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.

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 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!

Role Reversal: A Reality, A Documentary.

November 1st, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Role ReversalNeedless to say that many of us,  Baby Boomers go, had gone, are going, have been going, and/or will go through the difficult and taxing task of caring for an aging, chronically ill or frail parent.  With the growing of the aging population and the out-of-the-pocket excessive cost of care, many caregivers are the adult children who need to care for their parents.

Caring for our parents might bring up many different emotions and reactions to this experience, including feeling uncomfortable when you find yourself feeding, bathing, or supervising a parent who once took care of you, frustrated when ourparents denied their need for care or when they won’t listen to advice or accept, and sometimes awkward when roles are reversed. Moreover, some of us may have a loving relationship with our parents but other adult children find themselves caring for parents they never got along with well or having to deal with a variety of family dynamics.

Some of this aspects is what film maker Chris Nicholas tries to portray in his documentary role reversal about caring for his mother…at his home. A circumstance that is not available to everybody. I know some people do not have that opportunity and are left with few other choices like paying for “outside” care or placing parents in a facility. No matter what your reality is vis-a-vis the care of your parents, it takes a village to educate us all about this reality and the options we do or do not have.

Nicholas explains “…Role Reversal’ is a documentary about what happens when our aging parents are no longer able to care for themselves and how we, the adult children take on the role of caregiver.  Millions of us are currently struggling with this role reversal, and millions more should prepare for it. He initiated an indiegogo campaign to raise funds to make the documentary a reality. His indiegogo campaign states: “…Filmmaker Chris Nicholas uses his own experience of caring for his ailing mother, Beatrice, as a means of helping us all prepare for the inevitable…Nicholas will also interview health care professionals, and share the stories of others that are at various stages of taking care of their aging parents. The goals are to create a film that will guide us through this process, teaching us how to take care of ourselves as we care for our parent; and to inspire us to honor our parents, letting them live their final years with dignity and compassion.

If you want to learn more about Chris and Beatrice’s personal story click here

If you feel moved by or identify with this story, you could think of supporting Support Role Reversal, which is about caring for our aging parents and the lack of options, sometimes, we have. To see Nicholas indiegogo campaign, click here.

Super Foods Benefit Seniors

October 28th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

IG_Super_Seniors2By now most people know how important a healthy diet is. Yet, so many still reach for poor nutritional choices.

Years of these types of decisions can weaken the body and potentially result in a myriad of health challenges. As life advances and the body ages it is essential to re-evaluate a diet that could be causing fatigue to diabetes and so much more in-between.

Whether you are on your own, aiding a person in need or reside in an assisted living facility, these super foods benefit seniors to offer a higher quality of living.


Berry Good

Blueberries are at the top of the medicinal fruit food chain–they are full of life saving antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants have been linked to preventing and combating heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Plus, blueberries are high in fiber and encourage advanced brain function.

According to results from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and reported in Senior Journal, blueberries and other colorful berries and vegetables “contain high levels of flavonoids, including anthocyanins – water soluble pigments found in many plants – that new research suggests will ward off the disease.”

About a half cup of blueberries (or other bright fruits, like red grapes) one or two times per day is enough to get your system on a good track toward antioxidant strengthening.


Memory and Mood Makeover

As we age we all want to hold on to our priceless memories. However, taxing the system with processed foods and sugars can accumulate and potentially impede our ability to quickly recall events.

Cocoa has been found to possibly enhance memory as well as mood.

A study published in Nature Neuroscience and reported by The Washington Post found that flavanols found in this chocolate compound have the potential to “reverse mild memory loss in older adults.”

Plus, cocoa along with pumpkin seeds have the potential to enable the brain to release “feel good” hormones putting a smile on your face when you least expect it.

The best way to get cocoa is by purchasing it in it’s rawest, powder form (cacao) and mixing it with a non-dairy beverage like rice, soy or hemp milk (lactose in dairy can tax the system, especially for older adults).

Eating a candy bar will not help increase cocoa as there are very little flavanols after processing.

Coconut oil is another potential memory booster as well as a very healthy fat to encourage maintenance of wholesome, beneficial weight.

Add in Acai (Ah-Sah-ee) a Brazilian fruit now poplar in the U.S. and chia seeds for more mental stimulation, concentration and memory.


