Here’s a lovely story that just randomly popped into my Inbox today. I thought it just too hard to resist so I’m sharing it on here because it’s so gosh darn sweet. PLUS it includes a piccy of a very lick-able ice-cream WIN-WIN!
Hopefully it makes you smile, offers a bit of perspective and then gets you thinking about priorities you might like to re-evaluate within your own life.
And that maybe life’s too short for all the silly stuff?
At the very least, it will leave you wishing you looked as fabulous in a hat, as this beautiful lady.
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she was legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“Oh, I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
Then smiling the whole time, she asked me to remember the five simple rules to being happy:
Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
And you know she’s right. Reminds me of a great saying I heard once: Being HAPPY is not a pursuit – it’s an obligation.
Getting our Kids Skilled-Up in the Art of Conversation
It must be wonderful knowing that your teenage son or daughter is mature enough to hold an ACTUAL conversation with your adult friends. Seeing them chat away freely when introduced; radiating confidence galore when asked if they are enjoying their new high school, all the time maintaining solid eye contact and without a dot of embarrassment or discomfort.
Whilst you stand alongside, glowing with pride and marvelling at what clearly must be some pretty bloody fabulous parenting skills, thank you very much!
Today I discovered that my 13-year old son did not possess such ability.
Not even close, in fact.
As a mum who thought she’d had it all covered: good manners, gracious conduct, appropriate behaviour and the biggie ‘respect for others’… it came as a rude slap in the chops, as I watched Junior’s social skills crumble and turn totally to mush.
Our visit this morning was to a medical centre, thanks to my son’s recent sporting injury (long story, don’t ask) for follow-up x-rays and to be given the all clear to have the annoying brace on his arm removed.
An ideal location to meet and engage in friendly banter with seniors, it’s common knowledge in aged-care circles, that a doctor’s waiting room is ‘top of the pops’ to test even the most experienced of gasbags!
It was as we sat bored waiting for our turn, when an older smartly-dressed man with walking stick and twinkly eyes, leaned over to my son and asked in a fairly loud tone (hearing issues, obviously), what had he done to himself?
I continued reading my mag, confident that Chatterbox Charlie (as he is known at home and at school), would be equally as open and responsive. The two of them would yak away in ‘blokey’ fashion and by the time we left they’d be best of buddies, possibly even a firm handshake farewell and promises to meet for tea and cake one day soon.
But alas, what was this?
Instead, no! Junior was beside himself! Turning sharply to look at me, his face strained in terror… he was actually pleading me with his eyes, as if to say, “Oh god, please Mum, SAVE ME!”
Mortified, with the realisation that my beloved was indeed a complete social flop after all, I attempted to verbally prompt him so he could explain to the nice inquiring man how he had sprained his arm in a game of football.
The old guy continued on, jokingly encouraging my son to join in.
“I thought you’re supposed to use your leg to kick the footy – not your arm!”
As Junior turned bright red, awkwardly squeaking out some sort of inaudible response (all the time staring down at the floor, clearly wishing the tiles would open up and pull him down into the deep, dark depths of the earth where no scary old dudes could ever find him)… it dawned on me that some people might actually find conversation with an elderly person intimidating.
Especially those they hadn’t met before. And I get that.
Growing up as a painfully shy teen, I remember myself, the feeling of horror when an adult would talk to me – especially one I didn’t know well. The worry of not knowing what to say, or sounding silly if I did say something, or being judged and thought an idiot. It was cause for real anxiety!
In lieu of that thought, I decided my son needed a lesson in the art of conversation, STAT!
Time for me to earn that Mother of the Year badge and get him properly prepped and trained up on some good old-fashioned Communication Skills 101.
Yes, I would be doing this for ME (and my shattered ego), but more significantly, I was doing it for my soppy, socially inept son. It was imperative that in today’s frantic and fiercely competitive world, that he be an efficient communicator; to gain the advantage over his peers by being able to competently talk and earn respect from the older people in his life.
To impress the pants off his teachers, his footy coach or even his own grandparents by engaging them in some light, but thoughtful bit of chit-chat for goodness sake!
And at the same time, emphasise to my son that it didn’t matter what age a person was. That all it took was a little friendliness and a good dollop of empathy to show kindness towards another human being – and to make them feel good. That many ageing adults spent days, sometimes weeks sitting alone in their homes, desperate for company and to feel part of society and in touch with others in their community.
Could he even imagine what that must be like?
So, while I laughed and chatted to my newest dear friend happily sitting alongside us; about the weather, his dreadful arthritis and the outrageous price of petrol, I felt Junior watching on taking it all in. I wasn’t completely daft though; I knew in reality my son’s interest would be only fleeting and that soon enough he’d tune out, switch on his iPod and go back to mindlessly picking at the tag on his arm brace.
But blow me down, before you could ask ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ my amazing little man surprised us all as he turned to the lovely white-haired lady sitting on the other side of him.
Then, without missing a beat, smiling and looking her straight in the eye, in a big clear voice said, “Hello, are you having a nice day today?” To which her reply was “Why yes, thank you, dear… and how nice of you to ask!”
My faith restored, watching the two of them chatting comfortably, I nearly leapt out of my chair with the excitement of it all! My son was a fantastic super star after all!
Unfortunately, I don’t think the poor little mite will dare go anywhere in public with his raving, lunatic mother again. Possibly the cheering out loud and the ‘high five-ing’ with the receptionist were a little over the top, I’m not sure… what do you think?
Before we go scoffing and rolling our eyes too loudly when it comes to mustering the patience for showing an ageing parent how to “logger” themselves onto a recently erected PC, iPad or tablet device, consider this:
—–> Your mother taught you how to hold a spoon, wipe your bot-bot and count to ten.
