Help your Child Get Organized: Four Tips for Success
School’s starting. Now is the time to help your child get organized for the school year. A little time spent now will pay off all year long in higher achievement and confidence.
Create the Space
Does your child have a space that’s conducive to studying and doing homework? It can be in his room, in the living room, at the dining table, as long as it’s quiet and distraction-free. No TV on, no other children running around playing, no loud music or conversation.
Prepare the Space
Think about what your child needs while doing homework. Pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, paper, stapler, and dictionary should all be within easy reach. Having to go looking for basic supplies breaks the concentration. This is important for all children (adults, too) and especially for those who have to work at staying focused. If it’s not practical to have these items on the dining table all the time, set up a shelf close by where school supplies are kept.
A useful part of this space is the temporary dumping ground. This is where your child puts all notes from school, forms, reminders, requests, in fact all backpack contents. Once these papers see the light of day, they can be filled out, filed, noted, or thrown out.
Keep the Space Organized
Part of clean-up time every evening can include straightening the supply corner. As you help or supervise the process, you can teach your child to note when he’s low on an item, so that you can replace it before it requires an emergency trip to the store the night before a report is due.
Respect the Space
While we don’t advocate making the child the center of the universe around which all else revolves, we are aware that we’re always sending messages to our children, whether spoken or unspoken. Respecting a child’s study space sends the message that study is important to us. And if, when your child is doing his reading, you’re sitting nearby and reading, too, that will send a resounding message about what’s important and what you value.
Time Management: Key to your Child’s Success
Many books have been written for adults wanting to manage their time better. How we wish we had developed these skills as children. How much easier our lives might be now. Teaching our children these skills will not only help them succeed in school, it will give them tools they’ll use all their lives.
Get a large calendar from an office supply store and place it on the wall. Keep it just for school work. All reports, assignments, and exams go on this calendar. As your child empties that messy backpack, all scribbles about semester-long projects and assignment due dates are transferred to this calendar. Keeping this calendar updated and glancing at it regularly will help avoid those frantic evenings that begin with a small voice saying, “My teacher said that 10-page report on Senegal is due tomorrow.”
The Weekly Chart
List every school subject in the left-hand column. Days of the week go along the top. Every day after school, have your child check off each subject as it’s done. No English homework today? How about reading for twenty minutes? I’ll sit next to you and read, too.
The Big Projects
Today is Tuesday. The report on Senegal is due in two weeks. Your child is inclined to start the report in twelve days. If pressed, maybe ten days. This is an opportunity to teach skills that will be very useful in business and life. Help your child break the project into small steps. Initial research. Outline. Further research. Begin to write. Several more writing sessions. Proofread. Art, design. Prepare final report to be turned in. Place on the weekly chart when each of the steps will be done.
TV on School Nights
We highly recommend no TV on school nights, and will write more about this in future blogs. If TV is an established habit, at least insist that homework be done first, as a prerequisite to a limited amount of TV. Ask your child: How much homework do you have? When do you have to start it in order to be done by 8 pm when your show starts?
Showing your children your own planning calendar and discussing how you prioritize and schedule your work helps them appreciate that these are grown-up skills that you use, too. If you need to work on this, there’s nothing wrong with showing your kids that process. Realizing that it must be learned and doesn’t come naturally to everyone else may be inspiring to them.
EATING FOR SUCCESS
A Round-Up of Ideas for Helping your Child
by Esther Baruch
Evidence is pouring in that what children eat has a direct effect on not only their physical health but also on their behavior and academic success. We know that children who regularly eat a good breakfast have better test scores and less hyperactivity.
What is a Good Breakfast?
What type of breakfast fuels the brain and gives children an edge in school? Whole grains keep children feeling full and satisfied longer, so they don’t run out of steam halfway through the morning. Whole grain cereal or toast is a good start. Be sure to look for “100% whole grain” on the label. Add some high-quality protein such as an egg, nut butter, tofu, or lean meat. There’s no law that breakfast has to consist of sugary cereals, although the big cereal companies have tried for 60 years to make us think there is. Yet nutrition-free sweet cereals often deliver a quick sugar high followed by a crash.
Look at what other cultures eat. Soup. Whole grain noodles with tofu. Enlist the help of your child’s teacher to have the class research this and report on some interesting things they ate for breakfast. If all the kids are doing it, and it’s discussed in an atmosphere of normalcy and cultural exploration, it may be easier for kids to embrace.
As long as you avoid sugar, chemical additives, and white flour, you’ll be supporting your children’s health and giving them an edge in school.
Too much pressure from the other kids? “What’s that weird green thing in your lunch box?” Try organizing your child’s friends into an “Excel Eating Club.” You’ve heard of dressing for success. This is eating for success. It would be open to kids who are willing to forgo greasy fast food and soda in favor of bringing a healthy sandwich, salad, soup, and fruit. The families would agree to keep soda, candy, and other health-limiting items out of their homes. There could be weekly and monthly prizes and outings for those who stick with the program.
It’s important to meet kids where they are. For those interested in academic success, talk about all the studies from various countries that show gains in test scores when kids eat real, unprocessed foods. For would-be athletes, talk about the gains in energy, strength, and stamina. For those concerned about their weight, discuss the fact that whole grains keep them feeling full longer, so they’re not so tempted by sugary snacks. For science-minded kids, research the many studies and present them with facts, such as higher test scores and improved memory skills for better-nourished kids. For kids who are always getting in trouble and can’t seem to control their behavior, look into the studies about the bad effects sugar and chemical additives have on children’s behavior, and the radical changes that occur when these ingredients are removed from the child’s diet.
When kids participate in cooking healthy foods, they are more likely to want to eat them. Round up a friend or two and make it fun. Cook for the week on Sunday afternoon to take the pressure off on work days.
A Grown-Up Thing to Do
Making good choices shows maturity. As your children start to ask for some of the privileges of growing up, you could link those privileges to their showing good judgment in different areas, including nutrition.
What’s for Lunch?
100% whole grains are on the menu again. A turkey (unprocessed) sandwich on a whole grain bun with a chemical-free pickle and a slice of tomato is a good lunch. Add a piece of fruit and water to drink in a cool bottle and your child can feel as though he fits in while eating healthy.
For kids willing to buck the trend, a container of vegie soup or some delicious leftovers from last night provide a filling and nourishing meal.
Fruit, vegie sticks, cheese, whole grain crackers, and nuts are healthy and portable snacks for kids who need a pick-me-up at recess time. These sound expensive, but the expense is balanced by the money you save on soda and sweets. Just don’t allow yourself to be tricked by companies that put the word “fruit” on junk food that has some fruit flavoring. We’re talking about real fruit that grows on a tree.
Keep your Eye on the Ball
Change can be hard. When it seems like a lot of work, remind yourself that you are increasing your children’s chances for success in school and beyond and decreasing their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Join them in making healthy choices and everyone wins.
Five Ways to Immediately Start Doing Better in School
There’s good news and bad news. The good news—really good news—is that these skills you build while becoming a better student are the same skills that will bring you success in life. All through your life. The bad news—not so awfully bad, actually—is that it will take a bit of work. But it’s work that will bring results that will make you feel good.
1. Do it now, not later. If you have the opportunity to do your homework in school or during an after-school program, jump at the chance. You’ll do it while the lesson is fresh in your mind and get it out if the way. When you get home, you’ll be free, free, free. Bonus points for doing the hardest thing first.
2. Sit in the first couple of rows in class. I never thought I’d recommend this. When I was in school, we had assigned seating. Teachers seated us one of two ways, either alphabetically or by size. I was short and my name started with a “B.” So I always had to sit in the front. In high school, I was overjoyed to find I could sit wherever I wanted. I took up residence in the very back row and quickly discovered two things. One, I couldn’t see the blackboard very well. Two, I couldn’t hear the teacher because all the goof-offs were making noise back there. And that’s why you’re going to sit in the front. So you can focus and learn and do well. ps: I soon moved to the second row.
3. Write down what the teacher puts on the blackboard. If the teacher goes to the trouble of putting it on the board, he or she thinks it’s important. It is very likely to be on the test. So are things the teacher says with emphasis. Learn to read your teacher’s cues to figure out what’s important.
4. When you’re doing homework, especially bigger projects, get up every half-hour or so and stretch. Have some water. Do a bit of exercise. Not so much that you lose your focus. Just enough to refresh your mind so that you can work better.
5. This one will really set you apart. Look over your notes last thing at night and first thing in the morning. The brain is receptive then, and likely to take in the information and remember it. If you do this every day, you won’t have to stay up half the night and cram like mad before exams. Won’t that be nice?
Try these tips and let us know how they work for you. We love to hear from our readers.
TV: KEY TO SUCCESS OR FAILURE?
by Esther Baruch
Is your child doing as well as he’d like? Is he doing as well as you’d like? Research shows that too much TV watching tends to have a detrimental effect on a child’s success in school. Here’s how:
· TV has a numbing, tranquilizing effect on the brain. This is the source of the perception that TV is addictive. Watching TV leaves kids feeling passive and low-energy, with the result that they’ll continue to sit in front of the TV unless you turn it off.
