MALA – A Caregivers’ Journey

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

“You’re making mistakes all the time, you’re failing all the time. You weren’t taught how to do it — no one trained you. Our culture doesn’t really help us do it. We feel alone. We’re not alone.”

How many of us have said these words to our friends as we struggled to support our aging parents? How many more of us have felt this way, but remained silent about our concerns? If you’re in Boston this month, you may want to attend the performance of MALA at the Emerson/Paramount Center. Written and performed by nationally acclaimed playwright Melinda Lopez, this one-woman show brings to life the world of the adult child struggling to support her dying parents. Brilliantly irreverent, Melinda captures the universal struggle of family caregivers coping with her parents’ needs without losing her compassion or her sanity.

Our thanks to our colleague Dianne Savastano, RN, MBA, founder of HealthAssist, for bringing this play to our attention. If you subscribe to Dianne’s newsletter here, use HealthAssist10 to save $10 on the ticket price. Here’s the link to purchase tickets.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thinking about Buying Long-Term Care Insurance? Read this first.

confusion-005by Tobe Gerard, CLTC, MBA, MLS, LIA

There are many questions posed by prospective clients when they are first considering long-term care insurance (LTCi), but most begin with the disciplined questioning of the Socratic method: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Who is buying? Couples and single women.

What are they buying? 50% of our clients buy traditional LTCi and 50% buy a hybrid policy that combines LTCi with life insurance. That is a huge shift from just five years ago when traditional LTCi made up 90% of our sales.
>Traditional LTCi Policies Current policies are less robust than years ago, typically they provide $4,500/month or $6,000/month, 3 or 4 year benefit period, 3% compound inflation. Couples almost always purchase the “shared” rider.
> Hybrid LTCi Policies Clients most often re-position $100,000 to fund a policy. The benefits range from $4,500 to over $6,000/month depending upon age, gender, and dollars contributed to fund the policy. The sweet spot appears to be policies that have a six year benefit period and 3% compound inflation.

When are they buying? Most people purchase LTCi in their fifties, but our clients range from 46 to 71.

Where are they buying? The states that have the most “insured lives” are CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA, OH, VA, NJ, WA, and MN.

Why are they buying? These are the top six reasons people purchase a LTCi policy.
#1 A desire to protect assets.
#2 A desire not to be a burden to family and other loved ones.
#3 A desire to have choices on where to receive care.
#4 A desire not to rely upon the government for their care.
#5 They have experienced using LTCi for a relative (parent, grandparent, spouse) and saw what a gift LTCi was to the family.
#6 They have experienced caring for a relative without LTCi and they saw how it drained the family’s resources financially and emotionally.

How are they buying? Many clients have been referred to us by their financial advisor, their attorney, or their accountant, although some people purchase policies through their employer; some buy through affinity groups such as college alumni associations or professional associations that offer members a discount; and others search online and buy a policy remotely from an insurance agent who sells by phone in multiple states.

Editor’s Note: For decades, the author has provided families with guidance about selecting long-term care insurance policies as well as how and when to trigger a claim. To help you become a more savvy consumer, we’ve asked Tobe to become an ongoing contributor to our blog.

Reprinted with permission from Tobe Gerard.

c 2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Campus Alert: You Forgot Something, Mom. The HIPAA Release

eos_yale_firstsession015by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Whew. What a summer. Your son or daughter is now settled into their dorm, engaged with classes and ready for the year ahead. You’ve celebrated their high school graduation, savored their last summer before college, checked off the list of items for the dorm. You found those extra-long sheets, fresh towels, and a small fan; you met the roommates and unpacked the clothes; you lingered at the door, hesitant, nostalgic, wondering where the years went, praying that you’ve done enough, that the next four years will transform your child from a capable adolescent to a competent young adult.

You’re excited for them, but you’re worried, too. You follow the news. You combed through the Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security website, noting the number of Criminal Offensives, Rapes, Robberies and Assaults reported on campus for the last three years. You know that freshman and sophomore girls are particularly at risk. You’re aware of the binge drinking statistics, and that the collective IQ of testosterone-laden adolescent males decreases in packs. You’ve heard that 20% of young adults, one in five, will experience mental health issues like anxiety or depression. You know these things, but you also know that you’ll be there for him or her, whatever transpires, just as you’ve supported them for 18 years. In fact, you’re making plans to revisit the campus soon.

