Tips on Helping Your Elderly Parent Find Residence & Care
How To Find the Right Living Place For Your Parents
Choosing a retirement community for an elderly parent is never an easy task. When children look for a home for their senior parents, they aren’t just trying to find them another place to live. A good senior living community gives the children peace of mind, and it gives the parents somewhere they can live out their golden years with joy. For many people, finding a new home for their senior parent is a way to repay their parent for taking care of them and supporting them throughout their life. Others are trying to ensure that a parent with a specific health condition lives somewhere that provides the best possible medical care.
Whatever the reason and whatever the level of care that will be necessary for the parent, there are countless factors to consider before selecting a community that makes a good fit. This guide covers many of those considerations and how to navigate them together with parents to find a home that will make for a happy and healthy life.
What Senior Living Community Options Are Available?
It is important to remember that there are many different types of retirement communities available to senior parents. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover most senior living communities, although certain types of private insurance can cover them. Each kind of community caters to different preferences and needs parents may have when leaving their home. Some of the options available to older parents can include:
- Independent Living Communities. These are residences in a senior living community for people that require little to no assistance. They have the benefit of integrating a parent whose assistance needs might develop over time into a community early, allowing them to already have a happy social life and a familiar environment if they end up requiring a more comprehensive care facility. Most of these residences are situated in a community that offers more advanced care, allowing for an easier move – if necessary – later in the resident’s life. Although the price of independent living residences can vary quite a bit based on location, amenities, unit size, and other variables, typically they average between $2000 and $4000 per month. They are usually paid for privately out of pocket, but some may allow insurance or other non-private payment options.
- Assisted Living Communities. For senior parents that require a little more assistance or supervision, assisted living facilities can be a good option. These are usually more expensive than independent living communities due to the cost of staff that provide assistance, but like independent living, the price is quite variable. They average around $4000 a month nationally, but the cost can be higher based on the level of assistance your elderly parent needs. Additional services can include help with managing medication, help dressing or bathing, blood sugar checks, regular nurse check-ins, and many others. These are also typically privately paid, but long-term care insurance can help cover a lot of the costs.
- Skilled Nursing Facilities. For senior parents that need full assistance and 24/7 care, this option ranges from a national average of $7650 for a semi-private room (which may or may not have a closable door) to $8700 for a more private unit. Fortunately, Medicare does cover a net total of 100 calendar days of care in a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility. However, a daily copay that the patient or their family must cover is added to the base cost if certain criteria (such as a recent stay in the hospital) get met.
- Memory Care Facilities. These are communities for parents that have dementia or other serious memory or cognitive disorders. One of the most dangerous symptoms of dementia is a tendency to wander out of the home while confused, which can be a major problem if there are hazards outside such as extreme weather. They are designed with the risks of memory disorders in mind, providing locked, safe environments that allow residents to live in a structured and secure environment. Memory care facilities typically cost $1000 to $4000 more per month than the base price of assisted living facilities in the area. Like assisted living communities, memory care facilities can be partially paid for by long-term care insurance policies.
Whatever option seems right at first, it is a good idea to have back-up plans based on changes in health or opinion. Many elderly parents move multiple times after leaving their home, staying in communities that fit best with their fluctuating needs and desires. The best option is usually whatever allows the parent the most independence possible, while still planning for any potential changes that might necessitate a move. Designating financial power-of-attorney to a trust friend or family member as early as reasonable is a good idea, since that allows the parent to have their affairs managed if their health status changes suddenly. Designating another trusted individual (who understands their medical needs, values and wishes) as their healthcare power-of-attorney is similarly a wise choice. But when a decision has to be made hastily, for instance after an accident, death, or unexpected hospital stay, things can change very quickly.
“There were four different assisted-living apartments; two independent-living communities; countless hospital stays that lasted a week or longer; probably a dozen stints in rehab; one heartbreaking week in a hospice; and an even more harrowing few months, during COVID lockdown, in memory care,” writes Firstly’s Jenna Gabrial Gallagher in a write-up of her experience helping her parents navigate senior living communities. “Some of the moves were their choice, such as when they decamped without telling us from their AL facility (“Everyone there is so…old!”) to a much hipper independent living community down the street. Other moves were out of medical necessity: they were in the original AL because my mom had had a debilitating toxic reaction to a combination of medications she’d been taking for her multiple myeloma. After she recovered, they couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”
Ultimately though, the choice is between the parent and the family involved. It is important to balance the wishes of the parent with the reality of their needs, and to try to work out a solution that everyone agrees makes them as comfortable, healthy, and happy as possible.
Before You Tour
Regardless of the type of senior living community or the needs of the older parent that will be living in the community, the most important part of the process of selecting a home for the parent is touring the community in question. But before that, there are a number of crucial things to consider when thinking about touring a senior living community for a parent that may be living there in the near future. This information can often be discovered on the community’s website, in marketing pamphlets, on the phone with staff. If all else fails, you can ask during a tour, but if possible you should get answers to most of these questions before taking the time to visit in person:
How Far Away is the Community?
Many people want to be close to their parents so that they can visit as often as they can. If that is an important factor in the decision, the distance question is a critical piece of the tour. Don’t just think of the distance measured as the bird flies, also take careful note of how long it takes to drive there. For senior parents that do not own a car or drive, consider the public transportation and other transport options available to them. Will they be able to get to grocery stores and shopping centers, if necessary? How about places of worship? If they have health conditions that might require urgent medical attention from physicians that are not available on site, how far away is the hospital? How far are other medical centers, clinics, or specialists they might be visiting on a regular basis? How far away are libraries, parks, and other amenities they may want to visit? Will they be able to visit other friends and family from their community? Living near children is also a difficult choice with many pros and cons.
