Friday, March 27, 2020

Coronavirus: it's amazing the difference a few days makes


Note: I wrote the following on March 25 from a cruise ship on our way home from Pago Pago on American Samoa. Now that we're home, I realize our perspective on the the virus has changed drastically. From earlier reports from our daughter and cable television we knew there would be food shortages and fewer cars on the road. We knew about the rising number of cases and the increased need for ventilators, masks, and trained caregivers.



But seeing is believing. And perspective is everything. I'm publishing this because it's what happened to us, beginning on St. Patrick's Day and until March 25, which is my husband's birthday.
Our "suffering" was light at most compared to those directly affected by the virus. Our prayers are with them.

If this post sounds Pollyannaish I understand. Here goes:

St. Patrick’s Day, 2020—My husband surprised me with a pinch.  I’d forgotten to wear green. Other things about this day made me want to pinch myself, to make sure what I was experiencing was true.
I stood facing the window of the cruise ship, the Norwegian Jewel. More than 1700 passengers were on board, 700 of them Americans.

The island in back of us, American Samoa, was shrinking by the moment, as we sailed away bound for Honolulu. We peeked at the port Pago Pago where we had refueled the night before.

American Samoa could be called the Second Emerald Isle, at least from my point of view. Green was the dominant color—no pinching allowed. Palm trees and assorted foliage dominated, topped by jagged cliffs. As our ship sailed toward the ocean, the landscape shrank. Houses, shops, and an oil refinery were all miniaturized and would soon disappear.

A lone American flag stood atop a church.

Why weren’t we able to disembark the previous day to explore this island? Our cruise’s original itinerary included ports in Australia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Polynesia, plus the Samoas. All that began changing when the pandemic coronavirus hit. We began sailing on February 28. Soon country after country began closing their borders and their ports. Eventually this meant we had 13 straight days at sea.

March 25 was the banner day for all of us.  The last load of passengers left Honolulu to fly to other ports of the world, each called home.

The crew on our ship and management of Norwegian Cruise Lines were wonderful. We were cocooned, in a good way. Our hands were sprayed with sanitizer at every turn—before entering the dining areas, the auditorium and other public areas.  The staff has served us remarkably well, making our beds, preparing our meals, and providing entertainment! Even more important, to my knowledge, no one on the ship contracted the virus. We went home healthy if not a few pounds heavier.

Television kept us in touch with the news of the virus and we had limited contact with folks back home. We have been encouraged by the vigilance of leaders in many nations as they fight the virus together.

French Polynesia is still on our bucket list. We hang onto green—the symbol of hope and life.  As our old friend Kermit the Frog croaked, “It’s not easy being green!” No, it’s not. But it shows that we are growing!  By the way, on March 25 my husband celebrated his birthday. In honor of him, no pinches. Instead, birthday candles were in order!




Saturday, February 29, 2020

Playing hooky in Australia: I'm taking a break from helping families find health care

A Koala in one of Sydney's animal parks

Greetings from Australia! It's a great place to play hooky from my job in America. I'm taking a vacation from helping families find health care for their loved ones.

What about my keen interest in kangaroos and koalas? For me, it goes back to a little boy named Alexander, the star of three classic children's books by Judith Viorst. One of those is Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It. Going to Move.)

One of Alexander's pet phrases is "I'm going to move to Australia!" Alexander has been given bad news by his parents. His father's job is taking the family 1000 miles away. He is horrified!  As he says goodbye to friends, the postman, his schoolmates and more, he continually says, " I've not going to move."  Or "I'm going to move to Australia!"

Like Alexander, we all face losses in life. And those losses mount as we age. Take our parents. They have lost spouses, friends, and stature in the community.  The places they knew so well may seem foreign.  If a senior moves to a retirement or assisted living community, there can be more losses to review as well, at least initially..

Maybe you're an adult child, or a professional working with many seniors. You, too, can face losses. The job of caregiving or supporting caregivers can overwhelm, to the point of causing us to suffer what is called "Compassion Fatigue."

That's where Australia comes in. It's a symbol of respite, a break from your demanding work. It's one way of combating compassion fatigue.  A trip, or a period of rest, is one way to resurrect your life.

Back to Australia. I'm already feeling refreshed.
Baby penguins are a big hit!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Valentine's Day: Keep It Simple for Your Aging Parent

When your aging parent was in school, Valentine's Day was a big deal. It still is for many of us. And it's only two days away. What is a simple gift for your parent that they will love and that won't break the bank?

A card with a hand-written note is simple.  My husband sent one to his mother in Arizona.  She loves letters. Not junk mail.

Abby Durr of Silver Age Referrals shares some other ideas:

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






Friday, January 24, 2020

In Memory Care, the Mantra is 'Keep it Simple'

A few days ago I was flying from Phoenix to Seattle thinking about memory care.  Why? Because my mother-in-law lives in memory care and because I've worked for years with families seeking memory care.

From what I've observed, the memory care mantra is "Keep it Simple." Seniors with memory loss may often experience anxiety, and the fewer the complications the better.

SPACE--The room should be uncluttered.  That means a bed, a dresser, and an easy chair or two, one for the resident, one for a guest. One reason for the uncluttered look is that elders with memory loss are often at risk for falling.  Keeping clear paths may minimize falls. Regarding the dresser: it's best to have clothing and other essentials occupy only a couple of drawers. That way, if a purse is lost, a resident has fewer places to look.

DECOR--If possible, the room should have pictures on the wall, including ones the resident is familiar with from his or her past.  A familiar bedspread, throw pillows and possibly an afghan may help bring a sense of "home" to the room.

SCHEDULE--Most memory care communities are consistent about meal times. That's good.  A person with dementia often has much better long-term memory than short-term memory.  They may remember that lunch is at 11:30, since that's lunch time every day. They may not remember that what they had for breakfast or if they had breakfast.

STAFF--Consistency in staff is great!  If the resident knows that Bing is the one who helps her go to the bathroom and that he is kind and caring, she will experience less anxiety.

VISITS--This is a hard one. Families can't always come at the same time, or they might have to skip a visit for a day, a week or more.  Calling staff ahead of time to announce your arrival is helpful.  Also, some residents have trouble saying "Goodbye" without tears, major tears. One family I know schedules the visit an hour or so before lunch. They end the visit with the resident going to lunch and forgetting the tears.

These ideas on simplicity involve both staff and the family.  It's a team effort!

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