Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and what you can do

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and what you can do

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the medical name for memory problems that exceed the “normal forgetfulness of aging” but are less than associated with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. If you have received a diagnosis of MCI, you are at risk for continued significant cognitive decline. Each year about 10–15% of persons with MCI receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, as compared to 1–3% of all older adults.

That said, many people with MCI do not experience further decline. And some people even improve–if their memory loss was caused by something fixable like a medication reaction or untreated depression. For all these reasons, it is important to have symptoms reassessed every 6–12 months to monitor changes.

There are things you can do. While there is no medical treatment as yet for MCI, some everyday activities can help prevent or slow its progression. The goal is to increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain, and keep your mind active.

  • Manage your blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure within the normal range has a profound effect on delaying memory problems.
  • Practice healthy habits. Get regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking. Aim for eight hours of sleep. Eat a diet low in processed foods and high in fruits and vegetables. Limit alcohol. Quit smoking. Manage other conditions (e.g., diabetes, depression).
  • Wear your hearing aids. A loss in hearing means a loss of stimulation to the brain. Studies now connect this loss with a decline in brain function. (Plus, some things you are “forgetting” may in fact be from conversations you didn’t fully hear.)
  • Participate in social activities. Even if you don’t talk much, the stimulation of spending time with others is beneficial.
  • Learn a new skill. Make your brain exercise! Try something you’ve never done. Brush your teeth with the “opposite” hand. Or have some fun: Ping-pong? Drumming?
  • Engage your mind with puzzles. This is brain calisthenics. Keep your neurons firing with activities that make you think.

Memory aids. Accept that you are forgetful and support yourself for success. Make ample use of to-do lists, big calendars, and notes or alarms on your phone. Leverage the power of routines. Put your keys and glasses, purse/wallet in the same place every time. Set yourself up for environmental cueing, consciously putting things where you will see them when needed, such as leaving your morning pills by the coffee maker.

Worried about MCI?
Give us a call. We can help. (208) 321-5567

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How to pay for care

How to pay for care

Most people are surprised to learn that Medicare pays for only a limited amount of the daily care you are likely to need in your lifetime (about 14%).

Medicare covers only services delivered by medically trained professionals. That means you need to have savings or insurance and rely on a collection of local programs. Or family and friends who may be able to pitch in with labor or funds.

Assisted living and memory care $$$–$$$$
As nonmedical services, these settings are usually paid for out of your own savings. If you are a qualifying veteran or you have long-term care insurance, your costs may be covered. Contact the Veterans Administration or state Veterans Council. Check your long-term care insurance policy for eligibility requirements. Also ask about waiting periods. Is there a lifetime cap on the total amount they will pay?

Skilled nursing/rehab or nursing home $–$$$$$
Provided your stay follows a qualifying hospitalization, original Medicare—the government’s health insurance for seniors—will typically cover some portion of the costs for the first 100 days. You use your supplemental insurance for your copay. Or pay out of pocket if you do not have supplemental insurance. Starting day 101, you pay 100% of the cost. Medicare Advantage plans vary, so review the coverage with your insurance provider. If you have private long-term care insurance, check your policy for skilled nursing coverage. The Veterans Administration offers special facilities for qualifying vets.

The very poor may qualify for Medicaid. This program will pay 100% of costs. However, there are only a limited number of Medicaid openings available in any given facility. Those living long term in a nursing home usually exhaust all personal savings and assets. Then they switch to Medicaid. If you think you may need Medicaid, consult an elder law attorney early. Also, your financial planner for advice about liquidating your assets.

Continuing care retirement communities $$$$$
This is a very different model of care that merges housing and insurance. With a continuing care retirement community—also known as a “Life Plan Community”—you invest a substantial sum up front (often in the six figures). You also pay a monthly service fee. Start while you are healthy and live on campus to enjoy the deluxe amenities. Move to the most appropriate building as your care needs change. This is paid for almost entirely out of your own savings. If you have long-term care insurance, check your policy to see if it covers continuing care retirement communities.

Worried about paying for care?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

Choosing a home care provider

Choosing a home care provider

Frank knows they need help at home. His wife’s dementia is getting worse, and he has his own health problems. She can’t be left alone anymore.

Doing all the cooking and cleaning, and now helping with bathing … it’s just too much.

Frank needs to take breaks. But a Google search reveals a dizzying array of home care providers. How to choose?

