Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Elder Care Cafe on the 'Net

The Elder Care Cafe dot net version just received a much needed upgrade, and is ready to roll. Click here to see the results, and to subscribe to the newsletter (sent monthly or weekly) that will begin after the first of the year.

I am very excited about the potential this site has to be a positive force in the world of senior citizens and those who love and care for them. Let me know, in the comments or by email, what you think of the changes. Most are not visible, but you will see a few additions.

If you have a website or blog concerning elder care, baby boomers, caregivers, or anything related to health care and the elderly, feel free to leave the url in the comment section. We would love to check out your site.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Women and Bone Density

This morning I posted a comprehensive article at the ElderCareCafe site about women and the importance of having a bone density test.

Because nearly 80 percent of those who develop osteoporosis are women, it is important that all women are aware of the steps necessary to slow or halt bone loss.

Please check out this important article by clicking on the title above. While you are there, take a look at the nifty additions to the site. Joel at TheBlogTechGuy did a marvelous job repairing and updating the site.

The Elder Care Cafe on the net is a more formal blog for caregivers and those who love them. This blog on Blogger is less formal, with personal stories about my family mixed in with information about elder care and caregiving.

Two sites with similar names, but very different in focus and atmosphere. I hope you subscribe to both.

Please let me know what topics you would like to hear about, and please comment on what you read. I love to hear what you think. Thanks for visiting the Elder Care Cafes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Men Now Caregivers for Elderly Parents

According to a recent survey by the Alzheimer's Association, more men are caring for their elderly parents. Formerly a "women's job", men are stepping up to the plate, possibly due to the increased number of women in the workplace and families becoming smaller.

In 1996, the number of male caregivers was 19 percent. Now that number has increased to 40 percent of men who are now family caregivers. It is estimated 17 million men are now caring for adults in the United States.

Unfortunately, the male caregivers have more problems with isolation than do their female counterparts. It is believed women are more likely to open up to others about their concerns, socialize more than men, and generally get out of the home more often to attend support groups or church activities allowing them opportunity to interact with other adults.

Men have fewer outside contacts and tend to feel more isolated. For men, care giving is more stressful because they do not feel they can open up and talk about what is going on the way women are able.

On the caregiver forums, I have seen a few men join in the conversations, but the majority are women. Hopefully, if men aren't able to communicate with someone in their physical area, they will get online and open up to others in a safe online environment such as a caregiver forum.

Do you know a male family caregiver? Would you point him in the direction of the AARP online community, or the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) caregiver message boards? Just have them click on the links and they can easily and anonymously share their feelings and frustrations online.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

3 Ways to Keep Your Mind Healthy

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates 5.2 million Americans have memory and language problems caused by Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030.

Studies show there are three ways to help keep the mind healthy as people age:

1. Physical activity. Staying active seems to lead to a healthy mind. Fortunately, you don't need to engage in planned exercise, just staying active by cleaning house, gardening, and other movement-oriented activities count.

2. Challenge your brain. Daily word games, crossword puzzles, visiting museums and attending concerts all help keep the brain active.

3. Social activity. Having a large social network helps the brain stay active. Get out there and mingle among your friends and acquaintances for a good time, and to stay mentally healthy.

You can read the complete article at With Alzheimer's statistics increasing at a frightening pace, anything you can do now to prevent or slow the disease will only help you in the future. None of the tips above are difficult, and you will add richness to your life at the same time.

Do you have a favorite brain activity? Do you think it helps your brain stay healthy?

Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day 2008

December 1, 2008 is the 20th anniversary of World Aids Day. Statistics furnished by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)indicate that around the world, 33 million people are living with HIV with nearly 7,500 new infections occurring each day. An estimated 3 million people are now receiving antiretroviral treatment in low and middle-income countries.

In the United States, CDC estimates that about 1.1 million people are living with HIV.

World AIDS Day is a time to celebrate the many lives saved by HIV prevention and treatment programs. It also serves as a reminder that we all must do more — as individuals, communities, and as world citizens — to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS.

CDC currently estimates that approximately one in five persons living with HIV in the United States is unaware of his or her infection and may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.

Since anyone can be at risk for HIV, CDC recommends that adults and adolescents between the ages of 13 and 64 years of age be routinely screened for HIV infection in healthcare settings. Pregnant women in the U.S. should be screened for HIV infection as part of their routine prenatal testing.

Once tested, individuals can take steps to protect their health or, if infected, they can gain access to health-sustaining treatments and care, and help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

On this World AIDS Day 2008, we all need to commit to expanding the reach of effective prevention efforts to those at risk and those living with HIV in order to stop the further spread of HIV in the United States.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Longevity and Life Expectancy Statistics

Today we learned that Edna Parker, who at the age of 115 was the oldest living person on earth, passed away Wednesday. The next person in line is Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who was born Sept. 10, 1893, and is now the world's oldest person according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Readers know I love interesting websites. Here is a link to Longevity. Two interesting articles currently highlighted include how higher gas prices saves lives, and as we have grown to expect life expectancy to increase, there are some counties in the United States where life expectancy decreases. Check out these articles and more by clicking on the term "Longevity" highlighted above.

Who is the oldest person you know? Are they a relative of yours?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday and Past Shopping Memories

Shopping has never been of particular interest to me. When I was growing up, about once every month or so we would travel to downtown Lansing, and once in a while to Hudson's in Detroit.

Mom saved stamps, we dutifully filled the books, and off we would go to Arbaughs in Lansing to redeem the books for household items. My grandmother usually tagged along and we loved to stop by Woolworth's for a banana split or hot fudge Sunday.

In later years, I sometimes enjoyed shopping for specific items such as lamps for a new home, or my twice a year clothes shopping spree, but other than that, I continued to stay away from family shopping trips.

One day, I allowed my mother to talk me into going to the Lansing Mall during December for their family gift buying day. The group included my mother and father, my sister, my two daughters and myself.

Never have I seen a family as divided as we were that day, and it has become one of my favorite shopping stories of all time. What happened is this:

We all went our separate ways with shopping lists either in mind or written down. After a very short time of shopping, my father, younger daughter and I ended up sitting on a bench in the middle of the mall discussing where we would like to go for lunch.

Every once in a while, Mom, Sis and older daughter would come out of one store, wave as they passed, and enter the next store. A couple of times they even dropped off their packages for us to protect, while leaving their hands and arms free to assault the next shop.

I have blanked out (such a blessing) how long we sat there waiting for them, but I know it was a long time. Finally, either shopped-out or feeling sorry for us (probably the former), they took pity on us and we went to a nearby favorite cafeteria-style restaurant for a delicious and well deserved lunch.

Every year at this time I remember that infamous shopping trip. Evenly divided by personality, three shoppers and three nons, we managed to accumulate all we needed for a very merry family Christmas.

Do you have a favorite shopping story? Are you a shopper or a bench warmer?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post is coming to you from iGoogle this very chilly Thursday morning. It is currently 26 deg F, as I can feel through the breeze coming in the window beside my computer.

We are having ham and yams, toss salad, and pumpkin pie today. The turkey will have to wait until Christmas.

The Lions are playing, Dad and I will watch, and we hope that they can finally enter the winning side of the win-loss column. At 0-11, that will be quite a challenge.

Dad asked if I was going shopping tomorrow and I said, "No way, never do, never will." Not a great fan of shopping in the first place, the last place you will find me tomorrow or even this weekend, is anywhere near a store. For those who love to shop, I hope you find everything you are seeking.

Now that many stores have brought back the layaway system, many more people will feel good about shopping. I'm glad they are reviving the honored tradition of layaways. It greatly aids those who do not want to put anymore charges on their credit card and helps the merchants at the same time. I love win-win situations, don't you?

Take care and have a great day. And save some stuffing for me. Okay?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rally Around Your Loved One in Their Time of Need

Today I received a newsletter from the Michigan Family Caregivers through their Yahoo Group, MIFamilyCaregivers. The title of the article was Aging Gracefully.

In the newsletter they remind us that November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, National Family Caregivers Month, and National Hospice Month. Although each is an important topic, the three have a strong connection.

What I want to focus on in this entry is a comment made in the newsletter about family members and the final days of a persons life. After discussing Alzheimer's, the author continued by saying:

"As scary as that sounds to caregivers who are now facing early or middle stages (of Alzheimer's), gaining knowledge and preparing to address these challenges is critical. Never is it so important for the family to rally around the person and advocate for the best possible care for the final days and years of the persons life."

