Notes, News & Musings on Elder Care


Gabrielle Blake

Alzheimer’s Tennessee invites you and your loved ones to participate in our annual spring workshop designed to help caregivers better understand Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as common behaviors, caregiving strategies and legal issues.

“Caring & Coping”  Caregiver Workshop

for families and professionals

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Laurel Church of Christ

3457 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919

Registration 8 am | Welcome 8:30 am

Lunch Included | Workshop ends 3:30 pm

Register HERE Today!

The Alzheimer’s Tennessee’s Caregiver Workshop aims to provide the following:

  • A better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and available treatments.
  • Practical tips for caring for the individual with dementia.

Presenter: Melanie Bunn is a dynamic lecturer and skillful clinician in the areas of gerontological nursing and dementia. Each year, Melanie gives more than 100 presentations to health professional groups, educators, the community, law enforcement, and families. She has been a volunteer as an Alzheimer’s support group facilitator for over 20 years.

Melanie holds a B.S.N. from UNC – Chapel Hill, an M.S. in Family Health Nursing from Clemson University, as well as a Post-Master’s Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certificate from Duke University. She is founder of Bunn Consulting and is a Dementia Training Specialist for Alzheimer’s North Carolina.

Registration: The full-day training will include all handouts as well as a snack and lunch.

Advanced registration is required and seating is limited.

Conference fees:

  • $20 for family care partners
  • $40 for professional care partners (professional fee includes 6 CEUs for administrators of residential homes for the aged as well as assisted living facilities).

Register Online today! Click HERE

Download Form to Complete and Return HERE

QUESTIONS? For more information, please contact Linda Johnson, Director of Programs 865.544.6288 x227 or Toll-Free at 888.326.9888.

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Friday, January 31, 2014 9am-3pm
Saturday, February 1, 2014 9am-4pm
Knoxville Convention Center

Admission is $10
Seniors FREE on Friday
Children 12 and under FREE

More FREE tickets here.

FREE Health Screenings

Visit participating Expo exhibitors for FREE and reduced cost health screenings.

  • FREE Health Screenings
  • FREE Samples
  • DISCOUNTED Health Screenings

For a complete list of Health Screenings available at the Expo, click here.

For more information on Senior Day, click here.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop about Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias as part of their work with the Alzheimer’s Pansy Project.  I have worked in geriatric health for almost 20 years now and have had many opportunities to speak with groups about memory loss—teens volunteering with HABIT dogs, caregivers needing support and education, those diagnosed with a dementia—but this was the first time I had spoken with such a young audience on the subject.  I did my homework, carefully thought about what to say and how to present it, decided on some basic analogies; but when I started to talk with the children, all of that planning went out the window.

The audience asked some very serious and heartbreaking questions about people they know who have dementia.  A little girl with sad eyes asked, “Why do people have to get Alzheimer’s disease?” They talked about loved ones who forget their names and asked questions about what to do to help them.  They also had plenty of non sequiturs; after all, when your friends are raising their hands, you want to also have something to say!  I hadn’t planned on giving as much detail about the chemistry behind dementias but these kids were smart, and they wanted to know more.  I realized I’d stepped a little too far into science, though, when I was asked if the tangles in their hair would go into their brains.

I left the meeting with a confirmed belief that kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for being.  Every time I volunteer at school or church or talk with the children in my life, I’m reminded of that fact.  Kids are insightful.  They “see” our feelings.  They take in much more information than we realize.  They learn by watching, and boy do they watch!

After the talk, I decided to see what other resources were available to help educate younger children about dementia.  I wanted to have a list of resources to hand out when I give my next talk.  I found the usual checklists and FAQ pages on websites like the Alzheimer’s Association about talking with children about dementia.  I wanted more.  I wanted something that children would be able to relate to and learn from.   As I was typing words into my search engine, I looked over at our home office bookshelf, packed with children’s books.  Aha! That’s it!  Quickly, I typed in “children’s books that deal with Alzheimer’s disease”.  I keyed the lists into the Knox County Library search engine and a week later picked up a bag full of books.

Below you will find the list of books that I reviewed.  I never found what I would call that perfect book—that perfect mix of information, emotion, and understanding.  Maybe I’ll convince Monica or Susie to write it for us!  Maybe Alzheimer’s is too complex of an issue to fit into one book that a child can read and understand.  Regardless, what I found were some books that can be shared with the young children in your life as a way to help them not feel so alone in their experience.

