The Last Stop: Life in The Lodge

Fun with Friends at The Lodge - 041714

Living in the Lodge makes life convenient. I’m closer to people, food and lots of in-house activities. Sure, I miss my own house and the back and forth walks in beautiful Colorado weather. But when it’s not nice and that’s true even in Colorado sometimes, I am glad I moved. Read about my new life. It’s the simple domestic issues that become the challenges. Not serious but humorous. Who makes the bed, who cleans up the kitchen and who prepares the food when I’m sick?

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

Read more about Margery’s experience moving and the challenges that ensued in “The Last Stop: Life in The Lodge“.

The First Step in Seeking Care: Area Agencies on Aging

This article is part of a series addressing the challenges families face while caring for elderly parents. I will highlight not only community resources available to cope through these difficult times but also share what experts in the field have learned from assisting families in similar situations. This article addresses community resources that you may turn to for advice, even before your parent needs supportive assistance.

Article on Area Agencies on Aging servicesAs appealing as retirement communities appear—no housekeeping or cooking—many seniors would rather spend retirement at home, remaining self-sufficient and handling life’s responsibilities much as they have always done. This independence is admirable, especially when you hear of seniors in their 90s still living at home and remaining active. However, when the desire to remain independent results in a denial of a genuine need for care, this can lead to crises that are stressful for all. What seniors and their families should know is that requiring assistance doesn’t mean sacrificing independence or moving into a nursing home. There are community resources readily available to enable seniors to remain in their home.

Often, people don’t look for information until there is a crisis, and by then, they are at their wit’s end, says Cathy Knight, state director for the Washington State Association of Area Agencies on Aging. She recommends that families take a proactive role in identifying supportive services even if assistance isn’t needed right away. And the local Area on Agencies on Aging should be the first place that families should turn to for guidance; our job is to help people remain safely in their homes, Knight explains.

Despite the valuable services that these agencies provide, don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them, as Knight says one of their difficulties in reaching people is not having a marketing budget. Since their establishment in 1973 under the Older Americans Act, local Area Agencies on Aging have connected families to businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide services such as in-home care or transportation. These agencies are found in every state, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s directory lists the agencies and tribal associations within each state.

As part of their mission, these agencies are tasked with identifying available community services, saving families time and effort, and the types of programs and services available at each agency may differ depending upon how well the region’s services are funded. At a minimum, Area Agencies on Aging provided access (e.g., information and assistance, transportation or case management), community based, in-home and elder rights services. In Washington State, the Area Agencies on Aging also play a key role in administering the state’s Family Caregiver Support Program (which will be discussed in an upcoming article).

Our agencies are “always a good place to go as a starting point,” Knight says, and you can turn to them for any issue, whether finding assistance for a senior in your neighborhood whose health is visibly deteriorating or seeking advice on how to care for a parent with substance abuse or mental health issues.

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers senior living, sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

Sunrise Senior Living: Growing Green Practices at Communities

Sunrise Senior Living - LogoIn an earlier article, I highlighted the growing trend of retirement communities adopting green practices, and Sunrise Senior Living was one of the senior living providers featured. In this article, I am highlighting other green practices found at their communities.  

Sunrise Senior Living is already a leader in energy-saving efforts, with 33 communities receiving ENERGY STAR© certification and all of their 248 communities in the United States entered into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Portfolio Manager to track energy usage, but there are other measures this company embraces to reduce their environmental footprint and enhance the lives of their residents.

Replacing outdated equipment with the latest technology and the “best of the best” is how Jim Shaffer, director of maintenance and capital programs, describes Sunrise’s philosophy when renovating or upgrading communities. While the upfront costs might be higher, in the long run the company sees a substantial return on investment that results in reduced costs due to decreased consumption of resources, whether it is energy or water.

Sunrise of Plano's Associate Executive Director Sharon Demarest

Sunrise of Plano’s Associate Executive Director Sharon Demarest showing off the community’s herb and flower garden.

With communities typically spanning four to five acres, of which half to one third is devoted to landscaping, that is quite a bit of green space to maintain. This is one reason why Sunrise decided to explore the use of a smart lawn irrigation system to manage their watering. The system determines the watering schedules and volumes using the previous days’ rainfall totals that are provided via satellite. Two years ago, this system was installed at several communities and the investment is paying off, with Shaffer saying they have seen “significant water savings.”

Sunrise is also willing to invest in new technology if it improves their residents’ living spaces. “Creating that sense of home” is important and lighting plays a role in creating a comfortable feeling, says Shaffer. Four to five years ago, Sunrise made the switch from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which saved a significant amount of energy, says Andy Coelho, senior vice president of facilities, and now we are investing in light emitting diode (LED) lights since the technology has proven itself and creates the aesthetics we are looking for. Shaffer adds that LEDs are now more affordable.

Sunrise of Plano's Gardening Club

Sunrise of Plano’s Garden Club enjoying an afternoon of gardening.

Despite the value of these energy-saving practices, they are often unnoticed by residents. However, there are other more visible ways that Sunrise greens up its communities—efforts that are inspired by their residents. At Sunrise of Plano in Texas, the herb and flower garden is an integral part of the community and is a special place for a lot of residents, says Sharon Demarest, the community’s associate executive director.

Though residents started the garden five years ago, its importance had diminished until being resurrected by Demarest and other residents two years ago. The garden is near and dear to my heart and is special for a lot of residents, Demarest says. With the garden having raised beds, residents can easily water and weed the herbs and flowers, and the maintenance staff performs the heavier duty work.

Sunrise of Plano's Gardening Club hard at work.

Filling the beds are the staple culinary herbs of basil, rosemary, sage and parsley. Lavender is also grown along with blackberries and blueberries. Drying the herbs allows their use year-round in dishes served in the community dining room, and they also served as inspiration for the lemony basil salmon roasted beet-couscous salad dish featured in the 4th annual Taste of Sunrise Recipes from the Heart and Home,says Demarest.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's Mary Hiers

Sunrise of Webb Gin’s Mary Hiers earned NWF wildlife habitat certification for her community.

She is proud that the garden inspires a sense of community amongst all residents and staff and serves a purpose beyond just lifting spirits. The community’s activity director uses it for social programming and activities, since gardening not only keeps residents active but the plants can also serve as cues, which are important for memory care residents. It’s such a happy place with residents working in the garden, collaborating and having fun; it’s truly a joy, Demarest says.

At the Webb Gin community in Georgia, it was the efforts of resident Mary Hiers that made residents and staff more aware of their garden’s importance as habitat for local wildlife. “I just love the outdoors…the environment has always been important to me,” Hiers says. As the former director of the Fernbank Science Center, Hiers spent her life connecting children and their parents to the natural world around them, and she continues this even in her retirement.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is enjoyed by residents year-round.

Tending the garden is a favorite pastime of residents.

Upon joining Webb Gin, she noticed that the landscape provided habitat, food, water and shelter, the four elements needed to provide habitat for wildlife. “The property is beautiful,” Hiers says, of the campus that has walking paths through the landscaped grounds and a retention pond that plays host for many birds. Favorite resident activities are walking along the paths and bird watching.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is enjoyed by both families and residents.

The landscaped grounds are enjoyed by residents throughout the year.

Knowing of the National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife habitat program, she decided to earn certification for Webb Gin. Executive Director Carla Cooper assisted Hiers in filling out the application, and they received certification in 2013. But Heirs didn’t stop there.

To develop the educational component of the walking trail, such as describing how the plants contributed to providing habitat, she reached out to a dear friend, who also happened to be a successful grant writer, to write a grant for signs that could be placed alongside the 150 plants located around the community.

Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden is well tended by residents.

Her friend wrote an award-winning grant and the signs were erected later that year. While educating residents  is the primary reason of the signs, there is another beneficial use that these signs provide. Recall exercises are good for our brains, and the community therapist uses the plants and signs in recall exercises, Hiers says.

