Safe Travels with Elderly Loved Ones

We all like to take a trip from time to time. We may be traveling to our families – to visit, attend a family event or to help someone in need.

At other times we travel around the country to see a new place, visit a special city or go somewhere we “wanted to go our whole life”.

Most of the time when we travel, we stay in hotels and motels along the way and at our destination, sometimes even when we visit family members.

There are some tips we need to consider when we stay away from home that could make a difference between an enjoyable trip and a forgettable experience for you and your senior loved one.

  1. Ask for a room on the first floor in case of an emergency that requires quick departure or for the middle of the night fire alarm that seems to be a part of everyone’s travel experience lately.
  2. Ask if there are grab bars in the shower and bathroom to prevent slips.
  3. Check out the hallways for loose rugs and adequate lighting. No one wants to fall on the way to their room.
  4. If your senior uses a wheelchair, is the facility handicapped accessible in the lobby and room?
  5. Are there safety items such as nonskid floors especially in the bathroom, is it senior friendly with level handles on the faucets, and is the water temperature scald free?
  6. Are there strobe lights in the rooms to alert a senior who might not be able to hear a fire alarm in the middle of the night when they aren’t wearing their hearing aids?
  7. Is there an amplified phone available if needed so that your senior can hear the other person on the line?
  8. Is there a discount for senior citizens that would benefit your senior?

These are just a few ideas that you and your senior might want to consider before you pick a hotel or motel when you are on the road.

Be safe when you travel and be prepared!

Do you have any other tips to share with others – success stories or opportunities for the rest of us to learn from what you encountered? We can’t wait to hear from you!

Plan Ahead for The Costs of Caregiving

Are you  one of the estimated 65 million family caregivers?  Are one of the 42.1 million who care for an adult who can no longer do their own activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, toileting, preparing meals, cleaning or transporting themselves to places they need to go like the doctor?

Does your senior live in your home now?  Do you travel everyday to their home?

There are financial costs to being a caregiver.  According to the AARP, in 2009 family caregivers spent an estimated $450 billion per year to care for their senior loved ones.

After our recent podcast episode, Preparing for the Cost of Caring for Elder Loved Ones, we received requests for a list of types of costs to aid listeners in their planning.  This post is our response to those requests.  Please let us know if additional information would be helpful.

Most caregivers average an additional expenditure out of their own pockets of over $200 each week if you provide about 18.4 hours of direct care.  Some costs you may experience can be minimal, moderate to extreme.  You should be prepared for these costs when you decide to become a caregiver or if you need to ask for help as a current caregiver.

Some Costs You May Face:

  1. cost of gas to travel to them or taking them to appointments or out for enjoyment plus the cost of auto maintenance
  2. utilities when an extra person lives in your house–electricity, water, sewer, garbage, heating oil, gas, etc.
  3. extra food, groceries and health/beauty items costs
  4. senior’s needs not covered by insurance such as durabe medical equipment like walker, TED hose, raised toilet seat, comfortable shoes and socks and other items
  5. furniture like a bed, dresser, mattress, tv, radio, sheets and pillows, living room chair, etc.
  6. dentures, hearing aids, hearing aid batteries, glasses, magnifying glass to read the newspaper and visits to the specialists who provide these items
  7. medications that are over the counter such as antacids, laxatives, and pain relievers and also the prescription medications not covered by insurance or their co-payments
  8. body lotions, shampoo and soap for fragile skin, as well as other items such as heating pads
  9. candy for the always empty candy dish
  10. birdseed for the feeder at the back porch
  11. books, magazines, and puzzles to keep your senior busy during the day
  12. nutrition supplements like vitamins, minerals, milkshakes, protein powder and special food items like pureed food, special snacks, or items needed to feed themselves like two handled mugs or clothing protectors
  13. laundry supplies for the additional loads of laundry needed each week
  14. increased power usage of setting the thermostat for the needs of a senior
  15. more frequent dishwasher use; wear and tear on household appliances and flooring
  16. long distance or cell phone costs talking with other family or friends on behalf of or by your senior
  17. cost of lost wages if you have to cut back on work hours or quit your job altogether
  18. medical co-payments
  19. cost of caring for your senior’s pet and vet bills
  20. paying for someone to relieve you (respite) or for additional help caring for your senior’s activities of daily living like showering
  21. technology assistance such as monitoring devices, alarms, etc.
  22. paying someone to do what you don’t have time for any more such as yard work or home maintenance
  23. home modifications such as grab bars, wayfinding lights, nonskid surfaces, ramps and handrails to help your senior stay safe
  24. clothing
  25. legal fees for advance directives, wills, power of attorney, etc.
  26. recreational costs such as going to movies, museums or dining out to occupy time and entertain your senior
  27. incontinence supplies
  28. cigarettes, tobacco products, alcohol for your senior
  29. cost to your physical and emotional health handling additional burdens
  30. the cost of a life deferred

