Now that July is here we finally have some hot summer days to enjoy swimming, boating, biking, hiking and walking. Let's not forget to stay cool and hydrated while we are out and about on these hot, humid, sultry days.
I call my father, now 88, frequently and grill him…something like this: "Have you been drinking enough water? How much have you had today?" or I say "Did you ahve breakfast? What did you have?" He has always been health conscious so he always replies with a big "oh, yes."
Then I have to make sure he has his air conditioners turned on because he turns them off and on all the time so the heat in the house can rise quickly and then he gets overheated. Again, I ask him. "Did you drink enough water today?" Ending the converstaion with "stay cool!"
Having been through one episode with him three summers ago where he got dehydrated and then malnourished because he was developing a cellulitis (or which came first?) I do not want to repeat that again. Even though sometimes he asks me "Why do you ask?" Dare I answer "because you're old!"
But then I remember the statistics: people over the age of 65 are commonly in trouble with dehydration, not just those in their 80's.
If you want to read more info from our book about this go to our 'Bits of the Book' page here.
So drink up, stay cool, enjoy the balmy evenings and cool mornings of summertime!Read More
Out for a morning walk is usually a time for reflection, observation, and quiet thoughts. These last few weeks of late spring and early summer have been full of growth and change in the natural world. The weather was cool, clear, crisp, now it is hot, sultry and unpredictable, rain comes daily and the sun beats down when it peaks out. These changes are reflected back to my inner world and have helped my mind, heart, and body change and heal as well.
Working hard at trying to be strong again after major spinal surgery has proven to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Starting with a week of rest (thank you sister for taking care of me while I wallowed in self pity and drug induced hallucinations) followed by a week of walking around the block-just barely, then weeks with a ten pound weight lifting restriction, then weeks of a thirty pound weight limit and walking only one mile. After eight weeks I am finally able to walk as much as I want and lift whatever I want.
Plus, I am back to stand up paddle boarding, SUP as it is known in the outdoor water world, after a year away from this new sport. It brings me such pleasure to be out on the water and pulling is what my physical therapist wants me to do as opposed to lifting. She also insists that I have a regular program of muscle strengthening, not building, just strength training. She advised me to stop stretching so much as that is stressing my joints since the muscles aren’t big enough to stretch to their fullest. She claims it is a common problem in older people. You stretch because you are sore, and then you get sore, so you stretch some more and then you are sore so you stretch more and all you are doing is injuring, or tearing, muscles and stressing joints. Makes sense to me because that is what I have been doing all year as I was fighting chronic, severe neck pain. And found my body more sore and uncomfortable. Now I do actually feel less sore after only two weeks of muscle strengthening exercises.
Back to my daily walks outside where I am out in the natural world seeing the plants and animals, reptiles, amphibians and insect world surviving despite all the odds.
I have rescued a few turtles from the middle of the road sent them on their way to the side where they were headed. Yesterday I rescued a long earthworm, it seemed to be struggling to get to the woods, who knows if I made it happy or not, or helped it at all. Do worms need my help? A silly thought to contemplate.
Walking on a wooded trail I came upon a large bull frog happily sitting in the middle of the path. It sat still while I took pictures and did not mind me getting quite close. I decided to touch it to see what it would do and get it off the path because there were kids, bikes, and dogs coming in the distance. Sure enough it was free to do a long jump away from me safely off the trail.
Encountering two legged species (humans) on my walks is rare up here in NH but yesterday I met a new neighbor and we walked and talked together for while. She introduced herself exclaiming how much she loves my book, [Hope I Don't Die Before I Get Old] has bought a second copy for a friend, and uses it as a reference, marking the pages with notes and a highlighter. Finding the advise on long term care insurance invaluable, she has even copied a page or two to send to friends planning surgery for their recovery.
Her parents are now in their 80's and luckily they bought LTC insurance in their 60's because now her father has Alzheimer disease and they will surely need full time help sooner or later.
This is why we wrote our book, to help others in their journey along this path of life that has so many twists and turns you never know what the road ahead will bring your way or what will cross your path. Caring for your elders and growing old is a complex adventure in humility and grace.
Back to my daily walk, I have to get out there and move…Read More
April 22, 2013 Earth Day
OK, this is a day late…”a day late and a dollar short,” another thing my mother said to me more than once!
My mother started celebrating Earth Day the first time it ever happened by planting flowers and becoming a recycling fanatic. That was in 1970 and I was a freshman in high school having come of age in the 1960’s, a tumultuous time for my family, friends and the world. Her commitment to recycling finally had a home and purpose other than being perpetually frugal, a remnant of the Great Depression. She insisted on recycling everything and being very upset, almost indignant, when she found things that could not be recycled anywhere. She was equally disappointed when she saw others not recycling or throwing away things that were “perfectly usable.”
When she could no longer drive herself around, her ‘helpers’ and anyone else who stopped by to visit was called upon to “just take this to the recycling center for me when you go.” She instilled in my children and me a sense of responsibility for the earth, for our communities, for others. All of which has served to make us feel guilty when we find ourselves not recycling that one thing that we know we should.
