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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Archive for 'Caregivers'

Living in a time where celebrating your 100th birthday is no longer uncommon, the cost of long term care is often on the minds of older adults, their families, and senior service professionals.  How will we pay for it, should the need arise?  Next week, the Elder Care Chat debuts, and may have an answer for you.

Hosted by Christopher J. Berry, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Veterans Accredited Attorney, the Elder Care Chat is a weekly call and webcast Mondays at 2:00pm, that addresses topics of interest to both those who need elder care services, such as caregivers, as well as those who provide them, such as home care providers, social workers, elder care communities and other senior service professionals.  Chris will  lead the calls each week and will also occasionally feature other experts who work with older adults and their families.  You can join him on the web at,  using the event ID 42786354, or dial (206) 402-0100, and enter ID 670087#.
This Monday, June 24th at 2:00PM,  Chris will give an overview of the 6 ways to pay for long term care, followed by a brief Q & A.  As he is fond of saying, “This is the cheapest time you’ll ever spend with an attorney”!
Putting it on my calendar,
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As Geriatric Care Managers we often talk about helping improve quality of life for our clients, many of whom have dementia.  And often times this involves providing companionship and offering choices.  But yesterday, while attending a networking meeting for professionals who work with seniors, I heard about a program that is a tangible quality of life enhancement and I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!

The Detroit Institute of Arts, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, is offering a free 6 week program called Minds on Art for people living with Alzheimer’s and their companions.  The program will offer the opportunity to engage socially, cognitively and artistically, and will be held at the DIA.  The format includes a one hour gallery tour and discussion followed by a short break, and then time in the art studio.  The program will be led by DIA staff and volunteers, and a member of the Alzheimer’s Association staff will be there as well.  This program struck a powerful chord for me because I have worked with several clients living with dementia, for whom artistic expression remains a source of joy, long after the onset of dementia.

The sessions will be offered on Mondays for people in the mid-stage of dementia and their companions, and on Tuesdays for those in the early stages.  The 6 week courses begin in April and run through the end of the year, however space will be limited as these are very small group activities.  To register or for more information please contact Jean Barnas at (800)272-3900 or

Calling my clients with the news,


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As a busy professional and working Mom, I occasionally find myself wishing for just a little downtime…to read, watch TV, just take it easy.  Well, last week I had the chance to do just that, and let me tell you, it was not fun.  I had the flu, and along with it, the requisite downtime.

At first I was a little too miserable to be bored, but after a few days my mind kicked back into high gear but somehow my body just wasn’t on the same page.  And after a few days of staring at the T.V., there’s nothing good on anymore, no matter how many channels you have!  If you’re reading this and are silently hoping I’ll stop whining, I must tell you that it’s one thing to hear about the flu epidemic on the news, but it’s very humbling to find yourself completely leveled by it.

And this got me thinking about the parallels between my temporary situation with the flu, and the physical decline we experience as older adults.  How very hard it must be to feel exactly the same inside as when you were young, but no longer be able to do what you once took for granted.  How hard it must be to feel let down by your own body.

As geriatric care managers, we help older adults and their families cope with the changes that come with aging, and often talk to family caregivers about the challenges they face.  But no matter how much we think we understand,  this week reminded me that most of us really don’t know what it’s like (having not lived it yet), and need to try to find new ways to be even more sensitive, digging deeper to find extra sources of compassion and patience!

Feeling grateful,


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A new year…a time for new beginnings and resolutions…anything seems possible!  As you make those New Year’s resolutions be sure to include ways to not only care for the older adults in your life, but to be sure you care for yourself as well.  In addition to all the old standbys like “Lose those extra 10 pounds”, you might also consider some of the following:

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Create resolutions that are realistic
  • Vow to make time for a little fun each week
  • Be sure you laugh, loudly and often
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Be proactive whenever possible

None of us can escape the complexities of aging, whether we’re experiencing difficulties ourselves, or with someone that we love.  But the one thing we can control is how we react to those changes.  Are you being proactive or reactive?  Let’s all plan to age well and live well in 2013.    

 Ringing in the New Year,


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The cliché is that life begins with parents as caregivers and ultimately the tables turn, with children becoming the caregivers of their parents. The reality is much more complicated.

My siblings and I have been very fortunate in that our parents are pretty healthy and have been pro-active in dealing with the changes that inevitably come with age. A couple of years ago, my parents decided to downsize to a smaller home “in town” rather than remain where they’d been living in the country. Since then, they’ve discussed what their next respective living arrangements should be, depending upon who survives the other. As a result, my siblings and I have been spared difficult future conversations about changes that will need to happen, although the conversations about what they’ve decided are often difficult in their own way. With these actions, even at 84 years of age, my parents continue to “give care” to us, their children.

So it was a new experience when, about a month ago, I found myself for the first time taking the position of telling them that I didn’t think they should do something, specifically drive to Florida on their own. I was very worried, yet also respectful of the fact that it was their choice. I reminded them that several years ago they’d made the decision not to take any more long driving trips. Fact acknowledged, no change in plans. I slept on it and then called again the next morning, this time explicitly saying that I didn’t think they should do it. Still no change. I continued to gently voice my concerns and insisted that they at least agree to call me each night when they checked into a hotel. Ultimately, they decided not to make the trip alone (I think mostly because Mom had concerns of her own in the first place and somehow that finally prevailed).

Today, they are each other’s primary caregivers, but I know the day will come all too soon when one of them will be left alone or need help caring for the other.  While this is close to impossible to even visualize, I hope that I can be as good a caregiver as I see them being for each other. In the meantime, as I’ve done throughout my life, I watch and listen for the lessons they offer. They’ve always been my best teachers through the way they’ve lived their lives. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from them about caregiving:

  • Be a partner to the one for whom you care and talk through important decisions, but also have others with whom you can vent and share concerns privately. At times, we all have things that need to be expressed but are best not said to each other.
  • Have conversations about preferences for important decisions while everyone is healthy. Don’t hesitate to raise concerns or reservations about choices. Cry during the conversations if you have to, but have them.
  • Face the fact as courageously as you can that you will one day lose the one for whom you are caring.  It will make it easier to respect their decisions and wishes during that time period when health and abilities are declining.
  • When the day comes that you must accept care (and make no mistake, that day will arrive for the majority of us), accept that care graciously and express gratitude.

Throughout life, we are each other’s caregivers. This is one of the many blessings to be grateful for each and every day.

Shari-Beth Goldman

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I said good-bye to my beloved grandmother, Nannie, as I called her, in late November 2008. Alzheimer’s disease had ravaged her brain and taken away the grandmother I knew as a child. She was diagnosed in 2001 and steadily began to decline. Gone was the vibrant, eccentric gourmet cook, artist, and world-traveler, among other talents. She no longer helped me make cookies, sent me hand-drawn cards, or went on safari in Africa. She now needed to be reminded who I was, what food she was eating, how to get dressed.

She moved in with us and I watched as my mother had to essentially care for a second child. It must have been difficult, having one child going off to college and not getting an empty nest as she had been expecting. It was challenging for all four of us (My parents, my grandmother, and I) as we all had our roles constantly redefined, changed, and renamed. I was no longer granddaughter, I was big sister. My mother was no longer a daughter; she was a mother to her mother. My father was just a visitor. Even the dog played along: he was now the cat.

Within these roles, our responsibilities and expectations also changed. We no longer ventured far from home. I would have to “baby-sit” my grandmother and make sure she didn’t try and walk down the stairs for fear of a fall. My grandmother would set the table; someone else would reset it with the proper dishes and silverware for each setting. We all learned patience and creativity as we tried to keep her occupied and happy. We repeated ourselves often. The dog learned that he would have to go outside to do his business every 15 minutes because Nannie would forget she had already let him out.

As her disease progressed, it became obvious that she was no longer safe in our home. My parents woke up in the middle of the night to find her outside in her nightgown in December waiting for the bus to “go home.” With much pain and regret, my mother made the decision to place her into an assisted living unit. Faithfully, she visited my grandmother nearly every day. For over three years, my grandmother was in this facility before she went into hospice.

A few days before she was moved to hospice, she was having a particularly good day. I had taken a leave of absence from work so that I could be with my family and spend time with my grandmother, so I was sitting with her in the common room when she had a completely lucid moment, looked right at me and said, “I love you, Jennie.”

I think about this moment often. It is something I hold onto, for in all those grey, dark days where Alzheimer’s had taken over, this is a memory that shines like sunlight. It chases away all those negative thoughts and is how I like to remember Nannie in those last few weeks leading up to her death.

Jennifer Simms-Coffey

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My mother passed away in January, 2005, at age 83, after battling breast cancer.  My father had been her primary caretaker for a year prior to her death.  He got great satisfaction from being the “provider.”  For most of her life, he was the financial provider, but in her later years, he also provided transportation, meals, entertainment, and mostly, companionship.  My dad was bereft at her passing as he had lost his job and his identity.

