4 Feb 2016

Make life easier for mom, dad

For seniors trying to make their savings stretch, spending on home repairs or new appliances can cause a lot of anxiety. Many are concerned, sometimes rightfully, about whether they will outlive their money.

But I’ve discovered other aging retirees—even those with an ample nest egg—who are simply too conservative when it comes to their finances, and as a result they do not make relatively small improvements or purchases that could have a tremendous impact on their quality of life. In these cases, just because “it ain’t completely broke” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix it.

Take, for example, my parents and the case of the temperamental oven and the troublesome toilet.


21 Jan 2016

One subject that’s seriously tough to swallow

My father has an appointment with the gastroenterologist. He says he’s having trouble swallowing some foods, especially cheeseburgers, which are a favorite of his.

Difficulty swallowing is not new for my father. When he was in his early 70s, my parents frequently visited my sister in New Hampshire. On those visits, my father would have difficulty getting his food down during mealtime.

It happened so often that my sister’s son and daughter, ages 4 and 8, would call the kitchen chair my father sat in “Grampy’s choke chair.” The moniker was hilarious to them but probably not so funny to my father.

At that time my father’s diagnosis was dysphasia—difficulty swallowing due to acid reflux.


13 Jan 2016

A time to honor those who care

Our community is full of them.

They often go unnoticed by friends and neighbors. Their role is not known to their employer. For many, their doctor is unaware of their situation.

They walk among us, shop among us, work among us—yet we don’t see them for what they are: family caregivers.

As you look around your workplace, your neighborhood or your doctor’s waiting room, you might be surprised to learn that one in five people around you are caring for an aging parent, a spouse, an elderly family member or friend with a chronic, debilitating or serious health condition.

“It’s not surprising that many of us don’t see these people in that light because most of the time 


24 Dec 2015

Make an effort to give local this season

As the holidays roll around, many of us look toward giving to those less fortunate.

According to a recent study, over 30 percent of all charitable giving last year occurred in December, which is why our mailboxes have been filled recently with requests for donations.

There’s the practical aspect as to why most giving occurs this month: People are in a giving frame of mind and want to make sure their donation occurs before a new calendar year. It’s also why charities are dependent upon a good holiday season for a large portion of their annual fundraising.

The Giving USA Foundation publishes national estimates on giving by individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations. You may be surprised to learn that 75 percent of all giving is by 


10 Dec 2015

How to be a ‘good kid’ for the holidays

Since I was old enough to have a piggy bank, each holiday season I’d ask my mother and father what they wanted for Christmas.

Their answer: “All we want are good kids.”

Of course my childhood refrain was, “You always say that, but what else do you want that I can buy for you?”

I knew gift giving would be much easier if I could purchase a drugstore perfume for my mom and a necktie for my dad and have it over with. But no, that was not good enough for my parents. Their expectation of being a good kid was code for living by the values they tried to instill in us.

Fast-forward 50-plus years and it’s clear to me that their request, while a tall order, was really the gift they most wanted, even though being a good kid became a moving target as the years went by.


26 Nov 2015

Financial help on the way for low-income seniors

There are new resources available in our community for adults age 55 and older who are struggling financially.

Surprisingly, the current federal poverty guideline (an individual making $29,425 or less or a couple earning less than $39,825) does not reflect healthcare costs. If it did, the older adult poverty rate would be considerably higher. Increased medical costs for older adults greatly reduce the income available to meet food and housing needs.

Special challenges exist for low-income adults in different age groups. The 55-to-64 age group faces one set of hurdles, while those 65 and older face another set.

Those 55 to 64 need to work but often face longer periods of joblessness and have less of a chance of finding a job than their higher-income peers. Their limited budgets are stretched even further by expenditures on healthcare,


12 Nov 2015

Join the conversation on LGBT and aging

In many communities, LGBT ( lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) older adults are a forgotten population.

Before the 1970s, little was known about this part of the population except that they were viewed by some as deviant or immoral. As a result, they concealed their sexual orientation, fearing physical and emotional abuse; rejection from family, friends and religious communities; and job loss.

Fast-forward 40 years and, while there is a greater understanding, LGBT elders still face challenges their heterosexual counterparts do not.

A majority of them live alone, relying on other older gay adults for support and caregiving.


29 Oct 2015

Screening for memory loss

Last month my husband left $100 worth of frozen dog food in his trunk over the weekend. I went to feed the dog on Monday morning and the freezer was bare.

“Hon, did you pick up the dog food on Saturday?” I asked.

“Oh no!” my husband replied.

One memory mishap is not a reason for worry, but when do memory problems become a cause for concern?

Most of us have walked into a room only to forget what we’re there for or have difficulty remembering the name of the person we’re talking to at the grocery store. But what do you do when those instances become more frequent, when your spouse points out you’ve told the same story three times or when you never do remember the name of the person you were talking to?


15 Oct 2015

Spa day

Here’s a snippet from a recent phone conversation I had with my mother, who speaks with a thick New England accent.

Mom: “Yesterday I took Daddy for his checkup with the doctor. The doctor asked Daddy how he was doing. Daddy pointed his finger at me and said, ‘I think she’s had it with me.’”

Me: “Why would Daddy say that?”

Mom: “I told the doctor I was very tired and maybe not as patient as I should be. I said I just needed a good night’s rest and I would be fine. Dr. Nguyen told me I needed to go to a bar (pronounced baah).”

Me: “What?? He told you to go to a bar? Man, I like this doctor.”

Mom: "No, no, not a baah—a spa!"


1 Oct 2015

Waiting for a call back

Bless the Silent Generation. They’re some of the kindest, most patient people. But how is that patience faring in today’s complex healthcare environment?

My father, you may remember, is wheelchair-bound with Parkinson’s. He also has sleep apnea, which can cause interrupted breathing and lack of oxygen. He uses a CPAP machine to increase air pressure so that his airway doesn’t collapse when he sleeps at night.

For someone like my father, a CPAP machine can be the difference between a sound night’s sleep and constantly interrupted sleep resulting in extreme fatigue and mental confusion the next day. It’s a blessing, but not without the occasional hiccup.