Reflections on Thanksgiving and the Circle of Life

This is one of the few times in decades that Thanksgiving dinner has not been at our home. Now that Sr. Advisor R has died the celebration has passed to the younger generation (in their 40’s). And they upheld the tradition beautifully this year.

I vividly remember the old days, working at the high school until noon the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, then scrambling to launch into preparations for the big dinner Thursday. The women–my mother, m-i-l and I– worked late at night in our bathrobes in the kitchen–enjoying special time together as we readied everything but the turkey for the next day.

Now the younger generation–(both husband and wife work as did my husband and I)–loves to cook. They prepare Thanksgiving dinner together–with a little day-time help from a mother and aunt. They have children (1 1/2 and 3 1/2).  Relinquishing the Thanksgiving responsibility was welcomed by me, probably a bit dreaded by them; but the result was a most successful transition.

Being with family, having no pressure, and having little kids who are entertaining and fun– not crying or having melt-downs–is a pleasure.


Things change. Our dining room table, decorated in past years with boughs, fruit, candles and autumn leaves–the latter with the names of those present and dearly departed–now displays yet-to-be-put-away memorabilia and small items from my mil’s (Sr. Advisor R’s) home.

Our houseguests leave tomorrow. For old time’s sake I will gently take the saved, dried autumn leaves from their plastic bag in the drawer and view the names of those who have passed on. They were family or friends who were like family and–as they came together for Thanksgiving at our home–created a special warmth that enriched our lives.

A new tradition begins.

Every twist of the  kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.–Elton John

HAPPY THANKSGIVING~ also note Black Friday and Cyber Monday Computers for Seniors 2015

and especially


… and check out the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on 3 computers for seniors, if such a gift is an option for aging parents and the elders we care about.

Aging Parents: Gifts–Great and Therapeutic for Elders



Are aging parents and elders we care about bored?
Feeling unneeded? Lacking purpose?

At holiday time or any time easy-care plants are excellent and inexpensive gifts for combatting boredom, and/or feeling useless and unneeded. Caring for plants enhances lives. No kidding! If in doubt, see the 809,000 results of googling college horticulture therapy major.  Or read, from Oregon State U’s catalog:

Horticultural therapy is recognized as a practical and effective treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs…now taught and practiced….in… mental health, physical rehabilitation..long-term care and hospice.

Here’s the update and the lowdown that may inspire giving easy-care, living plants–in some form–to aging parents and elders who live at home or in care facilities.

IMG_2902While most of us wouldn’t hire a horticultural therapist for our parents, gifting a plant provides some of the benefits. There’s a responsibility factor, the feeling of being needed, and satisfaction from watching a plant grow, produce new leaves, and possibly flower.

Example: Sr. Advisor R’s responsibility to her plants ran deep. She figured out how to continue to care for her plants as she aged. She used her walker. It carried the plants on its tray to her kitchen sink or carried a pitcher of water, in its recessed hole, to water the plants until the day she died at 101.

R was aware of every new leaf and kept each plant looking perfect. She also had philodendrons happily growing in containers of water or potted in soIMG_0254il. They were like her babies.

Easy-care plant options for elders

1. The snake plant adds decor–you can’t miss it. It survives neglect–just needs watering now and then…when soil dries out. My brother was given one, by friends who know him well, as a house-warming gift. It filled an empty corner. He loves it. It’s the only plant he has–waters it “once a month–maybe.” OK–it’s a succulent…and a tough plant to kill.

2. I planted a dish garden of succulents* in Arizona–kept outside on a paDish Garden with Succulentstio with an overhang so it doesn’t get drenched when it rains. Because the bottom has no drainage holes (not a good idea for novices), it’s checked and given a bit of water every 2-3 weeks…when the succulent “leaves” show signs of shriveling.

All my other succulents are in pots and dish gardens–inside and outdoors–and have drainage holes.  All they need is light and, when the soil is completely dry, a good watering that drains out. Succulents take the same care/abuse as the snake plant.

