Category Archives: Older Women living alone and health

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

Empire Life Insurance apologizes and Hudson’s Bay reimburses

The garden is one way I have to heal

The garden is one way I have to heal

Last Friday, I followed through with phoning Empire Life Insurance and got a reasonable person in the call centre. After explaining the situation, she said she would look into it and get back to me Monday after 12 noon when she was back into work. When I said I had a dentist’s appointment that afternoon, we sorted out that I have vm and she could leave a message.

She did a couple better than that. She waited until 6 p.m. yesterday to call to make sure I was back home. And she fixed it. She checked my computer file and said there was a flag on it since 2013 to not send the letter and to automatically up the premium at the beginning of each new fiscal year in August. She explained that the letters are generated (from the computer) automatically and  sent out automatically unless someone follows the flagged info and someone missed doing that this year. She said it was human error and she apologized for the company. She also told me the amount of the increase which starts with the August bill and confirmed that the amount on the quarterly bill I have is the right one to pay by June 1  and to ignore the amount in the letter and the letter itself.

I accepted her apology. So, no repercussions for Empire Life Insurance Company now.

The companies doing something to fix their errors continues. I have mentioned before having problems with my prescription glasses which I bought at Hudson’s Bay Optical in December 2014. Unfortunately their warranty is only for one year – which covered the replacement of one pair of sunglasses last fall because the one frame handle kept falling off and could not be screwed back in – only could be temporarily glued. They still had one more frame like it, so the lenses were switched to those frames.

Last month the same thing happened with the new frame and in I went and had it glued back on with the caveat that new prescription glasses would need to be purchased as these glasses frames were no longer available.

Mother’s Day at the restaurant the frame side fell off again. My son snapped it in. Then two weekends ago, the right lens popped out of the regular prescription glasses. When I went in to have them popped in (this is free), I ordered a new pair of prescription glasses and of course had to pay full price as the warranted expired in December 2015.

The saga continues. Last Saturday the lens again popped out of the regular glasses and in a very bad mood I took public transit to Hudson’s Bay Optical. They didn’t mind popping it in again and did so. I was wearing the sunglasses and so just put the regular glasses back in their case. They did check and said the new sunglasses had left the manufacturers on Thursday and should arrive this week, Tuesday or afterwards. They also said the manufacturer is in the United States, which would explain the long time frame (pun intended).

Does this also explain the poor quality of the glasses? Because I decided to complain to the manager about all this nonsense. By then I was out of the optical department and walking through the cosmetic department. One of the cashiers called the manager and he came down.

We discussed the glasses problem with me making comments about the poor quality of the glasses and I never had this problem with Sears and had only switched to Hudson’s Bay Optical because the Sears store downtown had closed and the mall locations of Sears are too far for me to go on public transit. I also said I had been wearing glasses for 46 years and had never had lenses pop before. I also complained of the one-year warranty Hudson’s Bay policy compared to Sears two-year warranty policy. He said he would see what he could do about that.

Then he decided I should get half the amount back of what I paid for the sunglasses and had the clerk in cosmetics do the transaction.

While we were talking he noticed that the frame on my sunglasses had again become detached. I handed him the offensive glasses and like my son had done, he snapped it back it.

The next morning at home I noticed that the lens for the regular glasses hadn’t been popped in correctly – it was the same as I managed to do to pop it in with one corner not all the way in.

I’m hoping it stays until I go in later this week to pick up the new sunglasses. And I’m not wearing the sunglasses much if at all in case the frame falls off again. I cannot pop it back in.

The glitches/snafus are getting to be too much and they have affected my health. Last Thursday, I dealt with five problems – all sorted out; Friday was calling the insurance company. Yesterday I finally had that filling put in the back bottom tooth, so hope that is now going to be okay

What all this stress, all this having to be my own consumer advocate is doing is making my IBS and the like worse and it is scaring me. I’m making some changes – more exercise as in walking and gardening (neither of which was done from Saturday to yesterday because of the cold weather). Today it is still too cold to do more than collect fresh flowers but I hope to get out for a walk. I am changing my diet slightly, but mainly starting to drink more water as I’m sure I’m dehydrated. Have also done some more research on the Internet and will see a nutritionist at the Health Planet for suggestions on supplements to help.

And do some meditation regularly and other stress reduction things. Plus get more sleep. Eliminate some stuff from my life and postpone some.