“I’ve seen many retirees make snap decisions about where they’ll live and regret it,” said Jill Schlesinger, CBS business analyst and author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money, in a Forbes article on the topic. “They thought it would be wonderful to be closer to their kids and grandkids. What could go wrong? But this kind of a move can be dangerous for retirees, and not just because of the financial components.”
Schlesinger added that some retired parents found that moving to be closer to family wasn’t worth leaving behind friends or other connections where they lived before. Other senior parents find that they feel like they are obligated to visit their family more than they initially wanted to, or that their family feels obligated to do the same with them. There are also countless financial considerations to make.
What Type of Care Does the Community Offer?
Another feature that can make or break the fit of a senior living community for most people is the care they can offer their aging parents. The services available can have a massive impact on a parent’s health and quality of life. Make sure to ask not only about any care options that are necessary today, but the care services that might reasonably be needed in the future. If possible, it is a good idea to avoid having to move again if new or different care needs develop down the line. Ask about the quality of the care and the credentials and training of the staff providing it. You should also ask about different packages or level of care offered, what they include, and what the price of each level is.
What Medical Services Are Provided?
Beyond care generally, it is also wise to inquire about the medical support the community can give your parent. Like more broad care services, it is consider how well the services provided by the community fit with both the medical needs of your parent today and needs that might develop in the future. It can provide a lot of extra peace of mind to know that good medical care will be available should your parent need them, even if they aren’t necessary today. Some details to ask about might include access to doctors and other medical professionals on site, medication administration services, pharmacy services, physical therapy options, and vitals monitoring.
What Are the Units Like?
Most senior living communities have a variety of housing options in many different layouts, sizes, locations, and bedroom and bathroom combinations. These can include independent living apartments with full kitchens, or smaller suites with walk-in kitchenettes. Bathrooms might include disability accommodations or come as default only and require extra fees for installation of those accommodations.
Consider what floor plan will make your parent the happiest and talk it over with them. Try to get them to envision where they might put their possessions so they can see what living there would be like. Ask the staff to provide a floor plan with measurements so you can estimate how furniture might fit. Think about how any health conditions might affect your parent navigating the apartment – for instance, could a wheelchair user reach shelves or appliances? Within the unit, consider different safety features and check whether or not they work properly, such as fire alarms, call bells, sprinklers, and smoke alarms. Your parent should feel safe and secure in their new home, and you should feel comfortable putting them somewhere you do not have to worry about them.
Some of the less crucial options are still important to think over since they may or may not suit your parent’s preferences. This includes things like individually controlled heating and air conditioning, the absence or presence of a full kitchen, whether there is a fully private bathroom, storage options, and the decision between a unite with one or multiple rooms. Don’t forget to ask about TV, phone, and internet access options and their price.
What Amenities Does the Community Offer?
As you tour through a senior living community, it is helpful to ask about what amenities and suite options can be accessed by residents. Considering the individual unit is important, of course, but its just one part of the larger retirement community and all of its various amenity spaces and options as part of your parent’s possible new home. When it comes to the amenities in the community and its shared spaces, think about what your parent likes to do and what they are expecting from this new chapter in their life. Senior living communities often have a common dining area, for example. Could there be a spot that could be reserved for birthday parties or larger family gatherings?
Other amenities and common areas to ask about include:
- Library or reading room
- Fitness center
- Café, restaurant, or market
- Chapel or other places of worship
- Movie theater or stage performance area (for concerts and plays)
- Activity spaces (e.g. art studio or dance hall)
- Open community kitchen
- Beauty salon or barber shop
- Garden, patio, or green space
What Are the Recreation Options?
Many people choose senior living residences for a sense of camaraderie, community and the opportunities to meet and live alongside people their age who lead similar lives. Ask about what activities are available to the residents and if they are able to provide any sort of input. Your parent might be interested in volunteering or helping create a new feature of the community. These are opportunities that can really set a community apart and make it a true community, as opposed to just a place to live. Some senior living communities even offer transportation for local events, shopping, excursions, musical and theatrical performances, and other opportunities to get out, so these are worth inquiring about.
How to Tour a Senior Living Community
Once you think a senior living community has potential to be a good new home for your aging parent, it is time to schedule a tour. This can usually be done by calling the community, emailing them, or going to their website and filling out a form. Some communities even allow potential residents and their families to walk in and get a tour on the same day. Regardless, once the day of the tour comes and you walk through the doors of the building, there are some specific details to watch out for that could be the difference between your parent having a happy home and spending thousands of dollars on a community that isn’t worth the cost. Keep an eye out for the following:
Activities and Community Engagement: Join In
If it is possible, it is always a great idea to try scheduling a at the same time as a community event or group activity. When scheduling the tour, ask the staff member if you can drop in on one of the activities – or even participate with your parent. Take note of how many people are there – is it well attended? Does the staff support the participants and appear to be having a good time with the activity as well? Have a peek at the community calendar of events. Are they things that your parent might be interested in? Is there some variety to them that allows residents to broaden their horizons? Are there opportunities to get outside of the community on outings? And if applicable, never forget to check if the community holds the relevant religious services.
Staff Friendliness: Ask Around
The demeanor, attitude, and overall friendliness of the staff working at a senior living community are a critical factor in the quality of the community. Having confidence in the staff is vital, so take some time to observe multiple staff members interacting with the community’s residents. Do they listen closely to the needs and concerns of the residents and look them in the eye? Does the staff at the community treat residents with dignity, respect and a smile? Also, do what you can to get an understanding of the staffing structure and the positions involved. More specialized roles and more staff usually translates to better care for your elderly parent, but make the staff is actually working to help the residents. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb, and there are exceptions. Specialized roles like “assistance pool maintenance engineer” are likely increasing the price of residency more than they’re increasing the quality of life for the residents? Make sure you get an introduction to the community’s management team, so you can ask how many staff are directly involved with resident service. Meeting the management team will also help get a picture of the community’s goals and values.
