Cold & Flu Prevention for Older Adults

By Diane Walker  RN, MS, CSA

Getting a cold or — even worse — the flu is a miserable inconvenience for anyone. For an older adult, the outcome can be worse than a Flu picturefew missed days at work or the inability to enjoy one’s activities, it can be much more serious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…90% of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older.” Older immune systems tend to be weaker which allows the flu to turn into more serious conditions such as bronchitis and / or pneumonia.

While an illness can hit anyone at any time, there are ways to prevent developing a cold or the flu. The best way to treat a cold or flu is to not get it in the first place. Prevention is key. Seniors and their caretakers should keep the following tips in mind to keep an older adult healthy: Continue reading

Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging

Dear Friends,

For the past year, I have had the great honor to serve on the Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging. I am very proud to have been part of this effort.

The recommendations from the Task Force include the following focus areas:

  1. Healthy Living
  2. Independence
  3. Informed Community

We are especially thrilled that under the focus area of ‘independence’, the Task Force specifically highlights the need for critical support and training for family caregivers. One of their recommendations is to expand CaregiverU, a collaboration that AGE is honored to coordinate with the generous support of the St. David’s Foundation. Continue reading

The “Sandwich Generation” should be called the “Hero Generation”

(Guest Post by Caregiving Cafe)

According to Pew Research’s report titled “The Sandwich Generation,” 47% of US adults in their 40’s and 50’s have a parent who is 65 or older and are caring for a child 18 or younger, or are supporting a grown child.  Many are providing caregiving as well as financial and emotional support.  [Pew Research, January 2013]

With advancing age, the likelihood of an aging parent needing help by the time a child becomes a young adult is rather great.  The picture becomes a bit more complex as grown children experiencing hardship (financial or emotional) pull at their parents’ heartstrings (and wallet).

I have had a taste of this dubious “sandwich” while caring long-distance for my mother and raising our daughter.  Mine was actually loaded with the “extras,” as I also began to care for my husband when our daughter had just turned 13.  He became disabled as a result of CRPS, a painful and debilitating neurological disease. Continue reading

Spring Lawn Care: Or When His (Or Her) Jobs Become Your Jobs

[This is the fifth installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and personal expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics once a month.]

Lawn care.  Hmmm, not my expertise.  I do enjoy the sight of a well tended lawn, though.  Thick green grass, nicely edged, pretty stones in a ring around each tree, neatly trimmed trees, front flower Green Lawnbed blooming.  All very nice, but I am clueless as to how to create that, and probably not much better on knowing how to maintain it.  You see, I’ve been married close to 45 years and we’ve had a system called ‘his work’ and ‘her work’.  I took care of the inside of the house and he took care of the outside.  The work inside of the house and all my other responsibilities took up all of my time and then some, so I paid little attention to the work in our yard.  Seven years ago when we moved into our current house, I was eager to learn how to do yard work and hoped to work together with my spouse to plan the landscaping and share in the labor.  My dear husband was insulted by those plans—refer back to ‘his work’ and ‘her work’ above.  The yard was definitely his domain and I’d best remember that.  In the name of peace and harmony, I took my rightful place, and simply enjoyed the loveliness.

I enjoyed it until now.  Now my spouse is not so capable of planning and organizing the yard work.  He sometimes forgets how to start the lawn mower and claims it doesn’t work.   Our good neighbor comes over to get it going, and tells him the mower just needed an adjustment.  Helpful friends give him bedding plants for the flower beds, thinking he would enjoy digging in the dirt again.  He enjoys the digging and puttering, but then becomes very anxious because the plants aren’t thriving.  That’s when he asks me what to do, and, I’m –clueless.   He worries about the bald spots in the front lawn and then I worry.  Surely bald spots are not a good thing, but what does one do? Continue reading

Tips for Traveling: A Caregiver’s Perspective

[This is the second installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics about once a month.]

Every work day I eat the very same breakfast—oatmeal, juice, soy milk, and green tea.  Is it because this is a favorite meal choice?  No, it’s because I’m not a morning person, so fixing the same breakfast every morning saves me from thinking.  I do it on auto pilot.  Similarly, an individual with a cognitive disability thrives on using auto pilot.  For them, the brain pathways don’t work as well as they formerly did, so thinking requires more effort.  Staying in a routine and doing things the same way every day requires less thinking.   Traveling shakes up the old routine, and takes away the familiarity, requiring more thinking effort, which increases the stress and anxiety that further impedes the thinking process.  Knowing all this, and experiencing all this, may make a caregiver decide to forgo travel—but not this traveler!  I choose to continue traveling with my dear husband because we have three adult children living in other cities, and spending time with them is very important.  To make travel easier on both of us, I’ve adopted new strategies and continue searching for more good ideas from other caregivers. Continue reading

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 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 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.

