Beating Senior Loneliness & Isolation – and Having Fun – at a Senior Center

Isolation and loneliness are two of the many fears family caregivers often have for senior loved ones living on their own.

We worry something will happen when nobody is there to help them.

Depression, which can have serious health consequences, can also result from seniors who are living alone and become isolated from others.

Many seniors would enjoy spending time with their peers. They can share their life experiences, stories about their grandkids and discuss activities they all enjoy.

Seniors centers are a great place for older adults to be with others and enjoy activities. It may be a great option for your senior who is living independently.

Senior Center Facts

First a little background on senior centers.

  • Senior Centers are the most well used service among senior adults
  • Approximately 11,000 centers provide service for about 1 million seniors each day
  • 70% of those attending are women
  • The average age of senior center participants is 75
  • Most seniors attend one to three times a week
  • Seniors spend about 3.3 hours each visit at the center
  • According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), seniors who attend senior centers have “higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction”

What Happens at the Senior Center?

Senior centers and the services and activities they offer vary so it’s important to check with the centers near your senior loved one. These are some of the program offerings.

  • Nutrition programs and meal services – many centers prepare meals for outreach programs transporting meals to homebound seniors as well as the congregate meals eaten in the center
  • Health and fitness programs – activities such as tai chi, yoga, Zumba gold and other exercise programs; dancing; health fairs; exercise equipment and even trainers
  • Games like cards, bingo, bocce ball, board games, checkers, Wii and other video games, mah jongg, scrabble
  • Transportation – many centers will pick up and drop off your senior so they can participate
  • Arts – crafts and activities that stimulate creativity and self-expression; music and singing programs; sewing and quilting; knitting; woodworking; painting
  • Educational programs – speakers on various topics of interest; computer training
  • Benefits and information assistance – center staff can help your senior access benefits they are missing now
  • Volunteer coordination for community service
  • Multi-generational activities
  • Special events and holiday celebrations
  • Field trips to local fun spots

Senior centers have evolved over the years in order to meet aging baby boomers’ needs and desires. Most senior centers accept participants who are over 50. Many allow family members to participate in the activities offered including exercise classes and special events.

There may be an annual membership fee which is minimal depending on the center near you and the programs offered.

Senior Center Benefits

A senior center is a place where your senior will make new friends and enjoy the many chances to learn something new. They may have opportunities to try things they never did before or play games they loved playing in their younger years. They might go to museums and eateries that they would not have dared go to alone. They will make friends with whom they can reminisce and people to share life experiences each time they visit. Participating in the fitness and health activities will help them stay well and manage any chronic diseases they might have.

Just being part of something and having a reason to face each new day will give them purpose in their life hopefully preventing loneliness and depression.

Many seniors wish they had started attending years before once they find out how enjoyable the senior center really can be. You will also have peace of mind that they are staying mentally and socially stimulated and are not alone all day long. It sounds like a real win-win!

Who Will Be There to Care? Worries of Family Caregivers as They Age

We are so focused on caring for our senior loved ones that we don’t always contemplate our own needs, desires and future.

Our day to day caregiving duties can take a toll on our spirit, health, relationships and finances. Because it is taking a toll on us, whether we recognize it or not, now is a good time to reflect about our own aging and our personal feelings of the consequences of our aging.

What actions should we recognize as necessary in order to improve our longevity so that we can be there for our families and for those whom we act as caregivers?

Global Attitudes About Aging

The United States is not alone in having a population that is growing older. The rest of the world is also aging. As a matter of fact, statistically America is aging at a slower rate than many countries. China is facing an aging crisis with more seniors than family caregivers. Other countries such as Japan have rapidly increasing numbers of elders in relation to the overall population.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, in 2010 the proportion of people 65 and older was the greatest in Japan, where it was at 23% versus 13% in the United States. By 2050 those numbers are projected to grow to 36.5% in Japan and 21.4% in the US.

Those surveyed in the countries with the largest senior populations reported having little confidence in their ability to continue with an adequate standard of living in their old age. Most in these countries believe that it is the responsibility of the government to see to the needs of the aged but this idea does not instill confidence in that actually occurring and feel that the burden will fall to the family. Americans seem to be more confident in their ability to maintain a standard of living and don’t think the government should be responsible but the aging individual himself.

