Blog Posts - caregiving

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Dementia in Films: Getting It Right

Dementia in Films: Getting It Right
I loved the novel Still Alice because it was an accurate portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease. And the movie Still Alice got it right too.

I lead support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s so I was eager to find out what they thought of the movie.  Read more...


 

Lying to Mom?

Lying to Mom?
A few years ago, a New York Times New Old Age blog had me thinking about my mother's later-life driving. The blog is about lying to an older person, ostensibly for his or her own good. In one tale, a grown daughter sabotages her mother's driver's license renewal to avoid confrontation over concerns about waning driving skills.  Read more...


 

Helping Hands, Joined Online

Helping Hands, Joined Online
When you’re coping with the needs of someone who is hospitalized or convalescing, you may wish you could clone yourself to handle everything on your plate. Take heart—a website can become your personal assistant. What’s more, it won’t cost you a thing.  Read more...


 

The Kitchen Fire

The Kitchen Fire
In the middle of a recent night, my beloved, 84-year-old husband climbed out of his hospital bed, went to the kitchen area of the loft, found a saucepan, turned on a front burner of the stove—and accidentally started a fire, which luckily set off the smoke alarm. Nothing like this had happened during the nine years of increasing dementia that resulted from his 2004 traumatic brain injury (TBI). Why did it suddenly happen now?  Read more...


 

What Good Are Support Groups?

What Good Are Support Groups?
This was Chester’s first time at our caregiver support group. A man in his 70s, he told us about his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease and has become anxious whenever he is out of sight.  Read more...


 

Accepting Losses, Discovering Gains

Accepting Losses, Discovering Gains
After my mother came to live with me, I gradually took on more and more of her care. By the end of the first year I was doing what any Alzheimer’s caregiver does. I bathed her, helped her dress, handled her finances, did her laundry, tried to be patient answering her repeated questions, gave her medications, coaxed her back to bed if she was wide awake in the middle of the night, prepared her meals, cleaned up when she had spells of incontinence, tried to find music or videos she might enjoy, took her on walks, helped her dial the phone and took her to 42 doctor’s appointments.  Read more...


 

More Is Possible

More Is Possible
My husband was a sculptor until 2004, when a traumatic brain injury ended his working life. Before that, he’d spend hours each week looking at art; he called New York’s Metropolitan Museum his “temple.”  Read more...


 

Preserving Autonomy against the Odds

Preserving Autonomy against the Odds
When the doctor diagnosed my mother with probable Alzheimer’s, he also told her, “I want you to stop driving.” He said her reflexes and judgment weren’t good enough.  Read more...


 

Does She Still Recognize You?

Does She Still Recognize You?
An acquaintance I ran into at the supermarket stopped me with that question. It was one I got frequently when my mother was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.

The question made me uncomfortable. It seemed intrusive coming from someone I wasn’t close to, and it was hard to answer. The truth was complicated.  Read more...


 

How to Use Your Brain in Perpetuity

How to Use Your Brain in Perpetuity
As I learned the hard way eight years ago, when my husband, Scott, began the downward spiral of dementia after suffering a traumatic brain injury, doctors are loath to admit they know little about what causes dementia and nothing about how to prevent, treat or cure it.  Read more...


 

Adrift in Time

Adrift in Time
I was taking my mother to Maine to visit her brother. They had lived in New Jersey within a few blocks of each other their entire lives until, due to her dementia, she moved in with me. A month later, he and my aunt moved to Maine to be near their daughters. I knew my mother missed him, so I thought this trip would make her happy. Indeed, she was overjoyed when I told her we were going.  Read more...


 

He Was His Own Miracle

He Was His Own Miracle
There’s an article elsewhere on this Web site that expresses doubts about something I believe in. There’s no scientific evidence, it says, that thinking positively can keep you healthy or that being determined to fight back against an illness can help you heal. I’m not a scientist, but I’m convinced that the mind can profoundly influence what goes on in the body because I’ve seen it happen.  Read more...


 

One Benefit of Dementia

One Benefit of Dementia
Sweetheart that he is, my 80-year-old husband is usually very cooperative, despite severe dementia resulting from a traumatic brain injury suffered five years ago. But for the last year or so, he has recoiled from anyone, including me, who approaches him with a sharp instrument, making such normal grooming acts as nail clipping and beard trimming, as well as necessary blood drawing, all but impossible. Consequently, his toenails were so long, they were like knives, one even cutting into the neighboring toe until it bled.  Read more...


