Paying for Senior Living and Care – Resources Caregivers Can Help Tap

Life in elder years is not cheap and longer lifespans mean more elder years for many.

Family caregivers often open not only their hearts and homes but also their wallets when caring for senior loved ones.

More than 10 million people over the age of 50 are caring for senior loved ones, including their parents.

Many seniors are outliving their nest eggs and need financial help to continue to live in their homes or to get the day-to-day care they need at this stage in their lives.

Sandwich generation caregivers and long distance caregivers are looking for solutions to help them meet their own needs, but also their children’s needs and their senior loved ones’ financial needs.

Too often what they find is just another bill to pay.

Costs Caregivers Are Paying

Family caregivers are digging into their pockets to help their senior loved ones in a wide variety of ways. They could be making sure their ends meet with monthly expenses or doing things that will make their seniors safe at home.

Here are just a few areas where caregivers spend money in support of loved ones:

  • Helping with the cost of medical care including paying for co-pays to the doctor or hospital; buying their prescription medications; providing over the counter medications
  • Bringing food and nutritional supplements so that their seniors get the nourishing food they need
  • Modifying their senior’s home for safety and functionality; having home repairs made on their aging home including routine maintenance like yard work
  • Helping to pay for utilities or taxes
  • Being sure their insurance payments are made for their home, car, health and long term care
  • Transporting them to their appointments
  • Traveling back and forth to their home from out of state
  • Paying for their connectivity by getting them broadband services, home tech devices or smartphones
  • Helping pay the costs of facility dwelling, whether it is the monthly fee or extras like a phone line, beauty shop or laundry fees
  • Loss of personal wages and ability to devote themselves to career advancement; inability to save for their own retirements

Financial Help for Caregivers

Few have the luxury of setting aside worries about money and just focusing on caregiving. There are many small and large expenditures just waiting for us.

Family caregivers’ main concern however is typically the health and well-being of senior loved ones. So how can we get help with the finances so we can focus our attention on our seniors?

Besides draining our seniors’ assets and our own accounts, there are other funding sources that may help you pay for some of your senior loved one’s care.

Will it pay for everything? Naturally no, but getting help with some things could free up available dollars to pay for other things your senior needs.

We won’t include income that most seniors already receive such as Medicare, Medicaid and Part D Prescription coverage and Social Security income but will review some sources of funding of which you may not be aware.

Dependent status

If you claim your senior loved one as a dependent on your taxes, you may be eligible to receive tax credits for their medical expenses. If you are spending your money on their healthcare, this might be a good idea for you.

Your senior doesn’t have to live with you to be eligible but there are criteria which you both must meet including income excluding Social Security benefits and the amount of support you provide.

Expenses that can be itemized include assisted living costs, healthcare fees, prescription drug costs, home modifications, personal care costs and transportation for the purpose of medical care. Because the amount can only be 10% of your adjusted gross income, you may want to discuss this with a tax professional.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

Those who are claiming their senior loved one as a dependent may also be eligible for a tax credit in combination with the medical expenses. One thing that can be claimed is the cost of home care.

According to the IRS: “Expenses paid for the care of a qualifying individual are eligible expenses if the primary reason is to assure the individual’s well-being and protection.” An eligible individual includes one who is “physically or mentally incapable of self-care if, as a result of a physical or mental defect, the individual is incapable of caring for his or her hygiene or nutritional needs, or requires the full-time attention of another person for the individual’s own safety or the safety of others.”

Home care

If providing home care for a senior loved one when you are not in the home, you may be able to save money by hiring someone on your own. If you need a companion versus someone to provide nursing intervention, a sitter would be more cost effective than a nurses aide.

Respite care

Don’t overlook your own health and other needs. Family caregivers can seek agencies that will provide free respite care for the times when you need a break. There are organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and local churches that might meet this need without costing your money.

Adult day care

If your senior qualifies for the local senior center’s adult care program during the day, this would likely be less costly for you than hiring a paid companion.

Nutrition

A number of options may be available, depending on the community. These are available to many seniors.

  • Home delivered meals – sign your senior up for a program that provides meals so that they will get a nutritious meal and someone to stop in daily. This could help the food budget.

Technology

If your senior loved one’s situation is such that you can utilize some monitoring devices, with varying degrees of intrusion into the lives of those being monitored, instead of a few hours of paid care this might be worth the installation.

If you have a doctor’s prescription, a medical alert system could be tax deductible. Other tech devices that are deemed medically necessary could be tax deductible too.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

In many communities there is available help paying for heating and cooling costs for oil, gas, and electricity as well as some energy repairs if your senior meets the income criteria. Contact your senior’s utility company for information and application procedures.

If your senior qualifies for this or SNAP, they may also be eligible for assistance for the basic cost of a phone line.

Insurance

Did you realize Medicare doesn’t cover all the medical needs of most seniors? Securing a supplemental insurance plan for out of pocket healthcare costs may be worth the extra fee. Tap into a possible Long Term Care Insurance policy if available.

Many forget about this insurance benefit and don’t make claims against it. If there is a life insurance policy in place, it can be converted into long term care benefit account and leverage the money now when it is needed for care.

VA Assistance Programs

If your senior qualifies, there are programs that can help veterans through a basic pension, household benefits and Aid and Attendance.

Other Sources to Consider

Check with BenefitsCheckup.org to learn about government benefits which your senior qualifies to be sure they are getting all the assistance they can.

You may also want to look into a reverse mortgage if your senior owns their own home or has built up good equity. It’s not for everyone so ensure your senior and you fully understand the term before they move forward.

There are also drug company programs that can help with paying for prescriptions medications. Usually these require some work to access but if you pay for many medications, it could be worth a try. Contact the drug companies directly online for possible programs. There is also a program through Medicare that can help with the cost of prescriptions drugs. Learn more here.

