Brush away Alzheimer’s?

I can hardly wait until they have some proven options to prevent and even cure Alzheimer’s … and maybe even all of the other forms of dementia. It’s so devastating to the individuals and their loved ones.

It was hard to witness the changes in my parent’s and it was sad to slowly lose those beloved traits and quirks their dementia’s stole away.

I do see some older adults who start to skip the health maintenance tasks they regularly followed as they age. Some make sense … like the colonoscopy. Is there an age where you might stop getting this screening?

I do know my parent’s no longer wanted to visit the dentist. I fear the day when my current dentist retires. Seeing him and everyone in his office is like visiting dear family friends. Will I some day feel the same way?

Could dental hygiene be one of the best prevention’s? If you haven’t seen the news, here is a link to a recent report on the study. Hoped.

When a Credit Freeze Makes Sense

creditfreezeThe credit bureaus just removed all fees from the credit freeze process. To protect myself, I implemented a credit freeze about a year ago. I can unlock it when I need to make a purchase (and now there is no fee to do this), and I am not at a stage in my life where I need to open new credit accounts.

For those of you caring for someone with dementia, this could add a layer of protection against any concerns of fraud.  Before you put a credit freeze on your account, set up your online account with Social Security. Once you implement a credit freeze, you won’t be able to do this online with social security — because it basically freezes the ability to use your social security number. At least that is how they explained it to me because I froze my credit, THEN tried to set up  my online access. I can still do it but have to come into the local social security office. Mea Culpa!

Freezing your credit is free. However, as you go through the process they will try to sell you additional services and notifications. I’m a little appalled that they expect me to pay for a service to notify me when my credit card number is found on the “dark web” since I believe this should be part of the service my credit card company manages to protect me as a card holder.

In general, if you are looking at your bank and credit statements and checking the mail, you shouldn’t need additional services. However, if you have a loved one with dementia who is still managing on their own, putting this in place might be a second line of defense against fraud or scams.

A credit freeze doesn’t protect against fraudulent charges against an existing account (you still have monitor bills and statements) nor ensure that someone doesn’t try to file a fraudulent tax return.  But it does offer a layer of protection against accessing your credit.

If you decide to freeze credit, you will need to unlock it should they later consider moving into a care community.

To start the freeze process, you will need to contact the big three bureaus:

Equifax: Visit this site to start the process:

Securian: To request your free security freeze, visit Experian’s Freeze Center or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742) and provide the required information.

Transunion: Visit this site to start the process:

I think anything you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is a advisable.  However, we all have different levels of comfort, and you need to do what is right for you and your loved ones. Shared. 

Driving, Dementia, and the Right to Drive

dementiasherpaAs the adult child who watched the dings accumulate on my parent’s car, and then as they continued to drive after their licenses were revoked, this topic still makes my tummy and heart ache.

However, as a Daily Money Manager, I’m now having these discussions with my clients who have hired me to help with the daily finances and bill pay usually because of health issues, and also hearing them lament over their children’s suggestion they give up the car keys.

This week, a client diagnosed with Parkinson’s and that by self-admission is having issues finding words and managing bills is very angry at her children who are suggesting she stop driving. When I asked her what her neurologist said when she asked about driving and safety, she said the rules tell him he has to write a note to rescind her license only if she is passing out. God Bless America. We have made driving a right you receive, not a right you earn and must continually qualify for.

I shared with my client that her adult children are worried for her safety, while she is fighting for her independence. I gave her some examples about how driving can be challenging because she will have to make split second decisions when she’s behind the wheel of her car.

As we discussed the topic a little deeper, she said she was going to voluntarily give up the car keys, but is now so mad that her kids are demanding she give them up, she is fighting to keep driving. My bent toward logic made me talk that through with her a little, but right now, she’s wants understanding and is devastated at the losses she is facing.

I left hoping I could wave a wand and make this easier for everyone. I can now clearly see how this topic is so difficult for every family.

I recently was introduced to Christy Turner, The Dementia Sherpa. She offers a host of great suggestions on how to better  communicate with your loved ones diagnosed with dementia, including some tips on how and when to navigate the issue with driving. Dementia just stinks. Recommended. 

