Tag Archive | quality of life

Elderly Forced to Move Due to Corporate Greed

Elderly Forced to Move Due to Corporate Greed

This story headlined my Seattle CBS news affiliate. Ballard is a suburb of Seattle. We must remember that a society is judged by how well it treats its elderly, disabled and children, its most needy and vulnerable population. This is an example of how terrible we are doing; 48 seniors have to find a new, affordable place to live March 31st because the owner wants to convert these assisted living apartments into regular apartments.  I would appreciate your thoughts on this important issue. Here is the link to the full story:

http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/seattle-assisted-living-residents-told-to-move-because-of-apartment-conversion/490393054

 

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Voices from My Heart

Voices from My Heart

It was 1967, I was three years old and my parents rolled me into the biggest room I had ever seen with kids in wheelchairs from the ages of 3-12. My eyes were drawn immediately to the blackboard, the long table slightly to the right, the play area and a yellow piano. As I took in the scene with my keen eyes, I saw a young girl. She was so pale and fragile and not much larger than me even though she was nine years older. Elizabeth, unlike me, who was very loquacious could not speak or feed herself. She had a smile brighter than sunshine, and she beamed whenever she saw me. A year later, I met Bruce who had eyes the color of a blue jay and a great Tarzan yell, so I was deeply in love for a four year old. Forty years later, I carry these two in my heart; they taught me so much about grace in the face of terrible pain and suffering. At seven years old, they gave me the courage to leave them so I could help break down barriers for us and other handicapped children. Who would speak to her and bring that wonderful smile to her after I left?  I saw Bruce one last time; the light of life was absent from his eyes. Later, I learned that Bruce had gone home to be with God and Elizabeth’s Dad had placed her in a nursing home.

     Everyone at California Avenue treated us with such loving compassion as if we were their own children or grandchildren. Praise was never in short supply! “What a great job, two gold stars, Kathy!’’ Whenever one of us celebrated a birthday, we would all work together to whip up a birthday cake for him/her. I wonder how many eggs I cracked all over the table, but nobody ever raised their voices. We were our own assembly line starting with the birthday person who began by adding the precious ingredients to our much anticipated treat. It was a sneaky but fun way for us to practice our therapy skills and our counting simultaneously. It was a little tricky for me to hold the mixing bowl and stir with my right hand as speedily as possible while counting by fives: “five, ten, fifteen…’’ By the time the bowl was passed around twice, all the lumps were whipped and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   beaten out. Next, the birthday kid poured the batter into a pan with Mrs. Coles’ help. The same lucky kid was given the momentous honor of licking the mixing spoon. While waiting with great anticipation for the oven to produce its eagerly awaited treat, we loved gathering around the piano to sing and/or clap to rousing, but slightly off key renditions of Old McDonald  and other favorites. I must have had the most fun of anyone that ever went to school! Our class even put on a grand production of The Little Gingerbread Man. Bruce played the Gingerbread Man and I was the old Grandma who made him. I still recall the bright smile Elizabeth gave me as I took over the part of narrator from my teacher and my Dad’s roaring, snorting laughter that rose above the applause. I think they were so dear to me because they had the most tragic diagnoses of all the kids. In spite of that, they both kept such a bright outlook, in spite of their sad circumstances.

We went on a grand field trip to Camp Pendleton because President Nixon, who was President of the U.S. from 1968 – 74, was appearing there. We also took trips to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. My parents often went along as helpers because all twelve of us had assistive devices: crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and/or leg braces. This meant that it could be quite challenging to keep us all together as a group since we all traveled at different paces. For the most part, these excursions were fun adventures, but these trips were also personal lessons; my first lessons that showed me people could be extremely cruel, especially toward my dear friend Elizabeth. “Look at that stupid retard!’’ This happened many times to her and anger seethed through me each time, but I didn’t know how to cope with it. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but the cerebral palsy had robbed her of the ability to voice her agonies. I made it a point to let her know she was a beautiful, smart person; they were the dumb ones! It was around this time that I noticed that Bruce was growing weaker. Mom explained that he had Muscular Dystrophy; he was dying and that meant I would not see him again once he died. It was a difficult concept for me as I had thought that only old people died. Little did I know or comprehend how much the winds of change were swirling in my life and in society as a whole. First grade saw me mainstreamed two hours a day into a regular classroom.