Hope for the Future for Caregivers

Family caregivers were heard at this year’s White House Conference on Aging. Our voices rang out that help is needed to care for senior loved ones, including how to be sure the finances are available when needed.

There are a few possibilities that could be coming to help caregivers meet seniors’ needs, based on discussions at the Conference. While none are assured, we are following these and will report to you on any progress.

  • One area is for Congress to create tax credits and Social Security benefits to help financially support those who choose to care for their seniors.
  • Another opportunity is to pay family caregivers for providing care and allowing seniors to remain at home as long as possible.
  • Employers need to be encouraged in all industries to provide flexible opportunities for family caregivers to balance work and caregiving tasks.

Family caregivers are providing a vital service not only for their senior loved ones but also for our healthcare system who would otherwise be overburdened if we didn’t step in.

We all look forward to advances in support services for caregivers that are slowly evolving.

Changing Where Seniors Call Home Impacts Family Caregivers’ Lives Too

In the not-too-distant past, older people who lived long lives were likely to face the final years of those lives in a long term care facility.

This is after they retired away from the support of close family members and were unable to remain independent in the home they had fled cold weather to establish.

But things are changing.

We all need some support as we age, especially as the majority of us and our senior loved ones hope to stay in our homes as long as possible.

Changing the Picture

Today, seniors are healthier than ever before in history as they age. They are staying active, retiring later and later and anticipate living longer.

Advances in medicine have helped us all with increased life expectancy.

Because seniors aren’t retiring as they once were, many are remaining near family members as they age, knowing how important family caregiver support will be. Interstate migration, moving from one state to another, has rapidly declined and is currently at its lowest point since World War II showing how many seniors have decided not to relocate when they retire as they once did.

Reports actually call retiree migration “extremely small”.

And family life is changing too.

Children and Seniors Choosing New Places to Live

There has been a great deal of research into the changing dynamics of families.

Home ownership figures have changed with the fluctuations in the economy. Many unfortunately lost their homes during the too-recent economic downturn. Some seniors were affected by this financial situation when their pension income changed quickly.

Families themselves are changing as the divorce rate continues to be strong.

Young people have decided not to become homeowners after school because of the cost of housing and their student loans dragging them down. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York ties joblessness and rising housing costs to the reality of more young adults choosing to live with their parents.

Boomerang Generation with Boomer Parents

Not quite ready to give up the comforts of their home or taking on more debt, the number of young people who are boomeranging back home with mom and dad has increased by 30%.

Those young adults and seniors who choose to move seem to still desire living in the suburbs. While aging in place in a city center, which can afford seniors more age-friendly options including walkable areas, public transportation and nearby social services or socialization opportunities, it appears they still seek suburbia.

According to the second quarter of 2015 results released by the Commerce Department, the country’s home ownership rate hit a 48 year low. The total was 63.5%. Rental households increased, however.

Some fear that, in states where the foreclosure judicial process was long, some may still be losing their homes. Needing more for a down payment, difficulty getting a loan as well as student loan debt may be keeping young people from becoming homeowners.

Seniors Starting New Households

With the changing face of families and the inability of the younger generation to launch from the family home, seniors have been increasingly leading the way in starting new households. They are filling the role once held by young people leaving their parents’ homes and setting up their own homes.

According to Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California Berkeley, older people, not the typical 25 to 34 year olds, are starting new households. Over 860,000 or two thirds of the total new households formed in the past year were started by seniors between the ages of 65 and 74.

Many experts try to find an explanation for this shift. They believe it may be that more older adults are getting divorced and striking out on their own, creating a new household especially since the rate of divorce in this age group has shown an increase.

Also a factor may be the growing numbers of older adults as the population increases.

Demographic Shift in Housing Statistics

Because this number is derived by the number of households divided by the adult population, the theory is that older adults usually have fewer home inhabitants, thus shifting the numbers in their favor a bit. Younger adults often have roommates to help offset the expenses.

They also point to the fact that younger people are staying at home and not starting homes of their own.

New household formation has increased overall since the recession but researchers point to the fact that there has been a demographic shift, not necessarily a change in the economy.

These researchers also characterize an older population starting new households with a home selection that is single family not multi-unit dwellings and more often in suburban locations.

Impact on Family Caregivers

The change in where seniors live, where young adults live, and how they choose to structure their new households could have an impact on how they connect with family caregivers.

  • Will they live nearby or move away?
  • Will there be a few more hands to share the load if the kids are still at home?
  • Can young adults help seniors with technology needs or other home tasks such as maintenance?
  • Will seniors live alone as they age?
  • If divorced, will senior parents get remarried and, if so, how will that affect the family dynamic?
  • Will stepchildren become family caregivers when they are not blood kin or will the senior be left without family support?
  • How will siblings work together when family dynamics change?
  • How will natural siblings work together with step-siblings – harmony or conflict, share the load or create roadblocks?
  • Will there be split families, which may require multiple homes for aging loved ones that will need family caregiver to care for them both, travel between them and finance more for them?
  • When many older adults have two or three marriages, who will care for the displaced spouses as they age?
  • Can they afford new housing?
  • Will there be money left over after paying mortgages to meet their healthcare needs or necessary modifications to the home to be able to age in place?
  • How will sandwich generation families care for seniors, young adults, themselves and their responsibilities?
  • Who will support sandwich generation caregivers?

Common Success Factors

As with any family, no matter the dynamics of divorce, blended families, relocation, aging in place or conflict, it is important to keep the line of communication open.

When seniors begin new households, move to be nearer family or end up farther away, or have multiple layers of family relationships to sort through, it will be important for family caregivers to remain flexible and remember why you are a caregiver.

You are doing it out of love for your senior.

We will continue to experience changes within our families, young and old, as life moves on. There really is no certainty except change.

How families look to the future, see the changes coming toward us and react positively to make things work for the entire family is up to you.

As a family unit you can overcome the challenge of change!

Connected Aging: Will Technology Help Seniors Live At Home Longer?

Regular followers of Senior Care Corner® know that we are advocates for technology to help seniors stay safe, healthy and happy, enabling them to age in place as long as possible.

We routinely cover topics about innovations in technology that are either directly meeting the needs of our senior loved ones in their homes or indirectly meeting those needs by helping family caregivers be more effective.

We recently learned about another great initiative we believe can be useful to family caregivers and the seniors they love.

Staying at home seems to be everyone’s goal, at least as long as they are safe. In fact in a recent poll, 91% of seniors age 50-90 report that they want to live in the own home. What’s even more important is that 96% say it’s important to be as independent as possible as they age.

Valuable Current Technology

There are numerous applications for our senior loved ones to use technology to fill the gaps in their care and to make their day more engaging.

These are just a few examples of how seniors engage with technology on a day to day basis to improve their health and wellness.

  • Internet connections – communicating with family members, grandchildren and friends around the globe through email, photo sharing, websites, Skype, FaceTime and other platforms that bring the family circle close to our seniors.
  • Telehealth – biometric monitors such as blood pressure monitors, weight, blood glucose, oxygen levels, text messaging, email and face to face screenings can prevent frequent hospitalizations for our seniors and help them connect with their health care team to adjust the treatment plan for improved health.
  • In-home monitoring – Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) have been around for many years and their capabilities to connect seniors with family caregivers and first responders continue to improve. There are sensors now that will pattern our seniors behavior and alert caregivers when they stray from that pattern which could signal trouble.
  • Smartphone Apps – Using a smartphone has opened up many possibilities for seniors. You name it and there is an app for that. You can store you medication list, advance directives, medical history, access the internet, quit smoking, get a medication reminder, read a book, or always have a magnifier and flashlight handy. Of course your senior can read email and takes photos too.
  • Wearables – Seniors can use devices from the vast selection of wearables to track their heart rate, help them manage their weight and track their fitness just like the ‘youngsters.’ There are more in development now that will do other important health related readings and upload the data directly to the doctor.

Aging Well Initiative

There is a collaborative that meets to explore solutions using technology that will help all of us, including our senior loved ones, age in place. The Aging Well Initiative is a partnership in research between Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and is essentially a think tank, trying to learn about and bring partners together to solve issues related to technology adoption to benefit seniors.

They found that, despite the statistics that most of us want to age in place at home, only 21% of those polled have plans to use technology to help them maintain their independence.

This initiative is trying to change that number by encouraging efforts that will cause older adults to accept technology and adopt it into their lives to improve their independence over the coming years.

In order for more seniors to adopt the current and near future technology they want it to meet these criteria:

  • Easy to use – avoiding making a technology solution too difficult to learn, start up or keep accessing is important. It needs to work with all types of abilities, including arthritic fingers or diminished eyesight.
  • It all works together – they don’t want fifteen devices and cords in order to take health measurements, getting the information to the doctor, getting a response, change their treatment plan and then communicating that with their family caregiver. Make it connected.
  • Security – is their information private, can they safely share health information or will their identity be at risk?
  • Cost – it has to be affordable. The initial cost of equipment and set up as well as the ongoing cost of connectivity must be something that brings them value on a fixed income. Can their insurance pay the costs associated with telehealth?
  • Way to connect – will they be able to connect? Some seniors either are not in a location that has access or can’t afford the connection to the internet and wireless services in order to make use of the latest technology.
  • Learning curve – can seniors be taught, who will teach them and who will help them troubleshoot when things go wrong? The fear of technology is strong for many seniors.

Overcoming Barriers to Adoption

Aging seniors and their family caregivers are beginning to adopt more technology into their lives as they begin to see the value in certain applications.

It is interesting to note that, despite the fact that learning how to use technology is a strong barrier for many seniors and one report stating that family caregivers may actually be standing in the way of seniors adopting technology, the poll found that 75% of caregivers think teaching tech to seniors would be fun.

What’s more, 66% of seniors receiving care reported that they are ready to learn about technology.

What is holding family caregivers back from getting their senior loved ones connected?

It seems family caregivers are finding it hard to find time they expect it will take to bring the latest technology to their seniors. Just doing all the daily tasks required to provide care is limiting their ability to find, procure and teach senior loved ones innovations that could improve their quality of life and ease the caregiver burden.

In our experience, some family members seem convinced their senior loved ones won’t like or be able to learn to use technology and thus see an attempt as a waste of time. More often then not, there is a pleasant surprise when they decide to try.

72% of family caregivers report that they are capable and knowledgeable enough to teach their senior’s about technology if time permitted. 82% believe that technology can make aging a better experience.

However, if there were some extra hours in the day or week to teach their seniors about technology which could benefit them all, caregivers report that they would spend that time in pursuit of other activities including spending time with personal errands and their own family unit or even on entertainment not involved with their care recipient.

Tech Should Benefit Caregivers, Too

The Aging Well Initiative believes that in order to be successful at connecting seniors with technology it is important that “instead of just focusing on the physical well-being of the care recipient, we now know that technology solutions need to be mutually beneficial, giving the caregiver time back in their day, as well as addressing the social and emotional needs of the care recipient, in order to have a meaningful impact on both their lives.”

While many are waiting for the next innovative device or application or those that are currently here to be developed further in some way, seniors and their caregivers may be missing out on opportunities that are available now.

There are tech solutions that can help you and your senior loved ones now. Small steps today could make it easier to attempt the bigger ones in the future.

Perhaps if you don’t have the time to get started, you might know a teen in the family who would love to take the lead!

Stretching the Dollars in Nutrition Budgets of Our Senior Loved Ones

Many seniors need additional help to make ends meet when they face the rising cost of living on a fixed income.

Their costs for health care, housing and medications could be squeezing their budget to the point of breaking leaving too little money for food.

Do your senior loved ones face this? Would they let you know if they did?

The consequences of financial instability and limited grocery buying power for many seniors trying to age in place is poor nutrition – – for some, even malnutrition.

