Old really means Old in Europe

Spent part of the day in Nuremburg in the Old Town which is surrounded by a huge wall and moat along with a castle on a hill, and ancient cathedrals interspersed with modern shopping areas and biergartens. It’s overwhelming to think of the history here and I won’t bore you with it, but following are photos which cannot capture the beauty of the architecture…

This one’s for Patty – yes, that’s George in a Williams-Sonoma type kitchen shop.

Our mode of travel for the duration – this is a regional train…super smooth and quiet. Also, taking the ICE trains, even faster with fewer stops.

Wish I could bring all these flowers back for Isaiah!

So many nasty gargoyles hiding in the architecture of the cathedrals. Scaring off the devil?

Amazing sculpture…

More of the same amazing sculpture…

…and the X-rated side of same amazing sculpture.

More to come…it’s getting late here and too pooped to add more.  Tomorrow we’ll be on the train all day getting to and through the Black Forest via rail. Night, night…

We made it!

ImageOur travel day was, for the most part, uneventful…everything went as planned. We only missed one train, due to our error of boarding a first class car by mistake, and upon realizing it, hopped off but by the time we reached the second class section the train was closing up and leaving the track. Not to worry, another one arrived within 30 minutes which took us from the Frankfurt airport to the center of Nuremburg. The ICE train is so quiet and smooth we got a little too comfy and kept falling asleep during the 2 hour trip. After very little sleep on the 9 1/2 hour plane ride, fatigue was starting to settle in but upon arrival we perked up when we found Andrea who drove us to the house in Zirndorf, a mere 15 minute drive. She is Ruediger’s girlfriend who lives only a few blocks from Ruediger’s place and showed us all his electronic gadgets and how to make coffee, which requires checking the Google translate site to remember her instructions. Several areas of the house have motion detectors which automatically light up as we’re walking through. No need for screens as threre are no bugs to worry about and it’s cool enough to leave them all open.

Everything we need is within walking distance…grocery, restaurants, etc., so explored and ate in a little Italian place – pizza is very popular over here, just don’t order one with pepperoni as that word has a different meaning and you will get hot peppers – if you want the pepperoni we are used to, order it with salami!

We forced ourselves to stay awake til 9 and then crashed, sleeping almost 12 hours. This morning we feel fine, no jet lag, and ready to roll. Looking forward to exploring Nuremberg and the old town this afternoon after a leisurely morning of coffee and Olympics.

A couple of notes about the flight…a little disconcerting when we were delayed a bit out of Dallas as someone’s bags had been loaded but the passenger was nowhere to be found so had to wait til their luggage was taken off the plane. And, this will sound ageist and sexist, but do you remember when flying was kind of glamorous? Remember the Braniff flight attendants (stewardesses), cute, stylish…I swear all four of the flight attendants were older than me (meaning older than dirt)…one even reminded me of my mom with grey hair, curly perm…not that they don’t have the right to work but really felt bad watching them struggling with the food/drink carts up and down the aisles…and this was American Airlines with American attendants. Maybe I could have a second career as a flight attendant…they were even a bit short and pudgy so maybe I could get away with it!



Our new German friends

Ruediger and Belana arrived early Friday morning (2 a.m.) as their flights were delayed…so we were all ready for bed as soon as they got here. We’ve been showing them around the beach and helping Belana with her English…very sweet girl. Ruediger brought gifts (the beer is already gone!) and loves our heat and humidity, ugh. We’ll be taking off in the morning, Sunday…ready to get out of their hair.

Off to Europe

It’s time to dust off this dormant blog and get it back in circulation. We’re leaving for Germany on Sunday as part of a home exchange with a family from Nuremberg and will use this as a central portal for pictures and journal entries. Our German visitors are Ruediger and his 9-year-old daughter, Belana, who will be arriving Thursday night. The rest of their family couldn’t travel this summer but they have a second home in Zirndorf, which is where Charlie and I will be staying til the 23rd of August. They are experienced travelers and love the U.S. but have always stayed in hotels. The great part about exchanging homes is the ability to live like a native. They’ll use our location as a central point for all of their vacation destinations and be able to enjoy the beach on their days at rest. We’ll be staying in their condo, just a short walk from a train station, which will be our transportation of choice for our entire stay.

At the moment we are frantically putting the finishing touches on deep cleaning the house, clearing out closet and drawer space, and putting together instructions on appliances and electronics. It’s amazing what you’ll put up with until faced with strangers living in your abode and it’s a good excuse to get rid of “stuff”. Friday and Saturday we’ll be showing them around, introducing them to the neighbors and giving them a chance to settle in and get over jet lag. Then Sunday we’re out of here and they’re on their own.

Our former neighbor in Thornton Park is letting us park our car there for the duration…a bus to the airport is around the corner so we’ll pick that up for the start of our trek. Then we head west to Dallas for our 9.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, hop on the 2 hour ICE train to Nuremberg where Ruediger’s wife, Andrea, will take us to the condo. Then we’re on our own. We’ve already planned several day trips via train and bus, a cruise on the Rhine, castle spotting, Black Forest Railroad, Alps, etc. We are also sneaking in a quick trip to London to catch the men’s marathon on the last day of the Olympics.

If anyone’s interested in following our journey, subscribe to the blog and you’ll be notified when we update it with, hopefully, fun times and pics. And if any of you have visited Germany recently and have “do’s and don’ts, let us know.

Gesundheit!  Susan & Charlie

Ease up on yourself…

Aargh…another month goes by without a blog entry. If I were making resolutions, my first would be to post more…but then, I’m not making any resolutions, just going to try harder.

Below is an excellent piece from Caring.com about just that subject…

By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor

Last updated: December 26, 2008

Six New Year’s Resolutions If Someone You Love Has Alzheimer’s

By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor

 If there’s someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia in your life, the last thing you need to ring in the new year is more nudges toward self improvement. You may already be thinking, Forget resolutions about losing weight and giving up alcohol – I just need to figure out how to survive the stress (not to mention the economy) in 2009.

Fear not. This list of resolutions is meant to help you. How? By making taking care of someone with dementia easier. It’s stuff you may already know – what I’m asking is that you consider it through a fresh lens. Make it your ultimate resolution to see tough situations as opportunities to make life better for yourself.

So as 2009 [in our case 2012] begins, why not vow to:

  • Bite my tongue rather than say the dreaded words, “You just asked me that!”

There’s an old saying, If you want to get along, go along. Losing patience or quarreling lets you vent — but actually makes the situation worse, since the person with dementia is apt to grow frightened or agitated.

