A savings account could mean a big financial boost for your grandchild.

 

If you’re a grandparent, chances are you’ve thought about how you can help your grandkids save for their future. And in many cases, it’s easier for grandparents than it is for parents of young children to put away money for the family’s youngest generation.

For one, as a grandparent you may have more available resources than your adult children, who must cover childcare costs and other child-rearing-related expenses. And in some cases, you may have more time on your hands to research and keep track of a new savings plan of some kind.

These days there are plenty of dependable options that will not only help your grandchild get a solid start toward their financial future but that also allow you to leave an important legacy.

When mulling which type of savings account to open for a grandchild, it’s important to consider how you want those funds to be used, says Jaime Quiros, CFP and portfolio managers at FBB Capital Partners. “The biggest question is what the grandparents are trying to save for, whether it’s for only for college or just for getting their grandkids a step ahead in life,” he says.

Let’s take a look at four main types of savings accounts for grandchildren.

 

1. 529 plans

Since its creation by Congress in 1996, the 529 plan has become one of the most popular ways to save for college. Named for a section of the Internal Revenue Code, 529s have a lot of advantages. For one thing, this type of account grows tax-deferred, and many states offer state tax deductions for contributions to a 529, Quiros notes.

“It’s the most flexible plan because you can change beneficiaries if you need to,” he says. That means you can still remain the owner of the account and either use the money for yourself or transfer it to another loved one if your grandchild doesn’t need the money.

Cathy Curtis, CFP, and owner of Curtis Financial Planning, LLC, says that 529 plans can also be a good estate planning tool, because these accounts can be “super-funded,” meaning that you can contribute up to five years of gifts (at up to $14,000 per year or $70,000 total) without being taxed for them.

There are two main types of 529 plans:

  • Savings plans

With a 529 savings plan, you invest funds on behalf of a beneficiary. The interest earned on those funds is not taxable if used for qualified expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books.

  • State prepaid tuition plans

This type of 529 plan locks into the current tuition rate of a public college or university. It can also be used to pay for private or out-of-state schools while receiving an amount equal to the average state tuition at the time of withdrawal.

 

2. Trust funds

A more traditional way for grandparents to pass down assets, trust funds are also among the best types of saving accounts for grandchildren. You can use many different types of assets to establish a trust, and you also get to determine how they’re used. The grandchild can legally access the money after turning 21.

“The benefit of a trust fund for education costs is that they can be very specific, the trustee is legally obligated to fulfill the wishes and access to the funds can be restricted to any age,” says Curtis.

The big disadvantage of trusts is how pricey they are – setting one up can run you anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. And maintaining the trust can also be on the costly side, Curtis says, since income earned in the trust will be taxed at high trust tax rates.

 

3. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts

A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is an investment account that allows you to save money for your grandchild’s higher education costs. The money saved in these accounts is typically used toward college tuition, books, room and board and other related costs.

“Earnings in this type of account will grow tax-free and won’t be taxed at withdrawal, and investments can be self-directed,” Curtis notes.

The main drawback is that there are limits to how much you can give each year — contributors to Coverdell ESAs can save no more than $2,000 annually for grandchildren under 18.

Coverdell accounts are less flexible than other types of savings accounts – for one, the funds must be used for specific educational expenses or else the money withdrawn is subject to a 10 percent penalty. Additionally, you won’t be able to contribute to the account after your grandchild turns 18, and he or she has to use the funds before turning 30.

 

4. UGMA or UTMA Funds

The Uniform Gifts to Minors Act and Uniform Transfers to Minor Acts (UGMA and UTMA) are laws that exist in some states that let someone to make a gift of money, real estate, patents or other valuable assets to a child that he or she can later claim once they’re of age.

One benefit of these funds is that unlike the last option, the money doesn’t necessarily have to go toward college-related costs. And there are no limits on how much you can contribute to UGMA or UTMA funds, though there is a federal gift tax penalty on contributions of more than $14,000 per year from a single person (or $28,000 from a married couple). Plus, for grandkids under 19, the first $1,000 contributed to the account each year is untaxed, while the second $1,000 contributed will only be taxed at a “minor’s rate,” which is typically lower.

As with 529 plans, depending on the amount contributed, the funds in this account could have an effect on your grandchild’s eligibility for scholarships and other types of financial aid for college, Quiros notes.

 

 

Grillmasters

 

Downsizing to a smaller home isn’t about doing less, it’s all about doing more with less.

As a professional organizer, I’ve experienced the joy of helping others downsize from a big house to a smaller space. I say “joy” because downsizing can be one of the most fun home projects. What starts out as a daunting task for some can soon become an exciting undertaking as homeowners begin to grasp the vision of a new, easier lifestyle.

If you’re downsizing your home or preparing to help a family member do so, keep in mind that it will be easier to let go of things when you keep an organizing rule in mind. Your sorting rule is to keep the items that allow you to do what you love to do now. Let go of the things you used to do but don’t any longer.

 

3 Changes to Make When Downsizing a Kitchen

Sometimes people worry that downsizing will keep them from doing something they’ve always loved to do. One of the biggest changes to make is to shift your mindset about the way things have to be done. Embracing new ways of doing old things is a key to a successful move.

1. Think easy

Since downsizing is all about making life easier, use that core idea as momentum for decision-making. Ask yourself how you can do what you love but in a stress-free way.

  • Remember that one way to cook something is all you need when paring down your kitchen appliances. You can cook a hotdog in the microwave, brown it in a skillet, boil it in a pot or throw it on the grill. Do you really need a hotdog cooker?
  • Always ask yourself, “If I don’t have this, what could I use instead?”
  • Look for the easiest option—even if it means switching to a new method. For example, downsizing to home with a smaller yard doesn’t mean you have to give up grilling. Instead, switch to a smaller electric grill that fits in your outdoor space and fires up quickly and easily.
  • Keep appliances that save time, such as a slow cooker or instant pot, and that allow you to get out of the kitchen. Don’t move small appliances that are seldom used and seem like too much effort to haul out, like a salad spinner or food processor.
  • Reduce quantities. For example – how many 9×13 casseroles can you imagine baking in one day? Perhaps two would be enough.