Perhaps many in the US realize that fewer workers adding to the tax base will not support the care of our aging seniors so that feel they need to plan for their own future.

As our life expectancy also lengthens it will cause us to work longer, stay healthier, and be sure our financial future has been planned out to ensure that we can maintain our standard of living for a longer period of time. One concern is our ability to pay for healthcare, as the cost for health services is projected to rise rapidly.

What Can Caregivers Do?

There are many potential actions and considerations for family caregivers as we ourselves age.

Plan to push your retirement back to an older age

Many have realized that the dream of retiring at age 62 or even younger may not be a reality and working until age 70 is more of a reality than desired. Make arrangements with your employer to work a flexible schedule so that you can provide the caregiving you need without danger of putting your job at risk.

Make a financial plan for your retirement

Work with an adviser to answer the tough questions about how much money you will need to save to maintain the standard of living that you desire at the same time paying for any healthcare costs you might encounter. You may need to consider your current spending, creating a budget and a plan to eliminate your present debt in order to sail into retirement financially sound.

Now look into your senior’s financial planning and be sure it is optimized now so that your finances are not being spent on their care needs.

Care for your own health

Make lifestyle choices regarding your habits and create an action plan to improve your choices. Keeping healthy now will mean that your future healthcare needs may be held in check.

  • Are you eating healthy? We all know we need fruits and vegetables, lower fat, lower salt and more fiber. Are you doing it?
  • Are you drinking enough water and getting enough sleep?
  • Are you physically active and not just being busy? It is important to get your heart rate going not just being busy with routine chores.
  • Have you stopped smoking and is your drinking in moderation only?
  • Will you be healthy enough to continue to be a caregiver or will you need a caregiver yourself?
  • Are you going to be able to care for your senior loved one if you are fighting chronic disease and disability in yourself?
  • Will you be able to afford your own impaired health?

Get respite, ask for help and accept help that is offered whenever it is offered

Let others help you. Have little jobs ready to give to others when they offer, don’t just say you are doing fine. Let someone sit with your senior so you can take a hot bath, go for a walk, meditate, read a book, attend a support group, or just sit down alone.

There are organizations and senior care centers that can provide respite care.

Plan for the possibility that someone will need to replace you as caregiver

Do you have a living will or advance directives in case of an emergency? It is not just our seniors that need to execute their wishes. Have you made someone your successor if you are the proxy for your senior, do they know where your senior’s documents are located, will they know how to get into the safety deposit box or even that one exists? Will they be able to function as your senior’s financial executive?

Is your senior’s information regarding banking, retirement plans, insurance, and financial investments accessible if you aren’t able to be in charge? Is yours?

Get emotional support throughout your caregiving journey

Caring for others while maintaining a healthy marriage or partnership can be overwhelming at times when duties have you pulled in many directions. It takes a network to fulfill all the roles you play at times so take advantage of it so that you can prevent burnout.

You might benefit by connecting with a friend to talk with about your stressors, share with a sibling some of the caregiving duties, seek out professional counseling from a specialist or church leader, join a support group either personally or online, keep lines of communication open within your network, and find time to nurture your relationships with others important to you and the one with yourself.

Don’t neglect your own needs – remember put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

We can’t change the fact that we are aging as are our senior loved ones and our family members. That is the circle of life.

However, our attitude about aging and the preparations we make to face the future will help us do it the best that we possibly can.

Boost Brainpower by Eating & Drinking Certain Foods: Hype or Real Hope?

Who wouldn’t love more brain power?

If we could just be a little sharper, a bit quicker and smarter!  Whoo-wee we could be rich! At least we could silence that know-it-all who always seems to know the answers first.

But could we also possibly prevent or at least delay the onset of cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease with some changes in our food and beverage choices? Can it hurt us?

What if what we ate each day could be a sort of magic pill to keep our minds sharp, our memories clear and our brain power at its peak? It could be amazing!

Brainpower Myths, Urban Legends — & Facts

Let’s take a look at some of the food and drink that is touted as boosting our brainpower.

Hot Cocoa Improves Brainpower in Seniors

We have seen the recent research in this area as you probably have. Preliminary studies point to a link between drinking two cups of cocoa each day and increased blow flow in the brain. Some participants in the study did have increased blood flow in the brain but others did not. It seemed to have a better effect in those with already reduced blood flow but not with those with normal blood flow already.

