Go ahead and care

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Here’s some good news if you happen to be a caregiver as I am.  Researchers at Johns Hopkins say caregiving doesn’t take as big a toll on health as has long been thought.

This assumption started when a study done in 1987 of caregivers for people with Alzheimers  found they had decreased levels of some immune molecules. From then on, studies “suggested that family caregivers have increased mortality and rates of psychiatric diseases, decreased immune function and life span, and slower wound healing than other people.” Yikes!

David Roth, M.A., Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the Center on Aging and Health at Hopkins, and his colleagues looked at some recent papers and noticed problems in how the research was conducted. They ended up reviewing 30 studies done between 1987 and 2016 and found the number of people studied was quite small. In more than half the studies, fewer than 50 caregivers were included. But results were interpreted as being universal.

Roth confirmed there is an effect on immunity, but it is far less than previously reported. He characterized it as “generally weak and of questionable clinical significance.”

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 34 million people in the U.S. provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend in any given year. The value of the services provided by these family caregivers is estimated at $375 billion annually. Those seem to me to be huge figures, but, in fact, some people shy away from caregiving because of all the erroneous information. Roth hopes his study will encourage more people to become caregivers, noting it can actually be a beneficial experience, a pro-social behavior.

in the meantime, Roth’s team are conducting a larger, better designed study to get more information about the connection or lack thereof between caregiving and the immune system.

If you’re a caregiver, have you suffered ill-effects as a result?

 

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The great outdoors

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Even after living on a relatively rural island in Florida for more than 20 years, I still consider myself a city girl. I burn easily in the sun and bugs love to bite me, so I really don’t like spending time outdoors all that much. But a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan has given me incentive.

People have always been urged to commune with nature to reduce stress, but just how much time was needed and what kind of experience would do the trick weren’t known.

Lead author of the research, Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, says people who spent 20 minutes a day in nature saw a significant reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. The “nature pill” prescription is sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.

Participants were studied over an eight week period. They were to spend 10 minutes or more, three days a week anywhere outside that made them feel like they’d interacted with nature. There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.

The 20 to 30 minute window produced the highest reduction in cortisol. After that, the benefit continued but at a lesser rate.

I guess I can spare 20 minutes outside on a stressful day, and what day isn’t? How do you feel about taking a “nature pill?”

 

One person’s trash…

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I watched multiple episodes of Flea Market Flip on HGTV one morning last week. Years ago, I did quite a bit of furniture re-finishing. This was back when I was furnishing my first apartment and later my first home.

I’d love to get back into working with furniture or repurposing items as they do on Flea Market, but I already have all the furniture I need. Besides that, I really don’t have a dedicated space I could use to work in. Here in Florida, we don’t have basements.

This is the closest I’ve come to recycling. I spray painted my husband’s old army trunk and set it on top of a discarded coffee table I found in my neighborhood. It is serving as filing cabinet/storage until/unless something better comes along.

 

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I wonder if there is a profit making opportunity hidden in here somewhere. Is there a market for small, hand finished side tables and the like? Does anybody have any advice for me?

Do you have a side gig? I’d love to hear about it.

Spring wardrobe replenishment

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My favorite annual event on the island where I live occurred this past Saturday. It is the Hookers’ Bag and Tag Sale. That probably requires an explanation.

The Hookers are a group of women based on Matlacha Island. This has historically been a fishing village, so that is part of the reason for the name. The other reason is that they are “hooked” on the community. They raise a lot of money every year and much of it goes to the elementary school. They also provide college scholarships to local youth.

Anyway, at this sale, you pay a flat $5 for everything you can stuff into a brown paper grocery bag. I have become quite adept at rolling clothing into tight balls and can generally fit at least 15 items in my bag.

This year, I was under a time crunch, so I only managed 13 items. Below are some of them. Without planning to , I found things that went together pretty well to form outfits.

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A couple items were just a smidge too close-fitting to suit me. I will simply recycle those to the local thrift shop.

Are you able to find bargains in clothing? Or are you someone who wouldn’t dream of wearing second-hand clothes?

Welcome to pioneer land

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I have to confess I am something of a Luddite when it comes to technology. Oh, I’m on my laptop pretty much all day every day. And I spend an unreasonable amout of time on Facebook. But I have steadfastly refused to succumb to the lure of smart phones. I have only had a minimalist mobile phone which I only turned on to make calls, not receive them. It was basically for emergencies.

Then, my husband’s daughter gave him an Echo Dot for his birthday last Thanksgiving. Frankly, I didn’t see the point. What was this thing supposed to do anyway? We’ve since learned how to get it to play music at dinner time and how to set a timer and an alarm. But I could easily have done all those things without it.

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I tried to use smart plugs but soon discovered they require a smart phone. The two plugs I bought went back.

Well, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. This Tracfone is still basic, but it does allow me to access apps.

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Both Orlando daughters came to visit over the weekend, bearing new Wemo smart plugs. It took both of them combined quite a bit of time to configure one of the plugs to the lamp in our living room. Now I can turn on the lamp remotely by using my spanking new phone. Of course first I have to turn on the phone, wait for it to power up, and wait for it to find the plug. I still don’t understand why or when I would want to do this.

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Could somebody please explain all this to me? What am I missing? Do you ask Alexa to do your bidding?

Go early; go often

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I’m finding that retirement is filled with lots of doctor’s appointments. And oftentimes things don’t go exactly as planned.

