When you do a long distance walk, you learn a lot about hydration. Hydration is what we used to call drinking, but it’s a lot more complicated. Drinking is taking a liquid into your mouth and swallowing. Hydration involves what you drink, when you drink, how much you drink, and even what you drink out of. Who knew drinking could be this complex?
When I grew up, you drank water. With hydration, water is not good enough; you need uber water. The choices are mind boggling. There are sport drinks, energy drinks, vitamin drinks, carbonated drinks, non-carbonated drinks, flavored drinks, even drinks that help with alertness and motor skills. Different activities require different types of water. With hydration, you need to do research before you buy your drink.
When I grew up, you drank when you were thirsty. With hydration, drinking when you are thirsty is not good enough. You need to drink before you are thirsty. If you wait until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
When I grew up, you did not worry about how much you drank per day. With hydration, quantity is very important. In fact, a whole industry has developed of bottles that keep tabs on how much you drink each day, and not just bottles… now there are mobile apps! Apps to help you keep tabs on how much you are drinking, apps that send reminders to drink more and apps that sound alarms when you are under-hydrated (think iDrate). In the olden days, drinking was a pleasure. With hydration, drinking is an obligation.
When I grew up, you drank water from a fountain, a thermos or a canteen. It didn’t seem to matter what you drank from. With hydration, what you drink out of is very important. There are features to look for that enhance your drink –like infusers, filters, and refrigeration assemblies — and features to avoid — like bottles with BPAs — a harmful industrial chemical. There are transparent water bottles, opaque bottles, ergonomically shaped bottles, bottles with straws attached, bottles with hooks and handles, plastic bottles, metal bottles, glass bottles, even soft bladder bottles that fit in a backpack. CamelBak, the best known hydration backpack system, has reservoirs, bite valves and bite valve covers, filters, filter adapters, tubes, tube traps, and cleaning kits. With hydration, you need a user’s manual to figure out how to use the container you drink from.
Between types of drinks, how to manage intake and containers to drink out of, hydration is a multi-billion dollar business. Drinking wasn’t just simpler, it was a lot less expensive.
Of course, hydration has a flip side — elimination. There hasn’t been much change in elimination over the years — but that is the topic for a different blog post.
I don’t understand mid-life orphans. They complain about care giving responsibilities and then, when their parents pass away, they lament about being orphans. They say they feel bereft, unmoored, devastated by life without parents. Don’t they realize how lucky they are? Having elderly parents is a privilege some of us never had. Read more on “The Last Time I Was Mothered” »
I have been looking at my pile of orphan earrings, earrings without partners, wondering why I keep them. It’s true that a lost earring does sometimes show up, but many have been mateless for years. Why do I keep even those single earrings?
In sailing, the technique used to move against the wind is called tacking. In common use, tacking is the concept of making progress by zigzagging rather than moving forward directly. For adult children helping their parents transition from one home to another, tacking can be a useful concept.
Two years ago, a friend died suddenly after a horrendously short battle with cancer. I guess we all have our own way of remembering and honoring people we’ve lost. I remember Peg through “Peg miles”.
I am a walker. For 25 years, I’ve walked for exercise and enjoyment. I don headphones, select my favorite exercise album, and I walk. I swing my arms, I sing along, and I do something that is rare for me… I am in the moment.
Walking makes me feel alive and grateful to be healthy and vibrant. As a cancer survivor, I don’t take that for granted. I really, really love walking.
Thirty years ago, my 92 year old grandmother tried to kill herself. They called us from her personal care residence to say she had been found unresponsive, with an empty bottle of pills by her bed. My brother and I rushed to the hospital and heard the sound of her stomach being pumped. For all of you who have never heard this before, it is an awful sound. My brother and I looked at each other, wishing they had not found her in time. Shouldn’t a 92 year old be able to decide when enough is enough?
