Healthy, Wealthy and Wise! Alzheimer’s Disease And My Care Journey!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!  Alzheimer’s Disease And My Care Journey! 

Who knew that an overnight flight to Germany to visit my son and his wife, would provide inspiration for September’s “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” topic and help me revisit a time of great heartache, as well as tremendous growth in my life!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise! Alzheimer's Disease!

When the movie “Still Alice” came out last year to rave reviews from the movie critics, as well as many of our friends and neighbors, (Julianne Moore even won an Oscar for her role as the starring character) my husband and I agreed at the time that neither one of us wanted go see it since the wounds were still quite raw from watching both our mother’s decline in their mental capabilities during the later years of their lives.

An Airplane Reckoning!

It is amazing to me what being restricted to the dimly lit cocoon of an airplane with a long overnight flight ahead does to your sensibilities when you can’t seem to fall asleep–for me, it ended up being a blessing!  After drinks and peanuts, I settled into my neck pillow with a good book, but after a while, I was still wide awake, so I scanned the movie list for free viewing by the airline.  Other than a few sci-fi thrillers and corny comedies, “Still Alice” a story about an elite college professor, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age, was the only title that seemed appealing.  So with my husband snoring softly beside me…I pushed play.

Alzheimer’s Disease!

In simple terms, Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that gradually destroys the neurons leading to the brain, causing memory loss and cognitive decline.  My mother was diagnosed with a related malady called Parkinson’s disease related dementia, where the nerve pathways to the brain and the other major organs become frayed and all bodily functions are eventually profoundly compromised.

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise! Alzheimer's Disease!

“In examining the disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy, physiology and biology.  In examining the person with the disease, we gain wisdom about life!”  Author of “Still Alice” Lisa Genova on Alzheimer’s disease

I think one of the main reasons I was so reluctant initially to see “Still Alice” was because I was afraid of the feelings that might resurface of a very painful time in my life.  By watching the movie, however, I was able to finally fully comprehend that the care I gave my mother, not only helped her maintain her dignity, I was also able to gain immeasurable insight into my own ability to do hard things, love unconditionally and find ways to cope when things aren’t going the way I want them to go!  When my mom first received her diagnosis, I became engrossed in researching the symptoms of her disease and any possible treatments available; it was crucial for her wellbeing to be knowledgeable and ask questions so that the doctors who cared for her would be sincere and forthright in addressing any concerns.  My parents spent a lot of time and money after my mom’s diagnosis to try and ensure the best possible outcome for her, but they knew that ultimately the disease was sure to progress.

My Care Journey!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise! Alzheimer's Disease!

 “My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, but I still live for each day.  I live in the moment…I have to!”  Lisa Genova, “Still Alice”

• Don’t define your loved one by their disease! 

One of the first lessons I was taught in nursing school was that no matter the diagnosis, everybody is deserving of being treated with great consideration and care.  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the daily routine of looking after someone’s physical needs that you forget to really look into their eyes and see them for the lovely, gracious people they are!  No matter how much my mom’s condition continued to deteriorate, I tried to never lose sight of the fact that she was an amazing woman who had devoted so many years of her life to caring for our family!  By maintaining this perspective, I was able to get through some really tough times!

• Outline care plan goals as soon as possible! 

Once my parents had received recommendations from doctors involved in my mother’s care, we immediately sat down as a family to consider the long term goals to be made while my mom was still able to have a voice as to the direction her care should go.  My experience is that you should also include legal counsel in these planning sessions as well, that way you can safeguard against dissenting opinions from others later on down the road.  Doing this not only empowers the person with the disease, it helps to unify everyone else involved so that they can make a more concerted effort to honor the wishes of their loved one!

Helping your loved one maintain a sense of independence is key!

Loved ones given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia seem to have the odds stacked against them in countless aspects of their lives, so being able to care for themselves as much as possible, even when many tasks take much longer to do, is key to their overall wellbeing and serves to thwart the effects of the illness almost as much as any medication that’s given.  I found that this was not a good time to try new hobbies, instead, keeping a good routine and doing familiar activities with my mom that she had enjoyed prior to her diagnosis, such as gardening and scrapbooking, helped her thrive the most, despite her illness!  Even when the time came that my mother could do only a few things for herself, she seemed to always take pride in doing those few things!

(Be sure to check for more helpful information on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.) 

I count my blessings that I was able to help care for my mother when the harsh symptoms of Parkinson’s disease ravaged both her mind and body!  Although, I caught glimpses of my sweet mom every now and then, most often, she was a shadow of her former self and we both had to adapt to a new normal every day.

“Courage is grace…under pressure.”  Ernest Hemingway

My mom once told me that it might seem more courageous if she had cancer “…it seems you can put your finger on that diagnosis…this disease is so elusive!”  My mother was the epitome of both courage and grace!

