The New York Times article by a doctor with a terminal illness caught my eye. He built his own coffin. It may seem morbid to some, but if you have a terminal illness or are old, death is one of the things you think about.
Building your own coffin adds a human touch to death that seems to be missing today. Death has become mechanical and hidden; just a process that you hire done and which is kept out of sight. I remember when my grandfather died in a small town in Nebraska. An open coffin, supported by two chairs in the dining room, was there overnight. Someone was always sitting next to it, including me at age 8. There were constant visitors, food and much talking.
Terminal illness and old age seem to drain one’s life of purpose; coffin building may add meaning and comfort. It will surely get people talking.
The problem is that people facing death, whether through old age or disease, look at death differently. They come to accept that everyone dies; a concept unfamiliar to younger people. A purpose is important.
Coffin plans if you are interested.
Exercise straps are great for old people and people who travel. They are cheap, easy to use and provide muscle tone; always a problem with seniors.
Silver Sneakers has a web site on how to use the bands if you are a senior.
If you are concerned about the safety or health benefits, take a look at: Mayo Clinic suggestions for using resistance bands; or, the University of Arizona Life and Work Connections Department web page on using resistance bands by seniors complete with pictures and suggestions. They also cite the research on exercise bands if you are really interested.
The bottom line is that it is universally agreed that old people need to do some resistance training if they are going to maintain muscle tone. Resistance bands are an easy way to do this and the bands travel well and don’t take up less space than a t-shirt.
So, if you can’t make it to the gym or are traveling or just want to get rid of a bit of excess flab, try exercise bands.
And, of course, you can sit in front of the TV and stretch the bands all night, much to the dismay of your spouse.
- Falling – If you fall, it may lead to the hospital or to not being discovered for a long time. And you forget the button that you are supposed to wear around your neck to call for help.
- Driving – You might have an accident, you might not pass the driver’s test, your kids may take your keys away, you may get lost and you will not know how to get home. What senior has heard of Uber or the bus line?
- Finances – Will your money last? Who is trying to get it? What if need long-term care? What about Medicaid?
- Memory – Not just a “senior moment” any more; you can’t remember where you left things, names, or what you did yesterday, etc
- Telling doctors your symptoms – The Dr. will make a record. The insurance company, MVD, your kids or the trustee under your Living Trust will take action. When you are old, you don’t want a record. What is the Dr.s duty?
- Medicines – You can’t keep track of them and you don’t know why you are taking them. – If you sell your opioids, you may go to jail, but you need the money.
- Caring for children – What if you screw up. they can talk you out of anything; they hide from you; and, teenagers want money and to use your spare bedroom.
- Eye exams – Will this keep you from driving ? Cataracts operation? Blind!!!
- Hearing tests – You never did like people with hearing aids and now you aren’t wearing yours. You are isolated and you still can’t make out the words, especially in a noisy restaurant. Plus, hearing aids are expensive, get lost, break, don’t work right and you forget to take them off in the shower.
- Hiring a contractor – What if he cheats you? How do you know what you need? Do you really need what he says. It is important to act like you are competent, so he doesn’t think you are dumb
- Travel – What if you get lost? How do you get the too-big suitcase in the overhead bin? Do you really need a wheel-chair? Plus, all the usual fears in this day of terrorism.
- Losing things – You put things under other things, or other things on top of the soon-to-be be lost things. Then you can’t find them and have to ask a kid, spouse, friend or stranger for help. And, you feel stupid. Every time you lose something, you know it is dementia.
- Dementia – You have to be really careful here. If you have Alzheimer’s, it is all in your mind; you forget that it won’t be your problem any longer; it will be someone else’s. The fearful time is just before you develop a full-blown case of some form of dementia, and you know something is wrong, but not what but you know you can’t really do anything about it.
And, of course, there are a lot more fears,
On Sunday, my son walked a few blocks in Washington, DC to pick up his box of vegetables and fruit from Hungry Harvest, a non-profit that collects excess food from grocery stores and distributes it to people who pay $15 per box.
Each box contains surplus, not spoiled, food; and, for each box sold, an identical box is donated to a food-bank to be distributed to people who can’t afford fresh vegetables and fruit.
