Category Archives: successful aging

Taking Care of the Caretaker

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

PICT1615Some of us go willingly into the role of caretaker, and some of us are thrust into it without being consulted. Examples of voluntary caretaker roles are: parent, teacher, nurse, pet owner (yes, owners of sick pets have been found to have more than normal stress, anxiety, and depression.)

Some people deliberately choose caretaking involvements, and thrive on them. But, what about when the role of consuming, full-time or almost full-time caretaker ensnares us when we hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t desired it, and it does not fit our personality type?

A typical scenario might be when an ailing spouse requires ongoing, long-term care. There may be no one else available to step into the caretaker role other than the remaining, healthy spouse. Other examples might be when children have to care for an aging parent, or when parents have to care for a child who has become permanently disabled. We’re not talking here about just bringing them lunch in bed. We’re talking about hands-on care of their bodily needs and functions, entertaining them, transporting them, and maybe even supporting them financially.

You might be a caretaker from afar. Maybe you are responsible for someone in a placement of some sort or who resides a long distance from you. Perhaps you’re the go-to-person for any problems, crises, concerns, questions, etc. Although your life is not necessarily hampered on a continual basis, that responsibility is always capable of demanding instant attention from you, superseding anything else you had planned. You live with an underlying tension, never knowing when your remote caretaker duties will kick in.

You may feel overwhelmed and no longer able to cope with that role no matter how much you are concerned about your charge? You might find yourself becoming resentful, angry, bitter, impatient, irritable, stressed out, etc. This can lead to negative behaviors toward your dependent such as yelling, ignoring, pushing, or worse.  After that, you may feel guilty as he/she did not choose to require caretaking and is helpless to help you. Cyclical emotions such as these can spiral you into depression which renders you less capable of being an effective caretaker.

To the outside world, sympathy and attention usually goes to the sickly or helpless one. People rarely have much left for the caretakers, or even think of them as needing any. Yet caretakers burn out. Caretakers may become sick themselves simply from the job of caretaking.

So what can you do to break this cycle and stay relevant and capable in your role as a caretaker?  How can you take care of yourself, not only for you, but for your charge? Both you and he/she need you to remain strong emotionally and physically.

You can seek respite from time to time. Find outside activities that bring you pleasure and enjoyment. Take breaks from the caretaking business just as anyone with a job has weekends or other days off and takes periodic, longer vacations. In short,  refresh yourself on a regular basis.

To do this, you need someone or several someones to step in as a substitute caretaker while you’re gone. Start seeking suitable candidates. These might be your children; other family members; friends; neighbors; members of your church, synagogue, or temple; hired help; volunteers from an organization; home-health aides referred by an insurance plan or a governmental agency, etc. You must do this for yourself, even if you feel that no one else can take care of your ward as well as you can.

By taking better care of yourself, you are indirectly taking better care of the one  who is dependent on you. You return to duty refreshed, in a better mental state, and with a better outlook knowing that your next break will come soon.

***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: Cindy Funk via Visualhunt /  CC BY

 

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, second acts, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Boredom

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Cat yawningWe come into this world yawning with boredom, and go downhill from there.  Recently, in my philosophy class, we were having a discussion about whether we would want to live an extra hundred years. One class member commented that he would not want to do so, because by that time, he probably would have done or learned everything interesting, and life would be just too boring.

We all laughed while nodding in agreement. Yes, we scurry from boredom the moment we encounter it. Humans seem to need constant engagement, constant entertainment, constant stimulation.

We don’t just sit around and do nothing. When we are not actively involved in a goal oriented pursuit, we will grab a book or magazine, turn on the television, check our iPhones, surf the web, go shopping, and on and on. We flee boredom like it’s a disease. The idea of nothing new to learn, nothing new to experience, only eternal boredom is horrifying.

I am always weighing the amount of stress I put myself under against the boredom that I can’t tolerate. I’m trying hard not to cram too much into my life, but it an ongoing challenge. Every time I hear about something that sounds exciting, I want to get involved. Like usual, I’m involved in too much stuff. It’s so difficult to pick and choose, because it’s all interesting.  Everyone lives with the dichotomy of that struggle between boredom and stress.

A few years ago, a friend visited me with her daughter and two young grandchildren.  We chatted for a short time whereupon the oldest child announced, “I’m bored.”  My friend’s daughter quickly wrapped up our conversation, telling the child, “Okay, okay, we’re going.” I’m not passing judgment one way or another on her parenting skills.  However, the child could have been encouraged to walk around my house observing all the interesting things I have displayed on shelves and walls.

So, how do we grownups combat boredom?  We can whine to anyone who will listen, pandering to be entertained.  Or, we can adopt the old adage about making lemonade out of lemons.  We can walk around wherever we happen to be, observing all the interesting things there.  We might actually learn a thing or two or ten, or at least have a pleasant experience. We can, also, accept the stress and learn to flourish under it, remembering that we can back away whenever we desire.

