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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Life isn't easy for caregivers

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jun 10, 2014 3:04 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, June 11, 2014:

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Americans are living longer.  Women live to an average age of 82 and men to 77 years old. 

Living longer doesn't necessarily mean living better.  According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 70 million Americans over the age of 50 live with a chronic condition.

What these statistics mean is that more older people need care and millions are not able to care for themselves.  Millions of disabled Americans require full time care too.

Who is providing the care for older and disabled adults?

There are assisted living and nursing facilities, but most would rather stay home or live with a caregiver.

As a result, there are more than 44 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S.

Caregivers are experiencing challenges themselves. 

Most are under a lot of stress and experience physical or emotional problems like depression.

On Wednesday's Smart Talk, we'll address caregiving and caregivers.  Joining us will be Dr. Arlene Bobonich, who practices palliative medicine at Pinnacle Health and Dr. David Wenner, the medical director at Hospice of Central Pennsylvania.

Dr. Bobonich provided links to several websites and organizations for more information on caregiving:   A variety of programs, free and open to the public which address everything from "LEAKY PLUMBING" to "HOW TO START THE CONVERSATION" when dealing with end of life care.  For patients not computer savvy ,they may call   231-8900    to register. We also have a Congestive Heart Failure Clinic which has been producing marvelous statistics when it comes to keeping patients out of trouble, and hence out of the hospital when  terrible situations snowball into lethal ones.   1-800-272-3900   Alzheimer's association but lots of helpful caregiver guidance including financial.  1-800-227-7294  Special programs dedicated to the children of Aging Parents   Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health


In addition, there are multiple local Hospices:

Hospice of Central Pennsylvania ( the largest, not for profit and only one with a "Hospice House")

Homeland Hospice  ( has multilingual staff)

Legacy Hospice

Grane Hospice

Compassionate Care ( they tend to specialize in end stage cardiac problems and do an excellent job in keeping people comfortable and at home instead of frightened and in the hospital)


It may help you to know that even a nursing home patient may have Hospice. Payment schedule however may change,it depends.

It may also be helpful to know that although  federal mandates  a certification that a patients life expectancy is 6 months or less, a patient may renew their eligibility innumerable times on Hospice without limit and at times even "graduates" out of Hospice mostly due to the tremendous support they received.

"10 signs of caregiver stress"

They are:

1. DENIAL    In spite of multiple medical opinions you feel you must keep doing more, involving more medicines, etc. This is usually a hallmark that the system is now so used to dependence that a codependence may be forming and it is EXHAUSTING.

2. SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL.  The caregiver begins to think that activities once important to them should take a second fiddle.  This reduces the cargivers ability to bounce back and  IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

3. ANGER .  Usually directed at self ( I should be doing more), the patient (why don't they get better) or the medical team.

4. ANXIETY.  Whats going to happen next

5. FATIGUE beyond the usual

6.DEPRESSION    What is this all leading to, am I worthless?



9. POOR CONCENTRATION, a kind of brain overload, foggy decisions,poor planning




When you become an "empty nester" don't buy the charming townhouse built on three levels. Get something with a master suite and bath on the first floor. An older house might not have doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers.

When your large St Bernard  dog passes away, consider a lap dog or cat

Set up the kitchen with light weight dishes ( Corelle, etc) now is the time to pass down the ancient stoneware to the kids. Place everything you use daily on the first and easiest reachable shelf.  This will pay off in the decade following after that hip fracture or onset of other neurological problem. If the problems don't develop you have lost nothing



Do away with belts and fussy things. Buy magnetic closures for treasured pieces of jewelry.


Change clothing to velcro snapped, interchangeable sweat clothes. Many cute brands especially for women (Quacker Factory, etc)


Buy skid proof table mats.  Dishes often "run away" from someone playing with their food. Try a sippy cup.


DONT FORCE FEED .  If mom or day wont eat, try putting around the house small dishes of cheerios, nuts, raisins (difficult to clean off the carpet), wheat chex, apple slices (dip them in lemon juice). Just watch for choking as often swallowing and chewing ability is lost towards the end of life.

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Dr. Arlene Bobonich, Pinnacle Health

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-06-11 08:34

    Dee from Mechanicsburg emails:

    I have a friend whose husband has Huntington’s Disease and cancer. She has been caring for him in her home with some part-time assistance from friends and paid CNAs. But the situation is very serious and she can not continue in this stressful situation and they are trying to get him into a skilled care facility. No nursing home/skilled care facility will accept him because he has Huntington’s Disease. It almost seem like this is discriminatory because Alzheimer’s patients have many of the same symptoms/challenges.
    Is there anything she can do to have him accepted into a skilled care facility???

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-06-11 15:23

    Vicki Hoak of Pennsylvania Homecare writes...
    Great topic and so needed. Our association has a resource book (free) for caregivers detailing the various government-financed home care programs that can give family caregivers some help. It also urges people to PLAN AHEAD for aging. We have a toll-free number 800-382-1211 that people can call to get one of these free books – we would be happy to send them one.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-06-12 08:06

    Vicki from Lemoyne writes:

    Great topic and so needed. Our association has a resource book (free) for caregivers detailing the various government-financed home care programs that can give family caregivers some help. It also urges people to PLAN AHEAD for aging. We have a toll-free number 800-382-1211 that people can call to get one of these free books – we would be happy to send them one.

  • Ann Elia Stewart img 2014-06-17 10:48

    When my father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, the first book I had reached for was "The 36-Hour Day." While this book is comprehensive about what to expect as the disease progresses, it also scared me beyond belief! I had vowed to write about this disease in a lighter fashion: from the afflicted's point of view, placing the reader in the reality of a family struggling with the diagnosis. I believe by stepping into the shoes of one who slowly loses the ability to navigate the real world — and the subsequent decisions loved ones must face — readers gain an empathy for and a deeper understanding of how to help their loved one, and themselves, through this life-changing event. The novel is entitled "Twice A Child," and it is available here: