Use It or Lose It: Innovation in Adult Day

“We have three mantras,” Anne Stacy, the lead Activity Director for AGE’s Adult Day Health Centers recently told me.  “First: You’re never too old to learn. Second: Tolerance. And last: Use it or lose it.”

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Anne joined AGE earlier this year and immediately elevated AGE’s Adult Day program with a host of fresh, vivid, innovative activities. But despite her positivity and exuberance, what motivated her most at the start were the failures of the rest of the industry.

“A lot of adult day programs just give clients busy work. And it’s not age appropriate. They give adults activities that are meant for children.” In the for-profit sector, Anne had seen groups of older adults placed in unguided “reminiscing circles,” where they would simply stare off with no stimulation. She had seen adults given children’s coloring books filled with cartoons. Continue reading

Improv and Memory Loss

On a recent Tuesday, several adults diagnosed with memory loss gathered in a church in East Austin wearing pink wigs, cowboy hats, Hawaiian leis, and ski caps. One woman, who is really from France, told the others she was from Seattle and sung in a punk band. Another man recounted his recent journey sailing across the Atlantic. A woman from Mexico shared hunting tips. They hadn’t forgotten where and who they were. Rather, these men and women were the first group in Austin to ever try improv comedy as therapy for memory loss.

Last month, AGE expanded its Early Memory Loss Support program to a third site at Hope Lutheran Church in East Austin. In a new location with new participants, AGE brought in a new activity with the improv experts at Move Your Tale. The group was diverse—seven older adults with early-stage memory loss, program coordinator Delilah Dominguez, and a handful of eager volunteers, including the church’s pastor and deaconess.

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Continue reading

Finding Gratefulness as a Caregiver

Guest post by Carol Zernial, Executive Director of the WellMed Charitable Foundation and Guest blog post by Carol Zernial, Executive Director of WellMed Charitable Foundation. The WellMed Charitable Foundation supports seniors and their caregivers in our community with a special emphasis on wellness, prevention, and living with chronic illness. Learn more at www.wellmedcharitablefoundation.org.

Perhaps it’s because I’m thinking of summer holidays, picnics, freedom and sunshine that I’m feeling pretty thankful. One book that ranks people’s moods lists “gratitude” as the highest of all moods. The author, Larry Senn, states, “There is a calmness and warmth that comes with gratitude that overrides sadness, impatience, irritation and anger.”

The real reason that I’m feeling thankful today is that I am a caregiver.

Being a caregiver means that people in my family have lived long enough that I have the privilege of doing something for them to repay the many things they have done for me. They sat at the foot of my bed when I was little so that I could fall asleep without spiders, snakes, or monsters getting me. They gave me great advice that I now hear myself repeating to my son. They gave me birthday gifts, Christmas presents, graduation gifts and a little gas money along the way to send me off into the world. They told me the things I did were wonderful, important, and special. They made a difference in my life.

Last week, I picked up some barbeque at the airport to take home to my parents. When I told the guy behind the counter what I was doing, he shook his head and told me that he wished he could take dinner to his parents. They hadn’t lived to be very old and he’d love the opportunity to take them dinner one more time.

Living as a grateful caregiver helps me to see my loved ones underneath the illness. It helps me to bring energy to my caregiving tasks that comes from a positive place. It actually brings me into the current moment, the now, rather than looking at how long the road might be ahead of me.

Staying positive and thankful doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we really have to focus on positive thoughts very deliberately before we can internalize them, and they come more naturally. That’s okay. It can take practice. We may have to practice being thankful for many things in our lives, looking at the bigger picture of all of our blessings. I am always humbled when I count all of the good that has come my way.

Caregiving isn’t always about giving back, but it can be. It can even be for people who didn’t do well by us. We’re going to do better for them than they were able to do for us, because we’ve grown enough that we can choose to walk a different path.

So this month, I’m practicing and feeling an attitude of gratitude. It starts at the top of my head where I tell myself to notice all of the positives in my life. It goes to my heart where I feel truly thankful. And it stretches out into my mouth, hands, and feet where I walk the walk and talk the talk. I’m a caregiver, and I’m so thankful to be here with my loved ones at this time in this place.

Fall Prevention in the Home

As we observe Older Americans Month and its theme, ‘Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.’, the focus is on fall prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of older Americans fall in their homes each year. “In 2002, more than 12,800 people over age 65 died and 1.6 million were treated in emergency departments because of falls.” Many of these falls are due to dangers in the home and are an easy fix. Please read through this checklist provided by the CDC for tips to uncover the hazards and information on how to fix problem areas.

Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults

Floors: Look at the floor in each room.

Q: When you walk through a room, do you have to walk around furniture?
Ask someone to move the furniture so your path is clear.

Q: Do you have throw rugs on the floor?
Remove the rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.

Q: Are there papers, books, towels, shoes, magazines, boxes, blankets, or other objects on the floor?
Pick up things that are on the floor. Always keep objects off the floor.

