Giving Holiday Magic to Seniors in Need, Now & Throughout the Year

The holiday season often leads to thoughts of what we can do to assist others in need, especially when we have what we need for our own senior loved ones.

The data from the last census tells us that one in six seniors lives below the federal poverty level. At 16%, the proportion of seniors living in poverty is also higher than the proportion of all Americans in poverty according the data.

The bottom line is that millions of seniors are suffering while trying to meet their basic needs.

Many of us are familiar with the work done by food banks, soup kitchens and those who provide holiday meals in shelters that are found across the country. But what about those seniors who are homebound, have no access to transportation to get to these sites, are disabled, or have no family to provide enhancements whether they are living at home or in a facility?

Who is thinking about helping them or giving them some treats of the season?

How about you? Do you have time or money to give to help seniors in your community during the holiday season but don’t know where to look?

Programs Helping Seniors in Need

There are many programs we have found that are reaching out to seniors who might be alone and in need of a little extra attention (and supplies) during the holidays.

There are seniors in your area who are in need of help and outreach projects that are serving them, but here are just a few examples of programs to which you can offer your support.

The Humanitarian Service Project –  Senior Citizen Project

This project serves seniors in DuPage County, Illinois who have limited access to transportation and few, if any, family ties. The Senior Citizen Project delivers to seniors over 100 pounds of nutritious food each month. Fresh produce includes 15 assorted fruits and vegetables, 7 different frozen meats, fresh bread, 6 bags of non-perishable food, and paper products including toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue.

Seniors also receive household products, personal care items, and special gifts from their Secret Pals. Volunteers deliver these items right to the homes of the needy seniors at no cost to them.

The wish list program invites the senior to request items like televisions, microwaves, couches, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners to make everyday living more comfortable, or medical assistive devices such as wheelchairs, etc.

DOROT’s Thanksgiving Meal Delivery

DOROT’s holiday meal delivery program “Brighten the day of a senior! Deliver a traditional Thanksgiving meal along with a gift to an older person and visit for about an hour.” Located in New York.

Volunteers needed to help elderly live with dignity at home, generation to generation caregiving.

Seniors have the option of coming to share a meal with the group at the center or have a meal delivered to their home for Thanksgiving.

Seasonal Home Maintenance at Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for Seniors (HOME)

In the city of Chicago you can help weatherize the house of a senior in need with the H.O.M.E. program. Help seniors prepare their home for the harsh winter to come. Training and materials are provided.

The goal of this program is to facilitate aging in place as long as possible and practical for each senior.

The Angel Tree Program

The Salvation Army’s highest profile Christmas effort was created in 1979 by Majors Charles and Shirley White. This program can be found throughout the country and serves not only children but seniors in need as well.

You select an angel from the tree for a senior which include their wish list. You fulfill the wish and return the gifts it to the site of the tree. Volunteers then deliver the gifts near the holidays.

Look for an angel tree in your community or contact your local Salvation Army for more details.

Catholic Charities

The programs sponsored by Catholic Charities in your area also sponsor families and seniors who are in need of some Christmas cheer. You can locate the agency nearest you to see if you can assist their program.

Holiday Dinner Baskets for Homebound Seniors

This program from So Others May Eat (SOME) says “Would you like to help a homebound senior this holiday season? You can provide holiday food baskets! Filled with all of the trimmings, these baskets will be delivered to low-income seniors.”

This group works in Washington DC. You make the food basket using the list they provide and drop off to them for distribution.

Meals on Wheels

Through Meals on Wheels, across the country meals are provided to homebound seniors throughout the year. Volunteers deliver meals and socialize with the seniors they serve.

At the holiday, usually special holiday meals and even treats are given through this program. Contact your local program to see how you can help using this locator.

Support Senior Programs in Your Community

The programs we discussed above are just a sampling of programs that have caught our eye over time. There are many, many more great ones providing benefit to seniors across the country.

We urge you to seek out and support programs in your own community. These programs are only going to see more demand for their services as the senior population grows and puts a greater strain on all the resources available to serve them.

