Lifting Aging Parents’ Spirits in the Fall–6 Ideas

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Fall foliage and Walkers in Central Park 2015

Combatting Senior Sadness in Fall
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 the 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?  While the unusually warm weather in many parts of the US is delaying signs of fall in terms of leaveimg_5311s on trees and other vegetation dying down, it seems holiday decorations appear earlier and earlier every year and 2016 is no exception. Indeed, pumpkins are in evidence in NYC now–seen this week outside of Lowe’s, some restaurants, and in some window displays

This actually gives us more time to provide activities that add interest to the lives of those elders we care about.

  1. For the homebound, try this simple entertainment: On a level surface, Vernal Equinoxbalance an egg on its end during the vernal or autumnal equinox.  We’re told this is tricky, but can be done any day of the year–especially if eggs have little bumps on the ends. (click 1-minute video). I forgot to do it the other day, but here’s proof–a picture taken years ago during the vernal equinox in March with a non-bumpy egg. Using a non-bumpy egg, takes practice; but I could teach neighborhood children to do it—so give it a try next March, or look for bumpy eggs and give it a try now. Guaranteed to spark conversation about something other than aches and pains.

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2.  A drive to view the fall foliage speaks for itself. Although outings with older people may require bringing along a lot of extra stuff, the chance to get out and see different scenery, and spend time chatting in the car is priceless, memorable, and gives elders something to talk about and think about well past the event itself. Including a meal along the way adds to the enjoyment. Can anything equal Autumn in Vermont?

3. Since we know mobility–and maintaining balance–require more effort as people get older, taking a walk addresses several issues in the “If-You-Don’t-Use-It, You-Lose-It category.” Leg muscles strengthen with walks (whether using a cane or not);  socialization likely occurs; and clearly children, dogs, cyclists and scenery are in great supply (note Central Park photo at top). This expands horizons, especially for those who, through choice or preference, remain housebound.  apple-picking-long-island

4.  Apple-picking is synonymous with fall and includes exercise–if only a short walk. Many orchards open their property to apple-pickers. Could a drive to an orchard with elderly parents and their grandchildren provide a fun outing?

5.  Ditto for the pumpkin patch or farm stand. Plan a trip with children and elders to visit a pumpkin patch or select this year’s pumpkin from those at the farm’s stand.
Favorite Farm Stand 2014

 

6.  And what’s more fun than generations cooking together. There’s something about working together in the warmth of a kitchen that provides special moments. Making apple cider isn’t difficult; encourages conversation; and the resulting aroma that fills the air is an added bonus- (2 recipes below)

7. More togetherness in the kitchen includes making applesauce together or what about this recipe for applesauce pancakes? …Is it too early to make a pumpkin pie?

There’s an added 3-fold benefit when these ideas are planned ahead of time.  As Sr. Advisor said:  they’re something to look forward to; they’re something to do; and they’re something to look back on and think about. That’s almost a home-run isn’t it! And if the cooking is added, could it be called a bases-loaded home run ?

Related: easily-made cider using bottled apple juice
 made-from-scratch apple cider

Surprising Depression Symptoms from Prevention Magazine

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

 

 

 

Aging Parents: Caregiving With A Little Help From My Friends

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.

The first site: Lotsahelpinghands–how-it-works reminds me of those community blackboards I’ve seen in neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon offering services: people helping people –a ride, someone to make meals etc. (the site has added other aspects now). It has a practical emphasis. This no doubt works well in suburbia and smaller communities and in cities where neighborhoods are important.

The second site, www.careflash.com concentrates on supportive relationships and meaningful communication and support through shared and private interactions on the internet. With a goal to “foster healing among loved ones,” it has no geographical restrictions. It seems to emphasize the “touchy-feely” and offers planned activity ideas.

The third site, caringbridge–how it works: provides a private site for family, friends and others you select–saves calling many people with the same information and allows easy updates and messages for all users invited to use the site. For those with large families and large groups that care and want to regularly share, this could be the answer. 

However, none of the above would have worked for me, I guess confirming the fact that “one size doesn’t fit all,” “different strokes for different folks” or whatever. Some of us will find our own routine and support system–out of creativity or necessity.

I live in New York City. I was “it”–the caregiver–for my husband. Whether in the hospital or at home, there was little time for private calls to family–all living in the west–or friends, spread out across the country.  And there was no time for extended conversations or daily emailing.

My solution: Once or twice a month I emailed blasts, trying to craft the nicest email I could with timely information, always adding at the end something like: “Please understand, my day is over-full, and much as I’d like to talk with–or email– each one of you, I can’t; so please don’t call me.” I created a contact group on my Mac and sent updates as appropriate.

As for support, I got by, and continue to get by, with a little help from my friends–three  friends, each helpful in different ways, to whom I will forever feel grateful and indebted.

With hopes that one of the preceding ideas will resonate with many…..

