The challenge of aging

I yelped with joy, reading Connie Goldman‘s sense of what we’re, each & everyone,  called to do  ~ ~ “The challenge of aging isn’t to stay young;  it’s not only to grow old, but to grow whole – to come into your own.

That is a great quote because it is as true when we are twenty as when we’re inching up to ninety.  ALL of our life is about being all thoroughly all that we are as possible, whatever our situation or circumstances.

What too often blocks our way is having our aging ever upward woven into a cultural fabric that seems to disengage from grasping the importance & power of true elderhood, that puts barriers in the way of continued growth – in the name of convenience.

Life was never meant to be convenient.  It’s SUPPOSED to be challenging & messy, enriching & inconvenient, expansive & exasperating.  From first breath to last.

Older people need advocates, people who help brush aside physical, emotional, even mental barriers.  Every step these essentials take, every action, helps them grow whole, helps them come more fully into their own.

The life they enrich, that they help give the space to grow whole, may be their own!

 

 

When the ambulance chaser IS the ambulance

originally published on Rx4Caregivers.wordpress.com

 

Eye-opening article in KAISER HEALTH NEWS on ambulance service billings, often in the thousands!

“Forty years ago, most ambulances were free for patients, provided by volunteers or town fire departments using taxpayer money, said Jay Fitch, president of Fitch & Associates, an emergency services consulting firm. Today, ambulances are increasingly run by private companies and venture capital firms.

‘”Ambulance providers now often charge by the mile and sometimes for each “service,” like providing oxygen. If the ambulance is staffed by paramedics rather than emergency medical technicians, that will result in a higher charge — even if the patient didn’t need paramedic-level services. Charges range widely from zero to thousands of dollars, depending on billing practices.

“While the federal government sets reimbursement rates for patients on Medicare, it does not regulate ambulance fees for patients with private insurance. In the absence of federal rules, those patients are left with a fragmented system in which the cost of a similar ambulance ride can vary widely from town to town.”

Be a savvy consumer of health care costs – read the article, discuss with friends & family!

 

Death loosens its spectral grip

No, am NOT getting kick backs from the NY Times for leading my readers to its articles!  Can’t be helped, with some of the best writers on living expansively issues on staff.  All hail Paula Span & John Leland, with a special place in my heart for two Janes –  Gross & Brody!

Going analog – at home – is a whole new world for me, especially on the weekends, when our local libraries cut back the amount of time someone can fritter… I mean spend on their computers.  Assigned 40 minutes yesterday, so didn’t dig deeply enough into my digital subscription to find John’s article on America’s changing attitudes toward death.  Praise be, he has a dandy short piece in today’s issue, spotted while perusing the print edition this a.m. at Be Well, my beloved café/away-from-home office.

In Sunday’s lengthier piece, John discussed attending Shatzi Weisberger’s FUN-eral.  As the 88-year old former nurse explained,  “I have been studying and learning about death and dying, and I want to tell people what I’ve learned.  Some people are coming because they love me, and some people are coming because they’re curious about what the hell it’s about.”

John was there because covering a revamped/revitalized funeral was a natural build on three years of becoming friends with & writing about a variety of seriously-old (85+) New Yorkers.

The centerpiece of the standing room only party, held in the commons room of her Upper West Side apartment?  A biodegradable cardboard coffin on which enthusiastic guests were writing greetings, from  “Go Shatzi! (but not literally)” to “Shatzi, many happy returns … as trees, as bumble bees, as many happy memories.”

At 88, Shatzi has become a prominent voice in the “positive death movement.”  My heart leapt at the description – didn’t know there was a movement to describe what I experienced seventeen years ago with Mom, three years ago with my sister Mim & even with Dad, who died in 1973 before the first wave of integrating more humanity into death & dying yet still held a remarkable attitude toward what he was experiencing rather than crumpled & devastated at the prospect of dying at 62.

Shatzi & her “Go, Death!” compadres speak to my concern that American culture finds death to be icky, a topic to be avoided rather than embraced, resulting in a silence that diminishes the lives that lead up to it. 

