Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.


          Carol Marak,
      Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Source: Senior Care Corner

What Happens When a Senior Can No Longer Care for Their Pet?

Howard Cutler knows the joy animals can bring to people. His childhood memories are filled with stories of his family’s two beloved dogs and cats. After moving into a senior housing complex in Atlanta, Georgia, Cutler acted on his love of animals and adopted a Shih Tzu named Ollie from a fellow resident who could no longer care for the animal. For seven years, the pair was inseparable until Cutler’s Parkinson’s disease forced him to move to a different assisted care facility that didn’t allow pets.

“He was my friend and my companion, and giving him up was very difficult for me,” Cutler explains. As much as he wanted to keep little Ollie, Cutler knew he needed to rehome his beloved pet. He began looking among his neighbors in the senior complex to find a new owner. “Ollie was loved by everyone there, but I was worried that I wouldn’t find the right person.”

Cutler was fortunate to find the perfect fit in his friend and neighbor Nancy Markovich. “Howard was heartsick that he had to give up Ollie,” Markovich recalls. “So, I offered to adopt the dog and promised to take good care of him.”

Ollie’s veterinarian, Dr. Duffy Jones, says pets provide much-needed comfort and companionship to people of all ages, especially seniors. “The value that animals bring to people is amazing,” he says. “I’ve seen older pet owners who are struggling financially choose not feed themselves so they can feed their animals. Their pet is the reason they get up in the morning.”

But when aging pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animals, surrendering the pet is often the best course of action. “Most owners understand they’re sick and their pet needs more care than they’re able to provide,” Dr. Jones says. “They want to make a plan for their pets; It’s a real source of comfort.”

Senior Pet Owners Must Plan for the Unexpected

Dr. Jones encourages all pet owners to devise a succession plan for their animals as early as possible. Having a “plan b” in place before the pet owner becomes too ill, needs to move to a care facility or passes away will offer invaluable peace of mind for the owner and added security for their pet. He offers the following tips for creating a contingency plan for a loving animal:

  • Consider adoption. Ask friends and family who are familiar with the pet if they are willing and able to offer the animal a new home. Those who interact with the pet regularly will be better equipped to determine if the animal’s size, personality, routine, etc. would fit well with their schedule and lifestyle.
  • Talk to a vet. Veterinarians have many resources at their disposal and can often help rehome a pet. No-kill shelters can also be a useful option, and there are many non-profit rescue organizations around the U.S. that will also assist older adults in finding new homes for their animals.
  • Get the owner’s input. Be sure to let the pet owner have a say in the decision. Ask them who they would like to look after their pet. “In some cases, older people don’t have a lot of family around and their friends are going through similar transitions, so they worry what will happen to their pets,” explains Dr. Jones. “Animal owners are visibly relieved when we tell them we’ve found their pets a new home. It’s not uncommon for them to cry.”
  • Allow for a smooth transition. Ideally, the current owner will be able to help the pet transition to its new home. The goal is to help the animal and new owner build trust and become familiar with one another incrementally. Try having the new owner come for extended visits with the pet, take the animal for walks and care for it in the new home for short periods before full-time ownership begins. Small steps are easier on everyone involved compared to an abrupt change.
  • Rehomed pets aren’t gone forever. While evaluating prospective adopters, discuss the possibility of allowing the original owner to continue visiting with the animal. Even a monthly visit with a cherished furry friend can brighten up a senior’s day.

Dr. Jones says euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. “Some older people think that putting a pet down is best because the animal is so bonded to their owner,” he says. “We usually try to talk them out of it, explain that there are so many other options and then we work with the owner to rehome their pet(s).”

When Is It Time to Rehome a Senior’s Pet?

With so much research touting the physical and mental benefits that animals provide to humans, Dr. Jones advises that older people keep their pets for as long as possible. Unfortunately, though, circumstances do change. If either the pet or their elderly owner is living in a neglectful situation or experiencing a reduced quality of life, then it is time to explore alternative options. It can be difficult to balance the health, safety and happiness of both the senior and their pet, but it must be done.

