Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How We Face Change Makes a Difference

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.  He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.                              St. Francis de Sales

This is an excerpt from a prayer sent to me when a loved one died. I think it is good to remember that when we have hardships, we can't blame ourselves, give up on ourselves, or become a victim, but look at them as changes in our lives that we must face and hope that we can accept these changes no matter how difficult, and move on to become stronger. 

We learn to find a way around the boulders in our path. We can't sit down on the trail and give up. We can't curl up and wait for someone to rescue us. A hard blow might knock us down, and we might need some time to get our breathe again, to focus on where we are headed, but while we hope for rescue, we work tirelessly to make our way through the pitfalls and over the walls that would imprison us. 

We aren't likely to learn much from being rescued by others. We learn from our own efforts to save ourselves, what works for us and what does not. Some say failures are necessary for us to be successful.

Changes in life will come, but we can adapt, and we must adapt to them if we want to live a fulfilling life.

When I was a teenager, I had an overwhelming fear that my mother would die. That stayed with me through adulthood. When she died at the age of 80, I still had that fear and thought I could not live without her in my life. Learning to go on was extremely difficult for me, but I did and grew stronger once I knew I could. Since her death and my father's death, I lost three brothers and one sister, people I dearly loved. I miss them every day. 

The hardest loss was the death of my husband in 2009. But I knew I had to go on living and somehow make a fulfilling life for myself. Accepting the many changes brought about by his death brought out the tiger in me. I could not and would not let his passing make me weak or needy. Anger filled me up and brought out negativity that I didn't realize lurked inside me. 

I turned to those who had been through my experience. I read blogs and books by people who had lost children, lost husbands and wives and those who had suffered other losses. Their pain was no different from mine. These writers had overcome their fury and accepted the difference in their lives. That was how I learned that change is not always easy, but when we accept that we can't return to what was, we can go on and make the best of our lives. We make new goals and find new purpose.

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise.

The above is also from the prayer by St. Francis de Sales. Even if you are not a believer, these words hold true.

I found that the changes taking place in my health as I grow older depressed me and caused me to wonder if I could continue with my work - writing, teaching and leading our writers group. As I searched for answers from therapists, doctors and others, I felt like giving up. I feared I would become bedridden due to the pain I suffered every day.

However, I know that people must take responsibility for their health as well as all aspects of life. So I have not given up, but reached out to others for advice, researched methods of treating my problems, and now I look forward to teaching a writing class in March and hosting writers and poets at my studio in the coming year.  

Be at peace and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

Until next time, embrace the changes in your life, they are inevitable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Monday, a day for learning some things, but a bad drive home

My drive home from Roswell, GA yesterday took six hours instead of two. I knew it would be a bit longer as I had a doctor's appointment that would take about 1 1/2 hours. Lexie was with me.

We left my sister's at 1:00 p.m.. That gave me time to fill up my tank before I reached Hwy 575 in Woodstock, GA. Once I pulled onto the ramp I noticed the traffic was bad. Little did I know that up ahead an accident would make my short trip to Canton, GA almost an hour long.

I needed to call about my appointment, but my cell phone would not charge. It was dead. I made it to the appointment 30 minutes late. When I left the office, I walked Lexie a bit and then put her in the car. I did not notice that I had left a window open. I removed her leash and she immediately found the open window. Out she flew and out I flew to try to catch her before she ran into the traffic. Three others joined in my chase but Lexie was not coming to any of us. We spent what seemed like ages trying to catch her but she ran far down the road behind the office building. I thought she would not ever be found once she disappeared from my view. I jumped into my car and headed around the buildings to the road where I could see her. But when I got to the area where I had seen her she was not there. I drove on down the road and finally turned around.

That was when I met one of the people helping me search. "She is in Robin's office. She came back to the parking lot and he has her."

Thanks to Robin, a man with a small dog on a leash, I have my runner back home. She followed his dog into his office and he closed the door. 

By then I was hungry and needed to find a Verizon store to fix my phone. Lucky the man at the store opened my phone, took out the battery, rubbed it and blew into the cavity where it fits, then put the battery back in. He placed my phone, an old flip phone which I love, into his charger and it lit up. By then it was nearly five o'clock and I was a long way from home. So I stopped and had ribs for dinner.

When I I drove into my driveway long after dark, I was tired and weary. I brought in only the basic things I needed and then brought in Lexie. She is on my black list at this time and she is getting no special love. We are definitely going to enroll in an obedience class very soon.

She knows she was bad and she has some work to do to make up for giving me cardiac arrest.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hope  your Thanksgiving was wonderful. Mine was great. I spent the day with my sister and we were invited to the home of my niece,  Lee and her husband, Dave, where he cooked the most beautiful and delicious turkey you ever saw. Dave enjoys cooking and every time we go there, Dave cooks. All of us chipped in and furnished side dishes to the turkey. I made my usual cornbread dressing and gravy. Lee made a scrumptious broccoli casserole. Gay, my sister, made an old fashioned lemon meringue pie and roasted vegetables. Dave made green beans and mashed potatoes as well.

You can imagine how stuffed we were when we finished. It was one of the nicest days I have had lately. Lee and Dave's grown-up son, Will, was home from college, sporting a mustache. I looked at this fine young man and remember when he was born and how loved and wanted he was. His parents are so proud of him and I am proud of him as well. He will be twenty very soon. Gay and I were happy he spent the entire time with us, but he did have his phone and a football game on TV. I'm sure that helped.

I am grateful for my loved ones who include me in their holidays. I will never stop feeling guilty for how Barry and I stopped going up to his Mother's house for Christmas when she became too old to drive down to our house in south Georgia. Young people get so busy with their lives they don't think about older relatives. We were ignorant of what she needed, but now I know what her life was like. She lived alone and we were five hours away. She never complained or asked for anything. Helen Beall was an independent woman right up to the day she died.

I think the problem might be in how you raise your kids. Because she was so independent and never asked anything of her sons, they didn't think about her needs. She had no daughters. My mother had four sons, but I don't think they would have skipped something they wanted to do in order to drive five hours to spend time with her, especially after she lost her short term memory and could  not carry on a normal conversation with them. When some of my brothers came out to visit with Mother and Daddy,  they went into the room with my father and watched sports. Their wives spent the afternoon with my mother.

A son is a son 'til he takes a  wife. A daughter is a daughter all of her life. (Irish saying)

Sounds like I am  putting down men, but I am not. Some men are totally devoted to ailing parents. I think my nephew, Will, will always be there for his parents. He is a compassionate person even at twenty. We have to guide young people in the way they should go so they understand the needs of the  elderly or ill and not be so self-centered or afraid of dealing with the possible loss of a parent that they ignore them completely.

Another fine man who is there for his mother when she needs him is my nephew, Jon. He has also been very good to me. When he comes to my house he immediately asks what can he do for me. He insists on taking care of anything I need while he is visiting. So there are men who see when they are needed even if no one asks them.

I thought it was interesting that my father, when he was in his eighties and made the decision to stop driving, told his sons that they were to drive him to his doctor visits and look after him. He said to  them, "Glenda took care of  your mother, now you can take care of me." And they did as well as they could. One of them was with him in the hospital room late at night when he suffered a  respiratory arrest. Another brother was with  him late at night when he died.

Maybe men do better at taking care of men and women do better taking care of women. What do you think? I know I would not have been comfortable caring for my father if he needed long term care. We never had a close relationship.

However, as  I  told some of my  nephews when their father was very ill, "The Council family takes care of parents when they are old or ill." Family is important to us and I am glad I have dear family that loves me and that I love. I am very fortunate. I know that is not true for everyone. This Thanksgiving, I  am most grateful for family and also for my little Lexie who brings me much joy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Women finally found their voices

You can’t escape it. It is the only thing that has bumped Trump off the news.

 It should be top news as many women have come forward to out the power-driven men who have assaulted and abused women for so many years.

