Aging Yet (Hopefully) Always Helping Each Other

Aging

I just love this drawing of the parents and child. 


My daughter found it on Instagram and sent it to me. 


As a little kid, my wife and I used to hold her hands and swing her between us when walking (like in the above illustration)–she loved that!


Now as we get older, we still try to be good, helpful parents (not too intrusive or helicopter-like–well maybe a little), but we can certainly see a day down the line when the cycle of life goes full circle. 


My daughter used to joke (I think) about putting me in an old age home–she knew that after seeing what my mom went through there with Parkinson’s, that is truly the last place I would want to end up. 


Of course, sometimes there really is no choice when a person just needs so much care that it is beyond what the family can do any longer. 


Frankly, what I have learned is that the most important and precious thing that parents and children can give each other is…time!


So is that child in the bottom illustration helping his aging parents along or is he dragging them off to the nursing home?  Perhaps, we’ll never know until it’s too late. 😉


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal from Instagram Unlimited Knowledge)

From The Window In the Nursing Home

From The Window In the Nursing Home

I visit the nursing home pretty often to see my mom who is there.

While I try to focus on my mom and her needs, I do notice other patients there.

The images are deeply impactful on me…here are ten that are on my mind today:

1) The husband and wife who are both in the home in a shared room–the wife is wheelchair-bound and the husband dutifully pushes her around the floor. This weekend, I saw them together at the nurses’ station asking for some crackers. When the nurse came back with some individually wrapped crackers in cellophane, the couple took them and went off down the hall happy as clams.

2) The lady at the table who is overweight, but always asks for more food. She doesn’t talk much except to ask for more dessert. She stares at the other patients and seems annoyed and upset with them.

3) The guy who was a lawyer, but now has dementia, and sits and talks half to himself and half trying to engage others, but all that comes out is sort of gibberish. So others just nod or say something to politely acknowledge him, but can’t converse with him with any meaning.

4) The lady in the room who sits in a chair hunchback. She never seems to leave the room or the chair. Sometimes, she watches TV and other times appear to be crocheting. Mostly she sits hunchback, looking uncomfortable, but settled for the long hall like that.

5) The woman who sits outside her door in the hallway. She is in a wheelchair, and she doesn’t say anything, but she stares at you while you walk down the hallway. She sits there watching–sitting and watching.

6) The younger but still old disheveled guy. He comes into the dining room to eat, but gets food all over himself. He sits alone, always. He eats quickly, leaves half his food, and gets up and goes out while everyone else is still picking away at their food.

7) The lady with a wall of baseball caps. She has no hair, maybe she has cancer, I don’t know. She usually is in bed, sitting up. The caps look like they have a lot of meaning to her, but I’m not sure if it’s because she’s a sports enthusiast or why.

8) A lady in a wheelchair that pulls herself along down the hall. She puts one foot in front of the other in these baby steps motions, and the chair moves along, slowly, but at least she is mobile, somewhat.

9) This weekend, I looked out the window of the home, and there was a woman on the sidewalk. She had fallen on the ground, on her butt. Her walker was next to her, but she could not get up. Some people were near here, apparently trying to get help, but not wanting to touch or move her themselves. I ran for the floor nurse, and she came to the window to see. She said is that so and so, which meant nothing to me, and then she ran off to help her get up.

10) A lady sits downstairs by the glass windows–she is dressed up fancy like older healthy people are want to do. Next to her is an older gentleman in a turtleneck, but he is just visiting and is her son. They seem to be sort of wealthy as they sit upright in the high-back chairs and discuss family and what she’s been eating at the home. They look askance at some of the other patients who are crying out in pain.

The nursing home, like the hospital is a horrible place to be, even when you have to be there.

In both places, even the most caring doctors and nurses and attendants, cannot make up for the fact that you are a prisoner of age, failing health, and disability–and let’s face it, even if many are nice or attentive, not everyone is.

I am still unclear why people must suffer so–why we haven’t found a better way to end good, productive, and loving lives.

I am not sure that people are really even focused on this issue of old age, because it’s not sexy, it’s at the end anyway, and “they had the chance to live their lives.”

Maybe, it’s because we simply don’t have the answers yet, can’t afford what they would take, or we would just rather not deal with mortality, pain, and suffering when there are so many other things to do.