Did she poke fun at you then?
Or, when a grandparent who is desperately trying to master the art of “this emailer caper” just so she can stay in touch with her grandkids (yes, your children)… because nobody writes letters anymore and rather than being left behind and feeling cut-off from her family, she is at least making the effort to come to grips with all this “technical gadgetry” even though it is completely foreign, slightly intimidating and it just feels so damned impersonal to her.
And isn’t it just gorgeous (we try not to patronise) when she announces how mod and trendy she must be when she FINALLY manages to “pop off an email” to her darling 10 year old grandson, Max. It’s only taken her most of a day but she persevered and got there in the end.
Although, whether or not little Maxi actually received the email is a different story!
“Umm, did I push SEND… “
“Or was that the SAVE button… “
“Is there a way of getting it to come back???”
And then now that she’s so proficient and computer savvy, she even remembers to sign off with “LOL from Grandma” just for effect… because that’s Lots of Love, naturally!
You have to admire her for being so plucky and at least giving it a go, don’t you?
“Oh, Maxi will be SO impressed to see how his grandmother knows “dot com stuff!”
More and more it seems I’m getting asked by some very frowny-faced clients when I arrive at their homes, if I could please have a look at their jammed-up, unresponsive computers or merely to explain what “that funny noise” means and how “it only started making it after that dreadful storm yesterday”.
“Do you think perhaps some water got into the wiring, Dollie?”
That the “inter-web must be broken” or “I think I’ve broken Google” after accidentally deleting all the desktop icons. Or asking if one needed to locate an ‘App’ i order to bring up the local bus timetable. Or wondering why “my internet is so slow and it won’t let me start typing anything in”… only to discover one poor soul had inadvertently opened over 30 windows and had 14 tool bars running!!
“Would it be easier if I hopped on to ‘The Twitter’ instead, Dollie?”
In my experience (and being that it would be totally inhumane and nasty), there is no merit gained from sniggering into the face of an earnest older person who is already feeling inadequate. They understand and accept that all this new whizz-bang technology is completely over their head and that of course they know how ridiculous they must look to us younger smarty-pant types.
Instead, I sit down, and LISTEN to what they are trying to achieve and if it sounds like something basic (such as the ever-popular ‘not being turned on at the wall’), then I tactfully suggest we try giving the switch a flick and see how that goes.
“Oh, it happens all the time, Mrs Terrabyte, no need to feel embarrassed. In fact, I sometimes do the same thing myself!”
And then we laugh. Until she reveals for the life of her she can’t remember what her wretched password is… and could she use mine instead?
So here’s a cute little poem I found “on the line” that suits the occasion and ends very nicely too.
See what I mean – CUTE!
Of course in real life, we would never wish to lose dear ol’ Grannie into the deep dark depths of the cyberspace abyss (or have her gobbled up by a worm) in a million years.
Who else is gonna tell us what cupboard she hides the ‘cookies’ in… tee hee!!
I received this email from my cousin Rochelle recently.
Thought I’d share it here (because I can), and also to emphasise how shitty and random this increasingly common disease called Dementia is. Not to mention the despair and frustration for families who are left heart-broken and grief-stricken as they watch on hopelessly; it is totally NOT FAIR.
Aunt Winnie taught me that girls don’t have to aspire to be receptionists or typists or office note-takers who run around after others… “unless you want to, then that’s fine, too.”
Instead, if you’ve got the gumption (her favourite word) – you can make a great career doing something you love, settle down and hopefully find a nice boy “wearing not-too-tight slacks” to make a good enough life together.
It has eventuated that I have done both.
Aunt ‘Winnie-the-Poo’ – – – YOU ROCK!
(We miss you so much).
To my dear family,
I’ve been back from overseas for almost 2 weeks and there have been a few changes with Mum (our Winnie), so thought I’d send a group email update so you all know where that’s at.
Unfortunately, and as predicted by most of us, her mental health has declined significantly.
I took her to her GP and she completed a MoCA test (half hour competency testing), where the results were not flash: ie: 10 out of 30 is bad.
Poor mum scored 2…(TWO!) Is that even a number???
Thank the Lord she defiantly remembered where she was from, although truthfully, I think she must have fluked the second point by just sheer good luck!
We also discussed her anxiety levels and turns out, they’ve put Mum on a little ‘upper’ to assist with her mood. Arthur is great with mum and loves her to bits which I could cry with relief about cos he’s such a caring wonderful man.
Obviously, as a retired school teacher, he revels in the role of directing and correcting! (Plus, the Citalopram will be doing it’s job – keeping Mum calm and ticking along, happy to stay back after class with another special Arthur ‘detention’ !!!)
In the meantime, the Geriatricians will without doubt, assess Mum for ‘Care-Home’ level assistance, and I assume officially diagnose her with Dementia. This should happen soon. Hopefully, while I am still in the country – although I may be called up any day now so not sure what we do then…
Thankfully, in all the zippity-do-da (haha another one of her ‘funnies’) most stuff can be sorted online and organised via email etc. And legally, I don’t need to go to the lawyers- which is just perfect.
The best thing is that the staff at the Respite home where Mum is now are all on the same page as I am. And they have been concerned with her deterioration for a while – the head nurses have an amazing rapport with her, plus they’ve kept me fully up to speed on things.
I am just SO impressed with the set-up there!
Win gets to stay in her current apartment WITH Arthur – and the Care Team actually comes to her! This includes 3 showers a week, getting dressed daily and undressed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, dispensing medications, clothes washing, housekeeping etc.
At the moment, Mum is just having shower and dressing assistance (extra $100 a week). Once the new level of care comes through, we will apply for a subsidy as their combined total assets is less than $119k.
This new level of care will be paid from Dad’s deceased estate account (ie: $23k – and then the good old government takes over…PHEW).
I did have Mum come stay with me by herself last week (and my girls too, much to their horror), for a night recently. She spent the WHOLE TIME thinking Arthur would be coming to pick her up at any second – watching out the window, pacing up and down etc.
I could tell she really would have preferred to go back ‘home’ to Arthur; we had to phone him a few times during the night when the panic set in.
You should have seen it the next day, though, when they re-united. I just about died… they had the biggest SNOG I’ve seen in ages! In front of all the staff…everyone…THEY DIDN’T CARE!!!
(I think I was actually JEALOUS!)
Mum’s just fine where she is and like I said, Arthur loves her to bits. So as weird as all this is, Winnie’s definitely safe and cared for. She actually does realise her memory is bad (kind of), but quickly seems to forget she had that flash of realisation and so we just move on.
She happily accepts shower assistance, and for her own dignity and personal presentation, I’m terribly thankful for that. Physically, Win looks and IS well.
Don’t know what else to say but I really hope this email doesn’t cause any concern for you guys. I really feel she is in the right place and I think we should all feel blessed that she married Arthur last year – as crazy as that seemed at the time…. WHO IS THIS MAN WITH THE GIANT MOUSTACH WHO IS IN LOVE WITH MY MOTHER?
Because it certainly takes the load off me – not that I’m complaining…
It’s just hard, you know?
Anyway, I hope all is well with you guys – sorry if I’ve rambled on but I wanted to put you in the picture seeing as you are her family,,, the people who love her the most.
God, does she even remember?
You know what…I really don’t know any more. Today for example, she called me Geraldine. As in Aunty Gerry, her twin, who died when they were in their 20’s. And I can tell when she looks at me that she’s not ‘Mum’ anymore. I hate that the most about this awful disease.
Anyway, I’m waiting for confirmation of my next placement abroad – not sure when or where that might be but I’m loving my Oncology nursing and the fabulous people involved in the industry so that makes it all worthwhile (as well as being the best distraction from the Win & Arthur show!)
Will keep you all updated as the rest of the saga of our gorgeous mum/sister/aunty’s life unfolds.
Love you guys,
PS: please, don’t worry about mum. She is fine, really.
PPS: we must all get together in the SAME room one day. Life’s too short. – I could end up losing my mind, just like Mum. ARRRGGGHHHH!
I witnessed the most perfect display of selfless and unconditional love today. An unexpected, yet beautifully-presented scene that just randomly played out before me – in a rotten old Target store, of all places.
And while I’m pleased that I happened upon such a thought-provoking little interlude, I’m also doubly chuffed that I managed to snap a very nice photo of it as well. Working in the aged-care industry, I’ve long since realised the value of capturing the special moments as they come along – no matter how inconsequential they might seem at the time.
A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say?
I hope you’ll find this heart-warming photo, which I’ve saved ’til the end of my story (can you bear the suspense?) – worthy of being talked about. Clue: it is.
In the meantime, a picture of some cheeky looking Galahs to tide you over:
Let me set the scene:
Firstly, and you may not know this, but shopping centres during the week days, transform into what can only be described as the perfect ‘pensioners paradise’!
Yes, indeedy. For while the rest of us are off being dutifully occupied at work or school or whatever, teams of opportunistic Retirees get to roam freely in herd-like fashion throughout the malls. Albeit often a silver-haired, slowwww moving herd – but a herd all the same.
Chatting leisurely with other like-minded Golden-Agers, casually pushing trolleys or towing low-maintenance free-wheeled trolley devices… they get their errands run unhindered, un-flustered and un-pressured. Enjoying the shopping experience at their own pace and without judgement or frowning upon from any of us raucous unruly lot, thank you very much.
Not to mention packing out cafes and teashops to the brim when they’re primed and ready for the proverbial nice hot cuppa – and creamcake too if blood sugar meds allow it.
Fear not though, for by the time we self-appointed important peeps all barrel into the shops and supermarkets to hunt and gather for the family feast, these older folk are long gone. Back at home, unpacked and un-shoed…they’ve completed their quests and are now poised in recliners snoozing, or awaiting the early edition News update on the telly.
Yet, here I found myself, thanks to a late cancellation, breaking all of society’s sacred unwritten rules… I decided to make an impromptu visit to my local shopping centre.
And as I stood in the Toiletries aisle languishing in my glorious mid-morn freedom, deliberating on whether to go the strawberry or the vanilla flavoured lip balm (it’s a tough life), I could hear a softly-spoken male voice at the cosmetics section behind me. Upon changing my angle, I saw it was an older gent with white hair standing alongside what was evidently his matching elderly wife in a wheelchair.
With stiff stooped shoulders and her wasted hands lay motionless in her lap, she clearly had serious health problems (I speculated she’d had a stroke or maybe MS?). However, that wasn’t an issue for this pair who, oblivious to me and my life-threatening lip balm dilemma, were focused on choosing LIPSTICKS.
And even more fortunately for her, I thought – her husband was doing it spectacularly!
“Honey Beige, Melting Melon, Glazed Caramel… what the heck? Some of these colours, Lois… sound more like food to me. That reminds me, we’ll do the groceries after this”.
Lovely-sounding-hubby was now donning his reading specs in order to decipher the ridiculously teeny tiny writing found on most lippys. A man on a mission and with no shop assistant in sight, he clearly felt at ease in what was typically a woman’s domain. Regardless of her health state, his wife was still a lady and therefore there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t maintain the beauty regimes that allowed her to feel feminine and ‘normal’.
“Pink Opal… Berry Beauty… Flushed Fuchsia. But they’re ALL pink! There’s just such a lot to pick from, Lois. And I was thinking ‘pink’ was just PINK!”
In my head I had to agree…. STUPID SAME-COLOURED LIPSTICKS!
“Good gracious me, darling… a bit naughty-sounding some of them, might be a bit much?”
I laughed out loud at this comment, nearly blowing my cover but managed to change position while edging closer to the action.
“Here, let’s try this one, Lois. Forever Precious it’s called… that’s definitely you, darling. And it’s such a pretty pink.”
As Lois sat motionless, in her purely supervisory capacity, her adoring spouse crouched down before her to apply yet another shade of pink to the back of his wife’s lifeless hand. They’d obviously been at it for a while because they seemed to have the routine down pat. He would mark her skin for testing, pause to stand back and admire, then discuss yes? Or no? (with himself) before a gentle wipe with the tissue in preparation for the next one.
So, yes by now I was melting on the inside – it was just gorgeous to watch!
“This Smokey Pearl one here… that’ll match your new pink blouse, Lois. The one we bought for Bryce’s graduation. But let’s get the Charming Coral one as well. Just in case, yes?”
Apparently, Lois could speak but it must’ve been only just, as he had to lean his ear right into her face to hear her.
“Ha ha yes! ‘Charming’ – just like me! Ha ha ha… good one, darling”
Brilliant! Lois was being silly too!
“Here’s one…Spiced Coffee. Oh, for goodness sake, Lois! How about we have a think about it all and go get some ‘spiced coffee’ of our own at that nice café over there; they might have some ‘glazed caramel’ we can have for morning tea. What fun!”
As they wheeled off out of the shop, I couldn’t see Lois’s face, but I felt sure she would be smiling and thoroughly enjoying herself. Having such a kind and genuinely loving man by her side, helping her choose lipstick no less.
WHAT MAN DOES THAT?!
And how he spoke to her…. the way he interacted with her! Such patience and grace, the undeniable care and commitment he showed for his dear disabled wife; it was truly truly admirable.
In fact, I had no doubt that Lois, in her sad wheely-bound existence, thanks to this sweet and devoted man – got to smile every single day of her life .
I’ve been having some interesting discussions with my clients lately and it’s all about one of my fave topics – FOOD.
In particular, are the seniors who’ve realised it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of all the bizarre sounding grains or oddly-shaped fruit ‘n’ veg on trend and brazenly on display at the supermarkets nowadays.
Oh, I see them… with elbows leaned furtively on shopping carts they drift nonchalantly down the aisles, the majority with little idea what these new species are, what they DO… or how to even peel one. Suffice to say, there’s little chance they’ll be cooking with one of these natural wonders any time soon. But that’s not to say they can’t!
Most recent of the veg-du-jour would be Kale, Pomegranate, Avocado (or the smashing of) and the phenomena known as Quinoa (no, Mrs Smith, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”) which seem to be causing the most angst among my sceptical over-80’s mob.
Advised by their GPs or concerned family members (and splashed all over the lifestyle mags)… that these peculiar so-called ‘Superfoods’ are packed full of disease-fighting goodies. And that by consuming these wondrous beauties, seniors can decrease the probability of developing chronic illness, rehabilitate faster if they do, and subsequently, increase their chances of living much longer good quality lives.
Which got me thinking that not only is it Technology that an older adult is pressured to install, understand and hopefully utilise in today’s frantically progressive world…
… it’s also about what we EAT.
Having grown up in arguably more frugal times (where food just wasn’t permitted to be the obsession that it is now), it’s understandable why the mature-ager might find some of the latest meal trends confusing and intimidating. People are living for longer that’s true, but it’s a scientific fact that age-related health issues such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease (conditions that would have once knocked you off in your 60’s) are now being managed more efficiently, purely by what we stick in our mouths.
Unfortunately along the way… food over-sensitivity, allergies and intolerances have also become commonplace and it’s been a huge learning curve for many ‘old-school’ folk to not only embrace the modern ideals toward the food they eat, but to accept that their own health may be in jeopardy if they don’t.
Noticeable, too, are the strange codes added to the selections on the menus of our favourite restaurants. Shown as GF, LF or V for example, these nifty symbols offer the diner-outer all sorts of solutions to their dickey dietary dilemmas. Although this may baffle some who might feel it’s easier to trust the Gods, close their eyes and just order a Vine-Ripened Pachino Tomato, Roasted Bell Capsicum & Basil Pesto Linguiniwith Pine Nuts & lightly-fried Zucchini flower, and a Caprese Quinoa & Almond Saladon the side… rather than risk looking a fool by enquiring about it first.
“No such thing as a Nut Allergy when we were kids. Oh, except when I first met my Douggie at the school dance – he was NUTTY alright!”
“How can being a Vegetarian be good for you? Eating too many greens… GIVES ME THE SQUIRTS!”
“Special Dietary Requirement? That’s me making sure I have a wine with dinner!”
“Not sure about this ‘organic food’ thing… in my day, it was just called FOOD”
“Gluten-free, you say. So, I have to eat less glutes?!?!”
Not to mention all the latest cookbooks encouraging us to replace the tried-and-true ingredients of our classic recipes with slinkier, nutrient-laden alternatives. Gone are the days where a lump of meat (“whatever’s on special, dear”) is bunged into the oven in a layer of lard with a wheelbarrow-load of salt tipped over it to enhance flavour!
Instead, poor old Mum, has had to haul herself out of her lifelong culinary comfort zone to produce such delights as a zucchini & feta fritter, organic eggplant fries and get her head around long lanky limbs of broccolini… steamed for 23 seconds (no-more, no less) for her son’s pretty, but pedantic Vegan yoga-instructor fiancee.
