Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thankful for Grumpy

All around me this season I see grumpy people running hither and thither amidst their tasks and responsibilities.  I remember calling a friend of mine and her husband answered the phone.  "Hi (we'll call him Frank) Frank!  How's life?"  "It sucks." he replied.  Oh.  "How's (we'll call her Carol) Carol?"  "She's a pain in my *ss." he grunted. OK. "How are those beautiful kids?" "They're a pain in my *ss too." he laughed cynically.

A year later he was living with his parents, jobless and friendless. Carol had kicked him out and given him basic visitation rights for their kids. 

What I'm trying to say is to try to realize every day how many things are going RIGHT.  You may be having a hard day but the car started.  The garage door closed.  The washing machine didn't need repair.  If something went wrong you had a phone, you knew who to call to help you.

Nobody died. You were able to get out of bed and put two feet on the floor.  You were able to think for yourself.  Hopefully you didn't have to depend on someone else to help you with your most personal tasks.  

You may feel stressed by your budget, but if you have $10 in your wallet or your pocket you have more than most of the people in this world.  

THANK YOU for reading our blog.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Putting The Pieces Together

It's hard to believe that I started my Elderplanning business nearly twenty years ago and have been a professional social worker for over thirty.  At a certain time in our lives we find ourselves asking: Where does the time go? 

I have worked tirelessly for many hours working directly with people to help them know how to plan for an uncertain future. Now I am writing the book in the hopes reach many more 
...and to plan for my own. 

Stay Tuned!

Friday, November 14, 2014

We're All in Training

Dear God help me.
I need more strength. Endurance. Tolerance.
It's getting more intense.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
"Increase the weight! Keep going!"
I don't know if I can take any more.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
They say that repeating something over and over makes it easier and makes you stronger.
"Add the weight and you will surpass what you have done thus far."
It's already so heavy. I don't think I can add any more.
I've been doing this over and over. The same thing over and over.
Repetition. Repetition.
I need to let go.
I need to stop doing the same thing over and over.
I'm strong enough in my body and my mind.
I don't know how to move forward.
"No, you can do it! Stick with it!"
Same old same old.
Day after day, year after year, time after time
I keep getting stuck and the same place.
I am not afraid of anything but I am afraid of this.
I have not been able to move past this point.
It's too heavy.
I don't think I can do it.
Dear God, give me the strength to love.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NAU's IHD: Making the World a Better Place

We are blessed to have been invited help The Institute of Human Development (IHD) with their latest round of campaign stories.  Please feel free to view the articles at the link below.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Always Leave Them Wanting More...

If you understand this basic law of Economics, you can apply it to every area of your life.  

You, as reader, probably learned more from this post by looking at the picture and the sentence than you would have if I took 1000 words to explain the same thing.   

Always leave them wanting more, not less.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I only had one Dad, he only had one daughter and he only had one mug. I'm using it now. 
He pretty much had only one of everything.
I used to have four of everything when I thought I'd have a family. I was so traditional and domestic.
Then I had two of everything when I still had hope that the right partner would come into my life.
Now I pretty much have one of everything. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Technical Writing for Northern Arizona U

I just completed a series of articles for Northern Arizona University's Institute of Human Development.  

My "playtime" is creating graphics like this one.  
Stop by for a visit to the IHD website to learn about the amazing things they are doing for their community and for the state of Arizona.  I was amazed.  It made it really fun to write about it!  
I'll send a link to the actual articles once they are published.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

We Can Create the World We Want to Live In

I have been writing since I could hold a pencil in my hand and I never took my ability for granted. Writing has been my passion and, at times, my escape. When the world became too much to bear, I would just go in and create my own. Adversity can inspire creativity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If You Have a Story, Maybe It's Time to Share It

They often say "It's never too late." I have worked in hospice long enough to hear the regrets that people express at the end of their lives. A famous quote by Lucille Ball says it all, "I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done."   

Do you have a tale to tell? A book to write? A song to share? A movie to produce? Don't let life pass you by without creating it. If you have a message, someone is waiting for you to share it. Dust it off if you've started it. Start jotting it down if you haven't. Write it, publish it. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Never Underestimate a Person with Dementia

Around and around she went!  When she first was admitted to the dementia unite at the nursing home, Abbie was able to walk. In fact, she could hardly sit still. She was like a jack in the box at mealtime. She rarely slept through the night. She was on a mission, going to Who Knows Where. She did not seem particularly disturbed by her own wanderings even though there never seemed to be an end to her journey.

