Miss Norma’s Final Road Trip

  • By lemaster
  • 05 Dec, 2016

Just two days after losing her husband, Miss Norma, a 90-year-old Michigan native, was told that she had a mass in her uterus that was likely cancer. After the doctor carefully explained her options, the 101-pound woman looked the young doctor in the eye and told him that she was hitting the road. Below is her story that has captivated and inspired both seniors and their at-home Hinsdale, IL, caregivers.

Accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law, the woman spent the last 14 months of her life traveling on an amazing cross-country road trip. In fact, she traveled more than 13,000 miles before she finally passed away in early October. The trio parked the RV in 75 different locations in 32 different states. Everywhere they went, Miss Norma’s faithful dog Ringo went too.

During that time, she got to do many things that she had only dreamed of before including riding in a hot air balloon and on a horse. The woman was a special guest on numerous television shows and watched her first NBA game in person as a special guest of the Atlanta Hawks. Along with the big things, she also experienced many little things like getting her first pedicure and eating her first slice of key lime pie. She even was made the honorary grand marshal in a parade when the town did not even know she was coming.

The end came peacefully in Harbor Freight, Washington, just two months after the trio arrived. Her memorial service was held there and a tree planted in the city park in her memory.

Over 482,000 people followed the journey on Facebook where her frequent updates often included an inspirational quote, such as this one from Jacob Nordly, “We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is a bouquet of common enchantments waiting for our alchemist’s eyes to notice. “ It was her sincere hope that her journey would encourage seniors to openly discuss end-of-life plans with their families and live-in home caregivers in Hinsdale.

Talk to the professionals at Hinsdale, Illinois, Home Care Assistance when you call (847) 906-3991 today. We will customize a unique care plan for your loved one based on his or her individual needs to promote physical and emotional wellbeing in the comfort of home. Schedule a complimentary consultation with a trusted Care Manager today.

By proadAccountId-382942 25 Oct, 2017

At the Home Care Assistance Annual Conference in October, Aleks was selected from among thousands of caregivers nationwide as Caregiver of the Year. We are so thrilled for her, as she exemplifies the best of the Balanced Care Method everyday with her client, Joe. Joe’s daughters, Sulie and Stephanie, had many thoughtful remarks regarding Alex’s compassion and care. Sulie, a professional opera singer in Vienna, even sang her praises! Visit our Facebook page to see the full video.

"Each time I visit I am happy to see that the bond between my Dad and Aleks has grown even stronger than before. She has an uncanny ability to read him, to respect him, to know his needs. She has become “his person.” - Sulie

This is the second time a caregiver from our Chicago franchise has been selected for the National Caregiver Award. Elena was honored in 2015. Thank you clients and team for contributing to these achievements!

By proadAccountId-382942 05 Oct, 2017
Recently we spoke with Charlotte Bishop, Geriatric Care Manager (GCM), about her new book that shares her experience with dementia care. Charlotte is author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia,  which features selected case studies resulting from interviews with more than 30 care managers nationwide.

Q: How did you decide how to best present the realities of being a caregiver for older adults with dementia?
A: We decided it would be best to illustrate caregiving for a dementia patient as a pool of information, highlighting common issues and challenges people deal with when caregiving for a loved one with dementia. We also wanted to offer ways that caregivers cope with the challenges as well as provide helpful tips to avoid falling into common missteps. The book has three main goals: Provide state-of-the-art information about dementia, let the reader benefit from the lessons learned from other caregivers’ and care managers’ experiences in dealing with dementia, and assure the reader that caring for oneself throughout the process is just as important as the care of a loved one. My goal as a care manager is to provide answers, alternatives and advocacy for family caregivers so that when they go to sleep at night, they know they’ve done the best they can in a difficult situation.

Q: A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is challenging for many family members. In what ways do GCMs (Geriatric Care Managers) help?
A: Often, it’s not just dementia that is diagnosed. There are other diseases or conditions that need addressing as well, such as hypertension, diabetes, or a bi-polar diagnosis. By attending primary care doctors’ appointments with the client, for example, care managers organize questions and develop an appropriate care plan for thriving at home. We find physicians are usually more responsive and receptive when professional care managers attend doctor visits, in some cases providing more information to us than they may share with family members. Care managers also help family caregivers manage the responsibility of caring for their loved ones by providing home safety assessments, recommending and coordinating outside services that are brought in, and generally supporting the caregiver to balance the day-to-day responsibilities of their lives and obligations with that of being a caregiver to an older loved one.

About Charlotte Bishop, MS, GCM, CRC, CCM, LCPC
Charlotte is president and founder of Creative Care Management, a Chicago-based business for more than two decades. As a certified Geriatric Care Manager (GCM), Charlotte Bishop leads a team of qualified professionals dedicated to providing solutions to difficult care situations. They are seasoned experts in the field of geriatric and senior care.
By proadAccountId-382942 29 Aug, 2017
Every year, one out of three older adults suffers a dangerous fall. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65 or older, resulting in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries.

Every year, 1.6 million older adults go to the emergency room for fall-related causes. Below are five easily manageable alterations you can make to your home to increase safety:

1. Remove anything that could cause tripping or slipping: It is easy to trip on clutter that has collected on the floor and the stairs, so those are good places to start with spring cleaning. Small furniture, dog bowls, power cords, and phone cords can create tripping hazards. Throw rugs are especially dangerous because they can slip and slide and can create an uneven floor surface. Take them off the floor and hang on the wall for a creative accent piece.

2. Arrange furniture to leave plenty of walking room: As we age, our vision may begin to fade and narrow, and it is important to make sure there is plenty of space to walk easily in your home. If you arrange furniture in the right way,
sofa arms and chair backs can support balance and mobility.

3. Apply non-slip tread tape on floors and steps: It is important that every walking surface in the home have as much traction as possible. Start by placing non-slip tread tape on stairs and step-ups, possibly using bright colors to make
sure step-ups are visible. Most importantly, be sure to put a secure rubber mat on the bottom of the bathtub or shower.

4. Good lighting is ESSENTIAL: Sufficient lighting around the house is crucial. Lighting on stairways, both indoors and out, is especially important, with switches at both the top and bottom. It is also helpful to place nightlights in bathrooms, hallways, bedrooms, and kitchens. Also, keep a flashlight by the bed.

5. Equip troublesome areas with handrails: Another easy tip to make a home much safer is ensuring handrails are in place on both sides of all steps, staircases and walkways. In addition, install sturdy grab bars in the tub, shower, and next to the toilet.

Don’t forget a regular exercise program to maintain balance, strength and endurance.  Be sure to ask a caregiver
or call our office at 312-380-6716 for more information about fall prevention, or if you have any
questions about a Home Safety Assessment.
By lemaster 01 Jun, 2017
The National Parkinson’s Foundation has invested millions of dollars in research to help improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease. One focus of the foundation’s research is an international study, the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, designed to investigate the efficacy of various treatments for Parkinson’s patients and improve care. With more than 8,000 participants across the world, this long-term study is the largest undertaking to date in Parkinson’s research history.

Though most people think of Parkinson’s as a mobility disorder, the study has shown that depression and anxiety are the No. 1 factors that most impact the overall health of Parkinson’s patients. About half of Parkinson’s patients experience depression at some point after diagnosis. Depression appears to be more common in Parkinson’s patients than in those with other chronic diseases.

While those with Parkinson’s disease may be upset about the loss of mobility and coordination attributed to their condition, the depression in this population is more largely related to changes in the brain; dopamine plays a role in muscle movement as well as mood. The fact that depression plays such a prominent role in the overall well-being of Parkinson’s patients makes early detection and treatment key. Unfortunately, depression is both under-detected and under-treated in this population, having significant negative impacts on overall well-being. The loss of control of facial muscles associated with Parkinson’s makes the face rigid (masked facial expression) and thus difficult to read—our facial expressions are one of the key indications of mood.

In addition, Parkinson’s and depression share some symptoms. As a result, the National Parkinson’s Foundation suggests that doctors screen Parkinson’s patients for depression at least annually. These initial findings also highlight the importance of addressing both the physical and mental well-being of individuals with a holistic approach to care.

Our caregivers provide assistance at any stage of Parkinson’s—helping those with the disease accomplish tasks to function as independently as possible. Our care management team also provides emotional support for the patient and family members and helps individuals stay as active as possible through exercise and regular recreation.
By proadAccountId-382942 04 Apr, 2017
A recent study has shed promising light on a potential method to detect early Alzheimer’s and possibly treat or prevent the disease before symptoms even appear. The study concluded that a decline in glucose levels in the brain starts to occur right before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear. Researchers at Temple University believe this discovery may lead to treatments that prevent Alzheimer’s disease from taking hold by keeping glucose levels in the brain from dropping in the first place.

For years, researchers and doctors have noticed an association between declining brain glucose levels and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, until now, no one had found that they are a trigger for cognitive impairments.

The study was conducted on mice, and the results were published in the J ournal of Translational Psychiatry in January. As anticipated, mice that were deprived of glucose in their brains showed signs of mental decline that indicated a breakdown of communication between neurons. The same mice also performed worse in maze memory tests than the control mice who were not deprived of glucose. Because cognitive decline is impacted by glucose levels, researchers suggest that a protein known as “p38,” which regulates glucose in the body, could possibly have a role in preventing Alzheimer’s. Early tests with p38 show that the anti-inflammatory properties of the protein may reduce the formation of plaques in the brain that are associated with dementia.

All tests conducted by the team at Temple University were performed on mice, and much more research and development is needed before human trials begin; however, these scientists are encouraged. Lead researcher, Dr. Domenico Praticò, called the findings “extremely exciting.”
By proadAccountId-382942 01 Mar, 2017

Caring for an aging parent is a complex task, but when dementia is part of the picture, it becomes even more difficult. Cognitive and behavioral changes may occur unpredictably, and parents may resist care. If you are the caregiver for a loved one who suffers from dementia, the most important thing is to first understand the disease.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia, it is the one with the most pronounced stages. Becoming familiar with these stages will help you identify the behaviors your loved one is exhibiting, learn how to address them, and update his or her primary care physician. The National Institutes on Aging defines the three stages of Alzheimer’s disease as:
Mild:The disease begins with memory loss and small changes in personality. The person may forget recent events, the names of familiar people or things and may no longer be able to balance a checkbook. Those with Alzheimer’s slowly lose the ability to plan and organize and may have trouble making a grocery list or finding items in the store.
Moderate:In this stage memory loss and confusion become more obvious. People have more trouble following instructions and may need help getting dressed. They have trouble recognizing friends and family members. They may not know where they are or what day or year it is. They may lack judgment, begin to wander and become restless. In the moderate stages people may make threats, accuse others of stealing, curse, kick, hit, bite, scream or grab things.
Severe (late stage):This is the last stage of Alzheimer’s before death. People often need help with all their daily needs, may not be able to walk or sit up without help. They may not be able to talk and often cannot recognize family members. They may have trouble swallowing and refuse to eat.
Caring for someone with dementia is much more intense than caring for an older adult with other health issues. You can care for the physical needs of your loved one by closely coordinating care with his or her physician. Just as important is the ability to remain a caregiver for the long term. That requires a clear understanding of the role and strategies designed to protect the well-being of you and your family.
1. Caregiving demands will increase over time.As the disease progresses so will the needs of your loved one. By the advanced stages, caregiving will become a full-time job. Knowing this will help you to plan your work/life schedule in a realistic manner and seek help with caregiving responsibilities.
2. Dementia caregiving requires special skills.Caring for someone with dementia may not come naturally. It isn’t intuitive. In fact, sometimes the logical thing to do is the wrong thing. For example, insisting that they eat may be the wrong thing if they have developed swallowing or chewing difficulties. Learn about the disease and its treatment. Consult with your loved one’s physician and ask advice for caregiving.
3: Talk with your family and children about caregiving.Be honest. Children are very intuitive. They will know that their grandparent, aunt or uncle are changing and that their behavior is odd. Explain the disease and that loving the senior loved one is most important. Engage them and empower them to be part of the caregiving process. Younger children may read to the senior or help with chores. The family will be less stressed when the situation is discussed openly.
4. Have regular family meetings.Sit down on a regular basis to talk about how caregiving is impacting the family as a whole. Talk about the impact of the senior’s condition on the family and address stress points and difficulties. Meet with a therapist or case manager if that will help to solve grievances.
5. Pay attention to family needs.Caring for someone with dementia can quickly be the focus of attention for the household. Young children and spouses may feel excluded and left behind. Take time to schedule activities for just the family by asking a family member or professional caregiver to stay with your loved one. Encourage the caregiver to bring special activities so it also is a fun evening at home for your loved one.
Do you care for a parent with dementia? Have you found strategies that work for you and your family? If so, we would like to hear from you. Senior care is a special community. By sharing information, we can help one another to provide meaningful care.

By proadAccountId-382942 03 Feb, 2017
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disease with many moving parts. As of today, no one is exactly sure what causes it or what can be done to prevent it. There are theories, and some of those are based on findings of scientific research studies. Even with the brightest minds continually working on finding a successful treatment or cure, it seems a cure may not be found for a long time.

Though the results of a newly published study out of MIT did not find a cure, they unveiled an interesting insight into the brain. Led by Li-Huei Tsai, Director of the Picower Institute of Learning and Memory at MIT, the study found that introducing flashing LED light into the brains of mice suffering from Alzheimer’s disease reduced the percentage of Alzheimer’s disease causing beta amyloid plaques in the brain by about 50%. This study was done on mice, but if their findings do end up working on people, we could be quite a bit closer to treatment – or someday even a cure.

