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Coming Home: a Revelation in Caregiving

Coming home again was a delicate mix of comforting memories and eagerness to make much-needed changes. It had been 6 years since Iʼd visited my mother shortly after my father passed away. Since then, not much had changed in the house, except for the obvious absence of “Dad things” here and there. No more candy in the crystal bowl, with which he discreetly filled his pockets on his way to his dental practice. (He was a dentist with a sweet tooth!) No “Hello, nice people!” punctually at 6pm when he returned home. No freshly baked pound cake under the dark blue dome of the bread box, which Mom made sure was there for Dad to nibble on. Although I felt Dadʼs presence everywhere, this was now our Motherʼs home.

Having been a long-distance caregiver for my mother since 2008, my head was full of ideas of how I could spruce up the house and coordinate some repairs. I had mentioned them to Mom on the phone several times and she always greeted the ideas with a “Well, letʼs see…” My enthusiasm quelled when, once there, I realized that, while I was home again, I was not in my home. This was Momʼs home and I needed to respect that.

My brother, sister and I teamed up to become Momʼs family caregivers. While she is relatively healthy and astounds her doctors with her flexibility, we help her with everyday tasks. My brother and sister, who live somewhat near her, pick up groceries, take her to the post office, visit and chat, take her on outings and bring her homemade dishes and juicy hamburgers. I take care of bills, taxes, legal documents and anything that can be done online. One of us calls her every day and reassures her that she can count on us to be there for her the way she continues to be for us.

The temptation to take over for the sake of efficiency or practicality was a challenge for me as I saw the need for several projects to begin. Home repairs that remain on the todo list and sorting through old or unused items to make space were a priority for me. The question was, were they a priority for Mom?

My sister pointed out a few years ago that, in helping Mom move forward with a new life without Dad, we must not try to shape her into the person that we expect her to be. My brother added that we ought to just make the best of our time together and show her life! My view has always been to encourage her to do what she can do and to let us jump in when she needs our assistance. Because I am also a family caregiver for my homebound husband, I donʼt let my mother forget that she is quite capable of handling many tasks on her own. It behooves her to see that she does not need to rely on others for everything. Proof is, she has called me several times to proudly inform me that she has taken care of this or that!

With love comes respect. In caregiving, sometimes the line between providing care and maintaining respect and independence gets blurry. Family caregivers who are devoted to the care of a senior may face the dilemma of providing compassionate care or stepping back when that care is rejected. Preserving their careeʼs dignity and selfsufficiency is crucial. Wendy Lustbader, MSW, writes in her book, Counting on Kindness – The Dilemmas of Dependency, “Unless we exert control over some aspect of our lives, no matter how mundane or seemingly inconsequential, a significant part of our spirit dies.” Allowing our loved ones to manage all that they safely can, in their own way, helps family caregivers to foment their seniorsʼ self-worth and independence. Isnʼt that how we would like to be treated?

About the author

Lynn Greenblatt is a family caregiver and the founder of CaregivingCafe.com – an online directory of links to caregiving information, resources & support that can help caregivers to more efficiently & effectively manage their tasks. She also encourages family caregivers to take good care of themselves.

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Migraines and Your Movement

According to a study published in Neurology back in September, there appears to be evidence that those who get migraines in their middle age have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Migraines are a common brain disorder and one of the most painful. Often times, they are preceded by an aura or a visual disturbance such as flashing light or a total loss of vision.

In the study, which included over 5,000 people, participants were questioned about various migraine symptoms. The longitudinal study, which lasted over a span of 25 years, revealed that many traumatic head injuries later resulted in Parkinson’s symptoms.

However, the numbers are staggering. According to the follow up research, those who suffered from migraines had twice the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders. Unfortunately, researchers are still unsure of the link between the two. There are various factors that may attribute to this link, including the dopamine-blocking medication for headaches and other brain related diseases.

It will be interesting to see what other data will be revealed from this controlled experiment. Parkinson’s disease is a lot like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. We understand these disorders are linked to the brain but we are unsure of why they occur and how to prevent them. This new research will hopefully help us understand the connections between these brain disorders and identify a preventative approach.

It’s always terrifying when we find other possible symptoms that may attribute to these awful diseases, yet there is always hope. The more we know the better. The greater understanding we have, the closer we are to finding a cure to degenerative brain disorders and diseases.

