Birth Order

The birth order of each child in a family is outside of their control, but it will influence who they become.  Their personalities, the direction of their lives, and even the spouses that they choose, will all be set by their birth order. 

A first born child will be confident and controlling.  The middle child is usually restless, and often referred to as “typical middle child.”  The “baby of the family” often remains the baby for his or her entire life.   

Does birth order really matter?  Yes, because it may determine how each child feels about his or her parents when they grow old. It also matters how well all of the children get along when they are making decisions for their aging parents.  

Birth Order Does Matter 

Siblings are never the same because parents are different with each of their children, and children never take the same role. One child often becomes the caretaker, and another child will choose another role maybe as the academic or the athlete.  

We Are Different Parents with Each Child 

The oldest child grows up under a parent’s microscope, with every new step they take, from birth until adulthood.  The second child has to learn how to survive under the dominating older brother or sister who has never learned to share. The child that is caught in the middle is often dominated by the firstborn, because he or she is wiser and more competent.  By the time the baby of the family arrives, parents are usually worn down or worn out, and less likely to micro-manage this new little person.  

The parent has also figured out that the new baby is not going break, and they can be more flexible with their attention and discipline. As a result, the baby learns early on how to manipulate and entertain his parents.  

While the eldest child is programmed for excellence and achievement, the middle child is raised to be understanding and conciliatory, and the baby seeks all of the attention. As a result, birth order is a powerful variable while any personality is unfolding.  

The Firstborn Child: The Achiever 

The eldest child will probably have more in common with other firstborns than their own brothers and sisters. Because they have had so much control and attention from their inexperienced parents, they become responsible, reliable, well-behaved, careful and similar versions of their parents. 

The first born children are high achievers, dominating, and often perfectionists who drive every one crazy.  They often assume leadership roles in law careers or in medicine, and many even become CEO’s. Because the first born has learned parental skills, they try to dominate their younger brothers and sisters. They often have a sense of loss when the second baby is born, because their special place of authority is threatened.   All of the attention that was exclusively placed on them the first born child, is now shared with this new baby, and everything changes. 

The Middle Child: The Peacemaker 

The middle child, will probably be the most understanding, cooperative and flexible, yet also competitive. He or she will be concerned with fairness, and will be the opposite of the oldest and youngest child. The middle child, will most likely find a close group of friends to represent their extended family because they seek attention which they do not get from their family. The middle child is often slower to find his or her life’s work, but they often hold positions of power, because they have become masters at negotiating, which allows them the attention that they seek. The middle child will never excel in the same area as the older sibling, but their amazing social skills will help them negotiate and navigate through many family issues. Many middle children become entrepreneurs because they have mastered many of life’s skills while they were growing up.  

The Youngest Child:  Life of the Party 

When the baby arrives, the parents are now seasoned and confident with their parenting skills.  They are more lenient and not necessarily paying attention to their every move or accomplishment as they did with the older children.  The baby learns quickly how to manipulate and fascinate the parents because no one wants them to grow up. The youngest child always has been given more freedom than the other children in the family and they tend to be more independent. The youngest child often has a lot in common with the oldest child in the family because they both have been made to feel special. The baby is more outgoing and willing to try new things.  They are also more sentimental and forgiving than their older siblings. The youngest child often has influence over the entire family because everyone supports the “baby” both emotionally and physically.  

It probably won't surprise you that the youngest children often select careers in the entertainment industry as actors, comedians, authors, or directors. They also make good doctors and teachers. Because their parents were more laid back and lenient, the youngest child will expect more freedom to follow his or her own path in a more creative way. The “baby” in the family usually does not have the same expectations of responsibility that are placed on his or her older siblings.  

The Only Child 

Children who grow up as an only child were surrounded by adults, and they become more verbal and often more mature than other children their age.  They are often more intelligent and excel more than children who have grown up with siblings. The only child is often resourceful, creative, independent, and confident. The only child also actually has a lot in common with the first born children and the youngest in a family. 

Research on Parenting  

I have been fascinated over the years while assisting adult children with their aging parents, in how the children either come together or begin to argue with each other at every turn.   

For some time I have been researching birth order, because I wanted to understand why many adult children have strong feelings about how to care for their aging parents.  When the adult children are forced to work together it can either be cooperative or a complete disaster.   