Thank You

We know caregiving is a labor of love and something you will be forever thankful that you were able to do this for your loved one.  However, you will rarely get thanked.

Be prepared for the unforeseen burden and care for yourself so you can continue to care for your precious loved one.

If you have any advice for those currently struggling with the financial burden of caregiving, we look forward to hearing from you!

 

Time to Get Senior Loved Ones on Social Media

Hurricane warnings involving millions of residents on the US East coast … many mandatory evacuations, including over 250,000 in New York City alone … dire warnings of historic storm impacts.

Hurricane Irene certainly presented an exceptional communications challenge for seniors and their families & caregivers – and hopefully the kick in the pants we need to get our elders connected to social media.  It’s time to decide to get it done.

The tremendous use of social media (also called social networking) as a communications medium for governments, businesses, families and friends during preparations for – and in the aftermath of – the hurricane is coincidentally timed with the release of a Pew Research Center report that is both encouraging and misleadingly optimistic about our progress in getting seniors onto social media.

A new report from Pew Research reflects an increase in social networking sites used by those 65 and older over the last five years, from almost nothing up to 33%.  What’s misleading – though certainly not intentionally so – about that statistic is that is means one-third of ONLINE seniors are using social media.  When combined with Pew’s May 2011 survey results showing 42% of those 65 and older are online, it means we still have only 14% — less than 1 of 7 – seniors using social media.

We’ve talked before about the benefits of getting our senior loved ones on social media and certainly  a situation like Hurricane Irene reinforces the benefits to them and us as their loved ones of this communications medium.  Being able to touch base and converse with them is certainly important to both well being and peace of mind, but with so many communities and agencies communicating via social media, those not connected risk being left out of key messages.  Unfortunately, even the latest statistics reflect that the vast majority of elder Americans are being left out.

Steps to Getting Seniors on Social Media

Getting our elder loved ones on social media is really a “simple” two-step process:

  1. Get them connected devices then
  2. Show them how to get on and use social networking sites

Certainly it is not as simple as it sounds, starting with devices.  Makers of computers and other connected devices must provide devices that seniors find convenient and enjoyable to use.  There are several already and the number is growing.  We will highlight those in upcoming posts and podcasts.

Classes in social media use for seniors are being offered by many local community organizations, schools and government agencies.  The best “classes” may be those conducted by children and grandchildren, whose enthusiasm and promise of a shared experience may motivate formation of a social media habit in their elder loved ones.

Families, Take the Initiative!

We, as family members, will benefit from our loved ones being on social media just as they will.  Getting them connected and active may require us setting them up with the devices, signing them up and showing them how fun and easy it is to be online.  We’ve heard from some in the Senior Care Corner community who have done this and are glad they did.  We hope you’ll join them soon so you and your loved ones begin getting those benefits, both in critical times like weather emergencies and every day.

Key an eye on us for more as we make getting seniors connected an emphasis here at Senior Care Corner.

For those stumped about what to get senior loved ones for holiday or birthday gifts, connecting them to social media is truly a gift that will keep on giving – to both them and you!

