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Archive for November, 2019

“Grace” by Jake Adam York

Monday , November 25 , 2019

“Grace” by Jake Adam York

Are you thinking about food this week? I feel like I think about food all the time, but especially in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, which are full of preparations and menu planning. But of course it’s never just the food we are celebrating on this annual day of gratitude—it’s family, memory, and the flow of tradition through the generations. It’s the constant dance of change and continuity that make up our lives. That’s why, even when we try new and innovative recipes, we always save a place on the table for flavors and dishes that were handed down through the generations.

The Southern poet Jake Adam York captures these elements perfectly in his poem “Grace,” which I want to share with you for the holiday. It is not specifically about Thanksgiving, but I know that as we chop, stir, simmer and roast our way through the holiday we will feel the presence of our ancestors and family members near and far that he evokes so beautifully.

May you be nourished by these lines of poetry and by your own family traditions this Thanksgiving.


By Jake Adam York

Because my grandmother made me
the breakfast her mother made her,
when I crack the eggs, pat the butter
on the toast, and remember the bacon
to cast iron, to fork, to plate, to tongue,
my great grandmother moves my hands
to whisk, to spatula, to biscuit ring,
and I move her hands too, making
her mess, so the syllable of batter
I’ll find tomorrow beneath the fridge
and the strew of salt and oil are all
memorials, like the pan-fried chicken
that whistles in the grease in the voice
of my best friend’s grandmother
like a midnight mockingbird,
and the smoke from the grill
is the smell of my father coming home
from the furnace and the tang
of vinegar and char is the smell
of Birmingham, the smell
of coming home, of history, redolent
as the salt of black-and-white film
when I unwrap the sandwich
from the wax-paper the wax-paper
crackling like the cold grass
along the Selma to Montgomery road,
like the foil that held
Medgar’s last meal, a square of tin
that is just the ghost of that barbecue
I can imagine to my tongue
when I stand at the pit with my brother
and think of all the hands and mouths
and breaths of air that sharpened
this flavor and handed it down to us,
I feel all those hands inside
my hands when it’s time to spread
the table linen or lift a coffin rail
and when the smoke billows from the pit
I think of my uncle, I think of my uncle
rising, not falling, when I raise
the buttermilk and the cornmeal to the light
before giving them to the skillet
and sometimes I say the recipe
to the air and sometimes I say his name
or her name or her name
and sometimes I just set the table
because meals are memorials
that teach us how to move,
history moves in us as we raise
our voices and then our glasses
to pour a little out for those
who poured out everything for us,
we pour ourselves for them,
so they can eat again.

Posted in: Aging

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Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Monday , November 18 , 2019

Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

With the holidays right around the corner, many older adults and their loved ones are anxiously awaiting Thanksgiving. But even though the holiday is a joyous time for gathering with family and enjoying a meal, it can be overwhelming for some.

Many seniors deal with physical limitations, dietary restrictions, emotional health issues, and more that can make holidays difficult. Some are facing their first Thanksgiving without their spouse. Others don’t have family nearby and will be spending the holiday alone.

If you’re a family member or caregiver for an older adult, a little advance planning can help make all the difference. Here are some tips for making Thanksgiving a stress-free, special day for the seniors in your life:

Get Their Input

Many younger adults feel like taking on the holiday meal planning takes the stress off older adults, finally giving them a chance to “rest.” Unfortunately, a complete lack of input can actually make your older loved one feel left out and ignored. Regardless of their current health status, help your older adult feel involved by asking for suggestions on menu, décor, guest list, or anything else they may be able to help with.

Make Travel Arrangements

If your older loved one is travelling from a long distance to get to your house, consider enlisting some volunteers to bring them along. Many older adults are no longer comfortable driving, especially at night. Keep in mind that they may need trunk space for a wheelchair or walker, and items such as a lumbar support cushion or travel pillow may be appreciated. (Note: If they’re coming from an especially long distance, plan for a few bathroom breaks!)

Remove Safety Hazards

If you’ll have an older adult visiting your home for the holiday, keep in mind that many seniors have physical limitations. Before their arrival, remove any hazards (such as loose cords or area rugs) that could lead to trips and falls and make sure the bathroom is easily accessible. Also consider seating your loved one at the end of the table, so they can easily et up and move around if necessary.

Offer Appropriate Meal Options

Just like you wouldn’t invite over your vegan friends and only offer turkey, you shouldn’t invite seniors without considering their dietary needs. Most older adults have limitations to what they can and cannot eat – for instance, many seniors are on a low-sodium diet and should be offered an appropriate option.  In addition, older taste buds can make certain foods intolerable, and dentures can make it difficult to chew things like meat and especially crunchy vegetables.

