Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Caregiver Trainings

By Deanna Leyh

Familylinks' Caregivers First Initiative is offering trainings on various caregiving topics for caregivers, businesses and agencies, and employers. If you or someone you know is looking for trainings on caregiving issues, check out our free trainings below and contact us if you find one that interests you! Familylinks is looking to increase community awareness and knowledge of caregiving and related issues, so we are hoping to reach as many community members as possible through the Caregivers First Initiative and through FREE trainings and presentations that we offer to the public.

The New Second Shift: Balancing Your Work with Family Caregiving
Many people are working full- or part-time jobs while also caring for a family member, friend, neighbor, etc., which can be very stressful. Working caregivers often struggle with maintaining their careers while fulfilling their caregiving duties at the same time. Learn about strategies and community resources to help balance your work life with being a caregiver.

Understanding Dementia
Whether you’re a caregiver, a family member, a friend, or a professional, many people are in some way affected by dementia. Learn about different types of dementia, the disease-process, common symptoms and behaviors, as well as best-practice tips and strategies to help support people living with dementia.

Tough Topics in Aging  
When you’re caring for someone who is aging, it can be tough to assist them through the changes that are needed in their lives to keep them safe.  Learn about the different types of issues that may arise as people age and strategies to help you have the difficult conversations about those issues like: when to stop driving, long-term care arrangements, changes in condition, advance directives and end-of-life wishes, grief and bereavement, just to name a few.  

Stress Management
Stress is a part of everyone’s life—some stress can be good, but what do you do when stress starts to impact your ability to perform your daily tasks and enjoy your day? Learn about different types of stress, short-term and long-term stress management, and a variety of tips and techniques to help manage your stress.

Better Business Practices: Supporting Caregivers in Your Workforce
With an increase in how long people are living, there are more non-paid family caregivers of older adults. Many of those caregivers are still in the workforce trying to balance caregiving with working. Learn about the strategies and beneficial outcomes of supporting caregivers in your workforce. 

Family Caregiving 101
Becoming a caregiver for an older adult can lead to isolation, stress, and poor health. Learn about resources and tools you need to cope with the demands of caregiving.

Managing the Medical Maze
Caregiver’s help those they’re caring for navigate complex medical systems. Learn resources and strategies for managing appointments, physician interactions, insurances, medications and more. 

*We may also develop trainings based on a specific topic you have in mind.

If interested in any of these trainings, please contact Deanna Leyh Page at 412-694-6146 or by email at

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Having Trouble Communicating with your Loved One?

By Deanna Leyh

Are you having trouble communicating with your loved one? Maybe they have dementia and are having difficulty understanding you or processing what you say to them. Or perhaps they have trouble hearing, and it’s difficult for them to separate voices from background noise or hearing certain frequencies. Whatever the reason may be, there are some things that may be able to help you communicate better with your loved one.

It may sound obvious, but speak loudly, clearly, and slowly. You may be thinking, “Well, duh!”, but it’s something you need to remind yourself of from time to time when you talk with them. Remember not to shout, but to speak loudly and to try to enunciate your words and not to slur them together. Also, speak slowly—it may sound to you like you’re speaking at a snail’s pace. However, it can be hard for some people to separate words from each other when others are speaking too fast.

You can also try to get closer to your loved when you speak with them and get down on their level. It may also help to gesture or use your hands or objects to demonstrate what you’re talking about so that your loved one may better understand. Also, if there is a lot of background noise, it can be difficult to keep track of the conversation; if necessary, turn down the volume on the radio or the television. Or if there’s a lot of people around for the holidays, perhaps talk with them beforehand about not being too loud or boisterous around your loved one. Don’t forget to take a deep breath and remain calm, because when you get frustrated or angry, it can get your loved one frustrated too.

Sometimes the issue isn’t their actual hearing, but that they have trouble processing language or understanding the meaning of certain words, such as if they have dementia. If this is the case, perhaps also try to break down the directives that you’re giving your loved one. For example, instead of saying “Mom, get ready to go to the grocery store,” instead say, “Mom, slide your feet into your shoes. Now let’s put your jacket on. Let’s get your purse.” When you give more simple directives, it’s a good idea to give one at a time, and pause between directives to give them time to process. You may need to break down the language that you’re using and use simpler terms that they understand. Also, you may need to demonstrate what you mean, or assist them with certain steps.

If they seem to be having trouble picking up certain sounds or frequencies, perhaps think about taking them to an audiologist to see about assistive devices that can help them hear better, such as hearing aids or amplifiers. It can be depressing, frustrating, and isolating for older adults to hear a third of the conversation and feel like they can’t participate in the discussion because they don’t know what everyone is saying. Remember to be respectful when talking them about their hearing or processing difficulties.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Showing Appreciation for Caregivers

By Cameron Smith

It’s the season to recognize the things in your life that you’re thankful for. Along with Thanksgiving, celebrate National Caregiver Month this November. National Caregiver Month is a time to let caregivers know how much we appreciate what they do. Caregiving is often a full-time job, tiring, and stressful. Whether you know a caregiver or not, there are plenty of ways you can participate this month. If you’d like to honor caregivers everywhere in November, here are a few ideas for ways to do so.

Giving to an organization that assists caregivers is the perfect way to honor them. There are plenty of organizations that provide resources, classes, and more for caregivers. Look up ones in your area and see if there’s a way to donate money or time towards their cause. If you’re passionate about fighting a certain disease such as Alzheimer’s or breast cancer, donating to organizations that specialize in these fields is a great help. These groups also typically provide excellent information to help out caregivers.

If you don’t have enough money or time to volunteer to the cause, you can help out by sharing this month’s purpose with others. Perhaps you can share a post on social media thanking caregivers and encouraging others to do so. Social media is a wonderful way to spread knowledge and positivity, so take advantage of this medium for National Caregiver Month.

If you personally know caregivers, there are many ways you can recognize their work. After doing some research on caregiver resources in your area, be sure to share them with a caregiver you know. It’s so helpful to speak with others in the same situation or to learn more about how to be a great caregiver. Sharing resources is an easy way to let a caregiver know that you’re thinking of them and you’d like to help make their job easier.

A gift or some time off are both wonderful things to give to a caregiver. Taking care of another person often brings on a lot of stress, so help them relieve some stress with a gift certificate to a spa or an offer to stay with their patient for a few hours. If you do plan on taking over their duties, be sure to ask ahead of time so you know you have all the resources to properly do the job.

Cameron Smith is an Outreach Coordinator passionate about personal safety. She shares safety information across the web including SimpliSafe's Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving: The Perfect Time for Family Meetings

By Deanna Leyh
The Thanksgiving holiday is less than two weeks away, and as families come together, it can be the perfect time to hold a family meeting. With out-of-state and long-distance family members gathering for the holiday, this is a good opportunity to talk about important issues going on with your loved one, such as long-term care planning, changes in condition, taking the keys away, health care decisions, living wills, etc. Below are some helpful tips as you prepare to hold your family meeting around the holiday that can help ensure that the conversation goes as smoothly as possible!

1)      Plan out who should be involved in the meeting. Most likely you’ll want core family members and other members of your loved one’s care team. Think about whether you want the care recipient present at the meeting or not. If some people aren’t able to be there, try having them call in or video chat so that they can still take part.

2)      Set up a comfortable, neutral location for the meeting to take place in, and try to plan out a good time to hold the meeting. Should it take place in the morning, evening, or after holding dinner?

3)      Set up an agenda for the meeting and start off by letting your family know about the goal of the meeting and what you’re hoping to accomplish by holding it. Be prepared for if things get heated. Set some ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, like taking a break if things start to get out of control or not allowing foul language or blaming each other.

4)      Share information to keep everyone on the same page during the conversation. Talk about any information related to the topic of the conversation, such as recent medical appointments, services in the home, power of attorney documents, etc.

5)      Assign tasks if necessary to family members and create a step-by-step plan on how you will accomplish the goals of your plan. Also, plan to do follow-up at a pre-set time in the future to check in with your family and see if you need to make any adjustments to your plan.

By following these tips, you can have a happy holiday with your family and also hold a successful family meeting!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tips For Keeping Your Heart Healthy

By Chloe Pearson
Photo: Pixabay


Most people think getting a healthy heart means that you need to be working out constantly and limiting how much unhealthy food you eat. Although this is somewhat correct, there are many simple things that can be done to help keep your heart healthy. Keep reading to find out some of our easiest and best tips! 


Eat fiber

Fiber is proven to lower your risk of heart disease. You should try to aim for at least 30 grams per day. Try to eat a variety of foods with fiber in them, such as whole grain bread, bran, and oats, but mainly, lots of vegetables.


Drink less alcohol and add more pure water

People tend to forget that alcohol contains calories, and drinking regularly has been shown to have a noticeable impact on your waistline. To avoid a serious problem with your health, keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits. Drinking lots of pure water in its place will make your heart and body much happier and healthier.


Don’t just look at the scale

Checking your weight is a good idea sometimes. However, it’s important to look at more than just the number. You can track your progress in other ways. Some of these include having fitness goals and achieving them over time, measuring your waistline, or reducing your body fat percentage. Simply looking in the mirror and seeing the changes in your body works, too!


Eat more fish

Eating fish twice per week can help protect your heart against disease. This includes fish such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna, and salmon, as well as supplementing with high-quality omega-3 pills. (However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not have more than two portions of oily fish per week.)



Being active is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Whether you are going for a 15-minute walk around the block, working out at the gym or at home, lifting weights, or taking a dip in the pool, your body will thank you. No matter what you choose to do, try to get your heart rate up every single day.



If your blood pressure gets too high, this extra force can damage your artery walls and create scar tissue. This makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to and from your heart. As a result, your heart has to pump harder, and will wear out faster. It is important to know what stresses you out as well as how to calm yourself down when you feel yourself getting worked up. Understanding this about yourself will help maintain your heart’s health.


Love life

This tip ties right into the last tip: you should do more of what you love! This will inevitably mean that you are stressed out less. Whether you enjoy meditation, yoga, walks with your dog, or spending time in nature, make your favorite activities a priority at least a few times a week.  Make it a point to spend time with people that make you feel good about yourself and that you can talk to, laugh with, and confide in. It’s good for your emotional health as well as your heart.


Reward yourself

Making small changes can still take time and effort. Make sure that you reward yourself for every positive step you take towards a healthier heart. You can ask your friends and family for support, or you can even ask them to join you on your quest for improved health. Your heart’s future will be better for it!


Having a healthy heart is an important part of an overall healthier you. Remember, small changes can make a huge difference! Start by picking one of these tips and incorporating it into your routine. Once it feels natural to you, implement a new one. You will be on your way to a healthier and happier you.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It’s That Time of Year…Medicare Enrollment!

By Deanna Leyh

It’s open enrollment for Medicare, which means you have from now until December to think about your health care needs and the best health and drug plans for you! Open enrollment runs from October 15th until December 7th, so there’s only a little over a month left for you to make your elections.

How will you decide whether you want original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? Or if you want a Medigap plan? How about choosing which supplemental is the best for you? There are a lot of questions that can come up as you think about what plan would be best for you. Information is key if you have questions, so check out the Medicare website at to start finding answers. Here you can find out the costs of various plans, see what services each plan covers, look into supplements and other insurances, and even apply or change your plan online.

Additionally, the APPRISE program in Allegheny County is a great local resource that offers free volunteer insurance counselors that can help answer your questions related to health insurance and help you make decisions about Medicare, Medicaid benefits, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), long-term care insurance, and supplemental insurance. To connect with APPRISE or to learn more about their services, call 412-661-1438 or email, or visit their website at

Don’t wait until the last minute to pick your Medicare plan for 2018—time is running out! Make sure that you have all of the information and knowledge you need to make the right choice and to ensure that you get the best healthcare coverage for yourself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

By Deanna Leyh

With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, it is important to be aware of the 10 most common early signs and symptoms of dementia. Knowing these signs of dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association can help you know the differences between typical age-related changes and dementia and to be aware of possible dementia in your loved ones or even yourself. Share these signs with someone you know and help spread awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.



Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.



People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game

What's a typical age-related change?

 Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.



People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.



For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Vision changes related to cataracts.



People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.



A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.



People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making a bad decision once in a while.



A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.


The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.