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Respiratory Care Week: 4 Tips Your Lungs Will Thank You For

The last full week in October is dedicated to the recognition of those in the respiratory care profession as well as promoting healthy lung habits. The week is called Respiratory Care Week and it’s full of events meant to celebrate those who help keeps our lungs healthy, motivate those who are fighting lung disease, and educate us on proper lung health.

In order to get everyone in the holiday spirit, LivHOME would like to present 4 tips for keeping the lungs healthy and you happy.

Walk Faster
According to a study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the speed at which you walk at may help predict how long of a life you may live. Now, we’re not saying that if you pick up the pace of your walking, you’ll live until you’re 100, but there is strong evidence that points to a healthier individual based on how fast they walk. According to this study of 34,000 people who were aged 65 years and older, those who walked at a pace of 2.5 mph or faster lived longer than those who walked slower. If you are unable to increase the speed at which you walk at, then perhaps consult your doctor for a possible underlying health issue.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Added weight can place a lot of stress on your lungs. This causes the respiratory muscles to compress more causing them to work harder but less efficient. Over time this will cause a lot of damage to your respiratory system. It’s important to keep a nutritious diet, one that works for you, in order to keep those extra pounds off. Your lungs will thank you in the long run.

Drink Water
Staying hydrated is obviously important to your overall health. However, drinking water does help your respiratory system by keeping a thin consistency to the mucus lining of your lungs. Dehydration thickens it which will slow down your respiration and cause you to breath heavier with less efficiency.

Stop Smoking
It seems like whenever there is a list of health tips, quitting smoking can always be found on it. This is especially true when it comes to lung health. Smoking damages respiratory cells and can even kill them, it induces inflammation, and leads you on the path of lung illnesses such as emphysema, chronic lung disease, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. Smoking is a nasty, addicting habit. It’s very tough to quit, but much like finding a nutritious diet that works for you, you should find method of quitting that fits you perfectly. The lungs can heal themselves at an incredible pace. The sooner you quit the better.

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A New Link to Alzheimer’s Disease

There are multiple culprits as to what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts believe that it depends on your genetic makeup, that you are bound to this disease no matter how healthy or unhealthy your lifestyle is. Others believe that by keeping your mind physically fit, you can reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. Everyone knows what Alzheimer’s disease does to your brain, but no one is exactly sure why the disease starts or how to stop it. Scientists have discovered another possible cause that may increase the percentage of people with Alzheimer’s in the world.

According to (include source), this new potential trigger for Alzheimer’s is a chemical called benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepine is found in the most common of anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Research has found that by taking this chemical for three months or more, your chances at getting Alzheimer’s significantly increases.

This new study shows substantial evidence that these drugs do increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. The study entailed the insurance record of over 1,800 elderly residents of Quebec and if they had been prescribed anti-anxiety medication before they had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that those who had taken the chemical benzodiazepine for more than three months had a 50 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, it didn’t matter how long the individual was taking the chemical benzodiazepine, but how large of a dose they were taking. The higher the dose, the higher the risk.

Researchers and scientists are aware of the connection between this chemical and Alzheimer’s, however, we’re not fully sure why. We know how it works, but why the chemical benzodiazepine is highly correlated with Alzheimer’s disease is currently unclear. What is clear is that everyone should know the potential threats to their health. If you or a loved one has been prescribed a new medication; be weary of the dosage, be weary of the chemicals it contains, and be weary of how often it is taken. Don’t distrust medication, but be cautious of it. Let’s promote healthy habits, especially those we are certain that are good for us.
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PT Sue LogoAs we all age and circumstances of life (retirement, loss of family and friends, financial concerns, failing health and mobility) take their toll on our daily lives, loneliness becomes more of an issue. Everyone has moments where they feel lonely but when those “moments” add up to a major amount of time, it is definitely time to initiate some changes.

Research now shows that persistent loneliness has a progressive negative effect on physical and psychological health. As the individual becomes lonelier and then does less physically and mentally, it sets up a cycle that will deteriorate that individual. Loneliness can actually increase the risk of premature death in individuals over the age of 50 by 14%.

Loneliness is not always easy to detect by the individual, family, or friends. Here are some warning signs:

  1. Spending hours alone—reading, TV, computer use
  2. Anger or envy when others around you are happy
  3. A sense of dissatisfaction when you are spending time with other people. You can have a feeling of loneliness even when you are surrounded by other people.

