Dear Carol: I read one of your articles which said that you had lost both your parents in quick succession so I identify with you. I live in the UK. In early March, I lost my father, aged 92. He didn't want anyone with him when he passed away. Then, exactly two months later, my mother, aged 88, passed away at home. She waited until I was holding her hand, then she squeezed my hand, slightly opened her eyes to look at me, and peacefully passed on. Mum and I had talked about the future and I told her I would always live near her, or with her, if she preferred. She had seemed fine, but shortly after Daddy's death, she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Mum passed away within three days of leaving the hospital. I was able to tell her how much I loved her, but then I had to let her go. I just wondered how quickly your Mum passed away after your father, and if you believe that your mum didn't want to go on without her husband. Thank you for reading this. – Meghan
Dear Carol: Both of my parents were abusive alcohol and drug addicts. My mother died years ago. My dad and I have reconciled to some degree after he got help for his alcoholism and drug use. I believe I’ve forgiven him, and am trying to help him during what are probably his last years, but I still have flashbacks. I get angry when he becomes difficult, though since he’s had two strokes I should be able to understand his frustration. In the past, I sought counseling, but my counselor doesn’t understand how hard it is to take care of aging parents. Can you help me map out how I can take care of dad’s needs without risking my own mental health? TM
By treating aging as a disease are we just prolonging the inevitable or can we change the course of our lives? This question will be discussed at length on "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.
My opinion? Aging is a process and it’s not all bad. We gain hindsight and wisdom. We gain experience from our successes as well as our mistakes. The wisest among us gain perspective about what really matters as we each navigate our personal path through life.
For me, the question is more about how we live and how we die than it is whether or not aging should be treated as a disease that needs to be cured.
If we take care of our body, our mind, and our spirit, we have a better chance of enjoying good health as we age. Will we have annoying issues that accompany aging? Most likely we will. However, many of us can mitigate some of the negative symptoms of aging if we consume a fairly healthy diet, exercise moderately and challenge our brains.
I believe that by maintaining a positive outlook on life, which is often enhanced by making some type of spiritual connection habitual, we can limit stress. Stress has proven to be destructive to our body and our mind, so by limiting stress we stand a better chance of staying reasonably healthy. Maintaining relationships that we enjoy and eliminating those that are toxic to our wellbeing may also improve our chances of living well as we age.
Rather than thinking of aging as a disease, or just accepting that there’s nothing we can do to improve negative symptoms of aging, I'd rather think of aging as something that we can do with grace. Therefore, in this way, yes I think we can change the course of our lives to some degree.
I believe that by accepting aging as part of the circle of life and respecting the process, we can age graciously. Then, if we're fortunate, when our time comes we can also experience a dignified death. To me, this means knowing when to quit treating any disease - including aging if, indeed aging is a disease - and moving on to whatever exists beyond the physical.
For breakthrough information, as well as opinions from people who’ve intensely studied this issue, tune in to "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.
"Caring for Mom & Dad" Spotlights the Gripping and Emotional Challenges of Caring for an Aging Population. Narrated by Meryl Streep, this hour-long documentary from PBS shares an intimate view of adults caring for their aging parents. Watch for it Thursday, May 7 on PBS (check local listings).
Not all that long ago, when someone's grandma started acting a little “strange” she was considered senile. This deterioration of the brain was considered normal aging, even by many doctors. As Grandma's behavior got worse, she would often be hidden away from public view to avoid embarrassing the family.
This Sunday, November 30th at 8 p.m. ET Sleepless in America will air on the National Geographic channel. Watch this clip where experts from leading health organizations such as NIH discuss the new research findings connecting lack of sleep to an increased risk in Alzheimer's disease due to the brain not receiving enough crucial sleep time to flush out the toxic chemicals.
Regardless of awareness months and educational outreach promotions the fact that Alzheimer's disease is a terminal condition seems to be a difficult concept for the public to grasp. The recent death of Tom Magliozzi, Co-Host of NPR's popular “Car Talk” has made headlines. Sadly, Magliozzi’s death from the complications of Alzheimer’s is a famous example of a common occurrence.
When a loved one receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis the whole family is affected. For most, the first stage is utter devastation. Yet the human spirit can be incredibly resilient. After going through the grieving process, the person diagnosed with the disease and his or her loved ones most often come to accept their altered life as a new normal.
Old movies via DVDs, as well as CDs of big band music or other favorites of our elders’ generation have long been used as a diversionary tactic. Now, Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) is spotlighting a new way that movies can be used to enhance the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease. ARTZ is a nonprofit based in Woburn, Mass. that creates cultural opportunities for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Few people would argue that news - whether delivery is in the form of a newspaper, television or an Internet site, is generally led by catchy and often sensational headlines. Television, however, is the news-delivery system that has the most power to confuse elders with dementia, since the images an elder sees, often misinterpreted, can be stressful and painful. TV images, easily viewed out of context, make reality difficult to discern.