It is also a good idea to speak with residents away from any staff members and ask them how the treatment from staff is. Are they polite and respectful to the residents? Do they do their jobs diligently? Are they ever rude or negligent in any way? Make sure to ask how the community handles complaints about staff from residents and their families. Good employment screening can help reduce the number of bad staff members that end up working at a senior living community, but it is impossible to stop a few from slipping through the cracks – even at the best communities. While complaints about grave misconduct like elder abuse or theft from residents are the responsibility of law enforcement, less serious and more common problems with staff conduct are usually the responsibility of the community. If they have a human resources department or staff manager, you should ask them about how they handle staff complaints, but you should also take a moment to ask residents in private so you don’t just get the company line.
Outdoor Areas: Take a Walk
Having somewhere to enjoy a sunny day outside is a huge benefit for any senior living community. These areas can be a wonderful place for active older folks to take an afternoon walk, do yoga or stretching exercises, soak up sunlight, socialize with other residents, or simply relax with a morning coffee and read the paper while getting some fresh air.
Outdoor areas and green spaces in and around senior living facilities encourage activities with a plethora of health benefits. A 2011 study published by the British Medical Association investigated nearly 28,000 people from 40 to 79 years old over a period of 13 years. The study found that those who went on walks for an hour a day or more had a significantly longer life expectancy. But even short walks – especially when walking at a brisk pace – can also add years to the clock, according to a similar study of more than 400,000 people in Taiwan. Even moderate intensity (slow or medium pace) walks can add an average of three years to someone’s lifespan.
“15 minutes a day or 90 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise might be of benefit, even for individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease,” the study authors wrote. “The benefits were applicable to all age groups and both sexes, and to those with cardiovascular disease risks. Individuals who were inactive had a 17 percent increased risk of mortality compared with individuals [who exercised moderately].”
Take a walk with your senior parent through any green areas, gardens, or grounds that the community features. Ask if there are any regular activities or organized group exercises that other residents participate outdoors. Even for older adults who may have health conditions that limit their capacity for traditional exercise, there are still ways that your older parent can take advantage of outdoor spaces to benefit their health. If your parent enjoys gardening, many senior living communities sport community gardens that grow fresh fruits and vegetables. While on the tour of the community, ask the tour guide if it is possible for residents to volunteer to help work in it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular moderate exercise – including gardening – each week can reduce the risk for “obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death,” among other health problems. The CDC has also identified other health benefits to gardens too, so the fruits and vegetables certainly don’t hurt.
Community Meals: Have a Bite
Many people take decent food for granted, but this a luxury not afforded to many older adults living in low-end senior living communities. As such, it is important to ask the tour guide about what sort of entree choices are available to the community’s residents and inquire about dining hours and meal options. If possible, see if you can have a look at the area the food is prepared in and make sure it is clean and well organized – you do not want your parent eating food made in the Cockroach Café. More importantly, most senior living communities will let you schedule a tour during dining hours and have a meal at the community’s dining facilities. This is a wise move not only because it is a great way to sample the cuisine, but also because it also opens up the chance to meet some of the residents. You can discuss what happens if a resident can’t make it to the dining room for a meal and how they might be able to get food if that happens. Malnutrition is a serious issue in older adults, but good food can help prevent that.
“My research shows dissatisfaction with the food service significantly influences how much and what residents eat, and therefore contributes to the risk of malnutrition,” wrote nutrition and health expert Dr. Cherie Hugo of Australia’s Bond University in an op-ed on the issue. “And aged care residents are unlikely to voice their opinions – they either won’t or can’t speak out.”
Because of this, it is important to prevent the issue before it happens and choose a community that has good food.
Cleanliness and Upkeep: Follow Your Nose
Nobody wants to live in rat’s nest, and unfortunately many senior living communities are poorly maintained and underfunded. Look beyond the furnishings and take a moment to get a closer inspection of the baseboards, corners, and windows. Ask your tour guide how frequently housekeeping is available for your parent’s unit. Also ask about the specifics on maintenance and repair requests and the estimated response times once a request for a repair has been submitted. Other simple daily chores like laundry can work differently in a communal setting, so ask about those too and have a look at the laundry facilities. Using the laundry example, make sure to get a good understanding of the cost of the laundry machines and how busy the laundry room gets.
There are some major red flags to look out for here, too. Noticeable odors in the building can demonstrate a deeper issue with lack of cleanliness, or they could just be a temporary problem. If there are smells limited in one area you visit on the tour, that most likely indicates a single and limited recent problem. However, odors pervading the entire building most likely indicate a broader systemic dysfunction. Don’t be afraid to ask the manager what they think might be causing the smell or any other issue you run into during your tour.
Safety and Security: Test It Out
Security and safety features are a vital to the health and well-being of elderly parents, as well as their peace of mind (and that of their family). It helps everyone sleep a little better at night to know that the community is taking the safety of their residents seriously, so make sure that this is the case for the community you are touring when you go to check out the location. For instance, check out the bathrooms. See how accessible they are and whether or not they have grab bars in optimal spots throughout the bathroom. Give them a nice hard pull to make sure they are sturdy and screwed in to the wall properly.
Ask the tour guide how the residents can contact staff if they have an emergency in their unit. Is there a call button or a similar communication device (or devices) that they can use if something goes awry? Ask the guide about any other safety and security features that are available in the living area and around the rest of the community. Check to see how you can find out about staff schedules. This can help to determine who is on location at different times to help residents. Be especially sure to ask about whether or not there are registered nurses on site. Are the senior living community’s staffing patterns different at night, on weekends, or during the holidays? How do they help with or manage the residents’ medication schedules? Always ask specific questions that are relevant to any medical needs your senior parent might have.
Personal Care: Keeping It Clean
While going on a tour of potential senior living community locations, it is also important to ask plenty of questions about the personal care assistance the community offers. If it is something your parent needs – or may reasonably need in the foreseeable future – discuss bathing options. A good way to determine how well residents are cared for is to simply observe the residents in the facility closely when you see them, especially if you are touring somewhere that gives extra service to the residents such as an assisted living community, a skilled nursing facility, or a memory care facility. Are the residents clean, closely shaven, and sporting well-groomed nails and hair? One thing to take into consideration while visiting is the activities the residents are involved in and weather. Are their clothes well-suited for the activities they are doing? Are the residents dressed appropriately for the weather?
Ask Other Residents About Their Experience
Before or after the official tour from the senior living community staff, take a moment to pull a resident or two aside and ask them how they feel about living in the community. Do they enjoy living there? Would they choose this community again? What amenities or services do they use? What complaints do they have, or what would they change? What are their favorite parts of living there? What is the community like – is it tight-knit, or do people keep to themselves? Are there any maintenance issues or pest problems?
These basic questions, and many others, can give valuable insight that you might not otherwise get from the well-rehearsed official tour, which is typically more focused on convincing potential residents to move in than giving an unbiased portrayal of the community’s good and bad aspects. Online reviews can also be helpful, but they do come with some limitations.
“Don’t give the opinions of reviewers too much weight,” said Human Good’s Meredith Landry in an article on the subject. “People who review generally have strong opinions, they’re either extremely enthusiastic or very disparaging.”
Landry recommends beginning the search online, but only using the reviews to gather questions and cross off communities that have an overwhelmingly bad rating from many independent reviewers. Once on the tour, speak privately with residents whenever you can, making sure to also “talk to the people in charge of health and wellness, activities and dining.”
“Get offline and visit,” Landry added. “Depending on your parent’s health, bring them along for a second visit once you’ve vetted the community and asked the big questions—some of which you may draw from reviews.”
Opt For Experience
Wherever you are in the search and touring process, finding an established and time-tested community is a good place to start. For nearly a century, St. Anne’s Retirement Community has offered senior adults a variety of living options to fit their needs. Offering everything from independent living to full-time memory care, starting your search with St. Anne’s may be the first step toward a happy future for your elderly parent. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour.
Fall Has Finally Arrived!
Fall is a time when the leaves turn colors, and the air turns crisper. It is also the season where we fall back an hour due to daylight savings time! Fall officially began on Wednesday, September 22, 2021, and ends Tuesday, December 21, 2021.
During these three months, we enjoy a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities such as pumpkin patches, time with our family, fall décor, and the occasional pumpkin spice flavored item. Have we ever thought about making our own decorations to bring a little fall-like atmosphere to our home? Yes, you can go out and purchase décor from various big-box retailers; however, that wouldn’t offer you the same sense of accomplishment you’d enjoy making your own decorations to enhance your home.
Do you want to make your items more memorable? Then, it’s best to first gather all of your items ahead of time. The last thing you want while working on a project is to have to run out and pick up an extra set of tools. Also, plan your time wisely since some home decorations take longer to make—so, scheduling a break or two doesn’t hurt since it allows for a mental break.
Now, what will you make once you have all of your items and planned out your time? A pumpkin seems like an excellent choice for a fall decoration since you can either carve it, paint it, or draw on it! There are so many ways to decorate a pumpkin, and you can get an idea of some of them here.
One of the most exciting ways to do pumpkin décor is by purchasing different sizes and creating a small message on them. Can you imagine what three pumpkins in a room painted in the same color and having letters on them that spells fall? It would look perfect right on a porch or entranceway leading up to your front door! Also, painted pumpkins will last longer than a carved pumpkin since the seeds are still inside.
Well, now it’s time to get started on these items. In no time, you’ll have fall arriving at your house!
What Important Records and Financial Documents to Save
When it comes to important paperwork, sometimes it can be difficult to know what documents to save and why. From financial documents, insurance policies, to invoices and receipts, what do you need to hold onto and what can you toss?
Most insurance policies are different, but there are some that should be saved past their expiration date. Those may include auto, homeowners, and umbrella policies.
If you’ve picked up a lawsuit following an auto accident, a lawsuit that occurs during your policy isn’t required to be filed “until before the statute of limitations tolls.” Normally, the statute runs anywhere from 1-3 years, depending on where you are located.
Sometimes there are special cases in which a minor is involved. In this event, the open period for lawsuits is extended until the minor reaches 18 years old. Of course, there can be exceptions that will postpone the start date of the period of limitations, when a previous injury is discovered. For example, in continuing tobacco litigations, there are some liability policies dating back to the 1940s.
With this noted, it makes sense to save your insurance policy documents; with the most cautious individuals, most would save them for 21 years or longer.
INVOICES & RECEIPTS FOR PAID BILLS
Any receipt or invoice that helps to corroborate a tax deduction should be saved. If you’ve purchased any expensive, keep those receipts. They will help with proving your claim with an insurance company. Additionally, you should keep appraisals that were used to establish value under an insurance policy. Receipts and invoices for any home improvement projects, such as a new roof, landscaping, etc., should be saved for tax purposes. They help to enhance the value of your home.
