Caregiving Wives: Secrets to Well-Being, Hope, and Optimism

Caregiving Wives: Secrets to Well-Being, Hope, and Optimism

“Hope is being able to see that there is more light despite all of the darkness.”—Desmond Tutu

Martha’s emotions were fried, wasted, washed up.

She felt that if she stayed one more day, hour, or minute in caring for her husband, she would wither and float away.

For Martha, this wasn’t everyday stress, but the anxiety to the extreme.

To quote Fiona Wood in Six Impossible Things, “It’s like she was a jar with the lid screwed on too tight, and inside the jar were pickles, angry pickles, and they were fermenting, and about to explode.”

Martha felt like packing her bags, walking out, slamming the door behind her, and racing down the street without looking back.

But leaving was impossible. Martha’s husband was bedridden dependent on her for every little thing—even wiping his nose when he sneezed.

Thus, Martha seemed at the point to where she was sinking into severe depression.

She felt hopeless and trapped.

What could Martha do, short of seeking the advice of a mental health professional? After all, depression and despair could lead to all sorts of health issues up to and including suicide.

In this article, I will discuss seven ideas Martha can use immediately that will ease her anxiety and increase her sense of emotional well-being.

However, first, I would like to share a story that illustrates the benefits of hope and optimism, which is something Martha desperately needs.

Benefits of Hope and Optimism

Secrets to Well-Being, Hope, and OptimismHope is more than mere desire and better than mere expectation. Hope is indispensable if you want to endure a difficult situation without giving up or sinking into a deep depression.

Hope is strengthening in that despite difficult circumstances, you wait patiently for the hoped-for thing.

In Martha’s case, she would hope for a positive diagnosis of her husband’s condition.

Would he get better?

But hope does not have to be passive. To sit and wait is the same as “wishing” that gets you nowhere. You must work. To hope means to have positive thoughts about your future and to be willing to take steps necessary to make it happen.

Hope in Action

I read a book by Jose Saramago titled Blindness, published in 1995. The book won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. Many consider this book Saramago’s dystopic vision, which means an imaginary place or society where everything is profoundly unhappy and miserable.

I’ve never read a more disturbing book. There’s mass blindness that pictures a loss of humanity.

Here is a brief plot summary as described on wikispaces.com:

Blindness tells the story of several individuals engulfed in a widespread epidemic of ‘white blindness,’ in which they only see bright white. The police quickly intern all the blind in an old mental hospital facility.

To stay with her now-blind husband, an ophthalmologist’s wife fakes her blindness into a new hell. A story of survival against an army of “liquidators and sacrifice ensues during which the last remaining seeing woman leads the internees to safety.”

So much happens to the characters in this book (the characters have no names, only descriptions). For instance, though helpless and interdependent, their behaviors are reduced to no more than animals.

The characters act worse than savages; they fight over food, commit rape, and murder. There is a total breakdown of what makes people human.

I’m not a literary scholar qualified to debate the themes and symbols of this book, but as a layperson, and one who enjoys reading good literature, I would describe Blindness as a book of horror!

As it turns out, “the doctor’s wife” never loses hope. In her compassion, she claws and scratches and schemes and even commits a murder herself.

In the end, when there seems to be no way out of “hell,” it is she, as the only person in the asylum not afflicted with blindness, that leads the group out of the asylum and helps them survive in the city.

The critical thought here is “hope.” No, hope isn’t passive; it’s a willingness to put into action steps to shape and invest in your future; it’s a positive outlook on your future.

However, the author Jose Saramago is an atheist Communist and believes religion is the cause of all humankind’s ills—including violence.

“Hope” means an expectation or desire for something to happen and as a possession of the Christian faith that hope is for everlasting life.

But as an atheist, did Saramago intend that one of his main characters should have hope?

Do atheists have hope?

We know that for many of the religious, hope gives peace of mind for what lies ahead. But atheists will say hope can be found apart from religion as there are many things to hope for: health, wellness, and happiness; for the power to make a better life for self and family, and so forth.

So even though, Saramago, as an atheist, would suggest no thought of religion or faith in a higher power, there’s no question in my mind that in his book Blindness, it is the “hope” that propels “the doctor’s wife” to take action—and win.

What Can Be Said About Optimism?

“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.”—William James

Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person?

Optimism means to be hopeful and confident about the future or your success in some endeavor—to expect a favorable outcome.

So, can optimism improve your health?

Most of us have to deal with the daily pressures of everyday life. These can lead to frustration, even panic. A pessimistic person sees defeat or a setback as permanent—also blaming herself for the situation. An optimistic person has hope and confidence in the future.

In a 30-year study of over 800 patients by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A. scientists found that optimists had better health and lived significantly longer than others.

The researchers also found that optimists coped better with stress, and therefore, less likely to develop depression.

Other benefits of optimism include:

  • It promotes a sense of happiness and wellbeing
  • It promotes self-confidence and boosts self-esteem
  • It enables you to take action to change or improve situations
  • It helps better feelings about money
  • It allows you to bounce back quickly from any adversity
  • It enables you to enjoy your work regardless of your job
  • It promotes peace of mind in situations over which you have no control

However, being optimistic is not easy, especially in an environment where problems stack up for almost everyone. It’s tough to think positively.