Have you cared for or are you currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts. 


Healthy, Wealthy And Wise! Immunization Guidelines!

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise!  Immunization Guidelines!

August seems to have gone by with warp speed–and now we’re all busy doing those things that come with summer coming to an end, school starting and life settling into a little more of a scheduled routine.

I thought I’d devote this month’s “Healthy, Wealthy And Wise” journal entry to the important topic of vaccines and immunizations since many parents are now preparing to send their children back to school.  When we are proactive about our personal health, not only does it help aid in the prevention of unnecessary illnesses, it can also help us save money that might otherwise have to be spent on medical costs when seeking treatment when we are sick.  I also think it goes without saying, that acquiring any sort of knowledge that will ultimately help us have a better quality of life, is indeed wise!

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise! Immunization Guidelines!

With the resurgence of many previously eradicated diseases, such as whooping cough and measles, the National Center of Disease Control has recently issued a warning that authorizes many schools, including colleges, the right to withhold entrance to those who are not current with required vaccinations.

(You can read more on the subject of immunizations here.)

The Immunization Debate Is Real!

The United States public health officials and many in the medical field have had to combat many misconceptions about vaccine safety for a number of years now.  Despite the fact that countless studies have found no reliable evidence to support the notion that vaccines can cause autism or other chronic illnesses, a growing number of parents still refuse to vaccinate their children.  The fear that vaccines would increase the risk of childhood autism first gained public leverage in 1997 when an article was published by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon, linking the two together.  But according to the CDC, this paper has since been completely discredited due to serious procedural errors and undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.  The paper has since been retracted from all medical publications and Dr. Wakefield lost his license.  Still, the many years of research it took to create viable vaccines lost critical ground in a matter of mere months by the unethical practices of the scientific personnel associated with this now debunked study.

So let’s remind ourselves about the basic, fundamental elements of immunizations:


• What is a vaccine?  A vaccine is substance prepared from dead or living organisms that is introduced into the body via an inoculation that causes the development of key antibodies, which will then produce immunity to the disease caused by the microorganism. 

• Why is it important to be immunized?  An immunized person develops antibodies in response to the pathogens introduced when they are vaccinated; the antibodies stay in the bloodstream for years, even a lifetime, which allows the body to quickly react and protect itself against the disease when he or she comes in contact with the disease in the future.   

Pediatric Physician’s Viewpoints!

In my role as a maternity and nursery nurse, I’m often able to help provide the first line of defense for babies in the fight against contractible diseases, since parents have the opportunity to give consent for their newborns to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours after birth.  When parents decide to defer this vaccine, I see many knowledgeable pediatricians try to better educate them on the value of keeping their children up to date on life saving vaccinations.

Immunzation Guidelines.

If I were to summarize the viewpoint on immunizations from the pediatricians I have the privilege of working with, it would be that they recognize that parents want to do what is right for their children.  Doctors are also aware that many families today don’t fully recognize that measles, mumps and whooping cough, just to name a few, are not the quaint, old diseases of the 19th century.  Most pediatricians find it a daunting task sometimes, to defend years of science and research against popular public opinion and current trends; emotions always outweigh statistics.  Simply stated, doctors find that the best way to deal with parental concerns is by appealing to these emotions and taking the kind of approach that Dr. Ari Brown talks about in her popular book, Baby 411.

I tell parents, “I vaccinate myself and my family to protect them, I wouldn’t do anything different with yours.”  Nothing works 100% of the time, but I can honestly say that this approach works more effectively than anything else I say, and it takes less than two minutes.  

Current Immunization Schedule:

As mentioned earlier, our children are not the only ones who need to receive immunizations, there are vaccines that we as adults need as well, such as H1N1, (better known as the flu shot) tetanus, meningococcal, etc.  You’ll find an easy to understand immunization schedule here, that way you can help your family stay current on their vaccines.

Hopefully, you’re inspired to do more research on immunization guidelines and the need to be proactive where our own health is concerned, as well as that of other family members.  Should anyone you know experience a negative side effect from immunizations, consult your physician and seek treatment, as well as other viable vaccine alternatives.   (My oldest granddaughter had a severe reaction to her first influenza inoculation and had to be hospitalized; she won’t be able to have another flu shot until they can make one without an egg based mixture, so obviously my daughter is careful to go the extra mile to keep her safe and well during the cold and flu season.) 

I’d like to end with a profound quote by Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease and vaccine expert, and director of the “Vaccine Education Center” at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

“I would make the case that a choice not to get vaccines is not a risk-free choice.  Rather, it’s a choice to take a different and far more serious risk.”

I would love to know your experiences with keeping your family up to date on their immunizations.  Were you aware that there were recommended vaccines for adults too?


Healthy, Wealthy And Wise! Cholesterol, Credit Cards And Courage!

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise!  Cholesterol, Credit Cards And Courage!

As is always the case, summer is passing by way too quickly, I mean–where has July gone!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!

This month’s edition of “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” has been inspired by the all the summertime camp fire treats, fun excursions and new adventures we love!

Being healthy. www.mytributejournal.comMost doctors will tell you that your cholesterol level is a key factor that often determines your overall health and wellbeing-that is why it’s one of the lab tests done when you go for a physical evaluation!

Here’s a simple way to help you better understand your cholesterol numbers:

HDL: equals healthy cholesterol and levels need to be 50 or better.

LDL: is the unhealthy cholesterol and results should be under 100. 

If your results aren’t within this criteria, it’s important to discuss strategies on how to improve your cholesterol with your doctor.

No way around it, a healthy diet and exercise are the best ways to ensure good HDL cholesterol.  At least two servings a day of soluble fiber found in oatmeal, berries and carrots, just to name a few, help to raise healthy cholesterol levels.  Transfats found in fried foods and processed snacks are counterproductive to good cholesterol.  Certainly, these are things we know and understand, we just have to be sure and make a conscious, daily effort to incorporate healthy food choices along with an exercise regimen into our busy schedules.  (Read about some of my healthy snack picks here.)

Good cholesterol

“Research suggests that laughing decreases stress hormones, so I strongly advise that laughter be prescribed as a way to increase good HDL cholesterol test results and prevent heart disease–besides, once you laugh, it forces you to feel better, and that’s good medicine!” 

 Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, cardiologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City    

Gaining wealth. www.mytributejournal.comMy parents lived in an era where you saved to buy what you needed, but this philosophy especially held true when you looked to purchase those things that you merely wanted!  Now days it seems that more and more our society tends to live the instant gratification lifestyle of: “Buy now and pay later!”

As fate would have it……I not only had parents who budgeted their finances well, my husband got his college degree in economics and earns a living as a financial planner!  So here are some things I have learned about budgeting and using credit cards–and really, I am grateful to have been taught these things over the years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t hard to resist going out sometimes and buying what I want when I want it!

Good Credit Card Habits:

1. Don’t use your credit card as a substitute for cash.  Using your credit card to purchase groceries or gas can add up fast!  My husband’s rule of thumb when you’re going shopping for food or other household items is to leave your credit card home and use a debit card–or better yet, pay cash!  In her brilliant business article on expanding our comfort zone, Rachel Gillett suggests that we should keep track of how we spend every penny for several months and pay for everything we can with cash!  

“If you have to reach in your wallet and pull out cash, you will often think twice about how much you need something!”

2. Try to pay off your balance within two pay cycles.  In an ideal world, we would pay off our balances each month, that’s why most financial advisors recommend that you don’t charge more than 20-30% of your credit card limit.  It may sound nuts to budget your credit card purchases, but if you do, then you won’t buy more than you can pay off!  A lot of stores often provide 3-6 months “same as cash” on big ticket items, and as long as the total amount billed is paid off within the designated timeframe, no interest is charged!

3. Consider the use of credit a privilege!  After all, purchases we charge will eventually have to be paid off with our hard-earned money!  I didn’t get my first credit card until I started college.  I know that sounds crazy, but even as little as 20-30 years ago, obtaining credit wasn’t as easy as it is now.  My dad and mom taught me that the use of credit was a privilege and an important factor that helps to cultivate responsible money habits and good credit ratings, which are both key when the time comes to purchase a house and some of the other things that help create the happy lifestyle we each envision for ourselves!

Helathy Credit Card Habits.

In his book, “The Happiness Advantage” —Shawn Achor lists debt and money woes as one of major blockades to obtaining true happiness.  He suggest that desired habits be put on the path of least resistance…“if you can’t resist the siren song of a sale, at the very least, having only one credit card, with a limited balance available, will cutail impulsive buying and help you be more thoughtful about your spending!” 

Using wisdom. www.mytibutejournal.comI know that many of you have heard of the serenity prayer, (also the anthem for Alcoholic Anonymous) scribed by the American theologist, Reinhold Neibuhr.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!”

I remember I taped a copy of this prayer to the front cover of my chemistry binder during a particularly hard semester in nursing school…..that quite honestly, almost drove me to drink–ha!

So often, we tend to think that it’s when we’re young and making all the decisions about the course our life should take that requires us to have the most courage…but the older I get, I have come to realize that every stage of life, whether we are deciding on a career choice, who our partner should be, how to best raise capable children, then make the necessary adjustments when they leave home, or care for aging parents, takes equal parts courage and wisdom!

Walt Disney quote on courage.

 I’m also a big proponent of this Chinese proverb:  “You don’t always have to chase after great things–you can be content doing small things in great ways!”

I hope the rest of your summer is spent with some of your favorite people, doing some of the things you love to do the most!

What’s on your “courage” bucket list?  When was the last time you did something for the first time?