When I was a young woman, we had to fend for ourselves the best way we could. We never thought of telling anyone because no one seemed to think it was a big deal. Young women in my own family spoke of how our family chiropractor touched them inappropriately and one said he kissed her. I was shocked that he went so far with them, but I had to admit that his hands touched my backside far more than was necessary. I was bothered by it, but did not know what to do. I felt awkward saying anything to him, and I knew he would act innocent as if it were an accident. When the subject came up at a family gathering, and the girls were irate, the men all laughed as though it was nothing to be concerned about. They really did not feel it was wrong. 

I remember when I attended business functions with my husband; some of the men made sexual advances toward me and made me quite uncomfortable. One old man actually crawled under the banquet table and was touching my legs until I made my husband aware of it. Seems the old lecher was doing that to all the women. Again, he was laughed at and I am sure felt no shame. 

Recently I have heard more and more from women who have been assaulted, or groped in school by boys who felt perfectly within their rights to grab a girl inappropriately against her will. One was pressured to have sex with the boss. She quit her job because of his behavior. I was more dismayed when I learned that someone close to me was kissed by a man she admired, her high school teacher she had respected. 

While I was in college a freshman girl, who had low self-esteem, was gang-raped by boys at a fraternity. She did not report it because she had been drinking and felt she would not be believed. She left school soon after and we did not hear from her again. Looking back now, I hope she found someone to talk to about this horrible thing. I hope she found some help.

Women and girls have endured this type of treatment at the hands of boys and men forever and our culture just accepted it as normal. Many of the men who are now being accused never felt their behavior was wrong. Pinching a girl's behind was not considered wrong. If you ever watched Mad Men, the TV show, you can see what was accepted back in those days.

I have always heard the expression, "She slept her way to the top." It seems that was what Harvey Weinstein told women they must do if they wanted to become a star.  

In the last thirty years as women began to use the same foul language in the work place and tried to act like the men, I think some men took this to mean anything goes even gross sexual conduct.  I am not blaming the victims, but perhaps men have been given the wrong message by some.

Sadly some men who were not perpetual sexual deviants are now being accused of unwanted advances that they never felt were inappropriate. Some sexual comments toward a woman were considered complimentary, not harassment, by men of my generation. In fact, I don't consider it harassment to tell a woman she is pretty or that she looks good. We might be intelligent but still we like to know someone thinks we are good-looking. 

I think the worst behavior is when older men prey on young girls or when they use their power over a woman to coerce her into having sex with them. A young single mother who needs a job to feed her kids can more easily be forced against her will than someone who can just tell her boss where to go and walk out. I was told by a young woman that the man she worked for tried to coerce her into having sex. He was well-known in the community. When she balked he said he would fire her. She said she would tell people about him. He laughed and said, "Nobody will believe you."

Some generations ago something happened to many men in America. They forgot to grow up, to become responsible. Some of my husband's friends acted like they were still in college although they were married and holding down good jobs. These men in their thirties drank to excess and used drugs. They cheated on their wives and thought nothing about it. Their behavior was immature, I thought. 

Men in my father’s generation took on the mantle of fatherhood and manhood and followed the values they had learned from the generation before them. When I think of my uncles, I don’t remember any of them making lewd remarks in front of women or acting macho to impress others. They were men I admired. 

I hope the women coming forth and women sticking together to finally tell about the powerful men who sexually harass and assault them will not be a momentary blip on the conscious of the United States of America. I hope this will be a moment that educates all men; that awakens men with daughters, wives, and mothers and makes this a personal issue. Then these men might grow up and become the men I knew in my father’s generation.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Feeling the Love at the CMA Awards

The CMA awards tonight were touching and heartwarming to me. I am not usually a fan of award shows and I can’t remember when I watched the CMA awards all the way through, but tonight there was something about all of the performers.

I love that Garth Brooks, who recently came out of retirement, was given the entertainer of the year award. I love that all the famous singers on the front row know all the words to every song sung on stage and they sang along. 

I love that older singers like Reba McIntire were there and performed and are given respect they deserve. And that Alan Jackson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Seems not long ago he was one of the new stars. His music is like the old country music I grew up with when my brothers tuned the radio to the Grand Ole Opry coming out of Nashville, TN. Jackson sang two songs on the show, and I was familiar with them. I liked that. It was evident that the audience of stars and fans loved him.