Three Tips to Feel More Optimistic

  • Focus deliberately on the positive when you find yourself thinking that you won’t enjoy something or you won’t succeed in some project. Consciously reject the thought (you “can” control your thinking; nobody can make you or force you to feel one way or another).
  • Seek out those that view life positively (the glass half-full attitudes).
  • Write down three good things that happened to you every day; always be grateful.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” –Proverbs 17:22

Seven Tips to Emotional Well-Being

  • Reduce Stress. Here are four easy ways to reduce stress: 1) breathe deeply; 2) focus on the moment; 3) reframe your situation; 4) keep your problems in perspective.
  • Meditate. You can find numerous how-to videos on YouTube, both long and short meditations, depending on how much time you have. Meditation gives you a quiet internal space, you need to be calm and peaceful, no matter your situation.
  • Exercise. Try both aerobic (jogging, fast walking, tennis) and muscle toners that include calisthenics and therapeutic exercise. Exercise delivers oxygen to the body cells, improves blood circulation, and overall health. (Always check with your doctor first before engaging in any form of exercise activities.)
  • Sleep. Better sleep = better health. Conversely, not getting enough sleep harms the body. Sleep is vital to your physical, social, and mental well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to forgetfulness, irritability, looking and feeling run-down, and depression. (See resources below.)
  • Eat well. “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts and interconnected.” –R. Colin Campbell. Vitamins and minerals have no calories. Food has all the vitamins and minerals you need. If your diet lacks a vitamin or mineral over a long period, you will develop a deficiency. (Speak with your doctor for diet and nutrition recommendations, including supplements.)
  • Create positive emotions. Yes, you can choose how to feel. Here are seven ways to do so: 1) concentrate on positive things; 2) talk about positive things; 3) laugh; 4) seek the company of positive thinkers; 5) treat yourself compassionately; 6) focus on helping others; 7) forgive.
  • Act the love. When caring for your spouse, one way to keep love alive is to call to mind his positive attributes: Was he a good provider? Was he kind towards others? Was he respectful? Was he generous in spirit? Considering questions such as these will help you to feel empathy for your loved one.

Finally, dear caregiver wife, you are performing a heroic work. It can be difficult.

You will, on occasion, have feelings of pain, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and sadness.

Whatever your feelings are, you should acknowledge and honor them.

If your emotions are to the extreme, please seek professional help.

But I assure you that if you follow the ideas I’ve shared in this article, you will be emotionally healthy, have a positive attitude, and compassion for your loved one.

Your heart will overflow with joy, love, and happiness.


 

Resources:

Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging (free). Call 1-800-222-2225

Fitness over Fifty: An Exercise Guide from the National Institute on Aging (Hatherleigh Press 2003)

The No Sweat Exercise Plan, written by Harvey Simon, a member of the Harvard Heart Letter editorial board, is published by McGraw Hill

Sleep quizzes: https://thesleepdoctor.com/sleep-quizzes

The Ultimate Guide to Better Sleep: https://kriscarr.com/blog/sleep-hygiene-guide/

www.Sleep.org

Find more ideas in my new book:
A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions   Find it on www.Amazon.com

 

 

Are You Sitting Your Life Away? 7 Tips to Reduce Health Risks

Are You Sitting Your Life Away? 7 Tips to Reduce Health Risks

“Sitting while socially engaged might be something that’s very good for you. Likewise, sitting for a few minutes to decompress after a stressful day could be good for you.” –Jacqueline Kerr, Ph.D., associate professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego

Are you sitting down while reading this article?  If so, we immediately have something in common because I’m sitting in front of my desktop computer writing.

How long have you been sitting?

What is sitting too much?

Under 2019 “Trending Articles” on the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health (PubMed) website, is the article, “Too Much Sitting: A Newly Recognized Health Risk.”

According to the PubMed article, even 30-minutes of continuous sitting is too long.

Are you sitting too much?

Some studies suggest sitting for a prolonged seven or eight hours may be bad for your health. However, according to the PubMed article, even 30-minutes of uninterrupted sitting can put you at risk.

What Are the Health Risks?

According to numerous studies:
  • Obesity; Too Much Belly Fat
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT); Blood Clots
  • Osteoporosis (weaken bones)
  • Misalignment of the Neck, Shoulders, and Upper Spine
  • Kidney Disease
  • Increased Anxiety (you withdraw from friends)
  • Early Death

Why Is Sitting Too Much Linked with Health Problems?

According to Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Health Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, Harvard Medical School: “Scientists can’t explain it. And they emphasize that a link doesn’t prove that too much sitting causes these diseases. One possibility: Sitting for a long time causes muscles to burn less fat and blood to flow more sluggishly. Both can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other problems.”

To quote Harvard Medical School: “Researchers aren’t sure why prolonged sitting has such harmful health consequences. But one possible explanation is that it relaxes your largest muscles. When muscles relax, they take up very little glucose from the blood, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes. “

One aerobic instructor put it this way, “Blood is getting stuck in your legs, and pooled at your feet. If your knees are bent, you’re further impeding the return flow back to your heart. Sitting too long allows your metabolism to slow down.”

Dr. Barry Braun, director of Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, says, “People who sit the most are most likely to be obese. However, are people obese because they sit too much, or do they sit too much because they are obese?” Thus, in some cases, it’s unclear which way the link goes.

What You Can Do to Stop the Negative Effects of Uninterrupted Sitting

Tip #1: Avoid long periods sat in front of a TV or computer.

Tip #2: Set an alarm clock on your cell phone (on low) to remind you to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes or so.

Tip #3: Stand at your desk for part of the day; talk to your boss about a treadmill desk or set your computer on top of a box.

Tip #4: “Walk and talk” rather than “sit and speak” while on the phone.

Tip #5: Walk around the house, touch your toes, or do a few stretching exercises to relax the chest and hip muscles.

Tip #6: Maintain stuff yourself such as vacuuming, washing your car, and cutting the grass instead of paying others to do your chores to keep the blood pumping.

Tip #7: Exercise during commercial breaks when watching TV.

Does Physical Activity Compensate for Sitting?

No. Exercise is not an “antidote” to excess sitting, experts say.

Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, says “It is increasingly clear that prolonged sitting is bad for everyone, whether they are fit or fat, or active or inactive.

“The experimental studies conducted by us and others are consistent in finding that sitting too much is unhealthy even in people who are not overweight and those who exercise regularly.”

Bottom Line

Based on the expert and scientific studies quoted above, it seems clear that less sitting and more moving overall contribute to better health.

“Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting seem to increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, says Dr. Laskowski of Mayo Clinic.

Who wants that???

So, stand up, walk around, stretch, get out of the chair or off the couch and move your body!

As David Bolton, physiotherapist says, “Motion is lotion.”

Finally

Here’s a link to Bow-flex, fitness advisor, Tom Holland’s YouTube video called “3 Stretches for People Who Sit All Day.” This video is less than three minutes long.

It demonstrates how to stretch the back muscles that get super tight from sitting all day. The video shows how to open up your chest muscles to improve posture, especially if you sit hunched over a computer keyboard for hours on end.  https://goo.gl/jkjFMm

I tried this exercise and found it to be super fun and useful.

Please, do not sit your life away. Think about the cost to your health, the pain, and misery of your body. Keep your joints, loose, mobile, active, and do so regularly—get moving!

Singlehood: The Angst and the Happiness

Singlehood: The Angst and the Happiness

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”—Henry David Thoreau

I chatted with a dear friend the other day who in her mid-sixties and had always been single, about the topic of being alone.

She had this to say: “I’ve led an active life with many friends. I have mentored many young women during my long 30-year career and even shared my experience with several men.

“But because of my strong independent streak, I have never been in a long-term relationship with a guy since my late twenties.

“Even now, after having had major hip surgery, while I do find it difficult to do some stuff myself, I own my own home and have lived alone unafraid for most of my life. I feel no sadness.”

Merriam-Webster defines “singlehood” as “the state of being single and especially unmarried.” But most people now use the term to refer to people who are not in a long-term relationship.

In 2017, The Census Bureau reported that a record number of more than 110 million adults in the U.S. were not married. They were divorced or widowed or had always been single. Or, forty-five percent of all Americans aged 18 or older are single.

This figure is up slightly in the General Social Survey 2018 data that shows just over half of Americans between the ages of 18-34 (51%) said they do not have a steady romantic partner.

And the people, who did marry, according to the Census Bureau, were taking longer than ever to do so. According to the report, the median age of first marriage rose to 29.5 years for men and 27.4 for women.

By the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, one in four of them will have been single all their life, according to Pew Research.

Are you single?

If so, and if singleness is a conscious decision, what does this data mean to you?

In the 1950s, society viewed singleness as abnormal. But many today find singlehood just as fulfilling without a partner.

Of course, there are many sides to the issue of singlehood.

What Do the Experts Have to Say?

One expert in the field of singleness, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., Social Psychologist at the University of California, authored Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After (2007). 

Dr. DePaulo writes extensively in the literature on this topic, including in Psychology Today.

Also, health journals and online news sites and health-related blogs often quote Dr. DePaulo.

Here are titles of just a few articles that reference Dr. DePaulo and her work:

“Women Single and Loving It,” by Jeanie Lerche Davis on WebMD

“Why More Women Are Staying Single,” by Olivia Willis on ABC Health & Wellbeing

“Five Health Benefits of Being Single,” Medical News Today

“There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Single,” CNN Health (written by Dr. DePaulo)

Separating Truth from Fiction 

Fiction 1: Marriage or long-term relationships ensure “happily ever after.” By getting married you will be happier, healthier or better off. You will have peace and tranquility. You will have someone to share your life with and will not grow old alone and die alone.

Truth 1: Yes, some studies show that married people are happier on average, but what about an abusive or unhealthy partnership? You will agree that such a situation can be psychologically devastating.

And there is no guarantee that you won’t die alone even if married. After all, how likely is it that you and your partner will die at the exact same time?? 

Fiction 2: Those who say, “Kids in single-parent homes are doomed!” These kids will end up as drug addicts, lawless, and anti-social while parents with two parents have perfectly conflict-free households.

Truth 2: Two-parent homes can provide many benefits. For instance, Sara McLanahan, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University in her research showed that “even a child in a stable single-parent household was likely to do worse on some measures than a child of a married couple.”

So it is true that raising children in a loving environment where they have access to opportunities, resources, and quality time from their parents, they will do well.

