Archive for the ‘Senior Living News’ Category

How to Help a Parent Cope with the Loss of a Spouse

Coping with the loss of a spouse is a devastating challenge; likewise, losing a parent is one of the hardest obstacles many people have to face throughout life. When you’re facing your own tremendous grief over the loss of a parent, how can you possibly provide your surviving parent with the support needed to overcome their grief over losing their beloved partner? It’s a situation faced by many adult children. While there are no easy solutions, there are some valuable tips and strategies you can employ to help ease your parent’s grief while managing your own.

Grief Differs Dramatically From Person to Person

Everyone experiences grief differently. It’s a different grieving process for someone who has lost a spouse versus someone who has lost a parent. Even two people who have lost a spouse may grieve in entirely different ways. Grief, while it may have a predictable series of stages for most people, is a very individualized experience. Grieving the loss of a spouse.

Because grieving can be dramatically different from one person to the next, it’s important to let your grieving parent express her emotions and communicate her needs. One person may merely want to know that family and friends are there to listen and provide a shoulder to lean on, another may be so devastated that she is unable to bring herself to get out of bed for several days following the passing of a spouse.

Help Fill in the Gaps for Everyday Tasks

One of the biggest challenges that come with the death of a spouse is coming to grips with the new reality of everyday life. Not only is there an empty hole in your parent’s heart, but your parent may now be faced with handling everyday tasks once handled by her spouse.

For instance, spouses often divvy up tasks like cooking meals, paying bills, cleaning, and taking care of household maintenance. If the surviving spouse never handled the couple’s finances, suddenly being thrown into tasks once taken care of by a spouse can be overwhelming. Often, adult children are aware of which parent handled what duties generally around the house, so lending a helping hand in these new areas is often much-needed support.

If you’re not able to handle some of these tasks yourself, something as simple as making arrangements for the teenage boy down the street to mow your mother’s grass can ease substantial stress. A more immediate need is handling funeral arrangements, notifying financial and government entities, and taking care of other legalities, which may be too painful for your grieving parent to handle alone. Step in and offer to help or take care of these essentials, in cooperation with siblings and other family members as needed.

What to Do with All This Time?

For surviving spouses who were also serving as primary caregiver to an ailing spouse, the biggest need upon a spouse’s death may be something to keep him or her occupied. Devoting every waking hour to caring for a loved one can be even more emotionally draining when you’re suddenly no longer needed, contributing to incredible feelings of loneliness and loss.

The question of what to do with yourself now that you have hours and hours of free time is not an easy one for a grieving spouse to answer. Look into support groups or local activities that might interest your parent. Reach out to your parent’s friends and ask them to check in from time to time or invite your parent to take a walk, have dinner, or catch a movie. Often, getting out of the home shared with a spouse, where memories are painful reminders of the recent loss, is a welcome distraction. While there is no acceptable standard of how long it should take anyone to grieve the loss of a loved one, particularly a spouse, do watch for signs that your parent is really struggling to overcome her grief and make arrangements for her to talk with a doctor or counselor if you’re concerned.

Don’t Forget to Take Time for Your Own Grieving Process

Maybe you’re the type of person who copes best with grief when you’re busy taking care of someone else. If that’s you, stepping in to help your grieving mom or dad take care of all the necessities and the new reality of day-to-day life is probably an excellent way to keep your mind off of your own grief. But do recognize that you have the right and the need to grieve your own loss, as well.

While the grieving process for losing a parent is different than that of losing a spouse, you may need to take a time-out to reflect on your loss. Giving yourself the opportunity to do so when needed will help you be more supportive to your grieving parent when you are present. So don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Many people want to help friends and family who have just suffered a tremendous loss, but they are fearful of interfering or intruding. When you let loved ones know what they can do to help, they are often happy to have the opportunity to feel – and be – useful.

It’s not easy helping a parent cope with the loss of a spouse, particularly when you are navigating your own grieving process. Watching and listening to learn how your grieving parent is coping with the loss provides valuable clues to how you can be most supportive and helpful. Listen, ask, and help in the ways that your parent most needs. You’ll find that being able to help your surviving parent cope with such a substantial, life-altering loss will help you work through your own grief, as well.

Your Community is Sold—Should You Be Concerned?

What most people don’t realize about the senior living industry is its similarity to Monopoly: buying, selling and improving properties is all part of the game to remain profitable while delivering a safe and supportive setting for seniors.

But what happens to the residents and their families who are caught between these business transactions? After a lifetime of home ownership, it might seem unnerving to realize your loved one’s home can be sold so easily. And you will likely fear the worst—beloved staff members losing their jobs or a community change for the worst.

