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.

BOOK REVIEW: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Let’s talk about death, or better yet, dying. Our guide is Dr. Atul Gawande, brilliant surgeon and best-selling author, who weaves a compelling narrative that informs, enlightens and challenges clinicians and senior housing leaders to improve the way our institutions of care impact lives. Unlike his previous books The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, and Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, Gawande gets personal in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, with a perspective enriched by his father’s end-of-life journey. “We are not ageless,” Gawande writes, pushing readers past the denial that afflicts both the physician and the patient. Our goal, he continues, is “not a good death, but a good life to the end.”

The challenge, of course, is how to achieve that goal when only three percent of medical students receive training in geriatrics. While Gawande and his colleagues at Ariadne Labs focus on physician education, Being Mortal provides insights that readers can use with their own families.

My favorite tip was his description of ODTAA Syndrome, the signature way to tell when a patient or loved one is nearing the end of their lives. ODTAA Syndrome is when one experiences “One Damn Thing After Another,” a sure sign that the body is weakening and starting to fail. While the medical community uses clinical markers and checklists for stages of dying, this intentionally amusing name most clearly describes what families experience.

Long before ODTAA syndrome begins, older people with medical concerns face three housing choices: aging in a home setting with assistance, moving to an assisted living community, or moving into a skilled nursing home. While each option has benefits and challenges, Gawande describes resources worthy of consideration.

1. The Eden Alternative – As a new medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, Dr. Bill Thomas found that residents were suffering from boredom, loneliness and helplessness. His solution? Admitting 100 winged and six four-legged residents. Gawande shares this hilarious story about the founding of the Eden Alternative; you may find nursing home communities that subscribe to their philosophy here.

2. Assisted Living Communities – As a caution to families, Gawande reminds us that today only 11 percent of assisted living communities “offer both privacy and sufficient services to allow frail people to remain in residence,” the original intent of Dr. Keren Brown Wilson, the founder of the first community for assistance in Portland, Oregon. One of the model organizations recorded by Gawande is Sanborn Place, led by friend Jacquie Carson who provides the kind of passionate advocacy and skilled care all elders deserve.

3. Palliative and Hospice Care – Perhaps the most useful guidance in Being Mortal were the examples of how patients, including his father, weighed treatment options during the last few years of their lives. Highlighting the importance of palliative consultations and hospice care, Gawande used his father’s fear of becoming a quadriplegic to demonstrate those often difficult conversations about care options, conversations that are the focus of the 5 Wishes, The Conversation Project, and the popular card game My Gift of Grace.

Here is an excerpt of the questions a physician trained in palliative care might ask.

1. What do you understand your prognosis to be?
2. What are your concerns about what lies ahead?
3. I need to understand how much you are willing to go through to stay alive.
4. What are your goals if your condition worsens?
5. If time becomes short, what is most important to you?

Unfortunately, until more physicians and health care providers are trained in palliative care, it remains for family members, especially those who are designated as health care agents, to clarify their loved one’s wishes. Being Mortal gives families insight into how to have those conversations. Buy a copy and use it to start the conversation with those you love.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. You may purchase a copy here.Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

c 2014 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Dogs, Home Care and Transportation

800px-White_dogs_on_hind_legsby Janet Simpson Benvenuti

August brings a sense of urgency to enjoy the last month of summer as the fall calendar overflows with activity. If you have completed your summer reading list, I recommend A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, by Sue Halpern, a beautifully-written story about a mother transitioning to the empty nest who decides that her unruly dog should become certified as a therapy dog at the local nursing home. Unlike most books about elders that tend to be depressing, this one is a joyful reminder of the resilience of the old, the kindness of our four-legged companions, and the humanity we all feel as life’s major transitions touch us in our middle years.

Two disruptive transitions in our parents’ or grandparents’ lives occur when they need home care or transportation. Because services are patchwork of local and national resources, I met with several business leaders this summer including:

• Tom Furber, the new VP at Care.com. You may know that Care.com is an on-line resource for babysitters, house cleaners, pet sitters, and home care services. Tom is working on enhancing the latter and we strategized about ways to truly help families sort through and select the right home care provider. Watch for changes on their website and new television ads that to date have focused only on child care services.

• Mature Caregivers launched by Tim Driver, founder of RetirementJobs.com, is a new resource for families. While running his successful employment service, Tim noticed the opportunity to provide jobs for people 50+ as companions for seniors. Just a year underway, Mature Caregivers provides care services in Boston and Chicago, with plans for national expansion.

• Jean Patel Bushnell leads the Boston chapter of the Independent Transportation Network, a non-profit organization founded 20 years ago by Katherine Freund after her toddler was struck and nearly killed by a car driven by an 84-year old. ITN provides rides door-to-door, round the clock, including weekends, with some unique twists. Drivers can accumulate credit for their own future transportation needs, scholarships fund low-income riders, and a gift certificate program lets adult children support their parents’ rides.

You may find these resources useful.

© 2013 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.

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.

Ciao!

©Circle of Life Partners