Assist Seniors to Vote next Tuesday

The Federal Election Commission created a National Voter Registration Form which is accepted by most states for the registration of voters. Organizations providing care services and assistance to older adults were able to assist them to register to vote by providing this registration form.  In addition, those seniors who are homebound could apply for absentee ballots after registering to vote (or if they are already registerd to vote, they could apply for the absentee ballot).  This allows homebound seniors to participate in this year's important presidential election.

If you are providing care services for a homebound senior, find out if they were able to cast an absentee ballot, and if not, you can assist them to vote ahead of time if this is offered in their area or to get to the polls on election day.

Check with your local Department on Aging if you or another senior needs transportation to the polls on election day as there are volunteers available to assist in most communities.

And to find out where to vote:


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Hospice Volunteering Opportunity

Hospice provides many services to terminally ill patients, from end-of-life planning to hands-on care with a Registered Nurse who will manage the overall care.  A Certified Nursing Aide is available for bathing visits and assistance with personal care.  Hospice also provides a Social Worker to assist with managing family and personal issues.  In addition, many hospice services provide volunteers who will visit the hospice pateint to offer companionship services and assist them with any specially requested tasks.

If you have lost a loved one and are looking for new activities to fill your day or have an interest in becoming a caregiver, contact a local hospice company to find out about possible volunteer opportunities.  You will gain as much as you give.


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Advantages of a Senior Home Care Agency

Seniors needing additional care services provided by a Caregiver have the option of hiring a Senior Home Care agency to professionally provide the services or of finding a direct-hire Caregiver. only connects seniors with services provided by professional Senior Home Care Agencies.  This is because these senior care agencies meet the legal guidelines established in their states for providing senior home care and also meet Caregiverlist's quality standards.

Although it might seem like a cheaper option to go out and find a caregiver to provide the senior care services on your own, it rarely turns out to be the case once care begins.  When I owned a senior home care agency, over and over again we would begin care services for a client who first hired a caregiver on their own who did not work out because they either were not trained properly to provide the care, became burned out without management to vent to, started to charge the client for any services they deemed as "extra" from going to the grocery store to their travel time to get to the senior's house.  This is because senior care is very different from child care.  There is not a Mother and Father there at the beginning and end of each day to supervise the care needs and keep the checks and balances in place.   Seniors also are dealing with many emotions as they are accepting age-related illnesses, the deaths of friends and constant change.  Because of this, senior caregiving presents challenging days for a caregiver which can take an emotional toll.  Seniors may be resistant to care, too, even though they know the care is needed.  This resistance along with memory loss and emotional challenges all present the need for customized training and case management support.  I have seen situations where even wonderful caregivers can begin to take advantage of the situation when they do not have professional supervision and support.  Some seniors are difficult to care for - they may be unhappy, angry, pinching pennies and they then will take out all of their frustrations on the caregiver.  A professional senior home care agency knows how to step-in and professionally mange the care and the caregiver.  Agencies also have experience in understanding the best approach for each senior.

The senior home care agency fee will also take care of all payroll taxes, as required by law, and insurance coverages which will not be present in a hire-direct situation.

The news stories that you see about caregiver theft are not about caregivers working for senior home care agencies.  Senior home care agencies have proper systems in place to prevent theft and insurance coverage which requires them to implement policies and procedures for added protection.  A caregiver would never have access to a senior's bank account information nor the power to make purchases with the client's money.  A Supervisor would set-up systems for these purchases to be made by the home care agency and then billed to the client.

On Friday, the news media reported on a recent caregiver theft of $304,000 from a senior's estate - another hire-direct caregiver situation.  The Caregiver, Marilyn Fenderson, withdrew $304,000 from accounts the senior had intended to be for donations to three nonprofit groups in Sonoma County.  This caregiver was given power-of-attorney, another mistake which a senior home care agency would prevent.  Unfortunately, there are individuals who seek the hire-direct caregiving jobs in order to take advantage of these opportunities for theft.

Background checks come in many flavors.  It is good protocol to understand the various levels of background checks.  Run fast from a website that says they are providing "free" background checks as rarely will a free check absorb the cost of a multi-state criminal background check matching every past address of the applicant, along with name and social security number verification for past addresses.  Senior Home Care Agencies understand how to do background checks and screening which will go beyond the background check (if someone was given community service for a crime, which is very common for the first couple of offenses, it most likely will not show on their record)  and how to hire quality caregivers who will both provide care and protect a senior from anyone who would not have the senior's best interest in mind.  Caregiverlist also connects individuals seeking to work as caregivers with hiring senior home care agencies and other senior care companies in their area and explains all the necessary skills and requirements for working as a senior caregiver.

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"Away From Her", a movie about Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease presents many challenges for the senior suffering from the disease, as well as for family members and caregivers.  It is very difficult to watch someone lose their memory and their ability to communicate with loved ones.  Often, the people who are closest to the senior with Alzheimer's Disease are the ones they take out their frustrations on.

"Away From Her" brings Julie Christie back to the movie screen.  She portrays a senior suffering from Alzheimer's Disease She and her husband of nearly 50 years are faced with making a decision for her long-term care and eventually decide it will be best for her to move to an Assisted Living community.

The movie does a wonderful job of showing how difficult it is for loved ones to watch the disease progress.  It is the 'long goodbye" and this movie helps provide perspective by telling the story from the perspective of family members and caregivers.  Definitely rent this movie if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease - it does provide a few laughs and surprises, along with a few tears.





Discussing Senior Care Options with Family

As the news media reports on the presidentail campaigns, we now all know Barack Obama is taking a couple days off the campaign trail to visit his sick Grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, in Hawaii.  She was discharged from the hospital to her home and her condition is described as serious.  Details of her illness have not been released but it is clear she preferred to go home to recover.

Medicare will pay for a temporary stay in a nursing home for rehabilitation after a hospital stay.  Medicare does not pay for long-term care in the home nor in the nursing home.  Only Medicaid, which very low-income seniors can qualify for, will pay for permanent long-term care in a nursing home (there are a few states, such as Vermont, developing in-home programs for Medicaid care).  Typically states require a senior to have no more than $2,000 in assets to qualify for Medicaid benefits.

Have you had the discussion with your parents regarding where they would like to receive care if the situation would present itself?  Do they prefer to go to a nursing home for recovery?  If so, which nursing home in your community do they prefer?  Hospitals will send a patient to any nursing home in their area, based on the discharge planner's instructions.  One time I was going to a hospital to meet with a patient regarding her care needs.  She had no immediate family and when I arrived, I discovered she had already been discharged and sent to a nursing home.  Her Guradian thought she was going to be discharged to a different (and better) nursing home.  The nursing home she was sent to was primarily a nursing home for Medicaid patients and unfortunately all the stereotypes that go with that were present (it did smell like urine, patients were medicated and parked in a room, sitting in their wheelchairs for the day).  This client was uncooperative at the nursing home, as soon as she was moved back to her home she was eating and talking again and her health improved.

Every situation is different.  Many times a nursing home can be the best option.  But it is important to discuss the wishes for care with the senior and become educated on the options in your area.   Medicaid is what it is - a regular government check the nursing facility will receive until the senior passes on.  A Medicaid pateint is not going to threaten to leave if conditions are not up to par - they are receiving a free place to stay from the government and do not have that option.  As nursing homes are businesses seeking to make a profit, it is important to ask the right questions. Find out what percentage of beds are Medicaid and find out the staff-to-patient ratio.

As the cost is typically nearly the same, more and more seniors are opting to go home and receive a private duty caregiver rather than go to a nursing home - - they are guaranteed one-to-one care from a caregiver where most nursiing homes have one nursing aide for as many as 12 to 15 patients.




Barack Obama: Taking Time Out for Grandma

This week, Barack Obama's campaign announced that he will be taking time off from the campaign trail to visit his ailing Grandmother in Hawaii.  Barack's Grandma, Madelyn Dunham, age 86, is in declining health and her situation has become critical after being discharged from the hospital.

We will all be Caregivers at some stage of life.  As a family or professional caregiver, you will experience the daily challenges of assisting someone else with their "activities of daily living".  This is the term used in the care industry for all the tasks we engage in throughout the day from eating to bathing to exercising.  Seniors with memory loss may also require additional reminders to maintain their daily schedule.

Hospice training teaches that the healthiest way to lose a loved one is to be able to plan ahead for their death.  This allows you to better come to terms emotionally with the expected loss and to have quality time to share with them to say the things you would like.  Just being able to say goodbye makes the loss a little easier. 

