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I posted recently about a Johns Hopkins study on aging senior citizens: For Older Adults, Participating in Social Service Activities Can Improve Brain Functions. Today's story is about a man who could be Exhibit A for this point: local hero Al Armenti.Al is well-known in his home town of Concord MA. Well into his 90s, he is very active in many social service activities, in his church (First Parish in Concord, a Unitarian Universalist congregation), and in music circles. He is a combat veteran and has been a peace activist for decades. Recently, I received an email from Al reporting on his participation in the St Patrick's Day with the Veterans For Peace. He writes by way of explanation that "As a long-standing member and, because of my age, I was allowed to ride in the back seat of an open convertible." That's okay, Al, I hope that if I am still fighting the good fight when I'm nearly 100, someone gives me a ride in the parade, too.Although it seems that Al has been a dedicated member of Veterans For Peace for since the Revolutionary War, his participation is somewhat more recent. This is not a small commitment: a few days before the parade, Adrian Walker wrote a column in the Boston Globe about VFP's efforts to march in the traditional St Patrick's Day parade: Antiwar Veterans Group Battles to March in St Patrick's Day Parade. Al also sent along a video of the event (he appears in the red convertible toward the end). The picture above at the right is Al playing his mandolin, which he still does in public. One of his favorite songs is Pete Seegar's humorous My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went. Delivered with a twinkle in his eye and an engaging smile, the song as Al sings it is clearly ironic. His 'Get Up and Go' is doing just fine.So here's to you, Mr. Armenti! You aren't old - you have just been young for a very long time!
People familiar with Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias listened with interest last month as NPR reported recently (Alzheimer's 'Epidemic' Now A Deadlier Threat To Elderly) on the Alzheimer's Association release of statisitcs showing that Alzheimer's death rates are soaring, even as death rates from other diseases decline. The 68% increase in Alzheimer's deaths between 2000-2010 does mask some good news: other health factors like heart diseaes, which typically kill at earlier ages, are declining - leaving longer-living patients vulnerable to Alzheimer's as they age. Paradoxically, however, the only disease with a rising death rate and with no effective treatment and no cure or vaccine receives scant funding for research into solutions.
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“You’re never too old to improve strength and stamina,” I find myself saying to yet another new home care client at our first meeting. This time, it’s a delightful woman who is no longer able to care for herself. It’s not due to a specific disease or injury. It’s a generalized weakness and a loss of mobility developed over time that keeps her now from doing her own personal care, housework, and errands. She’s lost her independence to a large degree because of too little walking, stretching, lifting, and reaching. As it common, she’s also developed a terror of falling, which keeps her even frozen to the couch – a fear that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, as more muscle loss causes greater unsteadiness on her feet. Surely this is the harbinger of some future fall if it’s allowed to continue in this direction.
People concerned about elder care and resources for senior citizens living in Concord should attend Saturday's Healthy Concord Community Forum at the Harvey Wheeler Center, 9:30am - 12:30pm. This is a chance to alter the resources and emphasis the Town places on issues of elders and elder care.
Back in the fall, the Town of Concord embarked on a healthy community planning project to assess the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and overall well-being of the community. The project has worked to identify Concord’s existing assets and resources, define residents’ needs, and determine opportunities for improvement. The focus of the Healthy Communities effort has been on local issues that affect health and quality of life, such as:
For more information contact Jill Block, Healthy Concord Coordinator at
I took a short break this afternoon, and when I tuned back into the world of news, I found that the expected winter storm Friday into Saturday was now being called a BLIZZARD WATCH! Eighteen to twenty-four inches are being forecast with high winds. My goodness... We rolled into action to consider the safety of every shift change Friday and Saturday... will the roads the safe? Will it be snowing too heavily? How can we serve clients Saturday night and Sunday morning safely? We will work with families and caregivers to create a plan for any shift changes that may be made unsafe or impossible by this storm. We will be in touch wiht impacted families and caregivers. In the meantime, this is the right moment to share two blog posts I wrote from a past winter storm/blizzard. They contain info about prepping clients' and the caregivers' homes, and other important information. Please review this and then get into action to get ready.Who Will Shelter Your Elder Loved One in an Emergency? http://www.caringcompanion.net/blog/view/1873-who-will-shelter-your-elder-loved-one-in-an-emergencyFirst Possible Winter Storm Coming, Eastern Massachusetts http://www.caringcompanion.net/blog/view/1163-first-possible-winter-storm-coming-eastern-massachusettsEasten Massachusetts Winter Storm Forecast Upgraded To a Blizzardhttp://www.caringcompanion.net/blog/view/1177-eastern-massachusetts-winter-storm-forecast-upgraded-to-a-blizzard
Readers and others often ask us how to start conversations with parents about planning for the parents’ potential care needs and other aspects related to their declining capabilities. As we approach the holiday season, this is an especially good time to have these conversations – key family members who may be available only during holidays are often present, and it may be easier, even given holiday activity, to find some time for a quiet conversation. In hopes of facilitating a successful discussion this holiday season, we offer a few thoughts about what needs to be discussed, and how to conduct a conversation with an elder family member to plan for a time when he or she may not be able to manage independently. First, as you approach the conversation, you will typically find best success if you think of it as
Concord Park in West Concord, MA announced the opening of The PhotoVoice Project, a distinctive exhibit featuring the photographs and writing of older adults living with memory loss (see video below for a view of last year's exhibit in a sister community in Hopkinton, MA). The Opening Reception for the exhibit is Thursday, November 29, 2012 from 4:00-7:00pm at Concord Park located at 68 Commonwealth Avenue, Concord. The public is invited to attend to view the works and will have an opportunity to meet the artists. The PhotoVoice Project was developed by several researchers at the University of Michigan to enable individuals with disabilities to identify, represent and articulate aspects of their lives by working with cameras to capture images of interest and then giving meaning to those images through words.