My parents and I were part of a unique triad, each of us an “only child.”  The natural support and connection of extended family had always been missing from our lives, more noticeably so following my mom’s death.  However, my dad was adept and resourceful in combatting his loneliness and quickly filled his life with people and experiences that he enjoyed.  Unfortunately, as the years progressed, his mild dementia began to affect his judgment, his decision making skills, and ultimately his independence.  It was at this point that I, as the only child, was pressed by honor, obligation, and love into assuming the parental role for a very resistant parent.

You should understand that I am a social worker.  I help people for a living.  “I know how to do this…I am a great helper” I thought.  Only one problem, my dad doesn’t want help.  So, no matter how good I am at helping, each action provokes resistance and resentment.  I had to come to understand that he is not resisting me—he is resisting his dependence on me.  He still wants to drive, and believes that he can, even after failing a state driving test five years ago.  He still wants to write his own checks, even after many unfortunate investments that have depleted his resources.  He still wants to get around without the assistance of a cane or walker, even though he is regularly hospitalized as a result of falling.  He still wants to be on his own, and do what he wants and… WHO CAN BLAME HIM??  I know I would want that independence, too.

So, we wrangle.  I insist, and he argues.  I arrange for his care, and he tries his best to go along with it.  He believes that I took his freedom away, and I tell myself that I must keep him safe.

And in the midst of it all, is love.  Love for me, his grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  And it will be very special for my daughter to have her 91 year old grandfather walk down the aisle at her wedding next month.  What a gift.

Ellen Yashinsky Chute

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Caregiving…It’s the job none of us apply for, but most of us will end up having at one time or another.  Caring for an older adult that you love is truly an honor, but it also can be one of the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. 

As a geriatric care manager I have worked to help support spouses who are caring for each other, grown sons and daughters who are caring for their parents, even brothers and sisters caring for one another, and have been touched by their love, compassion and dedication.

Because November is National Caregiver Month, I would like to highlight family caregivers.  For the rest of the month, this blog will feature a different guest each week, sharing their stories…the struggles and the successes.

 Waiting for their posts,


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Change…I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been a fan of it!  But on a serious note, change is difficult and older adults seem to constantly have to adjust to more and more changes.  Changes in their health, changes in their living arrangements, changes in their circle of friends, just to name a few.

 And generally the type of changes I’m talking about truly mean adjusting not only to change but to loss.  Loss of their independence, their home, their ability to drive, and in some cases their cognitive abilities.  Is it any wonder then that we hear so much about depression and anxiety in older adults? 

 I know we all lead busy lives, and many people live far away from their parents and can’t just drop in once a week.  The good news however, is that there are many ways to make a difference for the older adults in your life, from around the corner or around the globe.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Call for no reason at all, just to let them know you are thinking about them
  • Plan outings together whenever possible
  • Send cards when you can’t be there in person
  • An I Pad or kindle can bring back the pleasure of reading due to adjustable font sizes
  • If loneliness is a problem arrange for a caregiver or volunteer to pay weekly visits

 If you suspect a more serious concern, consult with a physician or geriatric care manager to see what other resources may be available.

 Going card shopping,







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Hospice…the word alone is enough to conjure up frightening images for many people.  But hospice services can bring relief from pain and extra support for older adults and their families, at no out-of-pocket cost because hospice services are covered by Medicare.  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog already know that, because it is a topic I feel passionately about! 

But what you may not know is that dementia is a diagnosis that can qualify someone to receive hospice services.  Medicare has a specific set of criteria that must be met in order for someone to be certified hospice eligible.  Dementia criteria include the following:

  • Unable to walk without assistance
  • Unable to dress without assistance
  • Unable to bathe without assistance
  • Constant or intermittent incontinence
  • No consistently meaningful verbal communication
  • Significant weight loss in the past year

As you can see from the criteria, someone with mild to moderate dementia would not qualify, but someone living with the advanced stages of the disease would likely be eligible.   And hospice can truly make a difference for people at this stage, most often by adjusting medications and providing weekly nurse visits for oversight.  Many times these slight medication adjustments can help someone be able to speak a few words, who had seemingly lost that ability, or help with behavioral issues that arise from frustration.

As a friend of mine who works in the hospice field is always saying “Even when there’s no cure, there’s hope.”


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  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.