Memory Feed

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.


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


Moving Parent from Assisted Living to Memory Care May Require Creativity

WomenOldYoungDear Carol: My mom has been in assisted living for six years and she’s loved it. Unfortunately, while she’s relatively healthy, her short-term memory has nearly disappeared and her ability to make decisions is negligible. The doctor says that she is ready for a memory care unit, and there’s one in the same facility, but she’s resisting. I know that we have to move her, but I don’t know how to do it without upsetting her. Do we just tell Mom that this is what she needs to do and then simply move her? I’m terrified that she’ll give up and start failing.  Jen

Read full column on Inforum about moving a parent to memory unit:

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


Why Your Ill Loved One Fools the Doctor and What to do About It

DoctorNursePatientA frequent problem expressed among adult children is that their parents aren't truthful with their doctors. While the parent may complain at home of pain, exhibit memory problems and accuse the family of theft when he or she can't locate a commonly used item, the moment the parent faces their doctor a change occurs. Like an actor on stage, the person sitting in front of the doctor becomes animated and charming. My mom was a supreme example.

Read full article on Agingcare about why your ill loved one may fool the doctor:

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


Pursuing Creative Arts Could Prevent or Delay Alzheimer's

ARTcanvasCompleting crosswords, making a habit of Sudoku and playing challenging brain games on the Internet have long been suggested as methods of maintaining our cognitive health. These are all fine pursuits, but recent research by Mayo Clinic has shown that creative arts such as painting, drawing, and sculpting may protect the mind against cognitive decline even better than the commonly used forms of brain exercise.

Read complete article on HealthCentral about how creative arts may help prevent Alzheimer's:

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


Is Validation Therapy for Dementia Calming or Condescending?

Caregiving4People with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia often live in an altered reality that doesn't mesh with ours; yet their perceptions are as real to them as our perceptions are to us. That's a tough concept for many adult children and spouses of people with dementia to absorb. Validation of our loved one's reality is very often the kindest, most respectful response to their altered world that we can provide. In order to offer that validation without coming across as condescending, we need to understand the reason behind "therapeutic fibbing"—as validation therapy is sometimes called.

Read full article on Agingcare about validation therapy and how it helps people living with dementia:

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


Anxiety May Speed Onset of Dementia When Paired with MCI

AnxietyMany studies have shown that stress, and anxiety which is often at the core of our stress, can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a recent study has shown that anxiety and stress can increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) turning into Alzheimer’s disease, as well. People with mild cognitive impairment are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than the general population. Therefore, these findings suggest that while lowering stress is good for all of us, it’s vital for those who have MCI to keep stress levels low in order to decrease their risk of developing full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Read full article on HealthCentral about how anxiety may speed onset of dementia:

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


Fitness and Aging Well: A Vital Correlation

BicyclingHow vital is fitness to aging well? Very. A recent study of participants in the 2015 National Senior Games, also known as the Senior Olympics, revealed that the typical participant had a fitness age of more than 20 years younger than his or her chronological age. According to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, fitness age is determined by a measure of cardiovascular endurance and is a better predictor of longevity than chronological age.

Read full article/interview on HealthCentral about staying healthy to age well:

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


Lewy Body Dementia Often Confused With Alzheimer’s

Depressedwoman1When most people think of dementia they probably think of Alzheimer’s disease. Since Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and one of the biggest risk factors for developing AD is age, new developments to combat the disease are often in the news. There are, however, other types of dementia that are just as devastating as Alzheimer’s disease and they are not necessarily rare. The type of dementia we’ll focus on in this article is Lewy body dementia. I frequently hear from spouses or adult children of people who have developed LBD. It saddens me that there’s little news to relate to them about research to combat the disease.

Read full article on HealthCentral about Lewy body dementia and how it's different from Alzheimer's:

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


Aging in Place or Assisted Living: It’s About Choices

HomeAccording to an AARP survey, the vast majority of boomers have stated that they want to stay in their current homes rather than move to another setting for their later years. This attitude has been the springboard for many aging in place advocates as well as businesses like contractors and high-tech companies. It’s not hard to understand why 60-year-olds would say that they want to remain in their home for life rather than move to assisted living or a nursing home. These are generally people who are relatively healthy and feel that they can hire help for whatever they need down the road.

Read full article on HealthCentral about making choices between aging in place and assisted living:

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