Aging Parents: Prelude to Halloween continued…

Prelude to Halloweeen

Prelude to Halloween

People’s spirits can rise and fall based on something as simple as “weather.” We can understand this when thinking about the emotional fragility of the “frail and isolated elderly.” Yet down-days are also common for ordinary older people, whose lives have shrunk from a fast-forward, exhilarating younger pace to a slowdown-and boredom–in old age.

October’s weather can cause an avalanche of down days (although thankfully not this year in NY). Several dreary Octobers ago a prominent octogenarian couple I knew needed a cheery something. And I needed to visit them–but not empty-handed. Earlier that day I had gone food shopping. In the grocery store I saw the screwiest-looking pumpkin stem atop a lopsided-looking pumpkin. It made me laugh as I wondered who could ever carve a face on it. The whimsy got the better of me. I bought it; clueless about what to do with it.

You know my thinking next: If it makes me smile, why not take it to the old couple? How stupid/risky/outrageous is that? Here’s the first pumpkin I ever decorated as displayed on that October blog.   

Since then my creative endeavors often have some unanticipated small disaster. As you can see, the “screwy” part of the stem broke off during the decoration process. Only the lopsidedness remains. (And you’re the only ones who know how the stem should have looked.)

Now it’s October again, so yesterday I left NYC to do my decorated pumpkin for the 95 year-old widower of that original elderly couple–only this time in his kitchen. I brought 2 pumpkins (in case of disaster) and flowers, took glue gun and acorns, scissors and scarecrows. He was waiting for me in the study when I arrived, but seemed to have little energy for going into the kitchen to watch the decorating.

His caregiver got into the act quickly since I’d forgotten the skewers needed to poke deep holes in the pumpkin so flower stems could benefit from the liquid around the seeds inside (and last longer). He found an old fondue fork and I found that a good stab by him at the place I designated worked as well as the turkey skewer–perhaps better for the wide chrysanthemum stems.

We worked as a team. After 5 minutes the larger pumpkin (at top), was finished. He asked if we could do the small one. By this time he was helping with the decoration and suggested the acorn. Giving his approval to one of the places I suggested, we glued it. Finished product–

My elderly friend loved them and remembered they would last, no doubt until Halloween. His caregiver kept telling me how much he loved helping and spent a while taking pictures with his cell phone.
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Bottom line: It’s always rewarding to do something that makes an older person happy. This was a win, win, win– for my elderly friend, his caregiver, and me.
                              Things that lift the spirit help parents age well
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Related: “Halloween Posts”– Clck tab above under heading

Autumn Ideas to Energize Aging Parents– A Focus on the 5 Senses:Taste

How often do we indulge ourselves with something that appeals to our taste buds when we’re feeling down? It brings a temporary lift and energizes us, doesn’t it?

Tasty food seems to temper the unpleasant and boost our energy. For example, I always tried to have coffee, tea and really good goodies available when I ran parent groups for parents of high school students who had problems. Members seemed to come together more eagerly–and never miss a meeting–to address serious problems. After a few meetings, parents volunteered to bring the goodies. Is it a stretch to say they sweetened the atmosphere to deal with difficult issues?

Can satisfying the sense of taste, by providing aging parents’ favorite foods, help lift parents out of the autumn doldrums ?
–it certainly can’t hurt.

While we concentrate on living-alone older parents and friends who don’t like autumn/fall and the months that follow, I’m guessing that older parents who still have their spouse, tolerate autumn doldrums better than those living alone.  Of course the goal is the same for all: lift spirits and energize by pleasing the senses–in this case, taste.

Assisted Living and Rehab Facilities

I know of no-one in assisted living or in a rehab facility who loves the food, although I believe it’s nutritious and well-balanced. So bringing in favorite food(s) should provide a “lift.”

Had Dad ever been in assisted living, I would have taken him (weekly) a corned beef sandwich on rye on one occasion and New England clam chowder on another, and I would have asked him for additional requests. I probably would have asked a family member to coordinate with me and bring another kind of soup–or even stew– on a different day. The latter microwave easily and can last for several meals.  OK…’nuff said.

When a parent lives alone being aware of nutrition and healthy diet may help dictate the selection of favorite foods. As noted elsewhere, Mother sipped water; didn’t drink enough–so I bought flavored water, which she really liked. It was easy to leave her with a dozen bottles of her favorite flavors.

She also loved sweets, but diabetes was an issue, so I carefully selected as many flavors of no-sugar ice cream as I could find and she chose her favorites which I kept replenished  for her. I never blended slurpees for her, but probably should have. She loved and could eat fruit and–from what I can tell–stevia is an OK sweetener to add to the blend.

We know our parents favorite foods. If we’re creative we can provide them in different ways.  For example, a friend, whose wife is very ill, apprised her favorite restaurant of the situation, and–on occasion–brought “carry-out” of her favorite main course (even though the restaurant doesn’t have “carry out”). Why? Is it because people in the food business realize how much something that tastes good can energize and raises spirits?

Whether it’s apple cider, flavored water, slurpees, soup, stew, sweets or a prepared meal, bringing aging parents an edible favorite should provide a “lift”–pleasing one of the senses: taste. Certainly worth a try when the days become shorter and darker.

–Until Saturday with ideas for the remaining 4 senses……

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.

Autumn Ideas to Energize Aging Parents: A Focus on the 5 Senses

The 5 Senses: Apple Cider, Autumn Leaves, Crackling Fires, Pumpkin Pies Baking, and a Hug
Taste, Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch

Many people (older and younger) view autumn with enthusiasm. They look forward to slowing down a bit–marveling at the color of the changing leaves, sitting by a warm fire in cozy surroundings, reading, listening to music, working on a creative endeavor, while the aroma of goodies baking in the oven fills the air.

Of course “many” is not “all.” There are others–some with SAD (seasonal affect disorder) who crave daylight to keep depression away, as well as non-SAD others– who anticipate with some sense of dread the skies that darken earlier and shorten each day, the bare branches whose leaves turn beautiful then die, the changing weather and inevitable heavier clothing. Is it a more lonesome time?

I think about old people. Having an active life, pushes some of the dreariness out of the way.

If it seems like I’m rushing autumn, blame it on the school calendar where Labor Day feels like the end of summer.

Trying to be prepared, I’m thinking of creative ideas to raise older people’s spirits in autumn. Realizing the importance of the 5 senses, I’m wondering if we can energize and lift aging parents’ spirits–indeed any older person’s spirits–by bringing gifts or arranging activities that incorporate at least 1 of the 5 senses. I’m guessing you’re getting the idea.

Next post: Autumn Ideas: Taste 

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.