Saturday, December 29, 2007

Driving and the Elderly

Driving. Whoa, boy!

This is one explosive topic to handle. For
one thing, when someone has to give up
driving, they lose independence. Many
will fight the mere mention of it. Then,
some elders are so self-aware, they know
themselves when it's time to toss the keys!

We've all heard the horror stories of the
senseless accidents involving elderly drivers.
Pressing the accelerator, claiming they
thought it was the brake, etc.

Right in my hometown, an elderly driver
plowed into a department store front,
killing a Christmas shopper. Both families
were left totally devastated. The guilt
suffered by those who were well aware
of the limited ability of the driver have
to live with the knowledge the rest of their

The fact is that many elders are at higher
risk for driving accidents. We have to
monitor the situation.

Driving ability is affected by...

1. Hearing loss

Impaired hearing comes on gradually. A
senior may miss hearing honking, sirens
or children.

2. Vision loss

Depth perception and judging speed of
oncoming traffic are affected with age.
Night vision worsens and eyes are more
sensitive to sunlight and glare.

3. Mobility

Full range of motion is needed for operating
a motor vehicle. Flexibility decreases with
age. Chronic conditions limit mobility.

4. Medications

Side-effects increase driving risk.

5. Drowsiness

Older people sometimes don't sleep well
at night. This causes drowsiness during the
day and many doze off behind the wheel.

6. Dementia and brain impairment

Probably the cause of most accidents. Driver
becomes confused and frustrated. They have
delayed reactions or simply forget driving
mechanics. (happened to my father)

In a perfect world, drivers of all ages would
know when they should quit driving. Since
that's not the case, the caregivers have to
keep watch. Our elders may think we're
being cruel. They may hate us for a time
but it has to be done. For their benefit as
much as everyone else crossing their path.


P.S. Elder care experts speak of their
specialties here...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Loved Ones and the Cherished Memories

OK, we're two days from Christmas.
Nothing to it...

A good friend visited this afternoon who
lost her father just a couple days after
Mom died. (her Dad and Mom were good
friends, as well) Anyway, we were bringing
up good memories of Christmases-past and
having a chuckle.

One of my favorite memories of Mom is the
Christmas she decided to crochet sachets
filled with potpourri for our friends. They were
beautiful. All different colors, all decorated
differently. No two were alike.

I went to the craft store and found decorations
to sew on the sachets that matched the receiver's
personality, hobbies or life in some way. One
gardener had tiny shovels, watering cans and
flowers on hers. You get the picture...

Anyhow! There was a very special person in
my life at that time. Mom liked him too! She
wondered if he'd like one. Sure! Only trouble,
I picked black as the color for the bag.
(I love black) I wasn't thinking...

Mom had macular degeneration. Her eyesight
was failing badly. When I noticed it was taking
much longer to crochet this black bag compared
to the many others, I asked her about it. First,
she didn't want to say. She was so determined!

Then she confessed. It was extremely hard for
her to SEE to work with the black crochet cotton.
I felt terrible! Forget about it, I told her. No way.
She was going to complete this work if it took her
until Valentine's Day. And, she did.

I never told my friend how much love and care
went into the creation of his special gift. I was so
proud of her at the moment she proudly held it up.
"It's finished!" she said with a beaming smile. And
it was finished in plenty of time...

Thank you, Mom! I'll never forget what you did
that Christmas. How touched everyone was who
were special enough to receive one. They all still
talk about theirs. I will cherish mine forever.

The special friend? I couldn't tell you how he feels.
I don't know. He decided I was not special enough
to be in his life. Although he'll always be in my heart.
I hope, if he still has his gift from the heart, he can
look at it and feel good, if only for a moment in time.

Hold and cherish the good memories. Forget the bad ones...

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holidays and the Elderly


It's supposed to be the most wonderful
time of the year. For those lucky people
who can say it is the best time of the year,
count your blessings.

For many, sadly it is the most terrible
time of the year. You only have to witness
the suicide rate over the holidays.

It tracks the same with our elderly loved ones.
My heart breaks for those who need to live
in nursing homes and family members are too
far away to visit.

Dedicated staff try their best to bring joy
into their patients' lives but most residents
will say they long for a visit from a son or

I was way fortunate than most. My mom
was able to live with me right up until she
passed on. This will be the second Christmas
without her. Since I'm divorced and don't
have children of my own, it's sad. I wish
she were here so I could watch her do her
favorite thing. Opening her Christmas stocking!
What joy shone in her eyes!

I always watched for signs of depression with
her. Dad's favorite time of year was Christmas
and Mom would be sad thinking of all their
Christmases together. But, she had me and
many wonderful friends.

We have to keep close watch, all year really
but especially during holidays and anniversaries
to ensure our elderly loved ones get help
before they slide into depression. Sadness is
normal. Depression is heart-wrenching for

Since everyone seems to get busier and busier
each year, sometimes it's easy to forget how
aging parents are doing. Especially if they are
all alone.

Trust me on this. When they are no longer
with us, it's not the insane hustle and bustle
of getting ready for Christmas that we

It will be the memory of our loved ones. It
will be the memories of all our Christmases
together. From children up until their deaths.

There's only one thing that is important in
this life. And that's love. Unconditional love.
If you live close enough to get to your aging
parent's side, do it. To heck with last-minute
shopping. You've already bought enough.
Nobody will see that speck of dirt on the floor.
People will be adding more, for sure. As for the
dust bunnies, I say throw tinsel on them!

If your parents don't have trouble with mobility,
but are unable to drive, get them around to visit
their friends. If they can't go out safely, especially
if there's ice or snow-covered walkways, go
to them.