Another important sign is the National Wildlife Federation certification sign that prompts visitors to ask what it means. “Families see the sign and ask about it,” she says, and based upon the questions she answers, she thinks news about backyard certification is spreading, something she is pleased to see.

Smiles are always found in Sunrise of Webb Gin's garden.

Inspired by seeing raised beds at a nursing home, Hiers is exploring whether raised beds could be built at Webb Gin so disabled residents can also participate in gardening. And she is also instrumental in planning an Earth Day program with Jenohn Carter, the activities and volunteer coordinator. Residents will plant a Golden Raintree to replace one that died earlier and have the opportunity to hear local master gardeners talk about gardening.

Sunrise of Webb Gin is surrounded by NWF certified landscaped grounds.

Though Hiers takes the initiative to spearhead these environmental efforts, she credits that Webb Gin staff for their support, saying “we have the most awesome director.” And because she loves what she is doing, Hiers doesn’t see ending her work anytime soon; “I’ll go to my grave being a teacher.”

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

Safe Eye for the Aging Guy: Home Improvements to Promote Safety

As your favorite senior heads into his golden years, “makeover” may not be the first thing on your mind. But, I’m going to tell you why it should be.

No, I’m not talking about haircuts, wardrobe changes, or eyebrow plucking (although a little grooming never hurt anybody). I’m talking about making over his home to improve his safety. By improving his home, you help him age in place. You are not only upgrading a home, but you’re also improving a life.

Below is an array of home improvement options. I’ve ranked them by difficulty level. We’ve started with simple solutions that need nothing but a credit card. The next suggestions may need a bit more skill, coordination, money or muscle.

Level 1 – The Do It Yourself-er

These quick and dirty home improvement changes may seem small, but they can help maximize the safety of your senior’s home. You ought to be able to pick these things up at Target, Wal-Mart, or at your favorite local durable medical equipment company.

  • Improving safety for seniors through home improvementsBuy shower mats and seats for the shower. These little lifesavers will help your senior keep his balance and avoid slips and falls during shower and bath time. This is important because most slips and falls happen in and around your shower. Plus, he’s worked a long, full life. He deserves to take a load off.
  • Entrances, hallways, stairs and crevices in the garage can be hazardous monsters of the night. Battle these buggers with nightlights in every corridor of the home. This little fix is particularly helpful for those with impairments in vision. Motion detector night lights are inexpensive and better for the environment. Plus, you won’t need to crouch down to turn them on and off every night.
  • Buy a simple flashlight and set it up next to the bedside table. Check the batteries often. If the power goes out, you’ll be ready to go.
  • Take a long, slow walk around your senior’s home. Remove or replace throw rugs. While you’re at it, note any loose carpeting or flooring. Replace, repair, staple, or tape down anything baggy or loose. Any major fixes will take you up to Level 2 or Level 3.

Level 2 – Call a Neighborhood Teenager

Level 2 home improvement tasks may be a little more than you or your senior can muster, but should prove doable for the local teen with a toolbox close at hand. If strapping lads or lasses are in short supply in your neighborhood, you can call a family member or a trusted friend.

  • Add grab bars that double as aesthetic elements. You don’t need to use the grab bars of old. Nowadays, elegant and classy grab bars are available and easy to affix.
  • Install additional lighting in kitchen, hallways, staircases and outside walkways. Switch your light switches to rocker switches. This will make sure they’re easy and accessible for your senior and for guests and visitors alike.
  • Tighten the stairway bannisters. Secure newel posts, replace joinery on the rails, reattach wall brackets, tighten rail bolts and glue/replace balusters.
  • Install roll-out drawers at kitchen base cabinets. This will make it easy to reach the hard to reach pots or pans.
  • Get unhinged. Often a simple change of hinges can add inches to allow accessibility. Widening doorframes to accommodate potential walkers or wheelchairs takes you to Level 3. A quick fix is using swing away or offset door hinges to provide up to 1.75-2″ of additional clearance.

