The ​Long Road to Recovery

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Anyone who has had or has cancer or any other chronic illness or disease knows there is a certain amount of time when they feel they are truly on the road to recovery, recovered, or have discovered their “new normal.” I am one of those people.

I was diagnosed with anal cancer in April 2017. I finished treatment in August 2017. One and a half years later, I can say I am starting to feel “recovered” for the most part – “still recovering” in other areas –– and have discovered my new normal.

My new normal includes ongoing and long-term physical rehabilitation as a result of pelvic radiation damage. I am not complaining (radiation saved my life!), I am just sharing that although some people look great after a big ordeal like cancer, there could be ongoing battles that you may know nothing about. Invisible wounds and scars are very common for people who have experienced cancer.

Recently I attended an art show, and I received a few compliments on my appearance (the picture above was taken at the end of a Hawaiian vacation last month). I know I am feeling much better physically, and my self-image is shaping up. My hair is almost all grown back and highlighted again; I am back to yoga once weekly, and I have started back on my elliptical and doing stretches and weights. I even started wearing my FitBit again. My modest goal of 6,000 steps daily is still a ways away, but at least I am working towards it.

I have also been enjoying my new “intermittent fasting” lifestyle and my relationship with food. I am feeling in control of my life and my body. It’s taken almost two years, but I finally feel like each day I feel better and better.

I am enjoying moderating and managing support groups on Facebook. The “Anal_Cancer Support” group on Facebook is doing amazingly well and has recently achieved the 10-year milestone and the 300th member. Having cancer has expanded my social network by leaps and bounds. A profound and harrowing experience can bring more people into your life – if you want it. You just have to open up and ask for it.

The “Dementia Caregiver Solutions Support Group” is also growing and the admin team recently expanded to include two new moderators who are actual caregivers. They join three professionals to moderate and keep things on track. I find comfort in knowing I have given caregivers this safe forum to share, vent, and get advice for such a difficult time in their lives.

I am also pursuing other volunteer opportunities to help me reach more people who may benefit from my experience, passion, and support. I seem to have an infinite amount of “help” to give, and I am looking for ways to do so –– in a way that will keep me balanced and not over-taxed.

I continue to write for a company called Trualta. I am enjoying my writing projects and look forward to writing for more companies and individuals as the opportunities present themselves.

I am also helping people get married, sort out their problems, write books, develop websites and more. I am starting to consider finishing up my book on aging well (this will be my fifth book!).  Where all this will take me? Who knows. The long road to recovery takes us places that we never dreamed of. I am looking forward to continuing on this journey.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

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Caring for Parents with Memory Issues (Video; 28 minutes)

 

 

Where does one begin when memory problems become an issue with an aging parent?

Issues such as getting a diagnosis, terminology (What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?), resources (Book: Caring for a Husband with Dementia; App: Dementia Caregiver Solutions for iOS; Alzheimer Society), sundowning, and managing difficult behaviours are all discussed in this half-hour video.

Check out my video interview with Nancy Baker from Healing Healthy with Nancy called “Caring for Parents with Memory Issues.”

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Book, App, Essential Oils

Chair Exercises for Older Adults or those with Mobility Limitations

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Photo credit: jill111 – pixabay.com

I was approached by Joseph Jones at California Mobility to provide my recommendation on how to help an older adult with dementia stick to an exercise routine. My comments are in the article 21 Chair Exercises for Seniors: A Comprehensive Visual Guide.

This extensive guide on chair exercises for older adults (or anyone with mobility issues) includes easy-to-follow videos, helpful images, and lots of great tips on chair exercises. These exercises can be adapted for anyone! Please check out the article for helpful tips on keeping active, at any age.

Age well my friends!

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

 

 

Memory Rescue by Dr. Daniel Amen (2017) – Book Review

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I am a geriatric mental health clinician, and frequently I am asked: “How can I improve my memory skills?” The usual recommendations from doctors are, “Exercise and learn new things.” I have been on a quest to find some other tips and tools that people can use to help improve or maintain their brain and memory functions as they age. This need has led me to try to find the perfect book to recommend to those who are looking for more information. “Memory Rescue” has some useful information but it’s not the book I was looking for.

I purchased a copy (Amazon) of psychiatrist Dr. Amen’s book “Memory Rescue: Supercharge your brain, reverse memory loss, and remember what matters most” which has a second subtitle, “The official program of the Amen Clinics.” The Amen Clinics are found all over the USA, and the services and programs offered there are to help people with various mental health and brain health concerns (such as memory loss, ADD, and traumatic brain injury).

