Home Safety for an Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Relative Aging-in-Place

February 4th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

age in placeWhoever said there is no place like home really nailed it. Whether you are visiting Hawaii or you are on top of Everest, you will always have a tingling pricking of nostalgia for sweet home. If a relative is suffering from debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, this is a poignant fact to always remember.

Averting Strain to Family Relationships

Most families suffer restrained relations once the advanced effects of the disease start emerging. Dementia is the most traumatizing effect due to possible hazards if your aging relative is at your place.

Forgetfulness and mobility problems require specialized attention but if your elderly dad refuses to go to a nursing home, you should not force him. Instead, take cautionary steps to ensure they age in place surrounded by love and comfort; isn’t that what you would also love if in the same situation?

Creating the Ideal Aging-in-Place Residence

Indeed, you are in luck because there are experts who can help you make any complex renovations depending on your home’s design. Take a look at how you can easily accommodate your ailing relative:

  • Increase lighting: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s eventually affect vision judgement and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is crucial to ensure all areas in the house have adequate illumination to help your loved one move around. Before implementing this, you should compare Texas electric rates in order to get the cheapest plan to offset the increase in lighting fixtures.
  • Enhance quality of lighting: While you need more lighting in the house, you should also minimize glares, shadows and reflections that cause distraction and curtail mobility. Moreover, you must avoid sudden changes in light in all rooms and instead apply uniform lighting to help your loved one adapt with time.
  • Age-in-place structural adjustment: According to the National Association of Builders (NAB), this is the fastest growing new segment in home remodelling. You can hire a contractor to create structures such as ramps to enable wheelchair movements, secure steps and handrails across the building, and install grab bars in your toilet and bathrooms among other features.
  • Safety devices: Modern technology has birthed amazing gadgetry that you can use to keep your loved one safe even when away. For instance, touch and voice applications in lamps, TV, interior door among other appliances will help make life easy and safer. They will not have to attempt tinkering with electric appliances, as it is dangerous in their state.
  • Monitoring technology: Motion detectors are important around the house in case your loved one wanders outside without your knowledge. Video cameras can also monitor their movements and in turn ensure they are safe all the time.
  • Automatic switch off in appliances: Home electric appliances should also have automatic sensors in case your relative forgets all about the sandwich he left in the oven. This will give you peace of mind knowing nothing will go wrong.

Other simple techniques include removal of cluttering and old rugs in the house that can lead to tripping. More importantly make sure your loved one has assistance at all times lest he try to carry out risky tasks.

—In collaboration with Mark Harrison. Mark is a construction consultant in Texas who has previously worked in both government and private sector as an energy auditor. If in Texas, he urges homeowners to compare Texas electric rates to enjoy cost-saving.

Common initial signs of dementia that might shock you

February 1st, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Dementia SignsDementia is a health condition that leads to a severe loss of emotional and cognitive (intellectual) function. It is a syndrome linked to the constant decline of the brain’s abilities. Patients suffering from dementia experience memory loss, decreased thinking speed, lack of judgment, confusion, lack of mental agility, and severe anxiety. The risk of developing the illness increases as people age, and dementia usually manifests in seniors over 65 years old.

Understanding dementia

People struggling with dementia may start feeling uninterested in daily activities, and even apathetic. They won’t be able to control their emotions, which could lead to difficulties in socializing with the people around them. As the condition advances, the person fighting it may also lose their sense of compassion. As the condition affects a patient’s mental abilities, in time organizational and planning skills will fade away. This means it’s impossible for a patient suffering from dementia to have an independent lifestyle. Professional assistance and caregiving is required.

Is dementia that common?

Believe it or not, yes. There are many forms available, and some are more aggressive than others. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, and Huntington’s disease are some of the main types. About 1 in 100 seniors over the age of 65 have dementia. As the patient gets older, the number increases to 6 in 100. By age 80, 20 people of 100 are at high risk of developing one or more forms of dementia.

Dementia is not a sole disease but an assortment of various symptoms caused by brain damage. All sorts of conditions can cause the symptoms; however Alzheimer’s is the most common. The patient starts experiencing memory loss (at first, on a short term basis). He won’t be able to be able to perform daily activities that demand planning and concentration, and his mood and personality will change, too. Confusion will eventually kick in, as well as depression. As the condition advances, the symptoms get worse because dementia is progressive. Basically, the brains start suffering increasingly more damage.

Unusual symptoms

Dementia doesn’t just steal people’s memories – studies continue to show that the condition is a lot more complicated than meets the eye, particularly in the early stages. Some of the signs are not that easy to spot, so it may be tough to notice the subtle changes. Some people appreciate sarcasm; others just don’t have a sense of humor. Regardless, sarcasm is an essential part of our lives that we often use to criticize someone or to showcase our fun side.

  • Lack of sarcasm

Research shows that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and FTD (fronto-temporal dementia) don’t notice sarcasm, or may take longer to keep up. Patients with FTD in particular, can’t tell when others are lying to them, which is another odd sign of dementia.

  • Illegal behavior

This symptom sounds a bit extreme, but those in the early stages of dementia may lose their social sense. Breaking into other people’s homes, shoplifting, and inappropriate interpersonal conduct are all surprising symptoms, which might trigger problems with the law. Early-onset dementia hits early, when people are in their 30s and 40s; this means it will be particularly difficult for those around them to realize that their erratic behavior is in fact dementia.

  • Staring

In patients with symptoms of dementia, the clinical term for staring is “reduced gaze”. The eyes lose their ability to move properly. Normal people use their eyes frequently to asses, observe and analyze without appearing weird. Those with dementia appear like they stare; that’s because they struggle to understand what’s happening around them, but can’t. In the early stages of the condition, this may also be a sign of dementia that the patient may not be aware of just yet.

  • Eating objects

This is probably one of the most unusual sign of dementia. Eating foods that are spoiled or rancid, and even nonfood objects happens because the person may forget the purpose of the things lying in front of them. For instance, a patient suffering from dementia may want to eat the flower sitting across the table in a restaurant. They know they’re there to eat, so they assume everything is edible.

Dementia manifests is different ways, and some are difficult to understand. People with relatives that received the diagnosis should remain calm. There are treatments available to ease the symptoms, although they’re no cure.

By Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!

A Conversation about Dementia and Competency

January 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing


Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. and Elizabeth Landsverk, MD
In A Conversation about Dementia and Competency

Dementias of all kinds are wrecking havoc with the lives of individuals and families today. The more you know about the medical and legal repercussions involving the diagnoses of Dementia, and the sooner planning begins, the stronger the safety net we can create for our loved one, ourselves and our families.

Tuesday February 24, 2015, 4:30pm – 6:30 pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4240 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon, CA 94920

Limited seating, please RSVP by phone or email below
1.800.805.7104 or events@livingwellah.com

Download Flyer

Alzheimer’s and Senior Care in 2015

December 29th, 2014 by Doris Bersing
Adult children

Alzheimer’s and New Year resolutions for Senior Care

As adult children of parents or other family members suffering from Alzheimer’s, and all  other types of Dementia, and other chronic and debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, and mental illness, their care will become part of our conversation during New Year resolutions. As some of us know, caring for our elders with any dementia, including Alzheimer’s and/or any other chronic and debilitating disease is very taxing and after surviving the revealing Holidays visits, we now,  know better and their care is imminent and will be part of our New Year resolutions: What are we going to do with mom’s decline, Dad is more forgetful and high fall risk, what if grandpa does not improve his heart condition with treatment, should we sale their homes and place them in an institution?

The New Year brings all the joys of the new, the fresh, and the possibilities but drag with it all the unfinished business regarding the care of our seniors, all that we saw during the holidays and now made it onto our To Do List. On top of all what we already do as adults, caring for our own kids – welcome to the sandwich generation- we need to figure out how to keep our parents or family members safe and healthy, at home or elsewhere.

