September is National Senior Center Month

We know most seniors prefer to age in place, at home. In fact, according to AARP, over 90 percent of older Americans want to stay home as opposed to relocating to assisted living or nursing homes.

The challenge with aging in place is that unless the senior has a full time caregiver, they can wind up being alone most of the time. That isolation and inactivity can begin a downward spiral of depression and loneliness. Not exactly the picture of a happy way to age.

Senior care at home can also get expensive, especially if you’re paying for simple companionship. Paying a companion caregiver $15 per hour to sit and play bridge might be a bit of overkill, especially since most seniors live on a fixed income.

The National Council on Aging has designated September as National Senior Center Month, and the theme for 2014 is Senior Centers: Experts at Living Well — Discover, Play, Create, Challenge.

Not to be confused with Adult Day Care Centers which are more costly and offer a higher degree of structure and supervision, Senior Centers are facilities that offer a wide variety of activities and offer opportunities for independent seniors to interact. It’s perfect for the active elderly—those who would like a place to “hang out”, have fun, and maybe learn a little something new.

Senior Centers often offer classes, trips, parties, volunteer opportunities, and recreational activities, and lifetime learning programs, including expert lectures. A healthy meal can also be had for an additional minimal fee. Oftentimes, they provide opportunities for day- and sometimes even overnight-excursions.

Regionally, some senior center endeavors are pushing boundaries and giving area seniors a little extra this month.

  • In Livermore, California, the California Highway Patrol will be offering a free public presentation on “How to Recognize Elder Abuse”.
  • The Glastonbury, CT Senior Center are inviting seniors to take part in a 10-week fitness challenge that includes a variety of activities to make people more aware of their own health and well-being.
  • The St. Clair Street Senior Center in Tennessee is featuring a Drum Circle, Tai Chi, St. Clair Walkers and an Art Show.

Some programs have been developed specifically to highlight this month’s senior center theme, but some communities see a great opportunity in working with local seniors.

In New York, for example, the Department on Aging is teaming up with local arts councils and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to present SPARC : Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide. The initiative places 50 artists-in-residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The goal is to produce arts programming for seniors in exchange for workspace and a small stipend. As reported by website Hyperallergic, last year, participating dance company De Novo staged Houseguest at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance and included seven seniors from the Astoria senior center where they had been in residence.

I plan on exploring this month’s theme by taking my own mother to a local senior center. Looking ahead to winter, it may be just the place for her to spend some time among her peers in the community. While I don’t expect she’ll be performing any contemporary dance moves, they might just get her to Zumba.

Tripping Seniors to Prevent Future Falls

Tripping the elderly on purpose would seem to be a cruel joke. Falls among seniors (those 65 or older) are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. They are also the leading cause of injury death. So who could possibly think that tripping older adults is a good idea?

Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago have developed a lab-built treadmill system that trips its subjects unexpectedly. After striding several paces, a sliding section of the treadmill walkway suddenly moves, causing the test subject to stumble.

Leading the research is physical therapy professor, Clive Pai. He calls the method a potential "vaccine against falls." He’s seen elderly subjects fall a few times on the treadmill (saved from actual injury by a harness), and then, after several “trips”, they subconsciously learn how to keep themselves upright.

Sensors attached to various points on the experiment participants track and analyze the muscle groups involved in catching oneself before one falls. The idea is to then concentrate on strengthening and improving the range of motion of those muscles. In theory, this will help prevent the injuries incurred when an elderly person falls to the floor.

"This is all implicit learning. We don't give any instruction. They don't have to be motivated — they're naturally motivated because they don't want to be on the floor," Prof. Pai said.

The National Institute on Aging is providing the five-year, $1 million grant to study and develop the treadmill system. There are plans to enroll 300 participants within the next five years. Researchers then hope to bring the treadmills to the public via doctor’s offices and physical therapy centers.

