As we age, it can become harder to navigate unforeseen, life-altering events on our own. At Windward Life Care®, our Aging Life Care™ Managers are trained to help clients maintain their independence despite adversities. The following story demonstrates one of the many ways our Care Managers create personalized plans of care that emphasize the client’s goals and maximize freedom and quality of life — even in times of crisis. 

Aging Life Care Manager Story: Camille and Heather

Camille is a 63-year-old-woman with special needs who had been living in a partially flooded home for over a year without alerting anyone to her situation. The flood had destroyed the interior of her house and nearly all of her personal belongings. She needed extensive assistance moving into a safe space and getting back on her feet after this disaster had left her vulnerable and without direction.

After learning of the state in which Camille had been living, her trustee contacted Windward for help. Heather Arsenault, an Associate Care Manager at Windward, instantly relocated Camille into an extended-stay hotel with kitchen amenities and laundry service. Over the next several months, Heather worked diligently with Camille to put together a long-term plan.

Heather found a new apartment that would meet Camille’s needs while granting her the autonomy she longed for. “I was given a limited budget to furnish the one-bedroom apartment including the bedroom and living room furniture, kitchen appliances, and television,” said Heather. Heather shaped the apartment into a comfortable home.

Heather coordinated the lease, gas/electric and cable and transferred Camille’s mail to the new apartment. After it was discovered that Camille did not have health insurance, Heather researched her eligibility for government benefits and soon Camille was granted Medi-Cal coverage that allowed for personalized at-home assistance.

Heather’s compassion and dedication gave Camille the ability to maintain her sense of independence in a safe and supportive living environment. “Now she is living on her own in the apartment with a caregiver visiting twice a month and assisting her with laundry, grocery shopping, and errands,” said Heather. “Camille is so excited to be on her own again and is thankful for all that we did for her.”
We are dedicated to supporting our clients and willing to go above and beyond to bring together the right resources. The reward is bringing peace of mind to clients like Camille; this inspires each of us to do even more every day.

Windward Life Care’s interdisciplinary team of Aging Life Care™ Managers has certification and professional training in a number of areas related to healthy aging, including nursing, geriatric care management, and social work. If you would like us to create a personalized plan for yourself or someone you care about, please visit: https://windwardlifecare.com/what-we-do/aging-life-care-management/

*Due to respect of our clients’ privacy, some names have been altered.  

 

Windward Life Care client Dorie Radichel knows how to grab life by the horns.

dorie-on-zipline dorie-on-zipline-2

This 86-year-young great grandmother of four was recently asked to name an activity she always wanted to try. When her surprise answer was zip lining, Burnell Jackson, the Vibrant Life Coordinator at Villa Bonita where Dorie lives, started her on a fitness plan to help make Dorie’s dream a reality.

Dorie’s inspiring story is just one example of how Aging Life Care™ Managers at Windward Life Care support their clients to not just live, but thrive in their golden years. Taking a holistic and customized approach to care, the Windward team encourages clients to find purposeful activities that emphasize their unique strengths and interests.

To get Dorie ready for her big adventure, Burnell developed a stamina training regimen so Dorie would be able to ascend the two flights of stairs to the zipline platform. She was game! Dorie walked and climbed stairs daily until she reached her goal. A trip to the La Jolla Zip Zoom Ziplines in Pauma Valley was then arranged.

La Jolla Zip Zoom boasts the longest zipline course in Southern California. In some sections, zippers can travel up to 55 miles per hour. And Dorie had a blast! With the harness keeping her safely tethered to the zipline, she enjoyed the long ride and spectacular views of the Pauma Valley, Palomar Mountain, and the San Luis Rey River. You can see Dorie on the zipline at a video posted on Villa Bonita’s website.

So what’s next on Dorie’s adventure list? “Burnell has told me about an indoor sky diving place. You can free fall at over 11,000 feet. That sounds interesting,” Dorie quipped. Stay tuned!

Are you worried about the loss of cognitive function that can occur as people get older? Dementia and other health problems can make it difficult to maintain good memory in the later years of life. Just because these health problems are common, doesn’t mean that you need to suffer.

