Same person, different abilities
This topic is very personal for me. My mother, who lived an extraordinarily active and healthy life until age 75, suddenly found herself using a wheelchair for mobility after a car accident. While driving one day, she experienced a mini-stroke and lost control of her car, hitting a large stone wall head on. Thankfully, she survived, but her recovery required months in the hospital, followed by years of rehabilitation.
Mom accepted her limitations with a usual positive attitude, but it wasn’t easy. She hated having to rely on others because, in the past, she was always the “helper”, not the person needing assistance. She learned to graciously accept help when needed, though she continued to do whatever she could on her own.
Life in a wheelchair was difficult for mom, but she coped well with her “new normal”. What bothered her more than her physical limitations was the way people looked at her once in the wheelchair. If they looked at her at all, that is. She was the same person, but treated very differently. Why do people make negative assumptions about people with disabilities?
Why are people uncomfortable around people using a wheelchair?
When out and about, I noticed strangers avoided making eye contact with Mom and looked over her head. If one of us happened to be nearby, they sometimes spoke to us…about her…as if she were invisible.
Occasionally someone spoke directly to her, but talked loudly and slowly as though she had a hearing impairment or possible dementia. Mom was sharper at her advanced age than most people 30 years younger. There was nothing wrong with her brain and she was not deaf. She simply could no longer walk easily.
At a wedding, I saw people looking at Mom with pity, something she did not want or need. Very few people other than immediate family took the time to sit down and keep her company.
I know people are sometimes uncomfortable with situations with which they are unfamiliar. Or perhaps they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and unintentionally offending the other person. Plus, we are taught early on not to stare, so avoidance is often the knee-jerk reaction. I get it. I just wish it were different.
So how do you treat someone in a wheelchair?
The best way to talk to someone in a wheelchair is to talk to them as you would anyone else. Ignore the disability and look at the person in front of you. Here are some basic tips that might help:
Speak directly to them
Do not ignore the person in the wheelchair and talk only to the able-bodied person with them. This behavior is frustrating to the individual in the wheelchair. Let them know you are interested in what they have to say.
Make eye contact
Don't look over their head, look at their eyes. If you expect the conversation to last more than a couple of minutes, pull over a chair so you can more easily converse eye to eye.
Do not touch the wheelchair
To a wheelchair user, the wheelchair is part of their personal space. Some consider it an extension of their body. Do not touch or move a person's wheelchair unless invited to do so.
Ask before you help
You might want to help if you observe someone with a disability experiencing difficulty, but always ask before helping. The person with the disability may want to try to do whatever they can on their own first, even if difficult for them. Most people prefer to try to be as independent as possible, and if it turns out they do need help, your assistance will likely be very much appreciated.
Challenging the negative disability stereotypes
Sadly, my mom passed away four years ago at age 83. As one of her caregivers, I learned a lot over the eight years she used a wheelchair. As a result of this experience, I became a passionate advocate for disability rights.
As the Publisher of 50PlusToday, an online senior lifestyle magazine, I have a platform where I can educate people about all aspects of aging, including accessibility. I work diligently to help people live their best lives as long as possible, as safely as possible. I also try to educate the general population about ways to be more inclusive. Below are some of my favorite articles from the 50PlusToday online magazine related to accessibility.
Approximately 20 percent of the American population lives with some sort of disability, according to the latest US Census data. Statistically, about 10% live with a visible physical disability or some type of mobility impairment. More than three million people in the U.S. use a wheelchair full-time.
These are not small numbers! To effect change, we each need to do our small part to help make the world a better place for those who need a little extra help.
I challenge you to start today. When you next encounter a person in a wheelchair, stop and say hello. No need to even offer to help or comment on their situation; simply make eye contact and greet them as a regular person. Because they are a regular person. People with disabilities have full lives with interesting stories and experiences to share. The hardest part of disability is being ignored.
Try to see the person, not the disability.