DNR & Other Advance Directives: What Families & Caregivers Need to Know (Part 2)

You responded so positively to our post, Part 1: DNR & Other Advance Directives, asking for more information, that we knew we had to post Part 2 right away.

We know we can’t hope to provide the information everyone needs to answer your individual questions, so we hope to give you enough information to know what questions you need to ask and to determine which documents to consider further.

In Part 1 we listed the Advance Directives to introduce you to them.  Let’s look at each different document so that you will understand them better.

1. Do Not Resuscitate

Do Not Resuscitate is a directive in the form of an order to healthcare personnel, such as physicians, emergency medical personnel, nurses and others, who may need to save your loved one’s life if his heart should stop beating or he stops breathing.  This document can be written with your loved one and your family before it is needed and also with your senior’s physician during a hospital stay.  A DNR order involves refusing to allow someone to perform CPR with chest compressions and ventilation support in the event your senior stops breathing or has heart failure.

This is a traumatic process for your loved one and when dealing with an elderly person it can be dangerous.  The outcome may include having to receive life support after resuscitation is given using mechanical ventilation known as a breathing tube.  This life support could be needed for a short time or longer, depending on the situation. Caregivers who don’t have clear guidelines from their senior loved one should ask themselves “is that what my father would want”?  Fractured bones can also occur when a senior receives CPR, especially if he has fragile bones.  If the wish for or against a DNR is clear among the family members before an emergency occurs, it will make it easier and faster when the time comes to inform those who need to know, especially emergency personnel, so that the correct and desired action is taken.

2. Living Will

A living will is a document that spells out what medical treatment is desired by your senior loved one; it can cover a variety of specific wishes such as your senior’s desire to not be kept alive in a terminal condition if there is little hope for recovery; your senior loved ones desire to not want to be kept alive by artificial means such as a breathing machine or the desire to discontinue any life sustaining treatment when there is no hope for recovery. Your senior loved one can also decide if he wants a feeding tube placed which could keep him alive regardless of the prognosis for recovery. Some feeding tubes are needed temporarily, others are need lifelong. This document can help the caregiver or surrogate make decisions that were dictated directly by the senior and help the caregiver feel that they upheld their senior’s wishes. A living will can be overridden by the family at the time of the emergency if all parties are in agreement; however, this likely will go against the stated wishes of the senior.  The desire for or against organ donation can also be documented in the living will.

3. Healthcare Proxy

A healthcare proxy gives a specific, stated caregiver the power to make decisions for the senior in the case of emergency when the senior is unable to speak for him or herself. The healthcare proxy has the authority to make decisions for the senior that he feels the senior would make for himself if he was able. It is helpful for this caregiver to have a living will, DNR or a clear knowledge of what the senior would want when executing a power of attorney for healthcare decisions. If no clear path has been determined prior to an emergency, it will be up to the caregiver to make a decision that all family members can agree upon. Unfortunately, this decision often needs to happen within minutes when tragedy strikes and often results in disagreement in the family when all parties aren’t involved. The more communication occurring before a tragic event, the better

4. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney usually allows a designated caregiver to make both healthcare and financial decisions for a senior loved one such as completing banking, applying for Medicaid, cashing Social Security checks, selling property or assets, paying bills and other legal transactions while the senior is incapacitated as well as the healthcare decisions needed in the event of an emergency. This caregiver needs to know not only what the healthcare treatment desires are, but also where to find paperwork and records necessary to carry out their personal duties.

Next Steps

Knowing the documents and what needs to be done are only the first steps.  The big steps can be tough but are the keys:

  • learn the wishes of your senior loved ones;
  • put them in writing;
  • keep all advance directives in a place where all caregivers and family members have access in an emergency; and,
  • give a copy to the primary doctor so he or she will be ready as needed and bring a copy when you have a scheduled hospital procedure.

We hope this helps you prepare in advance for some of the most difficult times to make them less difficult for your senior loved one, your family and you.

