Giving time becomes its own gift

Giving time becomes its own gift

I volunteered to work at the recent Thousand Oaks Chili Cook-Off for a friend who was going out of town and didn’t want to leave the Rotary Club that puts on the event short-handed.

It was to be an all-day assignment, so I asked my husband if he’d like to join me. I have no idea why he said yes. Maybe it was because I was assigned to work the beer booth.

Upon arrival we met our team leader, Jim, and the other members of our group—one assigned to check IDs, one to place a bracelet on patrons’ wrists to signify they were of age, two to sell drink tickets, two to pour and two to serve the beer, wine and water. We helped with the latter.

We began at 10:30 a.m., and only at 2:30 p.m. could we finally take a breath. The line stayed about 20 deep the entire day. It was 5 p.m. by the time we broke down the booth, packed up and hugged our goodbyes.

Long-distance caregivers have a role to play

Long-distance caregivers have a role to play

If you live an hour or more away from a loved one who needs your care, you’re a long-distance caregiver.

Based upon the needs of the care receiver, as well as the skills, abilities and limitations of the caregiver, every long-distance caregiving experience is different.

I’ve been a long-distance caregiver on two occasions, each with its own set of responsibilities.

In the first instance, my mother and sister were the hands-on caregivers for my father, and since I was 3,000 miles away, I took on the role of long-distance caregiver.

Preparing for the ultimate loss: What to do when a loved one dies

Preparing for the ultimate loss: What to do when a loved one dies

I have a dear friend, Nancy, whose husband died unexpectedly several years ago. She was recounting the situation to me and how another friend of hers, a physician, wanted to give her some medication to calm her during the experience.

Nancy’s response: “I have too much to do. I can’t be out of it.”

We laughed about her get-it done nature. Still, whether it’s a sudden loss or the result of a long illness, the death of a spouse can be emotionally devastating but at the same time there’s a lot to do.

I often think the “business of death” is society’s way of keeping our mind busy during those early crushing days of loss.

Here are the time-sensitive things to consider upon a loved one’s death:

What are we teaching our children about aging?

What are we teaching our children about aging?

Aging is something we learn from family, our community and our culture.

Sam, I’ll call him, is what can only be described as an 87-year-old curmudgeon. As a widower suffering from congestive heart failure, mostly homebound due to his fatigue and need for oxygen, he is bitter about his lot in life.

Sam’s son and daughter bear his wrath as he rails about the unfairness of getting older and how his life is not worth living. His children focus their energies on managing his illness. Any efforts on their part to add value to Sam’s life via grandchild visits or trips out to eat are met with indifference.

Sam may not know it, but he is teaching his family (children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren), as well as his remaining friends and neighbors, what aging is like.

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.

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