This morning's paper headlined that there is now a 'definitive test' for Alzheimer's disease - a spinal tap that can diagnose the disease years before symptoms appear. Drug companies are thrilled because they now will have a clear, identifiable population for testing drugs under development. I have not had time to read the whole study. More in future newsletters.

There are 6 topics in this month's newsletter....a bit long but I want to include all - especially the last about a financial windfall you might have.

1. Care giving, Care receiving. Last week I saw a headline about care giving and how becoming your parent's parent is stressful". I thought NO!.

Those of us providing services to our parents are NOT acting as their parents any more than a nurse is a parent to her patients or relatives proving aid for wounded soldier returning from overseas (many with brain injuries) are 'parenting' them.

Providing services is not parenting. This is important. Do not allow anyone to 'infantalize' an older person. It is detrimental to the elders self esteem and keeps them from acting in the areas still open to them. And it is detrimental to the care givers since it raises expectations that their parents ought to respond to services as a child would. When the elder does not, it simply increases stress for the caregiver.

Many of us in our 50's and 60's provide services for elder relatives...and some of us our 60's - 90's are receiving such services. If you are a recipient of services you can help things along by telling your providers how grateful you are for "their services". You might even offer some analogies about families of wounded soldiers and the service they are providing.

If you need help, ask. But do not 'become a child'. If your son or daughter thinks you should do something say, "Thanks for your suggestion. Let me think about it and get back to you." And then do so. In the end it will help everyone involved if you do not 'turn into a child' in your own home. (End of speech).

2. Take advantage of the economy and help provide jobs at the same time. The economy is terrible (as you already know). Now is a great time to get home repairs or enhancements. I just added a sun/screen room to my house - something I have long wanted but could not afford. It is lovely. And it was affordable because construction jobs are so scarce. I was able to hire a contractor who would never have taken such a small job a few years ago. He gave a the best bid of the four bids I received; his reputation was good AND he did a great job. Towards the end of the job, when I offered to take some of his cards to give to friends, he even 'threw in' an extras.

This is the time to replace a roof, insulate, upgrade electric or redo a kitchen or bathroom. AND if you have only a small job, maybe you can join forces with some neighbor so a contractor will get a full day of work or a full week by combining jobs on the same block. He may give a lower bid.

The building cycle WILL improve...and then such bargains will be gone.

3. Speaking of repairs. Ever get 'burned' on a repair? One of the most difficult things elders face is finding someone to do work they or their spouses used to do. Here is where a few friends or a senior group can help by creating a 'little black book' of plumbers, electricians etc. who show up on time, do a good job and charge reasonable rates.

Pool ideas . When I asked my plumber, an older man who DOES good work if he would like to be in such an informal list, he not only said 'yes' but suggested that he might offer a small discount to those contacting him via the book

4. Elderhood is characterized by exploring and developing parts of ourselves that we had not developed during childhood and adulthood. It is also about using our 'know how' to get things done.

A recent news story reported that Ed Koch, a former NY mayor who is now in his 80's, is traveling across NYS getting legislators to sign on to a program to fix some of NYs problems - including getting a budget done on time. ( NY has one of the most dysfunctional legislatures in the USA) Koch, who has had a stroke, bypass surgery and finds his memory for names slipping said, I probably only have a few more years left. This work needed to be done so I thought, I'll do it.

Koch is not alone. There are women who began planting flowers on abandoned lots, elders who volunteer in national parks (and get free lodging along the way). The peace Corps reports that their over 60 volunteers have increased dramatically. AND some of this work is being done by elders who are cognitively impaired. Dr. Peter Whitehose (neurologist and Alzheimer's specialist) has a program where early stage Alzheimer's patients tutor inner city children. The kids get help with school work. The Alzheimers patient has the dignity of being a contributing member of society.

This is important. Our generation has 'can do' skills and attitudes. Adults are often too stressed or too busy. Young people do not know how to do it. We can change the world - even at age 88....and even if we has some 'disabilities'.

New research is documenting that WISDOM DOES come with age. Even when memory is slipping or the brain finds it harder to learn new information, the area of your brain that deals with 'pattern recognition' CONTINUES TO GROW - into the eighth decade.

It is pattern recognition that is essential for knowing what course of action would be best. For Ed Koch it is his 'pattern recognition skills' , his ability to move politicians into action that make it possible for this old man to do what the governor, legislative leaders and reform groups have not been able to do in NYS.

The next time you forget a name or miss an appointment take heart. You know how to DO...and your skills are often more developed than those of younger persons. I hope you will find some way to use those skills..

6.Finally, you may have a piece of paper lying around the house worth $250,000 or even $850.000. That is what some investors are willing to pay you for that paper. What is it?

When you were young you may have taken out an insurance policy to protect your spouse and family in the event of your untimely death. Many seniors are still paying on these policies....and the annual costs have risen as they have aged. But if your children are grown....and your spouse is about as old as you are, you might find it advantageous to have 'cash in hand' instead of a large payout when you die.

If you want to investigate your possibilities, there are special insurance agents who market such policies to investors. If you decide to go this route, do consult more than one such agent so as to be sure you are getting the best deal.

Til next month. Be well, happy and productive.