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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Habits August 24, 2013

Habits are acquired behaviors that tend to occur once established without thinking about them each time.
It's easy to think of nail-biting as a "bad habit" and drug addiction has been called a "habit." 
We have many cultural habits that ease our way in our own world, but may look strange to a visitor.
Hand shaking or air kissing are examples of those. People in Europe usually shake hands when greeting friends, acquaintances or even strangers or kiss each other on both cheeks. In Switzerland they air kiss three times! Not so much here.

Fingernail biting or hair twisting are individual habits that may annoy an onlooker but do not have another effect. Greeting habits, such as hugging each other, kissing and saying "I love you" at the end of a conversation often are so expected we think nothing of them, except when the greeting is missing.

When a habit we expect to receive--without thinking about it-- is missing it is experienced as a loss whether it is a phone call from a distant relative, a peck on the cheek from a departing loved one or even if the screen door doesn't slam as the teenager departs.

We immediately wonder what has changed and why. We put intentionality into the missing behavior and we grieve.
It's not usually the end of a life grief, but it hurts. My first mother-in-law used to say that a broken pinky hurts as much as a broken thigh bone. Luckily I don't know if that is true, but she often felt slighted by some behavior of her only son that she expected was a habit, which she felt he omitted when he married.
What can we do to replace the feelings of loss? How to get on with life after a series of small and large losses?
Some of us read--or watch films or television shows-- which portray others who have experienced losses and resolve them successfully by the end of the program.Some of us look for other people to add to our lives who will provide the missing connections. Some of go out of our way to support others who are grieving because we understand how they feel and some of us replace the missing habits with others such as overeating, oversleeping, alcohol consumption or medication dependency  to soothe the pain of loss. What works for you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"I'm Lost-Nobody Knows Me" August 20, 2013

There are moments in each of our lives, when we awake in unfamiliar surroundings or when we return from a long international flight for example that we momentarily do not know where we are. It takes a little bit of time to reorient ourselves to time, place and person.
My friend recently returned from a direct flight, with a  short stop in Houston, from Moscow to Phoenix. She reported having this experience not on the first morning back, but on the next, not even recognizing the sleep apnea-machine breathing of her husband lying next to her.

Imagine experiencing that disorientation every day, not only in the morning, but whenever you close your eyes for a short nap. You awaken with the awareness that you are alive and often with the recognition that you have a full bladder. On automatic pilot, you occasionally find your way to the bathroom. Sometimes, you re-enter your room and know where you are or you walk to the doorway and wander into the main room where there are others who greet you and call you by name . Other times, you continue to lie in bed until someone comes to help you begin the day.

You find yourself waking up seated in a recliner in front of the group television set. You watch the moving pictures. Someone comes to escort you to the lunch table and you say, "It's hard to follow," all of a sudden for a moment, you are aware that you have lost a skill.

And sometimes, during a visit from your spouse you have another lucid moment when you recognize how totally alone and lost you feel and for the moment are fully capable of expressing that feeling.

You are walking hand-in-hand with your spouse in front of the kitchen counter where you spend most of your day watching and interacting with the staff, you stop and say "I'm lost-nobody knows me."

This is the world of dementia.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Everybody Loves Raymond August 18, 2013

I know, that's the name of a funny television sit-com now in infinite reruns.
And that's the point.
Every time I enter the memory care unit where my husband resides, I get staff comments on how much they love my husband.
I get anecdotes from the cleaning staff how he "helps" them by watching them clean and sometimes by picking up a piece of lint to give to them to throw away.
I get anecdotes from the staff how he approaches the young pretty blond ones with his arms open, ready for a hug and how politely he says "thank you" when he gets hugged or when a staff member gets him a glass of milk and a cookie.
"He's so cute," they say. "He tells me he's a chemist," they add.
He gets wonderful care from all of the staff members. They know he does not like to sit at the table to wait for his meal to be served to him, so they hand him his plate with one hand while escorting him to his seat at the table with the other arm around his shoulders.
The staff also knows that I arrive every day and they are taught to say something positive to the relatives when they visit.
And of course I can pass these little tidbits on to those who out of the kindness of their hearts inquire as to my husband's well-being.
It is so sad to hear these comments, to see how his life has shrunk, how little he is able to do.
He tried to watch television the other morning, it was a rerun of Bonanza. "It's hard for me to follow," he said when I entered the room. A staff member walked by. "I'm thirsty," he told her, "Would you like a glass of milk?" she inquired.
"Yes," he said and got up to follow her.
"You stay right there," he said to me as he walked off. When his milk was placed on the table, he sat down and completely forgot that I was there.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Have you checked your prongs recently? August 14, 2013

Here's the backstory:

A few months ago, I stopped in at a jeweler on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to have safety catches placed on two of my bracelets so I wouldn't lose them. The jeweler offered to repoint my diamond engagement ring. I would have had to leave the ring over the weekend and pay $100.00. Not feeling any loose prong in the ring, I declined.