Her only child, daughter Karen, visited her each and every day. It was clear to everyone that Abbie did not even recognize Karen, yet Karen remained steadfast. "I'm giving her back the loyalty and care that she provided me when I was a child." she said.

Days and years passed. Abbie eventually started falling so she was given a wheelchair. People of any age can have a hard time learning how to maneuver a wheelchair, but Abbie had determination and she figured it out. She started wandering about on two wheels. Shuffling her feet as she propelled herself forward, she would wheel herself around the facility in what seemed to be a surprisingly consistent pattern.

I was Director of Social Services at the time, and I could tell time by her. Abbie would wheel herself to my doorway, speaking to me in a language that I could not understand; the language of Alzheimer's Dementia. Inevitably she appeared at my office each day promptly at 11:55 a.m. and then again at the change of shift at 3 p.m. Every day without fail Abbie was right on time, although she did not wear a watch and was assumed to be totally confused and disoriented.

One day we received the tragic news that her daughter had died in her sleep. She never had a chance to say goodbye to her mother.

All of a sudden Abbie changed her route. She started showing up at all different times in different places. She was unpredictable. She now mumbled constantly. Her words were not intelligible, but she was clearly repeating the same thing over and over again. One day I sat with her and I finally grasped what she was saying. I was amazed. 6-7-3-4-2-4-6.... 6-7-3-4-2-4-6... ad infinitum. I went to her medical record and, sure enough, she was repeating her daughter's phone number over and over again.

Everyone had just assumed that her daughter would pass from her life and she would never know the difference. Abbie taught us otherwise. We ultimately offered her comfort in her grief and could only assume that she might have been able to understand and receive it.

If you know someone with Alzheimer's Disease, the best thing you can do is to treat them with respect and dignity. They are trapped inside a body that seems to not understand because it can't communicate whether it does or not. Assume the best. After all, if you were that person, isn't that how you would want -- and need -- to be treated?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Care Manager Reverses Alzheimer's Diagnosis Decision

My client, we'll call him Walter, sat through an intensive three hour interview with his new doctor. I was impressed with how thorough the session was. After all, this was one of the reasons I referred Walter to this particular physician.  

Walter, at 90, holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering. His mind is beyond active! He has worked all over the world during three different wartimes. Top secret research has been his specialty. When he moved to Arizona he brought over 400 boxes of books with him. He believes in God and the angels and extraterrestrials. He forgets all about himself while making his mission his obsessive center of focus. He doesn't care what anybody thinks of him. The clock is ticking and he needs to complete his mission before he leaves This Place.

Before I meet with new clients and their families, I ask them to sketch out some basic goals to get a head start in preparing a customized plan of care. At our initial meeting, Walter was prepared. He had typed up five pages of goals!  

Most people want help preparing meals, cleaning the house or getting to church. Some need help getting out of bed in the morning... or need inspiration to face each day. Walter had five pages of goals related to complex and continuing research with his ultimate goal: To find a way to save human civilization. He had already met with the nearby Hopi Elders to learn their thoughts about how they have survived since the Dawn of Time. 

Sounds far out, yes. Walter was far out. But he was clear as a bell. He was brilliant beyond brilliant. Some people are so intelligent that they just don't handle the mundane things very well. 

When the doctor created Walter's initial file, the diagnosis of COPD was first and "Dementia: Probable Alzheimer's Type" was secondary. I was floored. Granted, the interview was all over the place because Walter was trying to teach the good doctor about what was important in his Great Scheme of Things. I could see where the doctor was coming from. The doctor remained firm in his opinion that Walter was fighting severe dementia.  

This is where a Geriatric Care Manager can come in very handy as an advocate. I took Walter back home that day and, with his eager cooperation, we completed a Mini Mental Assessment to determine the level of his "dementia". The tool assessed him in 30 different areas of cognition. His final score on the test: 29 out of 30. Early in the process I asked him to remember three things -- Pencil, Shoe, Watch. At the end of the test, when I asked him to recall the three, he missed the shoe. That was the one and only point Walter missed. 

On our next appointment we presented the doctor with the test results and he agreed that it was appropriate to remove the dementia diagnosis from Walter's chart. 

