elderly

Take Note!

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I’ve always been a list maker and a note taker. This practice was not because I was always an efficient person, far from it. I raised four children as a single mom and either worked two jobs or one and double shifts. Without lists and notes my life would have been more chaotic than it already was. There was business meetings, new policy’s to learn, teachers meetings, event dates, birthdays, grocery shopping and on and on.
After the kids grew up and moved out I still found myself making lists and taking notes. I just never considered doing it any other way. I’m a big believer in technology and use it all the time, however, when I attempted to use my phone or tablet memo app’s or my laptop software I lost control of my organization and had to keep looking back at the memos so I wouldn’t forget. Seemed like I couldn’t keep anything in my thoughts. That made me curious why and how memory works in the brain so I did some research and found some interesting facts. Our brain uses two different types of cognitive processing when doing typing and hand writing. When taking notes on your laptop you tend to type quickly and almost every word you hear without processing the meaning or prioritizing the points you want to remember. When you type it’s mainly mindless transcribing and doesn’t require much brain activity.
When you are hand writing notes and lists it’s too time consuming to write down every word. You listen then filter out the excess and keep the key points. This selection of information engages your brain to process and comprehend. Since you “listen” with a different part of your brain than you “write” with, digesting and evaluating what you hear and writing it by hand, builds a link between the different parts of your brain and reinforces memory. You are stimulating a collection of cells in the base of your brain called reticular activating system which is the brains filter for information for what you are focusing on. That’s why when you hand write a shopping list you can usually remember most all the items without looking at it until almost time to check out but if you transcribe it on your phone you’re constantly checking it. This “link” allows your brain to place the information in long term memory rather than short term.
These facts make sense as to why hand writing is still the best way to remember notes and lists because of the way the brain processes. I never knew that way back then, I just grabbed the first empty envelope or scrap of paper and organized my life as well as I could. I love technology and use it every day but sticky notes are still my best friend. http://www.independence4ever.org

American Dream or American Scheme?

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Buying a home is the American dream but for many not the American opportunity. Crisis like unexpected job layoffs, illnesses, divorce and other “life happens” experiences can leave you with a credit score so low banks laugh when they see it. But, it’s your dream anyway and you’re tired of paying rent which won’t secure your future. You spot a sign in the yard of a decent looking house with “Rent to Own” bad credit ok and an opportunity has come knocking on your door. Sometimes this scenario has a happy ending but, more often than not, it turns into just another “life happens” crisis.

The reason is communication from the buyer and the seller. Here’s a red flag right at the beginning of negotiations, there is no standard rent-to-own contract. Each owner can, and will, include or delete options for their advantage. The wording can be complex and is designed basically to meet the state regulations you live in but the owner can adapt it beyond that. For instance you need assurance in the contract that your rent money goes toward taxes, mortgage insurance and home owners insurance so three years down the road it’s not put in foreclosure. Look at the last appraisal and when the last inspection was done. Make it very clear in the contract who is responsible for what repairs.

Also, at the end of the contract (3 to 5 years) you must secure financing on your own, up to this point the portion of funds the landlord agreed to put toward your home is basically to cover the down payment. Unless something has been worked out with the seller or there’s a clause protecting you in the contract you’ve just lost your investment and probably your home. There are success stories that have worked out well but make sure you are making the best informed choice possible. Here is a list of pros and cons to think about.

PROS

  • This transaction gives the buyer (the advantage) to lock in the price in advance, but if the home value goes down, he can choose to renegotiate the deal or move on.
  • Buyers could also get the upper hand — and sellers, the disadvantage — if the home’s value rises more than expected. Say the house is currently valued at $200,000 and the buyer and seller agree to a purchase price of $230,000 in three years. If the home ends up worth $250,000 in three years, the seller loses that extra $20,000.
  • An advantage of a rent-to-own contract for the buyer is that she has additional time to save for a down payment. A buyer also gets additional time to clean up her credit history if she has negative marks due to collections or late payments.
  • A rent-to-own home allows a buyer to try the area before he purchases a home. He gets a feel for the neighborhood, schools and overall environment, including crime rates. A buyer also does not have to wait weeks or months to move in while the inspection, appraisal and documents are gathered. He typically moves in as soon as he pays the upfront fee and lease payment.

