HyperSound

June 10, 2016  
Filed under Home & Garden, Mature Matters

hypersound 3

A Sound Revolution for Your TV

By Gary M. Kaye
Chief Content Officer,
Tech50+ (www.tech50plus.com)

I’ve been covering technology long enough that I don’t use the phrase “revolutionary” lightly. But the technology from the HyperSound division of Turtle Beach truly is revolutionary, with broad implications for sound reproduction. Frankly, it’s gonna take some ‘splaining, so please read on.

Read more

Mature Matters: Putting an End to Elder Abuse

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

Elder Abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. Its victims are often isolated or are dependent on their abusers for their care. It is estimated that 1 in 10 American seniors have been abused and the vast majority of their abusers (approximately 90 percent) were family members. In 2009, $5.3 billion was spent on the direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to seniors, while victims of senior financial exploitation were estimated to have lost $2.9 billion.

Many seniors are at high risk to be physically, emotionally and sexually abused. In addition, many seniors fall victim to financial exploitation. Seniors who rely on others to help provide care can be victims of neglect. Learning to understand the signs of abuse is a critical first step to helping to end this crime.

Signs of physical abuse may be the most obvious. Does the senior have bruises, black eyes, broken bones or open wounds? Has the senior reported being abused, has his behavior suddenly changed or is his caregiver refusing to allow visitors to see the senior alone? These are all signs that abuse may be occurring.

Abuse associated with neglect or self-neglect can be more complicated. Seniors who are dehydrated, malnourished, have untreated bed sores or poor personal hygiene could be a victim of neglect or self-neglect.  Self-neglect is when the senior refuses to take care of himself, putting his health at risk. Neglect is when a caregiver does not provide proper care. There may be unattended health problems, or unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

Emotional abuse of a senior typically results in behavior changes. Seniors who have been emotionally abused may become withdrawn or non-responsive. Some seniors exhibit unusual behaviors that people often attribute to dementia such as sucking, biting or rocking.

Though sexual abuse of seniors is less common, accounting for 5 percent of abuse cases in Vermont according to the most recent Adult Protective Service report, it can cause physical and emotional trauma. Typical signs include bruises in the breasts or genital area, unexplained venereal diseases, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding and torn or bloody underclothing.

The most common type of abuse is financial exploitation. If there are unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, the inclusion of additional names on accounts, unauthorized withdrawal of cash using a seniors’ ATM card or abrupt changes to a will, it is time to ask questions.

Many seniors are afraid to report abuse because they are dependent on the abuser to provide their everyday care needs. Often times, seniors are worried that they will not be able to remain at home if their abuser is reported.

If you have concerns or questions about elder abuse, call the CVAA Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119. If you would like to report suspected abuse, contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-564-1612.

Any time a senior reports abuse, it should be taken seriously. Together we can put an end to elder abuse.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA, the resource for seniors since 1974.  For more information on services for seniors call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or click on cvaa.org.

Exploration and New Beginnings

August 6, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

August 2014

By Sarah Lemnah

 

Llyn Ellison, 68, shown here with a fellow hiker, has set an ambitious target of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, in sections, before she turns 70. (Contributed photo)

Llyn Ellison, 68, shown here with a fellow hiker, has set an ambitious target of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, in sections, before she turns 70. (Contributed photo)

 

Today’s seniors are gearing up for the next phases in their lives. Some retirees are starting businesses, raising grandchildren, enjoying new hobbies or exploring the world. The idea of a rocking chair in their golden years has been replaced with self-exploration, adventures and new beginnings.
For one local senior, retirement means she has the time and flexibility to focus on her life time love of the outdoors and hiking. Llyn Ellison, a former Fletcher Allen Health Care volunteer program staffer, has set an ambitious target of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, in sections, before she turns 70.
The 68-year-old already stays busy as a volunteer in the program she once coordinated, as a volunteer driver for SSTA, and as a CVAA volunteer providing companionship to a local senior.
Ellison has already completed 1,300 miles of the 2,200 mile trail. Averaging 10 miles a day, but sometimes going almost twice that distance for weeks at a time carrying a 35 pound pack on her back, she keeps on going like the Energizer bunny. “My mom used to take me and my brother to Okemo Mountain. She instilled in me a love of nature and the outdoors. When I hike is the closest I feel to my Mom.”
In April, Ellison was in New York and New Jersey, in May she was in Northern Pennsylvania, July she will be in Maine, August she will hike in Massachusetts, September in Southern Virginia, and in October she will hike the entire state of Georgia. It is not unusual for Ellison to hike steadily for two to three weeks as she completes a new section. Her pack must include her food for five days in order to decrease the number of times she needs to leave the trail for supplies. She also carries two-three pounds of water, a change of clothes, her sleeping bag and a tent. Hiking 10 miles, enjoying the sounds of the birds and seeing the different flowers are the fun part. However, once she makes camp, it is time to set up the tent, find water, hang her pack of food so bears cannot get to it and make dinner. All of the hard work seems to fade away as Ellison talks about the sunsets and the sunrise. “Being in the mountains is peaceful and invigorating, it fills my soul.”
Though Ellison loved her job, she was ready to retire. “My passion is hiking. Being retired is much more freeing to allow me to hike.”
She readily remarks that many of the people she meets on the trail are surprised to see women her age out in the woods. “(It’s) weird to see women with white hair out there. I will do it as long as my body endures,” she said. She said her time hiking the Appalachian Trail has “taught me how to organize myself and enjoy the moment. I love the feeling of everything I need on my back.”
Ellison has a word of advice for people facing retirement and considering a new adventure. “Just do it. Life is too short and there are so many wonderful things to explore. When presented with a challenge, step up to the plate and do it!”