Learn little tricks for smoother communication. For example, when repetition is a problem and your patience is fried, try moving to a different room to redirect the conversation around new, different stimuli.

  • Move out of my comfort zone to find fresh ways to help my loved one stay occupied and connected.

True, it’s work to think up meaningful activities for someone with dementia to do. But in the long run you save time by making the person feel more content. Staying busy provides a fortifying sense of purpose, even if it’s folding (and refolding) towels or organizing (and reorganizing) a tool box.

One starting point: Music. Because of the way the brain is organized, music can reach even those who never showed the slightest artistic inclination.

  • Have a weekly date night – with myself.

Couples with young babies often receive the advice to have a standing evening out to stay in touch with their relationship as partners, not just as parents. Similarly, you need to preserve a sense of yourself as an individual, not just a care partner. The trick is to set a regular appointment with regular care coverage — whether it’s to exercise, to meet a friend for coffee, or just to go “Wal-Marting,” idly pushing a cart down the aisle with nobody else to worry about.

Then ink this regular appointment in your datebook like a doctor’s appointment. You wouldn’t skip that, would you?

  • Let it go, let it go, let it go.

When you catch yourself second-guessing yourself (Oh why didn’t I realize Dad would be hungry…OMG it’s my fault I let that bedsore develop!) take a deep breath and just quit. Nobody is a perfect caregiver…because nobody’s perfect.

  • Be open to advice – but toss out what doesn’t fit.

There’s a saying, When you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s…you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s. Each person’s disorder manifests uniquely. So do snarf up all the info you can find on day-to-day life with dementia, but realize that it won’t all apply to your situation. Don’t waste a second feeling isolated or like you’re doing something “wrong” if a certain approach doesn’t work. There are many approaches.

  • Draw yourself a support circle.

Can’t get out of the house often enough for regular meetings? No excuse nowadays. Like-minded people with big hearts and lots of ideas are only clicks away. And believe me, we all need them.

One final resolution: Tear up those this-year’s self-improvement lists! A whole year is too much to plan for. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, all you can do is take it one day at a time.

Forever Young – Life in the Middle

Check out my new monthly column in the Forever Young insert of the Hometown News (page 8)…Life in the Middle. It will be about dealing with the many layers of the sandwich generation in which many of us find ourselves. A new edition is published the beginning of each month.

On a sad note, the print editions of The Observer, New Smyrna Beach, have stopped, after over 90 years of publication. The paper will still have a presence online, however, so Liberal Lines  will continue on an irregular basis, when the inspiration moves me. There is so much craziness, politically, going on lately, that it will not be difficult to stay inspired!

The Reunion

Recently I jumped at the opportunity to attend my forty-fifth high school reunion. Orlando in the late sixties was a much different place in which to grow up than it is now. Weekends would find us at the Orlando Youth Center, which is still a viable
community gathering site in the middle of town. What better place to reunite
than the building in which we boogied to the rocking sounds of Louie Louie and
experienced the highs and lows of teenage romance, and/or angst.

A lot of changes take place in the span of forty-five years and no one can prepare you for the in-your-face realization that, yes, you really are sixty-three years old. However, my car found its way to the parking lot without using the GPS, and it was like time stood still and froze in the year 1966.

The hours went by in a blur of catching up with long-lost friends and, upon reflection of the evening’s events over the days to follow, some tips come to mind, which might help ease others into the crazy world of the high school reunion…

  • For those ladies who have packed on the inevitable extra pounds, leave the Spanx (a girdle by any other name) at home and dress comfortably. The majority of your classmates have grown into the same weighty issues.
  • Make sure your name tags are large enough for everyone to see – you’ll be surprised at how many people will not recognize you (am I that forgettable?), and vice versa (who the heck was that?). Don’t hesitate to ask them to remind you who they are; chances are they don’t remember you either.
  • If you don’t recognize the face or the name, just listen to them talk. We all
    agreed that the voice was one thing that did not change with years of physical
    changes. The inflection and tone of one’s speech, and the facial expressions
    that accompany them, made all the years melt away.
  • Unless you married your high school sweetheart, leave the spouse behind. Your partner in life will thank you for it and you will have a much better time not worrying about them. It also saves the embarrassment of having to introduce someone, whose name you cannot recall, to your husband or wife, whose name you may have also momentarily forgotten.
  • Exercise those facial muscles in advance of your gathering. You will find yourself smiling like a fool for hours on end…still smiling days afterward.
  • Be prepared to deal with clueless dummies who might rush up to you and bring up an embarrassing event from the past by blurting out, “Are you the one who…(fill in the blanks).” Yes, that really happened and we can only hope his excuse was that he suffered a medical incident somewhere along the line and lost the brain cells associated with tact, which would explain his rudeness.
  • Leave any discussion of politics at the door. I learned the hard way that those of us in our sixties are very opinionated and, unless you want to witness fisticuffs and name-calling among a group of baby boomers, just don’t mention anything regarding the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, or the upcoming presidential election. Trust me, you will lose Facebook friends by the droves.
  • Did I mention, don’t talk about politics? Add religion to that mix. Our class was from a small Catholic school so we all had religion embedded into our psyches at an early age. Many of us have strayed, however, to every religion, or
    non-religion, in the book. Better to just not talk about it, or be ready to
    have your arthritis pain or extra pounds handled with scripture verses…true
  • Leave the pictures of the grandkids behind. No one really cares that you have a
    budding Einstein. They will just counter you with pictures of their little Dwight Howards. Admit it, you don’t really care, either.

All in all I had no regrets in my decision to join this group of aging hippies, reuniting to celebrate a time which shaped our futures.  Happily, the feeling I experienced upon walking out of that night’s time warp was that, yes, I really am sixty-three years young.

Baby Boomer’s Method to Occupy Wall Street

I met Don at a columnists’ convention last year and, even though we don’t share the same politics, I like his latest column…

Baby Boomer’s Method to Occupy Wall Street

 Look what’s happening out in the streets
Got a revolution,  Got to revolution

— Jefferson Airplane

I’ve been expecting Occupy Wall Street to happen for the past three years.

Anger has been rising on Main Street since the bailouts and the million dollar bonuses.  Washington and Wall Street spent so much time talking to each other that they never noticed and figured it had gone away.

It has not.

Since 2008, I’ve written over 100 columns on Huffington Post and my new book, Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street  Guide to Making Money,  is a guide to getting Wall Street out of people’s lives.

If I were 22 instead of 52, I’d probably be out on the streets.  Instead, like most baby boomers, I’m watching the revolution on television.

