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 while.in 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. 




Is Your Parent Giving Up Driving? Here are some options

June 9, 2020

Giving up driving is so hard to do.  Our parents likely have two objections:

I'll be stuck at home and wither away.
I'll go broke paying for alternative transportation.

First, the money issue. Jeannine White, RN, MSN, suggested creating a transportation fund using proceeds from the sale of the car plus savings in the future on automobile insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. From that fund, schedule rides from paid and free sources.

Uber are Lyft and great sources for a ride to the hairdresser, to the airport, etc. Private drivers are also available--check with your local senior center. If your parent is healthy, public transit may work for some rides. And if your parent isn't physically or cognitively able to drive, they may be eligible for the paratransit program, assuming their physician completes the paperwork.

One of my colleagues at Silver Age, Susan Watters, has another transportation idea. She is well versed in her other role as an Occupational Therapist in finding good alternative ideas for seniors. She also happens to do driving assessments.

Her suggestion?  Consider a move to a retirement community. Transportation is provided to medical appointments and shopping, and there are outings and social activities right at the senior's fingertips.
There are also chef-prepared meals, housekeeping and maintenancee.

Silver Age can help you find one. There is life after driving.

Mother's Day 2020: Simple Pleasures Hark Back to Easier Times

May 8, 2020

Lately I've been talking about Mother's Day, mainly at Zoom meetings. How do we celebrate without hugs, shared dinners, and of course, desserts?

People are putting on their thinking caps and doing the best they can. Lots of take-out dinners served to families at a state park with an effort at social distancing.  And don't forget those masks which hark back to the Lone Ranger. And what about entertainment?

Video games? Absolutely not. Checkers? Definitely not for several reasons--too difficult for the little ones and too much of a temptation to violate the six-foot rule.  Our family has an added bonus--our hosts Tim and Lesley have a corner lot with a huge back yard. Last I heard, the children may play "Charades," "Red Light,Green Light ," and maybe even"Mother, May I?"  After all it's Mother's Day. I do know that I'm not the final decider of such things.

Our agenda will definitely include one activity all of us enjoy:  playing with Tim and Lesley's new puppy, a darling Bernese Mountain dog. The little puppy actually belongs to all of them, but I hear Tim has been taking on the night shift.

Pray for sunshine? Happy Mother's Day!

Jigsaw Puzzles Keep Seniors Going and Going and Going

April 30, 2020

Marge is 92. But when she's in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle, she's 20, or maybe 30.

For years Marge was all smiles as she searched  for just the right colors of green, or blue, or red to complete the puzzles. The ones with 1,000 pieces or more were favorites. During the holidays after the dishes were done and food put away, she would go for a jigsaw puzzle. It was a great choice--no calories but pleasing in its own way.

Sometimes she worked the puzzles in a group, other times by herself. Did she know in her earlier years that at 90-something she would still have that that gleam in her eye when looking for just the right piece?

Well, she does. It seems like as people age and forget things--and we all do--we remember what we loved.  It's as if our brains hold tight to the precious things: songs, puzzles, fishing, hunting. And even if we can't physically perform those activities, the memories are still there.

I'm so glad that in many senior care communities, and assisted living communities, jigsaw puzzles take front and center  When I worked at a retirement community for 12 years, I would see residents sit at the jigsaw puzzle table, intent on their search.  I would leave the building in the evening, realizing there was more "work" for them to do, and for me as well.  In the morning, I spotted the table once again. Miraculously, the puzzle was finished. The puzzle elves had come and worked their magic.

Yes, Marge still enjoys her puzzles. Here is a picture to prove it.



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.