But one day, we all will face the piper–and it would be comforting if we had better answers.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Living Longer, But With Worse Quality Of Life

Living Longer, But With Worse Quality Of Life

Watching my parents age over the years has been hard–and very painful.

They are good people–they’ve worked hard all their lives (nothing was just given to them), they are devoted to serving G-d, and they are loved by their family, friends, and community.

They have lived a good life and we are grateful for every day.

Yet as they are getting older, the body like anything physical, starts to get sick and break down.

Both my parents have serious illnesses, and in the last two years my mom has become almost totally disabled and is moving from a rehab center to a nursing home this coming week.

I read this week in the Wall Street Journal, what I’ve been watching with my own eyes…we are living “longer, but not healthier lives.”

Over the last 2 decades, life expectancy has risen 3 years to 78 years, but unfortunately only 68 of those, on average, are in good health–meaning that people suffer for about ten years with various disabilities.

What is amazing is that people are being pressed to retire later in life with an increase in age to receive full social security benefits to 67 by 2022–giving the average person a healthy retirement to enjoy of just 1 year!

With the average working household having less the $3,000 in retirement savings, things are not looking too good for Americans to retire young and enjoy their healthy years either.

Additionally, despite longer living, in the last 2 decades, the U.S. fell from 20th place to 27th place in 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for life expectancy and quality of life.

The leading causes of death remain heart disease, cancer, and stroke. And disabilities are being driven by back, muscle, nerve, and joint disorders.

Seeing with my own parents, the deteriorating quality of life and true suffering as they age, I am left questioning the real wisdom of keeping people alive, when the quality of life has so deteriorated as to leave them in pain and misery.

While no one wants to lose their loved ones–the emptiness is devastating–at the same time, watching them endlessly and needlessly suffer is worse.

I see my mom clutching her wheelchair, always in various states of discomfort and pain, and less and less able to help herself, in almost any way–it is tragic.

So I ask myself is it also unnecessary and wrong?

I call it forcing people alive. We keep people going not only with extraordinary measures, but also with day-to-day medicines and care that keeps their hearts pumping, their lungs breathing, and their brains somewhat aware.

The patients are alive, but are in a sense dying a long and painful death, rather than a quick and painless one.

I love my parents and mom who is suffering so much now, and I don’t want to lose her, by does really caring for her mean, at some point, letting her go.

I tell my dad, “I just want mom to have peace”–no more suffering!

For the average person, 68 years of health is too short, but 10 years of disability and suffering may be too long.

We use advances in technology and medical breakthroughs to keep people alive. But what is the cost in pain and disability, and even in cold hard dollar terms for a nation being gobbled up by deficits, longevity, and miserable disease and disability?

People are living longer but at a significant painful price!

Is this real compassion and empathy or a senseless fight with the Angel of Death?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to wwwupertal)

Now That’s Robot Clean

How many of you heard the phrase as a child, “Cleanliness is next to G-dliness”?

Over the years, we’ve learned that germs and associated illnesses are frequently transmitted by touch and through the air.

And so we’ve become sensitized to the importance of things like regularly washing our hands, using antibacterial soap, and generally keeping our homes and offices as clean as they can be. (Okay, some people I know aren’t so good about this–yes, you know who you are!)

The problem is that even with regular cleaning, corners, cracks, and surfaces are missed and harmful germs survive.

You can imagine that this can be especially true in places like hospitals and nursing facilities where unfortunately, there are already a lot of sick people.

Xenex Healthcare has invented an amazing robot that takes care of the problem–no, I am not taking about euthanasia (just kidding).

But really, this robot is wheeled into a room–generally after a manual cleaning that according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (25 February 2013) often leaves 50% of the room still infected–and these germs can survive up to six months.

The Xenex robot generates a pulsing ultraviolet (UV) light from its extending head that zaps viruses and bacteria–destroying their DNA–and leaving a room 20 times cleaner!

There are 20 million hospital infection a years in America, killing about 100,000 people, and costing about $30,000 per infection, so the Xenex robot that kills up to 95% of many deadly infections and superbugs is significant.

The robot costs around $125,000 or it can be rented for $3,700 per month–but it can disinfect dozens of rooms a day.

I’d like to see a Xenex robot for every home and office–that should do wonders for improved health care in this country.

Oh and it makes a great gift for Howie Mandel. 😉