Announcing Washington Home Care Association’s Blooming with the Boomers 2014 Conference

July 29th, 2014

blooming boomers

As a proud member of the Washington Home Care Association, With A Little Help is pleased to announce the 8th Annual Statewide Washington Home Care Association Conference. The Conference will be held in the Lynnwood Convention Center on September 16 and 17, 2014. Business professionals will find more information about the conference and early registration (open until July 31, 2014) at the WAHCA website or Facebook page

Innovative Cultural Enrichment For Early/Mid Stage Dementia At Seattle Day Program: Elderwise

August 18th, 2014

EW archEW blue 1EW wave

Does spiritual essence stay the same despite physical or cognitive changes? That’s a deep question, isn’t it? We may wonder things like this when faced with serious physical decline or a loved one’s advanced dementia. How can we reach someone we once knew? Sandy Sabersky, founder of Elderwise, Seattle’s innovative day program for people living with early to mid-stage dementia, based her program on certainty that essence does stay the same. Programs are geared to access wholeness and essence through intuition, imagination, and inspiration. That core philosophy, called “Spirit Centered care,” drives the unique and nurturing day program and its exciting community partnerships.

Don paints amaryllis

Don paints amaryllis

“We meet people where they’re at and draw out what they can contribute,” explained Sara Shelton, Elderwise Board Chair. On a typical day participants in the day programs, never more than eight, are met in the lobby of Horizon House by two facilitators. Upstairs they begin four hours of cultural enrichment. “During the first hour, there is a selected topic of conversation and participants enjoy tea and peanut butter toast,” Shelton noted. “The next hour is wet-on-wet watercolor painting. And it’s very quiet. They’re just focused on experiencing art.” In fact, quiet and respect is so valued in the Elderwise program that Sara asked me not to observe the class the day I met her because the group had already had one visitor, a potential attendee, and two would be too much. So, she continued to summarize what I would’ve seen, “There is usually ½ an hour of movement then singing before a vegetarian lunch is served. Then, there’s ½ an hour of conversation—often including a discussion about a particular poem. Sometimes the group writes their own!”

To get a fuller sense of the atmosphere of this special four hour program watch the Elderwise video. In Jenny Gardon’s comments about her mom’s visit she’ll convey the environment and tell how both she and her mom are touched by it. “When I bring my mom up,” Gardon says, “I’m on the outside world’s schedule and time frame and I walk in the door and there’s not hurry here. And even though I’m kind of on a timeline sometimes to drop her off I want to pause and I want to stay…There’s a tone in the room that’s very peaceful and that word “gracious.” It’s really wonderful that I can bring her here and others can help her get started on things-help her get started on conversation, help her get started on painting, or clay, or laughter, and once she gets started on things she re-engages.”

“I like the value that’s placed on human life and no matter where you are in life you’re respected and valued and what you’re doing in spending time together is valued,” says Mary Lou Brown, spouse of an Elderwise participant, in the video above “. Each participant I notice is given wonderful respect.”

Frye Museum's innovative Here:Now collaboration with Elderwise

Elderwise Director Tamara Keefe discusses painting with participant at the Here:Now program, Frye Museum

Elderwise supports the whole person. As Sabersky explains, “Spirit Centered care” falls in a continuum of growing understanding on how to relate to people living with dementia. It’s “the next step” beyond the mainstream philosophy of “person-centered care” which honors personal preference and tries to support individual choices. In Elderwise philosophy, care exists within a co-created community. The four hour day program follows that model and, in a larger sense, Elderwise is creating it throughout the city by partnering with the Frye museum and Central Cinema and sponsoring art walks, talent shows, drumming circles, and urban farming.

The day program, in addition to enriching its participants, gives family rest and assurance of good care. “I love having him here,” says Barbara Martyn spouse of a program participant, “I know he’s secure, he’s happy, he likes what he’s doing.” Program involvement may also improve relationships within families or help family members renew patience.

“Elderwise is also for family members,” says Shelton,“the relationships that we develop with family members are, in some cases, just as strong as the one we develop with the participant who attends.” But the focus is on stimulation and enrichment of program participants. “You don’t have to compensate or try to cover anything up. It’s purely being yourself with this small group of people. You don’t have to worry about being wrong,” said Sara. “The emphasis is on being present and accepting of everyone in the group.”

If you’d like to explore the Elderwise day program contact: or call (206) 774-6606. Elderwise-sponsored community programs happen at least once a month so also consider attending one of those engaging EW round orangegroups. Upcoming events are listed on the Elderwise website at

Tiles of art seen beneath the blog header and at left are details from paintings by Bob Boundy, Midge Brenner and Mary Lou Gillis of Elderwise. Boundy, Brenner, and Gillis are three Elderwise artists featured in a series of Artist gift cards. Contact info@elderwise for more information on how to purchase cards that support Elderwise programs.

