Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Take Care...and Come Visit Us This Week!

by Emily Anderson

Deanna and I, who write this blog, work for a Familylinks' program called the Caregivers First Initiative (CFI). Thanks to the United Way, CFI is a free service for caregivers of older adults. We spend our days meeting one-on-one with caregivers to find resources, problem-solve stressful things at home, and deal with the stress of taking care of a loved one. Along with our professional expertise, our daily involvement with caregivers highlights the issues that are important to address on this blog.

If you've thought about contacting us at CFI but wanted to test us out first, here is your chance! We will be presenting Take Care: Staying Healthy as a Caregiver this Thursday, May 26th at 7:00pm at Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, PA. We will be discussing stress management, problem solving, and common caregiver situations. A caregiver who participated in the CFI program will be bravely sharing her thoughts and experiences as well.

Come out, come out, wherever you are! Bring your neighbor or friend who is a caregiver, but hasn't admitted it yet! We'll provide the refreshments, you provide the questions.

RSVP to Dave at 412-992-7821 or to let us know you'll be joining. We hope to see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

O.K. at Fitness

by Emily Anderson

Olga Kotelko set 37 world records in track and field--all after the age of seventy five, and almost half of them after the age of ninety. Scientists flocked to her side to study her brain, her metabolism, her attitude toward life. Some of these studies helped researchers determine that how we age is partly due to genetics, but about 75% is due to our lifestyle. During her lifetime, Olga inspired many people to live "the O.K. way," defying age and expectations to live with energy and vigor.

Becoming a track and field star may not be a top priority for you or your loved one, but you could bring a taste of O.K.'s energy into your life by starting some spring exercise. In this recent article, a UPMC orthopedic surgeon discussed safe ways for older adults to get fit. If you don't have time to read the full article, here are the takeaway lessons:

1. It's never too late to start exercising

Older people and people with lots of health problems should start out with low intensity activities, like swimming or short walks to build up strength. If the doctor has cleared you for exercise though, age is not a factor.

2. Any amount of exercise is good

Just about anything is better than sitting on the couch all day. Eventually you want to aim to get the heart rate up for about 30 minutes a day, but until exercise becomes a routine, start with whatever seems manageable.

3. Don't overdo it

Some people get excited and push themselves too hard, resulting in sore limbs and swollen joints. Start with something that feels easy, and then gradually add to the exercise routine as your strength grows. Mix up your activities to avoid putting too much stress on one area of the body.

4. Don't quit

Often people think, "Oh I exercised yesterday, that means I don't have to today," or they get a little sore and give themselves a day off. But then you lose the strength you have gained from the previous days! Instead, choose a different type of exercise or a lower intensity exercise.

If you're not sure where to start, try something simple like a walk or going up and down the stairs in your house. If you need a little more inspiration, try a modern resource: YouTube! There are tons of free fitness videos that will accommodate whatever limitations you have.

Whether you're trying to get in shape yourself or help your loved one be more active, the biggest hurdle is getting started! You might not win 750 gold medals like O.K., but you will be rewarded with better health and more energy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Get Smart -- May

by Emily Anderson

Events, resource fairs, and classes are springing up all over the place! Here are six events coming up you may want to check out:

1. Supporting People with Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias and Their Families

Thursday, May 12th, 1:00-4:00pm
Vintage, 421 N. Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
This class is intended for professionals, but the themes of understanding dementia, learning about communication, and using community resources are useful for family and loved ones as well. It's free for the first 40 participants and then $10 to attend for additional guests. Click here to register.

2. Senator Vulakovic's Senior and Disability Resource Event

Friday May 13th, 10:00am-1:00pm
Springdale Veterans Association, 1151 Pittsburgh St, Springdale
Drop in to hear speakers and find out about local resources!

3. Caregiver Trainings

Wednesdays, May 18th, 25th, & June 1st, 10:00am-12:30pm
AAA, 2100 Wharton St, 2nd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15203
These Red-Cross approved trainings cover topics including personal care for physically limited adults, home safety, dealing with dementia, nutrition, and legal and financial issues. To register for the free classes, call Brenda Slagle at (412) 350-4996.

4. Where to Turn Resource Event

Tuesday, May 24th 9:00am-4:00pm
David Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown Pittsburgh
Drop in to the convention center to hear speakers and find out about local resources!

5. Take Care: Staying Health as a Caregiver by Familylinks

Thursday, May 26th, 7:00-8:00pm
Christ United Methodist Church, 44 Highland Rd, Bethel Park
This special panel is presented by yours truly! We will be discussing problem-solving, self care, and other common challenges caregivers face. A graduate of our program will also be present to share her experiences. Join us for refreshments and a conversation you will find useful. It's free, but please RSVP by calling (412) 992-7821 or emailing Dave at

6. Pharmacologic Interventions for Dementia Syndromes

Tuesday, June 7th, 4:00-5:30pm
Online Webinar
Intended for professionals, this session provides a review of the good, the bad, and the hopeful medicines for people with dementia. There will be discussions of what to look out for, new options, and new research. The first 50 participants are free, but it's $25 to attend after that. Click here to register.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be."

--quote from Robert Browning

By Emily Anderson

May is Older Americans Month! On this blog, we usually focus on the more difficult aspects of aging, including disease, decline, and death. But that's not all there is to aging, far from it!

Consider this video, from the AARP's "Disrupt Aging" campaign:

The video shows young people who think of older adults as disabled, weak, and confused when in fact they are strong, active, and curious people. This is called "ageism," a prejudice and fear against older adults that is common in American culture. Older adults report being ignored or not taken seriously, and being treated as helpless, demanding, or irrelevant. Ageism even affects the medical care that older adults receive, as mental and physical health conditions are written off as "part of getting old."

In reality, most older adults are active and engaged participants in society. A quarter of people continue working into their seventies, and many provide important help at home caring for children and grandchildren. Though about a third of people develop a dementia late in life, most people don't, and continue to learn and grow as they age. Some, like Ida Keeling, set their sights on breaking the world record for the hundred yard dash at age one hundred. Older people even report being happier and valuing close relationships more as they age.

By 2050, one in five of us (myself included) will be over age 65 in the U.S. If we continue to see aging as something shameful or fearful, we are just developing a prejudice against our future selves. For many of us who are caregivers, we've seen the worst of what aging can bring. But it doesn't have to be that way! Start taking care of yourself now and you will help make sure that your "best is yet to be."