Habilitation Therapy (HT) is considered by the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association to be the best caregiving practice that exists today. Learn about this comprehensive behavioral approach that will help both dementia patient and caregivers alike, which can help improve their quality of lives dramatically. HT helps difficult symptoms be reduced or eliminated, regardless of what stage of the illness the patient is current experiencing, by skillfully adapting to the capacities of the patient and communicating accordingly. Habilitation Therapy helps caregivers have positive and successful interactions with dementia patients, reducing stress, allowing greater enjoyment of each day.
A person with dementia can be said to be inhabiting a different world with a different reality than the rest of us. Habilitation Therapy (HT) tells us that they cannot leave there to be with us, no matter how much we may want them to. (Alzheimer’s Association, 2011) It is the job of care partners to be with that person by traveling to their world. This is done by understanding what they are experiencing, and respecting — never negating — their experience. If, in the world of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia (ADRD), she is 8 years old (not 80), and waiting for Mother to pick her up after school to go home and milk the cows, then that is the world to which care partners must travel. It doesn’t matter a bit that Mother died 50 years ago because that is not true in the reality where the person with dementia is living... (see the rest of this article here)
While vigilance must be maintained and approaches honed as the disease progresses, simple but vital changes to the dementia patient’s environment can make a real difference in quality of life, safety and ability to function more independently. Applying our understanding of what isn’t working right in the visual cortex of the ADRD brain is central to creating the right interventions. Here follow some concrete examples.... (see here for the rest of this article)
Habilitation Therapy (HT), a comprehensive behavioral approach to caring for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD), is considered to be a best practice by the Alzheimer’s Association (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). HT is best used for every interaction a person with ADRD has with their care partners, from the moment they rise until they fall asleep at night. One of Habilitation Therapy’s primary goals is to create day-long positive emotional states for dementia patients (Alzheimer’s Association). His or her capabilities, independence and morale are thoughtfully and continuously engaged to produce a state of psychological well-being. Why such an enormous focus on emotions?.... (see the rest of this article here)
Seeing is believing, yes? In our day-to-day world, we believe that what we see around us is pretty much what others with healthy eyes can see. We see a clear glass filled with milk sitting on a white table, and we assume that others can see a clear glass filled with milk sitting on a white table, too. But that’s not necessarily true if someone has Alzheimer’s Disease — they may only see the white table. Though it is not widely recognized, it is a fact that people with several types of dementia (but especially Alzheimer’s Disease) experience significant changes in the way their brains take in and interpret visual information, generally unconnected to eye health and function. These changes follow several predictable patterns that powerfully influence the behavior of people with dementia... (see the rest of this article here)
According to Silverman, Flaherty and Tobin (2006), …”[I]t is a better understanding of the psychology of dementia – how a person thinks, feels, communicates, compensates, and responds to change, to emotion, to love – which may bring some of the biggest breakthroughs in treatment….”A parent, sibling or spouse has been just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia (ADRD). In a somewhat perfect world, family members would receive an orientation to the disease, and learn how it affects their loved one’s behavior. They would quickly begin to learn how to deliver daily care and maintain best function. They would find out how to prevent many common, difficult behaviors, and address those that arise with some consistently applied, fairly easy-to-use psychosocial interventions.The entire family and all other members of the care team in this somewhat perfect world would receive training and ongoing support to learn and apply Habilitation Therapy (HT), accepted as the best standard of care and psychosocial intervention by the Alzheimer’s Association (Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter), where it was first developed in the 1990s...(see here for the rest of this article)
Caring Companion Home Care of Concord, MA was selected by the industry's most prominent national trade organization, the National Private Duty Association (NPDA), to deliver a consumer seminar entitled "When Dementia Strikes: Managing Care and Making the Most of Each Day." It will be delivered as a free webinar on May 16 at 3:30 PM EST. Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) cause grief for families and increasingly complex cases for home care agencies. The Alzheimer's Association and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have developed an innovative new program to train family and caregivers in the use of Habilitation Therapy to reduce the care challenges in these difficult cases. Participants will learn about best practices in the industry as the country faces this growing challenge. "We are truly honored to have been selected to deliver this information, among the roughly 17,000 thousand homecare agencies nationwide," says Caring Companion owner and long-time Concord resident, Jim Reynolds. "We owe this to our Concord office director, Dr. Deborah Bier, who has become a recognized expert on dementia and home care."
