Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aging Myth: Seniors Become Senile

In looking at one of the myths of aging, seniors become senile, this struck a chord with me. I have witnessed the dementia of both my grandmothers and have wondered why they suffered through this, while my grandfathers, grandmother-in-law and other elders I've known have not.

The idea of dementia as inevitable in older adults is clearly inaccurate, though I never really challenged it before even though I had witnessed that senility was not universal nor guaranteed among seniors.

In the case of my one grandmothers, the causes of dementia stated in our reading (depression, over-medication, lack of intellectual/emotional stimulation) were clearly the root of her problems. However, my other grandmother did not experience those causes, and I now wonder if her form of dementia was not altogether something else – perhaps the onset of Alzheimer’s.

While it is inevitable that everyone ages, and looks and physical abilities change throughout the aging process, the one thing that I believe really puts a damper on enjoyment in later life is dementia. One cannot enjoy life if one is not of the mental ability to understand and interact with the world around them.

I believe more media coverage of these key causes of dementia could help the public to understand that this condition is not inevitable. Dementia is not guaranteed nor ensured by age. Additionally, the dietary and activity factors that help prevent or alleviate the decline in mental function would be important for people to be made aware of so they may incorporate them into their lives and the lives of those they love. Perhaps similarly to some of the foods that show heart healthy logos, those foods that help prevent or slow decline in mental function could also label their products.

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Unethical Publication Subscription Practices

On my last visit to my grandparent’s house I discovered many duplicate copies of Reader’s Digest. Apparently my grandmother was receiving multiple subscriptions concurrently. As the name and address information on the mailing labels was exactly the same I could not understand why the magazine had not added the additional subscriptions to one subscription, instead of sending several copies each month.

Confusion relating to magazine subscriptions is not hard to understand. I have received multiple requests for renewals with many of the publications I’ve subscribed to even after paying to renew them. However, when magazine subscriptions are foisted upon the elderly who spend much needed fixed income dollars on lengthy subscriptions that outlive them, we must demand accountability of these publishers.

A recent article I read in AARP’s Bulletin called “Outrage: A Runaround for Magazine Refunds” really hit home. Mr. Grantham found upon his father’s death (at age 93) that the poor man had subscribed to TV Guide through 2017 and U.S. News & World Report through 2023. “Grantham’s father would have been 108 years old by then” (Diament, 2009).

Even more disturbing than the fact this elderly man was duped into buying years of subscriptions was the fact that his son, upon his father’s death, was only able to cancel the subscriptions but not able to obtain a refund for the unsent (350 to 400) issues. Apparently the fact that “Grantham’s father purchased them through contracting companies, not directly from the magazines” (Diament, 2009) is the excuse given for the lengthy delay in refund.

The good news was that Mr. Grantham was able to secure an immediate refund from Newsweek magazine. A quick search online turned up other publications that offer refunds for unsent subscriptions: PC Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, American Craft Magazine and others as well as magazine vendor: magazines.com.

Diament, M. (2009). Outrage: A Runaround for Magazine Refunds. AARP Bulletn retrieved from: http://bulletin.aarp.org/yourmoney/scamalert/articles/what_an_outragea_runaround_for_magazine_refunds.html

PC Magazine: https://www.zdmcirc.com/zdmcirc/default.asp?LK=popunder&I=ibmp
Better Homes and Gardens: http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/b/better-homes-gardens/1227/faqs/
American Craft Magazine: https://www.ezsubscription.com/acc/subscribe.asp?key=7809DP
Magazines.com: http://www.magazines.com/help/uninterrupted_subscription_service

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Widows Face Caregiving Needs Alone

Many friends I have are either widows or in second or third marriages to younger men. The fact that women outlive their men is a fact many women will face, though I see the strength it has provided some of my friends. My good friend Lily, widowed for four years, says she can now eat what she wants, when she wants, and without complaints. She cleans the house and kitchen and it stays clean for days or until she messes it up herself. She travels alone on long road trips to visit friends or family. She spends time pursuing her multiple hobbies and interests without anyone to hold her back or complain. Without her husband to stop her, Lily was finally able to sell and move out of the house they shared and move into a smaller apartment, something she’d been wanting to do for nearly a decade. Lily is just one of the women I’ve seen thrive in widowhood. As Ray (2004) refers to Helibrun’s essays, “the move toward self-knowledge and authenticity, the freedom to choose our own projects without guilt or self-recrimination, the importance of perpetual becoming – vibrate with crone energy” (p. 116). For my widow friends, life as a single person in later life has not been a death sentence but key to freedoms unavailable to them during marriage – namely “crone energy”.

Not only do most women outlive their spouses and live many years alone, their health in later years may require additional caregiving. If they have been long time caregivers beforehand, they may have spent or lost opportunities for significant retirement savings. “‘Women who take early retirement or otherwise modify their employment to provide care not only lose wages and wage-related benefits, but also jeopardize their own sources of income for their later years’” (Holstein, 1999, p. 233). When women begin to need long-term care themselves, lack of funds can create complications as “Medicare does not reimburse long-term care and covers home health care only if there is no one at home to provide it” (Nelson, 1999, p. 90).

“The longer lives of women and the relatively older ages of men at marriage mean that men have spouses to care for them while women are likely to be widows” (Holstein, 1999, p. 230). Considering my friend Cat’s second husband turns 80 years old next year, and she is still in her 50s, she will likely outlive her husband. In later life, she will probably require an in home caregiver or need to move to a retirement home. She will be just one of many women facing her caregiving needs alone.

References:
Holstein, M. (1999). Home Care, Women, and Aging: A Case Study of Injustice. In M. U. Walker (Ed.), Mother Time. Women, Aging, and Ethics. (pp. 227-244). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Nelson, H. L. (1999). Stories of My Old Age. In M. U. Walker (Ed.), Mother Time. Women, Aging, and Ethics. (pp. 75-95). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Ray, R. E. (2004). Toward the Croning of Feminist Gerontology. Journal of Aging Studies. 18.1. (pp. 109-121).

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.