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.

Website collects senior resources into one easy-to-access place

Website collects senior resources into one easy-to-access place

I’ve recently discovered some programs that can help solve many of the challenges facing seniors.

There are so many sources of help available today that it’s nearly impossible to have a handle on all of them at one time. Having a robust list by topic is very helpful.

As with any rapidly growing market, there’s continuous innovation, making it even more difficult to keep up. Having one site with the latest innovations would be really valuable.

And with so many resources, it’s often difficult to sort out what is reputable and what is not. So I was pleasantly surprised when I happened upon the website www.programsforelderly.com.

It’s not a nonprofit endeavor, so you will see ads, but the content is so rich that it’s worth the distractions.

 

Think before setting a password

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...

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