Current research has linked loneliness to elevated blood pressure, increased stress and anxiety, impaired immune system, and a decrease in mobility. There has been a long time link between loneliness and depression. However, you can be lonely and not be depressed. Research also shows that the greater the degree of loneliness, the more fragmented and less relaxing the night’s sleep. Over a period of time this could have serious consequences.

Here are some tips to deal with loneliness:

  1. Make a point to meet with friends and share more details about yourself to secure a more honest link with another person and to express inner feelings that when shared don’t seem quite so insurmountable.
  2. Reach out for “small” connections, such as with the postal person, service worker, a stranger, smile and say a friendly word to a stranger.
  3. Get involved in a meaningful activity with a philosophy similar to yours. Reach out to the events of the organization and talk and share thoughts from casual to more intimate. Volunteering is such a good way to stay connected.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to withdraw when life hands you a significant change, such as death of a love one, retirement, health issues. Discipline yourself to reach out to meet a friend for lunch or a volunteer function. At first you will need to force yourself to reach out.
  5. Consider a pet or volunteering at an animal shelter. Animals are very receptive and responsive to human feelings.
  6. Plan a regular physical activity out of your home—walking in your neighborhood or mall; using your wheelchair or scooter to go to a nearby coffee shop. Physical activity is one of the best and cheapest ways to physically and emotionally feel better. And while you are out and about, find something to laugh about.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site, ptsue.com; my office (951)369-6507; or my email, askptsue@gmail.com. My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions and/or comments.

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World Food Day: Identifying the Perfect Diet for Your Senior

In celebration of World Food Day, a holiday promoting the significance of family farming in order to eradicate hunger, encourage healthy diets, and achieve sustainable development, LivHOME would like to present a healthy diet sure to keep your senior able-bodied. A healthy diet keeps the heart pumping, the mind limber, and the body feeling fresh. It’s very tempting to take shortcuts when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but planning your meals can have many benefits.

Fruits and Vegetables – Focus on the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Don’t you want to be vibrant? Mix and match those colorful fruits and vegetables. When it comes to fruit, don’t stick with juices only. Focus on serving the whole fruit, because it’s an excellent source of fiber. For vegetables, select those dark green leafy vegetables to get a healthy dose of antioxidants to lower your risk of heart disease and various neurological disease.

Healthy Fats – Fats are important. They help you burn energy when you have nothing left in the tank. However, too many fats can lead to high cholesterol and an array of heart complications. That’s why it’s important to include a lot of healthy fats in your diet. Try adding seeds, avocados, and fish to your meals. This will keep you fueled and your arteries clear.

Reduce Sodium – Sodium, or in layman’s term’s ‘salt,’ is a water retention that amplifies dehydration and a greater risk for high blood pressure. It’s important to find foods that are low in sodium. Try to stay away from prepackaged and canned foods as salt is often hidden in them. According to the UCSF Medical Center, the average American eats 5 or more teaspoons of salt a day, which is 20 times the normal amount.

Calcium – Osteoporosis is a serious disease that greatly affects the elderly. It reduces bone density and makes seniors more susceptible to broken bones and fractures. In order to combat osteoporosis, your senior needs to include more calcium in their diet( 1,200 mg to be exact). Milk is a great source, as well as cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. However, if your senior has a dairy allergy or is lactose intolerant, there are other several non-dairy ways to get their calcium. Tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale are also exceptional means of calcium.

These are just a few tips and suggestions for World Food Day! Aging healthy is tough to do. Our bodies’ go through drastic changes as we age, however with the dietary knowledge we have now, we can age in the best way possible.

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Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week

The annual event, Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week, is being held from October 12th – 20th this year. The purpose of this week is to promote various activities and events that focus on preventing poor joint health, managing joint diseases, and highlighting new treatments in the area of joint health. Here are the important awareness days, as well as the events being held on that day, featured in Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week.

World Arthritis Day – October 12
On this day, a free public seminar called, Experts in Arthritis is held in order to properly inform people who suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile arthritis. This event is not merely for those with any type of arthritis, but also for those who care for someone with arthritis. Plenty of patients and caregivers have joined in on the conversation in order to hear about the most effective treatments and new strategies when it comes to disease management.

World Spine Day – October 16
World Spine Day is another important initiative created for Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “Straighten Up and Move.” It focuses on the importance of posture and how it can lead to a healthier, more flexible spine. Research has found that a life of poor posture and lack of daily activity can cause back pain and other spinal disorders which you certainly don’t want. Spinal disorders will cause back and neck pain, decrease your ability to do work, and disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Your spinal chord is very important to your everyday life. Treat it that way. Observe World Spine Day.