 

I was part of a trial group selected as an experiment to see if we could succeed in class with able-bodied or non-disabled children, and if we would be accepted by them. Our success, in part, led to the inclusion laws a few years later that allowed children the least restrictive education possible. Toward the end of first grade, my parents were called to a meeting. The experiment would be expanded to see if I could handle a full day in my neighborhood elementary school. I would soon be leaving my precious friends. How would I say good-bye to Bruce and Elizabeth? I was filled with sorrow. Mom said that my new classmates could be mean to me, and my mind flashed back to Elizabeth and the heartaches that she suffered on our field trips. I would no longer have my empathetic teacher to act as a buffer from the cruelty that I may encounter. Would I also be teased and bullied?

A mixture of dread, sadness and anticipation filled me on that first day in my new school. As I rolled into the front of my second grade class, I began to introduce myself, explained about cerebral palsy etc. I was so nervous that I could not recall what I had said even a few minutes afterwards. It amazes me now that I do not recall my years at San Luis Ray nearly as easily as I call to mind my time at California Avenue School. A piece of my heart stayed behind there with Bruce, Elizabeth and the others. Part of me wanted to return because I knew that I was accepted there, and I missed my dear friends.

It turned out that it was not my academic performance or my classmates who tried to railroad my mainstream experience, it was the school administrators. They hired aides for me that they knew would not last long; Mrs. Brand was pregnant, Mrs. Stover was elderly… Mom was my aide until she caught the flu and I was forced to stay home. Flu or not, the school district had greatly underestimated a mother’s love when her child was being denied a quality education. She had college dreams for me, after all. Mrs. Deibert entered my life a few days later, and she has never been absent from it. We have had a great many good times together all the way up through my high school graduation and beyond. At this moment, I type away doing my best to fulfill a mother’s wish, dreamed so long ago. This dream has rekindled in me as well; the fire burns deep in my heart to get my degree.

 

2016

So much has happened since I wrote my story five years ago that I thought another chapter was fitting.  Mom’s long suffering ended on May 21st, 2012. The nursing home said she passed away at 7AM, but I awoke at 5:15 AM as she told me goodbye. It turns out that I was not alone; she visited all those she was closest to as she slipped from this life to go to her eternal mansion. I know she thought of my Dad often since his death only two years before her own passing. It was as though the long, bitter years never occurred between them. I strongly believe that they are together once again in love and peace.

I know that they watched me walk/stroll in the arena with the other more than 500 graduates on June 18th, 2016. I am positive that their cheers joined Kristie’s’ from far above Seattle to wish me well and express their pride in a degree well earned. I sit here tonight, school done, reflecting on one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. What lies ahead for me?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.                                                                                                               

         

Which road less traveled should I go? What seemed so clear a short time ago is now filled with questions as I end another chapter. Perhaps, these voices from my past will guide my path. But, do not tarry because I am anxious to get going doing the work that my God has for me. I ask for the strength and the courage to be up to the challenge. Am I supposed to be happy wherever I am placed, or do You have the ideal place in mind?3rd grade

About Another Country

I had to read this book for 1 of my final assignments for my BA. Since there are readers and writers here, I thought that you may enjoy it.

 

 

A Book Review of Another Country

It is interesting to note that from a historical perspective, growing old is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 17th century, it was rare that someone lived beyond thirty years. He or she probably did not have wrinkles and gray hair. There were huge advances in medical care in the late 19th and early 20th century and going forward. For example, doctors began learning about germs and started washing their hands.  In spite of these advances, there is no doubt that the oldest in our country were born and grew up in a very different era than in present day. In the 1920’s and 1930’s. Automobiles were not parked at everyone’s home, telephones did not inhabit everybody’s’ kitchen, the family gathered around the radio, and not the television.

If someone had told them that there would be personal computers and mobile smart phones in sixty to seventy years, they may have thought that that person had been into the whiskey or the moonshine too much. The thought of flying across the country or the world would have been a terrifying prospect to most people. Many grew the majority of their own food, unless they lived in the big cities. Although the demographics began to change dramatically in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, more people began to live in cities, as opposed to small farming communities. In order for an area had to contain one to two thousand people. While more people lived on the farm, there tended to be big families with multiple generations needed to work the farm (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.).

More Historical Context

However, history tells that it started many decades before when pioneers left their extended families to travel westward. This coincided with the growth of the industrial revolution. Many men took jobs, largely away from home on the railroads and other places. Farming has always been a hard way to make a living. It is worth noting that the places described in Another Country could also describe small town Wisconsin, or any small Midwestern town. It almost seems like time stands still – there is still a sense of community and neighbor helping neighbor. Most people have moved to the big city these days; only about sixteen percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area versus thirty percent in 1973 (Haber, 2013). The smaller families, who more often tend to work outside the home, have led to fewer family caregivers over time. In the early 20th century, an urban area meant that the population was greater than 1,000 persons (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.).

How is Old Age Defined?

            Age is usually understood and defined by the numbers, especially when we are young. However, as we turn forty, it starts to become murky. People as young as forty are legally protected against age discrimination. Haber defines young-old as between sixty-five and seventy-five. Old-age is loosely defined as over seventy-five, possibly even eighty-five (Haber, 2013). Conversely, Pipher has two definitions that make an impression on the reader, and both have to do with life circumstances, the death of spouses and the loss of health. It is surprising that finances were not mentioned here as well. Income loss can also play a huge part in older people’s quality of life. If they lost a spouse, got divorced or were never married, women especially tend to have less disposable income. Therefore, they may not have money for leisure activities, regular doctor visits etc. After all, there is still a pay gender gap that persists today. Loss of health or finances can also mean that older persons have to move away from their beloved home (Pipher, 2000).

 

 

Pros and Cons of City Life for the Older Adult

There are undeniable advantages to bigger city life, especially for older people. The biggest one is probably easier access to goods, services and medical care. Larger places have senior activity centers that offer a variety of things to do. The one in Bellingham allow people to participate as young as fifty. They offer a number of health/wellness and other programs: immunizations, dance, exercise, computer skills, current events, and playing games/cards etc. (Bellingham Senior Center, 2016). As pointed out in the book with Gladys and Roger, loneliness can cause as many problems as physical, chronic illness. It definitely often leads to severe depression. Like Roger, Gladys also missed Nell’s companionship. Several things happened to improve her quality of life: a nice girl came in to work as a caregiver, Gladys began to participate in social activities outside the home and Roger along with his new girlfriend began to spend more enjoyable, quality time with her. Another thing that was so important to Gladys was that she was able to cook with her caregiver, and she wanted and needed to pass on years of cooking advice, recipes, and some wisdom along the way.

There is usually at least one hospital and a complex of different medical offices nearby In tiny in a larger city, towns, one may have to travel hundreds of miles for specialty medical care. For example, Bellingham has a hospital, but any acute or specialized care is done in Seattle. That is about ninety miles away. An older person, who may not be able to drive anymore, may have a particularly hard time getting there. In addition, if she/he needs to use assistive equipment, wheelchairs, power chairs or walkers, this makes traveling great distances even more difficult.

In cities, there are more housing options. Caregivers can be hired so that the person can remain in the place that s/he is most familiar and comfortable with – home.  There are assisted living homes: these are a hybrid between living in a skilled nursing facility, nursing home, and living independently. Both of these options are very costly and not covered by Medicare. Nursing homes are often thought as the option of last resort. They can be rather unpleasant places, and as illustrated in the book, the resident has little autonomy; she may not even be able to open a curtain without disturbing the resident on the other side of the room. There are few private rooms, and those that are available are reserved for those few who can afford them. Some of them are trying to do better, making them more like home and less like a hospital. They also need pleasant areas outdoors with trees and flowers. People with carpentry skills can make plant or flower boxes up high enough so that people that use wheelchairs can help with the gardening. There is something almost spiritual and healing about getting the hands into the soil that gives life to flowers and plants; it is very therapeutic for many people. Yet, is possible to be alone in a crowd.

However, a sense of community may well be lost. A rural setting offers opportunities for solitude allows for reflection and life review. There is also something to be said for the rural country life and its far slower pace. The noisy hustle and bustle does not exist. Housing tends to be cheaper as well, so it may be worth it to be farther away.

What is Cohousing?

            As more baby boomers age, there is a need to come up with innovative ideas to take care of them in the future. Cohousing is a possible answer. These home communities are designed to provide both privacy and community. Each resident may own or share a home, but they have common areas. One such area may be a community house. All the residents share chores like housework, laundry, lawn mowing, driving and cooking. Cohousing developments usually have a communal garden. The cohousing option in Bellingham is quite a bit costlier than the average cost of housing for the area. The median cost of a home today is $330,000 in Bellingham (Zillow, 2016). The cohousing option in Bellingham ranges from $350,000-$560,000. It also makes very clear that it is not a housing option for people who need “therapeutic care.” However, this neighborhood is for all ages, not only the elders (Bellingham Cohousing, 2016). There is also a requirement to devote twenty hours per month to community activities and committee meetings. It is also necessary to give up some level of autonomy because the majority rules when it comes to decisions involving the community. For example, should pesticides be used on the garden? The idea behind cohousing is good, but it is expensive to get old – too expensive like the other options for many older people.

The Gift of Hospice

            It is not an overstatement to say that that hospice is a blessing. It is very difficult to make wise decisions in the midst of grief. The hospice program gives comfort, palliative care for the person in the last six months, (as estimated by a physician) of life. It is not uncommon for family members to disagree about how care should be handled. The hospice nurse will act as an advocate for the ill person. The physician and the nurse collaborate together for the care of the patient. The wonderful thing about hospice is that the person does not have to go to the doctor’s office or to the hospital nearly as often. The hospice team will guide the family through the most difficult choices that involve the end of life. It is especially hard to know what the loved wants if he or she does not express the wishes in an advance directive, living will or last will and testament (Haber, 2013). Hospice was involved with the care of my grandparents and my mother. It was a blessing each time because it takes some of the burden of decision making away while giving comfort to my loved ones.

 

The More Personal Side – Relationships

The heart and soul of the book, however, is its personal stories – poignant, heartwarming and Kleenex worthy stories. It is impossible to read the book without being flooded with this author’s own personal memories. The guilt and the uncertainty are all very real. When away from the loved one, it is easy to feel guilty for not doing enough to help.  It is a heart breaking agony to watch a once vibrant person leave this earth inch by inch. The book begins with Mary Pipher talking about the mixed feelings she experienced when her own mother was going through the last days of her life. It was a wonderful, touching and difficult time for her. Every moment became more precious than the last because it may be the last one, at least for a long time, (if one believes in an afterlife). Most everyone who has lost loved ones can relate to her experience, and/or relate to someone in the book (Pipher, 2000).

The end of life can be something quite different in some families Fractures in relationships that have existed and have been strained for years between family members can crumble with the stress of a sick and needy loved one. This was illustrated in the case of Granny Zella Mae, daughter Beverly and her teenage daughter Abby. Beverly had a lot of stress in her work environment, and she has been in the middle of her aging, head strong mother and her equally stubborn daughter. It is clear that this three generational living arrangement is not working out well for anyone in the home.

Zella and Abby did not even come to the next therapy session; they were so angry about it. However, Beverly and Ms. Pipher came up with a plan to find a nice assisted living situation for Zella. This turned out to be a win-win situation for all three of them because Beverly did not have the stress of being a caregiver to her aging and critical mother, yet she visited her daily. Abby even visited her Grandma. Zella was in a situation where she was getting better care and not complaining as much (Pipher, 2000).

Another example is the older father dying of tongue cancer. The mother needed help, but none of the adult children had the free time to devote to his care, except the gay daughter who was a freelance writer. Her family had made her an outcast after she came out as gay, but she did keep in touch with one or two of her sisters. When she learned of her father’s cancer, she returned home to help her parents and care for her dad. It took some time for all of the family members to come around, but they saw the love and compassion she showed to their father. The fact that she was gay no longer mattered. Her father said that he was glad that cancer had brought them together again. It is tragic that it took cancer and the father’s impending passing to bring the family back together once again, but it would have been even more tragic if the chance for the family to mend its hurts had ever come at all. The daughter/sister had a great capacity for empathy and forgiveness (Pipher, 2000).

Concluding and Personal Thoughts

            This book was a beautiful one, but it was very hard to get through it. There are parts that reminded me of my Grandfather who was taken by cancer in 1985 when he was only sixty years old. He did not even make to the young-old stage. He faced it with grace, dignity and courage. Ironically, Grandma was a nurse in the oncology unit. I do not know how she was able to manage dealing with cancer, illness and death both at work and at home. Grandpa made sure to tell us how much he loved us. Just as Pipher talked about, Grandma felt guilty about going to work yet she had to keep the insurance going to pay for his care and medicine, otherwise, she would have taken a leave of absence. This was an impossible choice. Mom and her sister took turns caring for him.

There were sections that reminded me of Dad. He was taken in 2010 by COPD. I wish that he and my step-mother had wanted hospice to come, but I do not think Dad could face his own mortality. He made no end of life plans. My step-mother made all of the decisions; she did not allow my brother or I to be a part of the decision making process, even though I offered my help in the past. Like some in the book, I was uncertain as to what to do. He and my mother were both in the young-old category. Neither of them made it seventy.

Mom was the only one who did not pass away at home, but she died alone in a nursing home. She was debilitated by strokes, diabetes and vascular dementia. This made her even more stubborn and irritable than she was before her chronic conditions. She would not listen to anybody, unless that person agreed with her. Like Dad, she had made no type of will, although she did have an advance directive. It was up to my brother and I to make after death decisions for her. I was angry with her for leaving it to us. Grandma died this year; she was the only one to make it to old-old age, ninety-one years old, and die of natural causes. Aunt Rose lived with her.

However, Pipher gives me and every other reader permission to have our feelings because I and most everyone else are doing the best we can under very trying circumstances. As long as we handle old-age and its pitfalls with love and empathy, we should not beat ourselves about it. She poses interesting different definitions regarding old age. Does a death of a spouse or disease make a person age? It depends on a person’s perspective. I have always had Cerebral Palsy, CP. It and other comorbidities have always been a part of my daily life. Lack of mobility is something that is usually associated with older age, but I have always had to ask for help with ADL’s, Activities of Daily Living. I am used to it. Now, it is time to answer the question that this paper began with; what happens that transforms anyone from the young-old to the old-old? Losing health is serious, but losing people that I love is worse. However, reasonable minds may disagree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Bellingham Cohousing (2014) Aging in cohousing Retrieved from

http://www.cohousing.org/aging

 

Bellingham Senior Activities Center (2016) Health & wellness Retrieved from

http://wccoa.org/index.php/Home/

 

Haber, D. (2013). Health promotion and aging: Practical applications for health

professionals (6th ed.). New York: Springer Pub.

 

Pipher, M. B. (2000). Another country: Navigating the emotional terrain of our elders. New

York: Riverhead Books.

 

  1. S. Census Bureau, (n.d.) Urban and rural areas Retrieved from

https://www.census.gov/history/www/programs/geography/urban_and_rural_areas.html

 

Zillow (2016) Bellingham home prices & values Retrie

A Lesson from Christopher Reeves

Here is the devotional that goes with the previous post. I am sorry that that part did not publish.

“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” —Job 14:5

A few years back when I watched Christopher Reeve on television (the actor who was severely paralyzed in a riding accident), I was deeply moved. Although he sat stiff and rigid in his wheelchair, he smiled courageously as he puffed-and-sipped his mouth controls to steer his chair. The day after the program aired, I kept running into people who said, “Did you see Christopher on TV last night? Isn’t he an inspiration?”

I smiled and nodded “yes,” but thought, just last week everyone was talking about assisted suicide for people like him. It is not consistent. One day letters to the editor applaud the courage of the severely disabled; the next, the editorial column can be filled with letters cheering on the new legislation legalizing assisted suicide. One day Christopher Reeve was positioned as “a helpless victim.” The next, a picture of courage.

It tells me that society keeps a double standard. Society thinks it is appropriate to prevent able-bodied people from committing suicide, but considers it rational for a terminally ill or severely incapacitated person to end his life. More importantly, it shows that we lack confidence in God’s ability to sustain those who suffer.

God gives common grace to non-believers who suffer and God gives special grace to believers who suffer. Is someone close to you terminally ill or severely incapacitated? Pray that God will give them grace today. Show a skeptical society the truth of 1 Corinthians 16:19-20, “You are not your own… Therefore, honor God with your body.” At all times, no matter how physically or mentally limited we are, it is the Lord of life who gives breath. Be the Lord’s hands to help a suffering friend today. Through prayer and encouragement, help this hurting friend understand that life is worth living.

Help me to shatter the schizophrenia as I share with others that you are the Lord of life. Help me to support the hurting and encourage the dying. Praise you for helping people like Christopher Reeve… using people like me.

Taken from More Precious Than Silver. © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530.

 

More Valuable than Gold

The point that Joni is trying make here is that just because some people have physical or mental challenges that All we still have value. There are many who have no legs that still do marvelous things. Everyone has value because we are all God’s children. i copied my daily devotional from today. from to It really touched me and I hoped it touches you as well.

 

jesus with kids photo – Bing images

The Healing Power of Music & Pets

I have spent time in nursing homes as a patient and a volunteer, and I have seen this with my own eyes! Both music and pets can bring people alive, even those with severe dementia! How hard or costly can it really be to bring music and the unconditional love of a dog or a cat into a nursing home? This is a powerful video!