Because the person may no longer be able to communicate their basic needs and feelings, it is important that caregivers and family members recognize and understand what they need as best they are able. Watch for non-verbal clues that will help find ways to meet the person's needs.

I believe, in our family, we are blessed that as many have rallied around as they have over the years of Mom's dementia, and now Dad's final years. Most of us lived in the same state when Mom was at her worst, and those in the area were able to take turns visiting her at home and after she was in the nursing home.

With Dad, most everyone has scattered to various cities and states, but they try to visit when possible. What he really enjoys the most are photos that people send, telephone calls, and sharing personal interests such as football games or family history.

Whether family members live close by or far away, everyone in our family has done what they are able to rally around Dad in his later years. I hope no one ever thinks they did not do enough, because they are doing the best they can from where they are at.

When I am on the caregiver forums, I read horror stories of family in-fighting, lack of compassion, caregivers handling everything alone, and abusive situations.

Thankfully, our family has none of that, nor do I expect we ever will. That is not how we were raised, nor is it how we conduct ourselves as a family. No, we don't always agree, and that's okay. We work things out.

I feel very blessed for the family we have, the cooperation and support we receive, and I know Dad feels the same.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank my family for their support, even when they don't feel they are doing enough. We, as a family, have rallied around Dad in his time of need. For this, I am proud of my family.

How about you? Has your family rallied? If so, have you told them how grateful you are? How about telling them today!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

National Suspenders Day November 20th

This morning I told Dad he should wear his best suspenders Thursday in honor of National Suspenders Day. He replied that he always does.

He has a number of different colors and patterns, including red, black, and gray. He has worn suspenders for many years. Now we find there is a special day to celebrate this mostly-male occasion.

Although I used this picture in mid-October for Dad and Aunt Vi's birthday, this is the best shot I could find of Dad and his suspenders.

Will you celebrate this auspicious occasion? Will you wear suspenders this Thursday?

It is Snowing in Michigan

Snow has fallen most of the morning. In fact, the snowplow just drove down our street. Although I love the changing seasons, winter is my least favorite. All the more so since I lived in Tucson for a while.

The plus side of snow is the beautiful landscape it provides. My parents and my daughters used to cross-country ski, and I used to ride snowmobiles and go ice skating, but I never really got into winter sports.

By the looks of the sky, we are in for a serious snowfall. Knowing someday I will join family members in the coastal bend of Texas, I better enjoy the view while I have the chance.

The photo above was taken January 2008 by my son-in-law, Lloyd Rodriguez. The view is from our side yard, looking toward a building on the other side of the dirt road and railroad to the south of us. Typical winter weather in Michigan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When Parents Are Stronger Than We Expect

Little Lloyd - Dad as a child

My brother and I had an interesting conversation about Dad yesterday. He and I were discussing Dad's health and he asked me how much longer I thought Dad would last. A very astute question considering Dad is 86-years-old.

I said, "Well, I'm not sure he is going to last through this winter."

Bro laughed and said, "You said that last winter."

"I believe I also said that the winter before," I replied.

Dad is like the energizer bunny that just keeps going even when the batteries are getting weaker. Dad told me two years ago he wanted to live to be 86. At the time I realized that was how old his father was when he died.

I'm all for longevity, and as Dad's caregiver, I am here for the duration no matter how long that may be. His sister just turned 91, so longevity is in the family line. Unfortunately, Dad has more health-related issues than she does, but he also has a strong will to live.

In my unprofessional opinion, having a strong will to live plays a part in longevity. Over the last few years since Mom died (2004), Dad has often said he wants to join her. But there is a possibility that his inner will or strength may override his emotions.

One of the things I do as his caregiver is keep him "thinking forward" to upcoming events. Almost daily I remind him of something coming up that week or month, or I suggest things that we can do that he might enjoy. Since I began making a concerted effort to employ that care giving trick-of-the-trade, I have noticed he is less depressed and tends not to mention joining Mom as much as he did in the past.

What do you think? What is your experience with an elderly parent, and what part did their will play in their life?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taking Keys From Parents - When is the Right Time?

Monday and Tuesday of this week, popular local columnist John Schneider of the Lansing State Journal (MI), took on the tender subject of when to take the car keys away from parents. He describes the recent accident that landed his mother in the hospital, and the family's decision to not return her car keys to her. The decision was based on the fact that the car was totalled, but also they decided not to replace the car.

Yesterday several readers responded, one with a very similar story to what happened with my mother. In the readers case, the doctor told her mother not to drive, her children disagreed, and the doctor ordered a driving test. The woman passed the written, but failed the driving test.

In my mother's situation, we all knew she shouldn't be driving, but none of us wanted to be the "bad guy" and tell her no. Also, as my father couldn't drive due to his eyes, if Mom lost her license, the rest of use would have to step up to the plate. It sounds selfish, but we were all working and most of us lived out of town.

One family member worked at a hospital and the hospital carried forms people could fill out to request a driving test, but the family member, emotionally, couldn't fill it out. Another family member talked to Mom's doctor and his office sent a letter to the State of Michigan. The State sent a formal letter to Mom letting her know that due to her age, she needed to take a drivers test. That kept the family out of the "bad guy" column.

Well, Mom, Dad and Sister went to the license bureau, Mom took the test and did fine - until they got back to the parking lot. As she was attempting to park, she hit a car and flunked the test.

I remember she was extremely angry at the person who administered the driving test. It helped the family immensely that she was able to place blame on a nameless, faceless person rather than have someone in the family receive her ire. We all appreciated the efforts of the doctors office and the State in helping us with the transition.

If your family is in the same type of situation, check with your local Secretary of State's office, doctor's office, or hospital to see if they have a similar system.

Taking a parents car keys away is a very emotionally trying situation. Thankfully, we had an alternate solution presented to us that helped ease the transition.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you or your family handle it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogging from iGoogle

Woohoo! Nifty new tool from Blogger to make our lives easier. We seniors need all the help we can get.

It's payday, we are going to lunch because Dad got a free meal at Old Country Buffet, then grocery shopping. How can life get any better than that?

Well, actually it could. It is a cold rainy day in Michigan, so yes, it could be better. How much better, the Michigan State Spartans could win today. That would make it better.

Will it? I'll let you know tomorrow.

Signing off from iGoogle.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Diabetics - Rate Your Plate

During Dad's 6-month follow-up diabetes class, MJ discussed the "rate your plate" concept. She drew a nifty picture of a plate divided in half, then one of the halves was divided in half again creating a round plate with three sections.

The largest section was for veggies, the second for meat and proteins, and the third for 2 carb choices + one.

Here is further information from the American Diabetes Association website regarding the rate your plate concept:

A quick way to make sure you are eating a variety of healthful foods at each meal is to "Rate Your Plate." Rate Your Plate is a great way to practice portion control if you are trying to lose weight.

When you sit down for a meal, draw an imaginary line through the center of your plate. Draw a line to divide one section into two.

About one-fourth of your plate should be filled with grains or starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, or peas.

Another fourth should be protein — foods like meat, fish, poultry, or tofu.

For the last half of your plate, you can fill it with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, salad, tomatoes, and cauliflower.

Then, add a glass of non-fat milk and a small roll or piece of fruit and you are ready to eat.

When filling your plate, keep the food about the depth of your hand. If you pile it too high, you definitely won't be practicing portion control.

You still need to think about the types of foods you eat, but Rating Your Plate can get you started with portion control. Find out more about healthful food choices.

Click on the title of this post for an interesting interactive rate your plate from the ADA learning center.

Two more notes from the class:

* Eat protein for breakfast.

* If you cut calories, you must start exercising within 3 weeks for you will not lose weight.

So, that is it for the class notes. A lot of information in a short amount of time.

So, what do you think of the Rate Your Plate concept? Do you think it will help you lose weight?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

7 Dietary Tips From Diabetes Class

Here are a few dietary notes I jotted down at last weeks diabetes class Dad and I attended.

1. Cooking oils to use: Olive, Canola, Peanut.

2. Calories per day vary for men and women. Men should stay between 1600 - 2200, and women should stay between 1200 - 1800. Lucky men!

3. Reduce sodium to reduce risk of heart failure. Take the salt shaker off the table and watch sodium content in foods. Click here to read further info and guidelines from the ADA.

4. Okay - remember these are just my notes. Regarding fat content, the best to worst beef to eat is:

Tenderloin is the best.
Lean beef is okay.
Chuck is the worst.

