Sloppalisa Saturday

One of the most irritating and embarrassing things that can come with aging is the dropsy. And no, I’m not talking about edema here.  That’s a whole different category.

I’m talking about my hands don’t work.  I pick something up, I drop it. I pick it up again, having to bend over to do so, and now my back aches.

You know, there’s just no justice. You work so hard to develop dexterity from the time you discover your own toes and shove them into your mouth, and then you get old, and you couldn’t reach your toes to save your life.  And it wouldn’t be cute, either, the way it was when you were a baby. Trust me.

This morning I’ve been cooking, preparing a casserole for the church luncheon tomorrow. It’s not a complicated dish. Hamburger, onion, red sauce, noodles, kidney beans, cheese. Easy.

Would you like to guess what all I dropped in the creation of this humble stew? Start with the can of tomato sauce that almost landed on my toes. The wooden spoon I used–after rinsing it off–to stir and break up the hamburger.  The onion, which rolled haughtily away from me, snickering until it bumped the wall.   I pounced!  “Gotcha!”  I hollered–and promptly dropped it again. Caught it in my apron, though, so it didn’t get too far.

Some people think aprons are too old-fashioned.  I couldn’t care less. They come in handy for all sort of things, including dropped objects.

While my goulash was simmering, I went into the bathroom to get out my daily allotment of medications and supplements.  Dropped two of the bottles before opening them (that’s a good thing!) and one of the pills.  Tiny little golden colored Vitamin D capsule.

And now we address another of the indignities of aging. I have graduated trifocal glasses.  I scanned the floor from a standing position, could not find tiny little golden pill. Bent over, eyeballing every inch of the floor, and still had no success. That’s partly because I have to keep moving my head up and down so I can see through the appropriate layer of stacked lenses in my glasses. Like this:

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Still no little golden pill.  Phooey.  I’ll just get another one.  This time, I opened it up right over the sink, which I had plugged, so that when I dropped it–and I did– it would have nowhere to hide. Victory!

Well, I completed my kitchen task with no further mishaps, but I still need to grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the top of the stew.  Should be interesting.

 

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I Wish I Could Put a Bandaid on it!

I’ve just realized something.

Looks like I’m down for the count. Not sure what that means yet. I have an MRI scheduled on Monday the 10th, but I can’t get in to see the surgeon until Nov 14 and I have no idea how long before he schedules surgery, IF he schedules surgery.

Remember believing that putting a Band Aid on an owie made it feel better?  Does any have a very large Band-Aid?

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In the meantime, I can’t work. That’s not good for us at all, but there’s just no way I can climb stairs, sit in my chair several hours. I’m taking strong pain meds and muscle relaxers, and the doc gave me renewal indefinitely. I find that rather scary. The pain is in my sacroiliac joint, left side. So that involves the sciatic nerve, and basically i’m a little old woman tottering around with either my cane or a walker that Terry had stashed away in the attic. You need a tool? Come on over. Terry has one. Probably two or three 🙂

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So, for my praying friends, please pray:
1) Relief from the pain
2) The MRI, in which I will be entombed for around 30 min to an hour. It scares the tech when I scream and cry
3) I’m on a list for “if there’s a cancellation we’ll call you” for the appt. on Nov. 14. Please pray that I can get in sooner. Not that I want anyone to suffer, just that someone will miraculously grow stronger bones.
4)I can’t work with this kind of pain. I’m trying to figure out if there’s some way I could see my clients using Skype but there are difficulties with that.
5) Pray for Terry. He always takes such good care of me when I’m sick, but I worry about his own pain with his injured foot.
6) If I do have to sit out the next two or three months, pray that I will be inspired to use the time to write. I need to write “The Book” that’s been rolling around in my head for several years now. Maybe I could call it “Rolling Stone.” Oh, no. I can’t. Some rock group already has that name.

Finally, it would be really cool if I could delete the “celebrating a birthday” thingy. I have no idea what I did to get it there.

Well. It’s gone. Yay.

