Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Mom With Love: Mother's Day Gifts, Celebration Tips

Two Questions:

What do you give your aging mother for Mother's Day?

And how do you celebrate any occasion with your aging parent despite difficult circumstances?

I'm reprising two posts from the archive which address these topics. Enjoy!

Mother's Day Gift Ideas From the Pros

Seize the Day: Celebrate Your Elder

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moving Mom to a Retirement Community? Her Wish List May Surprise You

Moving is tough. But if your parent moves to a retirement community, his or her "wish list" may be shorter than you'd think. And your parent's "must-haves" may have little to do with the building's age or decor.

In both vintage and spanking brand new communities, I've watched Boomers and staff team together to make their elders' dreams come true.

A 90-something woman said: "I can't live without baking cookies to give away." She kept the flame of her baking passion alive in her new retirement community, thanks to a toaster oven which baked eight cookies at a time. On Wednesday, baking day, the aroma of chocolate, vanilla and other sweet ingredients wafted down the hall. On Thursday she fed residents and staff, as well as feeding her own soul.

A gardener who by his own admission was older than dirt said: "My green thumb keeps me sane. I have to plant." He and his daughter chose a retirement apartment at ground level. He planted annuals and bulbs, and enjoyed watching his garden grow.

A self-proclaimed standup comedian at 85 said: "I want to make people laugh." Procuring a tutor at his new retirement community, he learned to surf the Internet, finding corny jokes to add to his already hefty store of humor, culled from a lifetime.

Even more than living in beautiful surroundings, these seniors wanted to continue to do their favorite things, and be themselves. As adult children, it's our job, not to worry so much about creating a fairytale perfect world for our parents, but to help make their simple dreams come true.

"Look beyond the chandelier," says Marcia Byrd, Executive Director of Patriots Glen, a cozy assisted living community in Bellevue, Washington, not too far from mine. I couldn't have said it better. Simple pleasures don't always come in glitzy packages.

Does your parent have a skill, pasttime or passion that feeds his or her soul? Try to enable your parent to continue it, even in a new setting.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Warning: Your Aging Parents' Home May Be Hazardous to Their Health

We Boomers remember the childproofing years. Our kitchen sported cupboards that toddlers couldn't pry open (sometimes we couldn't, either) and gates kept little ones from tumbling down the stairs.

Your aging parent may need the same level of vigilance. Falling at age 80-plus is almost a recipe for a broken hip. And hazards that we Boomers can skirt around are deadly for them.

So snoop around. I give you permission to peruse your parent's house for anything that may present a safety issue. Better yet, take your parent along. Specifically, look in these rooms:

Tour the kitchen. Open the refrigerator door. Does it contain ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, green olives and little else? Not a good sign. The other extreme is also bad: it's crammed full of odds and ends, many with "interesting" aromas and colors, mostly green.

Check out the living room. Are the carpets secure? And what about those piles of "Saturday Evening Post" and "Life" magazines on the floor? Are there extension cords lying about, ready to be tripped on? What about easy chairs--do they fit well?

Walk through the bathroom. Look around: if your parent has a bathtub, is there a bath bench or seat? What about grab bars? If he or she uses a toilet riser, is it secured well? On the door of the medicine cabinet, is there a list of the medications, along with the doctor's name and phone number? This helps emergency technicians tremendously.

Stroll through other rooms. Does the laundry room look like the "Wreck of the Hesperus?" Or maybe the bedroom has become the laundry room, with clean and dirty clothes strewn around. Another room to check is wherever your parent keeps his or her medications. Do the medi-sets look exactly the same as they did a month ago?

This obviously isn't a complete list, nor is it meant to be. You'll see other things, too. As you make your tour, you'll notice some "themes" running through the home. Does your parent need help with shopping? Cooking? Preparing food? Housecleaning? Laundry? Medication management?

Our elders are notoriously poor reporters. They may say, "I'm great!" when their homes say otherwise. Once you do your tour, discuss your findings and chart a plan.

Tell me about your "tour of dreams." Did you find some surprises? We usually do.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Afraid of Talking About End-of-Life? 'Five Wishes' Helps

Talking about end of life issues with your aging parent can be tough. How do you begin? What do you say?

A powerful booklet called "Five Wishes," can help. Jim Towey, who worked with Mother Teresa for 12 years and spent one of those living in a hospice in Washington, DC, wrote "Five Wishes." Recognized by 42 states, "Five Wishes" aims to help people plan for the time when they might be seriously ill.

The booklet has been called a "Living Will With a Heart." Easy to use, and stripped of medical and legal jargon, it has check boxes and blanks to fill in. You can discuss it together with your parent, tackling the wishes in any order.

The Five Wishes deal with naming a health care agent, deciding which medical care someone wants or doesn't want, specifying their preferred comfort measures, deciding how they want to be treated; and determining what they want their loved ones to know when they pass.

At Evergreen Court Retirement Community in Bellevue, Washington, where I work, we had a Five Wishes presentation by Greg Robbins, Social Worker from Providence Hospice of Seattle, a few weeks ago. Besides the residents, adult children, a pastor and other members of the public came. The response was positive.

Do you have experiences with "Five Wishes?" For more information, contact Aging With Dignity.
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