 

2. Embrace entertaining differently

Much of the storage space in a home tends to be devoted to entertaining. There are china cabinets or kitchens full of dishes, trays, glasses and barware for the occasional party.

While downsizing certainly doesn’t mean you have to stop entertaining, it does mean that you’ll likely make changes in how you entertain. You may host more dinners for four or six guests instead of 12. You might not have a formal dining room, but you can still find ways to serve a fun and festive meal.

Why not host a backyard barbecue and fire up the grill? You can still grill up favorites and serve them in a more relaxed atmosphere. If the weather isn’t cooperative—or you don’t have the backyard space—you could opt for a more casual buffet-style meal instead.

Consider how your entertaining style will change and use that information to help you decide what to bring to your new home.

  • How many guests do you picture having over for a meal? Maybe you only need to keep a place setting of six of your china. You could gift the remaining pieces to a grandchild or pass them along to a relative or friend who’s just starting out.
  • Do you plan to host big holiday meals, or do you expect to go to family members’ homes more often for these events? Perhaps it’s time to let go of large serving items like big platters or punchbowl sets.
  • Reduce your supply of drinking glasses, coffee mugs and barware by considering the size of your new place and the number of guests you can accommodate. Would you ever have 24 people over for coffee? If the answer is no, then you don’t need 24 mugs. Eight or so should suffice.
  • Remember there are no rules to break, so you can—and should—break up sets of your everyday dishes. Keep as many pieces as you need and sell or donate the rest.
  • Don’t forget to sort linens in the same way. Only keep tablecloths that will fit the table at your new space. The same goes for cloths, placemats and napkins. Keep enough only for the number of people you can seat.

 

3. Reconfigure storage

Just because you kept something in one spot in your old home doesn’t mean you need to replicate that arrangement in the new one. Be open to locating items in different spots in your new kitchen.

  • If you use an appliance or tool daily, keep it close at hand. If it’s something you use only occasionally, such as a hand-held mixer, it’s best to store it out of the way.
  • Add baskets or pullout drawers to lower cabinets so no one has to get on the floor to hunt for things.
  • Use cabinet stackers or organizers to maximize storage space.
  • Make use of the inside of cabinet doors or pantry doors with organizers to hold various products such as plastic wrap or stick-on hooks for potholders.
  • Keep the countertops as clear as possible to maximize working surface in your smaller kitchen. Only keep out what you use daily, such as a coffeemaker.

Downsizing really can be fun. It’s all about less—and more. It means fewer things to clean, less stuff to put away, less to worry about and more time to enjoy friends, family and activities.

—-

Lea Schneider is a pro organizer who writes for The Home Depot. She provides advice on the easiest way to downsize a kitchen by sharing practical tips on topics such as switching from charcoal grill to an electric grill to have more portability and pairing down your dishes and linens to fit your new space.

 

senior woman with glass of wine

 

It’s normal to raise a glass to toast to celebrate big milestones in life, including weddings, promotions and also when retirement rolls around. For most people, a drink or two of celebratory wine or champagne won’t lead to a lifetime of alcoholism, but a recent study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that alcohol abuse in adults over 60 is a very real issue that tends to worsen with age.

Known as geriatric alcoholism, this habit may have a number of different causes, and understanding these contributing factors now may help people keep themselves and their aging relatives safer and healthier in the long run.

 

Research Reveals Geriatric Alcoholism Trend

The Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and research and analytical services firm CSR, Inc. conducted a study to determine gender-specific trends in alcohol consumption among adults aged 60 and over. They examined changes in habits each year from 1997 to 2014  and analyzed the data while accounting for differences in age and birth years.

Their results were clear: as the years progressed, alcohol abuse in older adults tended to increase. The findings were particularly significant among women, and showed that while the volume remained stable, women were likelier to binge drink more each year by 3.7 percent. Men showed a similar pattern of increasing how often they drank, though with a lower increase of 0.7 percent per year.

 

Defining Alcohol Abuse

Before you can fully identify alcohol abuse in older adults, it’s important to understand what alcohol abuse means. The NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA, defines binge drinking as any manner of drinking that raises blood alcohol concentration to or above 0.08 g/dl. This means four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

One sign of geriatric alcoholism can include the consistent consumption of more than five alcoholic drinks in a single day. The risk of abuse appears to be lower for people who have less than three drinks in a day and less than 14 drinks in a week.

 

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Just because an older person drinks occasionally doesn’t mean he or she has an alcohol abuse problem, but The Mayo Clinic notes that there are some key risk factors that can exacerbate the problem:

  • Society and culture. It’s easier to fall into a drinking habit if your friends, spouse, coworkers or loved ones are also doing it. The glamorous portrayal of drinking in movies and television can also make alcohol more enticing.
  • Steady drinking habit. Alcohol abuse in older adults could also be linked to drinking regularly over a lifetime or an extended period of time.
  • Family history. Anyone with a family member who suffered from alcoholism may be at risk for abusing it, too.
  • The most frequent use of alcohol appears to occur in the 20s and 30s, but alcoholism can show up at any age.
  • Depression and mental health disorders. Individuals suffering from disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder may be at higher risk of abusing alcohol.

 

Triggers

When examining why alcohol abuse in older adults seems to be such a problem, retirement may play a factor, although it’s certainly not the only trigger.

