Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to Organize a Move When the Person is Aged or Ailing

As often as people discuss their desire to age in place, it’s not always possible-neighborhoods change, spouses/partners die, the ability to drive, manage stairs or perform activities of daily living diminishes. Regardless of the reason, moves are never easy, particularly if it’s compounded by feelings that this could be the “last move” or the person feels they are loosing their independence.

While there is some information below about finding a new home, the focus of this post is how to organize the various components of moving to help make the process easier for you the organizer and for the person being moved. Keep in mind that not all recommendations are useful in all situations.

INVOLE THEM IN THE PROCESS: Since this is where they will be living, having them involved as much as possible through out the process will make the transition a bit easier.

Have them identify their “must haves” for the new residence- example: neighborhood, proximity to friends and family, number of bedrooms, pets, etc. Whether it’s on their “list” or not, be sure to investigate their financial capability-what they want can be very different from what they can afford-medical needs, and what types of community services and supports are available.

Develop a list of places to visit. Call 2.1.1 for information about senior housing, assisted living centers, and in general resources in neighborhoods you are considering.

• Go together to visit places if possible.  Check out Aging in Place, which provides information on types of housing, resources, finances and much more.  Another resource is Home Away from Home:Relocating Your Parents from Family Caregiver AllianceThis is a good site to read if you are going to be relocating a parent in your home.

• Let them design the space: While some people are more comfortable having everything look the same in their new space as it did in their original home, others love the chance to redecorate. If they are up for it, let them pick out new bedding, wall colors, where to put the couch etc. Thanks to the internet, they can easily be a “digital designer.” Check out the following links: 
-       - Room Planner: Use Jerome’s Room Planner to create floor plans, arrange furniture and thing about what you have and where it will fit. 

Note that moving, and the reasons for the need to move,  can bring out the best and worst in families. Involve a third party to help and use tools like Holding a Family Meeting

Because there are some very unique needs when an adult child is forced back home because of their health, next week’s post (Sept. 7) will focus on that topic.

CREATE A VILLAGE-ORGANIZE FAMILY AND FRIENDS: Most Americans don’t live in a “village,”  but if there is ever a situation where it helps, this is it. Thanks to Lotsa Helping Hands (LHHs)website it is easy to create a “village.” This free site allows you to organize so that everyone knows what’s needed and when, who is doing what and when, and how the person is doing in general. Even better, it sends e-mails to remind people of what is coming up and what they have signed up for. You can use it to organize work crews, visits, rides, meals and much more. It’s probably one of the best tools I’ve seen for helping families and communities organize.

If there are multiple siblings, other family as well as good friends that feel they should be involved in this move, encourage them to use the LHHs site. Even if they don’t live close by, they can follow along in the process, know when to send gift certificates to help with various aspects of the move - gift certificate to a local eatery helps when work crews are scheduled for the day,  gas cards for those who are doing a lot of driving, care packages, and understand how the person is doing. It’s an easy way to keep everyone in the loop.

There are people who do this type of organizing for a living. In many situations, they can make all the difference as they understand how stressful the situation can be and by being an outside party, can have a very different and often helpful perspective on the situation.

THE SORT/PURGE: Whether you know where they’ll be moving to or not, once it is clear that changes have to be made, start the sort/purge. Just about everything can be sorted and assigned to one of the following categories:
• Not salvageable-Trash
• Recyclable
• Donate to charity
• Tag Sale or Auction
• Give away to family or friend
• Keep

While this may sound strange to do before the new residence is found, this process can help to make everyone involved recognize that the move is a reality and adjust accordingly. Further, it will hopefully provide ample time to know where to take donations and recyclables, ask family and friends to identify what they want, hold  a tag sale etc. Check out Get Rid of the “Stuff”-De Cluttering will make you feel better. 

PROVIDE ASSISTANCE WITH THE SORT: If you can’t be there, ask another family member or friend. It not only makes things easier, it’s a way of sharing memories and preparing for the move itself. Schedule this in intervals that make sense. Someone who is sick or elderly can’t spend a full day doing this. Use a timer to make sure you stay on course and stop when it goes off. You can talk about how much longer they would like to work, and reset the timer.  Be sensitive to how they are responding and stop if it appears this is becoming too much for them.

Items that are not in the “keep” pile should be removed at the end of the work session as it reduces clutter and it helps to eliminate “second guessing” –going through the “to go” pile again.


CLEAN-AS YOU GO AND BEFORE THE MOVE: As you sort and purge, take the time to clean the parts of the home where you’ve been working. Not only is it a sparkling reminder of what you’ve accomplished but it will make things a lot easier once the move is completed and the house either needs to be shown or keys returned to the landlord.

Before the move, make sure the new home has been appropriately cleaned. This is one of those tasks to post on the LLHs site. Keep in mind that you can’t do it all and the more you can delegate the better.

Be mindful of cleaning products that you use. Many are actually pretty toxic. If you use nothing more than baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and some lemon, you are more than good to go. Avoid using things like bleach, opting instead for a paste made of cream of tartar and either a little water or vinegar. This has the same effect as bleach and isn’t toxic. Learn more at Are Your GreenCleaning Products Making You Sicker? 
MOVING DAY: You can reduce stress for all involved by:
• Hiring professional movers if possible. If you are doing it yourself, rent the U-Haul in advance and recruit volunteers to help you on both the packing and receiving end. Have plenty of food on-hand, but make sure it’s the right kind of food. Coffee is fine, but instead of doughnuts, consider things like fresh fruit and raw vegetables and dip. Pizza is fine as long as it comes with plenty of veggies.

Having prep work done in the new location. Cleaning and repairs should be done before the furniture arrives.

• Having the person stay with family or friends during the move. If they have a pet, keep them together if possible during the transition. Make sure medications and other items needed are not packed, and if assistance is needed in using them, someone is available to help with this activity.

• Having them enter the new living space when it has been set up for them-bed has been made; clothes put away; kitchen and bathroom items placed in similar locations as their previous ones; photographs and art work set up as before; and if they have a pet, food bowl and other items are similarly located.

• Staying with them for a day or several days to help them adjust to the new surroundings.

Moving is stressful for all involved, so plan for breaks, including five minute yoga breaks, eat healthy foods and take care of yourself. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be in no position to help someone else. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Take a Break: Sing, Dance, Listen to the Songs of the 1963 March

Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. To celebrate this important anniversary, take a break and listen to, sing along, move to and be inspired to the music that was performed at that March and many others to come. A compilation of the video available of performances at the March is available on uTube.

 Using the video mentioned above, as well as searching on-line, I’ve come up with a list of songs that appear to have been part of this event. Where possible, I’ve linked to videos of the artists that performed 50 years ago.

Mahalia Jackson
• Keep Your Eyes on the Prize Hold: Multiple singers. Based on the classic hymn "Hold On" (a.k.a. "Gospel Plow"), this song's exact origins are unknown. However, it was adapted for the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s by an activist named Alice Wine. 

Pete Seeger's Banjo
The unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights movement was actually a union song that dated back to the early 1900s. “We Shall Overcome” This song has been attributed to Pete Seeger, but he tells a very interesting story about the history of the song and how he came by it and what changes he made to it. Listen to Pete’s version of the song and watch his interview about the song.a

Other Music
The Mix: Songs Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement: More than 150 songs for a special NPR Music Radio channel. 

Sweet Honey in the Rock
• Sweet Honey in the Rock: Organized by Bernice Johnson Reagon, a member of the original Freedom singers, this African American women communal song and singing ensemble has built an international following of music lovers pulled to the strong harmony singer, a wide range of genres including spirituals, lined hymns, children songs, blues, jazz, and original compositions.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

March on Washington Remembered: The importance of speaking out

August 28 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I was too young for the 1963 March, but 20 years later I went with a group of people to the anniversary march-Jobs, Peace and Freedom.

It was a very hot day on Aug. 27, 1983, so we went early and were among the last to leave. With 500,000 people in attendance, blazing sun and Washington D.C. humidity, it was hard to concentrate on the speakers, yet I was very attuned to those around me and that is what still stands out in my mind.

Our ad hoc group formed because several people brought friends. I only knew the person I traveled from Baltimore to Washington with, yet we were a reflection of the United States-Jewish, Christian, black, white, male, female and one woman had a major chronic disease-sickle cell anemia. We held hands as we walked through the ground so no one would be lost or left behind. Since our friend with “sick as hell,” as she called it, walked with a limp, we put her in the middle for safe keeping.

