Archive for the ‘Senior Living News’ Category Ranks In the Top 1,000 Companies in the Inc. 5000 is thrilled to announce that the company has been recognized in the prestigious Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list for 2014. To qualify for inclusion, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2010, and rankings are based on revenue growth from 2013 as compared to 2010 revenue. lands at No. 678, representing a growth of 670 percent in the three-year period between 2010 and 2013.Inc. 5000 logo

This is an exciting accomplishment, as the Inc. 5000 is a widely-respected and recognized ranking of privately-owned companies that has catapulted many brands to widespread success in the past. Brands that are now household names, such as Domino’s Pizza, Dell, Yelp and many others, were recognized in the Inc. 5000 while they were still startups with tons of potential.

There are a few factors contributing to this success. First, a growing elderly population and increasing numbers of family caregivers mean there are more people navigating the at-times-confusing landscape of senior housing and senior care. Companies like provide a valuable, free service to these families who aren’t sure where to turn for help or how to begin their search. Second, has worked hard to cultivate and maintain a positive, supportive company culture throughout phases of rapid growth and the inevitable challenges that statups face along the path to success.

“When people talk about the Inc. 5000, they talk about innovation,” says Chris Rodde, CEO of “At, we emphasize a company culture that motivates our already-exceptional team to reach higher and achieve more. We try to cultivate an environment in which our team feels empowered to develop and pursue ideas that drive our company forward – a difficult thing to achieve in the modern business world – and that’s where true innovation lies, in the power of the collective.”

Our exceptional team is comprised of: compassionate and talented Care Advisors working with seniors and caregivers every day; expert writers who provide valuable content to help seniors and their families understand the many complexities of senior housing, senior care and aging; developers who work tirelessly to build and maintain the comprehensive national database and community rating system; and the many supporting staff members who handle various important tasks day in and day out. We all work together in a supportive and collaborative environment to ensure that provides the best possible resources and services for the aging population.

All of this, of course, works in tandem to further the mission and realize the vision of our executive leadership team, who are responsible for cultivating a culture in which every employee feels valued and empowered to thrive. So far, it’s proven to be a winning combination, and we look forward to many more successes in the future as we continue to implement new ideas and find more innovative ways to provide valuable services to seniors and their loved ones.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of!

Marijuana Laws Throw a Monkey Wrench in Senior Living Operations

The legalization of marijuana for medicinal use has created some interesting challenges for the senior living industry, only further complicated by the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington State.

With state and federal laws clashing in states which have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, senior living operators in these states must carefully craft policies to minimize legal risk. And that, it seems, is no simple matter. Medical marijuana challenges assisted living

While the Obama Administration has taken the stance that the federal government will not—and federal prosecutors should not—penalize prescribing physicians or approved patients or caregivers in states which have passed laws legalizing marijuana, it’s unclear what the future holds and presently, the government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. That means it’s deemed to have a high potential for addiction and has “no currently accepted medical use.”

Senior living providers are taking approaches ranging across the spectrum, with some permitting the use of medicinal marijuana but not centrally storing or dispensing it as they would another prescription medication. In this case, residents using marijuana for medicinal purposes must have a caregiver who can assist and obtain it via a third-party, outpatient provider — but these circumstances aren’t free of obstacles, either.

For some providers, the risk is too great to take, and they opt to prohibit the use of medical marijuana within their communities altogether to play it safe.It’s an interesting landscape that’s sure to change in the coming years, and will likely be a heavily-debated issue in the next presidential election. Until then, the policies of individual senior living providers are the determining factor in whether it’s possible to use marijuana for medical purposes as a resident in a senior living community.

For more on this widely-debated issue and where the current regulations stand, check out our article on the impacts of the legalization of marijuana on the senior living industry.





Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate: Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs in the Elderly a Growing Concern

You’ve probably heard devastating news stories about teens with promising futures dying of drug overdoses. No one likes to hear these stories, yet they’re becoming all-too common in society today.

What we don’t hear about is prescription drug abuse and other illicit drug use among senior citizens, yet it’s a growing problem that shouldn’t be ignored. Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly

In fact, the misuse of prescription medications can be even more dangerous in the elderly due to physiological and psychological changes that occur with aging that make seniors more vulnerable to overdoses. A slower metabolism and lower body water content, for example, mean higher concentrations of substances in the body, which can lead to an overdose even with lower doses of medication than what typically leads to an overdose.

A recent article in USA Today shed light on what is a problematic practice in the healthcare community with dangerous consequences: Many seniors suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, and other age-related issues, and physicians readily — perhaps too readily — prescribe narcotics and anti-anxiety medications to provide symptomatic relief. But when multiple doctors begin prescribing painkillers, and seniors develop a tolerance to their medications, self-medicating with higher doses to achieve the same symptomatic relief is an easy solution to the immediate problem. What many seniors don’t realize, however, is that they’re creating a dangerous physical and even psychological dependence on prescription drugs.

Faced with the choice between suffering and the possibility of easy relief, most of us would choose the latter. For more information about the rising incidence of prescription drug misuse in older adults, what to look for if you suspect a loved one is misusing prescription medications, and why seniors are sometimes more likely to develop an addiction, read our article, “Prescription Drug and Substance Abuse Among Seniors on the Rise.”

Assisted Living Costs Out of Reach? Apply for a Silver Scholarship

Senior housing costs have skyrocketed in the past several years, leaving many families worried about how they’ll cover the costs of assisted living or independent living for themselves or an aging loved one. In fact, studies have shown that many people believe that Medicaid will cover the costs of senior housing.

In reality, Medicaid will cover only the cost of nursing home care under specific circumstances, and in most cases, only after the resident’s personal finances have been depleted. Personal assets such as real estate are sometimes considered assets as well, making selling the family home to cover the cost of long-term care a very real possibility for many.

Senior living costs are out of reach for many

If you plan ahead, you might be able to work these costs into your retirement fund or obtain long-term care insurance. While more people are becoming aware of the eventual costs they’ll likely face as they age, many of today’s seniors didn’t have the advantage of planning ahead and are therefore left without a financial cushion or option to fall back on when the time comes to consider moving to senior housing.

With the cost of living rising rapidly in many parts of the country, coupled with longer life expectancies, it’s becoming increasingly common for seniors to outlive their savings.

The Silver Scholarship Foundation offers financial help to seniors in need

The Silver Scholarship Foundation

One non-profit organization aims to help seniors facing these circumstances. The Silver Scholarship Foundation’s vision is to “eliminate the care versus cost dilemma faced by many older adults,” raising money via public grants and charitable fundraising to help aging adults cover the costs for essential care and services they need but simply cannot afford.

The Silver Scholarship Foundation offers funding to approved seniors to cover costs such as:

  • Private pay companions
  • Rent and/or utilities
  • Food
  • Home health care
  • Assisted living
  • Residential dementia care

How do you qualify for a Silver Scholarship?

To qualify for a Silver Scholarship, individual applicants must be at least 65 years old, and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Require a higher level of care than currently received, such as Memory Care, but unable to afford the upgrade.
  • Nearing a financial crisis with financial resources totaling less than six months’ living expenses.
  • Considering moving out of Assisted Living or having recently moved out due to inability to cover costs.
  • A wartime Veteran or the spouse of a wartime Veteran waiting for an Aid and Attendance pension to be processed.

Florida senior living communities may apply for Silver Star Certification Silver Star Certification

Senior living communities in Florida can also apply to become “Silver Star Certified,” meaning current and future residents are eligible to receive a Silver Scholarship financial grant to help cover the cost of care in part or in full. Through this effort, The Silver Scholarship Foundation helps to remove the “need versus cost” obstacle facing many seniors today.

Silver Star Certification is more than just an acknowledgement that residents may participate in The Silver Scholarship Foundation’s financial assistance programs, but also indicates that the community meets The Silver Scholarship Foundation’s quality of care standards. Certification is awarded after a careful review of previous state inspection surveys, a review of any complaints issued against the community, references from residents, families, and senior living professionals, and a walk-through of the community by representatives of The Silver Scholarship Foundation.

Applicants screened on multiple factors

Applicants are screened based on a variety of factors, such as savings, the potential costs of required care, home ownership, recurring medical expenses, VA eligibility, work history, social security income and pensions, long-term care insurance policies, current living costs and more. The screening process is designed to reserve funds for seniors who are truly in need and are out of options to cover the cost of care.

The initial application is simple to fill out; you can find it here. Once approved, applicants will receive a financial grant in a predetermined amount.

The Florida-based non-profit is 501(c)(3) status pending, and at present is accepting applications from residents from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in Florida. If you’re located in another area, don’t worry: New areas open for application will be announced over time, and you can keep checking here for updates.

What if you need help now?

If you’re not a Florida resident located in one of the areas presently being served by The Silver Scholarship Foundation, you do have other options. Check out our Senior Finance Center for dozens of articles on paying for senior living, what to expect in terms of the long-term care costs, and alternative financing options such as reverse mortgages and life settlements.


Images via The Silver Scholarship Foundation

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Roommates Aren’t Just for Dorm Rooms: Seniors Find Companionship and Save Cash by Sharing Spaces

The rate at which seniors are becoming roommates is on the rise. They’re not exactly sharing chemistry notes and frat house addresses, but seniors are participating in homesharing programs being offered across the nation to be able stay in their homes and save money. The companionship they find is an added bonus. According to an AP story, “agencies that put such seniors together say the need appears to be growing as baby boomers age and struggle to deal with foreclosures, property taxes and rising rents.”

In most cases, elderly women who have been divorced or widowed need help with the upkeep of their house or apartment and have an extra room. So, they reach out to agencies specializing in homesharing to find somebody to live with who will pay rent. In some cases, people will barter for household help such as grocery shopping, housecleaning and repair work rather than charge rent; but, recently people have been in search of financial aid so they can keep their homes and remain a part of their community.

And, the companionship home sharers gain in the process is a definite plus. According to Kirby Dunn, executive director of Homeshare Vermont in Burlington, “Independence is great but isolation as we age is a growing concern, so companionship can be almost life-altering. People are telling us they’re happier, sleeping better, eating better.” Some homesharing matches find a lifelong friend and others find someone they can trust and respect while sharing living space. They may not all be Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia, but the home sharers definitely are finding a solution to a potential housing crisis.

Various agencies across the country are helping people find housemates, whether they live in apartments or houses. Most offer services that include matching people to ideal candidates through screening processes to determine compatibility, much like those of online dating sites. And, seniors are taking advantage of those services offered by agencies because it is more efficient and safer than posting notices in local stores, paying for advertisements in newspapers, or posting online to sites such as Craigslist. While not a comprehensive list, the agencies listed below are some of the most reputable and successful in the country.

HomeShare Vermont

A small non-profit organization based out of Burlington, VT, HomeShare Vermont already has helped nearly 100 people remain in their home and found affordable housing for 83 people so far in the 2014 fiscal year. Operating since 1982 (formerly known as Project Home), HomeShare Vermont has 14 staff volunteers who contribute to the screening and matching process. HomeShare Vermont prides themselves on tailoring their services to individuals and remaining actively involved with their matches to offer assistance as their needs change or any challenges arise. HomeShare Vermont requires a one-time non-refundable $30 processing fee for all applicants and charges a Match Fee based on a sliding scale, depending on income. HomeShare also resizes to deny services to individuals who cannot afford their fees; fees can be reduced or waived in cases of hardship. While their primary goal is to help elders remain in their home, they do not have any age, ability or income restrictions in their services. They have found “that people of all ages and abilities can benefit from homesharing.”

Open Communities

Open Communities’ Homesharing program matches residents in the north suburbs of Chicago who have extra rooms with renters who need them. They have facilitated more than 700 matches since 1985 through their free, award-winning shared housing program. Open Communities’ Homesharing is ideal for homeowners, renters, and older adults with disabilities. Their screening process includes prescreening both homeowners and renters and includes getting to know applicants’ personalities, living habits, and expectations. To take part in the Open Communities Homesharing program, homeowners must have a separate bedroom to rent and be willing to share kitchen and laundry facilities. Renters are required to have a minimum monthly income of $1,000 and excellent references.

New York Foundation for Senior Citizens

The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens is dedicated to helping New York seniors enjoy life by remaining in their own homes and communities and avoiding being prematurely institutionalized. The Foundation’s free Home Sharing Program links adult “hosts” who have extra bedrooms in their homes or apartments with appropriate adult “guests” to share their space. At least one of the housemates must be age 60 or over, or the program will match “hosts” age 55 and over with developmentally disabled adult “guests” capable of independent living. The Foundation’s Professional Social Work staff screen all applicants and use QUICK-MATCH, a unique database to help them find the most compatible matches by inputting 31 lifestyle objectives. Once matches have been determined, the staff schedule “match meetings” to facilitate potential hosts and guests in determining their compatibility and willingness to home share. The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens also reports that applications for homesharing through their program have tripled since 2008.

HIP Housing

HIP Housing has helped individuals in San Mateo County, California, live happier, more independent lives for more than 40 years. Their mission is to improve housing and the lives of people in their community and enable people with special needs, either from income or circumstance, to live independent, self-sufficient lives in decent, safe, low-cost homes. HIP Housing offers two types of Homesharing: rent exchange and service exchange. In rent exchange, a home provider is matched with a home seeker who pays rent. In service exchange, a home provider is matched with a home seeker who exchanges services in lieu of or for reduced rent. HIP Housing arranges for applicants to complete an interview and a screening process and offers other services including Personal Housing Coordinator, home visits to seniors and home-bound individuals, Facilitation of Living Together Agreements and more.

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center is Baltimore’s oldest nonprofit housing provider and has served over 118,000 families since 1968. With innovative and evolving programs, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center helps 3,000 low- and moderate-income families each year. The St. Ambrose Homesharing program matches homeowners offering an extra room in their home with someone looking for an affordable room to rent; the matches are based on varying levels of compatibility. Applicants can rest assured that their homesharing experience will be positive because St. Ambrose staff has years of experience and carefully screens each applicant through interviewing, background checking, and personal reference contacting. St. Ambrose homesharing staff also facilitate each homesharing contract and provides regular follow-up services while empowering home sharers to negotiate and create their own successful living arrangements. St. Ambrose operates in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Other homesharing resources:

Golden Girl Homes, Inc. - an organization dedicated to promoting and advancing shared housing, particularly for older women by providing information about shared housing and creating networking opportunities for women

HomeSharing, Inc. – an organization in New Jersey providing homesharing solutions in Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Morris and Union counties

National Shared Housing Resource Center (NSHR) - a clearinghouse of information for people looking to find a shared housing organization in their community, or for people looking to begin a program in their area

Image via Flickr by Arlington County
Post by Angela Stringfellow

Cynics Beware: Your Attitude Might Triple Your Dementia Risk, Study Says

People with a cynical attitude might be placing their health at risk, according to research published in the May 28, 2014 issue of Neurology®, which is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Cynicism linked to brain health

Specifically, this study finds that individuals who are generally distrusting of others and those with a cynical outlook have triple the risk of developing dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, compared to their less-cynical counterparts. Cynical distrust is the belief that people are generally self-serving and motivated only by selfish desires, and it’s an attitude that’s been associated with other health problems, such as heart disease, in previous research. 

This latest study, supported by the University of Eastern Finland, the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and the Swedish Society for Medical Research and the Finnish National Graduate School of Clinical Investigation, finds a clear link between cynicism and brain health, based on the results of tests for dementia and questionnaires designed to measure the level of cynicism given to 1,449 participants.

Are you cynical?

The questionnaire, proven to be reliable and producing consistent results in the same individuals over a several-year period, asks participants whether they agree with statements such as:

  • “I think most people would lie to get ahead.”
  • “It is safer to trust nobody.”
  • “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.”

A total of 622 participants completed two tests for dementia, with the last test given eight years after the study began. Forty-six participants were diagnosed with dementia during that period.

After adjusting for other factors that could have contributed to the risk of developing dementia, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking, the results showed that those who scored high on the cynicism test (deemed to have a high level of cynical distrust) were three times as likely to develop dementia as those with low levels of cynicism.

