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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Household Downsizing in Later Life

Ask the Experts by Cathy Lysack and Tam Perry

 Q. My mother is over 80 now and she having difficulty managing the house and yard since my father passed away. I have encouraged her to downsize into a smaller place but she is resisting that. I am concerned that the household chores are too demanding and this older two-story home with stairs isn't suitable for her. The last thing I want is for her to fall and break her hip or worse. Is household downsizing a good option for older adults facing age-related declines? Should I urge her to move?

A. Household downsizing can be helpful when there is poor "fit" between the older adults' abilities and the design of the house.

A major health event that impairs mobility can make it particularly difficult to remain at home if there is no bedroom or bathroom on the main floor, or if the laundry is located in the basement, for example. The loss of a spouse is obviously difficult emotionally, but it can also be practically difficult, effectively doubling the physical work required to take care of the house and yard.

Read more: Household Downsizing in Later Life


Personal Positioning for the Caregiver

Ask the Experts by Jill L. Gafner

Q: My parents are aging quickly and I'm finding myself overwhelmed with decisions and difficult tasks on top of my already stretched schedule. I'm feeling sad, mad, guilty, jealous, depressed, and angry all at the same time! What can I do to manage these emotions?

A. Hopefully the following suggestions that I am able to offer will help you manage your emotions during this challenging time of your life.

Recognize yourself

We "caregivers" tend to overlook ourselves. We shrug off our own doctor appointments, hair appointments, exercise routines, etc. because we no longer value our lives by who we are, but rather "how" our patients are doing. Example: Mary, how are you? Answer: Well to be honest Jack is having a good week, so I'm ok. Our first step in repairing our myriad of emotions is to recognize that our emotions matter and play a significant role in our own health. 

Create your program

The key to survival is to create a healthy routine/schedule and stick to it. Since no two days are alike while caring for someone we need a sense of structure if only 15 minutes a day. Create a guide, WRITE IT DOWN, and follow it daily. Keep your program simple but include MIND, BODY and SOUL. We need to behave our way into a better mind set.

Read more: Personal Positioning for the Caregiver


Collecting Treasures: Understanding Hoarding Behaviors

Ask the Experts by Joanne Corbo Cruz

Q. The time has come for my elderly mother to downsize from her home and move into a condo. She has so many possessions and is having a hard time letting go of items that belonged to my father and other family members that have long passed. How can I help her prepare for the upcoming move? I'm not sure if it's just clutter or she might be a hoarder?

A. I'm sure some of us have closets full of clothes, some may be too big or too small. We're hoping to fit into them one day or have clothes for just in case we grow 2 sizes too big. They're in hangers and dry cleaning plastic bags tucked and shoved in your closet for the last 5 years or more. 

Maybe some of us keep magazines or interesting articles in a folder tightly inserted in an office drawer to hopefully read one day when we have the time. However these clipped articles are from 2005, and they haven't seen the light of day since then - and you've forgotten that they're even there. 

I worked with an older patient before who kept all of her deceased husband's clothes - bags and bags of clothes for years. They sat in her living room since his passing. She hasn't moved them and refuses to move them. 

Are these behaviors considered hoarding or clutter? It depends.

Read more: Collecting Treasures: Understanding Hoarding Behaviors


Drugs and Alcohol: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know

Sadly tragedy has again struck our community in what appears to be a drug-related incident.

We find this to be heartwrenching news to share: on the night of December 22nd 2014 at 9pm, 1 Grosse Pointe teen shot and killed; 3 others hurt when man opens fire on their car after they stopped to smoke marijuana near Charlevoix and Philip in Detroit.

Parents and professionals interested in helping prevent tragedies related to drugs and alcohol will want to attend an important presentation on February 26:"Drugs and Alcohol: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know."

Presented by the Family Center in partnership with Grosse Pointe Memorial Church and the Grosse Pointe News, attendees will hear Debra Jay's keynote presentation "Confronting Realities, Preventing Tragedies," plus breakout sessions: "Necessary Talks", "Prescription Drugs and Pharm Parties", "Narcotics, Heroin and Other Drugs", and "Consequences, Legal and Beyond" with our 'Ask the Experts' presenters.

Reserve your space today >>

Visit our Association of Professionals listings for services providers >>

More resources also at the Grosse Pointe News website >>

Read more: Drugs and Alcohol: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know


Discussing Estate Planning With Aging Parents

Ask the Experts by Michael Kelly

Q. My aging parents have made no arrangements regarding their property when they die or become incapacitated (unable to make decisions regarding care and finances). How can I get them to see this as important?

A. A good first step is to educate yourself on the importance of making arrangements for death or incapacity. If this type of planning is not done it can create chaos for those who are left behind.

A good estate plan, tailored to your family's circumstances, will simplify distribution of property and provide considerable peace of mind to your parents and the loved one's who are left behind. Failure to do so will leave many things up in the air, contribute to family discord, and ultimately leave distribution of property in the hands of an often expensive process, known as probate, allowing state law to decide who receives property, including creditors.

If parents become incapacitated and require long term care in a nursing home these problems become even more complicated. Failure to effectively plan for this possibility can be financially devastating due to the extremely high cost of such care (averaging almost $8,000 per month in Michigan). Most families need to become eligible and apply for government assistance to pay for this.

Effective planning for this type of contingency can provide additional piece of mind and save valuable property as a legacy for loved ones.

Read more: Discussing Estate Planning With Aging Parents


Are Your Kids Eyes Being Affected By Constantly Staring At a Screen?

Ask the Experts by Danna Haba

Q. I am a concerned parent and learned that recent studies indicate, "Young Americans are spending almost every waking hour absorbed in some form of entertainment media":  iPhones, tablets, handheld gaming units, iPads and computers. Will these hours staring at a screen cause vision problems?

A. We have patients who complain of eyestrain, blurry vision, dry or irritated eyes, redness, headaches and neck and shoulder pain from spending many hours looking at a screen. The term "computer vision syndrome" is used to describe these common complaints.

Normally a person blinks about 15 times per minute, which allows your eyes to be refreshed and kept moist with new tears each time you blink. However, when looking at a computer screen or handheld device, the blink rate slows to fewer than six blinks each minute.

So what can be done to alleviate the problems of too much screen time?  Here is what I recommend.

Read more: Are Your Kids Eyes Being Affected By Constantly Staring At a Screen?


One in Six Men has Been Sexually Assaulted

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q: My husband recently disclosed to me that he was sexually abused. I don't know what to think. How can I help him?

A: The best thing you can do is listen to your husband, believe him, and make efforts to comfort him. Ask what he needs without assuming. Assure him he's not alone, and the assault was not his fault - no matter what. Acknowledge how much strength it took him to open up to you, and encourage him to keep talking about it, as much as he is able, in his own time.

Male survivors of sexual abuse often feel exceptional shame, which lends itself to dangerous silence and stoicism. Society erroneously teaches that men must be strong, invincible, independent, and without emotion. Men are socialized to "fix" the problem or simply "suck it up" and move on.

When men find themselves traumatized and human, they may feel weak or broken, hurt and needing help, and it challenges their very identity. Men need to know others won't think less of them for having been assaulted and being wounded by it. Loved ones can help by making it safe for men to tell their story, express themselves, and access support to facilitate recovery.

Read more: One in Six Men has Been Sexually Assaulted


Your Disabled Child's Special Needs and Adulthood

Ask the Experts by Michael Kelly

Q. My child with a disability is turning 18. Can he continue to get the publicly funded services we were able to get for him as a minor?

A. Once your child turns 18 your legal authority over him ends. For example, you were able to get involved in his education through development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to assure that he received public benefits that enabled him to succeed at school. Now that he is an adult his financial and care needs are his legal responsibility.

Q. My child can't do this by herself. What can I do to help assure that she gets the services she needs?

A. A first recommended step is to have your child apply for benefits under the Social Security Income (SSI) program at your local Social Security Office if your child has less than $2,000 of property in her own name. Once SSI is obtained she will be automatically eligible for Medicaid upon applying to the Michigan Department of Human Services. This will open the door to valuable community health services not otherwise available; particularly in regard to mental health. 

Read more: Your Disabled Child's Special Needs and Adulthood


Children Need To Play

Ask the Experts by Mary Milkovie

Q. How does play prepare children for later academic learning and provide a foundation for developing vital social skills?

A. A Child processes the world he or she lives in during play. The young child, up to age seven, learns about the world through imitation and through engaging in artistic and practical activities. During play, children imitate everything in their environment; the adults they encounter and the language they hear.

It is our task as parents and teachers to be worthy of this imitation and to provide an environment rich with age appropriate experiences.

Play provides many developmental benefits for young children. It fosters cognitive, social, emotional, physical and moral development. Social skills are developed naturally in play and children begin to understand how their body works and how to move.

Read more: Children Need To Play


Geriatric Health Evaluations

Ask the Experts by Christine Chelladurai, D.O

Q.: I visit my parents, who are in their late 80s, at least once a week. Lately, I have noticed a difference in their behavior. Often, their refrigerator is nearly empty or the food is outdated or moldy. When I ask them about it, they seem angry and respond they planned to shop that day. Their home is unusually cluttered with old newspapers, sometimes the trash is overflowing and their mail goes unopened for days. My mother has always been meticulous about running her household, so this is very strange behavior. Is this the start of dementia?

A.: You are very wise to notice and question the change in your parents’ behavior. All of the examples you mentioned, in addition to missing appointments, unexpected weight loss or gain, medications not being taken, and not keeping up with personal hygiene are all warning signs they may need help.

Read more: Geriatric Health Evaluations


Senior Housing Options

Ask the Experts by Karen Adair

Q. I'm feeling confused and overwhelmed in my search for the right senior living community for my loved one's needs, can you offer direction?

A. It's important to learn the terminology and the differences between the senior care solutions available so you can make the right choice for your family. As you begin your search, use the following guidelines to learn more about the different types of senior housing options available in the United States. 

Independent Living Communities - Known As: Retirement Communities, Congregate Care, Retirement Villages, 55 + Communities, Senior Apartments, Continuing Care Retirement Community

Senior independent living communities cater to seniors who are very independent with few medical problems. Residents live in fully equipped private apartments. A variety of apartment sizes are available from studios to large two bedrooms. Fine dining services are offered with custom-designed meal packages. Often, residents can choose to pay for a specified number of meals per day. Frequently, there are numerous social outings and events to choose from for entertainment. 

Assisted Living - Also Known As: Assisted Care Community, Personal Care Home

Assisted Living communities are designed for seniors who are no longer able to live on their own safely but do not require the high level of care provided in a nursing home. Assistance with medications, activities of daily living, meals and housekeeping are routinely provided. Three meals per day are provided in a central dining room. Residents live in private apartments which frequently have a limited kitchen area.

Read more: Senior Housing Options


The College Preparation Process

Ask the Experts by Beth Walsh-Sahutske & Milissa Pierce

Striking the right balance in helping your child through the college preparation process is no simple task.

Parents want to instill a college mindset and encourage their child to maintain high standards while still keeping an eye on family/life stability. The potential to disrupt home with stress to child and parents is great.

The optimal solution is to reframe the approach that the whole family takes towards the college investigation process. If we look at it developmentally like the natural evolution of the student’s lifecycle then we can more effectively integrate the research, application and selection process into this next phase of life and the dream of college becomes to find the perfect match instead of the treasured prize.

Read more: The College Preparation Process


The Road to Reading Success

Ask the Experts by Stephanie Cork

Q. Is it too late to help both my middle and high school students with reading?

A. There is a misconception that older students aren't able to learn to read if they didn't master it when they were younger.

Some reading difficulties don't present themselves until the child is middle school or even high school. The difficulty may appear as a struggle with reading comprehension but often it's an issue with fluency. As the words in text becomes more complex, the student may not have the strategies to decode longer, more advanced words.

It's important to find out where the gaps lie and provide remediation to address the student's specific needs. Greek and Latin root instruction is also an important, but not commonly taught, skill for middle and high school level reading. Sixty five percent of words in higher level reading contain roots.

Read more: The Road to Reading Success


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