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Thursday, December 1, 2022


As readers of this blog know, I have an older sister, Barbara, who lives in a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Southern California much like the one in which I live here in North Carolina. Barbara is 3 ½ years older than I am so I think of her as my big sister, even though she is now even shorter than I am. Barbara went to school before I did, of course, and when she came home she would want to play school, with her as the teacher. Since I was the only little kid around, I was the pupil and so it was that she taught me to read. Along with all of her other accomplishments, Barbara was a great dancer and when I got to be 12 or 13 she taught me the Foxtrot and the Lindy Hop.


Well, eighty years or so have passed, and she is still teaching me things I need to know. Yesterday, through the miracle of FaceTime, I spent 40 minutes talking to Barbara about this and that. Barbara has for some time been in a wheelchair and she has regular caregivers, who come to her apartment to help her.  As my Parkinson’s gets worse, I am forced to face the fact that at some point I will need the help of caregivers to manage my life, especially so that I can continue to look after my wife. I am, to be honest, somewhat humiliated by this fact and also resistant to it. I cannot figure out quite how it would help to have someone in the apartment a certain number of hours each week since the things with which I need help seem scattered throughout the day and more or less random in their occurrence. I asked Barbara how she handled having caregivers and patiently, slowly, she explained it to me.


This is a dance quite as challenging as the Lindy Hop and I am grateful once more to have a big sister to teach me how to do it.


s. wallerstein said...

A very moving post.

So few write about the ageing process as honestly and authenticly as you do.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you.

s. wallerstein said...

Thank you.

Many of us are going through the same process, only a few years behind you and we can learn how to do the Lindy Hop from you.

I'm fairly sure that you have a book there, maybe not a best-seller, but one that could attract a decent number of readers and earn some money.

Marc Susselman said...

I, and I am sure many others who read your blog, will agree with s. wallerstein and find your post profoundly moving. Aging ain’t fun, especially to do it with the dignity you are displaying.

charles Lamana said...

I also have an older sister, five years older than myself. She always had psychological insights about our childhood and the character of those we grew up with. This prompts me to ask, What did your sister Barbara say to you to help to reassure you? I appreciate the everyday wisdom that comes to us by loved ones and if lucky enough by friends and family. That Barbara,can console a world known philosopher says something important about her and her wisdom.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Charles L., Barbara simply explained to me that having someone come in to help is a process that develops over time. At first, someone comes in and mostly just sits around waiting to be told what to do. Slowly, you think of things that he or she can do while there and you begin to shift your world around so that those things get taken care of when you have the help to do so. You have to be patient, flexible, and clear as to what your real needs are and then try to build that help into your life so that it becomes part of your world and not an intrusion. This all sounds so simple and obvious and yet it will almost certainly turn out to be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. Barbara is a remarkable woman and has had a considerable influence on all the people she has met during her long life.

David Palmeter said...

We have a person for four hours Monday through Saturday. She helps my wife bathe, gets her breakfast, does the laundry and any other light housework. It takes the burden off me, and while I don’t need help for myself, those tasks tire me quite quickly. I have chronic back pain that I just have to live with. (Physical therapy, cortisone shots, and medication are of limited help and the surgeon recommends against surgery as too risky.) She and my wife get along very well and enjoy each other’s company.

Our person works with other people in our retirement community, and I found that this is fairly common. You might be able to find someone to come in for a couple of hours a few days a week through the community grapevine if no formal referral system is available.

Michael Llenos said...

"Physical therapy, cortisone shots, and medication are of limited help and the surgeon recommends against surgery as too risky."


You may want to ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to see an acupuncturist for bloodletting. You might want to check it out. Those interested should get this book here:

Aesculapius, Hippocrates, & Galen started the traditional use of bloodletting in the West. It was phased out as a practice of Western medicine in the 19th century, but wasn't phased out in Eastern medicine circles. Currently it is being revived by U.S. acupuncturists because of the fact that traditional acupuncture doesn't always relieve the bodily pain of their patients. And this is not so simple as cutting your body so that you bleed. That would be foolish. There is an entire science behind bloodletting.

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LFC said...

How many patients who might otherwise have survived were weakened and perhaps killed by bloodletting in the centuries when it was practiced by doctors in the West?

Michael Llenos said...


I have no clue percentage wise. For a modern anti-bloodletting side, see the following website:

David Palmeter said...


Thanks for the suggestion, but I've seen the imaging--MRI, Scan, X-ray--and it's not pretty. It's very much an observable problem of disc compression, arthritis, and resulting scoliosis causing pressure on nerves. I don't see how bloodletting is relevant, and I prefer science-based treatments.

Michael Llenos said...

You are most welcome. If anyone wants to learn more about Dean Mouscher's Chinese bloodletting methods, he has a Facebook page & videos on YouTube. Here is a link to a google search: