“Dem bones” can cause pain as we age

“Dem bones” can cause pain as we age

Our body is a wonderous interconnected organism.

We learned that fact as kids. Remember that old song, “Dem Bones.” The leg bone's connected to the knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone. Now shake dem skeleton bones!

As we get older, that system is more fragile, and when it is thrown out of balance, a warning, in the form of pain, may appear in a totally new place. That’s what happened to me.

At almost 66 years old, I have been fortunate to never have lower back pain. Until now.

Lying in bed hurts, sitting in a chair hurts, walking hurts and bending down to pick up something off the floor hurts. Not incapacitating hurt, but I certainly have new appreciation for the folks who have back pain in their lives.

Older Americans Month is a time for connection

Older Americans Month is a time for connection

May is Older Americans Month, a time to recognize older Americans' contributions and reaffirm commitments to serving the older adults in our communities.

My heart is always uplifted when I hear about acts of kindness ordinary citizens bestow upon seniors.

As I was watching events unfold at Senior Concerns’ Caregiver Recognition Day last week, I received a phone call from my friend, Vince, an older adult himself.

He wanted to share with me his interaction with a woman he recently met at the doctor’s office. I will call her Alice.

Alice is wheelchair bound. Vince struck up a conversation with her and as the two began to talk,

Lessons learned for keeping loved ones safe

Lessons learned for keeping loved ones safe

My friend Ronnie and her sister just signed their mom up for a personal emergency alert system. It’s the kind that hangs around your neck and will signal the company if you press the button.

An emergency dispatcher will respond and attempt to talk to you to see if you pushed the button in error and are OK, or if you need help. If you do not answer, the dispatcher will assess the situation and call an emergency contact that is best suited to your circumstances. Sometimes the dispatcher needs to call your second contact in case the first one cannot be reached.

Ronnie’s mother is in her nineties and lives alone at her home in Michigan. Ronnie’s sister lives near her mother and is the first point of contact for the emergency alert folks. Ronnie lives here in California and is on the list as the second contact as a fallback position.

Local support for caregivers awaits

Local support for caregivers awaits

My husband and I have established roles in our daily lives. I am the shopper, the cook, and the social secretary. My husband is the accountant, the contract reader, and the sprinkler repair man. Our roles have been established and reinforced over 33 years of marriage.

I can’t imagine my husband taking over my roles (we would clearly starve) and I can’t imagine taking over his, but that is exactly what my friend Marty has done for his wife Debbie.

Debbie first showed signs of cognitive changes and decline five years ago. After that first year. Debbie had testing and brain scans done, which caused them to then seek out a neurologist. Then the diagnosis came, Alzheimer’s disease.

It was no surprise really, as Debbie’s mother and three older sisters also had Alzheimer's.

End of life talks are difficult but important

End of life talks are difficult but important

I am unsure how it came to be, but over the last number of years I have become rather involved in the topic of end-of-life choices.

For one, I sit on the Steering Committee for the Ventura County Coalition for Compassionate Care (VCCCC), a nonprofit organization advocating for the discussion and documentation of end-of-life wishes.

One of our projects I am most proud of is a 15-minute public service video we produced with Kerri Kasem, the daughter of radio host Casey Kasem. Along with others in the video, she demonstrates the importance of making healthcare decisions in advance, documenting them, and discussing them with physicians and family. You can view the video at www.vcccc.org.

Secondly, I sit on the Clinical Ethics Advisory Committee for a local hospital.

Beware of the unknown about COBRA and Medicare

Beware of the unknown about COBRA and Medicare

As a recently unemployed older worker, you have options for health insurance, but read the fine print. It will be crucial.

If you were part of a group health insurance plan sponsored by your employer and you lose your job, you may be entitled to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or (COBRA).

This health insurance program gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue benefits provided by their group health plan.

COBRA coverage lets you pay to stay on your job-based health insurance for a limited time after your job ends (usually 18 months). You usually pay the full premium yourself, plus a small administrative fee.

Sometimes as part of an exit package, the employer may foot the cost of COBRA for an employee and their family for a short period of time to coincide with a severance package.

As an older worker the choice to leave your job may not be your own

As an older worker the choice to leave your job may not be your own

In 1988, at the age of 58, my father was laid off from his job as a lighting engineer at GTE Sylvania. Thus began his forced retirement.

My mother worked two more years and left her job in the school system on her own terms.

Both had vastly different experiences exiting their jobs.

My father’s lay off came as a surprise. With a lump in his throat, he asked HR how long he had to finish up his projects. They told him there was no need, his job was done, and he could go. It was a tremendous blow. He had worked 21 years for the company, and this was not the way he expected to finish his work life. For the remainder of his days, he carried a sense of shame about the experience.

Men are reluctant to share health concerns

Men are reluctant to share health concerns

I’d like to start a campaign to encourage older men to address their health issues with their doctor.

I have a dear sixty-something friend who recently expressed frustration because her husband refuses to get medical attention.  

Statistically, men are more likely than women to be stubborn about seeing a doctor, even when they are sick or in pain.

According to a Cleveland Clinic survey only 3 in 5 men go to the doctor for a routine check-up, and when something is wrong, 61% of men say it has to get unbearable before they'll go see a doctor.

This same study found that 72% of men would prefer to do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor.

Be diligent when taking generic medications

Be diligent when taking generic medications

When it comes to taking prescription medications, I am fortunate that I take only one medication and it’s a generic one.

I have taken this medication for years now. Each time I get a refill, I receive the same familiar yellow colored, flat oval tablet with tapered ends.

I don’t use a pill dispenser since I am only taking this one medication, once a day. I just combine the few supplements I take with my prescription medication in one bottle and each morning pop one of each into my mouth during my morning routine.

So, when I visited my mother recently, I was left speechless by the navigating she had to do in her medication journey.

My mother showed me a huge supply of pills that her online pharmacy has sent her, as well as some she received from her local CVS.

Financial planning for solo agers

Financial planning for solo agers

Last week my husband and I joined a Zoom call with my mother and her financial advisor. It was an annual call to go over my mom’s needs and goals in the coming year. My husband and I are my mother’s partners in her financial decisions.

Up until five years before his death, my father handled their household financial affairs. It was at that time that my mother asked for some help. We chose the financial advisor my sister uses. Since then, the advisor has invested my mother’s money and managed her Required Minimum Distributions.

This is but one part of a much larger set of financial choices and actions my mother must take, but according to her, it was the one she was least equipped to handle.

As an almost 90-year-old single woman, she still has a lot of responsibilities.

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