Moving times!

I recently had some discussions with a friend who was moving into care. It reminded me of some notes I made, some years ago, and stored away on my computer. Some of my readers might like to see the aspects that exercised my mind leading up to the time my wife Dorothy went into care. And there was a lot to think about…..

At the time (and preferably before) anyone permanently moves from home there will be people and service providers that need to be advised. So, start early as it can be a formidable task!

Many of us elderfolk still prefer to use the postal system for most of our ‘formal’ or business transactions. We hang on to the concept of having it all ‘in black and white’, but times have changed. The job is actually a lot easier these days with most correspondence now handled electronically and, usually, your email address can stay the same! But, paper accounts still exist and need to be considered when one or both partners are moving house or going into care.

There may also be subscriptions, rates notices, accounts with traders, and other organisations which only send postal accounts or information to you on a quarterly or annual basis. When reponding to them you can often include address changes. Even with a checklist, you are bound to miss a few!

You need a little(?) list: The first thing is to establish just how many institutions you have dealings with, then consider the best method to advise them of the change. Here, below is a ‘moving’ checklist I made up to help me cope. You will need to tailor it to suit your own specific needs, but it might be of help as you start the process of change!

Just add more columns to show: Phone numbers, Date, Contact name, and Notes to suit your needs:

o   Accountant, Financial advisor

o   Income Tax agent: Tax number, last Return

o   Audiologist: Hearing equipment, Supplies

o   Banks /Co-ops: Current a/cs, Term Deposits

o   Finance organisations

o   Cards: Savings/ Credit/ Debit /Loyalty

o   Blood Bank: Notify if a Donor.

o   Car: Vehicle Registration, Insurance

o   Centrelink: review Passwords, Numbers

o   Chemist/s: Prescription records, A/cs

o   Church: Records, Notices

o   Clubs and Societies membership

o   Dentist: future appointments

o   Medical Doctors: General Practitioners

o   Specialists: Cardiologists, Other

o   Medibank/Medicare: Reg numbers

o   Hospitals: notify Outpatient dept?

o   Therapists: Physio, others

o   Ambulance: subscriptions

o   Electoral Rolls: get card from Post Office

o   Fitness class/Gym membership

o   House Alarm: service provider?

o   Insurance / Broker: Car, House, Other

o   Internet provider: see Subscriptions

o   Local Council: Rates, Electoral Rolls

o   Local traders: Dry Cleaner, Florist, Butcher

o   Memberships: Clubs, RACV, Probus U3A, etc

o   Medical Benefits Associations

o   Motor Registration: Cars, Drivers Licence

o   Newsagent: Newspapers, Magazines

o   Optician / Ophthalmologist

o   Schools /Classes / other enrolments

o   Shops: Hire Purchase, Layby, orders

o   Solicitor: Deeds, Wills, Trusts, Doc location

o   Stockbroker: Shares, Debentures, Trusts

o   Subscriptions: Internet, Newsletters, clubs

o   Newsagent, Papers, Magazines

o   Telephone: Landline

o   Mobile: Telstra / Optus / Vodafone, other

o   Unions / Professional Societies, Associations

o   Utilities: Gas, Water, Electricity

o   Work/Volunteer work: advise organiser.

If you have time before the move, perhaps you could print-off (say four to an A4 sheet) a ‘Change of address’ slip – something like below, tailored to your circumstances:

 Maybe print four on an A4 sheet, then cut them up and staple to the next appropriate account when you send it off.

Now….. think through other aspects of your current lifestyle that will need to be reviewed.  Write them down!

All the points listed above might not suit your circumstances, but some of them will almost certainly apply. Try to get some help, a second or third opinion is likely to be useful!

Take time to think about other aspects of your present activities, possessions, and needs.

Think deeply, hasten slowly!

Some days…

Every day the sun comes up, yet some days are different – and I don’t mean the weather. Birthdays and anniversaries and some other days have a special, personal, meaning, but I’ve discovered that on any day, sometimes an unexpected trigger will invoke a range of ‘feelings’. Especially when it’s connected to an historical event in our lives. A sudden thought, a place, a person, or an event can be enough to start my mind on a journey in time.

It was a moment like that recently, as I saw the contents of a huge removalist truck being disgorged into a nearby residential unit. I was jolted back in time to when Dorothy and I moved our home contents and our lives, here to this retirement village, well over a decade ago. Seeing that truck was enough to send my normally somnambulant mind whirling back to when we made the same move.

