Senior friends enjoying meal in kitchen

Separating fact from fiction can be difficult for seniors who are looking for trustworthy information about nutrition. The fact is, most conventional dietary advice is geared toward middle-aged folks. But recent research has dug deeply into the nutritional needs of seniors and the findings have dispelled many common myths about nutrition and aging.

Here’s a look at some of the more common senior nutrition myths:

  1. Older People Lose Their Appetite

Metabolic changes coupled with decreased energy output mean seniors generally need less food than younger adults. However, that doesn’t mean seniors have less of an appetite; in fact, a loss of appetite could signal some serious health problems. There are other reasons why it may appear that a senior has lost his or her appetite – such as a decreased sense of taste or dental issues. That’s why it’s important for seniors to weigh themselves on a regular basis and monitor any sudden weight loss.

  1. Seniors Need Fewer Nutrients Because Their Metabolism Slows Down

It’s true that seniors generally need fewer calories than younger people. At the same time, older adults need more of certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D and B12. As people age, their ability to absorb these vitamins and minerals decreases, so they need to take in more from food.

  1. By 65, it’s Too Late to Follow a Healthy Lifestyle

There’s never an age when it’s too late to make healthy changes to your diet or lifestyle. For example, you can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and by becoming more physically active. Studies have even shown that a person who makes lifestyle changes after suffering a heart attack are at less risk of suffering another attack. Indeed, one of the more dangerous senior nutrition myths is the notion that there’s no benefit to changing your lifestyle past a certain age.

  1. If You’re Not Overweight You Can Eat What You Want

Being overweight clearly increases the risks of chronic illnesses, but a poor diet can increase your risk of these illnesses even if you’re at a healthy weight. Following a healthy nutritional plan is important regardless of your weight. Even seniors who are trying to gain weight should do so through a balanced diet, rather than filling themselves with foods that are high in fat, sugar, or salt, and low in nutrients.

  1. Eating Something Is Better Than Nothing

Another common misconception about senior nutrition is the notion that it’s better to give an older person only the foods they enjoy to encourage eating. But that could mean overindulging in fast food, easy-to-prepare frozen dinners and processed snacks that are loaded with sodium and unhealthy fats. Eating too much of these foods can lead to serious health issues, vitamin deficiencies, as well as excessive weight gain or loss.

  1. It’s OK to Skip a Meal if You’re Not Hungry

There are several reasons why it’s a bad idea to skip meals. First, skipping meals may lead to excessive consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor snacks between meals. Forgoing meals can also lead to unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar levels – which can fall too low when you don’t eat, and then spike to hazardous levels when you eat a big meal. Moreover, skipping meals can suppress appetite, leading to unhealthy weight loss and other health issues. Nutritional experts advise eating a big breakfast while making sure to eat something at every other mealtime.

  1. Senior Communities Have Bad Food

One of the common senior nutrition myths is the stereotype that senior living communities There may have been some truth to it in the days before assisted living communities weren’t available and nursing homes were highly institutionalized. Today, it’s not uncommon for assisted living communities to serve meals that could actually fall under the category of luxury dining and that provide all of the necessary nutritional benefits. If you’re in the process of selecting a senior community for yourself or a loved one, it’s a good idea to try out at least one meal at each community you tour.

  1. Dividing Meals In Half is a Smart Move

Leftovers can make cooking easier and help keep costs down, especially if you’re on a tight budget, but there are potential dangers to relying on leftovers, too. For example, meals delivered to an older person’s home are usually prepared to provide balanced nutrition. Dividing a meal in half can mean you’ll fall short on important nutrients. Moreover, storing leftovers for more than a day increases the risk of the food going bad. For an older person whose sense of smell has declined as they’ve aged, it can become harder to tell when food has spoiled, which raises the likelihood of food poisoning.

 

 

Domestic violence

At some point, most of us have worried about an elderly person we know – whether it’s a parent, family member, or acquaintance. And that concern may not just be for their overall health; it may also be about the type of care they’re receiving.

The fact is, elder abuse is far more common than people may think. Studies done by the Senate Special Committee on Aging show that there are as many as 5 millions victims of elder abuse each year. To put it in perspective, up to 5 percent of the elderly population in the U.S. has suffered abuse. Recognizing the different kinds of abuse, and the related signs, is of vital importance in addressing the problem..

All of the following are warning signs that a loved one or another elderly person you know may be suffering from some type of abuse.

  1. Physical Abuse

Bruises, broken bones, burns and abrasions are all indications of possible physical abuse or mistreatment. These signs can also indicate rough handling by caregivers during transfers or re-positioning, and could even indicate force-feeding.

Another common indicator that physical abuse may be occurring is when an elderly person’s caregiver offers odd explanations for the injuries. The elder may be reluctant to discuss the physical abuse, so it’s a good idea to take them aside and have them talk specifically about the injuries and how they got them.

  1. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can take the form of verbal abuse, so any type of verbal put-downs or aggression could be red flags. Other signs of emotional abuse include the person behind fearful or intimidated of the caregiver, or exhibiting unusual behavior such as rocking or biting. Also be aware of forced isolation imposed by the caregiver or family member, as well as any other threatening or controlling behavior.

  1. Sexual Abuse

Even discussing this issue is uncomfortable, but sexual abusers often target vulnerable people to victimize – and older adults can be perceived as easy to overpower. Signs of sexual abuse may include bruising around the breast and genital areas, vaginal or rectal bleeding, evidence of venereal disease, depressed or withdrawn behavior, and difficulty walking or standing.

  1. Neglect

Signs of neglect may be easier to detect than signs of abuse, but they are certainly no less serious. Is your elderly loved one experiencing unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration? All could be signs of neglect. But there many other potential signs, including:

  • Untreated medical problems
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Soiled bedding and clothes
  • A senior who is left dirty or unbathed
  • Clothing that’s unsuitable for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as no heat or running water, or glaring fire hazards
  1. Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is another common form of elder abuse. As the population ages and financial scammers can increasingly find their personal information online, it’s a crime that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Those signs include significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank accounts and investments, missing items or cash, suspicious changes in wills, policies, power of attorney designation or titles, unpaid medical bills, and unusual activity such as a withdrawal from an ATM when the account holder is confined to a home or facility, or bedridden.

  1. Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud and abuse is often closely related to financial exploitation and typically comes with it own warning signs. A prime example is duplicate billing for the same medical service and device, as well as evidence of either under-medication, over-medication, or both.

Another warning sign is any evidence of inadequate care, despite medical bills having been paid in full. Red flags at senior care facilities include insufficient and/or poorly trained staff or inadequate answers to questions about care.

  1. Self-neglect

Warning signs of an elderly person who is engaging in self-neglect are often similar to those of overall neglect. These include insufficient hygiene, unsuitable clothing, soiled bedding and clothing, a lack of interest in people and activities, apathy, or living in unsanitary conditions.

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The dynamics of elder abuse are similar to domestic violence in that the victim may be afraid to talk about it for fear of reprisal or further neglect. Or, in some cases, the victim may be unable to reach out for help due to physical or cognitive limitations or other reasons. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of mistreatment and carefully monitor your loved one’s care to ensure they don’t fall victim to this heinous crime.

 

 HomeSafety

As many seniors opt to age in place and live their golden years in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes, it’s natural for loved ones to want to ensure their safety when they can’t be around or when hiring a caregiver isn’t an option. The current slate of home automation devices in stores today offer practical solutions for keeping a helpful eye on seniors without feeling like an intrusion on their privacy. And since the gadgets available are so user-friendly, the high barrier to entry that once existed with products like Wi-Fi-enabled video cameras and smart home hubs no longer exists.

Today’s technological solutions are designed to be used right out of the box, meaning little installation is required. The days of dozens of cords and a novel-sized product manual are behind us. The seven home automation gadgets we’ve highlighted here not only provide ease of use, but peace of mind for seniors and their loved ones.

  1. Wi-Fi Video Camera

A Wi-Fi smart home camera allows seniors to verify that their homes and pets are safe while they’re away. For older adults living on their own, installing these cameras in a hallway, living room or any other space in the home will help family members keep a respectful eye on their aging loved one. The password-protected live stream of an Internet-connected video camera can be accessed on the camera’s website or a specially designed app. These cameras are particularly useful as an automatic communications device; many models have two-way audio to allow both the person in the room and the one watching remotely to speak to one another.

  1. Remote-Controlled Lighting

Thankfully, the era of the Clapper being the hottest thing in home lighting solutions is behind us. Now lights can be controlled via remote control, smartphone or even a smartwatch. Systems like the Lutron Caseta Lighting Kit let residents create schedules that adjust lights at specific times. The lights are also equipped to sense when a resident is approaching and illuminate at that moment, so there’s no need to shuffle around in the dark and potentially cause an accident.

