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November 2007

Home Instead Senior Care’s "Be a Santa to a Senior"

Home Instead Senior Care’s program, "Be a Santa to a Senior," is in its fourth year. The program focuses on what they call "elder orphans,"  those seniors who don't get visitors or have family members to brighten their holidays. These senior's often suffer more depression that those with family ties and frequent visitors.

From Home Instead: "Here’s how the program works:  Prior to the holiday season, participating non-profit organizations around North America will identify needy, orphaned and isolated seniors and provide those names to Home Instead Senior Care offices in their communities.  Christmas trees will go up in those area’s retail stores featuring ornaments with the first names only of the needy seniors and their respective gift requests.Holiday shoppers can pick up an ornament, buy items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the senior’s ornament attached.  Home Instead Senior Care then enlists the volunteer help of its staff, senior-care business associates, non-profit workers and others to collect, wrap and distribute the gifts to those seniors.  Citywide gift-wrapping days, where hundreds of the presents are wrapped, are held in many communities."

So, folks, look in your phone book and see if you have a Home Instead franchise in your city. If you do, ask what you can do to help with this great program.

Caregivers Need to Replenish Their Resources

During this often hectic time, we caregivers tend to take an already packed schedule and cram even more duties into it. Not only do we have our own shopping, but we do the shopping our parents would have done in their younger years. They still want to give gifts. We often write their Christmas cards for them, we mail their packages, we do their baking - all of this plus tending to our children's Christmas, our spouse, and all of the work celebrations which usually require extra cooking or shopping.

Below is a story for caregivers that works any time of the year, but I think it's even more fitting at this busy time. It's titled "The Bowl and the Sponge."

"...For awhile, the pitcher is relieved of some of the weight of the water, as your loved one is relieved of some of their burden when you are sharing it with them. You, the caregiver, are holding the troubles of your loved one for a time; lightening their load. "

Read full story:

Eldercare Shopping: A New Guide

Our Eldercare Conceierge, Phyllis Slater, has come out with a new e-book that has some really unique items. One of them, a portable doodad that raises the head of a mattress for those who have acid reflux, sounds amazing (she asked me to review the book). I haven't tried any of the items she mentions, but Phyllis does the work for you and will even put together gift baskets. If you are looking for some help in that area, contact phyllis at:


Holiday Thoughts for Caregivers

Holidays are a mixed blessing for some of us. Some of us just plain dread the idea. I was asked by agingcare.com to tackle the issue in a post for them, so I thought I'd pass it on to you with my wishes for a nice Thanksgiving - even if it's not "traditional."

How Caregivers Can Stay Positive During the Holidays: Drop the Fantasy, Lose the Guilt

There's an image of holiday perfection that our culture encourages. Starting with Thanksgiving, we are inundated with fantasy images of perfect families happily enjoying each other's company during a holiday meal. Most of us have memories from our childhood that feed this drive toward the Norman Rockwell nostalgia of holidays past. If we lived it, we want to duplicate it. If we didn't, we want to create it.

Few of us can measure up to the fantasy - caregivers least of all. There's so much denial of today's reality in these images resurrected each holiday and thrown at us by every means, from advertisements to blockbuster movies. These images feed expectations that are impossible to meet.

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Noxema Thinking

My friend, Erin, who runs www.galvestonseniors.com, has had some innovative ideas for clothing dilemmas we face with elders who can't maneuver into standard clothing. I've written about several online sites that specialize in clothing and other items for seniors, and I'm again thinking of listing some of them on this blog's margin, where they are handy for readers. This brings me back to Erin. Erin said her dad found that fishing pants with drawstrings were terrific - easy to wear and comfortable. I bought sweatpants for my dad when belts and zippers became too difficult to deal with, but these quick drying fishing pants sound a bit more "dressed." I like the idea. Erin also said that maternity clothes can be stylish but forgiving alternatives for senior women who want the give of the stretch that modern maternity pants have. New styles mean the tops don't have to say "baby on board" or something that is obviously inappropriate. They are just loose and easy to wear. Another good thought.

This is what I call "Noxema thinking." I've used Noxema face cream for half a century. I originally started using it for washing my face, and I still use it for that. But, as time passed, I found it was the product I always reached for to calm an itch, heal sunburn, mositurize - any skin problem (no, this isn't a paid endorsement). My mother couldn't get along without it at the nursing home. I had to make sure I had two jars. Noxema has always been my  answer to "if I were ever stranded on a desert island and could only take one product, what product would I take?" (Sorry, I read "Glamour" in those days, and still do, even though it's written for twenty-somethings. Keeps me in touch with youth). 

The reason I coined the term "Noxema thinking" is that to me it describes the way we look at an item and figure out innovative ways to use it. Erin's "Noxema thinking" - her ability to look at items and imagine new uses  - helped her come up with innovative ways to use these clothing items for seniors. I'm open to more innovative ideas to help elders.

