All posts by Samantha Colaianni

Nurturing the Nurturer: The Use of Doll Therapy for Older Adults

By Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

As Aging Life Care Professionals®, when we are asked to assist with securing placement in a nursing home, there are many questions we ask beyond the physical and cognitive conditions that are prompting the move. Primary among those questions is: what was mom or dad’s occupation? Those families who have parents in their mid-eighties and beyond often reply by giving dad’s occupation and the fact that mom was a homemaker.

Reembraces of livelong professions can be retained long after actual employment or the responsibilities of raising a family have ceased.  Take Gene, a retired fireman who had been diagnosed with dementia.  On the day he arrived at the nursing home, being the conscientious firefighter he once was, he spotted a fire extinguisher and was headed straight to his job. Fortunately, his daughter positioned herself to block his access.

For mothers and wives of this era the role of family nurturer is often rooted in the person. This is not to say that fathers have not played prominent roles, but for mothers or other women that have been employed in caregiving roles, it is not a job that finished at five. In later years, should there be cognitive loss accompanied by agitation we, as Aging Life Care Professionals, look to guide the family in ways to lessen the anxiety their loved one may be experiencing. Nonpharmacological approaches are preferable. One such method is doll therapy.

Doll therapy is just what it says. It is providing a person with a doll, that she/he can hold, cuddle, talk to, even dress and undress.  The latter helping with finger dexterity and hand eye co-ordination. The doll can give a person a sense of comfort and purpose with the goal being redirecting the anxiety and bringing a parent to a sense of calm and contentment. Beyond this, a doll can be a starting point for reminiscence, asking a parent to recall their days as a new parent, bearing in mind that it is the long-term memory that is most vivid.

Research studies have shown both increased happiness and increased social interaction using doll therapy. But doll therapy is not without controversy. Some feel the dignity of a parent is compromised using a doll.  Other concerns are that dolls are demeaning and infantilize older adults. A passerby may look at a person with a doll and remark that the senior looks “cute” holding a doll. Not the way a relative wants their spouse or parent to be perceived.

As Aging Life Care Professionals, our approach is a person-centered one. To each client, we bring a toolbox of suggestions, techniques and resources. While the use of doll therapy is one such example, we customize the guidance, recognizing the unique needs of each client while working together with families to ensure practical and realistic outcomes.


About the Author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the founder of Directions in Aging based in Westchester County, New York. For over two decades she has assisted families in customizing plans of care and developing effective strategies to meet the needs of senior adults.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

The Most Surprising Secret to Aging Well: Social Engagement

The Most Surprising Secret to Aging Well: Social Engagement

by Jullie Gray, MSW, LICSW, CMC

Ask anyone for their top advice about living a long, healthy life and you’ll probably hear tips about the importance of eating well, stopping smoking, exercising and getting regular medical checkups. Don’t throw those good habits out the window, but it may come as a shock to learn that connecting with others could be the single most important ingredient for aging well.

It’s true! Researchers have been studying the impact of social isolation and loneliness on health and wellbeing for many years. Over and over it has been proven that social support acts as a buffer against illness and cognitive decline. Loneliness and seclusion is thought to be as bad as or worse for your health than smoking, obesity or being an alcoholic. Put simply, loneliness breeds illness and early death.

How to spot problems

How can you tell if an older adult is at risk of isolation? There are telltale signs that may indicate a need for extra support:

  • Living alone
  • Family living at a distance
  • Poor hearing and/or vision
  • Memory loss or other cognitive problems
  • Difficulty getting around (trouble walking, unable to drive or access transportation)
  • Significant life changes such as the recent loss of a partner or moving to a new home

Protecting health by connecting

Why is being around others so important to wellbeing? Social connectedness increases resistance to disease. Older people who regularly interact with family, friends and participate in social activities report better emotional and physical health and show improvement performing some mental tasks. Those with strong social ties require less pain medication after surgery and recover more quickly. They also fall less often, are better nourished and have a lower risk of depression.

Contact with others can feed the spirit by bringing meaning and purpose to each day. It’s reciprocal – both parties benefit. Regardless of one’s age, when we are around others we give and receive support as well as hands-on assistance.

Tips for connecting

There are numerous ways older people can connect. Here are just a few:

  • Visiting children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors
  • Participating in faith activities, services, studies and social events
  • Signing up for trips sponsored by local community centers
  • Volunteering at schools, hospitals or local non-profit organizations
  • Taking classes or attending lectures at local libraries, schools and other community venues
  • Joining a book group or social club

These activities can help older adults develop deeper relationships with others who have similar interests and passions. They can expose them to new people, projects and ideas, and help foster confidence, and direction in their lives. If your dad becomes involved with a cause that is important, it helps him keep life in perspective and reminds him that he has a lot to offer the world.

What if your mother-in-law can’t get out anymore? Bring activities to her. Set up a schedule of visitors made up of family, friends or paid companions. Modify activities to match her abilities. Reach out to a professional to help design an individualized program if you don’t know what to do or have trouble implementing a plan.

Is there a downside?

Even though there is an undeniable connection between having robust social ties and good health, no single type of support is uniformly effective for all people and all situations. Unneeded or the wrong kind of help may reduce an older loved one’s sense of independence and self-esteem. Preventing them from doing things on their own can lead to a state of “learned helplessness” – loss of confidence and less willingness to try things independently. 

Working with an expert

Aging Life Care Professionals (also known as a geriatric care managers) are trusted advisors who can thoroughly evaluate an individual’s situation and provide you with expert guidance about how to help:

  • reduce social isolation
  • provide just the right kind and right amount of help
  • arrange individualized activities and companion services
  • overcome barriers such as resistance to change
  • open doors to possibilities you may never have imagined

An Aging Life Care Manager can also become your eyes and ears by:

  • making regular visits to check in on your parent
  • monitoring your parent’s health and addressing concerns when they arise

With the help of an Aging Life Care Manager you can more easily stay on top of your mom’s situation and rest a little easier knowing she is getting the vital support she needs.

To find your own professional advisor, go to www.aginglifecare.org and click on “Find an Expert”.


Jullie Gray is a Fellow of the Leadership Academy and has over 30 years of experience in healthcare and aging. She is a Principal at Aging Wisdom in Seattle, WA. Jullie is the President of the National Academy of Certified Care Managers and the Past President of the Aging Life Care™ Association.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Stories and Highlights of National Aging Life Care Month

Aging Life Care Professionals® across the country celebrated National Aging Life Care™ Month by providing seminars, webinars, special events, open houses, and other educational activities for the public.

Many took to social media to share Aging Life Care stories via selfies and videos. Each week, ALCA asked members to share something from their world as Aging Life Care Professionals. During the month, several common themes emerged – a passion for helping families through difficult times, an appreciation for the wisdom of an older generation, resiliency, advocacy, care, and the need for daily hope and laughter. Below is a look at some of  the photos shared during #AgingLifeCareMonth.

As our population ages, it becomes more and more important to plan for the many years ahead. The entire reason for National Aging Life Care Month is not only to bring awareness about aging well, but to celebrate those who have dedicated their lives to helping older adults and their families. We celebrate Aging Life Care Professionals, because they bring kindness, heart, and compassion to the field. Without them, ALCA wouldn’t be the incredible organization that it is.

For the first time this year, we also featured a social media map to highlight all of the amazing participation of our members. You can find the map here.

To learn more about Aging Life Care™ and to find an expert in aging well, visit aginglifecare.org.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

MAY IS NATIONAL AGING LIFE CARE™ MONTH

The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) – the nonprofit association representing 2,000 leaders in Aging Life Care™ / care management – will celebrate the profession during the month of May. Special events come on the heels of a professional conference in Scottsdale, where presenters and participants tackled the toughest issues related to aging today.

What is Aging Life Care™ and Why Should I Care?

While the practice and profession of Aging Life Care is not new, there is more attention being paid to the impact our aging population has on communities and resources. Aging Life Care plays an important role as these professionals are prepared to help aging adults plan for and face age-related challenges.

Aging Life Care is a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing health challenges. The 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, the expertise of Aging Life Care Professionals provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Their guidance leads families to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress and time off of work for family caregivers.

housing, crisis, advocacy, legal, communication, financial, health and disabilityThey have extensive knowledge about the costs, quality, and availability of resources in their communities. Aging Life Care Professionals are members of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA), 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.

Aging Life Care Professionals throughout the country will celebrate National Aging Life Care Month by providing seminars, webinars, special events, open houses, and other educational activities for the public. For more information, and locations of Aging Life Care Professionals, visit ALCA’s website aginglifecare.org.

