Assisted Living:
In The Moment Blog

The Assisted living Blog discusses our feelings on a variety of current topics and latest news about seniors, assisted living, caregivers and dementia. It also lets you know when we have posted or updated a new page.

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First Home Care Session

I am having my first home care session for my husband who has Alzheimer's.  This will start in just 3 days on Monday!  I am very excited to tell you all about it in my blog.  And check back for more in this series.

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Assisted Living Community Refuses to Give CPR to Dying Resident

An assisted living community in California refused to administer emergency CPR to a resident who was having trouble breathing. They called 911 in accord with their policy. The 911 operator begged the nurse at the community to give CPR. The nurse on the phone refused saying it was against the policy of the facility. The resident died at the hospital. The facility defended the nurse. They said new residents are informed of this policy. Read the story.

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Teepa Snow and Understanding Dementia Care

Recently after attending a Teepa Snow seminar I found I had already known more about Alzheimer's than I thought. That's a good thing. My frequent attendance at support groups was responsible for this "education."

My summary follows:

There were the most common points brought up:

  • We need to let the person do as much as they can themselves--be a partner more than a caregiver.

  • Currently no cure and that it worsens.

  • Early warning signs include such things as not being able to handle the bills or drive, a change in personality, making repeated calls. These are just a few.

  • Have a medical workup to make sure it is dementia. Find out what kind if so. Dementia is the umbrella term for a variety of different types of which Alzheimer's is only one type.

  • "The brain is dying." You can see photos of the distinct changes in the brain of the person with dementia.

What did I learn that I didn't know: How to be more sensitive and gentle. This is hard to do with this frustrating disease. Sometimes it is more than you can handle. But Teepa from her years of experience has devised some techniques for handling your loved one with dementia.

You have to remember this according to Teepa Snow: Who has the healthy brain? Yes, you do and that is a blessing. And that is why I cannot let myself become impatient, angry, sad or depressed. I cannot let my emotions take control because the person cannot control theirs nor is that their fault.

My husband is at a moderate stage of the disease. I cannot say if he will get worse or what the future holds. Most of Teepa's talk was about helping those who are more advanced. We hope that this is not my husband's future and no one can tell us for sure if it is. Only time will tell. But if this is indeed Alzheimer's and it does get worse, then we believe we would be looking into Teepa's techniques further.

For now, we are learning from personal experience what Teepa is teaching--to be more sensitive and helpful to a person with dementia without losing it ourselves.

Find out more about Teepa's instructional techniques. A favorite is the Senior Gems DVD.

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Alzheimer's Causative Theories

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer's. We don't know if there ever will be. But there may be help for Alzheimer's. We don't know that either. Very little is known about the disease. Therefore, there are many theories about the causes of Alzheimer's. There has been a theory for decades that aluminum found in the brains of Alzheimer's victims may be responsible or have something to do with getting the disease.

Edgar Cayce, a prophet and some consider the Father of Holistic medicine, in one of his hundreds of trance states cautioned that aluminum cookware was not to be used. Many of such pronouncements by Edgar Cayce while in a trance have later, after his death, been scientifically proven to be true. This one not yet but they are working on it.

I find the Cayce theory very interesting because he stated it before scientists were aware of a possible connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's.

Edgar Cayce suggested a treatment for dementias.

There is also a book "Alzheimer's Disease and the Dementias: An Alternative Approach Based on the Readings of Edgar Cayce," written by David McMillin.

A recent scientific study of this theory of a connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's is particularly interesting.

Keele University in Staffordshire, England has completed a small study. This study has shown enough evidence to now fund a larger study.

Some of the participants in the study given silicon-rich mineral water and subsequently excreting aluminum, either improved or stop getting worse.

After reading the information, I hurried out to get some silicon-rich mineral water at my local supermarket. The water used in the study was from Malaysia and not sold in the U.S. But there is a similar water that is sold here by Fiji Water. My local Giant store had this brand so I bought plenty. Apparently the silicon absorbs the aluminum toxin in your body and excretes it. Bananas are a food source of silicon.

We get aluminum from the environment. One of the most common places is from aluminum cookware. Since they are finding high amounts of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, we are opting to stop using aluminum from any source including aluminum foil that we often use in baking. It's too bad because aluminum has many uses.

There are many theories out there about what causes Alzheimer's. Some of them are genetics, stress, poor nutrition, blood circulation to the brain, toxins in the environment. When there is no known cause, such theories will remain in the general population.

Using common sense, I would say to live as healthy a lifestyle as you can. Keep toxins out of your system, eat fruit and veggies, moderate exercise, stress relieving meditation - you know the drill.

So read the Keele University report and make your own judgment if you should get more silicon-rich water in your diet. And always seek advice from your medical doctors.

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Teepa Snow Talk

I am going to try to make the Teepa Snow talk, "Understanding Dementia Care," that is coming to the DC area on Oct 4th and I will report back to you if so.

Teepa Snow is a dementia expert who counsels families and professionals on how to care for those with Alzheimer's and other dementias. I firmly believe family caregivers need all the help we can get. If you live in an area where she will be holding a talk, you may wish to attend these workshops.

You'd think we would know everything about the disease if we are caring for someone with it, but I am still baffled by it because there are so many mysteries. Probably some we will never solve.

Caring for a person with dementia can be very stressful and I believe having more knowledge, will help alleviate the stress.

Why is it stressful. Let's attend her talk and find out more about this dreadful disease.

This seminar is being held at 6PM Oct 4 2012 at:

The National 4H Conference Center
7100 Connecticut Ave
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Register now as it is filling up. Register here: Teepa Snow DC Event Registration

Also see her website at Teepa where you can also purchase her product DVD's.

The event sponsors are the Alzheimer's Foundation and Senior Helpers.

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A new early sign of Alzheimer's

If you are reading this article you are probably already aware of the disease Alzheimer's. But many of you are not sure your loved one has the disease. Here is something I have recently been reading about: there have been three studies that are ongoing about the particular way people with Alzheimer's walk. It is a slow deliberate walk with an unusual rhythm.

Before I ever knew about Alzheimer's, I noticed my husband's walk had changed. It was out of character from the way he previously walked. It was a rigid gait and very slow. He was only 65 but he had lost the spring in his step.

