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Cognitive Life Expectancy and Women

dealwithitIn 2010, a 65-year-old woman could expect to live 14.1 years with good cognition, 3.9 years with mild cognitive impairment and 2.3 years with dementia — according to Eileen Crimmins, AARP chair of gerontology at the University of Southern California’s Leonard David School of Gerontology. I love data, and a recent article has many key facts that should encourage us to better plan for the rest of our lives.

The generation above us is failing. I saw it with my parents who planned well conventionally, but had no idea their bodies would outlast their brains. The stats sometimes lead us to believe it is not happening at the level of frequency I see it happening to my friends families.

We all should prepare for the worst, be it our bodies outliving our brains, or our brains outliving our bodies. Most likely, we are all going to need assistance before we take a celestial departure from this earth.

The stats on what a 65 year old woman can expect, were one of many key facts in an article by Judith Graham Research find seniors seem to enjoy longer brain health than in the past.

Other notable key facts:

  • Of Americans 65 and older, about 20 to 25 percent have mild cognitive impairment while about 10 percent have dementia, according to Kenneth Langa, an expert in the demography of aging and a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan
  • Notably, college graduates can expect to spend more than 80 percent of their lifetime after age 65 with good cognition, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin . For people who didn’t complete high school, that drops to less than 50 percent.
  • A new study from researchers at the Rand Corp. and the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that 10.5 percent of U.S. adults age 65 and older had dementia in 2012, compared with 12 percent in 2000.
    • The percent of people affected is declining which is great news, but the bulge in those over 65 means that more people in total will have dementia.

A few facts can go a long way. I hope these facts will help you and those you love plan well for the rest of your lives. Shared. 

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How do I help Mom remember Dad is Dead?

cole indoor 2017 - ocean breeze 4x4The weeks after my Dad died were one of the worst transitional periods in navigating as a Caregiver for my Mom with Vascular Dementia. I was shocked and devastated at his quick decline and death, and my Mom, who no longer had any short-term memory, kept asking for me to take her to visit him.

I didn’t want to have her keep reliving his death, but I felt like I was always having to let her know he passed away. She was living in Assisted Living with him and really liked it there when he was alive. However, she didn’t do well after he died. She was out looking for him in the community and getting into fights with the other residents.

What I realized was that there were many things I could do to help her know about his death and help her try and process the grief. First, and I’m still not sure why we did this, but after dad died, we all gathered around his body and had the hospice nurse take a picture. I printed out copies and put them in her apartment with the date so she could see we were all there at his death and had said our last good-bye. Remarkably, this really helped her process his death. She could see all the kids were there and by her side.

Once the obituary ran, I put those copies up along with the final picture. After the burial service at Arlington Cemetery, I added more pictures of the service and all of us together. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone in her grief.

Dementia is such a cruel disease.

I remember talking with my mom over a year later and telling her about watching my son at a track meet. My Dad was a hurdler for West Point. She had one of those out of the blue clarity moments and says “Oh Vald, would have loved to be there to see him run!” I hadn’t heard my Mom talk about Dad for months. I was elated and gut-punched with grief all at once. Remembered.  

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How do I help from far away?

LetmemakemistakesA good friend called and wanted to know how often she should be visiting. Her sister and brother live near mom but she’s trying to chip in and do her fair share.  Is visiting every month, or every other month enough?

There really is no right or wrong answer. There is just the answer of what is right for your family.

My friend has been hiring and screening caregivers, and picking up extra projects (like getting a hospital bed at home). It turns out that her sister is overwhelmed and mom is only getting more prickly. She doesn’t want the help. She fires everyone that shows up to help for everything–from cutting the grass to helping get out and go grocery shopping.

I let her know it might be time to step back and let mom try and manage on her own. Sometimes you have to let them succeed or fail. She probably doesn’t believe she needs the help she is getting. It’s hard to do.

What if it were you? How might you like it if other people were making these choices for you–much less your own kids?

I know that she and her sister and brother are doing it out of love. They very much respect their mom. However, what you do thinking it is welcomed might not always be.

I also shared how I changed the language I used when my mom needed help, but didn’t recognize it. Could she suggest the person showing up to help around the house is one of her high school friends that wanted to visit with her mom? Could the person cutting the grass suggest he is neighbor home for the summer and just noticed that the grass needed a mow?

It took me a while to adapt and create situations that my mom could accept. Might something like this work to get her mom the need she helps but maintain her sense of self worth? I reminded her of all the things her mom lost. Her husband is gone, her sister took over her checkbook, she had to give up the car keys after the fall and hip surgery … what does she have that gives her purpose and meaning?

It’s easy to arrive and offer help, but we often neglect to recognize the need for our loved ones to maintain a sense of self-worth.

The question about how often to visit isn’t the real issue. But I know she is visiting her mom and talking with her siblings frequently. That is on top of her full time job … and her 7 children! I commend every adult child who is working to be involved. Their loved one is better off than the majority of the seniors in the United States. Appreciated. 

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What Happens When You Fail to Plan

For those of us caring for loved ones, we know what happens EVEN WHEN YOU PLAN REALLY WELL!

