Category Archives: Awareness & Activism

How the voice first trend could help with elder care

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I attended Digital Book World in Nashville last week. It’s always inspiring to be surrounded by authors and others in the publishing industry who are pursuing their dreams and creating worthwhile projects.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me that voice-activated technology was among the biggest trend. As a writer, I’ve always concerned myself with the written word, whether it was in print or more likely, digital form. While I’m aware of voice-activated home devices like Alexa, and own one, I never thought about storytelling through such devices. Well, I learned last week that plenty of people are thinking about voice-first as an emerging platform for authors.

While many of the early examples and success stories involve children’s stories, I started thinking about how those of us involved in elder care may be more familiar with voice-activated technology than we think. Life Alert’s, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” slogan has become a meme, but the company developed one of the earlier forms of a voice-activated devices that was adopted by the masses and has helped save countless lives.

Now there is a focus on using voice to create entertainment options, and I can think of ways this could benefit those with dementia. Witlingo’s Drill Skills could be useful for dementia caregivers to engage their loved ones in a fun mental exercise. Those with dementia who can no longer read longer works may enjoy the shorter “microstory” format that voice first publishing uses.

I will be following the developments in voice first publishing and look forward to seeing how it could be used by caregivers to entertain and engage their loved ones.

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Everyone has a caregiving story

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Keynote speaker Walt Mossberg shared his insights on the future of technology.

I’m at Digital Book World in Nashville this week so this post will be brief.

I’m always amazed at just how universal the experience caregiving is, and how everyone has a story to tell about that experience. It’s so interesting to attend a conference and come into contact with so many people from all walks of life, and when they find out I write about caregiving, they are typically eager to share their own stories.

As Rosalynn Carter to eloquently said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Just wanted to share this observation for caregivers out there who may be isolated and are feeling alone. You are most definitely not alone. There is a large, passionate, imperfect but striving to do their best tribe of family caregivers out there.

Don’t be afraid to share your caregiving story.

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Driving, Dementia, and the Right to Drive

The battle over driving can be one of the biggest and most heated that a family dealing with dementia has to face. Read this post from Dealing with Dementia to gain some valuable insight.

Kids want their parents to be safe, and their parents want to maintain their independence.

via Driving, Dementia, and the Right to Drive — Dealing with Dementia

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September 25, 2018 · 9:24 pm

Exploring natural stress relief for caregivers with CBD hemp oil

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Caregiving is stressful. Even the most well-adjusted individual can find themselves struggling with the mix of emotions that a caregiver can experience. On top of stress, being a caregiver can be isolating, leading to depression.

I know I was totally stressed out when I was a caregiver for my parents.  There was that “always on edge” feeling, waiting for that phone call that someone had fallen or someone was headed to the ER. As a long-distance caregiver, there was a sense of helplessness and lack of control. When I moved in with my mother to help in her recovery from a colostomy, I experienced a different kind of stress. My mother and I were complete opposites personality-wise, and we often butted heads.

As I look for ways to help caregivers deal with stress, I’ve explored many options. While yoga and meditation can be beneficial, it can be difficult for caregivers to find time for such activities.  Pharmaceuticals work for some people, but come with a host of side effects. The key is to find something that could help relieve stress, anxiety and depression, but without making one loopy or sleepy. Caregivers have to remain alert in order to perform medical tasks.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, and its potential in naturally relieving anxiety and depression, without the psychoactive side effects of marijuana.  My curiosity was piqued. There is  a lot of misinformation about CBD and hemp oil, so I began to investigate its potential for caregivers. Hemp comes from the cannabis plant but it is not marijuana and contains very little THC, which is what causes marijuana’s “high.”

Recently I launched a website, CBDforCaregivers.com. It’s an informational site that includes reviews of CBD hemp oil products that I’ve personally tried. My focus is on how these products can help ease anxiety and depression, along with offering pain relief. (The physical labor involved in caregiving can cause chronic pain.)

I’m excited about the potential of CBD hemp oil products, but the products remain in a murky legal state for now. The hemp provisions in the Farm Bill of 2018, if it passes, could remove the cloud of uncertainty at the federal level, though some states are targeting stores that sell CBD products.

It’s important to check your local laws and consult your doctor before using any natural supplement.

If you’ve tried CBD hemp oil, I’d love to hear about your experience.

 

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The many benefits of weightlifting for older adults

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We know as caregivers that keeping elders active is important to support physical and mental health. But when we think about exercise for elders, we may picture a nice walk versus pumping iron. As it turns out, there are many science-supported benefits of weightlifting for older adults.