I know country music changed when New York producers and agents moved into town, and older country music stars were pushed aside. But tonight’s CMA show gave me the feeling that the performers made a big effort to show diversity, and they asked for love and kindness to all people.

Although they were cautioned not to talk about politics or the horrors of the mass killings, they managed to show the grief and sadness we all feel for the victims.
 "Carrie Underwood gave an exquisite performance of Christian hymn "Softly and Tenderly" at the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 8), as the show's "In Memoriam" video tribute played in the background." 
This almost brought me to tears. She did a fantastic job singing this touching song and all those pictures behind her made a huge impact.

Some asked that we all come together and change things in our country. I didn't see the first of the show when some jokes were evidently made about our present state of politics by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, hosts of the show.

For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed the music on this show. It was not all about tight jeans and sexy outfits so much as it was about getting back to the roots of country music and the values country folk usually grow up with. I might begin to tune in a country station on my Serious Radio sometimes. As a viewer, I felt the love those singers and musicians felt for each other and for their fans.

After the show I picked up a poetry book that was near by, Fluent in Rivers by Kathleen Brewin Lewis, and opened it to this poem that also made me feel warm inside.

Collusion on the Middle Provo

He knows it is my first time
so he is patient, leading me
down the path to the riverbed,
through meadows of red clover,
lamb’s ears, saffron yarrow.

He stands me amid the stones
in the river’s rush, places
the rod in my hand, covers
my hand with his, talks of technique:
how to cast, mend, hook, reel.
And so I unfurl, over and over again,
until I feel what he means:
the tug and tear of a fish on the line.

Let the line run when the fish jerks,
He coaches. Reel it smoothly in as the fish tires.
And when the trout rises, he laughs,
congratulates me, scoops
my fish into his net,
tells me I’m a natural.

He says to wet my hands
in the bracing current, then cup them
while he unhooks, lifts, puts the trout
in touch with me.

I want to press my lips to her,
she is so marvelous, pulsing, sleek
against my palms; instead I bend
and whisper, so he can’t hear me,
that I’m sorry for hurting her
and I wish her well.

I turn my back to him,
lower her into the glistening river
that snatches, bears her away.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Round Robin Reading at Coffee with the Poets and Writers on Wednesday, November 15, 10:30 AM.

Joan Gage is hosting our Coffee with the Poets and Writers for the rest of this year. She has come up with a different program this month. 

Round Robin Reading with Poets and Prose writers at Coffee with the Poets and Writers at the Moss Memorial Library, Hayesville, NC, Wednesday ,November 15, 2017

On November 15th, 2017, at 10:30 AM, the North Carolina Writers’ Network-West will host Coffee with the Poets and Writers at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, NC. The event will be round-robin style, with several members reading from their works for approximately 40 minutes. Members will include: Glenda Council Beall, Joan Ellen Gage, Bob Grove, Joan M. Howard, Mary Ricketson, and Carroll Taylor. 

After the member readings, guest attendees will be invited to read their work. All open Mic readings will be approximately 3 minutes. 

Coffee and cookies will be provided, and the public is invited. For more information, please contact Joan Ellen Gage at 828-389-3733.

If you live in Clay or Cherokee Counties in North Carolina or Towns or Union Counties in Georgia, please join us for the Open Mic readings. You can bring something to read or just come and listen.

We love guests. After the meeting we often go to a local restaurant to have lunch. Join us.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My brother and nephew, entertainers and comedians

A concert and dinner with my brother Max, his son Gabe, and my sister and her husband Stu, made my weekend so much fun.
Gay Moring, Max Council, Glenda Beall
In my family Max is  known for his humor and his son Gabe is following in his father's footsteps. We all met in Cartersville, GA for dinner at Table 20 just off Main Street. We had an hour and thirty minutes before the concert began at the Grant theater just a few steps down the street. A train runs through the town and we were all stuck waiting for the longest one I've seen in years but we arrived at about the same time. Max and Gabe drove up from south Georgia. Gay, Stu and I from Roswell, GA where I was spending a few days.

