Is it time to “take the keys” to the liquor cabinet?

It’s a happy time. The whole family has come together for a holiday meal together and now, it’s time for a toast. On break from College, this is the first time that Junior is able to join in. It’s now that it occurs to you… Should Pop be drinking with all his medication? He’s already got a wine glass in hand and is having a laugh with Junior. You have to make a choice, do you cause a scene or do you risk his health by letting him drink?

Family toasting over holiday meal, should Seniors be included?It’s a question that often comes up at the last minute, when the bottle’s uncorked and you’re about to pour. Should you serve alcohol to a Senior? There isn’t one answer, but with the right information a Caregiver can make the right judgment call.

The importance of Drinking.

Drinking alcohol, like driving, is often seen as a rite of passage, something that separates children from adults. Caregivers should be aware that restricting a Senior’s use of alcohol may be received as attacking their adulthood.

Reasons to “Take the Keys” to the liquor cabinet.

Unlike driving, there are few guides that help Caregivers decide if a Senior should “turn in the keys” to the liquor cabinet. Here are some reasons to think about restricting a Senior’s access to alcohol.

  • Dangerous Alcohol and Medication Interactions: Many medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol that lead to increased risk of illness, injury, or even death. The elderly are especially at risk due to the large amounts of medication they often take.
  • Increased Effect of Alcohol: Several studies have shown that Alcohol has an increased effect on most Seniors, reducing their ability to function to a greater extent and for a longer period of time. This can be especially dangerous for Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment.
  • Worsen Medical Conditions: Alcohol can worsen certain medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure and Ulcers.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Drinking alcohol can greatly increase a Senior’s risk of injury from falls.
  • Late Onset Alcoholism: Depression, social isolation, and physical pain can lead to Seniors abusing Alcohol later in life. This is a growing problem in the United States and one that often goes overlooked.
  • Malnutrition: Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can flood a Senior’s system with empty calories, quenching appetite and causing malnutrition without weight loss.

The Checklist

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the items on the following check list, it may be time to take control of your elderly loved one’s access to alcohol.

  1. Is there a risk of dangerous interaction between Alcohol and the Senior’s Medication? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this risk?
  2. Does the Senior have a medical condition that is exacerbated by alcohol consumption? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this condition?
  3. Does even a small amount of alcohol have an exaggerated effect on the Senior? Is the Senior no longer able to drink responsibly?
  4. Are there signs that the Senior is at higher risk of incidental injuries such as falls when they drink alcohol? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this danger?
  5. Is the Senior showing a signs of Alcohol abuse? Do those signs merit an intervention?

This guide is meant to educate and inform, it is not meant to be a substitute for a Medical Doctor’s advice. The best judge of whether a Senior should give up drinking is their Doctor and a Caregiver should always consult with a Doctor if they’re worried about a Senior drinking.

Preserving health, dignity, and relationship

Refusing to serve alcohol to an elderly loved one might leave them feeling embarrassed, excluded, and like you stripped them of their adulthood. It might result in a nasty scene and hurt feelings, ruining what had been a happy time together. With some forethought you can set up a compromise that preserves both a Senior’s dignity and their health.

  • Talk to the Senior’s Doctor about your concerns beforehand, don’t wait until the family toast to think about alcohol.
  • Talk to the Senior beforehand, tell them your concerns and ask them to compromise. Let them know that you want them to be part of the family traditions but that you’re worried about their health.
  • Serve Low-Alcohol Beverages like ‘Near Beer’ or a light ‘Mixed Drink’; lowering the alcohol content can go a long way, just be sure to always check with the Senior’s Doctor first.
  • Serve Non-Alcoholic Beer like O’Doul’s instead of alcoholic beer or Sparkling Grape Juice instead of Champagne.

These suggestions might not be enough to prevent hurt feelings or wounded pride, but in the end the important thing to remember is that you’re not stealing your loved one’s dignity – you’re trying to protect their health.

More Information

To help equip you to make an informed decision we’ve compiled some additional information that we hope proves helpful.

Some Medications that interact dangerously with Alcohol.

The following are some common medications that can interact dangerously with alcohol. This is by no means a definitive list and to be safe always check the medication warning labels and consult with the Senior’s Doctor.

  • Antibiotics are a common medication used to fight off infectious diseases.
  • Anticoagulants are prescribed to impede the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Antidepressants are an increasingly medication used to counter clinical depression.
  • Oral hypoglycemic drugs help lower blood sugar levels for some individuals suffering from diabetes.
  • Antihistamines are commonly taken to lessen allergic symptoms and to treat insomnia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to lessen psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Antiseizure medications are primarily prescribed to treat epilepsy.
  • Cardiovascular medications are prescribed to treat heart and circulatory system ailments.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed to lessen moderate to severe pain.
  • Nonnarcotic pain relievers are the most common nonprescription pain relievers and are commonly used by the elderly.

Many other medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol so, again, to be safe always consult with the Senior’s Doctor. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all medications that the Senior is taking, including over the counter drugs and supplements, on hand to check with the Doctor.

Benefits of Drinking for Seniors?

Light to Moderate Drinking
No more than 14 drinks a week
No more than 2 drinks a day

Several studies have shown that Seniors who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol also have a lower risk of certain ailments. There are still a lot of unknowns in these studies but the message seems to be that ‘moderation may be best after all.‘ Let’s take a closer look at a handful of the studies.

The results of a study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine found that healthy Seniors who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol were almost 25% less likely to suffer from incident disability or death as compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Three Seniors in living room drinking champagne and smiling

Researchers from the Tulane University studied 35 studies and discovered that individuals who drink one to two alcoholic drinks a day were almost 30% less likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers. The same study also found the disturbing correlation that heavy drinkers were almost 70% more likely to have a stroke.

Several studies have shown that individuals who drank light to moderate alcoholic drinks were less likely to suffer from heart disease. The same studies also showed that heavy drinkers were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

The material of this blog is provided for informational purposes only. Elder Depot does not intend to provide medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please consult with a Medical Professional when deciding if a Senior should drink alcohol.

