Oliver Sacks’ Perspective on the End of His Life

musicophilia-1-194x300The direction of every life can change in a moment. We learn this as we age and also as we support elder parents.

In his February 19, 2015, New York Times’ opinion piece, My Own Life, Dr. Oliver Sacks illustrates how fast things can change. If you missed his article, it’s a stirring description of what it’s like to feel good and robust at one moment and discover a metastasized cancer tumor at the next. There is nothing unique about this situation — it happens all the time. What is unusual is that a person takes the time to write about it and the ending of life with intimacy and clarity.

Dr. Sacks, a neurologist who has written many books about our brains and how they work — my personal  favorite is Musicicophilia — is in his eighties and a professor at New York University’s School of Medicine. The movie Awakenings, with Robin Williams portraying Dr. Sacks, was based on his book of the same name.  Continue reading

Writing a Parent’s Remembrance, Part I

Marti Weston:

Recently I’ve spoken with quite a few friends about writing remembrances when a parent passes away. So I am reblogging a post that I wrote about this significant memorial task — one that is simultaneously wonderful and difficult. The posts links to other pieces that relate to writing remembrances.

Originally posted on As Our Parents Age:

Other Posts Relating to Remembrances:   After a Parent’s Death: Writing a Remembrance, Part II,    After an Aging Parent’s Death: Obituaries and Remembrances,  Mother’s Memorial Service

When an elderly parent accumulates serious medical diagnoses, becomes weaker, and is sick more often than not, set aside time to review memories and talk about life. Engage in discussions, as a friend of ours suggested, while reflecting over photo albums, and consciously start conversations with “remember when” statements. Our friend’s advice was spot on, and my only suggestion to others is to begin these discussions as soon as possible.

We never addressed dying specifically because Mother did not want to go there, and there was no need. Instead, while she was still alert, though quite ill, we rambled through memories and recalled activities, favorite vacations, much-loved music, her granddaughter, favorite books, funny family stories, and so much more. Short but…

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Watching Ourselves Age With the Brown Sisters

Visit the Museum of Modern Art to learn more about the exhibit.

Visit the Museum of Modern Art to learn more about the exhibit.

Those of us with elder parents spend a lot of time thinking about age and change. As adult children, we observe the aging of our parents, but not infrequently we wonder aloud how they got so old. At the same time we don’t always notice how we, too, are growing older.

In October 2014 the New York Times Magazine published a feature by Susan Minot, Forty Portraits in Forty Years, that described the remarkable photographs of the Brown sisters. The photos, shot with the four women in the same order and with somewhat similar poses over 40 years, demonstrate with singular clarity how we grow older. Photographer Nicholas Nixon took the pictures, which were recently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.                       Continue reading

Elders Share Wisdom on Love: A Valentine’s Day Treat!

book-cover-200x300Adult children learn a lot from elder parents.

Take a few minutes to read Love Lessons From the Wisest Americanspublished over at the NextAvenue.org site and a great Valentine’s Day treat. The article, published on February 12, 2015, will help to clear up quite a few misconceptions about our aging parents.

Written by Suzanne Gerber, this piece describes research interviews with around 700 elders documenting what they say, looking back, about love and life. Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer, Ph.D conducted the research and wove it into a book, 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationship, and Marriage.

At his Vimeo video website, Dr. Pillemer has posted some of the interviews. You can also visit Dr. Pillemer’s Legacy Project website. Check them both out.

Best Quotes From the Article Continue reading

Does More Care Do More Good?

When we are sick, how much health care is good health care? These days when we call an ambulance, the medics rush in with all sorts of equipment and medications — called advanced life support, which replaces the basic life support that many of us learned in CPR classes.

Doing More for Patients Often Does No Good, a January 12, 2015 article appearing in the New York Times, makes the point that more advanced therapies and medical care do not guarantee higher quality or better outcomes. Written by Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., the piece shares a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that compared the outcomes for patients who had received life support — basic or advanced — before being admitted to the hospital. He also writes about other studies that appear to show how the most advanced emergency care does not necessarily mean longer survival.

Dr. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University Medical School, further reinforces this “more may be less” point of view by describing studies that show how women with breast cancer receive complex and also more expensive breast surgical cancer treatments that are no more effective than outcomes with a more standard breast conservation therapy.

This article requires readers to process fairly complex explanations about medical care, and it may be necessary to read some paragraphs more than once. Yet, it’s worth taking the time to understand that doing more medical care in many cases will not give us extra quality or a better outcome.

Reblogged: Please, Stop Sending Dreamcatchers: Or, How I Tried to Tame Charities Asking for Money

Marti Weston:

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Visit GuideStar.org

Check out the Mom and Dad Move In blog for some interesting insights and observations about caregiving.

An especially great post focuses on a charitable giving issue that affects lots of people. It is especially a problem for seniors who believe in the importance of giving and helping others and give lots of smaller contributions to many organizations. The situation is further complicated when elders give a memorial gift and the organization automatically adds them to the mailing list, thus adding even more solicitations.

Originally posted on mom and dad move in:

Our mailman, Chet, already struggled to deliver the bevy of catalogs my husband and I generated when it was just the two of us.

But after my parents moved in, Chet fled the U.S. Postal Service for a career in nursing. I always imagined his job change was fueled in part by the stacks and stacks of mail my parents received from charity and non-profit groups seeking money.

Giving money to organizations you believe in, groups that have a proven track record and groups that wisely spend your money  is admirable.

But we were pummeled with pleas from scores of charities, from the established SPCA to some group that claimed to help armless children paint with their toes. (These groups asked for money on the phone, too, but that’s a whole other story).

So we cut back on giving. Way back. I used the free website guidestar.com to ferret out…

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