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Tag Archives: Health

How Seniors can Cope with Financial Stress

A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.

I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.

PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.


With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:

  1. Job Loss/Reduction – 51%

  2. Healthcare – 29.5%

  3. Other – 21.6%

  4. Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%

  5. Divorce/separation – 8.2%

  6. Bankruptcy – 6.7%

  7. Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.

However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.

There is more to learn about this issue and more information can be found in the full Senior Financial Stress Coping Guide.

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How I Became A Vampire

Nine years ago I had a nice chunk of flesh removed from my left lower back to remove a Melanoma. They also took a couple of lymph nodes from under my left arm and the left side of my groin. Tests all proved negative and, save for becoming a vampire, I’d put it mostly behind me.

This morning I went for my yearly dermatological exam and had to have another small chunk taken out of the middle of my back and sent for biopsy. So . . . I’ll know in a week or two if I have to undergo another surgery.

Compared to many people, including a number I know, my experience was a walk in the park. No chemo, no radiation, just scoop that shit right out of my body. I’d rather not have to do anything other than eat healthy and exercise, but if I have to go through this again, I’ll take heart from my past experience. Given what others have gone through, I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I was never sick and the entire episode took less than three months from discovery to excision.


The Vagus Nerve and Meditation

Brainstem

An image of a human brain stem illuminated with fluorescent proteins.

I don’t think I use this blog enough to share info like I do on Facebook. As I think about it, though, it seems the things I post here have a much longer shelf life than those I share on FB. Also, my original intent for this blog was to address issues of seeing systems, particularly emphasizing how infrequently — and incompletely — we do so. The piece from Business Insider I’m going to link to here was shared with me by Jon Husband who, in my mind, is inextricably linked to systems concepts via his pioneering work with what he has labeled Wirearchy.

The article concludes with the researchers, Kevin Tracey and Paul-Peter Tak, recognizing how science and, particularly, medicine have approached understanding of the human body as an effort to understand each organ in isolation, and as separate entities. They now realize the systemic nature of the body, and argue for an understanding that is more holistic and that recognizes how everything is connected.

I also found myself thinking about the progress of our understanding and how it shows just how indifferent nature, biology, and evolution are to anything resembling “fairness” or “justice”. Those are human concepts, creations that make sense to us, but have no place in how or why things happen in natural systems. Evolution is interested in what works and a level of adaptability that allows for constant change in survival strategies. Everything else is merely part of the side-show.

What really struck me was the thought of all the people who have existed before us and how much discomfort, pain, and agony have been suffered in the past, prior to our gaining the various understandings we have come to embrace over the last few hundred years of our existence as a species. The “breakthrough” discussed in this article seems somewhat revolutionary and serves to point out how valuable the ability to see systems really is at improving our lives.

Here’s the link. Check it out. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes to read.


Chasing That Elusive Health & Fitness Goal

I have long wanted to get back to my original weight, 7 lbs. 9 oz. but I’m finding it difficult. Regardless, recently I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR digital tracker to monitor the exercise I get and, shortly afterward, a Fitbit Aria electronic scale. I won’t say I’m actually part of the #QuantifiedSelf movement, but I do like data and find they help me achieve goals by showing me how I’m doing and the consequences of not following the steps needed to accomplish them.

 

Fitbit Aria

My New BFF


Last Friday marked two very important milestones in my quest to get in better shape and, more importantly, to reach a point where I can either stop taking the two maintenance drugs I’ve been on for quite some time (for essential hypertension and type II diabetes). I test my blood sugar at least every morning and Friday, for the first time in my memory of the last over 15 years, it was under 90 upon arising. This is very unusual for me as I have always experienced an early morning spike in my readings.

I’m also weighing myself each morning as soon as I get up. The Aria scale measures weight and body fat percentage. After I stand on the scale and it settles, it shows me my weight, body fat %, and my initials (it will recognize up to eight people) twice, then syncs the data via our wifi to my Fitbit account. This morning I dipped below 180 lbs. for the first time in decades.

