Our clients matter – grieving their loss

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

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

Many of you might think that in a “Caregiving” and “Care Management” agency we are somehow hardened by the experience of death as it meets our clients. But, after 25 years of serving clients, we have found that each and every client brings a new experience of life to those of us that have the honor to be with someone on this very last journey.

We have a secure way of sharing among staff the story of a client who has passed on from this life. Today, I heard a story of a gentleman who died and how his life work really touches so many today and will for years to come. I also heard of his passions and interests in life and how his wife will grieve his loss.

We get brought into these lives and deliver a service that is necessary to gently support the frail years. There are very few careers that give you the opportunity to get to know and yes, love individuals who you have not had a history with or have a family connection. Yet, it does feel like family when we lose someone who we have been working with for a few weeks or several years.

At Eldercare Services, when we have an all staff meeting, we always start by lighting a candle and saying the names of all those who have passed since we last met. We always want the focus of our discussions to be centered on the “client” and as we talk about the workings of Eldercare Services, we see the smoke of the candle reminding us the “client” is why we exist.

Life is love – caring is love. We thank all the families that have trusted us to get to know their family members and gave us the privilege to provide the highest level of care during hard times and sometimes just short periods of recovery.

NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED PIONEER CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF BUSINESS IN WALNUT CREEK

Walnut Creek, CA, April 2, 2014 – In 1989, Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC pioneered one of the very first Care Management and Home Care agencies in the Bay Area in her kitchen and 25 years later, hundreds of agencies now exist due to the extraordinary numbers of aging boomers. Today, the woman-owned agency remains privately held with a main office in Walnut Creek with over 250 employees.

Honoring this milestone, Eldercare Services hosted a private, invitation-only celebration at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Linda and co-owner husband, Bruce Johnson, were not only honored with a proclamation from the City of Walnut Creek, but many esteemed professionals who work with older adults publicly addressed Fodrini-Johnson and Eldercare Services for their leadership and commitment to caring and serving, and educating the community on aging issues.

Anne Marie Taylor, JFK University’s Vice President of Advancement, acknowledged Fodrini-Johnson as “One of JFK University’s most beloved graduates.” Continuing with, “She really is the quintessential model for people who come to the University, who follow their heart, who transform lives, and who change the world. She believed strongly in helping elderly people stay in their homes, and she was tenacious in supporting them in whatever ways they needed. Linda has been honored as Alumni of the Year, a keynote speaker, an adjunct faculty member, and an Advisory Council member…and still she gets nominated for these positions every year!”

Passionate about giving back to her profession and the community, Fodrini-Johnson served as President of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers and was recognized with their top award – the Adele Elkind Award. She was honored as a “Hometown Hero” for community service and was most recently selected to the Contra Costa Commission for Women, Hall of Fame, for leadership in the community.
Fodrini-Johnson is a sought after public speaker with an intense passion for providing high quality expertise, community education and family support, setting herself apart from the norm. Of the hundreds of agencies now in the Bay Area, Eldercare Services is one of only two accredited by the Joint Commission, the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care.

Distinguished as experts, Fodrini-Johnson and her team are frequently contacted by local and national media (Contra Costa Times, Consumer Reports, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and many more) for their insight and advice on aging and advocacy. This is the same wisdom that for the past 25 years has been benefiting families, helping to maintain the highest possible quality-of-life for their aging family members.

# # #

Eldercare Services provides a unique blend of services from professional geriatric care management, home care services (caregiving) and counseling to offering family support groups and community education. Passionate about the challenges of aging and illness, Founder and Executive Director Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, served as President of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) in 2010 and is still a very active member. For more information on Eldercare Services, visit www.EldercareAnswers.com.

Linda and Bruce

Party Time - Group

Proclamation

The Brain & the Caregiver: Families at Risk

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

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

Could providing care to a family member put your brain at risk? You might say, “Risk of what?” New research is showing that stress and anxiety have a negative effect on the body, damaging chromosomes and possibly becoming a catalyst to many serious illnesses including dementia, heart disease and cancer. When you think you are the “only one” who can provide all the care or the love, pulling you into caring for another person 24/7, you can actually put yourself at risk. You might suffer an illness far greater than the person you care for, putting that person in jeopardy of losing you as his or her primary advocate.

