Category Archives: Communication and Relationships

When parents can’t manage their money

Blog post by Liz Fischer, August, 2014

A good friend who is a Financial Advisor emailed me this article he saw on CNBC by Keeley Holland. I found it very interesting and related a lot to Home Instead Senior Care’s 40/70 materials. Have you had the talk with your parents? If not contact our office to get some very good materials that will lead you step by step through the important questions you should discuss now or attend our 40/70 seminar at Jennings McCall retirement community October 11 from 10-12. Please call our office at 503-530-1527 for more information.



Maybe your mother is suddenly having trouble balancing her checkbook, or your father can’t seem to pay his bills on time. Perhaps a parent has called you to brag about a hot new stock someone’s nephew encouraged them to buy.

There comes a time in many people’s lives when managing their money is out of their reach. If it’s happening in your family, experts say you need to act—now.

The big question in many families is how.

First, recognize that this is a surprisingly common situation. One study by researchers at the Federal Reserve, Harvard, New York University and the University of Singapore, found that financial decision-making abilities peak around age 53. It goes downhill from there. The study also pointed out that about half of all adults between the ages of 80 and 89 either suffer from dementia or have a diagnosis of cognitive impairment without dementia.

Some elderly people suffer from physical ailments that impede either their cognitive abilities or their physical ability to manage their finances. Connie Stone’s grandmother gradually lost her eyesight, and that naturally made it much harder for her to keep a handle on her checkbook.

Whatever the cause, when elderly people lose a handle on their finances, the risk of financial missteps – or worse – increases rapidly. A study by MetLife found that losses by victims of elder financial abuse come to at least $2.6 billion every year.

“The best thing would be in advance of all this to have a conversation with the parents,” said Stone, co–founder of Stepping Stone Financial. “It can make a big difference down the line.”

There are several typical warning signs when people start to lose the ability to manage their money, experts say. And it pays to be watchful: Parents aren’t likely to recognize their own declining abilities.

In a study of financial knowledge by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, people who reported being more confident in their financial decision making than they were five years ago had slightly lower cognition scores than those who said their confidence was unchanged. In the Fed’s Older Adult Survey, 96 percent of respondents age 70 or older said they were just as confident or more confident in their decision-making than five years earlier.

If an elderly person suddenly changes investment strategies—if a normally cautious investor suddenly gets excited about a new, high-risk security, for example—that is often a red flag.

Getting behind on bills is another potential warning sign, especially if it’s someone who has been very organized in the past. Calls from creditors may be a signal that someone can no longer keep track of bills or is facing some other financial challenge worth surfacing.

If someone has always been careful about filing and record-keeping and now the papers are piling up, that may indicate a problem. The same goes for a sudden rash of expensive purchases that seem out of character.

Watch out as well for an onslaught of charitable solicitations, experts say, or a bunch of expensive purchases.

Barry Glassman, president of Glassman Wealth Services, said he has brought in a client’s son or daughter (with the client’s permission) on at least two occasions when he became concerned about slipping cognition and questionable transactions. “As soon as the son stepped in we were able to see that there was a financial predator.”

Often, the best way to approach the issue of personal financial management with an elderly parent is indirectly, experts say.

“You have to get them in to see third-party objective people,” Yankee said. “Have them go in and talk about the importance of having it so that they are being taken care of.”

That third party could be a respected family friend, an accountant, a lawyer or a financial advisor. Yankee actually makes it a practice to create that third-party option for clients, having them sign a form identifying people Yankee and his colleagues can contact if they have concerns about the client’s health or well-being. He started with clients turning 80, but has now signed the form with clients as young as 62.

Janet Stanzak, founder of Financial Empowerment, a financial advisory firm, suggests an open-ended question to get a discussion going. “Find a track where we are asking questions that open the door for them to start the conversation,” she said. She suggests questions like, “I noticed you opened a new account. How is that working for you?”

Another option is to try and make a money management task a joint effort. Suggest that you balance your parent’s checkbook while they find a place for the two of you to go out to lunch, for example. That will also give you a glimpse of your parent’s finances.

However you approach this issue, remember that for the aging parent it is a scary one. Giving up control of one’s money can be even more painful and challenging than handing over the car keys. It’s essential to handle the conversation in a way that maintains everyone’s dignity.

But even though the discussion may be especially fraught, it’s incredibly important.

Yankee said he intends to have it as soon as it’s practical in his own family.

“I’m in my 40s. I’m obviously not going to have that conversation with my kids yet. But when my kids are of an age to be responsible, where I might make them my health-care proxy, in their late 20s or so, I would have that conversation,” he said. “You’re never as sharp again as you are today.”

Older Adults and Technology Use

Blog post by Mike Brunt

We often read articles on seniors that we like to share. This one looks at how seniors are using technology and the beneficial outcomes of that adoption.woman-using-laptop

Pew Internet Research Project study on seniors and the internet looked at how older adults are using technology in their lives. Technology adoption among seniors has been increasing slowly but surely. According to the report, 77% of seniors have a cell phone, 59% use the internet, and almost half have broadband at home.

This article examines how seniors face hurdles to to adopting new technology, how once they join the online world digital technology becomes an integral part of their daily lives, what devices they’re using and how they’re being used and how social media can help seniors stay connected to friends and family.

What is your Aging IQ?

There are a lot of stereotypes about seniors, are they true? How would you answer the following questions?bikers

Do you think that getting older means giving up on exercise? Actually, physical activity at any age can help make your heart, lungs, and muscles stronger.

Do you think that older adults are bad drivers? Not really. Older adults really tend to be safe drivers who engage in less risky behaviors behind the wheel.

Do you think older adults have nothing left to learn? As a matter of fact, there is no age limit on learning new skills or improving your existing ones.

The National Institute on Aging’s quiz, What’s Your Aging IQ? Can be answered on-line or is available as a free booklet (even bulk copies) to help start conversations about aging and challenge aging stereotypes.

Making the Difficult Conversation Easier

Blog post by Mike Brunt

It’s time for “the conversation”, something we all dread. This article provides some good information on how best to approach that difficult conversation. Our Home Instead website also has some very good articles, videos and other resources to help you.caregivercouple

Martin’s driving was getting more erratic and dangerous. His wife, Gwen, 81, was in the car when Martin, 83, failed to see pedestrians crossing the street until she yelled at the last minute. It was clearly time to take his car keys away, but Gwen wasn’t sure how to do that without causing Martin distress.

Whether baby boomers need to talk to their parents about assisted living, parents need to talk to their children about end-of-life issues or a wife needs to talk to her husband about not driving anymore, these conversations can be difficult. Most people avoid them as long as they can, at which point it’s sometimes too late to handle the issue easily.

Those in the caring field who have been through this offer ways to best approach these delicate but serious discussions.


Techniques to Smooth the DiscussionPlan ahead: Schedule a time and place that works for all to be focused and not distracted.Validate others’ feelings: When feelings are acknowledged, the person starts to calm down, because they feel they’re being understood.“Normalizing”: Letting the other person know they’re not the only one going through these emotions or this experience make people feel safe and takes the focus off an individual.Be open: Explain your concerns specifically and clearly. Share your own feelings.Think before responding: Don’t speak when you’re angry or upset. Silence can often be effective.Ask for advice: Asking questions rather than telling people what to do is always a better way to start conversations.

Use “I” statements: Explain how you feel rather than what you see as wrong with the situation.

Working with Denial

In confronting difficult situations, most people first encounter denial: From children it might be that their parents are never going to become incapable of taking care of themselves; from aging adults it might be, “my driving is not that bad; I know what I’m doing” or from the husband it might be that his wife can stay at home rather than go into assisted living.

Loved ones don’t want to see that the situation or person has changed, and a lot of emotions are attached to the way things were. “Everyone wants to go back to the way it was,” says Viki Kind, a clinical bioethicist, medical educator and hospice volunteer (“Facilitating Difficult Conversations: Getting Through the Barriers”).

While denial might work in the short term, in the long term, it can cause problems. It could mean that adult children won’t know how to handle their parents’ finances when they’re unable to or that a bad driver could cause an accident or worse. Providing adult children with end-of-life wishes can make the inevitable process easier, not more difficult, in the long term. Denial can also occur when someone has the wrong or not enough information. Therefore, it’s important to make sure both parties have all the facts.

When confronting someone about big changes, it’s important to let them emotionally process the new information. It might take time and patience. Kind suggests not rushing the other person to make a decision. Seniors, especially, might want to sit and ponder the question, and see how the issue affects their life and future. You can also ask if there is a better time to talk about the topic.

The Real Issue

We need to truly listen, Kind says, to hear what someone is really saying and what the real issue is behind the fears and resistance. The key is to be present and feel the other person’s suffering. “Compassion is the ability to feel your pain in my heart.”

For instance, someone might not want a caregiver because they don’t want to lose their privacy, they think they can’t afford it or they worry their house is a mess. In another example, perhaps the real reason an older adult is resisting using a walker is because it makes them feel old and awkward. “Once you explore the real issue, the better chance of solving it,” Kind says.

Younger adults might not realize that their parents (or loved ones) want to have control over their lives, Kind says. Trying to take away that control—by taking away their car keys or moving them from their homes—will likely only bring resistance. It’s best to give that person some authority.

Dealing With Control

David Solie, a geriatric psychologist, CEO and medical director of a life insurance brokerage corporation, wanted to move his mother to assisted living, because he felt she would be safer there, but she resisted. At some point, he started seeing the situation through her eyes:

“In 20 years of working with seniors, I’ve come to know how deep the need for control is in that age group, how little they ultimately wind up with and how closely control is tied to dignity and hope, not hope that you’re going to be young again, but hope that you’re going to get some good days. . . .

“That’s what I found out when I sat down in my mother’s old, worn-out La-Z-Boy with the tuner with the larger buttons and the Collier’s magazine from 1946. I realized that in a world of great instability—her friends had passed, my dad was gone, her neighbors were gone—this house was her anchor. Looking at that, I felt it was profound hubris on my part to be all-knowing and righteous about where she should live” (“Talking With David Solie: Caregiving Mistakes and Lessons Learned,”

In the end, Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders, honored his mother’s request until she had a massive stroke and had to go into skilled nursing for the last ten months of her life.

Failure to Communicate

“Parents and kids don’t talk the way they need to talk,” says Donna Quinn Robbins, author of Moving Mom and Dad! Why, Where, How, and When to Help Your Parents Relocate. “The kids don’t really understand how their parents are feeling, what they’re going through or what they want because they’re afraid to ask—or if they ask, they don’t get an answer. The parents don’t want to be a burden, they don’t want to tell their kids what’s really going on and they don’t want to let them know they’re sliding, because then they’re afraid the kids are going to want to do something about it” (“Talking With Donna Quinn Robbins: How to Discuss Moving With Your Parents,” ).

Robbins, who has worked with seniors for 20 years as the owner of Ultimate Moves, a relocation and transition service, has seen what happens when different generations don’t communicate. One adult son, a doctor, told his parents if they didn’t move closer to him, he wouldn’t be able to take care of them. When the parents reluctantly left their retirement home in Florida, leaving most of their possessions behind, they found that their son had only once a month to see them. Within a year, both parents died.

“When people bring their parents from a distant place to where they live, I see catastrophes all the time because they haven’t talked about the expectations they have—the children’s or the parents’. . . . The expectations have to be discussed up front because, otherwise, the parents have moved from their home, their friends, their whole lifestyle, to a place where they don’t know anybody.”

Confirming that view is Bruce Nemovitz, senior real estate specialist and Certified Senior Advisor. His advice to adult children: “Learn what are their [seniors’] greatest fears and talk about them. Understand the power of memories and their feelings of deep loss and sadness as they think of giving up their home. For each senior, moving elicits a different set of issues both mentally and physically.” His advice to seniors: “You cannot expect [your children] to truly understand what you are experiencing as it is new to you and to them also. They cannot feel the pain of a loss of spouse or the fears of moving to a completely new environment after so many years in their familiar surroundings. Your kids will someday have to face the same issues, so know that they hold their own set of emotions, fears and concerns” (“Having Difficult Conversations,” June 04, 2013, Laureate Group).

Beyond the bigger issues of denial and control, experts offer tips for making the difficult conversation a lot easier (see sidebar).

Don’t forget to visit the Home Instead website for more information, videos and resources regarding Family Communication Issues.

Senior Care Resources to Help Real Estate Agents

Presentation by Home Instead Owner, Mike Brunt, to Premiere Property Group in Lake Oswego, OR



As a real estate agent, you work closely with families on some of the most important financial transactions of their lives. Through weeks and months of working with individual families, you get to know your clients – the joys and successes as well as the challenges and stresses.

Statistic: Each day in America, for the next 18 years, 10,000 people turn 65.

  • As real estate agents, you often work with these baby boomers. A big part of boomer’s lives is helping their parents who are in their 80s or 90s. Knowing more about senior care services helps you help your clients.


Many of the families you work with will be busy providing some sort of help for an aging loved one. With Home Instead Senior Care in mind as a reference, you will be able to add value for your families in many different situations including the ones listed below:


Situation One:
Your client is purchasing a home that will have a living area for the parents who are in failing health. They work during the day and are afraid to leave them that long unattended. They will also need someone to fix meals for mom and dad and take them to their doctors’ appointments. What can you recommend?


Situation Two:
You are getting ready to list a home but your elderly client should not or cannot drive and has a hard time getting around, so wants to remain home during the showings. We know that buyers are uncomfortable looking when the owner is there. What is the solution?


Situation 3:
You are trying to help a middle aged couple with some investment properties, but they have a hard time keeping appointments with you because an elderly parent with memory issues needs constant supervision.


Great Reads for Family Caregivers


Know Someone Who Would Make a Great Home Instead CAREGiver?

  • Please refer them to
    • Work for a company that shares your values
    • Be treated as a gifted professional
    • No certifications required – Training is provided
    • Part-time hours that fit your schedule
    • Consistent, predictable wages and increases




Seniors behind the wheel: Few kids have the talk

Blog post by Mike Brunt
Article written by Larry Copeland, USA TODAY 6:04 a.m. EDT September 29, 2013

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently highlighting issues facing senior citizens. It’s nice to see attention by the national media regarding seniors. This article is about having the tough discussion with elderly parents regarding driving. In addition to the suggestions in this article,  The Home Instead website has a section on the “40-70 Rule®” which are programs and emotional support services offered to develop open discussions between families relating to providing care to parents and other various senior topics. This website provides tips to help bridge the communication gap between adult children and their senior loved ones.

It can be one of the most difficult conversations an adult child ever has with an aging parent: The discussion about Mom or Dad giving up the car keys because of declining health.driving

The dilemma is one that many adult children will face in the coming years: The number of people 65 and older in the U.S. will increase from 47.6 million in 2015 to 72.7 million in 2030, according to the Census Bureau.

In 2011, 17% of all traffic deaths in the U.S. involved people 65 and older, a group that made up 13% of the overall population, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But apparently, many simply aren’t having that conversation.

More than half of adult children of senior drivers – 55% — say they are concerned about their parents’ driving habits. But only 23% have had a discussion with their parents about driving abilities as they age. In fact, adults ages 40-65 are more concerned about aging parents’ driving than they are about family members driving while intoxicated.

That’s according to a new nationwide telephone survey of 1,007 adults ages 40-65with at least one parent who drives. The survey was conducted May 14-20 for insurer Liberty Mutual and has a margin of error of 3.01%.

“They really are avoiding the conversation,” says David Melton, Liberty Mutual’s managing director of global safety. “We feel very strongly that families know best, and it’s really critical that boomer children not wait until they see a possibly dangerous decline in their parents’ driving. These are conversations that need to be had early and often.”

In the survey, just 38% of adult children of senior drivers thought their parents would understand and be open to a discussion about giving up driving. Among the negative outcomes they feared: 46% thought their parents would be angry or hurt; 31% thought parents would say it’s too hard to find alternative transportation, and 22% thought their parents would be more determined to keep driving.

Families with older drivers should keep an eye out for signs that could indicate it’s time to talk, experts say.

These include: Noticing scrapes on a parent’s car or bumper, or on a garage door or mailbox. “Also, we suggest the person who is concerned actually ride with the person to get that bird’s-eye view,” says Julie Lee, vice president and national director for driver safety at AARP, a membership organization representing people 50 and older.

“If you notice other drivers are honking their horns more than they should be, or if they run a stop sign, those might be signs.”

When it is time for the conversation, the child has to choose the right time (not, for instance, during Thanksgiving dinner) and choose the right person to initiate it – it might be a family friend or someone outside the family, such as a doctor. “Driving is such an important part of people’s lives,” Lee says. “So you need to go into it with respect and dignity. You can’t just say, ‘Dad, I’m your daughter. You’re a danger to everybody. We’re taking your keys away.'”

If driving privileges do have to be taken away, it’s important to arrange transportation alternatives before the discussion so the senior doesn’t lose their independence, Melton says.

Among online resources to help plan and initiate this important conversation: AARP’s free, 90-minute seminar at, and Liberty Mutual’s tips and information at

Melton, who is 67 and has been driving more than 50 years, says he’s been discussing his driving with his wife and son for the past few years. “They know I love to drive, and ultimately, it’s going to be my responsibility and their responsibility to bring up this issue,” he says.

Lisa Callahan, 58, of Fairfield, Conn., began talking with her mother, Jean Winton, now 93, every six months or so about her driving. After Winton inadvertently stepped on the gas pedal while stopped at a mailbox, she decided it was time to stop driving. “She was very gracious,” Callahan says. “She said, ‘I’ve been looking for a sign, and that was it.’

“It’s a hard conversation,” Callahan says. “It’s like telling your kid the facts of life. It’s something you’ve got to do, but nobody looks forward to that conversation.”