Herpes Vaccine Fighting Alzheimer’s?

herpes virusSo, not that anyone is going to opt for herpes, but several recent studies reported that taking herpes medication lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s. The study published in Medical New Today reported that Alzheimer’s risk is 10 times lower with herpes medication.

“In the herpes group, the risk of dementia was over 2.5 times higher
than in the control group.”

Two articles (Tsai et al., published in PLoS One in November 2017; Chen et al., published in the January/February 2018 issue of Journal of Clinical Psychiatry) demonstrate an increased risk of subsequent senile dementia (SD) development in patients with acute varicella zoster (herpes zoster) infection. 

I found this to be a fascinating read and who knows where the cure might originate? Here’s to a cure. Intrigued. 

How do I help Mom remember Dad is Dead?

cole indoor 2017 - ocean breeze 4x4The weeks after my Dad died were one of the worst transitional periods in navigating as a Caregiver for my Mom with Vascular Dementia. I was shocked and devastated at his quick decline and death, and my Mom, who no longer had any short-term memory, kept asking for me to take her to visit him.

I didn’t want to have her keep reliving his death, but I felt like I was always having to let her know he passed away. She was living in Assisted Living with him and really liked it there when he was alive. However, she didn’t do well after he died. She was out looking for him in the community and getting into fights with the other residents.

What I realized was that there were many things I could do to help her know about his death and help her try and process the grief. First, and I’m still not sure why we did this, but after dad died, we all gathered around his body and had the hospice nurse take a picture. I printed out copies and put them in her apartment with the date so she could see we were all there at his death and had said our last good-bye. Remarkably, this really helped her process his death. She could see all the kids were there and by her side.

Once the obituary ran, I put those copies up along with the final picture. After the burial service at Arlington Cemetery, I added more pictures of the service and all of us together. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone in her grief.

Dementia is such a cruel disease.

I remember talking with my mom over a year later and telling her about watching my son at a track meet. My Dad was a hurdler for West Point. She had one of those out of the blue clarity moments and says “Oh Vald, would have loved to be there to see him run!” I hadn’t heard my Mom talk about Dad for months. I was elated and gut-punched with grief all at once. Remembered.  

How do I help from far away?

LetmemakemistakesA good friend called and wanted to know how often she should be visiting. Her sister and brother live near mom but she’s trying to chip in and do her fair share.  Is visiting every month, or every other month enough?

There really is no right or wrong answer. There is just the answer of what is right for your family.

My friend has been hiring and screening caregivers, and picking up extra projects (like getting a hospital bed at home). It turns out that her sister is overwhelmed and mom is only getting more prickly. She doesn’t want the help. She fires everyone that shows up to help for everything–from cutting the grass to helping get out and go grocery shopping.

I let her know it might be time to step back and let mom try and manage on her own. Sometimes you have to let them succeed or fail. She probably doesn’t believe she needs the help she is getting. It’s hard to do.

What if it were you? How might you like it if other people were making these choices for you–much less your own kids?

I know that she and her sister and brother are doing it out of love. They very much respect their mom. However, what you do thinking it is welcomed might not always be.

I also shared how I changed the language I used when my mom needed help, but didn’t recognize it. Could she suggest the person showing up to help around the house is one of her high school friends that wanted to visit with her mom? Could the person cutting the grass suggest he is neighbor home for the summer and just noticed that the grass needed a mow?

It took me a while to adapt and create situations that my mom could accept. Might something like this work to get her mom the need she helps but maintain her sense of self worth? I reminded her of all the things her mom lost. Her husband is gone, her sister took over her checkbook, she had to give up the car keys after the fall and hip surgery … what does she have that gives her purpose and meaning?

It’s easy to arrive and offer help, but we often neglect to recognize the need for our loved ones to maintain a sense of self-worth.

The question about how often to visit isn’t the real issue. But I know she is visiting her mom and talking with her siblings frequently. That is on top of her full time job … and her 7 children! I commend every adult child who is working to be involved. Their loved one is better off than the majority of the seniors in the United States. Appreciated. 

