Archive | February, 2013

The Aging Crisis in Ontario

27 Feb

If you don’t think aging matters to you, watch this and think again.

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View from the Other Side

26 Feb

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This is the other side of the divide; the joy that comes from a life just beginning. For me, late motherhood is about so much more than juggling requests for depends, and doctors’ appointments. It’s also about early morning practices and driving to ice rinks at the opposite end of the city.
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Every Family Has its Issues

24 Feb

Caring for our aging loved ones can be difficult enough. But what if your relationship with an elderly parent is less than loving?

My mother in 1948, the year she met my father. So young, so beautiful, and full of hope for the future.

My mother in 1948, the year she met my father. So young, so beautiful, and full of hope for the future. She brought 50 pairs of high heeled shoes with her to  the retirement home. After I had them removed (upon doctor’s orders)she threatened to have me arrested.

I have written about my uncle and how special he was to me. I can honestly say the time I spent with him in his final years was done out of love and devotion. Unfortunately, when it comes to my mother, the support I provide is done so purely out of a sense of duty. I’m not going into the details, but our relationship has been strained for many years.  Still, she’s my mother, she’s alone, and she’s not well. And I suspect the situation is about to get more challenging.

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Lewy Body, How I Hate Thee

22 Feb

In honor of my uncle and on the 1st anniversary of his passing…….

You may not have heard of Lewy Body Disease but next to Alzheimer’s it is the second most common type of dementia-related illness in North America.

Individuals with Lewy Body dementia can be paranoid as well as have hallucinations involving people, children, and animals. They are also likely to have tremors and walk with a shuffling gait similar to what you would see in someone who has Parkinson’s disease. It is difficult to diagnose and frequently mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease.

Uncle Leo, Uncle Benny, and Uncle Hy, circa 1956.

Uncle Leo, Uncle Benny, and Uncle Hy, circa 1956.

The three gentleman in this photo were my father’s brothers and my favorite uncles (the woman with them was my grandmother).  They’re all gone now.  Benny was diagnosed with Lewy Body disease at 91. But it’s possible he had it long before he became noticeably unwell. While Leo was previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s likely he really had Lewy Body disease too.  Leo died in 2011 two months shy of his 90th birthday. All but his last six weeks were spent at home with family.

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Family Day? What’s Family Day?

18 Feb

Happy Family Day!

I am already sick of the Harlem Shake, but this version is worth sharing, just because it shows a lighter side of retirement home living.

Watch “Harlem Shake Senior Citizens – Retirement Home in Florida” on YouTube

Whoever says you lose your sense of humor when you get old, probably hasn’t spent much time with old people. Yesterday I eavesdropped on my mother’s 88-year-old estranged brother as he gave my seven-year-old son tips on how to pick up women. My mother and my uncle have not spoken in over 25 years.  They now live two doors apart in the same seniors home and they still don’t speak.  The notion of these warring siblings living in such close proximity during their final years is a source of amusement on both sides of the family divide.

I’m not sure if my uncle realized who I was, or if he grasped that the child he was speaking with is his great nephew. But he looked happy to have a young person pay him some attention.  And as my son and his Great Uncle chatted away, even my mother was smiling at the brother she can’t stand the sight of.

Let’s Take a Tour

17 Feb

Lisa Ling’s retirement home tour with her father brings back memories of similar tours, and similar feelings of resistance from my mother. We even went out for a bowl of noodle soup after one such tour.

Watch “Secret Lives of Seniors: Lisa Ling’s Struggle with her Aging Father – Our America – OWN” on YouTube

#Let’s Talk — Depression and the Elderly

15 Feb

Talking about mental health is important. Doing something about ending the stigma of mental health issues is even more important.  No matter what your age, we are all vulnerable. That’s because there are  no age restrictions whatsoever when it comes to mental illness.  Just as more and more organizations are talking about children’s mental health, we need to talk more about the elderly and mental health too.

Dementia and depression are both forms of mental illness and both share similar symptoms.  While dementia is not just an older person’s disease, depression is not restricted to the young or middle-aged either. The elderly can and do suffer from depression.  Ensure the primary care physician is aware of the situation if your elderly loved one is more than just sad and showing signs of any of the following:

  • neglecting his or her personal hygiene,
  • sleeping more than usual or not sleeping at all,
  • refusing to take part in activities previously enjoyed,or
  • gaining or losing an unusual amount of weight.

The physician, sometimes in concert with a geriatric psychiatrist, can determine if medication will make a difference.

CAUTION

Any of the following situations can trigger depression in the elderly:  retirement, death of a spouse or close friend, physical health troubles, relocation to a new home or to a facility, hospitalization, etc.

Depression, whether in the young or the old, should never be ignored.

It is an illness. It is not a sign of weakness, and it is treatable.

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