Don’t forget to check out the Home Instead Senior Care website to find tips to help bridge the communication gap between adult children and their senior loved ones.


Daughters (Still) Are the Caregivers

Blog post by Mike Brunt
This study as reported in The New York Times didn’t surprise me, “Children who live near their mothers are six times more likely to wind up as caregivers than other adult children, and they are mostly women.”  Does it surprise you?

When it comes to taking care of aging mothers, biology is destiny. Or, to be more precise, biology plus geography equals destiny.

Or, to quote The Shirelles circa 1961, if you’re the daughter who lives closest when your mother needs help: “Baby, it’s you.”answeringthecall

We’ve known for a long time that despite decades of social change, elder care remains largely a female task. Most studies find that women account for about two-thirds of caregivers. We know it can be a very tough job.

But there’s a lot about how certain women wind up becoming caregivers that we don’t know. “There’s all this research on the effects of caregiving on people and virtually nothing about who is the one who winds up doing it,” said Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University. “Why does Jane become the caregiver when Billy and Betty don’t?”

For almost 30 years, Dr. Pillemer and his collaborator, J. Jill Suitor, a Purdue University sociologist, have been wading into family dynamics in later life, trying to figure out who shoulders this task. Along the way, they’ve learned that despite the supposed cultural taboo against family favoritism, mothers are perfectly willing to name the child they prefer. Moreover, mothers often have clear expectations about which child they want and expect to care for them in later life — generally a daughter.

But what happens when the crunch really comes and decisions are made? The researchers’ latest study of older mothers in the Boston area, recently published online in The Gerontologist, shows that among siblings, “if you live closer, you’re vastly more likely to have caregiving thrust upon you,” Dr. Pillemer said. “And if you’re the nearest daughter, it’s really likely.”

The researchers were a little startled themselves by this scenario, which appears to ignore almost 50 years of upheavals in women’s lives and roles. “It’s almost like being back at the turn of the century,” Dr. Pillemer said.

Dr. Pillemer and Dr. Suitor first interviewed the mothers, nearly 600 of them, between 2001 and 2003. Seven years later, they returned for a second round of interviews with those who had needed assistance during the previous two years, either because they’d had a serious illness or were no longer able to manage without help. By then, the mothers (139 in this later sample) were in their 70s and 80s.

All sorts of personal history and relationship issues would factor into who wound up as caregivers, the researchers hypothesized. They figured it would be those children who were closest to their mothers emotionally, who had earlier received support from their mothers, and who had fewer competing demands on their time like work, spouses or children of their own.


A feeling of shared values was of borderline significance, but otherwise none of those presumed factors played much of a part. The decision came down to gender: daughters were more than twice as likely to become caregivers as sons. And proximity: children within a two-hour drive were six times likelier to provide care than those farther away.

Most of the time, those were the very children their mothers had identified as their expected caregivers years before they needed help. “They were remarkably accurate,” Dr. Pillemer said.

Read the remainder of the article here

When Parents Need Nurturing

Blog post by Mike Brunt

Article from The New York Times, By JANE E. BRODY, September 16, 2013

Many people feel a moral obligation to assist aging parents, which can leave adult children feeling overburdened and neglectful of their own families, personal needs and goals. But an entirely different scenario can emerge if all parties involved respect the needs of others . This article offers a laundry list of emotions that adult children are likely to experience when parents age and their health declines.

“Growing old is not for sissies.”

I hear this often and have said it myself. Among the many challenges of aging is knowing when to seek help and how to accept it graciouslytips_caringyourself_emotionalsigns

Most often, the source of help is an adult child (or children) who may not be in a position to satisfy all the physical and emotional needs of an aging parent (or parents). Advanced old age can create a role reversal: children who once required a nurturing parent must now nurture their parents.

Recognizing that the demands of modern life have eroded the time-honored commitments to care for aging parents, China recently put in effect a law called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People.” It requires children to meet the emotional and physical needs of their parents, and to visit them often or face fines or possible jail time.

In some former Soviet bloc countries, aging parents can sue children for failing to provide needed financial support. Interestingly, there are similar laws still on the books in many American states, mostly unenforced relics of a bygone era.

But with or without a law, moral obligations to assist one’s aging parents are commonly felt. They can leave adult children feeling overburdened and neglectful of their own families, personal needs and goals. Indeed, The New York Times for several years has devoted a blog entirely to this subject, The New Old Age.

Read entire article here

Benefits of Telling Your Story

Blog post by Liz Fischer, Referral Relationship Manager
From “Senior Spirit” newsletter from the Society of Certified Senior Advisers

One of my most cherished possessions is “My Life So Far” as told by my Grandmother written by my Mom. It tells the story of her life until she was in her late 90’s. The amount of change in the world she saw in her 101 years is amazing and would be lost without her memoir. My Mom then wrote her own life story, I was amazed at how much I learned about her early years. The stories may have been told over the years but details get foggy. Having their stories in writing are gifts that can not be replicated.

Reminiscing about the “good old days” was once considered almost a sign of senility, an indication that an older person wasn’t adapting to today’s world but instead clinging to bygone days. Yet research is showing that telling stories about one’s life writingthrough a more formal practice, known as life reviews, has many benefits for seniors.
Over the past decade, studies have shown that reviewing one’s life can:

  • Ease transition into old age.
  • Further personal growth and promote self-discovery.
  • Increase acceptance and sometimes satisfaction with one’s life.
  • Improve self-esteem.
  • Lower or prevent depression.
  • Socially engage people who have dementia.
  • End isolation by promoting social interaction, either with others in a class or with interviewers.
  • Reduce chronic pain.
  • Improve cognitive function.
  • Help staff in nursing homes, hospitals, etc. to view client/patient as a complex individual with a lifetime of experiences—both good and bad.
  • Give the opportunity to review accomplishments and remember life’s joys and challenges.
  • Provide a bigger picture of an individual’s life and place in the world.
  • Help older adults create a permanent historical record about their lives as well pass on their wisdom and values to future generations.