BANK & CREDIT CARD RECORDS
Bank and credit card records should be saved for at least 6 years, experts say, in case you were to get hit for proof of payment for any previous purchase. Any lawsuits that are filed due to breach of contract is usually not required by the statute of limitations until 6 years has ended; however, these laws vary from state to state. Some experts will say to add an extra year, and also recommend saving canceled checks and other related documents, for seven years. It also depends on how much space you have to save these documents.
EMPLOYEE BENEFIT PLANS, PENSIONS, AND OTHER FRINGE BENEFITS
By saving these records, you have documents to prove what benefits you are entitled to, to monitor any changes made to the plans, and to have a record of what you’re entitled to.
OTHER ADVICE AND INFORMATION
If you have complicated tax returns or extensive holdings, you may want to consult an accountant about record retention, and even potentially a financial advisor later on. If you decide to throw out any records, be sure to use a paper shredder, so criminals will not be able to get a hold of your personal information.
Source: Herbert S. Denenberg, Ph.D., a consumer and investigative reporter for NBC-10, WCAU-TV, Philadelphia from his column, ‘On Your Side.’ Dr. Denenberg also served as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner and a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission during the 1970s.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It?
Each January and February, senior living facilities often notice an increase in phone calls requesting information about admission requirements. Inquiries come from family members who have observed differences in a loved one’s personality, memory or daily routine during holiday visits.
It’s common for family members to begin using both “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” to describe their loved one’s changing state of mind, but the medical conditions are not the same. The article from AARP below will help caretakers begin to understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s and provide talking points for discussions with medical professionals about your loved one’s health.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It?
How to understand the difference — and why it matters
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases), there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause — namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia; each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.
A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimer’s instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s if you’ve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.
What it is…
In the simplest terms, dementia is a nonreversible decline in mental function.
It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them, says Dan G. Blazer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
To be called dementia, the disorder must be severe enough to interfere with your daily life, says Constantine George Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.
It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills.
Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease takes away the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.
A cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, although researchers have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. You can see them microscopically, or more recently, using a PET scan that employs a newly discovered tracer that binds to the proteins. You can also detect the presence of these proteins in cerebral spinal fluid, but that method isn’t used often in the U.S.
How it’s diagnosed…
A doctor must find that you have two or three cognitive areas in decline.
These areas include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.
In the Hopkins verbal learning test, for example, you try to memorize then recall a list of 12 words — and a few similar words may be thrown in to challenge you. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — has you draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.
There’s no definitive test; doctors mostly rely on observation and ruling out other possibilities.
For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.
But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time, Lyketsos says. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.
Closing Thoughts from St. Anne’s…
As a caretaker, the most important thing is noticing a difference in your loved one’s behavior – and not trying to diagnose the condition or the cause on your own. Make notes of your observations, have conversations with other family members and ultimately schedule an appointment with a doctor who can provide guidance regarding your love one’s changing health. It’s also helpful to contact senior living facilities about admission requirements, waiting lists and other information related to your loved one’s care.
Source: AARP, June 25, 2018
Surviving the Holidays: Tips to Help Older Adults Savor the Season
We’ve all been there. While our vision for the holiday season is one of intimate gatherings, delicious meals and bliss, the reality can be much the opposite. The volume of activities, shifting of schedules, decadent food and potential for conflict can put added strain on the entire family. Especially older adults.
If you’re an older adult, or if you care for someone who is, you can make the holidays more manageable by taking just a short amount of time to plan ahead. By considering some of the factors you can control this season, you can make the holidays safer, healthier and merrier. Holiday activities for older adults. Here are tips for surviving – and savoring – the holiday season.
1. Set realistic expectations.
Most people have a tendency to romanticize the holiday season. They yearn for the movie-scene, stress-free experiences where everyone is happy and healthy. Where everything is easy and there are no mishaps. But the reality is that, for most families, the holidays don’t go exactly as planned. They bring some stress. And they may even be a source of conflict. By expecting the unexpected during the holidays, you can be prepared for whatever they hold and eliminate the disappointment that can come with inflated expectations.
2. Plan ahead for dietary needs.
The holidays are the time of extravagant menus. Decadent treats. And favorite traditional foods. But older adults may have dietary needs that prevent them from indulging. If you’re planning a holiday meal or event, be sure to ask your guests about special dietary needs in advance. If you’re the person with the special needs, consider bringing your own dish. Or modify elements of the meal you’re served.
3. Be aware of safety risks in unfamiliar homes.
For older adults with disabilities or mobility challenges, an unfamiliar place can be loaded with hidden hazards. Be aware of things like throw rugs, door mats, barriers in doorways or hallways, and cords or loose items that may present a fall risk for older adults. Keep rooms and hallways illuminated. And if a holiday event is being hosted in the home of an older adult with any type of cognitive condition or memory loss, consider how moving furniture or changing the configuration of a room might effect their experience.
4. Be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions.
December is a month that, in many parts of the country, can bring extreme fluctuations in temperature and weather. Layering can help ensure older adults are comfortable during the holidays. And appropriate outerwear – including hats, gloves and boots – can help protect them from the elements as they make their way to all of their holiday events and activities. If you live in colder climates, be sure you’re armed with shovels, salt and other supplies that will keep porches and walkways safe.
5. Recognize the signs of seasonal depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 7 million adults over the age of 65 experience depression. Why? Because depression can be triggered by certain health conditions, and even medications. It can also become more likely when an older adult is adjusting to a significant change, such as a loss, illness or home relocation. The holiday season can intensify depression and its symptoms for older adults. If you or someone you love is experiencing deep feelings of sadness or anxiety, a change in eating or sleeping habits or loss of interest in daily activities and/or personal hygiene, see your doctor.
