The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter


The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
July 2004                                                                                        Vol. 7 No. 2
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: “Homecare Do’s and Don’ts” by Steven Schwartzman
Elder Journal: “A Strong Body for a Stronger Memory” by Paul Takayanagi
“My Parents, Myself:” A Column from Phyllis Kramer Hirschkop
Caregiver Store: The Prism Complete Planner and Organizer Special Edition
Top Alzheimers/Caregiving Websites: Human Values in Aging
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 FEATURE ARTICLE: “Homecare Do’s and Don’ts” by Steven Schawartzman

Arranging homecare for aging parents can be a difficult process for many different reasons, but in the end the solution is not complicated. That is, if you have high quality homecare personnel providing the care, you will at least be able to rest easy knowing that your parents are well cared for.

Read the complete article with five “Do’s” and five “Don’ts” by Steven Schwartzman, a noted geriatric care manager in New York City at

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

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.


The Institute on Human Values and Aging is a program of the International Longevity Center-USA, under support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It is involved in research and public education related to issues raised by the coming of an aging society: in particular, applied ethics, late-life creativity, lifelong learning, and the search for meaning in the second half of life.

The Human Values in Aging UPDATE is a free monthly electronic newsletter containing news about humanistic gerontology, including topics such as lifelong learning, conscious aging, autobiography and life-review, and geriatric bioethics. It is published every three weeks under the sponsorship of the International Longevity Center and available at no charge, upon request by sending an e-mail to:

For an Archive of issues of the Newsletter, visit the ILC website at: 


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