Monday, March 30, 2009

Aging Studies is smart for everyone

In the 40 years between 2000 and 2040, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts the number of Americans age 65 and older to more than double to 77 million. Whether you are working with, caring for or marketing to older adults -- or if you are interested in better preparing for your own aging -- courses in Aging Studies are a good idea.

The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is offering the following graduate-level summer courses, all taught in an online format:

  • Aging Individual within Society and Community
  • Aging in a Global Society
  • Spirituality and Aging
  • Ethical Issues in Aging (requires an in-classroom weekend June 5-7)
Deadlines to register are quickly approaching. For course dates and other pertinent information, click here.

Not sure you want to enroll in a the graduate certificate or master's program? No problem! You can take up to two courses as a guest student. For more information, contact cac@uindy.edu.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boomers and beyond embracing social networking

This morning's USA Today ran a story on the front page headlined "Boomers zero in on social networks," detailing how the 60+ set are logging on to sites like Facebook, MySpace, Eons.com and others with increasing frequency.

According to the article, which cited Internet monitoring site comScore:

  • 16.5 million adults ages 55 and older engage in social networking
  • Facebook is seeing the most growth among users age 30 and older.
  • MySpace, with 130 million users, is enjoying a surge among the 55-plus set, who total 6.9 million users and spend an average 204 minutes a month on the site.
  • 350,000 users have created 1,700 interest groups on AARP.org's social networking platform
Older users of these sites indicate that some of the reasons they have embraced social networking including sharing common interests with like-minded people and meeting new friends online.

USA Today also linked to a previously-published table demonstrating what different generations use the internet for. You can find that table here.

Are you a Boomer or beyond? Are you involved in social networking online? Why or why not?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Going home

Going home can mean so many different things to people. For me, as an adult child providing respite for my father caring for my mother with late stage Alzheimer’s, going home meant sheer terror a few weeks ago.

Although I had been the Program Director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana for 4 years, and supposedly quite the “expert” on many Alzheimer’s-related issues, caring for my mom terrified me. I knew I needed to stay in the present moment, be patient and perhaps repeat myself 200 times a day, and be ever vigilant especially after sundown when she became restless and wandered. Could I do it?


I survived the four days and happily report that my mom and I laughed more in those four days than we had laughed together in the past 40 years. I truly was the star in my own version of “Ground Hog Day” -- and much funnier than Bill Murray, if I do say so myself.

While my mom did not know who this funny person was, she was delighted by my company and antics. Rather than being sad or upset that she did not realize I was her daughter, I embraced this time with my mom and tried to capture the many priceless and poignant moments we had together. I can honestly say it was four of the hardest and best days of my life.

I will never forget one of her most insightful comments to me. She said, “My forgetter is the best working part of my body.”

I was struck how my mom could not remember what she had said just a minute ago or even where she was, yet could utter such a profound statement. I spent a lot of time listening to my mother as she tried to explain as best as she could what it was like living inside her body and mind. I was awestruck by her ability to convey the confusion and difficulty with humor and grace.

While I choose to share the positives of my experience, I do acknowledge there were some tough times. I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t admit how difficult it is to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Although I choose to keep my own difficult moments private, I encourage caregivers to find support in that role.

Whether we are the primary caregiver or a long distance caregiver, it is a difficult journey and we need support. The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful 24/7 helpline, caregiver support groups, education programs and care consultation available. I encourage you to visit alz.org to find the chapter nearest you.

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Jennifer Bachman
Senior Projects Director

Monday, March 23, 2009

Call for Presentations: Indiana Collaborative Conference on Aging

ICCA

The Indiana Collaborative Conference on Aging will take place at the Marriott East Hotel in Indianapolis on November 10 and 11, 2009. The theme of the conference is Celebrating the Past. Charting the Future.

