Great Event for Family Caregivers of Seniors: Life@50+ in Pictures

If you attended the AARP Life@50+ Event in New Orleans to learn more about resources for senior loved ones like we did . . . you might be a family caregiver! Yes, we like that line – and the meaning behind it – which is why you can expect to see it from time to time at Senior Care Corner.

Our recent podcast, recorded live at Life@50+, brought you some of the latest innovations for seniors’ health and well-being coming from the developers selected for the LivePitch. We also discussed a little about the rest of the event and told you we would share some of our photos and more about what you can expect to find when attending Life@50+ in the future.

If, as it is said, every picture tells a story, then we have several stories to share with you. At 1,000 words per picture (okay, that ends the tossing out of cliches), just think of all the words we are saving you from reading by sharing the pictures and just a few words with each.

What You Missed at Life@50+

The AARP Life@50+ Expo showcased many areas of interest to seniors and their family caregivers, including health, finance, leisure, technology and more. One could literally spend hours checking out all of the booths and exhibits, talking to experts on hand, and (yes) picking up all of the trinkets and samples that were offered. Many found the bag they got with their badge to be too small, so it’s a good thing many others were given out inside.

The Expo floor featured exhibits large and small from organizations and companies with information and products of interest to family caregivers. They shared ideas, tips, samples and technology that could be taken home and discussed and implemented. We encountered many who were ready, willing and – even more important – able to chat about specific situations.

The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, provided family caregivers with great information and answers to questions about senior loved ones diagnosed with the disease.

Family caregivers could learn much about Alzheimer's and its impact on senior loved ones diagnosed with the disease.

Health screenings were available to help family caregivers stay or get healthy to be at their best for personal caregiving. Remember, caring for the caregiver is important, too! We were surprised at how much time some of the professionals staffing the screenings were willing to spend talking about individual situations. They were truly anxious to help. Certainly there were limitations to what could be discussed in that type of venue, but there were even small offices where you could go and ask questions of certain providers in privacy.

Numerous conference sessions were available to increase our knowledge & help us improve the care we provide to our loved ones and ourselves. In these sessions we met other caregivers there to learn!

Your carriage awaits. . . Life@50+ locations offer the chance to enjoy a respite and re-energize before returning home to caring for senior loved ones. That should be seen by family caregivers as an important aspect of the trip.

Yes, the primary driver is to learn things that help improve what one can do as a caregiver, but putting some time into recharging the battery and – especially – focusing on other important relationships are important to the well-being of family caregivers.

New Orleans offered its world-famous sightseeing, music and food to attendees. We encountered many taking in the music, food, drink and varied sights along renowned Bourbon Street in the evening and others checking in at Cafe du Monde for some of their delicious beignets in the morning.

Yes, a trip to Life@50+ is time well spent for family caregivers of seniors. That’s why we are happy that AARP is changing the format to be convenient to even more people. Rather than one event each year, Life@50+ will be held in two locations starting in 2013, with a stop in Las Vegas May 31 – June 1 and in Atlanta October 4-5. We hope to see some of you at one or both of those locations!

When Pets are Family to Our Senior Loved Ones

Many of us grew up with a pet in our home. Whether a dog, cat, bird, fish or ferret, that pet was a part of the family.

A recent study indicates that seniors who live independently with a pet in the home live a healthier, longer and happier life due to better physical and emotional well-being. Seniors who own a pet are more likely to have a positive outlook since their pets ward off depression and loneliness. This improved state of health results in a lower incidence of seeking medical care and reduced healthcare costs. As a matter of fact, in a study of 1,000 Medicare patients, pet owners had 21% fewer physician’s contacts than non-dog owners.

As our senior loved ones age, so do their pets. Oftentimes, after the kids leave the nest, elders have only their beloved pets for companionship. These furry friends are the reason for our senior adults to get going everyday — Scruffy needs to eat, Fluffy needs some water or it’s time for a walk!

Unfortunately, there are times that not only do our seniors need your care, but so do their pets.

What is your plan for your parent’s dog or cat or bird if they should have to go to a facility and no longer able to stay in their home or simply become unable to care for them on their own?

