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.


Talking to Elderly Parents about Falling

In his blog for the Huffington Post, Jim T. Miller, NBC contributor and Creator of SavySenior.org states:

It’s an unfortunate reality, but every year, one in three older Americans fall, making it the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors age 65 and older.

A simple fall can cause a serious hip fracture, broken bone or head injury, which can lead to hospital stays, disability, loss of independence and even death. But even falls without a major injury can cause seniors to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active.


We couldn’t agree more. Fall prevention is one of the most crucial aspects of Aging life care. Learn more about fall prevention by reading Miller’s blog post.  Or read about how gardening improves balance!

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.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Finding Balance
By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

We often hear about the importance of achieving balance in our daily lives. We know that we need to find work-life balance. We need to slow down and weigh the significance of our activities. We need to balance others’ expectations with our own ability to meet them. We should eat healthy, balanced meals.

However, there is one kind of balance that you may not be thinking about as much as you should be—your ability to maintain physical balance.

When was the last time you paid attention to how well you can, for example, stand on one foot? If your answer is sometime in a distant high school physical education class, pay attention. It turns out that this skill is more important to our health than it seems. And this is especially true as we age.

According to the National Institute on Health, each year more than one third of people older than 65 fall. And fall-related injuries, such as hip fractures, can have a serious life impact. Falls can limit activities and make it hard, even impossible, to live independently.

For this reason, we at Geriatric Care Management want to encourage everyone, especially seniors, to evaluate their balance. We urge you to take charge of this vital component to a long, healthy and independent life. To improve and maintain good balance, we suggest involving your physician in the evaluation process. You may also want to request a physical therapy evaluation.

It’s important to realize that most of us are not as agile as we were in our younger days, and we should be realistic with our own limitations to avoid physical risks that would limit us even further. A medical professional can help you to determine which exercises are right for you. You may also want to include some of the following simple exercises from the National Institute on Aging in your journey to a more balanced life.

Simple exercises to improve balance:

Stand on one foot.
Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
Hold position for up to 10 seconds.
Repeat 10-15 times.
Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
Do 10-15 sets on each leg.
Heel to toe walk.
Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot.
Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance walk.
Raise arms to sides, shoulder height.
Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.
As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for one second before stepping forward.
Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

For a slideshow of more balance-related exercises to try, visit the MAYO clinic website.
And please contact us if you or a loved one need any assistance. We are here to help. Visit us on the web, or call us at 505-897-3009.

Gardening Grows Senior Health

Gardening Grows Senior Health
By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

It’s spring, and for many people that means it’s time to get planting. It’s no surprise that flowers lift our spirits and home-grown vegetables are more nutrient rich, but did you know that exercising your green thumb has other health benefits too?
According to the National Wildlife Federation, researchers at the University of Arkansas found that women 55 and older who gardened at least once a week showed higher bone density than those who did other types of exercise. In fact, their study found that yard work and strength training were the two most significant ways for subjects to build bone density! National Wildlife Federation.
In addition to building stronger bones and muscles, gardening can also boost your mental health. Spending time in the sunlight increases vitamin D production and can help to prevent depression.
Getting started
If you’re not an experienced gardener, remember it’s a good idea to start small. You really don’t have to have a large, fancy space in order to reap the benefits of gardening. Raised beds are one option, they make planting and weeding easier, and limit the amount of bending and kneeling required. You can plant both flowers and vegetables in raised bed gardens to create a beautiful and bountiful crop.
Another option to consider is container gardening. A surprisingly large variety of vegetables can be grown in pots including green beans, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, mustard greens and, of course, tomatoes. And you don’t need much space to grow them.
If you live in an apartment, you might consider turning a patio or deck into a growing space. If you’re planting in a covered space, be sure to observe and chart the sunlight that the space receives. You want to make sure that your plants get adequate light to thrive.
Safety first
Before you start growing, be sure to check in with your physician to get the “green thumbs up.” Here are some additional tips to garden safely:

  • Stretch before starting any gardening activities. A short warm up will help prevent injury.
  • Shift positions and change hands every 10 minutes to prevent overuse of a particular muscle group.
  • Buy your materials in smaller packages rather than lifting heavy bags, which puts undue stress on your body.
  • Work for shorter lengths of time to prevent soreness later.
  • Stay hydrated and pay attention to your body’s signals to rest.
  • Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen, and dress in lightweight clothing to prevent heat exhaustion.
  • If you experience back or knee pain, or have other conditions that limit your mobility such as arthritis, consider using adaptive gardening equipment, under the supervision of your doctor, which can be purchased online or in some gardening stores
  • Consider planting perennial plants, which often require less attention and do not need to be replanted each year.
  • Water using soaker hoses to prevent the need to lift and maneuver a heavy hose.

Now you’re ready to plant! To determine the best time to plant your vegetable garden, visit the Farmer’s Almanac garden plannerYou might also consult with a local expert on what vegetables grow well in your area and how much water they require as well as shade, partial sunshine, or full sun. County extension services often have local gardening programs and information. In Albuquerque, contact the Albuquerque Area Extension Master Gardeners at 505-292-7144 or abqmastergardeners.org more information. They also publish a book called Down to Earth, which gives detailed instructions on local gardening.

Need assistance getting to the nursery? Call
The Silver Runner today to schedule a custom outing today. (505) 872-0451

How Do I Get There From Here?


Handing over the keys

By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

We Americans love our cars. We love the romance of the open road, the wind in our hair. We have a love affair with road trips, car camping and drive-in movies. And getting your driver’s license is a right of passage in most young Americans’ lives. It’s part of the American dream, part of who we are. But that’s because a car isn’t just a car to us. It represents something so much more significant; it represents our freedom and independence. For some, it’s even a part of their identity.
Maybe that’s why losing the ability to drive hits American seniors so hard. It isn’t merely about the loss of transportation. Losing the ability to drive represents a major life change. Unless you live in a densely populated urban city, giving up your driving rights essentially means giving away your independence. It means relying on others in a way that you haven’t before. It means you can’t just hop in the car and go – now you have to schedule and coordinate transportation ahead of time for your everyday activities. It can also affect one’s identity. Sometimes the type of car a person drives makes that person feel set apart. Living without a car, for some, means blending into the background.
“Driving a car is a symbol of independence and competence and is closely tied to an individual’s identity. It also represents freedom and control and allows older adults to gain easy access to social connections, health care, shopping, activities and even employment,” says Kristine Dwyer from caregiver.com.
Sometimes giving up driving comes in stages. Seniors might first begin driving only in a certain radius or only during certain hours. Then they may gradually begin to go out of the way to make only right hand turns–to avoid cutting across traffic. They might also find themselves not driving on the highway any longer, or not driving at night. Still, at some point, most Americans have to turn in their keys. And this transitional moment in an elderly person’s life can sometimes lead to isolation and depression.

What drives you?

Living in an assisted-living community with available transportation is helpful if you are unable to drive yourself around. However, after a lifetime of driving independence and spontaneity, it can be frustrating to be limited by someone else’s timetable and location list. And too often, seniors have to wait long periods of time to be dropped off and picked up. It can also be confusing, time consuming, and tedious to coordinate transportation to appointments, errands, and to attend social events. This may help to explain why elderly people sometimes stop making the effort to maintain vital social connections; it’s just too much work. But those social connections are essential to our emotional and mental health.
In fact, according to Harvard researcher Shari S. Bassuk, ScD, “Social disengagement is a risk factor for cognitive impairment among elderly persons.”  In other words, seniors need to maintain social interaction, even after they hand over the keys in order to maintain optimal brain health.
So what’s the solution? Taxis are expensive and may not be able to provide the care that an elderly person needs to safely attend appointments and social events. Cabs are also impersonal and drivers do not accommodate any extra needs. They show up, curbside, honk and wait. And on the return, even if you are carrying things, they drop you off, literally, curbside.  A personal driver would be great, but for most people that isn’t practical financially. What’s really needed is a driver with experience in elder care who can be scheduled according to your individual needs.

