Senior Loved Ones Splashing for Their Health!

As spring emerges throughout the United States, we begin thinking and planning our favorite activities to share with our senior loved ones.

One great activity in which they might like to participate on a regular basis (any season of the year) is jumping into the warm waters of aqua therapy or water aerobics and making a splash.  This rejuvenating activity will help your senior’s health and well-being in a myriad of ways.

When our senior loved ones get into the warm water, their muscles and joints will relax.  Pushing against the water will improve their muscle fitness for better balance out of the water.

Unlike other forms of physical activity, a pool allows our seniors to take advantage of the buoyancy of the water, even if they find it difficult or painful to do other forms of exercise. The water supports most of a senior’s body weight and lessens physical impact.

Water aerobics or aqua therapy is a great cardiovascular workout also! Your elder’s heart is getting the benefits of aerobic fitness without overtaxing the heart.

When you are able to use an indoor pool, it gives an added benefit of being safer and climate controlled.

Increasing physical activity through water aerobics will also speed up your senior’s metabolism and help to maintain a healthy weight.  It is also a great way to socialize with other older adults and share a common interest. It keeps elders engaged in their community, which has been shown to improve happiness and thereby healthy aging.

Research has shown that older women who participated regularly in water aerobics over a 12 week period had improved cholesterol levels and experienced more strength, flexibility, and agility. Elders in the Arthritis Foundation programs have shown a “decrease in pain, improved daily function, and improved perceived quality of life”.

You don’t have to be a bathing beauty to take a splash!

Look for a pool near you if you don’t have one in your own backyard or living facility.  There are many community agencies, YMCA, fitness centers and senior services that might have a pool or help you locate a pool near you.

Here are a couple resources to help you set up a safe and effective water exercise program for your senior loved one.

Happy Splashing!

End of Life – Senior Care Corner’s Tips for Helping Grandchildren Cope

When an elderly loved one is nearing the end of life, we as adult caregivers often need support to get through the rough patches of our own grief.

We aren’t alone in our need for support.

Our young children, the senior’s grandchildren, need our help to deal with their own grieving processes.  At this time we may inadvertently overlook their needs in our desire to focus on details and last goodbyes.

This is an important time to help our young ones deal with the loss of their grandparent, especially if it’s their first experience with death and dying.

Children often react to grief differently than adults, with it sometimes affecting them well after the actual death. They may exhibit their grief quietly or act out with behaviors.

Helping Grandchildren Cope with Their Loss

  1. Listen to them attentively; let them express their feelings as often as they need; give them extra hugs to help them and you too.
  2. Answer their questions, keeping the information simple. Be honest with them, with truths such as dying instead of saying ‘going to sleep’ leaving the child thinking they will ‘wake up’.  Don’t give them messages that sick people die causing them to worry the next time they become ill that they might also die.
  3. Give them an opportunity to say goodbye if that is possible. This may be in person, over the phone, in a handmade card or some other craft they enjoy. Plant a tree or do something else in the grandparent’s memory.
  4. Make a photo album or collage using pictures of their favorite events or memories shared between them and the treasured grandparent.
  5. Read a book together about losing a loved one, such as Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert or When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child’s Guide to Good Grief by Victoria Ryan. Say a prayer (or take another action appropriate for your religious beliefs) for the grandparent.
  6. Let the child carry with them or keep a momento of their lost grandparent.
  7. Allow the child to be involved in any family gatherings (as age appropriate of course) including a funeral as long as they are ready. Explain what will happen so they understand and don’t get frightened especially as adults show their emotions openly.
  8. Give the child a special gift such as a charm that relates to the senior, such as an ice cream cone or pet that represents a shared memory or something belonging to the senior loved one that will be cherished for years to come as a remembrance.
  9. Let the child know they did nothing wrong and the death of their grandparent is not their fault.
  10. Let the child’s teacher or other caregiver know about the situation so that they can help the child through the grief process. This will allow them to react to any behaviors that might occur now and as time goes on since it might take time to grieve for a child.

Losing a special grandparent who is beloved will not be easy. You can help the children in your life through this time and continuing to keep a cherished place for them in their hearts. You can help whether you are the parent, aunt, uncle, cousin or family friend using the tips above.

We would love to hear how you helped the children in your life through a loss.  Please leave a comment for others.  Thank you for sharing.

Protect Aging in Place Senior Loved Ones from Kitchen Fires with Cookstop

Safety is one of our greatest concerns for our senior loved ones, especially when they choose to age in place in their own homes. Whether we live down the street or across the country from them, we worry about what might happen in their home — particularly for elder loved ones with diminished physical capabilities or memory.

The thought of a fire in our senior loved ones’ home frightens many of us. Not only do fires in the home kill many people each year, but even those who escape without injury can suffer great economic damage and the loss of treasured items tied to life’s memories.

Cooking is by far the leading cause of residential fires, blamed for over 40% according to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Think about how much better we would feel if we could give our senior loved ones some measure of protection from cooking fires. We have encountered a product that can do just that.

As part of our continuing effort to bring you information about technologies that can make our senior loved ones’ lives healthier, safer and more enjoyable, in this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast we talk with Mike Chase of Cookstop, which offers a device that helps prevent unattended cooking fires.

As Mike explains in our conversation, the Cookstop device actually shuts down the stove or range when it doesn’t detect activity in the kitchen for a predetermined (and customizable) period of time. Learn with us about Cookstop, which we think you’ll agree is a remarkable device that can be a valuable addition to not just the homes of our senior loved ones but in many more kitchens.

We appreciate Mike spending time with us. For more information about Cookstop, you can check out their website or call them at (408) 929-8808.

News Items in this Episode:

  • Researchers find that aging brains get stuck in time
  • Age-related changes to taste and smell a common occurrence
  • The latest Alzheimer’s facts and figures (more from the Alzheimer’s Association)
  • U.S. death rates drop 60% in last 75 years

We hope you’ll enjoy this episode and tell your friends about it. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please write a comment to this post, send us a note using the Contact Us page on our site or leave us a message on our Facebook wall.

Don’t forget to check out our other podcast Radio Show episodes here on our site or on iTunes.

 Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience

Colonoscopy and Your Senior Loved One

Many of our senior loved ones have already been on the receiving end (pun intended – sorry!) of a colonoscopy under the advice of their doctor.

More of our seniors and their family caregivers may be aware of the need to get tested as we celebrate Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone who has been through it even once knows that it is no picnic.

We agree that getting a procedure done as scheduled is the smartest thing seniors and their caregivers can do to fight colon cancer.

Colonoscopies can detect problems and allow your doctor to treat any irregularities quickly and therefore should be done when prescribed by your physician.

We have a few tips that might make it a bit more pleasant for your senior loved one and you!

  1. Follow the instructions carefully. Be sure your senior drinks or eats only what is recommended. The better the prep, the more accurate your results.
  2. Be aware of the time you schedule your senior’s appointment. Most people usually like to be the first one through the door in the morning, but you may want to schedule for late afternoon so you can do most of the prep the same day and reduce the need to be without food and fluid the day before.
  3. When your senior is in the middle of his prep, be aware of the likelihood of certain bodily functions overtaking your senior. Keep him close to the bathroom to avoid embarrassing accidents. Remember that the fluids and laxatives may cause nausea in some people so it is best to take a 15 minute break in between liquids, etc. to allow your senior time to settle his stomach.
  4. Have someone with your senior to drive them, assist them if needed and take them home. There will be paperwork involved and they will likely need an advisor. Don’t forget the glasses! (When I had mine done, they took my glasses away and then asked me to sign the consent for anesthesia.  I had to refuse until they could bring me my glasses so I knew what I was signing!)
  5. Your senior will be sedated for the procedure so be sure they are mentally clear before you leave them on their own at home.
  6. Handle the insurance issues up front. Medical insurance or Medicare generally covers a screening colonoscopy if you are over 50 years. If it should go from screening to diagnostic when a polyp is removed or a biopsy is taken, you may be responsible for a portion of the bill.  If you have not investigated whether these costs are covered or all health providers are in your network, the bill could be overwhelming.
  7. Be sure to have clear liquid foods ready, such as juice, jello, chicken broth or sports drinks so your senior takes enough nourishment on the clear liquid day.
  8. When your senior goes to the procedure, they should dress in clothing that is not only comfortable but easy to get on and off. Try not to wear clothes that require a lot of fastening that aging hands may not be able to handle when in a weakened condition.

Even though it may seem like a lot of trouble to set it up, complete the prep and recover from the procedure, the ability to detect a potentially fatal cancer is well worth any unpleasantness and hardship for your senior (or you)!

We wish you well!


Family Caregivers Need Respite – How Do You Get It?

Caregivers are special people, especially those who are caring for senior loved ones! You do so many wonderful things each day to keep your elder happy, healthy and safe!