The purpose of the conference is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the aging network to increase awareness of trends and applied research; network and collaborate with professionals across disciplines, organizations and the continuum of aging services; explore how to plan, implement and evaluate programs and best practices; and discuss pressing issues and policies that will impact quality of life for older adults in Indiana.

Conference Audience
The 2009 ICCA reaches out to over 300 Indiana and regional professionals who provide services to older adults. This includes government,not for profit and for profit aging network service providers; faculty, staff and students from universities and colleges in the Midwest, and individuals interested in aging trends and issues.

Presentation Topics
The 2009 ICCA breakout presentations will be 75 minutes in length and should provide all attendees with the latest in trends, research and best practices within one of the following topic areas:
  • Health & Wellness
  • Care, Caregiving and Support
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Issues of Aging Veteran Care and Caregiving

Presentation Formats
Presentations may be offered in the following formats:
  • Panel discussion with Q & A
  • Lecture with discussion
  • Small group interactive session
Presentation Selection Process
Proposals will be reviewed and selected by a subcommittee of the program and steering committees. Evaluation criteria for selection include:

a) Relevance to theme and selected topics of the conference
b) Clarity,depth and specificity of the proposal
c) Relevance to ICCA target audience
d) Timeliness of subject matter
e) Innovation and uniqueness of subject matter

Your presentation should not be an advertisement for you, your services or your company.
Please prepare your presentation to fit the allotted time.

DEADLINE: All proposals must be submitted by May 8, 2009.

Individuals submitting proposals (attached) will be notified by June 5,2009 if their presentation has been chosen. An individual or organization may submit more than one proposal, but each proposal must contain all specified information to be eligible for consideration.

Presenter Agreement
Presenters who are selected agree to:

a) Provide handouts and resource materials for their session. An electronic copy of all handouts and materials are to be submitted to ICCA program committee by September 25, 2009.
b) Promoting a company, product or service during the presentation is prohibited.

Proposal Questions
For more information on the conference, visit www.inagingconference.com or contact Helen Dillon, hdillon at uindy dot edu or (317) 791-5943.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent some chronic disease

healthy food Pictures, Images and Photos

Research has shown that many chronic health disorders often associated with aging, including heart disease, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease, are caused by chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is a powerful physiological process that, under normal circumstances, helps us to heal injuries and fight infections. Common signs of inflammation include heat (e.g., fever), redness, swelling, and pain. These symptoms occur because the purpose of the inflammatory process is to kill bacteria, destroy dead cells and debris, and rebuild new tissues as part of the healing process. Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a process that stops once healing has taken place.

However, sometimes the inflammatory process does not stop, but gets stuck in the “destroy” mode, where there is no healing or rebuilding phase. One of the major causes of chronic inflammation -- especially in the heart and brain -- are certain foods that we eat.

These foods include sweets such as candies and cakes; breads/pasta made of refined white flour; and fats such as meat fats, especially those found in beef, trans fats (e.g., Crisco) and polyunsaturated oils (e.g., corn and safflower oil).

Fortunately, there are many delicious foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect. These include walnuts, olive or canola oil, fish oils high in omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and sardines, colorful fruits including red grapes, berries, oranges, and veggies such as spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.

Whole grains such as steel cut oats and rye are also good anti-inflammatories. Many teas, especially green and white, have a protective anti-inflammatory effect, as do spices such as turmeric, garlic, onions and ginger. For you chocolate lovers, the good news is that dark chocolate (containing at least 60% cocoa) also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Several dietary supplements are also being examined for their anti-inflammatory effects, such as selenium, co-enzyme Q10, vitamin C and vitamin D. However, the research is still coming in, so it’s important to consult with your physician before starting to take these supplements.

Most dietitians counsel that it’s best to receive all of the nutrients we need directly from foods. So, tomorrow enjoy a cup of green tea in the morning as you eat your blueberries and oatmeal; munch that lunch of spinach salad, blackberries and walnuts; and relax with a dinner of salmon and red wine, all the while knowing that you’re doing your body an anti-inflammatory favor!