But you forgot something. Your child is 18, and at 18 they become legally responsible for their own medical decisions. That’s right. Even their pediatrician, someone you’ve known for 18 years, can no longer disclose their medical information to you. It’s illegal to do so. So if your son is taken to the emergency room or your daughter seeks mental health counseling, the physicians and psychologists have no legal right to discuss their health with you. They may not even contact you.

Fortunately, the solution is a simple one. You don’t need to contact an attorney, just have your teen sign a HIPAA Authorization Form. Reply to this post or send an email to info@colpartners.com. We’ll send you a copy of the form with instructions. Bring it to campus. Have them sign it. Put a copy in University Health Center and keep a copy for yourself. Call this preventive medicine. Hopefully, the accident won’t happen, the call won’t come, they will navigate the college years without incident. But should they need your help, you’ll be able to quickly support them, just as you’ve always done.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why Do Men Die First?

92016-why-men-die-first
by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Women outlive men by six years. Heart disease in some men begins at 35. Like you, I never questioned why until I read Why Men Die First by Dr. Marianne Legato. Dr. Legato, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University, has been studying the differences in health between the sexes for decades. Her research found several ways to help men avoid premature death, summarized by Don Fernandez at WebMD.

Here are five suggestions to lengthen the male lifespan.

1. Speak candidly with a physician. Although men are inherently more vulnerable than women genetically, their cultural conditioning encourages them to take risks, deny pain and show no weakness. Those social pressures make them reluctant to seek medical help and speak frankly to their physicians. Mothers, spouses, sisters and friends play an important role in helping men reach out for help before a medical condition worsens.

2. Men are biologically predisposed to infection. Boost the immune system with proper diet, exercise and sleep. Avoid infections by using condoms and keep immunizations, including tetanus shots, up to date.

3. Treat depression. Like in women, depression is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and older men are more likely than women to become suicidal and take their own lives.

4. Watch young adolescent males whose lifestyle make them vulnerable to injury or death.

5. Assess the risk for heart disease and take steps to lower risk factors. Some men, especially those in stressful jobs like firefighters and police officers, show evidence of heart disease as young as 35.

For more insights and guidance, listen to this 30-minute video posted by Second Opinion, an informative discussion about why men age more poorly than women.

Together, let’s help our sons and spouses, brothers and nephews lengthen their lifespan.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Is your Teenager Turing 18? Protect Their Health

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Do you have a niece or nephew, child or grandchild turning 18 this year? Be sure to have them sign a HIPAA Authorization Form before leaving home for college. Many parents of college-aged students are surprised to learn that they can not access their teenager’s medical information without their explicit permission, a right to privacy embedded in HIPAA legislation. Some parents discover they’ve been denied access in the middle of a medical or mental health crisis, a situation easily avoided by having your teenager sign a permission slip called a HIPAA Authorization Form on their 18th birthday. This form, which takes only a minute to complete, does not require an attorney nor notarization.

Listen to my video and request your free copy of the form, with easy instructions, by simply replying to this blog post or emailing info@colpartners.com with HIPAA in the subject line. Make this task a priority, on top of your “to-do” list, ahead of finding the twin-extra long sheets for dorm beds.

Please share this message with friends and family who have teenagers. Don’t let them leave for college without signing this document. Here’s why from Consumer Reports.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Alzheimer’s and Teddy Mac, The Songaminute Man

by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Simon ‘Mac’ McDermott did what any good son would do when his father’s aggressive behavior from Alzheimer’s disease seemed impossible to manage. He reached out to the National Dementia Helpline in the UK for guidance. Thankful for the kindness of the woman on the end of the telephone line, Simon turned to Facebook, hoping to raise $100,000 to support the Alzheimer’s Society. Simon had discovered that singing brought “his father back,” his musical memory unaffected after a lifetime spent as a nightclub singer. Nicknamed The Songaminute Man, Teddy Mac knew hundreds of songs by heart. Simon recorded carpool karaoke of the duo singing the old bossa nova hit “Quando, Quando, Quando” and watched his post go viral, reaching 40 million viewers, raising nearly $200,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

To keep his dad engaged, Simon posted other videos of his Dad’s favorite songs on Facebook, generating a following inspired by his singing. Decca Records offered Teddy Mac a recording contract, and his first single has just been released, a recording of Frank Sinatra’s, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Follow this story on their Facebook page and consider purchasing Teddy Mac’s single. All proceeds will be split between the Alzheimer’s Society and Teddy Mac. Let’s insure that the family has enough resources to support him along his journey with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listen, enjoy, and donate.

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Got Health? Give.

cycling by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Our mission at Circle of Life Partners includes supporting the leaders of non-profit organizations that improve the health and well-being of older people and their families. This summer, many of us plan to walk, run, cycle or golf for a cause; there is no better way to improve our own fitness with friends and family while helping others. Below are links to a few of our favorite events. Feel free to post other local or national events in the comments section or on our Facebook page. We want to support your favorite causes, too.

Most families have someone living with heart disease or cancer, respiratory illnesses, arthritis or diabetes. In August, join the annual Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon. Nationally, check out the Team for Cures events for Multiple Mylenoma; join the Fight for Air Climb in skyscrapers across the country to support the American Lung Association; or ride with Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association.

Because half of the caregiving dollars in America are spent supporting someone living with cognitive impairment, walk or ride for the Alzheimer’s Association or join local golfers to support the DKJohnson Foundation. Other neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis also consume caregiving resources and benefit from our engagement. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Funds from that campaign helped scientists identify NEK1, a gene that may cause the disease, so your support to these, and other campaigns, matters.

Mental illness afflicts millions of Americans and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is among the organizations that provide ongoing support and guidance to families. Join one of the NAMI Walks and let’s make mental health an equal priority for all.

To your health!

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Are You One of the Village People?

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Next Thursday, June 30th, I’m heading to Cape Cod to join the Village People. I won’t be donning my cowboy boots or singing “Y-M-C-A” but I will be leading a fun, community-wide conversation about aging and aging in place with Neighborhood Falmouth, one of the first virtual retirement villages in the United States. Joining our conversation will be experts in law, financial planning, home care and senior housing along with working daughters juggling aging parents and teenage children, Baby Boomers planning for their own longevity, and a random cowboy or two. If you’re heading to Cape Cod for the fourth of July, especially if you’ll be spending time with your older relatives, stop by and join the conversation. Learn why fewer Baby Boomers will be using senior housing. No singing skills required.

Here’s where we’ll be on Thursday, June 30, 2016, 7pm-8:30pm: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, Sandwich Road, Falmouth.

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Top 25 Songs for Aging Baby Boomers

Sixties albumby Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Recently, one of my hip brothers turned 69. Still handsome and fun-loving, his long history of being the life of the party is undiminished by age. He remains a hilarious story-teller, a talent inherited genetically and nurtured around the dinner table by my father, the youngest son of Scots-Irish immigrants. While the health benefits of positivity are espoused by researchers and clinicians alike, it remains the default in my family ethos, an ethos not fueled by alcohol consumption but the sheer joy of being alive and navigating life together.

Over the years as the youngest sibling – MUCH younger, I might add – I’ve observed my parents and now my siblings navigate health challenges with grace and laughter. In my family, humor matters. It is the glue that binds us, that helps us confront challenges with joy and celebrate successes with humility.

Yet this year, I struggled to find an appropriate birthday card for my brother who is transitioning toward elderhood. A snarky one about age would not do; he has a sensitive soul. Photos of half-naked women seemed inappropriate and ones with elderly men wouldn’t resonate for someone who remains eternally 35 in spirit.

Then, I found it at Hallmark: TOP 25 FAVORITE SONGS.

Here they are. If you don’t get the references, lucky you. If you do, enjoy the laughs along with us.

