AgingParents.com provides coaching and consulting programs for those who are having difficulty with aging loved ones or clients. We address issues about loss of financial capacity, family conflicts and other matters of aging. We serve financial service professionals, families, caregivers and those in the elder services industry.
Most of another, or us, at one time, know someone who has to spend time in a long-term care facility. It could be an aging parent, a friend or you yourself. These places are called “rehab”, nursing homes, long-term care homes or skilled nursing facilities. What makes them different from other places where those recovering from surgery or medical events go is that skilled services are available daily. Skilled services can include nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy and other outsourced specialists who can visit the home.
As one might know about our healthcare system, in general, is that it can be very disjointed, with poor communication among service providers. This can lead to unsatisfactory care or even harm to a resident. Vulnerable residents who can’t speak for themselves are at particular risk. What can the family member or friend do about this?
One option most don’t hear about is to ask for a “care conference”. This must be done at the family or resident’s request and the facility is required to make this available. They likely won’t tell you this, but now you know. I recently made such a request for a disabled brother in a rehab facility who had suffered a heart attack and needed therapy in his recovery. The different therapists there apparently did not talk to each other or read the record. My brother had had a stroke a few years earlier and his speech is impaired. The speech therapist that I’d spoken to a few weeks prior to the conference did not read the record and had seen my brother without knowing that he had impaired speech from a prior stroke! That set off alarm bells. Besides educating him, I realized that a care conference would be needed to get all the people involved together in one room so that all understood my brother’s problems and the rehabilitation goals more clearly.
We set up a time and date for the conference. I asked for all the therapies to be represented, along with the nurse in charge. I flew into town to attend and met another relative on site, one who lived closer and visited more often. A general care review was done and we, the family made suggestions and requests. The staff were cooperative. They needed to understand my brother’s personality and his history, what he historically could do and not do and how he went about things. My hope was that the care conference would correct the ineffective approach some staff were taking and help them be of better service to my brother, who could not communicate very well.
Follow up will include holding them accountable for what happens and to stay on top of meeting his needs as well as possible. We do that with regular phone calls to the charge nurse whose job it is to coordinate care.
The takeaway is that anyone with a loved one in a care facility for rehab needs to know that you have a right to ask about and question care as well as to offer input. One way to do so is by requesting a care conference. You can learn and the staff can learn from you. It is a way of addressing the fragmented communication you are likely to find in any of these facilities. Do not hesitate to exercise this right. It can make a difference. If you’re not sure where to get started and need some help, contact us: email@example.com to set up a consultation.
Visits with your aging parents often are a wake-up call this time of year. Perhaps you haven’t seen your loved ones for some time and when you do, it’s startling. Aging can be a gradual process for some but for others, the changes accelerate so fast it shocks those who haven’t seen them in months.
None of us can predict how we will age. We all wish it were about not having to depend on others, but that not how things normally work. Aging takes its toll on body and mind and we can be forced to rely on others to help us at some point. What is that point?
If you visit your aging loved one, notice these five things. Anyone of them is a red flag. It can be a warning to you that help is needed and a serious discussion is mandatory if you want them to stay safe. Don’t wait for your loved one to bring up a need for help. Too often, they can’t face it and are in denial. Many older people are terrified at the thought of being “put in a home” which they see as a form of imprisonment. Loss of control over their lives is the fear. Those living alone are especially vulnerable as day-to-day, no one is watching.
Unusually unkempt appearance. Forgetting to comb one’s hair is one thing. By itself, it may not mean much. But dirty clothing, lack of basic hygiene, failure to notice grooming and personal appearance are a deeper problem. If a parent was always fastidious and you see a change, don’t dismiss it as unimportant. It is a signal that something has changed.
Inability to track the conversation. An aging parent who was, in the past, able to participate in a discussion about current goings on or any more serious subject and now can’t keep up or follow what is being said is showing you signs of cognitive decline. There may be several explanations for this, but it is not normal and not “just getting old”. Normal aging does not cause us to lose intelligence.