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Constance McCloy, PT, EdD
Associate Professor

Friday, March 13, 2009

Falling through the Cracks: Couples Experiencing Early/Young-Onset Dementia

For the past year I have been conducting a research study on early-onset dementia in order to better understand not only the experiences of family caregivers but also the experience of those with early-onset dementia as well. The participants in my study have given me the privilege of hearing their stories and learning about their journeys with various forms of early (sometimes called young-) onset dementia. (Early/young onset is defined as occurring under the age of 65).

What I am learning from this ongoing study is that people with early-onset dementia and their caregivers often experience losses that are not acknowledged or understood by most people in our society. This results in a lack of support from people around them, including professionals, family, and friends.

Specifically, both the spouse and person with early-onset dementia often feel as though they “fall through the cracks” of our health care system. Getting a diagnosis can be quite difficult because they are often told “Oh, you are too young for dementia. It must be depression,” or something similar.

The couple I just interviewed stated that it took over two years to receive an accurate diagnosis because the husband’s symptoms were dismissed as depression or job retraining issues. In addition, people with young-onset dementias (such as frontotemporal dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s) are too young to qualify for many aging-related programs that could help with the financial and caregiver strain that often go along with a dementia diagnosis.

More critical is the fact that people with young-onset dementia and their family caregivers are often shunned or avoided by other family members and friends. Several of the couples I have interviewed have told me stories of friends and family who “walked away” and or “vanished” and never stayed in contact with them again just when emotional support is most needed.

One gentleman with early-onset Alzheimer’s told me “I am considered a modern-day leper.” It is sad to believe that he is right but based on the feedback I am receiving from couples in my research study, it appears they are correct. This issue is important for friends, family, and professionals to bear in mind.

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Jacquelyn Frank, PhD
Associate Professor

Dr. Frank’s study is ongoing. If you are interested in participating in this early/young onset dementia research please contact her at: jfrank@uindy.edu or 317-791-5944.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Life on the run

Elder Runner

Think you're too old to exercise? Don't tell that to 70-year-old Rena Brown of Indianapolis who finished the 500 Festival Mini Marathon in two hours flat last year.


The time was quick enough to earn her top honors for her age group, then 65-69. No big deal --she finished first in her age group the year before that as well.

Brown is one of several older adults featured in "Never too old," an article about older runners in today's Indianapolis Star. Of the runners introduced in the article, all but one started running in their 50s. Robert Weddle picked up the sport at age 35, but began competing in ultra-marathons in his 50s.

Convinced and ready to hit the road? Check out About.com for some links to articles on senior exercise and running.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Silver Alert Act introduced in Senate; active in several states

Silver Alert

As reported on The Future of Aging Blog, Senators Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) yesterday reintroduced the Silver Alert Act, which would direct the attorney general's office to establish a national communications network within the U.S. Department of Justice to assist regional and local search efforts for missing seniors. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a national Silver Alert bill last month.

A similar bill (SB 307) was passed by the seven-member Indiana State Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services in January 2009. The Indiana bill, which has been referred to the House of Representatives, calls for the following:
  • Requires the law enforcement training board to provide training in interacting with missing endangered adults.
  • Creates the silver alert program to alert the public regarding missing endangered adults.
  • Renames the Indiana Clearinghouse for Information on Missing Children as the Indiana Clearinghouse for Information on Missing Children and Missing Endangered Adults.
  • Requires the clearinghouse to operate the Silver Alert program in addition to operating the Amber Alert program.
To follow the bill's progress in Indiana, click here.

Currently, 10 states have implemented Silver Alert programs, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Most of these programs specify that missing seniors must have Alzheimer's or other dementia to be included in the program.

To read more about these state initiatives, read:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Managing the transition of care

Yesterday, I covered things you should do in preparation for a loved one entering a long-term care (LTC) facility. Realistically, your loved one may move from LTC to a hospital setting for treatment of an acute illness to a rehabilitation setting and back again several times over the years. When that happens, there are some key things family members will want to do to help manage those transitions and assure the best care for your loved one.