And supporting the protesters in a middle-aged way.

Wealth Without Wall Street was released a few weeks before Occupy Wall Street took place. Along with sharing in the protest, I offer concrete solutions for reducing the power of Wall Street.

In a chapter called, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” I said:

I don’t advocate marching in the streets or writing a letter to your Congressman.A better form of protest is to set up your finances in a way that reduces the influence of Washington and Wall Street in your lives.

The book offers four steps to reducing the power of Wall Street over Main Street.

    1. Move Your Money from a Wall Street bank to bank or credit union in your community.    Arianna Huffington and others at Huffington Post were the first to advocate this movement which has really taken off since Occupy Wall Street started.   By moving your money. you decrease the power and influence of Wall Street.  It may stop those trying stunts like charging five dollars to use a debit card as Bank of America wants to do.Local banks and credit unions will make sure that money is going back to your community.    Use them as much as possible.

Get rid of your credit cards.   Most of them are issued by Wall Street banks.   Dropping your credit cards will take money out of Wall Street’s pockets and put it yours.

  • Get rich slowly.  A lot of the problems on Wall Street stem from their obsession with quick profits, in order to justify their million dollar bonuses.Those of us in the baby boom age range need to think about having money for retirement and for the rest of our lives.   There are plenty of opportunities, off Wall Street, for people to develop a safe nest egg if they do it slowly over a long period of time.    We don’t need Wall Street to “trade” our money for us.
  • If you fit into the world of self-employment, now is a time to think about it.   In order to make Wall Street stockholders and bond holders happy, many large companies are laying off thousands of employees, or slashing their benefits and pensions.   If you can use your skill sets in a business you own yourself, it is a better long term move.

The phrase “think globally, act locally” is one that baby boomers are familiar with.    Although it is usually associated with the environmental movement, the best way to think globally, act locally is to do two things at the same time.

Every person can work toward being a good citizen. That includes supporting local businesses, being a good neighbor, and gaining financial independence.

Then, recognize that your individual actions can ultimately reduce the power of Wall Street and Washington over Main Street.

People of in every age group,   in every part of the country, can do their share to help “Occupy Wall Street.”

Even if we are watching the revolution from our living rooms.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money

McNay, who lives in Richmond Kentucky, an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at http://www.donmcnay.com

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Group (www.mcnay.com) which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship’s. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.

Dad’s Birthday

October 2nd marked dad’s 87th birthday. We all celebrated at a favorite restaurant where they know us from numerous family gatherings. Mom and dad used to frequent the place a lot til mom got wary of driving so far. Dad remembered the restaurant but didn’t remember the menu and had a difficult time choosing a meal. He finally settled on a shrimp combo but insisted it wasn’t what he ordered when it was presented. We talked him into trying one of the shrimp and he liked it (but ate only the shrimp).

My sister and I put together a book of old and new photos, in an attempt to trigger memories, especially of mom, when he doesn’t seem to recognize her. We scanned the old pics and created a book through SnapFish (which is a great way to consolidate vacation pictures, too). He didn’t quite understand the concept, at first, as he kept running his hand over the pages expecting the photos to be somehow attached to the surface. He seemed to remember most of the photos with the exception of one on the page we set up displaying some of the cars he owned over the years. He had an accident with one, decades ago, and the pic portrayed the wrecked front end of the car. He insisted he did not ever have an accident like that and rebuffed our memories of it. (Subject was dropped!)

We featured a picture of them in 1947, the year they were married, on the first page, then ended the book with a picture in 1997 at their 50th anniversary.

Looking back, we probably should have given him the photo book at home, without all the noise and hoopla at the restaurant. It was quite noisy and I think he was overstimulated by it all. Afterwards, when everyone was leaving and wishing him a happy birthday, he said he didn’t know why everyone was wishing him a happy birthday. Sometimes, I think these celebrations are for the benefit of those around the celebrant, especially when the birthday boy forgets it’s actually his day to shine.

How to Not Take It Personally

This is good advice for those who cannot help but take personally the words of their spouse or family member. It’s easy to say “Just let it go”, but not so easy when you are the target of the verbal abuse.

By Paula Spencer Scott,  Caring.com senior editor

There’s a tricky underbelly to caregivers’ intense relationship with their care receivers: A can’t-always-help-it tendency to take situations too personally.

Why? Caring.com senior medical editor Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist, explains that caregivers tend to be a special personality type: Big-hearted, sensitive, responsible, well intentioned…people who are motivated by and take deep satisfaction in doing right by their loved one…and people who, when unpleasant things happen, therefore, are prone to blame themselves, even for situations beyond their control or irrelevant to what they say or do, or fail to say or do.

Consider these six situations:

When your loved one is gruff and cranky
Even when cross behaviors are directed straight at you, you’re not usually the
underlying reason. More likely the outbursts are your loved one’s expression of
anger at the disease and the situation. For someone with even mild dementia,
outbursts reflect disease changes at work. You’re just the easy target.

When your loved one with dementia doesn’t recognize you It’s not because you’re no longer important to him or her. It’s not because you’ve failed to “imprint yourself” on him or her forever through the quality of your care. Failing to recognize friends and family, even primary caregivers, is an effect of the disease.

When your loved one vexes you with annoying behaviors (asking the same question over and over, leaving disrespectful messes, moving so slowly) Remember how the person “used to be.” In that context, it’s easier to see that illness, not an intention to be hurtful to you, can usually explain irritating actions.

When your loved one has an accident It’s not because you’re not managing incontinence perfectly. Accidents happen.

When no one says thank you It’s not because your actions don’t deserve thanks. More likely: You’re so effective at what you do, it’s practically invisible to family members.

When your loved one doesn’t say thank you Especially if he or she has dementia, the person’s ability to be aware of how much you’re relied upon becomes lost. Your loved one is so dependent, he or she literally doesn’t know thanks are in order.

I’m not saying feeling slighted isn’t a perfectly legitimate reaction to scenarios like those above. Nobody could blame you for sulking a little. But then — move on. Dwelling on imagined slights is energy-sucking and leaves you feeling needlessly sad. Re-framing these situations as having a bigger context helps you take them less personally. They’re not about you — they’re terribly unfortunate bumps that are about the road itself.