Q: Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords (like lamp, telephone, or extension cords)? Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them. If needed, have an electrician put in another outlet.

Stairs and Steps: Look at the stairs you use both inside and outside your home.

Q: Are there papers, shoes, books, or other objects on the stairs?
Pick up things on the stairs. Always keep objects off stairs.

Q: Are some steps broken or uneven?
Fix loose or uneven steps.

Q: Are you missing a light over the stairway?
Have an electrician put in an overhead light at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Q: Do you have only one light switch for your stairs (only at the top or at the bottom of the stairs)?
Have an electrician put in a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs. You can get light switches that glow.

Q: Has the stairway light bulb burned out?
Have a friend or family member change the light bulb.

Q: Is the carpet on the steps loose or torn?
Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.

Q: Are the handrails loose or broken? Is there a handrail on only one side of the stairs?
Fix loose handrails or put in new ones. Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and are as long as the stairs.

Kitchen: Look at your kitchen and eating area.

Q: Are the things you use often on high shelves?
Move items in your cabinets. Keep things you use often on the lower shelves (about waist level).

Q: Is your step stool unsteady?
If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.

Bathrooms: Look at all your bathrooms.

Q: Is the tub or shower floor slippery?
Put a non–slip rubber mat or self–stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.

Q: Do you need some support when you get in and out of the tub or up from the toilet?
Have a carpenter put grab bars inside the tub and next to the toilet.

Bedrooms: Look at all your bedrooms.

Q: Is the light near the bed hard to reach?
Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach.

Q: Is the path from your bed to the bathroom dark?
Put in a night–light so you can see where you’re walking. Some night–lights go on by themselves after dark.

Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Falls

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise makes you stronger and improves your balance and coordination.
  • Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.
  • Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.
  • Get up slowly after you sit or lie down.
  • Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
  • Improve the lighting in your home. Put in brighter light bulbs. Florescent bulbs are bright and cost less to use.
  • It’s safest to have uniform lighting in a room. Add lighting to dark areas. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
  • Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For example, use a light color paint on dark wood.

AGE of Central Texas offers a fall prevention course through CaregiverU called “A Matter of Balance”. To find a class near you or learn more, please click here.

What You Need to Know About Elder Fraud

In recognition of National Financial Literacy Month, and in light of the influx of fraud crimes against seniors in Austin since the beginning of the year, AGE of Central Texas is sharing some important information and tips to empower our community members to protect themselves from elder fraud and remain financially secure.

What is financial fraud?

According to the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, “Elder fraud is an act targeting older adults in which attempts are made to deceive with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented. Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds or property.” We are all affected in some way by financial fraud. This range of illegal behavior may encompass a variety of activities including Ponzi schemes, identity theft, tax fraud and mortgage scams. The Texas Office of the Attorney General receives complaints from seniors for a wide variety of scams. The following are examples of some of the more common scams: Continue reading

Stretched Caring for Kids and Parents?

By NICOLE VILLALPANDO; RAISING AUSTIN, Austin American Statesman

Family caregivers can find help at AGE, Family Eldercare.

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“Patience.”

It’s a simple word, but a hard one to embrace when you’re stretched thin as a parent who is caring for both your children and your parents or in-laws.

It’s a word that has been essential to Kimberly McKneely, who has an 81-year-old mother-in-law with some memory loss living with her. She also has a 12-year-old daughter and two sons with special needs who are 18 and 19.

“It’s really hard,” she says.

“Everybody wants your time; everybody wants your attention.”

McKneely is part of what some have called the “sandwich generation” — those who are caring for family members a generation younger and a generation older than them. University of Texas professor Karen Fingerman actually found that not as many people are now in the “sandwich generation” — caregivers to both minor children and parents.

Instead, more people are in the “pivot generation,” supporting their parents as well as their adult children, who may or may not be still living at home. This change from sandwich to pivot is happening for two reasons: Parents are living longer and the age when they can no longer care for themselves is older, and adult children are delaying leaving the nest. Continue reading

Getting Out of the House — good for individuals with dementia and caregivers alike

Caregivers of the elderly recently gathered for a new conference called ‘GPS for Parenting Your Parents & Caring for Aging Family Members‘ by Riverbend Church here in Austin. One challenge, which has always vexed caregivers and experts alike, grows more and more prominent in their discussions each year: what’s the best way to care for a relative or spouse with Alzheimer’s Disease? When someone you’ve known for years or even decades begins a rapid decline in ability that fundamentally alters who they are, how do you give them the best life you can and help them hold onto their happiness? Dementia creates many situations most people do not have the experience to deal with: rapidly changing family roles, confusion, and frustration for patients and caregivers.

Austin neurologist Dr. Ronald Devere gave one clear piece of advice at this year’s conference: “Patients have got to get out.” Although no vaccine, definitive prevention, or cure for Alzheimer’s has emerged, research is progressing at a remarkable pace. Scientists now have a better idea how to slow the destructive path of the disease, as well as how to manage treatment on a day-to-day basis. Continue reading