Veterans Benefits for Senior Care

Veteran’s Day is the day we set aside to appreciate those who have served in America’s wars. No matter what your political ideology, both sides of the aisle can agree that elderly veterans are entitled to our support, especially as they age.There are many benefits available to elderly veterans, but bureaucracy can make getting those benefits challenging. It helps to know to which benefits you’re entitled and how to apply for the assistance you need.

Elderly Veterans
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 9.3 million veterans 65 years and older in 2013 (including America's oldest living veteran, 108-year-old Richard Overton.) The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing benefits and services that help address the needs of the aging veteran population.

VA Benefits for Elderly Veterans
Elderly Veterans may be eligible for a multitude of benefits including:

A relatively unknown but extremely helpful benefit is available for senior veterans. The Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension benefit, known as A&A, can cover the costs of caregivers in the home. Our family found out too late that this can include sons and daughters who are paid to be caregivers, (but not spouses) or be used in assisted living or a nursing home. 

According to the VA, Aid and Attendance (A&A) is paid if you meet one of the conditions below:

  • You require help performing daily functions, which may include bathing, eating or dressing.
  • You are bedridden.
  • You are a patient in a nursing home.
  • Your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Learn more about these benefits on the Aid & Attendance Housebound benefits page.

How to Apply
Caregiverlist has provided a comprehensive webpage that discusses the Veteran's Aid and Attendance Benefit for Senior Care. In it, we discuss what it is, who qualifies, the dollar amount of financial requirements and benefits, and links to all necessary paperwork.

Unfortunately, LGBT veterans and their spouses do not receive the same full and equal benefits if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, even though the benefits are on a federal, not state, level. At present, a petition is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [AMPA v. MacDonald, No. 14-7121 (Fed. Cir. 2014)].

Family Caregivers
The VA also provides a website specifically designed to support VA family caregivers. It’s mission is to:

  • inform you about assistance from the VA
  • assist you in accessing all available services and benefits.
  • put you in touch with your local VA medical center family Caregiver Support Coordinator
  • lend you a sympathetic ear

The VA's Caregiver Support Line is toll-free at 1-855-260-3274

As always, Caregiverlist thanks all veteran’s for their service and a special thanks to all the caregivers who aid and assist them.

Golden Light in Wisconsin: Stress Relief Photo

The late afternoon sun sometimes casts a beautiful golden glow.  This week's stress awareness photo is of a fountain in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and was taken at the end of the day as the sun was getting ready to set. Caregiverlisinvites you to take a moment to enjoy the photo and inspirational quote and share it with loved ones. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for caring for our seniors. Senior care training briefs help senior caregivers to understand various senior illnesses and keep up with the latest care techniques to relieve caregiving stress. We hope you can take some time to yourselves and have a great week. 

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Hospice is End-of-Life Care with Comfort and Dignity

For senior caregivers, the word “hospice” is a double-edged sword. Hospice is end-of-life care, so the inevitable is on the horizon. The care recipient is terminal and the focus of care shifts from extending the quantity of life to preserving the quality of life left.

November is National Hospice Month and a great opportunity to thank those who make the care recipient’s final months, weeks, and days comfortable and as pain-free as possible. As hospice care turns 40 this year, Caregiverlist invites you to learn more about this special breed of caregiving.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) defines hospice care as a specialized kind of care for those facing an end-of-life illness, their families and their caregivers that:

  • addresses the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual need of patients
  • provides care in the patient’s home or in a home-like setting
  • concentrates on making patients free of pain and as comfortable as they can be so they and their families can make the most of the time that remains
  • includes family members an essential part caring for the patient
  • stresses quality of life over length of time left

Hospice centers on caring, not curing. That care is delivered holistically by an interdisciplinary team that consists of physicians, nurses, in-home caregivers, therapists, counselors, and social workers. Their combined goal is to provide compassionate and comprehensive care that includes patient pain management and family support so the care recipient can die pain-free and with dignity.

The number of patients and families utilizing hospice has steadily increased over the last few years. In 2013, an estimated 1.5 to 1.6 million patients received hospice services. The median length of hospice service in 2013 was 18.5 days.

Who pays?
The Medicare hospice benefit, established 1982 by the U.S. Congress, is the predominate source of payment for hospice care. As of today, 42 states also offer Medicaid coverage for hospice. Private insurance and VA benefits cover this end-of-life care as well.

Few caregivers, especially family caregivers, are prepared to handle the events and changes that happen at the end of life. To that end, the Hospice Foundation of America has published a guide called The Caregiver’s Guide to the Dying Process. The booklet is designed to help the caregiver

  • address the needs of the dying by providing descriptions of the physical, emotional and spiritual changes occurring near the end of life
  • help to understand and recognize what is happening physically and emotionally to the terminally ill care recipient
  • suggestions for what you, as the caregiver, can do to ease distress and make
  • the dying person as comfortable as possible
  • information to help you, as the caregiver, communicate effectively with the hospice team
  • insight on how you might feel as the caregiver for someone who is dying ideas of how to care for yourself

My personal experience with hospice occurred with my good friend (and senior) Louie. Louie knew he was dying. At the time, he was in the hospital and asked to go home, where he could spend his last days surrounded by his family in the home he’d shared with his late wife and look upon the garden he’d tended for the last 45 years. Hospice brought a hospital bed into the greatroom, where he could look out onto the backyard and his garden. They eased his pain with generous doses of morphine so he showed no signs of physical duress as family and friends came to hold his hand and say goodbye. All the while, members of the hospice team were in and out, making sure everyone involved had all they needed to make Louie’s passage as warm and peaceful as possible. They made it possible for Louie to die at home, as he wished, listening to his favorite big-band music as they attended to his comfort. It was a beautiful and natural way to die and I will forever be grateful to them all for their inestimable services.

Join the NHPCO hospice community on Facebook and help ensure all Americans get access to quality end-of-life care.

Weather Forecast App to Prepare for Winter

With November comes the beginning of more unpredictable weather, whether it be cold, snow or ice. Senior caregivers and their senior clients need to take extra precautions if they live in a region with intense weather during the winter to help keep seniors warm and away from slipping hazards of snow and ice on the ground. Predictions for Polar Vortex related weather next week suggest a chilly start to winter for about a third of the nation. The AccuWeather app shows the detailed weather forecast by the hour for several days.

Checking the weather forecast helps senior caregivers prepare for what to expect, but vague forecasts of being "partly cloudy with a chance of showers" makes it difficult to know whether or not it will rain and when it might rain. The AccuWeather app features a two hour precipitation prediction screen, which allows the user to type in their exact location and use a wheel on the screen to scroll through the times in the next two hours. When the user selects a time and location, the screen displays how much precipitation will fall at that time in that place. This feature serves particularly useful when caregivers are deciding when to take their senior client to the store or to a flexible appointment because they can look at the precipitation expectations for the times they would be traveling before they make their plan of when to leave the house. 

The app also allows users to set up several different locations on their account so if seniors have loved ones in other cities, they can see what the weather is like there. The forecast also shows several days out, so caregivers can look at the forecast to see if a big snow is coming and be prepared if they need to get their senior client to an appointment on that particular day. It uses a visual graph to show temperature changes over several days ahead to show users when to expect a spike or dip in temperatures.  

The AccuWeather app is available for Apple and Android platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Certified Nursing Assistant or Aide Training Varies in Each State of the U.S.A.

Certified Nursing Aides assist seniors with the hands-on care needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle while coping with age-related issues and diseases.  As America's population continues to live longer, we are also requiring more years of caregiving services.  Hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, assisted living communities and senior home care agencies all hire nursing aides who have formally passed their state's C.N.A. exam and maintain a certificate in good-standing.

Federal law created the training requirement and designation for the nursing aide position, but each state implements their own nursing aide exam and may add additional requirements on top of the training required by the federal law.

Nursing Assistant hours vary from a minimum of 75 hours of course work to a maximum of 180 hours (Maine requires 180 hours of training for C.N.A.'s).  The most common number of hours required are 75 and 120 hours.  Review the hours of C.N.A. training required in your state and request information on C.N.A. classes in your area.

Caregiverlist's C.N.A. School Directory provides information on the costs and admission requirements to become a C.N.A.  Employment opportunities are many for anyone with C.N.A. training and a caring and kind personality.  Anyone looking for a fulfilling career could test the waters in the caregiving industry by starting out as a professional caregiver and applying with one job application in their area on Caregiverlist (multiple companies use Caregiverlist's hiring platform and often hire as many as 5 new caregivers and aides weekly).

Review an Insider's Guide to Becoming a C.N.A. and take a practice C.N.A. exam as you explore this career opportunity.  Caregiver certification training consists of 10 hours of online training and can also provide an introduction to working as a professional caregiver.

Senior Home Care Franchises Make Best Business (Dollars and) Sense

The verdict is in — senior in-home care is big business and four senior care franchises have snagged spots in Franchise Business Review’s “Top Emerging Franchises”. FBR surveyed more than 1,500 young franchise brands (operating for five years or less)  and asked them to rank their companies based on financial opportunity, training and support, leadership, operations and product development, core values (e.g., honesty and integrity of franchisor), general satisfaction, and the franchisee community.

Qualicare Family Homecare, FirstLight HomeCare, Amada Senior Care, and CareBuilders at Home were all represented on the list of top franchises. Amada Senior Care took fifth place, FirstLight landed third, and Qualicare Family Homecare walked away with the coveted first place spot of all top emerging franchises.

With no wonder. Senior care (especially in-home care) franchise opportunities have exploded in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the home health-care sector is currently the fastest growing industry sector in America. In 2012, there were just under 1.2 million jobs in home health care. In 2022 it is estimated that there will be about 1.91 million jobs in the home care field. That’s an unprecedented increase of over 715,000 jobs. That translates to a compounded annual growth rate of 4.8 percent.

But besides providing jobs and having employment security, there are other, more personal reasons people find themselves in the senior care industry. Most come to the field after being a family caregiver to the elderly or disabled in their own households. For many, the satisfaction of knowing they are doing the great and important work in helping seniors age at home, with dignity, trumps the profit margins.

Teresa Yoder, Amada Senior Care, Santa Clarita, CA franchise owner tells FBR why she was attracted to her franchise:
My beliefs were in line with the business practices of Amada Senior Care, as it pertained to complete concern and attention to family and senior needs, and what was best for THEM, not necessarily just profit driven.

There are nearly 11,000 senior care agencies in the United States: 1,000 new agencies opened in 2012 alone. Recently, I wrote about Leeza Gibbons and her husband deciding to open a Senior Helpers franchise; it not only made financial sense, but they saw it as an opportunity to “provide trusted and dependable care and encouragement to seniors and families facing devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

If you believe you have what it takes to run a Senior Home Care Agency, we suggest you do your due diligence and request information from top senior homecare franchises. You can learn about their operating models and marketing approaches, as well as the minimum cash required to open your own franchise.

Autumn Sunshine at Lake Michigan: Stress Relief Photo

As the days get shorter, it is time to savor the colors of autumn, and the last warm bits of sunshine. This week's stress awareness photo was taken in Chicago at the lakefront. Caregiverlisinvites you to take a moment to enjoy the photo and inspirational quote and share it with loved ones. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for caring for our seniors and please refer your friends to apply for part-time and full-time job positions on Caregiverlist.com and visit our career center for additional career tools. Have a great week. 

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." 

-John Burroughs

President Obama Proclaims November National Family Care Month

Caregiverlist has been championing the senior caregiver for years. Many of us come from family caregiving backgrounds and know the difficult (but rewarding) work of taking care of parents or grandparents.

And so each year since 1997 when President Bill Clinton signed the first Presidential Proclamation, November is recognized as National Family Caregivers Month — a time to thank, support, educate and empower family caregivers.

Family caregivers, often called “informal caregivers”, perform the brunt of senior care, without pay. Here in the U.S., according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 43.5 million adult family caregivers care for someone over 50 years old and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia (statistics based on numbers from November 2012.)

Most elderly prefer to age at home and, because of limited funds, many times family caregivers are their only option to do so. Family caregivers provided services valued at $450 billion per year in 2009 and since the aging population will only increase (some estimate that those aged 65+ will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030), the value of family senior care will increase exponentially as well.

Most family caregivers (by the way, the majority of whom are women), also work outside the home and many times care for children as well. Thus the term Sandwich Generation. That care has an economic impact on the family caregiver as well. Surveys show that caregivers overall reported missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year. They turn down promotions, arrive late to work and/or leave early, take leaves of absence, or quit work altogether to provide much needed care to family members. That loss of productivity is estimated at $304,000 in lost salary and benefits over a lifetime.

When PBS did a story earlier this year on the average American long-term care family caregiver, I was surprised to see that my personal situation is not all that unique. The profile of the average long-term caregiver in the U.S. is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and cares for her widowed mother for an average of 20 hours per week. Yup, that’s me in a nutshell.

It’s great that there is national attention to this growing segment of the population — the family caregiver. While it’s true that families have always cared for their own, because life-expectancy is quite different than it was 50 years ago, family senior care can extend years, even decades longer than ever before. If family caregivers were no longer available, AARP says in a report, the economic cost to the U.S. health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS) systems would increase astronomically. It’s most certain that many elderly would find themselves in institutional settings like nursing homes, and the cost would be borne by the government, on both the federal and state levels.

It’s essential, therefore, that we as a society support the family caregiver in every way possible. It is essential to the well-being of our system of LTSS, our health care system, our economy, our workplaces, our families, and ourselves.

Because many professional senior caregivers come to the industry after spending years as family caregivers, Caregiverlist® provides some basic online caregiver training powered by Caregiver Training University to help the family (and professional) senior caregiver provide the best senior care possible.

And during the month of November especially, remember to celebrate and appreciate the senior family caregiver in your life, either by providing some respite care, taking them out for a relaxing evening, or by simply saying “thanks” (although I’m bucking for the night out!)

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