Barbara Friesner Coaches the Generation Gap (Podcast)

As I mention at the beginning of the interview, I was excited to interview Barbara Friesner because I was not familiar with the term “generational coach.”  As the interview progressed, it was clear that Barbara has a clear understanding of many of the experiences families might experience during the caregiving process.  A few thoughts really struck me:

  • Regardless of rivalries, siblings care about their parents (almost always)
  • Caregiving is a way of honoring your parents
  • Having a sibling out of the country puts an enormous pressure on the family

About Barbara Friesner and AgeWiseLiving

Barbara Friesner of AgeWiseLiving is a Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting seniors and their families.   As a Generational Coach, Barbara helps family members help their aging loved ones make and actually implement difficult decisions.  Not only does she help the families know what to do, she also help the family communicate with their parents so their parents will actually do what’s in their best interest – usually the hard part.  And, since sibling issues can be a big issue for many families, she also help siblings work successfully together.

Eldercare was a journey that started for her more than 25 years as the caregiver first for her grandmother for many years and for the past 17 years for her mother who had severe advanced dementia and became a Generational Coach as a result of her more than 25 years of personal experience.

Barbara is also the creator of The Ultimate Caregiver’s Success System which is filled with over 200 pages of easy-to-follow, well organized, step-by-step solutions that carefully guide you through your most pressing questions. The guide also has comprehensive checklists, and sample worksheets.  The System also includes 8 CD’s which seamlessly guide you through the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ behind the what’s in the workbook so nothing is left to chance!

In addition, because Barbara’s mother had dementia, this is a subject that is very near and dear to her heart so she created a CD called Is It Simple Forgetfulness or the Real Thing – which gives all kinds of information about dementia such as: What dementia is – and what it isn’t; other causes of forgetfulness (many of which can be stopped or reversed); how to communicate with someone with dementia; how to keep them as engaged and independent as possible for as long as possible.

Barbara can be reached at:

www.agewiseliving.com

Life, Death on Her Terms

This is a guest post from Susan B. Schaffer, the oldest of three daughters of Beatrice Belopolsky, of Burlington. Susan can be reached at schaffersb@gmail.com.

My mother was my best friend. As she approached 90 years old in excellent health, I occasionally wondered how this woman, who continued to live life with such fierce independence, would eventually leave this earth.

The matriarch of a family of three daughters, she had continued living a full life after being widowed 30 years before. She served actively on community boards, lent a hand with her six grandchildren whenever she could, and traveled the world in her unique style. She was a source of wisdom, in a quiet, commonsense way, and yet remarkably she remained completely open to learning from others. She was ageless, fitting into any group, not as a fifth-wheel elderly parent, but as a contemporary who was interested in others, happy to meet new people and have new experiences.

And so in January 2009, when Mom suddenly began reporting vague aches and pains and her typically sharp reasoning became somewhat fuzzy, I was concerned by the uncharacteristic behavior and sudden signs that she was slipping, both physically and mentally. We began the search, through a series of medical appointments, to determine the cause of these sudden changes.

In April, she was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer of the mouth. Eventually, after meeting with Mom, hearing about her active life, and looking at her blood tests, which were remarkably normal, Mom and her oncology team agreed that concurrent radiation treatment with antibody therapy was a reasonable option. Mom was realistic. She knew the treatment might not work, but she “had to give it a try.”

After two difficult months of radiation and chemo, the treatments ended on her 88th birthday. We all looked forward to Mom’s regaining her strength and her humor, but she didn’t rebound as quickly as we had hoped.

After Labor Day, we learned that the treatment had not worked; the cancer had spread and her life expectancy was now measured in months. It was the only time throughout the ordeal that I saw Mom cry. She told me that she was not afraid to die, but she was afraid of the pain and suffering to come. She wanted to be in control of her life and was thinking about whether she could just stop eating, but feared that would be just as painful.

I felt torn, wanting to hang onto every remaining minute of her time with us, but understanding her dilemma. I suggested that she discuss her options with my husband, Elliott, a family doctor and geriatrician.