Sold SignWe decided to shed some light on this issue by asking several senior living companies to discuss their approach to purchasing communities and how they work with residents during the transition. What they shared reveals that a management transition can, if handled properly, be a welcome change and provide a better quality of life for your loved one.

Greenfield Senior Living

For Greenfield Senior Living, a Virginia-based senior living provider, a community’s existing culture supersedes other metrics when considering the acquisition of a community. Greenfield is a “customer-centric” company with a focus on culture, says Jonathan Barbieri, vice president of marketing for Greenfield Senior Living. “Can the culture we bring improve, enhance and brighten the community?” With a focus on the senior, Barbieri says, “we want people to say ‘Wow’” after seeing how a Greenfield community treats its residents.

The purchase negotiation determines how soon a Greenfield management team is on site to work with existing staff for the transition. Sometimes Greenfield may not be on site until the actual close, Barbieri says, adding they like to be there as early as able to develop a relationship. Developing this relationship involves introducing the new team to Greenfield’s vision of the industry. “We really want people to walk away from the meeting saying, ‘This group of people cares,’” Barbieri explains.

After meeting with staff, the Greenfield management team meets with the residents and their families. Barbieri says the exact introduction depends on the care levels offered at the community, but it generally includes a presentation of Greenfield’s operating philosophy and a question-and-answer session to create “open and transparent dialogue.”

One question frequently asked is whether there will be staff turnover. Barbieri says Greenfield’s approach is to support the staff because “the last thing you should be doing is turning people over.” Another concern is whether rent will increase, which Barbieri explains is already baked into the acquisition, adding that Greenfield “doesn’t want anyone to leave the community due to a price increase.” Sometimes new leases are issued because some states require issuing a new lease following the purchase of a community, but in those cases, the previous lease is still honored.

As far as community life is concerned, Barbieri says residents should only see improvements after a sale. “We want each community to be its own cruise ship, offering as much as you can possibly offer … by offering more we can engage our residents,” Barbieri says.

“Seniors know what they want,” Barbieri adds. “We get very good feedback about the resource we bring.”

MBK Senior Living

Robin Craig, corporate director of marketing for MBK Senior Living, explains in basic terms her company’s approach after acquiring a new community:  “Add value in the way we manage. … We place a value on creating a comfortable, well maintained contemporary community setting.”

Part of the decision to acquire a new community is based upon whether the culture and management is similar to MBK’s. Craig explains that the management team does due diligence in assessing the community and knowing who is managing the building before a contract is signed. That contract, and/or state regulations, determines whether residents know in advance that their community is being purchased by MBK, and Craig says that former owners may announce the transition before MBK is on site.MBK Senior Living - Logo

Once on site, the first step is making the associates comfortable with MBK’s management because “The associates are the voices the residents hear,” Craig says. “We try to not make changes when coming in.” After associates have been oriented to the new MBK management team, the transition is announced to residents.

Residents can expect to have their questions and concerned listened to and addressed. Craig says they invite family members to attend the presentations and the management team is available for questions. In her experience, families are more concerned about the details of the pricing than learning more about MBK. The company is honest about future rent increases, Craig says, and strives to create a comfortable situation for those discussions. She also assures residents and families that following an MBK acquisition that things are on equal footing or better. “Because we are owner-manager, we feel that is a better scenario for the family.”

One of the changes residents may see right away is more choices for care, and their beloved caregivers will likely be on staff. “As much as we can appropriately keep the associates there, we will,” Craig says. There may also be more food choices and activities, because “typically we don’t take things away.”

For MBK COO Daniel Morgan, communication is crucial to a successful management change. “Change is difficult for people no matter the age,” Morgan said via email. “The key to our success has been to effectively communicate that change is coming, what the change will be, the reason why the change will occur and when the change will occur. … If for any reason we are unable to fulfill any part of what has already been communicated regarding the change, it is important to get back in front of the residents with updates.”

Senior Lifestyle Corporation

Within two months of acquiring a community, the new Senior Lifestyle management team holds a Family Night with residents, their families and staff to share the life story of Senior Lifestyle. But it’s meeting every person that Tim Marzec, vice president of operations-community integration, says residents particularly appreciate. “I just can’t say enough about the reception we [receive], with some residents saying we’re the first person to come and visit us.” The residents “want to know you as a person.”

Among the criteria Senior Lifestyle uses to determine acquiring a community is how it “fits within how our company operates,” Marzec says. In his role, Marzec is charged with integrating the new community’s staff into Senior Lifestyle’s business systems, whether it is navigating the payroll system or who to contact when needing a question answered.

Once Senior LIfestyle receives approval to enter an acquired community, it meets with the employees to discuss the community change, sharing who the company is and what to expect in the coming months, Marzec explains. Once a community is acquired, Marzec says he is among the first of the Senior Lifestyle management team that the staff members meet. Marzec says the first 60 days of a transition are spent simply observing the community, and “we try to be very mindful that it’s a pretty big change [with the community being purchased]”

One of the questions Marzec frequently answers is what will happen to the staff. He says it’s in the company’s best interest to retain good employees, as they are the backbone of any community.

Residents usually don’t see a change until 90 days into Senior Lifestyle’s ownership, at which point, they might see changes in the menu or a reformatting of the activity program. For pricing, the billing statement might look different, and a new residency agreement is updated. “Generally all the pricing stays the same” and care levels remain consistent, though there might be a reassessing of the care plan, Marzec says.

During Marzec’s tenure in this Senior Lifestyle role, “I’ve found in the beginning a lot of people are nervous. … Once they get to you know and … once they see that you’re here to help, I have found the reception warm and welcoming.”

Final Thoughts

If it is news to you that retirement communities are bought and sold so easily, you’re not alone. Craig says that in her experience, residents “think of just that community, not the companies behind it.” And thinking that only large communities are acquired isn’t true. Sometimes, family-owned communities are sold to a larger company, or a community is spun off from a large company to become independently-owned and managed. Further complicating the matter is that sometimes the company that owns a community isn’t the same company that manages it.

So what can you do if your loved one is at a community that is recently purchased? Because contract negotiations are confidential (and if you are in a state that doesn’t require advance notice of a sale), you might not know the community is sold until after the transaction is finalized. Attending the community-wide introduction is important so you can ask questions about what the change in management means for your loved one’s lifestyle. Your state’s laws will determine whether your loved one receives a new lease—if so, you should review it to determine whether the existing lease is being honored or if there is a change in pricing. State regulations often specify that you should receive advance notice of rate increases, and if a community fails to follow that statute, it can be cited.

Written by SeniorHomes.com’s Andrea Watts

Senior Living Companies Spread Their Wings Internationally

It’s no secret that the senior living industry is exploding in the U.S., but U.S.-based senior living operators are now expanding overseas in countries like China. The Seattle Times reports that Seattle-based senior living companies such as Cascade HealSenior living growth in Chinathcare and Merrill Gardens are spreading their wings and opening senior living communities in places like China, where senior living communities like those found in the U.S. are not widespread.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million by 2050, representing the impact of a period of rapid growth between 2012 and 2050. In fact, the 83.7 million figure is nearly double the estimated 65+ population in 2012: 43.1 million.”The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they began turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, the surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85,” according to the U.S. Census report.

But the U.S. is not the only country experiencing rapid growth in its aging population. In China, 9.4 percent of the population is 65 or older, or about 132 million people. By 2050, the U.N. estimates that 22.7 percent of China’s population, or 332 million people, will be age 65 or older. China’s economy, however, is still under development, and the country does not currently have a strong system in place for long-term elder care.

Not only is China looking to companies like Cascade Healthcare and Merrill Gardens to fill gaps in long-term care, but also as a means to learn models and managerial practices from successful U.S. operators. Eventually, China-based companies will likely enter the market building on the concepts introduced by U.S. senior living operators, while incorporating cultural values unique to China.

The growth of the aging population in the U.S. isn’t slowing down, but the U.S. is not alone in the mounting challenge of ensuring adequate long-term care options for the elderly. With the aging population experiencing explosive growth in many countries through 2050, senior living providers have abundant opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad to serve the needs of older adults.

What You Need to Know About Guns in Senior Living Communities

Keeping residents safe is a priority of retirement communities, whether this means having an emergency call system in all apartments or documenting all dispensed medication to reduce medication errors. These safety features are why many families elect to have their loved one join a retirement community rather than living alone. In keeping with this safety-focused culture, there is one policy that is nearly universal across the senior living industry. Though this policy means that a resident’s freedom is curtailed, its adoption maintains a safe environment for everyone at the community—residents, staff and families.

In spite of the debate calling for expanding the number of places that firearms are permitted, the senior living industry has already taken a position on the issue—weapons have no place at a retirement community.

“It just makes sense,” Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of Public Policy for the Assisted Living Federation of America, says of why the policy was adopted 15 years ago by the senior living industry. While communities want residents to have the same freedoms they enjoyed living on their own, “when you have people living in a congregate setting, we want to keep them safe,” she explains.

This no-weapons policy was one voluntarily adopted by retirement communities rather than being mandated by state requirements. For example, Pennsylvania statute 2600.108 states that “Firearms and weapons shall be contained in a locked cabinet in a place other than the residents’ room or in a common living area,” and “If a firearm, weapon or ammunition is the property of a resident, there shall be a written policy and procedures regarding the safety, access and use of firearms, weapons and ammunition. A resident may not take a firearm, weapon or ammunition out of the locked cabinet into living areas.”