· TV takes up time that could be spent reading books, engaging in imaginative play, or getting physical and social exercise running around outside with other kids.
· Children learn language and other skills more effectively by interacting with other people than with screens.
· Who gets lower grades? Children who: a) watch horror and action movies? b) watch movies made for mature viewers? c) watch more than four hours of TV per weekday? Answer: all of the above.
· For older kids, TV takes time they could be practicing reading skills, being intellectually challenged, and thinking analytically, all important school and life skills.
- Kids of all ages who watch a lot of TV are usually overweight, partly because they’re not getting the exercise they need and partly because eating unhealthy snacks very often goes hand in hand with TV watching. Commercials glorifying junk food don’t help either.
WHAT TO DO: FIVE TIPS
· Plan family time for doing creative hobbies or outdoor activities such as hiking and biking.
· Place firm limits on the amount of TV your child watches.
· Band together with other parents. When your child’s friends have the same restrictions, he may accept them more easily.
· Leave plenty of time in your child’s schedule for creative, cooperative, imaginative, old-fashioned play.
· Watch what he’s watching. What values are the characters in your child’s favorite shows modeling? Are they smoking and drinking, making these behaviors seem acceptable? Are they portraying gender and racial stereotypes? Are they being rewarded for violence and aggression? Are they driven by vengeance and meanness? Are these the values you want your child to accept?
Think about it. Then adopt the mantra we tell our kids to use: JUST SAY NO.
Eight Tips to Writing an Essay without Staying up all Night
by Esther Baruch
Finishing Touches Editing
Before you start, ask yourself: what is my topic? Have you been assigned a topic, or are you free to choose your own topic? If you’ve been assigned a topic, your first step is to address the topic. You can come up with a creative approach, but it must be clear to your teacher that you are actually writing about the assigned topic. Make sure that you understand the topic. If you don’t, your first step is to ask your teacher to clarify.
If it’s your job to come up with a topic, brainstorm with a trusted advisor (academically successful older sibling or friend, parent, homework club tutor) to make sure your topic fits the framework your teacher has set up.
1. Start early
Whether you’ve been given a week or a month to write this essay, don’t put off starting it. Things happen. Computers malfunction. The library is closed on the day you planned to go. You get sick. The parent who was going to drive you gets sick. The topic turns out to be more extensive or complicated than you thought. Leave yourself plenty of time to research, write, edit, look it over, and make any needed corrections. Make a schedule and stick to it. If it doesn’t take you as long as you thought, great. You have the happy surprise of some free time. If it takes longer than you thought, you’re not in a panic at the last second.
2. Do the research ahead of time. Look it over, give it some thought so ideas can start to gel. Your teacher can tell whether you put real effort into it, or just slapped something together at the last minute. You get points for real effort, in life as in school.
3. Look for your own unique angle, so that your essay will not seem just like all the other essays your teacher is reading. If some interesting insight sets your essay apart, your teacher will take note.
4. Perfection is not necessary in the first draft. Just get the facts and ideas down. Going back and correcting every error is important, but not at this point.
5. To outline or not to outline? When I was in school, my teachers wanted to see an outline. I always wrote it after I had written the paper. I was a creative writer and felt boxed in by outlines. Ask yourself, will an outline be a useful tool or an obstacle? If you’re not sure, try doing an outline and see.
6. The basic format of an essay: state your idea; back it up with facts from your research; summarize. To write a good essay, you also have to write in an engaging way, a way that grabs and holds the reader’s attention while sounding polished and intelligent. Imagine yourself telling your ideas to someone you respect.
7. Edit. Now’s the time. Poor grammar and spelling make a poor impression. Take the trouble to run spell check, certainly. But spell check doesn’t catch everything. You may type “an” instead of “and.” Spell check won’t catch that. Read it over twice, with focus. Look up and correct mistakes. If you’re handing in a paper copy, make sure you keep it unwrinkled. Papers with food spots and curled corners do not make a good impression. Part of being a successful student is paying attention to details such as this.
Bonus tip: When you get the paper back, pay careful attention to the teacher’s comments. Review them again before writing your next essay so you can learn from your mistakes and improve your writing. If you don’t understand the comments, approach your teacher for clarification. As long as you do it respectfully, in a spirit of wanting to learn, teachers appreciate this approach. The best part is, these skills will help you not only in college but in the work world as well.
Cazzaniga Design Studio
Bringing your Vision to Life
Kelly Cazzaniga blends drive, imagination, and artistic talent to create the piece of art you dream of. From murals and paintings to logos and brochures, any medium is a tool in Kelly’s experienced hands.
