When Should You Go to the Emergency Room?



The Decision to Go to the Emergency Room Can Be Tricky

As we age and face more and more health issues we never thought about when we were younger, we can find ourselves having to make some potentially life-changing decisions.  One of those decisions is whether our symptoms are serious enough to call 911 or go the local emergency room. If we think we need to visit the ER, we need to decide whether to have someone drive us or to take an ambulance ride. Sometimes people have to decide if they should drive themselves. My husband and I faced all those decisions on a weekend in April 2016.

If You Are Having Symptoms, Tell Someone Right Away

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly

Hubby had been feeling weak intermittently during this past month, sometimes with lightheadedness. He had gone to the doctor early in the week and the doctor had ordered lab tests to rule out a TIA (transient ischemic attack, or warning stroke). He had one of the tests on Friday.  He was still awaiting insurance approval for the other test so he could schedule it.

On Saturday he wanted me to go to Templeton with him to explain to a weed abatement man what I wanted him to do so he wouldn’t kill the plants I wanted. The workman was late because he was out looking for a part. Since I had to wait, I decided to grab some root divisions for plants I wanted to transplant in Paso Robles before a predicted rain came.  About noon, when we had finished up what we wanted to do, we went home to Paso Robles. Hubby was driving. In Templeton, we are about five minutes from the hospital. In Paso Robles, we are fifteen minutes from the hospital.

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly
Euphorbia I was Digging up to Transplant, © B. Radisavljevic

When we got home I wanted to check my computer and rest for a few minutes. Kosta told me I should eat something. When I asked why it was so important to him that I eat right away, he said I would have to take him to the emergency room because he was having symptoms.

Then he admitted they had started in Templeton, but he hadn’t said anything because he didn’t want to worry me. Neither had he asked me to drive. He wasn’t thinking clearly, and he should not have been driving. I should have taken him straight to the ER, but he chose not to tell me he was having symptoms until that wasn’t an option anymore. If you are having symptoms, tell someone immediately.

The Tricky Health Decision We Had to Make

Kosta’s doctor had told him to go to the emergency room if he started having the symptoms again. A TIA is a little warning stroke that can come before a real stroke. When there is a stroke, every minute counts. You don’t sit around and wait for someone to eat or drive you. You call 911. That’s what I did.

I also started packing a lunch I could eat at the hospital while we were waiting for the paramedics. They arrived in about five minutes. They checked him out. They thought he should go to the ER and the paramedics had already brought the gurney in.

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly
Ambulance Entrance to Hospital, © B. Radisavljevic

He asked them if I could take him. An ambulance ride here costs about a thousand dollars — even with insurance. Since his vital signs were close to normal, they said I could take him if we left right away. I promised to leave within five minutes.

We were backing out as they were moving the fire truck out of my way.  The paramedics had made it clear he needed to get to the hospital for a more thorough check immediately. They were afraid if they’d left without him I might not follow through and take him.

We spent from about 1:30 PM to 7:30 PM in that emergency room. They did many tests. He couldn’t get out of bed without a nurse and he kept needing to get to the restroom. The nurse was hard to find when needed. It was very stressful for both of us.

In the end, there was no evidence that there had been a stroke, but as the doctor explained, if the clot dissolved, it would leave no evidence. That’s what happens in a TIA. A small clot blocks a blood vessel and then can dissolve on its own. It’s still a warning a big stroke may be coming soon.

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly
Screening at Emergency Room, © B. Radisavljevic

Back Home Again

When we got home, we ate something. He rested. I got on the computer to finish the challenge blogs I had planned to spend the afternoon working on. We had planned to stay home Sunday so he could rest. We both slept late Sunday morning.

After breakfast, he rested. I went out to plant my root divisions before it rained. It took me two hours of pulling a few weeds, digging holes, planting, and watering before I finished. Sometimes I got so hot and tired and thirsty that I knew I had to go in for a five or ten-minute break and a drink. I did that about three times during the hours of work.