As with many things, you might learn the most about what is in your community with a quick Google search. Of course, local government agencies and senior centers might also point you in the right direction, but you may get the most full picture from a web search. Keep in mind. some programs operate on a shoestring budget and may not have a web presence, but most today are at least on Facebook, if they don’t have standalone sites, finding being online is needed in many eyes to have credibility.

As with donating to any cause, you should check out senior programs before you lend your support. Visit them or ask around to ensure the program is legitimate and one you will feel good supporting.

Keep in mind, too, that money is not the only way you can support local programs. They may find any time you can give them even more valuable than money!

Holidays Aren’t the Only Time of Need

During the holidays, we want to share the spirit of the season with those in need of some help. However, it is nice to remember that most of the programs that help vulnerable seniors could use our help at other times during the year. Most food banks give meals every week, Meals on Wheels are delivered daily during the week, and aging service organizations have opportunities to volunteer in many ways.

If you have the time, you could share your talents (or treasure) with organizations near you that help our seniors.

Family caregivers are very busy people who don’t always have extra time for other ‘jobs’ and could often use help themselves. Still, if you have the resources and desire to help seniors you will be reminded that in giving to others we end up being the recipients of something special ourselves.

Happy Holidays to you and your senior loved one!



Giving Thanks to Family Caregivers and Those Who Support Their Efforts

Successful family caregivers provide for the needs of their loved ones while finding a way to navigate their own busy day and complete it with a sense of fulfillment.

They don’t do it alone, but lean on the support of a broad network to make their successful day happen smoothly.

But just what does that mean and how can you do it too?

Family caregivers who can end their day saying it was a job well done, no major chaos happened, and who feel as though they accomplished a good part of their to-do list may well have gotten some assistance from someone in their network.

Caregivers Need the Help of Others

Having a broad network is a key component to being a successful family caregiver, avoiding feeling constant stress or being at risk for burnout.

To keep your network happy and supportive, it is important to show them your appreciation regularly.

When those who assist you feel their efforts were noticed and appreciated, they will want to stay involved.

Showing gratitude does not only improve the well-being of the person who receives the thanks but also the person who is giving thanks.

Caregivers will find that when they give praise to people in their caregiving network, they will feel happier too.

Who In Your Network Will You Thank?

Our caregiving networks can be rich with a wide assortment of helpers and supporters or maybe just a small number of caring people.

The depth of your network will depend on your situation and the scope of needs that have to be met.

The longer we are family caregivers the more likely we are providing around-the-clock care, meeting many needs for our senior loved ones.

It is especially important to have a large network when care needs are that significant.

Who might you have in your network, supporting you as a family caregiver?

  • Hopefully your network will include family members, such as children or siblings, of you and your senior loved one.
  • You should have someone from your senior’s healthcare team that you can call upon anytime it is needed.
  • Home helpers, paid caregivers, community agencies that can support your needs, transportation assistance, and even local delivery people to bring you what you need.
  • Emotional supporters should be at the ready for you, to lend an ear or a shoulder on which to cry. That might be a family member, close friend, or a faith provider.
  • You should have someone who can sit with your senior loved one, such as a companion (paid or volunteer), so that you can go to the doctor yourself, get your hair done, or just have lunch with a friend.
  • Your network should include people who can provide socialization to your senior loved one, such as longtime friends, clubs, respite programs, or children.
  • You should have a responsible party or parties available to you, either from an organization or a paid group, who can give you respite for a weekend or longer so you can take a much needed break.
  • You should also seek out support groups that can give you not only emotional support and friendship but knowledge about what you face as a caregiver.

It takes time to build a network so it doesn’t appear overnight. You might like to read our article 10 Steps for Caregivers to Build a Strong and Effective Network if you’re not sure how to do it.

Time of Giving Thanks

Once you have your network functioning, you will realize just how important these people are in your life — and what they mean to the care you provide your senior loved one. How many times you will call upon them even if only just to have a ‘real conversation’ some days.

They will be invaluable to you in one way or another throughout the year.

This time of the year is a great time to tell them exactly how important they are to you.

A thank you will cement your relationship and may make the difference in how appreciated they feel so that they will continue to support you whenever needed in the future.

