Saturday, October 11, 2008

Taking Care of Business Affairs

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There are a great many seniors living alone or in facilities who need some sort of help taking care of their business affairs. Not all will admit the need for help, but for those who do, there is help available.

The obvious choices for check writing and keeping track of financial obligations for most people would be a relative or trusted advisor. For those who are truly alone, talking with health care agents, or calling the local area on aging may get the names of recommended individuals who specialize in taking care of business affairs and charge according ability to pay. Geriatric care managers may be able to provide this type of service or recommend someone who can.

For the person with funds available to pay, the options are more plentiful. Your accountant or attorney (if you have one) may perform this service for you or recommend a known, independent bookkeeper to take charge. Your banker as well, would be someone who may assist in this area.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Testing For Memory Problems

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I came across some not-so-new information (2005) that has enforced my determination to see if my mother can be helped by testing for memory problems she is having.

In an article on, research decribes testing for the difference in alzheimer's and the second most common dementia, frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Anything that can determine the possible type and intervention available is all I'm looking for!

The MRI test is not invasive and less expensive than other scans. Now to get the doctor on board.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Should Be Posting

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Just when I should be posting, events in my life seem to take over. My father-in-law had a stroke several weeks ago. Just when I should be posting about it, relatives arrived, I started a new job (that didn't last), and I took a planned trip to care for the grandkids once I knew my father-in-law was stable.

Under the circumstances, posting took a back seat as is the case so many times when "life happens". Responsibilities have a way of overwhelming us. I'm a prime example of putting my health last. I'll be working on relaxation (exercise), stress relief (exercise) and just plain exercise in the weeks to come. At least it's a good excuse when I should be posting!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God's Time

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I just came home from visiting my 87 year old father-in-law at a local nursing home. He had a stroke and has been sent to the facility for rehabilitative services. His left side has been affected and he must have therapy on his speech as well as the use of his left arm and leg.

He's only been there a couple days so there is no improvement to note. One thing he knows for sure is that he does NOT like the food! It's not that the food is foul tasting. No, it's just that he is to have everything pureed and liquids must be "thickened" before he can drink it. Ever heard of thickened water or coffee the consistancy of partially set jello? He tends to aspirate his food and it gets into the lungs causing pneumonia. In spite of the seriousness of the damage he suffered, his mind is still good. He is slower with most answers but still has a quick comeback every so often. Time can do amazing things. We'll just have to see if it's in God's plan to give him more time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Prevent Medicare Fraud

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Keeping up with Medicare changes can be a tedious but necessary chore when you have elderly parents to watch out for. Currently, Medicare is cracking down on issues for which seniors are treated in the hospital. Billings from healthcare providers and treatment centers should always be scrutinized for errors and discrepancies. We all need to do our part to prevent Medicare fraud and keep costs down.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Free Family Caregiver Teleclass

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November is National Family Caregivers Month. I know I'm a bit premature, but they are sponsoring a FREE Family Caregiver Teleclass in two parts to teach family caregivers better communication with healthcare professionals. This in turn, will help the caregiver to become better healthcare advocates.

To participate by phone you will call a toll free number, and by internet, a corresponding powerpoint presentation will be available. Classes are one hour and held November 6th and November 13th. For registration information for the FREE Communicating Effectively TeleClass, send an e-mail that includes your name, phone number, and e-mail address to: or call 800/896-3650.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weather Update

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As we watch the weather updates, it looks like we'll soon be hunkered down for another storm in about a week. It's hard on us but harder still on our parents. Health problems prohibit much of the actual getting ready by the in-laws. I take care of preparations for my mother, and hopefully, we won't need to move everyone in together for long. The only time that happens is if the power goes out.

Keep track of the storm with us at And keep us in your prayers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Signs of Dementia

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The early signs of dementia are subtle and vague, and may not be immediately obvious. They say signs of dementia are often mistakenly viewed as part of the normal aging process. Lack of health screening programs may mean early signs of dementia are missed, or attributed to other aspects of learning disability, and opportunities for potentially useful health and social care interventions are lost.

Memory loss is a very broad term that can mean any deficit in memory function. Memory loss is a common health complaint particularly in the elderly. The most vulnerable parts of the brain are those used for memory and for planning, organising and judgement, social skills and balance. At first, memory loss and trouble thinking clearly may bother the person who has dementia. Dementia affects a person's memory and concentration, and this in turn affects their judgement. Other symptoms include personality change, memory disturbance, slurred speech, impaired judgement and psychiatric problems.

Dementia causes many problems for the person who has it and for that person's family. If your family member has some of the signs of dementia, try to get him or her to go see a doctor. Physicians may begin a dementia workup or exam when the patient's family brings concerns about symptoms or behavioral signs to their attention. Keep in mind, examination of a will and terms of a living will are in order at this time. Also see to the execution of a power of attorney.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When Are The Driving Days Over?

