Death Feed

6 Ways to Stop Stressing about Potential Disease

Brain4Many people are genetically predisposed to developing certain diseases, among them diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. It’s natural to worry if you’ve watched family members endure the illnesses. However, the cortisol released in your body by chronic stress, which can be caused by worry, could increase your susceptibility. The fix? Be proactive. Limiting stress may not completely protect you from the disease that you dread, but it can help your overall health and, for some diseases, this could help you avoid a trigger. Where do you start?

View slide show on HealthCentral about how to stop stressing about potential disease:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

The stories in this fine book showed us how others have gone through similar things with their families and that is somehow reassuring. There are some helpful suggestions but mostly there is the recognition that others went through the same thing. All we can do is our best. That is greatly reassuring during these difficult emotional times. If you are a caregiver, this is a must read. - Delores Edwards


Memory Impairment May Not Be First Sign of Alzheimer's

Memory1Because Alzheimer’s disease is thought to develop for years before symptoms become evident, the earliest possible detection is very important, so that the onset of the disease may be delayed and the overall care improved through the years. and hopefully, as therapies are developed, reversed. But how do you know if you or your loved one may have it? Indeed, a new study showed that behavioral changes affected 80 percent of those who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which for many people is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. These behavioral changes often became evident well before noticeable problems with memory.

Read full article on HealthCentral about the first signs of Alzheimer's:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol  Bradley Bursack also has an excellent website devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman


Often Surgery Seems the Only Choice, Yet Results Can Devastate

DeathDear Carol: My world changed in an instant when, at age 45, my mom suffered a brain aneurysm. Because of that, she had to undergo brain surgery which left her with dementia and severe physical limitations. I quit my job and took Mom home and cared for her for three years. Fortunately, my husband has been supportive and we could afford it. Eventually, Mom’s care needs were overwhelming me and I had to move her to a nursing home. I haven’t been able to drop the guilt that I feel over doing this even though I spend time with her daily.  Mom barely speaks and she’s in and out of reality. Mostly, she sleeps. The doctor calls this the natural progression of the disease. They gave me such hope with the surgery, but afterward, they just brushed off her dementia with the attitude of “it happens.” That attitude still makes me angry. Could I have done something different? – Trish: 

Read full column on Inforum about how even necessary surgery can have devastating results:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

The stories in this fine book showed us how others have gone through similar things with their families and that is somehow reassuring. There are some helpful suggestions but mostly there is the recognition that others went through the same thing. All we can do is our best. That is greatly reassuring during these difficult emotional times. If you are a caregiver, this is a must read. - Delores Edwards


9 Surprising Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Health

GutBacteriaIt’s not sexy but it’s real. Many scientists are now looking at the gut as a primary source of many diseases that plague humankind. Probiotics, the prebiotics that they feed upon in the gut, as well as changes in our diet are being studied as possible methods of preventing or curing major diseases.

View full slideshow on HealthCentral about how gut bacteria can affect health: 

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Where Is the Line Between Caregiver Stress and Burnout?

CaregiverStressEvery person who becomes a caregiver will have unique personality traits, yet we nearly always share certain feelings and experiences as we travel a road similar to one another. That’s one reason that caregivers often turn to other caregivers for support. It’s a version of the adage that we need to walk in another’s shoes in order to truly understand what they feel. One of those shared experiences is a certain amount of stress. Some personalities cope with the ever changing, nearly always challenging, business of caring for another adult with health issues better than others. A positive attitude and a flexible approach can go a long way as we feel our way along the sometimes uncertain path a caregiver must follow. But even the most laid back person is going to feel stressed by the responsibilities of caregiving from time to time. That’s normal and to be expected. With some care, people generally bounce back. What caregivers need to watch for is burnout.

Read full article on HealthCentral about the line between caregiver stress and burnout:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

The stories in this fine book showed us how others have gone through similar things with their families and that is somehow reassuring. There are some helpful suggestions but mostly there is the recognition that others went through the same thing. All we can do is our best. That is greatly reassuring during these difficult emotional times. If you are a caregiver, this is a must read. - Delores Edwards


Feelings of Unearned Guilt Intrinsic to Most Caregivers

GuiltIf ever there’s a group of people who suffer deeply from unearned guilt it’s caregivers. Whether you’re the parent of a vulnerable adult, an adult child of aging parents or the spouse of a vulnerable adult, you are bound to have your “if only” times where you are sucked into the quicksand of guilt. The reality is that most things you could have done differently wouldn’t have made a huge difference overall. Even if another approach would have made a difference, you can’t go back. Staying mired in guilt is counterproductive for you as well as your care receiver. While some reasons caregivers feel guilty are unique to their situation, many are commonly shared in caregiving. Below, I’ve listed four causes of unearned guilt that most caregivers share, along with some ideas that I hope will help you look at your situation more realistically:

Read more on HealthCentral about guilt and how it affects caregivers: 

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol  Bradley Bursack also has an excellent website devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman


Health Care Decisions: Will Your Wishes Be Known During End-of-Life Care?

