Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"LAUNDRY" - A Relationship Thread

I invite you to read a short story, "Laundry" by Andrea Labinger,  selected for publication at Global Graffiti Magazine.  

This story, about relating to a loved one has special significance to anyone, particularly elderbloggers, who have been, are currently, or may be in the future, in a caregiving situation.  Though this story is fictional I've made an exception from true story accounts to provide this recommendation for your reading.    My reason for doing so is that the key nugget around which the story is built has been true for numerous  families I've known with loved ones requiring skilled nursing in the various health centers which I've served through the years. 

The question some loved ones experience  is how to relate to a father, mother, brother, sister, other relative, or even a dear friend whose very being -- the essence of themselves -- is slowly leaving the flesh and blood body that remains.  The loved ones  physical presence still requires care -- their eyes open -- they eat -- they drink --  they do not talk -- they do not respond if spoken to -- do they understand "I love you"? -- they sleep -- only to awaken again for another day as before.

Andrea’s story leaves most of these heartfelt thoughts unsaid, instead encapsulates how a relationship continues in such circumstances through a lifetimes memory thread.  

Anyone reading this blog is aware that shortly after I began writing here, I also began participating in a writing group, which Andrea recently joined.   Our writer numbers have ebbed and flowed during the years and even our meeting site has changed.  I've had the pleasure of listening to just about every sort of writing one can imagine from different types of prose to various styles of poetry.

Highly unusual life story memoirs have been completed and await publication, quite different but enthralling life stories are currently in the process of transcription and editing -- serious and/or humorous essays have entertained us -- both true and fictional short stories have been read.   Not everyone even writes with the intent of desiring their efforts be published whether in the traditional print manner, or on the Internet. 

This blog has traditionally shared other elderbloggers perspective in which we present only true stories and commentary.  The value has been that readers can identify with contemporaries current or past experiences as we travel life's journey.    I've even noted members of younger generations have commented appreciation on some blogs from hearing truth from older generations about the actual experiences of aging, including all aspects encountered, both positive and negative. 

Typically, fictional stories have a distancing factor, no matter how realistic the writing.  They generally do not have the intimate emotional impact on their reader as one's true story has -- even if literary license is exercised in the storytelling.

I've never intended this blog to be a forum on which my writing group members’ efforts or other blogger's professional writings would be presented.   I did introduce readers to a then-blogger, Mary Lee Coe Fowler's true story about searching for her long-deceased father she never knew.  Her book, "Full Fathom Five" had become a commercial publication.  I did so only because her story content had personal significance to me that I wanted to share here.

I do prefer presenting the actual reading material on this blog rather than just a story link, and I know that's what most blog reader's favor.    I know only too well that most bloggers are more inclined to read what is right in front of them, than click to a link of reading material on another site -- generally because of time constraints.  Often the blogger's intent is to return to the link later, but often later never comes.  Despite realizing a writer's material likely will not receive as much exposure as I and they might wish, I did finally present just such a reading recommendation earlier this year. 

"Daddy Dearest" by Sue Buckwell is an especially unusual humorous brief "Flash Fiction" story which is one of many written by this member of our writing group.   

Now, I am again, offering a link above to a more typical length fictional short story briefly described as simply "Laundry" that  I hope you'll have time to enjoy reading.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Our earth's moon has had romanticized symbolism for much of my life -- intriguing stories, thoughtful poetry, artistic drawings, spectacular photography.  Most memorable to me have been many moon lyric references and popular mood-creating musical melodies that conjure vivid visual pictures in my mind. 

Those similarly affected sometimes spoke in awe of the moon's beauty, or half-seriously talked of whether or not the moon might be made of green cheese.  A popular television show, now considered a classic, featured a character who elicited uproarious audience laughter when he would become angry, frustratingly raising his fist toward his antagonist, and saying "to the moon."

"To the Moon" acquired much more serious connotation when in 1969 the United States Apollo Program launched a spacecraft with three astronauts aboard to land on the moon. 

I vividly recall the excitement building up to that event.....
-- the anxious feelings that the launch be successful
-- wanting the flight to be without flaws
-- and the descent toward the moon be controlled
-- wishing the landing would be smooth and safe
-- desiring the astronaut would be able to disembark from the spacecraft without incident
-- hoping the astronaut's actual steps onto the moon's surface would be solid
-- the excitement of actually seeing the event live on my television screen

-- Eagle Commander Astronaut Neil Armstrong standing, walking, running on the moon

-- saying those thrilling spine-tingling memorable words:

                 "...one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!"