Recently, we had to leave our four-legged family member in the vet “hotel” for many days and it was heart wrenching for us all. It made us think about what might happen if we couldn’t keep him with us in our home, no matter that “home” has changed to a senior living facility.

Solutions for the Care of Your Senior’s Pets

  1. The first best course would be that a close family member would be able to adopt your senior’s dog, cat or bird so that your senior can still maintain a relationship with it. My grandmother’s companion was her bird. She loved that little thing! I remember how I used to go to grandma’s to see her birds (she had many over the years!).
  2. Find an adoption center that will find a new home for your senior’s pet. Not a great solution because then your senior won’t be able to visit with his or her pet but at least they will know the pet will be provided necessary care and love in another home.
  3. Board your senior’s pet with the vet for an extended stay. Naturally, this will cost money but at least the pet will be able to visit with his “mom or dad” regularly.  We know a few seniors whose adult children live far away. When their parents entered an assisted living facility for more supervision, their pets weren’t welcome and they now board their parents’ pets, which allows for a visit as often as possible and the pet is lovingly care for by the doctor’s staff.
  4. Find a pet-friendly place for your senior loved one to live if extra care is needed. Smaller personal care homes may accept a cat or even a dog in the facility as long as their daily care and food is covered by your senior. Several facilities will accept a fishbowl in the room as long as the family keeps it maintained.
  5. Naturally, the ideal situation would be to age in place as long as it remains safe so that your senior loved can remain with their companions as long as possible.

Staying healthy, eating and drinking well, staying physically active and engaged in the community will increase the likelihood of our seniors staying in their homes as long as possible and with their pets. We shouldn’t overlook even small lifestyle changes to keep our seniors healthy as they age.

It is estimated that of 57% of adults aged 50-64 years own pets, as do 43% of those aged 65 and older.

Let’s also remember to keep the pets as healthy as possible to ease the burden on our seniors for their care. Regular veterinarian visits, shots when needed, playtime, exercise and love will help keep your senior’s pets healthy companions. We love this website, From Our Dogs to Yours, for ideas for your dog selected by  the dogs who run the site.

We would love to hear your suggestions for how you handled a transition for your senior’s pets!

Long Distance Family Caregiving: Making it Work

Anyone who has been responsible for the safety and well-being of an aging loved one knows how difficult and numerous the challenges are that must be solved seemingly every day.

All those unique challenges become even more overwhelming when you are trying to do them from afar.

Long distance caregivers total almost 7 million in the US, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. In addition to the concerns that arise with your senior loved one almost daily, long distance caregivers also feel added guilt and anxiety since they can’t be “right there” if needed.

There is an additional stressor for long distance caregivers and that is financial. Not just hiring people to do what you would if you lived close by, but also the cost of travel back and forth just to check up on things on a regular basis. It is estimated that long distance caregivers spend almost $8,700 on average each year, which is twice as much as someone who lived nearby.

Long distance caregivers who have spent more of their earnings in caring for aging family members report:

  • 49% cut back on their personal leisure time
  • 47% have reduced or spent less on vacations
  • 38% have reduced or stopped altogether on saving for their own future!!
  • 48% have spent sick or vacation time from work to care for a loved one
  • 37% have cut back hours or quit their jobs!!
  • 17% have taken on more hours or another job to pay caregiving expenses

Making Caregiving From a Distance a Little Easier

  1. When you are able to visit – take a little extra time observing the home environment to see if you can spot any warning signs. Your senior loved ones will not want you to worry, so may not tell you anything is wrong. You will have to be a detective to see for yourself. Look for unpaid bills, expired food in the refrigerator, weight loss, poor personal hygiene, dents in the car, and unkempt house or yard to name a few.
  2. Set up a Skype account and teach your loved one how to use it so you can see them for yourself and spot any changes early.
  3. Invest in a home monitoring system that can remotely alert you to changes in their daily routines. Discuss it together before doing so, though, addressing the benefit monitoring would provide, which is enabling your loved one to live independently even longer.
  4. Create a network of family, friends or neighbors to check up on your senior loved one and report back to you if anything out of the normal pattern emerges. This could also give them a place to go in a weather emergency.
  5. Complete HIPAA paperwork with your senior loved one’s health care providers so they can give you direct medical information if you need it.
  6. Investigate medical monitoring which allows you to access data remotely such as blood pressure monitoring, blood sugar testing, medication administration or weights. You can be alerted if any unusual readings are recorded that might require medical attention in advance of an emergency.
  7. Prepare a durable power of attorney so you will have access to financial and health records.
  8. Arrange for regular house cleaning, yard maintenance, grocery or pharmacy deliveries, direct deposit of checks, online bill paying, home delivered meals, or any other services your senior loved one requires.