When elderly parents experience health problems, loss of cognitive function, and difficulty performing the activities of daily living, adult children find themselves faced with difficult decisions. As an adult child, one of the most difficult decisions you may face is choosing a level of care for your loved one that meets his or her needs, provides an optimal level of independence, and maintains a good quality of life.

Before making the decision of when and where, we need to initiate the unbearable conversation with our parents and other family members about what and why. Most of the time, our elders had grown very independents and taking care of their own business and they do not want their children minding their business, sometimes being a burden. In some situations the denial and the answer “I do not need help…I am fine…” close the possibilities to our best intentions. Then the worrisome tug of war starts. When it comes to moving elder parents and bringing the “senior Care” or home care” conversation, experts like Stella Henry, R.N., author of The Eldercare Handbook   says “this is probably one of the hardest decisions a child will ever have to make.” Henry, an eldercare specialist who has been featured in Time, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, says many seniors “unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives.” And that’s where their children or other family members can be instrumental in identifying the problem and instigating change…”

Another specialist Dr. Barry Jacobs, explains on his book The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers  hat t here are no magic strategies or tricks for persuading an elder to receive care at home or move to a facility …,he suggests trying different approaches but when a parent continually refuses to entertain the idea of moving…”The child needs to back off for the time being,” advises Jacobs. But don’t give up and seek other openings to raise the issue again.”

In regards to what type of are to chose and although, home Care is 99% of the times the best solution for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and loving relationships and if not too much supervision or care is needed, there’s a good chance it could be right for you to keep people happy in their own environments,. In-home care provide professional caregivers who come into the home and install safety monitoring technology that could lower the cost of care and can be an effective solution in helping seniors maintain independence at home for as long as possible. Yet, it is not for everybody, mainly due to social needs, and cost. Other options are:

  • Skilled nursing facilities, or nursing homes, provide around-the-clock coverage by registered nurses or licensed practical nurses as well as activities and medical, dietary, and pharmaceutical services. These facilities also provide assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing.
  • Assisted living facilities are a residential elder care option that is a step between independent living and skilled care. These facilities are designed for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living but do not require the level of health care services provided in a nursing home.

Choosing a senior care option is never easy, but if you take an informed approach and are sensitive to your loved one’s needs, you can help him or her stay safe, happy, and healthy. ALWAYS consult a specialist before making the final decision to make sure you are making an informed decision.

Consulting your loved one’s physician can aid in the decision process and help you find out what can be done to treat or manage his or her condition. You can also make sure the physician is aware of all the medications your parent is taking, so that he can rule out over medication or drug interactions as the cause of your parent’s difficulties.

Besides social or medical needs, you and your elders have a wide variety of elderly care options to choose from. When making the right choice, you will need to take into consideration factors such as the following:

  • Are family members’ available to assist with elderly care? Do you, siblings or other relatives live near enough to provide or supervise care? Do other responsibilities limit your time commitment?
  • Does your parent have cognitive limitations from Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that compromise his or her safety and make regular supervision necessary?
  • Does your parent require regular medical care as well as assistance with the activities of daily living

Choosing a senior care option is never easy, but if you take an informed approach and are sensitive to your loved one’s needs, you can help him or her stay safe, happy, and healthy. Last but no least, remember these issues and the time to deal with them can be very overwhelming, giving you are already juggling with many balls “on the air” look out to your own sanity and seek help as needed. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association have tips for caregivers on how to take better care of ourselves, this new year. Happy and senior safe 2015!

