Sunday, August 30, 2009


This is a tough blog for me to write. My wife and I just dealt with the death of a relative who was killed by a drive who fell asleep and caused a head on automobile collision. I arrived home from taking a walk to find my wife in tears after she had been called with the news. We immediately arranged an airline flight and flew the next day to Los Angeles. The following morning we drove to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office to pick up personal effects from the accident. We were surprised that our relative had a large amount of cash on him at the time of his death but there were no keys to his condo. I called the California Highway Patrol and they quickly determined that the keys were with the car in the towing company impound area and arranged to have all the keys except the car keys released to us. The next stop was the mortuary to make arrangements then on to the towing company to pick up the keys. The key chain we were given had a dozen keys and we hoped one of them would open the condo since we needed to find personal papers, financial records and any will. The sight of the front end of the car looking like an accordion up got to my wife. My experience occurred an hour later when we arrived at the condo. After much trying of keys, I got the door open. It would only budge two feet. I stuck my head through the door and had my shock. The condo was piled three to five feet high with trash. I could see no furniture and no appliances in the kitchen as all surfaces were covered with trash. I squeezed in and found that the whole condo was covered with trash. A pathway on top of three feet of stuff wound through with larger mounds to the side. It took my wife, daughter and me two hours to clear junk away enough to open the front door completely. We had never been invited to the condo and had no idea our relative had become a hoarder. Since then, I have read about hoarding problems. It is a well-defined disorder that affects many people. The novel, My Brother’s Keeper, by Marcia Davenport published in 1954 is based on the Collyer brothers who died in over 100 tons of trash in a brownstone in Harlem in 1947.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Elder Abuse

A week ago I attended a two day seminar on elder abuse. It was a dry run for a program that will be given to law enforcement officers in Boulder County where I live. Much as domestic, child and sexual abuse remained hidden for many years, elder abuse is an epidemic that is now gaining more awareness. The difficult economic times also lead to an increase in elder abuse. Elder abuse takes many forms including physical, emotional/psychological, sexual, neglect and financial exploitation. This program trains law enforcement officers to focus on victim safety, avoid assumptions (e.g., someone with dementia might still be reporting real abuse), recognize abuser tactics and work collaboratively with other agencies. As I thought through what I learned in the program, it brought to mind how we deal with difficult situations. Basically, there are four options: 1. Change the situation, 2. Change your attitude, 3. Suffer, or 4. Get out. As these choices apply to a victim of elder abuse, changing the situation would include confronting the abuser and seeking outside assistance. Changing your attitude is a key point made by Victor Frankl in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” When he was in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II, Frankl concluded that the Nazis could control everything except his attitude. While this applied in his situation, I wouldn’t recommend an abuse victim changing his/her attitude to accept the situation. Much like the Stockdale Paradox as described by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” when faced with a difficult situation as Admiral Jim Stockdale did as a prisoner in the Vietnam War, it’s necessary to do everything possible to overcome the adversity while still confronting the brutal facts of the current situation. In other words, you can’t be off in never-neverland pretending there is no problem and you can’t give up, but need to keep trying while being realistic about how bad things are. Alternative three is to suffer, which unfortunately is what most victims of elder abuse do. The fourth alternative is to get out. This can be by leaving and going somewhere safe to live. Again, many victims of elder abuse aren’t mobile enough to pursue this alternative. What often happens is that the victims suffer until they get out by dying. Identification of an abusive situation by police or other agencies can alternatively lead to a positive outcome where the situation is changed through the victim being put in a safe situation and the abuser being arrested.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guest versus Colonizer

Do we act like guests or colonizers? I think this is a very good comparison to make. Colonizers are arrogant and take over. Guests come for a visit, blend in and don’t walk off with the towels.
This concept applies whether we are tourists or property owners. A colonizer takes away the resources and isn’t concerned about what is left behind. A guest takes care because it is a privilege to be there and wants to be invited back again.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Large Print

My second novel, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, has now been released in a large print edition as well as regular hardcover and audio book editions. It’s great that all types of readers can be accommodated. As I give presentations to groups of seniors in retirement communities and service organizations, I find many that struggle with regular sized print. There are also older citizens who suffer from macular degeneration and continue “reading” with audio books. Reading is a pleasure we can pursue for a lifetime and it’s important to have alternatives available.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aging Services

This last year I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the Countywide Leadership Council in Boulder County where I live. This organization is involved in creating vibrant communities in which we all age well. There are many issues of aging to be addressed in our community. Even with a large number of professionals living in Boulder, basic needs of the older population must still be met. In our county 12% of people 65 and older are below the poverty level and 21% can’t afford healthy meals. Through a number of organizations including Meals on Wheels, food is being provided to those in need, but often older citizens aren’t even aware of the resources available. For those with computer skills, internet access is available at the public library. A new website directs people to the variety of resources available. One central phone number 303 441-1617 provides an entry point for a caller to be directed to the needed service. The challenge for the year ahead is providing food, housing and access to information for seniors.