Still not completely back~however…

 

While “must-do” and “don’t know how to do” have prevented my planned return via “INCHING TOWARDS EIGHTY,” I return here to wish all who are continuing to follow, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPYand hopefully much more stable and peaceful—2019.

Simplifying Helps People Age Better

As we inch towards 80–a new normal for me is attempted, taken from the late Sr. Advisor R’s “SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY.”  Admittedly I don’t get an A+. That said, after trauma, overload etc. it makes sense to be conscious of ratcheting down…simplifying.

When on overload, it’s difficult. It involves decisions: what must be done and how to do it efficiently. Reconnecting at holiday time this year— after a 2-year absence since my husband died—topped my to-do list.

I was going away. Armed with address list, boxes of cards and stamps, in addition to the normal necessities, I headed to the DC area. Perhaps the break, getting out of the routine, contributed to clearer thinking. In any event, I take out the address lists, look at the quantity of people, and think “options:”

1. Computer-generated letter: print, fold, sign, address envelope, lick stamp…perhaps more personal and informative than a card, but as time-consuming.

2.  Emailed cards: Subscribers (I’m one at Jacquie Lawson) have loads of choices and the attractive holiday note cards allow for short or long personal messages. Some people prefer a card that can be held and displayed (I’m usually one). But the red and gold e-note-card prevailed. My unexpected reward came via the reply card that accompanies the e-card. I received many notes back—heartwarming and interesting, especially for someone who has been “out of the loop” and that includes so many older people.

Whether snail mail or email connecting at holidays enriches life. Doesn’t that help all ages feel good? And shouldn’t that help parents and us age better–if not–well.

Note: This blog still takes no ads. The link to JL is to get an idea of e-card offerings.

Understanding Aging Parents– Tips From Elders for Reducing Holiday Loneliness

Sharing with Santa

 

It’s The Haa, Haa–py–est Time of The Year (?)

The words and melody from the radio filled my car. It looked like a winter wonderland; and kids, amid shrieks of laughter and merriment, were sledding down the hill at the high school on anything large enough to sit on. I’m certain school vacation is adding to this happiest of times.

Then my counseling background kicks in. I remember that holidays aren’t the happiest of times for everyone, but connections with others do lift spirits. I phone a few aging friends with the usual “hello” and “how are you.” (Counselors are trained to ask objective questions–not leading ones.)

I do think this is the haa, haa-py-est time of the year for young and young adult children– who have none of the responsibilities of adulthood; and–discounting the stress that  shopping entails– for newly-marrieds who are looking forward; and for young couples with children who still believe in Santa.

It’s a happy time when older and younger family members can be together, feeling the warmth, sharing, and reminiscing about the past. And the excitement of the children and grandchildren provides a background of energy and optimism.

On the other hand elders say–

“The holidays are a time when our mind drifts back to past Christmases that were happy times. It’s a sentimental time,” recalls one 80-year-old widow. “It’s a wonderful time when families can get together, yet a lot of people are completely alone. As people get older, they have experienced losses. Especially for those who’ve lost their mates, other people’s happiness can be a reminder of the losses we’ve incurred. We’re just more vulnerable to that kind of thing when we get older.”

“Unless there’s a lot of family around and a lot going on, it’s not the happiest time of the year. It’s depressing,” says a 70-year old man.

There’s agreement that it takes effort for older people to find this a happy time. “It doesn’t just happen,” says one.

“It’s what you make of it when you’re older,” says another. “If you make the effort to be with people it’s good, but it can be exhausting. We may continue to decorate and continue to write the notes on the Christmas cards because we want our home to look festive and we like to get letters back after we write the notes. But we need to trim down and trim back so we aren’t too tired to enjoy.”

Next question: How can younger people help? Answers:

1. “Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.”
2. “A phone call is wonderful; it doesn’t have to be a visit.” An octogenarian relates “I had a wonderful phone call recently  from a niece who lives far away.” (Most old people prefer a phone call to an email.)
3. “It’s nice to take older people out to something, but take them to something that is rather quiet, that isn’t too taxing an experience.”
*            *             *
Why not pick up the phone and talk with at least one older person who lives alone or feels isolated? We can brighten his or her day. We can make older people feel special and cared about…because they are. And we can add interest to their lives. Major studies confirm that connections are one of the most important factors in successful aging. It may not be the Haa, Haa-py-est time of the year for most older people, but we can make it better.
                                                                * * *
12/20/14 Update: Sr. Advisor R phones today. Her spirits are the best they’ve been recently. Why? In the mail she received 2 unexpected Christmas greetings. One, a newsy Christmas letter, from the son of a dear friend (who died at least 8 years ago). The second from a woman who cleaned 4 hours a week for me when I was working. She knew R from R’s many visits to NY over the years–always thought R was very special. R’s response–in spite of her vision issues, she was writing these two people a note back to let them know how much she appreciated their thoughtfulness.
It doesn’t take much to lift elders’ spirits, does it?

Tailoring the Holidays for Elders’ Needs

Some aging parents are lifted by the excitement and activities of Christmas; for others there’s overstimulation and stress. And at some point, for all aging parents, there’s a slowing down. Do we notice this? Can/should we do something?

Indeed, the holidays can be tricky for some and need to be simplified for two groups: aging parents/elders and those with Alzheimer’s. (See Related below for latter.)

There comes a time when aging parents and elders we care about can’t do what they used to because of aging-related conditions. I ran the preceding sentence by our Sr. Advisor, Dr. Bud, MD, (psychiatrist) asking for his thoughts.

‘”The consequence of aging is difficult to process. You (older people) feel weakness, frustration–less and less in charge. Your expectations of yourself to perform at a certain level leave doubts.” For example: “It can be a struggle to articulate thoughts and responses, causing frustration and fatigue from trying.” …And hearing–“You keep hearing loss hidden because it’s embarrassing. A joke is told, you miss the point because you don’t hear; yet everyone’s laughing so you laugh to hide your (hearing) deficiency. it’s embarrassing to expose weaknesses in oneself.”

As I listened I gained new insight–realizing why some elders I’ve known, who appear to function well one-to-one, begin to drop out of the “social scene.” It seems to come down to at least 3 age-related conditions:

1. Less tolerance for confusion
2.  Changes in energy level
3.  Pride

Knowing this, we can offer the support and do some of the “tailoring” so the holiday festivities provide less stress and more fun as parents age.

Confusion: Too much going on can be confusing. Think: holiday events–too many people to remember, too many conversations to pay attention to; too much energy in the room; too much noise–makes listening difficult. The solution: Encourage small festive gatherings of friends and family. They work best.

Dad enjoyed people, regardless of number. He held a high position in the Hospitality Industry and loved speaking at large conventions (introduced Ronald Reagan at one). Yet, in his later years, he slowed down–preferring fewer people, more easily-heard conversation. On short notice he (in his early 90’s) let us invite his friends for New Year’s Day 6 months after Mom died. We were visiting, made the suggestion, and offered to make the calls and bring in the food. Around twelve elders (88-90+) arrived that afternoon–ate, talked, laughed, watched TV. Our effort was minimal (Trader Joe’s everything) but their enjoyment was great. An easy way to lift spirits at the start of a new year on a small scale.

Similarly Sr. Advisor, R, remarkable at 97, had an unusual amount of energy for her age–even after her recovery from broken hip surgery. At 99 she was rationing her energy–declining invitations to go out two days in a row and avoiding large holiday parties. Shortly after her 100th birthday party, at her insistence a smallish affair–just family– she lost the “oomph.” Doctors say her health at 101 is “excellent for her age,” yet she uses lack of energy as her reason for staying home. She controls– has tailored the holidays as a time of giving to others. She no longer wants the festivities.

Energy: Older people’s energy declines. “Energy is always a problem,” according to Sr. Advisor D, now 89. She says sometimes it’s necessary to “pick and choose” what you’re going to do and it’s often dictated by the energy involved.

For example, this year she didn’t attend her family’s Thanksgiving dinner, an hour’s drive away. A family member could easily take her and bring her back. Just recovering from a bout of something, she said she didn’t have the energy to make the effort.