True Love and Courage in the Face of Alzheimer's

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her family have been in the news for an unusual reason. Many of you know that Justice O'Connor's husband has Alzheimer's disease, and she retired to help him through this. He has been living in a home for people with Alzheimer's disease. He no longer knows his wife, and he has fallen in love with another woman who lives at the facility. The family is courageously and lovingly supporting this romance, as he is happy and that is what they want for him. The courage that Justice O'Connor's family is showing by coming forward with this not too uncommon situation is, in my mind, on the level of Betty Ford going public with her alcoholism. Betty Ford made it known that the disease of alcoholism knows no social class. She helped others - especially women - address their disease without shame. Justice O'Connor and her family are doing something just as monumental by going public with the quite common Alzheimer's dilemma. Others faced with this will relate, and know there is no shame in admitting that their beloved mate, who no longer knows them, has fallen in love with someone else. Sharing our pain lightens our burden. Hooray for this courageous family.

Read the USA TODAY story here:

Read my article on Our Alzheimer's where I address the article here:

E-mail Box NOT full...

Just a note to let those of you who have tried to e-mail me this week know that my e-mail box is not full.  It has been reporting "full" all week, though I wasn't aware of where the problem was until last Wednesday. It is still down, but they are trying to fix the problem. I've been told it should be up tonight. I apologize to those of you who have tried to contact me. Thanks for hanging in.

No One Needs to Die in Pain

I've begun writing occasionally for the new aging site agingcare.com. My first piece for them was a reflection on the hospice care I've had for my family. I thought you may enjoy my take on this important subject. The title on the site is "Hospice and Palliative Care: Helping People Die."

No one needs to die in pain. That’s what the hospice social worker told me, as I signed the papers that would put my dad on hospice care. No one needs to die in pain. That’s the mantra of hospice, and it became my mantra, as well. I had to believe it, as my dad had suffered so much.

For weeks, each time I walked into Dad’s room in the nursing home, he’d be rigid in bed, up on one elbow and slamming his fist against his hand. Pow! Pow! Pow! Over and over, he pounded fist against hand. I’d try to get him to relax; to lie back. He couldn’t comprehend. Pow! Pow! Pow! He was trying to knock out the pain.

Dad was in Rosewood, where he’d lived since the brain surgery that was to correct the results of a World War II brain injury, compounded by age, failed. Dad went into surgery foggy, from fluid building up behind scar tissue. We soon learned that, while the surgery was medically successful – the shunt that was inserted into his brain to drain the fluid worked – Dad suffered from what I call “instant dementia.”  He needed complete nursing home care.

Each time I saw him in such an agitated state, I would hurry from his room, back out into the hall to talk with the nurse. Had the doctor been in yet? Had he seen Dad like this? Would he please help us get Dad on hospice?

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Boomer Humor: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Judge James J. Brown has an impressive resume and has written successful legal books. Will the Laughter Stop? Baby Boomer Chronicles is his first novel. As the title implies, it's a light-hearted trip back to the 60s. He writes from the perspective of teenager Buck Rawlins.

My favorite thing about the book is that Brown is meticulous in his details. He marks years by cars, which made even me smile, as I remembered the cars of the era. And I really don't care much about cars. He sets the scene in sports and guy groups (teenage boys - I guess it's true that they only have one thing on their mind). Chronicles has a "Happy Days" feel about it, though Brown vividly describes Buck Rawlins' Catholic school and the physical punishment dealt out, in a way that wouldn't have been done on the televison comedy. It brought back memories to me, as I had Catholic friends who told me why some nuns of the era wore long black straps on their habits. In Rawlins' case, it was the Brothers in the school. I went to public school, and while things were certainly more strick then than now, this kind of punishment (for just plain "kid" behavior) wouldn't have been allowed.

Chronicles is written for nastolgia and laughs, but it effectively brought me back to other memories as well, which says a great deal, I think, for the book. Chronicles, in general, will likely ring more memory bells for men than women, but it's got a lot of charm for any of us who grew up in the era.

Baby Boomer Chronicles is available on Amazon.com and in some books stores (see below).

Elder Care and Christmas: Here's a Unique Option

I repeat myself on purpose with this particular topic: Most elders have enough doo-dads. We still want to give gifts and they like to receive gifts. I'll be writing on ideas for gifts within a week or so, but I wanted to get the word out now on a great idea. I'm linking you to my post on Our Alzhiemer's called, "A Christmas Gift That Delivers. "

"My mom loved getting her mail. I think the anticipation was her favorite part. When I was a child, we had early morning delivery, and on summer days, my mom would say we couldn't really start the day until the mail arrived. That, of course, was at a time when life moved at a slower pace - literally. Airmail was the quickest way to get something, and you had to get special stamps for that (and fancy, filmy envelopes)."

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