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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Archive for 'Family'

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone, Hanukkah is almost over, and Christmas and New Years are right around the corner!  The best part of any holiday celebration is visiting with family from out of town.  While it’s always fun for everyone to catch up with each other, all too often my phone rings the following week because  people get an unexpected surprise…their parents do not seem to be doing as well as they were last year, or as well as they seemed over the phone.  Changes can happen suddenly if someone has a fall or other serious illness, but most often changes happen very gradually, with cumulative effects that become more pronounced over time.  And while they may go unnoticed from week to week, if it’s been several months since your last visit, the difference can be very surprising.

But how do you know when your parents might need a little help?  Here are a few clues that you might see on your visit:

  1. Stacks of unopened mail
  2. Old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt in the fridge
  3. Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  4. Difficulty walking or precarious balance
  5. Fatigue and lethargy
  6. Confusion or forgetfulness
  7. Misplaced or lost items

The tricky part is knowing what to explain away and what to consider concerning.  Any one of these signs by itself  may not be worrisome, but if you’re seeing more than one, it may be time to talk with your parents and other family members about getting some support.  If you’re not sure,  meeting with a geriatric care manager can help you decide, and arm you with recommendations to put in place before you leave or have at the ready.  Although this may be a conversation you’re dreading, it’ll make getting on the plane to go home much easier.

Feeling thankful,

Lynn

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Dementia…that single word carries with it a tremendous amount of stigma.  But it is the second most common diagnosis given to older adults. And perhaps the most difficult to accept.  Once that label has been given, people never forget it. As this happened to several of our client this week, I wanted to address two of the questions we are asked most often after someone receives a Dementia diagnosis starting with “What exactly is Dementia and how is it diagnosed?” 

Dementia is an umbrella category that serves as a catch all for different types of cognitive disorders, ranging from simple short or long term memory loss to more specific diagnoses including Alzheimer’s disease.  Dementia diagnoses are usually made by combining someone’s history and experiences with some type of testing, so that objective evidence and observed functioning together form the basis for the diagnosis.  MRIs or other brain scans are helpful to identify vascular dementia and rule out physical causes for cognitive difficulties such as brain tumors.  More extensive neurological and psychological testing are available and can provide objective measures of cognitive abilities and identify specific areas of strengths as well as deficits.

Cognitive screening tools however, are available to anyone regardless of history of symptoms, and are very low cost.  Screening tools are designed to help people identify whether or not a more thorough evaluation is necessary, and scores are broken down into three distinct categories of “Normal, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), or Dementia”.  Cognitive screening is a great place to start, but it is important to remember that the results may not be conclusive.  For example, if someone’s score results in a determination of MCI, it would be important to follow up with more in-depth testing.  There have been many instances of people who are highly intelligent testing as MCI when further testing indicates Alzheimer’s disease. Their intelligence allows them to compensate for their cognitive deficits on the screening tool, but cannot be sustained through more extensive testing.

Which brings us to another frequently asked question: “Why is it important to be screened or tested?”  That’s an individual decision, but unfortunately at this time there is no cure for Dementia.  However, there are several medications that are believed to slow down the progression of the disease and help keep people living with more mild to moderate forms rather than severe.  If that is the case then starting treatment as early as possible is important to help preserve cognitive functioning.  The decision to use medication is of course an individual one, and needs to be made in consultation with a doctor who can explain the benefits as well as possible side effects.

Counting my blessings while I still can,

Lynn

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Fall is in the air…even if the temperature will be 92 degrees here in Michigan tomorrow!  And many of us have favorite fall activities that we like to participate in.  Missing out on many of those activities can cause older adults to feel isolated.  Here are a few ways to incorporate the seniors in your life into your family’s fall festivities:

Take a trip to the local cider mill - there’s nothing like hot donuts and cold cider to welcome in the change of season.  If the trip is too physically taxing, bring a jug of cider and a bag of donuts with you the next time you visit an older adult.

Take a drive to look at the leaves – whether just a few miles away, or taking a trip up north,  driving to look at the fall colors is a favorite past time for older adults, and is usually comfortable for people with mobility issues.

Take in a football game – while getting into the stadium and climbing bleachers may be a thing of the past, today’s big screen HD TVs make watching at home almost as good as being there…and the seats are much more comfortable!  Make popcorn and hot chocolate and cheer for your favorite team as a family.

Stroll (or wheel) through an art fair – the last fairs of the season will be happening over the next few months.  For a listing of art and craft fairs visit http://www.artscraftsshowbusiness.com/shows.aspx?state=MI

Create multi-generational fall art projects – When you get ready to rake those leaves in your yard, have your children select the prettiest ones and set them aside.  On your next visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s, bring the leaves, construction paper and a glue stick and create some seasonal decorations.

However you choose to spend your fall family time, I hope you enjoy, and make memories to last a lifetime!

Going to the cider mill,

Lynn

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Long distance caregiving…that phrase certainly sums up my week!  It seems as though everyone I spoke with this week lives out of town, but is coming in for the holidays and is worried about their parents. I am very fortunate because both my in-laws live locally.  and unlike my sister-in-law, I don’t have to get on a plane every time there’s a problem.

When that dreaded role reversal happens and our parents begin to need help, it’s hard under any circumstances.  All of us deal with the uncertainty of wanting to help, but not wanting to step on our parents’ toes.  But the emotional stress takes on another dimension when you’re not there to check on your parents yourself.  This week I spoke to daughters who feel guilty about not being more available, and to sons who feel helpless…both feel anxious and burdened by worry.

As difficult as these first few conversations can be, I’m always so uplifted when I get off the phone.  People’s relief at having found someone, willing and able to be there for their parents long term, is almost tangible.  Someone who can not only help put supports in place but will be there to follow up as their needs change over time.  At those times, I’m grateful to be a Geriatric Care Manager!