We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day that, though we think about how special the people in your network are to your caregiving life, we don’t always say it out loud.

During this season of Thanksgiving, you might want to take the opportunity to express your thanks to these special people.

Showing Appreciation

You probably already have thoughts about how you would like to say thanks to your loved ones, but just in case you need some inspiration, here are some tips about new ways to give your gratitude!

  1. Write a note. You can always get a special occasion card that will say thanks for you but add a personal note telling them about special things that they do for you that touches your heart or just gets you through some days. Everyone would love to receive a personal, handwritten message that shows how much you care.
  2. Purchase a gift certificate to include in your card. A movie or dinner gift card or a gift certificate to their favorite place such as a coffee shop. You can usually pick this up at the grocery or drug store which you visit every week so doesn’t require a special trip. You can get a gift card when you go to the pharmacy to fill prescriptions.
  3. Make a gift basket. It need not be big, but include a few small items including bath salts, hand sanitizer, calming tea, hot cocoa, sachets, candy, or any items that are there favorites that will combine to give them a pick me up or a quick rest!
  4. Give them their favorite book and add a short note in the book jacket to express your appreciation.
  5. Give them a massage coupon to a local masseuse.
  6. Make them a movie gift basket including a a special DVD, popcorn (maybe a fun flavored variety), box of candy and other treats for a fun night in!
  7. Homemade cookies, dessert, soup, casserole or something special made with love!
  8. If you are crafty, make something that evokes a memory, such as a picture frame with favorite photo, a knit scarf, a bookmark, or some other item from your home to theirs. Perhaps you could even make a holiday ornament for the tree! If you like to do something fun, you could make some hand scrolled mugs filled with calming tea like I have done in the photo at the top of the post.
  9. Give them a CD of their favorite music. Perhaps a holiday collection, a comedy tape or church hymns.  Whatever will inspire them through song.
  10. Find an appropriate piece of jewelry that has meaning such as guardian angel pin, a car angel ornament, or a bracelet. It doesn’t have to be expensive just picked with love.

You might be thinking, “those are all things I wish someone would give to me”! That is exactly the point.

If you would like receiving it, and would feel appreciated if it were given to you, then you are on the right track!

You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time or money finding these items either. You can get most of these things easily either at the grocery, pharmacy, or our own store, The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, where we have a selection of items for caregivers. You might even find something to give yourself!

Your love will show through in any gift your choose!

Feeling gratitude & not expressing it is like wrapping a present & not giving it.

~~William Arthur Ward




Amazon Best Sellers in Caregiver Gifts

[amazon bestseller=”thank yous for caregivers” items=”8″ grid=”4″]

Cyber Attack Prevention for Personal Medical Devices and Data – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Protecting our senior’s digital footprint has been a growing concern for many family caregivers.

Lately a new menace has emerged which can be life-threatening for seniors (and caregivers) – cyber attacks of medical identity and the very medical devices that, in some instances, keep our seniors alive.

We recently discussed cyber security with a former U.S. Secret Service deputy director, who stated that identity threat should not be our primary concern anymore. He stated medical data breaches were more dangerous, cyber criminals stealing your health records. A social security number will sell on the dark web for 50 cents, but your medical record can be sold for $50, so is much more desirable by criminals.

The statistics are frightening. A medical data theft will occur at healthcare systems, though they are currently working hard to protect your data. In a recent survey, 91% of the healthcare organizations surveyed had one data breach during the past two years, 39% experienced two to five breaches, and 40% had more than five.

No Alerts for Stolen or Altered Health Data

Unlike an identity theft, no bank or credit card will alert you when your data has been stolen. Seniors will only uncover this particular theft when an emergency strikes and they need medical care, only to discover that their health data has been altered without their knowledge.

How will they know this? It could be only at the worst possible time, such as when your senior gets an emergency blood transfusion with the wrong blood type, is given a medication to which they are allergic, or are not resuscitated when they wanted everything done, because some criminal has stolen their health identity to get drugs illegally and changed your senior’s data to suit their needs.

Unfortunately, one of these or many other potential situations could be life threatening if the wrong treatment — or no treatment — is given based on bogus information in your senior’s medical record.

