Learn to Prevent Falls

One of the most dangerous medical issues facing seniors is a preventable one. Each year, seniors are hospitalized, immobilized, and injured in falls. Falls have become the number one cause of injuries and death in Americans over the age of 65. One in three seniors will suffer a fall.

While there is no foolproof way to avoid taking a spill, there are many preventative techniques that can help you lower your risk of falling and injuring yourself.

Check your meds. Medications can sometimes alter your balance or perception abilities. If you are on multiple medications, or have just gotten a prescription for a new medication, it would behoove you to speak to your doctor about the side effects. Make sure you’re aware of the effects medication can have on you, and work with your doctor to find a mix that’s right for you.

Get help at home. If you’ve decided to age in place, make sure your home is equipped to aid a senior who might need fall assistance. Consider grab bars in your bathrooms and non-slip flooring on stairs and in bathtubs. Look around your home and see if there are any areas that need better lighting. A home with lots of light and places to clutch should you feel unsteady is a safer environment for seniors. You may also find it necessary to add chair lifts to your home should stairs become too difficult to navigate.

Dress the part. Make sure you’re dressed in accordance to your environment. Wear comfortable shoes that don’t impede your gait (consider flats over high heels if you have balance issues). If you must go out in icy conditions, wear sturdy boots and multiple layers to help pad you if you fall.

Get moving. Exercise isn’t just for the young. Seniors can not only dramatically improve their health by committing to fitness, they can dramatically improve their balance. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you keep steady footing when you’re in your home. So go for a walk, take a water aerobics class, or find a fitness program that suits you.  

Whether you’re hoping to prevent a fall, or trying to ensure one doesn’t reoccur, simple fall prevention is something all seniors should know.

Help for Young CaregiversOff-time events can derail a young life*

For many of us, there’s a general expectation that at some point in the future, we will be a caregiver for an elderly parent or even spouse. What we don’t anticipate or expect is for that caregiving to start when we are in our 20s, 30s, or even 40s. Those are the years we expect to take care of ourselves (education, career, family), but many are finding they must put their own lives on hold to become a caregiver, and it can create feelings of anger or sadness in the process. There is help out there and we have put some of these ideas together in the hopes that it can help.

The first suggestion given to many of these young caregivers is to join support groups. We know that support groups work, and that many people feel tremendous relief when sharing problems, thoughts and concerns with like-minded folks. However, with young caregivers, the immediate problem is finding peers in the support groups. Often, there is no one under age 55 in an elder care support group for caregivers, but there are others going through the same thing. Reach out to senior centers in your area, contact an Association that deals with your loved ones main issue such as Alzheimer’s Association or Parkinson’s Association, speak with religious leaders or contact a local “Senior Village” to ask about support groups with younger attendees. These resources will know the families that attend and be able to point you to the group that suits you best.

The second suggestion for young caregivers is to hire outside help so the burdens of care can be shared and the young life a little less ‘derailed’. This is the point that those us of over the age of 40 must pay attention. Although long-term planning can be a hard issue to face, basic planning such as: arranging Power of Attorney for your financial and healthcare needs, preparing a living will spelling out your wishes clearly if you are incapacitated, and maybe even purchasing long term care insurance should be one prong in our retirement planning. Taking these relatively simple steps is a prudent decision that may allow a younger loved one to continue his/her life path without the tremendous burden of caregiving for a parent and/or grandparent.

Finally, reaching out for respite care services may be a great choice for young caregivers. There are many church and community groups that can assist with brief respite care situations. Home care companies also offer respite care services so that the young caregiver can attend a university class, book club, or spend a few hours working out. Being a young caregiver may not be ideal, but with some thought and planning by all parties, there are ways to get through it without completely ‘derailing a young life’ while still feeling good about doing all that you can to help a loved one.

Do you have caregiver plans in place? Do you know how you would handle an unexpected illness requiring home care? Please send us an email or share your experiences on our Facebook page.

*Pressed Into Caregiving Sooner Than Expected. The New York Times

Passion After Retirement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement doesn’t need to be a time for beach chairs and endless vacations. It can be, but many seniors are finding that they have time to discover their true passions once they bid work adieu. If you’ve always had a hidden hobby, retirement could be time to explore and share your interests with the world.

Robert Wittman made a career investigating art crimes and theft at the FBI. When he retired at 61, Wittman decided to use his decades of historic knowledge to open his own Art Appraisal and Investigation firm. Now, he chases art and history for fun around the world.

You don’t have to continue your career past retirement. You can also find ways to celebrate and explore your hobbies. Join a local crafting circle, offer knitting classes, work with a senior center to impart your technical knowledge to those who may need help. You may even offer up cooking classes, gardening workshops, or carpentry classes at a local community center, helping others to find a hobby they’ll cherish for years.

