Blog Posts - health care

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Emotional Contagion Is a Mixed Bag

Emotional Contagion Is a Mixed Bag
In 2008, my husband fell backward down a flight of stairs and suffered a brain injury. When I brought him home from rehab three months later, he was childlike and often confused. He sank into a deep depression—and I caught it from him.  Read more...


 

Helping Hands, Joined Online

Helping Hands, Joined Online
When you’re coping with the needs of someone who is hospitalized or convalescing, you may wish you could clone yourself to handle everything on your plate. Take heart—a website can become your personal assistant. What’s more, it won’t cost you a thing.  Read more...


 

What a Living Will Can—and Can’t—Do for You

What a Living Will Can—and Can’t—Do for You
My friend Anne taught me some important things about dying.

Anne had congestive heart failure. In January 2012 her cardiologist told her regretfully that she probably wouldn’t live past the end of the month, so she went home to set her affairs in order and to say her goodbyes. She made up her mind to refuse any medical procedures aimed at keeping her alive; she’d let nature take its course.  Read more...


 

10 Vital Truths about Aging and Health

10 Vital Truths about Aging and Health
All around the world, people are living longer—a basic hallmark of human progress and a triumph of public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the public health business, and no organization has done more to raise awareness of ageism—the biggest obstacle to meeting the challenges of population aging …. Part of the WHO’s global, anti-ageism campaign is a new list of 10 facts that correct common “Misconceptions on ageing and health.” The global perspective is instructive, and it’s making me rethink some things—including the burning question of whether to start spelling “ageing” the logical, British-and-Indian way. Here is the WHO’s list, along with my comments.  Read more...


 

The Kitchen Fire

The Kitchen Fire
In the middle of a recent night, my beloved, 84-year-old husband climbed out of his hospital bed, went to the kitchen area of the loft, found a saucepan, turned on a front burner of the stove—and accidentally started a fire, which luckily set off the smoke alarm. Nothing like this had happened during the nine years of increasing dementia that resulted from his 2004 traumatic brain injury (TBI). Why did it suddenly happen now?  Read more...


 

Accepting Losses, Discovering Gains

Accepting Losses, Discovering Gains
After my mother came to live with me, I gradually took on more and more of her care. By the end of the first year I was doing what any Alzheimer’s caregiver does. I bathed her, helped her dress, handled her finances, did her laundry, tried to be patient answering her repeated questions, gave her medications, coaxed her back to bed if she was wide awake in the middle of the night, prepared her meals, cleaned up when she had spells of incontinence, tried to find music or videos she might enjoy, took her on walks, helped her dial the phone and took her to 42 doctor’s appointments.  Read more...


 

Where Medicare Fails

Where Medicare Fails
A friend of mine was hospitalized recently. What really worried her, she told me the day before she went in, was not the procedure she was about to have but her medical bills if the hospital decided not to admit her and instead placed her under observation.  Read more...


 

Getting over the Cold Shoulder

Getting over the Cold Shoulder
About a year ago I had a pain in my shoulder that didn't go away. I am still not sure what caused the problem but it started with a tingling and got progressively worse. Over a period of a few weeks, it turned into a condition called frozen shoulder, when the large bone of the arm sticks to the shoulder blade. I could not raise my right arm above my head and had a hard time doing even simple daily tasks like getting dressed or reaching for something from a high pantry shelf.  Read more...


 

An Ounce of Prevention? Maybe

An Ounce of Prevention? Maybe
I’ve always figured that the fewer medications I take, the better. If there’s something wrong with me and a drug can help, I might not have much of a choice. But dose myself daily to prevent something that might never go wrong? Every drug has some side effects. For me, it’s a hard decision to make.  Read more...


 

How to Use Your Brain in Perpetuity

How to Use Your Brain in Perpetuity
As I learned the hard way eight years ago, when my husband, Scott, began the downward spiral of dementia after suffering a traumatic brain injury, doctors are loath to admit they know little about what causes dementia and nothing about how to prevent, treat or cure it.  Read more...


 

Overdosed?

Overdosed?
When doctors prescribe new medications for me, I always wonder whether they’re getting the dosage right. There’s a reason I’m wary, and it has nothing to do with distrusting my doctors personally.  Read more...


 

He Was His Own Miracle

He Was His Own Miracle
There’s an article elsewhere on this Web site that expresses doubts about something I believe in. There’s no scientific evidence, it says, that thinking positively can keep you healthy or that being determined to fight back against an illness can help you heal. I’m not a scientist, but I’m convinced that the mind can profoundly influence what goes on in the body because I’ve seen it happen.  Read more...


 

One Benefit of Dementia

One Benefit of Dementia
Sweetheart that he is, my 80-year-old husband is usually very cooperative, despite severe dementia resulting from a traumatic brain injury suffered five years ago. But for the last year or so, he has recoiled from anyone, including me, who approaches him with a sharp instrument, making such normal grooming acts as nail clipping and beard trimming, as well as necessary blood drawing, all but impossible. Consequently, his toenails were so long, they were like knives, one even cutting into the neighboring toe until it bled.  Read more...


 

When Behavior Speaks

When Behavior Speaks
I sat with my mother and her caregiver, Aliza, one afternoon in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home. With my mother between us, Aliza and I chatted about the hot weather we had been having. All of a sudden my mother hauled off and punched me solidly in the arm.  Read more...


 

Avoiding Drug Interactions Just Got Easier

Avoiding Drug Interactions Just Got Easier
My mom had a great relationship with her regular pharmacy. In addition to getting prescriptions filled, a visit there included a dedicated, professional woman assembling our nonpharmacy shopping list so Mom could go to the back of the store and her “order” would be ready. On days when I was not free to drive her to that pharmacy, the backup was a drugstore with free delivery. They wouldn't add in a box of tissues or a magazine, however, so we used it as a last resort.  Read more...


 

Droneliness

Droneliness
Concerned about an onslaught of enfeebled old people? Don’t worry, robots will take care of them! American techno-optimism knows no bounds, and so-called “age-independence” technologies are proliferating like crazy. But in a profoundly ageist culture, the implications can be disturbing. Here’s a critique, based on the latest article to catch my eye.  Read more...


 

Oh. America. How Obamacare Finished Off Breaking Bad

Oh.<em> America</em>. How Obamacare Finished Off <em>Breaking Bad</em>
Any just society must reduce the despair occasioned by dire medical conditions.

This was one lesson, oddly, that could be drawn from the TV series, Breaking Bad.  Read more...


 

Regarding Alzheimer’s

Regarding Alzheimer’s
An empty shell. Doesn’t know who he is. Violent. Doesn’t recognize family members. Unable to communicate. The negative stereotypes and exaggerations of Alzheimer’s disease abound.  Read more...


 

Could Happen

Could Happen
Before the accident that left him like someone with advanced Alzheimer’s, my husband was an artist. After the severe injuries to his brain's frontal lobes, centers for the "executive functions" that enable us to conceive and carry out plans, he found it difficult to make art. Hoping to get him drawing again, I fixed up an "art table" and, as suggested by an art therapist, sat with him for at least ten minutes a day while he drew.  Read more...


 

What’s Behind the Growing Geriatrician Shortage?

What’s Behind the Growing Geriatrician Shortage?
I was delighted to see an editorial in the New York Times about a crisis in the making, the growing shortage of geriatricians. (Geriatricians are doctors trained to treat older adults. Lots of people don’t know that.) The way the editorial made the case, however, was deeply flawed.  Read more...


 

If I Lose My Hearing, Will I Also Lose My Memory?

If I Lose My Hearing, Will I Also Lose My Memory?
I don’t hear as well as I used to. For the past few years, I’ve had to strain to follow the conversation in a crowded room, and I’ve watched television with the help of closed captions for the hearing-impaired. But like the vast majority of other Americans who have some hearing loss, I put off going to an audiologist to find out whether I needed hearing aids. Then I read something that made me think delaying the test might be a mistake.  Read more...


 

Getting Out Alive (and Staying That Way)

Getting Out Alive (and Staying That Way)
My role as caregiver and advocate has me quite familiar with transitioning a patient from hospital back to home sweet home. In my experience, the weak link in the process is almost always with discharge instructions and expectations. Patients leaving facilities are overwhelmed with instructions they (and even their caregivers) can't understand; doctors' orders get lost and misinterpreted; one doctor doesn't know what the other has prescribed, and so on. When patients return home to an unsafe environment, unprepared to cope with new limitations, too often they end up right back in the hospital. It's a problem so pervasive that hospitals are now literally paying the price for readmissions—they're fined by Medicare.  Read more...


 

Check This Out

Check This Out
One day last summer when I was wearing cropped pants and flip flops, I thought my ankles looked swollen. Was I retaining water? Standing too long? Did I need a new pair of shoes? (Let's hope.)  Read more...


 

Mentors for Med Students

Mentors for Med Students
When my mother was alive, her medical care was spread out among specialists. She had an internist as her go-to, primary doctor, but she had a Rolodex of others to manage specific health issues: dermatologist, podiatrist, cardiologist. At one point she was referred to a geriatrician who we hoped would become a general contractor of sorts for Mom’s total care. Older bodies are different from younger ones. The same disorders produce different symptoms in elders, and they respond differently to medications and other therapies. Many doctors who are not geriatricians don’t know much about that. Sadly, the travel to the only geriatrician was far and the wait for a new patient appointment was months, so in the end she didn't go. Why is there such a shortage of geriatricians?  Read more...


