Lessons from Mary

IMG-20120607-00041My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. I’ve written about Mary in the past. You may remember that strong, stubborn Irish woman who depleted her savings caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband, or the woman whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and made a fresh start with some new friends and a few prized possessions in an assisted-living facility. Mary was 86 when she died after a brief illness and hospitalization. Her experience taught me a few things worth sharing. Some of your most precious belongings may be the easiest to lose.  In the transitions from assisted living to the hospital to skilled nursing, those facilities managed to lose Mary’s upper dentures, her glasses and her hearing aid. I’ve never been arrested or put in jail, but I wonder, if I was in jail, whether someone would inventory my personal belongings and keep all my possessions intact by storing them in a plastic bag. If I recall all the “Law and Order” episodes I’ve watched, the contents...

Make a resolution you won’t regret

small book picIt was Stephen Covey who said, “ Begin with the end in mind.” That got me to thinking. What regrets do people express as they near the end of life, and what actions can we take now so we don’t have similar regrets? In her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware shared the most common regrets she heard from her patients. With 2013 approaching, the regrets Ware identifies offer food for thought to those of us in the second half of life as we take yet another fresh stab at setting down our New Year’s resolutions. Below are the top regrets and resolutions to remedy them. Regret No. 1: The most common regret of all dealt with not having the courage to live an authentic life and having many long-held dreams go unfulfilled. Resolution: Assess yourself. Living an authentic life isn’t about chasing every dream we may have. It involves building self-awareness—of our values, strengths and personal motivations. Arrange your work or personal time (or...

Ending well

ALZHEIMERS CAREIn advance of California Healthcare Decisions Week, Oct. 23 to 29, Dr. Lanyard Dial, CEO and medical director of Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses Association, has written this week’s The Other Side of 50 column. Unlike earlier generations, odds are that many of us will die a slow death, often mixed with periods of isolation and loss of personal dignity. Would this be your choice? Is there a way to end your life well? It is my belief that we have a choice to alter this path and find an alternative end to our life, an end that we choose. How? With the help of the medical professionals in Palliative Care and Hospice. The American healthcare system today is magnificent. We have access to many vaccinations, antibiotics and medications that can treat virtually any disease that afflicts us. We have superior techniques to provide surgical cures and treatments for many illnesses. We can transplant new organs into our bodies when ours are so diseased that they no longer work. We can...

The Many Dimensions of Loss and Grief

alzheimers-s2-woman-blinkingDuring this season’s first episode of TV’s “Dancing With the Stars,” actress Jennifer Grey surprised herself when she broke into tears upon hearing the song she and her partner would be dancing to. It was a song from the movie “Dirty Dancing,” which evoked strong memories of her friend and co-star Patrick Swayze, who died last year of complications from pancreatic cancer. Grey’s strong reaction, more than a year after her friend’s death, was normal. The song may have brought her back to a time when she and Swayze worked closely together on the film, allowing her to grieve the loss of her friend all over again.Almost everyone who’s lost someone they care for can describe a moment where a song, object or even a smell triggered a memory of the deceased and reignited feelings of loss and grief. As humans, our grief knows few boundaries. How well or long we knew the person cannot predict the intensity of our grief. We might grieve for someone we have known for a long time, such as a...

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