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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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Helping an elderly parent dig out of debt

Looking out for the welfare of aging parents can be difficult, but now there's another thing for adult children to worry about: skyrocketing credit card debt among seniors. According to a study released in July 2009 by New York City-based Demos, a public policy group, consumers 65 and older carried $10,235 in average card debt last year. That's up 26 percent from 2005. Credit card debt among all other borrowers rose only 3 percent during that time. Helping Mom and Dad out of debt

"We have seen an uptick in the number of seniors that are reaching out for credit and debt counseling," says Melinda Opperman, vice president of community outreach for Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Counseling, an organization with offices in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Credit card debt can decrease a senior's monthly cash flow, and affect his or her ability to move into an apartment, assisted living facility or nursing home since a credit check is often required, says Laurie B. Giles, an elder life planning attorney in Shelton, Conn. Because of these far-reaching consequences, you should lend a hand if a parent is encountering financial difficulty, experts say -- but you shouldn't lose your own financial footing in the process.

Signs of trouble - someone should always be able to step in and make sure bills are paid if an aging parent is unable to do so, but you may want to become more involved with a parent's finances if you notice certain behaviors.

Memory loss and other physical ailments that could leave your parent unable to pay bills or make sound decisions are obviously situations in which you would want to be proactive, but signs of financial distress are just as alarming.

Adult children should be concerned "if they start seeing their parent use a credit card for things that they didn't use their card for before, or the parent has begun borrowing from family members," says Opperman.

Likewise, "if you are walking in the house and the lights are off because the bills haven't been paid, or your parents' checking account is overdrawn and they're usually good with finances, those kinds of things signal something is wrong," Giles adds.

Once you suspect a parent is in financial trouble, you must find a way to get them to open up -- a task often easier said than done.

"It's hard for people to talk about money because money has so many ties to our sense of value in the world," says Marie McNabb, a Seattle-based financial therapist. It can be even more difficult for parents to be honest with adult children because they don't want to be "a burden to children and may want to leave a financial legacy for their children," McNabb adds.

Adult children should be concerned if they start seeing their parent use a credit card for things that they didn't use their card for before, or the parent has begun borrowing from family members.

One way to make the conversation easier: Tie it into current events. For example, with the health care debate going on, "you might say, 'How do you afford your medication? Do you have to create a budget for that?'" Opperman suggests.

Another way to bring up credit card debt is to mention your own experience. Bring up the Credit CARD Act of 2009, Opperman says. "Tell them how it's affecting you and ask, 'What interest rate are you paying?'"

Finding solutions - once a parent opens up about financial problems, steps can be taken to bring on relief.

Don't reach into your own wallet to pay a parent's credit card debt, however. "There's no use compromising a second household," Opperman advises.

Instead, contact an organization approved by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies for help with budgeting and paying off the debt. Debt counseling agencies can also tell seniors about programs that can save them money on utilities, insurance and medical bills.

Once you're familiar with your parents' bills and any debt repayment plans, you can write checks from your parents' account to pay those bills as long as you are an authorized signer on the parent's checking account. However, don't become a co-signer or open a joint account because that would tie your finances together, possibly making you financially liable for their debt.

A durable power of attorney is another legal method for taking over financially since it allows you to make legal decisions if your parent becomes incapacitated.

If a parent is unwilling to relinquish financial control and you think he or she is unfit to make sound decisions, you can seek court intervention to become your parent's conservator, but "that can be adversarial because it means having your parent declared incompetent," Giles warns.

Recognize that you may not be the best person to have a conversation with your parent about finances, says McNabb. "Look around the family and the inner circle of friends and see who the parent is going to be most open with." Let that person take the lead and be willing to help out with brainstorming possible financial solutions.

Once a plan is put in place, things will get easier, says McNabb. "As difficult as it is to start talking about financial difficulties, it actually will be a relief once you can bring it up."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Veterans With Agent Orange Exposure Urged To Get Help | NBC 4i

Veterans With Agent Orange Exposure Urged To Get Help | NBC 4i

Seniors can add to muscle by pumping iron

As we age, our muscle mass decreases at surprising rates. According to Dr. David Heber, director of UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition, an average male who weights 180 pounds might after age 60 lose as much as 10 pounds of muscle mass over a decade.

But can we turn that around?

Heber says absolutely.In fact, new research published in the journal Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise finds older adults who begin lifting weights after 50 may win the battle against age-related muscle loss.
Palais started weight training to build bone mass. But she built muscle mass as well.
Enlarge Jason Millstein for NPR

Palais started weight training to build bone mass. But she built muscle mass as well.
Palais started weight training to build bone mass. But she built muscle mass as well.
Jason Millstein for NPR

Palais started weight training to build bone mass. But she built muscle mass as well.

"You have to do what we call resistance exercise," Heber says. This can take a lot of different forms. "It could be lifting weights, it could be stretchy bands, but the key is you have to stretch a muscle."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game on...


A new study on motion gaming, video games that involve frequent movement such as playing games on Wii and Kinect gaming systems, finds that elderly individuals can benefit physically and emotionally from these fun activities. Video games that allow seniors to participate in previously enjoyed activities such as tennis, bowling, and golf are particularly helpful in improving health.

According to a study by the Gerontological Society, virtually engaging in previously enjoyed activities increases life satisfaction, decreases reported loneliness, improves mood, and increases physical activity. Seniors also reported feeling “more apart of things” and more connected to the younger generation.

Another study by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that playing Wii helped treat seniors with depression. More than a third of participants reported a 50 percent or greater reduction in depressive symptoms.

Even infrequent motion gaming sessions have been shown to improve balance coordination and strength, all of which are useful in preventing falls.

Read more about the benefits of motion gaming.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will working past 65 affect your Social Security payment?

Many people continue to work beyond retirement age, either by choice or out of necessity. But if you are receiving Social Security benefits, you need to be aware of how working can affect your benefit payments. Earning income above Social Security thresholds can cause a reduction in benefits and mean your benefits will be taxed.

Whether it makes sense to work and collect Social Security at the same time is a complicated assessment that depends on how much you earn and when you begin taking Social Security benefits.

How much can you earn and still get benefits? If you were born January 2, 1943, through January 1, 1955, then your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 66. If you work and are full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you are younger than full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full Social Security benefits. If you are younger than full retirement age during all of 2011, SS will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earned above $14,160. If you reach full retirement age during 2011, SS will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $37,680 until the month you reach full retirement age.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Greatest Generation meets Generation Me

As more seniors opt to live closer to their alma-mater or various
college towns across America, new concepts are sprouting on how those
seniors will interact with the students on campus. According to a WSJ
article this week entitled, “Making Sure Athletes Go to Class”,
the University of Kansas has tapped a group of local seniors who are
tasked with keeping tabs on the student athletes to ensure they attend
class.

In a tale filled with sweet talk and bribes, the article outlines a good example of the importance of keeping seniors active in their community and how it leads to building bonds with the "younger generation".

Monday, February 07, 2011

5 things I wish everyone knew about Alzheimer's

by Dennis Fortier, President Medical Care Corporation

There is much needless confusion about certain aspects of the Alzheimer's field. In fact, this blog exists almost solely to help reduce that confusion.

Many bloggers, and some sloppy journalists, compound the problem with their inaccurate daily descriptions and ambiguous word choices. Here are 5 things I wish they would all get straight:

1. Alzheimer's is but one disease, albeit the most common, of many that can lead to dementia.

Parkinsons's disease, stroke, head injuries, and a host of other medical conditions can also lead to dementia. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that seems to begin with an accumulation of amyloid protein in the brain, followed by subtle symptoms of memory loss, and eventually, enough brain damage to render a person demented.

2. The term "Dementia" does not refer to a disease.

Dementia is a term that describes a fairly advanced state of cognitive decline, when diminished brain health is so severe that it interferes with a person's life. How a person has arrived at that state of diminished brain health is a separate and distinct matter.

Importantly, when you hear about "early dementia", you are hearing about the earliest stages of a condition that is already quite severe. A little memory loss is a problem that should be evaluated, but it is not "dementia" until it becomes so severe that it interferes with daily living.

3. Early detection of Alzheimer's is not the same as "predicting" Alzheimer's disease.

In the first case, we would identify the pathology of AD and provide optimal treatment, prior to the massive brain damage that eventually causes dementia. Predicting risk, on the other hand, is still a very uncertain science with complex pros and cons. (So complex, in fact, that many bio-ethicists are currently able to earn a living discussing them.)

4. Having "no cure" for Alzheimer's is not the same as "having no treatment".

Controlling symptoms and slowing disease progression are both beneficial outcomes short of a cure. Because we don't understand the disease well, it has been difficulty to identify drugs that significantly alter the disease course. However, much of the perceived inability to treat the disease is driven by the fact that we identify AD much too late, and intervene only after major brain damage has occurred.

The negative perception of treatment is also driven by a narrow focus on drug efficacy, as opposed to the combined effect of a more robust treatment approach involving diet, exercise, and management of contributing conditions.

5. Very few diseases can be diagnosed with 100% certainty, Alzheimer's is not particularly unique in this regard.

By following published guidelines for a diagnostic work-up, physicians can accurately diagnose AD more than 90% of the time. This is well within the range of acceptable clinical certainty. The repeated mantra in the press, that an autopsy is required to diagnose AD with 100% certainty, may be true but is also nearly meaningless.

With more careful reporting on these 5 aspects of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, we could eliminate much unnecessary confusion which could help us approach solutions with more clarity and success. Please share this post with your online networks to help spread the message.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Twilight Wish Foundation needs your help

Twilight Wish Foundation, a 501c3, needs your help to grant a wish that they received from an elderly couple from Missouri. Larry and Mary have been married 48 years and have three children and nine grandchildren. Their wish is for a new oven to replace their old one that broke on Thanksgiving morning.

Like many other seniors living on a fixed income, the rising costs of food, gasoline, utilities and prescriptions do not allow for any extras. In fact, Larry's tractor has been broken for months because they can't afford to fix it. They have given to others throughout their life together, donating surplus fruit and vegetables from their garden to neighbors and the senior citizens center in their town. Larry was a volunteer firefighter, President of the Chamber of Commerce, a church elder, and an Adult Sunday School teacher.

Their simple wish for a basic need illustrates the struggle that many elderly Americans face today. If you would like to help grant this wish or any of our other open wishes, please visit their website www.twilightwish.org or to mail your donation: 32 Union Street, Doylestown, PA 18901. To learn how you can help others in need call 215-230-8777 ext. 100.
Funding for this wish will go directly to grant this wish. If excess funds are received, the would appreciate the opportunity to use them to grant other basic necessity Twilight Wishes unless your request otherwise.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Generation Alzheimer's

The Alzheimer’s Association has nicknamed the baby boomer generation “Generation Alzheimer’s” in a new report, since one in eight boomers is expected to develop the disease, for which there is no cure. Deaths related to Alzheimer’s are soaring, increasing 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, and scientists predict an approaching tipping point.

The report finds that most of America’s greatest generation will spend their retirement years with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it. About 13.5 million Americans are expected to suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050 costing an estimated $1.078 trillion in current US dollars.

The report also concludes that Alzheimer’s research is underfunded. “If you think finding a cure is expensive, consider the cost of facing people living with the disease and taking care of them” the report urges, “Every day brings us closer to a cure. An additional commitment through a public private partnership could push us over the edge.”

Read full report...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Older patients may get lower quality care at hospital ER's

Trauma centers may not give the same high-quality care to severely injured elderly patients as they provide to younger patients, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data on 87,754 trauma patients of all ages treated at 131 trauma centers in the United States and one trauma center in Canada. About one-quarter of the patients were elderly.

When patients in all age groups were grouped together, 14 centers were rated as high performers, with lower than expected rates of death. When young and elderly patients were looked at separately, seven centers were high performers for young patients and nine were high performers for elderly patients. Only two centers were high performers for both young and elderly patients.

The study findings are published in the January issue of the journal Annals of Surgery.

"In the study we showed that although some centers demonstrate high performance overall, these same centers might not be providing the same high-quality care to the elderly," Dr. Barbara Haas, of St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons.

"We've shown that elderly patients have different needs from young patients. Centers need to focus on the needs of the elderly specifically in order to improve their quality of care," she added.

The study authors noted that an aging population means trauma centers are seeing many more elderly patients, who are more likely than younger patients to have conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. These health problems need to be taken into account at the same time elderly patients are being treated for their injuries.

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