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.

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.

Why Do 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.

ConnectedVisits – Telehealth for Family Caregivers

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Each month I meet or speak at length with a dozen or more entrepreneurs across the country working on innovations in health care and healthy aging. Periodically, I will feature one of these businesses to keep you informed about new products or services that may help you better support your parents or grandparents as they age.

One new venture is ConnectedVisits founded by Dr. Krishna Gazula, a brilliant man whose passion is to help families and health care teams communicate more effectively. Like some of you, I was the “designated daughter,” the family member who drove my parents to their medical appointments and discussed their care with their physicians. With ConnectedVisits, other family members or health care specialists such as a social worker or nutritionist easily could have joined those conversations, improving communication among all and saving me considerable time and energy repeating the physician’s guidance to everyone involved with their care. When needed, my sisters and brothers also could have attended some of those appointments virtually and their physician would have had ready access to x-rays and other medical information on-line while talking with us.

ConnectedVisits intends to raise funds next month to further develop their product. You can follow their work here.

Have you had any experience with telehealth?

c 2013 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fit or Flabby? Your Insurer Wants to Know

imagesCAHGPGB7by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

In Florence, Italy, my 22-year old son joked about the abs on Michaelangelo’s David, his own physiology sculpted by the intense training regimen of a college athlete. While our physiques pale when compared to the ideal or even our twenty-something bodies, swimming or golf, tennis or yoga, cycling or walking will help keep us and our parents fit. Some of you may already be wearing a bracelet from Fitbit or Up by Jawbone to monitor your daily routine or using apps such as MyFitnessPal. With the roll-out of the Accountable Care Act, expect your health insurer to request four health statistics – height, weight, blood pressure and waist size – and future insurance premiums through your employer will be adjusted based on your overall fitness and health.

If you’re looking for a new way to stay fit with friends, check out Vizifit, a wellness venture being launched in Silicon Valley. Vizifit offers friends the opportunity to take exercise classes together on-line, regardless of where each friend is located. Yoga, Zumba, cardio and other classes are offered and during your workout, you see only the instructor and your friends. Best yet, you can interact with your friends and talk among yourselves without disrupting the class. The site is in beta-testing right now, but it sounds like a great way to exercise with long-distance friends or when you are traveling.

Have you considered getting your parents or older loved ones Fitbit or Up by Jawbone to self-monitor their sleep, eating and exercise habits? At present, these bracelets are being marketed only to young and middle-aged consumers, but the real health benefit may be for able-bodied seniors. Today, most products for our parents focus on managing illness, not wellness – alarmed electronic pill box, anyone? – it’s up to us to change that paradigm.

© Circle of Life Partners









Circle of Life Partners Goes to Italy – The Food

italy_rome_1280px[1]by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

As summer begins, I am mindful of the three tenets of healthy aging: food, fitness and family, each of which got my renewed attention during a recent trip to Italy with my husband and children.

Have you been to Rome? The Romans may drive wildly, but they certainly know how to prepare and enjoy food. Recently, a scientific study in Spain confirmed what Italians have known for centuries: the Mediterranean diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and red wine, does indeed extend life and delay the onset and advancement of disease.  Our favorite restaurant, La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali,was a family-run trattoria near Piazza Venezia and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the entrance hidden in an alley as narrow as my son is tall. The owner welcomed us warmly and offered to select the five courses and wine for our dinner, portions small by American standards, but sufficient to satisfy even my son’s 6’6″ frame. We lingered between courses for conversation and laughter, the pacing of the meal as unhurried as the Sunday dinners of my childhood. In addition to our trending slow food movement in America, I’d like to propose a slow dining movement.

In the States, you should expect to see increased attention to good nutrition as the health care system moves toward creating medical homes and boomers strive to maintain their health. Specialists, such as oncologists, have long included nutrition as part of the healing process, but you don’t need a hospital stay or a serious illness to find guidance.  Watch as:

  • Primary care practices, such as Iora Health, and neighborhood clinics add health coaches and nutrition counseling
  • Grocery stores offer nutritional guidance, such as the Stop-and-Shop near my home where one may schedule  appointments with a nutritionist on Thursdays
  • Private nutritional coaches, like friends at Weiser Choices, expand their coaching practices
  • Employers add group fitness and health coaching such as ShapeUp to their wellness programs

I’m still waiting for the time when it becomes routine for physicians to hand patients a stack of recipes instead of writing a prescription for yet another drug. Until then, I recommend a trip to Italy.