Super Greens

Eating dark green leafy vegetables is like sending a cavalry of disease fighting troops into your system. Kale for instance has more vitamin C than oranges and more iron than beef.

These essential nutrients are powerful in combating health challenges. Add in raw spinach, collard greens and broccoli to keep your body firing on all cylinders.


Omega It

Your body craves Omega-3 fatty acids and for good reason. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center they have been linked to “reduc[ing] inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.”

Increase your intake of Omega-3’s by eating salmon, flaxseed, avocados, and nuts (like walnuts, almonds and cashews).

Eating fresh, live, organic (if possible), produce is one of the first steps to maintaining and/or regaining your optimal health. These nutritious choices are recommended for everyone but as a senior, paying close attention to your diet becomes more important than ever..

Seniors and their caregivers alike should know that it’s never too late to re-introduce foods that, if steadfast in consumption, can significantly change the taste buds and the body’s response, all for the better.

Hearing Loss and Dementia

October 14th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Assistive Listening Devices 2The estimates for people who are hard of hearing and/or deaf across America vary from 22 million to 36 million. The figures are based on statistics from The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Census Bureau. There is no statistic showing the cause for hearing loss amongst these groups, but based on other western counties, age related hearing loss, as well as noise induced hearing loss are likely to be the two main reasons.

What Is Age Related Hearing Loss

Most adults will experience some degree of deterioration in hearing as they age – hence the term age-related hearing loss. The extent of the loss will differ from one person to the next.

It is a natural process that can start as early as age 40, but the vast majority of those found to have age related hearing loss are over the age of 65. Our ability to hear sound is dependent in part by tiny hair-like structures that are found within the cochlea of the inner ear. These hair-cells carry information from the incoming sound waves to the nerves responsible for hearing. As we age and often over many years, these tiny hairs die or are damaged, and the direct result is hearing loss. Both ears are usually affected in a similar way.

Symptoms Of Age Related Hearing Loss

The severity of hearing loss varies across individuals as it also depends on many other factors such as exposure to loud sound during our lifetime. While hearing loss is not life threatening, it can reduce one’s quality of life. It may lead to social exclusion, depression, anxiety and other associated psychological issues. Interaction with others often becomes difficult, and may be tempting to avoid.

Common telltale signs include:

  • Struggling to hear within background noise
  • Having to have words or sentences repeated
  • Having the TV turned up more than others in the same room
  • Mens’ voices are easier to hear than womens’ voices
  • Feeling exhausted after having conversations
  • Inability to hear, or confusion over high-pitched speech sounds such as “s” and “th”

The Danger Of Unmanaged Hearing Loss

In the past it was usually assumed that not doing anything about a hearing loss unmanaged would have a negative impact on quality of life in terms of some social interactions and listening to music and television but that there wouldn’t be anything else more complicated to consider. We now know however, thanks to research by Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that unmanaged hearing loss can have far reaching effects on an individual’s mental health.

It is the relationship between reduced auditory stimuli and patterns of reclusiveness that is causing concern. The Johns Hopkins University study determined that socially isolated individuals are more likely to develop dementia. Out of 639 participants, researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. The risk of developing dementia over time was believed to increase by as much as fivefold. Lack of cognitive stimuli alongside social withdrawal due to difficulty hearing, were posited as defining characteristics in this profile. Whilst hearing loss may not be the cause of dementia there are certainly signs that, untreated, it can accelerate the rate of progression.

Treatment Options

Before considering options it is important to get a diagnosis as to the cause of hearing loss and have a hearing test to evaluate the extent of any hearing loss.

First consult with your family doctor or book a hearing test at your local hearing center.

Age related hearing loss is an irreversible condition and no cure currently exists. The effects of hearing loss can however be managed through the use of modern technology – most commonly in the form of hearing aids. These aids aim to amplify external sounds, and deliver more sound where needed to the inner ear. Hearing aids vary in their design, they are either worn behind the ear or inside the ear. Additional aids such as extra loud phones and cell phones, loop systems, TV listeners and other alerting devices are also available to match individual needs. Check with your physician for a referral to a local audiologist, who can check what is the best device for you.

Bio: Information by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hearing Direct a company that offers assistive listening devices.