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or click on cvaa.org.

Can You Hear Me Now?

June 19, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

It may be funny when cell phone commercials use the popular tag line of “can you hear me now,” but for millions of older Americans hearing, loss is no laughing matter. The numbers are eye opening. According to Dr. Michael Whitaker, an audiologist at Fletcher Allen, 30-35 percent of all seniors between the ages of 65-75 experience some hearing loss, while 40-50 percent of those over the age of 70 experience some loss. “For every year that passes, there is a certain expectation for hearing loss,” he said.

The causes of hearing loss are many. For some, it runs in their families, others may have been exposed to loud noises and for still others, pre-existing medical conditions can be at play.

“Anything that affects blood supply to the ear can cause hearing loss,” said Dr.Whitaker. “Diabetics hear at a rate 10 years older than they are. Heart disease and people with high blood pressure are more prone to hearing loss.”

In fact, many medical conditions put seniors at a higher risk of hearing loss including poor circulation, use of certain medications, smoking, infections, heart conditions, strokes and tumors.

The inability to hear can have a profound impact on the quality of life. “Seniors with hearing loss have difficulty with conversation and can become isolated,” Whitaker said.

How do you know if you have hearing loss?

Do you have trouble talking on the phone, need to turn the TV volume up causing others to complain, ask people to repeat themselves or does it seem like people are mumbling? These are all signs of a potential hearing loss.

For some, a simple hearing aid and some amplification of their phone allow them to communicate better. However, Dr. Whitaker said many people are self-conscious about hearing aids, though asking someone to repeat themselves five times may draw more unwanted attention.

Communication tips

Avoid background noise — if you are in a restaurant, request not to be seated next to the kitchen or a speaker. Ask people to look at you when they talk — you will begin to be able to read lips or body language to help with communication cues. Sometimes just having someone rephrase what they said instead of repeating the same sentence is helpful.

Hearing aids

In Vermont, if you purchase a hearing aid, you have 45 days to return it if it does not work for you. Whitaker’s advice: “Try it and see if it works for you. Some people brag they hear better than their spouse,” once a hearing aid is used.

For Dr. Whitaker, there is no better joy than restoring someone’s hearing. “I do get to restore a sense. People are very happy and able to communicate. Ears make us social.”

So if your spouse or your kids are complaining about having to repeat themselves, or you find yourself missing important conversations or not hearing warning sirens, get your hearing checked. Hearing loss can have a significant impact on the quality of your life.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or visit cvaa.org.

A Road Map on Aging for Baby Boomer Women

May 15, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

For women, aging brings some special concerns as society often bases value on the youth and appearance of women more than their substance and intelligence.

Local Vermont author Pamela Blair, PhD, tries to de-myth the aging process for women in her latest book “Getting Older Better: The Best Advice Ever on Money, Health, Creativity, Sex, Work, Retirement and More.”

The book is a quick read divided into short segments on every topic you can imagine regarding aging, especially for baby boomer women. The book is designed so you can easily check out topics that you can relate to and easily skip over segments that don’t currently apply to you.

For Blair, the journey started after having a traumatic brain injury that forced her to slow down and evaluate her life. “My world became smaller, but more beautiful. I had to pace my life differently. I took time to listen to the birds. I lived in the present.”

Blair writes about this experience in her book, including the need to ask for help. “I needed the help of friends and family, and for the first time in my life, I had to ask for help. Many of us have been taught that we shouldn’t admit to our pain and suffering, so we bear them in silence.”

