The Papa Visit Experience: A Day with Sam

Meet Sam, he's 91 years old and uses Papa once a week. He's been a Papa member since February and loves to go out with one of our Papa Pals to Dunking Donuts and Publix.

Sam has an amazing life story, that type of story you just want to listen to for hours. Here's a small clip of the Papa visit experience with Sam and Sarah, one of our favorite Papa Pals.

 


Including Good Health as Part of My Retirement Plan

I was ready to retire. I was growing weary and my health was declining.

After almost 13 years of being the only caregiver for my disabled husband, I realized that it felt like my life force was literally being poured out.

However, I still had much to accomplish in my long and lovely life.

I urgently needed to simplify my life in order to slow the pace and find a balance of my own choices.

So I made drastic but gradual changes, moving to Florida and reducing my living space.

I revised my budget to be sure I was living below my means. People wondered about me, but I was excited.

I asked myself, in the splendid shadow of Thoreau, what I really wanted out of this final volume of my life's book.

My desire was to continue my writing, spend time with friends and family, and work to achieve a more healthy lifestyle.

Eating to Live -- Healthy and Well

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Reading and listening to success stories had convinced me that I needed to aim for little goals and tiny tweaks to my daily habits.

So the first rule I adopted for myself was to spend at least 10 minutes in the produce aisle each time I shopped for groceries.

Pure boredom brings about taking a longer look at possible food choices.

This reminded me of my love for yellow crookneck squash, and I gradually began to experiment with eating a wider variety of foods.

stir frySince retirement allowed me much more time to cook, I valiantly resisted filling my schedule with busyness.

It seemed necessary to prioritize food first as I worked to revise my habits of cooking and eating.

I started fixing homemade soups, making it easier for us to increase our intake of veggies.

Sometimes I used a prepared soup as a base, then chopping four or five fresh veggies to sauté and add. Soups became a glorious expression of creativity and adventure.

Then I added the joy of stir-fry cooking!

Half of the time we had a breakfast of oatmeal with Greek yogurt, honey and blueberries all stirred in for fun and health.

A banana became a mid-morning snack.

Smaller Portions For Supper

I faced the fact that in our middle-aged working years we had gotten into the habit of eating our biggest meal of the day at night.

Also, much of our social life involved food in the evening.

As we made new social connections I kept two issues in mind. One was driving at night held decreasing appeal as my eyes aged, and the second one, finding social activities which didn't involve eating at night was now possible, and in fact vital for my plans.

I had known for years the value of eating more during the day and less in the evening meal, but the pull of work and social obligations made it a challenging task and easy to avoid.

So in my new life plans, I decided we would not eat anything after supper!

I eventually pushed that time to the 5 p.m. hour, with a goal of closing the kitchen at 6 nightly.

My husband and I went through a bit of withdrawal but eventually adjusted, even not feeling hunger after that time -- due to attending to protein needs throughout the day and at supper.

Afternoon snacks of nuts, fruit, and popcorn helped keep blood sugar level while providing a fiber and protein balance.

I placed special emphasis on whole grains along with better and fewer carbs.

There were very few no-nos other than smaller dishes and no eating after supper.

I tried to concentrate on what to do,  instead of what not to do!  So I poured my heart and soul into devising meals and snacks, taking time to savor eating.

If someone gave me a treat like brownies, I saved it for the next morning.

Then I could relish it with a cup of coffee or tea upon waking since I would have all day to use up those luxurious calories.

I allowed myself to indulge about once a week. We had lunch with friends on the weekends, and I enjoyed a small ice cream then. So I didn't crave anything since there were no taboos.

Moving Them Bones

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Everyone knows moving is vital for a healthy body. But how to weave this wisdom into habits?

We started with a 30-minute walk each evening. Since we were on a budget, taking a walk helped substitute for shopping (a habit many of us know all so well!)

Sometimes we added a mid-morning stroll. I've continued short 5-minute walking sprints of a couple of blocks several times a day.

I find that allows me to enjoy nature while taking stock of my day, providing much-needed pause to reflect or just "be".

