Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – New Bloggers on the Scene – Melanie M. Stewart – Saying Goodbye, a Story of a Friendship (2019)


This series of Posts from Your Archives is exclusively for blogs that are under a year old. It is an opportunity to meet new readers and to show off your writing skills.. All the details are in this post along with some tips on how to make your blog more reader friendly.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/new-series-smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-new-blogger-promotionand-setting-up-your-blog-for-accessibility-readability-and-sharing/

This is the third post of Melanie Stewart who blogs at Leaving the Door Open: A Daughter’s stories about an aging parent. Sharing Tips and facts learned along the way. In this post, Melanie’s mother faces the loss of a friend who had become like a sister to her.

Saying Goodbye, a Story of a Friendship

This is going to be a tough one. We’ve just heard that my mother Ginny’s best friend Ann passed away yesterday. She was 90.

Ann and Ginny’s friendship began 65 years ago when their future husbands met at college. They raised their families in the same suburb for many years. When my dad died at age 50, Ann was the rock for mom. When mom moved from our house into a condominium, Ann and Uncle Ted graciously agreed to take “my” piano (an inheritance from my grandmother) and place it in their living room for more than ten years until I had a home of my own. Uncle Ted walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. Ann and Ginny talked just about every Wednesday for 19 years once mom moved away to Florida and they shared countless, endless laughs together. They shared life together.

Ginny is 88. The family had called my sister Hailey to share the news with mom. When she was told, she was very quiet. She asked about a service, but nothing at that point had been determined.

I checked in with Ginny that same afternoon. She did share that she had called another friend who would look for the obituary in the local paper and mail it to her, but she immediately shifted the conversation to asking if we were ready for our upcoming trip to Boston.

“We’re ready, but that’s not why I called Mom, how are you doing?” I reiterated.

“Well, I think the news is disturbing. So I started reading. It’s a good book about the 1930’s…”

It dawns on me that she doesn’t want to talk about it. It IS depressing, disturbing news. My mother was basically raised as an only child because her “half” sister was 18 years old when Ginny was born. I know that she considered Ann her sister. And then there is the fact that she allows VERY few people into her world to begin with; Ann was at the top of the list. Her already small world was shrinking even more.

Hailey chose to check on her a day or two later to get a feel for her emotional state over lunch.

“I don’t have service plans yet, but when I get them, would you want to go to Minnesota?” she gently asked.

“That would just about kill me” was her exact reply and they are words that have let us in, if just for a moment, on the enormity of the loss she is facing.

Three Weeks Later

Hailey and I decide that we want to fly from Florida to Minnesota to attend the service. Representing mom feels like the right thing to do. And I try to hold onto everything related to that weekend so I can share it with her.

The service was held in an ancient, tiny stone chapel located right on the cemetery grounds. The program included “Reflections on Faith”, “Musings on Mom” and an original piano piece titled “Morning Lily” played by her grandson. And because they wanted to focus on the word “celebration”, they encouraged everyone in attendance to stand at the end and move to the aisle to dance. Yes, dance. That’s how Ann would have wanted it.

Parts of the day were tremendously moving. I have vivid images of standing at her grave while we each placed a flower on her already-lowered casket. I see the image of her husband standing in front of her, talking to her, sharing lyrics from a song. I do not see a dry eye around me.

And for me, there was that camaraderie spending time with my “second” family. I hadn’t seen some of them for at least 20 years, but their stories made me feel like I walked right through a screen into our collective past, watching and listening to everyone as they were 40-50 years ago.

“Did you know your mom took me out for ice cream on my birthday because mom was out of town?” asked one family member at the dinner we had that first evening.

“Did you know your mom once drove mom to the hospital because dad was out of town?” asked another.

“Did you know your mom threw me a wedding shower?”

I did not know. And honestly? I don’t remember that Ginny. The Ginny memories I have are of someone who doesn’t cope well with doing favors or taking charge. In my mind, she would not be the person to be a second mom to someone and go out for a birthday ice cream. But I am grateful to hear memories from a different angle. It’s kind of cool, in fact. It makes me wonder about how deeply the loss of my dad changed her. How being alone for so many years turned her inward; less confident. But that thought can be examined at a later time.

I go to the second floor of the restaurant where we all met for lunch (where Ann and Uncle Ted went on a date) to watch a slideshow presentation of Ann and her family. It included photos from every phase of her life. When she was young, when she’s holding her babies, then photos of her four children holding their own. There were photos of grandchildren, cousins goofing around, posed shots with Ann and Uncle Ted, family beach vacations, holidays. Life. Love. I saw a few photos of my mom and dad from so long ago.

I realized that in a way, I was watching Ginny’s life too since there were so many overlaps and shared events and memories along the same timeline of life. That was a powerful thought. Ginny had lost a significant portion of her own self with the death of Ann. Maybe she was thinking of that when she had said being there “would just about kill her.”

Although there’s really no way that I can turn the loss around, I do want to share all these details with Ginny in a way that highlights how she was able to connect with and be a friend to this smart, kind and funny woman for sixty-five years. And maybe one day, in the privacy of her home, and just for a moment, she may dance for her friend too.

Thanks to Melanie for sharing this love tribute to Ann and also to her mum Ginny. I am sure that any of you with elderly parents will connect with story as we watched them cope with friends from their youth that have been there through all the ups and downs of life.

@Melanie M. Stewart 2019

About Melanie M. Stewart.

Many years ago, I worked as a freelance writer for a local paper in suburban Chicago. I covered everything from cloning & measuring the risk of heart disease to my “Day in the Life” series where I spent the day with a veterinarian or watching “behind the scenes” at a popular restaurant.

Then I went to work for Legacy.com (online obituaries). I stayed there for almost nine years. I enjoyed helping customers navigate the site and at times, offer support during a highly emotional time.

This blog combines these two experiences. They are non-fiction stories pulled from my own experiences navigating the aging parent years. I also provide informational links and tips as well as the opportunity for you to share your story.

I have no professional background in psychology or senior healthcare. I’m just in it day-to-day. I’m married and a mom who enjoys a good laugh, a good mystery/thriller and watching the Chicago Cubs.

Connect to Melanie

Blog: https://leavingthedooropen.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/storiesonaging

It would be great if you would head over to Melanie’s blog and follow her there and on Twitter.. Thanks Sally.

Guest Posts Revisited – Jane Hanser – The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters


Jane Hanser contributed her post in 2014  about an issue that resonates with most of us who have been carers for an elderly relative and those who understand that this is a distinct possibility in the future. The post is as relevant if not more today as governments debate how much of your life’s savings they will deduct to provide you with long term care.

What is interesting is that if you are a full time carer in the UK, you will be lucky to receive £50 per week and that is taxable if you have other income. Considering that care homes charge several hundred pounds plus… per week to offer less that one to one care and not always to the standard that you would prefer…it would seem that the government should think about recompensing family members significantly more. If they wish to deduct that salary from your inheritance I have no problem with that since it is the here and now that elderly family members need loving and caring attention.

The aim is always to ensure that those we love enjoy the last few years of their life in a pain free, enjoying their usual activities, being nourished and surrounded by love.  That is the ideal but unfortunately most of us have to juggle our own lives and families to accomplish this and whilst it should be a team effort with other family members and with support services it is not always the case.

I was lucky many others are not.  I will now hand over to Jane to continue……

The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters

“You’re better at it,” wrote my brother in an email after I complained that he wasn’t doing anything for our elderly mom while I was doing everything.

His words still sting like a bumble bee.

Was that really supposed to appease me, or my primary care physician who was becoming extremely concerned as my blood pressure was rising higher and higher and higher and I was becoming pre-diabetic from lack of physical exercise? Or was it supposed to provoke?

Add to that the layer that he, my brother, lived only 20 minutes away from our mother, while I lived 300 miles away.

A Boston-based 2012 study indicated that daughters, twice as often as sons, become the elderly mother’s caretakers. But still, sons comprise up to 30% of those care giving for elderly parents. In Canada up to 30% of those caring for elderly parents are sons, shows a Canadian study. The “elderly parents” are usually mothers, since women generally outlive men.

While the men in the Canadian study indicated positives as well as negatives in caretaking, they still assumed that responsibility. Married men generally had the support of their wives, with whom they discussed decisions they were making.

So how does it get to be the daughter living six hours away becomes the primary caretaker when the son, living 20-25 minutes away, does virtually nothing? And what repercussions does this have on my, the caretaker by default, health, finances, social life and emotional well-being?

After another email months later to my brother in which I outlined everything I’d been doing vis a vis my mom and the toll it was taking on me, his response was “Thanks.”

Mine back was was “I don’t want your thanks. I want your help.”

While I could never anticipate my mother’s declining cognitive, and physical, condition, I also could never anticipate that I would get absolutely no help or support from my “bro” or support from my sister-in-law, receiving instead just the meek justification for why it was that he was totally defaulting on the small things, including asking for information about her current health, and the very large and major things and decisions.

The word “burden” is used repeatedly in all studies about adult children as caretakers of elderly and frail parents. And it completely amazed me that there is something actually called “The Burden Interview,” which I discovered on an online search.

This discovery was a true relief, and I gladly read the questions and circled my answer, recognizing so many aspects of what the questions addressed. Twenty of the 22 questions on the Zarit Burden Interview begin “Do you feel…..” or “Do you feel that…” One question begins “Are you afraid about…” and the last and 22nd question begins, “Overall, how burdened to you feel…” Answers ranged from Never (score of zero) to Nearly Always (score 5). I wish that the question “Do you feel that your health has suffered because of your involvement with your relative?” should score a 5 and that my doctor’s feelings about this should add in a bonus 5 points. Feelings are big in this test.

Test takers have 30 minutes for this test. Mine took much less, let’s not say how much less. Then I added up my score. Yup! “Moderate to Severe Burden.”

The one question that I’d like to see the questionnaire ask is: “Do you feel angry at other family members who are doing less than you are?” or “Do you feel that other family members should be doing a better job at caring for your relative?”

I do, and I do. I wish the Burden Interview asked these questions because the complete lack of participation in my mother’s caregiving by the person geographically closest to her adds a lot of stress too.

When one family member is clearly dis-involved, and wants to be dis-involved, there is no communication that is going to get you the understanding, and the help, that you want. There is no way to go but to accept that and let go. To do otherwise would be to increase ones emotional stress, and therefore burden and the consequences of that.

“Anger deprives the sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision,” says the Talmud. More conversations, more attempts to get somebody to see your distress or point of view would end in just more frustration, and disappointment, and a self-destructive cycle of anger.

CARETAKERS of ELDERLY PARENTS: How many others like me are there out there? I would guess I’m not the only one.

It’s often repeated how commonly families break up over money, especially after the death of a parent and the distribution of the estate.

Or, in this case, they functionally and emotionally break up long before. And when that’s the case, don’t hang on and let it raise your BURDEN SCORE even more!!

About the author

 

Jane Hanser’s poetry and essays have been published in numerous print and online journals such as Poetica Magazine, The Persimmon Tree, Every Writer’s Resource, and others. She has developed software to teach writing, self-published a grammar book and taught English as a Second Language at several campuses of the City University of New York. She has an M.Ed. in English Education and ESL from the Graduate School of Temple University. In her other life, Jane is dedicated to many and varied community activities, in particular feeding the hungry, literacy, and bicycle and pedestrian safety. She spends way too much time on the computer and would like to rejuvenate her painting watercolors. She is married and lives, works and plays in Newton, MA. Joey’s descriptions of her in Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways are, except for a few insignificant details of time and place, true and accurate.

 cover_front_800x600

  • A 2015 B.R.A.G. MEDALLION HONOREE for Literary Fiction.
  • 2015 IPNE FINALIST  (Independent Publishers of New England) for Young Adults.
  • 2015 IPNE FINALIST for Literary Fiction.

About the book

Set in the neighborhood of the Boston Marathon, an irrepressibly energetic, curious and gregarious chocolate Labrador Retriever named Joey loves to run and run. He also has an insatiable sense of discovery. But will it lead him to gratification – or to danger? Preparing his shenanigans well in advance, Joey discretely makes his move early one morning, a move that forever changes his life and the lives of his mom and dad, his running partner,and leaves them to pick up the pieces. This heartwarming book, now a 2015 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree for Literary Fiction, narrates a true story with a unique voice.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways is a true story about freedom, rules and boundaries, communication, and,of course, our dependence on the kindness of others.