The first thing to know is that no one guides you through the transitions from one type of care to another. The patient is left on their own so family or friends must step in and take action. Having a coordinated plan will make this easier.

1. Bring together family members and anyone else who is involved in the caregiving and discuss roles. The family member who is health representative needs everyone to cooperate so miscommunication between the loved one, family and friends and the LTC staff is at a minimum. The health representative must have control so he/she can communicate with the providers and the people paying the bills. E-mails with scanned documents flew across four states day and night during the three months my mother was in different levels of care.

2. Maintain a list of medications and doses at all times. Each facility and doctor will change the medications based on familiarity and what medicine Medicare, LTC insurance or private payor will accept. Make sure everyone working with your loved one has a copy of his or her medications. Ask someone if you don’t recognize a drug name and use internet sites to double check. I recommend RxList and Medline.

3. Make copies of all discharge papers and orders. Make sure the appointed health representative in the family has a copy of all paperwork. This will help them communicate with those involved in your loved one’s care.

4. Choose one person to communicate with hospitals, doctors and LTC facilities. Have each family member state their questions or concerns. Let your family representative write a letter and share it with everyone for feedback on tone and content before submitting it to the health care provider. One thing that worked for us was to start the letters out with “thank you for caring for taking care of our mother” and then we listed our questions or concerns.

You may want to say “as we understand it the diagnosis is… Is this correct?” This way the recipient of the letter knows right away if there is a misunderstanding or if an assumption has been made. We received 100% response rate to all our letters. In addition when we went to doctor’s visits with our mother, we requested and received printouts of the doctor’s notes before we left the office.

5. Express your appreciation on a regular basis. Reach out to staff members who your loved one speaks highly of and who you have seen treat them well. My mother told me about one woman whose daughter baked cookies on a regular basis and brought them in for the staff to share. Now why didn’t I think of that?

Anyone who was around me when my mother was in long-term care can tell you my emotions ran high. Quite honestly, the President’s room at Bethesda would not have been good enough for her at that time. But I do think that following these suggestions helped make a difficult time a little easier on our family – and a lot better for our mother.

Helen Dillon
Helen Dillon
Project Director

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tips for entering the world of long-term care

Tawn Parent recently wrote an article in the Indianapolis Business Journal in which she discussed lessons she learned during her father’s stay in a long-term care (LTC) facility. In general, Parent said:

• Investigate long term care facilities now, not when you are in the middle of the crisis.
• Read the ratings and reviews of LTC facilities by Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
• Get first-hand knowledge about the facility from friends, clergy and relatives.
• Don’t expect the same services in LTC as in a hospital.
• Advocate but don’t demand.
• Get to know the LTC staff.
• Trust your gut and take steps to protect your loved one.

My mother recently went through a transition of hospital surgery to home to long-term care and home again. I agree with Parent on being proactive and doing your homework ahead of time. There is too much to process when you are in crisis mode and your emotions generally rule the day.

My mother lives in an independent living apartment that has a nursing home attached. My mom and the family spent a long time looking at independent living apartments, but little or no time looking at the continuing care facilities or nursing home. This can be a big mistake. Each level of care is not operated or manned by the same personnel. It’s a good idea to seek out residents who have made the transition to other levels of care and back and ask about their experience.

Other tips I’ve learned from our experience include:

1. If your loved one is having major surgery, be sure to discuss after care with the family physician. Expect that skilled care or rehab care will be prescribed. Start your investigation of how long-term care facilities operate immediately. My mother was in a facility rated a 5, which is the top rating. This review does not mean the facility does everything right 100% of the time. It really means they do the minimum to earn a 5 rating and may even have been marked deficient in some areas. Don’t assume that a January survey is reflective of the facility you walk into in July. Owners and administrators come and go. Day to day personnel change at a rapid rate in long-term care facilities, so an onsite visit is a must.

