Stop Saying These Three Things to Elder Adults!

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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

Advice-giving, Aging Parents & Adult Children

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My parents and me.

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.

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Jane Gross Lecture on Caregiving and Her Family

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.17.20 PMLast fall Jane Gross, journalist and author of A Bittersweet Season, spoke about her experiences supporting and caring for her elderly mother. The presentation at Brethren Village, a retirement community in Lancaster, PA, shares observations, experiences, things she wishes she had done, and much more.

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5 Family Caregiving Facts from Pew Research Center

Pew Family Caregiving GraphIf you provide caregiving support to a family member, take a few minutes to read a short article about Five Facts About Family Caregivers at the Pew Research Center website. The short article offers details from a survey that collected information about participants’ views concerning caring for aging parents, part of a larger Pew project that focused on Family Support in Graying Societies.The image at right is one of the graphs from the article.

The information presented in this report includes data collected from participants about their views on family caregiving in the United States including:

  • the different people for whom family members provide care;
  • the ages at which people are most likely to become caregivers;
  • that most family caregivers are unpaid and not providing financial aid to the family member for whom they offer support;
  • how emotional support appears to be a significant part of the caregiving responsibilities; and
  • the rewards and stress that caregivers experience.

In addition to the graph at the right, the article features several more images that depict survey data and much more information, especially if you click to look at the more comprehensive report. Pew reports that surveys were conducted from October to December 2014 among 1,692 adults in the United States, 1,700 in Germany, and 1,516 in Italy.

Famed Clinicians: Prepared but Not Ready for Death

In Memoriam page at the National Institute on Aging

In Memoriam page at the National Institute on Aging – Click to enlarge.

When we think about dying, about the end of our lives, we may look to the experts for guidance — to those people who have long experience with various aspects of aging and the medical issues that complicate the process of dying. We assume that these people have their own end of life details all worked out.

This week a New York Times article by Alexandra Butler, a poet, helped us gaze into the experience of the well-prepared.

Robert N. Butler, M.D., the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, and his wife, Myrna Lewis, a social worker who specialized in support for older women, had all of the details worked out, and they shared all of this information with their daughter. Their preparations, so well conceived and worked out, assumed that Dr. Butler would pass away before his wife, but this did not happen. Just like anyone else, these two experts were confused at the unexpected turn of events. Moreover, when his wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, it became clear that while they prepared and saw to the arrangements for the end-of-life, being prepared for death is a lot different than being ready to die.

In her article, Alexandra Butler writes that despite the uncertainty and challenge of watching her parents die, she was very glad that they had made the preparations for palliative care with no extraordinary interventions.

No one wants to die. Some people handle this by avoiding the topic — and the preparations. Others handle it by speaking incessantly about the expectation of dying. Still others, work hard to ensure that each minute detail is in place, so that family members spend time saying good-bye. Dr. Butler, who is also the individual who coined the term ageism, was prepared, but as his daughter points out, he was not ready.

When Dr. Butler died in 2010, I wrote this post for AsOurParentsAge.

Best Quotes

  • Our deaths are the last message we leave for those we love.
  • In a world where so many of our fellow human  beings live with threats of terror and destruction, if you are lucky enough to imaging you might have any measure of control over how you die, that is a privilege that would not go to waste.

Alexander Butler’s perspective offers support and encouragement to those of us — adult children and aging parents — as we navigate the the final years of aging.

Fitness Age vs. Chronological Age

Adult children should check out the October 2013 New York Times Well Blog article, What’s Your Fitness Age? The piece by Gretchen Reynolds shares information about the concept of fitness age — it can differ significantly from an individual’s chronological age — and how researchers calculate the measurement for individuals.

Reynolds points out in the article that, while we cannot change our chronological age, we can do things that improve our fitness age. The research took place at a Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim with results published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (abstract), a journal published by the American College of Sports Medicine.      Continue reading