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Blogs We Follow

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Bridging the Generations: A Winning Strategy for Family Caregivers

jsantamaria January 29th, 2014, 5:02 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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We often refer to the difficulties faced by the “sandwich generation” — those in their 40s and 50s who find themselves caring for elderly family members while they still have children at home. Worrying about driving your elderly mom to the doctor can be especially stressful when you also need to cook a healthy meal for your growing teen. But sandwiched caregivers, take heart: While no one can diminish the stresses you face in caring for both older and younger family members, this may be an opportunity for multiple generations…

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Seniors Have Roomies, Too.

jsantamaria January 17th, 2014, 8:33 AM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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roommatesHave you ever considered combating loneliness by sharing your living space with someone else?  Brain studies prove that the more social we are, the longer we live—and the better quality of life we enjoy.  In one study, researchers at Harvard Medical School followed nearly 45,000 people who had heart disease or were at high risk of developing it. The four-year study found that those who lived alone were more likely to die from heart attack, stroke or other heart-related problems than those who lived with others.

Many seniors live alone after divorce or…

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Good News: Family Caregivers Live Longer

jsantamaria November 18th, 2013, 10:13 AM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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long_lifeFinally, some good news about family caregiving—and right in time for November, which the Obama administration has declared National Family Caregivers Month.  The news?  A recent study found that, contradicting long-standing  wisdom, people who care for a family member live longer than similar people who aren’t caregivers.

Now let’s be clear—caregivers who are feeling strained in their responsibilities face a number of physical and emotional health risks, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, chronic illness, and even stroke.   But according to the Johns Hopkins-led study published online in the American Journal of…

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7 Ways Caregivers Can Increase Physical and Emotional Intimacy with a Spouse

jsantamaria August 29th, 2013, 2:25 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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Photo: adwriter / flickr

As a spousal caregiver, you may find that the reduction of intimacy between you and your spouse is a major cause of the loss you are feeling.  Caregiving changes roles and expectations and the emotional attachment that was once the catalyst for intimacy and romance may suffer.  For example, certain illnesses and medications can affect a person’s sexual functioning or a caregiver may worry that someone with psychological conditions such as dementia cannot properly consent to a sexual relationship.

Sometimes, reasons for loss of intimacy are less cut-and-dried. …

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Caregivers Need Fresh Air Too!

jsantamaria July 9th, 2013, 12:44 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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walk_central_parkAfter this year’s long and rain-filled spring, just about everyone I know is itching to get out and enjoy the extended daylight and gentle breezes. Recent research has shown that being in nature has very real benefits for our physical and emotional health. For family caregivers, summer weather offers opportunities for slowing down a bit and exploring the healing powers of nature.

Most of us don’t get outside enough. The EPA has shown that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors.1 And of course, family caregivers looking after a homebound…

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Why Caregiving Can Lead to Depression

jsantamaria May 1st, 2013, 1:37 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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Family caregivers face a higher risk of depression than do non-caregivers. In fact, estimates show that between 40 to 70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.[i] And rates of depression increase as the health status of the care recipient decreases[ii] — higher levels of depression are seen in people caring for someone with a disorder that requires a great deal of hands-on care, such as dementia. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 30 to 40% of dementia caregivers suffer from depression and emotional stress. 

What are some of the reasons family caregivers…

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Five Ways to REALLY Help a Family Caregiver

jsantamaria April 12th, 2013, 4:37 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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Almost all of us know someone who is a family caregiver—someone  who provides  frequent or even daily assistance to a family member, friend of neighbor.  We know this is a hard job, which often leads to feelings of stress, fatigue and isolation.  We want to help that person, and many of us even offer.  We say, “Please know that I’m here for you.  Call me if there’s anything I can do.”  But they don’t call.  Are they so in control of the situation that they don’t need help?

           Chances are…

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When Your Loved One Resists Treating Hearing Loss

jsantamaria April 1st, 2013, 2:16 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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As a family caregiver, your goal is to help your family member hear as well as possible so they can remain vibrant members of their community and connected to the life around them. While there have been many improvements in hearing assistive technology, and many people report that a hearing aid has greatly improved their quality of life, the reality is that many elderly people still resist any mention of their hearing loss, never mind getting treatment for it. And to be honest, many users of hearing aids report that “they’re…

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How Hearing Aids Can Help

jsantamaria March 13th, 2013, 7:52 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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Hearing TestHearing aids have come a long way in the past decade.  According to Dr. Paul Y. Takahashi of the Mayo Clinic, “In recent years, hearing aid manufacturers have made great strides in developing hearing aids that are more effective for all types of hearing loss — including high-frequency hearing loss, the most common type of age-related hearing loss.”1 Of course, you may have to prepare your loved one for the fact that finding the right hearing aid, in terms of effectiveness, cost and comfort, may take some time.  They may have…

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Helping Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

jsantamaria March 5th, 2013, 3:01 PM
Judy Santamaria, MSPH
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The latest research from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging showed that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.1 When I read this, I was expecting to see the suggestion that the use of hearing aids can, therefore, help prevent dementia. Unfortunately, that recommendation did not come (hearing aid use is the subject of the researchers’ next study).  So are there any lessons for a family caregiver of an elderly person who is exhibiting signs of hearing loss?

First, it…

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