Wisdom from Edgar Allen Poe

The longer I live, the bleaker the future looks to me in terms of the quality of life.

I cavalierly stated a few decades ago, that the older we get the less we will be able to trust all the services we take for granted.

  • Mass transit
  • Healthcare
  • Food quality
  • Water quality

Over those years, this prediction became a horrible reality and then some.

We cannot trust our banking systems now, or the stock market. There are no real consumer protections like there were in the 60s and 70s. Keep track of packaging of groceries; the packaging is smaller but the prices remain the same or rise. That used to be a heinous fraud and consumer protections were in place to prevent it from happening.

Other production protection measures were in place to track the quality of items produced before they went to market rather than after the fact. Recalls were less likely in my youth than that of today.

Now, you also have to worry about what information is shared with you, whether it is a video or news item and who is the source of that information, has that information been doctored in any way to sway your point of view.

The quote above was written in 1850 in a work of fiction called The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether but is a fair warning for today’s false or misleading information engine.  Just the other day, I watched the journalist Anderson Cooper respond to an allegation that he falsified reporting on the last hurricane which hit the U.S. in the Carolinas.  It was footage of him standing in deep water while his cameraman filmed a few feet away in less than 2 ft of water. This picture went viral on various platforms where he was vilified for making much ado about nothing.

His response was adept in debunking the mislead allegations as to the source (a flood in Texas, several years prior to the current event), the science behind floods and the fact that the cameraman shown in the photo had died just a week or so prior.  He should not have had to do this, but there are people out there who feel the need to cause a rise in the masses for no other reason than to enjoy the show. People who like to watch the world burn.

Inciters so to speak.

I want to remind you that all people are lazy about fact checking what is fed to them on a day to day basis. I have fallen prey to the misinformation on occasion and felt the need to remind you to be vigilant that most of what you hear or see could very well be false and you are behooved to prove it before making any snap judgement. If you choose to be lazy then you become part of the masses (the herd of sheeple who follow the loudest noises) easily manipulated to respond in the manner that the informant wishes.

Check a variety of sources, check the backgrounds of the sources of the information to see what their true motivation is before assuming truth.

And even if you verify all the information is close to true; but the data has to do with a science of any sort, know that science is an every evolving discipline. What may be proven now could be disproved in a matter of months, years or decades.

The longer I live on this earth, the more I know that I do not know much. I am constantly searching for truth. So should you.

Listen carefully to what is said. Read everything with extreme scrutiny. Look for the faulty logic, the contradictions, and the outright lies hidden in the truth.  Know that a well crafted lie is woven within a series of truthful statements.

Only The Lonely

I said that I had more to write about those three weeks with my mom and I deliver.

It was a trip that was overwhelming with all the things to process. The actual things, the emotional things, the outrageous things, me wrestling with my conflicting things, and then the biggest thing.

The loneliness thing.

My mother had her mother for several years as her bickering buddy, her television watching companion, her people-judging partner, her fellow gossip gal, and dining companion.

They laughed, they bitched, they screamed at each other; but through it all, they weren’t alone.

Until Mimi died.

The one thing in which I differ greatly from my mother is that I am most content to be alone. I believe she has always been a social creature but too afraid to put herself out there. Mimi carried her socially. Was it social anxiety?

Maybe.

Mom had few friends of her own. She liked groups in her youth. A gang of friends with whom to spend time. She had a couple close friends in Germany but after moving to the States they held a fairly infrequent correspondence until that eventually faded away.

In the end, she had her mother, Mimi. They were friends in a loving, and yet, volatile way. Like a Debbie Reynolds-Carrie Fisher way, I suppose. Or maybe mix between a Joan and Christina Crawford way.

Their downs were dramatic for certain.

After Mimi was laid to rest, one would think that mom would have had an Earnshaw epiphany and realized now she had the freedom to really live.

I think she had some of it, but it was my sister who now carried her. Mom was not ever going to be brave enough to independently seek happiness for herself, make new friends, or build a career.

I think after the disease took hold and really presented itself, my sister could no longer carry her socially and the role of patient to caregiver began.

This meant hiring in care workers while my sister worked and it meant hours Mom went without human interaction. She could not drive anymore due to macular degeneration stealing her vision and the LBD made it risky for her to venture out to visit with nearby neighbors. (Although, most nearby she had some bone to pick with at some point.)

You and I both know we can go hours on end without any interaction except for television, books, music or the internet and relish in it.

However, imagine yourself blind and all that self entertainment is dependent upon your sight. Operating remote controls, not knowing what’s going on in a program (if you do manage to fumble your way to a show to watch) due to simply music and no dialogue. Much is lost.

Inevitably, loneliness sets in.

And boredom.

This is now an Eleanor Rigby stanza.

While I was there she had the 7/24 company she hadn’t had in years. We talked and watched shows, listened to audio books and dined together. The one thing I wished we could have done was taken walks together. She simply wasn’t steady enough on her feet to do that, however.

Having to return was the single most conflicting action of my life. I’m needed in my own family but I was beneficial there too. Every time I took a trip to the store I saw opportunities to just uproot and stay there. But it would mean starting over. There are no real job prospects in that area and it would mean forcing the whole family to forsake their paths for my sense of responsibility.

There seemed to be no right answer on this. Deep down, I believe I should have stayed longer. Everything inside me screamed I was failing her, I was failing my sister and I was failing my sense of responsibility toward family.

But I have an immediate family too–you and your father.

I knew when I returned, I wasn’t totally myself because I focused on her loneliness. Leaving her back to the hours on end without interacting with others. She spent some time in a nursing home facility after I left, so she had more contact with others but she fell while there a few times.  The trade off did not seem to balance in my opinion.

I made it a point to call her after I got back and it was a hit or miss when she would answer the phone. When she did, it was clear that our conversations would be superficial and tiring for her as she struggled to complete thoughts. I don’t want to frustrate her at all. So making the calls seems to be reopening a wound over and over for her.

This disease is complicated and difficult to know exactly how to help from this distance to combat the loneliness. I want help but I want her to rest as well.

My advice to you is to treat those who may be suffering from loneliness the way you would wish to be treated if you felt alone. Just be sure that in your efforts you are doing good in the process and not creating more pain. Take care with your intentions and act accordingly.

 

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The Injustice of Aging

You’re young. So very young. This post will seem like a lot of whinging about what a drag it is getting old.  You’ve witnessed several elderly patrons at your place of work fall; and as the compassionate soul you are, you have helped and identified the problems to management to assure the incident is not likely to happen again.  It is that kind of consideration that gives me faith in humanity.

I don’t believe you were aware of all of the things I witnessed while visiting my mom. As well as the things I am ashamed to falling prey as a caregiver having little to no experience with dementia other than my teenage self re-living the same frustrations I did when my great-grandmother came to live with us while she suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Society is bent on valuing youth; because… “The children are our future”. (Also the right end to a pageant question as proven by iCarly.)

However, these bright eyed gifts are molded by their elders. And they deserve some respect and care as they make their journey into the sunset.  This is merely to forewarn you of what lies ahead as you age.

It’s not just the physical or mental deterioration which you must endure on this journey. And might I just say, some of it was a complete surprise.

For example:

As you age, your digestion changes once again. To the point where you are slower to digest and certain complex foodstuffs you are not able to break down as you could in your youth. (becoming lactose intolerant was a shocker to me)

Your ability to see at night deteriorates as well. I recall my grandmother on my father’s side having me take the wheel after sunset in Laredo ( a town with which I was wholly unfamiliar)  because she could no longer see to drive. She drove a huge boat of a vehicle too.

Your kidneys are not as efficient as they once were. So they slow in the processing of wastes and you swell a lot if you tax them. (Think cankles and puffy feet) It’s actually painful.

Skin issues become a thing. Fungal infections, boils, yeast, suspicious growths, moles, skin tags, wrinkles, wens. Jesus I thought the dermatology visits were over when acne was resolved.

And this doesn’t affect you since you’re a guy… but the many plagues of menopause are shocking. Burning mouth syndrome, hot and cold flashes, mood swings far worse than PMS mood swings, the hemorrhagic instability of the in utero sloughing process. The sudden transformation into a carnival sideshow freak crossed with Frieda Kahlo. My beard if left to grow would be better than yours. I would stake a bet on it.

Your mind is not as sharp to grasp and hold onto items in short term memory. As you age it progresses while mid sentence. You cannot finish a fucking sentence while talking! Imagine the shame and embarrassment of that.  Some of it is funny like the “Where’s my [thing I cannot find but is on me the whole time]?” or the “What did I come in this room for anyway?” scenarios. Others are scary like losing a chunk of time and space while driving a route you’ve driven over and over. Or scary like attempting to place [some object] into [place where it does not belong].  And yet other are scary like not remembering if you had shampooed or rinsed your hair while you are in the shower. Or super scary like standing in that shower and not knowing what to do at all. You are simply frozen in indecision.

Aside from the obvious aging issues of diseases tied with old age, lifestyle based illness, poor reactions to viruses you once could recover with ease in your youth there is more.

There is harassment, discrimination and abuse.

Refer to this handy chart: 2018-08-17_14-56-49

I got to see some of this first hand while staying with my mother.

For the Financial Abuse:

  • The phone calls trying to scam her of money or scam her medicare coverage for services she did not need.
  • Care workers stealing from her instead of doing the work they were hired to do.
  • Neighbors charging her exorbitant amounts for services they had no need to do.
  • Pharmacy delivery people taking blank checks or forcing my mother to sign checks she clearly could not sign for the deliveries. (who knows how much they were taking out of her account)

For the Psychological:

  • Careworkers guilting my mother into allowing for them to not doing their job because she was not as bad off as they were.
  • My own response to frustrations of the symptoms of her disease as if I felt she was purposefully being uncooperative when clearly I did not understand how her functioning degrades as she grows more tired during the day.
  • Neighbors verbally harassing my mother over things she cannot control.

For the neglect:

  • Careworkers not showing up, showing up late, sleeping on shift, not doing the tasks for which they were assigned.
  • My mother not getting the right meds at the right time of day due to the mismanagement of her prescriptions in the pillbox
  • The horrible food choices delivered to her door once per day only 4 days a week. Never in a timely manner.
  • Not discarding spoiled or discarded food which might lead her to consume such by accident.

Luckily for my mother, I never once saw her physically abused. But that is not to say it didn’t happen in the nursing home. I have no proof of it.

There aren’t many protections or safeguards from elder abuse other than vigilant family members and case workers. As you grow older it becomes increasingly important to have a network of younger family and professionals who have your back. Don’t think you can go this alone.

And if you are obliged to become a caregiver to either me or your father, know these things:

  • It is exhausting.
  • It requires selfless giving, unlimited patience, compassion and non-judgement.
  • You become the parent of your parents.
  • There is support for caregivers when it gets to be too much.
  • It is a-okay to say you cannot do it and arrange for in home care or nursing home care.
  • If you choose to get outside help, you must never trust they have your parents’ best interests in their purview. Assume they are all out to take advantage of you or their situation to their benefit. Stay vigilant and always check up on their service.