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OPEN FORUM – BRIAN O’NEIL - I’m a resident of a gated, 55-and-older community on the Central Oregon Coast. Like many of my neighbors, I live alone. Every time I climb a ladder, I ask myself, “If I fall, I wonder how long it might take someone to find me.” Young men hate asking for directions. Old men hate asking for help.
One of the neighborhood’s more colorful characters also lives alone and turns 82 in April. He’s best known for shuffling stiffly out of his house whenever a leashed dog approaches his green lawn. More than a few residents take their dogs past his house to test his resolve. A bright white lawn sign reads, “No Dogs Please.” That is the limit of his civility.
At the first sign of an incursion, this elderly gentleman appears on his porch, unleashing a litany of insults that question his neighbor’s ability to read. Years of isolation and loneliness have rusted his social skills. In spite of his obvious hostility, the octogenarian is desperate for human contact, even if the contact is contentious.
The sources of his distress aren’t obvious. A prostate the size of an orange disturbs his sleep. An achy rotator cuff only adds to his nightly distress. His hearing is so diminished, few are willing to engage in the shouting that masquerades as conversation. Lonely and angry, this aging Korean War veteran is desperate for a little attention.
When looking for a way to give back to your community, consider sharing a little of yourself with an elderly neighbor. Dealing with his or her deafness, depression and dementia may be emotionally taxing, but it is energy well spent.
OPEN FORUM – KAREN DARLING – One of the things I was most looking forward to in my retirement years, was endless hours of gardening. I have loved growing things forever, and have learned a lot over the years. However, I moved from Southern Oregon, where it is dry, with high heat in the summer and low temps in the winter. I moved to Northern Oregon to a much milder climate, and much more moisture. So, I had a learning curve ahead of me as I started my new garden. I found the best way to get the inside scoop is to first of all, talk to your neighbors. They know what to plant and when and what pests you will have to deal with. I was very happy to leave behind the deer who ate my flowers, but now I have slugs that chew down the tender shoots. I also found that there are knowledgable and willing employees at garden centers that will give up lots of good tips. And then there are the home and garden shows that have many vendors to chat with. So, I am learning how to be the humble, new gardener on the block. Embrace your new location and remember, we are never to old to learn!
HOUSING OPTIONS – MEI WONG – Are you a Veteran, spouse of a Veteran, or family member of a Veteran? If so, you or a family member may qualify for an Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. You do not need to have service-connected injuries to qualify. It is a benefit that helps people who have In-Home Care; Live in Independent or Assisted living, and Memory Care Communities. Approximately 70 million people are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are Veterans, family members, or survivors of Veterans. A study by the VA concluded that up to $22 billion a year in pensions go unspent because many Veterans are completely unaware of the programs that exist and how to qualify. In our next posts, we will explain the qualification and application process. If you want more information right away, go to our website www.careoptionsresources.com
LIVING HEALTHY – ANDY BAXTER - BAXTER FITNESS SOLUTIONS – Neuromuscular adaptation-train your muscles to train your brain to…You, dear readers, are a knowledge hungry bunch who already knows that exercise is good for you, but did you know HOW good it is for you? The days of the dumb jock stereotype have passed, as we now know that exercise has considerable impact (an odd choice of word not to imply concussion) on the brains ability to connect with the rest of the body via neural pathways. Geezer Jocks rejoice! Exercise induced brain repair or reorganization is commonly referred to as neuroplasticity.
Every time you perform an action, correctly or incorrectly, your brain “learns” how to create more efficient neural pathways. Think of an efficient neural pathway as Highway 5 from Canada to Mexico. A straight shot. Think of an inefficient neural pathway as the 101/405 interchange in Los Angeles- from Southern Californiato the depths of hell with delays and a potential for overheating; not so straight of a shot. The more you practice a movement (pattern) the smoother it gets as your brain and muscles integrate and innervate.
The more you introduce and practice foreign patterns, the more stimulated, and ultimately smarter, your brain and muscles will become! Here are two examples; brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. You are now stuck in LA traffic without a map and have created a toothpaste based Jackson Pollack all over your bathroom vanity. The next time you approach a set of stairs, lead with your non-dominant foot as opposed to your dominant foot. Take note of how that feels and how your body responds. It will adapt, your body will get “smarter” and the world will be a happier and more interesting place!
OPEN FORUM- KAREN DARLING – I recently read an article about an older gentleman in my community who was “rescued” twice by a fire fighter. He had responded to a neighbors call, who said there was smoke at her next door neighbors home. The fire fighter not only did his job by putting out the fire, but observing the very dangerous conditions of the elderly mans home, he took a second step in the rescue. The term firemen use is “Collyer’s Mansion”, lay people know it as hoarding. The fire fighter called The Gatekeepers, a program serving the aging and disabled. A Gatekeeper is someone who comes in contact with older adults through their everydaya activities- meter readers, bank tellers, letter carriers, etc. They are the first line of defense against situations that are harmful, but preventable. They receive training and that is how the elderly man in this story was assisted. His home was a fire trap because of the huge hoard and a safe solution was found for him.
I wondered if other communities had these special people, so I Googled “Gatekeepers” in other parts of the country and found that they exist all over the USA. It is a good thing when we care for our neighbors and community. I am grateful for all you “Gatekeepers” out there.
HOUSING OPTIONS – ELLEE CELLER – REALTOR – Active retirees are looking for homes that offer one story living, convenience to shopping and other resources and low maintenance inside and outside the home. Because land had gotten so expensive, builders began to crowd as much square footage on a lot as they could. Now that prices have dropped, the homes most in demand are updated single family homes. Some of the features that are important are good lighting, door handles that are NOT round so they can be grasped more easily. Raising washing machines and dryers and dishwashers so that one doesn’t have to bend down so far is another important feature. And it is important to many active retirees to have a double car garage, usually with workshop space and room for the golf cart.