For a short while, we walked next to Pete Seeger, who towered over the crowd with his banjo slung over his shoulder. We could read his famous banjo head-“This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

Once we found our place to stand and settle in, the heat became oppressive. There were a group of older men next to us. They had been to the 1963 march and besides assuring us that the day was “a lot hotter than 63,” they were helping people in and out of the reflecting pool. While this looks serene and beautiful in the pictures, the more people walked in the water, the more the green scum from the bottom floated to the top. It was pretty gross, so you had to be desperate to cool off to stand in there for any length of time.

People were sharing whatever they had as far as water, ice etc. It was the effort to find shade to help our friend, who didn’t need a heat stroke on top of her other health problems,  that resulted in our walking through the Vietnam Memorial as we listened to Coretta Scott King speak.

Did the March on Washington in 1963 make a difference? While many people left this march and went back to the same difficult conditions, the country was profoundly change.

The 1963 March, really the first of its kind, shines as an example of peaceful demonstration that generated positive change. Few will forget Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  The 1963 March not only laid the foundation for the advances in the Civil Rights movement, but also that for women, GLBT, the anti war movement, health care and more.

Starting in 1985, I was to attend a number of marches and rallies around AIDS. While I felt supported and experienced a high by the love and energy at the 1983 March, as well as at ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) rallies and other such events,  this was not always the case when taking a stance for better care and services for those with HIV.

The night the medical centers –I was involved in AIDS medical response planning – spoke to the Baltimore City Council about the impact of the disease on the City, I had a small taste of what the black colleges students experienced when they staged sit ins at the lunch counters in the south. We walked a gauntlet of placards and comments spewing hate, prejudice and anger. It crossed my mind that if someone had a gun hidden behind their sign, I could easily be killed. We said nothing, but kept our eyes focused on the direction we were walking in.

Ten years later, when we walked behind Liz Taylor in Washington at a major AIDS rally, it was a completely different feeling. Mothers with HIV/AIDS were walking with tags that said, “I’m walking for” and their child’s name was written in. The women shared their stories with one another, often pointing to a child’s picture they were wearing, and discussed what medications they were on. People sang “We Shall Overcome” as well as “Amazing Grace.” Suddenly there was a break in the song and the chant of “shame, shame, shame” passed down the line. Yes, the placard carriers were present, but far fewer in number, and  they were surrounded by police.

Last week, I watched a TED talk on “willfulblindness,”  which included the statistic that 85% of the time people say nothing even though they know something is very wrong. Instead of saying it’s not okay that certain people are discriminated against because of their diagnosis, the color of their skin, gender or sexual orientation they ignore it.

Fifty years ago, a quarter of a million people had the courage to walk in Washington to make their case. They changed the course of history by doing so. There will always be reasons that we need to take a stance, and fortunately we have a legacy that shows us how to do it with dignity, respect and non violence. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Take a Break: Make Patterns/Art from Symbols

I was inspired by watching Saki Mafundikwa’s presentation at TED Ingenuity and elegance in ancient African alphabets.  I love Mafundikwa’s comment about the importance of looking inward for inspiration.

Today’s take a break is about making a drawing, sketch, painting or whatever else, this is inspired by symbols and alphabets. Below are resources to help get you started.

• West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols and Meanings. This includes Sankofa-Return and get it or learn from the past.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Get Rid of the “Stuff”-De Cluttering will make you feel better

We live in a very confused culture. On the one hand our economy is driven by how much is being bought and sold, and on the other, there are TV shows about hoarders, who are literally being buried alive by their junk. Where is the happy balance? How much does one person need? Does the clutter add to our ill health?

 It the past few weeks I’ve been helping a family who is assembling all the things they need for newborns and, at the same time, assisting several families that are sorting and cleaning up after the death of a family member. What an eye opener. This experience has caused me to completely re think my own living space and what I truly need versus what I have. I’m currently in day six of a “one bag a day for 40 days” de cluttering.  More on that later but first:

Ask yourself- “Who is Going to Clean Up After Me?” Look around your house and ask yourself the question, “if something should happen to me today, what would I be leaving my family and friends to deal with?” This can lead to all sorts of other questions-“but I wouldn’t want my mother (brother, Aunt Jane etc.) to see this.” I had a friend that made me promise that if she should get sick or worse, I was to remove certain personal items from the bottom drawer of her dresser before her parents arrived.

Pose this question to friends, family members as well as support group participants. You’ll find the results interesting.

