Category Archives: Aloneness

Only Child debunks attitude factor with seniors’ stress

Sitting in my garden relaxes me

Sitting in my garden relaxes me

It’s ALL in your attitude, we seniors are told about how we handle the stress in our lives. My emphasis on the word “ALL”. Attitude may have something to do with it, but not “all.” And some of the research on attitude and seniors’ stress is somewhat questionable.

Take the study from North Carolina State University, for example. Sure the research shows that seniors who have a positive attitude about aging can handle stress better. Read this article about the study

One big factor from this study stands out. THE NUMBER OF SENIORS INVOLVED IN THIS STUDY.  Are you ready for this? Forty-three. That’s 43. That sure covers a lot of seniors and wide spread over demographics. Come on researchers, get real. Even professional pollsters use over 1000, if not close to 2000 people. While not near perfect in numbers it is much higher than the paltry 43.

I question the widespread validity of a study that uses only 43 people.

There are certainly many other factors in seniors’ lives besides their attitudes towards aging. Here are a few factors, given at random:

  1. The health of the senior – not just cancer, heart disease or diabetes, and loss of or diminished sight, hearing and/or mobility, Health includes mental health. If you don’t consider depression and/or high anxiety (with our without intolerance to uncertainly – disclaimer here – I have this  – see this previous blog post), it doesn’t paint a realistic picture. Also, often physical illnesses can cause depression and anxiety.
  2. What is happening in a senior’s life?
  3. What has happened previously over many years in the senior’s life?
  4. Is the senior financially secure (as much as anyone can be these days) or living near or below the poverty line?
  5. Does the senior live alone?
  6. Where does the senior live – in their home (house, condo, apartment) or in a long-term care facility?
  7. Does the senior have supportive family and/or friends?
  8. Does the senior have some passion/some interest in life – something that gets them going every day?
  9. The senior’s innate personality – i.e., some people are hard-wired to be positive and some the opposite.
  10.  We must not forget the Pollyanna effect. You know, the “everything is great and wonderful in life” and ignoring the bad that does happen (and I know “bad” can be subjective). Remember the 1960 Disney movie “Pollyanna” starring Hayley Mills? She played Pollyanna and gave a good take on it. However, in the movie Pollyanna, a 12-year-old-child, fell from a tree when sneaking out at night. From that she became crippled.

Maybe the best way to get through the senior years is to be realistic. If something upsets you, acknowledge this and maybe you need to do something about it. I find that helps me. What I am still learning is to pick my battles. You can’t fight everything.

And have some passion/some interest (or two or three or more – mine are writing, helping other writers, acting in comedy skits, gardening, reading, TV, cooking and walking, socializing with close family and friends, and apparently the weather). Try to find a balance between being alone and socializing. Lighten up a bit sometimes. For example, so far in one month I’ve had to have two molars (different locations) extracted. For my first “meal” with my son who was at the first  dental appointment and drove me home, I heated up solid food for him and said, “We can eat as soon as I heat up my gruel (chicken broth).” Confide your problems to someone you are close to, but not someone who is judgemental or orders you around. And if necessary, see a therapist, even if only for a short time to get over the hurdle. Eat healthy, get some exercise, get enough sleep and try not to do too much.

I’m still working on the latter two.

My $5.00 worth anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, Family and Friends, Health Seniors, Only child, Seniors

Only Child and Senior Loneliness

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

When my father died from brain cancer at 66, life turned all downhill for my mother. She had lost her husband of many years and had to go it alone. This was the mid-1960s so changes for women were just getting started. And although my mother had me, I was a teenager and really not much help for mom’s loneliness and her health, which after Dad’s death went from good to worse than bad.

First, it was her arthritis in her hands and feet, which landed her in the hospital for tests, disfigured her hands (rheumatoid arthritis) and damaged her feet to the point of what resembled wounds. I remember coming home from business school and finding her sitting in the living-room, one foot bandaged and propped up on a footstool. Her two visitors were not friends, but the managers at the insurance company where she had started to work when Dad died. They were not there to offer her support, but to try and convince her to quit her job which she was having difficulty doing. She had gone from typist to proof reader because of her fingers.