Being their caregiver is one of the most important things we can do for our loved ones as they age and no longer can care for themselves.

However, we know there are so many challenges that meeting them all can become overwhelming. Adding stress and fatigue into the mix doesn’t help the situation for caregivers.

Respite to the rescue!

What is Respite?

Respite is the ability to get a much needed break from the demands of caregiving for a senior loved one.

Programs are available to provide caregivers with skilled helpers to take over your duties at home for brief periods of time to allow you to take care of business, take a trip or just rest. This is usually planned in advance so all arrangements are made. Respite care is also available in an emergency.

Types of Respite Care Available

In-home care: You can have someone come into the home of your elder to give you a break for short and long periods of time.  They can help with specific duties such as housecleaning, personal care, companionship and supervision of your senior loved one.  These helpers can be volunteers, paid help or a service of an agency or organization specially equipped to help. You as a caregiver can get relief from online communities and support groups. Don’t forget to call upon your friends and family members to help you provide care.

Out of home care: There are agencies and activities that can keep your senior engaged and safe during the day such as senior day care, senior centers and adult day care centers.  Your senior can also get short term placement in a facility while you get a much needed rest to be able to continue to provide care to your elder. Support groups will also provide respite care while you attend a group meeting. Respite care retreats and camps are also held to allow caregivers not only important rest but also information, tips and support to continue to be the best caregiver possible.

How to Select a Respite Care Program

There are some steps you can take to help you become comfortable putting the well being of your senior loved one in the hands of another, even if only for short periods.

  1. If you plan to deal directly with an individual care provider, interview each person who might be coming into the home to care for your senior loved one. A phone interview for screening should be followed with a face to face visit. Explain all the duties that are required and be sure that the candidate is capable of performing them. Check out references.
  2. Pay for services after they are rendered, never before. Be sure everyone agrees on the amount of the fees and the schedule of payment.
  3. If you work with an agency instead of an individual they will handle details and find substitutes for health providers in an emergency.
  4. If you will send your senior to an out of home program, be sure to visit it beforehand to be sure it meets your needs and your elder’s needs. There are checklists available to help you decide if a day care center will meet your expectations.

Some of these options require a fee for service. However, there may be ways available to cover these costs that are worth looking into to see if your senior will qualify. Long term care insurance policies, Social Security for the disabled, Medicaid waivers, Veterans benefits, grants from Foundations, Agencies and Organizations such as the United Way and the Alzheimer’s Association, and government agencies such as the Area Administration on Aging may help cover or pay fully for these services.

Being a family caregiver is a rewarding endeavor but one that requires you to care for yourself if you are to give your best to your senior loved one. Take time to meet your own needs — your family, your senior and you will be forever grateful to you for staying strong!

10 Steps for Caregivers to Build a Strong and Effective Network

Caregivers know the importance of emotional support from others to help overcome the challenges and struggles we face caring for our senior loved ones.

In our work life, we understand the importance of networking. We find mentors and peers who can guide us through our careers. Usually there is someone or more than one someone who gives us a helping hand, are on the other end of the phone when we have a question, help us meet a deadline and can even help us get a promotion through their support and encouragement.

In our caregiver life we also need a network. Our role as family caregiver is often more demanding, especially emotionally, than we find our work life. Certainly a network for this part of our life is at least as important.

Do you have a network yet for the caregiver part of your life yet?

Steps to Build a Strong and Effective Caregiver Network

  1. Get involved in social media support arenas to meet new people for your network. There are many outlets from which to choose depending on your needs and your time availability. Twitter chats such as #carechat, #eldercarechat, #alzchat and many others are great outlets to learn more about a specific disease and get emotional support from others who are going through the same thing you are. There are also facebook chats where you can interact with people walking in your shoes.  These platforms (and other social media) are great ways to connect so you don’t feel isolated and grow your network.
  2. Online support help and message boards on a variety of websites that deal specifically with caregivers of seniors are great sources of information to help you cope. They can help strengthen your network of resources available.
  3. Support groups are available in most communities for specific diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.  This is a good way to meet face to face with people near you who can offer you knowledge, tips, advice and personal support.  They will join your network and you can join theirs. Meeting local people can also give you a sense of community. Going out to a support group nearby will also give you much needed respite. Many have opportunities for substitute care providers who can allow you to attend.
  4. Family members who can’t perhaps help you with day to day tasks can be enlisted for emotional or financial support for you as a caregiver of their loved one. Ask them when you need something or just a little time away. They should definitely be in your network and on your side helping you be successful! After all, you are caring for their senior loved one.
  5. Friends (not only yours but those of your senior loved one) are often waiting to hear your call for help and should be included on your network list. Most people don’t want to “burden” you or intrude on your precious time but will willingly come to your aid when called.
  6. Church organizations often have assistance for caregivers especially when that person is homebound. Reach out if needed-network with them.
  7. Pastors, priests, or chaplains can help by offering a shoulder to lighten your burden. Sometimes a good heartfelt chat with someone who will not “spread your business” can give you strength to go on. A great part of the network!
  8. Your spouse or partner is an important person to keep in your network. Oftentimes we get so busy with details we forget to keep our closest friend in the loop with what we need. We expect them to just ‘know’ what we need but how can they unless we tell them? Tell them today.
  9. Your children, especially if they are teens or adults should be included in your network. They may be able to pick up some of the load in your house as you care for their grandparents’ house every day.
  10. Healthcare professionals who treat your senior loved one should be thought of as part of your network. They offer not only knowledge about the health, care and treatment of your senior but also emotional support for your efforts and struggles.

There are likely more people that you can include on this list.  Remember networking is a two way street.  You have to initiate the communication when you need help. You also have to be there for others in your network when they need you.

Don’t forget to thank those in your network from time to time to keep your network strong.

Together we can achieve great things — more than any of us can do alone!

We would love to hear about YOUR caregiver network. Please leave us a comment or call the Senior Care Corner message line at 864-735-0080.

Did You Remember? – Spring Forward Caregiver Safety Tips

Family caregivers have a lot on their minds. Understandably, changing batteries in home safety devices typically does not top the list. Certainly caregivers can be forgiven for focusing on more immediate priorities.

Still, replacing the batteries in home safety devices can be a life saving act.

Caregivers – and all of us – can benefit when we connect events with safety habits because it takes away the need to keep track.  One such event is daylight saving time and the Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery Program.

We recommend caregivers replace the batteries in their senior loved ones’ smoke alarms (not to mention those in their own homes) as we move the hand of the clock forward. If you did not do it with the time change, there’s still time to do it now and pick up the habit in the fall.

Spring Forward Safety Tips

  1. Fire officials urge that we replace the batteries twice a year, timed with the daylight saving time change.
  2. Don’t forget to change the batteries now even if they are still working. Use these batteries in something else that doesn’t affect safety when they run out of charge.
  3. Fire officials also remind us to clean the smoke alarms inside and out when we change the batteries, dusting out or vacuuming the dirt and debris that may have accumulated since the last battery change.
  4. If your senior’s home is not equipped with smoke alarms NOW is the time to install one.
  5. Be careful when reaching for the ceiling; stand on an appropriate ladder and have someone nearby to steady you if needed.
  6. When the batteries are replaced, test the alarm to be sure it is functioning properly.

According to the US Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident statistics, 65% of home fire deaths in a four year time period occurred in homes without smoke detectors or those that weren’t working properly.

It is estimated that about 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had a working smoke alarm.

Officials urge us to remember to change the batteries twice a year, every time we turn our clocks.  If there are other devices in your senior loved ones’ home that require batteries such as carbon monoxide testers, radon detectors or other types of medical devices, now is a good time to check them out also. You can replace their batteries too and check for proper functioning.

This will be one less thing to try to remember to keep your senior loved one safe.

Tax Time Tips for Family Caregivers of Seniors

Tax time in the U.S. is around the corner and with its arrival comes opportunity – yes, you heard right – for family caregivers of senior adults. While caring for senior loved ones is typically done as an act of love, the financial cost to family caregivers can be significant.

When living expenses exceed the ability of seniors to pay or their savings are simply exhausted, costs associated with caregiving often come from the pockets of seniors’ families. The Internal Revenue Code, the law governing US Federal income tax, provides a bit of relief for family caregivers in the form of limited deductions and tax credits for expenses paid in the care of senior loved ones.

This episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast delves into some of those opportunities and helps point caregivers toward areas to consider in the preparation of their own tax returns. In addition to the types of expenses for which the tax code may provide relief, we cover the basics of qualifications and talk about where to go for further information and assistance.

Family caregivers paying for significant medical and other needed care expenses for senior loved ones may qualify for a tax break, even if the loved ones live in their own homes some distance away. There are further opportunities for those who obtain needed care for senior loved ones unable to care for themselves when that care allows family members to seek or hold jobs.