How Clutter Impacts Health. For starters the more clutter you have the greater the chances of falling or tripping over something. You don’t know where things are so you can easily skip medications, exercise or even eating properly. You can spend more money as it becomes easier to “just get a new one,” then looking for the five you already own. The clutter, the inability to find things etc.,  can quickly become a major source of frustration, which feeds into anxiety and stress. There is also the germ factor and, depending on the level of clutter, you may start to become anti social as you don’t want people to see how you are living.

Those with excessive clutter, such as “seen on TV” A.K.A. hoarding shows,  often have very serious issues and many in the mental health profession view this as a diagnosis in its own right.

Where Do You Fit on the Clutter Scale?: The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization has a very intensive scale, which you can read on-line, but for a quick assessment, check out the 7 Deadly Sins that Lead to Hoarding. 

Benefits of De cluttering: Besides more physical space, people who do a good job of decluttering feel calmer, are less stressed, spend less money, find it easier to clean, are more productive, have the time for doing what matters the most and, in general, fell better and are healthier. One interesting side effect is that it seems to help with weight loss.

One woman wrote the following about adopting a minimalist lifestyle. It feels good. It feels good to not buy, to not shop, and to not worry about what to buy and where to shop and instead, to simply go without. In fact, it feels better than what you feel an hour or a day after you buy something, you know, the low after you’ve come down from the high of shopping, the unfulfilled desire nudging you to go out and shop some more to feel better, the never-ending cycle of high-low from never quite having bought enough.... Now I understand the irony that our stuff, which was supposed to bring us happiness and joy, finds a sneaky way of trapping us. And our freedom, which we cherish and protect so much, gets silently trapped in all the mess. Unless we pay attention because true freedom, it turns out, is in the intangibles that we can’t see or touch but feel. The stuff that we can’t put on shelves, but we can put in our hearts. And there, it can stay safely for a long time without taking up much space at all. Falling into Minimalism: How I Became an AccidentalMinimalist 

Clear Your House of Household Hazardous Waste: This may not be the first item on the "Clutter Buster's" list, but having spent four weeks trying to figure out what to with hazardous household waste (HHW), cleaning supplies, paints etc. for one family,  it is a major concern. Because this blog is for those affected by chronic conditions, HHW is a very important topic.

In their efforts for clean, many don’t realize how much bleaches, and general household cleaning products contribute to poor indoor air quality and can make you sicker. I wrote about this a year ago-Are Your Green Cleaning Products MakingYou Sicker? -so start there to determine if your current cleaning products could be a factor health problems you are experiencing. Save money and help your health by only using baking soda, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon, fragrance free liquid soap and good quality cleaning clothes. Natural oils, such as olive oil, are far better for your home, health and furniture than what you spray out of a can.

Please note that air fresheners are bad news. Want clean smelling air? Open a window, slice up some lemons and leave on the counter, open a box of baking soda, take out the garbage, and check the nooks and crannies for items that could be rotting or worse.

The Less You Own, the Less that Owns You: Just say no to bringing stuff home.  Avoid impulse buying by doing the following:
• Make a list of what you want to buy from which stores and take the list with you.
• If you have to take kids shopping with you, just say “no” to their urge to impulse buy.  Involve the kids in list making and tell them they are in charge of helping you stick to it.
• Don’t shop on an empty stomach as there is a greater chance of impulse buying when hungry.
• The quicker you can shop, the less chance of buying things you don't need.
• Use cash instead of a card.
• Turn off TV commercials
• Don’t go to stores to hang out
• Buy only to replace items.

How to Declutter: There are many excellent websites on how to sort, remove and reduce the quantity of stuff in your life. My current favorite is 40 bags in 40 days. Basically, write down 1-40. Each day for the next 40 days, put down what you’ve tossed, recycled or gotten rid of. In my case, I’m in day six of the “40 bag” program and found that I’ve bagged up way more than six bags. However, getting them out of the house is a bit of a challenge since the transfer station (dump), library, thrift store are only open a few days each week. The good news is that by staying on task of at least getting stuff sorted, when I can get to the recycling center, library etc. I’m actually unloading a lot more than six bags.

It’s very helpful to have a friend, or even a professional, help you de clutter. They may be able to throw out things you are holding on to. If you weren’t around, your stuff would be sorted into one of the following piles: sale/auction/; donation;  recycle; goes to friend/family; and trash. The trash pile is often the largest of the group.

To help you de clutter, check out the following:

Deciding What Stays and What Goes: This is an excellent chart to help you decide which pile to put an item in. 

10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home: I really like a lot of the suggestions offered here-particularly the hanger test.