Think before setting a password

If you are internet savvy, you are mindful that you should not click on an email link from an unknown source. You are wary of online ads for items that are too good to be true, like that miracle anti-aging cure or the financial investment that will earn you millions overnight. You ignore email requests to enter your full Social Security number on an online site.

And you know that it is probably unlikely you won the Zimbabwe lottery (since you never entered in the first place), so you won’t be paying them the small fee to collect your winnings.

But new online security threats abound, especially when it comes to email addresses and passwords.

Recently I was one of millions of people who received an email from LinkedIn informing us of a security breach and

It’s never too late to express condolences to the grieving

Whether through our own reminiscences or those of others, keeping alive the memory of a loved one who dies brings a sense of comfort.

In a recent column I wrote about learning about the death of a dear high school friend a month after she passed away. I felt sad because I wasn’t there to share in her family’s grief and I couldn’t, at the time of her death, acknowledge to them the big place my friend held in my heart.

A number of readers wrote to remind me that grief knows no timetable and that my condolences and memories would still be welcome, maybe even more so now.

I know this from experience.  At age 19,

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.

What else isn’t she telling me?

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.
 

Unlocking a new kind of care

A few weeks ago my dad landed in the hospital.

Mom drove him to the emergency room because his blood pressure was fluctuating wildly. To be accurate, this blood pressure condition has been going on for some time now. A year ago it was this same condition that took my father from hospital to rehab to in-home medical care.

All that care, but no cure. My father’s blood pressure fluctuations will not change; they’re a side effect of his worsening Parkinson’s.

This time, after three nights in the hospital, the discharge planner came to talk to my mom and dad. Her “plan” was to place my dad in rehab, so that the medical staff there could monitor his blood pressure.

When we asked how long, she replied, “A week to 10 days.”

My mom, dad, sisters and I wondered what monitoring would do if there was no treatment or cure

Dad’s greatest fear

IMG00070My mom was on a short errand this month when I called the house. My dad answered the phone. After some small talk, my dad asked me a cryptic question: “Is there anything serious you want to tell me about your mother?” I thought for a minute, but couldn’t come up with any secrets my mother had recently shared or serious conversations we had over the past few weeks. “I can’t think of anything,” I told my dad, and he seemed OK with that reply. A few days later, I asked my mom if she knew what dad’s question was all about. Frustrated, she said, “Your dad has too much time on his hands to think! He’s worried I’m going to put him in a nursing home.” It dawned on me this line of thought has been on my dad’s mind a lot lately. Recently, my aunt and uncle invited my mom to visit them down South this winter for a week’s respite. My sister offered to care for my dad, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, during that time. Many of us have encouraged my mom to go away for some respite time...

Aligned in death

a good deathDeath is a certainty for all of us, but the “where” and “how” are increasingly our own choice. I’ve been in the room for a handful of deaths and have heard clients and friends recounting stories about many more. Contrary to what some may believe, there are good deaths. Hildy’s was one. Hildy was the elderly neighbor that my husband, Peter, and I cared for. Her death at age 86 was quite remarkable. She was at home, in her own bed. She had ceased eating and drinking a few days before. Her breathing was not labored but slow, intermittent and shallow. Although she could not talk, we were told she wasn’t in any pain. Her favorite music was playing. The window shades were open to reveal her lovely rose garden. Her friends and neighbors had been by, one by one, to visit and let Hildy know how much she was loved. Her husband, Fred, was not anguished. He held Hildy’s hand lovingly, expressed his devotion and reminisced about the good times during their 60-plus years of marriage. ...

Living in hiding

gay-seniors-come-out-late

At a recent senior services visioning meeting for the City of Thousand Oaks, our table group came up with our future vision: “A community that provides easy-to-navigate and ongoing support of quality of life throughout the aging process.” I think about this vision a lot as it pertains to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors. Today’s LGBT elders are the last generation to have lived their childhood and young adulthood in hiding. They grew up at a time when there was no concept of “coming out” to family and friends because the disclosure could lead to institutionalization. I know this from observational experience. One high school summer in the early ’70s, I had a job at a private mental health facility doing administrative work with my mom. I remember asking my mother what might be wrong with this nice young man I’d seen around the facility. She told me he was homosexual and his parents placed him in the facility to “fix him.” That nice young man would be around 65...

Are you guilty of microaggressions?

ageism

I have a friend, Alyce, who is an absolutely stunning woman. She also happens to be 80 years old. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t remark, after learning how old she is, “Wow, you look great for your age!” That statement says a lot about the person making it. I wonder what they would say if I asked them, “ What should an 80-year-old look like?” Would they answer that an 80-year-old should have lots of wrinkles? They should have gray hair? They should be stooped over, using a cane or wearing a hearing aid? The statement “Wow, you look great for your age” may be considered by some a compliment, but it is really a microaggression. The term microaggression refers to brief and commonplace slights and insults, intentional or unintentional, which can be expressed through words or behavior. Here are some other seemingly innocent statements that can be considered microaggressions when addressed to an older person: “You have an iPhone?” “You’re going to run the marathon?” ...

Bridging the elder communication gap

Hearing1

Each time I think of my mother in-law, Mary, in her assisted living facility, I feel sad. While today she is in a safe, nurturing environment and is surrounded by people she now calls her friends, I wish the journey we traveled to get her there hadn’t been one filled with anger, anxiety and frustration. Previously, Mary lived in an up-and-down duplex that her husband built at the New Jersey shore. After her husband died, Mary spent winters living with my husband and me in Westlake. For several years, in March, one of us would accompany her back to New Jersey, get her house set up and arrange for someone to give her rides and help with yardwork. All would be well for about a month after her return. We’d talk a few times a week and she’d be in good spirits. But not long after she would decline rapidly—her nutrition became poor, she would complain of loneliness, and she would stay in her bedroom all day watching television and drinking. At about month two we would call her and get...
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