Don’t send flowers – send ME!

Have you ever been hospitalized, for even just a couple days?  Even an overnight stay can make 24 hours feel like a week!  Having a friend, friendly acquaintance or even a complete stranger stop by for a visit can seem a godsend.

Sadly, a variety of factors have reduced the number of visitors that stop by to see a family member or friend who’s in the hospital – fewer families live near each other, friends scatter to different parts of the country, many are tied down by work hours & family obligations, to name a few.

A lot of people hesitate to make hospital visits because they’re not sure what to say, maybe they rub each other the wrong way, while some folks won’t step foot into a hospital unless they’re wheeled in from an ambulance.

I am blessed to come from a community stocked with friends & pleasant acquaintances who regularly swing by area hospitals for visits; my church’s pastoral staff has terrific hospital out-reach.  With Holy Redeemer Hospital a 15-minute drive from the heart of my little hometown & other friends hospitalized at the same time, my hubster & my mother got visits from community folk who popped in because they were visiting someone else.

Hospital visits are old hat for me, with both Mom & John having major hospital stays.  Mom’s were age-related, while John was hospitalized for life-threatening pneumonia & twice for treatment of  Zenker’s Diverticulum.   Praise be, unlike a lot of people who have  conflicting responsibilities, I could be at the hospital whenever I wasn’t at work. A  brother in the area wasn’t able to get by to see Mom as often as he would have liked – and she didn’t expect him to;  like most Greatest Generation women, she looked to her available daughter -me – for care & emotional support, not her son.

Having visitors stop brings more than social benefits.  Studies show that people in nursing situations who receive visitors typically also receive better care from the staff.  As true in hospitals as it is in nursing homes.  Visitors help staff get to know patients better, they are able to alert staff that their friend or relation would like something, they are someone patients can talk to about how they are feeling.

Not to discount the social aspects of a friendly visit!  Mom could get through the nastiest of tests or boring hours knowing that someone would be visiting in the afternoon or evening.  John’s face lit up when I’d walk through the door but it was a boost to his energy to see Jeremy or someone else from the pastoral staff, to get a visit from someone there to visit another patient.

Visitors matter.  Studies indicate that the level of care received from hospital staff rises with a patient’s number of visitors.  And having regular visitors lifts the patient’s spirit, even feel pampered.  A visitor can help the staff get to know the patient as a person someone who focused on THEM & their likes.  The benefits of having visitors go on & on.  Which is why I say that friends & family shouldn’t send a loved one flowers or balloons during a – – they should send me, The Friendship Doula!

I am NOT a patient advocate, although I do suggest & can recommend some excellent ones.  My gifts & graces have a softer focus.  Thanks to Mom & John & countless friends &  who’ve been hospitalized, I am an old hand at setting up music players with their favorite pieces, facilitating facetime visits with far-away & home-bound loved ones, cheering up their rooms with photos or colorful pictures.  (Gotta give a shout-out to Holy Redeemer’s soft-hued rooms.)  With regular visits from me & mine (John), all of the advantages listed in the previous chapter can be checked off.  And once discharged, am happy to swing by for friend-to-friend visits.

The Friendship Doula – “family friend” hospital visiting services.   Don’t send flowers – send me!

 

 

If she could see me now

In the midst of corresponding with a woman who’s an awesome force for aging expansively,  was moved to share the link to Mom’s The Velveteen Grammie article.  Gave me pause, skimming over it before sending it off.

Reminded anew of the strange but true reality that my here & now life is what Mom always saw for me.  Not the specifics, but very much the general “helping people” thing.

When I was unceremoniously & totally unexpectedly given the boot from the corporate world that I’d aced, it took me all of thirty minutes to realize that MOM was behind the shove out the door.  Literally – was driving home in tears, waiting to be scooped up in the waiting arms of my loving husband, when I came to a stop at a traffic light in Willow Grove, half way between BISYS Financial Services & home, and IT hit me with full force:   Mom had NEVER seen me in the corporate world.

Now that Mom was fully in spirit, seems she had more clout.  Yanked me out of my comfy cushy job & thrust me into the truly great unknown.  She knew the truth of what Jen Sincero writes in You Are A Badass At Making Money – – “Taking huge scary steps into the unknown is the best way to scare my BS to the surface.  It is like a 2-for-1 deal ~ ~ I make progress AND I unearth my shit.”

