Obama's Grandmother Passes

Regardless of your political choice for president, you can share in the sadness of Barack Obama's Grandmother passing away just a day before the election.  Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, died peacefully in her Honolulu home on Sunday night, after battling cancer.  She chose to stay at home with care provided by a caregiver.

Hospice training teaches that emotionally, it is easier to go through the process of grieving when you are able to plan for the death and say goodbye ahead of time.  Barack learned this, he said, when he did not make it to his Mother's side before she passed away.  As he did not want that to happen again, he took time off from his historic campaign to visit his Grandmother a couple of weeks ago.

Still, death of a loved one is never convenient or easy, even with knowing ahead of time.  While visiting France one summer, I went to dinner at a small country restaurant.  The owners were a married couple who made the rounds to all the tables to chat with their guests.  Upon learning that I worked in senior care, they told me to be sure to visit the bathroom before I left.  There was a mural painted on the bathroom wall that included the 17th Century Nun's Prayer.  I later had my Mother write it in calligraphy and framed it for my Senior Care Agency's office wall.  Many caregivers who passed through the doors asked about it and requested a copy and now it is included as a resource on Caregiverlist.

 

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Assist Seniors to Vote next Tuesday

The Federal Election Commission created a National Voter Registration Form which is accepted by most states for the registration of voters. Organizations providing care services and assistance to older adults were able to assist them to register to vote by providing this registration form.  In addition, those seniors who are homebound could apply for absentee ballots after registering to vote (or if they are already registerd to vote, they could apply for the absentee ballot).  This allows homebound seniors to participate in this year's important presidential election.

If you are providing care services for a homebound senior, find out if they were able to cast an absentee ballot, and if not, you can assist them to vote ahead of time if this is offered in their area or to get to the polls on election day.

Check with your local Department on Aging if you or another senior needs transportation to the polls on election day as there are volunteers available to assist in most communities.

And to find out where to vote:  www.maps.google.com/vote

 

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Barack Obama: Taking Time Out for Grandma

This week, Barack Obama's campaign announced that he will be taking time off from the campaign trail to visit his ailing Grandmother in Hawaii.  Barack's Grandma, Madelyn Dunham, age 86, is in declining health and her situation has become critical after being discharged from the hospital.

We will all be Caregivers at some stage of life.  As a family or professional caregiver, you will experience the daily challenges of assisting someone else with their "activities of daily living".  This is the term used in the care industry for all the tasks we engage in throughout the day from eating to bathing to exercising.  Seniors with memory loss may also require additional reminders to maintain their daily schedule.

Hospice training teaches that the healthiest way to lose a loved one is to be able to plan ahead for their death.  This allows you to better come to terms emotionally with the expected loss and to have quality time to share with them to say the things you would like.  Just being able to say goodbye makes the loss a little easier. 

I have found that this only comes true after the person you love has passed on.  It is still difficult to make peace with the loss ahead of time, as you are still dealing with anger, sadness and perhaps denial.

I respect Barack for maintaining a relationship with his Grandmother and for making the time to spend with her to say goodbye.  This sets a nice example for dealing with the loss of a loved one for other's to follow.  And it also highlights how much more difficult caregiving can be when you are a long-distance caregiver.  Caregiverlist tries to assist in long-distance caregiving by providing information on services in each state.

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Social Security Benefit Increase Announced Today

Today the government announced retired seniors will receive a raise in pay starting January, 2009.  It is the largest increase in Social Security benefits for seniors in more than 2 decades.  On average, seniors will receive an additional $63 per month with the 5.8 percent increase in this senior retirement benefit.  Seniors can begin receiving Social Security benefit payments at age 62 or wait until age 65 for an increased benefit amount.

The typical American senior who has activated their social security benefits receives about $1090.00 per month.  This amount barely covers living expenses, which can cause added stress when medical conditions require caregiving services, medications or other treaments not covered by Medicare insurance.

About 50 million seniors receive Social Security benefits and with the increases in food and gas costs we have experienced in the past year, living on a fixed income has become more challenging.

You may find out your expected monthly social security check payment, based on your current age and income, on the government's website:  www.ssa.gov

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The Five Wishes: An Easy Living Will

The Five Wishes is a document which was created to serve as a living will and provides questions to prompt you to think about how you would like your medical treatments and care to be provided if you were unable to speak or communicate these desires for yourself.  This living will document accounts for your medical, personal, emotional and physical needs.  It has been called a "living will with a heart". 

When I owned a Senior Home Care Agency, I placed a bulk order for the Five Wishes and gave many copies to client's family members.  The Five Wishes makes sure all the specific questions about care are answered.  For instance, laws can vary slightly in each state regarding to what is life support (is it both a feeding tube and a breathing apparatus)?  The Five Wishes is honored in 40 states and provides a starting point for you if you don't live in one of the 40 states.

Save money on Last Will and Testament

People of all ages, not just seniors, should take the time to create a living will so that family caregivers will know your desires.  The Five Wishes makes this an educational and easy task.  Definitely if you are a senior or if you do not know what your senior parent's wishes are, the Five Wishes can be a nice starting place for a discussion.

I really like The Five Wishes because it breaks it all down into specifics:  do you want life-support if you are sure to die in a short time or if you are in a coma and not expected to wake up or if you have permanent and severe brain damage and are not expected to recover?

The Five Wishes

Wish 1:  The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I can't make them for myself

Wish 2:  My wish for the kind of medical treatment I want or don't want

Wish 3:  My wish for how comfortable I want to be

Wish 4:  My wish for how I want people to treat me

Wish 5:  My wish for what I want my loved ones to know

There is a page for witness signatures and wallet cards are provided.

Creating a living will in the form of the Five Wishes makes sure you will have your desires spelled out and will prevent added stress for family members who may all have their own beliefs and desires, which may differ from yours.  You will be able to avoid a Terry Schiavo situation where the husband wanted life support removed after 15 years and her parents did not (the autopsy did confirm her brain was severly damaged, weighing half of a normal human brain, which meant she was unable to think, feel, see or interact in any way with her environment - for all that time).

The Five Wishes was introduced and originally distributed with support from a grant by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

You may order a copy of The Five Wishes for $5.00 from www.agingwithdignity.com (just $1.00 per copy if you order 25 or more copies).

 

 

 

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People of All Ages & Physical Conditions Benefit from Exercise

Use it or lose it.  Older adults can build muscle mass just as quickly as younger adults.

While it is true that there are many age-related illnesses, such as Osteoporosis, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease which can have a negative impact on physical capabilities, it is also true that an inactive lifestyle leads to deterioration of strength, balance and flexibility.

In some countries without the modern conveniences we have here in the U.S., seniors maintain their abilities to function unassisted much longer.  In many parts of China and Africa, for instance, there are no toilets.  There is just a hole in the ground.  The one advantage this provides is that people must truly squat from their knees and then standup each time they visit the toilet.  This is sort of a forced way to continue to maintain strength and flexibility in the legs.  Their aging populations maintain an active lifestyle much longer than we do in the U.S.

The National Institute of Health provides exercise guidelines for older adults and also provides information on scientific studies which show that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail or have diseases that accompany aging.

The four areas exercise can help are:  strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.  Check out NIH's website for more information and videos.

I know it isn't always easy to convince Mom and Dad to exercise.  My girlfriend purchased a health club membership for her parents and they told her they were going.  Everytime she called she would ask them how their workouts went and they would tell her all was going well.  Then after about 6 months her brother finally confided in her that he wasn't sure they were really going.  She called the health club and found out they had only been twice.  As she says, at least she tried.  If you can convince someone to stay with an exercise program for just a couple weeks, they will start to experience the positive benefits which will encourage them to stay with their program.

 

 

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