When a local hospital offered a class on balance and later healthy lifestyle, we took the classes, each lasting several weeks.

This is when I started using ice and/or heat to ease daily aches and pains--preferring it to medications when possible.

A Date with the Dreaded Scales

standing on scaleFinally, I must address the buzz word -- weight!

For me, weighing each morning upon awakening helped me focus on my goal.

I know many prefer weekly or monthly weigh-ins, but this became a meditative practice to help me focus on patience and hope.

If I weigh too much, I simply am reminded to stay on course; if I have a good number, I'm encouraged to stay on course also.

However, when I didn't get around to the weigh-in, I somehow gave myself permission to stray from my goal.

I don't set big goals since I've seen that fail so often, I set 1-5 pound goals and celebrated even at 1/2 lb. losses.

I recognized staying the same as a kind of victory also.

My main goal all along was health. I considered myself a "senior in training" as I tried new combinations and broadened my horizons with more variety, spices, and the ever-fun reading of labels!

I made up new recipes as well as consulting Google and magazines for more workable ideas.

Workable for me means easy, using what I have in my pantry, and staying within my limited budget.

After over several years, I took time to reflect and realized I had lost over 50 pounds!

My family noticed a huge difference in pictures from then and now. I lost around a pound a month and continued to keep my goals quite low, aiming either for the next pound down or to hold my own without gaining.

Since I'd seen friends yo-yo with their weight, I wasn't interested in fast weight loss, so I concentrated mostly on health and not gaining.

Health is the Bonus of Living Well

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But the real bonus is that I am no longer pre-diabetic. Although my knees and hips are not cured, they are behaving better, providing pain reduction and increased mobility.

I have had tough times, as we all do, yet I seem to be holding my own. In hard weeks I don't pressure myself to improve; I work to hold my own and continue to have faith in the process.

When my morning weigh-in shows a rise, I keep that in mind, not starving, but remembering not to eat more than I need.

Sometimes I have chosen cottage cheese and salad or fruit for supper, reducing my quantity but maintaining my level of protein and variety of nutrition.

If I never lose another ounce I'll be OK. But I'll keep the weigh-in ritual because it reminds me that I live in my body and helps me focus on my health, making life better all around.

Even though I had taught that lesson to students for many years, it was time for me to renew my subscription to that vital reality!

Notice I never believed in diets. I strive for a healthy lifestyle where I enjoy food while keeping in mind its effects on my body and my life.

Didja hear me say I enjoy my food? On weekends I allow myself to fall off the wagon a bit and have a piece of cake or ice cream (chocolate please), then reducing my quantity at supper.

So I don't feel I have to give up things--just cherishing them judiciously:-)

Yup -- Smiling Helps

To top it all off, I've hung onto my sense of humor.

I tried to stand in my own truth while enjoying the humor of the medication marketplace where there were "experts" everywhere who knew exactly what I should do--give them all my money, ha.

And of course, they speak very quickly when they mention the side-effects including "a fatal event!"

Take That Body to the Doctor

I knew it was working after the first few weeks. Yet I also knew that my body was in a constant state of evolving toward old age.

You see, I had figured out that retirement is when you make a calling out of growing old!

So I kept regular medical appointments, even when I had no serious symptoms.

Got my cataracts fixed, started glaucoma meds (which could have made me blind had I not had that checkup), began to plan a colonoscopy (yuk), and did regular blood work.

Arggh, I even show up on time for the shot in the eye I have regularly.

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The data obtained from these sources also informed my daily living by reminding me to keep my blood sugar in check while maintaining low cholesterol.

I even keep my dental appointments since I want a healthy heart and good breath.

Besides, the time spent with my dentist reminds me to keep my daily habits strong to prevent the spread of inflammation, which I understand affects one's whole body.

So that is the take of my journey from being at risk health-wise to being ready to face the world in good shape and fine health.

And yes, I will have a slice of my birthday cake, as long as it's early in the day and my birthday comes only once a year.

OK, I confess, my friends and family have birthdays too; I"ll have just a small slice.