Over the weekend I indulged a wee bit and this morning my weight was just over 180, but my blood sugar was 89. My average before meal reading is now about 110, an amazing difference from what I’m used to. Last time I had an A1C test, I had dropped below the threshold of 7.0 and I’m quite certain it will be even lower this time. I suppose I could have achieved this a long time ago, but I didn’t. Better late than never, eh?


Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Along

 I’m beginning to see the effects of aging on my proficiency in much of my work; not just the slow and inexorable deterioration of mental acuity, but the slight discomfort I sometimes experience when either writing or typing. Due to my essential tremors, and the loss of flexibility and dexterity that can’t be avoided with aging, I frequently find there are times when I can barely do either. I have experienced instances when the shaking has been so bad I had to stop, stand up, and walk away until the shaking subsides.

For many years I’ve believed as long as I had the ability to type and use a computer, I would be able to communicate and, more importantly, work and earn at least a bit of income to supplement what retirement income I have. Now I’m faced with the possibility a time will come – perhaps not for another decade – when I will not easily be able to do so. I’ve experimented over the years with apps like Dragon Dictate, but I’m so much more comfortable actually having my fingers on a keyboard. If I am forced to do it, I suppose I’ll adapt. The prospect isn’t terribly exciting though.


Old Fart Kicks It Up a Notch

When I first returned to work, I could barely make it up the two flights of stairs to the office area above the factory building where I was to work. I was forced to walk more than I had in quite some time, just to get from my car to my desk or to go to the cafeteria and buy my lunch. It had been over four and half years since I had retired and I had been mostly sedentary.

A little over two and a half months later, I purchased a pair of Rockport walking shoes. A month and a half after that I purchased a Fitbit One and began quantifying my exercise, as well as most of my caloric intake. I set some goals and paid attention. With the Fitbit I was able to get a good idea of how well I was sleeping too.

Three weeks ago I upgraded to the Fitbit Charge HR, which I can now wear on my wrist as both an exercise tracker and a timepiece. It also constantly tracks my heart rate (that’s the HR part). Despite not being in the greatest of shape, my resting heartrate is consistently in the low 60s, which I believe is pretty good.

As of last week, I was fairly effortlessly walking well over two miles and climbing 10 flights of stairs each day (not at once; in total over the course of the workday). I’ve also been stretching each morning as I’m getting dressed. I have such a long way to go and, at 68 years old, I don’t expect miracles – nor do I expect to improve rapidly, like I could when I was much younger. However, I am determined to get in far better shape, which includes losing another 10 -15 lbs.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run. The problems created by being born with club feet and the subsequent corrective activities, including surgery on my left foot, make running quite problematic, as well as painful. I’m thinking of other activities I can indulge in without dealing with the impact running would have on my ankles, hips, and back, all of which are about an inch out of alignment because of my left foot.

I also pushed myself a little bit too hard, by running up those flights of stairs. My right knee has since admonished against such early foolishness and I have little choice but to heed its warning. So, I’ll still climb the stairs; I just will take them a tad more leisurely in deference to my (no doubt) age-related deficiencies.


Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental?

Oral & Heart Health

Be Good to Your Teeth and They’ll Never be False to You.
~ Soupy Sales

Are you aware of just how important your dental health is to your overall health? The two are far more closely related than you may realize. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother’s death, but her oral health played a major role in what brought her life to a close. She had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting a triple bypass. Coronary bypass surgery has become pretty routine nowadays and the operation she was facing wasn’t all that dangerous, although at her age (81) recovery would have been somewhat lengthy.

However, the real problem was her teeth. The surgeons would not operate before she had eleven teeth pulled. My mother was not one who faced pain all that stoically and she had neglected her oral health. This was, of course, exacerbated by an inability to afford good, useful dental insurance. She was on Medicare, through Kaiser Permanente, and there is no dental coverage offered as part of the overall plan. The reason they wanted to pull her teeth is the very real danger of Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me about their plans. She made an expression I had come to recognize over the years that said “I don’t like it, but I have no control so I’m giving up.” Give up is what she did. Within two days she lost consciousness and quickly died. I can still see her expression and it breaks my heart.

