Tag Archives: Elders

True Story of Navigating our Confusing Healthcare Maze

Healthy lifestyle achievement concept with a labyrinth and a blue goal sign with health text isolated on white background.

Welcome to the world of healthcare! Having just moved to a state with a very large senior population, many of whom have mild to moderate dementia, my story of navigating the healthcare maze should make us all sit up and ask ourselves how our seniors, especially those with dementia, can traverse this insanity.   Here is my story:

First doctor visit in my new state and it goes like this…

Twenty minutes of exploring the parking deck for an open spot (that’s 14 rounds from bottom to top and back again).

I was told to arrive 30 minutes early, but they failed to mention 20 minutes would be spent dive bombing for a parking space, so I was already 10 minutes late.

Enter a large, noisy atrium with lines, people, phones ringing and chaos.  No directional signs of where to go first, so I inquired at the first desk (which looked like it might be information).

Sure enough, I was directed to a very long, Disney-like line (you know the ones that wrap for seemingly miles filled with anxious people).

Enter Desk 2, in which I gave them my name and doctor whom I was to see.  “Is this your first visit?” to which I responded “yes”.   And the reply “Do you see the pillar with the clock on it?”  Looking in the general area I finally find the 12″ clock on the wall.  “Go over there and fill out the paperwork and someone will come and get you.”

I was handed the clipboard, which had five 2 – sided sheets, 1 pen and 1 pencil.  I was to fill the forms out in ink but the questions with the bubbles I was told needed to be filled out in pencil.

I filled out 3 lines when the “concierge” came to greet me.  I told her I was not finished but she directs me to the office anyway.  So, I gather my “stuff” and settle in to her office while trying to complete my forms.  She then begins to ask for insurance card and drivers’ license as I continue to work.  While still figuring out if I should be using the pen or pencil, she hands me 2 -3 pages of release forms while asking me questions.

Finally, I’ve finished the paperwork!  She enters some information in the computer and asks again for my doctor’s name.  “The doctor is not in this building” she states matter-of-factly.  Quite puzzled, I asked why they would ask me to come to this address, when the doctor I’m to see is not even in here!  Well, that prompted the concierge to go check with the front desk and 30 minutes had passed before she came back with a confusing answer.

It was now 1/2 hour past my appointment time, so we had to reschedule.

Fluster and exhausted,  as I walked out I saw a sea of people whose average age seemed to be about 80.  Did they know what was in store for them?  How many, even with the mildest cognitive impairment would have found the system to be overwhelming and confusing?

When I finally saw my doctor the next day (go the elevator, make a right at the bank of desk, sit at the right side of the room, follow the Nurse assistant to the maze of small patient rooms and meet my Nurse Practitioner (not the one to whom I was assigned because she is in another building)… I mentioned to her that I was a Dementia and Aging Educator.

“We need dementia education so badly here!” she quickly replied. A simplified guided system with staff educated in signs to look for to identify those with MCI or mild/moderate dementia would be step #1.    Do they suggest to patients to bring someone with them that will have all of their current information, med list, etc?

They were in fact very interested in finding out more about the dementia training we offer.  I look forward to sharing Dementia Live™ with them and opening their eyes to what their patients experience as they traverse the healthcare maze.



Wake-up Call for Faith Communities: Don’t Forget your Aging Members!

Photo of business hands holding blackboard and writing FAITH diagram

Through the years I’ve had the great privilege to work with thousands of elders and families as my professional career in senior care began in educating families and faith communities.   I will never forget one of my earliest conversations with a couple who had attended a caregiver support group in which I was facilitating.  Emotionally, they shared how their parents had served faithfully in their church for over 40 years and now that they were homebound, the they felt as if they had been forgotten.  This tugged at my heart, as I remembered how vitally important the church was to my own aging parents and how much that care and compassion for our parents comforted us as adult children.

Members are aging quickly in virtually every faith community.  Adult children and their parents are struggling with the emotional, physical and spiritual toll that illness and the complications of aging creates.   As federal and state resources for the aging decline rapidly, needs are increasing even faster.  The cost of long term care across the spectrum is out of reach for a growing number of Americans.   Where does this leave the church and it’s role in the societal challenges facing all of us in our fast aging world?

I’ve witnessed how incredibly effective it can be when faith communities, local agencies, non-profits, service providers and volunteers come together to meet urgent needs of homebound elders, especially those needing food, housing, medical equipment, and services.  Support groups for caregivers, meal delivery, in-home and nursing home visitations,  companion ministries are all vital outreach efforts that can make an incredible difference in the lives of our elders, their families and our communities.

Strong leadership, education and champion volunteers are the thread of success in faith communities stepping up to meet these complex needs.  When implemented successfully,  everyone wins.  Active retirees find purpose, the younger generations of the church experience giving in action, and the church becomes an integral part within their surrounding community that helps agencies that desperately need more assistance.  Senior care providers can provide knowledge and assistance in navigating services and supporting caregiver programs.

I have provided caregiver education and support services to one church in particular for many years.  They took on the challenge over 8 years ago to start a day respite program for those living with dementia.  Thousands of volunteer hours from dedicated, passionate people have poured their lives into providing this no cost service to members of the community and their care givers.   It is one of the most successful respite ministries that I have seen.  I recently was with this group and was so moved by their consistent dedication.  When I asked what kept them going, it was without hesitation that they pointed to their group of elders and replied ” they  need us but not near as much as we need them. They brighten our days and give us back so much more than we are able to give to them.”

A perfect example of faith in action…

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute whose mission is to provide worldwide aging education and training that changes attitudes and actions to improve the lives of our elders.  She remains passionately dedicated to helping faith communities transform their aging adult and caregiver ministries through leadership training.



Fun is Good…Says Dr. Seuss

Fun is goodWe’ve almost made it through the 1st month of 2017.  I’m always amazed at how the world seems to stop in its track after Thanksgiving.   Then January rolls around, and  it’s All Hands on Deck!  So if your January has hit you like a Nor’ East wind,  remember the wise words of one of our greatest authors, Dr. Seuss…. FUN IS GOOD!

It’s this thing called dopamine… the neurotransmitter in our brain that sends signals that control movement, emotions and our abilities to experience pleasure and pain.

According to Dr. Matt Bellace at Lynn University in Florida, laughter releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which serves as a reward for the brain, creates a sense of euphoria, and plays a pivotal role in our motivation to continue the behavior. Dr. Bellace notes that the benefits of laughter include improved immune functioning, stress relief, increased tolerance for pain, improved cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, and improved mood.

For all of you consummate learners out there (I’m one of them), did you know that every time we’re interested and engaged in a subject, our brain get a shot of dopamine.  It makes us want to keep learning and pushing ourselves.  That’s really exciting for those of us in the training business.  We like it when our participants are engaged and inspired… and trust me, as a trainer and speaker, I am tuned in to watch for dopamine surges!

So as we usher in a new year in the senior care industry, with all the challenges that it will most certainly bring, I think one of the greatest gifts we can offer those we serve is FUN.  The great paradox of life holds true:  the more you give the more you get.   We have great opportunities ahead of us to enrich others lives so let’s all go out and spread some dopamine!

The Healing Power of Nature for Elders and Caregivers

IMG_0731Nature heals.  Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.

I was able to retreat to the Colorado Rockies recently after leading a dementia training in the Denver area.  The further I drove from the city traffic the more relaxed I became, as the mountains surrounded me and hustle and bustle subsided with each mile closer to my destination.

Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

I’m excited to see that more care communities are integrating raised beds, gardening activities, serene courtyards and interspersing scenes of nature in their decor.  Not only is it helping residents but care partners also are benefiting from the restorative power of nature.

According to research by the University of Minnesota,  we are genetically programmed to find tress, plants, water and other nature elements engrossing, thus we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.

This was demonstrated in a classic study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery;  half had a view of tress and half had a view of a wall.  According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a  hospital.

In another study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.  Other studies by Ulrich, Kim and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with positive mood, psychological well being, meaningfulness and vitality.

With a mission to transform aging for our elders and those caring for them, we are constantly seeking tools that will enhance lives.  To know that a simple plant can have such healing effects is truly amazing and should be an inspiration for all of us to take steps to integrate nature into our daily lives.

We don’t all have access to the mountains, but a garden stroll with an elder can change one’s mood, reduce stress, pain and enhance engagement.  It is an activity that can be shared with families and other care partners.  It’s simple person-centered care at its best.