What is a hospitalist?

What is a hospitalist?

Patients in the hospital are rarely treated by their primary care physician. Instead, doctors who focus on the care of hospitalized patients have been found to be more effective and more available to answer questions during a hospital stay.

Sadness isn’t all bad

Sadness isn't all bad

Sadness moves us. It nurtures compassion. It can help us feel connected with others. It can also prompt us to reevaluate our lives and make changes. Sadness is not the same as depression. It’s important to know the difference.

When to use “urgent care”?

When to use "urgent care"?

You might want to consider an urgent care center for non-life-threatening conditions. The wait is shorter and the stress is less than in the Emergency Room. On the other hand, the ER is more appropriate for serious conditions. How to know which to choose?

Ride hailing for older adults

If the person you care for does not use a smartphone, with innovative new services, they can still enjoy the convenience of Lyft or Uber, no app—or hitchhiking!—required.

What is “vascular dementia”?

What is "vascular dementia"?

May is Action on Stroke Month. In that light, we look at “vascular dementia,” cognitive problems brought on suddenly by a stroke and/or gradually by “ministrokes” or “TIAs.”

Home visits are in!

Home visits are in!

Do you wish for the good old days when doctors made house calls? Many practitioners, including doctors, psychotherapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists, are now offering home visits (mobile outpatient services) that do not require your loved one be officially homebound.

Adaptive clothing

Adaptive clothing

People with conditions that limit movement, such as arthritis and Parkinson’s, often have difficulty dressing themselves. Dementia also makes dressing a challenge. Adaptive clothing enables your relative to do more for themselves, relieving you of a frustrating task and preserving their dignity and self-esteem.

What is “inflammaging”?

What is "inflammaging"?

When our immune system overreacts, it’s like a house on fire. This is more common as we age. Our immune system continues to tell our bodies we are being attacked, even when we aren’t, or aren’t any longer. Such “inflammaging”—the tendency in our later years to stay in an internally inflamed state—may be a common link between conditions such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.

Before you suggest assisted living

Before you suggest assisted living

While you may feel a move is urgent, the person you care for may not be ready. Don’t push! Instead, do some homework on your own so you are able to act quickly when they decide the time is right.

Choosing a support group

Choosing a support group

Between in-person and online support groups, there are many options to choose from. Make a list of your top priorities and then try out a few to see which one fits best.

Serving as a special needs trustee

If you have a disabled relative, perhaps a sibling, you may be asked to serve as the trustee for their “special needs trust.” While this is quite an honor, it’s an immense responsibility. Be sure you have the knowledge and support you will need.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease

March is National Kidney Month. Fully 15% of Americans have chronic kidney disease. Many are unaware of it. The condition lasts for decades, and symptoms do not appear until it is in the later stages, when irreversible damage has already been done. Should your loved one get checked?

Insomnia in older adults

Insomnia in older adults

If your loved one is having sleep problems, have them keep a sleep log for one or two weeks and then bring it to the doctor. Untreated sleep problems contribute to depression and memory loss.

What is “assisted living”?

These facilities are best suited to older adults who are relatively healthy. They serve as a more affordable alternative to a nursing home for those who need help only with meals, housekeeping, bathing and dressing, and getting around.

Dealing with disgust

Disgust is a natural response to something distasteful. But it can be distressing when it arises in the course of your caregiving duties. You may not be able to get rid of it completely, but there are things you can do to reduce the intensity.

Maybe it’s not Alzheimer’s

If you’re worried about dementia, it may be that memory or thinking problems are being caused by conditions that can be treated and reversed. Remove the anxiety by getting a full medical evaluation.

Tech support for your relative(s)

If your older relatives did not learn Internet skills during their work lives, you may be getting calls to provide tech support. It can be frustrating, inconvenient, and perhaps not even the best for your relationship. There are alternatives.

Burn and fire safety

Burn and fire safety

February 4–10 is National Burn Awareness Week, a good reminder to review precautions that can protect your loved one from harm.

Early-onset dementia: Money issues

Early-onset dementia: Money issues

If your partner has received a dementia diagnosis and is still working, consider these resources to help address the impact it will have on your family finances.

Making the most of regret

If you feel guilty and have regrets as a family caregiver, you are not alone. It could be because you are overstressed. Still, regret can be a useful signal that it’s time to do some thoughtful reflection and decide on future actions.

Acting as a “human guide”

Acting as a "human guide"

Learn tips to safely and effectively assist your visually impaired loved one, especially if they are in unfamiliar territory.

Skin care and aging

Skin care and aging

The skin is the body’s largest organ and its essential “armor.” To maintain good health, skin needs extra attention as we age. The skin has three layers. Working together, they act as the body’s shield by preventing bacteria and viruses from getting into the body and keeping body fluids from evaporating out; insulation by preserving…

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Positive connections with staff

Help the daily caregivers develop a fondness for your relative and view them as more than “the hip replacement in 210.” Showing a genuine interest in the life and daily experience of the aides will go a long way toward building a congenial sense of teamwork.

Choosing a “senior tablet”

While many older adults do just fine with a regular consumer-grade tablet, others do better with a “senior tablet,” which has safety precautions and a simplified interface. Learn what to look for if you are considering one for your relative.

Dementia: Navigating the airport

Providing comfort and calm is the watchword for the day of travel with a person who has dementia. Take advantage of the help that is available from airport personnel.

Why Mom doesn’t take her pills

Why Mom doesn't take her pills

Failure to follow medical advice is one of the primary reasons older adults end up in the hospital. What can you do to help your loved one adhere to the doctor’s orders?

How nutrition affects breathing

How nutrition affects breathing

If your loved one has COPD, it’s important to understand which foods are most helpful and which should be limited. You might be surprised by the difference nutrition can make!

Pacing yourself

As a family caregiver, it’s easy to put your own needs last. You may feel it is a virtue, but actually, you are putting yourself and your loved one at risk. You simply have to take breaks and to safeguard your own well-being. Caregivers who don’t experience significant mental and physical health consequences.

Financial/legal aspects of caregiving

How to pay for care is a big worry for families. Learn about options for financial support, as well as tax and workplace protections to assist you as the family caregiver. There are also legal documents your loved one will need to prepare to be sure their wishes are followed. For that, it’s best to work with an attorney.

Family Caregiving 101

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Whether you are new to family caregiving or have been doing it for a while, we outline the top strategies that will help you navigate the process effectively and keep stress to a minimum. This week we focus on gathering information and finding help.

Flying with oxygen

Flying with oxygen

November is COPD Awareness Month (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). If your loved one has respiratory problems and needs oxygen, they can still travel by plane. You just need to plan ahead.

Curbing your perfectionism

Curbing your perfectionism

Perfectionism is a mental habit that can get in your way as a family caregiver. Your intentions are the best, for everyone. But it will be better for you, and your loved one and family, if you can develop a more nuanced approach where doing the best you can REASONABLY do is the gold standard.