Dr. Jones sympathizes with family members who don’t know what to do about their aging loved ones and their furry friends. “For caregivers, the thought of taking care of a person and their pet can be overwhelming,” he notes. “Sometimes older people haven’t trained their pets well, which can amount to behavioral problems and unsanitary conditions. But what people don’t see is that these animals mean so much to their owners. Separation often causes physical and emotional decline in both parties.”

Balance What Is Best for the Senior and Their Pet

Markovich has no regrets about adopting Ollie. She tried to make the transition as smooth as possible for both pet and owner. Cutler now receives the care and assistance he requires while Ollie gets the love and stimulation that dogs thrive on. Markovich inherited Ollie’s food and water dishes from Cutler and even places them in the same spot in her apartment at the senior housing community. The twosome goes for daily walks and Markovich hopes that she’s kept Ollie trained to Cutler’s standards.

Every month, Cutler gets to see his favorite companion when Markovich brings Ollie for a pet therapy visit at the assisted living community. “When he comes to see me, he’s overjoyed,” says Cutler. “When Nancy is ready to leave, he goes to her side to let me know he was happy to see me, but he is leaving with Nancy. I feel sad about that, but also happy that I was able to find a good home for him.”

Markovich is equally grateful for the opportunity to help a friend in need and to find the loving companionship that a pet brings. “Ollie sits by me on the sofa, sleeps on my bed and we are thick as thieves. He is a true blessing for me,” she remarks.

Source: AgingCare  by Candace Rotolo

Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?

As parents age and need more assistance, most adult children do what they can to help. For many, the first step is a weekly stop by Mom and Dad’s home to assess the situation and perhaps help with some chores and errands. Often, these check-ins increase in frequency until it becomes a routine part of each day.

Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements.

Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?

The Benefits of Leaving Work to Care for a Family Member

You already know what may be gained by giving up your job and becoming the primary full-time caregiver for your parents. You would benefit from knowing firsthand how they are faring day and night. You could save them from paying for in-home care or adult day care. You wouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care they are receiving from outside sources. You could likely delay, if not eliminate, their need for nursing home care. You may be able to deepen your relationship with your parents and grow closer to them.

Keep in mind that every family is unique. For some, these benefits are realistic yet short-lived. For others, these benefits are simply unattainable ideals. Caregiver burnout, financial strain and changes in health and relationships can severely undermine even the best laid care plans.

The Costs of Quitting a Job for Caregiving

While the benefits seem straightforward enough, the true costs of deciding to quit your job to care for Mom or Dad are much more complex.

A deficit in or loss of monthly income is likely the biggest factor in this decision, and that change can usually be tolerated on a temporary basis. However, caregiving can drag on for months and even years. Many caregivers do not think about the long-term effects of this choice, but it’s crucial not to forget about or ignore your own financial future.

Yes, stepping in to help your aging parents may feel good and help them save money. If they have significant assets and don’t outlive their savings, you may even recoup some of the financial resources you gave up by inheriting part of their estate when they die. But, my best advice to family caregivers is never to rely on that outcome.

It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through.

Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the following implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs.

  1. Social Security Benefits: Even though family caregivers work very long, hard hours, these work hours do not show up on one’s Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you spend officially unemployed, you not only lose your take-home wages, but you also lose the opportunity to work toward earning hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security retirement benefits.
  2. Retirement Savings Plans: Without a job, you’ll miss out on the ability to participate in an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job, your financial future is likely to be bleak. In fact, most family caregivers who give up their jobs end up withdrawing funds from their savings and retirement accounts prematurely to offset their lost income and cover monthly expenses.
  3. Job skills: As other colleagues in your field move up and gain experience, your skills are likely to wane during your unemployment. Countless people have left the workforce and been unpleasantly surprised to find that new educational requirements, technological expertise and training are now required for jobs similar to the ones they held before.
  4. Re-entering the Workforce: It’s easier to get a new job when you already have one, compared to job hunting while unemployed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy, especially with a significant gap in employment on your resume.
  5. Ageism: As your parents age and you care for them, you, too, are growing older. Age discrimination is illegal, but when you’re finally able to work again, potential employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you, such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver Isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that, while you are glad not to be juggling a job and caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere, your paycheck and the social interaction you had as an employed person. Caregiving can be a profoundly lonely job.

As with all issues in caregiving, there is no black and white answer. For some, leaving work for caregiving is the only right thing to do. For others, it can lead to financial ruin and a lost sense of purpose and identity outside of providing care. As a nation, we need more affordable elder care resources and better support from employers so that gainful employment, financial security and dedication to family are attainable goals that can coexist. Until more options are made available to Americans, adult children who wish to care for their aging parents will continue facing heartbreakingly difficult decisions like this one.

Source: AgingCare Carol Bradley Bursack

5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caregiving is a labor of love, and love is about selflessness and sacrifice. Spouses give up so much for each other, parents constantly put their children’s needs before their own, and when those 5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiverchildren become grown adults with aging parents, they want to return the love and care they received.

If you find yourself consistently making sacrifices to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, your heart is certainly in the right place. But such devotion can also take its toll on your health and well-being.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to report higher levels of burden and stress than other caregivers due to the cognitive and physical limitations experienced by the care recipients. And, a word of caution: a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving (PDF 2.6 MB) found that as care recipients’ dementias get worse, the health of their caregivers tended to diminish significantly as well.

Consciously taking steps to care for yourself is important both for your sake and your loved one’s. Feeling physically, emotionally and mentally refreshed will help you be the best caregiver you can be.

    1. Say Yes to Help
      It might require swallowing some guilt or pride, but if you feel overwhelmed, stressed to the max and exhausted, it’s time to ask for help. Talk to your other family members and come up with a solution together. Maybe the others can pitch in more regularly to give you a respite. Or maybe you’ll decide to hire outside help. Non-medical in-home senior care agencies like Home Instead Senior Care specialize in finding just the right caregiver to match your loved one’s needs, interests and personality. They can provide care for just a few hours per week or as much as 24/7 care. You’ll find peace of mind when you can take a break from caregiving and attend to your own needs knowing your loved one is with a well-trained, trusted caregiver.
    2. Stay Informed
      Knowledge is power when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Arming yourself with information will reduce worry and stress while boosting your confidence and ability to take control of your situation.

    3. Find Support
      This could mean joining a caregiver support group in your community, taking part in an online community for Alzheimer’s caregivers, or just finding a good friend willing to listen and lend a shoulder to cry on. You need a safe space to vent your frustrations (without taking it out on your family) and a source of encouragement. Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is one of the hardest jobs out there, so it may help to hear other caregivers’ stories and take the journey together.
    4. Take Care of YourselfMuch easier said than done, of course, but taking time to take care of your own needs is absolutely essential.
      • Avoid skipping or putting off your own doctor appointments
      • Take time to yourself everyday to do something you want to do
      • Listen to your body and give it what it needs—rest, exercise, a chance to cry, a nice massage, healthier food, a doctor’s check-up, etc.

While you will inevitably still make some personal sacrifices, limit them to the ones you feel are most important. Keep your stress levels in check by taking the Caregiver StressMeter assessment and learn what you need to do to maintain your own health and spirits.

  1. Focus On the Positive
    Make a point each day to note the things that went well, focus on what your loved one can do rather than dwelling on the difficulties, and don’t hesitate to break out your sense of humor! Never underestimate the power of a good, hearty laugh to ease tension and melt away stress. Negativity, on the other hand, will just drag you down, so strive to maintain good moods and attitudes to remain at the top of your game.

Even if it seems like caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s demands all your time and energy, know that you’re entitled to take personal time for yourself. It’s not only allowed, it’s necessary. Start right now—choose one thing you can do to feel better today and you’ll be on your way toward a more rewarding caregiving experience.

Source CaregiverStress.com

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019It is estimated that older adults lose billions of dollars to scammers each year. But there is good news—last year the Federal Trade Commission noted that older consumers are more likely to report they’ve been victimized by financial exploitation than their younger counterparts.

Here are three scams that are notably making the rounds.

1. Beware of Social Security spoofing calls

There’s been a significant uptick in fraudulent telephone calls from people claiming to represent the Social Security Administration (SSA). In them, unknown callers threaten victims that they face arrest or other legal action if they fail to call a provided phone number or press the number indicated in the message to address the issue. Sometimes the scammers switch tactics and say that they want to help an individual activate a suspended Social Security number. They may even “spoof” the actual Social Security hotline number to appear on the recipient’s phone: 1-800-772-1213.