The interesting thing is that I noticed this before I noticed the memory loss. Memory loss is usually considered one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's. But now studies are saying perhaps a particular way of walking may be an even earlier indication.

At this very early stage when the slow unusual walk shows up, most people have not made a connection with Alzheimer's so the slow and unusual way of walking can be very annoying to others as it changes the entire personality.

The way my husband, now diagnosed with Alzheimer's, walks, was twelve years ago, and is now, different--and, more importantly, it may have been the very first sign of Alzheimer's but I didn't know it.

It is natural to walk slower as people age. But if the walk is changed or unusually slow for the age of the person, maybe it would be good to check with a professional or your doctor. There have been studies on Alzheimer's and changes in walking showing a connection. In fact, it is now reported that this could be the earliest sign.

Caregiver Guilt

Caregiver guilt is something there is a great interest in. Do you feel guilt. At the recent assisted living support group I attended, it was surprising to find that some people felt a lot of guilt for putting their loved one into an assisted living community and some felt none.

Some expressed that what they felt was sadness not guilt. They felt they did the best thing for their loved one but they felt sad that they do not have the life they wanted in their later years with their spouse. Same could be true with any relationship that is impaired by this disease.

People discussed their feelings about this topic.

This disease is not about something you are doing. It is not about you. It is about the disease and about doing the best thing that you can for the person so afflicted. Guilt is something you create.

Some of us cannot afford assisted living and we feel guilty because we do not put our loved ones in one. Others feel guilty because they do put their loved ones into a facility.

I gained some insights that I can share:

1) You shouldn't feel guilt about something you have no control over.

2) No matter how nice it is, the person will not want to go to a facility. You may have to use some loving tactics to get them to go. One man said it was just for a few days and his mother didn't notice it was for longer.

3) Your loved one will eventually adjust and very often be happier:

  • if they are around other people with opportunities to socialize
  • if they are safe
  • if they are cared for

4) You must push your guilt aside when you feel you are doing the right thing.

5) You will never know 100% that you are doing the right thing.

6) For memory care patients, the environment at a good facility is superior to the home environment because it has been professionally designed just for Alzheimer's and dementia needs.

7) Realize that if something happens to the caregiver, it will all "fall apart." A woman said she put her beloved husband into a facility when she finally felt "exhausted." Seek help.

8) You will always be a caregiver even when the loved one is in a facility. Your relationship goes on and may even improve. The facility arrangement works best when the caregiver is involved.

9) If the community you chose, doesn't work out, keep trying until you find the right one.

Sometimes you need to give people what they need and not what they want.

If you are doing the best thing for the person, you shouldn't feel guilty.

The conclusions are my own but if you live nearby, this excellent support group is held at Arden Courts, an exclusively dementia care facility in Kensington, MD.

How to Diagnose Alzheimer's

It was announced recently that they now have a drug, FDA approved Eli Lily’s Amyvid, to diagnose Alzheimer's.

On a recent doctor's visit for my husband, who has dementia, I was astonished when the doctor said that there is no way to tell for sure if a person has Alzheimer's. Often a diagnosis is made of Alzheimer's when there is no way to be sure.

If the diagnosis is dementia, that is different from Alzheimer's because dementia usually does not progress--Alzheimer's does. So there is a test the patient takes to determine if the disease has worsened. If it has, then the doctor says it is most likely Alzheimer's.

Needless to say, I didn't want to hear that my husband had Alzheimer's. We were calling it dementia. Well, it seems the reason for that was that he hadn't had a 2nd test to compare if his condition worsened. Now that he has had the second test, and his condition has worsened, they diagnosed him as Alzheimer's. But, and a big but, they don't know for sure.

When do they know for sure? Only after a patient dies and the inside of the brain can be looked at. If they find amyloid plaques inside the brain, then they know for sure it was Alzheimer's.

However, a recent announcement that a drug has been discovered to determine if a person has amyloid plaques, and thus Alzheimer's, changes all of that. Or does it?

Since there is not yet any cure for Alzheimer's, you may ask the question what good does knowing do? Very little other than giving the person peace of mind in finally knowing while they're alive.

The drug and subsequent brain scan are very expensive so many may not be able to take advantage of this new discovery.

So it's a start. But they have yet to find a cure for this mysterious disease.

Alzheimer's currently affects over five million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death.

Senior Books

Senior books include senior housing books, books about longevity, assisted living and senior living.

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Senior Books Page for Caregivers

Our senior books page has lots of resources for caregivers to give a lift to your spirits by reading stories of others who are caregivers.

I just read this article by Paula Span, "Dad, One Year Later," that I think you'll find informative and humorous reading, especially those who have a parent in an independent or assisted living facility. New York Times Article by Paula Span: "Dad One Year Later"

The article is a realistic description of what happens when a formerly active adult, her 89-year-old father, decides it's time to go into a facility. How is he doing one year later after he makes this decision. Is he happy with this decision.

This is probably the most important question we ask ourselves about our aging parents: will they be happy in assisted living facilities and how do we cope as an adult child caregiver with their decision. Read the article to find out one senior's answer.

I found it informing, humorous and so real. If you have a parent in an assisted living facility, you will probably say "I can relate to that." You can come away feeling some support for your feelings and fears.

Paula has also written a recent book about sharing stories of experiences with aging parents (she cares for her father who is in a CCRC.) The book, “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions” is listed on our books page.

You will find Paula's book and other great author's books for inspirational, entertaining, informing and/or supportive reading on the subject of aging listed on our Senior Books page.

We can't get enough support as a caregiver--I hope you enjoy this list.

(If you've found a book you enjoy, let me know about it and I will list it there for others to enjoy as well.)

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Give a little Boost to your Assisted Living Visit

An assisted living visit can be more fun if you bring something the resident will appreciate. It doesn't have to be expensive.

My daughter had only 4 kindergarten photos of her son--she kept one, gave one to each of her child's grandmoms and the fourth went to her grandmother.

When my daughter visited me and saw the photo, she liked it so much she asked why her sister didn't give her one. I told my daughter about it and she said that her grandmother, in the assisted living community, had only 2 grandchildren and that all the residents would show photos of their grandchildren and talk about them.