Blockchain technology put in place by healthcare systems may be the best way to counteract health data breaches but that is still in the future.

Another threat is hacking of their medical devices, especially those intended to keep them alive such as pacemakers or continuous delivery insulin pumps. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with manufacturers to prevent criminals from easily breaching medical devices, with the help of researchers who have already found loopholes which allowed hacking.

While no specific incident of medical device hacking injuring a person has been reported, one FDA official has said that any internet connected device is capable of being hacked and security measures must be implemented to protect consumers.

What can seniors and family caregivers do to protect them from becoming victims of this harmful type of cyber crime?

FDA’s Advice to Mitigate Cybersecurity Risk

The FDA has these warnings to consumers and tips to help us all lessen the risk of criminals hacking our medical devices.

  1. Don’t just turn on a connected medical device and use it without reading the instructions carefully. Make note of how the device looks in normal operation, such as indicator lights or readouts, and when it is not working as intended. Keep the instructions handy or bookmark them in your browser for quick reference.
  2. Be sure any medical device has been fully updated (firmware, operating system, or software) and continues to receive new updates, which can protect it from cyber attacks. Contact the physician who has prescribed or implanted devices for more information about needed updates.
  3. Be aware of firmware updates with security patches and watch for premature battery depletion, which could signal unusual activity levels and indicate malfunction/hacking.
  4. If your senior has any medical devices, don’t neglect routine care and follow-up healthcare appointments to check the effectiveness and safety of the devices to ensure proper functioning.
  5. Seek medical care immediately for any symptoms of dizziness, chest pain, or loss of consciousness.
  6. Do not ignore device alerts.
  7. If using specific types of insulin pumps, deactivate the remote bolus options which could allow hackers in close proximity to override the pump options and control insulin delivery. This was not a factory default, meaning it was added by the user. FDA warns to deactivate this option for added security.

Medical devices are life saving for many seniors but malicious activity could cause them to turn on the very people we want them to protect.

Family caregivers can protect their loved ones’ safety while using these devices. It takes a little diligence and regular updating, but shouldn’t be too difficult compared to the benefits.




When Assisted Living is Right for Your Senior – Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility

Independent living in their own home is the preference stated by most seniors.

Is your senior loved one ready for more care than they can receive in their home? Despite our attempts to keep them at home as long as possible, at some point family caregivers may need to help find a new housing arrangement to meet the needs of their senior loved ones.

Assisted living is a solution that gives care in an apartment setting. The Assisted Living Federation of America defines an assisted living facility (ALF) as “a housing and health-care option that combines independence and personal care in a residential setting.”

Seniors remain independent but receive more support such as meals, medication administration, bathing, dressing, transportation, activities, and socialization.

There are approximately three quarters of a million older adults living in assisted living facilities, 40% of whom received three or more activities of daily of living assistance from the facility.

It is the fastest growing option for long-term care for independent seniors who still need some assistance or supervision.

Is assisted living on the list of options your senior would consider for their future?

Should it be?

Would an assisted living facility be the right next home for your senior?

If this becomes an option for your senior, what should you look for in a facility, what will meet your senior’s needs, how can they afford an ALF, and how can your senior and family select the best facility?

Assisted Living Facility Features

An assisted living facility provides care for seniors who need more help with dressing, grooming, taking medications, preparing meals, doing housework, and other activities but does not usually offer skilled nursing services or medical care that a long term care facility (nursing home) would provide.

When activities of daily living become more than a person can safely complete in their home, the next step is often a move to assisted living.

Here are some of the features you can expect to find in an assisted living facility:

  • Provide a long term living situation to meet the individual needs of each senior
  • Depending on what is needed, these facilities can provide assistance with activities of daily living such as medication dispensing, bathing, grooming, household chores; congregate meals; activities to relieve boredom; socialization with peers; spiritual events; transportation; physical activities and social engagement; housekeeping and laundry
  • Most provide health monitoring
  • Involve families in the care and progress of their senior loved ones
  • Improve the independence of seniors as they transition from the home setting with increased assistance to improve their function
  • Provide transportation to nearby shopping, health professionals and community entertainment
  • Some provide memory care services for those requiring more safe spaces, one-on-one care and assistance
  • Provide home-like setting with comfort and style maintaining privacy combined with a variety of amenities
  • 24 hour assistance provided, which may include security around the clock
  • Cost will vary depending on the services your senior requires; the more they need-the more it will cost

Assisted Living Facility Selection Considerations

There are many factors to consider when looking for the right assisted facility for your senior’s new home.