Level 3 – Call Bob Vila

Level Three home improvement options includes ones that may need a little more help than the local teens can offer your senior.

  • Consider curbless showers to make entrance quick and simple and user-friendly for all. A little European shower might make your home much safer.

    Photo by Penny Mathews on Stock.xchng

    Photo by Penny Mathews on Stock.xchng

  • Redo your countertops. Help his aging eyes and change the color of the counters to clearly delineate the edges from the flooring. Height-adjustable countertops in both the kitchen and bathroom accommodate height differences and increase ease of access and safety
  • Ramp it up. Ramps are useful for when sloping walks or decks are not possible. Keep in mind that the incline of ramps may not be the best solution for those with walkers, crutches or canes.
  • Finally, weather-proof your stairs and ramps with deck paint and a bit of added in sand. This will add year round traction and improve the safety for your senior.

Your senior’s home should accommodate him, not vice versa. Remind him that he’s not planning for old age, but rather for continued independence. Have an honest and open conversation about the steps necessary to get there.

Remember, you don’t need the crew from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to make your home more liveable and much safer. All you need to do is to start at the top of the list with what you can do and work your way down to the bottom.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.

Senior Discounts: Are You Missing Out on Savings?

65 is the new 35! Isn’t that grand. What our grandparents used to dread we can now look forward to. We’re “in” – we’re “cool” – AND we get all sorts of goodies when we turn that magic age. Of course, Social Security and Medicare are ones we all know about. But have you heard of some of the other great freebies just waiting for seniors? Here are a few options to think about – and apply for, when necessary.

1. AARP – This is definitely a BIGGIE – the grand-daddy of senior discounts, if you will, for just $16/year. You qualify for their discount card at 50, which opens the door for a TON of great deals. My favorite is at Walgreens. I registered my card with them and now I get coupons automatically on my receipt. That always puts a big smile onAARP my face. Before we moved, we used to get a hefty savings at the optometrist we used in Virginia because of AARP. I have several hotel frequent-stayer cards and my favorite is with Best Western as they combine it with AARP to give me great discounts. That’s such a big help when visiting the grandkids! Many restaurants offer discounts if you flash your AARP card including Papa John’s, Carraba’s, Outback, and Denny’s (which normally only gives senior discounts if you are over 55).  I just wrote a long distance senior that her beloved Schwann’s has an AARP discount plan. Toys “R” U, Babies “R” Us and Michael’s Crafts all offer a discount. Plus AARP provides you with a printable discount card for prescriptions. And the list goes on…and on…and on. It’s well worth your while to head over to their website and spend an hour or so perusing all the various places that offer a discount to those of us fortunate enough to qualify for this excellent discount card!

2. Restaurants – Did you know that many restaurants actually start giving the senior discount early? As I mentioned above, Denny’s gives the senior discount to those 55 and over as does IHOP (International House of Pancakes), Arby’s, and Chili’s. At 60, many KFCs will give you a free drink or a side dish (I confirmed that with my local KFC in Lakewood, Washington. Others may just do the drink) and McDonald’s will give you a free regular drip cup of coffee. Many of the Applebee’s offer a Golden Apple card giving discounts at 60. Golden Corral also starts their senior discount at 60. Once you hit the magic age of 65, you will find plenty more including one of my special treats – Boston Market.

Senior Discounts on Travel

Image by smrcoun on Stock.xchng

3. Travel- My favorite airline, Southwest, offers senior discounts for travelers over 65. And the best part, for me, is that those tickets are fully refundable. That’s very handy, especially for those of us caring for elderly parents or grand kids with health issues, as our trips may need to be cancelled at the last minute. United Airlines and other airline companies also offer senior discounts but only to some destinations. If you don’t want to fly, Amtrak and Greyhound offer discounts that start at 62. For any of these though, I would definitely compare prices. Even with Southwest, if you don’t need the luxury of non-refundable tickets, sometimes their sale prices are cheaper than the senior discounts. So do double-check.

4. Hotels – Don’t forget those hotel discounts. Most hotels offer senior discounts in addition to AAA, AARP, and military. It can definitely pay to check all the discounts you qualify for and pick the best one.

5. Amusement Parks – Some amusement parks may offer senior discounts. Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California offers a senior discount, as does Kings Dominion in Virginia (a favorite of my grandkids). Most parks, though, do not seem to offer senior discounts.  You can, however, purchase discount tickets from many through your AARP membership site.

6. Shopping – Many stores offer senior discounts at varying ages. Sometimes they are limited to one day out of the week. Our local Kroger offered a senior discount on Tuesdays. We were rarely there on Tuesdays, but when we were, my sweet mom’s face would light up when she realized she had gotten an extra discount.

The bottom line: There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of senior discounts out there. Being proactive and asking “Do you offer a senior discount?”, and you might just discover a new one! While you’re at it, if you have the AARP card, also ask if they offer a discount for AARP. You may have to choose between AARP or a plain senior discount, but that’s the kind of choice I like to make. How about you?

Written by senior living writer Kaye Swain

Finding Care for an Elderly Parent with Substance Abuse: What are my options?

I could begin by quoting a statistic about the number of seniors affected by alcohol and prescription drug abuse, but that information is meaningless when you are struggling to care for a parent in this situation. I could then make you skim this article, searching for the paragraph that mentions whether an assisted living community can provide the supportive care Prescription Drugsyour parent requires if you decide that allowing her to live alone is no longer an option. Instead, I’m going to say it upfront: it is possible to find an assisted living community that will take your parent—and you don’t need to hide or be embarrassed by your parent’s situation.

The truth of the matter is this—the substance abuse will likely be discovered during the assessment process and medical history review, according to Silva K. M. Gerety, a member of the Assisted Living Federation Association’s (ALFA) Quality Team and Corporate Director of Health & Wellness for Brightview Senior Living. In the case of alcoholism, a diagnosis of depression, past alcohol abuse, tremors, poor hygiene or an odor of alcohol can all serve as clues whether the potential resident has this form of substance abuse. “If information is withheld, it may lead to an inappropriate move in and subsequent move out,” Gerety shared via email—which can be very stressful for both you and your family.

The Importance of Full Disclosure

During the admissions process, a good clinician will note if your parent self-medicates, says Sandi Flores, also a member of the ALFA Quality Team. In her years as a clinical supervisor, she has overseen thousands of resident admissions into assisted living communities and she says that having parents with substance abuse issues is common, especially as “alcohol is a socially acceptable effective coping mechanism” She adds that adult children shouldn’t be ashamed of their parent’s behavior.

While you may be disclosing a family secret that you may have been or are still feeling ashamed of, it is important that you know the admissions clinician can be trusted with this family history, as most facilities are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) to safeguard the privacy of residents. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing your parent’s substance abuse issue with the staff at the community, then search elsewhere. And if your parent’s substance abuse doesn’t come up during the admissions process, do not count this as fortunate but rather as a red flag to search for another community.

“Frankly, we’re not here to judge,” Flores says, adding that it’s important that the clinician develop a sense of trust with the family. After having seen many families go through the process of disclosing a closely guarded family secret to a stranger she says that “for the first time, they don’t have to worry” and there is a “phenomenal sense of relief.”

What Happens Next?

Once the issue is disclosed, the clinician needs to know about the history and pattern of substance abuse. This information allows caregivers to determine whether your parent can live safely at the community—which is the priority, Flores says. Unfortunately, disclosing this information doesn’t guarantee the community will accept your parent, not because of the substance abuse, but because his safety cannot be guaranteed. Our priority is to keep our residents safe, Flores says, “some alcoholics are darn safe [such as remaining in their room while drinking]” while others are at risk for frequent falls. Gerety also stresses that it’s important for the individual to live in a setting where the proper care is available.