Click here for the Folstein 30 question MMSE assessment.  This 10 question format, a much simpler assessment, is available for people who have higher degrees of dementia.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  
~John Barrymore

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Are All Just Children It Seems

Funny how long it takes us to Grow Up.  It takes our whole lives doesn't it?  I have realized that no matter how old people are (and I've worked with old people all my life) that we are all just children when we are in an area of life that we have never been exposed to.  Learning to deal with a new challenge in life is not much different than walking through the door of your kindergarten class on the first day of school.  There's always more to learn!

We are reminded that we are still children when we get caught up in emotional waves of concern, fear, overwhelm or feeling a loss of control over our life circumstances.

No matter how old we are we are still just children.  If we are blessed we have our parents alive and well for a long time.  If we are really blessed we will know how blessed we are to have our parents alive and well.  I am one of them!  My parents are doing well and I thank my lucky stars when I look at statistics and when I work everyday with people who are struggling to survive and to live.

I am also well aware that it is just a matter of time and the situation will change.  It makes me very thankful for Right Now for what I have, for what we have together as a family.

Look around at all the parents who aren't doing well.  All those who struggle with memory loss; dementia.  All those who rely on walkers and wheelchairs to get them from one place to another.  All those who rely on their adult children to meet their most basic needs on a daily basis.

This Mother's Day (and Father's Day) upcoming, please take a moment to thank your parent for being self-sufficient and healthy.  And if they aren't, take a moment to breathe in and think of ways to help them --- and to help yourself to help them.  You don't have to do it all.

If you don't know where to start, get yourself a geriatric care manager who can make it all easier for you.

It Pays to be Proactive! A Love Story.

Every day I hear many amazing stories in my line of work!  When you work with people and you care about them, you hear what they say with their lips --and with their hearts... and there's ultimately enough fodder for a screenplay!  I speak each one in confidence and with the utmost respect.  I decided I would start posting them here now and again so others can learn from them too:  


Roy and Angela had been dating since high school.  Same age, same year - both were now graduating college.  On Graduation Day Roy grabbed his diploma in New England, hopped the train and got to Seattle in time to see Angela graduate with honors.  She was always such a smart girl!  And pretty too!   Roy was stalling, however.  Angela had been saying for years that she wanted them to marry as soon as they finished college.  He loved her, yes, but was he indeed ready for marriage?  Children?  Career?  

Everett, WA Depot 1900's
Two days later they boarded the train together.  He was taking her to Chicago for a family gathering.  She looked at him with such admiration.  After all, he was such a gentleman!  She felt fortunate to have such a smart, handsome and chivalrous man at her side.  As they boarded the train she carried only her purse while he carried both of their bags and her bookbag too.  He was so strong!

They settled into their seats, their tickets were punched and the train started moving. Angela ruffled through her bag for a book and some magazines for the long ride.  Roy was preparing to take a nap.  He was a contented man. 

As the train picked up speed, she nudged him on the elbow.  He turned to her as she handed him the latest issue of the Seattle Times.  "Here" she said "there might be something of interest to you."  He gladly took the paper with a nod and began to read.  

'Of Interest', sure enough!  There, on page 3: "Holstein and McFarland to Wed".  He did a double-take.  Sure enough there was a recent portrait of the two of them, Roy and Angela, taken over the holidays the year before.  The article went on to announce that the two would wed in Chicago on the upcoming Saturday.  Roy was taken completely by surprise.  

Angela had taken it upon herself to make all the arrangements. They were married that Saturday in Chicago and have been happily married for 77 years.  

"How can you argue with a woman like that?  And she's been telling me what to do ever since!"  he says with a smile-- and absolutely no regret.  

 Couple Discuss Their Plans

Monday, March 10, 2014

So Focused on the Positive, I Didn't See The Rest

I visited a client in her Senior Living Community last week. As we were strolling down the hallway, a woman was pushing herself in her wheelchair, accompanied by her charming elderly boyfriend. 

We greeted the woman and my client introduced me. The woman smiled and I was very taken by her natural beauty. Her bright smile. Her stylish red outfit. Just enough makeup to highlight her blue eyes and warm grey hair. Her grace in pushing her wheelchair on the plush carpet. After they passed by, my client gave me an earful. Her boyfriend lives in their home and she lives here now.... She never figured out how to return home without her legs."

I had never noticed that she was missing her legs. Taken above the knee, both sides. Me, the geriatric assessor. Me the great observer.

This woman was so elegant and gracious, I never noticed anything about her that wasn't elegant and gracious. I was too busy looking at her beautiful smile.

It's all in the grace.

photo from
Premier Senior Living in Westchester County

Sunday, March 9, 2014

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