5 Smart Ways to Help Lower Your Alzheimer's Risk

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers



June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, an important chance to learn more about a disease that affects an estimated 5.5 million people in the U.S. alone. The progressive neurological brain disorder and one of the most debilitating common forms of dementia was first diagnosed by German physician Alois Alzheimer in 1906, and has become increasingly prevalent ever since.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) notes that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease risk increases with age. In fact, research by the National Institute of Aging shows that Alzheimer’s prevalence doubles every five years after the age of 65. Symptoms of this devastating illness include memory loss, confusion, inability to recognize friends and family and perform daily tasks and a lack of interest in appearance and hygiene.

You may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. While there are no clear-cut answers, research suggests that there are steps you can take that may lower your risk. The following are some of the measures that have been shown to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.


1. Eat Brain-Boosting Foods

Eating the right foods can help lower your Alzheimer’s risk, not to mention your risk of developing a host of other chronic illnesses. A 2015 study published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia found that people who adhered to what is known as the MIND diet were less likely to experience cognitive decline. This diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet and is rich in green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, fish, poultry, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil.

Ingesting foods rich in Vitamin E may also reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, as this vitamin also protects your neurons from free radicals, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Some foods rich in Vitamin E are spinach, almonds avocado, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ. Berries are also rich in antioxidants that stop inflammation and can improve brain cell function.


2. Don't Skimp on Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation and researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, intermittent sleep can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Getting enough sleep is necessary for regulating the metabolic homeostasis in your brain, whereas losing sleep can increase neuron degeneration, or brain damage.

Your brain also needs adequate sleep to detoxify via its glymphatic system, and this includes the removal of toxins containing proteins linked to Alzheimer’s. Sleep deprivation may also increase stress hormones such as corticosterone, which may result in less brain cells being produced. Adults are advised to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.


3. Make Exercise Part of Your Routine

Did you know that physical activity serves as mental gymnastics for your brain, since it boosts blood flow and oxygen consumption? According to the Mayo Clinic, studies reveal that those who are physically active have a lowered Alzheimer's risk, and are less likely to decline mentally.

Working out a few times per week for 30 to 60 minutes can improve your mental alertness, memory, cognitive function and judgment. Regular physical activity may also delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, because it boosts the production of chemicals that protect your brain.

The Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, with a combination of strength training and cardiovascular activity. To lower your Alzheimer’s risk, try incorporating aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing into your isometric sessions.


4. Keep Socially Active

Staying social can not only boost your mood, it may also help protect your brain. A study of 800 adults over 75 years old revealed that those who were more socially active had a lower Alzheimer’s risk. The chances of developing Alzheimer’s were reduced even more when the seniors combined social interaction with cognitive exercises and physical activity. Research reveals that partaking in cultural activities and forging close interpersonal relationships, served as a protective mechanism against dementia.

You could remain socially active by volunteering for good causes and community projects. Avoid early retirement if you can, and join social groups such as bridge or dancing clubs. Traveling can also help.


5. Get Your Vitamin D

While you don’t want to overdo sun exposure, catching some rays is be one way of ensuring you get enough Vitamin D – which research shows may help stave off cognitive decline. A 2015 study observing 1,600 seniors over a period of six years revealed that those who were Vitamin D deficient were more likely to develop Alzheimer's and other dementias.  It's also important to note that seniors require more Vitamin D than younger adults, as their skin produces the vitamin less efficiently.

Make sure to consult your doctor about the recommended time spent outdoors and remember not to leave home without your sunscreen.



4 Key Steps to Moving After Age 55

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 by Lin Nulman

Senior Adult Couple in Front of Real Estate Sign, House


Moving has been called the “forgotten stress” of selling a home: it’s a big project with a lot of parts and logistics. And as you get older, it can be harder to manage a big move on your own. Luckily, there are things you can do to to minimize the moving blues.

At 23, I was proud to help haul a mattress up to a second-floor porch with muscle and a roll of twine, but now that I'm over 50, I would rather make moving as easy as possible.

In an attempt to help make your next move stress-free, we put together a list of some of the key moving tips we wise 50+ folks should embrace.


1. Selling the House

The best way to remove stress isn’t even a moving tip, but a selling tip: get a great real estate agent. Selling your home is an ongoing project that eats up huge chunks of your time, and a good real estate agent minimizes time and anxiety.

Your agent should have the market knowledge and the professional experience to:

  • Price the house correctly
  • Access listing venues you can’t
  • Mount a successful marketing campaign
  • Show the property
  • Connect you with good contractors
  • Stay on top of any legal issues
  • Negotiate with the buyer’s agent
Do you want to have to handle those responsibilities while you’re preparing to move? Who would, when top rated real estate agents are there for you?


2. Preparing Your Home

  • Start preparing to move before you list your home. You need to declutter to show the house anyway, so make that effort with your move in mind.
  • Sort your possessions into Keep/Sell/Donate/Trash categories, and start early enough to keep it feeling manageable. A head start now means there’s less to pack later, and “pre-packing” creates the openness in your living and storage spaces that attracts buyers.
  • Remember to label everything you pack, whether it’s marked for donation or for you to identify and unpack in your new place. Boxes, you know, do look alike.
  • Sell some of the contents of the house along with the house. Furniture you don’t want, or want to move, can be part of the deal. So can pretty much anything else, including appliances, kitchenware, dishes, those huge down comforters, or the lawnmower. Consult with your agent and let her gauge prospective buyers’ interest in various items.

3. The Actual Move

  • Get written estimates from multiple moving companies, and have their reps do a walk-through to calculate cost. Do your homework: read online reviews, consult them on any “tough” or unusual aspects of your move (like transporting a piano), and ask if they include packing in their services.
  • Select your top three choices, and don’t lose their contact info! Once your house sells, book the movers right away.
  • Consider temporary housing. If the whole move-out/move-in process is too hard or too fast for comfort, consider a furnished rental, house sitting, Airbnb, or accepting hospitality from loved ones. Give yourself the time you need to get into or find your next home.
Even if you don’t need temporary housing, consider it for your pets. What’s safer and less stressful for them is also less stressful for you.


4. Moving-related Life Logistics

  • Let everyone know your new address who needs to know. Most organizations will let you change it online. Your list includes the Post Office, utilities and cable (which also need to be shut off), credit card companies, insurance companies, newspaper/magazine subscriptions, employers, family and friends.
  • Have prescriptions refilled before you move and transferred to a new pharmacy if necessary. Get referrals for and connect with new doctors, dentists, vets, and other important health service providers in your new area before you arrive.
Planning ahead lets you cross things off your Moving To-Do List sooner rather than later, and that will mean a smoother move and a lot less stress.


Lin Nulman is a guest contributor from Homelight.


11 Books You Need to Read if You’re Over 65

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Madeline Vann

Senior woman portrait


Aging brings new challenges and questions, as well as new opportunities. And there’s evidence to suggest that a positive attitude towards aging might even slow down the aging process itself.

With that in mind, we put together a list of 11 books about aging that should be on your reading list. Each one is packed with encouragement, tips, and in-depth information to help you prepare for and embrace the decades to come. Whether you check them out of the library, download them to a tablet, or listen to the audio version, we promise you’ll be inspired, challenged, and well informed when you’ve finished one or all of these picks.


1. Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

by Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner drew research for this renowned book from “blue zone” communities in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, and Costa Rica where people live longer than average. He also lays out nine key behaviors that people from these areas have that may help explain their above-average lifespan.

As you read, you’ll explore healthy aging concepts such as defining your purpose, staying connected to friends and family and keeping elders nearby, managing stress, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, drinking up to one to two servings of alcohol daily, and participating in a faith community at least four times a month.

To order: Amazon


2. American Medical Association Complete Guide to Prevention and Wellness

by the American Medical Association

Have you ever wanted a one-stop resource that explains just about everything you need to know about chronic disease, bone health, preventing dementia, managing allergies and how maintain your health throughout your life? The American Medical Association has compiled this useful guide to help you understand basic health concerns – and how to ask better questions during visits with your doctor or other health professionals to help boost your health and wellness.

To order: Amazon


3. A Couple’s Guide to a Happy Retirement

by Sara Yogev, PhD

Written by Sara Yogev, a psychologist and coach focused on marriage and family, this book helps couples prepare for the inevitable changes that come with retirement and aging. Yogev helps you think through discussions about how you spend money and time, as well as how you connect with friends and family as a couple and as individuals. She also delves into some of the more personal concerns of aging, ranging from finding a new purpose after retirement to enhancing your sexual intimacy.

To order: Amazon


4. What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying

by Karen Wyatt, MD

You don’t have to be dying or have a loved one in hospice to benefit from this book. Dr. Wyatt, a hospice physician with 25 years of experience in end-of-life care, shares the insights she’s gained from her patients and their families about what really matters at the end of life.

While she uses a Christian framework to discuss themes such as suffering and forgiveness that arise at the end-of-life, Wyatt stresses that people of all faiths or no faith can learn from the framework she proposes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and perhaps more importantly, you might come away from this book inspired to make some changes in your life.

To order: Amazon


5. Fitness Over Fifty: An Exercise Guide from the National Institute on Aging

Regular exercise is especially important as you age. But you do not need a gym membership, tight fashionable workout clothes, or a pricey home weight set. The National Institutes of Health has put together a guide filled with basic yet effective exercises that will increase endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility without breaking your budget. Not only will these exercises help you stay fit, they can also help you prevent crippling falls and injuries by preserving your balance and strength.

To order: Amazon


6. Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond

by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD

Chris Crowley, a septuagenarian former litigator, co-authored this book with internist Henry Lodge, MD, to give older adults practical advice for staying fit well into their later years. You’ll find helpful guidelines, tips, and the authors’ personal stories to inspire you. They argue that exercising six days a week with a mix of aerobic activity and strength training is the key to successful aging. You’ll find a host of other helpful information as you implement their advice.

To order: Amazon


7. Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Everyday

by Daniel Amen, MD

Neurologist Daniel Amen, MD has decades of experience in brain health research and treatment. In this book, he offers ten strategies for boosting memory and mood, decreasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, enhancing your skin, reducing outwards signs of aging, promoting brain healing after injury or stroke and helping counter the effects of substance abuse and exposure to environmental toxins.

To order: Amazon


8. Personal Finance After 50 for Dummies

by Eric Tyson and Bob Carlson

Let’s face it – most, if not all of us, need to periodically think through our financial planning. This book will help you get started if you haven’t yet hired an outside expert to keep you on track with saving and budgeting for the future and other financial considerations you’ll inevitably face as you age. Author Eric Tyson covers the basics as well as financial concerns you might not have considered before, including Social Security, pensions, Medicare, and how to think through common financial situations that arise in retirement.

To order: Amazon


9. Second Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement

by Nancy Collamer, MS

Just because you’ve officially retired from your career doesn’t mean you have to stop making money. In fact, according to author Nancy Collamer, retirement is an ideal time to explore the money-making potential of your hobbies and passions. Find out how you can dig deeply into your interests and talents and, with a little business savvy, make a little money doing activities you love.

To order: Amazon


10. Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief

by Kimberly Carson, MPH and Carol Krucoff

In this book, authors Kimberly Carson, MPH, and Carol Krucoff outline 12 principles of starting and maintaining a regular yoga practice for older adults. This book can be used by those with varying levels of mobility – including those who will practice yoga in a seated position. Yoga has been shown to improve chronic pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, bone health, arthritis, and mood.

You can use the program outlined in the book to enhance range of motion, balance, posture and strength. The book also provides tips for finding a qualified yoga teacher near you, for those who want to explore yoga more deeply.

To order: Amazon


11. The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Helping Prevent Alzheimer's and Dementia

by Maggie Moon, MS, RDN

Author Maggie Moon provides a comprehensive guide to the eating plan that has been proven to boost memory, mental acuity and concentration while slowing cognitive decline during aging. You’ll find detailed information about the science behind her recommendations, recipes you can easily prepare at home, and a list of foods that could be harming your brain health. The plan focuses on consuming whole foods to boost brain health, from leafy greens and vegetables to poultry, olive oil and wine.

To order: Amazon



Travel Tips for Seniors

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 by Tracy Layden

Happy senior tourist reading map


I’m not sure traveling ever gets old – even if we do. One thing I do know is that as older adults, we deserve a well-planned trip that doesn’t involve our bodies feeling their age. With that in mind, here are my tips to make your next vacation the best one yet.


Plan Ahead

They say the early bird gets the worm, and it turns out, that bird also gets to save money and fly away without stress. Take care of the logistics before you board the plane to save yourself a headache on arrival.
  • Prepare all your travel documents in advance. Leaving the country? Apply for your passport (and travel visa, if needed) early to avoid paying for expedited shipping. Be sure to make a copy to keep in your safety deposit box as a backup.
  • Book accommodations ahead of time. Save your energy for touring a foreign city, not for worrying where you’re going to sleep. The earlier you book flights and hotels, the cheaper they’ll be and the better rooms you can get.
  • Choose a good time for travel. One of the best perks of retirement is getting to travel whenever you want. Most destinations have the best weather in the spring and fall. And even better? You won’t have to compete with the kids, because they’re all in school. Enjoy the freedom of having attractions all to yourself.

Pack the Essentials

It’s tempting to pack your whole closet so you'll have everything you need, but who wants to lug all that around? Opt for a light suitcase with wheels instead. Pack just what you need and choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics.
  • Don’t forget your medications. Talk with your doctor about your prescription medications, and get enough refills to last the duration of your trip. You don’t want to add a pharmacy to your must-see vacation list.
  • Pack an extra set of glasses. The whole point of a vacation is to see the sights. Don’t miss out because you left your glasses on the bus or cracked them on the flight over. Bring an extra pair in a sturdy case, just in case.
  • Remember snacks and reading materials for long flights. Traveling often comes with long delays. Pack snacks, reading materials, and portable games to keep you occupied until you reach your destination.

Stay Healthy

Is there anything worse than getting sick on vacation? Avoid spending your trip in your hotel room. The following common-sense tips can help you steer clear of germs so you can stay healthy and enjoy your travels.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. When you first get on the plane, wipe your space down with disinfecting wipes. Don’t forget both sides of the tray table. Throughout your journey, sanitize your hands before you eat and before touching your face.
  • Bring your own pillow and blanket. Don’t rely on how the airline defines ‘clean’. Using your own pillow and blanket means you won’t be sharing germs and you get to rest with a pillow and blanket that are actually comfortable. A neck pillow and travel blanket, available at many retailers, should do the trick.
  • Get up and move around. They call it ‘economy class syndrome’. It’s when the blood starts to clot in your lower legs from sitting too long. Get up, walk around the airplane, and do some stretches. Your body will thank you when you land in your destination and you’ll be doing your part to prevent deep vein thrombosis.


Make Travel Golden

You’re in your golden years, and you deserve a vacation that lives up to your standards. By taking care of all the prep work before jetting off, you’ll be in for a smooth and relaxing vacation. Don’t forget the sunscreen!


Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.


The Rising Cost of Alzheimer’s Care (and How To Prepare)

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

Adult Daughter Helping Senior Tie Shoelaces


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that occurs due to degeneration of the brain and is the most common form of dementia. There currently is no cure for the disease, and in spite of the billions of dollars going to care for those who suffer from it every year, less is spent on research to learn more about it.