Talk to you next week,

Lynn

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Spending time together as a family can sometimes be challenging if you’re trying to make the activities older adult friendly.  But spending quality time together is so important, for the youngest family members up to the oldest generation.  Those memories of happy times spent together become priceless once those opportunities for togetherness are no longer possible.  If you feel like you need a few new ideas for activities, here is a list to help jump start your imagination:

  • Movie Day (or Night) – This works well for family members of all ages, especially those with mobility concerns.  Whether watching a movie at home or going to the theater, switch off who gets to pick the movie, grandchildren, parents or grandparents!
  • Family Dinner Date – Everyone has to eat! Whether it is pouring over old recipes, choosing a new one, going to a restaurant or bringing in take out, the opportunities to share memories and stories are endless.  If cooking at home, there’s usually a way for everyone to help out.  Have a picnic at a park or bring the picnic inside if that’s more comfortable.
  • Game night – Take turns picking out the games, and be sure to vary them from creative choices like Charades and Pictionary, to more structured board games.  Grandparents can teach games that were popular during their childhood like marbles or jacks, and kids can teach them all about the latest craze.
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane – Most children enjoy hearing stories about when they were young, and when their parents were young.  And older adults have stories to tell!  Even those with memory loss usually have memories from years ago they can share.  Looking at old photo albums together often can spark a memory.
  • Visit Extended Family – Whether on a short road trip or a virtual one via web cam, try to stay in touch regularly with loved ones who live elsewhere.

The following websites offer more suggestions of family activities and games that include older adults.  Hope you find them helpful.

Planning a Movie Night,

Lynn

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While many of you were hopefully enjoying some fun in the sun on this 4th of July weekend, my family’s weekend was bustling with indoor activity because my much loved niece got married on Saturday.  The festivities spilled over into the entire weekend.  It was absolutely heartwarming to see so many familiar faces again, all in one room.  And as we made our way from table to table, gathering snippets of conversation as we went, I think we were all experiencing a myriad of thoughts and feelings.  Some heartwarming, “Where has the time gone?”, others silly “Look who asked who to dance…”, but I was surprised at the direction my own thoughts were taking.

I was struck by something altogether unexpected, namely the fact that there were many older adults in the room from both the bride and groom’s sides of the family, and absolutely none of them appeared to have any type of dementia!  Given the work that I do, all too often I see the way dementia robs older adults of their independence, their relationships, and often their peace of mind.  I see it so often that somewhere along the line a part of me began to accept it as a consequence of growing older.  But seeing this vital, thriving group of seniors actively engaged and enjoying this phase of life, reminded me that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Whether the causes are due to genes, lifestyle, luck or a combination of factors, clearly the quality of life implications are impossible to overstate, and deserve our time and attention, as well as ways to prevent and treat this challenging disease.

Relishing my memories,

Lynn

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The 4th of July is just a few days away, and families across the country are planning picnics, barbeques, and other celebrations.   If you are having an older adult join you and your family this year, here are a few things to consider in order to help them have as much fun at the outing as you do.

Heat: If you’re planning an outdoor function remember that older adults are more sensitive to heat, and because of that are more susceptible to heat stroke.  If possible, choose an area with some shade, or if that’s not possible, bring a canopy or sun umbrella from home.

Dehydration: Be sure to have a selection of non-carbonated cold drinks available to help ward off dehydration.  Water, lemonade, and Gatorade are great choices.  Popsicles work well this time of year too.

Balance: Because the ground outdoors is often uneven, and patio chairs can be slightly unsteady, balance issues can become a concern.  In order to reduce the risk of a fall, pick a level spot to put your sturdiest chair, and save that seat for the older adult in your life.  It’s helpful to minimize the amount of walking to get to the food as well.

Dementia:  If one of your loved ones has dementia, an afternoon celebration might be easier for them than an evening one.  Often times people with dementia can become more confused during the evening hours.  A smaller crowd is also less overwhelming for people with dementia.  For more tips on how to customize family gatherings for relatives with dementia, please refer to my former blogs on the topic.

A little bit of thought up front can lead to a great time for all!  Happy 4th everyone!

Firing up the grill,

Lynn

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There are so many conversations we’d rather avoid than have…conversations about finances or about someone’s inability to drive to name just a few.  But by far the most universally avoided topic has got to be end of life wishes.  On the surface this seems like such a silly problem.  I mean, most of us do truly know that someday we will die.  But do our children know our wishes?  Do they know the specific interventions we do and don’t want?  Have we given anyone the legal power to make medical decisions for us if we are unable to do so ourselves?

Clearly not, because statistics show that 70% of people wish to live out their lives and die at home, yet 70% of all deaths occur in hospitals.  The good news, however, is that there are tools available to help us navigate this potentially difficult topic.  There is a website, www.theconversationproject.org that has a free downloadable starter kit to help you start thinking about what is important to you regarding end of life care.  Unpleasant topic? Perhaps, but at least it’s free!

Downloading as we speak,

Lynn

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There are a few givens in life…we are all born and eventually we all must die. How we plan for the events in the middle depends not only on financial resources but also on who we know.

Creating strong and meaningful relationships is critical to finding the best resources and information. We rely on our friends and family for referrals and places to eat and shop all the time. Why not reach out to them when we are in need? In my professional and personal life, I am constantly  building and maintaining relationships with my peers. Knowing who to call not only saves time and money but it is priceless in a stressful situation. So the mantra – “It is not what you know but who you know” is very accurate!

Keep this in mind as you go about your daily business. ElderCare Solutions is your go-to for all of your needs dealing with issues with aging. 

Time for me to return some calls… Is your phone ringing?

Becky Eizen, Geriatric Care Manager

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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,

Lynn

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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.