What’s the worth of a Smile

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r9To–8IVY

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

Guarding against Elder Neglect

In our last post on Elder Abuse we shared that, “Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.” Usually, in both ourselves and others, we can recognize the intentional immediately. The negligent is more insidious and often escapes notice until long after the harm has been done.

That may have been the case with Mary Madeleine Araujo, an eighty year old woman who according to police reports sat on a sofa recliner for over a month in her own urine and feces while developing infected bedsores. All of this in the home she shared with her daughter, son-in-law, and three adult grandchildren.

It is easy to write off Mary Madeleine Araujo’s family as monsters but there is an important lesson to be learned from them if we are willing to believe that they may have been ignorant of their crime. Being passive in caring for an elder can be a crime; it’s called neglect and even if the caregiver isn’t aware that they are causing the elder harm it is elder abuse.

How to guard against elder neglect as a family caregiver.

  • Don’t let the elder dictate terms of Caregiving: It is immensely difficult to take control of an elder’s life. Often it feels like stealing their competence, stripping them of their adulthood – that’s not true though, aging is stealing their competence, not the caregiver. It is the responsibility of caregivers to provide care to balance out lost competence. The daughter in the Araujo case claimed that her mother refused help bathing, that refusal should not have ended the discussion. Caregivers can’t accept the word of their elders alone, they need to judge for themselves if the elder needs them to step in. A good practice is to follow a threefold decision making policy; listen to the elder’s opinion, discuss the matter with the elder’s Doctor, and make the decision that is best for the elder.
  • Clearly define and share Caregiver Roles: In the Araujo case there were five adults living in the same home as the elder. Five adults but the grandmother ended up with festering bedsores, sitting in her own urine and feces. According to reports, the daughter admitted that her mother had trouble getting to the bathroom on her own for several weeks. The family should have established clearly defined caregiving roles and responsibilities; for example, the grandchildren could have been responsible for checking on her and getting her to the bathroom, the husband could have been responsible for feeding her, and the daughter could have been responsible for bathing her and monitoring her health. Without clearly defined roles, it’s possible that four of the adults in the house thought that someone else was responsible for caring for the elder and were too caught up in their own lives to realize what was happening.
  • Failing to provide healthcare is Elder Abuse: At the time of her admittance to the hospital, Mary Madeleine Araujo had not had medical care for four years. We don’t know why that was the case but whatever the reason it was criminal neglect. The result is the same regardless of whether the reason was that the family didn’t want to pay medical expenses, that the elder refused to go to the doctor, or that the family didn’t see anything that merited medical attention. The elder should have had regular medical checkups, especially after significant events such as when she stopped sleeping in bed, after she fell, and as her health declined. Not providing the elder with medical attention was abusive.
  • Empower the elder by equipping them: Technology can lighten the burden of caregiving and allow elders to retain a large measure of their competence. In the Araujo case, a few simple pieces of equipment might have made a world of difference; an alternating pressure mattress overlay to help prevent pressure sores, an assist rail to aid in getting in and out of bed, a cane or walker to increase mobility and help protect from falls, grab bars in the bathroom for added fall security, and a transfer bench or bath chair to enable the elder to bath herself.
  • Be proactive in assessing and addressing the Elder’s needs: Don’t wait for a unmet need to become a problem, regularly reevaluate the elder’s needs and how they are addressed. Monitor the elder’s condition in a journal and calendar, seek advice from experts, and join caregiver support groups. It is better to provide too much support rather than too little. If an elder begins to have trouble reaching the bathroom, immediately take action  – don’t wait to find your loved one sitting in their own urine and feces. Only respect an elder’s refusal to accept help up to the point where it risks causing harm – then, as a caregiver, you are responsible to step in and provide the care that is needed.

When it comes to neglect, ignorance of the crime is no excuse. It is essential for family to be proactive, if the burden is too great or the family is unwilling they should seek outside assistance through in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing facility. Leaving an elder to languish on a recliner in the living room is horrendous regardless of the motivations of the people involved.

Family Caregiving is often like a Second Full Time Job

Home Instead Senior Care® recently completed a five year study that concluded that 42% of caregivers spend more than 30 hours a week personally caring for a senior parent.  Most caregivers don’t need a study to tell them that caring for an elderly loved one is like a second job, but hopefully the results of this study offer some well deserved affirmation.

First and foremost, caregivers thank you for taking on what is too often a thankless job. Thank you for caring for one of our greatest treasures, our elders. Thank you for taking on what is often a difficult, costly, and exhausting second job.

Next, we want to share some practical actions you can take to help with the load of your unpaid second job.

Lighten the burden by…

  • Getting Paid for your Second Job: In participating states Medicaid’s “Cash and Counseling” Program will pay a family caregiver a small salary for caring for their loved one. This assistance is usually not comparable to a normal wages but it can lighten the financial load of caregiving and might be just enough to allow a family caregiver to make caregiving their only job.
  • Senior Day Programs: Getting involved with a Senior Day Program can free up a lot of your time and get your loved one involved with healthy, social, and engaging activities while still living at home. There are many professional Senior Day Programs but also keep in mind that local groups, like libraries and churches, are also starting their own programs.
  • It takes a Village: Don’t wait until caregiving becomes too much for you to handle to ask for help, reach out to your friends, family, and local community for help. Ask your church to plan more Senior-oriented activities, join a caregiver support group, and  get more people involved in the caregiving process. Sometimes help isn’t there when it should be, but more often the help is there, you just might have to be the one to organize it!
  • Make use of Nonprofits: Don’t be shy about going to a charity for help that you need as a caregiver; it isn’t a matter of pride but one of necessity. Just remember to support and promote these nonprofits when you can.
  • In-Home Care: Sometimes a family caregiver has to acknowledge that they can’t do it alone anymore and that hiring a home care professional to help with caregiving is the best option for both the caregiver and their loved one.
  • Eldercare Products: From wander alarms to amplified telephones to the Ez-Chair table, innovative eldercare technology can lighten the load of caregiving, easing concerns and making difficult tasks less of a challenge. Caregiver robots are still at least a decade away, but don’t overlook the technology that’s available now to help you!

VPG’s MV-1 vs BraunAbility…which is the better choice?

Review originally written for the New Mobility Blog and posted here with permission.

I’ve been hearing about the new wheelchair accessible vehicle by the Vehicle Production Group called the MV-1 for about a year now, and actually, when we were in Chicago last week, I saw the semi parked on Navy Pier. Apparently VPG decided to go on a cross-country promotional tour in order to get to Washington, DC in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  I had not heard any specifics about this vehicle until I did some hunting around online and it will certainly fill a particular need for the disabled and mobility impaired, but it’s not for everyone.

I’ve mentioned before that I am currently the proud owner of a Braun Entervan and have been absolutely in love with it since I got it over 5 years ago (I had 2 previous accessible minivans of different conversions before, but this one is my favorite). It fits my needs perfectly. The downside is that it’s a very expensive vehicle (and I have a “low end” conversion).

With all the press about the new MV-1, it seems like an appropriate time to write about wheelchair accessible vehicles, what to look for, and how to decide which route to go.

There are other accessible/adaptive vehicle manufacturers besides Braun and generally in the same price range (a new vehicle will begin at $50,000; used wheelchair vans can be purchased via Ebay or wheelchair van dealers for less and sometimes can be quite good deals). Braun (and other) vehicles can be driven by disabled drivers with adapted seating, steering, and gas and brake options (which add to the cost). However, some of those costs can be defrayed by state and federal grants which are designed to help disabled people go to work (to learn more about this, contact the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in your state). Also, these accessible minivans come from a variety of existing vehicle manufacturers, in particular, Chrysler, GM, and Toyota.

From the looks of things on their website, it seems that the MV-1 will start at about $40,000 for a new vehicle and is designed for the disabled or elderly passenger (*not* primary driver). The accessible vehicle utilized universal design concepts, which means that the design is meant to be used equally as easily for able-bodied and mobility impaired passengers. It is their own vehicle design, not a custom design of an existing car model. One of the positive aspects of the MV-1 is that it also can be multi-purpose, most specifically as part of a taxi or other municipal fleet of cars which can be used by able-bodied and mobility impaired folks alike.

So now we revisit the topic of this post…if the person driving the vehicle is disabled, then going with a Braun is probably the best solution due to the ability to customize the minivan for the person directly.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for a vehicle to transport a disabled, wheelchair using person and/or an older family member who no longer drives, the MV-1 is worth looking into with the caveat that it is a brand-new vehicle to the market and not everyone feels comfortable with purchasing the first year model of a new car.

Great Big List of Caregiver Blogs

One of the best ways for a caregiver to find answers, reassurance, and understanding is to connect with other caregivers. To help with that, here is a list of blogs run by caregivers. If you know of any blogs that should be added to this list, let us know!

Personal Caregiver Blogs

  • 3 Years and 13 Dumpsters: Cleaning House After Alzheimer’s – “A personal, moving, yet often funny exploration of the impact of Alzheimer’s on sufferer and family alike; from denial to diagnosis, from care-giving to cleaning out the house.”
  • A Blog inspired by Mom’s Brain – “An online journal about Alzheimer’s caregiving”
  • A Caregiver’s Life – “Award-winning journalist Susan Thomas is the full-time caregiver for her mother. Join her as she chronicles the joy and despair of caregiving.”
  • A Day in my Life – “I am a retired teacher living in a very small town in Oklahoma. I spend a lot of time caring for the discarded, abandoned, and strayed cats of this community. I have had 2 cats ‘fixed’ and they have indoor/outdoor privileges. These cats keep my blood pressure low and a lot of conversation with my husband about their antics. My husband is in a nursing facility now and he misses their funny ways.”
  • A Forgotten Daughter – “Welcome to my crazy world of being a mother of two young ones and helping with my mother who was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s two years ago. “
  • Sharing my life with Lewy Body Dementia – “This blog documents how Lewy Body Dementia has changed my life. It is a continuation of the previous title; “Sharing my life with Parkinson’s and Dementia” because the diagnosis has become more firm.
  • A Miggy Moment – “I am a mother of six, a grandmother of eleven and a great grandmother of fourteen.  I have authored five books, am a would-be poet but, between you and me I am just one more pilgrim on the journey of life following hard after her God. God has been with me every step of my life, including: the never-ending battle with  my husband’s Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, the challenge of raising our mentally handicapped daughter, Melissa, the slow decline of my body while my mind seems to stay front and center, the new life lessons I am learning as I approach my nineties, and the summa cum laude I received when I finally handed over the car keys”
  • A Place to Scream – “This about enjoying life to the full with my lovely partner- I scream my head off here so I can pretend to be coping when I have to. MS has robbed my darling of the use of much of her body but has increased our determination to share our love to the full and get as much fun out this world as we can glean. Sometimes it all gets to much so I need to scream about it.”
  • Are U My Mother – “Walk with me and Susan as we journey through Alzheimer’s together, her as the victim and myself, the care giver. Together we will experience the good the bad and the wonderful.”
  • Aromick’s Blog – “My husband of more than 50 years is a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, and we have just completed six years since diagnosis.  The journey has been heart wrenching as AD has changed Ken from a bright, articulate and friendly man who had remained physically strong, capable and remarkably independent into a shuffling old man who is now dependent upon my care and  the kindness of others.”
  • Arthur & Bernie – “Hi, I’m Laura. Arthur is my friend. He’s a retired English professor who lives in Manhattan. Bernie is my grandfather. I call him Pop Pop. He’s a former business owner who lives in small-town Pennsylvania. Me, I’m a writer, and I live in Brooklyn.”
  • By My Side At Dusk – “A Daughter’s Eldercare Journal.”
  • Caregiving – “Caregiving for my Dad, living the dementia roller-coaster, reflecting on disability and the Christian faith.”
  • Caregivingly Yours – “Sharing the trial and error learned lessons of a spouse caregiver about family, home care, and transition to the care facility era from 20 years of living with Multiple Sclerosis as a family.”
  • Caring for Lauren – “Hi, I am Mom to Lauren, who is a 24 year-old young woman with severe, multiple disabilities. Lauren requires care in every aspect of her life. This blog will be a journal of the struggles and joys of providing care for Lauren.”
  • Caring for Person with Parkison’s – “I have decided to blog about my experiences, good, bad or whatever they turn out to be, as a full-time carer for my spouse with PD further complicated by the addition of dementia. I am doing this for an outlet for me, and for others to read if they find the blog!”
  • Chrissy’s Moments – “Chrissy is my mother who has some form of dementia. Most times I call her Chrissy instead of mother; it provides a little distance from daughter to caregiver. She has a gentle and sweet presence; along with, a sense of humor that I get to enjoy most days. Mother has seven children, three of whom live out-of-state. This blog was created so that her precious moments and updates could be shared. Please feel free to comment.”
  • Cura Personalis – “Caregiving for my Dad, living the dementia roller-coaster, reflecting on disability and the Christian faith.”
  • Dad’s Dementia Decline – “An honest and candid blog about being thrown into the world of Dementia after my Dad’s recent diagnosis which left my whole family reeling from shock. While Dementia does not define my Dad, there are ugly and raw feelings that have no where to go when one is watching your loved ones struggle with this nasty brain disease and its effects on everyone.”
  • Dementia ain’t for Sissies – “Caring for a Mom with Dementia.”
  • Days in Dementiaville – “I’m a caregiver by accident but I chose to do the best job of it that I can. I hope by sharing some of the day to day with you, we can all benefit from the knowledge acquired along the journey with Alzheimer’s.”
  • Dementia Nights – “I’m a writer, photographer, consultant. Age 50. My father was a reporter and editor. Then he became something other than that. He died February 8, 2010 at 87. He was widowed in 2003. His decline started a little earlier. His sister died of Alzheimer’s.”
  • Dying to Help – “Caring for a loved one with cancer or other terminal illnesses”
  • Doonan diddly-squat – “In this blog ‘Chartreuse’ takes time out to reflect about living with, caring for and being cared for by a home, a garden and a partner with primary progressive aphasia. Recollections about family, travel and other matters will occasionally intrude.”
  • Elder Mentor – “I’m a free-lance writer and social worker in long term care.  I’ve been working with the elderly population for nearly 15 years.  My areas of specialty and interest include Alzheimer’s and dementia care, palliative care and social policy.  On a personal note, I help care for my father who has dementia, Alzheimer’s type.  He is truly an inspiration to me and reminds me not to take life too seriously.”
  • Fibroworld – “We’re a mother-daughter team.  Dot is in her late twenties and has had fibromyalgia, chronic pain and migraines for nearly 4 years. Fibro Mom is a 60-ish, sometimes crabby caregiver who works part-time.”
  • From the Planet Aphasia – “Do you ever feel like you are living in a parallel universe? Can you see and hear the ‘normal’ people but you’re not sure if they see or hear you? Welcome to my world! Caregiving for a stroke survivor.”
  • From the Coastland – “The eldest of the second family, I look after our mother who is in a long term care facility.  This BLOG was to be a way for  family and those who live further a field, to stay in touch.  Mom is 94, confined to a wheelchair and almost blind from glaucoma, she loves the family visits.   Unfortunately,  as families go, most are too busy to visit, even my own, hence the BLOG.  What is a person to do?”
  • Getting A Foothold – “Like life, TBI has its pitfalls, and caring for a person with TBI is no different. The challenges are there and we meet them together as best we can. Sometimes it is harder to get a foothold than others and sometimes we slip. We help each other back up, and sometimes others help us instead.”
  • Grateful Discoveries – “The 2010 posts were centered on Caregiving and sharing how I cared for my Mother in 24/7 mode until her death on 10/11/10. Topics for 2011 will include actively working through bereavement, reconnecting with volunteer efforts and adding an ‘Aging In Place’ consulting and construction arm to my business.”
  • Go Ask Alice…when she’s 94. – “I’m a woman in my 60s who, like many others, finds that one of my main tasks in life these days is taking care of my mother. Alice is 94.”
  • “had a dad” alzheimer’s blog – “My father’s 3 year journey, now ended, through Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and my feelings about it.”
  • Help! Aging Parents! – “I was a far-away-living adult child whose parents died during this decade. I continue to be a far-away-living daughter-in-law of my husband’s inspirational mother, who still lives independently in her home at age 97.”
  • I am an Alzheimer’s Caregiver – “My name is Bob DeMarco, I am an Alzheimer’s Caregiver. My mother Dorothy, now 93 years old, suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. We live one day at a time.”
  • In All These things – “Our Journal with Alzheimer’s
  • Inside Aging Parent Care – “Caring for the Desperate Caregivers of Aging Parents.”
  • Life with Shaky – “Chronicles of my sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always enlightening journey of a woman whose husband is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.”
  • Life without Memories – “This site was created to provide support for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and is based on the experiences of my family and friends as well as site visitors who cared for their loved ones who suffered from these terrible illnesses.”
  • Memories from my Life – “An Alzheimer’s blog: Caregiver tips, News articles, Science findings, and Diary of Life with My Mom (who has Alzheimer’s)”
  • Mom, Me and Alzheimer’s blog – “It’s been 20 years since my dad was taken away suddenly and mom cared for herself fairly well until Alzheimer’s slowly started taking her life away.”
  • Mom Moves In – “An 87-year-old mom copes with moving in with her daughter (and vice versa)”
  • Moving In With Dementia – “I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, wife and mother to a six year old son. In August of 2009, my husband, son and I moved in with my parents because my 73 year old mother has dementia with Parkinson’s-like symptoms. This blog is a reflection on how this disease affects our whole family.”
  • Multiple Sclerosis Carer – “My husband Don Dufty, an MS sufferer, is a retired Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia. He was diagnosed in 2005 and the MS progressed so rapidly he was admitted to a nursing home in 2008.”
  • Musings of a Cranky Caregiver – “Family caregiver to a wonderful woman, Skip, who’s had MS for more than 20 of our 28 years together. ‘Mother’ to Ruby and Addy, two great mini-dachshunds.”
  • My Awesome Maltese – “I’m a middle aged Mom who loves reading blogs. I enjoy tennis, mah jongg, spending time with my family and my awesome Maltese. I have spent a great deal of time this past year traveling back to my hometown to care and spend time with my ninety year old Mom.”
  • My Demented Mom – “5 million Americans suffer from Dementia. My mom is one of them. A site for young adult caregivers struggling and coping with ‘the long goodbye.'”
  • My Mama’s Keeper – “A work at home caregiver’s journey.”
  • My Wife has MS – “A raw look at the struggles of Multiple Sclerosis through the eyes of a spouse.”
  • Notes from a Caregiver – “When my husband had a stroke early on the morning of July 4, 2005, I felt all alone and unprepared to deal with the situation. He was only 42, I was six months pregnant, and even after scouring the Internet, I was unable to find a support group or someone to talk to. This blog is created for people like me, who just need to know someone is out there. I encourage you to post comments and ask questions – I will answer you as often as I can, just as I will be asking questions of my readers.”
  • Orphan at 60 – “I write and speak about feeling like an ‘orphan’ at sixty years of age. Five months after my mother died, my father passed away. Sharing my experiences as a daughter, caregiver, wife and mother hopefully will help others who are grieving over the loss of their parent.”
  • Ricky’s Legacy Blog – “I’m a single mom watching my father lose the battle against Alzheimer’s. Being in my thirties, I sometimes feel some self pity for what the disease is taking away from me, my kids, and my parents. As a nurse I know that my dad is riding the beginning of the baby boomer wave that will make Alzheimer’s a national tragedy. I’m hoping by letting others into my world while we ‘wrestle the beast’ so that some people won’t be knocked to their knees like we were.”
  • Risa’s Pieces – “Any stories told in this blog about unnamed persons reflect my actual experience as a palliative care provider. Details have been changed in order to protect their privacy.”
  • Sandwiched In – “This is my account of my actual experiences living sandwiched between generations in the suburbs of the northeastern United States begun in January 2008.”
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil – “A blog about life with a blind husband, a hard-of-hearing daughter and a blind son… and how God delivers us from every evil and grants us peace in our day.”
  • Slow and Easy: The caregiver’s journey with people who have Parkinson’s Disease – “Michael J. Fox has brought attention to the needs of those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, but caregivers are also trapped by the disease and don’t know how to cope. This is my journey with my husband as the disease has taken more of him away from me. The grief never stops for either of us, but, through faith, we have learned to make the best of every moment.”
  • Taking Care of Mom and Dad – “The Fifth Commandment. Deuteronomy 5:16 (New International Version) 16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.’ My attempt at honoring my mother and father as they age and are unable to care completely for themselves.”
  • The Amazing Aging Mind – “This site is my personal journey toward discovering the causes and meaning of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. My sister and I are stay-at-home daughters caring for a mother with end-stages Alzheimer’s and a father with (as far as the docs can tell) Parkinson’s disease.”
  • The Bear Hug Waltz – “I have been a caregiver for my mom for over 4 years. She is 96 and in the late stages of dementia. I have 4 grown sons,8 grandchildren, and one on the way!”
  • The Caregiver Blog – “Welcome to our community. We invite you to share your thoughts or questions related to caregiving for the disabled and chronically ill. We offer resources, education, and support to our community. We advocate that all individuals have true worth and should live with dignity and independence. Feel free to send your blogs and share or find the information to help your community.”
  • The CareGivers Blog – “Life changes and so do we. This is a blog about my journey as my 90-year-old mom’s caregiver. I figure if I can make this enjoyable reading then maybe my life (and my mom’s life) will be more enjoyable too.”
  • The Caregiver Resource – “Ideas, Answers, Observations & Travels from a Creative Caregiver.”
  • The Chuck Hileman Blog – “On Sunday morning, February 8, 2009, my father, Chuck Hileman, suffered a severe stroke. In this blog, my sisters, my brother, and I will be following our father’s recovery and rehabilitation”
  • The Dahn Report – “Daily Journal, Caring for Elderly Parents, Life’s Moments, Movies, TV, Comedy.”
  • The Dopamine Diaries – “My goal is to provide a down-to-earth, spunky, and humorous glimpse at the heartache and joys of witnessing life with dementia and Parkinson’s disease through my mother, and to provide a forum for related discussion and support. “
  • The Life of a Caregiving Daughter – “I guess I should just name this blog The Life of a Caregiver and move on from there that seems to be the only thing I am these days.”
  • The Younger We Get – “An occasional, sometimes humerous look at my life, while I take care of my elderly parents, and try to write.”
  • The Zen of Caregiving – “Finding transformation in the process of caregiving. Updates on my adventure of caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s.”
  • Walking into the Fog – “My mother and I are dealing with Alzheimer’s.  My mother has the disease, or some other deteriorating dementia that the doctors can’t diagnose until after she’s gone.  It’s just easier to use the term Alzheimer’s, because then, people understand instantly.  I’m her caregiver.”
  • When Caregiving Calls – “I am a small business owner in Florida. My husband and I have been together for going on 11 years, and married for going on 7 years. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with AD…a year or so ago.”