Very kind of my daughter to think of it that way. It got me thinking. This may be important at assisted living communities--photos of children and grandchildren. So this is my #1 recommendation of what to bring--a photo, framed or unframed, of your child for your parent or grandmother or grandfather in an assisted living facility.

Sometimes it's the small things that really count.

The other day I bought a bunch of daffodils at my local Trader Joe's. I was astonished that they only cost $1.49. They were fresh, bright yellow and had a fragrance that lasted. This is the perfect gift for an older person as it is colorful and fragrant (as long as they like flowers).

Grab a bunch and a photo, too, or on your next visit, to bring smiles--and have a great day on your visit to an assisted living community.

Alzheimer's Review

Once again I must disappoint and this time regarding my Alzheimer's review. I had been looking so forward to attending for weeks. When the day arrived something prevented my going.

My husband got the flu! He hasn't had the flu in probably 20 years, but the night before the scheduled talk, he started throwing up violently and it went all night. I was up all night helping him.

Since he has dementia, how could I leave him alone in this state the next day. Well, I couldn't. It was a moral dilemma but I had no choice but to cancel my attendance at the seminar. I am so sorry to disappoint.

I emailed to the Arden Courts to see if there were handouts and she said there were no notes to give my readers as the talk was only 30 minutes and most of it was composed of the questions people had. Oh how I would have liked to see what was worrying people the most. But it wasn't to be.

I am hoping to go back to Arden Courts (one of the sponsors) and talk with the people who attended to see if I can glean anything and I will report back if so.

My husband was still sick that day but has recovered since it was a 24-hour flu.

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Dementia and Your Lighting

Could your lighting have something to do with dementia and Alzheimer's. Here is my story:

My husband, who has dementia, and I went for an overnight weekend trip to a spot we like in the mountains. That night he was very restless and kept me awake half the night. But something strange happened. As the first light appeared in our room, he settled down. I observed this and kept it in my mind.

When I got home, I recalled how restless and sleepless his nights had been. I also recalled how he liked leaving his bedside lamp on which I was constantly telling him to turn off. But then I made a connection. He was calm when the light was on.

I don't know if this is scientific information or not, however, I now leave a dim light in his room and yes he does sleep better. You might want to try this.

Months later my daughter emailed me an article about how they were doing studies of the effect of light on Alzheimer's patients. This confirmed my thinking that maybe I was on to something and that lighting has something to do with this dreadful disease or at least in making patients more comfortable.

The Subject is Alzheimer's

I will be attending a seminar and the subject is Alzheimer's. The most exciting part is that the speaker will be renowned Dr. Peter Rabins who authored the book "The 36-Hour Day."

Anyone who has read this book would be interested in this opportunity to hear Dr. Rabins speak in the Washington, DC area.

I had to RSVP so I don't know if any reservations are remaining. More than 200 people have reserved already. It will be held at Sibley Hospital in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 28th from 2-3:30 PM. Also Arden Courts, Memory Care Assisted Living Communities, is a sponsor with Sibley. There is a fee for parking.

I will be reviewing Dr. Rabins talk entitled "Alzheimer's Disease: What Can Be Done Now and in the Future." It promises to be very interesting and informative for anyone especially caretakers.

Check back to read my review after the talk.

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Stages of Grief for Caregivers

When I first realized my husband had a dementia illness I suffered horribly. But today, a few years later, I have been feeling so much better. His disease has slowly progressed and I as caregiver have gone through stages of grief and loss.

However, the last few days I have begun to suspect that I have been through the "stages of grief" experienced by caregivers and now have reached acceptance.

Here are the stages I have been through (modeled after "The Five Stages of Grief" by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.)

Everyone experiences grief and loss differently and you should always seek any advice from professionals in this regard. This is my experience.

  • First stage: Denial - This was a brief stage for me - I think because the disease is mild in its early years.
  • Second stage: Anger - This stage lasted quite awhile and was the most painful for me - I wasn't only mad because he couldn't do the things he used to - I was angry that I couldn't understand - it was a confusing and frustrating time for me and I know I became impatient and frustrated. I sought help for something I didn't understand.
  • Third Stage: Bargaining - This stage I bargained for him to return to himself again through my intensive care and for wishing that the dementia wouldn't be so bad for him. I thought I could make it better with nutrition, medicine and vitamins.
  • Fourth Stage: Depression - yes, definitely, this stage happened for me. Although I am such an upbeat person, this stage became overwhelming and I sought support groups which were and are wonderful. I have recommended a support group for caregivers as soon as you can find one. Support groups have been great from the beginning or rather since I started them at Stage 2.
  • Fifth Stage: Acceptance - I believe I am in this stage now as I feel much better and things are easier. Occasionally a mild bout of depression might flare up, but for the most part I have arrived at acceptance. There is an expression "lighten up." I believe you can - there is hope.

So it is true what they say, dementia diseases are a journey because they go on for a long time but eventually with the help of support groups and others, you and your loved one can come to a place of serene acceptance and all that means.

Stages of grief varies. Your experience will be different from mine. My husband does not have Alzheimer's but suffers from dementia. The above is not professional advice or scientific opinion. There are others opinions and advice on dementia. Please consult with dementia experts and medical doctors for advice and information on what to expect and how to handle caregiving of your loved one with dementia.

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Assisted Living-Southeast States

Guide to Assisted Living-Southeast States resources and information.

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Hurricane Irene is Finally Gone

We hope everyone is well and didn't suffer too much from Hurricane Irene.

We had an anxiety-ridden weekend just from wondering how bad the storm would be, and, for us, fortunately, it wasn't that bad.

We are glad to know that the Governor of New York cared about the elderly and acted proactively moving them out of harm's way even if it eventually showed, in many cases, it wasn't necessary when the storm became a tropical storm and not a big hurricane event.

We are so appreciative to anyone who helps an elderly person. We have learned that seniors can quickly become confused, disoriented and fearful.

Even a cheery wave or inquiry, "Is there anything I can do," may help a senior.

We don't know who may need our help. Thank goodness, our society knows how to appreciate and take care of its elderly.

For any of those who were affected, we hope your anxiety is much less on this bright sunny day and you are well.

Alzheimer's Association International Conference

it was a great honor for the Alzheimer's Association to have French President Nicholas Sarkozy give the keynote address at their international conference held in Paris recently.

