Peterborough midwife authors book on care for the elderly.
If you’re now in your 60s, says Tracy Bowman, the projections are that you’ll live well into your 80s, perhaps even passing 90. For younger people, life expectancy could be even longer. Many of us need to prepare not only for caregiving of parents, but also for our own old age. As Bowman puts it in the introduction to her new book, “Old: It happens, and then if you are lucky, it lasts a long time.”
The book, which Bowman wrote with her friend Mary Boone Wellington of Wakefield, is titled “Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old: How to Survive Old Age; Your Own or Someone You Love.” It was prompted by discussions the two women had as they started to deal with the challenges of helping aging parents.
“We were surprised at how unprepared we were,” says Bowman, 56, who is a certified nurse midwife with a practice in Peterborough. “We kept saying, ‘Why didn’t people tell us that?’ Part of the book is our stories, and we hope it will be a way to open conversations.”
Wellington, 62, is an artist and businesswoman who’s now semiretired, Bowman says. The two women first met when they were neighbors in Wilton more than 20 years ago.
In alternating chapters, they share their personal tales of dealing with aging parents. How an emergency room visit was the first sign of a long decline for Bowman’s mother, who had battled cervical cancer for years. How Wellington drove thousands of miles and made countless phone calls as she cared for her elderly mother in Virginia. How they struggled to find the financial resources to pay for the care their parents needed. How to deal with insurance issues. How to hire an aide. How to find an appropriate place for parents to live when they can no longer stay at home.
Each personal story is followed by a discussion of practical solutions to the issues being raised.
“We interviewed geriatric specialists at Yale University,” Bowman says. “We talked to dentists and doctors, to people who provide long-term-care insurance, and to geriatric social workers.”
Bowman was surprised to find out about so many alternative living options — not just assisted living facilities and nursing homes, but many varying types of retirement communities.
“They’re jumping up all over,” she says. “You’re seeing many people moving into some type of elder community.”
While much of the book focuses on dealing with the issues of aging parents, Bowman and Wellington devote the last chapter -- titled “Attitude Adjustments: Tips for Winning the Extreme Sport of Living Old” -- to advice for people dealing with their own issues as they age.
Bowman’s list of tips in the book include practicing yoga, starting a memory book for children, getting papers in order and getting outside every day.
Wellington’s list, which she writes “are all scientifically proven to be of benefit, so you really can’t go wrong,” has its share of humorous, but still practical, suggestions. She starts off with “Drink — It makes you merry — but only one glass” and adds such advice as eat chocolate, laugh, cry, dress snappy and floss.
“We talk about planning for our own futures,” Bowman says. “We write about exercise, weightlifting, how to maintain balance. About 20,000 people a year die from falls. A lot of that could be avoided.”
Bowman’s and Wellington’s goal is to share the hard-won knowledge they gained through their personal experiences.
“We really hope the book will help people gain insight into what they should be thinking about,” Bowman says.
The book is available at the Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough, Milford and Keene and through the authors’ website, www.BeforeIGetOld.com.