Love your elders this Valentine’s Day

So men do it. Women do it. Even kids. When it comes to sending Valentine’s wishes, acts of love span all genders and ages. So remember to love your elders this Valentine’s Day.

Unfortunately, many people neglect to spread the love to aging parents and other elderly family members. Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to show aging loved ones you remember and respect all they’ve done over the years. All too often, we boomers caring for aging parents don’t show enough emotion or express enough appreciation and affection to those who over many years tried to give so much.
Here are five suggestions for sharing some “elderlove” this Valentine’s Day:

1. Go visit, even if it’s only a half an hour. Distance an issue? Call, or Skype.

2. Take a box of sugar-free sweets and a Valentine’s card. So many of our elderly parents and other loved ones have diabetes or weight issues that the taste will be welcome, but the sucrose won’t. And after the sweets are gone, they can look at your lovely card.

3. Take or send potted flowers, which last longer than cut flowers. Attach a note that explains why these flowers are especially meaningful.

4. Plan a lunch or dinner together and recollect childhood stories about how your parent demonstrated love and affection.

5. Build and present a small album of old photos, complete with brief descriptions.

And if you want to do even more, try gathering the family clan and creating a spontaneous love-in with your parents and other aging relatives. That means organizing at least a handful of close family members and with little notice show up with heart shaped balloons, treats to share, and some appropriate songs to play and engage them in a short but heartfelt event.

Or, try arranging a series of telephone calls to your parents spaced out over the course of Valentine’s Day, with family members and friends calling just to share a telephonic hug.
 All in all, it really doesn’t take a lot to make our parents and other aging family members feel like they’re at the centre of our universe and much loved. They’ll appreciate it, and relish in the attention and affection we’re showing them.

Pivotal year in eldercare closes with challenges for us all

In many ways, 2013 will be remembered as a pivotal year in the evolution of the brave new world of eldercare in the family.

In Canada, this year marked the start of a more open discussion of the moral and ethical implications of assisted suicide for the willing aging and ill.

It marked the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a family’s decision to maintain it’s ill loved one on life support trumps the verdict of health care experts.

This year saw more media attention to the challenges families face in offering care and attention to the aging elderly.

As well, during 2013 we saw more reports of violence in nursing homes: elderly attacking elderly, suggesting cognitive issues perhaps not yet really defined, not to mention questions of supervisory and safety standards in nursing homes across the country.

Globally, the Canadian experience is being repeated over and over most everywhere. Perhaps it’s being most strongly felt in China and Japan where the aging population can no longer count in the sustained support of their children and grandchildren who are moving away from the traditional family home to find better jobs and brighter lifestyles.

Strikes close to home
Personally, this past year I’ve been in some way or shape engaged in a host of situations experienced by many friends involving some aspect of family care and resulting pressures and conflicts. Here are four examples:

•    A couple with a son who returned home six months ago ‘for just a few weeks’ after losing his job and with no firm new prospect while concurrently looking after three aging and frail parents and all the while still both working full time. They are struggling to make ends meet and keep getting up five days a week to long, long work days. They don’t know where all this leads; they’re too loving to challenge their son to be more proactive in getting back on his feet, and too loving to find better solutions to eldercare.

•     A 71 year old bachelor with a 94 year old ailing mother who still lives alone in a tiny apartment and is suffering from severe arthritis and mild diabetes; they live in the same region but he’s an hour’s drive away and expected to visit at least four or five times a week. And because both are strapped financially, he feels compelled to come help her, clean her apartment, and of course has to run errands for her and take her for doctor’s appointments. Problem is, while he’s in relatively good health, he needs time to live his own life. 

•    A couple in their early sixties in Toronto with both sets of parents still alive: one set in their early eighties and one in their latter eighties. What complicates their lives and stretches their resources is that her parents live in Kamloops and his in Halifax. Trying to provide long distance loving attention to both sets of parents is becoming ever more difficult and expensive for them. They have committed to at least annual visits to each set of parents and have been working on finding local support resources to help out.

•    A friend just past his mid seventies whose wife has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s and has lost her driving license while they still need to find ways to support her 94 year old mother in a close-by nursing home who demands a lot of time and attention. He is starting to fray at the edges as he juggles his wife’s expanding needs, his mother-in-laws continuing needs, his relations with his children and grandchildren, and the need for time for himself.

The common denominator
What all these friends and acquaintances share is the element of an aging and ever more needy parent. And it’s what growing numbers of Canadians are experiencing. More than four million of them, in fact. And hundreds of millions more worldwide. 

It’s what’s come from being hidden on the back streets of society to finally blasting onto main street: the monumental range of issues and challenges of eldercare in the family. We’re all listening now, experiencing it, starting to share it, finally learning how to deal with it.

The warning signs have been there for more than a decade, but we’ve elected to ignore them. Now we don’t have a choice. Now we share the enormous challenge of finding better and more ways to care for the elderly in humane and responsible ways.

It’s not easy. And that’s been a major lesson this year.

Michael and I wish you all good experiences for the next year.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a real issue

Financial abuse of the elderly is a real issue many people don't know about or elect to ignore.

Ensure your aging parents aren't sujbect to financial abuse.

The International Federation on Aging recently releeased an interesting and thought-provoking report that is Canada-centric that is worth a read. You'll find it here:

Exercise is good for us: boomers and our aging parents

This is worth a couple of minutes of your time to read:

It's a good CBC News story about the benefits for the eldery to exercise. It's an easy read, but the message is important for all of us pressing into their late fifties and over.

New study rates elderly well-being high in Canada

A new study rates elderly well-being high in Canada. Just released by the United Nations, the study ranks the well-being of the elderly as being fifth best overall of the 91 nations studied.

See more in the Globe & Mail story: