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Living Longer vs. Living Better

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Science, Senior Lifestyle, State News, Technology, Uncategorized on December 26, 2017 at 8:07 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

Modern medicine is an incredible thing, with breakthroughs almost daily that range from simple treatments for common ailments to advanced organ transplants. Through those great medical innovations, the lifespan of the average person is now well into the 80s, with better living through chemistry, or so they want us to believe.

But while we treat one area of illness another continues to progress making it seem like we’re falling apart in little pieces. Where we once just dropped dead from something simple like a heart attack, now it seems we deteriorate bit by bit, with each component of our bodies being held together by a separate roll of medical duct tape.

Think of it this way. We take a pill for blood thinning so we don’t have a clot and get a stroke or heart attack. We take a pill for diabetes to keep our glucose levels down. But at the same time, our mind is intact, with virtually no deterioration. Or maybe it’s the opposite, Alzheimer’s shreds the mind while the body is still healthy. Eventually, the body follows in decay since the Alzheimer’s begins to affect how the nervous system functions.

Thanks to modern science, we’re living longer than ever, but I wouldn’t call it healthier or with much of a quality of life. There’s something to be said for just having the lights go out all at once. One of the most horrific things I have had to endure is watching my mother’s mind go as her body still functioned reasonably well. Or what might be worse, having an active, clear mind trapped in a degenerating body that refuses to follow the brain’s instructions any longer.

At what point are we living too long for our own good and quality of life? Can medical science develop a plan to help the entire body and mind maintain the same or reasonably similar level of health for as long as possible? I don’t think that’s really possible.

So, here we are, a pill for this and a potion for that, all in the name of better living through chemistry. Granted, much of what’s wrong with us is their our doing – smoking, drinking, sugar, fat, it goes on and on. Personal responsibility as one ages should at least be taken into account here. We are what we eat, and boy, it’s a mess.

Formaldehyde and chemicals in our water, the carcinogenic material in our meat, pesticides in our vegetables, super-sized everything at the fast food counter, vaping (yeah, like that’s not smoking, whatever). It’s all killing us. But don’t worry, there’s a pill to counteract the effects of all that, so don’t worry about it.

Isn’t it idiotic, though, how much of what happens to us as we age is our own fault? We’re getting older, but we’re sicker when we live longer. When we won’t take care of ourselves even in the short term, someone else has to pay for that later on.

Last year, for example, obesity-related illness cost Americans nearly $200 billion and treating sickness related to smoking cost more than $300 billion. But wait, there’s more! Excessive use of alcohol costs Americans $249 billion.

Fighting obesity is sadly not as simple as trading a cheeseburger for a celery stick. It takes a full and complete lifestyle overhaul that may require generations to affect a family line. But you can totally prevent alcohol and tobacco illness by never lighting up or popping open that cold one.

Addiction may be a disease, but even that is 100-percent preventable because that first drink or smoke is a choice. A penny toward prevention is worth billions toward a cure.

Well, some of this we have control over, some we don’t. It’s so hard to imagine how people can just not care about their own well-being and how that affects those around them. As we age, we need more help from others. Wouldn’t it be great if that burden were just a little easier on our loved ones?

Yes, we’re living longer. But, despite what the big pharmaceutical company advertisements tell you, the quality of that long life is not measured in milligram doses.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

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Grandma doesn’t know me anymore.

In Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 25, 2017 at 2:29 pm

When a family member has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s difficult enough for adults to understand, let alone a child. For a youngster, it can be confusing and scary.

Based on a true account, here’s a story about little Anna who was sad because her grandma doesn’t remember her anymore and how her mother helped her understand. Hopefully, it can help someone you care about as well.

“Anna, it’s time to go see Grandma.” “I don’t want to go,” the little girl answered. She sat in her bedroom with her head in her hands as her eyes welled. “Grandma doesn’t know me anymore. Why doesn’t she like me?”

