Archive for the ‘Senior Living News’ Category

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.

Big Changes to Assisted Living Laws in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law 10 of 14 bills aimed at protecting assisted living residents in the state. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, the laws are “designed to address what some say is a crisis of care in assisted living facilities across the state.” The new laws span a variety of components of assisted living, such as additional training requirements for owners of assisted living communities, to statutory rights for residents, and perhaps the most critical change: State regulators now have the ability to suspend admissions to an assisted living community which has received a number of violations deemed to pose a risk to the health and/or safety of residents.

Increased fines and stricter training requirements New California Assisted Living Laws

U-T San Diego notes that the largest fine is now $15,000—for violations resulting in the death of a resident—a marked increase from just $150. This particular bill, focusing on increased fines, was co-authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, and it applies to all community care facilities in the state, not just assisted living communities. U-T San Diego brought attention to the markedly low fines for serious injury and death in a series of articles which highlighted 27 deaths and hundreds of injuries caused to residents in senior living communities in San Diego county alone, allegedly caused by abuse and neglect. U-T San Diego calls this series of bills “the state’s most sweeping overhaul of the industry in nearly three decades.”

The entire reform package was initiated earlier this year, sponsored by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which released its own report last year with some concerning details about residential care in California. Legislators were motivated by this and other reports concerning a lack of adequate oversight in the senior living industry.

Here’s a look at the 10 bills signed into law by Gov. Brown and the focus of each:

  • SB 1153 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) – This bill permits state regulators to suspend admissions to a residential care community with violations that place resident health and safety at risk.
  • AB 1570 by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata) – This bill outlines increased training requirements for owners of residential care communities in the state, as well as direct care staff.
  • SB 911 by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Similar to AB 1570, this bill increases training requirements for administrators of residential care communities (rather than licensees) and direct care staff who perform specific duties.
  • SB 1382 by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Another bill relating to increased training requirements, this bill addresses increased requirements for licensees (owners), administrators, and direct care staff.
  • AB 1751 by Assemblymember Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) – The signing of this law means that residents in California assisted living communities must now have representation on governing boards of residential care facilities as well as quarterly reporting of financial statements.
  • AB 1899 by Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) – This law, in response to an incident occurring in response to the abandonment of 19 residents at a senior living community at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley, now prohibits the reinstating of a license to any licensee who abandons a facility and therefore places residents’ health and safety at risk.
  • B 2044 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) – This bill addresses specific staffing requirements for residential care communities, along with health and safety requirements.
  • AB 2171 by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) – Establishes statutory rights for residents, and requires the display of resident rights within the senior living community.
  • AB 2231 by Assemblymember Richard S. Gordon (D-Menlo Park) – Re-instates a previous program which provides property tax deferment for seniors and the disabled.
  • SB 895 by Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Hayward) – The signing of this bill means that residential care communities must now rectify licensing deficiencies within 10 days after notification.

Changes are beneficial for residents

These new requirements will now mandate that a CPR-certified staff member be on site at all times. Additionally, senior living community operators are now prohibited from punishing a staff member for calling 911 to obtain help for a resident facing a serious or emergent health concern. Previously, this was discouraged by some operators who believed it to reflect poorly on the community’s ability to provide adequate care, and, in some cases, was discouraged due to the impact transport would create for the community’s occupancy levels. In any case, staff members may now feel confident in seeking the necessary help for residents in emergent situations without fear of repercussion.

Volunteering Promotes Health and Happiness for Older Adults

A new study appearing in the Psychological Bulletin is the first to examine peer-reviewed evidence to investigate the psychosocial health and wellness benefits of volunteerism in the older adult population, according to a report by Psychology Today. It turns out that volunteering has positive impacts on health and happiness among older adults, with particular benefits for those with chronic health conditions.

Meta-analysis looks at the benefits of volunteering on health and wellness Volunteering Benefits Older Adults

The study involved the review of 73 studies, all published within the past 45 years, examining adults age 50 and older who were or are serving in a formal volunteer capacity.All studies reviewed in this analysis the psychosocial, physical, and/or cognitive outcomes associated with volunteering, including:

  • Happiness
  • Physical health
  • Depression
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Social support
  • Life satisfaction

Volunteerism provides numerous positive benefits for older adults

Researchers say they found compelling evidence that volunteerism is a beneficial activity for older adults. A few key findings from the analysis:

  • Volunteering is associated with longevity, fewer symptoms of depression, fewer functional limitations, and better overall health.
  • When it comes to volunteering, more is not always better. The optimal amount of volunteering is about 100 hours annually, or two to three hours per week. After this mark, the benefits of volunteering plateau.
  • Seniors who are more vulnerable, such as those suffering from chronic health conditions, stand to reap the most benefits from volunteering.
  • Volunteering creates a feeling of being needed and/or appreciated, which seems to amplify the overall health and wellness benefits for volunteers.

