Time for Elder Care?

The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2012
Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, gives tips and advice on how to assess your parents’ health and wellness while visiting over the holidays.  To read the full article, click here.

The Cost of Living Longer

The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2012
Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, is interviewed to discuss the costs of housing and options of income as we live longer lives than ever. To read the full article, click here.

Rescuing Elderly Relatives from Sandy’s Path

The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2012
Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, is interviewed to give advice on how to ensure the safety of older adults in emergency situations, such as Hurricane Sandy. To read the full article, click here.

Leaving Home – Moving Mom and Dad

AARP Magazine, June/July 2012
Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, gives her expert advice on how to successfully move your mom or dad. To read the article, click here.

“Soul connecting” – the honor of my work!

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Since I am the Executive Director of Eldercare Services, I do get to meet with a few families from time to time, mostly the adult children of aging parents. I have two older clients I have worked with for many years but I just don’t get the opportunity to meet many other older adults at this time in my career.

Today, I went to see an 89 year old client and was so touched by his history, his strength and wisdom that I just feel blessed by the work I do. This work allows me the opportunity to communicate, not only cognitively but, with the soul and heart. Of course, I was keeping professional boundaries however, hearing the story of a life with my heart and not just looking for past strengths for which to base my recommendations.

It was not the concrete fixing of a problem, it was listening and responding from the heart – hearing the truth from a deep place of the soul. It is so important for us all to listen to the wisdom of the elders in our community or family. Their life trials, successes and adventures have many a lesson for each of us.

I thank all who have contributed to a better world and encourage everyone to listen for those life stories of “strength” from the elders in their communities.

A Poem by a Fallen Colleague – Wisdom of the Woods by Debra Levy

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

The poem below was written by one of my National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Manager (NAPGCM) friends, Debra Levy, who died this past weekend from a Brain Tumor at age 59 – a very quick passing from diagnosis to death! She was on the National Board with me, a contributor to the Public Relations committee and editor of the Inside GCM and GCM Journal. She was an excellent professional who is going to be missed by her colleagues all over the country.

~~ Wisdom of the Woods, by Debra Levy ~~

The old ones surround us like tree trunks
Strong regal oaks, weeping willows
Gnarled scrubby pines

And like leaves on a tree, we shelter them
Broadly stretching our limbs
offering energy and nourishment

The aging and wrinkled pillars
Give us roots
Our tenacious elders remind us that we perch
Sometimes steadily, sometimes falteringly
On the shoulders of past generations

Their many furrowed layers
Like intricate folktales
Reveal secret stores of strength
Resiliency, ferocity
Surprising tenderness

We outstretched leaves are of varied hues
Some are local saplings
Some are kin
Some have traveled from far-off lands
To tend these ancient souls

We struggle mightily
To keep the forest standing
And we grieve
When our beloved trees fall

The only thing that is certain
Is the future
As seasons change
We will soon take the place of the old trees
Dependent on the kindness of others

Aging Experts

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

After watching a home repair program about fixing the messes that non-expert contractors (and I would guess not licensed) cause homeowners great headaches and expense, I could only think about families who hear, “We do free Care Management” and think they are receiving expert guidance. I guess you get what you pay for!

Professional Care Managers who belong to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) and whom are certified as Care Managers are experts and they have fees that represent the years of experience, education and supervision you would expect to see in any profession. They usually bill by the hour or fraction of.

When you trust a non-expert to guide you, it could cost you dollars and time but, most important, quality of life could be compromised when you don’t have a professional advocate.

I encourage you to hire experts to not only build your fences and fix your plumbing but to write legal documents, guide you in making challenging decisions or find care for an aging family member.

Singing in the Rain…

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

When visiting a small residential care home to see a client I came at coffee hour and they were doing a sing along. One of the residents is very impaired with a dementia and can’t talk in complete sentences. Since I had prior experience running a day program for those with dementia years ago, I am very comfortable talking with her and responding to facial expressions and some of the words.

This woman, who is not my client, seems to always want to talk with me – I guess “dementia” is the one foreign language I have mastered! And, since she is not a family member, I have no history with her and we just have the moment of connecting words, facial expressions and feelings.

What truly surprised me on this most recent visit is this woman who can’t speak in a complete sentence or hold a thought very long knew every word to the tunes of our “grandparents” – she didn’t miss a verse of “You are my Sweetheart” or “Take me out to the Ball Game.”

The memory for music is held in a different part of our brain than memory and language. I have been thinking maybe we all need to put the names of those we love to a tune so we can sing it all our days.

Without a memory, you might not have words but you can still connect in ways that lift the spirit. Try “old” tunes to pass the time with those you love that might have a dementia like “Alzheimer’s”.

Mom is 88 and says she wants to have a baby?

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Can you imagine your mother saying that? Well, it is not uncommon for someone with dementia to see themselves as much younger and yearn for the joys of holding and loving a new born baby.

The family that heard this did all they could not to laugh but respected their mom with a lovely response. I think that is the lesson – listen and respond nicely and then change the subject.

But, I wanted to talk about what “baby” might mean to someone with dementia. It could be the need to care for something – try to give Mom pets or plants that she needs to care for and nurture daily.

Sometimes “baby” can represent “new”. What can you add or do that is new? Ideas: paint a wall, buy some new colorful shoes, bring in a child to visit if all your little ones have grown up. The honesty and freshness of children can be a great joy to those with dementia – but be sure this is time limited for both the visitor and mom or dad with a dementia.

The lesson here is that all requests are not concrete – but are often metaphors for something you can respond to in a creative way!

“Linda, don’t feed me.”

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC

My mother, who was residing in a skilled nursing facility and recovering from an episode of respiratory distress earlier that day, was just presented with dinner at the time of my visit. She was struggling to eat her dinner so the good daughter (me), of course, wanting her to keep up her energy, gave her a taste of the soup – knowing how much she loves lentil soup. She took the taste but when I offered the second spoonful she said, “Linda, don’t feed me”!

Of course I stopped feeding her and just handed her the coffee – always her first choice of fluids! How else does one live to be 90!

I left there thinking I was treating her as a child and not respecting her dignity and then I remembered what I have been teaching and lecturing about for the past 30 years – my mother still sees me as her child and it would be much easier for a caregiver or nurses aid to assist her but, it was not ok for her to have her daughter feed her.

Also, sometimes when you don’t feel like yourself, you just don’t want to eat and that is “ok” – it’s just hard for those of us that love our parents to see them fail.

I am back on track and will respect my mother’s choices with dignity and respect – knowing her journey is almost complete and mine of letting go is just beginning.