It appears that the parents have a great deal of influence in the early years of child development in how their children will work together harmoniously. This is important information for parents, because they must create an environment that is positive, safe, healthy and stimulating when their children are born. 

They also must understand each of their children’s personalities and temperaments as they grow into adulthood.  The parents should organize the child’s activities and educational opportunities to help them experience their fullest potential.  They also must take time to understand that a first-born child feels highly responsible and they must lighten their load.  They must also recognize that the baby of the family is experiencing a more lenient environment and they must be more diligent in their discipline. Please don’t forget the middle child, because they also have a need to find their own place in the family to excel and not be forgotten. 

Well-adjusted children become well-adjusted adults. As children they were allowed to find their destiny, no matter what their birth order may have been, and their parents  supported them to be unique and special individuals on their journey of life.  



Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Seniors

As Care Managers we are often asked about gift ideas for seniors.  Here is a list of suggestions for gifts any time of the year.

  • A gift of postcards or lined stationery with a return address labels and postage stamps
  • A gift certificate for their favorite grocery store or restaurant

  • An assortment of greeting cards for birthdays and anniversaries, as well as get-well and sympathy cards and add the postage stamp to each one

  • A "certificate" for house cleaning, laundry, or anything that you could do to help the senior make some minor repairs. Even changing a light bulb can be a dangerous task!

  • A “certificate” to drive them to church, shopping, or a doctor’s appointment

  • A gift to Seniors with limited income, put some cash in a card and suggest that they buy something that they would like

  • A subscription for their favorite magazine or the daily newspaper.

  • A gift basket of healthy items; fresh fruit, cans of tuna or chicken, hearty soups, instant coffee or assortment of teas.

  • A large-print calendars with family birthdays, anniversaries marked and personalized with family photographs

  • A large-print address books with all of the  information transferred from their old address book

  • A special gift of restoring old treasured photos and placing them into a new album, with names and dates before they are forgotten

  • You may hear "Please don't give me anything," that usually means, "I have more things than I need." The most precious gift you can give is of your time!






Thanksgiving & Alzheimer's

 It may surprise you that someone living with mid to later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia may not remember that it is Thanksgiving!  People with Alzheimer’s disease are living in the moment. Their days and weeks run together and they are not counting the minutes until you arrive. Yes, they may still have long term memories including details of forty years ago that may surprise you, but their short term memory is no longer processing new information.  Family members often feel guilty when they even think about excluding their loved one from any family celebration, but the older adult with memory loss may actually be happier not being involved.   

Many family gatherings are attended by large numbers of people and children.  The day is usually filled with confusing sounds and everyone is talking at once.   These occasions can sometimes bring about unpleasant memories and emotions associated with certain family members.  The dinner is often more formal and not at the regularly scheduled meal time.  For “ALL” of these reasons, I encourage you to think twice about inviting any older adult with memory loss to join your Thanksgiving dinner.

 Alzheimer’s patients need a set routine, with peace and quiet.  Imagine how you would feel if you could not remember the faces of the people who were attending and you could not even find the bathroom.  Friends and relatives may ask multiple questions and continue to confuse the older adult even more.  Someone with memory loss may forget to use their napkin or even forget to wait for the blessing before they start eating. 

Before a big celebration you may want to try a smaller gathering.  It is important to observe any change in behavior on an outing.   Watch for signs of restlessness or for the person to appear to be afraid.  The older adult may ask the same question over and over which can be troublesome for your guest who does not understand Alzheimer’s or dementia.  These warning signs suggest that you should carefully consider how often they participate in any outing especially during the Holiday’s.  

You can make a “Holiday” on any day of the week; you just have to add the fun stuff, like their favorite foods, flowers, and even decorations.  On each visit take a hand written note or card for the older adult to read over and over after you have gone.  It helps them to remember you and it can be very meaningful even days and weeks later. 

You would be surprised how special even a one hour visit can be for someone with Alzheimer’s when you visit them in their safe and quiet environment.  I promise that any parent would be especially proud of their children continuing family traditions that they may have established years ago.  May God’s blessings be with each of you this Thanksgiving.


Do We Get Nicer With Age?

 Written By:  Gayle Horton

Our personality makes us who we are.  It influences our lives, from what career we choose to how we get along with our families.  It even influences who we choose as our friends, and even who we marry. 

Researchers believe that our personality does change as we age, because most people have personality changes over a period of their lifetime. My experience working with older adults is that they take the time to be more pleasant each day.  Many older adults have learned how not to sweat the little stuff in life!

