Your Next Caregiver Could Be a Robot

Monday, September 17th, 2018 by Jason Biddle


Caregiving is a tough job. So it’s always a good thing when caregivers can find a way to use technology to support them in their labor of love.

A medical alert system calls for help in emergencies. Video call apps like FaceTime enable long-distance caregivers to see their loved ones and easily keep in touch, while products such as Amazon’s Alexa can help seniors remain independent.  And as technology continues to expand and improve, caregivers will only have more supportive tools at their disposal.

One such recent technological development is robot caregivers.

The Future is Now

In 2004, a team of U.S. researchers built the world’s first robot caregiver, affectionately named Pearl. At the time, Pearl offered little practical application because she was merely a basic working prototype. What Pearl did offer, however, was a glimpse into the future of the possible roles robots could play in our lives as we age.

Well, the future is now, and theory has become reality. Advances in technology have enabled today’s robot caregivers to greatly surpass their 2004 predecessor. Believe it or not, there are a growing number of robot caregivers throughout the world that are truly improving the quality of life for older adults.

No Longer a Prototype

In an effort to meet the increasing needs of an aging population, Japan has looked to robot caregivers as the solution. Robear is a robot bear that helps seniors transfer from a seated position to a standing position and vice versa. Even those who may need to be completely lifted out of bed can rely on the strength of Robear.

But the benefits of robot caregivers aren’t limited to strictly the physical. Paro, a fluffy baby seal robot, offers therapeutic interaction for older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s. A 2017 study showed that spending time with Paro can help seniors decrease loneliness, improve mood and even reduce the need for certain medications.

Some robots provide a more indirect form of caregiving. For example, the Care-o-bot is a robot butler used in assisted living facilities in Germany to fetch meals, pitch in with cleaning and even entertain residents with interactive games. Although these functions aren’t considered full-fledged caregiving activities, it is clear how the Care-o-bot can lighten a caregiver’s load by handling other pressing responsibilities.

Currently these robot caregivers are much more common in Japan and Europe than in the United States, but all signs point to the U.S. soon following in the footsteps of our overseas friends.

America’s Impending Caregiver Shortage

As Baby Boomers move into old age, America faces the same supply and demand problem that Japan has sought to address: not enough caregivers to meet the needs of seniors. Although non-medical caregiving is one of the fastest-growing jobs in America, it simply cannot keep up with the exploding demand  for these services.

This is where robot caregivers come in.

Generally the U.S. caregiving industry has been slow to put robot caregivers into action, but there are also some early adopters who are incorporating robot caregivers into their service offerings. One particular role that fits well for robot caregivers is the night shift for patients who require 24-hour care. Rather than pay a caregiver to stay overnight, it can be more affordable for both the patient and the caregiving agency to let the robot keep watch.

Robot caregivers have other benefits, too. Unlike their human counterparts, robot caregivers do not tire and aren’t susceptible to apathy or laziness. Emotions and bias can have a strong influence over how a human offers care, but robots can provide reliable and consistent care without ever letting their egos get in the way.

On the other hand, there are certain human qualities that a robot just can't emulate, such as empathy, a warm touch and meaningful connection. Humans are able to address an infinite number of personalities and situations while a robot is limited by its programming.

Despite the assistance robot caregivers seem to offer, one crucial question remains: would Americans embrace these robot caregivers?

Human or Robot?

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in May of 2017 found that Americans have mixed feelings about robot caregivers:
  • 44 percent of respondents expressed enthusiasm for robot caregivers while 47 percent felt some level of worry
  • 41 percent of Americans said they would be interested in having a robot caregiver while 59 percent said they would not
  • 70 percent of those surveyed believe robot caregivers could help alleviate the worries that younger caregivers have about their aging loved ones
  • 64 percent of survey respondents worry that robot caregivers could actually make older adults feel lonelier
It would seem that for robot caregivers to gain acceptance, there should be a balance that optimizes their benefits while minimizing drawbacks. Perhaps robot caregivers are best implemented in conjunction with human caregivers instead of choosing one over the other. Whatever solution is best, Americans may need to open up to the possibilities of robot caregivers as they continue to play a larger part in caring for older adults.

Where do you stand? Would you prefer a robot caregiver or a human caregiver? Do you think there’s a place for both?


Jason Biddle is the creator of The Helping Home, a website that publishes practical guides and resources to help older adults safely age in place at home.

7 Signs It's Time for Memory Care

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 by Sarah Stasik

Families struggling with dementia are far from alone. The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2017, some 47 million people worldwide live with a form of dementia, and those numbers are expected to triple by 2050.

Despite the disease’s prevalence, it can be difficult for families to know when memory issues have reached a point where it's time to seek long-term care.

What Is Memory Care?

Memory care is a type of long-term care tailored to the needs of people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other forms of memory loss. Whether the care is provided in a 24-hour community such as an assisted living facility or in an adult daycare program, it usually includes assistance with daily activities, stimulating recreational activities and oversight to keep residents safe.

Memory care is offered within a growing number of assisted living communities, usually in a separate wing or building. Memory care providers are required to provide specialized nursing and medical care as well as provisions for safety and security, so it's important to talk to any memory care community you’re considering about how they plan to meet your loved one's specific needs.

Not every older adult with dementia or memory issues requires professional memory care. In fact, individuals in the early stages of dementia may even continue to live alone successfully, especially with some planning for safety and self-care.

As memory issues progress, though, it becomes unsafe to live alone and the demands of caring for a loved one with dementia often become too much for family members to manage on their own.

Here are seven signs it may be time to share the responsibility of their care with professionals.

1. Unsafe Wandering

Dr. Susann Varano, resident care specialist at Maplewood Senior Living, a senior living company with communities across several eastern states, says unsafe wandering is a definite sign that it's time to seek professional assistance. She notes that someone trying to leave the house in the middle of the night is already at that level of "unsafe wandering" and recommends family members begin looking into assisted living options with memory care services when they notice this behavior.

2. Loss of Interest in Regular Activities

Lynn Ivey, founder and CEO of memory wellness day center The Ivey in Charlotte, NC, understands well the experience of seeking services for a loved one with memory issues – her mother had Alzheimer's disease.

Ivey says one sign that led her own family to seek memory care services was her mother’s lack of interest in normal activities. "She lost interest in preparing meals in the kitchen," Ivey recalls, "and seemed to have lost confidence in herself to know what to do."

3. Struggling With Basic Activities and ADLs

Being unable to perform normal activities — such as cooking a meal — or even more basic activities of daily living, such as buttoning a shirt, can be a sign that it's time for professional intervention, says Varano. If a loved one "forgets how to use objects or puts items in inappropriate places, such as perishable foods under sofa cushions," families may need to take action, she says.

Trouble with tasks like opening a lock with a key can also be a sign, but so can performing tasks that are unnecessary, such as paying bills that aren't due, Varano notes.

4. Not Knowing Where They Are, Even at Home

"Mom woke up one Sunday afternoon from a nap," says Ivey, "and was completely confused about who she was or where she was. After several hours, it all came back to her, but it was most likely a mini-stroke, and things really changed for all of us after that."

Getting lost in extremely familiar places is a big red flag that should clue families in that it's time to consider other care options.

5. Violent Mood Swings or Behavior

Major behavioral changes are another signal that it’s time to consider memory care, and that includes violent behavior. Varano says to look for signs such as "being overly paranoid. . . or violent outbursts" to know when it might be time to seek memory care for your loved one.

Ivey agrees, noting that behavior changes were one factor that led her family to seek adult daycare services for her mom. "Often there were mood changes, including getting angry for no apparent reason."

6. More Bad Days Than Good

A single occurrence of one of the aforementioned signs may not mean it's time to look into memory care options. Varano advises families to look at the overall picture if dangerous behavior such as unsafe wandering isn't a factor.

"We all have good days and bad days," she says. "It is when the number of bad days outweigh the good days that I recommend looking into alternate living arrangements such as assisted living with memory care."

7. Increased Fatigue, Frustration and Depression of Primary Caregiver

Ivey reminds families that the decision to seek professional memory care should be a holistic one. Many times, a spouse, sibling or adult child becomes the primary caregiver for someone with dementia or other memory issues, and it’s important to weigh their health and well being, too..

"When my Dad began to show signs of fatigue and inability to concentrate, we decided that we had to find a way to give him relief,” Ivey says. “He was living both of their lives as Mom depended on him for more and more of her daily activities, and the effort was exhausting. We feared for his health."

If you are seeing some of these signs with your loved one and are planning to seek memory care services, Varano advises that families take time to understand everything that a facility or provider has to offer. "You as a family member have to feel a level of comfort to ensure it will be a good fit."




8 Meaningful Ways to Help Someone Who's Grieving

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 by Sarah Stasik

Grief is something everyone experiences at some point in their lives. Whether it's losing a job, a way of life or a beloved family member or friend, coping with loss can be incredibly difficult, and it takes time. If you have a friend or loved one who is going through the grief process, there are some things you can do to help lighten their load. Check out these eight tips from the experts on how you can support someone who’s grieving.

1. Listen

Christi Garner, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says the No. 1 action you can take to support a friend or family member who has lost someone is to "put on your listening ears." That means active listening that puts your loved one first, she says.

"Stay away from voicing your opinions and judgments," says Garner. She advises being there to listen to everything from "a story, to complaints and to anything the person in grief has to say. That is sometimes how we work things out. We talk about the thoughts in our heads until they can become more clear."

Sometimes, all you need to do is be present as a sounding board while the person talks through their grief.

2. Make the Moment About Them

Lisa Barone lost her father suddenly in 2014 and her mother in 2017 to colon cancer. She echoes the importance of active listening and adds that listeners should let the moment be about the person who is grieving a recent loss. "You might have lost your parent three years ago," says Barone," but let this moment be about them. Don't compare, don't tell them how they should be grieving."

It helps to remember that everyone approaches grief in their own way, and people who are struggling aren't always looking for advice. They don't need you to step in and make everything better — they know that's not possible. Instead, support them where they are now.

3. Take Action With Little Things

Barone notes that many people ask if they can help. "Let me know what I can do" or "Call me if you need anything" are common phrases when someone is dealing with loss. But Barone says this puts the burden on the griever to reach out.

"Instead, do something," she says. "Whether it's dropping off dinner, stopping by the house with necessities like milk or toilet paper. . . refilling prescriptions or just walking the dog. Do something to let them know you're there and lighten their load."

4. Keep Offering Support Over Time

Mary Potter Kenyon, certified grief counselor and the author of "Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace," agrees that taking action is key and that the need for these types of actions can last for months.

"Keep in mind that three or four weeks from the loss, everyone else has gone on with their lives while the griever might feel abandoned," says Kenyon. She advises sending a card three or four weeks after the initial loss and then again four months later.

Kenyon also suggests making a note of dates that may be difficult, such as birthdays, Valentine's Day, wedding anniversaries, holidays and the anniversary of the loved one's death, and to reach out when possible during those times.

"Six years later, it was easier for me, but I still wanted someone else to remember that I lost my husband on March 27," ,says Kenyon, speaking out her own loss, "

5. Spend Time Making New Memories

While listening and letting the moment be about the grieving person is important in the early days and weeks after a loss, friends and family can continue being there for the person in question by spending quality time with them, says Arlene B. Englander, a licensed psychotherapist and author.

"Ask about spending time together — again with an emphasis on listening, but as time goes on (weeks or months depending on the nature of the loss) eventually try introducing more pleasant topics from your own life to help them start thinking about moving forward," Englander says.

Spend time doing things that help your loved one remember and honor the person they lost, but encourage them to consider new hobbies or adventures too. Coupling Englander's advice with Kenyon's, make it a point to find time for this person on difficult days. Let them set the tone for that time, at least in the beginning. Don't assume they want to keep their mind off of their loss, but also don't assume that they want to dwell on it.

6. Don't Assume Losing a Senior Loved One is "Easier"

Holly Wolf lost four senior loved ones in 2017 and says she heard a variety of responses which were meant by the speakers to be comforting. Unfortunately, not all were.

"’But she or he was ill, old, sick or ready to die’. . . avoid saying that," Wolf says. "’I'm sure the loss is difficult or painful’ is so much better."

Wolf also adds that "grief fatigue" felt by the grieving person’s support system can be a problem when someone loses multiple people in a short amount of time. After losing her aunt and uncle within the same 30 days, followed by her in-laws within a seven-week period, she recalls how people responded to the first death but not always to the second.

"Each death is a separate event," Wolf says. "The loss isn't less because it's close to another one. Treat each loss as an individual one regardless of how close it is to another."

7. Avoid Platitudes

Alison Johnston, CEO of Ever Loved, an online funeral planning and memorial website platform, offers some additional advice about what not to say when someone is grieving. She notes that common platitudes such as "He's in a better place" or "It was God's will" can do more harm than good.

"Even if you believe this to be true," says Johnston, "to the person grieving, this can often come across as you telling them that it's a good thing that someone died."

8. Take a Golden Rule Approach

The overall expert consensus on helping someone going through the grieving process? Offer availability and kindness but avoid forcing your views, opinions and perceptions on grief when someone else is going through it. By being present and helping your loved one celebrate the life they lost while moving forward with their own, you can provide the kind of much-needed support that helps them heal.

4 Fun Ways to Meet New Friends Over 60

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018 by Tiffany Aller


Making friends tends to get harder with age. This stems from a number of causes, from retirement, to obligations such as caring for an aging parent or spouse, to losing long-time friends to relocation or untimely passing.