We laughed like school kids at the hilarious stories Max told us about his sons working at the family business, Hercules Bumpers, in Pelham, GA. Gabe told us that being the boss's son was no picnic. He was handed the dirtiest and toughest job in the plant when he was a young man working in summer before going to college. I had not heard these stories and fell in love with my nephew's knack for holding forth like his father and having his listeners practically rolling on the floor. 

Glenda, Max, Gabe and Gay
I don't see Gabe and Max as often as I'd like. Max is eighty-eight years old. His devoted son enjoys his father, and they spend every Sunday afternoon driving to small towns and through the countryside, visiting sites they have heard about but have not taken in before.

Recently they visited the home of Gene Talmadge, former governor of Georgia back in the forties. Gabe said Max enthralled the staff with his memories of Mr. Talmadge's reign. The controversial politician was known as the red-suspendered man because he always wore them. Max, who has an unbelievable memory, sang the jingle used in Talmadge's campaign. The staff was so delighted with my brother, they said they might call him to tell his stories to visitors at the old Talmadge home. My father did not like Gene Talmadge and after reading about him, I understand.

Hearing Max speak tonight reminded me that the oral history of our families often disappear when our loved ones are gone. We should take advantage of folks like my brother and record his  memories.

I talk with  Max often on the phone and Gabe and I email, but that doesn't take the place of a good visit like we had the night of the concert. The love between sisters and brothers is a special thing that overcomes all the anger or frustration created in a lifetime of family. No matter how upset we become at times, we never forget that we have a tie that lasts and heals those difficult times. Max is the brother I have had the most fights with and loved the best when I was a  child.

He has many faults as do I, but he was a wonderful brother to two little girls. He has always been the one in our family that made us all laugh. He is also an artist, a singer, a songwriter, and a poet. His song lyrics are touching and beautiful, as were songs back in the forties and fifties.

He loved our mother deeply and wrote a sweet and clever poem for her one Mother's Day. It was framed and hung on the wall until her death. He is a good sport and is not afraid to make fun of himself.  Max is the last one of my four brothers still with us. He misses the three that are gone like I would miss Gay if she were not here. The four of them were inseparable. They talked every day. I know he has days when he  wishes he could call on of them.

When he is no longer here to  tell his tales, he will have left them in the good hands of his  son, Gabe. So generations to come will hear the family stories even if they aren't written down.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Are you a Robison? Are you a Cooper or a Jones?

These are some of the lines in my mother's family. Mother was Georgia Lois Robison. Her father was William Henry Robison. His father was John Monroe Robison.

In researching my genealogy which I really enjoy when I have the time, I found my Mother's last name spelled in many, many different ways. Even today, her uncle Oliver's family spells it wrong.

Census records and other records from the past 100 years or more, have Robison spelled wrong:: Robinson, Roberson, Robertson, Robeson, Robson, and on and on.

From my research I find that the Robisons, my family line, come from Ireland. I am sure that today I could find all the names above in Ireland. But I have not gone back that far in research.

Ancestry.com has become a big disappointment to me. I find tons of mistakes because people just simply copy what others put on their family tree. They don't find sources for their names. They seem to believe anything they see.

I have seen an entire family listed for my grandfather John Monroe Robison that is wrong. I know John Monroe had a brother named Larkin and another brother, William. My research shows that Larkin and William lived in Florida not far from my father's family, the Councils. All three Robisons enlisted in the Confederate army in Leon County Florida.

The confusion comes when the tomb stones have the spelling of the last name wrong. Or Find a Grave has the spelling and other information wrong. Family Search says they cannot change an error when I contacted them about some mistakes they have on their site about my own family.

Although it took me ten years to write my Council family history, I corroborated my information. Too many new genealogists are not patient and don't want to do real research. They jump to the information that is close to what they want to believe.

Sometimes our sources can be wrong. The Pelham newspaper had an obit for my father's brother-in-law, Willie Gilreath which said he was buried in the Pelham cemetery but no one can find his grave. We know he had family in Tennessee but seems no one can find his grave there either.

