Should Older Adults Write New Year’s Resolutions?

When we were children, we couldn’t wait to stay up until the ball dropped in Times Square, the confetti was tossed, someone sang Auld Lang Syne … or whatever meant that we didn’t have to be in bed at the usual time.

As young adults, we looked for parties and threw the confetti ourselves. We were mature enough, we believed, to take on the world. We wrote New Year’s resolutions that we took seriously, for a couple of days at least.

And then in middle age, we may have been a bit more subdued, but noting the year and thinking about the future were still important for December 31.

So, what about older adults? Have they seen it all? Are they “over” celebrating? Should they have a special early afternoon party and plan to be in bed at the usual pre-midnight time?

I suggest, rather emphatically, no!

As long as older adults are physically and cognitively healthy, celebrating and writing resolutions can still have real meaning for them. Planning new activities, engagement with family and friends, volunteering or working, refurnishing their houses or moving to new communities . . . new life adventures . . . may be some of their resolutions for the new year.

As C. S. Lewis wrote

Are you an older adult? Do you live with or care for an older adult?

I invite you to take time to celebrate the new year and write your resolutions for 2019!

If you would like suggestions for New Year’s Eve celebrations and making resolutions, look at New Year’s Eve & Resolutions (Home Care Assistance) and New Year’s Eve Party Ideas (Medicare).

Celebrating Holidays When a Loved One Has a Dementia

The winter holidays are here! Thanksgiving with turkey and the trimmings, conversation, football on TV, and family games. Kwanza, Christmas and Chanukah are next. What warm memories of these celebrations many of us have and how much we would like to participate in all our usual traditions.

But . . .

We are caring for a loved one who has a dementia. Everyone is adjusting to new ways of living our daily lives. We don’t have energy for all our usual preparations. And some of the old traditions aren’t appropriate for a person who has a dementia.

How can we have our special holidays? Here are a few quick tips.

  • Adjust your celebrations.
    • Modify and simplify your traditions, keeping some of the special memories.
    • Involve your loved one in holiday activities that are comfortable and safe for him or her.
  • Communicate with family and friends.
    • Talk about your loved one’s strengths and changes.
    • Plan new traditions together.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Ask for help with holiday tasks and caring for your loved one.
    • Arrange for respite time . . . quiet time, pampering, exercise . . . for you.

Holidays can still be special for you, your family and friends.

Enjoy the possible. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy new traditions.

For more about holiday celebrations, read the National Institute on Aging article, “Holiday Hints for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/holiday-hints-alzheimers-caregivers.

 

 

 

Too Young to Be a Grandmom?!

Recently, “Grandma to Be” sent a letter to advice columnist (and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me panelist – yeah!) Amy Dickinson.

Grandma to Be wrote with pleasure that her daughter was expecting her first child. However, she also wrote that she had an 8-year-old step grandchild. She didn’t publicly acknowledge this youngster because she didn’t want her friends to think she was old enough to have been a grandparent for almost a decade.

Dickinson answered, essentially, that life happens when it happens. Embrace the reality.

Right!

And I would go even further. Embrace new paths. Embrace change. Embrace the possibilities! New paths can be exciting and joyous.

Becoming a grandparent is one new path that we may come to as we get older.  What are other paths you are considering for your life?

  • A new job
  • Retirement
  • Playing with your grandchild
  • Caring for an older relative
  • Moving to your dream home
  • Moving to a senior community
  • Taking up a new sport
  • Traveling across the United States

 

To read Grandma to Be and Amy Dickinson’s letters, go to Too Young to Be a Grandmom.

For help thinking about and planning your new paths, contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com. She will be happy to meet with you, at no cost for a sample session, to see if coaching is a good fit for you.

Cold Weather & Dementia

It is winter . . . really winter. . . with temperatures in the teens and 20s, heavy gloves, warm soup, and a genuine reluctance to be outside if we are not skating or skiing. Still, most of us know how to navigate and even enjoy a crisp cold day.

But what about a person who has a dementia? Do you know the dangers of cold weather for older adults and individuals with dementia?

During cold weather, you may find folks

Living in cold homes without realizing the danger of being cold

Venturing outside without warm clothing or protection from wet weather

Experiencing low body temperatures as a result of taking medications or drinking alcohol

Falling on ice and becoming disoriented in snow falls

The overall concern is hypothermia, which is a condition in which the body temperature is dangerously low. Hypothermia can cause confusion, disorientation, problems with communication and behavior, and physical impairment. Hypothermia may lead to death.

Caregivers can help by being sure that older adults and individuals with dementia stay in warm environments, eat well to ensure healthy body “insulation,” and avoid activities that might lead to hypothermia.

