Posts Tagged ‘eldercare’

Does Dad Have Alzheimer’s? How to know the signs – and what to do next.

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Click here to view my new post on Maria Shriver’s  Women’s Conference blog website.

Lots of other great information and inspiration on this site!

Alzheimer’s and Managing Money are Challenging Eldercare Issues

Monday, November 1st, 2010

When someone shows signs of dementia, or Alzheimer’s, one of the initial concerns is about finances. How are Mom and Dad managing their money?  Are they paying their home and car insurance? Are they paying their utility bills? Are they easy targets of elder abuse?

Determining when a person with dementia needs someone else to manage their money, or when someone is no longer capable of entering into a legal contract is not always easy. There is no exact answer or solution. Often doctors, lawyers and financial advisers are working in a “gray area.”

If you have concern that a loved one may not be capable of managing their money on their own, you may want to talk to them directly about it. Many times they will deny there is any trouble, and will say they don’t need help. Chances are they know they need help, and they are afraid. They don’t want to lose their independence or dignity. Some people won’t know when they need help. Talking about it opens the door for accepting assistance.

A next step would be to accompany your loved one to their physician’s visit, notifying the doctor ahead of time of your concerns. It is often times easier for an older person to accept a directive from a doctor rather than an adult child.

If your loved one needs help, you can assist in many ways, ranging from: monitoring their accounts online for suspicious transactions; helping them write their checks and managing the checkbook, and taking over all of their bill paying and financial responsibilities. Watch for potential elder fiduciary abuse through junk mail schemes, such as letters telling them they won the lottery or notices asking them to send money to “save their social security.”

This article touches on some of the thoughts and questions involved in the topic of elders and their finances.

A geriatric care manager can be an excellent ally when talking to a loved one about difficult topics, or assess the situation neutrally and professionally.

Trust your instincts and watch for signs that your loved one may need more assistance. Be sensitive and compassionate, keeping in mind it is probably a sensitive and powerful issue for everyone involved.

How Can I Tell if my Dad has Alzheimer’s?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Does Dad Have Alzheimer’s disease?

“I’m so worried about my Dad. He is forgetting things lately and seems confused. How can I find out if he has Alzheimer’s? And if he does have it, what do I do?”

As a geriatric care manager, I frequently receive calls just like this. Fear of the unknown can be the most troublesome part of caring for someone you love when they begin to demonstrate changes in behavior. The following information can decrease your stress and help you ensure that mom and dad get the best care possible.

Each year a million people start a mental decline called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with memory loss somewhere between normal aging and Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the U.S., there are many reasons why someone’s memory can decline. Some of these causes are treatable. Generally, Alzheimer’s disease has a gradual onset of symptoms over months to years and a worsening of cognition. If the memory loss or confusion comes on quickly, this could indicate that something other than Alzheimer’s is going on. You’ll want to ask for a thorough evaluation by someone who specializes in memory impairment as a first step – this could be a psychiatrist, neurologist or a geriatrician.

The evaluation will include testing for conditions that look similar to dementia – but aren’t, such as:

  • Delirium (sudden onset confusion due to infection, medication, acute illness)
  • Depression (which can sometimes include memory problems)
  • Thyroid problems, metabolic abnormalities (abnormal glucose and calcium, kidney and liver failure)
  • Vitamin B 12 deficiency, symptoms of a progressing chronic disease (low oxygenation due to lung disease, anemia or heart disease).
  • Urinary tract infection (the symptoms of which can appear like dementia).

Imaging the brain can also be helpful to check for a tumor, stroke, or increased pressure on the brain. These tests can help determine the cause of memory loss, and if it’s treatable.

Once dementia is confirmed, the next step is to determine whether it is Alzheimer’s. (There are different kinds of dementia, other causes of memory loss and then there are declines that are still considered “normal aging.”) If it is Alzheimer’s, there are medications that might be helpful in slowing the progress of the disease. People with Alzheimer’s may do better in the long term if they have early intervention. And do stay in touch with your loved one. If they exhibit any of the behaviors listed here [], it may be time to consider getting them live-in help or moving them to an assisted living facility.

This may be a difficult time, but there is information and loving support available for you and your loved ones. There are books, support groups, websites, geriatric care managers and others who have gone through this before you to guide you every step of the way.

Remember, take care of yourself!

Shriver Report – Alzheimer’s Impact on Women: Aging Pro’s Answers

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The Shriver Report: A Women’s Nation Take on Alzheimer’s was just released. The Report is a collaboration between Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer’s Association, exposing the epidemic’s effect on women as caregivers, advocates and people with the disease. Maria is getting people talking about Alzhiemer’s disease!

