The intersection of elderly parents and multiple medications continues to be a conundrum for many adult children. It certainly is for my family! Two recent Washington Post articles about medication issues may be useful for the children or aging adults to read and then share with one another.
In Older Patients Sometimes Need to Get Off of Their Meds, but It Can Be a Struggle, physician Ravi Parikh writes about evaluating medications with the aim of de-prescribing some of the medicines that people take. He describes the struggles that can arise when patients hesitate to go off medications that they have been taking for years, because their sense is that their medications are working. People are reluctant to associate physical problems with medications that they already take, so when new symptoms arise, many people seek a prescription for that problem and are less inclined to examine whether or not the new problem might be caused by medications they already take.
In April 2016 the health writer Jane Brody wrote a powerful essay in the New York Times Personal Health column, Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond. She described the importance of focusing, as we age, on a healthy life style and maintaining social relationships as well as adjusting to age-related physical changes that occur. Brody specifically noted that we need to make individual adjustments to reduce the risk of falls.
All-in-all, the article, mostly focused on women, but much also applicable to men, encouraged people to think in all sorts of ways about what they can do to stay as healthy and strong as possible as aging progresses.
I am still a distance from age 70, yet Brody’s New York Times article offered a wake-up call — reminding me to think about my own aging and any potential issues. I thought a lot about the things we have already done in our own house to prevent falling problems and considered what else we might do. And then, a few weeks later, I fell.
When they speak to elderly seniors, middle-age children and and other adults tend to say things, often unintentionally, that demonstrate a lack of respect and empathy.
Sometimes it happens when a person tries to solve a problem quickly; at others the goal is to move along getting to work or school on time. Not infrequently adult children are frustrated when they need to repeat things which they have already said multiple times. Unfortunately, every time we make one of these comments, the elders in our lives grimace, sigh, or merely shake their heads, making allowances for our rudeness. We don’t mean to say unkind, disrespectful, and yes slightly nutty, things to our elder family members and friends, but we do.
As I’ve talked with elder adults that I know, I’ve discovered three phrases that they dislike hearing. Continue reading →
When I attended my first school reunion with a family member, just a few years after graduating from college, the people attending their 35th, 45th and 50th reunions seemed really old. At a Saturday luncheon table near the back of an old-fashioned field house, we watched and clapped, somewhat wondrously, as the different classes stood to be recognized, beginning with a man attending his 70th reunion who moved around slowly with a walker.
The old observatory at the school — now a National Landmark.
Gradually the master of ceremonies worked his way from the front to the back of the room – 65th, 60th, 55th, 50th, 45th. It wasn’t until we reached the class attending its 30th reunion that the alumni started to look, well … not old. It took half-an-hour to reach our tables filled with raucous young men who along with wives and partners, had barely finished with graduate school.
My older peelers gave our aging parents trouble when they tried to hold it.
Transgenerational design is a manufacturing concept for products that are useful for people of all ages and the design also ensures that older individuals will be able to use a product even as they age and their circumstances change.
Some years ago when my husband’s mother was recovering from a stroke, she made it clear to everyone that she wanted to return to her home. My husband and I were newcomers to the aging parent support scene, so when the social worker and physicians at the hospital suggested that we give Mother a personal safety device that she could wear around her neck, we readily agreed.
When my mother-in-law recovered enough to go home, we signed a contract with a company that worked with the local hospital, and we showed her how to wear the device. She accepted it and seemed to wear it most of the time, but sometimes we noticed that she was not wearing it, especially when we dropped in unexpectedly. Over the next few months, Mother wore it less and less, commenting that she did not need it, but when we sat down to have a conversation about it, she pointed out that it was ugly. “Why can’t it look like a piece of jewelry,” she wondered. “Then I’d be happy to wear it all the time.”
Advice-giving can trip up the elder parent – adult child relationship and even cause painful divisions between parent and child.
My mother will ask me a question and the answer is fairly straightforward, but then I’ll keep on answering, advising, really. At other times, I offer unsolicited advice about one thing or another. Usually my mother listens, but it’s not uncommon for her to give me the aggravated look that she used when I was five years old and not following her directions. It’s miraculous that my parents, while momentarily irritated with me, are quick to forgive and, yes, even offer me their own advice. We trust one another, and that’s key.
I know that I should be better about offering too much advice, but it’s hard.
A thoughtful article, The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice, posted at Krista Tippett’s On Being website, has encouraged me to think about the advice I so effortlessly offer my mom. In his essay, On Being columnist Parker J. Palmer writes that people who need support find it considerably more helpful when we concentrate on listening and asking questions and give advice only when a person insists that we give it. I need to get better at asking questions.