Allowing a stranger into your home can leave you feeling quite vulnerable. It’s important that you trust the individual and the company that does the background checks, verifies training, and puts together the schedule.

You also need to interview each company to find out pricing and minimum number of hours, and to see if they have independent quality ratings.

How do you know which one to trust?
This is where an Aging Life Care™ Manager can help.

On the basis of past experience with other clients, he or she knows which companies put an emphasis on training. Which have difficulty filling a shift if a caregiver calls in sick. Which have high staff turnover resulting in the need for you to orient a new employee every few months. Which have a strong team, with employees who love their work.

Wise home care companies will let you and your Aging Life Care Manager interview several caregivers before making a choice. They know that an Aging Life Care Manager understands you as the client and understands what will result in an optimal match.

Both you and the provider and the caregiver want a good fit the first time so all of you can work together positively for the duration of your need. It makes the difficult transition to home care that much easier if a knowledgeable advocate can set expectations and provide an objective viewpoint.

Even with adult day care and medically trained services, such as home health and hospice, not all providers are alike. An Aging Life Care Manager knows the reputation and the management style of each company. He or she can look up Medicare reviews and complaints.

An Aging Life Care Manager can also coordinate care across multiple service providers and work with your physician to ensure that all the different players are aware of your changing needs.

Want to find the best fit the first time?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

What is “elder law”?

What is "elder law"?

Elder law focuses on the special rights, needs, and challenges that arise in the context of simply growing older and planning for possible care needs.

Attorneys specializing in elder law take a holistic perspective.

They acknowledge the interplay of health, family, disability, and housing, as well as emotional and financial issues. Consider a consultation for:

  • Estate planning. Within elder law, estate and trust attorneys advise on the best strategy for organizing and managing your assets now that also ensures ease of transfer upon your death. This may involve a will. Or a living trust. There are pros and cons to each. And, if you have a dependent adult in your life, an attorney can draw up a special needs trust to provide for care when you are no longer alive.
  • Decision-making plans. With advancing age, many of us lose the ability to manage our finances or make complex healthcare decisions. Especially if you do not have relatives to step in, you will need legal assistance to locate and contract with trustworthy professionals to fill these roles.
  • Paying for care. An elder law attorney knows about the many programs designed to assist with the cost of care. You may, for instance, be considering a reverse mortgage, but there are significant “gotchas” with this arrangement. If Medicaid is your fallback should you need a nursing home long term, you will want to work with an attorney to be sure your spouse is not left without resources when you die. Long-term care insurance is another payment option worthy of an attorney’s review.
  • Housing contracts. Before moving into an assisted living or continuing care retirement community (sometimes called a “life care” community) or a nursing home, have an elder law attorney review the paperwork. They can clarify tax implications and advise you regarding your rights and how or when you can cancel a housing contract.
  • Claims and appeals. You may have disagreements with Social Security, Medicare, your pension fund, or other insurance or benefit programs. An elder law attorney can help you navigate the appeals process and increase your chance of a successful resolution.
  • Grandparent visitation rights. Whether the schism is due to a divorce, the death of your child, or estrangement from your son or daughter, you do have rights to see your grandchildren. An elder law attorney can help you stay connected.
  • Age discrimination in employment. Have you been turned down from a job, a promotion, or fired because of your age? An elder law attorney can help you rectify the situation.

Looking for an attorney specializing in elder law?
We network with the best. Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our services to help you age well.

Choosing a long-term care facility

Choosing a long-term care facility

Judy had an emergency hip replacement after a fall. She needs to be discharged tomorrow to a skilled nursing facility. She needs several weeks of intensive physical therapy to be able to walk again. Then she may need to live in assisted living.

The discharge planner has a list of options. Judy and her daughter, who lives an hour away, don’t know how to make a wise choice.  

For short-term, urgent needs, you may be at the mercy of which facility has an opening at the time.

It pays to consult an Aging Life Care™ Manager who knows the reputation and personality of the local institutions. It’s best to have a relationship with the Aging Life Care Manager before you have an urgent need. He or she can combine extensive knowledge of local resources with a thorough understanding of your medical history, your insurance and financial resources, your personality and preferences, and your social support system. As a result, you are more likely to get a match that will help you maintain good spirits and enjoy a speedy recovery.

Review all your options
Unlike “free” referral agents, an Aging Life Care Manager will present all the choices that make the most sense for your needs and personality. Not just the communities that are willing to pay a kickback referral fee.

Such independence is even more important for long-term living situations
Choosing an assisted living community, a CCRC, or a memory care facility is a big decision. You want to get a good match from the start.

Touring these communities can be daunting
A Google search delivers a dizzying array of choices. They all put their best foot forward. But architectural features and social amenities are only superficial measures of quality. An Aging Life Care Manager has had other clients who live in these facilities. He or she has a firm grasp on deeper metrics, such as the tone of the administrative leadership, the training and stability of the staff, the solvency of the company, and the overall personality of the community.

An Aging Life Care Manager also knows current conditions in the market that can save you money. For instance, if a community happens to have a lot of openings, a lower monthly rate or entry fee could be negotiated. A “senior housing advisor” paid a commission by the community would not be able to serve as your advocate in this regard.

Looking for unbiased recommendations based on all your options?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

Assembling your support team

Assembling your support team

Much as we would like to imagine an elderhood free from troubles, the truth is, we are all likely to need help eventually. And on several levels.

Informal support. This is the kind of help that friends and family members can provide short term. Someone to run errands or mow the lawn, etc. Make a list of the

  • people you feel emotionally close to
  • people who live close by who are reliable

When the going gets tough. If you were hospitalized, who would you call to

  • make medical decisions for you if you were unable to speak for yourself
  • pay bills or perhaps even manage your financial affairs long term

Your health care team. Medically trained support:

  • Your primary care provider and any specialists
  • Your pharmacist
  • Allied health providers (e.g., therapists, home health)

Professional advisors

  • An elder law attorney for important documents. You will need an attorney to set up a trust or will for dispersing your assets after you are gone. Or, if you have no relatives, to arrange for a guardian to make medical and financial decisions for you when you can no longer do so yourself. In addition, an attorney can review contracts and catch important details about senior housing. And an attorney’s advice is critical if you are considering a reverse mortgage or spending down your assets to be eligible for Medicaid.
  • A financial planner to manage assets and strategize to liquidate them to pay for care.
  • A CPA to highlight the tax implications in any of the above situations.
  • An insurance broker for prescription, Medicare supplemental, life insurance, etc.

An Aging Life Care™ Manager. The choices are boggling when it comes to assembling your team. It’s difficult to assess quality of professionals or compare pricing. An Aging Life Care Manager is a “meta-advisor” whose experience can help you choose your team wisely and coordinate whom to call when.

Want help assembling your team? Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

Age-friendly bathroom remodels

Age-friendly bathroom remodels

Activities that are easy now may become more difficult in the future: Going up and down stairs, standing up from sitting, getting in and out of the tub, catching your balance if you start to slip. . . . As you consider aging in place, it is wise to keep these issues in mind, particularly about the bathroom.

Structural considerations. To eliminate the need to climb stairs, the ideal is a full bathroom on the main level of the house. In addition, as we age, the likelihood of needing support increases. Whether a wheelchair or walker, or a spouse or paid caregiver is providing assistance, a spacious room is best.

Did you know the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house? Eighty percent of falls occur in the bathroom on hard, sometimes slippery surfaces. Most falls occur in the process of sitting down on or getting up from the toilet, or getting in/out of the bath/shower.

Bathtub or shower? The most versatile design involves a water-friendly, nonslip floor with a drain, and no hard curb around the shower area. This allows for rolling a wheelchair into the shower and provides room for a helper. Even without such a radical makeover, it’s easy to install a handheld showerhead and a built-in or portable bench in an existing bathroom to create a seated shower option.

If you need to soak—great for achy arthritic joints—consider a walk-in tub. These tubs have a watertight seal on a side door that allows you to walk in, sit on a bench, and then fill the tub to the desired height. Or have a dip cut into the side of an existing tub to lower the height for ease of stepping in and out.

Toilets and bidets. Purchasing a high toilet or adding an extender that raises the sitting surface greatly reduces the physical challenges of sitting down and getting up. Many people find a bidet adds to convenience and cleanliness. (Twisting to wipe our nether regions becomes more difficult with age.) Rather than ask for help, cleaning with water can improve hygiene while preserving dignity.

Other fall prevention strategies. You don’t need a full remodel to improve safety. Installing grab bars beside the toilet and within and outside the bathing area is an easy and effective modification. Grab bars must be attached securely to the studs of the wall and be able to support 250–300 pounds. Installing nonslip flooring or applying antislip floor coatings for higher traction is also wise. Increased lighting will help visibility and reduce falls. In addition, lights installed on the wall instead of on the ceiling reduce the need to get on a ladder, and possibly fall, when changing a bulb.

How age friendly is your bathroom?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

What is an Aging Life Care™ Manager?

What is an Aging Life Care™ Manager?

Imagine your life as a movie. If you are the director, an Aging Life Care Manager is your production manager.

He or she is a deeply knowledgeable guide (usually a nurse, social worker, or allied professional) who finds you high-quality help, arranges care “locations,” and advises you about needed services.

Aging Life Care Managers are part of a national organization with training requirements, codes of ethics, and a nationwide network of experienced colleagues in case you need to move to a different part of the country.

Specialized knowledge and skills
Aging affects all aspects of life, so an Aging Life Care Manager draws upon many areas of expertise:

  • Advocacy. Communicating with doctors and navigating the very confusing eldercare network to get you the care you want.
  • Health and disability. Conducting an assessment and making recommendations so you and your family members can rest assured that a plan is in place if you need extra help.
  • Local resources. Recommending area service providers. Anyone can Google. But an Aging Life Care Manager intimately knows quality and reputation and can match best services for your budget and priorities.
  • Family. Helping relatives understand their role and work together to support your wishes.
  • Housing. Providing independent recommendations for the best fit based on your needs, priorities, and resources. No kickback referral fees that limit your choices.
  • Legal. Assembling needed paperwork and referring you to reputable attorneys as needed so you are well covered by a professional team.
  • Finances. Reviewing your options to identify eligibility for programs and ways to stretch your dollar wisely.
  • Crisis support. Helping you create a safety net you can depend on in emergencies.

As the director of your later years, how do you want your story to unfold? While not all of it is within your control, you do have agency. With planning, there is much you can do ahead of time to prepare for the elderhood you want and create a network to support it.

Would you like a guide for aging well?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

Types of long-term care

Types of long-term care

While “aging in place” has its benefits, it is expensive to get such individualized care. Plus, it’s rather isolating. Group options require a move, but are more social and cost effective.

  • Assisted living. People move to assisted living when they are ready to stop cooking, cleaning, and maybe even driving. They enjoy social activities but need more help than an independent retirement community might offer. Though not a setting for people with advanced dementia, a portion of assisted living residents may have memory problems.
  • Memory care. With activities specifically for people with significant dementia, memory care may be housed in a wing of assisted living or operate as an independent facility.
  • Skilled nursing or “rehab.” Geared for short stays—several days to several weeks—a skilled nursing facility can be thought of as a place to get stronger or learn to do things in new ways after a setback. Then you move to a more homelike environment.
  • Nursing home. This setting is a long-term version of rehab but for those with complex conditions who don’t need a hospital, yet aren’t independent enough for assisted living.
  • Continuing care retirement community (CCRC). This large “campus” offers all of the above and more. Move in while fully independent and able to enjoy the pool, golf course, etc. As care needs change, residents move to the different care buildings yet stay on the same property. Ideal for a couple when one needs more support than the other.

Let us help you understand the different options.
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.

Home care

Home Care

Support is available for those who wish to stay at home. However, one-on-one care is expensive. And it’s not always easy to find caregivers. Community services can sometimes be patched together.

To stay at home, it helps to have a knowledgeable person check in periodically who knows eligibility requirements and can supervise and coordinate all the players.

  • Home care. People who do not need medical attention, but simply help with household activities, running errands, or light companionship, benefit from home care. The key to success is finding a good match between the caregiver’s personality and your own.
  • Adult day care. If someone is available for nighttime care of a person with dementia or light medical needs, then adult day care can provide engaging daytime activities, meals, and relief for the caregiver. Ideal for working families or a spouse who needs a break.
  • Home health. Patients are able to leave a skilled nursing facility yet continue receiving needed therapy through visits at home. This is a short-term service, ending when the patient has improved as much as can be expected.
  • Hospice at home. Hospice is for people with a life expectancy of up to six months who opt for improved quality of life over the hardships of treatment. Nurses visit at home a few times a week to monitor pain and comfort and to support families as nature takes its course.

Call us at (208) 321-5567 to start
the planning process for aging in place.

Learn more about our aging life care planning services.