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My family is very important to me. Just as when my children were young, now I am concerned about my elderly parent and in-laws.
We are at the crossroads of how to get my father-in-law to stop driving. In all my years of dealing with the elderly, somehow things don't always work out the way experts advise. And I'm one of the experts! So when are the driving days over?

My 88 year old father-in-law became disoriented this afternoon on his way to our home. He and my mother-in-law left home at 4:05 pm, were to pick up a pizza and be to our home easily by 5:00 pm. At 5:45, my husband left to look for them, thinking they may have had a flat tire or some other car problem. His parents arrived at 6:00 pm, shakey but none the worse for wear. I came to find out he had passed our street several times and gotten "lost" in a school parking area. Yes, it sounds preposterous but it's true.

In his own words, my father-in-law said " I think my driving days are over". If it's only that easy. I'll see it when I believe it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Medicare Plans Coming Around Again

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Economic times have been hard on everyone, but especially the senior citizen on a fixed income. Although it is only the end of August, in two and a half months, the hype will start on Medicare health plans.

Many seniors are aware of Medicare and Medicare Supplements. The government supplies Medicare(which you have already contributed to)and Medicare Supplements are private companies plans approved for sale to the over age 65 population to pick up the 20% not covered under Medicare. That is a rough explanation, by the way. For a more detailed explanation, go to

The reason I mention the elderly and Medicare plans coming into view November 15th, is because the confusion continues...not always due to poor explanations on the part of the plan companies, but due to the fact the elderly plainly cannot comprehend the complicated details of what is covered and how the deductibles work. The Medicare Advantage Plans further add to the confusion. I do, however, think these plans are definitely worth the time to figue them out.

Once again, let me say, it is NOT all the fault of the insurance companies. Granted, they need to get their act together sooner rather than later. Meaning, talking about what is available and changing details time after time before the end of each calendar year is unacceptable. Also,someone in Medicare needs to make a decision on approving these plans sooner then December of each year!

Let's see what happens in 22 1/2 months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Cat, Not Me!

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Recently, I am not only caring for elderly parents but an elderly cat as well. I can say one thing for the parents, at least they can talk to me so that I can understand!

Our almost 20 year-old cat has been missing the litter box lately. Not only was a tropical storm approaching, but the cat had an appointment with the vet! Fun times. Luckily, the appointment was for Saturday afternoon when "daddy" could hold her...she's a one man cat you know. Other then kidney problems with old age, she is doing remarkably well. No diabetes, no bladder infection. As with other seniors, she is simply getting older. Incontinence is a problem with humans and animals in old age.

Hope I don't see you there.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Women in Poverty

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I saw an article in the Kansas City Star news that truly says it all. "Those who helped others should not be left in Proverty" is the title.

Kathleen Hermes writes about the life of her mother-in-law who had passed away. Like many women, she was a wife and mother who gave much of her life caring for children, a husband, and parents. Hermes points out that this type of care is not given an economic value. Consequently, the poverty rate of women over 65 is twice that of men over 65. According to Hermes, only one out of five women will live out her life with a "financial safety net". The other four will die in poverty.

This IS 2008, isn't it? For more on this disturbing truth, go to

Friday, August 8, 2008

To Test or Not To Test

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Been a while since I posted, but several things have been happening.

My sister has been in town for a visit. As luck would have it, mother had a doctor's appointment and it had been discussed by ALL of us that we would talk to the doctor about more memory testing to see what could be done for mom, if anything.

I must say, I was disappointed in her doctor. Nice as he was, he seemed to be missing the point of our questions. You see, he had prescribed Aricept about a year ago, when we first broached the subject following a memory test clinic where I had taken mother. The doctor there had enough concern about her responses, he suggested further tests, including MRI, to diagnose dementia or not. The Aricept made her dizzy and after a month and a half, she stopped taking it. My sister and I have seen a decline in time concept, (she gets times and dates confused or forgets altogether). The problem of remembering nouns, names of things, people and places, has only gotten worse. Mother agrees it concerns her too.

Her primary care physician says he will not put her through the tests. When I asked why, his response was that "this is her, this is the way she is." He feels she is doing well for her age and she loves to hear that. She IS doing well, and we want to keep her that way! To live independently and healthy as possible is our only goal.

Mother is happy the doctor "took her part". For some reason, she doesn't understand we are only trying to delay the progress of what seems inevitable. Perhaps, what really is inevitable is we're just beating our heads against the wall.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making a Difference

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Anyone who ever started a non-profit organization would be aware of the desire to make a difference. I am not sure of the statistics, but it is my guess that not even 50% of non-profits or "charities" even succeed or stay in business past the first year. They depend on grant money or donations, and fundraisers are held for so many organizations, the money donated is spread very thin.