Blair found, however, that the people in her life felt good about helping her and it brought them closer together.

Self worth

For women, aging brings questions of self worth. “As long as you are pretty, we will notice you, and you will be valuable. The scariest part of aging for many women is that they have to rely more on who they are than on what they look like for respect or attention. They feel invisible,” Blair noted. “Age is attitude. If your attitude about aging is poor, it can affect your health and cause depression, which is not a normal part of aging.”

The book was written with women, especially aging baby boomers, in mind, and provides them with examples of role models — proud women who have lived long and full lives. However, it can easily be a guide for anyone facing their fears, curious about the future and who is feeling isolated or alone. Each story is unique, but everyone has experienced pain, confusion, embarrassment and joy. Hopefully, joy is the one you focus on and let the rest just be part of a long and varied story. “If you focus on and build on the strength you do have, your emotional life will be less affected, and aging will become more satisfying,” Blair said.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or click on cvaa.org.

Coming Full Circle

March 31, 2014  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

Aging is often not an easy topic to discuss — and an even more challenging thing to celebrate and explore. But, one local filmmaker is doing just that. As Camilla Rockwell approached 60, she realized she had one of two choices with regard to dealing with her age. “I could deny it and start faking it, but I don’t want to pretend. It is not who I am.”

Instead she embraced it and is inviting fellow Vermonters to do the same at a three-day event called the Full Circle Festival (www.fullcirclefestival.com) happening at 10 locations throughout downtown Burlington from April 11-13. Billed as a First Night for Aging, the event offers films, live performances, comedy, workshops and art exhibits.

Rockwell explained, “I only take on a subject that is of interest to me. I hope this event allows us to open up to recognize we are not alone in this, that we have a sense of connection instead of isolation.”

For many seniors, the aging process is one that is dictated by fear. Seniors are worried about their independence, their safety, their health, their resources, their loneliness, their lack of a voice and their changing relationships with their children. Learning to acknowledge and face their fears is a journey all seniors must travel in order to have a successful aging process that produces the highest quality of life.

On April 12 at 4 p.m. in the boardroom of Main Street Landing, there will be a discussion called “Facing Fear: The Unspoken Anxiety of Aging,” featuring a panel of experts including: Dr. Susan Wehry, commissioner of the Department of Aging and Independent Living; Rachel Lee Cummings, founder of Armistead Caregiver Services and Owner of Rachel Lee Cummings Guardianship; and Karen Gissendanner, CVAA Case Manager.

However, sometimes laughter is the best medicine. “Laugh ‘Til You Die,” featuring physical comedian Tom Murphy, takes a humorous or at times not so humorous look at aging. Murphy is an acclaimed clown, winning the Number One Clown Award in Paris at the International Circus Competition. The New York Times described his work as a “sure fire cure for the blahs.” Having performed slapstick comedy around the country and around the world, he brings his unique vision to Vermont at the Full Circle Festival. His character is much like himself, a man who finds that age is starting to limit what he once could do.

Murphy talks candidly about how he never thought aging would have an impact on him. However, after a herniated disc, some things that were once easy became difficult. “I want to do back somersaults. My confidence came from my physical awareness. I knew who I was and was so confident in what I could do.”

Today, Murphy is re-learning who he is and what he can do in an entertaining but thought-provoking production. Geared to entertain all ages, “Laugh ‘Til You Die “ will be performed on April 12 at Burlington’s Contois Auditorium at 1 p.m.

The Full Circle Festival celebrates us all and the journey we are on. It promises, to make us laugh, to dream and to think.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA, the resource for seniors since 1974. For more information on services for seniors call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or click on cvaa.org.

Making Hard Decisions

December 18, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

They say one of the hardest things to do is to move to a new home. Giving up a home that you loved, packing up boxes of things that for some reason you feel you cannot part with, and being in a strange new environment is a hard adjustment. Your home is your safe place — moving, even if you are moving up, is difficult to do. Most of us move because there is a change in our life: we got a new job out of townl; we expanded the size of our family; or we off to new adventures.

If moving in the best of times is stressful, how about moving in the worst of times? Or worse yet, how about having the conversation with a loved one that they need to move because they are no longer safe at home, but they don’t want to move. What do you say to a loved one?

As someone who works in senior services, I know the drill about difficult conversations: it is no longer safe for you to drive or you need supports to enable you to remain independent. I have written dozens of columns and talked to hundreds of people on the topic. All of that fades, however, when you personally need to look at someone you love and tell them the news that they are not safe at home, tell them they need to move where there are people around 24/7, and to tell them that they cannot keep their home or maybe even their pet.

My grandmother is 96 years old. She is independent and proud of it. She has been on her own since her husband died 42 years ago. She lives in a small apartment with her cat. It seems like it was only a few years ago that she was a foster grandparent and was driving from St. Albans to Williston to visit Walmart. However, a few short years can bring a lot of change when you are in your 90s. First there was a concern about her driving — that conversation did not go well. Then there was a fall and a broken hip. Against all odds, she recovered well from hip surgery, made it through rehab and was soon back home knitting dish cloths, over-feeding the cat, baking holiday cookies and living her life. Her life was smaller, but she was still independent and making it work.

Over time, she needed more help. Family members took on their roles. There was someone to pay the bills and go through the mail, set up her medications, clean the house, buy the groceries and do the laundry. It can take a lot to keep someone independent, but you do what you need to do. However, sometimes there comes a point when no matter how much help someone receives, it is just not enough.

What do you do when someone’s mind starts to fade and the simple things in life they used to enjoy they can no longer do? What do you do when they start exhibiting dangerous behaviors? It is sad when a loved one no longer remembers you, it is sad when they can no longer knit or bake. It is sad when the memories of their husband and children fade. But it is scary when someone forgets to eat, starts to burn baking pans (nearly starting fires), when they don’t take or overtake their medications, when they no longer understand how to use the phone to call for help, when they forget how to cook and call and say they are hungry. Sad things happen, but scary things are dangerous.

My grandmother went to the hospital because she stopped eating — while there, we found out she had a small heart attack. She is now in rehab and the family is trying to find the best option for her to live with independence and dignity, but be safe and well cared for. I have learned a huge lesson in all of this. Telling people what options they have and telling them how to have difficult conversations is easy. Being the one to make difficult decisions and have difficult conversations with your loved one is heartbreaking.

Dementia robs us of so many things and one of them is the ability to be able to live the life we had planned. When you are no longer able to make sound decisions for yourself, your family is left trying to figure out what is the best option and what you would want to do.

Finding a good assisted living facility, especially if you are not able to private pay, can be challenging. Find facilities that are close to family and friends. Visiting people with diminishing physical and mental abilities can be depressing as we want to remember loved ones as they once were. However, the emotional attachment to family is still there even after the memory is gone. People may forget names and faces, but sensing they are loved is never gone. Find homes that offer good care and well maintained facilities. Remember this will be your loved one’s home — their last home — so find a place that they can be as comfortable as possible. Many assisted living and nursing home facilities today offer excellent food, activities and outings to make the residents stay as happy as possible. Your loved one will adjust to their new surroundings and you will have to adjust to the new normal with your loved one.

Guilt is a tricky thing. We make ourselves feel bad for doing what we know we have to do to keep our loved ones safe. Remember when you were raising your children, being your child’s parent was more important than being his or her friend. You need to look out for your loved ones no matter what age. As you go down this path with your parents and grandparents, let it remind you that life is short. We all need to enjoy every minute and we need to plan for our future so we do not put our loved ones in the position of making these difficult choices. You are not alone. There are case managers who can help your family with these difficult transitions and there are workshops to help family caregivers. Ask for help as you maneuver down this emotional path.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-511.

Five Tips to Help You Lookand Feel Younger

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

The weather is getting colder, the sun is disappearing and the fall doldrums are making grown adults dream of taking midday naps. Everywhere you look people seem to be angry, stressed and tired. The talk on the news is about debt ceilings and possible recession. The old saying is you are as old as you feel. Well, some days I feel way older than my chronological age. I do not think I am alone in feeling and looking older than I want to.

However, some simple steps can put some pep in your step while making you look younger and more vital. Here are five tips to look and feel your best!

Tip 1: You are what you eat.

If you live on sugar and junk, you will feel sluggish and not your best. Hydrate yourself — drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. It will make you more alert and make your body run more efficiently, helping you maintain a healthy weight and improving the look of your skin.

Want to lose weight and feel younger? Eat a healthy diet. Do not fall for the “lose 10 pounds while doing nothing” sales pitch that you see advertised on TV. There is no shortcut to eating healthy. It takes 14 days to break a bad habit or learn a new one. Fad diets will just dehydrate you, making you feel and look worse.

Looking to lose some weight? Then eat foods like dairy (skim milk or light yogurt), apples, black beans, carrots, onions and soup (not the canned kind high in sodium). These foods will make you feel full so you will lose weight the healthy way.

Want to improve how your skin looks? Good nutrition can help with that, also. Almonds, for example, will make your skin look smoother and more youthful. Collard greens can protect you from the sun, blackberries and blueberries can slow the aging process and pomegranate juice can stop the formation of “spider veins.”

