Learning About Retinas: Aging Parents and Adult Children

You can also check out my other posts about eyes and retinas.

Image from National Eye Institute (NIH)

Image from National Eye Institute (NIH)

After going through five cataract surgeries with four senior parents and listening to people fret about floaters in their eyes, I thought I knew a lot about middle age and senior eye problems. But now I know that floaters can lead to flashes which can lead to retinal tears. More importantly a retinal tear may lead to a detached retina. A detached retina means that “… the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye has separated from its supporting layers.” (Medline Plus)

In retrospect, I did not know enough about retinal disorders to be of any help to members of my family or even to myself. I’m betting that other adult children are a lot like me. I knew I had a few floaters in my eyes, and I was aware that my eye doctor regularly asked me if I experienced flashes. So a light went on — albeit a dim one — after a few days of regular flashes (in my case sort of like lightning bolts) in my right eye.

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Aging Parents, Adult Children: Back Aches!

Most of us have experienced back aches of some type, and a fair number of our senior parents have back pain even more often than we do. For me, the only solution is to wait out a back ache and keep moving, even if it doesn’t feel so good to move (and it doesn’t). Most of us hurt, obsess, and use pillows — I do especially when I play the piano — wondering all the time why modern medicine cannot provide minimal medical care (a visit to a doc, a prescription, a quick co-pay, voila no pain) to solve the problem. Then one day the pain starts going away, at least a bit, though sometimes it doesn’t for a long time. While back pain can be, well — a pain — I do not want to even think about surgery.

Note:  If I exercise  and stretch regularly (4-5 times a week) my back pain is minimal. If I don’t exercise for a while, say for a week, the back pain returns at some point, and for the exercise and stretching to start working again takes some time. Check out this MedlinePlus tutorial about preventing back pain. When I am working hard to keep back aches at bay — which I should be all of the time — I use these exercises from the Mayo Clinic website in addition to walking and exercising on an elliptical trainer.

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Senior Gait Speed and Life Expectancy

Bob (not his real name) is an active man in his mid-90’s. Whenever we made early morning visits to his senior community, we found him up and walking before breakfast. If the day was especially cold, he made rounds of the various corridors, regularly changing floors and always waving a cheerful good-morning to residents emerging from their apartments. Suffice it to say, he was vigorous. Watching Bob made me wonder about walking and older seniors and also made me think about the need to keep moving.

Early this month (January 2011), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article, Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults (abstract — article is not freely available). Researchers analyzed data from nine studies that examined gait and older adults, and the participants in all of the studies were community dwelling seniors, 34,485 in all. All were age 65 and older, and African-American and Hispanic communities were well represented. An individual’s gait speed was calculated in meters per second after walking from eight feet to six meters.

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Dale Carter – Transitioning Your Aging Parents Book Tour

Click to purchase this book.

Dale Carter’s book, Transitioning Your Aging Parent, is a must read for anyone with senior parents who need extra support. The book has been well reviewed — a resource that helps right now, and honestly, it still may be a useful resource years from now when we require support from our children. Follow Dale’s blog, Transition Aging Parents, her blog radio podcasts, or just chat with her for a short time.  You’ll discover she’s a born communicator who uses web 2.0 digital tools to share her expertise.

Now Dale is heading off on a author’s tour, traveling in a few days to the Atlanta area and then on to Florida. In this day and age of instant digital communication, a book tour seems almost a quaint literary device from the past, so I am always glad to hear that a friend or colleague is off on a tour to share a book and meet potential readers up close and in person.

If you live in the Atlanta area or in Florida, check out Dale’s post on her blog to get additional information about the book tour and take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about gently and respectfully helping parents — not to mention yourself — through a time of life that can be challenging for everyone involved.

Maybe her next tour can be in my area — Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC,

Waiting for a Doc or for Anything Else: Possible Things to Do

Waiting for an appointment in a medical office is a pain in itself and not just senior parents. All of us hate sitting around, inactivity enforced, while we wait for someone to help us. If I don’t plan ahead, bringing something to do so I can use the time, I gently chide myself, because it’s a given that people wait at certain appointments.

Over at SeniorHomes.com blog, the post 15 Things to Do While Waiting in a Doctor’s Office by Shelley Webb R.N., has good suggestions that can make productive use of waiting time — just the right tone for the start of a new year. While I find that the seniors in my life tend to be more impatient than I do, anyone can make use of these suggestions no matter where the waiting occurs. (The other day I sat at the bank for over 20 minutes.)

Below are my three favorites from the list, things that I often put off, so working on them when need to wait in one place for more than a few minutes is an intriguing idea. I’ve added an editorial comment or two and a suggestion at the end. Continue reading

Many Seniors Don’t Know About Medicare Extra Help Subsidy

According to a January 4, 2011 Kaiser Health News (KHN) article, many American seniors who qualify for a Medicare Part D subsidy that reduces prescription costs have not signed up. The article, 2 Million Medicare Beneficiaries Missing Out On Discounted Drug Coverage, explains that the program, called Extra Help, lowers medication costs and reduces money spent in Part D doughnut hole.

This is a significant program that the children of senior parents should learn about, especially if their parents’ incomes are limited. A Kaiser Family Foundation research study estimates that nearly 2.3 million people qualify but have not signed up for the program, despite a huge amount of publicity, direct mail and even ads and video broadcasts (see video below) with Chubby Checker — the rock musician who popularized the twist in 1960. Checker, now age 69 is eligible for Medicare benefits. The KHN article provides more detailed information.

The article describes who is can sign up for the Extra Help benefits: Continue reading