Repeating one’s self over and over again. Older people start to lose short-term memory when dementia is developing and short-term memory loss is a classic sign of cognitive impairment. If your loved one keeps asking the same question you just answered or tells the same story six times an hour, you have a warning that could mean dementia is in process. Your loved one needs a doctor visit to check it out.
Unsteady on her feet, recent falls. If your loved one seems wobbly on her feet and is holding onto the furniture to get around in the house, you are seeing a big red flag. Falls are unfortunately common among elders and are often the trigger that leads to injury, hospitalization, and loss of independence. Perhaps she needs a walker or cane. An evaluation by her physician and a physical therapist can avoid what your aging parent dreads most: losing the ability to be on her own.
Unattended paperwork around the house. This includes unpaid bills, collection and dunning notices, and requests for renewal or information appropriately sent to the home. Your aging parent may be having trouble keeping track of finances. This is a warning that it is time for the adult child to step in. An aging parent may not be set up for automatic bill payment online but you can offer to do this for them. That will enable you to not only track what is going on financially but protect them from things like insurance being terminated, utilities being cut off and worse yet, financial abuse.
Learn more about best ways to help your aging parents as you begin to take more responsibility at AgingParents.com.
Here is a true story about an older person with cognitive decline who was being manipulated by his live-in girlfriend. His son was not sure of what he could do.
Jay is an only child and his dad, Jeremy is 88, in failing health. Jeremy lives with his longtime girlfriend, Wilma. Jay is having a very hard time moving forward to take control of his dad’s finances, which are considerable, even in the face of Wilma manipulating his father. A lot of cash and valuable real estate is at stake. From the look of it, Wilma is getting Jay to sell off things, putting the cash in places she thinks Jay can’t find and trying to keep Jay from ever seeing his father without her present.
Jay doesn’t want to stir things up.
What’s wrong here? The signs of financial elder abuse are popping up and Jay is hesitant to admit that his father is no longer competent. Over a year before the odd financial transactions started, his dad’s doctor warned Jay that his father had dementia, that it was advanced and that he needed to be aware of this problem. Jay took no action.
The warning signs Jay saw: Wilma would not let anyone talk to Jeremy without her listening in or being present. She isolated Jeremy from others. Wilma had persuaded Jeremy, a confused property owner to sell some real estate and she had him put the cash in an account outside Jeremy’s trust.
Jay, whose real name is not used here, sought advice at AgingParents.com where he got expertise he needed to get moving. Here is how that worked.
First, Jay was asked to send all his father’s estate planning documents to us so I could determine what it would take under the terms of his family trust to have Jeremy resign or be removed as trustee of his large estate. The trust provided that a letter from Jeremy’s doctor stating that he knew his patient and knew that Jeremy was incapacitated for managing his finances was needed. Given that the doctor had already told this to Jay in so many words helped. Getting the letter was not a problem. I helped Jay understand what words needed to be on paper to be consistent with what the trust required.
Next, Jay needed to meet with Jeremy’s estate planning attorney to do the paperwork showing that Jay, the appointed successor trustee was now the sole trustee and his father was no longer in that position. That worked well, as he and his father had met with the attorney previously. The attorney knew what Jeremy had wanted.
Third, Jay, with the certificate showing that he was now the trustee in hand, had to go to the banks, and to the property managers working for his father to let them know that he was now the decision-maker. In addition, he had to go to his father’s home and gather up all financial records so that he could regain the control Wilma had sneakily been taking by manipulating Jeremy. Jeremy was easily confused, easily led and afraid to do things without Wilma telling him what to do.
The takeaway from this story is that when your aging parent begins to decline in health and shows signs of dementia, you can’t let that continue without putting your loved one at serious risk of manipulation. Yes, it’s work to change the legal documents. Yes, it all takes your time. And yes, it requires coordination between you, the adult child, the estate planner and the doctor to keep your loved one safe. But if you want to preserve your aging parent’s legacy for your own offspring and yourself, take the time. Note the danger when there is an unmarried companion of your aging parent who can get into a position of diverting wealth from your loved one’s estate.
If you have an aging loved one who ever has to go to a nursing home, beware of a nasty practice in which some of these facilities engage. It is disgusting to think that a nursing home will not only violate the law in refusing to allow its own resident back into the home after going to a hospital, but it will callously separate spouses by doing so. They prey on low-income Medicaid recipients.
That’s what happened to eighty-two-year-old Gloria Single who lived at Pioneer House, a nursing home that accepts Medicaid residents. She and her husband lived there together until she went to a hospital, expecting to return to Pioneer after she was released from the hospital. Instead, after she was medically cleared to return, Pioneer House refused to let her come home, thereby cruelly separating her from her husband. She now is staying in another home, still hoping to be with her husband again. We think this is outrageous!
Ms. Single would have been voiceless but for the advocacy of AARP Foundation, the affiliated charity of AARP. According to Foundation attorney Kelly Bagby who represents Ms. Single, she has a clear legal right to return to the place where she lived, and the nursing home’s practice of dumping her is clearly against the law. The lawsuit alleges that she is a victim of a corporate policy of evicting low-income residents to make room for more lucrative Medicare or private pay residents. In other words, they dump vulnerable people so they can make more money on other residents who are paid by better sources than Medicaid. Having interviewed the attorneys, I learned that they estimate at least 200 such illegal eviction cases in CA alone just in the last year.
If your own aging loved one is ever mistreated or dumped from a nursing home, know that he or she has rights that can be enforced. The place to start is with the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. From there, know that attorneys who work at AARP Foundation may take up the cause of your elder to enforce their rights.
It is our hope for her here at AgingParents.com that justice will be done and Ms. Single can be reunited with her husband before it is too late. For professional advice about your vulnerable aging loved ones, contact us at info@AgingParents.com. We care about them and you!
Hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and earthquakes have all struck families this year. Sometimes your aging parent or other loved one is displaced and adult children must suddenly take them in. If your family member was in a care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living, you may suddenly face caregiving responsibilities without notice ahead of time. Communication with doctors may be sketchy or cut off when power is out. What should families do?
If you are unexpectedly taking on caregiving for an aging parent because of displacement, whether temporarily or longer term, there are some basics you can consider and do.
If you are able to contact the primary care physician, get a complete list of all medications your parent takes. If your parent has some bottles of pills, compare them with the doctor’s record to be sure you have a complete list and that it is up to date. Order any medications needed. When a vulnerable elder misses doses of essential medication it can quickly lead to a crisis.
If you are unsure of the care routine your parent needs, get a professional evaluation at your home from a geriatric care manager. Care managers, often with nursing or social work backgrounds, can assess your loved one and create a written care plan. The care plan should address your loved one’s physical, social and emotional needs. Recommendations about safety hazards, adjustments, and equipment your loved one needs should be included. The care manager will visit, evaluate and leave you with a written guide as to what needs to be done.
Displacement is traumatic for an older person, just as the sudden responsibility for daily caregiving can be stressful for the family. Encourage your aging parent to talk about it, and ask what might make them feel more comfortable. Your loved one may not want to speak up, feeling that she is being a burden. Offer her your reassurance that you will all get through this difficult transition together.
A care facility where your loved one was living provided structure and opportunities for socialization. Consider whether a local senior center in your community might offer opportunities for making social connections with others and find out if he is willing to give it a try and visit a center. Isolation can be depressing for anyone. Many senior centers have directories of other senior-oriented services available nearby too.
Devote time to yourself when you can. If you can bring in caregivers to help you with tasks for your aging parent, that can give you relief and allow you to go to your job or other activities. Attend to your other important relationships by spending time with them. The sudden addition to your daily lives can stress communication between spouses, partners, and kids still at home. Take breaks.
Most of our aging parents receive Medicare, which is supposed to pay “covered medical costs”. And for the most part, it does. But then there are the mistakes. Are your aging parents helpless when Medicare refuses to pay for something that appears very legitimate? They get a bill for something that is supposed to be covered but instead shows that Medicare covered none of it and your aging parents are responsible for the full amount. Maybe you, the adult child will get a call about this. Here’s what you need to know about wrongful Medicare denials. Not taking action can leave an aging parent with a big bill, which they should not be forced to pay. They are not without recourse. But for an aging loved one, someone else may need to get involved to help them fight back when Medicare makes a mistake.
Medicare is a massive system and when anything that big is run by humans who make errors, sooner or later an expensive mistake can hit your aging parents. It happened in my own family and it is worth sharing how we prevailed in a dispute that should never have happened.
95-year-old Alice, who lives in a seniors’ apartment and normally functions independently was having trouble. She had recently had a bout of pneumonia that landed her in the hospital, close call for anyone that age. She recovered but had a scary memory of what it felt like to have trouble breathing. She was just getting back to her normal routine. Things were stable. But one night she awoke gasping for breath. Trying not to panic, she pressed her emergency alert button on her pendant (which we had finally convinced her to wear!) and the paramedics were summoned. They promptly took her to the ambulance, started oxygen and an IV and rushed her to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. She was admitted, treated, and after a few days she returned home. All seemed ok. Until the ambulance bill came. Medicare denied payment of it for no apparent reason.
Medicare does cover ambulance bills under most circumstances, as well as all ER treatment and the hospitalization itself. That is what the premiums pay for. She had never had this kind of trouble from Medicare before. We got involved because she was frustrated and upset over it. Here’s what family needs to know:
Anyone whose bill is denied by Medicare has a right to appeal the decision. Medicare is required to give the person a letter with the denial, explaining the right to appeal.
The appeal process is tedious, makes little sense and is likely to result in another denial or two. You have to follow the steps in the Medicare letter exactly and persist. This is where the family can help.
With a legitimate bill, like the ambulance bill, Medicare can come up with any screwy basis for the denial they wish to use. In her case, they seemed to imply that she could have gotten to the ER by magic carpet or taxi or some other ridiculous means when she was gasping for breath. Dumb reason.
Persist and ask for a hearing after the next denial. Again, Medicare must inform you in writing of the right to ask for a hearing. It takes place by phone. The judge does not read all about it before taking testimony from the Medicare recipient. After hearing the testimony by phone, the judge then reads what was submitted by the Medicare recipient after the first and second rounds of denial. In Alice’s case that was proof of her diagnosis and admission to the hospital that night as well as a letter from her son, my husband. Alice did just fine. She told the judge what happened after being prepped the day before by us. Telling the truth is not difficult.
The result from a hearing is much more likely to be successful than submitting written proof prior, as we did, that the bill was legitimate. You have to do it to make a record, but perhaps no one actually looks at it during that stage of this process. The judge is required to read the material and presumably considers it. With the earlier repeated denials, one would think that the proof had been submitted to a robot programmed to an automatic “no”.
Medicare has endless rules and ways to deny payment for lots of things ordinary people think should be covered. The takeaway from this is that our aging loved ones are vulnerable to unreasonable denials of legitimate claims to Medicare and that they may need our help in navigating the appeal process. Alice simply could not have managed this journey by herself. She got confused by the letters. She got mad because she really needed the ambulance that night and how dare they say she didn’t?
She didn’t know what to do. With our help she prevailed. We were quite happy that the judge at her hearing got it and did the right thing. The process was a pain. But with it, the bill was paid in full. Have you had this situation or something similar occur with your aging parents? We’d love to hear your story. Comment here or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhonda is a 91-year-old widow and lives independently. She has a few million in investments and has planned well for retirement. Her two sons are busy and leave her to make decisions about her money independently. What Rhonda’s sons didn’t know was how vulnerable she was to a financial predator. She loved to play sweepstakes and did so regularly, a year before things came to a crisis point.
She got really excited about the prospect of winning. A scammer, who probably purchased her name from the sweepstakes companies, got in touch with her by phone. “You’ve won!” he exclaimed excitedly. He then went on to use a classic scammer’s trick. He told her she could get her million-dollar check if she would just pay the “fee” for transferring the funds. Sometimes the trick is paying the “taxes” or the “insurance fee”. It’s all the same. The scammer, or predator, claims that they will deliver the check in person in exchange for the cash from the mark. Scammers of this sort often target the elderly because they are easier prey.
Luckily, Rhonda’s son found out and he and his brother tried hard to talk their mother out of this. She insisted that they didn’t understand and that “Mr. Banks” (don’t you love the name?) was a good person and that he was going to deliver her winnings to her for real in person soon. No amount of reasoning could persuade her she was about to be victimized.
Her son, Jamie called us at AgingParents.com. “What can I do?” he asked. We had to act fast as “Mr. Banks” was coming the following week to “deliver her winnings” and pick up the check. Rhonda was still the trustee over her multi-millions despite the fact that she had been showing clear signs of cognitive impairment for over two years. No one had taken any steps to keep her safe until this crisis.
We asked Jamie to get her trust and any estate planning documents ASAP. He did so. Reviewing them showed that he was a co-trustee on the trust. It also revealed that Jamie was the “attorney in fact” on her Durable Power of Attorney and that he could act immediately. He got careful step-by-step instructions as to how to stop transactions on her accounts, and how to confront the nefarious “Mr. Banks” when he called to finalize the time to meet with Rhonda.
I personally called Rhonda’s financial advisor to let him know about the imminent abuse, that transactions should be held until either Rhonda resigned as trustee or until Jamie could put a stop to Rhonda’s attempts to get thousands of dollars for the predator. The advisor’s response was: I don’t know of anything I can do”. That shocked me. He could have put a hold on transactions until Jamie was able to get Rhonda to allow Jamie to be a co-signer on the accounts. Jamie did this but with no help from the financial advisor.
Fortunately, the outcome on this matter was successful. Jamie used the power of attorney to stop any transfers out of Rhonda’s account. She was too confused to argue with that action. When “Mr. Banks” called, Jamie was present and asked him “Who are you anyway?” Banks claimed he was a long lost relative and when Jamie told him he was nothing of the kind and to get lost, he actually did. Rhonda did not hear from him again. Whew, close call!
The takeaways for adult children of aging parents from this true case are these:
Stay in contact with your aging parent. Diminished capacity leaves a trail. If you see those little signs of memory loss, consider that your loved one is probably not safe to be the one in sole charge of her finances. Predators love impaired elders. Protect them from abuse by being a co-signer on all accounts.
Get documents in order. Make sure that you have estate-planning documents, including a power of attorney and that someone in the family is appointed to take over in the event of incapacity. When you see incapacity warning signs, pay attention. Don’t just let the elder keep going on alone with their money decisions.
Recognize that your aging parents, age 85 and up are at very high risk for dementia or diminished capacity. The risk is at least one in three. Some experts put it at 50%. Be on the lookout for signs of diminished capacity and have a plan in place to address it. In the earliest stages of dementia, a person loses financial judgment and is a prime target for scammers of all kinds.
Learn more about we can help you protect your aging parent from becoming prey to predatory scammers at AgingParents.com.
For most adult children with aging parents, there is often the dilemma of whether or not they should be involved with monitoring their aging parents spending habits. You want to honor their independence, but what if they show signs of slipping? Should you talk about it or just wait until “something happens”? Here’s something critical that every adult child needs to know: if your parent shows signs of mental decline something is already happening. Don’t wait. Research makes it clear that the ability to manage finances is the first thing to go downhill when a person is developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. A cognitive decline could be for any other reason, too. We should not ignore it.
