Getting Old (And Being a Grown-up About It)
Arthur Riven’s recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, about being both a physician and an Alzheimer’s patient, is perhaps one of the best pieces I’ve read recently about living life on life’s terms with grace. Dr. Riven, who practiced internal medicine and is a professor emeritus at UCLA, writes about the struggle to accept that his mind was deteriorating, and how his wife, knowing something was wrong, urged him to see a doctor. “Doctors are often not willing patients,” he says. The piece is not preachy at all, not Pollyanna-ish and full of practical things people with memory disorders can do. In fact, his advice is good for all of us.
Paul Johnson, the veteran NBC traffic and weather reporter passed away June 29 at 75, at home in Orange County. Brown, who Angelinos (and residents of the OC) knew by his signature sign-off: “Buckle up, be careful out there” underwent brain surgery for glioblastoma in January and remained off air while recovering. According to MSNBC: “Johnson decided to forego chemotherapy or radiation treatments, saying ‘he wanted to die with dignity and without pain,’ his wife, Nancy, said. ‘He spent his final days resting peacefully at his home in Orange Park Acres,’ she said.”
Alexandra Grabbe, says, about caring for her mother, who died in her 90s: “Home care is not a job I thought I would ever look back on with nostalgia. I had moved into my parents’ house with the goal of allowing my elderly mom to die with dignity, in her own bedroom. Once she became bedridden, I cared for her for seven long months. I didn’t know what to expect when the end drew near. People assume death to be a turn-off, so accustomed are they to the murders which dominate the local news and popular crime shows. This assumption is wrong. My mom’s passing was an incredible high. Being there for her was the right decision. Four years later, I realize how special this phase of my life was, how lucky I am to have lived it.” Alexandra, who, in addition to running an all-green bed and breakfast on Cape Cod, is working on a book about what she learned, and the experiences she embraced, while caring for her mother.
Alisa Bowman, on her Project: Happily Ever After blog, recently posted about her grandparents, who have been married more than 70 years. Her grandmother, who is 93, is in a nursing home. Alisa writes: “She has many ailments, but severe dementia leads the list. I lived with her one summer, but she no longer remembers that. She no longer remembers me at all.” Her grandmother also has MRSA, which means-according to the rules-there must be no physical, skin-on-skin contact with her. But her grandfather, who is 94, insists on kissing his wife-on the lips-goodbye during their visit. She writes, “The aides are yelling, ‘Harry, wash your hands!’ They are shaking their heads. Skin to skin contact is not allowed with someone who has MRSA.” Alisa writes, “I think Grandpa either can’t hear them or he just doesn’t care. He loves her. He’s going to kiss her on the lips no matter what contagion she has.”
Hygiene factors aside, isn’t this what we all want, not only in old age but in life? To feel like someone is with us, loves us and not afraid of us because we are dying? Or because we are sick? To be loved and accepted for who we are at every stage of our lives. And, if we can be grown up about it, to do that for the person(s) we love.
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