I began recollecting the range of emotions we both felt as we began the actual downsizing which had to start months before the actual move. I was thinking about the almost gut-wrenching decisions we made then. What to keep among our accumulated ‘things’ and which items were appropriate to discard – forever! We had a quite large home, designed and built to cope with our lives as the seven of us grew up together. And, like many other families over those years, we’d accumulated lots of ‘stuff’ and the winnowing just had to be done! Seeing that furniture van, the memories of our times of loading and unloading came racing back.

But I was also remembering the mental process, almost anguish, that preceded the physical downsize move. To know, and accept, when the time is right to make any radical change to our lifestyle is difficult – and not without stress. We had both agreed that being into our seventies, the tasks of maintaining a large home would soon engulf us. Our decision to not ‘age in place’ was not a minute too soon, as we later discovered when Dorothy’s Alzheimer’s was progressing apace.

Now, seeing that van being emptied of its treasures nearby I was reminded of how important it is for us all to consider where, and how, we live as we age. I am so grateful that we chose, a dozen or so years ago, to leave behind that house with its stairs, its maintenance, and the mowing! Here, now at Applewood in a beautiful garden setting, I live alone in a manageable-sized villa with none of the maintenance or other chores we had to deal with in our earlier home.

I have a supportive family and great neighbours, but I know one day my turn will come to make that next move to a different level of care. Several of my friends are now resident in various care homes nearby and I visit them all, so I know how they have adjusted to a different way of life, each with their different levels of health. It probably won’t be long until I need to join them and make that next transition….

Meanwhile, I enjoy comparatively good health and have lots to do yet! I can still get around to enjoy my friends and family, to do some travelling and can always reminisce on all those earlier happy times. Every day those great memories ‘make my day’, and, while I can, I’m making new memories every day.

Matches and light

It seems to me like just yesterday, but it was actually many years ago when having a box of matches at home or at hand was an absolute necessity. If you were a smoker, or used a gas light or a gas cooker at home, and especially if you were a camper, we were never without access to a box – or at least a flint lighter. These days, perhaps a prudent householder or camper might have a candle or two squirreled away in case of a blackout, or perhaps some smaller ones for a birthday cake, when a box of matches does become handy!

I was thinking about matches, and particularly the wood and trees from which they were made (I also remember the waxed vestas that still worked, even when wet!) as I trickled my way slowly through a very long book I have been reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. The way the author takes us through the story of wood is, at times, heart-stopping and stark. He skilfully engages our hearts and minds as he exposes the lives of concerned people and deforestation.

Before I had read this book the extent, pervasiveness, and diverse use of timber in our lives had not occurred to me in such graphic terms. I’m now, more than ever, conscious of the use and overuse of many other ‘staples’ in our lives, such as oil and water. In a vague, philosophical way, it also led me to consider aspects of our consumer-driven lives that I hadn’t deeply thought about before.

Now, after reading that book, I am more likely to see, or at least look for, other aspects of consumerism – which in turn, led me  back to basics: the beauty and serenity of our natural environment, the intricate web of raw nature, of God’s realm, and how precious all of it is. I can now more readily recognise a lack of balance between ‘development’ and ‘growth’, and more aware of the despoiling of such large tracts of our forest, resulting in ever-decreasing areas of natural treescapes – and the barrenness and soil degradation that follows.

Such a big issue, yet difficult to see in its enormity when, as individuals, we are such small players in the total-earth scheme of things! Too often we don’t see beyond the immediate impact of our own lifestyle choices. And then, in a world where so many people are affected so grievously by the forces of nature, and many more by brawling and fighting at a national level, it’s hard to be anything but dejected and sad.

As individuals we can usually only make comparatively small efforts to alleviate this suffering – with donations of money, even time, and some with expertise. Nevertheless, we can also demonstrate our care for people, and for the earth, in what we choose to do, say, and buy.

By remembering that each tiny match came from a felled tree – which denuded a forest somewhere and disturbed a natural interdependence; only then we can begin to glimpse a tiny part of a bigger picture.

Now, when I think of a matchstick I think of its source – the tree and the forest and the earth and wonder, in awe of how we all coexist in such a complex web of interdependency of natural resources! For our survival and for the sake of future generations we must learn to recognise and cherish each part of that network. A match made in heaven, indeed, may show us the light!

Caring and Sharing

It’s good to care and, often, good to share. I’m using the word care to explain our action and reaction to both people and our environment. Just how we act or react to caring will inevitably also reveal our attitude to sharing. And the harsh truth is that if we don’t share then probably we don’t care. The other special descriptive word in this context is empathy. And I don’t mean sympathy.

Empathy helps us to feel as much for others as we do for ourselves. It’s like putting oneself in another person’s shoes and it enriches both our life and those who we are caring for. So, caring with empathy will profoundly affect every relationship we have – even with the environment. It modifies our relationship with a loved one as well as enhancing our own feeling of wellbeing. Which just goes to show that caring is at the core of our life. No care – no love.

