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4 Fears Surrounding End of Life Care and How to Overcome Them

about-a-dog-and-a-man-1376105Conversations about elder and end of life care can be difficult to approach. Often, they come up unintentionally, when attending a funeral, driving past a nursing home, or even watching a movie regarding the subject. Your loved one may drop a hint or two about his or her wishes for end of life care. It is important to start a conversation about this serious topic and encourage your loved one to put in writing what he or she envisions for end of life care.

Fears are common about this subject, but the earlier you start planning, the less daunting the prospect seems. If you haven’t yet had this conversation with your parents, keep the 40-70 Rule in mind: have an intentional conversation surrounding end of life care by the time you are 40 or your parent is 70. Even if the conversation seems frightening, it will bring you peace to know you are planning ahead. Below are some of the common concerns surrounding end of life care.

1.      Having feeding tubes and ventilators keeping him or her alive

Encourage your loved one to develop a living will, in which he or she can detail the type of treatment desired in the case that he or she is unable to make these decisions later. Consider involving a lawyer, as living will requirements vary from state to state.

2.      Spending the end of his or her life in a nursing home, hospital, or other institution

Talk about home care options with your loved one, and make sure he or she understands all the choices for end of life care. Take time to consider everyone’s wishes, budget, and comfort levels to be prepared for when the time comes.

3.      Mental impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s will affect their decision making

Have your parents designate a person who is trustworthy and who will look out for their best interests with Power of Attorney (POA). This person will act on their behalf in the case that they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Make sure this is a person that your parents trust to carry out their wishes regardless of their mental state.


The Commotion of Clutter in Seniors’ Homes and What to Do About It

garage-5-1534595 It is common for senior citizens to accumulate excess clutter over the years. If you are worried about Mom or Dad’s hoarding habits, Vicki Dellaquila, an expert professional organizer and author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash, gives 10 reasons why seniors do not want to give up their trinkets and gives tips on how you can help clear the clutter.

1. Sentimental attachment to items is normal and helps people retain both memories and feelings of the events. If your loved one wants to keep an old prom dress, for example, suggest keeping a piece of the dress in a quilt or in a shadow box. Clean out photo clutter by scrapbooking or storing photos electronically.

2. Elderly people may be reluctant to part with unused gifts from family and friends due to a sense of loyalty. Encourage regifting within the family to make proper use of the gifts.

3.  Many seniors today lived through difficult eras, such as World War II and the Great Depression. They feel a need to conserve, and this results in excess storage of necessities. Encourage them to give back to the needy in their community by donating excess food and clothing.

4. Eliminate electronic clutter with online bill paying and removing your senior from junk mail lists. Not only does this reduce electronic and mental clutter, but also reduces the risk of identity theft.

5.  A decline in health can prevent seniors from keeping up with regular housework and cleaning duties. Once your loved on is treated, he or she may want to consider a professional organizer or in-home caregiver.

6. Older adults often feel safe when keeping generations of documents, like medical records or bank statements. Help them reduce their fear of losing this information by working through the cleaning with logical thinking.

7. Many adults have a dream of losing enough weight to fit into dressers full of old clothes. Help them fill boxes with things they no longer wear, and agree to wait six months before giving them away.

8. Baby boomers often have enough money to spend on unnecessary shopping. Help them learn how to say no to items they already own to reduce the cycle of buying and rebuying.

9. Trinkets and keepsakes often represent history and memories. Encourage them to share the most beloved of these items with the younger generations or donate historical items to museums or historical societies, libraries, or churches and synagogues.

10. Loneliness can contribute to overaccumulation of stuff. Depression due to loneliness can also lead to seniors becoming disorganized. In contrast, getting organized can help fight depression. Consider hiring a professional organizer to get the ball rolling on feeling more organized and more happy.

About Sacred Heart Villa

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.  The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, café and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day and is open to the public.

Sacred Heart Villa is now accepting residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit or visit us at

Five Brain Health Reminders for Family Caregivers

Taking care of a loved one can be time consuming, demanding work. Although the rewards are often greater than the cost, researchers brain-in-hand-1312350have found that family caregiving can have an impact on brain health, including increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. With these preventative steps, make sure you take care of yourself while you are giving care to your family.

1. Getting Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is one risk of caregiving. When caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, sleep disturbances occur often, which can affect the sleep of the caregiver. Sleep is one of the most important brain processes that promotes brain health and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by removing harmful waste products and building long term memory.

If you are struggling to find time to sleep, or your sleep is interrupted, talk to your doctor about possible solutions, such as respite care.

2. Getting Enough Exercise

Although you may feel as though you are constantly on the go, caregivers often do not get an adequate amount of exercise. It is tempting to lounge on the couch in front of your favorite show after a long day, but more active options include taking a brisk walk or following an exercise video. Exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain, increasing the brain’s ability to make connections important for memory function.

3. Regular Healthcare Appointments

Equally important to the healthcare appointments of your loved ones are your own regular check-ups. Illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and hearing and vision loss can onset silently during the busy time of caregiving. These conditions increase risk of brain related health issues. Prevent these maladies by scheduling your own appointments regularly, and do not wait if you suspect an issue with your physical health.