That checkbook equals independence

I still remember using my first credit card to buy clothes for myself when I was around 21 years old. I can visualize the pair of novelty socks that were going to look good with my “dressy” shorts. Yeah, I’ve never been that great when it comes to fashion, but I recall those socks as my first adult purchase on a credit card.

Q4HelpingParentsNow that I work with older adults on a daily basis and help them manage their day-to-day finances, I see how much that checkbook represents. I’ve included a video where I was asked about how someone should talk to a loved one about managing the money and when to recommend a Daily Money Manager.

I recall the frustration I felt when I watched my parents giving away money to a zillion charities they never had an interest in before … missing to pay the water bill … or being asked how you put a check into your checking account. Add to that the number of times my Mom lost her wallet just to fuel my concern … and aggravation. Dealing with numbers and following a multi-step process can be one of the first things you see failing in a loved one with cognitive issues. The consequences can be devastating to financial resources.

Every year, the National Council on Aging estimates more than $36 Billion is lost due to exploitation, fraud, and trust abuse. On a weekly basis, I meet with clients who are giving away money they need to pay for their care, paying for products and services they don’t use, and generally a disinterest in the implications of giving that money to people they never intended to assist.

However, before you tell your loved one they need to hand-over the checkbook, consider what that means to them. If you are concerned, you should start by spending the time to walk through the day-to-day finances with them — help them write checks and manage the cash flow. If you can’t do it, you should be able to find a Daily Money Manager in your area that can help on the website for the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

I hope you will consider how much your loved one has already lost, and don’t be to hasty to take away what might represent to them their last vestige of independence. Recommended. 



It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

twain quoteA Financial Adviser shared this saying with me after I reached out to him to help some clients who have dozens of banking and retirement accounts. As a Daily Money Manager, I work to simplify their lives, minimize the money they are spending on things they don’t use, shield them from fraud and predatory vendors, and help connect them with the right resources to best serve their interests. Sometimes it’s an Elder Care Attorney, sometimes a Home Care Aide, sometimes an Aging Life Care Manager, and sometimes it’s a Financial Adviser. In a few cases, it’s been one of each.

The Adviser used this expression in response to a conversation about some beliefs we have about managing money and I think it really applies to the world of caregiving in many ways.

First off, Mark Twain is credited with the complete quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

I recently had a discussion with a family that was struggling to help their Dad. They wondered when it was time to consider moving him into a memory care community. I have seen over-and-over again what happens to individuals when you wait too long. They have a hard time adapting to their new community.

“But Dad doesn’t like people, he’s always been a loner.”

Everyone needs to do what feels right to them, and to serve the best interests of their loved ones. In many cases, what our loved ones like changes over the course of their dementia. My mother who was a Life Master at Bridge, didn’t enjoy cards once she could no longer keep track of bids. The woman who hated TV would choose to sit and watch it some days over doing a painting activity — and she had been painting since the 70’s.

In the same way it pained me to lose my mom bit by bit, seeing her no longer find enjoyment doing the things she loved to do was a double-whammy.  What I did see was that my mom started to enjoy activities I would have never guessed at her memory care community.

What I thought I knew when it came to advocating for my Mom, wasn’t always so. Give your self the time and space to consider the options. Your loved ones are lucky to have you. Remembered. 





When is caring for your spouse at home the wrong choice?

oldehandsholdigI am invited to provide “Caregiver Academy” workshops around the metro-DC area and get to meet a lot of spouses, as well as adult children who are caring for a loved one. At a recent talk, a gentleman came up to me after everyone left and wanted to talk about how he might be able to better care for his wife at home.

“What kinds of things can I do beside sit her in front of the TV?”; “Why does she insist that she’s showered when she hasn’t for days?”; “When should I start thinking about finding a memory care community?”

I could hear the pain in his voice as he was battling with frustration, fatigue, and the marriage vows he made. I shared with him that I had recently heard and also seen statistics that show how often the caregiver predeceases the person they are caring for. He needs to put the oxygen mask on himself so he can be a good advocate for his wife.

He also started talking about how they are continuing to lead the life they have always lived. They are going out to dinner with friends but she won’t talk and is now eating with her hands. As much as it pained me to lose my parents bit-by-bit, I truly can’t imagine going through this with a spouse. That promise of a retirement together unravels as you try to maintain a sense of normal.