 

 ***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: Amanda Braz via Visualhunt /  CC BY
 

6 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, longevity, reinvention, retirement, second acts, seniors, successful aging, Uncategorized, wellness

Man in a Bucket

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Man in a BucketEach of us lives in a bucket–many buckets to be exact: our homes, our schools, our jobs, our extended hood, etc. Buckets are the catchment areas in which we roam, but they are for the most part relatively circumscribed. Some buckets are very small like that of the tree trimmer in the photograph, and some cover miles.  Our various buckets bump up against each other, and we move from one to the next.

It is our responsibility to participate in keeping our buckets pleasant, tidy, positive, and all other adjectives we can think of to describe a comfortable life. We do so not only for ourselves, but for others who might share them with us.

I remember standing at a bus stop once with a man who was also awaiting the bus. He was eating some sort of fast food, and dropped the wrappers as he finished each item.  I watched him as he opened his fist and, with as little effort as possible, let the paper, cup, or container float to the ground.  In a short time, there was a small circle of trash surrounding him, but he was oblivious to it.

What if we all did that rather than throwing our discards into the nearest trash can? We would soon be maneuvering our way through our bucket by scaling a garbage heap. It is an unpleasant and unnecessary way to live.

How about the emotional trash we discard in our buckets? Are we going to spend all of our time posturing and fighting with everyone else? What if we all did that?  Our buckets would soon be filled with anxiety, nervousness, upset, and negative feelings, also an unpleasant and unnecessary way to live.

Remember to do your part to care for your particular buckets, and encourage those close to you to do the same.  Buckets can be a comfortable, joyful cocoon, or they can be a stressful, distressing jail.

 ***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

4 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, second acts, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Rest and Regenerate

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

hummingbird-resting-2

Rest is mandatory for all animals to renew their energy and vitality including those living helicopters: hummingbirds.  I spotted this little guy hovering near a bush outside my window. Then, much to my surprise, he landed on a branch. I had never seen a hummingbird before that wasn’t humming.  I stopped what I was doing and just hung out with him.  Mr. H. stayed there for about ten minutes, resting, regenerating, and allowing his heart rate to slow down before continuing his frenetic activities.  Such a smart bird.

Hummingbirds’ wings flutter 80 times per second and their hearts can beat as much as 1,263 times per minute or as little as 50 times per minute when conserving energy.  Compare that to the human heart which beats as low as 60 and as high as 200 times per minute depending on age and activity level.

Do you remember to rest and regenerate?  We must learn to pace ourselves—land on a branch—and allow plenty of downtime in order to be able to function well when we are active. Rest and especially sleep have an unexplained yet proven impact on our health and productivity.  A very rare hereditary disease called fatal familial insomnia manifests itself in midlife to its victims and eventually renders them unable to sleep.  At that stage, death comes within months.  We cannot live without sleep.

Have you noticed that when you are not rested, your responses become dull and sloppy?  We make many more errors and bad decisions when not rested. It’s tempting to overdo. There are so many interesting and compelling projects and activities.  Sometimes, it seems there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. However, over-scheduling and cramming in too much becomes counterproductive.

Catching some ZzzsRemember to do your resting in a location conductive to that end.  Choosing a roomful of people, noise, and stimulation does not yield good quality relaxation to most.  If out and about, try to find a quiet, isolated place.  If one is not available, you might decamp to your car.  No car?  Try a stall in the bathroom.  It’s a one-holer, people are banging on the door, and you’ve run out of options?  Then find any seat and use the earplugs and eye mask you always carry with you in your purse, pocket, back pack, whatever (you do carry them, right, along with a granola bar for quick energy when needed?).  If all else fails, take a tip from this gal catching some Z’s on a commuter train instead of grabbing her cell phone to read her emails, navigate the net, or play mindless computer games.  Make it work for you!

Remember to schedule plenty of rest time into your life. It takes discipline but is an art that you must master.  Then, the things that you do participate in will be so much more fruitful and rewarding.

 ***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

2 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Playing Well with Others

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Children playing gameAre you a person who has trouble playing well with others?  Or, perhaps you know someone like that.  Getting along with other humans is a talent gained from part nature and part nurture.

It almost doesn’t matter what you say or convey to others.  If done in the right way, almost anything is acceptable.  For example, if someone is wearing clothing that you think looks terrible, you can say, “You look awful in that dress,” or you can say, “I think red looks so much better on you than blue.”  If someone is doing something you don’t think is correct, you can say, “Don’t do that!” or you can say, “I don’t think they want us doing that.”

If you’re not a natural at warm-cozy techniques of communication and are tired of people drawing away from you or completely ostracizing you, consider practicing some basic requirements.  Here’s a list of “musts” that I came up with.  Perhaps you can add a few of your own.