However, some studies show little to no differences between the kids raised by two parents and those in a single-parent home.

For example, a national study on substance abuse of more than 22,000 teenagers, found that about 5% of children of two-parent homes had substance abuse problems versus about 6% of children raised by single mothers.

Summary: the difference of 1% meant that the majority of children in single-parent households (94%) are doing fine.

Some situations do cause distress. Single-parent homes, for instance, is a matter of concern because many single parents and their children often will suffer economic need and social disadvantages.

The question often becomes if one parent can raise children successfully.

To quote one single mother of three: “Many nights I would pray to God in tears and say to him: ‘I don’t know what to do tomorrow’”

But unfortunately, single-parent families have become a permanent and noticeable feature in American society. And sociologists point out that the number of single mothers “overwhelmingly outweighs the number of single fathers.”

Regrettably, this can be one of the “angst of singlehood,” if you also happen to be a parent.

Poverty

Another circumstance where singlehood may cause women in particular apprehension is when she loses her partner in death. A significant percentage of older women, for instance, struggle to stay out of poverty after becoming widowed.

In fact, for individuals 65 and over, the poverty rate for women across all ethnicities and races is 15.6% versus 12.2% for men. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, How Many Seniors Live in Poverty)

 Singlehood and Psychology

Some who are single want partners. Perhaps they feel lonely. Others are seeking a “soulmate.” While it is true that a kind and loving companion can bring great joy to your life, singles should use caution and not rush into a relationship for the wrong reasons.

Marriage or a long-term relationship is not necessarily the solution to the problem of loneliness. For instance, poor communication can ruin a relationship. Feelings get hurt. One consequence could be that one partner becomes defensive and shuts down emotionally.

Would this not lead to loneliness?

So if you feel lonely, why not address the problem before you become romantically attached to someone? Adjust your attitude and habits. Take the initiative to make friends while you are still single and establish a solid foundation before entering into a long-term relationship.

Avoid Presumptuousness

Many people presume that most single women, in particular, are miserable and pining away for a partner.

Not so!

Let me tell you a funny story:

Another friend, a sharp-looking, self-assured woman in her late 50s, called to tell me how tired she was of men trying to pick her up. One approached my friend at a gas station, another in a restaurant, and a third man at a social gathering—all during one week.

She had me cracking up when she described these gentlemen as pathetic and groveling and seemed ignorant to the fact that not all single women wanted to be “courted.”

She kindly declined all of these advances.

My friend, like numerous others, treasures her solitude. Many single women appreciate the opportunity to express their creativity. They embark on intellectual journeys or engage in activities that involve getting in touch with their spiritual selves on their terms.

Happy While Single

Here is a shortlist of the “happiness of singlehood”:

  1. Freedom: to create a trajectory that suits them and fill their life with things that make them happy and fulfilled. They don’t try to please others and can do things at the drop of a hat.They can do whatever they want and however they want. When it comes to careers, hobbies, or education, they have real freedom to choose!
  1. Personal Space: to have time to spend with themselves. It’s not that single people are anti-social or dislike being around others, but they enjoy solitude and never feel bored.
     
    Single people do not crave to be part of a couple (married or in a long-term relationship). They don’t have to compromise with another person. One sociology professor described living alone in your apartment as an “oasis.”
  1. Health Benefits: an interesting article in Medical News Today (2018) stated that because single people do more sports than married couples, they weigh significantly less. They have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI).
     
    A high BMI, as we know, increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
     
    In this same article, it pointed out that mental health also improved because the single person has an increased sense of self-determination and enhanced personal development.
  1. Social Connections: in its research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that single people (both men and women) are more likely to keep in touch.
     
    Single people assist aging parents, siblings, and close friends more so than married or divorced people. Connectedness protects health; isolation increases the risk of early mortality.
  1. Peacefulness: to enjoy a solitary existence. Similar to “personal space” above, single people like quiet because they can contemplate or think deeply and at length without disturbance. They enjoy fewer responsibilities with others taking up their time and energy.

The Not So Happy While Single

Here’s a shortlist of the “angst of singlehood”:

  1. Loneliness: as mentioned earlier in this article, having a significant other to share their life with is a big concern for some singles. It is not a deliberate choice to be single. Living alone does not appeal to some singles; they desire a soulmate.
  1. Economics: you have twice as much money if you’re married or in a committed relationship. You can share living expenses, vacations, eating out, and so forth.
     
    One single woman says each month her bank account statement and credit card bills remind her that there is “no splitting the cost.”And some single mothers, as I mentioned earlier, often suffer severe economic pressures and other social challenges. Some single mothers complain that it takes a “superwoman” to manage it all.
     
    Also, in the United States, there are more than 1,000 provisions (1,138 to be exact) in federal laws in which marital status is a big plus.
     
    Social security is but one example of the many benefits, rights, and privileges. If you’re married and your spouse dies, some of his or her benefits will go to you.
  1. Emotions: one single woman said, “Being single is the worst feeling in the world.” She had physical needs, such as two people in bed and shared love and caresses. No, she isn’t at all happy being single. And she feels frustrated. Perhaps you agree.
  1. Age: growing old alone scares many people. They fear they will die alone. Anxiety about this seems unreasonable. Anyone who nurtures family relationships and attends to their friends will have these people in their lives when tragedy strikes, and as they age.
  1. Health: some researchers say that married men, in particular, are healthier than single men. In an article published in the Health Daily News on March 23, 2019, entitled, “Single, Free, But Not So Healthy?” states that new research suggests, “Single life has its charm and freedoms, but adults who never marry may not live as long as their wedded peers.
     