CONS

  • Buyers lose their investment if they fall behind in payments. If a buyer pays $1,200 each month for a home, with $400 of the payment each month to go towards the down payment; they have accumulated $14,400 at the end of three years, as an example. If a buyer decides not to purchase the home, falls behind on payments or is evicted, he loses the investment.
  • A buyer loses out on their investment if he cannot secure financing at the end of the contract term. Unless he works something out with the seller or has a clause in the original agreement, he risks losing out on any fees or extra rent paid during the course of the contract.
  • Not all the money you pay in rent will go toward the down payment. Owners are the lenders and they are the ones who decide how much of your rent payments are credited toward the down payment and closing costs. Most owner/lenders will only allow a credit for an amount paid above the market rate for local rentals to be held for eventual home buying costs.
  • If you decide not to buy the house at the end of the lease, you probably won’t get a refund. That money is usually only returned to you when you buy the property
  • If the house is a “fixer upper” you may not have the extra money for material and labor to maintain it. Big items like roofs, foundations and integrity of the structure, if not fixed, could cause the home insurance to cancel for the owner. In addition because you are not the legal owner yet you cannot take advantage of the many organizations that could help with these problems at low or no cost. Even if the owner gives them permission to make repairs they will bill him because his resources will not qualify him for the assistance.
  • Watch out for “slum lords” who want the rent money but who do not want to spend the money to maintain their properties as required by legal guidelines. If you are buying it then the burden becomes yours. They can evict and resell to the next victim over and over.

Short Term Memory

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Ever wonder how a good waiter or waitress can take your order and that of other tables and never write a thing down? And they do this all night never making a mistake. Bluma Zeigarnik wondered the same thing about this phenomena at a restaurant while observing the same thing. She watched them for hours taking orders by memory then seemingly eliminating the memory once the food was served making room for the next order in their memory.

Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist, was intrigued and proceeded to find out how the short term memory worked. Using participants in lab tests she gave those tasks to complete without interruption and some tasks where she took them away before completing the task. Her discovery showed the people remembered the unfinished tasks twice as much as the completed ones. Understanding the Zeigarnik response it makes sense why difficult, hard to complete puzzles like Rubik’s Cube and TV serial type programs with cliffhangers at the close of each week have such a big following. Short term memory can’t dispose unfinished tasks easily. Like a computer it waits for you to come back and finish.

Understanding the Zeigarnik process can also help prevent procrastination by at least starting even a small piece of a project. If the task seems overwhelming and you are at a loss of where to start you can begin anywhere even with an insignificant action. Once it is in your short term memory, hanging in the air unfinished, you will be driven to complete it. It remains there like the puzzle and the cliff hanger. Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination. If you have a goal you are passionate to reach understanding Zeigarnik could be your road to success.

Bye Bye Landlines

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Hello? I think I’ve been disconnected!

What’s the future of landlines I wonder? I’m old enough to remember rotary dials in my elementary years and prided my ability to remember all my family and friends phone numbers. The sound of the ring was an annoying screech that you sprinted to answer because it automatically kicked off a fight or flight response in your body until you did. By the time it’s slow return on the rotary wheel for each and every number and finally connection you could make three cell phone calls and answer the door at the same time. But there was something comforting about holding that heavy handset spooned against your neck. Interruptions were taboo in polite society except for kids too young to ground them if they did. And of course the ability to slam the receiver down to show them you were fed up. That’s a whole piece of body language gone now. The red end button just doesn’t convey the same emotion.

There was no voice mail and no answering machines yet so if your sister was on the home phone with her boyfriend and you were languishing in the nurse’s office throwing up you just had to wait. That exasperating busy beep interrupted many opportunities to join friends going swimming or shopping too.

By the time I started high school the push button phones came out and in colors. You could also order one that actually fit on a wall with a 6’ cord. We bought one in Harvest Gold for the kitchen wall. My friends were pretty impressed. We had two phones now but you could only use one at a time. I was lucky because my Dad was a house painter who used the phone for business so we had a private line. Although my calls were timed by my parents at least I didn’t have to deal with the dreaded party line like my friends.

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A few years later they came out with “princess” phones that I fell in love with and that my dad said he would never use if it was the last phone working in the house. One of the problems with it though was the handset was heavier than the base so it was always in danger of being drug off the nightstand. Regardless, it was high fashion and made you want to sit up straight and cross your legs to talk.

Landlines made you want to stay at home to wait for those important calls like boyfriends and the latest gossip. The only time I drifted from it was to join the people I was waiting to hear from or a close neighbor. I could hear our phone ring two houses away, jump an evergreen hedge, slide into the kitchen and answer it before the third ring. The phone was every bit as addictive as cell phones are today. We were just more confined so the general public did not see people walking around on phones like today.

It was only 15 years ago that I got my first cell phone and only 5 years ago my first “smart” phone. I love the freedom to be available anywhere I go and I hate the freedom of being available. At my age if I turn it off every kid I have would be hunting me down thinking the worse. But, since I can’t jump those hedges and do nothing near sliding into the kitchen anymore I’m happy it’s always in a room with me. I guess evidently even businesses will stop using landlines and trade off to better technology. Will all the telephone poles come down replaced with more cell phone towers?

I’m just pondering though if my great grandchildren will even know what that box with glass is that Superman changes his outfit in.

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Pantyhose Anyone?

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Some of you won’t even remember pantyhose and it’s just as well. For some reason society back then felt it was an absolute necessity for nice girls to wear under their dresses and skirts along with a tourniquet called a girdle. The natural look was definitely not in. Just about everything you put together for a night of dancing, partying or visiting friends was fake. Wigs and hair extensions were in, false eyelashes, the girdle, perfume, plastic jewelry, make-up including fake blush and the dreaded pantyhose. It was all about others pleasure looking at you not your comfort.

You didn’t dare go to church, where ladies did not were slacks, or to a wedding or any event where you had to dress up or even your workplace with bare legs. Pantyhose was expensive so the average woman only had about three pairs. They would get runs easily, really easily. They came in different skin shades and some of the more expensive ones had what they called “control top” that was to hold your stomach in. These were made of nylon that stretched so unless your stomach was already flat it was wasted money. Then there were the “nude toe” so you could were them with sandals. Nothing like putting the fragile nylon right out there in front so they could snag everything they touched. They were HOT. I grew up in Phoenix and wearing pantyhose in 120 degrees should qualify as an Iron Woman marathon event.

So, I pondered why they were invented, what was the purpose? After digging in the history I found the answer appalling. The main function was to hide any scars or veins and make us more desirable to men. It’s just another example of societies expectations of women’s perfection. Pantyhose really exploded on the market in the late 50’s to early 60’s with the mini-skirt faze. But this generation would also bring it to a close with the feminist movement and the hippie natural look and the acceptance of women wearing trousers and jeans. Just shows you how much power women really have if they unite their purchasing power.

L’eggs, one of the largest manufactures of pantyhose, is trying a comeback but this throwback scheme is trying to influence young women who are smarter, more empowered and self-assured who are not interested in a product their grandmothers used. Tanning beds and ultra-rich lotions is all that’s needed now for a much more active and comfortable lifestyle. Plus the nylon material is not biodegradable.

I haven’t wore pantyhose since 1968 and I don’t miss it one bit. It’s also been almost that long since I wore a dress. Some things are best left in the past like suffocating girdles, garter belts, plastic jewelry and pantyhose.

Going It Alone

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Single mothers are tough independent multi-task women. I know I was one. But these attributes are hard won and not something you’re just born with. They are earned by falling to your knees a hundred times in despair then pulling yourself back up again. There is nothing to prepare you for taking on the job of both parents. No training before or during this journey.

Although my kids were my joy and the very motivation to put one step in front of the other I would find myself yearning at times for a partner to share my life with. My four children and my job took up most of every day and night. That rare moment when at last I fell onto the couch before bed my heart would weep for stronger arms than mine to hug me.

Unbelievably in today’s modern world the barriers single moms face are almost as many as when I was raising my children over 20 years ago. Most employers do not consider or accommodate situations like sick children, snow days at school, school bus schedules or special events a parent is expected to attend. Then there is the teachers who don’t understand why your child’s 8 pages of nightly homework is not finished or why they are not finishing their lunch in the cafeteria. And there’s the school nurse who reported you for not signing the vaccination release even though your child never brought it home.

It’s like we still live in a1950 society of two parent families with little tract homes and wives stayed home and tended to the children. Everyone knows better but the rules and expectations have not changed. Single moms have not only replaced the other parent, they have replaced themselves. Daycare is not only hard to find but can cost as much as 25% of your salary for one child.

In spite of it all it’s much better for the children and yourself to live in a more peaceful home without constant relationship conflict. The kids raised by a single parent have a role model in a woman who is strong, exhibits self-worth and is pro-active in solving problems by planning ahead. They become independent adults from the early years of necessity when I ran late or had meetings. My kids learned to cook simple things and side dishes as early as 12 years old. I lived by “notes” left everywhere like take crock pot out of refrigerator and turn on at 11:00, stay in the house until I get home, change into play clothes etc. They didn’t think twice about taking care of each other and that bond remains strong to this day. I was lucky in that my kids were spread enough in age to have older ones watch out for younger ones.

Yes, it was a challenge, a big one, but every single little heart was worth it. When the empty nest finally came it was so lonely that I walked around in a fog for months until one day I found myself again, my 18 year old self before it all began. I drug her out from the back of my heart where I had placed her so long ago and began to reach for those dreams again before life happened. Only now I have these beautiful best friends to share it with, my children.

Acrimony

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Anger

Why, why, why are so many government workers rude? I’ve pondered this question all my life but especially during my 26 years as a disability advocate. I experienced people who conquered obstacles so difficult that the impossibility of it was stunning. They came in with pride not regrets of their condition because they had beat the prognosis. Then these same beautiful souls would get humiliated, ignored and embarrassed by some worker at social security, Medicaid or food stamp office as if they were slackers and loafers instead of incredibility courageous and independent. Why would anyone want to disenfranchise another?

There is no satisfactory avenue to complain about staff. Their jobs are very secure as they are protected under the Federal Government Employee’s Union. It is almost impossible to get fired as long as they perform the essential functions of the job which is correct and timely paperwork and does not include politeness. Performance reviews are based on job duties alone and merely being rude to a citizen needing help apparently doesn’t qualify as dereliction of duty. Essentially you’re in for life unless you want to quit.

There is absolutely no incentive to treat people like human beings. In the private business sector these individuals would not last a day. You wonder if these civil workers are products of lower upbringing and enjoy their temporary power over someone who doesn’t understand the overly complicated system.

There needs to be some drastic changes to a system that encourages efficiency over empathy. The government needs to hold their staff to a higher standard and eliminate the “us vs them” mentality. There are many good staff in these government offices also but they are overshadowed by the ugliness of their co-workers and suffer the same reputation they don’t deserve.

A few things you can do are let the supervisor know how you appreciated a good staff. Complaints never go anywhere but compliments do. For bad situations get in touch with your U. S. Congressmen’s office. Helping constituents cut through red tape is the kind of stuff that makes happy voters.

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” ― Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms

Social Movements – Good or Bad?

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Social movements are the cornerstone of the American freedom of speech. Like tiny rebellions they are everywhere and the number and scope keeps growing and expanding. Social movements are a major vehicle for ordinary people’s participation in public politics. This political or cultural conflict is formed from a shared collective identity. Some of the more well-known movements are civil rights, feminist, disability, anti-war, Ku Klux Klan, Labor, environmental, Christian fundamentalist and a list of at least a hundred more most of us never heard of. Whether you agree with a movements agenda or not it is a groups right to protest and if successful, bring about social change.

I’ve belonged to a few briefly throughout my life but found myself less and less active because I eventually found myself in conflict with the movement’s conduct more often than with the barriers preventing social change. Social influence can be a powerful tool used to create conformity. It can be used constructively or destructively depending on the agenda of the dominate members. As humans we crave to belong, to be part of something and to fit in. How far we are willing to adjust in order to gain acceptance and avoid rejection depends on our level of self-confidence and strength of our self-identity. Conformity is the engine of “movements” like the Civil Rights Movement or the Disability Movement. By color or disability you are automatically accepted but may not necessarily agree with every concept or ideal that comes from the groupthink meetings forming them.

Groups base their success in the advocacy arena on projecting a united front. Although the discrimination barriers they are fighting to remove may never have happened to you there is a feeling of guilt if you don’t join and support the movement. The same person who belongs, however, usually acts, dresses and speaks differently at work or church or around gatherings that include non-disabled or Caucasian peers. It’s that compelling need to be accepted in our surroundings that pushes aside the true identity of most people. Although well intended most of these groups demand unquestioned allegiance and discourage individual thinking. Conformity in purpose, conformity in thinking, conformity in actions.

Even when given the opportunity to voice their opinion in a groupthink meeting most members would rather stay silent than be ridiculed by the dominate members. This lack of speaking up is brought on by a member or members so overbearing and intolerant of others opinion that intimidation rules the meeting. The consequence is that the group is weakened by members who do not have full buy-in of the purpose they are fighting for. These disenfranchised members speak differently when alone but are paralyzed by fear of rejection to speak up in the group.

This kind of intolerant atmosphere can easily be used destructively to incite members to action like hunger strikes, property damage or even riots. Those who are not comfortable with conflict get swept along regardless because of the need to impress the others. To them it’s not about the purpose as much as it’s about performing to the expectations of others. Some “movements” have made much needed social reform and have been very successful in building cohesiveness among their followers. However, I’m very careful when participating in any movement and observe if there are dominate leaders who do not encourage others ideas and questions. If I see it exists, I’m out of there.

