Tag Archives: eldercare

Daily Tasks Seen Through Aging Eyes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these two 8-second videos from The New York Times article, “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation,” are priceless to understand what the world looks like for older adults.  And importantly, how small changes can help prevent older adults from falling.

How older adults with yellowing vision, cataracts and glaucoma see stairs.  The stairs on the left have no white stripe and stairs on the right have a white stripe, making it easier to see the first step.


How someone with aging vision sees a toilet seat.  The toilet seat on the left is white and toilet seat on the right is black and much easier to see.


Why Now Is The Best Time To Grow Old: Oprah’s Caregiver’s Guide


O, The Oprah Magazine November Cover

#3 on my list of “100 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Grow Old” is The Caregiver’s Guide from O, The Oprah Magazine.

It’s a running joke between my husband and I that Oprah has to say something before I believe it to be true.  My husband swears that he tells me something enlightening, only to be met by my blank stare.  Then weeks or months pass, and I hear Oprah say the same enlightening thing, and I swear by her life-changing words.

So it’s no surprise that I was overjoyed to see The Caregiver’s Guide in the November issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.  This 17-page guide is a great starter kit for anyone entering the confusing world of caregiving.  It’s a mix of facts, resources, and stories from caregivers, and experts in the field.  And in true Oprah fashion, the guide has moments of humor and humanity making it as welcoming as the subject of caregiving can be.

I hope Oprah continues to address the critical role of caregiving.  Because if Oprah acknowledges something, it deserves your undivided attention, just ask my husband.

Can A Caregiver Be A Germaphobe?

I will do, and pretty much have done, everything possible to keep my 93-year-old dad happy and healthy.  Those of you who are the family caregiver can probably rattle off a list of things you never thought you would do; but when the time comes you step up, shut up and get it done.  This should be the caregivers’ creed: step up, shut up, get it done.

Well the flu is traveling the halls of my dad’s assisted living community and sure enough he caught it.  For my dad a cold is synonymous with pneumonia.  The germs bypass sore throat, sniffles and runny nose.  They go right to gunkie (I don’t think this is a medical term.  It may not even be a word.  But, you get the point.) cough, projectile sneezing, shortness of breadth, ashen coloration and poor sleep, which immediately diminish his cognitive abilities causing a dazed look to take over his once alert face.

Don’t get worried.  With care from an amazing medical team, a round of strong antibiotics, cough syrup, and the use of the miracle nebulizer 3x’s a day to help him breath, he’s back to his old self.

I am thrilled he’s healthy again!  For his sake and mine.  You see…I’m a bit of a germaphobe.  Since becoming responsible for my dad, I’ve turned into a Purell carrying, hand washing, disinfecting wipe, antibacterial loving type of gal.  I think being a germaphobe comes with being a caregiver, since caring means doing whatever possible to keep germs away.

During the month it took him to recuperate, I had to check my germaphobic tendencies at the door and walk into his room knowing a million tiny germs were flying around just waiting to take me down.  I tried to get him to sneeze into his elbow, sleeve or a tissue, but each sneeze seemed to come faster than he could react.  I washed and sanitized the mouthpiece to his nebulizer three times a day.  I picked up tissues.  I gave up, stepped up, shut up and got the job done.  Goodbye and good riddance pneumonia of 2014.


Photo Credit: iStock

Why Now Is The Best Time To Grow Old: The Foresight of Caregivers

What better way to understand the future than to take a lesson from the poet William Wordsworth who was born in 1770 and lived until the age of 80, this at a time when the average life expectancy was closer to 40. Wordsworth wisely proclaimed:

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”


William Wordsworth

Nobody understands the future of old age better than caregivers — the unpaid daughters, sons, spouses, relatives and friends — who help care for someone in need.  And there are a lot of us caregivers out there.  According to a 2013 Pew Research study, 4 in 10 adults (39% of the U.S. adult population) are caring for a loved one with significant health issues.  The knowledge caregivers’ gain prepares us for our journey to old age, in a way that no book, lecture or advisor could ever do.

And, many caregivers are seeking a public forum to improve issues related to old age by sharing their stories via books, blogs and documentary films.  They are inventing products to solve problems encountered with aging.  They are participating in fundraisers to fight disease such as Alzheimer’s.  And, most importantly, they are bringing old age to the public consciousness to improve this stage of life.

In upcoming posts, I will feature many of these caregivers and their contributions in this series “100 Reasons Why Now Is The Best Time To Grow Old.”

Start Here When You Realize Your Are A Caregiver

There are thousands of great books, blogs and websites — all loaded with tons of valuable information — to help adult children navigate the unchartered and choppy waters of caregiving.

