Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Stephanie Erickson
Guest Bio: Stephanie Erickson, Director of Erickson Resource Group, is a clinical social worker and Director and Founder of Erickson Resource Group based in Montreal, Quebec. She has over 20 years of experience as a geriatric social worker. She has worked with seniors living autonomously at home, placed in care facilities, at the hospital, and who are living with family.
Stephanie Erickson discusses how to “Age By Design”. She focuses on getting to know the person that you may be providing care for.
HPR – Health Professional Radio
Neal: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for listening today. I’m your host Neal Howard. When it comes to helping our aging parents or adults, maybe not a relative, maybe a close friend, there are many aspect that affect both the aging person and the people that are planning to give this person care, as they move in to their later years. Our guest in studio today is Stephanie Erickson, Director of Erickson Resource Group. She’s a clinical social worker with more than 20 years of experience as a geriatric social worker. How are you doing today Stephanie?
S: I’m fine, thank you so much for having me.
N: When we we’re here talking, in another segment, we were talking about some of the aspects of aging that affect not only the person who is moving on up in years but also the family members and friends who maybe giving that person care. Now, we we’re talking about some of the obstacles that come up – some of them un-denounced, some of them maybe expected – but you have a system or philosophy known as “Age by Design” in which, if I’m correct in assuming, it focuses on ,well, getting to know the person that you may be providing the care for. Could you speak to us by aging by design and how a family and a Health Care Providers can implement this practice when they’re dealing with the aging?
S: Absolutely. Well by aging by design, the point I’m trying to make is that people have an opportunity to shape their aging experience. Most conversations and most people are very afraid of aging and I get it, because we’re curious about, you know, “Are we gonna be able to walk? Are we gonna need help taking a shower? Am I goanna remember who my kids are?” It’s very frightening, so what I’m saying if you can “Age by Design”, you can initiate conversations with your family and get all of the documents and other necessary things in place so that you really plan what your aging experience would be like so you will not be alone and you will have the support and care of your friends and family and others around you.
N: There are many aspects of the aging process. Not to mention the physical deterioration, but also the loss of cognitive abilities, say, with Alzheimer’s and I guess to a lesser degree, Dementia. Now what is the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia and how can those differences greatly alter a caregiver’s plan?
S: Alzheimer’s is actually the most common type of Dementia. So you can think of Dementia as the umbrella diagnosis and it’s actually now called the “Neurodegenerative Disease” but most people still refer to it as Dementia. So Dementia is the global term and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia.
S: Truthfully, whether your diagnosis is Dementia, mixed Dementia, Lewy Bodies, Vascular Alzheimer’s – which are all different types, the symptoms are, lots of them are very similar, within each of those different diagnoses. And the type of care and the way that you plan should be similar because you don’t really know which type of Dementia you may or may not have. And so the care and discussion should be really about Dementia as a group. What would that mean for us as a family?
N: Okay. Now in beginning a caregiver’s plan, I’m assuming that first there’s have to be some symptoms, something out of place, something that maybe one or two other family members notice the person who maybe receiving this care. Now once you notice, say, their memory loss or not remembering how to do certain things, how do you approach the other family members and how do you transmit this information to the doctor? If the doctor has not already made you aware of it?
S: So first I’ll start with how do you approach other family members? Within that family, I’m going to also speak about the person who is experiencing the memory loss. So let’s say it’s my father who I’m observing has the memory loss. My first step is to actually talk to him about it. And I think that is something that families don’t do because they’re afraid to talk to the person or they avoid that and start going around the person’s back and talking to other family members. And then the person who’s suffering starts feeling like, “Hey, I feel like people are ganging up on me. I’m not involved in my own life here.” So I think you should start there. And then depending on that reaction, include your brothers and sisters, let’s say, if it’s adult children who are observing and mention symptoms to them. In terms of communicating with healthcare professionals, physicians don’t have a lot of time when you visit them in their offices. You might have five minutes with them, you know, you’re lucky if you get ten. So I think being very systematic in a way you share the information. So I suggest getting a log, listing every single symptom that you observe, time of day, and other you know, interferences that may have happened when you observed that symptom. Get it all logged out and present that to the physician so she or he can take his or her time in really looking at it and using that information.
N: And quite, I would assume, that it would be very very beneficial because many people tend to behave in one way when they’re around family and in a totally different way when they’re, say, with their healthcare provider or maybe an attorney.
S: Definitely. And people, you know, surprisingly someone can have even a moderate level of Dementia and function quite well and you would not even know that this person has deficits if you are not attuned or looking out for that. So that’s an adult child’s concern often, saying “Well yeah, when my mom goes to the doctor, off course she’s not saying anything to him about what is happening and he’s not asking her.” So yeah, it can be deceiving.
N: Ok. As we wrap up this segment, Stephanie, I’d like for you to speak a bit to one aspect that maybe overlooked. When it comes to being a medical professional as opposed to a family member who may be an architect or a gardener – medical professionals seem to have a gauge for everything. You know, on a scale from one to ten – this being this and that being the other, how does the family member or the layman measure or determine when there is a problem in the person’s decision-making capacity?
S: I think, usually, that the stories that I hear are things such as, “I don’t understand Mom. You’re getting the roof done again? You’ve just had it done five years ago.” So that’s a red flag, that doesn’t make sense there’s someone talking advantage of my mom. Why are we getting the roof done again at the house? So a lot of times it has to do with financial decisions and for most people who suffer from cognitive losses, that’s usually the first thing that starts getting blurry. And family members start noticing those things. Some mail piled up in the home, inability to read through papers and financial statements and things like that. That is usually one of the first things people find.
N: Some great information on recognizing when someone is beginning to have a little bit of a problem with their cognitive skills and when to gather the family around and begin to take action and form a plan of care for the aging person. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, it’s been a pleasure having you in studio today with us, Stephanie Erickson Director of Erickson Resource Group. A clinical social worker with more than 20 years of experience as a geriatric social worker – working with seniors living autonomously at home, placed in care facilities and at hospitals and also those who may be living with family members. We’ve been here talking about some of the ways that we can “Age by Design” in order to give our aging adult parents more of a healthy transition into aging. It’s been great having you here with us Stephanie.
S: Thank you so much, anytime.
N: Audio of this program is available at hpr.fm and also at healthprofessionalradio.com.au, and you can to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.