  1. Smart Home Hub

Visions of yelling into a machine often pass through people’s minds when voice recognition products are mentioned. Yet, the technology has gotten so advanced that controlling any sort of voice-activated gadget is now more like speaking to someone sitting next to you, which is why home automation hubs like the Amazon Echo can be so effective for seniors at home. The device acts as the catch-all for activating things like streaming radio, audiobooks, getting the day’s weather report and even controlling other smart gadgets around the home.

  1. Automated Door Lock

Caregivers and extended family members may want to opt for a high-tech front door, as it allows them to control entry into the home without the old-school safety issues of leaving a key under the mat. Automated locks offer the ability to create unique digital codes for multiple users who need access, such as caregivers or other family members. The codes can also be changed at any time, which is a much easier solution than changing locks due to lost keys.

  1. Robot Vacuum

Lifting couches and crouching under beds to clean hard-to-reach places is a challenge that’s insurmountable for many elderly adults. Robotic cleaning gadgets eliminate the need for this.. Users can create schedules that signal when the vacuum should remove itself from its dock and start cleaning the floors. Most models automatically adjust as they move from carpet to hardwood to tile, so that every square inch of the floor is cleaned.

  1. Smart Smoke Detector

A smoke and carbon monoxide detector that requires little upkeep can be a dream come true for anyone who’s been woken by a detector that won’t stop chirping or who’s struggled to change a dead battery. A smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector like the Nest Protect lasts for up to a decade. It also helps cut down on false alarms while saving peace of mind by sending smartphone alerts should anything ever be amiss.

  1. Smart Sensors

Multi-purpose sensors can be used in all sorts of useful scenarios like detecting the buzz that signals the end of a washing machine cycle or a knock on the door. Elder caregivers and other family members will find it most useful for alerting when any doors or windows open, so that they can monitor who is coming into a house and, most importantly, when their loved one exits the house and returns safely home.

With smart technology now more user-friendly than ever, even seniors with little tech experience should find that home automation helps them age in place safely.

Kelly Schwarze writes about smart home technology, including how new products can improve the lives of seniors. Kelly provides her insight online for Home Depot. To research a large variety of smart home tech products, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

 

Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Mom always said to take our vitamins. We drank milk to make our bones strong and ate spinach to grow our muscles. Our growing bodies needed all of the strength they could get.

As adults, it’s just as important to keep up these healthy habits. Even if you take your vitamins regularly, after the long dark days of winter, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D is so crucial to our health that our body makes it all on its own. But there’s one important ingredient needed to do that —sunlight.

For years we have been hearing about the dangers of getting too much sun—wrinkles, sunspots and melanoma are only a few. But not getting enough sun has its dangers, too.

People who live in northern climates, those with dark skin or who spend too much time inside often do not receive enough of the sun’s rays to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D. And as an older adult, your skin doesn’t make as much of the vitamin on its own.

The Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D keeps bones healthy by increasing your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency causes bones to weaken and become soft. This is called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Soft bones are more likely to bend, deform and fracture. Aches and pains, particularly in combination with fatigue, are classic symptoms.

As an older adult, you have a greater risk of falling down. Strong bones are better able to withstand falls without breaking. A lack of vitamin D increases your risk of hip and other non-spinal fractures. With weak bones, a fall can turn into a life-altering disaster.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk for numerous serious diseases. The list includes breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and autoimmune disorders.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency was rare when we spent most of our days outside tending crops. Now that we spend most of our time indoors, we have to think about how we’re getting our vitamin D. You may be at risk if:

  • You don’t get enough sun. If you live in a northern climate (above the line between Philadelphia and San Francisco) or spend most of your time indoors, you may not be getting enough of the sun’s rays.
  • You have dark skin. The pigment in your skin limits your body’s ability to capture vitamin D.
  • You’re obese. If you have a BMI over 30, your body is less efficient at creating vitamin D.
  • You don’t eat enough foods with vitamin D. Vegans are particularly at risk. Vitamin D is rare in food, but you can find it in animal-based foods like egg yolks, cheese, fish and fish oils, fortified milk and beef liver.
  • You have a digestive disease. If you have Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or celiac disease, your intestines can’t properly absorb the vitamin D from food.
  • You’re over 65. As we age, our bodies produce less vitamin D, even with regular sun exposure.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

You could get vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to sunlight. Without sunscreen, it doesn’t take much. The problem is that it’s easy to overdose. Too much sun is not only painful—it also increases your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Your other options are food and supplements.

  • Vitamin-rich food. Vitamin D is rare in food. Your best source is fish and shellfish—oil fish like salmon, halibut, cod and tuna are best. Egg yolks are a source of vitamin D, but they also contain nearly a day’s quota of cholesterol. Keep an eye out for milk, orange juice and cereals that are vitamin D fortified.
  • Most people require supplements to get the vitamin D they need. Read the labels carefully so you don’t get too little or too much. Make a note of how many other vitamins are in the supplements before you take them. Cod liver oil is a rich source, but it has too much vitamin A for regular use. A doctor may suggest you get tested to determine whether you’re vitamin D deficient and to see how much you need.

Stay Strong and Healthy

As an older adult, it’s essential to stay on top of the changes occurring in your body. Talk with your doctor and make sure your vitamin D levels are where they should be. Vitamin D deficiency can be subtle, but its effects can be devastating. Vitamin D keeps your bones healthy. The stronger your bones are, the stronger you’ll be.

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Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

 

Veterans Saluting

If you’re a U.S. military veteran who is planning for your own long-term senior care or the care of an aging loved one who is a veteran, you’ve probably considered whether VA benefits could help cover the costs of that care. If this is the case, you’re in good company. According to a 2012 census figures, more than 12.4 million veterans over the age of 65 live in the U.S.. With the average annual senior care costs ranging from $17,680 to $92,378 for care ranging from adult day health care to private nursing homes each year, financial help is essential.

What Are Aid and Attendance Benefits?

The costs of long-term care add up quickly. VA benefits like the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help significantly, even if the veteran’s income is above the limit for a pension. For eligible veterans and their spouses, the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help cover the costs of a variety of types of senior care, including assisted living, in-home care, and nursing home care.

The VA pays Aid and Attendance Benefits to a veteran in addition to monthly pension benefits. These benefits are also paid to survivors of veterans who have been collecting death pensions. Aid and Attendance Benefits may add $700 each month for veterans and $500 per month for survivors. This type of benefit is available for veterans who have served 90 days or more, one of those days being during a time of war.

Who is Eligible for Aid and Attendance Benefits?

These benefits are set aside for individuals who require assistance to perform daily activities, including bathing, feeding, dressing, and getting out of bed. It is also available for patients in nursing homes, those who are blind, and those who are undergoing treatment for a disability. Eligibility depends on whether the veteran is receiving a VA pension or if the veteran’s survivors are receiving a death pension. Either party must provide a primary doctor’s report as evidence of a qualifying condition.

How to Apply for VA Benefits

Applying for veterans’ benefits starts by contacting the regional office for the VA where the veteran previously applied for a pension or the survivor filed for a death pension. The VA will place the veteran into a priority group and make contact when the claim has been filed.

Unfortunately, all too many veterans and their loved ones don’t know that there are benefits available to help pay for the costs of senior care. With these rates rising every year, VA benefits can make a significant difference in the type of care that aging veterans can afford. Housebound seniors and those who require consistent assistance should be aware that they may be eligible for these additional VA benefits.

 

 

 

<Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.

Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.

 

The thought of elders with dementia drafting poems may be difficult to imagine. However, for one woman who lost both of her parents to Alzheimer’s disease, turning dementia patients into poets has become her passion.

“When caring for my parents, I was like so many caretakers who are focused on whether their loved one is taking their medicine correctly, eating properly, staying clean and kept safe, but it never occurred to me at the time about what I could have been doing for them that was stimulating, intellectual, creative, and allowed them to feel good about themselves,” says Molly Middleton Meyer.

While attending graduate school for creative writing, Meyer’s mother passed away.

“People would ask what I was going to do with my master’s degree, and the truth is I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to give back something that I couldn’t give my parents,” she says. “I kept envisioning all the faces in memory care who I had come across while visiting my mother, and so many seemed stagnant.”

Meyer began researching art therapy as it relates to people with dementia. So began the makings of Mind’s Eye Poetry.

“I knew music was able to trigger memory and calm people, but I thought it wasn’t very intellectually stimulating. I wanted to give those with memory loss the ability to contribute, not just put headphones on and sink into themselves, but actually communicate with their fellow memory care residents, as well as possibly learn something,” she says.

Mind’s Eye Poetry’s mission is to engage elders in the writing process through guided hour-long sessions led by Meyer. She held her first poetry writing session in 2013 at an assisted living community in Dallas, Texas. Years later, she’s helped hundreds of people with dementia living in assisted living communities and nursing homes write more than 800 poems collectively.

A Typical Session

The poetry sessions are a unique break from the typical day in assisted living communities. Meyer begins by asking participants to think about a particular topic. “I may say, ‘Let’s talk about the ocean’, and see where it goes,” she says. “They’re so used to being talked to about routine mundane things like eating and changing that it’s out of the ordinary for them to have someone ask them to think about other things. Even the word ‘ocean’ will light up their faces and get the wheels turning.”