Written by Leslie Farin, Publisher 50Plus-Today, Online Senior Lifestyle Magazine
Dementia and OCD Lead to Compulsive ShoppingTavis SchrieferCEO @ teleCalm, Phone service for Alzheimers & dementia, both at home and in senior livingMarch 1, 2024Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects about 1.2% of U.S. adults. People with OCD experience unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that cause them anxiety or distress. They also perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions) to try to reduce or neutralize their anxiety. For example, someone with OCD may have a fear of germs and compulsively wash their hands or even develop a compulsive shopping disorder.OCD can be a chronic and disabling condition that interferes with daily functioning and quality of life. Unfortunately, some people with OCD may also be at a higher risk of developing dementia, a group of brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, and behavior. Dementia is more common in older adults, especially those over 65 years old, and it can cause cognitive decline, confusion, and personality changes.How OCD is linked to dementiaAccording to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry , people with OCD are more likely to develop dementia than people without OCD. The study used data from a large insurance database in Taiwan and followed 1,347 people with OCD and 13,470 matched controls without OCD for an average of 11 years. The researchers found that:People with OCD had a higher risk of developing Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, and unspecified dementia than people without OCD.People with OCD developed dementia about 6 years earlier than people without OCD (70.5 years versus 76.7 years).People with OCD had a higher rate of early-onset dementia (before age 65) than people without OCD (1.7% versus 0.1%).The exact reasons why OCD is associated with dementia are not clear, but some possible explanations are:OCD may share some genetic or environmental risk factors with dementia, such as the APOE gene or chronic inflammation.OCD may cause chronic stress or damage to the brain over time, which may increase the vulnerability to dementia.OCD may make it harder to detect or treat dementia symptoms, as some cognitive impairments or behavioral changes may be attributed to OCD rather than dementia.How OCD and dementia affect compulsive shoppingOne of the possible consequences of having both OCD and dementia is compulsive shopping, which is the uncontrollable urge to buy things that are not needed or wanted. Compulsive shopping can cause financial problems, family conflicts, and emotional distress for the person and their caregivers.Compulsive shopping can be triggered by different factors in people with OCD and dementia, such as:Obsessions: People with OCD may have obsessive thoughts about buying certain items or completing certain collections, which may drive them to shop compulsively.Compulsions: People with OCD may use shopping as a way to cope with their anxiety or to perform rituals related to their obsessions, such as buying multiples of the same item or checking prices repeatedly.Memory loss: People with dementia may forget what they have already bought or why they bought it, which may lead them to buy the same things again or buy things they dont need.Impulsivity: People with dementia may lose their ability to control their impulses or plan ahead, which may make them more prone to buy things on a whim or fall for marketing tricks.Boredom: People with dementia may feel bored or lonely due to their cognitive decline or social isolation, which may make them seek stimulation or comfort through shopping.Compulsive shopping can be especially problematic when it involves purchasing products from home shopping channels and other ads on TV. These sources of shopping may be more accessible, appealing, or persuasive for people with OCD and dementia, as they may:Provide constant exposure to new products and offers that may trigger obsessions or impulses.Use high-pressure tactics such as limited-time deals, scarcity cues, testimonials, or guarantees that may exploit cognitive biases or vulnerabilities.Offer easy payment methods such as credit cards, phone orders, or online transactions that may bypass rational decision-making or budgeting.Deliver products directly to the home without requiring transportation or social interaction that may deter or limit shopping.How teleCalm service can helpIf you have a loved one who suffers from both OCD and dementia and engages in compulsive shopping from home shopping channels and TV ads, you may feel frustrated, worried, or helpless. Fortunately, there is a service that can help you manage this issue: teleCalm.teleCalm is a phone service that is designed specifically for seniors with dementia and their caregivers. It works with any existing phone and phone number, and it offers several features that can prevent or reduce compulsive shopping, such as:Blocking unwanted outgoing calls to home shopping channels and TV adsBlocking ALL incoming calls from telemarketers, scammers, and any other numbers you choose.Allowing only trusted callers to reach your loved one, such as family, friends, doctors, or emergency services.Viewing your loved ones phone activity and alerting you of any suspicious or unusual calls, such as repeated calls to the same number or calls at odd hours.Providing you with a dashboard on an app where you can control and customize your loved ones phone settings, such as call blocking, call filtering, or call scheduling.By using teleCalm, you can protect your loved one from compulsive shopping and its negative consequences, while also preserving their dignity, independence, and connection. You can also reduce your own stress and worry, knowing that your loved one is safe and supported.If you are interested in learning more about teleCalm, please visit teleCalmProtects.com or call 1-888-701-0411.
