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Archive for July, 2013

A Noteworthy Dental Appointment

Yesterday my dad had a dentist appointment in the city to get his teeth cleaned.  He now gets cleanings every other month.  Like most elderly people, it’s harder to keep his teeth clean even though he brushes after every meal and flosses at night.  It you ask my dad to do something to improve/maintain his health, you can be assured he’ll do it and without a fuss.  I swear this trait has contributed to his longevity at 91 years of age.  And, yes, I love this about my dad and so do his doctors and dentist.

As we were driving to the dentist on this oddly foggy and cool July day, we talked about the usual stuff…what’s happening with the Giant’s (for those of you not following the San Francisco Giant’s, the team is in a terrible slump to put it kindly) and what’s happening at his assisted living community.  Today my dad mentioned Chef David was on vacation and went to the Russian River, which is a few hours from Marin.  Without prompting my dad then told me about going to the Russian River when he was a kid.  He said, they would swim in the river, climb cables of construction equipment and then jump off (I know this doesn’t sound safe but he’s 91 so it was ok) and sleep in the car or camp outside.  According to my dad, it was much warmer to sleep outside than in the car.  I love getting these little gems of insight in to my dad’s youth which occur at the most random times.

The other great thing to happen yesterday was that my dads’ dentist scheduled his cleaning appointments all the way to December of 2014.  I know, for most people this wouldn’t seem that exciting.  But, Michelle (who manages the appointments) treats my dad like every other patient and plans ahead for his future visits.

Do Good, Feel Good, Donate!

This is a feel good story which will make you want to run out and donate!

As you may remember, my dad got a spiffy new rolling walker.  This left his old walker, which is still in perfectly good condition, sitting in the corner of our garage to be donated.  Yes, my husband and I try to donate, recycle or use everything we can like most people nowadays and especially in eco-friendly Marin.

Luckily, I found ReCARES (formerly known as Home CARES), which has three locations in Northern California (Marin, Oakland and San Francisco).  ReCARES accepts and distributes back to the community gently used supplies such as walkers, wheelchairs, canes, shower stools, pill boxes, and other medical items.

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When I donated my dad’s rolling walker, I met Mack (pictured above) who runs the Marin location and learned a few interesting facts:

  • Goodwill and the The Salvation Army aren’t always equipped to accept and distribute medical supply items.  And, the last thing you want is for your donation to end up in the landfill so double-check that your donation will be distributed before dropping it off.
  • ReCARES distributed over 11,000 items in 2012.
  • If ReCARES has a surplus, they send items overseas.  Last year ReCARES sent over 3,000 items to Haiti.

If you don’t live in Northern California, I’m sure you can find an organization like ReCARES in your area.  Or, better yet, if you know of a charity where medical equipment can be donated, please share it here.  And, please, please, please take a look at ReCARES Facebook page.  The stories and photos of the people who donated and benefited from the donations will warm your heart.

Finding Independence in a Place Called “Assisted” Living

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Three Years in Assisted Living and Going Strong!

Will he like them?  Will they like him?  Will they take care of him?  What horrible things can happen? How can I prevent these unknown horrible things from ever happening?  Will he be happy?  Am I doing the right thing?  These fears — among several zillion others – swirled in my head 24/7 as we prepared to move my dad to assisted living in July of 2010.

With three years in my rearview mirror, I can honestly say, I was more traumatized by the experience than my dad — or maybe he was just better at hiding it than I was.  I harbored the guilt that it was me who chose his new residence.  He toured the place less than 24 hours before moving in.  It was me who urged him to move closer to me and my husband.  And, worst of all, deep down I knew it was me who was stripping away the last of his independence to live in a place called “assisted” living.  In his mind he didn’t need “assisting.”  He was just fine on his own.

Upon entering this new world, my sweet reserved 89-year-old father had to make new friends, figure out the system (and there is a system) and establish a new life.  You see, he no longer had the comfort of his wife (a.k.a my industrious, tireless and outgoing mother) to take care of everything and anything as she did for the past fifty-five years of their married life.

Me and Dad in the courtyard at his assisted living community.

Dad and I in the assisted living courtyard.

In a short period of time, my father settled into his new surroundings and began to flourish!  Yes, flourish!  (Can you hear my sigh of relief, feel my guilt dissipate a little (as Warren’s Daughter it will never go away completely), and see my worry lines start to fade?)  He’s made friendships with the most interesting people over the years.  His current meal companion is Captain Gray; an amazing Harvard educated man blessed with the gift of storytelling.  He created a schedule that works for him; though, I think it’s crazy that he wakes up at 5AM.  He cranks up the heater in his room at night, rivaling the temperature of a hothouse, and nobody complains.  He does what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants to.  He is in charge!

I love that my dad can control the controllables, as the saying goes, since there are things out of his control that come with age.  This is where the “assisted” part of living comes in handy.  There is a wonderful team of people who take care of everything he can no longer do, like cook, clean or wrangle those crazy tight compression socks on.  I thank my lucky stars that my father found a way to achieve his newfound independence while graciously accepting some assistance.

A New Set of Wheels for Dad

Snazzy New Rolling Walker

Dad’s Snazzy New Rolling Walker

My dad’s face beamed with joy as he pushed his shiny new rolling walker out of Jack’s pharmacy yesterday.  Just like a kid with a new bike, my dad is super excited with his new rolling walker.  It’s got big 8″ wheels, which are more stable and rugged looking than his former 6″ wheels, a large fabric basket to hold all his essentials, and is a snazzy shade of red.  I tried my darndest to get the cup holder but my practical dad overruled my desire to trick out his new ride, as the kids would say.

If you are in search of a rolling walker (sometimes called a rollator) here are a few simple things to consider:

Step #1: Before going to the store…

  • Surf the web for info.  I found the tips and advice on justwalkers.com very helpful.
  • Measure the narrowest doorway in your home to make sure the walker fits.  If the user lives in assisted living, rolling walkers should fit fine since the doorways are large to accommodate wheelchairs.
  • Get the height and weight of the person using the rolling walker to determine which models are best.  My dad is about 5′ 1″ now, so there were fewer options to choose from since many of the models are for people 5′ 3″ and taller.

Step #2:  You’re at the store…what to tell the salesperson.

  • User height
  • User weight
  • Where will the rolling walker be used: indoor or both indoor/outdoor
  • Type of seat: plastic or padded  (Tip: a plastic seat can be hard and slippery, so we got the padded seat since my dad uses the walker as a chair when we are out and there’s nowhere to sit.)
  • Basket: fabric or wire and located under the seat or in front of the walker?   (Tips: things fall out between the weave of the wire basket so we’ve found fabric a better option.  Also, the basket under the seat is easier to reach than when it is located in front of the rolling walker.)

Step #3: Test-drive!

  • Once the salesperson identifies some rolling walkers to consider, have the user set the hand brakes.  Some of the hand breaks required a great deal of strength to set and since my dad has arthritis these models were quickly ruled out.
  • Next, have the user sit down in the seat to make sure the height is comfortable.  (Tip: the users feet should be flat against the ground when seated.  If his or her feet don’t touch the ground the seat is too high.)
  • Now the fun, have the user walk around and test-drive the rolling walker.
Personal Touches on Rolling Walker

Personal Touches on Dad’s Rolling Walker

Hope these tips are helpful.  And, most of all, hope the rolling walker gets your loved one out and about safely!  And, though I couldn’t buy any accessories for my dad’s rolling walker, he has put a few personal touches on his new wheels!

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