Category Archives: Aging

Blankets, Grandma! Buy lots of blankets!

Because all you freeloading old people can forget about being fed and then you won’t have enough money for heat because fuel assistance is also being eliminated. 

So much win for everyone!

When Pretend Play Is Real For Alzheimer’s Patients


BEVERLY HILLS — Sitting beside a neatly made crib, 88-year-old Vivian Guzofsky held up a baby doll dressed in puppy dog pajamas.

“Hello gorgeous,” she said, laughing. “You’re so cute.”

Guzofsky, who has Alzheimer’s disease, lives on a secure memory floor of a home for seniors. Nearly every day, she visits the dolls in the home’s pretend nursery. Sometimes she changes their clothes or lays them down for a nap. One morning in August, she sang to them: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.

No one knows whether she believes she is holding a doll or a real baby. What the staff at Sunrise Senior Living do know is that Guzofsky — who can get agitated and aggressive — is always calm when caring for the dolls.

Nursing homes and other senior facilities nationwide are using a controversial technique called doll therapy to ease anxiety among their residents with dementia. Senior care providers and experts say the dolls are an alternative to medication and help draw in elderly people who are no longer able to participate in many activities.

“A lot of people with Alzheimer’s are bored and may become depressed or agitated or unhappy because they aren’t engaged,” said Ruth Drew, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Caregivers aren’t trying to make their charges believe the dolls are real infants, and they don’t want to infantilize the seniors, Drew said. They are just “trying to meet them where they are and communicate with them in a way that makes sense to them.”

Other senior facilities that use the dolls include On Lok Lifeways in San Francisco and the Los Angeles Jewish Home in the LA suburb of Reseda. Some, including Texas-based Belmont Village Senior Living, eschew them, arguing that it can be demeaning for seniors to play with dolls.

“They are adults and we want to treat them like adults,” said Stephanie Zeverino, who works in community relations at Belmont Village Senior Living Westwood. “These are very well-educated residents.”

The facility prefers other types of therapy, including art and music, she said. And staff members there work with residents to play brain games that promote critical thinking.

“We want to provide a sense of dignity,” Zeverino said.

Studies on doll therapy are limited, but some research has shown it can reduce the need for medications, diminish anxiety and improve communication, according to Gary Mitchell, a nurse specialist at Four Seasons Health Care in the United Kingdom who has authored a new book about doll therapy.

However, Mitchell acknowledged it is possible that doll therapy, because it can infantilize adults, “perpetuates a lot of stigma with dementia care that we are trying to get away from.”

Some families worry about their relatives being laughed at when they engage in doll therapy, Mitchell noted. He said he understands those concerns, and even shared them when he worked at a senior residential center. But when one resident requested that he allow her to continue caring for a doll, he soon saw the positive impact of the therapy.

Mitchell said it can be very beneficial for some people — especially those who may get easily distressed or pace obsessively. “Having the doll … offers them an anchor or a sense of attachment in a time of uncertainty,” he said. “A lot of people associate the doll with their younger days and having people to care for.”

At Sunrise Beverly Hills, the nursery is set up like a baby’s room. A stuffed bear rests inside the wooden crib. On a shelf above are framed photos of Guzofsky and a few other women who regularly interact with the dolls. A few bottles, a swaddling blanket, a Dr. Seuss book and diapers sit on a nearby changing table.

The nursery is just one of several areas in the Sunrise centers designed to engage residents, said Rita Altman, senior vice president of memory care for Sunrise, which has facilities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. There are also art centers, offices, gardens and kitchens where residents may find familiar objects from their past.

Altman said the nurseries tend to attract residents who have an instinct to care for babies. Some people, she said, may not be able to talk anymore but still find a sense of security with the dolls. “You can read it in their body language when they pick up the doll,” she said.

Sunrise caregivers also use the dolls to spark conversations by asking questions: How many children do you have? Was your first baby a boy or a girl? What are the best things about being a mom?

The executive director of the Beverly Hills facility, Jason Malone, said he was skeptical about the use of dolls when he first heard about them.

“I almost felt like we were being deceitful,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was real.”

But he quickly changed his mind when he realized that staff could use the dolls respectfully.