Getting Help with Paying for Prescription Drugs

Are you having difficulty paying for your prescription drugs? If you meet certain income and resource limits, you may be eligible for Medicare’s Extra Help program, which could save you up to thousands of dollars per year on your prescription drug costs.

An article in Kaiser Health News estimated that more than two million Medicare beneficiaries who would qualify for Extra Help are not taking advantage of the program. The article referenced a study commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that 2.3 million Medicare beneficiaries who were eligible for the Extra Help program had not applied.

According to Medicare, for most people who qualify for the Extra Help program, drug costs in 2011 will be no more than $2.50 for each generic and $6.30 for each brand-name for covered drugs. Others pay only a portion of their Medicare drug plan premiums and deductibles based on their income level.

To see if you might qualify for Extra Help or any of Medicare’s other cost-saving programs, go to medical-and-drug-costs.aspx .

To apply for Extra Help online, go to  or call Social Security at 800/772-1213 to apply by phone or to request a paper application.

To read about other ways to lower your drug costs, go to

Research: Alzheimer’s Decline Fast in Intellectually Active Adults

More great information from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. If you’ve never heard of them, check out their informative and education website at

The vaunted protection that intellectually active adults get from Alzheimer’s disease has a dark downside, a study released Wednesday has found. Once dementia symptoms become evident and Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in such patients, their mental decline can come with frightening speed.

That finding, published in the journal Neurology, comes from a study of 1,157 Chicago-based seniors who were followed for an average of just over 11 years. Six years after gauging the extent to which the study participants engaged in activities that challenged their mental capacities, researchers from Rush University Medical Center Alzheimer’s Disease Center made periodic assessments of the study participants’ cognitive health and traced the trajectories of their brain health.

All told, 148 of the participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during the follow-up period, and 395 were found to have mild cognitive impairment—intellectual problems that are less severe than Alzheimer’s disease, but which often precede such a diagnosis.

Read more at the Los Angeles

AFA: Study shows impact of informal caregiving

More great information from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. If you’ve never heard of them, check out their informative and education website at

One in six Canadians providing informal care to people 65 and older experience distress, and those caring for seniors with moderate to severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, are most at risk, according to a study released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. About 55 percent of seniors in the study–and three quarters of those who were married–received informal care from a spouse, while almost 75 percent of those who were not married received care from an adult child. Spouses were twice as likely to experience distress as other family members, such as adult children.

Read More at the Vancover

The Caregiver’s Bookshelf: The Beginnings of Alzheimer’s

Another great post from The New Old Age, the blog on all things “older adult” at the New York Times.-SP

It’s been nearly 30 years since Dr. Peter Rabins, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, and his co-author Nancy Mace published “The 36-Hour Day,” the best known guide to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Now in its fourth edition, it remains a trusted source of information and support.

But the landscape of dementia — its diagnosis, its treatment, how much neuroscience has advanced, how much the public understands — has changed dramatically, as Gina Kolata has been reporting in The Times. As she also points out, this progress in diagnosing Alzheimer’s will mean that families are likely to face tough decisions sooner than ever.

“The book was a landmark twenty-some years ago when people were being diagnosed with what we’d call moderate to end-stage dementia,” said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a prominent researcher on the aging brain at Duke University Medical Center. “Now people are being diagnosed much earlier, when they’re still functioning well, and there’s a push to diagnose at even earlier stages.” With more medications available, with better understanding of the non-Alzheimer’s dementias, “people want to be more proactive,” Dr. Doraiswamy said. “They want to join clinical trials. They want ways to protect their brains.”

So Dr. Doraiswamy, with Lisa Gwyther, a social worker who directs Duke’s Alzheimer’s family support program, and Tina Adler, a science writer, intend for their book, “The Alzheimer’s Action Plan,” to fill a gap. “It’s essentially a book about the early stage of the disease,” Dr. Doraiswamy said.

These authors dispute the notion that since there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, diagnosis and treatment are pointless. “Studies suggest that people who start treatment early usually remain better off than those who start treatment months later,” they write. So they’ve mapped out strategies for seeking a diagnosis and maximizing the usefulness of a doctor’s appointment. They explain conditions that can masquerade as Alzheimer’s but aren’t. They offer very specific advice on medications, not only Alzheimer’s drugs but antidepressants and antipsychotics.

An analysis of the pros and cons of participating in clinical drug trials even includes — a bonus from Dr. Doraiswamy — a sample consent form, annotated to translate its medicalese into intelligible English.

Read more here at The New York Times.