Mom and Elliott had a long talk, and Elliott shared information with her about people who forgo food and water – that not only do they not experience increased pain or hunger, but in fact generally those people enjoy a peaceful death with little or no suffering. Mom decided that this was the course she wanted to take, but she was not ready to stop taking nourishment just yet.

Once Mom’s closest friends and family heard about her prognosis, they all arranged to visit her. She quietly and individually met with her brother and each of her six grandchildren and their significant others. She smiled as her great-grandsons rolled around on her bed. The morning after saying her goodbyes to her loved ones, Mom quietly informed her daughters that she was ready to stop eating and drinking.

Her choice itself was not a surprise, but the timing was a shock. We quickly arranged for one of us or an aide to be with her at all times, expecting her strength to fail precipitously. Each morning, I would approach her apartment with trepidation, wondering how much closer to death Mom had traveled overnight.

Amazingly, I found that each day Mom’s spirits grew lighter and more peaceful. There was an immediate and dramatic change the day after Mom made her choice. It was as if she realized that she no longer had to struggle – that she had taken control – and she found comfort in that.

The stream of friends and family continued, and Mom would doze lightly between visits. The rabbi came to visit and came back to chat with her each day thereafter. At first we thought we should protect her from so many visitors – that it would tire her too much – but then we asked ourselves, “Protect her for what?” She was always cheerful during these visits – nostalgic about her life and relationships – and open to discuss her decision, which almost everyone found somewhat shocking.

At the end of the first week, Mom was so comfortable that she wondered, “When is something going to happen?” We assured her that it generally takes no more than two weeks for a body to slip away without food and water. Mom continued to deny feeling any hunger. She did express appreciation for the few sips of water that she took with her pain medication; we soothed her dry mouth with a spray that helped replace saliva, and that seemed to satisfy her.

At no time in the days that passed did Mom appear to be suffering. She lived those last days with a tremendous grace that touched everyone who was privileged to spend time with her. We talked about death; she was clearly not afraid of dying. She frequently smiled and acknowledged what a good life she had lived. Mom expressed curiosity about what she would experience after death and whether she would see her parents or her husband, but then quickly dismissed her curiosity with a cheerful acceptance of her fate.

On Day 11, Mom became less responsive. On Day 12 she peacefully slipped away.

Mom taught us much at her life’s end and particularly in those last 12 days. Witnessing her grace, her humor, her wisdom, and her compassion for all whom she touched in the extraordinary circumstance of her passing was an experience that I will never forget. Seeing her take control of her death, much as she had of her life, was empowering to everyone who was with her and who heard of the circumstances of her death. I am so proud to be her daughter.


Suzanne Andrews Shares the Preventative Powers of Functional Fitness for Seniors (Podcast)

Suzanne Andrews is an occupational therapy practitioner and host of PBS TV’s Functional Fitness.  Suzanne specializes in increasing peoples functional ability through medically engineered fitness techniques for the over 40 population.

Functional Fitness doctor-recommended DVD’s are the only medically engineered programs that offer you the opportunity to increase your functional ability and focus on real-life fitness for real-life challenges.

Whether you need to decrease stiffness and pain caused from arthritis, lose weight, improve your balance, increase your flexibility, get thicker, stronger bones because of osteoporosis, or improve the health of your neck and back, Suzanne Andrews vast therapeutic exercise knowledge will increase your health with special consideration on safety and injury prevention.

In addition to overall strength and well-being, Functional Fitness is customized to address many common elder care medical issues, including:

  • Arthritis relief
  • Pain-free neck & back
  • Bone building
  • Brain power
  • Diabetes
  • Fat-burning
  • COPD/asthma

Sheldon Krechman and Peacemaker Corps – Seniors Rescuing At-Risk Youth

It seems like whenever the topic of elder care or “seniors” come up, the discussion immediately turns to medical, caregiving and financial issues. I was really happy to meet Sheldon Krechman and learn about his focus on keeping seniors engaged in the community.  Sheldon and his wife, Carol, have put together a wonderfully creative organization that is poised to make a measurable impact in the community – a better sense of purpose, more senior independence and a chance for seniors to give back to the community the wisdom of their years.  I think everyone will enjoy this interview.  Sheldon and I had a great time (even though his mom is a Dodger fan!)

