An oncology study by the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, confirms what many cancer survivors already know -- patients with strong support networks are not only more likely to survive, they also experience reduced occurrences of cancer resurgence.
For years, I saved articles on how to determine whether an elderly person needs more help or a change of living situation. But when the time came to intervene with my own mother -- widowed and living alone -- I was utterly unprepared for the emotions that flared and the strain it put on our relationship.
July is my father's birthday month and I've recently returned from my latest trip to visit him in Florida. Over the past year he's faced a string of health challenges and though we live 700 miles apart, I manage to be his medical advocate and go-to girl.
'I love my mother -- but sometimes I hate her, too.' Saying those words out loud -- or even to yourself in your head -- can be a painful acknowledgment that even late in life we can't always make our relationships with our parents work out the way we want them to.
The question before us was "Are we caring with compassion or control?" I was sitting in a session at a recent geriatric conference in the north east. The speaker threw out this question... and I must admit, in all my years of being involved with, concerned about and responsible for providing care to someone "chronologically superior" (Yep, another new term since "old, aging, senior, and elderly" are the latest terms to become politically incorrect.) I had never thought of it in quite that way.
Many moons ago my mom's world was sunny and bright. It was filled with excitement, love and joy. She had no idea that one day her entire life would vanish, as if it never existed. Truth be told, neither did I, for I had never heard of Alzheimer's.
With no distinct or discernible signs of my own mental impoverishment, my loved ones will be completely clueless. If I start to unravel, how will they be alerted to the utter gravity of my condition in order to render aid? It appears as though I've got to pull my act together a bit.
Before my father passed in 2008, I was fortunate enough to spend almost every day with him during his final summer. We went on dozens of long drives through the countryside, comparing faraway cornfields to the ones close to his farm, and tracking down old tractors.
Just like our parents worried about us getting sick or hurt, there comes a time when we as adult children start to worry about the health of our parents. Perhaps we notice changes in their energy, memory or coordination. At some point, health issues can make it very difficult to live alone.
Nine years ago both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's on the same day. My sister and I moved them out of the home in which they'd amassed heaps of everything that would not biodegrade throughout a 60-year marriage. I handled the bulk of the clean-out. Things were lost. Important things were lost.
Settling the affairs of a parent who recently has died presents a family with emotional and practical challenges. Primary among those is attending to the family finances.
Sometimes I think when we exchange those little glances and giggles about our dear old loved ones -- even when they show us glimpses of brilliance -- the joke is really on us. Maybe when we reach the age of "old," in between the crazy babbling and the far-off stares, we know exactly what we're doing, and what we're teaching.
I get this question a lot and it often goes something like this: "My mom has some income from Social Security and less than $10,000 in savings. I've got a full-time job I need to keep. Mom was doing fine until recently, but now she's in and out of the hospital.