Good Health

My Children… My Parents

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

iStock_000008115986XSmallThose of us who have children know that when one reaches the age of introspection, one discovers that no one has really instructed us on how to be parents. We learn by conscious and unconscious observation; through experience; through instruction (If we are lucky), and by doing. An old Native American adage states "If you give a man something to eat, he will have food for a day; but if you give a man the seeds and teach him to plant; he will have food for a lifetime." So it is with being a parent. What happens as we age for some of us? We become part of the "Sandwich Generation:" We are caught in the transition and sometimes chaos of being between our children and our parents (I'm there as we speak!).

I have an elderly mother and mother-in-law; neither of whom feels that they are elderly. However, their bodies and minds are showing signs of the aging process. At some point in the future, they may need more assistance from me and my wife than we have previously given them. What should we be aware of, with respect to aging parents that will keep them on the right track while aging in a healthy manner? Firstly, when we "move-in" quickly to give aid for one reason or another, we are playing parent. The tides are reversed and as any teenager will tell you, they want to be independent. So do our parents. This is a key point. So if you are going to offer help, ask first unless the situation is an emergency and you have to intercede. Mutual respect is this important factor that brings quality, value and trust to our relationships with our aging parents. Secondly, if we find that things are changing rapidly, like memory loss, inability to handle ADL's (Activities of Daily Living), a physical illness disabling a parent; then it is time to discuss, if possible, the future. We need a plan.

What do I do and how do I do it? OK, if the time has come when a parent cannot continue living on their own we should think about their need for independence and whether they wish to stay at home or not. If they are cognitive and can make decisions, then it behooves us to assist them with some choices. We can collect information about bringing in a care giver who might work during the day or night; or a "second stringer" for an alternate shift giving us full coverage. This will enable the parent to stay at home; thus bringing them feelings of independence, dignity and self-esteem. If the parent is not able to stay at home, an assisted-living environment may be looked at; where they can have their own space with a kitchen area, bath and community room that is available to them at meal times. The more the parent is disabled, either physically or mentally, the more we need to consider increasing the care. For more advanced care, a skilled nursing facility may be necessary: a communal situation with nursing care.

It is not easy to be old. It is not for "sissies," as one of my clients has so aptly reminded me. But if our parents follow a healthy path in life through exercise, healthy diet, mental stimulation, and staying social they should reach old age in relatively good condition, with or without our assistance. We as children of aging parents need to remember that we came through our parents but are not our parents. That is, we need to nourish the relationship between us so that we maintain good communication and an accepting attitude toward our help when it is needed or warranted. My mother is sometimes too proud to let me help her. She feels it is a parent's duty to give to their children. But when I am needed most, she will ask. Sometimes I need to encourage her to ask and that is the difference between being a child of a parent and being a parent to a parent when you are the child.

We need to teach our parents during our lifetimes and not just help them when it is too late to include them in the decision making process.

Dr Eric Shapira is an aging consultant with Aging Mentor Services. He has just published a book: "A New Wrinkle: What I Learned from Older People Who Never Acted their Age."

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Creaky Bones

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

bonesOsteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. This disease affects over 10 million Americans.

What about osteoporosis? This is serious as are broken bones, also called fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women and one in five men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. This disease causes more than 2 million fractures each year, including about:

  • 300,000 hip fractures
  • 550,000 vertebral (spinal or backbone) fractures
  • 400,000 wrist fractures
  • 135,000 pelvic fractures
  • 675,000 other fractures

To prevent broken bones, many people have been given medication from a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. These include Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and Reclast ( All retail drug names, not generic). Studies have shown that in many people taking these medications to help reduce the chance of broken bones, osteonecrosis of the jaw has occurred…that is a rare but serious damage to the jawbone itself.

If you think you have a problem and suffer from 1) an area of exposed bone that does not heal after more than 8 weeks, 2) have to history of radiation to the head or neck area, and 3) is taking or has taken bisphosphonates, then you should be checked by your dentist or physician for this possibility. About 94% of people diagnosed with osteonecrosis are cancer patients who are receiving or did receive repeated high doses of bisphosphoantes through IV infusion. The other 6% were people taking oral bisphosphonates.

Chances are small that a “normal” individual who is taking bisphosphonate medication will develop osteonecrosis but the results are unknown. Ask your health provider before you endeavor to take these class of drugs about the risks involved and your probability of getting this disease. I always tell my patients and clients, “know before you go.” Dr Eric Shapira

Creativity and Aging

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Creativity is the spark that ignites the fuel of our internal combustion thought processes to give us energy, ideas, passion, artistic license and continued youth. Gandhi once stated that "Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny."

I have noticed in all of the people that I have come into contact with since studying and working in the field of Gerontology, that the people who act the youngest and look the youngest are the ones who in essence are able to continue doing creative things. I am talking about painting, sculpting, writing, acting, dancing, playing music, singing, comedy, and any other form of self-expression. Norman Cousins, who wrote the "Anatomy of an Illness" many years ago, made some remarkable discoveries about the powers of recovery and rejuvenation based on laughter, but also on his observations of elders he knew, such as Pablo Casals, the great cellist. Casals had severe arthritis that was crippling and disfiguring. Every morning he would rise and play his cello for an hour before breakfast. Cousins' defined the continued zest for life and the "child-within," so to speak, by alluding to the energy that Casals had after playing his instrument…expressing his inner passion, if you will. Many great artists, like Picasso, Vladimir Horowitz, to name a few, continued their passions well into their 90's.

Pablo Casals

I think that the passion created by the inner spark I speak of is always there, in all of us. I can define it as our inner child and we need to keep it focused and in the forefront of our minds so that whenever we feel the pull of gravity on our thinking processes, or the forces of nature interfering with our moods causing depression, we need to call upon our intrinsic sense of child and nurture it by being creative.

There are no boundaries to creativity. We can create anything we can imagine. One might say then that human potential is infinite and indefinable for the most part. Most all of us as humans are capable of personal growth and the achievement of higher states of consciousness; especially by identifying our inner strengths.

Aging is a natural phenomenon. It will happen whether we like or not. Getting old is a state of mind per se. We choose to be old, we don't choose to age, it happens without our choosing. So in light of this physiologic wonder, it is inherent for all of us to get in touch with those things that make us happy, those activities that nurture our inner-child, and allow us the pleasure to create for ourselves and for other's who may wish to be pulled along by our magnetism of sorts, helping them to create as well; both in their abilities to appreciate what we continue to do and their own ability to follow suit.

One may ask, "What is it that gives us these ideas to be creative?" I think just being able to appreciate the few things around us that life has to offer, in effect, bringing us comfort, food, clean water, joy and peace, in the face of illness, despair, depression, financial concerns, stress of any kind, and being alone or lonely. If we can hone in on our assets, our "gifts," if you will, and give them away at times either through our creativity or our generosity in helping other's altruistically, we will find that happiness and creativity will follow.

I like to tell my clients to live life to the fullest, live with no regrets and as if there were no tomorrows, only today. Try it, you'll like it. Be creative and be alive……