"Taking Care of Your Parents" [November 12] was excellent.
I would like to add my own experience, since it may be helpful to other seniors. I am a 92-year-old retired university professor who had been teaching until a few years ago. My wife suffers from Alzheimer's disease. My most urgent piece of advice for those taking care of parents or themselves: Start early. I enrolled some 20 years ago in the nonprofit Quaker organization that provides home healthcare, "Friends Life Care at Home." I paid an enrollment fee and make monthly payments. This allows me to still live in my own house and have the service of a nurse's aide 12 hours a day. The aide takes care of my wife, does shopping, and drives me to the doctor's office or to the hospital for tests, as the need arises. We feel at ease in our own home and recommend this to seniors who do not like the confinement of a retirement facility.
Robert C. Melzi
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
In your series about aging parents, you omitted an important way of life for seniors: retirement facilities. After my wife went to a nursing home, I tried living alone in the house for two years, but it didn't work. After looking at several retirement facilities, I moved to one where I have a one-bedroom apartment where I get housekeeping and laundry service every week. Three meals a day are served, and attendance is taken at lunch and dinner. There are many activities, including a wellness center with exercise equipment and a staff member to help you use it properly. My pension and Social Security just about pay my monthly rent.
To "Confronting Sadness in Seniors," I would add that it is important for loved ones and family members to distinguish between clinical depression (which is all too real) and appropriate sadness triggered by losses that older adults experience—loss of health, physical and cognitive ability, loss of loved ones, status, and purpose. Experiencing these multiple challenges in later years often challenges an older adult's sense of worth and dignity. All of us need to feel that we're loved and needed, that our lives are still meaningful and purposeful. Older adults, especially those with dementia, may feel this need even more. Though prescriptions are often necessary, genuine affirmation of the person is essential.
Rabbi Cary Kozberg
When taking care of your parents, it might help to ease the burden if you keep in mind all that your parents did for you while you were growing up. In "The Power of the Aging Mind," Bernadine Healy, M.D., put perspective on the situation when she said: "Reckon our parents today will shortly be ourselves."
Ocean Shores, Wash.