Aging Parents and Alcohol: A Lady’s 100th Birthday Lunch–at a Bar


I’ve written before about Mrs. M, who died at 104. From the “old school,” she was a lady of standards and protocol.  Each time she went to the hospital due to another emergency, for example, her son insisted that they call her “Mrs. M” (no “honey” or “sweetie” for her).

For countless decades drinks at “cocktail hour” were part of the routine and in old age she still liked a “little drink”–whether or not her doctors approved. Indeed she threatened to stop all medication and suffer the consequences if she couldn’t have this little bit of enjoyment now and then.

Her son, after trying unsuccessfully to fight the cocktail routine when she entered her late 90’s, wisely I think, decided that it was better for everyone if she had one drink, was happy and lived less long– as opposed to enduring the misery and arguments that accompanied a complete ban on alcohol and living longer. (The primary concern was her falling with such old, fragile bones.)

And so it was on a lovely April day that the two of us went to JB’s, an upscale restaurant-bar, for a prearranged birthday lunch. “Prearranged” translates: spoke with her son to make certain he had no objections, made a reservation and asked for a certain table so Mrs. M wouldn’t need to walk too far once inside the restaurant, and the last arrangement was with God. I prayed for a parking space close to the restaurant.

Mrs. M was dressed and ready, with cane in hand, when I arrived. She’d told a caregiver/companion, who usually came late morning and went home after doing the dinner dishes, that she was going out to lunch with me–not to come until later.

We got in the car for a 5-minute drive to the restaurant.  Right in front was an empty parking space. So far, so good. As we were ushered to our table, chatting about being 100, I noticed some much younger men sitting on high stools at a high round table having drinks and lunch. We sat down and Mrs. M ordered one of the specialty drinks–a pear “concoction” with a sliver of a dried pear floating on top of the liquor, ice and whatever else there was. “Wonderful,” I recall her saying after the first sip.

Suddenly I panicked. I wondered if Mrs. M had eaten any breakfast. How does one ask the question without sounding demeaning, insulting or at best nosey? (In critical situations I realize I instinctively react by “kidding on the square.” It’s something I learned early on; it works for me; it had become a conditioned reaction.) I said something like “I hope you’ve had breakfast otherwise your son will kill me if something happens to you and we’ll probably both be dead–plus we’ll ruin a good friendship.”

She assured me she’d had breakfast and I assured myself she would have a substantial lunch. As the waiter came over to take our orders, he informed us that the men at the high round table had bought our drinks in celebration of Mrs. M’s 100th birthday. She was thrilled–hadn’t had a young man buy her a drink in a long while, she said. She smiled and waved at them. Her delight was worth $1,000,000!

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.

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Cell Phones vs. Alert Pendants if Seniors Should Fall

Help! I’ve Fallen! 


Are cell phones and alert pendant equally effective in getting help when an older person falls? We had that discussion the other night at dinner with friends. We remembered that 97-year-old Senior Advisor, R, had neither cell phone nor pendant and spent the better part of 3 hours trying to crawl and drag her body about 40 feet to a phone, then figure out how to get the phone down so she could call 911. We agreed: the quicker the response that sends appropriate help, the better.


>My “best cell phone for seniors” post has been read well over 34,290 times*–many more times than the two carefully researched posts on Alert Pendants. 
>Falls are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity among adults age 65 and older:” Oregon Research Institute Study 2008
>Every 18 seconds an older adult is in the emergency room because of a fall:” Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
>1 in 3 adults over 65 will fall every year.
>falls cause 300,000 hip fractures a year.

As if confirming the above–two far-away-living friends recently fell and broke their hips. One, an accomplished equestrian just over 65 who still jumps competitively, was rushing to leave home, arms loaded with stuff, and tripped over their old dog who was lying in an unexpected place. The other, an active 71-year-old,  wrote: “I was stopped in my rushing-about tracks when I fell and broke my hip in early June…I am now driving.”

Judging from the # of views plus the comments on my “best cell phones for seniors” post, children and grandchildren see cell phones as especially valuable for older people in emergency situations. But how effective are cell phones (even with the recommended ICE or an emergency button) in getting timely help if someone is alone and falls?

  • Most older people don’t carry cell phones everywhere with them (ie. at home– to the bathroom where many falls take place).
  • A cell phone in a pocket or purse may be unreachable.
  • Older (as well as younger) people can forget to recharge cell phones.
  • If one falls and is unconscious how is help alerted?

While cell phones have wonderful advantages for aging parents and make great gifts, if we want to give older people the most protection if they should fall, the alert pedants’ technology is superior–having none of the problems just listed, assuming one wears the pendant or bracelet. (If Tiffany made alert pendants would people be more inclined to buy–and wear–them?)

When there’s a risk of falling because of age, I–for one–would certainly prefer to know who was orchestrating my rescue (the alert pendant company’s trained responders) as opposed to leaving it to chance.  That said, for the benefit of aging parents and grandparents, check out the two posts featuring “alert pendants.” Older people tend to get them after they’ve fallen or a good friend has fallen and “converts” them….after the horse is out of the barn so to speak. Why wait?

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

*statistic updated 1/11/13


Capable Adult Children: Stressed…………….. Decisions: Hastily Made……………………. Independent Aging Parent: Unnecessarily Damaged

This is true. It must be told–shared with me by a BFF of many decades. It involves someone she deeply cared about, whose smart, busy, caring children unwittingly compromised their dad’s quality of life. The result: a disaster for him; utter dismay for them.

I wrote about it when I first began blogging. It had no tags. Didn’t realize only a few read it, until today-when someone did read it and, out of curiosity I checked its stats. Because of its relevance to the impact our busy lives can have on independent, aging parents, I’m republishing it, editing it a bit, and changed its title from “A Sad Story,” which it clearly is. I think it offers lessons for us all.

Rodney, divorced, and in his early 80’s, was living happily by himself in a condo in a very nice California suburb. He was a retired professional with many friends and former colleagues who valued his wisdom and kind ways.

But he was increasingly seeming “spacey,”– “dementia-like” to those who knew him well. He appeared unsteady on his feet at times. Close friends noticed this and may have attributed it to his age. Reasons for no one questioning this physical and mental change could be many.

One day Rodney took a bad fall in his apartment. A neighbor heard his call for help; phoned 911. The local hospital supposedly did a full evaluation to determine the cause of his fall, and his daughter was told he needed assisted living. She quickly and efficiently made arrangements, but it was soon evident that Rodney needed more help than assisted living provided so a private aide was hired to be with him. More falls, more trips in and out of the hospital. No one understood the cause, only the effect as Rodney became more and more frustrated and, at times, unruly.

Assisted living lacked approprite staff to care for him–even with his aide. Thus his daughter located a group home with adequate staff to watch him and prevent more falls. The superviser of the home, a thorough person, had a hunch… that medication could be causing Rodney’s problems. Indeed Rodney (who could legally write prescriptions), was using a commonly prescribed sleep aid. Rodney had no primary care doctor (unrelated specialists treated him). Evidently prior to the “hunch” no one knew Rodney was taking this medication, which could produce the side effects Rodney was experiencing.

The good news: the group home’s supervisor changed Rodney’s medication. He became himself again and much steadier on his feet. The bad news: he had nothing in common with this group home’s residents. Disliked being there.

But during these many months his efficient daughter had sold his condo because, she was advised, he could no longer live alone and because funds would be needed for his group home care. Rodney has no condo to return to.

Initially his daughter was glad to see him cared for, didn’t wanted another upheaval, and looked forward to peace of mind. But with new medication, Rodney was adamant: he had no reason to stay in the group home.

A bad start, lack of information, incomplete knowledge, inaccurate assumptions, and a busy, caring daughter’s well-meaning quick fixes. What do we learn?

1.  When making important decisions, think: is it better/easier for my parents or for me?
2.  A current list of parents’ medications may help avoid problems.
3.  Experienced geriatric social workers would most likely have reduced the busy daughter’s stress and helped with well-thought-out changes and a better outcome. Social workers are an excellent resource.
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PS.  Rodney did move from the group home to assisted living, since many months had passed leading to other problems. He died shortly thereafter.

Aging Parents: 97-year-old, Broken hip, Rehab, Now Walking

Today’s post is brief.  Certain details are needed to make it useful and I don’t have them yet. Nevertheless as we try to help parents age well, knowing  that a 97-year-old broken hip can heal and that beginning to walk again with a walker signals regained independence ahead is heartening.

Knowing the value of more specifics, and since I’ve just returned (my husband, her son, has been here most of the time since the fall), I want to be certain I can accurately convey certain aspects of her fall, diagnosis, prognosis, and progress to date.

That said, Senior Advisor, R, is literally in the home stretch. Her home awaits her.  Having lived independently and successfully alone since her husband’s death over 40 years ago, if anyone could have successful rehab for a broken hip, it would be R. She is our only living parent at this point. Of course, we know the delicate balance aging parents must deal with and probably won’t completely relax until she is back home.

In the meantime, hoping to have useful details in this coming Tuesday’s post….

When Aging Parents Fall–Damage Control: The “Alert” Pendant or Bracelet

Why isn’t this relatively inexpensive, old technology as important to older people indoors, as an umbrella is to them outdoors when it rains?