Once you have some of these things arranged, any other daily problems will be easier to handle and you can focus on enjoying your loved one!

Peek at AARP Life@50+ with Focus on Health Innovation

Two days plus packed with meeting people, learning about current resources for seniors & caregivers and gaining insight into some health innovations – plus LOTS of walking…that pretty much summarizes the working part of our trip to AARP’s Life@50+ National Event. It was held in New Orleans, so there were many distractions from work, but we managed to stay focused so we could give a full report.

We approached this episode of the Senior Care Corner podcast a little differently from our typical format to provide our coverage to this great event for family caregivers of seniors (okay, it’s pretty good for seniors themselves, too). In place of the regular news segment, Kathy is providing a quick peek at some of the events on the agenda. Just some tidbits, but we hope enough to get some caregivers interested in taking in one of next year’s events. Don’t worry, the news will be back next time!

Encouraging Health Innovation

Our Feature Segment for this episode is a focus on something new from AARP. One of their emphasis areas, as it is for Senior Care Corner, is technology and specifically promoting the development of technology and innovation for older adults. A new initiative in this area was their inaugural Health Innovation@50+ LivePitch, an event that didn’t get media attention commensurate with its importance to the seniors and caregivers of both today and tomorrow.

This event brought together ten companies, the best of eighty applicants, with health innovations for older adults and investors targeting the next big place to put their money. Each of the companies pitched their idea and answered questions from a panel of judges from the investment community, with the judges picking their top pitch at the end of the day.

In a twist that we really loved, AARP had the companies make a second set of pitches at the end of the day, but this time not to investors but to potential consumers, with the consumers selecting their own prize winner.

While only two of the ten were selected to win prizes (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out which ones), we see all as winners for getting their ideas in front of investors. Some of those may end up big winners of financial infusions that will help them make their business plans reality. In the long run, though, we see family caregivers and seniors as the winners because of the encouragement events like this give to those who have ideas that will benefit older adults.

Companies Making Pitches – We describe the products they pitched in our Feature Segment.

We picked up a lot at the event to pass along in future posts and podcasts. We also encountered a number of people whose ideas and resources intrigued us, some of whom will be interview subjects for future podcasts.

Yes, we’ll share with you a lot of what we learned at the Life@50+ Event because we think its’ important to family caregivers. We hope, though, that many of our readers will decide to attend themselves next year, especially since AARP is expanding to two locations starting next year to make it more convenient for more people to take part.

We hope to see you at one in the future. Whether you attend or not, we also hope you check back here at Senior Care Corner because we’ll be reporting back what we find there.

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

11 Scam Fighting Tips for Senior Loved Ones (And Us)

Senior adults are often the target of unscrupulous people trying to get something from them. As their loved ones, we want so much to keep them out of harm’s way, especially when it’s the parents who protected us from the world a lifetime ago.

Unfortunately, seniors are often easy prey for these criminals.  Scam artists find our elders polite people who will talk with them easily and freely even though they are strangers. Older adults often find it difficult to say no to anyone or to disappoint them.  They may also feel like they need to thank everyone, even someone who is dubious, for being kind or giving them “free” advice. Many seniors also are interested in making their money work harder for them and growing it to cover their retirement needs. A particularly cruel scam preys on the seniors’ love for family and aging memories, with callers claiming to be children or grandchildren in a jam and needing money immediately.

Yes, crooks can be creative, unfortunately, in their efforts to separate our aging loved ones from their money. Law enforcement officials work hard to stop it but it may be up to us to be sure it’s not our family that falls victim.