Affordable funerals

Affordable funerals

Many families instinctively feel that the amount of money spent on a funeral reflects the love felt for their departed relative. Not so! That belief can result in unnecessary debt. Consider separating the disposal of the body from the memorial service and focus on what will be the most personally meaningful for survivors.

Physical therapy and pain relief

Physical therapy and pain relief

Pain is no fun, whether in a knee, a neck, or elsewhere in the body. There are drugs that dull pain. But they don’t cure the problem. Plus, prescription drugs usually have side effects or are addictive. Physical therapy (PT) is a proven treatment that can relieve pain and in some instances, cure the problem.

What is hoarding?

What is hoarding?

Perhaps you wonder if your family member is a “hoarder.” (You may even harbor secret fears about yourself!) We all have cherished possessions. From trophies to teacups. Spare buttons to cans of half-used paint. But hoarding is different.

Senior move managers

Senior move managers

Does your loved one need to downsize? Move? Does the prospect seem overwhelming? Perhaps not just physically, but emotionally too? Enter the senior move manager: Part mover, part interior decorator, part compassionate friend. These professionals take a holistic approach. They handle the physical logistics. They are also skilled at assisting older adults with the emotional side of a move.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

This is World FTD Awareness Week. People with FTD often exhibit sudden changes in behavior or personality. FTD is frequently misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, or some psychiatric disorder. It is the most common form of dementia for people under 65 (early-onset dementia).

Caring as a stepfamily

Caring as a stepfamily

National Stepfamily Day falls in September. To honor these special families, we are featuring an article about working with stepsiblings. It could be that you have hardly met your “brothers and sisters,” yet you may be called upon to work together in an eldercare crisis.

Managing pain with music

Managing pain with music

September is Pain Awareness Month. Consider addressing your loved one’s pain with tips from music therapy. No drugs. No side effects. Simply drawing on the mind-body connection to lift mood, enhance relaxation, and distract from pain.

When you feel more resentment than love

When you feel more resentment than love

A difficult or abusive childhood makes for a very uncomfortable caregiving situation when your parent begins to need help in their later years. You don’t have to do it all. Consider these strategies for doing what feels right while also taking care of yourself.

Low-vision bathroom

Low-vision bathroom

Support your loved one’s independence with simple but important low-vision adaptations in the bathroom: Color contrasts, a magnifying mirror, a shower caddy, etc.

How is your relative’s “social health”?

How is your relative's "social health"?

The U.S. Surgeon General reports we have a loneliness epidemic. Like smoking and obesity, social isolation creates a greater risk for poor health. It’s been associated with a 48 percent increase in “premature death” (a death where a change in lifestyle could have resulted in a longer life). Our social health affects our physical health.

Adjusting to memory care

It will likely take one to three months for you and your loved one to get used to the new living situation at memory care. Strong emotions are to be expected. But there are strategies to ease the transition and promote a resilient recovery for both of you.

When ice cream is better than salad

Have you spent years encouraging a loved one to steer clear of salt or avoid fat? There is no doubt that a healthy diet can promote longevity. But there does come a time when quality of life is more important.

What is “healthy selfishness”?

What is "healthy selfishness"?

Is being selfish always bad? Is it possible to be too altruistic? Take the survey to see where you stand. It could be that you and your loved one would benefit from your being a little more selfish—in a healthy way.

Dementia: Packing for a trip

Dementia: Packing for a trip

Once you’ve decided to go, there are a few things you can do weeks ahead of time, and then while packing, that will ease many of the challenges that might arise in the course of your travels.

Bringing the hospital home

Bringing the hospital home

If your loved one is frail or has dementia but needs treatment for pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, or a flare of heart failure or COPD, you may be eligible for a Hospital at Home program. A team of professionals mobilizes to treat your relative at home. Popular in Europe, this program provides quicker recovery without the common setbacks of a hospitalization.

Senior bullying and exclusion

Senior bullying and exclusion

For Elder Abuse Awareness Month, we look at the problem of bullying and exclusion in senior housing. It’s surprisingly common. Fortunately, there are things you can do, whether your loved one is on the receiving end or the “bully” themselves.

Meaningful end of life conversations

Meaningful end of life conversations

A relative’s serious illness pushes us to communicate deep thoughts and bring closure to the relationship before we lose the chance. Don’t postpone those discussions! They may be awkward, but they can be profoundly important for all involved.

Preparing for a heat wave

Preparing for a heat wave

Extreme temperatures are especially hard on older adults. There are things you can do for your loved one to reduce the impact of a heat wave this summer, even if you live far away.

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Are you hoping to travel this summer with a loved one who has dementia? New and crowded situations are notorious for creating confusion and outbursts. Take a moment to reflect on your relative’s likely reactions and what you can do to keep them comfortable.

What is “elder abuse”?

What is "elder abuse"?

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There are seven different ways that elders can be exploited. Learn what they are and how to report it if you suspect a problem.

Tips for vacationing without Mom

Tips for vacationing without Mom

As a family caregiver, you need to take a break now and then. It’s not selfish. It’s essential! But in order to truly rest, you’ll want to be sure your relative is covered.

Cancer screenings covered by Medicare

Cancer screenings covered by Medicare

National Cancer Survivors Day is coming up (June 4), which celebrates the fact that 66% of those ever diagnosed with cancer are still alive five years later. Help your loved one get a jump on any potential cancer by taking advantage of these free screening tests.

Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears

Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears

Nearly one in four older adults experiences ringing in the ears, called “tinnitus.” For some, it interferes with concentration and is so severe it leads to insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, we highlight what you can do to help your loved one address this all-too-common condition.

Moving to memory care

Once you decide memory care is the wisest path, the next step is choosing a facility and creating a smooth moving day. Many memory care communities have a “move-in coordinator” or other family liaison. Rely on this professional for guidance.

Lessons from the seriously ill

Lessons from the seriously ill

A long-time hospice nurse—someone deeply committed to caring for the seriously ill—created this list of the top five deathbed regrets she frequently observed in her patients. She vowed to take these lessons to heart. Do any of these ring true for you?

The care plan and meeting

The care plan and meeting

If your loved one is admitted to a skilled nursing facility, Medicare requires the staff develop an initial, personalized care plan within the first 48 hours. This describes who should be doing what. Then, within the first 14 days, the staff must assemble a comprehensive assessment, which must include your loved one’s needs and strengths.

Do you strive for perfection?

Do you strive for perfection?

It’s important to do the best you can when caring for a loved one. But aiming for perfection can bring on problems. For yourself, in terms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. And for your relative and other family members, who may feel burdened by living under the stress of constant measurement and judgment.

Pillbox 2.0

Pillbox 2.0

For many people, a pillbox is just the ticket. But as we age, we may take more medicines. Filling the box requires more concentration. Remembering to take the meds can become more challenging. Many families turn to technology to help an aging loved one.