All this may be very well. But God will have to do his part, i.e. stop sending me so many problems in all areas to deal with. And send me some more money to ease the financial burden. The latter is starting to happen. But the first part has to happen or all the lifestyle changes in the world may not be enough. I don’t have the good fortune to have a partner to help with things so the burden of all falls on me. Lessening it would be very helpful.

That’s my take anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Consumer action, Digestive disorder, finances, Gardening health benefits, God, Healing through gardening, Health, Help and Support, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Life Insurance, Meditation, Older Women living alone and health, Pain, Worrying

Only Child in financial crunch thanks to health issues

Only child ponders finances, health and the like

Only child ponders finances, health and the like

Looks like what I do for my health will not only depend on my time, but my finances. Surprise! Surprise! I say that sarcastically as I am one of many seniors who live below the poverty level and have to make choices what we can really afford to pay for. And I have known that for years.

Food, utilities and property taxes, family, property, insurance and book promo are at the top of the list for monthly payments, although not necessarily in that order.

So where is health? Yes, it should be on the list, and maybe it is – somewhere. (I haven’t listed all the categories for my monthly expenses.)  But in the last nine months or so health has stolen from my finances and my time – the bad health issues. I don’t mean buying healthy food and eating healthy food. I seem to be able to keep within food grocery budget (so far), but whatever I budget for health each month is never enough. And that is just the basics I spend on health each month. Basics for me is a lot of vitamins, minerals and other supplements. Necessary for me. A few quick examples. I have to take mega-doses of Vitamin D from November to end of April becaue of our you-know-what weather in Canada (the word begins with “f”), there is little winter sun. The body doesn’t keep Vitamin D so it needs constant replenishing. I have a digestive disorder so have to take probiotics and digestive supplements. And then there are the various supplements, etc. for my allergies and re-occurring sinisitus from the allergies. But those are basic monthlies and don’t take into account all the extras such as dentist, serum for allergies, and all the health emergencies that come up.

In previous posts I mentioned that I am dealing with one big health issue a  month – even if the related health practitioners don’t like it. The focus had been on my time. I love my late mom, but don’t want to spend my senior years like her – a long litany of various medical appointments that didn’t improve her health and didn’t save her life. For example, medication for her arthritis didn’t make it better. She lost her job because of her arthritis. And thanks to the arthritis, she had a fall, which led to an undetected brain aneurysm, which wasn’t found by any of the litany of medical experts she saw – until it was too late and it sent her into a five-day coma, which killed her – despite surgery.

I rest my case with that aspect.

But the financial. This month was earmarked by me (in conjunction with my dentist – at least I was following his direction here) that I needed my (hopefully – experience has trusted me not to trust anything where health is concerned) last dental appointment to fix the residue of the dental emergency in early December had to be in February.
Well, I made an appointment for Feb. 17, but have since moved it to Feb. 29. That’s a time thing. For those who read my author blog you will know I’m in a big crunch to finish my third Beyond mystery book to get it to the publisher by Feb. 28. Of course, if accepted, there will be more changes and rewrites. But I moved the dental appointment to after the publisher’s deadline – I cannot afford taking time from my writing day this month to do medical appointments for medical practitioners who don’t have evening and/or weekend hours.

But now I can’t afford to pay the dentist this month. He is very understanding about lowering the fee, but I’m hoping he will accept post-dated cheques for over the next few months. Starting with March, the property taxes return. I have a horrendous hydro bill coming later this month (horrendous because hydro’s credit which provided dollars off ended January 1). I have applied for the new electrical bill help which could give me $30 a month off or $60 a month for each bill which is bi-monthly.

Won’t be this current bill. My application has been received. I got notice of that last week, although it was a month since I sent it in. I was told when I phoned in last week that it would take two to four more weeks before being approved because the consent form takes the time.

Well excuse me. I filled out and signed the consent form and there is only me involved for consent for them to get a copy of my income tax notice of assessment for 2014 – the latest available. Oh pardon my ignorance – that is two different governments.

So, to return to health issues. A business colleague just published a book called “My Business Ate My Life” – a self-help (with some humour) guideline for small businesses who spend 24/7 with their business. If I wrote a similar book, the title would be “My Health Ate my Life.”

Being old is not fun – with health and finances. And, for those who are wondering – I can’t afford to pay for one of those extended health care plans. I have looked into a bunch of them – monthly payment all too high for limited coverage a la carte.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Hydro Rates, Insurance, Life Balance, Life demands, Money, Old Age, Older Women living alone and health, Poverty

Only Child on health of women living alone

Only Child and her parents when they were still alive and together

It is happening frequently. I find yet another woman, 60 and over, living alone who has escalating health issues. Last week, it was a writing colleague just diagnosed with Diabetes 2. She’s had some scary “nearly dying” experiences. Another writing colleague has food allergies and a thyroid condition.  Yet another has thyroid and eye problems. Still another has had many eye problems. Then there is my friend with the back problem who was mentioned in a recent post. And me –maybe I have some nerve complaining of my health issues compared to what other women have to contend with. For what it’s worth I have a lot of foot problems, IBS, osteoarthritis, and allergies. Mind you I’ve had the allergies for over 20 years, so that isn’t a seniors’ health issue.

These women and their health issues are only the tipping point of the list.

Does something about older women living alone bring on these health problems? Is it hereditary? Is it age?

All of the above, I think. I also believe that living alone can aggravate these conditions. When you have to cope alone and there is no one to lean on/to give support, the coping mechanisms go down, down, down. The “hope factor” also can take a big dive.

In the journal article “Perceptions of Living Alone Among Older Women” written by Elaine M. Eshbaugh of the University of Northern Iowa, 30  per cent of the women interviewed (there were only 53, so not a wide variety)  were afraid of falling or getting hurt. Eshbaugh also cites previous studies which found a couple of horrors – older women living alone are more likely to suffer from falls and other injuries, infections, and dehydration. When the medical services finally arrive they often find the women already dead. It’s not a case of who you going to call but who is going to call?  The article also cites a study of a group of older women with deteriorating health who lived alone in Baltimore. These women’s health became worse than their counterparts who lived with someone. The article was published in the Journal of Community Health Nursing in 2008 and can be viewed online at http://www.uni.edu/csbs/sites/default/files/u27/perceptions%20of%20living%20alone.pdf and also goes into the cultural aspects of why more women live alone now than in the past.

I find it interesting that the article’s title uses the word “perceptions.” This conjures up more questions: how much of ill health is related to our perception? If we always had a positive attitude about our health would that keep the health and injury issues away? Remember the 1960 movie Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills? Pollyanna fell when climbing down a tree and became paralyzed. But…Pollyanna had close family and friends (including the stern aunt she lived with) for support. Maybe “support” is the crucial factor. “Support” as in living with someone who is at least there if you fall, have a heart attack or suffer the side effects of chemo treatment for cancer. Just someone for the moral support can lessen the worry burden of going through the illness journey alone, although if my late mother were still alive she might disagree. After Dad died, Mom’s health deteriorated – arthritis and scleroderma appeared – she landed in the hospital several times, had to quit her job and was constantly in a negative complaining state. I lived with her and while I listened, I was in my late teens and early 20s, and definitely not my father. Or maybe after years of dealing with Dad’s cancer and other illnesses, once he was gone, she just gave up.

I’m also not sure my yo-yo attitude is the right one. I jump from worrying about the current health issue flaring up to being defiant. I will go for my walks and garden despite my foot problems. I will eat well and healthy despite my food allergies…but I am persistent in making sure I don’t get what I can’t eat when dining out. I’ve come a long way from when first diagnosed and I attended a meeting of volunteers. The only snacks available were baked goods (I’m allergic to wheat, barley and rye for starters). I remember the hostess, an elderly woman who lived alone, asking me “Well, what can you eat?” I’m not sure if her living alone is connected in any way to her take on food allergies. But this was 22 years ago when food allergies weren’t all that well known. However, today, despite all the publicity and change in gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. food available, there are still some people, particularly in the restaurant business, who are clueless. I won’t eat in some restaurants because of this attitude. Thank goodness many restaurants do go that extra mile to make sure that I, and others like me, don’t eat something that will make us sick or in some cases, kill us, especially if we live alone. We might not make it to the phone to call 911.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it is partly something I mentioned in an earlier post. We need to connect more with our friends, particularly the older women living alone, to make sure they are all right. I’ve been guilty of not doing this because of the time factor. Perhaps this whole issue needs a slight switch in mindset – both on the part of the women living alone, their friends and family and yes the healthcare systems. Dumping sick and old women in a nursing home isn’t always the answer, although sometimes it is necessary, unfortunately.

I’m also wondering if in finding keys to living longer, we (the collective “we”) have not made it more difficult in some ways for older women living alone to enjoy life as much as possible.

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Family and Friends, Health, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Old Age, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors, Single women statistics