Now for the drama:

Last night I decided to cook dinner, not merely to put food together. I had a ripe mango and a chicken breast and I cut up all the veggies in the frig, cooked some rice and invited my son to join me for an early dinner and then for a sunset swim at the community pool.

After dinner I washed up the dishes before serving some fresh cold watermelon for dessert. As I sat down to pick up my fork, I noticed the diamond missing from the raw empty hole of my ring!!!

Steve to the rescue:

He looked into the garbage disposal with a flashlight, saw a shining object, removed the disposal and coaxed the diamond from where it was wedged.

Yes, we went for a swim. Steve sat in the hot tub as his back was really aching from working under the sink and I sat by the side of the pool drinking some wine I had poured  into a plastic water bottle until I could stop shaking!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Food Choices: What Science Tells Us Today August 12, 2013

I read many articles each day which aim to alleviate our collective anxiety about maintaining physical and mental health. I know I am not able to eat a strictly vegan diet of raw foods or a macrobiotic diet which adds some cooked grains. Well, I could "be able" to eat like that, but I am not willing. I enjoy eating as a social experience, so in order to radically change my eating, I would have to join with a group of people who ate similarly. Perhaps, someday, but not any day soon.

I do eat a basically Mediterranean diet, with little red meat, lots of fish, salad and fruits, olive oil and in Arizona the plentiful avocados served with all the Mexican entrees. For the past several years however, I have been plagued with digestive ailments for which the medical profession can find no cause. I eat no dairy from cows or goats, only sheep's milk cheese and for several years my internist had me eliminate all gluten from my diet. 

This past spring I changed physicians and now I am a patient of a practice which combines allopathic medicine with homeopathic medicine. The physicians listened to my symptoms and recommended I add supplements to my diet. I added omega-3's, DHA, bacopa which is a natural herbal memory enhancer and I continue to take the resveratrol which comes from red wine that I had added on my own.

My digestive issues have disappeared; I can now add bread which is baked without milk products such as Italian bread, sourdough, rye and pumpernickel to my diet without a problem--the only downside is a slight weight gain--and now I will really look at the recommended ten foods we all should include in  our diets.
They are coconut oil( small quantity or it could lead to digestive issues) cherries and blueberries for their antioxidant value, kale, flax seed, whey protein powder, wild salmon and only grass-fed beef which is full of omegs-3's.
My next goal is portion control and reducing the snacking that comes with needing bursts of energy as I sit in front of the computer for hours, writing my next book.
Will you share with me your choices for purposeful healthy living????

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Birthday August 1, 2013

This week marked an interesting development in assisted living and memory care homes. PBS ran an expose of the largest of the corporate assisted living  and memory care centers in the country, Emeritus.
In the 1990's many small owner-operated assisted living homes were started in response to the growing need for people to be housed where their meals could be prepared for them, their laundry attended to and a community of like-minded and similarly needy older adults could be found. These older adults did not need nursing home or skilled nursing and at the time, allegations and lawsuits showed that nursing homes were not treating their patients as well as they should. So instead of "warehousing" older adults who could no longer live alone, these smaller, usually well-appointed homes with small apartments, grassy areas and chef-cooked meals were established.
When the savings and loan crisis hit in the late 1990's some of these small homes were hurting economically and were bought out by corporations large enough to weather the economic storm. Brookdale Living was one, Emeritus was another such corporation. On one black here in Mesa AZ eleven small homes were sold to corporations in one year.
Every small business owner knows that his or her business only runs well when the owner is present and involved in the day-to-day operations of his/her business. Absentee ownership of any business has risks of corner-cutting. And corporations need to earn a profit for their shareholders.
Many assisted living homes maintained their populations and fared well for a while---until the residents aged and their need for skilled nursing care grew.
The staffing patterns needed to meet the needs of elderly residents who were capable of showering,toileting   and dressing themselves, finding the restaurant and socializing with each other was much less than the number of people needed and the skill level of those staff when assistance with tasks of daily living became necessary. Corporate tried to meet these needs by assigning a fee to each task a resident needed. For example $85.00 was added to the monthly bill if a person needed to be escorted to the dining room.
But they did nothing to train and hire additional staff to carry out these duties and the show accurately pointed out the worst most flagrant nightmares that follow sometimes.
My husband is in an owner operated, onsite managed home which owns no others. The staff is not always perfect, but they work as teams, they care about the residents , there is little staff turnover and this week for my husband's birthday, they decorated his door, had him wear the birthday hat, took his picture, fed everyone birthday cake and made him and us, his family feel loved and special. We are at the home almost daily, we are loved and respected and so are all the residents. Thank you Arbor Rose