Alzheimer’s is a women’s issue. According to the report, women make up two-thirds of the people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. and account for 60 percent of the unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s. This means that 10 million women either have Alzheimer’s or are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. 40 percent of the caregivers interviewed said they felt like they had no choice in assuming the caregiving role. These numbers continue to grow, daily.

Alzheimer’s disease is costly. Governments, businesses and families spend $300 billion a year on Alzheimer’s disease. Yearly, it costs about $56,000 to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, which is typically paid for by families. Daughters, sons, spouses will give up their jobs, savings, time, health, and sanity to help care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

A woman with Alzheimer’s has unique challenges. Since women tend to live longer, they are more often widows who may not have a spouse to care for them as the disease progresses. She may be caring for other family or friends, so as she declines the others will need to find different caregivers. Women tend to be the “glue” in the family, and as her disease progresses her family may no longer remain as cohesive.

A woman as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s experiences challenges as well. She is more likely to be depressed, and according the Report, 68 percent of women who were caregivers experienced emotional stress, and 51 percent of them said they suffered from physical stress. Most caregivers don’t self-identify as caregivers. They just think a loved one needs help and they are going to help. They don’t know they need to ask for help, and don’t realize what a toll caregiving is taking on their lives and health. Caregivers often put aside their own needs and dreams to take care of their loved ones. Daughters experience a role reversal, now needing to take an in-charge position with their parents.

The Shriver reports asks some questions, and I have the following answers:

How can we relieve the emotional stress on families? Caregivers need support, education and resources. The needed resources are often available, but it’s very difficult to find them when you need them. Lack of information promotes fear. That is why I launched It brings all the resources, professionals, education and support for eldercare to one place. Care coordination is also crucial, and part of the Healthcare reform legislation. Certified Geriatric Care Managers provide an invaluable communication link between doctors, community care providers, persons with Alzheimer’s and their family. Care Managers are invaluable, yet for some are not affordable. Pilot community care coordination programs do exist, and we need more. We need more support groups, both in-person and online. Adult day respite programs need to focus on early and moderate stage memory loss, not just later stages.

How can we prepare for Alzheimer’s possibly hitting our own family? Few want to talk about it. Some don’t even want to say the word. Yet it’s a natural part of life and will affect all of us in one way or another. I’m referring to Aging. Aging has become a taboo subject in our American culture, something we pretend isn’t there. If you read the paper, watch TV, or go on the Web, you mostly see images of youth, thinness, wealth and beauty. However, we are beginning to realize our population is aging – and so are we.
I’m here to tell you that getting older can be a positive experience and have its own unique rewards. Contrary to the whispered implications, it doesn’t have to be a time of withering away and going to a nursing home. Fun, happiness, success and fulfillment aren’t just the things of youth; they can be enjoyed abundantly throughout life. Older adults can stay independent, active and vital as they age. Getting older CAN mean getting better, if you have the right attitude, information and resources.
So first, we need to be willing to have discussions about aging, starting in our families and communities. Ask each other – when you get older, where do you want to live? What is your ideal vision? It is very helpful to create a “Plan B.” Just as we would prepare for an earthquake, we prepare for the potential of Alzheimer’s in the family. Plan A is what you’d like to happen, Plan B is what you will do if Alzheimer’s strikes you or your family. Plan B is created by: educating yourselves about the signs and symptoms of the disease; pre-planning your legal matters (creating a will, trust and durable power of attorney for healthcare and finances); saving money for your long-term-care, or purchasing long-term-care insurance; educating yourselves about the choices of housing and care; and locating the professionals and resources available to help out along the journey.

How can government, business, nonprofits and the press effectively call attention to the threat of Alzheimer’s and implement solutions? More education and awareness campaigns can be created – public service announcements, television series on different eldercare topics (similar to the new “Hoarders” series), celebrity involvement – to help shift the old negative stereotypes of aging and eldercare, and to help the millions of caregivers that don’t know how to access the services or find the support they need. Maria Shriver, the aging field needs your voice!

An example of a creative television show might be Extreme Makeover, Grandma Edition. Make over the home of an older person  –  repairing and/or modifying their homes so they can continue to live independently. There are many inspiring stories of need and courage among caregivers and elders!

Businesses can provide eldercare services, counseling and care coordination as part of their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Non-profits can provide more grant money to elder care topics. Solutions to Alzheimer’s now include: information, support and best practice guidelines.

The topic of Women and Alzheimer’s is so important. It is where the pain points of love, guilt, money and time intersect – a perfect fit for government, the press and business to join in the cause.

