Our new "First Grandma" Marian Robinson

As the Obama's prepare to move into the White House, we have learned that Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, will be joining them.  Mrs. Robinson, age 71, finally retired from her job at a bank, to help with granddaughters Sasha and Malia during the presidential campaign.

As Caregivers know, juggling the needs of careers and children, along with senior care, can be daunting.  And likewise, running for president while raising young children also brings unique demands.  Fortunately for the Obamas, Grandma was willing to help out.

Healthy aging requires not only taking care of physical health with proper diet and exercise, but also staying socially and mentally engaged.  Marian Robinson provides a very positive role model for healthy aging - she kept on working beyond the typical retirement age and by staying involved with her family she now has a new job as "First Grandma" in the White House.  She won't be staying in Chicago where she would have less of a chance to interact with her daughter and granddaughters.

One of the biggest challenges for seniors besides health care, is isolation.  As people move around the country to follow careers, many times parents are left without any children who live near them.  It is very important for seniors to stay involved in weekly activities where they interact with others, especially if no family lives close by.

My own Grandparents lived just up the road from us, on the family farm.  The bus stop was a half mile from our house (it really was, I am not exaggerating), and we were dropped off at the bus stop each morning since the bus arrived really early as we were the first stop.  However, after school we had to walk home.  It wasn't a big deal because we just stopped in at Grandma's house on the way, where she always had a snack for us and she and Grandpa were ready to ask us about our day and provide their commentary (and teasing) on all.  It served my brothers and sister and me and our Grandparents well to spend the time together.

I read that Michelle Obama took two buses and a train to get to her high-school each day, so her commute out did mine, and clearly her mother and father did a lot of things right.  It is very cool that she continues to involve her Mother in raising her own children.  It will be nice for our country to have a "First Grandma" to bring the spotlight to a senior in the White House.

 

 

 

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Acupuncture Beneficial for Many Age-related Illnesses

Acupuncture originated in China more than 5,000 years ago and continues to be a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  The acupuncture points provide gateways to influence, redirect, increase, or decrease the body’s vital substances, qi (energy) & blood, to help correct many of the body’s imbalances.

You are probably thinking "ouch" but actually, the needles used for acupuncture are very thin and delicate.  You will not even feel most of them go in if you have a good practitioner.  And once the needles are in, you still won't feel them except for feeliing maybe extra pressure in that area for a moment.  On one of my visits for acupuncture, I started to get up, thinking all the needles were out.  The ones I could see were gone but there was still one in my forehead, which I didn't realize was still there.  It is a very relaxing experience and not at all painful.

I saw a presentation on senior care in China recently and it was noted that most of their nursing homes offer acupuncture treatments for everything from stroke to memory loss to depression.  It is routinely provided as part of the senior's daily activities- grab breakfast and then show up for an acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture is beginning to be covered by more health insurance plans in the U.S. and offered in integrative medicine programs at hospitals and clinics.  In addition, more acupuncture research studies are being done to provide us westerners with the proof we seem to need before giving something new a try.  And much of this research is studying the benefits of acupuncture for age-related illnesses.  If it benefits the elderly in other countries, it can benefit the elderly in our country.

One national study showed half of 78 stroke patients receiving standard rehabilitative care, who also received acupuncture treatment recovered faster and to a greater extent, spending 88 days in a hospital or nursing home compared to 161 days for those without acupuncture treatment.  And guess what?  This saves dollars for insurance companies which is another reason acupuncture research is taking place and the reason there is a movement to incorporate it into health insurance plans.

I have found acupuncture to work amazingly well and to be the most cost-effective treatment for ailments.  I fell on my elbow a couple years ago and several months later still had a bump on my elbow along with shooting pain, at times, when my elbow hit something just wrong.  One acupuncture treatment later and the bump disappeared, along with the pain.  All for just $35 at my local college of oriental medicine.