Dr. Philippe Goldin, PhD, from the Neuroscience division of Stanford and UC Davis, has done extensive studies on this issue which has led him to the promotion of the “Science and Practice of Mindfulness.” The practice of meditation and related exercises has been known to those outside the scientific circles for centuries. It is heartwarming for me to see this move into valid scientific research. It gives credibility to practices that allow us to experience the stresses and anxiety of life, but to also protect ourselves and our chromosomes with a few minutes of easy exercise each day.

It sounds easy, but if you have ever tried to meditate, you might suffer from a wandering mind as I do. According to Dr. Goldin, wandering minds are also destructive to our chromosomes. So, this takes lots of practice and intention. The good news is that you can stay in your own home and you don’t necessarily need to join a gym or find a Guru. It can be, and should be, a daily practice for those who are providing care for another.

I found it both startling and exciting that you can heal damaged chromosomes – it is the endings of the chromosomes called telomeres that are destroyed by stress, anxiety and pain. The telomere is like the end of a shoe lace (the plastic coating) and as you practice mindfulness, the telomeres repair themselves.

Below is a list of a few exercises that will assist you with keeping a healthy brain and body. These exercises are even more important for those who have a family history of any of the illnesses mentioned. Focused attention is key. If 60 minutes is a challenge – start with 20 to 30 minutes a day and gradually work up to 60 minutes. Even starting with 10 minutes will do your body well!

  1. Focused Breathing
  2. Systematic Relaxation
  3. Loving Kindness Meditation
  4. Physical Movement – Yoga, Tai Chi, etc.

I won’t go into all of the details of each of the above. However, here is an example of “Loving Kindness Meditation” from Sylvia Boorstein’s “Happiness is an Inside Job”:

1. Start by directing the phrases (the metta) at yourself: “May I be happy!”
2. Next, direct the metta towards someone you feel thankful for or someone who has helped you.
3. Now visualize someone you feel neutral about—people you neither like nor dislike. This one can be harder than you’d think – for example, a clerk at a store.
4. Ironically, the next one can be easier: visualizing the people you don’t like or who you are having a hard time with.
5. Finally, direct the metta towards everyone universally: “May all beings everywhere be happy.”

If you are interested in learning more about how to repair your telomeres, I am teaching a class that will explore more “brain-remodeling” exercises and will give you additional scientific data to support your new habits (see box below). This will enable you to care for others and not damage your own fragile brain. Our bodies and DNA need to be well-taken care of so we can have the lives we envision. You can repair the telomeres that protect your chromosomes from the stresses of life.

April Affirmation: “My mind is refreshed by quiet moments of mindfulness every day.”

To view the printable version of this newsletter, click here.

Special Event for Aging Adults or Family Caregivers Dealing with the Challenges of Aging:

 Brain Remodeling
You can change your brain and your health!  With Linda Fodrini-Johnson

Weds., April 16 | 5:30 to 7 pm | Eldercare Services, WC

More info or to register: Info@EldercareAnswers.com | 866.760.1808

 

 

Nursing Home Stays Can Be Deadly or Life Giving – What are families to do?

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

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

A recent program on National Public Radio (NPR) called “A Third of Nursing Home Patients Harmed By Their Treatment” was shocking to me. Because of the fact that I or one of my staff advocates for and track our clients, we don’t have that type of harm – most are there for rehab and then are quickly discharged back to home or retirement living.

The article which ran on March 5, 2014 said that 60% of those admitted to nursing homes are actually harmed by their treatment (or errors) and end up back in the hospital.

I am sure regulators are trying to turn that around and hospitals could be penalized for readmission so both the nursing home and the discharging hospital have something to gain besides healthier people – and that is their reputation and the overall quality of care for all of us who might need just a little extra support after an illness or surgery.

