When a Doctor Becomes a Caregiver

Quratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Late last year, I encountered the realities of caregiving personally. Although my father had officially retired, he was still working as a professional banker at the time he was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I have over 6 years of experience practicing geriatric medicine, where I am used to giving bad news to patients and caregivers, and lecturing caregivers on caregiver stress.  However, none of this had prepared me for the roller coaster ride awaiting me and my family during my father’s illness.

I was lucky to have the privilege of playing the “doctor card” as a caregiver.  I got consultative advice from colleagues and friends whenever I needed it, and had access to medical experts who were beyond supportive and courteous in providing care to my father. Despite all of this, however, my administrative assistant’s comment that “you are falling apart” truly expressed my state of mind. The last six months of my father’s life gave me an in-depth view of the invaluable role of caregivers, who navigate a very complex health care system, often without having a medical background.

In this blog, I’d like to share a few tips from caregivers’ literature, which I found helpful: Continue reading

Problems with Senses—Hearing, Vision, Smell, Touch, and Taste—May Predict Older Adults’ Overall Health and Ability to Function

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

The five senses are hearing, vision, smell, touch, and taste. When these senses begin to dim or are lost as we age, we face challenges dealing with everyday life. Losing one’s senses can also cause serious health problems.

Researchers have mainly focused on what happens after people lose one or two of their senses. However, we know that losing more than two senses occurs frequently for older adults. Until now, no studies have examined how losing multiple senses affects older adults. To learn more, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago designed a study to focus on just that. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

A Daily Loss: How to Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Cope with Loss

Written by Michael Longsdon
Creator of ElderFreedom.net

It’s hard enough to have to tell your mother or grandmother that her spouse has passed away. It’s another thing entirely when she has Alzheimer’s and you need to repeat this news often – maybe daily or even several times a day. With Alzheimer’s, every day is different, and every moment is unpredictable. The grief of losing a life partner, especially if that person was the primary caregiver, can be extremely distressing for a person with Alzheimer’s.

It’s going to be excruciating watching their grief happen over and over. With Alzheimer’s, both short-term and long-term memory can be affected. A person with Alzheimer’s might not be able to remember that her husband recently died, but she might also ask about people who died much earlier in her life, from days long before dementia set in. In addition, Alzheimer’s can affect behaviors and the person may have trouble using a fork, sleeping, or controlling their impulses. When their spouse passes away, they might not remember or they might become deeply distressed when they do. Here are a few ways you can help them cope: Continue reading

Symptoms of Depression Linked to Problems Performing Regular Daily Activities for Older Japanese Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Recently, researchers investigated whether depressive symptoms might make it harder for older adults to perform their regular daily activities. The researchers also wanted to find out whether living circumstances or marital status had any impact on whether depressive symptoms affected older adults’ abilities to perform daily activities.

Symptoms of depression are common among older adults. Signs of depressive symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in self-care and/or following medical advice
  • Little interest in social activities
  • Feeling “empty” inside
  • Trouble sleeping and/or feeling anxious
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Change in appetite and weight
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feeling that one is a burden

The researchers examined information from 769 older adults who participated in the Kurabuchi Study starting in 2005. The study was designed to look at how well adults 65-years-old and older could perform their daily functions. The researchers published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Talking to Older Adults About Health Prognosis May Be Helpful

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Prognosis is the term for the most likely outcome of a medical condition. When it comes to health care, talking about your prognosis can be difficult for you, your family/friends, and even your healthcare providers. However, many of us prefer to talk to our healthcare providers about the expected course of an illness and about our life expectancy when living with a chronic or terminal illness.  This is according to new research on advanced care planning (the technical term for having early conversations with our healthcare providers about our care needs, preferences, and expectations).

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined how older adults with disabilities later in life might react to learning their prognosis, and how they evaluated their own prognosis compared to “official” estimates.

The study participants were 35 adults 70-years-old and older from four geriatrics clinics in the San Francisco Bay area. All the participants required help with daily activities, and they all participated in a 45-minute interview as part of the study.

The researchers asked older adults questions about how they would want to receive information about their life expectancy. For example, did they prefer hearing or reading news about their prognosis? Would they prefer receiving information about their prognosis while at home by themselves? Continue reading