Often in our research, we dig up bones no one wants to know about. Some of my cousins were shocked to find their grandfather's mother was not who they thought. A son was born out of wedlock and he was raised by the married sister in the family, not his biological mother. Today those things are not that unusual but in the early twentieth century, it was hush-hush. In my book, that was one mistake I didn't know about and so a family of descendants are listed incorrectly.

I am not looking for those kinds of things when I am researching. I am more interested in the history of the people. If I am related to the first Robison to enter this country, I want to know who he is and where he came from.
John Monroe Robison in chair surrounded by his children

Cousins and brother looking at graves in Providence Cemetery where
John Monroe Robison is buried

According to my DNA sent in to Ancestry, all my family comes from England, Ireland and that part of Europe. And they came to this country in the 1600s and 1700s. I'd sure like to know who those early guys were and what they did..

Do you, my readers, enjoy genealogy or digging up bones?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Thoughts

I will be going out soon to have lunch with my niece, Lee, and my sister, Gay. This is a birthday lunch for me! I am really  making up for my dismal birthday weekend. I feel great and always have fun with Lee and Gay. Wish Lyn was with us, too,

We were motorcycle gang members at this party
This  time of year when everyone is dressing up for Halloween, I think back on some of the best Halloween parties ever. We were adults in Albany, GA and had a group of  friends who were always ready for a party. The best parties were at the home of Richard and Linda. They went all out for costumes. She made the best witch and Richard was a tall green ghoul.

Barry dressed as a weird old man in overalls and looked so real we gave him a name. Alonzo Carp. No one knew it was Barry. He had a ball as Alonzo. Those were memorable parties. We never spent lots of money on costumes. He bought a mask and everything else was found around the house or borrowed.
Alonzo Carp with our niece, Carrie

When  I was a child on the farm, Halloween was no more than a day at school when we drew jack-o-lanterns and colored fall leaves. What a  difference it is today. Millions of dollars are spent on costumes and candy. I can't help but think how much good all that money could do if it were spent to help the homeless or put toward research for a cure for Parkinson's Disease, Diabetes or other things that cause suffering.

Simple costumes bring kids just as much fun as elaborate ones. With imagination, some clever outfits will do the trick.

Happy Halloween to you, my readers.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A New Year - A New Plan - Wish Me Luck

I have to change my eating habits. Why is that so hard? Why does my body call out to me to eat things I should not have?

We are bombarded on TV with ads for food, food, food, and then we are bombarded with doctors and "experts" telling us we must eat things I never heard of before.

No more bread! What happened to Bread is the staff of Life? In the home where I grew up we had bread every single meal, and sometimes two kinds of bread -- biscuits and cornbread. Mother used to say it was the biscuits that made her fat. She was round in the middle just as I am now. And like me, she was slim and pretty when she was young and when she married. I weighed 105 pounds back then.

No sugar, no bread, cut back on fruit, but eat salads. No potatoes except sweet potatoes. I am not a fan of salads because at our house we ate cooked vegetables - turnips, corn, beans, okra, peas of all kinds. No one eats that way now it seems. We must eat raw.

The salad dressings bought at the store are filled with sugar, so that means just vinegar and oil with maybe a little lemon juice. I'd rather not eat at all.

I am told to eat ancient grains instead of corn and wheat. Why? I like my grits each morning. I add a couple of tablespoons of oatmeal to the pot when I cook them and they are delicious with butter, salt and pepper. How can that be so bad for me?

One English muffin with my eggs each morning gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. We are told to cut out almost everything we have always eaten in order to live longer. I'm not sure I want to live longer if I can't eat the foods I enjoy.

My father once said, "When you get old about the only pleasure you have left is eating." I agree.

When my mother was healing from a ruptured aneurysm, doctors said for her to eat no salt. Foolish and so afraid she would die, I insisted she have not salt in her food. I'm sure when I was not acting like the Food Nazi she ate what she wanted. What good did it do to ruin the taste of food for her? I finally quit policing her diet. She lived ten years and died at the age of 80.

We have to learn by experience I'm afraid so no one will learn from reading this, but when your parents are old, don't take away their biggest pleasure - eating good-tasting food.