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly
The Herb I Transplanted Is in Foreground, © B. Radisavljevic

When I finally came in after finishing my work, I was too tired to take a shower right away. I grabbed a snack and drank water. I sat for a while. I finally was able to take a shower. Then I lay down in bed to rest with soft music and the bed massage turned on. I was there for about half an hour but knew I needed to dress and fix lunch.

When I got up and had just dressed the heart palpitations started. I wasn’t too alarmed at first because I have a history of this and am on medication for it. I was still exhausted. All I wanted to do was sit.

I had already thawed some frozen fish, but I was too tired to cook it. I think we ate leftovers that I could just heat up. I did not have enough energy to even set the table. After we had eaten I got up and I was lightheaded verging on dizziness. My heart had been beating at a rapid rate for over an hour. I sat down and continued to read the book I had started in the ER the day before.

Another Tricky Decision about Whether to Call 911

Part of me said I should call 911 and take the ambulance ride, since I didn’t think my husband should be driving. The louder voice within me said I’d be better off to stay home, totally rest, and get a good night’s sleep.

Then I remembered that after an episode like this once before, the doctor had said to take an extra half pill of my regular medication.  I did it, and the palpitations, which had gone on for at least two hours, stopped. I was still exhausted. I finished the book and went to bed.

Tricky Health Decisions for the Elderly
Uncomfortable “Bed” in Emergency Room, © B. Radisavljevic

Did I make the right decision?

I think so. I have gone to the ER with heart symptoms twice in the last five years. Once they even made me stay overnight until they could get another blood test in the morning. I didn’t get any sleep because the hospital is too noisy for sleeping. They never found anything wrong. I get regular checks from my doctors. I’m on medication. My symptoms were alarming, but I had none of the classic heart attack symptoms to go with them. If I had had them, I would have taken the ambulance ride.

The next day I saw my doctor and got an EKG. There was no evidence a heart attack had occurred. The doctor seems to think it was more like heat stroke because although it wasn’t hot, it was humid. I made an appointment with my cardiologist. Day by day I got stronger and acquired more energy, but it longer to start feeling like myself again.  I think it was more than heat exhaustion. I still had trouble doing the simple chores of getting food prepared and the kitchen cleaned up. I got a headache almost every night in the early evening.

When I finally got in to see my cardiologist, he said I made the right decision to stay home and rest. He said I was having an electrical problem with my heart, not a heart attack. Although my symptoms were alarming,  he said they weren’t dangerous. During the couple of weeks I had waited to get an appointment, my symptoms had disappeared.

When Should You Go to the Emergency Room?
Ultrasound of My Beating Heart During Stress Test, © B. Radisavljevic

Now I take the half pill on those occasions when the symptoms return and then I drink water and rest until my heartbeat returns to normal. The palpitations usually stop within an hour, but they are still frightening when they persist for more than a few minutes and they make me very tired.

When Should You Call 911 or Go to the Emergency Room?

One thing we use to help us evaluate our medical condition so we know when we must see a doctor or call 911 is the Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. It’s not just for emergencies. It’s smart to read up on heart attack and stroke symptoms before they happen so that they are already in your head when you have to figure out whether to call 911.

This book also helps you understand medical jargon and what’s involved in the diagnostic procedures and treatments your doctor orders. I would not be without a copy of this book.

Stroke Symptoms Demand a 911 Call

Deciding to call 911 or go to the emergency room is a decision one has to make if one is conscious. If a person is unconscious, someone else must make the decision and phone calls. One has to ask what is the worst that can happen if one doesn’t get to the ER. If the patient can’t think clearly, someone else needs to decide. If there are any stroke symptoms, someone needs to call 911 or it will impact the rest of the patient’s life if. Don’t hesitate. Take the ambulance ride if you have any of these symptoms yourself and you are alone. Use the FAST aid to help you recognize them

F is for Face Drooping or uneven on one side. Can the person smile so that both sides of the smile match, or is one side numb or drooping?

A is for Arm Weakness. Can the person raise both arms without trouble?

S is for Speech. Can the person repeat a simple sentence like “I am your friend.” without confusion or slurring their words?

T is for Time. Speed in getting to the hospital is essential. Call 911 so paramedics can start work on the way. Note the time symptoms started. You only have two hours for treatment to be most effective.

If you are with a person having symptoms, put him through the above tests and call  911 if he can’t pass even one of them.

When my husband had his symptoms, he had none of the classic stroke symptoms going on. He spoke clearly, smiled evenly, and could raise both arms with no problem. His vitals signs were checked and within a normal range. That is the only reason the paramedics let me drive him instead of taking him themselves. It only makes sense to try to save money if you aren’t making it more likely you will lose a life. Nothing costs more than a life.

Please Note

Nothing written here is intended to substitute for the advice of your doctor. It is all based purely on my own experience, my own health history, and my doctor’s personal advice to me. It may not apply to your case. It was written for informational purposes only.

Every person’s health is unique and though your symptoms may appear to be like mine, they may be related to an entirely different medical problem. If you have not seen your physician recently and you have frightening symptoms like these, go to the emergency room immediately, especially if they are stroke symptoms. Do not try to drive yourself if you have having heart attack or stroke symptoms.

Sadly, as I was waiting for the preview for this post to load, I looked out my window and saw a fire engine turning the corner, followed by an ambulance. I hope someone called them in time.  I never heard a siren.



Organizers that Help You Remember to Take Your Pills

When you start getting old, you may begin to feel that your kitchen or bathroom resembles a pharmacy. We take around 30 pills, prescribed and unprescribed,  daily. Most of ours are nutritional supplements, but we have several we must remember to take.

Organizers that Help You Remember to Take Your Pills
Pills in Kitchen Cupboard, © B. Radisavljevic

 

Tonight Hubby wasn’t sure if he’d remembered to take his heart pill. Forgetting isn’t good. Taking two might be even worse.  He only has one pill organizer. I have three. I think he needs some more like mine. It’s so easy to forget a pill. We often have to remind each other about taking pills morning and evening.

Organizers that Help You Remember to Take Your Pills

 

If you take as many pills and supplements as we do, a pill organizer is a real time saver. Once a week I line up all my bottles and open the tops of my medication  organizers. Then I start with the bottles containing the pills I take both morning and night, open them one at a time, and put the pills in their proper slots before shutting the bottles. Then I do the same with all the other bottles. I hate taking the time to do this every week, but it saves a lot of time on a daily basis. The dispenser above is the one I now use that I bought to replace the organizer you see below. As you can see, the covers on the two PM end slots broke off as they were used, and the rest were starting to.  This was not made to last.

Organizers that Help You Remember to Take Your Pills
© B. Radisavljevic

 

A pill dispenser is a great memory aid when it comes to remembering which pills you have taken. As I said above,  I have three of them. I have one that allows me to dispense pills morning and evening for taking after my meals. The smaller green one holds supplements I take before bed.  I have replaced the large one pictured here with the one shown at the very top. The hinges on the compartments on this old one failed and some broke off. I keep the green one, which still works well,  in my bedroom.

The third dispenser – a small one I forgot to get a photo of – I keep in my bedroom for the two pills I have to take on an empty stomach. I take them when I wake to relieve my bladder towards morning, guaranteeing my stomach will be empty. It’s really nice to have a pill dispenser to use when you’re only half awake.

Without my pill dispensers, I’m not sure I’d even know what day it is. Meanwhile, using them keeps me organized and healthy. I recommend them to anyone who takes lot of medications and supplements. Just be sure to get one big enough to hold everything it needs to, and check the top hinges to see if they are well made. This is hard to do if you buy one in a store where the containers are wrapped. When shopping online one can at least read reviews. This is the most similar to my large pill organizer and gets good reviews. 

There is a pill organizer for every need. You can see just about every pill organizer and dispenser that exists at Amazon.  Think about how many pill taking times you have and get an organizer that will hold the amount of tablets you need to take at those times. Get a separate organizer for pills you take at bedtime, or on an empty stomach at least an hour or two before breakfast.


