Welcome ...

All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

Warm regards,

Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aging with Grace Introduces The RX Guardian Program

How Safe are Your Medications?

When Kurt Rauer’s doctor suggested he switch heart medications—from Digoxin to Digitek— he didn’t think much of it. But after about a year of taking Digitek, he received a recall warning him of a potential problem
with the medication dosage.

As it turns out, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had recalled Digitek due to double the dose of medication in a single pill.
Yet what’s most surprising is that Rauer received the warning not
from his physician or pharmacist but from an independent drug safety

The RX Guardian, a service of Aging with Grace, is designed to keep you, the consumer, informed about the safety of your medications.

This free independent drug safety service supplies information on drug interactions, drug-disease interactions, safety alerts and medication recalls.

Whether you take a prescription drug, over-the-counter medication, or vitamin & herbal supplements, The Rx Guardian can keep you informed by providing personalized alerts from the FDA, manufacturers, and researchers about:

o Recalls
o Label errors
o Interactions
o Clinical findings

The RX Guardian service is FREE, SAFE, and SECURE for registered individuals who want to be informed, stay informed and share feedback about their medications. Members rely on their personalized information from The RX Guardian to take a more active role in their own care.

Features of The RX Guardian include:

• Drug-interaction checker:

When you register, you input all the medications that you take (prescription, over-the-counter and even supplements). The RX Guardian processes this information and flags every potential drug interaction, and then sends a personalized risk-rating alert via e-mail.

• Portable profile:

A printable document listing all the your
medications and supplements—to take to your doctors, keep with
your travel documents, send to school/camp with the kids, etc.

To learn more, visit The RX Guardian web site

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking Control of Losing Control

By Craig W. Herman, MD

Most of us would agree that it’s okay to lose control every now and then—it may even be a good thing. However, when it’s bladder control, it’s just not okay to lose it!

There are few things that can be as embarrassing, humiliating and confining. The unintentional loss of urine, urinary incontinence, can and does affect men and women of all ages.

“I was afraid to sneeze, cough or laugh,” says Anne*, a 45-year-old speech therapist. “And I simply refused to wear those pads because they made me feel old.” Read the full article

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why Do We Avoid Advance Directives?

When I visit my father, I make a point of checking: Is that battered leather folder full of legal documents sitting in its usual spot in the den?

At 86, Dad is managing quite nicely in his own apartment. But the day will likely come when he’ll face choices about how much medical treatment to undergo, and he may be too incapacitated to make or express such decisions. Read the full article

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

12-page Book That Engages People with Moderate to Severe Dementia

By Laura Bramly

People have often asked me what inspired my read-along picture book for people with moderate to severe dementia, ElderCareRead Life Scenes 1. The answer lies in a question asked on the yearly care review questionnaire at my mother's nursing home.

My mother lived in a long term care facility for the last two years of her life. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia after a stroke took away her short term memory (and some long term memory) and the use of her legs. For the second year in her residence, she was moved to the memory care unit, behind the frosted glass doors. All the other residents knew that it was a one-way ticket through those doors. But I digress.

My mother's experience, and indeed our family's experience, with the nursing home was fairly typical. I was a long-distance caregiver, living 3,000 miles away from my mother and visiting every few months. I was only able to drop in on her life for a few days at a time. My stepfather was in his 80s, and my sister lived about 45 minutes away but didn't drive. Prior to my mother's stroke, no one in our family had experience with anyone with dementia. In short, my sister and I represented a fair number of boomer children with elderly parents.

Our family felt that my mother was getting good care from individuals who were genuinely concerned about her well-being. The rooms were nice, the food was nutritious if not gourmet. We didn't give much thought to what she would actually DO in the nursing home, besides wake up, dress, eat, watch TV, visit etc. I think we treated the place like a hospital rather than my mother's home, and the fact that there was a schedule of activities seemed enough for us. But what about my mother? Was it enough for her? Well, she was 85 years old with dementia....

