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Senior Topics

"During my many years working with the seniors I have been blessed to obtain a load of knowledge that I am honored to share with those of you who have questions and concerns. In my semi-weekly article in the Chico Enterprise Record the following questions have come my way and I am adding them to this page in hopes they will continue to help."

—Lyn Dorenzo
Founder, Country Village

  • Alzheimers's Disease Latest Report
    "I have seen more and more reports in the news and in magazines about Alzheimer’s Disease. Apparently there is a new report out. Can you share the highlights of that report?" Sincerely, Carol-Paradise Dear Carol, You are correct. At the recent Advocacy Day in Sacramento a new report on Alzheimer’s Disease was released. Unfortunately the numbers are quite staggering. There are currently 5.3 million people with Alzheimer’s disease and a new case is diagnosed every 70 seconds. It is now the 6th leading cause of death. These numbers will increase as the baby boomers age. This is why it is so important that we learn how to “maintain our brain” and to advocate for funding for research and services to help those who care for loved ones at home. I will be addressing these issues all year long so that as many people as possible are educated. If you have questions, please feel free to e-mail or call me. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Peace of Mind
    "My father passed away suddenly. We did not have a close relationship, and there are issues that were never resolved. What can I do to feel some closure and peace of mind?" Fred, Paradise Dear Fred, Feelings of hurt, anger and perhaps guilt do not go away when someone dies. If you don’t find closure, you may carry these feelings into relationships throughout your life. One good way to find closure is to write a letter to your father and then find a symbolic way to “send it”. Some people have read it at the person’s place of burial and then burned it with the smoke as a message carrier; others have written on balloons and let the balloon send the message. Prayer is another way to communicate your feelings. I would also suggest talking to others who knew your father and would be supportive listeners. There are counselors trained in the grieving process who can help you find closure and peace of mind. The death of a parent can be one of the most significant losses we face as adults. I hope you can find resolution soon. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Enjoy the Holidays
    I know you’ve written several articles on surviving the holidays for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and those widowed. I don’t have these added stressors, but still the holidays are so difficult for me. Do you have any suggestions to help to actually enjoy them? Alicia, Oroville Dear Alicia, Many of the people like yourself who dread the holidays tell me it’s usually because of 4 reasons: (1) childhood disappointments and hurt (2) added stress due to added costs and demands on time and energy (3) unrealistic expectations, (4) the weather. We can’t undo the past, but we can decide not to be victims of it. We can control how much we spend and decide to prioritize how we spend our time to get rest. We can have a mini-version of the things we love about the season. We can even change our attitude about the weather! I find being with children so therapeutic. If you don’t have young children in your life offer to volunteer at a day care center or watch them at the Mall as they sit on Santa’s lap! Helping someone in need also takes you from being a victim to being a victor and finding joy in this season. Sincerely, Lyn
  • The Different Dementia's
    I see more and more articles about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I’m not sure I know the difference. Please explain the terms to me. Sincerely, Bob, Orland Dear Bob, Dementia is the “umbrella” medical term for several types of diseases which cause damage to the brain. The five changes one will see with all dementias are (1) memory loss (2) changes in speech (3) changes in behavior (4) difficulty doing tasks such as bathing and dressing and (5) inability to think abstractly, make sound judgments and carry out complex tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Vascular dementia which is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain is second in the number of cases. Others are dementia with Lewy bodies, later stages of Parkinson’s disease, front temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and hydrocephalus caused by the build up of fluid in the brain. Because of the expected dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease as the Baby Boomers age, expect to see more articles about this disease. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Getting Everyone Involved
    My father died almost a year ago and now my brothers and I are seeing rapid changes in my mother. She needs more and more help from us for her to stay independent. My frustration is that it seems I’ve been chosen for doing most of the care giving even though I still work part-time and have a daughter in high school. My brothers are retired and have grown children. How can I get them to help me? Sandy, Chico Dear Sandy, Your story is a familiar one! Often one sibling is assumed to be the caregiver even though there was never a family meeting to talk about sharing this role, and 80% of the time, it is the woman who is assumed to carry this responsibility for the siblings. I would hope that you could ask for a family meeting with your brothers and grandchildren. It is best to have a list of the areas for which your mother needs help and let each family member decide which responsibility they can take. For example, my brother handled all my father’s legal affairs. Another brother and I took care of the health related issues such as doctor appointments. Take notes at the meeting and send each family member a summary of what you agreed upon so that each person is clear about how they will help your mother. Family unity is so important when caring for an aging parent. If you need more guidance, please let me know. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Senior Jobs
    I find I’m not able to live on just my social security and my small pension from my deceased husband any longer. My health is good enough that I could some part-time work but with the job market as it is, I’m not sure I could get a job. Do you have any suggestions? Marge, Chico Dear Marge, I think there are many others in your position because I noticed a past article in the AARP magazine. Here are their recommendations: Home parties and sales have been around for a long time – remember Tupperware? There are companies such as Mary Kay, and Tastefully Simple which sells gourmet seasonings and desserts and many others. Pet sitting and care-many busy will pay to have their dog walked, socialized and groomed. Rent out a room-there is a free service ( which will help you match with a renter. Nationally the going rate is $400-$550/month. Take tickets at events or theaters-you get some extra cash Sell your stuff-you probably have unused items to sell. You can have periodic yard sales, Craig’s list or e-bay. Be a mother’s helper a few hours a week. I hope this will put more cash in your pocket. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Getting Involved
    In a recent column you listed several resources for activities for aging parents. I didn’t realize so much was available for seniors. Now, my question is, how do I get my mother involved? She lives alone, does not drive and depends on me for most of her social interactions. Mike, Chico Dear Mike, I have this question asked of me so often. As you know, “you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink”. So, you need to gently ask your mother for the reasons why she may be resistant to taking part in the activities. In my experience I have found at least four reasons why our aging parents are reluctant to venture forth. The first may be a medical reason. Can she ambulate safely; can she see, can she hear, does she have a problem with incontinence. If there are no medical reasons, is she lacking in confidence. It’s hard to go places alone for the first time. Remember when you were the new kid at school or the new hire at a job. I would suggest going with her a few times until she feels comfortable and makes a friend. She may think that everyone else is “old” and she does not see herself that way. At 85, my father did not want to mingle with “those old people”. We all see ourselves as 10-15 years younger than we are. By visiting a variety of activities, she will see that there is a large range in the ages of seniors. Lastly, is best if you can take her, but if you can’t or can’t hire a driver, the Butte County Transit has services available for seniors—1-877-232-7433. I hope your Mom will discover a whole new world awaiting her! Sincerely, Lyn
  • Finding Reliable Help
    My mother wants to stay in her own home, but my sister and I can see that she will need help in order to do so. We both work and have grandchildren to care for so we’re unable to give her as much help as she needs. Where can we find reliable help? Sherry, Paradise Dear Sherry, Every older adult I know would prefer to stay at home for as long as possible. There are some factors to consider, however. Often the aging parent will not readily accept a stranger in their home. This is especially true if your parent is not convinced he/she needs help. My aging father fired many caregivers! Eventually it was actually better for him and all of us when he moved into a nice care facility. Another consideration is cost. If you use a home health agency, they will screen and train staff and provide the workers’ comp insurance, etc. If you hire on your own, you will need to do this and be willing to cover a shift if the individual cannot show up. There are many agencies which provide caregivers. These will be listed in the phone book. Other resources are Passages Adult Resource Center-898-5923 and Independent Living Services at 893-8527. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Safe at Home
    My parents insist on living in their own home even though they are 96 and 92 years of age. Is there anything I can do to help ensure that they are safe at home? Dear Joyce, Many elderly parents wish to stay at home. To help ensure their safety, the Harvard Medical School’s report on Home Safety for Older Adults offers the top five ways to stay safe at home: Understand the physical changes that occur with age and have regular physical exams to detect problems early Reduce the risk of falling by exercising to improve strength and balance Eliminate hazards by doing a room by room safety check especially for fall hazards Avoid medication overdoses and interactions Install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of their home. Grab and adequate lighting are also very important. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Downsizing
