Celebrating Aging Life Care™ Month

May is Aging Life Care™ Month! So what do we means by Aging Life Care? It’s a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing health challenges. An Aging Life Care Professional®  is a health and human services specialist who is a guide, advocate, and resource for families caring for an older relative or disabled adult. Working with families, we strive to provide answers at a time of uncertainty. We are dedicated to guiding families toward actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, reducing worry, stress and time off work for family caregivers.

As members of the national Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA), we must meet stringent education, experience, and certification requirements of the organization, and all members are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice.

Deb will be speaking on Aging Life Care issues at several events, both national and local, this month:

May 11

ALCA 34th National Conference in Chicago
Panel discussion on “Awareness in Preparedness: Disaster Lessons”
Click here for details.

May 22

Worcester Alzheimer’s Partnership
“What is Aging Life Care™?” at Noon
100 North Parkway #105, Worcester, Mass.
508-799-2386

May 23

Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire
A Map Through the Maze Conference for Alzheimer and Dementia Care Providers
“Collaborative Care Planning in the Community,” with Attorney Laura Traiger, at 10:45 a.m.
DCU Center, 50 Foster St., Worcester, Mass.
Click here for details.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Tiago Muraro

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How to Help Your Aging Parent Travel Safely to That Special Family Event

It’s that time of year when weekend calendars are jammed with graduations, weddings, award celebrations and other special family get-togethers. You want to include your aging parent in the festivities. But what happens when Mom or Dad lives farther away and is getting too frail to make the trip?

Here are some tips to help your aging loved one arrive safely:

1. Plan the shortest, most direct route.

Whether your loved one is traveling alone or with a companion, it’s worth the added expense to keep her travel as easy and time-limited as possible. Travel, especially by air, is tiring for everyone, due to long security lines, crowded flights and unpredictable delays. Having to get up early to get to the airport, arrive late at night, or make connections through a large terminal is exhausting for even younger, seasoned travelers. Whether your parent is able to travel alone or not, encourage her to spend the extra for non-stop, midday flights. And if she’s concerned about cost, offer to help pay.

2. Make advance arrangements for your parent’s special needs.

Airlines and airport authorities in the U.S. are required by law to provide accessible bathrooms at the airport as well as other accommodations, such as electronic cart or wheelchair transport to the gate. Plan ahead for special needs. Contact the airline’s disability specialist at least 48 hours in advance to make arrangements for onboard wheelchairs and other medical equipment. You’ll find a good overview in this article from Senior Care Advice.

3. Clear travel with your parent’s doctor, if necessary.

Here’s where you need to weigh the stress of travel for your loved one against his desire (and yours) to join in the family celebration. The last thing you want is for travel to trigger a health emergency! While there’s no way to prevent every medical crisis, some can be avoided with common sense and a healthy dose of precaution about what is really doable. Consider, too, whether the stress of travel would overwhelm a parent who might become disoriented or confused due to dementia or other cognitive conditions.

4. Be sure your loved one has travel insurance.

It’s worth the money to be certain that any medical emergencies are covered when your parent is away from medical support within her health plan network. Travel insurance also helps to cover unanticipated costs of cancellations, delays and other travel mishaps, such as lost luggage.

5. Accompany your loved one on the trip or arrange for a trustworthy travel companion.

Whether you (or another family member or friend) can travel with your parent is, of course, a matter of schedules and logistics. If your loved one is well enough to travel, but too easily fatigued or confused in high stimulus environments (like crowded airport terminals), or has special needs, then it’s worth ensuring that he has someone with him along the way. There are services that will help your loved one to make all travel arrangements as well as provide trustworthy travel companions. Be prepared and do your research: These services come with a hefty price tag.

6. If your parent is traveling alone, make sure she is met by someone reliable at the end of her journey.

It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Your aging loved one will be tired from travel. Even if she’s always been the gung-ho, organized planner of the family, give her a break, a warm greeting, and a hand with luggage and transportation to wherever she is staying.

7. Be clear about whose needs are being met.

This is probably the most important piece. Don’t guilt-trip your parent into travel when it’s really more than he can handle. In the age of the Internet, we’re fortunate to have options for virtual visits via video chat. While being there in person is preferable, there are times when cyberspace travel is a better, safer choice.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Omar Prestwich

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Speaking Up for Health Care Decisions

Whatever your faith, chances are you’re familiar with these famous words from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There’s a time to be born; there’s a time to die. . . . There is a time to be silent. And there’s a time to speak.” If you’re a fellow Baby Boomer, you probably sang those words to Turn, Turn, Turn, popularized by the Byrds in 1965—but written as a protest song by Pete Seeger in the late ‘50s.

Silence in protest can be both powerful and extremely uncomfortable. In the recent March for our Lives in Washington, D.C., Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland survivors and a leader of the student movement, got up to speak. She said a few words about each of the victims, then stood still, tears rolling down her cheeks. The crowd started to cheer, unclear how to respond. Gonzalez finally broke her silence, at 6 minutes and 20 seconds from the time she stepped to the podium, which was exactly how long it took for the gunman to kill the 17 victims. I believe her speech (or really her silence) was the most powerful of the afternoon.

However, there are times when silence can render us powerless or even impotent. There are times when we must speak up, if not for society’s sake, than at least for our own. Travel through any major transportation hub in this country and you’re sure to hear “If you see something, say something.”

April 16 Kicks Off National Healthcare Decisions Week

On April 15 (April 17 this year), Americans will file their income tax returns. April 16, in keeping with Benjamin Franklin’s saying that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), kicking off a week for health care decision planning

NHDD emphasizes education and awareness to encourage adults to create a health care plan. It is NOT just about end-of-life planning. Case in point: when our sons turned 18, we had each of them sign healthcare proxies and durable powers of attorney, just in case. After all, we never know when something could happen that changes everything.

