Death Cafe Founder, Jon Underwood, Dies at 44

Walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Jon Underwood personally.  I interviewed him a few years ago to learn about  Death Cafe.  Being in the process of founding a similar kind of venture, I sought like-minded others.  I really wanted to hear their stories.  Jon was one of them.  I wanted to learn what it had been like for him to walk, quite literally, into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  He strode boldly and publicly into such conversations, complete with tea and cake, in 2011.

Death Cafe discussions now take place from Australia to Nigeria and every place in between.  As of this writing, there have been 4836 Death Cafe discussions in 51 countries.  And these are just the ones registered on the Death Cafe website.

What was it that motivated him?  More importantly, why?

As I recall, he explained it something like this: the monsters in the closet are only scary until we shed light on them.  Jon felt (and I do, too) that talking about Death in a very real and personal way ultimately makes those conversations less uncomfortable.  More than that, something kind of amazing begins to take place: a deeper, more thoughtful appreciation for life in all its forms starts to develop.  And then to flourish.

Death, Dying

Dying Matters.  A lot.

People say it’s too hard to talk about dying.  Honestly, it’s easier than you think.  Particularly if you or a loved one aren’t actually in the throes of doing it while trying to start the conversation.

Seniors frequently say to me they want to talk about it with their kids, but the kids don’t want to.  Adult children often say to me they want to talk about it with their folks, but the folks don’t want to.  When I hear this, I have to wonder whether either has actually tackled the subject with the other and who is really doing the avoiding!

I’m pretty certain that Jon Underwood did not imagine in 2011 that he would die in 2017 at the age of 44, leaving behind his wife, his children, and a world full of people who understand what he was trying to accomplish.  And I’m also feeling certain that his having talked openly about dying hasn’t lessened the incredible shock his family currently experiences with this  kind of a loss.

Talking About Dying Matters a Lot, Too

Here’s what I do know.  He’s left behind a legacy of openness and authenticity that’s hard to argue with.  He’s given his family, friends, and thousands of others across the globe a creative way to address the elephant in the living room.  That means something.  And that’s what life and death are: the meaning we make of it.

Here’s the bonus: Damariscotta Death Cafe has been meeting monthly for four years and is as lively and strong as ever.  Join in the fun on the second Monday of each month at Savory Maine, 9:00am.  No agenda.  No taboos.

Here’s to you, Jon.  I hope wherever you are now, there’s tea, cake, and heartfelt conversation.

 

Love, Death

Walking Assistance or Injury Waiting to Happen?

walking assistance: To Use or Not to Use? That is the Question

I sometimes feel surprised by how often I encounter a senior who doesn’t want to be seen in public with a cane or a walker.  Some associate the need for walking assistance with disability and frailty.  Others see canes and walkers as representing weakness or vulnerability.  Still others think these devices are just too clumsy to lug around.  Or too ugly.  Or both.

Let’s face it.  They are kind of clumsy.  And kind of ugly.  Maybe they are also kind of necessary.  Or maybe not.  The truth is, the jury is still out.  Some research supports the use of walking assistance equipment like canes and walkers, advocating stability and fall prevention.  Other research points to  how these tools can contribute to trips, falls, and serious injuries, especially when used incorrectly.

whether injury or age related, walking assistance equipment can be used safely and effectively

Sometimes complete recovery from an accident, injury, or surgery is not possible. You may have a health condition permanently affecting your legs, balance, or coordination. It may be a good idea to consider walking assistance in these instances.

Consider asking your physician for a physical therapist consult to determine what will be appropriate for your needs, lifestyle, and home environment.  It isn’t enough to buy a cane or walker at a local drugstore or shopping center.  A proper assessment will help you identify which device is best for you and how to fit it properly. Most importantly, learning how to use the equipment correctly will prevent it becoming the cause of a potentially serious injury.  It’s not as easy as you might think.

Walking equipment supports the following functions:

Greater stability and balance because of the wider support base.

Aid your walking pattern in terms of speed and stride.

May help maintain an upright body posture and weight distribution, which in turn increases confidence in walking ability.

Could help reduce pain in back and joints caused by over-compensation when walking without assistance.

Increases confidence in ability to move around safely.

This Medline article outlines the safe use of a walker.  Be certain to consult your physician or physical therapist prior to making a purchase.  You’ll want to feel assured in selecting which is best suited to your needs.

Fall Prevention: What You Need to Know

Fall Prevention: All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

Clearing a home of fall risks is a key part of senior quality of life.  Living safely at home for as long as possible is truly everyone’s goal, isn’t it?  Learn more about fall prevention in your home before you fall.

Clearing risks and hazards really could mean the difference between safe, healthy living in your home or having to give that up.

Falls Prevention Facts

According to Bangor Daily News“Statistics show that, in Maine, 90 percent of hip fracture hospitalizations are due to an unintentional fall and that 25 percent of people that have falls that result in a hip fracture die within a year of their injuries.”

