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Teepa Snow is a dynamic, inspiring, insightful coach for professionals and families who support Alzheimer's patients. She will appear in Newton on Wed May 29, 2013, to give a FREE seminar, entitled Essentials for Your Journey Together. This is a rare chance to see such a gifted speaker on Alzheimer's Disease. At Caring Companion Home Care, we use videos of some of Teepa's training when we train our own caregivers to work with Alzheimer's patients. She is funny and empathetic, and her West Virginia accent stays in Massachusetts ears long after the video ends. If Alzheimer's is an issue in your life, take the chance to see Teepa.
Essentials for Your Journey Together
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Concord residents had a terrific opportunity to learn from one of the nation's leading Alzheimer's researchers last night as Dr Robert Stern, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University's School of Medicine, spoke at the Concord Council on Aging. Stern, an excellent speaker, filled evening with both useful information and hopeful stories. I knew we were in for a good evening when he started off with what most would consider a professional and political No-No: he told a joke about a man suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. And his point was well-taken: successful Alzheimer's caregivers have to have a sense of humor.
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!
Probably the single greatest reason we are called to serve families is to provide care following a fall by an elder. Particularly when people have lived in a home for decades, we see that homes and people have not adapted to the extra care needed to prevent falls. These are preventable events, and families with elders will be well-advised to attend Emerson Hospital's free workshop.
Emerson Hospital Falls Prevention ConferenceMonday April 8, 20139:30AM - 1:30PM
Holiday Inn Boxborough 242 Adams PlaceBoxborough, MA
Falls are the leading cause of serious injury for people over 65. Falls are NOT a normal part of aging; simple steps and information can hep prevent these dangerous accidents.Emerson Hospital will provide a complimentary lunch, health screenings, and workshops designed to help seniors and their family lead safer, healthier lives. Screenings and workshops include:
Seating is limited and registration is required. Call 1-877-9Emerson (877-936-3776).
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
Last chance is TODAY! Local residents can support Meals on Wheels by bidding on some terrific restaurants and other contributions available until 10PM EST tonight. March for Meals is a national campaign sponsored by the Meals on Wheels Association of America to raise awareness about senior hunger, recruit volunteer Meals on Wheels drivers and raise needed funds. This month the March for Meals online auction, with gift cards to restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops and other food-related businesses as well as Red Sox tickets. Place your bids here. Minuteman Senior Services is a non-profit organization that has been helping elders and their family caregivers in Massachusetts locate appropriate eldercare assistance since 1975. Their mission is to help seniors and people with disabilities live in the setting of their choice by engaging community resources and supporting caregivers. Over 22,000 people each year turn to them for help. Caring Companion Home Care has worked with Minuteman in a variety of capacities for years, including as an approved home care agency in their publicly-funded program for low-income seniors. Through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Caring Companion Director of Care Dr Deborah Bier was trained in pilot program with the Massachusetts Alzheimers Association for Rehabilitation Therapy, and we now use this as the basis for all our Alzheimer's training for our caregivers and client families.
Yesterday I attended a presentation by Dr Gregory Martin, Chief Medical Officer of Emerson Hospital in Concord MA. Dr Martin highlighted, with justifiable pride, a recent program by Emerson to reduce their already-low rate of hospital infection. Anyone familiar with current elder care issues at hospitals knows the concern that the facilities can be a petri dish of infection, and with frail elders and compromised immune systems, the risk of becoming sicker in a place designed for healing is one of the frustrating ironies in today's health care world.As a home care agency owner, I was particularly interested in his remarks about reducing infection for clients with catheters, since so many of our clients have them.
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
Hats off to Mary Baum, Nancy Crowley, and the team at Concord Park for their terrific PhotoVoice project! I attended the open on Thursday November 29, and it was very impressive. We had previously blogged about this project (see our post from October 31). The emotional power of the images and the descriptions reveal a lesson we always emphasize to the families of our clients and to our caregivers when we conduct training: although reasoning and language ability may decline, the emotional experience of people with dementia remains vivid. This is why it is so important to “meet them where they are.” Absent safety concerns, the immediate facts are irrelevant, but the emotional life of the person are real.
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
Recently I had the pleasure of breakfast with William O. Lytle, author of The Essential Organizer: An Ongoing Record of your Estate and Personal Information. Bill has created a valuable tool that helps families do exactly what it advertises -- a much-needed exercise.
Bill is pleasant, thoughtful, and friendly, and in discussing his work he tells stories of families he has interviewed in preparation for this publication. He talks about how difficult these end-of-life planning conversations can be, and had contacted me after a recent blog post on strategies to guide families through these waters before dementia strikes or other events make the conversation impossible.
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
For those living near Concord MA, a great opportunity is coming to help prepare you or an elder loved one for important upcoming decisions related to aging and end of life issues. Families dealing with senior care or aging parents, with Alzheimers or dementia, may especially want to take advantage of this chance for thoughtful reflection on issues facing older family members. On Sunday, March 25, the Wright Tavern Center at First Parish Unitarian Universalist church in Concord will sponsor The Five Wishes—A Workshop to Help You Make Important Decisions.
I have participated in this planning in my own family and have helped clients with aging parents through similar decision processes. I find the structure and guidance of this process to be thoughtful and a great stress reliever. If you have an aging family member, I highly recommend this workshop for either or both of you.
The workshop is led by Sue Dobbie, RN, BS, CPN, a member of Concord's First Parish UU.
From the brochure:
"Five Wishes looks at the personal, emotional, spiritual needs
By Susanne Liebich (photo at right)
Editor's Note: This program is an excellent example of what we believe here at CCHC: that our clients are first and foremost people with challenges, not full-time patients. The difference living this point of view is profound, as this article makes abundantly clear.
The healing power of dance… I stand here to vouch for its validity. And in particular, I want to tell you about a technique called Dance for Parkinson’s Disease developed by Mark Morris Dance Group in 2001. This technique is not about therapy, yet it is therapeutic. It is not about exercise, yet for most, it is a wonderful workout using the whole body in different ways. Dance for Parkinson’s Disease is a pedagogy that integrates ballet with imagery, balance, mobility exercises, expression and enjoyment of the art dance. It’s about creating something aesthetically beautiful and creative with the body. It’s about appreciating dance for dance’s sake in a group setting and to explore the range of physical and creative possibilities that are still very much open to individuals with Parkinson’s.
Where do families turn when they realize that a parent’s memory is fading? Dealing with the emotions surrounding the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most feared illness in the U.S. after cancer, is difficult. The MetroWest Alzheimer Partnership, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association, is hosting an educational program that is free and open to the public on Saturday, March 31st at Whitney Place in Natick.
Concrete help for families can be elusive as they struggle to provide daily caregiving, research local resources such as residential and day programs, and find local support networks. Especially difficult for families is when their loved one starts to exhibit some of the troubling behavior commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The event features nationally recognized Alzheimer expert, Paul Raia, Ph.D (above right).
Note: The following was published in our monthly column "Living and Loving: Elder Care in the 21st Century" in Gate House News' Concord Journal. We will continue this theme of elders and emergency preparedness in this blog with periodic articles on the subject.
We are now in the middle of the Holiday Trifecta -- Thanksgiving is past, and the year-end holidays are around the corner. Holidays can be especially stressful for those of us whose parents may be declining. This covers a wide range -- in some cases, it can be as simple as realizing that you will need to begin to devote regular efforts to help a loved manage through daily life; in others, we might face the grief of knowing, or fearing, that this is probably the last holiday season together.
Because remote family members visit so often during the holidays, we often receive requests at this time of year to help assess whether someone is still safe, and to identify the kinds of help available and what might be needed. We also notice enormous stress in uncertain adult children hoping to do the right thing with their parents while navigating uncharted waters. In this column, we will provide holiday visit guidelines, from how to manage a short trip to considering whether a member can continue to live alone, safely and unaided.
On Day 4 without power following our recent late-October snowstorm, a woman in her 90s slowly rolled into a municipally-run emergency shelter at a nearby metro-west Boston town. Leaning heavily on her walker, she looked at the shelter manager wearily and said, "I'm cold. I want to sleep here tonight." Her caregiver interjected quickly, "I have to get back home,” eyeing the exit.
The shelter manager quizzed them about the elder's ability to function independently. How much care was needed, and what type? It turns out that the caregiver came 3-4 days a week; the senior was a bit confused, not fully independent in several of the activities of daily living, nor could she manage her own medications safely. Just not handling her medications independently was enough of a deal breaker, according to the manager. "I'm sorry, but this shelter cannot accommodate you," said the manager. "You'll have to find somewhere else to stay."
Our custom app tracks iPhone/Android-toting seniors at risk of getting lost. Call for details!
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