Last weekend I attended the Aging in America 2012 conference in Washington, DC, and I had a chance to speak to a several large home care franchisors and a few networks of assisted living facilities who are considering adopting our software. While I was in Washington, I also arranged with the National Private Duty Association (NPDA) to give a webinar on family web portals and what features they can or should provide. And in an unexpected and pleasant surprise, NPDA also invited me and Debbie Bier to give a webinar on Alzheimer's training for consumers. All of that activity made for an exciting week and weekend!
As one would expect for a Washington DC conference,
New technologies to help seniors, the disabled and their caregivers are being launched every day. It's a huge, growing industry worth billions of dollars annually. But there are so many new products and services coming to market that most people feel confused and overwhelmed. Do these devices mean real aid for aging in place, or just a new way to part elders with their money?
Learn how to sort out the "toys and gadgets" from the helpful technologies on the market today. "Aging, Disability & New Technologies: Real Hype or Real Help?" Instructors Jim Reynolds and Deborah Bier, PhD will help participants make more wise choices in this bewildering, rapidly expanding marketplace.
The session will review some of the
Sunday night I attended a workshop in Concord delivered by Harvard MA resident and hospice nurse Sue Dobbie. Sue has spent 40 years as a nurse, primarily in home care and hospice, and currently works at Community Health Network in Holliston, MA, which provides nurses to home care and hospice agencies.
Sue led a discussion of the 5 Wishes document, which is published by Aging with Dignity. 5 Wishes helps families plan for terminal illnesses in a sensitive and thoughtful way, to be sure that the person who is dying can have the medical treatment and palliative care that he or she prefers, and that final ceremonies and wills can be arranged in advance, knowing that the person's wishes are being honored.
Sue mentioned how many families avoid discussing these topics, as if denial can delay or avoid the events. Unfortunately, studies show that we all get older anyway, and that denial is not an effective strategy to avoid death. Given that these events are coming, families always experience them more peacefully if they know they are caring for the terminally ill elder (or patient of any age) in the most sensitive manner possible, and according to his or her wishes.
The 5 Wishes asks five simple questions:
Caring Companion Home Care has adopted and trains our caregivers in habilitation therapy when caring for clients with Alzheimers Disease and related dementias (ADRD). This approach was developed at the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, and is considered to be the best standard of care for all types of dementia. Sadly, it is not in as widespread use in all aspects of elder care as it should be.
Habilitation therapy is a comprehensive behavioral approach to caring for people with dementia. It focuses
The "Sages and Seekers" program will be unfolding again at Concord, MA's Concord Academy. This program brings "Sages" over 65 and "Seekers" among the CA student population together for 8 weeks to learn about one another. This excellent video shows the program from several viewpoints.
They are seeking several Sages to participate in this semester's program, which begins next week. If you are interested in being part of the event, please contact the creator and coordinator, Ms. Elly Katz at 508 444 8821, 508 333 0490 (cell) or
Course instructor Deborah Bier, PhD (photo, below right) has been a health care educator, author, and wellness coach for over 20 years. She holds a doctorate in therapeutic counseling, and has helped hundreds of individuals and families to live better with chronic illness and disability. She is the director of the Concord, MA office of Caring Companion Home Care. (www.CaringCompanion.Net) and has lived in Concord for 30 years.
Middlesex Community College's MILES Program (Middlesex Institute for Lifelong Education for Seniors) offers intellectual stimulation, interaction, and friendship for adults ages 50+. Some of the topics explored through MILES include history, politics, arts, fitness, health, safety, music, computers, internet, travel, business, psychology, law, poetry and opera. Courses have no term papers, exams or grades, and are held at their Bedford campus. They are facilitated by individuals with expertise in topics based on professional, educational or personal experience. Semester membership fee of $95 includes access to all MILES courses. MILES is an afffiliate of the Elderhostel Institute Network.
For more information or to register, call 781-280-3570 or e-mail Chris Lindsey at
here. To reach the instructor, email
Our custom app tracks iPhone/Android-toting seniors at risk of getting lost. Call for details!
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