Anna’s mother sat down on the bed next to the seemingly inconsolable 6-year-old. “It’s not her fault sweetie,” her mother said. “She got sick and has trouble remembering things now.”

“But why me,” the girl sobbed, looking up at her mother, tears pouring down her reddened cheeks. Her mother put an arm around the child, fighting back her own tears. After all, it was her own mother who had the illness. “She doesn’t know me anymore either baby,” she told the girl, brushing the curly brown locks away from her face.

“It’s not fair,” the girl squeaked through her tears. “Why did she have to get sick? Grandpa’s not sick. He remembers me.” “I don’t know why,” said her mother. “I think it’s just how different things happen to different people when we get older.”

Anna looked up, quizzically, wiping tears from her face with her sleeve. “What kinds of things?” “Well, do you remember how your Uncle Jack had trouble hearing you last year until he got his hearing aids?”

“Yes. But now he hears everything. He’s always shushing us.” Her mother chuckled through her tears. “Yes, well, it’s kind of like that. When we get older, some parts of our bodies don’t work as well as they once did. For Uncle Jack, it was his hearing, but for Grandma, it’s her mind. Over time, her thoughts and memories got all scrambled up.”

“Let me try to explain it another way.” Anna’s mother picked up a completed jigsaw puzzle from the night table that the girl had been playing with at bedtime. She held the finished puzzle so the girl could see the picture, a family portrait, with Grandma and Grandpa right up front.

“Last night we took all the pieces of this puzzle and put them in just the right spot to make the picture. Well, the puzzle pieces are like the memories stored your mind.” Suddenly she dumped the puzzle on the bed, and the picture dissolved into a pile of jumbled pieces.

“Just like the puzzle, all the pieces have to fit together just right, or the picture doesn’t make any sense. The thoughts and memories that help Grandma remember people and things are all jumbled up, so to her, the world looks very different now.”

The little girl stared at the mixed-up puzzle quietly. For a long moment, she said nothing. “Can we get her a hearing aid to help put the pieces back,” she asked, hope in her blue eyes.

Her mother held back a laugh while simultaneously wanting to burst into tears. “No sweetie, there’s no way to fix Grandma. All we can do is take care of her and try to help her be happy and comfortable.”

Once again, the girl was silent, then she said, taking her mother’s hand, “I’m sorry your mommy is sick. If you got sick, I’d try to help put your puzzle back together.”

Tears gushed from her mother’s eyes as she saw the compassion in her little girl’s face. “Thank you, honey,” she said, trying to wipe the tears, “I know you would.” She smiled and stood, clasping her daughter’s hand. “Ready to go see Grandma now?”

“Yes,” the little girl said. She looked at the bed where the jigsaw pieces had landed. “Can we take the puzzle picture? Maybe if I do it with her, it will help Grandma remember us.” “Yes, honey. That’s a great idea.”

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. Information at gerydeer.com

Christine Soward and DMS ink to be honored at 2018 Prevent Blindness Ohio, People of Vision Award

In Education, Health, Science, Senior Lifestyle, State News, Uncategorized on December 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Dayton, OH – The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, Shaun Yu, Discover Classical WDPR and Karen Levin, the Levin Family Foundation are pleased to announce that DMS ink and President/CEO Christine Soward, will be honored at the Annual People of Vision Award Event for their outstanding visionary leadership and philanthropic work in the community.

The award will be presented byShaun Yu, Discover Classical WDPR and Karen Levin, the Levin Family Foundation at a luncheon ceremony on February 14, 2018 at noon at the Dayton County Club. The Master of Ceremonies for year’s luncheon will be Gery L. Deer of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., who also holds the position of executive council chair for the Miami Valley of Ohio Chapter of Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate.

DMS ink President and CEO, Christine Soward (center) with staff and members of the 2018 People of Vision Steering Committee

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to prevent blindness and preserve sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight.

Nearly 200 people attend the People of Vision Award Luncheon each year and the event raises more than $50,000 to support the sight saving programs of Prevent Blindness including vision screening training, advocacy to widen access to vision care and vision research support.

