Is Lumosity Modern Day Snake Oil?

snake oilMany of us with a relative who has been diagnosed with dementia wonder if we can do anything to help guide our brain health. I’ve had two parents with dementia (Alzheimer’s and Vascular) which was one of the reasons I ended up on The Dr. Oz Show.

The expert Dr. Oz interviewed was Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. who is a clinical psychologist, author, and one of America’s foremost experts on brain health. We have stayed in touch and when she recently shared a story that the scientist behind the most comprehensive study of brain training say apps like Lumosity are based on shaky science, I wasn’t really surprised. This month, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on Lumosity, which has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement. “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

I have read several reports over the years that list some key elements of brain health and we all know there is a substantial element of our health that we can’t control. However, it does bother me that some people were lead to believe that playing games is a silver bullet. Exercise, socialization, the adoption of a Mediterranean diet, fish oil supplements, and cognitive training (versus brain games) are elements of my focus to lead a different outcome than my parents. It may still be for naught.

Plan B for me has been the use of systems like MemoryBanc to document my personal accounts, and details; and estate planning to put the tools in place to define my wishes and give those the tools to help should I need it.

While we would all love to be given a simple solution to perfect health, I hope you will consider implementing a plan b. Your loved ones will benefit the most. Wished.


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Don’t forget to document your passcodes

PN_headerToday I was interviewed on Parent Nation about why parents should have their kids document their usernames and passcodes. Most parents have no idea they have no right to the online accounts and assets of their children. It’s one of the ways our modern world has moved faster than the law and parenting guidebooks.

It’s not just a parenting concern, but should be a spousal concern. For those of you who share an Apple account, the The Washington Post recently carried a story, Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password. This relatively simple issue makes no practical sense, but is the reality for those of you not aware that no marital rights or power of attorney can grant you this access. The idea of digital executor is still just a theoretical practice–unless you document your usernames and passcodes for the one who will step in and help or settle your affairs.

I think it’s so important, I have been giving away the chapter on “Taming the Internet” from MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This chapter gives you free forms to help you take control of your online assets, as well as share the worksheets with loved ones who can document their accounts and put them in a sealed envelope you hope you never need to open. I keep mine by my computer and frequently rely on them to help me access the more than 80 accounts I have. Every quarter, I give back the envelopes to my family to update and return to me.

I never expected to learn so much during this phase of my life, but the least I can do is share it with others in hopes that it will save you time, effort, and grief. Delivered. 




Caregiving and Siblings: It’s Important to Make it Work


Photo credit: Guy Browning (thanks for letting me boss you around to get this photo)

Dementia has taken our parents from us incrementally and cruelly*. We faced many hard decisions through the journey.

The most notable legacy my parents left behind was adult children that could work together. We had to overcome a host of challenges as my parent’s health was declining. We are like many families, we’ve got baggage from childhood and we problem-solve differently. Our parent’s estate plans named my sister because she was eldest and a lawyer. But my sister lived on the other side of the county, so it wasn’t really the most practical solution. It was one of the first things we had to discuss and addressed. I am the only local adult child, so it only made sense for it to be me. As the youngest, it brought in some expected issues like why would anyone listen to the “baby” of the family–with my parents in the lead. It took time to develop this new relationship.

I’m crazy for process and clear-cut solutions. When we began to have disagreements, I proposed some working rules for working together and that we adopted. They were:

  1. Spouses are invited to participate, but only direct descendants vote.
  2. It’s okay to disagree, but not okay to be disagreeable.
  3. Majority rules on any vote unless it impacts any of us financially. If the outcome of the vote impacts us financially, the vote must be unanimous.

We were blessed to be raised by parents who taught us how to communicate, even when we disagreed. We weren’t always in agreement, and noticed different things at different times. But we needed to work together to help our parents, so we did.

I hear the same issues from many other adult children I have talked with over the years. Most often, I hear how the conflict tore the family apart. I’m thankful that it really brought us closer together. We used an online site for free teleconferencing called TalkShoe. Putting us all on the phone together had a positive impact. We could hear the tone of the voice and ask questions of each other. It also allowed us to listen how our siblings communicated with each other. We eliminated the “he said/she said” misunderstandings.

When my siblings realized how much time a week I was spending to help, they suggested I get compensated. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but it was recognition that I was spending a good portion of every week visiting, advocating, and assessing mom’s needs. My husband and I actually built the idea of compensation into our trusts because we have experienced it first hand and understand the toll caregiving takes on not just the primary caregiver, but the caregiver’s family.

My siblings were engaged, supportive, and I know many other families blow up on this road. As hard as this journey has been, I recognize how many blessings it has also brought to me, my family, and my siblings. Humbled.

