Aging Parents: Gifts That Look Great!

They say “It’s what’s inside that counts.” No argument here. That said, doesn’t anything that looks great on the outside raise our spirits…and those of our elders?

Two gift-giving holidays are fast-approaching. I think of the value of extra nicely wrapped gifts–where the initial fun is seeing them, followed by the joy of discovering what’s inside. Again this year, the Garden Section of our Woman’s Club has purchased gift items and wrapped them attractively–always making sure they contain some plant material (nothing artificial).

Three days ago they were on display, lining one side of the main room at the Holiday Open House. Some are above, once again ready to be taken to a nearby nursing home the next day. The Club member, who has always headed this project and transports the gifts to the nursing home, reports that the patients “light up” when they see the carts filled with these packages come through the door.

The stuffed dog has its nose in the air, while the list of contents in the adjoining basket looks you right in the eye.

All gifts are on the approved nursing home list, since we don’t know the recipients. Note partial list in photo at right. The pine cone with red bow counts as plant material. (Click once or twice to enlarge photo.)

Of course when gifts are for parents and friends, the only rules for gifts are those you set. Tins of hot chocolate and boxes of cookies and candy aren’t off limits. Additionally you know their wants and needs.

Cellophane makes baskets and open boxes look great! Putting it over a basket with a bow or ornament at the top converts a plain basket of gifts into a professional-looking showpiece.

Ditto for today’s colorful Christmas bags….just gently twist red or green tissue paper around the gift(s) and put it or them in the bag. Use tape and wrap gifts in the traditional way if you wish. But it’s not necessary with the decorative bag.

This year I learned lining a box–inside and out with holiday paper–is easy, requiring just a scissors and scotch tape plus the paper. And placing wrapped or unwrapped gifts inside makes a wonderful display–no top needed (below). Cellophane around the box and over the top, tied at the top, is an option (but not necessary).

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Sometimes it’s the little things that ignite the spark of joy. A few extra minutes to buy tissue, cellophane, bags and ribbon can bring added excitement to aging parents and elders we care about, whether living independently or in a nursing home. As the letter Garden Sections members received years ago reminds us:

Dear Ladies,
My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.
 My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.
Thank you and God Bless.
VM

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 we’re talking about elders living alone. And it may take more than superficial thinking to instill a sense of purpose in aging parents who have lost it.

Next: Think about parents’ strengths/talents– objective and touchy-feely: eg. dexterity (talent fixing things), cooking, knitting, gardening, musical ability as well as patience, empathy, caring about certain things…. We may need to go back in time, remembering what they enjoyed/cared about when younger.

Then decide: can we renew 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 can they do towards that goal?

Example: For Sr. Advisor, R, it has been to keep herself healthy enough to be able to remain in her home. There’s purpose in exercising daily and shopping for her own groceries. The shopping cart provides stability and confidence when walking. Although her shopping takes forever, the entire experience is win-win for her and for us. R gets exercise, uses her brain, 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–driving R to the grocery store and waiting for her to get what’s on her list–and do our own marketing at the same time. We use our cell phone to take care of other stuff if there’s extra time. If your parent feels, like R, that being on a cell phone is rude, once you know how long a parent’s shopping takes, you needn’t hang around as if they’re not independent enough to be on their own. Ask if they need help, do what’s needed, then wait in the car and go back when you think (s)he’s about finished.

R’s shopping is followed by her putting the groceries away (if they’re heavy, we help) and ultimately cooking for herself and eating healthy.

Additional ways that instill feelings of purpose:
1. Doing for others–volunteering–but it must be meaningful. Old people being with young children in a daycare or school setting can be wonderful. That said, children spread many germs so this won’t work for elders with “ify” immune systems.

2.  Having a pet to care for; but this is can be tricky for older people. A veterinarian offers good information in a past post.

3. Having plants to care for offers an easier alternative to #2 (check out Easy Care Plants)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow as is the first day of Chanukah. Give aging parents a 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 helps aging parents feel better, and that makes us feel better.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah

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.

Help Aging Parents–Who Don’t Eat Properly: A Centenarian’s Advice

Thanksgiving Leftovers Go Home

Thanksgiving Leftovers Go Home

SOUP, FROZEN DINNERS, FRESH VEGETABLES/FRUITS, TREATS, LOW SALT, LOW FAT

With Thanksgiving/Chanukah just a over a week away, I’m thinking about our dinner, older family members, their eating habits, and what special contributions I can make.

At age 97 and 98 Sr. Advisor, R, previously shared thoughts and advice on my posts about nutritious food older people like, can prepare easily and quickly, and where and how she buys it. (Links below)

Now–at age 100–she shares her philosophy as it relates to life and food, and reiterates the quick, easy, no-mess, healthy food preparation that has helped her age well.

“I always say ‘Take Care of Yourself or You Can’t Take Care of Anything Else.’”  Inference: (…and you’ll end up needing to have someone take care of you). To this end, what you eat is clearly important.

1. SOUP–Most, if not all, older people love soup. It’s comfort food that is usually very nourishing. Dad also loved soup in his later years. R still goes to the grocery store with neighboring women–a Gen x (to Trader Joe’s) one day;–a Boomer (to Safeway) the other day. She always has soup on hand. Why? “It’s delicious, it’s nutritious, and it’s easy preparation and clean-up.” Items: Trader Joe’s soup w/ vegetables, and chicken, vegetables et al.

