Readers' Best Posts from this Eldercare Blog

February 28, 2021

My eldercare blog just passed 300 posts

February 26, 2021

 Actually, this is post number 303 of  A Boomers Guide to Eldercare. Yay! We passed the 300 mark.

What have I learned during the past eleven-plus years since I started this blog? And from the 25 years of working with seniors and their families?

First, I reaffirmed my original hunch that adult children can often become their parents' heroes, tackling hard choices such as choosing home care, finding assisted living, and advocating for them no matter where they live.

Second, I realized anew that this new role in which we find ourselves is hard work. Terribly hard work at times. But it is important, so important. And our relationship with our parent sets the pace for the many decisions we make on their behalf.

Third, we can't do the job without help. Specifically, we need:

Information: We need to know about so many new things such as Medicare, Medicare, Hospice, and more. This blog and others like attempt to meet this need.

Inspiration: Stories of other people's caregiving experience can give us courage to face our own journeys. Again, this blog has lots of stories. I love stories!

Community: At a time like this when isolation is rampant, we need to seek refuge in the company of others.

Writing this blog has been a joy for me, at least most of the time.  My next challenge is publishing a book, Eldercare SOS: Facing Hard Choices With Hope, set to be released during the first half of 2021.

My next post will feature links from the most popular posts. Stay tuned!

Alice Kalso

Meet Ginger Kauffman, A Blogger for Boomers

January 31, 2021


Alice Kalso asks, “Who is Ginger Kauffman, and why should we pay attention?”

 I’m happy to introduce Ginger Kauffman, a writer who has valuable things to say. For years Ginger has been fascinated with words and the way they can touch people’s lives.

Both of us write for Boomers. Her blog is called Salt and Pepper: Life and Faith for Boomers and Beyond  Mine is A Boomer’s Guide to Eldercare. My first published book, Elder Care SOS: Facing Hard Choices with Hope, will be released during the first half of 2021.

We first met in 1968 during our first year of college. I had moved from northern California to Seattle. I was getting used to rain, rain, and more rain. Ginger had lived in Washington all her life, and knew all about rain. We lived in a dorm on the same floor. Often our conversations started at night in the washroom and continued for hours. Our subjects: the world, the universe and Jesus.

Later Ginger and I connected soon after she and her husband Tom started publishing a magazine. Tom was an excellent photographer and graphic artist. Ginger enjoyed her role as writer and editor. I became involved when they asked me to interview a family caring for their 100-year-old great-grandma in their home. Watching this family working together showed me how much love and compassion the younger generations can give their elders. To them, Great-Grandma was not a burden. She was a blessing. As a bonus, my husband took this lady’s picture.

Ginger and I both share a love for seniors. Hers was developed soon after college when she worked three years in a church and met many older people. “I love the older people,” she says. Now as we both approach the “senior years,” we have definite ideas about God and the things he wants us to do at this stage of life.

“In my blog, I want to encourage, challenge, and bless my readers,” she says. “I want to grow in the things the Lord wants me, and all of us, to do. I want to be faithful in what I write.” Biblical truth and joy permeate her blog. She uses stories, both from Scripture and from the present and recent past. She shares favorite Bible verses and gorgeous photos. Together the blog’s content demonstrates a love of life that can brighten the lives of people whatever their age.

As for me, I agree with Ginger’s goals. I want my writing to be filled with the goodness of the Lord. Like Ginger, I’m writing for Boomers. Yet my blog is specifically geared for adult children who are dealing with issues relating to their aging loved ones.

My themes are understanding our parents and ourselves, tackling tough issues such as driving, moving and more, and advocating for our parents through the end of life. These are huge tasks that can be done only with the help of others and especially with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m so glad I am able to meet Ginger again, and again and again on life’s road. I see her often in in our writer’s group, Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. The last time I spoke with Ginger was yesterday. And no, we didn’t talk into the wee hours. But this conversation reminds me of other talks in the past. Then and now we speak of Jesus and his love for us. No matter our ages, that truth still holds and is certainly worth writing about.



Stories are Best for Illuminating Legacy

January 11, 2021

We all want to be remembered, now and after we've passed from this earth. That desire to make a mark that transcends time is especially vital to our aging loved ones.  And to us as well. "Bring out the stories," I say. Heartfelt, funny, and insightful, stories help us get to the heart of matter. And to the heart of people.

Take Grandpa Harley, for example. Through stories, mostly told by my father, a minister and storyteller, we children learned about the grandpa behind the quiet demeanor he presented to the world. He had cared for his first wife through her 12 years of tuberculosis, while raising my dad, his son. Later he remarried and had three children. Many of my memories revolved around playing "Red Light, Green Light," and other games with our cousins.

Grandpa Harley was a "pray-er." At least that's what I called him. When we gathered together before our family began the 100-mile drive home, Grandpa always prayed. His prayers were so long we kids knew that if we were close to needing to go to the bathroom, we should go before the prayer, or we could have an accident.  Another thing about his prayers: they were always punctuated with "Amens." 