Staying sane…

My friend, Tory, passed this article along by John Shore, whose blogs appear
on johnshore.com along with his writings for Huffington Post… 

15 Ways to Stay Sane While Caring For an Elderly Parent

One of the most emotionally complex and difficult things a person can experience is taking care of an elderly parent. I recently spent time tending to my aging, widowed father, and thought I’d pass along these 15 points, each of which I found to be significantly helpful during this phase of my own life. (You can read of my experiences taking care of my dad at Mad Dad!)

  1. Accept that things have changed. When a parent starts in any way
    depending upon their child, a world has turned upside down. Be prepared for that radically new paradigm. Old roles may not apply; old
    methodologies may not apply; old emotions may not apply. Be
    prepared to work from — and write — a whole new script.
  2. Take it slowly. Taking care of an elderly parent is
    generally a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t rush it. You and they both are
    in uncharted territory. Let the process reveal itself to you; to the
    degree that you can, let whatever happens unfold organically. As much as
    you lead what’s happening, follow it.
  3. Expect nothing emotionally. At the end phase of their life,
    your parent might open up to you emotionally and spiritually; they might
    express for you the love that, for whatever reason, they haven’t before.
    But they also might not do that; your parent might even more tenaciously
    cling to their crazy. If as you care for your aging parent you bond with
    them in a new and deeper way, of course that’s fantastic. But going into
    caring for them expecting or even hoping for that to happen is to wade
    into dangerous waters. Better to have no expectations and be surprised,
    than to have your hopes dashed.
  4. Expect their anger. When you start taking care of your
    parent, they lose the one thing they’ve always had in relationship to you:
    authority. That’s not going to be easy for them to give up. Expect them,
    in one way or another, to lash out about that loss.
  5. Give them their autonomy. Insofar as you can, offer your
    parent options instead of orders. It’s important for them to continue to
    feel as if they, and not you, are running their lives. Let them decide
    everything they can about their own care and situation.
  6. Ask their advice. A great way to show your parent
    love and respect — and, especially, to affirm for them that they are
    still of true value to you — is to sincerely ask them for advice about
    something going on in your life.
  7. Separate their emotional dysfunction from
    their cognitive dysfunction
    . Insofar as you can, through your conversations and interactions with your parent, learn to distinguish between their emotional and cognitive dysfunction. The patterns of your parent’s emotional dysfunctions will probably be familiar to you; those, you’ll know how to deal with. But their cognitive dysfunctioning will probably be new to you. Track it; react to it gingerly; discuss it with your parent’s health care providers. Mostly, just be aware that it’s new, and so demands a new kind of response. This is a part of the process where it’s good to remember point No. 2.
  8. Love your health care providers. During this phase of your life, you
    don’t have better friends than those helping you care for your
    parent. Cleaning person, social worker, physical therapist, nurse, doctor,
    caring neighbor — treat well each and every person who plays any role
    whatsoever in caring for your parent. When they think of your parent, you want everyone involved in their care to have good, positive thoughts; you want them to want to care well for your mom or dad. Steady
    kindness, and little gifts here and there, can go a long way toward
    ensuring that’s how they feel.
  9. Depend upon your spouse. You may find that your parent is
    more comfortable relating to your spouse than to you. Though that can
    certainly hurt your feelings, don’t let it. It’s simply because your
    parent doesn’t share with your spouse all the baggage they do with you;
    mainly, they’ve never been the dominate force in your spouse’s life. Your
    spouse and your parent are peers to a degree that you and your parent can never be. Let that work for you. Depend upon your spouse to be as
    instrumental in the care of your parent as he or she wants to be.
  10. Protect your buttons. No one in this world knows your emotional buttons like your mom or dad does. Surround those buttons with
    titanium cases and lock them away where your parent couldn’t find them
    with a Rorschach test. Unless he or she is an extraordinarily loving and
    mature person, your parent is bound to at least once try to push your
    buttons, if only to establish their erstwhile dominance over you. Don’t
    let them do it. You might owe them your care, but you don’t owe them your emotional well-being. With your parent, let “No buttons for you!” be your motto.
  11. Prepare for sibling insanity. Expect the worst from your
    sibling(s). For perfectly understandable reasons, many people go
    positively bonkers when their parents start to die. Money, childhood
    mementos, furniture and possessions from the family house, money,
    diversified assets, money, the will… you get the idea. Prepare
    for the coming crazy. Do not participate in it yourself. Insofar
    as you must, of course protect yourself. But no amount of money on earth
    is worth your dignity.
  12. Take care of yourself . It’s so easy to surrender to the care of your aging parent more of your life than you should. But you serve well neither yourself nor them if you fail to take walks; to stretch out; to eat right; to make sure you spend quality time away from them. Make taking time to rejuvenate yourself as critical a part of your care routine for your parent as you do cooking their meals or making sure they take their meds. Your life still needs to be about you.
  13. Talk to a friend. If you have a friend with whom you can regularly meet and talk, or even chat with on the phone, do it. During this time the input and love of a friend is invaluable to you. Sharing what you’re going through with someone not immediately involved with it can be like a life preserver when you’re bobbing in the ocean. As soon as you get involved with tending to your parent, call your best friend, and tell them that you’re going to be depending upon them to do what friends do best: care, and listen.
  14. Have fun. One of the things we most need in life is the one thing we most readily jettison once we begin caring for an elderly parent: fun. Fun! Have some! Have lots! Rent a Marx Brothers movie. Wear a goofy hat. Make your parent wear a goofy hat — when they’re sleeping, maybe. Whatever it takes. But remember: A day without fun is like a day where you almost go to jail for pushing your old mom or dad down a stairwell. Whenever, wherever and however you can, truly enjoy.
  15. Pray or meditate. Life doesn’t offer a lot more emotionally salient or complex than caring for an aging parent. Accordingly, then, open yourself up to God, whatever that might mean to you. Be sure to with some regularly get down on your knees, or sit comfortably in a quiet place; close your eyes; breathe deeply and slowly; and wait to come over you the peace that surpasses understanding. What you’re undergoing with your parent right now is bigger than you, your parent, or anyone else involved. Do not fail to avail yourself of the great and mighty source from whose perspective it has all, already, been resolved…


Weekend at the beach

It was an interesting weekend with mom and dad staying with us at the beach. We picked them up Saturday, stopping for lunch along the way back, with plans for a “Back to School” barbeque on Sunday. Dad was in pretty good form throughout, with no “phantom pains” popping up. He was engaged with mom, in terms of knowing who she is and talking to her. His sense of humor is still intact and he came out with some zingers that had us all in stitches. Mom still overreacts to misstatements and would probably do better by just leaving him alone, rather than telling him he looks like he needs a pillow, a blanket, a sweater, yada, yada, yada!