Family and Friends of the Aging is a non-profit organization begun as an online support group for caregivers of the aging. Since its conception, my dreams and goals for the group have shifted to more realistic avenues. Many caregivers, like me, find themselves with additional responsibilities and expenses, yet lack of work in this slow economy. Family caregivers don't just need to vent to other caregivers, they need to be educated in a way to give loving care while still being able to earn a living! There must be a way...and I am dedicated to finding it and delivering the education to members of FFAI.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Support Groups for Caregivers

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In the day to day life of a caregiver, maintaining a balanced life can be key to their sanity. It's not an exaggeration that caring for an aging loved one takes a significant toll on a family caregiver. If that person can learn to seek support and use resources when needed, it can make all the difference.

Support groups are a great way for caregivers to connect. Sharing stories and resources offers comfort and suggestions to aid in planning for struggles yet to come. Financial strain is a huge part of what many family caregivers face. As costs of health care and home care increase, they struggle with the sudden new costs they acquire. And many face the loss of work hours due to care responsibilities.

Coming soon is an online support group, the namesake of this blog, Family and Friends of the Aging. We have plans to not only serve as a sounding board for all in need, but to offer educational services as well. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kids Out, Parents In

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Several things have been going on in my world that interfered with the writing of this blog. I hope to be back on track from now on and bring you up to speed with the aging news as I see it.
It seems more aging parents are moving in with their adult children than ever before. The Orange County Register reported that a study begun in 1997 by a UC Irvine professor, show that economic conditions are a catalyst for combining households as baby boomers retire. John L Graham, a marketing and international business professor,says the pension and healthcare systems are falling apart. You can read more on Professor Graham's work at

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Meaningful Life

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This is an interesting time in our family. Tomorrow, my 88 year old mother-in-law will have the battery in her pacemaker replaced, scheduled for early in the morning.

My mother-in-law is a strong lady. She has raised 3 wonderful sons, and lived a life any woman would envy. Why? She is loved. Is there anything more important? The older I get, I am certain there is nothing more meaningful to me than the love of my family.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Is Anyone Listening?

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This weekend has been restful. I needed it. My mother needed it as well. I think she is missing the attention though as many elderly do. After all, 17 days with someone always with you, attending to your needs, bringing breakfast, helping you dress, walking with you every step to make sure you are steady. It must be quite an adjustment when you are back to living alone. My mother likes attention and she likes talking. I believe that is what she misses most...talking. Knowing someone is paying attention to what you say. Someone hears you.

Thank you, God, for hearing my mother, and for hearing me.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Good Timing

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Back in the routine! Had the old folks here for a holiday cookout today. None of the three have much going on so our holidays are pretty much spent with them.
I showed the video I'd taken from our trip. Hooked it up to the TV to provide a larger screen. Turned out pretty good! Now I have to figure out a way to send it to the family. Or maybe I'll just save it to a CD and go from there.

I'm doing some serious thinking about a product I'd like to market on the internet. This seems to be the right timing and I do believe I am guided. Time will tell.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 7

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It is day 7 on our trip of new experiences for my 9 year old granddaughter and visiting friends and old haunts of my 85 year old mother. Mother is doing ok...her legs are bothering her (not to my surprise). She has a serious case of arthritis in one knee that has caused disfigurement and pain for years now. She has never said anything to her doctor which is something we need to change when we get home.

Traveling is hard on anyone but having a 9 year old along is a real blessing. She keeps us from dwelling on hurting feet and bowel habits, and negative conversation that seems to creep in with the elderly. Seeing the sights through the eyes of this sweet child is healing for us both.

Today, mother will be with friends for the day and Jenna and I will see the first oil well in the country. We'll ride a train for a tour of the area and spend money on souveniers for her memorybook. are great!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


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Time is getting short and 48 hours from now, we should be at my daughter's, the first leg of our trip. I'll be taking my mother, and picking up my granddaughter, for a 1600 mile one-way journey, with lots of interesting stops in between!

I'm taking my computer, but the signal may be spotty. So, please forgive me in advance if I am late in posting...or don't get to post at all. I'll be in touch!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tutorials to Learn Computer Use

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The computer is an awesome tool. With the click of a mouse, you can visit foreign places, order a birthday gift, or write letters. But first, you must learn to use the computer. For older people, this can be especially challenging.

Two of the more popular programs used by many people are Word and Excel. Now, for those of us who learn better by visual teaching rather than text, an online tutorial is available for both Word and Excel. In Pictures began as a research study with a goal to make it easier for people to learn how to use the computer. The tutorials are uncomplicated pictures that show exactly what to do. Best of all, In Pictures programs are FREE!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life is Good

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In a few days I will be leaving with my mother on a two week "vacation". I alternate from excitement, because I love to travel and am thrilled to be going back "home" for a visit, to dread, when I think of the work and situations we will get ourselves into. I am the only driver, the only physical labor( suitcases in and out, etc.) and the only interpreter between great grandma 85, and great grandchild 9. Great Grandma has hearing problems as well as processing issues in the brain. So this should be an interesting trip! All kidding aside, I know this is the right thing to do. Life is good.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Keep the Faith

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As each day goes by, I think about what options we have if my mother's health declines or just what the best living arrangement is for her. Wealthy aging parents in good health don't pose such a problem...not that mother is a problem. But things need to be seen as they are. Reality is often hard to swallow.