Early Sunday Morning

It’s only 5:20 a.m.  Understand, I don’t DO 5:20 a.m.  I’ve been awake since 4:30 with a really nasty headache. That’s bad enough.  Add to it that we’re dogsitting, and he’s an elder dog, nearly 15.  He’s a bit senile, a lot deaf, and he sleeps most of the day away.  Last night, he had some difficulties.  I finally got up at 5 because he was crying, took him out, and now he’s passed out on an afghan he likes on the living room floor, snoring like an old man.

Well.  This is a fine how-de-do.  This is NOT normal for him, and it’s hard to be angry because he’s really been a great little dog for most of his life.

I still have a terrible headache. Coffee is brewing, and in a few minutes I’m going to go see if a hit of caffeine will help the pain.  I don’t think church is an option for me this morning. I’m REALLY needing some sleep.

So. All this has gotten me thinking about old age and the new things it brings into our lives.  I was reading one of my work-related journals yesterday, and the whole issue was about the needs of the aging population, of which I am a part.  That’s hard for me to process.   Most of the time, even with my back issues, I don’t feel old. I’m two years away from 70, which is now considered  young old age. I do have the Syndrome X stuff–diabetes, hypertension, and so on. I even think I’m ready to seek the help of a nutritionist to get me on the right track to lose the weight.  I’ve resisted doing that, because I know what to do.  I just don’t want to do it  But I’m also keenly aware that the weight I’m carrying is bad for me on several different levels, and I clearly haven’t been able to maintain a weight loss program on my own. I have an appointment with my doctor in about a week, and it’s one of the things I’m going to ask her about. She’s wanted me to do this for several years.  I think I’m ready to give in.

More interesting to me, though, than the physical issues of aging, are the emotional, mental, and spiritual issues. We become forgetful. We tend to repeat ourselves. Younger people who haven’t realized their own mortality yet tend to become bored and impatient with us.They also tend to think that with the onset of wrinkles and canes, we’re also losing our brains.

I’d like to say here that my brain is in perfectly good condition. It’s true, from what my offspring tell me, that I tend to repeat my stories.  So do they, but I listen anyway.  It’s also true, for many people I know, that the onset of age brings us closer to the Lord. We have more time to spend in the Word, and in prayer. It’s a wonderful thing.

I remember a woman, the grandmother of my friend, who told stories of her life over and over. We were 12. She was 80-something.  I remember we’d look at each other and share an eyeroll when she launched into one of her lengthy, rambling tales.

One of the saddest things about old age is that we tend to live more in the past than in the right now. Our so-called salad days are behind us.  I even had a pastor who told a man my age that he hoped the elder generation in the church would just gracefully fade to the background now and let the younger people take over. He was 30something. It’s very sad that he apparently felt he had nothing to learn from the grey heads in the congregation.

I may not be able to do all I did when I was younger. I was very active, busy, and energetic for a long time. I loved being involved in many areas of my church, teaching and singing and so on. I still do love teaching.  My singing voice is pretty unreliable these days, so I try not to torture people with that.

My age does not prohibit me from continuing to learn and grow; nor does it prohibit me from teaching. I went on my first-ever mission trip in July, and I was just fine. It stretched me, and opened my heart and understanding in a whole new way.  I hope I can do another one at some point.

I heard a young man say that our senior citizens just need to be loved on. No, that’s not all we need.  We need to feel useful. We need to be able to hold our heads up with pride over what we’ve accomplished in our lives, and over what God has allowed us to do.

We are the children of the Great Generation. A lot of their strengths rubbed off on us. We had–and still have–a great work ethic. We value our independence in a way that I’m afraid Americans are losing. We remember when America could hold its head up in the world community, not just because of our strength but because of our compassion. America used to be at the forefront when disaster struck some other nation in the world, sending aid and workers. We still do that.

My generation is the Baby Boomer generation. World War II is very real to us. Our fathers and mothers were a part of it, and they were also a part of the Great Depression. We grew up hearing their stories, admiring their strength, and enjoying the prosperity of post-war America. 

