Last Week’s Links

The Literature of Elder Care is Often About Shifting Power Dynamics

As people live longer, adults frequently face “elder-care responsibility.” 

“An important facet of these relationships, which often appears in fiction and nonfiction works, is the shifting power dynamic between older adults and their adult children, particularly in the United States and other predominately white Western countries,” writes Ellyn A. Lem. In this article Lem looks at how these relationships play out in literature by Shakespeare, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, Let Me Be Frank with You by Richard Ford, Days of Awe by Lauren Fox, several works of nonfiction, and several films. 

How to Embrace Uncertainty, Even If You’re Not Sure What Will Happen Next

Not only are we dealing with our usual sources of uncertainty, but then there’s the whole global pandemic, where we’re trying to stop the spread of a virus we have never seen in humans before. We’re not just in uncharted waters—we’re scrambling to stay afloat. As it turns out, there are ways to more effectively deal with feelings of uncertainty, and embrace what’s next with some level of confidence (even if it’s very low).

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University, offers “two strategies for handling uncertainty in a healthier way.”

The Museum Where Racist and Oppressive Statues Go to Die

“Germany has found ways to display problematic monuments without elevating them.” Daniela Blei reports on the job of the Citadel Museum in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, which “aims to contextualize the past, putting uncomfortable realities on display in productive, educational, and sometimes challenging ways.”

Whether you are a night owl or early bird may affect how much activity you get during the day

I am definitely a night owl. When I was in college, I discovered that I worked better if I stayed up studying until about 2:00 AM, then slept until about 10:00. Because I went to a huge university with lots of class offerings, I was able to take almost all my classes between 1:00 and 6:00 PM. Unfortunately, after graduating from college, I realized that the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. Very few workplaces accommodate a night owl’s preferred schedule, and once I had a child who had to be gotten up and out for school, any possibility of catering to my own schedule went out the front door.

Because of my own experience, I’ve been interested in relatively recent research into the differences between early birds and night owls. This article reports on various chronotypes, the “master clocks” in our brains that determine how our bodies respond to the time of day. Recent research out of Finland found that “among both men and women, the morning types and many of the day types moved significantly more than the evening types, even when the researchers controlled for people’s health, professions, socioeconomic status and other factors.”

The conclusion: “Overall, the study’s findings suggest that late risers may want to monitor how frequently they move.”

How to not fear your death

Sam Dresser suggests “several philosophically inspired reasons not to be fearful of your own death.” 

In addition to the philosophical insights offered her, the article includes some links and references to use if you want to dig more deeply into this topic. 

One Twitter Account’s Quest to Proofread The New York Times

The former English teacher and copy editor in me could not resist this article. Overall, not just in particular news sources, I’ve been appalled by all the examples I constantly find in publications (both print and digital) that make me groan, “If only you’d had a copy editor take a look at this . . . .”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas

In my earlier years I did freelance writing and editing. Scrambling for freelance gigs was a frustrating, humbling, and often thankless task. But one type of writing gig was always on the job boards: writing papers and admission essays for students. The evergreen presence of these jobs meant that, periodically, the question would arise about whether writers could or should accept them. There were always passionate answers on both sides: (1) morality be damned, I’m trying to earn a living, and (2) I may be starving, but my conscience is clear.

Just to be clear, I never took any of these jobs. But one thing I learned from this article surprised me: Many of the people taking paper-writing jobs live abroad, not in the U.S. And many of these college-educated writers make a better living at this job than they’d earn in the profession they had trained for in their country.

People Who Read Before Bed Not Only Sleep Better, But Eat More Healthily and Make More Money

This article is concerned mainly with people who read in bed at night. I have sleep disturbance problems, and people like me are always told not to eat, read, watch TV, knit, or do anything else in bed at night. The idea is to train your brain that when you go to bed, you’re ready to fall asleep. I feel deprived of the great luxury of reading in bed, but, for me, reading in my recliner before getting under the covers will have to suffice. 

But it is good to know that people who read before bed are healthy and wealthy as well as wise.

Is Dying at Home Overrated?

“A palliative care physician struggles with the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of making it a societal priority.” 

Unless a family has the significant resources necessary to hire aides or nurses, informal caregivers become responsible for nearly everything — from feeding to bathing to toileting. These tasks often get harder as the dying person weakens. In my experience, most family members want to care for their loved ones at home, but many are unaware of caregiving’s physical and emotional toll.

Dr. Richard Leiter compassionately looks at the multiple aspects of end-of-life care and, on the basis of his own experience, concludes “we need to focus not only on where, but also on how they die.”