Not that Mom would ever use such language, but the underlying message – yeah, that was totally what I got, sitting there in my car, waiting for the light to change.  I had been thrown into the Great Unknown AND everything would be fine.  Just keep moving forward.

If she could see me now, Mom would be totally UNsurprised, just all, “Yes, that’s what I always saw.”  Mom – – thanks for the push & the belief.

Energy work & two pooches at Pike Place Market

Yeah, yeah, yeah – “there are no accidents.”  Sounds so trite.  But as the valedictorian at my sister’s 1980 NYU graduation said, “The reason it’s trite is because it’s right.”  Take the past few hours.

Five hours ago, I shared an adorable FB post & link – two couples walking with their dogs  through Seattle’s Pike Place Market were literally stopped in their tracks when the pooches made a beeline for one another, dropped to the floor for some serious playtime.  The couples were complete strangers, but it turned out the dogs were siblings, from the same litter, both brought into the country for adoption from overseas.

The joy in the dogs’ interaction, their complete connection with each other, felt delightfully familiar to me.  I commented, “this is so cool – there are people i feel this way about on first meeting, like we are long-separated siblings!”

It’s true – there are people I meet for the first time who make me feel like doing the human equivalent of rolling over with the sheer joy of recognition.  That was the meaning of what I wrote.

This afternoon, I had a luscious lunch with a dear friend.  As we were about to adieu, she asked me to watch her handbag while she adiosed to the ladies room.  Waiting for her, my eye caught – again – a trio sitting several tables away.

All through my meal, had been aware of them, a young man & his wife & someone who seemed older but I really couldn’t tell since the light beside her obscured more than size.  Sitting there by myself, something fully registered that had been flitting about my brain throughout lunch – the man was thoroughly enjoying himself with his two companions.

Being me, I went over to share how much I’d appreciated his pleasure in the two others – his wife & his mother-in-law.  After saying how much I’d enjoyed watching him almost preening with pleasure in their presence, the younger woman asked me if I was in energy work.

Her question stopped me in my tracks.  Am I in energy work?  Not like people who do Reiki, chakra healing or acupuncture, but YES – I am!

It gives me goosebumps realizing that the younger woman’s question came a few hours after seeing the two pooches of Pike Place Market, after I wrote (without realizing it) about my energy source recognizing kindred energy sources.  I’d never thought about it before, but getting the question so close to seeing those two dogs rejoicing in their reunion was world shifting, opened me up to an awareness that was both startlingly new & unexpected ~and~ familiar & fully anchored.

Pondering her question, I turned to look more fully at her mother.  The back lighting no longer blocked her.  I was amazed – her face, her attitude, her style sense all spoke of a high-energy spirit.  It was no surprise to learn she was a masseuse – natch.  Energy work.

Our paths might not cross again.  But I am forever grateful for the look of unfettered happiness on young man’s face, the younger woman’s question & the older one’s powerful presence.  Am storing up their energies, delighted at the chance encounter, empowered by their joy.

Midge Maisel & the Creativity Jam for Age Justice

Could not decide whether to publish this under Rx for Caregivers or Stuff & Nonsense or here so am including it on all three!

If Midge Maisel was an actual person instead of a fiction character on an Amazon Prime show, she’d be 86 & still killin’ it.  And just the sort of talent I’m hoping to include in the 05/15/18 Creativity Jam for Age Justice, the Philly event in support of the same day, same time Radical Age Movement rally in Central Park.

The Jam will have multi-layers & be multi-purpose, featuring pieces by 65+ (55+?) artists, musicians, singers, dancers – – and hopefully stand-up.  The focus goes beyond artists of a certain age to include dream catchers – creatives who have longed to have their work seen by others & are just now being given the opportunity, not in spite of their age but because of it.  The Jam will feature artists who’ve shown or performed before, but 1st timers will be given special consideration by the (tba) selection committee.  So, yes – Midge could have made the cut!