The association was formed in 1985 by a group of about 50 members – mainly social workers and nurses –  who came together to build a profession from the ground up. “Our association was the first to represent the pioneers in a growing and developing field,” said ALCA CEO Taney Hamill.

“ALCA recognizes the vulnerable population our professionals serve, so we have developed the highest standards by which to hold our members accountable – for both the protection of the client and the public.”

Aging Life Care Professionals may be trained in any of a number of fields related to long-term care. These include counseling, gerontology, mental health, nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, social work, and other allied health professions, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Aging Life Care® Professionals Can Help Be Your Guilt-Buster

By Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC

May is Aging Life Care™ Month, which has me thinking about how supporting an aging parent can feel so daunting. We see it every day in our work as Aging Life Care Professionals®.

Time consuming. Caring for an aging parent takes so much time: multiple phone calls a day (sometimes within an hour!), numerous medical appointments (if only they would agree to go), hours in the ER, and repeated check-ins for reassurance.

Stressful. Juggling work, kids, relationships, and other demands on your time increasingly feels unmanageable, especially as your parents demand more and more from you. Every time you plan a vacation, one of them inevitably lands in the hospital.

Confusing & overwhelming. Your parents continue to refuse any formal help and won’t even admit there is a problem. If only they would move. Or your siblings would do more! The hospital social worker gave you a stack of information, but it remains untouched on your desk. Your dad is so stubborn, it’s all pointless anyways.

Daunting. Your online research only makes the options more confusing. You end up with more questions than answers. Should you force them to move? Which caregiving agency is reputable? Maybe their housekeeper should also do the grocery shopping or start making meals? What about hiring that nice lady at church to help? Why is their doctor still letting them drive? What if they just move in with you?

Expensive. All of the options are so expensive. Round-the-clock caregiving can reach as high as $20,000+ a month in many areas. Moving can cost less…until significant help is needed. Even though your parents have the financial means, they have always been frugal and will never agree to the costs. You are willing to contribute but paying for college is just around the corner.

Here’s how an Aging Life Care Professional can smooth the ride:

Save time & money. A consultation with an Aging Life Care Professional saves you valuable time. We walk you through all of the options, including analyzing the pros & cons to your parents staying at home or moving into a retirement community. Every situation is unique. We help you make plans that fit your parents’ finances, quirky personalities, divergent care needs, and loudly-stated desires. We assist you in making decisions that their finances can support now and down the road. Most importantly, we help you implement them.

Clarity & confidence. An Aging Life Care Professional will help you understand all of your choices. This knowledge will bring clarity to the decisions that you need to make. Sometimes starting small and going slow will actually get you further in the long run. We help you navigate the delicate balance of honoring fierce independence vs keeping them safe. We even help get challenging siblings (or step-parents) on the same page. Having an outside guide and unbiased expert is often the missing piece of the puzzle to move from crisis to action. We can often predict what will come next so we can help you shift from putting out fires (sometimes literally!) to being proactive.

Peace of mind. Watching your parents decline is not easy and brings up many emotions — sadness, anger, frustration, and guilt (oh, the guilt!). Eventually it will take a toll on your health, mood, and family. Work performance often suffers. Having an experienced professional help you navigate this long journey can provide great relief. You don’t have to do this alone.

You can find an Aging Life Care professional in your area at www.aginglifecare.org. We are here to help.


Lisa Mayfield is the founder and co-Principal of Aging Wisdom®, an Aging Life Care™ practice in Seattle. Trained and licensed as a Mental Health Counselor, Geriatric Mental Health Specialist, and a Certified Care Manager, Lisa brings over two decades of experience working with older adults and their families. She is currently serving as the President of the Aging Life Care Association board of directors.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Navigating Life After a Parkinson’s Diagnosis with an Aging Life Care Professional

By:  Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Aging Life Care Professional

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.

When an individual is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it can be all consuming and take over as the focus of life. However, with some excellent coaching, it is easy to see that the diagnosis is only part of who the individual is, it is not who they are as a whole.  During this early initial phase, there will be anxiety, worry and concern for everyone in the family system.