Fight Scams & Protect Seniors’ Savings

  1. Ask questions! Ask your senior about people they meet or on what they are spending their money. You may need to gain access to their financial accounts just to provide oversight. Encourage your senior to just say NO or at least to say they need to think about it or discuss it with others. That alone can discourage the crooks.
  2. When thinking about investing their money, no matter the amount, remind your seniors to take their time and not rush into anything. Criminals are usually trying to get their money quickly without being asked for specifics. There is something amiss if your senior is being pressured to SEND MONEY NOW. There is no once in a lifetime investment to hurry to join.
  3. If your senior has a company with which they do want to invest, help them do research on the company, including its business, history and financial statements. Do they know the people in the company or just the scam artist?
  4. Con artists often sound very believable and professional when looking to convince your senior to ‘invest’. Remind your senior not to be fooled by smooth talking, sharp dressed criminals without doing all the homework to find out about them. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no sky-high guaranteed returns or profits, only risk.
  5. If the person with whom your senior is doing business is using their fears for retirement financing, healthcare expenses or their health to trick them into investing, the red flags should be waving. Warn them to stay away from anyone telling them “this is for you only, don’t tell anyone about the deal”.
  6. Avoid unsolicited offers. If your senior did not seek out the information, beware!
  7. Keep track of all your seniors’ investments or help them to do so thoroughly. Don’t allow a financial institution to handle it all without any accountability. They may not see what you see or know your parents as you do.
  8. You should be concerned if your senior is told they can’t access their money, either principal or profits, or see the portfolio. It could mean the money has been removed by a scammer or that a legitimate broker is transacting for their own interests over that of your loved one.
  9. If you or your senior feels that something is not right with whomever they have invested hard earned money, don’t be afraid to speak up – – and file a complaint if needed. Often seniors will hide losses due to scams out of embarrassment and/or fear they will be seen as incompetent to manage their own affairs.
  10. Remember, as your senior loved one begins using the internet more, that fraud via the web is a growing business. Building a fake website is quick and easy for criminals. Emails asking for money or for personal information that can be used to steal identities look all too real and convincing. Help your senior discern what is real and not real. A bank or credit card will not contact them through the email asking them for confidential information such as their social security number.
  11. Remind EVERYONE to be very cautious (if ever) giving out personal information over the internet or phone. Companies they know will understand if someone wants to give personal information only when they have initiated the call themselves. Make sure that call is made using a number the senior already has or one that is published publicly rather than a number provided by the caller.

Offer to help your senior loved one to thoroughly investigate anyone with whom they wish to invest any money. Ask questions and expect sound answers.  Steer clear of fraud!

Blood Test Results and Their Meaning to Senior Health

Blood draws – not the most pleasant of thoughts for most of us but something we, and even more so our senior loved ones, have experienced at some point to see if we are healthy, if our medications are working properly and if we are eating right.

After getting our blood tested, some of us will get a written report or, with the advances in electronic health, will get a real time notification on one of our electronic devices. Maybe the results will be presented in person or on the phone by our healthcare provider.

Many nod their heads in understanding when we get the results of our blood tests, but do we really know what they mean? How should we react to the information we are getting?

There are a variety of blood tests that our seniors will have run routinely to monitor health and the effects of various prescription medications.  We will review them here so that you will understand the health data and what it may mean to your senior. Of course, you will want to fully discuss all your questions and concerns with the healthcare team but this might give you a baseline to help you guide your senior.

Common Laboratory Tests and What They Mean for Your Senior’s Health

Complete Blood Count (CBC) measures specific components in our blood and tells us about possible infections, anemia and the health of our blood cells.

  1. WBC – white blood cells help our bodies defend against infection. If our WBC is high, it usually signals infection (but not where), stress, inflammation, leukemia or cancer. If it is low, it could signal a viral infection or an autoimmune disorder or chemotherapy
  2. RBC – red blood cells work to carry oxygen throughout our bodies. If RBCs are low, there may be an iron, B12 or folate deficiency. If the RBCs are high, your senior could be dehydrated or have kidney trouble among other things.
  3. Hemoglobin – carries oxygen. If this is abnormal, the reasons are the same as for RBCs.
  4. Hematocrit – number of red blood cells.  Again the results are the same for RBCs and Hemoglobin.
  5. Platelet count – number of blood cells that aid clotting. If the number is low it could be related to a viral infection, pernicious anemia, chemotherapy or lupus. If the value is high is might mean inflammatory issues, leukemia, or disorders causing abnormal growth in the bone marrow.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) measures kidney and liver function.

  1. Glucose – a measure of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. A low value could also signal liver disease, excess insulin production or adrenal insufficiency. Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar. If the number is high, diabetes/pre-diabetes, pancreatitis or hyperthyroidism.
  2. BUN – this is the waste product from the liver which is filtered from the blood and excreted in the kidneys. If low, malnutrition may be likely. If high, points to kidney or liver disease or heart failure.
  3. Creatnine – waste produced by muscle metabolism. If low, indicates malnutrition. If high, indicates chronic or acute kidney impairment.
  4. Albumin – protein in blood that nourishes tissues and carries nutrients. If low, indicates malnutrition. If high, indicates dehydration.
  5. Sodium, potassium and chloride – electrolytes that keep your senior’s body in balance. If low, could mean your senior takes a diuretic, diarrhea, lung disease, or adrenal insufficiency. If high, dehydration, kidney disease, diabetes, or Addison’s disease are likely causes.
  6. ALP/ALT/AST – enzymes found in liver, bones and muscles. If ALP is low could mean malnutrition. ALT/AST not a concern if low. If high, could indicate bone cancer, hepatitis, excess alcohol or other toxins, muscle injury, bile duct obstruction or Paget’s disease.
  7. Bilirubin – pigment in the bile, digestive fluid made by the liver. If low, not a problem; but if high, would indicate liver disease, bile duct problem or red cell destruction.

We will review the lipid panel in a future post because the results can definitely be affected by lifestyle and diet changes leading to a positive impact on those numbers and heart health!

Because elders take more medications, their blood work is often in the abnormal range due to the effects of that medication. Diuretics can impact results of these values. Heparin can decrease your senior’s platelet count too. Sunburn can increase your senior’s WBC due to the inflammation it causes. A licorice lover can have a low potassium level. How a lab handles your senior’s blood specimen, such as did it sit too long, can also affect the reading.

It is a good idea to discuss with your senior’s doctor any abnormal results and the reasons why they may be altered. Some abnormal values could be anticipated due to any chronic medical conditions or medications, but other reasons that could require action need to be reviewed.

You can see by reading the reasons for high and low lab values that staying well hydrated and eating a wide variety of nutritious foods every day will help keep your senior’s blood work in acceptable limits.

Here’s to your senior’s health! (Raising a glass of water to your health!)

What AARP’s National Event Offers for Family Caregivers of Seniors

Senior Care Corner attends AARP’s Life@50+ Annual Event and Expo each year to report back to family caregivers on programs and innovations available or coming down the road for senior loved ones. As we prepare for our trip to this year’s event – and already start planning for next year – we want to point out the potential benefits for family members of seniors to attend one of these events themselves.

When we talk with others and bring up AARP, we often hear “that’s for ‘old people'” or “it’s a political organization” and sometimes don’t get very far. We are not advocates of AARP, but simply look for ways to help family caregivers of seniors improve the lives of aging loved ones. As for the feedback we get, family members caring for seniors are for “old people” too, or at least specific ones. Regardless of your feelings about their political positions (we avoid talking politics at Senior Care Corner), there are a number of benefits we as family caregivers can get from the AARP Annual Event.

While the value of specific sessions and topics depends on the needs and situation of individual seniors and their families, there is something to address most needs.

Key Benefit from AARP’s Annual Event – The Expo

If we were asked to rank the top 10 things there that offer benefits to family members and seniors, we might count the Expo as our top 5, or even more. The Expo is separated into a number of “Pavilions” – in reality areas of one huge exhibition floor – with exhibitors grouped generally by subject matter. While there is probably something in each pavilion of interest to most everyone, we see these as key stops for family caregivers.

