Monday, March 22, 2021

A hug and a kiss after nine months of waiting?

"How is your mother doing? And how are YOU doing? " Because I work with adult children, and I've come to love them and their parents, I typically ask.those questions.

 Gary smiled.  "Last Saturday after nine months of covid lockdown, I finally was able to hug and kiss my mother. The 35-minute appointment went by quickly. I was able to hold her hand and tell her I loved her."

The backdrop to the story: Gary's mother's health began to fail several years ago. She moved from independent living to assisted living, and finally to the nursing home. At 98, she is cognitively aware of her surroundings.  When covid hit, she understood he reason for isolation. So did her children, but it was still hard, very hard for all of them.

Nine months is a long time for a 98-year-old. Even with two devoted children. Gary and his sister each visited once a week, peeking through the window and trying to chat. Fortunately on Saturday the door to her room room was available, much to everyone's delight.

Over the months I've heard stories of courage on the part of adult children. Some were able to take their parent's to doctor's appointments,only to drive through afterwards for goodies at a take-out restaurant. Others went for visits in the park, if the rules of their particular facility permitted.

And one daughter sprang for a several day stay at a beautiful hotel. The occasion? Mom's 90th birthday.

For many nursing and assisted living residents, the doors have opened, for visitors and loved ones. Hooray!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

My Guest Post: Listening and Talking to Your Parents at Life's End

I'm generally up for guest blogging. It brings back memories of my ten-year stint as a substitute school teacher so many years ago. Today, I'm not "the teacher." That role is Ginger Kauffman's. I'm writing because I admire Ginger and because this subject, end of life, is important to all of us: 

My post, Listening and Talking to Your Parents at Life's End ran on Ginger's Salt and Pepper blog a few days ago. 

I explored the difficulty we often have talking to our parents when they are very ill.  What do we say? When should we be silent? When should we discuss final issues such as care during the last few days? I included some great resources such as "Five Wishes.

Yes, those talks are sometimes scary. And hard. Fortunately, God is with us.  All the time.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Readers' Best Posts from this Eldercare Blog


It's Alice Kalso, here. I'm happy about passing the 300-mark with my eldercare blog. I've learned a lot since 2011, when I began writing about my experiences in elder care, both personal and professional.

Here are two of the readers' favorites. Enjoy!

1.  The most popular, receiving the most views:

Friday, February 26, 2021

My eldercare blog just passed 300 posts

 Actually, this is post number 303 of  A Boomers Guide to Eldercare. Yay! We passed the 300 mark.

What have I learned during the past eleven-plus years since I started this blog? And from the 25 years of working with seniors and their families?

First, I reaffirmed my original hunch that adult children can often become their parents' heroes, tackling hard choices such as choosing home care, finding assisted living, and advocating for them no matter where they live.

Second, I realized anew that this new role in which we find ourselves is hard work. Terribly hard work at times. But it is important, so important. And our relationship with our parent sets the pace for the many decisions we make on their behalf.

Third, we can't do the job without help. Specifically, we need:

Information: We need to know about so many new things such as Medicare, Medicare, Hospice, and more. This blog and others like attempt to meet this need.

Inspiration: Stories of other people's caregiving experience can give us courage to face our own journeys. Again, this blog has lots of stories. I love stories!

Community: At a time like this when isolation is rampant, we need to seek refuge in the company of others.

Writing this blog has been a joy for me, at least most of the time.  My next challenge is publishing a book, Eldercare SOS: Facing Hard Choices With Hope, set to be released during the first half of 2021.

My next post will feature links from the most popular posts. Stay tuned!

Alice Kalso

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Meet Ginger Kauffman, A Blogger for Boomers


Alice Kalso asks, “Who is Ginger Kauffman, and why should we pay attention?”

 I’m happy to introduce Ginger Kauffman, a writer who has valuable things to say. For years Ginger has been fascinated with words and the way they can touch people’s lives.

Both of us write for Boomers. Her blog is called Salt and Pepper: Life and Faith for Boomers and Beyond  Mine is A Boomer’s Guide to Eldercare. My first published book, Elder Care SOS: Facing Hard Choices with Hope, will be released during the first half of 2021.

We first met in 1968 during our first year of college. I had moved from northern California to Seattle. I was getting used to rain, rain, and more rain. Ginger had lived in Washington all her life, and knew all about rain. We lived in a dorm on the same floor. Often our conversations started at night in the washroom and continued for hours. Our subjects: the world, the universe and Jesus.