Appropriate for all adults and for children 5th grade and up.

One of the 76 reviews for the book

Joey is a loveable dog who cannot stay out of trouble. He loves to run with his dad, and gets bored when he is home by himself or with his mom. His morning run just isn’t enough exercise for a Labrador retriever. He is always using his senses to find ways out of the backyard fence to explore the world beyond. This always gets him in trouble with his “mom” who usually gets a call from a friend or neighbor who saw him out wandering. One day after Joey “escaped” from his backyard; a car accident nearly kills him. The road back to healing and health is a long and arduous climb for both Joey and his family.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways is a well written, character driven story with numerous escapades by Joey. Writing from Joey’s point of view must have been a difficult task for the author. Though it can be an enjoyable read for an adult, I believe it would be better suited to a child who is old enough to read chapter books.

Buy the book

Authors Page on Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Dont-Look-Both-Ways/dp/0991514904
Follow Jane on Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21818455-dogs-don-t-look-both-ways

Links to connect to Jane Hanser
http://www.dogsdontlookbothways.com
http://dogsdontlookbothways.blogspot.com/
http://mommeandelderly.blogspot.com/

Thank you for dropping by today and I look forward to your views on the subject. My thanks to Jane for her honest and thought provoking post that applies to so many families these days. Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health – The Lungs – Part Four – Pneumonia – the most common cause of death of children worldwide!


As part of the series on essential minerals I covered the subject of Asthma recently so won’t include in this series on the lungs.  But if you are interested in reading more about this particular respiratory disease then you can find the details in this post. Asthma

According to the world health organisation Pneumonia is the leading course of death in children. That surprised me too. I know that it the most common cause of death written on a death certificate for the elderly, and it is because these are the two most vulnerable groups in our society wherever we live.

Pneumonia

In the post on asthma, I looked at some common allergic reasons for this condition and now I am going to look at pneumonia which is an inflammation or infection of the lungs most commonly caused by a bacteria or virus.

The origin of the word pneumonia is from the Greek pneuma – meaning air, and pneumon, – meaning lung, with pneumonia meaning inflammation of the lung.

There are approximately 30 causes of pneumonia and before the use of antibiotics over a third of the victims of this disease died. Today it tends to be young children, the elderly, or people with existing debilitating conditions, who are likely to contract pneumonia.

What are the most common types of pneumonia?

There are two categories of pneumonia that all types fall into. One is infective pneumonia and the other is aspiration pneumonia.

Infective pneumonia is when the bronchial tubes and lungs become infected and inflamed by either bacteria or a virus that has entered the lungs and reproduced.

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Bacterial pneumonia

Bacteria are not choosy and anyone can become infected. The most common culprit is Streptococcus pneumoniae or Pneumococcus (pictured above). In these cases one or other of the lobes of the lung are affected. The onset of this form of pneumonia is very rapid with high fever and breathing difficulties within the first few hours and with the very young and the elderly seeking medical help immediately is vital as their immune systems are unable to cope with the ferocity of the infection.

There are are further complications with this specific bacteria as it can affect other parts of the body such as the brain where it becomes meningitis. This diagnosis is a parent’s worst nightmare and this is why understanding the symptoms early can be so important. The bacteria is easily transportable in the bloodstream to all parts of the body, so if not treated can lead to a serious strain on the immune system. Bacterial pneumonia normally responds to a strong dose of antibiotics but as with many diseases today some of the bacteria responsible for pneumonia have become resistant to those currently in use.

Viral pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is the most common form of the disease, although it does not always have the worst symptoms. It quite commonly follows another upper respiratory disease – when viruses coughed out of the lungs get inhaled back into the air sacs to begin another infection. The onset is usually less rapid than the bacterial form of the disease, beginning with a persistent cough, high fever and possibly nausea. The usual treatment unless the problem is very severe is patience whilst the infection runs its course. This is where eating a diet rich in anti-oxidants and plenty of fluids will help to build up the immune system and support the body whilst it recovers.

Aspiration pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is any condition where a foreign substance such as vomit, mucous or other fluids such as saliva have been inhaled into the lungs. This obviously applies to external contaminants such as chemicals. This can effect young babies who tend to lie on their backs and have not mastered the swallow reflex. Also, toddlers, who play with miniature toys, or sweets, are also at risk and there have been cases where the epiglottis has failed to block their entry into the lungs leading to inflammation and infection. The elderly also are at risk through ill fitting dentures and poor dental health that minimises the amount of chewing of the food in the first place. Because all of the body is working less efficiently, particles of food can be inhaled into the lungs causing an infection.

A chemical inhalant can be extremely damaging in the long term. Apart from the normal inflammation of the alveoli, at the tips of the bronchial tubes, the acidity and reaction of the chemical can also do extensive damage to the lung tissue resulting in permanent damage.

How can you avoid contracting pneumonia?

It is important to boost your immune system to prevent infections, particularly if you are going to be admitted to hospital for an invasive operation. Despite their life-saving capabilities, hospitals are also a thriving incubator for infection and unfortunately most people who are rushed in for an emergency may not be in the best of health.

To me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to eat a healthy diet. It is a form of insurance that should be taken out along with car, house and possibly private health insurance. Many people only begin to eat healthily after the event, when they have been scared into it by a heart attack or a run in with a vicious infection.

The majority of people suffer first and foremost from a repressed immune system, which is why they keep getting repeated infections such as colds. After a relatively short period of time the body becomes more and more vulnerable to more aggressive infections such as pneumonia.

Ensure you are following at least a basic healthy eating plan which should include lots of brightly coloured fruits, such as oranges and apples, and vegetables – particularly dark green leafy kinds such as spinach and broccoli. Do not starve yourself and ensure plenty of variety so that you get the widest possible spread of nutrients. Cook from Scratch is a habit that we should all get into for life. The effect of processed foods on our immune system is long lasting and particularly for the young who are likely to see the results of our modern diet earlier and earlier in their lives.

One of the major problems with the elderly is their lack of appetite, which needs to be stimulated with tasty snacks 5 or 6 times a day, and nutrient dense foods such as bananas, rich vegetable soups, pureed vegetables that are easy to absorb and eggs are perfect for this as you can eat slightly less whilst still getting the nutrients. Soft fruits and vegetable juices are perfect, as they are concentrated and easy to digest.

For children who are picky and will not eat their fruit and vegetables you can make smoothies with vegetables and fruit and pureed soups that hide the fact they are eating Brussel sprouts.

What else should you do to avoid contagion?

  • · One of the easiest precautions that you can take to avoid getting a cold or flu that might turn into pneumonia is to wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after contact with other people. Hot water and soap is usually sufficient although there are a number of antibacterial products on the market.
  • · If you have a cold, or flu, use tissues rather than hankies and always throw them away when you have used once. Not very cost effective but it prevents you re-infecting your nasal passages with the bacteria or flu when you blow your nose repeatedly.
  • · If you have a cold, or a person you know has one, then avoid kissing them or touching them with your hands unless you can wash them straight away. It is so easy to touch your mouth and nose and infect yourself within minutes.
  • · If you are a smoker or are in close proximity to one you will find that the alveoli in your lungs are already damaged and therefore susceptible to inflammation and infection. There is only one thing for this and that is to stop smoking and stub out the cigarette of anyone else in your vicinity.
  • · If you are using strong cleaning products always open a window and if possible use a mask. This obviously applies in a work situation where health and safety regulations should be observed stringently. Those of us who colour our own hair should always open the nearest window for example.
  • · If you are in the garden and spraying weeds or using fertiliser do not do so on a windy day and wear a mask over mouth and nose as well as protective clothing. Always hose off boots and clothing outside.

In summary, you need to build your immune system and adopt some simple everyday hygiene standards and it will greatly reduce your risk of contracting this second stage infection.

Next time – Lung Cancer – and then diet that helps your lungs stay healthy.

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009