  •  Health & Fitness Pavilion – A wealth of health-related information can be found here, with products, services and organizations in abundance. Yes, much information is available online, but here you can see demonstrations and get questions answered about topics ranging from Alzheimer’s Disease to hearing aids to mobility products and much more. Depending on needs and interests, you could spend hours in this area alone.
  • Technology Pavilion – Learn about technology solutions for problems faced by seniors and many products with which most are already familiar but are presented and discussed with the specific needs of older adults in mind.
  • Financial Pavilion – Not so much products but information on benefits for and risks faced by seniors. Here you might find representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services next door to those from the FINRA Investor Eduction Foundation and more. We’ve found the information here is also online but experts are here to answer specific questions or point to resources with the answers.
  • AARP Pavilion – This is the place to learn about many of the benefits and resources available to AARP members from the organization and many of its sponsors. Yes, you’ll find some sales pitches here (they pay to be there, after all) but we learn each time we visit about some discounts or information we didn’t know was available through them.
  • Other Pavilions include Homes & Gardens, Retail and Travel & Leisure, with exhibitors generally matching those themes, as well as the Universal Pavilion, whose primary tenants are Platinum Sponsors UnitedHealth Group and Walgreens. Each of these likely has something of interest to the seniors in our lives – and thus to us.

AARP Life@50+ Sessions

The event also includes two days of sessions and other activities, some of them informational, some entertaining and many both. As with the Expo, the value of these will depend on individual interests and family needs. Be sure to check out the schedule to see if they match your interests.

  • University Sessions – Best of the sessions, at least in our view. Here you might find sessions with tips on health, finance, technology and other areas of interest to many seniors and their caregivers alike.
  • Lifestyle Sessions – A variety of topics are covered in these sessions with, as you might expect, a lifestyle flavor.
  • Feature Sessions – Combinations of information and entertainment, sometimes with a touch of AARP “message” included.

Yes, we feel there are a number of potential benefits for family caregivers of seniors as the AARP Annual Event and Expo, some beyond what you might learn that directly benefits your older family members. There are entertainment features included in each event. Of even greater benefit, though, are the locales of these events, which are planned in places with many activities for those younger than retirement age. This could be a great way to get double benefit – yes, learning things that might improve the care we can give but also a chance to get away ourselves without the need to feel guilty (which we shouldn’t feel anyway).

We hope to see you at one of these events in the future and would love to hear YOUR comments when you do!

Long Term Care Planning With Senior Loved Ones – Part 2: Actions

Planning ahead to meet the long term care needs of senior family members can help to make less traumatic a transition that’s often difficult, though necessary for the well-being of aging loved ones.

Last time, in Part 1, we discussed long term care options and explained the most common choices and what to consider when evaluating what’s best for your loved one’s situation. This time we discuss the action portion of your plan, steps you can take to be ready should that transition be needed for the senior in your life.

Before that, we received a comment in response to Part 1 suggesting that we had overlooked adult daycare as an option. We feel adult daycare is a great resource for seniors and family caregivers, one that allows many to successfully age in place longer than would otherwise be possible.  Our list of options, however, was intended to cover potential full-time living options where aging in place is no longer practical or desired by senior family members.

Actions in Your Long Term Care Planning

  1. If there is a specific facility nearby that may fit your needs, get your senior’s name on the waiting list. You can always refuse when a spot comes up if you aren’t ready.
  2. Check out whatever facilities you may be considering, including location, ratings, cost, services, cleanliness, staffing, accreditations, meals, religious services, and any other concerns your senior and you may have. Visit each facility to get a feel for it and walk around. Don’t stop at the lobby, but go into the living and care areas.
  3. Begin planning for the costs associated with any type of long term care. Keep in mind that assisted living is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Estimates of the cost of daily care vary state by state but range in many areas around $200 a day for a nursing home bed and more for a private room, and at least $3,000 a month for an assisted living center. Home care can be $19/hour and $17/hour for homemaker services.  Don’t forget to factor in the other costs your senior will have, such as co-payments, and other uncovered medical needs, such as dentists, eyeglasses, etc. Medicare covers few if any long term care costs. Medicaid does pay for these expenses once your senior is eligible financially, medically and functionally. If your senior qualifies for Veterans Affairs benefits, he or she may meet eligibility for some coverage. The earlier your senior loved one begins financial planning for these costs, the more options they may have later. You may want to speak with a qualified financial planner about what strategies your senior can employ to prepare for these costs.
  4. Prepare advance directives, such as a living will, healthcare power of attorney and wishes for how your senior desires long term care be delivered. This will help you plan to meet their wishes if they are no longer able to communicate that with you when the time comes.
  5. Have open discussions with your senior about his or her expectations and finances. These are often very difficult subjects to broach for parents and children but they are important so everyone knows where they stand. Involve all appropriate family members.
  6. Observe your senior loved one closely. Are they having more trouble with daily activities, keeping their finances on track, driving, personal care, or meal preparation? You may notice signs of decline that may indicate the need for interventions, such as in-home care and then eventually a move for more assistance. Your senior may not tell you they need help, so you need to be vigilant.
  7. Talk about the possibility of facility care with your senior. Frank discussions with them as time and function changes can make it a smoother transition. You don’t want your senior to feel like he or she was “dropped off” somewhere with no prior notice. This is definitely an emotional topic for everyone and supporting each other will help you all.

