Thanksgiving: A Day to Give Thanks with Family and Friends plus…..

…..a Creative Way for Remembering Loved Ones

Again this Thanksgiving, tradition will meld with warmth and thankfulness as family and dear friends gather at our home. Like many families, our Thanksgiving is multi-generational. We span a century–the oldest is R at 101; the youngest not yet a year old. Also like many families, family and friends who once joined us for Thanksgiving dinner are no longer with us; they have died. Others now occupy their place at the table, but they do not take their place.

As I began setting the table the first Thanksgiving after Mom died, I got out the plastic bag that contains the place cards from Thanksgivings past. I was feeling sentimental. The wish to have Mom with us or at least honor her memory was there; yet I couldn’t figure out what to do without dampening the mood.

I was gingerly removing the place cards I always save. They were actually dried leaves with people’ names written in white ink–a creative Idea, learned from a Martha Steward demonstration decades before. The leaf with Mother’s name surfaced. So did the leaf with the name of the ex-husband of one of my best friend’s daughter. The latter leaf fell apart as I tossed it into the recycle. I delicately held mother’s. Then the memorial idea surfaced. Why not add it to the centerpiece.

Since then–13 years now–mother’s leaf has been integral to the centerpiece. I’ve since added the leaf of one of my best friends, of her mother, and my Dad’s leaf. I turn them upside down, the name doesn’t show, so they blend in in a natural way. We all know they’re there. That’s what counts.

“Friends are Family We Get to Choose”
Wishing you and your family Happy Thanksgiving

     Note: Fallen, dry autumn leaves and a white pen are all that’s needed for the place cards
     

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

 

 

Family: Making Room–with Aging Parents Living Beside You

 

Mansion, the Saturday real estate section of The Wall Street Journal, ran a cover story:
Make Room For the In-Laws.
“…Why space for aging parents is a hot real-estate amenity now.”

Put away the snarky in-law jokes,” we read. “For both domestic and foreign buyers, the hottest amenity in real estate these days is an in-law unit, an apartment carved out of an existing home or a stand-alone dwelling built on the homeowners’ property. While adult children get the peace of mind of having mom and dad nearby, real-estate agents say the in-law accommodations are adding value to their homes.” WSJ 11/7/14

We learn:

  • Homes with in-law units (technical name:accessory dwelling units, ADU’s) are priced about 60% higher than those without.
  • We learn almost a third (32%) of the 550 respondents, who had one or more aging parents, said they expected to have a relative live with them in the future, according to a 2012 survey by PulteGroup (one of the US’s largest homebuilders).
  • We learn in the Southwest Pulte “rolled out casitas,” stand-alone in-law units.” Personal note: “Casitas” are not a new concept for Pulte, although an interior design that’s adult friendly (if it is) would be new. Pulte has, for many years, built casitas in Arizona for use as guest houses, even/especially for home owners of normal-size homes, who like having guests or grandchildren.
  • We learn in the Southeast Pulte has introduced “Multi-Gen dwellings” that are built into the main house.
  • We learn that in 2011 Lennar (Miami-based) introduced “NextGen dwellings.” They are part of the main house, but have a separate entrance–and their sales grew 27%.

I wonder: “Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?” Are economics driving this? or Are adult children caring more about their aging parents?

Two aging mothers, mentioned in the article, say that having their adult children living only steps away eases the transition; and knowing their children are right next door keeps them from feeling lonely.

For aging parents who can still “do,” this living plan has the potential to work well. Everyone is more or less independent; everyone still has his and/or her own life; and while health problems probably exist, they are no doubt manageable. Connections, stimulation, and feelings of security for aging parents exist and are all factors in helping parents age well. And they can extend aging parents’ ability to continue to do.

For adult children, there’s a sense of control and the peace of mind that comes from knowing they can come to the rescue sooner, rather than later should parents need them. And the additional expense of providing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)–to their home (or to their parents’ home if they decide to move into that home, which some children decide to do) has no doubt increased the home’s value.

When aging parents begin having health issues that require caregiving, adult children will need to rethink sharing responsibilities with siblings and making decisions with their parents. This should NOT come as a surprise. In the meantime, adult children can take heart in the fact they’re doing their best to help parents age well. And shouldn’t that instill confidence in their future decision-making ability ……as they help parents age well until the end.

Related: Click “Make Room for In-Laws” link at top below picture.

Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to current research and information from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical and spirit-lifting ideas, to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: My Parents’ Home–The Long Farewell

NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign in front of boy's clubhouse--decades before Woman's Lib.Would you guess the young girl is now a well-recognized low vision specialist?

NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign in front of boy’s clubhouse–decades before Woman’s Lib.
The young girl is now a well-recognized low vision specialist.

How many of us have had the bittersweet experience of being back on the street where we lived, in the bedroom of our growing up, years after our parents have died?

Our street was a micro world–kids about the same age who, when very young, built summer huts of tall weeds on a vacant lot near the end of the street. Before adolescence our early “architecture” morphed into the boys’-built clubhouse in a neighbor’s back yard. It had the requisite “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” sign.

Time passes, people pass. Our old home is no longer an Ozzie-and-Harriet kind of home and the neighborhood is no longer filled with the high-pitched voices of the neighborhood kids.

We readjust and move forward with–hopefully– the strength gained and wisdom learned from navigating in our micro world. It was our world until we all left for college.

Amazingly in today’s world of rapid change, the houses remain with few changes. Only the inhabitants have changed.

And instead of our street being flooded with kids and dogs, construction vehicles have taken over. A new home is being built across from ours–on the “playground,” an empty, grass-covered lot connected to my first best friend’s home. We kids spent a lot of time there–first on swings and teeter-totters, then playing ball, alway hanging out. Times change. Developers don’t. The construction signals time to sell. Time for a new family. New expectations, new dreams.

As I contemplate readying our family home to be sold, which involves emptying out 6+ decades of memories in addition to the tangible belongings, we’ve had more years than most to cut the umbillical cord. It’s time to let go of the house that provided us security for so many decades–a house that was home…for many years more than one has the right to expect.

A childhood friend of my brother’s, growing up with us on our street but now living in Florida, said on the phone recently: “Visiting your home was like a time warp… still the same inside. I’ve loved being able to come back over the years and experience that.”

So have I.

THE BOYS’ CLUBHOUSE

Aging Parents’ and Grandparents’ New Year’s Resolutions

Many traditions disappeared with the last century yet New Year’s Resolutions continue. One teenager thinks today’s resolutions are more self-serving (exercising regularly, losing weight) than focusing on others. Perhaps. An octogenarian recalls her teenage resolutions like giving up candy didn’t last very long. But she says that her resolution to be nicer to and spend more time with her widowed grandmother who lived with her family sticks in her mind as lasting.

When talking about resolutions that involve family as opposed to self, my small sample of older people (from Arizona, Delaware, New York, and Oregon) care deeply about their children and grandchldren and are making–or have made–resolutions to further cement the relationship.

For example, resolutions to “let go”–or at the least not pressure–when family situations and values upset an older generation prevail:

“I will try to accept what my grandchildren and children do. (I must learn to accept it ’cause there’s nothing I can do about it.)”

“I’m going to try and figure out how to take a “stand” that would work and not destroy family relations.”

“I speak for myself and other friends–we’ve just been discussing values. I’m making a resolution not to get upset by the fact that adult children may be wonderful; but they don’t value the same material things we do…old family heirloom things: furniture, a cup collection from my grandmother, my great-grandmother’s Christmas tree ornament etc.”

Other resolutions involve family in a different way:

“I’m going to tidy up this year. If I die I’d hate for my kids to come in and have to clean up all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.”

“I’m going to make it a point to listen more, to find out more about my far-away-living grandchildren and what they’re doing. I visited at Christmas, listened to their music with them, discussed the lyrics, learned who One Direction is and what’s important in their lives. I even learned about hockey and watched a game. My grandchild is a star hockey player. Now we have a commonality to email about and discuss.”

“I am going to accept the fact that my far-away living son and family are very busy with their own lives. While they’re at the top of my priority list, I know my husband and I are not at the top of theirs even though we all get along very well. So if we want to be with them more often than twice a year, we have to make the accommodations.”

“I want to maintain my health (I’m 92) so I can be around to see my great-grandchildren develop; and I want to keep working at my business.”

One admittedly “very opinionated” grandmother says “This is a big stretch for me, it’s so unlike me not to say anything, but I made a resolution years ago–I have many children and grandchildren–and it has worked to keep our family together. It goes like this:

Whatever they do is fine.
Whatever they say is fine.
Whatever they want is fine.

It seems adult children and grandchildren, whether living near or far, live large in their parents’ and grandparents’ minds; perhaps even beyond what we might expect.

Is a New Year’s resolution by adult children and grandchildren to make an effort to regularly communicate with and include the older generation in order?

It would certainly make aging parents and grandparents happy.

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well

Aging Parents and Us: Memory Loss or Loss of Focus?

I usually publish my blog Tuesday night. Yet I was immersed in readying for, and cleaning up after, a New Year’s Eve party and completely forgot. While multitasking has been a constant in the lives of many of us with old/older parents, the following from Mayo Clinic is a quick, timely read for me and quite possibly for you.

I wrote about disorganization at holiday time and feeling like ADD was at work. So this MD’s short answer, “Stop multitasking an learn how to focus” (from the Adult Health category on Mayo Clinic’s website), speaks to me with 4 timely suggestions. Indeed, they are doable and 1 (or all 4) could be considered a New Year’s resolution for some.

In previous posts (see “Related” below), Sr. Advisor R talks about how she decided it was essential that she learned to discipline herself to focus. Widowed at 51, as she aged alone in her home, she began forgetting where she put things. When she lost her keys and could ask no one for help, she told herself “You’ve got to pay attention.” And she realized her head was often thinking one thing, while her hands were doing something else (like putting the keys in an unlikely place).

It’s easy for me–and no doubt us if we are caregivers and/or have aging parents–to  juggle too much and lose focus. Depending on our age, we may or may not have memory concerns about ourselves.  On the other hand, when older parents start forgetting, an alarm bell is often triggered.

Since Sr. Advisor R, 100-years-old and my mother-in-law, is way ahead of me in life’s lessons, I needn’t share the 4 suggestions with her. She lives by them. That said, sharing these suggestions with elders who seem frustrated–or are frustrating us–because of memory problems, is another way we can help parents age well.

Related: 2 posts written in early January 2012–basically this same time of year
 http://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/01/03/help-aging-parents-memory-and-multi-tasking-2/

http://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/01/04/help-aging-parents-memory-and-multi-tasking-continued-from-yesterday/ with Sr. Advisor psychiatrist, Dr. Bud’s (MD) observations and suggestions

http://helpparentsagewell.com/2013/07/23/difficult-discussion-strategies-ie-memory-loss/ A Burke Rehabilitation (NY) physician distinguishes between benign forgetfulness and dementia, plus a difficult conversation model.

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Sense of Purpose: A Gift for Aging Parents–at Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Beyond

Thanksgivng 2013

I think everyone would agree: having a sense of purpose is essential to feeling good about life. The big question: How do we instill a sense of purpose in aging parents who no longer have it?

Do remember, those who never had it will no doubt never get it–
People Change, Not Much.

I recently read a short blurb about the importance of having sense of purpose. While there’s a chapter in my book about it, I haven’t addressed it directly in my posts. They have focused more on the positive feelings that come from being needed. So here goes–

First, when older people are married, there is someone in their life, whether healthy or sick…there’s purpose. So it’s most likely we’re talking about people living alone. And we may need to dig deep in our thinking about how to instill a sense of purpose when aging parents have lost it.

Next: Think about parents’ strengths (both objective–eg.talent fixing things, cooking, art, music and the touchy-feely–eg. kind, warm, patient, what they are passionate about). We may need to go back in time, remembering what they enjoyed/cared about when younger.

Then decide: can we instill and/or support sense of purpose?–or does it need to come from somewhere else?

Now: Think creatively and in a macro, big-picture way–for example:

The most universal sense of purpose (the macro) for many will be wanting to maintain independence. What efforts (micro) can they make towards that end?

In the case of Sr. Advisor, R, for example, I think it has been to keep herself healthy enough to be able to do what’s necessary to remain in her home. (I’ve written many posts about her, as you know.) Thus shopping for her own groceries (the shopping cart provides stability and confidence when walking) gives her purpose. And while her shopping takes forever, the entire experience is win-win. R gets exercise, uses her brain and makes decisions about needed/wanted food and its cost, and has connections with others…the cashiers know her (told her she was so amazing yesterday, reinforcing self-esteem and good feelings).

Best for us, we can support this since it involves someone driving her to the grocery store and waiting; yet we do our own marketing at the same time and spend the extra time on our cell phone. If your parent would feel that is rude (once you know how long a parent’s shopping takes), wait in the car and go back when you think (s)he’s about finished. You needn’t hang around–as if they’re not independent enough to be on their own–unless they want you to.

The shopping is followed by R’s putting the groceries away and ultimately cooking for herself and eating healthy.

There are, of course, less universal themes. One which immediately comes to mind is volunteering; but it must be meaningful. I’ve always thought old people being with young children in a daycare or school setting is ideal. That said, children spread many germs so this may not be a good idea for all elderly people.

Another is having a pet to take care of; but this is tricky for older people. A veterinarian weighed in on this in a past post with–at least for me–good information.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. So is the first day of Chanukah. Give aging parents a micro sense of purpose by giving them a task and/or asking for help. I’ve written about the oldest guest stringing the cranberry necklace for the turkey at our Thanksgiving dinners. I’ve written about bringing those in rehab or care facilities home for the holiday meal, including some specific ways aging parents can help.

Lastly, after Thanksgiving brainstorm with friends who have living-alone aging parents for new ideas.

Restoring a sense of purpose is an intangible gift. It not only helps aging parents feel better, it makes us feel better.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.