As for me, I will cut back on bread, sugar and fruit, but I can't cut it out. I plan to make a new food plan and do my best to stick to it, but my sister, Gay, says I am a dismal failure at dieting. And, I hope to get back to pool exercise next week. A new year for me and a good time to make some changes. Wish me luck. I will certainly need it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Written Sunday, October 22, my birthday

I have written before about the scarcity of doctors for older people. 

When we reach our seventies and older, the body begins to break down more and more. Some people can forgo those complaints if they have a great immune system, but as we age our immune systems grow weaker, just as when we were little children. Face it young folks, it happens to us all.

I can tell when my immune system is sick now by how badly my multiple chemical sensitivity is acting up. If I feel good, have no aches or pains, no headache or difficulty breathing when I go to the grocery store, I can shop, go up and down the aisles polluted with scented products on the shelves or by perfume worn by customers, and have no serious repercussions.

But today, my birthday, I had to go to the store. I was out of many things I use every day. Yesterday I was in bed more than I was up. I slept most of the day just as I did when I was a child with the flu, but I did not have the flu. Thankfully, all that sleep was healing and today I feel weak but much better.

My immune system is not acting properly and has not for some time. Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder and so are several other things that plague my life. From conversations I have with older women, I hear they have many of the same aggravating problems I have. Their doctors have no good resources for them. Symptoms are treated as well as the doctor knows how to treat them. 

Where are the geriatric doctors? 
With our population growing older and older, this level of medical doctors is dwindling. Doctors don't want to deal with old people. After all, they are going to die before too long, so no one goes into that field. But with good care, an older person can live in her home possibly until she dies, which is what most of us want. Of course that also depends on the financial situation.

A thirty-five-year old doctor has not a clue what it is like when an older patient says "I am too tired or don't have the energy to take a shower some days."

A young doctor will tell an older patient, "You need to just get out and walk. Start with 20 minutes, then add to it until you walk at least 30 minutes every day. You will feel so much better."

The older patient has trouble with his feet, his hips hurt after only a few minutes on his feet. He gets sharp shooting pains in his feet and his hips feel weak so he is afraid he will fall. His balance is not good anymore so he can't walk on uneven surfaces. But Young Doctor can't imagine being in that shape. He ignores the patient and continues, "Just walk some every day. You'll soon be enjoying it."

Give me a doctor who has watched his parents get old and saw what happened to them. Give me a doctor who has compassion for the older patient and listens, tries to understand what it would be like to have those physical symptoms.

I have seen how doctors treat older people, men and woman. Nurses have much more compassion and understanding. I wonder if we can educate doctors as to what they should look for and how they can help older patients. And would they want to learn and would they do it?

In my experience, doctors seem to think they know it all. But they make mistakes. One doctor told me I had colon cancer and even if a biopsy said differently, he was convinced. My biopsy showed no malignancy.

My husband was told he had osteosarcoma, but he did not. A biopsy showed he had lymphoma. His cancer doctor told him he could live five or more years with this but he lived one year.

A doctor gave my father a drug to calm him down in the hospital and my father went into respiratory arrest and died from that drug.

My brother-in-law was prescribed a medication on the phone by his regular doctor. He died within a day from side effects of that drug. With his medical history, it was obvious he should never have been given that particular medicine.

Recently I talked with people and we discussed how often a doctor even touches a patient today. They often do not, except to feel under the throat. I was told by a Gastroenterologist that they don't need to touch the patient. There are machines that do those tests. 

I still think it is important for a doctor to feel of the abdomen if stomach pain or discomfort is present and use their hands when necessary to look for tumors, swelling, or pain. When you have a physical exam, don't you expect more than some blood tests and a urine sample? I also think an older person should have an annual physical although some group said the annual physical is no longer needed. Really?

We need doctors who treat the whole body, not the part that hurts today, but the entire body because that pain could be coming from somewhere else.

And doctors need more than fifteen minutes with the patient in order to do that.

Elderly patients are often seen by four or more specialists. One treats the thyroid. Another treats the lungs. A cardiologist checks on the heart. A gastro doc prescribes for the stomach and that area.  Another works on the feet and another on the eyes and ears.