The medical community will be able to connect all the professionals needed.  However, without some organization, it might be only when symptoms are problematic.  If the diagnosis came from a Movement Disorder Specialist (who is a neurologist) they are most likely to connect you with the majority of experts for this journey.  However, they often do not know the expertise and value of the Aging Life Care Professional®, also known as a Geriatric Care Manager. From my perspective, the an ALCP can be the “Life Navigator” who will see that you are more than a disease. They can help you and your family focus on what gives your life meaning and purpose, as well as attend to the medical issues of Parkinson’s.

The Aging Life Care Professional has connections with supportive services – such as support groups, personal trainers, volunteer opportunities, technology supports, assists with entitlements and local support systems from legal experts to housing options or home modification experts – which allows for aging in place.

Cost of care is a concern as this journey progresses for most families, so it is essential to get a recommendation for an Elder Law attorney who specializes in helping couples or families dealing with the cost of long term care.  Do proper legal planning early in this journey and it is best to start with an Aging Life Care Professional so you can take the recommendations based on your values and resources to the attorney and have that interjected into your legal plans. Designate two or three people to name as possible Health Care Advocates for you should you not be able to make health care decisions.

When using an Aging Life Care Professional, they will follow their client from diagnosis and through every change and transition – they become a personalized advocate to be on call 24/7 for the changes that might be experienced.

Many individuals do very well with Parkinson’s for many years before having to bring in care or move to supportive living communities; others will advance more quickly.  It is important to start planning early in this process.

One of the most important aspects of staying healthy with any progressive illness is to be pro-active and focus on a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise 30 minutes a day, eat a healthy diet – consult with a nutritionist who specializes in individuals with Parkinson’s.  Stay socially engaged – isolation will shorten your life and contribute to depression.

You can find an Aging Life Care Professional in your area at aginglifecare.org.


About the Author: Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, is an Advanced Professional Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Navigating the Overwhelming Options of Long-Term Care

Navigating the Overwhelming Options of Long-Term Care

by Nicole Amico Kane, MSW, LICSW, CMC

We are an aging nation.  Since 2011, baby boomers have been turning 65 at an average rate of 10,000 per day.  This will continue until 2030.  And we are living longer.  Fortunately, we are also healthier and more active than past generations.

However, according to the Administration on Aging, “70% of people turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives.” 35% will spend some time in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living community.

What is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care encompasses a wide range of supportive services used by people who need help to function in their daily lives. Long-term care and services are those that help with the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs): managing finances, handling transportation, shopping, doing laundry, preparing meals, household and basic home maintenance, using the telephone and other communication devices – as well as the activities of daily living (ADLs), defined as self-care activities: getting dressed, toileting, bathing and showering, personal hygiene and grooming, eating, and functional mobility.

The duration and level of care each person requires is as individual as the person needing the support.  On average, a person will need three years of long-term care.  Women may need services longer than men because they typically live longer. And 20% of older adults requiring long-term care services will need care for longer than 5 years.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)

Most long-term care is not medical care. It includes home and community-based services (HCBS). These are the services and supports that provide assistance with daily activities that help older adults and people with disabilities to remain in their homes. Home can be their own homes or apartments, in assisted living, congregate care, or supportive living. Services such as chore assistance, transportation, meals, adult day services, and personal care are all considered HCBS.

Adult Day Programs are often a great choice for families who choose to keep a loved one at home. Adult day programs offer life enrichment, social engagement and an opportunity for caregiver respite, an often overlooked essential for caregiver health.

While the majority of people would prefer to age-in-place in their own homes or apartments, this isn’t always feasible from a safety and/or financial perspective.  Caring for someone in their own home can be the most expensive option, especially if 24/7 care is required. Care at home works best if someone needs limited support. But as needs increase, so does cost.

Housing Options

Independent retirement housing, assisted living, skilled nursing, and continuing care retirement communities are all housing options. Assisted living and skilled nursing sometimes include memory care. Some states, such as Washington State, offered adult family homes as a long-term care housing alternative.

Each housing option has pros and cons, and the best fit for a person needing the support is determined by a number of factors such as the level of care required, financial situation, understanding the person’s personality, preferences, and values, the quality of service available, and location (proximity to family and additional supports are the usual considerations).

Genworth Financial offers an annual Cost of Care Survey. From our experience, though, while the survey presents an average of monthly and annual costs for different housing types in the metro areas, the costs reflected in the survey are lower than what we encounter when assisting our clients in finding the right housing option.