As a caregiver, you may want to find out what acupuncture offerings are available in your area and if there are discounted pricing for seniors - the clinic near me does offer senior discounts.

 

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Look Good to Feel Good

The American Cancer Society provides a health tip to patients with terminal illnesses - take the time each day for personal care because research shows when you look good, you feel better.  I think we all have probably always known this as everyone feels a little better when they are dressed up and ready to head out to a party.

Doctors usually urge seniors to stay active and engaged each day and this is a reminder to Caregivers to make sure to assist loved ones and clients to shower daily, dress in clean clothes, put on makeup and style their hair.

It is also essential for seniors to get some form of exercise each day, as long as thier doctor approves.  If able, a special treat of a massage, manicure and pedicure also does wonders to make a person feel better.

Caregivers can even arrange for these services to be performed in the home if a senior is unable to go out.  Call your local salon or massage spa and ask for referrals to massage therapists and cosmetologists who visit the home - many do.

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World's Oldest Woman Dies at Age 115

The world's oldest woman, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, died on Friday, January  2nd, at the age of 115 years and 114 days. Maria de Jesus, of Portugal, died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  She started the day with breakfast and then went to the hospital for swelling, her daughter said (and she did not elaborate beyond that so the exact details for cause of death or unknown).

The Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles, tracks supercentenarians and verifies birth dates through birth certificates and other documents.  Now the oldest person status falls to American Gertrude Baines, a 114-year-old daughter of former slaves who still has a very good memory and is healthy except for arthritis in her left knee.  She was proud to vote for Barack Obama and lives in a nursing home in Los Angeles.

Researchers say that definitely for these seniors healthy aging is in their genes - they chose parents who also lived long lives.

It is kind of cool to think that living to be 100 is no longer all that big of an accomplishment.  However, this means savings must last longer, along with good health and presents new challenges for health care and government, primarily making sure we have enough caregivers and enough money for the aging population!

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A Caregiver

The number of people aged 65 and older who have moved from one state to another in the last decade has increased by 65%, accrording to a national survey by one of the leading long-term care insurance providers.  Retirement brings many choices for living options, from relocating to a warmer climate to moving to be closer to family.  At the same time, with many advancements in medical care and the availability of more medications to treat age-related ailments, we are living better longer.

As the new year begins, it is a good time to talk about what type of living situation your senior family members would like if their care needs change.  Medical emergencies can always arise and it is added peace of mind to already have had the conversation with your loved ones about where they would like to receive care.  Do they wish to have care provided in the home and do they want to move to assisted living?  My mother's parents were more progressive and made the move to downsize and sell their home and move to be near my Aunt as they began to experience more health problems.  This was a welcome move as they lived hours away from the nearest family member.  Especially if you do not live in the same city as your senior relatives, you should discuss the plan for care and make sure everyone understands the senior's wishes.

My Grandma ended up being a caregiver to my Grandfather, who suffered from memory loss, for several years and she set the example for the rest of us to plan ahead, and, to be there in sickness and in health.

Happy New Year!

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Caregiving Vitamins

Caregivers often monitor the medications of those they care for, and doctors typically prescribe vitamins to go along with the medications for seniors.  So what about making sure Caregivers are taking the right vitamins?

As more and more research has shown which vitamins are best for certain conditions, learning about the proper vitamin supplements at any age can lead to healthy aging.  Caregivers, especially, deal with lots of stress and proper nutrition, supplemented with vitamins, can be beneficial to avoiding a breakdown in the immune system.

Depending on your family history, you may want to find vitamin supplements for memory, bone and vision loss.  Talk to your doctor about what vitamin combination would be best for you based on the latest research.

One example is the results of a study from Johns Hopkins University which suggested that vitamins C and E taken together may slow down the progress of Alzheimer's disease.  While the study does not prove that vitamins C or E prevent Alzheimer's and more research would be needed to come to that conclusion, this is one of many studies which medical doctors use to guide their individual prescriptions for vitamins.

And, since Caregivers are already monitoring medications, it is easy to take their own vitamins at the same time.  Find out what vitamins are right for you as you take time to take care of the Caregiver!

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Gene Impacting Risk for High Blood Pressure Discovered

A gene that affects how the kidneys process salt may help determine a person's risk of high blood pressure, a discovery that could lead to better ways to treat the condition, researchers announced yesterday.  People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney disease.

Seniors with a common variant of the gene STK39 tend to have higher blood pressure levels and are more likely to develop full-blown high blood pressure, also called hypertension, University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found.

They identified the gene's role in high blood pressure susceptibility by analyzing the genes of 542 people in the insular Old Order Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The researchers confirmed the findings by looking at the genes of another group of Amish people as well as four other groups of white people in the United States and Europe.  About 20 percent of the people studied had either one or two copies of this particular variant, the researchers said.

The gene produces a protein involved in regulating the way the kidneys process salt in the body -- a key factor in determining blood pressure, the researchers said.  The findings could lead to the development of new high blood pressure drugs targeting the activity of STK39. Many factors are involved in high blood pressure such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking and too much salt in the diet.

The Lancaster Amish are seen as ideal for genetic research because they are a genetically homogenous people whose ancestry can be traced to a small group who arrived from Europe in the 1700s. In addition to genetic similarity, they also maintain similar lifestyles in their close-knit rural communities. 

And, it is also interesting to note that the Amish do not pay into Social Security as they also do not collect it because they take care of their seniors as part of their community - Mom and Dad live with their children or in a house next door to the children when they are unable to live on their own because of health issues.

NFL Begins to Help Former Players with Dementia

Frank DeFord reported on NPR this past week that former Baltimore Colts football star, John Mackey, suffers from dementia.  And, due to efforts by John Mackey's wife and other players and their wives, the NFL and the player's union have started the "88 Plan" (named after Mackey's old football number).  The 88 Plan assists players with dementia.

The NFL does not admit that perhaps head injuries in football and the helmuts that were worn back in the early days of the game, which were not as protective as today's helmuts, contributed to player's experiencing dementia, but at least they are willing to help now.

The NFL has also developed a comprehensive study of brain damage and dementia in players and the results will be revealed in 2010.

John Mackey's wife, Sylvia, also went back to work as a flight attendante when she was 56 to help make ends meet while caring for John, and to get the benefit of health insurance.  Finally, she had to place John in a nursing home to provide for his care.  Caregivers have even more challenges when caring for a physically large person, and former football players fit into this category.  And, when dementia starts when someone is younger, the challenge of financially providing for care is also presented as often they continue to be healthy physically.

The "88 Plan" has now been written into the NFL's labor agreement and provides up to $88,000 a year for nursing care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or $50,000 for home care.  This will help both former football players who suffer dementia as part of aging and those who are not yet elderly.

Let's hope the NFL's move to provide for their employees who develop dementia will also spread to other industries to prevent financial devastation to families when memory loss develops - and remember that long-term care insurance, which can be purchased privately, also helps pay for these care costs.

And, cheers to Sylvia Mackey for successfully advocating for change in NFL benefits.

 

 

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Quality Hiring Practices for Caregivers

Professionally hired Caregivers have a few advantages over those who do not work for a quality licensed Senior Home Care Agency or senior living community.  And, so do the seniors who they serve.

As corporations carry insurance coverage for liability and provide a Fidelity Bond, they are required to follow certain procedures for hiring.  In addition, in order to provide quality care and maintain a dependable staff, they have implemented hiring practices which screen Caregivers for dependability, skills and trustworthiness.  Many systems must be in place to properly screen a Caregiver for hiring purposes and to actively manage a Caregiver to provide them with all the resources they need to deliver quality senior care.

Did you see the movie "Catch Me if You Can"?  Frank Abagnale is the star of the movie and a con-artist who poses as an airline pilot and medical doctor, to name just a couple of his disguises, to successfully steal from companies and individuals.  Frank served his time in prison and now advises companies and is hired to train the FBI on how to avoid scam artists.  Frank has also written a book called "The Art of the Steal" to advise companies and individuals on how to protect themselves.  (Tom Hanks acted in the movie and provides a testimonial for reading the book saying anyone with money in their pocket or in the bank should read it).  My business banker actually gave me a copy of the book and I have found it to be fascinating reading.

Caregiverlist promotes the need for professional background checks to be conducted on all Caregivers.  In addition, we provide information on background check laws in each state and try to educate consumers about the need for a multi-state criminal background check - - - many of the nanny websites and direct-hire caregiving websites that provide background checks simply do not provide multi-state criminal background checks - they just provide the good ol' social security name match and many of those are not even complete to include addresses where the person has lived, going back for at least 7 years.  I won't name names but if the background check is free, ask questions and click fast to another website that explains the depth of their background checks and discloses the costs.  That is especially true when you are hiring a Caregiver to come behind closed doors to assist your family.  You need to know who you are bringing into your home and who will have access to the senior's personal information.

Frank Abagnale's book provides solid information about hiring employees and putting controls in place to prevent improper conduct.  After owning a senior home care agency and hiring more than 1,000 Caregivers during that time, I agree that proper systems are necessary so that even an honest person is not tempted.  Caregiving is stressful and when a comfort level is developed with a client relationship, if proper systems are not in place, opportunities for taking advantage are presented.  Caregivers for seniors also need to be protected from false accusations by seniors with memory loss who can become paranoid.

Frank's book also mentions a study which found that 10 percent of employees would steal all of the time if given an easy enough opportunity, another 10 percent would never steal and 80 percent would steal if given the right motive.  That means companies must be concerned about 90 percent of their workforce and have systems in place which prevent the opportunity for theft from being offered.

This is why, especially with senior care in the home, a professional senior home care agency provides great value.  Senior home care agencies have created hiring procedures which keep people with dubious backgrounds out of their companies and they know how to do quality background checks and how to go beyond background checks with reference checks and interview questions which enable them to only hire trustworthy caregivers.  And, they coach clients and set-up controls so that invitations for theft and other improprietary activities cannot take place.  They supervise the caregivers and check-in on the client and caregiver to keep the care on track.  Career caregivers working for professional agencies receive benefits and want to maintain their employment and in my experience, will call immediately to report even activities by  a senior's family members which may not seem appropriate.  They also want proper system in place.  Senior Home Care Agencies, for instance, require Caregivers to call for approval before accepting any client gifts, even at the holidays, just to name one of the policies which protect both the client and the caregiver.

You may learn more about background checks on Caregiverlist.com and find the laws for background checks in your state which may over-ride the FCRA when senior care or child care is being provided.

 

 

 

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Peter Falk's Daughter Says He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Those of us who are old enough to remember the television detective series "Columbo", know the beloved actor Peter Falk, 81-years-old, who played Columbo.  Others may remember him as the Grandfather who narrates the story of "The Princess Bride" movie to his grandson. 

Catherine Falk is seeking a court's approval for a conservatorship of her father, who she claims no longer recognizes people. A hearing has been scheduled for late January.

Falk won four Emmys in his role as Columbo.  He was also nominated twice for Academy Awards for movie roles in 1959 and 1960.

The petition filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court states Falk lives in Beverly Hills with his wife and recently had hip surgery and requires constant care.  Earlier this year, there were incidents where Falk spoke or acted out of the ordinary and now this diagnosis explains it.  It is also reported that he requires full-time caregiving services at this time.  It is always more difficult for the family when care issues are not already decided prior to the development of memory loss.  Perhaps his daughter will be able to quickly reach court approval for his proper care needs.  However, the actor is married so there may be other issues to resolve.  This is a reminder to all of us to set-up a trust which will dictate our caregiving and financial arrangements should we be unable to manage them on our own.
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