Life narratives are a natural outgrowth of the phase of life between our 60s and 80s when we look back and assess our lives, seeing our mistakes and our accomplishments, determining what we learned. It’s also a natural impulse to want to pass on the lessons we’ve learned to family, friends and future generations.

For those close to death, life reviews become more of an imperative. Hospitals, senior centers, hospices and other settings for dying or very ill patients are using this practice, coined dignity therapy or reminiscence therapy, to bring closure to lives. One scientist found that dying individuals were most frightened by the idea of not existing after death and were comforted by the idea of creating a document that would outlast them. Hospice workers and other caretakers are being trained to interviewing the dying, which can ease anxiety and depression at the end of life.

What to Write About
There are many ways to write a life review. One is to use a simple form that lists the facts and opens the door to deeper storytelling:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Names of parents
  • Childhood: siblings, stories, schools, friends
  • Marriage(s): date, place, name of spouse
  • Education: school, college, university and other
  • Designations, awards and other recognitions
  • Employment: jobs, activities, stories, colleagues, promotions
  • Places of residence
  • Hobbies, sports, interests, activities
  • Charitable, religious, fraternal, political and other affiliations
  • Achievements
  • Disappointments
  • Individual attributes, such as a sense of humor
  • Another way is to answer more thought-provoking questions, such as “What did you want to be when you grew up?” (see sidebar).

For some people, the most important action is passing on what they’ve learned to another generation. One woman who was dying of cancer created a video of herself interacting with her children. Her message to her daughters: “I won’t be there when you start dating. I won’t be there when you get married. These are some of the things I want to tell you that I believe it’s important that you do with your life.”

Some want future generations to know what life was like before electricity or television, while others want to rid themselves of painful memories. One man who suffered from alcoholism all his life wanted his children and grandchildren not to repeat his mistakes. Others “rewrite” history to come to terms with sometimes painful facts. For others, it’s not the big events in life that are important but the smaller memories, like walking in the woods with dad. Each person may have a different reason or style, but what’s important is the telling and listening that helps create a sense of peace or relief.

The author of the blog Fierce with Age suggests making a master list of every regret you’ve had. “What have you done to yourself or to others that you wish you could take back? What have others done to you? What other disappointments or just plain bad luck has life brought your way? When you’ve recorded everything you can possibly think of, go through the list again. This time, cross off every item for which you’ve already made amends and every item you can no longer do anything about. What you will be left with is a to-do list that you can still address. Time to stop writing, thinking and brooding about your to-do list. Close your journal and do what you can to make amends, fix the situation, apologize and/or forgive.”

Forms of Life Review
Life review techniques can be formal or informal. Individuals can write (or record) their own life stories, perhaps prompted by online templates or suggested questions (see sidebar). Family members or professionals can serve as interviewers. Classes, both online and locally taught (through senior centers or other organizations), can provide the advantage of sharing stories with others.

One of the more well-known proponents of the “guided life review” is Dr. James Birren, founding dean of the School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, who offers several methods for a “guided biography” both online and through on-site classes. For example, his “Guided Autobiography” class “helps individuals organize their life stories. Guided by a trained instructor, participants are led through themes and priming questions that evoke memories of events once known but filed away and seemingly forgotten. Writing and sharing life stories with others is an ideal way to find new meaning in life as the uncertainties of the past, and the contradictions, paradoxes and events of life are put into perspective. Participants feel stronger and have a growing appreciation of their lives.“

For those who want to write their own life story, the website Lifebio provides a template and online questions. For people who want more help and direction, the Association of Personal Historians offers 670 “personal historians” who can help you write your story (for a fee, of course).

With today’s accessible printing technologies, you can easily turn your written life story into a printed book, complete with photos. You can also create high-quality videos or audio recordings, which allow you to pass on to future generations a “live” rendition of yourself.

To jog your memory, use old photos, either from your life or the times you lived through. Go back in family history with online genealogy programs.

There’s even an International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review, which brings academic scholars together “to further define reminiscence and life review as an interdisciplinary field of study in the areas of practice, research, education, volunteer and individual application.”

“The known advantages of doing [life reviews] ” wrote member John A. Kunz , “include improving the attitudes of younger adults toward older adults and vice versa, finding meaning in life, improving problem-solving skills, assisting with the grief process, increasing emotional support, strengthening self-esteem, decreasing depression and anxiety, and developing interventions for individuals with dementia.”

Please contact the Home Instead Senior Care office at 503-530-1527 if you want to tell your story. We know several Professional Historians who can help preserve your history, memories and stories.

How Caring for Aging Parents Affects a Career

Blog Post by Mike Brunt
Story from The Atlantic, ROSANNA FAY, SEPT 12 2013

My wife forwarded this article to me, and I found it very interesting.


soncaringformomHaving chosen the child-free life, I didn’t expect that caring for loved ones would play any significant role in my career path. But I didn’t factor in my mom and dad. Like many in my generation, I never fully considered the potential need to care for my aging parents.

Foregoing children was a complicated, difficult decision for me. It was riddled with fears about my parenting abilities, an irrational terror of labor pains, and the reality that I simply never felt ready. But once the decision was behind me, I enjoyed my marriage and career largely unfettered, supportive of my colleagues with kids, yet never imagining that I’d experience anything like the comings and goings of maternity leave that presented them with so many challenges. That is, until my parents began to age.

My father’s health was the first to go. Congestive heart failure made heart attacks an almost annual event. I found myself bolting out of meetings and onto flights from San Francisco to Boston in response to my mother’s hysterical, long-distance calls saying, “This is it!” Over 10 years of these 911 alerts, during which my dad also underwent a number of complex surgeries, I became that colleague who cries wolf. Though my co-workers were always supportive, I saw slight eye-rolls each time I had to try to do my job from 3,000 miles away because my dad had been hospitalized and was on his deathbed. Again.

Next, my wonderful, imperfect parents began escalating minor logistical messes into major crises. They had a nasty fight with a company they’d hired to paint their kitchen cabinets. They got embroiled in a permitting problem with the city they were moving to. When my father caused a scene over whether lunch menu prices at a local pizza parlor were still valid after 3 p.m. and was told never to return, my mother became more concerned than ever that he’d definitively lost it.