There are a few things that you can do to maintain healthy cognitive function at all ages. According to researchers at Harvard University, these are the four focuses that you should have in your life:

1. Nutrition to Support the Brain

The food choices that you make each day can have a direct impact on brain function. If you are choosing healthy ingredients, then your brain will receive the nutrients and support needed for optimal mental health. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Maintain a moderate consumption of olive oil and other unrefined fats. It has also been found to be beneficial to cut your consumption of red meat.

2. Start an Exercise Routine

Consistently increasing your heart rate is helpful to reduce the risk of dementia. Make sure that you are getting aerobic exercise five times a week. These exercise sessions should be at least 20 or 30 minutes in length. Always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

3. Stimulate Your Mind

Make it a point to continue learning and developing mental strength throughout your life. Look for mental challenges, such as learning a language, doing crossword puzzles, reading a book, playing a musical instrument, or playing card games.

4. Improve Relationships

How much time are you spending with friends and family members? Observational studies have found a link between social connections and reducing the risk of dementia. Work to build meaningful social connections, and you will help your mood and reduce your risk of dementia at the same time.

At Windward Life Care, we are here to offer the support that you need in finding resources for the later years of life. Contact us to learn more about the services that are offered.

Climb Every Mountain

June 29, 2014

Last month, we said goodbye to my husband’s beloved grandmother, a loss that we’ll no doubt feel deeply for years to come. Grammy, the last grandparent between us, was a remarkable woman who warmly welcomed me into the fold of her family and treated me as her own from the day we met. We were fortunate to have celebrated Grammy’s 95th birthday with her in the spring, which was a time not only of celebration but of reflection on a life that had been very well-lived, physically and otherwise. In the past couple of years, she had become frail after nine full decades of hale and health, and after struggling with that transition, she seemed to have reached a place of peace.

A geriatric social worker since my mid-20s, I’ve spent my entire adult life in the awed presence of the “oldest old,” as they are known in the medical community. Theoretically, I know what it is to grow old, and I don’t fear it the way many do. I think a lot about becoming – and eventually being – old, and consciously make decisions about how I live my life with the “end” in mind. If the day comes that I’ve lost much of my ability to function independently, I very much want to know that I got everything out of this body that I could have. I want to have eaten every delicious thing, visited every beautiful place, hugged every dear person, and crossed every finish line that I reasonably could have. (I’m an avid distance runner.) I am, meanwhile, mindful of the role that moderation plays in the living of a long and healthy life. So I don’t actually eat every delicious thing. (Okay I usually do. But I don’t go back for seconds. Usually.) My impulse is to travel constantly, but I know the importance of planning financially for old age, and so have learned to avoid the temptations of the New York Times travel section, and try to keep our annual vacation budget in check. There are dozens of races I would love to run every year, but out of respect for the limits of my ankles, knees, and hips, I give them lots of love and recovery time, and restrain myself.

I see no reason to hold back when it comes to the hugs, though. Grammy certainly didn’t. As she grew older, the logistics of the hugs changed, as we had to lean down to reach her in her chair to get them. But they remained big and plentiful until the end of her long life.

Bill Thomas, MD wrote a wonderful book called What Are Old People For? that is still well worth your time, even though I’m about to give you the answer:

Young people are for doing. Old people are for being.

I couldn’t agree more. Certainly there are exceptional old people who earn college degrees in their 80s, run marathons in their 90s, or work until they’re 100. But most of us will be met with physical or cognitive limitations that make this kind of “doing” impossible. A good old age is, in my mind, one wherein we’ve successfully adapted to the functional limits of our bodies or brains, and recognized that while the ability to “do” may be waning, what the world really needs from us now is the unique “being” that only we can “be.” By old age, we have become the holders of histories, the vehicles of values we hold dear, a connective glue binding family together. We know the stories and the secrets, and (I can’t wait for this part) we have life pretty well figured out. Even in the presence of one who has lost the ability to remember or communicate verbally, if you pay attention there is an unmistakable sense of all that they know, and of who they are. Being.

Chances are good there will be a day that I can no longer experience the physical joy of a run. Perhaps I’ll still be able to read and write about it. Perhaps I’ll have younger or healthier friends through whom I’ll continue to experience that joy. Maybe I’ll lose that, too? Someday I’ll probably seem like little more than a wrinkly old lady to someone who’s not paying attention. But I’ll still be that runner, who ran all over the world, saw life through that lens, and cared deeply about it. And I’ll probably still have something to say on the subject. I hope someone will ask.

