What to do if you find mold in your older loved one's home.
This guest post was submitted & written by Elena Watson, a blogger for JustHomeMedical.com and a student at Bard College. She spends her time researching and writing about health care, particularly child and senior wellness.
It’s not uncommon to experience a decrease in mobility as you get older. Sore joints, fragile bones, and a more frequent feeling of fatigue can all make it harder to get up and go. But being active doesn’t have to mean pushing yourself beyond your limits, and even if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, there are still many ways for you to get out there and exercise without putting yourself at risk.
Go for a walk: Walking is a great way to stay active because even though it doesn’t feel like exercise, it still burns calories and strengthens muscles. During the hot summer months, consider taking your walk in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. And always bring along a bottle of water.
Stroll indoors: When it’s hot outside or the weather’s bad, you can still get some walking in. Places like museums, art galleries, and even malls are all great ways to stay on your feet while enjoying culture, shopping, and, of course, air conditioning!
Garden: Tending a garden is rarely seen as “exercise,” but it’s another activity that keeps you outside and moving, and it burns more calories than you might think. Plus, it’s a great way to add beauty or fresh produce to your home.
Take a dip: Swimming is the quintessential summer activity (or year-round, if you have access to an indoor pool. It’s fun, it cools you down, and it’s a great way to maintain mobility and strengthen muscles. Some community pools even offer water aerobics classes, which are less strenuous than traditional aerobics.
Get your groove on: Dancing might seem like just a fun activity, but it’s actually a great workout as well. If your community offers dance classes, sign up (and bring a friend!). If not, start a dance group yourself, or just boogie out to some music in your house.
Join a club: Many communities and senior centers offer a number of fun and invigorating classes that can help you stay active, and perhaps learn a new skill at the same time. You could sign up for a class or club dedicated to bowling, indoor aerobics classes, golf, baseball, and much more.
For seniors, keeping up mobility is important not only because it allows you to stay independent, but also because it can benefit your health and sometimes even postpone the effects of aging (nothing makes you feel young like a good blast of endorphins!). Thankfully, staying active doesn’t have to mean sweating away in the gym. By engaging in fun community activities like these you can improve your health and enjoy yourself at the same time!
101 Mobility is a local provider of trusted brands of mobility and accessibility equipment. Their staff install and service hundreds of auto lifts, stair lifts, turning seats, modular ramps and platform lifts each year. Learn more by calling 1.888.258.0652.
BenefitsCheckUp helps you find state, federal, and private benefits programs available where you live, programs that help pay for prescriptions, health care, food, utilities, and more. You can also get help with tax relief, transportation, legal issues, or finding work.
Resources for Older Adults & Caregivers via the National Council on Aging
Articles/Books of Interest:
Via the site: "Whether you’re an older adult, family helper or elder-care professional, Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style can help you understand the process of aging and make scores of simple changes that support independence – in nearly any type of house, apartment or condo. Packed with checklists, shopping lists and more than a hundred key resources in the United States and Canada!"
- Take Control of Your Health: 6 Steps to Prevent a Fall
- Four Questions About Aging in Place
- Aging in Place Alone: Tips for Preventing Injuries and Isolation
- You Can Stay Home: Tips for Supporting Aging in Place
- 5 Places to Improve Access at Home
- Home Design Features That Help You to Age in Place
- Aging in Place and Choosing Care When Needed
- How to Know When It’s Time to Start Seeking Home Care
- Using Technology to Age in Place
- Home Modifications: What Medicare Will and Won’t Cover
As more grandchildren and young adults care about/wish to be involved in caregiving for the older adults they love, there is a need for support, advice and resources tailored to this younger demographic of caregivers. For my thoughts on the subject, watch this recording of a Google Hangout chat with Laura Hahn of arthurandbernie.com and Denise Brown of Caregiving.com, who also shared their perspectives and insights.
