When I was a kid, my mother taught me a lesson about appetites and hunger. An hour before dinner, when I asked her for a snack, she offered me carrots.
“But I’m not hungry for carrots,” I whined, “I’m hungry for a cookie.”
She replied, “If you’re not hungry for carrots then you’re not really hungry.”
Now that I am all grown up, I know eating a cookie an hour before dinner will spoil my appetite. But why do I want one?
My answer is stress.
Stress is my reaction to life’s demands. It results in me staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. or renders me unable to recall the words “paper towel” in a conversation or instigates my yelling at the toaster when the bagel gets stuck.
Readers of this column know that I often write candidly about family situations and experiences.
Just last month I trekked to cold and snowy Boston to care for my sister. She is ill with a chronic disease. There is much I’d like to write about her situation.
For example, there’s the financial impact of a disease whose treatment requires a drug that costs $3,000 per month. Or the dynamics of living with a condition that forces the patient to be homebound, prompting other family members to assume new roles. Or the critical reliance by the patient on an array of medications, despite a desperate wish to be off all of them.
I want to write that column— but I’m hindered by the feeling that my sister would be embarrassed. I
Think you know a lot about the senior population?
The social change website for young adults, www.dosomething.org, has an “11 Facts About . . .” series on topics as diverse as cyberbullying, blizzards, recycling and even old age.
Now, before you visit the site to see a few of these answers, let’s test your knowledge about old age.
True or false?
Eighteen percent of people over 65 live in nursing homes.
False. The actual percentage of people over 65 living in a nursing home is very small
Recently my niece Sammie, a freshman at USC, contracted mononucleosis, better known as “mono.” Five days after her diagnosis at the campus infirmary, and after taking all of her meds and beginning to feel better, Sammie relapsed and headed back to the clinic with excruciating pain in her throat and difficulty swallowing. Sammie’s mom, my sister Paula, called the infirmary, very worried about her daughter. What happened next was a surprise— she was told the doctor could not talk to her because Sammie is 18 and had not turned in the form to permit the doctor to give medical information to her mother. Somehow that form, among the multitude of forms filled out during registration, never made it to USC. Being the organized mom my sister is, she found the original form signed by Sammie, scanned it and sent it over to the infirmary. Now the doctor could fill my sister in on Sammie’s condition. That was good news, but it didn’t prepare us for the next step in Sammie’s journey. I should...
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As a family caregiver, my local pharmacy has been a great resource for me in the care of my aging loved ones. Besides stocking a cornucopia of items I never thought I’d be searching for—liners for adult diapers, oral rinse for dry mouth, compression stockings—my pharmacy offers a valuable service I never knew existed. While caring for my dad, my mother and I took advantage of CVS’s “brown bag” review of prescription medications. At one time, my father was taking 13 different medications at eight different times during the day. We gathered all of his prescriptions as well as his over-the-counter medications and brought them to his CVS pharmacist. She reviewed the prescriptions and doses and checked for any possible interactions. Since my father has a chronic health condition (Parkinson’s), is being treated by more than one physician and takes over-the-counter medications, it was really helpful to have all of his medications reviewed as a whole. For example, we learned one of the...
Last week I met my new neighbor’s 4-year-old daughter. I was with my dog, Rolo, and the little girl explained to me that her brother, just 22 months, was “obsessed” with dogs. It was a big word for a 4-year old. Her ability to recall the word and use it correctly was impressive. At 4, this little girl may make more decisions and verbalize more about her emotions than many seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, she most likely gets to choose what book she wants to read, what she wants for breakfast, what television program she wants to watch and what play activity she enjoys. “Want” is the operative word here. In this child’s daily routine she is given choices that allow her to express her autonomy and independence. In turn, whether she knows it or not, she receives joy and satisfaction. One of the main challenges in caring for a person with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s is allowing the person’s “wants” to be verbalized and fulfilled. When we choose a person’s clothes,...
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I know many people who worry about getting Alzheimer’s because a grandparent, parent or sibling suffers from it. When keys are lost, eyeglasses are misplaced, or things historically recalled are forgotten, family members of those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias often wonder if they, too, have the disease. But according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is not genetics, it’s age. Alzheimer’s disease presents itself primarily in those age 65 or older. Statistics show the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every five years after age 65. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent. Because so many people are living longer, we’re seeing a significant increase in the numbers with the disease. It’s predicted that by 2050, as many as 16 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s. One tool—memory screenings performed by qualified medical professionals—may help in determining if there’s been a decline in memory...
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