“Typically, a major life change like retirement, movement to a fixed income, spousal death and the lifestyle changes that follow, divorce, or a health condition that impacts their ability to do things they used to easily do” can all be triggers that may cause an older adult to start drinking or to drink more heavily, says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based clinical psychologist and clinical director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services.

The nature or circumstances of a retirement itself can also play a major role. For example, if an older adult is forced into retirement and lacks the skills to cope with this major life change, he or she may turn to alcohol.

Some doctors cite feeling depressed and purposeless and as if they’re a strain on the people around them as a reason for alcohol abuse among older adults. Those at highest risk may be people who must take an early retirement.

The good news is that many doctors also believe that awareness is key to helping to prevent alcohol abuse among seniors. If the doctor, elderly individual and loved ones can spot the problem and take action to address it, the odds of developing alcohol abuse in older adults might be lower.

Getting Help

There are many options for getting help, but the first step is identifying geriatric alcoholism. Actions are likely to have a great effect if the at-risk person understands that there is a problem and wants to change.

However, it’s also crucial that the older person’s loved ones do their part to identify the problem and provide support.

“The challenge with aging and elderly adults seeking help for substance abuse is that their families generally support their drinking. ‘Grandma’s taking her comfort after Grandpa died’ is a common expression among family members,” says Constance Scharff, Ph.D., Director of Addiction Research at Cliffside Malibu, a renowned drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

Elderly adults may also become obstinate when confronted about their drinking and may feel that their independence is being challenged, Scharff notes. “We have to be open and honest, letting our loved ones know that their substance misuse is causing concern. With an attitude of helpfulness and support, we can make a lot of progress,” she says.

If alcohol abuse in older adults occurs at a long-term care facility, it’s a good idea for family members to confer with facility staff to ensure that their loved one has access to appropriate resources.

It’s also worth noting that seniors who experience a positive transition from working life to retirement and find new purpose with their free time tend to be at lower risk for late onset alcoholism.

If you or an older adult you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s important to talk to a doctor about the problem. The following organizations can also help you find local assistance:

 

 

Meet the 2017 SeniorHomes.com Scholarship Winners!

 The SeniorHomes.com Student Caregiver Scholarship award awards two university students in the U.S. a $1,000 grant for tuition and/or books, based on each applicant’s essay or video story submission. After reviewing numerous applications from student caregivers throughout the nation, our judges deemed the following two students most worthy of this year’s prize.

WINNER #1

 

AndreaScholar

Andrea pictured with her father

 

ANDREA VUONO is a student at Northeastern University studying speech-language pathology. She is a caregiver for her father. This is her caregiving story, submitted with her scholarship application.

 

Question 1: Who is the individual you are caring for, and when did you begin caring for them?

Being a caregiver is a unique role that simultaneously challenges an individual and provides the opportunity for immense growth in character and virtue. As a caregiver, one must often sacrifice one’s desires and needs for those of the individual they are caring for. This has been revealed to me and has had a profound impact on my life ever since my father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease when I was only 12.

The diagnosis launched my family on a complex journey as we learned to adapt to our new roles. My position as caregiver thus began as a gradual transference of responsibilities as the disease slowly caused my father’s capabilities to diminish. Over the past eight years, I have learned to handle the transition of caring for my father while still maintaining a loving father-daughter relationship. This has proved to be tricky at times, as any teenager’s relationship with her father can be, but has resulted in a strong bond between us.

My role as a caregiver encompasses physical and emotional support for both my father and mother. I assist around the house, such as by making dinner, helping with laundry or taking my dad for a walk so he can get some fresh air. When I am away at school, this also involves calling him nightly and making weekend trips home to visit. Over the years, I have taken on many responsibilities and learned to compassionately complete tasks that would be foreign to most teenagers, such as tying the shoes of the man who taught me how to tie mine.

Caregiving, however, also goes beyond providing for my father’s physical needs. I use innovation and creativity to provide emotional support. For instance, I recently set up my old iPod with songs from some of his favorite artists. While this was important in order to keep him engaged and provide entertainment, I realized my job as a caregiver goes beyond just providing music, but also entails providing someone to be there with him when he wants to dance to the music. It has been important to not only think of ways to provide comfort, but also to ensure that my father is still able to make connections and maintain relationships.

Being a caregiver also means supporting my mother emotionally. By being available as someone she can talk to and rely on, I can help my mom make the best decisions for my father’s care. I also need to ensure that she maintains her own well-being by encouraging her to schedule doctor’s appointments for herself and by staying home with my dad on occasion so she can be re-energized by spending some time out with friends.

Caring for my father has been a team effort in which my family has learned to collaborate and care for both him and each other. The past eight years have been both challenging and greatly rewarding as I learn to be a more selfless, compassionate caregiver for my father.

 

Question 2: How has your role as a caregiver influenced the decision for your major/career path?

With my father’s diagnosis coming at a time in my life when most teenagers are being encouraged to discover their passions and plan their futures, caring for him throughout high school and college has had a profound impact on my decision to study Speech-Language Pathology. As I witnessed a steady decline in his communication skills, I began to realize the profound importance of being able to communicate. Communication is necessary to not only in allow an individual to express his needs, but also being able to express one’s personality and form relationships with others.

As I watched my father struggle to participate in dinner conversations, I wanted to learn techniques and strategies that would help my father. This desire has caused me to empathize with all people suffering from communication disorders, whether they stem from  an  Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a brain injury such as a stroke or even a student struggling with a stutter. I began to research different occupations that involved therapeutic rehabilitation and discovered the field of speech therapy.

As a speech pathology major, my classes have taught me the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication. I have acquired many skills to employ creative options to use when speech skills decline, such as giving my dad pictures of common items and activities to help him start a conversation or show us if he needs something.

While my classes have significantly increased my abilities as a caregiver, I am eager to develop strategies to teach other caregivers how to connect with their loved ones once I am a licensed clinician. By providing speech therapy to children with speech impediments or adults who’ve suffered strokes, I will improve their quality of life by allowing them to interact with others and decrease their frustration in being unable to participate in conversations. Reducing the pressure and stress of communicating effectively will allow others to refocus their efforts on activities or ideas they are passionate about.

This desire to help others communicate directly correlates with my experiences as a caregiver for my father. He has taught me the important connection between communication and relationships. The strategies I learned have allowed his personality to shine even though he has recently been diagnosed with both expressive and receptive aphasia, a communication disorder caused by damage to the areas of the brain that control language.

The desire to help my father communicate directly influenced my decision to study speech-language pathology, a career path that I hope allows me to impact the lives of many other individuals with communication disorders and their caregivers.

 

Question 3: How would this scholarship be helpful to you in your current student- caregiving role?

While being a student comes with its own financial responsibilities in the form of tuition, housing and books, being a caregiver has added a unique obligation for my family to ensure significant funds are maintained for my father’s care. The Senior Homes Scholarship would significantly ease the burden of financial matters and allow me to focus more both on caregiving while at home and on my studies while in classes.

With a disease like Alzheimer’s, the timeline is unpredictable and its length is uncertain. For instance, the progression of the disease recently led to an extended hospitalization as doctors introduced and adjusted new medications to manage my father’s symptoms. The scholarship will relieve the burden of worrying about our financial resources and allow us to obtain the necessary medications and treatments to help slow the progression of the disease. It  will also allow us to redirect the savings on tuition toward a time when my dad may need more intensive care, such as during the end stages of the disease when most people need nursing home care.

Furthermore, saving on tuition will allow me the resources to pay for a train ride home more often during the school year and will also allow me to spend my breaks at home with my dad rather than working. This provides the opportunity to be a better caregiver for my father and cherish the time we have together, especially since most of my breaks will occur around the holidays.

Receiving this scholarship will be an immense honor that not only provides resources for me to continue my education, but also will allow me to support and proudly represent a cause that has encompassed much of my life. My role as a caregiver has inspired me to major in speech-language pathology. This field requires a master’s degree that will mean two supplemental years of schooling beyond my bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. The scholarship will allow me to save money for this next chapter in my life as I continue to provide care and support for my family.

I want to spread the valuable lessons I have learned while being a caregiver by sharing my story in the classroom and the workforce as a speech-language pathologist. Being a caregiver has had a profound influence on my character and moral values and made me more aware of the struggles of others. I would be honored to represent caregivers as a scholarship recipient and inspire others to become compassionate, empathetic caregivers.

 

WINNER #2

MonicaScholar

Monica pictured with her father

 

MONICA SCHNAPP is a student at the University of San Diego studying higher education leadership. She is a caregiver for her father. This is her caregiving story submitted with her scholarship application.

 

Question 1: Who is the individual you are caring for, and when did you begin caring for them?

On May 23, 2016, my life got turned completely upside down. My father underwent a 10.5 hour-long open heart surgery. His recovery was planned for a week in the hospital, and about a week at home. I had come home from graduate school to be with him during his recovery and to help out at home while he recovered.

Unfortunately, his recovery did not goat all as expected. My father spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit after surgery, then was taken to the Telemetry floor and the day before he was meant to be discharged, he was brought by via Rapid Response team back to the ICU because of fluid accumulating in his lungs. In total, he spent 12 weeks  (three months) recovering in the hospital and another two weeks in a rehabilitation center before he could be released into my care.

During those 12 weeks my father’s strength, nutrition levels and functional abilities were all significantly affected. Prior to the surgery, my father had been living alone (my mother passed away in 2011) and was completely self-sufficient. But after being released from rehab he was unsteady on his feet and required the assistance of a wheelchair and then a walker to get around. He needed help bathing, dressing, and could not cook or drive.

We made the decision that I would sell his home in Newport Beach, where he had lived for 35 years and where I had grown up, and that he would move to San Diego with me where I am attending graduate school. That helped a bit with finances, but as a full-time graduate student, I am only able to work part-time.

I currently hold two part-time jobs which has helped somewhat, but the medical bills, medications and both of our daily living needs are definitely more than my paychecks were meant to provide for. I know that once I graduate and am able to work in a salaried job, I will be able to support my father much more comfortably.

 

Question 2: How has your role as a caregiver influenced the decision for your major/career path?

My father’s surgery took place in the summer between my first and second year of graduate school. Even though I had already started my program and am still following the same path, the lessons I learned at his bedside are transferable to my coursework and career path in the future. I want to work in student affairs at a university, which means supporting and advocating for the student experience.

I spent all of last summer as a patient advocate for my father, so much so that when nurses and doctors found out I was in school they assumed it was for medicine. I have learned that listening is the best skill to have as an advocate for students and for patients. By being attentive to what the doctors and nurses were saying each day, I was able to recognize that they were not all communicating with each other (my father had a care team of about 25 medical staff at any given time from numerous departments).

For example, I was able to notice that his diet was being restricted due to concerns that a doctor expressed the week prior, but was no longer concerned about and hadn’t spoken with the dietician about making changes. By speaking up and paying attention, I was able to recommend that change, which helped my dad get off of tube feeds and on the road to discharge.

I also noticed a spot on my father’s incision site, which the nurses had just dismissed as a scab. When I asked a member of his surgical team about it, she looked at it and recognized that it was a sign that the wound was “de-hissing” . The medical team had to open the site and use wound therapy to help it heal. They mentioned that usually those types of problems are not noticed until they get infected and need surgical attention.

I am able to reflect back on these experiences as an advocate for my father’s care and apply it to my work with students. When my students want to talk with me about concerns or problems, I make sure I am not only listening to their words, but also observing their behavior and their reactions to what is happening around them. I am able to pick up on cues which allow me to better advise the students and refer them to the right resource, if needed.

 

Question 3: How would this scholarship be helpful to you in your current student- caregiving role?

As a master’s student in a higher education leadership program, a requirement of my program is to experience the higher education systems abroad. I had planned to have my abroad experience last summer, but due to my father’s surgery and long recovery, I was not able to. The only credits I have left which are hindering me from graduating are now the ones for studies abroad, which I am now hoping to complete this summer.

I have worked out other caregiving for my father if I am able to travel for my course, but because of the significant financial burden we have experienced this past year, I am not able to afford my course tuition. If I do not complete the abroad experience, I won’t be able to graduate and all of the hard work I’ve put into balancing caring for my father while being a full time graduate student and working two part- time jobs will have been for nothing.

This scholarship would mean so much to my father and I because I know my father feels he has caused a burden to me this year, even though I am just happy I’ve been able to take care of him. I am proud of both of us for making this horrible experience into something that has brought us closer and has cemented our father-daughter bond. I am happy that I was able to learn more about hospital systems and cardiac care and I now am much more informed as a patient and patient advocate for my father.

 

These caregiving stories have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

 

 

Group of old people walking outdoor

 

Moving into a senior living facility is a big decision, whether it’s the elderly person making the decision for themselves or a family member making this often difficult choice. One of the toughest things about a move into a senior living community is dealing with the many fears and stigma that tends to surround this move. Senior living communities and long-term care facilities provide a critical service that allows families the reassurance that their aging loved ones are getting the help and care they need every day.

What follows are eight common fears about senior living that are often based on misconceptions.

 

1. It’ll Be Lonely

Most retirement communities are full of other residents and staff members, which means any new resident should feel far from alone. It’s true that many seniors have a harder time forming new, lasting relationships, especially if many of their friends and family members have passed away.

However, most senior living communities today organize a variety of opportunities for socializing. Depending on the community, that may include classes, outings to local attractions, happy hours, holiday parties and other communal gatherings, providing plenty of opportunities for interaction. Many senior living communities encourage family involvement, which means residents don’t have to worry about not being able to host their children and grandchildren.

 

2. You Won’t be Able to Cook for Yourself

There are so many different senior living options these days, some of which provide more independent living amenities like apartments equipped with full kitchens. Other facilities may restrict cooking to certain areas of the community, but this doesn’t mean that cooking isn’t allowed. Many retirement communities, even those for assisted living, will allow residents to cook in designated kitchen areas or with help from trained staff or a loved one. If you or your elderly family member are concerned about giving up your culinary hobby, make sure to ask staff members at the communities you tour about kitchen and cooking amenities for residents.

 

3. No Overnight Guests

If you’re the type who wants to have your family close by and stay overnight often, then you might worry that your new senior living community will put an end to that. In actuality, residents in retirement communities have ample time to spend with family, and your living space is generally yours to do with as you please. Most senior living communities do accommodate overnight guests and even host meals or social gatherings designed to accommodate visiting loved ones.

 

4. Pets Aren’t Allowed

There are many positive health benefits to owning a pet, so senior living residents might feel a bit distressed if they think they can’t bring a beloved cat or dog with them to their new home. While senior living communities may have banned pets in the past, that’s generally not the case today. Cats and dogs up to a certain size are allowed in most facilities. If you or your loved one is concerned about being unable to care for the pet, there are now many facilities with community pets for all of the residents to enjoy.

 

5. It’s Too Expensive

Many elderly folks are already concerned about having enough money for the rest of their lives, and this fear is compounded when they consider the cost of long-term care. But these days there are a variety of different ways to pay for senior living. With financial help from family, governmental assistance such as social security and VA benefits and options like annuities, reverse mortgages and bridge loans, it is often possible to find an affordable community with costs similar to living at home.

6. Loss of Independence

There are many undesirable consequences of aging, including sacrificing privacy as you turn care over to someone else and losing privileges you once enjoyed, such as driving. Many seniors worry about losing their independence and the ability to make their own choices– such as how to decorate their new home. In reality, most senior living communities encourage residents to voice their preferences in not only the décor of their home but also in the activities offered at the community.

7. The Staff Isn’t Trustworthy

This one is difficult because it is important to understand that elder abuse is a real problem, and if you suspect that your loved one is being abused, you should seek help immediately. With the proper research, however, you can decipher which assisted and independent living facilities are safe and appropriate for your needs or the needs of your loved one. Be sure to look into the history of the facility, reviews from other residents, certification and training of the staff, and staff turnover rate. Take a list of questions to ask and scout out the facility before signing any contracts.

 

8. You’ll Age Faster in a Senior Living Facility

Some elderly adults associate senior living with a place where you “go to die,” but this is a big myth. In fact, older adults living in retirement communities may find they have a new passion for life with their newfound free time and abundance of activities organized for them, from exercise classes to new learning opportunities and excursions.

While there are a number of persistent myths and fears about assisted and independent living facilities, most of these are based on outdated misconceptions.

If you’re starting to look into options for retirement communities or long-term care for yourself or a loved one, we can help you with your search.

 

Lost keys background

 

We all misplace things from time to time — we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Forgetfulness often comes with age and is a side effect of busy, stress-filled lives.

Memory loss and aging don’t always mean dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But, if accompanied by other symptoms, forgetfulness may signal a more serious problem such as mild cognitive impairment. Fortunately, there are a number of practical strategies you can use to counter forgetfulness and help you stop losing your stuff.

 

1. Create go-to storage for the important stuff

People often misplace important items like keys, wallets, and cell phones because they don’t have a designated place to put them when they walk in the door, says Rashelle Isip, an organization and time management consultant, author and creator of “The Order Expert” blog. She advises using a basket, tray, box, or another type of container and placing it near your front door or entryway where you’ll always see it when you’re heading in or out the door.

 

2. Deal with mail right away

Misplaced mail can lead to unpaid bills and losing important documents. A good rule of thumb is to deal with your mail the minute you get home instead of letting it pile up or migrate to various places around your home. As Cheryl Eisen, president of luxury home staging company Interior Marketing Group, told Good Housekeeping for an article on de-cluttering, if you can’t file it or frame it, toss it out.

 

3. Use one bag, briefcase or purse

Consolidating everything into one bag means you’ll only have one carryall to keep track of, instead of several. You may even want to purchase an in-purse or bag organizer that allows you to move items from one carryall to another with ease, lessening the chance that you’ll leave something behind.

 

4. List the items you regularly need

Create a short checklist of the items you’ll need on a daily basis and refer to it at the end of the workday or when you’re preparing to leave the house. You can even schedule a reminder into your cell phone or laptop. When the reminder pops up, take a moment to make sure you have everything on your checklist. Schedule these reminders throughout the day, whether you’re at work, school, the gym, etc.

 

5. Train your brain

One way to help you remember items is to be aware of the things you lose the most often. Is it your keys? Your cell phone? The phone charger? Once you recognize the things you tend to misplace most, it should be easier to come up with ways to keep it from happening again. It may even help re-train your brain to visualizing yourself putting those items in the same place repeatedly over time.

 

When forgetfulness signals something else

While some forgetfulness and occasional memory loss can be a normal part of the aging process, it could also signify a bigger problem. Frequent forgetfulness could be a sign of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, a less-noticeable decline in mental ability that is often a precursor to dementia.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some 12 percent of people over 70 years old have MCI. And while most of those people are able to manage their day-to-day affairs independently and show no serious signs of impairment, they may also have trouble with memory, language, reasoning and judgment.

There are two types of MCI: amnestic, which significantly affects memory, and non-amnestic, which impacts cognitive functions other than memory. Possible signs of MCI include:

  • The person forgets appointments and routine events.
  • He or she increasingly repeats questions or stories.
  • He or she forgets to take medications.
  • Tasks such as cooking become too complicated.

 

MCI causes and treatment

Researchers have not settled on a definitive cause for MCI, but possible causes include a neurodegenerative disease, a vascular condition, depression or other psychiatric condition, or an injury that led to brain trauma. It’s important to note that not everyone diagnosed with MCI develops dementia.

There are no treatments or medications for MCI approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although there’s some evidence that the drug Donepezil, also known as Aricept, can slow the progression of MCI in the short-term. Treatment for depression may also help patients deal with the symptoms of MCI.

If you or a loved one is showing signs of MCI or another memory problem, it’s best to seek medical attention early on. Consulting a doctor and getting the right treatment can help delay the progression of symptoms and improve quality of life.

 

 

Happy Senior Couple Sitting On Sofa With Dog

 

There’s no shortage of research that shows how pets are good for us – not only as a loyal companion but also for the positive impact our furry friends can have on our health.

That holds true for older adults, too, who can benefit greatly from having a pet in their lives as they deal with the inevitable changes that come with aging. Not everyone can take on the responsibility of pet ownerhips. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of time spent with friends’ and relatives’ pets, through volunteering with animal care organizations, or visiting therapy animals.

What follows are just some of the ways pets benefit seniors.

 

1. Pets are good for health

Pets can boost an older adult’s health in more way than one. Here are a few of the health perks of pets for seniors.

  • Owning a pet, and the act of petting a cat or dog on a regular basis has been shown to lower blood pressure.
  • A Loyola University Chicago study in 2014 showed that patients recovering from joint replacement surgery needed less pain medication if they interacted with a therapy dog daily.
  • Research has shown that the presence of pets causes a person’s heart rate and stress levels to drop immediately.
  • Plus, seniors who interact with pets over a long period of time have lower cholesterol, decreased depression, and better protection against heart disease and stroke.

 

2. Pets help ease loneliness

Pets can be great company, especially if you live alone and don’t get the chance to interact with friends and family on a regular basis. Our furry friends also seem to have a sense when you’re feeling lonely and down, and show their love unconditionally.

 

3. A sense of responsibility and routine

Another benefit of pets for seniors is that caring for an animal requires a sense of responsibility and routine that may be lacking as older adults shed long-held work and social roles. Caring for a pet can provide purpose and establishes a routine that’s partly based on the needs of the pets. It can even improve self-confidence.

There’s no question that grooming, feeding, and exercising pets makes them happy. But as it turns out, these simple acts can bring you happiness, too.

 

4. Increased social interaction

Pets are not only a great topic of conversation – and most pet owners love to talk about their pets – but taking your dog to the park or on a daily walk around the neighborhood just might help you make new friends. If nothing else, your pet will likely try to make friends!

 

5. An excuse to exercise

Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk or playing with your cat indoors, another benefit of pets for seniors is that they help make our lives more active. Even the simple act of feeding your pet helps get your muscles and joints moving. And one study showed that adults who regularly walked their dog had a much lower chance of obesity than adults without a dog.

 

6. Pets provide security

Seniors – particularly those who’ve suffered hearing loss as they’ve aged – don’t always hear it when someone is potentially lurking just outside the home. But animals have a heightened sense of hearing and smell and react quickly to noises – even if they’re only lifting their head in the direction of the sound. Or, they may bark and run to the door.

 

7. Pets can save lives

Last, but not least, pets can be lifesavers — literally. Research shows that pets are beneficial for people with serious health issues, including:

  • Pets for seniors have a therapeutic effect on those with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Visits from trained therapy dogs provide instant companionship and comfort, as well as a sense of connection for those who are isolated by the effects of dementia.
  • Specially trained dogs have been known to detect the presence of cancerous tumors in humans before conventional tests do. In one study, dogs were able to detect colon cancer with over 90 percent accuracy. Experts aren’t entirely sure how dogs know when someone has cancer, but think it’s related to the animal’s keen sense of smell.
  • Another benefit of pets for seniors is that they can help patients with diabetes, particularly when the person’s blood sugar is dangerously low. Diabetes service dogs have a highly developed sense of smell that enables them to detect a variety of chemical changes in the body.

