Mothering Mother – A Must Read for Caregivers and Families

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

Mothering Mother by Carol O'DellMothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

* * * * *

“Are you coming to bed, hon?” whispered my sleepy husband.

“In a minute . . . this is such a good book!” I said as  I glanced up.

From the first paragraph, Carol O’Dell’s book, Mothering Mother, had me spellbound. I just could not put this book down.

More of this article . . .

New! 3GenFamily.com – Our New Website Is Now Live

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Long Distance Caregiving for a Parent While Raising Teens and Balancing Work and Home

The past 16 months has been an amazing and eventful time for me as a long distance caregiver for my 83 year old father, parent of two teen boys, spouse and juggler of work and home life. When I started this blog, I had no idea I would meet so many dedicated and fascinating people also working to get the best information into the hands of readers like you.

Because there is still a huge need for real answers to many of life’s toughest situations, I am expanding this blog to meet those needs. While I am grateful to WordPress.com for having a perfect place to start a blog, it is time to move to our own website.

I’ll be offering you even more honest content and real life ideas that work for caregivers, parents and anyone struggling to balance the conflicting priorities of work and home life.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

One housekeeping note: If you signed up to receive this blog via email or RSS from Feedburner, you will need to sign up again at 3GenFamily.com. I am sorry for the inconvenience. There isn’t a way for me to just move your settings over to the new website.

Don’t miss a single post. The latest post discusses 110 Tips for Getting Into the College of Your Choice.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Articles on Reducing Conflict with Adult Siblings, Getting Into the College Your Child Dreams About, Surviving Long Distance Caregiving

I will be writing more of the types of article you have come to expect from 3GenFamily Blog. And, there will be new features based on requests and comments I have received from our readers. The topics will still relate to being sandwiched in between two generations — our aging parents who increasingly need our help and our children who are not yet ready to fly into the world.

Somewhere in there, each of us also needs to make a space for ourselves for meaningful work and for celebrating life’s small and large personal successes. Buried between the lines is the emotional turmoil of conflict with our adult siblings and the the lack of understanding of bosses and coworkers who haven’t reached these stages of life.

How do you explain an issue to someone who has no frame of reference?

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Best Regards,

CK Wilde

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post either whole or in part. Please use the comments to request permission.

Can Gardening and Salads Prevent Lung Cancer?

Fresh salad with tomato

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog.
Ripe, juicy tomatoes were my father’s obsession.
Every year, Dad would plant enough tomato plants to keep our family of four and my grandparents, my aunt and her husband and my uncle and his family with huge beefsteak and oval plum tomatoes all summer long. At summer’s end, he and my mother would spend weekends canning tomatoes.

After many August weekends of canning whole tomatoes, my mother revolutionized her life by canning tomato sauce which could be used right from the jar to prepare meals. Much later on my parents discovered the wonders of freezing the sauce to keep more of the fresh made taste.

Getting bumper crops of tomatoes took a lot of work preparing the soil, starting plants from seeds, planting and then watering and tending the plants. Most spring and summer evenings, you would find my father out in his garden helping plants grow.

Two Packs A Day

And, during that time, my father was a two pack-a-day smoker. He quit “cold turkey” one day after 35 years of smoking because a coughing fit left him wheezing and unable to catch his breath. In that instant, he finally realized that his only choice was to stop smoking.

He continued to vigorously garden until his late 70’s when his second wife pronounced the garden “too much work for him” and urged him to give it up. Believe it or not, the garden seemed to be the source of his energy and strength.

Over the next few years, Dad’s health slid into decline. Hospitalizations became more frequent.

Gardening and Salads?

So even though it seems a bit far fetched, it doesn’t surprise me that the researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found recently (December 2007) that smokers and non-smokers may be able to reduce the risk of lung cancer by eating salads 4 or more times per week and working in the garden 1 or 2 times per week.

Cynical reviewers could say that this research is nothing more than getting exercise and eating the right kinds of foods. Yet, I wonder if there is something additional going on?

Thwarting Pesky Gophers!

When my children were in preschool and first grade, we tended a little garden in tubs placed in a sunny spot near our front door. We grew all plants in containers to thwart the gophers who managed to devour everything in their path.

