We are constantly told that exercise is good for virtually everything:  weight control, reduction or elimination of  symtoms of most illnesses, vigor, attitude, flexibility, stamina, sex drive, concentration and productivity.  We hear it, we read it so why don't we do it?  It's not because we are lazy.

Here are my excuses.  I grew up a well-fed child.  Chunky would be a gentle term for my size at age 12.  I didn't play sports.  Activities that make you sweat were never "fun".  In my house feeding you was an expression of love and everything came to the table drowning in butter.  Meals were hearty and our kitchen was always filled with a variety of desserts. 

I work 14-20 hour days.  I love it but it makes it easy to put exercise on a back burner.  Every morning I am greeted by stacks of messages, hundreds of e-mails, a full cell phone mailbox and appointment calendar.  Sound familiar? I am a graduate of every diet program known to mankind.  I've never hit the optimum weight number on the medical charts and tend to hover in the 20-30 lb over range.  I love to cook and relish feeding family and friends.  I have a weakness for dark chocolate and a really good vodka. BUT I'd love to be thinner and, although I dread the first few minutes of a vigorous walk, the endorphines are a delicious treat.

I'm a fairly typical "A" personality Boomer who regularly sets and exceeds goals, loves hard work and challenges.  So, what's my problem?  My history of diet programs tells me that food is my fall-back position for anything negative like stress, fatigue and  technical breakdowns and that food is an addiction that requires a "rehab" program and constant vigilance.  I get it but sometimes chocolate just makes me feel better.   So, if I could just balance my food intake with enough exercise to burn the calories I take in (and a few more) the problem would be solved. 

I few years ago, one of my husband's colleagues told me how he stays on track.  He set as his goal walking  to all of the state capitals. I'm pretty sure we are talking lower 48 here.     With a wrist pedometer, a baggy of stick pins he walks outside in good weather, at the gyn or on his home treadmil.  He shopped AAA and a store called Latitudes to find a good size US mapwhich now hangs on his off wall.    He then plotted distances between the capital cities using an old Atlas and started his journey.  At three to five miles a day it took  him nearly two months to walk to the capital of an adjorning state and exactly a year to reach the east coast from his home in the midwest.  Last I heard he was about a third of the way to his goal and considering adding Hawaii and Alaska.  An interesting thing happened along the way.   His goal became the journey not the weight loss.  He found that on the days when he was "almost there" he would pick up the pace and put in an extra mile or two. 

Today I came across another element that could make this program more attractive.  Internet mapping sites have begun to add visuals to directional maps that let the viewer see what they would encounter on a road trip along the plotted route.  S0, now you can  take a virtual tour.  With a computer screen in site you can plot your journey.  Or, place a reading rack on your treadmill, with an I-PAD or any device with internet access and off you go.  Here's the Kathy challenge.  I've always done better at weight loss when I had to weight in.  I'll get the map and plot the first year's journey today and would be delighted if  you would join me.  I'm fairly competitive so let's make it a race.  I'll clock our progress on the blog page every Friday.  I'll list all participants in order of distance traveled.   I doubt I'll  leave anyone in the dust but I will keep up, stay consistent and may reap those wonderful benefits that medical research promises.  Guilt has always been one of my top three motivators!

Dear Kathy,
Although my husband and I divorced years ago, I've remained close to his mother who is now in her mid-90s.  She was recently hospitalized with a hip fracture and then, because her doctor believed that she could no longer care for herself, she was sent to an assisted living transitional facility to receive physical therapy.  When I visited her there, I was shocked to see a side of her I had never seen before.  She was uncooperative and nasty to the staff.  She was told several times that she could not continue to be in the community unless she followed her doctor's directives, which, unfortunately, suited her just fine.  She continued her uncooperative and abusive behaviors and they kicked her out.  She's currently on her own, living at home.  Although she needs round-the-clock monitoring, her insurance won't cover this assistance and she doesn't qualify for Medicaid.  I can't support her financially, and because I'm not a family and have a poor relationship with my former husband I have no right to intervene..  What can I do?
Bonnie in Bloomfield
Dear Bonnie,
What you've told me about your mother-in-law doesn't appear to be dementia.  She's definitely angry, most likely at herself and her body for breaking down.  Perhaps she thought that if she convinced everybody that she was a patient who couldn't be helped, they'd give her what she wanted, which was simply to go home.  Whatever her motivation, she got exactly what she wanted.  Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers have specific guidelines for coverage, which, if not followed can result in claim denial. 
You need a mediator who will work with her, her concerned relatives and her medical team.  You may wish to consult a geriatric advocate or geriatric manager to fill this role.  There are numerous in-home care providers who can supply non-medical or medical assistance, some combination of the two, and offer therapies.
Many counties in your state offer senior assistance "hot-lines" that can analyze the problem and offer alternatives.  You might have a conversation with the discharge nurse at the hospital where your mother-in-law was originally treated or contact a geriatric manager to intervene.
Nonetheless, as I'm sure you realize, your situation is additionally complicated because your divorce compromised your ability to intervene on her behalf.  I really want to help you work through this issue.  Call me or write to me with your contact information and I'll help you find the best resources in your community.