Me and my Grammy, exploring the Yukon together.
Me and my Grammy, exploring the Yukon together.

Yesterday I went to see a new doctor. As we were talking during the appointment, he asked me about my work. When I explained my social work background, and the care management and home care services we provide to older adults, he responded, “Wow, I bet that’s depressing.”

This, I have found, is a pretty common response when people hear that I work in geriatrics. It amazes me each time I hear it, especially from a doctor, because it is so far from the truth.

What is it about getting older that inspires such fear and loathing? Why is growing old necessarily equated with sadness and isolation? Is there another way to conceptualize the process of aging?

For each of us, the answer to these questions is different, and certainly dependent on our personal experience. Some of us have positive memories of fun times with very active grandparents, while others have seen their older relatives suffer from chronic conditions that have impaired their quality of life. In my case, my mother died in her early 40s. Like many whose parents or grandparents have died young, I look at aging as a gift. So many people don’t get the chance to have a 50th or 60th birthday, let alone a 90th.  So, you might accumulate some spots and saggy areas along the way; it is truly better than the alternative.

Learn to see aging as a gift.
Learn to see aging as a gift.

Working with older adults, for me, is a privilege. Each client I have known has been an individual, with his or her own strong points, flaws, and particular sense of humor. When I learn about the losses they have suffered, their accomplishments, their goals, and their fears, I am struck by each person’s uniqueness and value.

I did my best to share with my doctor the perspective that aging isn’t so bad. In fact, it is to be celebrated. Wouldn’t it be great if we could spread that idea, one person at a time?

disabilityIn addition to serving clients with chronic physical and cognitive disabilities associated with aging, Elder Care Guides provides care management and home care services to older adults with mental health diagnoses, and older adults with developmental disabilities. These two populations are not always well-served through the programs and organizations targeted at the general adult population. People with a developmental disability or mental health diagnosis will likely have specific concerns and issues as they age that may be different than that of an older adult without a developmental disability or mental health diagnosis.

People with developmental disabilities are living longer as they typically have better health care and supports than earlier generations. Older adults with developmental disabilities have unique health care needs. The normal aging process is often complicated by a lifetime of reduced mobility, poorer general health, medications, surgeries, etc. It is not uncommon to experience symptoms such as pain, arthritis, joint problems, and fatigue at a younger age.

The more severe the developmental disability, the greater risk – and earlier onset – of the diseases commonly associated with aging. Most health practitioners are not prepared for these unique challenges. This includes a lack of knowledge about aging in persons with developmental disabilities, lack of available services in a system that has generally concentrated on services for younger people, and lack of available information on good health habits for these older adults.

Some of the challenges of aging associated with this population include:

  • Reduced levels of social interaction with age. This normal process may mimic the symptoms of dementia to a health care professional.
  • Difficulty communicating visual and auditory decline, resulting in isolation, anger, and/or depression.
  • Adults with Down syndrome are very vulnerable to hypothyroidism, which is frequently misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Older men with developmental disabilities may experience reduced ability to urinate but not be able or willing to tell anyone. The resulting discomfort frequently leads to behavioral changes.
  • Menopause is often not considered by health care professionals in their treatment of older women with developmental disabilities.
  • Increased likelihood of multiple medication, and medications that are not commonly used by the general population such as psychotropics.
  • Earlier onset of sensory impairments and mobility challenges, often resulting in a physical environment that is more difficult to navigate.
  • Adults with Down syndrome and cerebral palsy experience the same changes associated with aging but at an earlier age than both the general population and as other older adults with developmental disabilities.

Elder Care Guides’ experienced care managers can support adults with developmental disabilities and their families as they age. Care managers can help with medical advocacy at doctor appointments to ensure the specific needs of this population are identified and properly addressed as they age. Elder Care Guides can also help with referrals to other community resources and provide oversight of your loved ones care. We are here to help, so please call us today.

References

State of California Department of Developmental Services: www.dds.ca.gov

San Diego Regional Center: www.sdrc.org

United Cerebral Palsy: www.ucp.org