2. Do talk to the administrator or the marketing specialist, but don’t stop there.

3. Visit once, twice and three times – on different days of the week including weekends and on different times of the day. Talk to the nurses and CNAs on duty each time. Make note of the activity or lack of activity each time you visit. Learn which services start and stop at the front door and which services you can extend to home.

4. Contact the ombudsmen in your state. There will be one who is responsible for individuals in specific LTC facilities. They are true advocates for your loved ones. Use them.

I’ll be back tomorrow with suggestions for how your family can manage your loved one’s care in a LTC facility on a day-to-day basis.

Helen Dillon
Helen Dillon
Project Director

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Online ed and economic implications hot topics at AGHE Annual Meeting

Some things never change. But others will not stay the same no matter how hard we wish or work to make it so. At the recent Annual Meeting of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) in San Antonio, much focus was on two issues that are currently running wild like a Texas steer on a rampage – the global economic crisis and the demand for the use of technology in the delivery of education.

At the AGHE conference, there were hundreds of academics and students in attendance representing colleges and universities from around the country. I made it a point to attend a variety of meetings, presentations and discussions on different topics related to aging issues. Almost every session that I attended included questions and concerns from participants about the effects of the economic downturn on our academic programs and also how the demand for online learning options is forcing changes in the way we plan and conduct our courses.

These are difficult times we are facing and there is great uncertainty about what the future holds. When we dwell on the uncertainties we may feel powerless. However, there are always opportunities that manifest in the midst of hardship. Lessons from history have taught us that to effectively address the issues and move forward beyond the difficulties requires creative thinking and innovation.

In the Aging Studies program at CAC, we’re working to incorporate technologies such as Skype, SnapKast and various other Web 2.0 technologies into our courses, which have always been delivered in an online format via Blackboard.

By facing the challenges before us and working together to make improvements, we can become empowered and create positive changes that make a difference. Change happens whether we want it to or not and every day we grow older – it just happens naturally, but getting better with age happens on purpose.

Wolske
Tamara Wolske, MS
Academic Program Director

Monday, March 2, 2009

Shedding light on a scam against seniors

I’ve often heard in the news about scams that take advantage of older people. But before the attacks have always been on other older people, so I feel sad for the victim, I feel angry at the perpetrator…and then I move on. But this time, the “victim” was my mom--my 80-year-old mom who is completely deaf in one ear, has only about 50% hearing in the other, and is still experiencing the debilitation caused by her last round of radiation therapy.

The phone call came when Mom was home by herself. The caller identified herself as “your granddaughter!” The girl spoke quickly and excitedly, explaining that she and four friends took off on a joy ride to a big sale right across the border in Canada. When they were trying to come back, the border guards informed them that the rules had changed and they needed $500 a piece to come back into the U.S.

“Could you please wire us the money, Grandma?”

My mom questioned the whole story, but then the “border guard” took the phone, informed my mom of the new rules and assured her of the identity of her granddaughter. And then the call was over.

Mom was visibly upset when Dad got home shortly after the call. They talked it through, consulted an advisor, and then decided to call me to check on my daughter’s whereabouts. It took me some time to assure them that she was at home in her room doing her homework.

Later in the evening, I talked with them again. Mom had been so upset, she hadn’t been able to eat dinner. The mere thought that her dearest granddaughter was in trouble…then realizing that someone had been preying on her…then feeling foolish that she could have even thought that it might all be true was enough to make her lose her appetite. The whole thing was still raw the next day when Mom spoke to my sister, in tears as she recounted the experience.

What kind of people try to get $2,500 from an 80-year-old woman with cancer?

Looking into it further, we learned that this scam is common enough to be listed on the FTC website.


Join me in getting the word out to stop this hoax and protect our elders. Talk to your parents and grandparents today.



EllenMiller

Ellen Miller, PhD
Executive Director