Watching dish gardens of succulents or leafy plants  grow–and change, adds interest to life, especially when they flower. IMG_1056This rock garden was exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

3.  Terrariums: The open-terrarium below in the footed glass container was on the counter by thIMG_2709e sinks in the ladies’ room at a restaurant near the Philadelphia Flower Show. Horticulture seems contagious in Philadelphia–whether in the Convention Center or in surrounding venues. Being careful not to overwater is paramount as there’s no drainage.

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are truly easy care. Plants grow in any nonporous container as long as it’s covered so as to be airtight. (Closed terrarium plants thrive in humidity and NO direct sun.)

This IMG_4800flowering prismatacarpa begonia in a brandy snifter, is from a cutting taken 5 months ago. A round piece of glass scotch-taped on top (cut at a store that replaces window panes) prevents drying out.  Plastic wrap works also, but doesn’t look as nice.

Click here for details and pictures of the following:
4. Christmas Cactus
5.  Golden Pothos
6.  Philodendron
7.  Syngonium
8.  Wandering Jew

Click here for details and pictures of:
9. Oxallis
10. Bromilliad
11. Spathiphyllum

As Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah approach and we think gifts for older people, especially those living alone, aren’t “living plants” an appealing choice?

Note: Prismatacarpa begonia: a flowering favorite and described as a “small plant [that] proves mighty in its propensity for being nearly always in bloom” requires humidity. It grows in sphagnum moss–the soft kind (not the scratchy,”prickery” kind) in closed terrariums and seldom gets dry–but when it does (leaves begin to wilt), add a teaspoon of water.

Related:  Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents

Information for making or purchasing dish gardens and/or terrariums below:
                 Live Plants in Little Landscapes –Terrariums
                 Aging Parents: Little-care, Live Plants, Gifts–Flowering or Not 

*Dish garden succulents–inexpensive, from Home Depot
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

Aging Grandmothers, Mothers, Younger Women: Public Bathroom Problems

Outsmarting a Disgusting Public Bathroom

Val Grubb’s travel bog’s post will probably resonate with women who’ve waited impatiently in a line for the Ladies’ Restroom, only to enter a vacated stall that’s disgusting. How many times have we found ourselves in the situation of these millennials? They’re at a club (click: short video belowso well done). And guys….. How often have you waited for the woman you’re with because her bathroom line is always so much longer than the line for the Men’s Room?! Now you’ll know one reason.

Aging mothers like my mother–as well as younger women–can slow the line as they try to make the best of an unacceptable, toilet-paper-and/or-seat-cover-deficient stall. Pee Pocket or KleenGo to the rescue  ….seriously!

This product, a portable, foldable, disposable funnel, no doubt comes in handy when camping or for those traveling and needing to use bathrooms in less-developed countries. (I do remember China.)

It’s a unique (to say the least) Christmas-stocking-stuffer possibility for a woman– traveler or not–or simply a gift for a close friend. And, if we have aging mothers, it may simply save everyone time and frustration… if it’s in our purse.

I haven’t tried it yet. While I don’t think it’s as useful as the rubber band I’ve often written about for opening jars and tight lids, for some it could be a strong contender!

 If it makes life easier for aging women…doesn’t it help them age well?

*    *    *

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well. Especially note Mayo Clinic free webinar 11/17/15 on holiday stress. Noon Central Time. Click link in sidebar to learn more and register for webinar.

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Veteran’s Day 2015

Honoring Those Who Served ~ 5th Avenue New York City

Again we honor those who serve, have served, and made
the ultimate sacrifice.

We also learn that ongoing research focusing on the “transition of veterans from military to civilian life,” is underway at Teachers College, Columbia U.  Today’s just-received email, Beyond PTSD: Exploring the Stresses of Veterans’ Transition Back to Civilian Life gives details about the newly established Resilience Center for Veterans & Families.


 Also check out this short, well-done, video that spans the generations–grandfather,  grandsons and those in between. It caught my attention this year. Click here-


Related: Pointe du Hoc–D Day (mentioned in video) and Link for additional Pointe du Hoc photos.

