CategoriesAssisted Living

How Does the Family of a Loved One Deal With Memory Decline?

Memory Loss – Dementia – Alzheimer’s Disease

No one wants to be welcomed to the tragic world of senior memory and brain function decline. Especially if it is happening to your very own parent who raised you and made you who you are today. Sometimes it’s gradual and sometimes it comes all of a sudden, maybe the results of a physical injury or post-surgical complication. Whichever way it happens, it’s always shocking for a child to watch his or her active and intelligent parent slowly disappear. It’s almost like death because the mind has died to a certain extent.

My first encounter with someone who just sat in his chair all day staring out the window was actually a movie entitled, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Ten years before this story begins, the father of the two poor children, Rafi, was hurt in an accident and has never been the same. He looked much older than he was (after all he was still the father of Gretel aged 12 and Hans, aged 15). If Rafi would recover, he would be able to reveal the secret of a large sum of money that he buried before his accident. Through divine intervention, Hans meets the renowned surgeon, Dr. Boekman who agrees to perform a risky operation to relieve the pressure on the father’s brain. The results are miraculous with a wonderful, happy ending to the story.

I could never get that father out of my mind. His eyes still haunt me to this very day. Haunting eyes are the way some patients with brain function decline are described. Yes, sometimes there is a light in their eyes when they seem to recognize someone or when listening to a familiar melody from the past. But it’s generally just a flicker of recognition that soon passes until the next time that same person enters the room and is not recognized by their parents.

It’s sometimes confusing to understand the differences between Dementia and Alzheimer’s and no matter how many times it’s explained they seem to be used simultaneously to explain memory loss.

Alzheimer’s

According to google, Alzheimer’s is defined as a progressive disease that destroys memory and curtails vital mental functions. As brain cell connections to the cells and the cells themselves die, memory and mental facilities are destroyed. The main symptoms are memory loss and confusion.

Dementia

Dementia is defined as the condition resulting from Alzheimer’s or any other brain injury.

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s is the disease and dementia is the symptom. If the decline in mental ability is severe enough from Alzheimer’s to interfere with daily life then it is labeled dementia. So, Alzheimer’s is the specific disease which destroys the brain cells, not dementia.

Examples of Alzheimer Patients (names have been changed)

1) Charles Lehman was a tall, good looking successful businessman and philanthropist. He was the last person his friends would have labeled for memory loss disease. He was always in a good mood cheering on his friends if they were depressed or going through hard times. His wife was just as beautiful and talented as he was, and they were considered the ideal couple.

For the last five years of his life, Charley was in a memory care facility sleeping, sitting, and eating. His children were satisfied with his care, and he also had private aide in addition to the institutional staff. However, his children felt that the tranquilizers that he was being given were making him sleep an awful lot. But what was the staff to do when he became too aggressive? When he died, it was sad to remember his vibrant life before this dreaded disease wasted him away physically, emotionally, and spiritually but it was a relief for his family to know he was a place where he would be again cognitive and more alive than he was when he was living.

2) Babs Burns was the quintessential grandma. Her home was an example for her children and grandchildren to follow and learn from. Her kitchen was so immaculate that even when she baked and cooked, it was cleared of any clutter and utensils washed immediately. Her cakes and cookies were legendary, with her precise way of cutting and decorating them, each piece the identical size as the next.

According to her loved ones, Babs’ deterioration came quickly. Some of her friends did not catch on right away when they came to visit because her mind still understood that the best was not to talk at all. She realized at that point that she did not know if what came out of her mouth made sense to herself or to those around her. It must have taken immense self-control for such a gregarious and intelligent human being to keep silent. Her friends kept visiting and speaking among themselves and Babs appeared to be listening. Her close relatives don’t really know how much she understood and even when watching TV all she did was smile. She ultimately died of some kind of infection from a bedsore but to her family she had died long before that final day.

Ways of Addressing a Family Member’s Memory Loss

Whether you are the prime caregiver of your parents or there is a hired aide, it is very important to realize that the Alzheimer patient was an important person in the past. The patient could have been the CEO of a major corporation or a world-renowned performer or lawyer. One method of enriching a patient is called Person-centered care. The caregiver should be educated about the person’s life history and prior interests. Instead of the caregiver concerning themselves about the outcome of various activities such as crafts, cooking or painting, the caregiver should concentrate on how actively the patient is participating. Focus on the positive activities that the person is still capable of whether it is a simple walk down the block or playing a simple game of cards. Even if the patient does not get the point of the game as long as he or she is showing some interest even in the colors on the cards by pointing to them or even laughing you will know that these are signs of interest on the patient’s part. Refusing to join the game or activity, walking away, or falling asleep are signs that the person with dementia is not interested.

There are times when although the short-term memory has faded, long term memories can remain intact. A woman who was an expert cookie baker might have a spark of long-term memory when she is presented with a batch of cookie dough especially if it was the same recipe that she had used in the past.

Another memory arouser is nature and gardens. Many men and women enjoyed gardening in their earlier lives. Garuth Chalfont, a garden designer, has developed gardens specifically for memory care facilities. Vegetable plants and fruit trees line the path where the patients can pick the fruits and vegetables that they would like to eat. The garden paths are constructed wide enough for wheelchairs to easily be wheeled up and down. A patient who was a gardener in the past might even be able to pick up some tools to plant seeds or even just pick out weeds. Yes, the patient may remember how to differentiate between weeds and the actual plants.

What if your loved one was an avid music lover? Maybe he or she actually excelled playing a musical instrument. Music is a wonderful example of stirring up long term memory in certain patients. In fact, science has proven that the part of the brain that identifies music is often the last to go. Songs recalled from childhood or religious groups are wonderful memory tools for the Alzheimer patient. According to Oliver Sacks and Dan Cohen, music is the window to memory. Dr. Sacks noted a very interesting example of a nursing home resident in his nineties who was in an advanced state of Alzheimer’s. Amazingly in his mostly unresponsive state the patient was able to answer, Cab Calloway when asked who his favorite singer was. In fact, people who have even lost their ability to speak can still have their musical memory.

Final Words

It is devastating to watch the deterioration of the mind of a parent or loved one. Memory loss is a sad realization that your parents are not there for you anymore. You can no longer ask their advice or converse with them in an intelligent way. Now it’s only you who are giving. There are times when you hopefully see sparks of life in long ago activities that stimulate long term memory when short term memory fades to the point that your loved one does not recognize who you are. There are certain tasks and activities such as cooking, music and nature appreciation that may reawaken talents and hobbies way back there in the senior’s mind. Activities can be set up and altered according to each person’s specific past talents and personal narratives such as old songs that trigger unusual responses from the unresponsive. The rest of us lucky ones who still have our parents with sound minds even if their bodies have deteriorated should appreciate all the more that we still have someone we can talk to.

CategoriesAssisted Living

Taking Out An Elderly Parent Who Has Been Vaccinated

It’s been a few months already since my elderly grandfather has received the Pfizer vaccine and he is again rejoining us at family gatherings. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic he and his wife were locked down pretty much until they both received the Pfizer vaccine. It was kind of a difficult time for the family as we knew they could really use our assistance. But naturally like many other elderly couples they refused any contact as they were afraid of contracting the COVID-19 virus. It was not uncommon for my grandfather to fall and should have been seen by a doctor but he was afraid to go out and didn’t get checked out. Sometimes the family didn’t even know about whether or not he fell. It was a time where seniors were simply afraid to have contact with pretty much anyone even if it meant sacrificing medical attention. 

Looks like we are on the other side of that at least for the time being but it’s not clear how families should handle the elderly in a public setting. We can’t just tell them not to go out as it’s necessary for their social wellbeing to be around family. Young government officials around the world can easily enforce a lockdown but they are not in touch with the social implications it can have on people of all ages. The CDC has documented on their website that if you are fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. If that is the case for at least the time being then how can caregivers deny the elderly the right to attend family events?

Should The Elderly Who Are Vaccinated Wear a Mask or Not?

This question has nothing to do with your political affiliation or what your stance is on mask wearing. It’s about keeping your parents or grandparents safe and not getting your information from a news network that will not provide clarity on this topic. Best thing would be to reach out to their geriatric doctor and to follow their advice on mask wearing. It also depends on if you will have to fight with them to wear a mask. If they are adamant  against mask wearing it’s not worth the fight. Elderly who are independent will be a lot harder to convince and all you will get out of this fight is a lot of frustration. Neither you nor the one in your care will enjoy this family event if you hover over them like a hawk making sure that they’re wearing a mask. As a caregiver, when you decide to take them out it’s because you have assessed the situation and deemed it safe. At this point the mask is not going to make or break it because there is a good chance that a family member is going to come over and give them a hug or a kiss. 

So we are indeed taking out our elderly parents because they are vaccinated and protected against contracting the COVID-19 virus. True, there are those who were vaccinated and still contracted the coronavirus but at least most of them were not hospitalized and recovered in a reasonable period of time. Since that’s the case, it’s safe to assume that with the vaccine the caregiver has determined that a family event is safe for an elderly parent with or without a mask. Doing scare tactics about contracting the virus will only get them upset at you and be very unproductive in a public setting. Discuss with them what the CDC recommends for those who are vaccinated and let them decide on what they want to do in regards to wearing a mask. This way there are no surprises for them or their caregiver and they can enjoy seeing the family. It’s a momentous occasion for everyone and you want them to take in the positive atmosphere as it’s very good for their social and psychological health to see people that love them once again.