In my mind, I have planned for everything. Financially, we are limited to the size of our home or what we can afford for long term care, should that become necessary.
We don't talk about it all the time, but several times, Mom has voiced her greatest fear, that of running out of money. This is typical of the elderly, but I try to reassure her that as long as I am livng, she will be cared for.
Like many others, my faith keeps me strong.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Improving Your Memory

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Improvements in health care and lifestyles mean that more of us are living longer than ever before. But with that bonus of extra years also comes worries for many of us about the natural reductions in our abilities that occur as we age.
Most of us can accept that our physical abilities decline with age, even beginning at a fairly young age (yes, you're only 41, but your teenage son will probably outrun you). What remains a source of stress is that our mental abilities will also diminish as we get older.
The most immediate sign of the apparent "decline" is when we find we can't remember things. Whether we're 35 or 65, when we begin to notice lessened memory power, it's often stressful and possibly frightening. I know! This is the situation my mother is in.
The reality, of course, is that we all forget things, regardless of our age. As a teenager there were homework assignments or promises to parents that slipped out of your mind just as easily as the name of that colleague your saw at lunch yesterday. The difference is that back then you thought it no big deal, while now you're sure it's a sign that old age has you in its grips.
Experts say that for most people the decline in memory is actually very gradual and usually isn't obvious until age 70 or later. And simple memory loss is not necessarily a sign of dementia. While dementia does cause memory loss, it also includes declines in cognitive and intellectual function such as comprehension, judgment, learning capacity and reasoning.
So while having some trouble remembering doesn't mean you're slipping into senility, if it is something you're finding increasingly troublesome, you might consider ways to improve memory.
Good starting points are eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and getting plenty of rest. All can help combat memory loss while helping you feel and function better overall.
Mental health experts also advise that memory can be improved and preserved through training and practicing of memory skills. There are numerous books, and even computer programs, with exercises to improve memory. Learning a new skill, like cooking or chess, is another way to challenge and strengthen your mind.
But, if memory issues are truly bothering you, consider consulting a counseling professional. A counselor specializing in aging can offer diagnostic tests, as well as techniques, strategies and advice to make memory loss less of an issue in your life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Caregiver Information

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I recently came across an article in the Times Leader about a group called the Working Caregiver Initiative. This group has banded together to organize a workplace and community project intended to provide education, information, resources and solutions on elder care issues to the working caregiver. My only disappointment is that the contact numbers don't show area codes, leaving me to believe this is a local organization. Even so, caregivers who come across this website should be able to call one of these participants and receive whatever information and resources they can. Our local areas offer support in many different ways, but if offered online, please complete your contact information. It could mean so much.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Remember What?

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Mom has been having more periods of confusion as well as the failure to recall nouns in everyday conversation. Time and days are becoming more illusive for her also. This morning I brought up the subject again of having the doctor go ahead and order the MRI and other tests that may help in a diagnosis.

In a previous post, I reported on brief testing done at the memory clinic of our local hospital. At that time, the doctor reading the results felt enough concern that he suggested the full battery of tests to understand what was happening to her and, if it was Alzheimer's, possibly slow things down with the proper medication. At first, Mom was receptive to the idea. Then, because a friend suggested they take a "memory class", she wanted to fore go the tests until a later time, if at all.

Well, the class never happened and I think the time for testing has come. Her regular doctor's appointment is the first week in July. When I eased into the subject this morning, she was agreeable and said yes, she would do anything. I don't want to force her...some people may not want to know their future. Especially if that future includes memory loss.

Mother and I will be away for two weeks before her doctor's appointment, having the time of her life, I hope. We'll be seeing old friends, relatives and familiar places for what will surely be the last time in my mother's life. Traveling is becoming a hardship for her, but I feel this may well be the last gift of this type I can give her that she will enjoy...and hopefully, remember.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Safety Inspector Husband

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Being married to a fire safety inspector has it's interesting points. Not that my husband himself is not interesting, but certain aspects of his work shed some light on MY interests...and provide content for this blog!

On our recent trip to northwest Georgia, we stopped at a chain restaurant for breakfast. The omelets are delicious, the coffee acceptable, and the atmosphere,second to none. Yes, I love going to that area of the country because the people are extraordinary. They are so welcoming and friendly. Acceptance is the norm, not rejectance. Doesn't that make sense? I like being accepted no matter what I'm wearing, no matter how I talk, no matter the state my license plate is from. The people in the state of Georgia where we vacation, are more than friendly. They treat us as family.

Fire Inspector that he is, on leaving the restaurant, my husband stated quietly to me that the entrance door needed repair. He would have given a citation in our state because the door did not open easily (evidenced by my 3 attempts to leave the restaurant)! And in this case, I understand why he would have served a citation.