As artistic director for a small design company doing big work, Kelly designed logos and promotional pieces for the likes of Lucas Film, Universal Studios, and Walt Disney Studios.
Kelly was already a professional artist when she attended the renowned San Francisco Art Academy, having first sold a painting at an art show at age fourteen. “I couldn’t decide what was more exciting,” says Kelly. “That a complete stranger bought my painting, or that he didn’t know I was fourteen.”
After fifteen years as an artistic director, Kelly took her talent and business-savvy, her imagination and reliability, and on January 1, 2000 she hung out her shingle as Cazzaniga Design Studio. The years since have been exciting and varied and never boring.
For corporate clients small and large, she creates a logo, an identity, ads, and promotional materials. For nonprofits such as the Russian River Blues Festival, she paints posters to promote major fundraising events. For developers such as Christopherson Homes, she paints murals in model homes. Beautiful estates throughout California proudly display her murals. From wine labels to t-shirts, you never know when you might be looking at a Cazzaniga design.
Bringing your Vision to Life
sample blog article
By Esther Baruch
“Yes,” you may say. “That’s my question exactly. I keep hearing that I must blog, but why? Why spend all that time and effort, and possibly money, since I may have to hire someone to do all this blogging for me. Just ask my third grade teacher.”
There are many reasons people blog. Some want to share their views or the activities they enjoy, such as cooking or cycling. Some want to help others who are in a similar situation and in need of information and advice. But the main reason business owners feel they must blog is this: Blogging is the single best way to drive traffic to your website. And more traffic (if your content is effective) turns into more customers.
How does blogging do that?
Readers are attracted to your blog for its interesting material and useful tips that show you know what you’re talking about and can be trusted. Your blog contains information about you and your business. It’s one easy click from there to the pages of your website.
Blogging satisfies the search engines’ appetite for new content on your website. It’s a way to improve your ranking in search results.
Blogging is a way to engage with your customers and future customers. You may have readers who have no immediate need for your services or products. But when the day comes that they do have a need, whom will they think of first? The person who has been informing and entertaining and conversing with them on a regular basis—you!
Where do I start?
Think about your target audience. Who are they? What are they interested in? At the intersection of their interests and your services lies your blog. Before you start blogging, consider having ten or fifteen posts written, and another twenty topics on the list. This removes some of the overwhelm that new bloggers feel. Brainstorm with a friend or colleague to come up with topics. See what other bloggers are writing about and get a feel for the blogging style.
How do I keep up?
Be realistic. Just because others blog every day doesn’t mean you have to. This is overkill. It’s important to choose a schedule you can stick to. Once a week is a perfectly reasonable blogging timetable. If twice a month is what you can manage, that’s fine. It’s better to stick to that than to promise weekly posts and not produce them. If your readers come to expect your posts on the first and fifteenth of the month, don’t disappoint them.
In addition to keeping a regular posting schedule, it’s advisable to be consistent about content. If readers subscribe to your blog expecting interesting and informative articles about local real estate trends, don’t confuse them with recipes, sailing tips, or skydiving information.
Readers? What readers? How do I get readers?
This is the subject of another article, but the short answer is: Through social media. You do have to work at publicizing your blog and making it worthwhile for people to sign up. Include a short snippet—just a sentence or two—describing your topic, in your social media postings. Make the snippets engaging enough that people will want to click on “read more.”
You are most likely to continue blogging, and reaping the benefits of blogging, if you have fun with it. Speak with your own voice, about your own interests, and you’ll keep both your readers and yourself engaged.
Esther Baruch is a business writer and editor. As the owner of Finishing Touches Editing, she helps business owners make a great impression and increase their credibility by crafting persuasive, effective web content, blogs, ebooks, and all manner of clearly written materials.
How In-Home Care Affects Medical Outcomes
More than convenience?
When we think of a senior receiving in-home care, we often think along the lines of convenience. The in-home caregiver provides help with activities of daily living that may be hard for the senior to complete on his or her own. Bathing, grooming, and light housekeeping come to mind. Errands, too. Taking some of the burden off the sandwich generation, those adult children with young children of their own, who find themselves pulled between their children’s needs and their parents’ needs.
What effect does in-home care have?
Can in-home caregiving actually affect the medical outcomes of these seniors? “In many cases, we are the eyes and ears not only of the client’s family, but of the client’s physician ,” says Lisa Lunsford, field supervisor for Sequoia Senior Solutions, a Northern California in-home care provider. When a senior seems off, “just not feeling well,” family members at a distance and busy medical professionals may not be able to elicit from the elder what went wrong. The caregiver, seeing the bread package emptier than it was yesterday, will realize that this diabetic patient ate too much bread, and is probably suffering from elevated blood sugar levels.
