Let’s Help End Alzheimer’s: Move for Minds

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Save the Date: June 4, 2017. Join thousands of women across the country at Equinox Sports Clubs to help end Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that disproportionately impacts women. Maria Shriver @mariashriver and the Women Alzheimer’s Movement @WomensAlz have teamed up with Equinox to host the annual Move for Minds event in seven cities nationwide.

Get your sisters, daughters and girlfriends together and register below for this fun-filled fundraising event. All monies raised are donated to researchers on the cutting edge of a cure.

Just click on the city below to register NOW.
In Washington D.C.
In Boston, MA
In San Francisco, CA
In Dallas, TX
In Orange County, CA
In Miami, FL
In Los Angeles, CA

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

You Can Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Getting Alzheimer’s disease is not inevitable with age. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Lisa Genova, neuroscientist, Massachusetts native and author of several books including Still Alice shared five ways you can avoid cognitive impairment.

You likely know the first four.

1. Get a good night’s sleep;
2. Follow the Mediterranean diet;
3. Exercise several times a week; aerobic exercise is best with strength training to enable fitness; and,
4. Lower your stress levels through prayer, yoga, or meditation.

What often surprises people is the fifth preventative: Learn something new. Exercising your brain through new experiences builds synaptic capacity. Lisa referred to the now famous Nun Study, research that followed the lives of 678 nuns who generously agreed to allow their brains to be autopsied upon their passing at ages 75 to 107. To their surprise, the researchers found that several nuns’ brains had the telltale Alzheimer’s lesions yet these women displayed no evidence of cognitive impairment while alive. Why? Their brains had ample capacity because of a lifetime of learning.

Watch the video. Share this post with your friends and family. Then join me in learning a new language using an app like Duolingo. Au revoir und auf wiedersehen.

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

Eldercare: How to Avoid Sibling Discord

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Recently I teamed up with geriatrician Dr. Leslie Kernisan to share how to minimize family conflicts that arise even in the closest of families when a parent or older relative becomes ill and needs support. Dr. Kernisan is a practicing geriatrician with an active interest in educating seniors and their adult children how to achieve Better Health While Aging.

Sibling conflicts arise from a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities that change as a parent’s or older relative’s needs increase. Geographic distance, job demands, financial strain and even denial will elevate stress and tension. In this podcast, you’ll learn the key roles relatives play and the four actions that insure successful aging. Learn, too, how a quick sketch of a family tree helps identify and fill gaps in support long before assistance is needed.

Like you, I often listen to podcasts on walks or when commuting. I listened to our edited podcast on a rainy day while chopping vegetables to prepare beef barley soup. Here is the recipe and the podcast.

c 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 Turning 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.

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.

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.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Heart of the Hereafter, Love Stories from the End of Life

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

The Heart of the HereafterEach month I read dozens of books, articles and research reports about aging and healthcare, looking for tidbits of information that I can share with you, knowledge that will make your family life easier, healthier, more joyful. After 25 years in healthcare, it’s rare that I find a book that makes me pause and reconsider how we care for the dying. The Heart of the Hereafter, Love Stories from the End of Life, is one of those books.

Author Marcia Brennan, Ph.D., is a professor of Art History and Religious Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She also is the Artist In Residence in palliative medicine at the renowned M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Curious about her role, I anticipated that her book would describe anecdotally how art therapy can help a patient cope with their cancer diagnosis. Far from that, Dr. Brennan becomes our guide to life’s greatest transition – death – using art as the language to describe what words cannot.

Dr. Brennan briefly provides context about historical guides to the art of dying called the ars morendi, small printed books widely used in the 14th century to help people understand the dying process and acknowledge the moment between living and death, when an individual is suspended between worlds. “Sometimes when I visit people at the end of life,” she writes, “I get the sense that they are inhabiting multiple worlds at once…their physical appearance changes and they become extremely beautiful.” This state of grace, a moment of sustained peace and comfort, a convergence of the physical and spiritual, is captured through her stories about 10 patients, including a child, who are dying.

In “The Heart,” Dr. Brennan brilliantly demonstrates how she creates a complete summation of each patient’s life in a single poem, words that are transformed by a visual artist into a charcoal drawing. She places their reflection in the context of her deep knowledge about religion and art, centering each story around the different types of love that influence and transform a person’s life. The result is breathtaking, especially as each patient acknowledges the accuracy of her work, comforted by her understanding and a sense of accompaniment when facing the transition between worlds.

The news today is full of stories about how to navigate the last years of life. Housing choices, hospice care, insurance coverage and legal plans are mundane but necessary decisions that distract families from what truly matters: being present with loved ones in the last months and moments of their lives. Dr. Brennan, a stranger to the patients she meets, reminds us that our role is to listen and affirm, to remain open to whatever arises, to acknowledge that “the end of life is all about life itself and the many different types of love that we experience as human beings.” This book is a gift to us, one to re-read each time someone in your life approaches the end of their own.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Click this link to purchase The Heart of the Hereafter: Love Stories from the End of Life

c2015 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Valentine’s Day: A Gift of Love

valentine's day cardby 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. On Valentine’s Day, in addition to buying cards and gifts for your loved ones, consider making a donation of time or money in their honor.

Below are links to some of the organizations we support.

1. Consider donating to a non-profit organization that supports research to cure the illnesses that afflict family members. Most families have someone living with heart disease or cancer, respiratory illnesses, arthritis or diabetes.

2. Because half of the caregiving dollars in America are spent supporting someone living with cognitive impairment, consider a donation to The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund or the Alzheimer’s Association. Other neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, ALS and MS also consume caregiving resources and benefit from our generosity.

3. 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.

4. Support artistic programs that focus on seniors such as ARTZ, Dance for PD, or Alive Inside with their plans to provide ipods and music to all living in nursing homes. Communities of writers such as Grub Street offer memoir writing workshops for older citizens while the National Center for Creative Aging provides training to encourage the widespread adoption of arts programs in senior communities.

5. Organizations with long-histories of supporting elders such as JF&CS and local hospitals, Councils on Aging, and food programs are always appreciative of donations of time and money.

I hope you’ll join us and share your love this Valentine’s Day beyond your immediate family. Post your favorite organizations below or on our Facebook or LinkedIn Group so we may promote their work as well. Collectively, we can have a significant impact on those who make it easier for us to celebrate the lives of those we love.

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