We can also help individuals with a dementia enjoy lovely winter days. As always, care giving involves sharing positive experiences with an extra layer of safety. For our cold crisp days, let’s help our loved ones with cozy wool scarves, bowls of warm soups . . . and hand-in-hand ventures to see beautiful snow falls.

 

For a brief overview of ways to avoid and treat hypothermia, see the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly article, Hypothermia.

 

Mother’s Day for Mom and Her Caregiver

Celebrating in new ways:

As we approach Mother’s Day, many of us think about how different the celebration is, now, if Mom is in the middle or late stage of Alzheimer’s Disease or another dementia. We feel sadness, but we also try to honor our mothers in ways that they will understand.

Tips abound on the Internet and in publications, and the tips are wise:

  • Simplify the celebrations.
  • Adapt your expectations about what Mom will understand and enjoy.
  • Give gifts that are meaningful today: soft items to hold, fragrant flowers, a bird feeder that Mom can watch from the living room or porch.
  • Listen to Mom’s stories about the past, if she can tell them, and tell the stories to Mom if that meets her needs better.

Still, there are important statistics that suggest there is more to do.

The majority of caregivers for older adults. . . about 2 out of 3 . . . are women; about a third of the caregivers are daughters of the older adult.

As we know, caregiving is time consuming and stressful. It causes the caregiver to put aside her needs, relaxation, hobbies and interests. While the caregiver is providing love and support, she may not have time to “receive” love and support in return.

So, on Mother’s Day this year, let’s celebrate with Mom, but let’s also celebrate the caring and generous hearts of the daughters and daughters-in-law who are by Mom’s side.

  • Provide respite for caregivers . . . time away from responsibilities.
  • Give gifts that show appreciation and provide the pampering that relieves stress: a gift certificate for a massage, tickets to an art exhibit or popular movie, a quiet meal on the patio.
  • Listen to the caregiver’s stories. She may well need to share the delights and the stresses of her caregiving days.

 

For ideas about celebrating Mother’s Day, read an article posted by the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at Honoring  Mother’s Day When Mom Has Alzheimer’s.

For “2018 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures” (and caregiving statistics), go to https://www.alz.org/facts/.

 

Why Did Pablo Casals Practice at Age 90?

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals asked why he continued to practice at age 90.

“Because I think I’m making progress,” he replied.

How brilliant! How positive! How engaged in life!

The Myth of the Rocking Chair

The myth about getting older is that seniors can’t work, play or learn, at least not well. When folks believe the myth, they think they must polish up the rocking chair and isolate themselves. They feel useless to others and bored with themselves.

But that is a myth.

Pablo Casals composed his last composition in 1971, at age 94. He traveled to Israel to conduct the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at age 96.

Astronaut and Senator John Glenn went into space at age 77.

Everyone remembers that Grandma Moses took up painting when she was 76.

And it isn’t only famous people who have accomplished great things as seniors. In June 2014, Charlotte, N.C. resident Harriette Thompson completed her 15th marathon . . .  and broke a record for women in her age group.

Teiichi Igarashi, a former lumberjack, climbed Mt. Fuji when he was 100 years old!

The Reality of New Accomplishments

There is only one secret to accomplishing great things as a senior: refusing the rocking chair and engaging in life.

What new skill would you like to develop? What new adventure is on your horizon? What passion would you like to pursue? How will you complete the sentence, “I did ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________ at age ____________?

 

Hear an interview with Harriette Thompson at 91 Year Old Breaks Record.

 

Caregiving: Can You Make Medical Decisions?

Who Can Make Medical Decisions in a World with HIPPA?

American’s medical records are protected by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Neither friends nor relatives have access to our medical information without the express consent of the patient.

This is usually comforting in a world with so much data and so much communication!

But what happens when a senior needs help with his or her medical decisions? What happens if there are end of life decisions to be made?

Three legal documents give others insight and permissions on behalf of a senior.

  • HIPAA authorization gives permission to the doctor to share medical information with the person(s) that the patient names.
  • An advance health care directive (living will) lists/describes an individual’s preferences about medical care, including whether certain life-sustaining treatments should be administered.
  • A medical power of attorney (health care proxy, durable power of attorney for health care) identifies someone who can act on behalf of the individual if needed.

It is not always comfortable to think about illness and end of life decisions. However, there are many resources available that can help. Attorneys are skilled at advising and preparing the documents. Information and forms are available in print and on the Internet, as well.

For a brief description of medical powers of attorney and living wills, look at WebMD.com’s Advance Directives.