At one point he did ask mom if “those people” were still at their apartment, and it was evident his reality changed the minute he was back home. Shortly after we dropped them off, mom called asking if we’d stop back because dad was refusing to take his meds and she didn’t want to fight about it anymore. Turns out he did actually take his meds but was balking at taking a vitamin, which is part of his normal routine. We were too far away to go back but Patty took over and he didn’t remember fighting with mom about it. Seems like he’s most confused when he is at home, which is odd, but he’s convinced there are more “women” in the condo and they’re not Marie, his wife. When he’s around the chaos of the whole family together, he’s less confused. He’ll get mixed up with the names but seems to get great delight from the great-grandkids, not to mention our cat. Whenever Ricky’s in the house, dad is talking to him and teasing him…we, of course, have to worry about the cat getting under foot and tripping one of them, but dad looks like he gets great pleasure from watching him. There is no way that they should take on the responsibility of a pet, however, I can see the benefit of having cats and/or small dogs as part of a long term care facility…they always seem to bring a smile to the faces of those who don’t have a whole lot to be happy about.

Six year old humor

Dad’s getting a kick out of his great-grandson, Carter’s, newfound ability to sniff a straw wrapper and make it look like a mustache.

We all got together for my husband, Charlie’s, birthday and Patty’s impending birthday on Tuesday. Everyone behaved…sort of…

Let the doctor be the “bad guy”

Obviously getting a loved one tested for dementia early is important. But it’s a touchy situation convincing them they might have an issue with memory. We took the “sneaky” approach mentioned in the Care.com article, “How do I convince my dad to get tested for dementia?” By giving his doctor a “heads up” about our suspicions, he was able to cognitively test dad and, ultimately, take the car keys away, without knowing that we were the bad guys.

Much needed support (group)

Patty and I took mom to a Caregivers’ Support Group meeting at the Winter Park Library, yesterday. Only one other person attended so mom got much needed attention from Linda, the facilitator. She shed a few tears, which was a good thing, and was reminded that she has to take care of herself as well as dad. We all went over the following Caregivers’ Bill of Rights…

The right to live our
own life, to retain our dignity
and sense of self.

The right to choose a
plan of caring that accommodates our needs and the
needs of those we care about.

The right to be
recognized as a vital and stabilizing source within our

The right to be free
of guilt, anguish and doubt, knowing that the
decisions we make are appropriate for our own
well-being and that of our loved one.

The right to love ourselves enough to have the confidence to do
the best we are able.

Linda talked about  “choosing our own battles” and letting some issues go, unless they result in a safety problem. A perfect example of this presented itself the other day when dad got out of the shower with his hair in disarray (more than usual). He had the bottle of shampoo by the sink and obviously had not rinsed it out of his hair. Mom kept trying to tell him he needed to get back into the shower and rinse it
out, but he refused, stating he needed to put more in. After much wrangling, he finally figured it out and begrudgingly got back in the shower. As crazy as it sounds, if he would have continued to argue the point, what would it really have hurt if he had just gone to bed with a head full of un-rinsed shampoo? It wasn’t a life-threatening issue and he probably would have realized his mistake upon waking the next morning. It’s kind of like raising children…how many times have you heard, “Choose your own battles”?

The other person in attendance is in an interesting situation. One week a month, she lives with, and cares for, her sister’s mother-in-law. Figure that one out…her sister’s husband’s mother. Several in the immediate and extended family devote a week at a time, 24/7, to care for this woman so she can stay in her own home. There is funding for this through her long-term care insurance and they receive $100 a day to care for her. It’s an interesting concept and one that might become more popular as more and more “boomers” have issues with mental and physical problems requiring full time assistance.

Linda suggested mom keep attending, sometimes alone, I’m guessing so she might open up a little more without my sister and I in the same room. The dynamics of a family make it difficult to really empathize with mom as he is our father…not the same as being her husband. I’m hoping she’ll keep going back to the group, with or without us, as it seemed to have a positive impact on her emotions and mood.

Free COA Newsletter

The Orange County, FL, Commission on Aging offers a free monthly email newsletter  summarizing the activities of the COA and other initiatives in the community.

Each month the COA informs citizens about senior transportation issues, scam alerts, events scheduled in the community and tons of other useful info. If you would like to subscribe to this information just send an email to  Officeonaging@ocfl.net.

Garage Sale Big Success for EFOF

Jess and Ali

Great sale on a scorcher of a day. As part of a service project for a class, Jess hosted a carport sale with benefits going to the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida  Thanks to all her great clothes, my sister, Patty’s, fantastic toys and books, and our neighbor, Shannon, donating so much really good stuff, we raised over $450. Every little bit counts towards research to end seizures!

Dad’s Birthday Idea

Had an idea today (I’m sure it’s not an original one) to put together a SnapFish book, for dad’s birthday in October, full of scanned old pics from the early days of mom and dad’s marriage, bringing it to present day. Maybe it will help get him back in the present day timeframe when he’s lost in another decade. One day when he was insisting that mom was not his wife, she showed him some old pictures and don’t know if it convinced him, but at least it got him off the subject and interested in the pictures. A SnapFish book would be so convenient and easier than going through a bunch of pics. It will definitely take us til October 2 to go through them and publish it. Will let you know how it works out!

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Happy Birthday, August 1, to Mom…86 years. And now, August 2, Happy Anniversary to Mom and Dad…64 years! We all had a wonderful celebration lunch at Seasons 52 (my new fave) and dad was quite lucid throughout. I finally lost count, however, of how many times he asked me if we’d ever been there before. Dropped dad off at home and took mom shopping afterwards. It was a good day!

When dad realized it was her bday he said he was going to “walk across the street” to the WalMart to get a card. Walking across Hwy. 436 in Casselberry is a death-defying feat so she told him that his present to her would be NOT walking across the street to get a card. So, he didn’t.

Last week dad told mom there were 5 women living in the house and they were all too old to be his wife. Also, seems to think he was married 5 times…would love to be a fly on the wall of his brain to see what really is going on in there.

One problem seems to be solved with mom deciding to sleep in the guest bedroom. When he takes his shower at night, he gets very weird, closing doors so she won’t see him…apparently all the time thinking she is not his wife, and very paranoid about where she’s going to sleep. So, the first night she settles in the guest room, he pops in wondering where she is and why she’s not in bed! Ayayayay.

