Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 9/29/2010 | 1 Comment

My friend, Nancy Vest, shared her thoughts about the decision she and her husband made to bring his parents (pictured below)  to live with them more than twelve years ago 

My in-laws are 90 years old. They have lived with my husband and me for 12 years in an “in-law” apartment that was built as part of our home. We thought long and hard about whether Baby Boomers like us--we don’t have kids and we live pretty independent lives-- would mesh well with my husband’s aging parents, the four of us under one roof. Has it worked well?  Absolutely!  Has it been easy all the time?  Absolutely not!  Would we do it again… read on.
First of all, if you’re considering relocating your aging parents in your home, I recommend that you think seriously about it and plan ahead if you decide to do so. Intergenerational living has its challenges. Most of us Boomers have parents in their 70s, 80s or 90s.  It’s said that these elders are “Traditionalists”; in my opinion, that’s pretty accurate.
They’ve lived through some very hard times, and they’re accustomed to putting off gratification.  They know what it is like to weather WWII and the Great Depression. This sounds obvious and simple, but when you are actually living together in close quarters, consider how your Boomer mentality and lifestyle will be challenged by this very different world view.
So what does this really mean at ground level?  It means that when you splurge on an expensive dinner out, or tip 20% instead of 10 (!), or buy that fabulous designer suit you’ve been anxiously stalking for the perfect markdown at Nordstrom, there could be some critical fallout. “I’m a grownup,” you may be thinking. “This is nobody’s business but my own!” I can say from personal experience that the first time you find yourself sneaking a recent purchase into the house so mom and dad won’t see it--and yes, you’re over 50!--you may feel pretty silly.
Plan for some privacy!  Please repeat after me:  Plan for some privacy so everyone will be happy! My in-laws have a private entrance, kitchen and laundry as part of their living quarters. If they want to watch Shirley Temple movies at maximum volume, or embark on a Cosby rerun marathon all weekend long, that’s cool.  I can go upstairs and turn on “Dancing with the Stars” or “Modern Family,” and all is well--though I have to admit I love to visit them when “The Andy Griffin Show” is on! 
Through the years, my in-laws have gone from being very independent to needing much more help and care. I’ve known these wonderful Scandinavians since I was a young girl—I actually met my husband’s family when I was just 13!  It’s hard to see them decline.  Ours has been an incredibly rewarding and sometimes very challenging living arrangement for us all, but most important, it has definitely been a wonderful solution in many ways.
“I’ve just won $10,000 dollars”! Last night when we were having dinner upstairs, we got a call from my father-in law, Willard.  “Please come down here right away! I think I just won 10,000 dollars!” There are so many scams out there targeting the elderly. This one was fairly harmless, just a come-on to sell air filters, but it was a terrible disappointment to Will.  I was glad we were near to explain. 
Last week, Will got a telephone call just as I was walking by his oor. Since he always answers on speaker phone with the volume turned up to the max, I overheard the conversation. A scary, automated voice info rmed him that he would be wired $50,000 dollars as soon as he sent several hundred dollars to release the account. Once again, I was glad I was there.
Physical and emotional support, shared caregiving duties and financial considerations all are good reasons to move in together. My husband and I perform different caregiving roles when they’re needed, but we also have hired in-home care from Home Instead Senior Care to come in twice a week to help my mom-in-law, Beulah, with some of her personal care and home upkeep as well.  And yes, I work for the company.
This kind of assistance is a godsend for all us.  It helps my in-laws to continue to be more independent, and it also allows them to retain necessary dignity and control in their lives. For example, my mom-in-law needs help with a shower now, and she gets it from her beloved caregiver, Jean. This saves us all the discomfort of having to assist her with very personal care, and she maintains her dignity.
Home Instead Senior Care has launched a public education campaign  that includes resources to help families determine whether merging households is a good idea. If families decide to make the big move, Home Instead provides a helpful guide that covers the emotional, physical and financial aspects of intergenerational living, with great tips to make the arrangement work.  There’s a special calculator to help families compute the cost of living together versus maintaining separate places.  This is really useful if you are in the early stages and trying to decide what living arrangement is best.
Helping my in-laws, now more than ever, takes a lot of time and energy. Health crises have been far too frequent in the last year. Missed work, endless doctor appointments, emergency calls in the middle of the night--they can accumulate and cause some real exhaustion and burn-out.
Is it harder or easier the way were doing it than having to run to another city or town or location to help our seniors? My view is that I’d rather have them right downstairs where we can be accessible quickly. Especially when it is 10 degrees below zero at 5:30 on a snowy Minnesota winter morning!
What about stress on a couple’s relationship? For the most part, my husband and I have grown closer because of our shared goal of making sure his two wonderful parents stay well and safe at home with us. Having separate space helps a lot too. But be prepared for this reality:  There will come a time when the elders’ needs will come first.  For us, we are okay with that for now. It is a trade-off we gladly exchange for the company of two beautiful souls we care about so much. 
Have I mentioned what we get out of all this? There aren’t enough words to describe the exhilarating scent of a warm, home-baked apple pie waiting for you when you come in from a stressful day at work--my mom-in-law is a remarkable and generous cook!--or the joy of sitting with the folks on a sunny afternoon reminiscing over a pot of tea. When was the last time someone called you and your husband “The Kids”? Well, I know that feeling, and at my age it ain’t all bad.
Ultimately, we give to each other. Time, concern, caring. This goes both ways. And if it is a little uneven in the balance of things right now, well, that’s part of the
privilege of taking care of parents who have raised us, nurtured us, and loved us so well.
Would we do it again?  Absolutely!  Without reservation.

Many thanks to Nancy Vest
Community Services Representative
Home Instead Senior Care
Cell. 612-272-9501
Office- 952-929-5695
Fax- 952-929-2032
Home Instead Information


Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 9/28/2010 | 0 Comments

I've known Bill and Grace Deters for more than 30 years.  They are good friends, business partners and avid travelers.  When I learned of their plans for an unusual September adventure. I asked Grace to keep a periodic  travel log to share with our readers.   Here are some excepts and photos that I thought you might enjoy:


"We began our trip in Seville, Spain with two guides and seven couples on eight motorcycles.  A minivan tags along carrying our gear and a spare motorcycle.   Our tiny caravan consists of three couples from Rio de Janeiro, one from Canada, two from Sedona, Arizona, plus Bill and me. 


Our incredibly handsome guide is a newlywed from Portugal named Nuno and our driver is Malcolm, an Argentinean raspberry farmer who supplements the family income leading motorcycle tours four times a year.  We are riding BMW 1200 G.S. motorcycles and I would describe the trip as majestic, enlightening and damned difficult. 


The first day we traveled 200 miles to Menzeh, averaging between 75-80 mph in 106- degree heat.  Even with frequent stops and a two-hour lunch, it was a very full day.  The second day it was 310 miles to Marrakech.  The temperature dropped into the mid-90’s as we crossed the Atlas Mountains but the roads were winding and the terrain challenging. 


We crossed from Spain to Tangier, Morocco by ferry.  What a delightful surprise.  Color was everywhere--from the women attired in long dresses with matching head scarves to the men and younger women in colorful shirts, blouses and jeans.  I had expected a more traditional society but we encountered only a few older men in long white gandoras.  The traffic in Marrakech is something else--lots of traffic circles and streets filled with cars, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, even horse-driven carriages.  The children loved to signal us to rev our engines which resulted in explosions of giggles and waves.  After our ride through the mountains, I found myself wishing I was 15 years younger.  We were shot.  The group took in a bit of nightlife and Bill and I could barely stay awake.


Thank goodness, the next day was a free day.  We slept, exercised, had massages,

and in the evening went to the Djemaa el Fna market which is the busiest and largest market square in the world.  There were snake charmers, story tellers, musicians and vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to live chickens. 


The next morning we rode through the Atlas foothills and into the Sahara Desert.  It is still in the 90’s but today we got a bit of rain which we are told is most unusual.  We will remain in Eroud and will leave at noon to begin our sojourn in tents, riding camels and experiencing, what we are told, are amazing sunsets.


It’s Saturday, September 18th and our seventh day of riding.  We’ve switched to 4x4 Land Cruisers to travel from the desert roads over the sand dunes on the way to our tents.  Our guides tell us that a previous tour had a tough time over the lava rock and fought to stay upright in the sand.   The trip took only 90 minutes but it included some interesting stops.  One was to the village of the “Black People.” The village founders were African slaves brought here in the early 1900s.  They keep themselves separate from the Moroccans, they’ve intermarried and survive primarily by performing for tourists.  There were no women visible on the streets or in the performances.  All the music, dance and even the mint tea was served by the village men.


We also stopped about 30 miles from the Algerian border where Moroccan solders are quartered to insure that no Algerians slip across.   Sound familiar?


Our four-wheel Land Cruiser took us over sand dunes, gravel pits, dry lakes, and by 5:00 p.m. we had arrived at our desert bivouac—tents.  We immediately mounted camels for a trek among the sand dunes to the top of the erg, which are dunes 22 kilometers long (north to south) and five kilometers wide.  The tallest dune is about 500 feet high.  As sunset approached we dismounted at the base of one of the tallest dunes, climbed to the top and were served champagne while we sat and watched the sunset.  I cannot tell you how magnificent and surreal I found this experience.  Then it was back to camp on our camels. 


