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Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

I’ll be completely honest: I hate the idea of getting older. I am not at all comfortable with my number as it continues to go up..

Before this goes any further, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to get older. I know that people have terminal and debilitating conditions and I count myself as fortunate to not have gone through that as of now. I understand that there are people who are sensitive to this topic, but this blog is about dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with transitioning into this new territory because they exist and are valid, so no comments on how I should feel lucky to be getting older, please. I’m not whining, just processing. (But I will be wine-ing, later, at an acceptable hour. See what I did there?)

At 44 (yeep!) I feel better than I ever have; I’m healthier, mentally and physically, than I’ve ever been in my life. I (mostly) eat healthy and exercise almost every day. I’ve been seeing my therapist for around eight years now, which has done wonders for helping me with depression, anxiety, and my past. I’m deliriously happy in my marriage. While I’m not even close to knowing it all, I’m much more comfortable in understanding that that’s okay. But for the first time, I’m worried about this getting older thing. It isn’t so much about how I will look, although I admit that does bother me. I do my best to stay in shape, to eat right, drink a lot of water, and I use my moisturizer every morning and night, the way my grandma taught me, but I know that physical changes are inevitable. I do intend on fighting that particular aspect every step of the way.

What I will eventually look like isn’t what bothers me the most, though. What gets my stomach churning is the thought of being seen as less of a person because I will be old. I fear the perception that I will be feeble, the loss of control in my life, the lack of respect from younger people who won’t think I’m “with it”, the impatience of those around me. I’m afraid I won’t recognize that I’m not capable of doing things anymore, like driving. (Although, if my evil plan works and we move to London, I won’t need to drive anywhere, eliminating that painful milestone.)

For the record, I fully intend on being an independent, bad-ass, older person complete with tattoos, but I also know that an accident or disease could take that choice away from me in an instant. I’m also downright terrified of having dementia or Alzheimer’s. It was painful to watch both of my grandmothers decline mentally and physically. I’m sure it was loads more painful for them to go through: the confusion of the disease and the understanding in their lucid moments must have been terrifying. I’m hoping to escape their fate and doing everything I can to ward off those demons: puzzles of all sorts, reading, exercising, and drinking my red wine faithfully. (Don’t laugh, there are tons of articles on red wine preventing dementia. Who am I to discount research?)

I know that this is a long way off yet, but I see signs. There are fine lines forming when I look in the mirror. I have two adult children, one who is living completely on his own, with a teenager close behind. I remember things that happened twenty years ago like they happened yesterday. I actually need reading glasses now, which really sucks. I had been prescribed glasses for years, but I’ve only recently noticed a big difference. Marty thinks this is funny. Me, not so much. Certain theatre roles would be a bit ridiculous for me now, which makes me sad.

BUT… I saw a post today from a friend who’s only a bit older than I am and she was absolutely embracing the idea of getting older. It was about the freedom to be yourself, having less of a filter, and being comfortable in one’s body. I want to feel that way, I want to get there mentally. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. My therapist says to not dwell on things that haven’t happened yet and might not ever happen. The key is thinking positively and planning for what you want to happen. There is a 103-year-old woman who still runs competitively and was on the news a couple of weeks ago. I’m aiming for that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do all of things that I’ve been doing not only because it will combat the bad aging stuff, but also because it’s fun.

That includes the red wine. Obviously.

Salute!

Red Wine

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Dear Boyos of Mine,

It’s time to think of the future. One day, I will be old. My plan is that I’ll live to be a feisty old lady with no serious illnesses and will die peacefully in my sleep, many years from now. In London. I can then just be quietly cremated with no fuss, because I will have lived a good long life. It’s a good plan, I like it.

There is a chance, though, as with all older folks, that I may not be able to take care of myself, for whatever reason. Your dad will handle it if he is able to, but the job may fall to the three of you.

I figure that I have at least a 50/50 chance of keeping my wits about me as a senior. Both of my grandmothers had forms of dementia/memory loss and had to have full-time nursing home care while my grandfathers stayed mentally sharp and passed away from physical ailments. Meanwhile, I am following every piece of advice that I can to stave off any future mental and physical issues including eating (mostly) right, daily physical exercise, music, mental workouts, and my absolute favorite, drinking (at least) a glass of red wine a night. (Don’t tell me that grape juice has the same effect. It’s not nearly as nice.)  I am truly trying to be a future trouble-free old person and lessen the burden on the three of you. But just in case you do have to put me somewhere, here are a few of my requests in advance.

  1. Don’t let the nursing home staff put little bows in my hair. I am not a poodle.
  2. Please, please, enforce my DNR. One thing that terrifies me is not being able to take care of myself and being totally dependent on others to live. Just let me go.
  3. If I say bad words, it’s okay to laugh. I went to visit one of my grandmothers at lunchtime in her nursing home a couple of months before she died. There was a lady sitting across from her being fed by an attendant who would smile wickedly, look at her attendant, and say, “Puta” (Spanish for “prostitute”) to her instead of eating her tapioca, or whatever pudding it was. The attendant would gently tell her that that it wasn’t nice to say that, whereupon the lady would smile and giggle like a naughty child and say it again: “Puta”. The attendant was struggling to keep a straight face, as was I. It was very much like listening to a toddler swear. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She knew exactly what she was doing, she was trying to get a reaction, and she knew that she nailed it. Please allow me moments like that if I’m stuck in a care facility. Humor is vital, especially in that kind of situation.
  4. Don’t talk to me like a baby. Give me my dignity. I gave birth to all of you, for God’s sake, after many hours of pain. I might be a little mentally compromised, but I’m still your mother. Try to have a normal conversation with me.
  5. Don’t let them dress me in stupid clothes. No sweatshirts with kitties or unicorns on them. I don’t wear them now and I won’t want to wear them then. I’m not five.
  6. Make sure I get a little red wine everyday. It will make me happy. Our neighbor’s mother, who is going on 102, still gets her little bit of happiness every day. Make it happen.
  7. Bring my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see me once in a while. Enough said.
  8. Don’t feel guilty for having to put me there. I can’t say how I will take it when and if the actual decision is made, but know that now, consciously, I understand that you will do what you need to do. Hopefully, I’ll make it easy on you. Dealing with the various debilitating mental issues of the elderly, or of anyone for that matter, takes a huge toll and can be more than a full time job. I don’t want you to exhaust yourself making sure that I don’t go wandering in the middle of the night. As long as I’m receiving good care, ease your mind about the whole thing.

I know, and pray, that this is probably far in the future, but I don’t want to put this off until then because if I wait, I may not be able to articulate this to you all. After watching my grandmas go through it, it terrifies me to think that it could very possibly happen to me one day, but I need to face that fear and have an outline in place.

Getting older is scary, it’s different for everyone, and I’m a control freak, as you well know. If all goes well, you won’t have to deal with any of it, but if not, just print out a copy of this and all will be fine.

Love you all,

Mama

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