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July 2011

LTC ombudsman discovers first-hand dehumanizing nature of some nursing home procedures

One of my most cherished mottos is that we can’t really know – deeply and completely – what another person feels or is going through unless we’ve experienced their pain. An obviously enlightened, educated long-term care advocate has proven this old adage to be correct.

Deb Holtz is Minnesota’s Long-term care ombudsman, the top consumer advocate for thousands of elderly Minnesotans. Her career is helping nursing home residents or their families, who have complaints about facility care, resolve those complaints.

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Caregiver alert: today’s middle-aged women first generation not expected to outlive male counterparts

We've read the statistics repeatedly. Stress shortens life. Caregivers are generally stressed by the many demands, emotional and physical, on their time and energy. Many are of the sandwich generation, those who are defined as caregivers for both the young and the aged. Several studies show that 30 percent of caregivers will die before the people they care for. This is not just true of older caregivers. All ages are at risk since stress levels, combined with self-neglect because of time constraints and exhaustion, can lead to undetected cancers, depression, auto-immune diseases, high blood pressure and other health risks.

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Caregivers May Wonder about Quality of Life for Elders

As a person who was the primary caregiver for multiple elders, many of whom lived for years with debilitating medical problems, I join the ranks of those who have wondered about the price we pay for being “saved” from diseases, only to live for years in a much diminished state. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I loved my elders, and wouldn’t willingly have given up a moment that I spent with them.

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How to preserve our elders sense of purpose and dignity and still keep them safe

How do we get them to stop doing “handyman” tasks, doing yard work that should be hired out or even extensive kitchen work? Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning. If a person has no purpose in life, why go on living? For elders whose bodies – and sometimes minds – seem to betray them more each day, this becomes and issue.

Read more about helping our elders when they may be in danger, yet maintain their dignity:

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More tests developed to diagnose Alzheimer’s early: would you want to know?

News from the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference which recently took place in Paris has been exciting in many ways. One of the most interesting - and to many people, controversial - topics has been the advancement of tests that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease up to 20 years prior to symptoms.Why the controversy?

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When caring for people with Alzheimer’s Give Choices When Possible

Maybe it’s because I grew up close to my maternal grandparents. Maybe it’s because my paternal grandmother lived with us in our home for many years. Maybe it’s just my nature. Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved older people. I’ve loved their stories and their histories.  These are people who have lived full lives. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect no matter what age and disease has taken from them. Part of that respect is to allow them to make choices whenever they can. This approach is the aim of person-centered care, which is now the epitome of good nursing homes.

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When Alzheimer’s turns nice people violent

Dear Carol: My husband has mid-stage Alzheimer’s. He’s always been a wonderful man, but the disease has changed him and he’s become violent. After he hit me in the face, I needed eye surgery. Even after this event, my children fight the idea of placing him in assisted living. How do I convince them that things need to change? – Andrea

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How do your elders view new technology that monitors their home life?

During my busiest elder care years, I convinced several of my elders to wear personal medial alarms. With personal medical alarms, the person wearing the alarm is in control. If there’s a fall or other emergency, the person pushes a button on the bracelet or necklace style alarm, and help is summoned. Once they agreed to wear the devices, my elders did feel more peace of mind.

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The “hidden” financial costs when we quit our jobs to care for our loved ones

I don’t need a study to tell me that leaving the workforce to become a family caregiver has cost me, financially, big time. All I have to do is look my puny projected Social Security. Over two decades of my adult “productive” years have been spent caring for elders and children while not working at paid employment.

Read more about the hidden financial costs of quitting employment to become a family caregiver:

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"Green Kitty" helps explain Alzheimer’s to pre-teens; emphasizes elders’ value

GreenKitty“Green Kitty,” written by Faer Bryan, takes me back to the delights of my pre-teen years as I listened to my grandparents’ talk of “the old days.” I loved their stories. My mom’s mother, particularly, was a natural storyteller. When my older brother and I would visit my grandparents, who then lived a couple of hundred miles from our community, we’d go with them to historical sites. My grandparents knew more than the young summer guides.

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