When we look around at elders, it’s interesting (and a bit awesome) to observe many engaged and committed people leading rich lives for as long as they live — and often despite fairly daunting physical difficulties. I usually think of my parents who use their energy to help others and solve problems in the world, despite sometimes frustrating aging concerns and occasional physical roadblocks. Participating in these activities energizes them. My mother describes it as, “living the Sermon on the Mount.”
One of my favorite folk song books.
I’ve been thinking about Pete Seeger, the activist folksinger who died at age 94 about a month ago. An amazing and prolific musician — I’ve sung his songs since I was a baby — he taught us a lot about music and singing and, more importantly, how to sing along with others. Seeger also combined his music with a strong social conscience, using the songs to demonstrate the importance of helping others and improving the world, and he did these things it right up to the end of his life.
Pete — just about everyone I talk with thinks of him as Pete, whether they’ve ever met him or not — also demonstrated how well a determined and engaged person can overcome daunting problems and continue to live a successful life right through the late elderhood years.
We hear a lot about assisted living communities these days. If we need to learn more, we check out glossy brochures that describe each place in considerable and colorful detail. Sometimes we visit the community for a meal or to participate in a special event.
What we don’t see when we help a family member consider whether or not to move into an assisted living residence are the small details — the daily interactions of various personalities, the stories of individual community residents, and the ongoing narrative or body politic of daily life.
On her blog, Assisted Living: An Insider’s View, Carol Netzer, a four-year resident of an assisted living community, shares stories, experiences, and observations. A psychologist by training, Netzer possesses a keen eye for detail and a knack for storytelling. Each post describes a situation, a person, or an event, providing readers with a window through which to observe the successes and challenges of the day-to-day assisted living experience.
Just when you think that you have settled the most significant adult child-aging parent issues — when you and your parents have spoken about medical care support, finances, and the range of their end-of-life wishes — along comes another concern to worry about, and it’s one that may be completely out of our control.
We now need to be concerned about the possibility of a parent entering a hospital and assigned to observation status for several days. Observation means that, rather than being officially admitted as a patient, the person is there to be watched, sort of like an out-patient, but not really an out-patient. The problem is, it’s difficult to discover what status a hospital assigns a patient — the two look almost alike with nurses, doctors, hospital rooms, blood pressure checks, etc. Admission and observation do not look that different to the patient and family, and apparently many hospitals are not especially forthcoming with the information.
Why is patient status significant? It’s simple, really. If your parent needs to enter a skilled nursing facility or nursing home after three days of observation status, Medicare will not pay and the family will be required to pay all of the bills, including the hospital costs. For Medicare to pay the bills, a family member must be admitted as a patient for at least three days and not assigned observation status.
Over the past year newspapers and medical or health journals have carried stories about elders and observation, and I share them here so that you can learn as much as you can.
Those of us edging closer to retirement may be in for some surprises. We may discover that some of our friends and colleagues are thinking less about taking it easy in their later years and more about using the time to start a business.
A Bloomberg Personal Finance article, Older Americans Shun Retirement at 65 for Risky Startups, by Steve Matthews, describes how many boomers are opting to become entrepreneurs, turning their ideas into companies, and working hard to make their business grow. Quoting from a report by the Kauffman Foundation Matthews notes that, “People from 55 to 64 started 23.4 percent of the [new] companies in 2012.” The Kauffman Foundation offers support and information to people who are seeking become more independent by educational achievement and entrepreneurial activities. (Kauffman mission).
Aging parents and elders need to get a flu shot each year, and they also need to receive a pneumonia vaccination. And just about everyone else does, too.
Each fall I ask my parents about their flu shots (You can also read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza FAQ), and each year, by the time I get around to asking, they have already visited their doctor to receive their vaccinations. (Medicare covers an annual flu shot.) Several years ago they each also received the pneumonia vaccine, more formally known as pneumococcal vaccine. I wondered how often a person should receive the inoculation for pneumonia.
Recently as I was reading on another topic for this blog, I discovered — over at the WEB-MD site — that my parents should probably get a second pneumonia vaccine at the five-year mark. I’ve made a note to myself to ask them when we next visit so we can be sure they get the second shot at the appropriate time. Interestingly, while the flu shots are usually administered in the fall, the pneumonia shot can be given at any time of the year.
Yes, the world is aging. Every member of the boomer generation is getting tired of hearing about it. Yet, the media keep talking about the trend, and many people find it challenging to picture just what is happening, demographic wise.
The gif animations move quickly, so you will need to concentrate as they move along, and most likely you’ll need to watch each sequence several times. A fifth, non-animated graphic blends all of the information from the other four animations.