Penny is 93 and until recently, the professionals in her life saw no particular reason to be concerned about her mental status. She was usually clear, at least until she was 92. Her accountant thought she was on top of her finances. Her lawyer did too. But Penny was managing seven separate real estate investments and no one in her family, particularly her son, was helping her. He may have thought she was fully capable as did her acquaintances. She had been successful for decades. But then her lawyer, living in a different city, wanted her to sign a document and have it notarized. She got confused and insisted that it be done incorrectly. The document came back a mess. Still, her lawyer thought Penny was probably ok, just attributing the error to “normal” forgetfulness. At AgingParents.com, I would have advised her lawyer otherwise. Forgetfulness is a warning sign.
Her son was not so sure about Penny being capable any longer. Other little changes had popped up. He finally got her to a doctor who wrote a letter with the opinion that Penny was no longer able to manage her personal and financial affairs. That triggered her son taking over managing the property, among other things. He was not prepared for what he found. Of the seven real estate holdings, five had IRS liens. Penny had failed to pay the property taxes. That meant that he had to sell the one building that was not encumbered to raise cash to pay back taxes on the others and to use the cash to fix up the buildings, most of which had fallen into disrepair.
Penny is a good example of an elder who is generally pretty clear but is definitely not able to handle finances any longer. The process of her cognitive decline did not happen overnight. It had taken several years. During that time she endangered her assets, lost track of her finances and could have lost most of her real estate to tax liens. Could this be prevented?
Yes, prevention can protect someone like Penny, but it typically takes close monitoring and recognizing the warning signs of diminishing capacity in an older person. At the first signs of “slipping” monitoring needs to either begin or increase. For adult children or others in a position to help, this means getting online access to the bank accounts so you can see what is going on. If there is real estate, either go and eyeball it yourself or hire someone to do so. Look at the books. See if bills are paid, taxes are current and management is sufficient. As people age, these complex tasks can easily become too much to handle. For the heirs, it is a matter of securing what is likely your legacy from your parent. If you think you are intruding, get past that. The financial safety of your elder is at stake. None of us can shroud ourselves in the familiar of trusting an aging parent completely, regardless of how bright, experienced and accomplished that elder may be. Age changes us. It can erode good judgment and attention to financial detail.
Monitoring finances online does not require the direct involvement of your aging parent except to give the ok. You check often and notice all financial transactions. For my own family, my hubby monitors all his 94-year-old mother’s activity. He made a deal with her to call him every day. She does. He sees all charges on her credit card and he oversees her tax preparation and payments. So far, so good. She doesn’t have dementia but she needs watching. We have to practice what we preach: keep a close eye on someone that age. So many aging parents would benefit from this kind of oversight. How about yours? Our book, The The Family Guide to Aging Parents can also help. Get your copy today.
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com
Is your aging parent one of the many battling Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia and taking medication? Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a Silicon Valley, California-based geriatrician, recently quoted in an article in The Mercury News, strongly advises against elders taking certain everyday medications as they undo any benefits of other prescribed medications. Landsverk has an impressive background. She is an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University and is triple board certified in geriatrics, internal and palliative medicines.
Choline is a chemical that brain cells need to communicate with each other and is found in medications that seek to treat dementia. Dr. Landsverk advises that medication for the senior brain works differently than on a younger one.
“It’s interesting; I’m contrary to what’s often done out in the community for behavioral issues in elders,” Landsverk said. “I follow the academic geriatric principal and the Beers Criteria List, which list meds that probably shouldn’t be given to elders as they have worse side effects than they do in younger adults.”
Landsverk is the founder of ElderConsult, a geriatric medicine practice that provides in-house calls primarily to senior patients with dementia or agitation throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. During these house calls, she looks at her a comprehensive list of all of the medications her patients are taking and determines which can be removed.
Many common medications that an elder may take every day are anticholinergic, which means they decrease levels of choline. For example, antihistamines like Benadryl, anti-anxiety medications like Ativan and Xanax, and antidepressants such as Prozac and Cymbalta are all anticholinergic. Dr. Landsverk has a complete list of anticholinergic medications that can be found on her website, here.
When an elder takes an anticholinergic, she is likely to become more confused and experience worsening of dementia, memory loss, and agitation. Some additional complications can include dry mouth, lightheadedness, blurred vision, constipation, difficulty starting and continuing to urinate and loss of bladder control. In other words, some prescribed as well as over the counter medications often do more harm than good to elders.
Dr. Landsverk does not prescribe sleeping medication like Ambien or benzodiazepines like Xanax or Ativan because they are a recipe for reduced brain function and agitation. “Xanax is short-acting and even if taken as directed could make you more anxious in between doses; it’s the ‘crack of benzos.’ Xanax in elders with dementia could cause irritation and agitation, and stopping the prescription can put some into withdrawal”, she said.
Some medications are good for elders, Dr. Landsverk says, such as low-dose aspirin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and Tylenol to control pain. Some types of antidepressants can work well for elders. Every elder is different. Before making any changes to your aging parent’s medication, be sure to consult their physicians. Adult children can be the watchers over their aging parents’ welfare including their medical regimens. To learn other ways to best keep your aging loved ones safe, check out our helpful book The Family Guide to Aging Parents at AgingParents.com. You can download it here too!
Does it seem impossible that a person can reach his last days and look back without any regrets at all? What does it take? We all seem to regret our mistakes and some of our choices in life. At AgingParents.com, we hear a lot from adult children of aging parents in poor health when these issues surface.
A friend and remarkable person, Dr. Albert Freedman, age 95
did look back and expressed only a positive view. He did not focus on money, how good he was at his work nor in touting what breakthroughs he had brought about as a comedy writer, tv producer, international journalist, or sexologist at a time when discussing sexuality was tabu. He could have bragged but never did. He remained always unpretentious. His passing is a loss to humanity and all who knew him feel it. He lived and shared a lifetime of accomplishments, overcame astounding obstacles, and was a pioneer in studying and publishing in the field of human sexuality. He could have spent time thinking about what he might have done differently. He never did that either. How unusual!
He and I spoke about his reaching the end of the road as his health declined. I asked him what he felt about it. “No regrets” he replied. Wouldn’t we all like for our aging parents and ourselves for that matter to be able to say the same? What’s the secret to living and aging with no regrets? Perhaps it’s doing what Dr. Albert did. He paid a lot of attention to those around him. He told his wife how much he loved and appreciated her every day. He kept a sense of humor and knew that laughter was as important as any medication. When he was in a social situation, he asked a lot of questions of those present rather than taking a lot of air time for himself to expound on anything. He expressed his thoughts and feelings openly, sharing both his frustration with the political climate and his joy in conversing with young people whom he saw as the hope of the world.
When a person lives to age 95, there is a lot to reflect on in the sunset of one’s life. Of course, there were tragedies, including harrowing experiences as a WWII vet, losing a wife and then a daughter to cancer, being blackballed in television along with print media back then for writing about human sexuality and how it should be free of shame and secrecy. He paid a price for being a pioneering educator in his field of sexology. Yet, knowing that he did a great deal of good, he did not regret paying that price. He was not bitter, despite many personal losses and painful experiences. He enjoyed the moment, the here and now every day he could.
Perhaps that is the lesson from Dr. Albert about living one’s life free of regret. Focus on the good, enjoy the moment, laugh a lot, and tell those dear to you that you love and appreciate them daily.For those who have aging parents whose health may be going downhill now, it is worth sharing his wisdom with them. Albert was in pain during his last days, yet he didn’t spend time complaining. His family and friends adored him. His caregivers, who surrounded him 24/7 toward the end, also loved him and thought of him as a hero.
I thought his was a nice way to go out, in a place of peaceful reflection, feeling satisfied with how he had lived. As sad as I am, I cherish his example of both how to live, valuing what we have rather than lamenting what we don’t have and how to die, with a satisfied feeling in his heart. As a Boomer, knowing that there are more years behind us than ahead of us, I’m trying to take in his wisdom.