This book starts out with 20 testimonials and reviews which is very impressive until I realized they were all from men. The male-dominated view about memory problems and the Amen Clinic program was very strong. The only female presence I felt was from Dr. Amen’s wife, Tana, which was very sparse. There were also a handful of case studies that were about females. As a woman reader and professional, I wish there had been a more balanced perspective.

The overall takeaway of this book, for me, was that this was a big advertisement for his Memory Rescue Program that he offers through his Amen Clinics and the MyBrainFitLife.com website. There were case examples of how his clinics help people, and there were lots of “SPECT” (single photon emission computed tomography) scan photos to “prove” it. Even after looking at numerous SPECT images, I still wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for. I felt these images were a bit overkill.

Here in Canada, we don’t have access to Amen Clinics, and SPECT scans are reserved for those exceptional cases (which I am still not sure what those cases are.) We tend to favour CT, MRI and PET scans.

Ultimately I was looking for concrete tips on “how to improve memory skills” and “how to improve memory problems.” Amen’s program is intended to enhance your mood and memory skills using the BRIGHT MINDS risk factor approach, with each letter standing for a component of the “ultimate memory formula.” Blood Flow, Retirement and Aging, Inflammation, Genetics, Head Trauma, Toxins, Mental Health, Immunity/Infection Issues, Neurohormone Deficiencies, Diabesity, and Sleep Issues. There was quite a lot of repetition throughout the book, with the main recommendations being: Exercise, Nutrition, Nutraceuticals (and supplements).

On pages 28-30, you can take the “Amen Clinics’ Early Warning Signs Questionnaire.” Your score will provide you with a risk of “significant memory issues,” from low to high. Amen states, if you are at moderate to high risk, it is important to get a thorough medical evaluation.

This book brought up some new terms and concerns. Those including my need for nutraceuticals (which Amen sells on his BrainMD website), getting tested for the APOE gene (related to Alzheimer’s disease), an integrative medicine doctor (but doesn’t say where I can find one). He was heavy on the recommendation of Gingko Biloba (a natural supplement that has limited research evidence to help prevent memory problems, see GEM study). He was anti-marijuana use and wasn’t that clear on what the recommendation was for alcohol use (was it 2-4 servings a week or only 2?).  He suggests coconut oil is good for our brains, but I have read that it is not good for our bodies. There is a lot of reference to the Memory Rescue Diet, but it is not discussed until chapter 16. There are a lot of references to the Bible, which surprised me. He also suggested that “praying to release your worries and to rejoice over the good things around you can help reduce your risk of mental health problems” (p. 337).

Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I was looking for specific tips and techniques to help people improve their memory skills. The most helpful part of the book in this regard is found in Chapter 17 “Sharpen Your Memory––Brain Workouts for a Richer Life.” He provides a lot of suggestions of what activities can help strengthen the different areas of the brain such as playing Scrabble, completing crossword puzzles, and learning to play a new musical instrument. He suggests engaging in “map reading” without a GPS device. He’s a big fan of table tennis and other coordination activities, such as dancing, yoga, and tai chi. He says we should travel to new and interesting places and develop relationships with smart people. Music, especially classical, can enhance memory and cognitive function. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the instruction to “pay attention” to what we are doing, which I believe is an essential tip for being able to remember things in the first place. He doesn’t speak to word-finding difficulties, either, which is one thing a lot of older folks are initially concerned about.

The book is well-referenced, and he claims to walk the talk. The index is sub-par, and it could have been enhanced to make finding things a lot easier to find. Some of the reviews online of Amen Clinics state it is a very costly program. There is no mention of costs, but there is mention that the process of improving cognition or mental health often takes months. It’s assumed the program costs thousands of dollars. The MyBrainFitLife.com online program also has a cost, a yearly fee of USD 99. There are some free Brain Assessments (which I completed) which can help one decide on the level of risk one is at. If someone already has memory impairment, a caregiver or loved one will need to read this book as it tends to have some jargon and technical language, and there is lots to read and learn about.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Amen Clinic Memory Rescue Program. For specific information on brain health and tips for improving memory skills, Chapter 17 is where you want to start. If you believe in God or a higher power, this will also confirm your faith in how prayer and scripture can support your mental health. The book is somewhat repetitive, however, it drives home the main message––that having a healthy body means better chances for a healthy brain.