Preparing for the Cost of Caring for Elder Loved Ones

Caring for a senior family member can be very rewarding.  Doing so can also bring with it a number of costs, many of them hidden, that are borne by the family caregiver. Even when caring for an aging parent or grandparent is an act of love, financial costs can result in strains that impact other areas of our lives.

Planning for added costs can help caregivers budget to avoid financial jams or even to save in advance of these needs.  In the feature segment is this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast we discuss a number of those costs to help family caregivers plan.

Knowing up front what costs you might face can help you plan for them but certainly doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to pay them when they arise.  To address this we also mention some resources available to seniors and their families.

Senior Care Corner News Items

  • Social Security celebrating 75 years of service to Americans
  • Medicare prescription drug premiums will not increase for 2012
  • Americans looking to food to improve their health
  • Benefits checkup from the National Council on Aging

Links from this episode

We hope you enjoy this episode and find it useful.  If you have any questions or comments or even a story of your own to share with our readers, please leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook wall!

Podcast transcript  (so you can follow along or read at your convenience)

DNR & Other Advance Directives: What Families & Caregivers Need to Know (Part 1)

Many caregivers and other family members are currently struggling with health decisions for their senior loved ones.  If you aren’t yet, it’s likely you will eventually be asked to make these decisions and, actually, the sooner the better for everyone involved.  These documents need to be completed before they are needed when all parties are competent enough to fully understand and make instructions for their medical treatment.

If your loved one is able, you should talk with her about what she wants to happen when a medical emergency arises.  The entire family should talk about this together so everyone hears the same story and will act in unison when the time comes.

There are several advance directives that everyone should execute whether they are young or old.  Talking about it doesn’t mean you will make the need for it happen sooner. As a caregiver of a senior, helping them execute these documents will make your burden lighter.  Being able to openly discuss wishes for healthcare with the entire family will allow everyone to focus their attention on the emergency at hand instead of spending your energies trying to make a quick and uninformed decision – one that you may regret later.

Types of Advance Directives

  1. Do Not Resuscitate  — a directive in the form of an order to healthcare personnel, such as physicians, emergency medical personnel, nurses and others, who may need to save your loved one’s life if his heart should stop beating or he stops breathing.
  2. Living Will — a document that spells out what medical treatment is desired – and, maybe more importantly, not desired – by your senior loved one.
  3. Healthcare Proxy — gives a specific, stated caregiver the power to make decisions for the senior in the case of emergency when the senior is unable to speak for him or herself.
  4. Durable Power of Attorney — typically allows a designated caregiver to make both healthcare and financial decisions for a senior loved one.

We will explain each of these further in Part 2 of this post, coming next week.

Advance directives typically can be completed with witnesses, with or without an attorney.  You will want to check with the laws in the state where your senior lives to be sure you have met all laws and regulations of that state as they do vary.  You don’t want to go through everything only to learn your loved one’s wishes haven’t been properly documented and thus are not legally binding on healthcare providers.

There is another document that you and your senior loved one can complete that highlights numerous instructions, entitled “Five Wishes”.  You can hear more about that on our podcast Seniors’ Five Wishes.  These advance directives are not the same as a will that details how your senior would like his possessions dispersed in the case of death and caregivers should not assume because a senior has a will that these healthcare directives have been executed.

Individual “Right” Answers

There is no one right or wrong answer or decision about how your senior loved one wants his medical treatment to occur during an emergency or end of life situation.  It is something that most everyone faces eventually and will be the hardest decision of your life if there are no advance directives written and guidelines to follow so you clearly know and can enforce the wishes of your loved one.  Therefore, it is best if you begin the dialogue with your senior loved one and talk over what they would like to happen.

Get it in writing and keep all advance directives in a place where all caregivers and family members have access in an emergency.  Keeping it handy or even carrying it in your wallet will be helpful if needed quickly.  Give a copy to the primary doctor so he or she will be ready as needed and bring a copy when you have a scheduled hospital procedure.  Always have a copy ready to give to EMS or hospital staff if an emergency occurs.