It is always helpful when a prestigious world leader supports an effort. More than 5000 dementia researchers attended to share information. I would have loved to be there and listened in on their conversations.

But instead, here I am reading about what was. But I don't feel bad because every time i attend a Support Group for caregivers of those with Alzheimer's or dementia, I feel a part of this endeavor. I feel chills when I listen to those who know more about this disease than I ever will, sharing their information with me. All to be supportive and giving. It is quite impressive to see the amount of help at the grassroots level.

At the convention it was learned that there is tremendous need and the French are meeting it head on with their French National Plan as well as the United States with their National Alzheimer's Project.

It's interesting that the Alzheimer's Association is also conducting sessions to get feedback from American families as to their needs. This is very important and I congratulate them for taking it to the place where Alzheimer's resides.

At the conference some important topics that were discussed were early prevention, diagnosis, a possible test for diagnosis being developed, the part head trauma plays in getting the disease, and most specifically among veterans with head trauma.

To me dementia and Alzheimer's is not a disease of one person, it always involves someone else, and so the role of the caregiver and the support to them is paramount. Those with the diseases of dementia cannot live alone--there is always a caregiver. So it is two people that must be kept in mind and treated.

As you know I encourage everyone to find these support groups to learn how to cope with the dementia diseases.

We are grateful for those who give that support from inspirational world leaders to the thousands of wonderfully supportive helpers.

Alzheimer's Association Article on International Conference

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Peter Falk's Passing and Dementia

Peter Falk became a world-wide celebrity with his lovable character of Columbo. With Peter Falk's recent passing, we have learned that he had dementia in his senior years.

Peter was supposed to do a final 2-hour special of Columbo, but, unfortunately, we read he was not able to due to his worsening illness.

This is very typical of those with dementia. The illness overtakes them and there is a mental decline. Without the mind, those with dementia slowly lose their capacity to work. I would imagine that Peter, however, was loved to the end because he retained many of his lovable characteristics.

Peter had a hobby which probably kept his mind active and helped him with his dementia--he was an artist.

His acting required memorizing scripts, which perhaps he could no longer do (the loss of memory is often the first thing noticed in Alzheimer's).

it is not clear what type of dementia he had, but his drawing hobby was not as demanding and must have kept his mind stimulated for a longer period.

Eventually, I assume, even his loved passion of drawing became impossible. It was not stated if he died of Alzheimer's or some other condition.

Peter Falk was grateful for the things he had and the things he accomplished in life. Even with the handicap of only having one eye, he overcame and maintained his sense of humor about it--and we are grateful for Peter Falk.

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Shocked! at Alzheimer's Support Meetings

Beware of what you might find out at Alzheimer's or dementia support meetings. Caregivers need the support but sometimes the information can be shocking.

Every time I went to that place, the wonderful assisted living community where I was attending support meetings, I was shocked. Time after time, shocked. I decided that there wasn't enough education out there about the disease Alzheimer's. I had been going to support meetings for months and still learning and still being shocked by the information.

Still Not Enough Information Out There

Not enough! With all of the information out there, all the help, all the support, the public still is not aware--not until they go through the journey and are completely affected and involved. It is a gradual acceptance.

Yet this disease is on the increase with the aging baby boomers.

Did you know there are considered 7 stages of Alzheimer's. It begins very gradually.

Yet no one talks enough about catching it early on--everyone should know the signs and be aware. (Recently the Alzheimer's Association did come out with a report about the importance of diagnosing Alzheimer's sooner.)

In my own case, my husband had the beginnings of dementia, I believe, at least ten years before I realized it.

Meanwhile, because I didn't know, I blamed him for many things. Like why did he retire early. Why was I so frustrated about so many little things he did. Why did I feel he was doing some things on purpose to make my life difficult at times. So many mysteries. It all reached a boiling point and still I didn't know.

When Did I Know

I can't remember the exact moment. I don't know that there was one. It seemed it was gradual and he was consciously or subconsciously covering it up. That is typical I found out. I wish I had known. But I do remember the day it became more than a short term memory loss.

Now it all makes sense. All the pieces of this puzzle seem to be falling into place now that I know he has dementia.

He played tennis all his life, nearly every day, but all of a sudden he won't even go on the court. Why, I asked myself. Now I know.

I was sitting in the support meeting and I knew that I would hear something or see something that would make me think back ten years and go through all the moments that didn't make sense then and do now. Ah ha, I would think to myself.

You see this disease is very unique in that way. You or someone you know may have it and not know.

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Assisted Living Resources

There are alot of assisted living resources and we hope this page will bring all the assisted living resources together.

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Early Caregivers and Signs of Stress

Can You relate to this feeling of compassion for early caregivers and their signs of stress.

I was in the grocery store shopping the other day. I was alone in the aisle with just one other group--an elderly mother and adult daughter. It was early and quiet in the store but the daughter was anything but quiet.

"Mom, mom, why did you do that." "I told you, mom, to not do that." "I am never bringing you to the store again." It was loud, shrieking. This daughter's tone of voice was definitely from someone under high stress. The mother pleaded with anguish that she did nothing wrong and that she didn't understand the daughter's instructions. It went on and on.

I guess at some point the daughter noticed me and gave me a look like "you just don't understand and neither do I and I am just frustrated as heck." But I did understand. I have been there. Have you?

Of course, I would hope that I wasn't loud and hysterical but emotionally I have felt like that. I wanted to reach out to this woman. I wanted to hold both of them. I wanted to tell them to get help. You see, I believe the mother had dementia of some kind. Only dealing with someone with dementia can produce this kind of frustration and stress.

And the most serious time is right at the beginning when you don't know. This woman didn't know. She was so frustrated with her mother but she didn't yet realize none of it was her mother's fault. I felt this mother had dementia. Of course, it's possible this daughter did know but hadn't received the help she needed yet. Eventually, she probably would.

Whether your parent or friend or whomever you know has dementia or just needs daily assistance, when you find you are losing it, you need education on the subject or a helping hand. And there is lots of help out there. That is what's sad. There is help but are enough people getting it.

But how could I reach out. I couldn't. I could just smile sympathetically, listen and feel compassion. I couldn't tell this woman and risk I was wrong, out of line or told it was none of my business.

