Conversations during this Unusual Time: Join In!

I am so excited about that we now have two opportunities to support each other at this unusual time.

Consider joining the conversations. They are free, informal . . . and lovely ways to share and de-stress together!

Socializing with a Creative Touch: Ideas for Staying in Touch with Family and Friends
Wednesday through April 29 (and maybe longer!) at 3:00pm.
Zoom link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/730077770

We know that having regular, caring and stimulating social contact is essential for older adults’ (and everyone else’s!) physical and cognitive health, but right now, visiting isn’t possible for many.

Let’s share: What can children and other caring people do? How creative can you be? Come to share and make new friends!

So How Are You Feeling Today? A Chance to Release and Relax Mondays at 1:00pm, from April 20 through May 4:
Zoom link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/77067866776

Several of us talked about the possibility of setting up a meeting where we could share some of our feelings of discomfort and concern and, at the same time, feel the support of the group.

Join the conversation. We will share and de-stress together!

It isn’t difficult to join: Click the link (above), select “Zoom Meeting”in the blue box, and then select the blinking blue arrow on the upper right side of the screen. You will be ready to share!

Of course, email or call me if you would like to talk 1:1.

Hope to see you at the meetings!

Cheryl

Socializing Safely Today

We know that having regular, caring and stimulating social contact is vital to older adults’ (and everyone else’s!) physical and cognitive health. Sometimes, though, we have to figure out how to stay in touch when visits aren’t possible.

Right now, visiting is inadvisable for many. So, what can children and other caring people do? How creative can you be?

Here are some ideas to start the creativity ball rolling:

  • Help your loved one use digital platforms, such as Facetime or Skype; then have “face to face” conversations.
  • Send text messages full of loving emojis.
  • Email digital greeting cards and photographs.
  • Arrange for delivery of your loved one’s favorite prepared (and safe) meals.
  • Place a bucket of pansies or tulips outside a window to color the view.
  • And, of course, call often. Regular calls, even several short ones during the day, will help your loved one socialize from a distance.

The Gift of Caregiving

A Caregiver’s Story

For several years, Taylor took care of her mother, Rebecca, who had Alzheimer’s Disease. Taylor made sure that her mother was fed, bathed and dressed, had her medical needs met, and took part in activities she enjoyed. Caregiving was a 24/7 responsibility.

When Rebecca passed away, a close friend said kindly, “Taylor, you are a saint. You took excellent care of your mother for such a long time.” Taylor, however, smiled at her friend and said “This wasn’t about being a saint. Sure, it was stressful to be responsible for my mother’s needs and it was heartbreaking to see her decline. But in the end, I felt that having the opportunity to care for my mom was a gift for me.”

Caregiving: A Gift

Taking care of a person who has a disability is critically important. Providing meals, grooming, medical care, therapy and companionship make an enormous difference in the quality of the “caree’s” (the loved one or client) life. What is not as obvious is the impact of caregiving on the caregivers themselves. Caregiving is stressful, time consuming and costly, but it can also be the source of satisfaction, selflessness…and a gift.

How to See Caregiving as a Gift

Each caregiver sees the positive in different ways. However, there are some general guidelines for focusing on how caregiving enriches lives.

  • Notice the positive moments: Focus on the times your caree can’t explain why he is agitated, but you figure out what he needs and make him comfortable; the times when you enter the room and your caree breaks into an ear-to-ear smile; the times that you help your loved one enjoy a lovely spring day or reminisce about his childhood.
  • Feel their love and appreciation: Focus on the ways your caree gives and receives a hug, delights in a favorite cupcake you take to her, or uses words and gestures to say how special you are in her life.
  • Think about your relationship: Are you “giving back” to a parent who cared for you throughout your life? Are you establishing a new bond with a loved one by using words, gestures or just being nearby? Are you getting to know a person with their own unique personalities?
  • Celebrate your abilities: Recognize and congratulate yourself for being able and willing to take on caregiving. Not everyone can do this. You can and did!

After months or years of providing support, the caregiver can look back on having contributed to a loved one’s healthier and more satisfying quality of life. What greater gift can the caree and the caregiver receive?

Would you like help with caregiving? Contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com

Dementia Diagnosis: Doctors and Questions

When you or a loved one is concerned about the possibility of having a dementia, getting a thorough evaluation is the next step. Knowing and understanding what is happening will help you with interventions and planning.

So, what should you do? Here is a brief list of considerations and steps to take:

Select a physician.

  • Consider the physician’s knowledge and comfort regarding working with older adults.
  • Consider making an appointment with a geriatrician, a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat older adults. Don’t necessarily avoid other doctors, including family practitioners and internists, though; they often have the same knowledge and skills.
  • Understand that additional specialists may be included in the diagnostic and treatment process. They may include neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists as needed.

Schedule a doctor’s appointment, which will include several types of examinations.

  • Physical exam, including
    • medical history
    • family medical history
    • physical exam
    • laboratory tests of blood and urine, particularly to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
    • review of prescribed medications, patient-opted medications, and supplements
  • Social and behavioral profile, particularly a log of recent changes and concerns as seen by the patient and/or others
  • Neurological exam
    • assessment of balance, reaction time, reflexes, coordination, muscle tone, speech, sensation, etc.
    • ruling out of conditions and diseases, such tumors and strokes
  • Mental status test that evaluates awareness, memory, problem solving, executive function
  • Psychological evaluation, often to rule out other causes of dementia symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, other mental illness concerns/illnesses
  • Brain scans (not routinely administered)

Ask the doctor questions to be sure you understand the diagnosis.

  • Diagnosis by name
  • Evidence that underlies the diagnosis: What did the doctor see in exams and tests that led to the diagnosis?
  • Doctor’s assessment of the current stage of the disease
  • Possible interventions, including therapies and medications
  • The role of the doctor going forward

Would you like help navigating the diagnosis process? Contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com to discuss your concerns and plan the next steps in getting and understanding a diagnosis.

Should Older Adults Write New Year’s Resolutions?

When we were children, we couldn’t wait to stay up until the ball dropped in Times Square, the confetti was tossed, someone sang Auld Lang Syne … or whatever meant that we didn’t have to be in bed at the usual time.

As young adults, we looked for parties and threw the confetti ourselves. We were mature enough, we believed, to take on the world. We wrote New Year’s resolutions that we took seriously, for a couple of days at least.

And then in middle age, we may have been a bit more subdued, but noting the year and thinking about the future were still important for December 31.

So, what about older adults? Have they seen it all? Are they “over” celebrating? Should they have a special early afternoon party and plan to be in bed at the usual pre-midnight time?

I suggest, rather emphatically, no!

As long as older adults are physically and cognitively healthy, celebrating and writing resolutions can still have real meaning for them. Planning new activities, engagement with family and friends, volunteering or working, refurnishing their houses or moving to new communities . . . new life adventures . . . may be some of their resolutions for the new year.

As C. S. Lewis wrote

Are you an older adult? Do you live with or care for an older adult?

I invite you to take time to celebrate the new year and write your resolutions for 2019!

If you would like suggestions for New Year’s Eve celebrations and making resolutions, look at New Year’s Eve & Resolutions (Home Care Assistance) and New Year’s Eve Party Ideas (Medicare).

Celebrating Holidays When a Loved One Has a Dementia

The winter holidays are here! Thanksgiving with turkey and the trimmings, conversation, football on TV, and family games. Kwanza, Christmas and Chanukah are next. What warm memories of these celebrations many of us have and how much we would like to participate in all our usual traditions.

But . . .

We are caring for a loved one who has a dementia. Everyone is adjusting to new ways of living our daily lives. We don’t have energy for all our usual preparations. And some of the old traditions aren’t appropriate for a person who has a dementia.

How can we have our special holidays? Here are a few quick tips.

  • Adjust your celebrations.
    • Modify and simplify your traditions, keeping some of the special memories.
    • Involve your loved one in holiday activities that are comfortable and safe for him or her.
  • Communicate with family and friends.
    • Talk about your loved one’s strengths and changes.
    • Plan new traditions together.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Ask for help with holiday tasks and caring for your loved one.
    • Arrange for respite time . . . quiet time, pampering, exercise . . . for you.

Holidays can still be special for you, your family and friends.

Enjoy the possible. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy new traditions.

For more about holiday celebrations, read the National Institute on Aging article, “Holiday Hints for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/holiday-hints-alzheimers-caregivers.

 

 

 

Too Young to Be a Grandmom?!

Recently, “Grandma to Be” sent a letter to advice columnist (and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me panelist – yeah!) Amy Dickinson.

Grandma to Be wrote with pleasure that her daughter was expecting her first child. However, she also wrote that she had an 8-year-old step grandchild. She didn’t publicly acknowledge this youngster because she didn’t want her friends to think she was old enough to have been a grandparent for almost a decade.

Dickinson answered, essentially, that life happens when it happens. Embrace the reality.

Right!

And I would go even further. Embrace new paths. Embrace change. Embrace the possibilities! New paths can be exciting and joyous.

Becoming a grandparent is one new path that we may come to as we get older.  What are other paths you are considering for your life?

  • A new job
  • Retirement
  • Playing with your grandchild
  • Caring for an older relative
  • Moving to your dream home
  • Moving to a senior community
  • Taking up a new sport
  • Traveling across the United States

 

To read Grandma to Be and Amy Dickinson’s letters, go to Too Young to Be a Grandmom.

For help thinking about and planning your new paths, contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com. She will be happy to meet with you, at no cost for a sample session, to see if coaching is a good fit for you.

Staying Healthy When There’s a Nip in the Air

The chill in the air, frost on the windows in the early morning, bright sunshine through light gray clouds: Winter can be delightful.

For older adults, though, planning is important to ensure safe and enjoyable winter days. Let’s look at a few ideas for staying healthy:

Safety First

Service your home heater. As people get older, it is more difficult to regulate body temperature and more dangerous to stay cold. Have an HVAC service check your heater to be sure that you won’t get caught without heat on a cold day. While you are at it, be sure that portable or room heaters and carbon monoxide detectors are in excellent condition and away from flammable items.

Get ready for snow and ice. Check your supply of de-icer, if you use it, and plan ahead for someone to clear snow. Inventory your emergency supplies, including food, water, medications, batteries and a portable radio or TV, in case of power outages.

Healthy Habits

Eat a varied, colorful diet to ensure your body and brain have nutrients for top performance. What a great time to do this with warm bowls of soup and delicious cranberry whole grain muffins! Cook a big pot of vegetable soup and freeze it in pint jars to eat every week or so. Add some home-baked muffins, and you have healthful food for a December evening. (See recipe ideas at vegetable soups and muffins.)

Exercise is essential for healthy bodies and brains, but the usual neighborhood walks and trips to the gym may be out of the question some days. You can find exercises on the computer at websites such as NIA’s Go4Life, and SilverSneakers.com. Exercise at home or with a neighbor for 30 minutes five times a week.

Games and Books

Stay mentally active to keep your mind healthy. Mah Jong, Bridge, a feisty game of Monopoly, and, of course, any interesting book or magazine make you think, may reduce stress, and are perfect for a healthy brain.

Socializing

Socializing is incredibly important for a healthy body and mind. Bundle up and go to a class or have dinner with friends when you can. When it is just too cold, the telephone and computer can keep you in touch with others. Try using Skype or Facetime to see your friends on the phone or computer while you are talking!

Stay healthy and enjoy the chill in the air!

Would you like help making healthy and safe decisions for yourself or a loved one? Contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com to discuss your concerns and plan the next steps in a healthy and satisfying future.

Your Fulfilling Future: Planning Together

So excited about our new course, “FULFILLING FUTURES,” at Shepherd’s Center of Greensboro!

Recently, a woman wrote to Amy Dickerson, the advice columnist, to say that she was embarrassed to be old enough to have an 8-year-old grandchild. Ms Dickerson told the writer to embrace her life regardless of age.

I agree. Let’s grab the rings, find the possibilities, have fun!

Are you thinking about new adventures, roles and fun? We will explore the possibilities and make plans for a “fulfilling future” May 2 – June 6, 2019. Sign up at http://www.shepctrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Adventures-In-Learning-Spring-Classes-2019.pdf

Look for more sessions of this workshop – or private coaching about your plans for the future – at TheAgeCoach.net or TheAgeCoach@gmail.com.

Cold Weather & Dementia

It is winter . . . really winter. . . with temperatures in the teens and 20s, heavy gloves, warm soup, and a genuine reluctance to be outside if we are not skating or skiing. Still, most of us know how to navigate and even enjoy a crisp cold day.

But what about a person who has a dementia? Do you know the dangers of cold weather for older adults and individuals with dementia?

During cold weather, you may find folks

Living in cold homes without realizing the danger of being cold

Venturing outside without warm clothing or protection from wet weather

Experiencing low body temperatures as a result of taking medications or drinking alcohol

Falling on ice and becoming disoriented in snow falls

The overall concern is hypothermia, which is a condition in which the body temperature is dangerously low. Hypothermia can cause confusion, disorientation, problems with communication and behavior, and physical impairment. Hypothermia may lead to death.

Caregivers can help by being sure that older adults and individuals with dementia stay in warm environments, eat well to ensure healthy body “insulation,” and avoid activities that might lead to hypothermia.

We can also help individuals with a dementia enjoy lovely winter days. As always, care giving involves sharing positive experiences with an extra layer of safety. For our cold crisp days, let’s help our loved ones with cozy wool scarves, bowls of warm soups . . . and hand-in-hand ventures to see beautiful snow falls.

 

For a brief overview of ways to avoid and treat hypothermia, see the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly article, Hypothermia.