If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Know that Social Security rarely contacts persons by phone unless you have ongoing business with them and they never make threats about arrest or legal action.

Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website.

2. Watch for a new twist on the old grandparent scam

The grandparent scam has been around for several years. In this approach, a person calls an older adult pretending to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal trouble and needs money immediately.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that instead of using wire transfer or gift cards, an increasing number of older adults are mailing cash to these fraudsters, with a median individual loss of $9,000. According to reports, the scammers often ask seniors to divide the bills into envelopes and place them between the pages of a magazine, then send them using various carriers, including UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.

The FTC warns that if you or a loved one receives one of these calls, don’t act right away. Call that grandchild back on a correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or shipping company you used. Some people have been able to stop delivery by acting quickly and giving a tracking number. Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

3. Only work with reputable agencies after a natural disaster

Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes—these unpredictable forces of nature can be devastating to those living in affected areas. Even those not directly affected may want to lend support in whatever way they can.

Unfortunately, natural disasters are a golden opportunity for scammers, who target both those who’ve been directly affected and those who want to offer their support. Natural disaster scams typically start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail, or in person. Scammers may:

  • Impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers.
  • Set up fake websites with names that mimic legitimate charities to trick people into sending money.
  • Pretend to be from the IRS and collect personal information under the guise of helping victims file loss claims and get tax refunds.

To find reputable charities to support victims of natural disasters, use the IRS’s tax exempt organization search or look for an organization’s charity rating on places such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

If you’re a disaster victim, use NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® disaster assistance tool to find legitimate help with relief and financial assistance.

Pass it on!

One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to pass along information about scams that are making the rounds. Through the Pass It On campaign, the FTC offers free materials you can download or order and share in your community to protect older adults from scams.

Source: NCOA – Nationa Council on Aging

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family Dynamics

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family DynamicsYou can be paid for your work and treated fairly

Does money change everything, as the old saying goes? If Alicia had won the lottery, then she might understand why her siblings were now treating her a little differently. But all she’d done was become certified as a home health aide so she could receive a modest hourly wage from her county for dressing, grooming and feeding her Parkinson’s disease-stricken mom. Nowadays, however, her sisters seemed less interested in pitching in with caregiving tasks since family caregiving had officially become her “job.” Even her mother seemed to be asking more of her, as if she were now the hired help and not her youngest daughter.

More states are allowing care recipients to hire and pay family members as their home health aides under what is sometimes called consumer-directed care. These are popular programs for obvious reasons: Family members — some of whom had to quit or cut back on work to take care of a loved one — are now being paid at least a little money for all the care they provide. No one is getting rich, but at least they are better able to cover some bills. More importantly, receiving an hourly wage gives them a feeling of being publicly acknowledged and valued rather than (as is too often the case) feeling invisible and underappreciated.

In my clinical practice, I’ve also worked with many families in which a parent’s decision to leave a house or the bulk of an inheritance to the primary caregiver roils family dynamics like nothing else. The caregiver who will receive money becomes immediately suspected by others of playing the Altruistic Child to cash in. Anger and conflict frequently result.

How can family caregivers earn some compensation for their devoted efforts but not be regarded as mercenaries by other family members? Here are some ideas:

Demonstrate transparency: Many of us are inclined to keep our financial affairs private, even when among family members. But because caregiving is inherently a family enterprise, it is vital that we are aboveboard about monetary transactions, especially if we are profiting in some way from a parent’s need for assistance. Let other family members know about the opportunity to earn an hourly wage for providing hands-on care. Tell them exactly what you’ll make. Communicate plainly that this money is going to offset costs incurred by caregiving activities — e.g., expenses for medication copays, lost salary, the price of fuel for driving to the doctor.

Keep in mind what others think is fair: It may seem fair to you to receive money for the many sacrifices you are making on behalf of someone you love. (I agree with you.) But there are other family members who may believe they are also making sacrifices — though, admittedly, not as many as you are — and deserve to be compensated to some degree as well. For them, it may seem patently unfair that you get glory and money and they get neither. Don’t begrudge or disagree with their feelings. Empathize with them instead and tell them that you greatly value their participation in caregiving. You don’t have to fork over some of your newly earned cash to prove that. Just express your appreciation that the two of you are part of a cohesive caregiving team whose sole mission is to help Mom.