This photo taken on July 28, 2014, shows a UIC physical therapy assistant professor Tanvi Bhatt, left, with research subject Mary Kaye, 81 as they demonstrate a treadmill balance session. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Until this research proves effective in preventing falls and the treadmills are widely available, consider these 6 tips to prevent falls from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Consult a doctor to check eye and ear health and review medications.
  • Exercise to improve strength, coordination, balance and flexibility.
  • Wear sensible shoes or none at all. No high heels, slippers, thick-soled shoes. Stocking feet, especially on hardwood floors, can also be hazardous.
  • Keep walkways clear of clutter. Use non-slip mats in showers. Secure rugs with double-stick tape. Keep household items like dishes, food and clothing within easy reach. Use plenty of lamps with bright bulbs.
  • Turn on lights when going up and down stairs.
  • Hand rails, grab bars, raised toilet seats can be of great assistance in the bathroom. Place a plastic seat in the shower along with a hand-held shower nozzle.

Senior caregivers need to know how to maintain a clean, safe, and healthy environment. Caregiverlist Basic Training, powered by Caregiver Training University, provides a training module to help prevent accidents and injuries in the home.

Caregiver Pay Increases with Training, Studies Show

It’s back to school for most kids in the U.S., including my own. As we filled backpacks with new school supplies last night, I discussed with them the importance of a good education. “Stay in school,” we tell our children because, while not the only reason, higher education can directly affect your earning ability throughout your life. According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, high school graduates earn $143 more per week than high school dropouts. College graduates earn $336 more per week than high school graduates ($479 more per week than high school dropouts.)

The same holds true for the correlation between senior caregiver training and caregiver pay.

Becoming a companion caregiver is a great place to start to see if you enjoy elder care. While you are a companion caregiver, you can work on becoming certified to become a professional senior caregiver.

The Personal Home Health Aide (basic non-medical senior caregiver) occupation is cited by the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics as having the second highest projected growth rate from 2012-2022 at 49% with 580,800 new jobs created, and a 2012 median pay rate of $19,910 per year, or $9.57 per hour.

Home Health Aides have the third highest projected growth rate at 48%, with 424,200 new jobs and a 2012 median annual pay rate of $20,820, or $10.01 per hour. Becoming a Home Health Aide means increasing your education by taking a certification course.

Senior care training requirements vary by state, and every licensed senior home care agency must follow their state caregiver training requirements. Caregiverlist’s Basic Training 8-hour online course satisfies orientation training requirements for most states. CHHAs do not hold licenses but many employers prefer them to be certified. The certification process requires passing an exam after 75 hours of training and skills testing.

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) is the next step in pursuing senior caregiving on an even more professional level. It’s also has one of the highest projected change in employment, with 312,200 new jobs projected from 2012-2022. That means a 21% growth rate. The median salary for C.N.A.s is $24,400 per year or $11.73 per hour. Nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program and must pass their state’s competency exam. If you wonder what an exam looks like, Caregiverlist has provided a sample test for you to check out.

Of course, registered nurses will also be in demand, with 526,800 new jobs projected. That pay is $65,470 per year or $31.48 per hour. However, the big salary jump means more intensive education. Nurses pursue either a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses also must be licensed.

It’s no wonder that these fields are some of the fastest growing in the nation. As the elder population increases, so will the need for skilled, certified, educated caregivers. So if you want to get to work, go back to school!

Labor Day and Minimum Wage: Will You Be Paid More?

It’s Labor Day once again and again I am reminded of the myriad of hourly wage workers struggling to make ends meet.

The federal minimum wage hasn’t changed—it’s still $7.25 an hour and has been since 2009. What has changed is what that hourly wage can buy you. Adjusted for inflation, $7.25 had a value of $5.30 in 2009. In 2013, that $7.25 is worth $4.87. The push has been to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but even though the raise is championed by the White House, Congress has stalled in passing that legislation.

