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.
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?
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!"
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.
When attending out-of-town conferences, my friend Sara saves big money by staying in a room at another person’s house through Airbnb. She swears by the lower cost compared to a traditional hotel room and the positive experience of getting to know her hosts.
Airbnb connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.
The site utilizes a secure payment system and offers a platform for both the guest and host to review each other so that others can benefit from their experience, similar to the way we securely buy items and rate them on Amazon. Airbnb is an example of the rise of the sharing economy, in which people rent beds, car rides or equipment directly from others via the Internet.
The great benefit of this type of economy is that owners make money from underused assets and
Years ago, after my grandmother died, my cousin came to live with my grandfather.
While Grandpa’s daughter shopped for him and did his laundry, his grandson Butchy lived with him and was in charge of keeping Grandpa “safe.” Grandpa had dementia, and his behaviors included fleeing the house in the middle of the night to the cemetery next door and leaving the gas stove on.
Butchy was in the house to keep an eye on him, but most of Grandpa’s day was spent sitting in front of the television with little stimulation.
Butchy prepared meals, but given his limited culinary skills, TV dinners and canned soup were often on the menu.
However, even with his limitations,
I used to enjoy vacations. I’ve traveled to many places, including Ireland, Aruba, Hawaii, Mexico, London and India. I enjoyed trying new foods, learning about different cultures, seeing historical sights and meeting new people.
Now, however, most of the vacations my husband and I take are centered on visiting our families back East. “They aren’t going to live forever” and “What could be better than quality time with family?” is our thinking.
Work has been an inhibitor, too. If it isn’t one priority keeping me from taking extra time off, it’s another. In addition, my husband works in finance, and it seems tax season, quarter-end or year-end reporting keeps him tethered to the office.
I know in my gut that time off is medicine. It can help me to destress and reduce anxiety. Time off can help me recharge my battery and come back to work refreshed.
My 40-something-year-old friend received a call from her husband while she was at work.
“Your yoga pants arrived,” he said, referring to a package that came that day in the mail.
“I didn’t order any yoga pants,” she replied, wondering what it could be.
Arriving home that night she found a 6-by-8-inch box with a side view of an attractive woman in workout gear walking down a city street.
A sticker on the box said “YOGA PANTS APPROVED.”
As she peeled off the sticker, the box pulled apart revealing what was under the yoga pants. The image was of the same woman wearing Depends.
Inside the box were two pairs of Silhouette Active Fit briefs, one black and the other beige. The mailing was a marketing device by Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Depends-brand undergarments.
It’s not unheard of for foreigners to be detained overseas for mailing out or bringing in the same medicine they use at home. The ever-increasing number of seniors traveling abroad need to be aware of that possibility and what they can do to prevent it from happening to them.
Witness, for example, a recent news report about an American executive for Toyota who was arrested and detained in Japan for having her father mail her oxycodone pills. The narcotic painkiller is tightly controlled in Japan.
Overseas travel for seniors (age 60 and up) is on the rise, according to the U.S. CommerceDepartment. Between 1993 and 2012 the percentage of retirees traveling abroad rose from 9.7 percent to 13 percent. And, while seniors represent just over 13 percent of the population, they consume 40 percent of the prescription drugs and over 35 percent of all overthe counter drugs, according to the findings of a recent survey.
If you are taking medication and plan to travel overseas, here are some important tips.
Every morning while walking my dog, I call my mother from my cellphone.
We talk about many things, but in particular my mom’s side of the conversation focuses on my sisters and their families and how she and my dad are doing. In our conversation I hear about the outcomes of my parents’ doctor appointments, what they had for dinner the night before and what’s new with my sisters’ children.
But the other day I was thrown for a loop. I called my mother at our usual time. She asked that I call her back as the physical therapist was there with my dad. So I went along walking Rolo, waiting for her call.