As for sharing, well…can you imagine what a life alone would be like without an opportunity to share? To not be able to share some time with another will inevitably result in loneliness and is likely have a serious effect on our mental and physical health. We were meant to be paired and shared! And if for some reason we are not in either state, most of us will try to fill the gap, to compensate by actively seeking company either as a couple again, or within a like-minded group. I thank God, daily, for my friends and family!

Caring and sharing, then, seem to be at the heart of our lives, and in general, we love it! See, I’m talking about emotions here, again. Some of us ‘wear our heart on our sleeve’ and our caring, or lack of it, shows. When in a group, we tend to gravitate to caring people, don’t we? Well, I do, anyway. I also suspect that my readers will be ‘caring people’ who are happiest in the company of like-minded folk among friends and associates.

Still, there are many (probably all of us!) who for private and deep reasons just don’t ‘mix’ well at some times in our lives. Each of us, and our environment, are constantly changing – evolving, worsening, and getting better. In that state of flux, don’t be surprised if someone you know sometimes seems ‘different’; maybe less responsive or less inclined to want to participate in our lives. As we know, time is a great healer, and that phase will usually pass. Be patient, and like me, you will probably quietly pray about that relationship and seek the healing nature of grace.

Real friendship is resilient but also perceptive. We’ve all learned to accept that personal likes and attitudes are infinitely variable, and that journey isn’t a long, straight, flat, road. It’s full of curves and hills, sometimes unsafe. But along the way we’ve learned to accept diversity and challenges, and we know about care – in every sense!

Another day: another challenge

That’s what it feels like, sometimes…..but, another day also means new opportunities and possibilities. And upon the death of a loved partner, another day can sometimes also mean facing a raft of new challenges!

A Melbourne writer, Muriel Porter (Muriel Porter – Wikipedia) recently wrote an informative article which eloquently encapsulates some of the daunting aspects she encountered following the death of her husband after years with Alzheimer’s. Her experience makes compelling reading, regardless of our present circumstances, so I will give you a link where you can see for yourself:

Before my husband’s death, I thought we had our affairs in order. Now I’m dealing with a nightmare of administration – ABC News

There, I’ll bet that article helped you to find a few things that you may need to attend to!

I’ve written earlier on this site about some of the unexpected pitfalls and problems, and the more joyful years, too, as my wife proceeded along the Alzheimer’s road. So, I won’t add any more to this note; but if Muriel’s topic has encouraged you to consider examining and arranging some of your affairs, then you are not alone! Please send that link on to a friend. It’s never too early to get our ‘house in order’, even if both partners are well!

Although, regrettably, I don’t personally know her I have read many pieces she has written regularly over several past years for The Melbourne Anglican (The Melbourne Anglican).

Always an insightful writer, often with a great sense of humour, and succinctly to the point, I’m sure Muriel would be delighted to know her words of wisdom have been helpful and would be happy to know I referred you to her most recent topic.

(Thanks to our son, Paul, for alerting me to the above link to Muriel’s writing!)

Another New Start!

What I like about calendars is they enable us to live our lives in bite-sized chunks!

And it gives us a sense empowerment to make momentous decisions once a year: to eschew the wasted efforts of the past, to learn and to build on the best aspects. The irony is that we can (and should?) do that every day! There is a road paved with good intentions….

However the new year does provide an excuse, indeed a reason, to think about where we’ve been and consider where we‘re going. And it’s also a good time to remember others: our families, our friends and neighbours, and those who’ve had a tough year – – for a multitude of reasons: personal health issues, fire, floods, bereavement, and other trauma.

Sometimes, even trivial events in our past year can seem like a personal burden and we need to be resilient and forgiving; to be sensitive and sympathetic to the plight of anyone we know who has been emotionally hurt on any level, even ourselves….

Facing reality in life can sometimes be daunting, certainly dealing with Alzheimer’s presents a real-life dilemma. I can never forget my family Christmas, years ago now, when our family agreed that Mum’s condition was worsening and she needed a different kind of care than I could manage. My world was changing, yet again, that year. So, at this time in particular I think of others like me back then, and I feel for them as they face a new year with a different view – and lifestyle.

As we close off any year, it is a useful time to review how we coped, or triumphed, or failed, and then resolve to start off with a new perspective on life. Some folk will just quietly and internally meditate or maybe will feel the need to verbalise or set their intentions down in writing. Others like me will attend at a Church service and thank God for past mercies and blessings, and for the given strength of prayer to help us be steadfast.

