How to Set Up an In-Law Apartment to Maximize Independence

Monday, June 18th, 2018 by Jean Cherry

Light mint basement kitchen room. Mother-in-law apartment

 

Today, one in five Americans lives in multigenerational households. This is a record 64 million people—up from 51 million a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center. Increasing lifespans, changing cultural and societal influences and economic pressures are some of the reasons behind this growing trend.

While there are benefits to living in the same household with older generations, it may cause your aging parents to worry about losing their independence. That being said, there are a number of ways to create a space for your aging parents in your home while still allowing them to maintain their own way of life.

Reinforce the Goal of Independence

Maintaining independence is important for aging adults, as they may fear becoming too reliant on their family while living together. When arranging a co-living situation, encourage your older loved ones to keep their own schedules and activities with friends. They should be responsible for as much as they can do on their own safely.

As you contemplate this living arrangement, determine their current health and mental status. Your loved one’s health and abilities may change faster than you expect, so the level of care needed now may be different from what’s needed in the future.

Create a Space that Fosters Autonomy

The ideal space to provide an independent and private environment for aging parents would include a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living area, with a separate entrance from outside so your parents can maintain their independence as much as possible.

Homes with existing separate spaces like a finished basement, room above the garage or an addition can be transformed into independent living quarters for your aging loved ones. If you choose to use space in your current home, consider making the home more senior-friendly so they can move around easily on their own.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Widen doorways and arrange furniture to allow for easy maneuverability for walkers, scooters or wheelchairs.
  • Install ramps or create access to common areas with fewer steps.
  • Make alterations to kitchens and bathrooms such as raised cabinets, lipless shower stalls, and higher toilet seats to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, even if your parents don’t need these amenities now. You may need to add safety features such as grab bars, which may require reinforcement of walls.
If you plan to build a new structure onto your existing home, it’s important to understand municipal regulations and zoning codes. Rules can be different if you have a family member living with you or if you plan to rent the space to non-family members in the future.

Consider Lifestyle Factors

In addition to thinking about how the space will work best for you and your aging parents, consider how cohabitating will affect your family’s lifestyle. Keep the following elements in mind:

Financial responsibilities

Remodels of existing spaces will typically be less expensive than adding onto your home. Whether you finish an existing space or add space to your home, you’ll need to discuss the costs and determine who will be responsible for funding any initial construction, maintaining the space and financing ongoing expenses such as taxes and improvements.

Have important conversations: If you use your parent’s money for an addition to your house or for living expenses, are your siblings on board with it? Do you need a family trust? Some people seek a lawyer to make sure financial arrangements are fair for everyone in the family. The cost of care may change depending on the length of time your parent ends up staying with you.

Additional financial needs to consider may include home health care, payment for your loved one’s medications and taking time off from work to make trips with them to the doctor. At some point, you may need to decide whether you’re willing to quit your job to care for your aging loved one full-time or move them into a residential care community. These are all important questions to discuss with the entire family.

Privacy and boundaries

Before entering into a multigenerational living arrangement, consider holding a family meeting to discuss each family member’s vision of what the new living situation would look like. Some families even hire a third party, such as a geriatric care manager, to interview family members. The third party may be able to get an idea of how current relationships are working and help anticipate how the senior moving in could affect family dynamics.

It’s important to address boundaries when it comes to childrearing, privacy concerns and how to respectfully share common areas like the kitchen, living room, laundry and entrances. Consider soundproofing private areas, as younger family members may like loud music or seniors may be hard of hearing and have the TV volume on high.

There’s a lot to consider when transforming your home to accommodate your aging parents, but by allowing them space to preserve their independence, the unique arrangement of multi-generational living can be an enriching experience for the entire family.

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Jean Cherry, BSN, WCC, MBA is a former home health nurse and manager of clinical programs at Walgreens. Jean prides herself in helping seniors stay active in their communities and live independently at home. You can find assistive devices for seniors like lift chairs on the Walgreens website.

 

The Upsides to Downsizing Your Home

Friday, June 15th, 2018 by Kelly Tenny

Moving to a new home

 

Downsizing sometimes gets a bad rap. Upon hearing the phrase, many people automatically assume that downsizing is something negative, but in reality, there are plenty of positive aspects to scaling down from your current home. From having less to clean to being free from other obligations of having a larger home, there’s a lot to look forward to when downsizing.

On the other hand, leaving a beloved home can be tough emotionally, mentally and physically. All of the memories made and material belongings accumulated throughout the years can be difficult to leave behind. But with the right mindset and a plan in place, transitioning to a smaller living space in a senior living community becomes less painful.

What follows are some of the best aspects of downsizing, perks of moving into an senior living community, and bright spots to look forward to when transitioning to a smaller home.

There’s Less to Maintain

Owning and maintaining a home is a lot of work. There’s endless cleaning that needs to be done, repairs that need to be made and upkeep that needs to be completed. With a smaller living space, that list of chores and to-dos around the house dwindles, leaving you with more time to focus on the things you enjoy.

It Can Help You Shop Smarter

Artful advertising designed to influence consumers and encourage impulse buys are just about everywhere these days. Anyone can fall prey to something that looks like a good deal or sounds like something they “need” and be influenced by clever and strategic marketing. But when living in a smaller place, you’ll need to become more critical about what you purchase in order to avoid clutter.

Redecorating Opportunities Abound

Redecorating can be a lot of fun -- even more so when there’s a brand new space to work with. Downsizing gives you the opportunity to redesign your space, come up with new concepts and get creative with your storage spots. That can mean experimenting with different setups, getting creative and investing in furniture that doubles as extra storage to save on space.

For those in need of more storage space, an on demand storage company is one option to stow any excess items you don’t want to part with. These companies handle the logistics of putting belongings safely into storage.

