The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter

The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
July 1, 2006                                                                                        Vol. 9 No. 4
ALZwell Caregiver Support and ElderCare Online and
Serving the Needs of Caregivers Since 1996


If you have trouble with links, the complete issue is available online at

Feature Article: “Identifying and Reducing Stress in Your Life” by Shirlee Ann Stokes and Susan E. Gordon
Prism Learning Library: Personal Finance
Elder Journal: “A Strong Body for a Stronger Memory” by Paul Takayanagi
Caregiving Tip: Good Computer Hygiene
“My Parents, Myself:” A Column from Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop
Caregiver Store: The Prism Complete Planner and Organizer Special Edition
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FEATURE ARTICLE: “Identifying and Reducing Stress in Your Life” by Shirlee Ann Stokes, RN, EdD, FAAN and Susan E. Gordon, RN, EdD

We all experience stress in our lives. Sometimes we feel more stressed than at other times. Stress is anything that the person sees as stressful. It is like pain, if an individual states they have pain, then they have pain. If an individual perceives a situation as stressful, then it is stressful. Stress is self-defined.

Stress is associated with difficult events or situations. Events such as loss of a driver’s license, death of a loved one, and being hospitalized are indeed stressful events or stressors. In these instances stress is associated with negative situations. But remember: stress can be elicited from happy occasions as well. Going on vacation, moving to a retirement community, or visits from family can also produce stress. These times might be happily anticipated, but can be fraught with feelings of anxiety and stress. Will everything go well? Are all the plans set? Have I packed everything I need?

We all know that big events in our lives can be stressful. Death of a child or being audited by the IRS are strong and well understood stressors. These stressors mark profound changes in our lives to which we must adjust. Along with the big stressors, the little daily hassles can also take their tool. Situations such as, being a passenger in a car with an erratic driver, having your refrigerator breakdown, getting an unexpected bill, suffering from chronic discomfort or pain, completing the myriad number of forms needed for Medicare, taxes, and insurance are everyday stresses we all face. These smaller chronic, long term stressors can be just as debilitating as a single large event.

You can read the complete article at

Dr. Shirlee Ann Stokes received her Bachelors and Masters degrees from Ohio State University. She earned her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Stokes' clinical specialty area is adult and gerontologic nursing and her major research area has been stress and aging. With Dr. Susan Gordon, they have developed a tool to measure level of stress in individuals 65 years of ages and over. Currently, Drs. Gordon and Stokes are conducting studies related to stress in the elderly, including the development of an Instrument (Health Diary) to Measure Health in the Elderly.

PRISM LEARNING LIBRARY: Personal Finance Library

We are always looking to improve the information that we offer to our members. We recently arranged to add almost 350 new articles to the website. That is an amazing amount of helpful articles. They cover the range of topics that are of interest to our members. We have found that our members need valuable information on an even fuller range of topics, including personal finance, grief and loss, credit and debt, medical conditions, and stress management. We are gradually working to incorporate these new article libraries into our website.

Our latest addition is a mini-library on “Personal Finance” topics. I have always found this area to be of personal interest to many of our female community members. Women live longer than men and often have to carry full responsibility for financial matters for themselves if they are independent by choice, or by widowhood or divorce. The library can be accessed at

In the coming weeks and months we will be adding mini-libraries on “Diabetes” and “Depression.” Please take the time to surf though these new article libraries.

ELDER JOURNAL: “A Strong Body for a Stronger Memory” by Paul Takayangi

The importance of being physically fit and maintaining memory skills is becoming more apparent through numerous studies nationwide.  There are a number of reasons why researchers are correlating stronger memory with a strong body.  A study by the MacArthur Foundation found that exercise had a profound effect on the brains of adult subjects of a major research project.  The study found that an increase in exercise had a simultaneous increase in chemical substances in the brain that promotes new brain cell growth.  The findings suggested that exercise enhances memory function.  Another national study found that older people who have a regular exercise routine do better on memory tasks.  The same study found that immediately after exercising, people are able to learn and remember new information more effectively than if they were sedentary.

Exercise increases the blood flow of the entire body and gives your brain more oxygen and other important nutrients.  In addition, research has shown that increased exercise promotes feelings of well-being and can reduce depressive feelings in older people.  Endorphins, the brain’s natural “feel good” chemicals, are released when you exercise.  This is important because people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and their caregivers often report feelings of depression in their daily lives.  A regular exercise program for both persons with dementia and their caregivers can help to alleviate or reduce these feelings.  Studies have also shown a correlation between feelings of depression and cognitive dysfunction.  Sometimes, what appears to be dementia is actually acute depression.  This is why it is imperative for a person to be clinically assessed for depression who has recently begun to display dementia symptoms.

Read Paul’s complete column at

CAREGIVING TIP: Good Computer Hygiene

Over the past several weeks I have also been inundated with virus attachments in my mailbox. I have a fairly wide network of friends, caregivers, and colleagues, so I feel that I am particularly vulnerable to attacks. Yesterday I spent a good two hours running scans on my mailbox and hard-drive (I even reloaded my mail software and upgraded my security settings).

Here are some steps that you can take to prevent and cure viruses:

  • Use an anti-virus software package such as Norton or McAfee. This is money well-spent! You can purchase the software from any computer or office supply store, as well as from many online providers. You can find links to purchase the software (including rebate information) in the ElderCare Bookstore at
  • The Norton website ( has free downloads of emergency virus cleaning applications. The Klez virus seems to be the culprit here... search for Klez on the Norton website for a free diagnostic and patch.
  • Do not open e-mail attachments EVEN IF you know the sender. You should be especially wary of attachments that end in .pif, .vbs, .bat, .scr, .exe, and other computerese endings. Some .doc and .xls files may also have viruses, but those are very uncommon these days. If someone sends you an attachment that you were not expecting, email them back and make certain.
  • Set E-mail security options for "high-alert" or "most secure." Depending on what email package you use, you will have to configure it yourself. Outlook Express and Outlook (both made by Microsoft) are notorious for their vulnerability. If you have the option, select a different package. You can also visit for updates and security "patches" that are designed to counter new viruses. I will not be the first to say that the Microsoft website is not user-friendly. But you have to live with it.
  • Make a backup of your files. It is a wise practice to save a copy of your most commonly used files onto a Zip disk or a CD-rom every month or so (I do it every two weeks). This way if you do get a major virus, you can always reload your files. Also, save all of the CDs and packaging from software that you purchase so that you can reload programs.

I hope that we all make our way through this recent wave of viruses. With a little preparation and street smarts, we can be safe and secure.

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

Dear Phyllis:

My mother is 75 years old and has lived alone since my dad died 7 years ago. She is alert mentally but has a number of physical problems about which she constantly complains to her children. My problem is I can’t get her to go to the doctor although she continues to drive my sisters and me crazy.

How do I get her to go to the doctor?


Dear Kaye:

Many families experience the same frustration in trying to get a reluctant parent to the doctor so you need to first decide how urgent the problem is. Does it appear to be something life threatening, in which case you need to act promptly, or are your mother’s complaints those of someone growing old?   It it’s the latter, there isn’t any immediate need to act.

Next you want to determine what’s behind her refusal to see a doctor.  Has she had a bad experience with doctors? Does her reluctance to seek medical advice stem from her fear of learning that something serious may be wrong? If she’s generally someone who has trusted doctors and, as far as you know, hasn’t felt restrained in talking about her complaints with them, then I would guess that she’s probably frightened that there might be something seriously wrong with her health. If one of her parents or siblings died of a disease such as cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease, this may heighten her anxiety about seeing a doctor.

I’m sure her behavior seems irrational to you. After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to deal with a problem than to let it go unattended? Well, unfortunately, fear and anxiety tend to overtake logic, and many people stick their heads in the sand or procrastinate or find creative ways of avoiding facing the problem. Such avoidance techniques may be intensified in old age.

You should also consider your level of concern. Are you getting upset because you think there’s a serious problem or because your mother is driving you crazy and you’d love to involve an expert to help find a solution?

I agree that consulting a doctor to find out if there might be a serious illness would ultimately assuage your mother’s and your anxiety. However, you need to remember that your mother is of sound mind and that she has the right to be the final arbiter of what she will and won’t do. Therefore you need to direct your efforts to her underlying fears.

A conversation might go something like this: “Mom, I know there must be good reason for you to refuse to see a doctor. I was thinking that it must be scary to experience physical changes that make it hard to do the things you’ve always done. It’s as if your body has betrayed you and you’re angry and punishing it for its betrayal. In addition, I know that grandma and one of her sisters died of cancer, which must add to your worries about your own health. But I want you to know that my sisters and I worry about you and want to do everything in our power to keep you healthy. The problem is that we don’t know what to do to help you unless you see a doctor. So I hope that you’ll reconsider your decision. I’d be very happy to go with you to the doctor if that would make it easier for you.”

If your mother agrees to reconsider her decision, you’ve made a lot of progress. The chances are that if you give her some time to express her feelings, she’ll eventually agree to see a doctor.

Try also to give her some options. Explain that if she doesn’t want to see her regular doctor, there are geriatric physicians, geriatric care centers, and nurses who’ll come to her home. Be sure to talk with your family and your mother’s friends, some of whom could assist you in encouraging your mother to have a physical examination. Talk with her current physician, who may have experience in getting reluctant older patients to come in for a visit.

Remember that your mother has the right to decide how she wants to live out the remaining years of her life and, although you don’t make the decisions for her, you have a lot of influence as her loving daughter.


CAREGIVER STORE: The Prism Complete Organizer and Planner Special Edition

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.


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