The main purpose of the pill organizers is to keep you  from taking pills twice because you will always know if you already took your pills. It cannot remind you to take your pills. My husband and I remind each other and check to see if morning and evening pills have been taken.

If you live alone, there is a special alarm clock that can do that. It can  record up to six reminders a day. You, a caregiver,  or someone in your family can do the recording. Many of us sometimes forget to open our dispensers and take our pills at the right time without a reminder, so this can be very useful if we don’t have a person on the scene to remind us.

If you take more than a few pills each day, maybe it’s time to get a pill organizer to help you out. It saves a lot of worry on those occasions when you can’t remember if you took your heart pill or not. Get a small extra one for short-term prescriptions like antibiotics or pain pills. Pill organizers are a cheap solution to an age-old problem — or maybe should I say an old age problem.
 

The Pace of Change Can Be Overwhelming for Those Over 70

Most of us want a change of pace now and then to allow us some time off or to do something different from our normal routines. Many of us over 70, however, would like to slow down the pace of change in the world. Our childhood took place in a very different world than today’s children see. As we age, it seems the pace of technological change increases faster than some of us can keep up. I have seen more changes in technology in the past twenty years than in the fifty that preceded them.

Historic Fremont Theater, San Luis Obispo, ©B. Radisavljevic
Historic Fremont Theater, San Luis Obispo, ©B. Radisavljevic

I knew a time when there was no television, and movies were in black and white. You had to go to a theater to see them — a theater that showed only one double feature at a time. You got two movies — the one people came to see and one no one would have come to see on its own. In between  were a couple of cartoons and a newsreel — all this for the price of one admission. The movies ran on projectors with reels that needed to be changed if the movie was long.  Now we have multiplex theaters with only one feature per theater. Movies are projected digitally. Small screens have been replaced by huge screens and surround sound. Now you can feel like you are actually in the movie – not just watching it.

Changes in Audio Technology, © B. Radisavljevic
Changes in Audio Technology, © B. Radisavljevic

Music recordings were also pretty primitive when I was young, though they were like miracles to us. Long playing 33 albums were new. Cassettes, 8-track players, and compact disks were still in the future. Now I’m still trying to figure out how to use an MP3 player.

Telephones were land lines attached inside the wall and it required a man from the phone company to install or disconnect them. We didn’t have a phone jack in the wall. The phone belonged to a phone company, not to you. We had only party lines at first.

https://pixabay.com/en/antiques-vintage-phone-telephone-942851/
Vintage Phone

Your neighbors could listen in and you sometimes had to wait until they finished a conversation before you could make a call. We were all happy when we could  get private lines. It was huge advance when we could buy phones and plug them into and remove them  from phone jacks. Cell phones that could fit in a purse or pocket and access something like the Internet seemed inconceivable to ordinary people then.

Propeller Airplane, Public domain courtesy of Pixabay
Propeller Airplane, photo in public domain courtesy of Pixabay

My dad used to travel by air a lot on business when I was a child. My mom would take me to the airport with her to pick him up when he came home.  I remember waiting with Mom in the terminal, watching the planes come in, seeing the propellers on each plane slow their spinning as the planes landed and stopped. It was a few more years before propeller planes were replaced by jets. People catching flights and those who came to see them off did not have to be searched by TSA. There was no TSA, and no need for one.

When I was in high school and college in the 1950’s and 1960’s we used typewriters to write our term papers. When I started teaching we used spirit duplicators or “ditto machines’ to reproduce tests and handouts. Sometimes schools and churches used mimeograph machines.  They both required users to type a master copy that would be reproduced by hand cranking the machine, which often jammed or smeared ink. Only later were people able to reproduce exact copies with the copying and printing technology we have today. Students today who have laptop computers will never suffer what we did, typing and retyping papers that now can be easily corrected before they are printed.  I spent the first half of my life without having a computer or word processor.