Help is On Hand

One of the clearest benefits to moving into a senior living community is having assistance at the ready. For those in assisted living communities, on-site caregivers mean residents and their families can worry less, and rest assured that medications, daily activities and nutrition are being monitored and assessed. For those who need help with activities of daily living, like dressing, eating and bathing, having these accessible caregiver services at home is invaluable.

Socialization and A Sense of Community

When transitioning from an empty home to a senior living community, there are lots of new opportunities to form a community and socialize with neighbors. Isolation is a real problem for many elderly adults, especially if their spouse has passed away and other family members live far away.

In a senior living community, residents have peers who live close by, scheduled activities and outings they can participate in, not to mention time to take up hobbies and develop new friendships.

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Kelly Tenny is a social media manager and content writer from Long Island, New York. When she's not busy typing away, Kelly spends her time volunteering at a local animal sanctuary, eating delicious vegan food, and bolstering the use of the Oxford comma.

10 Key Questions to Ask When Considering an Independent Living Community

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 by Tiffany Aller

ILCouple

Are you or a loved one ready to take the next steps to find an ideal living arrangement for the near future? If so you may be considering a move to an independent living community. Unlike assisted living communities, which offer assistance with many activities of daily living as part of the monthly rental and services contract, residents of independent living communities are more (as the name implies) independent.

With living quarters that resemble regular homes or apartments, independent living communities offer access to additional amenities or assistance if needed, but otherwise foster autonomous retirement community-style living.

If you or your family members are considering an independent living community, make sure to ask these 10 essential questions before signing a contract and moving in.

1. What level of needs do you expect a community to satisfy?

Are you looking for a stand-alone retirement community that’s simply a housing development or apartment complex with age restrictions? Or is an independent living community that’s possibly part of a larger continuity of care complex closer to what you want?

With the former, you’ll be surrounded by people around the same age, potentially with access to amenities like clubhouses, golf courses and restaurants. In the latter situation, you may have access to meals or food preparation, housekeeping and other daily support services as part of your monthly contract.

2. Can you try before you buy?

Maryglenn Boals, an expert in long-term care insurance and aging issues, encourages seniors to look for communities that let you try them out before you commit to moving in.

“Typically, the community will have a guest suite as a rental…specifically for this purpose,” she says. Spending a little bit of money on this rental before signing on the dotted line lets you meet residents who will become your neighbors and get a feel for the community as a whole.

3. Can you speak with current residents?

Spend a bit of time seeking out potential future neighbors, recommends Morgan Lamphere, the vice president of marketing at the The Spires at Berry College, a continuing care retirement community in Rome, Georgia. You can use this opportunity to gauge whether you’ll fit in with those you meet and want them to be your neighbors, and they can give you the scoop on what it’s like to live in the community.

4. What are the community's common areas like?

While you’ll likely be spending more time in your own space in an independent living community versus more advanced care communities, you’ll still want to avail yourself of the amenities offered within common areas. Lamphere recommends checking out what common spaces are available, whether they’re neat, clean and bright, and whether you feel drawn to spending time there. What is especially attractive to you, or what seems to be lacking?

5. How is the community doing financially?

Lamphere also advises asking the “hard questions” when you visit potential independent living communities. Are they financially soluble? What percentage of occupancy is the community at? Has the community made known its future expansion plans or any financing it will seek in the near term for on-property projects? How stable have expenses been on the resident end? Have rents remained stable or have the rates risen or fallen significantly?

6. Why would an independent living community be better than your current home?

All things considered, think about why it would be better to move from your current home and into an independent living community. Lamphere recommends taking an honest look about what services you or your loved one may be enlisting in the current living arrangement, including aid from unpaid family members working on your behalf. What quality is lacking that you hope an independent living community can fulfill?

7. What continuity of care does the community offer?

When seniors move into independent retirement communities, it’s often with one eye on the present and the continued allure of independence and the other eye on the future and the additional needs that will likely arise.

Although it can be tempting to delay plans for your later years, it's important to think about whether the communities you're considering will be a good fit for your future needs. Find out whether the independent living community is part of a larger Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC, a type of senior living community that offers options for independent residents as well as those needing some assistance. And if it's not a CCRC, be sure to ask staff members about what types of senior care, if any, are offered at the community.

 

8. How does the community’s location factor into other aspects of your life?

This is mainly a question you will ask of yourself or your loved one, since it’s highly specific to your or their situation, versus answers a community could give. It's a good idea to consider whether the community is located nearby any friends, family or places of business or worship that matter to you.

The community’s location could trump other offerings or pros and cons if it means you can stay better plugged into your existing life or enjoy more frequent visits from family and friends.

9. What is included when you sign the contract?

Lamphere recommends taking a very close look at your contract before you sign. Do you want to add on a meal plan or housekeeping services — or are those offerings even available at the community you’re considering?

Would you have access to any healthcare or health support services at the community? What obligations might you be incurring (beyond financial ones) when you sign on? And can you easily amend your contract in the future if needed to add or remove certain services?

10. What professionals will you have regular access to?

Consider whether the independent living community operates as an apartment-type community with an office crew and perhaps activity coordinator, handyman and grounds crew. Or, if what you’re considering is a broader continuing care retirement community, will you have access to an array of on-site professionals, including those who can help you maintain a healthy diet, plan your daily routine, check on you if need be or provide on-site healthcare services?

Making the decision to uproot your current living arrangement is a major one, so you’ll want to spend as much time as you need to gather the best information to make an informed choice. That way, you can feel secure in the independent living community you have chosen and can move into the next chapter of your life with peace of mind and excitement.

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Tiffany Aller is a freelance writer, civil servant and ministry professional with a background in healthcare, real estate and human resource management. She and her young children make their home in north Texas where they enjoy chasing Pokemon, geocaching, their million-and-one pets and immersing themselves in their great community.

5 Common Online Scams Targeting Seniors (and How to Avoid Them)

Sunday, May 20th, 2018 by Ian Samuels

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

Seniors are a leading target of scammers. The American Journal of Public Health reports that at least five percent of seniors experience some form of fraud or scam each year.