©Circle of Life Partners


Nutrition: Greens, the Nutritional Jackpot

by Jeanine Calabria
Nutritional experts advise that parents may have to present a food to a child seven times before the child will accept the new food. I have to say that this same logic also may apply to adults. I have eaten “greens” all my life with little enthusiasm. I knew they were good for me, in fact even believed they were essential to my health since they are loaded with iron, calcium, fiber, and antioxidants. Yet, I had never really enjoyed them. Committed to finding a dish with greens that I could enjoy, I learned there are basically two ways to prepare them: flash sauté them until they barely wilt or slow cook them, usually with a salt pork, to lessen their bitter quality. Cooking them for several hours left them so mushy that I was repulsed by the texture. I settled on using the sauté method with olive oil and garlic, and they were palatable. However, I still wasn’t motivated to make greens a staple.
Last year I changed my tune. I experimented until I came up with a dish that I call Greens with Beans, a dish that I can’t get enough of. Twenty minutes of actual cooking time with an incredible mélange of herbs, veggies, and broth make this dish a nutritional jackpot. Because I like greens prepared this way so much, I make a huge pot and ration out a little every day with my meals. Much to the amusement of my family, I even like them for breakfast with poached eggs!
I hope you will enjoy this colorful, flavorful dish. Let me know how you like it and how you change it to suit your palate. Bon appétit!

Greens with Beans

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 bunch of greens cut into 1-inch strips (beet greens are beautiful mixed with spinach, but any greens work, including collard, kale, chard, or dandelion)
juice of one lemon
1 bay leaf
14 oz vegetable broth
1 28-oz can of tomatoes, diced, including juice
1 15-oz can of cannelloni beans, drained
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried, ground chipotle pepper or, for less spice, smoked paprika (I prefer Penzeys Spices)
fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

1. Heat oil; add leeks, garlic, and greens. Cook for 5 minutes, just until the greens begin to wilt.
2. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and all other ingredients except the beans. Cook for 15 minutes.
3. Add the drained beans and, if you want, a cup of fresh, chopped parsley. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Serve with rice and you have a complete meal.

For more recipes, read Jeanine’s blog by clicking here.

©Circle of Life Partners™

Nutrition for Healthy Aging: Beef Barley Soup

by Jan Simpson

When my parents reached their late seventies, I began to stock their freezer with home-made soups and casseroles. I used the excuse that it was easier to prepare a triple batch of soup or two casseroles and share with them than to make food for my family alone. One of their favorite soups was beef barley. Laden with vegetables, this nutritious soup provides a warm meal for lunch or dinner during the cool fall days or frigid wintry ones. Preparing a large batch and allocating the soup into containers that could be placed in my parents’ freezer provided them with a quick meal on those days when they felt too tired or too ill to prepare a meal for themselves.

Over the years, I’ve added specific spices and herbs known to support health to my recipes. For example, garlic, onions, and leeks rank high among the most effective foods that inhibit brain, lung, prostate, and breast cancers. Turmeric, mint, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary, parsley, as well as the vegetables celery, squash, and carrots, also have anti-cancer effects as described in an earlier blog post “Fighting Cancer.” I do not add salt nor do I use purchased beef collagen stock with its high salt content because a diet high in salt contributes to chronic high blood pressure, one of the causes of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia.

This following recipe for beef barley soup is from the kitchen of a dear friend, Mimma Fitzgerald.


  • 2-3, 1-1½ pound packages of lean stew beef, cut into cubes (½ inch)
  • 1 29-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 1 12-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 large onion (or garlic)
  • 7 ribs of celery and 10 medium carrots peeled chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • other vegetables e.g., green beans, spinach, butternut squash, yams as desired
  • 8 oz. (1/2 bag ) of pearl barley, rinsed in a colander to remove excess starch
  • ½ teaspoon of any of the following herbs and spices: parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, or turmeric.