Navigating the Extra Day: A Journey Through Leap YearsLeap years, those quadrennial anomalies in our calendar, have intrigued and puzzled people for centuries. While the concept may seem simple, the implications of leap years are far-reaching, affecting the lives and experiences of individuals across generations.The Earth's orbit around the sun takes approximately 365.25 days. To account for this fractional day, our calendar includes an extra day, February 29th, every four years. This additional day is what we commonly refer to as a leap day.The leap year calendar, also known as the Gregorian calendar, is the most widely used calendar system in the world. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582 to reform the Julian calendar and correct inaccuracies in the calculation of leap years.Under the Gregorian calendar, a leap year occurs every four years, except for years that are divisible by 100 but not by 400. This rule helps synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, making it a more accurate representation of the Earth's orbit around the sun. Imagine reaching the remarkable milestone of 100 years old. Those fortunate enough to celebrate a century of life would have experienced numerous leap years. By the time someone reaches the age of 100, they would have witnessed 25-26 leap years. If you were born on February 29, 1924, and you want to count the leap year in which you were born, then you would experience 26 leap years by February 29, 2024. This includes the leap year of your birth in 1924 and all subsequent leap years every four years, up to and including 2024. The baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has experienced a varying number of leap years depending on their current age. As of 2024, the youngest baby boomers would be around 60 years old, having experienced 15-16 leap years. Those born in the mid-1940s would be in their late 70s, with 19-20 leap years under their belts. The number of leap years increases with age, contributing to the diversity of experiences within the baby boomer generation.For individuals aged 55 and above, leap years hold a unique significance. These extra days serve as reminders of the passage of time, providing an opportunity for reflection and celebration. Leap years often coincide with major life events, such as milestone birthdays or anniversaries. The occurrence of an extra day in the calendar can be seen as a symbolic bonus, a chance to appreciate the gift of time and the memories accumulated over the years. Leap years, with their irregular but predictable cadence, add a layer of complexity to our understanding of time. For centenarians, baby boomers, and those in the 55+ age group, these extra days contribute to the tapestry of memories and experiences that shape their lives. As we navigate the twists and turns of our temporal journey, let us embrace the quirkiness of leap years and appreciate the additional moments they provide for reflection, celebration, and gratitude. Happy Birthday to all the Leap Day Babies!
Informed Decisions: Benefits of Professional Senior Living AdvicePosted: February 22, 2024 , in My Care Advisors PodcastFor older adults, few decisions carry as much weight as selecting the ideal Assisted Living Community to meet their needs. With a staggering number of nearly 31,000 Assisted Living Communities across the U.S., the task of finding the perfect match can feel daunting, overwhelming, and emotionally draining.However, enlisting the expertise of a seasoned senior living advisor can help alleviate these burdens. By partnering with a knowledgeable professional who comprehensively understands the continuum of senior care options, tailored to individual needs and preferences, you can navigate this pivotal transition with confidence. Such advisors not only ensure the quality of life for you or your loved one but also offer invaluable support throughout every step of the decision-making process. From clarifying intricate details to providing emotional reassurance, their guidance proves indispensable in securing a comfortable and fulfilling living arrangement for seniors.Click to listen to this episode:Tune in for insights and resources from Tracy Toomer, Certified Senior Advisor and Owner at CarePatrol Collin County-Central.About Tracy Toomer:Tracy Toomer is President and Owner of CarePatrol of Collin County. CarePatrol is the nations largest senior care solutions franchise in the United States. Through more than 200 offices in 35 states, local senior advisors provide a free service in helping families find quality, top-rated assisted living, independent living, memory care, and in-home care.Toomer is a seasoned business executive with more than 25 years of experience in the specialty retail, grocery, restaurant, fitness and now in senior healthcare. In recent years Toomer served as vice-president of operations for the largest Planet Fitness Franchise, with over 168 locations in 14 states. There she built an operations team of seven regional directors and grew from 69 gyms to 168 gyms through two acquisitions and organic growth.Toomer holds a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) designation awarded to qualified, multidisciplinary professionals serving older adults. Tracy is active in the senior community and brings a creditable and important voice to finding safer senior living. Each month, Tracy facilitates mental aerobics at the Wellness center for Older Adults in Plano, Texas.In 2022 Tracy earned the Compassion Ambassador Award from CarePatrol Franchises, LLC amongst her 180 Franchise peers. Her dedication to the families and those living with dementia inspired the Franchisees to do more; to contribute more for a huge segment of their client base.Tracy Toomer is a proud southern California native but currently resides in Allen, Texas with her parents and four-legged brother Bruno. Show/Episode Notes:Learn what the role of a Senior Living Advisor means and some of the services they offerDiscover how working with a Senior Living Advisor can help you navigate the complicated world of Assisted LivingHear about the importance of working with a Senior Living Advisor to avoid potential dangers or hazardsWalk away with tips and tricks from Tracy Toomers past experiences Determine some of the resources available to you and where to find them
50PlusToday is a national online resource for accurate, meaningful and inspirational information for older adults and their families. We believe the 50PlusToday person is a very active individual. They want to take advantage of all the world has to offer and adopt a lifestyle that promotes a good quality of life. That being said, 50PlusToday also strives to provide reliable information about difficult issues you might be facing now or in the near future. Life is a journey; we are here to help and inspire you every step of the way. Our writers are experts in their fields and/or members of the 50Plus population themselves. We also promote businesses and fun events of all kinds that target active adults in our 50Plus Directory, and coordinate our own 50Plus educational and networking events as well. Our mission, in addition to becoming the go-to resource for everything 50Plus, is to create a supportive community for this vibrant and influential population. Please join us!