There needs to be more education on the subject, I believe, especially for those in the early stages. If you find yourself losing it; if you find you don't understand your parent's or spouses behavior, get help.

We need to reach those who are feeling this type of stress--whether the one with the disease or feeling compassion for the caregiver, it's a problem we need to address. And there are so many wonderful people willing to give their time and talents to helping caregivers with signs of stress and those with dementia.

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This Simple Caregiver Tip May help You

The last time I went to my support group I asked a question and got a Caregiver Tip. Some questions may be embarrassing, but when you are desperate, that becomes minor.

My husband has dementia. It was mild at first, but recently progressed to moderate. How do I know it is moderate, there is a list of symptoms and one of them is resistance to taking showers. This puzzled me. Call me naive, but I wondered, "Why is there this strange resistance to something that the person previously routinely performed. "

Then one day I found out. The resistance, I believe, but cannot prove it, may come from not knowing how to handle themselves in the normal bathing routine, the same as dressing or selecting clothes, signs that showed up at the same time. You might even call them clusters (my illustrative term, not scientific). This was a cluster of signs that showed up literally overnight in my case. That was a turning point where I knew this disorder had progressed.

Back to the tip--a gentleman at the meeting said that people with dementia do not like an overhead shower spray. He didn't know why, but he found that to be true in his own case. Does it matter if we know why, no, as long as it works, I thought. So, desperate as I was, I rushed out and bought a hand-held shower, and it worked. The resistance has lessened considerably.

My Shiny New Hand-held Showerhead
Here is a photo of this gadget. Maybe it will work for you and maybe it won't. I cannot guarantee it. For me, it was worth a try. I think I also might get a chair to put into the tub for even more security. Tips like these are what I call a "floater;" my personal definition of things that help me remain as calm as possible in dealing with this puzzling affliction.

This is an information only website. Nothing in this article should be considered scientific or even opinion. Showers are slippery places and you must seek advice regarding taking showers with qualified experts. Always seek advice from your physician or other dementia experts when seeking information.

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On a Life Raft for Two--Dementia and Caregivers

Think of dementia as a disease where 2 people are on a raft in the middle of an ocean--and that raft is sinking. If you are a caregiver, you may have this feeling.

So what do you do--if one person goes down, so does the other because they are "tied" together.

How is your raft. Is it sinking or staying afloat.

You can put "floaters" under your raft to keep you above the waves. These floaters are anything that keeps your raft afloat. You need them to avoid sinking and the more the better.

Each time I attend a support group for caregivers, I learn something and just being there with so many positive people, helps keep me afloat. Support groups are "floaters."

Other floaters can be dementia communities, care managers, friends and family support systems, people with expertise in the disease, adult day care, support systems, tips and even websites like this and others--anything that will keep your raft afloat.

This website is designed to make you aware of floaters you can use to keep your raft afloat but you need to take action too.

As I become more aware of dementia diseases, I am noticing random people everywhere assuming the roles of caregivers and dealing with the disease as best they can. This number is predicted to increase in the years ahead. Look around and you will also see young teens watching their elders by taking them along on their activities, young adults giving up a part of their own social life caring for an afflicted aunt.

People with dementia look the same as ever, like you and me, but you begin to recognize the signs--and then you know. You begin to realize how many care givers are actually out there--lots.

They are dealing with the disease as best they can and most will eventually come to realize they need floaters to keep that life raft from sinking.

This is an information only website. Always seek advice from your doctor or other experts in dementia diseases. No information in this article is considered scientific or even opinion.

Continue reading "On a Life Raft for Two--Dementia and Caregivers"

This is important: A Care Manager Can Help

Last night I attended a dementia education event with a panel of Care Managers.

The meeting was held at Arden Courts in Kensington
memory care facility

I learned a lot that may help you. Do you know what a care manager is--There were "3 of the best" at the meeting to educate us.

A care manager is a person who can help you sift through the huge amount of information out there and find the right resources for your situation. For those with Alzheimer's and Dementia, every experience is unique.

A care manager can make a plan, find out who can help you best, and help you execute your plan, and, by the way, so much more--just about anything you need. How comforting is that--to know there is so much help out there.

The care manager will take into consideration your financial situation so I encourage everyone to contact a care manager for an initial consultation at least. Please verify this, but some initial counseling may be covered by Medicare--please ask the care manager about this. Some managers charge on a sliding scale while others who do not find other ways to make the counseling fit your budget.

Many people do not seek care managers because the disease progresses so slowly that most people just manage for themselves until they are desperate. But it might be best to be proactive and reach a care manager early on.

Here are just a few things Care Managers do:

  • They interface with the professionals and can recommend people who are professional or non-professional.
  • They will sit in with the physician and give a more accurate description of the individual.
  • Care Managers are intimately involved.

It is important in the first stages to gain the person's trust. This is another reason care manager's aren't consulted early--you are bringing a stranger into your home and it is necessary to form a bond of trust before anything else can happen. It is relationship building.

They make recommendations only. You aren't forced to accept them.

Their main consideration is what is the best course for a better quality of life.

All you have to do is take a first step and reach out to a facility, a care manager, physician--taking one step can reveal a bounty of help.

"Humor is everything"….an administrator at Arden Courts, Kensington, MD

National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers

This is an information only website. Verify all information. We do not make recommendations. Always do your own thorough investigations.

Continue reading "This is important: A Care Manager Can Help"

China has a Bigger Dementia Problem and a New Therapy Is Showing Good Results

China's population is larger than ours and so it figures they have more persons with dementia. Just one city, Shanghai has 3 million people 60 and over. One-hundred and eighty thousand of these have dementia. In China, 6 million people have dementia. This was reported on a Chinese TV station.

In the U.S. about 4-5 million people have some degree of dementia, but by 2050, 14 million people will suffer from dementia according to credible sources. Worldwide that figure could reach 115 million people by 2050 (Source: Kings College in London.)

As I was browsing on the web on You Tube, I came across this very interesting news video about China's dementia problem.

Japan has the fastest growing older population so it appears China and Japan are collaborating on solutions to the problem they have in common--dementia in their aging populations.

