Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, April 28, 2008

California and US Not Prepared for Aging Population

According to a new report from the Institute for Medicine, "Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce," neither California nor the nation are ready to deal with the social and health care needs of the aging population. Some key findings in the report include:

The percentage of Californians over 65 is expected to jump from 10 percent of the state population in 2000 to 17.5 percent in 2030. The baby boom generation begins to turn 65 in 2011.

There is a shortage in specialists in geriatrics, not just among physicians but also social workers, rehab therapists, speech therapists and nurses. Altogether, there are 7,100 geriatricians (physicians) in the United States - one per every 2,500 older Americans - and less than 1 percent of registered nurses are certified in geriatrics.

Turnover among nurse aides, who often care for the elderly, averages 71 percent annually, and up to 90 percent of home health aides leave their low wage jobs within the first two years. The national average is $8.50 (per hour) for personal or home-care aides.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cleaning Out

While at Mom’s last week, we focused on some safety issues. If you’re a Gen Sandwicher, you might want to check these next time you visit your parents.
We cleaned out the pantry and freezer. Mom is a Depression child, and still has a Depression mentality. She shops at the dollar store and is always picking up “good deals” on sale. However, her appetite isn’t what it used to be, so she eats far less than when her husband was living at home. In fact, she still buys foods that he liked but that she won’t eat. Her pantry was packed with expired foods and many things she knew she’d never eat, and most of the food in the freezer had freezer burn. We gave items that were still good to my sister and brother. Unfortunately, we tossed a lot.

We cleaned out expired meds. She still had a lot of prescription bottles from my step dad. Many of them were years out of date, as were many of hers. Her mobile home park has a recycling program where they dispose of some and send others overseas. I’m not sure about this, but hopefully it’s managed by a pharmacist.

We started cleaning out her closets. Here again the Depression mentality was prominent. Mom has clothes in at least three sizes, all co-mingled in the closet. Many of them were worn out years ago, but “you never know” when she might need them. She wasn’t willing to part with much, but we did get rid of two pair of bright orange pants and some sweaters that are now too heavy for her frail frame. This will be a progressive task, but we did free a little space for her and put together a few new combinations for her.

Many of our parents have a tendency to hoard “just in case.” It’s hard for them to let go of their “stuff.” I think that in addition to the Depression mentality, letting go of stuff reinforces their frailty and mortality. Of course, I should talk. I’m not eager to part with my stuff either.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Gardening for us Old Folks

I love gardening. Spring is my favorite time of year, when I can get out and clean up from the winter and plant my veggies and flowers. I’ve been frustrated that our weather has been too cold and windy to get outside much. Unseasonably cold. So Saturday, the wind died down a little and I finally got out to do some weeding. Three hours of weeding… Problem is, I have a hip that wants to be replaced. Now, I’m really careful when I’m gardening, but apparently not careful enough. I ended up with terrible hip pain, which still hasn’t subsided. I can barely walk. It’s the worst pain I’ve experienced yet, and looks like I’m going to need that replacement after all. And then I read this article on Tips for Aging Gardeners. Too bad I didn’t read it Saturday morning!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Tear Jerker

Are you ready for a good cry? Listen and watch this music video by Josh Grobin!

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vigorous Exercise Slows Aging

Well, we knew it. Now the studies confirm it. Vigorous walking for an hour a day five times a week can chop a dozen years off the biological age of people 64 and older, according to Roy Shephard, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, reported online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A review of recent studies in patients age 64 and older showed that such a regimen can boost maximal oxygen intake by about 25% within three months, effectively decreasing biological age by about 12 years. That sounds good to me!

I know I need to exercise more, and I know that lack of exercise is at least partially to blame for my health problems now. I really do need to develop some better habits, but darn I hate exercise! Now I’ve got an arthritic hip that has kept me from walking much for a couple of years. I think the time for replacement is drawing near, but the thought of allowing anyone to cut off the bone in my leg makes me more than a little squeamish. Oh the joys of aging.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Four Days at Mom's

I told you about the crazy month up to Easter. We had a lovely dinner with friends and family. On the Tuesday after Easter, we had to rush the kids out by 11:00 so we could get to Mom’s by 3:00. We had an appointment with her attorney to do her taxes. She’s always had them done at the Senior Center by AARP, but with my step dad’s death last year, her advisor thought he should do them this year. We made it to town by 3:00 for our 4:00 appointment. Looks like she won’t have to pay, and will even get her little piece of the economic stimulus refund.

The next day we had an appointment with her primary care doc. Mom has been sick since before Christmas. She had a viral infection that turned into walking pneumonia. When she first got it, all she had was a tight, burning in her back. No other symptoms. She assumed it was pleurisy and was ignoring it, but I was concerned about pneumonia. The first time she went to the doctor it was just a bacterial infection. He gave her antibiotics. When she went back a few weeks later, she had walking pneumonia. He gave her prednisone and an anti-depressant. She also had a bad case of laryngitis, making it impossible for her to talk for more than a few minutes. This has continued. Her doc had run some lab work and now thinks she has polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), diagnosed by a high sed rate. I guess this is a fairly common diagnosis for seniors, but I had never heard of it. The symptoms seem to fit, however. More prednisone at a higher dosage. (However, since taking it she now has a rash, so he’s stopped it until we see him next week.)

The next day we had an appointment with her hematologist who is following some odd blood protein disorder, which he thinks is MGUS (Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance), which apparently isn’t very significant unless it turns into multiple myoloma. Of course, she calls him her cancer doctor, already having determined that it’s lethal.

While there, I sorted and shredded a lot of old financial records. I’m blessed that Mom isn’t in denial. She knows her time is limited and she suggested that we get started sorting through stuff she doesn’t need to keep. We drove home on Friday, pretty tired.

I’m finding that spending that long with her is very wearing on me. Everything is a catastrophe. Everything is more serious that it is. She is a terrible worrier, as if that were going to add a minute to her life.

I’ve spent the past week just trying to get caught up here. After my busy month there were the usual bills to pay, mail to open, and work to try to get caught up with. I spent far too long looking for things I remember putting somewhere…. I worked too hard and too long, and now am sick. I had been fighting it all month with lots of Wellness Formula, an amazing immune system booster which has kept me healthy for the past two years. But, yesterday I felt myself losing the battle. Today I’m resting, juicing, and trying to not let it sink into a full-blown cold. We’re supposed to go back to Mom’s on Wednesday to celebrate her birthday and be with her for the anniversary of step dad’s death. As fragile as she is, there’s no way I can go if I’m sick. So today I’m resting in my recliner doing what I can from here and dozing.

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