6. Try to maintain a schedule and routine.
While it may not be possible to maintain every routine during the busy holiday season, keeping some structure can be invaluable for older adults. Predictability and consistency in schedule and routine can help improve quality of life. And studies have shown that routines can help reduce stress and anxiety; enhance feelings of safety, security and confidence; and aid in better sleep. While some routines can have some degree of flexibility, there is one that cannot – and that is the medication schedule. Be sure to keep it on track as holiday activities take hold. Consider calendar reminders, alerts or alarms to help ensure older adults continue prescribed dosage and schedule for important medications.
7. Get adequate sleep.
Getting effective, restorative sleep can be a challenge for older adults. The aging process, chronic health conditions and certain medications can disrupt sleep. And contrary to popular belief, people don’t need less sleep as they age. Older adults require about the same amount of sleep as their 20-year-old counterparts. Sleep deprivation can effect mood, memory and cognition – among other things – in older adults. And it can have an impact on their ability to enjoy the holiday season. So don’t shortchange sleep in favor of more holiday activities. And be sure older adults get plenty of rest after traveling, when the body may need extra time to recover.
8. Find ways to include everyone in activities.
It can be difficult – and even emotional – for older adults whose age or health prevent them from participating in activities or playing their traditional holiday roles. Think about new ways to get them involved. For example, break down meal-preparation tasks and assign appropriate roles to family members young and old. Plan games or activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Tag-team on gift wrapping or shopping.
9. Don’t do it all alone.
For many older adults, they no longer have the health status or stamina to manage the holiday activities they once could. If you’re an older adult, ask for help. If you care for an older adult, be sure to check in to identify needed help or support. And don’t forget that there are resources – like home care – that can help you manage all of the demands on the holiday season, and beyond.
10. Enjoy your time together.
Regardless of how the meals, parties, gifts or activities of the holiday season play out, remember to enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Connecting and engaging with loved ones can be meaningful and fulfilling for older adults, contributing to overall happiness and well-being.
Source: FirstLight Home Care LLC
How Seniors Can Maximize Their Social Security Disability, Auxiliary, Retirement, or Survivors’ Benefits
Most seniors live on a fixed income. When you are in that situation, you will want to do everything that you can to make the most of your money and to maximize your benefits. Regardless of what kind of Social Security benefits you receive – disability, retirement, auxiliary, or survivors’ benefits, you will want to choose wisely so you can maximize your benefits and get the highest amount of monthly benefits that you can receive. Here are a few things to consider when applying for Social Security benefits.
The full retirement age is 65. If you start taking retirement benefits earlier – such as at age 62 or 63 – you will not receive your full amount. If you become unable to work because of a medical problem before you reach age 65, you should apply for disability benefits. When you get disability benefits, you will get your full benefit amount. When you reach full retirement age, you will switch from disability to retirement and get your full benefit amount.
Looking at Auxiliary Benefits and Survivors’ Benefits
If your spouse is receiving disability benefits and you are not yet retired or receiving Social Security, you may be eligible to receive auxiliary benefits from his or her account. Auxiliary benefits are paid to dependent children and the spouse of the disabled individual, but there are specific family limits as to how much the combined family can receive. If you were married at least a year, or if you have been divorced after having been married 10 years or more and your spouse or former spouse dies, you may want to apply for survivors’ benefits.
If you are eligible for retirement benefits, you will want to take the highest paying benefit – either draw from your work history and take retirement benefits or draw from your spouse’s history and take survivors’ benefits. You cannot draw benefits from two different Social Security programs or accounts at one time. You should take your time to talk with the representative at your local Social Security office to determine which benefits would pay you more so you can maximize your monthly benefits.
Wait for Retirement
If you are eligible for some other kind of benefits – disability, survivors’ or auxiliary benefits, it is best to go ahead and take those benefits and wait on your retirement until you reach full age. When you do this, you will draw your full benefit when you turn 65. You will want to plan so the transition can happen immediately when you turn 65.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
When you are ready to apply for Social Security benefits, you should plan ahead and review the application process. Contact your local Social Security office. You can start your claim online at www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. The process does take some time, so file your claim in advance so you can get your benefits started promptly. If you or your spouse is applying for disability benefits, you will want to consult with a Social Security disability attorney who is licensed in your state.
Auxiliary Benefits: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/auxiliary-benefits
Work History: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/blog/how-work-history-affects-disability-application
Local SSA Office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
Social Security Disability Attorneys by State: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/social-security-disability-attorney
What to Ask as You Consider Retirement Communities for Active Adults
While you’ll find an amazing number of retirement community types these days, it’s true that many people still have the misconception that all of them are the same—and not in a good way.
Thoughts of being stuck in a hospital-like atmosphere where sad people spend most of their hours cooped up in small shared rooms (never with a roommate they like, either) or confined to bed still come to mind for a majority of folks facing retirement.
Luckily, nothing could be further from the truth in 2019—especially for retirees who don’t have current regular care needs and are looking to downsize in order to maximize their free time and enjoyment of life. Independent living communities, like the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and Life Plan Communities served by Explore Retirement Living, offer comfortable and innovative housing options and fun things to do for active adults every day. And they expect and encourage residents to come and go as they please!
But how do you determine whether retirement community living is right for you?
FAQs about Independent Living Retirement Communities
This post features a few frequently asked questions about the benefits of relocating to an all-inclusive retirement community as an active, mature adult. As you consider whether you plan to stay where you are as a retiree or move to a more retirement lifestyle-friendly place, answers to these big questions can help you decide.
What do retirement communities have that I don’t at home?