 

 

 

Pollen and adult onset allergies

 

Have you ever experienced new allergy symptoms as an older adult, but attributed them to something else? Did you know that even if you didn’t have allergies as a child, teen or younger adult, you’re not immune to them as an older adult?

It turns out, developing allergies later in life is not only possible — some medical professionals say it’s increasingly prevalent.

“Late onset of allergies have increased exponentially over the years and today it is really quite common,” says Dr. Bob Griesse of Whole Body Health, an Ohio-based medical practice.

Up to 30 percent of adults experience nasal allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Doctors aren’t certain about how many in this group developed allergies as adults, but as the population ages, more cases of adult onset allergies are expected.

 

Potential Causes

There are a number of reasons why someone may develop a new allergy later in life, says Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, a pulmonologist and founder of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Cough Center. He notes that seniors who’ve suffered from asthma or chronic respiratory conditions linked to smoking tend to be more likely to develop an allergy as an older adult. Additionally, aging predisposes you to allergies as your immune system starts to weaken.

“As people who are 65 and older are getting medications that depress their defense mechanisms and immunize systems, they tend to have a higher rate of rhinitis and other respiratory symptoms,” Ferrer says.

Medications and treatments that can suppress the immune system include steroids such as Prednisone, which is used to treat a variety of conditions including arthritis and ulcerative colitis. Those who undergo chemotherapy as part of cancer treatment also experience a weakened immune system and may be more vulnerable to developing allergies as older adults, the doctor says.

Ferrer also points to research that suggests that exposure to chemicals – from pollution, tobacco smoke and pesticides, among others – increases our likelihood of developing allergies.

 

Adult-onset Allergy Symptoms

If you’ve developed a seasonal allergy to allergens such as pollen or dust, some common signs include rashes or respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion and cough.

If you’re allergic to a specific food, you may experience a tingling in your mouth, gastrointestinal pain, hives, or swelling of your lips, throat, tongue and face. Food allergens can also cause anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction which can be life-threatening. In some cases, food allergies may lead to vomiting and diarrhea, poor circulation and low blood pressure.

Medication-related allergy symptoms to look out for are itchy skin, swelling in your face, rashes, wheezing, hives appearing on your stomach, chest or back or anaphylaxis.

 

Diagnosis

An allergist will evaluate your medical history and may use both skin tests and blood tests to help determine whether you’ve developed a new allergy.

But diagnosing allergies in older adults can be more challenging, and in some cases symptoms are overlooked, since older people are likelier to have other chronic illness that may cause similar symptoms.

“We’ve seen that the picture is less clear on adults when we do skin testing than with children,” Ferrer notes.

 

Treatments

Congestion and a sore throat can be dangerous to an older adult with cardiovascular issues, so prompt treatment is important. If your allergy is airborne, your doctor will probably prescribe a nasal steroid or topical treatment.

Non-medical approaches that can help ease allergies include staying indoors as much as possible during pollen season, and changing your clothes or showering after being outdoors when there’s pollen in the air. Ferrer also recommends ridding your home of the allergens that accumulate there by regularly changing out air filters.

For those with a food allergy, be sure to avoid contact with the food proteins that are causing the allergic reaction. Make sure to read any labels on the food you buy to ensure you’re not unknowingly ingesting anything you’re allergic to. When dining at restaurants, you should always ask about what’s in the dish you’re considering before you order. It’s also a good idea to have an auto-injectable epinephrine emergency medication (such as an EpiPen) for anaphylaxis with you at all times.

Meanwhile, Griesse advises making dietary changes to help alleviate allergy symptoms. “The first step is to balance the immune system and check your diet,” he says. “Feeding the body nourishing, nutrient-filled foods will help detoxify and reduce inflammation.”

 

OutdoorsWalk

 

You already know that things like a balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep are important to stay healthy, but if you’re like a lot of people, you may’ve overlooked the role of getting outdoors in maintaining your health.

If you’re a senior, venturing outside of the house is just what the doctor ordered in many cases and may even help prevent future health issues. A number of studies have demonstrated the positive impacts of being outdoors on older adults’ health.

With winter in the rearview and warmer weather on its way, there’s no better time than now to reap the body and mind benefits, including those listed here, of getting outside.

1. Being outside is a mood-booster.

There’s just something about being outside and enjoying the sunshine, a warm breeze, or the smell of fresh-cut grass that causes innate pleasure and enhances your mood.

Light in itself tends to elevate a person’s mood, and in almost every case there’s more natural light available outdoors than there is inside the house. Meanwhile, physical activity often relaxes and cheers people up, so exercising outdoors has double the benefit.

Another positive effect that exercise has on senior health is that it reduces the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your blood, while also lowering your blood pressure and pulse rate.

Additionally, researchers in England say that exercising even five minutes outdoors is enough to improve mood and self-esteem.

2. You’ll exercise more.

Not that you have to be outdoors to exercise – millions of people work out in gyms or at home using following along to videos or on at-home stationary bikes and the like. But research suggests that those who get outside tend to be more active overall.

Indeed, rather than spending a beautiful day sitting at the computer or in front of the television, why not spend it outside walking, gardening, biking, working in your yard, or other activities that keep your body moving?

3. You’ll increase your levels of vitamin D.

Why is vitamin D important for senior health? Research shows that this vitamin may have greater disease-fighting powers than others. For example, studies have shown that ‘D’ provides protection against heart attacks, strokes, depression, cancer, and other serious health issues, according to a statement from Harvard Medical School.

The good news is that you can get much of the vitamin D you need just by being outside in the sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes a day. That’s because sunlight hitting the skin leads to the creation of the biologically active form of vitamin D.

There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to vitamin D, however:

  • Vitamin D production is lower for people who are over 65. Skin color also affects vitamin D levels (African Americans have about half the levels of vitamin D than Caucasians).
  • While providing needed protection, many sunscreens block UVB light – which helps generate vitamin D in the skin. However, being outside while supplementing with vitamin D pills will help keep your levels high.

4. Being outside can improve concentration and cognitive health.

If you have trouble concentrating, getting out in nature may offer a solution. In one study, people who took a walk in nature scored higher on a proofreading task than those who walked through a city or who did neither.

A recent study conducted by the University of Kansas showed that even older adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from frequent walks outdoors. The study found that even brisk walks could lead to better physical functioning and slower cognitive decline among early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.

Additionally, being in nature – and even just looking at pictures of nature – helps restore mental energy. Natural beauty may also elicit feelings of awe, which can in turn help ease mental fatigue.

5. Getting outdoors helps boost immunity.

Multiple studies have shown that being outside boosts while blood cell counts and that the effect can last for several days. In a 2005 study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, spinal surgery patients were found to have less pain and needed fewer medications when exposed to natural light.

Clearly, getting outdoors provides many positive benefits to senior health – physically, mentally, and terms of long-term health. With spring now upon us, there’s no better time to get outdoors and give your health an overall boost.

 

 

OutdoorPatio

 

With spring fever and the first warm-weather days of the year, we all suddenly want to be outdoors—and that includes the elderly adults in your life. As you open up outdoor living spaces to ready them for the change in seasons, it’s the perfect time to consider senior safety.

The patio, deck or garden sitting area everyone loves might be the perfect oasis for most, but can actually include some hazards for seniors. Whether you want to help an older loved one upgrade their home, or are preparing your own home for your golden years, making some key modifications can help ensure you stay safe while enjoying the outdoors. Keep this senior safety checklist in mind as you prepare your home for an enjoyable spring and summer.

1. Prevent Slippery Spots

It’s easy for a patio or deck surface to become slippery from rainwater. Grab your hose and rinse off the surface. Carefully walk around and check for any slippery areas. If you find some, try one of these remedies:

  • Thoroughly clean the slippery area, as sometimes this will improve the surface texture. If needed, use a cleaner designed for your surface that will remove algae and mildew, which tend to be slippery.
  • Apply non-slip paint to your clean surface. These types of textured finishes add a non-slip coating to a patio, deck, porch or step.
  • Add non-slip doormats inside of the patio door to catch moisture. Wiping feet thoroughly can help prevent falls when moving in from the damp patio to the house.
  • Put down a non-slip indoor/outdoor mat or runner to create a safe walking path.

2. Get a Grip

Stepping up or down to go outside can easily throw someone off balance. Even if the step-out is nearly flat, such as stepping over sliding door tracks, it can be a hazard. Add a grab bar on the inside and outside of the patio door to boost safety for seniors and visitors of all ages. This will allow them to steady themselves.

If there are a few steps involved or even a ramp, be sure there is a steady handrail to hold onto. Make sure neither the ramp nor steps are slippery. Anti-slip stair treads or tape, designed to be used outdoors, can be applied to these areas.

3. Clear the Clutter

Taking a trip outdoors shouldn’t involve a trip and fall. When setting up your outdoor living area for warm weather use, clear all hazards out of walking paths.

  • Move flowerpots away from walking paths. Keep them close by so that your older loved one can still water and tend to them, but not so close that they become a trip hazard.
  • Add a hose reel so to keep hoses out of the way.
  • Place a plastic bin by the door to hold clogs and garden shoes so they’re not loose, creating a fall hazard.
  • Stow away garden tools. Tuck necessary items, such as the dog’s water dish, well outside of the natural walking path.
  • Trim back any shrubs or tree branches jutting into walking areas or interfering with handrails.

4. Choose Steady Furniture

Keep elderly loved ones safe by providing sturdy and steady patio furniture. Lightweight folding lawn chairs, while easily transported, may move or fall over when someone tries to sit in them. Choose heavy, stable pieces for your older loved one to lounge in.

Be aware of the many different moving furniture pieces for a patio—a porch swing, glider rockers, swivel chairs and more—can be a hazard for someone unsteady or who needs to support themselves on the arms to sit or stand. A comfortable, cushioned chair or chaise lounge is a safer spot for your elderly loved one.

5. Be Bright at Night

As evenings become balmy, it’s nice to sit out and watch the sunset. But before heading outside to do that, be make sure there’s adequate lighting for walking on the patio and going back in and out. A dawn to dusk timer or motion-activated light means you and your older loved ones won’t need to remember to turn the lights on.

6. Keep Your Cool

Consider senior safety when it comes to the sun and heat. A large patio umbrella can provide needed shade to your home’s outdoor spaces, especially if there aren’t many trees. An umbrella that tilts will allow you to adjust the shade as the sun moves.

Be sure to follow commonsense senior safety tips in hot weather. These include applying sunblock, wearing sunglasses and a hat, avoiding the outdoors during the hottest part of the day and staying well hydrated. Hanging a basket near the patio door to hold sunblock, sunglasses and hat is a great visual reminder.

This six-item checklist isn’t very long or hard to do, but it will help seniors stay safe while enjoying your home’s outdoor spots. Taking these precautions can help keep outdoor living a joy for all.

Lea Schneider is both a backyard enthusiast and a professional organizer who writes for The Home Depot. She provides tips on creating a backyard that makes the most of your space, from using the right outdoor patio furniture for your lifestyle to creative storage solutions that hide outdoor clutter.