Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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About Aging

Who Doesn’t Love October?

The most beautiful month of the year is here. October’s got it all! – Spectacular colors, the smell of wood fires, pumpkins on doorsteps, flannel shirts, Halloween and so much more! I mean, really, does it get any better than that? The only negative is that it lasts for such a short time. I try to maximize the month as much as possible, but then I get overwhelmed at trying to decide how best to spend the weekend days– should we go for a hike? A drive? Take the kayak out for a paddle? Go bike riding? Just sit on our own deck and watch the leaves float off the trees and meander to the ground? So many choices, so little time!
Fall was my mother’s favorite time of the year, too. Not one for the overbearing heat of the summer, she always looked forward to the cooler days of September and October. We couldn’t wait to go shopping and see all the sweaters and jackets hanging from the racks – forest green, plum, mustard and red – all the classic autumn colors. Our usual gig was to shop, get lunch or stop at the diner for coffee and apple turnovers (depending on our timeframes) and head home to make dinner. We would open the windows to let the cool fall breezes come in and meld with the smell of the roast beef cooking away in the oven – we reveled in it.

Over the years, as age and health dictated a shift in routines for my parents, my mother held fast to a couple of traditions – getting her hair done every week was a must, going out for “coffee” and taking drives, especially fall drives up (NY) Route 22, past Amenia and beyond. Since my mother never had a driver’s license, Dad took her everywhere. They were quite the pair. They did everything together. It was the old-fashioned, traditional relationship – he took care of my mother and she took care of him. So when my mother started to fail, Dad made arrangements for her to be taken care of at home. He did not entertain the thought of having her be anywhere except at home, with him.

With the assistance of a home care nurse and home health aide, he was able to manage her care needs at home, along with some help from my brother, myself, our families and friends. It was still tough, make no mistake about that, but for my father to have my mother there, in their home, meant everything to him and to her. She was able to be around her pictures, dishes, curtains, furniture, knick-knacks and all things familiar.

Needless to say, there are circumstances and illnesses for which home health care services are not enough to safely manage a loved one’s health at home. However, home care is so often the solution for many patients in monitoring chronic illnesses such as diabetes, wound care, and congestive heart failure, among numerous other diagnoses. It can also play a critical role in post-hospital discharges for short-term care after surgeries and illnesses, etc. And, for the patient who does not require medical attention, personal care aides are available to assist with showering, housekeeping and light meal preparation.

Home Care covers a whole gamut of services and situations. And today, there are more and more home care programs emerging to help seniors stay at home, be it a short or long-term arrangement. For more information on these programs, please call Bethel’s Home Care Administrator, Julieta Müller at 914-941-1300 x1320. In addition to Westchester, Bethel’s Certified Home Health Agency now serves patients in Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Putnam.

In the meantime, enjoy this amazing fall season! Even raking leaves is fun when it’s October!


Back to School for Children; Back to Life for Adults

Remember when summer really was all about those “lazy, hazy days?” Squeaky screen doors in wooden frames, big glasses of Kool-Aid and those crazy, uncomfortable, metal chairs that would burn your bare legs when you tried to sit on them in the summer sun?

When I was a kid, the summer just seemed to trail off into infinity. Every day held the potential for new adventures – catching tadpoles in the brook we visited daily, riding bikes, making forts, playing “Batman” with my brother and our best friend, Nancy, who lived down the road (no such thing as playdates back then), and leaving notes for each other in the “monkey” tree. The nights held equal allure– catching lightening bugs and putting them in glass jars with puncture holes in the lid, camping out in our backyard and scaring ourselves to death or going off to a drive-in movie. It really was a special time.

On the rare occasion that I would wander inside and proclaim to my mother that I was bored, she would immediately suggest a chore to make me realize the folly of my statement and off I would go to seek out some interesting activity that did not involve folding laundry or drying dishes.

The fun went on for a while until telltale signs began to appear reminding us that our idyllic lifestyle was a temporary one. Somewhere around mid-August back-to-school supplies began to infiltrate the stores. Loose leaf paper, binders, pencils and notebooks were displayed on the shelves which, just days earlier, still had flip-flops, pool toys and beach towels for sale.

However, once the initial panic and dread wore off, I have to admit that I didn’t hate school. I actually loved picking out all my new school supplies. I was always intrigued by the two-tiered cardboard pencil boxes that had so many little compartments and drawers and imagined how my new pencils, erasers and ruler would look in there.

There was also the all-important selection of the lunch box. My two all-time favorites were a square, black and pink vinyl Barbie lunch box and a yellow, metal school bus-shaped one that had all the Disney characters looking out the windows!