Make Sure Your Elderly Parent Is Well Rested Prior To The Event

Caregivers need to be aware that when an elderly parent goes out to an event it takes a lot of effort and strength on their part and they should be well rested. Keep in mind that they have not done this in a long time and it could be easy for them to tire rather quickly. That’s why it’s important for them to take the time to be fully rested prior to the event. Always inquire on how they are feeling and if they are ready to leave. You want to have multiple time options for them leaving the event. They might want to leave early and you might want to stay late. Prepare your options in advance and let them know the eligible times to travel home. If they do get another ride without you, be clear to the driver as to what they are capable of doing and what they are not. Let the driver know where they prefer sitting in front or the back. Do they need help getting out of the car and into their home? Is there room in the trunk for a walker or rollator? These are all things that should be communicated to the driver prior to being certified by you, the caregiver as a travel option for an elderly parent.  

What About Traveling Amid The New Delta Variant?

In an article published by the Washington Post, Amber D’Souza, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, seems to say that it’s still ok to consider taking those trips. However, after completing the read of the article one does not get a clear direction on whether or not they can travel abroad. Then the author directs you to the CDC website where they give you a heat map for travel recommendations based on COVID-19 risk assessment. But when you see that one of the only countries is China with a level 1 risk assessment (risk of getting COVID-19 is low) you kind of question the whole map in general. 

We all have lots of uncertainties about what we can do and what we can’t do. Besides the pandemic wreaking havoc on people and economies all around the world, people have a lack of clarity or direction when it comes to things like traveling abroad with really no solid answers. The question you have as a caregiver that needs to be answered is, will this trip be good for your loved one or not? Most people can answer that question because there is often a lot that goes into traveling by plane with the elderly and with risk of contracting the new delta variant plus wearing a mask while flying, you should be well equipped to answer that question at hand. 

So there is no one answer for all. Some elderly may find it difficult to fly while others may not. Perhaps it’s the caregiver who has the anxiety when flying with an elderly parent or maybe they just don’t like flying in general. These are all things to think about prior to deciding whether or not to book that vacation for a parent or loved one. No one can tell you what to do, you’re vaccinated and the risk of contracting any type of coronavirus is rather low. Weigh out the pros and the cons and make the decision yourself.

Final Thoughts  

Unfortunately, our society has gotten used to having things delivered to them on a silver platter. People expect to know what they will be getting into and to have clarity on the issue of traveling during a pandemic. Well, it’s clear that no one is giving a straightforward answer as even the biggest media outlets like the Washington Post are wishy washy. In all truth they would be silly to say a simple yes or no. Even the greatest doctors are perplexed by coronavirus and whom it chooses to harm the most. In the beginning we were told that it only affects people that are 60+ only to find out a few months later that men in their 30’s are at risk too. Then with the recent spread of the delta variant it is quite apparent that it affects children too

All of this information can be quite overwhelming for caregivers especially with elders with compromised immune systems. However as mature and grown adults we have to take in as much reliable information as we can and make a risk assessment for the individual in our care and be confident with our decision. There is no one size fits all which is why you as a caregiver are in the driver’s seat. A good idea would be to discuss with your elderly parent the risks involved and let them be part of the decision. Maybe they are not comfortable taking the risk of traveling by air. Perhaps they will recommend a short car ride to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. It’s always best to have your loved one in on the decision and it also takes a burden of responsibility off your shoulders. Stay safe and I wish you the best of luck!

CategoriesAssisted Living

Everyday Housework Is Beneficial For a Senior’s Health

Some seniors are lucky enough to be able to afford outside cleaning help at least once a week. Our knees and arms are not what they once were and all that bending and stretching can cause us a basket of aches and pains that we do not need added to the burden of aging. Or should we give in to our aging so easily?

Canadian researchers have discovered that routine housework by seniors has a direct correlation to increased brain fitness in older people. Scientists have acknowledged that any type of physical exercise improves cognitive health as well as physical fitness. Of course, we do know instinctively that exercises such as low impact aerobics and brisk walking are too valuable to curtail. However, scientists are finding that certain household tasks when performed conscientiously are just as effective for seniors’ mental and physical health.

Take for example my friend Sharon. She was forced to begin taking charge of her own housework when COVID-19 struck. Although some of her friends allowed no one into their home except their housekeepers with masks, she refused to let in even a housekeeper. At first, she let the household chores slacken until she and her husband decided to take charge of the situation as they realized they were isolated for the long haul. Here are just some of the activities they began taking care of by themselves. As she did her various chores, Sharon was happy to realize that each activity was an exercise in itself.

Changing the Linen in the Bedroom

The bedroom is the place where the type of bedding varies from family to family. Some folks use just a quilt and wash it ever so often. Others use a flat sheet under the quilt to protect it. Still others use a quilt and a duvet cover which gives the bed a finished look and at the same time protects the quilt or blanket. Sharon uses duvet covers which affords her of some extra bending and stretches. First, she must remove all the linen from the bed. Here are some of the exercises that she accomplishes.

Pulling

First comes the fitted sheet which must be pulled off the mattress. Next comes the duvet cover that’s pulled off the quilt. The pillowcase is the last which is pulled off the pillow.

Walking & Carrying

After placing the linen in her laundry basket, Sharon must lift the basket and carry it down the two flights of stairs to the basement laundry room. After washing, drying, and shaking out the linen she must carry it back upstairs.