They are having good results with one program as showcased on this video. Apparently, this unique program focuses on moving the fingers and arms to regenerate brain cells.

As a person's dementia worsens, the brain shrinks, according to this video, and, therefore, affects memory. (Memory loss is usually the first thing affected in persons with dementia.) But 500 people in Shanghai communities where this therapy program is in experimentation are getting better.

The results make me realize the often stated importance of activity to stimulate the brain.

A heated pad to warm the limbs begins the process. For one hour, the therapy using special equipment and methods is used. (You can see some of these tools on the video.)

While not solving the dementia problem or curing the disease (currently there is no cure for Alzheimer's), memory improvement has reportedly been shown. The two countries thus encouraged are continuing to work together on their common problem of dementia.

To see improvement is a wonderful thing for people who suffer with cognitive impairment due to dementia.

Always seek advice before starting any new exercise or therapies from your medical practitioner and verify all information with experts. This article is for information only.

Continue reading "China has a Bigger Dementia Problem and a New Therapy Is Showing Good Results"

Please Don't Pass the Salt at Assisted Living Communities

Passing the salt at assisted living communities may not be such a good idea. Growing up, I remember my father always asking "please pass the salt." The salt and pepper shakers were always on our table. Today, I say don't pass the salt and especially at assisted living communities.

In fact, I don't own a salt shaker nor do I put salt in anything I make. I use herbs instead and everything tastes just fine to me.

I love eating at restaurants, but having checked the nutrition information when it is given out, I am appalled at the amount of sodium in the recipes. It just stops me from ordering anything but the plainest salad. Needless to say, I do not enjoy restaurants like I used to.

I have even found many foods I used to enjoy eating at home are no longer acceptable to my low sodium standards. I would love a hot dog on a bun with mustard and relish (yum), which after reading the labels on the packages, I find supplies about 800 mg of salt. That would probably push me over my limit for the day. I sometimes would love two hot dogs, but no longer possible, and I limit the amount of mustard and relish. These are the kind of changes going on in my life right now.

Of course, if salt is not a problem for you, you are lucky. But I have borderline high blood pressure and I find I am very sensitive to salt.

Also, assisted living communities should be checked out just like any restaurant. After all, you will be eating there most of the time. Find out their nutrition information. It certainly is important for assisted living communities to have better protection of your health than restaurants, but some emphasize low salt, fat and sugar more than others and some have more alternative meals.

You may be wondering now why it is more important at assisted living communities. One reason is eating for seniors is different than when we were younger. Health conditions are affected by what we eat.

If you are a caregiver for a parent or friend, you may not be aware that your parent has been advised by their doctor to lower salt, sugar or fat intake. This is important information to check out.

So please don't pass the salt for me--just the pepper and herbs.

Always seek medical advice regarding yours or a loved ones nutrition.

Continue reading "Please Don't Pass the Salt at Assisted Living Communities"

Larry King's "The Unthinkable" Show

I enjoyed watching the replay of Larry King's excellent presentation, "The Unthinkable." This was subtitled "The Alzheimer's Epidemic." Did you see it?

Here are a few highlights if you did not.

There were guest appearances by some celebrities that I did not know were caregivers.

1) Maria Shriver - well, this one I did know about - I think everyone is familiar with "The Shriver Report." Maria's father as most know had Alzheimer's. It wasn't a well known disease at the time. Maria's report was the first major one to bring it to the public's attention.

2) Laura Bush - I did not know that Laura Bush's father had Alzheimer's.

3) Angie Dickenson's sister - she told a poignant story about how she discovered her sister had the disease: she found Christmas presents in the trunk of her sister's car--and it was Spring. Can you imagine the shock. Startling moments like this are now a common occurrence as people come in contact with the fact that a loved one has Alzheimer's.

4) Leeza Gibbons - God bless her for her groundbreaking work for caregivers - caregivers had been the forgotten ones but as we all know now, the caregiver can suffer ill health from the stress of caring for those with dementias and they too need support. Leeza's love for her mother and intense caregiving, made Leeza aware of how much the caregiver needs to know others care about them too. There are now 8 Leeza Place's in locations throughout the country. What's more, there are support groups everywhere for caregivers.

5) Ronald Reagan - Nancy Reagan's courage, love and support to her husband is an inspiration to all..

Millions are now affected by the dread disease that is now being called an epidemic.

Knowledge is important - most people only know about the severe later stages of Alzheimer's and not the symptoms leading up to it. We need more education on the subject to recognize it early on.

Alzheimer's is eventually fatal. The disease affects the whole brain and thus the body so finally it defeats the body. There is currently no cure. Science, while searching for a cure, has decided to treat it the way they do heart disease--bit by bit: eat healthy foods for the brain and antioxidants and remain physically, socially and mentally active. Please seek the advice of your doctor regarding treatment for Alzheimer's and other dementia.

Continue reading "Larry King's "The Unthinkable" Show"

The Fine Line Between Independence and Dependence
When Caring for Someone With Dementia

Do you know how much help your loved one needs. My husbands needs as his dementia worsens, increase..or do they.

One thing I have heard about those with Alzheimer's or Dementia is that each day is different. Some better and some worse. It is hard to tell what to expect day by day.

You try to make your life as normal as possible, you go on with your plans when you aren't needed.

It's a fine line I walk constantly. And while my husband's dementia is relatively mild compared to how disastrous these diseases can be, I still have a "taste" of how hard it is to be a caregiver.

Assisted living communities must walk this line also. Fostering independence while still assisting is not an easy thing.

It's so easy to feel guilty if you aren't catering to the needs of someone with dementia every minute. Or for that matter, anyone who needs care. But are you doing them a favor. Let them be independent as much as possible (as long as they are safe). How much are they struggling to be independent? Let them express their independence.

Here is a list of the most basic things that are physically necessary to do for a caregiver of someone with dementia or just needing assistance, or an assisted living community to do:

  • Making sure medications are administered.
  • Making sure cleanliness of person is maintained.
  • Making sure bedding is changed and laundry is done.
  • Making sure meals are there and snacks are available.
  • Making sure they are safe.
  • Making sure some form of exercise is available.
  • Mental and social activities should be available occasionally.
  • Make sure the environment is comfortable and safe.

Here are some extra touches that help:

  • Make sure the bedroom is attractive and clean.
  • Make sure there are reading materials handy--especially magazines with photos.
  • Make sure there are some mental games such as crossword books available.
  • Laugh a lot and enjoy each other's company
  • Have some healthy treats handy like a healthy dark chocolate bar.
  • Have a place to sunbathe.
  • Serve healthy meals and especially foods good for the brain.
  • Visit family members as often as possible.
  • Have a routine as much as possible.
  • Make sure the home is easy to navigate--see Universal Design.

That leaves a lot of time for their personal independence during the day.

It's healthier--for both caregiver and cared for.

Have I missed anything? It would be interesting to know what others think about this topic and what you have found to be helpful. Please email me with your comments. Emails are never given to third parties.

Continue reading "The Fine Line Between Independence and Dependence
When Caring for Someone With Dementia"

Adult Caregivers and Depression

One out of four adult caregivers in a recent survey of 400 commissioned by said they were depressed. That is much higher than the average population.

If you are a caregiver, it's best to accept that you may be vulnerable to depression and to do something about it.

But what can you do.

My husband has dementia and I devote a part of each day to caregiving. This takes away a bit of my time from work, which is a passion and interest in my life. Feeling guilty should not be an option. You need to fight this feeling because you need to take care of yourself.

What I have found to be the most helpful is to join a support group. Once a month I attend a support group meeting at a local memory care assisted living community. I don't know why it helps, it just does. And it also helps any depression I may feel starting just knowing there are others going through what I am.

It's easy to find these groups when you visit a community or just ask them where they are. Even some on-line communities can be comforting.

I find the positive attitude towards dementia diseases by the community personnel is the thing that does the trick.

Exercise has been helpful. I try to walk 30 minutes/day and take my husband with me.

Taking care of myself with proper diet, losing some unwanted weight, drinking more water and taking vitamin supplements including Vitamin D and C, has also helped me.

I am lucky because my caregiving role isn't very heavy as I know it must be for some, and still I am affected, even if mildly. Check out the list of symptoms to make sure you aren't in denial about the effects on you here: Mayo Clinic-Caregiver Depression

The Mayo Clinic has some tips here: Mayo Clinic Caregiver Tips for Stress

Here is the news article: Huffington Post Article about Caregiving and Depression

Continue reading "Adult Caregivers and Depression"

Nursing Home Care Costs and What an Elder Care Attorney Says on this subject

Last night I listened to an Elder Care attorney speak about how to pay for nursing home care -- unfortunately, I cannot discuss everything I learned on this topic since I am not an attorney.

People are living longer and so need advice more than ever before from an Elder Law attorney for life planning, how to pay for nursing home costs, and long term care planning. Elder law is relatively new and has come about since people are living longer and require long term care planning.

What we've all heard from one source or another is that you will have to "spend your hard earned money down." Not necessarily true or the right way to handle this. You can discuss your options with an Elder Law attorney.

This is a complicated subject -- one that I am not qualified to discuss. But one thing came across: No one knows when they will need it so best to prepare as soon as possible. You can do things yourself but an attorney is the one who can advise you and may be the best way to navigate the maze of uncertainty surrounding the whole subject of life care planning.

Facilities aren't allowed to give legal advice on how to pay for the heavy costs of a nursing home--only qualified attorneys.

First, the attorney said to know the 3 things you need and the differences:

  • Living Will - who will make healthcare decisions if you cannot (power of attorney)
  • Living Trust - Revocable and Irrevocable Revocable means it can be changed
  • Will

Some matters an Elder Care Attorney handles:

Asset Protection
Long Term Care Planning
Revocable Living Trusts
Powers of Attorney
Medicaid Planning
Health Care Proxy
Pet Trusts

The most important thing I learned from this talk is that the sooner you handle matters, the better -- it is urgent to get these things in order.

Also most urgent, a power of attorney needs to be determined, if you wish to appoint the person to pay your bills and taxes and handle other administrative costs as well as who will handle healthcare decisions.

The above is very general information and differs by state. Every individual has a unique set of circumstances so any information needs to be verified by experts. This is an information only website and not advice or even opinion. Verify all information and do thorough investigations.

Continue reading "Nursing Home Care Costs and What an Elder Care Attorney Says on this subject"

Coming: A Book About the Middle Aged Brain

A book about the middle-aged brain sounds interesting. All my life I have considered myself a slow maturer. As a young person, I was often impatient and not always willing to listen to others opinions. But things seem different now.

According to a new book coming out, It may be due to the changes in the brain as you grow older. Wisdom, yes. It does belong to the aging.

The good news is that there are compensations for the other negative things due to aging like short-term memory loss.

So maybe in the scheme of things we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. We may not be the same as we were in youth but maybe we are in some strange way better.

Science says we are better at some things with age due to something called the middle aged brain.

We need to not be so negative.

I think about my husband who has moderate dementia, but sometimes I think he has qualities that many people don't have. With age, his great smile and eye contact, which always made him an expert communicator, are still there. So in social situations, I keep that in mind.

There is a book coming out in April and I am anxious to read it: Barbara Strauch is the author of "The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind."

This is timely because recently I was just thinking about how my mind seems to work better now than when I was younger. I am not impatient anymore and I definitely remain quieter and listen more intently with good results. I make decisions quicker and have better ideas--good for writers like myself.

My short-term memory isn't what it used to be and I can't remember names as well, but this seems minor in comparison to being able to be wiser and more effective in my work which brings immeasurable joy to the process of aging and my life.

I am one of those who the older I grow, the happier I become.

Continue reading "Coming: A Book About the Middle Aged Brain"

Alzheimer's and Dementia Report from

Just Released: A thorough report on Alzheimer's and Dementia from The Alzheimer's Association.

If you or a loved one are affected by these diseases, here is one of the most thorough reports you will find.

You need to read this. It talks about how, why, what, when, and even where.

I won't describe the report here--the report will tell you just about everything you need to know about the diseases themselves.

Then our site will help you filter through the many people and facilities designed to help people affected by these terrible diseases that are on the increase and we know so little about.

You can go to the website and download the report here: 2011 The Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures Report on

Always do your own thorough investigation of all information.