Increased physical activity adds to the social, emotional, and physical health benefits

One possible reason for some of the health benefits realized through volunteering is the increase in physical activity. Seniors volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels to aging or disabled adults in their homes are more physically active than those who maintain a more sedentary lifestyle, so seniors are benefiting not only from the social interaction and feel-good benefits of volunteering, but the added physical activity which can help ward off chronic disease.

Specifically, researchers find that a moderate amount of volunteering (around the 100-hours-annually mark) is associated with less hypertension and fewer hip fractures, when comparing seniors who volunteer to those who do not.

Troubling gaps in research points to areas for future study

Researchers also found some intriguing gaps in prior research that may point to future areas of study. For example, they found very few studies which have investigated the link between volunteerism and cognitive functioning. They found not one study that has looked for an association between volunteering and the risk of dementia, or even an association between volunteering and other health conditions that have been previously associated with a higher risk of dementia, such as stroke or diabetes.

With dementia rates expected to double over the next two decades, Nicole Anderson, Ph.D., who led the team of Canadian and American academics in this meta-analysis, encourages researchers to delve into the potential benefits of volunteerism on cognitive functioning in older adults. The research report suggests a “comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests, so that the association of volunteering with the risks of various forms of dementia and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, could be ascertained.”

Do you volunteer in your local community? Tell us about the volunteer activities you enjoy and how volunteering has been beneficial for you in the comments below.

Innovations in Fall Prevention Interventions: Fall Prevention for Older Adults

Fall prevention for older adults has long been a focus of senior-related programs and services. You’ll find ample information online for seniors and caregivers, such as information on getting a fall risk assessment, fall prevention exercises, or even fall prevention checklists for a safer home environment.Preventing Falls in the Elderly

But it’s not enough. Every year, one in every three adults 65 and older will fall, according to the National Safety Council. So researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago are taking matters into their own hands with an innovative approach to fall prevention: tripping seniors intentionally to train them to avoid falls in the first place.

Falls in the elderly are a serious health risk

A minor trip or fall is one thing, but falls in older adults can lead to serious injuries, such as hip fractures and even head trauma, which take months to recuperate from and often leave seniors with permanent disabilities.

In fact, NIHSeniorHealth, a website providing aging-related information to older adults created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), names hip fractures as the leading cause of injury and loss of independence among older adults.

Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) names falls as the leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries among older adults.

In short, it’s a very serious concern for seniors and their loved ones. Fortunately, many falls are preventable, and increased fall prevention is precisely what researchers are trying to achieve with this new program.

Program promotes subconscious learning

According to MedicalXpress, this new approach is based on, “promising, preliminary results with a lab-built walkway that causes people to unexpectedly trip, as if stepping on a banana peel.”

The same concept is being tested with computerized treadmills, and if it works, researchers hope to place specially-designed treadmills in physicians’ offices, health centers and physical therapy clinics to train older adults to avoid future falls.

Clive Pai, a physical therapy professor leading this innovative research effort, says this program focuses on subconscious learning, whereas more traditional fall prevention methods have emphasized muscle training and improvements in range of motion.

The traditional methods do produce some results, but it can take many months of therapy and exercise to adequately strengthen muscles in some patients.

Intentionally tripping older adults proves promising for fall prevention

The research is funded by a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Institute on Aging and hopes to enroll 300 participants within the next five years. It’s promising because the process promotes implicit learning and so far, has proven to train older adults adequately within much shorter time frames than traditional fall prevention techniques.

In preliminary research, participants were strapped to a harness—which helped them maintain their upright position if needed—and hooked up to sensors that would analyze their movements. Research students pressed a button that caused a sliding walkway to move suddenly, forcing participants to struggle to regain their balance.

The results of this preliminary research showed that 24 provoked “trips” in a single session reduced participants’ chances of falling outside the lab setting by 50 percent up to one year later. This research shows promise, although it will likely require several more years of rigorous study to prove its true effectiveness.

More research on fall prevention on the way

Additionally, Medical Xpress reports that the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a $30 million research effort. This research will evaluate other, mostly conventional fall prevention interventions that can be tailored and adapted to the individual risk profiles and needs of older adults to reduce the number of serious and even minor injuries from falls in the senior population.

As a part of this effort, researchers hope to enroll 6,000 older adults—age 75 and older—at 10 centers throughout the United States.

Fall prevention tips you can use today Exercise for fall prevention

While researchers are working in cooperation with the government to create more effective fall prevention techniques for older adults, there are some steps that you can take today to help protect your elderly loved ones against devastating falls.

  • Participate in muscle-strengthening and balance-reinforcing exercises regularly.
  • Avoid wearing bifocals or multi-focal glasses while walking.
  • Give your home environment a safety run-through, checking for cluttered furniture, loose rugs, cords and other hazards.
  • Add handrails to bathrooms, hallways and other areas where falls are likely.
  • Enhance lighting options in dim areas, and make sure it’s easy to activate lights.
  • Get regular vision exams.
  • Talk with your physician about medication side-effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Use a cane or walker if needed for better balance.

Get more fall prevention tips with this helpful fall prevention checklist from the National Safety Council and by reading our article on Preventing Falls and Brain Injury.