What both Gerety and Flores want you to know is that assisted living communities are not detox or rehabilitation centers; staff will strive to keep the substance abuse habits manageable, but they will not infringe upon your parent’s independence. Flores also constantly educates and coaches her nurses on how to care for residents with substance abuse issues, stressing that the priority is to keep them safe, not to change their lifestyle.

The next question on your mind is likely, “Are there additional costs caring for someone with substance abuse issues?” Flores says that there may be, and those costs will be determined by how much care the resident needs. Disclosing the full details of your parent’s situation can prevent unanticipated spikes in cost associated with care needs that were not initially assessed.

Community Resources

Should your parent not be accepted into an assisted living community due to safety concerns or refuses to cooperate, you still have options. First, don’t try to handle it all on your own. There are county-level Area Agencies on Aging in every state that are staffed with specialists who are experienced with situations like yours. Like the clinicians at the assisted living community, these specialists do not judge and are required to maintain confidentiality. They can match you with community resources that fit your needs, whether that is an in-home care service or organizations that specialize in treating seniors with substance abuse.

Doing an online search with phrases such as “geriatric consultation services” or “geriatric assessments” and your locale will yield organizations that provide such services. Examples of these organizations include EvergreenHealth, located in Kirkland, Washington, which has a Geriatric Regional Assessment Team, or Ohio’s Southwest General which also offers geriatric consultation services. Even though substance abuse may not be called out as an issue that they address, don’t be afraid to ask. You are not the only family struggling with a parent with substance abuse and you would be surprised at the people willing to help lessen the weight of the secret you have been carrying.

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

10 Great Places to Retire: Part 2

Are you ready to see my top 5 places to retire? As I said in part one, you might be surprised by what I pick for number one.

5. San Diego, California – A gorgeous town with excellent weather overall and easy access to a wide variety ofIndependent Living in San Diego, California beaches. Not to mention plenty of fun and interesting places to visit. It’s a great place to help boomers and seniors stay active year round. On top of all that, people rave about the various restaurants they love to visit. You’re close to sight-seeing pleasures in Mexico, and what fun to be able to visit the San Diego Zoo and Sea World easily.

4. Honolulu, Hawaii – My parents spent ten years right in the heart of Waikiki when my dad’s Parkinson’s Disease started to progress. In Hawaii, he was able walk miles each day as well as play his beloved golf. They lived just minutes from the beach and thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything they needed was within walking distance. We are still convinced that living in the lovely state of Hawaii with grand weather daily helped him stay as active as he did for over 20 years from his initial diagnosis.

3.  Los Angeles, California – Want to know what my favorite thing in L.A. is? Olvera Street.  It’s a popular tourist attraction with several restaurants and tiny shops full of fun and historical delights from Mexico.  They have the best taquitos in the world at the very edge of Olvera street at a teeny tiny place called Cielito Lindo. Many people, like my own family, have been visiting this delicious spot for decades – some of us over 50 years! I don’t have the energy to want to make the long drive there anymore so settling close to that along with all the other delicious restaurants L.A. is famous for would be grand. Not to mention all the intriguing opportunities for tours and sightseeing. The beach and the mountains are just an hour or two in each direction. Oh yes! Los Angeles is definitely on my top-10 list.

2. Sacramento, California – I love both Sacramento and Placer Counties. There are so many interesting things to see and do nearby and within a couple hours of driving. From ocean fun in San Francisco to mountain sports, not to mention several great golf courses, good exercise opportunities abound. Sacramento, itself, has the most intriguing neighborhoods with little delicious restaurants tucked away in fun spots. And there are plenty of malls toIndependent Living in Seattle, Washington keep us busy shopping and eating deliciously. For history buffs, Old Town Sacramento and Fort Sutter are always a treat not to mention the Capitol building and its surrounding area.