Continue reading "Alzheimer's and Dementia Report from"

Mickey Rooney's Financial Elder Abuse Claims:

Mickey Rooney has been claiming financial elder abuse. Nothing brings attention to a topic faster than a celebrity in the news.

Mickey is used to attention, but certainly not of this kind. Senior elder abuse can happen to anyone.

Unfortunately, Mickey, now an elder, is having serious problems with someone he is claiming is abusing him in his senior years. This has made the topic of elder abuse newsworthy and suddenly "hot." Mickey claims there are many types of elder abuse, physical and emotional. But he brought up another kind--financial.

I would imagine that financial elder abuse is one of the most frequent types, and the one most easily goes unnoticed. No one has accurate numbers on how frequently this occurs because there is no national tracking.

After many years of a successful career in entertainment, he may have acquired quite a sum of money. You may even think of him as wealthy. But there are those who are not wealthy who are also being financially abused. For a senior, loss of their money can make them destitute.

Many seniors do have problems, physical and mental, which makes them more vulnerable to abuse. Sometimes the victimizer is a relative who has access to their money or even a caregiver who has been hired to help who is given cash to buy things the senior needs.

I recently heard a true story about a hired caregiver from a reputable company who was using the money of a senior resident here that they were supposed to be helping. They were using his money for their own grocery shopping as well as his, buying clothes for their family, and dining out on sumptuous meals. Fortunately, this situation was caught early on.

Many seniors do not have a family that checks upon these matters, and if they have any cognitive problems, they are easily scammed.

The National Center on Elder Abuse states that comprehensive national data is not collected, therefore, there is no way to know the seriousness of the problem other than local tracking.

If you know of a senior who is being abused in any manner, there is a national senior abuse hotline you can call for help.

Reminder to family of seniors: make sure senior abuse isn't happening to your loved one whether physically, emotionally or financially, which can go by unnoticed. You can never assume a senior is okay.

National Center on Elder Abuse website. To report elder abuse, call their hotline at 1-800-677-1116

If in immediate danger, call 911 or local police.

Continue reading "Mickey Rooney's Financial Elder Abuse Claims:"

How Soon Should You Move to Assisted Living

When to move to assisted living was the topic of a recent seminar held at a local assisted living facility. I couldn't wait to go but I missed it! How did that happen. It's a long story, but the result was I was so very disappointed when I missed it.

I immediately called when I realized my mistake and confirmed that I indeed missed it. The Director was so nice about it and offered to send me some information on the topic of the discussion, "How Do I Know When It Is Time to Place My Loved One. "

She then asked me more about my individual circumstances and then told me about caregiver support groups in the area, Adult Day groups, a social group for those with memory issues, a support group at my community I didn't know about and about the social services available at the adult community I resided in.

I didn't even know about some of these things. How wonderful and supportive she was and our conversation provided information and further support.

She was so willing to listen to me. If you or a loved one is considering assisted living, I can't tell you enough about how helpful the Director at an assisted living facility can be.

So back to the information she immediately emailed me about the topic:

In brief, the following points were made:

  • If you are already wondering if it is time, then the time is probably now.
  • Be sure your loved one is safe. If not, it is time to place.
  • How is the caregiver coping. Are they being affected healthwise, emotionally or mentally. Then it is time to place.
  • Is your loved one just sitting around all day bored and not enjoying activities as before or are they sleeping all day. Is their quality of life poor. Then it is time to place.

Of course, the above states the information briefly. There is so much more information. We will try to follow up with more on this topic in the future.

This wonderful lady is the Director of Arden Courts in Kensington, MD.

Continue reading "How Soon Should You Move to Assisted Living"

Memory Care Experts Seminar

I'll be attending a seminar at a memory care facility on February 2lst. I know that many of you become very anxious about loved ones who have moderate or serious memory issues. There is so much help out there and we need to take advantage of it.

Look for seminars like this one at memory care facilities. Often they are advertised in local newspapers or retirement community newspapers like mine.

I will be reporting on the meeting and the questions asked by concerned caretakers. Some of the questions I anticipate to be: "When is it time to move a loved one with dementia?" "Is the care you are providing at home the best setting for the loved one?" I hope to find the answer to these and many more concerns from the experts on memory care.

If nothing else, the knowledge and information gained from talking to assisted living and memory care experts and administrators is always comforting and reassuring to any caretaker of someone who has Alzheimer's and other dementia health concerns.

Look for my review after February 2lst.

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Hiring Domestic Help

When hiring domestic help, no one wants to believe that workers are dishonest, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Beware of hiring workers to help you in your home especially if you are alone. If you are an older child of your elderly parents, please read these suggestions as well. Your parent may be more vulnerable and unable to hire help alone.

Some examples of domestic help are: house cleaner, registered nurse, aide/caretaker/companion, handyman. Here are some tips on hiring domestic help.

1) Ask for references. Ask employee to sign saying it's ok to call and ask questions about them to their past employers. This is how it works: former employers are afraid to give out information unless there is a signed release to do so. Without the employees written permission, the employer can only give out dates of employment and verify the person worked there.

2) Ask for current employers that you can call to ask if satisfied with the employees work. Again, get a written signed release.

3) Have a family member or friend do an interview of the potential employee with you. You can then get another person's opinion of the prospect. It's good to have someone with you if interviewing in your home.

4) Have the prospect get a copy of their arrest record from the police department. The record will state it if they have no record.

5) If they work for a company, you can call similar companies to find out how much is paid for similar services, what the services are and compare.

6) If the person will be driving you around, ask for a copy of their driver's license. The prospect can also get a copy of their driver's record from DMV.

7) Be careful about giving out your car keys or checkbook to employees.

8) If the employee is driving your vehicle, call your auto insurance company to find out if they are covered in case of an accident. Also, you can include them on your AAA coverage for an extra fee if they drive your car without you (if you are sure they are trustworthy enough to give them your car to drive).

9) Make sure your homeowner's insurance covers any workman's compensation claims.

If you are using employees of a company, you assume they have checked out their employees with the above steps, but it is better to ask and find out what security steps have been taken before letting them into your home and life.

Taking these extra steps may help to prevent a serious incident.

These tips are not intended to be a complete list of everything involved in hiring domestic help. Please do your own thorough investigations.

Continue reading "Hiring Domestic Help"