Monthly Archives: November 2016

Only Child on living with chronic pain

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

Chronic pain can effect people in many different ways. Some will wallow in no hope. Some will complain constantly. Some will ignore the pain (or try to) and get on with their life. Some will be martyrs. Some will overdue the positive to the point of near Pollyanna portions. Some will just pray. Spare me from the latter three.

I live in constant on and off again chronic pain from digestive tract illnesses  – abdominal pain, lower back pain, pain radiating down my legs. If I had to pick which of the above categories for dealing with it, it is a variation of “ignore the pain (or try to) and get on with their life.” I do try to get on with my life, to live my life. Call me stubborn, resentful of the disease, and call me angry. I think those qualities are what motivates me to get going, at least in part. But I am never grateful for all of this pIN and when I do my usual morning litany of gratitude and non-gratitude, the pain/my health (or lack thereof) goes into the latter.

I also remember my mother, her chronic pain, and what it did to her.

The last yea’s of my late mother’s life were filled with pain – her pain, physical pain. Daily. She had rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. To add  insult to injury, both diseases were crippling and deforming physically. She was in and out of doctors’offices, in and out of hospital until the arthritis indirectly caused her death from a fall. The fall caused a brain aneurysm.

My mother wasn’t an anomaly. Many people, and not just seniors, live in constant pain from various diseases. I’m talking chronic pain, not just something temporary. And studies show that women, more than men, live this way. I’m not going into (this post, anyway) the causes for this, so those who wave the “blame the victim” flag about lifestyle choices, well, wave it quietly.

We who are in pain have to deal with this reality. Unlike my mother I have too much I want to live for ( some years yet, although I can’t see me doddering around much past 80), and I’ll be damned if I let pain stop me – if I can help it.

So, I try to alleviate the pain where I can but I won’t take opiates or any strong meds. The strongest I take is acetaminophen and I know it can damage your liver. But when you are trying to live in the present…you have to choose either now or a maybe later. I also try to eat healthy, although I’m not sure how much that helps if just eating supper can sometimes start the abdominal spasms. It’s not what I eat, but the fact that I eat. Taking the aforementioned acetaminophen and the natural tranquilizer Valerian, then just lying down, often gets rid of the pain. Sometimes a glass of white wine in the evening will help.

But there are all the outside factors that contribute – stress being the big one. What causes the stress – financial problems, house problems, weather (if there is a threat for water to get in the basement, for example), family and friend problems, computer problems. All these and more can cause stress and that doesn’t help.

How much of people’s pain is worsened by stress? And of course, the worry about the pain adds to the stress load. But you have to deal with it one way or the other. Those who say “just relax” are only postponing dealing with the pain. Those who say “pray” are expecting some other being to get rid of their pain. . I’ve tried both and neither works. I see the same around me and in the world.

So I try to grab the stress-inducing problems by the bull horns (no bull here) and try to solve them; sometimes I ask for help from others.

I love my late mother very much. But I am not her and I am not living her life.

You have to own your life – pain and all.

This is the way I feel right now. If I get ALS or MS or a few other diseases, I could change my mind.

I’ll end with some links on chronic pain, including some statistics and studies.

The Prevalence of Chronic Pain

Scleroderma from the Mayo Clinic

Women’s College Hospital Pain Clinic (disclaimer here: one of the doctors here  – Dr. Gil Faclier  – was instrumental in getting rid of 90 per cent of my migraines – back in the 1980s when he was a resident doctor, when this clinic was still at Sunnybrook Hospital).

Some alternative medicine info:

Chronic Pain in Depth: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Pain Management Alternative Care

I also get regular newsletters from the Mayo Clinic – the digestive newsletter and the Women’s Hospital monthly Women’s Health Matters newsletter.

And I walk a lot. And garden – although not much of that lately with winter rearing its ugly head. Doing creative things like cooking and writing, especially writing also help with the endorphins and taking you to a different level, to some enjoyment in life, some life purpose.

How do you deal with physical pain?

Cheers.

Sharon’

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Digestive disorder, Gratitude, Health, Life demands, Only child, Pain

Only Child plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

Only Child on seniors health and poverty living

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

Mulling over health care costs and seniors

It doesn’t matter where you live – if you are a senior living in poverty, you can bet your health will suffer and can be worse than if you have money. I’m not saying that being wealthy prevents cancer or heart disease. There are certainly many other factors weighing in here.  But I am saying that if you live below the poverty level, there are many age-related medical conditions that could be stopped or at least improved if you could just afford to pay for them.

So much for universal health care. That is a myth, even in Canada and Great Britain which are supposed to have health care coverage. I live in Ontario, Canada, and over the last few years, what is covered by our provincial health care plan (OHIP) has shrunk. Here is a summarized list of what is NOT covered by OHIP from the official site.