    My father may have to move in with us because he lost a great deal of his retirement funds recently. Our house really isn’t big enough to give us all the space and privacy we need. Do you have any suggestions? Rachelle, Chico Dear Rachelle, There are so many who have been affected by the stock market “crash”. I can only offer two suggestions: Have him downsize even if just to a smaller apt. or mobile and/or to negotiate with his landlord to reduce his rent. I have heard that others have been successful with this. The City of Chico may allow a second unit on your property. You will need to call the Planning Dept. and ask for information on the Second Dwelling Unit (SDU) requirements. I know that there are at least 2 companies locally who have modular units which are readily available for placement and relatively inexpensive. Call Steve Canterbury at Canterbury Cabins-899-3336 or Cousin Gary’s 343-8494 for more information on these units. I hope this is helpful to you. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Meaningful Chat
    My mother has mild memory loss which made it necessary for her to move in with us. My adult children are resistant to spending time with her because they don’t know what to talk about. Do you have any suggestions? Shirley, Paradise Dear Shirley, Your mother, like the majority of us, probably likes to feel useful and likes to reminisce about “the good old days”. Your children could ask her about her childhood and even about what you were like as a child. They need to use open ended sentences like, “tell us how you met Grandpa” or” what did Mom like to do as a child?” Avoid statements like, “don’t you remember when we…..”. She may also enjoy going to their home and helping with simple tasks that she can still do like folding laundry, gardening, housekeeping, or helping to prepare a meal. This would be an enjoyable time for her and them and be helpful to them at the same time. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Time to Move
    My father lives in Rhode Island where my brother lives. My other two siblings live here in Chico. My brother is an attorney and takes care of my father’s affairs; however, he doesn’t have time to really visit with him or help him get out to socialize with his peers. When I talk to my father on the phone, he seems quite confused. My brother has not mentioned this. We’re thinking of moving my father to Chico. How should we approach my brother and my father with this idea? Carla, Chico Dear Carla, Since your father’s well being is obviously a concern of yours, I am assuming that other family members are in agreement with you and will also help you with a plan to meet his social and care needs. Your brother in Rhode Island could still take care of the financial and legal affairs and you and/or one of your siblings could be in charge of his physical needs. There are separate powers of attorney for these needs. If you all agree that it is in your father’s best interest to move to Chico, you can begin the process by telling your father that it will be for the winter and then reassess in the spring. Using a “trial” period of time has worked well in convincing others in your situation. I hope this works for you. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Leaving Mom
    My mother lives with us which has worked out very well. My wife has been invited to her high school class’ 50th Class Reunion in Michigan this June. She wants me to go with her, but we know we can’t leave my mother alone. I need your advice on where to get care for my mother while we’re gone. Joe, Magalia Dear Joe, I’m guessing your wife’s first thought was “it can’t possibly be my 50th reunion”! Now to answer your question. There are three ways to get help for your mother. Make arrangements for a trusted friend or relative to stay with her Hire a home health or senior companion agency that will send a caregiver who is trained and bonded Have your mother go on her own little “vacation” by staying at one of the local assisted living facilities which offer respite care. The term respite means relief so a designated respite room is usually for stays of 30 days or less. The rates are much lower than if you had someone come into your home. We will begin offering respite care in May. If we do not have space available, we will guide you to other facilities who also offer respite care. Do make your reservation as soon as possible since there are few respite rooms in the Chico/Paradise area. Enjoy peace of mind knowing your mother will be well cared for while you share memories at the reunion. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Role Reversal
    I’ve heard the term “role reversal” used when my friends and I talk about caring for our aging parents. For me, it doesn’t really feel like role reversal—she is still my mother even though she needs my help now. Am I wrong about this? Alice, Paradise Dear Alice, I’m so glad you asked this question. I, too, often hear this and feel the way you do. I clearly remember the day a saw the emotional control a very frail 93 year old woman had on her daughter. The daughter provided care for the mother, but there was no “role reversal”. My own father could turn me into a frightened 5 year old with his look and tone of voice. It is important that we continue to treat our parents with respect. Dr. Terry Hargrave suggests reminiscing about events in both the adult child and parent’s lives to help shift from the task at hand of care giving in order to maintain the relationship. If you have a parent who is forgetful and keeps reminiscing about the same event, keep a list of key events handy so that you can share many wonderful memories. This makes care giving so much more enjoyable and meaningful. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Lifestyle Change