Meat should be approximately 4 oz per meal.

5. When people write down what they eat and how much, they automatically decrease calories. Interesting!

6. Someone asked about peanut butter as a protein, and MJ said peanut butter is a fat (mono). Having peanut butter for a meal should not count as a protein.

7. Breakfast protein suggestions for those tired of eggs and meat: string cheese, cottage cheese, dry curd cheese.

There you go for now. There was one more dietary topic that I want to do a little more research about, and then I will share. It was a fairly new concept for me although I had seen it in regards to other kinds of diets.

How is that for a mystery?

What dietary guidelines have you learned? You are welcome to share your info in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Notes From Diabetes Class - Know Your ABC's

During the diabetic follow-up class Dad and I attended last week, I took a few notes and thought I would share some of the information in this post.

Only 7% of all U.S. diabetics know their ABC's and have them in order. Here is what you should know to get your ABC's in order.

A = keep the A1C test at or below 7%. There is a test called the A1C, which is short for hemoglobin A-1-C. It is a fasting blood test that measures your average glucose level over the prior three months and is often used to determine whether someone is a diabetic or prediabetic. Dad has this test every three months, prior to his routine visit with his primary physician.

The 7% or below indicates the goal that most diabetics should strive to maintain. As for Dad, MJ told him to not go much lower than the 6.9 that he is presently at due to his age and because he has been a diabetic for twenty-five years. Going much lower would compromise his health. Remember, every individual is different. Work with your primary care physician or diabetic nurse educator for your particular numbers.

B = Blood Pressure. For most diabetics, their systolic blood pressure should be no higher than 130 and their diastolic, no lower than 80, i.e. their perfect blood pressure reading would show 130/80. Obviously, you need to contact your physician for your optimum blood pressure. Every individual is different and these numbers are only guidelines.

C = Cholesterol. Here are the ideal ranges to aim for:

Cholesterol = 200 or below
HDL = 100 for men, 70 for women
LDL = 40 for men, 50 for women
Triglycerides = 150

According to the American Diabetes Association, "Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage vital organs such as your kidneys and your eyes. High blood pressure is a serious disease that makes your heart work too hard. And bad cholesterol, or LDL, builds up and clogs your heart arteries. Managing all three means a longer and healthier life."

Click on the title of this post for an informative two page pdf giving further information about the ABC's.

Wow! That was just the start of the notes I kept in a small memo pad. I will share more in a later post.

The thing is - we can live much healthier lives than we do when we have the proper information. We hear about living a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes it takes numbers to truly wake us up to the fact that we need to make changes in our health regimen.

How about you - are you living a healthy lifestyle? Are there changes you should make? Does having the numbers in front of you help motivate you to make changes?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Dad and Aunt Vi

Today is Dad's 86th birthday and Aunt Vi's 91st. Congratulations to both for this awesome milestone. You can view their pictures in the post below.

Dad has already received quite a number of birthday cards. They are lined up on the dining room table, and if past history repeats itself, he will look at them often.

We are going to Old Country Buffet in Okemos, MI where we went last year on their actual birthday. Aunt Vi had an early birthday party last year and was especially happy as she enjoyed the visits of out-of-state family members.

Do you have any special senior birthdays coming up? What are your plans?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Six-Month Diabetic Follow-up Class

Yesterday Dad and I attended a one-hour class as a six-month followup led by the diabetic nurse educator that has assisted Dad since his diabetic coma in March 2007. MJ has helped tremendously in keeping Dad's blood sugar as stable as possible by following his numbers and adjusting dosage as necessary.

Soon after our initial visit with MJ last year, I created a log on Excel. Dad keeps the log sheets in a spiral notebook on the kitchen table, along with his syringe and monitor kit, because he tests four times a day. He is now on two kinds of insulin, one he takes prior to each meal and the other two hours after his last meal.

After the meeting MJ sat with us and reviewed Dad's needs. He ended up with a new monitor and easier way to obtain blood for his tests.

Along the way, I learned some interesting information about following a diabetic diet that I will share in the next post. We were also given a monthly schedule of one hour meetings we can attend if we want to, to receive further information and encouragement. The monthly sessions are heavy on question and answers.

The Diabetic Center at the hospital where MJ works is actively involved in teaching diabetics how to manage their disease. MJ has called us numerous times to track Dad's numbers, including evenings and weekends. At times she has needed to call several times a week for a while, then was able to back off to once a month or every couple of months. She has always been friendly and caring, even taking time to chat with Dad about his life.

People like MJ are a God-send to those who have to live with diabetes. My kudos to MJ and others on staff for their willingness to go beyond the call to help Dad and others like him.

It takes "a village" when it comes to senior care. Be sure to give a special thank you to those who are helping you and your loved one in their latter years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Troubadour by George Strait

I realize Elder Care Cafe is a strange place to read a blog about George Strait and his latest song/video offering, but there is something about this song that is sticking in my mind; the tune and the words.

I have heard the songs of George Strait over the years, although I wasn't really what I would call a fan. But this particular song speaks to me, and I'm sure others who are feeling time slipping away can also relate.

Here is the chorus of Troubadour:

Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still trying to make a name
Knowing nothing's gonna change what I am
I was a young troubadour, when I rode in on a song
I'll be an old troubadour, when I'm gone.

Lyrics provided by Gracenote on CMT website.

You can see the video at this link and hear George's wonderful voice. Be careful, you may become addicted!

Are you a country music fan? Who is your favorite?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - October 15th

Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day - the day thousands of bloggers across the world raise their voices as they bring forth the issue of poverty. Many times, people don't want to discuss the hard issues of life. It's easier to walk away from unpleasantness and turn our backs on the very subjects that need our attention the most.

On this day, take a look around you and see what you can do to eradicate poverty in your area.

Concerning this blog, look at the senor citizens around you; those who are living on fixed incomes, living in poverty, often unable to pay medical expenses, health care costs, prescriptions, or even for decent housing. Especially during this time of financial crisis, prescription drug costs are skyrocketing.

Seniors are eating dog food to stay alive; living in homes with no heat or running water because utilities have been cut off.

Senior citizens in dire need of assistance are all around you. Do what you can to help someone rise above the heinous lifestyle poverty brings.

What can you do today? What have you done to help someone in dire need of assistance? Let this be the day that you bring awareness to someones life and get them the help they need. Thank you!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Senior Birthday Plans

Dad and Aunt Vi have set their birthday plans. Aunt Vi turns 91 on October 18th, the same day Dad turns 86. This photo is from Aunt Vi's 90th birthday party last year.

Aunt Vi's two daughters are coming over from Flint to pick Dad and I up to go to lunch. Last year Dad and I went over there and had a wonderful luncheon with Aunt Vi and her son-in-law. This year it is the womens turn and we will probably go to Lansing.

This is quite a milestone for the two of them. Who would have ever figured they would live this long? Their father died at the age of 86 from cancer, and Dad told me two years ago that he wanted to live until he was 86.

Well, I hope he lasts longer than that, because while I have lived here the last two years, the guy has grown on me. We didn't have the best of relationships over the years, but being his caregiver and seeing his health struggles has certainly changed my view and given me a new understanding of how strong is his will to live.

Every year we think this is the last time we will get together on the 18th, and every year they surprise us. Hopefully, we will have the same pleasant surprise next year.

Do you have a senior in your family who has defied the odds? How do you feel about that?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall, Food, and Football

Yesterday my aunt and uncle picked Dad up and they went to the Swiss Steak Dinner at an old country church a few miles from where I was raised. Dad brought home a huge takeout for me, bless his heart.

With fall arriving in Michigan, so do the numerous Swiss Steak, spaghetti, fish, and chicken dinners, and the pancake breakfasts we all love. We go to as many as we can, not only for the food, but to see friends and relatives. We have quite a social circuit going with either breakfast or dinner almost every weekend through the fall and winter.

Also during fall and into the winter are the football games! The Michigan State Spartans won yesterday - YEAH! And the Michigan Wolverines lost. I would yeah again, but I really was hoping Michigan would beat Illinois. We watched the second half and it was a little more exciting the fourth quarter, but still quite a big loss.

I support Michigan when they are not playing the Spartans, and would like to see Rich Rodriguez do well in his first year as the Wolverine coach.

With first year coach Rodriguez at Michigan and second year coach Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, both teams are going through a rebuilding process. It should be an interesting match up on October 25th when these two great rivals meet.