In California, for all community care facilities regulated by the Department of Social Services, statute 80087(g)(1) states that “Storage areas for poisons, and firearms and other dangerous weapons shall be locked and (2) In lieu of locked storage of firearms, the licensee may use trigger locks or remove the firing pin.” However, in Texas, statute 92.125(b)(I) of the Resident’s Bill of Rights and Provider Bill of Rights states that a provider has a right to “maintain an environment free of weapons…”

The 2001 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center: Research Findings reports that 37.2 percent of adults 65 and older had a gun in their household. Of their gun-carrying behavior, 48.6 percent said they carry for protection and 67.4 carry concealed.

So, what should you do when your parent, who is one of the 37.2 percent, is moving into a retirement community and wants to bring a firearm? First, ask the community whether the weapon is permitted.

Tim Marzec, vice president of operations-Community Integration for Senior Lifestyle Corporation, says his company doesn’t permit firearms in their communities, a policy decision that Vice President of Marking Jonathan Barbieri echoes is the same for Greenfield Senior Living. ”We have a no-weapons policy, even for collector weapons.”

If your parent carries a gun for protection, that should not be necessary at a retirement community. With 24-hour staffing, one of a retirement community’s benefits is built-in protection. If your parents have collector weapons they wish to bring, ask the community if this is allowed, as this might be permitted on a case-by-case basis. Residents should also alert family members that weapons are not permitted at the “community, a policy that is the same for staff.”

But is it really possible to prevent weapons from being smuggled into a community? Bersani acknowledges that “people will break [the rule] if they want to,” but there can be consequences if that happens, such as the community being cited for failing to secure a weapon or failing to protect their residents should something happen.

What the senior living industry fears happening isn’t a mass shooting, as has been the cases at schools and other public places. Instead, it’s a possible murder/suicide incident, such as one that happened last year in Indiana. Bersani says the industry has just started discussing this and recognizes the need to do a better job of empowering people with end of life decisions.

Written by SeniorHomes.com’s Andrea Watts.

16 Million Seniors Have At Least One Disability

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, commissioned and funded by the National Institute on Aging, finds that 16 million U.S. adults age 65 and older report having at least one disability. It’s actually the first Census report to look at disabilities specifically among older adults, and breaking down disability status data based on age, sex, marital status, poverty status and education.

Based on data from the American Community Survey, the report encompasses six types of disability, including: Older adults with disablity

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Cognition
  • Walking
  • Self-care
  • Independent living

The most common disability, according to the report, is difficulty walking or climbing stairs. About two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older who report having at least one disability reported this particular problem.

Another interesting finding is that the prevalence of disabilities in older adults varies geographically. With data broken down by county, the report finds that higher rates of disability are present in the Appalachian region, the lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the upper South.

Perhaps not so surprising: Older age distributions also have a higher rate of disability. Those seniors 85 and older have the highest prevalence of disability, representing about 13.6 percent of the total older adult population, but accounting for 25.4 percent of the total number of older adults reporting at least one disability.

The full report includes a number of maps and charts demonstrating various data sets and distributions. For example, one map illustrates the percentage of people living alone in poverty with a disability, while others break down the data by selected characteristics, household population, education, marital status, and several combinations of these metrics. The full report is available for download from the U.S. Census Bureau.

7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Family Caregiver Should Make

It’s the time of year when, in the midst of taking care of last-minute holiday preparations, many start thinking about the start of a new year and how they’d like their lives to be different, preferably better, in the coming year. It’s the New Year that inspires people to turn over a new leaf, whether they plan to lose weight, stop smoking or advance their careers. But for family caregivers, those resolutions might look a little different from most. We’ve rounded up a few New Year’s resolutions for family caregivers to help you determine how to improve your life, and the caregiving experience, in 2015.

1. Take time for yourself. Family Caregiver Resolutions

While it’s often difficult to put your elderly loved ones in the care of someone else, taking time to take care of yourself and recharge allows you to be more present when you are caring for your loved ones. Resolve to start taking some time for yourself, if not each day, at least once a week.

2. Reach out and ask for help.

Family caregivers are notorious for never asking for help, even when they’re in desperate need. You’re so used to having everyone else rely on you that the idea of being dependent on someone else is unfathomable to you. But many family caregivers are surprised to learn how many friends and family really do want to help; they just don’t know what to do. Commit to asking for help when you need it in 2015.

3. Get ample rest.

Whether you’re losing sleep because you’re up caring for your elderly loved one in the middle of the night or you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress, resolve to get enough rest in 2015. Lack of sleep can lead to a multitude of problems, including serious health conditions. If you’re not well-rested or you get sick, you won’t be able to provide the care your aging loved one needs.

4. Read a good book.

Many people get so tied up rushing through our day-to-day lives that reading a book seems out of the question. But reading a good book can be tremendously good for the soul. Read an inspirational book, such as Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, or choose a book from this list of the best books for caregivers.

5. Find more balance.

If you’re a family caregiver and also a member of the Sandwich Generation, you’re painfully aware of the struggles of balancing multi-generational demands. Commit to finding more balance in 2015, dividing your time adequately among your children, elderly loved ones, spouse or partner, and work demands. A more balanced life is a more fulfilled life.

6. Advocate for your aging loved ones.

If your loved one suffers from a disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, get involved. Advocate for funding for a cure. Participate in fundraising events and, most importantly, network with other caregivers and families in similar situations. The support these networks can provide when times get tough is priceless.

7. See the value in yourself.

The elderly loved one you care for may or may not be able to tell you how much they appreciate you. Your children, if young, don’t know how to express their gratitude, or maybe they haven’t yet reached that pivotal moment in life when they realize just how much their parents love them and the sacrifices they made on a daily basis to provide for them. But they don’t have to vocalize it; trust us, they’re grateful. Because they can’t always thank you themselves, thank yourself. Be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given and your amazing ability to be a pillar of support to so many people in your life. And take some time to enjoy it.

We’d love to hear your 2015 New Year’s resolutions. What suggestions do you have for family caregivers to live better, more balanced, more fulfilling lives next year?

It’s Time for Seniors to Embrace the Internet of Things

You’ve likely heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), but if you don’t actually know what it is, you’re not alone. In fact, even purveyors of the Internet of Things at times aren’t sure how to actually define this growing concept and collection of … things. In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is a term used to describe the ever-growing network of connected devices, or, if you will, “smart gadgets.” With 45 million people (and growing) in the U.S. in their senior years, and more and more seniors opting to age in place, the Internet of Things holds much promise. We contend that seniors should embrace the Internet of Things. You may just be surprised how much better and easier life can be when you do.

Today’s seniors are tech-savvy

The days of grandma or grandpa not having the first clue how to use a computer or cell phone are fast diminishing. Today’s seniors are used to technology, and it’s not uncommon for older adults to use email and the Internet regularly. Some, in fact, use it every day. According to Pew Internet, 6 out of 10 seniors now go online, and nearly 50% of all seniors have high-speed broadband Internet access in their homes. And, older Internet users cite the benefits of having information from the Internet in their lives: 79% of senior Internet users agree that people without the Internet are at a disadvantage because of the information they miss, and 94% agree that “the Internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.”

But, seniors are not just embracing the Internet and email. A PewResearch study showed that 2012 marked the first time that half of Americans 65 and older were online, and at that time 7 in 10 seniors owned a cell phone and one-third of seniors were using social networking sites such as Facebook. Laurie Orlov, author of an AARP study and principal analyst of Aging in Place Technology Watch, a marketing research firm in Florida, told the Denver Post that seniors are adopting technology out of necessity and “there are fewer and fewer good excuses for avoiding it if you can afford it.” Tealy Baumgartner, a tech-savvy grandma in her 90s, received an iPad from her grandson and was hesitant to accept the gift until she “learned that you can’t mess it up” and uses it to read her hometown newspaper, search for recipes and knitting patterns, and send emails and photos to family members.

Additionally, a study on seniors and the Internet conducted by professors of marketing at the University of California Irvine, Temple University, and California State University Long Beach determined that seniors are adopting technology more than ever, but they face “unique barriers to usage” because they previously had not used them in work situations and commonly have physical limitations that make using computer and the Internet more difficult. However, when seniors learn how to use the technology or other devices such as tablets with touchscreens and built-in assistive technology, they are enthusiastic and “express strong openness to learning.” The seniors in the study most frequently noted cultural currency as the reason for wanting to adopt technology.

Several programs are being offered across the country to help seniors learn how to use technology, including those at senior centers, in conjunction with programs matching teens with seniors, and others. In New York City, seniors can take advantage of free tech training classes being offered by Older Adults Technology Services (OATS). With support from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the City of New York, 23 new public computer centers have been built in neighborhoods throughout the city. Each new facility contains 300 computers, available for seniors to use free of charge. In Kansas City, Arts Tech, a youth organization working with underserved urban teens to help them develop marketable artistic and technical skills, is training teens to teach seniors about using computers and the Internet. The Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, money made available to nonprofits seeking to close the digital divide, is funding the project to match teens and seniors for technology lessons. And, in Colombia, Md., teens from the Colombia Association’s Youth and Teen Center the the Barn are working with seniors from the 50+ Center at the East Colombia Branch of the Howard County Library System to teach them new technology. The program was created after the Senior Center received a donation of several iPads.

