September 2012

Today is the first day of my eighth decade of life, that’s 70 for those of you that are mathematically challenged.  So what are my thoughts about achieving this milestone?  Thankful is the word that comes to mind.

I’m thankful for my health.  Daily medications keep my blood pressure and cholesterol in check, as do the eye drops for glaucoma.  I’m doing fine.  I’m thankful for my primary care physician who watches over me.

I’m thankful for being here.  I have lost many loved ones and friends.  Loved one’s like my mother who lost her life to cancer at 40, like losing my sister also of cancer at 46.  Lesson learned here is that life is not fair.  I lost a good friend from high-school when he was in his forties.  I lost a team member from work who was murdered on a business trip.  Many friends from high school have passed, our class has lost about 25% of its members.  So as I say, I’m thankful for just being here.

I’m thankful for being born human.  In spite of life’s challenges, it is better being human than being an insect or a krill.

I’m thankful for being born in the United States.  Canada or Western Europe would have been OK too, but the US would have been my first choice if I had one.   I don’t take my citizenship for granted and I jealously defend it.  I’ve served in the Armed Forces (Navy) and I vote.  I have never missed a Presidential of Congressional election and I do not intend to miss any future elections.  Fight against anyone who tries to restrict YOUR right to vote.

I’m thankful for my friends.  Thank you for being who you are and for being my friend.  Friends are so important, and you are important to me.  I love you all, especially Mary, Bob, Sue, and everyone in the  HHS Class of 1960, and those friends I’ve made since then.

I’m so very thankful for my family.  Thank you Nanook, my wife, for putting-up with me for over 47 years.  I love you dearly.  Thank you Anna Mae, our daughter, for being the best daughter one could ever have.  You are a joy, and I love you with everything within me.  Thank you JR, for being a great son-in-law, and for loving and caring for Anna Mae.  And finally thank you both for giving us a grandson who is simply amazing.  I can’t wait until we are all together again. Finally, to Jewell, my step mom, I love you and I apologize for not seeing you often enough. I love you all.

That’s it for the thanks.  What about the future and beyond?  Well, for the first thing, I going to take the advice of my Swedish cousin who turned 70 a month before me, and that advice is - stop counting.  The second is to have another piece of cake.

Do you have a story to share?  We would love to read it and so would rChance readers.

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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Nanook had a doctor’s appointment the day before yesterday.  The doctor is a specialist that Nanook needed to see.  As with most specialists, the wait time to see the doctor was weeks not days.  So reminders were noted in my pocket calendar, on my computer address book, and I even had a Post-it Note pasted on my computer monitor.  In addition to that, the doctor’s office robo-called our telephone with a voice message reminding her of the appointment.  We were covered.  What could possibly go wrong? 

An hour before the appointed time, we climbed into our trusty carriage and set off for the doctor’s office.  I went along with Nanook because the office was located in a so called “medical center. ”  You know where there is a hospital surrounded by adjacent medical offices and parking lots.  The office was in the “west” building next to the “west” parking ramp.  We gave ourselves extra time just in case we needed the time to navigate the maze.  We entered the ramp thirty minutes ahead of schedule, and lo-and-behold, we found a parking slot a scant fifty feet from the west building entrance.  So far so good.

We find an elevator, ride up five floors, disembark the elevator, determine if we go right or left (we went right), and found the office.  Nanook walks up to the registration window and is cheerily greeted by the receptionist who informs Nanook that the doctor won’t be able to see her and that she will have to reschedule the appointment.  What?  Reschedule the appointment?  What’s wrong?  Did the doc have an emergency?  Is he running late?  Is he still on the golf course?  “No,” said the slightly embarrassed receptionist, “the computer system crashed and they don’t know when it will be back up. ”

When I heard receptionist person say that to Nanook and I was somewhat taken aback.  I said to the receptionist, “Now let me get this straight, Nanook can’t see the doctor because the computers are down?”

“That’s right. ”

“But the appointment is with the doctor not the computer,” I said.

“I’m really sorry,” she said, “but without the computer, we can’t see patients. ”

What a revoltin’ development.   So after everyone’s blood pressure returned to normal we were able to reschedule the appointment for the next day (imagine that).  However it would be in a different in a different medical center (imagine that).