Fortunately I was able to get a job as a secretary later that year and help Mom with expenses, including doing the actual grocery shopping. But Mom’s health continued to deteriorate. She also had scleroderma, which gave her puffy cheeks and changed her voice to almost a squeak. She died at age 63. Official cause was a brain aneurysm but really the arthritis killed her. Because of the arthritis she fell off her vanity bench which gave her a never-ending headache. She figured she needed her eyes tested and had booked an appointment for an eye test but never made it as she went into a coma and died in hospital.

I have passed both my parents’ ages of death and have mixed feelings about it.  Although I may have escaped some of the medical conditions of my parents (although I do have arthritis – in my neck and bunions and the like on my feet), I still feel very wary going through the rest of my life. Yes, I have had my own medical issues to deal with, but I’m learning that there are two factors that make life very hard to deal with for a senior – living alone and being poor.

I have covered the being poor before, but living alone to my mind, is not the best scenario for a senior and happiness. Apparently, some studies are showing otherwise. See Loneliness among the elderly  where  surprisingly the majority of lonely seniors are married or living with a partner.  But my many years living alone have proven otherwise. Living alone means not having someone there to help you, to support you, provide companionship, and help you deal with all the crap life shoves at you. I realize that not all duos are good – some are abusive; some provide no support.

However, when I observe my friends who have partners of some sort, I see a plus. Sure, they have problems, health, maybe financial, etc. But they seem more positive, have that support (and some even say that) and are happier – the latter just radiates from them. My take here is if you have a good partner, you can deal with life better.

Partners can mean many things from the traditional marriage, to living common-law, to not living together all the time (i.e., maintaining separate homes for whatever reason – often financial – pension laws you know).

One friend who used to live in my neighbourhood had a long-term relationship with a fellow. Their relationship and its setup worked worked very well for them. Both lived in separate houses – in fact he lived just outside Toronto. But they spent weekends together at her place and travelled together. Sure they argued and had differences of opinions – most couples do. But they were supportive of each other, not only with health issues but house issues. And boy, my friend had a doozie when her mean next door neighbour shovelled snow from his driveway onto her gas meter and the entrance for the gas into her house – the latter was blocked and she got gas fumes in her house. She phoned both her partner and me. Both came over here. He got on the phone to the gas company and organized everything there. I insisted she stay overnight with me, but in the meantime she went back home (outside) to supervise the gas company arriving. Her partner and I had another thing to do for her – get some important legal papers off to Fed Ex before they closed to meet a deadline for her.

True, yours truly had some part in this. But consider the scenario without her partner. And remember I don’t drive.

My friend’s situation does not have a happy ending. Her partner was diagnosed with brain cancer and died shortly afterwards. Yes, she was there with him, but has been alone since then.

I have to deal with the crap in my life alone. My son does help where he can but he has his own life. I also have no brothers or sisters.

So, some statistics be damned, I still say a senior living alone is not the happiest and healthiest. Read 10 Dangers of Seniors Living Alone. And I have only covered the tip of that iceberg.

What do you think? I’d like to hear from seniors living alone and seniors with partners. I won’t bite, whatever you say.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Happiness, Health Seniors, Life demands, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors and Happiness

Only Child on Luck and the like

Only child contemplates luck

Only child contemplates luck

Do some people have more good luck than bad? Do others have more bad luck than good?

I believe that is true and unfortunately I am one of the latter, at least as my life the past few years has shown. And before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am definitely not the only one in this over-sized boat.

How do I figure this? If I go through my daily list of what I am thankful for and what I’m not (and the list varies from day-to-day depending on what is happening or happened recently), I find that the bad things take over a larger percentage than the good. Some of the good (like my writing and my garden and my son – in no particular order here) are big. But so is much of the bad.