*I don’t know if someone else said this first. Over the last week I wrote it on a post-it note when contemplating our journey. Please let me know so I credit you for this statement which felt very apropos to this post. 



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23% of Adults Between 45-64 are Caregivers?

CaregiverTableAccording to Pew Research Center, adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers. In fact, about a quarter (23%) of adults ages 45 to 64 cares for an aging adult.

Then, for those over 65 – 17% – serve as caregivers for another aging American. Many in this group are caring for a spouse or partner (29%) or a friend or neighbor (33%).

When I see that 40.4 million American’s are caregivers for adults 65 and older, I wonder how we are going to manage as a society. What concerns me most is that most American’s do not have basic estate plans.

To be clear, I really don’t care about wills, I want you to understand that every adult over 18 should have a Durable Power of Attorney which is the legal document that names someone to act on your behalf financially; and a medical power of attorney that allows someone to be your medical advocate. These two documents will impact your life when you are LIVING.

We all need these, even in our 20s. By 65, seven out of ten American’s will require three or more years of long-term care. Someone in your life will need these legal powers to help you. Please contact a local estate attorney and get these done, they cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Please know that being married doesn’t mean you automatically have someone that can fill these roles for you. They may not be named on your account, they may not know where to find your account information, they may not know your wishes.

As the person who was the caregiver for my parents financial, medical, and personal needs and wishes, having the information to help them was so important I launched a business to help every American get their own information organized.

After caring for both parents through death, I recognize how much having this information organized made this difficult emotional task easier. I wasn’t worried about account details or where to find documents. I could focus on fulfilling my parent’s wishes for end-of-life. Nothing makes that easy, but at least it was all I really needed to address when that time came. Recommended. 


Sad and Happy about Mom

doveAfter a week in hospice care, mom passed away on Christmas. It was incredibly difficult to navigate for a host of reasons, but I was glad my siblings had time to visit. Our goal was to keep mom comfortable. She will be missed, but unfortunately, I’ve been missing her for years as the dementia stole her away bit-by-bit.

I’m glad to know that she is now with dad and all of the suffering has ended. Conflicted.


Adjusting Hope When The Options Are Bleak

hopeWhen the doctor confirmed mom’s hip was broken, she gave me two options. No surgery, or surgery, but we would have to remove the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in place. Mom has been using a walker while assisted and in a wheelchair for months. She wasn’t interested in working to walk again so the surgery would be for pain management. My guideposts for mom’s care have been how does she feel and how does she look. She should feel as comfortable as possible and maintain as much of her personal style as her health allows.

Of course surgery seemed like the right course, but would they return mom with broken ribs as well after surgery because her heart stopped? As I sit in the E.R. waiting room, I review the hundreds of times my mom said “If I’m like my mother … don’t have my wits about me … am in a wheelchair … put a pillow over my head and take me out.” Yeah, she said this to me in varied forms for more than 20 years. I am glad my mom made sure I knew what she wanted. I’ve been trying to balance her wishes with the real choices we face. We put in the DNR as recommended by her community after she moved into assisted living with dad and was well into a moderate stage of her dementia.

Two years ago we faced many of these decisions for dad who had cancer and was in a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. Thank you to Kathy S. for reminding me what a gift of love my dad offered by going first. I am so much better prepared to help my mom, but it doesn’t make the choices any easier.

We followed the recommendation for surgery, but learn after a day of tests that mom has both a lung and heart issue that would have to be treated most likely without success before we could again consider surgery. The medical, ortho, and geriatric doctor all recommend against surgery now. The significance of that to mom’s comfort is devastating.

We have moved my mom back to her community and she is in hospice care once again. Through this she has been frightened and tense. My mom never closed her eyes for more than a short blink through 4 courses of morphine the first day. She was so tense, movement was more painful than it should have been.

Now back in her community, we realize she may have had another stroke during the process. One side of her face is drooping and she is unable to really communicate with us now. I am blessed with a personal care assistant who has been with her for nearly a year that knows her well.

For now, I have to adjust my hope to keeping mom pain-free, and that she will join dad after a short visit with her children who all want the best for our mom. Hoped.


The “critical incident” decisions are always difficult

I’m back in the emergency room with mom. She had a fall and they expect to find a broken hip. As I await the X-ray results, I’m worried about the coming choice I will face.

I’ve been here before with dad. He was in good health but a little forgetful before he fell on the racquetball court. He returned physically but his cognitive issues were undeniable after surgery.

Mom at least recognizes me most days. The waiting has me imagining the worst. Last year pain medication landed mom in hospice. How will she fare with the morphine? What if she needs surgery? It’s these moments and choices we all fear. Dreaded.


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