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

December 29th, 2014 by Doris Bersing
Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues, an experience many of us experience, therefore the San Francisco Bay Times, the LGBT News and Calendar for San Francisco and the Bay Area, published an article by Dr. Doris Bersing, founder and CEO of Living Well stressing the importance of caring for yourself when caring for other during the Holiday season and all the “Holiday Blues’ this time brings with it. In the article titled: Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues,  Dr. Bersing says: “… At its best, the holiday season should be a time of happiness and joy, of being nestled in the loving bosom of family and friends. It is a wonderful picture, but the holiday season is fraught with stress for most folks. Expectations of a “perfect” holiday, fed by advertising and media coverage, can contribute to depression for those who don’t feel their holiday is measuring up. The truth is that for many seniors and their caregivers, the rosy picture is a far cry from reality… ‘many people suffer from “holiday blues,” even without the stress of caregiving. For many elders, feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation are their holiday companions. The season can be an especially hard time for people away from family and/or who are living alone. This is also especially true for many elders in the LGBT community who have lost their partners, have been ostracized from their family, and find themselves alone and/or dependent on close friends who have become their caregivers. Add holiday season frenzy to the mix, and it’s not hard to see how the blues can emerge.

There are many influencing factors that can contribute to seniors being at particular risk of suffering from the “holiday blues” including: grief and loss, unrealistic expectations, all family dynamics and change resistance. Read the article

Dr. Bersing cannot emphasize enough how important it can be to spend the holiday season in the company of supportive and caring people, thus avoiding drama queens and trouble makers.https://www.livingwellah.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=1962&action=edit&message=10#wpseo_linkdex

Dementia care: Truths that must be known

November 21st, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Dementia CareDementia care posits many challenges to the individual with dementia as well as to the people caring for her/his. Given that there are different types of dementia, and every person is unique, we have as many behaviors as many types of dementia and/or personalities.

Knowing the differences among the different types of dementia and its behavioral and physiological characteristics and impact on the person suffering the disease is important. The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there numerous other types, say Edward Francis and Foresthc.com. Lewy Body dementia, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s with dementia, and FTD (fronto-temporal dementia), and some of the most widespread forms. Therefore, it is important to have your sick loved one checked by an expert physician in the domain. A qualified medical practitioner won’t just observe the form of dementia; he will also be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment. For a better understanding of the disease, you might want to document yourself, too. Read about dementia and you’ll have the capacity of caring for your relative with a lot more compassion, love and understanding. Here are some truths about dementia every caregiver should know.

Flexibility is paramount

If your loved one suffers from dementia, you must learn to be flexible and understanding. Be prepared for mood daily swings, and have patience. If there’s one thing about dementia we can’t deny is this – there’s no going back, so it’s important to find a way and help your relative cope with the disease. Look for patterns and keep in mind that some days will be really bad, and others not so bad.

Be ok with advice from others

Those who can’t understand what caregiving actually means will probably come with all sorts of recommendations on how to care for a relative with dementia. Because they’re not in your shoes, making guesses is a lot easier for them. Don’t take it personal and try to relax; breathe, smile and let them say whatever they want because in the end, their sole intention is to help out even if they have no idea what they’re implying.

Detachment is necessary for the mental health of the caregiver

At first, this will be difficult. Unfortunately, it’s something you must do if you don’t want to go insane. A care giver must not allow his/her patient define their whole lives. If you have the misfortune of caring for a cranky, controlling senior, try not to allow their behavior soak up your sense of self and make you feel guilty and miserable. You’re not responsible for their dementia, so get over it and move on with your life while also helping them to the best of your abilities.

Empathy is required in order to feel compassionate

Let’s not confuse empathy with sympathy, because they’re totally different. Although we are compelled to detach ourselves from our dementia patients in order to stay sane, it is important to be sympathetic and feel their pain, too. They’re lost in their confusion and they can’t find their way back to reality. This means that as a caregiver, you must relate to their state of mind. Put yourself in their shoes for a second the next time your mother screams at you for 20 minutes. How would she react if things were different?

Don’t be judgmental towards your care receiver

Dementia patients will have good days and bad days. On those bad days, they might insult you. Don’t beat yourself up as you are doing everything you can to make their lives easier and more pleasant. Educate yourself on how to deal with bad behavior and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance in case you truly need it. Think about the good days and try to replicate those days; your patient could respond positively and even change his/her behavior instantly.