If you’re not sure what you want to do post-retirement, consider learning. Studies have proven that learning languages, physical skills, and interacting regularly with peers is an excellent way to maintain a healthy mind as you age. Have you always wanted to explore a subject and never had the time? Many community colleges offer seniors the chance to learn for free. Click here for a look at the e-learning resources near you.

Whether you’re looking to spread your knowledge and skills to others, or simply want to keep expanding your knowledge base, retirement offers you an excellent opportunity to spread your wings. Take your free time as a pass to expand your mind and your information base.

 

A New Book About Patient-Doctor Communication
The wonders of an empathetic ear in the doctor’s office

Despite modern medicine’s infatuation with high-tech gadgetry, the single most powerful diagnostic tool is the doctor-patient conversation, which can uncover the lion’s share of illnesses. However, what patients say and what doctors hear are often two vastly different things.

Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.

Though the gulf between what patients say and what doctors hear is often wide, Dr. Danielle Ofri proves that it doesn’t have to be. Through the powerfully resonant human stories that Ofri is celebrated for, she explores the high-stakes world of doctor-patient communication that we all must navigate. Reporting on the latest research studies and interviewing scholars, doctors, and patients, Ofri reveals how refocusing conversations between doctors and their patients can lead to better health.*

Do you have a communication strategy? Do you feel you successfully communicate with medical professionals and caregivers? Please share your experiences on our Facebook page.

*Synopsis from Dr. Ofri’s website

One of the most difficult decisions you’ll make when creating your estate plan is who to name as your executor, your trustee, and agents under your advance medical directive and power of attorney. You may think the answer is obvious – your spouse, followed by your oldest child or all of your children, perhaps. To really make a good selection, however, it’s important that you understand the responsibilities that come with each of these fiduciary positions and whether the individuals named are capable of and willing to serve in each capacity.

An executor is the individual, corporation or trust company named in your last will and testament to wrap up your affairs, pay any final debts, and distribute your estate in accordance with your wishes. This person’s responsibilities begin after you pass away and upon their qualification in circuit court.

Depending on the assets passing through your will, this person may be required to file an inventory listing all of the assets of the probate estate, as well as annual accountings until the estate administration is complete. There are several steps that must be taken in the administration of a probate estate, and we find that in many cases, this process takes about a year to complete.

A trustee performs many of the same tasks an executor does, in accordance with the terms of a trust agreement. A trust may be created under a will or as a separate document. If the trust is created under a will, the trustee will generally need to report to a commissioner of accounts throughout the administration of the trust. However, if the trust is created in a separate document, there is generally no requirement that the trustee be overseen by a commissioner of accounts. The trustee must administer the trust in accordance with the provisions of the trust agreement, and, like an executor, has fiduciary duties toward the beneficiaries. The trustee must provide accountings to the beneficiaries at least annually and keep them reasonably informed about the administration of the trust.

Executors and trustees are often tasked with gathering all estate or trust assets and ensuring they are properly titled, opening estate or trust financial accounts (checking and investment accounts, for example), paying bills and administrative expenses, and distributing assets in accordance with the provisions of the will or trust. In the case of a trust that continues for the benefit of a beneficiary or beneficiaries, the trustee may have continuing obligations for several years.

An agent under a power of attorney is an individual, corporation or trust company you name to assist you with your financial affairs. This person may have the authority to assist you immediately upon your signing of the power of attorney, or only at your incapacity, depending on the terms of the document. A power of attorney generally gives the agent the ability to assist you with just about anything you could do yourself, including write checks, pay bills, buy and sell property, and maintain investments and insurance policies. The agent’s authority ends upon your death.

Because your executor, trustee, and agent under your power of attorney all have access to financial accounts and assets, it is of extreme importance that the individuals you name be fiscally responsible, trustworthy individuals. If your spouse or children have problems with spending too much money, gambling, addiction, or any other issues that might not make them the best individuals to handle your financial affairs, consider naming a trusted friend, a corporation, or a trust company. You should also consider the location of the individuals you are naming – if you appoint someone in California as your executor, be aware that he or she will need to fly to Virginia and qualify in court as the executor. An out-of-state executor will also be required to pay a bond, regardless of any provision in your will to the contrary.

An agent under an advance medical directive is different, however – this is the individual or individuals you name to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your inability to do so. Under Virginia law, this person may only serve once your attending physician and another licensed physician or qualified clinical psychologist have declared you unable to make your own decisions. Although it is not necessary that this individual be financially savvy, it is important that you select someone who understands your wishes and will ensure they are followed in the event of your incapacity. You should also consider naming an individual who will be emotionally capable of making difficult decisions in such a situation.

Before selecting individuals to serve in each of these positions, consider their skills and abilities (can they handle this responsibility and will they do a good job?), their availability (will they have time to serve?), their location (will distance affect their performance?), and any family dynamics that may affect the individual’s service (does this individual get along with the rest of your family?). If no one in your family would be a good selection, or your family members do not get along, a corporation or trust company may be a good fit for you.

