Guest Writer Raad Ghantous – Universal Design Meets Spa Luxury

We are in the midst of a massive generational shift.  Much has been written about the demographics of Baby Boomers and how it represents the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.

But not much has been written about the non-economic impact of Baby Boomers and how our system of elder care must adapt to care for them.

Regardless of whether you prefer home care, aging in place, independent living or assisted living, Baby Boomers require a new way of thinking.

They are living different lifestyles and have different preferences.  They are technology-savvy and more connected online.

What has to change in terms home and elder care community design to accommodate these preferences?

Enter Raad Ghantous.

I’d like to welcome to Inside Elder Care family  guest writer Raad Ghantous.  Raad is a veteran interior designer with a focus on universal design. Raad has worked on some of those most prestigious designs in the world, including the Hilton Osaka (Osaka, Japan), the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort (Sacaton, Artizon)  and the Grand Hyatt Dubai.  He also has deep experience designing multi-use spa and healing centers, a growing option of natural healthcare worldwide.

His combination approach of luxury, practicality and functionality along with an in depth understand of universal design make him uniquely qualified and make me thrilled to have him on board.

Raad will be sharing a series of articles discussing the importance of universal design and the issues to consider as Baby Boomers transition to the next generation of seniors.

Look out for Raad’s first article.

Can Alzheimer’s Be Cured?

A fascinating interview appeared in Scientific American this morning.  Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer interviews P. Murali Doraiswamy, the head of biological psychiatry at Duke University and a Senior Fellow at Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging. He’s also the co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan, a guide for patients and family members struggling with the disease. In this interview, Lehrer discusses with Doraiswamy some of the recent advances in Alzheimer’s research and what can be done to prevent memory loss.

Some highlights from the article:

  • The two biggest misconceptions are “It’s just aging” and “It’s untreatable, so we should just leave the person alone.”
  • There are four FDA-approved medications available for treating Alzheimer symptoms and many others in clinical trials.  Strategies to enhance general brain and mental wellbeing can also help people with Alzheimer’s.
  • A population study from Finland has developed a fascinating scale that can predict 20-year risk for dementia – sort of a brain aging speedometer.  Obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are some of the culprits this study identified.  So keeping these under control is crucial. Depression is another risk factor for memory loss, so managing stress and staying socially connected is also important.
  • By using a combination of biomarkers, genetic tests and new brain scans, we are inching very close to predicting not only who will develop Alzheimer’s but the exact age when they may start developing symptoms.  This offers huge opportunities for conducting prevention trials.
  • The interactions between vascular disease and memory loss suggest that at least some aspects of Alzheimer’s may be modifiable through diet and exercise.

Read the complete article in Scientific American.

Photo: Les Todd, Duke Photography

Now Online: Forum with Daschle, Gingrich and Volunteers of America Discuss Healthcare for Seniors

A few weeks back, I was approached by David Burch, Communications Manager at Volunteers of America.  David was soliciting questions and concerns for a very interesting panel to be held in Washington DC.

Here’s a recap of the event from David:

On Monday, June 8, Volunteers of America hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club on the future of healthcare and services for seniors in America. More than 400 people joined us for this lively conversation featuring leading healthcare reform advocates Tom Daschle and Newt Gingrich, as well as cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson and Volunteers of America National President Chuck Gould.

If you were unable to attend, you can watch select clips from “Boomer Bust: From Greatest Generation to Crisis Generation,” as well as video of the entire event, online at http://voa.org/boomerbust. A detailed overview of the event also can be found here.

The panel discussion served to launch Volunteers of America’s new Aging with Options initiative, which aims to transform the way senior care is provided in America by creating new choices, including more access to home care. A conversation with Volunteers of America National President Chuck Gould, in which he discusses his thoughts on the future of health care and services for seniors, can be found at http://voa.org/gouldqanda.

Brief clips highlighting Chuck Gould’s key points are also posted on Volunteers of America’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/VolofAmerica.

Looks like a great start to the conversation.  However, I noticed one major omission from this discussion.  While I certainly have the utmost respect for the policy expertise of the panel, I would have liked to have seen some family representation to encourage that side of the debate.

That being said, David graciously accepted my questions and I am happy to have participated.  The clips on the site above are a good summary.

Live Discussion: Dementia with Lewy Bodies

A dear friend of Inside Elder Care, Kim McRae, just shared a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the second leading type of demntia after Alzheimer’s.

Betwixt and Intermixed – Dementia With Lewy Bodies

Three members of the Lewy Body Dementia Association Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) are participating in an upcoming free webinar on dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), the quintessential overlap disease between Alzheimer (AD) and Parkinson diseases (PD).

This live discussion, hosted by the Alzheimer Research Forum, will take place on Monday, 15 June 2009, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. EST and will feature short slide presentations by Drs. Ian McKeith, Brit Mollenhauer, James Galvin, James Leverenz, and Walter Schulz-Schaeffer, with audio provided via a telephone line. (Drs. McKeith, Galvin and Leverenz are members of LBDA’s Scientific Advisory Council.)

Questions for the panel can be submitted in advance and during the live event. An interactive chat session will follow the webinar.

Click here to learn more and register for the event.

Picture: Balazs Simon

Book Review: The Caregiver in MidLife by Ellen Besso

The Caregiver in MidLife
Where Theirs Needs End and Yours Begin
By Ellen Besso
(Self-Published; 101 pages with exercises; $14.99 e-book)

It’s no secret that I am not among the norm as someone who is the primary caregiver for his family.  In fact, 73% of caregivers are women, the average age of which is 46 years.

Many books on caregiving have been released over the years.  On the surface, Ellen Besso’s book, “The Caregiver in MidLife” may appear like that of a traditional caregiver book.  In fact there are some things in common: personal stories, self-cleansing and strong bonds between the writer and reader that “we’re in it together.”

By that is where the similarities end.  You see, Ellen Besso is a life coach.  And the words “victim” and “cannot” are not words commonly used by coaches – especially life coaches.  It’s here where Besso’s book creates separation and a credibility that cannot be denied.

Besso takes a unique angle in discussing the expectations, emotions and transformations Baby Boomer women face in their role as a family caregiver.  Besso argues that women are hardwired to be caregviers and details fascinating conflicts between the demands of caregiving and life realities such as hormonal changes, motherly instincts and the pressures to “finally do something” with one’s life.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” teaches you how to regain the life you put on hold, and how do it in a way that is comfortable, empowering and respected by the loved one to which you provide care.

Chapter 4 addressed a topic I’ve not thought of formally, but one that is real.  The chapter focuses on role changes as women move through life.   Besso argues that as women grow, they separate from their parents and learn to better create boundaries between the role of mother/father and daughter.  As a caregiver, the role of daughter and caregiver can sometimes be in conflict.

Besso also shares a very interesting theory that some sibling caregiver rivalries may be a subconscious way of trying to be the “favorite” in the eyes of the parent.  While that is likely not the case in our family, I can see where lingering feelings from childhood could manifest in this fashion.

Besso’s coaching skill comes through more subtly at the beginning of the book.  But it takes a far stronger and more inspiring tone as the book progresses.  I found myself excited in a Tony Robbins sort of way to take control of my situation, draw boundaries and regain control of the parts of my life that had been neglected.

But one area that left me yearning and somewhat confused was in Chapter 7.  In this chapter, Besso describes her experience moving her mother to an assisted living community.  Whereas Besso assumed total control of her circumstances earlier in the book, her almost fight-free acceptance of her mother’s care being under someone else’s control seemed to contradict the books premise.  I was expecting an equal if not more determine tone from Besso as it is such a transformative transition for any family.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” also includes a book of exercises addressing time management, personal feeling and attitudes and support networks (to name a few).  Kudos to Besso for including these exercises!  I am huge fan of them because they personalize lessons learned in the book and enable the reader to move from hypothetical to practical at their own pace.  There is a reflective power of workbooks enabled when you can review your thoughts and progress from time to time.

Overall, I was very happy to read the book and thought Besso did a good job of mixing the encouragement of a coach with the reality that we face as caregivers.  At 101 pages, it is a quick read that will leave you feeling upbeat and better prepared to address your own life.

“The Caregiver in MidLife” is available at www.ellenbesso.com.