 

Falls common cause of serious injury, death among elderly

Slips, Trips, and Falls: Don’t Let ’em Get You Down

By using this handy National Council on Aging (NCOA) checklist,  you can find common in-home risk factors.  Work out ways to reduce or eliminate these in your home.  Fall prevention is not a one-time activity.  It’s much better to make a monthly practice of checking your home for safety concerns.  That will keep you safer and build routine awareness, so you’re more likely to notice when something is out of the ordinary.

fall prevention

Getting informed and remaining aware will go a long way to avoid a very sudden turn of events.  Don’t delay.  That favorite throw rug (I know you love it) may just represent your next trip to the emergency room.  Don’t let dimly lit basement stairs or a loose railing on the front porch cost you.  Instead, take active steps to create a safer and healthier home setting.

Download and print this Philips Lifeline easy-to-use one-page checklist to survey your home for fall prevention.  It’s not worth waiting.

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Hire a Home CareGiver: What to Watch For

Chances are good that your loved one wants to remain at home as long as possible.   I know I do.  And let’s be honest about that – it’s not an easy promise to keep.  In fact, it isn’t always possible to do that.  But it can be more possible when you hire a caregiver to work in the home.

When that is possible, you want assurance that the person you hire to provide helping hands is going to be reliable and trustworthy.

Check out these AARP tips for hiring an in-home provider.

Then give us a call!

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What, Exactly, is Home Care?

The short version: Home care services relate to being  able to live safely and comfortably in your home.  And that’s something most of us want to do for as long as possible.  That might mean light housekeeping and helping you run errands.  It could mean supporting you with comfort and companionship as you live with chronic illness or life-ending disease.  It more likely means both and anything in between, including pet care, meal making, or going on an excursion.

Mediline Plus offers great resources to explore more about home care services.  Learn about important questions to ask and how to choose trustworthy services.  Find simple ways to make your home a safer place to live.   Understand the difference between using an agency and hiring someone privately on your own.  Know the risks and safeguards involved in either choice.

If it feels appropriate, include family members and close friends in your home care search.  Let them know what’s important regarding your quality of life goals.   Whether just doing your homework or actively looking for support, sometimes others’ ideas can be very helpful.  Asking for help is hard for some people, but it can go a long way toward ensuring you receive high quality services with a reliable agency.

Feel free to give us a call with your questions.

home care, maine, newcastle, quality of life

 

First Home Care Training Class Graduates!

SIX HOME CARE PROVIDERS COMPLETE TWENTY HOUR EXCELLENCE IN CARE-GIVING CLASS

Training came to a close today after twenty hours of training spread over a five week period. Class participants learned a range of handy skills for in-home care-giving. Lincoln Home’s Giving Excellent Care in the Home: From Our Home to Yours curriculum centers on simple but important skills that boost confidence and help home care givers gain insight.

Class topics cover a broad range of skills. Right from the start students jump in with both feet, taking on subjects like personal values, home safety, and how to help granny with her dentures. Learning different skills and techniques help students become more confident providers.

I ENJOYED THE ACTIVITIES AND GAMES. THAT REALLY ENHANCED my training.

Student feedback helps us know what we’re doing well and what we can do better. It’s exciting to hear how the class was received, and even more exciting to know we’ve made a difference in our community with this class offering.

I gained so much through this class. I now have a different perspective and feel more confident caring for my stepfather.

I liked the way we reviewed chapters after reading them. It felt easier to take in the lessons that way.

I learned about all aspects of daily living. I gained a lot of new information and recognize that every care-giving situation is going to be different. This class is fantastic!

I liked the interaction with other students during activities.

We all got off to a good start that provided ease of sharing information and asking questions.

I learned a lot about care-giving. The biggest lesson I take away from this class is “someone else’s emergency is not my emergency.”

Please stay tuned. Lincoln Home will offer this course again in the fall of 2017.  Watch our Facebook page for the event posting!

Veteran Style: Living with Fierce Independence

A Veteran in Maine can face many challenges with aging.  Wishing to remain independently at home is quite common for any senior.  The Veterans Administration at Togus offers a wide variety of services to meet the needs of senior and/or disabled veterans: mobile and satellite clinics, tele-medicine, traveling physicians/nurses, and many other services, including these important home care services.

SPOILER ALERT: A VETERAN WHO ASKs FOR HELP is NOT, REPEAT, NOT TAKING SERVICES FROM OTHER VETERANS.

If you are a veteran receiving your primary medical care through the Veterans Administration system, you may be eligible for services to support your ability to remain at home with as high a quality of life as possible.

How does that work?  Your primary care physician at Togus actually needs to hear if you are having challenges with independent living.  That’s a pretty tough thing for any service member to say out loud. You might feel that being a veteran is about being tough, self-sufficient, and able to take care of yourself and everyone around you.  In fact, you may even feel that being a military person is about duty, responsibility, and not asking for help.

being a VETERAN is ABOUT SELF-SACRIFICE AND NOT ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN, RIGHT?  WRONG.

Being a veteran is tough duty, for sure.  Many vets believe they are “not sick enough.” They think they should “save the benefits for someone who really needs them.”  The truth is, former service members often go without services they truly need.  If the services are available and you are eligible for them, you need to know that this kind of thinking is flawed.  There is enough to go around.  A veteran with the courage to ask for help is not, repeat NOT, taking services from anyone else.

A proud veteran recognizes that after serving his or her country, the country really wants to serve them back.  Unsure?  Make an appointment with your VA Primary Care Provider to discuss your needs and options.

The State of Maine values its veterans in many ways, some of which may surprise you!  Check the Maine.gov website for more information.

veteran, home care, independence, home care, newcastle, maine