My grandmother became a widow with two children at 21. Seventy years later, she had buried three husbands, both of her children and one grandchild. Pain from persistent shingles, “pleurisy” and arthritis was constant and all consuming. When doctors gave her enough medicine to control her pain, she was too lethargic and nonfunctioning to live independently. So she faced her own brand of Sophie’s choice — live with pain and be independent, or be pain-free and live in a nursing home. She opted for a third choice.
Everyone called my grandmother Anya, short for Anyuka, the Hungarian word for mother. I think the first grandchild determines what grandparents are called, and my oldest brother chose Anya. In 1931, not knowing any English, Anya left her children with her parents in Hungary and came to America to make a better life for her family. Two years later, she married a widower with children and brought my mother and uncle to this country. Life during the Depression was hard, for Anya and millions of others. But over time, she lived the American dream. She started businesses, and although many failed, some succeeded. Her son became a doctor, and her daughter married a pharmacist. Both had single homes in the suburbs!
Two sisters were faced with who should have a set of dishes that had passed from their grandmother to their mother, and now to them. As they discussed who would get the dishes, they realized that what they both wanted was for their mother and grandmother to “be present” at future family gatherings, and so they developed a plan that worked for them: the dishes don’t really “live” anywhere. At the end of each family event, the dishes are packed into storage bags and taken by whoever is holding the next family event. Whenever the family gets together, the dishes bring up memories and stories, giving their mother and grandmother a presence at the table. I love their solution, because it is about relationships, not ownership. The legacy being passed down is not dishes. It’s loving memories shared by family, and tangible evidence of the good relationship between the sisters. That’s a wonderful legacy.
Two friends have a similar tradition. When their mother died, they couldn’t decide who would get two special items. One was a sterling silver pitcher their mother purchased at an auction when the girls were young. The pitcher had an ornate letter “F” engraved on it, which did not bother their mother. She must have been strangely omniscient, because years later, both girls went on to marry men whose last names began with “F.” Some things are too strange to ponder.
The other item is a beautiful ring their mother purchased during a shopping trip to New York City.
When their mother died, they laid the jewelry out on a table and took turns choosing pieces. Both sisters wanted the pitcher and the ring, and neither could choose one over the other, so they developed a plan to share them, adding their own traditions. The ring is always worn on New Year’s Eve, and the pitcher is always returned with fresh flowers in it. The exchange occurs every year on New Year’s eve. The ring is a wearable memory, an intimate, personal way of staying connected with someone who has died. The pitcher is a physical presence displayed proudly in both homes. Like the dishes, the legacy of the ring and pitcher is about relationships, not ownership.
Last week, I met a woman and her dog walking along a nature trail. As dog lovers do, we started to talk. She said she and her dog walk the two-mile nature trail daily. Recently, she had tried to adopt a second senior dog, to keep her 8-year-old dog company. The rescue organization said that since she was 76, it was likely that something would happen to her during the dog’s lifetime, and the dog would need to be re-homed. Rather than take this risk, they rejected her application. This is what I call the tail wagging the dog.
The numerous benefits that accrue to elderly pet owners are well documented. Pets reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase interaction and physical activity. They provide companionship, reduce depression and decrease loneliness. Senior pet owners visit the doctor less often than seniors who don’t have pets. They tend to have fewer minor health problems, lower medical costs, better psychological well-being, and even higher survival rates following surgery for coronary heart disease!!
Helping someone you care about when they don’t want help is complex. When do you honor their wishes, and when do you superimpose your own beliefs out of a conviction that your instincts are correct? Several years ago, my husband and I faced this question with my mother-in-law. It was among the hardest and most important things we’ve ever done.
It’s hard to say when dependence becomes an addiction, when an aversion to going outside becomes a phobia, when a person moves from set in her ways to obstinate and rigid. Looking back, none of us recalled a particular date. We remembered instead a period of time over which a person we loved and enjoyed became increasingly inflexible, bitter and withdrawn. When, we wondered, did we let go of the woman we had known, and allow this stranger to take her place? When did we begin accepting this diminished version of my mother-in-law, as the real thing?