Another bonus that you’ll find in many of these books is that they give the reader some concrete ideas of what to do with their loved one with dementia—sing with them, talk about memories, make a scrapbook, look at photos, tell funny stories.  It reinforces something that I learned a long, long time ago.  Hope comes through action.  When we take action to in some way impact our situation, we feel a little better about it.  Kids need that just as much as grown-ups do.  Give them activities they can do when visiting loved ones in nursing homes (pick a bouquet of flowers from the garden to bring to Grandma, water her plants in the window sill, draw a picture, bring a photo to talk about).  At the same time, do not give them false hope that what they do will cure the illness.  Instead focus on how it helps their loved one in the here and now.  “Did you see Grandma smile when you gave her the bouquet? I bet she really liked those flowers!” For more ideas on making visits go more smoothly, go here.

If you know of other children’s books that you would like to recommend our readers, please include them in the comments section or post them to our Facebook page.

The Memory Box by Mary Bahr—An adolescent boy visits his grandparents for the summer and learns that his grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease.  They make a memory box where they store photographs and memorabilia about times they have had together and favorite stories.

Tip-Tap Pop by Sara Lynn—For a younger listener/reader, a young girl and her grandfather are tap dancing pals.  As his dementia progresses, she learns that in spite of the memory problems he still remembers music.  The power of music therapy is reinforced as a way for children to connect with their loved ones with dementia.

Singing with Momma Lou by Linda Jacobs Altman—This was the only book that I found with photos and a story line from African-American culture.  An adolescent girl makes weekly trips with her parents to see her grandmother with dementia in the nursing home. She finds the trips difficult until she discovers that she can coax her grandmother into a conversation by showing her scrapbooks, other memorabilia, and singing songs with her.

Remember Me?: Te acuerdas de mi? by Sue Glass—This was the only book that I found with both Spanish and English text. A young girl’s grandfather can’t remember her anymore, and she believes that she has done something wrong to make him mad at her.  This story reinforces for parents the importance of talking with children about dementia.  Without having all of the information, the girl blames herself for her grandfather’s behaviors.  After she shares her worries with her mother, her mother confesses that they were trying to protect her by shielding her from what was happening with her grandfather.

Still My Grandma by Veronique Van den Abeele—Shows what Grandma is like as dementia progresses and reinforces that even though Grandma is acting differently she is still the same person inside.

Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard—Tells about a young boy and his Grandpa interacting through stories.  Later when the grandfather’s dementia progresses, the boy learns that he can get his grandfather to smile and laugh by telling him magical, funny stories.

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox—This was probably my favorite book out of all that I read because it normalized children interacting with the elderly, something that unfortunately is not seen in many books today.  A young boy has an elderly friend with a similarly long name who is losing her memory.  After inquiring about what a memory is, he gathers some of his favorite things that have strong memories for him.  He shows them to her, and she shares stories and memories from her past with him.  The importance of reminiscing with loved ones with dementia is reinforced.

What’s Happening to Grandpa by Marie Shriver—This book had the most information about what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects a person and is probably best for an older adolescent reader.

Curve Ball, the Year I lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick—This was the only book that I found for a young teen, independent reader.   While well written and does a good job of addressing the importance of open communication when concerned about a loved one with memory issues, at one point in the book the 9th graders go to a party after a swim meet and get drunk.  Parents can take that information into consideration when choosing whether or not to read the book.

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The Knoxville-Knox County Council on Aging will meet on Thursday, January 9 at 2 p.m. at the O’Connor Senior Center, 611 Winona Street, Knoxville.

Craig Leuthold, appointed Knox County Trustee in July, will discuss “Knox County Senior Property Tax Relief and Tax Freeze Programs.” For the 2013 property tax season, income limits have increased for both programs.  Bring your property tax questions.

This program is free and open to the general public.  Refreshments will be provided by Comfort Keepers.

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Tennessee has a new program aimed at getting important health information in the hands of first responders immediately following a serious accident:

The Tennessee Yellow DOT Program is designed to provide first responders with an individual’s medical information in the event of an emergency on Tennessee’s roadways.  The information can mean the difference between “life and death” in the “Golden Hour” immediately following a serious incident.

Participants in the program will receive a Yellow DOT decal, a Yellow DOT folder, and a medical information sheet; a personalized photo will be taken and placed on the sheet.  The participant will complete the medical information sheet which consists of their emergency contact information, medical information, recent surgeries, hospital preferences, current medications, insurance and physicians’ information.  This information will be the sole responsibility of the participant.