    ”Numerous studies going back 150 years suggest that married men were more likely to practice good health habits, such as regular visits to the doctor, compared to single men and thus live longer.But this new survey, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles researchers, focused on men who never married.
     
    The researchers found that during an eight-year study, those who never married were 58 percent more likely to have died at the end of the study’s eight-year follow up period than those who were widowed, divorced or separated.
     
    The conclusion: that in this study at least, for men, marriage has a significant benefit on health.
     
    Another researcher, Howard S. Friedman, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside disagrees.
     
    Dr. Friedman stated, “We did not find that single men are at greater risk for premature mortality, but rather some men are at greater risk for poor marriages and poor health and that those poor marriages, breakups, and divorces are stressful.”
     
    (Single women, on the other hand, stay healthy despite not getting married.  They tend to have “good social networks” with people they can turn to when they need help.)

Summary

So there you have it. I’ve provided a brief discussion on the pros and cons, or should I say, the “Angst and the Happiness” of singlehood.

For many, singlehood is the way to go. It makes them happy and content to be on their own; they need the freedom, and control and having these far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

For others, they want a partner. They know that marriage is not a “magic bullet,” but feel “incomplete” without a life partner and crave for someone to share their life.

A final point:

Many single people say they are “single-at-heart.”

What does this mean?

Liz: “If you are single-at-heart,” this means single life suits you.”

Cynthia: “I think single-at-heart means you don’t aspire to live as part of a couple (married or otherwise).”

Anna: “I believe single-at-heart means I need my solitude. I need my own space.”

Misty: “Single-at-heart for me means that I find it more fulfilling to spend time on my own rather than spending it with other people.”

*****  *****

Are you single-at-heart?

If you get nothing else from this article, be assured that no matter what you choose—the single-life or a life partner, you can have a life of bliss!

 “I like being single. I’m always there when I need me.” – Art Leo

 

Gray Hair: A Crown of Beauty

Gray Hair: A Crown of Beauty

“I love to see old women. I love wrinkles. I love gray hair.”—Alber Elbaz (Israeli fashion designer)

Seven-year-old Erica jumped, skipped, twirled, and laughed as she stormed into her grandmother’s house.

She had just returned from Disneyland with her mom, dad, and other grandparents, grandad Bill, and grandma Alice.

“Did you have a good time?” her grandmother asked.

“Yes!” exclaimed Erica.

“What did you ride?” her grandmother wanted to know.

“We rode Space Mountain, Mad Tea Party, California Screamin’ and a bunch of other things! But grandma Alice didn’t ride anything,” said Erica.

“Well, why not?” asked her grandmother.

“Because grandma Alice has gray hair!” squealed Erica.

Yes, Erica thought gray hair was the reason her grandma Alice didn’t enjoy the rides at Disneyland.

What does this funny (and real) little story say about senior women?

In the mind of this young child, at least, gray hair is viewed as a sign of aging—grandma Alice was too old and frail and couldn’t keep up, which could not be further from the truth.

Erica’s grandma Alice was only 53 years old and a very active business owner who happened not to enjoy carnivals and amusement parks.

So should grandma Alice dye her hair?

After all, as noted in one reference work, “In every age and culture, hair expresses some part of the person beneath it.”

What do you want your hair to say about you?

I believe the central message one should want their hair to convey is health and attractiveness. You want to appear vibrant. 

Why does hair turn gray?

Graying doesn’t mean the hair dies. The visible portion of all hair is already dead.

Each hair on our head extends below the skin surface, and the end of that hair, which is the only living part, is called the “bulb’—that bulb functions as the hair factory.

Rapid division of cells in the bulb forms the hair, which absorbs melanin that is produced by pigment cells.

The reason hair turns gray is that the pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its color, stop generating melanin, and no one knows why. But without pigment, new strands grow in lighter and take on various shades of gray, silver, and eventually white.

Scientists believe that your genes dictate how early this happens.

I knew a man, for instance, who had utterly white hair—prematurely—in his twenties!

Thus, it appears to be beyond our power to prevent graying. This fact doesn’t deter people from trying.

For instance, there are some treatments, such as melanin injection. And of course, many dyes their hair—a practice that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The ancient Egyptians used the blood of bulls to color their hair.

Health Indicator

Hair can indicate the condition of your health.

Why?

Hair is one of the fastest growing tissues in the body, and any abnormalities in the chemistry of your body will show up in the growth structure of your hair.

Some doctors are even beginning to think that it is possible to diagnose a person’s illness by examining a strand of hair.

For instance, in infants, doctors can use blood tests and microscopic examination of the hair to diagnose Menkes Disease (Syndrome).

And you’re probably aware of how hair analyses can determine your drug use and your unique genetic code or DNA, which help the police to solve crimes.

Yes, hair analysis can be a useful tool.

Emotional stress can also affect hair. Extreme nervousness appears to disrupt the proper flow of nutrients to the scalp, thus causing hair problems.

Diet can also affect your hair. A balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, and not too many starches and sugars contributes to a healthy body, and in turn, healthy hair.

Consider these healthy tips:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, salmon, sardines, and mackerel: help to protect you from disease and gives you what your body needs to grow hair and keep it shiny and full.
  • Greek yogurt: has the vitamin B5 that helps blood flow to your scalp and hair growth.
  • Leafy vegetables: spinach has vitamin A, plus iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C that work for a healthy scalp and keeps your hair moisturized, so it doesn’t break.
  • Tropical fruits: such as guava that has lots of vitamin C that protect your hair from breaking.

More best foods for healthy hair:

In addition to the tips listed above, here’s an additional list of the best foods for healthy hair as reported in an article by Angela Haupt, www.health.usnews.com

  • Lean red meat (iron-rich; may help to regrow hair)
  • Eggs (contains biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health)
  • Bananas, beer, oats, and raisins (contain mineral silica to improve hair thickness)
  • Sweet potatoes (packed with beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A that nourishes your hair and skin, and protects against dull hair and dry skin)
  • Beans (legumes like kidney, lentils, are iron-rich and play a role in hair maintenance and support)
  • Oysters, crab, clams (zinc-rich choices to keep hair shiny and healthy)
  • Vegetable oil (healthy oils like olive, peanut, safflower, sunflower; about a teaspoon a day can restore shine)

To dye or not to dye gray hair:

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can’t put on make-up or dress yourself, or do your hair with any sort of fun or joy if you’re doing it from a position of correction.” – Kevyn Aucoin

Not all women want to hide or cover their gray mane. Comments I’ve read recently on the Web about this topic, include:

“My gray hair is a testament to my self-love and a celebration of getting older.”

“I find it freeing to stop coloring my hair.”

“I am embracing and love the color gray.”

Some women believe gray hair makes them look glamorous and visit salons to enhance their gray.

Did you see the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Meryl Streep played a silver-haired woman who projected power and confidence! These are qualities we would think of which gray hair robs us.

Many women wanted Streep’s look and visited salons to add strategically placed silver and platinum strands placed throughout their hair.

But there are, of course, many other women who believe gray hair ages them and fight this natural progression tooth and nail.

They feel uneasy about graying.

For instance, Diane shared with a friend:

“I got a haircut so I could see more of my natural color, which is gray and brown with red highlights. I liked the gray, but there wasn’t enough of it. It made me look older, and I don’t need any help with that!”

But attitudes are changing:

According to the social media platform, Pinterest, searches of the term “going gray” have increased more than 879% in recent months.

Many middle-aged women in 2019 no longer want to be stuck in the endless six-week cycle of “hiding new growth” and coloring their hair.

Pinterest predicts that women will stop fighting the natural aging process of going gray and proudly let their silver strands shine through.

Yes, older women are beginning to embrace their gray hair that shows how they value authenticity and also speaks to their self-confidence: “I am who I am!”

The more mature women accept this beautiful transition, the more empowering for all of us. Gray hair no longer means “getting old.”

When will you ditch the dye? 

Of course, it is a personal decision whether or not to grow gray gracefully. And any suggestion to go gray is a non-starter for many women (and men).

To keep dying one’s hair takes time and effort, and for some, it may cause skin problems or allergic reactions. Even if you decide to dye your graying hair, there may be a time when you will want to stop.

Hairstyling is a form of self-expression. Hair has been cut, extended, straightened, curled, colored, and variously styled to meet fashion trends, and even social and political agendas.

So what does your hair reveal about you?

If or when you decide to give up the dye, I can assure you that gray hair can look elegant and give you dignity that you never had before.

Because . . .

“Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty!”


Sources:

InStyle.com
Journal of Clinical Pathology
WebMD.com

Boomer Women and Domestic Violence: The Dark Side of Family Life

Boomer Women and Domestic Violence: The Dark Side of Family Life

“I am living in hell from one day to the next. But there is nothing I can do to escape. I don’t know where I would go if I did. I feel utterly powerless, and that feeling is my prison. I entered of my own free will, I locked the door, and I threw away the key.” –Haruki Murakami

In trying to decide on a new topic of interest to Baby Boomer women (born 1946-1964), I came across a website that listed many forums just for Boomer women. I was curious and scrolled down the list that had about 55 different topics.

On the list of 55 topics, “Domestic Violence” appeared.

This topic surprised me.

Surely senior women were not, as a rule, subjected to emotional, physical, or verbal abuse from their partners.

Domestic Violence against older women would be outrageous!

After all, educated, worldly-wise, outspoken, self-assured and influential midlife and older women living now in the 21st Century understand that the trend has been toward equality between intimate partners.

The oldest woman in this cohort would be 73-years-old and the youngest 55-years-old as of the date of this article.

So were Boomer women frequent victims of domestic violence and abuse?

No way!

But then I discovered something shocking.

I clicked on the Domestic Violence forum on the website and found nine pages of comments. On only one of the nine pages, there were a total of 83,766 comments!

Yes, you read correctly.

I didn’t check the other eight pages, but if there were a similar number of comments regarding Domestic Violence that would mean an astonishing 753,894 Boomer women had something to say about the evil scourge of Domestic Violence and abuse.

I found it difficult to wrap my head around this number of comments.

Then I checked “domestic violence” on Google and found, not surprisingly 487,000,000 searches on the topic.

I knew this was a severe problem in American society (and the world) in general, but never did I imagine a high level of abuse against senior women.

However, here, I found on just one website and one forum, hundreds of thousands of older women sharing personal experiences.

I had to dig deeper.

What Is Domestic Violence and Abuse?

The National Domestic Violence Hotline definition: “Domestic Violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. “

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to this type of violence as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV); it is a “public health problem that affects millions of Americans.”

Domestic Violence or “intimate partner violence,” can vary in frequency and severity and can intensify over time. The CDC identifies four main types of IPV: sexual violence, stalking, physical violence, and psychological aggression.

What Is Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence in Later Life?

 Domestic Violence in later life is when the abuser inflicts the same treatment and tactics (power and control) as described above on an older adult with whom they have an intimate relationship.

The perpetrator could include a spouse or former spouse, adult children, extended family members, or even caregivers. Any intimate persons that try to control or maintain power over the older adult, dictating what the older person can or cannot do, is guilty of domestic “violence” and “abuse.”

What Is the Distinction Between Domestic /Intimate Partner Violence and Elder Abuse?

The distinction between Domestic Violence and elder abuse remain vague and blurred because though managed by different agencies, they use the terms interchangeably.

Elder abuse (outside of nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities) includes physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation. Elder abuse also could consist of the mean neglect and abandonment of the older person.

Domestic Violence would include physical abuse, the threat of bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment, harassment, stalking, intimidation, and interference with personal liberty. Financial damage is also present.

Reported cases of elder abuse fall under the purview of Adult Protective Services (APS), while the Domestic Violence (DV) program manages programs that primarily focus on younger women.

Though each system operates independently, neither clearly distinguish elder abuse from Domestic Violence. The two systems also use different language to identify these women: APS calls them “victims,” and DV calls abused women “survivors.”

These distinctions could impact the level of services the abused woman receives.

So how a woman is designated and what assistance she is entitled (e.g., crisis intervention, safety planning, shelters, and peer support groups) depends on which system she enters.

The agencies often factor in her age when they admit a woman to either system.  A woman over 50, for instance, is commonly referred to the APS.

Also, any frail woman unable to speak up for her needs would more than likely fall under the elder abuse (APS) category, but not always.

However, women capable of expressing their own needs would possibly enter the DV programs.

Because of the intersection between elder abuse and Domestic Violence, researchers suggest that Domestic Violence enters the realm of elder abuse once a woman reaches the age of 60, and therefore should use the term, “abuse in later life.”

The Illinois Department on Aging uses the term “domestic violence grown old” when describing the domestic abuse of older women.

Who Are the Domestic Violence Abusers in Later Life?

There is no standard definition. As mentioned earlier, while the majority reported the spouse or domestic/intimate partner as the abuser in later life, researchers have found that some states include other family members as perpetrators of Domestic Violence, such as adult children—and even in some cases caregivers.

The CDC characterizes an “intimate partner” as anyone with emotional connectedness or regular ongoing physical contact with the older woman, which would include adult children and caregivers.

Here again, the fact that there is no standard definition for abusers in later life means that older women risk not getting referred to the correct system (APS or DV) and therefore receiving the quality services they deserve.

What Agency Does What?

Domestic Violence programs (DV), would more likely have the training, skills, and procedures in place to help older victims of domestic abuse.

Elder abuse services (APS) would include assisting and protecting older women with diminished capacity and unable to articulate their needs. Elder abuse is APS’s specialty.

Bottom line, both service systems need to partner—collaborate (joint training, public education, domestic violence programs, and new policies) to meet the older woman’s needs. It should not be an either-or situation.

Inappropriate referrals could potentially lead to uncertain outcomes for older women.

What Causes Domestic Violence?

  • Family background. Young men who witness their fathers beating their mothers are often conditioned to believe that men must control women. To exercise this control, they resort to scaring, hurting, and demeaning women.
  • Stress. Unemployment, moving, illness, financial problems bring on anxiety. Raising a family also means high pressure in many cases. So what happens? Conflict, violence, and blows.
  • A Wrong view of women. Different cultures have different aspects of a woman’s role in the family. In some lands, men are trained to believe that they are superior to women and therefore have the right and the “duty” to pummel them.
  • Low self-esteem. Would a true “man” inflict violence on a physically weaker woman? I don’t think so. A confident man of strong moral character would act just the opposite and show consideration and compassion for more vulnerable and more defenseless women.
  • Alcohol. Many believe that alcohol triggers abuse because this substance decreases control over emotions (such as stress) and raises the potential for acting on impulse. After a few drinks and if the woman happens to say the wrong thing, she’s likely to get a slap or a fist!
  • Media. Feeding on graphic violence and degradation of women on TV and in film encourages the macho image and other antisocial traits. Not just children are affected by these images, but adults as well. So what do you think, dear reader? Do you believe such media lessens or encourages domestic violence against women?
  • Isolation. What has happened to the meaningful conversation within the family? What about spending time with other close relatives and friends? Social interactions usually balance or act as a tempering force against wrong and selfish thinking.

What Are the Statistics?