I’ll leave you with this: Amen provides hope––“Yet new research suggests that a ‘memory rescue’ program, like the one presented in this book, can dramatically improve memory and can prevent and sometimes even reverse some forms of dementia. Given how most doctors approach this issue, however, you cannot count on traditional medicine to rescue your memory.” (p. 4).

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW (Specialist in Aging)

 

 

The Mighty Ant: An Anthology of Short Stories for Seniors

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I am a contributor to a collection of short stories, called The Mighty Ant, edited by Jessica Bryan. This collection will delight anyone who enjoys reading or being read to.

My two stories include “You are Never Too Old” and “For the Love of Flowers.” These are my first attempts at short-story writing.

Here’s me reading my short story called “For the Love of Flowers.”

The book is in large print and is a fundraiser for the North Carolina Chatham County Council on Aging.

Get your own copy and enjoy reading and sharing with others! The stories are also great conversation starters!

Happy reading!

Angela G. Gentile

 

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Angela G. Gentile, B.S.W., M.S.W., is a registered social worker and is employed as a Geriatric Mental Health Clinician in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is married to Agapito and has two adult children, Lorenzo and Simone. Angela enjoys writing, reading, and travelling and considers herself a realistic optimist. For more info: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Appropriate and/or Correct Words and Phrases (No offense!)

words by https://redzenradishphotography.com

Photo credit: Words by Kristina Krause of Redzenradish Photography

√ Use … × Instead of…

Mental Health:

√ Died by suicide

× Committed/Completed/Successful suicide

√ Suicidal ideation with a plan; suicide without a plan

× Active suicidal ideation; Passive suicidal ideation  

√ Alcohol use disorder/Benzodiazepine use disorder

× Alcohol dependence or use continuous

√ Person with a mental health disability; person who has/person diagnosed with depression/schizophrenia, etc.; Terminology varies throughout countries – “insane” and “insanity” are generally legal terms and reported as such in news programming

× Negative references to mental health and well-being such as: lunatic, mental patient, mental disease, neurotic, psychotic, crazy

Physical Abilities:

√ Hard of hearing; deaf; deafened or late-deafened; Deaf (uses sign language)

× Hearing-impaired; blanket term “deaf” used at the wrong time 

√ Person who uses a wheelchair

√ Wheelchair user

× Wheelchair-bound  

√ Non-disabled

× Normal

√ Person living with vision loss

√ Person who is blind

√ Person who has a vision impairment

× Blind; visually impaired  

√ Person with a disability

√ Persons with disabilities

√ People with disabilities

√ Individuals with disabilities

× Disabled, invalid, handicapped, physically challenged (challenges and handicaps are environmental conditions) 

√  Person born with a disability

× Birth defect, deformity/deformed, congenital defect

√ Person with a disability or a person with a/who has a motion disability;

√ Person with (e.g., a spinal cord injury)

× Crippled or lame

Medical Conditions:

√ Has (e.g., asthma, cancer)

× Suffers from (e.g., asthma, cancer)   

√ Person/people/individual with (a) dementia

√ Person/people/individual living with dementia

√ Person/people living well with dementia

√ A person with Alzheimer’s disease

× Dementia sufferer; demented; senile or senile dementia; burden; victim; plague; epidemic; living death (e.g., dementia is a living death)

♥ Re: “dementia patient” – okay to use when talking about people in a hospital or actually using a care service).

√  Person who has (a particular disease or condition). Ex: A person who has had a stroke.

× Suffers from; was stricken with; is confined to; or is afflicted by/with. These terms patronize, pity, victimize or insult.

Other Terms:

√ Older people; older person; older adult

× Elderly; old people; old person

 ♥ Seniors or senior citizens is an acceptable term for most.

√ Accessible parking

× Handicapped parking

√ Accessible bathrooms

× Handicapped bathrooms

√ Person with an intellectual disability or persons with learning disabilities

× Mentally retarded; retarded; mentally defective; mentally challenged

 √ Indigenous Peoples, First Nations Peoples, Inuit Peoples, Metis Peoples, Aboriginal Peoples. Note: Always go with what they are calling themselves. 

Eskimo, Indian, Native are less-used terms and can be taken as derogatory.

√ Black (as an adjective); African-American/African-Americans (as nouns) (both are acceptable, but not necessarily interchangeable.) In Canada, Black or Black Canadian.

× N-word 

SIMPLE RULE: It’s people first. The person comes first.

The disability or disease comes second.

