Marie’s 75-year-old husband was losing his memory. At first, he forgot small things. But over time, it progressed to larger, more significant memory problems. He became disoriented and would get lost. A trip to the neurologist brought a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Marie and her family were devastated. But Marie had the hardest job. Day in and day out she took care of her husband who became increasingly disabled. Marie was exhausted and depressed. Not only was she losing the husband she loved and knew, her daily responsibilities of coping with his disability were overwhelming. She felt alone... Read More
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When my mother was 89, she was living in her own apartment in a retirement community. She could no longer drive (she passed out at the wheel due to an episode of low blood pressure and careened into a tree. Fortunately, only the car was seriously injured). When I came to visit her, I noticed that her shelves were lined with canned soup. She sheepishly told me that most nights that’s all she was eating.
I started talking to her about moving into a local independent living center, where she would have her own apartment as well, but be able to enjoy congregate dining. The complex had... Read More
This December is a big month for me. Last weekend, Diane and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary and our 43-year relationship. On December 26th, I will turn 65 and officially become a senior citizen. These milestones are great opportunities to consider—what have I learned over these 65 years of life? What have I learned over 39 years of marriage?
I have to admit (trust me, my wife agrees!) that I’m a slow learner. It takes me a long time to really understand stuff. But once I get it, it sticks.Here is some of what I’ve learned over the years Cultivate gratitude.
I get... Read More
On my way to the airport, the van driver told me about taking care of his mom during the last years of her life. She was in her early 90’s when she moved in with him. She passed away at 96, living far longer than he imagined--“I think that living with me, and close to family, gave her something to live for”. He had no regrets.
Last week, I had my weekly lunch with my friend Tracy and his 96-year-old mom. She lived in Florida, and when she was 91, she started telling her daughter-in-law she was “ready to come home to the lord”. She rarely left her house even to go out to dinner with... Read More
“I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me”—T.S. Elliot
I just completed Atul Gawande’s best selling book—“Being Mortal”. It’s a lyrical work that shares the struggles of older and terminally ill adults facing the final chapter of their lives. Dr. Gawande, a surgeon, shares his perspective as a physician often... Read More
Turning 40 was a great moment for me. I felt good about my life, my work and myself. My family and I were heading off for a new life adventure in a different part of the country (the Northwest!). I felt like a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. I was very fortunate in many other ways too. I had good health, a great marriage and two healthy daughters.
But turning 50 was sobering. Up until then, I was in perfect health. All of sudden I started having health problems—high cholesterol, high blood pressure and some problems with arthritis! I was too young for all of this! I had my first... Read More
Dixie, 92 years old, was living in Florida, with her two adult children residing in the Pacific Northwest. Increasingly, she was becoming housebound. She started telling her daughter-in-law how she was ready to “go home to the Lord”. Her son became increasingly concerned. He wasn’t sure what to do to help his very independent, strong-willed Mom who was developing age-related memory problems. He felt strongly that it was impractical and dangerous for her to live on her own. And, her quality of life was rapidly declining.
Dixie is now almost 96 years old having come for a “visit” with... Read More
I recently learned that I am about to belong to a club I don’t want to join.
A colleague of mine, a pharmacist, was discussing with me the many problems associated with tranquilizer and sleeping pill use among older adults. I learned that the use of medications like Xanax, Valium, or Ambien in this group frequently results in falls, broken hips, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. I casually asked, “When is someone considered an ‘older adult’?” I guessed he was talking about 80 year olds. “Oh,” he said, “Not until they’re 65.” I gasped. I will be 65 in less than two years!... Read More
I have a confession. I am at the upper-end of middle age. This horrible secret is now public knowledge. Yes, my graying hair is rapidly thinning. While sometimes, I convince myself that I look “distinguished”, I know that I am growing older.
I can tell instantly when someone is turning 40. They start an exercise program, begin a serious diet and buy a new wardrobe. Self-improvement books fill their bookshelves. Like teenagers, they stare at themselves in the mirror. Men read the obituaries. Women examine each other’s bodies with a microscopic eye, noticing every lump or bump. Woe is... Read More
Today I returned from two weeks of caring for my mother in Florida as she slides towards the natural end of life. In the last two and half months I have been by her side for five weeks. It’s been hard. It’s painful to watch her dwindle, like a candle that is barely flickering, but still lit. I have had the opportunity to hold her hand at 3 a.m. in the morning, as she lay in her hospital bed at home, short of breath, frightened, waiting for the liquid morphine to work that I dropped under her tongue. I have been able to give her comfort in this final chapter of her life. I have been able to... Read More