Throw an open house for their friends to come
to them. Yes, it all takes time. But think about
this. You may go to a Christmas party hosted
by someone you don't even like very much.
Which is more important in the big scheme of

Sometimes with Mom and I, the best times
were when we just sat side by side. We didn't
even have to talk. Maybe we'd read. Or she'd
crochet. It was just the "being together" that
made all the difference. We both felt loved.

So please take the time to love your elderly
loved ones. Spend precious time with them.
It could be the one thing you do that actually
keeps depression away.

Nothing is sadder than seeing anyone suffer
with depression. Especially our elderly.

I wish you all a love-filled Christmas and the
ability to create more magic memories. When
they are no longer on this earth, it's the only
thing we have of them.

Merry Christmas Everyone!
Merry Christmas Mom. I hope you get
the biggest, brightest red sock, ever!


P.S. For those who would like to learn how
to cope with the pressures and concerns of
caring for aging parents, here's help from
eldercare experts at...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Caring For Aging Parents: Watch Your Back!

If you're a caregiver, you have to watch your back!
Literally, I mean. The first thing to give me trouble
was my back. Now my mother was not a heavy
woman by any means. And over the years, she
became even tinier! (I could use some shrinkage

Some people may only think of your back giving
out if you're a caregiver for someone who is
bedridden. And you're lifting all the time. Not so!

We don't stop and think about what we actually
do everyday and how it can affect our backs.

For one example, if you care for someone with
balance problems. Funny. The one thing I miss
not having Mom anymore is I seem lopsided!

Whenever we went outside she had a firm grip
on my arm. Many times I had my arm around her.
She was my sidekick!

Think of the side and back strain you acquire after
years of leaning in that direction! Thank heavens
for wheelchairs and rollators!

Bathing is another concern. Before we used a
shower chair, I'd be helping her in and out of the
tub. You're so worried about them slipping, you
push your back beyond what you would do for
anyone or anything else.

It doesn't help when you're told to bend at the
knees when you are leaning over the bathtub.
Bend at your knees at the wrong time and the
care receiver goes flying. Or dunking.

All activities play havoc on your back. You won't
notice it right away but if you become laid up---
what then?

I know it's easier said than done but a caregiver
MUST take good care of themselves. Even a rush
job is better than nothing.

I found stretching to help. It sounds too simple but
it works. Especially if it's the lower back that's
killing you.

Lay on your right side at the edge of your bed. Bring
your left leg up, knee bent and pull it toward you.
Really s-t-r-e-t-c-h. This is why you're at the very
edge of the bed. As you pull your leg toward you, it
will be off the side of the bed to get the best stretch.

Repeat on other side. I don't think I've explained this
very well. You should feel a loosening in the lower
back tension. You will look like a pretzel. You may
fall to the floor at first but it helps.

Any stretching will help. If you don't have the
time to do much of anything else, that is.

(Now if only I could draw!)

Back to the bathing part again. We would have
totally been lost without the shower chair and
the long-hosed, hand-held shower! A true
lifesaver in our day to day life.

And don't forget the tub supports. You can
find all kinds. The one I used was easily installed
(by me!) and was sturdy beyond belief. It clamped
over the side of the tub and was screwed in place
by a large PVC knob.

So, if any "other people" tell you to just
bend at the knees, tell them to "BACK OFF!".
You don't want to mess with a caregiver!


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Caregivers: When There's Not Enough Money

There were times Mom and I had it rough
financially. Unexpected things would come
up and they always seemed to take money.

This got me thinking of other caregivers.
There are many in the so-called "sandwich

On one side of them are their teenagers and
the other their parents who need them more
with each passing year. We all know how much
money it takes to provide just the necessities
for a family, much less luxuries!

And if you happen to be divorced and doing it
all alone, there are times you truly feel abandoned.

If being a caregiver means you have an aging parent
living with you and you can't work outside the home,
it can be difficult.

I came across something today that I would have
given anything for many years ago. It is a way
to make money at home. A legitimate way to make
money. A real home based business opportunity.

One in which you have flexibility in the hours you
choose to work. Now of course this would depend
on the health of your parent. And to what degree
you have to be "on watch".

Obviously, it would be impossible if you were taking
care of an Alzheimer's patient. But, then again, you
and only you know what is possible in your given

The other requirement is to have a "quiet room"
to do this job. No barking dogs or loud teenagers
when you are "at work". You have to be professional.

If this sounds like something you'd like to look into,
you can learn more about it right here...

For many caregivers, we get so wrapped up in
other people, we forget how to look after ourselves
and our own needs. Caregiver burnout is one thing
a caregiver has to be aware of at all times.

Best wishes,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Grieving The Holidays

This is the second Christmas without my Mom.
All year I like to say, "It's just another day. Put
your mind into perspective!"

Then the calender gets turned to December and
even though I fight it, I slip into a depression.
You see, my mother resided with me for years.
She didn't want to go into a nursing home and
as long as it was possible for her to be with me,
I didn't want to face that decision either.

Luckily, we were together til the end. I do
count myself lucky for all the years we did have
together. But, as you all know, there's something
about Christmas. It's the one day that tugs on
every heart string you have.

I'm divorced, no siblings or children, so I truly
do feel alone. My network of loving friends sustain
me. Still, my last thought as I drift off to sleep at
night is always about my Mom.

For all those who have had to say goodbye to an
aging parent this year, think of the special times,
hold on to your loved ones and cry when you need

The first Christmas without them is hard. I try
to fill my head with good thoughts and move one
foot at a time. As they say....the days will pass.

Merry Christmas, Mom...
Love, Karen