The Yellow DOT decal will be placed on the driver’s side rear window of their vehicle.

Enrollment sites are being setup across the state. Click here or the link below for the locations of these sites.

To download the form or for more information, go here.

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Alzheimer’s Tennessee, Inc. is presenting “Alzheimer’s 101” sessions in various locations.  These events are FREE and open to any professional or family caregiver who would like to attend.  You can register by clicking the links below. Please share and take advantage of these FREE presentations.

December 11th
Claiborne County
Claiborne County Senior Center
12:30 – 3:45 pm
Register Here

January 28th
Roane County
Roane Medical Center Community Room
8:30 – 11:45 am
Register Here

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To all of the men and women currently serving and to the many veterans who proudly and honorably served, we salute you.  To all of the families who have lost loved ones in battle, we remember you and thank you for the service that was given.  Veteran’s Day only lasts a short time, but our gratefulness does not end.  Thank you!

In honor of the day, we compiled some links and websites related to Veteran’s Day. To learn more about its history, go here.


There are some fantastic organizations working with our veterans.  See the links below to learn more about the programs and how you may be able to help.

  • Train a Dog—Save a Warrior connects warriors with PTSD with trained TADSAW’S PTSD service dogs. Although TADSAW is based in San Antonio, Texas, the program has Dog Trainers and Teams in-training all over the United States, including Tennessee. It is a small organization taking on the weight of the problem, and not putting limitations as to the Veterans surviving with PTSD from World War II to the present.  In Tennessee, TADSAW has taken 91 applicants with 55 training or waiting to find a shelter dog and 14 service dog teams accredited.  Go here or here to learn more about their organization and how you can help.
  • Honor Air Knoxville is a local organization providing free trips to Washington DC for area veterans.  They are currently accepting applications for veterans of WWII and Korea.  Many of our clients have had the opportunity to fly with Honor Air and describe it as a trip of a lifetime. Go here for more information about applying for a vet, volunteering, or donating.
  • The Wounded Warrior Project has a mission to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.  To learn more about this national organization, go here.
  • One more simple way to help those currently serving in the military is to send them coupons that they can use at commissaries.  Gabrielle’s daughter’s Girl Scout troop is collecting current and expired coupons (the commissaries will take them up to 1 month from expiration) to mail to a regional military base.  If you would like to help, you may drop off or mail coupons to our office to Gabrielle Blake’s attention. This project will last through April of 2014.

Veteran’s Services

For services for veterans, the US Dept of Veteran’s Affairs and the State of Tennessee Office of Veteran’s Affairs are fantastic resources.  The State of Tennessee Office of Veteran’s Affair office in Knoxville is where we recommend clients visit when applying for Aid and Attendance.  Contact our office if you have any questions about how these resources might fit into your Life Care Plan.

Freebies and Fun

Many stores and restaurants offer discounts or freebies for military men and women and veterans.  For a listing of some of these great deals, go to Real Housewives Clip Coupon’s blog post here.  If you are looking for a fun activity for today, consider attending the Knoxville Veteran’s Day Parade.

Thank you to our veterans!  God Bless our great United States of America!

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The Office on Aging has hosted an annual fall workshop, Aging: A Family Affair, since 1984.  The workshop is offered in the fall, usually on the second Thursday in November, though the date can vary.

This year, the event is on November 14 at Rothchild Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

The daylong workshop provides practical information on a variety of topics for caregivers, seniors, and aging network professionals. The cost for the day is $35 and includes lunch, an exhibitors’ fair, and materials. The day starts with a keynote address that is attended by all who have registered.  After that, speakers who are considered experts in their fields offer advice, guidance and encouragement in the workshop’s nine seminars.

Our very own, Monica Franklin, will be speaking on “Navigating the Long Term Care Maze”.  For a full list of vendors, go here.  To register as an exhibitor or an attendant, go here.  We hope to see you there!

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We thought that we would send out a quick reminder so that you can pick up and plant your pansies this week.  Happy Planting!

Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt has been honored to receive recognition and support from all over America for her outstanding leadership in women’s basketball and her fight against Alzheimer’s disease. We are thrilled to again present our Fall Fundraiser to honor Pat and all those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease-from patients and their families, to caregivers and providers of healthcare and support services.

In the spirit of “We back Pat” we invite the community to show their support by planting orange and purple pansies this fall. This campaign to raise awareness and funds is called The Alzheimer’s Pansy Project, to benefit the mission and goals of the Pat Summit Foundation.

