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. 

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

Solutions to decline of senses continue to be developed

We humans tend to take our senses for granted—until they stop working as well as they had in the past. It’s a well-known fact of life that our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) all decline as we age.

Our vision, especially, tends to get worse with age. We may be less able to tolerate glare. Cataracts, which can make vision fuzzy, are relatively common and usually occur later in life.

Dry eyes are also a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.

Hearing loss in both ears increases with age, beginning between ages 40 and 50.

Our sense of taste becomes less sharp. The number of taste buds decreases, and each remaining taste bud begins to shrink. Reduced flow of saliva may also lead to diminished taste.

Medication taking made easier

Medication taking made easier

My friend Lloyd, who has a demanding full-time job, is helping to care for his in-laws, who’ve moved closer to him due to their declining health.

He shared with me that he’d been to the pharmacy eight times last month and was beginning to resent the amount of time he spent there.

“The prescriptions my in-laws take are all due at different times,” he lamented. “I feel like I am living at the pharmacy. Then I get all the bottles home and I have to sort them into their pillboxes. There has to be a better way.”

Complex medication regimens, transportation challenges, age-related physical and mental debilities and varying renewal dates can significantly affect medication adherence as well as the quality of life for seniors and their family caregivers.

Physicians and pharmacies recognize this issue, as hospitalizations due to taking medications improperly have increased.

Having a healthy fear of the flu

Having a healthy fear of the flu

It had been a long time since I’d been around someone with the actual flu, but over the New Year’s holiday two of my friends came down with the virus.

Now I can clearly see I hadn’t given the flu enough respect.

One friend is a working mom with two children under the age of 8. The other is a working single 50-something woman with two pets. The working mom got the flu shot; the single gal did not.

Both of them were very sick, and even though they went to urgent care and were prescribed Tamiflu (or its generic version), both were down for the count for a good seven days and neither could complete a full day of work on their first day back.

It reminded me how glad I am that I get my flu shot each year and how lucky I was not to have caught the flu from them.

I accompanied one of my friends to her urgent care visit as she was unable to drive.

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

With a yearlong waiting list to enter a skilled-nursing facility for long-term care, my father was placed on palliative care at home recently. While it may not seem so, it was an early Christmas gift for our family.

The occupational therapist who had been helping teach my mother and sister how to safely transfer my father asked my father’s physician about a palliative-care consult, and the physician put in the order.

My father has advanced Parkinson’s, but he is not near the end of his life. He doesn’t have pain, but his breathing is labored, he has significant fatigue, he is depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and he has bowel and bladder issues. For all intents and purposes, he is homebound.

The local home health agency that was providing occupational therapy also has a palliative care and hospice division. So the same agency sent a new person to the home to evaluate my father.

Give gift of happy memories

Give gift of happy memories

As we age, our memories seem more significant, and more vivid.

Holidays are a great time for sharing memories. At our holiday events we inevitably end up in fits of laughter, holding our sides and wiping away tears.

Some of our stories get retold each year. Like the time my dad was using a blowtorch to remove the paint from the window frame and burned my mother’s silk curtains. Or when my sister at 5 years old asked how they trained monkeys to use guns—this was after she heard on television about the guerrilla troops fighting the war in the 1960s.

It doesn’t matter whether we are with our “real” family or with our local family of friends; memories offer an intimate view into others’ perceptions and can be a wonderful bonding experience.

This past holiday with our local family of friends we played “The Voting Game,” a card game intended to reveal the personalities of those who play. It was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot more about how we feel about one another.

Here are some questions that may elicit some good memories at your next family gathering:

This holiday season, don’t forget to shine your light on others

This holiday season, don’t forget to shine your light on others

“It feels good to be a part of the universe as it shines upon others,” Acorn’sFamily Man” columnist Michael Picarella recently noted.

Why is helping someone an action we associate with the feeling of being happy?

One explanation is that in doing so we experience “vicarious joy,” or the pleasure we get from improving another’s situation or well-being.

Holidays seem to be a time when many of us look to see how we can help others.

Actions can be as simple as putting coins in the kettle for the Salvation Army, dropping off baked goods for an elderly neighbor or driving a friend to an appointment.

Acts of kindness happen all the time between individuals, both friends and strangers. Facebook is filled with stories of one human helping another. And more often than not, the person doing the helping feels they got more out of the experience (vicarious joy) than the person they helped.

On aging with grace

On aging with grace

Earlier this year, history.com cited the “Seven Most Contentious U.S. Presidential Elections.” The current election had not, at that point, made the list.

I think it is safe to say that during this past presidential race, very little grace was shown at a time when our country could have used courtesy and goodwill from our candidates.

As two senior presidential candidates (ages 69 and 70) were campaigning to be the leader of the United States, each had the opportunity to be a notable role model for our younger citizens. They had the opportunity to demonstrate aging with grace.

By aging with grace, I don’t mean being comfortable with your wrinkles, gray hair or a few extra pounds. I mean living and acting in a state of awareness and seeing conversations, events and actions from multiple points of view.

There is a secret to aging with grace. 

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