Local governments are taking it upon themselves to raise the minimum wage for hourly workers in their state or county. In 2013 and 2014, 10 states have raised their minimum wage. Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maryland have voted to raise their minimum wage to the proposed $10.10 an hour incrementally over the next few years. Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington, DC have voted on even higher future scheduled increases.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to raise that city’s minimum wage to more than $13 an hour. Chicago and New York both support a $13 hour minimum wage.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously in June to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour incrementally. However, franchise owners have challenged that legislation it is unfair to their business model. Franchises are considered part of a whole and if they have more than 500 workers nationally, they will be counted as a “large business” and are expected to increase their wages within 3 years. Small businesses will be given more time to increase workers’ wages.

One of the plaintiffs is BrightStar Care, a home-care agency.

Senior caregivers generally make more than minimum wage through quality home care agencies—typically franchises, but would likely see an increase in hourly pay if the minimum wage in their area increases. Based on a Caregiverlist Spring 2013 Caregiver Pay Survey, most senior caregivers report $10 as their hourly pay rate.

The majority of Americans are in favor of increasing the minimum wage, polls show. However, there is a group of dissenting voices who say that increasing the minimum wage will have very little effect on the poorest of society.

Labor Day, the national holiday observed on the first Monday of September, was first introduced by the Central Labor Union in 1882 to celebrate "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community. The working man’s holiday, the industrialized workforce demanded “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for Recreation.”

While we’re out picnicking and barbecuing on Labor Day, let’s remember all the working men and women who make our lives a little easier at just above the poverty line.

We’d love to hear from you if you are a senior caregiver or a franchise owner. How will the increase in minimum wage affect you or your business?

And on behalf of Caregiverlist, a happy end-of-summer!

Will Maine Senior Voters Say "Keep ME Home"?

Maine is a state with many unique distinctions. In 1641, the city of York became America's first chartered town. Eastport, the most eastern city in the United States, is the first city in the country to receive the morning sun. And the lobster! You can’t think of Maine without thinking about lobster. Maine provides almost 90% of the nation’s lobster supply.

Maine is the oldest state in the nation. According to projections, one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65 by 2030. It also has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. Expensive to heat and difficult to maintain, seniors in the state of Maine find themselves on waitlists (typically 140 names long) for affordable housing.

Maine's Democratic House speaker Mark Eves has outlined a series of policy proposals to help the state's rapidly aging population live independently longer.

The "KeepME Home" initiative is a package of bills intended to create affordable, energy-efficient senior housing communities, increase property tax credits, and provide higher pay for in-home direct care workers.

In-home care, in addition to being the more prefered type of eldercare, can be more economical than institutional care. According to Muskie School of Public Service, MaineCare (Medicaid) spent an average of $558 per month for each client who received in-home care in 2010, compared to $4,150 per month for each nursing home resident during the same year.

According to Caregiverlist’s® Nursing Home Ratings and Costs, the average daily price of a single-bed in a Maine nursing home is $266.45 per day.

The proposed $65 million bond issue would help address senior housing concerns, home care, long-term care, transportation, and a myriad of other senior service shortages.

House speaker Eves may just be courting the substantial silver-haired voter demographic in his bid for a November re-election (he can’t submit the legislation unless wins.) However, committing yourself to fight for your state’s elderly to live in their homes longer, or move to an aging-friendly community, or not having to choose between paying the heat or buying groceries is an honorable quest for someone who can affect public policy change. 

Having Medicaid supplement home care agency wages for direct in-home workers — professional caregivers and C.N.A.s —  helps draw and retain quality caregivers since they may finally eke out a living wage. With the work they do, they certainly deserve a raise, their first in a decade. A politician championing that fight is worthy of consideration.

Improving quality of life for all citizens, creating jobs, spending money more efficiently — that’s a politician’s job. As the population ages, I expect more senior issues come to the forefront, with more proactive initiatives to benefit an aging population. That’s smart politics.

"The Genius of Marian" Shows Love Beyond Alzheimer's

Here are some startling latest Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures from the Alzheimer's Association:

  • More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women.