  1. Using a large sauce pan, brown prepared stew meat in 1 teaspoon hot canola oil and set aside.
  2. Chop the vegetables and onion as above and set aside.
  3. Fill a large stock pot with 26 cups of fresh water (or beef stock), add tomato puree, tomato paste, vegetables, onion, herbs, spices, and barley. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and cook on medium-heat for 30 minutes.
  4. Add browned beef to the soup and let the soup simmer on medium-low heat for at least 90 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes before filling pint- or quart-sized containers. Yield is 8 quarts of soup.

Stocking my parents’ freezer with containers of frozen beef barley soup that they could simply warm on their stove top and enjoy with salt-free crackers helped ensure that they would maintain a healthy diet even on days when they didn’t feel like cooking.

Do you have favorite recipes that provide healthy, easy-to-prepare meals for an older loved one? Share one with us to receive a free copy of Don’t Give Up on Me!

©Circle of Life Partners™

Who’s in Charge of Your Health Care?

by Jan Simpson  Who’s in charge of your health care? No one, according to Atul Gawande, M.D., who spoke at Harvard Medical School’s 2011 commencement. “Medicine’s complexity has exceeded our individual capabilities as doctors. It’s like no one is in charge, because no one is.” According to Dr. Gawande, as our knowledge about the human body has exploded (there are  more than 13,000 diagnoses, 6,000 prescription drugs, and 4,000 surgical procedures), patient care has suffered.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Two million patients pick up infections in hospitals in the U.S., mostly because of poor antiseptic precautions;
  • 40 percent of patients with coronary disease and 60 percent of patients with asthma receive incomplete or inappropriate care;
  • One-half of medical complications is avoidable.

These are frightening statistics, especially coming from Dr. Gawande, a gifted surgeon, author, and advocate for change in the way physicians practice medicine. According to Dr. Gawande, the source of this trouble is that physicians are trained and encouraged to work independently rather than in coordinated teams. He suggested that these newly graduating physicians cultivate the ability to work with colleagues like pit crews, rather than cowboys, for patients. Dr. Gawande’s full speech may be accessed here.

Forgive my cynicism for I love Dr. Gawande, the Justin Bieber of medicine. His words are always thought provoking as he challenges all within the health care system to improve patient care. Yet, I suspect that these young Harvard-trained physicians, sitting on mountains of student debt, likely envision futures as specialists or surgeons like Gawande himself, not working more anonymously as part of a “pit crew.” “Cowboys and Pit Crews” may sell magazines, but it will take time to change the way physicians deliver care.  Meanwhile, what’s a family with an ill parent or older loved one to do?

Intuitively, most of us know that the best way to care for our older loved ones is to have a relationship with one physician and minimize the time spent in the system, especially time spent in hospitals, where patients are vulnerable to infection, medical errors, or worse. Family physician and geriatrician, Dennis McCullough, M.D., who has practiced medicine for thirty years cautions, “Most geriatric doctors I know would not want their own parent in a hospital without a family member in attendance at all times.”

As a practical matter, sitting round the clock with a parent in the hospital isn’t possible. But, having spent a decade in the system with my own parents, I would like to share ten tips that can help you get the best possible care for your loved ones.

1.) Create a one-page medical fact sheet that includes a list of prescriptions, allergies, and contact information for next of kin. Leave a copy at the nurses’ station.

2.) Tell the nurses and the physicians which family member to contact with medical information. Assign one or two family members to be the conduit of all information, otherwise pieces of information may be lost if or when serious decisions need to be made. One of these members should be your loved one’s legal health care agent (see earlier blog post “Health Care Proxy & Five Wishes – at 18 and 81”). If your loved one hasn’t assigned an agent, ask the hospital for a form and complete it immediately.

3.) Spread family visits out throughout the day and evening. Try to have some family members visit around lunch and dinner time to ensure that your loved one is eating adequately.

4.) Unless your loved one has dietary restrictions, bring a frappe or Ensure to boost spirits and help keep him or her well-nourished. Do not assume that he or she is eating well.