World Osteoporosis Day – October 20
On Monday October 20th, in observance of World Osteoporosis Day, the event Fit To A T will be held. In response to the Surgeon General’s report on bone health and bone density, “Fit To a T” was created in order to raise awareness for bone health, since the actual test that determines how healthy your bones are is called a “T Test.” Osteoporosis is a disease that diminishes bone density and is quite common for people in America. The idea of this awareness day is to educate and promote prevention. Osteoporosis does not discriminate based on age, however this program is really aimed at older adults in their forties reaching out to the elderly in their sixties and above. Again, the idea is to promote prevention, so those who are susceptible to fractures know how to arm themselves with knowledge so they can remain healthy and age in place.

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Breast Cancer Awareness: The Importance of Physical Activity

It’s no surprise that the more active you are, the healthier you become. It’s no different when it comes to breast cancer. Women who get regular exercise see a 10% to 20% decrease in breast cancer risk. It helps maintain that ideal body weight. However, some studies suggest differently.

According to prior research, premenopausal women who are overweight see a large reduction in breast cancer risk. Those who are categorized as overweight or obese see a 20% to 40% decrease. This correlation is not well understood, but it does present a bit of a problem, because postmenopausal women see an increased risk in breast cancer when they are categorized as overweight or obese.

Therefore, it’s very important to keep that weight off. As previously stated, the more active you are the healthier you become. That holds true no matter what stage of life you’re in. There are so many positive factors that come from leading an active lifestyle, such as an increased immune system that allows you to stay healthy for longer, lower estrogen levels which also decreases your risk for breast cancer, and a reduced risk for various cardiovascular diseases. If you’re looking to become more active in your day to day activities, here are some great examples of ways to get the heart beating and the blood flowing:

  • Walk, Don’t Ride – Sometimes the biggest adjustments can come in the smallest of packages. Instead of taking the elevator to get to that top floor, take the stairs. Is your local grocery store right around the corner? Walk there! The recommended amount of time for physical activity each day is 30 minutes. You can knock a few of those minutes out each day just by refusing the elevator or leaving the car in the garage.
  • Stretch Break – Flexibility is very important as you age. It keeps the muscles limber and even attributes to a limber mind. It helps reduce stress and keeps the mind at ease. Whenever you have free time, spend a couple minutes stretching out your muscles, instead of remaining inactive. It can go a long way to your overall health!
  • Improve Each Day – Wear a pedometer each day. It’ll keep track of each step you take everyday. Try not to be satisfied with a static number. Try to increase the amount of steps you take everyday. The more steps you take the more active you’ll become. You might be surprised how far those steps will take you!

These are merely a few tips you can use to promote a healthier lifestyle to decrease your chance at breast cancer. Don’t settle for a fixed workout routine. Variety is the spice of life and the more muscles you utilize the healthier you’ll be!

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Important Tips for Caregivers and Seniors — Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is often marked by celebrations such as fall festivals, getting ready for trick or treating or planning the family holiday celebrations. We look with joy to these life events every year and the memories we will make as family caregivers to our senior loved ones.

This month we also celebrate and spread awareness about Breast Cancer. It is not as joyous as our other fall occasions but it is very important to learn all we can for our senior’s health and our own as caregivers.

The statistics are striking and don’t seem to be lessening quickly although there has been an overall decline in new cases since 2000 when many women ceased their hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

  • 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over their lifetime; 2 out of 3 are diagnosed in women over 55
  • In 2014, 2,360 new cases of breast cancer expected in MEN! Over his lifetime, a man’s risk for breast cancer is 1 in 1,000
  • 40,000 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2014 from breast cancer
  • In 2014, 2.8 million women had a history of breast cancer – those currently undergoing treatment and those who completed treatment
  • 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history
  • The greatest risk factors for breast cancer are gender (female) and age

Aging and Risk for Breast Cancer
Naturally as our population of aging citizens increases, the number of older women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will continue to increase as well. The incidence of most cancers is higher at older ages including breast cancer.

A new study reports that there are risk factors that contribute to a breast cancer diagnosis, one of which we can change.

  1. Family history of breast cancer
  2. A higher Body Mass Index (BMI), obesity
  3. Older age at menopause

There has been shown to be a peak in new diagnosis in women aged 75-79 years. It has been proposed that the earlier age of a woman’s first live birth and the number of births overall when high (>/= 5) is thought to have a protective effect on postmenopausal breast cancer diagnosis.