“We don’t want to confuse treating our seniors as children,” Malone said. “That’s not what this activity is truly about.”

Guzofsky began caring for the dolls soon after moving into the facility. When asked what she likes about the dolls, she said, “I love babies. I have some very nice ones back where I live now.”

Guzofsky’s daughter, Carol Mizel, said her mom raised three children and volunteered extensively in Colorado and Mexico before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about five years ago. Mizel said she doesn’t see any downside to her mother caring for the dolls. It is “creative way of dealing with her where she is now,” she said.

“I always describe my mother as being … very similar [to] many of my young grandchildren in her cognitive skills,” Mizel added.

For some residents, including 87-year-old Marilou Roos, holding the dolls is one of the only times they interact with the staff. Roos is confined to a wheelchair and rarely speaks. She sleeps much of the day.

“There is not much [Marilou] can participate in,” said Vladimir Kaplun, former coordinator of the secure memory floor. “When she spends some time with the babies, she wakes up and she brightens up.”

On a recent day, caregiver Jessica Butler sat next to Roos, who held a doll against her chest and patted her on the back. She kissed the doll twice.

“The baby’s beautiful like you,” Butler said.

“It’s a boy,” Roos said. “Five months.”

“Is the baby five months?” Butler asked. “You’re doing a good job holding the baby.”

Caring for the dolls is second nature to Roos, who made a career of being a mom to five children and was involved with the PTA, Girl Scouts and other activities, according to her daughter, Ellen Swarts.

Swarts said it’s been difficult to watch the decline of her mother, who hasn’t called her by name in over a year. Watching her with the dolls helps, she said.

“To see the light in her eyes when she has a baby in her arms, I don’t care if it’s real or if it’s pretending,” she said. “If that gives her comfort, I am A-OK with it.”

KHN’s coverage in California is funded in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

KHN’s coverage of aging and long-term care issues is supported by The SCAN Foundation.

A disinterested old woman and Johnny Depp

celebrities celebrity Hollywood

Take a look at the tweet below.

This reaction — this guy’s “new favorite photo of all time” — is representative of the crazy viral reactions this photo started all over the internet. 

Reactions generally ranged (and I am not overstating this a bit)  from overjoyed to ecstatic because so many people saw in this one elderly woman all the alienation they believe social media have brought into the world. 

As Mashable noted in a post about the photo:

In this photo from the Boston Globe, most of the crowd watches the red carpet through their smartphone camera lenses while an older onlooker takes in the event tech-free.

Oddly enough, the woman’s lack of technology is exactly what’s made the photo such a viral success.

“Oddly enough” just about sums it up.

For its part, the Boston Globe started its article accompanying the viral photo with this:

Now we know what happens when Johnny Depp steps out of a black Escalade in Brookline: People scream. The actor, who plays Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass,” joined several of his cast mates and director Scott Cooper at a special screening of the movie Tuesday at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and the reaction among those gathered to gawk was, well, exuberant.

People interpreted the elderly woman’s lack of a camera phone as proof of her refusing to get “caught up” in the “cell phone selfie culture” of today, and her desire “to live in the moment as a real person” instead of experiencing it through an allegedly distancing smartphone camera lens.

Wow. That is a lot of sociological baggage with which to freight one elderly woman in one photo.

Since we are allowed to read anything we want into this photo, allow me to propose some alternate explanations:

  • She is an elderly woman, and as is the wont of many elderly women, she is somewhat flummoxed by cell phones.
  • She was simply walking by and decided to check out what the fuss was about, and so did not have her old school camera with her.
  • She had a camera with her, but really just does not give many f*cks about Johnny Depp or celebrities in general.

That last one seems most likely to me. Since I can read into this whatever I want based on my fears, frustrations and biases, I feel this is correct.

I would have found it more alienating if I had found out that she was so enraptured by the arrival of Johnny Depp she just couldn’t bear to ruin it by experiencing it through a camera lens.

If a woman this age is still managing to get so caught up into America’s love affair with all things celebrity, I would feel sorry for her. I would rather imagine that she has realized with wisdom in her advanced years that our celebrity culture is as damaging to our social fabric as any cell phone.

