Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Of course I don’t consider myself as elderly, I consider myself a young woman of, say, 17 or 19, who has been inexplicably run over by a manure truck. I have a photograph of myself at 20 on my refrigerator, with the caption, “When this you see, remember me,” but people still ask, “Is this one of your daughters?” To my astonishment, they can see no resemblance whatsoever to the me of now.

My father used to look in the mirror and howl, “Who’s this old geezer with a turkey neck looking back at me? What happened?” Of course I thought he was kidding, because he indeed was an old geezer of perhaps 50 years.

Whatever your perspective and level of denial is, certain deteriorations inevitably occur, and the more complicated your life becomes as a result, the harder it is to keep everything straight.

For instance, the older I get the more pills I have to take. This is disconcerting in itself, in that you never know if the new pill you started taking is going to show up on the front pages on the list of pills that will probably kill you, and the pharmaceutical companies cleverly print their Miranda warnings and side effects in print so small that only a tiny child with perfect eyesight, but who is not yet old enough to read, could bring them into focus.

I just had a prescription filled for a triglyceride pill I’ve been taking for years, a small, oblong orangish pill that I could easily identify in my pillbox. I twisted open the adult bottle cap (if it’s a child-proof cap I can just forget it now that my kids are grown) and alors, found it full of little round white pills, exactly the size, shape and color of two other pills I’m taking.

Of course all the pills need to be taken at different times of day – the new little white pills are taken every other day – and it’s enough trouble just keeping track of them without dealing with identical triplets.

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My mother lived to 99 and never put any phone numbers on her speed dial. She said she needed to remember our numbers in case of an emergency, and if she put them on the speed dial she’d soon forget them. She felt the same way about keeping track of her pills – that it was important to know what she was taking and when to take them.

She remembered the phone numbers until the end, but the pills eventually defeated her.

Your health care insurance providers constantly change the parameters of approved pills. Usually this means switching from brand-name pills to generic pills. I am all in favor of generic pills – under Medicare (which, so far, is working very well) it can make the difference between a $1.22 prescription and one for $185. On the other hand, the powers that be often substitute one generic pill for another, meaning another shape, size and color, as well as another name.

There is surely a special circle of hell for the people who name the generic drugs. You get used to remembering the name-brand Glucophage (and have even, finally, remembered how to spell and pronounce it) and suddenly you are taking Metformin. What kind of mnemonic device can you use to substitute this new name in your memory bank? Does it rhyme with Glucophage? Does it start with the same letter? No to all of the above.

I carry a list of my meds because every time you turn around you’re asked for it, and it is as scratched out as my old address book. I don’t use the mail-order delivery anymore because they kept sending new pills and the old ones piled up and if you’re looking for a Really Bad Day try calling up one of those outfits.

Meanwhile, they could put a red dot on one of those little white pills and a blue dot on another and life would be a lot easier here in the land of the lost.

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