Caregiver’s Day Off Program Assists Parkinson’s Family Caregivers

August 12th, 2014

Are you a family caregiver for someone living with Parkinson’s Disease? Do you know about the “Caregivers Day Off” program? Caregiver’s Day Off, sponsored by the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, serves families coping with Parkinson’s in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Island counties. With A Little Help is proud to be one of three local home health agencies trusted to support and serve Parkinson’s family caregivers through the program which sponsors 20 hours of free professional care annually.

Caregiver’s Day Off started five years ago and currently serves 57 non-professional family caregivers by giving them time to revitalize while professional caregivers step in to meet their loved one’s needs. “The caregivers are so knowledgeable, professional, and courteous. They are so catering to my husband—they’re more than willing to go for a ride to his favorite restaurant, or just simply sit and talk with him, he loves it! I didn’t realize how beneficial it would be for both of us!” writes a family caregiver, Michelle C. who is enrolled in the program.

Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurological movement disorder with no known cure, can require variable levels of care. People affected may go through stages slowly and, at times, need little care or, in progressed stages, require 24 hour support. Parkinson’s onset can occur in juveniles and young adults but most often develops after the age of 60. Many people live years with Parkinson’s not knowing at times what’s wrong because the disease is hard to diagnose. According to the National Institute of Health’s Senior Health website, “There are currently no blood, or laboratory tests to diagnose sporadic Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and a neurological examination, but the disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately.” Unknowns that can precede a definitive Parkinson’s diagnosis add stress for everyone involved increasing the importance for family caregivers to find time to rest and rejuvenate. Caregivers must maintain balance and health while supporting their loved one through years of coping with the disease.

Parkinson’s affects many Washington families. How many? Difficulty diagnosing the disease complicates statistical evaluation. “The best estimates I have heard from experts is that there are 15,000 people living with Parkinson’s Disease in Washington, and 30,000 in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kristi Murphy, Executive Director of the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Though Greater Seattle is home to many prominent Parkinson’s research organizations none are charged with collecting data on specific numbers of people diagnosed.

Caregiver’s Day Off is part of several programs that support Parkinson’s patients and their families. The Taxi Voucher program serves 220 people living with Parkinson’s who can no longer drive. Joan W, a Taxi Voucher recipient explained, “The APDA (American Parkinson’s Disease Association) Taxi Voucher Program is my safety net. It allows me to get to the doctor when I am having a crisis, or connect with friends when I am feeling isolated.” In addition, the Washington Chapter of the APDA sponsors seven therapist-led support groups in the Greater Seattle Area. These groups help patients, couples, and families cope with Parkinson’s disease including young onset and Parkinson’s Plus conditions such as Multiple System Atrophy.

If you’d like to support families struggling with Parkinson’s disease consider joining the Second Annual Optimism Walk coming up on Sunday, September 14th. Lift awareness and let families know that you care with just three hours of your time or get involved with the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association through ongoing volunteerism or donations. If you’re a family caregiver for someone living with Parkinson’s —get connected with the Caregiver’s Day Off program!

For more information on Parkinson’s disease or how you can help Parkinson’s individuals and families visit the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association online or email:

Lower Your Risk of Memory Loss Through Brain Fitness

August 1st, 2014

Dementia strikes an alarming number of people. In King County alone, according to a King 5 report in late 2012, over 150,000 people have Alzheimers or Dementia. King County’s population was just over 2 million in 2013. That’s an incidence of approximately 1 in 7 which is why most of us know someone who has dementia or someone who worries about memory loss. Medicine is still trying to understand how to delay, halt or predict dementia. We can’t cure it but we may be able to reduce our risk up to  50% by taking physical and mental steps toward more robust health.

Though physical and dietary focus are important in reducing dementia risk this blog focuses on one particular line of defense: exercising our minds. In the last 20 years we’ve learned that many functions of a healthy aging brain appear to be renewable through physical exertion, good diet, and planned mental exercise. We know now that casual care of our mind may not be enough. Most of us would benefit from a brain fitness program. To get started it helps to think about our minds more like we think about our bodies. Seattle ranked 7th in the nation for fitness this year (Washington DC claimed the top spot) so Seattleites know the importance of physical exercise and are acting on that knowledge. Our brains need daily exercise and attention too. Our mind thrives on fun, challenge and new information. Just as our bodies need to move– our minds need to learn each and every day.

Brain fitness is a relatively new idea inspired and informed by advances in brain imaging and conclusions from years of research data. Much of what we once assumed about our minds has changed. We don’t lose brain cells, for instance, as we once believed and, in fact, our brains are remarkably “plastic” at every age. Check out Dr Pamela Greenwood on the Brain Science Podcast for a detailed and fascinating discussion on brain function, current research, and older minds. Mental decline is not inevitable with age. We now know that mental intelligence can remain constant over time. Our brains can be improved at any age if we develop a strategy of daily support for long lasting brain fitness.