Do we realize it takes energy to have conversations? The need to quickly remember things and people can cause stress. It also takes energy to dress especially nicely to go out. It takes additional energy if a long drive is involved.

No-longer-driving elders are dependent on someone for transportation, which creates an additional obstacle: if they  want to go home early for any reason, they don’t want to impose on their driver, according to Sr. Advisor, D.

One solution: Someone (their friend?) drives elders to the event. They can call you on their cell phone if they want/need to come home early. We’re not talking about an every-night responsibility. Most likely an available family member can handle that responsibility during the holidays. ls this payback time? Isn’t this what parents did for us, should we have needed to leave a party early when we were teenagers? Of course, they may decide to stay and go back with the person who brought them.

Pride: Older people may not want friends and/or former colleagues to see any lessening of themselves.

One 90-year-old with advanced macular degeneration, for example, declined all invitations to large social activities, rather than risk the embarrassment of misidentifying or not recognizing people she knew.

While we can’t tailor large parties, there’s a solution so those with low vision can feel comfortable going. Several older people with macular degeneration go to parties with an early detection device– a good friend or family member who stays with them and discretely whispers in advance “Here comes Sally.” Can we be an early detection device for low-vision elders?

If this works for the President, who has people standing behind him quickly whispering the name and position of the person coming up to greet him at events, why not use this “crutch” for aging parents who have low vision and even those with bad memories?

After all, connections with others help older people age well. Isn’t that our goal?

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.


Related: 
Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s blog. Especially read comments.
                For Elders Who No Longer Drive at Night: Suggestions for enjoying the Christmas lights

Aging Parents: It’s the Haa, Haa-py-est Time of The Year?

First posted 12/09. A reminder…

Sharing with Santa

 


It’s The Haa, Haa–py–est Time of The Year

     The words and melody from the radio fill my car as I drive to the post office to mail the holiday cards. We have snow, it looks like a winter wonderland; and kids, amid shrieks of laughter and merriment, are sledding down our shared driveway on anything they can find that’s large enough to sit on. Sun is shining, snow balls are flying, and I’m certain school vacation is adding to this happiest of times.
     And then my counseling background kicks in and I remember that holidays aren’t always the happiest of times for people. So I decide to check in with a few older people and see how they’re doing. As a counselor, I’m trained to ask objective questions–not leading questions that will give me the answer I want (or think I want). That said, let me share my findings.
*
     The consensus seems to be, from my small sample–but there’s no disagreement–that this is the haa, haa-py-est time of the year for children who have none of the responsibilities of adulthood, for newly marrieds who are looking forward, and for young couples with children who still believe in Santa.
     It’s an especially happy time when older family members are geographically near enough to children and grandchildren so that they can gather together to celebrate and talk about shared past experiences. Meanwhile the excitement of the children in the family provides a background of energy and optimism.
     “The holidays are a time when our mind drifts back to past Christmases that were happy times. It’s a sentimental time,” recalls one 80-year-old widow. “It’s a wonderful time when families can get together, yet a lot of people are completely alone. As people get older, they have experienced losses. Especially for those who’ve lost their mates, other people’s happiness can be a reminder of the losses we’ve incurred. We’re just more vulnerable to that kind of thing when we get older.”
     “Unless there’s a lot of family around and a lot going on, it’s not the happiest time of the year. It’s depressing,” says a 70-year old man.
     There’s agreement that it takes effort for older people to find this a happy time. “It doesn’t just happen,” says one. “It’s what you you make of it when you’re older,” says another. “If you make the effort to be with people it’s good, but it can be exhausting. We may continue to decorate and continue to write the notes on the Christmas cards because we want our home to look festive an we like to get letters back after we write the notes. But we need to trim down and trim back so we aren’t too tire to enjoy.”
     So then I ask the question: How can younger people help? The answers:
 *            *             *
1. Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.
2. A phone call even; it doesn’t have to be a visit. An old person related “I had a wonderful phone call from a far-away relative recently.” (Most old people prefer a phone call to an email.)
3. It’s nice to take older people out to something, but take them to something that is rather quiet, that isn’t too taxing an experience.
*                *           *
Why not pick up the phone and talk with at least one older person who lives alone or feels isolated? We can brighten his or her day We can make older people feel special and cared about…because they are. Add we can add interest to their lives. Major studies confirm that connections are one of the most important factors in successful aging. It may not be the Haa, Haa-py-est time of the year for most older people, but we can make it better.