Pam White is one of those women. Her own mother, the renowned painter Marian Williams Steele, herself died of Alzheimer’s in 2001 at the age of 89. Ms. White was in the midst of writing a biography of her mother, entitled “The Genius of Marian” when she began exhibiting the signs of early-onset dementia. Because she was struggling with typing and other tasks, her filmmaker son, Banker White, began to videotape conversations with his mother with the hope of helping her continue her project.

What came out of those conversations is a film that captures big events and small, as Ms. White details and recalls the events of her life. It also catches the struggle of a loving family as they deal with the complex emotions of losing a loved one to the disease.

It was an audience favorite at the Tribeca Film festival and, by all accounts, is a remarkable film—both for its subject matter and the intimacy and love with which it’s displayed.

In December of 2012, Banker White wrote a guest blogpost for Maria Shriver’s Inspirational Stories for Architects of Change, describing the powerful process of filmmaking this incredibly personal project.

“I believe the story is deeply important and powerfully told and I trust it will resonate not only for those directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease, but for with anyone who has had to reconcile complicated emotions around aging and loss.”

“It’s a remarkable film, not only for the obvious affection with which it was made, but as art.” – John Anderson, INDIEWIRE

David Shenk, award-winning, national-bestselling author of six books, including what is commonly known as the “the definitive work on Alzheimer’s,” The Forgetting (2001), served as consultant on the film. His short video below, provides an engaging and informative introduction to Alzheimer's disease.

The film will air nationally for the first time on PBS’s POV on Sept. 8 and film screenings are available for communal viewing. I’m inking the television debut on my calendar and hoping that Caregiverlist will be able to host a viewing in the Chicago area soon.

Nursing Home Staff Turnover Rate Affects Care

Aging-in-Place: there’s no doubt about it—when given a choice of where to spend their waning years, the majority of Americans, nearly 90 percent, want to stay in their own homes as they grow old. However, that’s sometimes not possible. Although the Census Bureau reports the number of American nursing home residents decreased by 20% from 2000 to 2010, falling from 1.6 million to 1.3 million, the fact is that many elderly need care they cannot receive at home.

Nursing homes used to (and perhaps still do) have an attached stigma. I grew up on horror stories about neglect, theft, and all sorts of senior abuse running rampant in facilities. Grainy “hidden camera” news reports showed the horrific institutions where the elderly were left to die alone. While I am sure that those situations still unfortunately remain, I also know from first hand experience that top-notch, quality nursing homes do exist.

Modern skilled nursing homes provide safe and comprehensive care that might be difficult to receive at home. As our Elder Law Expert, Ben Neiberger asserts in Tip Nine of his 10 Elder Care Tips to Make Senior Care Easier, nursing home placement isn't death sentence.

There are many factors that go into determining what makes for a great (or even good) nursing home. Caregiverlist's® Nursing Home Star Ratings are calculated utilizing the nursing home’s overall Medicare Star Rating, percent of short-stay residents with bed sores, Certified Nursing Aide hours per resident per day, and percentage of long-term residents whose need for help with ADLs has increased.

Nursing home staff turnover is another factor that determines quality nursing home care. Direct care staff, registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nursing assistants (C.N.A.s) have an immediate affect on the quality of life for nursing home residents. The longer a caregiver stays on the job, the more they know their patients and are better equipped to provide the continuity of care they need. If a nursing home’s staff turnover is high, the caliber of care may suffer.

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) conducts an annual survey to collect data on staff turnover, retention, and vacancy rates in nursing homes nationwide. The 2012 survey shows the median turnover rate in skilled nursing centers for RNs was 50.0%, LPNs was 36.4%, and C.N.A.s was a whopping 51.5%. High C.N.A. turnover increases the odds of a nursing home being cited for deficiencies by 54 percent, according to a 2014 study published in February by the Journal of American Medical Directors Association.

