Self-neglect: a growing problem

Self-neglect: a growing problem

Imagine your longtime neighbor is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. He’s been in and out of the hospital over the last few months. He rarely sees his only child, a son who lives on the other side of the country.

You pay your neighbor a social call upon his recent return from a hospital stay.

When he doesn’t answer the door, you peer into the window and are alarmed to see he’s on the floor and not responding to you as you call his name. You call 911.

Paramedics arrive. You stay to answer any questions you can. As you stand by, you hear that your neighbor hasn’t let the home health agency personnel in for their nursing care visits to monitor his health. And he hasn’t eaten the Meals on Wheels food that had been delivered.

When caregiving becomes too much

When caregiving becomes too much

Over the years, I’ve watched family caregivers perform heroic acts in caring for their loved ones. I’ve seen spouses and adult children give up their work and social life—and essentially any semblance of freedom—to devote themselves 24/7.

Many of these individuals began their caregiving journey years earlier, perhaps somewhat in the dark about the changes that would occur as their loved ones’ physical, mental and personal needs increased. These caregivers continually added more duties to their plate, often more than any one person should ever be expected to do.

I’m both reassured and troubled by this phenomenon.

New hobbies really help late in life

New hobbies really help late in life

Retirement can be a perfect time to learn something new. Look at former President George W. Bush, who began to paint after leaving office in 2009.

Bush told friends and family he found the art form relaxing. He hired a teacher to help him, telling her he wanted to discover his “inner Rembrandt.”

After painting a series of portraits of military personnel he’d met and wanted to honor, Bush published “Portraits of Courage,” a book of those works.

“I know each person I painted,” said the former president. “I was thinking about their backgrounds, their service, their injuries and their recovery.”

Linda, a 69-year-old widow, also chose something new after a major life change. Ten years ago she was deep in depression after the sudden death of her husband. She recently wrote to tell me, “I was blessed to find a wonderful group of people that helped put a smile on my face.”

Linda joined the Boots and Slippers Square Dance Club of Simi Valley.

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

Life is never the same after suffering a stroke

A widow with no children, Linda has volunteered for Senior Concerns’ Bargain Boutique and Thrift Shop for the past three years. On Jan. 17, her life changed dramatically.

Scheduled to work at the boutique that day, Linda did not show up for her shift. Concerned, Karina, the boutique manager, called Linda at home. There was no answer.

Karina began to worry. She discussed the situation with boutique volunteer and Senior Concerns’ staff member Denise. They knew Linda lived alone with her St. Bernard, Cooper. Both women called and called but got no response.

After almost two days of trying, they found one of Linda’s neighbors, who had a key to her house. The neighbor 

Nurses deserve a week of attention

Nurses deserve a week of attention

The month of May has several days celebrating special things. One of my favorites is May 25, 2017—National Chardonnay Day! On a more serious note, May 6 through 12 was National Nurses Week, which got me to thinking about the nurses who have made an impression on my life.

One of my first nursing memories is of our school nurse, Mrs. Hagan. School nurses today probably have a whole lot more to contend with than the tummy aches and bumps and bruises that Mrs. Hagan treated when I was a kid. I’m sure today school nursing is a challenging but rewarding job.

In my teens I had the not so great experience of spending months at Massachusetts General Hospital, recuperating from a major illness. My parents lived an hour away, and my mother made the trek every morning to see me and then home again each afternoon to take care of my father and two sisters.

The hospital was a pretty lonely experience after my mother left each day.

Living with Parkinson’s

Living with Parkinson’s

I distinctly remember the day I realized my father had something wrong with him.

It was 1992, and my husband and I had recently moved to California. My parents came for their first visit to see us from their home in Cape Cod.

One day on our way to lunch, my mother and I were walking behind my husband and my father, who were chatting about golf.

I noticed my father was holding his right hand in a fist and that he seemed, ever so slightly, to be walking with a different gait. I asked my mother if she had noticed this and she said yes.