When senior loved ones move into their family’s home, deductions may cover part of the cost of alterations to the home needed to accommodate the specific needs of the seniors, especially those alterations needed due to disabilities.

In addition to tax time topics, we alert family caregivers to the opportunities to use Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs), provided by many employers, to achieve tax benefits for caregiving costs across the year. FSA benefits can be greater even than benefits achievable through the annual tax return.

While tax savings are not available for all, or even most, of the costs associated with being a family caregiver of a senior, they can help lighten the load on a family.

News Items in this Senior Care Corner Podcast

  • Regulators considering waiver of prescription requirement for some widely used drugs, including those for diabetes and cholesterol
  • CDC reports US flu season off to a very late start
  • Those approaching retirement age should expect retirement surprises
  • America’s dental crisis

Links Mentioned in this Podcast

Do you have caregiver tax stories regarding the benefits that can be gained or complications in seeking those benefits? We would love to have you share them, either here or on our Facebook wall.

Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience

Reverse Mortgage: Is it the Right Answer for Aging in Place Seniors?

Too many of our senior loved ones are trying to get by on retirement savings that have been beaten down by the recession.

Many seniors’ savings is further eroded by their desire to help family members who’ve been hit even harder.

We as family members want to help them make their elder years more comfortable.

We will talk more generally about finances in an upcoming podcast episode but want to focus now on one area of finance: reverse mortgages.

The reverse mortgage is like many tools in other areas – it can be a benefit to those who understand it and have the right application but can also be harmful to those who try to use it without proper understanding of what they’re doing or if it is not the best tool for what they want to accomplish.

Seniors aging in place in their own homes, especially those who have lived in that home for a long time, frequently find themselves in a situation in which the equity in their home makes up a high percentage of their wealth.

While that wealth can be comforting and passed along to heirs, that is of little comfort to seniors looking for the money to meet their current expenses.

That’s where a reverse mortgage comes into play as an option.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a form of home loan (money borrowed with your home as collateral) that lets seniors (you must be at least 62) convert some of the equity they have in their homes into cash for whatever use the borrowers choose.

Depending on the lender, borrowers may have several options for receiving the money, including payments over the life of the loan or the establishment of a line of credit, which allows borrowers to draw down the load in times and amounts of their choosing. This type of loan is not repaid while the borrower lives in the house but is due when the borrower dies, moves or sells the house.

Reverse Mortgage Pros

  • Money your senior loved ones can use for living expenses or any other purpose.
  • Your senior loved ones get to keep their home rather than have to sell it to convert the equity into cash.

Reverse Mortgage Cons

  • High up-front fees associated with many loans, though experience with this type of loan and experience among lenders is reducing these fees over time.
  • The need to pay off the loan upon the borrower’s death, which may drive heirs to sell a house that loved ones had hoped to pass along.

If one needs money and has all that equity in their home, you might ask, why not simply take out a traditional mortgage or home equity loan? While that would seem cheaper and present more options, traditional loans require a demonstration of income at the time the loan is approved so many seniors cannot qualify.

In the eyes of many advisers to and advocates for seniors, the cons outweigh the pros for most potential borrowers. They suggest a reverse mortgage should be considered a last resort by many seniors, with selling the house or finding other sources of money being preferable.

We at Senior Care Corner feel we ought to help our senior loved ones consider all options that may reasonably help them meet their needs. If staying in their home is important to them, we ought to encourage them to put their needs first (finally!) and not worry about whether there is a house left for us to inherit later.

Shop for the Right Reverse Mortgage

If a reverse mortgage is potentially a viable option for your senior loved ones, make sure they shop around for the best deal rather then dive right into a loan with the first lender whose commercial or mailer they see. As with many financial products – and more than most – there is a wide variety of programs available, with a range of fees and options. This is a place to comparison shop.

There is one more potential pitfall with reverse mortgages. A number of firms and (so-called) advisers charge large fees for providing information that is readily available for free. Yes, another scam targeting seniors.

While legitimate advisers can bring knowledge and experience, the same benefits can typically be gained through some additional effort on the part of your senior loved ones (and maybe some help from you?). Unless using a truly trusted adviser, this is another area in which to do homework to make sure the selected adviser is acting in the interest of your senior loved ones.

There are many sources of information on the internet. One place you might start is the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

If you have a reverse mortgage experience from which our community can learn, we would love for you to pass it along!