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.

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.

 

 

Immigrants & the elderly

Most people I know – well educated, middle-upper income, professionals – don’t think that the raging immigration issue affects them.  They might be passionately on one side or the other of the debate, but they don’t see it hitting home.  Their home.

They are wrong.

One of the things we discussed during Tuesday’s Radical Age Movement meeting was the impact on elder care if there is a major clamp-down on undocumented workers, the backbone of not just home care & cooking in the swank conclaves of our large cities, but also the home care of dependent & elderly people in every nook & corner of our nation.

One home healthcare provider is facing their Haitian-American nursing assistants & practical nurses losing their temporary protected status in November, told they MUST return to Haiti no later than July 2019, while other staffers – dreamers – face being returned to a homeland many never knew if DACA is not restored.

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been in a continuous care facility or nursing home that many of the workers seem to be foreign born – statistics indicate that they account for one in four “direct care” workers.  Even more are hired directly by families, paid under the table for their services.  As the ranks of the elderly swell with an influx of baby boomers (like me) & chronic disease/disabilities replacing death, the women who traditionally provided care has shrunk due to careers or seeking better pay & benefits.

That caregiving gap has – until now – been filled with immigrants, many undocumented.

In 2005, there were approximately  500,000 immigrants in direct care; by 2015, that had ballooned to over one million.  Imagine the consequences if vast numbers of them are either unable to work or afraid of attracting ICE’s attention.

Cracking down on immigration means tearing apart the safety net these workers provide for families needing affordable care for parents who are living longer, often dealing with chronic health problems, with children who work so can’t stay home with Mom or Gran or Uncle Phil.  The impact is already being felt by the disabled, elderly & their families.

The current administration as far terminated Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Haitians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans.  Other nationalities are expected to follow.  America is no longer considered a safe harbor by immigrants, whether legal or undocumented.

Almost 11,000 direct care workers are here from largely Muslim countries – how does the travel ban affect them,  families denied permission to join them.  And there are those DACA members facing deportation.

If the president gets his wish & we reduce the number of legal immigrants, deport all the undocumented & return DACA eligible to their homelands, then they are not the only ones who will suffer uncertain, scary fates.  You might, too.

“Wellderly” – new one on me

Seems I’m behind the times – until  a few ago, had never heard the term “wellderly.”  AKA “old people who are in good health.”

Per the World Health Organization (WHO), many developed countries hold 65 to be the augur of elderly, while the United Nations (UN) tags it five years younger – 60!  ARE they old, or simply 60+ years in age?

 

Back in Spring 2016, Eric Topol, MD, a geneticist at Scripps Health, published The Wellderly Study that looked at people 85+ years old whose lives had been free of chronic disease (except arthritis, “which is ubiquitous in folks 70+”).

In a collaboration between Scripps Research Institute & Scripps Health, Dr. Topol & his team collected 1,400+ genetic samples from “wellderlies,” data that is now available as a DNA data set to other scientists.

Known as the Scripps Wellderly Genome Resource, it offers priceless info for comparing wellderlies to their disease-prone peers.  Its long-term goal is to uncover the mechanisms that protect these healthy 85+ year olds, that let their systems apparently flick away the deterioration that besets most their age.

Radical concept, from medicine’s pov –  focus on the healthy instead of the physically and/or mentally diseased & deteriorated.   It’s not wasted on me that these studies are happening as my Boomer generation grows greyer & greyer, with no stomach for having the longer lives that improved medicine & medical technology offers if they are devoid of good mental & physical health.

Find myself thinking of my mother, of John’s, of the awesome Anne Hyatt.  Of the three women, only Mom Murphy was a by-definition wellderly – she was devoid of any chronic debilitation until the instant she died of a massive heart attack.  Mom had problems with a torn rotator cuff that left her without the full use of an arm, while Anne had advanced dementia.

But I’d tag all three as wellderly.  Mom was limited in her movements, but she was sharp as tacks to the very end.  Anne couldn’t remember from one moment to the next the day & the date, but no one was more ready for the next moment of joy.  THAT’s the sort of wellderly I want to be as I age ever upward.

How do we get samples, do studies that nurture those traits?  Worth a ponder.

Those three ladies are my sort of wellderlies!

My #1 goal for February

Not learning how to create a spiffy blog -or- find the moola to hire someone to jazz it up.  Not to brush up my computer skills & feel once again competent with basic programs that I aced back in my corporate days, when there was an IT team backing me up & a company that paid for me to take days off to hone my skills.  Not to create a home that’s warm & welcoming to humans as well as cats.

My #1 goal is to find at least three people interested in watching sessions from last week’s AWESOME Age Without Borders Global Caregivers Virtual Summit which was so utterly utterly utterly interesting insightful informative inspiring & a zillion other adjectives I haven’t time to write out.   There are so many caregivers out there – of every stripe – who would benefit so much from experiencing the wondrous array of speakers Kari Henley served up to us on silver platters;  all we have to do is watch in wonderment.

What better place to soak them in than the community room at Be Well, where we can take in the summit’s wowness while drinking one of Maia’s coffee confections & eating Gwyneth’s Lemon Almond Cake!

Travelin’ – holiday tip

If you, like moi, are 65+ and heading out on a long trek to visit family & friends over the holidays, pace yourself. It’s shockingly easy to think of yourself as the college student who drove down to Florida solo or the young dad who got there in two days.  Don’t push it.  Build in pauses during your driving, stretch your legs & stop early in order to ensure getting a good night’s sleep.

If you are flying, make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time.  Make sure you are aware of luggage requirements & fees BEFORE arriving at the airport.  It is not unusual for fees to be hidden, so check with friends who have recently used the same carrier for their experiences or research online.  When you book your tickets, request an expedited boarding time.  Consider investing in transport from check-in to your flight (money well spent); check ahead of time with the airlines about requesting cart transport to the departure gate or baggage claim. Also ask about any special support services it provides seniors (touch base with your credit card company, too – some provide special services).  The level of support could be more important having a great trip than the ticket price.  For example, American Airlines offers special airport assistance for seniors, from the curb to the gate – arrange it ahead of time!  Mom could depend on my help straight through to the gate, but airport security would make that a no-no these days.

Speaking of Mom, she made numerous trips in her spry 70s to Bermuda as a traveling companion with a sprightly friend in her mid-80s – – at Connie’s expense.  Connie’s family had the peace of mind that their beloved mother/grandmother was in good hands, Connie maintained her sense of independence & Mom had a ball, making many friends & seeing sights she would never have seen on her own.

A dear friend had planned a trip to Paris as a graduation present for a grandson.  Several months before they were set to go, he was diagnosed with dementia.  Instead of changing their travel plans, they added another companion – a granddaughter who knew Paris (her grandfather had taken her after graduation, too) came along specifically to lend a hand, freeing the two fellas to be footloose & fancy free.  The trip was a smash!

You’re not a kid anymore.  Build in some savvy precautions & make ensure a happy holiday.  Your luggage might end up in Portland ME instead of WA, there might be a traffic jam on I-95 or a blizzard might strand you New Jersey, but at least you can do what you can make sure your travels opt for merry over miserable.