Senior Living: How a to-do list can help you stay focused

Here’s how our columnist masters medical appointments and household chores.

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Attached to my fridge door is a notepad titled Alice’s To-Do List, a gift I received a few years ago from my friend Lilian. While some pages are already torn out, here’s a look at the items currently on the list and their background story.

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A few days ago, my phone rang. It was my former colleague Mary, my eldest by a year, who had just returned from another hospital stay. During our conversation, she bombarded me with questions, such as “Have you made a will? My answer was, yes, I have. “Do you have any relatives in town?” No, only in other parts of Canada. Then, “Have you made funeral arrangements?” I did mine.

I explained that yes, I have, sort of. I instructed a cousin in Hungary to come to Canada, collect my body and transport it to be buried in the family grave in Budapest, my home town. There are always problems, because my cousin has health problems and she is also aging. “Then you should talk to Bridget,” advised Mary. I knew she was talking about Bridget Fetterly from Kane Fetterly Funeral Home here in Montreal. Yes, the problem bothers me and I will have to make several calls.

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Now here’s a new one for me, constant pain that introduced me to medical professionals and illnesses I had never even heard of. Symptoms: stiffness in both feet, pain in the legs, all in bed at night. First: visit to a podiatrist, a foot specialist. Diagnosis: possibly PAD (peripheral arterial disease); a written note to the family doctor advises referring the patient to a vascular surgeon, a specialist treating diseases of the vascular (circulatory) system causing problems with blood circulation. The PAD brochure paints a rather chilling picture of the possible consequences of the disease, even describing the causes and treatments; Again, I’ll ask for a “second opinion” hoping to fix the problem.

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It all started when I told my otolaryngologist about my difficulty swallowing. I was sent to a clinic where an ultrasound test showed nodules (swellings) on the thyroid gland. I was told to see a thyroid surgeon for further examination. Thyroid gland? Nodules, possibly cancerous? Thyroid specialist? More words and conditions that I had never thought of but now had to consider. Luckily another biopsy at the specialist’s office showed the nodules to be benign, but the possibility of cancer lurks and I have to see the specialist in a year, which is coming soon.


While I’ve worn hearing aids for years, I became concerned when recently I couldn’t follow a midday conversation with friends. Maybe another hearing test might show the need for improved hearing aids.

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Although my macular degeneration treatments are ongoing and I have had two cataract surgeries, I am still able to read with prescribed glasses. Still, reading isn’t always easy and I’ll have to ask the ophthalmologist if the reading glasses could be improved.


Call the locksmith to check the faulty door lock; replace the broken watering can; install new Venetian blinds to replace those that have collapsed; call an electrician to repair the table lamp; replace the torn shower curtain.

And now, for a happy ending, here are a few things already checked off my to-do list.


Bought a desktop camera and microphone so I could join Zoom meetings. Already had my first Zoom experience, viewing a video trip to Paris. With the camera staring at me from the top of my computer screen, I was surprised to see myself on the screen. Luckily I had just come back from the hairdresser.


Do. Renewed for another 10 years. How’s that for optimism?

Good luck with your to-do list too!

— Alice Lukacs writes the Life in the 90s column


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