5.) Keep a notebook on your loved one’s nightstand and ask family members to record information about each visit (e.g., Did Mom get her evening meds? What did Dad eat for dinner?). This is particularly important if your loved one is frail or may have memory lapses due to medication or illness.

6.) Bring a pound of coffee or a box of chocolates as a gift for the night nurses. Nothing is more appreciated by nurses than an acknowledgment of their help. Evenings are often when your loved one will be alone, and this gesture may ensure that he or she gets a bit of extra attention.

7.) If your elder is frail, post a one-page note about him or her and include a family photo from younger days. A young intern might find it interesting that the elder gentleman he or she is caring for was once a fighter pilot or a scratch golfer, and, as a result, may spend a bit more time with him.

8.) Remember that the average number of health care providers your loved one will see is nineteen, and much of the care will be uncoordinated. Do not hesitate to ask questions; reach out to the doctors in person, by telephone, or email. Be assertive but polite. Most health care providers appreciate family members who show authentic interest in helping a parent. Take notes in a medical diary so you can refer to them later.

9.) Make an appointment with the hospital social worker (in person or by telephone), even if your parent will be returning home. Ask about local caregiving resources, options for rehabilitation, etc. One of your best sources of information will be the social worker.

10.) Ask specifically about the timing for discharge and the kind of support that you will be getting. You don’t want to be surprised by an early morning call from a nurse saying your parent is being discharged and find your family unprepared to provide the home care that will be needed to support his or her recovery.

Above all, get your parent out of the hospital as soon as possible. With all respect to the many physicians, nurses, social workers and health care providers who work tirelessly to save lives and care for our loved ones, Dr. Gawande is wrong. There is someone in charge of the care of our loved ones: their family.

If you have any additional tips on how to manage hospital stays, I hope you will share them here.

©Circle of Life Partners™



In the Sandwich? Seven Favorite Sources of Information

by Jan Simpson

To keep informed, I read, tweet, meet experts, attend conferences, and talk with people who provide medical, legal, financial, housing, and home care services to families. I also spend time with entrepreneurs who are launching businesses to help seniors age in place safely.  Along the way, I’ve accumulated a list of favorite information sources.  Here are seven.

#1 Favorite Blog: The New Old Age: Caring and Coping (The York Times) provides timely stories and electronic links to resources. If your family is actively caring for an older loved one, this site is worth bookmarking. Click here.

#2 Favorite Physician Leader #1: Dr. Atul Gawande whom I call the Justin Bieber of medicine, is a surgeon, writer, and an advocate for change in the way hospitals deliver care. He is considered a thought-leader, someone to follow if you have an interest in peeking behind the quality problems in hospitals. Caution: you may never leave a loved one alone to navigate hospital care again. Read his latest article here.

#3 Favorite Physician Leader #2: Dr. Servan-Schreiber turned his own experience with brain cancer into a campaign to help others prevent cancer or a relapse. If you have an hour, listen to his story here. Dr. Servan-Schreiber has teamed up with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas to finance scientific studies that will evaluate the benefits of specific foods and activities such as yoga on cancer care. Neither the government nor the pharmaceutical companies will fund this research, so he is asking for donations from individuals and foundations. Watch this short video to learn more.

#4 Favorite Foods/Spices for Healthy Aging: Blueberries, Celery, Parsley, Turmeric and more. Click here for a full list.

#5 Favorite Book about Health Care: Overtreated by Shannon Brownlee explains how Americans are being subjected to unnecessary medicine in many parts of the country.  After you read Overtreated, reflect on the advice of gerontologist Dr. McCullough (author of My Mother Your Mother)—embrace “slow medicine”— and you’ll know how to support older loved ones.

#6 Favorite Radio Network: I have found podcasts on the Aging Smart Radio Network helpful. Here is one about long-term care insurance. Click here.

#7 Favorite Way to Find Information: Twitter

If you’re not on twitter, check it out. It’s simple to use and easy to find tips, resources, news, and people on a myriad of topics. Or, just follow me at @colpartners and I’ll do the research for you.

Do you have any favorite information sources?

©Circle of Life Partners™