Long Distance Caregiving- A Conversation

Long Distance Caregiving Image

Long distance caregiving can be more than you may have thought.

Long distance caregiving is a situation that many adult children face. Finding a way to be an effective participant in a parents care when you’re miles away is not impossible. Phone calls, handling paperwork, taxes are all items that can be handled from just about anywhere. (Thanks internet!)

How else can we help our loved ones when we have busy & complicated lives far away? First, make a list of what help they need now and project what they’ll need in the future. Write down all the people that you and your loved one know. Who might be best to handle daily care? Who loves to run errands? Ask each person on the list what they feel comfortable doing and don’t ask for more than that.

The next challenge is to make your loved one understand that this long distance caring network is important for them to embrace.  Utilizing a service like Lots of Helping Hands to organize who is doing what may allow them to feel secure that help is really there. Frame this network as a way to “give Uncle John something to do” or “help your neighbor Jenny feel less worried about you.”  This also allows them to maintain some dignity. Make sure your loved one knows each persons boundaries. A caring network can quickly fall apart if people feel sucked in to doing more than they’re comfortable doing.  Giving your loved one the option of accepting friends & family helpers or paying for care might be useful. Lastly, a combination of friends and family plus paid care might be the best option if their budget allows.

Other Long Distance Caregiving Options

Consider the possible benefits of an adult or assisted living community. In a community of 55+ year old residents your loved one may have more options for a caregiving network. Many 55+ communities have systems in place to make sure each resident is regularly accounted for. One near me has a central location for their mailboxes that is monitored by staff.

Assisted living is the most expensive option but might be a good alternative if there are few people that can help. It’s also an alternative to consider carefully if your loved ones care needs are quite great. Visit many assisted living communities, talk to your local senior ombudsman services to help find the right fit. They are the most knowledgeable about each community and what they have to offer. It’s important that the community work with your loved ones needs and personality.

There are even informal  elderly care co-housing options that may work better financially for some. Being outgoing and social might be necessary to feel comfortable in this type of living situation.

Co-housing — defined as private homes clustered around shared space with a group of people committed to being a community — is an established phenomenon in Northern California. Co-housing specifically for those over the age of 55 is relatively new, but an excellent alternative to consider. Read ‘This is the future of aging’: Senior co-housing communities provide alternatives.

Whichever care plan you and your loved one choose can always change as their needs change. The most important step is to initiate making a plan.

Listen in to this weeks episode to learn about one dementia daughters journey as a long distance caregiver.

How To Be an Effective Long Distance Caregiver

Links to Fading Memories Social Media

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Let’s Get Personal & Talk about Jen’s Journey

Senior citizen journey

My parents in a better part of their journey.

Sharing our journey is helpful to caregivers in  many ways. Sharing helps me feel less alone and  helps me care for Mom in better ways. Hearing other caregiver struggles and being able to help is also a big reason to share our journey.  This episode is all about talking about the months just prior to my Dad’s death.  Discussing his health issues and how they effected his memory may help others. I’m hoping that by sharing this part of my story it serves as a warning to others who may have similar struggles.

Dad struggled with many chronic health issues, most of which likely were made worse by his diabetes. By not controlling his blood sugar likely lead to his later cognitive problems. Warning all of us about this probability may have made things different. Not knowing of this risk, I question if Dad would have been more interested in taking care of his disease? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Starting this podcast was a way to share what I’ve learned over the years, watching Dad care for Mom and caring for my Mom now myself.  Podcasting turned into a journey where I’ve learned even more. I’ve created bonds with other caregivers and helped a few as well.

Struggling to connect with my Mom has allowed me to connect with people and resources I was unaware of prior to this podcast. Talking to you and sharing this connections is a journey I am thrilled to have started. I hope that listening is having a positive impact on your caregiving journey.

Blood Sugar & Blood Pressure Links to Cognitive Issues

Researching topics for the podcast I’ve read lots of articles on the need to control our blood sugars and pressure. Learning about these important issues is allowing me to care for myself better as well. Having even somewhat elevated blood pressure causes damage to small vessels that help oxygenate our brains. Depriving our brains of oxygen is bad, we know this.  The good news is, research has shown that medication to reduce blood pressure works to help protect you from an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure, keep it in check. Even better is to keep it in check as early as possible.