Home Instead Senior Care, which created the Protect Seniors Online program, conducted a recent survey of 1,000 North American seniors and turned up some startling big-picture numbers.

  • More than two-thirds of seniors report being targeted or victimized by at least one common scam.
  • More than a third have found themselves at the focus of online confidence tricks or hacking attempts, and 28 percent have downloaded a computer virus.
Confidence scammers and hackers should be a major cause of concern for older adults in safeguarding their financial well-being, and these types of online schemes are fast overtaking their offline counterparts in frequency. Here are five of the most common online scams targeting older adults and important steps to avoid them.

1. Grandparent Scams

This scam involves a fraudster sending an e-mail pretending to either be or to represent a grandchild or other family member in financial or legal trouble.

Typically this situation is presented as a "send money now" emergency. The scammer requests an urgent wire transfer, often for something such as bail money or lawyer's fees, and begs their target not to tell anyone else in the family and reveal their shame. Once the money is wired, the target never hears from their false grandchild again.

The National Consumers League recommends several ways to avoid this scam.

  • Beware of any urgent solicitation of funds — especially for bail money, lawyer’s fees or medical bills — and be doubly suspicious when the payment method is a wire transfer.
  • Independently contact the relative who the scam artist is claiming to be (or represent) at a phone number you know to verify their story.
  • Look out for scammers contacting you late at night in order to confuse you.

2. Tech Support Scams

These take two major forms. In the first, the scammer calls their target, purports to represent "Windows technical support," "Dell technical support" or similar, and tries to trick the senior into downloading malware that gives the scammer access to the computer they are promising to "clean up."

In the second, more elaborate type of tech support scam, the scammer purchases likely Google keywords for technical support searches and sets up their own fake website, tempting victims into unwittingly contacting them and then accessing their computers under the pretext of providing requested help.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends these tips to avoid tech support scams.

  • Never give financial information, credit card information or control of your computer to someone who calls you out of the blue and claims to be from any form of "technical support," and never follow instructions from this person to download anything to your computer.
  • If you do happen to need tech support, find the company’s contact information on its software package or on your receipt.
  • If concerned about your computer's security, contact your security software company directly for assistance.

3. Fake Prescription Drugs Scams

This type of scam exploits older adults seeking online deals for prescription drugs. The scammers set up fake websites advertising counterfeit drugs at cheap prices. The victims pay online, only they receive medications that are not only useless but sometimes create new health issues.

Justin Lavelle, chief communications director at BeenVerified.com, offers the following advice for avoiding this scam: "Talk to your family before ordering any medications online. That way, they can assist you on verifying that the site and the medication are both legitimate."

4. Online Dating Scams

A common online dating scam involves a con artist targeting older single women, building a rapport with them via an online dating website and then asking them to wire increasingly large amounts of money to a foreign address. The scammer abruptly disappears one day with the money.

Lavelle has several tips for avoiding this trap.

  • Treat it as a red flag if your online love interest asks for money, especially if you've never met face-to-face. Scammers often use a sympathetic-sounding excuse, like needing money for a sick relative.
  • Be suspicious if they come up with endless excuses to avoid meeting.
  • During online chats, make sure the flow of conversation makes sense and try switching things up to ensure they can keep track with you, as this can help to expose robot profiles.
  • Research the person on Google and social media and through their friends before agreeing to meet face-to-face.

5. Mortgage Closing Phishing Scams

These scams target the mortgage closing fees being held in your account. The criminals hack into the e-mail accounts of consumers and real estate agents to gain information on the closing date, then e-mail the buyer to pose as a realtor or title company on closing day.

The fraudster inevitably claims that the wiring instructions for the closing funds have changed and instruct the buyer to send funds to a new account (theirs). By this method, your funds can be cleaned out in minutes and impossible to recover.

"E-mail is not a secure way to send financial information, so never respond to an e-mail requesting money or wire transfers," advises Lavelle.

Other Disreputable Practices

Not all online scams are outright criminal. Some are technically legal but still disreputable.

"Free products that require a credit card for shipping have tripped up half of my clients,” says Kay Bransford, a money manager and founder of financial management company MemoryBanc. “They don’t realize they agreed to a subscription service until we find charges on the credit card."

The best defense is to stay informed, make sure you know exactly who you're interacting with online, and verify that any circumstance involving online money requests is above board.

If you ever do run afoul of an online scam, you can report it to any of the following agencies:

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Ian Samuels is a published poet and a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes on a wide range of topics. When away from the keyboard he can very often be found indulging his enthusiasms for reading, cooking, classic films or reggae music.

8 Advantages of At-Home Palliative Care

Sunday, May 20th, 2018 by Tiffany Aller

Doctor On Home Visit Discussing Health Of Senior Male Patient

Planning for palliative care services is an important step in the continuum of care for someone with a serious illness. Family members caring for the ill loved one often face high levels of stress, as do the patient and others in their support system of friends and family. Palliative care seeks to reduce that stress for everyone involved in the care team, minimize symptoms and enhance the patient’s overall quality of life.

The Center to Advance Palliative Care estimates that palliative care services could help up to six million Americans with serious illnesses. Working with an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers and care aides can enhance the effectiveness of other treatments the patient is receiving and even significantly extend the patient’s lifespan. As you seek to create the best care plan for your loved one, consider the following reasons why seeking at-home palliative care could be in the best interest of your entire household.

1. Wider access to dedicated professionals

“Hospice doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains are specialized in supporting people” through the entire palliative care process, says Anna Bradshaw, a licensed clinical social worker, hospice chaplain and founder of the Feel Better Group. “They have the knowledge, resources and passion for this work.”

This can lighten your load by bringing all of the experience these professionals have right into your own home to care for your loved one, rather than requiring you to balance exhausting appointments, intensive research and the often overwhelming task of being a family caregiver.