Ironically, my generation also was the generation of the Hippie movement, when so many turned their backs on “The Establishment” and went off to live in communes and participate in anti-war rallies.  Which war?  Viet Nam. The one in which our soldiers were traumatized over there, and then here at home when they came back to be vilified with rotten vegetables and screamed epethets like “Baby Killer!”

The seeds of  hatred and disrespect for our own country were sown way back then–before then, really. We’re reaping the whirlwind now.

My generation was at the forefront of what we now know as the electronic revolution. My husband remembers learning to program a computer that took up a whole room, and spit out its “knowledge” on punch cards. We were part of the incredible days of the first space flights.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped onto the moon the summer I was married, 1969.

We were smart, folks. And we still are. We have a lot to offer.  We’re not ready to be herded into the preparation- for- death institutions that we call nursing homes. Bill Gates is a boomer.  So was Steve Jobs.  And so is The Donald.

Understand, I’m speaking  for our generation as a whole, not for every individual. I understand that there are people of my generation who aren’t doing well.  But so many more of us are just fine. We’re not depressed, not senile, not drooling as we stare vacantly at nothing. We’re still active, bright, and busy. We’re still working, still reliable, still contributing.

Well, I’ve gone to rambling.  That’s what happens when I have to get up before the sun rises.

I think I’m done now.

Aging: Loneliness (Friday Counseling Issues)

Growing old can sometimes be a very lonely process. Not everyone has a large family, or even a small one, to care for the aging generation of grandparents and great-grandparents. Often, the task of caring for an elder lands on just one person’s shoulders, and it is a heavy responsibility. It can involve becoming the Power of Attorney for the elder; being responsible for all his financial obligations, taxes, bills, health care, and so on. Unfortunately, this responsibility can often coincide with the age at which the caregiver’s children are in their teens or early 20’s and still needing some parental help and guidance.

It isn’t always easy to find answers.  I have a couple of clients right now who are in their middle to late sixties, and are caring for mothers in their late 80’s. The daughters have their own physical difficulties, and find it very difficult to provide the physical care their mothers need. Neither of the daughters wants to put her mother in a facility, and I understand that,  But sometimes, there really isn’t any other choice.

Loneliness is harder for some than for others.  People who have always had lots of friends or family around them are deeply hurt when, as time passes, those people become absorbed in their own affairs and no longer have much time to spend with the elder.  Visits can be too short, too infrequent to satisfy the need of the elder to have some sense of still being connected to others.

One of the advantages of an assisted living facility or a good nursing home is that there is opportunity for socializing with others. I know of people who are so glad they moved from their house or apartment into such a facility, because now they have found new friends and are no longer so isolated.

Many churches have shut-in visitation programs. They  often do an outstanding job of staying in touch with elders who are unable to get out and who depend on people coming to them for social calls.

The fact is, however, that when most of the friends and family members of the elder’s generation have died, she can feel very lonely in a room full of people.  All those she truly felt connected with have gone on, and she feels no one knows her any more.

I wish I had an easy answer for such a situation. I don’t.

I will say that if you know of a situation in  your family, your church, your neighborhood, in which an older person who can’t get out much spends many days alone, you may be the one who can mobilize others in your family or organization to spend some time with that person.  It is too easy for us to be so busy doing our own lives that we forget about those left alone with no one to talk with for too many days at a time.

We need to be aware, and we need to take care. None of us are getting any younger.

I think this will be the final post for now on the topic of aging.  Not sure where I’ll go next,  Should be interesting to see what comes to mind between now and next Friday 🙂

Aging: Changes in the Immune System

I lived too far away from my mom to spend time with her in her last couple of years, but we spoke on the phone almost every week.  It seemed to me that she almost always had an upper respiratory infection, or was just getting over one.  Before she went to the nursing home, she had a little apartment.  Her sinus issues were terrible there, as well.  We were able to gift her with a new mattress and pillow, and I think the new pillow, especially, helped relieve some of her nasal problems that were due to allergies.  She’d had her old pillow forever, and she wasn’t thrilled about giving it up!  But she did say she felt a little better.