Introducing the Peacemaker Corps

The Peacemaker Corps concept grew out of the United Nations mission to promote peace, tolerance and conflict resolution. A collaborative effort between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Friends of the United Nations (FOTUN) and Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) launched the preliminary Peacemaker Corps trainings in fall of 1999 with the aid of a $ 1MM U.S. Federal Discretionary Grant from HUD. After a successful rollout to 11 cities coast-to-coast and positive feedback obtained in follow-up interviews in the year 2000, the Peacemaker Corps training was incorporated into HUD’s ongoing budgeted programs in 2001, only to be eliminated later due to budget shortfalls.

Since its inception, Carole Sumner Krechman, President/Chair, has played an integral part in the Peacemaker Corps. As the Chairman of the Board of FOTUN from 1995 to 2001, Mrs. Krechman collaborated with HUD and SYF to bring the Peacemaker Corps program to youth across the United States and around the world. Following the budget cut, Mrs. Krechman began down the path to reform the Peacemaker Corps and continue its mission of empowering our young with the art of making peace. In 2002 she obtained written consent from HUD to utilize the curriculum, established 501(c) 3 status with the State of California and the US Internal Revenue Service, and in 2003 helped the Peacemaker Corps Association receive the high honor of being one of 26 organizations worldwide, and one of two domestically, named a Non-Governmental Organization with the United Nations.

Proven Success

In late 1999, through the combined efforts of HUD, FOTUN, SYF, 12 trainings were beta-tested in 11 cities coast-to-coast including Indianapolis, Seattle, Dallas and Miami. A total of 220 teens, ages 13-17 participated in the two-day training. An average of 18 young people of varying ethnic backgrounds were chosen by the local Public Housing Authority to participate in each training. The chosen students were selected based on their leadership qualities, demonstrated commitment to their community and their willingness to apply their newly acquired peacemaking skills in future situations.

Following the training, students were asked to evaluate the training on several levels:

  • 87% of participants responded that they learned a lot about mediation and conflict resolution after taking part in the Peacemaker Corps training
  • 87% gave the training an “Excellent” or “Very Good” rating when asked to rate the overall Peacemaker Corps session
  • 76% stated that they would “definitely” like to learn more about the Peacemaker Corps.

SPARTA Consulting, HUD’s national public housing security contractor, conducted follow up phone interviews in 2000. These interviews provided qualitative and quantitative data regarding the benefits of the training. In Pittsburgh, the mother of a graduate stated the program had a visible impact on her son and his friends. She said the program “changed his whole outlook” on how he relates to other youth. Youngstown, Ohio Peacemakers reported they were using their training to breakup fights in school and to avoid fighting with siblings and friends. SPARTA Consulting also identified that following the training many graduates of the Peacemaker Corps had been empowered to join organizations that utilized their new peacemaking skills for a positive effect on their communities. Organizations included: Youth Crime Watch, Drug Free Youth in Town (DFYIT), Boys and Girls Club, City Youth Council and the Youth Crime Commission.

About Sheldon Krechman

Sheldon was Executive Vice President of Martel Electronics and was solely responsible for concept, sales and marketing and directed a 250 member national sales force. Martel maintained offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo Japan and Bremen, Western Germany. Martel Electronics was one of the first importers and distributors of Japanese and German High Quality Electronics. Martel Electronics was partially financed by Chinese investors from San Francisco and Vancouver.

Sheldon was CEO of FKM, Inc. a computer software development and consulting company. Under his direction (NAMES), Name and Address Management System Software was developed, utilized and marketed to the Direct mail industry.

Sheldon was the developer and President of World on Wheels. An Inner city Family roller-skating entertainment center, located in the inner city of Los Angeles. World on Wheels has served the community as a wholesome family entertainment center for over 20 years. The center was the largest revenue-grossing center of its type in the United States.

Sheldon was Chairman of the Board, and Technological Director of World China Trade, Inc. a California Corporation formed to do business in the Peoples Republic of China. WCT developed the Asia Hotel, a world-class hotel office apartment complex located in Beijing China adjacent to the workers stadium. Sheldon developed the first interactive computerized global network communication system between China and the USA. Between 1982 and 1990, Sheldon spent over 1500 days inside the PRC. Sheldon worked very closely with Ms. Zhang Xia Lu, who was Manager of American Affairs for World China Trade. Sheldon and Ms. Zhang have kept a close relationship and friendship to this date.