After a few minutes of pulling weeds and watering, I would lapse into a reverie — an almost primal connection to the earth. The warmth of the sun would melt the tension from the week. Stretching and bending felt so good after a week of desk sitting. I would be refreshed and ready for the hectic week ahead.

In a number of weeks after all of my solicitous garden tending, we would be rewarded with the most delicious tasting vegetable and herbs. An added benefit of all of the work in the garden is that , even today, my sons willingly eat salads and vegetables!

And now, the researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have been able to empirically show that eating vegetables (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) and getting outdoors to get some sun (Vitamin D) and exercise (reduce stress and condition the heart and lungs) can save smokers lives.

It is a sad irony that just a few years after my father gave up gardening, he died of lung cancer.

If you have a parent or spouse who smokes, don’t give up on getting him or her to quit. 80 percent of lung cancers are related to smoking tobacco.

In the meantime, you might want to suggest heading out to the garden to plant some veggies.

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post in any manner. Please use the comments to request permission.

Does Your Parent Want To Sell Her Life Insurance To Speculators?

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

My father only had a couple thousand dollars of life insurance in force by the time he turned 83. He outlived the term of one policy, so the insurance company paid him the cash value and terminated the policy.

As someone who was deeply affected by the Depression, Dad would probably have jumped at the chance to sell a life insurance policy for more than the cash value. But, as someone in the early stages of dementia, he was vulnerable to being swindled. We had one close call with his investments.

I want to alert you to the booming business in life settlements that is still largely unregulated.

Help for the Terminally Ill

It started out as a compassionate way to help someone who has large medical bills to pay. It’s called a viatical settlement. It gives a person, typically with less than two years to live, who owns a large cash value life insurance policy but does not have a spouse or children, a way to get cash out of the policy.

Cash value insurance policies (also called whole life) have provisions for the owner to cancel the policy and receive the “surrender value”. But, this amount is usually very small compared to the total amount of insurance. The settlement company is usually willing to pay much more. The viatical settlement became popular during the 1980’s as a way to help terminally ill AIDS patients deal with the high cost of medical care.

A New Investment is Born

The purchased insurance policies from those early viatical settlements were sold to individual investors. Because this new investment was unregulated, it attracted some unscrupulous dealers. Salesmen were paid high commissions to sell the policies to investors who did not always understand what they were buying. The investment community soured on buying settlements.

In 2001, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners released the Viatical Settlements Model Act which established guidelines for ensuring sound business practices and avoiding fraud. It was about that same time that settlement dealers began purchasing policies using institutional capital. The demand for settlements as an investment began to increase.

Better Than Mortgages?

From an investor’s standpoint, buying insurance policies is even better than buying mortgages. Everyone dies! As long as the insurance policy was written by a company that is solid, the investor gets paid.

Investing in mortgages, once considered much safer than stocks or bonds, is not as predictable. People can get sick or disabled, lose there jobs, or have other life events that prevent them from paying the mortgage. US economic problems today were caused in part by defaults on mortgages — many made by unscrupulous brokers who bent the rules.

Most mortgages today are combined into packages that re-sold to large institutional investors. It wasn’t long before some enterprising folks figured out that they could package these purchased policies, now called life settlements, and sell them to institutional investors for generous commissions.

Easy To Be Taken In By Easy Money

It happened to Larry King, CNN’s famous talk show host. King alleges in a lawsuit filed recently that he was the victim of a scam to buy and sell life insurance on himself, also called “flipping” policies. While King made $1.4 million on the deals, he now realizes that he would have been better off if he had kept the policies. He feels that he was cheated.

An insurance company owns the $15 million in policies, a company by the name of Coventry Insurance. Coventry was sued last year by the State of New York for alleged predatory practices.

Yesterday, our local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, reported that flyers were circulating at a San Luis Obispo, California senior center telling seniors they could get as much as $50,000 from “investors that want to speculate on our life expectancy.”

Although the NAIC issued the Viatical Settlements Model Act in 2001 and amended it in 2007 to strengthen consumer protections for “Stranger- Originated Life Insurance” only 35 states have officially adopted the guidelines. California, where I live, has not yet adopted any guidelines.

