Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Alzheimer’s: Different Approaches to Talking About It

Two different approaches to Alzheimers:A. If you get a moment, please visit Kathy Hatfield’s blog at Kathy is a caregiver in North Carolina. She is the primary caregiver for her 79-year-old father who has Alzheimers. Earlier in his life, he was a stockbroker in New York City. Her daily accounts are insightful, warm, compassionate and bring a genuine light-heartedness that only a caregiver could bring. What you take away is that 'yes' her father has lost much of his memory, but he is still very much her father, a human being, and someone who is still very much alive. Aging is all about living … . even at the very end of life. Thanks for sharing your blog with us Kathy.B. The New York Post, a tabloid newspaper recently broke a story that New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner reportedly has Alzheimers. The Headline: Tragic Madness of King George. Peter Himler writes about it at his blog The Flack. Other blogs also hopped on this, using terms of senility, maddness, etc.Last month, Post sports columnist Phil Mushnick wrote that, 'All reasonable signs indicate that [Steinbrenner’s] dementia … is now so profound that he is being carefully hidden from public view.'Getting Rid of the StigmaGeorge Steinbrenner is a public figure (and one that a lot of people don’t like) but let’s get rid of the potshots and embarrasment that seem to be attached to losing one’s memory. Kathy hits it head on and doesn’t 'put her father in the closet.' Unless a cure is found, many of us reading this today are going to have dementia or Ahlzheimers. Consider these stats from the Alzheimer’s Association:- 26.6 million people worldwide were living with the disease in 2006.- Researchers predict that global prevalence of Alzheimer’s will quadruple by 2050 to more than 100 million, at which time 1 in 85 persons worldwide will be living with the disease.- More than 40 percent of those cases will be in late stage Alzheimer’s requiring a high level of attention equivalent to nursing home care.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Maze of Caregiving

For consumers, navigating the world of long-term care can be absolutely exhausting and frustrating. People don’t know what to look for, what questions to ask, where to turn for information and how to cut through all the jargon. And if they want to keep their loved one at home, they often have no idea where to turn.Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar clearly wants to get rid of the maze and make it easier for the customer. Yesterday she announced the introduction of the AGE Act (American Giving Care to Elders). Its goal is to establish the National Caregiving Resource Center as a central clearinghouse where families, public agencies and private organizations can learn about best practices and promising innovations to support families in their caregiving roles. It also would expand the Federal Dependent Care Credit to include elder care costs and help make sure that those people who buy long-term care insurance get the benefits they signed up and paid for.Kudos to her for taking on an issue that is growing larger every day: helping seniors live where they want to live, how they want to live, and making it easier for family members who are providing care. The Age Wave is coming and you can feel the winds blowing.The Vermont Model (Why don’t we tell people about it in Minnesota?)One tool that would help Minnesota seniors stay in their home is Minnesota’s version of The Vermont Model. Last fall the Wall Street Journal did a front-page story on Vermont’s new 'Choices for Care' program. If a person qualifies for Medicaid, they can use dollars to pay a family caregiver rather than spending that money in a more expensive nursing home. Turns out Minnesota has the same program … and has had it for three years. But no one knows about it. In fact there are approximately 11,000 seniors who are eligible for it and only 164 use it. Look at our Age Wave Study, you’ll find that baby boomers LOVE the program … Read the testimonials on the Minnesota Department of Human Services web site of people who use Minnesota’s Vermont Model … they LOVE it. Don’t you think we could find some marketing dollars somewhere in the state budget to tell people about this program and keep people out of nursing homes?

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Holistic Health or Wholistic Health?

There was an interesting article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day on the explosion in popularity of parish nurses. Some of the words that were used are insightful. For example, Rev. Granger Westberg, a Lutheran minister in Chicago, wrote a book in 1984 called: 'The Parish Nurse: Providing a Minister of Health for your Congregation. He said that 'parish nurses should be focused on 'wholistic' health, which he intentionally spelled with a 'w' to stress that it should involve the whole person.Dianne Waarvik, who became a parish nurse at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis in 1999, said 'We’re starting to call ourselvesfaith community nurses. That’s because it’s not just Christian churches that have them. Synagogues have them. Mosques have them. It’s spreading everywhere.Aging is likely going to be an exciting new form of ecumenicalism, creating a variety of partnership opportunities for multiple denominations to share skills, talents and expertise in creating holistic or wholistic communities for seniors.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Churches, Senior Housing, and Elder Care

Interesting and very good news from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It is launching Catholic Senior Services -- an umbrella' organization that will use the network of Catholic senior care organizations and parish programs in the Twin Cities to become a one-stop resource center for seniors and their families.Catholic Senior Services, which has been in the planning stage for four years, will begin with its four founding organizations: Catholic Eldercare of Minneapolis, the Franciscan Health Community of St. Paul, St. Therese’s New Hope and St. Therese’s Southwest. The goal is to have a Catholic Senior Services center in every one of the 12 counties that make up the archdiocese. This is a coordinated response from teh Archdiocese to prepare for the age wave.We see a great deal of synergy between senior housing and faith communities. Baby boomers told us in our Age Wave study, that they want to be close to spiritual opportunities. We are developing a senior housing development in conjunction with First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, ID. Ground breaks next month. Aging provides a great opportunity for faith communities to expand their ministry and build community.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Outsourcing Long-Term Care to India

If you ask most Americans, I have to think that they want care in the community that they call home, not overseas. However, this article, which originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week, features a son who moved his father and himself to India for long-term care that cost less than it does here in the U.S. This is a phenomenon that we’ve heard about with surgery, such as hip replacements, but the first time that we’ve seen it in long-term care.The article raises all kinds of questions: How we care for seniors in America … how we pay for care … how we look at aging … .What do you think?

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

A Prayer from Pastor Ron Gerl


There are many heavy hearts in Minnesota and across the country today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families and many people who have been impacted by the Minneapolis bridge tragedy. Pastor Ron Gerl is the chaplain at the Ecumen community of Parmly LifePointes in Chisago City, Minn. This is a beautiful prayer that he wrote and we’d like to share it with you.

Prayer for the Disaster on 35W

Gracious Creator God, we forget sometimes that we are fragile beings living within a fragile world. In the Twin Cities we have been reminded of that reality with the I35W bridge collapse over theMississippi River yesterday. We are stunned and shocked by the destruction and loss of life so near to us. As we reel from the overwhelming current disaster give us the faith to call upon your power, give us the compassion to lift up in prayer all those who suffer due to loss of life and injury, and give us a caring spirit for all in present need.As we read about and watch the reports of the destruction may we never grow callous to the need and suffering of those in need. Gracious Lord, welcome home those who have died and who suffer no more. Please be with those families who have not heard from loved ones and feel the agony of anticipated or unanticipated loss. Grant recovery and healing to all who have been injured and in hospital care. For everyone, send us your strength, courage, and hope in the hours, days, weeks, and months ahead. In the name of Christ, we pray Amen.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Senior Care Becoming a Business Issue

Thanks to Ecumen’s Rose Lenzner for bringing these stats to the Changing Aging blog:Politically, long-term care has mostly been an issue whose advocates have largely come from inside the profession, rather than diverse coalitions. Here are some interesting stats that indicate aging is increasingly becoming a business issue - and not just due to pending workforce shortages caused by retiring baby boomers:According to the MetLife Caregiving Cost Study done last summer: - The cost to U.S. employers with employees who care for a senior parent is $33.6 billion.- 40% of employed caregivers take on average 17 days of unpaid leave per year to care for an aging family member.- Only about 26% of U.S. companies provide any type of senior care benefit.You can feel this issue percolating and getting ready to pop …Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently took over the chairpersonship of the National Governor’s Association. Can’t fault him with making his focus issue energy; it’s a popular issue that impacts everyone. However, another great issue opportunity for him in his own state is aging … As a baby boomer, he’s set up perfectly to be a champion for 'changing aging.' Don’t know if he’ll be the person, but someone in public policy will see how many different constituencies this issue impacts and will step out and lead. The Ecumen Age Wave Study illustrates a number of opportunities (and low-hanging fruit) for policymakers that want to grab them.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

A Letter to the Presidential Candidates


At Ecumen, we see technology as essentially important to helping seniors live independently or to maintain maximum independence in assisted living, memory care or other senior housing communities.Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, wrote about this exact subject last month in an 'open letter to the Presidential candidates' in Fortune Magazine in which he recommended the use of technology to help keep seniors where they want to live. Here’s the excerpt from his letter:

KEEP PARENTS AT HOME. The cost of caring for the elderly is huge and will only grow as our population ages. Of the $440,000 the average American spends on health care in his lifetime, $280,000 will be spent after age 65. Probably 50% of that post-65 outlay goes to assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. So it stands to reason that if there were a way to keep elderly patients in their own homes longer without degrading quality of care we’d have a cheaper and better system.

And we can do just that using technology. I’m talking everyday, low-cost technology the sensors, microchips, small radios you’d find in today’s PCs, in cellphones, and in Bluetooth earpieces. It’s not too difficult to use this stuff as monitoring tools. Not to spy, but to detect trouble. For example, did the patient go outside to get the newspaper or did she wander away? Has the patient taken his meds? The same technology that brings us HBO can watch over the patient and trigger human intervention when needed.

A critical step to make this happen is to have it blessed and reimbursed by the dominant health-care supplier to the aged, Medicare. Candidates, I hope to see a phrase in your inauguration speech that starts like this: 'I will have Medicare define specifications for electronic equipment that allows the average aging citizen to stay home two years longer than today.'

Can we afford all this? Let’s do the math… . the savings achieved by keeping just 10% of the aging population in their homes can amount to $30 billion a year. So, yes, Mr./Ms. Presidential Candidate, we can afford it. Not making these reforms would be the same as burning $30 million a day at the local dump.

Commit to doing these two concrete things now. You will save money. You will improve the lives of millions of citizens. And you will demonstrate to yourself, and to all of us, that we are a country of doers. That is worth the program by itself.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window


1,000 pioneers are coming to the Twin Cities for tomorrow’s and Thursday’s annual Pioneer Network conference. If you’re coming to the 'culture change' workshop for long-term care and senior housing professionals, please stop by the Ecumen booth. We’d love to see you.

Senior man and woman having coffee at table seen through window

Resources for Family Caregivers

In Minnesota alone, everytime the ranks of family caregivers declines by 1%, it costs the state another $30 million.As we face the largest numbers of people ever needing care, many baby boomers and others are going to become caregivers. Johnson & Johnson sees this booming market and the need to provide information and support networks. Check out their new web site dedicated to people taking care of a loved one: It has all kinds of useful information in its online caregiving manual, a comparison chart for selecting senior housing options, financial planning information and an online community for caregivers … . kudos to Johnson and Johnson for this resource. What other information do you think would be useful for caregivers that people have difficulty finding? Are there other online resources that you’ve come across that are helpful to people as they navigate long-term care?