Amy Poehler Champions California Domestic Worker's Rights

Amy Poehler, comedian, actress, writer, producer, mother, and possibly the coolest chick on earth, stars in a recent PSA supporting the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB889) which seeks to “end generations of exclusion from basic labor protections”. It includes caregivers, childcare providers and housekeepers, and provides overtime pay, meal & rest breaks and safer conditions for live-in workers. The PSA was created in collaboration with with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

“Many people ask me how I balance it all and the truth is it wouldn’t be possible for me to do all those things without the help I get in my home every day,” says Poehler. “Every day, so many working women get to do what they do because there are wonderful people in their home, helping them. These workers, who inspire and influence our children, who take care of our loved ones and our homes, have been excluded from basic labor protections for generations. Please help us right that wrong and pass the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights this year. It’s time these workers were treated with dignity and respect.”

As Labor Day draws near, I am reminded of the blog post I wrote last year and Congress is no closer to passing the Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act. It seems that President Obama’s directives are languishing in the Labor Department. If action on a federal level is proving so difficult, then perhaps action has to be taken on a state-wide basis. Maybe more impassioned pleas like the one from Ms. Poehler can help get the ball rolling.

We at Caregiverlist also believe that the better trained you are, the easier it will be for you to request more equitable treatment. Consider Caregiverlist’s 10-hour online certification training. Upon completion you receive a certificate and your name is added to the database registry of training certified caregivers.

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Healthy Aging Steps for Seniors and Caregivers

Growing older brings the gift of a long life along with the challenges of aging.  How do we navigate the waters of life as a senior?  Americans are living longer and longer with life expectancy of a new born today being 100 years old.  As we have knowledge of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we do not necessarily implement those steps.

However, if we are going to live long, we might as well live well.

Step 1:  Maintain a healthy body weight:  68% of Americans are overweight.   This means whatever your current age, you should try your best not to be overweight.  There are many tools out there and Weight Watcher's says they have more clients online than offline.  The internet makes it easier than ever to access tools to help you stay healthy.

Step 2:  Stay physically fit.  Exercise and enjoy doing it.  Go for a morning walk with a friend, take up tennis or golf or softball (my girlfriend's father retired to Florida and is having a ball playing softball on 4 different teams).

Step 3:  Exercise your brain.  Read the newspaper (before they become extinct) and do the crossword puzzle, play Scrabble or brige or poker.  Take up knitting or take a class at a local community college.  Do something to keep your mind thinking everyday.

Step 4:  Stay connected and involved.  Sustaining happiness happens when you feel engaged in an activity with a sense of purpose.  One of the luxuries of retirement is having more time to spend doing the things you love to do.  Share the wisdom you have learned throughout your life by volunteering in your community or participating in family activities or creating your own weekly events with friends.

The Better Memory Kit provides a convenient program for seniors and caregivers and includes flash cards with questions and games which are appropriate for older adults.  Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa developed the kit and includes diet and exercise tools and vitamins which assist with memory improvement.






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Dark Chocolate Boosts Elderly Brains

Here’s some science I can get behind: a recent study shows that the consumption of dark chocolate and red wine may improve cognitive function in older adults.  Senior caregivers can now have a positive reason to share chocolates with seniors.

Flavanol consumption is favorably associated with cognitive function, according to The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, director of the geriatric division in the department of Life, Health, and Environmental Sciences at the University of L'Aquila, Italy, and published online in the August 14 issue of the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension.

In the study, 90 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment consumed drinks containing high, medium and low milligrams of cocoa flavenols once daily for 8 weeks. Their results showed a marked difference in brain function, with those who consumed the highest amounts of flavenols scoring higher in verbal fluency and eye-hand coordination. The study was funded by the candy-bar company, Mars, Inc.

If the findings are true, implications could be widespread. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that mild cognitive impairment is prevalent among the elderly and increases with age. According to Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., “12 percent to 20 percent of the entire population of those over age 70 may have either mild cognitive impairment or dementia, which is quite significant.”

In addition to the recent research, flavanols have been shown to provide a variety of benefits, including improving high blood pressure, preventing blood clots, and improving insulin resistance.

Although dark chocolate’s benefits are many, those suffering with obesity or borderline diabetes should find their flavenols from other sources like broccoli, grapes, apples and tea.

Not all researchers are on board with the findings. According to US News and World Report’s HealthDay reporter Steven Reinberg, when asked, Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said that "the study is interesting but requires replication before it can be taken seriously."