I think about my oldest brother.  After decades of a relatively distant relationship, they became close over the last twenty years of Mim’s life.  But he still has not seen her online memorial service – the first of its kind in our church, inspired by the unescapable fact that the best minister to capture my sister’s unusual persona was retired & living in Arizona.   I can’t understand WHY Peter has yet to see it, but he hasn’t.  Which is too bad, since it is a wonderful collaboration,  a heartfelt tribute to a creative & complex spirit.

Schatzi would understand the inspiration behind Mim’s tribute, honoring a woman who exited this world cracking up hospital staff who’d swing by for a visit if they felt down in the dumps, knowing that a patient facing death within days would make them smile at her jokes & feel awed by her “bring it on!” attitude.

More & more people feel like Ms. Weisberger, who simply got fed up with Death American-style after sitting with a dying friend who was was so terrified at the prospect of her death, “she couldn’t even talk about it…  And then she died.  So that was a problem.  We had not dealt with the issue – myself, herself and the others.

Schatzi Weisberger used her FUN-eral to educate her friends about having a positive death experience.  She showed them the burial shroud she plans to have cover her for burial (she considers cremation to be environmentally unfriendly), which she got from Amazon.  Friends have agreed to was her body, in keeping with Jewish tradition, and another will bring dry ice to preserve it before burial.  But she assured one & all that she’s in good health, good spirits, and will wait her own good time to have the good death for which she has so carefully prepared!

Schatzi Weisberger does have a final wish – “I really want to experience my dying.  I don’t want to die in a car crash or be unconscious. I want to be home, I want to be in my bed, I want to share the experience with anybody who’s interested.”   She doesn’t expect death to take her hand in a spectral grip, but with a friendly touch.

 

Crucial read about intubation & olders!

Another must-read NY Times article ~ ~ if you can’t access, get thee to a library or borrow from a friend.  IMPORTANT!!

EXCERPT –   Intubation “is not a walk in the park,” Dr. Ouchi said. “This is a significant event for older adults. It can really change your life, if you survive.”

After intubation, 31 percent of patients ages 65 to 74 survive the hospitalization and return home. But for 80- to 84-year-olds, that figure drops to 19 percent; for those over age 90, it slides to 14 percent.

At the same time, the mortality rate climbs sharply, to 50 percent in the eldest cohort from 29 percent in the youngest.

All intubated patients proceed to intensive care, most remaining sedated because intubation is uncomfortable. If they were conscious, patients might try to pull out the tubes or the I.V.’s delivering nutrition and medications. They cannot speak.

John Kotre nails it! “For wisdom to operate in old age…”

For wisdom to operate in old age, it must blend with the world of youth.  It must be open to the knowledge  & innovations of succeeding generations.  ~ John Kotre ~

I’ve seen what happens when olders elders ancients have regular access to a cross-section of ages with whom they are comfy cozy discussing interesting things & I’ve seen what happens with those who don’t.  It’s in no way a scientific cross-section, not even close to objective, but I’ve seen both enough times to know the wisdom of John Kotre’s words.

He went on to emphasize this is especially true with technology, where the capabilities are so vast & change is the norm.  Mom kept up-to-date through me & my friends, other older amigos keep active on tablets & smart phones thanks as much to grandchildren then their kids.  Being computer literate is the secondary blessing – the first is the connection between teacher & student and how often a session of accessing information turns into opportunities to share/glean wisdom.  Think of a generation ago, a grandmother sharing stories with as she showed how to stitch together a skirt or bake a peach pie, a grandfather spending a leisurely afternoon showing how to attach a fly to a fishing rod or use a drill.

How do we blend the generations when children live a distance?  When an older never married or has not children, no younger relatives?  What off-the-wall, out-of-the-box ideas are itching to be tried out, social experiments in nurturing, presenting, honoring wisdom waiting to be set in motion?

 

 

“Older adults at greatest risk of suicide” – link

My thanks to NextAvenue.org for updating a 2015 article on olders & suicide, currently reposted in response to the high-profile deaths of Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain -and- the unrelated yet timely release last Thursday of the CDC report on rising suicide rates in the USA.

Older Adults At Greatest Risk Of Suicide – poor health and isolation can increase suicide risk