Health Feed

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: 

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“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


Making Life More Fulfilling for Older Adults with Low Vision

LowVisionMany people would consider losing their sight one of the worst potential losses that they could encounter. While most of us will not suffer from complete blindness, millions currently suffer from some form of visual impairment, with numbers growing rapidly as we age. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), older adults represent the majority of the visually impaired population, with visual impairment included among the 10 most prevalent causes of disability in the U.S.

Read full article on Agingcare about making life easier for those with low vision:    

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


Alzheimer's: Sedentary People Have the Same Risk as Those Who Carry the Genes

BraingamesA study has shown that sedentary people face a similar risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease to those who carry a genetic risk for the disease. To me, this information is startling. It should provide enough incentive to get those of us who have a thousand excuses for not exercising, to get in the game. The study’s researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario came to their conclusion after following the health of more than 1,600 Canadians over a period of five years. According to the abstract, physical exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing dementia.

Read full article on HealthCentral about how a sedentary lifestyle increases our AD risk as much as genetic risk:

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


Learning to Back Off and Accept Risks While Caregiving

BicycleRisk...I am aware that many people under age 65 need assistance from their adult children or other sources because of health problems. That being said, having arthritis or heart issues, for example, doesn’t make a person cognitively impaired. Therefore, when we offer to help in these situations, the elders’ opinions and wishes must be taken into consideration. I know only too well that watching our parents get older is difficult. Ideally, they were once our anchors. No matter how difficult life became, there was comfort in knowing that our parents were around, even if they were half way across the country. Now, when we see their joints needing replacement, their skin wrinkling, perhaps even their memory recall slowing, we cringe. Whether or not we wish to admit it, we are afraid. We know that our parents are not immortal. One day we will be without them.

Read full article on Agingcare about why we need to step back and not interfere with our elders' happiness:

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.


Reader Illustrates Importance of Proper Legal Documents for Loved Ones

Fatherson2Dear Carol: As my parents aged, we all thought that we were taking care of the legal issues necessary so that I, as Durable Power Of Attorney (DPOA) could handle anything that came along with their finances. Dad died two years ago, and Mom and I got through it. Now, Mom’s health is failing. She wanted me to change the account where her Social Security is deposited, so I called and found out that the DPOA would not allow me to do that. Fortunately, Mom’s memory is still good, so she was able to go to the attorney with me and she had me assigned as Representative Payee. The attorney told us that if Mom had a health issue where she couldn’t have answered the questions needed, I wouldn’t have been able to make the necessary changes. For us, that would have been merely inconvenient, but some people could have more important reasons for making these changes. Your column seemed to be the best way that I could think of to get the message out. Thanks for providing a great service. Janice

Read full column on Inforum about the documents needed to take care of loved ones:

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 


Deep Brain Stimulation Research Expands for Alzheimer's

Brain10A procedure that that is already being used for the treatment of some brain diseases is receiving increased attention as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Called deep brain stimulation (DBS), an implanted neurostimulator delivers electrical signals that help regulate abnormal signals in the brain caused by the disease. n the U.S., DBS is currently only approved for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. But the potential for its use is expanding, with more researchers looking into the procedure for epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorder, and now, Alzheimer’s disease.

Read full article on HealthCentral about the potential for DBS to reverse memory loss:

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


Tips to Help Someone with Dementia Bathe

BathingcopyBathing issues can be one of the most frustrating parts of dementia care, but a caregiver can lower stress with flexibility and insight. Here are some expert caregiver tips to consider when planning out bathing times for your loved one.
 

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


Memory Decline: Exercise May Help Slow or Reverse the Process

Exercise11The common view about memory loss is that nothing can be done to stop the decline or improve symptoms. Researchers are beginning to prove that this type of thinking is outdated. A study of people with vascular cognitive impairment, published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology and led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, P.T., Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada provides some hope. This type of cognitive impairment can lead to full-fledged vascular dementia, the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Read full article on HealthCentral about how exercise may help reverse memory decline:

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