Stretching

As Sharon replaces the clean linen, she realizes that she is doing a lot of stretching and the first time she did this she flexed muscles that she realized she hadn’t used in a long time. In fact, when she mentioned to her sister-in-law that she was washing, drying, and replacing her linen by herself her sister-in-law was baffled at Sharon’s positive tone of voice. Her sister-in-law could not understand how Sharon was not complaining. “Why should I?” Sharon asked. “I’m getting some easy exercise without leaving the house.”

Pantry and Cabinet Organization

As many of us know, organizing our cabinets takes some deep thinking. Unless you are a perfectionist who has got your cabinets organized on the first try, the rest of us are eternal organizers. Life can always be improved and that includes the most important room in the house, the kitchen.

Bending & Lifting

For most households, only a shelf or the most two is at arm’s length for the homeowner. One or two shelves will be higher and the rest lower which will require a substantial amount of bending, lifting, and stretching to the high shelves and the rear of the cabinets. Those regular food cans are just the right weight as gym weights giving the organizer a chance to actually lift weights.

Brain Activity

Reorganizing forces the brain to think and re access a current situation. For example, how can the pantry be rearranged so that I can find something more easily? In which way should I separate the food items? Should all the baking items be on one shelf? If they aren’t used so often, should they be placed on the bottom shelf? Maybe the cans should be placed in the middle shelf since they are heavier to lift? Or maybe I should put them higher up so I will get a workout when I remove them from the cabinet? How old are my spices? I need to check the expiration dates, but there are none. Then I should label the spices from now on with the date purchased so I will be able to tell if they are fresh or not. There are many cognitive queries that a woman must ask herself while organizing her pantry.

Checking out the higher dish cabinets can be an adventure in itself. “Oh my gosh, where did I get that candy dish? I never use it, but I seem to remember it having sentimental value. Yes, I remember it was my grandmother’s.” Sorting through old stuff that is never used anymore can be an intense intellectual activity in itself.

Looking through Old Papers & Photos

This would be more of a mental health pumper than a physical one unless you are the type of person that accumulates large amounts of mail and other paper paraphernalia. In that case, lugging a bag of trash out of the house could constitute some intense physical activity. However, here we will limit this subject to the cognitive aspect.

For optimal mental health the brain must constantly be forming new neural connections. Thinking through what papers are significant to keep, be it recent mail or just plain old papers can be mind boggling to some. An old bill that wasn’t paid could get your mind sharpened to a new way of arranging and paying them. What about those piles of old bills that were paid? Are they still necessary or can they be disposed of immediately?

Photos are a topic that is almost too sensitive to touch on. Who wants to throw away old photos? In this age of computers, there are ways to keep these precious memories without physically taking up space in the home. Photo scanning has become quite popular, and most people have a scanner on their printer that they might not know about. Learning to scan photos is in itself a wonderful mind sharpener. Won’t this put any person in a better mood cleaning up so much clutter? Seniors who attain good moods live longer and healthier.

Cleaning Out the Clothes Closet

This topic is probably the most complicated since deep down we seniors know that we are not wearing those high heeled shoes or tight dresses that are taking up space in our closets. Many of these items are in pristine condition and could be given to vintage clothing stores which are the big rage among the young. But how can we part with these precious items that have brought such joy to us on happy occasions such as dinners or family weddings? These thoughts are all great ways to exercise the mind although hard on the heartstrings.

Final Thoughts

Even for a senior living in an assisted living facility it is vital for he or she to be exercising both their bodies and brains. There are many ways to do this even while living in limited space. Daily reorganization of key parts of the home will help keep the mind and body in full swing.

For those seniors who can live independently at home there is nothing as satisfying as getting the house to sparkle. The more often an older person changes and washes the linen the more their arms and legs will be working. Even though the back might hurt at first, as one becomes more adept and increases muscle usage the pain should lessen. There are correct ways to move around and a session or two with a physical therapist might be all that is needed.

Cognitive brain activity is essential for keeping seniors sharp and aware. Reading is always effective, but it does take a lot of concentration. The activities we have suggested are only a beginning to a lifelong journey of fulfillment and must be done only as long as the senior is enjoying the activity. If the person finds that it is just too much, he or she should be sure to ask for help instead of quitting. Often some instruction by a competent friend, neighbor or even grandchild in the clearing up of clutter would be so helpful. Learning to scan photos and documents is a great activity for a senior to learn since they will be able to look at them much easier when they are on the computer.

Taking responsibility for household duties induces seniors to get up and get moving. A static lifestyle results in decreased cognitive and physical well-being. We are aware that there are many seniors who will have limited physical activity but as long as the mind is working there is hope. I know seniors who can hardly lift a foot can but manage to wash their floor. We must do the best we can to keep our bodies and brains stimulated and the rest is not in our hands.

CategoriesAssisted Living

A Squall Is Not Only A Jacket

Janet could not take it anymore. Not another day, not another hour and not another minute. She could barely get into her mother’s home without tripping over all the garbage and newspapers in open cardboard boxes. Janet discussed the problem with her out of town brother, Sidney who diagnosed the situation as Senior Squalor Syndrome. It was shocking for Janet to hear that her mom’s situation had a name and was actually a serious emotional condition. “It couldn’t be true,” said Janet to herself. “The mom I knew from growing up was so organized and meticulous. My paper lunch bags were folded so neatly you could measure the creases with a ruler.”

Land’s End defines squall as a strong wind. According to the dictionary, squall is a sudden gust of fierce wind which brings storms of snow sleet and rain. We can see even from these simple definitions how powerful and harmful a condition such as senior squalor is and how seriously it has to be taken.

Causes For Senior Squalor Syndrome

Janet, like many other devoted and loving daughters, had difficulty facing the fact that her mom, who suffered from this malice could no longer live alone. There are various reasons for senior hoarding. The physical arthropathy of the frontal lobe of the brain which takes care of executive functioning is one of the main causes for this condition. Executive functioning means the ability to task manage and plan for both the long term and short-term future. Miscommunication between the frontal lobes of the brain weakens seniors’ ability to concentrate on normal routine everyday tasks. It’s just too plain difficult for the senior to even clear and clean up their house properly and complete daily routine tasks.

A second cause for senior hoarding is the social isolation of the person for long periods of time without external stimulation. This condition has become aggravated this past year of the Covid pandemic with lonely seniors becoming completely isolated from family. Shock and disbelief are the emotions that junior members of the families have expressed upon entering the home of their beloved parent or grandparent for the first time in over a year.

An additional tragic consequence of senior squalor syndrome is that the helpful family members may not be able to simply clean up. The main test to find out if your loved one is a true hoarder is to offer to clean up. Whether it’s the smelly garbage or the old newspapers, the true hoarder will give any and every reason that he thinks is rational to hang on to an object. If the family member realizes that the senior is giving irrational reasons for keeping the stuff, then the senior is in major trouble and needs immediate help.

Removing the Senior to a Safe Place

The most effective strategy for treating senior squalor syndrome is to remove the senior from his house and transfer him into a supervised assisted living facility. Your senior will undoubtedly protest to you for separating him from his beloved belongings. Your senior must be supervised since in most cases hoarding is a sign of the inability to take care of himself and in some cases, dementia.

It is no longer possible for a senior living in squalor to maintain sanitary and safe standards of living while living alone. The question is where should this senior squalor be moved to? If your parent or loved one is lucid enough to make the ultimate decision, then present him with the option of moving into an assisted living facility. Professional senior care counselors do not recommend a senior hoarder moving into their children’s home since unfortunately the problem will not be resolved. Living with a senior hoarder is extremely trying since as his objects accumulate in his room, he will need more room for his possessions, and they will end up spreading out into common family areas. Do not expect your drawing boundaries to work long term as this problem will end up causing general family discord.

Medication For Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Before attempting a permanent move, it would be effective to insist that your senior have a complete checkup at the doctor. Some seniors were reluctant during COVID-19 to leave their homes even for a doctor’s visit unless it was by ambulance to the emergency room. Who could blame them? They could have already experienced being isolated at the doctor’s office without any relatives allowed in with them. That is really scary for anyone, especially a senior who is either physically or mentally handicapped.

Now that we are returning to normal, some doctors will allow a relative or aid to accompany the person to the examination room. It’s imperative to ask when making the appointment if the doctor’s office policy allows for someone to accompany the senior to the examination room. (I almost kept an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for my father’s bruised ankle until finding out that no one would be allowed to come in with him. He would be whisked away in a wheelchair without any family support. Luckily, we found an alternative doctor with no such rules.)

At the checkup with the physician, the senior will be examined for the distinct possibility of dementia or any other new psychological developments. Experienced senior care professionals have realized that medication for disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorders are unlikely to work especially if the senior continues living alone. Who will know if he takes his medication?

Getting the Senior to Agree to Move to an Assisted Living Facility

It is very difficult for any of us to pick ourselves up and move unless we are young and adventurous. Not only don’t seniors like change, but it is also harmful for their memory and routine. However, it’s similar to being taken to the hospital for an infection. We are all aware that a person can contract infections while in the hospital. However, if someone is sick with fever and the oral antibiotics are not effective in clearing it up, the patient on the insistence of his physician will have to be admitted to the hospital to be monitored and given intravenous medications. The same holds true for a senior whose life is endangered living in their own home.

The first step is for the child or relative to check out various assisted living facilities closer to their home. It would be foolish to choose an institution only for its ratings and comforts if it is far from your home just the same way it would make no sense to put your parents or loved one in an establishment that is inferior but close to home. After visiting several facilities and assessing their value and relevance to your senior, the next step is to bring him or her for a visit to the premises. Making an appointment in advance is a must and the administrator or whoever oversees admissions will be able to sell the facility to your senior much more easily than you. These professionals are trained to speak to a senior on their level and know exactly which advantages to stress and to assure them about fears that may be felt about moving and the specific facility itself. If planned correctly, the tour could be quite detailed and pleasant, and you may be surprised at the turnaround of your parent’s opinion.

If this gentle persuasion is not successful, you will have to be more forceful and give them a different choice. Suggest, “Come for a month and see how you like it” and assure the senior that no one is giving away their home to someone else.

Hopefully the facility’s representative will be successful in convincing the senior to join the facility. With inviting recreational activities and delicious meals your senior may be convinced. Even if he or she is not, it is imperative to get him into the assisted living facility someway.

Final Words

Senior squalor must be addressed asap. It’s an emergency! Fires are often caused by hoarders since their belongings become the fuel for the fire that might not have developed otherwise into something major. Here is an actual true-to-life story that happened in Maryland. Not only was the home of the senior hoarder destroyed but the next-door neighbor’s house as well. There was no way for the firemen to get into the senior’s house because of all the garbage and debris blocking the entrance and after failing to do so they were forced to break down the wall attached to the neighbor’s house to get into the senior’s home. If your senior is lucid and agreeable for you to clean their house and purge the garbage and accumulated memorabilia that’s one thing but if they refuse, get them out of there as soon as possible and into an assisted living facility preferable close to your home. Remember this is a matter of life and death. Who would want it on their conscience that their parents died because they were left by themselves in their own home? Dignity is one thing, but safety is another.

CategoriesAssisted Living

What Are The Advantages When Senior Citizens Learn How To Use Technology?

Do you feel left out because you don’t have WhatsApp? Or just plain dumb because you can’t find that video that your friend just recommended to you on YouTube? Maybe you don’t even know how to spell it, is it Utube or YouTube?

Welcome to the twenty-first century which has already been going on for twenty-one years. Where were we seniors when this happened? Maybe we were just waiting for the internet to be over, and it was all a bad dream. Have you missed your close relative’s funeral because you don’t subscribe to What’s App? That’s exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I found out too late that my close cousin’s mom passed away. The funeral was on a Sunday, and I could have easily attended, but how could I go when I knew zero about it? Do you feel lonely because you are getting fewer and fewer phone calls from your grandchildren? Guess what? I found out about my new grandson via text just like all the other friends and relatives. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them join them”.

The primary challenge for seniors is to have a meaningful day. Getting up in the morning can be tough if there is nothing specific on the agenda. This can adversely affect a senior’s health by causing mood swings, depression, early aging, and even premature death. The wisest thing for seniors is to overcome their technology fear thinking it couldn’t possibly be something they could tackle this late in the game. Once the fear is overcome, seniors can connect to family and friends via Facebook, Zoom, WhatsApp, email, and texting.

Before the nineteenth century the average life expectancy of a person was between the ages of thirty and forty. In just two centuries the life expectancy of a human being has jumped by 225%, according to Google. This means the average life span is now seventy-nine years.

This so-called, “Silver Tsunami” is bound to slam into our healthcare system by overloading our nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals. We can just look back on the past year and see what happened to our hospitals when they became overloaded with patients, many of whom were senior citizens. In addition, we experienced the terrible forcing of these patients back into the nursing homes because the hospitals couldn’t handle the congestion. Instead of looking at the increase in life expectancy in a financially negative way, let’s see how we can help seniors cope in the age of technology and age productively.

The longer life expectancy is great news for seniors even though it will be a challenge for the health care system. Assisted and independent living facilities catering exclusively to seniors are amazing systems and opportunities for seniors to flourish.

One of the ways that the younger generation can feel needed is to incorporate the use of technology for seniors. The younger people, whether it is grandchildren or volunteers need to figure out how to get senior citizens educated in using the latest technology be it, computers, tablets, smartphones, or smartwatches. Along with the knowledge of how to use these devices is app education. Every day new apps are being invented and many of them are safety features that are a must for every senior’s smartphone.

The one matter that hospitals, banks, and stores have in common is that they are equipped with some type of security system. Without proper protection against intruders, these facilities are at risk for theft or worse. Similarly, we must bolster the security of our loved ones who are living alone.

Smartphone Doorbells

For example, if a senior is living alone there are safe apps for turning on and off the lights, reminders to shut the stove and let’s not forget about the ring doorbell. As most of us are familiar with this amazing invention we should make sure that seniors become acquainted with it as well. This will mean peace of mind for children and grandchildren knowing that their parents or grandparents will only open the door if the person on their phone screen is familiar to them. Some of these bell systems also have video recordings so that loved ones can check to see who tried to get into the homes. If the senior is at a doctor’s appointment it would be so nice for them to see that one of their grandchildren was ringing the bell and even though the senior was not there to answer the door, at least they are aware that their grandchild came to visit.

Medical Alert Pendants

A medical alert pendant is a wonderful addition to the security of a loved one but challenging to get them to wear it. You can have it connected to various phone numbers including ambulance companies and family members or neighbors. All the person has to do is to push a button and the emergency numbers will be called. So even if a elderly person falls in the bathroom or tub (it is waterproof) the call will be made. As long as they are still conscious no matter what happens to them, they can easily press the button.

When my mother-in-law rented an apartment alone in Florida for the winter, my husband flew down with her to set her up safely. He purchased the latest medical alert pendant, giving her full instructions on its use and advising her to always wear it. When he finally went again to pick her up at the end of the winter, he was shocked to find it back in the box and not on her neck. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, see nothing happened to me”, she claimed. So much for the medical pendant.

Meal Apps

A senior living at home is not always in the mood of cooking a meal for themselves. I’m sure it has happened that you, as a senior, will have a bowl of cereal for supper instead of a home cooked meal. Children are busy during the week and may not be able to bring over a hot cooked meal. Sometimes, they will be kind enough to load the freezer, however you may not feel like preparing in advance and taking out a frozen meal. Even if you do have a microwave, you might just not be tempted to even use that little effort. There are many programs which offer readymade meals that are delivered to one’s home with the push of a button. For example, Blue Apron is a company which puts all the ingredients for a meal in a box and delivers it straight to your door which makes it much easier to put together a delicious hot fresh meal. Or restaurants have specific apps that will bring the food to you in a ten-minute notice. Society must learn to incorporate technology into seniors’ lives to keep them sustained and healthy.

Are Seniors Eager to Join the Digital Society?

Surprisingly seniors are willing to join the digital society, but some have trouble learning this new language. They are well aware of how being connected can benefit both their emotional and physical wellbeing. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with adults ages 65 to 93 to understand their social networks and how they related to the use of technology in an increasingly global world. Especially, this past year of social distancing and isolation, it was imperative that all people learn about micro communications such as Zoom and Facebook. Instant photos and videos from loved ones via WhatsApp reduce the loneliness in what has been a very long day.

Final Words

Just a couple of years ago, technology would have been an expectation for seniors but as of this past year it is a necessity. What would any of us have done without our smart phone and computers? Most of the communication between people has been virtual and we must be so thankful that G D and our scientists had the foresight to invent all these apps for our devices. Schools were able to function, religious clergymen were able to give lectures and support to their constituents and doctors were able to treat their patients remotely. Of course, pictures and videos do not replace human contact, but it certainly was better than none. This pandemic truly forced our senior citizens to learn new technologies.

Next time you visit or get a visit from a loved one ask if they would like to have help setting up a Facebook or Instagram account. Young ones must be patient and not get annoyed while educating their loved ones on social media etiquette. Seniors should be taught what information can be shared and how often sharing should occur. You may be surprised at how adept your grandmother will become at communicating with her smartphone, with pictures, videos and inspiring with knowledge that only a mature person knows. It’s also nice for a grandchild to be able to teach their grandparent instead of it always being the other way around. It will give the grandchild new confidence and a new purpose in life.

CategoriesAssisted Living Skilled Nursing

What Is The Difference Between Skilled Nursing & Assisted Living

“I’m so confused”,’ complained Sherry Jackson to her close friend, Marcia. “My two brothers have voted against me by insisting that Mom be put into a senior care residence.” Since Sherry’s father died suddenly, her close-knit family was in turmoil. Her mom could surely not live by herself, however, she refused to leave her home to live with any one of her devoted children.

“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself”, her mom exclaimed over and over. It’s true that her mother’s mental capacities were lucid, (maybe because she does her trusty crossword puzzles each morning). However, physically she needs assistance. For example, she’s fallen out of bed several times and her balance is not the best. Also, since Sherry’s dad passed away, her mom
has lost weight. Sherry tries to bring her mom the food she likes, but Sherry often finds it in the fridge after a few days, so she knows her mom is not eating right. Mom has approximately ten different medications to take daily and Sherry is terrified that she or one of her brothers will forget to refill her bi-weekly pill box or she may run out of medicine and not tell them.

Sherry and her brothers are looking into three different options for seniors.
1) Independent living
2) Assisted Living
3) Skilled Nursing Home Care

Sherry’s friend Marcia explained to her the benefits of independent living apartments. “My mom is renting one and she is thrilled. It’s a brand-new place with the appliances, kitchen and bathrooms state of the art and squeaky clean. It is such a major improvement to her previous home which was old and dangerous.” explained Marcia enthusiastically.

Sherry realizes that unfortunately her mom is not in the same category as Marcia’s Mom. Firstly, Marcia’s mom is younger. Secondly, Marcia’s mom is in good mental as well as physical health. It’s true that there is a bell to ring for help and optional bathing and shower helpers, but it is still independent living. No, Sherry realizes, this type of living is not for her mom. Her mom has
begun to need more help since her dad passed on. Her dad was quite strong for his age and compensated for her mom’s physically weakening state. So, what were Sherry’s options with her mom refusing to move in with any of her children?

The transition is easier if children have months to convince parents to sell their homes and move on to senior living accommodations. The best option is to visit different venues and have the parent have a say in the move. With the parent in the driver’s seat, it gives him /her or they the feeling of being in control. But what happens when the decision is urgent? If that is the
scenario, chances are good that the only options would be either assisted living or skilled nursing care. Is there a big difference? You bet there is. We will attempt to offer a few differences, practical, physically feasible and financially attractive.

Skilled Nursing Care

When a person requires constant medical care such as a ventilator, respiratory therapy, third stage ulcers called bed sores and IV-line medication they would be candidates for skilled nursing care. Another way to look at skilled nursing care is to compare it to a hospital setting. Insurance companies will only cover hospital stays for certain time periods or specific medical challenges. A nursing home is sometimes a temporary station for rehabilitation before returning home from the hospital or if the medical and physical demands are permanent then the residency in the nursing facility will be permanent as well. Someone with a feeding tube would be a candidate for a nursing home since this type of person is not capable of taking care of himself. A person who can eat on his own but either won’t or needs his food blended and fed to him, would require skilled nursing care around the clock.

How Much Does Skilled Nursing Care Cost?

Skilled nursing care is more costly than assisted living. A patient’s cost per month is about $7,441 in the United States with costs varying depending on the facility. For Medicaid to agree to pay for skilled nursing care, the resident must first use their own money before the coverage kicks in or be sure to work together with a Medicaid planner to protect personal assets.

Assisted Living

This type of living is the middle child in the trio of independent, assisted, and skilled nursing care. That does not mean that this is the option that is right just because it is the middle of the road. Assisted living is geared to a specific segment of the senior population. For a senior who is insistent on maintaining their independence or someone who is finding a secluded home too much to handle this solution will work optimally as long as the person is fairly mobile and lucid. Assisted living communities provide much needed social events and interactions between residents while the residents still live independently in their own homes. Their amenities include, kitchen facilities, such as electric burners, refrigerators, ovens, and any other appliances that they can utilize to do their own food preparation and cooking. Safety features are offered in the bathrooms so that the resident can bathe and shower independently. (Some assisted living facilities offer optional caregivers who can assist the resident when he or she showers or bathes.) This type of living is primarily paid for out-of-pocket, but there are certain types of financial assistance for veterans, people with specific disabilities and Alzheimer’s.

Memory Care

Just because a senior is having some memory care issues does not negate their entrance into an assisted living facility. These days many assisted living communities will offer memory care in a separate wing or building in the same residence. The same way that a regular assisted living facility will offer recreational activities and trips to town, the memory care facility will do this with additional safeguards such as secured yards, door alarms and specially trained staff members. This type of facility is, of course more costly, about 20% to 30% per month. If a prospective resident is physically active but mentally limited this might be the perfect solution. Check into Medicaid options specifically for Alzheimer’s patients.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

Since there are various types of assisted living facilities, it would be challenging to give an exact price. Some of the brand-new ones would probably be somewhat pricier and some of the extra care is not included. For example, some facilities will include three meals a day and some won’t. Since the Covid pandemic, many professional restaurant chefs who were out of work took the challenge to cook in assisted living facilities, giving the residents an increased appetite with the colorful and delicious restaurant quality entrees. Eating together with other residents also helps to strengthen the appetite.Assisted living costs for the United States average at $4,051 per month with each state and community having their own costs which vary dramatically. Some facilities itemize bills so if a person is new to the residence and in good physical condition they might not want or need to pay for the food. As the resident ages, his living costs will increase since he will need more personal aid. There are also options for all – inclusive fees which include rent, housekeeping, meals, and transportation.

Financial Considerations

Although, it would seem that it would be easier to get Medicaid funding for skilled nursing care, no one would want to put their parents in a place they don’t belong. Unless the senior is in need of all around medical care or is not mobile, the best place to start a transition from private living is at the assisted living facility. Sherry’s mom (at the start of the article) may have been preparing financially for such a life adjusting circumstance. Here are some examples of how seniors cope with entering an assisted living facility.
1) Revere Mortgages: Instead of immediately selling their home, the senior takes out a loan against the value of their home. When the final owner wants to sell, the loan recipient will have to pay back the loan plus interest.
2) Long-Term Care Insurance: Assisted living can be covered under long -term care insurance policies. Make sure that your parents are purchasing the right policy from a reputable company. (There are scams out there.) This policy has to be purchased way before the person will enter an assisted living dwelling.
3) Veteran’s Aid & Attendance Benefit: This program for veterans who were injured while serving and their spouses can be utilized in addition to their basic VA pension.
4) Medicaid Waivers: These waivers for assisted living are increasing each year since the government realizes that assisted living is cheaper than skilled nursing homes.

Putting it All Together

It could be painful for sensitive progeny to transition their elderly parent to a new residence. Seniors, especially, are creatures of habit and living in their own home is something they don’t want to give up. Some assisted living facilities offer monthly trials for potential residents. This could be a great option for someone like Sherry’s mom, who we profiled at the start of this article. Sometimes, even a trip and guided tour to a beautiful facility can change the mindset of the senior. Who knows, he or she might spot an old friend or old flame and their interest can be piqued. So, with lots of love and patience, hopefully caring children such as Sherry will be able to find a safe and positive haven for their aging parents.