  1. Is it located close to family and friends so that they can visit regularly?
  2. What are the available desired amenities and features, such as beauty shop, meals that meet your senior’s needs, caring staff, comfortable apartments, pleasing atmosphere, welcoming staff, cleanliness, free of odors, well maintained grounds and common areas, and how emergencies are handled.
  3. Does the facility desire to maintain dignity and respect as well as the highest level of quality of life for your senior? Is your senior involved with the plan of care?
  4. Will your senior’s privacy be maintained?
  5. Do they offer choices to your senior, including meals, activities, and desired amenities to maintain their independence? Read the activity calendar and see if the social events are of interest. Are there appropriate spiritual events for your loved one or you?
  6. Is the facility and its location safe?
  7. Do you understand and agree with the fees charged and facility policies? Ask what is included in the basic rate and what services will be extra (and how much).
  8. Are you fully aware of what might constitute unplanned discharge from the facility? What functional or behavioral changes will result in a discharge?
  9. Can seniors bring their own furniture and mementos?
  10. Are pets allowed? If so, what are the limitations? What costs are associated with pets?
  11. Does the dining program adjust for medical needs? Are between-meal snacks offered? Can they eat when hungry or are there set meal times or choices of meal offerings?
  12. What do you foresee your senior’s needs will be in the future and can this facility meet those needs?
  13. Can your senior stay there if he/she becomes cognitively impaired? (Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
  14. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been made, as well as simply searching the web using the facility’s name.

You can’t assume each facility offers the services your senior needs or will need in the future.

Planning for the Cost of Assisted Living

The cost of assisted living is usually paid by the elder or their family caregivers, but some long term care insurance policies will pay a portion of the cost. Sometimes financial assistance is available from the facility or, if your senior qualifies, Medicaid can help, though the facilities that accept Medicaid are limited.

You can expect to pay less for an assisted living facility than a nursing home, but it is still likely to be expensive.

You typically get what you pay for, so a cheaper fee may mean fewer services or even care below your standards.

In 2018, Genworth Financial completed a survey of the cost of assisted living and found that the fees have spiked up 6.7%. The cost has risen largely due to a national staffing shortage (which is likely only to become worse).

The average cost is now $4,000/month for a one-bedroom unit which is $48,000 per year. The costs vary slightly across the country, with a daily rate averaging $132.

Federal and state government programs generally do not cover the cost of assisted living. Therefore, sound financial planning is key. At the current time, only half of adults have a financial plan in place.

Caregivers may end up paying out of their own pockets (often out of their own retirement savings) to pay for the care of older adults who did not plan for the cost of long term support services (LTSS).

When seniors wait longer to enter an assisted living facility, they often have greater needs, which translate into a higher cost for that care. Therefore, be aware of the additional costs for care your senior may have when comparing different facilities.

Seniors who have dementia may be living longer with care needs. This should also be considered when financial planning is done as well as deciding on placement options.

Seniors Like the Change – Really!

We speak with many seniors who are very happy and enjoying themselves in assisted living facilities.

They are relieved of the burden of maintaining their home, cooking their own meals, or feeling lonely.

There are fun activities and new people to spend time with every day.

Although it is true that many of our seniors wish to age in place, there are also many who are struggling living alone and need more assistance to stay safely independent.

Whether you call it an assisted living facility, continuing care retirement facility, retirement home, residential care facility, congregate living facility, personal care home, or community residence, you may find that your senior will be happy to have made a change.

Careful investigation of facilities near you, visiting each center and speaking with staff and residents, and including your senior in the decision will make it a smoother transition for the entire family.

Assisted living facilities can offer you and your loved ones a safe, caring, friendly environment full of fun activities.