Whoever, whatever and wherever you are, if you are reading this and seriously wondering how you are going to cope with a new year and are floundering, please seek some help. Start with family and move on through to your doctor; if you’re in doubt and troubled, make a phone call to one of the help lines, like: Get mental health support – Beyond Blue or call a Counsellor on 1300 22 46 36.

The chances are, if you are reading this, that you are a self-starter and all you need is to take a little time-out to think through ‘where you are at’. Now is always the right time to take stock!

As you close off this year, whether a Carer or not, remember to look after your own well-being! Be kind to yourself; only then will you be able to be a blessing to those who you care for, and to those who care for you.

So, be kind to yourself: that’s my wish for us all, no matter what our circumstances.

‘Tis the Season..…

……….to be merry’. And for some of my readers with a partner experiencing Alzheimer’s being merry has no less importance! I remember that my wife Dorothy, in her later years, wasn’t always able to show her recognition of the ‘difference’ of this time of year. But we all need this annual jolt to ‘refresh and renew’ us and find a way to use this time of the year to cheer each other up!

The very last time our extended family met (other than at Dorothy’s funeral) was at a specially arranged Christmas camp in Northern Victoria some years ago. That was a bitter-sweet time which only now I can remember without the sadness and despair I felt at the time. With those thoughts spinning in my mind, I am thinking of my readers who are grappling with their partner’s Alzheimer’s. My heart is with you.

I am fortunate to still have a loving family many of whom will be holidaying with their families and I will be joining my daughter and her family this year. What a joy it is to have a family! But I recognise that many people, maybe some of my readers, by choice or because of illness or other reasons, can’t have the experience of a family Christmas – and to them I send my greetings and the wish that love will find a way to enliven and strengthen you and you will feel refreshed, ready for next year.

As I mentioned in my last piece, I have been away for a whole month, on a cruise ship (Queen Elizabeth) alone, but with thousands of others. Yes, there was some Coronavirus on board but the crew managed us all better, I think, than had we been in some other places! All passengers and crew were frequently tested and, of course, all had to wear masks all the time except for eating and drinking. I certainly had a thoroughly delightful time: no shopping, cooking, washing-up, cleaning, or bed-making – heaven! And heaps of live entertainment, never a dull moment;, and most days I walked 5K around the decks; haven’t been that fit for years! It was a wonderful recuperative time for me, and before I left the ship I tested covid clear. Then I lowered my guard, so to speak, and travelled home overnight from Sydney to Melbourne by rail, then public bus to where I live, with hardly a mask to be seen (and only on me briefly, stupidly). You guessed it: within four days I tested positive and I am still in isolation, hopefully clear by the 25th!

Now, after a couple of days of slight symptoms, I am feeling better each day and certainly well enough to pen these few words to wish all my friends and readers a Happy and Holy Christmas with the hope we all have for a better, brighter, and peaceful New Year!

Living in the past….

Living in the past: that’s almost as bad as ‘dwelling on the past’. Both are, figuratively speaking, possible and each are just as likely to bring as much pain as gain! Perhaps, like me, you occasionally indulge in both and know  how depressingly destructive that can be; life’s like that: yesterday, today and tomorrow – but the one to pay heed to is today and to use that as the springboard to plan for tomorrow!

Today is the important, possibly the most important day of my life. What I am as a person today is the product of all my yesterdays and all the people who helped to shape and fill them, at work and at play. Remembering past times is still possible for me but for folk affected by Alzheimer’s the past is most often lost or distorted. If, like me, you can remember your ‘yesterdays’ that’s a blessing to be valued and cherished. The flip side is that some memories will be sad or hurtful; the trick is to not let those aspects become dominant and destroy our wellbeing or, worse, disturb those around us.

One of the ways I cope with my present lifestyle is to avoid living in the past with its hurts, worries and wrongs so that it alone doesn’t define me. Of course I can still indulge or even revel in some recollections and they often help me to be positive and to live in the moment. My trick is to ‘turn the page’.

Long ago when I worked in corporate dispute settlement I learned to accept the inevitability of ‘differences’ in relationships and to seek for answers that provided a safe and secure journey ahead for all the parties. I learned that words spoken ‘in transit’ were not always meant to be ‘inked-in’ but used to fashion a solution for the future. Then, as now, we are shaped by past encounters but not entirely formed by any one of them in isolation.

So, most of us move on to each day; we look for a new opportunity to be of help to someone, to be happy for what we have, for what we have become and, hopefully, what we might become. It is good to be able to remember; but it’s not good when we live in the past. Let’s seize today, to live and hope and pray….and always plan….for tomorrow!