It is poignant; warming and chilling at the same time to have these feelings wash over me whenever I am looking at something deciding if it can be recycled or not! As we approach Mother’s Day in May and her birthday in June the memories of her life, my life with her, and the impressions that she gave to me roll around my mind, heart and soul reminding me to enjoy the present, let the past go to a warm corner of my heart and look forward to the future. I am calling this recycling memories!
Happy recycling! And love your Mother-Earth!Read More
Today I am writing a little personal story because I feel I have been through “the wringer” as they say and want to explain my distance from writing, socializing and generally being ‘no fun’ for the past eight months.
Mary and I wrote our stories about caregiving in our book with all its glory, joy, pain and suffering because we learned a lot about ourselves, our families and navigating old age while dealing with the, ahem, messed up health care system.
Last July we finished the second draft (or was it the twentieth?) and the book was back from the editor and off to press. We were excited and relieved.
Sometimes things get thrown at you for a reason; usually it is a reason you weren’t expecting nor particularly like. A week after the book was done, it happened, I ruptured a disc in my neck at work, it took a while to get a proper diagnosis and even longer to get good care. Another lesson in our, ahem, messed up medical system.
A Goddess smack, a gift, a luxury…all of these I have heard from caring people. Even had people praying for me with laying on of hands. I whine and complain, I spent a lot of time this winter on my hands and knees crying. I have learned what chronic pain is first hand and it really does make you crazy! I breathe, I meditate on positive affirmations, I contemplate words from one of my mentors, Jeanine Parvati, “How does it serve?”
Friends, acquaintances, family, doctors, therapists-everyone- has something to tell me about what I should and shouldn’t be doing to heal myself or get healed. I get annoyed at their thoughtful advice and even more annoyed when they say “I know how you feel.” I finally said to someone, “no you don’t!” Unless you have had a ruptured disc with the resultant nerve and muscle pain from the constricted nerve root you cannot imagine it. I never did, even though my dad and son have both had disc problems from injuries, it is worse than I imagined. This is my neck! It is hard to hold my head up!
This injury has made it impossible for me to do the work I love and have been doing for over thirty-five years. Being a midwife is more than a job, it is my identity, it is who I am. As if the physical discomforts aren’t enough, having my self-identity taken away so unceremoniously has been emotionally distressing as well. (in this I am not alone and more fortunate than others; a nod and curtsey to veterans and those with degenerative diseases.) Starting any new writing projects has become difficult; it was hard enough before this happened, but now I am distracted by pain and all the ‘what to do’ about my life, work, and making health care decisions that my ability to concentrate and think clearly is also compromised.
For the last three months I have been able to do a little more, meaning I can vacuum for longer than two minutes, gentle yoga and dance, and short walks without ending up on the floor for two days. Some days the pain is mild until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, then I have to lie on my back on the floor, but lately it is all day, all night pain and I am seriously considering surgery, something I have never wanted. It certainly is outside my lifelong belief of diet, exercise, natural remedies and curing myself.
One dear friend and colleague said, “Well, maybe this is what holistic medicine really means.” I am trying to see it as a whole part of my life and healing process on every level.
All this is my way of saying thank you to the universe for giving me what I need even though I still do not see why I need this now! And I offer my gratitude and apologies for those who care for me and put up with me when I am at my worst.
Off to see a new neurosurgeon tomorrow and I’m bound to hear once again “you need surgery.” This time I may just schedule it.Read More
Funny how often the things that you are thinking about or focusing on in your work just get put in front of you in various ways. Or how when you mention these things to your co-author she says I was just thinking about that too!
The past few months I have been preparing for a presentation I am doing this weekend on several topics with the main one being sleep deprivation. So what comes across my email this morning? That’s right, an invitation to a teleconference on sleep!
I saw a patient yesterday with a lot of health complaints, what I finally figured out is that she is getting only 6 hours of sleep a night, from 7 pm to 1 am, gets up and works from 3 am to 1 or 3 pm! 5 days a week! Yikes, no wonder her hormones and health is out of whack!
I’ve always told my patients to rest, after having a baby or surgery or when sick, they seem to have a hard time with this suggestion; it is another thing we Americans don’t know how, or won’t, do. Rest and sleep are important for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. The brain particularly needs sleep to maintain cognitive functions. Even one night of lost sleep can affect cognitive skills for longer than a week.
Seems this is the latest thing to talk about. Maybe because at least 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic, long term sleep disorders and 20 million more experience occasional sleep problems. Those stats are from a 2007 study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. I imagine there are even more now considering the economy, politics, global changes and let’s not forget school shootings in the last 5 years.
Poor sleep causes all kinds of health problems and another time I will list them all. For now, I will say it took me a while to figure out that I have had chronic sleep deprivation for the last 35 years! While I love my work as a midwife it has certainly taken its toll on my sleeping abilities. That’s another thing I did not know…the more interrupted your sleep is on a regular basis the more your ability to sleep well goes downhill!
I am learning how to sleep all night, to get at least the recommended 7-8 hours, in one stretch…not reading from 3-4 am and going back to sleep. When I gave up my beeper 3 years ago, something that I wore almost continuously for 10 years, it took a year to get over checking my hip for it and jumping at the various beeps and rings of other’s cell phones and pagers.
I think it will take a long time to learn how to sleep all night again. I’ve been trying to for the last 6 months and I am getting closer but it is still a challenge. I wish you a good night's sleep…wish me a good night, too!Read More