These facilities can bridge the gap between independent and dependent living situations when staying in the home is no longer the best option.

We wish you and your senior well as you plan home transitions!



Healthy Eating for Those with Diabetes — a Diabetes Month Discussion

Diabetes affects millions of Americans. In fact, 1 in 4 older adults has diabetes.

To commemorate National Diabetes Month, it is important to remember the impact of healthy eating on the management of diabetes for our senior loved ones.

Some of us may think that older adults can eat whatever they desire because they have earned the right with age to do so.

Unfortunately, what they eat influences their health. Managing blood sugar and diabetes involves a complete treatment plan including eating healthy.

Seniors will be putting their health and successful aging at risk when they don’t find ways to improve their diet.

Diabetic Diets Are Not Easy

Following a diabetic diet is not the easiest thing in the world, nor is it the most difficult. The alternative is constantly elevated blood sugar, potentially needing more medications and more frequent hospitalizations. When blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day everyday due to poor management, feeling bad all the time becomes the norm.

Who wants to feel bad every day?

Sometimes eating better to control blood sugar isn’t the only thing the doctor will prescribe. For some seniors, losing weight is also on the agenda.

Those two can go hand in hand!

When following a restricted diet for weight loss or just to control blood sugar, it is important to avoid shortchanging nutrition, which can lead to poorer health.

Slow, steady weight loss and a varied diet is the key to health.

Which Diet Is Best for Your Senior?

Everyone with a diagnosis of diabetes should be following some type of ‘diet.’ Does that mean they have to weigh and measure every bite eaten? No!

Being knowledgeable about what will work best for your senior loved one and how you as a caregiver can support them in their diabetes journey is desirable instead of being overly restrictive, which often leads to non-adherence.

Sometimes the most challenging part of eating well to control diabetes for many seniors is making changes to lifelong habits. Throwing out all their favorite foods and pushing unfamiliar foods on them won’t work.

There are several eating patterns (diets) that are built upon science and health outcomes and some that are just hype, with short term success but unsustainable for most seniors (and the rest of us).

Many popular diets are based on excluding large groups of foods, such as carbs or white foods. This may mean your senior loved one is also leaving out important nutrients for which their body hungers. This can be dangerous for them and not helpful for controlling their diabetes.

There are several more healthful approaches that will lead to positive benefits and success.

Top 5 Eating Plans for Diabetes

Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center has reviewed forty diet programs to determine if they meet the nutritional needs and contain appropriate science-based components within the framework of the particular program and if the diets are safe. You can find the entire article here which details what works and what doesn’t which eat of the top diets or eating plans.

The best diets for healthy eating from her review have been ranked with a score from 1 to 5 for nutritional content and safety based on their effectiveness to prevent or maintain diabetes.

The highest marks went to Mediterranean, DASH, Flexitarian, Mayo Clinic, and Weight Watchers meal programs.

“The ones that get high scores in safety and in nutritional value — they’re very similar to each other”.

All these diets are similar in the fact that they are largely plant based, with lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and occasional treats. They also all stress the importance of regular physical activity as a part of the plan.

  1. Mediterranean – an eating pattern based on lean protein, limited red meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seasonings instead of salt, fish, and seafood a few times a week, cheese/eggs/milk/poultry in moderation, and limit sweets. Filling up on fiber from whole grains and plants will help with weight control.
  2. DASH – (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) encourages eating fruits/vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy foods while discouraging foods high in saturated fat like red meat, full-fat dairy, tropical oils, and sugar sweetened foods and beverages. Small daily changes, such as adding a fruit or vegetable per meal, using seasonings instead of salt, and avoiding added sugars, is the basis of this eating plan so that it can be sustainable.
  3. A tie: Flexitarian – a flexible plan, vegetarian at its core. Like the other plans, it emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains packed with fiber, non-meat protein, dairy, and seasonings. You should eat more vegetables than meat. The total plan generally totals 1,500 calories a day with 300 calories at Breakfast, 400 at lunch and 500 at dinner. There are also two snacks during the day with 150 calories each. Mayo Clinic – this plan helps to replace poor eating habits with better ones and includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats while avoiding added sugar. You should eat lower calorie foods to feel full. No counting calories but food selections are important; also no eating in front of the TV, portion control, limited dining out, and making healthy habits part of your routine. Weight Watchers – this meal plan is structured with point counting. Each food has designated points that add up to a daily allotment. On the newest program, many foods are 0 points, including fruits and vegetables. There is support for your changes in the form of in-person or online health guides. It is up to the person to choose wisely.

