The Importance of Fun/Life Balance

hatday_blog.jpgBy Heidi Fischer, Program Director
AGE of Central Texas Austin Adult Day Health Center

So many of us get caught up in the whirlwind of life that it becomes really challenging to find time to smell the roses.  At the AGE of Central Texas Adult Day Health Centers, we believe that the proper amount of fun/life balance is an essential component of wellness.

Respite provides the perfect opportunity for embracing who we really are without other distractions.  The benefits of respite care are many, so let’s break this down a bit and look at what respite really feels like:

  • The caregiver relaxes and enjoys respite when two things happen:  their loved one is in a safe place AND their loved one is in an environment that is stimulating and enjoyable to them.
  • Their loved one, in turn, relaxes and enjoys being in a safe, caring, and softly dynamic environment.

Continue reading

Does a license make a difference?

How does someone go about deciding if an Adult Day Care center (ADC) is a good fit for a loved one? There are many factors, but one important consideration is the question of licensing.

We understand that it’s not easy to entrust a loved one’s well-being to strangers. That is why licensing is important to AGE of Central Texas– we want to do everything we can to reassure family caregivers that our Adult Day Health Centers are safe and held to the highest standards.

In Texas, the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) licenses and surveys adult day care facilities to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations to protect individuals who are receiving these long-term care services.

Some of the requirements that licensed adult day care centers follow include: Continue reading

How does Alzheimer’s affect the youngest among us?

My name is Emily, and I am the Development Associate and resident blogger at AGE. And I am a grandchild of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Or rather, I am a grandchild of a woman with dementia, likely caused by Alzheimer’s. It started when I was just 10 years old, and it has been over 15 years since my grandma started disappearing. It is no easier now than it was as a child.

First, she stopped cooking. It was how she showed her love and doted on us. I knew something was really wrong when my Grandpa, who had never really cooked, took over what had once been Grandma’s domain.

Then the more bizarre behaviors began- things that really mortified the kid I was at the time. Grandma would take out her dentures at the most inappropriate places to clean them, or she’d ask for ketchup at a Mexican restaurant because she couldn’t differentiate that from salsa, or she started to lose her ability to know when she should whisper in church or the movie theater instead of loudly observe things that you don’t say aloud in public.

And, of course, in crept the tell-tale sign of asking the same exact questions over and over and over again.

Grandma had an ‘angry’ period where she was occasionally physically and verbally violent, mostly towards my Grandpa. Then after a while, she became more and more juvenile- in the most joyful way. She became so affectionate, always reaching for a hand to hold.  And then, she became too affectionate, even with strangers. She has been known to sneak a kiss when a friend would try to just give her a hug, and since she’s in a wheelchair it’s quite easy for her hands to wrap around and give someone a little squeeze on the behind- it’s even happened to our pastor.

Mood swings and personality changes are common for those with dementia, but that was difficult to understand as child and even as a teenager. I sometimes felt annoyed at her behavior, angry at her outbursts, indifferent, confused, sometimes amused, and so very often deeply sad. Most of all, I felt beyond guilty for feeling anything but pure love and gratefulness for this woman.

As for the rest of the family, there have been stages of grief, denial, and bargaining for my parents and my aunt as they transitioned from being this woman’s children to being her caregivers. It has been an incredible journey of highs and lows, questions and transformations that have all fundamentally altered what my family looks like. Dementia changed my Grandmother, but it also changed us.

The irony is that she’s almost as fit physically now as she was five years ago. There’s no indication that she’s giving up yet, even if her mind has. The grandma I once knew has been almost completely devastated by whatever has taken residence in her brain. It has been a long progression. She hasn’t been able to walk for a few years now. She doesn’t really recognize any of us anymore. I don’t think I’ve heard a purposeful sentence from her in over a year. And these things can be hard for a child to witness and accept. “She looks fine, why won’t she talk to me? Why doesn’t she know you, Mom? How can she forget that she’s married?

I know my experience is not special or unique:  1 in 8 older Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. And there are over 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia (Alzheimer’s Association). That is a massive amount of individuals, spouses, children, and grandchildren being dragged through the mud of this disease. You are not alone. We can learn from our shared experiences. It’s important to tell your story. And it’s important  to include the children of your family in discussions about what’s going on with your loved one with dementia.

For those of you who have a child facing the immediate reality of dementia in either a parent or grandparent, there are some lots of resources out there to help you talk about dementia or Alzheimer’s. This disease is a bit different from others in that Grandma, or your uncle, or your Mom may look perfectly healthy on the outside. Kids need some help understanding the mechanics of this disease and that you can’t always see that something is wrong when someone is sick in this way. The two resources listed below have great information ranging from how to make the conversation developmentally appropriate to concrete tips and talking points:

Ultimately, I do not want to detract from unbelievably heartbreaking experience of those, like my Grandma, who are dealing with dementia themselves. Because it isn’t really about the pain of the rest of the family at all, it’s about allowing your loved one to experience the rest of their life with as much dignity and vitality as possible. Helping the children in your life understand what Alzheimer’s is doing to their loved one will make it easier for them to continue to see the person instead of the disease.