I don’t think there is a right answer that fits everyone. However, what I do know is that you need help be it spouse, partner, sibling, or adult child.

Because it’s easier to see the choices that I made in the rear view mirror, I will always suggest to people that they bring in more help if they can so they can enjoy their original role (spouse, sibling, adult child). The caregiver role can eclipse all others and I regret that a lot of my time was spent as a caregiver, and not her daughter.

  • Are you able to bring in some care for a few hours a day so you can run errands or get to your own doctor visits? There are probably a host of local home care agencies in your area and many have caregivers specifically trained to care for individuals with cognitive impairment and dementia. They typically run from $20 – $28/hour. There are also means-based options for those that can’t afford to privately pay and your local Area Agency for the Aging will be able to tell you more–you can find one near you here.
  • Are there local adult centers that offer classes or activities that your loved one could enjoy? We have senior centers run by the county and day programs run by several non-profits. Don’t dismiss them until you have tried them. They have music programs and run activities that will engage your loved one where they are. I know how much my mom wanted to continue playing bridge, but could no longer.  She quickly engaged in the arts and crafty activities when she joined them.
  • Have you found a caregiver support group to connect with other caregivers? Some even offer respite when you meet. Being able to talk to others who are facing the same issues can provide you with some ideas as well as companionship.

There might be medical factors that make living in a community the right option for you and your spouse, or just your spouse. You just need to find the option that is right for you. They need you to be a good advocate, not necessarily help them with all of their activities of daily living.

What do you think your spouse would want if you had this discussion a decade before it was personal? Wondered. 


Strokes and Dementia

strokeI recall the many visits to the neurologist with my mom after her stroke. We learned this was her second stroke. The doctor guessed the first one happened over a decade before but went un-reported or un-diagnosed. The second stroke began with dizziness and after watching my mom try to walk, my dad drove her right to the emergency room. The second stroke left no physical reminders, but there was a noticeable difference to my mom’s memory and how she processed information. They told me she had an ischemic stroke.

Over the six-months of visits, we really focused on understanding the cause and how to prevent a future stroke. The doctor never explained how the stroke might impact her ability to drive, manage her finances, or retain information. She also never mentioned that based on my mom’s behavior, that she probably had Vascular Dementia.

When I was talking with a client last week, he stopped me to ask why I used the term “vascular dementia” to describe his partner. She had a stroke and when I spoke with her, she had trouble getting out her words and he admitted that she had had trouble with her short-term memory. I’m not a doctor, but I shared that she seemed to present like my mom did after her stroke.

The interaction reminded me just how difficult it was to get my mom and dad diagnosed. The first neurologist for both of them never even used the term “mild cognitive impairment”, although to me and my siblings, we all recognized something was different in their behavior and thinking. Had we had an earlier diagnosis, maybe we could have developed a better plan of care to have them live with purpose and meaning for the rest of their lives.

I hope if your loved one has had a stroke, you might have more information to understand the impact and how it might shape the coming years. Every one is different, but I worry that the move to shorter medical appointments will make it even harder for the next wave of caregivers to come. Wondered.

VR Allowing Those with Dementia to Escape It’s Grip … If even only temporarily.

Recently friends shared two stories about the use of Virtual Reality (VR) for those diagnosed with dementia. The first video will bring a smile to everyone’s face (sorry about the 5 second ad intro), especially for those of us who cared fovrdementiar or are caring from someone with dementia. There were days when I could see the sadness on my mom’s face. When she started losing the ability to freely walk around safely, she lost one of her favorite coping mechanisms. It would have been fun to see if and what mom might like with this technology that she could have done safely from a comfortable chair.

The Washington Post also shared the story of a doctor using VR with her patients with very positive results. You have to visit the story to watch the video, but it’s interesting to learn how it’s helping some individuals that are exhibiting combative behavoir become more peaceful.

Maybe for the holidays you can try out Google Cardboard to see if someone in your life might find a little escape. If it works you could then invest in some of the more robust solutions that will work with iPhone and Samsung for sure. Intrigued.