One day, in his 70th year, he mowed the lawn at the church, something he did every week. He felt tired afterwards, but not too tired to pray for the pastor and others in the congregation with special needs. The next morning, he suffered a massive heart attack and went to heaven.

Our family has been pulling out some old photos lately. The last picture we have of Grandpa was in our wedding fifty years ago. Two of out grandpas attended. Grandpa Harley was his usual shy self. Grandpa Joe, from Eastern Washington, was his polar opposite. Somehow, though, Grandpa Joe got tricked into sampling a ripe olive that wasn't cured. Sour, sour. But afterwards, a great story.

Digging through the memories is great for our children and grandchildren. Through stories, they can pick up on the importance of legacy. We can, too.

Is three years old too young to master generosity?

December 22, 2020


Here are Carol and me as grownups. This story is about a gift she gave Jesus long before.

At three years old, my sister Carol knew what she wanted for Christmas.  She wanted to give her best gift to Jesus. But she struggled.

Our Sunday School teacher had planted the gift idea in Carol's mind.

"I want you to think about giving Jesus a toy, a doll, or anything that you really love. We will give your special gift to a boy or girl who doesn't have any toys." Carol, I'm sure, had a slightly different take on the teacher's words. She took them literally: "Give your special gift to Jesus."

As a seven-year-old, I thought differently about our teacher's request.  I began culling all my possessions until I found something suitable, not precious, acceptable but not special. I wrapped my gift, mentally checking off my to-do-list, and laid it on the shelf.

"What are you going to bring?" I asked Carol. "It's a surprise." She used that word to describe all sorts of things, strange and otherwise. I had no clue what she meant this time.

Soon I noticed she was quieter than usual. At night I heard her cry out alternately "No" and "Yes." She would clutch and then push away an object which I knew she loved.

A tattered yellow blanket--was this what she was preparing to give? /The push and pull continued night after night. 

One morning Carol placed the blanket in Mother's hands. "Help me, Mommy. I want to give this to Jesus." Mother washed it, wrapped it, and set it on a shelf. 

"This is beautiful, and so are you."

The Sunday before Christmas, at Sunday School, we lay our gifts at the foot of the big Christmas tree. Carol's tears were gone, and her struggles were over. She was beaming. And I learned a lesson I'll never forget.

Giving our best to Jesus, no matter what it looks like, is the best thing we can do.

Holiday Gifts for Your Aging Parent--Easy and Affordable

December 8, 2020

 Playing Santa isn't the easiest role in the world. Especially when you're buying or making a gift for your aging parent or loved one.

The following gifts emphasize both ease and affordability. Your loved one doesn't need a lot of "stuff." They have had a chance to accumulate and to move from "more" to "less." Here are a few gift ideas that don't take up much room but can make a big impact for the right person.

A cupcake, a flowering plant or a jar of candy to share. A book, if they like reading and you know what kind of books

A puzzle - there are certain ones for people with dementia. Preferably one that is personal. If they like birds for example, a bird puzzle.

A hand towel for kitchen or bath.

A wide brimmed sun hat

Warm mittens

All natural hand cream- for someone who doesn’t have dementia. 

A visitors journal 

Water coloring kit, if they would appreciate it. 

Coloring or activity book.

Bathrobe or slippers

Gift certificate to get their nails done 

Anything from the Alzheimers store

This list was borrowed from a previous post I wrote for Valentine's Day. Looking over the list, it still seems right on the money. What do you think?

Thanksgiving's Stories Are About Legacy

November 23, 2020

 Legacy. It's the stuff families are made of, or at least the things they remember. And this year, when we seem adrift, it's good to recall our blessings and to thank God for the people who went before us. This Thanksgiving happens to be the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in America.

Every Thanksgiving, my husband Don, brings out the story of our Pilgrim family members. The Allertons, his ancestors, came to America on the "Mayflower."  Isaac Allerton, the family patriarch, had sought freedom of worship, leaving England for America with his wife and children. 

One was a six-year-old daughter. She and the other Allertons endured hardship aboard the Mayflower.  Her mother didn't quite make it to the shore. She died in childbirth aboard the ship Plymouth Harbor. The baby died as well. Isaac cared for the other children by himself until he remarried. 

There are other interesting characters in the Thanksgiving story, Squanto, for one. But our grandchildren especially love to hear about the six-year-old girl. She has an unusual name: Remember. Remember Allerton.

None of us will forget her, thanks to Grandpa Don's annual stories about Remember. Legacy lives on.

Elder Care Truth: What goes around, comes around

November 18, 2020

My posts are lagging behind the times. Sorry for the delay. I'm working on the final parts of a book on Elder Care. When did I realize that besides chapters, books often include a Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion? I used to skip over those extra sections. Now I'm writing them.