    My life has been changing so much in the past year. Everything is more expensive at a time when my savings has declined. Do you have any more tips on how to save without totally changing my lifestyle? Lydia, Magalia Dear Lydia, I’ve been thinking the same thing! Here are some suggestions I found (1) If you like to eat out, go early-about 4:30 for the early bird specials. Many restaurants are now offering 2 for 1 meals. Look for these as well. (2) do more home entertaining with friends…potlucks are in vogue again! (3) check with Passages Adult Resource Center to be sure you get all the benefits/services you are entitled to receive (4) don’t use your credit card—research shows people spend 20% when they use their credit card rather than cash (5) think twice before you make a purchase. Use what you already have instead. With all of our taxes increasing, an item with a $10 price tag will likely cost you over $1 more when you consider the gas tax and the sales tax. Finding ways to save rather than spend can be an interesting and rewarding challenge! Sincerely, Lyn
  • Senior Moments
    I am concerned about my own memory. How will I know if I’m having a “senior moment” or early stage Alzheimer’s disease? Katharine, Oroville Dear Katharine, There are many of us asking the same question. The following are guidelines from the National Alzheimer’s Association. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will not “eventually” remember as we sometimes do in “the middle of the night” They will have difficulty performing a familiar task They will forget simple words or substitute unusual words Theywill have poor or decreased judgment and problems with abstract thinking (ex. May not dress appropriately) They will put things in unusual places such as clothes in the refrigerator If you feel you may have a serious memory loss, see your physician ASAP. There are now medications to help with memory loss. Now, don’t forget! Sincerely, Lyn
  • Moving In
    My son just lost his job and his wife is pregnant she so is unable to work. They also have a 4 year old. They do not want to relocate so have asked if they can move in with me until he can find a job. I have the room and I want to help them, but I have concerns about living in the same house with them. Do you have any suggestions that might help to make this possible? Marilyn, Paradise Dear Marilyn, Boy, you are not alone in this new situation for our generation. I turned to an article by Dennie Hughes and one by Martha Beck for some guidelines. Here is their advice: Have a plan in place before they move in. Discuss expectations and assumptions. As Martha Beck points out there are four options when there is a conflict in the way we do things (a) your way (b) their way (c) our way (compromise) (d) both ways Negotiate needs from a “why” position rather than a “want” position Discuss chore responsibilities –are you going to babysit, for example Don’t interfere with their parenting style Don’t parent your son and daughter-in-law Allow each other plenty of personal space and time If all goes well, this could be a memorable bonding time for all. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Stress Reliever
    I’m the caregiver for my mother, age 89. She is frail so I don’t like to leave her alone. I also have my daughter and her 3 year old living with me. I often care for my grandson while my daughter is working. I now realize that so many people depend on me. How can I relieve the stress I feel? Lee Anne, Willows Dear Lee Anne, I just read an article by Martha Beck which offered valuable advice. The harder, scarier, and more important task you’re undertaking, the more you’ll benefit from relaxing. Simply remind yourself to take a deep breath and reduce your stress. Taking just a few minutes at a time to do something that you find relaxing will rejuvenate you. This can be as simple as looking at a small flower beds outside, to do some hobby, a 5 minute bubble bath or some exercise. You don’t have to make the “all or nothing” choice. A few minutes here and there will help relieve your stress. Feel free to call or e-mail me for more ideas. Sincerely, Lyn
  • Post Holiday Blues
    Dear Lyn, Now that the holidays are over and the relatives have gone home, I’m afraid my mother will fall into a depression. The continuous rain we are having hasn’t helped any! Do you have any suggestions to help her get through the winter months? Carol, Chico Dear Carol, Winter can be difficult because of the rainy, cold weather and the let down from the companionship and activities of the holidays. Grandchildren can also be a big help in cheering up so involve them in your activities. Cooking or baking together or playing card or board games can be bonding experiences for them. There are also many programs at the Chico Area Recreation District (CARD), 895-4711 for seniors, California State University offers non-credit courses through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, 898-6679. Passages Adult Resource Center-898-5923 has volunteer opportunities. There are also two adult day programs in town-the Peg Taylor Center-342-2345 and the Country Club at the Commons-342-7002. So, as you can see, there is a wide variety of choices for stimulating activities for your mother. Also, for you, the Encore Lecture Series for Boomers and Beyond will begin again on Jan. 18th –the topic is Understanding Depression. It will be from 10-11a at the CARD Office. Sincerely, Lyn
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