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Related: (For nostalgia’s sake–watch the performance–YouTube in color: the Beatles with Ringo singing  I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

 

 

Help Aging Parents–and Us! PINs & Passwords

Essential Aging Parent Information

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.

We know where he banks; have the list of emergency and professional people to contact; and know where to find necessary documents. But how do we pay his bills online or access other things that require PINs or passwords?

When someone is hospitalized, we don’t think about the above. We may forget to check that his/her technology is updated or even look at his or her cell phone or computer. We have other priorities.

For example: Gramp banks online. He uses a Mac, but doesn’t regularly update. Now he’s hospitalized, his memory has been impacted by medications and surgery and someone needs to pay his ordinary bills. He asks his adult child to pay his bills online on his Mac.

A message from Gramp’s bank announces users should update their browser. Adult child immediately updates browser and bills are paid online. No problem. Two weeks later, however, “update browser” messages keep appearing, online banking isn’t working. Phone call to bank’s technical support reveals techies have made some major changes and unfortunately, for the time being, only two browsers work–one (not Safari) for Apple products, one for PCs. While the bank is trying to remedy the problem there’s no guarantee how long it will take. Therefore, simply download the browser that works. It’s downloaded. Result: still locked out of online banking.

Apple is contacted. It seems Gramp’s Mac doesn’t have the latest–now necessary–update. While it’s free from the App Store, Gramp’s Apple ID, now needed, is nowhere to be found. No way to update. Gramp’s bills must be paid by check and mailed.  How time-consuming and frustrating is that–especially when we’re worried about–and attending to– Gramp’s recovery..

Is it denial? Laziness? Are our parents too busy? Do we fail to recognize that memory can be affected by things other than death? Yes, it takes time to record PINs and passwords. Perhaps we can help with this chore. Case made.

To double-check that we have all aging parents’ essential information, click the link below from my updated 2014 post. It can help mitigate problems later on.

THE MOST COMPLETE, COMPREHENSIVE AGING PARENT CHECKLISTS I COULD PUT TOGETHER (updated 2016) 

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

 

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.

Much is written about what to do and say when a loved one’s life nears its end. (See “Related” below); but hospitalized elderly have a not-written-about reality that impacts our caregiving connection. Specifically the intrusion of hospital routines, physical barriers, and lack of privacy. These issues are rarely–if ever–addressed, although the specific nextavenue link below seems to have overcome the problem–or just neglects to address it in its useful, heartfelt article.

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.

In hospital nurseries babies are held and cuddled, no doubt infusing warmth, security, and a feeling of being cared about. But adult hospital patients in private rooms or with roommates lack the equivalent–be it a kiss, hug, a hand to hold, or a gentle massage. A kind of physical–if not mental–isolation results, whether patients are in private rooms or have roommates. No wonder people want to die at home.

According to the 2015 National Health Statistic Report more than 80% of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and over would want to die at home. However “in 2013, one-third of 1,904,640 deaths among persons aged 65 and over in the United States occurred in the hospital, about the same proportion as in the previous 12 years.”.

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

Giving my mother over to the hospital:

I’d forgotten–or perhaps repressed–the feeling until I was back in the hospital with my husband. 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.

So here’s the recipe to combat that isolation and bring some normalcy and love into the equation:
1. Learn how to lower the bed rail on the side you’re on (and remember to put it up when you leave).
2. Sit on the bed if that puts you closer to hug, kiss, or simply hold or pat a hand.
3. If small grandchildren are permitted and can follow instructions, why not let them climb on the bed, crawl around, kiss and hug. If pets are allowed, so much the better, but have we ever seen a pet in the hospital unless it’s a therapy dog—but hey! Doesn’t “therapy dog” say something about contact between beings?
4. Today some hospitals provide chairs that make into beds for spending the night with a loved one. But the space between the newly-fashioned bed and the hospital bed can feel like the great divide. Again, lower the bed rail and scoot the newly-created bed right up to the hospital bed. Hospital beds can be raised and lowered so both are at more-or-less the same level….and if not the same level, get some pillows to fill gaps as a way of transitioning to the hospital bed’s lower or higher position.
5.  Learn how to lower or raise the hospital bed.

Lastly, as we keep in mind that older people, who no longer have a spouse, don’t get many sincere, loving words or touches any more–unless from grandchildren–it makes sense to remember that the simple  “Love You” when family and visitors leave can be an empty phrase. Perhaps good-byes that are upbeat and forward-looking—like “You’re the best….” or “See you tomorrow (fill in the day–it’s something to look forward to) can be added.

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Related:  next/avenue has done a series of articles on our subject over the last few months.  How to Be Present With One Who is Sick or Dying reallygets it,”

The Power of Touch: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201303/the-power-touch

USA TodayHugs Warm the Heart. concludes with Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser quoted as saying “Although ours is a youth-oriented culture, older adults may benefit most from touch. “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health.”

Huffington Post: 7 Reasons Why We Should be Giving More Hugs.” Read “Adults Can Benefit from Hugging the Most” which concludes “…Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have averse health effects. By hugging someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease feelings of loneliness.” This latter link lends validity to the loneliness aspect.

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

 

 

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.

  • We skip meals or vitamins or meds, planning to take them later, then forget.
  • We get less sleep, planning to make it up with a short nap that never/rarely happens.
  • We fool ourselves into thinking we can remain in high gear forever, not knowing how long our caregiving will need to continue.
  • We may be in denial that people with certain conditions that require caregiving can outlive their caregiver.

Whether loved ones are at home, in hospitals, or in care centers our lives and routines are impacted. That spills over to physical health and emotions.

On a personal level: Having experienced some of the above almost half of this year, and being aware of the consequences of overextending, I tried to do it right. I ate well (although sometimes only two complete meals+snacks a day), walked about 2 miles daily, but was admittedly often sleep-deprived. Thinking I took care of myself pretty well under the circumstances, I’ve had a shock!

A few weeks ago, I got dressed to go out. I put my iPhone in my pants’ pocket. To my amazement, and almost embarrassment, after taking a few steps the iPhone’s weight (which isn’t much as we know) caused my pants to start sliding down, I put on another pair–same result. I rarely get on a scale, but I did. Scale shock! I’ve lost almost 10% of my weight, and was too busy to realize it until the other day.

Solutions and Remedies
Two Questions:

  1. How does one get more sleep when he or she is called upon to do other things? How does one turn off a racing mind? Why does exhaustion make it harder to sleep?
  2. How do we know when we’re not eating enough?

I contacted a highly experienced counseling colleague (our offices shared a waiting room and secretary years ago) to weigh in on #1. She’s one of the most effective counselors I know– always sees the big picture and has the capacity to “nail things.”  She innately “gets it.” I shouldn’t have been surprised when she lumped #’s 1 and 2 together.

“Sometimes you have to deal with the fact that you’re losing weight and sleep. But you have to accept the fact, otherwise you’re giving yourself additional stress when you already have so much. You won’t starve to death and you may not sleep–but your body will tire eventually and you will sleep.” She continues: “Feeling that you have to sleep, for example, causes stress–it keeps you awake. Focus on the awareness instead of the stress. Whether it’s sleep or eating enough, be aware of your body signals–monitor yourself; and if out of control, seek medical help.” 

                                            Monitoring Ourselves

When during the day do we make the best decisions? have the most energy? have the least patience? Sometimes things seems less solvable and more urgent at night because we’re tired, but in the morning answers and solutions come more easily. Can a walk or a certain amount of time spent exercising help us analyze problems more objectively?

                                                  About Friends

Barb just ended 6 months of 24/7 caregiving in their home, for her husband’s 91-year-old mother who recently died. That plus her private practice and cooking for four people on different diets would have overwhelmed many; being sleep-deprived was the norm. A month later, she has helped me. And that’s where friends come in.

While friends mean well, it’s important to enlist certain friends’ help for certain problems. Good friends always want to help and want the best for us. But we need to think carefully about who’s the best resource for help with a given problem, otherwise we’re vulnerable to more frustration.

If we discipline ourselves to think broadly, and remember the “6 degrees of separation” theory, we should be able to find the best help for those entrusted to our care.

As we invest ourselves in caregiving, we also need to recognize and attend to our needs. To this end the value of certain friends is priceless.

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

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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. Continue reading

Help Aging Parents: Memorial Day 2016

Once again, we remember.
May 30, 2016

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Honoring WWI Regiment  NY

 

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WW !! Memorial  DC

American cemeteries throughout the world pay tribute today to those who gave their lives to preserve and insure our freedom.

This link offers information about events today in England, France, Italy. Luxembourg, Netherlands, Philippines, and the US.

I’m back in the Southwest–Arizona, where my husband was born. Above all, he wanted to return here. In spite of his partially unresolved medical issues we made the trip a week ago Saturday,

Making the decision to undertake this trip was not easy and entailed much thought and planning.The latter will be part of a later post.

Right now I’m headed out to the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona to meet a longtime best friend, whose husband, a former Brigadiar General, is there. This friend walked me home when I began a new school in first grade.  The cemetery covers a huge area–right in the middle of desert. I’ll try to post a photo later. Until then–

We planned to meet a few blocks away from the cemetery after the official ceremonies ended as we thought it would be less crowded. There was, however, a steady stream of cars coming from the east and west–needing to turn right or left to enter the grounds. Upon entering, large American flags flanked both sides of the main roadway.as far as the eye could see.  Small flags were placed by every in-ground grave–in the sand.

This is desert–no grass. But then the landscape is not the important thing here.. The loved ones who have been laid to rest on grounds less impressive then Arlington or Normandy are loved and their memories are treasured just the same; and their families weep just the same.

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