It is estimated that in 2013 there were 5.4 million seniors over the age of 60 who were food insecure in America – they were hungry and had limited access to nourishing food. Food insecurity also encompasses a senior’s ability to have the resources they need to purchase, prepare or consume adequate nutrition.

AARP puts the number of seniors at risk for hunger at 10 million.

Seniors who are food insecure are at risk for chronic health problems, including depression, heart attack, and congestive heart failure, among others. Not eating right also leads to sarcopenia or muscle loss, which can result in an inability to age in place due to frequent falls and safety concerns.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

In order to help seniors stay healthy, the federal government created the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a way to make it possible for seniors to stretch their limited budgets and purchase food.

Food can be obtained from the local supermarket, farmer’s market, convenience stores and co-op food programs. There is something new on the horizon — home delivered meals may soon also be covered.

SNAP benefits are paid monthly on a card called an electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, card. It works like a debit card with the total of each purchase deducted from the month’s allotment.

You can check your senior’s eligibility for SNAP benefits (and other government assistance programs) via the BenefitsCheckUp.org site or by using this confidential calculator.

Your senior could be eligible for SNAP benefits if they are collecting a pension or Social Security.  A variety of factors are taken into consideration when determining eligibility including healthcare costs. They can own their own home, live with family or in subsidized housing. IRA, savings and assets including their house are not counted in the eligibility process.

Applying for SNAP

Your senior can apply via a telephone interview or in person beginning at age 60. Here is a SNAP Local Office Locator that can help you find the closest office.

Each state has its own application form, office and hotline number. Here is a locator for hotline numbers to call which are toll-free. Many states also take your application online.

Depending on your senior’s state, you may need these documents:

  • Driver’s license or state ID cared
  • Birth certificate
  • Pay stubs
  • Agency letter for funds your senior may be receiving such as Social Security or VA benefits
  • Mortgage statement or rental agreement
  • Utility bill
  • Cancelled check if your senior supports a child
  • Medical bills

Using Benefits for Nutrition

Once your senior has been deemed eligible and receives their EBT card, it is time to go shopping!

There is a store locator that will help you learn which stores accept the EBT card nearest your senior.

Help your senior make healthy food choices to make the most of their SNAP benefits. It is helpful to buy with grocery sales to make their money goes as far as possible.

Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain items and other healthy food items so that senior’s can stay healthy and strong.

SNAP benefits cover –

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Energy drinks with a nutrition fact label (not a supplement fact label)
  • Plants and seeds to grow your own

SNAP benefits don’t cover –

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Pet food
  • Soap and grooming items
  • Paper goods
  • Vitamins or minerals
  • Medication
  • Hot food (coming soon: home delivered meals!)

You and your senior can attend classes in nutrition, meal preparation, stretching your food budget and shopping from the SNAP-Ed nutrition education classes near you. Some ‘junk foods’ are eligible for purchase with your senior’s EBT card but are not healthy choices. You and your senior are encouraged to use your benefit for the healthiest food possible.

Your senior can designate someone to shop for them using their EBT by completing the Authorized Representative Form.

Once obtained, the benefits will be in place for two years without needing to update your senior’s information.

Caregivers Can Help

Family caregivers can help their seniors access and use their SNAP benefits.

You can help them overcome the two chief barriers many seniors find to enroll in SNAP.

  1. Lack of knowledge about the program and how it can help them. Many seniors and their families are not aware that this program exists. Some, who may know about the program, have heard that the benefits received are too low to bother applying. This is not always the case however and even a small benefit is worth the effort when seniors health is in the balance. Getting benefits for your senior will not reduce the benefits others receive. You won’t know if your senior qualifies until you apply.
  2. Difficulty faced when trying to enroll. Some who may have tried to connect their senior loved one with benefits found that the customer service attitude was a barrier. Many found it hard or felt uncomfortable with the process. As with any government program with forms and red tape, try again until you are able to access benefits to which your senior is entitled.

Other Ways to Address Senior Hunger

There are also other ways to connect your senior to healthy food that you can initiate if they are having trouble financially.

There are local congregate meal programs as part of the Area Agency on Aging that provide meals and socialization at the senior center.

You can investigate having home delivered meals sent to your senior loved one.

You can enlist friends and family in sharing a meal a week that they cook for or with your senior loved one or have them take your senior out to dine. Not only will nutrition get a boost, but also their social engagement.

Being sure your senior puts health and well-being first and helping them make good nutrition a reality will enable them to have an improved quality of life as they age in place.

Family Caregivers Seek Training in Skills Needed to Provide Care

Family caregivers who have begun caring for their senior loved ones are being challenged by tasks that they have never done.

There are things they need to do each day requiring physical strength many don’t have.

There are also medically complex tasks family caregivers often just don’t have the skills to complete.

Family caregivers are finding completing these tasks more difficult and frustrating thanAge Proof Your Brain: Tips to Keep Your Noggin Young http://www.northwestpharmacy.com/healthperch/age-proof-your-brain/ they ever thought they would be for them. They need help from others and training from healthcare professionals to meet the needs of their senior loved ones who are trying to stay at home.

Caregiver Challenges

What type of activities do caregivers often feel unprepared to complete?

According to an October 2012 AARP Public Policy Institute report called Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care:

  • 46% of family caregivers were performing medical/nursing tasks for individuals with “multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions”
  • 78% of family caregivers were managing multiple medications for their seniors
  • 35% of family caregivers providing wound care requested more training
  • 53% of family caregivers acted as care coordinators
  • They also prepare food for special diets, administering IV fluids, performed injections, managing incontinence and physically transfer seniors
  • 1 in 5 family caregivers are spouses; many are not receiving home help or family support while providing medical treatments

Family caregivers who provided complex care, including medical tasks normally performed by trained healthcare personnel, thought that by completing these duties they were keeping their senior loved ones at home and out of institutions.