  1. It’s not all about you. Don’t spend the interaction talking only about your stuff or sucking the focus onto yourself whenever possible.
  2. Do show interest in the others present. Everyone wants a chance to be the center of attention for awhile.  Aid in that goal by asking questions of them, and really listen to their answers.  You show that you’re listening by maintaining consistent eye contact and asking meaningful, follow-up questions.
  3. Check your attitude. Don’t come across as irritated, impatient, hostile, pissy, etc. People don’t like that and will begin to avoid you.
  4. Don’t be the resident expert-in-everything even if you are. It gets old very fast.  As my father used to say, “Nobody likes a smart ass.”
  5. Be gracious. Say things like “thank you” or “that was really interesting” or “nice to see you again,” etc.  People love compliments and acknowledgement.
  6. Be aware of the tone and volume of your voice. Dial both down a notch or ten.  Practice exchanging verbal coldness for warmth.  Record yourself and listen to how you come across when you speak.
  7. Body language speaks volumes. Chill out and relax.
  8. Facial expressions are huge. Everyone is always reading people by the expressions on their faces.  Do yours come across as: sourpuss, angry, negative, critical, bored, disinterested, etc?  If so, practice in front of a mirror making facial expressions which are positive, accepting, warm, upbeat, supportive, interested, etc.  Experience how your face muscles feel with those positive expressions, and repeat them in public.

If you can’t figure out how to put into practice some of the aforementioned suggestions, study others who seem to do so effortlessly.  Then, wiggle into your actor robes and perform, using them as role models.  It may seem strange at first, but you’ll get used to it. Remember, the content is far less important than the delivery.

***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: Wootang01 via VisualHunt.com /  CC BY-ND

4 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Lighten Your Load

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Heavy load 1We all carry heavy, emotional loads around with us.  Some call it “baggage.” Whatever you call it, it exhausts you and depletes your energy.  This angst you create for yourself is manifested in: worrying, ruminating, stressing, fixating, obsessing, etc. over what has happened or what might happen.

The current, trendy advice is: live in the now. It sounds wonderful, but it’s so hard to do. We all suffer from mind drift.  So, how do you turn off your thoughts from remembering your upsetting, negative experiences? How do you control your reflections from worrying about life’s possible, future land mines?

Like acquiring any new skill, it takes practice—constant practice. It also takes awareness of when your mind is drifting to those types of deliberation. So, it’s up to you to work at lightening your own load. And, it will only be successful if you want it badly enough. Here’s an idea to get you started:

Develop the habit of checking in with your mind on a regular basis to see if and where it has drifted. When that drift is to a negative place, stay vigilant and replace those thoughts with something positive or at least neutral.  Use your environment as an aid.

In my new home, I have a variety of animal life that passes by. I’ve made it a point of stopping whatever I’m doing when I hear or spot a candidate from my window. I watch the free performance nature provides which puts my mind in a positive place.

That exercise can be done with all types of external stimuli found everywhere. For example, have you ever really looked at a flower growing outside? Don’t just glance at it; approach it and stare deeply at its structure. Notice each petal; notice the stamen and pistil in the center. Assess the color as it varies in shade from one part of the flower to another. Smell it. Does it have a strong scent, a mild scent, no scent?  While you are doing this, your mind is focused totally on the flower.

It seems like a constant struggle to take control of our thought patterns. However, like learning any new skill, it becomes a bit easier each time you are successful. The aggregate of many successful experiences makes you more proficient at the task. Keep at it and see if the outcome leads to more contentment in your life.  If not, you can always go back to wallowing in the turmoil your mind creates.

***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: feserc via VisualHunt /  CC BY

6 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Help: a Noun and a Verb

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

BART special seatingI had just exited the airport after flying in from out of town and was waiting for the metro to take me home. When it arrived and the doors opened, I realized I had hit it at rush hour. The car was crammed with humanity—standing room only.  That was fine with me; I liked the idea of remaining upright as I had been sitting on an airplane for two hours.

I positioned myself between a post and the back of a seat, holding on to the former. At the next stop, a boy of about nine years of age walked toward me gesturing to a seat. A woman, obviously his mother, was standing nearby and nodding at me. They had been occupying a place designated for the handicapped, pregnant women, and the elderly. To my consternation, I fell into the last category.  Even so, I am in good physical condition and was quite capable of standing.  However, the young boy looked so eager charged with his important mission that I simply couldn’t tell him I had no need of the proffered prime location. So I thanked him very much, walked over, and took my seat for the elderly.  The boy was beaming and looked at his mother who gave the requisite approval.

Sometimes, even if we don’t need assistance, it is a kind gesture toward the giver to accept an offer of help. People feel good when they assist others, and we can get some good feelings for ourselves by being gracious toward their sacrifice in our behalf—a definite win-win situation.

I think the same applies if we really do need help. What’s the matter with that? Some find it so difficult to request and/or accept assistance.  They feel it demeans them or indicates they are lacking in some way.  They might feel a burden that they must reciprocate. No, you don’t need to give like-for-like. Sometimes, there is no way to repay a good deed done for you. The only payback is to pay it forward and perform a kindness for another.

Offer help generously and don’t be ashamed to accept it either. We all need help from time to time no matter our age or physical condition.  Participate willingly on either side of this caring human interaction and reap the emotional rewards that it bestows.

 ***

Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

4 Comments

Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness