Author Archives: Sandra Pesmen

Doing Our Part for Alzheimer Research

They call us “Superagers,” and we’re part of an ongoing study of people over 80 who still lead busy, active lives.

I became involved when I responded to an item in the paper asking for participants and admit I was flattered when I was invited to join after a phone interview/memory test.

That was five years ago, and each October I take the train downtown to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, for three interviews a week apart, that each last three hours. We also are given an MRI each year to note changes. We are paid $10 an hour and given free parking in the lot across the street. Happily, they report there has been no change in my cognition and memory thus far.

The researchers explain the purpose of the study is to helps them better understand and identify factors that cotribute to “Superaging”–the maintenance of cognitive functioning in old age.

Our interviews also lend a comparison between us and those afflicted with the disease of memory loss.

We also all agree to donate our brains to the study when we die. That was a bit off putting at first, but then I considered, “What will I do with it?” and signed the agreement.

Today I attended the 24th Annual Alzheimer Day, presented at the Feinberg Conference Center at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The Keynote speaker,Dr.Jeffrey Kaye, Director of Oregon’s Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, explained how computing technology now also has been introduced in Dementia research and care.

Unfortunately, summing up, there are no cures yet, no one knows its cause beyond some genetics, but there finally is HOPE because of so many ongoing studies throughout the world.

The conference encouraged early detection and many care options as the symptoms intensify.

But the researchers welcome (and need) more candidates for study.

If you would like to help, call the Superaging Study at Feinberg 312 -503-2716.

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Time to Get Move On

After a wildly insane winter–Spring finally arrived and I’m enjoying the garden at last. I’m glorying in Jonquils, Purple Iris and Tulips, with the promise of Lilacs and Peonies blooming soon.

But that’s not enough to fill all our days. Spring and Summer also can mean times to TRAVEL!

“Too expensive,” you say?

Well, say again. You can go to travel agents or discount Web sites and hope they find you a great deal. Or you can go online yourself and really search for the best value. Sometimes it’s the airlines themselves.

Remember, the discounters buy up airlines’ special values, then offer them for a few dollars more. Still a good deal for you with a commission built in for them. Travel agents also get commissions from airlines through their sales.

So maybe it’s time to do it yourself. Be flexible enough to travel whatever day that week is cheapest. Usually that’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and sometimes Saturday. Also, be willing to take red eye flights or fly at odd (less busy) hours.

Example: I wanted to visit a friend in AZ, and one way tickets ranged from $325 to $700. I went to American Airlines site, found just a few “basic fare” tickets for midweek and scored one for $133. I wanted to fly to Denver to visit family members the following week, so after a similar search on American, I found a Wednesday afternoon flight for $133 and grabbed it. (The $20 insurance covered both flights, considering two one-way tickets a round trip.)

My trip home to Chicago from Denver was an even greater coup. A Monday afternoon cheapest fare would have been $236 on the American Airlines Web site. The same trip on Tuesday offered a Basic fare ticket for $60!

I asked no questions and grabbed again. And guess what? I didn’t buy the $20 insurance on this one.

So come on. Get going!
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To Speak or Not to Speak?

Unfortunately, as this presidency slogs onward , uncomfortable moments seem to increase everywhere we go.

Regardless of your political views–there is no avoiding the eventual opinions that pop up –pro and con-at ANY gathering.,

Out to dinner with six friends last week, the conversation started with comments about mutual acquaintances , movies we had seen and felt duty bound to review, and chatter about too much fried batter on the fish ‘n chips, (though I found it just fine.)

But toward dessert,there was a sharp turn to the right. Literally. One of the six made a clearly racist remark and attributed justification for it to her political party that, she claimed, “…understands how I feel and agrees with me.”

Her mate kept eating with no apparent surprise. Two others blanched, and sputtered arguments in an effort to show her remarks were, at the very least, unAmrican.

I felt the usual dilemma because I have been determined not to allow the bewildering political scene undermine longtime friendships. At such moments I usually cut in and ask that we all remember our treasured long-time friendships and refrain from political talk in such “mixed” company.

But this was different. It wasn’t just someone proclaiming good or bad traits of a political figure or law. This was an undeserved, mean, (actually cruel), biased, unsubstantiated (actually false), remark about an entire race. I had to ask myself where this would stop if people who believe in equality and truth let such malicious lies go unchallenged.

I said as much to the dinner crowd and faced silence in return.

Unfortunately, we are in a situation where, for the first time, we can actually lose friendships over differing views. But I contend this wasn’t really political.

Everyone has the right to chose a party, support it, and vote for its candidates. We also have an obligation to speak up about such candidates qualities and defend them when necessary.

But racism is outside the bounds. No American party should support it, and all of us should feel obligated to shout out against it whenever we hear such destructive remarks.

I know many widows try to be agreeable and keep the peace whenever possible in order to keep our dwindling supply of friends. But we can’t afford to do that in these cases.

Speak up when you hear despicable racist talk. Our democracy, and that of our children, depends upon it.
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Moms’ Job: Cradle to Grave?

My friend Annie says her old Irish mother always said, “You will worry and try to care for your children from cradle to grave.” She meant THEIR lifetimes. Not yours.

And my old Jewish aunt said basically the same thing about maternal concerns, lasting “from the moment they open their eyes until you close yours.”

But where is it written that frail, elderly seniors should take on responsibility for senior children who unexpectedly face even more serious illness than they do? As we live longer and longer, it’s happening more and more.

Annie, now 88, has been living with a transplanted liver for 13 years. Hurrah for Annie! She watches her diet, exercises, religiously takes her medication to prevent organ rejection–and we all have been blessed with these joyful years since her liver cancer diagnosis and cure.

But there’s always a fly in the ointment, isn’t there? No matter how cheerful and grateful Annie is, she breaks down now and then in despair over her son, Tom, a 64-year-old Army veteran, with diabetes, heart disease and the myriad of ailments that accompany both.

Tom’s still a year away from Medicare, and because he worked and saved his money, he has a small savings account that prevents him from qualifying for Medicaid. Fortunately, his military service qualifies him for care from the VA and it has literally saved his life, since he can’t afford insurance, is too young for social security too, can’t work and lives on a small disability allowance.

That leaves “Mom” to drive Tom 50 miles to and from the VA Hospital for appointments, treatments and emergencies–of which there are many. She has arranged for cleaning help to come to his government owned low rent apartment a few days a week. But that leaves at least four other days for Annie to go over and do laundry, make sure Tom is bathed, clean his bathroom and kitchen. He is incapable of keeping the place–or himself– up between maid visits. He recently began to need a wheelchair.

What will happen to Tom when Annie can no longer do this job she shouldn’t be doing in the first place?

“From Cradle to Grave.” “From the moment they open their eyes until you chose yours.”

This is out of order.

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What? Another Birthday? Can’t Be

I’ve had another astonishing birthday and–surprise–I’m still here.

I’m not only here, I’m still vertical and managing to walk a brisk mile and a half each day on the treadmill or outdoors. Also, My brain hasn’t deserted me.

Who knew that would happen? My mother died at 41 and my father died ten years later at 52. I assumed either of those years would be my “death anniversary” date.

It wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

After making a gala event for my 85th two years ago, our kids and grandkids decided to have a mini party for my 87th, and all came to spend the weekend together.

There was a lot of eating, of course, some here and some in restaurants, with a lot of laughter and wonderful memories.

When it ended, I decided I may as well stop waiting for my final moment (as I’ve done for about 30 years), and go ahead an buy a replacement for the TV chair that was falling apart, and while I was at it, get an upholsterer to repair the broken frame under the leather couch next to it.

If I don’t get my money’s worth before my exit, (which had been my concern) a child or grandchild surely will enjoy it. Meanwhile I am watching TV in comfort again.

At the same time, I called my home maintenance man to finally replace the cracked cement steps and sunken sidewalk outside the back door. There’s just no sense in having an 87-year-old lady fall off that ledge while she’s taking out the garbage. (Especially since she still can take out the garbage and remembers where to put it.)

I’m looking forward to seeing our landscaper soon too, to decide which old bushes to tear out and replace, and how many rose bushes to add out front. Also, it’s almost time to enjoy yet one more blossoming of the regal lilac bushes that line our backyard patio.

At this rate, I just may surprise everyone (especially myself) and hang around several more years.

That would be just one more of God’s pleasant little jokes.
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Fix Clogged Sink Natural Way

There are so many times that I miss my late husband, and one of those occurred as I was preparing next weekend’s holiday dinner and the kitchen sink drain clogged.

I used the plunger as my husband always did, but it didn’t seem to completely. Since a plumber once warned me to never put chemical products down a drain, I wondered if vinegar would help since I use it to clean almost everything else.

Checking online, I found one blog that suggested mixing one cup of vinegar with a quarter cup of baking soda and pouring it down the drain as it bubbled. The blog advised waiting an hour and then running water to clear it.

Before I had a chance to do that I found another blog by a chemist who did an experiment cleaning butter from a dish–and guaranteed that the vinegar/baking soda mix would only coat the sludge in my drain. Instead, she advised boiling a pot of water, adding a few tablespoons of dish washing detergent and pouring THAT down the drain. Leave it a few hours,she wrote, then pour another pot of boiling water in.

I did that and the sludge disappeared and the water rushed down the drain like a rabbit chasing carrots.

So quick! Try it yourself before your Easter/Passover dinner leaves you with a sink load of dishes you can’t wash!
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Walking for the Kids

I walk a mile every day for my health.

Saturday I walked that mile for the kids.

When I retired at 65 the doctor suggested I walk to help control my blood pressure and cholesterol. Well, it’s done more than that.

Medics tell me it has helped my brain stay alert, my knees, hips and other bones continue working, and helps maintain my weight.

I couldn’t get to an organized march this weekend, but I felt so strongly about this remarkable mission to control guns that the young people are waging, I supported them in my own way.

Taking the American flag from the front porch, I carried it on my usual route through the neighborhood.

Now all YOU have to do is walk to the polls in November and vote for candidates you believe will help our beleaguered country survive.

My Day As An Election Judge

I saw a notice in the paper that my county couldn’t find enough people to work as judges in the March 20 gubernatorial election.

To apply one had to be a U.S.citizen and registered voter. High school or college students in good standing also were invited to apply, and there was no discrimination against seniors.

So I sent an email listing my required qualifications because I sincerely felt, and still feel, it’s our civic duty to perform any government service we can, especially while our country is in such a precarious state.

I received an immediate confirmation and learned judges had to attend a four-hour training class one week before the election, work a few hours setting up the polls the night before the election, and work election day from 5 a.m. (setting up again) until 9 p.m., which included counting ballots and repacking equipment after polls close. The pay was $140 plus $50 for attending the training class. (You do the math for the hourly wage.)

The training included a fast run through a 300-page workbook and quick hands-on exercises on special polling place computers. I was so confused I went home to practice the rest of the week on the Cook County website’s online tutorial, while rereading the manual over and over. (Add about 25 anxious hours and do the math again.)

When we finally got to the polls Tuesday morning I felt totally inadequate, sure I didn’t understand anything about what I was supposed to do. The three other judges were considerate and set me up at Station 2, where I passed out ballots after people had been checked in on the computers, and then I directed them to the voting booths and escorted them to the scanner which accepted their ballots.

It was a very long day. I never did feel I knew what I was doing, though the others did let me check in a few people so I felt I learned a bit more about how the operation worked.

I felt better when I read a review of being a judge on the watchdog website www.glassdoor.com. It gave the training and job one star, and complained that the county provided “inadequate training and expected you to know everything about the procedures during what was an extremely long day.”

I was glad to read I wasn’t the only one who felt stupid doing this civic duty. But I did take umbridge over the writer’s comment that “elderly judges, who probably do it for the money, are slow and not computer savvy.”

Well, this elderly judge has been computer savvy since 1976, but she’s right that I did it for the money. I am giving it all to the campaigns of candidates in the November 2018 election who I hope will save my country–because that’s my real civic duty.

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Call Me Twinkle Toes

There was a time when I could stand up, put one foot at a time on a chair, and neatly clip my toe nails.

Today, with older eyes, It’s really difficult for me to give my toenails the same full treatment. So I’ve taken to dropping in to the local nail salon to have that done every few weeks.

And, as long as I was there, and they offered a special price for a “mani-pedi” on Mondays and Tuesdays, I got the whole deal for $37 plus $8 tip.

Imagine how pleased I was to hear from my friend Beverly that Medicare will pay for me to visit a podiatrist every six weeks for the same service, plus callous’ removal and general foot care, even diagnosing fungus that may lurk beneath the nails.

Happily I just made my first appointment. Since this doctor doesn’t paint nails, as soon as the weather is warm again, I’ll return to the salon now and then for purple toenails too.

But until then I’ll enjoy regular medical toenail heath.

A nice surprise. Try it.
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A Peaceful Refuge

Any longtime fan of author Elizabeth Berg—like me–will enjoy her wonderful new book, “The Story of Arthur Truluv.”

But if you’re a widow–like me– you’ll find special comfort in it too. For the hero, Arthur Moses, 85, still is hopelessly in love with his late wife, Nola, and visits her grave each day to enjoy his bag lunch in her company. He finds refuge in the peaceful surroundings.

I won’t spoil the plot,though I promise you it is fine, but I will say Berg’s skill and sensitivity shines through every page.

Here’s a sample:

“The earth has begun softening, because of spring. The earth is softening and the buds are all like tiny little pregnant women. Arthur wishes Nola were like spring; he wishes she would come back again and again. They wouldn’t even have to be together; he just wants her presence on Earth. She could be a baby born into a family far away from here, he wouldn’t even have to see her, ever; he would just like to know that she’d been put back where she belongs. Wherever she is now? That’s the wrong place for Nola Corrine, the Beauty Queen…

“Arthur takes a bite of his sandwich.Then he gets off his chair and kneels before Nola’s headstone, presses his head against it and closes his eyes. He cries a little, then he gets back into his chair and finishes his sandwich.”

One takeaway for us all? The memorial parks where our beloveds rest provide peaceful settings for lunch on a pleasant day. Comfort comes in many unexpected places.

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