Fatigue- Should You be Worried?

sleeping-woman-1432242Everyone feels tired now and then. But, after a good night’s sleep, most people feel refreshed and ready to face a new day. If you continue to feel tired for weeks, it’s time to see your doctor. He or she may be able to help you find out what’s causing your fatigue. In fact, your doctor may even suggest you become more active, as exercise may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life. 

Some Illnesses Cause Fatigue

Feeling fatigued can be like an alarm going off in your body. It may be the first sign that something is wrong. But, fatigue itself is not a disease. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints, often complain of other symptoms, including fatigue. People with cancer may feel fatigued from the disease, treatments, or both.

Many medical problems and treatments can add to fatigue. These include:

-Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines for nausea and pain

-Having medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation

-Recovery from major surgery

What Role Do Emotions Play in Feeling Fatigued?

Are you fearful about the future? Do you worry about your health and who will take care of you? Are you afraid you are no longer needed? Emotional worries like these can take a toll on your energy. Fatigue can be linked to many emotions, including:




Relocation Stress Syndrome

A move to senior living or even between two different living environments can result in symptoms including anxiety, confusion, andmoving-box-1494493 loneliness. Medical professionals have diagnosed these symptoms in conjunction with a major move in living environment as Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS), commonly known as “transfer trauma.” Read more about seniors at risk for RSS and how to prevent the syndrome in your loved ones.

“Home is a Feeling”

According to an AARP study, 88% of Americans want to age in the home they have always known – the house where they raised their children, loved their spouse, and cooked meals for holidays for years. When people are removed from that concept of home, the results can be traumatic.

Moving can be just as stressful as losing a job, the death of a loved one, and divorce. It may be difficult for a senior to process leaving the house where they lived so much of their life and moving into a small room or apartment where they very well may see the end of their life. Often accompanied with a move to senior living is the death of a spouse, which increases the grief and depression associated with RSS. Added as an official diagnosis by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, many hospitals and insurance companies are treating it as a serious illness.

What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One Has RSS

The symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome include anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and somatic effects. They usually appear right before or within three months of a sudden move, according to Moves for Seniors. Often, RSS is misdiagnosed as dementia because of changes in cognition, eating habits, sleeping habits, insecurity, or a decline in self-care.

If you suspect your loved one may be suffering from RSS, help them to deal with the core issues resulting from the move. Get a therapist involved for an expert’s opinion. Help them to know that they are not alone in their fears and acknowledge the normal sadness and mixed emotions that go along with a move.

Ways to Prevent Relocation Stress Syndrome

Here are some steps you can take to prevent the issue of transfer trauma:

1.  If your loved one is being moved from a hospital, use the “navigator” on staff to help smooth out the process.


How to Choose a Doctor You Can Talk To

stethoscope-1-1541316A primary care physician with whom you can trust and communicate well is a necessary step to ensure good health. Finding a match with a primary care physician is necessary when moving between cities or when your current doctor no longer serves your needs. Do not worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings when changing physicians; they are professionals who understand the importance of the right doctor in maintaining one’s health. Whether you see a family practitioner, internist, or geriatrician, here are some tips to help you determine who is the right doctor for you.

Decide What You Are Looking for in a Doctor

Make a list of what you are looking for in a doctor. If certain attributes matter to you, make sure to include them. Some examples are:

  • Gender
  • Office Hours
  • Association with a hopsital or medical center
  • Part of a group of doctors 

Identify Several Possible Doctors

Talk to family and friends about whom they would recommend. Ask about that person’s experiences with that doctor. Check to see if that doctor fits within your health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO), if you are a part of one, to avoid paying extra fees for a doctor outside the network. Develop a list of a few names so that you have a backup in case one doctor is not taking new patients or if the first doctor simply doesn’t work out.


Music Therapy for Dementia Patients

guitar-1-1425243An elderly Alzheimer’s patient spoke for the first time in years – with the help of music. When Concetta Tomaino, DA, sang an old Yiddish song to him, something about the music grabbed his attention. He began trying to sing the song for himself, and soon after, began talking again.


Just how the brain and body process music remains mysterious. Tomaino, director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York, says we at least know music is processed on many levels at once.

 “Why it’s so positive is that we process music with almost every part of our brain,” she says. “Music that has personal significance to someone or is connected with historical events is a strong stimulus to engage responses in people, even in late stages of dementia. Even if they’re not necessarily able to tell you what the song is, they are able to be moved and feel the associations.”

The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function was founded on Tomaino’s observations, together with those of noted neurologist and colleague Dr. Oliver Sacks and others, that many people with neurological damage learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music. In numerous clinical studies of older adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, familiar and likable music, not medication, has reduced depression; lessened agitation increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability; and decreased problem behaviors

“[Music therapy] is not going to change the course of the disease,” cautions Suzanne Hanser, PhD, “but it will allow the person to temporarily engage and be much more capable of communicating more clearly.”


Hanser and her more than 3,200 colleagues of the American Music Therapy Association practice two types of music therapy: active and passive. Familiar and, most importantly, likable, music elicits the best responses.