Elderly often haunted by ghosts of holidays past and present

Elderly often haunted by ghosts of holidays past and present

Tiny Tim - the ailing child in “A Christmas Carol” - is the image that may materialize when we picture the less fortunate at Christmas, said Dr. Scott Gibson, assistant professor of medicine (geriatrics). 

“But what about Ebenezer Scrooge?” Gibson said during Thursday's presentation, “Holidays and the Elderly.”

Gibson, along with Sue Ann Meng, geriatrics social worker, led dozens of UMMC health-care professionals in the discussion, the latest in the series of Schwartz Center Rounds sessions designed to promote compassionate care and strengthen caregiver-patient relations.

The two identified ways to help relatives and patients cope with a time of year that proves difficult for many as they grow older and, at times, more Scrooge-like.

“Underneath the gruff exterior is someone with feelings,” Gibson said.

Like the fictional Scrooge, many of the elderly spend the holidays estranged from family members while reliving old Christmas memories. For those reasons and more they are susceptible to depression, anxiety and chronic insomnia, especially those who live alone or in personal-care homes.

“They have long histories and memories - good and bad,” Gibson said. “The loss of loved ones changes how they view the holidays.”

To lighten this burden of “holiday blues,” Gibson suggested that health-care professionals and other caregivers:

  • Share the load with other family members or staff
  • Present elderly patients with Christmas cards or small gifts
  • Involve these older adults in activities that include small children
  • Resist the urge to offer your advice
  • Include aging parents or other relatives in decision-making

One of Gibson's patients, Robert Cawthorn of Brandon, is the opposite of the unredeemed Scrooge. He and his wife Judy love the holidays, a time when they are able to be with their three grown daughters and 13 grandchildren.

“But it's hard on some of my long-time friends,” said Cawthorn, 77. “Also, I lost my parents when I was 8. And my wife has lost hers. Something will happen that reminds us of what we used to do with our parents during the holidays.

“Certainly, you wish your folks were still with you. It's a little sad. Holidays bring back memories, but they are also sweet memories.”

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UMMC security guard Mattie Amos remembered with gifts for babies

The shiny, colorful shapes babies at Batson Children's Hospital will gaze at as they get well were given in memory of University of Mississippi Medical Center security guard Mattie Amos.

Earlier this year, Amos, 58, was struck by a vehicle as she was crossing Woodrow Wilson Avenue on her way to work.

Friends and family of Amos wanted their loved one to be remembered by generosity and care for children and not for her tragic death. The gift drive was started by Freda Brown, a friend and classmate of Amos since elementary school days in Morton.

Brown, whose husband, Adell Brown, pastors Coleman Chapel Church of God in Christ in Silver Creek, said the church does a project each Christmas.

“This year, it was laid on my heart to do this. Ms. Pepper (Weed-Cooper, a Child Life specialist) had said the babies sometimes get left out, so we decided to bring mobiles.”

Brown called Amos' sisters Jo Hamilton and River Clark, both of Jackson, to tell them of memorial plans.

“We just cried when she told us,” said Hamilton. “It brought tears to our eyes that someone would think of our sister and remember her like this. She would be so proud of this.”

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UMMC security guard Mattie Amos remembered with gifts for babies

Memory serves M2 Alex Mullen, new world mental athlete champion

Memory serves M2 Alex Mullen, new world mental athlete champion

Alex Mullen, a second-year medical student at UMMC, became the first American to capture the overall title at the 24th World Memory Championships, held Wednesday through Friday in Chengdu, China.

A memory athlete who entered the world of competitive memorization for the first time in 2014, the Oxford native was rewarded with approximately $40,000.

Team USA, led by Mullen, 22, took second place in the event, the highest showing for this country yet. Mullen's teammates were Luis Angel, Nelson Dellis, Lance Tschirhart and Brad Zupp in the international contest that attracted around 278 competitors from 23 countries.

“We were all thrilled to be able to represent the U.S.,” Mullen said in comments emailed from China, “and it feels great to be putting the America on the map in what has largely been a European-dominated sport. Hopefully, next year we can continue to push things even further and challenge for the overall title.” 

The championships, held in the Jintang Hengda hotel in the province of Sichuan, challenged contestants in 10 different disciplines to memorize quickly and accurately such information as spoken numbers, playing cards, historic/future dates, binary numbers, random words, speed cards and more.

“It was an unbelievable three days for me,” Mullen said. “I feel incredibly lucky. I certainly didn't expect to win. I knew that if I even wanted a chance at the title I'd need to have the most perfect competition of my life.”

The scores of the participants were cumulative. Their opponents were the clock and each other.

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