1. Seattle, Washington – I might be a bit prejudiced on this one since I am living in this area, but Seattle truly is a lovely locale. I am thrilled that I can’t go more than a few miles in any direction without seeing the glistening of the sun off the ocean, the Puget Sound or one of the many creeks and lakes that abound here. Mt. Rainier is gorgeous and can be seen from so many areas. It’s a real sight for sore eyes! There are hiking trails all over, including very easy ones. Traillink.com has a list of several that are even wheelchair accessible. Each city in the area has its own “personality” and there are so many unique places to eat, I doubt we’d run out of new places to try. And oh my, what fun to ride ferries and whale-watch!

After creating this list, I realized that the locations I daydream about the most generally have delicious food, good weather overall, great places to visit and take visitors to, and fun destinations to shop. Now that you’ve seen my list of the 10 best places to retire in the United States, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree or have other ideas? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Written by senior living writer Kaye Swain

10 Great Places to Retire: Part 1

Have you been thinking about retirement? Are you wondering where you’d like to retire? I’m staying busy as a real estate agent and loving it, but ever so often I do find my mind wandering to think about all the various places in the U.S. that I’ve enjoyed living at or visiting. It is in these moments that I wonder where else I might like to settle down someday. While daydreaming about that this week, I came up with some fun ideas for 10 of the best places to retire in the United States. Here are the first 5. What do you think about them?

10.  Virginia Beach, Virginia – We lived near Virginia Beach for several years and really enjoyed our time there. The beach is gorgeous!Independent Living in Nashville, Tennessee The weather was fun. And there is plenty to do in each direction. Not to mention the fact that there are some delicious places to eat at including some of my favorites like Panera Bread and P.F. Changs.  My senior mom and I really enjoyed meandering around the quaint little stores that are close to the beach itself. It’s also close to North Carolina beaches, as well as historical sightseeing opportunities in Yorktown and Williamsburg.

9.  Louisville, Kentucky – Louisville and its surrounding neighbors – including our favorites, Elizabethtown and Radcliff – are full of warm-hearted people. We resided in Elizabethtown for several years and got to enjoy the pleasures and benefits of living in a small town in the country. But what fun when we could go into the big city of Louisville and visit a variety of interesting places including the Louisville slugger museum, drive along the Ohio River, shop at the grand malls (my senior mom’s favorite), and find new and intriguing places to eat. So many interesting things to see and do there, but you still have the country right next door.

8.  Nashville, Tennessee – If you’re into country music, country vistas or just plain nice folks, Nashville is a lovely place to visit and to live. I’ve visited there several times and always enjoyed the people, the scenery, and the interesting things and places to explore. It’s truly a beautiful area and has an airport right there to whisk you off for travel or bring friends and relatives to visit.

7.  Miami, Florida – I love the beach, you’ve probably already guessed that since several of these locales are in orIndependent Living in Miami, Florida near beach cities. More importantly for me, I have friends who live near Miami and my grandkids have visited the area and will again. All of that put together makes this part of the country a top contender for this particular dream list. Especially on those days when the thermometer tells me it’s close to freezing outside. I could really appreciate Florida’s average winter temperature of about 76 on those days.

6.  Yuma, Arizona – My sweet mother-in-law lived in Yuma, Arizona for years and loved it! She really enjoyed the warm weather that was NOT accompanied by humidity, making it a great fit for her. In the winter, the temperature can range from 46-70. Summer can have some triple digit temperatures but it never bothered her. She made good use of her air conditioning and relished the clean air and the good friends nearby.

Come back tomorrow to see my top 5 places I dream about retiring to! You might just be surprised what I pick as my number one.

Written by senior living writer Kaye Swain

What the Obama Administration is Doing to Help America’s Caregivers

The Affordable Care Act, initiated by the Obama Administration in 2009, will have certain effects on in-home caregiving. Those that are interested in finding out more may want to discuss the changes with their local health care exchange or expert, as they are quite extensive.

The White House

Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

But in general, the Affordable Care Act makes it easier to get quality health care at a lower cost, and this includes in-home caregiving and care transitions.

Less Expensive, More Benefits

Patients will no longer be able to be denied by their insurance regarding pre-existing health conditions, there will be no coverage caps and prescription costs will be far lower. This is good news for those with in-home caregivers, as many of them were previously affected by these issues.