And who cares if people take pictures of an event such as this with camera phones? It’s not the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

People have experienced celebrity appearances for decades with old school cameras and I doubt anyone would say they were not “in the moment” by doing so. What else should they do? Take notes and discuss the event’s larger sociological ramifications?

Social media are only alienating if you allow them to be.

For some people — usually extroverted gregarious types who love working rooms of people in-person — social media takes away from them one of the things which make them stand out in a live crowd: their winning personality. Of course they hate online communications vs real-time interactions in-person.

For many others, social media gives them a link to the outside world. From introverts to shut-ins, social media keep them connected.

People who express themselves better through reading and in writing find online interactions to be very often  illuminating and funny, rather than alienating. Social media can be alienating, but mostly at those times when your online world teaches you how many ridiculous people are in the world.

Meanwhile we are being placated by a never-ending stream of news about the rich and famous, even as the world is falling apart economically, politically and environmentally.

But, by all means, let’s all get worked up over an old woman staring with an expressionless face at Johnny Depp — just as I would be doing if I were there with her. 

Old elderly woman Boston Globe Johnny Depp
The disinterested elderly woman who spawned a viral overload.


Making general anesthesia less dangerous

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Parents and grandparents (and anyone else who cares about children and the elderly) take note: there is promising news out of Harvard Medical School in the study of general anesthesia in patient populations where it can pose the greatest risks: 

Recent Massachusetts General Hospital investigations into the neurobiology underlying the effects of general anesthesia have begun to reveal the ways different anesthetic agents alter specific aspects of the brain’s electrical signals, reflected by electroencephalogram signatures. While those studies have provided information that may lead to improved techniques for monitoring the consciousness of patients receiving general anesthesia, until now they have been conducted in relatively young adult patients.

Now a series of papers from Harvard Medical School researchers at Mass General is detailing the differences in the way common anesthetics affect the brains of older patients and children, findings that could lead to ways of improving monitoring technology and the safety of general anesthesia for such patients. 

“Anesthesiologists know well that the management of patients age 60 or older requires different approaches than for younger patients,” said Emery Brown, the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anæsthesia at Mass General. “The doses required to achieve the same anesthetic state in older patients can be as little as half what is needed for younger patients. Explanations for that difference have focused on age-related declines in cardiovascular, respiratory, liver and kidney function, but the primary sites of anesthetic effects are the brain and central nervous system.”

Patrick Purdon, HMS assistant professor of anæsthesia at Mass General, added, “We know even less about how anesthetic drugs influence brain activity in children, and the current standard of care for assessing the brain state of children under anesthesia calls only for monitoring vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. This lack of knowledge is especially troubling, given recent studies suggesting an association between early childhood surgery requiring general anesthesia and later cognitive problems.”

Not only does this open up new avenues of study into what kinds of anesthetic compounds might be used and which news ones might be candidates for further research, it also means that when a patient is under general anesthesia, old ways of monitoring the brain need to give way to new ones:

It has been known that commercially available EEG-based anesthesia monitors were developed for young adults, Purdon said, and while they are limited for that population—reducing brain activity to a single number—they are even more inaccurate for children and the elderly. 

“These studies illustrate why this is the case and suggest a new, age-specific monitoring paradigm that—along with monitors that track a broader range of EEG signals—could help avoid both anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity in children and postoperative delirium and cognitive dysfunction in elderly patients,” Purdon said.

Brown added, “Understanding how the brain’s responses to anesthesia change with age allows us to provide personalized, patient-specific strategies for monitoring the brain and dosing the anesthetics, thereby moving us closer to side-effect free anesthesia care.

All done through the magic of science by research which, as the article notes, was funded by several grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Think about this and the hundreds of other breakthroughs large and small each year funded by your science tax dollars through the NIH, and why that funding is important.

Source: Age and Anesthesia | HMS

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ireland’s Supreme Court rejects two challenges to victorious public same-sex marriage vote

Give the anti-gay zealots credit for one thing, and one thing only: they are tenacious in their bigotry:

The [Irish] High Court heard arguments today that claimed the result was unduly influenced and should be considered invalid.

Gerry Walshe claimed the Yes campaign had too many posters in comparison to the No side, and this was a sign of bias in funding. YesPosterOnBuilding

He said: “This is not an anti-gay issue, it’s a failure of the referendum process.