Dear Kathy,


My sisters and I are blessed with a large family, including several aunts who are in their eighties and beyond.  My sister’s husband, Pete, has been a loving caretaker for one widowed aunt, Jen, who has a comfortable retirement income and continues to live at home.  Pete mows her lawn, takes her to church and her various appointments and errands, and repairs anything that breaks.  She is also closely monitored by one of her younger sisters who visits frequently.


A few weeks ago, Aunt Jen decided that Pete had stolen a valuable coin collection that was locked in her safe.  She believes that he entered her home while she was out with a friend and stole the collection.  She confided her suspicion to her sister, and the news quickly spread throughout the family.  She has never confronted Pete.  Their relationship became strained immediately and now Pete won’t go "where he’s not wanted.”  He’s devastated as is my sister.  We knew that Jen was becoming increasingly forgetful, but like most families, we thought it wasn’t a serious problem.  My family is fractured and none of us know what to do now.  We really need some advice.

Dottie in Danforth


Dear Dottie,

It is certainly true that some level of forgetfulness accompanies aging.  But your aunt may be experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s or any of the more than 130 known dementias.  Various medications can cause this problem as well.  We all tend to ignore situations like this, hoping they’ll somehow get better on their own, though they rarely do.  The problem, of course, is that the longer this is allowed to fester, the more harm it will do and the more difficult it will be to remedy.  I assume Pete and others know her doctor.  Make a call to the physician’s office and explain the situation.  The doctor cannot talk about Jen’s medical condition or diagnosis without her consent, but he or she can listen to your concerns and make recommendations. 


If her doctor is not helpful, there are other geriatric specialists who might be helpful.  Perhaps you could approach a minister she trusts or a geriatric psychologist or manager might be hired to conduct an assessment.  Whatever the approach, it is definitely time to be proactive. 


I offer one word of caution: you may not be able to fix this.  If your aunt is stricken with some dementia, she may be experiencing fear, anger, paranoia and wholesale, uncontrollable changes in her personality.  Nonetheless, you and your family should come together in a spirit of understanding and forgiveness for her, for Pete, and for the family as a whole.

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 7/11/2010 | 0 Comments

Dear Kathy, 
I am a caregiver for an 88-year old woman, Marie, who still lives in her home.  She is a delight to work for.  But Marie and her son are having a dispute.  She has a thyroid condition and has lost her eyebrows.  She read that she could have her eyebrows tattooed on.  Although Marie isn't wealthy, she has been able to set aside a bit of money from her last few Social Security checks for this procedure.  She is really excited about the prospect of getting new "eyebrows." She's been very self-conscious about what she considers a disfigurement and is convinced this would really lift her spirits.  Her only son is having a fit.  He thinks it is a terrible waste of money and cannot imagine "what difference it makes at her age."  She doesn't want to upset her son but she was really hoping to get her eyebrows back.  What would you advise?
Katie from Kansas
Dear Katie,  
The cost of the procedure can vary, but will likely run a few hundred dollars. The results can range from good to hideous and the potential for infection is great.  I advise being very careful when choosing the "Artist" as well as the facility.  But I'd definitely tell Marie to "go for it!"   Loss of self-confidence can lead to social withdrawal, depression, and exacerbate other health issues.  Whatever money she has is hers -- not her son's -- and from what you've told me about her, Marie seems to be of sound mind.  Perhaps you and she can raise the subject with her son and help him understand the importance of this cosmetic procedure.  If he usually sends her flowers or candy on Mother's Day, you might take him aside and suggest he give her what she really wants this year.  He has the opportunity to give his mom something she dearly wants and something she'll always be grateful for.  How nice it is to tell your mom how much you love her and that her happiness is what really matters.  Maybe the rest of us should share this with our moms and ask if they would like to suggest something a little less traditional for Mother's Day or a birthday this year.

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