Go Green!!!!

So, it is fall in Michigan. That means there is plenty of food and football to enjoy.

Who is your favorite team? If you partake in social fundraising dinners/breakfasts, what are your favorites?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Reason for Seniors to Avoid Fruit Juices

A recent article on highlights a new reason why seniors need to avoid not only grapefruit juice, but other kinds of juice as well.

Certain drug prescription bottles have contained a warning about grapefruit and grapefruit juice for quite some time. Apparently grapefruit can substantially increase the absorption of certain drugs possibly turning normal doses into toxic overdoses.

Now, researchers are reporting new evidence indicates grapefruit juice and other fruit juices substantially decrease the oral absorption of certain drugs. According to the article, "the concern is loss of benefit of medications essential for treatment of serious medical conditions."

Be sure to check with your pharmacist and read the information included with your prescriptions to make sure you are not under or overdosing yourself.

Researchers have already found over 50 drugs that are affected and more are likely to be added to the list as further studies are performed.

Have you checked your prescriptions for potential problems with what you eat or drink? Please do so today? And, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of these findings.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

For Better or For Worse

This post was written by a dear friend of mine who knows all about caregiving from personal experience. For this post we will call her NJJ. Please welcome her to the Cafe.

"For better or for worse..."

Although I remember hearing those words fifty-five years ago and have every intention of keeping that promise---I will readily admit that I did not have the slightest clue as to what that commitment might entail.

I first noticed a troubling sign when my husband asked which way to turn to go to a restaurant we visited frequently. That was several years ago and I managed to brush off any real concern by convincing myself that he was just preoccupied.

Over the next few years, many similar occurrences cropped up---not recognizing friends he had known for years, not remembering how to use household appliances, trips we had taken, and even when and where our children were born.

When he began to lose his balance, as well as thirty pounds of weight, we made trips to specialists for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s tests that proved those diseases were not the cause.

Then when anxiety attacks became a daily ritual, his doctor prescribed an antidepressant that has made a difference in his attitude.

Although MRI’s and CAT scans have provided no proof, the “professionals” believe he has suffered several mini strokes and, therefore, suffers from a “mild” dementia. He has been prescribed medications that are purely speculative, which concerns me.

He is no longer allowed to drive and has fallen a total of 25 times down stairs, off porches, and in the middle of the room. Fortunately, he has thus far been able to pick himself up; however, I constantly worry that his ability to do so will change. These happenings are sporadic.

Some days are almost “normal” and he even reminds me to do the things that I have on my calendar.

While stress as a caregiver has taken its toll, I have absolutely no doubt that he would be far more miserable if he were forced to stay in an unfamiliar environment.

With the support of many friends, I plan to continue to “carry the load” and help him through a very difficult, frustrating time in our lives.


Friday, September 19, 2008

How Powerful Are Seniors?

According to AARP, the Magazine, seniors are very powerful. Here are a few stats from the September/October 2008 issue:

41 percent of American adults are over 50, the highest percentage in U.S. history.

80 percent of Congress is over 50.

Half of the Americans who voted in the 2006 elections were 50+.

People over 55 own 77 percent of all financial assets in the United States.

50+ adults account for 45 percent of U.S. consumer spending, or $2.1 trillion per year.

By 2011 the American 50+ population will surpass the 100 million mark.

Yes, we are a powerful group. Now, let us wisely use our power to make this world a better place.

What can you do today to make this a better world? What have you done in the past?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cries of Passion From the Forums

As some of you may know, I have linked up with other caregivers on various forums. I found several interesting points along the way:

1. Almost everyone's situation is worse than mine. I am shocked at the conditions and situations going on in the home's of the elderly and infirm. Many of the people who are incapacitated to any degree are still in their 30's, 40's and 50's. They were in accidents that caused brain damage or other severe injuries, or developed Parkinson's Disease, MS, had a stroke, or were incapacitated for a myriad number of other reasons.

2. There are husbands and wives who were barely married long enough to settle down when life situations overtook them and they became caregivers to their spouse. That was not what they intended life to be like when they got married, but that's what was handed to them. Married life is difficult enough without having a devastating development like that. I have all the respect in the world for those who have cared for a spouse for many years, staying faithful to their marriage vows.

3. The compassion and support those caregivers provide others is remarkable considering what they live with on a daily basis. They are lonely, weary to the point of exhaustion, frustrated at the lack of help from other family members, struggling financially and physically, and yet they are able to lend a loving ear and caring heart to others on the forums.

Many of the caregivers are in dire need of care themselves. They are crying out for help as they are also providing aid, to their loved one and to those on the Internet. A theme on every thread is that they are so glad they found a place where they can pour out their heart to someone who understands.

That seems to be the greatest need of caregivers - to find someone else who understands.

Care giving takes more patience and understanding than any one of us has on our own. Whether we pull from a higher power, each other, or our own inner strength, we do the best we can under the circumstances. No wonder we are exhausted.

I wonder if people realize how much is going on in the lives of people all over the world. There are so many stories out there of struggles and hardship and pain and suffering, it is heartbreaking. All I can do is wonder why?

Maybe that's what life is all about - helping others. When we were younger, we kind of floated along living life, usually focused on ourselves, but then we came up against a season of time where either we had great needs or somebody needed us, and there was a huge paradigm shift in our lives and our way of thinking.

If you know a caregiver, reach out today with a word of encouragement, a hug, or even better, lend a hand to give them a time of respite. Many caregivers are also working part or full time and still carrying out their duties. Please do what you can to ease their burden.

Just think - someday you may be on the receiving end and needing care or respite. What would you want others to do for you?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Caregiving and the Campaign Trail

In today's newsletter, Suzanne Mintz wrote an important article about the lack of conversation on the campaign trail regarding caregivers. And why is that, you ask?

Because, although health care reform will be a huge issue for the next president, care giving will not. The problem is not that care giving is not important, it is that the reason there are caregivers is because there is disease that so devastates the person who is ill, they require a caregiver.

It is the disease that must be addressed, researched, and a cure found. When we find ways to improve care and cut costs, we will have found a way to take care of the family caregivers.

Suzanne ends her message by stating, "There are so many things that need to change in our health care system, but if we can turn the tide and help patients with chronic conditions get the kind of care they need, we'd be well on our way to creating a truly positive change in how America provides and pays for health care."

Amen, sister!

Click on the title to this post and read Suzanne's important statement about the unfortunate state of health care and how it affects today's caregivers.

What do you think about today's health care programs? Are you a caregiver? How does the state of health care in America affect you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dad and His Pals

Dad has belonged to the Masonic Lodge for many years. Although I do not agree with their beliefs, Dad has formed a number of strong friendships through the organization. Their fall season has arrived and Dad's meeting schedule has increased.

Because of his eyesight, he is dependent on others for rides. Although I am willing to give Dad rides to his meetings, he has a friend named Roger, who since last year has taken Dad to numerous meetings in our small town and to neighboring towns. This week Dad was at two meetings, one locally and the other out of town.

The reason I am writing about this on a site devoted to elder care is that I think it is important for Dad to get out of the house. He needs to interact with friends even though his eyesight and hearing loss prevent him from being as active as he would like.

Several of the guys at the temple quite often give him a ride home after meetings, but Roger has taken a greater step. He picks Dad up and takes him all over the place as they visit other lodges. By doing so, he has given Dad something to look forward to in an otherwise dull lifestyle since the loss of his wife.

This blog today is a thank you for all those who are willing to go out of their way to help someone who cannot do for themselves. Dad would love to be able to drive, to travel when and where he wants, but circumstances prevent him from doing so.

Because Roger is willing to drive out of his way to make sure Dad can visit others from around the area, Dad has something to look forward to. When he returns home he can think about the guys he talked to and the topics they discussed rather than sitting around feeling depressed because of his health situation.

That is a good thing! Thank you, Roger, and all others who are willing to take a step up and help an aging senior stay actively involved in his community.

The photo above is the Masonic Temple in Detroit.

What are you doing to help seniors stay active? What would you like to do to help out?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Does Exercise Improve Memory for the Elderly?

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study conducted on 170 participants age 50 and older, showing the positive effects of exercising on memory.

JAMA reported, "Regular, moderate exercise may help improve memory in older people and delay the onset of dementia, a study in Australia shows."

We have read many articles regarding the health benefits of regular exercise. This is one more study that confirms what we all know, but many fail to do - exercise.

For those of us who have a family history of Alzheimer's and dementia-related memory loss, this should be a swift kick in the incentive portion of our anatomy, to get up and get going!

Click on the title above to read the rest of the article.

What would help you get up and get going? If you regularly exercise, what motivates you to continue?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Seniors Working in Their Seventies

Several years ago, I worked in a hospital. One of my co-workers had reached 70 while I was still there. The last time I spoke with someone from our department, he was still working, although he had cut down on the number of hours.

Does he need the money? No. He is in a high paying job, and I know he has great investments and savings.

Does he need the benefits? Quite possibly that is why he stays.

Would he miss his co-workers? Absolutely! He is a very outgoing individual and loves the interaction with those around him.

He and his wife are able to travel to foreign countries, take at least one or two cruises a year, visit his daughter and her family in another state, and generally go wherever he wants. Luckily he is in a job where he has an understanding supervisor and enough co-workers, that he was able to pretty much come and go as he pleases with a little planning.

Am I jealous? No, he works hard and deserves every moment of his time off. In his late sixties, he overcame a potentially terminal disease, one requiring hours of chemo, numerous drugs, and the hyper-addictive positive attitude he had about life.

I don't know anyone who has ever overcome the challenges he had during the two years he fought the disease. When is he going to retire? If he has the same supervisor that was there when I was, he will retire whenever he wants.

Why? He earned the right to leave on his own accord. Even at his age, he works hard, brings a positive attitude to the workplace, and is an inspiration to all.

Today I read an article in the newspaper regarding a woman who is still working at 93. More seniors are working well into their 70's, 80's, and even 90's. There are numerous reasons why - sluggish economy, financial need, benefit packages, desire to stay active and around people, love of job, just to name a few.

I think we are going to hear more on this subject, especially with the many baby boomers heading toward retirement age.

What do you think? Should people work as long as they want? Should there be a mandatory retirement age in America?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Finding the Keepers: The Drive

This is the second part of Sue Monroe's series, Finding the Keepers. See Part 1 on the previous blog post dated August 31st.

Two weeks later, I asked Mom if she would like to go for a ride in my van. She had not been out since the previous July, because it was too difficult to get her in the van, and it seemed to upset her.

On this sunny April morning she hopped right in, buckled her own seat belt before Dad or I could help, then waited impatiently for poky me to get in and drive.

At the first stop sign we came to, I planned to turn right. A car was coming from my left, but far enough away, I probably could have made it. I waited because I needed to pick up enough speed to get up the hill on the interstate overpass, before the other car reached me. I had precious cargo.

From beside me I heard “GO, GO.”

Mom had leaned forward to see past me, judged the distance of the oncoming car, and decided I had plenty of time to pull out.

Good thing Dad had his seat belt on in the back seat. He would have fallen out, he was laughing so hard, because she was telling me how to drive.

It was the first time I had heard him laugh around her in the year she had been in the home. Of course, he told that story to everyone.

Mom “transferred up” (as the staff at the home called it) two months later.

I believe I have so many good memories from her last couple of years because I decided to look for them.

That is the first step in finding the keepers. Make up your mind to see things in a different way.

Instead of only seeing the bad things, look for something good in anything. For example, a little mannerism from the past that might trigger a good memory.

The more good you look for, the more good you will find. The stories I told in these posts were of Mom reacting to things she always loved – walking, bird watching, driving all over the countryside.

Seeing your loved one react to things they once loved can give you many new memories.

After Mom lost her drivers license, I drove one-handed most of the time. My other hand was tucked firmly in hers. I miss that more than I would have imagined.

Find something that touches you as much as it does them. You will have enough good memories to keep for a lifetime.

Sue Monroe, the author of the two part series, Finding the Keepers, was caregiver to her mother, Emily Monroe, for six years. After Emily's death in 2004, Sue continued to care for her father until I, her sister, took over his care in September 2006.

Sue now lives in Missouri and enjoys traveling. You can see Sue's work at Red Bubble.

Finding the Keepers: The Walk

By guest author, Sue Monroe. You can read her bio at the end of this post. This picture is of Emily, Christmas 2001.
Dementia is a long, slow process. As caregivers, we are deeply involved in day-to-day living. Later, it is difficult to remember the good times we enjoyed before the struggle became routine.

I have often heard “we see what we look for.” Now is the time to look for those little nuggets that will become keepers - the lasting good memories of your loved one.

After Mom moved into a nursing home, I most enjoyed our walks around the home on warm Sunday afternoons. She had always been a walker and, although it was a long walk, she loved it.

We were walking early one spring day when I heard her say “That’s pretty.” I knew it wasn't the view she found pretty, because we were facing the home’s maintenance yard.

It must have been the bird singing in the tree above us, so I said, “That does sound pretty. Do you know what kind of bird that is?”

She promptly informed me “No, I don’t know how to read yet. But I’m learning!”

It almost broke my heart because, as an elementary school teacher, she had taught kids to read for over 25 years.

But, I had to smile too. It was the first full sentence I had heard from her in more than two years. I still chuckle when I think of that walk. It is one of my favorite keepers.

What memories are you collecting about your parents? What treasure will you keep with you long after they are gone?

Sue Monroe, the author of the two part series, Finding the Keepers, was caregiver to her mother, Emily Monroe, for six years. After Emily's death in 2004, Sue continued to care for her father until I, her sister, took over his care in September 2006.

Sue now lives in Missouri and enjoys traveling. You can see Sue's work at Red

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Insulin Emergency 101

Emergencies are called emergencies for a reason. The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate definition is "an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action."

About 9:00 p.m. last night I discovered Dad's insulin injection pen lying on the kitchen table. Two things struck me as odd: first of all, he always keeps the pen in the refrigerator, and the color of the pen didn't jive with the time of night.

A little background...

Dad takes four insulin injections a day. The first three are just prior to each meal and are a fast-acting insulin (in the dark blue pen). The fourth is a slow-acting 24-hour insulin and the pen is light grey. Because Dad is color blind, the two different colors help him know which one to use.

He has been on the pen system since earlier this year and has not had any problem with picking up the wrong one. When I discovered the wrong pen lying on the table, I asked Dad about the insulin he was supposed to take around 7:30 p.m. As it turns out he took the wrong one.

The problem? He took four doses of the fast acting insulin, instead of three, and now needed to take the slow-acting so that he didn't run into problems during the night or the next day.

What to do? I ended up calling his diabetes education nurse at home, she walked us through what he should do which included taking a half dose of the slow acting, and eating a meal. He got to eat his favorite PB&J sandwich and drink a glass of milk. We were instructed to call her this morning with his blood sugar number and we would go from there.

As it turns out, his number this morning was good. We are to watch his test scores during the day for any high spikes, and just continue his normal routine.

I know with age all of us are distracted at times. Dad and I discussed what happened and he just doesn't know why he took the wrong insulin. We all have those "senior" moments, so it was understandable.

It also is a bit scary, because we don't know if this will happen again, or if it is just a negative blip on our radar.

What I do know, by definition, it was an emergency.

Have you had an emergency lately? How did you handle it? Did you have help?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Senior Center Follow-up!

Yesterday's lunch was interesting and much more fun than I expected. We sat with a former next door neighbor who is now 91-years-old and as sharp as can be. He still drives and lives alone in a house that was originally owned by his great-grandfather. He is a history buff and vividly recalls local events from decades ago.

Another former neighbor, whose son is a year younger than me, also shared our table. During lunch, I received updates on where everyone was living, who is working where, and who is now retired.

Back in the days of my childhood, we attended a one room country school until consolidation sent us into town. I am glad for the experience as we had the opportunity to bond within our community that we don't have today. Our community was made up of dairy farms, with fields of corn, wheat and other grains sweeping the landscape. Several of the farms are still going strong.

It was good to hear of men and women I grew up with, how they are doing, knowing that at least one of their parents has lived to the upper eighties and beyond.

It was good, also, to be reminded of the good old days; of a time when life seemed slower and the days longer, the friendships tighter, and the future wide open.

Have you recently been reminded of days gone by? How did you feel about the memories? What, if anything, do you long for from your past?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lunch Day at the Senior Center

Okay, I said I wasn't going to do this, but...

For some odd reason, I decided yesterday that I was supposed to go to the Senior Center lunch today with Dad. Not sure why as I have never been interested before.