I have found that this only comes true after the person you love has passed on.  It is still difficult to make peace with the loss ahead of time, as you are still dealing with anger, sadness and perhaps denial.

I respect Barack for maintaining a relationship with his Grandmother and for making the time to spend with her to say goodbye.  This sets a nice example for dealing with the loss of a loved one for other's to follow.  And it also highlights how much more difficult caregiving can be when you are a long-distance caregiver.  Caregiverlist tries to assist in long-distance caregiving by providing information on services in each state.

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Assisted Living Survey Released Today

When navigating the various options for senior care, it is important to understand not only the care requirements and costs but also the short-term and long-term care needs.   This can be especially challenging when Assisted Living becomes the senior's desired choice.  Most Assisted Living communities charge separately for caregiving services and may have limited resources for providing nursing care and assistance for those with memory loss. This is why it is important for a senior and their family to evaluate the senior's long-term care needs before making the move to an assisted living community.

Inside Assisted Living, a website for families evaluating assisted living, today released their new research study, "Assisted Living Family Attitudes and Preparedness Report."   The survey of 195 families provides an overview of important topics for seniors to understand when evaluating Assisted Living communities.  These include costs, caregiving services, and facility criteria for the senior community.

The survey found that 75% of the respondents anticipate needing assisted living for a family member in the next 10 years.

You may view the survey results and learn about Assisted Living for seniors on their website:

The website founder, Ryan Malone, learned about the challenges of finding appropriate senior care when his Mother suffered a stroke and shares his experience to make the process easier for other seniors and their families.

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Free CPR Training Videos

The Today Show provided a how-to on CPR this morning, including providing the tip to keep pace to the beat of the song "Staying Alive"  while performing chest compressions. This is because this song keeps pace at about 103 beats per minute.  A representative from the Red Cross advised that everyone should be trained on CPR and at least one member of every household should know how to perform CPR in an emergency.

You can view this informative how-to video with Matt Lauer performing CPR on a doll.

You may also watch these  free training videos on CPR from the Red Cross.  They also suggest that everyone have a first aide kit in their home.

Deffinitely family and professional Caregivers can benefit from learning CPR or taking a refresher to be ready to assist with any emergencies.  Many seniors may have a pacemaker or be taking medications which may impact their heart by speeding it up or slowing it down.  Caregivers for seniors with heart conditions are advised to be trained in CPR. 


Social Security Benefit Increase Announced Today

Today the government announced retired seniors will receive a raise in pay starting January, 2009.  It is the largest increase in Social Security benefits for seniors in more than 2 decades.  On average, seniors will receive an additional $63 per month with the 5.8 percent increase in this senior retirement benefit.  Seniors can begin receiving Social Security benefit payments at age 62 or wait until age 65 for an increased benefit amount.

The typical American senior who has activated their social security benefits receives about $1090.00 per month.  This amount barely covers living expenses, which can cause added stress when medical conditions require caregiving services, medications or other treaments not covered by Medicare insurance.

About 50 million seniors receive Social Security benefits and with the increases in food and gas costs we have experienced in the past year, living on a fixed income has become more challenging.

You may find out your expected monthly social security check payment, based on your current age and income, on the government's website:

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Hospice Care: When Should It Begin?

Hospice care was developed as a care solution for terminally ill patients.  Usually family members are involved in care services when a senior or someone younger is terminally ill.  Medicare does provide for hospice care services for seniors and provides certified nursing aide caregivers, social workers and registered nurses to visit the home to assist with the senior's care needs.  Family caregivers often do not realize Medicare will pay for hospice care services for seniors to help support them.  Yet the support of hospice can make a difficult situation a little easier to manage.

Hospice will also assist with the emotional aspects of terminal illness for both the senior and their family and for professional caregivers, along with bereavement care. In addition, hospice will provide a Certified Nursing Aide to assist with tasks such as bathing.  My grandmother moved in with my Aunt when she became terminal with cancer.  While my Aunt wanted to provide for her care, it was exhausting.  She appreciated the regular check -in visits by the hospice staff.  The hospice Certified Nursing Aide assisted her with bathing assistance visits and the Registered Nurse gave her feedback on the progression of the cancer.

Hospice care may begin as soon as someone is diagnosed as terminally ill.  There are many companies which provide hospice care and your medical doctor can usually provide a referral.

Learn more about hospice care services directly from the hospice foundation.


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