Gather important documents

Gather important documents

If you are the person most likely to step in if your loved one is unable to get to the bills—a hospitalization, dementia—you need to get oriented. And organized! It’s easy to lose track of paperwork, especially someone else’s. Professionals recommend gathering important documents in a file or binder for safekeeping. Put that in a locked and fireproof location. Consider a small home safe. Or a safe deposit box at the bank.

Calling a family meeting

Calling a family meeting

April 10 is Siblings Day! How are things going with your siblings? Does everyone in your family participate in the care of your loved one? Is there agreement on the problems? The solutions? If not, you aren’t alone with this issue. But you could probably use a family meeting or two to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s

Early-onset Alzheimer's

If your spouse is younger than 65 and has received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may feel in a world all your own. You probably don’t know anyone else in this situation and may sense a social stigma. It can be scary. Lonely. And feel just not fair!

Denture care

Denture care

Did you know “false teeth” need to be brushed daily, just like “real teeth” do? Learn how you can help your loved one avoid infections, maintain good nutrition, and extend the life of their dentures.

Choosing a meal service

Choosing a meal service

Food is so profoundly linked to health and love, it can be distressing to realize that someone you care for is missing meals or otherwise eating poorly. There are many services available to help, each with their own special procedures. Learn about the questions you’ll want to ask.

Is it time for memory care?

Is it time for memory care?

People with moderate dementia are rarely aware of their need for help. It will be the family members who make any placement decisions. How do you know when this option should be explored?

If you are not the primary caregiver

If you are not the primary caregiver

If someone else in your family has primary responsibility for the care of your loved one, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute. Far from it! Caring for an older adult is more than one person can do alone. There are many ways to lend a hand (even if you don’t live nearby).

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

February is Heart Month. If your loved one needs frequent naps and gets out of breath easily, he or she may need a daily life energy budget. (This is especially true for people with heart failure.)

Home modifications for vision loss

Home modifications for vision loss

If the person you care for has a low vision diagnosis, three types of modifications to the home can make life easier: Lighting, glare control, and the use of color contrast. Fortunately, these strategies are relatively inexpensive.

Where are the paid caregivers?

Where are the paid caregivers?

Frustrated in your search for a paid caregiver? You are not alone. There is an extreme shortage of helpers right now. Even before COVID, the demand for aides was greater than the supply. The “Great Resignation” hit the caring professions hard. Caregivers close to retirement left early. And many younger workers decided to opt for safer, less demanding jobs. In some states, as many as 38% of direct-care workers chose other occupations last year.

Long-distance caregiving

Long-distance caregiving

Caring for a parent long distance brings its own challenges. With planning, organization, and frequent communication—plus a little help from technology—you can provide effective support.

The yearly “Wellness Visit”

The yearly "Wellness Visit"

Catching things early is big with Medicare. Every year, all Medicare enrollees are eligible for a free “Wellness Visit” with their primary care doctor. This is NOT an annual physical, so don’t use that term when making the appointment. Beyond basic vitals—height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse—there is no physical examination. If a physical exam is done, your loved one may have to foot the bill.

Are you the primary caregiver?

Are you the primary caregiver?

Being primary can be quite a job. In many cases it involves driving to the doctor and managing medications, handling finances, providing for daily needs, coordinating care services, and keeping the elder’s spirits up. If you are that person, don’t try to do it alone—even if it seems like that’s the only choice.

Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome

Our eyes show us the world. If something goes wrong with them, it can affect our total well-being. Dry eye syndrome makes eyes feel gritty, burning, itchy, and sensitive—discomforts that are hard to ignore! It typically manifests with age and affects as many as 30% of older adults.

Cold weather safety tips for indoors

Cold weather safety tips for indoors

The dangers of cold weather are obvious outdoors. But there are dangers indoors, too, most often because the house thermostat is set too low. People can die from being too cold. Older adults are especially at risk.

Healing torn relations

Healing torn relations

Take any roomful of people and likely two-thirds of them have relatives who aren’t talking to each other. Families are messy. Hurts abound. Some people wait until a serious diagnosis to reconcile. They often regret the years of separation they can never retrieve. Others try forgiveness earlier in the process. There’s no right or wrong.

Dementia and small children

Dementia and small children

The grandparent–grandchild relationship can be precious, like no other. But even young children notice if Grandma or Grandpa isn’t acting the way they used to, or the same way others do. And they will have questions.

Is your home safe for older guests?

Is your home safe for older guests?

If you expect older visitors this season, check your home for hazards. Older adults often have impaired balance and vision. This makes them prone to falling, especially in new surroundings. And fragile skin and bones can mean double trouble if someone does take a spill.

Not taking meds as directed?

Not taking meds as directed?

Taking the right medicines at the right time is extremely important to health management. But 75%–96% of older adults admit that they frequently make mistakes with their medication. Is your loved one among them?

Gifts for those with memory loss

Gifts for those with memory loss

Deciding what holiday gifts to give a person with memory loss can be challenging. From seasonal activities to digital picture frames or fuzzy robo-pets, we’ve got suggestions!

Honoring family caregivers

Honoring family caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month. We want to express our gratitude to you, who are part of the 40 million people (one in six Americans) who care for an older adult friend or relative. So many family caregivers feel invisible, we thought we’d give you some perspective on the scope of family caregiving across the country.

Suppose they don’t get better …

Suppose they don't get better ...

Are frequent visits to the ER a significant part of the past six to twelve months? Does your loved one seem more fatigued? Less interested in eating? Perhaps a bit withdrawn? These symptoms may be hallmarks of a serious illness your relative will overcome. But it’s also possible that these signal that your family member no longer has the reserves to beat their condition.

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

If the person you care for is a veteran and is seriously ill, they may qualify for a VA program designed to control symptoms that cause pain, discomfort, or mental or emotional distress. Called “palliative care,” this program is available even if the problems are as a result of treatments, not just the medical condition itself.

Putting anticipation to work for you

Putting anticipation to work for you

Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand for more joy? Patience? Optimism? Motivation? Maybe less irritability and stress? It’s actually accessible now, no wizardry required. Just a shift in attention. Welcome to “anticipation.”

What is Lewy body dementia?

What is Lewy body dementia?

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many other conditions that also bring on memory problems. It is important to accurately identify the cause, even if there’s no cure, because this will shape the best strategy for addressing difficult symptoms.

October is National Crime Prevention Month

October is National Crime Prevention Month

It’s unpleasant to imagine that your loved one might become the victim of crime, but it’s worth considering. There are valuable preventive steps to take. Unless your relative lives in a high-crime neighborhood, their greatest risk is a property crime in or around their home.

Who is who in skilled nursing facilities?

Who is who in skilled nursing facilities?

If your loved one is discharged from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility (SNF), their care will be in the hands of a team of specialists. It’s a good idea to understand the players’ roles so you know whom to call upon for what.

When your loved one is depressed, suggest exercise

When your loved one is depressed, suggest exercise

Depression is common in older adults. It’s long been known that brisk exercise can help reduce depression. But it turns out that exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to make a difference. Even mild exercise can be effective.

Are you prepared for a disaster?

