June 2021

June 30, 12:30-1:30pm PT
with our Executive Director, Lise M. Dyckman

Family caregivers spend nearly twice as much time searching online for health information than other adults, surveys show. But even when we’ve gotten fairly good at searching and finding medical information, how can we tell what's worth looking at, and what to take seriously?

You don't have to be a scientist to be able to flag fake health news or speculation - those are skills that can be developed, as librarians know. Geared towards family caregivers, this program shares their techniques for detecting bias, spin in reporting, and scam warning signs; identifies go-to websites for finding trustworthy sources of information fast; and gives tips for how to evaluate research reports. Bring your questions and concerns; there will be time for Q&A.

LOCATION: Zoom (over a computer, tablet, or mobile phone)

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Pre-registration required. 

… invest in fitness apps for my phone?


There are a lot of good reasons to consider mobile phone fitness apps - they’re not just for the super-athletic. And the amount of information about our habits and activities that these devices can track simply by riding around in our pockets is very impressive (and sometimes frightening). If you’re curious about what is currently available, here are some recent reviews and “top 10” lists for any device, for Androids, for iPhone; for workout enthusiasts, for walking; for men, for women, for seniors’ fitness and senior workouts

But, before you download that app, be sure to read the privacy and confidentiality statements carefully. And if it is tracking highly personal data, search to see whether there have been any news reports or updates about sharing your data with third parties. This is a good idea to do this for any app, but it’s crucial for health apps.

… get checked out for dementia if I’m totally forgetful lately?

Forgetfulness could have so many different causes, including stress and unfamiliar circumstances (like we’ve all experienced in the last 18 months). Pandemic-related stress was covered in the May 2021 issue of PlaneTalk, which is still available on our website.

If dementia is something that concerns you, do talk with your healthcare team about it -- but don’t automatically assume that’s the cause of forgetfulness or misplaced items or difficulty focusing on tasks. The early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease include other symptoms, not just the kinds of typical memory glitches that can happen as we age. The Alzheimer’s Association has tip sheets and checklists for the 10 early warning signs for that disease, in English and in Spanish. Also see our Guide for Common Concerns in Later Life - Memory for more information on other possible causes or factors in memory loss or dementia, and also links to how to boost memory and cognition as we age.

… worry about my elderly parent, who just had a short and uneventful hospital stay?

COVID infection worries aside, even a short hospital stay for a seemingly easily-recoverable health problem can be dangerous for people over 65. Seniors who were carefully managing can be knocked off-balance by the stress of being hospitalized. So-called “post hospital syndrome” is all too common in older adults: “Approximately 1 out of every 5 ER visits by people 65 and older result in readmission, even when the initial visit is for something minor... One in 3 of those patients will return to the ER within 30 days; 1 in 10 will die within 90 days of their first visit,” according to one geriatrist. The risk gets higher as we age: an estimated 1 in 3 people over 70 leave a hospital stay more disabled than they came in, and that number rises to half for people over 85.

It’s true that frail seniors have less ability to recover, and tend to get more sick from common diseases like pneumonia and urinary tract infections. But post-hospital syndrome isn’t inevitable. They, their care partners, hospital staff, and hospital administrators can take steps to minimize the stressful, damaging aspects of being hospitalized. For more information, see the new section of our Guide to Caregiving Resources, on Coping with Health Emergencies.

… worry about the long-term health effects of gender-identity affirming hormone therapy?

Using hormones as part of gender identity-affirming care (a.k.a. transgender care) can have some adverse health affects in the long run - but there are so many other factors involved that there is no one answer to this question. Instead of worrying about them, talk with your healthcare term about which ones might be of concern for you, personally. The effects of estrogen therapy are very different from the effects of testosterone therapy; for that matter, the effects of hormone therapy for gender-affirming care are very different from hormone replacement therapy in cisgendered people. One thing to keep in mind is that while hormone therapy (either as replacement therapy or as gender-affirming care) can interfere with fertility, it’s not sufficient as birth control.

… ask my primary care doctor to help me find a counselor or therapist?

First, good for you for reaching out for help if you feel that you could use support! 

If you feel that you’re in a crisis situation and need help quickly, please reach out ASAP to one of the hotlines or warmlines for a fast response. They may not be able to solve your issues completely, but they can definitely give you support and assistance while you’re looking for more long-term therapy. The hotline links on our Coping with COVID guide include many that existed before the pandemic and address more than just COVID-related issues.

In any case, definitely talk to your primary care doctor about wanting to do this, especially if your health care provider offers access to talk therapy or to couples / family counselors. But be prepared for your primary care doctor to be just as clueless on how to go about finding the right person for you. It might take some time to find the right person, and that right person might not be among the list of referrals authorized by your health insurance, so don’t be discouraged if your doctor doesn’t have any direct recommendations for you. Useful advice is to:

  • Decide whether you want to work individually, or whether the most troubling issues are in a relationship (couples therapy), or with family members (family therapy). 

  • Check with your insurance, with any EAP (employee assistance plan) available through work, and with county social service agencies to see if they offer referrals and financial support for talk therapy. Also check with local graduate schools that teach counseling psychology - many have lower-cost clinics, where therapy is conducted under the supervision of experts.

  • If you think you’d benefit from someone already familiar with your experience or your culture, search for someone who specializes in working with those clients. If you already have a diagnosis (for example, on the autism spectrum, or anxiety disorder), do search for therapists with extra training for working with that condition. And if it would be useful to be able to communicate in other languages besides English, definitely search for that too!

  • Once you’ve identified some possible therapists to work with, Google them to find out their qualifications. Not just whether they have a license, but which kind of license, how recently they qualified, and whether they’ve had any extra certification that could be relevant for your therapy.

  • Then, interview them to see if a) they are accepting new clients at this time, and b) if you feel like a good fit for each other.

For more advice, see these articles from the Cleveland Clinic, from the American Psychological Association, from Remezcla, from Therapy 4 the People, or from Good Therapy

For therapist directories, browse the professional listings from Psychology Today. The Therapists of Color; the KQED listings for the Bay Area, the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network; the Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) Therapist Directory and South Asian Therapists; the Latinx Therapists Action Network and Therapy for LatinX; Therapy for Black Girls and Therapy for Black Men may be useful.

COVID-19 Updates 

As California prepares for the hoped-for June 15 target recovery date, there is still a lot of confusion over what we still need to do to avoid a relapse. Currently, Santa Clara is following the CDC’s guidance for individuals about wearing masks and distancing (see our COVID & Coronavirus guide for details). 

However, it’s unclear at this time whether Cal OSHA will require a different set of mandates for workplaces with a mix of people who have and have not been fully vaccinated. Their requirements issued in the first week of June were withdrawn a few days later; as of this writing, CalOSHA is still deliberating. What is clear is that CA employers have both the legal right and the requirement to track which of their workers have been fully vaccinated and which have not (or refuse to state if they were). That simple “yes’ or “no” is all that they may ask, however. The EEOC has ruled that employers can also require that their workers get vaccinated for COVID, although some states (not CA) have, or are in the process of, legislation on that.

Meanwhile, as more reports of “long COVID” surface, researchers are starting to see links to previously-identified (but not well understood) medical conditions. One such connection is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and that suggests some ways to treat people still suffering long after they’ve been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The numbers of people fully vaccinated in Santa Clara County are encouraging (as of this writing, over 68% of all residents 12 and older). However, until vaccination reaches more people worldwide, we still run the risk of evolving a variant that could be more infectious (or worse, vaccine-resistant). If you’re curious how variants evolve in viruses like SARS-CoV-2, here’s a detailed explanation that’s accessible to those of us who are not epidemiologists.


Looking for more community events?

The list of free, public, health-related events in the South Bay that used to be included in PlaneTalk has moved online, as have the events themselves. 

We’ve created an expanded Community Events Calendar on our webpages at:

There are many more events on health and other topics of interest to seniors, their caregivers, and anyone interested in healthy aging on this calendar - and since they’re online, you don’t have to worry about travel time or parking!

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