Posted on May 27, 2014
Summer is right around the corner and school will be out in a few days. Some baby boomers are sitting at home making plans on what to do when their grandkids and the great-grandparents arrive for the summer.
Depending on how relaxed and low-key summer reunions are, these are potentially the best times to find out about family medical history, and end-of-life care. In fact, summer reunions give us the opportunity to observe first-hand how aging family members are doing. This is the time to be curious. We need to take the time to probe and research our family’s medical history.
During the summer, teenagers and kids can’t wait to see their cousins, and grandmothers can’t wait to see the babies. In many instances some family members will distinguish themselves by their curiosity and by being nosy. Others, on the other hand, will never ever get your name straight.
I was the nosy kid, and couldn’t wait to see everyone and find out how they had changed. While others ventured out to play, I liked hearing and observing adults talk about who was sick, who looked like my mother, who had passed away, and who was ill. It did not matter how my mother approached the conversation, some older folks would always bring up death. If someone mentioned during the summer that my birthday was on Christmas Day, low and behold, one of the older aunts would mention that dear old great-grandmother, Rachel E. Alexander Spradling, died in the same house I was visiting, December 26 of 1933. And, yes, every time the 25th of December was mentioned, the story about a great-grandmother dying was to be forever linked to my birthday. She died of pneumonia.
In spite of the uncomfortable conversations older folks had, the opportunity to find out what the rest of the family was up to was an opportunity that could never be matched. As a 10 year old I found about cancer, pneumonia, gout, and diabetes. I found out about my grandfather’s big toe, and why he wore larger shoes. Likewise, I found out about his love for football, butterscotch candy, and how he tried hiding bags of sweets. Soon, afterwards I found out about his diabetes. Yes, I even found someone’s false teeth inside a cup. Yep, my curiosity sometimes took me into my grandparent’s off-limits bathroom. I was the eternal snoop.
Family gatherings offer the best opportunity to inquire about family medical conditions, and family medical history.
More often than not, we wait too long to find out. We don’t even know about their illnesses, or their wishes. We wait too long until they can’t tell us.
Documenting and researching family medical history gives us the opportunity to understand our own risks for certain chronic illnesses, and in turn it may even give us a chance to possibly delay or help prevent the onset of some. By sharing our family medical history with our physician provides for improved medical assessments, and medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General offers a free Internet tool which can be used to document our family medical history, My Family Health Portrait .
We need to take a quiet moment on one these long summer days to find out and record our family medical history. We owe it to future generations to be curious enough to research, and diligent enough to record and to share. Senior Helpers encourages everyone to keep track of their medical history.
If you or a member of your family needs home health care please call Senior Helper of Orlando at 407-628-4357 to schedule an assessment. We will be glad to help.
If you are traveling or visiting Torrance, California, stop by and visit the Senior Helpers office in Torrance.
Ana P. DeLane
Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member