Today’s box contained 4 oranges, 2 large carrots, head of cauliflower, 3 avocados, asparagus, onions, 3 pears, kale, and 2 ears of corn. Enough to feed two people for 5 meals or so
My thought is that it could be a good system for old people. Either for $15 or for free through a food bank. Either way, seniors get needed fruits and vegetables close to where they live.
Maybe other parts of the country should try it.
Health care must be automated. The geezer is no longer able to remember what to do as far as health care is concerned. He must rely on systems that automatically make sure that he gets the care that he needs. In addition, he needs a mentor to have a health care power of attorney so that there is a third-party checking up on the geezer.
The following can be scheduled or fixed so that little or no thought is required.
- Dental appointments – Every six months.
- Primary care/physicals at least annually
- Flu shots – annual
- Social groups – at least weekly
- Day care – as required – transportation will be needed
- PACE – Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly is a Medicare and Medicaid program available to Medicare recipients where available that includes everything you need from Adult Day Care, nursing home care, drugs, to hospitalization. In Albuquerque it is available and should be checked.
- Pill box – As many pills as old people seem to take, some organization is necessary. The geezer can’t deal with a bunch of bottles. I need the pills to be sorted by day, so that if I can figure out what day it is, I can find the right pill; maybe!
- Telephone speed dial – cellular – I can’t remember phone numbers; so I put the few I need on speed-dial.
- Life Alert – I will fall. I need someway to call for help if I can’t get up. However, I find that most people forget to wear them when needed the most; like, in the shower, or getting the morning paper in the snow.
- Identity bracelet – weld shut – use super glue to lock it on the wrist. Old people have a special ability to remove bracelets, much like criminals in monitored release programs.
- Door alarms – if a spouse/partner has dementia, you want an alarm/lock on the door to alert you when they leave or to keep them from leaving. The escaping spouse always leaves when you are in the bathroom.
- Neighbors – The best protection comes from neighbors who keep an eye on you.
- Urgent care centers – A better source for minor problems and triage, than waiting for hours in an emergency room.
- Refrigerator Instructions – Tape your meds list, doctor’s name, “Do Not Resuscitate notice,” people to notify list and other information for Emergency Responders. The refrigerator is where they look.
- Canary Home Security System – This is a cheap camera that you can put in your home so that your mentor/kid can check on you with his/her cell phone. It also beeps if something unusual occurs. The videos are kept for 24 hours so that you can monitor them. Just remember that this is a privacy invasion and no one wants to look at a nude 76-year-old.
Old people have a “shelf-life, or “use-by” date. Thinking about your use-by date will help you focus on managing your life; especially your later years.
Wikipedia defines “use-by date” as:
Generally, foods that have a use by date written on the packaging must not be eaten after the specified date. This is because such foods usually go bad quickly and may be injurious to health if spoiled.
Foods with a “best before date” are usually safe to eat for a time after that date, although they are likely to have deteriorated either in flavour, texture, appearance or nutritional value.
The Geezer has modified the Wikipedia definitions for himself:
Old people have a “use by date” and care must be taken after that date. This is because old people usually go bad quickly and may become injurious to themselves or others.
Old people with a “best before date” usually are safe for a time after that date, although they are likely to have deteriorated in flavor, texture, appearance and value.
The problem comes in defining the dates; and, we have the same problem that the food industry has. Usually the dates are conservative and the food, or old person, is still “safe” for a period of time after the “date.” It is a guide that warns you to be careful.
Some senior “best before” dates have been codified:
Shelf lives are different for different people; just like food. You need to look in the mirror to determine your shelf life. Then you can best use your life before that date.
Know your “use by” date before it “matures.” You may not know that you are “going bad.”
The “use by” date can frequently be found on the left buttock.
I read a lot about elder health. I get a lot of ads and a lot of advice. When I put it all together, I come up with about ten things that I should, and can, do. These are almost universally accepted, free and as near as I can tell, will do you no harm and probably a lot of good.
The amount of each of these that you do is up to you. Even a little bit helps. You can add to the list, but then it becomes cluttered.
How and when you do them is up to you.
The whole idea is not to live longer, but to live better.
- Drink water
- Drink wine, not too much
- Have friends; be a friend
- Think outside the box
- Avoid processed foods
- No clutter
And watch as I attempt to reduce old age to a series of 3 x 5 cards.
I live in a home with three bedrooms. At some point I will need care; especially if I elect to live-in-place. I need a cheap solution; especially at night. Someone to allay my fears of the dark and to answer the phone, the door and generally be a human presence.
A caregiver who is really just an elder-sitter would cost me $20 per hour or $240 a night and I would be asleep. That comes to $87,600 per year; a bit much given my social security of $1600 per month and no pension.
My solution is a student nurse. She can make aging in place workable.
Average student loan debt for graduating nurses is $30,000. The average cost of board and room at UNM for a student nurse is $8580 per school year. This does not include non-academic periods. For three years rooming at the geezer’s, this would be a savings of $25,740; not counting the non-school year times.
I spoke informally to a lady at the UNM nursing school and to a fourth year student nurse, both of whom said it was possible to provide a nursing student with board and room in exchange for staying overnight at my house.
The student would live in one of my empty rooms, use the spare bathroom, eat the food from my “ice box” and check up on me, calling 911 as necessary.
She would be free during the day for classes; could have a boy/girl friend stay over, and could cut her student loans by at least $25,000.
She could do a paper on practical geriatrics for her geriatric course. She could study me, bring fellow students/professors around; and could generally get academic mileage out of her stay with me. I could be the guinea pig for geriatric research programs.
I could visit my kids during exams; and, we could work out something for periods when she had to be away.
She would have enough expertise; more than an elder-sitter; and, would know what to do in an emergency.
She would be better trained and vetted than the usual care-giver. I am afraid that someone is going to scam me or that a care-giver is going to steal my valuables and medicines. A nursing student has a career to lose if she does something unethical or illegal.
A win-win for both of us. She could even drop me off at the adult day-care on her way to classes. And could share my Meals-on Wheels.
When she graduates, she could provide me with a replacement from the entering class.
And I would be the envy of the senior community.
I hate to exercise, but not exercising is even worse. Since my goal is to keep present pain to a minimum, exercise is as necessary to me as sleep. I suffered from spinal stenosis in the past; at one time, I could not get out of bed. I needed to exercise to avoid the pain; so, I walk at least 2 1/2 miles per day and do stretching exercises “ordered” by a physical therapist. No more pain; no more spinal stenosis, at least that I am aware of. However, I can trigger it. If I go for two weeks without walking and doing the stretching, spinal stenosis is back; or, at least the pain is. Needless to say I don’t trigger it very often.
Traveling presents a problem; mostly mental, but I still find exercising on the road a problem.
Silver Sneakers is free fitness offered by a number of senior insurance policies. To find out if you qualify, go to the site, put in your info, and if you qualify, you can print out a membership card. They are located at YMCA’s across the country and at numerous health clubs. You just go to the web site, enter a zip code, and you get a list of places available.
There are 13,000 places nation-wide with free exercise, yoga and more. It covers the time when it is too cold or rainy to walk, or when you are in a place not conducive to walking. It gets you into a social atmosphere. Thus, when I visit my grand kids, I can take my card and do a bit of work on the treadmill, attend a yoga class, or try tai chi. It is also a good excuse to try something new; to get out of the “box” in a safe environment.
You might even tie it to your UBER membership and have someone drive you in a strange city; or, if you don’t have a car because your kids picked you up at the airport and they need their cars to go to work. Don’t be stranded.
One of the problems old people have is that when they go to see the doctor, they can’t remember, or don’t understand, what s/he told them. Most doctors are not old, so they may not recognize that there is an old person in front of them. Even if they do, they won’t have a feel for what it is to be old.
At the end of the medical visit, ask the doctor if he would tell your smart phone what is wrong with you, what you need to do, and what the next step is. Also ask him if there is anything else you should be aware of.
This is simple. You already know how to take a photo of your grandkid. Just move from photo to video and press the button. It will record the doctor and what s/he says. You can then play this back. Don’t forget to turn the volume up. If you have a problem with this, practice with your grandkid. S/he will know how to work the smart phone.
You then have a diagnosis that you, or your kids, can listen to over and over. If the Doctor does not want to do this, get a new doctor.
You need to be clearly understand what is wrong with you and what you are supposed to do about it.
When you go to pick up your meds, ask the pharmacist what the medicine is for. While you are there, get a printout of all the medicines that you have taken in the last year. Ask the pharmacist if s/he sees any adverse reaction problems.