States are beginning to take notice of nursing home staffing concerns and are putting systems in place to help retain quality workers. In Iowa, the Public Health Department has developed an online Prepare to Care course for direct care workers and is collaborating with the Caregivers Association to help nursing home workers sign up for health benefits. Ohio has instituted a Long-Term Care Quality Initiative to help raise the bar for long-term care staff.

One (of four) of AHCA’s Quality Initiative goals, whose deadline is March 2015, is to reduce turnover of long-term direct care staff by 15 percent.

Here’s hoping they achieve those lofty goals, for the sake of nursing home staff and residents alike.

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Family Caregiving During Vacation

My family and I are winding up a whirlwind 14-day prospective-college tour throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic and begin our journey home. As soon as we land back home, I will barely get our travel clothes into the washer when I will climb back into the car and head over to my mother’s house to continue my role as family caregiver. And vacation has ended.

I was a bit reticent to take such a long break. I haven’t been away for such a long stretch of time since I became, along with my brother, my elderly mother’s primary caregiver so many years ago. But sometimes circumstances arise (or—dare I say it—sometimes even family caregivers need a break) that take us away from our senior loved ones for an extended period.

Respite care for family caregivers

Just because a family caregiver is gone doesn’t mean the senior needs any less help. No one is advocating that a senior “goes it alone” for the duration. However, that will be a  great fear for the senior who may be worried, “Who will take care of me?”

Planning respite care should be a part of your trip planning itself. To help alleviate any anxieties, discuss your travel plans with your loved one and assure them that together, you will work out the details necessary for whatever care they will need and with which they will be comfortable. Discuss the options based on level of care needed.

In-home care

Most times your elderly loved one will be most comfortable staying at home. If the senior is relatively independent, sometimes part-time caregiving can be be cobbled together from a variety of sources. You can enlist friends and neighbors, church volunteers or other willing family members to provide companionship during your absence (make sure they know how to reach you while you are away.) Fill the pantry and fridge so store trips won’t be necessary. If your elderly loved one doesn’t feel comfortable cooking hot meals, you can hire a  meal service. Check  to see if Meals on Wheels is available in your area. Make sure all medication prescriptions are filled. A medical alert system is not a bad idea if the senior is sometimes home alone, even if you are not on vacation.

If a higher level of care is necessary, you can hire a professional caregiver through a reliable senior home care agency. Caregiverlist works with only the most quality home health agencies to provide non-medical professional caregivers to assist with ADLs and C.N.A.s who can provide some basic medical care. These caregivers go through a rigorous screening  process that includes criminal background check. They are insured and bonded and are actively managed by a direct supervisor or manager. In-home care costs can range from $15 - $25 per hour for hourly care and $150 - $350 per day for 24-hour live-in care.

Off-site care

There are many assisted living communities that can provide furnished apartments for temporary senior care on-site. Temporary residents enjoy the same level of available care as permanent residents and have access to all the available amenities such as meals, medication management, transportation, activities, and security.  $15 - $25 per hour for hourly care and $150 - $350 per day for 24-hour live-in care. According to 2012 data ,temporary care respite stays are usually less than one month long, and can cost between $75 to $200 per day. A Geriatric Care Manager can help you navigate all your available options, as well as inform you on how best to pay for respite care.

As summer winds down, your family vacations are probably behind you. However, family caregiving, while rewarding, can be highly stressful and lead to caregiver burnout. A family caregiver should take much needed time off and, while perhaps furloughs will be shorter in duration, the need for respite care will be no less. Consider following the same guidelines for abbreviated breaks. And remember, ski season will be soon upon us!

Seniors and Suicide: Depression Drives Decision

The world lost a comedic genius earlier this week when Robin Williams was found in his home in California, dead of an apparent suicide. It’s been reported that Mr. Williams had been battling severe depression as of late. When I heard the sad news I thought, Here’s a man who had everything—wealth, fame, the love of a good family, the adoration of the world. How could someone who had so much decide to take his own life? And if his depression could drive him to commit such a final act, what chance do those with less—less money, fewer loved ones, failing health, have?

That’s the misinformation we as a nation have about depression—that it’s a choice, a moral failing. But depression is a disease, like cancer or heart disease. Although some seniors will have battled depression all their lives, many experience their first onset late in life, in their 80s and 90s. And because depression is the primary risk factor in most suicides, left undiagnosed and untreated, the elderly are a high-risk demographic. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), older Americans comprise 13 percent of the population but account for 18 percent of all suicides. In the U.S., elderly white males, especially the old-old (over the age of 85), have the highest risk of suicide in the nation. In a fact sheet produced by the American Association of Suicidology, the 2010 suicide rate for these men was 47.33 per 100,000, or 2.37 times the current rate for men of all ages (19.94 per 100,000).

Not to be confused with normal (and relatively temporary) sadness and grief which can be caused by the loss of a loved one, changes in one’s environment, or deteriorating health, depression doesn’t go away by itself and needs professional intervention. In short, the senior needs treatment.

If you are a senior caregiver, be on the lookout for these signs of depression. Symptoms of depression in the elderly can include:

  • memory problems and confusion
  • social withdrawal and isolation
  • loss of appetite, weight loss
  • complaints of pain where there are no apparent physical causes
  • inability to sleep
  • irritability
  • delusions or hallucinations
  • also, heavy alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for depression and suicide.

Like many other diseases, depression is treatable and, according to experts, suicide can be prevented. If you suspect your senior loved one or elderly client shows signs of depression, the first step is to seek medical help. Some simple tests performed by their primary care physician can help determine a course of action to treat the disease and thereby, help prevent suicide. If more immediate action is needed, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) operates a 24-hour confidential suicide hotline.

We at Caregiverlist extend our sincere condolences to the family of Robin Williams, as well as to the families of all the victims of suicide. We can only hope that his passing will open the discussion of depression and suicide, help remove its stigma, and encourage sufferers to seek help.

Clorox Hosts Special Chicago Caregiver Event

Senior caregivers based in or near Chicago, Illinois should consider taking some time for themselves and enjoy a little TLC care of Clorox®.

Caring for the elderly, especially in their own homes, can be a relentless and stressful endeavor. Those of us who take care of our senior loved ones know that there is little time left over to care for ourselves. Clorox® CareConceptsTM recognizes that fact and is planning a series of evenings in cities around the country to celebrate and honor those who care for others.

Chicago’s caregiver event takes place on Wednesday, August 20, and will provide some pampering activities, along with hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and the opportunity to meet others in the caregiving community who experience all the joys and frustrations that you do.

There will also be a screening of the documentary “A Sacred Journey” by filmmaker Ernesto Quintero and a panel discussion among experts and caregivers on the topic: When Care Comes Home, exploring the challenges and inspirational moments of in-home caregiving.

If you bring along a photo submission of you with the person for whom you are caring, along with a brief description (i.e., “Caring for my mom since 2001”), Clorox® CareConceptsTM will donate $5 on your behalf to the REST Program.

Date: Wednesday, August 20
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: The Logan Theater 2646 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Transportation: Car: Complimentary valet parking
Nearest CTA: Blue Line at Logan Square 

RSVP by Thursday, August 14 to or 708.305.5075
For more information: Visit

Caregiverlist® has long been a champion of the family and professional caregiver. A few years ago, we held our own “Caregiver Day” and can attest to its popularity. Senior caregiving can be such an isolating experience—sometimes it’s just you and your senior. We highly recommend taking advantage of any and all opportunities to take some time and connect with others who know exactly what you are experiencing as a caregiver. We think the Clorox® CareConceptsTM special night out on August 20 will be a hit in Chicago. Look for other Clorox® CareConceptsTM caregiver night off events in Los Angeles on October 1 and Washington DC on November 13.



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