With apologies to your current home, even if it is beautiful and well-appointed and you love everything about it, the answer here is “quite a lot.” Modern independent living communities tend to be almost resort-like in their amenities, offering chef-prepared meals, excursions, and learning experiences, in addition to other life-enhancing features like:
While the range of specific services available varies by community and sometimes also by the type of accommodations you choose within a community, maintenance is almost always included in the fees you pay. You won’t have to fix things that break around the house, care for a large yard, or worry about things like painting interior and exterior surfaces.
Additionally, you may even have benefits like housekeeping and linen services (no more cleaning toilets or washing bedding!), included utilities, and appliance repair and replacement.
Safety & security
Retirement communities take their residents’ safety seriously and employ security personnel who will guard against crime like trespassing and break-ins. Since most communities also include nursing care resources on campus, 24-hour emergency call systems for medical events are common, as well.
Health & wellness facilities
Do you enjoy swimming, walking for exercise, or taking fitness classes, but wish the gym was more conveniently located to where you live? Because healthcare is often the centerpiece of many retirement communities, they often establish health and wellness centers or form a relationship with local clubs.
St Anne’s offers free membership at one of Lancaster County’s most popular tennis, aquatic and fitness centers because we understand the importance of staying active.
Many independent CCRC and Life Plan retirement communities are dedicated to providing scheduled programming that makes it easy for residents to pursue their interests and explore new ones, too.
LeadingAge.org describes a comprehensive life enrichment program in a retirement community as including “all five dimensions of wellness—emotional, social, spiritual, physical and educational.” The goal of life enrichment is to improve and maintain individuals’ quality of life in mind, body, and spirit.
What living options are available? Will I have to downsize into an apartment?
While many retirement communities offer an array of smaller-scale dwellings like private apartments and “households” in which only your bedroom, bathroom, and a small living area are private, plenty of these campuses also feature detached cottages, bungalows, and carriage homes. Some communities even have separate “off-campus” neighborhoods with full-size homes available that still offer many of the services you would expect if you lived in the heart of campus.
Check with individual communities to find out what your options are. In short, you won’t have to downsize into a living space that you don’t love. The choice is yours!
Can I have pets?
As we talked about in a previous post here on the blog, the number of retirement communities with favorable pet policies is on the rise, which is good news. Research continues to prove that pet ownership is life-enhancing and may make us healthier. To make their communities more enticing, many not only allow pets today, but they may also even provide services or amenities to keep pets safe and well (and their owners happy).
As with other policies and features of individual communities, you should check with those that are most appealing to you to find out what their specific rules are.
What about health care? Is nursing available if I need it?
Yes, various levels of healthcare will be available if you need it. Campus-based independent CCRC and Life Plan communities often offer what’s known as a continuum of care, which allows you to access care when you need it, as you need it without leaving the community.
Some communities even now have programs that allow you to receive care within the living accommodations you’re already in. So, if you do require more in-depth care at some point as you age, you won’t need to make a physical move to another location on campus, such as a personal care wing or memory care unit even if you need to receive those levels of care.
How can I tell if a specific community is the right fit for me?
You’ll want to consider individual communities’ philosophies and stated values, which may include religious affiliations or connections to different cultural groups. Whether your personal beliefs align with the community’s mission may indicate how comfortable you will feel being associated with it.
Remember helping your children (and perhaps your grandchildren) choose a college? This process is not unlike that one. The easiest way to get to know different communities is to visit their campuses and facilities—and on multiple occasions, if you’re having a difficult time deciding. Get on their mailing lists, but also explore the public buildings and overall campuses yourself. Bring trusted family members along with you to get their perspectives, and talk to current residents who may be willing to share their experiences, too.
It’s true that there are many benefits to retirement community living, but the decision to make a move can be a difficult, emotional journey. By taking your time and exploring all your options, you may take the stress out of the process. After all, retirement is a time to celebrate all of the hard work you’ve accomplished in your life and take some much-deserved time out for yourself.
St. Anne’s Retirement Community is a Continuing Care Retirement Community with many options for adults seeking an active, safe community with easy access to all Lancaster County has to offer. For more information, or to schedule a tour, please call 717-285-5443.
Source: Explore Retirement Living, www.exploreretirementliving.org
Can Your Aging Loved One Still Live Alone?
Throughout the course of our life, we all need help in one way or another, but how we define it changes as we age. It might come as insight on homework as a young student, or collaboration with an office colleague as an adult, or assistance with grocery trips as a senior because as The Beatles sang it, we “get by with a little help from (my) friends.”
Yet as we age, it often becomes harder to admit we need help – especially when it means asking for assistance from those for whom you’ve always been the caregiver. Because of this, it is important to be able to identify signs that a parent or loved one may be struggling with daily tasks or unable to safely live alone. Although the signs may seem obvious, the call for help is often silent.
Is your loved one…
- Forgetting to take daily medication, supplements or vitamins
Are they dependent on you or their spouse to remember?
- Struggling with home maintenance
Is their spotlessly clean kitchen or pristine landscaping looking messy?
- Contacting family members about the same issue multiple times.
Have they called you about an upcoming appointment more than once in a day?
- Falling or having unexplained bruises on their body
Are they falling more often or do you have concerns about falls they don’t tell you about?
- Suffering from multiple conditions that make regular tasks more difficult
Does your loved one have arthritis and poor vision which can make it difficult to navigate their home?
- Receiving late notices or calls about unpaid bills or bounced checks
Are they neglecting to pay their monthly bills on time or losing track of personal finances?
- Displaying signs of poor personal hygiene or a decline in personal appearance
Do they have body odor, bad breath, or unclean and disheveled clothing?
- Driving a vehicle with new or unexplained dents, scratches or missing parts
Are they having difficulty maneuvering their car because of limitations with eye sight and/or mobility?