“DMS ink and Christine Soward possess an exemplary commitment to serving our community and providing resources to people in need living in Montgomery County,” said Deer. “Their support of the community provides a strong foundation for families to build upon and Prevent Blindness is proud to honor them with this award. I encourage anyone who has ever been affected by a vision-related problem to join us at the event in February and help support Prevent Blindness and honor Christine and DMS ink for their service.” Click here to see Christine and Gery discussing the POV event on WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton.

The People of Vision Award was established in 1985 by the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness to honor and recognize visionary organizations and their top leadership for the outstanding work they have undertaken to enhance the quality of life within their communities. The premise of the People of Vision Award is that our community is enriched by such leadership which reflects a “vision of community” to be celebrated and emulated. It’s been recognized as one of Montgomery County premier charitable events.

For more information or purchase a table or individual seat for the luncheon, click to download the sponsorship packet, call 800-301-2020, or visit the website at www.pbohio.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Caregiving a parent with dignity

In Children and Family, Economy, Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on October 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Deer In Headlines
Gery L. Deer

When you’re a caregiver of a senior parent one of the most difficult things is maintaining the dignity of your charge. When we’re kids, our parents wipe our faces free of food, help us in the bathroom, even spoon-feed us. But, decades later, when those roles are reversed, it’s important to keep in mind that the person you’re helping isn’t a child. He or she is an adult with a mature sense of dignity and pride.

It took me a long time to get used to helping care for my parents. To say it was uncomfortable to have to help my mother dress or manually feed her would be a massive understatement. Alzheimer’s had long settled in by the time she broke a hip, but not being able to walk created further challenges. Her mind was like that of a toddler and she didn’t initiate speech or really understand anything going on around her. So, it was different than it is with my father now.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery Deer, with his father, Gary Sr.

My parents were proud people and didn’t like taking help from anyone. Now, the man who was always looking after everyone around him needs more care than he’d probably ever imagined he would in his golden years.

Like many seniors in this situation, Dad is fully cognizant of what is going on around him, but he needs a great deal of physical help in managing his day-to-day activities. One thing it took a while to understand is that his sense of personal privacy and dignity must be preserved, though it seems to outsiders like it wouldn’t matter as much anymore. It does.

Which brings us to the first point of what you can do to maintain self-worth for your senior parent, whether you’re caring for them all the time or just helping out once in a while. First, you can help maintain personal privacy and dignity by closing the door when you help him or her to bathe, dress or change clothes.

You wouldn’t think twice about closing the door when you do those things but put yourself in their place. What makes you feel awkward probably makes them feel that way too.

Don’t make a show of things. Try your best to avoid drawing unwanted attention to your charge whenever possible. Adult children sometimes have a need for outside validation of the caregiving task they’ve undertaking and can be overly dramatic in public. I can assure you it’s unlikely your mom or dad or whomever you’re caring for really wants any of that attention. They want to feel as normal and inconspicuous as possible so help them.

The more prepared you are the better. Keep a care bag packed to travel with, even if just going around town for the day. Load it with spare clothing, tissues, a towel, facial wipes, a bottle of water, specialized eating utensils, whatever your senior may potentially need, both commonly or in an emergency. Remember that their comfort comes first. Be ready for anything.

Sometimes the best way to help is to do nothing. As frustrating as it can be as a caregiver to sit by and watch your charge struggle to do something like button his shirt, there are times when you need to do just that – nothing. Although it can be part of the individual’s therapy to do normal, day-to-day things like getting dressed, it can be challenging.

And, as caregivers, it’s tough not to jump in and just do it for them. But, from the standpoint of respect, you have to let them do their best to tackle it on their own. It’s when their own frustration level peaks you might need to take over.

Naturally, there are things you have to do to care for them that they’re not going to be happy with. He or she may not want to use the cane or walker they’ve been provided. You will probably need to be firm with them on this because sometimes safety must outweigh pride.