As I've been anticipating the arrival of our first child (via adoption) in the coming months, my own family's heritage, history, and roots have been on my mind just about all the time. Also, as other dear ones have recently encountered loss at the hands of Alzheimer's, I've been thinking about my grandfather, who passed away in January 2009 after his struggle with the terrible disease. Here's a peek into his -- our -- story, via an excerpt from an autobiography in the works:
Whenever I entered the room, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I would be sad when I left. During those months, I watched her watch him, watched her wither away into a fragile, tiny shell of a person, as he did the same (although he never lost his strength). I watched all of us struggle desperately to know what was the right thing to say or do when we visited, and I’m not sure any of us, except maybe my husband, figured it out.
In all of our growing up years, we never spent that much time in his – their – bedroom. Yes, we used to play with her perfume in the bathroom, and try on her powder and foundation, but we only went into the bedroom to get to the bathroom.
While we ate frokost (breakfast) that morning, I was antsy with anticipation, eager, surging with nerves of the good kind, as I waited for him to pick us up and take us to the land he loved, the land he called home as a child and as a young man, the land he always loved and remembered fondly. I couldn’t wait to see the land, to see his brothers, knowing it would be the closest thing to seeing him this side of heaven. I fully expected to cry when I saw him, when he hugged me, when he held me tightly against his tall frame, in the way he used to before he could no longer walk.
My baby nephew was magic in those final months. When he was in the room, everyone else disappeared.
It was just the two of them, as far as he was concerned, and the little one always obliged, nuzzling his soft baby face against his coarse, unshaven one, and resting together, saying no words at all, but speaking more loudly to him than any of us could. We watched in amazement as these two souls connected on the deepest level possible, and maybe some of us even envied what they had, as we sat awkwardly, fumbling with words and our hands, trying to know what to say to make everything normal again.
Your turn: Has your family dealt with the devastation of Alzheimer's or dementia? Share what got you through, gave you hope.
If all goes as planned, I'll soon be unveiling a brand new website, which will include a list of services available to those of you (community and corporate professionals, elder care providers, and family caregivers alike) who are in need of elder care resources, advice, or expertise. As my husband and I continue down the long and winding path to international adoption, keeping busy is one way to keep my mind off the chasm that stands between now and becoming a family of three. I'm also being proactive: seeking ways to diversify what I'm currently doing in order to challenge myself professionally and creatively, and to have several possibilities for work that are not associated with daily deadlines or being tied to a computer for 8+ hours a day (so that I can focus on our little one). These new offerings have been requested by many friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues already, so I am simply making it a formal part of my portfolio. (Special thanks to friend and fellow blogger/entrepreneur Hayley Croom for pushing me to do this!)
Stay tuned for the website's launch, and feel free to contact me with any questions about services to be offered.
If you're like me, you're itching for the official arrival of autumn. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy a productive end to the summer season!
Somehow, the ability to cook well skipped a generation in my family. Both of my grandmothers were pros in the kitchen: Dad's mom made delectable Italian food, Mom's mom prepared meals for business men at the General Motors Building in Manhattan, and my own mother always put something delicious on the table (and still does) for her growing family.
Me and my sisters? We don't burn the house down when we cook, and we're good at following recipes, but we just don't have the interest, experience, confidence or natural skill of our mother and grandmothers.
I know that practice would help, and I've had enough victories in the kitchen -- times when my husband has said, genuinely, "This is the best thing you've ever made" -- to keep me from quitting it altogether and declaring that our family will just eat takeout every night (although Trader Joe's, our local farmer's markets and Vietnamese restaurants are good friends of mine). But I definitely envy people with culinary savvy.