The Silver Runner solution

New transportation services are cropping up in our community to address the needs of seniors who require assistance and transportation. The Silver Runner Mobility Managers recognize the specific attention, compassion and reliability that is required when transporting our community’s aging adults.
Scheduling services in advance allows us to guarantee punctuality. Our highly trained Mobility Managers provide quality transportation and care with our “door-through-door” service. Mobility Managers ensure that needs are met and that the entire Silver Runner experience is pleasant and timely.
Putting independence back in your life is what The Silver Runner is all about.  You don’t have to depend on friends, family, or volunteers to take you to do the essentials – keep appointments, grocery shop, and do errands. You can now be in charge of arranging to go wherever you’d like, including scenic drives, taking a class at Oasis, going to a museum or concert, or heading up to Santa Fe for the day.
To help foster social connections among seniors in our area, we also offer regularly scheduled group outings each month. If you or someone you care for is learning to live without their car keys, please call us today at 505-872-0451, or visit our website www.TheSilverRunner.com for more information and a full list of our scheduled outings. You can also create your own individual or group outings.

Caring from a distance

When parents need help, and you’re far away.

Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

Question: My parents are in their nineties, and live two states away from my brother and me. They are both living with significant age-related limitations.
My mother has used a walker for years and is now relying more on her wheelchair to get around. My father is recovering from a recent heart surgery. Both have severe arthritis, macular degeneration, and I suspect some loss in cognitive function—perhaps even the beginnings of dementia.
Despite our pleas, they won’t even consider moving closer to us, either to live in my home or in an assisted living facility near my brother and me. This has become a significant financial and relational drain on our families, as we alternate visiting every-other-weekend.  The stress and guilt we feel is overwhelming.  It is difficult for us to give our families and our parents the time and attention they deserve.  I always feel like we are forgetting something important regarding their care, it’s so hard to keep track of all their bills, health conditions and various health issues, and house upkeep. We need help!
The financial and emotional stress of traveling to visit your parents twice monthly is significant, and you are concerned about not being able to properly care for them.  In addition, being away from your own family causes more stress, guilt and burdens.  Utilizing the services of a Geriatric Care Manager will allow you and your brother to be able to be your parents’ children, not a caregiver. This will also free up time to be with your immediate family.
You mentioned that your parents do not want to move near to you, I wonder if that is because they are afraid to be a burden. It may also be that it’s difficult for them to accept that they are no longer able to be as independent as they once were.  Change is always difficult.
Because you and your brother are both overwhelmed, I recommend finding a Professional Geriatric Care Manager near your parents. A Geriatric Care Manager can assess the situation and provide resources to you and your parents. They are trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services to older family members and their families. Geriatric Care Managers are skilled at having difficult discussions and discovering fears and concerns. Once everyone’s concerns are understood, a Geriatric Care Manager is trained to address those concerns and develop a plan that all are comfortable with.

Geriatric Care Managers can provide the peace-of-mind that you need, while helping to maintain your parent’s independence, safety and dignity.  They communicate as often as agreed upon so that you feel that you are aware of what is going on in your parents’ lives, while being able to live your own life.  Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager can help you all live the lives you hope for while continuing to be a loving, caring family.
Visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website for helpful articles, local providers and other information.  You can also contact us at Geriatric Care Management and we will be happy to answer your questions, set up a consultation and provide you with resources.

Be prepared for hospital discharge

Know Before You Go

By Kimberly Gyle, MSW, MSG, CMC

When a loved one is in the hospital, it’s natural to want them to come home. However, once discharge is imminent, you may be concerned about the next care steps for your loved one. 

The emotions that accompany hospitalization can make it difficult to concentrate and focus. With this in mind, we’ve put together this list for you to use prior to leaving a hospital, nursing home or other care setting.