Bad can be anything from being old, poor, not being healthy to being injured to death of close family and friends, to being alone. The list can be endless. A lot of the bad that happens to people is what comes under the heading of “unexpected things that go wrong.” These usually steal your time, your psyche, your life.

And yes, there is research, there are studies on good and bad luck. I don’t agree with all of it, such as maintaining a positive attitude 100 per cent of the time. That does not stop bad things from happening to people. Neither does a strong belief in God and that he will help if we pray to him. I (and I’m sure others) have proven that one incorrect. The studies don’t go into this latter aspect.

One thing I have learned from life, especially from my friends,  is those seniors who have a life partner do much better in life. Sure,  bad things happen to them, too – nobody is immune from that. But, they have a partner so have help, moral support. They are not dealing alone with the crap in life.

So what are some of the other things that these studies show?

Stephan Makri, PhD. from the City University of London,  says, ““I think that luck means different things to different people—some people use it as synonym for serendipity,” he says. “But others were clear that the two were different—luck was totally out of our control and there’s nothing we can do to influence it.”  By the way the article also quotes Dr. Yanlong Sun,  professor of microbial pathogenesis and immunology, Texas A&M College of Medicine, “As both a scientist and a person, I do believe in luck, that it is something I cannot manipulate or operate on.” The article also  quotes Richard Wiseman, psychology professor, the University of Hertfordshire, England, who has done several studies on luck. Wiseman says from one study “unlucky people seemed to demonstrate more anxiety.

Which begs the question? Are peope  unlucky because they are anxious? O are they anxious because they are unlucky?

Read the article on all this: “The Science of Luck” by Alexandra Osola, from Popular Science here.

What is some of the bad luck coming my way lately?

Computer problems, which I may or may have not fixed.

Two watches on the fritz at once. It better just be a new battery needed for each. With the big health issue I’m facing (see below), I don’t have extra cash for anymore expensive extra expenses. Also I need to keep track of my time, even though the powers that be may not be doing so.

Things going missing somewhere in my house. Disclaimer: I am not a hoarder and with what I do have I’ve been systematically sorting through and purging.

Ongoing health issues – the latest the biggie – the tooth extraction which comes up next Monday. I previously posted about the difficulty of  finding a good oral surgeon. But what is scary about all this is I haven’t had a tooth extraction for over 30 years and back then the situations didn’t go well. Mind you they were wisdom teeth (and that’s a misnomer for sure. Somebody goofed here in “creating” us). Also I have a lot of other health issues (which the surgeon is aware of – I did have to fill out a form and did have a consultation with him) including a compromised immune system. And then there is weather – it’s winter and if we get snow right after (like overnight after and the day after), guess who will be shoveling that white crap? The fellow who used to shovel my snow the past seven years didn’t show up this year. I tried to get someone else, but no luck.

And there is that word “luck” again. Hey, luck is a four-letter word, so what did I expect?

Dark days indeed. No wonder I often don’t get around to opening the blinds in the basement.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Only Child trudges uphill

Teddy  points out my  time being wasted

Teddy points out my time being wasted

Except for my garden, actually writing and meeting with old friends, this summer seems to be one big uphill venture for me. And that includes last Wednesday’s fall down – yes two days after being stung by a wasp. Then there is this on-again off-again respiratory sinusitis thing and other “normal” for me health issues.

My friends and I keep saying it’s just because we are getting old. I’m wondering if it is just that. We are all getting older and may not be able to do as much in a day as we used to. Our health may not be as good as when we were younger. But to yet again paraphrase that old Peggy Lee song “Is that all there is (to it)?”

My fall last week was 100 per cent someone else’s fault and I don’t mean God. No one pushed me either. But some careless b****** left picture wire outside and it blew onto the sidewalk up the street from me. I was wearing sandals and walking quickly to the main street to catch a bus. Normally I look ahead where I’m going, not on the ground. You guessed it, the unseen (then) wire got caught in a sandal and I went flying forward, sustaining a nasty large bleeding scrape on my right arm up to my elbow, a smaller scrape on my left knee, and bruises, bruises on my arms and legs. I’m still finding more bruises.