Note: Many older adults get tired earlier in the evening than their younger compatriots and a nighttime meal can be exhausting. It can be especially tough for those who suffer from dementia, as they often become more confused and agitated in the evening hours. If you’re hosting an elderly guest this Thanksgiving, consider having lunch instead of dinner!

Help Them Feel Included

Large holiday meals often find several generations all seated around the same table. It’s easy for any one person – especially if they’re quiet – to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure that doesn’t happen to your older loved one by making it a point to include them in conversation and activities. One idea I love: During the meal, try to bridge generation gaps by asking everyone to share something, like their proudest moment of the year, or the thing they are most thankful for.

Final Thoughts

Holidays and other events that change the daily routine can be quite stressful and tiring for the elderly. Providing your older loved one with the support they need can help make the day more enjoyable for everyone.

One option? Consider hiring a caregiver to help out just for the day. They can make sure your older loved one has everything they need, while also allowing you the time to tend to dinner, socialize with other guests, and keep the party moving along!

Posted in: Aging

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If you’re spending your “golden years” caring for your  aging parents, you’re not alone

Monday , November 11 , 2019

If you’re spending your “golden years” caring for your aging parents, you’re not alone

You had your retirement all planned out: Working in your garden, visiting grandchildren, and plenty of travel. Not on your agenda? Caring for your elderly parents during your own golden years.

But many retirees are doing just that.

Longer life spans mean that many people are living well into their 80s and beyond – and their aging children are often their primary caregivers.

If you’re in your 60s or 70s and spending your days giving baths, making meals, and scheduling home aides for an aging loved one, you’re not alone.

In honor of Family Caregivers Month, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of taking on this monumental task – and teach you how to take care of your own health at the same time.

Longer life spans mean many retirees are still caring for their parents 

Older adults are now living much longer than generations in the past – and many adult children and their parents are now aging together. For some, this is both a blessing and a curse.

Longer life spans mean that children in their 60s and 70s are now caring for parents in their 90s and beyond. And while it can be a true gift to still have that relationship in your older years, it can also create unforeseen hardship.

Why? Because many adults assume that their late 60s and beyond will be a time of life when they can finally give up some responsibilities and relax. But the work that goes into caring for an aging loved one can make that nearly impossible.

Family caregiving can take a financial toll 

One of the most difficult parts of caring for an aging loved one can be the financial responsibilities. Besides forcing many to abandon their retirement dreams, family caregiving can also quickly deplete saving and other financial resources. In fact, more than a third of caregivers say they began saving less after taking on the role.

Even though money from Social Security and state programs can help pay for expenses, the funds are often not enough.

For many retirees, covering the remainder can mean dipping into a nest egg or even selling their own home. Once the money is gone, they may have to cut back on home aides or skimp on other necessities, furthering their own stress.

Even for those who still work a “regular” job, financial hardships can hit in other ways. Many (especially women) are forced to cut back on hours or completely give up their career. Others miss out on promotions or face constant reprimands due to missed time at work or excessively arriving late and leaving early.

Given the choice, however, of giving up their own retirement or putting their parents in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, many older adults will choose the former. Difficult as it can be, most feel incredibly fortunate to still have their parents by their sides.

 Older caregivers often suffer from health problems of their own 

Money problems aren’t the only hardships that come with caring for an older parent: Many retirees in a caregiving role report significant amounts of stress and anxiety, in addition to more serious health problems.

Studies show that boomer women have it the worst. When surveyed, women in a caregiving role report that they are 78% more stressed than before (compared to 66% of men). Half of them also say they sleep worse, 43% have gained weight, and 42% have stopped exercising.

In addition, many late-in-life caregivers are also suffering from their own health problems, unrelated to the role. These issues (ranging from Type 2 Diabetes to Congestive Heart Failure and more) can worsen due to the stress, physical demands, and social isolation that often accompany caregiving – and research indicates that these harmful effects can last long after a parent’s death.

Taking care of yourself 

The act of caregiving can be draining both emotionally and physically, and it often feels like a thankless task. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed and frustrated, it’s not just your own wellbeing that suffers – the quality of your care is also likely to diminish.

To alleviate overwhelm and keep yourself healthy, experts recommend taking regular breaks, getting routine physicals, maintaining social connections, and keeping up with exercise.

Many caregivers find self-care impossible due to the demands of their role, but there are ways to make it work. Depending on family members willingness and ability to help, others may be able to offer respite for a few hours. Other options include home aides and adult daycare programs (Medicaid often picks up some costs for those with limited resources).

To find out what’s financially doable, it may make sense to seek professional advice.  An accountant, for example, can help find tax breaks for home care and other services.

Bottom line

Caregiving is an act of love and sacrifice, and a very generous thing to do. Despite the hardships, many people consider it an honor to be able to care for those that cared for them.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and look at the big picture: Your time, attention, and effort are proving comfort to a loved one during their final years. It is a truly priceless gift.

Posted in: Caregivers

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