Even those tasks that are routine, which many would think not that difficult to achieve, such as household chores, cooking, dressing, bathing or toileting can be overwhelming for caregivers. Some caregivers are themselves aging and finishing many of these duties for themselves, not to mention for another person, can be pressed to the limits of what they can handle.

Caregiver Training

There are ways that family caregiver can learn about providing care that has in the past been performed by trained medical personnel. While there really isn’t a user’s guide for caring for a senior loved one, there are ways to learn.

  1. Online caregiver certification programs – there are many different kinds of training programs in which family caregivers can enroll to learn tasks essential to caring for their senior loved ones. There are programs specific to a disease state or treatment that you can find. The Alzheimer’s’ Association has certification training modules for dementia caregivers. Online training can be obtained for First Aid, Wound Care, Coping Strategies, Dealing with Conflict, Promoting Mobility, Medication Management and more topics needed by caregivers. Some of these programs are free and others have a reasonably low cost for caregivers.
  2. There are e-learning modules that show you important care principles and topics of interest to learn more about a specific area of need that you might have.
  3. DVDs and books are available on a wide variety of subjects of interest for caregivers.
  4. Cooking classes especially for certain diseases such as heart disease (low fat cooking) and diabetes that will help you prepare healthy meals.
  5. Hospital-based teaching from healthcare professionals is available in many communities. If your senior is hospitalized or in a rehab facility, the professionals should instruct you on the treatment plan so that you can continue it at home.
  6. Support group participants often have many caregiving tips that can help you learn to provide care to make things easier.

Yomiuri Shimbun Method

Yomiuri Shimbun is a method of transferring a person without strenuous lifting on the part of the family caregiver. It is being used in Japan and much of Europe.

This technique involves the use of sliding sheets strategically placed. It can help you lift someone or adjust their position while lying in bed or in a wheelchair.

Using this method reduces the pressure and risk of injury for both the caregiver and the senior loved one.

If your senior has slid down in the bed, especially in a hospital bed that allows the head of the bed to automatically raise, you can more easily scoot them back into the proper position once the head of the bed is back in a recumbent position.

According to this technique, the head and shoulders are placed on a pillow with a sliding sheet placed under the shoulder blades and another under their buttocks. Your senior’s knees are bent upward and a no skid sheet placed under their feet for resistance. The senior then lifts at the waist to scoot up toward the head of the bed. If they are unable to do so, a sheet or heavy towel is placed under their hips. The caregiver then pulls up carefully using the towel or sheet to scoot them back into position. This allows them to move without being lifted.

A similar technique is used in a wheelchair. This is especially helpful when your senior scoots their bottom to the front of the wheelchair and is in danger of slipping out. It helps you scoot their bottom back into the chair without lifting.

Your senior loved one should assist with these movements as much as possible but using a modified technique such as this can prevent injury for both caregiver and senior. It might take a few minutes more to maneuver but the benefits will be worth the extra effort for both of you.

Caregivers Want Support

The efforts for fundraising and building awareness for a cure for specific diseases goes on every day. We hear in the media and are contacted personally for our donations to fight this disease and find a cure for that disease.

However, when asked, family caregivers would prefer funds be set aside for support for them to handle the daily caregiving tasks according to a recent study.

Of course a cure for disease, especially dementia, is important but because ten times more money is spent in research compared to supporting caregivers, many wish money could be allocated to help them personally provide care.

When funding options were ranked by participants of a recent study, caregivers’ number one need was funding to support them. Number two was money for long term care and number three was funding for a cure. Fourth in their ranking was person-centered education and training and lastly on the list was advocacy to reduce stigma of dementia.

The National Plan for Alzheimer’s has been spending the lion’s share of available funds on research. Caregivers shared their feeling that because there will likely be no cure for dementia in their lifetime and perhaps even in their children’s’ or grandchildren’s lifetimes they wished that funds could be provided to help support caregivers.

By whatever means caregivers learn more about performing the necessary day to day tasks they need to complete to provide the proper care for their senior loved ones as they try to stay at home longer, the need is great for more educational opportunities.

It may take more than one learning session to master some of the medical tasks today’s caregivers are called upon to perform.

Healthcare professionals can help with user-friendly models to train caregivers and the support them as they journey through the world of medical management of their senior loved ones.

State of Diabetes Care – How We Can Help Seniors Manage Theirs

Our knowledge of diabetes care, risk factors and the status of diabetes treatments is updated every two years.

Also tracked are the trends in diabetes care that can be used to focus our efforts toward prevention strategies.

The latest Diabetes Report Card was recently published by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC’s ultimate goal is to improve medical care for those with diabetes and prevent diabetes-related deaths in the United States.

Diabetes Explained

Diabetes occurs when our blood sugar is high due to a failure of our bodies to make enough insulin or the inability to use the available insulin well enough to moderate the glucose in our blood.

The danger of diabetes comes from its complications when not controlled including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, amputation and early death.

Did you know that each year more than 200,000 people die because of their diabetes? Or that it is the seventh leading cause of death? Or that 86 million of us have prediabetes, which puts us at risk not only for developing diabetes but also heart disease and stroke?

What is new in this report and what have we learned in the last two years about diabetes? Is there something different that those with diabetes or pre-diabetes should be doing to manage their disease?

Let’s see what this latest report tells us so that we can help our senior loved ones (or ourselves) better manage diabetes if we have it or prevent it if we don’t!

Diabetes Report Card

Probably the most promising news coming from data collected in this year’s report is the fact that the epidemic of incidence of diabetes is slowing. That is not to say that the numbers of those diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t continue to be alarmingly high, because it is.

Many people are still unaware that they have diabetes or prediabetes — an estimated 8.1 million — because there are few symptoms.

The prevalence of diabetes in each region of the country was analyzed and it was found that the southern states had the highest number of diabetes diagnoses. Because this area of 15 southeastern states has an especially high prevalence of diabetes it has been termed the Diabetes Belt.

This is not a term of honor.

The complications of diabetes are not just health-related but very costly. The report states that the cost of direct medical care for good and services is $176 billion. It also led to indirect costs from lost work, restricted activity, disability and early death for a total of $69 billion.

Our healthcare system is burdened with these costs when diabetes can be prevented.

More Could Better Manage Their Diabetes

Not only is prevention a key strategy for diabetes in the US but also helping those who are currently diagnosed better manage their disease. Those who have poorly controlled diabetes are at much greater risk for complications and these complications are more severe.

Due to prevention strategies enacted by the CDC as part of the Healthy People 2020 initiatives, the rate of five major complications declined in those diagnosed with diabetes – heart attack, stroke, amputations, end stage renal disease and death due to hyperglycemia.

Like the overall rate of disease, the numbers are not growing but the total number is still too high and requires further treatment and education to impact it further.

One study recently published by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that 1 in 3 seniors with diabetes fail to manage their disease and don’t meet their treatment goals. The study appears in  the journal Diabetes Care.

We, as family caregivers of our senior loved ones, need to help them better manage their disease process for a better quality of life.

Caregivers Can Help Prevent Diabetes

You and your senior loved one can take steps to prevent diabetes as well as manage your own diagnosis for better overall health. Here are a few tips to get you and your senior started.

  • Know your senior’s risk factors – some you can change, some you can’t; you can’t change your age, family history of diabetes, ethnicity or race but you can change your physical activity level, reduce obesity and eat healthier.
  • Make changes to improve your senior’s health status to reduce the modifiable risk factors
    • Your senior should work towards improving his physical health to avoid obesity. He can also begin a regular program of physical activity as well as making healthy changes to his diet. Set a weight loss goal and work toward achieving a healthy weight.
    • Get tested for diabetes since your senior may not realize that she could be developing prediabetes and diabetes. The earlier your senior begins managing her blood sugar, the healthier she will be in the future.
    • Have regular blood pressure monitoring and cholesterol/blood lipid testing and control those factors with diet, exercise and medications as necessary.
  • Learn more about the National Diabetes Prevention Program led the by CDC. It is a lifestyle change program designed to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle coaches guide participants through education and group activities to become healthier. To find a program neat your senior, visit this registry for a locator.
  • If your senior is already diagnosed with diabetes, take advantage of self-management classes that can help you and your senior loved one control diabetes to prevent complications. Medicare covers the cost of diabetes education because it is so vital to regulate the disease.
  • Get regular annual dilated eye exams and foot exams to be sure you or your senior is not developing complications. Eye exams can also alert your senior if diabetes is a concern and yet undiagnosed.
  • To manage your senior’s diabetes, have A1C levels checked twice a year and complete daily self-monitoring of blood glucose.

Diet and Diabetes

One of the most dreaded fears of being diagnosed with diabetes is learning what you or your senior can eat.

Many people think they can no longer enjoy eating the way they want and will be stuck eating food that is tasteless. To a degree this statement is true. Perhaps you and your senior shouldn’t eat exactly as you were, there may be changes that need to be made to eat more healthy meals and snacks.

We recommend you both seek out a registered dietitian, who can help you create a personalized meal plan for you and your senior. Usually a dietitian is part of the team when you attend diabetes self-management education classes.

Here are some tips for eating with diabetes.

  • Don’t skip meals. Eat balanced meals consisting of protein, vegetables, fruits and starches. The MyPlate is a good guide for balance.
  • Don’t try to be sugar free in all things so that you avoid all sources of carbohydrates. You need glucose from starches for energy. Instead focus on carbohydrates including starches, fruits and dairy as a part of a balanced meal.
  • Not everyone needs a snack during the day, but if you take insulin be sure to eat a balanced snack before bedtime.
  • Include adequate amounts of fiber in your diet from whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use whole fruit in place of juices to get fiber and additional nutrients.
  • Maintain appropriate portions sizes.
  • Drink water between meals not juices or energy drinks.
  • Focus on making better food choices instead of depriving yourself of certain foods.
  • You can eat out being mindful of ordering a balanced meal with correct portions. It shouldn’t be a reason to stray from a healthy meal plan.
  • Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about how alcohol can fit into your meal plan.

You and your senior loved one can make the changes necessary to prevent diabetes especially if you are at greater risk. Once diagnosed, you can take control of your disease by managing it through education and action.

Enabling Caregivers and Seniors Themselves “To Know Me” on the Senior Care Corner® Show

Long-established habits, routines, likes and dislikes are common in senior adults.

Adherence to those can often make the difference between good and bad days, especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

Knowing those would be key to getting the personalized, compassionate care family members want for senior loved ones who live in senior living facilities or receive professional care at home.

But what if the senior is not able to communicate wishes and needs because they have Alzheimer’s or other dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke or another condition?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a resource to help caregivers to know and understand the older adults for whose care they are entrusted?

Louise Arkley & To Know Me Books

Louise Arkley faced just that situation when her mother was diagnosed with dementia and whose needs were being met in a care home.

When Louise wanted to help caregivers understand more about her mother, she developed a tool to do just that and To Know Me books were born.

To know Louise’s philosophy is to understand a lot about To Know Me books. She believes “if we know more about the person behind the condition, we can care more effectively and sensitively to their needs.”

Rather than go on about her story and books, we thought you would like to learn more directly from her. The feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Show is an interview Kathy conducted with Louise.

We are pleased to be able to bring this interview to you and hope you find it enlightening.

News Items in this Episode

In our continuing effort to keep you informed about news regarding the lives and care of senior loved ones, in this show we share two items we have found noteworthy.

  • FDA Approves First Pill Made by 3D Printing
  • High Television Viewing and Low Physical Activity Can Significantly Worsen Long Term Cognitive Function

You hear more on these updates in our recorded show.

This episode’s Quick Tip was prompted by our feature segment and questions we have received from seniors wanting to know how to get all those pictures they’ve taken off their smartphones.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

  • Dropbox cloud storage for photos and much more – Dropbox.com

We hope you will find this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Show informative and valuable. Please let us know if you have suggestions for interviews or topics you would like to hear in future shows.

Planning a Multigenerational Disney Vacation – Getting Ready to Go

We know that families take advantage of the summer time to take trips together and enjoy new experiences.

For some, the family vacation includes visiting far away family and for others it may be going somewhere new for an exciting adventure.

Families also like to travel together to places that are meant for fun, such as theme parks.

Families take vacations to create shared memories of doing activities everyone loves. These family trips are multigenerational with kids, adults and parents/grandparents — maybe even the family pet — jumping into the car and hitting the open road.

Well, maybe “jumping into the car” makes it sounds a bit easier than it is, especially with extended family.

One trip that many families look forward all year and plan and save up money to do is visiting the happiest place on earth and meeting Mickey and Minnie.

It is time to get ready because the trip is getting closer.

Planning for the Trip

The family decided that going to Disney is the travel experience they all want. The plan has been made, the date set, the hotel reservations are booked and the transportation determined.

Everyone will travel in a vehicle designed to carry eight passengers so there will be room to stretch out, carry the supplies and even the baby seat has room!

Here are a few other things that need to be done for a safe family trip:

  1. The vehicle has to have preventive maintenance for the long trip. It will need an oil change, tire pressure checked and rotated and any scheduled maintenance completed. We will check the windshield wipers and wiper fluid as well as other fluids to be sure that the drive will be safe.
  2. The family car will be cleaned inside and out so that everyone will be comfortable. The windows will be washed too so everyone will have a clear view especially the driver.
  3. We will check to be sure we have planned the route, have coins for any tolls and emergency supplies in case of a breakdown, such as flashlight, basic tools and jumper cables. There is a first aid kit in the car too.
  4. We need to plan for snacks or meals along the way. Everyone will be on a different eating schedule since the young ones need to eat more often and the older ones may need special types of foods or to avoid certain foods. Let’s go shopping and buy snacks, drinks, and foods for the hotel room too. Plan on storing them and keeping any cold foods cold.
  5. Because the family is going to Disney World, there will be many options for dining and activities. Now is the time to discuss what each person would like to do and even make reservations in the park or town for restaurants to stay on schedule. A little flexibility is fine and spontaneous adventure too, but some planning will make the trip more successful.
  6. The family can also purchase theme park tickets ahead of time and get their ‘magic bands’ so that quick entry into the park and any transportation systems within the park are handled smoothly.
  7. Investigating family activities that can be done outside of the theme park around town should be discussed and planned to fit into the park hopping days so that there is no confusion and everyone has a good experience.
  8. Let’s buy fresh sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, new clothes if needed, and tote bags to keep everything together. Are there supplies we need to carry into the park and how will we carry them – backpack, fanny pack or bag that can be stored in a locker? Does anyone need a swimsuit for the hotel pool?
  9. Do we have a stroller that can be used in the park or umbrellas? Do we need walkers or canes or other medical equipment? Will it all fit in the car?
  10. Do the seniors have their medications ready? How about pets medicine or vaccination record?
  11. Do we need a dog sitter at home or reservations for boarding for pets? Did we stop the paper and the mail yet? Can someone water the plants or check the house? Will we need to put the lights on timers to thwart criminals?

Packing Up the Bags

There are many things we need to remember to bring with us not just for fun but for health and safety too.

These are the things we need to pack:

  • Clothes, lightweight and quick drying as well as a jacket or sweater for cool areas.
  • Shoes – sneakers for the park, sandals for the pool
  • Hats, sunglasses
  • Swimsuit and cover-up
  • Phones and chargers
  • Cameras, games, batteries
  • Medications and needs for seniors
  • Toys, stroller, cups, diapers, wipes, bibs, and other baby supplies
  • Pet needs, water bowl, food, rabies tag, leash, bed, toy

If only we could remember to pack that one thing we always seem to forget!

Setting Up the Ground Rules

Because this is a multigenerational endeavor, we have to think of the needs of each one of the family members.

  • Do our senior loved ones need to stop every one or two hours to stretch their legs or go to the bathroom?
  • Does the baby need a diaper change in between the usual stops?
  • Will someone need to eat at an unusual time in order to take their medications?
  • Is there a particular temperature at which the car needs to be held in order to satisfy different people who may want it hot or cold? Is everyone properly prepared for a variation in temperature?
  • Does everyone like the family pet, who might be along for the ride, or would they prefer to be seated away from the pet for the duration?
  • Does the hotel accommodate the youngsters and seniors with amenities to meet their diverse needs?
  • Can we agree to the activities we all enjoy once we reach the Magic Kingdom or will we need to spend some time each day split up to be certain everyone gets a chance to do exactly what they dream of doing?
  • Have we planned in naptimes and sleep times and wake up times that are mutually agreeable? Once they are determined, will everyone comply so some aren’t left waiting around to get the day started?
  • Can we agree to disagree sometimes, to forgive and forget? Sometimes family vacations can be stressful for the family harmony.
  • Does one person love to shop and others just want to ride the rides while another just wants to see all the shows? Discuss how much time is going to be spent pleasing each person.

Making Memories Last

Being with the family, doing things together, having time to talk and getting opportunities to create memories are all major benefits of taking a family trip.

While every minute will not be joyous, most will be!

Be sure to capture the memories in photo, video or in your own hand. Create a video diary or photo album to savor these memories for years to come. It’s is so easy to do, with most of the family carrying smartphones.

Record the stories that come unbidden between your seniors and the younger kids. These are stories of a life well lived that will be worth remembering.

Drag out the albums, the photos, the videos and the stories at the next holiday family gathering. Everyone will enjoy reliving the fun times and sharing them with other family members when everyone gathers around the family dinner table.

