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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aging in Place...still the option of choice.

Retirement communities may have their perks, but Beryl O'Connor says it would be tough to match the birthday surprise she got in her own backyard when she turned 80 this year.

She was tending her garden when two little girls from next door — "my buddies," she calls them — brought her a strawberry shortcake. It underscored why she wants to stay put in the house that she and her husband, who died 18 years ago, purchased in the late 1970s.

"I couldn't just be around old people — that's not my lifestyle," she said. "I'd go out of my mind."

Physically spry and socially active, O'Connor in many respects is the embodiment of "aging in place," growing old in one's own longtime home and remaining engaged in the community rather than moving to a retirement facility.

People have long wondered about the purpose of dreams. But scientists say they now know: they sooth the sting out of troubling memories. And when dreams don’t do their job, horrific memories can take over a person’s life, as they do with PTSD, a new study suggests.

According to surveys, aging in place is the overwhelming preference of Americans over 50. But doing it successfully requires both good fortune and support services — things that O'Connor's pleasant hometown of Verona has become increasingly capable of providing.

About 10 miles northwest of Newark, Verona has roughly 13,300 residents nestled into less than 3 square miles. There's a transportation network that takes older people on shopping trips and to medical appointments, and the town is benefiting from a $100,000 federal grant to put in place an aging-in-place program called Verona LIVE.

Administrated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey, the program strives to educate older people about available services to help them address problems and stay active in the community. Its partners include the health and police departments, the rescue squad, the public and public schools, and religious groups.

Among the support services are a home maintenance program with free safety checks and minor home repairs, access to a social worker and job counselor, a walking club and other social activities. In one program, a group of middle-school girls provided one-on-one computer training to about 20 older adults.

Social worker Connie Pifher, Verona's health coordinator, said a crucial part of the overall initiative is educating older people to plan ahead realistically and constantly reassess their prospects for successfully aging in place.

"There are some people who just can do it, especially if they have family support," said Pifher, "And then you run into people who think they can do it, yet really can't. You need to start educating people before a crisis hits."

There's no question that aging in place has broad appeal. According to an Associated Press - LifeGoesStrong.com poll conducted in October, 52 percent of baby boomers said they were unlikely to move someplace new in retirement. In a 2005 survey by AARP, 89 percent of people age 50 and older said they would prefer to remain in their home indefinitely as they age.

That yearning, coupled with a widespread dread of going to a nursing home, has led to a nationwide surge of programs aimed at helping people stay in their neighborhoods longer.

Verona LIVE is a version of one such concept: the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC. That can be either a specific housing complex or a larger neighborhood in which many of the residents have aged in place over a long period of time and need a range of support services in order to continue living in their homes.

Verona is an apt setting. Roughly 20 percent of its residents are over 65, compared with 13 percent for New Jersey as a whole.

Another notable initiative is the "village" concept. Members of these nonprofit entities can access specialized programs and services, such as transportation to stores, home health care, or help with household chores, as well as a network of social activities with other members.

About 65 village organizations have formed in the U.S. in recent years, offering varying services and charging membership fees that generally range between $500 and $700 a year.

Read full article...

Guard your card

Identity theft affects about 9 million Americans every year — many of whom are seniors. Identity theft occurs when someone gets access to your Social Security number, bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information and uses it to steal from you. While there's no ironclad protection against identity theft, here are some things you can do to minimize your risks.

Guard your SSN: Treat you SSN like your most prized possession. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, don't write your SSN on checks, and never give your SSN, credit card number, checking or savings account numbers to strangers who call, visit, text or send email to you even if they seem legitimate. And don't carry around your Medicare card unless you're going to the doctor.

Be wary of emails: Don't trust emails that claim to be from the Social Security Administration, the IRS or other government agencies. Be leery of emails that look like they're from your bank, telephone company or credit card company. Remember that only phony emails will ask for your credit card number or SSN. For more Internet fraud tips including a list of common online scams go to onguardonline.gov.

Secure your mail: Empty your mailbox quickly, or consider getting a P.O. box or buy a locked mailbox to deter thieves. Also, don't leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. To put a stop to prescreened credit-card offers that thieves look to intercept, use the consumer credit reporting industry opt-out service at optoutprescreen.com or call (888) 567-8688.

Destroy your trash: Buy a cross-cut paper shredder and shred all records, receipts, statements, preapproved credit offers, mail solicitations or other papers you throw out that has your financial or personal information.

Monitor your accounts: Review your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully; see whether your bank or credit-card issuer offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity as soon as it's detected. If they do, sign up for them.

Watch your credit: Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228. You can receive one free report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so consider staggering your request so you can get one free copy every four months.

Set up security freezes: You can help protect yourself by setting up a security freeze on your credit reports at all three credit bureaus — Equifax (equifax.com, (800) 685-1111), Experian (experian.com, (888) 397-3742) and TransUnion (transunion.com, (877) 322-8228). With a freeze in place, no one, including you, can open new lines of credit in your name. This typically costs $5 to $10 per person per credit bureau each time you freeze or thaw your credit report. Some states offer free freezes for ID-theft victims.

Take action: If you think your identity's been stolen, immediately contact your creditors and financial institutions to report unauthorized charges or debts, and close any compromised accounts. Then place fraud alerts and security freezes with the three credit reporting agencies, and file a report with your local police and with the Federal Trade Commission online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov or (877) 438-4338.

For more tips on preventing identity theft, go to idtheftinfo.org and idtheftcenter.org.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More 90 year olds living in Amercia

The rolls of America's oldest old are surging: Nearly 2 million now are 90 or over, nearly triple their numbers of just three decades ago.

It's not all good news. They're more likely than the merely elderly to live in poverty and to have disabilities, creating a new challenge to already strained retiree income and health care programs.

First-ever census data on the 90-plus population highlight America's ever-increasing life spans, which are redefining what it means to be old.

Joined by graying baby boomers, the oldest old are projected to increase from 1.9 million to 8.7 million by midcentury -- making up 2 percent of the total U.S. population and one in 10 older Americans. That's a big change from over a century ago, when fewer than 100,000 people reached 90.

Demographers attribute the increases mostly to better nutrition and advances in medical care. Still, the longer life spans present additional risks for disabilities and chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Read article...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Social Security Launches New Spanish Online Services

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced that the agency’s most popular online services, the applications for retirement and Medicare and for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, are now available in Spanish. The new online services are available at www.segurosocial.gov, the robust Spanish version of Social Security’s award winning website,www.socialsecurity.gov.

“The Spanish online applications for retirement, Medicare, and Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs are so easy and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes,” said Commissioner Astrue. “I’m proud that Social Security is a leader in the Federal government in providing service in Spanish, and I thank Don Francisco for volunteering his time to help spread the word about these new online services.”

In addition to the new applications, Social Security has also recently made online estimates of retirement benefits available in Spanish. People interested in planning for retirement can get an immediate, personalized estimate of their Social Security benefit by using the Retirement Estimator at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador. Using people’s actual wages from their Social Security record, the Estimator gives a good idea of what to expect in retirement. Workers can enter in different dates and future wage projections to get estimates for different retirement scenarios, which is why this service is one of the most highly rated electronic services in the public or private sector.

Don Francisco, who will appear in several new public service announcements for Social Security, said, “I have good news to share with the millions of Americans who prefer to conduct business in Spanish. You can now apply online for Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits in Spanish, as well as take advantage of other online services offered in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov. ¡Es tan fácil!”

Once people complete the online application and “sign” it with the click of a mouse, the application is complete and, in most cases, there are no documents to submit or additional paperwork to fill out. It’s the easiest way to apply, and now it’s available in Spanish.

Monday, November 21, 2011

iPads not just for the young

Researchers across the country are using Apple’s tablets for applications to engage the elderly.

Tony Marsh and Jack Rejeski, health and exercise-science professors at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, in 2010 helped develop the Mobility Assessment Tool for the iPad.

MAT consists of videos showing animated figures performing daily tasks such as climbing stairs and walking. The videos not only help senior citizens picture themselves doing these tasks, but they offer some insight of their clients’ limitations.

But tests subjects in pilot runs encountered obstacles such as those at the Winter Garden nursing home before they were evaluated on the iPad.

"People not accustomed to a mouse had trouble coordinating the cursor. It took them close to an hour to complete the video and questions," Rejeski said. "We tried the software on a computer with a touch screen, and it cut the time in half."

Marsh said that the iPad tablets have helped older people become more aware of their level of functioning - the first step to rehabilitation.
The pair is testing their iPad software in Canada, Brazil and Colombia as part of a multiyear project funded by the National Institutes of Health to assess the mobility of older adults.
"These devices have an increased potential to aid people preserve their memory," Marsh said. "They can monitor progress and, in a way, back you up."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Can happiness lead to living longer?

Being happy doesn't just improve the quality of your life. According to a new study, it may increase the quantity of your life as well.

Older people were up to 35% less likely to die during the five-year study if they reported feeling happy, excited, and content on a typical day. And this was true even though the researchers took factors such as chronic health problems, depression, and financial security out of the equation.
"We had expected that we might see a link between how happy people felt over the day and their future mortality, but we were struck by how strong the effect was," says Andrew Steptoe, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a professor of psychology at University College London, in the United Kingdom.

It may seem far-fetched that a person's feelings on one particular day would be able to predict the likelihood of dying in the near future, but these emotional snapshots have proven to be a good indication of overall temperament in previous studies, says Sarah Pressman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence.

"There is always room for error, of course; if I get a parking ticket or stub my toe on the way to the study, I'm not going to be particularly happy," says Pressman, who was not involved in the study but researches the impact of happiness on health. "But given that the study worked, it suggests that, on average, this day was fairly typical for the participants."

Unlike the happiness measures, depression symptoms were not associated with mortality rates once the researchers adjusted for overall health. According to the study, this finding suggests that the absence of happiness may be a more important measure of health in older people than the presence of negative emotions.

Positive emotions could contribute to better physical health in a number of ways. Regions of the brain involved in happiness are also involved in blood-vessel function and inflammation, for instance, and studies have shown that levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to rise and fall with emotion.

The study doesn't prove that happiness (or unhappiness) directly affects lifespan, but the findings do imply that doctors and caregivers should pay close attention to the emotional well-being of older patients, the researchers say. "We would not advocate from this study that trying to be happier would have direct health benefits," Steptoe says.

However, this study and others like it should help establish happiness as a legitimate area of concern for health professionals, Pressman says. "There are still some people who see happiness as something fluffy and less scientific -- not something they should be worried about like, say, stress or depression," she says.

Happiness, she adds, "may be something for doctors to ask their patients about."

Monday, November 14, 2011

November is National Family Caregiver’s Month.


It’s no coincidence that November marks both Veterans Day and National Family Caregivers month. To truly honor veterans, we must also start honoring their caregivers.

Caregivers of veterans remain a largely invisible group. They are, at best, a footnote in debates about Medicare, veterans benefits, and budgets cuts to local services such as California’s recent decision to cut off Medi-Cal funding for adult day care centers.

Yet caregivers of veterans are not a voiceless bunch. As an advocate for caregivers of the elderly, I hear their stories every day. They speak loud and clear – if we choose to hear them. Take the words of Kathryn M. White, whose husband, a World War II veteran, is now battling Alzheimer’s disease: “I wish none of this ever happened. I wish that I had my wonderful, loving husband back but I know that is not possible.
We were the love of each others’ lives for 24 years and had a great marriage, but that Glenn has gone and I do not know this one.”

She included the following poem, written after assisting her husband through a recent doctor’s visit.

I am not just a Caregiver - I AM the Veteran

I asked the doctor, who was in a bad mood,
After I felt that he was being rude,

“Doctor have you ever put yourself in the shoes of the Vet?”

His answer made me want to shiver.

“Yes, but you’re not a Veteran…you’re just a Caregiver.”

I sat there a moment until I could find my voice.
I had to speak for all of us; he left me no choice.
With tears streaming down my face,
I had one goal: to put him in his place.

“I’m not just a caregiver and this I want you to know.
I’m the veteran and I hope it shows.
Alzheimer’s is taking his mind,
Moreover, I search for the items he can’t find.

“I am his mouth when he can’t speak.
I am his legs when his grow weak.
I am his ears when he can’t hear.
I am the one he counts on being there.

“I am his eyes when he can’t see.
I clean up the messes he makes, even his pee.
I lead him to bathe when he would rather not.
He totally depends on me; I am all he has got.

“I pick him up when he falls,
I lay awake listening for his call.

I pay the bills because he can’t think.
I prepare his meds and hand him a drink.

“We are on a journey into the unknown.
We’ll go together, as one, no, he won’t go alone.
So look into my eyes doctor, see my pain, lest you forget.
I am not just a Caregiver…I am the Vet

-- Patricia Grace, founder and CEO of Aging with Grace,

The best foods to control diabetes in the elderly

Eating healthy is important for everyone, but it's even more important for the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes — half of whom are older than 60. A healthy diet, coupled with regular exercise and medicine (if needed) are the keys to keeping your husband's blood sugar under control.

The American Diabetes Association offers a list of 10 superfoods for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. These foods contain nutrients that are vitally important to people with diabetes, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E. They're also high in fiber, which will help your husband feel full longer and keep his glycemic index low so his blood sugar won't spike. And they'll help keep his blood pressure and cholesterol in check, also critical for diabetics.

Beans: Kidney, pinto, navy, black and other types of beans are rich in nutrients and high in soluble fiber, which will keep blood sugar steady and can help lower cholesterol.

Dark green leafy vegetables: Spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, kale and other dark, leafy green veggies are nutrient-dense, low in calories and carbohydrates. A diabetic can't eat too much of these.

Citrus fruits: Grapefruit, oranges and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which helps heart health. Fiber in whole fruit slows sugar absorption so your husband will get the citrus fruit nutrients without sending his blood sugar soaring.

Sweet potatoes: High in vitamin A and fiber and low in glycemic index, sweet potatoes won't raise your husband's blood sugar at the same level as a regular potato.

Berries: Whole, unsweetened blueberries, strawberries and other berries are full of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber.

Tomatoes: Raw or cooked, this low-calorie food offers vital nutrients such as vitamin C, iron and vitamin E.

Fish with omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega 3 fatty acids that help heart health and diabetes. But avoid the breaded and deep-fried variety.

Whole grains: Pearl barley, oatmeal, breads and other whole-grain foods are high in fiber and contain nutrients such as magnesium, chromium, folate and omega 3 fatty acids.

Nuts: An ounce of nuts provides important “healthy fats” along with hunger management. They also contain a nice dose of magnesium and fiber. Nuts are high in calories so a small handful each day is enough.

Fat-free milk and yogurt: These dairy foods provide the calcium and vitamin D your husband needs and can help curb cravings for snacks.

More information

For more details on healthy food choices for diabetics, including free recipes, go to diabetes.org or call (800) 342-2383.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Financial pressures driving some older Americans to drink...

Some older adults may turn to alcohol or cigarettes as a way to cope with financial stress, particularly men and people with less education, a new study suggests.

In the study, researchers surveyed 2,300 older Americans periodically between 1992 and 2006, and found that 16 percent reported growing financial strain over that time, 3 percent reported increases in heavy drinking (more than 30 drinks a month), and 1 percent said they'd started smoking more.

The youngest of the study participants were age 65 when the study began.

Older men who faced increasing financial stress were 30 percent more likely to become heavy drinkers than those who remained financially stable. This increased risk was similar for older adults with lower levels of education compared to those with more education.

Older women and seniors with higher levels of education tended to reduce their drinking when they encountered financial struggles, according to the study published in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The findings don't actually show that financial problems were the reason for changes in smoking and drinking habits, but it is known that some people use alcohol and tobacco as a way of coping with stress, noted lead researcher Benjamin A. Shaw of the State University of New York at Albany.

"When you have a stressor that's not very controllable, people may focus on something to help control their emotional response to the stressor," he said in a journal news release.

Financial woes may be particularly stressful for older adults, Shaw added.

"They are out of the workforce, and they might feel like they have less time to recover or generally have less control over their financial situation," he explained

Friday, November 04, 2011

What every senior needs to know about hospital observation care.

How do I know the status of my hospitalization stay?

Ask your doctor or other hospital officials if you are in the hospital for observation or as a regular inpatient. If you are an observation patient, ask why. Even if you are admitted as an inpatient, the hospital can switch you to observation status; in that case, the hospital is required to notify you.

You may not be eligible for post hospitalization skilled Medicare benefits.

If you do not have three consecutive days of hospitalization as an inpatient -- excluding the day of discharge -- Medicare will not cover a subsequent stay in a nursing home. For those who do qualify, Medicare pays for up to 100 days of rehabilitation or skilled nursing care.

How long can the hospital keep me for observation?

Medicare expects patients to remain in observation status for no more than 24 to 48 hours. But there are no rules limiting the time; some patients spend several days in observation.

What can I do if the hospital won't change my observation status to inpatient?

"You cannot directly appeal the hospital's determination that you are or were an observation patient," says Ellen Griffith, a Medicare spokeswoman.

If you think you should be considered an inpatient, ask your personal physician to call the hospital and request a change in status, although your doctor cannot mandate this. If that is not successful, there are other steps you can take.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Flu shot hoping to "trick" the oldster's immune system

When it comes to getting flu shots, seniors are exceptional.

Yet despite their unusually high vaccination rates, they also account for an exceptional portion of flu-related hospitalizations: 90 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It turns out their bodies are sluggish to react to the standard vaccines that easily rev up a younger person's immune system.

So doctors around the country are hoping to coax a better immune reaction from seniors this flu season by offering them a shot that packs four times the amount of dead flu virus to which the body can react.

This high-dose shot, manufactured by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, has been proved in clinical trials to get a stronger immune response, the CDC said.

Whether a heightened immune response reduces the number of seniors contracting the flu has yet to be proved.

That clinical trial won't be completed until 2014.

But Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious-disease specialist in Atlantis, Fla., gives the shots to patients 65 and older.

So do many private physicians, supermarkets and pharmacies, including Bartell Drugs.

The elderly can choose the standard vaccine or the high-dose one. When his patients ask which he would pick, Bush tells them, "If I were over 65, I would get the high dose," he said.

Bush said that while we can't yet prove it is significantly more effective, it's certainly not less effective. And, Bush said, he's inclined to believe that a proven rise in immune response will translate to fewer cases of the flu.

"It makes sense," said Bush, a staff member at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Fla.

Though the CDC at one time advised only select vulnerable populations — including the elderly — to get vaccinated for the flu, that advice changed in 2008. The standing message now is that everyone 6 months and older should get a shot.

It's a message that is particularly important to older people.

"They're at much greater risk of complications and death," said Dr. David Greenberg, Sanofi Pasteur's senior director of scientific and medical affairs. "Influenza, we often say, is not just a bad cold; it's a terrible disease that can lead to hospitalizations and death."

The contagious respiratory virus can bring on a fever, headache, sore throat and runny nose. The flu can make existing chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes worse. It also can cause complications such as sinus infections and bacterial pneumonia.

Flu and pneumonia are the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States among those 65 and older, according to the most recent data from the CDC.

The high-dose vaccine was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in time for last flu season. Sanofi Pasteur estimates that 10 percent of the elderly population that was vaccinated last season opted for the high dose. The option is more widely available this year, company officials say.

Like the standard shot, the high-dose version is made of three flu strains deemed most likely to make people ill in that season.

But the high-dose shots pack more antigens, those elements that trigger a body's immune response.

Sanofi's Greenberg said the higher dose of antigens also results in more reactions from the shot.

"The downside is there are slightly more local side effects," Bush said. "A little bit more redness, a little bit more tenderness (around the shot area), a little bit more fever."

But when it comes to serious side effects, the high-dose vaccine is no different from the standard, the CDC said. "Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine," it said.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Antidote for the Alzheimer's Epidemic: An Ounce of Will ad a Pound of Pragmatism

Surely, you’ve all read the grim reports about Alzheimer’s disease. The advancing age of the US population will usher forth an Alzheimer’s epidemic in the coming decade. The emotional toll of this epidemic will be immeasurable, and the financial impact could bankrupt the Medicare system.
That dire version of the story might sell newspapers, but it doesn’t really reflect the available options to a nation with a will to fight back. The good news is: we can manage this problem. And no elusive scientific discoveries are required to do so. We merely need to implement the medical knowledge that is already in hand.

This short summary outlines the pragmatic steps necessary to close the gap between the state of current medical knowledge and the lagging standard of care that is routinely practiced in primary care settings. We can avert this looming threat with an ounce of public will and a pound of pragmatism.

Read more...Brain Today

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