Leeza Gibbons Invests in Senior Helpers

Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy Award winner and a longtime champion for Alzheimer's care. After losing both her mother and grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease, she began her campaign to spotlight memory disease and help families and caregivers find the tools and information they need to best support those in their care.

Now Ms. Gibbons and her husband have decided to invest in and become franchise owners of one of the nation's largest in-home senior care companies, Senior Helpers.

Choosing a senior caregiver is, as she puts it, “a delicate decision” because they become like family. There is a great deal of trust that is placed in the hands of those caring for the elderly, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Senior Helpers provides trusted and dependable care and encouragement to seniors and families facing devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Leeza Gibbons on the Senior Helpers website. “This is the precise type of care I wish my family and I had when my mother and grandmother were suffering from Alzheimer’s. That is why I am proud to invest in Senior Helpers franchised business, to ensure that the best in-home care is available to support, empower and uplift seniors and their families.”

Many senior care agency owners began their careers caring for senior loved ones. Seth Zamek Owner, Senior Helpers, Fort Mill, SC and one of our Senior Home Care Agency Experts decided to start his business in senior home care after both he and his wife and were caregivers for his mother-in-law during her battle with cancer, Caregiverlist’s own founder and CEO, Julie Northcutt, owned a senior care agency prior to establishing Caregiverlist.com

“This is just an opportunity that’s getting bigger and bigger,” says Ms. Gibbons. “It’s here and we all have to get on board and figure out how to deal with it.

Ms. Gibbons is also seeking to  convert a landmark home in Lexington County, South Carolina into a caregiver assistance facility. With area philanthropist Michael Mungo, Ms. Gibbons is planning to provide a center aiding people caring for others with major diseases and wants the center to offer free services for those coping with the stress of caring for someone with chronic or terminal illness.

More information about Ms. Gibbons and her decision is in this Entrepreneur article.

Caregiver Minimum Wage, Overtime Delayed

Home care workers who were looking to receive minimum wage and overtime protection may have to wait a little longer, as the Obama administration announced Tuesday that  it would delay enforcing the rule for the nation’s two million personal-care aides, home-health aides, and certified nursing assistants.

The rule is effective as of Jan. 1, 2015, but the Labor Department won't enforce it until June 30, 2015. After that and until December 31, 2015, it will be at the discretion of the department to take action against employers who don’t show a good will effort to implement reforms. The rule states that home-care workers would have to receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week.

Some senior home care agencies, along with Medicaid officials among others, have put pressure on the feds to delay minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers, concerned that higher wages would translate into higher costs for the care recipient. The fear is that if home care costs increase, seniors and the disabled might be forced into institutional (nursing home) care. They also predict that smaller companies will be forced to hire workers part-time rather than full-time because of costs, in effect, causing wage loss among home caregivers.

Nonsense, say home caregiver advocates. Some states such as California and New York have already begun to implement changes, and they have the nation’s two largest Medicaid home programs. Twenty two states extend minimum wage to at least some in-home care workers, and 12 states have a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Many home care agencies pay more than minimum wage, as well as overtime to its workers, even if it means seeing a smaller profit margin than their competitors who don’t. Those home care agencies believe that paying a higher wage results in a more professional and better trained workforce.

Home care workers have been excluded from protection since 1974, when the Department of Labor extended minimum-wage, overtime-pay to workers who perform "domestic service." At that time, caregivers for the elderly were, in the eyes of the law, providing “companionship services” and thus exempt from the wage protection — just like babysitters. Of course, as the population has aged, home care workers provide much more than simple companionship. The field has evolved to include other types of duties such as providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These duties can include tube feeding, physical therapy, taking the correct medication and getting cleaned and dressed.

Senior caregivers are quite different from childcare workers, but the minimum wage affects both equally. Have you seen this Kristen Bell Mary Poppins parody? She doesn’t get those birds for free!


Caregiverlist believes that home care workers help the elderly age in place, at home, which is where most seniors prefer to age. We think that all senior caregivers deserve to be paid a fair living wage.

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Best (and Worst) Places to Grow Old

How do you envision growing old? I dream of living in a lake (or oceanside) house, growing my own food, within walking distance of a town with a vibrant cultural community, with family or friends nearby who I can count on if I’m in trouble. I am near transportation that allows me quick travel to a world-class city like New York, Chicago, Paris, London, Tokyo (or a myriad of others around the world—and if we’re dreaming, I also have a flat there) and access to an airport for occasional national and international travel.

For that dream to come true, I will need a few things. First, I will need an enabling environment. That means the place in which I live should have socioeconomic and political policies and programs in place to help me age with safety and dignity, and give me access to the best resources I need to age well.

I’d like to surround myself with vital members of the community, the educated (and, dare I say, employed.)

I will need some money, of course. The society in which I live should provide a little bit of a financial net. Some call it a pension, in the U.S. we call it Social Security.

Finally, you have nothing if you don’t have your health. The ideal spot to grow old will give me access to a clean environment and good medical care. Life expectancy should be high and I should live those years in good health and feel that my life has meaning.

How does one find such a spot?

HelpAge International's Global AgeWatch Index brings together data on health, income security, employment and education, social connections, safety and transportation into one number and ranks countries from 1 to 96 (with 1 ranking highest). The index represents nine out of ten people over 60 years old, all across the world.

Norway tops the list of overall global rankings. It earns first place in both income security and capability (employment and education). It comes in at number 4 in the enabling environment domain (social connections, safety, civic freedom, and transportation)—Switzerland wins here, and 16th in Health Status (Japan takes the number 1 spot.)

Overall, the U.S. ranks 8th, behind (in order), the aforementioned Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Iceland. Better in some measures than others, I was surprised to learn that we as a nation rank 25th in Health Status, just behind Malta.

The worst places to grow old, according to the index are Afghanistan (96), Mozambique (95), West Bank and Gaza (94) and Malawi (93). But all around the world, life expectancy is on the rise.

The entire index is a fascinating interactive website with more data points than I can list. In addition to rankings by geographic area, the report includes emerging pension policies to help create basic regular income for the poorest of populations. Peru, Mexico, and Tanzania are among the countries highlighted for their new non-contributory “social pensions” as safety nets.

In a statement released by Help Age International, Professor Sir Richard Jolly, advisor to the Index as well as architect of the UNDP Human Development Index said, “People do not stop developing when they reach sixty or seventy or eighty. Our older years should be as much a time to expand our horizons as our earlier years.”

If you want to make a difference and make your aging voice heard, join Help Age International’s campaign Age Demands Action that is calling for a UN convention to protect older people's rights by law.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

No one is immune to breast cancer—it is an equal opportunity disease. However, we know that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and women between the ages of 75 and 79 have the highest incidence rate. The chance that a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for a woman in her thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties. The good news is that the death rate for breast cancer in women has decreased since 1990. This is due primarily to early detection and treatment.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to create an Early Detection Plan. The National Breast Cancer foundation has created and made available an application to receive reminders to do breast self-exams, and schedule mammograms based on your age and health history.

The Mayo Clinic lists these primary risk factors:

  • Age
  • Chest radiation as a child
  • Menstruation before the age of 12
  • Adolescent weight gain
  • No pregnancy or late pregnancy (after 30)
  • Lengthy use of oral contraceptives
  • Post-menopausal weight gain
  • Late menopause (after age of 50)
  • Increased breast tissue density

I had my own breast cancer scare a few years back. My annual screening mammogram showed an abnormality, so I was scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram. That was the longest week of my life. At the time, I had two small children and was beyond worried. I also had a lot of questions. I went to the website BeyondTheShock for answers and to prepare myself for my possible journey. What I found there was an incredible community full of support. Luckily for me and my family, my lesion was benign and there was no cancer. But the survivor stores I found at BeyondTheSchock, had I not been so lucky, would have been an inspiration.

When detected and treated early enough, your chances of surviving breast cancer are better than ever. Do it today. Make an appointment for that all-important screening, especially if you are a woman over 40. Remember, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but when breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 98%.

Caregiverlist wants to remind seniors and senior caregivers alike to use National Breast Cancer Awareness month as a reminder to schedule your annual mammogram.

Justice Department Launches Elder Justice Website

Elder abuse can take many forms. Caregiverlist’s own basic caregiver training helps caregivers recognize abuse and neglect, and learn the legal requirements for reporting physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a racket that takes in nearly $3 billion dollars every year and that figure rises annually. Because seniors are especially susceptible to scams and frauds, the the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently launched the Elder Justice website.

At an outreach event earlier this week, Associate Attorney General Tony West stated, “The launch of the Elder Justice website today marks another milestone in reaching our shared goal of keeping older Americans safe from abuse and neglect.” He added, “The more we embrace our elders with respect and care, the stronger our society will be. This tool helps move us closer to that goal.”

The Elder Justice website will serve as a resource victims of elder abuse and their families, who often feel alone, embarrassed, and unsure of where to turn for help. Prosecutors, researchers, and professional practitioners who work with elder abuse will find a forum to share information and resources to fight elder abuse, scams, and financial exploitation in an effort to support older adults.

Nearly one in every 10 Americans over age 60 experience abuse and neglect, and those with dementia are at higher risk for abuse. Most (51%) of elderly fraud is perpetrated by strangers, although abuse by family, friends, and neighbors comes in second at 34%. Elder mistreatment by a known individual is especially prevalent because seniors are vulnerable and trusting in relationships with their families and caregivers.

There are two steps the DOJ along with the Department of Health and Human Services suggest communities, families, and individuals take in combating the epidemic of senior abuse:

  • Learn the signs of elder abuse. Take a look at the Red Flags of Abuse Factsheet, provided by the National Center on Elder Abuse, that lists the signs of and risk factors for abuse and neglect.
  • Report suspected abuse when you see it. Contact your local adult protective services agency. And, of course, make use of the new Elder Justice website.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

Alive Inside: Music Triggers Memories

Every year, I look forward to fall movie season—comedies, crazy horror movies (looking at you, Tusk,) big blockbusters, and sweet, small romantic dramas—I don’t have a favorite genre. As long as its well written and well acted, I’m in.

I’m also a nut for music, and the two are combined with great effect in the documentary, Alive Inside. Great documentaries not only entertain, but by their very nature, teach us something we didn’t know before or gives us a deeper understanding of a subject. Documentary filmmakers are rarely in it for the money, so you know that telling their story is a labor of love.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the organization Music & Memory, a nonprofit that uses music to trigger memory and emotion to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the film showed music’s capability of reawakening the mind and soul of the listener, restoring an individual’s sense of self, especially when that person is battling memory loss.

It’s been chronicled that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel emotion long after memory has faded. Alive Inside shows nursing home patients respond to the music they enjoyed in their youth.

Just as “Radar Love” takes me back to cruising the streets of Chicago in my first car (a 1970 Nova), Henry reacts to the big band music played through an iPod and headphones. The 94-year-old man suffers from dementia and initially seems cut off from the outside world. We watch as he listens. The transformation is immediate and profound. Henry sits up, sways to the music, and starts raving about how much he loves Cab Calloway. He responds to questions and suddenly he is full of energy and life.

The movie is full of those kind of examples. Mr. Rossato-Bennett spent three years watching and recording the effects of music therapy. At its best, the movie let’s us see the transformation of memory loss patients from isolated to reconnected—all through the power of music.

The documentary also contains interviews with experts including renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who discusses links between music and emotion and the strength of musical memories. Musician Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry, Be Happy) also weighs in on the power of music as a trigger of emotional memory.


Caregiverlist supports the family and professional caregiver and understands the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss. We think music therapy is a great technique for connecting with those with Alzheimer's disease.

And if you are looking for a a little escapist fun in theaters this fall, Irma la Douce and Captain von Trapp (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) are living it up in Elsa & Fred, an American remake of a 2005 Spanish-Argentine film of the same name.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

Caregivers Need Care Too: World Alzheimer's Day

World Alzheimer’s Day was observed on September 21, 2014. Because of the nature of the disease, caregiving for a person with such a degenerative memory condition can be especially taxing.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias – care valued at $220.2 billion. Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own, due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving. This doesn’t even take into account lost employment income and the out-of-pocket costs associated with in-home care. A recent study showed that 54% of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias had to go
in late, leave early, or take time off and 7% had to turn down a promotion due to the demands of caregiving.

Family caregivers are often reluctant to reach out for help. Middle-stage caregiving lasts longest and this is where most family caregiving occurs. The person living with Alzheimer’s doesn’t yet need the extensive (and expensive) care that late-stage Alzheimer’s demands, so often a spouse, child, or other family member provides the needed care. At this stage, the person with Alzheimer’s may have a more difficult time expressing their thoughts and may anger easily. They have an increased need for help as their independence decreases. Caregivers need patience and flexibility, but it’s important to realize that providing this level of care bring with it a higher level of caregiver stress and burnout.

You know how, on an airplane, the flight attendant will instruct passengers to, in case of emergency, place an oxygen mask on themselves before helping others? Same thing goes for family caregiving, especially when caring for those with AD or dementia. What starts out as a labor of love often turns into feelings of resentment, isolation, depression, and the physical problems (such as hypertension and coronary heart disease) associated with chronic stress.

Caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are prevalent and may counterac the caregiver’s original intent to keep the care recipient at home. For example, when caregivers report being stressed because of the impaired person’s behaviors, it increases the chance that they will place that person in a nursing home.

There are, however, several interventions that are proven to help the family caregiver.

Work with a Professional
A Geriatric Care Manager can help assess the needs of someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia and provide information, referral, and help with care coordination. They can be a strong advocate for the family caregiver.

Get Counseling
Professionals can help resolve conflicts between caregiver and care recipient and help the caregiver work through emotional overload.

Find Support Groups
Online and offline, it is important to know you are not alone in your caregiving, and that the emotions you are feeling—as well as the physical challenges you experience are experienced by others as well.

Get Respite Help
Ask for help, hire help, demand help. Reach out before you burn out. Just because you don’t do it alone doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Much-needed breaks will make you a better caregiver.

Make Nutrition and Exercise a Priority
Many caregivers say they simply don’t have the time to care for themselves. If you aren’t healthy and strong, you can’t take care of anyone else. Lead your care recipient by example. Eat well and schedule exercise breaks.

September and October see Walk(s) to End Alzheimer’s all over the country. There may still be available dates in your area. See if you can start or join a team and see just how strong the caring community is.

And check back with this blog in November, which is not only National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, but also National Caregiver Month.

Daughters More Likely to Care for Aging Parents

“When am I coming to live with you?” she asks almost every time I see her. My elderly mother lives alone and as days pass, it’s becoming apparent that she will soon need more help with her activities of daily living. She refuses to think of moving to assisted living and doesn’t want a “stranger” or a professional caregiver in her home. But a high second floor, and its myriad of stairs, is not elder-friendly. When I ask if she’d entertain the thought of living with my brother, in his one-story house, she looks at me as if I’d grown horns. No, she tells me, I’m the only one she would live with because, after all, I’m her daughter.

A recent study presented at the American Sociological Association's 109th Annual Meeting shows that female siblings are more likely to provide the lion’s share of elder caregiving in the family.

Study author Angelina Grigoryeva, doctoral candidate at Princeton University's Office of Population Research, analyzed data from the 2004 Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) survey of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50. The detailed questionnaire asked older Americans which tasks they need help completing, who helps them, and the length of time each person administered help.

The study showed that daughters average 12.3 hours of senior care each month, while sons provide only 5.3 hours.

"In other words," says Ms. Grigoryeva, "daughters spend twice as much time, or almost 7 more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons." And it doesn’t matter if the daughters have their own children to care for, or have employment outside the home. According to Ms. Grigoryeva, daughters provide as much (care) as they can with given constraints, but sons provide less (care) regardless of constraints.

This finding is significant in many ways. First, it shows that while gender equality may be making strides in the workforce and with childcare, inequality is alive and well when it comes to eldercare. And because of the time demands of senior care, woman can suffer in their career opportunities and earnings. Caregivers endure financial burdens, as many caregiving costs are paid for out-of-pocket.

Caregiver health can suffer as well, due to caregiver stress. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, caregivers struggle finding time for themselves, managing physical and emotional stress, and balancing family and work obligations. The stress has also been shown to result in a higher mortality rate.

So what’s the answer? How do we begin to change the societal view of women as primary caregivers? While sons tend to provide care in the way of physical activities, such as home maintenance, daughters are relied upon to provide emotional and more personal care. What can we do to make the level of care provided more equitable between siblings?

Where is Masterchef for Seniors?

I love MasterChef. And Iron Chef. And just about any show that features competitive cooking.

If you didn’t see Monday’s MasterChef finale, I’ll stay clear of spoilers, but one of the final contestants, Leslie Gilliams, was complimented by Gordon Ramsay for disproving the adage “cooking is a young man’s game.” Mr. Gilliams is 56.

Seniors are an anomaly on MasterChef. The oldest contestant, Sue Drummond, was 61 when she competed on MasterChef New Zealand. Kumar Pereira was MasterChef Australia’s oldest ever Top 24 contestant at 62.

While a small number of contestants were a bit older, the food they presented was not necessarily food that should be served to older adults.

As we age, it’s harder for our bodies to fight off the germs and bacteria found in raw or undercooked food. Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria can grow to high levels in some of the “healthiest” and tastiest dishes. Some of the MasterChef dishes that are not necessarily elderly-approved included:

  • Ceviche: a seafood dish especially popular in South and Central America. The raw fish is “cooked” by curing it in citrus juices such as lemon or lime.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs: these are found in Hollandaise sauce, homemade Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu.
  • Raw meat: like carpaccio (thin shavings of raw beef fillet) and steak tartare.
  • Raw fish: shellfish, such as oysters, mussels and clams, and raw fin fish, like sushi and sashimi.
  • Soft cheeses: cheeses like feta, Brie, or Camembert (my favorite!) can be breeding grounds for bacteria.

Senior caregivers need to be especially careful when preparing meals for the elderly. Yes, the food needs to be palatable, look appealing, and be nutritious, but meals should be safe, first and foremost.

If you are a caregiver who subscribes to Caregiverlist’s newsletter, The Caregiver’s Gist,  you know we provide a delicious, nutritious recipe—safe for seniors.

We’d also love to hear from you caregivers. Do you have a special recipe that your senior client or loved one especially enjoys? Send it to me at renata@caregiverlist.com. I promise to try them all and report back on my favorites. Who knows? Maybe your recipe will make it into an online Caregiverlist safe-for-seniors cookbook.

And I’d like to challenge the MasterChef franchise. Your MasterChef Junior, the kids version of MasterChef, was incredibly popular. So popular in fact, that MasterChef Junior returns for Season 2 on Friday, Nov. 7.  Come on, Chef Ramsay, how about a MasterChef Senior?

Occupational Therapy's Role in Fall Prevention

Falls—they’re not just for seniors. However, whereas my recent tumble after meeting with a Chicago pothole resulted in some scrapes, bruises, and a banged-up ankle, injuries from falls for the elderly can be much more dire.

Have a nice trip, see you next fall!

September 23 marks the first day of fall in 2014, and it’s also the 6th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). This year's theme is Strong Today, Falls Free Tomorrow, and seeks to unite professionals, caregivers, and older adults in raising awareness and preventing falls proactively.

We at Caregiverlist have written a lot about falls and fall prevention over the years, and there’s good reason for that. Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death—over 21,700 older Americans die annually from injuries related to unintentional falls. By 2020, the annual cost of fall injuries (direct and indirect) is expected to reach $67.7 billion, according to the CDC. Those senior who survive falls can face long post-hospital nursing home rehabilitation.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and other professional associations, along with several federal agencies are part of the Falls Free© Initiative. Specifically, AOTA is promoting the role of occupational therapy in fall prevention.

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

Occupational therapist practitioners work with older adults in their homes or in facilities to do the day-to-day activities they want to do, safely. They perform an individualized evaluation, determine a person’s goals, help improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities, and evaluate if those goal have been met.

How does OT help in fall prevention?

The occupational therapist will remove environmental hazards in the home. They can suggest furniture arrangement so that there is plenty of room to walk without obstacles. If you hold onto furniture for balance, they will advise whether it is heavy enough to do that safely or suggest alternatives.

The therapist will review your entire home and be sure you can safely and easily get to the items you use on a regular basis. They’ll help create a plan for accessing things that are used most frequently.

The OT will evaluate the lighting throughout your home, making sure that you can see in potentially unsafe areas.

Occupational therapists will work with caregivers as well, educating them on proper patient transferring techniques, and providing proper guarding techniques while a patient is moving or managing stairs to reduce the risk of patient falls without
injury to the caregiver.

This 2008 video from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Institute on Aging, offers advice on preventing falls and shows how an occupational therapist assesses potential hazards in the home.



Medicare often pays for occupational therapy if prescribed by a doctor. Speak to a medical professional to determine if an occupational therapist can increase your or your senior’s quality of life and perhaps reduce the risk of falls. I just wish they could fix potholes.

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