Convince Your Children That You Should Stay

A man and woman laying in bed smiling for the camera.

I don’t like to give advice. I like to give people information because everyone’s life is different, and everyone’s journey is different.
~Dolly Parton


Aging in Place

I met Art Mussman over 10 years ago in Seattle at a Universal Design collation meeting. He was intelligent, thoughtful, and an advocate of aging in place. For many years I had posted on my website a brief, but content rich piece he wrote titled: How To Convince Your Children That You Should Stay In Your Own Home. The information and points he makes are as relevant today as they were over a decade ago. Art died in 2018 after living a full life of contribution and love.

Here is his solid advice with a few updates by me for the current COVID19 era.

The great majority of older people are most comfortable in their own homes. If they feel they can’t manage by themselves, then they will consider moving to assisted living or a group home. But their children are always worried about break-ins, falls and heart attacks, and want them to make that move before it is necessary. These are the same children they potty trained and used to worry about when they were late coming home. The shoe is clearly on the other foot now. If you are facing this situation, read on…
Think back to the way that they convinced you to trust them was their making an effort to calm your fears by keeping you informed and acting responsibly. Remember how comforting it was when you realized you could trust them. Now, you must do the same thing!
In order to maintain your independence, you must convince your children through your own behavioral adaptations that you can live independently.

Here’s how:

1. Eat. Don’t skip meals. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat much. Keep your refrigerator and pantry well stocked with the food you eat. Get rid of the spoiled, moldy, and stale stuff. Occasionally, invite your children over for a meal. Be a good hostess, use the good dishes, stay relaxed and within yourself.

2. Organize your finances and pay your bills. Your children will worry that you will be cheated. Budget. Give your charity money to your own church or a charity that you are familiar with. Suppress the urge to give money to anyone with a sad story, especially those on TV. Don’t give any money to people who phone you or come to your door unasked, and that includes repairmen. Ask your children for help with selecting repair people and organizing major financial operations.

3. Keep your home clean and uncluttered. One of the clearest signs of dementia is living in clutter: old newspapers, cans, bottles, mail, and other junk. Get rid of furniture and other household items you no longer need. A lot of it will still have good use left or sentimental value, and it is an act of charity to recycle this stuff. If it is too much for you to dust, vacuum, wash windows, mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds, hire help to do it. If you can’t afford that, turn to your faith community or local Senior Assistance for help in finding free chore services.

4. Take care of your physical self. See your doctor and dentist regularly. Take your medications, brush your teeth, and exercise every day. Bathe often and wear clean clothes. If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes, have a good treatment plan and stay with it. Go to a fall prevention class. Watch your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

5. Stay in the mainstream. Neighbors, friends, clubs, children, grandchildren, church groups and the like cannot only fill your life with purpose, but can also support you when you need help, cheer you up when you are ill, and walk with you in daily living.

6. Use community services. The government and many private organizations provide services to assist you. For example, there is bus service that will come to your door at a specified time, take you where you want to go, and bring you home when you are finished. There are organizations that will bring prepared meals to your home. You can get help with your rent or utility bills if you cannot pay them. The good news is that you don’t have to hunt for these services. Just call your local Senior Services and tell them what you need.

~Art Mussman

COVID19 Era Aging in Place

The Basics:
Do everything possible to reduce or avoid exposure to COVIS19 Virus
~Social Distancing” at least 6 feet apart from others
~Avoid crowds
~Limit time in public/consolidate trips/shop seniors’ hours if possible
~Wash hands often
~Stay home as much as possible

In Addition, Geriatrician, Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor Medicine, Geriatrics, University of Virginia, has four areas of optimization for older adults aging in place during the pandemic:

1. Learn the New Technology
FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and lots more. All sorts of online options exist to talk with family and friends. And you don’t have to be tech-savvy. Doing the basics is easy, and for most people, fun. If setting up an account is daunting, ask a neighbor, niece or nephew for help and a quick tutorial.

2. Stay Active in the Community From Home
It may sound counterintuitive. How can you remain a part of the community if the goal is to separate from the community? But maybe there’s a remote option. Many organizations – political parties, faith-based groups, nonprofits – rely on volunteers to make phone calls. You can do that clearly community-based activity right at home.

3. Go on a News Diet
Stay informed, know what’s going on but don’t get locked into endlessly watching “breaking news” on the 24-hour news channels. Typically, not much changes hour to hour. But enduring the repetitious pummeling from TV all day long can bring needless anxiety. My patients have found the following advice helpful: Watch a news update in the morning, then check in again at night. Don’t stay with it all evening – 30 minutes or an hour is plenty.

4. Reach Out to Family & Friends
Stay in touch with the people close to you, especially those who are social distancing too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that communities create “buddy systems” to make sure vulnerable and hard-to-reach people stay connected, particularly to news about COVID-19. This can be done through your church, social group, or daily neighborhood email blasts. And for those of you who are not elderly – why not make it a point to check in on your older friends and relatives? Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated.
Social distancing does not mean social isolation, and even a potentially deadly virus should not force us to be alone. Now, more than ever, people need to find smart ways to stay connected.


Seattle Times Obituary / Arthur Clyde Mussman


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