6 Last-Minute Holiday Gifts: Exciting, Entertaining, Easily Obtainable–2013

Need a last-minute gift for an older person without the enduring the hectic last-minute crowds?  Here’s my short list.  It highlights exciting, pleasurable and practical gifts that can help parents and grandparents age well.

  • Lottery tickets, whether they are the scratch-off or wait-for-selection-of-the-winning-numbers-kind, add excitement to life.
  • Christmas LightsA drive with you to see the holiday decorations. Especially at night, when many older people are insecure about going out, the light displays are a great treat.
  • Open Table gift card simple, free sign up. You select restaurant (from ***** on down, in 33 cities), select card design, and amount of $ you wish to spend. More info: (888) 503-7558 or gifts@opentable.com Gift card emailed to you to print out that same day. Many older people prefer their largest meal at lunch for various reasons; whatever meal, they can invite friends if you provide enough $.
  • Netflix conveniently provides seniors, who don’t go out to the movies, many hours of entertainment.
  • Filling the car with gas for a senior on fixed income, or helping with other such essentials is a welcome gift.  While shopping and taking out my led pocket magnifying glass to help the saleswoman read the care label on a coat, an 81-year-old lady, buying a jacket for her granddaughter, joined the conversation. When I asked her what she’d like for Christmas, she quickly replied “my health,” then added “and someone filling up my gas tank….I just bought gas and it’s so expensive.”
  • An IOU to take non-driving seniors shopping/to the doctor etc. and back.

While Netflix comes with a gift card, and lottery tickets speak for themselves, making a card for the last two gifts only requires a recipe/index card or a piece of paper onto which a picture of a car (gas-tank side showing?) is pasted.

HAPPY GIFT GIVING

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: Sooo Much to Do–Too Little Time-Holiday Organization

Wrapping Christmas Gifts

Juggling everything on a normal day, with over-busy, over-programmed schedules, is hard enough at this time of year–whether we’re children of aging parents, caregivers or Sandwich Generation. Do we feel like we have ADD?

DISORGANIZATION, FRAZZLED NERVES–worsened by the unexpected glitch. And can’t we count on that! There’s an old saying “I’m dancing as fast as I can.” Taking that a step further: when we try to dance faster than we can, don’t we wear out or lose our balance? So how do we stay balanced?

9 Strategies that work 

Re: Making lists–works for some (once on paper, anxiety ends); not for me if the list is long.  A long list of to-do’s overwhelms: a stomach can go into knots just looking at it. I do have a mental list, but don’t write it down at the beginning. I know if I look at it I’ll become immobilized for a time…probably want to cry…which may help some, but again not me. (My eyes get red and puffy and I’m out of action until I look normal again.) 
*          *         *

1. Get rid of visible messes at home. Their sight compounds the stress and confusion. Thoughts get scattered, surrounded by and knowing there are: unmade beds, messy kitchen, stuff strewn around. (Forget children’s rooms). And with too much to do, it’s easy to leave beds unmade, add to an already-begun pile of stuff to put away later etc., etc.

2. Get help doing the above. Don’t waste your time.  “I need your help” is the important phrase that psychologically pulls people into your web and gets results. Enlist children, any able-bodied person (husband/wife/other) in the house to help.  A noted researcher in the 1970’s when divorce was escalating, advised single-parent-frazzled mothers: “Even an 8-year-old can vacuum.”

3. Think about the time of day you are more efficient and energetic. I know the middle of the day isn’t best for me. I have tremendous energy in the morning and then a short burst later at night. At night, however, I don’t have patience for detail things, so at this time of year the “no-brainer” kinds of things–like wrapping presents–are perfect.