We should live every day like it is a holiday, being thankful and spending time with family, and looking hopefully to the future. ~ Unknown

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”  ~ Michael J. Fox

Latest Alzheimer’s Disease News and Insights for Family Caregivers

Under even normal circumstances, being a family caregiver can be tough.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia increases the caregiving challenge.

Caregivers who are caring for people with dementia face more challenges than family caregivers who are not helping someone with dementia.

Those caring for a loved one with dementia have to overcome behaviors that can be difficult to manage including aggression, confusion, wandering, inability to communicate and reasoning with the person with dementia.

These added challenges can be a cause for frustration, stress and fatigue for family caregivers.

If you are the child of the person with dementia, you are also concerned that you might be genetically predisposed to also having dementia and seek ways to prevent it from occurring to you or your children. This is a definite added stressor.

Caregiver Statistics

We know that the numbers of caregivers are quite high and climbing every day. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is beginning to affect more people as well.

  • According to AARP, in 2013 there were 40 million family caregivers providing 37 billion (yes, with a “b”) hours of care.
  • 60% of family caregivers work full or part time in addition to the 18 hours a week they provide care to loved ones.
  • In 2014, there were more than 15 million caregivers of people with dementia.
  • There were 5.3 people in the US in 2015 with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • For caregivers who provide care for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, 60% report emotional stress is high or very high and 40% themselves suffer from depression.

Let’s see what help might be on the horizon for those who care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Alzheimer’s Caregivers

More than 5 million families confront caregiving responsibilities for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and this care can result in health problems for these hardworking caregivers.

A recent study has investigated the toll this level of caregiving takes on the primary family caregiver and the results are a bit disturbing.

Watching the progressive effects of Alzheimer’s on your senior loved one can mean changes for the caregiver. It can be hard to watch someone you love change before your eyes and become increasingly dependent on you for care.

Researchers from Duke University, Johns Hopkins University and Utah State University found that caregivers who are caring for someone with dementia are six time more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease too!

Researchers feel that the link may be that caregivers and the person with dementia have lived with the same lifestyle factors that may contribute to dementia including activity, diet, and stressors which are then combined with the additional stress of caregiving.

Caregivers also forget about themselves — or simply ignore their own needs — as they focus their time and attention on the well-being of their senior loved ones. They stop putting a priority on their own health needs, stop finding ways to relax, and don’t often get the nutrition or exercise that is so important to cognition and quality of life.

New Diagnostic Tests

There are often two schools of thought about a dementia diagnosis. You either don’t want to know because you can’t alter the course or you want to know as soon as possible to make plans and make the most of your time together.

In order to learn as early as possible so that you and your senior loved one can make changes in lifestyle, get documents and wishes in order, improve your home for aging in place and do whatever they would like to do before their cognition impairs their quality of life, it is important to get as early a diagnosis as possible.

The earlier you know the diagnosis, hopefully new treatment or clinical trials promising hope can be initiated and be more effective.

There are several ways doctors can make a diagnosis if dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is present, unlike in years past when an autopsy was the only viable way to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Biomarkers can be measured via lab testing and imaging but they have not been found to be reliable at this time, but testing continues.
  • Neuroimaging is currently the most promising area of research into early detection. They are using MRI, CT and PET scans.
  • Mental status testing to assess memory and thinking skills can be done by the doctor in about 10 minutes. Longer testing can be done to assess thinking and memory results and comparing them to your peers.
  • Testing saliva for certain compounds that can indicate a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is currently under investigation.
  • Do it yourself Alzheimer’s test that can be done at home was developed by researchers at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State. It is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam or SAGE. It has 12 questions and takes only a few minutes. It is not a diagnosis but a starting point to discuss with your doctor.

New Drug Could Be a “Game Changer”

Currently being tested in clinical trials with people who are not yet exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease but who have been deemed at risk for the development of dementia due to the buildup of amyloid plaques seen under brains scan is a new drug that has been called a game changer.

This new treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia may slow down or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers of the A4 Study.

The drug is called Solanezumab and trials are underway with, hopefully, exciting news for treatment of dementia.

Currently there are five FDA approved medications that are used for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but they are temporary and don’t treat the cause of Alzheimer’s. It is currently the only cause of death in the top 10 that can’t be prevented, slowed or cured.

Other Drug Innovations

There is a great deal of research currently taking place targeting drugs that will attack the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and not just treat the overt symptoms.

  1. Tau protein tangles – researchers are seeking a way to prevent the tau proteins in the brain from twisting leading to brain impairment.
  2. Inflammation – it has been determined that inflammation in the brain caused by an immune response attacking beta-amyloid plaques can impact the thinking areas of the brain, beta-amyloid is referred to as a ‘splinter’ in your brain of which your body tries to rid itself but this process also damages healthy brain tissue. Because this process may not be working well enough in dementia, healthy nerve cells in the brain are affected. To prevent this damage, drug treatments that can help remove amyloid are under investigation. The goal is to “immunize” people with beta-amyloid antibodies to stimulate their immune system to fight against damage caused by plaque buildup.
  3. Insulin resistance – it may be that people at risk for dementia have difficulty processing insulin, which could affect the brain. How the cells of the brain use sugar and create energy for its proper functioning is being explored. People with diabetes have been shown to have a 65% higher rate of dementia.

Create an Individualized Plan for the Future

The Alzheimer’s Association has a link on their website called Alzheimer’s Navigator. On this site you can map out a plan of action when you face Alzheimer’s disease.

Here you create your own personal plan. There are guides for the information you need to make informed choices, support for the caregiver, home safety and accommodations, how to help with daily caregiving tasks and much more.

It can help connect you with the support and services you need to make your personal journey a little easier.

The more we know and learn through research and clinical trials will benefit those with dementia and their caregivers.

We will be on the lookout for future advances, clinical trials and new treatments as they continue to be released.