LGBT Caregivers – Resources and Support are Available

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals acting as caregivers share many of the same challenges as all family caregivers, but they also have some unique needs. A study conducted in 2015 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that LGBT-identified caregivers make up 9% of the 34 million Americans providing unpaid care to adults over the age of 50.

According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, many caregivers in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities may not self-identify as “caregivers” even when providing everyday assistance to friends, partners, spouses or loved ones. This can prevent them from seeking support and resources.

LGBT caregivers typically have fewer social supports than other family caregivers, and they are more likely to care for individuals in their own age range. These conditions can lead to a greater risk of “burn-out,” including physical and mental health challenges. LGBT individuals already experience health disparities in comparison to the general population, so self-care is particularly important for LGBT family caregivers.

Resources for LGBT Family Caregivers

Advance directives such as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare are extremely important for everyone 18 and older, especially for LGBT individuals who may wish to designate a health care proxy or decision-maker who is not their next of kin. Putting these wishes in writing is crucial to ensure that patients’ wishes are respected in health care settings.

Most states, including California, have passed version of the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act which mandates hospitals to ask each patient upon admission if they would like to designate someone as their caregiver. This does not have to be a spouse or biological family member. The hospital must notify the designated caregiver about the discharge plan, and provide discharge instruction to that person. LGBT individuals who are hospitalized should be aware of and exercise this right to choose their caregiver.

There are many avenues for LGBT family caregivers to obtain emotional support, such as through the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline (1-888-234-SAGE); through local non-profit organizations providing counseling services like The Center in San Diego; and through local support groups for family caregivers such as those offered by Alzheimer’s San Diego and Southern Caregiver Resource Center.

Fortunately, many organizations serving older adults are doing a better job of creating welcoming environments for LGBT clients and their family caregivers, and asking appropriate questions to identify those caregivers who would benefit from additional help.

Windward Life Care’s clinical team is here to support LGBT family caregivers with professional consultation, resource connection, and respite services. Just call us to discuss how we can help.

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Running Is Still Great Exercise, Even as You Age

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Most people assume that it is natural for physical activity to decrease with age. But, getting older doesn’t mean that you must give up some of your favorite activities, such as running. The truth is that these activities are great to support your health and prolong your life.

Running Can Prevent Fractures and Strengthen Your Health

A research study at Stanford University found that people over the age of 50 who participated in long-distance running had higher bone mineral density compared to those living a sedentary lifestyle.

As a person ages, it is natural for the bones to lose minerals, causing a decrease in bone density. As a result, older people have a higher risk of fractures. These fractures can limit mobility and lead to other health issues. But, it is possible that running can help to prevent these injuries and improve mobility later in life.

Start Running at Any Age

Regular exercise and healthy activities can help to improve your physical capacity, especially in the later years of life. Some people nearing retirement have even found that they can reach more physical achievements than they thought were possible. For example, it is becoming more common for people in their 50’s and 60’s to take up competitive sports, such as marathons or triathlons. As a result, doctors are seeing that age-related changes in athletic performance might not have as much bearing as previously thought.

The key is to maintain a regular exercise schedule, helping to support physical fitness that many people lose with age. Instead of assuming that lower physical fitness is associated with age, researchers are now starting to recognize that aging is connected with a sedentary lifestyle.

How much should you run? It is always best to talk to a healthcare expert for personalized recommendations. One suggestion is to work up to a schedule of moderate running, three times a week to improve the function of your joints. Start slowly and build up your endurance to avoid injury, and always wear supportive shoes.

Are you looking for a healthcare provider to help with your fitness goals? Talk to us at Windward Life Care to learn more. We can help you connect with medical professionals who match your requirements.

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Living with Dementia: Lightening the Load by Guest Blogger Amy Abrams

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

It’s hard to overstate the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia on individuals, families, and communities. There are nearly 65,000 individuals in San Diego County living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and over 200,000 unpaid caregivers supporting them. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that causes a gradual loss of memory and cognitive function, personality and behavioral changes, and the loss of basic functional abilities. It is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the most expensive disease in America today. In addition to its dramatic fiscal impact upon our healthcare and Medicare systems, family caregivers bear heavy physical, emotional, and financial burdens of their own. About 40 percent of caregivers have depression, and nearly 60 percent rate their stress levels as high or very high, compromising both their own health and their ability to care for their loved one with dementia. Age is the primary risk factor for the disease, and as our population ages, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to triple by 2050 in the absence of a medical breakthrough that leads to a form of prevention or cure.

We are confident that effective methods of treatment are on the horizon. And in the meantime, as researchers work to move that mountain, we work together to carry away the small stones. There is much yet to be understood about the disease – both its causes and its cure – but there is a great deal that we do know about how to support those who are affected in creating quality of life at every stage. At Alzheimer’s San Diego, we provide a range of free programs and services for anyone who is impacted by memory loss of any kind. For those who are living with the disease, we provide disease education classes, social work services, support and discussion groups, social activities and community outings, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy programs, safety resources, and connections to local clinical trials. Caregivers have access to all of these programs and more, including a wide range of educational classes, workshops, and clinics that focus on practical skill-building, and our Alz Companions respite program. And for the wider community, we offer a variety of education and outreach programs, memory screening services, and information about local research.

Living well with Alzheimer’s disease requires a three-pronged approach: medical and behavioral treatments that address the symptoms, quality patient care, and robust systems of caregiver support. With the generous support of our community, we reached more than 36,000 San Diegans last year, and we will continue to expand that reach until a cure is found.

– Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH
Education & Outreach Manager
Alzheimer’s San Diego

About Alzheimer’s San Diego

Alzheimer’s San Diego is a local and independent non-profit organization whose mission is to provide San Diego families who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia with hands-on support, information, and resources while advancing critical local research for a cure. Their team of masters level social workers are available to provide information, education, support, and assistance with community resources. Alzheimer’s San Diego offers a wide variety of education classes throughout San Diego County, support and discussion groups, social and activity programs for persons living with memory loss, and a respite program. All programs and services are provided at no charge.

About Walk4Alz

Alzheimer’s San Diego is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Tax ID number 47-5534541), and all funds raised through Windward Life Care’s participation in the October 21st Walk4Alz event directly support programs and services for individuals in San Diego County affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and local research efforts toward treatment and cure. To sign up or make a tax-deductible donation, visit  Windward Life Care’s Walk4Alz team website.

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