please visit my other site

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Aging Parents: Lift Spirits on ST. PATRICK'S DAY

Oxalis regnellii (Shamrock) Plants at Trader Joe's March 2016
I've always loved this plant and have written about it in previous posts. It's easy care: likes good, indirect light; flowers for long periods, then takes a rest; opens in daylight and closes up at night; likes moist, non-soggy soil and its leaves collapse (but plant doesn't die) to tell you when it's too dry and needs immediate watering. How user-friendly is that?
To view entire post, please visit my other site

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Saturday's and Sunday's Posts Postponed and Sr. Advisor D's Death

Last Monday began with a funeral for Sr. Advisor D, who died unexpectedly a few days before in Florida, where she spent winters. Her son had been visiting with her for a few weeks and was due to return to NY the next day. She often said her son helped her age well; indeed they were enjoying a busy schedule in Florida prior to her death. .

Sr. Advisor D was a mentor to me when I took the counseling position at Scarsdale High School decades ago and remained a dear friend. She was "up on the latest"--whatever that was--so interesting and fun to be with. Very bright and well-read (a former honors English teacher), she was an active 90-year-old, who continued to participate in all aspects of life. This included significant contributions to my blog--until the end. 

                 To view entire post, please visit my other site      

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Surviving Hospitalization of an Aging Parent or Spouse--2: 7 Tips for Coming Home

The first thing Deb, the RN-Geriatric Care Manager, said to me during her "courtesy call" at the hospital was something like:

"Get everything in order at home: fresh sheets and towels on bed and in bathroom; wash laundry, your hair; bring in a supply of groceries; do everything you need to do because you won't have time to do it initially." Excellent advice.

The following suggestions came from healthcare workers in the hospital--
or from what worked well for me:

To view entire post please go to my other site

Thursday, March 3, 2016

13 Tips for Surviving Hospitalization of an Aging Parent or Spouse

How many times have people said "You must take care of yourself?" when caring for an elderly loved one who's hospitalized. There's stress. ...too many things to take care of, possibly many people giving advice, definitely emotionally draining.  I'm convinced the following 13  suggestions ease the experience:

To view entire post, please go to my other site

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Caring for the Caregiver of a Hospitalized Aging Parent or Spouse After Major Surgery

While I've been working on a post about successfully dealing with a loved one's hospital experience, I was unsure about how to best orchestrate the transition from the hospital to home for my husband--even though I'd spoken to the social worker on the floor (who said I knew everything he was telling me so I should simply call with any additional questions).

That said I wasn't comfortable, wondering: Could I handle the physical requirements of someone who'd been in the cocoon of intensive care levels, then a few days of rehab and still take care of the food preparation, normal house keeping and leaving the house to do necessary errands that first week? I also remembered something I learned, in my two years of teaching French (before I began counseling): not to say to my students "just raise your hand If you don't understand." A very bright student politely asked "How do you know what to ask if you don't know what you don't know?" Decades later, I remember that. Thus, I phoned Deb.

To view entire post please visit my other site

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Aging Parents and Hospitals: "Thank You" May Be Your Best Ally

                 In medical situations where we're dependent on others
                and have no control, "thank you" may be our best ally.

Really sick people, especially aging parents, make us sad, stressed and dependent on smart professionals to address our parents' needs. Reactions to serious family health issues and how we navigate the emotional roller coaster obviously vary. One size never fits all. Yet there's one constant that's a win-win for aging parents, health care professionals and their support people, and us--
To view complete post please visit my other site

Monday, February 1, 2016

Aging Parents--Aging Well: What do Nuns Have to do With It?

IMG_4915 Nuns Crossing 5th Ave. in NYC Sunday morning after January 2016 Blizzard

Seeing these agile, apparently hardy nuns navigating snow and slush to cross 5th Avenue last Sunday, triggered my long ago thinking about the MacArthur Foundation research and the Nun Study. Although I don't remember an emphasis on "active engagement with life" in the Nun Study, I remember thinking at the time that nuns are part of a community experiencing  social connectedness and are actively engaged; and I wondered if that also helped them age well.

Today the importance of connections with others in helping people age well is well recognized. Nuns don't have children, but they do have a community which supports and connects with them throughout life.