2. FROZEN DINNERS–nutritious, anchor a meal, easy preparation. Frozen food isn’t new to R, who was widowed at 51. Dinners alone–for one–propelled her to check out the frozen food main course offerings years ago. After some trial and error, she selected 2 brands based on taste and nutrition (she reads ingredients). Although a very good cook in her younger years (I hear), preparing dinner for one lacked appeal. Remaining independent had utmost appeal however. In R’s mind it included eating healthy (before that was popular). At age 100 she feels secure with a week’s supply of frozen dinners in her small freezer. (She doesn’t drive of course).

3. FRESH VEGETABLES/FRUITS–knowing their importance. Bananas, orange juice and Trader Joe’s “Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix” are mainstays. As stated in a previous post, she puts a salad-size portion in a plastic take-out box, adds salad dressing, secures the lid, shakes, and has a salad ready without messing up an extra dish. The veggies can also be steamed for cooked vegetables (but then an extra pot must be used).

4. TREATS–who does’t enjoy them and need them. They add fun to eating! For R, at home, they could be a cookie or two, a piece of candy, a dish of ice cream, or a frozen dessert. She believes in moderation, and buys low-fat if available. Neither cholesterol nor sugar has ever been a problem; but she’s cautious none-the-less. The day we had lunch together she ordered a completely different treat: a main course–fish and chips, salted and fried of course. This elicited the “I don’t abuse myself” quote (meaning in this instance, eating recklessly), first mentioned in an earlier post. She reiterates that she eats “simply” at home, but treats herself when she’s out…and she discusses “salt.”

5. SALT– Using common sense. R has been careful about salt intake for decades–long before it was popular. In her 50′s she realized her ankles were swelling and she decided to cut down on the salt which, it turns out, eliminated the swelling. “No doctor ever told me to cut down,” she says, ”it was just common sense….”

The dinner we prepare next week certainly belongs in the “treat” category. Do we all send leftovers (if we have them) home with our guests from this dinner when we host it? Leftovers are no doubt extra special for aging parents who don’t prepare big meals and those living alone.

This year I’m going to remember something else: put unused vegetables (eg. celery not used for stuffing, extra lettuce from salad making, and parsley–which R. loves–) in zip-lock bags, along with any other unused extras that she wouldn’t buy for herself. And–oh, yes! Add some of the centerpiece flowers, fruits, or vegetables. One more thoughtful way we can help parents age well.

Related:
What Food Should A 97-year-old Eat Breakfast and Dinner Ideas
What a 97-year-old woman cooks for herself And how she grocery shops
Aging Parents: Eating Healthy. Can We–Do We–Help? Quick, Easy, No-Mess Meal preparation, Dessert ideas

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.

A Nontraditional Thanksgiving Day for Aging Parents This Year?


HOW DO WE CELEBRATE WHEN CHANUKAH AND THANKSGIVING SHARE THE DATE?

ARE BLACK FRIDAY SALES BEING ONE-UPPED BY THANKSGIVING SALES?
ARE AGING PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS FLEXIBLE?

Menurkey menorah

The last time the first day of Chanukah and Thanksgiving shared the same date was in 1888. Since it won’t happen again for over 75,000 years–give or take a few thousand years (depending on which math genius does the figuring), this is the only year in our lifetime that these holidays overlap for Jewish families. Creative ideas for food and some fashion are already out there. Yet there’s another overlap–

Have any of us missed the ads (or other media discussions) of the “12 top retailers” who will be open for business on Thanksgiving? Some Thursday night; some all day.

Getting a head start on the shortened holiday selling season (when most retailers make most money) may need to be a priority. The economy isn’t great, as we know. Likewise breaking with tradition isn’t great for old/older people when connections at this time are important and eagerly anticipated.

Businesses need to pay their rent/overhead and their workers. Workers may want to take on extra work at this time of year to earn additional money. People want to take advantage of brick and mortar stores’ early sales, to help stay within their budget.  (Who doesn’t like a bargain?) Probably everyone understands the reasons for retail stores deciding to remain open this Thanksgiving –even if they don’t like it.

Older people find change more difficult than those younger. A traditional Thanksgiving is a fond, warm memory for most of us. Can we adapt our Thanksgiving celebration to what looks like a new reality in retailing?

I can only speak for our rather small group–age range 18 months-100 years-old. We are sticking with tradition. We’ll have our traditional Thanksgiving meal as always. Same time; same place. While younger family members may wish to make purchases and take advantage of the sales that day, they can do it–before or after our late-afternoon meal–at brick and mortar stores or online.

Yet “after,” from our experience, is usually a special time to sit around and talk, a time when elders enjoy reminiscing. A time when elders can share and we can learn. A time of togetherness and connections with others–the latter an important factor in helping parents age well.

And so, in spite of religions and the attraction of great bargains, I will make the Thanksgiving meal for family and friends–staying with the traditional once again–for probably the 40th time. What about you?

Related:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/11/12/retail-thanksgiving-store-opening-times/3504503/

 http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/11/4614193/this-year-thanksgiving-hanukkah.html

 http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/kutsher-tribeca-celebrates-thanksgivukkah-   feast-article-1.1471942  Food

 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/830273895/the-menurkey   The turkey menorah  (menurkey menorah) pictured above –video        

Note: “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected others–to help parents age well.