That night in camp we were served a traditional Moroccan dinner, and were entertained with music

and dancing performed by the “Black People” villagers as we sat around a campfire.  After we retired to our tents, at 10:30 the generator was turned off and everything went dark as pitch, the only light coming from the half moon in the sky above.  What struck me most was the absolute silence:  Not a sound was heard.  I had trouble falling asleep.  It was mystifying.  I found the lack of sound almost deafening.   But in the morning sound returned with a fury at 6:00 a.m., when our Moroccan camp boss started banging on pans, signaling it was time for us to get up.   (More updates as time and internet are available)"


Graceann Deters is the author of Divine Betrayal, available from Amazon in the products directory on our site. 


Is Organic the Magic Pill We Seek?

Is it worth a 100 percent increase in your monthly household food bill to buy organically-grown products?  Frankly, I’ve never paid much attention to organic food.  Most of what was available was smaller in size and generally less visually appealing than the cheaper, chemically-grown alternatives. So I’ve just accepted the lack of flavor in tomatoes, carrots, eggs and chicken that I eat.  

You readers know that  I’m a boomer—although I plead with you not  to tell any of my friends that I’ve admitted that I’m aging.   I’ve accepted each new ache and pain without question or complaint.  Recently, though, I saw Jamie Lee Curtis talking directly to me about “occasional irregularity.”  Ah, I thought, if yogurt producers market a product to fix malfunctioning colons, other people are having those same tummy aches I’ve been getting lately.  Maybe, I wonder:  Are we slowly poisoning ourselves?

I began to pay more attention to people who sang the praises of macrobiotic diets, fasting, cleansings, and claims they experienced freedom from pain, better sleep, sharpened focus, memory improvement, and healing--even cures for terminal illness--all of which are somehow in addition to weight control and improvement in general health. Could this be substantially about what we choose to fuel and clean our body engines?

During short Minnesota summers I grow some of our favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs, and I find an abundance of locally-grown produce available in our community.  But I admit that I typically fertilize with chemicals several times during the growing season, and much of the produce really isn’t locally-grown.  Farmers rarely raise organically.  Two years ago, though, a totally organic farmer’s market opened in our city. There are live chicken underfoot, brown eggs, spicy greens, wild fish and an explosion of crafts and baked goods for sale.  It’s an adventure in fun and taste--but pricey.

I’ve seen the squalid conditions where eggs are collected, and I’ve watched as chickens are brought to maturity at 48 rather than 90 some days.  I’ve cringed at the sight of chickens fed with massive doses of hormones and unable to walk because of  the weight of their own breasts.   

While we are at it let's examine cattle production.   Although cows eat grass, we feed them corn, which sickens them.   So we serve them with antibiotics to keep their illnesses at bay.  It works, right?   I’ve begun to suspect there is something wrong with this picture.

 I like chicken and beef.  I also like eggs and fish.  I eat them all.  But I don’t feel as healthy as I used to.  What if it’s true that “we are what we eat?”  Isn’t that a scary thought? 

I love to eat.  That’s always how I prove that ”I love you” to my friends, family and myself.  Whenever I experience stress, an unpleasant task or disappointment, my first thought is to head for the chocolate.

I finally popped for the $17 organically-grown chicken.  Wow!  I had forgotten how good it tasted!  Although the cost seemed extravagant, I now religiously buy only free-range organic eggs and organic skim milk, the latter in half-gallon returnable half-gallon glass bottles.  Again, the price is double the competition, but the taste is simply amazing.

I’ve vowed to start my own compost, and abandon pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  I even intend to seriously contemplate a medical purification “fast,” although the operative word here is “contemplate.”  I’ve had no medical training, but I’ve read that hormones make chickens’ breasts grow.  I constantly hear of family, friends and acquaintances who have polyps, cysts and tumors.  The beef we eat has been raised on antibiotics.  Do we inject them into the meat we eat?  As a nation we have been over-prescribed with these drugs for much of our lives, and we’ve built up a tolerance for a “wonder drug”’ for many of us antibiotics have become an ineffective treatment.  Is there a cause-effect relationship here?  We may not know the answer in our lifetime.

As a nation and as individuals we have searched for magic pills to make us happy, sleep peacefully and get thin.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to discover that we the solution is as simple as returning to how our great-grandparent ancestral farmers grew the food they brought to table?  

By the way, I’ll let you know how that fast thing goes.



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