No longer can she happily enjoy the sumptuous spitting of lamb chops as they fry mercilessly on the stove top as she did in ye olden days either. Ah no! They must be eased gently under the grill and then delicately dabbed at repeatedly with a roll of triple-ply paper towels to ensure every last dot of oil has been safely extracted.
BECAUSE, OH GOD, WE CAN’T GET FAT!
She then has to skill-up on the magic of the ‘shop and chop’ – buying, and then dicing great sprigfuls of fresh herbs, fancy-schmancy spices for wholesome homemade marinades (no additives, PLEASE!) in the quest to present modern adaptations of traditional feasts to her fussy grown-up family.
Which can be bloody hard work when Mama has a dicky knee, arthritic hands and poor eyesight!
But, as a carer on the go, I do find it exciting and hugely inspiring when some of my tentative, yet respectfully brave clients at least give it a go. Seizing this new ‘foodie’ adventure by it’s edible entrails and taking an active interest in managing their own health with all the exotic, albeit daunting-looking food choices they can now make.
And even more impressively – is the trendy COOKING techniques they’ve learnt to whip it all together!
One of my clients, for example, 90 year old Bert Walloven is the most gorgeous man who nearly fell to bits living on just boiled eggs, fish paste & water-crackers, after his wife died last year. However, he pulled himself up by his apron strings and found new vigour in teaching himself how to bake Banana Loaf in a posh bread-maker appliance he found at the back of ‘the wife’s’ pantry.
Every Tuesday afternoon when I visit Bert now, he insists I make time before I leave, for a compulsory taste-test of a slice of his latest creation. Ahh yes, any excuse for a cuppa and a chat! None of your plain boring stodge either – last week it was Pumpkin Bread with honey oat and cranberry chunks.
Interesting to note, I find the biggest motivator for my elders to climb aboard the Superfood train by including more fresh ingredients in their diet, is the possibility that it might lessen the chances of them developing Alzheimer’s disease. Whether that’s true or only slightly true-ish (and it can’t hurt)… it seems many seniors, terrified of losing brain function, will go to great lengths to prevent this from happening and do whatever it takes to maintain the health of their minds.
Indeed, it turns out that you CAN teach a dog of more advanced years new tricks! It merely depends on whether the old Golden Retriever in question is willing (and open-minded enough), to give the tricks a go!
We all feel nervous when it comes to trying new things – of course we do! A fear of failure, feeling unsafe and exposed, or the big one… looking silly or inept in front of others. And with this traditionalist Boomer generation, it’s understandable why they might stubbornly opt to stay with the mindset that they’ve already made it through the obstacles of life; they’ve come through ‘the War’ living on sausage meat and sawdust. They’ve acquired all the learning needed for survival so “there’s nothing more I need to know, thank you very much!”
A perspective that sadly means the ability to grow (and thrive) by learning new ‘tricks’ and becoming empowered from new lifestyle choices which might just allow people to not only live longer but live BETTER… gets lost in the despair and gloominess of ‘being old’.
Which, thankfully, is NOT the case for Bert and his Breadmaster 2000! Lovely Bert informs me his latest project is a Wholemeal Caramel, Apple & Quinoa Pecan Loaf. And “just for fun”, it’s also going to involve (winkity, wink)… A RUM SWIRL.
“It seems the SKIN… that I’m IN… is terribly, terribly… THIN!”
Ever wondered why you never see a loofah brush, exfoliating mitt, nor any other type of abrasive body-scrubbing device in a mature person’s bathroom? That’s excluding the mandatory piece of dried-up pumice stone once used to file corns and callouses from busy, hard-working feet of a lifetime ago.
Well, there’s good reason for it apparently. Summed up perfectly by 89 year old Elizabeth Waterduck as I chatted to her during her shower last week:
“At my age? Crikey, I’d end up skinned alive like a Chinese dog if I used one of those now!”
Understandably, for most of the older peeps I visit in their homes, their skin is a fairly pertinent issue. They know only too well that if something new or unusual appears on their outer – there’s a darn good chance that something more threatening may be happening on their inner.
Physiological changes such as connective tissue breakdown, the lessening of elastin and collagen production, a limited ability to retain moisture, plus an increasingly slower metabolism in general – all contribute to the breakdown of our skin’s integrity as we age.
And as a consequence of this dermal deterioration, we then get to watch in despair as the inevitable creases, folds and ridges creep leisurely onto our skin’s surface to create that familiar ‘old person’ look…
Come on, sing it with me now: WRINKLES!
Throw in the exhaustion of the juicy subcutaneous fat layer beneath, too, means the natural oils which once protected us from damage and gave skin it’s firm, voluptuous appearance – are depleted. Thus leaving some elders with a moisture-less, thinned barrier that’s vulnerable to anything untoward.
Oh yes, defences by this stage, can most definitely be down!
Understandably, with skin that’s as delicate and translucent as Lizzy Waterduck’s, the last thing she’d consider doing as part of her shower routine, even if she might have done it regularly in her carefree middle-aged years… is to slough off yet another (possibly the last?) layer from her precious epidermal.
Of course, other contributing factors such as lifestyle, genetics and diet can also throw skin balance right out of whack. Interestingly, one of the major roles of our outer dermis is to maintain the body’s natural thermostat. Which explains why so many seniors, I swear, seem to spend most of their days grumbling how cold they are, even in the height of a summer heatwave.
“Brrrr… shut the dam door, girlie!”
Progressing into our ‘twilight’ years, too, means we might also get to grow unsightly skin tags, unflattering strangely-shaped moles and, prevalent on the backs of hands, balding heads, ears, arm, noses and necks… are the brownish-coloured ‘liver’ or sun spots we stereotypically associate with someone ‘being old’.