Without sufficient strength, it was HARD to open the exit door! It took three attempts on my part to get out of the building!! The older members of the family (88 and 89) walked though the doors held open but this situation is an evident hazard!
My in-laws do not have the strength to open such a door normally, let alone in the event of a fire or other situation. If they were alone, instability would stop them in their tracks!

While I love the place and the people, I now worry about their safety in the event of a fire. I have to work on letting them know.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Back to Blogging!

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I'm back! Sorry to have been away from the blog so long. My aircard had spotty coverage for most of the time away. Unfortunately, once I could connect to begin a post, I would lose the signal!

My in-laws did well on the trip. I'm sure they were tired out, as is to be expected at their ages! Most older people wouldn't have attempted what they did. And I must say, they were game for any suggestion. I'll follow up in more detail in subsequent posts about some of the situations we found ourselves in and how they we handled them. Thanks for following along!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On Vacation

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This is it...the night before we leave on vacation. A ten hour drive with two elderly people in the car requires a little finesse. Maybe a lot of finesse. We have hearing problems, temperature control issues and just plain different travel styles than the older generation.

I went to the local library and borrowed several books on CD. My mother-in-law especially, cannot enjoy the scenery as she is legally blind with macular degeneration. It has to be hard to just sit alone with your thoughts day after day. I hope she (and everyone else)will enjoy the humorous mysteries I picked up to help pass the time. If I'm not driving, I like to read. So I know I will enjoy being read to, so to speak!

I intend to be online unless the connection isn't good. I'll let you know how it's going.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grant Search

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Funding for a non-profit can be quite an undertaking. During incorporation and obtaining the 501(3)c status, my time and money were the ONLY time and money. I've spent the last 6 months learning website building and internet marketing in the hopes of getting the support group website up and running. It simply isn't as easy as it sounds.

To supply the necessary ongoing funding, I've over extended my credit and really must look to outside sources, such as grant money. Now, that is another whole new animal! I've another sharp learning curve ahead of me, but, you know what? I'm up to the challenge! I am committed to the development of this support group that is much more than just a "support group". As a caregiver myself, I realize
how much I need the advice and support of other people in my situation. I realize how much other people just like me, need to vent as well as hear what others have to say. So, let's get to it! I'll let you know how it's going.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Privacy Please

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Mom has always been a stoic person. It seemed to me growing up that she never showed a lot of emotion. I've realized in later years she felt many things but didn't verbalize her feelings. Now, I'm not trying to be a shrink, but, it's only natural to try to figure out what makes your own mother tick. Especially when it helps to understand yourself!

I have definite privacy issues. By that, I mean that what I choose to share with others, I feel is my decision. Now I know where that comes from! My mother is a very private person. Traits that I mistook for lack of emotion or uncaring, weren't that at all. Where the older generation kept "unsavory" family happenings to themselves, succeeding generations discuss these failings more openly. I'm not saying that I agree with the changes in society or that acceptance of these ideals is better than those of our parents generation. I do think talking about the problems of the day, such as caring for aging parents, is a constructive way to ending suffering and guilt particularly, that goes along with caregiving.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Driving the Elderly

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In my quest for finding new services and ways to help caregivers and the aging, I came across a website that really has potential.

One of the biggest obstacles to independence for seniors is when to stop driving. It is a topic dreaded by family members and one avoided by senior drivers. No one wants to believe they are no longer capable of getting themselves to the market or doctor appointments. For so many, depending on others just isn't an option.

ITNAmerica has a different approach to transportation issues. The senior pays his own way through different avenues. One option is to donate a car for benefits. Go to for an eye opening approach to solving transportation for the elderly in America.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Family & Friends of the Wandering

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As more older adults develop dementia and alzheimers, wandering becomes a big issue for caregivers. But, families and friends of the aging can take heart as a program started to help locate missing children is now being used successfully for aging seniors prone to wandering or confusion.

According to the Journal Times, the SafeAssured ID kits are being issued to grown children for their aging parents as a resource to locate them as quickly as possible should they wander off. The kit includes fingerprints, a picture, contact information, and images of the person walking and talking for better identification.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Caregiver - Is This You?

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A forecast based on information from New York University, found that caregivers are twice as likely as non-caregivers to report physical and mental health complications. One in 3 caregivers uses medication for caregiving-related issues and depression in caregivers is 3 times greater than for non-caregivers in their age group.

Another report compared the healing process of caregivers and non-caregivers. Caregivers and non-caregivers were given identical wounds. Caregiver's wounds took up to 24% longer to heal than non-caregivers. Caregiver's immune systems were too stressed to function efficiently.

A lot of this stress is based on isolation and loneliness. Elder caregivers, whether they live in the same home as the cared for, or in separate homes, are often so engaged with the elder's needs – physical, mental and emotional – additonally their jobs, homes, marriages and possibly growing children, they clearly cannot find the time to take care of their own needs. Add that to the caregiver's drive to give the elder the best treatment possible for the time he or she has left – and you get tremendous burnout. But the caregiver seldom talks of burnout, for fear of sounding like a “bad” person. So he keeps it inside. Often, the short period of intense care extends into years, and by then the caregiver is so engulfed in the routine of 24/7 caregiving that she can't get out. This self-neglect leads to a feeling of isolation and loneliness, even when the caregiver is surrounded by people.

A caregiver often feels as if she has no more to give. She will give and give until she is empty. Anger, often turned inward and hidden, turns to resentment. Resentment eats at the emotions of the caregiver. And the downward spiral continues, often leading to physical and emotional illness.

The simplest things can help. A couple of hours to spend bicycling, with mom being watched by a trusted friend, can help "Dan" feel cared for, thus breaking the cycle, for a time. An evening out with friends can refresh "Sue" an adequate amount so she can provide loving care another day without feeling completely depleted at the start. Sound good? There is just one problem!

The problem, of course, is in the nuts and bolts. Where do we find this relief?? Friends may provide help in emergencies, but they don't look at your day-in-day-out caregiving as an emergency. They see it as your life.

This is where parish nurse programs, block nurse programs, social services, churches, synagogues and non-profits fit in. As our country has fought (and still is struggling) to provide adequate child care, we need to find respite care for the millions of caregivers who are themselves getting sick from stress, loneliness and isolation. Give them a chance to attend group meetings where others are going through the same things. They understand and everyone can blow off steam.

A church group would be a good place to start to find those who have a couple of hours to give, and match them with a caregiver who doesn't seem to have a second alone. Block nurse programs train volunteers to do just that. Yet, caregivers are often too stressed to even search or ask for help. Check your phone directory for the local area on aging, as well as the listings in your local newspapers. Most news sources will have a section on support groups and other resources that just may save your life.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Tradition.

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We had a nice day this Mother's Day. My husband and father-in-law are very appreciative of my mother-in-law, my mother and me. After church, we were treated to lunch and a generally relaxing day. It's becoming a tradition I like!

My children live hundreds of miles from me and we keep in touch regularly. But knowing how much I miss the grandbabies, I received a minicam for my computer. Now we can view live video and I won't feel that great grandma and papa and I are missing everything!

I'm so very grateful I can still celebrate this special day with my own mother. I pray the tradition continues.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dreaming Again

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I believe the insurance companies in our country and financial services industry (planners, bankers, etc.) are missing the boat when it comes to seniors. Sure, they have retirement products to sell them, or investments they will advise on, but how about the real issue that is missing for a lot of these clients?

Planning, to me, means more than how much money is in your IRA. For some clients, say those who have carried home and auto insurance through the same agent for years, I can visualize a "senior services" representative of that company who works with clients over 65 to insure they have a will and power of attorney in place. Partnering with local attorneys, assisted living facilities, the local medicare office and other professionals, makes the system easier to negotiate and the senior is already your client. They trust you. Starting the conversation on living arrangements and last wishes, and involving the families, is much easier done by someone trusted and known to the senior.

In my dream world, a senior services representative would know when to refer service organizations, such as meals on wheels or home care services, to the client much as a geriatric case worker would. Only it wouldn't cost what it would to pay a case manager. And there's the rub...the reason why banks and insurance agencies and stock brokers don't have a "senior services" type person to guide the clients into making plans for old age. They can't make money from this service. What would they get out of it? In reality, possible continued business and referrals to friends and family. And goodwill...lots of goodwill.

Any business with a large client base of older people could provide a service such as the one I've described. But social workers need not apply! This is not involvement in the client's care. Several larger companies such as duPont Corporation and Fanny Mae have had eldercare advisors in house for years. As the Baby Boomers begin to retire and the percentage of those over 65 increases, it seems to me that proof of social responsibility by our employers must step up to meet the need. Both for the community and their employees! Maybe I'll live long enough to see my "dream" come true.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wishes Granted

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I live in an area with many seniors, both in and out of nursing homes. Many of these aging adults live alone. Perhaps they have no loved ones living or just have no love from those who are.

Whatever the case may be, there is an organization trying to make life better for the deserving elderly by "celebrating seniors and making wishes come true". The Twilight Wish Foundation has chapters across the country and is growing. The foundation grants wishes to seniors through sponsors generous donations of time, money or products. Recent wishes include a piano and sheet music for a nursing home resident, a letter and photo from favorite TV soap stars, and one last visit back home.

846 wishes have been granted in the four years since its organization. That's a pretty good track record, I think. Click on to see more about it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

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Today is a special day in our family. We are celebrating my mother's 85th birthday!

My sister and I never lived close enough for most of our adult years to celebrate together. And following close on the heels of her birthday comes Mother's Day. I'm sure Mother received many combination gifts over the years and phone calls and cards galore.Now, at least, Mom is close to me and we will have a special dinner with my in-laws here also.