On the health care side, more funding will be going to direct care workers and family caregivers for elderly patients. The changes made by the Affordable Care Act make it less expensive for most people, especially older adults aged 55-65, to get health care and make preventative health care largely free.

Improve Training for Care Workers

Apart from the benefits for individuals, the Affordable Care Act is projected to bolster the long-term care workforce overall, with training programs that will support these valued workers. Not only do these workers contribute to long-term care in general, but they are also invaluable resources for caregivers that need additional help. States are also encouraged by the Affordable Care Act to expand their current resource offerings under Medicaid.

Resources are being offered to help caregivers make better choices regarding the care of their patients, such as the development of aging and disability centers that will help individuals make difficult decisions regarding care.

Protecting Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities

Finally, the Affordable Care Act includes some provisions for protecting those that are currently residing in long-term care facilities. These long-term care changes include increases in reporting and compliance necessary for nursing homes, requiring abuse prevention training and changes in the way nursing home closures and transfers are currently handled. These changes meant to address issues in long-term care elder abuse that have arisen in recent years. Quality of care issues are being regulated more under the Affordable Care Act for the safety of patients.

The Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly a positive thing for many caregivers and their loved ones as it gives them a larger pool of wealth and knowledge from which to draw. Seniors will find that they have significantly more coverage and family caregivers will have a larger set of resources regarding their needs as a caregiver. Caregivers will be able to reach out to a variety of communities and departments for information and help regarding a large volume of caregiving topics.

Top Myths About Aging, Debunked

You’ve heard all the myths about how older people are forgetful, decrepit and lonely, but these myths simply aren’t true. As a caregiver for your aging parents, you know that they can be as thoughtful, active and social as young people and sometimes more so. That’s why it’s important to debunk four common aging myths.

Age is no barrier. It's a limitation you put on your mind. - Jackie Joyner Kersee

Image courtesy of Inspiyr.com.

1. Older Adults are Forgetful

Alzheimer’s affects more than five million Americans every year, and one in three people will have a form of dementia when they die. Your parents don’t have to be a statistic. Ward off dementia with:

  • Regular exercise
  • A healthy diet
  • Quality sleep
  • Stress management
  • An active social life
  • Mental stimulation

You’ll want to encourage these habits as you help your parents keep their minds strong.

2. Older Adults are Physically Frail

Bone fractures caused by osteoporosis do affect one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50, but every aging adult does not develop this ailment. Indeed, you can find aging adults in many strength competitions, marathons and other physically challenging sports.

Help your parents stay physically strong when you encourage them to:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
  • Do strength training
  • Talk to their doctor about medication

These practices build strong bodies, give your parents confidence and may just enable them to compete against people half their age.

3. Older Adults are Isolated and Lonely

If your parents moved into an assisted living community, they may have left their support system behind. They’ll need to make new friends, and that’s possible because most older adults experience an increase in social intelligence, which enables them to better understand the inner workings of relationships.

Your parents can lead an active social life as they:

  • Make friends with their new neighbors
  • Attend social gatherings
  • Become involved in book, church or civic clubs

New hobbies and volunteering also give your parents a full social calendar that’s anything but isolated or lonely.

4. Older Adults are Set in Their Ways

After living a certain way for decades, older adults have established certain habits and ways of doing things. Maybe your parents have always shopped at the same grocery store, smoked cigarettes or resisted new technology. They can adapt, thrive and change.

You can help when you:

  • Help your parents acclimate to new stores and shops.
  • Discuss the health advantages of smoking cessation, including reduced risk for heart attack within 24 hours and increased circulation and lung function within three months of smoking the last cigarette.
  • Sign your parents up for a computer class, give them a simple cell phone with pre-programmed numbers and introduce your parents to the joys and advantages of technology.

A person’s age does not deter them from living a full life. As you debunk these four myths about the elderly, you help your parents and other older adults live a fulfilling life and enjoy their golden years with good health and wellness.