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 caring for aging adults and women who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. She addresses some of the factors that affect women specifically in older age.
Health Professional Radio – alzheimers disease
Neal: Hello, you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. Welcome I’m Neal Howard, your host. Very glad that you decided to join us today. Many have reached the age of Baby Boomer, those of us born in the mid to late 50’s, early 60’s, who may be caring for our parents or maybe even, in some cases, our grandparents. Maybe it’s not a relative, but maybe a close friend that is needing assistance as they grow older. Our guest in studio today is Stephanie Erickson and she’s here to discuss with us some of the aspects of aging as it pertains to those who take care of the aging. How are you doing this afternoon, Stephanie?
Stephanie: I’m wonderful, thank you for having me Neal.
N: I’m glad that you decided to give us some of your time and talk about this area of caregiving that is quite a hot topic these days. Many of the healthcare centers that are coming up via online information about in-home-care for our older adults. When it comes to taking care of our aging adults or maybe our parents, what are some of the aspects that a person might be acutely affected by and not even realize that it was maybe a hurdle?
S: We’ll I think, first of, time constraint, we’ll I mean, I think we all know once our parents age, they gonna require more from us. That I think we are shocked with the amount of care and attention and I think it’s the little things creep on us that we don’t really notice so things like, you know, your mother calls you and says, “I just got this really weird statement from Wells Fargo, can you come and take a look at it?” And you know you’re mother understands financial aspects, but she needed a little assistance. It is these little things that creep up on us and then I think over time we realize, “Wow, I’m spending two hours a week just on the phone with my mom trying to help her with some minor details.”
N: You’re talking about moms specifically or maybe a father. When it comes to you, taking care of them, and you spending two hours on the phone with your mom, maybe you’ve got a husband, maybe you have children of your own. How is your time being spent, affecting your other family members?
S: It affects everybody. I think, first, it’s gonna affect the caregiver. So let’s say, it’s me we’re using as the example – just my own personal stress and trying to balance and trying to meet everybody’s needs and to be the best mom, and the best wife and the best daughter. So, already it’s affecting me. Then my children might feel the effect. So for example, maybe I’m supposed to be taking my daughter to her music class but I can’t do it for free weeks in a row because my mom has medical appointments. So now my daughter is feeling the impact of that. And then my husband who travels, I ask him not to do a business trip because I need to go, my mom in the hospital. So now I need to spend three to four days with her, so now he’s being affected, now he’s work is being affected, his colleagues are wondering what’s happening. This is the ripple affect everywhere.
N: Causing these ripples in the family, just like any other family situation, you have to come together in, I guess, in some type of a cohesive unit to combat these problems. These problems that you really want to overcome, because of the closeness of the person that you’re giving care to. How do you start with discussion with the other family members and say “Hey, let’s sit down and talk specifically about Grandma?”
S: Well starting the discussion, I’m hoping for most people and it should be happening much earlier on prior to the crisis. That’s what I really advocate for and that’s what I’ve been spending a lot of my time and a lot of my passion. It’s about early conversation, to promote good relationship and aging by design as I like to call it, where we’re actually choosing the way we want age as a family team. But in the time of a crisis, which is I think your question was referring to…
N: That’s correct.
S: I think everybody is aware that something is going on. So I think, starting with the family meeting – a live meeting or a telephonic meeting – where everybody is, you know, in on the line at the same time. I think in a more formal way is important in the beginning because we get lost in emails back and forth or messages back and forth in small conversations. And I think roles and responsibilities are led into one another, and I think it’s important that we start with the formalized meeting amongst, let’s say the adult children, saying “Hey, I’ve noticed this about mom, what are your thoughts?” and getting everybody’s opinion in the family. Particular issues and staying very focused on what it is that we’re observing. So if it’s memory problems, then we’re talking about memory problems. If it’s diabetes and you know insulin measurements then we’re talking about that – that we’re staying on task to what it is that we’re observing.
N: Now the big topic when we speak of aging, is obviously the loss of cognitive skills and functions. Alzheimer’s, being the most recognizable of these degenerative processes. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, and once again using maybe your specific experience, are there any issue’s that’s specifically affect a woman as a caregiver and a woman receiving that care as the person needing it?
S: I’m so glad you mentioned that Neal because it’s really frightening to me when I think about the statistics. Let’s say about 2/3 of people who have Alzheimer’s disease are women. When you look others statistics about the numbers of caregivers, they’re mostly women. So this to me, is a real problem coming, you know, coming very soon to, for our society, is that more women will be affected with this disease, which is progressive, which always ends up in requiring fulltime care and supervision. This is not something that may or may not advance – it will. But the speed at which it advances and the symptoms might be different, but it will advance. And if women are the primary caregivers of people who are suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, what is gonna happen when more women are impacted by this?
N: Now as we wrap up this segment, when it comes to some of these factors that affect the family members and women specifically, how do you talk to the person’s medical provider, you know who may have been caring for them for a number of years that they’ve grown attached to, and you’re going to have to work together as you provide care, maybe in the home, maybe at the live-in or maybe as a drop-in in conjunction with the care that the health care provider had been given them for years?
S: Yeah. It’s really important to be communicating ongoing with the healthcare provider and there is a variation in how willing care providers are in sharing information with family members. And I understand, there are issues of confidentiality and HIPAA laws and all of that and I’m a hundred percent for that protection. So what I usually tell the caregivers that are contacting me is if the healthcare provider does not want to share information with you, start by sending them a letter, sending them an email, showing up at the office and leaving a list of symptoms and viewing it. Again, in a very formalized way, so you’re tracking all of the signs and symptoms that you’re observing. Really specific in details, for example: time of date, place, who observed it, and sharing that with the physician, because that may prompt him or her to engage in additional evaluation, administer tests etc. And then they might start suggesting to their patients, “Hey why don’t you let your daughter come in to this meeting?”
N: Great, great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, we’ve been in studio today with Stephanie Erickson, Director of Erickson Resource group. She is a clinical social worker and Director and Founder of the Erickson Resource Group based on Montreal, Quebec. And she’s gotten more than 20 years of experience as a geriatric social worker. And she’s been here in studio today talking with us, about how aging affects family members, not only the aging person but the family members, and also how we can interact with the person’s health care provider to provide continued good health in to their later years. It’s been great having you here with us today, Stephanie.
S: Thank you so much.
N: Audio of this program is available at hpr.fm and also at healthprofessionalradio.com.au, and don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.