How Can an Aging Life Care Professional® Help?

Long-term care options can be overwhelming. Aging Life Care Professionals provide a wide range of expert help and support. We understand aging and help families navigate the course of chronic conditions, such as cognitive changes, and connect families and individuals with the best resources and supports.

Aging Life Care Professionals also know our local long-term care service providers and resources well as we’ve built trusting relationships within our communities. We work collaboratively with HCBS and housing professionals and health care practitioners on our client’s behalf.

Additional benefits of working with an Aging Life Care Professional:

  • Personalized, compassionate service — focusing on the individual’s wants and needs.
  • Continuity of care – communications are coordinated between family members, doctors and other professionals, and service providers.
  • Cost containment — inappropriate placements, duplication of services, and unnecessary hospitalizations are avoided.
  • Quality control – aging life care services follow ALCA’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

By engaging an Aging Life Care Professional, you are working with someone who takes a holistic, client-centered approach. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you.


Nicole Amico Kane, MSW, LICSW, CMC, is the care management supervisor at Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care practice based in Seattle, WA. Nicole is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified care manager.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Long-Term Care – Partnering with an Aging Life Care Manager®

by Frances Mir MSN, RN, CMC

Planning for long-term care as one continues to age can become a process that requires research, pre-planning, and financial overview. The good news is that there are opportunities for seeking a range of services and working collaboratively with professionals who can assist with the steps of long-term care planning. This article will focus on those areas to help you with this most important step in securing a plan.

Why is It Important to Plan for Long-Term Care?

Long-term care planning will require understanding your options, careful planning, and taking important “action”. Long-term care offers services which will assist in helping to maintain a life style that meets the current needs of the individual. These services may include, but are not limited to, personal care which assists with Activities of Daily Living; skilled care services for more extensive physician directed care; or care management services to assist in evaluating, planning, and coordination of your care.

Skilled long-term care services can be provided in either a home setting or a licensed long-term care community/facility.  Home based services may include personal care service or Physician directed Home Health care services for more skilled needs or short-term nursing or therapy services. Long-term care communities provide more extensive care with a full range of nursing and therapy services. It is recommended to take time in researching long-term care facilities, home health programs, and retirement communities prior to final decisions. Communicating with the administrative team of skilled care facilities to answer questions, assist with tours, and review state regulatory issues is essential in the planning process.

Who Needs Long-Term Care?

At least 70% of individuals over the age of 70 years old will require some type of long-term care. However, services are also available for those individuals, who have experienced a catastrophic injury, or have a physical or mental disability with special needs. Each care option may have their individual regulatory admission process for service provision, and it is important to review with each entity.  Preparing a plan which includes care, support and advocacy is important.

It is also essential to understand the cost related to long-term care services.  Financial review and planning are also very important and will, at times, determine the type of long-term care that will be provided. The plan will be based on your age, healthcare needs, priorities, and your personal financial profile. It is important to understand that not all government programs or health insurance benefits may cover your long-term care plan. Meeting with your insurance or financial representative, or the administrative team of the long-term care facility and/or home service is necessary to assist in understanding the cost related to care.

Enlisting an Aging Life Care Professional to Create a Plan

Creating a plan is the most essential step in long-term care planning.  Understanding your own personal healthcare needs with your personal physician, talking with your family about options for caregiving in the future, and financial and legal review are priorities.  However, identifying the important professional and knowledgeable resources in your community are also very key factors in ensuring a successful plan. One of those most important resources is an Aging Life Care Manager. This professional team member can assist with the assessment, coordination, planning, and evaluation of your overall care needs and plan. The Aging Life Care Manager has the experience and knowledge base to assist with maximizing community and healthcare resources to assist in minimizing cost related to the transition of long-term care. They can serve as the liaison for both out of town family members or other professional resources involved in the long-term care process. They will act as an advocate for the client whose family is caring for an older or disabled adult. These Aging Life Care Managers follow a strict code of ethics and standards of practice.