“I take it as an accepted principle that the government are not allowed to fund a campaign to achieve a particular result.”

In a separate complaint, Maurice Lyons is reported to have argued that the referendum was unlawful, and would introduce confusion into the constitution.

Judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns found there were no grounds to support either case, and said putting same-sex marriage on hold was not an option.

I hope everyone has learned a lesson from all of this political maneuvering and grandstanding about how conservative civil rights are being trampled upon by the gays.

  1. If you pass a pro-LGBT law in a legislature, city council or some other local body, they will say the will of the majority was circumvented.
  2. If a local, state or federal court rules that anti-LGBT discrimination is against the law, they will call it judicial tyranny.
  3. If you take the vote directly to the people and the wingnuts STILL lose, they will argue using the high-concept legal notion that the gays had more posters than they did.

Which side is most the danger to democracy?

via High Court rejects objections to Ireland marriage referendum · PinkNews.

A life to remember

People who were out fighting before most were born or able to do so:

Bill Kelley wasn’t the firebrand type.

Bill Kelley RIP.

He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t harangue. But for half a century, “He did work on pretty much every major gay and AIDS issue there was,” said Tracy Baim, publisher of Windy City Times. Bill Kelly RIP.

From the days of raids on gay bars, Mr. Kelley, in his quiet, analytical, lawyerly way, was advocate and sage. He pushed for equal rights at the city, county, state and national level. He counseled younger activists about gay history and encouraged them to keep their eyes on long-term change instead of short-term wins.

“In my 31 years covering the LGBT community, Bill Kelley is perhaps in the Top Five of all-time critical movers and shakers,” Baim said.

At one time, pushing for “gay liberation” could mean the risk of a black eye — or worse. Even allies could be lukewarm. Closeted gays, fearful of social ostracization, were worried agitators might goad opponents.

But in the 1960s, in one of the earliest equality protests, Mr. Kelley was marching outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Soon, he was organizing national gay and lesbian conferences.

In the early ’70s, he co-founded the “Chicago Gay Crusader,” the city’s first gay and lesbian newspaper, and Illinois Gays for Legislative Action, according to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, which honored him in its inaugural group of inductees in 1991.

In 1977, he was at the first official White House meeting on gay issues.

Some younger people — not all — like to sneer at older gay men as “trolls” or “out of touch.” People such as Bill Kelley are largely responsible for the freedom they enjoy to sneer at people like him openly.

The 1960s. What kind of bravery did that require?

via William B. Kelley, Chicago attorney who lobbied for gay rights, dies at 72 | Chicago Sun-Times.

All hail the Notorious R.B.G.!

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

She’s 82 and she rocks.

At a turning point in history where most of the male members of the US supreme court seemed unsure which way to turn, one justice stood out during Tuesday’s hearing on the constitutionality of gay marriage for her spatial awareness.

This image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- using a nickname coined by her younger fans -- is sold on t-shirts, mugs, hats and other items on sites across the internet.
This image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — using a nickname coined by her younger fans — is sold on t-shirts, mugs, hats and other items on sites across the internet.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has long been a liberal champion – dubbed ‘Notorious RBG’ by her younger fans – for her withering dissent from the court’s increasingly conservative consensus.

Supreme court justices fret over ‘redefining’ marriage as supporters wait in hope
But while her preference for supporting equal rights in this case was never in doubt, what was striking on Tuesday was how her willingness to place it along the civil rights continuum allowed her to cut through the argument in a way even the court’s conservative firebrands struggled to do.

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition,” said Ginsburg when Justices Roberts and Kennedy began to fret about whether the court had a right to challenge centuries of tradition.

“Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she explained. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

“No,” replied John Bursch, the somewhat chastised lawyer for the states who are seeking to preserve their ban on gay marriage.

Showing the male young’uns how to shoot down ridiculous legal arguments.

via Ruth Bader Ginsburg eviscerates same-sex marriage opponents in court (The Guardian)

Meanwhile, over at the local assisted-living center….


After grandma passed on, grandpa’s tastes changed dramatically


I wonder how many people on the yearbook staff killed themselves after having to write an entire book of these