We took photos with film that was expensive to develop for most of my life. My first camera was a Kodak Brownie that took black and white photos.  My first digital camera entered the marketplace in October, 1999. It had only 1 megapixel. Now I have much better point and shoot digital cameras, and new advances are made all the time for those who can afford to buy the best.

Vintage Magtag Washing Machine, © B. Radisavljevic
Vintage Magtag Washing Machine on Display at Idler’s, © B. Radisavljevic

Since I have been a child I have watched automatic clothes washers and dryers, automatic transmission and power steering in cars, home dishwashers, microwave ovens, copy machines, computer printers, laptop and notebook computers, photo processing software, word processing software, remote controls, cable and satellite TV and other products I love using enter the marketplace. Some have made my life much easier and with others I have a love / hate relationship.

Now I’m at a stage of life when I understand why my mom never used her computer for more than playing games and why she never caught onto email. She began her life’s journey 26 years before I did. By her late seventies, she simply didn’t understand why she needed to learn computer technology. She would have been overwhelmed facing the changes taking place now.

I blog and had an online store for many years. I have shopped online and sold on eBay. I have moderated email lists. But I had a choice. I did not have to  do any of those things online to carry on the routines of life. I could still buy what I needed in local stores, do my banking in person, and even handle a jury summons on paper through the mail.

Today that is changing. Those of us who are older are being forced into using technology we don’t feel competent to use or don’t trust. Take my recent jury summons for example. I was asked to fill in an online form that was confusing and when I clicked for a help page that didn’t help, I lost everything I had entered and had to start over. There wasn’t enough space to explain why I needed to be excused. Then I got locked out for too many failed log-in attempts.  It was almost impossible to talk  to a real  person, and all she could do was say they’d send me a paper form. It arrived after the date by which they needed it back. I filled it out and mailed it back anyway, knowing it probably will sit on someone’s desk unopened until past my summons date. I don’t know where I stand and will probably still have to make phone calls.

ATM Machine, © B. Radisavljevic
ATM Machine, © B. Radisavljevic

I pay most bills through auto-payments or online. Mom wrote and mailed checks. In another ten or twenty years I may not have any choice. Already one of our banks has closed all its local branches. My 75-year-old husband doesn’t use computers. He doesn’t want to rely on ATMs or computers to do his banking. He doesn’t know how to bank online and I don’t trust ATM machines. We still have local banks we can visit in person and that’s where our accounts from the other  bank will be moving. The question is whether that will just be a temporary solution. Will all the other banks close local branches as well?

I don’t have a smartphone.  I don’t want a smartphone. I want to  do all my writing on a desktop with a full keyboard, or at the very least, a laptop. I only use my mobile phone for phone calls. I don’t even know what to do with my tablet. Yet I know that in another ten years technology will have advanced so much more that I will be lost just trying to keep doing what I’m doing online now.

Were I able to transport my nephews back to the childhood I had, they might be lost until they had adjusted to a world with no television, no computers, email or cell phones, a world where business is conducted in person and communication is not instant. They would need to develop skills they never knew they needed.  I fear I and others now my age will feel lost and left behind in a world with technology so complicated we just can’t keep up. The rate of change has become so fast now that it cannot be adjusted to as gradually as it used to be.

Am I the only person over seventy that feels a tsunami of change is about to overwhelm me and drag me under? If you are still in the first five decades of life, please be patient with your parents, grandparents, and other older people who did not grow up as familiar with technology as you did. They may need your help in navigating what to them may be changing into an alien world.

Should Those Over 70 Still Be Required to Appear for Jury Duty?

Superior Court Building, Paso Robles, CA, © B. Radisavljevic
Superior Court Building, Paso Robles, CA, © B. Radisavljevic

I would not be thinking about jury duty if I had not just been called to appear or state why I cannot. This would not be such a problem had I been called for duty at my local county Superior Court that is half an hour from home. No, this summons came from the United States District Court in Los Angeles, about 200 miles from my home. I am trying to figure out how to best explain why I need to be permanently excused instead of just having my service postponed. I have to choose one or the other. The questionnaire I’m required to fill out on line (or have mailed to me should I not be computer literate) only gives me 255 characters to explain my physical or mental disabilities.

"U.S. Court House, Los Angeles" by Los Angeles - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
U.S. Court House, Los Angeles” by Los AngelesOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

I realize many people my age love serving on juries and finally have the time to  do so. If I were still young and healthy and could still drive defensively, I might see this as a great opportunity to enjoy a month in Los Angeles with compensation for lodging and meals four days a week. But I’m not young and healthy anymore. The question is, how do I explain my situation to an online form in 155 characters?

San Luis Obispo County Courthouse Annex, ©B. Radisavljevic
Serving Here Might be Possible: San Luis Obispo County Courthouse Annex, ©B. Radisavljevic

It would be easy to get a postponement. I’m having cataract surgeries a week before and a week after the date I’m supposed to be available. The problem is, after telling them that, I’m supposed to tell them when I will be available. To explain that I’d need to explain my physical and mental condition. How do you explain the difference it makes at my age between  serving locally and  serving 200 miles away?

How do you explain that one’s reflexes need to be quicker in bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles County freeway traffic than in the rural area where I live? How do  I explain that for twenty years now I have lived in a rural community and I’ve lost the defensive driving skills I had when I was living in Los Angeles and Ventura counties? How do I explain the vulnerability I feel being alone in a city half the days in a month and making four round trips in that month between my San Luis Obispo County home and downtown Los Angeles? How do I explain my confusion navigating unfamiliar places and the problems I occasionally have remembering things? These are only slightly disabling in the life I lead at home, but they  add up to a real problem in an alien urban environment. I don’t even like to go to Orange County for Christmas with my family because it means driving in that traffic.

I need to be excused, not just postponed. But the questionnaire only lets me chose one way to be excused from reporting. Each way requires a different form. I can try to get in touch with the human who is available by phone only two hours a day and hope I can get through. I think a real person would understand — especially if she has elderly parents or friends.

Has anyone else faced this? So far I’ve lost a couple of days just trying to figure out the best way to fill out the form. I hope I can reach the human. Do you think people should be able to opt out of jury duty after age 70 if they don’t feel competent to serve, but  still have to truthfully answer questions that make it seem that they’re still qualified? Yes I speak English, am a citizen, etc., but the answers to those questions  don’t really reveal how competent I am to serve.

Any thoughts on this?

Tips for Travelers on Diuretic Drugs

Travelers On Diuretic Drugs Can Get Desperate

Many young and middle-aged adults think nothing of making a five-hour or longer journey by car. They pack what they need, fill the gas tank, map out the journey, and go. They expect to get to their destinations in about five hours with time for one rest stop. For seniors, it doesn’t always work that way.

First, many seniors take medications they have to work around when traveling. If they take diuretics to prevent fluid retention, they need to remember to take it several hours before beginning the trip. The alternative may be finding a rest stop every half hour for the first couple of hours of the trip. Not only does this increase the time the trip will take, it is not always easy to find a place to stop that has the right facilities. I can remember many a frantic race to find a place near an off-ramp that had a restroom.

On one trip to Solvang, about two hours away, we had to stop three times during the first sixty miles. My husband was frantic. The first time he needed to stop we were twenty minutes from home near Santa Margarita, a small town with few businesses. There is a long off-ramp to reach the main street. Then one has to figure out which open businesses have restrooms. We weren’t very familiar with this town. We finally located a tire shop (see (photo below) with a portable toilet out back, and, wouldn’t you know, there was a line. This is not a situation anyone wants to get into.

Tire Shop in Santa Margarita, CA, © B. Radisavljevic
Tire Shop in Santa Margarita, CA, © B. Radisavljevic

In only ten minutes, we had to stop again, except this time we knew the town – San Luis Obispo. We stopped to use the restrooms at Smart and Final, a business we patronize often, so we knew how to get there fast. From there we were able to make it the next half hour to our usual rest stop at Trader Joe’s in Santa Maria. We usually get a free sample of something they want us to taste, and a small sample cup of coffee. I usually also pick up anything non-perishable I need when I’m there. By the time we left there, we knew we could make it to the next stop to a State Street fast food place in Santa Barbara before the last leg of our trip.

Help for Travelers Who Have to Use Restrooms Frequently While on the Road

I’m glad I don’t have to take a diuretic drug, but I have to remind my husband not to take his pill the morning we leave on a trip out of town. Even for people not taking this drug, though, it’s a good idea to know where along the way one can find a restroom. Sometimes nature calls when one isn’t planning on it and one needs to stop in a hurry. Official rest stops aren’t always where you need them, and they are about an hour or more apart. Sometimes rest stops are even closed.

Use your GPS if you have one, to see what facilities might be near you if you need to stop. If you don’t have a GPS, consider fast food and other restaurants, hotel lobbies, public parks, libraries, Auto Club offices, gas stations, and other businesses that provide a service. Forget about retail stores and many restaurants in tourist towns that don’t allow you to use their restrooms. Find out which exits you need to take to get to suitable facilities. Write them down. Also, consider available parking.

It’s always best to use a restroom before you drive through a large city where it is hard to find parking or before you get to an area with no services at all. Pay attention to the signs that tell you there are no services for X miles ahead and refuel and use restrooms before you go through those areas. Using the trees and bushes along your route isn’t very private and is hard for women.

If worst comes to worse, be sure you have whichever of these you need handy in your car while traveling. You don’t want to be or ride with a desperate driver.

Aging is a Journey Most People Will Take

My Young Self with My Old Uncle
My Young Self with My Old Uncle

The only way to avoid aging is to die young, and most would not chose that solution. The alternative is growing old someday. It’s a shame that life has gotten so challenging for most people today that they may not have time to care for their aging parents. Instead, many growing old move to assisted living senior residences where they live with others in various stages of aging. This removes them from most interactions with younger people,  and worse,  it prevents younger people from understanding the stages of aging and what they themselves may someday face. That is learned by observing one’s parents or other aging relatives and trying to help them out.

Some young people are uncomfortable around older folks and think they have nothing in common with them. They can’t think of anything to talk to them about. They forget their common humanity. Those in their eighties don’t feel eighty inside. Some of them don’t even feel like they have grown up yet because their thinking is still youthful. They still feel as much a part of the world as their  younger counterparts, and regret being less able to get out as much as they once did. It’s not their thoughts or their interests that limit them as much as the fact that their bodies are starting to wear out. They are usually very interested in what their children and grandchildren are doing. Those who are able to still be physically active are the volunteers that  communities rely on because younger people are too busy raising children and earning a living to give much back to the community in the way a retired person can.

Perhaps as you read this you are still in college or just getting started in a career. Maybe you are a new parent or parenting teens. The last thing you may be thinking about is aging. Then, just as you think you are catching up with life and your family is almost ready to fly away from the nest, one of your parents or grandparents goes through a medical crisis. Perhaps they need physical help to get on their feet again, especially if they live alone. Suddenly you must face the problems of aging because you will be called upon  to help out. Maybe you will need to visit regularly or help arrange care if you can’t help provide it. Maybe you or they will have to move so you can be closer to each other. Everyone will have adjustments to make. As you help your older family member, you will be getting an education that will help when you get old yourself.

In this blog I will share some of what I’ve learned about aging from being close to my mother in her last years, observing the problems my in-laws faced in their last years, getting to know people who live in assisted living homes, and beginning to age myself. As we discuss various aspects of aging, I hope you will feel free to make your own contributions in the comments.

If you are still young, what is your first response when you think about aging? If you are over 70, which part of getting older is hardest for you? I’m 72. I still feel very young most of the time, even when my body tells me I’m getting older. The hardest thing for me to face is the inevitable loss of independence someday when I will have to  give up driving. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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