Link to Full Article

Janice Sherman of East Portland Named Home Instead 2012 Regional CAREGiver of the Year

Blog Post by Preston and Aimee Roth, Owners of Home Instead Senior Care in East Portland and Clackamas County

Janice Sherman - 2012 Home Instead Pacific Region CAREGiver of the YearIt was in the early 1970’s that Janice and her husband came to Portland, OR to settle and raise their children. Harry S. owned a furniture store and after weeks of Janice and her husband searching for someone who would extend credit to a young couple, Harry was the one that finally said “yes.” Little did anyone know that thirty years later they would meet again but this time it would be Janice who would change Harry’s life.

I described what would be her very first assignment, with a tough, stubborn old codger that refused to stay home from the store he owned, refused to accept help, refused to change his habits but was physically failing to provide for his own personal needs. Her role was not an easy one, nor a common one. She would provide for his safety at the store, keep him clean, and keep him away from the customers. At the end of the day she would have to talk him into her car and get him home. She accepted the assignment and when I told her Harry’s name, she said she knew him!

She was amazing. She is always amazing. She has been called a “miracle worker” by the families of all of the “challenging” Clients that she has met during her almost ten-year tenure with us. But the story about Harry doesn’t end there.

Harry’s sons, except for one, had taken over the furniture store. Jonathan, the youngest, and Harry had had a serious falling-out and had not spoken in almost twenty years. Harry mentioned Jonathan to Janice one evening shortly after Harry was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous tumor and was given just a few months to live. Janice didn’t pry too much but as the next few weeks passed, she asked a few questions and learned a little more. She started working her magic and gave Harry some ideas. She gave Harry some reasons to mend the wound, cross the bridge, take that first step. One day, she arrived at the store and Harry said, “Take me home. We are going to call Jonathan.”

Within a week, Jonathan was able to come to see his father. They were able to talk and close the cavernous void between them. They were both able to heal from the hurt and came to know each other as humans, as men and as father and son. Harry was suddenly and finally at peace, more so than he had been in over two decades and maybe more than he had been in his whole life.

Janice knew Harry’s time was at hand. I had the on-call phone that evening when she called to say that she would be calling me again in the middle of the night. Janice knew it. Janice always knows it. Harry’s family had been there that afternoon and Harry did not need them that night. He just needed Janice. She helped him through. She helped him pass away to the next realm, assuring him that he had done everything just perfectly and that everything would be alright. We know Harry was grateful for Janice.

Jonathon was grateful to Janice, too. He made sure she was included like a family member as the family celebrated Harry’s life. His passing was three days before Janice’s birthday. This story happened 9 years ago. Every Dec 8th, without fail, our office gets a call from Jonathan asking if he can have flowers delivered to the office for Janice’s birthday, and we say yes.

I could fill a novel with stories about the miracle that is Janice Sherman. I have worked with her since she walked in the door and I have never been more proud and blessed by such an incredible being in our midst. She has been a coach and mentor to newer or less-experienced CAREGivers. She has been a solid, supportive angel in a room full of family tears. She has celebrated 100th birthdays with a few and held the hand of the passing of many more. She is the perfect combination of kindness, compassion, experience, intuition, humor, sass and stubbornness. You really ought to see her in action. One word… “incredible.”

She is a true ambassador of Home Instead Senior Care every day, in all aspects of her work. She lives “It’s Personal” in her unique way, always being the first to say that she loves her job and that she loves Home Instead Senior Care. Janice is a walking advertisement and a living testimonial. Seriously, she could work anywhere and, believe me, plenty of people have tried to steal her. She is incredibly loyal to Home Instead and always says that she would never leave.

I have met many of the National CAREGiver’s of the Year. I know of what I speak, having been here over twelve years myself. Janice Sherman is a champion CAREGiver, one that we all look up to, admire, respect, cherish and love. She deserves this award and I am proud to nominate her.

Preston and Aimee Roth

Video Tribute to Home Instead CAREGivers – Tissues Required

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, Local Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

mike-brunt-home-instead-oregon-606Something I have learned, as a Home Instead Senior Care franchise owner for 8 years, is how amazing and special our CAREGivers are. This isn’t just a passing impression. It’s a clear fact that is confirmed for me almost every day in this business of caring. It makes me wonder if the caregivers at competing in-home care agencies are just as good. Maybe they are. I just feel blessed to employ and associate with scores of these amazing individuals…quiet heroes who go about their work with humility, devotion, patience, persistence, compassion, and great skill.

My staff and I view our CAREGivers as gifted professionals who fulfill their calling in life by caring for the sick and elderly among us. Home Instead recognized early on that our CAREGivers were and would be different than the rest, so they acquired a service mark on our special spelling of the word “CAREGiver.” So, if you ever see this word spelled this way, you know it’s a reference to a Home Instead CAREGiver.

At Home Instead’s recent annual convention in Omaha, NE, they released the following video as a tribute to our CAREGivers and to acknowledge all they do to enhance our clients’ lives. I can tell you, I was in a great hall of 1,200 people, and when this video had finished playing on the big screens, I didn’t see a dry eye in the house. It is truly inspiring. I hope you will enjoy the video and pass it along to friends who care about and care for seniors.

If you are moved to look into the possibility of becoming a Home Instead CAREGiver, here’s what to do:

East Portland and Clackamas County: Visit or call 503-335-0626.

West Portland and Washington County: Visit, click on “Become a CAREGiver,” and take our “Professional Caregiving Survey.” This is the first step in our application process.

Click on image below for video tribute to Home Instead CAREGivers. Tip: keep tissue box close.


Mom Needs to be Evaluated for Dementia but Won’t Cooperate

Blog Post by Local Home Instead Owners: Mike BruntPreston and Aimee Roth


Question: My mother is showing beginning signs of dementia. The problem is my dad is being treated for cancer and neither my sister nor I live in the same town as my parents. My dad has asked us to try and get my mom in for evaluation with a new doctor but my mom refuses to cooperate. How do you approach an issue with a parent that is showing signs of mental decline?

Dr. Amy: This sounds like a stressful situation all around. I’m sure your dad’s brush with cancer has been upsetting. If your mom is his primary caregiver and is showing signs of cognitive impairment, that’s another emotional shock for everyone—and one that is going to require some planning and adjustments.

Are you or your sister able to go home for a long weekend? That way, you can see firsthand how your mom is doing—over a few days—and talk face to face. You could start by sharing what you have observed and asking what she thinks is going on.

Link to Dr. Amy’s Full Response


Powerful Tools for Caregivers – Class Starts April 17 at Gentog

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, information forwarded from Marcie at Gentog


Dear Mike,

Our next session of the wonderful Powerful Tools for Caregivers class at Gentog will begin April 17, 2013. We have 6 openings. Won’t you please pass this along to someone that might benefit from the class? Thanks!


“Powerful Tools for Caregivers” Class

Offered at Gentog

Free Care for your loved one while you attend.
Mom and daughter
You love her. She took care of you all of your life. Now that she needs assistance, you’re the one to do it. But don’t forget to take care of YOU, too!

“Powerful Tools For Caregivers” is an educational program designed to help family caregivers (no professional caregivers, please). This program will help you take care of yourself while caring for a relative or friend. You will benefit from the class whether you are helping a parent, spouse, friend, someone who lives at home, in a nursing home, or across the country.



What does the class cover?
This class will give YOU, the family caregiver, tools to:
  • Help you reduce stress
  • Communicate effectively with other family members, your doctor, and paid help
  • Take care of yourself
  • Reduce guilt, anger, depression
  • Help you relax
  • Make tough decisions
  • Set goals and problem-solve

The class offered at Gentog will be presented by our nurse Julie Holt with the assistance of Alberta Fry. This class does not focus on specific diseases or hands-on caregiving for the care receiver. The class was developed by Legacy Caregiver Services in Portland, OR and has been shown to reduce caregiver guilt, anger and depression; improve caregiver self-care and communication skills, and increase community service use.


Mark your calendar!

This six week series meets for 90 minutes each week on:

Dates: Wednesdays, April 17-May 22
Time: 9am-10:30pm
Presented by: Julie Holt, RN and Alberta Fry, RN


Location: Gentog – 11535 SW Durham Rd, Suite C5 – Tigard, OR 97224
(Located in the Willowbrook Center at Hwy 99W & Durham Rd)


Class size is limited, and registration is required. There is NO fee for the class. A donation of $25 to cover the cost of your book is appreciated. Please call Gentog at 503-639-2600 to reserve your space.
Free Care during Class
Don’t skip the class because you don’t want to leave your loved one home alone! Gentog will provide free care in our Senior Program while you enjoy the class. We’ll take good care of them while you learn to take good care of you! Simply let us know when you register that you will be bringing someone for care during the classes.

Offer Good only for “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” class offered at Gentog

USA Today Publishes Supplement for Family Caregivers

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, CSA, Local Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

Last weekend’s edition of USA Today carried an amazing 18 page supplement on Family Caregiving, called “SupportingOur Caregivers.” The supplement was developed in partnership with Caregiver Action Network and produced by Media Planet. It reached 1.6 million readers of USA Today and through pass-alongs and social networking will reach many other people interested in the topic of family caregiving.

Don’t miss the full-page ad on page 3 for Home Instead Senior Care!

The following topics are covered in the supplement:

  • Family caregiving statistics
  • Caring for the caregivers
  • Medicare
  • Financial Planning
  • Hearing health and technology
  • Celebrity family caregivers
  • Home safety
  • Personal emergency response systems
  • Senior nutrition and health
  • Longevity / lifespan calculator
  • Reverse mortgages
  • Alzheimer’s and safety

Link to “Supporting Our Caregivers” USA Today weekend edition supplement (18 pages) – PDF is 7 MB

Certified Senior Advisor Course Coming to Portland in June – Save $500

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, CSA, Local Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

After three years, the live course for becoming a Certified Senior Advisor is finally coming back to Portland! Some of you may remember my blog post about becoming a CSA in June of 2010.

This is three full days of classes followed by a three hour test on the fourth day. Now you’re thinking, “this is supposed to be enticing?” Actually, yes it is, because the alternative is to do months of self-study without the structured support of the classroom environment.

To me, this is a professional designation worth having for anyone who works regularly with seniors. Plus, by using the code below, you will save $500 on the cost. Feel free to pass this along to anyone who wants to improve their knowledge and credibility as a senior service professional.


Flyer as Printable PDF






















One Portland Family’s Experience with Home Instead Senior Care

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, Owner, Home Instead Senior Carerecommendation-letter-home-instead

I regularly have the thrill of reading notes of gratitude from clients or their family members. It’s so satisfying to hear about how much our CAREGivers meant to them or how much they appreciated the responsiveness, availability, and sensitivity of the office team. However, the letter I received last week from a client’s daughter just took the cake…had me smiling for days.

I don’t like to brag, BUT, I really want to share this letter as a tribute to my wonderful CAREGivers and office staff who were there for this family in so many ways. For those of you who make it all the way through the letter, thanks for indulging me.


January 23, 2013

This is a letter for anyone who may be considering working with Home Instead Senior Care. I recommend this care agency wholeheartedly to anyone facing the need for caregivers! Here is our story:

My 86-year-old father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In the unfamiliar setting of the hospital, his normal, sweet behavior deteriorated dramatically – he was hallucinating and becoming agitated and aggressive. When we got him back to his own home, he was his normal cheerful and helpful self, with a gentle memory deficit.

We decided to keep him at home with Mom and hospice support. As he started to fail, it was clear that we needed more support than just the visiting nurse and bath aide from hospice. He wasn’t remembering that his body couldn’t do what he expected it to, and Mom wasn’t strong enough to catch him if he started to stumble and fall. He needed someone through the night to help him to the bathroom and to manage transfers from chair to walker and wheelchair to bed.