My husband had an outpatient procedure scheduled last week. He is not an early riser, so we chose to come to the hospital at noon. Then that got pushed back to a two o’clock arrival time with the surgery to start at three.

My husband ate an early-for-him breakfast since he wasn’t supposed to eat or drink anything from nine o’clock on.

The nursing staff got him all checked in, blood drawn, IV access inserted, and we waited. And waited. By this time, my poor husband was hungry, thirsty, and getting crankier by the minute. Not that I blamed him. I was offered and gladly accepted a package of Chips Ahoy cookies. For him, nada.

The nurses, bless them, offered to turn on the TV for us. We didn’t want to watch anything, so they tuned the channel to what one called “Zen music.” It was a combo of new age and classical that was, indeed, soothing. Or as soothing as anything could be under the circumstances. Then they set out to discover what was hanging things up.

Unfortunately, the patient ahead of my husband had some complications. At this point, it was four thirty. The estimate was at least another two hours to wait. The nurses suggested we re-schedule. Her comment was revealing: “I wouldn’t want to be the next patient when the surgeon is tired.” Agreed.

We’re going back to do it all over again this week; however, this time my husband is first on the schedule.

What has been your experience with hospitals and medical care in general?

 

 

 

Rebranding

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I’ve decided to take this blog in a different direction and have added a new tagline: Muddling through Retirement. I plan to write about the ups and downs, challenges and opportunities of being retired.

Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. My husband and I really love New Orleans. His favorite place to stay was Hotel Monteleone . It is quite elegant, the kind of hotel with a lot of marble and gold bathroom fixtures. The bar is built on a giant turntable and revolves, and there is a swimming pool on the roof. Naturally it is quite pricy.

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On our most recent trip several years ago, we sought a more reasonably priced place to stay and discovered Place d’Armes. It is located steps from Jackson Square and has tons of old world charm.

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As is tradition, we will be having pancakes for dinner tonight. Here is a cooking tip: a waitress at a diner once told me the secret to making delicious pancakes is to add vanilla. She’s right.

I’d love to hear what you think of my “re-brand.” Please leave me a comment.

 

TMI

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Without going into too much detail, I had the occasion to be in a group setting recently with two “helping” professionals. Both of them have master’s degrees, as do I, but either their education was lacking or mine was.

As I recall, therapy begins with listening. Offering an extended monologue about one’s own life obstacles and how brilliantly one overame them is not helpful or effective. Neither is doling out platitudes. And neither, especially, is taking a tough love approach with a person one has just met and whose circumstances you have not bothered to ask about.

I left the meeting in tears with a burgeoning headache. I most definitely will not engage with these two again.

What has been your experience with therapy or counseling? Did you feel supported? Were you given any real assistance?

 

 

Still climbing after all these years

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A study done at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte  indicates the glass ceiling is alive and well.

The researchers looked at the 1% at the top of the income pyramid and found that women are still woefully behind men in earnings. The top 1% of American households rreceive nearly a quarter of all U.S. income. Women’s income alone accounts for 1% status in only 5 % of those households (i.e., .0005 of U.S. households). Women’s contribution is necessary to achieve the 1% status in household income in 15% of the elite families (.0015 of households). To qualify for top 1% household status, the authors of the study calculate that a household must bring in $845,000 in total income in 2016 dollars.

Beyond the cash itself, the scarcity of women at the top incomes means less political, economic, and social power and influence.

Importantly, the study also indicates that the gender gap in personally earning this level of income has not narrowed since the mid- to late-1990s. This means that women’s progress on this issue has stalled and women are no closer to earning elite-level income today than they were two decades ago.

Previous studies of the glass ceiling looked at women in terms or CEO or leadership positions. This study shows that the glass ceiling effect extends even to self-employment. Although women who are self-employed or highly educated are doing better, they are still lagging behind men in income. Most women who attain 1% status still do so via marriage.

Disheartening, isn’t it?

Sing a happy song

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A study done on popular song lyrics indicates songs are expressing more anger and sadness and less joy.

Researchers at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan studied songs from the Billboard Hot 100 lists from the 1950s to 2016. Songs from the 1950s and from 1982 to 1984 reflected the least anger while those from the mid 1990s on reflected more.

Sadness, disgust, and fear also increased in song lyrics over time, but less sharply than did anger. Disgust increased gradually, but was lower in the early 1980s and higher in the mid and late 1990s. Popular music lyrics expressed more fear during the mid 1980s, and the fear decreased sharply in 1988. Another sharp increase in fear was observed in 1998 and 1999, with a sharp decrease in 2000.

The study also showed that joy was a dominant tone in popular music lyrics during the late 1950s, but it decreased over time and became much milder in the recent years. An exception was observed in the mid 1970s, when joy expressed in lyrics increased sharply.

Note that the songs analyzed were the most popular, in other words the ones consumers wanted to hear, not necessarily the ones songwriters most wanted to write.

The researchers didn’t seem to look at what was happening in the world duting the various time periods they mention. Did these events affect what people wanted to listen to? Below are some facts gleaned from a quick Internet search.

We’re all familiar with the “Happy Days” mood of the 1950s. Microsoft was started in 1975 and Margaret Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister.The period 1982 to 1984 was during the Reagan years. George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988. His son George W. Bush won the contested election in 2000.

Conversely, in 1998, Bill Clinton was denying his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

I wish the researchers would extend their analysis to the past two years. There seems to be a correlation between Republican regimes and more positive emotions. Or am I missing something? What do you think?