Luckily Nanook and I are retired so it wouldn’t be necessary to take-off work like we would have when we worked.  Inconvenient?  Yes.  Annoying? Yes.  Impossible?  No.  What played-out was a scene from the theater of the absurd.  Today, you cannot see a doctor if the computer is down.  What?  Say that again.  Today, you cannot see a doctor if the computer is down.  What did we do before we had computers?  Weren’t we able to see doctors?  Heck, I even remember doctors making house calls

Now, I made my living for over forty years programming computers, designing computer systems, training computer languages.  So I can write with some essence of authority.  Computers are a tool.  A tool that can make our lives easier.  Computers don’t dictate to people, people dictate to computers.  If a computer system is deemed indispensable as Nanook’s doctor’s system is, the first logical question the system designer makes is what do we do when the system isn’t working.  Rescheduling a medical procedure of an office visit is not an acceptable outcome.  It seems that computers are evolving to become our masters, not our servants.

But then I guess accepting that inevitable fact shouldn’t upset me too much.  Imagine a time, not too far down the road, when you are about to meet you maker, only you can’t pass on just yet.  Why?  Because the computer is down.  Maybe that is the secret of living a long life?

Do you have a story to share?  We would love to read it and so would rChance readers.

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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My 91 year-old step mother Jewell (not her real name) is 91, legally blind (macular degeneration), lives in a nursing home in Moorhead Minnesota (adjacent to Fargo North Dakota) She moved from her apartment in a wonderful assisted living retirement home for over twenty years, ten of which were spent with my father before he died in 2000.  They had a two bedroom apartment.   The home is in Fargo and run by the nuns of the Presentation Order.  It provided just about everything a senior would need to maintain the desired level of care for the residents: meals, medical, transportation, church services, and more.  But even with all that, as Jewell aged, her needs became more than what the good sisters could provide.  It was becoming apparent that to keep her safe, she would have to move to a nursing home.  What follows next is how that trying event happened.

We all face that decision with dread.  Uprooting an aging parent who has become very comfortable in their home can be traumatic.  Our approach to Jewell was to let her make the decision.  We nudged her in that direction, but in the end, the decision was hers.  Let me share with you our process.  Let me remind you this was our family’s process and may not work for you.  We all know that every family is unique and has its unique set of circumstances.  Here is Jewell’s story.

Jewell had fallen several times and couldn’t get-up.  Luckily for her she subscribed to the Life Alert system.  All she had to do was push a button on her Life Alert necklace and help would be at her door.  Also her mobility began to slow down to the point where she needed help getting out of her chair and down the hall to the bathroom.  Now the staff would stop by her apartment three times a day to help her, but overnight, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 AM the next morning, she was on her own.  Through the help of the home, we contracted with a care service that would send a caregiver to spend the night with her to assist her in her needs.  This came at a price of $17 per hour.  Do the math - $17 times twelve hours per day ($204) times seven days a week ($1,428) times 52 weeks a year ($74,256).  This would drain her retirement nest egg in short order.

I mentioned that Jewell is legally blind because of macular degeneration.  She has limited sight.  Macular degeneration clouds the vision in the middle of the eye and slowly works its way outward.  There is no cure.  Therefore Jewell cannot take care of writing checks and balancing her checkbook.  Enter her accountant, let’s call him George.  George is a semi-retired CPA  Dad knew from church and probably the golf course.  Before Dad died, he arranged for George to stop by once-a-month and take care of Jewell’s bookkeeping needs.  George has faithfully done that and has established an excellent degree of trust with Jewell.  By the way if you are wondering why I’m not doing this, it’s because we live 750 miles away in Saint Louis.

George pointed out to Jewell that if she kept going down the path she was on, her nest egg would soon be empty.  This was the trigger.  Jewell has the stubborn streak of self-independence that is present in most of us.  She was not going to be a burden to others.  So when she looked at her options, she made the decision to move.  Granted she was nudged into it from those of us that loved and cared for her, still the ultimate decision was hers.

I realize we got off easy in this move.  Many of you are facing this decision and your parents may be adamant in maintaining the status-quo.  They may refuse to accept the fact the parent-child relationship is now reversed.  Then I would suggest enlisting the aid of those your parent or parents respect.  Their minister or priest, doctor, friend, accountant to name a few.  Let them plant the seeds of change.  Sometimes we need to hear sound advice from outside the family circle.  That’s what happened in our case.  Jewell is doing as well as expected.  It isn’t home, nor will it ever be, but she is getting the care she needs.  Her caregivers treat her with dignity, attentiveness, and respect.  We now sleep easy knowing she is safe and secure.  The lesson to be learned is that when you and I are faced with that decision, we will remember what happened a generation earlier.

Do you have a story to share?  We would love to read it and so would rChance readers.

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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