Special Contribution by

Portrait of Bill Fralinwilliam-fralin-logo

 

Do you know how much money you have in the bank? How about how much money your parents have?

As seniors age, financial decisions become crucial. Are your loved ones prepared to age in place? If they’re aging in place, can they afford to upgrade the house to make it safe and limited-mobility friendly? Would downsizing or moving to a refined residential community be a safer option? What happens if a medical emergency befalls a senior?

Unfortunately, as your loved ones age, they will most likely need help planning and managing their finances. It’s an uncomfortable topic for many, but having a rational, detailed conversation about expenses and savings now can prevent a great deal of stress for seniors and their caregivers in the future.

To fully take over finances, a caregiver must have the following:

  1. A plan. Seek out a financial advisor, and get a realistic portrait of the lifestyle that your loved one’s savings and earnings will allow. Know your options; learn how to make their money grow.
  2. An OK. Once you’ve discussed finances, it may be necessary or best for you to take over as the primary decision maker, depending on how comfortable your loved one feels about the idea. To properly take over finances, a loved one or caregiver needs a power of attorney or a living trust to begin making financial decisions. Consulting an Elder Law Attorney is highly recommended.
  3. The contents of accounts. Once you have the ability to help your loved one officially, it’s time for a full assessment. Go through documents and statements to get a full picture of how many bank accounts, stock portfolios, Long Term Care Insurance policies and other financial accounts your senior has. Once you have the full picture, it will be easier to understand the financial situation and move funds, should that be necessary.
  4. A breakdown of the bills. Finally, make sure you have a system for organizing and paying bills. One of the first signs that a senior may need help at home is failure to pay bills.

Ensure that your loved one stay on top of their finances so that they can age with confidence. If they need help, step up by helping them get organized, stay current, and invest in growth. With some careful financial planning, you can help your loved one’s later years become golden.

People are living longer. Medical advancements, a cultural focus on health, and progress in technology have allowed people to extend their lives. Seniors are becoming one the fastest-growing groups all over the world.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) predicts that seniors will become 17 percent of the world population by 2050. This population explosion will affect the whole globe in a myriad of ways.

In the U.S., the NIA estimates that our aging population will double in the next three decades, meaning 88 million seniors will be living here. Throughout the globe, the so-called “oldest old” population—seniors living to be 80 or older—will triple in the coming decades.

What does this mean for you and your aging loved ones? It’s time to prepare.

Unless lawmakers and the population of the U.S. prepare for this senior boom, the country will face limited or nonexistent resources for their aging population. Programs like social security and Medicare will be stretched to the brink, while hospitals and doctors’ offices will be filled with seniors who need specialized gerontology care.

Some industries are already preparing for the senior boom. Caregiving companies are increasing staff and focusing on helping seniors age at home successfully. Tech companies are developing senior-friendly devices that will help the aging and their caregivers monitor health, medication distribution, and even movement throughout the house.

The senior surge also affords you an excellent opportunity to discuss aging with your soon-to-be-senior loved ones. Make sure your loved ones have a sound financial plan for their later years, and consult with a financial advisor if you’re concerned about retirement funds. Nail down your loved one’s wishes ahead of time: Do they want to age at home? What would they want done in case of a health crisis? These topics are often uncomfortable but utterly essential to a happy, worry-free aging process.

Whether you’re a soon-to-be-senior or a caregiver to a senior, it’s time to prepare for the senior surge.

What are you doing to make sure you’re aging well? Most people watch their diet, visit their doctors more frequently, and try to exercise more. But is that enough to make your senior years successful?

A documentary, Alive Inside, argues that to truly age well, one needs the arts. The film explores the role music plays in memory, citing cases of patients with dementia and even seniors with typically failing memories suddenly being able to recall vivid scenes from their past with the aid of familiar music. The idea is this: Playing favorite or familiar music for a subject will help trigger vivid recollections, even if the subject’s brain isn’t functioning as it once did. This musical therapy has even inspired the Music and Memory Project, which funds iPods for seniors who can deeply benefit from enjoying music that meant so much to them long ago.

But music isn’t the only thing keeping seniors young at heart. Both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institute on Aging have programs that promote all forms of the arts to seniors. Whether painting, composing, dancing, or appreciating, an appetite for the arts seems to help seniors enjoy the aging process. Some seniors write novels or screenplays that a senior acting troop can bring to life. Some seniors paint abstract or classical art to decorate their rooms or local senior centers. The form of expression doesn’t seem to matter as long as something is being expressed creatively.

Some scientists believe that it’s not the art, but the social engagement that is critical to keeping seniors vital. But studies have shown that listening to familiar music, even without engaging with others, can improve memory.

So this weekend, why not plan to include a little art in your life? Catch a concert or go to the symphony with friends. Sign up for a painting class and learn a new technique. Or sit down and write out that story idea that’s buzzing around in your head. Expressing yourself creatively may be the key to keeping yourself happy as you age.