Noticing and assessing changes
“Is he dizzy and disoriented?” continues Lunsford. “His sodium level may be too low.” Seniors newly diagnosed with a medical condition may not understand what they have to do. They may not remember what the doctor said. The caregiver can be the liaison to the family, communicating what the doctor said. Caregivers provide consistency concerning health care, helping patients remember and get to medical appointments and reminding them to follow the doctor’s instructions.
Making sense of it all
Medication reminders are a part of the in-home care provider’s role, and providers can also help elders make sense of often confusing instructions. Which pills are taken with meals; which are taken on an empty stomach; which should not be taken with which. This is an area that much younger and more focused patients have trouble with. To an elderly person, the instructions may be simply too much to absorb, understand, and remember. Taking their meds is important. Taking them correctly is even more important to their medical outcomes.
Assessing and making recommendations
A caregiver will also check to see if the house is safe. Since falls are a significant danger to seniors, preventing them is an important way of keeping seniors out of the hospital. A broken hip often transforms a fairly self-sufficient elder into an invalid. Having someone in the home, observing and making recommendations about safety rails, grab bars, and ramps, can mean the difference between a senior staying in her beloved home or moving into a nursing home.
Hearing and connection
One of the major ways we are in contact with the world around us is through our sense of hearing. Another way a caregiver can be the family’s eyes and ears is illustrated by Terry Ledesma, also a field supervisor for Sequoia Senior Solutions. She had a client who was hard of hearing and liked to have the TV on at high volume. Ledesma noticed at one point that the TV was getting louder and louder every day. She thought to check the client’s ears, and found a build-up of wax in the ear and the hearing aid. She cleaned the hearing aid and made an appointment for the client to have an ear lavage. After that, the TV volume went down significantly.
Ledesma has learned from years of caregiving that if she speaks to clients while facing them and enunciating very clearly, she can have meaningful conversation with them without the need to speak loudly. She can also help facilitate communication with the adult children. “The kids come in from the workaday world, from their busy lives, and they rush around putting out fires, making sure there’s nothing urgent in the mail and that all bills have been paid. They often talk to Mom or Dad with their faces turned away. I often find myself repeating to the parent what the child has said. The less they hear, the less brain activity there is. The synapses stop firing.” It’s easy to lose sight of how an elder is experiencing the world. “You don’t think about it until you’ve walked in their walker,” says Ledesma.
Vision and enjoyment
In another example of noticing changes, the caregiver may notice that a senior who used to be an avid reader is not reading anymore. “When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” she’ll ask. “Oh, I was supposed to do that quite a while back,” the client may admit sheepishly. Soon the senior is once again engaged with the world, reading magazines, newspapers, and books on favorite topics.
Nutrition and health
Good nutrition is crucial to preventing and reversing many common health conditions. Beyond nutrition is the matter of eating with another human. Whether eating at one’s own table or going out to lunch, it lifts a person’s spirits to eat with someone rather than alone. A lonely senior can easily go from an attitude of “why get up today?” to the excitement of “what are we doing today?”
Without someone to encourage them to eat and make sure they’re eating nutritious meals, many elders living alone will get by on a box of crackers for lunch and soup eaten straight out of the can for supper. Widows who used to cook for their family may find it hard to muster the energy to cook just for themselves. Widowers whose wives used to do the cooking may have no idea where to start.
More than monitoring disease
“It’s absolutely correct that having dedicated caregivers involved with elders increases their physical and psychological health,” states Dr. Herb Brosbe of Santa Rosa, who, until his recent retirement, cared for many patients old and young during his 35 years of practice. “Nutrition and exercise are so important, even if the exercises are chair exercises. Maintaining muscle mass to prevent falls is vital to preventing accidents that lead to hospitalizations or ER visits. And out-of-home excursions help keep the elder involved with life. It’s not just about monitoring disease.”
Caregivers will also take care of a senior’s pet. Without that help, the senior would be heartbroken to have to give up the much-loved pet. With an in-home care provider, elders can enjoy the companionship and comfort of a pet without all the work, which they may have done willingly and cheerfully before, but is now getting to be too much for them.
Getting in sync
What many seniors living alone miss is friendly touch. “Human touch releases endorphins. It’s the magic elixir. It reduces stress,” explains Ledesma. A good caregiver will get in sync with the senior, slowing down, sharing interests, listening to music the senior enjoys.
An old story tells of a wife lecturing her recalcitrant husband, referring to their good friends, Barbara and Art. Wife: “Barbara has taught Art how to sew on a button, cook a meal, and do the laundry. If something happens to Barbara, Art will be able to manage. What would you do if something happened to me?” Husband: “I’d move in with Art!”
The next best thing to moving in with Art is having an in-home caregiver. Not only can caregivers sew on a button and prepare a nutritious meal, they will take seniors to places the seniors can’t get to anymore because they can’t drive and may be too frail to navigate the bus system. An art class… a trip to the coast to be reminded what the crisp ocean air feels like… a movie or show… a drive around town to see the fall colors… attending a religious service or a meeting… all are ways of engaging with the community, with life. This is extremely important for both long life and quality of life.
“Few appreciate the extent to which mental health is the close companion of physical health” say researchers and professors Howard Friedman, Ph.D. and Leslie Martin, Ph.D. In The Longevity Project, they share their findings from examining the landmark eight-decade study of 1500 Californians, launched by Dr. Terman in 1921 when the subjects were 11 years old. Friedman and Martin stress that the importance of social connectedness cannot be overestimated. “Over and over in our research we have seen the value of social networks. Healthy aging involves maintaining contact with family and community. Meaningful bonds with others are part of the reason that being active in one’s religious congregation is healthy.” A good caregiver can enable the senior to have this healthy connection with the community.
The researchers examine various societal myths about the people who live the longest, and analyze the data from this extensive study to see if they hold up. Usually they don’t. And when they do, it’s not for the reasons we thought.
“Across the life span, many predictors emerged as to who would do better and who would do worse, who would live longer and who would die younger. It was not good cheer or being popular and outgoing that made the difference. It was also not those who took life easy, played it safe, or avoided stress who lived the longest,” say Friedman and Martin. “Rather, it was those who—through an often-complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, and close involvement with friends and communities—headed down meaningful, interesting life paths…”
Quality of life
Of course, outcome is not only about long life. Our elders don’t want their last years to be lonely and miserable, and we don’t want that for them.
Many seniors who are in nursing homes or confined to bed will say, in one way or another, “You call this a life?” Some will not be able to regain physical independence or a semblance of the life they once had. But others, with the help of caregivers, will get to their medical appointments and physical therapy appointments, do their exercises with the care provider’s reminders, eat the healthy meals the caregiver cooks, and actually regain some of their former vitality. Both groups will be able to get out and about, see the sights, go to a show, visit a friend. With some help, they can keep the house tidy enough to be able to invite friends, and to have the friends want to come. They can offer visitors a snack that the caregiver has prepared. Freshly bathed and combed, in the clean clothes they couldn’t manage on their own, they can go out or receive company with confidence and even some of their old good cheer.
As the holidays approach, they don’t have to feel left out of all the excitement. The in-home care provider can help them write and mail their holiday cards, put up decorations, shop for and wrap gifts, and get to parties and gatherings they’d enjoy attending. This can turn the holiday season from a period of depression and hopelessness to a season of joy.
Through medication reminders, noticing and assessing changes, looking out for safety, good nutrition, pet care, and getting in sync with the senior, in-home caregivers can significantly affect both quality of life and medical outcomes.
Most seniors don’t want to be twenty-one again, nor do they want to live forever. They just want to be the best eighty-five they can be. “Living is not really the prize; living well is the prize,” says preventive health expert David Katz, M.D.
Ledesma, Lunsford, and countless caregivers and the seniors who love them and depend on them would heartily agree.
Sequoia Senior Solutions is a professional senior care agency which provides in-home care to the
elderly. When the tasks of everyday living—bathing, dressing, food preparation, cleaning,
errands, pet care—become too much, a caregiver providing personal care at home can offer as
much or as little help as the individual needs.
Sequoia Senior Solutions senior care providers are thoroughly trained when hired and are required to take continuing education classes. These in-home care specialists provide caring companionship, incidental transportation, and medication reminders, as well as help with the tasks of daily living.
“Creating art is an essential part of me. It is my form of communication.”
Sally Cataldo can’t remember when art was not a part of her life. Her mother, the artist Fran Hurd, needed no convincing to make art a part of Sally’s education. When circumstances led Sally to work on the HP assembly line for years, she would draw on her lunch break and attend art workshops on the weekend. A full-time artist since 1989, Sally wondered at first about treading the artist’s path. “Give it five years,” she was advised. Over twenty years later, she has a long resume of awards and recognition to allay any lingering doubts.
“Experiment, always,” is her mantra and advice to aspiring artists. To that end, she clears her studio of all previous work before making a fresh start on a new piece. “My goal is to create a simple, poetic, visual language in my art.”