REGARDING IMAGES: Use images that reflect the whole person, rather than a fading face or wrinkled hands. This is especially important when the article is about living a positive life or overcoming challenges.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide,” “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival,” “How to Edit an Anthology: Write or Compile a Collection that Sells,” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Search terms: politically correct, political correctness, terminology, writing, speaking, sensitive, appropriate, modern, neutral, acceptable

 

“The Memory Keeper” Will Touch Your Heart and Tickle Your Funny Bone – Book Review

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Five Stars *****

JESSICA BRYAN’S SWEET AND HUMOROUS ACCOUNTS of life with her 99-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s disease will touch your heart and tickle your funny bone. Jessica states there is never a dull moment in the Bryan household, and you will be entertained as she writes about her experiences in an easy-to-read, conversational tone. Jessica believes “When things get too heavy, you just have to lighten the mood.”

Although it is heart-wrenching when she writes about her mother “disappearing moment by moment, memory by memory,” her stories will encourage you—knowing that caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s has its rewards and there is humour to be found in any situation. The photos sprinkled throughout add a beautiful, personal touch. Anyone who values the importance of love and caring for one another in difficult times (especially caregivers and family members) will enjoy reading “The Memory Keeper” (2018).

Available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide,” “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival,” “How to Edit an Anthology: Write or Compile a Collection that Sells,” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Ways to Improve Your Memory Skills Podcast Interview

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kathe Kline in March 2017 for the Rock Your Retirement Show and it went live on 23 Oct 2017. Have a listen to my 30-minute audio only podcast (it’s like a radio show) to hear me talk about various topics including tips on how to improve memory skills. You can play it off your device, or download and listen to it later. There is a freebie on this as well, you just have to sign up to get a copy of it (see link below).

Link to the interview – Ways to Improve Memory Skills

Here are links to the show in popular smartphone apps:

iTunes

Stitcher

iHeartRadio

I have also provided a Freebie for the listeners – Five Strategies to Help Improve Memory Skills.

After you’ve had a listen, please feel free to comment on the Rock Your Retirement Show interview link page (see link above), or down below, here. Or just send me a personal note.

About Rock Your Retirement and Kathe Kline.

Rock on!

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

Aging Specialist Offering Two New Courses This Spring (Winnipeg)

7fd3c75caf166af80aef7cb58709152dWinnipeg, Manitoba – There are two new courses being offered by Angela Gentile, a registered clinical social worker. Angela has a Master’s degree in Social Work and a graduate specialization in aging. She has worked with many older adults and their families and she has written two books and an app. She is passionate about helping people and exploring what it means to age well. Attend these informative and interactive sessions and get Angela’s professional advice. Come away feeling confident and empowered.

10 Tips for Graceful Aging

Learn what you can do to help yourself thrive in your middle years and beyond. The dimensions of wellness will also be covered.

►Date and Time: Tuesday April 25, 2017; 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

►Location: St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

►Fee: $25.00

When a Loved One Has Memory Loss

Are you living with or do you know someone who has been experiencing memory loss and you’re not sure how to help? Get some information and tips on how to approach this sensitive and difficult topic.

►Date and Time: Thursday May 11, 2017;  7:00 – 9:00 pm.

►Location: St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

►Fee: $25.00

Registration Information:

Both courses are listed in the City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide, Spring/Summer 2017 pages 69 and 70. See page 4 of the guide for registration information which begins Wednesday March 15, 2017 at 8:00 am. It can be done online, by phone, or in-person. Limited spots available!

Contact Angela toll-free at: 1-(855) 974-4219 or online at www.AngelaGGentile.com for more information.

Eternal Love

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Image courtesy of Ben Schonewille at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

As a geriatric specialist, I hear all kinds of stories. A nurse colleague told me this touching love story (I have changed the details to protect anonymity). – Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW.

 

One time I was speaking to a man who told me the love story about his parents Gerald (82) and Mary (80) who both had dementia. They had been married for almost 60 years.

Gerald’s dementia was more advanced that his wife’s so he was moved into a Personal Care Home. Mary moved into a seniors’ residence, which was attached to the long-term care centre.

Soon after, Mary’s needs progressed to the point where she needed to be moved into the Personal Care Home as well.

Gerald had no memory of his wife, but soon fell in love with his new neighbour, Mary (who was actually his wife.) He spent every waking minute with her.

One day, Mary needed to be rushed to the hospital. Not long after her hospital admission, she died.

After having no luck finding his love again, Gerald gave up. He died 37 days after Mary’s death.

It looks like eternal love is possible after all.

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two adult children. She is passionate about all things related to Aging Well. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com