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

This article examines the potential problems involving “Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago.” 

Daydreams Shape Your Sense of Self

Psychologist Eve Blouin-Hudon addresses the question “Why is daydreaming so prevalent?” She observes that we often daydream about ourselves, about how we may feel and react in certain situations. Such daydreams contribute to building our life story: “These self-related stories allow people to make sense of who they are and to build their narrative identity—their sense of continuity through time. People need to connect who they believe they are to ongoing experiences.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

On Keeping a Notebook: A Reading List

A lot has been written on the why and how of keeping a notebook or journal. Here writer, editor, and translator Jeanne Bonner explains, “You can always write in a notebook — on a plane, in the car, even while out on a lake in a canoe. It’s almost never a breach of etiquette to pull out a notebook.”

She provides a list of, with links to, eight in-depth articles that “explore the joys of keeping a notebook and the art of writing longhand.”

Study finds guns automatically prime aggressive thoughts — even when wielded by a ‘good guy’

Since the 60s, studies have tested whether the presence of a gun increases measured aggression in participants. The results of these studies have confirmed that the presence of a gun does indeed prime aggressive thoughts, a phenomenon referred to as the “weapons effect.”

This article discusses the results of a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Binge drinking is increasing among seniors, study finds

I unthinkingly associate binge drinking with young adults, so this article caught my eye. 

A report published July 31 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that more than 10% of people over age 65 engage in binge drinking, defined in the study as consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks at a time. 

Moreover, the study found that such binge drinking among older adults is on the rise. The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Benjamin Han, assistant professor of geriatric medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City, theorizes that the increase may be occurring because older women are catching up to older men, whose rate of binge drinking remained relatively stable between 2005 and 2014.

Han also says, “‘Many organizations, such as the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], recommend lower drinking levels as people get older or have more chronic diseases.’”

Novels That Explore the 1970s

Over time, I’ve posted a lot of articles, mostly nostalgic, about the 1960s, the decade during which I came of age. But I was a new adult in the following decade, the 1970s, and was therefore continuing my maturing process.

If the ’60s had been a decade in which young people focused their attention on making changes in their society, the ’70s has often been called “the me decade,” as individuals turned their attention inward in hopes of finding peace from outside chaos. The enormous social problems people had protested in the 1960s didn’t disappear, but for a variety of reasons, social issues didn’t seem as compelling to many people as the need to change themselves. Self-help became big business.

Here’s a list of novels set during that time:

  • The Summer of Ellen by Agnete Friis  
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid  
  • Drop City by T.C. Boyle  
  • Beatlebone by Kevin Barry  
  • Surfacing by Margaret Atwood  
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison  
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James  T
  • he Interestings by Meg Wolitzer  
  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg  
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng  
  • All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church  
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem  
  • Unworthy by Antonio Monda  
  • Rusty Brown by Chris Ware  
  • Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel  
  • Hippie by Paulo Coelho

More older adults die from cancer despite high screening rates

A recent report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians found that “the fastest-growing age group in the United States, adults older than age 85 have higher incidences and death rates from cancer than those between ages 65 and 84.”

“The purpose of our study was to provide a comprehensive review of cancer in the oldest old using the most up to date national data,” Carol Desantis, a researcher at American Cancer Society and study author, told UPI. “We hope that these data spur additional research on cancer in this vulnerable and rapidly growing population.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Even if you’re not interested in opera, you might find this article informative about Ron Howard’s new documentary film about Luciano Pavarotti.

Opera fans hold on to his 1960s and ’70s glory days, when his sunny voice was in its prime . . . and he challenged himself in corners of the bel canto repertory. The broader public is likelier to remember the cheesy charity concerts and duets with Bono, the guilty “Three Tenors” pleasure with a white handkerchief clutched in his hand and endless high C’s.

According to this article, Pavarotti “never learned to read music.”

Storytelling Helps Hospital Staff Learn About The Person, Not Just The Patient

VA hospitals are pioneering the use of storytelling to strengthen the relationships patients have with doctors and nurses. With more information about patients, there may be some health benefits.

The medical profession is catching on to the notion that you can’t really know people until you know their life stories.

Seattle man finds cache of historical photos by famed crime photographer Weegee in his kitchen cabinet

Check those attics, basements, garages, and kitchen cabinets, folks!

Stonewall: The Making of a Monument

Ever since the 1969 riots on the streets outside New York City’s Stonewall Inn, L.G.B.T.Q. communities have gathered there to express their joy, their anger, their pain and their power.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Donating Your Body to Science

Organ donation is one way of leaving your body to science. But this article discusses how to donate your entire body and how whole bodies (cadavers) are used to further scientific study.