Tsai and her colleagues at MIT were working with mice who had signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. One of their experiments involved using electrical impulses in an attempt to recreate the neuron firing that occurs in healthy brains. (Neuron firing slows down in the brain when people have Alzheimer’s disease.) Our brains have billions of neurons (nerve cells in the brain), and they talk to each other, reaching out to each other and communicating with electrical signals. When groups of neurons are “on” together in the same “beat” so to speak, we are able to process information and understand the world around us. The “beats” per minute between neurons depend on the difficulty of the tasks we’re performing. The neurons fire more slowly when we’re sleeping, and when we’re performing difficult tasks that require thought (or new tasks), the neurons fire (or beat) more quickly, at between 30 and 100 times per minute. This rate is considered the gamma frequency.

One of the problems in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is that the neurons get fatigued and quieter, so cognitive tasks become more difficult for the brain to process. There are other problems in brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease too, like beta amyloid plaques, muddled connections between neurons, and problems with immune cells. But this study focused on the neuron firing.

What Tsai and her team did was attempt to speed up the neuron firing to the gamma frequency (30 to 100 per minute). They started with mice that had multiple problems, including lots of beta amyloid plaques in the brain and less gamma (or slower neuron firing). They drilled a hole in the skulls of the mice and inserted a tiny fiber optic cable into the brain to fire light at a rate that matches the gamma frequency – in this case, 40 per minute. After one hour of being treated with the flashing lights in the brains, the mice had about 50% less beta amyloid plaque buildup. That finding surprised even the scientists.

It seems like the light ignited the “janitors,” of the brain called the microglia, which “clean” the brain of plaque so it doesn’t build up. In Alzheimer’s disease, the microglia seem to stop working, which many believe is one of the causes of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Excited by their findings, the researchers decided they needed to find a less invasive way to test whether the light was actually causing the decrease in plaque. So they decided to try putting the mice in a room with LED lights flashing at a gamma frequency. They were shocked when it had the same effect as putting a fiber optic cable in the brain did. All the mice studied had a 40 to 50% reduction in amyloid beta plaque after one hour of treatment in the light flashing room.
They followed that study with another study in which they treated the mice with the light one hour per day every day for seven days. And again, the results were the same – a 50% reduction of amyloid beta. The biggest problem they had was that the amyloid beta levels returned to their original levels about 24 hours after treatment. More studies will have to be done to find out whether daily light treatment could have positive effects on Alzheimer’s disease symptoms over a long period, whether humans will experience similar reductions in amyloid beta, and if so, whether those reductions will affect the symptoms of the disease once it’s been diagnosed.
There’s still no magic pill. There’s no cure. But there is some fantastic information to use as a springboard to future studies.

Check back next week to learn about a follow up study led by Susumu Tonegawa, Director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, that relates to “bringing back” memories thought to be gone using a technique called optogenetics.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease on our website.
By proadAccountId-382942 03 Jan, 2017
Being the primary caregiver for an elderly family member is complicated at best. There are medications and appointments to track, meals to plan, cognitive issues to address, and personal hygiene to attend to. Family members who are not involved in the senior’s day-to-day care may be supportive or resentful. They may interfere or offer help. Complicated family dynamics can add pressure and anxiety to already overwhelmed caregivers.

There is no absolute way to appease distant family members. The best thing a caregiver can do is to consistently communicate with key family members in order to provide a window of understanding into the complexities and uncertainties of caring for an aging loved one. In many instances, this information can reduce anxiety and criticism from family members who cannot or do not want to walk in the caregiver’s shoes.

The strategy is to deliver as many details as possible so that family members begin to understand the enormity of caring for an aging loved one. The goal is to give them a sense of the loved one’s health status and what their days are like. This does not mean that the caregiver has to keep a carefully written journal; unpolished daily information is usually the most powerful. Here are some tips on how to efficiently communicate with family members:

1. Keep a running list of notes that you jot down throughout the day and week. You can write them electronically in an email draft or in a notebook. At the end of the week send the email or copy the pages and mail them. Paper pages can also be scanned and emailed or sent via Skype.

2. Tiny details tell the biggest story. Relay things that your loved one says during the day. Make a note when they say them so you won’t forget. They are the tiniest things in daily life that speak the loudest. For example; Mom suddenly doesn’t like Earl Grey tea- her lifelong favorite; Dad hates his favorite doctor or now loves watching tennis on television which used to bore him. This is the information that gives family members a stark view of daily life.