Professional Aging Life Care Manager services may be available by contacting the Aging Life Care Association at www.aginglifecare.org.  The organization promotes the highest standards of practice, with professionals who are experienced in many areas. There is an Aging Life Care Manager in your area, waiting to assist and partner with you and your family in this important step.  One does not have to be alone in planning for long term care.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

The Anatomy of an Appetite: Aging and Our Relationship to Food

Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

Many of life’s events involve food. From the grandest of celebrations to the smallest of gatherings, there is always a place for food. As an Aging Life Care Professional®, I recall a wonderful get together this care manager had organized to celebrate a client’s birthday, her ninetieth… I thought.  She so enjoyed her birthday cake. It was only after I re-did the math that I realized my enthusiasm was premature; Dorothy had another twelve months to go to before she reached her 90th year.

Dorothy took great pleasure in eating her birthday cake. But such enthusiasm for food is not shared by all adult seniors.  There are a variety of factors that may contribute to a decrease in appetite: the side effects of a medication, dentures that do not fit, loss of taste, feelings of loneliness as a senior sits down to a table for one and a myriad of medical conditions.  A wince as an older adult bites into an apple or a change in appetite after the start of a new medication are symptoms that may require a visit to the dentist or a call to the prescribing doctor.

The potential for resolving the nutritional problem described above are far more likely than the changes an adult senior experiences as the end of life approaches.  He or she may lessen their food intake and ultimately refuse all nourishment. Family members are justly concerned, confused and frequently feel guilty.  Often, they fear they are starving a loved one to death if food, liquid or some form of artificial nutrition is not provided.  For an adult senior with advanced dementia, the scenario is made more complex.  As the dementia progresses it impacts on that part of the brain that controls swallowing. The chance of choking increases. In either of these scenarios it is important to recognize as the end of life nears the body adjusts to the slowing down process and minimal amounts of nutrition or liquids are needed, if at all. Now the focus becomes comfort care. Moistening the mouth with a special sponge, applying lip balm or offering a small amount of water through a straw, teaspoon or syringe.

Aging Life Care Professionals understand that while parents may have left specific directives for no heroic measures, a daughter may find it too cruel to discontinue nourishment or fluids. A son may hope for a last-minute miracle or a spouse may feel that only time will dictate when to say the last good-bye.  As Aging Life Care Professionals, it is our role to hold the hand of our client and reach out our other hand to support the family in whatever their decision may be.


Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the founder of Directions in Aging based in New Rochelle, New York. For over two decades she has assisted families in customizing plans of care and developing effective strategies to meet the needs of older adults. She has recently been appointed to the board of directors of New Rochelle Cares, a non-for profit organization devoted to helping senior adults live safely and fully at home.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

 

Finding What Matters as We Age

by Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC

The work of care managers is in itself rewarding. On a day to day basis, we play a large role in the lives of our clients and their families. We’re gifted with the opportunity to help those in need, to help improve the quality of life for the clients we serve, and to reduce stress and anxiety for worried families. Many would be quick to say that our work is significant, it seems obvious, right? But is it?

Pete Smith will be the keynote speaker on the final day of our 35th annual Aging Life Care Association National Conference. His discussion will focus on the journey of finding significance, personally and professionally. The key is to maintain your own individual sense of motivation and engagement and to stay focused on the things that actually matter. What are those things? Tough question. The answer starts with this: what are you going to think about in the last moments of your life?

Pete survived a stroke at the young age of 35. This experience left him reflecting on the life he had, which was like what many of us would describe our lives as at this very moment: “fine.” Pete began a mission of changing his lens and finding more significance in his life. His book Dare to Matter: Choosing an unstuck and unapologetic lifestyle, identifies the seven pillars of significance that can help us find more meaning and less self-doubt and fear in our work and in our personal lives.

Finding significance is a journey. It begins with self-reflection and insight into what truly matters to us. Significance is not about breadth or scope, it’s about depth. It’s easy to let external factors influence what we superficially view as significant. The key is to peel away the layers hiding the true message. This takes time, and lots of practice, but with guidance can be achieved.

 

Join us on Saturday, April 6th at the conference to hear the inspirational words of Pete Smith. His fresh perspective on finding meaning will get you thinking about living through a lens of significance. You’ll leave his session feeling re-focused, re-committed, and re-energized to the work that we do as Aging Life Care Professionals.


Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC is a Certified Care Manager with Aging Wisdom. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare and a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a focus on Multigenerational practice from the University of Washington. Harisa is co-chair of the Aging Life Care Association’s Seattle Unit Group and a board member of the ALCA Western Region Chapter.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.