Deadly Falls in Older Americans Are Rising. Here’s How to Prevent Them

The rate of deaths after falls is rising for people over 75, a new study shows. But falls are avoidable for most seniors. We have some tips.

The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day

Ernie Pyle’s dispatches offered comfort to readers back home. Then the Normandy landings — 75 years ago this week — changed his perspective on the war’s costs

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity

You’ve undoubtedly seen the ads for DNA tests that will allow you to connect with extended family members. While such tests can produce many exciting discoveries, they also have potential to turn up some very upsetting news. This article from The Atlantic discusses some of those bombshell results.

Most of the people presented here who’ve experienced such results are over the age of 50. Many people actively researching their family tree are those to whom retirement has provided the time necessary for genealogical research.

The generation whose 50-year-old secrets are now being unearthed could not have imagined a world of $99 mail-in DNA kits. But times are changing, and the culture with it. “This generation right now and maybe the next 15 years or so, there’s going to be a lot of shocking results coming out. I’d say in 20 years’ time it’s going to dissipate,” she predicted. By then, our expectations of privacy will have caught up with the new reality created by the rise of consumer DNA tests.

The article focuses on a support group on Facebook for people whose genetic tests deliver upsetting news.

One Seattleite’s way of celebrating his 100th birthday: jumping out of a plane

So, what are your birthday plans?

The Mystery of End-of-Life Rallies

Palliative care experts say it is not uncommon for people in hospice care to perk up briefly before they die, sometimes speaking clearly or asking for food.

This did not happen with my mother, who died almost two years ago at age 89, but, according to the article, such rallies, also known as terminal lucidity, sometimes occur. However, there is little scientific evidence about either the frequency of or the reasons for such rallies.

Write Your Own Obit

Far from seeming narcissistic, undertaking a self-obituary can be a form of summation and of caregiving for those who may be in need of direction after we are gone.

This is one of those topics that comes around periodically. Writing one’s own obituary is a variation of the psychological concept of life review, a process of life evaluation that many older adults go through, either consciously or unconsciously. Writing the obituary helps make the life review a conscious process that allows people to record the events, accomplishments, and values that they would most like to be remembered for.

For people in midlife, remembering that we all have to die may redirect ongoing goals; for seniors, such a workout may remind us to view current problems within the context of what really matters most to us.

This article contains links to obituaries others have written for themselves and suggestions for writing one’s own.

What Rereading Childhood Books Teaches Adults About Themselves

Emma Court examines the benefits of adult rereadings of childhood books.

In a 2012 study that looked at why people reread books, rewatch movies, and revisit the same places, the researchers interviewed 23 participants about which experiences they chose to repeat, why, and how they felt during it. They found that repeat experiences “allow consumers an active synthesis of time and serve as catalysts for existential reflection.” Childhood books offer an opportunity to sit down in the river of time, if just for a moment, and ponder the full scope of one’s life. For one woman in the study, who often rewatched the 1999 romantic drama Message in a Bottle, the movie helped her process an upsetting breakup.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here’s what I’ve been reading recently around the web.

High blood pressure threatens aging brain, study says

Here’s yet another reason to get your blood pressure under control: High blood pressure later in life may contribute to blood vessel blockages and tangles linked to Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

They took a survey in their teens. 60 years later, these Puyallup students are being recruited for a new one

Here’s a local take on a national survey from the early 1960s.

More than 400,000 high school students from 1,353 schools across the country participated in Project Talent between 1960 and 1963. About 1,269 of the students were from Puyallup High.

And now, 130 of those students, some no longer living in the United States, were tracked down to take another survey.

This time, the focus is on health.

“There’s a big push to fund Alzheimer’s research,” Project Talent director Susan Lapham said. “Baby Boomers are edging into a time period where Alzheimer’s really becomes an issue.”

Talking about Death

What constitutes a good death? While end-of-life care has come a long way, the aims of the medical industry are often in conflict with the wishes of patients.

LaCroix, Sparkling Ice, Bai and beyond: Are fruit-flavored waters good for you?

I’ve never liked the taste of water, so this discussion of what’s in some of the more common substitutes for plain water interested me.

There are so many different ways to hydrate these days — it’s clear we’ve come a long way from watered-down water. If you love fruit flavors and want to try something new, these new beverages can make a great addition to your hydration rotation — just take a few extra seconds to read what’s in the fine print.