The lower scoring diets were often too restrictive, lacking in essential nutrients or cooked in such a way that would make them unsafe.

All healthy diabetes treatment plans include physical activity. Don’t overlook activity as an important part of your senior’s daily routine.

If your senior loved one suffers from diabetes and has been told to lose some weight or do more to control their blood sugar through a healthy eating plan, seek sound medical advice from your doctor or registered dietitian to help plan a meal program that will continue to help manage blood sugar, control weight and provide all the essential nutrients needed everyday.

Don’t gamble with their health.



Honoring Veterans With Access to Benefits They Have Earned

We are reminded on Veterans Day to honor those who served us by serving in the United States Armed Forces.

We honor those men and women who served with parades, events, monuments, and by simply saying “thank you” when we see them – – and meaning it.

Veterans Day Parade, Savannah GA

There are many other, more personal ways, we can honor our own loved ones who are Veterans.

We want to discuss one way of honoring them you may not have considered, one which in many cases will provide them something that helps them live better for years to come.

Ensuring our senior loved one who are Veterans are aware of the benefits available to them through the Veterans Administration (VA) and utilizing them, if appropriate, both honors their service and helps them in their everyday lives.

Majority of Veterans Not Using VA Benefits

According to a recent report from the VA, less than half (48%) of all Veterans are using even one of the VA benefits or services available to them as of 2016. That, though, is an increase from 38% in 2007.

Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

Only 21% of Veterans utilized multiple VA benefits and services in 2016.

When you consider there were more than 20 million Veterans in 2016, that means a lot of men and women are not taking advantage of the benefits available to them.

These statistics don’t even consider the many millions of surviving spouses and children of Veterans, who have served their nation and us in their own way. They are also entitled to certain benefits due to the service of their Veteran.

In the mini-podcast below, we discuss helping senior loved ones who are Veterans or otherwise entitled to VA benefits to understand and, if appropriate, seek the benefits available to them.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)


Additional Information from the Mini-Podcast

In the mini-podcast, we discuss statistics from the 2010 National Survey of Veterans. This is the most recent survey performed by the VA and can be found here if you are interested in learning more.

Also, we made several mentions of our conversation with Victoria Collier, an Elder Law attorney who joined us for a previous podcast, Conversation with an Elder Law Attorney – Insights for Family Caregivers.


We hope you find this information helpful, as it can be particularly gratifying when we assist senior loved ones in learning about benefits they might not be aware are available to them especially our brave veterans.




Medicaid Recipients Fall Short in Getting Needed Nutrition

Medicaid is the largest provider of health insurance for low-income people — children, adults and seniors, as well as those with disabilities.

It is a vital service for 1 in 5 Americans or 66 million people. Of these, 4.6 million are low-income seniors (also enrolled in Medicare, known as dually covered).

New research shows that these individuals have significant food insecurity challenges to overcome.

Because older adults can already be at a disadvantage due to limiting factors of chronic disease, fixed incomes, lack of transportation, or declining functional abilities, that those who qualify for assistance through Medicaid face additional challenges securing healthy food that impacts their well-being is unfortunate and upsetting.

Vulnerable Population of Seniors

Researchers from the Root Cause Coalition found that Medicaid beneficiaries struggle to purchase food in general and even more so when selecting healthier options.

They surveyed over 1,000 Medicaid recipients aging from 18-80 years and found:

28% of Medicaid beneficiaries purchase less food than they need due to financial problems.

32% purchase less healthy food due to lack of money

27% report they worry their food will run out before they get money to buy more

43% of Medicaid members say they often skip at least one meal a day. However, participants report that they want to improve their overall health and nutritional habits, as well as reduce their weight through diet.

38% of Medicaid members say their health is excellent, 28% have high blood pressure, and 34% say they feel stress when shopping for food.