When I posted thoughts about this event on Facebook, the very first comment was, “Great idea. Sounds like a lot of work and money to get it going.”   Reminded me of the acquaintance who, on hearing about the Rx for Caregivers page-a-day calendar, said  “How will you fund it?  How will you monetarize it?” in a tone of inspiration-killing skepticism instead of the gee-whiz “Tell me more” response that  respects baby ideas, encourages them to take a next step, to grow.  Disappointments might come…  but, then again, they might just as easily take wings & fly into the stratosphere, leaving only fabulous, fully realized wonderful.

I’ve had four art shows over the past twelve years, two solo, two creativity jams with John  – one in Bryn Athyn, one in Princeton, two in Huntingdon Valley.  The HV photography show was such a smash, they held it over for the entire summer.  The only cost I had for any of them was for the opening reception’s delectable spread.

It will be a lot of work, but a lot less than the efforts of my Radical Age Movement colleagues up in NYC putting together the Central Park rally for Age Justice.  I won’t have the big names featured up yonder, but will have a power beyond what happens in Manhattan  – – fulfilling the heart’s desire of creatives who’ve dreamed of having their work seen by others.  Pretty cool.

Imagining some 73-year old finally getting the chance to kill it as a stand-up, getting his first taste of an audience’s laughter, their applause.  When it happens – whichever creatives jam with us – will see Midge looking on, hearing her say, “Yeah, he loves it.”

Yes, it will be a lot of work – but the joy hallmarking the Creativity Jam for Age Justice will be worth every moment!

 

The aptly named TIM DRIVER

Introducing TIM DRIVER, the driving force behind RetirementJobs.com & MatureCaregivers.com & in-the-works Age Friendly Advisor, which will offer crowd-sourced ideas as well as reviews on a wide range of timely topics.

Driver co-founded RetirementJobs.com back in 2006.  There’s no disputing his deep business experience – including group director at AOL’s Programming & Strategic Business units, where he built numerous consumer-related offerings, including the AOL Careers Channel – but his interest in recognizing & helping overcome ageism in the workplace hit close to home.  His father lost his banking position to someone younger, found he couldn’t find work in his field.  What had been a canny business idea became a personal passion.

RetirementJobs.com was developed as a way to both build a major league career site for job seekers who were 50+ ~and~ identify employers who welcomed mature workers.  Tim had seen ageism in his career, knew that people like his Dad needed help with a savvy job hunt.  They developed the Certified Age Friendly Employer program, that steers people to companies eager for their skills & mastery.   Employers who apply for consideration are thoroughly vetted by the Research & Certification unit before any decision.

The innovative program has been recognized by the US Senate Special Committee on Aging, by AARP & by the White House, which invited them to work with policy makers on engaging older people more effectively with their communities.

MatureCaregivers.com was a natural build off their success at RetirementJobs.com.  They realized that direct care was a great match for older workers – instead of an age bias against older workers, the closer in age someone is to their client, the better the bond tends to be, leading to more satisfaction on both sides, translating into less turn over, longer employment periods.

Many 50+ job seekers place flexibility higher on their list of preferences & look for a different sort of satisfaction from their second career;  the ability to develop relationships often gets the weight that opportunity for advancement had in their first.

A major plus they bring is the reality that many folks 50+ are experienced in direct care, having raised a family, perhaps as support for a younger with a long-term illness or disability, been responsible for an elderly loved one.  Another bonus is they are more likely to pick up on a change in appetite, attitude or appearance & more likely to tactfully mention it to family.

The problem that developed for Tim & his company was that while job seekers DID find satisfaction in the work & in their clients, a large number were NOT happy with the small companies or large agencies they worked FOR.

Tim & his associates realized the only way to overcome that problem was to launch their own service.

Tim brings his extensive experience at AOL & with several start-ups to bring TECHNOLOGY into direct care.  Of special interest to me is the company’s use of blogs with daily entries by each caregiver.  Whenever a new posting is entered, an e-mail is sent to the main contact, keeping him or her fully in the loop & always having the option of getting into a dialogue about the loved one’s care.  Amen & hallelujah!

E-mail has been a significant tool in my work with oldsters elders ancients, a god send for connecting with a client’s family.  Because I contact them if I have a concern, if there’s a fall (astonished at how many times a CCR does not inform them) or other issue, they have peace of mind when I don’t.  Love the idea of a dedicated, confidential blog!