Of course with dripping blood from the arm I had to go home and apply first aid. But not before cursing the son of a ***** who left the wire out. So help me, if that person was around/and or I somehow could find out who he or she is, let’s just say they would be sorry.

It’s like I told my friend Carol the next day. This summer I have cursed so many people I don’t know for menacing acts.

It’s just turning into one of those summers, what with house issues and trying to find time to get things done. That includes my writing. When I finish dealing with the injuries and “ill health issues,” trying to organize my holidays and well, just getting out to get groceries it seems, I don’t have as much time to continue writing my third Beyond mystery book and promote the second one, Beyond Blood. Once into promoting and writing I get somewhere, but all that time I have to waste on the problems, etc. aggravates me.

Part of the problem is I have to deal with all of this on my own. No, I never want to live with anyone again, but a live-out partner would be nice.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. I am getting together with some old friends and more of that is in the works. Sometimes looking back is better than looking forward.

And those who keep saying “moving forward” (I hate that overused expression) can take those two words and stuff them

My toonie’s worth.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

If only Raggedy Annie could do some house repairs

If only Raggedy Annie could do some house repairs

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, Falls prevention, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Life demands, Living alone, Old Age, Only child, Seniors, Seniors and falls, Writing

Only Child on going it solo

Growing up an only child had its peculiarities – some good, some bad. On the bad side, there is the obvious – no siblings to confide in, to help you get through your life especially if like me, you were bullied. Of course, siblings fight and tease each other, but for the most part I would suppose that is normal. There are always exceptions.

Throw in elderly parents – where one (Mom) pushes being pro-active where the Bully is concerned, and the other (Dad) is over-protective and you can be left going from one extreme to the other in dealing with what gets shoved at you in life.

Some only children withdraw into themselves and don’t have any close friends.

Following this going to opposites mentioned above, I did have close friends (besides the Bully) but I also kept my own counsel on many things. And I found I was confiding a lot in my mother – not everything, of course. She didn’t need a blow-by-blow account of my dates as a teenager, although she did almost embarrass me once, when a fellow was walking me home from a teen dance at the church. That was our agreement. I could go to these Sunday evening dances but Mom would meet me halfway walking home. In my memoir I write:

After putting on boots, coats, and hats (well, I did the latter), we amble up Donlands, past the bungalows. While we talk – I have no idea about what, probably about where I live as he thinks he’s taking me there – I dart looks in front. No Mom yet. Are we early?

We cross Plains Road and walk by Vince’s Jewellery Store, beyond the Donlands Cinema. I’m cranking my head over towards Joe, then down, supposedly to watch my footing in the snow. I sneak a look up the street and there she is.

Mom is heading our way and I want to duck into the Donlands Restaurant with Joe but I’m too chicken. Maybe it’s closed, I tell myself. But wait. Mom is doing her diplomatic thing. She pulls into a doorway, Hurst’s Drugstore, I think. Joe and I keep on talking and walking. I can feel Mom’s eyes on us.

When we stop for the lights at O’Connor, I turn to Joe.

“I can walk home the rest of the way myself,” I say. “Yeah. It’s just up there.” I point to my right.

“Okay. I’ll call you sometime during the week.”

“Okay. Good night.

“Good night.”

Fortunately, he doesn’t kiss me. Mom catches up with me. Now I’m in for it.

“I didn’t want to embarrass you so I stepped into the doorway,” she says. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford).

Growing up solo did give me the background to learn to think for myself. Problem was it took me nearly 30 years to start doing so. When you grow up an only child cocooned by elderly parents, particularly if one or both are protective, throw in losing your dad to cancer when you are 16 and your mother to a brain aneurysm when you are 22, and then you get married three months later, you aren’t exactly prime material for sticking up for your rights. Instead you lean towards others taking care of you.

How can you change?
First you have to have a child; then get separated from your spouse or partner, and then get hit with medical and financial problems.

