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. 

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.

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