#25 Let’s Get Physicals
#24 Ain’t No Burrito Mild Enough
#23 I Wear My Bifocals at Night
#22 A Hard Day’s Nap
#21 Who Left the Milk Out
#20 The Long and Winding Nose Hair
#19 I Can’t See Clearly Now
#18 I Just Died in Your Arms (Call 911)
#17 Moany, Moany
#16 Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on the Bathroom Door
#15 I’m Bringing Saggy Back
#14 To All the Girls I’ve Disappointed Before
#13 I Want a New Drug Plan
#12 Hey, You, Get Off My Bumper
#11 Rock Me Gently, Dammit
#10 1-900 Is the Loneliest Number
#9 Achy Breaky Hip
#8 It’s Only Muzak (But I Like It)
#7 Groovy Kind of Love Handles
#6 I’ve Had the BM of My Life
#5 The Sound of Silent (But Deadly)
#4 Stair-Lift to Heaven
#3 Baby Got Backache
#2 Y.M.C. eh?
#1 Waking Up is Hard to Do.

The Joys of Dementia

by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

“Wouldn’t it be better if your mother died?” a friend asked over tea when I mentioned that my mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Too stunned to reply directly to her remark, I said simply, “Oh no, it’s not that bad,” and I quickly shifted our conversation to her children.

Die? I should have been outraged by her question, yet I learned long ago that many people consider memory loss to be worse than death itself. Would she have asked that question if I told her my mother had breast cancer?

Say the word “dementia” and the world shudders. Tweeters tweet, media moguls opine, and writers of blogs and books rail about the tragedy of memory loss. Yet most people have never actually lived with someone whose memory is fading, and many find the thought unnerving. My mother lived with memory loss for 17 years and I want to emphasize the word lived. For most of those years, she prepared meals, did the laundry, attended family gatherings, and loved her grandchildren. When my father passed away, one sister and I took her into our homes, concerned that she should not live alone.  During that time, I came to appreciate the benefits of not remembering, of forgetting the day-to-day indignities of aging, of living in the moment.

At the risk of offending your sensibilities, below is a list of five joys of having dementia.

1) You get to live in the moment again, just as you did as a child. Rain and snow, falling leaves and lightning, the best of mother nature becomes a source of wonder and delight. Do you recall when you measured time by the weather and the season and not the clock? Dementia returns you to that season of life.

2) Young children adore you because you’ll watch them play and perform with joy. My daughter and her friends were five when her Nana came to live with us. I still recall one Sunday afternoon when the girls, bejeweled and dressed with boas, tiaras, dresses and bangles, performed The Hungry Caterpillar over and over and over again. Each time my mother enjoyed the performance with fresh eyes.

3) You’ll forget the rules of life and break them. Eat dessert before dinner, why not?

4) You may forget the loss of your loved ones. After 59 years of marriage, my mother should have grieved for a year or more after my father’s passing. But, she forgot he died. She didn’t forget him, of course, she just forgot that he had passed away. “Does Bob know that I’m here?” she would ask. “Yes,” I’d lie, and we’d resume our activities for the day.

5) You’ll remind your adult children just by your physical presence to take care of their health, appreciate their loved ones, enjoy every moment of life, and not sweat the small stuff.

Dementia may rob your older relatives of memories, but it provides the family an opportunity to celebrate your time with them and convey important family values to your children. One Sunday I planned a special family dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday. “Why are we celebrating her birthday?” my 12 year-old son complained. “It’s stupid, she won’t remember it.”  “Really?” I replied, “tell me what you remember about your first birthday party.”  He stopped complaining.

My son was right, my mother would not remember her party. But he would, and I would, too. It was our last celebration with her.

How do you enjoy time with your relatives who are growing forgetful? Here are 101 activities you may want to try.

I know, first-hand, the chaos that this disease causes for the elder and their extended family. Yet I refute the belief that those living with dementia have little to teach us in their last years. My mother, like many others, retained cognition through the end of her life using strategies I describe in Don’t Give Up on Me! Consider purchasing a copy through Circle of Life Partners; all proceeds are donated to support elders and their families.

©2015 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.