I’ll take my chances and begin to include reasonable amounts of dark chocolate and red wine (along with other flavenol-rich foods, of course) into my diet in my effort to age well.

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Health Care Law (Obama Care) Helps Fight $1 Billion in Medicare Fraud

Medicare fraud rings to the tune of $65 billion each year.  It is difficult to imagine this number and to imagine any type of service or business could operate while having this much money stolen from them each year.  But one of the benefits of the new health care law that has perhaps not garnered enough attention (politicians love talking about all the problems with it) is the fact that there is now a National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association and Medicare Strike Force.

The bad guys buy wheelchairs for people who don't need them and pocket the money and garner approval for medical services via doctors who also will bill for services that do not take place.  Medical equipment has traditionally been an attractive platform for the Medicare fraud along with the home care certifications by medical skilled Medicare agencies.  The Wall Street Journal also did an investigative report showcasing Medicare payments were rather generous for home health agencies with a bonus payout of $2,000 for an additional R.N. visit. 

Before lamenting the costs of Medicare, perhaps the first focus by politicians should be on eliminating the fraud - just as any private sector business, especially public companies, would immediately move to fix fraud that was robbing them of $1 billion per year.  It is also important the reimbursement rates are fair and not inflated for services such as medical equipment.

This is one positive aspect of the new health care law and let's hope that no matter who is leading the country, this focus on eliminating Medicare fraud will remain.

Seniors and their caregivers should be mindful of reviewing medical bills and making sure they are purchasing medical equipment from trusted resources.  It is also important to be wary of telephone solicitations and anyone who claims they will process the paperwork for you.  Eliminating Medicare and Medicaid fraud will take the efforts of everyone, including seniors who benefit from these programs.


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Diana Nyad Attempts Cuba to Florida Swim at Age 63

Senior swimmer Diana Nyad isn’t planning on letting anything stop her this time—not jellyfish stings, storms or hypothermia. In her fourth attempt to make the 103 mile swim across the Florida Straights without a shark cage, Diana Nyad is out to prove that it’s never too late to chase your dream.

The endurance swimmer turns 63 on Wednesday. She’s expected to arrive in Florida some time Tuesday, despite being slowed down and pulled off course by storms. Her last attempt at the effort was thwarted by toxic jellyfish stings. She was 28 years old when she first attempted the swim. Diana Nyad is nothing if not persistent in her desire to make the history.

A CNN Health article sums up Ms. Nyad’s indomitable spirit:
In her 60s, she says, she still feels "vital (and) powerful" -- and definitely "not old." A successful swim ideally will inspire people her age and older not to let their age hinder them, Nyad said.

"When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, 'I'm going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I'm going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I'm going to adopt a child. It's not too late, I can still live my dreams,'" she said.

Read about the swim at Diana Nyad’s blog.

Ed. note: At 742am EDT Diana was pulled from the water when a doctor determined that another jellyfish sting could prove life-threatening. She swam 67 nautical miles for over 40 hours before she was forced out of the water. We at salute Ms. Nyad and her spirit. She continues to inspire us all.


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Caregiverlist Poll - How Many Hours of Caregiver Training

Senior caregivers are required to implement many skills while performing senior care duties.  In addition to providing care for the senior's physical needs, a caregiver must be able to interact well with seniors with memory loss, hearing loss and understand the emotional challenges that come with aging.

Northwestern University's Dr. Lee Linsquist recently ignited a conversation about caregiver training after releasing a study that indicated many senior caregivers are staffed without proper background checks and training.  Senior home care agencies must perform background checks to meet their professional insurance requirements and perform certain caregiver training to meet the licensing requirements in some states.  Caregiverlist's 10-hour online Caregiver Certification training meets the training requirements advocated by the private duty association in the state of Illinois and required by the Illinois Department of Health.

Take Caregiverlist's Poll:  How Many Hours of Training Before Beginning Work as a Professional Caregiver


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Medicaid Eligibility Varies by State and by Unique Case

Medicaid is a government program that provides access to medical care for individuals and families who are otherwise financially unable to receive healthcare or medical treatment.  Eligibility for Medicaid is primarily determined by an individual or couple’s financial assets and income.  The maximum monetary limit for each of these is determined by each state, but consistency does exist among most states’ requirements.  

Medicaid financial requirements for participation, with the exception of a handful of states, require an asset limit of $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.  This is the norm across the nation.  In addition, most states placed a limit at less than $1,000 for an individual’s income and a limit of less than $1,300 for a couple’s income.  Additionally, Medicaid typically allows an individual or couple to retain ownership of a house and vehicle and does not include these possessions in its consideration of assets.  A financial “look back” of 5 years further exists nationwide, which prevents individuals from quickly transferring their assets to another’s possession in order to qualify for Medicaid.   

Interesting trends in Medicaid income and asset limits reveal that states that maintain higher costs of living reflected these costs in their Medicaid eligibility requirements - Hawaii, Florida, and New York allowed the highest income and asset limits.  For example, Hawaii has the highest income limit, allowing nearly $2000 for a couple and nearly $1500 for an individual.  New York exceeded the asset limit of every other state by far, allowing an individual to retain nearly $15,000, while a couple is allowed more than $20,000 in assets.

While most states make their asset and income limits public, some states require an individual to file an application for Medicaid or to speak with a state worker about their situation in order to determine if they are eligible.  However, nearly all states with publicly displayed financial qualifications for Medicaid include a disclaimer that individuals may still be eligible even if they do not meet the listed qualifications.

Qualifying for Medicaid seems to be a highly personalized process.  While guidelines and limits are presented by many states, the lack of Federal regulation for Medicaid allows for customized cases and flexible financial limits.  Find more information on Medicaid qualifications in your state and search for a Medicaid nursing home in our directory of 18,000 nursing homes nationwide. 

Angela Manhart, Caregiverlist Blogger

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Helen Gurley Brown Tribute: Living in Style until the End

Helen Gurley Brown passed away on Monday night, at the age of 90 and was known as the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and a leader in the movement for the fun, fearless female.  She was also a senior who kept on living life and kept on working as she aged, setting example for all of us.

I met her once.  On a business trip to New York City a girlfriend was also there on business, as she sold advertising for a magazine, and asked me if I wanted to attend the premiere of a movie called the "Gladiator".  I sort of didn't want to see the movie but it was free and at the Ziegfeld Theatre and so I thought I might as well go.  The movie turned out to be good.  And then after the movie everyone walked to the back to mingle and there was Russell Crowe, but he wasn't famous then, and then I met Helen Gurley Brown.  She must have been pushing 80 and she had on a mini-skirt and high heels and I thought to myself, yes, it will be just fine to grow older because you can keep on dressing fashionable and going out.  A chic older lady - so nice to see!

A profile of her by a friend, in the New York Times, highlights her style and how she turned her publishing office into her own "assisted living" residence, as she showed up for work in her 80's.  She was a career woman who paved the way for women to build a career along with a life.  She will be missed.




Seniors Facebook and Skype to Stay Connected

It’s a simple conversation between sister and brother with the usual niceties. “How’s the weather by you? We’re in the middle of a heat wave.” “How are the grandkids? They look like they’ve grown so much!” “You look good, have you lost weight?” It’s nothing out of the ordinary except that the siblings are in their 80s and live half a world apart. My mother sits down to Skype with her brother in Poland every Tuesday afternoon. They know that although their days of transcontinental travel are probably over, technology like Facebook, Skype and FaceTime can keep them connected.

Seniors are utilizing social networking sites now more than ever, and as a result, are keeping depression at bay. Recent research from The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Kathryn Zickuhr and Mary Madden, shows that:
  • As of February 2012, one third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day.
  • From April 2009 to May 2011, social networking site use among internet users ages 65 and older grew 150%, from 13% in 2009 to 33% in 2011 and
  • Half of adults ages 65 and older are online.

Studies also show that “internet use contributes to the well-being of elderly Americans, and estimates indicate that Internet use leads to about a 20% reduction in depression.” It also allows the elderly to more easily age in place.

Programs such as Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center, an initiative between Microsoft, the NYC Department for the Aging, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications places “extremely-easy-to-use” touchscreen devices with integrated webcams into the homes of socially-isolated elderly New Yorkers to “create an interactive experience that reduces social isolation, promotes wellness, and provides better access to community services. The program allows participants to engage in activities like discussion groups, museum lectures, and music classes from the comfort of their own home.”

With so much opportunity for interaction, consider getting your senior online. Teach your caregiver how to help facilitate setup. Staying connected helps seniors access and communicate with loved ones and the outside world. In the process, you will help them lead a happier life.

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