Tag Archives: seniors

A New Reality

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from a casting director looking for a multi-generational family all living under one roof for a new show called, CROWDED.

This isn’t a Celebrity Housewives kind-of-thing. This is actually a pretty legitimate producer, Gay Rosenthal Productions, the creator of an Emmy-winning show, Little People, Big World. According to their casting flyer, they want to “put a human face on a growing national trend through the daily lives of one fascinating multigenerational American Household.”

The show, it says, will explore the complications, the connections, the joys, frustrations, and shared experiences that only exist in one large and very crowded house. If they only knew.

I read the email and laughed. And laughed. I thought it was hilarious. First, that I would be contacted. And second, who would actually watch such a show?

And then I realized thousands of people are going through this, people like me who went from empty nester to caretaker to semi-insanity. People like me who are trying to be kind, be good, and at times break because it’s just so hard. People like me who want all the answers, want to do the right thing, but don’t always know how.

So here’s my question: Do I fill out that application form or not? Or do you know of another multigenerational family living under one roof who could fit the bill? It could be an important story to tell if done right and with compassion.

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Publisher’s Clearinghouse … Where’s My Check?!

My mom is a bit gullible, as many seniors are. She gets more mail solicitations from charities than anyone I know. There’s a reason for that. If they send her address labels or cards (or whatever), she feels guilty and sends them money.

She believes that Publisher’s Clearinghouse will actually send someone to our door with a big check if she enters their contest. And she thinks that sending someone money to win a big prize is legit. Which is why we have to keep an eye on her mail.

But now we have a bigger problem: infomercials. My mom won’t spend more than a few bucks on shampoo, but a year ago she sent away for hair care products that cost over $100. While they promised soft, flowing locks, they didn’t tell her she would have to follow a three-step process, and leave some of it in her hair overnight. Or that they’d automatically refill her order and charge her credit card. Guess who had to call the company, return the products, and get her credit card refunded?

Several months ago she saw an ad for pills that rid of belly fat. She ordered them, and when they came in the mail she got a bit of a scolding. “Mom,” I tried to reason, “if getting rid of belly fat was that easy, we’d all be taking this stuff.”  They’re still in the drawer. And she’s still got belly fat. What a surprise!

Last week she received a second order for arthritis pills she saw advertised on TV. We didn’t know about the first order, for which she paid $166. She was supposed to get two bottles and a third free. The free one never came, but they did automatically send her another monthly supply and charge her credit card.

Of course, she asked my husband to deal with this and not tell me. He did deal with it. And he did tell me. And I did talk to her. I pointed out that she paid $166 for a pill that contains Vitamin C and D. That it wouldn’t help her arthritis. That it’s a scam. And I got the same response as before. Which means she didn’t hear a word I said.

My husband wants to take away her credit card. I feel that taking it away would make her feel more diminished, less independent, and more child-like. At the same time, I can only imagine what might arrive at our door next month. Mind you, mom orders other things that we know nothing about but I find in her secret stash in the kitchen drawer.

Any suggestions out there? Besides calling the Attorney General’s Office?

 

 

Raleigh’s New Senior Center Has New Meaning

When I was elected to the Raleigh City Council three years ago, the first issue I worked on as part of the Public Works Committee was funding and approval of a new Senior City, which was approved by passage of a bond referendum.

There was infighting. One group, SAG, which worked diligently for the center and the bond, believed the funding should be used for their center. Another group of seniors in North Raleigh, who got thrown out of their space all the time because of programming conflicts, had other ideas. They wanted the center to be located near them.

We reached a compromise. I was in the thick of it, negotiating, listening, cajoling. It was great to be able to come up with a solution that made everyone happy: two centers, the larger one at Whitaker Mill and a second at Millbrook Exchange Park. Because of this connection, the centers have always had a special place in my heart.

Today we broke ground on the Whitaker Mill Center and it has a whole new meaning for me. Now when I look in the face of people like Jean and Jilma and others, I have a whole new appreciation of what this center represents to them … Physical activity. Mental agility. Social connections. Cards and games. Comfort. Friendships. A meal. A hug. A helping hand. A smile. A laugh. A sense of accomplishment for making it happen. A legacy. A place to call their own. All the little things that make it a big thing.