Every adult is at risk of being unable to make healthcare decisions. I had a very close call 11 years ago, when I suddenly became critically ill and was comatose for five days. My husband had to speak for me and give consents for certain interventions.

Fortunately, we had a health care plan in place, including a health care proxy and an advance health care directive—documents that help an adult name someone to make health care decisions if/when the individual is incapacitated and that identify what decisions the individual wants to be made on their behalf. Creating the planning document before a health crisis gives you the opportunity to think and talk about the different kinds of health care and treatment that you do or don’t want during your lifetime. As your needs and circumstances change, it’s worth revisiting the plan and making necessary updates.

Health Care Planning Tools Available through Honoring Choices

For the past several years, I have been a Community Partner of Honoring Choices, a consumer-focused non-profit supporting the right of every adult to direct their health care choices for quality care today and everyday all through their lives.

Honoring Choices provides up-to-date health care planning information, free Massachusetts care planning documents, and handy guides to start a planning discussion with your care providers to match quality care to your goals, values and choices. You can find those resources here.

When you need to take care of yourself and advocate for your health care, you can’t afford to be silent. Health care agents or care provides must remember to be silent in order to hear what those they serve are trying to communicate. A time to be speak, and a time to be silent, indeed.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Lui Peng

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When Caring for an Abusive Parent Means Sacrificing Your Own Well Being

Deciding how best to care for your aging parent depends on many factors—how close or far you live from each other; their and your financial resources; time; energy; your health; other demands of jobs and family; availability of other siblings, family members or friends to assist; whether help from professional caregivers is an option; family and community values regarding how elders are treated.

Above all, however, your choices will depend on your relationship with your parent. And if that relationship was an abusive one, the decision becomes much more complicated.

There is certainly plenty of societal pressure for adult children—especially daughters—to care for their aging parents. But honoring your parents, as the Bible instructs, doesn’t necessarily mean caring for them yourself if they were abusive or negligent in caring for you as a child. In fact, doing so can be hazardous to your own well being.

Caring for Abusive Parents Increases Risk of Depression

A 2013 research study in The Gerontologist by Kong and Moorman found that caregivers who had a history of parental abuse were significantly more likely to suffer from depression when caring for their abusive parents, as compared to caregivers who had never experienced such abuse.

The reality is that the trauma of emotional, physical or sexual abuse in childhood doesn’t evaporate just because it happened in the past. Unless you’ve worked through those painful experiences, old issues can resurface or fester when you are faced with responsibility for a vulnerable parent.

It may be true that caring for an abusive parent can also create a new opportunity to heal old wounds and find forgiveness. But such reconciliation carries significant psychological risks and is best undertaken with therapeutic support.

Filial Responsibility Laws Make Exceptions for Adults Who Were Abused as Children

While more than half the states in the U.S., including Massachusetts, have filial responsibly laws that require adult children to take care of their parents—some even imposing civil penalties and imprisonment for failure to support a destitute parent—the laws are rarely enforced.

In addition, most state statutes make exceptions when it comes to supporting a parent who has abandoned a child or done them some wrong.

Be Realistic About What You Can Handle and Set Boundaries

Ultimately, the very personal decision about whether and how to care for an abusive parent comes down to being honest with yourself and what you can handle—and setting appropriate boundaries. Regardless of guilt tripping by peers to care for your parent at home or other social pressure to keep him or her out of a nursing home, a secure environment in a good skilled care setting may actually be healthier for both your parent and for you.

An Aging Life Care Professional® can provide an objective assessment of your parent’s needs, help you to figure out what you can realistically handle, and mediate negotiations between you, your parent and other family regarding best options for all involved.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Claudia Soraya

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Don’t Miss “A Map Through the Maze” on May 23

Celebrating its 25th year on May 23, A Map Through the Maze, a practical-based Alzheimer’s and dementia care conference sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter, offers professionals a unique opportunity to learn current and cutting edge information on a wide range of Alzheimer’s-related care topics.

I’ve attended this conference for years and always learn something new and useful. It’s a great networking and educational event with many exhibitors and lots of good information. With 30 breakout sessions offered, there is something for everyone. This year, keynote speaker Melanie Bunn, GNP, MS, RN, will present “Managing Pain and Dementia: Detection, Assessment and Treatment.” CEU’s are available.

In addition to the regular program, five tracks will be offered:

  • Dementia Management in the Acute Care Setting
  • Creating Purpose: Therapeutic Activities and Meaningful Engagement
  • Community Based Dementia Care
  • Advancement in Research: Prevention, Treatment and Care Approaches
  • Caring for Individuals with Dementia and Intellectual Disabilities

Along with Attorney Laura Traiger, I’ll be presenting a session on “Collaborative Care Planning in the Community” at 10:45 a.m.

What’s New at A Map Through the Maze?

NEW LOCATION: DCU Center, 50 Foster Street, Worcester, Mass.

  • Larger breakout rooms with table seating
  • Five unique tracks highlighting best practices in dementia care
  • 30 breakout sessions with 39 new speakers and 27 new care topics
  • Expanded exhibitor area, including morning session and interactive learning opportunities
  • Easy access from MBTA Commuter Rail

Exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are also available. There’s a reduced registration fee for those interested in being conference assistants. For more information or to register, please click here.

Questions? Contact Lorraine Kermond at lkermond@alz.org. Hope to see you there!

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: beasty

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