Mercola points out links between attitude and physical health

Dr. Mercola is no stranger to promoting the link between attitude and physical health, often touting the benefits of reduced stress and positive thoughts on overall well-being. In response to the study linking cynicism to brain health, he points out that prior research has also linked cynicism to other negative health impacts:

  • Women who have hostile and cynical outlooks are more likely to die prematurely than those with a positive outlook. They also have higher rates of death from coronary heart disease.
  • Cynical people have higher stress levels and often lack the positive social support systems compared to those with  positive attitudes.
  • Cynicism is associated with poor oral health.
  • Cynicism can slow the metabolism in middle age and beyond.

Drawing the logical conclusion between cynicism and poor health

It’s not difficult to draw a logical connection between cynicism and negative health consequences. Stress triggers a hormone known as the “stress” hormone, or cortisol, which sends the body into protection mode and conserves energy — in other words, preserves fat stores so that your body has energy resources should food become unavailable.

While that may be unlikely to actually occur, it’s a physiological response that humans have maintained through adaptation.This increased storage of fat contributes to weight gain and obesity, which of course is linked to diabetes, heart disease and all kinds of health concerns. And numerous studies have linked those very health conditions to an increased likelihood of developing dementia.

Being happy might not prevent dementia, but it sure can’t hurt

So it’s not difficult to draw a logical conclusion that a negative attitude is, in general, not a good thing for your body. While research hasn’t yet shown that any of these things actually cause dementia, only that the presence of one increases the odds that the same individual will eventually develop dementia, it’s probably safe to assume that having a more positive attitude can only benefit your physical health by reducing stress and making you more amenable to certain situations, such as a friend asking you to take a hike on a warm, sunny day.

Above all, though, life is generally more enjoyable when you approach it with a happy, healthy mindset. So if you’re feeling cynical, make an effort to lighten your mood. Participate in activities that tend to relax you and make you feel happy, like reading a book, taking a walk through the neighborhood, visiting a friend or volunteering at a local senior center. Make a concerted effort to focus on the good and you just might shift your general outlook on life. You’ll feel better when you stop focusing on the things that make you feel cynical, and your body and brain will thank you for it, too.

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Giving Male Caregivers the Credit They Deserve

1 in 9 Americans age 65 and older (11% of the population) has Alzheimer’s disease.  It is also estimated that among people age 71 and older, 16% of women have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, compared with only 11% of men.  Of the 5.2 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million, or two-thirds, are women. The numbers translate to millions of men being left to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia; the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate that more than 6 million men, almost twice as many as 15 years ago, are caring for someone with those types of cognitive diseases.


As Director of Family and Community Services of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Jan Dougherty has seen the toll caring for family members with Alzheimer’s takes on loved ones.  She characterizes the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s as a “life-altering experience for everyone impacted,” but she notes the distinct differences between male and female caregivers in “Recognizing Heroes at Home: Male Caregivers.”

1.    Processing an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Dougherty has seen women process an Alzheimer’s diagnosis on a more emotional level, while men process it more functionally.  While women need to understand and cope with the diagnosis and what it means for all parties involved, men see the diagnosis as a problem and immediately try to find a solution.

2.    Coping with the Stress of Caregiving

Men handle the stress of caregiving more easily than women.  Women increase their stress levels by having constant worry and anxiety, but men can complete their caregiving tasks and move on.

3.    Seeking Outside Help

Women tend to shoulder all of the responsibilities of caregiving, but men are more willing to call friends, family, and professionals for help.  They quickly ask for resources and additional support.

4.    Handling Daily Tasks

The women typically are more able to juggle the daily duties of a house – cooking and cleaning and laundry – with caregiving than men.  Men have difficulty cooking and coordinating their wives’ clothing and makeup.  Much of these issues stem from the generation of caregiver currently tending to loved ones; they come from the generation of traditional roles in marriage.

Male caregivers are not just caring for loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s, though.  A 2012 analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that men represented as many as 45% of all family caregivers.  Many of these male caregivers aid their parents and spouses.  And, Sherri Snelling’s “The Rapid Rise of the Male Caregiver” points out that there are some benefits to having male caregivers: men often are more assertive when advocating for loved ones with doctors and hospital staff.  They demand straight answers about the condition of their loved ones.

Male caregivers also take advantage of support groups, as evidenced by Ed Mitchell’s support group Men Who Care, at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the number of online support groups for male caregivers.

Online Support Groups:

Overall, men are stepping up to take on caregiving roles in record-breaking numbers.  They may not be considered “traditional” caregivers, but they are certainly just as dedicated and determined to provide loving care to their family members as female caregivers.

For Further Reading:

Image via Flickr by Anita Gould
Post by Angela Stringfellow

The Changing Face of Senior Living Marketing

The Internet has changed so many aspects of senior life, from the ways in which they shop for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), to the ways in which they communicate with their doctors. Marketing strategies for those companies and health care providers also is changing as seniors become more adept at using the web and social media.

Price Transparency

In Cassandra Dowell’s “New Senior Living Shopper Demands Price Transparency,” the point is clear: if CCRCs want to close deals with seniors and/or their adult children, they are going to have to embrace price transparency.  The days of people visiting CCRCs and making their own decisions seem to be a thing of the past, as potential consumers and their adult children price-shop CCRCs online.

As older people and their adult children begin to look for CCRCs, they no longer just want to know about the services and amenities; now they want to know about providers’ contracts, financial stability, and property financials, history, and management information.  The economic downturn seems to have made it even more important for seniors to know more about their choices in CCRCs and feel secure in their decisions.

But, providing the right types of information and amount of price transparency online can be a daunting task for CCRCs.  Databases such as LifeSite Logics and Silver Living have compiled the information and done their own research and reviews on CCRCs and provide consumers with the information and reports they may be looking for when considering a CCRC.

These sites also aid consumers who may not trust information directly from the CCRCs and who are looking for unbiased tools to help them make decisions about their care.

shopping online

When this information is unavailable online, consumers have a difficult time in making those decisions, and with so much information about other CCRCs becoming available, they may just ignore the sites that don’t provide enough information all together.  So, while some CCRCs may consider keeping prices under wraps to encourage on-site visits from prospects, they in actuality are shooting themselves in the foot.

Consumers who know the pricing is within their budgets are more likely to tour the facilities because they don’t want to waste their time looking into CCRCs that are out of their league.  When price transparency is in place, CCRCs create more meaningful follow-up opportunities with prospects and save everyone a great deal of time: only those prospects who can afford your CCRC are contacting you and scheduling tours.

Diane Twohy Masson, CASP, has outlined ten goals with walk-in tours in mind, with number 1 being the highest level to achieve:

  1. Getting a senior to move into your senior living community.  Congratulations on helping them find a solution for their needs!
  2. Scheduling a move-in date – their house sold and they are ready to move in.
  3. Depositing on an apartment – you’ve made a sale!
  4. Coming back to choose an apartment – be careful not to make any assumptions or they will leave before making a choice.
  5. Coming back to discuss financial requirements – get an administrator involved to help.
  6. Coming back to discuss health concerns – remember, this may or may not be the official health assessment.
  7. Coming back to dine with residents – encourage this so the residents can work their magic on your prospect.
  8. Attending an event – help them to imagine the lifestyle of your community.
  9. Touring a second time – invitations to dine with residents, look at the perfect apartment, or meet with some residents and staff are very beneficial.
  10. Wanting to ask more questions – this is the first indication that they are interested, so be on the lookout for a solution to their needs.

Getting the information out to prospects and their adult children online is just the first step in marketing to seniors.  CCRCs need to have a strategy in place for tours and meeting goals to ultimately close the deal with seniors looking for a care facility.

Connecting Through Social Media

Just as the internet has made finding and choosing CCRCs easier for older people, social media and the web have made connecting and communicating with health care providers easier too.

Angie Haupt points out that hospitals have been building an online presence for some time, driven by marketing and supported by relatively large budgets, but there is a trend in more primary care and other private-practice doctors expanding their horizons on the web.  And, the numbers of doctors who are blogging and tweeting are increasing every year.

But, “Should You ‘Friend’ Your Doctor?”  That’s a topic Kristine Crane explores in her May 2014 US News & World Report article, and it appears as though the answer is yes: as long as both the patients and the doctors follow the same rules of communication.  One rule of thumb to follow is that patients should avoid contacting doctors all of the time or for very serious issues online, and doctors are prohibited by law to have specific conversations about patients on social media.

doctor using technology

One of the more effective ways of connecting with doctors through social media is through the various chatting and forum options.  Patients with similar health concerns are able to connect with one another and their doctor and share similar concerns and questions.  And, some doctors are creating podcasts and YouTube videos for patients to listen to or watch prior to their visits, so they attend appointments already armed with critical information.

Again, transparency is the key to effective online communication.  The more information CCRCs and doctors provide to patients online, the more likely they are to transform from prospects to customers and patients.

Images via Flickr by Tim Reckmann and HI TRICIA!

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Study: Evidence-Based Strategies for Communciating with Adults in Long-Term Care

In a recent Clinical Review, Kristine Williams, RN, PhD, found that the communications skills of long-term care workers are a key factor in the quality of life and care for older adults in long-term care settings.  In fact, communication with older adults in these environments can be optimized if health care professionals use evidence-based strategies, because residents in those environments rely on staff for over 75% of their communication opportunities.

Clinical review results: 

  • Normal and abnormal physical and cognitive changes due to aging present communication barriers that put long-term care residents at risk for ineffective communication encounters
  • Institutional factors present communication barriers that put long-term care residents at risk for ineffective communication encounters
  • Health care professionals in long-term care settings need to be aware of these aging and institutional factors and use evidence-based strategies to ensure person-centered communication with residents

Estimates indicate that Americans aged 65 and older will more than double by the year 2050; as a result, the number of older Americans in need of supporting long-term care services also will dramatically increase.   While years of healthy life are increasing along with life spans, supportive care services will be necessary to overcome common limitations experienced by older adults due to the normal changes associated with aging, chronic conditions associated with aging, and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that lead to progressive disability.

It’s important to note that the population of dementia sufferers also is projected to double by 2050.  Currently, at least 70% of those aged 65 and older require supportive long-term care services at some point, and estimates are that 40% will reside in a nursing home (at least for a short rehabilitation stay).  With these growing demands on health care providers with geriatric expertise, it will be critical to make long-term are more person-centered.

Through research and discussion, Williams determined that communication is critical to person-centered care.  Nursing home residents report their ability to relate to staff who care for them through communication is a key factor in their satisfaction with life in long-term care.  Plus, nursing staff who report relationships with residents also report higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Also according to Williams, research demonstrates how communication promotes independence and autonomy for residents or can contribute to dependency, depression, behavior issues, and other negative outcomes.  This fact clearly demonstrates the need for effective communication in long-term care settings.

Barriers to Communication

Certain barriers to communication do exist for older adults in long-term care situations, a critical realization for any professional serving in the long-term care industry.  Vision and hearing loss are challenges, as are cognitive changes such as reduced processing speed and working memory.

Stroke and Parkinson’s disease also make communication a challenge for older adults.  Plus, the very fact that the residents had to move from their homes and away from significant others who served as communication partners poses barriers to their effective communication with caregivers in their new communities.

Overcoming Barriers

  • Person-Centered Care – Health care providers should take the time to learn about residents’ backgrounds, history, and family.  Families can aid in this process by providing recorded autobiographies, memory boxes, and photo displays.
  • Ignoring Talk – Include the residents in discussions about their care, to make them feel valued and appreciated.
  • Intergenerational Communication – Care staff may have ageist views and stereotypes of older adults that result in modified communication with them, and the resulting elderspeak has negative effects on the residents.  Caregivers should refrain from using intimate terms of endearment, asking closed questions and suggesting correct answers, and substituting “we” for “I.”
  • Communication Assessment -Health care providers should make an individual assessment of the communication and cognitive abilities of residents in their care and modify communication on an as-needed basis only.
  • Nonverbal Communication -Caregivers need to be aware of the messages they are sending through nonverbal communication and make it a priority to look at the residents, maintain eye contact, and use appropriate facial expressions.  Health care providers also need to ensure they are not committing elderspeak through nonverbal communication, such as looming over the shoulder of a seated older adult.
  • Hearing Support -Speak with gradually louder volume until a comfortable level is reached and do not use a high-pitched voice.  Minimize background noise and frequently check hearing aides for battery power and cleanliness.
  • Cultural Competence -Those health care providers who are not native English speakers or who have accents will need to be especially aware of the effectiveness of their communication with residents.  Validating that the older adult has heard and understood the communication may be necessary.
  • Encouraging Function -Use communication to prompt residents and provide cues and reinforcement to encourage and improve functional independence.
  • Dementia -It is even more important to resist using elderspeak with patients who experience dementia; research shows older residents with dementia were more than twice as likely to resist or respond to care with aggression or displeasure than when staff used normal adult communication.  Keep in mind that residents with dementia have slowed processing speed and reduce working memory, so avoid excessively slow speech when communicating with them.  It may be necessary to repeat questions and statements and use paraphrasing.
  • Staff Training -Training and educational programs should include specific information on effective communication with older adults.  Periodic training sessions should be provided with new information on evidence-based communication developments.

Overall, health care providers need to be aware of the challenges older adults face in communicating and be cognizant of whether they are adding to the barriers of effective communication themselves.  Establishing interpersonal connections may be the first step toward more effective communication with residents, especially because providers should strive to improve the residents’ quality of life through person-centered care.

What challenges have you faced in communicating with residents in the senior living communities you serve in? Discuss in the comments below.

Image via Flickr by BisGovUK

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Love to Learn? Protect Yourself Against Dementia

According to a 2012 AARP membership survey, 87% of respondents reported they were extremely or very concerned about “staying mentally sharp.”  In fact, of the 10 areas listed as concerns in the survey, “staying mentally sharp” was the area of greatest concern, tied with “Medicare in the future.”

Julie Beck’s June 2014 article, “Study: An Intellectual Life Could Protect Against Dementia” in The Atlantic points to some hopeful news for aging Americans who are concerns about cognitive impairment.  The Mayo Clinic study, published in JAMA Neurology, supports the idea that staying mentally active could help stave off dementia.  According to Beck, “researchers found that ‘the protective effect of intellectual enrichment is primarily manifested as a relatively consistent higher cognitive performance over time” and “mental stimulation throughout a person’s life helped decrease the risk more than if they started cognitive activities in mid-life, but those with lower education levels benefitted more from mid and late life activity than those with higher education levels.”  And, Dr. Prashanthi Vemuri, assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic and lead author on the study, determined that the brain is more likely sharper than starting later, but it’s never to late to start.

Protect Yourself Against Dementia with Brain Games

So, if staying mentally active can help protect yourself against dementia, what are some things you can do now?  Various organizations have compiled ideas, information, and resources for mental activities and brain health.

Alzheimer’s Association

  • Start with a small change, like a daily walk
  • Stay curious and involved – commit to lifelong learning
  • Read and write
  • Work on crosswords or other puzzles
  • Attend lectures and plays
  • Enroll in courses at a local adult education center, community college, or other community group
  • Play games
  • Garden
  • Try memory exercises

AARP Brain Health Center

Harvard Medical School

  • Keep learning
  • Use all your sense
  • Believe in yourself
  • Prioritize your brain use
  • Repeat what you want to know
  • Space it out – re-study the essentials after increasingly longer periods of time


  • Learn something new
  • Speak in tongues – learn a second language
  • Read
  • Play chess
  • Try computer games
  • Work on (old-fashioned) puzzles
  • Get together with friends and take part in clubs
    • Card clubs
    • Chess clubs
    • Sewing/quilting circles
    • Volunteer

  • Play checkers
  • Read a newspaper or book for an hour
  • Write a letter
  • Do at least two mentally-stimulating activities a day
  • Play a mentally challenging game every day for several weeks

Additional Web Resources:

What do you do to keep your mind sharp? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via Flickr by O. Taillon

Post by Angela Stringfellow