It needn’t be worn continuously–as explained in my October 10th post, but can be left near the door so that when a living-alone senior enters his or her home it’s right there; and when the senior goes out, it’s left right there.

Since the statistics–that people over 65 are at greater risk of falling and the risk increases with age–are widely known….

  1. Is it that older people who are fit don’t think they risk of falling in their homes?
  2. Do they assume if they’ve taken or take tai chi and/or other fall prevention classes they are exempt?
  3. Do they fear paramedics will break down the door to rescue them, thus causing damage to their home?
  4. Is it the expense? There are undoubtedly countless reasons older people reject a piece of “alert” jewelry.

To set the record straight:

  1. Most people fall in their homes.  Denial may be at work.
  2. Fall prevention classes have clearly been shown to reduce the risk; but that doesn’t mean falls don’t happen.
  3. The alert monitoring companies give instructions for lock boxes or other ways to make keys available so paramedics can unlock, not break down, the door.
  4. There is an expense, but weigh the expense vs. medical expenses, parental emotional as well as physical pain and suffering, and adult children’s time, energy, and stress.

Fear of falling is one of older people’s most prevalent fears.  Falling and breaking a hip spells trouble: a long recovery and initially–if not forever–greatly diminished independence. (No need to spell out how this impacts caring adult children’s lives.)

Falling alone in one’s home means needing to painfully, slowly crawl to a telephone–usually high up off the floor and thus a challenge to pull down even when one finally reaches the phone’s location.

If a hip is not initially broken, but has suffered only a hairline crack, what are the odds the hip will suffer more damage due to crawling?

We try to help our parents age well. Wearing an “alert” pendant or bracelet can clearly help maintain quality of life.  It’s an invaluable gift and hopefully a thoughtful discussion will convince parents of its value.  (Click the following to continue this discussion:

Smart Elders Who Reject Alert Pendants, Thinking They’re Careful and Won’t Fall–Wrong, sadly!

Independence vs. Broken Hip

We try to help parents age well and we’re aware of the statistics.  After 65 the chances of a fall increase; ditto the damage which  increases as people’s bones become more  brittle.  Down the line we realize that many people age, and suddenly look more fragile.

So I write yesterday’s planned post today, from a rehab center where my 97-year-old mother-in-law and a senior advisor, R, is recovering after falling 10 days ago in her home and having surgery to put a pin in her broken hip.

R. (hover over senior advisor tab above for her “bio”), like many older people fortunate to have (as she calls it) “a good brain,” values her independence above all. She took precautions to prevent falling in her home and has never hesitated to gracefully ask for help (your arm) when she feels unsteady.  She never dreamed she would fall in her home and thus, rejected the idea of a pendant that would alert someone she needed help.

The result: she fell in her living room, while walking to the kitchen, having noticed a decorative object on a desk had been moved by her every-other-week cleaning person.  She reached to move it, lost her balance, and grabbed a nearby chair.  But it wasn’t heavy enough to hold her. Both fell on the carpet. The next three hours were spent pulling her body with her arms across the carpet to a telephone; she called a nephew; he called 911.

I share R’s experience to help aging parents and others who live alone and resist “alert button” bracelets or necklaces. While they don’t prevent falls, they do prevent skinned knees from carpet burns, pain, and possible further hip damage from trying to get to a telephone…and worse. And they needn’t be worn all the time.

Indeed, a woman in her mid-80’s who shares an apartment with her son in the northeast, only wears the bracelet when she enters her Florida apartment–where she live alone in the winter.  She says she leaves the bracelet near the door and puts it on the minute she enters that apartment.

While we do our best to help our aging parents, the odds can catch up with even the most smart, independent and remarkable seniors….evident from the older people with broken hips in this rehab center.  We can only try to reduce the damage. Perhaps R’s experience can provide an opening for discussion with older parents who live alone and refuse–or don’t use–those “alarm button” pendants.

Aging Parents–Fall, Broken Hip, Post Delayed

Sorry–Still away and unable to write a substantive post.  It’s especially frustrating because senior advisor, R, less than a week ago fell, broke her hip, had surgery and is now in a care facility for two weeks of rehab, as I understand it.

You know from reading about her (click Senior Advisors tab; see sidebar), that she’s my mother-in-law and is remarkable.  Although I’m presently on the West Coast, I’m flying out to help her tomorrow and will relate her experience.

It’s instructive, which is the purpose of this blog.  There’s also a definite tie-in to last week’s posts that I want to share as soon as I’m certain I have correct details and dependable internet access.

Until Saturday, when I should have internet access—-