Coronavirus: Generational Perspectives

I recently had a conversation with my children and children-in-law about the term “Boomer.”  I was expressing “wonder” at how and when the meaning of “Baby Boomer” has morphed.   To today’s teens and tweens the term, which was once synonymous with rebellious sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, now means “a technologically challenged old person.” (See:  And they call US “Boomers”?)  I suppose  I was also lamenting that while my parent’s generation became “the greatest generation,” mine has been reduced to this. 

Now, in the midst of the Coronavirus, the baby boomer generation is seen as vulnerable, while the next generation, “#GenX is Trending on Twitter Because of How They’re Handling Coronavirus—Here’s Why” by Korin Miller of Parade.

Gen X, defined as the group of people who were born between 1965 and 1980, is now rising to this latest occasion because of the following characteristics as described by a variety of experts in the above article.


  • Learned how to fend for themselves as latch key kids
  • Developed lower expectations of being taken care of
  • Have lived through tragedies and epidemics–and have the ability to handle life’s tough moments
  • Learned to be resilient and how to persevere
  • Are self-sufficient and enjoy taking on responsibility
  • Maintain personal freedom
  • Prioritize work/life balance
  • Handle the status quo without complaints
  • Are more active than other generations
  • Are empathetic; provide calm; follow the rules
  • Remember life without technology
  • Can entertain themselves/multi-ask to combat boredom/solitude
  • Are self-trained and resourceful
  • Are able to use coping skills and develop new ones when in crisis
  • Are able to adapt and make accommodations to bear burdens and resist fear

And the millennials? 

By the way, GenX. I’m proud you. I just want to let you know:

You’re welcome.

Coronavirus Journal

  • Thursday March 12, 2020:  Friday the 13th meeting with Matthew Gallardo, Messiah Lifeways Director of Community Engagement & Coaching cancelled due to impact of Coronavirus on senior community visitation standards.
  • Friday the 13th:  Went to Giant, Weiss Market, COSTCO, and Karns, and finally found toilet paper. It was early and not yet chaotic.  Able to purchase enough items to get by without shopping for a couple more weeks, if necessary.  Headed back home. All of grandchildren’s sporting events (our main weekend activity) cancelled.
  • Monday, March 16th:  School cancelled.  Daughter lives less than two blocks away–spent some time each day of the week helping her homeschool her four children.  Felt useful.  My husband, still working, asks me to get out for a walk each evening when he gets home.  Nice. 
  • Saturday, March 21st:  No weekend sporting events to attend.  Kids and grandkids hunkered down.  Visiting longer-distanced families via Facetime.  Touching base with siblings via Facetime, too.  Visit with neighbors outdoors and at-a-distance.  Nice.
  • Sunday, March 22nd: Finished updating Parental Information folder–to be prepared, just in case.
  • Monday, March 23rd:  Daughter called.  “Don’t you think we need to start practicing social distancing?”  Worried about us seniors getting the virus.  Don’t have immune system disorders or lung disease, but would not want her to feel responsible for our deaths if we were to succumb to the virus.  Feeling weepy.  What kind of future will our grandchildren have? Blogging to beat it back.  Would love to hear from you out there.  Anyone?  Anyone?

Need to put a smile on your face? Watch the video below:

For more about missing parents and family separation due to the coronavirus, visit:

More about Denial

Another day has come, and I want to continue the discussion about denial, which is currently having a significant impact on some individuals in my own family whom I dearly love.    

In exploring caregiving websites, I came across the following:  Caregiving Made Easy  See also:

It looks like a really good website, but I am stuck on its name.  It’s a pet peeve of mine when I hear the message, “Just follow these steps and caregiving will be easy.”  Education certainly helps, but when caregivers are told that following good advice will make it easy, it elicits a sense of failure when it is not.    Even experts who find themselves in the role of caregiver find that caregiving is never easy. 

As a matter of fact, being an expert can even create additional frustration.  As an expert, you have high expectations of yourself.  This only increases the pressure because you feel you should “know it all.”

“After all, who better to understand what was happening than I?  I say this factiously, because I am a palliative/hospice nurse and a former director of nursing for an assisted-living community with a dementia unit.  However, none of that helped me deal with the reality of my mother’s condition.  I soon learned how inept I really was at managing her care.  The result was that it took a crisis for me to be able to step in and take charge of moving my mom to a safer and more manageable environment.” 

What to Do about Mama? June’s Story, page 142

In my family, there are now-senior members who are historically the experts. They are the go-to people for all questions related to medical issues and well-being.  Accustomed to that role, they have not transitioned easily to accepting that they have become the folks in need.  It has taken the CRISIS SITUATION to provoke them into doing what needs to be done.  And despite having a very-competent next generation to help, they all need to learn how to navigate the changing of the guard—that process when parents relinquish control and children accept that their parents, who they always relied upon, are now the one one’s in need.       

Here is the cold truth for my generation.  We are next up at bat—not just as caregivers—but as care receivers.  Most of us find that concept hard to accept, and it appears that we are in denial that the time is coming (or has arrived) for us to pass the torch. 

But maybe the denial is being generated by more fundamental causes because we: 

  • value our independence and do not feel ready to give it up—even gradually; 
  • are self-conscious that it’s difficult to do things that were once easy;
  • are uncomfortable with the idea that we cannot be depended upon as we once were; 
  • are afraid to lose our abilities to do such things that are now unsafe, such as driving or climbing ladders;
  • lose once-familiar personality traits when depression makes us sad and saps our joy;
  • withdraw and become socially isolated—feeling powerless that we can’t change what is happening;
  • lose our core identity—our sense of self. 

What to Do about Mama? isn’t a book by “experts,” but by regular people in the trenches.  It may just resonate with you.


Thoughts about Denial

I asked on my Home Page:  Did you ever have a major life experience that made you say (or even just think), “I should write a book”? Well, I did.  The Caregiving Experience.  I kept a journal; I saved e-mails written to family; I had a veritable glut of relevant information and experience.  So, what did I do with all this stuff?  I wrote What to Do about Mama?  The book was released November 2013, and within a couple of years I was thinking:

  • Young people don’t think they need it yet.
  • Caregivers are too darn busy.
  • Post-caregivers just want to “put it all behind them.”

Believe me, I get it.  But these attitudes are a core reason for why caregiving becomes one big viscous cycle.  It usually takes a crisis to pull us out of the procrastination, avoidance, and denial mode.  I want to tell you—that just ain’t no fun.    

The 2nd edition of What to Do about Mama? has now been released.  There’s a new chapter, The Aftermath of Caregiving, which deals with a number of these issues.

There are many steps you can take to be proactive about preparing for future caregiving needs.  Many are discussed in the book. Here is just one:

Parent Information Folder
Conversation Project
  • The folder has the relevant information our children (or surviving spouse) will need.
  • Table of Contents: Financial (accounts, expenses, insurance, taxes and payments; Legal (information and paperwork); Property Maintenance (home and vehicles); Medical Information (insurance, medical history, wishes and preferences for end-of-life care); Other (information to access accounts, an inventory of belongings with our children’s and grandchildren’s preferences noted).
  • The Conversation Project is a conversation starter, but it also contains our values, as well as our preferences for life-decisions and care. It is in the medical section.
  • Our will and directives are also completed, but are in a separate file.

Denial of Caregiving:
Three articles of interest.

Daily Caregiving:  3 Ways to Deal with Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.”

Why would someone be in denial?

  • Asking someone to change how they see your older adult threatens their whole world. That’s usually why people fall back on denial.
  • It’s safe and comfortable to pretend that everything is fine and nothing is changing.
  • For some, denial is a subconscious way to ignore the fact that their parent or spouse is declining. For others, it’s a way to avoid taking on caregiving responsibilities.

A Place for Mom: 13 Dangers of Caregiver Denial

Denial is a normal human emotion.  No one wants to confront diseases such as Alzheimer’s for which there is currently no cure.  Caregiver denial presents dangers that puts the caregiver at risk, as well as the care receiver.  Elizabeth Lonseth, whose parents and parents-in-law were all diagnosed with memory impairment, is the author of “A Gradual Disappearance”.  Elizabeth is up-front that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been through the caregiving experience—it never gets easy. But a little education helps, and the article presents some good pointers and survival tips to keep in mind.

  • 7 Dangers of Denial for the Patient
  • 6 Dangers of Denial for Family Members

Our Aging Parents: Are Your Elderly Parents In Denial?  By Mike Gamble

This article questions whether what appears to be denial is really triggered by underlying causes, and that progress depends on understanding those causes. 

  • Pride — Fiercely independent, they simply don’t want to admit they can no longer do many of the things needed to live independently.
  • Embarrassment — They are uncomfortably self-conscious because they can’t do things they used to do with ease.
  • Ashamed — They are afraid of disappointing friends, family members and other people they admire and love because they are no longer capable of living independently.
  • Fearful — They are afraid of losing their independence and/or their ability to function independently. Such as giving up driving
  • Depressed — They look sad, talk less, never smile, are joyless, believe they are a burden.
  • Powerless — They feel helpless — like they no longer have the power or ability to act to change their circumstances. They withdraw, become socially isolated.
  • Core Identity — There’s nothing that leaves you feeling more powerless than losing your core identity.

This last list is really hitting home for me right now. I’ll save that discussion for another day.

Barb Matthews

And they call US “Boomers”?

I recently heard my 12-year-old grandson call his brother a “Boomer” and it was clear that he used the term in a derogatory way. Upon questioning, I discovered that to the younger set, “Boomer”, which was once synonymous with rebellious sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, has morphed to mean “a technologically challenged older person.”

Really? When did that happen?

As the video below demonstrates–it’s all just a matter of perspective.

Hospice Experiences

In response to Joy Johnson’s article

Challenges of dying at home, revisited — The Memories Project

When I worked as an Assessor at the Area Agency on Aging, I heard only rave reviews about Hospice Services.  Our own family experience, which I write about in my book What to Do about Mama? was also positive. 

A hospice group supplied my mother-in-law with a transport chair so I could get her out of the house to go to the senior center, and with travel oxygen so she could go to the beach with her daughter. In other words, although hospice eases the process of dying, it also facilitates and encourages the process of living.

What to Do about Mama? p 170

Families often overlook or do not consider hospice when they feel they don’t need it yet. “There is a tenacious and lasting perception that hospice comes in only when people are on their deathbeds. Of course, hospice does take care of dying patients, but that is certainly not all it does. Hospice also helps caregivers by providing home-health aides. It gives emotional and spiritual support to the family as well as to the patient. Hospice loves to come in and help people enjoy everything they can do in life.

What to Do about Mama? p 170

However, all circumstances are not the same.  My daughter-in-law’s mother passed away surrounded by family.  Her husband, sister, and children all pulled together and shared the responsibility for her care, augmenting the services hospice provided.  Her wishes were honored and she spend as much time with family as she could.  I was told that when she died, there was a smile on her face.  I suppose you could say that her death was about as good as a death can be. But this family communicated openly and confronted death according to their mother’s wishes.

 My son-in-law’s (SIL) mother also had hospice services at home.  But there had been more denial and less opportunity to let her wishes be known. 
(See previous blog: The We Don’t Need It Yet Phenomenon)

Hospice had brought in a bed so SIL’s Mom could sleep in a room downstairs.  During the night she got up to go to the bathroom and fell.  She had no hands-on-help because her husband was sleeping in the bedroom upstairs.  The next morning the hospice nurse sent her patient to the local hospice facility—to be more safe, I presume. This is not the place she wanted to be, and she passed away soon afterward.    

Talk about it beforehand. You won’t regret that you did.