Postscript: I wrote most of the above notes before I left home to take a holiday break and will upload it from Fremantle in West Australia!

Health & Wellbeing

The word “wellbeing” wasn’t in use when my son’s “Concise Oxford Dictionary” was published! It’s commonly used these days and it is aptly descriptive and understood and neatly encapsulates the wholeness of our mind and body.

Recently I visited a friend in a Rehabilitation centre and unexpectedly discovered another friend there, both recovering from falls. As I was leaving, yet another surprise as I spotted a neighbour there, rehabilitating from a serious heart problem. Finding three people I knew esconced there, two as a result of falls, was a stark reminder of our fragility as we enter our eldermost years.

Perhaps we (me, anyway) don’t always recognise or admit the increased brittleness of our bones as we age – until it’s forced upon us with examples like that! Especially since then, I can see the necessity for my walking stick, my ‘friend at hand’, on my daily walks. Now, after seeing my friends with plaster casts and having to suffer the stress of lengthy and exhausting recovery exercises, it has amply reinforced the need for my trusty stick! Bone and muscle take a very long time to repair and recover when we have a few years under our belt….

That word ‘vulnerable’ describes us and all our resources, bodily and otherwise, as we age. In a flash, ready or not, our lives can change. Our hearts can ‘break’, too, not just our limbs – moving safely is only one aspect of our vulnerability. Recently we were reminded that our personal details, even our financial resources, could be at risk on the internet. And then there’s inflation which tends to erode and steal our capital savings anyway. Yes, we’re vulnerable in lots of ways.

I am always aware of how many people and families are affected by Alzheimer’s and how it robs us: it takes away those precious remembrances which otherwise could enrich our later years. Those vast storehouses of memories that most of us can recall at will, are valuable beyond words. And when that option fails, as it did with my wife, who has now passed away, I console myself with the thought that now, today, is the day that counts –  tomorrow can wait till I’m ready!

I know that unless I take firm, positive, creative steps – including writing these epistles to myself – I will fall, metaphorically, into a state of mind where nothing seems quite right anymore. When that happens, and sometimes it does, it saps my energy and my worth, and it’s only by the grace of God that I find the way out and up again. That way also includes walking, listening to music, reading a book, watching an interesting TV show, visiting someone, writing these notes and oh, yes, making a cuppa tea, whilst plottting for my next adventure. I did start writing about wellbeing, didn’t I?

P.S. Sweet sherry in tiny doses is also good.


Now there’s a word with a multitude of meanings, connection! But in the personal sense it simply means not being alone. Sometimes it doesn’t much matter whether we are connected to a person or a device. But I reckon, to be meaningful, it is a relationship with another human being – in the flesh, so to speak.

Of course, there is value in being a part of a worldwide web, but that’s not an option, anyway, for thousands of older folks who for many reasons, were never able to quite come to terms with this ‘modern technology’. And it is difficult to enter that world from scratch! It also means you need, at least, a Smartphone – “but the characters are SO small”; or a Tablet – not the kind you take three times a day with water, but a device – like an iPad. Or maybe you need a Notebook – not the ones used for notes – but the fold-up thing often called a Laptop. See, we’ve only just started and I’ve confused you!

Being connected is most important when it refers to the personal link we have with another human being, and that link is clearly lacking for lots of us oldies, especially when we are not even slightly computer literate.

Recently I attended a gathering where a small group of mixed gender older people were encouraged to explore and identify what is involved with “Social Connection and Participation”. Now there’s a can of worms! (Actually, that was only one part of the day-long consultation; I’ll talk about the other topics at another time). The social needs of older folk like me clearly extends way outside an internet connection; it’s as varied as the stars in the sky! So, I was interested to hear how each person in the group valued their available range of connections, and to discover that most participants were keen to “belong”. Of course, the most-wanted connection was to belong to a family. When that was not possible, for a myriad of reasons, the lack was felt profoundly, and the resultant isolation felt even more acutely when the person was immobilised.

The absence of family or a buddy is more than a disconnection. In discussion we all agreed how some friends and family sometimes don’t quite have that perspective. Many elders outlive their partners and erstwhile friends and that’s why it’s vital to encourage them to belong to community groups for fellowship, friendship, and some fun. That need is often met by club memberships or attendance at local council activities and libraries, all of which are a rich source of support.

The lack of transport, especially personalised, is a barrier to connection and participation, indeed a deterrent. Our gathering also identified the importance of encouraging our less-mobile friends to extend their interests and past hobbies, and that socially based groups can fill many needs, both online and in person. We all need to recognise what could/must be done to achieve those ‘unwired’ connections for our friends and neighbours.