One thing is sure, when you are in a situation covered by one of the advance directives you want to already know the wishes of your loved one!

Get the Facts: Alzheimer’s and Your Senior Loved One

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the difficulty remembering names and recent events.

It involves depression and apathy in the early stages, leading up to confusion, disorientation, behavioral changes, impaired judgment and difficulty with walking, speaking and swallowing.  A visit to the doctor can determine whether these are signs of Alzheimer’s in your loved one or possible something else.

Alzheimer’s is often perceived to be strictly a disease of aging and the elderly but is also one that can affect young people too.

Alzheimer’s Key Points

  • Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.4 million Americans
  • Nearly half of those aged 85 or older have Alzheimer’s
  • 1 in 8 older Americans (13%) have Alzheimer’s disease
  • More women than men have Alzheimer’s disease; 3.4 million of the total 5.4 million
  • Every 69 seconds someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the US in people over 65 years
  • Nearly 15 million people provide unpaid caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s, usually family members, and 60% of these people are women; half are employed full or part time as well as being caregivers
  • The projected cost of care for Alzheimer’s is $1.1 TRILLION by 2050; and is currently $183 billion in 2011
  • As many as 50% of people who meet diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s have not been diagnosed yet

Alzheimer’s cause is largely unknown; diagnosis is made with no cure at this time and the disease will be ultimately fatal, often from pneumonia.

The current treatments do little to change the course of the disease and may at best slow the progression of symptoms.

Memory loss disrupts the person’s and family’s daily life.

Risk Factors

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is aging — although it is not a normal part of aging.

Family history is another risk factor especially in those with a first degree relative (parent, brother, sister) with Alzheimer’s.

Brain health is closely related to the development of this disease with heart health a major component.  Traumatic brain injury also can increase your risk.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Seniors Odds of Beating or Delaying Alzheimer’s?

There are 7 lifestyle factors that experts feel can be improved to reduce your senior’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

  1. Smoking
  2. Physical activity
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Depression
  7. Poor education (lack of access to healthcare and lower “cognitive reserve” due to less education)

If you help your senior loved one make changes in his or her lifestyle to improve these conditions, they may benefit not only their overall health but also their brain health.   Keep your senior’s mind sharp and active; help them to stay engaged in the community.

Fundraising Efforts Can Save Lives

Why is it so important to raise funds?  Research is needed to help doctors diagnose the condition as early as possible, money is needed to find options for treatment that will help people lead better lives and to find a cure once and for all.  With the size of the older population groups growing, all we can do and more is needed to fight this disease.

Find ways to support Alzheimer’s in a way that fits for you either by donating directly to the Alzheimer’s Association (also a great source for more information), assisting with a fundraising event in your community or supporting it, or joining the Walk for a Cure.  Together we can make a difference!

We’d love to hear your stories or challenges you and your loved ones have encountered.  Your stories can help and encouraging others!

 

How Seniors Connect on Facebook: The Convergence of Online & Offline Social Networking

Facebook friends are found by searching for those we know, knew in the past or looking at who Facebook recommends, right?  That may be how many people make connections on social media sites, but from our experience with seniors, particularly those in the oldest age groups, they often go about it differently.

Many seniors take an approach that really reflects a convergence between offline and online social networking.  With the number of seniors joining Facebook and other social networks growing rapidly, especially for the oldest age groups, it helps to know how to connect.  By no means do we intend this to be a generalization applicable to all seniors, any more than practices can be generalized to other groups.

Seniors often translate their offline or IRL (“in real life” or offline) connections to Facebook and other social networks rather than making new connections or linking with those they already know via the tools on the social media sites.  This is an added step that can serve to reduce the size of their online networks and can mean that friends and loved ones need to be proactive in making a social connection.

Seniors’ Connections

These are some of the ways we have seen seniors making Facebook links.