Mom already knows that she is receiving another "combo" gift from me. I'm taking her on a road trip next month back to our hometown. We'll visit family and friends along the way (1300 miles one way) and the cemeteries where my father and her parents were laid to rest. Mom's family reunion is at the end of the month and we will start home after that. So much to look forward to! So, Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope your 85th year will be everything you want it to be.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Weekend Plans

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Holidays have become a little more difficult around our house in recent years. Like everyone else, we look forward to an extra day or so off from work and maybe even a chance to sneak out of town for an extended weekend.

With three elderly parents needing our attention more and more, long weekends are almost a thing of the past. Almost. Call us crazy, but we're trying to plan some time away over the Memorial Day holiday...and we may be taking two of the three with us.

When the subject of getting away first came up, I was ready! My husband has time coming from his job and we haven't spent much time away, just the two of us. Going to the mountains is the perfect getaway for us. A little bit of a drive, but when you live by the ocean, going to the mountains is having the best of both worlds.

At 88 and 89, my husband's parents no longer have much desire to travel. We thought this might possibly be a "last" trip of this nature, where we could combine an outing for them and invite the other siblings to see their folks at the same time. The details aren't planned yet, and I may be getting ahead of myself because we're not certain it will work out. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Health Screening

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Our neighborhood hospital provides a great service to the area by organizing what they call the SHARE club. It costs nothing to join but members over 65 years of age can choose from a variety of monthly events to attend. A lot are informational meetings, some various health screenings, while others are a combination luncheon and social services program. They may have other programs that I am ,as yet, not aware of, but I will be learning more about them.

Mother and I will be attending an upcoming screening in May for what is advertised to be a skin cancer screening Mom saw in the newsletter they send out. Mom has had three skin cancers removed from her nose before she moved to be closer to me. She has seen a dermatologist once since her move and she really wasn't impressed with him. In her opinion, an 85 year old should receive more than a cursory glance from across the room!

She wears sunscreen religiously and a visor my Dad used to call her "beak" anytime she is in daylight. But she suspects the cancer is back. I guess we'll see just how thorough this screening is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Yor Mamma, Mother

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I just had a "venting session" with my husband about an episode with my mother today. When did I become the parent? Well, maybe I'm not totally there yet, but it's certainly progressing that way.

Let me start this by saying how thankful I am that my mother has been cognizant of the issues that beset the elderly, such as the inability to keep things straight financially. She still writes checks and pays her bills. It is an important step to retaining independence. Every few months, a bill gets misplaced, but it's not that often and she usually realizes something is wrong with the next billing...just not what happened. Of, course, that's when I get called in. (What she doesn't know is that I check her bank statements online to monitor payments to utilities). Today, though, she produced bank statements and other financial information to an insurance agent who cold called her.

When Mom told me about this, I was stunned. We had talked about NOT giving out personal information to anyone. She seemed to feel this was different,and although she told the agent that her daughter took care of her business, she said "I knew you'd be mad". I wasn't mad, Mom. I am scared. I feel that you are so happy to talk to someone, you can be coerced, ever so innocently, into giving private information to anyone. You don't stand a chance against a real con artist... and I don't know how to protect you without taking away your independence. . As I said in my venting session to my husband, I feel as if I'm the parent, BUT I'M NOT!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Caregivers - United in Purpose

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This blog's namesake, Family & Friends of the Aging (FFAI), is a non-profit 501(3)C corporation. My dream is to reach caregivers of the aging all over the world. I understand the sacrifices and concerns many of you face. Yet, there are things we could teach each other and help millions more to understand.

I'm working on the website for FFAI and hope to have it published in a few weeks. I'd love to hear from you about your experiences in caregiving. But most of all, I want to hear about YOU. How you became the caregiver, how you feel both physically and emotionally, what you do to relieve stress,and how you are planning for your own "golden years".

At the risk of sounding corney, we are all in this together. Thus, the tagline for FFAI, "United in Purpose". I truly believe we are.

As caregiver to an aging parent, one of the avenues I've been exploring is a way to make money online. This would allow me the flexibility to be available when my mother needs me as well as provide the income that I need for my family. So far, my research has uncovered the typical "get rich schemes", as well as some interesting learning possibilities for online marketing. One thing they can't guarantee is making money from pursuing your passion.

Friday, April 25, 2008


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One of the downsides of moving a parent close to you from another state is the loneliness they experience. Take my mother, for example.

She left the area she'd lived in all her life. Nurse retirees who kept in touch. The church friends from 50 years plus. For two years now, she's been in a condo less than half a mile from me. We talk every day, and I see her at her place or mine at least four days a week. She attends church and Sunday school, some ladies luncheons through the church, but she has no one to just "talk" to. No one to call here and say, "can you come for coffee". No one to drop in to visit but me.