Statistics for 2018: The National Domestic Violence Hotline statistics for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects more than 10 million people in the U.S. each year, which means that on average, 20 people every minute are victims of IPV.

On an average day in the United States, there are more than 20,000 phone calls to domestic violence hotlines across the country.

An estimated 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of IPV, and women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner, according to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

However, in The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. published a 2016 report discussed how little consensus there is about widespread IPV among older women. The reasons include:

  • Reports often omit older women due to statistical unreliability.
  • Boundaries blur between elder abuse and domestic violence.
  • Researchers and professionals use different data collection and analysis that result in different profiles of older women and IPV.

The Wiley & Sons report also referred to a 2007 study that revealed the lifetime prevalence of IPV for women aged 65 years and older to be 26.5% with 18.4% of older women experiencing physical or sexual abuse and 23.9% suffering non physical injury.

And according to the article, “Intimate Partner Violence in Older Women: What Home Healthcare Clinicians Should Know” (2010), there are few IPV statistics regarding older women because reports often omit these women from reports due to statistical unreliability.

The statistical unreliability concerning older women could be due in part to various societal barriers:

  • Clergy and counselors are trying to “save” a couple’s marriage.
  • Older women have values, cultural, and religious beliefs that make them reluctant to report IPV; they love and want to protect their abuser and believe he will change.
  • Senior women feel shame and embarrassment and therefore, will not report the abuse.
  • Fear: they could be killed, made homeless, left alone to fend for themselves, or even placed in a nursing home if they report the abuser.
  • Lack of information. Many older women have less access to services and information tailored to them, and resources such as transportation and safety planning than younger women.
  • Not all older women are frail and mentally incompetent, yet many do not receive the respect they deserve due to their age.

In a 2005 report by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 3.5% of the callers were from people older than age 55.

A 2003 report estimated that 13,000 women in the United States over age 55 reported incidents of IPV.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Domestic Violence Against Older Women?

  1. Seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public must receive training and make aware of the scourge of abuse against older women in all its forms: physical, emotional, and verbal and recognize the warning signs.
  2. Seek professional help at the first signs, such as alcohol concerns, depression, or drugs in the home so older women can stay safe.
  3. Strengthen safety networks and implement prevention strategies for individuals and families.
  4. Attend support groups for partners and learning about domestic violence services.
  5. Download: CDC has developed a technical package, Preventing Intimate Partner Violence across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policy, and Practices[4.52 MB]to help states and communities prioritize efforts to prevent intimate partner violence. A technical package is a collection of strategies that represent the best available evidence to prevent or reduce public health problems such as violence.

What Do Senior Women Need Right Now?

The United Nations (2013) Neglect, Abuse, and Violence against Older Women Division for Social Policy and Development Report:

Interventions suited for older women’s needs:

  • Protections for older women caregivers of abusive men (sometimes these men are frail and rely on the older woman for support and everyday living, but abusive nonetheless)
  • Services for older women with care needs
  • Legal services for older women victims of abuse
  • Support groups for older women victims of abuse
  • Domestic Violence shelters for older women victims of abuse
  • Training and education on abuse in later life for professionals and students
  • Interventions aimed at perpetrators
  • National legislative approaches

The United Nations (2013) also found that women who were retired had a higher probability of abuse compared with those who were still working because a woman’s financial dependence on her partner and isolation are everyday experiences shared by older abused women.

How Can You Help?

If you or someone you know is a victim of Domestic Violence, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website to chat online 24/7/

Conclusion:

Domestic Violence in later life occurs all too often when a person uses his power and control to inflict physical, sexual, emotional, or financial exploitation upon a defenseless older adult woman with whom they have an ongoing relationship.

Based on the above statistics, intimate partner violence (IPV) against Boomer and older women appears to be among the least reported of crimes—in part because many people view such violence as a social ill, or a private matter, not a crime.

These perpetrators could be spouses, former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and in some cases caregivers.

But no matter, in all of these relationships, the abuser has in effect turned what should be a loving and peaceful home into a “cage” meant to restrain, confine, and eventually destroy the soul and kill the spirit of the beautiful senior woman who resides there.

This violence is indeed “the dark side of family life.”

Older women deserve a violence-free life.

We must put a stop to IPV or battering of older women at once!!

“One’s dignity may be assaulted and vandalized, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”—Michael J. Fox


Sources

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC
National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org)
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women (https://www.justice.gov/ovw)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (https://ncadv.org)

Domestic Violence (Intimate Partner Violence of Battering)
(https://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics)
National Organization for Women (www.NOW.org)
United Nations 2013 (www.un.org/en/
“Domestic Violence or Elder Abuse: Why It Matters for Older Women”
Loyola University Chicago, Loyola eCommons  (2010)
The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging Report (2016)
United Nations 2013 (www.un.org/en/

Resources

AARP: www.aarp.org
Ageless Alliance: www.agelessalliance.org
American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging: www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging.html
Eldercare Locator: www.eldercare.gov
The Elder Justice Coalition (EJC): www.elderjusticecoalition.com
National Association of Agencies on Aging (N4A): www.n4a.org
National Center on Elder Abuse (https://ncea.acl.gov/
National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA): www.preventelderabuse.org
Older Women’s League (OWL): www.owl-national.org