These annoying tell-tale blemishes are a result of spending entire lives being hat-less and factor-less for long periods exposed to the outside elements. And declaring “but we didn’t know any better”, does nothing to fix the skin damage already caused.
Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much sunscreen grandad coats himself in now, it’s a case of too-little too-late for these old timers.
And there are other less than delightful skin conditions we become more predisposed to as we age. Dermatitis, eczema and pruritis are afflictions which are all identifiable with dry, ageing skin and will continue to drive itchy, older folk to reach for the tried-and-true camomile lotion by the gallon.
But flaky, scaly skin is a bad thing when you’re in your advanced years because when skin has become so dry that it’s now irritated and cracking open, there is opportunity galore for serious infection to enter and perilously thrive it’s head off.
With immunity already compromised in sick or frail seniors or those suffering with pre-existing health complaints, the skin, whose job as the built-in protection layer stopping the big bad germ-laden world from entering our bodies and making us unwell, becomes weakened and unable to hold ground when it’s really needed most.
A seemingly small injury to a mature-ager’s cutaneal areas (even the slightest scratch), if not treated appropriately, can easily lead to serious complications and a much longer recovery time leaving an elder either in hospital… or in a very, very bad mood!
Indeed, depending on the state of it – our skin can quite literally mean the difference between life and death!
More significantly for an anxious pensioner, it can also mean the difference between remaining at home or being despatched to live in an aged-care facility… ie: the dreaded nursing home.
I get to observe a lot of skin, in varying condition, when I visit my clients at this stage of their lives. Assisting them to shower and maintain regular hygiene habits is integral to self-esteem, dignity and indicative to the rest of the world (ie: suspicious adult children) that they’re still capable of living independently.
And although not medically trained, an experienced carer can become quite astute in recognising symptoms of potential health issues, merely by observing the condition or noting even slight changes in a naked senior’s skin – especially at shower time.
Bruises, for example, can be discovered during Personal Care shifts and might be the result of a fall, walking into the coffee table – or possibly from something more sinister? A quick mention here regarding Elder Abuse and that ALL suspicions of such should be reported immediately and without hesitation.
Haematoma (bruising) can look dreadful on pale older skin and thanks to sluggish metabolisms, may take months to totally heal and fade. Not helped by certain medications used to control inflammatory conditions common in old age (stiff joints, arthritis, COPD, diabetes etc) which, as a pesky side-effect, can leave seniors exceptionally prone to bruising.
Such as one of my clients, 79 year old Hilary Crabtree who relies on steroidal drugs to control symptoms of her advancing emphysema. These powerful meds offer a fabulous quality of life and are literally life-saving for someone like Hilary.
More importantly (she informs me), they allow her to be top of her game on the golf course!
BUT… it was discovered recently, that Hilary’s skin had in fact become so thinned and susceptible to even the slightest touch that something as flimsy as the seam on her new golf slacks is enough to cause extensive black and blue marks down both her shins.
I mean, did you EVER?
For obvious reasons, assisting a senior to wash their outer body involves common sense, a good bit of empathy and patience… plus a WHOLE LOTTA care and attention. Jagged fingernails or solid objects such as jewellery, rings etc can inflict catastrophic damage to paper-thin skin – and often with very minimal force applied.
Cringe-worthy is the story about a carer once who, worrying about getting to her next job on time, ripped an enormous gash in her client’s calf while attempting to yank up his support hose (commonly used to control circulation in the lower limbs). In her haste, she hadn’t realised the tag on the garment had accidentally embedded itself into the poor old gent’s skin which then sliced deeply all the way up his leg as she pulled.
Ohhhh, THE HUMANITY!
Which explains why some of my more delicate ladies fear using even a standard flannel or wash cloth that the rest of us ruffians take for granted. Instead, they prefer to wash with a tiny square of baby muslin or light-weight sponge, both of which seem so floaty and flimsy – you wonder if it’s worth bothering!
There’s certainly no RUBBING or SCRUBBING involved. Just a lot of gentle circles and tender dabbing to ensure their sensitive aged skin is left suitably cleansed, and more importantly – unbroken.
Thankfully, it turns out that the older we get, the less cleansing our skin actually requires! With retirement marking an inevitable slump in physical activity, there are now far less occasions to get a big ‘sweat-up’ like we once might have. Common thought now is that it’s more than adequate for a senior to instead shower every other day (or less), thereby allowing natural oils in the skin a chance to replenish and build resistance against all the nasties.
“And so I can get my GLOW on!”
As one of my lovelies, Gladys Gigglestick, proudly preaches.
Funnily enough, Gladys swears by sweet almond oil as her choice of shower time lather – and NEVER soap.
“Because soap is just too harsh and leaves me dry, rashy and itchier than an old man’s tweed vest”.
Which is fair enough when you’re 95 and you’ve been in this bathing game long enough to know! Admittedly, the almond oil (which smells devinely like Christmas pudding) does leave Gladys’ skin noticeably well-nourished and ever so moisty.
Although, when she holds my arm stepping out of the shower, I have to make sure I plant my feet firmly to keep us both steady… blimmen ‘eck, she’s as shiny and slippery as an eel!
What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see? What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me? A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise, Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes? Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply. When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do. And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe? Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will, With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill? Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see? Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still, As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will. I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother, Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap. Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep. At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own. Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home. A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast, Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone, But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn. At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee, Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me. Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead. I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own. And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known. I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel. It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool. The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart. There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells, And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain. And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again. I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast. And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see. Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME
(Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith)
Certainly, nobody likes talking about constipation out loud, let alone having to endure the often excruciating pain associated from suffering with it. In fact truth be told, and much like being constipated… I’m finding it hard work bearing-down to squeeeeeze out my thoughts and write about it.