3. Photos and videos tell the story firsthand. Phones can quickly capture photos and videos of your loved one that will effectively convey their current physical and mental status. Take advantage of mobile apps and use Snapchat or Instagram to send photos.

4. Schedule Skype calls. Don’t worry about corralling all of your family members for a call. Schedule the call according to the best time of day for your loved one. This is a great way for family members to see their loved one for themselves and intimately understand their status.

Despite all these efforts, some family members may never be satisfied with your care. However, the information you communicate may ease criticism from those who think they could do a better job.

At the end of the day you deserve support. Home Care Assistance can provide it to you. We offer numerous services ranging from hourly and daily care to specialized care for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. You can review our Home Care Advantage checklist to see how we might best assist you and your loved one.

If you have ideas on how to keep family members in the caregiving loop we want to hear them. Please share them with us and let us know what works for you.
By lemaster 05 Dec, 2016

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that postmenopausal women stop taking supplemental calcium and vitamin D because there is very little evidence to support the theory that taking these supplements prevents fractures in healthy women. Additionally, researchers have found that calcium supplements can cause heart damage.

While calcium was once believed to help protect the cardiovascular system, studies conducted at the University of Auckland found that taking vitamin D and calcium supplements raised the likelihood of having a heart attack by more than 50 percent. The researcher reanalyzed the data and found that women were at a 24 percent higher risk of a heart attack when taking calcium with or without vitamin D.

Before you throw your loved one’s vitamin D and calcium supplements away, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center say that they found no such correlation during their seven-year study.

While this one may take a while for researchers to figure out, one thing is known for sure. Eating a diet that is high in calcium stops bone loss and may help heart health. The best choice for calcium continues to be a glass of vitamin D-fortified milk. Other choices that are high in calcium include yogurt and calcium-fortified tofu. Some vegetables are also very high in calcium including kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and spinach. Additionally, some fruits are high in calcium including oranges, tangerines and dried apricots, which is why Hinsdale elder care providers recommend them for the seniors they care for.

Researchers have agreed for a long time that the best way to get vitamin D is to go outside for a few minutes each day. So, take that walk that you have been putting off and encourage your senior loved one to join you. The body absorbs vitamin D from the sun, so the best time to go is when the sun is at its highest.

People will need to decide for themselves whether or not they choose to continue taking their supplements, but living a healthy lifestyle is a choice that everyone can make. Help your senior loved one enjoy a balanced lifestyle with help from Home Care Assistance of Chicago. Our highly trained caregivers incorporate the Balanced Care Method (BCM) to help seniors adopt healthy lifestyle choices that consist of nutritious diet, daily exercise and active social lives. BCM is our proprietary care method based on studies centered on the longevity and vitality of seniors in Okinawa, Japan. Call (847) 906-3991 today to learn more about BCM and how it benefits our clients.

By lemaster 05 Dec, 2016

There is no doubt that Alzheimer’s caregivers hope for a miracle cure for the loved ones they care for. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Biogen announced recently that their Aducanumab drug might help reduce the amount of amyloid plaque that clumps together in the brains of those diagnosed with this debilitating cognitive disease. Before caregivers consult a local doctor about this medication, be aware that it will be many years before it is available commercially.

While the results from this latest drug look promising, dementia caregivers must remember that the testing phase is still early. Although participants who took the drug for 12 months showed no signs of plaque in their brains upon completion of the study, medical experts warn families that they have been down this road before with other Alzheimer’s drugs. Major firms such as Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have all made announcements similar to the one made by Brogen. Later testing, however, did not show that their early results were correct.

One of the largest problems faced by this new drug is that it can cause the person’s brain to swell leading to even more debilitating problems. The Federal Drug Administration will never approve a medicine until these safety concerns are addressed and solved.

Furthermore, Biogen also has internal problems that may hurt the development of this drug. Their Chief Executive Officer is leaving the company. Their multiple sclerosis research unit has to cut back on research due to lack of funds. Unfortunately, while many in the media heralded Aducanumab as a major breakthrough, investors in the stock market hardly even noticed which might hurt funding even more.

Before families become too discouraged, however, this is great news that someone is still working on Alzheimer’s research. The disease affects 5.4 million Americans, and that number is likely to rise as America continues to age. With further testing and other adjustments, it’s possible that Aducanumab may revolutionize Alzheimer’s treatment in the near future.

In the meantime, seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are not without hope. Home Care Assistance of Chicago provides flexible Alzheimer’s and dementia home care for families to help seniors age in place with dignity. Call us today at (847) 906-3991 to learn how our compassionate caregivers boost our client’s cognitive and physical well-being.

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