The next stage of living into advanced age that has become increasingly popular is independent living in what was once called “warehouses for the elderly”. Now there are many very attractive independent living projects that also provide assisted living spaces as it becomes needed. At this stage it often becomes necessary for the adult children to become involved in making the transition as comfortable and stress free as possible. Working with Realtors who have studied the options in a local market and who know how to work with those seeking to make the transition can make the difference between a happy transition and a contentious one. Seek good unbiased, empathetic help in this process. Breathe deeply through the process and things will work out!
TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY – BILL FERRY- It is said that one constant to interesting photographs is perspective. Shoot low, shoot high, shoot off center, etc. Once in awhile you have to go the extra mile to achieve a good perspective. While in Bern, Switzerland, I could see far above me, workmen installing a new slate roof on an old, steep-roofed building. I was curious about what they were up to, what things looked like and so decided to climb a nearby church tower.
Huffing and puffing sometime later I reached the top and got this birds eye view. The image at first fools the eye until you realize the great slope that the workman was traversing. I found this study in patterns, human interaction and gravity’s potential to be riveting. As a bonus, I came across the master mason’s “logo” at the top of the tower. For centuries this is the way that masons have “signed” their best creations.
OPEN FORUM – MARK DENNETT– I love the story about Marilyn Hagerty the 85-year-old restaurant reviewer of the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. She wrote a review about the opening of the new Olive Garden and it has gone viral with more than a million page views. That’s what the paper’s article counter says, but it broke down amid the surge of traffic to this masterpiece of polite restaurant criticism. You can read her article here. Marilyn has become a real media star with appearances on “Piers Morgan,” “Today” and “The Early Show” when she was invited to the Big Apple to do some restaurant reviews.
The reason I love this story is that there are millions of young people that not only have preconceived notions about what types of restaurants should be “reviewed,” but they think that when you hit retirement age you should stop doing what you love. Why? Ms. Hagerty is just one example of how doing what you love never gets old.
LIVING HEALTHY – CHERIE HENRY - SENIOR LIVING – A very close friend and her family have recently experienced a tragedy that so many other families experience every day. I asked her to write about it to share the many valuable lessons she and her family learned…. here is what she wrote.
The medical stories about people experiencing a heart attack or stroke are in the news every day, I heard them but I really didn’t pay much attention. For me those stories took place far away and to other people. Then in an instant my 72 year old thriving father collapsed from a stroke. It hit without warning in a restaurant during a busy lunch hour. From the moment I heard the news I was on a crash course of learning about the intense world of stroke recovery. I wanted to share a few initial experiences I had with my dad. I could come up with well over a 100 lessons to share, but I’ll keep my list to ten…
1. If you are the first family member to arrive at the hospital and the doctor reviews the facts with you, you’re now the family messenger. It’s up to you to get the word out and with details.
2. Do not leave your loved one alone. I thought, “Dad’s fine, he’s in a hospital with 24 hour care.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the damage from the stroke and heavy medications there was NO way he could find the “call button” for help. My mom, brother, sister and I broke up the 24 hour day into shifts. I took the 9:00pm to 7:00am shift to be at my dad’s bedside. There were countless moments when he reached out for a hand to hold, needed more pain medication, a pillow to be adjusted, a warm blanket for his partially paralyzed body, his eyes covered at 4:30am when hospital staff would blast into the room and turn on the overhead lights to take a blood sample and so many more tasks in the role of patient advocate.
3. Hold off assuming a nurse’s denial of a request is just plain mean. When dad arrived at the hospital he was so thirsty. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him have an ice chip or a sip of water. Later I found out they hadn’t tested his ability to swallow yet, they were looking out for his safety.
4. Don’t take children to visit too soon. Let some healing occur. I waited for nearly a month before I took the kids to see him. It was a heartwarming reunion. Dad was in a wheelchair with a smile, and not hooked up to IV’s, writhing in pain or fading in and out of a sedated sleep.
5. Communicate the good and the not so good with family and friends. Honesty can be difficult when you feel you must be stoic for everyone. Accept help. One of the greatest gifts of support was from a dear friend who gave three hours of housekeeping. Use your support system.
6. Celebrate the most simple of achievements. We wanted to bring out the pompoms and marching band when dad brought an ice chip to his mouth with a spoon, on his own, for the first time.
7. Record voices and moments. Four days after his stroke I asked my dad to record a message to his grandchildren. His words were slurred, his thoughts were slow, but he told them how much he loved them. A few days later I recorded him again. He found such motivation from hearing how far his speech had improved in less than a week. His grandchildren also heard his improvement.
8. Caring for a stroke patient is exhausting. Dad was with 24/7 hospital care for five weeks. The very hard work started when he came home. I had no idea!!
9. There will be many tears. There will be many heart wrenching moments. There will be many heartwarming moments. There will be smiles and laughter along the way.
10. Family life won’t be the same, but be realistic, learn and grow from the personal challenges of being exposed to the cruel and anguishing experience of stroke.
Our family is now in the early process of selling my parents two level home on the Oregon coast and building a one level ADA home near the family in Portland, Oregon. We feel such peace knowing if their house sells before the new one is ready Golden Placement Services is right there to find mom and dad a temporary senior living environment with all the amenities they could possibly need. I had no idea that would have ever been an option. I am so grateful to know that Cherie and Diane at GPS will be there for my mom and dad. To learn how to provide practical basic caregiving skills for family go to FamilyCarePdx.com. The classes for Basic Care is designed for people who are new to caregiving at home, or for those who need additional skills Cherie