Let’s face it, as distasteful (and smelly) as the subject of constipation is… and as much as we might poo-poo it, the fact remains that as human beings sooner or later, we all have to ‘go’.
The problem is of course when you CAN’T go.
And although we are each so physiologically different (and what’s normal for one isn’t necessarily normal for another) most doctors generally consider that five days or more of NOT being able to evacuate your bowels, means you pretty much to some degree, have become constipated.
Unsurprising to me, is how merely mentioning the word constipation in the presence of many of my elderly clients, can result instantly in a frowny screwed-up-nose face or clenched teeth. Which is a worry because if there’s one thing bunged-up people of advanced age don’t need – is MORE clenching!
Sadly, and unfair as it may be however (and for a whole toilet-load of reasons), it is becoming typical that chronic constipation is more prevalent the older we get.
Oh, the joy!
10 Poopy reasons why Older Adults are more prone to Constipation:
Some medications (eg: pain meds) have constipation as a pesky side-effect
An ageing colon, as per the rest of an elderly peep’s body, may just not be as peppy as it once was
Dehydration from diuretics can cause people to wee more, resulting in an increase in fluid-loss causing stools to solidify
Retirement for some people can mean a more sedentary lifestyle (ie: slow down your life = slow down your bowels)
Dietary changes (eg: during travel) or a loss of appetite mean a lack of proper nutrition involving ample quantities of fruit n veg. You can never have too much fibre, Fibre, FIBRE!
Drinking less fluids allows for more chance of the dreaded Dehydration
Frequent digestive tract issues or the development of diseases can mean the likelihood of constipation is also increased
Various medical conditions associated with ageing are symptomatically linked to constipation – eg: MS, Diabetes, Parkinson’s
Being sick and/or bedridden for long periods encourages a lower metabolism rate. You can’t remove it – if you don’t move it!
Depression, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep can all contribute to a sluggish bowel due to upset bodily functions and a hormonal balance that’s thrown everything out of whack
Blockage in or around the bowel/colon regions can physically prevent the elimination process from occurring… an indication that something medically sinister may be afoot (a-bottom?)
Mind you, it’s not just poo-less pensioners who battle with the anguish of infrequent faecal evacuation. Most of us at some stage in our lives, have been ‘privy’ to the gassy, smelly delights associated with constipation. And we know only too well, how much it can disrupt our quality of life by zapping energy levels and leave one feeling uncomfortable, bloated and… well, just SHIT really.
Sadly, it’s the older generation who seem to get struck more frequently with ongoing bouts of chronic constipation – and often it’s a symptom (or a stinky side-effect) of an underlying age-related health condition.
CONSTIPATION STORY TIME!
I’ll never forget the time I arrived at the home of one of my loveliest clients for the very first time. A charming and gentle lady, Annie Turdsworth was the most-kindly person you could ever wish to meet (note: her Cream Cheese & Banana Nut loaf is pretty fabulous too).
On this particular day, I found her pouring over a pile of paperwork at her kitchen bench.
It turns out, Annie has put up with a lifetime of suffering from various ongoing gastrointestinal complaints and long story short, since the day she turned 65, has been diagnosed with the crappiest lot of bowel disorders imaginable. Ranging from IBS to diverticulitis and now most recently at age 87, they have decided she may have colon cancer.
And being that the specialist needed to know what her bowels were dishing out, Annie was instructed to keep a Poo diary of every time she ‘went’ to the toilet; how her stool looked, its colour, texture and shape etc.
Oh dear, you can imagine… the demure and deeply private Mrs Turdsworth was appalled!
Luckily, her doctor had a copy of the Bristol Stool Form scale (BSF) to wave in front of her and put her mortified mind at ease.
As a simple user-friendly picture rating system, the BSF enables people like Annie (who would rather DIE than discuss their bathroom habits) to utilise the handy-dandy illustrations to match up the appearance against their own stools.
So rather than having to say horrific words like “runny” or “hard pebbles”, Annie could instead work discretely off her BSF guide and record the corresponding number of the day into her diary (once she got over the terror of looking inside the bowl, that is!)
I’m actually flattered that Annie feels brave enough to confide in me about something as personal as bowel movements (or lack thereof)…although it took a while for her to gain confidence.
“I think today Dollie, I’m more of a 2 than a 3”
Now when I visit, we fill in her ‘log’ book together, along with the food she’s consumed in the last 24 hours all nice and neatly, for the doctor to peruse later. Annie then pops the diary into an empty chocolate box, twists a large rubber band around it and then tucks the whole sordid package away out of sight in a drawer beside her bed.
If we can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, right?
At the other end of the Constipational spectrum, I should definitely make mention of another of my cherished clients, Maggie Cementballs. Not only does the brazen 94 year old Maggie NOT require a picture chart to categorise her faecal formations, but because she is deaf (and refuses to wear her “posh hearing aids in case I lose one”) – we get to discuss it LOUDLY.
“JUST SO YOU KNOW, DOLLIE… I HAVEN’T BEEN TO THE TOILET SINCE 1973!”
And we have a good laugh.
All kidding aside though, it would be fair to say dear old Mags suffers with what must surely be some the most crippling waste elimination woes in the entire universe.
Throw in a blossoming set of haemorrhoids, ongoing colon surgery and a couple of rectal prolapses – there’s not much poor Maggie hasn’t experienced when it comes to digestive complications and the torturous impacted-ness her bowel insists on putting her through.
And she is more than happy to give me the full detailed account on her constipation problem-o-the-week. I recall last week’s pooping particulars went something like this (note: this is in SHOUT format)- – –
“WELL, I DON’T LET IT GO ON AND ON, OR I END UP IN AGONY – ONE CAN ONLY PUSH FOR SO LONG!
AND FOR ONCE, THE PROBLEM IS NOT WITH THE ACTUAL GOING… IT’S THE FINISHING OFF BIT THAT’S ALL TOO HARD AT THE MOMENT.
…BUT I HAVE TO GET IT OUT, DOLLIE!
I CAN’T WALK ROUND WITH THE THING HALF HANGING OUT OF ME, CAN I?”
“CRIKEY NO, MAGGIE, YOU JUST CAN’T!” I bellow back, with my super-concerned face on.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that I or anyone else can do for the long-suffering Maggie. Due to her advanced years, doctors have advised that further surgery just isn’t viable ie: it would most likely kill her.
And therefore, all they can do is pump her full of pills, top up her pain-killers and assist her to manage the condition at home as best she can. Not much fun when you’re a frail old girl in your nineties and much like every other poor soul having a crappy time in the bathroom – all she ever really wants from life is a happy ending. Literally.
I came across this curious magazine advertisement whilst sitting bored on a plane recently. It caught my eye for two reasons:
1. I’d only just written an article about the ‘Worst Xmas Gifts Ever’, and…
2. Why was this cheery, yet smug-looking woman in beige slacks STANDING ON A TOILET???
The Best Xmas Gift Ever!!
“Usually for Christmas, my children buy me towels or pillows or once even a basket for the cat. Last year, after a wonderful lunch in the park with my family, we came home and I found that for a Christmas gift my son had organised the replacement of my old toilet seat with an electronic Bidet toilet seat. I had seen them advertised on TV and thought what a great idea.” After two weeks of having my new Bidet, I wondered how I had ever survived previously without it. All I have to do is sit down on my nice warm seat and go to the loo. Once I am finished I simply press a button and I get a warm water rush and a stream of warm air dry. Now almost a year later, it has changed my life. I have saved a fortune in toilet paper and, I see going to the toilet as a time of luxury. It is the best Christmas gift I have ever received!” – Sylvia Ross –
Upon reading the ad, I discovered that delighted ‘Sylvia’, is actually the proud owner (and operator) of a shiny new Bidet-style toilet seat attachment, secretly installed by her son as a surprise for Christmas.
That is, NOT an advert for your traditional (and kinda terrifying) stand-alone bidet.
Instead, Sylvia gleefully introduces us to the wondrous Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat! A magical two-in-one appliance that means upon completing her regular toileting ablutions, Sylvia gets to be luxuriously “warm water washed” and then blissfully“air-dried”.
And without having to budge! Can you even imagine?
I later showed the mag clipping to my own mother just out of interest. Similar in vintage to Sylvia, it was interesting to hear Mum’s views on the whole BIDET topic. From the perspective of someone who, much like most of us who find those ‘odd-shaped water fountain thingies’ usually found only in hotels totally intimidating, she admitted that if she had to use a bidet – she really wouldn’t know where to start.
“It’s more of an upper-class European thing, isn’t it… or is it something the prostitutes in Amsterdam use?”
“My friend from bowls has a bidet – but she washes her Chihuahua in it.”
“I’d be scared it might explode… gosh, I could end up giving myself some sort of a nasty enema!”
All silliness aside, I did start thinking that perhaps Sylvia was ON to something (literally). And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed there were definite advantages to be had by a sensitive Senior considering enhancing their current loo to include a shiny new automatic built-in bidet.
Interestingly, (but a bit odd) I discovered later after a bit of research, that the word Bidet comes from the French meaning ‘small horse’.
“Oh, so you strap yourself on and ride it like a pony?”
Yep, thanks Mum.
And that apparently, it was the Japanese who first invented the modern integrated ‘toilet-bidet’ as a nifty space-saving device. Without need of a plumber, it is supposedly simple to install and something an older person (or obliging family member) could manage without too much fuss.
Merely replacing the current tatty old dunny seat with a fabulous whizz-bang electric one. Easy peasy… botty-squeezy!
Being suitably impressed by this snazzy new bathroom gadget (and without sounding like I have shares in the company), I have since started singing the praises of these electronic bidet toilet seats (aka EBTS) to some of my elderly clients.
Especially for those suffering from never-ending incontinence or constipation episodes; or pesky mobility issues due to frail, weakened bones and stiff arthritic joints. I reckon it would be hard not to appreciate the enormous potential health benefits an all-in-one EBTS might provide. Not to mention for those in their twilight years being more financially set to ‘splash out’ (ahem) and spoil themselves on a nice bit of luxury during their retirement.
8 fab reasons to get an EBTS installed at your parent’s (or your) house :
1. You can do your ‘business’, then clean-up, dry-up all in one hit… in one SIT?
2. You can stay safe. Not having to go ‘up down’ twice from a toilet to a separate bidet means less chance of a skate on slippery tiles.
3. Personal hygiene is improved and more effective due to not having to awkwardly reach around to wipe. Tender, sore and ‘ouchy’ bottoms can stay cleaner – and heal faster.
4. No hands required. Mission complete – without having to touch your rude bits!
5. Issues such as constipation can be eased (eased out?) by caressing streams of warm water directed in all the right places.
6. You can feel ‘shower fresh’ using an EBTS without having to fully strip off and endure the physical ordeal of an actual shower.
7. There is less dependence on caregivers – which means preserving one’s self-confidence (and dignity).
8. The warm-air dryer of the EBTS means those with ‘greenie’ tendencies can feel most satisfied that they’re saving “shit-loads” on toilet paper – HOORAY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!