Yesterday, I created a petition at “We the People“, a part of Whitehouse.gov. As someone who is currently on Medicare and who has a difficult time affording a good dental plan, and as someone who recognizes the importance of good dental health to overall health (not to mention someone who does need a little work) I am appalled that Medicare doesn’t cover — at the very least — routine examinations and bi-annual cleaning. I know of no studies, but I have a feeling offering such coverage might actually bring down the overall cost of Medicare.

I know there are some issues with whether or not this kind of thing works, or if the Obama administration is either taking it seriously or paying much attention at all. However, I’m bound and determined to do what I can to bring attention to this problem. It only takes a moment of your time to sign and I think it’s worth raising awareness.

Below is the text of the petition. Please take a moment and sign it. Here’s the link. If you have a moment, you can also share through the Facebook and Twitter buttons just below it. Surely you have family who may benefit from this expansion of coverage and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get old yourself. Will you be able to afford a dental plan? In the long run, I’m in favor of universal health care. However, in the meantime, let’s ensure our older population has the means to remain as healthy as possible. Maybe we’ll all die of less expensive diseases. 😉

“Recognizing the role oral health plays in the overall health of our citizens, as pointed out by such organizations as The Mayo Clinic, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health promotion, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, we believe it is prudent and economically imperative to provide coverage for Dental Services to all recipients of Medicare. Many of those who have reached the age of eligibility are healthy and desirous of continuing to contribute to our country’s well-being. Ensuring their dental health is important to ensuring their overall health as well. Many people who have reached the age of eligibility for Medicare are unable to afford separate coverage for dental health. We ask the administration to work toward achieving this goal.”

Thanks from the bottom of my heart . . . and my mouth.


Living Out Loud

Lanterns afloat

My intent is for the act of sharing to be liberating for me . . . and informative for others.

I decided to celebrate my birthday this year by doing something I may regret. No, I’m not taking off to Vegas with $5k and a desire to lose my inhibitions completely, nor am I going to see if I can find some Window Pane or Orange Owsley and relive the late sixties. I’m going to delve a little deeper into what I see as a corollary of something I’ve been writing a little bit more about lately . . . working out loud. The corollary is . . . living out loud. Let me explain.

Working out loud is about finding ways to work where not merely the fruits, but also the cultivation, planting, and meticulous care and grooming of those fruits are conducted in a manner that allows others to follow along, perhaps contribute somewhere along the way. It involves activities such as moving conversations away from email and into other forms of internal communication; e.g. micro-blogging, wikis, other types of social networking/communicating/collaborating tools, etc. I have found from experience it is not an easy thing to do, even when you are a wholehearted supporter of the idea. The entire ethos of our work culture militates against it and, for some, it’s downright dangerous and heretical.

Living out loud, however, is something a little bit different. I’ve never had to do an activity report though, come to think of it, as a kid I did have to face my father’s wrath when I forgot to do one of my chores. Now, however, I’ve retired from the last place I had a regular job at, so nobody much requires me to report to them. I do have some activities I’m involved in where I keep people apprised of my efforts and progress, but it’s not the same as when I worked at Rocketdyne. Anyway, in an effort to share a little more of me, here’s my first formal attempt. I posted the following on Facebook first.

This is the first birthday I haven’t much looked forward to. Although it seems not to mean all that much, since some time in April I am seven years older than my father was when he died. I think about it, because I grew up being told I was “exactly like your father”, especially when I did something untoward or displeasing to my mother. Medically, although my experience is not like my father’s, I am nonetheless in uncharted waters. It’s a situation both my daughters will likely have to deal with their entire lives.

Also, this year I will be closer to 70 than to 65. I am entering my dotage and, frankly, my worry isn’t for me. If it was just me and Linda, I think we’d be fine. We’d get along OK. However, we have two young girls to care for and see into adulthood and sometimes I fear I won’t be there for them much longer. I’m not yet losing any sleep over it and I surely don’t plan to, but the thought I could be gone any day has a little more power than it would have even 10 years ago.

I also think the feeling was somewhat exacerbated by the sudden loss a couple of weeks ago of a long-time friend who was a half a decade or so younger than me. I was deeply affected by her loss and I’m quite certain it’s still haunting me a bit, though I don’t consciously think about it that much.