I was recently invited to pen a guest post for the Juvo "Live Actively" blog, and in brainstorming about topic ideas, the Juvo team and I settled on this one: cooking as a way for seniors to stay active. Despite my low culinary self-esteem, I'm really happy with the post. Here's an excerpt:
"Cooking is a full-body, all-sensory experience. Everything about it is engaging, and it doesn’t have to be a hobby for this to be true. The brain is activated: reading or recalling a recipe from memory, gathering the necessary ingredients, timing all the elements, organizing and prioritizing tasks. The body is on the move: hands kneading dough, arms and upper body reaching for the spice rack, feet shuffling across the floor between the stovetop, countertop and sink. All the while, the scents and sounds of preparation (boiling water, a sizzling saucepan of onions, the wafting aroma from the oven) and the warmth of the stove fills the kitchen, spilling out into adjoining rooms. And of course, every cook and assistant must taste test their concoctions along the way..."
Read the rest here: Cooking: 15 Tips for The Quintessential Senior Living Activity
When I discovered this video on YouTube a few weeks ago, I was struck by its message and approach:
Yes, I'm usually focused on a completely different demographic, but what hooked me was the use of humor and "real people" to convey a serious message in a lighthearted, non-confrontational way. (Little did I know it was a message I needed to hear.)
Stereotyping and prejudices are no laughing matter, but I believe that humor and even sarcasm can break through the stubborn surface of people's misconceptions to reveal the truths they've been missing, ignoring, or denying. I've always loved satire for this reason, because some truths are better told "in slant," a la one of my favorites, Emily Dickinson. (This would also explain my obsession with JibJab, my subscription to MAD magazine, and why I never miss an episode of The Daily Show.)
Disarming someone with wit allows a vital message about a social issue to get through where it otherwise may have been firewalled, diverted or batted away like a pesky gnat.
Sometimes, the influence of the media (Hollywood movies, to reference an example from the video) is quite subtle. We know on a surface level that the media is powerful, but if we're educated, open-minded and self-aware, we like to think we're above that, that we don't buy into the media's overt or subliminal messages.
I know I'm guilty of that, and the video showed me just how guilty I am.
As I laughed about the shirtless Matthew McConaughey jokes in the video, my conscience was pricked. I had subconsciously absorbed and accepted some of the stereotypes it portrayed. Since I don't know very many African men (though all of the ones I do know are nothing like the ones in movies), I had allowed this mainstream perspective to fill in the gaps.
To prevent this slipping and sliding along the stereotype slope, make a conscious effort to interact with people outside of your usual group. Get to know someone new as a person and fellow human being, not a number or statistic or stereotype. If you ask me, that's the best way to throw off prejudices as a whole, to change our perspective of a "group," no matter if the group is elders or African men or lesbians or introverts.
Think about it this way: would you say something negative or derogatory about the wonderful grandparent or favorite elder teacher that you loved and admired? Or judge them based on their age? Pummel stereotypes and move into more realistic beliefs by putting a human face and name on the group you're prejudiced against.
Next time you're behind an elder who is driving slowly and you find yourself muttering aloud, "There should be an age limit for drivers," think of your vibrant, independent grandfather, or your lovely 84-year-old neighbor who is a better driver than you, and remember that "seniors" or "elders" are made up of individuals like these. (Hint: the same rule can apply elsewhere.)
Talk about it: how do you shatter stereotypes in your world?
Last fall, I read Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, and a few months later, I read Home, another emotional, intricate, and stirring novel by Robinson (which happens to be a sort of companion story to Gilead).
I highly recommend both books.
Not only are they brilliantly written, both of Robinson's works feature strong elders as her main characters; Gilead is actually narrated by one.
The perspective is heart-breaking at times, but what amazes me most is the honesty, vibrancy and accuracy with which Robinson portrays the leading elders, who are both men.
As they face frailty and struggle with dependency in old age, the men also wrestle with the unresolved hurts and painful memories that they've carried throughout their lives. Best friends and retired reverends from the small Iowa prairie town of Gilead, Boughton and Ames are forging their living legacies and finding ways to reconcile their pasts, presents and futures in a world that is ebbing and flowing and changing around them every day -- and all in the context of their families, whose members are dynamic and fluid and broken and blessed.
I'm always grateful for books, films, paintings, songs, and any other type of artistic creation that grasps the rich complexities of aging in a truthful, illuminating, and authentically human way. Marilynne Robinson has accomplished this feat and I applaud her for it.
What books, poems, and songs about aging speak to you? Whether they are funny, sad, inspiring or thought-provoking, please share them here.
This month, I've had the distinct pleasure of contributing several articles to AARP's Home and Community blog, thanks to a connection I made on Twitter (a fantastic networking tool: if you're not a tweeter, I highly recommend it). The series will continue into February. So many families are in the midst of considering care for a senior family member or friend, yet so many are uninformed about or unaware of all the options. If you know someone who could benefit from the practical information I've compiled in the series thus far, please share the posts with them.
These magnificent photographs are from the 2010 and 2011 National Geographic Photo Contests. I admire the stunning simplicity (which is somehow complex in its own way too), the incredible subjects, the richness of symbolism and the depth of emotions portrayed in both of them.
I wish I could capture this incomparable year, 2011, in photographs like these.
But as I consider the major leaps and bounds I've taken in my writing career, I feel nothing but immense gratitude and boundless appreciation for each special person who has significantly contributed to this success (you know who you are, readers, family, Twitter followers, and friends near and far).
I look forward to what 2012 will bring; thank you for helping me tell my stories.
The recent post I wrote for Seniors for Living about the Spirit of '45 Campaign taught me this: knowing my family's stories about their WWII experiences is such a powerful part of who they are, who I am, and what our world is like today. Maybe you don't agree that they are the greatest generation, but you have to admit their influence on the generations which followed has been tremendously palpable. In keeping with this theme, and in anticipation of Veterans Day (this coming Friday), here's an excerpt from my piece, "Reconstructing Grandpa: The Story of a Norwegian Carpenter", about my grandfather's World War II story:
I opened the conversation with a very general question, “How did you begin your career as a carpenter?” Little did I know how the story would build from there.
My grandparents were born and raised in Norway. There, after graduation from grammar school, students chose an occupation of interest and would apply to work as an apprentice, shadowing someone who was already established in their chosen field. Learning a little bit of English was also part of the program. Grandpa chose carpentry. The program was supposed to last for a year, but six months into it, World War II interrupted. He had only built a large oak dining room table.
For two years during the war, Grandpa worked at a furniture factory in Farsund, Norway. He offered little information about this job, even looked away, lost in thought as I wrote down what he had told me so far. When he continued, there seemed a deeply buried anger in his voice: “We got in trouble with the [Gyerman] army, so I went back to school, this time in the mountains on the west coast of Norway. I [tink] the town was named Os, and it was right by the fjords. There, I learned about woodcarving.” Six months later, the war interrupted again. The Germans, who had occupied Norway, took my grandfather to their work camp, where he was imprisoned for seven months.
“They took me to the mountains of Alta, all the way up North,” he said, the pain of these memories glistening in his small, deep-set blue eyes. He looked straight at me, fixing me with his eyes but not stern in his gaze, “I don’t like to [tink] about that, you know.” I nodded silently. “You don’t need to hear all about [dat], do you?” He asked, somewhat uneasy. I shook my head; he sighed in relief.
“So many [tings] happened during the war I don’t like to [tink] about. [Dose] memories could [yust] be left behind,” he said. “But [dere] are many good memories in my life too,” he answered, smiling away the pain and shifting in his chair to find a more comfortable position for his back. I assured him that I only wanted to know about carpentry.
After the war, Grandpa returned south and enlisted in the Norwegian army, since finding a job was nearly impossible. After three months in boot camp, Grandpa had to decide whether to stay in the service or become a Merchant Marine. He chose to join the Merchant Marines. “I did [de] boot camp already, so now I wanted to see [de] world,” he said.
And see the world he did...eventually moving to Brooklyn, New York, and later to Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, where he built his family.
So what's your family's WWII story? If you don't know it, find out today. And remember, it doesn't have to be from the veteran's point of view; everyone who lived through that period was impacted by the war.