DocumentIn my view, everyone over the age of 18 ought to have appropriate health care and financial documents that will assign a trusted person to speak for them should they, for whatever reason, be unable to speak for themselves. But most people wait until they’re well into middle age before taking care of this important legal work. For those who die young, or are disabled because of an unexpected event such as a car accident or ill-fated dive into an unfamiliar lake, it’s too late. Their families may have to fight in the courts and in hospital wards in order to carry through with the decisions that they believe this young person would have wanted them to make.

Read full article on HealthCentral about the need to assign financial and health proxies no matter what your age: 

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.”  Craig William Dayton, Film Composer


Delirium and Even Death Following Physical Trauma Not Unusual for Elders

DepressionthinkstockDear Carol: My mother, who was in her early 80s, was doing well except for arthritis and high blood pressure. Then she fell and broke her hip. After surgery, she seemed not just foggy but completely irrational. The doctor said that this wasn’t unusual for someone her age considering what she’d been through and that she’d get better. Mom spent several days in the hospital and was then moved to a nursing home to recover and receive physical therapy. The staff was terrific with Mom. When I asked them if Mom would recover mentally, they were non-committal. They didn’t want to say that she wouldn’t but they seemed less sure than the doctor. As the weeks went by she didn’t improve mentally, though she was doing okay physically. The, five weeks after the surgery, she suddenly died. It’s hard to accept. How common is this? – Terri

Read full column on Inforum about the effects of hospitalization on elders:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Hard Times for Caregivers: When Loved Ones Rally Before Death

DeathComfortMany adults sit by the side of their dying loved ones, sometimes for days, working on accepting the loss of their physical presence and what this loss means in their lives. Then, a spouse, parent, child or friend suddenly rallies, becomes more stable and in some cases wants to talk. We grasp at what seems to be a turnaround and sigh with relief. They are going to hang on for a while; or are they?

Read full article on Agingcare about the intricacies of the death rally:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


National Healthcare Decisions Week (NHDD): Why End-Of-Life Documents Should Remain Fluid

 This is National Healthcare Decisions Week (formerly "Day"). This book is a wonderful guide for deciding what you would want in the future. (Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword to the second edition).

WishesToDieForBestSeller"Code Blue!" A voice cries out in the Emergency Department. "Is there a doctor who can 'tube' a patient in Cardiac Cath Lab?"

These beginning lines of "Wishes To Die For: Expanding Upon Doing Less in Advanced Care Directives," by Dr. Kevin J. Haselhorst, prepare the reader for an adventure in self-examination.

The first chapter, titled "Self Determination," describes the author's own internal battle to balance his training as a doctor who cures at all costs with the wishes of his patients. Through his book, Haselhorst gently encourages us, the potential patients, to examine our right to decide how and under what circumstances we will be allowed a natural death.

In "Wish 10: Pre-Stamp Three Coins in the Fountain," Haselhorst writes, "I cannot remember the last time that I wished for a feeding tube, dialysis or ventilator." The author is not negating the importance of these treatments, but he is stressing that we must keep a record of our wishes up to date. He challenges us to examine what we really want at each stage of life. Any of the above efforts to increase our chances for survival may be a correct choice under some circumstances, but there often comes a time in our lives where less treatment is in our best interest. Unless our current wishes are made known, we may not be able to choose the manner in which our life comes to a close.

While reading the book I highlighted, underlined, and clipped colored markers on pages, thinking to myself that I must include this quote or that paragraph as I wrote. Before long, I realized that scores of quotes would be needed to do this work justice. The complete book with everything in context is needed before the reader can grasp the manner in which Haselhorst guides readers through their own journeys of self-examination.

That being said, what Haselhorst writes toward the closing of his book comes close to summing it up. He says that, "Death with dignity is only realized through the empowerment attained from engagement (of the patient)."

To address this belief, Haselhorst has designed a wristband similar to the well-known Livestrong Foundation wristband. The difference is that this band is bright yellow on one side and embossed with the words "Alpha care," meaning that the patient wishes doctors to keep trying all routes to keep him or her alive. The reverse side is a subdued blue and embossed with the words "Omega care" indicating the patient's wish to be allowed a natural death. With a twist of the wristband, a patient can communicate his or her current thoughts.

"Wishes To Die For" is an intellectual book, best-absorbed chapter by chapter. In my opinion, it's well worth taking this journey with the author to help us clarify our own beliefs. For more about Haselhorst and his work, visit www.wishestodiefor.com. The book "Wishes To Die For" is available at Amazon.com.

Previously published as a Minding Our Elders column for the Forum: Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbursack@msn.com.