Although Mom adamantly did NOT want a stranger in their home, she was exhausted physically and emotionally from being awake all night and caring for him all day. I was exhausted from lying awake wondering when the next desperate phone call would come, and having to be there constantly trying to keep Daddy from getting up and falling. He would eventually need 24-hour care as he became bedridden.

I interviewed 4 agencies. One agency displayed trophies in the waiting room extolling their first palce in PROFITS for the year(!). Another agency owner was especially proud of the book she had published. A third one hired only Spanish speakers. Karen, from Home Instead, came to my home and LISTENED carefully to my long list of requirement and hopes for a kind, quiet person who would fit unobtrusively into my parents’ lives. She was so understanding and sweet. I even expressed a desire for a certain personality and political viewpoint. Soon after, Karen brought that perfect person to meet my parents, and my mom was measurably reassured.

Julie fit into our family perfectly. We started with a few hours of her service, then increased them quickly. Julie had a calm, reassuring effect on us all – the transfers went smoothly with her expert technique, and her matter-of-fact, kind manner of speaking kept my dad from bolting away.

When we started with overnight care, Judith arrived with lots of confidence and experience, cleaning everything in sight. In the middle of the night, Mom could hear her dealing with my dad when he woke up to go to the bathroom. Because he was being cared for so kindly and competently, she was able to go back to sleep. That meant that I got a full night’s sleep as well! It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Another or our night caregivers, Beth (a self-professed “night owl”) spent many wee-morning hours listening and supporting my mother as she adjusted to the reality of her husband’s imminent death. Beth’s assertion that Mom was “stronger than she thought” helped her cope. On the day that we actually moved Mom, Beth helped us through that trauma as well.

In order to cover our sudden need for 24-hour care, Home Instead had to schedule several caregivers. I am still amazed at the number of kind and competent people that came to help us! Of course, there were a few that were not a good match. I emailed Tina, the Home Instead staff coordinator, with my concerns, and she IMMEDIATELY replaced them. She learned quickly what qualities were important to us and sent people that were compatible.

We were never made to feel that our concerns were too picky. The phone was always answered right away by a friendly, helpful person. Every Home Instead staff member seemed to “get” that this time of life is super stressful. I always felt reassured and supported at every contact with Home Instead. We requested as few different people as possible, and they accomplished this quickly with only two 12-hour shifts per day.

Because our caregivers were doing most of the housekeeping and physical care (changing Depends and bedding mostly!), our family had the energy to have quality time with my dad – every day we sang together, sat in the sun, ate meals together, and visited with some of his old students. It was a poignant and treasured time for us.

Our dear Julie was with us when my dad died. As she had all along, she know just the right balance of giving hugs and leaving us alone.

We continued to use two of our caregivers to help us with Mom’s transition to assisted living. Beth helped with some of the lonely overnights after the family left town and I needed a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Julie came to Mom’s new home a couple of mornings a week. By then, she was a special friend who had known my dad and who was a comforting presence for my mom in a new place.

Our family is very grateful for Home Instead!


Lori S.

Mom Keeps Asking to Go Home

Blog Post by Mike Brunt, Local Owner, Dr-Amy
Home Instead Senior Care

Content from “Ask Dr. Amy”

Question: My mom asks to go home but she is home with me. What do I tell her?

Dr. Amy: It is very common for people who are suffering from dementia to ask to go home, even when they are in the house they have lived in for many years. When this happens, it’s best not to argue or try to correct your mom. Logic does not apply, since her brain does not work the way it used to. Correcting her may lead to further confusion and argument.

I encourage you to try to redirect your mom. Ask her a question about her home. Share memories of favorite rooms, the features of certain rooms, special events that took place at home, meals cooked, funny events and so on. This type of conversation will be calming and familiar to your mother. You can also redirect by asking if you can play her a piece of music first. Some people find listening to music calming. The point is to shift the conversation or activity to something she has enjoyed in the past.

I am sure you must find it stressful when your mother asks to go home. Take a few deep breaths when this happens. Turn to her and smile reassuringly. Then gently shift the conversation. The moment will pass and you will both feel better. Good luck.

More Advice from Dr. Amy

NPR Highlights Alzheimer’s CARE Training Program by Home Instead

Blog Post by Local Home Instead Owners,
Mike Brunt (Washington County),
Preston and Aimee Roth (East Portland and Clackamas County)

npr-storyStory from National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. This segment aired on January 8, 2013 about the Home Instead Senior Care network’s Alzheimer’s CARE training program.

All Things Considered is the fourth largest radio show in America with more than 11 million weekly listeners.

Story excerpts:

There are more than 5 million people with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., and most are cared for at home. Now, one company has begun offering training to family caregivers to help them deal with the special challenges of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

The company, Home Instead Senior Care, is the nation’s largest provider of nonmedical home care for seniors. The workshops are free and available to anyone, whether they’re clients of the company or not.

The training was developed by Home Instead, but it’s based on ideas accepted by many Alzheimer’s experts — for example, making use of long-term memories and recognizing what triggers anxiety. The company has spent about $3 million over the past three years on developing and presenting workshops for family caregivers. Home Instead says it wants to be a community resource for families grappling with Alzheimer’s.

Link to Full Story and 5-Minute Audio Clip


If you are interested in attending the Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver Training in the Portland area, please call 503-530-1527.
Curriculum overview for the Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver Training


Portland’s First Choir for Singers with Early Memory Loss – Feb. 8 Info Session

Blog Post by Deborah Letourneau, MSW
Program Coordinator, Washington County Disability, Aging & Veteran Services


Informational Meeting at the Alzheimer’s Café about

Portland’s First Choir for People with Early-Stage Memory Loss

(a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association – Oregon Chapter & Earthtones Music Therapy Services


When: Friday, February 8, 6:30-8:00 pm

Where: The Alzheimer’s Café, Southminster Presbyterian Church,

12250 SW Denney Road, Beaverton OR 97008

For more information, contact Chris Nelson at the Alzheimer’s Association
(503) 416-0207 /