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.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Change for Working Women

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Several provocative questions were raised in an article by Terry Neese on I particularly liked her opening statement. "Women have brains and are looking for a president whose agenda will address real issues in the real world." Titled "5 Reforms for 21st Century Women", Neese takes a look at what our government does for the working woman and her commentary of what it should be doing.

Today's American women need policy change that provides solutions for women juggling child care, aging parents and economic conditions. The benefits allotted to full time workers seem to win out over part time workers. Go to for more on this subject.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Faith is Enough

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One of the reasons I started a non profit support group for caregivers of the aging was due to caring for my own parents. My father passed away early in 2005. My mother has since moved close to my husband and me. We have our ups and downs and today was more of a downer for me.

My sister lives close to two thousand miles from us but she talks to mother every day. It's not always convenient for her but just a few minutes on the phone with Mom and it reassures her of how things are going. Of, course, she hears just one side of the day. Today, she picked up on Mom's hearing problem.

Mom has difficulty hearing and will NOT admit to that fact. What do you do when conversations just pass her by? I've tried several suggestions to no avail and just today, it hit home how much her memory is failing. Not only does she not remember my suggestions, she doesn't remember the problem!

I've spoken of the memory testing and memory loss in previous posts. She had agreed to testing then changed her mind. My sister has noticed the lapses and mentioned it to me this evening on the phone.

I'm getting through each day and wouldn't trade a minute with my mother. But I pray for patience and more than enough love to see us through. Please keep us in your prayers. I hope my faith is enough.

Friday, April 11, 2008

And Promises to Keep

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It is common for family members to make promises to loved ones about their future care. The most common promise is that they won't ever move a loved one to a nursing home. Other promises may include keeping their parents together if one of them needs care, or that they will always be the ones to provide care for their aging relative. These promises are almost always made in good faith, with full intention of honoring them.

Unfortunately, we can't always foresee the future and circumstances change. Almost always, this leads to enormous guilt about the inability to uphold the promises. I would encourage you not to make promises of this type, no matter how well intentioned. Instead, promise your aging relatives they will always be provided with the very best care for their needs at the time. This type of promise assures them you are looking out for their needs, and is less likely to cause guilt and resentment on your part when the time comes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shopping with Mom

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If you are a caregiver responsible for taking your loved one grocery shopping, I feel for you.

My mother always makes a list, not always a complete list but most items are there. Today, the list was longer than normal. Fortunately, I wasn't buying groceries for my family. It's been a little over two years that I've been driving my mother on errands, and I've learned that it just doesn't work to do my shopping at the same time. I usually take her list and go up and down the rows, pointing out what she wants, then step back and allow her to reach for things and look at the products, moving on when she is ready.

In the past, we tried just going to the items she intended to buy. Bad idea. Inevitably, she remembered something she wanted 2 rows back and I ended up running around the store like a crazy woman, trying to get back to her before she moved on and I couldn't find her! Yes, that's happened several times. And inspite of my best laid plans, it happened today.

How she got from the cereal aisle to the produce section so quickly is beyond me! She and I feel more comfortable when she is holding onto the cart. She must have felt secure because when I caught a glimpse of her, she was moving at quite a good clip! When I caught up with her, she calmly informed me she had come to meet me so I didn't have to backtrack. I didn't have the heart to tell her she had turned the wrong way from where I was at the other end of the store! Just another day in the life of this mother and daughter! I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Safety at Home

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As I've grown older,I notice my steps are not as sure as when I was young. Walking over uneven ground outdoors, climbing up steps, getting in and out of the bathtub, are all activities that leave me unconsciously reaching to steady myself.

When we remodeled our master bath, we installed grab bars, thinking ahead for the years to come. Although my husband and I were still 20 years from retirement, I quickly knew they were a real blessing! Down the road, there are other locations throughout the house where I envision a grab bar to be added.

Many safety issues in the home become apparent when we are caregivers to the elderly. Because some of our parents have poor eyesight or body's ravaged by arthritis or other health problems,several things can and should be done to increase mobility if the aging are to continue living alone.
These are: 1) Ensure proper lighting.
2) Make the floors non-skid
3) Install grab bars where there's danger of falling
4) Make the main rooms level;eliminate steps where possible
5) Make doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs
6) Investigate technology for lowering or raising counters and cook
The demand for aging in place will undoubtedly continue, so modifying your home to meet the demand makes sense all around.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Poll on Drugs

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Recently, USA Today reported the results of a survey among Americans on their feelings toward drug companies, drug costs, and other cost related concerns. Conducted jointly by USA Today, Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health, the survey found that while Americans greatly value the prescription drugs benefits for their families, they believe the drugs cost too much and struggle to pay for needed medicines.

While the public values the drugs and the benefits they supply, they do not like what they charge and are suspicious of their motivation. Nearly eight in ten Americans say that the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, and seven in ten say pharmaceutical companies are too concerned about making a profit and not concerned enough about helping people.

For more results from the survey,go to

Friday, April 4, 2008

Live-in Caregivers

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Canada is experiencing a unique demand in the Nanny industry. According to a CBS news report, live-in caregivers are in hot demand and not just for childcare. Elder care live-ins are being brought in from foreign countries to satisfy the requests of more and more families of the elderly.

Full time caregivers can be had by this method for around $1700 a month. Keeping a senior in a private care home can amount to $3000 a month or more., an agency based in Toronto that recruits and screens caregivers for both child and elder care, say that is just one reason for the current trend. "You can ensure your parents are treated well, and it's not always the same case when you're giving your parents into the hands of an organization or institution" says Andrea Texeira, spokesperson for She also reports that 75% of their calls these days are for live-in elder care.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

PBS Special Comment

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For the most part, I think the special "Caring for Your Parents" aired on PBS last evening was a good representation of what millions of families are going through.
Some people may be shocked by the day to day routine that is part of caring for your parents if you are not already into the situation. This was real life, not a movie.

Caring for loved ones can be a stressful and emotional experience. It can also be one of the most rewarding times of your life. One piece of advice I have stated in past blogs and was repeated on the program would be planning BEFORE a crisis strikes. It helps avoid the "unknown" situation, and gives the family an adjustment period
that fosters security, both for the parent in knowing they will be cared for, and the family in knowing how they can help.

I can't stress this point enough. Talk to your parents and know their wishes. Make your plans together. For more help with this or other questions on planning, please contact me at

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

PBS Special

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If you haven't already heard, PBS is airing a two-hour special on Wednesday night called "Caring for Your Parents". In the program, they will be talking with actual caregivers about their situations and experiences. Following the program, there will be a 30 minute panel discussion by doctors and other experts that I hope will give more useful information and not just the same rhetoric we hear everyday. Of course, there may not be anything different to tell us. That remains to be seen.