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Mark's Meanderings. by Mark Stoller

Our aging family

Mark Stoller moved to Falcon in 2007.†He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, enjoy life with their daughters, extended family and adopted rescue dogs in Latigo. Mark savors the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.

ìMy grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.î ― Ellen DeGeneresNewly married, junior officers in the Air Force, and invincible, Andra and I were content to live anywhere but Ohio, where we both grew up ó Cincinnati (me) and Toledo (Andra).We grew older and wiser, only to discover the value of proximity to our extended family.Granted, slugging through the airports with children, car seats, and extra bags helped to bring clarity to the benefit of nearby family ó albeit a rite of passage for parenthood.Originally, we hypothesized that a 40-acre compound with individual parcels of land connected by golf cart paths would be ideal. Today, we have the arrangement of our parents and in-laws, who moved from Ohio and New Jersey, all within 3 miles of each other in the Falcon area. Weíre close enough for mutual support, but not in each otherís back pocket.As an aside, ìIt really sucks getting old!î is something I hear quite often and speak for myself ó evidence that time marches on and Iím not pain-free and immortal as in my early days.With the family in proximity, we take a more active role in helping with post-surgical care; Suz and Robin are great with ëjust becauseí dinners; free medical advice; adjusting to debilitating cancer; and the nudges to go to the ER when Andraís dad famously says his pain is ìonly a 4î on the 1-10 scale and that ìit will pass.îOur folks do lament their recognized cognitive and physical declines. Memory care is now the emerging challenge for both sets of parents and for handling our own reaction to the decline.There is no ìcureî yet for general memory loss. The best treatments available today only work to slow it down.The website, Assisting Hands Health Care, delineates the difference between mild and extreme memory loss.Mild memory loss includes the normal aging/elderly absentmindedness. Normal forgetfulness should not be a trigger for concern. Examples of mild memory loss include forgetting why they entered the living room or misplacing their keys. These occasional memory lapses fail to prevent the parent from functioning independently.Extreme memory loss is determined when an individual forgets significant information like the names of loved ones or important words during conversations ó signs of progressive memory loss. The decline in memory capabilities only worsens over time and may be indicative of a serious condition, such as dementia.There is a fine line to walk when dealing with memory and cognitive changes. On one hand, you shouldnít be irritated with the current shortcomings when youíre accustomed to the days when your loved ones were sharp. Patience is required to explain and help sort things out. On the other hand, you canít just sweep in, think for them and take away their independence.Common recommendations for helping elderly with memory decline are 1) sticky notes and reminders everywhere, 2) good hydration and nutrition to include memory enhancing foods such as broccoli, kale, blueberries, blackberries and avocado, 3) keep a steady and predictable routine to eliminate confusion, 4) try to minimize stressors, anxiety and depression from becoming catalysts for episodes of memory loss, 5) keep aging parentsí minds sharp by providing mental stimulation daily ó playing challenging games like chess, cards or board games, and last 6) prescription medication can cause side effects, such as memory loss. Schedule a visit with the prescribing doctor to determine whether beneficial medication adjustments can be made.Change is painful no matter your age. The best we can do is be empathetic and help our family.

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