Sheldon served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer for Recreation World, Inc. During this 5-year period, Sheldon implemented state of the art computer systems and interacted with over 1000 employees throughout the United States. Sheldon, as Chairman of the Board, was responsible for communicating with the three different classes of investors in the Company. Recreation World owned and operated 22 Ice Skating Entertainment Centers in 11 major cities throughout the United States, including the roller skating center in Central Park in New York City, which was managed by the company.

Sheldon is the Executive Director of the Peacemaker Corps Association. The Peacemaker Association is a California Non Profit Corporation. The Corporation has a Curriculum that teaches At Risk youth how to resolve their problems in a not violent manner. It is a national organization that runs their programs in major shopping malls throughout the USA. The Peacemaker Corps has NGO status at the United Nations and periodically runs workshops and seminars at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Sheldon worked as a volunteer for the Pico Youth and Family Center in Santa Monica California for 5 years. He worked with Latino youth and adults and taught them how to use and service computers.

Sheldon worked for Angel View Foundation. Angel view is a non-profit organization that houses adults that have serious diseases and cannot be kept at home, such as Spinal Bifida. He set up their computer systems for the State of California reporting purposes and worked with the patients teaching computer skills, so they could access the outside world regardless of their disabilities.

Howard Gleckman – Caring for Our Parents (Podcast)

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Howard Gleckman, author of Caring for Our Parents.  For those of you who have not read his recent book, it is simply fascinating.  Howard’s experience and approach as a journalist, combined with his obvious passion for elder care delivers an educational volume that is dense with fact and deep with emotion.

In this 31 minute interview, Howard  and I discuss the motivation for his book and the personal stories of several families  he interviewed during his research.  Howard also introduces several different models of elder care that are beginning to show real promise.  As a journalist who has covered the Washington beat for many years, I couldn’t let him off the hook with his predictions for health care legislation.

I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.  Howard’s goal, as he put it, is to inspire people to stand up, get mad and do something about the current state of elder care.  I think he achieves that with both his prior work and Caring for Our Parents.

Thank you for being a Leader in Elder Care, Howard!

About Howard Gleckman (in Howard’s Words)

I’ve wanted to write Caring for Our Parents for more than a decade, since my wife Ann and I helped care for her dad and mine.

I’ve written many short pieces about long-term care over the years, including some for Business Week, where I was senior correspondent in the magazine’s Washington bureau. I covered health and elder care as well as tax and budget issues there for nearly 20 years.

But this story needed more than short magazine articles. And I didn’t want to write a how-to book. I had a different project in mind: a close-up, personal look at our nation’s dysfunctional system of delivering and paying for this assistance. And I wanted to tell this powerful story through the eyes of real families.

My chance to write Caring for Our Parents came in 2006 when I received a media fellowship from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. At about the same time, I became a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and began writing for Kiplinger’s Retirement Report and other publications.

That gave me the opportunity to take a leave from Business Week and work full-time researching, reporting, and writing about the subject I felt so passionately about: long-term care services.

It was two years from my first preliminary interviews until I delivered a finished manuscript to St. Martin’s Press. I spent most of that time interviewing families and long-term care experts. But I also used the opportunity to volunteer. I became a senior advisor to Caring from a Distance, a non-profit organization that provides Web-based and telephone-assistance to long-distance caregivers; I helped give advice to seniors and their families at the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington; and I serve as co-chair of the Medical Quality Committee at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. and as an advisory member of the hospital’s Board of Directors.

As my work on the book wound down, I took on another exciting challenge: I started a blog on economic and fiscal policy called TaxVox. I’m now spending about half of my time as a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, consultant to the Brookings Institution, and editor of TaxVox.

I’ve also continued most of my volunteer work, and I’m spending lots of time writing and speaking on long-term care. Sometimes, I lecture to professional groups such as The National Council on Aging, the American Society on Aging, and the National Academy of Elder Care Attorneys. But my favorite audiences are made up of seniors and their adult children.