Options if Breast Cancer is Detected
If you or your senior loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer there are options for treatments you should consider. Discuss all your options with your doctor and get a second opinion if you feel you need more information.

  • Lumpectomy in which the surgeon removes the cancerous tumor and surrounding tissue, but preserves the rest of the breast. This is followed by radiation treatments and possibly chemotherapy.
  • Single mastectomy in which the entire breast is removed. Lymph nodes are also taken to be tested.
  • Double mastectomy which removes both affected and unaffected breasts unless both have tumors. New plastic surgery techniques that achieve breast symmetry through bilateral reconstruction may make double mastectomy more appealing to some women.

There are about 5% of breast cancer patients with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. If such women develop cancer in one breast, they face a high risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast—as well as a high risk of ovarian cancer. Some women who opt for a double mastectomy in hopes of preventing the spread of breast cancer may not be improving their odds of survival according to a new study by the National Institute of Health. Be sure to discuss all options and outcomes with your doctor.

Prevention for Caregivers and Their Senior Loved Ones
There are strategies that you and your senior loved one should adopt to prevent breast cancer and detect it in its earliest stage if present which will improve treatment outcomes.

  • Get your mammogram as scheduled – women aged 50 and older who regularly got mammograms had a 10-23 %lower risk of dying from breast cancer than their peers who did not
  • Get scheduled clinical breast exam
  • Do a monthly breast self-check – know what you are looking for and report anything suspicious to your doctor
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet – eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as a diet low in overall fat
  • Maintain an appropriate weight
  • Limit alcohol (3 drinks a week raises your risk 15% and 10% more for each additional drink)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop smoking
  • Get out in the sunshine and ask your doctor about Vitamin D3 supplements (low levels of Vitamin D linked to increased risk for breast cancer)

Regular preventive health checks including screenings such as mammograms are covered under the Medicare Affordable Care Act healthcare program.

Caregivers need to be sure they are getting preventive checkups and screening themselves and not just for their senior loved ones. There are things you can do to improve your risk. Taking care of yourself is the right thing to do so you can take care of them for as long as they need you!

By Kathy Birkett

Co-Founder of Senior Care Corner


Twitter: @SrCareCorner

Become a Fan: www.Facebook.com/SeniorCareCorner

Kathy is Senior Care Corner’s expert on the lives and care of senior adults, expertise she has gained through over 30 years working with seniors, families and other caregivers in both her professional and personal lives. Kathy has worked with seniors in their homes as well as in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation and hospital settings. Kathy has a passion for advocacy, education and improving the life of seniors and has shared this passion to her connections in Senior Care Corner and a variety of community-based and online support groups. Kathy is a champion for the caregiver and works to help them be able to meet the needs of those for whom they care while also meeting their own needs.

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October 9th is National Depression Screening Day

On October 9th people from around the country will be participating in National Depression Screening Day. This important awareness day began in 1991 through the actions of Screening for Mental Health(SMH). Their goal was to create awareness events for those with mental health issues as well as people who were unfamiliar with the topic. However, most importantly, it included an anonymous screening option for those who wished to get tested.

Much like a yearly or monthly physical is used to find physical ailments that prevent the body from aging properly, depression screenings are used to find mental ailments that are deterring individuals from living a happy life. The ultimate goal of SMH’s initiative is for a mental health screening to be as common as a physical. Mental health is just as, if not more, important than physical health.

Within the elderly community, depression affects 7 million of the 39 million people over the age of 65, and the majority of those 7 million older adults will not seek help. It’s a cataclysmic cycle that shuffles seniors in a never-ending feeling of guilt and blame when that should not be the case. A senior should never feel guilty about being depressed or lonely. They need to feel open about what’s going on inside their head and feel comfortable enough to share it with a family member or their caregiver.

However, we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone feels comfortable enough to share what’s going on inside their minds. The stigma that surrounds mental health awareness still exists. People don’t feel comfortable enough admitting to their friends or family that they may need help. It’ll take some time adjusting these thoughts and feelings, but with fantastic observances such as Mental Health Awareness Week and days such as National Depression Screening Day, it’s becoming easier to tackle the issue.

Be aware of October 9th. If you suspect your senior friends and family members seem distant, less active, or has a decreased appetite, talk to them. The stigma is there, yet there should be no shame in seeking help when needed. Let’s erase this dogmatic practice one day at a time. Let’s spread awareness!

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