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December 2007

Celebrating Elder’s Anniversaries Can Be Painful

My mother always told me not to get married at Christmas time. She and my dad eloped December 26, 1940. It sounds very romantic. But they spent the rest of their lives trying to fit in an anniversary celebration around the Christmas holidays. It even became a family problem during times like their 25th and 50th anniversaries, when we wanted to have guests and a big celebration. I took her advice to heart.

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Alzheimer's and Early Detection

Beating Alzheimer's disease is proving to be a huge challenge, but new tests that show that the disease may start long before symptoms are noticed. If researchers are on the right path, a new test may help find the disease before damage is done, thereby giving people hope that a cure could stop the mind-robber in its tracks. The New York Times article Finding Alzheimer’s Before a Mind Fails offers some exciting progress in this research.

"Old Age in a New Age": A Book About Transforming Nursing Homes

I've read about the "Green House Project." I've seen homes that proudly carry the moniker "Eden Alternative." I've witnessed tremendous progress, physically and culturally, in many of our local nursing homes. But I've never had the foundation to defend my dream of patient centered, dignified lifestyles for our elders until I read Beth Bakers "Old Age in a New Age: The Promise of Transformative Nursing Homes."

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Christmas Eve and Elder Care

This is a spiritual time of the year for many people. For me, today is Christmas Eve day. It brings back memories of the times when my parents were doing well. They were wonderful grandparents who loved having Christmas Eve at their home. My children and I would eagerly await the evening newspaper, which always ran Clement Moore's "'Twas the night before Christmas" on the frontpage. We'd read that poem before we packed up and went to Grandma and Grandpa's house - not through the woods, but there was generally plenty of snow. One year we even saw "Santa" going up to someone's house, and my little boy was worried that we were too late. You're not supposed to see Santa. I told him that Santa was probably at that house early because they had a special need for it. He seemed satisfied.

This season is a time for memories, good and not so good. We had several loved ones die around the Christmas season. One year, my youngest son voiced the concern that there would be another funeral at Christmas. So, feelings are mixed. I've always tried to keep this time of year as low-key as possible, but in our culture, there is only so much you can do. During their grade school years, my kids sang in the early Christmas Eve church service. We had two sets of elders and my first "elder care" person, my next-door neighbor, Joe, to think about. We did what we could. What is, just is. I've always tried to keep expectations of a perfect holiday season at a minimum. Yet, there were disappointments. That is life.

For today, after working at my "day job," I'll run home and do a few things in preparation for Christmas Day. My sons, my daughter-in-law and I had a lovely Christmas Eve celebration a day early - yesterday - since it was Sunday and was more relaxed. Yet, as I drive home from work tonight, I know I'll be feeling the Christmas Eve spirit in the air. I'm hoping I am aware of the beauty. I'll make an effort to be aware, no matter how tired I am. For Christmas Eve is Christmas Eve.

All the best to you all, dear Readers. I appreciate you more than I can say.


Moderate Exercise Can’t Hurt – Might Help

According to a study published in the December 19, 2007 online issue of "Neurology," the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people 65 and older who get moderate amounts of exercise appear to significantly lower their risk of developing vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Unlike some studies, this report didn't find that exercise reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but that is the nature of studies. It generally takes many studies to determine a truth - and as we all know, that "truth" can change in a millisecond if another study is conducted.

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Sharing Private Struggles for the Greater Good

I was raised in an era when people didn't talk about their family struggles. Support groups were unheard of. You did what you had to do and you didn't ask for help. Things have changed and along with this change has come an open communication that some may question as excessive. Certainly, in many instances, it seems to be. However, when it comes to sharing our struggles with others who are going through similar circumstances, I think this open communication is good. I wrote a post for my Our Alzheimer's blog awhile back that I'd like to share with you. Dorian Martin, the woman  I refer to, is a fellow blogger on the site. Her mother had just passed away, and she and I shared some stories. We both had some reservations about what we shared with the public. That is when I wrote, "Sharing Private Struggles for the Greater Good."

"OurAlzheimer's writer Dorian Martin's mother died over the weekend from Alzheimer's disease (and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD). Dorian is a talented writer and a devoted daughter. She and I discussed publicly, on Our Alzheimer's, as well as privately, the questions we asked ourselves as we publicized our loved ones' struggles with dementia."

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Elder Suicide: How We Can Try To Prevent It

It was obviously a murder-suicide. That much is clear. The man, in his eighties, sent his family an e-mail saying there would be "no more pain and suffering." He stabbed his Alzheimer's afflicted wife once in the heart, then stabbed himself multiple times. This was a loving couple that didn't want to be separated. They didn't want to go to a nursing home and they knew the time was near. They'd rather die.

Just last September, in another small town not far away, an 86-year-old man shot his wife, called the police and then shot himself to death. The reasons are pretty much the same.

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Tips for Seniors Traveling Over the Holidays

I wasn't aware of CareGrade.com until I was asked for an interview. I checked the site and was very impressed (see post below). One of the most timely articles on the blog is about seniors and travel, so I'm giving you a bite, here, and sending you to the CareGrade blog for the rest of the tips.

From Tips for Seniors Traveling Over the Holidays

The following is a list of helpful tips for seniors and their family’s. Hopefully it will make traveling during the holiday season a bit easier.

1.Call the airline in advance and ask them to have an employee escort the senior to the gate. This gets them through the screening process, can eliminate the standing by using a wheel chair if necessary and eliminates the confusion of getting to the right gate.
2. Have the airline mark the ticket Needs assistance and have a family member escort them instead of the airline employee.

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Sites to Help You Choose Care

My friend Barbara Mascio started Senior Approved Services several years ago, as her need to advocate for seniors pushed her forward. Senior Approved businesses must have a 90% approval rating as shown by a third-party survey. It's a unique way to find the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to senior care. You can check out SAS by clicking the link below my photo.

Not all businesses are financially able to apply for Senior Approved status, or it may not suit their business model. Yet, there should be some way for a consumer to get an idea of the level of service provided by assisted living, nursing homes and other caregiving centers. Enter CareGrade. This fairly new service provides a place for people to go in and critique care centers that they have used. It's consumer driven and one more unique tool in finding quality care.

The ideal facility would be on both sites, but many good ones will not yet have attained that status. I would check out both of these fine sites, if I were looking for caregiving facilities in my area. (Unfortunately, not all areas are served by either, as of now, which leaves some of us still depending on provided references - not perfect, but at least it's something).



Elders, Eye Health and Depression

A study about the connection between an elder's eyesight and depression was conducted recently at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The study showed that elders that don't get their eyesight checked regularly, and their glasses updated, showed more signs of depression.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Many elders don't hear well. They have other health problems. They lose so much outside stimulation, that if their eyesight isn't kept as sharp as possible, they will just decline more. Of course they get depressed.

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