Keeping Up with Technology No Matter Your Age

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Seniors traditionally are uncomfortable with change. They resent products and services disappearing and morphing into newer versions or eliminated altogether. For this group it also comes at a time when their synapses might not fire as quickly, memory is becoming harder to retain and even focus takes more effort. The Baby Boomers have been using technology for the last 30 years but did not grow up with it so learning curves are difficult the new improved is relentless. Many of us didn’t even have TV’s during our early elementary school years. Our learning curves involved how to work physical things like bicycles, swimming the breast stroke, skating, sports or creative arts.
Life moves onward so fast now. Like being on a really fast merry-go-round things past by in a blur but as it slows down periodically you begin to recognize the landscape and all of a sudden you notice things are missing since the last time you slowed down enough to notice. There are no pay phones, big blue mail boxes sitting on corners, VHS rental stores, paper maps or full service gas stations to mention a few and on their way out is land lines, CD’s, music stores, small bookstores, classified ads, cameras that use film, wrist watches, yellow pages and DVD players.
There are many I did not get around to mentioning that have already been phased out and much more in the process right now. However, there is an upside to this ever moving, ever changing, momentum of progress. New technology has and will continue to open doors of freedom for all ages. The ability to multi task well into the golden years is made possible by cell phones, web search options and wireless design. Being older or disabled is no longer confining because of the safety of cell phones to stay in contact. As they say “knowledge is power” and web research gives you unlimited power. Entertainment is enjoyed through internet TV which can stream movies as well as offer closed captioning, hearing enhancement and visual settings for low vision.
Social media sites enable seniors to keep in touch with family no matter how distant and web cam opens yet more doors. In my opinion the time spent over coming frustration and fear in order to learn new technology is well worth it. It will literally set you free to enjoy life independently and on your own terms. If you want to age in place be sure to put cutting edge technology in that place. http://www.independence4ever.org

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Expostulation!

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Anger

April – 1989

Recovery was slow and tormenting. It took almost two weeks to wean me off the ventilator that had pushed oxygen into my lungs for 91 days but my lungs were ready to take over now. They finally cut my medications back so I’m beginning to think more clearly and remember a few things before the illness. I have permanent systemic nerve damage and severe hand contractures, I may or may not walk again and I cannot raise my arms above my waist, I still try to make sense of what happened to me and why but I’m ready to push through whatever it takes to get my life back.

Soon as my ex entered the room I demanded he tell me where the children were and why I have not seen them. His shoulders slumped and he looked at the floor which immediately raised my anxiety level. He then explained our son was with him but the girls are in Arizona because my youngest daughter, 13 years old, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Non-Lymphoma stage 4 the week I went into a coma. A parent had to sign for treatments so her father came and took her and her sister back to Phoenix.

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I stare at him in disbelief but I can tell it’s true. My mind is spinning and a silent primal scream comes from a place so deep in my Soul that I am trembling. Finally I find my voice, “CANCER? CANCER”? I thought my life was in chaos before but this is bedlam. “I have to talk to her, I plead. “No I have to go to her”, I yell. I’m thinking of three days ago when I sat up for the first time and only lasted a few minutes before passing out. I am beside myself with agony with the realization of the debilitating status of my body. This can’t be happening! We were all a healthy family just last summer. Its late evening so the nurses said they will help me call her in the morning and that helps to calm me a little.

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I can’t sleep from overwhelming fear for my daughter. I shut my eyes when anyone comes in so they won’t give me any strong medication. I can’t wait until morning when I can hear her voice. But, sometime during the night they caught on I was faking and without my knowledge gave me a huge dose of valium through my IV. I was out for two days. Another two days of my life gone. I was beyond furious. The realization they could take complete control of me “for my own good” was a sickening reality and a horrifying one. The only other facility legally allowed to do that is incarceration.

I demanded they hold the phone for me to call my daughter. I felt better talking to her. She was finishing her chemo and radiation in a few months. I wanted to hold her, to rock her. She was so brave and so strong and without her mother. I promised soon as I got out of this hospital and she was finished with treatments she would come home. I called her every night.

Anger was my motivator and I used it to push myself to overcome each physical barrier that would qualify me for discharge. I was in constant fear they would drug me again “for my own good”. I tried to act the right way, say the right things, and not ask for pain medication. It was more stressful than the permanent disabilities I was left with. I lied about having home supports, going to an accessible house and a scheduled appointment with rehab in Pensacola. I was actually going home to an RV, no supports except for a 7year old son and an ex who I continually fought with. There was no way I was going to a 6 month rehab treatment as recommended. I knew by now this satellite hospital had no follow up staff to verify my story. I wanted to bring my daughters home as soon as possible and I no longer trusted the medical field to compromise with me or to honor my decisions.

By the beginning of May I was finally going home. The real struggle was just beginning.