  • <b>Pointe Du Hoc</b>

I visited the Normandy beaches in the late 1960’s, when one could walk all over–including in and out of the pill boxes. How that steep, rugged cliff fortified by Nazi pill boxes–loaded with artillery and the advantage of seeing everything below–was captured by the Americans is mind-boggling!

Help Aging Parents–Hospice: Why Wait To Call?

Call Hospice for Your Mom!

I meddled! A former neighbor sounded awful when I phoned the other night. She’s very old; has had cancer successfully treated over decades, but it sounds like the end may be near. There’s no “maybe” about the pain she says she has had for some time.  There’s an aide with her 24/7 so I didn’t think hospice was involved, although it sounded like they should be.

After speaking with a mutual friend, I talked myself into feeling comfortable phoning one of her two adult children. (I knew them from years ago–although I’d only been sporadically in touch since their mother moved away.)

Uncomfortable conversations immediately trigger my What’s the Goal? response. My answer to myself: Find out if hospice is involved. If not, respectfully and gently provide information.

Both children live far from their mother. Knowing the family dynamics from way back I understand one bears 99.9-100% of the responsibility and has been great. That’s the logical child to contact.

I made the call, leaving a simple message. It had three parts, the first–objective information: I phoned your mother several nights ago and she said she felt awful and could she call me back.” Next, the personal: “I haven’t heard back so I’m wondering how she’s doing.” Then conveying understanding: “It sounds like this is a rough time and I hope my phone call isn’t an intrusion.”

My call was returned within the hour, with appreciation. (We need to be careful not to make adult children feel defensive/judged. Easier said than done.) The simple, thought-out-beforehand sentence works.

I learned things were stressful. Doctors weren’t returning calls in a timely fashion; things got delayed, cancelled. A special trip to visit the mother in Florida 10 days earlier resulted in employing a geriatric care manager to move things forward. Approval from the insurance company was needed for an important test. They’re still waiting–it has been over a week.  Depending upon the test results, the plan is to check the availability of hospice care.

Bingo! The logical time to mention hospice was at hand. “Why wait to call hospice?” I asked, following up with the thought that hospice could provide some relief. Not knowing if hospice requirements differ by state, I made that known. Then I shared my parents’ experience when hospice became involved, made them more comfortable, and the relief I felt having the extra support. The response I got makes me think the message–why wait– got through. Calling hospice sooner, not later, seemed to be the new plan.

Bottom line: Calling hospice–or suggesting someone contact hospice–may be uncomfortable. But calling sooner–rather than later–offers professional, appropriate comfort to patient and family and a better chance for a satisfying ending. So many have said “I wish I’d called hospice sooner.”

Related: Aging Parents and Hospice: To Call, Not to Call, When to Call
A sample of what Googling  “who is eligible for hospice in Florida” provides.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

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Help Aging Parents: Halloween in New York City


Halloween decor and costumed kiddies holding their parents’ hands are ever-present in NYC today. For young and old who are mobile, the side-streets of NY offer everything–except the inflatables seen on front yards in the suburbs. For non-mobile, see Related: companion wheelchairs below.

IMG_4782The ghoulish and creepy displays on the upper eastside–just a block east of Central Park made the NY Times. Very young, pushed in strollers by parents (and often accompanied by their dogs), and those older who could walk, stopped to view the spooky surroundings. We share some here…….witches on broomsticks fly over parked vehicles…skeletons back from the dead…


spiders and bats–all seem to have found a home on this side-street. Below is the same townhouse during the day and at night.IMG_4791


Click small photos to enlarge and click here for previous Halloweens’ non-ghoulish photos.

Related: My friend, who had polio as a child, recommends a companion/transport wheelchair for outings on non-hilly/rugged terrain. It’s light weight so a friend, who must push it because wheels are small, can easily get it out of her car. (She drives, but can’t use a walker for long walks.) It’s as easy to use as the strollers I saw parents pushing their excited little ones in the day before Halloween. I can’t recommend a maker (above link gives ideas of what’s available). My friend got hers at CVS or Walgreens in Arizona, where they evidently have medical supplies. Couldn’t this enrich frail, old peoples’ lives on a nice day?