The emotional and dramatic changes from summertime fun to homework nightmare is pretty much a universal experience that begins when we are 5 and continues into our early 20’s (if college was a choice) and then again when we have children of our own. Even though many of us are no longer in school, the academic calendar still influences us, emotionally and otherwise. When we see those school supplies making their first appearance (alas, nowadays right after July 4th )  we get that old tightening in the stomach and when we hear the school bus rolling down our street in September, engine clattering and brakes squeaking, we think, “glad it’s not me!”

We find ourselves on that same “back to school” schedule too, personally and in business. Tasks that we put off in the summer we are now ready to undertake. It’s all about getting back on track. For some, it could be as simple as acknowledging and enjoying the change in seasons, while for others it might be job-related responsibilities that occur each Fall. For some households, it is organizing after-school sports and activities schedules’ for their family while for some parents it’s readjusting after sending a child off to college for the first time. And for some families it’s a combination of juggling jobs, children, and elder parents.

For the families who have these intergenerational responsibilities there is, of course, additional stresses. However, in today’s busy world, there are now many community programs in place to assist seniors and their families with day to day living. There are Home Care programs which can provide some medical and/or personal assistance to seniors in their homes so they can maintain their independence for as long as possible. Also, Adult Day programs have been created for seniors who could benefit from supervision, medical oversight and/or social interaction each day, rather than sitting alone at home each day. In addition, there are apartment residences for independent living seniors as well, where seniors can have peace of mind living in a community setting while maintaining their independence.

Much has changed since over the years. The memories we have from childhood still play a role in our lives today.  We want to be there for our parents and other loved ones who helped us have those great summers and let us be children for as long as possible. Now we can help them be independent for as long as possible and help our children shape their memories and lives at the same time.


It’s All About the ‘Tude

Everyone ages at a different pace. Genetics play a huge role, of course, but so does attitude. The person with the upbeat, “can-do” attitude who has approached all aspects of their life with this outlook will obviously handle aging in the same manner. Their ability to accept the subtle changes in physical abilities, the gradual reversing of parent/child roles and the dubious arrival of the golden years will help maximize their continued positive life experiences.

We cannot dispute a changing of gears and focus as we get older, but these shifts can also provide opportunities for new experiences and goals. The door never closes (well, know) on the possibility of accomplishing new feats. There is a certain freedom associated with seniors and aging when they no longer have to worry about the day to day responsibilities of job and family. It is an opportunity to do something for themselves. There can still be so much life to experience if one embraces it as such.

According to the Business Insider, these inspirational seniors chose to “age” in the following manner:

  • At 90, Marc Chagall became the first living artist to be exhibited at the Louvre museum.
  • At 91, Allan Stewart of New South Wales completed a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of New England.
  • At 92, Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon.
  • At 93, P.G. Wodehouse worked on his 97th novel, was knighted and died.
  • At 94, comedian George Burns performed in Schenectady, NY, 63 years after his first performance there.
  • At 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma.
  • At 96, Harry Bernstein published his first book, "The Invisible Wall," three years after he started writing to cope with loneliness after his wife of 70 years, Ruby, passed away.
  • At 97, Martin Miller was still working fulltime as a lobbyist on behalf of benefits for seniors.
  • At 98, Beatrice Wood, a ceramist, exhibited her latest work.
  • At 99, Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji.
  • At 100, Frank Schearer seems to be the oldest active water skier in the world.

And, of course, one doesn’t have to write a novel to feel that sense of personal reward. It could be as simple as planting a flower and watching it grow, trying a new recipe or just getting out for a walk each day. As long as it is something, anything that will bring them a sense of personal achievement. Everyone has different interests and levels of ability that will gauge their sense of reward.

Sometimes being in a group setting can add a little impetus for embracing an activity. Taking a class or joining a group which shares the same interest can be a positive influence. And there are many such groups designed for seniors.

At The Pines, Bethel’s residence for independent seniors, the residents recently organized an Art Exhibit showcasing their work which included black and white photography, water colors, an illustrated children’s book, quilting and more. It was very inspirational to see the talent of these seniors. It buoyed their spirits as well as those who attended the wine and cheese reception.

I do believe attitude is the key, whatever one’s age or goal, in accomplishing anything, especially when there are adverse factors in play. It’s easy to be happy and motivated when all is well, the real achievement is becoming, or staying motivated, when there are challenges.

This is true whatever our age! Let’s stay positive with regular attitude adjustments. A little tweaking here and there can help us stay on track.

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