Later Ginger and I connected soon after she and her husband Tom started publishing a magazine. Tom was an excellent photographer and graphic artist. Ginger enjoyed her role as writer and editor. I became involved when they asked me to interview a family caring for their 100-year-old great-grandma in their home. Watching this family working together showed me how much love and compassion the younger generations can give their elders. To them, Great-Grandma was not a burden. She was a blessing. As a bonus, my husband took this lady’s picture.

Ginger and I both share a love for seniors. Hers was developed soon after college when she worked three years in a church and met many older people. “I love the older people,” she says. Now as we both approach the “senior years,” we have definite ideas about God and the things he wants us to do at this stage of life.

“In my blog, I want to encourage, challenge, and bless my readers,” she says. “I want to grow in the things the Lord wants me, and all of us, to do. I want to be faithful in what I write.” Biblical truth and joy permeate her blog. She uses stories, both from Scripture and from the present and recent past. She shares favorite Bible verses and gorgeous photos. Together the blog’s content demonstrates a love of life that can brighten the lives of people whatever their age.

As for me, I agree with Ginger’s goals. I want my writing to be filled with the goodness of the Lord. Like Ginger, I’m writing for Boomers. Yet my blog is specifically geared for adult children who are dealing with issues relating to their aging loved ones.

My themes are understanding our parents and ourselves, tackling tough issues such as driving, moving and more, and advocating for our parents through the end of life. These are huge tasks that can be done only with the help of others and especially with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m so glad I am able to meet Ginger again, and again and again on life’s road. I see her often in in our writer’s group, Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. The last time I spoke with Ginger was yesterday. And no, we didn’t talk into the wee hours. But this conversation reminds me of other talks in the past. Then and now we speak of Jesus and his love for us. No matter our ages, that truth still holds and is certainly worth writing about.



Monday, January 11, 2021

Stories are Best for Illuminating Legacy

We all want to be remembered, now and after we've passed from this earth. That desire to make a mark that transcends time is especially vital to our aging loved ones.  And to us as well. "Bring out the stories," I say. Heartfelt, funny, and insightful, stories help us get to the heart of matter. And to the heart of people.

Take Grandpa Harley, for example. Through stories, mostly told by my father, a minister and storyteller, we children learned about the grandpa behind the quiet demeanor he presented to the world. He had cared for his first wife through her 12 years of tuberculosis, while raising my dad, his son. Later he remarried and had three children. Many of my memories revolved around playing "Red Light, Green Light," and other games with our cousins.

Grandpa Harley was a "pray-er." At least that's what I called him. When we gathered together before our family began the 100-mile drive home, Grandpa always prayed. His prayers were so long we kids knew that if we were close to needing to go to the bathroom, we should go before the prayer, or we could have an accident.  Another thing about his prayers: they were always punctuated with "Amens." 

One day, in his 70th year, he mowed the lawn at the church, something he did every week. He felt tired afterwards, but not too tired to pray for the pastor and others in the congregation with special needs. The next morning, he suffered a massive heart attack and went to heaven.

Our family has been pulling out some old photos lately. The last picture we have of Grandpa was in our wedding fifty years ago. Two of out grandpas attended. Grandpa Harley was his usual shy self. Grandpa Joe, from Eastern Washington, was his polar opposite. Somehow, though, Grandpa Joe got tricked into sampling a ripe olive that wasn't cured. Sour, sour. But afterwards, a great story.

Digging through the memories is great for our children and grandchildren. Through stories, they can pick up on the importance of legacy. We can, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Is three years old too young to master generosity?


Here are Carol and me as grownups. This story is about a gift she gave Jesus long before.

At three years old, my sister Carol knew what she wanted for Christmas.  She wanted to give her best gift to Jesus. But she struggled.

Our Sunday School teacher had planted the gift idea in Carol's mind.

"I want you to think about giving Jesus a toy, a doll, or anything that you really love. We will give your special gift to a boy or girl who doesn't have any toys." Carol, I'm sure, had a slightly different take on the teacher's words. She took them literally: "Give your special gift to Jesus."

As a seven-year-old, I thought differently about our teacher's request.  I began culling all my possessions until I found something suitable, not precious, acceptable but not special. I wrapped my gift, mentally checking off my to-do-list, and laid it on the shelf.