- Showing signs of depression or loneliness
Would they benefit from socializing with people their same age at a retirement community or organization
While the signs your aging loved one may need help can be easy to spot, having a conversation to address them is often difficult – especially when there is denial from your aging loved one, family members or caregivers.
If your aging loved one is beginning to show signs of decline…
Take time to address home safety concerns with all family members or caregivers like cleaning cluttered rooms, clearing outdoor pathways, installing more stair rails or adding bars in the bathrooms.
Talk about areas of decline as you see them instead of saving it for one big conversation or allowing it to become an emergency situation. You can also plan to discuss areas of concern at doctor’s appointments, as it may be easier for a doctor to have or initiate the dialogue.
Begin to explore a continuing care retirement community (CRCC) and other assisted living options as it is beneficial to understand application and admission processes in addition to any waitlist requirements for communities or home care services. Plus, speaking with an admissions team at a CRCC or home health care service can help you determine exactly what your aging loved one needs to make every day a safe and happy one.
At a continuing care retirement community (CRCC), like St. Anne’s Retirement Community, your loved one can find all the levels of care they may need in one place – from independent living, to assisted living, to personal care, to rehabilitation services, to skilled nursing care and memory support. For more information about St. Anne’s Retirement Community, or to discuss the needs of your aging loved ones, please call 717-285-5443.
Twelve “Greens” of Christmas for Holiday Hosts
Whether you’re hosting Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day brunch or a holiday open house, our tips can help you make help make the season bright…and a little greener too!
- Simplify the day. Celebrate being with those you love. Don’t overdo the cooking – and savor whatever you make. Linger over dessert, play games, watch football or a favorite movie, take a walk. Revive special traditions from the past and create new ones you can turn to next Christmas and other holidays in the future.
- Use the good dishes and cloth napkins. Disposable dishes and plastic utensils create a ton of waste. If reusable won’t work, choose disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils made from 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, sugarcane and corn—they are compostable, too.
- Decorate with boughs and berries. Head out to your yard with a pair of shears and find tree branches, bush stems loaded with berries, flowers whose seed heads have dried on the stem, and flowering grasses to fill tall vases or holiday baskets.
- Let there be light. Illuminate your table with candles of varying heights and widths.
- Serve locally grown food. Even in colder, northern climates, farmers markets are still selling locally grown greens, potatoes, apples, pears, spices, breads, and cheeses.
- Offer organic beverages. From apple cider to wine and beer, you have plenty of organic drinks to offer your family and friends.
- Eat all the food you make. Send guests home with leftovers in glass jars rather than wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil. Freeze leftovers in easily re-heatable portions.
- Use reuseables. Serve your meal on cloth tablecloths and napkins, accompanied by “real” silverware and plates. Worried about cleaning up after a large crowd? Let everyone pitch in – that’s half the fun!
- Simmer cinnamon. Roasting vegetables and baking pies should infuse your home with delicious holiday aromas. For even more fragrant smells, simmer a few sticks of cinnamon and a few cloves of allspice on the stove. Dab a few drops of pine oil or other favorite fragrance on stones or pinecones that are part of your centerpiece.
- Prepare less food. Everybody feels compelled to make a huge meal and prepare numerous courses. This year, if you’re serving turkey, choose a smaller bird and skip some of the less-popular dishes to reduce food waste.
- Turn down the heat. If all your holiday cooking doesn’t heat up your house, your guests will. Turn your thermostat down 3-5 degrees – no one will notice the difference.
- Recycle and compost. Keep a bin handy for glass, plastic and paper trash you can recycle rather than toss. Make soup from vegetable peelings, leftover meat and bones. Picked-over vegetables can be composted, though remaining meat and bones will need to be thrown away.
Compiled by the Green Committee at St. Anne’s
Green Tips for Fall
As the leaves begin to change colors and the weather is (finally) cool and crisp, here are twenty tips for fall from the Green Committee at St. Anne’s!
Outside Your Home:
- Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. Test your tires and make sure they are properly inflated.
- Examine your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.
- Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house.
- Consider installing a rain barrel to direct the water from downspouts to where it’s most needed instead of draining into one spot.
- Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They’ll help clean the air indoors.
- Rake your leaves instead of using a “blower”.
- Use the leaves as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter.
- Add leaves to a compost pile to use throughout the year.
Inside Your Home:
- Clean and test the furnace.
Did you know? Your furnace collects all kinds of dust and debris, which not only affects its performance, but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean it. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
- Move furniture or any obstructions away from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators to allow air to move freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris.
Tip for Homes with Radiators: Place a reflecting panel behind it – either purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
- Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can’t be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.
- Give your refrigerator some TLC:
- Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently.
- Verify the refrigerator is level (the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open).
- Check the seal on the door by closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it’s time to replace the gaskets.
- Throw away old food contents and don’t over-fill your refrigerator. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature and help it run more efficiently.
- Don’t leave your dryer out to dry:
- Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer.
- Empty the lint catcher after each use, and every once in a while, give the filter a good wash.
- Ensure your windows and doors are ready for the cold weather!
- Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.
- Examine doors for adequate weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
- Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates and use safety plugs in unused outlets. **Remember to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before working with covers and switch plates!**
- Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.
- Check for water leaks both inside and outside your home.
- Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
- If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction for cold weather:
- Fans should run in a clockwise direction in the fall and winter to push the air up against the ceiling and down the walls. By doing this, the fan gently re-circulates the warm air without creating a cooling “wind chill effect.”
- HINT: Stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards.
- Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and vent systems checked.
- If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings to help block cold air.
- Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.
Tips compiled from reducefootprints.blogspot.com by The Green Committee at St. Anne’s