Will cocoa drinking hurt you? Probably not. Will it make your memory of yesterday’s breakfast clearer? Probably not either. The effects of chocolate and the compounds they contain known as flavanols will continue to be studied so we can expect to continue to hear more about the benefits of chocolate especially dark chocolate. Go ahead and have a bite of chocolate, you know you want to!

Vitamin E Slows the Decline of Some Alzheimer’s Patients

Antioxidant properties of vitamin E have been studied for several years. The results have been mixed up to this point, however, with some touting it as helpful and others saying no help at all. A new study is again raising the issue of the benefits of vitamin E. The latest study gave high doses of vitamin E over a two year period. They found that cognition did not stop deteriorating in those with Alzheimer’s but it appeared to provide a beneficial protective effect with regard to the participants performing independently their activities of daily living such as dressing and feeding themselves.

While high doses of vitamin E have been linked with increased risk of death, these participants did not exhibit any difficulties during the course of the study. The researchers warn that everyone should not begin taking high doses of vitamin E as it appeared only beneficial for those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and delayed a greater decline for some months’ time and also there are unknown risks of high doses without close monitoring. It helped some but did not slow cognitive decline. Doctors and researchers in this study warn not to take high doses of vitamin E.

Antioxidants in general and vitamin E specifically will continue to be examined for delaying cognitive decline but the jury is still voting no at this time for high doses. Vitamin E is included in your multivitamin as well as foods that you eat already.

Eating Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Researchers from a new study report that eating foods such as fish, soy and nuts which are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids once a week help to prevent Alzheimer’s. They tested blood samples for the presence of beta amyloid proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. They found, the more omega 3 sources in the diet, the lower the beta amyloid found in the blood. They did not study supplemental omega 3’s only food sources.

At this time, it is unknown how beta amyloid in the blood will correlate with the development or progression of amyloid plaques and Alzheimer’s. Adding food sources of omega 3 fatty acids to your diet once a week or more might be beneficial and won’t hurt.

A snack of nuts plus fish during the week could help you reduce your beta amyloid levels and is a healthy addition to your diet. We won’t forget that it is also recommended for heart health. Whether this will change the outlook for Alzheimer’s is unclear but more study in underway so we can expect to hear more about omega 3s.

Research on Alzheimer’s – Coconut Oil

Researchers are trying to determine if drinking coconut milk/oil will help brain functioning and prevention of Alzheimer’s. Properties in coconut oil provide a fuel to the brain that many hope will be beneficial to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Coconut oil has been shown to provide energy to neurons but at this time there is little scientific evidence that coconut oil can improve cognition even though coconut proponents want us to think it is so.

If you like drinking coconut milk or a coconut shake, go ahead and enjoy but don’t count your coconuts for a cure just yet!

How Red Wine Components Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers have found that naturally occurring compounds in red wine called polyphenols block the formation of proteins that build the toxic plaques targeting the brain. Unfortunately, so far the research has been performed only on lab rats with human studies yet to come. It appears that these polyphenols in red wine can block the clumping of beta amyloid plaques in mice.

Buck Institute has uncovered a link with resveratrol found in red wine with ApoE4 and SirT1 which are genetic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. How each impact the other is still unknown but work continues. None of these researchers say how much wine is needed to gain a beneficial effect and in the popular press the amount varies from one to three glasses needed each day.

So, much like coconut milk/oil, if you enjoy a glass of red wine then go on enjoying it. If you don’t drink red wine now, there is no strong evidence to start doing so especially since we don’t know if one glass is sufficient and excess alcohol carries other risks.

Reality of Trends

New research is coming out daily about what to eat, drink and breathe and what to avoid. For example, some days caffeine is bad and other days it is good. It gets very confusing about what exactly you should be eating and drinking and how much help you might be missing if you don’t jump on each new trend.

The fact is that science is always evolving. Studies must be validated by other researchers and the truth is a preliminary finding may take many years to reach full potential.

The key thing to consider when each new theory is postulated is always can this do me harm? If drinking a glass of wine or coconut milk won’t cause me harm and may actually benefit my health then definitely do it. If you hate red wine, don’t bother going to the liquor store for it. If trying something new, will it hurt you and does anyone really know if it will yet are questions to ask yourself? If there is potential for harm, just wait to see what unfolds before you become the first one to do it.