Once seniors know how to use the technology, it becomes part of their everyday lives. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, among older adults who use the Internet, 71% go online every day or nearly every day, and an additional 11% go online between 3 and 5 times a week. And, seniors are increasingly purchasing tablets or e-book readers: 27% of seniors own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both, while only 18% own a smartphone. If seniors are tackling these devices, they surely can handle IoT products, which typically involve automatic notifications and require little, if any, manual control.

New Technologies Suited to Seniors

According to a report in Government Health IT, new technologies that address the needs and problems of seniors will be essential. By 2050, the number of Americans 65 and older is set to double, to more than 80 million, and the number of heads of household aged 70 or older is expected to increase by 42%, to 28 million, by 2025, according to research by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Moreover, a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that almost 90% of Americans, including those older than 70, want to age in place for at least the next 5 to 10 years of their lives.

As the American population ages, and as the digital health field expands, technologies addressing the unique challenges of aging in place will become more of a reality. Great strides already have been made to improve aging, with the emergence of companies like BrainAid, True Link and Lively. Seniors who want to age in place need to be as independent as possible, and BrainAid produces PEAT, an Android app that provides cognitive aids for independent living. Seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss receive help with tasks through cueing and scheduling assistance. Finances can be a hindrance to aging in place, so True Link provides financial safety for seniors; it features on and off switches for caregivers or children to help aging parents manage their money by blocking purchases, setting spending limits, sending alerts about suspect charges, and more. Concerns over loved ones aging in place also can hinder the process, and Lively helps caregivers and children keep tabs on elderly family members. Lively’s activity sensors monitor movements in the home and their Safety Watch gives medication reminders, keeps track of steps, and includes an emergency button. These are just a few of the many companies that are developing technologies to make aging in place a reality for seniors.

IoT and “Smart Aging”

One of the most important benefits of seniors choosing to embrace the Internet of Things is that it has the power to transform their lives. W. David Stephenson, a leading IoT strategist, theorist, and writer, focuses on “smart aging” and encourages seniors to use “a combination of wearable devices and smart home devices to allow seniors to age in place with dignity, improved health, and lower expenses.” In an April 2014 blog post, Stephenson explains the ways in which the IoT can benefit seniors, from helping them to become partners in their health care through self-monitoring to aiding them while they live alone, miles away from family.

Stephenson suggests that seniors take advantage of IoT products such as bedroom slippers with sensors to detect variations in a senior’s gait and alert caregivers by an app. There also are necklaces that detect the onset of congestive heart failure. Stephenson asserts that these IoT products will take some pressure off of elderly patients who need to recall their symptoms at doctor’s appointments and actually will give more information to doctors because they can measure what is happening with the patient: “the patient will generate a constant stream of data, and, over time, we will evolve efficient ways of reporting the spikes in readings to the doctor in a way that might actually trigger preventive care to avoid an incident, or at least provide an objective means of judging its severity to improve the quality of care.”

IoT Empowers Seniors to Age In Place

Sometimes, seniors just need to get past the fear of the newness and embrace the technology that can enhance their lives and keep them connected to their loved ones and hobbies while they age in place. Once they do, they realize all of the potential uses and benefits of using smart gadgets. Many are actually quite simple to use after initial set-up and provide useful capabilities. The most common IoT products that help seniors to age in place include…

  • Controlling lighting, security systems, and appliances with a mobile device
  • Providing continuous monitoring and sensors to alert loved ones or health providers of accidents
  • Issuing medication reminders
  • Offering reminders to turn off the stove, or even automatic shut-off functionality
  • Wearable health sensors for remote healthcare services

Additional Links to IoT Information For Seniors:

Images via Flickr by Hannah and Jo Christian Oterhals

6 Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

Traveling over the holiday season is tough for anyone, as the roads and airways are busier than usual. (Layovers and traffic jams aren’t usually anyone’s idea of a good time.) But for seniors and family caregivers, these typical stresses are magnified when it means suddenly changing plans and scrambling to find appropriate accommodations. Joyous occasions can become overshadowed by fear, anxiety, and stress.

It’s particularly troublesome for seniors with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, as any change to the standard routine can create serious anxiety and even lead to emotional outbursts out of sheer frustration. These tips will help you prepare for the worst and hope for the best as you travel with aging loved ones this holiday season, so that you can make the most out of your time with family and friends no matter what circumstances may arise. Traveling with seniors

1. Plan Ahead to Reduce Travel Stress

Planning is always important when you’re traveling, but it’s even more so when you’re traveling with an aging loved one. Consider health issues and potential hazards, such as portable oxygen and other needs, and always have a backup plan. When you’re prepared for any potential hiccups during travel, you’ll be much less stressed should something go awry.

2. Look Into Special Accommodations

If you’re traveling by air, and your loved one requires assistance with ambulation (such as a walker or wheelchair), check into the accommodations offered by the airline. Airlines typically have special rows designated for disabled travelers to allow ample space for wheelchairs and other equipment. Additionally, there are many restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that offer discounts for senior citizens. Don’t be afraid to ask and take advantage of these offers; there are many ways you can put a few extra dollars to good use over the holidays.

3. Prepare and Make Copies of Essential Documents

It’s a good idea to travel with a list of medications, as well as statements outlining medical conditions from your loved one’s primary care physician or other provider. Should a medical emergency arise while you’re traveling, you can easily provide the hospital or provider with essential health information to streamline treatment.

4. Prepare Medications for Air Travel

Traveling with prescription medications can be tricky for air travel. Be sure to include copies of prescriptions, and keep the medications in the same containers in which the pharmacy provides them. Otherwise, you could run into trouble with airport security. Having all your prescriptions and proper containers assures authorities that the medications are, in fact, prescribed to a traveler and not merely being smuggled for illicit use or street sale. (It sounds crazy, but it happens.)

5. Try to Maintain Familiar Routines

Obviously, keeping the same routine when you’re traveling out of town is easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain some level of familiarity by following the same types of routines you’d follow at home. If your aging parent always bathes in the evening, for instance, and then unwinds by watching a favorite television show, or eats the same thing for breakfast every day, try to do the same while you’re on the road. Even though the scenery might be different, the familiarity offered by routines can be comforting in otherwise stressful situations.

6. Take Your Time

One of the biggest contributors to stress over the holiday is the feeling of being rushed. Planning ahead can alleviate this to some extent, but you can also build in ample time to your travel plans to ensure you’re not crunched for time. Give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, planning for multiple stops and breaks along the way. If you’re traveling by air, choose a flight plan with ample, but not too lengthy, layovers. Build in an extra day or two to your trip to account for last-minute changes in plans so you’re not scrambling to change your travel arrangements at the last moment.

The holidays are meant for joy and laughter, for spending time with friends and family near and far, and for making memories that last a lifetime. Plan ahead, go prepared, and take your time so you can dedicate all your energy to making lasting memories instead of being weighed down by unnecessary stress.

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes from the SeniorHomes.com Team

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all the things we enjoy in life, be it family, good health, prosperity, good friends, and all the little things to appreciate in our lives. Many families have traditional gatherings where they enjoy a feast prepared by family and friends, and certain dishes become traditions in their own right, evoking pleasant memories from childhood family celebrations.

We asked our team to share their favorite Thanksgiving recipes made by their parents or grandparents. Here’s a sampling of what delights team SeniorHomes.com’s taste buds every Thanksgiving. Here’s what they had to say. Unless otherwise noted, all images are via AllRecipes.com, and be sure to check out the links for a top-rated recipe for each of these delicious dishes.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce: It is just sugar, water, and fresh cranberries boiled in a pot. But, the warm tangy sweet taste reminds me of my mother at Thanksgiving.” Owen, SEM Manager

Stuffing (made by Grandma, of course)

 Stuffing

“Grandma’s stuffing. Because I grew up vegetarian. it was always the favorite part of the meal for me. Savory and moist, it was laden with onions, butter, celery, mushrooms, a heavy dose of sage and a few eggs egg to bind her homemade dried bread together. I could take or leave the rest of the thanksgiving meal (except for the pumpkin and apple pies), but the pan(s) of stuffing were mine.”

Sue, Care Advisor/Production Assistant

Twice-Baked Potatoes

 Twice-Baked Potatoes

“Dad’s Twice Baked Potatoes: Baked potatoes scooped out of the skin, bacon, butter, cheese, chives and a mystery concoction of seasoning all mixed together, put back in the skins and cooked a 2nd time in the oven. A dish so incredibly loaded with fat and deliciousness is best enjoyed with loved ones, and has been an integral part of Thanksgiving tradition for me for as long as I can remember.”

Stuart, Project Manager

Oyster Stuffing

Oyster Stuffing

“My favorite Thanksgiving dish as a kid was Oyster stuffing. This is a twist on the typical Thanksgiving stuffing, by adding a load of oysters. Rich and yummy.”

Chris Rodde, CEO

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

“My favorite dish is sweet potatoes with marshmallows (aka Yams) – My mother is the best cook in the whole world. She uses sweet potatoes, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla, a ton of butter, a touch of lemon and of course marshmallows. I look forward to Thanksgiving every year so I can enjoy yams. It is sweet and delicious!”

Mamie, Care Advisor

“Sweet potatoes – baked and peeled, mixed with orange juice and brown sugar, whipped in a casserole dish topped with marshmallows (toasted) on the top! Yum!!!”

Robin, Senior Account Executive

Kolaches – Apricot Prune Filling Wrapped in Pastries

Kolaches

“I am going with My Grandmothers ‘Kolaches‘ an apricot prune filling wrapped in pastry….oohhhh so good!”

Darcy, Care Advisor (image provided by Darcy)

Bourbon Cranberry Compote

Cranberry Compote

Bourbon (or Brandy) Cranberry Compote. Cranberries, sugar, apple juice, with bourbon or brandy. All cooked down. Delicious.”

Madeline, Care Advisor (image via RealSimple)

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole – frozen broccoli, velveeta cheese and white rice. Not only was it delicious on Thanksgiving day, but it was the best leftover as a dip with tortilla chips! My Mom always made an extra batch just for leftovers.”

Sarah Schnierer, Account Manager

Turkey Stuffing (another Grandma favorite)

Turkey Stuffing

“Grandma Rosie’s turkey dressing.”

Michaela, Bookkeeper

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Garlic Smashed PotatoesGarlic Smashed Potatoes.”

Brett Davis, Care Advisor

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Share with us in the comments!

CMS to Overhaul Nursing Home Compare

It seems the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been paying attention. While the agency’s five-star rating system for nursing homes has always been the subject of a fair share of criticism, new concerns started gaining speed in the media within the past few months. At the beginning of September, we reported on criticisms surrounding the self-reporting measures and other practices leading some experts to say that they doubt the integrity of the rating system as a true barometer of quality of care.

IMPACT Act aims to improve quality ratings for skilled nursing facilities

On Oct. 6, President Obama signed the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act, which aims to improve quality through increased transparency and standardized assessments in several areas surrounding critical care issues across skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and other post-acute care (PAC) providers. Nursing Home Compare overhauls rating system

IMPACT will allow both payments and patient outcomes to be compared across these providers, fueling the development and public reporting of quality measures and facilitating the provision of new PAC payment models, to be presented to Congress by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), according to Long-Term Living Magazine.

New changes directly address recent criticisms

But in direct relation to the current five-star rating system used by CMS to grade skilled nursing facilities, there are some big changes coming, many targeted specifically at areas of concern recently addressed in the media. IMPACT, it’s worth noting, however, was first introduced back on June 26 and enrolled as a bill on Sept. 18.

Long-Term Living Magazine summarizes some of the changes that will occur as a result of the passing of the IMPACT Act of 2014:

  • More quality measures will be added to the rating system, beginning in January 2015, including re-hospitalization rates and anti-psychotic drug use.
  • Staffing data will be gathered directly from payroll records rather than through self-report.
  • Scoring methods will be re-evaluated to ensure they accurately represent the quality of providers earning these ratings.
  • A national auditing system will be rolled out to verify information reported through on-site visits.

New measures taken to verify formerly self-reported data, such as staffing ratios and staff turnover rates, are particularly welcomed by critics. Cheryl Phillips, MD, LeadingAge’s senior vice president of public policy and advocacy, tells Long-Term Living Magazine that staffing is one of the most accurate indicators of quality in long-term care settings.

Self-reported quality measures overshadow accuracy

In fact, it’s the self-reporting measures which the debate has primarily centered on in recent months. The controversy surrounding the hotly debated Medicare star-rating system heated up again after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General released an August 2014 report finding that in a random sampling of 209 nursing homes, only 53 percent of allegations of elderly abuse, neglect, or exploitation are reported to federal agencies.

As self-reporting is currently the relied-upon method the CMS utilizes to gather data which determines a skilled nursing facility’s star rating, this naturally casts a shadow over the perceived accuracy of the ratings.

Sweeping changes to data collection and verification to begin in January 2015

While the improvements are expected to take at least one year to implement, consumers will begin to have access to more legitimate, verified data beginning in January. Nursing homes will begin reporting staffing ratios quarterly, and this information will be verified through payroll documents.

Also beginning in January, nursing homes will be rated on the percentage of residents:

  • Receiving anti-psychotic drugs
  • Re-admitted to a hospital
  • Discharged (released) from nursing home care

Most importantly, the system will eventually provide consumers access to this deeper data, such as staff turnover rates and other quality measures. While the additional measures will begin to be incorporated in 2015, this new data won’t actually be reflected in nursing home ratings until 2016.

These changes represent an increasing demand among today’s savvier consumers for high-quality, independent data that provides a true standard metric for navigating the challenges in decision-making when it comes to placing an aging loved one in senior housing. This is the need SeniorHomes.com aims to address with the Best Senior Living Awards, an independent rating system for assisted living, independent living, and other senior housing options to provide families with a standard metric and valid, third-party ratings from experts to aid the decision-making process.