"Neil Armstrong presents a Google moon video together with original footage taken from the Eagle module during his landing 20 July 1969. Captured from a webcast from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Hearing on NASA Human Spaceflight 22 Sep 2011."   10 mins.  Courtesy of YouTube.

Neil Armstrong, an Ohioan, highly respected throughout the world, died Saturday 8/25/12 at age 82 due to sudden unexpected complications following heart bypass surgery.     


Thursday, August 23, 2012


Comedienne Phyllis Diller, age 95, died peacefully in her Los Angeles home Monday, August 20, 2012.  She had retired from performing, but her humorous one-liners will live on.  She paved the way for women stand-up comics today.   

On the occasion of her 90th birthday, July 17, 2007  I wrote a congratulatory greeting heralding her talents with many more particulars about her you can read by going to my archives for that date (for some reason Blogger won't allow me to provide a link on her birth date above.)  I described the circumstances when I had enjoyed having the opportunity to meet Ms Diller briefly a few times when I was employed at a television station.  Up date follows -- current info and  videos.

Phyllis Diller comment on her first-ever television appearance on "You Bet Your Life," with Groucho Marx.


A few years later Phyllis Diller arrived unaccompanied at our Columbus station.  After asking the  taxicab driver to wait until she competed her appearance she headed inside.   The receptionist immediately recognizing Ms Diller directed her down the hall toward the television studios.   We all knew of the small community Lima, Ohio home town gal who had become a celebrity making people laugh.   She always arrived like this, quite unassuming, without an entourage, unlike numerous guests much less well-known.   

Ms Diller invariably agreed to appear on our early morning talk show when she was booked into the most prominent night club in town, though likely her last show hadn't ended until the wee hours of that very morning.   I met her as she walked toward me past the station's broadcast talent pictures lining the hallway, and directed her into our smaller studio. 

She would not have long to await her entrance to the larger studio where the program was already being broadcast live as fifty plus audience members who had traveled in, some by bus, from around the state observed.  They soon learned Phyllis Diller would be the guest resulting in their high anticipation of actually seeing her in person.  The host would introduce her and the quintet would play rousing lively music that might be most recently associated with her, from a network TV appearance or movie.    Soon those famous one-liner jokes would have everyone, including control room engineers laughing uproariously like the home viewing audience was sure to be doing.

Many years later here's footage from Phyllis Diller's final stand-up performance - from "Goodnight, We Love You."

 Phyllis Diller's interview on "The View"

Phyllis Diller brought much laughter into the lives of many people, including me, as with  these one-liners:   

"Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home."

"Old age is where the liver spots show through your gloves."





Monday, August 20, 2012


Retirees today are beginning to have a variety of living choices that are discussed in various blogs and at different sites when a browser search is made, so I won’t attempt to discuss all of them here.  

I’m committed to the concept known as “Living in Place” – remaining in my Southern California home through my remaining years.    Only twenty years or more ago, assists here for those who wanted to stay in their own homes were limited, when I was seeking help so my mother could continue living independently. 
Today that situation is improving locally though the options are such that out-of-pocket cost may be prohibitive for many.  One Southern California local area option for some may be a newly formed organization -- REAL Connections for Ageless Living offering support for most every daily living need to enable senior/elder/oldster residents to remain in their homes/condos/apartments/mobile homes.  

Some bloggers I’ve been reading have been sharing thoughts about moving from their home to retirement community housing.  At least one Southern California friend and her husband have been exploring that same possibility.  These communities often introduce prospective residents to their sites by offering downsizing sessions providing recommendations about how to ease making such a move to smaller living quarters.  

They offer more in depth counseling, if requested, to discuss the financial costs, various payment plans, any help that might be available to live in that particular community.  
Anyone considering a move into a retirement community would be wise to make comparisons with more than one such living arrangement, if possible.  

I’ve not attended a downsizing class, but I have provided my therapy discipline’s services in a half-dozen or more retirement communities that provide several levels of care typical in such settings.    Also, I have not investigated the costs to live in any of these communities.  This is a fundamentally vital bit of information that determines whether or not one can even afford to make the move.

Most of those communities I’ve served have been affiliated with prominent traditional religious denominations in some form or another, but that has been an incidental factor in my work location choices.    Each facilities reputation for exceptional quality of care, plus location, has been among the primary factors influencing my work place choice decision process.

Those exploring moving to a retirement community might want to consider that many studies have shown select non-profit organizations offer a higher level of housing, care and services compared to for-profit providers.  The reason is said to be because revenue produced is invested back into the quality of the communities, programs and services—rather than stockholders dividends. 

This seems to me to be a good argument for taking such health care entirely out of the commercial competitive for-profit business world.   Do we really want our health care subject to the Wall Street financial markets manipulations in which profit-making and taking might sometimes take precedence over quality of care?    

The same can be said for most private therapist-owned rehabilitation groups versus non-therapist businessperson owned companies in my experience—especially some of those that are part of Wall Street profit seeking corporations.   Stockholders generally take little or no responsibility for seeing that the company whose stock they own provides quality care -- they’re generally interested only in stock share price profit and dividend dollars.  The presumption is if the profit is high, that must mean the quality of care is, too.   We might wonder if that’s really true?

I can certainly confirm that the health center skilled nursing rehabilitation units in the non-profits I’ve served are generally among the best for overall services compared to others, and many stand alone nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.   There are likely some exceptions, but I can only report on those with which I’ve had personal experience. 

New ownership, time passing, government regulation changes, supervision and adjustments by different management can even make my knowledge of retirement communities and other facilities out dated if I haven’t worked there for a while.
The cost factor will deter many people from living in either profit or non-profit retirement community settings.   Costs and payment options would have to be explored and compared for each community as I've mentioned.   

Prospective retirement home residents would likely want to determine how much, if any, of the entrance fee is refundable and under what conditions.    Another consideration would be to understand how any future fee increases are determined, plus the increased amount that might have to be absorbed if additional payments apply beyond the entrance fee, if new fees can be added.  

The retirement communities I’ve served offer traditional levels of care which includes housing units and apartments for independent living, a multi-unit building with several levels offering assisted living, and a continuing care facility offering skilled nursing care.  Some may provide a special Alzheimer’s/Dementia unit.   

The Green House concept is being implemented in one retirement community here – the first in California.    The concept introduced by Geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas as described in this NewYork Times article, as a new unit being planned for one local retirement community which will add a flexible level of living with care provisions variation.   Dr. Bill’s blog “Changing Aging” provides much current aging information.  

Each level of care has prescribed criteria that determine a resident’s placement based on their functional abilities.  These criteria will be applied in the event an individual’s functional daily living skills decline and can sometimes result in the resident having difficulty accepting the need for moving to a different level of care.    

Becoming familiar with the specified differences of each care level is information important to understand when gathering material from communities being considered.  The basic criteria differences between levels are the same throughout our State, but some organizations may exercise more leeway, especially if they have empty beds they want to fill.   Again, check your state’s regulations. 

Know your non-medical administration and community/facility physician, medical/nursing clinic director.

Though you don’t expect to need the skilled nursing center’s services, you might wish  to check the nurses to patient ratio there and at the other levels of care; your state’s mandated minimums.    Also, what onsite medical services are available for residents living independently?   What and where is the hospital to which you would be transported should the need arise?

The skilled nursing care/rehab center in some retirement communities may have limitations as to how much disruptive behavior will be tolerated from a patient whose manner is persistently troublesome and/or distracting to other residents.  Occasionally, a patient may require constant attention, become a safety concern, or create issues continuously disturbing to other patients.  This behavior may result in family being requested to incur additional costs to provide private duty nursing aides/companions for a varying number of hours and/or days if family members are unable to be present.  

Before an individual enters a retirement community skilled nursing facility as a non-resident, for rehabilitation and/or due to a variety of medical needs, expecting to ultimately go home they should acquaint themselves with cost of care once Medicare/insurance benefits cease to pay – in case they might need to remain longer.  

Knowing this cost is important in case the patient needs long term custodial care.   Can they afford to stay there, or will they disconcertingly have to be moved – once again – to a less expensive setting – which may create a problem in adjustment for some? 

Many residents generally identify strongly with their retirement community and those who entered as they did.    So, there can be a sensibility of difference from some residents toward those few who have entered solely into the health center skilled care unit from other settings than as retirement community residents.  If this does occur it isn’t necessarily an overt complication.  Staff will make an extra effort to be inclusive with new patient, and often there may be other residents who compensate for such insensitivity, especially when the newcomer makes an effort toward friendliness, too. 

Social factors deserve consideration.   Investigate a retirement community’s culture to help determine how compatible life there would be for you.   I’ve heard stories that some communities can have social groups whose members sometimes behave in ways reminiscent of Jr. High or High School cliques.    But that can be true in any social, governmental and business office group I’ve noted through the years.

The predominant female to male ratio may be of significance for some prospective residents.  The reality is that women outnumber the men the older we all become.   New friendships and companions are sought after with varying degrees of intensity, levels of interest and sometimes competition.  

Be certain to note what amenities are available in keeping with your preferred activities including a pool for use 12 months of year (heated, enclosed,) tennis court, putting green or golf course, computer room, library (may not be as important now with computers/e-books,) exercise center and equipment that could be called a Wellness Center, meeting rooms and other activities – whatever your interests.  