Long term care may never be needed for your senior loved one. If it is, doing these tasks before they’re needed will be beneficial when the time comes. We may look at our seniors today and think they are doing fine and are healthy so feel you can wait to do this or that. Unfortunately, all too often a single fall will make the long term care transition necessary, the family will need this advance planning and it won’t be done.

Bottom line: Learn about your options, discuss the possibilities, and plan for it financially and emotionally. It will be time and energy well spent!

Long Term Care Planning With Senior Loved Ones – Part 1: Options

Few people look forward to a time when they have to leave their home and live in a long term care facility, not even an assisted living facility. There are some seniors who will, unfortunately, have no other safe alternatives.

It is estimated that more than two thirds of people over 65 years will need some type of long term care, whether in-home care or another facility, at some point in their lives. It may be that keeping up the house and yard are no longer desirable or possible; health considerations may require more attention from a professional or round the clock professional care is the only option for health and wellness.

Some seniors, once they have moved to a facility, are very happy there. They meet new people, have new activities to keep them occupied, don’t have to worry about meal preparation and are no longer lonely. They may not have wanted to be there but end up not only benefiting but feeling better about the move.

Children who have to face the reality of placing a parent in a long term care facility may find it’s one of the hardest things they have to do and takes them through an emotional wringer. How we prepare our seniors – and ourselves – for the move can make all the difference. The best time to get ready for the possibility is before our senior loved one needs it. There are things both can do ahead of time to be prepared.

Long Term Care Options

There are a variety of long term care settings to consider, with the best fit based on the needs of your senior loved one.

  • Retirement Communities – seniors here are able to live on their own but seek more help with tasks such as house work, home maintenance and congregate dining (no more cooking!). Many of these communities have a variety of social activities for seniors, including transportation. These communities do not typically provide any special personal or medical care such as medication management;
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) – these centers provide several different levels of care within one campus, such as independent apartments, assisted living and skilled nursing care / long term care. A senior can move from one level to the next while remaining in the same location with familiar faces. They usually have amenities such as group dining, theaters, activities and fitness activities. Each level of care naturally incurs a higher cost of care and there are often a multitude of options to select;
  • Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) – the services available in these facilities vary greatly from one to the next so be sure to check out a few to compare. They offer congregate meals ranging from all three to one main meal a day so your senior may need to be able to do some meal preparation on their own. Laundry, housekeeping and personal care are all offered. If your senior needs help with grooming, bathing, or medication management, these are provided. A personal plan of care will be formulated for your senior based on their needs. Note that each facility may charge a fee for each added service. Staff members are on site 24 hours a day but since this area is not regulated, as a long term care facility is, you need to be aware of how things are going with your senior and if all his or her needs are being met for safety; and,
  • Long Term Care Facilities (nursing home) – this facility provides around the clock nursing care. They can provide rehabilitation or restorative nursing services to keep your senior functioning at his or her highest level. They provide meals according to doctor’s orders, medication administration, all personal care needed, activities to keep them engaged and the doctor will visit them there periodically. You can get information to compare facilities which are regulated by the federal government online at medicare.gov.

When evaluating care choices, be sure to consider both current and potential future needs to minimize the likelihood of having to disrupt your senior loved one’s life with another move later.

NEXT TIME: Preparations for making the big move.