The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter

The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
March 1, 2007                                                                                 Vol. 10 No. 2
ALZwell Caregiver Support and ElderCare Online and
Serving the Needs of Caregivers Since 1996


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Senior home alone? What will they do in case of an emergency?

Devices such as a medical alert from Lifestation can get help fast in case of a fall or other emergency situation. Just push the lightweight help button and help will be on the line in a matter of seconds. Lifestation can summon 911 or call your neighbor or a loved one. It's simple. In the event of an emergency, Lifestation could save your life.

Get their free brochure by calling 800-884-8888 and mention code “EC2” for a special discount. Visit their website at


Dear Friends,

It was hard not to miss the news reports on nursing home abuses that came out of Washington, D.C. earlier this month. A Senate committee probing the long-term care industry featured the heart-wrenching testimony of several family members whose loved ones have been the victims of physical and sexual abuse. Anyone who is concerned with social issues of aging by virtue of being old themselves or of being a professional in the field, should be outraged by these revelations.

But how revelatory are these stories? Didn’t we always know that nursing homes were the residences of last resort for aging and frail elders? Didn’t we silently acquiesce and accept the bureaucratic and impersonal conditions that so many nursing homes offered, largely because there were no alternatives? No, we never accepted abuse, neglect, or criminal activity. But did we really think that humane care could flourish in anything more than a handful of these facilities?

I don’t want this letter to be perceived as an indictment of the nursing home industry as bankrupt of compassion, or a criticism of family members as unloving. Every family member who we come into contact with on ElderCare Online and ALZwell Caregiver Support agonizes over the placement decision. Every eldercare professional I meet genuinely expresses a desire to help the aging residents under their care. But why do these abuses continue, and get worse still?

Academics, researchers, and analysts have been poring over data, benchmarks, and quality information for years, and they still haven’t come up with the solution to the problem: How do we deliver loving care within a government-directed, state-legislated, and financially unsound system? Those of us who have aging loved ones in nursing homes will attest to the daily compassion and assistance that caregivers in the facilities have given their loved ones. Most will come to agree (maybe with some time), that the placement decision was in the best interest of both the elder and the family caregiver. But no one will ever forgive themselves if their loved one becomes the victim of abuse.

Family caregivers have been on their own to learn ways to work within the system to get the best care possible for their loved ones. Sadly, many people who have been the victims of abuse were abused in spite of the best practices of their family members. Within a broken system, horror stories can happen to anyone. Many aging experts have come to believe that the best strategy is to overhaul the system, rather than tinker around the edges, optimize systems and processes, or fiddle with regulations.

Family members are caught in the downward spiral of a slowly crumbling long-term care system. Despite trepidation about placing a loved one, many still must make the transition to institutional living. Despite fear of abuse and neglect, those at risk must still be placed into a stranger’s care. Despite financially unsound practices, our country must continue to feed the Medicaid beast.

But I am an optimist because in my years in the aging field I have come in contact with enough family members and professionals who care enough to make a difference. Even if it means starting a revolution.

Kind Regards,
Rich O’Boyle, Publisher
ALZwell Caregiver Support
ElderCare Online
Prism Caregiver Education Series 



Feature Article: “Living in a Care Facility” by Peter Silin, MSW, RSW
Practical Feature Article: Helping Loved Ones Grieve by Jan Allen
Healthy Aging: Tai Chi for Health and Fitness by Rich O’Boyle
”Five Minutes With…” Bill Keane Discusses the Future of Nursing Homes
My Parents, Myself: A Monthly Column by Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop
Caregiver Store: Prism Complete Medical Planner + Free Online Tutorial
Top Alzheimer’s/Caregiving Sites:
Subscription Information 


FEATURE ARTICLE: “Living in a Care Facility” by Peter Silin, MSW, RSW

The experience of being the resident (and also of being the family member) of a care facility varies enormously. This is partly because of the vast differences in care facilities and care facility staff. It is partly because of the differences in the residents themselves.  It is also different because of what family members/caregivers are able to provide and because of the larger system (government, health departments, etc) of which the facilities are apart.

To truly appreciate life in a care facility, I think we must first have an understanding of the purpose of care facilities. The purpose is not care, it is to help the resident achieve and/or maintain the highest quality of life that is possible for that resident. Care is one aspect of how the purpose is accomplished, or a measure by which we can evaluate the extent to which the purpose is achieved. Quality of life comes from quality of relationships, and the meaning, purpose, and structure in life that people have. At the same time, quality of life is an individual matter, varying from person to person. Part of the home’s care quality comes from understanding what it means to each resident and the home’s ability to e flexible enough to meet that individuality.

To read Peter’s complete article go to

PRACTICAL ARTICLE: Helping Loved Ones Grieve by Jan Allen

Jan Allen provides a novel insight into the stages of grieving beyond the traditional approaches most of us have heard about. Her analogy to the seasons of the year may provide you with a more appropriate way of managing your grief or the grief of a loved one.

Most of us live in parts of the country where there is a distinct change of seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall each have their own unique qualities. Grieving is also like the seasons – there are a variety of events that we experience as we grieve, much as we experience a series of events as the seasons change.

So, as we explore these seasons of grief, let us turn our reflections to the power of these seasons of grief – pre-grief, a time to grieve, a time to heal and renewal.

Most of us have someone who we had a meaningful relationship with who is no longer with us. This may be due to death or other factors. When a parent leaves the home through divorce or when spouses part ways, these can be very profound times of loss and grief. So, for those of you who have the distinction of remembering a past relationship – please take a moment to reflect on the importance of a past connection or time of life. Please take just a few moments to remember a fond time with that loved one. No sadness. Just a happy time. A time of joy. A time of satisfaction. A time of peace that you shared with that loved one.

You can read the complete article at

Jan Allen is a clinical social worker with years of experience working with families and individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease. She has managed adult day health centers and consulted with aging service providers. Visit her personal pages (including other articles that she has written) in our Caregiver Support Network at For additional articles on grief, bereavement, death, and dying, visit the Transitions & Spirituality Channel at

HEALTHY AGING: Tai Chi for Health and Fitness by Rich O’Boyle

The ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi has gained interest in the last few years as a preventative to falls that often lead to broken bones in the frail elderly. Researchers think that the emphasis on swaying and other choreographed movements may help individuals to improve their balance, enhance blood circulation, and ease the pain of arthritis. As an aerobic exercise, it has the added benefit of increasing muscle strength and tone.

Tai chi, also known as “shadow boxing,” combines routines of deep breathing, posturing, stretching, swaying, and other controlled movements combined with meditation. While it is related to martial arts such as karate, it is often called an “internal martial art” because it is graceful and soft, rather than hard and gymnastic. Tai chi is often practiced in groups, so it has the added benefit of increasing socialization.

Tai chi and other exercise routines are not just for seniors: caregivers and people of all ages can benefit from some form of regular exercise. You don’t have to bounce up and down on a Stair Master or pump iron to get lasting health benefits.

Read more about the health and fitness benefits of tai chi at

”FIVE MINUTES WITH…” Bill Keane Discusses the Future of Nursing Homes

We continue our occasional series of interviews with provocative professionals in the field of aging with our latest installment of “Five Minutes With…” Of course five minutes isn’t much time to discuss these important issues, but it does give us an opportunity to start to think of them on our own and with fellow caregivers.

I spoke with Bill Keane on March 14 about the origins of the current crisis in nursing home care and the vision that activists like himself have for the future of nursing homes. Bill is the Director of Dementia Services at the Mather Institute on Aging (affiliated with Mather LifeWays retirement communities

You can read the complete interview at

MY PARENTS, MYSELF: A Monthly Column by Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop

Dear Phyllis:

My mother’s neighbor called last week to say that my mother fell without being able to get up. I called mother and asked her why she hadn’t called and made it clear that she simply couldn’t live alone anymore. My mother replied that it was her life and she’d do what she wants. I’m at my wit’s end! What should I do? Mary T.

Dear Mary:

Your exasperation is understandable. But let’s assume that behind your mother’s bravado is someone scared because she feels she’s losing more and more control of her life. When you approach her with exasperation and talk to her as if she were a child, her immediate response is to act like one and dig in her heels. However, knowing how she might be feeling may make it possible to approach her with some sympathy and understanding.

For example, you might say how sorry you are that she’s fallen and how frightening it must be to just feel her legs give out under her.  In this way, you’re conveying an expression of concern and understanding.

Something else you want her to know is that you worry about her living alone and think about what can happen if she isn’t able to drag herself to the phone. There’s a good chance then that she’ll acknowledge your worry but still insist that she wants to stay in her own home. This will hopefully be the beginning of a discussion about how you can both work together to figure out what kinds of help and support would make this possible. If she’s willing to let you be involved in helping her this way, you’ve made great strides toward insuring her safety and your peace of mind.

Maybe it will help you to know that children’s exasperation at their parents’ rejection of their well-intentioned help is a familiar story. It’s important to remember that whether you like your mother’s decision or not, as long as she’s capable of making decisions, they’re hers to make. Her health and safety, while primary, need to be managed together with her in the driver’s seat. P.K.H.

Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop is a trained social worker and has practiced as a psychotherapist for 26 years. He has also received training in coaching. The past few years, she has focused her practice on working with adult children with elderly parents and the problems that arise as the parents become more and more needy. Her website is

2002 Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop. Reprinted With Permission

CAREGIVER STORE: Prism Personal Organizer and Medical Planner + FREE Online Tutorial

Our two workbooks, the Prism Personal Organizer and the Prism Medical Manager are designed to take some of the load off of your back when it comes to record-keeping and the day-to-day management of medical affairs.

Both workbooks offer practical worksheets to collect information that is useful when filling out forms for your loved one, applications for government benefits, hospital records, and the detailed information that your doctor wants you to follow. The Medical Manager also helps you keep track of your loved one’s condition so that you have a record of questions you want to ask the doctor, changes that have occurred over time in your loved one, and issues that need to be raised.

Normally we sell the two workbooks separately, but we have combined them into a Special Edition – what normally would cost you almost $24 is available for only $15.95. The Special Edition includes the two workbooks, as well as access to a password-protected section of the website that includes new downloadable worksheets.

To place your order in our secure online store, visit us at If you have any questions, call us toll free at 1-888-774-7655.

Throughout this month we continue to offer a special bonus: If you buy ANY product from our store (including the Prism Personal Organizer/Medical Planner) we will give you free lifetime access to our “Managing Medicines Safely” online tutorial.

Visit our store now and claim your free “Managing Medicines Safely” online tutorial at You can order online with our secure credit card processor, or call us at 1-888-774-7655 to place your order.


I have known Beverly Bigtree Murphy for a few years now. When I first came across her website, I was so impressed with her straight-forward attention to the ethical, emotional, and physical care issues associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was out first featured author, and still one of the most popular writers on our websites.

Her voice and style is unique. She has been through the trenches. Not only has she lived to tell about it, she has more ideas and wisdom to impart than any of the other caregiving authors. He book “he used to be somebody” is always on my recommended reading list for new and experienced caregivers.

Her website offers numerous articles on such topics as “Challenging Bias and Negative Attitudes on Alzheimer’s Disease,” “The Team Approach to Caregiving,” and “Turning the Home into a More User-Friendly Environment.” You can visit Beverly’s website at You can also read additional articles by Beverly on our Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Channel at



lifestation.gif (1703 bytes)

Senior home alone? What will they do in case of an emergency?

Devices such as a medical alert from Lifestation can get help fast in case of a fall or other emergency situation. Just push the lightweight help button and help will be on the line in a matter of seconds. Lifestation can summon 911 or call your neighbor or a loved one. It's simple. In the event of an emergency, Lifestation could save your life.

Get their free brochure by calling 800-884-8888 and mention code “EC2” for a special discount. Visit their website at



The Caregiver’s Beacon is published bimonthly by ElderCare Online and ALZwell Caregiver Support. To subscribe to this free newsletter, visit the subscription information page at

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