Lately I've been thinking about our generation--Boomers and Beyond. I've concentrated over the last ten years on helping us understand our parents, know ourselves, and struggle over the difficult issues that crop up during this often difficult period of life.

But now, the shoe may be on the other foot. Many of us are needing help we thought we'd never need. In our church Sunday school class, over the years members have shared a variety of what we call prayer requests. People explain what's going on in their lives, or the lives of their children or parents. Class members pray for that person. When a prayer is answered, we all rejoice. The most important thing about this process is the realization that God is with us always.  

In the "old days," prayer requests were varied and included: "Lord, help our baby to sleep through the night! And later, "Help Jimmy to finally use the toilet rather than the floor." Those prayer requests changed with the time and circumstances. A child failing in school. A teenager thinking he was 21 when he wasn't. A new grandbaby  on the way.

Our aging parents were next. Fractured hips, Parkinson's disease, and dementia were all covered in our prayer requests.

Now we are the subject of many of our prayers. Not long ago, I received an email from the spouse of a man who had recently undergone surgery.  One sentence stood out. "He finally slept through the night!" Deja vu.  What goes around comes around.

My News: An Eldercare Book is on the Way

July 31, 2020

I'll have to confess: I've been AWOL from Blogger for more than a month.
I feel a bit like Winnie the Pooh, stuck in a hole of his own making. 

Except my excuse is a contracted book on elder care. It's called Elder Care SOS: Facing Hard Choices With Hope. It will be published late this year by Elk Lake Publishing. 

When the roles change in a family, and we begin making big decisions for our aging parent, we often struggle. There are many issues: driving, housing, health care, end of life. We need help and hope. That's what my book is about.
I'm writing for three audiences: adult children, caregiver spouses, and professionals working with families in this field. My book is based on 25 years of experience helping families with transition issues, plus my personal stories.

Writing a book is a little like having a baby. You put your entire self into it. You work and work, and this "baby" takes on a life if its own. I will let you know when this child arrives.

If what I just said doesn't make sense, I understand. Chances are, you may not have written a book.

What's up with Hospice During Covid-19 and into the Future?

June 15, 2020

Washington State Health Advocacy Association has been presenting Zoom programs on various topics.
Last Monday, June 8, the question was "What is happening in the health system with COVID-19, and what can we expect ahead?"

The presenters were doctors and medical directors with Providence Hospice and Swedish Health Systems, They included Stacey Jones, Bruce Smith, and Dale Reisner.

The good news around COVID-19 is that only two countries in the world--India and Brazl--are currently seeing increasing numbers of new cases. The United States has at the most recent count, 23,000 new 
cases, compared to Brazil's 29,000 new cases. Our numbers are down.

What has changed during the COVID-19 period in terms of patient care? Many of the most ill are under the Hospice program, which is part of Palliative Care. Both programs work to manage symptoms, not to extend life. 

Hospice is for patients whose doctors have signed off that there is a good likelihood that they will not live past six months. Palliative Care has no such limitation. Dr. Smith says, though, that they have a patient who has been on Hospice off and on for five years. 

Hospice is a program, not a place, although there are a few stand-alone Hospice Centers. Hospice can be done in a nursing home, an assisted living community, an adult family home or a private home. The program includes a nurse, a social worker, a chaplain, and home health aids. There is also bereavement support.

These days, the professionals do more of their work on the phone than in the past.  But the face to face visits,with the professional wearing protective gear, are still happening on a more limited basis.. For many, the new protocol works well, especially for those whose loved ones live far away and can't fly to Seattle.

The hospice professionals told of a 90-something woman with dementia who received the surprise of her life. Her sister and daughter couldn't come to visit her. Her social worker asked her daughter,"Is there anything your mother would wish for, if it were possible?"  The daughter didn't take much time to think about it. "She has always wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel. She is a very religious person." Through the magic of a Zoom virtual tour, this woman was able to see exactly what she had pinned her hopes on, and her daughter was able to enjoy the tour at the same time.

For the future, it's likely that some of the new changes may continue. 

Boomer's Guide to Eldercare

This blog aims to start conversations with you fellow Baby boomers about virtually anything. Anything, that is, related to your aging parents. That might mean talking to a grumpy old man (your dad?) to addressing thorny issues such as giving up the car keys to advocating for your parent when she can’t make decisions for herself.

Whether you’re beginning to step into the uncomfortable role that seems like "parenting," but isn't exactly, or you're struggling with inexpressible emotions as your parent grasps his or her last breath or anywhere in between, my hope is you will find help.

I’ll tap into a pool of experts in aging. Physicians, therapists, authors, geriatric nurse practitioners. Most are friends, or friends of friends, who combine their clinical knowledge with personal anecdotes.

The blog will also feature news on aging topics, excerpts from my favorite authors and guest posts, along with tips to help you understand your parent and yourself, communicate well, and advocate when needed.

Alice Kalso lorem ipsum.