What of interest to you is available in the non-retirement community outside?  What transportation is there that you’re able to use, going where -- including for necessary medical trips – and will someone accompany you, if needed?  

You’ll definitely want to ascertain what high tech services are available and whether they’re available everywhere on the campus or only in select locations.  Is wireless Internet service present and what about television, the phone system?   Hopefully the system is fairly simple to use as some can be complex.  

Don’t forget to eat in the dining room(s) and explore the food fare, maybe asking for a copy of the week’s menu.   Any markets, shopping areas you’ll want to visit? 

Some retirement communities have been formed for a preponderance of those who have served in religious and charitable organizations, such as one here that includes missionaries who lived around the world.    Another community may be primarily composed of retired academic professionals, local government retirees, business/corporate executives, just to name a few groups. 

I’ve known of some residents who were single, alone upon retirement so moved here on the West Coast from the East Coast to join friends, others to be nearer family, some moved here because of the weather.  There are communities attracting individuals of modest means who prefer a social culture quite different from those I’ve noted previously.    The cost factor is a deciding factor influencing selection choices for most. 

Do meet and talk with the retirement community representatives.    Ideally if you could befriend a resident with whom you could freely talk insights would be gained.

Read and be aware of all agreements you sign, including how your rights are affected and any limitations that might be imposed and under what circumstances.  

What sort of communication systems exist within the retirement community, i.e. to obtain emergency help should you become suddenly incapacitated (fall.)   Do they have a newsletter, in-house TV broadcasts?    Are there maintenance helpers and what is the arrangement for using their services with what limitations? 

These are some thoughts and questions that come to mind, but are by no means all inclusive, when I think of choosing a retirement community in which I would live the remainder of my life.  They’re rather randomly presented here.   

My current plan is to “live in place” in my home which is another concept requiring similar but different planning arrangements.   This plan is subject to change should the situation warrant and can be more uncertain than being in a retirement community where arrangements for all levels of care have been established.   I’m following the local services developing currently that are designed to help individuals live in place. 

I do at times waiver in my mind with second thoughts about whether or not the plan I’ve selected is really the best one, especially when some friends talk about having chosen differently for themselves and their husbands.   

You may be wondering as I do, what are the odds any of us will need to go into assisted living or a nursing home?  I suggest you read this Nursing Home Diaries link that provides U.S. Census bureau figures on that very topic – something to consider in the decision-making process, including recognition additional retirement living options are developing. 

What IS available in this immediate future for many elders, especially in this fluctuating health care environment -- one that doesn’t presently support some of the most cost effective ways to provide long term care?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2 rr's missing 3rd R

Our United States current Democratic Party administration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden learned with the rest of our citizenry last week who their primary opposition’s vice presidential candidate would be.

Given that this man has been a very visible U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, actively involved in offering very controversial budget proposals in the past year or more, I am constantly amazed when I keep hearing news reports that many in the general population have never heard of him.  I find this more than just troubling, since I am always interested in knowing what government leaders are doing, or not doing, on my behalf.

When I think of  what this nation, people in every little town and on every farm have endured during the days of Wall Street and the banking world’s upheaval – the challenges we continue to face – how could people not be aware of or concerned about individuals such as him who are potentially instrumental in formulating plans they claim are needed to extricate us from this maze?

During the approximately 11 weeks remaining until our November election, we have the opportunity to thoroughly acquaint ourselves and others with as much as we can learn about these candidates, their beliefs, past actions, and plans that will significantly affect our lives and that of our children, grandchildren, future generations.  

A most succinct fact presentation of pertinent issues with information about these  candidates has been provided at Ronni Bennett’s “Time Goes By” yesterday and the previous day (8/14 and 13.)  

Whatever ones views about how to resolve our nation’s budget crisis, or if one has no view yet, I strongly urge you to read and give serious consideration to the facts she presents about Social Security solvency, Medicare’s and Medicaid’s healthcare dismantling.  The radical surgery proposed for these programs may not only be unnecessary but if done, and this was a true medical procedure, could be considered malpractice.  

Following is a slightly edited comment I was motivated to leave at TGB on those subjects.   

There can be little doubt about the goals of Republican Party Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, now that he’s selected Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate I concluded independently before reading here (TGB.)   [Romney has since been trying to distance himself from Ryan’s positions to keep from losing support.] 

Clearly the 2 rr’s (Romney and Ryan) every effort is directed toward channeling citizen monies to those wonderful financiers on Wall St. who did so much to bring us the Great Recession. The financiers and bankers are doing fine, but the same cannot be said for too many Americans.