 


Preparing a Loved One for Assisted Living

When the Realization Hits

There comes a time in the life of a caregiver when it is painfully clear things can’t go on as they are.

This is where I found myself after several years of utilizing senior centers and even adult day care outlived their usefulness.

In my husband’s regular cancer followup, his specialist took several looks at me, the caregiver, and after discussing blood work and his general condition turned her focus on me.

She said, “You’re in trouble here; you need to find an Assisted Living place close to where you live.”

She knew I had been a 24/7 caregiver for 13 years.

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She had also followed his case for about 7 years, so she felt confident in her observations about “caregiver wear-out” and the increasing challenges presented by his condition.

Then and there, she spoke to him about the need for more help and he listened but gave no further response, probably hoping it would all go away.

As a caregiver, I had just gone through the process of realizing that placement is the right thing for my loved one.

After doing research and seeking professional counsel, it was time to embark on the road of making it a positive experience for the patient.

Caregiver Concerns

When I reached that point I was worried that my husband would feel rejected or displaced, so I devised a series of steps to lead him gently into acceptance of Assisted Living.

Being a retired teacher, this successive approximations approach made sense to me.

First, I weepingly told him over several days when he fell that I could not keep it up and that I was wearing out and losing my health.

This was right after three EMTs pulled him out of the bathtub—not once, but several times.

This event was becoming a habit. I spoke till I knew he was understanding.

Then I went to do some work and let him process that.

A Process to Introduce the Idea of Placement

A week later I prearranged with a good friend of ours to sit by him as we ate lunch after church.

I was strategically placed at the other end of the table.

I knew he respected her, so she asked him if he’d noticed that his wife was wearing out.

He was rather noncommittal but he did hear her and seemed to be processing that information.

To support this coordinated effort of enlisting help from friends and family I used the weekdays in between these social events to put out one clear message to him.

I focused on how I needed his help rather than his weaknesses. The message involved my need to regain and retain my health since it was getting too hard for me.

The next week I scheduled him to drop by and see our minister before services.

As they chatted she brought up the problem, saying his wife was in over her head.

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He became concerned. (Even though his life sphere had grown smaller, he did have a deep love and caring for his wife.)

The reverend said she’d heard his Doctor recommended a great Assisted Living place not far from home so I as his wife could visit more often.

The minister allowed him to express his concerns that he would miss his wife.

Then at our usual after church lunch, his male buddies got him to talk about it and voiced their approval and support of the idea.

When my hubby said, “My wife is kicking me out” his good friend looked him right in the eye and countered with, “No! She’s taking care of you.”

Staying with One Clear Message

 

That day in the car on the way home we discussed the matter.

I, as his spouse and caregiver, had to stay strong and point out the positive to be gained from placement.

I reiterated to him that my doctors were telling me I must start taking care of myself.

Also, I reminded him that this was what his own doctors recommended.

He then expressed sadness and empathy that I was having health issues.

That gave me the opening to tell him how his allowing others to do some of the caregiving would help me.

He seemed to be okay with that.

The next week we went for a meeting at Williamsburg Landing, the assisted living place I had chosen after much research and many site visits.

The wonderful director was most helpful and took him on a tour, introducing him to people as we walked around the facility.

Value of Planning Ahead if Placement May Be Down the Road

There is no doubt that long-term care insurance has made a momentous difference in our lives.

We had spent down most of our retirement funds for copays and other medical expenses, and when it was time to utilize the long-term care insurance it was truly a godsend.

If you are in a position to make that decision to start or continue a long-term care insurance policy, think long and hard before you say no since it’s worth its weight in gold.

I faithfully paid my long-term care premiums even when I had to cut back on groceries because watching Suze Orman had convinced me of its importance.

Now my first-hand experience verifies the value of having somewhere to turn when things become too challenging for you to handle at home.

Also, long-term care insurance can help with continuing care at home to allow living at home for as long as possible.banner-papa-blogs

If that isn’t an option schedule a meeting with a qualified placement counselor or social worker and consider places close to you so visitation will occur more often.