67% say this stress is directly related to the price of food.

Insufficient Nutrition Education is Key

Education appears to be a key for improvement in this group, as it is for most of the general population. While recipients report discussing their health and eating habits with their doctor, only 32% say they can name a food or nutrient that will help their most pressing health concern.

Doctors can provide some guidance, but the researchers found that only 59% of recipients got this information. When they did receive nutritional advice from their healthcare provider, 79% report making changes to their eating habits.

Because nutrition-related health conditions are more prevalent in this population, much more education is needed. We recommend this health information comes from registered dietitians who are experts in counseling people to make health changes based on science and tailoring the information to the needs and culture of the person in their care.

Experts find that 1 in 2 seniors are at risk for or are already malnourished. Seniors who are food insecure have more emergency department visits, require more hospitalizations, and spend longer in the hospital when ill.

The unfortunate truth is that seniors with low incomes who qualify for Medicaid are making tough choices between purchasing food and basic necessities. They are more likely to experience health problems that require medical services with little income to pay for these services, including doctor visits and prescriptions.

Nutrition Education to Help Seniors

This isn’t meant to make caregivers afraid for the health of their senior loved ones but instead to recognize that their older adult may need more help and guidance to remain healthy.

Determining if a senior will meet eligibility requirements to become a beneficiary of Medicaid is a good first step. Each state is different when it comes to providing Medicaid. It is best to check with an elder law attorney or other expert to discuss their options and eligibility status.

If your senior loved one is financially unable to provide for their medical and living expenses, it might help them fill the gap.

After you take this step, it is important to help keep them healthy through improving their food choices. Almost anyone can make choices to allow them to eat better on a limited income or food budget.

If you need more information, we encourage you to seek out a registered dietitian to help them choose healthier foods to manage chronic disease and avoid functional decline from poor nutrition.

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

  1. Plan meals ahead and use a grocery list to reduce impulse purchases. Keep a list all week so you buy what you need.
  2. Shop with the sales. Help your senior plan a week’s menus based on the items for sale in their grocery store each week. Buying food when it is discounted will help them get more for their money. Look for frozen vegetables on sale and stock up to eat when fresh is too expensive.
  3. Buy fresh produce in season. Avoiding watermelon during the winter and oranges in the summer when these items are not at their most abundant and therefore affordable can avoid driving up up the cost of food. Pick fruit and vegetables in season, experimenting with varieties they may never have tried before like acorn squash in the winter or fresh spinach in the summer.
  4. Use coupons for the items regularly purchaseed and pick generic items that are usually cheaper per ounce than name brands. Carefully compare prices before using the coupon, sometimes the store brand is cheaper even when you have a coupon. Learn how to read the unit pricing on the shelf, sometimes bigger or even on sale isn’t the cheapest per ounce.
  5. Prepare your own foods. Buying foods already made, pre-cut and processed increases the price per portion of meals. Cut your own fruit, portion your own fresh snacks like apple wedges instead of grabbing salty snacks and cook your own meals.
  6. Substitute lower cost proteins instead of eliminating protein from the diet. Use eggs, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, dry beans, cottage cheese, and nuts in the place of expensive cuts of beef or pork.
  7. Don’t overbuy and eat what you have on hand before it expires. Food waste will harm your budget causing you to throw away money. Use a first in – first out strategy to store foods so that you use up food before it spoils.
  8. Include whole grains in meal planning because rice and pasta are budget friendly, as is oatmeal.
  9. Skip snack foods, soda, and candy which add cost and calories but few nutrients!

Healthy Advice for Seniors and Caregivers

It is important for successful aging in place for seniors to do the following to maintain their health:

  • Don’t skip meals
  • Choose healthy, nutrient rich foods
  • Exercise daily especially strength and balance activities to help prevent falls and maintain functional abilities
  • Eat balanced meals that include protein to maintain strong muscles
  • Drink enough water each day for proper hydration
  • Get regular dental visits for tooth care (poor dental quality negatively affects eating)

Family caregivers can help their older adults achieve optimal health when we pay attention to what is in the cupboard and on their plate!