I think it's incredibly naive to think this nation would have recovered much better under an administration run by the 2 rr's, or would now with what they propose.

I agree with an approach of gradually reducing this nation's debt and not at the wholesale expense of reducing/eliminating support for those whose life experiences have necessitated their needing assistance as the 2 rr's budget would impose.
I believe there is value in offering individuals a hand up to get back on their feet when circumstances have created such a need. After reading one comment, [possibly from a troll] I do have to wonder why anyone would assume their children and grandchildren would sit around and not work just because assistance was available to others in need?

I, too, recall family members stories that old folks feared going to the poor house before the creation of Social Security as a safety net.   They knew of those who despite  lives of hard work, had unexpected health, accident, or business upsets that destroyed their financial base leaving them destitute.

I know of individuals who suffered such life setbacks.  They would likely have ended in a poor house had it not been for the safety net of social security and/or disability with Medicaid insurance coverage.  Incredibly to me was that they continued to support  the political party and candidates who were the very ones persistently trying  to undermine those safety net programs.  Those  beneficiaries were intelligent reasonable people in other ways, though locked into their ideology, but were blind to life's realities -- their own reality, right in front of them. 

Were they living today they would probably vote for the 2 rr's who I think of as capable of readin' and 'riting but lacking a 3rd R in 'rithmetics higher functions -- those that combine mathematical complexities with practical reasoning through rational thought. 

I see nothing that the 2 rr's propose that hastens the creation of jobs and begins to return to prosperity a decimated middle class in this nation.

I believe the 2 rr’s will try to privatize portions of Social Security  -- this would be a disaster as we should have learned from the recent financial markets collapse.  

I do see the 2 rr’s power play $$$ grab to consolidate control of our government into the hands of the uppermost  % of the wealthiest citizens and corporations – however unintentionally, or intentionally.

We must ask ourselves if this is the American Dream we want to leave our children, grandchildren and future generations?

Friday, August 03, 2012


Spontaneous delight often derives from a simple afternoon experience being enveloped by my local independent movie theater's big screen.  For a couple of hours I was whisked away to France in the sights and sounds of the movie The Intouchables.  This true story is based on  the lives of a wealthy, paralyzed Parisian who befriends his Senegalese caretaker.

Positive, uplifting, life-affirming, upbeat and fun are just a few appropriately descriptive words for this film.

We're given the opportunity to see the human personal need for affection and the pleasure desired from the company of another.

We note the safety of distancing in seeking that individual connection if only by letter, (could be email, social media,) while fearing rejection should we meet in person.

We're exposed to the seeking of sensory and mental stimulation, excitement.

We recognize wanting to feel alive with anticipation so our existence has value, is meaningful, which everyone seeks -- whatever their condition, age, or status in life.

Action and adventure are part of this tale as is a brief account at the film's conclusion of the actual men's lives at the time the movie was completed.  There are spectacular colorful snowy mountain peaks and green valleys, also beckoning ocean scenes.

The actors are exceptional with the primary roles portrayed by Francois Cluzet, the quadriplegic who was paralyzed in a paragliding accident and hires a caretaker from the projects  remarkably played by Omar Sy.  Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano wrote and directed this highly honored film.

Music is an integral part of this tale, occasionally at the forefront, but often in the background accentuating the mood, bridging a range of melodies, rhythms, styles.  We hear some of the classical giants compositions Bach, Rimsky-Korsakov; current Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi whose music is very prevalent in the film -- music contrasts and influences for every generations popular music.   The film's songtrack list includes:

Intouchables Soundtrack Piano by Ludovico Einaudi

Earth, Wind and Fire - Boogie Wonderland - music in the film.

Here's a lady whose interpretative singing always tells a story as in this film.

Nina Simone "Feeling Good" 

The manner in which life's restrictions impose themselves on anyone with physical limitations are not shied away from in the telling of this story including brief but factual reference to the most intimate physical needs in body function.

My years of working primarily with adults -- increasingly an older aging group of men and women -- has always been based on an awareness that no one wants to be pitied, whatever their circumstance.   Along the way, we have become contemporaries in age.

I've served those along a lengthy continuum of personal financial wealth, including some  with little or no means, but likely none with quite the assets of the gentleman portrayed in this film.

There is wealth in this story that has nothing to do with dollars, pounds, pesos, or the euro, but does pertain to human interactions.

Some of us have been caregivers, are caregivers, may become caregivers.Some of us will be cared for by others.

We will all be better caregivers or recipients of care if we can be real and actually caring with one another without pity.

One final thought, The Intouchables film is a joy to view if only for entertainment value.

(Another excellent French film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was previously reviewed here and is highly recommended for viewing.)