Rona Barrett Foundation: Rona Barrett: A Prescription for Disaster

Rona Barrett Foundation: Rona Barrett: A Prescription for Disaster


By Rona Barrett | Published on 08.19.2015 7:43 p.m.

A friend showed me a tattered 1975 magazine article about “…a tycoon sacrificing everything for success.”

She was regularly watched by 30 million television viewers and read by millions more in magazines, books and syndicated columns.

Yet, throughout her 30-year career she was never satisfied. Like a never-sleeping shark, she was always on the hunt for a bigger bite of the audience share.

Yes, I was that woman. I magnified my goals as if looking at them through a telescope — the bigger the better.

Let’s fast-forward. Now I look at what I can realistically accomplish through an inverted telescope — a much narrower focus and smaller in scale.

This column is an example of that. I began Gray Matters nearly two years ago with one goal: if I can help just one senior or senior caregiver to think about an issue in a different way with each column — I will reach my goal.

And that goes for today’s column.

If you’re like me, sometimes you feel like you’re a walking medicine cabinet. That’s because seniors take about three times as many medications as our younger counterparts.

Remember how we used to take life with a grain of salt?  Now, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 40 percent of 65 and older adults take life with 5-9 pills a day.

I take so many daily vitamins now, I’m thinking about giving away the mineral rights to my body in my will!

As senior prescribed-drug use increases in the U.S., so do related risks. Pharmacists and healthcare providers can and do make errors. Patients become confused by having to juggle too many medications.

High costs of meds sometimes force seniors to forgo them, and how many of us hold onto old prescription bottles when they should be thrown out?

Compounding (pun intended) the problem with pharmaceuticals is forgetfulness — and the more serious problem of dementia. Some drugs’ side effects even exacerbate a senior’s already confused condition.

The good news?  Medical journals agree that 90 percent of these incidents could be preventable if prescription dosages were more clearly spelled out, and family and friends regularly monitor their loved ones’ use of drugs.

As always, this issue hits close to home.

Someone told a Valley senior about a new pill for arthritis that was really working. Trying to be helpful, this person suggested this senior “try a few.”

The senior, suffering with what she believed was arthritis, said she would first ask her doctor, who told her she shouldn’t take any medicine until after she was finished with physical therapy.

Either she didn’t listen to her doctor, forgot what was said or just made a bad decision. She took the three pills over three days.  They put her on her deathbed.

She prayed that if she lived through the night she would never take anyone else’s medicine. Sounds like someone upstairs made a house call.

If you now think twice about medications, this “tycoon” has accomplished her goal — again.

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.


— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at[email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

David Crosby Donates to Senior Housing Project

David Crosby Donates to Senior Housing Project


First Contributor to Rona Barrett Foundation’s Golden Star Campaign

david crosbyDavid and Jan Crosby are the first donors to Rona Barrett’s Golden Star fund-raiser for her foundation’s senior apartments in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


David Crosby and his wife, Jan Crosby, are the first “Golden Star” donors to the Rona Barrett Foundation’s Golden Star campaign. Barrett’s foundation has been fund-raising for an affordable senior living apartment complex called Golden Inn & Village in the Santa Ynez Valley since 2000. Working in conjunction with the county Housing Authority and Surf Development, she was able to finally break ground this April. Barrett, a former entertainment journalist, intends to have each of the 60 low-cost senior care and living apartments sponsored by an entertainment industry celebrity, who will have a permanent plaque displayed next to the unit they’ve supported.



Rona Barrett: Blue or depressed and can’t figure out why?

Rona Barrett: Blue or depressed and can’t figure out why?

During World War II LIFE magazine first published the haunting photo of a battle-weary soldier staring straight back at us with a detached, unfocused, haunted stare.

That’s where “the 1,000 yard stare” phrase came from. Then came growing discussions on post-stress, survivor guilt, and despondency that survivors suffer in trauma’s aftermath.

This came to mind recently when I realized that so many local seniors with whom I’ve been chatting lately are feeling blue or depressed and can’t figure out why.

They too wear a pained, detached, saddened expression. But theirs is the “why them and not me stare?” Why was it someone else’s time to go and not theirs?

I’ve been feeling helpless to help them. So I looked into the issue further.

I found out that research into the biopsychosocial effects of loss by the aged is in its infancy, but “survivor guilt” is emerging as one of the most widespread and mentally and physically debilitating issues for seniors.

Don’t we all look at the obituary each morning to see if we know anyone who has passed?  And if they are younger than us, don’t we wonder to ourselves “why them now and not us?”

Or when some forever-young celebrity we grew up idolizing suddenly succumbs.

Or when the incomprehensible happens and we lose a close friend, family or a soul mate.

All these tragic events manifest feelings of survivor guilt in seniors.

First, we feel guilty for staying alive while others die.

Then we wrestle with toxic self-blame that our loved one’s death was somehow our fault.

And then we begin to think about the amount of our own remaining time and the coulda-woulda-shouldas of our own lives.

All this talk about death and guilt and saddened seniors is very depressing, isn’t it?

Surviving seniors — the “forgotten mourners” — think so too. That’s why they won’t talk about it. Instead, they hide their feelings with an, “I’m perfectly fine don’t worry about me,” stoicism, or worse, withdraw into a constantly shrinking world.

Of course, buried feelings always come back to surface. With survivors’ guilt it’s through symptoms of depression and anxiety that snowball into worsening medical problems, physical ailments and mental health issues.

So, short of becoming a psychotherapist overnight, what can you or I do the next time we interact with a guilty survivor who has that “why me, not them” stare?

Let’s go deeper than “how are you?” Let’s take a few moments to make them feel listened to, understood and let them know their feelings are valid.

Let’s maintain a connection with them with an occasional call or email.

Let’s remember their special days.

Let’s not let them stagnate.  Let’s invite them places and involve them more often.

Let’s ask them directly what we can do to be more supportive.

Let’s show them, not just tell them they are not alone.

In other words, let’s not let them get away with saying, “Oh, you don’t want to hear about my problems.”

Let’s prove them wrong. In fact, here at the Rona Barrett Foundation we’re inviting the first 25 seniors over 70 years of age to write us why they would enjoy a lively evening of dining and entertainment at our 3rd Annual “Thanks-For-Giving” Barn Party to benefit the Golden Inn & Village, on Friday evening, Oct. 30.  Please limit your entry to 100 words and send to: RB Foundation at PO Box 1559, Santa Ynez, CA 93460.

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.


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