Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Another season is beginning.

Public Television has brought out their Christmas concerts and married them to fund raising pledge drives. PUD is busily hacking tree limbs away from power lines. Snow plows and sanding trucks are lined up at the mountain passes. Sensible drivers who must traverse those passes are buying new tires for their cars.

Every evening more of our neighbors drape lights around their roof lines. We bought new outside lights last year and stored them so cleverly that we needed to visit Ace Hardware and purchase new this year. The cardboard point-of-sales signs declared our lights were priced 50% below usual. $9.95! But since the cardboard wrapping the lights made the same claim, I am suspicious of a marketing conspiracy. Our lights are 50% smaller than the LED bulbs sold at $15.95.

Our new lights are mounted on the back of the house so they can be seen by the hundred some neighbors coming up Ocean on their way home. We also purchased pre-lighted swags to drape over the dining room doors. They can be seen from 51st Place cul de sac through our front kitchen windows. We only have five neighbors who might turn their heads as they anticipate the corner, so these are interior decorations.

The swags also serve as our tree. Heeding the admonition that what goes up must come down, we have conserved our energies and declared our decorations sufficient.

November 2010 the bulb in our front light post died and Harvey replaced it. He gave our residents the choice of red, green, or white. The discussion was hilarious and we ultimately voted for green. It has been green all year and is still shining appropriately for the 2011 Christmas season.

Maxine Kumin has written a book of “Essays on a life in Poetry.” Her title is Always Beginning.

In the midst of change and decline there is always a beginning of something new. We may not appreciate the resulting status, but homeostasis runs in our blood and we adjust. Each day brings a new beginning.  Four times a year, a new season.

Kumin, Maxine. Always Beginning. Essays on a life in Poetry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I give thanks today for elastic. The spongy strings avoid necessary strain to get a button through the hole.

I give thanks today for plastic. Lightweight and sturdy, it doesn’t shatter into thousands of glass shards. Colorful and whimsical, it gives joy to the user.

I give thanks today for fleece and flannel that softly wrap and warm us during our cold, winter rains.

I give thanks today for caregivers who take on the needs of our residents as though they were the risk takers, because they really do care.

I give thanks today for families who regularly demonstrate concern for their loved senior, but trust us to supply their daily needs of food and what comes after, comfort and joy.

I give thanks for each of you who read and respond to Adagio Lyrics. May you be blessed in your own thanksgivings.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Insanity is reaching 60 and expecting the body and mind to function like 40, or perhaps 40 as if 20.  No one ever wishes for younger than 20 because teenagers are insane. For that matter, I’m surprised anyone considered me of much value before 50. So much to learn and so hard to admit there was a world I didn’t know.

On her 70th birthday my mother exclaimed distress that she wasn’t perfect yet. I’ve never considered perfection a worthy goal. I prefer the connotations of flawless. The novelist’s lovely heroine was of flawless complexion with her every hair effortlessly in place. But how do you dig up gladiolas and replant garlic, chase children with no hope of catching them, hug a woman who has lost her baby, and retain the appearance of flawless. I guess that’s why our heroine exists in fiction.

We reach a point of decision: what is worth our time and energy? Why beat ourselves up when we need to set something aside for the time being?

We have all experienced being the caregiver whether with our children or parents, or a friend in need. In those times we can free ourselves from a lot of guilt if we relinquish the insanity of being perfect, flawless and especially the appearance of either.

In the Sept/Oct issue of Today’s Caregiver magazine, Dr. James Huysman writes on the Halloween theme of the mask of perfection. He identifies the danger of berating ourselves over our inability to do everything, and asks “who will care for you when you collapse from the effort?”

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Last night’s frost coats the neighbor’s lawn and roof with white sparkles in the morning sun. I knew it was coming, but the first frost always catches me unprepared.

The bird population at our feeders has for some weeks been the standard winter-hardy crowd of red finch, chickadees and tiny sparrows puffed to cold weather size. The frost on the neighbor’s car reminds me to move the hummingbird feeder closer to the house. I will need to replace the fuchsia with some camouflage as the tiny birds continue to feed all winter.

Today’s work fits into the allotted time, or not. My attitude for some years now has been that I clean our apartment once a week whether it needs it or not. And if something doesn’t get done then it didn’t need it. That goes for dusting picture frames, sewing seasonal placemats, cutting down expired asters. My ability to sit and watch sailboats chase white caps on the bay has improved with regular practice.

I am also learning to avoid shopping excursions that no longer serve me. Ross and Marshall’s irritate me with their bargains I don’t need and have no place to store. A collection can suffice at two or three rather than needing to buy another cabinet for 12 or 20.

I used to think that I was gifting my children. I hear friends use the same rationalization. The truth is that our children married spouses with their own opinions about what was important to collect. Rarely do they agree with mine.

When age and dementia remove us from our stuff, our children are stuck cleaning out the unfinished quilting and wood working projects. They will not appreciate the inheritance.

Our abilities and interests change. The ponchos we knitted and wore in the ‘60s are never the styles brought out in 2011. Nothing stays the same forever. Take a deep breath and let go.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Our current population at Adagio has shifted from Bingo to reading, and re-reading books we know we read before but can’t remember the plot or ending. Books of the past become a new present. Uno and Bingo are for sissies who can’t remember where they left their reading glasses.

In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby says “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”  Of course he’s wrong, but remembering the past famous people of our culture hints that we were once vital, strong and needed. We can be again as long as our wheel chairs are in locked position. Myrna Loy, Clark Gable and William Powell. Hubba hubba hubba. Lyndon Baines Johnson, the dirty rat.

While we are ensconced comfortably at the dinner table with no one asking difficult questions, we can enjoy the illusion that anything can be done again.

Our kids would no longer be the keepers of the driver’s license. The walker parked by our resident valets would truly be the Chrysler or Chevy of the 50’s. The phone call interrupting our meal would again be someone from our past who needs us to fix a problem in the present. We can walk, bend, dress ourselves and pick up our shoes from the floor. We can get an aspirin from the medicine cabinet independently without written permission from a doctor.

We would reinstate the past in a heartbeat. But first we need a nap.

Our families are often less realistic and argue against change more than we do. During the 30 minutes that the family visits we can fake attention and independence. They aren’t around when we can’t remember if the day is beginning, ending or somewhere in between. They don’t hear us insist we took our pills until we are reminded that we took them yesterday, not yet today. Our family is sure we can follow the directions on the plastic box, day and time.

We are important to them and they can’t bear the thought of losing us. That’s nice. But I think a part of going back to the past is that if we are of diminished capacity, they are the next generation at risk.

There is a time to live on our own and a time to admit to needing assistance. There are assessments a professional can accomplish easily. Then comes the hard part. Getting everyone to admit that the past is not the present.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Is Medicare Stuck in the 1960's?

When Medicare was enacted, it was intended to serve as the foundation of the health care system for seniors and people with disabilities. For years it was seen as a highly successful program that saved the elderly and disabled from financial disaster.

Many, if not most people continue to believe in the promise of Medicare. But this is a fallacy, writes Jane Gross, whose opinion piece, How Medicare Fails the Elderly appeared in the Oct 15, 2011, New York Times.

"Here is the dirty little secret of health care in America for the elderly, the one group we all assume has universal coverage thanks to the 1965 Medicare law: what Medicare paid for then is no longer what recipients need or want today,” Gross writes.

This change, suggests the author, is a result of advances in medicine that now keep people alive well beyond what was considered a normal life span in the 1960’s. Today, much of the care Medicare is mandated to provide does little if anything to cure illness and improve the quality of life of seniors in America.

Medicare will pay for “heroic” care for a senior dying from the natural process of aging. It will pay for diagnostic tests, surgery, and emergency room treatment. It will pay for Hospice.

But what it won’t pay for is what most seniors need: long-term care in a safe and well-run facility, and/or home aides and caregivers to help with the tasks of daily living.

Nationwide, the median annual cost of a nursing home in 2010 was $75,000; room and board in an assisted living facility, with no additional help, was $37,500; and the most basic category of home health aide, who can perform no medical tasks, like the dispensing of medication, was $19 an hour.

 “These expenses are left to the elderly (and their adult children) to pay for out of pocket until their pockets are all but empty,” says Ms. Gross.

Ms. Gross proposes that the “mismatch between what is covered and what is useful” is the “essential flaw” in the way Medicare operates today. Today there are 47 million Medicare recipients, a number expected to rise to 89 million by 2050.

Legislative action is needed now, says Jane Gross. Otherwise the health care future for our seniors is bleak. To read the full article by Jane Gross go to:  NYT Article