Our parents, on the other hand, have children, but their community--their supports--dwindle as they age, leaving lonely, unhappy elders with adult children who often live many miles away with job and family responsibilities. In addition, many parents don't want to impose on their children "who have their own lives." And few older people want to give up their homes and the independence that they feel, even when they could benefit from the extra help and socialization. (We all know this.) The question remains--What to do?
Six Suggestions

To view entire post please visit my other site

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Are Aging Parents and Elders Prepared for Extreme Weather--Blizzards, Hurricanes, the Unexpected?

Over 60 million people were under blizzard, winter storm or freezing rain warnings this weekend.  How many were elderly?

"We're in the age of extreme weather," NYC Mayor de Blasio declared on TV Sunday, suggesting we need to be ready for future weather events. Since winter storm Jonas has dominated the news this weekend, bringing record and near-record snow to the northeast urban corridor, I'm wondering--

--How many of the 60+million people in its path are old; how many of them live independently; and how many live far from their adult children? The weather and the 11,600+ flights cancelled since Friday, can understandably cause stress for adult children who have elders they care about....perhaps even more concern if elderly parents live far away and are in harm's way. Indeed, I remember the helpless feeling when I was in that situation years ago.
    10 suggestions follow that alleviate--or at least lessen--
concern for elders' safety

1.  Contact them of course
2.  Keep your parents' neighbors' cell phone numbers in a handy place. In the event parents don't live near, neighbors can check on them if necessary.They may need to monitor and let you know if mom decides to go for a walk or shovel snow when she shouldn't.
3.  Be as certain as possible, without being condescending or bossy of course, that aging parents are prepared for this "age of extreme weather." (Personally check or put on your to-do list to check--or take care of--the following ahead of time)

If the Electricity Goes Out--                                                   
4.  Cell phones--at the ready--may be the only way to maintain contact when land lines are down. Make certain elders are comfortable using their fully-charged phones.
5.  Suggest /nicely remind that they keep their phone fully charged in case of power outages. (Elders are usually not as compulsive as younger people about keeping their phones charged.)

          Gift elders with the inexpensive, small, portable charger/external back-up battery pack for their cell phone--making certain they understand how easily the charger's input and output works. (Isn't a reserve power source insurance?)

To view entire post visit my other site

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Aging Parents: Smartphones' Photos in Senior Healthcare


How smartphones help aging parents, the elderly and us
age well
NYC 86th St. Subway ad 2016 (above). Close up of text under "The doctor will see you now" (below).

Upon exiting the subway last week, this ad greeted me. We are to assume, I believe, that unknown medical diagnosticians, presumably MD's, are at the ready to diagnose unknown people's health issues after receiving photos taken by--and emailed from--a mobile device. 

Over three years ago, my dermatologist's assistant asked if I had an iPhone and could take a picture of something on my face, email it and perhaps save an office visit---and time (and money). What an unexpected response to my calling to make an appointment to have her look at a little spot. It made so much sense. Indeed I had the "nothing-to-worry-about" reply from her office within the hour. How efficient--and reassuring--is that!

To view entire post please go to my other site 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Help Aging Parents: One-of-a-Kind Birthday Party Centerpiece Celebrating a Man...or Woman

IMG_4881Idea for a One-of-a Kind Centerpiece to celebrate elders'--or anyone's--birthdays

Today is a family birthday party. Aren't birthdays an uplifting time--at least for the person who isn't dreading getting older? Even then, having the kind of party older people want (Click here or Birthday Posts tab above) softens the reality.

Years ago I learned from Eloise that floral arrangements--in this case centerpieces with living plant material--can be put in anything that can hold water. FYI--Eloise (mentioned in early posts) was a take-charge, smart, out-of-the-box thinker who died in her sleep at age 95. (Her husband predeceased her by 4 years whereupon she immediately put DNR signs everywhere in their home.

To view entire post please visit my other site 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Helping Terminally Ill, Pet-Loving Aging Parents Have Peace of Mind

As we think about helping parents and elders we care about age well, we know support of friends is priceless. We're also aware of the research showing connections with others help people age well. Neither "friends" nor "others"  is defined as "pets," yet in a quiz show couldn't everyone complete the phrase "a man's best friend is... his dog."

As the old year ends and a new year begins, I focus on the continuum of life, and the fact that helping parents age well continues throughout the life cycle--until the very end.

In an effort to help pet-loving aging parents, who face hospice care and-- on top of everything else--worry about their pets, I'm calling attention to the nonprofit Pet Peace of Mind program.

To view entire post, please visit my other blog.