There are "Five" big personality traits--conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion. One well known Psychologist, Sanjay Srivastava, PhD., reports that personality traits are largely set by a person’s genetics.  Psychologists Oliver P. John, PhD, and Samuel D. Gosling, PhD, and computer scientist Jeff Potter contributed to the research that long held assumptions about our personalities being set before we are born, may not be correct. 

These Big Five personality traits are often used to measure change in personality from age 10 to 65.

Extraversion, makes us talkative and sociable.  It is the one trait that makes us need to seek social support.  This trait also declines in women as they age, and it changes very little in men as they age.  Some research suggests that shyness might be linked to a shorter lifespan.

 Conscientiousness, is a trait described as being organized, disciplined, and being dependable.  These are also linked to success in your work ethic and your relationships which increase with a person’s age. This trait declines starting in late childhood to adolescence, but then increases again from adolescence into adulthood.  Dr. Srivastava states that "Conscientiousness grows as people mature and become better at managing their jobs and relationships, and agreeableness changes most in your 30s when you're raising a family and need to be nurturing."

 Agreeableness, a trait associated with being friendly, generous and helpful. This trait helps you to be polite and trusting, and you will most likely try to avoid competition. This trait starts generally in our 30’s and continues to improve through our 60’s.  

 Neuroticism, causes worrying, stress, and feeling anxious or moody.  Duringthis study the personality changes were generally consistent between men and women, except for neuroticism and extraversion.  Young women scored higher than young men, but that changed as men and women aged over time.  Worry and our sense of instability actually decrease with age for women, but worry does not decrease for men. This may be why the statistics of suicide have increased among older men.  Over time, people with a high level of neuroticism find new reasons to complain, worry, and be dissatisfied

 Openness, during this study showed declines in both men and women over time.  Our desire to try new experiences declines slightly with age for both men and women. This change indicates that the older we become the less interested we are in forming new relationships.  Socialization is much more difficult for older adults.  So, if an older adult appears cantankerous or eccentric, it is probably because he or she was that way as a younger adult.

 Therapists suggest that we can change our personalities or at least certain undesirable traits with therapy.  Many people consider seeking therapy to achieve better relationships at work and with their families. 






How Stress Affects Your Brain


Written By:  Gayle Horton


Each trauma in life that occurs will have a negative effect on your brain and impair your ability to function over time.


Some life events like a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one may cause changes in your brain function, but even temporary life events, such as an auto accident or job loss affect our emotional awareness. If you add up all of the annoying things that drive you crazy every day, you would be surprised at the damage that you are causing to your brain’s ability to learn and remember.  

As science gains greater insight into the consequences of stress on the brain, the results are not good.  A chronic reaction to stress overloads the brain with powerful hormones that our body manufactures to help absorb the short-term emergency situations.  When your stress levels do not change over long periods of time eventually you will cause damage to your brain cells.


When researchers analyze brain scans they can distinguish how different types of stress affect different regions of the brain. As these regions begin to shrink, we will tend to lose touch with our emotions, and we will act in inappropriate ways with other people. The mood centers in our brain will also severely distort our ability to regulate pain and pleasure.


Chronic stress can contribute to the brain shrinking gradually as we continue to push through every day, trying to meet deadlines, or manage work and family life.  A sudden significant traumatic event will affect our ability to cope, and over time all of these traumatic events will impair our thinking while our brain is deteriorating. However, anything that puts high demands on you, or forces you to adjust, can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.


It is important to understand what causes your stress. Maybe you can begin to reverse these effects because you are now more aware.  Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that only compound the problem. You might drink too much to unwind at the end of a stressful day, maybe you eat junk food and zone out in front of the TV or computer for hours, perhaps you use pills to relax, or you relieve your stress by lashing out at your children or other people. However, there are many healthier ways to cope with stress and its symptoms.


Relieving stress through exercise or meditation is an important way to diffuse some of the potentially harmful effects stress can have on your brain. Maintaining strong family and social relationships can also help you see the appropriate perception of events or experiences that may be too overwhelming for you to handle on our own. You may also need to seek professional help to set healthy boundaries as you learn to balance your stress levels.


Once you have mastered these core skills you will have the confidence to face stressful challenges, knowing that you will have the power to set healthy boundaries and bring yourself back into a healthy balance.