Preserve your parent-child relationship: Care recipients can become increasingly demanding over time even when money is not involved. But when a family member has been hired for a caregiving job, there is a greater tendency for the care recipient to treat even close relatives with impatience and barked orders. Even when you’re on duty, though, you’re not just an employee. Complete the necessary tasks but let your parent know that you’re there for love, not money, and that you expect that your personal rapport with one another is not going to be suddenly altered by changed economics.

Weigh the money’s worth: For some families, receiving a caregiving salary will be an unmitigated boon about which everyone is thrilled. For others, there will be no end to the resentment, jealousy and sniping. Judge for yourself whether working as a loved one’s home health aide is worth it. If it isn’t, then don’t be resentful in kind. Instead, be consoled that peace in the family may ultimately be of greater value than any amount of money in the pocket.

by Barry J. Jacobs

Source: AARP

6 Ways to Get Vision Coverage When You Retire

6 Ways to Get Vision Coverage When You RetireAbout 1.3 billion people in the world live with some form of vision impairment. The reasons vary but the fact is, your risk of developing vision problems drastically increases as you age. Over 91% of people age 55+ use some form of vision correction, so having access to quality vision care is critical as you get older. Issues with vision can increase the risk of falls, driving incidents, and impacting quality of life.

Medicare plans cover a wide variety of services including doctor visits, home health care, and a range of preventive screenings and treatments, but when it comes to vision coverage, beneficiaries’ options are extremely limited. So, what are the available options when you retire?

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)

Vision coverage through Original Medicare is limited to mostly preventive and emergency services. Original Medicare generally doesn’t cover routine eye exams for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Medicare Part A covers medical emergency related to your vision if you are admitted to the hospital and Medicare Part B covers preventive treatments and screening related to diseases affecting your vision.

Medicare Part B covers annual glaucoma test for at-risk individuals which includes those with diabetes, African-Americans aged 50+, Hispanics aged 65+, and/or those with a family history of glaucoma. Annual exams to test for diabetic retinopathy among diabetics, diagnostic tests and screenings for macular degeneration, cataract surgery and one pair of post-surgery eyeglasses or contact lenses are also covered. Medicare will only pay for contact lenses or eyeglasses from a supplier enrolled in Medicare. For each of these services, the out-of-pocket costs is the 20% Medicare-approved amount, and Part B deductible.

Medicare Advantage (Part C)

One of the easiest options for vision coverage when you retire is Medicare Part CPart C includes the same emergency and preventive benefits included with Original Medicare, but some Part C plans may also offer additional benefits that include a yearly eye exam, eyeglass frames and lenses, or contact lenses. The cost and coverage for these services vary from plan to plan. The best way to find a Medicare Advantage plan that covers all the services you need is to compare plans online or speak with a licensed benefits advisor.

Vision Programs

Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan to receive vision coverage is not necessarily the best option for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should not be able to get adequate vision coverage. There are national and local programs available that can provide vision care for little to no cost, but there may be additional requirements to participate and resources may be limited.

  • EyeCare America®, a service from the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides free eye exams and up to one year of care for low-income individuals who qualify.
  • Local Lions’ Club chapters often have programs to assist those with severe vision impairment. Local chapters will be able to provide more information on how to get assistance.
  • Vision USA, a program of the American Optometric Association and Mission Cataract USA both offer vision services for those without insurance including Medicare or Medicaid. Vision USA provides free eye exams for low-income Americans and Mission Cataract USA offers free cataract surgery to those who qualify.

As you begin to research your Medicare options keep in mind the enhanced services you may need to maintain, or maybe even improve your quality of life. Having yearly eye exams and updated prescriptions or dental cleanings and fillings may not be the things you consider when choosing a Medicare plan, but they should be.

To get help discovering a plan that covers your needs try taking our Medicare Questionnaire, which allows you to compare plans online or connects you to free professional advice from licensed benefits advisors. You can also contact your local State Health Assistance Insurance Program (SHIP) for access to federally-funded Medicare counseling from trained staff members.

By: The My Medicare Matters Team

Source: My Medicare Matters

Why Does My Elderly Loved One Sleep All Day?

As people age, they tend to sleep more lightly than when they were younger and often wake up during the night from achy joints or the need to use the restroom. Many seniors compensate for this lost sleep by catching a restorative nap during the day. That’s normal.

Daytime sleeping only becomes a problem when an elder spends most of their time dozing in bed or their favorite chair instead of engaging in life. If you want your elder to stay awake more during the day and sleep better at night, you will need to discover the underlying reason(s) why they are napping excessively. In some cases, you may need a doctor’s help to narrow down the cause and recommend treatments. Knowing what to look for can give you a jumpstart on improving a loved one’s sleep schedule.

Common Reasons Why Seniors Sleep So Much

Boredom in the Elderly

As people age, they may suffer from chronic health conditions and age-related changes that affect their ability to do the things they enjoy. When options for outings, activities and entertainment are limited, it can deal a serious blow to an elder’s quality of life. They aren’t working anymore, they may struggle with reading or puzzles because of poor eyesight, and eventually they get tired of watching TV. In these cases, elders may not be clinically depressed or even all that tired. Instead, their fatigue stems from the fact that they are incredibly bored. With no schedule to keep and not much going on in their lives, they slide into the habit of napping throughout most of the day.

Medication Side Effects and Interactions

The average senior in the U.S. takes several different medications each day. All medications have side effects, so it should come as no surprise that taking multiple drugs can produce interactions that magnify these effects. In addition, older individuals metabolize medications differently than their younger counterparts, meaning that they are even more susceptible to adverse effects like drowsiness and dizziness.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications for conditions like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, nausea and allergies can all cause excessive sleepiness. Atypical (second generation) antipsychotics are notoriously hard on most elderly patients as well. If your loved one is on one of these medications, discuss the side effects and alternative medication options with their physician. You may even find that there are some medications in their regimen that could be reduced to smaller dosages or discontinued completely. Sometimes simply altering the timing of a senior’s medications can improve their alertness during the day.

Depression and Sleep

Many elders become sad and lose interest in life, but depression is in no way a normal part of aging. Most people are familiar with the basic signs of depression, but for older individuals, the red flags can be a little different. Sleep issues and fatigue can often indicate that a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder. If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, do your best to talk with them about how they are feeling and make an appointment with their physician.

If a loved one is already on antidepressant medication or begins antidepressant therapy, keep in mind that finding the correct medication usually takes some trial and error. Again, sleepiness is a common side effect of these prescription drugs, so be sure to communicate with the doctor about any adverse effects to ensure your loved one finds the right medication.

Dementia and Difficulty Sleeping

Many seniors with dementia experience a wide array of sleep problems, especially in the later stages of the disease. As the brain deteriorates, issues arise with circadian rhythms and temporal awareness, making it difficult for dementia patients to sleep through the night and keep a normal schedule. In some cases, sleeping during the day is the only way that patients can make up for the shuteye they lose at night.

The resulting odd schedules can be frustrating for caregivers, but sleep deprivation can also exacerbate the symptoms of dementia, like sundowning. While there aren’t many foolproof methods for helping a loved one sleep through the night and stay awake during the day, sleeping pills typically aren’t advisable. The best methods for encouraging good sleep habits include using engaging activities during the daytime, scheduling brief naps as needed during the day, and sticking to a set sleep schedule as best as you can. A solid routine can be very helpful for helping a loved one stay oriented and managing behaviors and symptoms of dementia.

Excessive Sleep in the Elderly

In some instances, excessive sleeping in individuals with one or more serious medical conditions can indicate that their health has taken a downturn. This may not necessarily mean that death is near, but it certainly is cause for contacting the doctor to see if a specific treatment should be altered, added or removed. If a loved one is spending a great deal of time asleep, it is important to devise ways to ensure they still get the nutrition, personal care and medications they need. Otherwise, complications like dehydration, malnutrition and pressure ulcers can arise. In the most severe cases, the doctor may recommend an assessment for a different level of care, such as skilled nursing or hospice.

The Importance of Staying Active

In addition to being vigilant about an aging loved one’s medications and health, it is also important to encourage them to participate in life as fully as they can. Providing plenty of opportunities for social interaction, mental stimulation and physical activity is key to a high quality of life. But, for many family caregivers, seeing to all these needs in addition to their hands-on responsibilities and personal schedules is nearly impossible. Seeking out respite care that doubles as a source of stimulation for a loved one is a common solution for many families.