I never would have known this in an intimate way if my mom hadn’t come to live with me. I take my mom twice a week to Independence Health, where she enjoys all of the above amenities. And I’ve come to understand what going there means to her.

As we pushed the shovel into the ground and flung the dirt, symbolizing the start of construction of this new building, I had a lump in my throat. I knew that many seniors would come to enjoy this new facility in ways I had never understood before. I thought, “Maybe my mom will get to go here.” Now I never imagined thinking that three years ago.

These senior centers, AKA “active lifestyle facilities,” are a joint project of the City of Raleigh and Wake County. You can check out the designs by clicking here

 

Mom is Doing Zumba

Since my last post, which apparently brought tears to many eyes, I’ve been reluctant to share my emotions about mom living with me.

There are days when I am so emotionally drained, that I don’t know what to post. So I don’t. Instead I work until 1 am, because work has always been a positive outlet for my intensity and drive. And it makes me feel good about myself.  I also get to ignore my feelings about mom being here.

But this week has been interesting. My mom has shown some new awareness. She turns down the TV when someone calls me and I’m working at home. She is excited about going to her senior center, Independence Health. (By the way, a great place for aging seniors in Research Triangle.) She’s working puzzles. Doing brain exercises. I think she’s feeling better about herself.

In turn, she’s less critical of me. (Really, a mom who is critical of her child???)

So here’s my words of wisdom for people with aging parents. Get them involved in something. My mom told me that tomorrow she is doing Zumba. She loves it because she “gets to shake her butt.”

My mom might be 88, but apparently she still loves dancing.  And I love that.

 

 

 

Good Memories vs Current Realities

I’ve had coffee, lunch or drinks with several girlfriends lately and the topic always comes up about my mom living with me. All four of my friends have lost their moms, one 20 years ago, the others no less than 10 years ago. And they all say to me, in one way or another, “I really miss my mom but I read your blog and I’m thankful.” And then they all apologize for, as they have said, “sounding horrible.”

It’s not horrible. It’s reality. And what they’re really saying is this:

“Mom, I’m so glad I don’t have to see you living with dementia, forgetting what you ate for dinner, what we enjoyed or talked about the day before, or who you voted for on Dancing With the Stars. Instead, I like remembering the dinners we shared, the things we talked about, and the fact that nobody watched Dancing With the Stars back then because none of us had to think about such ridiculous things as reality TV.

And mom, I’m so glad that I don’t have to see you walking down the stairs in pain, grunting when you get out of a chair because it’s such a struggle for you to get up, or refusing to go on a walk because, quite frankly, your legs can’t carry you. Instead, I’d rather remember you bounding down the stairs, relaxing in a chair because you wanted to snuggle up and read a book, or walking with me to all the stores in the Mall — because you could and we did.

And yes, mom, I remember you driving all us kids to the beach in your little Rambler. We’d stay from dusk to dawn. You were fearless. But if you were here today, you wouldn’t be driving, and you’d resent not having your independence. That would be heartbreaking for me to see. Oh, and when I picked you up to take you to the doctor or to dinner, you’d be telling me how to drive, when to stop for lights, and when to brake. Like you did when I was 16. That would just drive me crazy.

Mom, I like remembering you without a cane. Or a walker. Or taking high blood pressure medicine or cholesterol medicine or whatever medicine might be required these days. I prefer remembering you taking a One-a-Day vitamin. And that’s it. If you were here now, I’d worry about you cutting you pills in half, not taking the proper doses, stopping your medicine all together, or fighting with me about what the doctor told you to take and how.

That doesn’t mean, Mom, I don’t miss you every single day. It just means that my memories of you are of a younger you. That’s not so bad. And what I’ve also learned is that your loss could be far worse. I could have you here and you might not remember me.”

So to my girlfriends I say:

“We are all given what we can deal with. Sometimes life hurts, sometimes it’s downright awful, but most of the time it’s damn good. Let’s all be thankful for our  experiences in life. It’s what makes us who we are. And you’re right, your mom would drive you crazy when she tells you how to drive. Just ask me about that. I have a few good stories.”

Betty White Has Nothing on You

One of my neighbors met my mom. They chatted it up, had a few laughs. As my neighbor was walking away, she stopped and said: “Betty White has nothing on you.”  I’m here to tell you, that is the ultimate compliment, the nicest thing you can say to an 88-year-old woman.

At 89, Betty White is at the peak of her long career. She’s outlived all her cohorts on the Golden Girls, she still drives, she’s is an animal lover and volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo, and she stars in “Hot in Cleveland.” As the host of Saturday Night Live last May, she wowed everyone with her wit. A recent article I read about her in the New York Times says she’s going to be hosting a reality show this fall on NBC. Betty White is living testament to the fact that life can be very, very good after 80.

But what I found most endearing about Betty White in this article was her vulnerability. When she talks about losing the love of her life, husband Allen Ludden, you can feel the ache in her heart. She talks about missing that human touch, that intimate contact. See, even Betty White is lonely. And human. And struggles with the same emotional issues as any senior citizen.

Because of this, Betty White is an inspiration. So next time you want to make a woman in her 80s feel great about herself, tell her that “Betty White has nothing on you.” And watch her beam.

(If you’re interested, the article in the NY Times can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/arts/television/betty-whites-post-80-career-high.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=betty%20white&st=cse.)

Three Generations Under One Roof

It is Mother’s Day and I am sitting here reflecting on the past year. Last May, I knew that I would be moving my mom to Raleigh to live with us. What I didn’t know was that my 25-year-old daughter Lauren would be moving back to Raleigh for a new job.

Since Lauren was in the middle of a sublease in Aspen, she rented her apartment with the furniture in it. So guess what? She had no choice but to move back home for the interim. With her little puppy Henri. And camp out in our study. For three months.

So what is it like having three generations of strong-willed, passionate, perfectionists living under one roof? Do you really need to ask?

Really, most of it has been fun. Lauren and I love to cook so we take our weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market, make these elaborate meals together, and pick out good wines to match. We take our dogs on walks together, talk. We’re both busy with work, sometimes burning the midnight oil until … well … midnight.

But there’s tension. Mom thinks she’s the boss. She tells us when to cook and how to chop the veggies, comments on our clothes and hair, laments when we don’t put on lipstick. And more. (Today’s example: Mom says, “Lauren, I saw your recipe and it says that your cake takes three hours to make. You better get it started now.” Well, it’s 12:30 and we’re eating dinner at 7. Lauren says, “I’ve got it under control, Grandma.” Mom, “Well, I’m just reminding you.” Five minutes later, she says the same thing. You get the picture).

Lauren is a little bit bossy herself. I remember when I was 25, I thought I knew everything. It’s only later that you figure out that your parents are a little smarter than you give them credit for. So she’s at that stage where she’s asserting her independence. And she’s not afraid to take charge or speak her mind. (Example: Moms reading this don’t need an example. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Enough said.)

And then there’s me. I admit,  I like to do things my way. I’m really independent, have been since I moved out of my house at age 19. Now I’m 54 and I really don’t need my mom telling me what to do. But that doesn’t stop her. So I’m learning to listen to her “suggestions,” say something like, “Thanks, mom, for the suggestion,” and then go do what I want. It’s better than getting into it with her. (Example: I say to mom and Lauren, “Enough out of both of you. You think you’re the boss, mom. And Lauren, you think you’re the boss. Well, I have news for both of you. This is my house and I’m the boss. So both of you knock it off right now.” Then I walk away and mom sticks her tongue out at me. Highly effective.)

Lauren has now moved to her own apartment. But she’s here today for Mother’s Day. The dogs are chasing each other around the house, barking. The TV is on too loud because mom can’t hear it otherwise. Lauren just discovered she forgot buttermilk for the cake. She’s running out the door, leaving a mess in the kitchen, and yelling these instructions: “Don’t touch anything. I’ll be right back.” Mom is yelling, “See, I told you to start the cake earlier.” The phone is ringing. Mom’s “offering a suggestion” about how to get the dogs calmed down.

Ah, the joys of family. But I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s something to be said about three generations under one roof. It’s never dull. Just ask my husband.

Happy Mother’s Day!