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March 2009

All Fargo Nursing Homes Evacuated Just In Case

Even nursing homes in the higher elevations of Fargo and Moorhead have been evacuated, even though it's looking more and more like the core city, at least Fargo (Moorhead is having sewer backup)  will be safe. My heart goes out to the elders who are confused and frightened, and can't understand what is happening. Families have been upset as they track their loved ones.

Even Mayor Walaker didn't know where his mother was for a time. The nursing home administrators have worked hard at notifying families, so that problem now seems taken care of.

One great 93-year-old was quoted as saying, "Well, I don't like this much, but even though I can swim, I can't swim that well!" Fortunately, this gentleman was very alert and understood what was happening. It's the people who can't understand that break my heart. But it would be worse if they had to be taken out as flood waters rise.

That possiblity seems less likely now, though a blizzard coming in on top of the flood problems is not good news. It's good to have the elders safe.

Fargo Flood: Evacuating Seniors

Nursing homes and other facilities have been evacuating seniors for safety. It’s heart-wrenching to watch, as their confusion and that of the families is nearly incomprehensible. The last time we were in such a fix – in 1997 – Fargo didn’t have to evacuate, but smaller towns had to boat people out, and that was more traumatic for everyone. Families didn't know where their loved ones were.


This evacuation was precautionary, and will likely be proven “unnecessary” in the end, as most of the city should stay dry (God willing – if the dikes hold back the water for the next week).


Then, there will be a lot of second guessing by families. Was it necessary to put the elders through this? Well, the city leaders make the best decisions they can, and the idea of getting vulnerable people out before they have to be put in freezing boats and carried without wheelchairs was prudent.


Still, there will be a lot of fallout. They’ve made each decision on a facility basis, and I’ll be checking after it’s all over to see what each facility did. I don’t want to add to their agony by getting in the way now.


Watch for updates.

Evacuating Elders in a Disaster

Some background:

We, in Fargo, North Dakota (where I live) and Moorhead, Minnesota – cities divided by the Red River of the North, are in a fight of our lives. We thought the worst flood threat was behind us.

In the spring of 1997, record snow melts and a disastrous ice storm in April brought on flooding throughout this flat river valley of rich farmland that was once the bottom of Lake Agazzi.

This spring, because of many factors, we are experiencing even higher flood levels. Amazing people from Alaska to Florida, Wisconsin and other areas have shown up to help fight the water. Hampered by more snow and record low temperatures now (which freezes sandbags and keeps the sand from forming tight bonds), these people are working night and day. The crest prediction keeps rising. The biggest problem will be keeping the dikes from breaking as the pressure from the high water sits for most of next week, slowly moving north. Yes, this river moves north.

The dikes get saturated and weak. The pressure is huge. A major break is always possible.

Now for elders and evacuation. In 1997, Ada, Minnesota and Wahpeton (ND)/Breckenridge(MN), which are also divided by the Red River, had ice jams which called for emergency evacuation from nursing homes. The TV footage still haunts me – frail, confused elders being taken out of nursing home windows and put in boats to get them to safety. In my book, a story is told by a daughter whose father was evacuated from an Ada nursing home. For hours, she didn’t know where he was. He never fully recovered, mentally.

We, in Fargo, are now evacuating our vulnerable people in case the worst happens and we go under, like Grand Forks, ND did in 1997. It could happen here. Evacuation (or even the thought of it) is emotionally and mentally hard on all of us. People are leaving their homes, not knowing what they will go back to. I haven’t had to do this – yet, but the stress is huge.

For you?  Think of your elders. What would you do? Whether they are in a nursing home, in an apartment or living with you, what would you pack? What would you do if, because of a hurricane, flood, tornado or fire, you were told you had to move them NOW. The power is cut off. Water must be shut off.

They are already confused. They are frightened. So are you, but you try not to show it. What medications must go with? Is there something small but comforting you could grab? No one wants to think of these things, but they are all too real. They happen.

I’m asking for prayers for our cities; for our elders and sick people who are now being evacuated by ambulances from several states and taken to hospitals in other areas, many miles from home; for people in nursing homes who have been moved to the highest floors, but may have to be take to strange places – without their families; for children who are frightened. I'm asking for prayers for incredible people who come from the safety of their own homes, who leave their jobs and families to come and help strangers.

Pray for us, if you will. I’ll keep you updated.

Study Shows Donepezil and Antioxidants Together May Help Mild AD

There's some good news from a study involving antioxidants used with a cholinesterase inhibiting drug, donepezil (sold as Aricept), and the effect of the combination on Alzheimer's disease. In article titled, "Cholinesterase Inhibition Combined With Antioxidants May Help Alzheimer's Disease Outcomes: Presented at ADPD," explains that researchers have found that combining a "defined" formulation of antioxidants they call "Formula F" with donepezil, when treating mild Alzheimer's disease, "substantially reduces oxidative stress and provides significant benefits over treatment with donepezil alone."

