One of our University of Chicago alumni publications — a pamphlet aimed toward older boomer alums — featured an interesting article, A Geriatrician’s Guide to Healthy Aging.
Penned by William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Chicago Chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, the short piece offers general aging advice in four categories:
- Staying active
- Maintaining relationships
- Keeping our personal health records
- Finding a doctor who is comfortable treating older patients
Dr. Dale is also the author of My Father’s Life and Death from Cancer, a description of his experiences during the last months of his father’s life. This article appeared in a 2011 edition of Medicine on the Midway, another Chicago alumni publication.
From a posting on Facebook by A Bittersweet Season author, Jane Gross. A bit scary, I think.
Some 29 states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can’t afford to take care of themselves. These “filial responsibility” laws have rarely been enforced, but six years ago when federal rules made it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid long-term care coverage, some elder law attorneys predicted that nursing homes would start using the laws as a way to get care paid for.
Tomorrow I am co-leading a workshop at my school about blogging. One question I am always asked when I talk about my blogs and the huge body of writing I’ve created is, “What got me started?”
In October 2009 I began work on this blog, AsOurParentsAge.net, with encouragement from my husband. His mother, Betty, was near the end of her life. Essentially, helping to care for her filled up our non-work times and had for two years. When we were not at our jobs, we were assisting Mother in some way.
We both felt a strong need to write it all down — mostly so we could think about and process our experiences later — and I took on the task. My husband was way too busy with caregiving to offer more than enthusiasm and editorial assistance. Once I started, however, I discovered I had much to write on topics related to aging. I found my voice.
That this writing continues — what I call the stick-to-it factor — I attribute to father, a lifelong journal writer. In 1947 Dad, now age 89, began writing in spiral notebooks, later switching to computers, and more recently using his iPad — although a spiral notebook is always within an arm’s reach. (Check out the iPad for Dad blog posts.) He was writing in journals years before I was born.
Below is a short blog post I wrote about my dad in 2010 and his writing. He is surely my model.
Memories of Dad’s Journaling
For as long as I can remember my father has kept a journal. I have memories, even from earliest childhood, of dad taking a few minutes to record his thoughts. It did not seem to matter where we were — at home, on a vacation, at the park, or attending one of his many conferences at colleges or universities — he was always writing.
In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.
While it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with elders. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)
The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help individuals who are Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?
As a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.
In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.
Each year, during the two-month holiday season, I see an article or two urging adult children to use the holiday visits as an opportunity to spy — discretely, of course — during family gatherings. The goal is to discover how well parents are doing.
When it comes to the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and the activities of daily living (ADLs), the trick is to observe how well these tasks are accomplished and share those observations with a parent. I know that writers are using the word spy in a puckish manner — trying to add a bit of levity to a serious and potentially stressful family situation, but I’d still like to lose the word.
As we go about helping our parents find ways to maintain independence while aging gracefully, we need to be honest and direct — as much as possible. Sure, it’s difficult to speak about extra support and less independence when a parent who has lead a successful and fulfilling life feels a great sense of loss.
However, the concept of spying, no matter how discrete, just complicates the communication.
A few years ago, when my mother-in-law was sinking deeper and deeper into dementia, my husband and I suddenly realized, with some help from professional geriatric counselors, that the devious brain disease had been lurking for some time. Although we had noticed a number of memory issues and behaviors, we continually chalked them up to mundane issues of aging and personality. By the time we realized what was really going on and got serious about supporting his mother, she was well into the fourth stage of dementia, and we had missed many opportunities to offer support.
When I first read Inside the Dementia Epidemic by Martha Stettinius, I could not put it down. Right in front of my eyes, the author described and documented almost every step that her mother (and ours) experienced, first early on and then as it progressed incrementally. I wish that the book had been around for us to read five or six years ago.
Inside the Dementia Epidemic should be required reading for anyone who is beginning to notice changes and to feel concern about an elderly parent. Stettinius writes clearly, though not without emotion, about her caregiving role and her mother’s developing illness, sharing observations, explaining how her mother was changing, noting the effects of caregiving on her family’s life, and documenting the many caregiver support services that she found to be personally helpful. She describes the nuances of aging parental finances, sharing what she learned, pinpointing her mistakes, and highlighting the difficult decisions that she and her husband made.
It’s that time of year again — the open season when Medicare beneficiaries keep, change, or make modifications to their prescription drug benefit plans (Part D).
A September 25th Associated Press (AP) article, Report: Double-Digit Premium Hikes Seen in 7 of 10 Top Medicare Prescription Drug Plans appeared online in The Washington Post. Adult children with elder parents should treat this article as an excellent primer that can help them understand more about their parents’ prescription benefits.
The AP article discusses a report by Avalere Health. This report finds that “seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if beneficiaries don’t shop for a better deal.” The report/press release is about three pages and includes three easy-to-read tables (see linked image at right).
A Few Highlights and Salient Points from the AP Article Read more »
Adult children who help aging parents should check out the Washington Post article At End of Life, Medicare Beneficiaries Spend Thousands Out-of-Pocket. Reporter Sarah Kliff explains that a recent study, Out of Pocket Spending in the Last Five Years of Life (abstract), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, examined the amount of money that aging Medicare recipients spend on health care during the last five years of life. The abstract leads to the first two pages of the study, freely available.
According to the Post article, “The average Medicare beneficiary spent $38,688 out-of-pocket during the last five years of life.” This is in addition to the portion that Medicare covers. The Post article also features two excellent charts.
Researchers studied people who died between 2002 and 2008 using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), based at the University of Michigan. HRS is a large nationally representative study funded launched in 1992 and funded by the National Institute on Aging.