The Official Blog of Episcopal Retirement Homes

Did Your Aging Parent Purchase an On-Exchange Health Plan?

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Sep 24, 2014 10:30:00 AM

aging-parent-with-caregiverWhen it comes to the state of health coverage in America today, there's really only one thing everyone agrees on: the system is confusing. With passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many more Americans now have coverage than before, but providers and insurers have shifted more of the cost burden onto consumers in response.

If you or your aging parent bought an exchange medical plan this year, having up-to-date, unbiased news is one of the most powerful tools for caregivers can use to sort things out.

What is the debate about subsidies?

Under the ACA, Congress legislated that the federal government would issue tax subsidies to defray the cost for Americans of limited to moderate income who buy coverage from state-based health insurance exchanges.

But not all the states set up their own exchanges.

So the debate is essentially this: does the IRS have the right to extend tax credit subsidies in the states where federal government is running exchanges?

Some say that the law, as written, only allows for federal tax subsidies to be paid to people who purchased from state-run exchanges and have even filed suit in Washington D.C. to challenge the IRS' extension of tax credits to purchasers on federally-run exchanges.

At the same time, a similar suit was filed in federal district court in Richmond, Virginia. In July, the judiciary panels in both cases issued conflicting rulings, within hours of each other.

In Washington, the judges struck down the federal government's subsidies to purchasers on federally-run exchanges, issuing a literal interpretation of the ACA that would indicate Congress intended to provide subsidies only to state-run exchange purchasers.

In Richmond, however, the court issued a broader interpretation of the ACA, which upheld the IRS decision to offer credits to all income-qualified applicants and found that Congress' intent was to make health care more affordable for all Americans.

With the lower courts in conflict, the issue is likely to be taken up in the near future by the Supreme Court of the United States— a landmark case with far-ranging implications for the nation's health care system and for future legislation.

Will subsidies be going away?

The Obama administration has directed the IRS to continue crediting tax subsidies to all income-qualifying, on-exchange buyers, regardless of where they purchased health coverage. So, unless the Supreme Court takes up the case and rules against them, or Congress repeals the subsidies provision of the ACA, subsidies are here to stay.

So, here's what you need to know:

  • If you live in a state that runs its own exchange, your subsidies are clearly unaffected, even if the Washington court's strict constructionist interpretation of the ACA eventually stands.

 

  • If you or your aging parent purchased on-exchange coverage this year, and qualified for income-based tax credit subsidies, you're in the clear for now. There is nothing you need to do at this time and you do not need to cancel and repurchase an unsubsidized, off-exchange plan. Until a firm ruling or legislative change is made, the subsidies will continue.

 

  • If you purchased an off-exchange plan to begin with, or if your coverage is offered through your employer, this debate has nothing to do with your type of plan.

 

  • If you or your aging parent is on Medicare or Medicaid and is not covered under a privatized Medicare or Medicaid PPO, you also needn't worry — traditional Medicare and Medicaid plans are unaffected. They are not part of the exchange system.

 

  • Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries who purchased an on-exchange, privatized Medicare PPO or Medicaid PPO, or a Medicare / Medicaid supplemental plan, through a state-run exchange are similarly unaffected.

 

  • If you purchased a Medicare or Medicaid PPO, or supplemental plan, on a federally-run exchange, you will continue to receive any subsidy you may have qualified for, until a firm ruling or legislative change is made.

It's going to be an interesting year. Be sure to follow the news.

But as you do, make sure you turn to unbiased sources. The healthcare debate is one of the most politically-charged issues to arise in America in the past century, and reliable information can be hard to come by.

Be wary of hearsay, social media posts and talking heads on cable networks, and stick to vetted, professional news. Staying in the know and developing a deeper understanding of the law will help you to frame the discussion and inform your stance and your votes.

Regardless of the outcome of the ACA tax subsidy cases, we all need to be better aware of the health care resources that are available to us, so that we can use them wisely and maintain our wellness!

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Topics: caregiving, affordable care act, health tips for seniors, health and wellness

3 Critical In-Home Services Every Caregiver Needs to Know About

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Aug 27, 2014 11:30:00 AM

caregiver-helpAs any caregiver will tell you, providing in-home care for aging parents or for loved ones who are dealing with cognitive memory loss, is more than a full-time job. Often, fatigue, stress and financial strains can become an issue for even the most patient caregivers. That can reduce not only the quality of care that you are able to provide, but negatively affect your own health, too.

But there are powerful tools for caregivers that can help you provide your loved one with the best care possible, without impacting your own wellbeing.

1. In-home therapy and in-home nursing

Shuttling aging parents back and forth to many different doctor appointments can be a large drain on time and resources. That can be exacerbated if your parent requires physical rehab, occupational therapy or memory care. Many of these services, however, can be arranged on an outpatient basis, to take place in your home.

In-home nursing is also an option if you need assistance providing for your loved one’s medical needs or daily necessities.

Say, for example, that your father is a bed-bound, post-amputation diabetic. He requires daily finger stick blood screenings (FSBS), Glucophage doses, and insulin injections and must be assisted to the commode and to the bath. An in-home nurse can be arranged to come to your home daily and monitor vitals, administer medications or injections, and provide lifting, toileting and bathing assistance.

2. Respite care

Because you are, in fact, a human being, there are going to be times when you need a break—for the sake of your own health and wellbeing. But there’s no reason that should make you feel guilty.

Caregiver fatigue, also known as “caregiver burnout,” is a very real condition that impacts the ability of a caregiver to function and provide adequate care. Virtually all senior care experts would agree that it’s beneficial—for both caregivers and those they care for—to have regular periods of times away from the immense responsibility of ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of a loved one.

And respite care can provide that opportunity.

Respite care programs come in many forms—many of which are offered as day programs at retirement communities. But there are some models that provide in-home sitters who allow the primary caregiver to be away from home for a portion of the day— long enough to go to work, run errands, or just take a few hours of personal time every day.

3. Geriatric care managers

Hiring a professional senior care expert, such as a geriatric care manager, to consult on or actively manage your loved one’s care can alleviate stress and improve the quality of care your relative receives.

A geriatric care manager will sit down with you and your loved one to develop a workable plan for in-home care now. With a care manager, you can map out a formula for your loved one’s future care— including any contingency plans for a later move to assisted living or a skilled nursing facility, if such becomes a necessity. A geriatric care manager can also:

  • Monitor your parent’s medication regimen to ensure they are complying with treatment, not missing medications or experiencing any adverse drug interactions.
  • Continually evaluate your loved one’s physical, cognitive and emotional function and arrange outpatient support, such as physical or occupational therapy, mental health counseling, or specialized memory care, as necessary.
  • Coordinate in-home nursing services, personal care assistance and ancillary support services, such as Meals on Wheels deliveries.
  • Help you and your loved one negotiate the often-complicated process of health coverage pre-authorizations and appeals, help your loved one to evaluate and apply for Medicare and Part D plans during annual enrollment and steer you toward financial assistance programs when health care costs exceed ability to pay.

A geriatric care manager’s goal is to ensure your loved one receives care at home for as long as possible, and to make life easier for you as a caregiver.

You don’t have to go it alone.

Caring for an aging parent can be isolating — especially if you do not have strong support from other family members or friends. It is important that you take advantage of all the resources available to you to ease the burden under which you find yourself, and to make the care you provide the best it can be.

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Topics: caregiving, geriatric care management, Memory Support, in home care, senior care, for adult children, aging at home, aging in place, respite care

The Older Adult’s Guide to Retirement Tech

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Aug 2, 2014 9:50:00 AM

tech-savy-seniorOlder Americans are becoming increasingly savvy at using digital communications and technology in their day-to-day lives— from maintaining family contacts, to forming new relationships, managing medications and planning for retirement and future care. Take a look at some novel ways seniors like you are finding ways to make technology work for them.

It’s not a hearing aid… it’s my Bluetooth!

Older adults with minor hearing loss can be quite sensitive to the suggestion that a hearing aid might help them to communicate better. Some perceive it as a stigma; others just don’t want to accept the notion that they are getting older and their needs are changing. But some seniors are quietly turning to new technology to surreptitiously address those needs, while preserving their self-image.

The good folks at Sound World Solutions have produced a hearing assistance device, the CS50, that looks like (and, in fact, doubles as) a wireless Bluetooth phone headset. For people who can hear sounds, but have trouble distinguishing words from background noise, the device is a clandestine way to improve hearing, while giving off the appearance of being super tech savvy.

The CS50 works with Android or Apple smartphones, is customizable and can even stream music. So, if you’re having a little more trouble talking over dinner in restaurants these days, pop in your CS50 and chat away. People will just think you’re waiting to take an important business call.

Manage your portfolio from the comfort of home.

Remember the days when you had to go to the bank or to your stockbroker’s office to make a trade or make a change to your investment allocation? No more. Online banking and low-cost e-brokerages like Scottrade and TD Ameritrade have, in the past 15 years or so, made it easier than ever to invest in the markets and manage your money from home.

A word of caution, though: online brokerages have also made it easier than ever to lose your shirt. With convenience and bare bones financial service comes the increased risk of making under-researched or ill-advised impulse trades. Seniors who are using online money management services should be cautious about making potentially risky investment decisions on their own— especially when it comes to nest egg allocations.

For additional fees, many banks and e-brokerages do provide professional guidance and financial planning services. Or, you could spend the money to consult a certified financial planner for investment and tax advice, then save cost on the execution side by making your own trades online.

Keep close to your loved ones.

Seniors represent the fastest growing group of social media users nationwide; an estimated 43% of Americans over age 65 are now regularly using sites like Facebook or Twitter to stay in touch with family, look up old friends and keep connected to their communities. And e-mail, camera-equipped smartphones and video conferencing software like Skype are making communication faster and easier than ever before.

Seniors are even using technology to kindle new passions.

For many older Americans who have lost a spouse or been through a divorce, the advance into late middle age and retirement can bring feelings of loneliness. But many dating websites, including Match.com and eHarmony are now specifically catering to the dating needs of people aged 50 and older. Even the AARP has gotten in on the act, having launched its own online dating service. Some dating sites are free; others let users post profiles for free, but may require a fee in order to unlock the user’s ability to search or respond.

Technology is making senior lifestyle easier and more rewarding than ever.

All it takes is a little patience to learn. Even the learning process can be a great opportunity to connect with others— call up the grandkids to come over and teach you how to use that new tablet! They’ll love showing you how to do something, and you’ll love the time spent together.

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Topics: Technology, lifelong learning, senior living, Cincinnati

The Little Lies We Tell Aging Parents Who Are Suffering from Dementia

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 31, 2014 9:46:00 AM

aging-parentsMany of us who deal with aging parents suffering from dementia have faced the difficulty of imparting to them bad news, or of trying to convince them to accept care that they need when they can no longer live independently. Sometimes, these conservations can become quite heated.

You’ve probably always been told to be truthful with everyone and especially with your parents. But now, some geriatric care experts are beginning to advise caregiving children to employ white lies in order to ease tensions and help parents with dementia to maintain dignity.

Why would anyone advocate lying to a parent?

Let’s first be clear: we’re not talking about big lies, and we’re not talking about employing them with a parent who has normal cognitive function and unimpaired decision-making abilities. We’re only talking about situations in which you are dealing with a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, or other dementia-type disorder, that limits his or her ability to self-manage and make sound decisions.

Aging parents with dementia can often become frustrated, or even recalcitrant, when they perceive that they are losing control of the ability to make decisions for themselves. Their senses of dignity can become more easily offended; they might transfer their anger at their own decline onto the people around them.

But 90% of senior care managers surveyed by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) in April, 2014, said that small lies, or what they call “fiblets,” are OK to tell dementia patients when they refuse care, or when a truth would otherwise be painful for the patient to learn.

So what is a “fiblet?”

According to NAPGCM President Emily Saltz, a fiblet is a small lie that, “is therapeutic because it calms and reassures, reduces anxiety and protects self-esteem.”

The experts who advocated using them in sensitive discussions were careful to caution that they should only be used to support or protect a patient and should never be used for personal gain.

Which “fiblets” are OK?

The majority of geriatric care experts who responded to the NAPGCM survey (83%) felt that telling a demented parent that an in-home caregiver was coming to the parent’s home to help a spouse, or to perform “some other concrete role,” such as helping to keep the house tidy, cook, or make small repairs, could help the parent feel less anxious and might head off a confrontation.

Another common, therapeutic fib that 68% of responding care managers endorsed is telling a demented parent who can no longer safely drive on his or her own that the car is in the shop for repairs. This can prevent the parent from attempting to drive unsafely, or prevent arguments over keys.

68% of care managers also agreed that keeping a dementia patient from knowing the true cost of in-home or assisted care is ok, if knowing that cost would prevent him or her from accepting care. This seems like a no-brainer; if a parent’s only objection to life-improving care is the cost involved, then one cannot allow that cost to be known. Money is the last thing that should keep a person from receiving the care he or she needs.

Over 6 out of 10 care managers also said that they felt it to be OK to avoid telling a dementia patient about family problems that he or she cannot help or control, such as a loved one’s unemployment, an impending divorce, a loved one’s death, a family member’s drug abuse or incarceration, or other peripheral worries. All this would accomplish would be to add to the patient’s overall stress and anxiety level. It’s counterproductive to their care.

If, for example, a significantly demented patient continually asks where her husband is, even though he died years before, most care managers feel it is OK to tell the patient that her husband stepped out for a moment and would be back later. This prevents the patient from having to continually re-learn and re-process her spouse’s death, and alleviates her immediate fear.

You need a supporting team.

Virtually all the care managers who responded to the NAPGCM’s survey agreed that families should approach delicate or sensitive interactions with a clear support group in place, including the involvement of a professional geriatric expert.

All family members need to approach the patient with a unified purpose and a consistent message, so that internal dissensions or conflicts aren’t perceived by the patient and add to his or her general anxiety level.

Again, white lies and fiblets aren’t appropriate for dealing with an aging parent with normal cognition. But when caring for a loved one with advancing dementia, they can be powerful tools for caregivers who want to ease the parent’s anxieties and allow him or her to get the assistance he or she needs.

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Topics: caregiving, dementia, future care, senior health, aging in place, assisted living

Figuring out the Basics of In-Home Caregiving

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 26, 2014 9:42:00 AM

caregiverFor many adult children, it gradually becomes obvious thatmom and dad aren’t safe living at home alone. Small signs begin to add up— scorched pots from meals that have been forgotten on the stove, dirty laundry that has piled up for weeks, burned out bulbs that have never been replaced. 

It’s a realization that’s fraught with anxiety— these grown daughters and sons find that they have no idea what to do when they are thrown into the role of caregiver.

A lot of concerned children of aging parents will attempt to ease transition by offering a move into the child’s home, where care can be provided by family members. But few seniors relish the prospect of moving away from their homes and into an assisted living situation, even if that assistance is provided by a caregiving child.

So what if your parent keeps resisting a move to your home?

Sometimes, that does happen. You need to be calmly and gently persistent. But you also need to know when to ease off. Leave the invitation open and look for the right openings to broach the topic again. 

If, for example, your mom mentions to you that grocery shopping and cooking for herself are becoming a real chore or that cleaning the bathroom leaves her knees sore for the rest of the day, you might remind her that an offer to move her in with you is on the table.

And it may be that your parent has to learn a hard lesson before he or she will consider change. It’s interesting how life can come full circle— just like you might have learned that riding your bike in gravel may cause you to fall, and thus you learned not to do so, a parent might learn that continuing to live unassisted in a cluttered home might result in a scary fall, and that they need more help.

Give your parent as many options as possible.

It’s important that your parents are not made to feel as if they are losing control of life decisions. Make sure that you lay out all of the options— in-home services, an assisted living community, moving into your home— though you can, of course, make what you believe to be the best choice seem like the most attractive option.

And as with most difficult choices, it’s best not to beat around the bush.

Be frank in bringing up your concerns about a memory lapse, but don’t take the choice away from your parent. Say, “Dad, I’m worried about your memory and these falls you’ve been having recently. I think you need a little more help. Should we start talking with your doctor about whether you need to consider assisted living? Or maybe you’d like to try moving in with me for a while so that I can make sure you’re getting everything you need? I’m happy to provide input, but I’d like to know your thoughts.”

Make sure everybody is on the same page.

If you have siblings who would want to be involved, make sure that you consult them and that you all present a unified front to your parents. The worst thing you can do is to appear inconsistent or to argue in front of your parent.

You also need to make sure that your parent designates a healthcare power of attorney and fills out advance directives and a living will. That way, there will be clear expectations and clear leadership for any future care decisions.

During this time, bear in mind that this is likely a stressful situation for you and your aging parent. But using these powerful tools to persuade your parent of the best course of action, you will make sure that your parents are safe and have the care and the caregivers they most need.

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Topics: caregiving, future care, aging at home, assisted living, assisted care

Help Your Aging Parents Make the Right Choices about Senior Care

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 24, 2014 9:35:00 AM

senior-woman-and-adult-daughterThere comes a time when many adult children realize that their aging parents are no longer able to take care of themselves. A lot of heartache and agonizing decision-making can result—especially when mom and dad are loath to admit that they need help.

So when the time comes for mom or dad to stop living independently, how do you convince him or her that a move is in his or her best interest? Here are tips you can put into practice— powerful tools for caregivers that you can use in your efforts to keep your parent safe.

Consult the experts.

According to registered nurse Stella Henry, co-author of The Eldercare Handbook, many aging parents are simply unrealistic in their estimation of their abilities to manage alone. She states that early and open communication between family members is the key to tearing down the walls that the senior might put up. If the groundwork for discussions about future care has been laid down before your parent ever needs assistance, Henry asserts, his or her fears will most likely have been alleviated by the time extra care does become necessary. 

Involve your parent’s primary care doctor or geriatric specialist in discussions, if possible. This will ensure the decisions you make together are medically appropriate, and will give your parent additional evidence to support your claims. If he or she is hearing the same message from doctorand family, it may be more convincing.

Develop an advance plan together.

If you want to bring your parent first into your own home before any move to future care in an assisted living facility, it would be wise for you and your parent to sit down and discuss this plan. Make sure that your parents understand that a plan for continuing care must be developed, but also ask for their input on what they would like to see happen going forward.

You might visit retirement communities and assisted living facilities together— in advance— so that your parents have a chance to view potential future homes and make their preferences known. If your parents are resistant to the idea of even visiting a senior living community, ask them to do so as a favor to you. It may help make a visit more palatable to them.

Once your parent sees a positive residential environment there, and that there is nothing to be feared about moving in to an assisted living community, he or she may become less apt to resist considering future care. You could even put a plan in writing together, so that your parent knows that his or her wishes have been heard and understood.

Appeal to your parent’s sense of empathy.

If your parents are able to see and understand that their condition has become a source of concern to you, he or she may ease up on the resistance.   Most parents don’t want to worry their children— as you yourself have likely experienced, a parent sees looking out and providing for their kids as a lifelong role.

“Make it your problem instead of your parent's problem," Henry suggests. "If you say 'you have to do this, or do that,' you'll lose them. Instead say something like, 'Mom, I'm concerned about you; it makes me worried to see you like this.'"

But you need to be wary of an aging parent’s attempt to hide his or her true condition, too. And that’s where regular, open and honest communication is again essential. If you are fostering regular, positive contacts with your parents, and they perceive that your concerns for their wellbeing are genuine, they will probably feel more comfortable about being honest with you.

 
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Topics: caregiving, future care, senior care, assisted living, assisted care

The Simplest Senior Care Devices May Be the Best

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 19, 2014 9:31:00 AM

simple-senior-devicesTechnology is supposed to make difficult jobs easier. Smart phones makes it easier to share personal experiences through pictures and videos, for example, and keeping a checking account balanced has never been easier since the invention of online banking. State-of-the-art toys featuring all the bells and whistles will always attract the attention of young people but simple devices have always found the best traction among seniors.

While young people have no problem adapting to the each new technology to come along, many seniors have trouble learning how to operate some of the more sophisticated gadgets.

Devices with multiple functionalities are overly complicated and difficult to use, especially in times of emergency. Many seniors become confused, overwhelmed and frustrated when technology, instead of offering much-need assistance, seems to make simple tasks more difficult. When this happens, some seniors simply give up trying to use these tools.

Don't Psych Yourself Out

It is a myth that older people cannot learn how to use new technology – six in ten seniors now go online and 77 percent have a cell phone, according to Pew Research Internet Project. But, despite these numbers, many seniors still remain uncomfortable with adopting new technologies-- at least when it comes to figuring things out on their own.

According to the Pew study, most seniors would be unlikely to sit down at a computer, or with a hand-held device, and play around until they figured out how things work.  77 percent of respondents said they would need someone to walk them through a new technological process.

Seniors who find help and overcome challenges to make technology part of their daily lives, however, will find a powerful tool in their future care arsenal.

Simplicity in Technology: Future Care for Seniors

Chronic medical conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, poor vision and hearing problems can make life difficult for seniors-- especially those who want to live independently at home. The little problems, like forgetting to take medication or leaving the stove on, can cause serious emergencies. Simple technologies help seniors stay independent by reducing the risk for life-threatening problems.

  • Medical alert devices are perhaps the easiest tool for seniors because they are simple– just press a button in case of emergency to call for immediate help. These devices are lightweight, unobtrusive, inexpensive and, best of all, easy to install and use. You do not need to dial a telephone to communicate with an emergency response center.
  • Medication reminders are another type of simple technology that seniors can really use. The old-fashioned pill trays keep daily dosages organized but don't let seniors know when it's time to take a pill. Today there is a variety of medication reminder apps for smart phones, automatic pill dispensers, and vibrating pill timers that help seniors take their medication on time. While these devices are handy, some may be difficult for the senior to set up or update with new medications.
  • Locator devices are essential for people who regularly lose their keys, eyeglasses case, canes, TV remote, and other household items. Manylocator devices work by simply pressing a button then following a high-pitched tone.
  • Other types of technology, not specifically meant for senior life, can also come in handy. Clocks and calendars help seniors keep track of time and important events. Clocks that show the time of day and day of the week are especially helpful to orient confused individuals.

In the future, care for seniors will likely include all the latest, greatest gadgets that engineers can dream up but the simplest senior care devices will always be the most popular because they are easy to use and reliable.

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Topics: Technology, senior care, senior living

Want a Better Senior Lifestyle? Be Proactive About Your Health

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 17, 2014 9:11:00 AM

seniors-proactive-healthAmerican healthcare is moving towards a “help yourself” mentality that encourages everyone– even seniors– to become proactive about their own health.

The new age of healthcare that has followed the Affordable Care Act has placed much of the responsibility on the individual to keep his body in the best physical shape possible so that he may avoid chronic or fatal illnesses during his senior life.  In response to this, many hospitals and other care providers have initiated prevention and wellness programs to help patients become proactive about their health.

The direction of these prevention and wellness initiatives has been guided by a number of factors within the American healthcare system.

1. The prevalence of chronic diseases is increasing in the United States.

Chronic illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than a trillion dollars a year, according to the Milliken Institute Study. Prevention and wellness improves the health of all Americans, enhances the quality of care each American receives and reduces costs for everyone.

For older adults, two of the major obstacles to a better senior lifestyle are obesity and inactivity-- which can lead to a whole host of debilitating age-related conditions. Being overweight and sedentary increases your risk for diabetes, heart problems, among other chronic conditions.

2. People have trouble communicating with their doctors.

According to the Center for Advanced Health, only about half of all Medicare participants bring a list of questions to ask their doctors during appointments. About 60 percent of patients do not tell their doctors about drug allergies unless specifically asked. Approximately two in five bring a list of the medications they are taking-- which means that 25 percent of patients never bring a medications list, increasing their chances for dangerous drug interactions.

This lack of communication leaves health outcomes with much to be desired.

About one-third of patients over the age of 44 suffering from one or more chronic conditions say they sometimes leave the doctor office feeling confused about what they are supposed to do.

3. Many people are reactive to their own healthcare rather than proactive.

Many seniors are lackadaisical about their health, taking action in the nick of time, only after an illness occurs or seems imminent.

One internet survey mentioned by the Center for Advanced Health demonstrates just how reactive most patients are: 90 percent of respondents in that survey said they would become active in improving their own health if they were diagnosed with a chronic illness. Taking control of one’s own health only after an illness occurs is much too late to improve health during senior life.

How to Have a Better Senior Life through a Proactive Approach to Healthcare

You can enjoy a better lifestyle in your senior years by adopting a proactive approach to your own healthcare today. You could, for example, start by

  • Work on your health literacy. Learn everything you can about good health, nutrition, proper exercise and information about common illnesses.Educate yourself before you become sick so you can learn symptoms and preventative strategies.
  • See your doctor regularly. Bring a list of questions to ask and write down the answers. Ask a friend or family member to come with you if you tend to feel confused or overwhelmed during doctor appointments. You may also want to start keeping your own copy of your medical records which would help every doctor you see understand your complete health history, including chronic illnesses, allergies to medicines and complications during previous treatments.
  • Adopt healthy habits. Eat low-calorie, nutritious meals and exercise regularly to keep your weight under control. Stop using tobacco and keep drinking alcohol in moderation, if you drink at all. Reduce stress and increase social interaction to improve your mental, emotional and social well-being. Proper nutrition, physical activity, a healthy lifestyle and slim waistline reduces your risk for developing many chronic illnesses common today, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

You can improve your own health and the quality of healthcare you receive by adopting a proactive attitude about your health. Learn about your body and the illnesses that can affect you. Start communicating with your doctor as an informed patient so that you can get the most out of the healthcare she provides. Become proactive about your health today to have a better senior life tomorrow.

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Topics: healthy eating, living well, senior fitness, total wellness, exercise and activity, Senior Life, affordable care act, senior health

Independent Living Really Does Mean Independent

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 12, 2014 9:05:00 AM

independent-living-seniorsWhen you discuss your future care options with your family, you probably can’t help wondering if “independent living” is a misnomer. A potential move into a community setting from a home you’ve lived in so long can seem downright frightening.

You might be worrying that independent living isn’t actually independent at all; that you won’t be able to set your own schedule, come and go as you please, or live the lifestyle you’ve chosen to lead. That may have even been the case in days past when seniors elected to move into retirement homes. But not anymore.

Modern retirement centers are not “old folks homes.” They are part of a continuum of care.

Let’s start off by addressing a common misconception: independent living centers are not assisted living facilities, nor are they nursing homes. Independent living, assisted living and nursing care are all different types of service along a continuum of future care.

Independent living is exactly as advertised: Residents often have their own vehicles, can have guests, cook for themselves, and do everything they would normally do on their own.  The only difference may be that, just like in any other apartment complex, you’re freed from the necessities of house maintenance that with home ownership—with the added bonus of having certain aging services on premise.

Assisted living, the next level along the continuum, provides more intensive help with daily tasks— cooking, bathing, dressing and medication monitoring, for instance — but other than that, you’re able to go about normal activities as before. It’s like being cared for at home, without the worry of placing burdens on loved ones or of spending a lot of time alone.

Nursing care is advanced monitored medical care for people who can, temporarily or permanently, no longer care for themselves. It’s a step beyond assisted living, although modern nursing care is much more concerned with enabling a person to conduct their daily lives to the fullest extent of their abilities, and is far more concerned with maintaining a person’s dignity than were nursing homes in the past.

In a full-spectrum retirement community, one will typically find residents in the independent living category and in the assisted living category. And some retirement centers offer all three types of care so that a resident need not be moved from place to place, or separated far from a spouse, as needs change.

So what is independent living really like?

Frankly, it’s like moving into an apartment or condo.

You can often choose what kind of residence you would like to rent within the community— a small house, a townhome, an apartment or a studio. The community center provides maintenance. You won’t be responsible for mowing your grass, landscaping, fixing broken fixtures, or even housekeeping if you don’t wish.

Many independent living centers do have community dining halls or café-style food outlets, but you don’t have to use them.

If you enjoy cooking for yourself, most offer units with full kitchen amenities. Or, you might do some cooking on your own and mix in some meals taken at the center’s eateries— just like you might, after a long or busy day in your own home, opt to go out to eat instead of cooking. Some communities even have cocktail lounges or pubs where you can kick back, relax and share some laughs!

In an independent living setting, you can typically have everything you would have at home: parties for friends or family members, overnight guests, a parking space for your vehicle if you are still driving and often, even pets! Cats, fish, birds, and even dogs (subject to size or breed restrictions) can be found in many retirement center residents’ homes.

And most, if not all, retirement communities offer a full range of social events, day excursions and exercise activities to keep your calendar as full as you wish it to be.

Seeing is believing.

When trying to decide whether or not to make the move to an independent living community,schedule visits! Communities welcome prospective resident visits and will be happy to accommodate you and answer questions you and your loved ones may have.

The interiors of most independent living communities are bright and cheery, with big, open common areas where residents can chat, make friends, watch TV and movies and play games.

On your visits, make sure you take some time to stop by the commons and dining facilities and talk to current residents. You’ll find that the best way to alleviate your fears about going to new surroundings is to hear about others’ experiences   

                            

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Topics: future care, senior care, retirement community, assisted living, Cincinnati

The Trick to Cooler Senior Living

Posted by Bryan Reynolds

Jul 10, 2014 8:56:00 AM

senior-sweatingDoes your summer fun melt away in the heat of the day? Do you toss and turn all night on sweat-soaked sheets for three months out of every year? If you are an older person and find it increasingly difficult to deal with heat, you are not alone– individuals over the age of 65 are more prone to heat stress than are younger people

Fortunately, there are a few simple, inexpensive tricks to making senior living much cooler.

Older adults can be at greater risk for heat-related problems because older bodies do not adjust to changes in temperatures as well as younger bodies. Plus, many seniors are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions or take medications that change the way their bodies respond to heat. These factors leave seniors at higher risk for developing heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Seniors can prepare to stay comfortable and safe, even in the hottest summer months, with a few cool senior living tips.

Cooler Senior Living Outdoors

Plan to do outdoor activities in the early hours of the morning, before the heat of the day sets in. Eat breakfast outdoors, for example, but go inside for lunch and dinner.

Play in the shade. Sun exposure raises your body temperature and increases your risk for developing heat exhaustion or, worse yet, heat stroke. Enjoy activities inside a covered porch or under a tree.

Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity, which increases your risk for developing heat exhaustion. The faster you move, the more your body heats up so take it easy during hot weather. Take frequent breaks– sit down and enjoy a glass of cool water or lemonade.

Summer is best enjoyed at a relaxed pace anyway.

Cooler Senior Living Indoors

Lower the shades to keep out sun and heat. Get a head start on the sun by closing the shades on the east side of your house in the morning and shutting the southern and western shades in the afternoon and evening. Invest in sun-blocking blinds that still allow air to flow through open windows.

Open the windows, especially at night. Use box fans to blow cool air into a room.

Turn on that air conditioner– it does you no good just sitting there, blocking your view through the window. If you avoid turning on the AC because you are concerned about your electric bill, replace old air conditioner units with newer, more efficient models. Those of you with central air can look into replacing your outdoor compressor with a high-efficiency unit.

Cooler Senior Living Anywhere

Drink plenty of water, juice and sports drinks to keep your body hydrated. Avoid caffeine– it can act as a diuretic that makes you urinate more often, increasing your risk for dehydration.

Eat small meals several times a day, especially if you tend to lose your appetite in hot weather. Nibble on cold foods like sandwiches and salads— fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and contain lots of water to keep you hydrated.

Indulge in cool treats such as popsicles, ice cream and yogurt. Sugar-free versions are available if you worry about your blood sugar levels.

Update your style– wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Light colors are best, as are clothes made from cotton. Protect your skin with UV sun block and a wide brimmed hat for daylight excursions outdoors. Don’t look good in a hat? Use an umbrella instead.

Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke; take immediate action if you or someone else experiences signs of these serious conditions. Give a person something to drink and ask him to sit down if he shows signs of heat exhaustion:

  • cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • heavy sweating
  • dizziness and extreme fatigue

Cool the individual with a hose or wet towels and call 911 if his skin is hot, red and/or dry, he loses consciousness, has a rapid and weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. Do not give him water if he refuses or vomits.

Don’t melt away in the summer sun this year. Reduce your risk for heat-related problems by incorporating these senior living tricks into your summer routine. Keep your cool this summer!

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Topics: summer, living well, total wellness, elder care, exercise and activity

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