Finally, be patient. I struggle with this one daily. Remember that this is hard for them too. Remember you’re not alone. If you need help, go find it.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com.

A Half-Century and Counting

In Education, Entertainment, Health, history, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on September 28, 2017 at 10:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

At the end of September this year, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. It’s funny how you don’t notice the years flying by until there’s a milestone like this to make you stop and reflect on them. No, turning a half-century old is nothing new, until it happens to you. Then, it’s a big deal.

On my last birthday, I decided to figure out a way to commemorate the passage of the year leading to my 50th. Now, only days away, and I wonder what I’ve accomplished this year which begs the question, what do we do with our time? How does it slip away so easily, so unnoticed in the lightning pace of our modern lives?

Even the simplest moments, often the most important, go right past us without so much as a footnote in the mental journal of our day. I wanted to make sure I remembered at least some of this past year so I made it a point to do something new every day that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I didn’t exactly manage something every single day, but I did make some major changes in my life that have had much more of an effect than I ever anticipated.

In order to accomplish anything in our lives, we have to set a reasonable and measurable goal. I know, that sounds like something off some high school career lecture, but it’s valid. I’ve never cared much for the word “goal,” but we do need to have something to aim for or we can’t work toward it.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I wanted to remember the last year in as many ways as I could. One of my goals was to improve my health and that meant a great alteration of my day-to-day lifestyle, which had actually begun a few years ago when I stepped back from things like soda and junk food.

From there, I started an exercise program that culminated in my becoming an endurance cyclist, accomplishing both a 100-kilometer and 100-mile bike ride, respectively, over the summer. In preparing for these events, I improved my stamina, respiratory function, muscle tone and overall health – and I’m still going. From couch potato to athlete in just a few months, and there was nothing easy about it.

At this point in life, if you’re paying attention at all, you probably have a better grasp on just how much drama you will put up with as well. I know I have. I can’t even describe how many people I know close to my age who have yet to shake out all the dead wood from their lives.

I’m referring to those negative people that always seem to have disaster following them, primarily of their own making, and want you to solve their problems for them. You can’t. Nothing you do will change who they are and how they drive their own lives – walk away.

When people straight out of college demand salaries and respect akin to those twice their elder and greater experienced it’s a sad state. At the same time, I’ve met a great many older people for whom I have little respect, for one reason or another.

Contrary to what younger folks might say, at 50, we’re not quite doddering, forgetful seniors, ready for the walker and rocking chair, although that’s what most Millennials probably think. In my case, I’m in the best physical condition of my life, I have a better understanding of who I am than ever before and those around me are benefiting from my achievements.

To me, what matters most is how my life to date has prepared me for all that comes next 50. There’s still a lot to do and I have no intention of sitting by and letting the world fly by, not that I ever did that before.

People say I’m over the hill, maybe they’re right. But, Charles Schultz, the creator of, “Peanuts,” once said, “Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Couldn’t agree more! I have more to do in the next half-century.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.

The invisible side of caregiving.

In Children and Family, finances, Health, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on January 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

12191385_10153464406329342_2088873762632508759_oWhen you think of the term “caregiver,” you might have the image in your head of the dutiful family member looking out for an elderly parent or disabled child. What you see in public or on the surface is someone helping a senior citizen do her shopping or teaching a child with limited mobility to use an iPad. But, it’s the stuff you never see that is really the hard part of the job.

Caring for a family member is not something that comes with many benefits. Actually, there is only one benefit – looking after your loved one. Yes, there are some people who get paid to take care of a family member, but that’s rare and extremely difficult to

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Shower prep for caregivers can be like gearing up for battle. Helping a senior parent with every day personal care can be hard to get used to – for both – but extremely necessary.

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Medicines must be cataloged, dosed, and set into daily dispense containers. Tracking of administration is also necessary to ensure proper care, safety and financial maintenance.

