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.

EMLS in East Austin 2 jpg

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Helping Caregivers Through the Holidays

When someone in your family has dementia, or really any other chronic condition, it can affect what holiday time and family gatherings look like. There’s no magic solution, but we hope these tips and reminders might help make this holiday season a bit easier and merry as you balance the holidays as a caregiver.

1. Help your family and friends adjust their expectations
If some time has passed since visiting relatives or friends have seen the person who has dementia, there may have been significant changes in that person’s status since the last time friends or family last saw them. It is often very helpful if you update family, perhaps via a mass email or individual phone calls, on what kind of cognitive changes are going on and what they can expect when they arrive.

These changes can be hard for family members to accept. Remind them that changes in memory and behavior are a result of the disease, not the person. Continue reading

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

Dementia and Spirituality Survey

A friend of AGE is conducting a survey dealing with knowledge of and attitudes toward dementia, faith, and spirituality as a part of a masters thesis project.  For those who might be interested, see her invitation below:

INVITATION

I invite you to take a few minutes for an online survey that has nothing to do with the economy or politics or a consumer product!

I am pursuing a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation from the Seminary of the Southwest (SSW) in Austin, Texas.  I am conducting this survey as part of my senior study of attitudes toward and knowledge of dementia, faith, and spirituality.  The survey is for anyone.  The larger the number and wider the diversity of responses, the more helpful the study will be.

Your willingness to give honest answers to fairly personal questions will be deeply appreciated.  Responses are completely anonymous and not connected to you as an individual.  The general findings and implications will be offered in a workshop in Austin, Texas in the coming months and included in a final paper.

I hope you’re curious enough to take the survey.  And, please invite your friends, family, and associates to participate by giving them the link!   Responses are requested as soon as possible and no later than two weeks from the date of this notification. Just click here to take the survey now.

Many thanks for your consideration!

Barbara Wiederaenders
[For more information or questions, contact me at bwiederaenders@att.net]

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

Older Americans Month 2013: Unleashing the power of age!

Here are a few of the things we know about the older adult population:

  • The older population (65+) numbered 41.4 million in 2011, an increase of 6.3 million or 18% since 2000.
  • Over one in every eight, or 13.3%, of the population is an older American.
  • Almost 3.6 million elderly persons (8.7%) were below the poverty level in 2011.
  • The Round Rock-Austin metropolitan area had the fastest growing “pre-senior” (age 55-64) population in the country, with a 110% change.
  • Older Americans MonthGrowth of the senior (age 65+) population ranked second nationally over the same period.

In the news, most of what you hear about aging is reflects negative or worried attitudes like how the ‘silver tsunami’ is coming and how the community isn’t ready to adequately deal with the booming population of older adults. At AGE of Central Texas, our business is to face the negativity head on to meet the needs of seniors in our community and help older adults age with dignity and vitality.

Thankfully, the time is upon us to focus on the positivity of aging– May is Older Americans Month! Every year since 1963, May has been the month to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their contributions and achievements. It is a proud tradition that shows our nation’s commitment to honor the value that elders continue to contribute to our communities. 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

Making the Most of the Holidays: Helpful Tips for Caregivers

[This is the third 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.]

We all carry visions of what the holidays should look like and often those visions don’t jibe very well with reality! At this time of year, many of us visualize a Norman Rockwell type scene with everybody gathered happily around a perfectly laid holiday table. Reality is often a bit different!  In addition to that image, I also carry around in my head visions of previous holidays when life was different.   That is, when the kids were younger and my spouse was cognitively able to partner with me in all the holiday preparation.  Today my husband has a cognitive disability and the children are young adults with spouses and responsibilities of their own.  Part of the holiday experience is traveling to their homes for visits and hosting them in our home, all the while helping my spouse cope and have a good time.  As a caregiver, managing the holidays has come to mean managing many different issues—disruptions in schedule and routine, traveling, adapting to new surroundings, decorating the home, shopping for gifts, and preparing food, to name a few. 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