The issues of women, Alzheimer’s and eldercare are many-faceted and deeply layered. More money for Alzheimer’s research is needed. More support and education are also needed on all eldercare topics. Most family caregivers for the elderly are trying to do what’s best for their loved ones. They don’t know where to turn to get help. The stress of caregiving affects their work, finances, and physical and mental health. Caregivers  need a place to connect, to learn, be inspired and empowered. is that place, the “Waiting for Superwoman, Caregiver Edition.”

Where are all the Eldercare Services?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I just came back from an elder abuse prevention meeting. There was a guest there whose dad was a victim of elder abuse recently. She was very upset that when she and her sister were looking for elder abuse resources, she couldn’t find them anywhere. Her dad has since died. This abusive situation (by a hired caregiver) created so much stress in their relationship that they didn’t get along the last year of his life. She hasn’t had a full nights sleep since. She’s hurt, mad and sad.

This renewed my passion for bringing all the services for eldercare services to ONE PLACE – This is why I created  My aim is that no other family member would lose sleep over edler abuse or be so hurt that they couldn’t find the best care for their loved one. brings all the eldercare services to one place, online. There are good people out there doing good work – it’s just very hard to find them!

We need support, marketing, and funding to make truly the Google of Eldercare.

Spread the word – everything you need for eldercare is in one place. Come check us out!

Thank you for your support.

5 Tips for Visiting the Doctor

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

5 Tips for Visiting the Doctor

Preparation can help the trip to the doctor go more smoothly.  Here are some tips for success:
1.    Schedule the appointment at the best time of day for your client.  For example, the client I work with functions better in the afternoon.  There were times when we had to reschedule morning appointments for the afternoon because she didn’t want to get up, and therefore she wouldn’t cooperate with me.

2.    Ask the doctors office staff when their office is generally the least crowded.  Some clients may be upset by a full waiting room, or they just might not like crowds.  Visiting the office when there are fewer people will cut down on the time you will have to wait too.

3.    Bring along something for your client to eat, drink or do while you are waiting.  Any activity he or she enjoys can really help to pass the time.

4.    Have a friend go with you to the doctor so one of you can be with the client while the other is talking to the doctor.

5.    Call the doctors office on the day of your appointment before you leave to see if the doctor is running late, and adjust your arrival time.

Planning ahead before the appointment with the doctor can really make the visit a more positive and relaxed experience.

10 Tips to Successful Caregiving

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

10 Tips to Successful Caregiving

1)  Learn About the Resources Available to You. Consult books, websites, workshops and eldercare professionals. (Hint: You can find leads to many of these, including the latest caregiving information, at our website,
2)  Educate Yourself About Any Disease Involved. Education can relax your fears and give you clarity and strength.
3)  Take Care of Yourself First. Maintain your own physical and emotional health.  Avoid caregiver burnout – your family needs the caregivers to be healthy!
4) Learn Caregiving Techniques. Learn about topics such as: communication and organizational skills, managing the physical needs of your loved one, safety and emergency preparedness.
5)  Exercise Your Sense of Humor. Smile. You can go through difficult situations laughing or crying. If it’s going to be funny later, it can be funny now.
6)  Communicate with Doctors. Get to know your loved one’s physicians.  Ask questions, express concerns and discuss treatment options.
7)  Keep a Positive Focus. We can’t think positive all the time, but holding a positive focus about the strengths of your loved one and the blessings in the situation will help your attitude and emotions to stay “up.”
8)  Discuss the Situation With your Loved Ones.  Support and honesty are essential in navigating long term care.
9)  Look for the Blessings.  You might be surprised at the hidden gifts that caregiving brings – keep your eyes open. You find what you focus upon.
10) Ask for Help. You don’t have to be alone. offers many free resources for caregiver support nationwide, to assist you.

Government Tools to Help Navigate Medicare, Medicaid, Nursing Homes and Hospitals

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has several online resources aimed at helping consumers navigate Medicare, hospitals and nursing homes. The resources are listed below.

*  “Ask Medicare” offers information about Medicare,

*  “Nursing Home Compare” is an online way to get insight into every nursing home certified by Medicare and Medicaid. You can compare facilities by a five star “quality of care” rating system. Go to

*  “Hospital Compare” sheds light on quality of care at hospitals nationwide, including mortality measure for pneumonia and patient satisfaction information.

*  CMS has issued easy to follow guides on other health related topics, including “Planning for Your Discharge” (a checklist for patients and caregivers preparing to leave a hospital) and “Getting Medical Care and Prescription Drugs in a Disaster or Emergency Area.” Details at 800-633-4227 or

Gratitude is the attitude!