Group Caregiver Blogs

  • Alzheimer’s Reading Room – “The Alzheimer’s Reading Room has clear, concise, usable news, research, insight and advice for the entire Alzheimer’s community. 100 Million Americans have been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease, 35 million are worried about Alzheimer’s Disease.”
  • The Longevity Network – “Read the latest from the Home Care Assistance editorial team. Explore new research, ideas and strategies for caregiving and positive aging.”
  • Our Parents Blog – “Free and unbiased service focused on helping families with aging parents find the best senior care solution that meets their loved one’s unique needs, be it an in-home caregiver, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.”
  • Health in Aging – “created by the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation, to provide consumers and caregivers with up-to-date information on health and aging.”
  • Hospice Care of South Carolina – “Hospice is a philosophy of care focused on improving the quality of life for people with an advanced illness.”
  • SarahCare: Senior Caregiver Support – “Honest advice for the realities of elderly caregiving.”
  • SarahCare: Senior Chronic Care – “Reconsidering chronic care management for Seniors.”
  • Support For Home – “At Support For Home, we know a lot about senior care and home care for folks who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living.  But, we will never know everything, and that means we will never know enough, and that drives us crazy!  So, this blog is all about us sharing what we know and inviting others — families, seniors, organizations, colleagues, competitors — to share in our discussions, our ideas, our challenges, our passion.”