I know a few of my friends are older than I am. If you’re reading this and you’re older than me, please take pity on me.  I’m a relatively new old man. It takes some getting used to and I’ve also kind of determined this is one hell of a good place to leave some stuff for my kids. It’s why I welcomed the Timeline when it was introduced, and why I’ve uploaded some pictures I have that were taken before digital pics existed.

Sorry if I’m bothering or boring anyone. I’m experimenting with living out loud. Your mileage may vary.

 


It’s OK, Beth. We’ll Carry On From Here

Beth Thompson

Farewell, Beth. You touched a lot of lives and will be sorely missed

I posted the following on Facebook two days ago and I want to share it here as a tribute to my friend and former colleague:

I am beside myself with grief. A couple hours ago I received a message from a friend who wanted to confirm what he had heard – that our former colleague and good friend, Beth Thompson, had passed away. I started frantically contacting as many people as I could think of, all the while hoping it was just some stupid Internet screwup. It was not to be. Apparently, while preparing to leave for work this morning, Beth suffered a heart attack and passed.

Beth was one of my first friends when I joined the Program Office on the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at Rocketdyne. Her good humor and iconoclastic attitude helped me ease into the corporate world, a world I didn’t join until I was 40 years old, and was ill-suited for. Along with many others I’m proud and happy to still call good friends, Beth was family. I still have the card she picked out for me and had everyone sign when I left for what turned out to be a short stint back in my family’s business. That was about 17 or 18 years ago.

She moved up to the Seattle area with her husband, Paul, and their three children, where she continued to work for Boeing, one of several major players that passed Rocketdyne around like a financial hot potato. This is tough to digest. My kids have seen me cry for the first time in their memory. People who are younger than you aren’t supposed to die before you do. It’s just not right.

We hardly saw each other in the past few years, but we liked and commented on each other’s FB posts now and again. At least I knew she was there and I got to see a little bit of her life and happiness. That is now gone and my world is poorer for it. Goodbye, Beth. I love you and will always remember how you brightened my world and the world of so many others.


Intelligent Design is Really Stupid

Unintelligent Design

The Intersection of Stupidity, Religion, & Politics

I had an experience this morning that reminded me of something Neil deGrasse Tyson said, which I’ve read in many places. I’ve also had the experience many times in my life and consider myself somewhat lucky so far having managed not to suffer the final indignity the experience portends.

I’m speaking about nearly choking to death because I fell victim to the inherent – as Neil points out – stupid design of my body that has me breathing, eating, and talking through the same hole.

I was at my weekly QBN (Quality Business Network) breakfast meeting. We meet each week on Tuesday, at 7:00 – 8:30 am at The Junkyard Cafe here in Simi Valley, CA. Most of what is on a breakfast menu I can’t conscientiously eat if I want to keep my blood sugar under control. Pancakes, waffles, french toast, regular toast, potatoes, syrup, jam . . . they’re all verboten. I can have a plate of bacon, eggs, and cheese . . . and sometimes do.

However, today I asked for a salad, with ranch dressing and balsamic vinegar. I don’t have a cholesterol problem, so I don’t worry about the dressing too much. I’ve long liked ranch and Italian, which the vinegar substitutes for nicely.

No sooner did I start shoveling food in my mouth than a stream of vinegar squirted off the salad on my fork into my throat. I inhaled it slightly and immediately started coughing; nearly choking. It was so bad others started to get alarmed for my safety and I had to leave the room to keep from interrupting the presentation that one of our members was giving.

Obviously, I made it. It wasn’t the first time this has happened. I once inhaled some hot sake at a sushi bar in Venice Beach. The owner was horrified. He thought I was going to die right there in the restaurant and indicated how much he would like me to die outside on the sidewalk. I ignored him.

Anyway, back to Mr. deGrasse Tyson. I thought I would share this lovely video of his explaining – by pointing out how stupidly we, and the universe, are designed for life – how there is no such thing as intelligent design. Keep in mind, please, I’m not attacking religion, faith, or spirituality. I don’t care what you believe in. However, if it’s intelligent design, I (and Neil) maintain there is absolutely no evidence for it and only someone who refuses to face reality would entertain such a belief. Here’s the video:


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