It wasn't until the yearly review with her doctor, nurse, social worker and activity director that I started thinking about how she filled her days. As part of the review meeting, the facility asked individuals of our family to complete a questionnaire on different aspects of my mother's care regime. One question really stood out from the other more mundane questions having to do with food, medication, cleanliness of the home and the like, and the question was: "Is your loved one provided with opportunities to give back?" My stepfather didn't even know how to answer this question and left it blank. It certainly gave me pause to think, and it started the most in-depth conversation I had ever had with the activity director regarding the nature of the activities in which my mother was participating. For example, she was involved in a "cooking class" whereby the person running the class put the frozen cookies in the oven, and the "class" of 10 or more residents watched. We agreed that my mother would probably be better off in the small group that met not only to "cook" but to engage in purposeful interaction with each other while they enjoyed the fruits of their endeavours. I concluded that the activity staff, while well-meaning, didn't read their own questionnaires and take them to heart.

More importantly, for me anyhow, the question about giving back really started me thinking about the human-ness of people with dementia, the purpose of life, and the importance of contributing to society as an aspect of being human. I realized that, for the most part, we assume that seniors in long term care facilities do not have the capability or desire to give back. How many times do you see field trips from the nursing home to the local preschool to help out with the youngsters? Well, I've only experienced the reverse: the visit from the preschoolers to the home. How about a busload of nursing home residents going to the local community garden to plant and weed? Not!

Regarding my mother, the question of giving back caused me to rethink how I interacted with her and what one-on-one activities I did with her. The first thing we did was write a get-well note to my stepfather, laid up with a bad back. To be sure she could not hold a pen or write, but she could certainly dictate, something I had not thought of doing before. On a later visit, we sat down to look through a coffee table book with colour pictures of her town. We talked about every picture, and when we were done, she said "Again!" I came to realize how starved she was for information, for learning, for thinking, for engagement. However, I had to balance this need with her ability level, attention span, and propensity to get frustrated when she did not understand something. I thought that preschool and early-reading books might be about right, but I didn't want to buy books meant for a four-year-old. And so, I created ElderCareRead Life Scenes 1, a 12-page picture book with text printed in a large font that can be read aloud with the person with dementia, and discussion questions to inspire conversation betwee the caregiver and reader.

Some months in development, I had the opportunity to read the 6-page prototype of my book with my mother once before she passed away. She taught me a lot about how a person (or at least ONE person) with moderate to severe dementia communicates, by skipping over unnecessary words in the text and rejecting some question formats outright! Moreover, her interest in the book, the way that she lingered over the photos, the fact that the book engaged her for an hour, the intense and enjoyable discussions we had over some of the questions, and most importantly, the fact that she READ, out loud, when her reading days had been declared "over," inspired me to publish this book and make it available for everyone.

The "war" on Alzheimer's has so many fronts that I often feel scattered and discouraged. Changing our perspective of how people with moderate to severe dementia learn, communicate and give back is one front, but an important one. It starts with realizing that life is not over for people with dementia, and that indeed, it is the start of a new life, with new possibilities. There is no cure for Alzheimer's. But what we can change is the life experience of the person with dementia between diagnosis and demise.

ElderCareRead Life Scenes 1:
A shared activity book for people with dementia to enjoy with their caregiver.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Forgiveness Is Not Always Easy

By Patricia Grace

As a fan of the show ER from the very first episode, I was of course glued to the TV for the finale. If you were one of the many who tuned in for the last episode, you were more than likely touched by the scene between the elderly couple who had known each other since first grade. The tenderness of the scene where the husband asks the emergency room doctor to do something, to do more, brought tears to my eyes.

However, what made the tears flow down my cheeks was the scene of the daughter telling the emergency room nurse that she couldn’t remember why she was estranged from her mom and that of course “now it really doesn’t matter because she’s dying.” What this scene was conveying in a very poignant way is to treat everyone like it is their last day with you.