From the family, advantages includes the greater chance of a hiring a long-term aide (the turn-over rate for agency care is 60% to Tim’s 15%); less chance of disruption of care due to a sick child or a school closure/late start; the deeper experience older workers bring & often better communication skills.

My experience with families is that they hope I’ll consider & treat their loved one like one of my own~ without overstepping my bounds, that I’ll form a friendship that helps feed the olders need for relationship ~ without getting too chummy,  and -above all – that I am kind & thoughtful & understanding when s/he is cranky or worse.  It feels like older, more life-experienced people are better equipped to strike the balance of being friendly without being overly familiar, of sharing information while always respecting the family as primary, of giving though-out opinions while never forgetting who are the decision makers.  Of being a combination of care provider, friend & advocate.

Finding support for a beloved parent or relative is emotional for the children & the older loved one.  MatureCaregivers.com looks like it offers a great combination of old-fashioned caring & newfangled technology.

Caveat – the services are currently limited to six states & I have not been able to discover which six.  Will update as soon a I find out.  Also, the only reviews (just 2?) are from 2016, so I recommend doing some digging, getting credible recommendations.

 

 

Not so casual casualties of a looming direct care crisis

My drive home from a yum early birthday (tomorrow, but the weather forecast is nasty) breakfast turned out to be even meatier than my meal – intriguing listen on The Takeaway, a build on Paula Span’s 02/02/18 NY Times article, If Immigrants Are Pushed Out, Who Will Care For The Elderly.

Strange  – both the article & the radiocast  focus almost exclusively on how the crackdown affects the elderly,  yet Todd Zwillich‘s guest, Stephen Campbell, off-handedly mentions that HALF of direct care is provided to people under 65, aka the NOT elderly.

How weird that – in this situation – youngers seem a huge yet forgotten demographic.

It’s true that Boomers  increasing trip into young old age. They will need considerable support – in time.  Down the road.  BUT the worries of how immigration crackdowns & reduced legal arrivals will affect available direct care support hits youngers RIGHT NOW, whether they face disabilities as long term as cancer or as short as knee replacement.

And let us never forget the men & women returning from wars abroad, needing more & longer care than in previous engagements.

Am still stunned at hearing Stephen Campbell say, “Well, currently, according to the most recent estimates, about half the people who require long-term care are under the age of 65, but as time goes on & Baby Boomers continue to age into older adulthood, that population of older adults will require care.”

Please, excuse me while I take a moment or two to scream out in frustration:  “AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!

Am shocked appalled horrified to hear younger people – half the population currently receiving long-term direct care – so casually brushed aside.  Especially the seeming endless stream of young men & women returning from Iraq & Afghanistan facing a LIFETIME of care for physical & mental wounds, needing home health care.  And let us not forget the countless young lives mangled in the current opioid epidemic, which has claimed 64,000+ lives due to overdoses & left millions addicted; the recovering survivors need medical & psychological services  ~and~ often direct care support.

The impact of the immigration crackdown & reduction of  new arrivals will take its toll across all ages, from the child diagnosed with Down Syndrome to the high school athlete suffering a life-changing injury, from the NFL player entering his forties with  chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)  to the 52-year old suburban dad fighting to overcome addiction.

This blog is called All Ages, All Stages because John & I do all we can to help people across the age spectrum, from itty bitties to ancients, live as expansively as possible.  The frustration we feel when older people are invisibled pales compared to my bottomless outrage at how a drop in direct care support will affect babies – tweens – teens – young adults – middle agers.  I want to howl at the moon & shriek with outrage.

My guess is that youngers are ignored because their dilemma cuts a little too close to home.  It’s easy to think of the elderly as needing home health care support;  to think of  thirty-somethings needing their daily needs met by others cuts t0o close to the bone.

Let me repeat again, NOT so casually – “According to the most recent estimates, about half the people who require long-term care are under the age of 65.”   And HOW does the link address describe the article?   “trump-immigration-policy-hurts-eldercare-home-aides.”

NO – every age of American, every demographic & every race color & creed are the not-so-casual casualties of short-sighted leaders taking wrong-headed actions, collateral damage in “making America great again.”

Gotta run – gotta go out & howl at the moon.