Are you prepared for a disaster?

No one likes to dwell on the possibility of disaster. But we all need to prepare for one, just in case. Help your relatives gear up for safety. Whether you live across town or across the nation, the action items are the same.

Could medicines be the culprit?

Could medicines be the culprit?

If your loved one has balance problems, the culprit may be in the medicine. Many common medicines have side effects that can impair balance and lead to a fall. Over 40% of persons age 65 and older take five medications or more. This increases the chance that at least one of the drugs has side effects of dizziness, blurry vision, drowsiness, or muscle weakness.

Caring with a stepparent

Caring with a stepparent

Has your parent remarried? If so, you may be sharing the caregiving with a person you don’t know very well. Biological families often encounter tensions when it comes to eldercare. Add a stepparent and the challenges can grow exponentially.

Noncancer screening tests

Noncancer screening tests

Medicare pays for many screening exams, and even counseling sessions, to help nip common illnesses in the bud. Screening tests are designed to identify problems before symptoms emerge. They are usually for people who are considered to be “at risk” for getting a specific disease. Here are some of the most common noncancer preventive services that Medicare covers. Ask the doctor if your loved one should be tested.

Listening: The other half of the conversation

Listening: The other half of the conversation

Good communication requires both speaking and listening. Oddly enough, if you make a specific effort to listen, it can open doors. Once “heard,” the other person may be more willing to hear your point of view. Deep listening is more difficult than it sounds. It’s not passive. It requires concentration. It also takes humility and empathy.

The doctor interview

The doctor interview

After you have scoured the Internet to help your relative find a potential new doctor—someone on their plan and with no obvious red flags—it’s time to get more specific. The doctor’s website may provide some descriptive information, but most likely, you’ll want a conversation.

Caught in a cycle of negativity?

Caught in a cycle of negativity?

For most family caregivers, frustration and guilt are common, as is anxiety and resentment. These feelings are normal and reasonable under the circumstances. It’s not realistic to eliminate negative emotions. Caring for an ailing family member IS emotionally taxing, especially in the case of memory loss. But sometimes the negativity can feed on itself.

Senior centers: Worth a fresh look

Senior centers: Worth a fresh look

Even pre-COVID, many 90-year-olds adamantly refused to go to a senior center, saying they didn’t want to be around “all those old people.” (!) Does this sound like your loved one? Admittedly, the senior centers of the past tended to focus on bingo and crafts. These activities are of limited interest to the newest generation of older adults. Happily, senior centers have been updating. Bingo and crafts are still there. But the upswing in technology use during COVID catapulted many centers into the 21st century

Combatting dehydration

Combatting dehydration

With summer’s warm weather, be on the lookout for dehydration in your loved one. The signs include confusion, fatigue, weakness, and sleepiness. Some people become dizzy and their balance is thrown off. Dry mouth, headaches, and muscle cramps are other symptoms of dehydration.

Dementia and finances

Dementia and finances

If the person you care for has dementia—memory or thinking problems from a condition such as Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or Parkinson’s—unpaid bills or a messy checkbook may have been your first sign that something was amiss. Certainly, in the later stages of dementia, your loved one won’t be able to manage their finances. But what about the in-between?

The “Sandwich Generation”

The "Sandwich Generation"

Elderly parents are living longer. Children are often dependent for more years than expected. Add to this the ongoing responsibilities to spouse/partner and jobs, and there is little wiggle room for the millions of family caregivers who find themselves squeezed in the middle as the “Sandwich Generation.”

Swollen legs and feet

Swollen legs and feet

Many older adults experience swollen legs and feet. For some, it’s because of sitting a lot and leading a sedentary lifestyle. For others, it’s the water retention side effect of a medication. And for others, the swelling—called “edema”—is a symptom of a chronic or even serious illness such as heart failure or liver or kidney disease.

Does brain training work?

Does brain training work?

The brain is another organ to keep fit, and regular workouts are a good thing! Our brains enable many types of thinking: Problem solving, planning, attention, and memory. They manage our emotions and help us understand the emotions of others. Our brains also control movement (balance, speed, and coordination). And it’s where we process our spatial awareness—used for packing a suitcase or reading a map.

Does brain training work?

Does brain training work?

The brain is another organ to keep fit, and regular workouts are a good thing! Our brains enable many types of thinking: Problem solving, planning, attention, and memory. They manage our emotions and help us understand the emotions of others. Our brains also control movement (balance, speed, and coordination). And it’s where we process our spatial awareness—used for packing a suitcase or reading a map.

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Much of the strain of caring for a loved one lies in the loss of a predictable routine, a sense of “normalcy.” Understanding the course of your loved one’s condition—the rhythm of how it unfolds—can empower you to respond more flexibly to its challenges.

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Much of the strain of caring for a loved one lies in the loss of a predictable routine, a sense of “normalcy.” Understanding the course of your loved one’s condition—the rhythm of how it unfolds—can empower you to respond more flexibly to its challenges.

Text message scamming: “Smishing”

Text message scamming: "Smishing"

Your loved one may be watching for phishing scams on email, but now there are scams carried out by short message service (aka, texting). “Smishing” scams rose 58% in 2021. Nationwide they cost victims over $10 billion. Seniors are a prime target, as three out of five now own smartphones. While convenient, smartphones present new opportunities for getting scammed. Time to alert your relative to smishing.

Caregiving with kids

Caregiving with kids

Children generally like to feel included. But they may not know how to relate to an ill family member with limited abilities. Here are some ideas for home-based activities with elementary-age children.

Caregiving with kids

Caregiving with kids

Children generally like to feel included. But they may not know how to relate to an ill family member with limited abilities. Here are some ideas for home-based activities with elementary-age children.

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Has your loved one been diagnosed with cancer? The vast majority (67%) of people with cancer live for another five years or more. A cancer is considered “stable” or “controlled” when tumors shrink or at least temporarily stop growing. This is not the same as being cured—no tumors—but it does make cancer more of a manageable chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma.

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Has your loved one been diagnosed with cancer? The vast majority (67%) of people with cancer live for another five years or more. A cancer is considered “stable” or “controlled” when tumors shrink or at least temporarily stop growing. This is not the same as being cured—no tumors—but it does make cancer more of a manageable chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma.

When you envy others

When you envy others

Do you ever look at friends and find yourself mad or upset because they have free time? They don’t have a relative that needs help? You might even wish they had it harder, had some real challenge in their life. And then you feel guilty. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Envy is a natural human emotion.

When you envy others

When you envy others

Do you ever look at friends and find yourself mad or upset because they have free time? They don’t have a relative that needs help? You might even wish they had it harder, had some real challenge in their life. And then you feel guilty. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Envy is a natural human emotion.

Primary care providers

Primary care providers

A primary care provider (PCP) is charged with monitoring and treating a person’s whole body. Specialists abound and indeed are important. But we are more than the sum of our organs. Your relative’s PCP helps ensure that specialists are not doing things that counteract each other. If you are looking for a new PCP, there are several types of providers to consider.

Primary care providers

Primary care providers

A primary care provider (PCP) is charged with monitoring and treating a person’s whole body. Specialists abound and indeed are important. But we are more than the sum of our organs. Your relative’s PCP helps ensure that specialists are not doing things that counteract each other. If you are looking for a new PCP, there are several types of providers to consider.

Cooking tips for the visually impaired

Cooking tips for the visually impaired

Is low vision making it harder for your loved one to cook? If food preparation has been one of their pleasures, they are probably grieving not only the change in their eyesight, but also the loss of creating and serving delicious meals. Even if cooking has not been a passion, the ability to safely prepare food for oneself is critical for maintaining independence and self-esteem. Fortunately, there are ways to empower your relative with simple strategies and inexpensive tools. Here are some techniques that augment and use all the senses. They also protect safety.

Interrupt the stress cycle with deep breathing

Interrupt the stress cycle with deep breathing

We’re breathing all the time. But when it comes to stress relief, not all breathing is equal. Our bodies are built to handle periodic crises. When we sense danger, our bodies release “stress hormones” that enable us to respond powerfully and fast. When the crisis is over, those hormones are no longer released. The body returns to relaxed, “normal” mode. But chronic stress is damaging. When we’re stressed every day, the “fight-or-flight” hormones keep running. Not a lot, but enough to upset the body’s balance and undermine physical health and mood. The body is distracted from its routine tasks of repair and maintenance. This can result in significant consequences.

Poetry and dementia

Poetry and dementia

If the person you care for has dementia, you may have noticed their withdrawal from conversations, movies, even from reading books or the newspaper. Anything with an involved plot line is now too difficult for them to follow. Poetry, on the other hand, involves rhythm and images, which can stimulate memories of experiences, emotions, smells, tastes, and other sensations. All quite accessible by persons with dementia. Plus, many older adults went to school when poetry was an active part of the curriculum. Exploring fun poetry together may tap into positive memories from the past.

Organ donation

Organ donation

Those who donate organs, eyes, or tissue leave a tremendous legacy, often the gift of life itself: Allowing someone a steady heartbeat. Or the vision to see a grandchild. Or healthy skin to cover a burn or cancer site. National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) is when everyone is encouraged to create or update their advance directive. These end-of-life documents include a section for letting family members and healthcare providers know whether you choose to be an organ donor.

Organ donation

Organ donation

Those who donate organs, eyes, or tissue leave a tremendous legacy, often the gift of life itself: Allowing someone a steady heartbeat. Or the vision to see a grandchild. Or healthy skin to cover a burn or cancer site. National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) is when everyone is encouraged to create or update their advance directive. These end-of-life documents include a section for letting family members and healthcare providers know whether you choose to be an organ donor.

Should Dad move in?

Should Dad move in?

Combining households has many benefits: Less hassle running back and forth between two residences, less worry about Dad eating well and remembering his meds, more family social time for him, cost savings on rent and utilities, etc. But if things do not work out, disentangling could cause hurt feelings and damage your relationship. Consider these questions before you move in together.

The journey of late life

The journey of late life

Families spend three to five years caring for an aging relative. At first it may be light chores or small errands now and then. But over time, health challenges emerge and needs grow. In his book, My Mother, Your Mother, geriatrician Scott McCullough outlines eight “stations” in the journey of late life. For each one, he offers insights and tips to help you counter the modern system of “fast medicine” with personalized solutions he calls “slow medicine.”

“Chemobrain”

"Chemobrain"

People who go through chemotherapy for cancer often complain about “chemobrain.” If your loved one is under treatment and is having trouble with memory, thinking, and concentration, it is likely from the chemo drugs. The fuzzy thinking may not go away right when chemo stops. But it usually recedes over time.

Caregiving apps

Caregiving apps

Juggling multiple schedules, keeping other relatives informed, ensuring prescriptions are filled … these are but some of the many duties you may face as a family caregiver. In some instances, a simple spreadsheet can do the trick. But an app makes it easier to coordinate with others.

Psychological first aid

Psychological first aid

Anxiety and stress commonly accompany family caregiving. The ongoing pandemic and its stream of variants are only adding to that. Perhaps you could use a little “psychological first aid.” These are skills or techniques first responders are trained to teach or apply to distressed persons after urgent physical issues have been addressed.The goal of psychological first aid is to help people feel safe (physically and emotionally), calm, and hopeful. Connected to others. Sound good? Try these strategies on yourself.

When your relative has money questions

When your relative has money questions

Is Dad asking if he should sell the house now that Mom is gone? Or perhaps Aunt Mary is anxious about her stock investments. Even if you are good at managing your own money, helping a relative make financial decisions can bring a lot of pressure. Consider hiring a professional to advise you.

Reducing the nausea of chemo

Reducing the nausea of chemo

If a loved one in your life is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, very likely they are dealing with the common side effects of nausea and vomiting. Not fun. Encourage them to follow these tips.

Protecting the house from Medicaid

Protecting the house from Medicaid

Care in a nursing home is expensive. For an extended stay, most people will need to pay quite a bit out of their own pocket. If there are no savings, Medicaid—the joint state-federal health insurance for low-income individuals—will step in.

Signs of an online “sweetheart scam”

Signs of an online "sweetheart scam"

Romance crime is on the rise. Over 25,000 people reported a sweetheart scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019, a threefold increase since 2016. Individuals age 65 and older were the hardest hit, with a median loss of $9465 (across all ages, the median loss was $2500 per individual). If your loved one has been taken advantage of, they are not alone! Romance scams are the second most common crime reported to the FBI.

Subtle signs of a heart attack

Subtle signs of a heart attack

We all know the classic heart attack portrayed over and over again in movies and on TV: Someone writhing in sudden, severe chest pain.

But many heart attacks aren’t like that at all. Instead, they start slowly, typically with some mild, on/off pain or tightness in the chest. These signs are so much less dramatic than what people expect, they too often are ignored. The result, sadly, is often fatal when in fact a prompt response could have saved a loved one’s life.

When your relative is actively dying

When your relative is actively dying

In the last two weeks, as a loved one is nearing death, it is natural to want to be at their side. But then, what? Especially if you have never been in this situation before, you may feel uncertain—even awkward—about what to do. The ideal is to be a calm, reassuring, and loving presence focused on keeping your relative comfortable. Here are some tips.

Need a new doctor?

Need a new doctor?

The pandemic has brought on a wave of physician retirements. Perhaps one of your relative’s doctors has sent a letter announcing the close of their practice. Yikes!

When choosing a new physician, it’s worth the time to do some research. The right fit is critical to your loved one’s health and well-being.

Friends? Who has time?

Friends? Who has time?

If you are like most family caregivers, your social life has dropped in priority as you juggle your loved one’s needs. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up all your friendships in addition to your family responsibilities.