I thought about arguments and disagreements that I have had with my own mother over the years. Many times, it was for silly reasons; other times, not so. With my anger and hurt would come resentment and occasionally short periods where I would not call or visit. Thankfully, I always came to realize that I was wrong—not wrong in the sense of the argument, but wrong in my actions. I can’t imagine how horrible and guilty I would have felt if something had happened to her during a period when we were not speaking. Somehow, I learned to forgive her.

Forgiveness is the key to moving forward with any relationship, especially with our parents. It’s the only way I was able resolve my anger and resentment for real or imagined slights over the years. True forgiveness requires honesty, not only about a situation or another person, but also about yourself. Forgiveness is not always easy, but it always leads to healing.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Is it time to take away the keys?

My father wasn’t living with me when I received the call to come pick him up because he had just totaled his car on the freeway by merging into a semi. Luckily no one was hurt …and he TOLD me that the semi had merged into him. It wasn’t until later did I learn the contents of the police report. (He still thinks that truck was at fault.) Read the full blog post

Monday, April 06, 2009

Online Memorials Can Help You Deal with the Loss of a Loved One

By: Louise Zweben

The Internet age, which has brought us the individual freedom to shop anytime we want or read a hometown newspaper before 6:00 a.m., can now also provide togetherness and comfort to families and friends when they need each other the most.

When someone close to our heart passes away, a funeral not only serves as a way for us to pay respect to them, but also experience a very cathartic and reflective time spent with family and friends. As a result, funerals provide an environment of communal support, essential to starting the grieving and healing process. However, in today’s increasingly mobile world, funeral services are no longer a drive away for many people. With work and home responsibilities to deal with, it is not always possible to come for Aunt Mary’s or Uncle John’s funeral. Online memorials can provide an effective and meaningful alternative.

With an online memorial, friends and family who live out of town and are unable to pay their respects in person can still share in this communal experience. It can provide a unique and meaningful way to celebrate the life of someone we have loved and lost without being there in person. In addition, such a memorial keeps all family and friends, including the ones who live far away, talking about the times they shared with that person long after the funeral services have ended, to provide them the comfort of a close community.

You can create an elegant online memorial in just a few minutes with basic computer skills by using a website that offers memorial sites. Typically you enter the name of the deceased and select various options that help you customize the look and feel. Then you enter their obituary in words; upload any pictures you may have of that person from your computer and save the memorial. Once you have created the memorial, you can use its sharing capability to invite friends and family. Either you or they can start new conversations or carry on existing conversations with stories of their fond interactions about the person they lost.

Such a site, with rich stories of love and loss, sadness and joy, written in words, photos and video, can help helps us smile, laugh, cry and embrace our loved one's life in an effort to make sense of our loss. It helps in mourning and healing, so we can begin to take the first steps needed to move forward. It can also be used to notify friends and family about upcoming memorial events, charitable donations and events honoring the departed. An online memorial also enables children to get to ‘meet’ a grandparent, uncle or an aunt they may have never known and also ensures that the stories of their lives are not forgotten but passed on to the next generation, so that their legacy lives on.

An online memorial is more than an obituary - friends and family can record the whole life, thoughts, soul, pictures, videos, even voice of the person they have lost. It is living, breathing and ever-growing – so, unlike a newspaper obituary, you or your family and friends can add to it anytime. More over, the online memorial can be accessed from anywhere in the world for your friends, family and even future generations to view and leave their own personal tributes and condolences. I invite you to create an online memorial to pay respects to the person you loved and lost. It may be the best way to pay tribute to them and to begin to deal with your loss.

Louise Zweben is the CEO of SympathyTree, an online memorial site. Louise first had the idea for SympathyTree.com from her personal experiences in dealing with the death of a close family friend. Louise is a serial entrepreneur with successful businesses spanning a wide range of areas including Technology and Real Estate.

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Helpful Resources

Low Vision Therapy Services

Children of Aging Parents (CAPS)

Well Spouse Association

U.S. Administration on Aging


Nursing Home Compare

Senior Safety Online

Mature Market Institute

Connections for Women

50Plus Realtor

Alzheimer's Speaks

Official VA Website