A recent nationwide survey conducted by SCAN Health Plan, a California-based not-for-profit health insurer,  revealed that some 82 percent of older adults know at least one person they consider to be lonely. Yet, 58 percent of respondents said they would be hesitant to admit it if they were lonely themselves.

It’s okay to acknowledge that you’ve experienced many life changes throughout your 50s, 60s and beyond. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that those changes may have left you feeling lonely. Luckily, this stage of life still holds many opportunities during to reconnect with others and build up new friendships and social networks. Below, we explore four fun ways to meet new friends over 60.

1. Volunteer in Your Community

Volunteerism brings numerous benefits, including giving you a sense of purpose while helping those around you and connecting you with like-minded individuals.

Romilla Batra, M.D., SCAN’s chief medical officer, firmly believes in the power of connection. That’s why SCAN formed the Volunteer Action for Aging (VAA) program. Batra loves to share the successes of the GiveBackers group, a part of the VAA program composed of members over 55.

“They give back to the community as a team and have formed fast friendships along the way,” she says. “When they’re not volunteering together, they’re often socializing together and have become an important support system for one another.”

SCAN’s VAA program is open to volunteers in different parts of California, but seniors can find opportunities to volunteer throughout the country. One place to look: the federally operated Corporation for National and Community Service, which sponsors the Senior Corps for volunteers over 55.

Through its website, you can find programs in your own area in many areas from foster grand-parenting to companionship matchups. Along the way, you’ll meet up with some of the 220,000 other volunteers who are involved with Senior Corps programs around the United States.

2. Take a Walk

After the broadly altruistic idea of volunteerism, going for a walk can seem like a very pedestrian idea. But walking can be a social activity, and it gives you the opportunity to meet and make new friends while exploring new areas in your community. Plus, it’s great for your health.

Check online to find walking clubs in your local area. Some clubs meet at local shopping malls to walk the halls even before stores open for the day, while others explore area trail systems or stick to neighborhood sidewalks. Another resource available in many areas of the country is, where you see what walking groups are already available or organize your own events to invite others in your area.

Lisa Chavis, who blogs as The Travel Pharmacist, suggests organizing a photography group as part of your walk. “Take your camera or your phone and find interesting things to take photos of in your own neighborhood, and share them on social media with family and friends,” she advises.

You can share your event through and invite new friends you’ve met on other walks, plus get in your steps for the day, all while learning more about photography as a hobby while you’re exploring.

3. Take the Technology Plunge

Friends don’t have to be people you only see in person. You can both connect with old friends and meeting new ones online. Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and life, dating and relationship coach in Columbus, Ohio, also believes in the value of using sites such as to meet others through local social and cultural events.

Bennett notes how important it is to remain open-minded while using technology and attending events to make new friends. “Many adults are set in their ways and tend to stick to what they know,” he says. “Take a few risks by trying hobbies and activities you might have previously ignored. It could open you up to a new group of friends.”

You might even consider learning about technology to meet new friends. Many public libraries and community colleges offer technology courses for seniors to learn about specific websites, software, apps and different types of tech gadgets. Those classes are often free to enroll in or come at greatly reduced tuition. You’ll be among peers as you learn while potentially making new friends.

4. Get a Part-Time Job

One of the most regular social outlets in your pre-retirement life may have been your workplace. Why not recapture some of that experience by getting a part-time job? You’ll be able to make a bit of extra money, re-engage in your former profession or in something new that interests you while making friends along the way.

Kathe Kline, the host of the "Rock Your Retirement show," recently hosted a podcast touting the benefits of seasonal (part-time) jobs. With guests Kelcy Fowler and Matt Moore, she explored their website, Their site features an “Older and Bolder” section designed to help users learn how to get the most out of post-retirement work while meeting others and having fun.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also recognizes the value of seeking part-time work after retirement. Check out their list of five potential positions you might consider pursuing, all of which can help you put your well-honed skills to use while meeting others.

Plus, as long as you remain strictly part-time, you won’t endanger your retirement earnings or Social Security benefits.

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 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.


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.


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


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.

Jason Biddle of The Helping Home suggests taking a look at the community’s full offering of resources. Does the community you’re considering have additional resources available on the same or nearby properties for assisted living, full nursing services or memory care? Remember that once you’re already living in one community, it can be less jarring to simply progress along the care continuum in a familiar environment rather than face the upheaval of another big move.

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. Biddle recommends considering whether you want a community that’s close to your family, friends or your church, for example. 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.


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, 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:


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."


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.