This should be interesting. As I may have mentioned, Dad comes home and tells me what he had for lunch. Sometimes he describes lunch as, "Well, it was about this size (showing with his fingers a rectangle smaller than a deck of cards), and I think it was some kind of meat, but I couldn't tell what it was."

A couple of months ago I was talking to several ladies who attend the lunches. I repeated what Dad said and they replied, "Oh, we don't go for the food." as they smiled a "secret" smile at one another. Obviously they knew what Dad meant with his description of lunch.

Now, what would cause me to want to go to lunch, especially since Dad has been trying to get me there for two years? Well, I don't really know. I suppose I will find out when the time comes.

Sometimes God moves in mysterious ways. This is something that I feel in my heart I am supposed to do. I've learned the hard way that when I get one of those "feelings" I better follow through.

Has there been a time when you "knew" you were supposed to do something? Did you do it? If so, how did it turn out?

If not, what happened? Share in the comment section and let us know how the situation turned out.

Take care!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Caregiver Forums

Last night I visited several caregiver forums to chat with others who are caring for their family members. Click on the title of this message and you will go to one of those sites, the National Family Caregivers Association.

What saddened me were the numerous posts related to the same topics. Here are the top five issues:

1. Depression

2. Exhaustion/burnout

3. Isolation

4. Lack of support from other family members

5. Parent experiencing the end of their life

In some cases money was a problem, but didn't seem to have as great a bearing as expected where most posts were concerned.

Money does affect what kind of care a parent receives, whether care is at home or in a nursing home, what other support is available, and whether hired help is an option.

But, the other five issues were of greater importance.

If you are reading this and you know a caregiver who is crying out for help, consider what you can do today to relieve their stress.

Remember the Golden Rule. What would you want others to do for you if you were in a similar situation?

Thank you!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Morning Sage - Peace or Patience?

Many years ago, I learned of a portion of scripture (in the Bible) from Galatians 5:22-23 called the fruit of the spirit. These virtues are strengthened as our relationship with God develops.

The nine virtues are love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Actually, they are what all of us should aspire to in our daily lives. I planned to write a Sunday morning series over the next nine weeks beginning with love.

This morning, due to frustration, I decided to begin with patience instead, especially when that virtue was in short supply today.

Years ago, I attended 12-week class at a local church. The teaching session would end in a time of prayer for whatever the topic was that evening.

One night, as two women were praying for me at the altar, one of the women started to pray for me to have patience during a time that could take years before I received the answer. The other woman suddenly said, "Stop! Do not pray for patience."

We both looked at her in astonishment.

"Why not?"

"Because, if you pray for patience, God will make sure she develops patience. It's like a muscle that needs exercised over time. She will go through whatever it takes in order to develop patience."

Well, that didn't sound very promising as an answer to prayer, so they decided to change the wording to "peace." They prayed I would have peace in the situation.

That sounded much better to me after the explanation I received about patience.

This morning I remembered that time of prayer as I was dealing with a very slow computer. Now I know I need peace, not patience, whenever I am going through any kind of trial.

Over the years, staying in a peaceful state of mind has helped in many situations.

As a caregiver to an elderly father who is deaf, almost totally blind, and shows increasing signs of Alzheimer's, peace is just what I need.

Although I think God is working on the patience part at the same time.

What is He working on in your life? As a caregiver, do you even feel like He is present in your situation?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Re Elder Care Cafe Link

I forgot to tell you - If you click on the title of the Elder Care Cafe 2.0 post, you will go directly to the new Elder Care Cafe.

Please realize it is a work in progress, much like a construction site, so put on your hard hat and steel toed boots and have a look around. And then leave a message for me here, or there, and let me know what you think.

I know you will, so be honest. Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Elder Care Cafe 2.0

For the past several weeks I have been working on a new Elder Care Cafe website. My main problem (of several) rests on the fact that it is not as warm and fuzzy as this blog. It feels too sterile for some reason.

I'm taking a wonderful course from Yaro Starak, called Blog Mastermind, that has my blog learning curve heading straight up to the sky. I'm not sure the curve will ever turn down again in my lifetime.

Blogging is a blast no matter what the subject. In fact, I'm planning on several more blogs, but I don't know if I should try another bells and whistles blog site or not.

Years ago, when I was transferring to another department, my soon-to-be-former boss gave me a nifty book mark with the saying "no guts, no glory" and a picture of Garfield on the front. Handwritten on the back was the note, "Reach for the stars - they can be yours. Good luck in future endeavors."

As far as this present endeavor goes, the curve may be up to the stars before I reach the top. I don't think that's what she meant.

What are you reaching for? Are you stretching up to the stars or are you settling for second best?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Writers Capture Life Stories of the Terminally Ill

In recent years, writing memoirs and life stories has become quite popular. Numerous local and internet groups have formed providing a platform to share the hundreds of thousands of stories now in existence.

I conducted an internet search and found 96,000,000 sites by entering “life story writers.” Many were probably duplicates, but that was still quite a large number.

Opportunity to share life stories

Story circles abound giving people an opportunity to share their life with others if they choose, self-publish if they desire, and receive writing assistance when necessary. Using outlines and writing prompts help keep writers on track.

Some stories are told chronologically while others are an anthology of anecdotes. Many times photographs and personal recipes are included.

Terminally ill given final opportunity to share

Often people write their own stories, but a growing trend is to write life stories for those who are terminally ill.

A group in my area volunteer their services through local hospice centers or by word of mouth. They interview the person while taking notes and taping the conversation. They willingly spend hours writing a small book, which is bound and presented to the terminally ill person and his or her family.

The bound book can be soft or hard cover and the person interviewed controls the content. They see a final draft before the book is printed, and that allows them to edit whatever they may decide to leave out of the final copy.

It is their book, and the content and how the story is told is their choice.

Later, families of the deceased often describe the book as a gift given to them by their loved one. Life story books hold information only the storyteller could know and is told in their own voice.

That is a powerful legacy to leave their loved ones after they are gone.

Friday, August 8, 2008

An Acrostic Ode to My Siblings

Acrostic means “a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet.”

Okay, that‘s the official Merriam-Webster definition. There are a number of different styles one can use to write an acrostic poem.

My friend, NJJ, who wrote the previous post, writes acrostic poetry in several styles. I am emulating one (I think) that uses a word (siblings), then uses the same letter twice in each of the first two words of each line.

Confused yet? Well, here is my offering, written on a whim today as I was thinking of my brother and sister.


Supportive sidekicks when we were young,
Intently interested in what we've become.

Blessedly blind to our numerous faults,
Lingering, laughing at our corny thoughts.

Instinctively intuitive to our present needs,
Notably nostalgic when we traverse past deeds.

Glaringly genuine when others aren't real,
Satisfyingly strong when we are ready to keel.

There you are – not my first, and hopefully not my worst, acrostic poem.

How does this tie into caregiving and elder care, you may wonder? Both of my siblings have provided much support the last two years. Thought I would thank them with the above poignant poem.

Let us know what you use to get through difficult times.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Staying Married May Reduce Chance of Alzheimer's

According to a recent study, married people have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than singles or those not living with a significant other in midlife.

Additional research indicates people who repeatedly think about their problems may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's.

There are life style decisions we can make that may lower our risk of developing the disease. When people are married or in long term living arrangements, their regular social interactions can aid in maintaining brain health.

According to the study, people who were single all their lives had a 50% grater chance of having dementia later in life compared to those married or living with a partner.

The study reveals the benefits of a married life, consistent with the theory that intense forms of social and intellectual interaction may help protect against dementia.

You can read more about this study at Medical News Today.

My preferred lifestyle most of my life was "single living alone". Who would have thought that personal choice could increase the risks of a disease that already runs through our family. Ouch!

What are your thoughts? Do you believe social intensity in your living arrangement is good for your brain health?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Power of Online Forums

I belong to several online forums for caregivers. One forum participant currently has a survey thread and several people have responded so far. The main gist of the survey is why do people join forums and what does the participant like or dislike about forums.

The two reasons that struck me the most were the feelings of isolation and lack of freedom as a caregiver. Several people railed because of the lack of support and understanding of their siblings.

They joined the forums because it is difficult to leave the home to go to a support group. Their main support is through connecting with strangers online.

Online forums are easily accessible to those with computers and for those who do not want to or cannot leave their home. Also, if their loved one needs them, they are able to step away from the computer to attend to their needs.

As always, a main concern I hear about is fatigue. Rarely do caregivers get the rest they need, or the time to take any type of respite.