 

When Behavior Speaks

When Behavior Speaks
I sat with my mother and her caregiver, Aliza, one afternoon in the Alzheimer’s unit of the nursing home. With my mother between us, Aliza and I chatted about the hot weather we had been having. All of a sudden my mother hauled off and punched me solidly in the arm.  Read more...


 

Oh, to Be 70 Again

Oh, to Be 70 Again
Oh, to be 70 again with the rest of my life opening up in front of me. When I was 70, I was working for a foundation and thought it the best job I’d ever had or was likely to have. My career as a magazine writer was behind me and I had few regrets.  Read more...


 

Droneliness

Droneliness
Concerned about an onslaught of enfeebled old people? Don’t worry, robots will take care of them! American techno-optimism knows no bounds, and so-called “age-independence” technologies are proliferating like crazy. But in a profoundly ageist culture, the implications can be disturbing. Here’s a critique, based on the latest article to catch my eye.  Read more...


 

Oh. America. How Obamacare Finished Off Breaking Bad

Oh.<em> America</em>. How Obamacare Finished Off <em>Breaking Bad</em>
Any just society must reduce the despair occasioned by dire medical conditions.

This was one lesson, oddly, that could be drawn from the TV series, Breaking Bad.  Read more...


 

Regarding Alzheimer’s

Regarding Alzheimer’s
An empty shell. Doesn’t know who he is. Violent. Doesn’t recognize family members. Unable to communicate. The negative stereotypes and exaggerations of Alzheimer’s disease abound.  Read more...


 

Aging in Place: Is It a Pipe Dream?

Aging in Place: Is It a Pipe Dream?
On surveys, most older Americans say they want to age in place: to stay right where they are in the home they’ve lived in for years. Whenever I hear that, I wonder whether they realize just how difficult that can become. As time passes, house and yard maintenance begin to seem overwhelming; stairs can become impossible to climb. Friends move away or die, and once you have to stop driving, isolation looms.  Read more...


 

Could Happen

Could Happen
Before the accident that left him like someone with advanced Alzheimer’s, my husband was an artist. After the severe injuries to his brain's frontal lobes, centers for the "executive functions" that enable us to conceive and carry out plans, he found it difficult to make art. Hoping to get him drawing again, I fixed up an "art table" and, as suggested by an art therapist, sat with him for at least ten minutes a day while he drew.  Read more...


 

Getting Out Alive (and Staying That Way)

Getting Out Alive (and Staying That Way)
My role as caregiver and advocate has me quite familiar with transitioning a patient from hospital back to home sweet home. In my experience, the weak link in the process is almost always with discharge instructions and expectations. Patients leaving facilities are overwhelmed with instructions they (and even their caregivers) can't understand; doctors' orders get lost and misinterpreted; one doctor doesn't know what the other has prescribed, and so on. When patients return home to an unsafe environment, unprepared to cope with new limitations, too often they end up right back in the hospital. It's a problem so pervasive that hospitals are now literally paying the price for readmissions—they're fined by Medicare.  Read more...


 

In Dog Years

In Dog Years
Have you met my dog, Ruffles? At her annual well-dog visit, my vet referred to her as geriatric. Ruffles is almost a decade young, and sure, she is a little grayer and sometimes doesn't make the leap onto the bed on her first try, but geriatric?  Read more...


 

The Thriller

The Thriller
The summer I turned 14, I spent a month at the Lake Erie resort town of Cedar Point with a friend whose parents ran a food concession on the boardwalk, which boasted the highest roller coaster in Ohio. It was called The Thriller and I fell in love with it. I hung around it so much that the daytime manager, seeing my passion, eventually allowed me to ride for free in the mornings, when there weren't many customers. One day I decided to see how many consecutive rides I could clock without stopping and rode for two and a half hours straight. Even so, the thrill of the slow clank to the top, followed by the heart-stopping plunge to the bottom, continued unabated.  Read more...


 

The Dance of Experience and Time

The Dance of Experience and Time
Before Scott, my beloved husband, fell from a sleeping loft, sustaining the devastating traumatic brain injury that transformed our lives, I divided experience into two distinct kinds, both of which any satisfying life depends upon. The first consists of those pleasurable, transitory experiences, often sensual—like eating, sex, art—that quickly vanish. The second is the kind of stable, future-oriented experience you build upon—work accomplished, knowledge accumulated, habit inculcated, skills expanded, resources conserved.  Read more...


 

My Greatest Fear

My Greatest Fear
From my living room window, I look out on a pretty little park—and the nursing home across the way. I know someone who lives there but I haven’t visited her, I’m ashamed to say. The place scares me because it reminds me that there might be a nursing home in my future.  Read more...


 

Age, Trauma and Contentment

Age, Trauma and Contentment
Unaware of his accident or his dementia, my husband attributes his lack of short-term memory—the result of a traumatic brain injury that left him, at 75, like someone with advanced Alzheimer's—simply to aging.  Read more...


 

From Babyproofing to Grannyproofing, Don't Ignore This Health Checkup!

From Babyproofing to Grannyproofing, Don't Ignore This Health Checkup!
My mother's safety became a concern to me as she aged. My mom lived alone and hated to ask for help. We both wanted to keep her safe and independent.  Read more...


 

How to Survive in a Hospital and Fire a Doctor

How to Survive in a Hospital and Fire a Doctor
After six weeks in a Maine ICU, my husband, Scott, who suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling from a sleeping loft, was flown to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City for rehab.  Read more...


 

Giving Back

Giving Back
In my husband’s last months, he fought stubbornly for his independence even when the things he insisted on doing for himself were extremely difficult for him—or were against doctors’ orders. I had to be available to care for him all day, every day, and I could see that sometimes he resented that. Meanwhile, I was reluctant to turn to friends for help. I’ve always found it hard to ask for favors.  Read more...


 

Still Alice, 2014, USA, 101 min.

Still Alice, 2014, USA, 101 min.
Still Alice tracks a family’s changing dynamics after a life-shattering diagnosis and serves as a showcase for Julianne Moore, whose beautiful, freshly Oscar-winning work allows us to see her family’s struggles as part of the title character’s long, losing battle with herself. The movie proceeds at an uncomfortably languid pace until the end, when we’re shaken.  Read more...


 

I Lied to My Father on His Deathbed

I Lied to My Father on His Deathbed
My generation has been called the sandwich generation, people in middle age who bear some level of responsibility for their children and their parents. While reliable statistics are not readily available, it is estimated that almost half of people in their 50s and early 60s find themselves in this demographic.  Read more...


 

The Accident

The Accident
One day it happens, the dreaded event that will change your life, the more ominous because you don't know what form it will take or when it will occur. To me it happened on July 22, 2004, at two a.m. on a Maine coastal island in a remote, seaside cabin, with no electricity, plumbing or road, when my beloved husband fell nine feet from a sleeping loft and injured his brain.  Read more...


 

The Consoling Power of Art

The Consoling Power of Art
There are an estimated 42 million unpaid family caregivers in this country (including me), not counting the millions more caring for chronically ill or disabled children, so it’s a shock to learn that the first anthology of poems and short stories about caregiving has just been published in the United States. Not that there aren’t hundreds of helpful nonfiction books, journals, newsletters, websites, blogs, as well as memoirs and novels on the subject, covering every category of patient or need. But a single-volume collection of outstanding short fiction and poetry, reflecting many different takes on this widespread, life-altering experience, has until now been missing, leaving an empty space in our hungry consciousness. Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving (Vanderbilt, 2014), Carol Levine’s selection of fiction and poetry about caregiving by some of the most accomplished writers of our time, is an excellent start to filling it.  Read more...


 

The Love of My Life

The Love of My Life
I am inaugurating my new blog for Silver Century ten years to the month since the accident that catapulted my husband into dementia at 2 a.m. on July 22, 2004. Ten years! Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes like a lifetime ago, that Scott fell nine feet from a sleeping loft to the distant, hardwood floor, suffering the traumatic brain injury that brought to an abrupt end our equal marriage. In that moment, my partner, the love of my life, became permanently disabled, and I became his caregiver.   Read more...


 

In the Air with a Chair

In the Air with a Chair
A friend received one of those worst-nightmare phone calls—her husband had had a skiing accident out West and was about to undergo emergency surgery on a very smashed-up knee.  Read more...


 

The Doomed Experiment in Intergenerational Living

The Doomed Experiment in Intergenerational Living
I recently picked up Katie Hafner's Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir (2013). All it took was a glance at the book jacket for me to know that the author was telling part of my story along with her own.  Read more...


 

Are Men an Endangered Species?

Are Men an Endangered Species?
Owl Monkeys
Why is it that almost everywhere on the planet women outlive men? And how come that’s been true for centuries, at least in Europe, even though childbirth used to be a really risky proposition? These questions grabbed me while I was researching an article on life expectancy for SCF.  Read more...


 

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The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.

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"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."

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