I have a personal mission to make sure every adult over the age of 18 is in the habit and knows the value of Power’s of Attorney. These are legal powers you should set up that will help you while you are living. Please visit with a local estate lawyer do this — since Consumer Reports found that several of the online tools would fail to work in several cases. It’s a few hundred dollars, but WORTH it.

John Oliver (HBO) recently covered the story of a couple that was impacted by Guardian proceedings and that bleed their retirement plan dry. For some hilarity … and scarity that will make you think more seriously about planning, check out this segment.  Stay to the end for some awesome cameo’s!



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Is keeping Mom at home the right choice?

homesweethomeI know how often I second-guessed the choice of where my Mom lived. My siblings and I often discussed how we could better use the money being spent on their care community that never seemed to be the right fit for them once their dementia really changed their thinking and behavior.

Now that I work with families who are usually not in the metro-DC area and want someone to help their loved one who is still living in their home, I wonder when is it the right time to consider moving them into a community.

In general, the earlier the move for someone with cognitive issues, the better. They can make friends, find activities they enjoy, and benefit from the social activities that can keep the cognitive decline at bay by staying engaged.

However, I understanding viewing the move from their beloved home as a major issue that most older adults decline and often fight against.

I battled with myself the last year of Mom’s life. Should we move her into our home, even though she made it clear over decades that she never wanted to live with one of her children? I knew it would be a major ask of my family to move her into our home. She would have needed someone at the home to help her when we were working. I realized later that she also would not have had the benefit of all of the activities for engagement within the community. I wish I could have played out both options and reported back to you.

Every family needs to make the best choice for your circumstances. Please know that the fact that you are involved and engaged is more than most adults with dementia receive. Many families detach, others fight over the choices, and for dozens of other reasons, their loved ones don’t have the benefits of an advocate who is watching out for them. Weigh your options but be satisfied that you are making the best decision you can with the information you have right now. Considered. 


No good deed goes unpunished

kaywparents2013The first year of my nearly daily involvement to help Mom and Dad was horrible. I wanted to help them, but they could not recognize that they needed help. They could see that their spouse was not doing well, but they did not recognize it in themselves. While my Mom would complain about Dad’s memory, they never betrayed each other.

I would try to offer logic and reason, and inevitably, I would leave frustrated, and often in tears.

One day, my mom called to ask me to come over to help with the checkbook. When I arrived, she looked at me like I had grown a second head and berated me for suggesting she needed help with the checkbook. My Dad sat in his armchair watching the entire heated exchange. I felt like a teenager again getting lectured. To examples I gave, my Mom would deny and suggest that I was making it all up. I was so angry and frustrated. How could I have believed my Mom really wanted my help. I left in tears.

That evening around 9:30 PM, there was a knock on my door. My Mom was there with a gift. She told me they were sorry that I was so upset and had been driving for hours. She told me somehow, they ended up in Baltimore, MD. Their home was in Arlington, VA and I lived 15 minutes away in McLean, VA. We hugged and at that moment, I realized that the advice the Psychiatrist gave me to “be sneaky” was the only way I would truly be able to help them.

I had to work even harder to help them without it being noticed. When I visited, I would pick up the piles of mail and stick them in my bag to review later. At that point I started to copy account numbers and information to get a better handle on their finances and cash flow. That pain and anguish lead me to create the MemoryBanc Register and transition to a career as a Daily Money Manager.

Things got easier and eventually, my Mom would thank me for helping take care of the bills and finances. That would be more than two years later and after my Dad passed away.

I would later recognize how much I missed the Mom that would debate me. The dementia stole away my parents bit by bit, even the parts that drove me crazy. They were unable to change, so I learned how to adapt to meet my parents where they were — even when I was trying to do a good deed that would never be recognized. Recalled. 



That checkbook equals independence

I still remember using my first credit card to buy clothes for myself when I was around 21 years old. I can visualize the pair of novelty socks that were going to look good with my “dressy” shorts. Yeah, I’ve never been that great when it comes to fashion, but I recall those socks as my first adult purchase on a credit card.

Q4HelpingParentsNow that I work with older adults on a daily basis and help them manage their day-to-day finances, I see how much that checkbook represents. I’ve included a video where I was asked about how someone should talk to a loved one about managing the money and when to recommend a Daily Money Manager.

I recall the frustration I felt when I watched my parents giving away money to a zillion charities they never had an interest in before … missing to pay the water bill … or being asked how you put a check into your checking account. Add to that the number of times my Mom lost her wallet just to fuel my concern … and aggravation. Dealing with numbers and following a multi-step process can be one of the first things you see failing in a loved one with cognitive issues. The consequences can be devastating to financial resources.

Every year, the National Council on Aging estimates more than $36 Billion is lost due to exploitation, fraud, and trust abuse. On a weekly basis, I meet with clients who are giving away money they need to pay for their care, paying for products and services they don’t use, and generally a disinterest in the implications of giving that money to people they never intended to assist.

However, before you tell your loved one they need to hand-over the checkbook, consider what that means to them. If you are concerned, you should start by spending the time to walk through the day-to-day finances with them — help them write checks and manage the cash flow. If you can’t do it, you should be able to find a Daily Money Manager in your area that can help on the website for the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

I hope you will consider how much your loved one has already lost, and don’t be to hasty to take away what might represent to them their last vestige of independence. Recommended. 



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