Attention to detail gets more important as we age

Attention to detail gets more important as we age

My husband is a finance guy, a CPA with a master’s in taxation. He is, by all accounts, a meticulous, detail-oriented individual.

It’s nice to have one of those in a family. At least one of us should be reading the dishwasher manual when it malfunctions, checking a contract’s fine print before signing and making sure the stove is turned off before leaving the house.

Most recently, my husband won kudos from my mother when he found an error in the Required Minimum Distribution from her 401(k) while calculating her taxes. My mother’s investment advisor, who should have caught the error, was embarrassed and apologized.

Sometimes paying attention to detail can reap financial rewards. 

Honoring our caregivers can take many forms

Honoring our caregivers can take many forms

Recently my mother returned home to New Hampshire after two wonderful weeks visiting me and my husband here in California. I had lots of goals for the visit, and we accomplished many of them.

Two remarkable things happened that I did not plan for.

Because we finally had some quality time together, my mother opened up about some of the high and low points on her journey caregiving for my father. When times were physically and emotionally the hardest for her, she told me, she would will herself to get through just one more day, especially in the last few years of my father’s life.

Parkinson’s disease was a battle they both were fighting.

She recounted the last time she and my father made the trip from New Hampshire to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for two months over the winter. They took a commuter plane back home, and on this particular day, my father’s “freezing” from Parkinson’s was so bad, he could not get himself out of the seat when the plane landed.

 

 

Deciding how to distribute heirlooms requires thought

Deciding how to distribute heirlooms requires thought

My nephew Tanner is a pretty accomplished young man. He has a knack for mechanics. During his high school years, he worked for a company that made sensitive equipment parts for the military.

On the side, he bought lawnmowers, dirt bikes, jet skis and other small vehicles that needed repair. He fixed them and resold them for a tidy profit.

Attending night school for college, he also worked full time at Raytheon, a major defense contractor. Saving all his money, he bought his first home at age 23. He is the chief snow remover at my mom’s house in New Hampshire as well as the man on call for heavy lifting and odd jobs.

So when my mother asked me “the question,” the answer was easy for me.

A little planning can reduce stress when evacuating

A little planning can reduce stress when evacuating

After the recent wildfires ripped through our community, I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t want to let too much time go by before we debriefed on what we did right and wrong when we evacuated.

I wanted this natural disaster— the first my husband and I have really experienced since moving to California 25 years ago—to become a teachable moment for us.

I began by creating a list of things I would take if we were evacuated again. I didn’t do too badly during the recent fires. I was able to function reasonably well in the 48 hours I was away from home, but then again, I had the safety and convenience of being in a hotel.

That may not always be the case, so there are several things I will include next time.

Making Mom’s visit really count

Making Mom’s visit really count

After a 15-year hiatus, my mother is coming to California to visit me.

During the many years she was caring for my father, who had Parkinson’s disease, my mother could not bring herself to leave his side. But now that he’s gone, she is ready to make the journey from New Hampshire.

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about her visit. What do I want her to experience?

Certainly, I want her to see some obvious changes since the last time she visited, like the new home we moved into four years ago and our little cocker spaniel, Rolo.

And of course, I would like her to come to my workplace. I’ve planned for her to visit Senior Concerns and meet our board and staff and our participants. I’d like for her to feel firsthand the amazing care and support we give to seniors and caregivers in our community.

Not only will she see what I’ve devoted the past 15 years of my life to, but she’ll see the place where I’ve gained a lot of the knowledge I’ve used in helping my parents navigate getting older.

Post-holiday loneliness takes a toll on seniors

Post-holiday loneliness takes a toll on seniors

The 55-plus community my mother lives in has a weekly get-together at its clubhouse. Everyone who chooses to come brings a food item to share; visiting with one another includes the goings-on in their lives: who welcomed grandchildren, who’s expecting visitors and talk of current events.

Showing up at last week’s gathering were only nine people, when most of the time 20 to 30 attend. My mother said it was the lowest turnout ever.

We were both coming up with reasons for the poor showing.

Maybe people were with their families for an extended holiday. Maybe the very cold weather and high winds that day (she lives in New Hampshire) weren’t conducive to going out. Maybe some folks were sick with a cold or the flu.

And, just maybe, the days leading up to the holidays and those soon after remind some seniors of the losses they’ve experienced, and those memories make them melancholy and not eager to spend time with others. According to AARP, more than one in three elderly Americans describe themselves as lonely, and the holidays can be especially isolating for them.

Local seniors left scarred by wildfires

Local seniors left scarred by wildfires

On the heels of the Borderline shooting, Allison, a Senior Concerns case manager, was knocking on doors of the occupants of the senior low-income housing complex where she works.

She was concerned the residents were isolated in their apartments watching the 24/7 coverage of the massacre, feeling shocked and frightened.

Allison encouraged them to come out of their apartments and share their feelings and concerns with her and with each another. It was one small step in promoting community among the seniors she provides counsel, guidance and resources to on a weekly basis.

But just like that, Allison was gone. She had to rush home because her house was in danger.

As more seniors age alone, more planning is required

As more seniors age alone, more planning is required

My friend Dr. Sara Zeff Geber coined the term “solo agers” after realizing so many of her childfree friends were caring for their aging parents.

The question loomed large: Who was going to care for them when they got older?

Geber’s term has expanded to include older adults who are geographically distant from their children or who choose not to rely on them for help as they age.

My husband and I know all too well the challenges of aging alone, as we had “adopted” our elderly neighbors in their last five years of life. With no children or nearby relatives, our neighbors had no one to lean on as their health worsened and activities of daily living became impossible.

Covering up your PC’s webcam: not just for the paranoid

Covering up your PC’s webcam: not just for the paranoid

Recently my husband attended a tax conference in San Diego. He came home with a complimentary backpack filled with “swag” that included a journal, highlighters, pens and logo’d Post-it notes.

Also inside the backpack was a webcam cover. This was a new one to me. My husband routinely has a piece of tape over his laptop camera, but I assumed it was for when he had an early-morning web conference call (pre-shave and shower) and didn’t want his fellow Zoom conference attendees to be subject to his bedhead.

More techie than a piece of tape, the webcam cover is made for your laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone. It attaches to your device (usually with sticky tape that is included) and slides open when you need to use your webcam and closes for when it is not in use.

Health scare takes emotional toll

Health scare takes emotional toll

Most of my medical challenges occurred when I was young. Years later, I can’t really remember my feelings after those experiences.

But as I contemplate my recent health scare—a piece of steak lodged in my throat, resulting in a tear in my esophagus—I know that it’s definitely taken an emotional toll on me.

My friends say that I don’t sound like myself now. I’m normally an upbeat, energetic, gregarious person.

Today, I would describe myself as anxious, subdued and fatigued. While I know intellectually that one’s time does not go on forever, now I really feel mortal.

I had been chalking my feelings up to a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder from eight hours of not being able to swallow and ultimately undergoing emergency surgery.

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