Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, November 26, 2007

What Older Women Do…

I was talking with a friend today, musing about another friend who is moving out of state and wondering how she’ll find making friends in her mid-fifties. Seems that the older we get, the harder it is to break into established cliques so it takes longer to blend in. Then we started talking about some of the things Mom said while she was here, talking about what older women do—and what we want to avoid.

Mom said that when she goes on a bus trip or to a Bingo game, the women seem to think they have assigned seats. She’ll try to sit down and be told, “Oh you can’t sit here. That’s Mabel’s seat.” She’ll try another seat and get the same response. The cliques are well established. Pretty soon she’s sitting off on the side by herself.

Mom frets and worries about everything. She was up at 6:00 this morning so she could be ready for our 9:00 departure to the train. She was dressed before I was even up. She didn’t want to be late, you know.

She tries to remain independent by doing things that either we can do easier and faster, or more importantly, safer. In doing so, she puts herself at risk. I get so frustrated, but I understand that she doesn’t want to become dependent. She mentioned that she needs to clean the gutters on her home. I suggested she might want to hire someone. At 86, she doesn’t need to be climbing ladders! No, she thinks she can do it.

She’s also unwilling to ask for help. We had to insist that she ask the conductors to help with her luggage. I know that’s common to her generation, but it’s so frustrating. You know that people would be happy to help a sweet little old lady if only she’d let them.

So, we’re wondering as we’re aging, what we can do to avoid becoming like so many older women—stubborn, petty, controlling, and set in our ways. How do we remain flexible, gracious, and confident? We know that we are becoming the older women we will be. What steps can we take now to become the women we want to be?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Travel Lesson

We had an interesting experience yesterday. We had invited my mom to spend the week with us, but rather than driving over to get her, we tried an experiment and had her take the train. That in itself was an ordeal. There’s no train service from her town, so my sister drove her to Sacramento to avoid her having to take a bus and transfer. She got on the train fine, and arrived on this end fine. We were to pick her up in a town about 30 minutes from here, but it took almost an hour in traffic. She didn’t quite know where to get off, and almost missed the stop. We had them page her. Finally she gained her land legs and came tottering off the train. The conductor followed with her bag and brought it to us as we were walking toward her. We got her settled into the car and drove home.

When we got home, she was showing me her new suitcase and commenting on all the pockets she hadn’t seen and wondering why she hadn't filled them. Then she opened the lid – and it wasn’t her bag! It had someone else’s stuff in it! Amazingly, right inside there was a package with a name and address near Sacramento and a San Jose phone number. Very odd. I had no idea if this was the other passenger’s destination, but it was all I had to work on. I called and got a machine. I left a message, explaining that we had this suitcase and wondered if they had ours. Then I called Amtrak and learned that they don’t have a system for dealing with lost luggage…

While I was on the phone, the San Jose party called and sure enough, it was her mom’s suitcase. She was almost beside herself. Her mom’s medications were in the suitcase, and of course, her mom was frantic. They had left Mom’s suitcase at the San Jose train station in the care of the ticket agent named Patricia. The San Jose daughter called and arranged for us to make the trade with Patricia. Hubby and I got in the car with the other suitcase—right at rush hour, of course. We finally got to San Jose, where we retrieved Mom’s suitcase from Patricia and left the other lady’s with her. What a delightful and caring lady Patricia was—kudos to her! We finally got home, having driven five hours during the day—more than a one-way trip to Mom’s!

Interesting story, but so what? Well, we learned something that we had never thought about despite having traveled much of the world. Mom didn’t have a phone number in her luggage—just her name and home address on the luggage tag, which is all we have on ours. A lot of good that did! There was no one home to take a call, even if they had been able to look up a phone number. The other lady, perhaps accidentally, had her daughter’s phone number in plain view, and that was how we were able to make a connection that otherwise would have been impossible.

So, when your parents travel, make sure they have a destination number or cell phone number in their luggage. If the luggage is locked, put it on the tag. If your parent doesn’t have a cell phone, have her put yours in plain view inside. That way if she and her luggage are separated, the finder can locate you. And hubby and I realized that we should do the same when we travel. We’re going to start putting our cell numbers on our luggage—just in case.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Another resource for Gen Sandwichers

Backed by $6 million in venture and tested by 2,000 users, targets the roughly 34 million adults providing personal aid, financial assistance, or both, to an older family member.

According to MSNBC, the Web site covers everything from what to ask when a parent receives a cancer or Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, how to assess driving skills, information on financial, housing and end-of-life issues, to tips for dealing with a difficult sibling.

It uses the latest technology that allows users to assign a rating to articles, which are then ranked according to usefulness.

While the site aims to be a one-stop-shop for information, Andy Cohen, chief executive and co-founder, said the site is also a community for caregivers — mostly 'baby boomers' born between 1946 and 1964 — who can feel overwhelmed by responsibility and isolated from friends.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Do We Really Want Nationalized Health Care?

With the elections coming, there’s a lot of talk about government sponsored health programs. The House has recently tried to increase the number of children covered by the SCHIP program. As I scan articles for this blog, there are many that advocate “Medicare for all.” While I understand the desire for health insurance by those who can’t afford it, what most people don’t know is that it’s government involvement in health care that has made it unaffordable. Until the feds implemented Medicare and Medicaid in the late 1960s, most families could afford the care they needed. But in the past 40-some years, increased regulation and distortions in the payment systems has made it impossible for all but the wealthy and well-insured to afford medical care.

Is the answer more government coverage—or less? Or is there a way to fix the private sector? An article from Europe discusses problems in the Irish national health system. We hear similar problems from Canada, England, New Zealand, and other nations with nationalized health. Why do we think it would be any different here? When is the last time the government did anything well? (Think Medicare Part D…).

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boomers Nearing Retirement -- or Are They?

Liz Taylor of the Seattle Times offers some fascinating – and frightening—stats on the status of retirement and retirees today. She talks about the 78 million Baby Boomers who have started turning 60. She states:

In 2000, Americans 65 or older accounted for 12 percent of the population. In 2030, that figure will climb to nearly 20 percent. Yet in 2075, when every boomer is dead, people 65 or older will be 23 percent of the population. The numbers will go up, not down.

The shift is the result of two immutable forces that have been going on for decades and will continue: declining mortality and declining fertility.

This "demographic tsunami" has no precedent.

There’s a litany of institutions and supports that will soon be overwhelmed — Social Security, Medicare, assisted living, our doctors' offices — yet the issue is barely on the public's radar.

When Social Security chose age 65 as the official retirement age in 1935, the average life expectancy was only 63. Today, boomers who make it to age 60 are likely to live to 83.

Employers are responding with more flexible schedules and benefits to attract seniors who will work into their 70s and even 80s, both because they are healthier and because they have not saved for retirement.

There’s a lot more information in the article. Worth reading and pondering. How are you coping with being an aging Boomer?

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Boomers Not Prepared To Care For Aging Parents

A recent study commissioned by AARP suggests that many of us Boomers aren’t prepared to provide the care or oversight needed by our aging parents. According to Elinor Ginzler, director of livable communities for the American Association of Retired Persons,

Talking about how to care for elderly parents in the middle of a crisis is the worst and most difficult time to do so. That’s why planning ahead is so important.

If plans are made before a crisis hits, it’s more likely that plans will be in place that all family members want. And that’s as important for aging parents to know as it is for their children.

Somebody will decide where you spend the rest of your life — make sure it is you. When we operate in a crisis, it is rarely you who gets to make that decision.

According to Ginzler, topics of conversation with your parents should include:

Issues to discuss with aging parents include:

• How to pay for long-term care, and if long-term care insurance is needed.

• How older parents will get around when they can no longer drive.

• How older parents can continue bill-paying and other periodic maintenance such as yard work and auto registration.

• What older parents want their futures to be like.

• Assessment of current needs and current situations.

Of course, it helps if the parent is willing and able to look at life rationally. Unfortunately, even after the death of her husband, my mom is convinced that she’ll be able to stay in her home, maintain her affairs, and keep driving forever. And wishing will make it so…

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Managing Care Giver Stress

Do you feel stretched thin balancing the care giving demands of your children and aging parents? It’s becoming a more common problem all the time. Sherrie Le Masurier has suggestions for managing and taking care of yourself at the same time. She has some good ideas. Simple, but good reminders.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Now Here’s a Thoughtful Gift…

Here’s a new one. Just in time for the holidays, you'll be able to buy Dad a gift card that pays for his semiannual trip to the urologist.

That's gotta rank below socks and underpants, no?

Highmark Inc., the Pittsburgh-based health insurer, has developed a new Healthcare Gift Card that they hope will encourage people who might be reluctant to visit the doctor or spend their money on prescriptions -- namely, seniors and college students -- to do so. They expect a big market from GenSandwichers.

The card itself costs $4.95, and can be loaded with as little as $25, which might cover a prescription co-pay, to as much as $5,000, which could pay for an elective surgery, such as Lasik. So if you’re at a loss for what to get Mom or Dad, here ya go!

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