 

Having the Talk—Not the One about Sex, the One about Dying

Having the Talk—Not the One about Sex, the One about Dying
A close friend’s grandfather is dying, though no one knows how close to death he is—perhaps months away. Even his doctor seems clueless, although perhaps he’s just not saying. In any case, he’s not asking. And even if everything were in the open and everyone on the same page—a pipe dream, I realize—no playbook would reveal itself. Dying is a concatenation of unpredictable events.  Read more...


 

How (and When) to Say ‘No’ to Your Doctor

How (and When) to Say ‘No’ to Your Doctor
In the 1950s, a doctor convinced my mother he could remove my sinus polyps with a brand-new, painless therapy: radiation. In those days, kids with adolescent acne were also getting radiation treatments. The polyps went away but the therapy was overkill. Much later, I learned that thyroid cancer is a possible side effect. Because of that experience and others, I’ve always thought that, except when I’m in dire straits, less is better when it comes to medical treatments.  Read more...


 

My Greatest Fear

My Greatest Fear
From my living room window, I look out on a pretty little park—and the nursing home across the way. I know someone who lives there but I haven’t visited her, I’m ashamed to say. The place scares me because it reminds me that there might be a nursing home in my future.  Read more...


 

The 411 on 911

The 411 on 911
Do you ever worry about what could happen if you ended up in a hospital and no one knew who you were? What would happen to you if you were in an accident and unable to tell first responders whom they should call?  Read more...


 

How to Survive in a Hospital and Fire a Doctor

How to Survive in a Hospital and Fire a Doctor
After six weeks in a Maine ICU, my husband, Scott, who suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling from a sleeping loft, was flown to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City for rehab.  Read more...


 

Shingles—Are You Protected?

Shingles—Are You Protected?
When was the last time you thought about chicken pox? Not since you were a child, I bet. A middle-aged friend of mine was recently diagnosed with shingles. It’s caused by the same virus as chicken pox, varicella zoster. WebMD reports that your chance of contracting shingles increases when you are older than 50, or if your immune system is compromised by illness, stress or medications.  Read more...


 

The Consoling Power of Art

The Consoling Power of Art
There are an estimated 42 million unpaid family caregivers in this country (including me), not counting the millions more caring for chronically ill or disabled children, so it’s a shock to learn that the first anthology of poems and short stories about caregiving has just been published in the United States. Not that there aren’t hundreds of helpful nonfiction books, journals, newsletters, websites, blogs, as well as memoirs and novels on the subject, covering every category of patient or need. But a single-volume collection of outstanding short fiction and poetry, reflecting many different takes on this widespread, life-altering experience, has until now been missing, leaving an empty space in our hungry consciousness. Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving (Vanderbilt, 2014), Carol Levine’s selection of fiction and poetry about caregiving by some of the most accomplished writers of our time, is an excellent start to filling it.  Read more...


 

Emergency Rooms Get a Face Lift

Emergency Rooms Get a Face Lift
According to a story on National Public Radio, people 65 and older are more likely to go to the ER than any other age group except babies. It may be time for hospitals to consider changing to accommodate the people they serve.  Read more...


 

The Love of My Life

The Love of My Life
I am inaugurating my new blog for Silver Century ten years to the month since the accident that catapulted my husband into dementia at 2 a.m. on July 22, 2004. Ten years! Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes like a lifetime ago, that Scott fell nine feet from a sleeping loft to the distant, hardwood floor, suffering the traumatic brain injury that brought to an abrupt end our equal marriage. In that moment, my partner, the love of my life, became permanently disabled, and I became his caregiver.   Read more...


 

A Shortage of Heroes

A Shortage of Heroes
I think my doctor is a hero and I once told him so. He’s a geriatrician—a specialist in treating older people—and a rare find.  Read more...


 

In the Air with a Chair

In the Air with a Chair
A friend received one of those worst-nightmare phone calls—her husband had had a skiing accident out West and was about to undergo emergency surgery on a very smashed-up knee.  Read more...


 

Who’ll Be in Charge When We Die?

Who’ll Be in Charge When We Die?
The lines used to be drawn more sharply for me when it came to assisted suicide, now more often called “aid in dying.” After all, I had in-the-trenches experience. My mother was a charter member of the Hemlock Society, the first national right-to-die organization. (It has since merged with Compassion & Choices, which works to “expand choice at the end of life,” and to which I’ve belonged for decades.) She did eventually commit suicide, a decision I’ll probably never fully come to terms with, but which I respect. Because she was unwaveringly clear, so is my conscience. I’ve promised my children I won’t follow their grandmother’s example. But I too hope to control the circumstances under which I die.  Read more...


 

Good News for Those with Chronic Conditions

Good News for Those with Chronic Conditions
In 2008, my husband pitched backward down a flight of stairs and suffered a brain injury that cost him his sense of balance. Despite the walker he reluctantly used after that, he often fell, and I was told that if he hit his head again, the blow could be fatal.  Read more...


 

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Our Mission

The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.

Notable Quote

"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."

Cicero (106-43 BC)