Tip 2: If your skin looks young, you will feel young.

If you want to make sure your skin looks its best, all you need to do is follow a few simple tips. Hydrate. Yes, we have said it before and we will say it again — drinking water is the best thing you can do to feel and look younger.

Don’t forget your sunscreen. Not only can sunscreen protect you from skin cancer, but it can reduce the incidence of sun spots and help to avoid fine lines and wrinkles. Dailey SPF can reverse some signs of sun-induced aging. Using a topical vitamin C cream before your sunscreen can help preserve your skin. In fact, it creates more collagen which makes the skin appear plumper. Also, anti-inflammatories in green tea can make your skin look younger.

Tip 3: Exercise will keep you young.

Move it or lose it has never been more true. Want to feel more vital, look younger, be more trim? Strength training exercises will increase your balance, trim your waistline, give you more energy and help you sleep. Keeping active puts some pep in your step and makes sure to keep you in the best health possible. Go for a walk, go for a swim, do some yoga. Whatever activity you enjoy is fine — just get out there and do it.

Tip 4: A good night’s sleep is the key to good health.

We all do it — we try to get away with as little sleep as possible. We reason that we are too busy to sleep, we will make it up on the weekend, or that we are tough and can handle it. Good try, but this is called denial. We all need a good night’s sleep. You need to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you want to look and feel your best, make sure you get your beauty rest.

The short term effects of lack of sleep are scary enough. Lose a few nights sleep and your immune system becomes impaired; you get confused, clumsy, are less aware and have difficulty thinking and reasoning. The long term effects can be downright deadly. Lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, obesity and depression.

Tip 5: Avoid stress.

Avoiding stress is tricky. The world is stressful and you can’t change that, but you can change how you react to it. Eat healthy, sleep well and stay active and you will be able to handle stress better. But if you really want to avoid stress, focus on the people and the things you love. Pamper yourself a little. Find a hobby you love, spend time with family and friends and make sure your to do list includes things that make you happy.

Laughter will not only make you look younger, it can make you feel like a kid again. So laugh a little and give yourself permission to make you a priority. As the saying goes, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119.

Imagination Never Dies

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

The Flynn Theatre will present Sandglass’s Theater’s production of “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” this November. There are two things that make this production stand out—it uses puppets to tell a story and the story was written by and inspired by seniors in late-stage dementia.

Some may question how people with dementia could create this compelling story, others might question how could this possibly be moving and even funny in parts, while others will look for clues on how they can take the technique behind this story to help re-establish relationships with their loved ones living with dementia.

This production used a technique called TimeSlips. Developed in 1996 by Dr. Ann Basting at the University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center on Age and Community, this technique allows people with late-stage dementia who have trouble communicating find new ways to re-connect with their loved ones. Many people with dementia feel stressed from being in situations where they are being forced to try to remember. Using the TimeSlips method, they can relax and use their imaginations.

Basting had been using games to try to reach late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and one day, out of frustration, she tore a picture of the Marlboro man out of a magazine and held it up and asked the seniors to tell a story about the picture. They did.

Since that time, studies have shown that people using TimeSlips become more socially engaged, have better relationships with caregivers, have more self-esteem and are seen differently by their caregivers. Their caregivers and loved ones can once again connect with them. People with advanced dementia can use their imaginations instead of their memory as the social catalyst.

Excerpts on the Sandglass Theater website are haunting, thought-provoking and humorous. This group did an amazing job of presenting information in a way that is gripping and will affect how you see dementia and how you interact with those living with it. At times, it provokes thought or sadness, but then a wave of laughter as you see the human spirit cannot be destroyed even when a person has late-stage dementia.

It is hard to believe these stories were written by people who many feel are no longer able to communicate. The imagination allows them the freedom not to worry about being right or wrong or of having to remember. Their imagination is their truth, there is no judgment.

One caregiver in the play talks about his experience working with a lady named Mary. “For a brief moment, it is like the light will go on and our eyes meet and she smiles and I smile and she laughs.”

TimeSlips allows them to use their imaginations to gain their freedom, something that is a rare commodity for someone who has become the one taken care of instead of being able to make their own decisions. However, it is not all hearts and flowers and the hard truth about living with dementia does come up—one character says she is “afraid of fading away.”

However, it is clear that the late-stage Alzheimer’s patients that wrote this play are not fading away. Their imaginations continue to soar and through it they can be connected to those they love. For more information about “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” or to purchase tickets, call the Flynn at 86-Flynn or visit www.flynntix.org.

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. If you have questions on senior issues, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or visit cvaa.org.