Meyer brings a bag of props, too. For instance, she may pull out a scarf and ask the elders to share how it relates to the ocean. “Someone may say ‘wind’ and then I’ll ask, ‘How does the wind feel by the ocean?’ All the sudden we’re into a sensory realm. I’ll get answers like ‘it smells like ice cream on the beach’ or ‘I can hear children laughing,'” she says.

Part of the program includes reading poems related to the topic aloud.

“It’s scientifically proven that when people listen to poetry their brain reacts in a different way than if they just listen to someone talk, so I like them to hear the symbolism and metaphors, and even if they don’t really understand it all, their brains are hearing different language than they normally do day to day,” she says.

Meyer asks participants a variety of open-ended questions. From their responses, she creates short poems that she reads back to them.

“This is when the whole empowerment piece comes into play, which is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve given to people. When I read the poems back to them that they helped contribute to there are physical indications that they’re feeling empowered. They sit up straighter, lean in, talk to each other,” she says.

Each group creates three or more poems, depending on the stage of their dementia. Afterwards, Meyer types out their work and sends it to the communities. “The poems have a life that goes beyond the session. I’ve seen some places make scrap books or frame them so the elders can share them with family.”

Meyer says that while the finished poems are phenomenal, the process is just as rewarding.

“It’s really about getting people to relate, think and be empowered, as well as add joy to their day,” she says.

Get Poetic with Your Loved One

If your loved one’s assisted living facility doesn’t offer this type of program or they still live on their own or with you, Meyer says you can help them get the creative juices flowing.

“You don’t have to be a poet. You just have to ask open-ended questions and care about elevating a conversation,” she says.

After asking the typical questions about taking medication, eating and sleeping, Meyer suggests asking more engaging question like “What’s your favorite flower?”

“Maybe your parent says, ‘A yellow rose.’ Then you can ask, ‘Why yellow?’ All the sudden you have something to write down,” she says.

Another way to engage your loved one is to show them items from their home such as a quilt, picture, or piece of art. “Have them look at it, touch it and smell it, and ask what they think about when they do so, then start writing and read it back to them,” she says.

While this may be a change of a mindset for you, Meyer says, “try to get off the caregiver road and just be with your parent.”

If your loved one doesn’t want to participate, Meyer suggests telling them you want to hear more about them and how they feel, or try again another time.

“It’s okay if you only get a few lines the first time,” says Meyer. “The point is that you’re allowing them to engage in a way that gets them away from the day to day of living with dementia.”

 

Nurse Pushing Old Man On Wheelchair In Hospice

Committing to an assisted living community is a big decision. And chances are, your parent isn’t jumping at the opportunity, even if you think it’s their best move. The good news? Today there are a number of options that allow your mom or dad to test-drive communities to get a feel for how each place runs and to figure out whether it’s a good fit for them. Below are a few ways to test the waters.

Take a Tour

After you’ve pinned down some communities that seem like a good fit financially, you should tour the communities yourself without your parent, says Lisa Mayfield of Washington-based geriatric care management company Aging Wisdom.

“This way you can narrow it down to the top two places you like rather than dragging your parent all over the place, which can be exhausting and hard for them to remember one community from another,” said Mayfield. “Also, if you take them along initially, and the first place you go to is a bomb, then it can be discouraging and reinforce their hesitations.”

After you’ve determined your own top picks, it’s time to take your parent on a tour.

“It’s necessary for the parent to tour. They’ll see things differently than you will and you want them to want to move there,” says Debbie Feldman, a geriatric care manager in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Typically, the visits last an hour and a half to two hours, and you can expect a marketing or salesperson from the community to tell you about the pricing structure, activities, and meals before you tour the different apartment options, dining room, and activity rooms.

Make sure to tour during a mealtime. “Not only do you want to taste the food, but everyone is assembled in the dining room, so it’s a good time to observe the type of people who are living there–if they’re cognitively and functionally similar to your parent,” says Mayfield.

Here are some other things to check off your list during tours:

  • Ask if the community will refund the admission fee, if your parent decides to leave.
  • Request to meet the nurse. “I think the nurse is the most important person in the building. Talk to her about any special needs your parent has and ask her how long she’s worked there,” Mayfield recommends.
  • Meet the community’s activity director and ask to see a calendar of activities, as well as observe an activity.
  • Pay attention to the ambiance. “Is the lobby active and are families in and out or does it feel like a ghost town?” says Mayfield, noting that while the condition of the building is important, most seniors aren’t sold based on whether it’s new and fancy. “Most older adults live in homes they haven’t changed or updated in years and they’re living modestly. They may not feel comfortable in a glitzy, brand new building. Find a match suited for your parent — not what you would want,” she says.
  • Take pictures of the outside of the building and inside the apartments, so you can remember each place after you leave.

Try Out Respite Care

Many assisted living facilities offer temporary stays, of up to a few days to several weeks. This option is referred to as respite care and gives your parent the chance to stay on the premises and try out everything the facility has to offer.

During respite stays, your parent will typically be billed for rent and services for the time he or she stays, but won’t have to pay the onetime admission or community fee of permanent residency, which can cost as much as $3,000 or more.

While some adjusting will take place, Mayfield says, “they’ll use the facility’s furnished apartment, so it’s more like staying in a hotel, which is a little easier and less stressful than having to move their own stuff in.”

Feldman notes that respite care is different from adult day care, which is usually not set in an assisted living community. “Adult day care is really set up for people who have dementia and other cognitive issues, and whose caretakers need a place for them to go during the day,” said Feldman. “This kind of environment is intended to engage elders during the day, so that when they go home, they tend to eat better and sleep better.”

Stay for the Short-Term

Many assisted living communities offer month-to-month lease arrangements in addition to long-term contracts. This offers similar advantages to respite care.

“The hope it that your parent realizes it’s not as bad as they thought,” says Mayfield. “However, there is a chance that if they stay and hate it, then they may not ever want to consider assisted living again.”

With this in mind, Mayfield recommends short-term stays only for people who are really reluctant to make the move. “It can take three to six months or up to a year to adjust to a community, so short periods of time aren’t enough to really get acclimated,” she said.

However, if circumstances require that your parent move into a facility immediately, a short-term stay can prevent you from having to choose a community based solely on what’s available–many popular assisted living communities have wait-lists for certain types of rooms or for the entire facility.

In the long run, this option may also make more sense financially. While month-to-month rates may not seem like the best deal, if you’re forced to move your parent into assisted living on short notice, going with a short-term stay can buy you the time you need to make a full assessment of your financial situation and choose a community that your family can afford.

While moving your parent to another facility could cost you to lose the community fee, Mayfield notes, “at most places that is pretty nominal in relation to the big picture.”

As you’ve gotten older, you may have noticed that your balance and the muscle mass needed for strong bones and balance is not what it used to be. Deteriorating posture due to spinal degeneration, weakening muscles, and an overall loss of balance can cause nasty falls. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three older adults suffers a fall each year.

Falls can be hugely detrimental, causing broken hips and head injuries that limit your mobility and change your lifestyle. Luckily, regular exercise can help improve balance and posture enough to help keep falls at bay. Older adults can also recover some muscle mass with the right training. Regular physical activity can help prevent stroke, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, among other chronic illnesses. Weight-bearing training also helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.

What’s more, the endorphins released during a workout can lift your mood and help alleviate anxiety. But what type of exercise is ideal for older adults? You should be looking at activities that are not overly strenuous and that incorporate balance, strength and endurance training. Below are some great exercise ideas for seniors

 

1. Walking

power walk

One of the most universal and necessary exercises, the simple act of walking can help you make big strides toward better health. Walking can improve your endurance as well as your circulation and cardiovascular health. The endurance that you gain from walking should also help prevent falls.

If you’re not a big walker already, start out with a 2 to 5-minute walk several times per day, until you’re able to walk for 30 minutes per session. Aim to do your 30-minute sessions at least four times per week. If you have bad balance, try to walk indoors on flat surfaces initially. Venture outdoors along an uneven terrain as your balance and endurance improves. Increase your 30-minute sessions until you reach a 60-minute daily walking session.

 

2. Seated March

Seated march
The seated march is another great exercise for balance. While seated in a chair, start marching your feet in place for about 20 times. You feet should be raised a few inches off of the floor with each step. Try to maintain an upright posture during this exercise.

 

3.Upright Front Row

upright row
This exercise helps build muscle mass and increases upper arm and back strength. This should then improve mobility in your shoulders, which will ultimately improve your posture and overall balance. While standing, position your feet slightly apart and bend your knees slightly. Grab two light dumbbells and hold them in front of you. Raise the dumbbells to chin level and keep your stomach in. Complete 10 lifts.

 

4. Sit-Backs

Sit-backs
Sit-backs are great for strengthening your stomach muscles, which can help you prevent falls when rising from a sitting position. Sitting on a folded towel or a gym mat, bend you knees and bend your elbows, with the palms of your hands supporting the back of your head. Carefully move backwards as you focus on your stomach muscles. Then slowly pull yourself back into the initial upright position. Repeat 10 times.

 

5. Wall Half-Squat

wall half-squat

This exercise is ideal for strengthening your hip flexors, which can help reduce falls. It also strengthens the quadriceps, which will help improve your walking and balance. Lean against a wall with both legs bent and apart wider than your shoulders. Slowly slide down the wall, making sure that your knees aren’t bent over your toes, then slide back up to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

 

6. Leg Lifts

leg lifts
Leg lifts are ideal for improving your balance and overall circulation. In a standing position, bend your knee at 90 degrees as you raise your right leg for a few seconds. Your foot should be raised not more than 10 inches from the floor. Repeat 10 times, then do the same for your left leg.

 

 

 

Senior woman meeting with agent

 

Deciding whether it’s time for aging parents to stop living alone can be difficult. You don’t want to wait too long until after a major incident has occurred and done irreversible harm, but sometimes the early signs of a growing problem can be subtle. To make sure your parents get the care they need when they need it, keep an eye out for the following signs that your aging parents should  no longer live alone.

1. Difficult recoveries

If your aging parent’s last brush with illness or injury led to a longer-than-usual recovery, this can be a strong indication that their health is starting to fail. As we age, we lose our ability to bounce back from poor health. This is important to take into account, as even a mild injury or ailment can become a long-term drain on an elderly person’s well being. To avoid these types of lengthy recoveries and their detrimental impacts, it might be a good idea to start looking at alternatives to living alone.

2. Signs of dementia

Any sign of dementia should be taken extremely seriously. Forgetfulness, losing track of events or items or general disorientation can all spell danger for your aging parent without the proper supervision and help. It only takes a moment for a forgotten stove burner to start a major fire, for example.

If you even slightly suspect that your parent might be suffering from the early stages of dementia, you owe it to them to help them seek diagnosis, treatment and the proper senior care, whether assisted living, in-home care, or another daily care arrangement.

3. Recent accidents

There are a lot of little accidents that might not mean much on their own but can combine to paint a worrisome picture for elders living alone. For example, if you notice new dings and dents on your parent’s car, it’s probably time to join them on a ride to see how their driving looks.

If they’ve become prone to falls or stumbles, they may need help getting around the house or may need to move to an easier-to-navigate home. If you see signs that accidents are becoming a regular occurrence in your parent’s life, it might be time to talk about outside assistance.

4. Weight fluctuations

If your parent is experiencing serious changes in their weight, you should keep a close eye on how they’re doing. This includes both weight loss or gain, as either one can herald a host of health problems, psychiatric issues, or neurological problems, especially if there’s no easy explanation for the change. Difficulties preparing the same meals they used to make routinely or getting as much exercise as they previously did should be taken as warning signs.

5. Poor hygiene and personal care

If a parent who previously paid close attention to their appearance begins to slack on fixing their hair, makeup or other normal grooming before leaving the house, it may be a sign of deteriorating physical or mental health. You should also be alert to changes in hygiene; if your parent is no longer brushing their teeth, bathing regularly, or washing their clothes, it’s a huge red flag. These problems will only grow worse with time, and can complicate, encourage, or create health issues if left unaddressed.

6. Social withdrawal

If your parent has suddenly begun making excuses to avoid social outings, stopped attending church, hasn’t seen friends in a while, or has otherwise shown signs of social withdrawal, you should pay attention. Not only will getting out less worsen or exacerbate their general well being, it’s a potential sign of cognitive decline or depression.

Normally people do not, as a rule, stop socializing without reason—and in most cases, the underlying reason is something you should be worried about. The health benefits and social engagement of assisted living or a home care companion can be exactly what a withdrawn parent needs to return to their normal social activities and start thriving again.

7. Financial problems

When you visit your parent, do you spot unpaid bill warning notices in the mail? Do you have to help your parents make ends meet where they previously had no problems? These can be signs of deteriorating health and may indicate that the time for living alone has ended, as forgetfulness, apathy, and other problems begin to take a serious toll on their bank account. In some cases, forgotten expenses, scams, and other issues can add up to larger financial problems.

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You should think long and hard about the best interests of your aging parents and the rest of your family when considering senior care options. It’s better to have these conversations with your parent early on. That way, you can honestly discuss the potential pitfalls associated with living alone and the perils of ignoring them before any cognitive problems develop.

