Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Inspiration To All People

There are about a zillion and a half live TV talent competitions. Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, The Next Food Network Star, Design Star, Project Runway, Chopped, America's Next Top Model, X Factor, The Singing Bee, The Voice, America's Got Talent, Britain's Got Talent, Poland's Got Talent, Arab's Got Talent, Holland's Got Talent, Got Talent France, and Russia's Got Talent (although the legitimacy of their voting results is often questioned).

With so many different opportunities for people to show their "gifts" to the world, I am not often taken by surprise.

The video below took me by surprise.

After her performance,  one of the judges remarked that she was "an inspiration to old people." I disagree. She is an inspiration to ALL people.

It is never too late to live your dreams and THAT is what Home Instead Senior Care is all about.

For more information on Home Instead Senior Care in Chapel Hill and the way in which we support seniors and their dreams click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Driving Dilemma

It is an issue with which we are very familiar. It is a question which has driven a wedge between families. It is a fear which resonates with almost every senior.

Many adult children believe that their elderly parents shouldn't be behind the wheel any longer.

Just yesterday, I was sitting at a stop light when a seemingly driverless car crept across the intersection. After rubbing my eyes, I spotted a tuft of silvery white hair behind the steering wheel. Given the length of the hood on her 1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic and the easily-apparent-from-across-the-street thickness of her glasses, it is beyond comprehension to expect that she was able to see what she needed to operate a vehicle of that magnitude; or a vehicle of any magnitude.

I did what most of us have probably done in that situation. I said a quick prayer, switched my blinker from left to right, and turned the other way.

The independence that driving represents is something woven deeply within the fabric of each of our beings. It is a topic which we are reticent to broach with those we care the most about because we know that driving is the 'Ark of the Covenant' of senior independence.

To be fair, I find myself more frequently infuriated by teenagers and college students who are entranced by their smartphones while driving than I find myself concerned for senior drivers. Maybe we should start by taking THEIR licenses away and THEN worry about the grey headed road warriors.

The decision to take away a senior's license or even to begin to have conversations to that effect is a difficult one to make. It is important to remember the emotional impact which will be felt by the aging parent.

If you are struggling with how to have "the talk" with your aging parents, check out our website for some great, free resources.


This brief video is an accurate picture of the way many seniors feel when their well meaning children take away their independence.

"I was heartbroken. It made me feel old. It made me feel useless."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Short Naps Boost Productivity and Lower Risk of Heart Attack

In a house with small children, naptime is war. One side of the battle is firmly entrenched and unwilling to concede. They shout and yell and have even resulted in kicking and stomping their feet on occasion. And that's just the parents. The all too obvious irony in this ubiquitous battle for the sanity of our afternoons is that the people being forced to take naps would avoid them like the plague if given the chance while the nap enforcers (a.k.a. Mom and Dad) would cut off all of their fingers and potentially even an entire arm for the opportunity to sleep during the day.

In stark contrast, everyday I hear the commercials for "5 Hour Energy Drink." The attractive sounding voice on the radio encourages us all to fight back against that dreaded '2:30 feeling' by drinking their product. It is apparently packed with B-vitamins to give us all the energy we need to power through the day. Right. And Frosted Flakes are the cornerstone of a healthy breakfast. Tell me another one.

The idea of an afternoon nap is not a new concept. Even as far back as the middle ages, Roman Emperor Charlemagne is recorded by Einhard to have enjoyed an afternoon nap."In summer, after his midday meal, he would eat some fruit and take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely, just as he did at night, and rest for two or three hours." When in Rome...

European cultures have kept alive this beautiful tradition in a concept known most commonly as "siesta." During the heat of the day, people in certain countries enjoy a long lunch hour which provides them enough time to take a brief nap if they so desire. Our American-ness may urge us to look down our highly productive and driven noses at those self absorbed Europeans who waste time napping during the day but that there are significant health benefits to this ancient ritual.

Studies have shown that a 10-20 minute power nap can give you just what the doctor ordered to 'power through your afternoon.' A nap of that length can increase mental alertness and clarity with minimal grogginess. Buyer beware: sleeping past the 20 minute mark will leave you wanting more and will frequently place you in an even groggier state. One suggestion is not to fully recline while enjoying your afternoon nap. This will help prevent you from falling into a much deeper sleep.

Companies such as Google and Apple have recognized this and are some of the more high profile outfits to allow employee naps as part of their work day philosophy.

Increased mental alertness and clarity can potentially be a tough sell to your slave-driver of a boss. So try this one on for size.

Studies have additionally shown that napping decreases your risk of dying of heart disease. In a huge study of 23,000 Greek adults, it was found that people who regularly took midday naps were more than 30% less likely to die from heart disease.

So the next time your boss catches you snoozing at your desk, tell him that you are working to increase your alertness and clarity. If he still isn't buying it, then tell him you might die if you don't nap and send him the link to this blog.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Study Shows That Being Bilingual Delays The Onset of Dementia


In one of the largest studies of its kind, scientists have concluded that being bilingual can delay the onset of several different types of dementia by an average of four and a half years.

The benefits of speaking two languages is not a new concept. The collective benefits of bilingualism are described as "an improved executive function." Broken down, those functions include: memory, focus, planning, and problem solving. The study shows that the benefits apply to many types of dementia including Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, was conducted in Hyderabad, India and included 648 patients from a local hospital memory clinic. Many feel that conducting the study in Hyderabad lends tremendous credibility to the results. That particular region of India is a cultural melting pot where many different languages are spoken. All of the subjects of the study would have been surrounded by different languages their entire lives with some choosing to work towards fluency. It was the fluency that made the difference.

The authors of the study explain that "the constant need of a bilingual person to selectively activate one language and suppress the other is thought to lead to a better development of executive functions and attentional tasks." In short, having to choose between two languages makes our brains stronger.

But before you run out and buy the Rosetta Stone programs for every language from Aari to Zyphe, the study does suggest that there is no apparent benefit to speaking more than two languages. So pick two and stick with 'em!

For more on this study:


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Emotional Touch. There's Not Yet An App For That.

Gimme a hug. Give us a sqwunch. Get in here. Hug it out. Slap me five. Slip me some skin. Up high. Down low. Too slow.

Over the last several years, major technological advances have been made in the field of senior care. Families who are separated by thousands of miles are now able to monitor virtually all facets of their aging loved one's lives via the internet. Whether it is a daily medication reminder software or a computer enabled shoe to measure the stability of a senior's gait, sons and daughters rest more easily feeling that they know what is going on with mom and dad.

Many in the senior industry feel that the combination of innovative tools now available and the general reticence of seniors to transition into a facility environment is causing a paradigm shift in the way America approaches aging. It would seem that the justification for living out one's golden years in a nursing home has been rescinded; an intended casualty of the ability to address the physical needs and safety concerns of an aging parent from a distance with minimal cost.

But there exists within the physical world gaps which cannot be filled by the miracle of modern science.

In the 1940's, a Hungarian psychiatrist named Rene Spitz conducted research on the effects of emotional deprivation in infants. Spitz observed children who, for various reasons, had been separated from or denied a loving family and raised instead in an institutional environment. His research noted that while the observed babies' physical needs were being met, the emotional toll of not having any sort of familial affection or compassionate physical touch were catastrophic. By the conclusion of the study, more than one third of the babies had died. After 40 years, 21 of the emotionally neglected children were still living in institutions and most were physically, mentally and socially retarded.

The affect of this sort of cruel deprivation during formulative years is unquestionably debilitating. However, I would suggest that the isolation many seniors face on a daily basis is equally tragic.

Imagine that you are a senior. No longer able to drive, you are fully reliant on paid caregivers for your only live human contact each week. A caregiver comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays with a laundry list of things they have been told by your kids are top priorities; dishes, vacuum, groceries, trash, bathrooms, dusting, prepare a few meals to be easily reheated later and of course...laundry. With a friendly but quick greeting, the caregiver arrives and immediate begins to tackle the mission at hand. Rather than disturb her work, you retreat to your worn beige recliner where you doze off during "The Pioneer Woman," daydreaming about what life must be like on the ranch with Ree and the kids. She leaves as quickly as she arrived, having satisfactorily completed the requisite tasks and reported to your children that all was well with their parent today.