Services NOT Covered by OHIP

  • Ambulance transportation services if not deemed medically necessary (maximum cost of $240).
  • Routine eye examinations for people between the ages of 19 and 65.
  • Glasses and contact lenses.
  • Some physiotherapy may be partially covered or not at all.
  • Routine dental services such as examinations, fillings, cleanings and non-surgical extractions.
  • Podiatrists are only partially covered by OHIP.
  • Paramedicals such as chiropractors, massage therapists, naturopaths, podiatrists, acupuncturists and osteopaths.
  • Necessary emergency medical treatment obtained outside of Canada (e.g. while traveling) is only covered on a very limited basis; it is highly recommended to have travel insurance protection if traveling outside of Canada. Out of province ambulance costs are not covered.
  • Prescription drugs, although assistance MAY be available (see below).
  • Any cosmetic surgery.
  • Semi-private and private rooms in a hospital.

– See more at: https://www.healthquotes.ca/OHIP-Ontario.aspx#sthash.pbM8hhZK.dpuf

But not included in this generalized list are some blood tests, such as tests for Vitamin D deficiency and Candida (the latter was covered until the early 2000s). Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem, especially in winter, when there is less sun to be exposed to, something I found out the hard way nearly five years ago. And no, I didn’t go to a doctor’s about it or I would have been hit with the cost of a blood test. I did my research online and figured the extreme pain in my leg bones wasn’t arthritis (pain wasn’t in the joints but in the calf bones) was Vitamin D deficiency. So after a few weeks of massive daily doses of Vitamin D, the pain went away. Now, starting in November and until at least the end of April, I take very large doses of Vitamin D, daily.

Which brings me to something else not covered by healthcare – Vitamins, Minerals and other supplements that not only aid in your health, but in some cases get rid of the health problem. Most months what I spend on food is in a “race” with health supplements for highest amount spent.

And yes, there are private drug plans, but if you live below or near the poverty level, you just can’t afford them. Who says Canada doesn’t have a two-tier health plan? It is just not the usual definition of a two-tier health plan.

However, those of us who live below the poverty level in Ontario, have some government help with the Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors – you get all prescriptions free and waive any druggist fee. The down side is you have to re-apply each year based on your Net Income as filed and assessed by Canada Revenue, If you are living a bit above the poverty in Ontario, you  might get partial help, i.e. pay the first $100 for prescriptions, then after that pay a nominal druggist fee for filling the prescription. Again, it is set-up as an annual thing based on your income. So living in poverty (for the next year) guarantees me no prescription costs for my eye drops – absolutely necessary or my left eye will go blind.

And being over 65, I now don’t pay for any visits to my ophthalmologist and optometrist. But I do pay for glasses. Which is why I kicked up a big fuss when I had to have replacement sunglasses because the original ones had a broken connection to the glasses, just over a year old. Not only was this particular glasses style no longer made, the one-year warranty was up. So full price here. No wonder I complained to the store (Hudson’s Bay Optical) manager and he credited me with half the cost.

No wonder I have very bad feet problems. No wonder I am cranky a lot.

Speaking of poverty levels. There is a big gap in what is considered the poverty level for singles living alone in Ontario, Canada and the United States.

In the United States:

“Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($29,425 per year for a single person).” See Economic Security for Seniors Facts.

Compare that with Ontario’s $19,330

These are both annual incomes.

I’ll be covering more on Seniors and poverty in future posts.

Comments, please. I would also like to hear from those living outside Canada and outside the United States.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Health, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Only child, Poverty, Seniors, Vitamin D Deficiency

Only Child views downtown Toronto

 

Sailboats on Lake Ontario at Harbourfront

Sailboats on Lake Ontario at Harbourfront

A few weeks ago my friend Carol and I were driving home from an event near Toronto’s waterfront. We drove onto Queen’s Quay coming from the west. The view in front of us showed opposites. On our right was Harbourfront Centre, which although touristy, has some calming natural areas, such as the garden and walking along the boardwalk by Lake Ontario and the boats.

The other side consisted of big high-rise condos. In front of us, more tall buildings. The road sloped down and the view came across to both of us as something from the future, something from a science fiction movie.

The other side of Harbourfront Centre on Queens Quay

The other side of Harbourfront Centre on Queens Quay

Is this what my city, my Toronto has come to? The downtown core, once filled with historic buildings (some still standing, but hard to find), is now overloaded with high futuristic buildings. Not pretty. Not aesthetically pleasing. No wonder I don’t go downtown much anymore, but just as far as mid-town, unless over by my son’s area where there are still old beautiful houses. And yes the main street near there looks a little shabby in places. But it is a damn sight better than futuristic downtown.