A spouse’s grief in the face of dementia

A spouse's grief in the face of dementia

Grief is the expected response to a loved one’s death. We expect to mourn, and we receive comfort from others. But in the context of a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the loss is not as clear cut. Your partner is “here but not here.” And you do not receive the same support or acknowledgment for the very real losses.

Making the best use of your time off

Making the best use of your time off

Time off from caregiving is precious. But after a break, many family caregivers find they don’t feel as refreshed as they hoped they would. Current research provides insights about how to get the most from a respite break.

Writing the last chapter

Writing the last chapter

If your loved one has health challenges, they may be feeling a loss of control. Add to that a terminal diagnosis and a sense of doom may prevail. But recognizing that life is coming to a close does not have to mean one waits glumly for the end. Following are some of the many ways hospice patients have chosen to take action and purposefully write their own “last chapter.” Perhaps one of these might appeal to your loved one:

Private pay services for care at home

Private pay services for care at home

Typically, it’s family members who fill in to perform the necessary tasks. But for many, perhaps including you, there are obstacles to helping on a regular basis. (Quitting your job to provide care is risky. Leaving work midcareer jeopardizes your retirement options and savings.)

Hearing the TV better

Hearing the TV better

Is your loved one having trouble hearing the television? Closed captioning isn’t helping enough? Check out these possible solutions.

Engaging activities for persons with dementia

Engaging activities for persons with dementia

It is usually obvious what a person with dementia is no longer able to do. But finding things your loved one CAN do may feel like a challenge, especially if memory loss is severe. Here are some tips:

Help at home: Community programs

Help at home: Community programs

For nonmedical support, check out community programs. Many are provided by nonprofit organizations. Others by faith communities. And still others by local government. Most offer discounts or a sliding-scale fee.

Holidays without your loved one

Holidays without your loved one

The holiday season is a festive time of year, but it may not feel much like a celebration for people grieving the loss of a loved one. Holidays are an especially tender time for missing those who are no longer with us.

The special needs of Vietnam-era vets

The special needs of Vietnam-era vets

Almost 3.5 million members of the military served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975. Was your relative one of them? This group of veterans continues to face physical and mental health problems.

Products for addressing incontinence

Products for addressing incontinence

There are many undergarments designed to help with incontinence. They can’t prevent it, but they can help your loved one feel more comfortable with outings and retain their dignity despite the embarrassment of accidents.

Is Medicare Advantage the best choice?

Medicare Advantage

Once a year, Medicare offers the option to change plans. In 2021, the Open Enrollment period is October 15–December 7. Your loved one may be considering a switch to a “Medicare Advantage” plan. There are pros and cons.

Depression after a scary diagnosis

Depression after a scary diagnosis

If the person you care for has a life-threatening illness, you might think it’s only natural for them to feel down. Even hopeless from time to time.

But weeks of sadness are not a side effect one simply has to tolerate. It is not uncommon for someone with cancer or a similarly scary diagnosis to become depressed. But depression can and should be treated. Effective treatment makes for better quality of life. It can also improve other symptoms, such as pain and insomnia.

Too many pills: When less is more

Too many pills: When less is more

More than half of older adults take five or more medications per day. That’s “polypharmacy,” and can be dangerous. Taking too many medicines can cause problems such as dizziness, mental confusion, and heart failure. It can create an increased risk of falls, which often lead to the end of independent living. An estimated 10% to 30% of older adult hospitalizations are due to medication problems.

Managing emotional outbursts

Managing emotional outbursts

If the person you care for has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you may find their sudden emotional swings more difficult than their forgetfulness. Among many things, the disease has taken away their inhibitions. They can become quite irrational. And they are more likely to make a scene in public than they ever would have before their dementia. Family members mention embarrassment as one of the most difficult aspects of caring for their relative.

The “dignity of risk”

The "dignity of risk"

One of the most challenging dilemmas when caring for an aging parent is balancing their preference for independence with your concern for their safety. If you have noticed lapses in cleanliness, meals, bill payment, or other areas, you may be worried that your loved one is not able to safely live alone. They may refuse assistance, however, not recognizing there is a problem.

Not all socks are created equal

Not all socks are created equal

What do a marathon runner and your aging parent have in common? Both could benefit from compression socks! By applying pressure to the legs, compression socks help the valves in the veins do their work—so blood is pushed back to the heart and doesn’t pool in the legs. Older adults with edema (swollen legs), varicose veins, or deep vein thrombosis find that compression socks ease discomfort and can even prevent problems.

Dealing with anxiety

Dealing with anxiety

It’s only natural for family caregivers to worry. Understandably, we spend a lot of time thinking about “what’s next.” But if you are in a pattern of persistent worry and are starting to feel the stress in your body too—perhaps headaches, loss of appetite, or trouble sleeping—you may be dealing with anxiety.

Services at home: Medicare

Services at home: Medicare

Medicare is health insurance provided by the federal government. It covers adults 65 and older, as well as persons with disabilities. In terms of home care, Medicare pays for visits only by medically trained staff. In that light, there are two programs: Home health and hospice.

Coping with another person’s pain

Coping with another person's pain

When your family member is in pain, you are suffering, too. The “mirror neurons” in our brains are programmed to recognize pain in others. That’s good news in that it arouses compassion and spurs us to action. But it can be bad news, too. When you are highly attuned to a loved one’s pain, you are at higher risk of depression, burnout, and poor health yourself.

What is a daily money manager?

What is a daily money manager?

A financial advisor manages investments. A daily money manager (DMM) is someone who comes to the home once or twice a month to handle the mundane aspects of personal finances: Paying monthly bills (but your loved one signs the checks). Balancing the checkbook. Navigating health insurance claims. Resolving billing errors. Tracking donations. Organizing paperwork. Gathering documents for tax time. Their job is to catch unnecessary expenses while making sure important payments are made on time.

The decision to stop dialysis

The decision to stop dialysis

Dialysis is life sustaining yet also quite taxing for the patient. About 25% of people who choose dialysis later decide to stop. Typically, this is because the burdens of this kidney disease treatment have severely reduced their quality of life. The tradeoff becomes no longer acceptable.

Learning to forgive yourself

Learning to forgive yourself

According to psychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, we all have an inner critic and an inner protector. Together they help us maintain a balanced perspective. But too often as family caregivers, we have an overload of guilt, shame, and remorse, always feeling our performance is subpar, that we haven’t done enough. This is not healthy. The inner critic has an important role, but it’s not to pulverize our self-esteem.

The healing power of music

The healing power of music

Can listening to calming music actually ease pain? Can singing silly songs make you happier? Researchers say this isn’t just a folktale—it represents some of the measurable effects of music on the mind and body.

Although it’s not yet clear exactly how music works its magic, studies show that it is strong medicine, both in the moment and as treatment over time. Among the benefits, music

Dealing with criticism

Dealing with criticism

Receiving criticism is never a pleasant experience, especially from family members. Whether it is a sibling griping about how you care for a relative or complaints from the person you are caring for, you may feel suddenly flooded with difficult emotions. Perhaps anger, shame, or confusion.