 

Senior Man Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

One day you get a call informing you that you’ve won a cash prize, or an invitation to buy into an investment that outperforms the market, or an email telling you that your medical insurer needs your insurance ID. Scenarios like these should raise red flags. While some of the time they may be legitimate, oftentimes these are scams.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do unscrupulous scammers.

“The stereotype is that older adults have more money,” says Brandy Bauer, communications manager for economic security at the National Council on Aging. “That, coupled with the perception that seniors are in cognitive decline, means that older people are a target for economic exploitation.”

Falling victim to a scam can have real consequences. Seniors are often living on a fixed income and don’t have the time to recover and rebuild their savings should fraud lead to a large financial loss, says Bauer.

That said, for many of these scams to work, scammers want you to hand over your personal information. Knowing the red flags to look out for can help you avoid giving out the information they desperately need, protecting you and your assets from falling into the wrong hands.

“The key to avoiding many scams is to stay educated and to continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious activity,” says Liz Loewy, former chief of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who is now senior vice president for industry relations at EverSafe a service that helps protect seniors from fraud and identity theft.

When in doubt about whether an offer or request is legitimate, it’s best to have a trusted family member or friend take a look, Loewy says.

“It never hurts to have a trusted advocate serve as a second set of eyes,” she says.

What follows are some of the most common scams targeting seniors today.

1. Phone Scams
Scams that take place over the phone are one of the most common types to affect seniors. Some current schemes include people posing as IRS agents to collect personal information (the IRS does not contact you over the phone) and scammers pretending to be technicians from computer companies claiming to have detected a problem with your computer. With little way of verifying a caller’s identify, avoid giving out any personal information over the phone.

Once on the phone, it can be hard for many seniors to say no to caller requests. To avoid being put in an uncomfortable position in the first place, consider screening calls on cell phones and landlines with caller ID. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t pick up.

2. Medicare and Health Insurance Scams
Beware of people posing as medical professionals who request your medical information over the phone or online. Scammers can use your health insurance ID number and other personal information to fraudulently bill Medicare or insurance companies. In the meantime, you could get saddled with copays and percentage-based fees for care you never received.

Also be wary of companies selling durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and claims that they’re covered by Medicaid. Since Medicaid has strict rules about which agencies you can use to acquire medical equipment, oftentimes this type of equipment is not actually covered.

Don’t provide your medical information to anyone unless you are 100 percent sure you know who you’re talking to. Review your insurance statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

3. Internet and Email Scams
Watch out for pop-ups on your computer, phone or tablet that ask you to download things like virus protection software. Ironically, you may actually be downloading a virus that will mine your computer for personal data.

Similarly, you may receive official-looking emails telling you to download something or click on an unknown link. “Phishing” scammers often use this tactic, and once you click, the scammer is given a porthole into the information stored on your computer. What’s worse, sometimes simply opening these emails is enough to give scammers access to your data.

Before opening any emails, make sure they’re from a legitimate source that you recognize. In general, before entering any personal information online, look for a padlock symbol in your browser bar (near the URL) or a web address that includes HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. Any information you type into a website that includes these markers is encrypted and protected by the website.

4. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Scammers may inform you that you’re the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery prize, and that all you have do to claim your prize is pay a processing fee or taxes upfront. They may go so far as to send a fake check for you to cash, knowing that it will take a few days for your bank to reject it. In the meantime, the fraudster can pocket your money and disappear.

5. Investment Schemes
Seniors managing their finances after retirement may encounter investments that sound too good to be true. That’s because a lot of the time, they are. Investments that purport to be a limited-time offer or claim returns that are higher than the market—think the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme—should raise red flags for any investor. Make sure you fully understand any kind of investment you’re considering participating in.

6. Asset Recovery Scams
An insidious and increasingly common scheme, asset recovery scams target older adults who have already been the victim of a scam. For example, a perpetrator might contact a senior taken in by a timeshare scam, promising to help the senior recover some of their lost money. The scammers then collect personal information from the senior that gives them access to the senior’s finances — victimizing them twice.

7. Social Media Scams
Increasingly, seniors are on social media, and that means a lot of their personal information is readily available to the public. If you’re on social media, scammers may find photographs of friends and family members, gathering names and other information. Then they contact you, claiming that one of the people you know is in some kind of financial trouble and needs you to send them money. Protect your information on social media by changing privacy settings so that only family and friends can view your profile.

8. Charity Scams
During the end of the year, the holiday season, or after a well-publicized disaster, some scammers try to take advantage of seniors’ charitable instincts by soliciting money for bogus organizations. Before giving, make sure to vet all charities to make sure they are legitimate and that your money will actually go to help those in need.