Reflecting back on the beginning years, Grandma never once talked about being aware of her diagnosis or what it was like for her. She sort of just slipped from the beginning stage where she was just ‘mildly’ forgetful to a place where she could no longer contemplate a question about her state of mind if she tried. I wish I knew what it was like for her. This journey has shown me that there many things I don’t know, and that there’s no ‘right’ way to be a supporter for someone with dementia. What I do know, Grandma, is that I will continue to love you wherever else this road takes us.

For those in the greater Austin area, AGE of Central Texas has a number of resources for caregivers and for those experiencing dementia. Click here to visit our website for more information.

Meet Anne, A Volunteer

 

Anne is a Texas transplant- she moved here just over 6 months ago following the sudden death of her husband. She came to Texas looking for a fresh start and the chance to put down new roots in the aging industry, in which she has extensive experience. After attending a Get Acquainted with AGE monthly tour and luncheon, she found herself so taken with what AGE does that she decided to start volunteering. Anne wanted to keep herself busy as she settled into her new city, but she also wanted the chance to get to know the community and network with other professionals.

So, Anne began spending at least one day each week with the clients in AGE’s Austin Adult Day Health Center and another day providing administrative support to AGE’s health equipment lending closet. Immediately, it was clear that she has a special gift for this work.

Ultimately, Anne discovered that the purpose of her volunteer days goes much deeper than just networking and filling her time- she’s been impacted by her relationships with staff and clients alike. Her journey in the past year has not been easy, but her desire to serve others and give of herself has not faltered. Instead, Anne’s passion for helping others has helped her to find a place where she is needed and belongs.

Anne has a unique perspective as a seasoned volunteer and as a professional within the senior services arena. She says, “This community would be severely impacted if AGE was not here to offer services to older adults. One of the most concerning issues for seniors is isolation, and AGE does so much to connect their clients to things they love to do, to each other, and to the rest of the world.”

If you agree with Anne and think that what AGE of Central Texas offers is important to the community, please click here to learn more about how you can support the services that directly impact older adults in Central Texas. If you would like to find out more about how you can volunteer and get involved, please click here.

We at AGE of Central Texas are so grateful for the hard work and dedicated support from all of our volunteers and donors. Thank you for caring about the older adults in our community!

What’s the Difference: A Look at Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia: The presence of multiple cognitive deficits by both memory impairment and one or more of the following:

  • Executive functioning (planning, organization, sequencing, abstraction)
  • Aphasia, Apraxia, Agnosia
  • No delirium
  • Interferes with social or occupational functioning

Alzheimer’s Disease: A slowly progressing brain disease, which is the most common form of dementia. It affects recent memories first, then begins to affect emotions, decision making, personality, eventually destroying long-term memory and ability to interact with the world. In the moderate stages you might notice mood and communication changes, delirium, and wandering.

It is not easy to distinguish between dementia (and its other causes) and Alzheimer’s.   They are often confused because they share a similar set of symptoms, but Alzheimer’s is just one of many possible causes of dementia.

Some causes of dementia may sometimes be treatable, so it is important to talk with your doctor to try and figure out exactly what is going on. A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean the person has Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot technically be diagnosed while someone is alive, because the only definite way to identify Alzheimer’s is to examine brain tissue upon a person’s death. It can be very challenging to deal with not being able to find an absolutely definitive diagnosis.

Information care of Kim Butrum, RN, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner from The Memory Center at the Seton Brain and Spine Institute

Below is a video from aboutalz.org which explains the process that occurs within the brain with Alzheimer’s:

AGE serves an average of 40 older adults every day who need daytime supervision and assistance due to a memory impairment. AGE’s Adult Day Centers provide a community where older adults can engage with their peers in therapeutic and stimulating activities under the supervision of a full-time nurse and trained staff. This program helps these vulnerable older adults avoid early nursing home placement and instead keeps them at home with their families. This gives family caregivers the respite they need to continue to work and balance taking care of their families and themselves.

If you would like to join the AGE of Central Texas family by giving towards the direct services that benefit clients and family caregivers who are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, please click here or send a check to AGE at 3710 Cedar St # 2 Austin, TX 78705. Feel free to reach us at www.ageofaustin.org or 512.451.4611.