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

What a difference an attitude makes!

I’ve been aware of feeling kind of “funky” over the last couple days, but didn’t know exactly why. It hit me tonight that I’ve been focusing on all the “bad” news in the media – the economy, the war, the bailouts, the political corruption and more. I’ve been allowing it to affect me and bring me down.

What I know is that in the past, when I have focused on what I am grateful for, what I appreciate and what is good, I feel much better! A simple thing like an attitude of gratitude can be so powerful.

So, I tried a little on tonight.  I began celebrating the things I was calling negative or irritating. I took a different perspective and embraced (loved) what I resisted. I loved that my daughter was up way past her bedtime. I loved that I’ve gained a couple pounds lately. I loved the pain in my neck. I loved that this economic condition is giving me a chance to relook at my priorities – to fine tune my effectiveness and focus. I am grateful for what I have (and am willing to let go of the expectations about what I think I should have).

Just saying those things makes me feel lighter and less “down.” My attitude is the one thing I have control over – all the time. I am choosing to feel hopeful and optimistic and grateful.  There is so much to be thankful for. There is beauty all around me, and I can make the choice to look.

P.S. It’s almost a full moon tonight. Have you looked up lately?  Enjoy!

6 Questions Caregivers Can Ask Themselves to Make This a Truly Happy Holiday Season

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Have you recently found yourself thinking about the upcoming holidays with a sense of dread? Perhaps you see yourself sitting at the table surrounded by your family, the smells of turkey and pumpkin pie wafting in from the kitchen, but you are overcome with a sense of sadness or disappointment. Now that things may be different with your parents, it’s a good time to ask yourself, what do I really want my holidays to look and feel like? Traditions are funny things. They can be comforting and depressing all at the same time. But you have the power to create the experience you truly want.

You might ask yourself these questions about what you really want this holiday season:

1. Do I like my family traditions just as they are, or am I participating to make someone else happy or comfortable?

2. Where do I want to be?

3. Who do I want to be with?

4. What experience am I looking for?

5. Is there a new tradition I want to start this year?

6. How can I get the experience I most desire?

Once you are clear about your ideal vision for your holidays, find a way to communicate that to the people closest to you. Families do not always embrace change right away, so be prepared for some resistance. If you are patient and allow your family to process the idea of making changes in a gradual way, you may be surprised by how many will eventually welcome the new traditions and thank you for leading the way to happier holidays for everyone! in Oprah magazine!

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Gayle and Dr. Cheryl in New York for Oprah magazine/White House Project Leadership Training wins Oprah magazine / The White House Project Women Rule! Leadership Training Program!

In April of this year, Oprah magazine advertised a contest – If you have a vision/ project to change the world, tell us what that would be, and we’ll help you take it to the next level.  I entered my idea for, and out of 3,200 entries, I was one of 1 of 80 winners chosen to attend the Leadership Training in New York in June.

The article about this contest and Training is in the November issue of O magazine, hitting newsstands now!

AgingPro – The Complete Eldercare Resource

Welcome Oprah (O) Magazine Readers!
For a limited time, we are pleased to give you our e-workbook, “The Caregiver’s Partner” at no cost (retail value $12)  This 12 page journal is an interactive tool designed to support you in making your journey as a caregiver as easy as possible.  It is loaded with essential information, AgingPro tips for success, insider knowledge from those who have been down the caregiver path before, inspiration and practical tools for supporting your experience and optimizing your learning and growth as a result.  It provides an opportunity for you to look inwardly and to express all of the thoughts and feelings that are likely to arise in your role as caregiver.  Go to now to sign up for your free gift!

Welcome to my blog

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Hi, I’m Cheryl Mathieu, Ph.D., M.S.W.  I’m a Certified Geriatric Care Manager in So. California, and founder of

I’ve created this blog to post interesting, informative and inspirational tips, tools and news for those involved in every aspect of eldercare – from family caregivers to professionals in aging. It is dedicated to helping you find what you need to provide excellent care to our older loved ones, and to making your life easier (and keep you healthy). I’m writing this blog because I believe that older adults need advocates, and that caregivers (paid and unpaid) need help accessing information and resources to do what they do – better and easier.

If you’ve had an aging loved one in need of help, you know well the challenges of navigating the healthcare system and caregiving.  I’m here to help you manage all the challenges of aging – so it can be a time filled with grace, joy and peace.  Imagine!  It is possible.

Welcome.  Feel free to read, explore and comment.

All the best,