Dementia Drama du Jour

Happy Monday…waking up to a blurb on the Today Show about 30 somethings dreading the fact that they are turning 40. Sorry, can’t relate, until you fast forward 30 years later…I’m trying to enjoy my sixties as much as I can, in anticipation of my seventies looming down the road. It’s all relative. Just enjoy the moment!

The latest drama engulfing my parents’ living with dementia, is dad misunderstanding a quarterly financial statement from his broker. Standard stuff but he’s becoming paranoid and thinking money is being stolen from his account. This has prompted arguments with mom and a phone call to his broker (who has been with him for decades). Said broker has been notified of dad’s memory and cognitive issues – call hasn’t been returned yet, as far as I know. Dad lashes out at mom when she tries to explain it to him and she reacts with more lashing out…lovely scenario. This will last until the next crisis evolves or when one of us can remove the statement from his sight and mind. Meanwhile, keep repeating the mantra “Don’t Argue!”

It’s birthday extravaganza month with 5 birthdays and an anniversary in the family within the next 3 weeks. Our oldest daughter is turning 30 and her little sister is turning 28 this week. I can remember the surprise party held for my 30th like it was just yesterday…it was yesterday, right? What? Thirty-two years ago? Surely you jest! At the time, my friend, Nikki, gave my parents a plaque officially pushing my age back so they would feel younger…I could use one of those right about now.

As mentioned before, I won’t bore you with what I ate for breakfast, however, I am happy to announce that the South Beach Diet resulted in a loss of almost 5 pounds last week. Let’s see if I can handle another week of no sugar, no flour and no cocktails (I did sneak in a glass of Grand Traverse Reisling the other night, however, and it was well worth it). Now I just have to keep from tasting the plethora of celebration cakes and desserts tempting me over the next few weeks, starting Wednesday.

Getting back to reality and writing about it

My poor blog has been ignored too long! Something I learned at a recent columnists’ conference was not to waste the good stuff on FaceBook. How true…spending much too much time over there. To be honest, though, I’ve been putting some research on the back burner and just haven’t taken the time to get into it…like info my son sent me about the use of marijuana serum to treat dementia…sounds like something worth looking into. I also have a problem with “self-promotion”…feeling like anyone reading this doesn’t want to hear about how my grandsons are the most perfect little Einsteins in the world – not true but we all probably think that of our grandkids. And you don’t want to know what I had for breakfast while on the South Beach diet. TMI!

I do need to get back to the business at hand which is how to help my aging parents deal with dementia, depression, boredom and everything else that goes along with making them miserable. By the time you reach your mid-eighties, you deserve to be happy. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our situation. Dad is falling deeper into his alternate world and mom is not dealing with it well.

So this blog needs to address those matters more often, both reaching out for help and giving it when I can.

On a positive note, my sister, mom and I are signed up for a caregivers’ seminar at a local library in August – tried for July but was already booked – a reaffirmation that we are not the only ones out there dealing with the downside of aging.

Looking at the upside of getting older, especially in retirement, we’ve done some traveling over this past year to include a cruise to the Western Caribbean and a cool (in more ways than one) trip to Michigan, taking in Detroit and the upstate regions of Lake Michigan. The weather was wonderfully chilly and the wine was tasty. I’d definitely recommend a visit to this friendly and creative state. Ready for another northern adventure to get out of this damned heat. Sounds like Alaska is the only place to escape – even Montreal is in the 90’s today! Aargh

So, if anybody out there is interested, I will be committing to at least 3 times a week of updates, links, etc. Please feel free to send along any helpful info regarding aging parents, dementia, etc…as we need all the help we can get!

Interesting Observation on Choice

Law should allow choice of death over dementia
Mike Thomas
April 25, 2011

We need a physician-assisted suicide law in Florida.

Only we should go beyond the laws approved by voters in Washington and Oregon.

They allow people with terminal diseases to obtain a lethal prescription of drugs from a doctor.

This does not include dementia patients. Our law should.

Individuals should be able to choose now that they would rather die with dignity than be shipped off to die of end-stage Alzheimer’s in a for-profit Medicaid warehouse.

This is not a sensational or even unreasonable sentiment.

Florida nursing homes were a national scandal in the 1980s. They were warehouses. An Orlando Sentinel investigation found countless cases of neglect, infected sores, sexual abuse, malnourishment and deaths. All too often, the victims were incapable of reporting the crimes. Despite numerous infractions, the state allowed some of the worst homes to stay open.

Legislators promised to “clean up the hellholes,” while the hellholes demanded protection from lawsuits.

Gov. Jeb Bush seemed to resolve the situation with this compromise. He put limits on how much a jury could award in lawsuits while increasing funding to beef up staffing at the homes.

Things seemed to get better.

But in 2004, Florida TaxWatch reported that nursing homes here, while ranked third nationally in staffing and 11th in overall quality, faced Medicaid cuts that threatened to undermine quality.

The report spelled out why this is important.

“Almost anyone that is working or middle-class will end up in a Medicaid-funded nursing home, due to the great drain on personal resources required,” wrote Tim Lynch, the author of the report. “It’s not just the poor. It’s you and me and our parents we’re talking about.”

Seven years after Lynch’s report, the situation is much worse.

The way it works if you go to a nursing home is that you start out on Medicare. When that runs out, you burn through your life savings, and then end up flat broke on Medicaid.

The Legislature is proposing deep cuts in Medicaid funding for nursing-home patients. This comes on top of federal Medicare cuts to nursing homes.

The homes have long used the higher reimbursement rates from Medicare patients to offset their losses on Medicaid patients.

Now there will be bigger losses and smaller offsets.

The homes argue their budgets will be so thin that they can’t afford the cost of litigation. They say the money spent fighting lawyers and paying abuse claims will be money taken away from patients. So lawmakers are pushing more tort reforms that basically will eliminate most of this litigation.

Unfortunately, as imperfect a system as it is, litigation does serve to keep the homes somewhat honest.

With that check ending, Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers also have moved to limit state oversight of the homes in the name of deregulation.

We are bringing back the hellholes.

To pretend anything else is an exercise in seeing no evil and hearing no evil.

It’s only going to get worse as baby boomers age and put more pressure on the system.

The cost of Medicaid is projected to grow much faster than tax revenues. Those with the smallest voices, those without the lobbyists, will get left further and further behind.

I can tell you who they will be.

About 75 percent of nursing-home residents suffer from dementia. Most are poor elderly women. Those who do not have nearby family members serving as their advocates will be prime candidates for neglect.

Nationally, there now are about 4.5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease, a number expected to grow to 14 million by 2050.

Alzheimer’s makes up a little more than half of the dementia cases.

So you can see the scope of the problem, particularly with Florida’s aging population.

I’m not blasting Rick Scott or the Legislature. I’m not arguing that we pour unlimited funds into nursing homes. Our plundering of the next generation has to stop somewhere.

All I want is an opt-out clause in my living will.

If I become incompetent and my family no longer can care for me, I want to move on. I should be free to set up my own death panel of family and friends.

With my advanced and very strict instructions, I would trust them to make the call.

If you chose to hang around, I respect that and good luck to you.

mthomas@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5525.
Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s

This informative article was published on Medhelp.org, explaining the difference between the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s”…

What is Dementia?
When large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to stop functioning and lose connections with other neurons, thereby disconnecting parts of the brain that normally work together, dementia is the result. It’s not a disease in itself, but rather a blanket term for a set of symptoms relating to loss of brain function. These symptoms may include:

•Memory loss
•Personality changes and loss of social skills
•Language problems like forgetting the names of familiar objects
•Behavioral problems like agitation, delusions and hallucination
•Flat mood, loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
•Difficulty solving problems and performing tasks that used to come easily
Memory loss is a common early symptom, but having it does not necessarily mean one has or will develop dementia. Dementia is only diagnosed when two or more brain functions — like memory, language, perception or cognitive skills like reason and judgement — are severely impaired.

Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme disease and HIV/AIDS. Reactions to medications, nutritional deficiencies, infection, poisoning, hormone abnormalities and heart and lung problems have also been known to cause dementia, or dementia-like symptoms. However, the most common and well-known cause of dementia in people aged 65 and older is Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease results in degenerative dementia, meaning symptoms get worse over time and are generally irreversible. As the disease progresses, patients’ ability to perform basic motor functions gets inhibited. They may have difficulty swallowing and lose bladder and bowel control. Eventually, Alzheimer’s sufferers may not be able to recognize relatives or speak, and will typically need total care. The usual life expectancy for those with Alzheimer’s is 7-10 years after diagnosis.

The main physical marks of Alheimer’s Disease in the brain are abnormal clumps of tissue called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibers called neurofibrillary tangles. It is unknown whether these structures are harmful or if they’re merely a by-product of the disease process that damages nerve cells. What is known is that more and more of the abnormalities appear as the disease gets worse. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made when certain dementia symptoms are present, and other causes of dementia are not found. However, the only way to know for certain that a person had Alzheimer’s is to examine brain tissue for plaques and tangles after death.

Published April 12, 2011

Ombudsman Program on the Chopping Block

The Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell’s take on slashing the Ombudsman program in the state of Florida.

This, mostly volunteer, program costs the state very little and has done so much good for those seniors who cannot defend themselves from abuse. This issue is so worthy of the effort of calling and/or writing your congressmen/women. If we’re lucky, we’ll all be old someday and wouldn’t it be nice to know there is a program out there looking out for us!

SNAP – Nutrition Assistance for Elders

Jacksonville, FL – ElderSource announced that it is now accepting applications for ‘SNAP,’ the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for elders 60 years of age or older. SNAP, more commonly known as food stamps, is not welfare but a program that helps stretch your food budget without taking away from any other benefits. In order to be eligible for the program, you must have a net monthly income of less than $903 or a combined income with your spouse of less than $1,215; you must be a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen; and have countable household assets of less than $3,000 (not including your home, vehicle or life insurance policies). To apply for SNAP benefits over the phone, you will need to have ready your income statements, information about your assets, and proof that you are a Florida resident. Once you have gathered all of this information please call ElderSource at 1-888-242-4464 and ask to speak with a SNAP operator. Serving as the state-designated Area Agency on Aging and the Aging Resource Center for Northeast Florida, ElderSource’s mission is to empower individuals to age with independence and dignity by providing leadership, direction, advocacy and support for a comprehensive coordinated continuum of care. ElderSource serves as the focal point to which elders, their caregivers and the general public can turn for information, referral, assistance and answers related to aging issues. To reach our helpful staff or learn more about our elder care resources, please call (888) 242-4464 or visit our website at http://www.myeldersource.org

Cruising into the Sunset

If you can afford assisted living care, why not use that money and live on a cruise ship? After returning from a recent cruise, my husband and I decided we are not really “cruisers”, so to speak. We enjoyed our vacation and the ports of call; however, we found ourselves kind of bored during the “sea days” and realized we had an issue with sitting on a lounge chair on the deck and just chilling. We tried and it felt good for about thirty minutes but then we found we had to be in motion…of the two-legged kind, not just the motion of the ocean. Of course the ship was so huge there was plenty to see and experience but it was a “been there, done that” kind of vacation. The week was definitely a good value, however, as everything was taken care of…the food was beyond excellent, constant entertainment and the cabins were very adequate.

Even though we are happier with a more active vacation, we could see the value for someone older who might require some help in their everyday life. Compare a cruise to an assisted living facility, for example, and the cruise offers the same benefits at a comparable, or sometimes reduced, price. There is a medical team always on call; the food is phenomenal with healthy choices as well as indescribable desserts. Extra charges were for alcoholic and soft drinks, but if you’re a fan of iced tea, coffee or lemonade, you can drink all you want without any extra fees. On our particular cruise, tipping was added to the bill at the end, at the rate of $10 per day per person. That means travelers are not constantly looking at a beckoning open hand and feeling obligated to tip with each service.

There was a terrific spa on board with all kinds of state-of-the-art workout equipment, along with opportunities for massages and the like. There’s no excuse not to get some quality exercise while onboard, regardless of the weather.

The ship’s employees got to know us by name within a day or two so imagine staying on the same ship for months at a time. Being assigned a table at one of the dining rooms, your servers greet you by name and seem to have a great attitude about their job. The housekeeping staff is equally affable, also showing an appreciation for the fact that they have a job, not to mention the unique aspect of working on a floating city. We always felt safe on board which a senior would particularly appreciate.

We opted for the cheap way out and reserved an inner cabin, which means no windows. The size was perfectly adequate with a great shower in the roomy bathroom. Not having a window meant not wanting to spend much time in the cabin, however…for a few hundred more a porthole, or balcony would have been great. If one would decide to spend several months on a ship, we think a window would be necessary.

Pricewise, our trip started at $600 per person for a 7 night trip with 3 ports of call in the Western Caribbean. Add another $10 per day per person for tips and you have $670. That’s about as cheap as you can get for a weeklong cruise. However, once you’ve taken your first cruise, the cruise line will give you all kinds of bennies to get you back onboard. We had the option of putting $100 down on our next cruise, fully refundable and you didn’t have to decide on a date, with the bonus of $200 shipboard credit. That’s a big bonus if you like to drink or want to avail yourself of the extras. So you’re looking at $2,680 a month. You can’t buy a whole lot of time in an assisted living facility for that kind of dough.

