The Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter

The Caregiver’s Beacon (tm)
“Tell me why – Show me how – Hold my hand”
November 1, 2005                                                                                 Vol. 8 No. 2
ALZwell Caregiver Support and ElderCare Online and
Serving the Needs of Caregivers Since 1996

Dear Friends,

Some of the most beneficial lifestyle changes are also the most difficult to make. How many times have you been advised, directly or indirectly, to eat more sensibly or get off your duff and sweat a little? And what if I were to tell you that these lifestyle changes would not only make you healthier, but also help you sleep better and reduce your blood pressure? A healthy diet and moderate exercise have just become even more important to you the caregiver.

A recent study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that older women caregivers slept better and lowered their blood pressure reactivity in response to stress tests after participating in a moderate exercise program compared to a group of women who only received nutrition counseling. The bottom line is that caregivers who exercised four times a week (such as with 30-40 minutes of brisk walking) showed significant improvements to their health.

Why does all of this matter? Studies show that family caregiving accompanied by emotional strain is an independent risk factor for mortality among older adults – caregiving can kill you! The study gives us some evidence that a self-directed exercise program can reduce stress reactions and perhaps improve the health of caregivers. This pilot intervention trial provides encouraging results and hope for a low-cost, effective means to combat caregiver stress.

Now comes the hard part: Building these changes into your lifestyle. There are a million and one excuses for not making these types of changes. But the first response should be to look for ways to gradually incorporate some positive changes into your lifestyle. Start by walking two days each week and gradually increase the length of time and number of days; substitute low-fat and low-sodium foods; read about better nutrition (and that doesn’t mean fad diets and miracle supplements); talk with your doctor about your special needs and limitations; and above all else, move into it gradually. After a few weeks, you will see results.

I do not believe fad diets, inappropriate supplementation, or instant results. Given the challenges that you are already confronting and mastering as caregivers, I have confidence that each of you will be able to make changes to your lifestyles.


Feature Article: Talking with Aging Parents About Finances by Mark Edinberg, Ph.D.
Book Review: “My Mother’s Voice” by Sally Callahan
Caregiver Store: Prism Personal Organizer and Medical Manager Special Edition
Healthy Aging: “Influenza and Pneumonia in Older People” by Rich O’Boyle
Healthy Aging: High Blood Pressure in Older People
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FEATURE ARTICLE: Talking with Aging Parents About Finances by Mark Edinberg, Ph.D.

Some years ago, I would go out to Senior Citizen Centers and have workshops on “You and your middle aged children.” My first question to the group was “What do your (middle aged) children have trouble talking to you about?” The standard answers were (1), money, (2), death, and (3) sex/relationships. Then I would be invited to a group of Junior Citizens (us middle aged people) for a presentation on Aging Parents.  I would ask them the same question: “What do your (aging) parents have trouble talking to you about?” and, lo and behold they would give the same answers: money, death, and sex/relationships.

I am not sure why generations have trouble discussing money and finances, but at least from my informal research, money is at or near the top of the list of difficult topics. Many older adults were raised during the Great Depression, where resources were scarce and money very hard to come by. The relative wealth of today’s middle class is new and, for some, uncomfortable. The older generation(s) has different norms about sharing information about its finances than younger members do, although, obviously, families can vary greatly in their initial willingness to discuss finances and financial planning.

To read the complete article that includes tips on how to get the conversation started, as well as what to say and when to say it, go to

BOOK REVIEW: “My Mother’s Voice” by Sally Callahan

In a very honest and poignant manner the author shares her experiences and the knowledge she gained while serving as her mother’s primary caregiver for more than ten years. It is an invaluable source for information, short "to do" lists and guidance for anyone who has a loved one that has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, but it’s particular strengths are legal and end-of-life issues.

“My Mother’s Voice” is an extraordinary book written by an extraordinary individual. What makes author Sally Callahan so unique is the unconditional and selfless love, which guided and controlled all she did during her agonizing fifteen-year journey as her mother’s primary caregiver-surrogate. It was this love that helped her to focus purely on her mother’s needs and wishes while dealing with the formidable task of caring for her mother. As she helplessly witnessed her mother’s slow deterioration from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease, she was also suddenly thrust into a world fraught with difficult medical, legal and financial decisions, conflicts with siblings and at time medical professionals, and the physical and emotional exhaustion which plagues the caregiver on a daily basis.

You can read the complete review at You may purchase the book on or browse through other caregiving books, reviews and excerpts in the ElderCare Bookstore at

CAREGIVER STORE: Prism Personal Organizer and Medical Manager Special Edition

In the last few weeks I have received a handful of very pointed questions about how to best keep track of a loved one’s medical condition, as well as how to insulate oneself from accusations of abuse. 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 $15.95 for a limited time this month. 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

HEALTHY AGING: “Influenza and Pneumonia in Older People” by Rich O’Boyle

Most of us have gotten used to coming down with at least one bad cold each winter. Suffering through the sniffles, coughs, and fatigue for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. But for the elderly, winter maladies such as a bad cold, the flu, or pneumonia can be deadly.

Influenza, commonly call “the flu,” is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. Flu may, less often, be spread when a person touches a surface that has flu viruses on it – a door handle, for instance – and then touches his or her nose or mouth. It’s a good idea to steer clear of people who have the flu or recently got over an infection. It also makes sense to keep your hands clean.

To read the complete article, go to

HEALTHY AGING: High Blood Pressure in Older People by Rich O’Boyle

When people think of high blood pressure they often envision a stressed out rush hour commuter honking the horn, or a red-faced parent scolding a child. But high blood pressure, or hypertension, commonly has no symptoms, and most people don’t even know that they have it until it has damaged their heart or brain. It is aptly named “the silent killer.”

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one in four adults, have a continuously elevated pressure of the blood moving through their arteries. For adults aged 70 and older, that number rises dramatically to two out of three. High blood pressure significantly increases your risk for getting heart disease and/or kidney disease, and for having a stroke. While there may be no symptoms, and people affected by high blood pressure may feel fine, some may experience dizziness, palpitations, sweating, and headaches.

To read the complete article, which contains tips on preventing and treating high blood pressure as well as special considerations for the elderly, go to

Note: This article is one of the many new features on the subject of “Healthy Aging.” They are intended to be applicable to caring for your loved one as well as yourself, so I hope that you find them doubly useful. Be sure to visit our new and improved “Healthy Aging Channel” at for more articles on health, fitness, exercise, nutrition, lifestyles, and emotional well-being for people 50+.


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