Now imagine an alternative scenario. Your caregiver arrives a couple minutes early with a decaf Chai latte, your favorite Starbucks treat, in hand. Before she even glances at the list of absolute musts, the two of you sit down in the sunroom and talk. You just talk. Maybe you talk about the crazy weather. Maybe you talk about nothing at all. Still, you talk and sip your latte. At one point, the caregiver puts down her cup, gently wraps her warm hands around one of yours and tells you how much she enjoys getting to spend time with you each week. The rest of your time together is a blur. You hate it when it's time for her to leave for the day. During every task she accomplished, you were by her side; helping, instructing, living. There is no need for her to report in to your adult children after today's shift. Instead, you pick up the phone. You can't wait to reach out to the people in your life and tell them all about the day you just enjoyed.

The ability to emotionally connect with people is a God-given gift. Without a certain amount of innate sensitivity, I do not believe it can be successfully taught. I am proud to say that many of the individuals who possess this remarkable gift are a part of our Home Instead family. Some work in nursing homes and facilities. Still others float in and out of our lives disguised as postal employees, baristas, pastors, tellers and grocery store clerks. Despite all of our modern advancements, there is not yet an app for that.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Veteran Made Famous in 'Band of Brothers' Dies at 90

I will forever be grateful to the friend who first encouraged me to watch the HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers." Over the last several years, I have watched the miniseries in its entirety at least four times. My wife, not usually a fan of war movies, found herself similarly drawn in within the first couple episodes. So it was with a heavy heart, I read this morning that one of the members of Easy Company, the outfit famously portrayed in the film, had died.

William "Will Bill" Guarnere was a hero in the truest sense of the word. He lost his leg while trying to rescue a fellow wounded soldier during the Battle of the Bulge. Yet even an injury as serious as that couldn't keep Guarnere down. Upon his return from the battlefields of WWII, he moved back to the South Philly neighborhood which was his home for more than 60 yrs.

In 2007, Guarnere partnered with his fellow 'Brother', Edward "Babe" Heffron, to write a best selling memoir called "Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends." He and Heffron met during the war and remained lifelong friends until Heffron's death in December.

In addition to his heroic exploits on the battlefield, which earned him the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart, Guarnere worked tirelessly to make sure that his WWII Brothers received the recognition they deserved.

I feel that the video below gives a funny glimpse into the heart of the inimitable Bill Guarnere.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Coffee Reduces Risks For Parkinson's, May Lead To New Treatments.

I would like a Grande Iced Starbuck's Doubleshot with classic syrup, 2% and a floater of heavy cream. Each of us probably identifies with a similar version of this refrain. Perhaps it is a Cinnamon Dolce Latte or just a Venti Pike with no room and two Splendas; in any event, much of this nation's morning productivity is undoubtedly fueled by that magical white cup with the green logo.

Beyond the warm fingers wrapped around a cardboard sleeve, beyond the liquid happiness cascading throughout every fiber of our not-fully-awake-yet souls, researchers are finding that the keys to effective treatments for Parkinson's disease may be percolating beneath the surface of that hot cup of joe.

Scientists have found that caffeine, the most widely used drug on the planet, has been linked to improvements in memory and appears to protect against the destruction of brain cells. Several prominent studies have found that people who drank two or more cups of coffee per day were up to 40% less likely to develop Parkinson's. Make mine a Venti!

The well known cognitive benefits of caffeine have prompted researchers to begin looking at the way the brain responds to the chemical and even to produce medications which would, in theory, replicate the benefits. One such drug has already undergone testing in Japan and has now begun US trials.

The challenge is producing the same effect that caffeine has on the brain but on a much larger scale and without the ill effects that overconsumption can sometimes bring. Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and releases the proverbial brakes in our minds. The result is an increased sense of clarity which has helped to make coffee one of the world's most popular beverages. For patients with Parkinson's, drugs like caffeine target regions deep in the brain to help control tremors and stiffness. The unfortunate other results can be headaches, rapid heart rate, anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties and irritability. Researchers hope to get more of the former without the latte-r.