In addition to controlling blood pressure it’s also important to control our blood sugar. Controlling blood sugar is a challenge for me because I am a sugar lover. Regardless, I have made many dietary changes to achieve a steady blood sugar because I refuse to make it easy for my body to fail me.

It goes without saying that too much sugar (and fat) leads to inflammation in our bodies. This inflammation can then cause the same damage as high blood pressure. This is extremely simplified so I’ve linked a couple of articles I found helpful.

Alzheimer’s & High Blood Sugar

Blood Pressure & Alzheimer’s Risk

Links to Past Episodes On Nutrition & Lifestyle Choices

Move It or Lose It! Exercise & Brain Health

This Is Your Brain on Nutrition

Obesity & Alzheimer’s

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Conversations Can Change The World

Cover of Motherhood Lost & Found

Conversation with author Ann Campanella.

Join me in my conversation with Ann Campanella, author of the book Motherhood: Lost and Found. Ann’s’ book is an autobiography tracing her life after marriage, through several miscarriages, aging parents, and her mother’s decline with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ready to start a family, Ann was used to setting goals and accomplishing them. After being plunged into an emotional journey Ann finds herself with a challenge to tackle. Reading her book allows us to follow her on this journey; a journey that leads to a deeper understanding of her and what it means to love.

During our conversation Ann and I share our collective advice, our bond as dementia daughters and our shared journey. Hearing this conversation will certainly help any caregiver dealing with dementia. Both of us have found that conversations can have positive effects on those who are participating or listening. Ann is a firm believer that good conversations can change the world.

What better way to change a caregiver’s world than to share a good conversation with them? I hope you enjoy this episode and that it changes your world in some positive way. If you are raising children while caring for a parent you will love reading about Ann’s journey. You can also listen to the audiobook if you lack the time for meaningful reading.

About AlzAuthors

Following the publication of her book Ann found the group AlzAuthors. AlzAuthors.comis a community of bestselling, award-winning authors who have never shaken hands or shared a cup of coffee. These authors come together because Alzheimer’s and dementia have impacted their lives.  Together, all AlzAuthors strive to eliminate the stigma surrounding the most important disease of our generation, estimated to affect 47 million people worldwide.

The AlzAuthors collection of books includes memoirs, novels, nonfiction, children’s books, and blogs – and the poignant real-life stories behind these works. They hope to make your life a bit easier. AlzAuthors is an excellent resource put together by people who have walked in your shoes.

Link to Ann’s book (favorite things page)

Talking with Psychology in Seattle Podcast

Psychology in Seattle podcast logo

Sharing an episode with Psychology in Seattle to discuss talking to children about Alzheimer’s.

 

Fading Memories teamed up with the Psychology in Seattle podcast host Dr. Kirk Honda to discuss how to talk to children about Alzheimer’s. Talking with Dr. Honda, a professor and therapist was a lot of fun and informative. Dr. Kirk Honda teams up with Humberto (the layperson voice) to bring their 100,000+ podcast listeners an entertaining mix of seriousness and levity.

Talking to children about a seniors diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is tough. Grandma’s memory loss might be scary especially if they haven’t seen her for some time. How do we maintain the loving relationship when faced with the challenges that accompany Alzheimers?

That was my main desire in wanting to talk to an expert and finding one that is also a podcaster makes this episode even more enjoyable. During our conversation I learned that Kirk also had a Grandmother with dementia. Our conversation covered many areas that you might expect when talking to a professional and that was good. I’m confident you’ll get a lot out of this episode.

Talking to Children About Memory Loss

Understanding Alzheimer’s or other dementia’s is challenging enough for adults. For children, watching the disease progress can be scary and overwhelming. The best approach to helping children cope is not an educational one but a reminder that they’re still loved. Grandma is still the same person, but she has a disease that effects her memory. She still loves you even is she doesn’t remember your name. Remind children that it’s important to continue to be affectionate because that’s what Grandma needs the most.

Here are the top things children need to know:
  • Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain.  It’s not contagious. You won’t get it by hugging or kissing Grandma. It may be beneficial to point out relatives who do not have the disease because children may fear that their parent will end up like Grandma.
  • Memory is a very complex process. Explaining memory like a recording on a DVR might help children visualize how the brain works. Alzheimer’s means that Grandma’s DVR doesn’t record all the show anymore. This may help them to understand why reminding them that they answered that question or that Grandma already said that won’t help.
  • Things will get worse. In an age appropriate way, explain that this is a progressive disease and the brain will gradually lose it’s power to tell the body what to do. Preparing kids for behaviors they might see as the person gets sicker is kind for all involved.
  • Nothing is your fault. Grandma didn’t get Alzheimer’s because you were naughty or got a bad grade. It may help to explain that there are a lot of grandkids whose grandparent has the same disease. There are almost 6 million people in the United States with this disease.
  • Be respectful, kind and calm. While nobody can fix dementia, we’re not helpless is an important message. Your loved one will benefit from many activities like singing, looking at old photos, walks in the park. Kids will feel empowered if they’re given positive things to do. Kids learn how to treat the elderly from their parents so it’s important to stay calm, have some pre planned activities and to keep visits to just the right length. Too short or too long invites negative issues for everyone.

 

Parents Guide To Helping Children Understand Alzheimer’s

Psychology in Seattle Podcast on iTunes

Favorite Things Page (Resources)

Soup on a Plate Part Two – Advice Sharing

Advice on coping with challenging behaviors.

Sharing advice on coping with memory loss is important for caregivers.

Presenting part two of my advice conversation with Hailey and her Mom. We discussed the challenges associated with caring for a loved one with memory loss. Sharing advice is the best way caregivers can help each other and that’s what you’ll get in this episode. Listen to part 1 first because this episode picks up in the middle of our conversation.

What I shared, at least some of it;

  • Don’t invite their Dad/Grandpa to “our” reality. Also known as “fiblets”. Their reality is different and trying to bring them into ours causes frustration for everyone. This was especially helpful since they did not bring James to Haliey’s 8th grade graduation and he frequently asked when it was happening.
  • Coping strategies that please both parties.  My Mom loves to take a walk in nature or watch children play in the park. While she’s happy, I can relax or possibly do a little bit of work. Allowing her the time to do something that she enjoys makes both of our lives better. I suggested their taking Granddad out for sunshine, visits with Navy personnel both of which may alleviate some of his challenging behaviors.
  • Understanding that Alzheimer’s disease is a daily challenge and that doing the best that they can is all that can be expected.

Working with the individual where they are at right now is important. Their reality is different and attempting to force them into ours is a recipe for frustration. Unfortunately, it’s a constant challenge to “meet them” where they’re at because the disease causes their perceptions and behaviors to change frequently.

About Dad/Grandad;

James served 30+ years as a Navy chief. Serving in Japan are where some of his fondest memories come from. Growing up Halieys grandfather loved to teach her how to cook. Making  lunch together before going to the park or playing board games is how they spent their time until her mom got off work. About 5 months ago (April 2018) he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The stories he still tells are from the time he spent in the Navy, even if his words seem distorted.

Enjoy Part 2 of Soup on a Plate and stay tuned for more stories from other families.

We’re looking for other families who would like to share their story or discuss their challenges on the podcast. Sharing out journey is the best way to help others who are in this boat with us. Contact us via the website if you’d like to be featured on an episode.

 

Haileys’ Story

Great Video on Managing Behaviors

Link to Part 1 of Soup on a Plate

 

Soup On A Plate – Granddads Memories

Memories flying from the brain

Losing memories is harder on the family that remembers.

His name is James and he served 30+ years as a Navy chief. Serving in Japan are where some of his fondest memories come from. Growing up her grandfather loved to teach her how to cook. They often made lunch together before going to the park or playing board games until her mom got off work. About 5 months ago (April 2018) he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The stories he still tells are from the time he spent in the Navy, even if his words seem distorted.

On this episode of Fading Memories I talk to a daughter & granddaughter trying to navigate their life while also caring for and protecting their Dad/Grandpa.  There are lots of challenges learning how to handle someone losing their memories. Our conversation went from talking about Grandpa to sharing stories and advice.

Hailey and her Mom were unsure how to handle some of Granddads emotions which came up in our conversation. It’s difficult to lie but also difficult to tell the truth. Where does that leave us? Listening to this episode may help you answer that question.

 

Link To Hailey’s Story

Obesity and Alzheimer’s

Obesity & Alzheimer's image

Is there a link between obesity & Alzheimer’s? Seems that may be the case.

Is there a connection between obesity and Alzheimer’s?  There’s been a lot of research lately on lifestyle choices and our risk of Alzheimer’s. Seems like there may be a link. Another of my episodes was on the benefits of exercise for reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s. However, the volume of research on the topic made it easy to say yes when a past guest reached out.

Matt Peale is the Sales Director & Founder at The Movement Academy. Helping youth and seniors by improving their athletic and cognitive performance is their main goal. Focusing on reducing obesity and the associated risks it carries is also a core part of their program. In addition to the known risk factors of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, obesity is now a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.  Obesity has been associated with altered brain structure and function in metabolically and neurologically healthy adults and children. (Stoeckel, 2016).

Most noteworthy is the volume of research detailing the harmful effects obesity has on the brain. Sharing this information is critical to a longer and healthier life for everyone. Emphasizing moderation and lifestyle changes over extreme diets and high intensity workout programs are the keys to long term success.

It’s Not Hard To Get Started!

Certainly we all have 10 minutes a day that we can add in some purposeful movement. Adding in movement may also help alleviate some of the negative behavioral aspects of dementia’s. Wandering, night waking, and restlessness may be minimized when physical activity is part of our daily lives.

Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program is here for you!  In only 10 minutes a day for 30 days, maintain your independence with better balance and a better brain guaranteed, or your money back. Fading Memories listeners can get 50% off their 1st month by using the code MEMORY. (Good through 10-31-2018)

Listen to our episode, then check out their app!

Link to My Favorite Things Page

Other Related Articles

What is Neuroplasticity and Why is it Important?

Brain Growth from Exercise? Maybe So.

Stay Physically Active

Matt’s Fading Memories Episode on Nutrition

 

“Help! I’ve Fallen…but it’s ok.” Fall Alert Devices

Senior Citizen after a fall

Falls are a mostly avoidable situation.

A fall is one of the top avoidable medical situations seniors may have. Falls that don’t kill you can change your life forever. They are the leading cause of deaths related to injury for people age 65 and older.  With these numbers, senior fall prevention should be a priority for both seniors and for those with seniors in their lives.

In this episode I have a conversation with Sara of Alert Sentry. We discuss what their products can do to help senior stay active and how they can improve their independence.  She also has had a family member with Alzheimer’s so our conversation touched on that as well.  The founder of Alert Sentry, Glenn Maxwell, based the idea for their products upon an actual real life experience.  In 1991 his grandmother suffered a fall in her driveway — she lay there for 6 hours, until the mail carrier arrived and provided aid.

We don’t want something like this happening to us or our loved ones so it seemed necessary to have a conversation about how security devices.

Falling isn’t normal, so we should take every precaution to avoid them.

Senior Fall Prevention

Seniors can take a number of precautions to prevent falls.

  • Exercise regularly. Do exercises that will increase leg strength, improve balance and increase flexibility. Consider Tai Chi, yoga, and bicycling.
  • Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. You’ll want to reduce or eliminate those that cause dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Get your eyes checked by an optometrist at least once a year.
  • Lower your hip fracture risk by getting daily-recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D. and get screened and treated for osteoporosis.
  • Floors: move furniture that’s in your way. Use double-sided tape so throw rugs won’t slip. Pick up items that are on the floor. Coil telephone and electrical wires next to the wall. Keep items off the stairs. Fix loose or uneven steps. Make sure your stairway is lighted and have switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. Ensure stair carpeting is secure. Install secure stair handrails and that have them on both sides the entire length of the stairs.
  • Kitchen: Keep often used items in lower, easy-to-reach shelves or cabinets. If you have a stepstool, make sure it’s solid.
  • Bathroom: Put a non-slip mat or self-stick strips on your shower or tub floor. If you need it, install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower. Consider a walk in tub to ensure easy entrance and exit.
  • Bedroom: Make sure the path to your bed is clutter free. Install a night-light in your room.
  • When using a ladder, make sure both feet and at least one hand are on the ladder.
  • Wear shoes inside for better support and grip. Avoid slippers.
  • Get up slowly after lying or sitting down.
  • Consider buying an alarm you can activate in the event of a fall.

Summary

Senior fall prevention should be a serious topic for seniors and those with seniors in their lives. The statistics show that the problem is real and it can be serious. Fortunately, you can mitigate the risks with some preventative measures at home and exercise to strengthen your balance.

Avoid A Tragedy! Health Care Literacy Explained

Health Care Literacy image

Health Care literacy is increasingly important when it comes to navigating our health care system.

 

Becoming health care literate requires more than reading ability. People with limited health literacy often lack knowledge or have misinformation about their body and the causes of disease. Without this knowledge, they may fail to understand the relationship between lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise and health outcomes. People with limited health literacy skills may not know when or how to seek care.

Health information can overwhelm even persons with advanced literacy skills. Medical science progresses rapidly. What people may have learned about health or biology during their school years often becomes outdated, forgotten, or is incomplete. Moreover, health information provided in a stressful or unfamiliar situation is likely to be forgotten or confused.

Strategies to improve health decisionmaking include:

  • Improve access to accurate and appropriate health information
  • Facilitate healthy decisionmaking
  • Partner with educators to improve health curricula
What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the capacity individuals have  to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and the services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Health literacy is dependent on many factors:

  • Communication skills of patients/caregivers and professionals
  • Caregiver and professional knowledge of health topics
  • Culture
  • Demands of the healthcare and public health systems
  • Demands of the situation/context

Health literacy affects people’s ability to:

  • Navigate the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
  • Share personal information, such as health history, with providers
  • Engage in self-care and chronic-disease management
  • Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk

Health literacy includes some mathematical skills. For example, calculating cholesterol and blood sugar levels, measuring medications, and understanding nutrition labels all require math skills. Choosing between health plans or comparing prescription drug coverage requires calculating premiums, copays, and deductibles.

There is a lot to navigate when it comes to our health care.  The more knowledgable we become about disease, treatments and alternatives the better we are at avoiding emergencies.  Therefore this episode will help you understand some of what is involved and where to start. Becoming our own health care advocate is ideal, but there are multiple options of which you can take advantage.

Important Links

Part 1- Health Care Literacy & Advocacy

Live Better Boomer (Tiffany’s) Website

Affiliate Link To Favorite Things (Books I’ve Read & Suggest)

Health Care Advocacy for Seniors!

Image of what health care advocacy looks like in text

Becoming a health care advocate for our seniors is vital.

 

Managing your healthcare & treatment, and navigating a broken healthcare system is overwhelming. No matter how savvy and smart you are, it is easy to mishandle important aspects of care. Mismanagement can lead to disaster. To avoid disaster it’s important to learn about Health care Advocacy.  Doing so will greatly benefit you and your family.

Health literacy is the ability that someone can obtain, understand and process information enabling them to make good health care decisions,   During this episode I talk to Tiffany Matthews of LBB on “healthcare literacy”. Here you learn to get and keep the best care available. Becoming health literate is the first step in becoming a good advocate.

Tiffany Becomes a Health Care Advocate!

Tiffany and her family felt her Grandmother was not being well cared for by the “business” of health care . Having experiences in social worker in a hospital setting Tiffany believed there had to be a better way. Wanting to make a positive change Tiffany created LBB, or Live Better Boomer. She was going to advocate for the people left helpless in the system.

Health Care Advocacy is vital to patients in our current healthcare system. Advocacy helps keep medical costs down and decreases return hospital visits.  Patients who have a health care advocate get better care and have better outcomes. During his cancer treatments even Steve Jobs needed an advocate!

Four Tips from the Experts
  • If you can’t act as your own advocate, find one. Consider a family member friend, or perhaps a local volunteer.
  • Be prepared for all doctor and test appointments.  Write down questions in advance. Don’t let the doctor rush you.  If you have a lot of questions ask for more time or a second appointment.
  • Don’t feel rushed into decisions.  Your doctor may want to get you into treatment right away but allow yourself “a minute” to  research the best course of action.
  • Take notes and take someone with you, even if you’re acting as your own advocate.  It’s a good idea to have a second pair of ears at  appointments especially if you have a serious diagnosis. Consider recording your consultations but let the doctor know in advance if you’re doing this.

Listen and learn from my conversation with Tiffany.

Visit Live Better Boomer for more information

Don’t Forget About Two-Lap Books!

Link to Purchase Two-Lap Books