Many caregivers have given up years of their lives to care for aging family members. This is especially true due to the longer life spans now available to our parent’s generation and those following. As the life span continues to increase, we will see many more caregivers with parents and grandparents well into their nineties and over 100.

Recently I read a statement about how different caring for aging parents is today than how it was many years ago. I know the life span issue is one facet that makes a huge difference in the lives of caregivers today. As medical science continues to advance, this issue is not going to go away.

That brings up the question of who is going to care for those of the later age group? How are those in their late sixties, seventies, and possibily early eighties going to care for their parents?

Who is going to care for the caregivers?

What are your thoughts on longevity and the role it plays in the lives of family caregivers?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Caregiving and the Golden Rule

Two years ago, when family members heard I was moving in with my father so he could stay in his home, one said to another, “(She) won’t last a year.”

Actually, I agreed.

The very first day, as the movers were bringing in my furniture, Dad and I got into a nose-to-nose, toe-to-toe argument heard up and down the street. He was a lot stronger then and I was not going to allow him to control me as he had for many years.

Not a good start for a caregiver.

Six months later, Dad was rushed to the hospital in a diabetic coma. From that time on, his health steadily declined.

The biggest life lesson I brought with me as a caregiver was to treat him the way I would want others to treat me in similar circumstances.

Barring the need to set our respective boundaries and mark our territory for the first couple of months, we actually have gotten along quite well.

Whenever I feel frustrated, angry or impatient with him, I immediately think, “How would I want my daughters to treat me?” I mean, the thought is immediate.

I can only think it is God reminding me of His law of sowing and reaping.

In lay terms, it is similar to the golden rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Another way of saying it is, what comes around goes around, or you reap what you sow.

No matter how the golden rule or the law of sowing and reaping is expressed, beware of how you treat others, because eventually that behavior is going to come back at you.

If you hurt others, you are going to be hurt. If you are kind to others, chances are others will be kind to you when you need it most.

When I am old and decrepit, I know I want someone to be patient, kind, understanding, helpful, calm in the midst of emergency situations, a listening ear whether they feel like listening or not, tender, protective, and so many other attributes a good caregiver possesses.

It is difficult at times, but I am serious when I say every day there is a voice inside that reminds me how to treat my dad.

That voice carries a lot of weight. When He speaks, I listen.

Not because I want to receive anything, but because it is the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Book Notice: A Family Caregiver Speaks Up

A Family Caregiver Speaks Up: It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard

by Suzanne Mintz, President, and Co-Founder of the National Family of Caregivers Association has a new book available now on the NFCA website.

The blurb reads:

“Full of advice for family caregivers, this one of a kind book written by a family caregiver provides lessons from family caregivers across the country, tips for interacting with the healthcare system to better meet the needs of families dealing with chronic illness, and a cogent presentation of how public policy has a profound effect on even the most intimate details of life in caregiving families.”

Having just finished Love, Honor, & Value, I would strongly recommend this follow-up book. Although some of the information will likely repeat from the last book, it is now six years later and Mrs. Mintz continues as caregiver to her husband.

A Family Caregiver Speaks Up will enhance any caregivers’ library.

Book Review: Love, Honor, & Value

Book Review: Love, Honor, & Value. A Family Caregiver Speaks Out about the Choices and Challenges of Caregiving

By Suzanne Geffen Mintz
President and Co-Founder, National Family Caregivers Association

This book explores the meaning of love, honor, and value in the everyday lives of family caregivers. It discusses why care giving is different today and what role society should play to integrate care giving into the fabric of our health care system.

Caregivers are an element of the health care team and deserve acceptance as such. They bring inside knowledge of the loved one’s condition to the table. Their day-to-day experience merits respect.

Love, Honor, & Value is part memoir, part philosophical treatise, and shows a new way of looking at life. Mrs. Mintz shares insights and ideas meant to ease a caregiver’s journey learned first hand from her own experience.

The common thread interwoven through all caregiver’s lives is the emotional impact of care giving. Common emotions include feeling overwhelmed, grieving the loss of personal time, sadness, and stress.

Caregivers should examine, accept, and experience their emotions. It is okay to be angry, to cry, to let go in a healthy way.

Although published in 2002, I just discovered this wonderful book. Mrs. Mintz shares her personal story as a caregiver drawing the reader in as if everyone were sitting in the family room sharing his or her story around a warm, inviting fire.

She writes with a comfortable conversational style and the reader knows she truly understands. She understands the isolation, the frustration, and the fear.

Because of her experience, she knows first hand just what to say to provide comfort.

The book explores what the everyday life of a caregiver is all about, and what part the words of the title play in that life.

Ultimately, it is important the caregiver understands she or he needs to take control of their life. Reading this book will reinforce that lesson.

Love, Honor, & Value is as pertinent today as it was the day it was written, and should be at the top of every caregivers reading list.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Surgery and the Very Old - How Far Should You Go?

1. The New York Times has an article dated July 18, 2008, discussing how far the medical community should go in treating the very old.

The question seems to hover around such surgeries as knee and hip replacement, cataract surgery, heart valve replacement, bypass operations, pacemaker implants, and treatment for slow-growing cancers.

When seniors arrive at the ripe-old age of 98 or 99 or above, are such surgeries necessary, helpful or cruel and painful?

2. A study conducted by Simon Forstmeier and colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland found that seniors with a can-do attitude did better on memory and thinking tests given at the time of the study.

Forstmeier believes people can be trained to be more optimistic, helping to keep the aging brain in shape, and in the long run, helping build a brain resistant to Alzheimer's.

3. The Alzheimer's Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report out Sunday, that all adults can take the following steps to improve or maintain cognition.

+ Follow a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
+ Get out and move most days of the week.
+ Play games, do crosswords or take a class.
+ Reduce high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
+ Adopt an optimistic approach to life.

There's that word optimistic again. Must be something in the attitude that can help people fight Alzheimer's and related diseases. That is sometimes difficult to do in this day and age, but I believe following the above steps will help combat the disease.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Seniors Who Wander

We lost another area senior citizen this week. A seventy-eight-year-old diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2002 wandered away from his home in the middle of the night and was missing for about a week.

Unfortunately, he was not found in time.

Following are several statistics according to the Alzheimer's Association, Michigan Great Lakes Chapter:

+ 6 to 10 - Number of people with Alzheimer's disease who wander.

+ 170,000 - Michigan residents over the age of sixty-five with Alzheimer's as of the year 2000.

+ 10 million - Baby boomers who will develop Alzheimer's in the United States.

There are several ways family members can help protect their loved one who wanders:

1. Consider registering the person with the Medic Alert + Safe Return program. The person is given a bracelet for identification if he or she wanders. To register call (888) 572-8566 between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

2. Place special locks on the doors.

3. Place warning bells above the doors.

4. Avoid leaving the person with Alzheimer's alone, either in the house or car.

Many times elderly people are living in the past and when they leave the house, they are searching for something they remember years ago. Unfortunately, it's part of the disease.

This information was first published in the Lansing State Journal, July 22, 2008.

Have you had experience with a loved one who wanders? If you have any ideas to share, please leave them in the comment section.

Online Support for Caregivers

Previously I mentioned caregivers and their need for some type of emotional support. Recently I joined two online forums, both providing an opportunity to communicate with other caregivers.

The first is AARP's online community. I have had several conversations with other caregivers, plus I joined a joke of the day group. That should be interesting. You can reach AARP at

The second is on the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) website. They have a wonderful message board with numerous topic threads. They are located at

Both of these websites also have good information for the babyboomer set. NFCA was created for caregivers and provides a lot of info and support specific to that topic.

Of course, there may be support groups in your area where you can have one-on-one contact, including hugs, but the on-line forums are available 24/7 and can be another handy resource in the caregivers arsenal.

Let me know if you find any others. I'm getting to be quite the joiner.

Friday, July 25, 2008

When Living Alone Is No Longer An Option

Most seniors, at some point in their life, must make the painful decision to leave their home. They find that living alone is no longer an option.

If for some reason they are incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions, a family member or close friend must step in to make arrangements for their care.

These three tips can ease an aging person's transition:

1. Discuss the future as early as possible. By the time people enter their fifties, they are beginning to discuss the future, often because they have helped their own parents. That is a good time for boomers to let their own children know their thoughts and concerns for their future.