The discovery of lifelong brain plasticity means that we have the ability to strengthen and shape our own minds physically, functionally, and chemically by learning something new or acquiring new skills. Plasticity also means that we have more control then we may realize over any mental decline. Research scientist Dr Michael Merzanich states that our modern tendencies to “remove ourselves from the details of life,” by relying on Google and electronic gadgets to remember things can speed cognitive decline. In addition, our routines and mastery of skills, which often comes with success and age, fail to sufficiently challenge our brains. So, break out of that routine, memorize your grocery list (it’s okay if you forget– that’ll help you remember next time.) and pick up a good book, a new hobby or a new language. Continual learning is a key component in every brain fitness program.

Do you recall how refreshing it was to encounter something surprising and new –like a cool breeze for the mind? Did you realize how critical that learning was as a defense against what would become an epidemic of our later years? Kickstart your focus on brain fitness by vowing to challenge and stimulate your brain. Seattle has abundant resources for learning. Do you like standard education? Try teaching or taking a class from the free or low cost schools such as Seattle Free School or the ASUW Experimental College. If you’re comfortable at home consider online learning at The Khan Academy or watching an instructional video on youtube.

Both teaching and taking a class stretches our minds. Learning doesn’t have to be studious. Learn a new recipe, repair something, take a hike, juggle, plant a garden, try yoga, invent, tour a new neighborhood, go camping, listen to new music, paint, try a new sport, or learn to play an instrument. An important aspect of brain fitness is being interested in what we’re learning. Curiosity equates with retention and enhanced brain function. Mix and match. Color outside the lines. Above all prioritize learning and design a personalized strategy for brain fitness. We can lower the incidence of memory loss in King County by lifting awareness of the importance of exercising our minds and practicing brain fitness.

Indeboom Consults With Families on Aging In Place Solutions and Universal Design

July 14th, 2014

Watching members of our families struggle to function at home either because of illness or aging can cause stress and worry because, unfortunately, houses have been built with only healthy residents in mind. Today the concepts of Aging in Place and Universal Design are revolutionizing the way we build and adapt our houses adding features that are flexible with our changing needs.

Gerry Cherney

We never plan to encounter illness or to wonder how our parents can live safely in their home. Those challenges lead to questions like: How can a home be modified to ensure wheelchair clearance if someone we love is sick or frail? Can our home be adapted/modified to prolong independence if Parkinson’s, ALS, MSA or Multiple Sclerosis should strike? How can the house be made safer for a family member coping with dementia? What home modifications can be undone at a later date?  Families used to grapple with these questions alone. Today there is professional help.

Gerry Cherney, owner of Indeboom Occupational Therapy Consulting, supports homeowners, case managers, and architects with assessments and evaluations that guide renovations of older houses. He uses his skill to advise new housing design geared to accommodate potential functional limitations and needs at all the stages of our lives. He’s an Occupational Therapist practicing locally and skilled in a wide range of settings. Cherney holds several certifications including Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).  If you or a family member are dealing with a sudden diagnosis or in need of home modifications consider seeking a  professional with CAPS certification. If you’re interested in proactive design that accommodates your family’s future and present a CAPS professionals can advise you on effective Universal/adaptive design features.  Cherney has a strong background in collaborating with builders on adaptive design and advising families by evaluating living accommodations when health/medical or cognitive decline occurs.

The Northwest Aging in Place industry, Cherney explains, “is still in its infancy having been strong for years in Southern California.” Yet design for Aging is Place continues to advance giving homeowners many more options as they contemplate home modification or new construction. Examples range from kitchens with low counters that aid access by wheelchair or help kids become more involved in cooking to Kohler’s “Comfort Height” toilets (2 inches taller than standard) that provide ease in transfer and take pressure off painful knees. In fact, adaptive design “is becoming so mainstream,” Cherney said, “we don’t think of it as disrupting the look of the house.” He cited door knobs and faucets in lever designs for ease of use when hands are arthritic or which work with just an elbow when hands are full.  “If home modifications are done correctly,” he added, “they can increase the home’s value or make the home more marketable for specific amenities such as a complete accessible shower/bath on the first floor of a two story home.”

Ponte Giulio USA creates stylish accessible bathroom designs

Ponte Giulio, a European manufacturer, features stylish adaptive solutions such as the bathroom pictured.  Increasingly, leading American companies, such as General Electric, offer practical Universal Design features.

Most families and couples still age “precariously” bringing in practical design modifications only in reaction to crisis writes Dr Patrick Roden blogging for Aging in Place. With all the useful Aging in Place and Universal Design products and features now available he urges home owners to look ahead and ask, “What 20% of home modifications will provide 80% of my aging-in-place goals of remaining home as I age? For example out of 10 potential modifications, which 2 are the vital few for my circumstances?” To review the many modifications architecture can offer check out this list and consider calling Gerry Cherney at Indeboom for a personal evaluation on practical modifications that better prepare your house to serve you and your family into the future. Aging in Place and Universal Design can make your life transitions easier.

Indeboom (425) 591-8037

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