Staying Alive vs. Living Life

My 100-year-old Grandma Martha may be nearing the end of her life. While she has lived a long life we are reminded that she is from a generation that really does not talk about death. Her generation had a life expectancy of age 75. 

Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter wrote an article for The New York Times this month titled "First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed". She shares the statistic that 80% of Americans would prefer to die at home, but only 20% actually do. She notes that often people in intensive care units may be restrained and have no idea they are dying. You can read more of Dr. Zitter's articles on her website.

Grandma has a pacemaker which has extended her life. But she also has macular degeneration which has caused her to lose most of her vision. Losing your eyesight dramatically impacts your quality of life. Which lead her to tell her doctor to only give her a "2-year battery" for her pacemaker last year. How do we better plan for death?

How do we decide to say "no" to medical procedures which may extend our life but not improve a diminished quality of life caused by a health condition which cannot be cured? 

My father, at age 79, is also living life right now by volunteering in Ecuador. He just shared his whitewater rafting photos.


That's Dad in the back seat of the raft, hanging with the 20-year-old's.

My Dad is still living life, for sure. He has mentioned more than a few times that the adventure travel company assigned him a 26-year old lady from Argentina to accompany him to be sure he could manage. See, not everything about aging is negative! There are no right answers to some questions. We have to find the best possible answer for ourselves. The spirit of life pulls us forward. My Grandma still has the fight in her and we can see that and are assisting her to keep on going in all ways possible. 

She is still living life. With a whole lot of help from family members and doctors and nurses and nursing aides and caregivers and friends. She still has a very sharp mind and memory. But she also is living with pain each day, which we cannot take away.

Starting the conversation about how we would like to experience aging and what we would not want done to extend our life if the quality of life will not be there should become a part of our care plan for senior care. Medical technology has allowed us to do what could not be done before for physical care and we need to become modern enough to discuss the emotional components of aging and caregiving as well.

Senior care companies and senior caregivers can begin the conversation about death with adult children by sharing stories of scenarios of aging that are positive and negative. By talking about death we can spark new ideas and solutions to learn how to age in a way that truly allows someone to not only be alive but to be living life.

Arizona 102-year-old Senior Announces U.S.A.'s First Female Presidential Candidate

American women could not vote when Jerry (Geraldine) Emmett was born. But last night she marked her spot in history by announcing Hillary Clinton as the first female candidate nominated for president by a major political party in the U.S.A. Ms. Emmett has been an active member of the Democratic party for many years and claims life-long allegiance as she continues to live a long life! She arrived in Philadelphia to make the historic announcement of Hillary's nomination in person.

Regardless of which political party you are a member of or which candidate you support, appreciating the freedoms we enjoy and the ability to be recognized as someone still contributing to the world at age 102 deserves recognition and admiration.

There are still countries where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot own a business and cannot wear a bikini.

May we American women always maintain these freedoms and cheers to Jerry Emmett for reminding us that we are lucky to be aging in the U.S.A.!


New Jersey Regency Nursing Center Makes Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Centenarians

America's seniors are living longer than any previous generation and to prove it, a senior living residence in Somerset, New Jersey gathered 31 seniors age 100 and above and received a mention in the Guinness World Records for the largest gathering of centenarians. And, only 2 of those in attendance were men!

Babies born today have a life expectancy of age 100. Now that we know more about ways to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, it is expected that many Americans will easily reach age 110 or older. This means we will need to rethink what our retirement years will look like and how to better save money to pay for retirement care.

Medicare health insurance covers all seniors age 65 and above in the U.S.A. and does not pay for long-term care. Medicare only covers hospital stays and short-term nursing home stays for up to 100 days after a major medical incident. All long-term care must be paid for by the senior unless they have limited assets and income and qualify for the subsidized Medicaid program. 

Seniors can research nursing homes in their area and learn more about Regency Jewish Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to plan ahead for their senior care needs. As nursing homes are often an extension of a hospital stay, seniors should learn about their preferred nursing care center in their area.

"Nothing Left Unsaid" Documentary about Gloria Vanderbilt's 90+ Years Showcases How Families Benefit from Sharing their Stories

Seniors, caregivers and families can learn how sharing a senior's life story can benefit everyone in the family. Gloria Vanderbilt, socialite, heiress, artist, entrepreneur, actress and mother shares how she began the conversation about her life with her son, newsman Anderson Cooper in this new documentary.

Nothing Left Unsaid profiles Gloria's life and how she has navigated being in the spotlight since the day she was born. Her life story will leave you inspired to stay positive and keep on living, as she is doing, as you are aging, while appreciating the lessons learned along the way.

You can catch this documentary tonight, April 29th, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on CNN and it also will continue to air on HBO. You will not be disappointed.

Anderson Cooper, one of her 4 sons, shares that there were many things he did not know about his Mother until they began the deeper conversation.  Begin to ask your senior loved ones about their life stories and go deeper to ask "why" to learn more about who they really are and how they became the person you know.

One really interesting item Anderson shared was that his mother earned more money than she inherited. He chooses to not inherit any money as he says he sees that many are not motivated to develop their passions when they do not have to earn a living. Gloria Vanderbilt continues to develop her passions and we compliment her for promoting this documentary and sharing her story with us at age 92. And also thank her for bringing us designer jeans with a little bit of stretch in them!


Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.05.20 PM











Anderson Cooper with his Mom, Gloria Vanderbilt

University of Missouri Nursing School Receives $19.8 Million Grant to Continue Elder Care Research

The Missouri Quality Initiative for Nursing Homes will be used as a national model for senior care and be able to continue researching the early detection of illnesses and interventions in coordinated care, including how to better prevent falls.

Every year at least 2.5 million elderly people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries, which costs about $34 billion annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These falls may cause broken bones and head injuries which then lead to further complications such as brain trauma. Reducing senior care costs will be necessary as the government prepares for the large increase in the senior population.

Decreasing hospitalizations continues to be a goal for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant money for this research project comes from the budget of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which is housed under the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The project, called the Missouri Quality Initiative for Nursing Homes, will be used as a national model for senior care. Marilyn Rantz, MU's professor emerita of nursing founded the initiative in 2012, along with a team of MU research colleagues. By implementing motion sensors, such as Xbox Kinects, in various areas of the residents' apartments, the researchers were able to decrease falls. The sensors can recognize changes in walking, bending and other body movements that may signal an increased risk for falls. The average cost of a nursing home in Missouri for a single room is $143.80 per day. Decreasing the need for nursing home stays assists Medicare and Medicaid to save millions of dollars a year.

The nursing school will also use the grant to research the early detection of illnesses and interventions in coordinated care, a model in which several health care professionals work together to ensure a patient's good health. Sixteen Missouri nursing homes have implemented the University's coordinated care model which resulted in a 34.5 percent decrease in potentially avoidable hospitalizations. Nursing home care can cost 

There are more than 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S.A. and Medicare does not pay for an ongoing stay in a nursing home but Medicaid, for low-income seniors, does pay for ongoing nursing home care. 

Plan your senior care plan ahead of time to best know the options and costs of care in your area. Transamerica also offers a free senior care financial planning consultation by calling 1-877-957-9851. Caregiverlist provides the only resource with the actual costs of nursing homes nationwide along with a customized nursing home rating.



Brain Health Index Score Helps Seniors and Caregivers Manage their Minds

Brain health may soon be proved to be the most important component of healthy living and aging, as our brains connect to all the other functions in our bodies. The human operating system is turning out to be greatly impacted by our state of mind. Researchers now say our brains are the most important organ, creating memories, driving emotions and controlling every movement in our bodies. Now you can be proactive about managing your brain health with an online brain check-up tool.

One of our favorite authors, Deepak Chopra, and his pal Dr. Rudi Tanzi, also have a new book coming out called "Super Genes, Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being", as a follow-up to their book "Super Brain" and you can pre-order it. This book discusses how 95% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic and influenced by diet, behavior and other environmental conditions.

Cleveland Clinic's Six Pillars of Brain Health can help us preserve our memory and lower our risk for brain disease. The recent suicide of actor Robin Williams, who was suffering from Lewy Body dementia, we now know, reminds us how vital it is to be able to properly diagnose our health issues. However, some types of dementia are difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Especially when there is an early onset of Alzheimer's disease, it can be mistaken for schizophrenia, drug abuse and all kinds of ailments that add even more stress to the situation.

Keep Memory Alive is a non-profit organization created to increase awareness and raise funds for the research, management and treatment of brain disorders (they are located in Las Vegas and receive sponsorship money from Caesar's - it's good to know there are gambling dollars going towards something positive). The Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is supported by Keep Memory Alive and treats patients with:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Fronto-temporal Dementia 
  • Multiple Sclerosis
The Healthy Brains free brain check-up will help you manage your brain health and to be "mindful" of how to best care for your brain. When you take the Cleveland Clinic's free online brain check-up, you can also join their healthy brains research registry which also connects you to a community of people who are willing to participate in clinical research as we work to better understand how to treat illnesses impacting the brain.

6 Pillars for Brain Health
  1. Physical Exercise
  2. Mental Fitness
  3. Food & Nutrition
  4. Sleep & Relaxation
  5. Social Interaction
  6. Medical Health
Clinical trials are necessary to study better ways to treat memory loss. Right now, more than 70,000 volunteer participants are needed for more than 150,000 Alzheimer's Disease and dementia clinical trials. Participants are needed who are both healthy as well as those who already have a diagnosis of memory loss. Find clinical trial openings at Cleveland Clinic. Plan ahead for senior care needs or those of a loved one by learning about what Medicare and Medicaid cover and available care options near you.

 image

Lewey Body Dementia Found in Robin Williams' Autopsy

Memory loss has many forms and there are several types of memory loss and dementia. Seniors and their family members should visit a geriatric medical doctor in order to have a proper diagnosis of the type of memory loss in order for it to be treated in the most effective way.

Alzheimer's disease is just one type of memory loss, although it receives the most attention. I have always said that Lewey Body Dementia was the most difficult to care for, when I organized care for a senior home care agency. It would be especially difficult to live with Lewey Body dementia when you do not know this is what is causing the changes in your brain and behavior.

Late actor Robin Williams

One of the seniors we cared for when I worked at a senior home care agency had Lewey Body dementia and he would sometimes think he was somewhere other than in his living room. If the news on the television was reporting on a robbery, for instance, he might think he was at the scene of the crime and become violent. Out of caring for more than 500 seniors, he was one of the most difficult to safely care for and to staff a trained caregiver who could handle the changes in his personality.

Visual hallucinations and delusions are part of Lewey Body dementia.

Caregivers for seniors should always advocate for diagnosis for the type of dementia the senior is experiencing and this diagnosis should be by an experienced and trained professional - not just the family doctor the senior has been visiting for 30 years, unless they have been trained in testing and diagnosis of memory loss. 

Robin Williams death is a reminder to us that it can make a difference to know which type of memory loss a senior suffers from as then everyone can better make sense of the behavior changes. Family caregivers can also take caregiver training courses to learn how to care for a senior as even in senior care there are many skills to learn that can make the aging experience better for everyone.

Caregiver Cooking Made Easy With Recipes App

Finding the perfect recipe if you already know what you want to cook can be pretty easy in the age of the internet. However, as a busy senior caregiver, if you don't already know what you'd like to cook, finding a recipe can seem overwhelming with thousands of dishes to choose from. The BigOven app offers caregivers a large selection of recipes and suggestions to help narrow the choices down. 

When users first open the app, they are greeted with a homepage set up with a feed of recent individual recipes and recipe collections to browse. Topics include Fall and Winter Soups, Recent Raves (4 and 5 star reviews), and Pantry Recipes (Make dinner with what you have on hand). Users can click on these categories to see all of the choices and pick one they'd like to make. If caregivers see multiple recipes they like, they can favorite them to come back to at a later time. 

Users can browse other set categories such as Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners in the Collections area of the app. Under Menus, users can drill down to the type of recipe they'd like to see with a few quick clicks. This area offers the best route for users who already know what category of meal they'd like to make, such as Slow Cooker or Kid-Friendly. 



On the individual recipe pages, caregivers can also see how other users have rated the recipes. Most of the reviews also note how other users adapted the recipe by adding or substituting ingredients. As users favorite recipes, they can also add accompanying ingredients they may need to make the recipe to the Grocery List section of the app. 

If caregivers know roughly what the menu will be for a meal and need a recipe or a basic reminder on how to cook an item in particular, they can search by name. A simple search for Asparagus brings up several different recipes for caregivers to choose from, ranging from baking or steaming and basic preparation to adding other ingredients. 

One negative of this app, however, is the inability to filter for dietary needs such as low sodium or gluten free. If your senior client has a specific dietary need, use the search function to pull up recipes that meet those needs. When you type in the words "low sodium" into the search, a lot of recipes appear with those words in the title. However, when you search for "low sodium chicken," only five recipes match the search. For caregivers whose clients have severely restricted diets, this app may not work well. 

The BigOven app is available for Apple and Android platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discovers additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

National Memory Screening Week November 1st through 7th

Memory loss can be both a concern and fear for everyone. Especially for senior caregivers who have witnessed someone experience memory loss. I had the opportunity to meet former President Ronald Reagan after his memory loss had progressed (he thought he knew me, but for sure we had never met). It was a reminder to me that we are all the same when it comes to aging.

This week, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) has launched a National Memory Screening Program

National Screening Week is November 1 - 7 of this year.

The AFA is providing free, confidential memory screenings for people that have concerns about their memories. When necessary, individuals will be encouraged to have a follow-up exam by a qualified health care provider and may be directed to appropriate social services and community resources in their area.

The AFA is working toward eliminating the stigma and fears associated with dementia, and providing education for the public about memory problems and how to age successfully. The organization also hopes to alleviate fears for the people who do participate in the memory screening who are not currently showing any signs of memory problems.

Screening sites in your area can be located below.

National Memory Screening Locations 

Memory loss has many forms and Alzheimer's Disease is just one type of memory loss. Now that we know late actor Robin Williams suffered from Lewy Body dementia, we can better understand how difficult the changes he was dealing with in his mind were during his last year of life.

Other types of memory loss include:

  • Vascular Dementia
  • Lewy Body 
  • Frontal Love Dementia (FLD)
  • Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Pick's Disease
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Subdural Hematomas
  • Brain Tumors

By identifying the type of memory loss, the senior can then be treated correctly. The progression for some types of memory loss, such as Alzheimer's Disease, can be slowed when treated with medications. Many clinical trials are in progress now, to study ways to better prevent Alzheimer's Disease. 

Meditation is proving to be an effective way to change the structure of the brain and Deepak Chopra and Rudi Tanzi, both medical doctors, are researching how meditation may be able to prevent or slow down memory loss. The doctors co-authored the book Super Brain where they discuss new ways of using our brains to help exercise it more and create new pathways, which, research is showing, just might be a way to prevent memory loss.






Log in