2. Deal with the reality of the situation. Many times what we want to do in the future and what we are physically or financially able are two different things. We need to be honest with ourselves and our families as we head into the future.

3. Develop a tentative plan ahead of time. Write your desires down and keep them in a safe place. What do you really want if you become incapacitated? Does your spouse or children know your wishes?

As parents age, it is vitally important that trusted individuals have access to necessary papers such as wills or end of life choices. By keeping all family members apprised of a seniors wishes, concerns, and needs, conflicts will less likely occur.

This blog contains just a portion of the article Elder Care: When Living Alone is no Longer an Option. See the complete article at

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Family Treasures

The June/July issue of AARP has an interesting story about PBS’s Antique Roadhouse. I’ve watched the show numerous times and have often thought of childhood items such as old lunch pails I wish I had saved.

But, my family has in our possession items that would never pass muster at Antique Roadshow.

My mother was an artist, writer, and poet. Numerous short stores and poems written in notebooks or typed for posterity remind us of her active imagination; drawings and paintings remind us of her skill as an artist.

She was left-handed yet her script was perfect, identical to the writing seen atop old chalkboards at school. After all, she took penmanship class in college. For years I tried to emulate her penmanship with little success.

Several photo albums hold pictures of the many cakes she decorated for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. Not to mentioned the untold number of photographs and slides she took as she recorded our family history.

Many of us have in our homes the bed quilts, baby quilts, Christmas tree skirts, or doll dresses she sewed or crocheted, and the ceramic tile coasters she painted adorn our end tables.

And then there is Dad. He built wooden headboards and bookcases, webbed lounge chairs with our initial or name embedded on the back, and caned the numerous chairs sitting around our dining room and kitchen tables. He even caned the headboard of his bed.

Dad attended the School for the Blind in Lansing during the mid to late 1930’s where he learned how to cane. He later taught a caning class through the local community center.

Throughout our homes, we see on a daily basis the priceless family treasures no amount of money could buy. And I don’t think any of us would trade these personal items and the memory of how they came to be for anything we could have appraised at the Roadshow.

What family treasure do you have? What story does it hold? Better yet, what legacy are you passing on to your family members?

Monday, July 21, 2008

How to Prevent In-Home Falls

Approximately half of all accidents happen at home. As people age, they often become unsteady as they walk or move around. Sometimes medications may cause weakness or dizziness, or these conditions may be due to illness or disease.

The elderly often have a fear of falling. Because their feet can become painful or numb and their joints stiff, they can easily lose their balance.

Falls are a serious health risk and can lead to further medical problems. The following steps can help reduce the risk of injury and help your loved one feel safer.

1. Review medications for possible side effects. Have a doctor or pharmacist examine medications for harmful interactions.

2. Have the doctor evaluate your loved one for leg strength and function. Check their heart rate and blood pressure.

3. Begin or continue an exercise program to build strength. Regular exercise improves balance and coordination. They will soon begin to feel better and more secure as they walk. Ask the doctor for the best exercise for your loved one.

There are a number of things you can do in the home to help prevent sudden falls.

1. Review their home environment for potential hazards.

+ Make sure all chairs in the home are sturdy. Remove those that are not.
+ Make sure all rooms and hallways are properly lighted.
+ Simplify traffic patterns.
+ Remove or secure all area rugs.
+ Clear pathways of furniture or other obstacles.
+ Remove possible hazards from floors and stairs.

2. Review use of walking aids and devices.

+ Make sure canes and walkers are non-skid and in good working order.
+ Wear non-skid shoes and slippers.
+ Don’t walk round in socks on bare floors. Beware of waxed floors.
+ Use stable objects for support when walking or standing up.

3. Many accidents occur in the bathroom. The following ideas can help prevent injury.

+ Use a nightlight in the bathroom and hallway.
+ Install and use grab bars in the bathroom and shower.
+ Use a bath chair or stool in the shower.
+ Use a hand-held hose to control water flow and for ease while bathing.
+ Use only two or three inches of water in the tub.
+ Use no-skid decals or a mat on the bottom of the tub or shower.
+ Use non-skid bathmats on the floor.
+ Install carpet in the bathroom or beware of puddles of water on the floor.
+ Install a raised toilet and handrails.

Depending on the age and health of your loved one, consider not leaving them alone in the house or while bathing. Although accidents can happen at any time, taking precautions will reduce the possibility of serious injury.

I hope the above lists will give you a few ideas to help your aging senior live a long and accident-free life.

If you have other ideas to add to the lists above, feel free to do so in the comments.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Return of the Cleaning Lady

Yesterday, after a one-year absence, our cleaning lady returned.

Last year, as a cost cutting measure, we decided I would clean the house. It’s a good-sized three-bedroom house with a loft at the top of the stairs and huge walk-in closets.

At first, I was okay. The cleaning lady only came in every two weeks but I liked to clean the house once a week. The more my freelance writing business picked up and Dad’s needs increased, the less time I could devote to taking care of the house. Because I appreciate a clean and orderly home, I was not okay with letting anything go.

Therefore, she’s back!

I recently read an article by copywriting guru Bob Bly. He discussed outsourcing as much as possible to increase production. I would add outsource to increase quality of life for those who are in need of assistance or would like to add more hours to their day.

As this relates to elder care, my dad used to mow his own lawn in the summer and clear snow from the driveway and sidewalks during the winter months. After several accidents with his riding lawn mower and as his health declined, we knew we needed to make a few changes.

A local man and his son have a yard care business. Once a week our lawn receives a trim with riding mower and hedge trimmer. In the winter, when the snowfall reaches at least three inches, we hear the magical sound of their pickup with attached snowplow. What a relief when these men show up, do their thing, and leave.

The cost? Between thirty and forty dollars for each occurrence. Obviously, the snow and lawn mowing are at different times of the year and the cleaning lady shows up every other week. As these tasks are routine, we can usually enter them as a budget line item. Some years we have a heavier snowfall than others, so it’s a little difficult to plan. However, most of the time we can anticipate how much we need for these services on a monthly basis.

The assistance we receive from these wonderful people makes a huge difference in our quality of life. Caregivers, or even those who aren’t, should consider outsourcing. Remove another task from your daily or weekly to-do list.

What are you able to outsource? Where can you reduce the workload in your life? Make a list of jobs that cause you anxiety and see where you can ease the burden and increase your quality of life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seniors Return to School

Several years ago I was listening to the radio show Parent Talk as I was driving home from work. An interesting conversation caught my attention - the hosts were interviewing a seventy-year-old (plus) woman who attended classes at the local community college.

One of the questions they ask was, "What do you wear to class?"

"Sweats and tennis shoes," was her answer.

Immediately I thought, "When I get her age, I hope I'm still willing to learn."

Well, I have a ways to go to reach seventy, but I still enjoy taking classes. Now they are usually on-line.

It's mid-July and time to think about the offerings in your community, either through the local adult education office or nearest community college. Don't forget there are many on-line classes through such schools as Virtual University.

Watch for the catalogs or search online and find something interesting that will stimulate your mind. Whether you enjoy crafts, computers, art history, world religions, or something in the personal enrichment category, sign-up and have a great time.

You'll meet new people and learn at the same time. You will get out of the house, if not on the computer, and will have great new information to share during conversations with friends and family.

Let me know what classes you are interested in, especially those that are unusual. And enjoy every second of your learning experience.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Amber Alert for Elderly

An article in today’s Lansing State Journal (LSJ) grabbed my attention. Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing introduced legislation requiring police to issue missing persons reports on seniors as soon as possible after receiving the information, much like the Amber Alert for missing children.

Several years after her dementia diagnosis, my mother would occasionally leave the house and head down the street and through neighbors yards.

Thankfully, my parents have lived on this street since 1962 and many of the neighbors recognized Mom. While Dad was trying to locate her, they would stop her from going further and then get a hold of Dad or start walking her back home.

Numerous stories in recent years have not turned out as well as ours.

According to Eric Hall, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, about 16 million people will develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia by 2050.

Meadows’ bill, called the Mozelle Senior Medial Alert Act, passed the Michigan House this spring, and is pending in the Senate according to the LSJ. The bill is similar to the national Amber Alert program and drawing federal attention.

According to the LSJ, others supporting the notification system include the Michigan State Police and AARP.

Due to the growing number of seniors and the rise in Alzheimer’s-related diseases, this bill needs to pass the senate and become law in Michigan. An alert system for missing seniors could prevent needless deaths.