Where did the developers and city councillors, mayors, etc. go wrong? We have leaned too much towards progress instead of combining it gracefully with history. Sadly, this seems to be the way globally.

There is an old axiom about learning from history. Well, when I look at the futuristic high-rises in downtown Toronto, the only history lesson here is to forget any history and build build build. People want to live downtown; houses are too expensive; condos not as expensive, so build up and up and up.

Beyond the aesthetic aspect, what about the utilities? Many of the utility infrastructures are old and wearing out and if not now, but soon, at this rate of growth, will not have the capacity to take all the overbuild. What happens then? A few instances are already happening. Floods from heavy rains. One high-rise condo had re-occurring power outages in under two weeks. Broken watermains.

If that weren’t enough, some of the glass panels (and I don’t mean the windows, but the walls)  of some of these condos have fallen off, shattering when they hit the street. It is a miracle that (so far) no one has been injured.

Take a look at the photos above and below. And check out these links. This one shows a tight cluster of condo locations in downtown Toronto.  This one a photo of one part of downtown Toronto.  One historic building The Ironworks manages to rise out among the big buildings.

No wonder I tend to gravitate towards Toronto areas that are still pleasing. Not just where I live and where my son and his girlfriend live, but other older areas. Just to clarify – there are still a few colourful areas who have managed to retain their history while being vibrant and interesting, such as Kensington Market and China Town, which (no surprise here) are next to each other. And another  clarification – some older areas of Toronto are not aesthetically pleasing in any way. They are boring and just there. But they still have one thing going for them – they don’t look like something out of science fiction.

Do you think historical buildings and common sense progress are being sacrificed for big modern progress only? Not just in Toronto, but where you live?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Part of Habourfront Centre Music Garden

Part of Habourfront Centre Music Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old building on King St. Toronto

Old building on King St. E., Toronto

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Filed under Cities, Condo Sprawl, Healing through gardening, Music Garden, Only child, Streetscapes, Toronto

Only Child slams bank “service”

Only Child ponders bank disservice

Only Child ponders bank disservice

I don’t physically go to my bank branch very often anymore but when I have to I expect service.

Am I being naive here?

Take this morning. Five minutes after the bank opened, I walked in on this first day of another month. At that point, the waiting lineup wasn’t too bad. (It became worse and longer as I waited). However, there were only two tellers working. The other two wickets were open but no one was there unless the bank (it is Scotiabank by the way.) is hiring invisible tellers.

The bank manager was flitting back and forth from teller to bank patrons, so on his way back to his office I spoke to him and wanted to know why on the first day of a month, a very busy day, there wasn’t a full slot of tellers from 9.30 a.m. (when the bank opens). He said, “another teller is coming in at 10 a.m.).” I blasted him with why all four tellers aren’t in when the bank opens.

“There should be a full slate of tellers from when the bank opens on the first day of the month. When I’ve come in a day or two later the tellers always mention how busy the first day is. And today, I have to go to my safety deposit box and that will leave one teller at the counter.”

After re-iterating that another teller was coming in at 10 a.m., he added, “I’ll keep that into consideration for future months,” he said. Then he passed the buck. He said he would talk to the branch officer in charge of staff and he would have to get permission from head office.

Oh really? He is the bank branch manager, so he should have charge of that.

Oh, I get it, the unspoken words. Bank costs. Let the tellers work part-time and scramble the hours around to cut costs. This doesn’t go with the big profits of Scotiabank. At the end of August, 2016, reports from Scotiabank stated that the bank  had a profit of over $1.9 billion in its third quarter. This amount is up from last year’s $1.8 billion

Something is screwy with all this.

After Mr. Bank Branch Manager returned to his office, I had a discussion with the young woman behind me and  a senior in line behind her. This lady, a retired teacher, had a walker,  but I’m glad she had something to sit in. The three of us agreed with what I complained about to the manager. And I’m not surprised it was me that did the complaining – I’m a former journalist turned unofficial consumer advocate, the latter by necessity.

The safety deposit necessity today  (as it is the beginning of every month) was the only reason I had to go into the bank branch. Usually I pay bills online, through direct payment from bank accounts or credit cards, and the odd one by regular mail. I’m not a fan of ATMs so I do a lot of my “bank withdrawals” using Cash Back at grocery and other stores.

If I could get money from my bank accounts through my computer I would.

Or I could pull a Stephen Leacock, the late Canadian humorous author who wrote a funny piece about a fellow who kept his money in a sock.

Hmm. Might be worth a try. Oh, I guess not, for security reasons. But I wouldn’t need a large sock. Might be a use for one of the odd socks people seem to accumulate.

Comments, please. What are some of your “customer service” experiences with financial institutions?

And that last word “institutions” might just say it all.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Bank service, Bank service complaints, Banking, Only child