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Sugar and Aging: What’s the connection?

Sugar. When I was young, I was a strange kid who often didn't even want ice cream or other desserts. I took after my father who wasn't a sweet eater. Neither of us wanted sugary foods. Unfortunately, advancing years brought out my inner child. I'm now a hardcore sweet eater, at least some of the time. I cycle with it. We know sugar isn't good for our teeth. We know it puts on unhealthy weight. But breast milk is sweet for a reason. The human infant is drawn to sweets, and we don't seem to outgrow that attraction.

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ElderCarelink Expands Roster of National Agencies

Many of you know that I’ve expanded Minding Our Elders to give readers more nuts and bolts help. Support of caregivers who’ve walked the path is vital to breaking the isolation they often feel. Caregivers can renew themselves by talking with other caregivers. They also learn that some of their less than kind thoughts, brought on by overwork and under appreciation, are normal and not nasty. So, offering support will always drive me to do what I do.

My links pages offer many valuable resources. However, I’ve joined forces with a company called ElderCarelink. After a process of elimination, I found them to be the best overall resource for caregivers looking for care agencies, or just trying to figure out what is available in the region their elder lives.

ElderCarelink, a national online elder care referral service, has helped over 450,000 families find quality local elder care resources to support their needs. The company is continually adding businesses to its roster, so caregivers around the country can, by taking a brief survey, decide on the services they need and the best available businesses to provide these services.

Through a new program we are offering together, agencies that sign up with ElderCarelink are now offered a free, national press release  that goes out on Google, Lexis/Nexis, Yahoo and other search engines. Most are picked up by their local papers. There is a hot link, in the press release, to the agency’s Web site. This is bringing new agencies into the fold, from all over the country.

Through my collaboration with ElderCarelink, I’m hoping to help long-distance caregivers find ways to help the elder who lives far away. That’s one of the most worrisome kinds of caregiving, so this is a valuable tool. Of course, it works great locally, as well. With hard work, we should soon have options for people in nearly every part of the country.

So, care agencies, if you are interested in joining the referral network, contact George Novoson, Vice President, ElderCarelink  by phone at 781-769-7295 or e-mail at gnovoson@eldercarelink.com. George is a great guy who will help you understand the benefits of being part of ElderCarelink.

Readers wanting to know what agencies are available in a specific locale can take this brief survey and get some real help.

When is Assisted Living the Right Solution For Elder Care?

My neighbor, Henry, lived in his little bungalow for nearly 50 years. He and his wife had raised a son in that home. Eventually, the grown son moved across the country. Henry’s wife died. Henry’s son wanted him to move to a place where he’d have company and help when he needed it. A place where he’d be safe and have friends.  Henry would have none of it. He was going to stay in his own home, in his own neighborhood. None of those new-fangled assisted living places where there’s no privacy. He liked his neighborhood where he’d lived for half a century. The trouble was, the neighborhood was no longer the same neighborhood.

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Memory Jogging Puzzles Helpful Tool for People with Dementia

"Memory Jogging Puzzles" were designed by a woman who watched her mother, disabled by a stroke in her 50s, deteriorate physically and mentally. The founder of Memory Jogging Puzzles did her research. She became aware of what is needed by activity directors in nursing homes and she designed two main products, with variations on each, to help fill those needs. esigns are copied from Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers. 

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Caregiver's Journal Good Read; Good Look at Canadian Elder Care

LivingDyingDignity  Living and Dying with Dignity, by Jennifer A. Jilks, is an interesting peek at family dynamics. Jilks’ book reads like a journal. Her personal quest to understand not only what makes others tick, but what she herself feels why she has those feelings, makes for a good story. 

Jilks' family includes siblings near and far (physically and emotionally), her complicated relationship with her aging parents who have aliments ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s, her teenage children and her own adult relationships, personal and professional.

It’s a good book, in and of itself. But American’s struggling with the issues of helping our parents get the care they need through our complicated health system will find this look at the Canadian system interesting. The Canadian system is not perfect, by any means. But many times, Jilks will refer to some kind of caregiver come to her parents' home as though everyone is automatically entitled to that care, if they need it.  And, in Canada, they are entitled. Those of us who’ve known the monetary cost, plus the sheer logistical nightmare of finding the right kind of care for an ailing elder, are bound to feel envious.

Take a look at this book if you like an engaging caregiving story with practical tips, and if you would enjoy a look at a different type of health care delivery system that we, in the U.S. have. Living and Dying with Dignity can be found on Amazon.com.


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Caregivers Can Succeed By Helping Loved One Find Contentment

How often have you asked yourself, "Am I doing this right? What can I do to make this better?"  The problem with coping with an elder in declining health is that they aren't going to get well. They are, in all probability, going to get worse. That is one reason I'm so devoted to the hospice concept. The idea behind hospice care is that no one needs to die in pain. Their aim is to find an area of contentment for the patient as well as the family.

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