When evaluating the merits of each new idea hitting the press, consider the cost, credibility of the source, and will the person selling it benefit more than you will? If something costs a great deal of money with little scientific proof to stand behind it, is the person selling it gaining more than you will from using this new product then you might want to reconsider.

Better safe than sorry!

Fraud Alert! Don’t Be Victimized by This Tech-Age Scam Attempt – I Almost Was!

Unfortunately, criminals are updating their old scams for the times. Don’t let your senior loved one or yourself be a victim.

We talk a lot about using technology to stay connected with the caveat to be secure and take precautions to be safe when using all the new innovations and old electronics.

Every day we are reminded of just how important this is to your senior and even you.

If you have ever had your identity stolen like I have (several years ago), then you know how time consuming, frustrating, infuriating and costly it can be to get it back! Once stolen, you will realize how important it is to protect your senior’s and your personal data.

Scam Alert for Computer Owners

Recently I received a phone call from someone identifying himself as working with Microsoft.

He said he wanted to help me because he saw that my computer was sending error messages that needed to be corrected and asked me if I was near my computer and was it running.

I was a bit skeptical but also a bit confused because, as you know if you use your computer regularly, error messages occur a good bit. I had just had one as a matter of fact and wondered how he knew that.

I was confused enough and concerned enough to begin asking him questions as I have been told in the past to do.

Who do you work for again?

What is your name?

Why did you call me?

What is wrong with my computer?

What do you want to do to my computer?

After I pressed him a bit with my questioning without getting convincing answers, I sensed the hoax and ended the call.

Fraud Concerns Confirmed

The very next day I received an email security alert warning me about people who were calling and falsely identifying themselves as working with Microsoft. The email said Microsoft would never contact me or anyone else about any error messages the computer automatically sends when a program misfires.

From my security alert:

“ongoing scam involving phone calls from an individual claiming to be from Microsoft.  The individual will claim they are receiving errors from your computer and attempt to walk you through a process which would give them control of your machine.  If you receive these calls you should hang up”

Boy, did I feel lucky that I hung up on that scammer before any damage was done.

I am a pretty computer savvy person who was almost scammed! Therefore, this scam must be getting pretty good results because he sounded so convincing that my computer was actually in danger and needed to be fixed right away. Your senior could easily fall for this and lose personal information.

Don’t Be a Victim of Fraud

This scam followed a familiar pattern, with a caller claiming to work for a major company with a familiar name and a scam designed to entrap the majority of us who only know so much about our computers.

Don’t let them get your senior loved one — or to you.

  • You and your senior should never allow anyone access to remotely operate your computer unless you initiated tech support to repair it or are advised by a trusted friend or family member to do so.
  • No one will ask your senior for the password, to allow access to their computer to fix it, ask for banking account information, or any other secret information. Stress with them the importance of not trusting anyone who asks them these questions.
  • Engage the security settings on your senior’s Facebook account so only those that should see their posts and photos have access. Scammers use often their personal information to access other accounts such as financial sites.
  • Make your senior’s passwords something more complex so that they aren’t easily hacked. Our seniors can become easy victims because their passwords are all too often special dates and family names that are easy to find all over Facebook! Record them somewhere safe.
  • Don’t respond to or open attachments from any person via email that you or your senior don’t know or aren’t expecting.
  • Don’t respond or click a link when asked to update your access code for a shopping site such as Amazon or other retailer. They will not ask you to update your password via email.
  • Remind your senior not to respond to any email, phone call or letter that says they won something. We all know they didn’t win!

Technology can help our seniors in so many ways but we have to do all we can to help them stay secure.

Some security is in our control to set up. Other opportunities for our seniors to be a victim of a scammer need to be continuously discussed with them and reminders given. You can never be too safe!

Seniors & Family Caregivers Managing Chronic Disease & Health Issues Online

It’s no secret that our population is aging, with the average age in the U.S. rising each year.

With the passing of each birthday comes increasing risk of developing one or more chronic diseases.

Maybe your senior already has a chronic disease that you have both been managing. If so, you are not alone because current research from the Pew Research Center tells us that 45% of US adults are living with one or more chronic health conditions.

Chronic Health Diseases Affecting Aging Americans

One in four US adults (24%) has one condition and one in five adults (20%) has two or more chronic health conditions. These are among the most common.

  • High blood pressure – 25%
  • Lung disease – 13% have asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other lung conditions
  • Diabetes – 11%
  • Heart disease – 7% have heart disease, heart failure or heart attack
  • Cancer – 3%
  • Lupus – 16% have lupus and other chronic problems

Does your senior loved one have one or more of these?

Seniors Living with Chronic Health Conditions Profile

Compared to the 45% of all adults who have chronic health conditions, the number jumps to 75% of adults over age 65. Here are some more facts and figures.

  • 72% living with chronic diseases use the internet – this may sound like a lot but compared to adults who report having no chronic diseases it is not because 89% of them report using the internet. This is linked to those with chronic conditions having less education as a group and being older than the general population. Adjusting for age, income, education and ethnicity, the numbers still show that those living with a chronic condition are less likely to use the internet. In addition, the older adults are even less likely to use the internet.
  • Those with a chronic condition who use the internet have been found to be more likely to gather information online about their medical problems and treatments; read online reviews of drugs and treatments; and spend time online watching or reading about someone else’s experience. The study shows that this group is serious about sharing their health status with others both off and online. They are more likely to seek advice, information and support.
  • 31% of adults with chronic conditions have gone online to “diagnose” themselves or others for whom they care. They are more likely to take this information and discuss it with the medical team compared with those without chronic conditions. Some report that their diagnosis was confirmed but one in five say that the medical professional had a different opinion. 42% of these people with chronic medical problems are caregivers of others compared to 37% of those without chronic health conditions.
  • People with chronic health conditions are more likely to track their health information including weight, diet, exercise, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, or headaches. 80% of those with two or more conditions, 70% of those with one condition, compared to 61% of those with no conditions. They take more formal notes and share their notes with others, including the healthcare team. 72% of them report that keeping notes had an impact on their health routine or caregiving of others.
  • 26% of those with more than one condition have had a health emergency in the past year and many have been hospitalized especially compared to those with one condition (12%) or no conditions (4%).

What Caregivers Can Do To Support Seniors With Chronic Conditions

  • If your senior loved one does not have the equipment or internet connection in their home that will allow them to get connected to seek out information and connect with others, get them connected! Help them set it up and show them how to use it! Grandchildren are especially helpful as IT troubleshooters to help them manage unfamiliar technology and devices. Set up online security so you will be comfortable with them surfing the net! Show them how to use search engines to find the data they seek and specific websites of interest. Help them learn to email info, share articles of interest or download files for printing. Because many report not even having a cell phone, get them a smartphone (your older model may be enough for them) to help them access health information, apps and emergency help!
  • Become knowledgeable about the conditions and treatment to help share the experience and be able to advise them when needed. The statistics show that they want to share their experience and talk about it so give them the opportunity by keeping the lines of communication open.
  • Be prepared for emergencies and understand that the likelihood of visiting the emergency room and hospital is real. Have all the information you will need handy such as medication information including dosages and times, advance directive information, doctor names and contacts, health history and family contact information. You may need to keep a bag ready for hospital visits with things you and other caregivers will need to pass the time waiting in the wings during treatments and procedures such as electronic devices with chargers, pen and paper, snacks, sweater, and other creature comforts.
  • Help your senior track their health information. Look into some devices such as smartphone apps or organizing tools that can help the keep up with information such as blood pressure readings, medications or meal intake. There are a multitude of technology innovations including cloud storage options that can help them but you will need to get them started and set up. If you want to avoid technology, then interact and find out what they need. It may be as simple as a calendar or computer program that they can record information of importance. It needs to be in a format that can be shown to the medical team.
  • Many of your seniors with chronic health conditions are caring for others themselves and trying to manage their own health. You can help lighten their load by arranging in home caregivers, doing some of their tasks, giving them (or arranging) respite, modifying the home to reduce caregiver stress and offer a sympathetic ear so you know what difficulties they may be facing and ways you can help out.

You can find ways to support your senior be in charge of their diseases instead of allowing their diseases to rule their lives.

If you have some tips or suggestions to share with us about what works for you and your senior to utilize the internet and technology to help manage chronic health conditions, we would love to hear your comments.

Snowbound Days: Use Them to Make New Memories with Senior Loved Ones

As I sit here by the window looking out at the beautiful snow that has fallen here on our house in the South where this much snow is a bit unusual, I ponder what to do.