2. Pain management is handled appropriately

One of the main concerns patients and their loved ones express during a battle with a serious illness is how pain will be managed. This can be especially worrisome when the patient is being cared for at home instead of in a hospital setting, and access to pain medication can seem cumbersome or even impossible as pharmacies face greater regulations in the dispensation of opioids.

Bradshaw provides this assurance: “Palliative care doctors are practiced in helping people to be comfortable.” And while you may also be plagued with worry that your loved one could become addicted, this too is something palliative care doctors can help prevent.

3. A focus on both quality and quantity of life

Bradshaw says that while palliative and hospice care are not curative, the care provided can help patients feel very best, comfortable in their environment and relatively pain-free. So while palliative care cannot reverse the serious illness being battled, it can go a long way toward improving the patient’s quality of life and even add time to that life.

The group Bradshaw worked with liked the motto “adding days to life” because that’s exactly what quality palliative care can provide for some patients and their families, she says.

4. The whole household’s needs are balanced

Providing at-home care for a loved one is costly in time, energy and dollars. Many times, the needs of all members of the household suffer in order to meet the needs of the patient. It shouldn’t have to be that way — both the patient and their loved ones should be able to live their best lives together in comfort and peace.

Roland Hines, a sales professional in the home health field, posits that in-home care provides the patient with familiarity and higher levels of comfort than can be offered in a care facility, while saving time for the whole family. “It’s stressful on the family to maintain a balance, caring for the loved one, working and dealing with the needs of the immediate family,” he says. Palliative care can help maintain that balance.

5. Customized and consistent care

Within most care facilities, patients do receive the best possible quality of care possible, but they also have very little control over their surroundings, the amenities offered and the staff they routinely interact with.

Hines touts “the ability to customize the level of care” offered by a palliative care team in an at-home setting, including access to “consistent staff to reduce anxiety and offer accountability” while letting the patient have food, music, television and other creature comforts set up exactly as they want.

6. Daily support at lower costs

Billie Whitehurst, senior vice president of extended care solutions with Change Healthcare, is an expert in the benefits offered by palliative care to patients who want to remain at home. She notes that in-home palliative care becomes part of the daily routine, making it more easily accepted and beneficial than dealing with sporadic or recurring medical appointments outside the home.

Plus, study outcomes have shown that at-home care is the least expensive care model, she notes. And fewer worries about the cost of care can further improve quality of life for your whole family, including your seriously ill loved one.

7. Enhanced relationships and preserved dignity

The stress of a lengthy illness can take an enormous toll on the whole family, straining relationships and reducing the patient’s sense of dignity. Lannette Cornell Bloom, a registered nurse who learned about palliative care resources firsthand while caring for her dying mother at home, shares that the process “allowed us to slow down and experience so many unexpected, joyful moments during such a hard time.”

In her book, “Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying,” Bloom writes, “With palliative care, there is beauty to be found in the dying process.”

8. Longer-term support

Palliative care services can begin when a serious diagnosis is first made, instead of waiting, as hospice services do, until a patient is facing imminent death.

Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine and member of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care’s Board of Directors, offers this final nugget of advice: “Palliative care means you can live as well as possible for as long as possible. It’s one of the very best parts of our healthcare system. I highly recommend looking into it."

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Tiffany Aller is a freelance writer, civil servant and ministry professional with a background in healthcare, real estate and human resource management. She and her young children make their home in north Texas where they enjoy chasing Pokemon, geocaching, their million-and-one pets and immersing themselves in their great community.

How to Deal with Guilt Over Moving a Loved One to Assisted Living

Monday, May 14th, 2018 by Sarah Stasik

Elderly care

 

Families make decisions to move a senior loved one into an assisted living facility for many reasons. Sometimes the senior makes the decision for themselves, while other times they are resistant to the change. Either way, it’s common for family members to feel guilt over the move.

Common Reasons for Guilt When Moving Someone to Assisted Living

Amanda Lambert, a certified caregiver and co-author of "Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home," notes that guilt can arise because many seniors may voice a preference for wanting to age at home rather than making a move to a senior living community. “Families feel guilty,” says Lambert, “because they feel like they are giving up or are not able or willing to provide enough care at home to keep a loved one safe.”

Author and licensed therapist Heidi McBain agrees, adding that family members may also feel guilt if a move to an assisted living community means that their relative will be far away from loved ones.

Many times, adult children have made promises to keep aging parents in the home, says Lynette Whiteman, of Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey. But that’s not always possible or safe. “When they have to break this promise,” says Whiteman, “They feel like failures and bad children.”

Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist in Colorado, sums all of these reasons up with one statement: “It’s easy to feel guilty over moving a loved one into assisted living because it can feel like you’re abandoning them.”

Assisted Living is Often the Right Choice

It’s important to remember that feelings of guilt don’t necessarily equate to a bad decision. In many cases, a move to an assisted living community may actually improve quality of life for a loved one.

“There is no level of guilt avoidance that is worth the risk of compromising safety,” says Jonathan Marsh, owner of senior care company Home Helpers of Bradenton. Marsh points out that safety is a two-way street, and that caregivers have to consider whether they can safely provide for a senior relative in either the senior’s home or their own home.

“If an individual tries to keep their loved one at home, he or she must ensure that it is safe to do so both for their loved ones as well as for themselves,” says Marsh. “Many individuals run themselves ragged trying to keep loved ones out of assisted living at the expense of their own health.”

Assisted living communities remove some burden from caregivers while providing ample safety benefits to seniors. Fisher notes that staff at these communities can help with making sure a senior loved one takes any needed medications, providing social and recreational activities and ensuring proper meals and nutrition.

Lambert, who helped her own parents move into an assisted living recently, provides a list of additional benefits seniors may experience in such communities:

  • Increased socialization can improve mood and cognition and reduce loneliness.
  • On-demand transportation options can help keep seniors stay mobile.
  • In-house medical services may improve your loved one’s overall health.

Tips for Coping with the Guilt

The first step to coping with feelings of guilt when moving a loved one into an assisted living community is realizing that you’re making a good decision. According to the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), more than 835,000 people live in assisted living communities nationwide. Many only require some help with activities of daily living, which means they can continue to live independently and safely otherwise — even with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or depression.

An assisted living community provides a balance between getting necessary daily help and independence, often lengthening the time someone can remain out of a skilled nursing facility. According to the NCAL, the average stay in an assisted living community is almost two years, after which about 60 percent of residents transition to a nursing home.

Lambert says that in addition to knowing you did the right thing and focusing on the benefits assisted living has to offer, staying in touch with your loved one can also go a long way toward alleviating feelings of guilt. “Keep a close eye on how things are going,” she says. “Check in with the nurse, wellness director and executive director. Check in with your loved one and get their honest opinion about how things are going. Stay patient. Expect things may be rocky at first.”

Lambert stresses that staying in touch is critically important to your loved one’s successful transition to assisted living. “If you live in the same town, visit once a week for dinner,” Lambert says. “This shows that you care — and seniors love showing off family in the dining room. If you live too far away, use Skype, call and email frequently. Visit whenever possible.”

In addition to staying in contact and ensuring that the transition is as positive as possible for your loved one, here are some other tips for coping with guilt after moving someone into assisted living.

  • McBain suggests developing a relationship with a specific contact person at the community so you have a person you trust and can talk to when you’re worried or have issues.
  • Whiteman says to remember that an assisted living community can actually increase your loved one’s social interaction. They can “make new friendships, feel connected to others and actually enjoy life more," he notes.
  • Fisher says that the transition period can be the hardest on both the senior and their family; be patient and give positive results time to show up. Transitioning a senior out of an assisted living community almost as soon as you move them in due to guilt can actually cause more problems.
  • Marsh recommends planning ahead. Considering assisted living options before an immediate need arises gives families and seniors more time to tour communities and make the best decisions for themselves. Knowing that you made a careful decision helps alleviate feelings of inadequacy or guilt.
Helping a loved one transition into an assisted living community doesn’t mean you give up on them. It simply means that they are taking the next step in their lives — a step that is often the right choice and one that can lead to a more positive, healthy lifestyle for both seniors and their family caregivers.

Staying in contact, continuing to act as an advocate for your loved one and ensuring the community sees to your family member’s needs are all ways you can remain an important part of his or her life – without the guilt.

 

2018 Mother's Day Gift Guide for Senior Moms

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 by Sarah Stasik

happy little girl giving present to her grandmother

 

Still unsure what to get Mom for Mother’s Day this year?

According to the National Retail Foundation, children of all ages in the United States are poised to spend about $180 per person, but most children know it's not how much you spend. Moms enjoy receiving thoughtful, meaningful gifts —no matter how old they are.

When choosing a gift for an older mother, keep in mind her needs, capabilities and living situation. If she's moved into a senior living community and has a studio or one-bedroom apartment, she probably doesn't need any more knick-knacks. That could be true even if she's living at home since older moms have had years to collect memorabilia and decor.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What needs can you meet with a thoughtful gift?
  • Is there a treat or fun item Mom would never buy for herself?
  • Does the gift fit with your mom's lifestyle and living situation?
We’ve rounded up some options that can help make Mom’s life easier and allow for some much-deserved pampering.

Self-care in a tin

BagBalmGift

 

Bag Balm has provided skin care products for more than a century, so the brand just may evoke memories for Mom. Bag Balm makes lip balm, soap, lotion and other moisturizing products that help treat dry, chafed or sensitive skin.

Since the product hasn't changed much through the years, moms who remember it may appreciate receiving this gift all the more. It’s another reliable option for last-minute gifting, available at Walmart and many major pharmacies.

Cost: starts at $3.99

To order: Bagbalm.com

 

Chicken Soup for Mom's Soul

ChickenSoupForMomwithLove

 

You can't go wrong with a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book on Mother's Day, says licensed psychotherapist Lisa Hutchison. The brand publishes a variety of books, which makes it easy to customize your gift to fit your mom's interests.

Hutchison, who’s also a contributing writer for the series, suggests the series’ For Mom with Love edition, which includes 101 inspiring stories specifically for mothers. The volume includes a story she wrote about her mother's positive approach to life after a stroke.

Cost: $9.99

To order: Amazon

 

A paper-bound coffee break

CaregiverCoffeeBreak

 

Author Breeda Miller points out that "many senior moms are now caring for their 90-plus-year-old mothers themselves." That puts older moms in a position that can be exhausting, with little time for themselves.

Miller's book, "The Caregiver Coffeebreak," provides resources to help caregivers take those much-needed breaks and care for their older loved one. "I have written a little book I wish I had when I was my mother's caregiver," says Miller. The book itself is easy to slip into a purse, so caregivers can take it with them as they run errands or transport their loved one to medical appointments.

Cost: $12.97

To order: Amazon

 

A daily health helper

TimerCap

 

TimerCap provides an easy way for anyone to see when they last took a pill. The device replaces the cap that comes with a typical prescription pill bottle, and each time the bottle is opened, a stopwatch clock on the cap restarts.

TimerCaps come with space for writing the appropriate dosages, so the user knows exactly how many hours they're supposed to wait between taking pills. This item is an inexpensive, easy way seniors can increase medication compliance. It can be found at drugstores including CVS and Walgreens, making it an easy last-minute Mother's Day gift that can bring both you and Mom peace of mind about remembering her daily medication.

Cost: $19.95

To order: TimerCap.com

 

A personalized book for Grandma

SuperBestestGrandmaBook

 

No matter where your mom lives, if she's also a grandmother, you can delight her with a customized book from I See Me. "My Super-Bestest Grandma" is an adorable picture book printed with the name of your child (or children) and the appropriate moniker for your mother (whether it's Grandma, Nana, or something else).

It's not just a cute gift to adorn the bookshelf. A customized book that your mom will love reading with the featured grandchildren can also provide the gift of quality time.

Cost: $29.99

To order: ISeeMe.com

 

A hospital-friendly hoodie

ChestZipHoodie

 

The chest access hoodie is a collaborative project from Care+Wear and Oscar de la Renta. Care+Wear CEO and co-founder Chat Razdan says the company's design team worked with patients and clinicians at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for their input to design a comfortable, attractive hoodie that helped make medical treatments easier for patients with a chest port-a-cath or central line.

Choose from three sizes and two colors to gift Mom a comforting wearable for treatment days. As an added bonus: a portion of the sales is given to cancer patients on an ongoing basis.

Cost: $85

To order: Care and Wear

 

A no-hassle storage service

ZippBoxx1

 

ZippBoxx is a service that works closely with assisted living communities and those in the process of downsizing homes and possessions.

"A service like ours would be the perfect gift to give a senior who is downsizing," says ZippBoxx spokeswoman Kelly Tenny. "Basically, we pick up items that need to go into storage, transport them to our secure facility and then deliver those items back upon request."

Gifting ZippBoxx or a similar service can make a moving or downsizing process streamlined and simple for Mom. Since ZippBoxx keeps all of her items safe and secure — and brings them back upon request — she can feel better about testing the downsizing waters.

Cost: Storage space plans start at $95/month

To order: ZippBoxx.com

 

Customized furry friends

petsies

 

When senior moms are suffering from dementia, it can be difficult to find an appropriate gift. One option might be a customized stuffed animal from My Petsies. According to My Petsies, studies indicate that patients with mid-to-late stage Alzheimer's continue to feel deep emotions associated with memories they made with their pets, and stuffed animals have been shown to bring comfort to dementia patients.

My Petsies creates custom stuffed animals that look like someone's previous or current pet to better foster that comfort.

Cost: $169 - $199

To order: My Petsies

 

An upgraded walker

MotivoTour1

 

Limited mobility doesn't have to keep Mom at home, and upgrading her walker can give her the confidence to stay active within her social circle or community. The Motivo Tour walker is one option that’s made to enhance posture to reduce back and neck pain. It also comes with options such as cup holders, storage compartments and a sturdy tray that can hold a laptop or dinner plate.

Cost: $499.99

To order: motivolife.com

 

From customized stuffed animals to specialty clothing and medication reminders, gifts that bring comfort, joy and functionality to Mom in 2018 are sure to be great choices. Choose something from this list, or any gift that simply says how much you care.

 

7 Key Steps to Take After a Parkinson's Diagnosis

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 by Katherine OBrien

American doctor talking to a senior man in office

 

Finding out you have Parkinson's disease, a progressive brain disorder characterized by tremors and changes in speech and gait, is a hard pill to swallow.

There’s a lot to take in, and it can be incredibly overwhelming not only for the person with the diagnosis, but for their family. But with more research into the disease now than ever before, there are a number of smart strategies you can take to help slow down the disease’s progression, allowing you to live life to your full potential.

1. Connect With a Neurologist

Step number one: Ask your primary care doctor to refer you to a neurologist, preferably one who is a movement disorders specialist. Patients who work with neurologists tend to have better results than those who don’t, says Melita Petrossian, Director of the Pacific Movement Disorders Center in Santa Monica.

But don’t just take her word for it—this study published in the journal Neurology shows that patients treated by neurologists may live longer and are less likely to be placed in a nursing home or to break a hip. Even if you can only get to a specialist once a year, it can still can help, says Petrossian. Another option for those who live far from major medical centers: video conferencing.

2. Find Meds That Work for You

Although there’s no cure for Parkinson’s yet, medications can often dramatically help control symptoms. Do be aware that PD drugs can produce significant side effects like involuntary movements. Additionally, you must take meds exactly as directed to avoid side effects such as gait freezing, unpredictable incidences of being unable to move or keep moving.

Another caution: keep your protein and fat intake in check, as too much of either can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb Parkinson’s medication. If medication doesn’t adequately control your symptoms, deep brain stimulation, which involves the implantation of electrodes in the brain, is another–albeit riskier—option.

3. Participate in Research

Taking part in clinical trials -- particularly those seeking treatments to slow or stop disease progression – is a direct way to contribute to finding a cure for PD. “I support patients enrolling in clinical trials because there is a tremendous amount of work left to understand Parkinson’s disease and how to prevent it,” says Dr. Karl Dhana,” Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at MorseLife Health System in Florida. “We need to continue to develop new and more effective treatments for Parkinson’s which will hopefully lead to a cure.”

4. Get Moving and Keep Moving!

Exercise is another key way to manage Parkinson’s. “All the research shows that the earlier you get on a very Parkinson’s-specific exercise routine, the better it goes for your long-term quality of life,” says physical therapist Brian Keenoy, who treats PD patients at the Generation Care rehab facility in Michigan.

Several exercise programs have been specially designed for people living with Parkinson’s, including Rock Steady Boxing and Dance for PD. Keenoy says that dancing is a good choice for people with the disease, as it involves conscious and purposeful movement that increases the brain-body connection.

Both dancing and Tai chi, another exercise that involves conscious movement, can also improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling. “When you have Parkinson’s, you can’t correct yourself when you lose your balance because the disease decreases how quickly you can move to steady yourself,” says Dhana. In addition, he notes that Parkinson’s and PD medications cause blood pressure to drop in patients when they stand up, sometimes leading to light-headedness and dizziness, which also increases the risk of falling.

5. Manage Your Mood

As with many diseases, managing your mood is a fundamental part of the rehabilitative process. Keenoy, who encourages his patients to do one thing every day that brings them joy, notes that patients who feel depressed may abandon their exercise routine (the loss of dopamine-producing cells in people with Parkinson’s also affects motivation.) In addition, depression can also exacerbate the symptoms of Parkinson’s. As Dhana points out, “if someone is anxious and nervous, it can make the tremors worse."

 

Petrossian believes that the emotional response to Parkinson’s can sometimes be more devastating than the physical symptoms. “The bigger issue I see is that a lot of people with Parkinson’s have anxiety and depression, which goes beyond just stress, and I think those need to be addressed, sometimes with cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes with medication,” she says.

6. Seek Out Support

“Part of the problem for someone just diagnosed with Parkinson's is a sense of isolation and bewilderment, a sense of identity loss,” Petrossian says. One way to counter the isolation and to adjust to living with Parkinson’s is through peer support. (You can find local support groups--including the PRESS Program for recently diagnosed PD patients-- on the American Parkinson’s Disease Association website.)

“Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder, and if you take that on yourself…it can be a little daunting,” says Keenoy, who encourages his patients to build strong social networks. “You’re not the first person diagnosed with Parkinson’s where you live, and so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own,” he says.

7. Reframe Your Experience

In addition to getting support, thinking positively can help you come to terms with your diagnosis. One of Petrossian’s patients has taken to viewing Parkinson’s as a friend (he calls him “Mr. P”), while others repeat mantras like, “I have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me.”

Petrossian acknowledges that this approach may feel a little cliched or trite, “but having a mantra that recognizes your struggle without diminishing who you are and without overemphasizing the role Parkinson’s plays in your life can help you cope and become more resilient.”

In contrast, one of her patients told her that having Parkinson’s means he will “never hit a ball out of the park,” no matter how hard he tries. At the time, Petrossian, who was “blown away” by his “devastating way of thinking about life,” didn’t know how to respond. “How do you get up every day and exercise and everyday try to be positive when you are constantly feeling like you are in a losing battle,” she says.

Later, another patient gave her the answer: If you live with Parkinson’s, “you have to recognize that you have to play a different game, you have to change the rules of the game,” Petrossian says. In other words, she says, “you have to re-imagine your life.”

For his part, Keenoy is adamant that people living with Parkinson’s can live a full life. “I’ve seen individuals come in pretty bummed out because they’ve just got a really big diagnosis, but after you give them tools, they realize they can adapt things so that they really enjoy their life,” he says. “I believe one-thousand per cent that people with Parkinson’s can live a long fruitful, joyful, high-quality life.”

 

7 Healthy Springtime Activities for Active Seniors

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by Alana Luna

ParkWalk

You may not have much luck finding the fountain of youth, but studies show that one promising way to extend your life is exercise. In fact, research shows that people over 70 who incorporate up to 150 minutes of activity in their weekly schedule tend to be less disabled and recover quicker in the event of an injury.

Paired with other positive habits like a proper diet and a smoke-free lifestyle, regular activity – both physical and mental – could keep you happier and healthier well into your golden years. Luckily, exercise doesn’t have to mean 10-mile runs or an afternoon spent sweating it out to the oldies. Here is a collection of seven springtime activities and hobbies for seniors that are as beneficial as they are entertaining.

1. Socialize with friends and neighbors

Over 8 million adults over 50 live in isolation, a situation the AARP says has the  equivalent health risk of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. When the loss of a spouse, scattered offspring, a recent move or poor health remove people from their comfort zones, socialization is often one of the first casualties.

Look into volunteering opportunities, programs at local senior centers, continuing education classes and on-site get-togethers in your apartment complex or retirement community, and work to expand your social circle. If transportation is a concern, consider volunteer-based ride programs that help retirees get from point A to point B.

Heidi McBain, author of “Life Transitions: Personal Stories of Hope Through Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Changes”, suggests bringing a pet into the equation. “Keeping seniors connected to others is so important, and there are so many groups out there that make this possible,” she says. “For the spring, if they have a dog, there are dog-walking groups that get together, usually a few times a week, to go on a short walk.”

2. Try your hand at water sports

You don’t have to be Michael Phelps to get your money’s worth out of a pool-based workout. In fact, the senior living industry experts at Edgehill, a retirement community in Stamford, Connecticut, recommend swimming and water aerobics as low-impact ways to build muscle tone and strength without stressing your joints.

Water workouts rely on your own body weight, so there’s no strain or awkward movements lifting heavy weights, and the added resistance provided by the water contributes just enough intensity.

3. Make exercise fun again

Edgehill’s team also backs up McBain’s advice on socializing, and suggests tying it to exercise. “To maintain your fitness and have fun this spring, enjoy some forms of exercise that don’t feel like work. For example, take a hike in nature, play fetch with your dog, plant a garden, go out dancing with a friend or enjoy a round of golf,” Edgehill staff suggest.

Consider signing up for an outdoor charity event, handing out water at a 5K run or marathon, taking your grandkids to the playground or the zoo and trying your hand at some Wii tennis or bowling — the latter burns an average of 150 calories per hour.

4. Become an amateur botanist

Spring is when Mother Nature wakes up and begins infusing the world with color, so it’s the perfect time to get some fresh air and explore nearby meadows, gardens and parks.

After retiring, Dr. Katherine Wagner-Reiss launched Botanical Tours, a company that takes groups on hourlong walking tours with an emphasis on learning about the plants they encounter. She suggests collecting flowers, pressing them between the pages of heavy books and then reading up on the history of each plant.

This activity also lends itself to sharing what you’ve learned with friends — older or younger — or expanding your education to include field trips to a nature center, botanical garden or even a gardening store, where you might find more exotic plant varieties than you’d encounter in your backyard.

5. Head to the farmer’s market

As the ice melts, crops begin to wake up and blossom, and that means the stalls at the farmer’s market will be piled high with delicious fruits and vegetables. Asparagus, apricots, butter lettuce, green beans, mushrooms, mustard greens, peas, radicchio, fennel, corn, rhubarb, Vidalia onions, strawberries and honeydew are just some of the farm-to-table goodies available across the U.S. in March, April and May.

This can be an opportunity to pick up some of your favorites produce and make a signature dish for your neighbors. Even better, take a group to the market and have a potluck where everyone can contribute and get a taste of spring.