I would highly recommend that families either hire a skilled and experienced Professional Care Manager to advocate, support and, at the same time, oversee the quality of care delivered so the patient can return to their previous functioning level if possible.

My experience with clients over the years who have needed skilled nursing has been mostly positive. But, I say this as an advocate and truly believe that, without my advocacy, their experiences would not have been as positive. The fact is, a patient can get lost or overlooked without an advocate to ask good questions, support the plan of care and work on realistic goals. I will say that those without advocates are part of the 60% who could be harmed by being overlooked and/or not having a skilled and experienced advocate.

Care Managers are skilled at asking good questions to find either comfort care that is attentive and kind or rehabilitation care that helps clients get back to their base functioning or improved functioning. The key is teaming with the skilled nursing center’s team and being part of making the outcome the best it can be.

 

Life Milestones – Embracing the Passing of Time

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

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

When we were five, we entered school and when we were 18, we left high school. Many of us entered the job market, college or the military immediately following high school. Each of these entrances and/or exits is a life milestone. In the best of times, we celebrated and in the worst of times, we grieved a loss.

As, Eldercare Services begins to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, I embrace the journey for all its challenges but most of all, for the honor and pleasure to work with such caring and supportive families. In addition, to work with a staff that has so much compassion and integrity for families at crossroads.

We are happy to have guided, directed, supported and led individuals and families to better solutions for their journey or that of a loved one. I could tell stories for hours of the rich lives I have had the pleasure to be a part of and the collective wisdom shared with me as I heard life stories. We are each unique and what you might not think is an impactful life is just not true…each of us has had the opportunity to brush up against another human being and without knowing, touch another in ways never dreamed of.

I gave a talk a few years ago and two peer professionals came up to thank me for helping guide their career with just a word of encouragement or being pointed in a direction that led to their current place in the world. One even brought with her a napkin in which she wrote something I said to her that she said changed her life – and both of these women came to that talk to tell me how much my words meant to their life journey.

I think that happens every day and more often that we are aware. Taking a minute to truly listen to another can change a life. For that, I am grateful and I hope as you review your journey and milestones, you can see how you have heartened others in small ways that made a big impact.

We have several licensed therapists on staff at Eldercare Services – if you would like to talk about how you have impacted others or you are struggling to tell someone how much they have meant to you and your life – schedule an hour or several appointments to do some life review – it can be renewing!

25th Anniversary Logo rev

Baby Boomers Aging? Not us!

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

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

Interesting when you look at the silver tsunami and hear that those aged 70 are being called the new 50!

Baby Boomers have made changes in every stage of life and there is no reason to think their aging won’t change the way we retire and live in our later years – and who can say when those years start and at what age. One thing those of us who work in this field are going to have to change is what we call our businesses. Our name, “Eldercare,” might just have to morph into “Willow Bridges” – a name we own and is more appealing to those of all ages who might need a hand, advice, advocacy or a coach. Notice I didn’t use the term “care” – not a bad term but most of us in the baby boom cohort don’t want to be cared for. However we might need some assistance or a helping hand with some of the activities of everyday living as we march on into our 80’s and 90’s.

The reality of living longer is our bodies at some point disappoint us and we do need that support or helping hand. But, what I think is even more important is that we keep ways in our lives to still give back, even if we have a disability. When assistance is needed and we are also assisting someone else, we see “interdependence” and it makes both parties feel good. Self-esteem can be at risk when all the caring is directed one way.

So, smart, innovative baby boomers, find ways to volunteer (this actually increases the length of life by 47% as compared to cohorts that don’t volunteer).

We are not aging, we are just becoming more of whom we were meant to be – part of the circle of life – but, with vitality, creativity and of course “personality!”

Live well – Live long!

Aging Boomers – Planning, Playing not Paying

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

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

I recently attended the 50th anniversary of dear friends and thought – “Wow! Time flies!” – Mother was right: as you get older, life is on “fast forward.” It seems as if just a little while ago we were drag-racing on the great highway and shopping for prom dresses; and now we are exploring state of the art hearing aids, planning our next travel adventure and talking about exercise, healthy lifestyles and grandchildren.

The Boomers are turning 65 at an astonishing rate, some retire and some are staying in the workforce for social interaction, not just the paycheck, and, of course, because their Social Security is higher when waiting till age 70!

If we don’t plan for our later years, we end up paying in many ways with our emotional and financial resources as well as with our health. We Boomers should address some important issues to leave a legacy to those important to us, while at the same time continue to enrich our own lives.

Below are four ways to do so:

1. Financial Resources: Visit with your financial planner who can tell you how much you will need to support the lifestyle you envision – this will help you plan when to retire or come up with a different vision. The visit often tells some individuals/couples that they might want to think about downsizing to have the resources they need for the lifestyle they desire. Visit the government website benefitscheckup.org to see what entitlements or benefits you might have coming.

2. Emotional Resources: Longer lives come with multiple losses and many of us will find ourselves struggling to recover from the death of a loved one. We’re never truly prepared to let go of a loving relationship, but we need to not get stuck in a state of depression or grief. We must pledge to ourselves and to others that we will seek support when we have a major loss.

In the same vein, it’s prudent to share our thoughts and values about our own end of life and make plans to have life “our way” with good advocates and legal tools such as the Advanced Health Care Directives and the POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) form. A good short video/Ted Talk on this subject is “Prepare for a Good End of Life.”

3. Health Issues: In addition to a heart healthy diet, physical and brain exercise, we need to be proactive and utilize the many screening tools offered under Medicare coverage in order to uncover a problem before it takes hold. Check the benefit booklet and take advantage of all those screenings. Remember, all Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to a “wellness” exam every year.

Keep learning because we need to keep our brains active and to hopefully stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s. Find yourself by taking classes; many colleges and universities have lifelong learning programs; look for computer based programs such as Lumosity.

Mindfulness is a vital activity for those who want to live their lives to the fullest. Take ten minutes a day to meditate, do yoga or just focus on your breathing. Let go of the stresses and find ways to quiet the mind – this alone can benefit your entire physical system.

4. Avoid Social Isolation: Stay connected to your community, make new friends and find a way to give back to the community. Recent research shows that those over 65 who are not isolated live 45% longer than their peers who are isolated for any reason. Plan now to be part of an organization or church that does volunteer activities.

Play is not just for children – those of us who stay playful and continue to seek out fun filled activities will do better with the ups and downs of our later years. We need to find opportunities to have fun and laugh – those endorphins will energize us and remind us that potential hope and joy can be forever.

Baby Boomers have paved the way and have the ability to make our last chapter the best through good planning using technology and experts as guides, being proactive with our health and most of all, staying engaged and having fun till we are past 100!

Professional Care Managers are coaches, guides and advocates – so, if you’re struggling with options for those “post 60 years,” have a consultation with someone who can help you be the director of your own future!

Special March Event for Baby Boomers:
“The Boomers’ Journey to 100 Years Young” is a workshop to empower and prepare boomers so they can “chill” in their “far out” years. Four expert panelists in the fields of Estate Planning Law, Financial Planning, Health Care Administration, Care Management and Social Work will give you vital options for your later years. The event is on Thursday, March 20 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Lafayette Library, Art and Science Center. For more information or to register, email LoriL@EldercareAnswers.com.

March Affirmation: “I am in control of the person I am, will be and desire to be.”

To view the printable version, click here.

5 tips to preventing Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

With the startling numbers of new cases being diagnosed daily, more and more of us become anxious when we can’t remember a name or place.

The cost to families and to society will grow to such a level that I worry about the quality of care in the future.

What do we do as individuals and as members of this country?
The easiest answer would be to find a cure or a way to stop the progression of the illness – but we don’t invest enough in dollars to do the research necessary.

This leaves us with trying to prevent the illness from reaching us or at least to delay it till we are much older.

Most of the research is pointing to a few actions we all can take to stave off this ravishing disease.

1) Eat a heart healthy diet – include nuts, olive oil and lots of fruit and veggies every day. Reduce or eliminate red meats and increase your intake of fish high in Omega 3.
2) Exercise at least 3 days a week for 45 minutes. The more aerobic the better – but just getting out and walking will improve your health and could stave off more than just Alzheimer’s.
3) Sleep well – getting at least 6 good hours of sleep each night.
4) Manage stress – meditate when anxious. Just focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly for a count of 7 and exhale at the same pace – do this 7 times.
5) Do brain fitness activities – many can be done on the internet or a computer program. Take classes, learn new information – exercising the brain helps make it more elastic and produce more new cells in the hippocampus – the area of the brain that memory is generated from.

Of course check with your physician to see that he or she agrees with these changes being good for your health. We are all different and some of us have been given a gene pool that we can’t, at this time, control or amend…but, just maybe, we can buy ourselves a few more healthy years by following some good sense and easy guidelines.

Holistic Approach to Progressive Illnesses

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

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

When one is given a diagnosis, it can be overwhelming because the magnitude of information begins a new journey that was never imagined. This journey leaves partners devastated, scared and angry. Often both parties become depressed and the illness slowly takes over their lives.

Starting this month, we are offering a two-hour class for individuals and couples in this quagmire of decisions and new ways of being, called “The Holistic Approach To Managing Progressive Illnesses.” The goal of the class is to look at the issues you will need to plan for that might give a sense of freedom to both the person with the illness and the care partner. This will ultimately help you to find “joy” again to make this diagnosis just a small part of your life and not dominate it or prevent you from having the best quality of life possible.

This class has practical issues regarding housing, entitlements, legal documents and future care – and will help individuals and couples look at what they need to do in the short-term for the long-term benefit. Thus, at the same time, freeing them to again find what gives their life meaning and purpose to be the focus and not the illness.

Our first class will be Friday, February 21st at 10 AM till Noon. The cost is $10 per person and $15 for a couple. Class will be held in our Walnut Creek office – 1808 Tice Valley Blvd, Walnut Creek. To register, call 925-937-2018 or email Info@EldercareAnswers.com.

About the Presenter

“The Holistic Approach To Managing Progressive Illnesses” is presented by Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Founder and Executive Director of Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek and past President of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM). Linda has over 30 years’ experience working with couples, families, caregivers and those with a progressive illness.

Visiting Aging Family Members during the Holidays – the Aftermath

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

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

You might have just had your annual visit with mom or dad this past holiday and for the first time you notice the changes that your sister has been reporting and you have been denying for the past two years.

To be fair, it is hard to see and accept that our once all-powerful and protective parent has a problem with memory or processing information that affects their safety. On the other hand, someone who sees an aging parent more frequently has usually been picking up signs for some time but after a major error in judgment is made does a family usually step in to make decisions out of respect and, of course, family tradition.

Not knowing how to proceed or how to communicate your concerns to your parent or even to their doctor is a challenge for most of us. You can ask them if they see they are having trouble with memory – some are and want an answer and others deny anything has changed.

But, you notice and more and more people start to express their concerns to you.

The question is – Where to begin? My suggestion is to have an initial consultation with a Professional Care Manager who is certified and a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers or is supervised by someone who is.

Below are ways the Care Manager would assist you by becoming your partner for the entire journey or simply give you the tools you need to be successful – either way, it will be your choice.

1) Help you get the correct diagnosis and find a local clinic – sometimes these are research based and there are no charges.
2) Assist you with new ways of communicating to your parent.
3) Prepare you with what you will need to take over finances or health care decisions – of course some of these tools require a referral to an estate or elder law specialist.
4) Give you options for keeping your parents at home.
5) Tell you about “entitlements” you might apply for to assist with the cost of long term care in the home or in assisted living.
6) Assist you with a move if safety is compromised in the current location.

These are just a few of the issues a Professional Care Manager can assist you with. Our professionals at Eldercare Services and those throughout the country do not take referral fees and work only for the client – however, they can often get you reduced rates or discounts for placement services.

Please give us a call we will be glad to tell you what we suggest for your first approach so that you can be successful in your care for an aging parent or family member.

Visiting grandparents for christmas