Personal care is one of the hardest parts of caring for a senior parent. Different than helping a child with these issues, an elderly adult has a different perception of self-sufficiency and personal dignity. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for my father that he now needs help just to do something as simple as shaving or taking a shower.

As a Parkinson’s sufferer, Dad can’t hold his hands still enough to shave with a safety razor and we’ve had to go to an electric model. He does his best to try to do it on his own, but his hands can’t apply any pressure to the razor on his face so it misses, well, pretty much everything. So once a week, we do a complete, clean shave starting with a trimmer.

Showers also require some consideration to personal dignity while trying to ensure complete cleanliness. When I help Dad with a shower, it’s like gearing up for battle. It’s tough to get used to, for both of us. But we do our best. I just try to make sure he gets in and out without injury, get him clean and get him dressed. How would you feel if, suddenly, your children had to help you with trimming nails, combing hair, or washing? You have to be aware of your charge’s discomfort while still meeting the needs.

Managing medications is also a challenge for caregivers. I’m actually pretty lucky in our situation because Dad’s meds – for now at least – can be divided into two daily packets. Every Sunday, I refill a daily box dispenser and we have a record book to record every dose administered and by whom.

14192078_10154177027939342_4999691246789055042_nMoney is probably the biggest sore spot for many caregivers as well because we end up having to handle our own homes as well as the finances of our charge. It wasn’t long after my mother became ill that I learned who the money manager of the house was as I grew up.

As is common with many elderly folks, Dad was letting bills go unpaid, utilities were being cut off, debt was mounting and statements lay unopened, piling up on the kitchen table – Never again. My siblings and I took over managing his money and paid off all his major debt so we only have living expenses, medicines and doctor bills to worry about.

The problem is that things won’t stay that way. People don’t understand how little Medicare and its supplements really cover and the expenses continue to mount as a senior’s care grows more complicated because things like Parkinson’s continue to progress.

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Adjusting work to caregiver life is rarely easy, sometimes it is impossible. Many caregivers have to choose one over the other.

Naturally, The U.S. Congress is far too busy voting itself another ridiculous raise and cutting Social Security to bother considering how to better spend money to care for its citizens. After all, it’s “our” money. And there is no outside financial support for caregivers.

So, the bills continue to roll in – co-pays, lift chairs, vaccinations, home care (yes, it’s mostly self-pay), unforeseen changes in the health of the patient and the understanding that with Parkinson’s, diabetes and glaucoma, my father will get worse, even with the best possible care.

Tons of other things come into play too. When you’re a caregiver, you’re often the housekeeper, accountant, chef, chauffeur, nurse, clothes and dishwasher, and much more. The rest of the world doesn’t see the countless hours spent making sure the things like cracker packets and juice bottles are stored in a way he can easily open them with limited mobility.

Over the years, I’ve written many times about my experiences in helping to care for my parents. But people I meet always seem to be shocked how much we have to do that no one ever sees. So, when you see someone out in public dealing with something like this, just remember how hard it is and open a door for them or be patient when they’re sorting groceries for two households at the checkout. We appreciate it.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is available as a podcast at MyGreeneRadio.com.

Hope in a world of tragedy.

In Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOHope – A small word that carries a great deal of weight. Hope inspires people, gives them purpose, direction, even courage. For some, hope is all they have to motivate them.

If you look up hope in a dictionary its synonyms include: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, and so on. But I’m not entirely convinced that these are accurate. In my mind, hope is not a simple thought or expectation, but one of the most powerful of all emotions.

Yes, hope is an emotion. It has no medical or biological origin. It is a complete figment of the heart, which can move the mind and body to do incredible things. Unlike other aspirational emotions, I believe that hope requires the additional element of faith.

The type of faith depends strongly on the individual. It could be faith in God or some other supernatural belief. It could be faith in one’s own character and accomplishments. For me, faith in the integrity, loyalty and support of others is what fuels my hope. If hope is to have weight, faith must be unwavering and consistent.

Action is also needed in the equation in order to move you towards your goal. You can’t just sit idly by and dream of something, you must act. You “hope” your child will be accepted to a good school. So you do things to support that hope by helping her along the way providing, music lessons, math camp, whatever supports the end goal.

Hope without action is merely a wish, void of substance or direction. A wish is fine if you’re throwing a penny into a fountain, but hope is usually focused around a mindset of action.

Sometimes, people still have hope for things over which they have no control. A great many people hoped the 2016 U.S. presidential election would have turned out differently.

Others hope the new president will do all of the things he says he will and meet their hopes for America. Either way, it’s all about your perspective – and that’s often the very nature of hope.

In hope, as in life, perspective is everything. Your hopes are dependent upon your life view. You hope for things that will improve or enhance the lives of yourself and those closest to you. Hope also requires time.

Action is rarely instantaneous, so time is required for hope to be a motivator. That’s hard sometimes, particularly if someone is in dire need. When we hope a sick family member will recover, we have to be patient while the treatments are applied.

Also, we generally “hope” for things to turn out for the best. Our anticipation may grow because of hope. Good news about a potential raise or promotion at work can build hope. It’s not often that hope is associated with something negative.

But again, hope is nothing without faith and action. If you are someone who generally sits idly by praying that God or someone else will fix your problem, I’m afraid you’re in for a big disappointment. You have to take steps towards what you want – even if it doesn’t feel you have much control over it.

With so much tragedy in the world – wars, mass shootings, and xenophobic politicians – how can you find hope? If I had the answer to questions like that, the Dalai Lama would have some competition or his job.

The fact is that we should have hope despite tragedy. Keeping our hope alive is what gives purpose to human beings in perilous circumstances. No matter how well off someone might seem to be in position, finances, love, work, whatever, we all have hopes for something.

Hope isn’t as much about answers but more about questions. What do you want out of life? Have you done anything to move towards getting those things? Are you making a plan to get there?

It’s been said that hope is the desire for something with the expectation of getting it. Well, as I’ve pointed out, I don’t believe it’s quite so simple. If it were, hope wouldn’t be such a powerful influence on human existence.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. 

 

The positivity of laughter

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Local News, Media, Music, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently the entertainment industry lost a legend in television comedy, Gary Marshall, who gave us hours of laughs with “Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy,” and many other shows. I often wonder how someone can be so innately funny and creative and how that helps them cope with life’s down sides.

In plain black and white, a “sense of humor” is nothing more than one’s ability to perceive and appreciate humor. Some aspects of humor, however, don’t resonate with everyone. While a spit-take, for example, might be hilarious to one person, another (some would say with a more ‘refined’ sense of humor) individual would find it vulgar. As with beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder.

To me, mimes and clowns aren’t funny at all. Actually, I find both kind of creepy. But then, I have one of those senses of humor that is all over the place. I’m never certain what’s going to tickle my funny bone.

My friend Jim Karns can make me laugh just by walking into a room, a fact I hope he’s never taken negatively. Jim and I started working together on stage in the late 1990s and he joined my family variety show, The Brothers & Co., in 2004. It’s part of our shared role to create comedy routines for the show, but they generally originate from an accidental punch line or a word that cracked us up.

We’ve known each other for more than two decades and we’re very different people. But our sense of humor aligns us to a level of craziness sometimes only we understand. Sometimes, all it takes is a word or phrase to set us off. Case in point – the casaba melon.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

What’s so funny about a casaba melon? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one. All I know is that one evening at a rehearsal, one of us responded to a random question by saying, “… because casaba melons are out of season,” and that was it. Our sides were splitting the rest of the evening.

No, it’s not that funny by itself. But, to us, it was hysterical. Sometimes it hits so hard, I can’t breathe or, no kidding, I actually fall out of my chair laughing.

Not everyone loses it that way and I have only one theory as to why it happens to us in that fashion. William Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage and, clearly, life is a mixture of tragedy and comedy, as life is imitated in art.

We all experience our share of tragedy. For Jim and I, we share the common experiences of the long term caring for and loss of our mothers to early disease, painful divorce, and similar job stresses.

To us however, and the rest of my Brothers & Co. family, I think, humor relieves that stress in a positive way that benefits more than just us. Our audiences benefit from what comes out of it and finds its way into our show.

We are not drinkers or gamblers, nor do we spend money on elaborate vacations to unwind from life’s stressors. Instead, a laugh is our elixir, our tonic and our escape. When my brother became ill a year ago, and the outlook was grim, we laughed our way through it, regardless of what the result was going to be.

Thankfully, he recovered, and is, for the most part, his smiling self again. This is in no small part thanks to our resistance to the darkness that could have taken over our hearts and minds without our sense of humor.

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands ...

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands …

All of this begs the question: does a strong and natural sense of humor also imply an unusually high level of optimism? I’m not a psychologist but I’d have to guess there is something to that suggestion. I’m not always optimistic, but it’s tough to get me to buy into the negative.
Even though most people overestimate their sense of humor, who cares? Isn’t that up to you? If you think you’re funny, the only time it matters whether anyone else does is if you’re planning to become a comedian. Otherwise, laugh at whatever you want. But watch out for those casaba melons.

Gery L. Deer is an independent casaba melon thrower. Deer In Headlines is usually full of it, so why are you reading this? More at deerinheadlines.com

Living in the family museum

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAlthough there is a lot of talk about millennials returning home to live with parents, the majority of Americans still move away from their family home. As a teenager, most people long for independence to explore different worlds, expand careers and so on while at the same time freeing themselves from the obligations and responsibility associated with living close to parents and immediate family.

But that wasn’t me. Yes, I had the same desire to see and experience the world, but I seemed to need a grounding to make it work properly for me. I did move away from my hometown for brief periods during college, a few years for work and the like. But for the majority of my life, I’ve remained within just a few miles of my family farm, where my father still lives.

12674271_10153643748619342_101686889_nFor the last two decades, my family music group has called our family farm “home” and that’s where we practice and produce our shows. But it wasn’t until I began helping to care for my mother in 2009 that I ended up having to spend far more time in the home where I grew up than one might think is usual – or psychologically healthy.

My mother passed in 2011 but, a few years later, I had to repeat that effort as my dad’s health made it necessary for us to assist him as well. Fortunately, not to the degree Mom needed help, but once again the situation required me to be at his house several days each week.

My family home is pretty much as it always was with minor changes here and there. But to me it seems simultaneously totally familiar and completely foreign. My job makes it easy for me to work remotely, but there’s a constantly present, underlying distraction.

I’m not entirely sure it’s psychologically healthy to be in this situation sometimes. I’m surrounded by the past every day, as if my dad’s home is a museum with dusty, disorganized exhibits displayed out of context and unvisited.

Growing up, our family home was always a bit of a sanctuary for me, a place the difficulties of the world didn’t penetrate. Today, it can sometimes seem more like a workplace. There’s something disquieting occasionally about walking the halls in what used to be a nurturing home but that now serves another purpose.

Of my siblings and me I am the only one to have grown up in the house. Still, it can still feel very strange to be there now. Today, Dad occupies only certain rooms, but once upon a time the whole house rang with laughter and music, as the smell of homemade food wafted throughout. Now I walk through the dark, silence wondering where the years went.

Maybe it’s having come so close to losing my brother to a serious illness last summer that has triggered some of these deeply buried thoughts. But, whatever the reason, they’ve come blasting to the surface like a volcanic eruption.

Mostly I’m troubled by the fact that my father is so very alone in the world now, having outlived everyone close to him save his children. Within just a few years of each other he lost the aunt who raised him, his brother-in-law who was like a little brother to him, and, most tragically, my mother.

There’s no one left of his generation except a sister, who lives a few hours away, a half-brother whom he doesn’t know very well, and a couple of school friends he speaks to on the phone. These are problems he has that I can’t fix.

Someday, because of my birth position in the family, I’ll likely be the only one left of my mother, father and siblings. I can’t replace what Dad’s lost, so I spend my time with him trying to give him a good quality of life in the present. But there are days when we both sit melancholy and remember the past in the quiet emptiness and solitude of our family home.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

Respite is theme of National Family Caregivers Month

In Entertainment, Health, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on November 11, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAccording to the latest numbers, around 83-percent of long-term care in the U.S. is provided by unpaid family members. Although it might not affect you directly at this point, odds are someone you know is caring for an elderly or disabled family member.

Family caregivers are saving the government and insurance companies billions of dollars every year and go largely unnoticed. Caregivers play many roles for their charges, from accountant to housekeeper and personal assistant to nurse. It’s a nonstop challenge with daily changes so there is no “normal,” particularly when caring for someone with an advancing deteriorative disease.

Lois Deer (right), mother of the author, passed away in 2011 after two years of full-time care by her family.

Lois Deer (right), mother of the author, passed away in 2011 after two years of full-time care by her family.

The term, “caregiver” usually conjures up thoughts of an adult child looking after an elderly parent, but that’s certainly not the only situation. Parents of disabled children, grandparents, or even siblings caring for a disabled or elderly brother or sister, are all dealing with a similar situation – too much to handle and not enough help.

Caregivers often suffer from enduring fatigue, emotional stress and broad-reaching financial hardship. Over time, trying to cope with all of this can catch up with a person, causing chronic health problems. The organizers behind the website Caregiveraction.org have declared November as National Family Caregivers Month with the 2015 theme of “Respite: Care for the Caregiver.”

The organization notes that most caregivers feel that respite is a luxury and many even view it as selfish. But trying to find a way to decompress on a regular basis should be made a priority.

Juggling one home, a job and a personal life can be tough enough, but when you’re doing it for two households it can break even the most resilient of people in a hurry. The majority of caregivers pull double duty in order to handle their own homes and families while seeing to the doctor visits, medicine regimens, physical therapy, and other demands of their caregiving charge.

That constant state of stress can often lead to long-term health issues. It’s important that caregivers care for themselves also, set aside time to rest, eat right, and seek support if no other family is available to help out.

Some Caregiver Facts …
 Largest source of long-term care
 Most (66%) are female
 More than half are age 18-49
 Most caring for elderly parents
 Many suffer loss of wages and benefits

There are a number of organizations with resources available to help with respite care. Be aware, however, that generally there is no insurance or Medicare / Medicaid coverage for these services and the costs must be absorbed by the patient or caregiver.

Financial stress is one of the most prominent problems for family caregivers. Many either lose their jobs due to regular absences or have to quit in order to provide full time care. And, when the patient has limited income or other resources, the caregiver picks up the fiscal slack, spending whatever they have to ensure bills are paid.

If you know someone who has recently become a family caregiver, please keep in mind that they may have a different set of priorities than before. Depending on the situation, it is likely their life revolves now around the person for whom they provide care. They may not be able to drop everything and go shopping or out to dinner at a moment’s notice. Be patient and supportive.

Of course there are those who gives the family caregiver a bad name. Anyone who does this out of some kind of need for financial compensation or constant personal praise won’t be seen as anything but self-aggrandizing and reprehensible.

There is no glory or martyrdom in caregiving. It’s emotionally draining and physically exhausting, especially if your family member is terminally ill. The pain of watching someone wither away is like nothing imaginable without first-hand experience.

If you’re taking care of a family member, remember to take care of yourself too. You can’t do anyone else any good if you’re suffering as well. Caregiving is hard work, on any level, and it should be viewed objectively.

You wouldn’t work nonstop on a job would you? Do whatever you need to do to take a little time for yourself every day. Remember you’re doing the best you can and accept help when it’s offered.

Helpful Resources …

Centers for Disease Control : http://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/facts.htm

The Caregiver Space . Org : http://thecaregiverspace.org/

Greene County Council on Aging : http://www.gccoa.org