In conclusion, caregivers are usually mentally and physically exhausted when they reach the point to finally decide to explore placement, so a multi-step plan could make the process much easier.

At that time they are confronted with the need to turn it into a good experience for all. Above are some of the ideas which worked for my husband.

It was worth all the effort to ensure that he had a positive transition into assisted living.

The good people at joinpapa.com can pitch in to help in the transition, providing respite, companionship, etc while the caregiver visits various facilities or seeks consultation.

A Papa Pal could make this journey of change a bit easier for you. And they can even drop by the assisted living center to provide companionship and other services for you there.

Placement may be a hard choice, but when it is necessary, you can find your way through it and come out happy with the result.

 


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Happy Valentine's Day: A Caregiver's Love Story

February brings thoughts of love and romance. Yet some stories are worth hearing any time of year:

Jack's life was no big deal. He excelled in business but seemed to find affairs of the heart a bit challenging.

Yet he eventually lived a love story that would melt the heart of the devil himself.

On the way to his defining moment, he stumbled onto the altar with a succession of ladies.

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As his middle years were passing him by, he once again divorced and married a 4th wife. As is often the case with multiple marriages, that love interest did not last.

Fatherhood did not work out very well for him either.

His son had been in and out of drug rehab programs more often than you could count, and his life had never taken hold of any purpose.

This brought Jack untold grief as he kept throwing both money and parts of his heart at the lifestyle of addiction his son had embraced.

Friendship seemed to work out better for him. He relished time spent with Jaques Cousteau's son since they both shared a love of underwater ocean beauty.

He owned a hotel in CanCun and booked exotic trips for diving amidst nature's shining sea treasures.

As a single and greying older man, he heard a doorbell, then an urgent knock at his door one day.

He opened to find his third ex-wife looking desperate as she pleaded to be invited in

She told her compelling story between sobs of both deep sorrows while finding comfort in his presence once again.

She had come to the realization that something was horribly wrong with her and she was out of her mind with a cold gripping fear.

After their long talk, Jack went into hero mode. First, he remarried her so she could get on his insurance and could inherit from him if she were to outlive him.

Then he got her a thorough medical checkup. The heart-breaking diagnosis was Pick's Disease, a very debilitating form of dementia.

This did not help the suffering but did give him some direction for his efforts at helping.

Before too many months had passed, her condition continued to worsen.

Eventually, he secured a 24-hour team of nurses and caregivers to allow his wife to stay home as she so dearly wanted.

The ocean view at Bal Harbour by Miami seemed to be calming to her.

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Jack may have had challenges with marriages, and even parenting, but it is clear he excelled in love.

No doubt he came a bit late to the role of hero-lover, but the daily gift of love he gave his wife was truly amazing.

His attention to vital details and his kind way of including her in his senior years speaks volumes for the type of man he had become.

Eventually, he discovered that he had an advanced incurable cancer and soon was pronounced terminal.

He stepped up to take charge of her future and his by managing crucial details while he himself was suffering and grieving his own demise.

He coordinated with her family in Savannah so she would continue to receive tender loving care.

It was both heart-rending and impressive to attend the "going away party" he gave a few weeks before his demise.

He used this as a chance to connect once more with a number of his friends, and to even coordinate plans on tying up loose ends of both his personal and business affairs.

When his time came and he passed on, his life was a testament to the wise fact that it is never too late for doing something marvelous with one's life.

Careful end of life planning proved vital to seal his love story with a kiss.

Perhaps when the romance and fervor of a relationship are growing dim, a reassuring hug and a quiet kiss can be one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Many caregivers know this is true, and labor daily to bring love and care to their loved ones.

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Life has taught them that love can be expressed in many ways including caring for needs day in and day out.

Caregivers dispense their love and kindness without many breaks or expressions of love directed their way.

Wouldn’t this be a great time to call papa.com and schedule a break for a caregiver you know?

They can help out with regular routines, provide transportation, cook a meal, and do whatever is needed.

No doubt companionship may be one of their greatest gifts.