According to Nicholas Rizzo’s article on RunRepeat, there are 78 science backed benefits of weightlifting for seniors, to be exact. This excellent resource, along with the accompanying infographic, is useful for anyone caring for an aging relative who needs a jump-start in their fitness routine. Dementia caregivers will want to note the section on the mental health and cognitive functioning benefits of weightlifting. Studies show that weight training can help relieve depression, which is commonly seen in dementia patients. Weightlifting can also improve memory functioning, even in those with dementia.

Of course, safety is paramount when it comes to physical activity. Before beginning any kind of exercise regimen involving older adults, make sure to consult a health professional who can assess the person’s health and determine if there are any limitations. A weightlifting routine should begin with a proper warm-up, involve a safe progression of weights as tolerated and always focus on proper range of motion. When performed correctly, weightlifting can actually help prevent injuries in older adults and reduce their fall risk, by increasing balance, flexibility and mobility, relieving arthritic pain and increasing bone mineral density.

Reading this article makes me want to add some weight training to my exercise regimen and I’m not quite an “older adult.” I’m a walker and stay in decent shape that way, but neglect activities like weight-based exercises which are also important for overall health.

Do you have any weight training tips for older adults?

 

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Caregivers facing tough financial times need better options

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No one likes to talk about money and that’s why so many of us have money issues.

Caregiving can leave one financially devastated. I found myself in this position over the last few years, and I finally took concrete action to rectify my situation. Why did I put it off so long? I thought I could fix it on my own, pay down my credit card debt the old- fashioned way, through dogged dedication and hard work.

The one thing I’ve learned in the post-caregiving phase of my life is that life doesn’t go on pause while you are tending to an ill loved one or grieving over a family member’s death. In my case, I’ve had legitimate expenses like replacing a rotting porch and replacing a busted water heater (that my home warranty wouldn’t cover unless I replaced the pipes in the ENTIRE house.) I took a few trips, but no fancy overseas adventures. I didn’t live on rice and beans, but I wasn’t slurping down caviar, either.

I’ve always been pretty good at managing my debt, but things were not going in the right direction, and I had to set aside my ego and look at my options. I decided on a personal loan, to consolidate my credit card debt and establish one reasonable monthly payment. I had a lot of trepidation about doing it, but the process went fairly smoothly and I feel more in control of my financial situation. In hindsight, I probably should have done it sooner.

In an ideal world, caregivers would have greater access to financial support, so they wouldn’t have to go virtually bankrupt just because they are taking care of a loved one. It’s insane that the government thinks the average, middle-class person can be a full-time or even part-time caregiver and still earn enough to pay the bills without sinking into debt. And that’s if you are able to care for your loved one at home. Facility care can run thousands of dollars per month, and only the wealthy can afford that on a long-term basis.

There are no easy answers, but as more people find themselves taking on the caregiving role, we are going to have to find some practical solutions. Finances are one of life’s most stressful issues and the last thing a caregiver needs is any more stress!

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How genetic testing helped me learn about potential, serious health issue

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There is a lot of buzz these days about genetic testing. Companies like 23&Me have come under fire as critics fear the genetic data could be used by health insurance companies to deny coverage, along with other privacy rights issues.

While I understand these arguments, for me personally, the information I have learned via genetic testing has been very valuable. The following isn’t an endorsement; I’m just sharing my experience.

I did the 23&Me genetic testing years ago. It flagged conditions I already knew I was at risk for, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and what I already have, such as Celiac disease. But the most curious result was the high risk I had compared to the general population for hereditary thrombophilia, which is a predisposition to developing harmful blood clots. I didn’t know what to make of the result (which indicated I had roughly a 60% higher risk than the average person) because blood clots have never been an issue in my family and I’ve never experienced one.

Then my mother became ill, and after her surgery, developed multiple blood clots. Those clots complicated her recovery, so instead of being able to return home post-surgery, she had to spend two months in a rehab center. She required an additional surgical procedure to address her blood clot, which led to its own complications, in which she began to bleed out. She eventually recovered, after spending months on blood thinning medication, which requires strict oversight.

Recently, 23&Me updated their genetic health risk results system and unveiled a new interface in which to interpret the results. By viewing this, I saw that I carry two major genetic variants linked to blood clotting issues: Factor V and Prothrombin G20210A.

So what does this mean for my health? It means that I am aware that because of my genetic makeup, I should alert medical staff before having surgery and I should be vigilant about maintaining leg movement when traveling for long distances. Fortunately, I don’t smoke and I’m not obese, two risk factors, though risk increases as one ages. With precautions, many blood clots are preventable. The problem is, people usually don’t know they are at risk until it’s too late. Just read these stories from the National Blood Clot Alliance.

Let’s face it, my risk for blood clots is not something that would have been uncovered during an annual physical. I have no idea if my mother had the same genetic variants that I do, but I know she would have wanted to know before going through the medical setbacks that the blood clots caused her.

Have you done any form of genetic testing? If so, did you find it helpful or not?

 

 

 

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