Staying Independent with Age

The Importance of Independence

By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

Seniors in high school and seniors in their golden years may not like the same music, watch the same movies or show off the same dance moves, but they do have one thing in common. Both groups desire a more independent lifestyle.

Although what it means to live independently can change drastically as we age, independence is an essential part of what it means to be human. It means making your own decisions about how and where you live, who you spend time with, and what you spend time doing. It contributes toward the creation and preservation of our sense of self.

The way we spend our time and energy speaks volumes about who we are as people. And when we no longer have the ability to choose what we do and how we do it, it can be extremely difficult to maintain a sense of ownership over our own lives. However, those who are blessed with longevity will likely require assistance at some point.

One area where independence is keenly sensed, for both teenagers and their elders, is in the area of transportation. Particularly in American culture, driving signifies independent adulthood. A driver’s license is something that is dreamed about and looked forward to by the young, and not relinquished without a fight by the old. It means we can come and go as we please, and that’s certainly something that is hard to give up.

Maintaining an Independent spirit 

Sometimes being independent as we age means finding creative ways to maintain independence despite obstacles. For example, The Silver Runner Transportation service is one creative way for seniors who no longer drive to maintain transportation independence. The Silver Runner offers transportation for errands and appointments as well as group and private outings to help maintain a healthy social life.

Experiencing difficulty with mobility does not mean that you can no longer visit the places that you love. However, it may mean that you need to rethink the way that you visit these places. Enlisting the help of a mobility manager or other cargiver can be a great way to ensure a successful trip. You may also need to talk with a medical professional about how a walker, cane or self-propelling wheelchair could be used to increase your mobility and independence.

Because of new rules in America and across Europe to accommodate those with disabilities, traveling for those who have trouble walking long distances is even more possible than it has ever been. If you or a loved one have trouble getting around, but want to travel, the sky is the limit! To make your vacation a success, be sure to arrange for the assistance you need in airports and consider hiring help with ground travel and luggage.

Lastly, sometimes being independent means knowing when to ask for help. As we age, this may mean hiring an advisor to be your advocate, a person you can consult with to assist with many difficult decisions that must be made. You may also wish to create advance planning documents so that your choices are known and honored in the event that you are unable to express yourself later down the road.

The Geriatric Care Management team is available to listen to what is important to you or your loved one. We value and respect the unique qualities of each aging person, evaluate their needs, and locate the best resources to maximize that person’s level of independence.

Being independent is important at every age. Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner are committed to helping seniors remain as independent as possible, while also receiving a high level of care. Please contact us with questions or to schedule a consultation
(505) 897-3009.

Worried About your Memory? Is it Dementia? Alzheimer’s?

Guest Post by Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Aging Life Care Association™ member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy

We all have bouts of forgetfulness. We drive past the exit we wanted, we forget the name of a neighbor we have known for years, or we go to the market and buy everything but the milk we went for! If you find yourself forgetting names, places, dates, or appointments, you might think you have  dementia like like Alzheimer’s.

But stress, dehydration, multi-tasking, being a caregiver for another, and numerous other situations can all contribute to forgetfulness. Before you panic or before you just chalk it up to being overtired, consult with a professional to discuss your specific situation.

Aging Life Care Professionals™ can help guide you to appropriate resources that can evaluate your individual situation and provide answers or possible diagnosis. The Aging Life Care Professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, is a conduit to the appropriate medical or psychological referrals that may be necessary.

Some memory loss can be attributed to other illnesses such as depression, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, and several other medical diagnosis. This is why symptoms should not be ignored, but brought to the attention of your physician immediately.

The benefit of getting a diagnosis of a dementia early is that you may be a candidate for medication that can help slow down, or reverse, your symptoms. These medications may enable you to function independently, longer.

Finding out early that you have a dementia gives you a chance to modify your lifestyle, eat healthy foods, stay engaged and exercise more. You can design the care you want and make the necessary legal and financial decisions to support your wishes.

Pro-actively working with an Aging Life Care Professional ensures that the plan and resources in place respect your values, fit in your budget and meet your current and future needs.

Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Founder and President of Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek, CA. She is also a partner of the VillagePlan Linda is a Fellow level member and Past President of the Aging Life Care Association. Linda has over 30 years experience working as a Care Manager. You can reach her at linda@EldercareAnswers.com, or connect with her via social media: FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

 

Alzheimer’s and Hallucinations

Many are unaware of the fact that it’s common for Alzheimer’s patients to hallucinate—to see things that are not really there. This fascinating interview with a man living with the disease provides an inside look into what life with Alzheimer’s can be like. Read about it or listen to the audio interview at NPR.

The Caregiver’s Brain

The Cost of Caring

It takes a special person to be a caregiver, especially if you are caring for a family member in addition to your other life responsibilities. That’s because caregiving is a selfless act, one that requires time and money, energy and love.

Taking care of a family member or friend is a noble calling, and a decision you can feel good about making. But neuroscientists and brain researchers now warn that caregiving could be costing you more than your time, love and financial resources.
 

Caring too much

Is caregiving really causing brain damage? Well, not exactly. Researchers say that the problem isn’t about taking care of others or selflessness at all. Instead it has to do with an issue that comes part-and-parcel with caregiving—chronic stress.
 
It’s long been understood that the stress hormone cortisol affects mental health. But University of California, Berkeley Neuroscientists have discovered that chronic stress actually triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function, including “an overproduction of myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal.”  Stress can even cause your stem cells to malfunction.
 
In other words, your stressful lifestyle is literally damaging your brain. However, there are some things you can do to slow, and even reverse the affects of chronic stress.
 

Combating cortisol

So what’s a caregiver to do? To intentionally protect your brain from the negative affects of the stress you put it through, you need to do three things. 

1. Get help. Don’t try to be a superhero. Despite your childhood dreams, you are not Wonder Woman or Super Man. You may have incredible strength, but everybody needs help sometimes. If you are caring for a family member, don’t be afraid to ask the rest of your family to help out.
 
Another option is to hire a professional Geriatric Care Manager. Having a professional in your corner means that you don’t have to make all the care decisions yourself with limited information and training. Go to www.mbgcm.com to learn more about our specific services, and the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers to learn more about Geriatric Care Managers in general.

2. Practice relaxation. According to Philippe Goldin, PhD, from the Neuroscience division of Stanford and UC Davis, Something called “mindfulness” is about “cultivating an ability to be fully present in a single moment,” he says.  His research shows that intentionally choosing to be aware of your stressors, and then learning to relax despite them, results in “improved self-observation [that] may promote the use of a range of coping skills.” And these coping skills lead to a reduction in stress and allow the brain to repair itself.

You don’t necessarily need to seek out a professional to learn how to relax (though you might find one helpful). The next time you feel stressed, try taking a deep breath, slowing down and enjoying the moment. Pay attention to what is around you today and focus on the present. Pray, meditate or take a quiet moment for yourself, your brain will thank you!

3. Get moving. It’s common knowledge that exercise can help relieve stress, but new research from Princeton University shows something even more amazing. Their research explains that the brains of physically active mice responded to stress differently than the brains of sedentary mice. Specifically, the brains of the physically active mice showed “a boost of activity in inhibitory neurons that are known to keep excitable neurons in check.”  

In other words, the physically active mice were able to remain calm in the face of stress because their brains responded differently than the brains of the sedentary mice. Exercise not only helps reduce stress, but it may actually prevent it from occurring in the first place
 
Exercise has many health benefits, including maintaining brain health. If you are not currently physically active, it’s time to begin making a plan to incorporate physical activity into your daily life.