4. Everything needn’t be done this minute. Accomplish a few of the easy-to-do things that are mixed with all the other must-do’s that cause anxiety. Find the easiest time-sensitive one, and accomplish it. Reward: a psychological pick-up.

5. Try to identify a few more easy ones; get at least one of those out-of-the-way, you’ll feel better. Then attack and accomplish one of the more difficult or time-consuming anxiety-producers. Reward yourself. Take a break. Eat chocolate, take a short nap, watch TV, go for a walk–you get the idea.

6. NOW MAKE THE LIST, prioritizing what remains. Fit “remains” into time available in the days that are left, using the above model.

7. Next think about what can reasonably be done, how others can help, thus saving  you time and/or stress. We can get help with almost anything these days if we ask or can pay for it. Yet many of us don’t ask when we’re overwhelmed. We often think it takes too much time to have to explain. But if we’re asking a capable friend or family member, why do we hesitate? (Controllers: take note. This is hard.)

8. If necessary, delete the least important from the list…the one(s) where the world won’t come to an end if not taken care of now. Put it/them off or cancel.

9. Knowing the duration of the stress helps. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel provides relief.

When we’re less stressed those around us no doubt notice; indeed it’s probably a gift–as we do our best to help parents, grandparents and older friends age well.
*                  *                 *

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.

It’s the Haa, Haa–py–est Time of the Year

December 2009–first posted. I like to repost at this time each year….as a reminder.

The words and melody from the radio fill my car as I drive to the post office to mail the holiday cards. We have snow, it looks like a winter wonderland; and kids, amid shrieks of laughter and merriment, are sledding down our shared driveway on anything they can find that’s large enough to sit on. Sun is shining, snow balls are flying, and I’m certain school vacation is adding to this happiest of times.
And then my counseling background kicks in and I remember that holidays aren’t always the happiest of times for people. So I decide to check in with a few older people and see how they’re doing. You must remember that I’m a counselor, trained to ask objective questions–not leading questions that will give me the answer I want (or think I want). So let me share my findings.
 
The consensus seems to be, from my small sample but there’s no disagreement, that this is the haa, haa-py-est time of the year for children who have none of the responsibilities of adulthood, for newly marrieds who are looking forward, and for young couples with children who still believe in Santa. It’s an especially happy time when older family members are geographically near enough to children and grandchildren so that they can gather together to celebrate and talk about shared past experiences. Meanwhile the excitement of the children in the family provides a background of energy and optimism.
“The holidays are a time when our mind drifts back to past Christmases that were happy times. It’s a sentimental time,” recalls one older widow. “It’s a wonderful time when families can get together, yet a lot of people are completely alone. As people get older, they have experienced losses. Especially for those who’ve lost their mates, other people’s happiness can be a reminder of the losses we’ve incurred. We’re just more vulnerable to that kind of thing when we get older.” “Unless there’s a lot of family around and a lot going on, it’s not the happiest time of the year. It’s depressing,” shares a 70-year-old man.
There’s agreement that it takes effort for older people to find this a happy time. “It doesn’t just happen,” says one. “It’s what you make of it when you’re older,” says another. “If you make the effort to be with people it’s good, but it can be exhausting. We may continue to decorate and continue to write notes on the Christmas cards because we want our home to look festive and we like to get letters back after we write the notes. But we need to trim down and trim back so we aren’t too tired to enjoy.”So then I ask the question: How can younger people help? Can they help?

The answers:
1. Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.
2. A phone call even; it doesn’t have to be a visit. I had a wonderful phone call from a far-away relative recently. You know older people don’t relate to an email as they do to a phone call.
3. It’s nice to take older people out to something, but take them to something that is rather quiet, that isn’t too taxing an experience.
* * * * *
OK, everyone. Why not pick up the phone and talk with at least one older person who lives alone or feels isolated. Brighten his or her day. Make these older people feel special, cared about…because they are. Raise their self-esteem. Add interest to their lives. Major studies confirm that connections are one of the most important factors in successful aging. It may not be the Haa, Haa-py-est time of the year for most older people, but we can make it better.