Of course, one has to be quite independent and pretty much able to get around on their own. We saw several passengers in wheelchairs so the ship is wheelchair-accessible if needed. It sounds like a great way to while away your final years. No worry about the yard, housework, cooking…and the entertainment is great and always changing. If you’re a social butterfly, even better…think of all the new friendships you could make…your Christmas card list will be bursting at the seams!

Medicaid or Private Pay…there are options

We met with Hallie Zobel to discuss the financial aspects of my parents going into an assisted living facility (ALF). First the topic was Medicaid. Many nice long term care facilities which include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing, have Medicaid units among the private pay rooms. Hearing the term Medicaid, one might think of destitute individuals who qualify for Medicaid benefits due to their economic issues. There is also a portion of Medicaid called the Institutional Care Program (ICP) which, in Florida, is overseen by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In order to qualify, elders must be 65 years of age or older; their home must be worth less than $500,000; they must have less than $2,000 cash. Their home, car, wedding and engagement rings are not included in their assets. Their gross monthly income must not exceed $2,022 ($4,044 for a couple). The spouse of the individual applying for ICP benefits can hold assets in the amount of $109,560 in his or her name, so it would behoove mom to have her own bank account and transfer any cash assets over to her name. If the individual has more than the $2,000 in cash assets, there are ways to distribute the funds and, basically, hide them. Since 2007 the laws have changed gifting. Used to be one could sign over large amounts of money and properties to family members and not have it counted towards their cash assets. This can still be done but it has to be done more than five years prior to their application. Hallie listed many ways to divert funds legally so the person can qualify; loopholes with names like Qualified Income Trust, Special Needs Trust, Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. They could also purchase an adult child’s home and live in it one full year to qualify. Spending down is also an option if the money goes towards upgrades on their home – renovating a kitchen, bathroom, adding a room, etc. (A good resource for questions about elder care issues is Caring.com.)

Once we determined that neither mom nor dad were needing a Skilled Nursing Facility yet or an ALF memory care facility, we broke down their monthly income to see if they could afford a place where they could live together in a small apartment as part of an ALF scenario. Since dad is a Foreign War Veteran, he would qualify for a program called Aid and Attendance through the Veterans Administration. The VA assists with funding a stay in an ALF along with surviving spouse benefits – these benefits amount to around $1,500 to $1,900 per month. That’s a nice chunk of $$ to help with monthly ALF expenses.

We were told about a few facilities in our area which are quite nice but don’t require a large buy-in from the potential resident. In a perfect world our parents would be in an ALF sharing a small apartment, having meals supplied in a central dining room, with activities available along with opportunities to have social encounters upon stepping outside the apartment. Of course, medical care being close by in case of need would be great.

All of this is not relevant, however, if we cannot convince dad that a move like this would be beneficial to both he and mom. Mother seems to be amenable to the idea but dad will be another story. They have such a nice condo on Lake Howell with a killer view and central location. Dad likes to take 2 mile walks which would be safer if he weren’t alone. It would be great for them both to stay in their own house but the dementia will probably preclude them from that scenario in the not too distant future.

Next on our agenda is to try and talk dad into signing over a Power of Attorney to Patty or I. He drifts in and out of thinking that we are all out to get his money and are just waiting for him to die. That, of course, is not the case but one cannot argue with dementia. More to come…

Grilled Cheese Social

Whether or not you’re part of the “Sandwich Generation”, you’ll love this Grilled Cheese Social website – when you need some comfort food, go with grilled cheese sandwiches. McKenzie’s website is full of yummy recipes…some bizarre…but all are creative. We are lucky to be neighbors of her parents, Sheila and Brett, and get to witness her creativity on their porch from time to time.

The Dagwood Generation

 We’ve all heard of the ‘Sandwich Generation’ but we might take it one step further and call it the ‘Dagwood Generation’. When you are squeezed between aging parents, children and then add grandchildren to the mix, you might feel like you are getting lost among the layers of needy family members. Are there times when you just want to escape to Tahiti and leave it all behind? You know you do….but we are all grateful to have our parents still alive and love those grandchildren…so we make ourselves available to all and put our future plans and travels on hold for a while.

However, we need to take time for ourselves, get away from all the drama and come back refreshed and ready for the next crisis. I am lucky to have a very supportive sister who shares helping with our parents’ issues.  She, however, bears the brunt of the burden as she lives only 10 minutes away and we are located an hour from their house. We try to make it into town at least once a week to take mom out shopping or get them to an appointment but Patty is on call if there is an urgent need to drop everything and get over there.

A little background with our parents’ situation…mom and dad are in their mid-eighties with dad suffering from vascular dementia. We suppose he’s beyond the early stages of this disease as sometimes he mistakes my mother with his sister, who passed away last year at the age of 93. Last week my sister and mom walked into the doctor’s office with him and he announced he was being escorted by his two sisters!

This is a man who did not graduate from high school, joined the army during WW II, and went to TV repair school upon his return, working on the first television sets to be sold. Several years later he found himself getting his high school diploma, bachelor’s degree and on to his master’s degree when he was in his fifties. He is an inspiration to me as I also finished college late in life, which was, what I consider, one of my life’s major accomplishments. Now, he cannot keep his bank account straight and, when asked how old he is, might say 56, instead of 86. This sometimes causes problems in the bedroom as he thinks he is still sexually active which mom nips in the bud, so to speak.

Next week my mom, sister and I will visit an attorney’s practice which specializes in elder issues. We met with them before mom’s open heart surgery last summer to obtain a Power of Attorney in case she was incapacitated by the procedure. Unfortunately, we could not get one on dad as the attorney questioned his ability to decide matters for himself. We were impressed with their firm and are now returning for a lengthy visit to figure out the next steps. They suggested we do not bring dad as he may be confused by the whole episode. Lately he has been ranted to mom that the three of us are just waiting for him to die so we can get his money. Five years ago he would have blanched at the idea of making such a claim and we have to realize that he is not in his right mind. However, it is difficult for mom to let such comments slip by without a retort. The one thing I learned while studying aging issues was to never, ever, argue with someone dealing with dementia.

I’ll continue to update our progress through this journey with our parents and will appreciate any and all comments and advice. We hope this blog will help others going through this painful search.