6. Focus on functional exercises and flexibility

After a long winter spent cramped indoors, time in the gym seems particularly unappealing. Now’s the chance to limber up and stretch outside among the warm spring breezes and newly grown grass to get your body moving and enjoy the pleasant spring weather.

Dr. Karena Wu is the owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in NYC and Mumbai, and a physical therapist to the stars. She advocates for exercises that support functional motion that prepare the body for everyday tasks. “Functional exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and bridges are important, as they mimic body movements and use multiple joints and muscles,” she says.

Wu also prescribes flexibility exercises and isolated moves that strengthen individual muscles and help boost mobility. All of these maneuvers can be done outside, alone or in groups, and with little to no equipment.

7. Take a field trip

Treat yourself to an infusion of culture or entertainment and watch how it brightens your week. Stop by the art or history museum, head to a baseball game, grab tickets to a concert, catch a movie at the theater, watch the dolphins frolic at the aquarium, hit the trails at a national park or see a play.

Museums often offer senior discounts based on age or AARP membership at least one day a week, as do many other venues including restaurants, so you can grab a bite to eat during your adventure.

There is a caveat to all this healthy exertion, notes Wu. “With these activities, risks involved for seniors would involve not clearing your health history before starting any exercise program, doing exercises inappropriate for your condition, overdoing exercises, not allowing for enough rest in between exercise sessions and not listening to your body if aches and pains persist,” she says.

Always check with your doctor before revving up your routine and don’t be afraid to rest. There’s plenty of spring and the entire summer left to enjoy a life in motion.

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Alana Luna is a full-time freelance writer, content strategist, and social media guru based out of Las Vegas, NV. As a former professional musician and long-time volunteer, Alana has seen firsthand the power of music and healing in the senior community, and she takes a particular interest in promoting creative therapies for people of all ages.

When she's not busy whipping up content, Alana enjoys spending time with her baby daughter and heading to the kitchen to flex her culinary muscles. 

How Smart Security Cameras Can Improve -- or Even Save -- Seniors' Lives

Monday, April 16th, 2018 by Eric Murrell

SmartCameras1

When you think of people who buy smart home gadgets, young, tech-savvy Millennials who are always “early adopters” may come to mind. While it’s true that the younger generations are more apt to chase the latest that technology has to offer, the customers who may benefit the most from high-tech home security features are a few generations ahead.

One of the most popular smart home tools on the market today is a re-imagining of the home security system through the use of smart wireless cameras that are part of an Internet-enabled smart home hub. Whether you’re a retired homeowner looking for more peace of mind, or a family caregiver looking for a reliable safety tool for an elderly loved one, smart cameras can be a helpful upgrade to an older adult’s home.

Keep an Eye on the Outside

For elderly adults who are homebound, outdoor security cameras (available from the hardware store or your Internet service provider for around $200) can go a long way in keeping them and their families aware of their surroundings.

Most modern outdoor cameras feature both motion detection and night vision, and they can be part of a home-monitoring service package, making them the perfect tool for seniors who live alone. These systems can also help police identify vandals and alert homeowners to intruders before they ever make it to an entrance.

Many of these cameras are also enabled with cloud video recording features that help monitor potential problems, keeping a digital eye on everything from trivial matters (such as identifying garden pests) to critical ones (viewing suspicious visitors or verifying important deliveries). For many seniors, these cameras can give some much-needed visibility to the outside world.

Monitor Visitors

Answering the door to solicitors and salespeople can be a nuisance, but it’s especially taxing for people who can’t get back and forth to the door easily, or who may be wary of opening the door to strangers. A video doorbell ($150–$250) is a valuable tool that can help the elderly and their caregivers “screen” front porch visits.

These doorbells can send notifications to a variety of devices, making it easier to tell when a visitor is at the door. Also, many provide live video feeds with two-way voice chat, allowing homeowners (or even caregivers) to speak with visitors without having to leave the couch.

This quality-of-life improvement has another benefit: Video doorbells have also been shown to help deter crime.

Improve Safety Within the Home

Indoor smart cameras might be the most valuable safety tool for older generations and their caregivers. Besides performing basic functions, like keeping an eye on the house while residents are away, the software and motion detection that accompany these affordable ($150–$200) cameras may even be a lifesaver.

Smart cameras can be combined with smart home devices to help improve safety, especially for elderly adults living on their own. When you pair connected-home devices with a home automation hub from the hardware store or your Internet service provider, they unlock a world of enhanced functionality.

The following features can be managed and controlled remotely from one platform.

  • Smart lights throughout the home can be set to turn on and off automatically when the camera detects motion, lighting the way for midnight trips to the bathroom or late-night visits to the kitchen.
  • A smart thermostat, once it’s set up with the home hub, can automatically adjust the temperature inside the home based on your preferences. This means the homeowner won’t need to get up in the middle of the night to adjust it.
  • Smart locks allow users to lock or unlock a door from their tablet, giving seniors and caregivers the ability to let visitors in without even getting up.

Give Caregivers Peace of Mind

As helpful as these tools are to seniors themselves, their caregivers may be the ones who benefit most from having them. It’s comforting to be able to check in on the status of an aging loved one via camera, and their motion-detecting features can make all the difference in urgent care scenarios.

Caregivers can set up these devices to receive notifications when motion is detected at an unusual time, or when motion isn’t detected at a time when it’s expected. A quick video checkup can make a big difference between a false alarm or catching a life-threatening emergency.

As you evaluate your own safety devices or consider new tools for caring for a loved one, don’t overlook the benefits of today’s smart cameras. With low upfront costs and cloud storage — and with options to bundle services into your existing Internet service plan — they can help an older generation of techies feel safe and secure.

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Eric Murrell is a software developer and technology contributor to XFINITY Home. He enjoys sharing tips on how people, including seniors, can benefit from incorporating smart home security in their homes on his blog, At Home in the Future.