So, now I’m a senior citizen myself, and my doctor keeps careful track of whether or not I’ve had a flu shot or a pneumonia shot.  Relatively harmless infections aren’t a big deal for young people who are strong and active, but they can be very serious for those of us in the Boomer generation. Our immune systems just aren’t as strong and vital as they used to be.

Here are some of the things that are symptomatic of a weakened immune system:

  • It is slower to respond. This increases risk of getting sick. Flu shots or other vaccines may not work as well or protect you for as long as expected.
  • An autoimmune disorder may develop. This is a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissues.
  • Healing is also slowed in older persons. There are fewer immune cells in the body to bring about healing.
  • The immune system’s ability to detect and correct cell defects also declines. This can result in an increase in the risk of cancer.

The fact is that as our bodies age we are less able to effectively fight off certain diseases.

Basic good hygiene, nutrition, and exercise are important and helpful. Here are a few other things you can do to protect your health as you age:

  • Get the flu and pneumonia vaccines and any other vaccines recommended by your health care provider.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps boost your immune system.
  • Eat healthy foods. Good nutrition keeps your immune system strong.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking weakens your immune system.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol. Ask your health care provider how much alcohol is safe for you.
  • Look into safety measures to prevent falls and injuries. A weak immune system can slow healing from falls and injuries.

It is so important to begin taking care of yourself while you are still strong, healthy, and independent.  The importance of exercise cannot be stressed too much.  Keeping the body moving and the muscles strong will slow down the aging process and keep you independent much longer.

No one wants to be a burden on their families.  We all hope to be strong and active long into our senior years.  My father-in-law was a man who stayed active all his life.   The day before he died, he’d been walking the woods with his lifelong hunting buddies up in northern Michigan.  His heart gave out on him, and he died in his sleep that night. He didn’t have a lingering, dependent old age because he stayed physically active and mentally curious right up to the moment he took his last breath.

It pays to take care of ourselves.

Aging: Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

Many years ago, I had a classroom of juniors and seniors. We were watching a video that someone had taped, including the ads. One of them was the one reflected in the title, in which a little old lady takes a tumble and says those iconic words.

The class erupted in laughter.

I was furious at their response. I turned off the video and gave them some scathing words. They didn’t have a clue why I was so perturbed.  They’re in their 40’s now, with aging parents and very elderly grandparents.  I hope they “get it” now and react with some compassion as their elders lose their physical strength and mobility.  It’s no joke.

Why do elderly people seem to fall more often?

Loss of muscle mass; loss of balance (which depends largely on one’s feet being in good shape); loss of reflexes that help soften or avoid the fall; loss of vision, increasing the risk of a trip-and-fall.  These are just a few of the contributing factors. People who have had strokes and are left with a dragging foot are in danger of falling, especially if they resist  the use of canes and walkers.

Why is a fall so dangerous for the elderly?

Factors that increase the danger after a fall include whether or not the person lives alone. An elderly person who lives alone seriously needs to consider some type of device that enables him to contact someone for help if he falls. There are many good ones out there, some that can detect a fall and will alert the call center if the person cannot operate the device.

When an elder who lives alone falls, she could be on the floor for hours or, worse, days before anyone discovers her predicament.  If there is a head injury, the longer it goes untreated the more dangerous it becomes. If there is a broken bone, typically a hip, the pain can be intense and make it impossible for the person to move. Pneumonia can develop; if there is a heart condition, it can worsen, especially if regular medication is necessary. Breathing conditions that require oxygen or other medication can become life-threatening.  Lack of food will weaken the one who has fallen; lack of water will lead to serious dehydration. If there is already thinning skin, a skin tear can become infected and create a lot of misery. There are so many things to consider.