In-home care and adult day care are two such options. Both professional in-home caregivers and adult day care staff can help set and maintain daily routines, provide engaging activities and outings, and broaden a senior’s social circle. Assisted living and nursing home care can also offer these benefits in a residential setting. When elders spend more time engaged in life during the day, it reduces boredom, minimizes depressive symptoms and typically leads to better quality sleep at night.

Your goal is to determine why your loved one is so fatigued and how you can boost their spirits and energy level. The problems and solutions above may not apply to every senior, so don’t try to solve the problem alone. Communicate with your loved one as best you can and ask for help from physicians, friends and other caregivers. By doing so, you’ll get the support and reassurance you need, and you may find a workable solution.

Source: AgingCare by Carol Bradley Bursack

Signs a Senior Needs Help at Home

Admitting the need for help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. The responsibility often falls on family members to recognize the signs that an aging loved one might need support with completing the activities of daily living.

How do you know if it is time for in-home care? Look for the red flags listed below.

Changes in Physical Function and Mental Status

  • Difficulty keeping track of time
  • Sleeping for most of the day
  • Poor diet or weight loss
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Difficulty getting up from a seated position
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • Marks or wear on walls, door jams, furniture and other items being used to help with stability while walking through the home
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness, including forgetting to take medications or taking incorrect dosages
  • Missing important appointments
  • Consistent use of poor judgment (e.g. falling for scams or sales pitches, giving away money)

Poor Personal Hygiene

  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Infrequent showering or bathing
  • A strong smell of urine in the house or on clothing
  • Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care (e.g. unkempt hair, untrimmed nails, lack of oral care, wearing dirty or stained clothing)

Neglecting Household Responsibilities

  • Inability to independently complete Instrumental ADLs
  • Little or no fresh, healthy food in the fridge
  • Dirty house and/or extreme clutter
  • Dirty laundry piling up
  • Stains or wet spots on furniture or carpet
  • Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
  • Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
  • Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
  • Utilities being turned off due to missed payments
  • Signs of unsafe driving like unexplained dents and scratches on their car

Hiring a Home Care Company

If these signs are present, it doesn’t necessarily mean a move to assisted living or a nursing home is required. However, these red flags do indicate that daily supportive care is needed. Use the guide below as a starting point in the process of hiring home care to help you make informed and confident decisions.

Source: AgingCare by Marlo Sollitto

Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!

Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!There have been many technological innovations that help family caregivers as they care for older adults.

Do we always love — or even use — them when we get them? Nope!

When it comes to older adults, the population is quickly becoming larger than the number of those available to care for them. Many family caregivers can’t stop working, for financial reasons, to become full-time caregivers, have other immediate family needs raising their children, or live at a great distance away all, any of which may prevent them from being full-time caregivers.

What about the number of seniors who have no family members, never had children, or have outlived their family members? What can they do to get their aging needs met?

This is a prime reason that technology to fill the gaps of caregiving is here to stay and will only continue to increase in breath and scope of devices and innovations.

Non-traditional solutions need to be embraced by caregivers and older adults, as well as made useable and practical by tech companies.

Many seniors have been slow to adopt new technology and many caregivers have stalled getting technology in place because they feel overwhelmed and undereducated about what is best for their senior loved one. Both of those must be overcome for caregivers and seniors to get the benefits of technology.

Smart home technology, voice activated assistants, and remote medical monitoring are all at the forefront in technology becoming part of daily life for our seniors.

Are we giving due consideration to robotics and the promise of great things to help manage chronic disease, reduce loneliness and improve the well-being of people living with dementia?

Dementia Decline Impacted by Robot Interaction

A new project has been focused on the effects that robots can have on the decline associated with dementia’s progress.

Advanced Brain Monitoring Inc (ABM) has introduced a robot companion that will interact with a person with dementia to determine if it can mitigate cognitive decline. ABM has received a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH to carry out this study using socially assistive robot interventions. You can read more about it in this article.

Caregivers have been searching for strategies to meet the needs of their older loved ones and keep them mentally stimulated and engaged.

ABM used a socially assistive robot named Mabu from Catalia Health to interact with people with dementia in their own homes. The ABM team states, “We foresee the potential for the robot intervention to be used alone or in combination with other treatments for dementia.”

Mabu will ask questions, get answers, and give reminders as desired. It can be voice activated or directed using a touchscreen tablet. Daily conversations of only a few minutes at a time are individualized to the person and their needs. Although not mobile, the head and eyes move to interact with the person and follows their face to engage.

Change in Chronic Disease Needs Technology Solutions

Seniors today typically suffer from chronic diseases instead of an acute medical diagnosis that ends in their quick demise, as it did in the last century. The struggle then becomes managing chronic disease (and often more than one at a time) for optimal aging and independence that will allow aging in place.

Unfortunately, with the growth in the older population combined with the decline in number of people who can be caregivers to this population of elders, family caregivers will need to depend more on innovative technology to face health and aging challenges.

Success of technology to improve the life of our older adults will require engagement with this technology. That will mean, in a sense, having a relationship with our tech devices and staying engaged over time without abandoning it.

Clearly, if our seniors stop using a device, there is no benefit.

What if there was a technology that was engaging, effective, and acted as a companion that would become meaningful enough to achieve results of engagement that leads to true disease management and medication administration?

Technology such as this could keep a senior connected over a long period of time instead of being discarded. One that becomes almost a buddy.

Cost Versus Benefit of Technology Interventions

Many seniors who have begun needing additional care, but want to remain at home, need a helping hand.

Particularly for those older adults who live alone, a companion robot that interacts on a daily (even more than once a day) basis and is there to confirm they are following their treatment plan is very important to not only their medical status and quality of life, but also for the senior’s mental health to reduce loneliness.

Loneliness, which affects as many as one third of our seniors, has been shown to be a predictor of poor health.

The cost of most of this new technology rivals that of once a week in-home care. While the cost of care will likely rise over time due to supply and demand impacts, the cost of technology typically declines.

UBTECH Lynx (at Amazon)

Cost reductions in avoiding a medical crisis or hospitalization, home safety interventions, proper medication management, reduction in depression and loneliness, and the time given back to family caregivers far outweigh over the long-term other costs of facility or even routine home care.

Digital companions who interact with seniors and the healthcare team can help avoid health crises that lead to hospitalizations. It can also reduce the number of in-home visits needed when chronic diseases are monitored more closely and routinely using digital companions. Non-adherence to the treatment plan is a real barrier to health for many seniors.

Robots on the market and coming to market soon are not intended to take the place of in-home caregivers but to supplement the care they provide based on each senior’s situation.

It is important to note that many of these social robotic companions do not store health data. Any information relayed to a healthcare provider is encrypted, HIPPA compliant and secure.

Technology to Defeat Dementia

Robotics are being used with people with dementia in order to get their attention, engage them with companionship and stimulate them.

There are several of these robots either on the market in specific sectors or available to the consumer including MABU, ElliQ, CareCoach GeriJoy, Buddy, Paro the seal, and Hasbro’s Joy for All pets.

Robotic pets cost in the $100 range and are easily accessible. One of these would be a great gift for many seniors!

The sad truth is the level of frustration and anger family caregivers have when caring for elders in the advanced stages of dementia who ask repetitive questions and need constant redirection at tasks. It is human nature to react when someone asks 15 times in a row what time it is.

Robot companions, however, don’t react with judgment or frustration and are able to maintain a constant tone of voice. This interaction may help avoid conflict which could escalate behaviors in the person with dementia. A robotic companion can relieve a daily caregiver when seniors need constant conversation.

Robotics Doesn’t Replace but Enhance Caregiving

Many caregivers will balk at the thought of machines taking over the caregiving role and replacing the human touch.

This has never been the intention.

Everyone we have seen and heard in the field of robotic research and those implementing digital companions with seniors agree that a human caregiver is essential. Robots are to be used to enhance the experience of aging and augment the capabilities of busy caregivers not replace it.

You are the most important caregiver for your senior loved one, but you need help.

Socially assistive companion robots could help you improve the quality of life for your senior while helping you be able to continue to be a strong caregiver!

Source: Senior Care Corner by Kathy Birkett