Last time we checked these blogs hadn’t been updated in quite some time, but they still contain compelling stories and useful insights. Check them out and if one is up and running again let us know so we can update this list.

  • 950 Miles Away – “I created this blog so that I would have a place to write about my experiences as the long-distance caregiver for my mother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. So that I can write freely and honestly, without bringing embarrassment on my mother or my extended family, I decided to blog anonymously.”
  • Alzheimers – The Carer’s View – “And Last But Not Least – The Caregiver…”
  • AlzHub – “I came face to face with Alzheimer’s when one of my parents was diagnosed with it. I have been both a full time and a part time caregiver. This site grew out of my desire to learn as much as I could about Alzheimer’s. It allows me to keep the info I find readily accessible to me and share it at the same time.”
  • A Note from One Mom – “Mom to five grown children, Grandma to eight, full-time caregiver to my stroke survivor husband, designer of eco-friendly children’s party supplies, early morning walking maniac, Food Network groupie, tech challenged, believer in God’s Word and seeker of joy in each and every day.”
  • A Stroke of Love – “On February 10, 2006, an aneurysm in Jan’s brain ruptured. This blog is a place for us to tell you how she is doing and how we are providing care for her.”
  • Caring and Sharing – “Mort, 57, in ill health with arthritis, MS, back problems. Just recovering from recent heart attack. Full time, 24/7 carer for my 89 yr old mother, who is crippled with severe arthritis. Getting very forgetful now bless her.”
  • Caring for Cathy – “Our Families Journey Caring for a Mom with FTLD-MND. It is important to know as you read this journal that this was Cathy’s life post diagnosis… To know Cathy Truly you must know that she was: a Wife, Mother of 3 boys, Grandmother of 9, Sister, Niece, Aunt, Daughter, and Friend.”
  • Dementia Blues – “Funny/sad ruminations by a baby boomer on having two parents with dementia.”
  • Dethmama Chronicles – “The True Adventures of a Hospice Nurse.”
  • Fading from Memory – “What happens to a family when both parents are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? This weblog chronicles the experiences of one such family in Sydney, Australia.”
  • Feedin’ MamaFeedin’ Mama began when I started a blog as a way to share my experiences and the things I have learned while caring for my own mother and my elderly aunt in their final years.
  • Loving Grand – “A Granddaughter’s Alzheimer’s Caring Journal; My journey with Gram and how I contributed to her walk into the sunset, sometimes funny, sometimes we shed a tear or three, and always dear to our hearts and embedded into our soul. I love you Gram.”
  • Marina’s Abundance – “Marina Gonzalez had an abundance of love to give and this blog is to honor her memory.”
  • Mondays with Mother – “In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.”
  • Living with Alzheimer’s – or, What day is it again? – “A continuing story of what it is like to live with a mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Stressful, tiring, often funny – each day brings new challenges. Read about coping ideas, family involvement, laughter and tears. Does someone you know suffer from alzheimers? Maybe this blog will sound familiar.”
  • My Dad’s Stroke – “My dad had a stroke. It happened. This is his tale of recovery told from his daughter’s point of view. Some of it isn’t pretty.”
  • Never Goodbye – “Navigating the journey through dementia.”
  • The Journey – “This began as a journal of my mother’s progression through Alzheimer’s, but I began it too late. Her journey is over, but mine is still on-going. I hope to chronicle here the journey that I take – the one through grief, acceptance and, ultimately, surviving Alzheimer’s.”
  • The Reality of Dementia – “I’m sharing with you what is the emotional progression of a family dealing with Dementia. My father was diagnosed with FrontalTemporoDementia in late March of 2004 at the age of 60. This is from my point of view as his only son, who loves the man who raised him, as the condition, and Life, moves ahead.”
  • The Reluctant Carer – “I care for my husband who has Huntington’s Disease. I’m new to this caring or ‘uncaring’ and I’m struggling. In being honest about this, maybe other carers will feel less guilty and less alone.”
  • The Yellow Wallpaper – “Caregiving, Alzheimer’s, Mothers, Daughters, Dying”
  • Tracey’s Life – “This is my story of raising two children 14 and 16 who are not mine, but they are mine in my heart. My friend Sharon, their mother, is in a nursing home with Multiple Sclerosis. This is the story of our adventures in life!”
  • Within Crepusculum– “I provide total care for my aging Mother, question why she must endure such an unacceptable darkness, anxiously wait for that day, hour or next minute when she will leave my humankind, anxiously wait for my destiny, experience frustration to its fullest and believe life is more dubious than it ever has been.”

The Long List of Dementia Prevention “Maybes”

It seems like I’m always reading an article about a new study proclaiming that something “may” help prevent dementia. It’s hard to know how to take this news? Is this the slow march of science finally nearing useful results? Do the studies offer only false hope, placebos at best? I don’t have an answer but I thought I’d compile a list of all the dementia preventing “maybes” that I’ve come across.