The Power of Positive People

While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks — in person and online — can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness. A recent report found that a person’s exercise routine was strongly influenced by his or her social network.

Why don’t we know more about migraines?

A look at one of the oldest recorded human ailments.

Given the prevalence of migraines among women, this apparent neglect could be a result of how physicians tend to underrate pain in female patients. It may also reflect the historic – and similarly gendered – associations between migraines and mental illness.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

People Are Happiest At This Unexpected Time of Life

old-people

New research suggests that people get happier with age. Earlier research has suggested that peoples’ mental health improves as they age, and this study of 1,546 randomly selected adults in San Diego County suggests a correlation with happiness.

Have a Story to Tell? Your Personal Memoirist Is Here

Even in an era when it seems every life is displayed on social media for the world to see, a whole generation is getting older, and its stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost. Serving that market is becoming a small-business enterprise.

This article describes how personal historians work with clients to write the individual’s life history.

Is This Sustainable Village The Future Of Retirement?

An account of Serenbe, a multigenerational community in Chattahoochee Hills, outside Atlanta,GA. The community clusters homes and commercial buildings together so that a large portion of wooded land can be left undeveloped.

Nygren’s vision for Serenbe was modeled on the English countryside, where high-density villages are surrounded by expansive rural spaces.

Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy

Dr. VJ Periyakoil, director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education & Training Program, describes the Stanford Letter Project, which encourages older adults to write letters to their loved ones expressing sentiments they might not have been able to say face-to-face. The article contains a link to the Stanford Letter Project, which offers free letter templates.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Coverage for End-of-Life Talks Gaining Ground – NYTimes.com

Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over “death panels,” the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.

via Coverage for End-of-Life Talks Gaining Ground – NYTimes.com.

This article offers balanced information on the question of whether doctors should be reimbursed for discussing end-of-life directives with patients. These discussions not only help doctors fulfill patients’ wishes but also relieve families of having to make crucial medical decisions in emotional, stressful situations.

Some private insurers already cover the cost of end-of-life discussions, so it’s important to check your coverage if you have supplemental insurance.

A Dark View of Assisted Living

A Dark View of Assisted Living – NYTimes.com

the hourlong “Frontline” documentary “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” airing Tuesday night on PBS stations across the country, doesn’t really break new ground on the subject. But it is important nonetheless.One reason is that families, who make most of the decisions about assisted living, don’t pore over gerontology journals or state regulations as they are looking for a place that is not a nursing home.

So they don’t always realize that these reassuring-looking residences may have no nurse on the premises most of the time, that health care in assisted living frequently consists of a 911 call, that the average length of stay — according to the Assisted Living Federation of America — is less than two years.

Life Is Too Short. Or Is It?

Life Is Too Short. Or Is It?

Liah Greenfeld, Ph.D., writes that medical advances in prolonging life may have unintended consequences. She offers as evidence the fate of her parents:

My mother, who will be 85 next month and whose mind is still sharper than a surgical scalpel, repeats now and then: one must die in time. She was a doctor, she watched many deaths. She believes that the ability of medical science in developed countries to prolong life into the 80s and beyond is nothing to celebrate and, in fact, actively contributes to unnecessary suffering.  My mother is tired of life – and since my father’s death eleven years ago, in 2002, has often wished she were dead. They were married for 53 years, with his death meaningful life ended for her – there was nothing to live for anymore. His death – sudden, on the operation table, at 75 — was a terrible loss for all of us. For two years I, his eldest daughter, 48 when this happened, was overwhelmed by grief. Yet, before that, I had been consciously happy, that is, I realized that my life was a truly happy one, full to the brim of love and passionate interest in the surrounding world, which make life worth living. My father knew that he was going to die: we have discovered this in his diary. He was a doctor too, and a very good doctor, in contrast to the young and eager to cut surgeons who operated on him. He knew that, given the regimen of medications he was on, if operated, he would die of the loss of blood; his doctors, who suggested an exploratory surgery, missed this essential detail. Signing the consent form, my father was, therefore, consciously signing his death warrant. He was a man interested in so many things, always excited about something, always full of projects. In fact, at the time of his death he was learning a new language. And he was afraid of dying, as he wrote in the last entry of his diary, adding, though, but can life after 75 be considered life? I understand now that he died, as my mother says, “in time.”

After his death, my mother suddenly became very old. Her health drastically deteriorated. She started dying and has been dying for eleven years.

She ends by asking: “When is the time? Shouldn’t we at least think of this before further advancing our ability to prolong physical existence, without at the same time being able to fill the additional years with meaning?”