  • Speak with the doctor, nurse or social worker about the overall care plan.
    • What are the next steps to address the health issue?
    • How quickly can one resume regular activities?
    • Are there diet or movement restrictions?
    • If there is a driving restriction, make plans for how errands will get done.
    • Inquire about which symptoms to watch for and how to respond.
  • Know where the person is going after the discharge. Will it be another facility or back home?  Discuss how the actual move/transfer will occur.
  • If home is the discharge plan, will there be visits from a home health nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, or another therapist?
    • If yes, get the name, address and phone number of the agency providing the services.
    • Understand how these services will be paid.
  • Is special care required, such as a special diet, wound care, shots or bandage changes?
    •  If the facility says that family or friends can help, be sure to obtain training before discharge.
  • Review the medications prescribed.
    • Know the doses, side effects and the reason for the prescription.
    • Be sure to get a prescription for any new medications.
    • If your loved one is released to another facility, they will need orders signed by an MD for all medications, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins. 
    • Some of the regular medications may have been stopped while in the hospital. Determine if they need to be resumed and if there is a dosage or frequency change.
  • There may be a need for durable medical equipment (DME). This includes walkers or supplemental oxygen.
    • Be sure to know how to get the equipment, or who is delivering the equipment, before you leave the hospital.
    • Understand how insurance will pay for this equipment.
    • With oxygen, be sure the provider can deliver the same day as discharge.
  • Be aware of which health care providers will need to be seen after discharge.
    • Get the contact information for these providers.
    • Be sure that these providers have received a summary of the hospital stay.

For a comprehensive checklist, please refer to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11376.pdf.
Or to print a transition plan to complete, go torwjf.org/content/dam/farm/toolkits/toolkits/2013/rwjf404048.
An in-depth article about this topic can be found on the website of the Family Caregiver Alliance:  caregiver.org/hospital-discharge-planning-guide-families-and-caregivers.
A professional certified geriatric care manager is a valuable asset to assist through the hospitalization and discharge process. Geriatric care managers have the knowledge to be an advocate and resource-finder as needed. They can also follow the person at home to ensure continuity of care, provision ofcare and needed follow-up appointments are scheduled and kept, as well as ensure that there is a system to managemedications established. Please call Geriatric CareManagement at 505-897-3009 or visit us online atmbgcm.com to find out how we can help with your situation. 

You can also reference the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers’ website atcaremanager.org and watch informational videos. 

Marty’s Musings on Positive Thinking

There has been a lot of talk lately about how a positive attitude can influence business success, but our February e-newsletter will focus more on what a positive attitude can do to improve quality of life.

When I think about this topic, I’m reminded of the time when I was the Director of a Foster Grandparent program many years ago. Many of the older people who had applied were required to have 40 hours of training before they could be assigned to work 20 hours per week with special needs children. They would often tell me they did not think they could make the commitment because they had so much chronic pain due to arthritis or knee or hip pain.

Many talked about how they were often immobilized due to weather, waiting for medications to take effect, and the inordinate amount of time and struggle just to get dressed. But in every case, once they started working one-on-one with their assigned special needs child, they told me the time flew by and they couldn’t believe when their four hour volunteer work with the child was over. They were so focused on providing love and encouragement to their child that they totally forgot about their own pain and discomfort.

They were amazed that their chronic disease or their constant worries and anxieties had somehow fallen into the background of their being. Many older people are isolated, living alone in their homes or apartments, happy to have some of their most meaningful possessions with them, but far from family. And due to mobility and/or transportation problems, don’t see others to interact with or actively participate in watching activities.

My own mother-in-law is just an amazing example of a positive attitude improving quality of life. At age 99, she is blind in one eye and walks very slowly with stand-by assistance only, has difficulty hearing, and has no teeth. Yet she says she’s grateful for what she has.  She can still eat; she can see well out of one eye to watch sports on TV, watch her great grandchildren, feel the sunshine, walk and climb stairs, and talk a little on the phone.  She says, “What good would it do to complain.

It wouldn’t change anything, except to make me feel bad and prevent me from enjoying what I have, while I still have it.”  “If I can go up the stairs now only once to the bedroom at night and come down and spend the day downstairs, at least I can still do that.”

Doing things we enjoy, while it may be difficult, gives us another outlook, another perspective.

Just making the effort can make all the difference.  For example, going to a museum, an art gallery, a concert or a musical, or even to have someone take you for a drive and coffee out in a cafe can change one’s attitude not just for that hour or two but sometimes, for the whole week.