But, if you are like me, when I found myself thrust into the role of caregiver, I was overwhelmed by the situation, the speed at which everything was happening and the severity of the decisions that needed to be made.  I was in act and react mode.  I just wanted the CliffsNotes version of how to care for a parent.  The fewer words the better.

So to help other new caregivers, here’s a short list of essential resources to start with:

  • Glossary of basic terms:


  • Assisted living checklist:


  • Assisted living template to compare communities:


  • Essential documents:

Documents Prepared Families Cannot Ignore

  • End of life planning:


A memoir told in drawings, cartoons, photos and writings by Roz Chast, New Yorker cartoonist.  This book is wonderful!  It makes you feel less alone in the caregiving process.  It makes you laugh.  It makes you sad and cringe.  And, it paints a realistic picture of caregiving.

Why Our Parents Hold On To So Much Stuff

Last week, I wrote about cleaning out my parent’s house after my dad moved to assisted living and my mother passed away, in 5 Steps To An Empty House.

In that post, I mentioned how I tried to get my mother to declutter her house but had no luck.  What I omitted was that, I wasn’t the most sympathetic or kind daughter when talking with my mother about clutter.  In my defense, at the time of these conversations, I was working for a magazine about simplifying and organizing your life.  And, I totally drank the Kool-Aid and lived in a über-organized house and wanted my mother’s house to be the same.

But, I should have known better before I engaged in the first conversation.  My mother and I were very different women, who lived very different lives.  And, after reading this information from Caring.com, I have a much better understanding of my mother’s attachment to her things and how I could have handled the topic of clutter with more empathy.

“Whether you’re helping a parent safety proof or reorganize a home, or move altogether, the process can be more traumatic than you’re prepared for.  And the ramifications can last longer than you might think, making adjustment to a new living situation more difficult than it would be otherwise, says Mary Kay Buysse.  “Kids look around and they see all this junk, and they want Mom’s new apartment to look pretty and neat and be easy to get around, and that’s totally understandable,” says Buysse. ” But it might make a huge difference to Mom to have that junky dresser and all the little doodads, even if the room seems cluttered to you.”

What helps in dealing with this situation, Buysse says, is to have compassion and understanding for your parent’s sadness and reluctance to part with her things.  “By the time a senior is making this move, they’ve already experienced so much loss.  They’re moving because they’ve lost a spouse, their sight, their mobility, the ability to take care of themselves,” Buysse says.  Keeping this in mind may help you relinquish some of your need to take control and let your parent keep things that don’t make sense to you but that may make a difference in how she weathers the change.”

This Book Tackles The One Issue We Will All Face

Knocking On Heaven's Door

Katy Butler, author of Knocking On Heaven’s Door, has several upcoming events that I think you might be interested in attending.

If you remember, a few months ago, I wrote about Knocking On Heaven’s Door from a personal perspective in the memories this book dredged up about my mother’s very flawed death (post: Lessons From My Mother’s Death).  What I didn’t write about is how valuable this book, and Ms. Butler, are in the movement for a better end of life experience.  Abraham Verghese — who is a professor and senior ­associate chairman for the theory and practice of medicine at Stanford University — captures the importance of this book, in this excerpt, from his New York Times review:

““Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is a thoroughly researched and compelling mix of personal narrative and hard-nosed reporting that captures just how flawed care at the end of life has become.  My hope is that this book might goad the public into pressuring their elected representatives to further transform health care from its present crisis-driven, reimbursement-driven model to one that truly cares for the patient and the family.  And since life is, after all, a fatal illness and none of us are spared, there is an urgent need for us in America to reclaim death from medicine and, whenever possible, enable the ritual of dying at home with family present (and aided by all medicine can offer) so that we are allowed to take our leave from earth with dignity.”


Here are Ms. Butler’s upcoming events and the link to her website.

May 16, 2014
Grand Rounds at Jamaica Hospital, NY (not open to public)

May 19, 2014
“West” Lecture at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY. Everyone welcome. For more info: West Lecture

May 22, 2014
Multi-hospital conference, “Reducing Suffering at the End of Life” at Cedars Sinai, Los Angeles. (not open to public)

June 10, 2014
Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA. 7 pm

June 12, 2014
Books Inc., Berkeley, CA. 7 pm

June 17, 2014
Luncheon Event, Milwaukee, WI

June 18, 2014
Wine & Cheese Reception & Reading, Winnetka, IL

June 19, 2014
Chicago End of Life Coalition, Chicago, IL.

June 23, 2014
Albuquerque Bookworks, NM. 7 pm

June 24, 2014
Kings English, Salt Lake City, UT. 7 pm

June 25, 2014
Boulder Bookstore, CO. 7 pm