While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be devastating, it’s important to remember that it encompasses a whole spectrum, and an early diagnosis can help you and your family prepare for the future. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the costs associated with treatment and what your options are for future care.


Why Are Alzheimer’s Care Costs So High?

According to a recently published Alzheimer’s Association report, 2017 marks a milestone in that it will take more than a quarter of a trillion dollars to cover the care of individuals who live with Alzheimer’s disease.

Because there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, individuals must consider long-term Alzheimer’s care options, whether that includes help from a family member or moving into a memory care facility. Although it might seem more affordable to have a loved one take care of someone with Alzheimer’s, the costs can still add up. Those with Alzheimer’s visit the hospital more often for their other ailments than those who have the same ailments but no Alzheimer’s, for example.

Family members who become caregivers also have to take into account the added cost of caring for their loved one as well as the impact it has on their ability to work. Many must take cut their hours at work or quit their jobs entirely to devote proper Alzheimer’s care to their loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association report found.


Covering the Expense

Who is covering the cost of care for older adults with Alzheimer’s if it’s now surpassing a quarter of a trillion dollars per year? Medicare and Medicaid actually foot over half of the bill at a combined 68 percent – if the person with Alzheimer’s is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, that is – but 22 percent of the costs still come out of pocket.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the cost of hiring home health aides is for someone with Alzheimer’s is about $20 per hour, and a semi-private or private room in a nursing home costs anywhere from $82,000 to more than $92,000 annually. Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid can help in covering some of these costs, but that’s not taking into account the costs of personal care supplies, prescription medications and other expenses such as adding safety modifications to a home.

Given the foggy future of medical care and coverage and the increased frequency of hospital visits for Alzheimer’s patients, it’s understandable that Alzheimer’s care costs would concern any person at risk for developing the disease or ending up caring for a loved one with a diagnosis. That’s why early preparation is so key.


Preparing For the Future

Part of any thorough financial planning for your and your loved ones’ golden years should include the cost of Alzheimer’s or dementia care. Even those who don’t think they’re at risk should consider making a plan for the unexpected, including talking with loved ones about their end-of-life wishes. Some items to carefully consider include
  • Deciding on a Power of Attorney. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with no cure. It’s crucial to decide who you want to make decisions in your stead when you are unable to do so yourself, whether you one day develop the disease or not. Choose someone you trust wholeheartedly, and include them in your planning for your end-of-life care.
  • Creating a Savings Account for End-of-Life Care. If costs worry you, it may be a good idea to start setting aside a little money regularly now to help cover any long-term Alzheimer’s care, whether a loved one takes you in or you live in a memory care community.
  • Estate Planning. If you’re like the majority of U.S. adults who have put off planning how your estate will be divided when you’re gone, there’s no time like the present to sit down and make a plan. You can even specify how you want your loved ones to care for you if you become unable to do so yourself, taking that difficult decision off the shoulders of your family members.
As the cost of Alzheimer’s care rises each year, preparing in advance for an unexpected diagnosis may help to soften the blow for you and your family. If you’re starting to look into future options for long-term care facilities for memory care and more,  we can help.



4 Great Savings Accounts for Grandchildren

Friday, May 19th, 2017 by Laura Dixon

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.



How Kitchen Downsizing Can Help Simplify Your Life

Thursday, May 18th, 2017 by Lea Schneider



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 9x13 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.


Study Suggests Link Between Alcoholism and Retirement

Friday, May 5th, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

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.


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!

Monday, May 1st, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

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.



[caption id="attachment_35659" align="aligncenter" width="435"]AndreaScholar Andrea pictured with her father[/caption]


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.



[caption id="attachment_35660" align="aligncenter" width="435"]MonicaScholar Monica pictured with her father[/caption]


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.



8 Common Misconceptions About Senior Living

Monday, May 1st, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

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.