Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Talking about Serious Illness

As we age, we have not only our parents’ illnesses to worry about. We also have our own. Let’s face it. The older we get, the more likely one spouse or the other will develop a serious illness. How will you talk about it? How will you handle it?

Rosemary Lichtman has written an excellent article called Boomer Couples - Deepening Your Conversations About Serious Illness in which she offers seven reasons why it may be hard to talk about a negative diagnosis.

Obviously, the better your communication before the diagnosis, the better it will be after. So start now learning how to talk about the hard things, support one another, and learn what makes your spouse tick.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Create a Calendar for Care Helpers

Are you a caregiver for an aging parent or anyone else? Do you wish you had some help? Or perhaps you’ve had people say, "If you need something, just let me know." But you know how it goes. Sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself than to try to coordinate people.

Take heart. Now there’s help. I’ve just learned of two different sites that offer calendars for coordinating care helpers. Need someone to take mom to the doctor? A neighbor to help run errands? Someone to pick up dad's prescription at the pharmacy? Even someone to walk the dog? You can schedule all of these and more using a free online calendar designed for this purpose.

Two companies are providing these calendars. One is AGIS, one of the web's premier resources for eldercare information and community support, through it’s CareGroups site. The other is Care Calendar, a ministry of the Bortel family, created out of their personal needs when the wife and mother of nine children had emergency surgery.

In both cases, a coordinator—usually the primary caregiver(s) —creates a calendar and invites people to view it. The calendar lists caregiving needs that can be met by others. To sign up for an activity, the volunteer simply clicks on the link and fills in minimal information. The coordinator can also provide updates, post messages, and share photos. I know of one family using CareCalendars, and it’s been a virtual lifesaver for them, reducing phone calls and increasing opportunities for friends to help out. Give it a try.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Caregiving from a Distance

Eldercare expert gerontologist Cheryl Kuba offers strategies as New Year's resolutions to make long distance caregiving a stress-free success for you and your aging parent in an article posted on

As we move away from parents (or they move away from us), more of us are experiencing the need to provide care or oversight to our aging parents without being there. Cheryl makes a number of critical suggestions, including:

Update (or create) the advance directives.

Locate the essential documents and make sure they are where emergency personnel can find them.

Consider hiring a Care Manager.

Do a physical “walk around” their home to assess needs and abilities. also has a sensitive article on caring for aging parents from a distance. It makes some excellent suggestions on how to manage that difficult task.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Aging Hurts Decision Making

I’ve been reporting a lot about Medicare scams hitting the elderly. Now a New York Times article reports on a study that confirms what unscrupulous con artists already knew--the elderly are a tempting target. Researchers have confirmed that as they grow older, even people who seem perfectly on top of things may have trouble making good decisions.

The researchers based their findings on a series of tests given to two groups of healthy people, one ages 26 to 55, the other 56 to 85. The goal was to see how well the older volunteers used the decision making skills often demanded in real life for things like investments, insurance and estate planning.

“Such decisions would be a challenge even for young adults,” the researchers note in the current Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. But when age is combined with the today’s shady marketing schemes, the challenge becomes even greater.

Even someone with high intellect and good memory may undergo changes in the prefrontal part of the brain that affects behavior. “The first manifestation of this cognitive decline may be exercising poor judgment and decision making in many important real-life matters,” the study said.

The researchers, led by Natalie L. Denburg of the University of Iowa, used a gambling-style test in which people draw from four different decks of cards. Two decks give short-term rewards but long-term losses. The other two decks do the opposite. Most people draw from the bad decks first and then switch. But many of the older participants stuck with the bad decks.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Understanding Medicare

The Kaiser Family Foundation has written an easy to understand 45-page, 8-part guide for talking with your parents about Medicare. Much easier to read than Medicare's own booklet which Medicare sends every insured person, you will find it easy to read and informative. It begins here.