Several weeks ago, I tripped over something as I took a step down from our kitchen into the garage. The fall was so fast that I didn’t have time to think about how to land.  I felt my left foot twist hard, knew I was going down and could do nothing. It wasn’t pretty. And it just now occurs to me that my fall may have had something to do with the back pain I’ve been experiencing for the last three weeks. I’m very thankful that my husband and a friend were right there, and were able to help me get up. I’m not sure I could have gotten up on my own. My foot is still sore and a bit swollen.

It happens faster than you can imagine, and statistics  indicate that one out of every three seniors will fall in any given day. We need to think about measures we can take to protect ourselves from the possible after-effects of a fall, and we need to be wise about using our canes or walkers.

Falling is no joking matter for us Boomers. It’s something to take seriously.

Aging: Physical Debility

This is hard for everyone.  No one escapes the decrease of bodily health and strength as age sets in. It’s difficult to accept, difficult to realize we actually are those slow-moving, little old people that we used to think we never would be! Here are a couple of things that I hope will make you smile:

I absolutely love this old lady.  I’ve posted this video before, and it tickles me every single time.  And what I like about the little old guy in the picture?  Look at his right foot.  He’s still moving!  That’s how I want it to be!

So, to get serious.  Debility is the physical weakness, loss of muscle, softness, that comes with serious illness or old age, or both. Arthritis creates debility. So do any number of other conditions that can creep up on us while we’re not looking. It is upsetting when you need to ask for help in doing what used to be simple tasks. Opening jars, lifting things down from a cupboard, even passing a heavy dish along to the person next to you at dinner, can all become tasks that you never used to think about and now you can barely accomplish without  a helping hand.

No one ever wants to be helpless.  My husband is by no means helpless, but it bugs him to death that he is no longer the strong pillar of support for me that he used to be.  Losing strength is losing independence. I was born on Independence Day. It probably should have been my middle name.  I value my independence perhaps too much, never wanting anyone to do for me what I feel I should be able to do myself.

The day is coming, and I know that it is, when I’m going to have to learn to graciously accept that helping hand, and to be thankful for it.

There are, however, things we can all do to delay the onset of old-age debility, and to slow down the progress of it.

Exercise.  Yes, I know, you were dreading that word. However, it is the prime factor is delaying and decreasing debility. Exercise helps keep your bones strong, your muscles toned, and your agility in its best possible shape. It even helps to  improve balance, which is a problem for many older folks.  I believe that the statistics are that one in every three older people will fall in a 24-hour period.

You don’t have to be a body builder.  Walking is your first, best choice for exercise.  If you hold low-weight dumbells while you walk, that’s even better. Weather is bad?  Walk inside. There are walking videos especially for improving age-related debility.  It will increase your back strenght, abdomen tone, and arms and legs. And it’s pretty painless.

Water exercise is fabulous if you can find a place that offers it.  Most YMCA’s offer water aerobics for seniors.  It’s great for arthritic people because it takes the weight off the sore joints, and most of all it gets you moving.

What you eat is important.  Bone loss contributes to debility, so talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about how to keep calcium in your bones.  You need protein, carbs, and fats for energy, strength and over-all health.  Because there are so many of us in this Baby Boomer age category, the study and practice of geriatric medicine is booming. There is lots of good information online, at your doctor’s office, at the library. There are senior citizen centers in most communities that provide some activity, including dancing, that will help you get moving. There are walking clubs, and yoga centers, and classes especially for those trying to either maintain or regain some strength.  If you are in generally good health but are starting to see weakness setting in, you have no reason whatsoever to just allow debility to overtake you.

I know two women who are in their early 90’s.  They are both still active. The get up every day, get dressed, go out and do things. One is still driving! They reach out to others and stay as busy and involved as they can. They are happy by nature, and they are a joy to be around. So much of our enjoyment of life as we age centers on our own attitudes.

I want my grandchildren to enjoy seeing me coming.  I don’t want them to sigh, knowing they will hear nothing but a litany of complaints about my aching this and hurting that. I want to be a part of their lives that they will remember with pleasure, not a sick old woman who casts a pall of blah over everything all the time.

Aging is inevitable. Misery is not. Take steps to be the best that you can be, as long as you can.