  • Coffee – In a 21 year long study, Swedish and Danish researchers found that subjects who drank three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to develop dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less.
  • Tea – According to a study by the University of Singapore, individuals who drink two to three cups of black tea daily are half as likely to show early signs of dementia as those who rarely drink it.
  • Vitamin D – Researchers in the United Kingdom found that the risk of cognitive impairment was 42 percent higher in individuals who were deficient in vitamin D, and 394 percent higher in those with severe vitamin D deficiency.
  • Curry – Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles believe that turmeric may play a role in slowing down the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
  • Newspapers – The Mayo Clinic has conducted research indicating that reading magazines and newspapers can help protect against failing memory in old age.
  • Significant Other – Swedish research found that marriage or having a partner halved the risk of developing dementia.
  • Sleeping Habits – Prolonged sleep duration may be associated with an increased risk of dementia.
  • Discipline – Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago may have discovered a connection between leading a conscientious life and reduced risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Juice – US researchers found the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was 76% lower for those who drank juice more than three times a week, compared with those who drank it less than once a week.
  • Marijuana – Researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University and the Cajal Institute showed that a synthetic version of the active ingredient in Marijuana may reduce inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s and thus help to prevent mental decline.
  • Statins – Scientists have found further evidence that taking commonly used cholesterol-lowering statins may protect against dementia and memory loss.
  • Slimming Down – A US study of more than 700 adults showed that being overweight is associated with smaller brain volume, a factor linked with dementia.
  • Hormone Replacement Treatment – A study by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London found that Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may protect post-menopausal women against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Low Blood Pressure – Finnish Scientists have found that individuals with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as they age.
  • Avoiding Soy – A Loughborough University study has found that consuming high levels of some soy products, including tofu, may increase the risk of memory loss.
  • Vitamin E – Japanese Scientists found that a daily vitamin E supplement protects the brain of mice preventing the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Nicotine – Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in California, US believe that Nicotine may reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Big Head – An American Scientist has claimed that individuals with small heads have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – UCLA researchers believe that Omega-3 Fatty Acids, such as those found in fish oils, may delay or prevent Alzheimer’s.
  • Alcohol – According to a study by the University of Bari in Italy, individuals who drink alcohol moderately develop dementia at a slower rate than those who drink little. The study also indicated that individuals who drink excessively develop dementia more quickly than moderate drinkers or teetotalers.
  • Video Games – Studies of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia or attention deficit disorder have found that those who play games have better speech and brain function.
  • Exercise – A study posted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information  found strength training is particularly effective for improving postural and motor function, and reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Walnuts – A study by the New York State Institute has found that mice who eat walnuts regularly were less likely to develop dementia.
  • Sense of Fulfillment – In a study conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers found that participants with high scores on the life purpose test were 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared with those who had the lowest scores. (Added July 13th)

All of that shared, keep in mind that there is no conclusive evidence that lifestyle changes will prevent dementia. If I missed a “may” please post it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

What do you think of all these “mays”? Are they all part of a larger tread? Do only a few of them have merit? Are all of them a waste of time and effort? Let us know what you think, you might help another reader make up their own mind.

Elder Abuse

Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone physically abuses a vulnerable elder by causing physical pain or injury, or by depriving them of a basic need.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who has taken responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder abandons them.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone inflicts mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder through verbal or nonverbal acts.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone attempts non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone steals or misuses the funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who is responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder refuses or fails to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection.

What factors make the elderly especially vulnerable to abuse?

  • Isolation – Most seniors have either lost or are in the process of losing their social circles. They have fewer people to turn to for help and often feel disconnected from those contacts they still have.
  • Physical Weakness – Most seniors are physically weak due to old age and illness. They are not as able to take action to defend themselves from abuse and are slower to recover from physical abuse.
  • Cognitive Decline – Many seniors experience cognitive decline leaving them less able to recognize abuse and take action to care for themselves. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are even more vulnerable.

What kind of monster would do such a thing?

Most of us have heard shocking stories of elders subjected to immense cruelty by those responsible for caring for them. These stories often feature a villain, a monster of a person motivated by rage, greed, or sadism. The alcoholic son-in-law who screamed obscenities, the daughter who gambled away all of dad’s savings, or the nursing home staff who enjoys brutally manhandling clients. These “villains” do exist and must be guarded against – but they are not the only perpetrators of elder abuse.

The fact is that if we’re only expecting a monster to be abusive we can overlook obvious signs of abuse committed by friends, family, or dedicated staff, decent well-meaning people who cross the line. How could decent well-meaning people do such things? Frustration, burnout, and desperation can also motivate Elder Abuse. The son who, already late for work, cursed out his dad for soiling himself again and who screamed that he wished he would just die already. The staff, the sole breadwinner for her family after her husband lost his job, who tricks her client into paying her twice so she can make ends meet. The husband who roughly shakes his wife, suffering from dementia, and knocks her to the floor breaking her hip. Even loving caregivers can push themselves too far and become abusive, often without even realizing the full implications of what they’re doing until its gone too far.

The most common perpetrators of elder abuse are family. Don’t make the mistake of refusing to recognize obvious signs of elder abuse until you see a monster; even loving caregivers can cross the line. Always act in the best interest of the victim. Stop the abuse. No excuses, no rationalizations, no justifications. Stop the abuse.

What are signs of Elder Abuse?

  • Signs of Physical Abuse: Any type of unexplained injury.
  • Signs of Neglect: Filth, pressure sores, malnutrition, dehydration.
  • Signs of Emotional Abuse: Sudden unexplained changes in behavior. Difficult to determine in cases of dementia.
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse: Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases and bruises around genital areas.
  • Signs of Financial Abuse: Unexplained changes in finances, unexplained changes in wills or trusts, and loss of property.

 

What are some concrete steps Caregivers can take to avoid becoming abusive?

  • Caregivers should: take care of their physical, mental, and financial health before accepting the responsibility of a caregiver.
  • Caregivers should: seek help for personal problems that may impact the person they are caring for; some common problems are anger management, substance addiction, depression, and debt.
  • Caregivers should: join support groups and invest in a supportive community.
  • Caregivers should: share the burden so that it does not become overwhelming. Be realistic about their needs and limits.

How can Seniors protect themselves from Elder Abuse?

  • Seniors should: plan for their own future by choosing a trustworthy power of attorney and writing a living will.
  • Seniors should: consult someone they trust who has nothing to gain before signing any documents.
  • Seniors should: stay connected with friends and family. Keep engaged in a supportive community.
  • Seniors should: understand their legal rights and be proactive in defending them.