Winning the prestigious High Winds Medal from the American Watercolor Society International Exhibition in New York City in 2004 did not make a dent in Cataldo’s humble, disciplined approach to creating art. Neither did having her paintings appear in numerous juried art shows, publications, and books, including the recent Watercolor Painting by Tom Hoffman. She continues her lifelong study of art, journeying to Tuscany to paint under the tutelage of artists she admires.
“Art is my visual and personal expression of places, people, and events that are a part of my journey through life. My art is sincere feelings expressed.”
Sally Cataldo is represented by the Highlight Gallery in Mendocino, California, and the Fairmont Gallery in Sonoma, California.
Twelve Early Signs of Alzheimer’s and How to Spot Them
Is This the Beginning?
Mel came home late from work and quickly dropped everything in his hands onto the table in order to grab his cell phone. He recognized his demanding boss’s ring and knew he’d better answer it promptly. His boss was furious that Mel hadn’t called back an important customer. Mel squirmed out of the situation with a promise to call immediately, without admitting that he had simply forgotten to make the call. He then spent twenty minutes looking for the customer’s phone number. Later, with the situation smoothed over, he couldn’t find the files he needed to review for a crucial meeting early the next morning. Constantly distracted and forgetful, Mel began to wonder if he was seeing early signs of Alzheimer’s.
“Have you always been disorganized and forgetful?” his doctor asked. “Well, I suppose so,” admitted Mel. “I used to drive my teachers crazy when I was a kid in school.” Mel may have ADD, but it’s unlikely he has Alzheimer’s.
Vicki, on the other hand, had always been organized and efficient. In her late seventies, she suffered several losses of those closest to her. Then she fell and hit her head. Friends began noticing that she was forgetting familiar names and groping for words. She’d fall asleep in the late afternoon, wake up at eight in the evening, and in the face of darkness outside her window, be convinced that it was eight in the morning. Other days, she’d wake up at seven in the morning and decide to go shopping. She’d phone her nephew, demanding to know why all the stores were closed in the middle of the day. Not long after this, Vicki was tentatively diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
With Alzheimer’s Disease striking one out of ten seniors over the age of 65, and over half of those over 85, we’re all wondering what the warning signs are and whether Mom, Dad, or we ourselves might have this terrifying disease. When we misplace our keys or forget someone’s name, we feel a flicker of alarm as the thought crosses our mind: Is this the beginning?
Ours is a fast-paced society, and most of us are juggling more balls than we can possibly keep in the air, and doing so on less sleep than is optimal. A certain amount of forgetfulness is normal under these conditions. Where’s the line between normal forgetfulness and the kind of memory loss that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s?
How to Tell
The first question to ask: Is this typical or is it a change in behavior? If you’ve always had a terrible sense of direction, and you get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, this is probably just you. But if you’re a seasoned traveler who has easily navigated many foreign cities, and you find lately that you often feel confused about which way to turn in your hometown, this is something to mention to your doctor.
Misplacing one’s keys is not unusual. Some people race around every morning on a mad quest for those elusive keys. But staring at the keys and not registering what they’re for may be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Finding the keys under a stack of mail you dumped on the table is normal. Finding them in the freezer may be cause for concern.
Confusion about time is another early sign. Those dealing with Alzheimer’s frequently lose track of days and seasons. Tell them in March about summer vacation plans, and they may be convinced that you’re leaving tomorrow. Time of day is problematic, too. There’s an inability to process clues from the environment, so the fact that it’s dark out may not clue the patient that it’s nighttime.
People with Alzheimer’s have difficulty making and following a plan. This is partially because they can’t remember the first step long enough to put the second step into place. If someone who used to be an excellent planner seems to be struggling in this area, it’s something to note. Balancing a checkbook, managing a budget, or remembering the rules of a favorite game are all difficult at this stage.
Other factors may be involved. Some may be temporary. Being distracted during an upsetting episode can cause forgetfulness and strange behavior. Finding the keys in the freezer during such a period can mean nothing more than the fact that you are overstressed.
Alzheimer’s sufferers tend to experience difficulty making good decisions. They may exhibit poor judgment in handling money, often giving away large sums to people who, in normal times, would have immediately aroused their suspicions. Here again, the key is whether poor judgment is a lifelong problem or a new one.
Similarly, some people have never been interested in being well-dressed and well-groomed. But when Dad has always prided himself on his appearance, and has suddenly started going out poorly groomed and unshowered, it may be time to accompany him to a medical appointment and discuss this with his doctor.
If Mom, previously a sociable person with many friends and activities, starts removing herself from her social circle, hobbies, and volunteer work, there is cause for concern. Depression could be the culprit, if her life situation has changed. If that is addressed and she’s still reclusive and perhaps newly forgetful, doctors may consider the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
Depression can produce symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s. So can a mini-stroke. Your doctor can rule out other causes of these symptoms.