We can’t stop others from giving criticism. But we can become wiser about how to deal with it. Try these tips:

What is a Medicaid spend down?

What is a Medicaid spend down?

There are two forms of government health insurance:

– Medicare. Basically, age-based insurance for older adults (age 65+), regardless of income and assets. (Assets include money and belongings, such as a house or car.)
– Medicaid. Income-based insurance funded with federal and state dollars. (The state where your relative lives may have a name different than “Medicaid.”) This insurance is for individuals who have very little means. The financial asset threshold is often set at $2000 or less.

Medicaid will sometimes pay when Medicare will not.
The most common expense covered by Medicaid is long-term care in a nursing home. Speaking very generally, Medicare pays for the first 100 days after a hospitalization. If a person needs to stay longer—permanently move into the facility—they must cover the cost from their own savings. Once nearly all their resources have been exhausted, they can apply for Medicaid, which will pick up the tab.

Bladder issues

Bladder issues

If making it to the bathroom in time is a frequent concern for your relative, they may have an overactive bladder. More than 33 million Americans contend with this condition, in which misfiring nerves cause the bladder muscles to contract involuntarily. Your loved one may be too embarrassed to bring it up with the doctor, or even with you. But it should be checked out. It’s not a “normal” part of aging. Overactive bladder (OAB) is a real and treatable medical condition. And you certainly want to be sure it’s not something else.

The basic symptoms of OAB include an urgent need to urinate more than eight times in a day and/or more than once or twice a night.

Many people let incontinence worries run their lives. They stay close to home for fear of accidents. They withdraw from social activities, dreading they have an odor from leaks. They may become anxious or depressed. And multiple nighttime trips to the toilet can result in insomnia and fatigue, bringing on more depression.

What’s involved in giving care?

What’s involved in giving care?

Perhaps you call regularly to offer emotional support. Maybe you handle finances. Perhaps you visit weekly. Or you may live with your loved one 24/7. Caring takes many forms. You may feel this is simply what a loving daughter/son/partner would do. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t time and energy from your day. Or night, if you skimp on sleep to create time to help.

Whether you provide hands-on care or assistance from afar, you ARE a family caregiver. And that means you need to watch for burnout. Use this list to take an inventory. Consider what is realistic for you. And think about options to help manage the load: Friends, family, community programs, paid help.

Explaining your needs to others

Explaining your needs to others

Are you worried that asking for help sounds like whining? You may believe you “should” be able to do it all without assistance. Or think you are “just” doing what any good or loving daughter (or son, or spouse) would do. Like many caregivers focused on family harmony, you may have become used to minimizing…

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Medical management without dialysis

Medical management without dialysis

Dialysis typically buys a person some time. But it rules their life—and possibly yours. It requires strict adherence to the schedule. Also, severe food restrictions. Your relative’s energy level will fluctuate. That makes planning for other activities difficult. There is an increased chance of infection because of the access port for dialysis. And there are side effects: Itchy skin, trouble sleeping, headaches, and dizziness. Cramps, nausea, weight loss, and fragile bones are not uncommon.

Giving “awesome” new meaning

Giving "awesome" new meaning

It turns out that feelings of amazement, marvel, and wonder are beneficial emotionally AND physically. Exposing yourself to an awe-inspiring experience twice a week can replenish your well and increase feelings of connection. Learn more about the science of awe and what you can do to bring it more regularly into your life. Check out our blog for family caregivers.

Signs of financial abuse

Signs of financial abuse

Older adults are frequently targeted for financial abuse. They typically have more funds than their younger counterparts do. They tend to be generous and naïve, not understanding all the ways they can be scammed. Some have memory and thinking problems. And even if they do realize they’ve been “taken,” they may be too ashamed or…

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Seeds of family resilience: Focus on rewards

Research on stress often involves family caregivers. No matter how much you love the person you care for, taking care of an ailing relative can be stressful! To offset the stress, consider the power of positive thinking. Studies show that people who “seed their lives” with moments of positive emotions are more resilient in the…

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How to get durable power of attorney

There may come a time when your loved one will need help handling financial matters. Maybe filing taxes. Or interacting with Social Security. Or signing a contract to move into a new residence. If your relative is unable to do these things because of illness or problems with dementia, you will need to show a…

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Transitioning from curative care

At some point, the burdens of treatment may just become too much for your loved one: The nausea of chemo. The rigors of dialysis. Wearying trips to the ER. Perhaps the person you care for is already having these thoughts, to let nature take its course and stop fighting for health that stubbornly eludes them….

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Managing arthritis pain

The most common arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs most often in the hands, knees, hips, lower back, neck, and feet. It affects roughly half of those age 65 and over. With osteoarthritis, the smooth layer of cartilage between the bones in the joints deteriorates, causing bone to scrape directly on bone. Ouch! If your loved…

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Should you take over Mom’s checkbook?

Money matters are often intensely private. And no one wants to infringe on a family member’s independence. Yet it is through (sometimes expensive) financial mishaps that you may learn of changes in your parent’s memory and thinking. Signs of a problem Diseases that affect memory also tend to impair arithmetic skills and reasoning. That’s why…

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Dementia dogs

Dog training organizations are looking toward a new challenge: Training highly skilled “dementia dogs.” These dogs are individually trained to meet the needs of persons with memory loss problems. They provide safety and companionship. They also relieve the anxiety of family caregivers. To support a person with dementia, dogs are trained to help with memory…

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Time for smart monitoring?

From sensors and cameras to remote alarm systems, today’s marketplace offers a plethora of technology to help older adults safely age in place. Those devices with monitoring features are particularly useful if your loved one lives on their own, whether near to you or far away. Indeed, many apps and devices can help you stay…

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Coping with vision loss

It’s common for those newly diagnosed with a vision-loss condition to feel anxious and depressed. Understandably so! They worry about losing their independence. Also, that they will need help with many activities of life. This in turn suggests a loss of privacy. Many newly diagnosed persons report a sudden lack of confidence and feelings of…

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What is “cremation authorization”?

With National Healthcare Decisions Day coming up on April 16, it’s good to review who your loved one has chosen as their healthcare power of attorney (sometimes called a “proxy” or “agent”). This is who will make decisions for them when they are no longer able to do so themselves. Often this occurs in end-of-life…

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Is Dad taking his meds “as directed?”

Did you know that nearly half of adults taking prescription medications for a chronic condition make errors in taking their meds? The most common problem areas: Memory. Forgetting to take a medication Organization. Failing to order a refill in time and running out Convenience. Being away from home and missing dose(s) Side effects. Experiencing unpleasant reactions…

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How to read an Explanation of Benefits

Before your loved one pays a medical bill, wait for the insurance’s Explanation of Benefits (from Medicare, this is called a “Medicare Summary Notice”). This document indicates what services were billed by which providers for what days. It is an important summary to help you catch errors, duplicates or, sadly, even identity theft or fraud….

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Maximizing your resources

When we think of “resources,” as family caregivers we might think of money. Or time. But there is another resource we’re using every day that is often overlooked: Emotional energy. Our emotions and mood contribute mightily to our ability to deal with challenges. When circumstances are difficult, it’s hard to generate enthusiasm or initiate projects….

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When kidneys fail: Dialysis?

If the person you care for has chronic or advanced kidney disease, dialysis will come up as a treatment option. This procedure mimics the cleansing function of the kidneys. It mechanically “rinses” the blood to take out toxins. Dialysis is not a cure for kidney disease. But it does buy some time. People often live…

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When high blood pressure goes untreated

Don’t confuse a lack of symptoms with a lack of risk. A person with high blood pressure usually feels “just fine.” And that makes it easy to also feel unconcerned. Your loved one may not be motivated to treat high blood pressure. Or may want to stop taking medications because they don’t notice any difference….

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Dementia communication: Speaking

Nearly every type of dementia compromises the ability to process language. It’s harder for the affected person to grasp words, to comprehend their meaning, and to track what’s being said. Communication with your family member may seem a frustrating struggle. Still, aim for interactions that maintain a positive relationship. Your emotional tone is key: Pay…

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Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a very common condition affecting the retina of the eye. It causes blurry vision and dark spots in the center of the visual field. This makes it challenging to read, drive, and recognize faces. Although AMD typically gets worse over time, it does not lead to total blindness. It is,…

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“For better or for worse …”

Are you supporting a relative who is also a caregiving spouse? Many long-lived couples see it as both a duty and a privilege to walk that last mile with their partner, fulfilling vows of “for better or for worse.” That does not mean the journey is easy. Caregiving partners often experience physical challenges as they…

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Keeping blood pressure in check

Only 24% of people with high blood pressure have it under control. The remaining 76% are at very high risk for death or disability through heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. In fact, in 2018 high blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing factor in nearly a half million deaths. With COVID-19, high…

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A robo-pet for companionship?

There is no doubt that seniors are suffering emotionally, and physically, from the social isolation of the pandemic. Those with dementia have been especially hard hit. Even elders who live on their own with no memory problems are struggling with loneliness, depression, and anxiety. How is your loved one doing emotionally? Want to introduce a…

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Slowing the progression of glaucoma

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among older adults. It causes pressure in the eyeball to build up to a point that the optic nerve is damaged. There is no cure or repair. That’s a grim reality if your loved one has been diagnosed with this disease. Fortunately, glaucoma’s progression can be slowed and…

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Problems with hygiene

It’s not uncommon for a holiday visit to reveal that things with mom or dad are newly amiss, particularly in the area of personal grooming. Maybe mom has always been fastidious about her appearance, and now she’s disheveled. Or dad didn’t change clothes the entire time you were there, and maybe even had a strong…

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Repairing identity theft

It’s a fact that scam artists prey on older adults. Scammers steal identifying information and use it to obtain cash, make purchases, or open new credit card accounts. If your relative’s identity has been stolen, take action quickly. But be methodical! Keep track of every report you make. Log every call. Send any documents by…

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Montessori for people with dementia

Caring for a loved one with moderate-to-advanced dementia often leads to bewilderment. And sadness. Perhaps your relative seems withdrawn. Or is fidgety, pacing, or wandering. They may seem to recede each day. How can you connect with them now? How can you keep them engaged? Experts in dementia care are culling tips from pioneering educator…

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Add a dose of laughter to your life

Don’t you just somehow feel better when you laugh? It turns out, that’s not just fantasy. Laughter has physical benefits at the cellular level. Research consistently demonstrates that a good belly laugh engages many different systems in the body. And laughter delivers emotional health benefits as well. Studies show that laughter supports the heart. If…

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Leaving a legacy with StoryCorps

The desire to leave a legacy calls strongly to many older adults. Perhaps this is of interest to an elder in your family. A legacy does not have to be financial in nature. One way to leave a legacy is to record a personal story and bequeath its insight to future generations. StoryCorps, a project…

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“Should we delay that procedure?”

Should your loved one go ahead with cataract surgery? What about a hip replacement? Dental work? A cardiac stress test? In light of COVID, other health issues seem to pale. But putting off treatment or tests can result in tough consequences down the line. How do you know which procedures are worth the risk? Consider…

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What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer.” This is because it is dangerous but has few outward symptoms. As the heart pumps, it pushes blood through the blood vessels, creating pressure on the artery walls. High blood pressure means that your heart is having to work extra hard to get the basics of…

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Dementia and communication: Listening

People with Alzheimer’s or other memory loss conditions often have trouble expressing themselves, sometimes right from the start of the disease. This can easily lead to confusion and frustration for both of you. Your willingness to exercise patience is key to successful communication: Patience and calm, over and over and over again. This is hard!…

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Video chatting for the “tech challenged”

Many older adults are embracing technology to stay connected with family and friends during the pandemic. Although some popular technologies—Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype—are relatively simple, they still require a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Plus some tech savvy. Your loved one may be challenged to learn new skills because of memory issues. Or perhaps arthritis or…

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“Should we bring Dad home?”

In the context of COVID, many families are wondering if an older relative would be better off moving out of their assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing facility. It’s not an easy question to answer. The advantages of facility living. Facilities have staff on site 24/7 to assist with residents’ needs. They can provide…

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Health risks of Korean War vets

Close to 2 million American soldiers fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. More than half of those who served in what is often called the “Forgotten War” are still alive. Most of these soldiers were born during the 1920s and 1930s. They are now in their 80s and 90s, with some cresting…

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Constructive criticism: When to speak up

Caring for a family member often involves collaborating with other relatives. Sometimes you will agree. Sometimes you won’t. Debating every item may not be the best use of family time. In some situations, the wisest course is to be quiet and let others do it their way. That said, there are times when you should…

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Would having a dog help? A fish?

Increasingly, research shows that older adults can benefit in myriad ways from the companionship of an animal. Physical health benefits Pets seem to help us stay calm in the midst of stress: Reduced blood pressure and heart rate. Some research shows improvement even when the “pet” is fish swimming in an aquarium! Strengthened immune system….

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When you can’t hold a funeral

Between travel concerns and restrictions on group gatherings, holding a traditional funeral can be challenging. Many families are turning to “virtual funerals” using video conferencing programs, such as Zoom. About 20% of funeral homes offer virtual services. And there are online companies that specialize in funerals. They assist with everything from sending out invitations and…

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Supporting a person with arthritis

Arthritis is a difficult condition to understand as an onlooker. The pain is invisible and unpredictable. Some days are good. Other days are not. Arthritis challenges the affected person’s ability to accomplish the basics—simple tasks, such as opening jars or walking up stairs. Such disability can generate feelings of frustration and low self-worth. The chronic…

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What is palliative care?

Life with a serious illness is not all dreary and glum. The condition and its symptoms can certainly take over. But daily life continues. And patients are more than their disease. Like everyone, they need to eat, walk, talk with friends and family, and enjoy pleasant activities. Palliative care is an extra layer of support. Its…

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