(Editor’s Note: This column was originally posted on The Tentacle on December 3, 2006. It is posted again at the request of several readers.)
One of the hardest things during the Christmas season is deciding what to get the parents. I have just finished an article for the local Ocean City fish wrapper about infections in the elderly and I have some suggestions.
In my experience, most people over the age of 65 like to keep the house temperature a bit warmer than Death Valley. The humidity has the feeling of a dry tongue after a homemade wine hangover.
As soon as I enter the home of one of Dad's friend, I begin almost immediately peeling off clothes Soon I am sitting in my jockeys trying to stay cool. The dog or cat has already passed out and will not revive until after the first snow or the temperature lowers to the mid 90's. Unfortunately, this oven atmosphere causes the skin to rust, chip off and open fissure. To you and me, this will heal, but not for the members of the greatest generation.
Christmas Gift: Buy both parents creams for the face and hands; a sweet fem scent for her and a more neutral one for him. And buy a lot of it. A gallon bucket will do until spring. Should he be the macho type, add a few drops of deer urine or motor oil to remind him of bygone days.
The second major problem with infections is the urinary tract. You may not believe it because they seem to go as frequently as the fans during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. The important thing is to keep those pipes and plumbing open and working.
Christmas Gift: Purchase those containers of juice boxes usually packed in children's lunch boxes. Buy a couple of cases of different flavors. Don't be cheap on this one. Gallon jugs of apple cider will only turn and it's not too good to have your parent's three sheets to wind wandering around the neighborhood, although it may do wonders for their sex life by removing inhibitions. Hydration, hydration, hydration was one mantra a real estate agent said went along with location, location, location. You can bet that in every house she listed, the bathrooms work perfectly.
Another major infection with the elderly is with the respiratory system – meaning lungs. Pneumonia, the big killer, sometimes does not have warning signs because the thermo regulator that causes a temperature has stopped working. There also may not be a cough, sputum, or other indicators. But, this one is the leading cause of death among the elderly and I am not going to be humorous about it.
Christmas Gift: Purchase a large pretty teapot to mist the air. Cast iron simply won't do. Ask them to keep it on the stove on very low. Then buy cases of different types of herbal tea. Earl Grey tastes like water run through a dirty sock regardless of how "IN" it has become. This spreads a fragrance, allows them to drink it to keep the plumbing open and helps with the humidity and skin.
They have to eat, but you will find they eat much less than we do and it probably seems just enough to keep a woodpecker alive. Gift certificates to local restaurants are a wonderful surprise.
Christmas Gift: Buy gift certificates for the local diner. Wrap it up in a menu. They usually have nightly specials and fill your platter with enough food to take home for later. Besides, they will probably meet most of their friends there. And it gets them out of the house. And they won't fight about where to go. They don't need, or want, to visit one of those restaurants where you go that has a masterful presentation and martini sidecars for $11.50. You take them there when you come to visit to assuage your guilt complex.
Christmas Gift: For entertainment, nothing is better than the local theatre especially if you can suggest a movie that is worth seeing as there are very few of them around. You should buy 24 tickets and attach two to each month of the 2007 calendar you will give them. Besides, it will give you something else to talk about when you feel they are responsible for every failure in your life. Get over it.
Call them once a week because that is your New Year's Resolution.
If you don't, I will turn you into a liberal, Hillary loving Democrat.