People who have always had good social skills often become experts at covering up the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Even as they are losing cognitive skills, they become adept at making up excuses for bizarre behavior. People who previously held themselves to a high level of accountability will now deny vigorously that they put things in odd places and blame others. Have they suddenly become liars? No, they truly don’t remember that they did it. What looks like paranoia may be a reaction to suddenly being blamed for all sorts of actions that they have no recollection of doing.
Relatives and friends close to the patient may help in the cover-up. Wanting things to be right, to be as they’ve always been, they may unconsciously try to make it so. At the beginning it’s often only the one or two people closest to the patient who notice the signs.
When Judy finally moved her mother, Alyssa, into her home, Alyssa was completely unable to function independently. She forgot to pay bills, regularly scorched pots by forgetting to turn off the stove, and wandered out at all hours of the day and night with no idea of where she was going or how to get back. However, when Judy started interviewing caregivers, they’d have a pleasant conversation with Alyssa and see nothing wrong with her. On the way out the door, one of them looked accusingly at Judy and asked, “What makes you think your mother has Alzheimer’s?”
Paranoia can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. As the patient’s grip on reality erodes, so does the line between reality and imagination. A well person, unable to find his wallet, may have a fleeting thought that someone stole it. He quickly reassures himself that he probably just misplaced it and keeps looking until he finds it. Someone with Alzheimer’s immediately becomes convinced that people are taking his things. He may also be sure that his steadfast elderly wife, who has stood faithfully at his side for the past sixty years, is now unfaithful to him. The family members in this situation don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The accusation is clearly untrue, but painful to the wife and the adult children who want to protect Mom from an increasingly unreasonable and agitated spouse. This is often the point at which the family starts looking at care options.
In home senior care can be a lifesaver for the elderly spouse or the harried children of someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The spouse may have medical problems too. And the children are often at the height of their careers, with their own children still at home. They are already struggling to balance it all. Caregiving is stressful, and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is many times more stressful. Aside from helping them with the tasks of daily living, the caregiver must be vigilant about wandering. Some people are more prone to this than others. The family may have to put a bolt or chain high on the door, and also install devices that make a sound when the door is opened. An elder who is prone to wandering can easily slip out in the minute it takes the caregiver to go to the bathroom.
A caregiver can keep track of the mail, making sure the children get important mail right away. Regular bills can be sent directly to the children, but getting mail is a familiar, expected pleasure for many elderly people, and having a caregiver means the elder can still have that pleasure without the mail getting lost and going unanswered.
Early detection is important. Research is producing new medications that can delay or arrest the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Once you have a diagnosis, you can see which of these works best for your loved one. Meds that help with agitation and anxiety can also help relieve the stress that this disease brings to the family. Remembering to take one’s meds, difficult for many people, is impossible for those with Alzheimer’s. This is another area that a caregiver can help with.
If you’re still wondering whether the symptoms you’re observing are due to Alzheimer’s, depression, or other factors, a caregiver can help sort out the confusion. Having a companion and knowing that everything is under control can help alleviate depression that stems from loneliness and loss. Then you can see whether Alzheimer’s-like symptoms have changed. Also, an in home care provider will spend enough time with the senior to observe and report on symptoms that can help doctors make a diagnosis.
Poor diet can exacerbate symptoms. Often a senior experiencing some confusion will forget to eat meals, then fill up on less-than-nutritious snacks. A caregiver will cook regular, wholesome meals that can improve health and lift mood. Care providers also take elders to places they enjoy going to but are unable to get to on their own.
If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or someone close to you, it’s important to get them checked out. There are several benefits to early detection:
You have more time to plan for the future. Elders in the very early stages may retain a lot of insight and can participate in decisions about care and financial matters.
You can seek support before the stresses of caregiving impact your own health. The Alzheimer’s Association is tremendously helpful in providing support and information.
Available treatments tend to be more effective if started in the very early stages. They may help your loved one maintain some independence for a longer time. They may increase the chances of your loved one participating in clinical drug trials. These trials let you benefit from otherwise unavailable drugs and they advance research that can help others.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that develops slowly and gradually worsens over time. It progresses from mild forgetfulness to widespread impairment. Actual physical changes take place in the brain over time. Sufferers are unable to reverse the symptoms through “trying harder” or willpower. Reasoning with them doesn’t help, either. It’s important to consult a geriatric specialist who understands the nature of the disease. Not all internists or family physicians will have familiarity with Alzheimer’s. Be sure to take care of the family caregiver so that he or she doesn’t get burned out or ill.