weekly blog--one for the ages
My wife received the email below from a childhood friend. It has been edited to fit with this blog space. However, the message is poignant for anyone who or will face this situation.
Apologies in advance for the group email (bcc). For those who have been asking and I cannot reach all of you by phone. Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes…
Here’s a summary of where we stand as of today, Sunday:
So things are not great with my mom. My mom is having a tough time, however she is in the area’s best hospital with the best doctors. She began having trouble around June 1 with a diagnosis of cardiac affibrulation and was put on Prodaxa anticoagulant. She didn’t feel well, but was holding her own on June 13. I/we thought as a result of the medicine, pretty much things got really bad last week. She was hospitalized on June 22. All of the docs say this is not a response to the drugs.
Anyway, it appears that she had a series of strokes causing tremors and weaknesses on her right side so she cannot stand or walk on her own or at all. Her right arm is affected as well, and she cannot control it when she tries. At rest, no tremors, at least not now.
She was able to feed herself with her left hand, though slowly. She is not having trouble swallowing or anything, but has some slight speech problems which we believe are stroke related. She also has the cardiac Afib so that they need to give her medicine for that.
Basically, she’s miserable. It’s hard to see her this way. She will have occupational and physical therapy, however, the most difficult part right now is that she is very, very fatigued and doesn’t have much energy or desire to do much of anything but sleep. The hospital is very good and is making her get in a chair to eat. She’d be just as happy to stay lying down, which is very terrible for lots of reasons.
She has had many tests. The EEG shows they are not seizures. That’s the good news. The MRI of her back shows that even though she’s having back pain, there is no additional injury to her back from a compression fracture when she fell in November 2014. However, she fell twice last week while still home. Also they did an MRI of her neck and spine and all is ok. The MRI of her brain showed some damage, and it showed some slight bleeding which could account for some of her problems, although her symptoms are not typical.
I will speak to the doctors tomorrow and see what they plan for next week. My hope is that they will set her up for rehab and she will be moved to a rehab center. The biggest problem we see is that she seems to not want to do anything. Motivation is at the zero level which is tough. She really cannot talk long on the phone and is not up for visitors because of the fatigue.
Hopefully, she will find the inner strength to get going again and eventually return to her apartment, even if it means with a full time aid and getting around in a wheelchair for awhile.
I will try to keep you posted through email if there are any changes.
Learn more: www.confrontingaging.com/caring-for-elderly-parent.html
This week’s blog was inspired by an article in the Boston Globe. If not cancer, the bear in the room for many people of age is Alzheimer’s. Losing memory and becoming disoriented are not things one looks forward to. Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to triple by 2050.
Often overlooked are the devastating affects Alzheimer’s can have on the caregiver who is equally at risk for health problems related to depression, anxiety, stress, and isolation. Enter the world of the dementia care consultant who can help design a plan to manage the day-to-day needs of patients, provide emotional support, and find local respite services such as a Home Care Agency or Adult Day Center. Learn more: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/jun/01/working-life-dementia-consultant
Separately, what’s the best way to prevent Alzheimer’s? While research is not yet conclusive, the Alzheimer’s Association says that certain lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and diet, may help protect your brain. Two diets of note: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean.
The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils; and limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.
Also, a number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Experts are not certain why this happens, but speculate that it may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Learn more: www.confrontingaging.com/eating--exercise.html
A friend passed away this week after a 6-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 68 years old and joins two of my childhood friends who also died in the past few years from illness. I have always found grieving difficult. Someone I know, who coincidentally also passed away this week, was an academic who wrote the handbook for professionals that have to deal with this on a daily basis.
There are lots of ways to grieve. One researcher structured the grief process into three phases:
The researcher found that both men and women tend to go through phases one and three. Differences occurred at phase two. There are four coping styles that enable men to take advantage of their natural gifts and talents: remain silent, engage in “Secret Grief”, and take physical and legal action.
Women typically find their place in the world through relationships, which enable them to talk about their hurts, problems and pain, and to be supported and encouraged. Consequently, women tend to be more expressive and emotional about their loss, and they are more likely to look for support from others.
Learn more: https://www.hospicegso.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Men-Grieving-March-13.pdf
One more thought…with funeral costs averaging from $7,000 to $10,000 or more, on the way back from the funeral my wife and I wondered what one would do if a loved one died and you couldn’t afford to pay for the funeral? Here’s an article that highlights the options: http://www.blackenterprise.com/money/consumer-affairs/when-a-relative-dies-and-you-cant-afford-the-funeral
This photo was taken at Boston’s new skateboard park across from the Museum of Science. Note all of the lines and angles, and how they intersect with each other to draw you into a complex web of activity. “Sightlines” is also the name of a project at the Stanford Center on Longevity that has been tracking 1.2 million Americans over the last two decades, with a focus in areas crucial to long-term well being.
One intriguing trend: the 55-to-64 age group nearing retirement is engaging less with their communities, is having fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses or partners, and has weaker ties to family and friends. That doesn’t bode well for positive aging, which for most of us, requires a healthy dose of meaningful social interaction. Learn more: http://www.confrontingaging.com/noteworthy-news--trends.html
As I get older, the long-night of sleep I most cherished has given way to occasional bouts of insomnia and middle-of-the-night awakenings. I’m not alone in this phenomenon, and there are many proposed reasons why this happens, running the gamut from psychological distress to medications to the changing physiology of the body.
One study suggests there is a specific cluster of neurons associated with regulating sleep patterns, called the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, which may slowly die off as you get older. Another researcher suggests that historically, our distant ancestors had two bouts of sleep per night with a wakeful period in between.
So, if interruptions in sleep are to be expected, what's the best strategy for getting enough of it after you shoo away the birds that start chirping outside your bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning?
You will find many remedies, but probably the most important is to get a good handle on the number of hours of sleep you need, set a pattern and stick with it. Most people require seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
For those who get less, studies show they are more susceptible to the common cold, skin aging (wrinkles) and weight gain. They are also more likely to be have depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, and have an overall poorer quality of life. Add to the mix, recent studies suggest that the chemicals used in some sleeping aids can make you more prone to dementia.