We mentioned it to my father, who agreed to see a doctor upon his return home.

He did, and although his general physician did not make a formal diagnosis at the time, he suggested a number of things my father’s symptoms could mean. He recommended my father make an appointment with a neurologist.

My father told me later that as he and my mother entered the neurologist’s office the following week, the neurologist immediately said to my him, “I am pretty sure you have Parkinson’s disease.”

It was quite a shock for them to hear and, of course, it was a life-changing diagnosis.

Mandated reporters have an important role to play

Mandated reporters have an important role to play

Not long ago I received a call from some friends who were concerned about their elderly neighbor. The neighbor (I will call him Bob) was discovered by a friend. Bob had fallen in his home and was unable to get up.

Paramedics were called to take Bob to the hospital.

As the paramedics arrived at his home, some of the neighbors rushed over. They could not help but notice the interior of his house was full of boxes, papers and garbage piled up to the ceiling. There was a small path for Bob to move around the house, but the condition of the home was both dangerous and unsanitary.

Bob never returned home from his hospital stay and the neighbors grew concerned. They noticed someone coming in and out of Bob’s house and inquired about their neighbor. The person they spoke to was evasive and refused to tell them of Bob’s condition or whereabouts.

Bob had lived in their neighborhood for more than 30 years. His wife had passed away over 10 years ago. Given the condition of the home and the fact that they could not get any information about their neighbor, they called me, expressing their fears.

Memories inspired by cooking utensil lead to legacy letter

Memories inspired by cooking utensil lead to legacy letter

It’s just a tin cup. The kind that prisoners used to bang against the bars of their jail cells in old movies. The kind the chuck wagon cook used to dish up campfire stew for the cowboys.

It’s exactly 8 ounces, with markings denoting ¼, ½, ¾ and 1 cup.

It is the most precious thing I have of my mother’s. A few years ago, I discovered it in her cupboard as I was putting away dishes. I could not believe she still had “the cup.” That cup brought back so many wonderful memories.

As the oldest child, I had some “me” time with my mother before my sisters were born. Once they came along, we all had to share my mother, but cooking time was, for all my childhood years, that time when my mother and I did something together by ourselves.

When you suspect a friend’s parent needs help

When you suspect a friend’s parent needs help

A few weeks ago my husband and I were invited to a small dinner party. My friend wanted us to visit with his 90-year-old father, who was in town for a brief stay.

It had been a long time since I’d seen his father, maybe 20 years. Since then, his wife had passed away and he was living alone in the Midwest. He’d recently traveled to the West Coast for an extended stay in the desert and now was in our area for a visit with his son before heading home.

My friend’s father (I will call him Bill) looked great: trim and well-dressed. We chatted into the evening, catching each other up on our lives and activities.

It was during this exchange that it first happened.

Bill asked my husband what he did for a living, and my husband explained he worked for a corporation in the tax department.

At a lull in the conversation, Bill said to my husband, “So, Dennis, this must be a busy time of year for you with tax season and all.”

My husband’s name is Peter.

Take full advantage of medical deduction while you still can

Take full advantage of medical deduction while you still can

The cost of medical and dental care is typically the largest expense for older Americans. Fortunately, some of these bills may be tax-deductible.

The 2016 tax year could be the last time adults age 65 and older can take advantage of a lower threshold for deducting a portion of your medical and dental expenses.

If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A of your tax return, among the categories to list are medical and dental expenses. However, they are subject to a limit.

For many years, the limit was 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, meaning that only those medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s AGI were deductible. For example, if someone’s AGI was $40,000, only those medical and dental expenses that exceeded $3,000 (7.5 percent times $40,000 equal $3,000) would be deductible.

But the rules for deducting medical and dental expenses changed in 2013, increasing that threshold to 10 percent of AGI.

Seniors got a brief reprieve as Congress exempted people age 65 and older from the 10 percent threshold until 2017. 

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