How to fight Elder Abuse?

  • Watch for the signs of elder abuse, regardless of who the caregiver is.
  • Report suspected elder abuse to local law enforcement.
  • Proactively keep Seniors involved socially. Follow up on their well-being.
  • Support and utilize local agencies like Meals on Wheels.

10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool

It is hot this summer. Heat Stroke and Dehydration are serious problems for everyone during this hot season, but Seniors are especially at risk. Here are some tips on how to help them stay cool.

  1. Seniors should eat light meals with water saturated foods in the summer. Over 20% of body fluid comes from food, so serve foods like Watermelon, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Berries, and Soups.
  2. Seniors should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydrate and heat stroke this summer. Water is best but fruit juices and iced teas are also good.
  3. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, this means that they promote water loss in the body. If a Senior drinks a caffeinated or alcoholic drink in the summer they should also drink some other fluids as well to offset the loss.
  4. Perspiration is one of the best ways for the body to cool off. Forget deodorant and towels, let sweat air dry as nature intended and it will carry body heat away with it.
  5. Letting the body air dry after a shower or swim will carry off body heat in the same way as perspiration. Misting the arms lightly in water and letting them air dry will also do the same.
  6. Did you ever wonder why they like it spicy down in New Orleans? Hot spicy foods promote sweating which is, as listed above, one of the best ways to cool off.
  7. Seniors should dress for the heat by wearing light-colored loose-fitting clothing. This will protect from the sun while allowing sweat to air dry. Include a light wide-brimmed hat for added shade.
  8. Even in an air conditioned house fans circulate air and help to keep the room feeling cooler. Consider putting a bucket of ice cubes in front of box fan for an added kick of coolness.
  9. It’s easy to forget how many heat sources fill out modern lives. To keep cool, turn off the computer, monitor, lights, and use the microwave instead of the oven. If possible, switch incandescent light bulbs out for cooler and more energy efficient compact florescent bulbs.
  10. Mint tricks our nerves into feeling cooler. Help a Senior to feel less overheated with a nice mint skin lotion massage or a cool glass of mint ice tea.

Warning: It is possible for individuals with serious heart, liver, or kidney problems to over-hydrate. If an elderly loved one has serious health problems ask their Doctor how much fluid they should drink each day.

Fraud Alert! Take a closer look at those Phone Bills!

Take a closer look at those phone bills friends! A few months ago we noticed that a mysterious charge for ‘Vmail’ had appeared on the phone bill for one of fax lines. Our phone company had just switched us from paper to email billing so we almost missed the $14.95 charge hidden near the bottom of the bill. Fortunately we run a tight ship so the charge didn’t slip past us and we looked into the charge. What we found was disturbing; a nationwide cramming scam, phone companies hindering customer’s attempts to remove the charge, and a flawed telecommunications law making the whole mess possible.

Cramming’ is a scam where a company adds a charge to a phone bill for a service that was not requested, agreed to, or used. In our case, the charge was for a voice mail service on one of our fax lines –a service we never asked for, never agreed to, and which we could never use because it doesn’t actually exist. That’s right, even if we had wanted to use ‘Vmail’ we couldn’t because it doesn’t exist.

It took over five hours just to sort out things out with our phone company. We had a long run around through the automated system and from ‘wrong’ department to ‘wrong’ department. When we did speak to real people we got another kind of run around; they insisted that we had signed up for the service and when we insisted on having the charge removed we were transferred. Finally, we demanded to speak to a manager and got the answers we needed in less than ten minutes.

What we learned is that, legally, because of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, phone companies have to include charges from other companies in their bills unless the customer contacts them requesting a block of all third party billing. There is no selective screening, the 1996 law prevents phone companies from ‘discriminating’ against any companies which place charges. Our phone company could have saved us a lot of time and frustration by giving us this information from the start, it was terrible customer service on their part and completely unacceptable. But, otherwise, their hands are legally tied when it comes to this kind of scam. They are required by law to accept third party charges and have no legal means of verifying that their customer requested the services in question. Aside from the quality of their customer service, there is no difference between Qwest, Verizon, AT&T, Embarq, or any other national phone company when it comes to this scam.

How to prevent Cramming.

  • Call the phone company in question and demand that they block all third party billing on the account.  Sometimes phone company representatives try to talk customers out of the block but insist even if they say its not possible.
  • Carefully check every phone bill – act immediately if a new or unknown charge appears.

How to resolve Cramming.

  • Contact your phone company immediately and tell them that you did not authorize the charges and ask for the charges to be removed. Your phone company does have the authority to remove the charges but will often require* you to try to resolve the issue with the company that placed the charge.
  • Call the company that placed the charge and inform them that you did not request the services. Tell them that you would like to know who authorized the services and ask for a copy of the authorization information. Companies have been known to request more personal information, such as social security numbers, do not give them more personal information than they already have.
  • Ask that all charges be removed. If the company refuses or never responds, get back in  touch with the phone company. Tell them that you could not resolve the charges with the company in question and tell them that you did not authorize the disputed charges. Ask the phone company to remove all charges. Be insistent, even if they say they can’t – they can. Talk to more than one person if you need to.

Things to remember!

  • Customers are not legally obligated to pay charges on their telephone bills for services that they have not ordered or authorized others to order for them.
  • Telephone services cannot be disconnected because a customer refuses to pay a charge from a third party. Threats of phone lines being disconnected are legally empty.
  • Crammers sometimes hire legitimate collection agencies to collect the charges ‘owed’ to them. This can be very damaging to credit ratings and should be addressed immediately. Explain the situation to the collection agency and, if that resolves nothing, either pay the ‘charges’ or get legal aid.

We submitted complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, the Pennsylvania Attorney General (check the map on this page to find your state’s), and the Better Business Bureau. Little can be done to stop this kind of scam on a national level but several states, including New York and Florida, are taking action to prevent cramming. Get your State to join them in taking steps to outlaw cramming; send letters to your elected officials letting them know that you’re sick of this scam!

Read more information on Cramming from the Federal Trade Commission.