 We are ever grateful for those who support us in deed and word in our mission to serve older adults and those who care for them. With your support, we hope to continue to meet the needs of this community.

Meet Wilbur, A Client

“We all need assistance; we all need a helping hand. No person’s an island.”

Wise Words and a Personal Perspective:

‘Good Afternoon: My name is Wilbur.  I am a client at AGE’s Adult Day Care Center.  I am 87 years old and a World War II Army Combat Veteran.  I served in combat with the infantry in the European Theatre and in the Army of Occupation in Japan.  After my military service I was employed in the United States Postal Service from April 1946 until my retirement in January 1985.

He won a trophy today for ‘Best Dancer’ at the Carnival.

When my wife of 56 plus years of marriage passed away in November 2003, I, like so many elderly people had a decision to make.  To my good fortune my son and daughter-in-law gave me the opportunity to make my home with them in Austin.  Both my son and daughter-in law were still in the workforce.  Early in January 2004 my son and I visited Elderhaven (AGE’s Adult Day Health Center)- My first reaction was like most people.  Would I like Elderhaven and most of all would staff and clients accept me?  Not only was I accepted, but the clients voted me February King and my friend Queen.  I had not danced in years, so after we were crowned we danced like royalty.

The Activity Director at AGE’s Adult Day Health Center here in Austin is Theresa.  Theresa schedules our activities, and at the start of each month every client receives a calendar of daily activities for the month.  Every day we walk and we do exercise.  Some of our activities are arts and crafts, music, entertainment, games, trivia, sing-a-longs, dances, and a lot more.  All activities help the body, mind, and soul.  We have a snack in the morning and in the afternoon.

If you are considering someone who needs day care where you are treated with respect and all clients are treated equally, Elderhaven meets your needs.  Clients are from different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds and we get along great.  At Elderhaven we have clients from 30 years of age to the mid 90’s.  We pray, laugh, and sometimes shed a tear.  I consider my fellow clients my second family.’

It is clients like Wilbur who remind us that community and compassion is so important in absolutely everything that AGE does. For those who don’t know, AGE’s funding (and that of several local non-profits) and ability to provide services to clients was severely damaged this week by the withdrawal of a major supporter. If you would like to join the AGE of Central Texas family by giving towards the direct services that benefit clients like Wilbur, please click here or send a check to AGE at 3710 Cedar St # 2 Austin, TX 78705. Feel free to reach us at www.ageofaustin.org or 512.451.4611.

 

Thank you for your love and support. And thank you for caring about the older adults of Austin and Central Texas.

A Little Slice of Paradise on Cedar Street

Have you seen the green garden of paradise on the corner of Cedar Street and 35th? Here is our story….

If you are walking along the sidewalk that lines Cedar Street and pass the corner at 35th Street on weekday morning, you might be interested in the group of elderly men and women sitting together in the yard, under the trellised roof of a wooden gazebo. They sit at the south end of the sprawling fenced lawn, at one corner of the historic AGE Building. Birds chirp overhead, the morning air is cool and the sun is shining.   The serenity is infectious and it is easy to smile as a wave from one of these older folks comes your way. Also noticeable is the size, almost 3,000 square feet, and the beauty of the yard.  There are potted plants, colorful blooms, looming sunflowers, birdbaths that adorn the yard.  A manicured pathway leads to a secluded meditation garden on the side of the building.

The elderly folks sitting outside are members of AGE of Central Texas Adult Day Health Center (Elderhaven), one of two adult day centers in Central Texas. The AGE building is the center’s home.  Members are picked up by the AGE van or brought by their family members during the weekdays. Many are working caregivers and need a place to bring their parents, grandparents, or spouses during the day so that they are safe, healthy, happy, and stimulated. AGE of Central Texas Adult Day Health Centers provides these things so that older people, and those with dementia and other disabilities, do not need to go into nursing home care prematurely, but can instead remain with their families and in their communities.

Since AGE adopted the adult day center from Lutheran Social Services in the late 1980’s, community groups, churches, schools and corporations have come to AGE for volunteer projects.  Here they have donated time and money to the garden efforts, while working together in team-building activities to enhance and improve the grounds and the experiences of the members of the adult day center. Volunteers from St. David’s Foundation, Promiseland Baptist Church, and the Eagle Scouts, to name just a few, have contributed hours of time to weeding the garden beds, watering the plants, and planting new life in the gardens.

Community support is not new to AGE, but something very special began to unfold in the fall of 2011: a synchronicity in the vision, dedication, and financial support of a number of individuals and groups that brought about the planning and implementation of a multiphase habitat project which would beautify the garden and create a certified wildlife habitat.

As the program director of the Adult Day Center in Central Austin, Stephanie Hoffman has always remained attentive to the things that make her members happy.  One day in the fall of 2011, she noticed that a few of her members had been particularly fixated on the lone birdhouse by a wall at the exterior of the building. “I thought that we needed more birdhouses, something that is going to stimulate clients emotionally and cognitively,” she remembers. When Hoffman received a phone call from a representative from the City of Austin LEAPS (Leadership Education Public Service) program a few weeks later asking for ideas for a project that they could plan as a group, she suggested building birdhouses.

Representatives from Urban Habitat Committee of the Travis Audubon Society, with offices located in the AGE Building, had for some time worked near the garden and taken notice of the environment, and they began to become involved in discussions about garden projects. According to Hoffman, it was in these first conversations that the question was asked, “What is it going to take for us to have a certified habitat?”

As these individuals and their respective organizations, including folks from the City of Austin Parks and Wildlife Department, began to create the habitat plan at the end of 2011, there were several central factors that guided the discourse and planning. Building an environmentally sustainable and economically sensible habitat meant that native Texas plants were chosen. Careful consideration of the four factors that the National Wildlife Federation looks for in certifying a habitat (providing food, water, shelter, and a place for raising young) influenced everything from the selection of the berry bushes to the placement of birdhouses.  At the forefront of the planning was always the positive impact of the environment on the older adults who attend the adult day center. Lynn Hill, one of the Urban Habitat Committee members leading the project said, “My mother lives in a retirement home in Michigan and it is beautifully landscaped, and I know that means so much to the residents to have a beautiful place to be.”

With the leadership of the Travis Audubon Society, the LEAPS program, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation department and numerous local businesses, individuals, corporations and community groups who donated plants, supplies and labor, Phase One and most of Phase Two have been completed, and an application for certification to the National Wildlife Federation has been submitted. Phase Three of the plan will create garden beds and habitats in other areas around the AGE Building. Adult Day Center members have been directly involved, helping to paint ceramic plant markers for the over 35 species of native Texas plants that occupy the beds.   Meredith O’Reilly, the Urban Habitat Steward who led the plant marker project, described the activity, “It was an absolute pleasure to see the smiles and artistic talents of the AGE clients who created very special and purposeful art for the garden.”

AGE of Central Texas opened its Adult Day Health Center garden for families on the last Wednesday of the month in May for the first-ever Concert for Caregivers, and there are plans to bring City of Austin Park Rangers to the gardens to engage members in activities related to wildlife. Anybody strolling through the neighborhood will continue to see these older folks outside engaged in discussion groups and enjoying the weather, amidst the flittering of butterflies and chirping of birds that will keep growing around them.

– Written by Amanda Lyles, AGE’s Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator.

Originally published by Austin Parks and Recreation in the July issue of their monthly newsletter, the ‘Habitat Herald’.

WSJ: The New Retirement Resorts

By KELLY GREENE

Instead of moving his mother into an assisted-living apartment three years ago, Eli Portnoy rented condos for both of them, two floors apart, at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, Fla.

His mother received many of the same services and amenities that would have come with an assisted-living facility—on-site doctors, healthy meals, a gym and all kinds of wellness classes—but in a far more appealing setting.

The kicker? Mr. Portnoy, a 57-year-old branding consultant, estimates that he saved $50,000 to $75,000 a year—even including round-the-clock private nursing aides—over what he would have paid for an assisted-living apartment luxurious enough for his mother, a retired New York art dealer who died in December at age 90.

A growing number of intrepid retirees, wary of spending years in an assisted-living facility or staying at home, are opting for arrangements that provide them with a full range of services and a greater sense of adventure—fully staffed homes in Costa Rica, backyard bungalows on their children’s property, so-called cohousing arrangements, full-time spa living and even serial cruises.

 

Click here to learn more at the Wall Street Journal online. 

Dementia’s youngest victims often defy stereotypes

LEESBURG, Florida (AP) — The aging of the massive post-World War II baby boom generation in the U.S. is casting light on early onset dementia, a sorrowful subset of younger people experiencing a slow, cruel overtaking of their minds.

About 200,000 Americans under 65 are among the 5.4 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Experts’ estimates suggest there’s a similar number of younger people with other types of dementia, meaning about a half-million Americans, some as young as their 30s, suffer from early-onset or younger-onset dementia.

The number of people suffering from all types of dementia is rapidly increasing because of the aging of the baby boom generation — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — though there’s no sign the percentage of younger people with dementia is going up.

Doreen Watson-Beard is one of the tiny minority. And she has seen the disease from two sides

The nurse cared for more people with dementia than she could count. She was so moved by her patients that she led Alzheimer’s support groups. She knew the warning signs and understood there was no cure.

But the 49-year-old never thought the disease would affect someone her age.

 

Read more at USA Today.com