 

But growing up an only child can teach you to problem solve – mainly because you have to learn to go inside yourself and pull out some possible solutions. The flip side is you may have trouble asking others for help. And when you do, it comes out as a big whine.

 

It didn’t all come right away, but I’ve turned into a fighter- finally. True I’m often cranky and come on strong in anger, but I’d rather be that than a perpetual doormat.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Elderly parents, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Social skills only children

Only Child – as I see it with many more crises

Only Child's sanctuary - again threatened by negative destructive curses

Only Child’s sanctuary – again threatened by negative destructive curses

The list of crises keeps growing – some repeats and some new. Another world, another life looks awfully tempting. It is not fun having to deal with all the crap coming your way when you have to do it on your own. At least the old air conditioner seems to be working at this point.

So here we go again with more negative destructive curses (not challenges as others might see them).

Repeat: a bit of water in the basement – not to see but the floor in a couple of areas by the same outside wall was damp this morning. So I called the a****** who did the excavation, sealing, etc. two years ago (again – he didn’t return my last call last week.) He’s supposed to continue doing testing – heavy hosing of various parts of that outside wall – one area at a time, but has only done the window and that’s not it. He called me back this morning but refuses to come until I get the city and some private professional to check the drains from the city end and the house end. He went on and on about problems the drains could cause if that is it until I interjected with I’m tired of dealing with all this crap coming at me and reminded him that it is only me who is stuck doing so. I finally said I’d call the city. But I haven’t yet because…

I had to call Direct Energy – I rent my water heater (gas) from them and I had no hot water coming out of the tap this moenin. True, I had run the bathroom hot water taps for a bit to clear a hunk of soap that got down the drain (the idiot handyman had not put a catch at the top of the new drain setup) but that shouldn’t be enough to finish the hot water in the tank. The Pilot light is still on; I turned the water heater thermostat up to high and there appears to be some noise indication that it might be working. I still booked an appointment with them to check it out tomorrow if the hot water doesn’t come back in a few hours. Couldn’t get an appointment for later today but that’s partly because…

My sinuses are acting up – I get periods of sinusitis for various reasons – allergies and a compromised immune system and the big factor – too much stress in my life. This time it’s bothering my left eye – with odd periods of some blurriness when at the computer. The sinus stuff started on Saturday when I felt extremely tired and just wanted to crawl into a hole. A nap helped here but my eye was still sore. However, it was getting much better until I woke up this a.m. Now it seems to be somewhat better again but I made an appointment with my optometrist for this afternoon and hope all that will be needed is some anti-biotic eye drops. Because of my compromised immune system and digestive-gastro medical condition, I can’t take oral anti-biotics.

And the weird one. Last evening when watching TV, the screen suddenly went to that black and white snow static. I figured it was the digital cable adapter – the cable company had already been in a couple of months ago to fix some worn-out cables. But the TV came back a few minutes later and provided it doesn’t occur again I can only conclude it was something at “their” end.

I think I mentioned in previous posts that these are negative destructive curses – not positive challenges. Had quite a discussion with a friend who believes even the bad things happening are challenges. She says that if I got very sick I wouldn’t make it with my attitude. Not quite. Just because I see something as a negative destructive curse doesn’t mean I just sit back, moan and let it destroy me. No. The bottom line for me is when a challenge or a curse arrives inside my doorstep, the problem or challenge has to be solved – either by me or experts – and the sooner the better. But it is all very scary when you have to go it alone.

However, except for the Sears guys for the blinds installations (one even sent me a thank you note. Very good and heart-warming), some help from some friends and family, and (grudgingly said here) even the incompetent new handyman for doing a few things right (fixing air conditioner – so far – and the eavestrough and tree branch stuff), it’s me I have to depend on.

So I reserve my right to be cranky. And when all these off and on rainstorms/thunderstorms are done for a bit, I will get back out in the garden and yank more weeds. Guess whose names will be invisibly on the weeds?

That is if I can – Bell Canada is doing conduit work underground at the end of the property – if I’m lucky it will only be part of the driveway and not part of my rose garden at the end of my property by the driveway (see photo at top) . I’m still waiting to hear back from my city councillor’s office on that situation. Meantime, I have been slowly cutting back the overhanging rose bush branches so the “conduit” workers can do their job – as long as they stay out of the garden.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Only Child says snafus change priorities

Only Child with her parents in happier times at her grandfather's farm

Only Child with her parents in happier times at her grandfather’s farm

The house repairs, snafus, flakey help, etc. continue. But there is a silver lining in here.

Remember I ended my last post with talk about miracles?

I think I got my miracle and I am grateful.

Two friends recommended someone else to deal with my air conditioner problem. After two phone calls to one person which gave me endless phone ringing and no voice mail, I went on to number two recommendation. He answered and was available the next day. And (drum roll here), I turned on the A/C; he checked out the old air conditioner, looked inside the front of it, fiddled with the thermostat there and some buttons outside and voila – we got air (and not just the fan). I ran around closing windows and doors and we left it on for awhile while he went to the next problem. The house got cooler. The former handyman last fall had pronounced the compressor dead in this A/C and said it was cheaper to get a new one. I’m glad I had the A/C covered outside for over winter. Toes crossed that this A/C continues to work the rest of spring, summer and early fall – when I use it. I’m frugal and picky here.

The next problem is turning into another nightmare – the leaky tap in the main floor bathroom. The leak was from the bottom of the tap onto the sink back, not the spout. When he took the tap apart he found a couple of things not working so we went up to Home Depot to get new parts and a few other necessary items such as stain paint for the picnic table and the veranda railing. One part from Home Depot, despite being the same size, wouldn’t work for my taps. The handyman had a couple of used taps in his van and just needed a replacement part for the one, which he got. He installed it and it works.

But that’s not the end of the story. This tap leaks from below (not the drain) when turned on. He is coming back later today when he can get his van started. Thanks to the rain (not his fault; he doesn’t cause the weather conditions),he’s having van problems. I suspect the tap leak might be some caulking needed where it joins. When the four-year old tap (the one removed) was put in, the plumber had to come back to caulk.

Rain is forecast for all but Friday in the Toronto area – not good painting-outside weather.

And the fellow who is doing my heavy yard work? He was here last Wednesday and dug up part of my backyard garden – lots of deep weeds and grass that had grown back in. Instead of listening to my instructions to put just a bit in each bin because I have to carry them to the curb on yard waste collection day, he overfilled to above the top of two bins – there were three empty bins he had to work with but he left two stuck together and when he’d filled them, he couldn’t separate them. It started to rain (not his fault) but he said he would come by in a day or two to finish the digging and put the weeds dug up into bags. Meantime he covered the two overflowing bins with a tarp (so they wouldn’t get all soggy and heavy from the rain) and I put a couple of cement slabs on top to hold the tarp in place.

It is now six days later and he hasn’t showed up. Last evening I sorted out his mess, lifting the heavy slogs up and shaking what soil I could from them into the garden and putting some into three bags (not full so I can carry them to the curb tomorrow evening). I moved the bags and some of the bins into the driveway by the side of the house front and covered them with tarp and the cement slabs.

Now, I’m wondering if when you get a miracle, you get other stuff taken away or screwed up? Sort of like to keep life in balance?

And speaking of life balance, I’ve taken another look at priorities and realize that not all my priorities are my choice. Having to deal with everything on my own is a big fault factor here. I’ve had to bow out of something that I wanted to do (that was in my priority choice) because of all the other stuff I’ve had to deal with and still am (in my blog post last week).

But there is something else that gives me satisfaction. I’m firing the former handyman I had for many years and also the fellow who was doing heavy yard work. When the latter finally shows his sorry ass up at my front door I will tell him off – “Never darken my doorstep again,” is my message to him.

My mother was so lucky to have my dad as long as she did – even though he was sick with cancer, and ulcer and a heart condition for part of the time. He was loyal and he was a damn good house painter. Then there was his friend Ken, the opera singing plumber (and despite hitting the high notes, he was reliable).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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