I am beginning to feel a bit snow bound as the roads here are too treacherous to do even the most (usually very) important tasks (but not really) such as mailing cards or picking up supplies.

If you are like me, your mind is wandering to all the little tasks that we think about doing ‘if I only got the time’.

Well, it looks like I will have plenty of time for at least the next few days.

Some Much Needed Tasks You Can Do With Your Senior

Even if your senior loved one has dementia they’re likely able to help you do some piece of these tasks, at least for a short period of time. You may need to constantly talk about what you are doing, how to do it or even do hand over hand work during the task.

Clean out the linen closet  

Over time we tend to store or just stick away things in the linen closet that we are not currently using and may never use again because it no longer matches the décor. There may be heirloom items in there that were handmade with love by a great grandmother or other family member that you treasure. Go through each shelf and nook to see if there are some items that are no longer needed or desired such as old towels or blankets.

There are many places that would cherish these items such as animal rescue, no-kill shelters or the homeless shelter near you. If you have items that you just don’t want any more, you can donate them to area collection sites or even find a consignment shop and make a little spending money. You may even uncover some precious items you forgot were there or someone else ‘hid’ there that you will find useful.

If there are special treasures in the linen closet such as quilts, needlework or lace, now is a good time to preserve those items and keep them from decaying or becoming moth-eaten. Your senior can help by identifying items, telling stories of aunt so and so who made that pillow case or by neatly folding the stacks of washcloths. You can do this together for any closet in your house such as the coat closet and share old coats with others or upstairs closets, etc. Any place in your senior’s home that needs attention and can provide an opportunity to work together and share the day.

Make a family recipe or pot of soup and invite family, friends or the next door neighbor over for a meal

This is a great way to involve your senior. Start by talking about recipes, which meal was a family favorite, who made it and go through the lovingly handwritten recipes. I have pages written in my grandmother’s hand that I will treasure, goodies like pickles and relish everyone loves.

Your senior can help with the ingredients by collecting, washing, cutting, stirring, tasting and serving your guests. She or he may enjoy setting the table with newly found place mats or tablecloth from the linen closet that were used when you were a child. Use the good china-why not? Today is a special occasion. You might share the soup pot with an older neighbor who can’t get out in the snow either and brighten their day!

Clean out the garage!  

I may be a special case, but over the warmer months everything seems to get deposited in my garage to the point that I can’t walk beside my car and may consider keeping it outside (oh no!). Now is a good time to put away all the tools, nails, bug spray, paint, hoses, garden tools, and flower pots that have accumulated (yes, all these things are currently in my way!).

Your senior can help by holding things, sweeping, telling you stories about some of the items such as “I used to grow carrots and I used this trowel” or just being by your side. Put on some music that your senior loves and enjoy the moment.

Put the photos into an album  

Oh my, one of my famous I will do someday projects. I have boxes of pictures dating back from when my grown children were born. Your senior can help you with the photos, talk about where you were, who is in the photo, what funny clothes you were wearing or weird hairdos. If you don’t get many photos in the album that day, it is OK.

The quality time you spend is more than worth it. You may want to take the opportunity to go through your senior’s photo album with their parents and grandparents, cousins and friends to jog their recollections and hear their reminiscences.

Throw some birdseed in the yard  

Throw down some seed, bread crusts or breadcrumbs where you can see them and then sit with your senior and look out the window even for fifteen minute blocks of time. You may need to involve them in cleaning the window, wiping the blinds or windowsill so that you can get the best view. Make a cup of hot chocolate, your favorite tea or hot spiced apple cider to share together while you bird watch.

Talk about the different birds or wildlife that comes up to eat the goodies. Talk about growing up and what activities you enjoyed outdoors. If you have a picture book with birds, look through it to see if you can find the visitors to your yard.

There are many indoor projects that usually take a backseat when we are busy with the day to day activities that we think are so important in the moment.

These jobs don’t have to be finished today or even this week. Take a little chunk at a time. Do it together with your senior. Let them see their old possessions and help you decide where they belong.

The snow and ice can seem like such a bother but I think that it may offer us a quiet time to reflect on other things like family, friends and the seniors we love.

I better get going, I have a garage to clean!

Seniors’ Legal Issues: Steps & Tips for When an Elder Law Attorney is Needed

Family caregivers are, by our nature, fixers. We want to be sure that we are doing and getting the very best for our senior loved ones no matter what the situation brings.

There are, of course, the usual day to day roles we play as caregivers just making sure our loved ones are safe, healthy and mentally stimulated.

We can’t do it all, though we often try.

There are also many deep considerations that come to mind that need to be ‘solved’ in order to look out for the best interests of our seniors.

Caregivers are responsible for numerous financial and legal issues and sometimes realize that an expert is needed to protect senior’s rights and long term needs.

What is an Elder Law Attorney?

According to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), an elder law attorney represents seniors and their families in a variety of legal issues including estate planning, medical, financial and social needs to assist with providing the highest quality of life for seniors.

They can advise on areas which include tax planning, retirement benefits, probate, trusts, elder abuse/neglect, house issues, Medicare/Medicaid/Insurance, Social Security claims, Veteran’s Benefits, long term care planning and medical decisions.

How to Find An Elder Law Attorney

There are many places you can find referrals to a qualified, trusted elder law attorney in your area.

  • Friend who may have used one already and has experience working with them
  • State Bar Association Referral Service – your state will probably have an online locator
  • Organizations such as AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, Administration on Aging, or one of many other topic specific support groups
  • Local social workers or case managers
  • Another attorney you may know – not all attorneys specialize in affairs of elders but they can provide a referral

Elder Law Attorney Selection

When deciding on an attorney to help with the needs of your senior loved one, it is important to do a little research and investigate whether or not they are competent to provide you with the services you seek. Here are a few suggestions of ways to find more information:

  • Does the lawyer specialize in issues concerning elders? How much time do they spend working with elders and their families? Are they certified in elder law?
  • Will this lawyer handle your issues directly or will your case be given to another legal staff member, such as another lawyer or paralegal?
  • Is he or she a member of NAELA, a local chapter of NAELA or a group in the local bar association that handles elder law issues?
  • Does this lawyer hold any other related degrees, in addition to the law degree, that might be helpful to your individual concern?
  • Has the lawyer been disciplined by the bar association and, if so, what was the nature of the complaint and the outcome?
  • How will your senior have to pay the attorney – a flat fee, hourly rate for services provided, contingency arrangement, or some of all combined? Will you be asked to pay weekly, monthly or only once the entire situation is handled? What out-of-pocket fees will you be charged such as postage, messenger fees, long distance phone calls or other expenses? Will you be asked to pay a retainer up front?
  • Will you be billed for emails, phone conversations, documents, or emergency situations? Is there a charge for an initial consultation or meeting?
  • Check the attorney’s record through the state bar association, review his or her website and ask them for credentials. Do any of your senior’s friends work with or know the particular attorney?
  • Interview the attorney you are considering to be sure that there is mutual trust for a good working relationship. This is the time to ask him or her all your questions and become comfortable they are someone whose advice you can trust for important decisions.
  • Ask that the agreement of services and fees be put in writing or contract form so that all parties understand and agree with the terms so there is no issue later.

Working with the Elder Law Attorney

Once you decide on an attorney that meets your needs and can help resolve your concerns, there are a few things to remember when you meet.

Be sure that you have all the documents ready to help your elder law attorney help you. Be sure you discuss all possible options and understand the consequences of the choices you make for (and with) your senior.

Keep the lines of communication open with your elder law attorney so that everyone is aware of any issues that require resolution, how they will be dealt with and what fees they incur. Good two-way communication will be essential to meeting the needs of your senior.

Your elder law attorney will be your advocate to help you help your senior. They can help you plan for the future and hopefully keep small problems into turning into catastrophes.

Yes, family caregivers like to be fixers, but sometimes we have to resist. When working with an Elder Law Attorney with a senior loved one, keep in mind that it is their life and finances being discussed so we as family caregivers should support rather than lead discussions and decision making as long they are able to make their own decisions.

Do you have tips to share about your experiences working with an elder law attorney you would like to share? We would love to hear your comments!

Seniors & Dogs: Conversation with a Pet Expert on the Senior Care Corner Show

Seniors and dogs can be a great combination, especially for those seniors aging in place on their own.

The companionship of a dog or other pet has been shown to provide real health benefits to seniors and help them avoid a feeling of isolation.

It’s important, though, for thought to go into selecting the right dog for a senior loved one’s personality, situation and ability to care for the dog.

For this episode of the Senior Care Corner Show, we turned to a pet expert to help you help the senior loved one in your life who has or is considering a dog.

Expert Pet Insight

Steve Appelbaum is President of Animal Behavior College and a long time expert on pets and those who love them. We had an opportunity to speak with him and get his insights on pet ownership for seniors. Our conversation is included as the feature segment on this episode of the Senior Care Corner Show.

As you’ll hear in our recorded chat, Steve wholeheartedly agrees that dog ownership can be beneficial to seniors. He suggested some considerations and resources we can use to help senior loved ones pick a pet that is most suited to them which, as Steve says, may not be the dog our senior loved twenty or thirty years ago.

Steve suggests seniors do some research before getting a dog but also has very specific recommendations. Adopting a dog, for example, may be better for a senior than getting a puppy because the senior may not be up to having a “two year old on four legs” around the house. That painted a vivid picture of the effort needed to care for a puppy.

Steve provided a number of other insights valuable for family caregivers whose senior loved ones are – or maybe should be – considering a new dog.

News Items in This Episode

  • Computer Games May Help Older Adults Walk More Easily
  • Driving Program Puts Older Vets at Ease
  • Heartening Drop in Diabetes Complications Seen Among Seniors
  • Being Web Savvy Tied to Better Health in Seniors

Special Guest Quick Tip

For the quick tip in this episode, we decided to stay with the dog theme and bring in another guest expert.

Christina Booker, General Manager of From Our Dogs To Yours, shares valuable information on dental health for dogs to mark Dental Health Month. It turns out dental health is as important to dogs’ health as it is to the rest of us.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

We hope you’ll enjoy this episode of the Senior Care Corner Show and find the information to be valuable as you consider the needs of senior loved ones and help them make the most of their lives.

Please let us know in what areas conversations with experts would be of value to you and we will arrange those for future episodes.

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

Innovative Products for Dementia Care Developed by Creative Young Minds

Innovation in products and new technology for our seniors (and us) is moving at a startling speed.

New ideas are coming from interesting new minds too — exciting us about what we might see in the future.

Recently I found out about some new devices in the idea stage coming out of our nation’s bright young minds in college inspired by the needs of their own grandparents!

Students Devise Products

As part of a design challenge sponsored by the Stanford Center on Longevity in collaboration with Aging 2.0, students were motivated to create products that could help people with dementia remain independent longer. Here are some of their ideas:

  • Memory Maps – using GPS and RFID reader, the neighborhood can be mapped with memories of activities and remembrances with real world locations directly from the person suffering from early-stage cognitive impairment to ‘nourish and cherish’ memories.
  • Eatwell – seven piece tableware set designed for people with Alzheimer’s to help them eat better and maintain their dignity. It features anti-slip bowls, extended handles, and trays with apron clip to catch food spillage.
  • Taste+ – spoon with a built-in electrical stimulation to make food more delicious for those with dementia who have diminished taste sensation as a result of the cognitive impairment. The spoon can be tapped using a button which delivers a salty or sour flavor without actually adding the salt.
  • Caresolver – cloud-based platform for mobile phone with a CareLogic engine to give caregivers support and connect them with a caregiver team. It gives alerts, notifications and provided interventions when appropriate to help ‘lay’ caregivers. It includes online support groups, forums and mentors to assist caregivers.
  • Confage – gaming experience to help memory impaired users navigate touchscreen devices.
  • ThermoRing – plastic ring placed around an electric stove burner that warns people that the burner is on when is goes from black to red.
  • Automated Home Activity Monitoring – computer based camera system that learns the patterns of the dementia sufferer and alerts family or caregivers when abnormal behavior occurs such as a fall. It was found to be accurate detecting eight daily activities including cooking and eating.

Stanford was thrilled to receive entries from 52 teams from 15 countries. The field was narrowed to seven finalists with the winner to be announced April 10. All seven finalists will be awarded prize money and mentorship from the sponsors to refine their ideas and maybe even bring some to market.

Because of the need to help keep our nation’s elders able to live in the home of their choice as long as possible — living independently and safely — innovations such as these can help meet the needs of our aging in place population while motivating other young minds to come up with even more great ideas for the next competition!

Good luck to the finalists and we look forward to tracking your progress!