What’s The Harm?

If Larry King, who is a reasonably intelligent 73 year old, could be duped, anyone could be. Particularly someone in the early stages of dementia.

Life insurance is just one part of a total financial plan. Selling a life insurance policy really needs to be evaluated in terms of the person’s overall needs and financial status. These life settlement companies are not doing that.

So we caregivers need to be alert to these issues. If your parent tells you about a wonderful opportunity to sell an old life insurance policy, get to the financial planner or attorney to have the deal reviewed right away. Who is buying the policy? Will it be sold to a third party? Who is that?

The Mercury News article quoted Jay Adkisson, an attorney who writes a blog about financial fraud, “You ought to know who you are selling to. You don’t want Tony Soprano buying your life insurance policy.”

Good advice.

Google Doesn’t Belong In The Health Records Business – Here’s A Better Idea

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

Sorry, Eric (Schmidt, CEO of Google).
Google doesn’t belong in the health records business.

For those of you who don’t follow Google’s business on a daily basis, here is a brief rundown of what has happened.

Last year, Microsoft announced a new service called Health Vault to help individuals manage health records online. This is not a revolutionary idea. There are already several smaller companies on the Internet offering individuals the convenience of storing health records online so that they are more available when they are needed. Several of the large players in the business of providing technology to doctors offices and medical clinics also have digital records initiatives.

But, no one company has been able to gain serious momentum in digital health records. It is a gargantuan task to coordinate doctors, labs, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and individuals AND meet all of the requirements of HIPAA for privacy. Microsoft has already collected an impressive number of partners to work with Health Vault.

Google Announcement Starts Tsunami

In Orlando, Florida last week, Google announced Google Health, a platform for individuals to manage medical records such as medical test results and prescriptions. The announcement set off a wave of protests from consumer privacy advocates. Eric Schmidt is trying to soothe the uproar by saying that Google won’t sell ads on Google Health.

Oh really?
Here’s how one analyst sees the situation:

“Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, firmly believes ads will happen. ‘Advertisers would pay absurd amounts of money to be seen when someone wants to, say, refill a subscription online,’ he says.’ This is more lucrative than commerce-related search.” For the complete story, click here to see Jefferson Graham’s article in USA Today.

Digital Records Could Save Lives

I’m not a Luddite. I work for a company that develops mobile technology.

And, I have had to fight ferociously with doctor’s office administrators to obtain my Dad’s medical records as well as my own and my children’s records. In one case, I had to pay $100 for a file of poor photocopies that I could barely read. Forget about scanning to digitize them.

My father was caught in the bind between doctor and hospital. His regular family doctor had all of his records but she wasn’t admitted to practice at the hospital closest to my father’s home. The hospital would “assign” him a doctor while he was there. But the records never made it back to the family doctor.

The cardiologist at the hospital might not have put my father on Plavix if the doctor knew my father had a history of gastrointestinal bleeding. At one point, the docs who did not talk to each other had my father on DOUBLE doses of 4 different medications. It only got corrected because he could feel that the medications were not working right. He went to the family doctor who reduced all the doses and got rid of the duplicate medications.

That was a close call! And, it is a safe bet that this happens to thousands of Americans everyday.

If you have experienced anything like this, you may think I am crazy to oppose help from the two tech companies that have the best chance of making digital records happen. Pam Dixon, executive director of the non-profit World Privacy Forum, said it best,”A publicly traded company is supposed to have shareholders (my emphasis) in mind first.” (As quoted in an Associated Press article by Travis Reed.)

The Push for Quarterly Profits

Wall Street, institutional and individual shareholders are illogically relentless in their push for quarterly profits from publicly traded companies. Every employee knows what ROSHE (Return on Shareholder Equity) its company is trying to achieve. The focus may be making customers happy so they buy more product or service but the goal is always ROSHE.

The bulk of Google’s revenue comes from selling ads. Microsoft sells software and services. These companies are locked in a battle to gain your attention for its products and partners’ products. Each is working to dominate the marketplace.