  • A grandchild or child sends a link to their Facebook profile so the senior can simply click to “friend” them.
  • Friends and acquaintances mention in a conversation at the store, church or some other social meeting place that they are on Facebook and suggest connecting.  At times emails with links are also required in these situations.
  • A local store or service provider, such as a doctor or hair stylist will reference their Facebook profile, or their business’s Facebook page, on their business card or in an ad in the local newspaper.
  • They may see a commercial for a product they like and use that encourages them to make a Facebook connection

We have also seen a number of seniors connect to family members and friends indirectly.  When one person in the senior’s offline network makes a Facebook connection, their existing friends will see that the connection has been made and initiate a “friend request” themselves.

Searches Lead to Frustration

What about searching for those a senior knows on the social network?  Facebook does, after all, have a search tool that many use to make connections.  Most of us have experienced frustration finding friends, though, particularly if they have a name that is fairly common — and especially if they don’t yet have a profile picture.  I know I have given up finding someone before out of frustration, even knowing they are on Facebook, and can understand someone less familiar with social media or less experience online overall deciding not to search at all after a couple of unsuccessful experiences.

Making “Friending” Easy

So you want to connect with an elder family member, friend or customer on Facebook…how should you go about doing so?  Here are a few suggestions from us; we hope you’ll share ways that have worked for you.

  • Send the senior an email with a link to your Facebook profile or page.  Of course, that only works if you first have their email address.
  • Write down the URL (web address) where you can be found on Facebook.  Include all characters that are needed to find you rather than assuming they’ll know the rest.
  • If you are a retailer or service provider, be sure you put your Facebook address on all your business cards, flyers and newspaper/periodical ads.  Don’t forget to put it on your coupons, which are often read more than other advertising.
  • Ask common friends if they have connected on Facebook and initiate a friend request yourself from the common friend’s list.

There are many social and other benefits seniors can get through Facebook, most based on the connections they make — and that we make with them.  We benefit from connecting with them as well, so connect today!

By the way, you can connect with US on Facebook at facebook.com/seniorcarecorner — you’ll make our day if you visit and “like” our page!

Tell Us How Senior Care Corner Can Help YOU!

We love hearing from so many of you that Senior Care Corner has provided you tips and insights that have helped you as family members and/or caregivers of senior adults.   With 100+ blog posts and a number of podcast episodes on the site so far and no end in sight — and certainly none planned — we hope to assist many more people caring for their elder loved ones make a difference in the lives of those loved ones.

Many topics have been covered so far, though we’ve barely scratched the surface.  Technology, aging in place, and many other topic areas will continue to evolve and grow over time along with the number of senior adults.

Help Us Help You!

Our list of topics for future blog posts and podcast episodes is long, as is the list of experts and others we want to share their stories through interviews in the Senior Care Corner podcast.  We need your help in prioritizing our topics to make sure we provide what is most helpful to you soonest.  Also, we don’t want to assume we have anticipated all of your needs and expect you have some topics that would be useful that we have not anticipated so far.

Yes, we have senior family members and have worked professionally with many other seniors, their family members and other caregivers — but we are smart enough to know we have not encountered all of the situations and issues that you and your elder loved ones have faced in special situations or even everyday life.

What Topics Should We Cover?

Please let us know in what ways we can provide more and better information for you.

  • Topics you would like to see us cover that we have not?
  • Topics for which you would like to see covered in more detail or in greater frequency.
  • People (either roles or specific names) or companies you would like to see us interview for the podcast.
  • Products or product categories you would like to see us cover or review.

Several Ways to Share Your Thoughts With Us

We’d love to hear from you and want to make it as easy as possible for you to do it.  There are many ways you can reach us.

  • Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post.
  • Send a note through the Contact page on our site.
  • DM @SrCareCorner on Twitter or mention us in a Tweet.
  • Leave a message on our Facebook wall.
  • Send an email to Kathy (kathy@seniorcarecorner.com) or Barry (barry@seniorcarecorner.com)
  • Call and leave us a message at 646.580.5669
  • Leave a message on our wall on Facebook

Choose the way that’s best for you to tell us how Senior Care Corner can help YOU!

Thank you!