She is lonely. It's evident in the way she talks and she has even said so once or twice. I keep searching for groups or places I can take her. Even so, it must be hard to make new friends at 85. I'm all she has.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gadgets that Aid

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I am always looking for gadgets and other devices that make daily life easier for our three family elders. A lot of these products are generally inexpensive and can make daily activities easier to perform for those with physical restrictions. Some of these devices are:
  • Kitchen implements that make opening cans and bottles and cutting and dicing vegetables easier
  • "Reachers" - pincher-like devices to eliminate bending over or having to reach for objects
  • Lever handles instead of door knobs to eliminate the wrist twisting motion
  • Bathing benches and hand-held showers for bathing safety
  • Pill crushers for those with difficulty swallowing
  • Talking clocks, wristwatches, and calculators for those with poor vision
  • Automatic lifts for beds and chairs
  • Button loopers and zipper pulls for easier dressing
  • Specialized dinnerware for eating with one hand
  • Single lever faucets for kitchen and bath
  • Touchtone phones with large numbers, speaker and hands free phones and TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf)
  • Large print books and newspapers
  • Talking books

As our aging population increases in number, we will see more specialized products to help individuals remain comfortable in their own homes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Doing our best

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According to Oprah, I have just had an ahh-hah moment. In this case, I realize my only
sibling has family issues of her own that eclipse that of our aging mother. I am not in her position and can't say what I would do. I will admit, I take every escape I can get. Within reason. Mother lives within 1/2 mile of me. My sister trusts me to care for our mother who is still relatively independent, but fading fast. I'm doing my best. So is my sister.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Never Too Old for Compliments

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Sometimes it just takes one little thing to open your eyes to something that's been right in front of your face. In this case, the "little thing" was taking my mother to the hair salon to have her hair done.

The woman who does her hair is a lovely woman, I'd guess to be in her late 60's. She is talkative and never fails to tell mother how beautiful her hair is. It is beautiful, thick and a pure white that she wears short in a wash and wear kind of style. As the stylist cut and they talked, I overheard several comments she made to mother, all of which were compliments of sorts on different things. By the tone of her voice, you could tell she was sincere in what she said.

I swear, it seemed that Mom sat a little taller and her face glowed with happiness by the time we left. The kindness of that stylist and the pleasure it gave my mother really hit me. Everyone likes to feel special and noticed. I'm going to make sure she knows she is.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Assistive Technology Now

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In previous posts, I have mentioned the need for assistive technology (new and better ways for remaining independent)in the homes of our loved ones who still live alone. Here are a few to ponder.

Medic Alert is a system that has been around for awhile and works through a monitoring system by a pendant or bracelet worn by the individual. If the individual wanders away, as in the case of dementia patients, when someone encounters that person, there is an 800 number to call.

Another monitoring system called Quiet Care, uses small infrared sensors placed throughout the home to monitor the senior's activities. There are no cameras or intrusions of privacy, and the senior does not have to interact with the system. Several things the system can do: monitor taking daily medications, home temperature, bathroom frequency, sleeping habits, eating schedules, fall detection and other potential accidents. This data is fed to a computer program that analyzes the patterns, and notifies the family caregiver when the pattern deviates from an established baseline.

Xanboo System utilizes a more comprehensive monitoring system, using cameras, door sensors and home automation controls, that can issue alerts, turn on lights, monitor door exits, and send text messages and video clips to a caregivers cell phone or computer. For more on this system that can be self installed, go to

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Long Term Care Community Diversion Program

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Have you heard about the Long Term Care Community Diversion Program? The Diversion Program is designed to provide community-based services to people who would qualify for Medicaid nursing home placement. Services include long term care services, and Medicaid-covered medical services.

The way it works is that managed care organizations and other qualified providers contract with the State and receive a capitated payment to provide, manage and coordinate the enrollee's full continuum of care. The objective is to provide frail elders with safe, appropriate community based care alternatives in lieu of nursing home placement at a cost less than Medicaid nursing home care.

Qualifying terms include:
1. Age 65 or older
2. Dual eligibility for Medicaid & Medicare Part A and B
3. Live in the authorized program area
4. Be determined to be at nursing home level of care and meet one or more
established critical criteria by the Comprehensive Assessment Review and
Evaluation for Long Term Care Services (CARES)unit at the Department of Elder

For more information, contact your local CARES office.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Health Pro Shortage

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By 2030, one in every five adults will be age 65 or older. Right now, between 30 million and 50 million family, friends and others tend to aging parents and other older individuals. We, as Americans, are facing an impending crisis as the growing number of older patients, who are living longer and face more complex health care needs, outpaces the health care providers capable of treating them.

With a health care work force too small and unprepared for the deluge to come, training for the basics in geriatric care for every provider (not just specialists) and direct care providers, is desperately needed to fill the expanding void. Family and informal caregivers need more preparation and information to ease the stress that comes with caring for loved ones.

The solutions to the problem won't happen over night. Planning is still the answer and I encourage you to do just that.