Each of them may prescribe a medicine to the patient. How many of those drugs interact with each other and how many more drugs are given for those side affects. 

It is no wonder older people are sick so often. I think the meds make them sicker than they were before going to the doctors. Cutting back on meds is often the patient's call. Doctors hardly remember what they prescribed for you nor why. 

I recently asked that my blood pressure medication be cut back. After some resistance, I was told to halve my once-a-day pill. My blood pressure is still doing well and I was told that new studies show people my age should not have their blood pressure too low. That could lead to falls which would be more life threatening.

No matter what kind of insurance our country finally settles on, I am not sure we will get better care in this country, especially the older population. 

Originally published as: Treat Me, Not My Age
 This is an eye-opening book. This is called a survival manual for outsmarting the health-care system.

Two things he says that I like:
1. Geriatricians stop more medications than they prescribe.
2.  If you are taking supplements or vitamins, don't be afraid to say. It is important for the doctor to know what you are taking. 

I like his idea, "If you have seen one eighty year old patient, you have seen only one eighty year old patient."

So many tell patients, "Well, you are getting older and that is probably your problem."  I hate that kind of remark. Dr. Lachs does also.

This book gives names of places to go to for more information on alternative treatments and he doesn't frown on using them, although he is a conventional doctor. 

I wish we had more geriatric doctors and that more people would see them instead of feeling ashamed to do so. We are all going to get old, so why not look for the medical care that fits our needs. Find a doctor who understands ageing. And read Dr. Lachs' book.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Hospice Doctor

My weekend was bitter-sweet. The husband of a very dear friend passed away Saturday morning. My heart aches for her and the grief she is and will be dealing with a long time. 

I had a house guest this weekend who is also a dear friend of mine. Her name is Ellen and she is a private person so I will not give her full name. We met when I heard her speak the same year I was diagnosed with diabetes. That was 2003. 

I helped her with a Diabetes support group she organized here and then wrote articles from interviews of local people who had diabetes. I heard their stories which opened my eyes and I hope the eyes of those who read about them. At that time Ellen said we had a large number of people in this county who had the disease, but had not been diagnosed. She went on to get the hospital and the health department involved with getting people diagnosed and classes set up to teach them what they need to know to take care of themselves as well as how to talk to their doctors. 

I admired her work and it was not that easy. It is always hard to create change, especially here in the mountains. 

She now works as a Hospice Doctor and I can tell she takes great comfort in being able to keep patients out of pain and letting them die peacefully. Hospice care can be the only place a sick person gets the pain relief they need. Hospitals will not usually give that kind of care. I write from experience. My husband suffered horribly while at Emory Hospital, but once he was in Hospice Care, I insisted he have whatever was needed to relieve his pain.

Ellen tells me the families are the biggest challenge she faces with each patient.

"My son, Mark is coming in from California tomorrow. We want my husband awake so he can talk to Mark." 
Why would you want your husband to suffer in excruciating pain so he can speak a few words to Mark? The concern seems to be more for the son who is coming than for the patient who is dying.

I remember the nice young doctor at the Hospice Center where Barry had been admitted and was finally free of pain saying, "We'll cut back on the morphine today."
"Why on earth would you do that?" I asked. 
"So you and he can talk to each other."
I told him we had talked to each other for 45 years and we had nothing left to say that was worth making him suffer any more pain.

I hope if I am ever in such a state that no one will cut back on the medicine just so I can mumble a few words or they hope I will recognize someone. The patient, at this point, has no interest in others. He is dealing with pain, his own body and mind failing, and has to force himself to meet others' expectations. 

Families that make a loved one suffer in such a way are selfish and have no idea what it is to suffer immense pain. 

Ellen, who was a doctor when I met her, said she chose to become a hospice doctor after seeing and hearing about the horror and pain Barry went through when we could find no help for his suffering with cancer. I admire her so much. She told me her major concern for the hospice patient is that he have no pain. She tells her nurses that first they make sure the patient is pain free. 

I hope all hospice doctors and nurses today make that their first priority. If we have to die, at least let us go peacefully.