Ask for assistance and understand your limitations

Almost everyone trying to care for a patient with dementia eventually ends up needing help. You shouldn’t be compelled to look after a relative by yourself; ask for assistance from your siblings and make them understand that caregiving has to be a team effort. In special circumstances, you might consider hiring an in-home caregiver or place your loved one in an assisted living facility. One thing’s for sure – dementia is a serious illness that gets worse with time; this means that sooner or later, you will need professional assistance.

Certain truths are crystal-clear and just can’t be denied. Dementia caregiving implies more than visiting a relative once a week or helping around the house. You will have to make a full commitment, and provide the best assistance that you can in order to make the lifestyle of a loved one easier, and more fulfilling.


How Families Can Prepare to Care for A Loved One Dealing with a Memory Loss Condition

November 6th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

CaregiverIn recognition of November being National Family Caregivers Month,  US President Barack Obama issue a proclamation recognizing November as the National Family caregiver month. President Obama stresses the fact “…In the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide invaluable strength and assistance to their family members, and as the number of older Americans rises, so will the number of caregivers. Many of these dedicated people work full time and raise children of their own while also caring for the needs of their loved ones. Caregivers support the independence of their family members and enable them to more fully participate in their communities, and as a Nation, we have an obligation to empower these selfless individuals.

Private institutions like The Brentwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Danvers, MA shared some advice for family caregivers whose loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Family Caregivers provide many aspects of emotions, finances, nursing, and homemaking to allow for their loved ones to stay in their own homes comfortably. National Family Caregivers Month allows us to recognize those that put hard work into supporting their loved ones throughout difficult times.  Here are a few pieces of advice for those who are caregivers to loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia:

Become Well Informed
There are programs and classes that caregivers can take to learn more about Memory Loss Conditions. Also, completing your own research to gain as much knowledge about the diseases can help. There is a ton of information which can help you to prepare for the future and what you are going to encounter as your loved ones progress.

Develop a Strong Support Network of Family and Friends
Having a strong support network around you is extremely important as you become a caregiver. Keeping a support system of people you can talk to, get away for a bit with, or a shoulder to lean on helps for caregivers to handle the stress of caring for a loved one who is dealing with memory loss conditions.

Join a Support Group
Caregivers sometimes need to realize, they are not the only ones who are in this type of situation. By joining local support groups, you can gain a trusted support system, talk about your issues, and gain valuable advice about how others have coped with bringing in a loved one with medical issues.

Develop Family Roles
Many times, there are multiple people in the same house acting as caregivers for a loved one. It is important to set family roles so that everyone knows their part and what they are responsible for doing. Someone may be the driver to doctor’s appointments whereas another makes their meals and another could be responsible for their medication. It is important that everyone in the household is on the same page to decrease tension and make sure their loved one is getting the proper care necessary.

Evaluate Finances
Bringing in a loved one will create added costs to your monthly budget. Sit down with your past budget and you will realize you may need to readjust. You will have one more mouth to feed, one more person to drive, medications to order, new furniture or safety accessories to add to your house. Before you bring your loved one into your home it is important to realize what the added costs will be to understand the expenses you will face.

Plan for the Future
From the beginning caregivers have to understand that their loved ones may not be able to stay with them forever. Families need to sit down and discuss what the plans are for the future. Whether that includes part time at home nursing care, part time living situations between different members of the family, or eventually looking into care facilities for your loved ones, it is important for these decisions to be set from the beginning.

Take Care of Yourself
Finally, caregivers need to take a step back and make sure they are caring for themselves. Being active will help keep a caregiver physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Taking time for yourself is important to release the burdens and stresses that come with care giving. Allowing yourself “me time” will keep you fresh and allow you to be a better caregiver.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia are extremely life-changing diseases for both those diagnosed and their loved ones. Those who take on the care giving responsibilities will be taking on a lot in the future, but the patients will benefit from their love and support.

Finally, thank you to all the wonderful caregivers out there, we appreciate all that you do!