So, it is easy to envision a scenario in which our personal privacy gets compromised.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Microsoft has the platforms to connect little devices like a glucose monitor to your home computer but its web sites infrastructure is not as strong as Google’s. (Full disclosure– my company is a Microsoft Partner. I have many good things to say about Microsoft but not when it comes to its web sites.)

Google has the digital infrastructure to power web-based communications around our planet. If you use Google to search the Internet, you are tapping into an amazing, gigantic, distributed network that gives you search results after it has filtered out over 3 million malicious or problematic web sites in a small fraction of a second. But, even Google admits that its first version of a G-Phone is buggy beyond belief.

I admire both companies for what they have achieved and the vision they espouse. But both companies have the compelling need to make ROSHE. Right now Google has advertisers that are willing to pay $25, $50 or more when a person visits the advertiser’s web site. The possibilities for enormous revenue for delivering pharmaceutical ads, for example, to consumers are easy to imagine. Google has all of the technology from Double Click to track every purchase you make. It’s only a short step to your entire medical file.

Microsoft has slightly different, yet just has huge revenue possibilities. It’s making the Wall Street analysts giddy with thoughts of double digit quarterly profits.

The Third Alternative — A Consortium

It’s hard to get things done by committee. Compromises can result in gazelles that look more like camels. But sometimes a non-profit organization or a governmental entity is the only way to protect citizens from the fallout of the giant corporate gladiators.

From my vantage point, the only way to assure that digital health care information does not become another series of battles like Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD (or Betamax vs. VHS for those who have long memories) is to have a non-profit consortium responsible to citizens to safeguard privacy and set standards for interoperability.

Think of the headaches if you want to change doctors but the new doctor doesn’t use the same medical records system. If you choose to go with the new doctor, you have to figure out a way to get all of the pertinent data into the new system. That’s more time out of your week, more money out of your pocket, and another point where your information could be corrupted or misused.

Now is the time for Microsoft and Google to call a truce and become part of a non-profit consortium for health care records. It won’t be perfect, but when consumers trust that their information is safe, they will sign up to buy in droves. And that would make Wall Street happy, too.

It’s Valentine’s Day – Take Your Parent For a Walk and Salmon Dinner

And, Make Sure to Have Pudding for Dessert

What?!

A popular nutrition newsletter arrived in my email today talking about Vitamin D deficiency in the US. I was surprised to read that Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the US. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (January 2008) found that a low blood concentration of Vitamin D was associated with higher blood pressure in Caucasians (but not African Americans.)

It seems that researchers are finding all sorts of health issues that a little bit more vitamin D would lessen or prevent. Most important for seniors — Vitamin D helps your body use calcium to build stronger bones.

Hip or other bone fractures are often the beginning of a grindingly slow downward spiral for many seniors. Less mobility leads to even less mobility. The end of the line is the nursing home.

The crying shame is that Vitamin D is so easy to get through our diet, supplements and sunlight. Eggs, tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are good sources of Vitamin D along with fortified milk products.

Your daily vitamin probably contains it, but not enough. The recommended daily allowance is 400 IUs. Many all in one supplements contain less than half that amount.

More Is Better

Dr. Andrew Weil, (click here) highly respected for his approach to combining nutrition with traditional medicine, recommends 1000 IUs per day and even more if you don’t get out in the sun at all. His recommendation comes after extensive research into the latest studies on Vitamin D.

His conclusion: More is Better!

Love the One You’re With

Here’s an easy way to show your Valentine you care. Take your parent (or loved one) out for a walk in the sunshine, weather permitting. Just 15-20 minutes of sun on your hands and face is enough. But, don’t put on sunscreen. It blocks your body’s ability to make Vitamin D. Take the sunscreen with you to apply after you get a bit of sun if you’ll be out more than 20 minutes.

Then, have a lovely salmon dinner. Tuna sandwiches are ok, too (go light on the mayo.)

And, top it off with pudding made with fortified milk (nondairy, if milk is a problem). Sorry, milk chocolate truffles don’t count.

Both People Benefit

Spending time with someone to celebrate has benefits for your parent, loved one and you. Mind, body and spirit. Don’t miss out.