"What are you going to bring?" I asked Carol. "It's a surprise." She used that word to describe all sorts of things, strange and otherwise. I had no clue what she meant this time.

Soon I noticed she was quieter than usual. At night I heard her cry out alternately "No" and "Yes." She would clutch and then push away an object which I knew she loved.

A tattered yellow blanket--was this what she was preparing to give? /The push and pull continued night after night. 

One morning Carol placed the blanket in Mother's hands. "Help me, Mommy. I want to give this to Jesus." Mother washed it, wrapped it, and set it on a shelf. 

"This is beautiful, and so are you."

The Sunday before Christmas, at Sunday School, we lay our gifts at the foot of the big Christmas tree. Carol's tears were gone, and her struggles were over. She was beaming. And I learned a lesson I'll never forget.

Giving our best to Jesus, no matter what it looks like, is the best thing we can do.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Holiday Gifts for Your Aging Parent--Easy and Affordable

 Playing Santa isn't the easiest role in the world. Especially when you're buying or making a gift for your aging parent or loved one.

The following gifts emphasize both ease and affordability. Your loved one doesn't need a lot of "stuff." They have had a chance to accumulate and to move from "more" to "less." Here are a few gift ideas that don't take up much room but can make a big impact for the right person.

A cupcake, a flowering plant or a jar of candy to share. A book, if they like reading and you know what kind of books

A puzzle - there are certain ones for people with dementia. Preferably one that is personal. If they like birds for example, a bird puzzle.

A hand towel for kitchen or bath.

A wide brimmed sun hat

Warm mittens

All natural hand cream- for someone who doesn’t have dementia. 

A visitors journal 

Water coloring kit, if they would appreciate it. 

Coloring or activity book.

Bathrobe or slippers

Gift certificate to get their nails done 

Anything from the Alzheimers store

This list was borrowed from a previous post I wrote for Valentine's Day. Looking over the list, it still seems right on the money. What do you think?

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving's Stories Are About Legacy

 Legacy. It's the stuff families are made of, or at least the things they remember. And this year, when we seem adrift, it's good to recall our blessings and to thank God for the people who went before us. This Thanksgiving happens to be the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in America.

Every Thanksgiving, my husband Don, brings out the story of our Pilgrim family members. The Allertons, his ancestors, came to America on the "Mayflower."  Isaac Allerton, the family patriarch, had sought freedom of worship, leaving England for America with his wife and children. 

One was a six-year-old daughter. She and the other Allertons endured hardship aboard the Mayflower.  Her mother didn't quite make it to the shore. She died in childbirth aboard the ship Plymouth Harbor. The baby died as well. Isaac cared for the other children by himself until he remarried. 

There are other interesting characters in the Thanksgiving story, Squanto, for one. But our grandchildren especially love to hear about the six-year-old girl. She has an unusual name: Remember. Remember Allerton.

None of us will forget her, thanks to Grandpa Don's annual stories about Remember. Legacy lives on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Elder Care Truth: What goes around, comes around

My posts are lagging behind the times. Sorry for the delay. I'm working on the final parts of a book on Elder Care. When did I realize that besides chapters, books often include a Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion? I used to skip over those extra sections. Now I'm writing them.

Lately I've been thinking about our generation--Boomers and Beyond. I've concentrated over the last ten years on helping us understand our parents, know ourselves, and struggle over the difficult issues that crop up during this often difficult period of life.

But now, the shoe may be on the other foot. Many of us are needing help we thought we'd never need. In our church Sunday school class, over the years members have shared a variety of what we call prayer requests. People explain what's going on in their lives, or the lives of their children or parents. Class members pray for that person. When a prayer is answered, we all rejoice. The most important thing about this process is the realization that God is with us always.  

In the "old days," prayer requests were varied and included: "Lord, help our baby to sleep through the night! And later, "Help Jimmy to finally use the toilet rather than the floor." Those prayer requests changed with the time and circumstances. A child failing in school. A teenager thinking he was 21 when he wasn't. A new grandbaby  on the way.

Our aging parents were next. Fractured hips, Parkinson's disease, and dementia were all covered in our prayer requests.

Now we are the subject of many of our prayers. Not long ago, I received an email from the spouse of a man who had recently undergone surgery.  One sentence stood out. "He finally slept through the night!" Deja vu.  What goes around comes around.

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