Stanley’s Greenhouse and Plant Farm and Mayo’s Garden Centers have generously agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds of their sales of orange and purple pansies and viola’s during the fall months to the Pat Summit Foundation.

The pansy got its name from the French word pensée, meaning: “thought,” and has come to be recognized as a symbol of thoughtfulness and love. We look to our community to embrace this project with their characteristic “Volunteer” enthusiasm as a means to express their love and support for Pat and for all those touched by Alzheimer’s disease.

The Pat Summitt Foundation believes no family should have to hear a diagnosis like Pat’s: early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

Please join us and let’s paint the town in purple and orange pansies for this great cause!!

The Pansy Project Steering Committee

Adam Waller, the Pat Summitt Foundation

Carolyn Pointer Neil, Elder Advocates

Kathy Coffey, Arbor Terrace

Heather Haley, Senior Directory

Patti Smith, High Resolutions

Jennifer Lawson, Moxley Carmichael

Susie Stiles, Elder Law Practice of Monica Franklin

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With Daylight Savings Time “Fall Back” arriving soon, now is a good time for a reminder of the importance of fall prevention.  In Knox County, more than 1,800 people aged 65 and older sought hospital care for falls in 2009 (the most current data), and approximately 19 people aged 65 or older die each year from their injuriesThe CDC estimates that 1 in 3 older adults fall each year but only half talk with healthcare providers about itFalls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal accidents in older adults, with around 2.3 million falls treated in the ER in 2010.

Not only are falls affecting the health of older adults, they are also affecting their pocketbooks.  In 2006, the direct medical cost of fall related injuries in older adults was $20 billion, and this number has risen with inflation and the aging of the Baby Boomer generation.  While Medicare and other supplemental insurances cover part of that cost, out of pocket medical expenses are many times a burden on the elderly and their caregivers.  After falls, elderly often see a decline in independence and may need personal care attendants or assisted living services, neither of which is covered by medical insurance.

What can be done?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this quote can also apply to fall prevention.  Take these steps to help reduce your risk:

  • Exercise regularly.  Remember to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen.  Seek out free or low cost options through your local senior centersTai Chi has been found to be especially helpful in reducing falls and reducing serious injuries in people who do fall.
  • Talk with your healthcare providers, including pharmacists, about how medications may relate to fall risk.  Bring an up-to-date list of medications you are taking, including over the counter and herbal remedies, to each medical appointment.  One provider may prescribe a medication that would interact with a medicine another doctor prescribed.  When your healthcare providers have your full list of medications it can help to reduce the risk of adverse drug interactions and over medication.
  • Regularly have your vision checked, and follow recommendations that your doctor makes.  Eyeglasses are only helpful if you actually wear them.
  • Work with your family members to make your home safer.  Installing tools like grab bars in the bathroom and using tools like raised toilet seats can be helpful.  Reduce the clutter in your home, especially on floors and in walkways, to reduce risk of tripping over things.  If you care for grandchildren, work with them on the importance of putting away toys when not in use.  Wear shoes with good traction and add non-slip bathmats beside your tub.
  • If you are a caregiver, talk with healthcare providers to learn proper lifting techniques and ways to assist your loved one when transferring to different positions.
  • Use common sense.  When walking outside for exercise, let someone know where you will be, use trails, walk with a buddy, and stay in well lit areas.
  • Consider installing a service such as Lifeline to call for help if you fall and are unable to reach the phone.  If unable to subscribe to this service due to finances, some scholarships may be available.  If unwilling to subscribe to such a service, then making sure to carry a portable phone with you when walking through your home or outside. This can at least give you access to dialing 911 if you are conscious after falling.

What else?

  • Talk with your family about your wishes and preferences for long term care.  Unfortunately many older adults do not have conversations about long term care with family members.  Having a good understanding of your wishes gives family members guidance for your care.
  • If you do not already have one in place, talk with our office about powers of attorney documents.  Think you are too young to have these documents?  Remember that many of the cases that have garnered national attention about end of life decisions involve people who were in their 30s and 40s without these documents in place.
  • It is the desire of most of our clients to stay as independent as possible for as long as possible.  While it may sound paradoxical, sometimes the best way to do that is to get a little help with care.  Having someone there to help with transfers and walking may help to prevent injury.  Talk with your elder care coordinators about ways in which personal care attendants might be of help.

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