Here in Chicago, we awoke on Earth Day to a light dusting of snow on rooftops. This is April in the Midwest. Consider my plans to garden with my mother dashed. But not to worry — there are still plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day with seniors and support the environment along with its protection.
Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd around the world, and has been since United States Senator Gaylord Nelson held the first environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970 It is now, according to one of the original organizers Denis Hayes, “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”
Senior caregivers are always on the lookout for special activities for their care recipients. I’ve culled some great ideas from around the web (along with a few suggestions of my own) and come up with some Earth Day undertakings to commemorate the day.
My original plan for today was to plant a tree. There are lots of reasons why planting and maintaining trees are especially good for our environment, not the least of which is that trees can help combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide while releasing the oxygen back into the air. Added bonus: trees conserve energy. According to Tree People, three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent.
Shop locally for produce. Farmer’s markets will not only have great seasonable fruits and vegetables, you’re saving the greenhouse gasses it takes to transport food by truck and industrial agriculture causes massive topsoil erosion. Also, just for today, keep dairy and meat consumption to a minimum. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, meat production accounts for about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the grains used to feed the livestock require an incredible amount of fuel and water. So just for today, consider going vegetarian (or close to it.)
Today would be an ideal day to go through accumulated stuff — you know, the clothing, appliances and goods that are no longer used and donate them to a worthy group. Just make sure you double-check with family before you schedule a pick-up or drop-off. You don’t want to make the mistake of getting rid of a beloved family heirloom or valuable item.
Senior caregivers connect the elderly to their environment every day. A great caregiver will look for opportunities to celebrate special days like Earth Day. Look to your local Areas on Aging for ideas and events to celebrate the health of our planet.
In-home senior care is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. I know because I'm constantly looking at senior care industry trends. This week, there was a new name on the in-home senior care landscape: Honor.
Honor (www.joinhonor.com) recently received $20 million in funding to roll out it’s new service—a high tech way to connect seniors with senior caregivers. Honor is launching Contra Costa County, California this month and then plans to spread to the rest of the Bay Area. San Francisco is the fifth largest metro area for senior care employment.
Helping seniors age in place, at home, is at the core of CEO and co-founder Seth Sternberg’s mission. Like many of us, Mr. Sternberg was confronted with the challenge of long-distance care for his aging mother. He would fly into Connecticut, where his mother lives, hire a caregiver, and be clueless about the care his mother was receiving once he left for home. The idea behind Honor is that, not only could a senior (or their family) hire a caregiver Uber-fashion, but the app would help families monitor that care.
The Honor Frame is a device that sits in the senior’s home and allows a senior or their family to request a caregiver for as little as one hour per week, to help with the activities of daily living, including meal preparation, transportation, or simple companionship. Families can download the Honor app onto their smartphones in order to monitor the caregiver’s time, activities, and to provide feedback.
It will be interesting to watch how Honor approaches the challenges inherent to in-home senior care. We agree that technology can facilitate the connection between senior and caregiver, but building a team of caregivers is different than hiring in any other field because seniors who live alone are especially vulnerable to all sorts of elder abuse. The creators of Honor believe they can build a strong team of professional caregivers by offering them an hourly rate well above the industry standard—$15 per hour instead of the current average of $9.50.
In order to understand the challenges Honor is facing, perhaps we should take a look at just what an in-home care agency provides to a caregiver, their senior client and their family that a direct hire doesn’t necessarily offer. At Caregiverlist, we make sure our quality home care agencies:
- posess a business license and required state licensure
- fully vet all employees by performing a thorough criminal background check
- offer and maintain training for caregivers
- are responsible for paying all employee payroll taxes, as required by law. That includes unemployment insurance tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax and State and Federal withholdings
- provide Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- carry Professional Liability Insurance and Fidelity Bond Insurance (aka “theft” insurance)
- supply active management of the senior caregiver through a direct supervisor and a plan of care
As the population ages, their technology comfort level will increase. Until then, I’d love to take a look at Honor’s interface, knowing that seniors themselves will be using the software to request their caregiver.
We at Caregiverlist wish Honor the most success. We certainly believe in their philosophy, one that Sternberg recently told Forbes. “We do not honor care professionals in today’s world,” he said. “We should. And we should honor our parents.” We couldn’t agree more.
Youth is beauty. It’s what our society tells us and shows us, from 14-year-old model Roos Abels on Prada’s catwalk to the goofy twenty-year-olds on America’s Next Top Model. It’s fairly common to hear that a model’s career is mostly over by the time they’re 25.
But not always.
Carmen Dell’Orefice, 83, is commonly known as the world’s oldest working model. Although she began her modeling career at the age of 13 (when she posed for Salvador Dali!), she admits that to New You magazine that she’s “had more magazine covers in the last 25 years than I have had in my whole elongated career." Over the last few years, she’s made her mark on catwalks around the world, and closed this year’s max.tan show at Digital Fashion Week Singapore.
Céline has made iconic writer Joan Didion, 80, the star of their Spring 2015 campaign. Of course, the decision propelled the fashion house into the limelight, but I applaud anyone who recognizes the beauty of “mature models.” And besides, Joan Didion has always been one of the coolest of the cool girls and that doesn’t change just because you age.
Joan Didion for Céline. Photograph: Céline
Dame Helen Mirren is a relative whippersnapper at 69-years-old. She stars in her first commercial for the L'Oreal Paris' Age Perfect campaign. And yes, the product is designed to target older women, but still, it’s awfully nice to see that beauty is appreciated, even in older women.
Is this a temporary trend? Will older women continue to be celebrated in fashion and beauty? I hope so. As the population ages, the buying public will be an older one. With just about 26 million women over 65 in the U.S. alone, it’s just smart to sell to the demographic.
We at Caregiverlist are great believers in aging well. While exercise and proper nutrition won't give you outstanding cheekbones or a 5'9" frame, you can certainly be your best you at any age.
March is National Nutrition Month and an ideal opportunity for senior caregivers to make sure seniors are getting all the proper nutrition they need. It’s easier said than done. As we age, our bodies have a more difficult time absorbing key nutrients. Certain foods can lose their appeal — medications especially can affect appetite or change the way food tastes.
A nutrient-rich diet is more than essential for health maintenance, its a form of preventative medicine. A good diet can help keep common ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and high cholesterol at bay. Key nutrients are essential to keep physically and mentally fit.
Unfortunately, according to a report released by AARP, more than 10 million seniors go hungry every day, and it’s likely that “proper nutrient intake suffers when individuals are food insecure.” What money is available for food should go to the most nutritious foods available — whole, unprocessed foods that are nutrient-dense (and generally low in calories) are key to senior health.
You can follow the Food Pyramid for Older Adults (Tufts University) or any balanced diet in order to get the proper nutrition. I think it’s key to get your nutrients from whole foods as opposed to relying on supplements. The elderly usually already take so much medication, who wants to take more pills?
The National Institute on Aging has recommendations for eating well as you age. They suggest you plan meals and snacks to include:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- dairy products, especially low-fat or fat-free
- protein in the form of lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, and unsalted nuts
- limited amounts of solid fats. Keep trans fats to a minimum
- limited amounts of cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
Don’t forget to keep hydrated with water or water-rich food such as melons, cucumbers, radishes (!), even if you don’t feel thirsty.
The NIA also suggests any seniors with high blood pressure or hypertension consider the DASH diet, which I previously wrote about here.
Caregiverlist knows senior caregivers are integral to helping the elderly to eat right and age well. You can learn basic caregiving skills by taking our 8-hour online Caregiver Certification training course provided by Caregiverlist Training University.
Where will you be Sunday night? If you are like me and millions of viewers (43 million last year), you will be watching the 87th Academy Awards. Are you rooting for Birdman or Boyhood? Will Eddie Redmayne take Best Actor for channeling Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything? Who will win the Oscar for Best Actress? My money’s on Julianne Moore in Still Alice, in which she portrays a professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Movies can be entertaining, informative, arresting. They have the ability to comment upon an aspect of society and, when done well, evoke great empathy.
Seniors experience ageism, discrimination, and prejudicial attitudes every day (I pity the fool who will condescends to call me “cute” when I hit 80.) Every year since 2011, the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) sponsors a short film competition (under 9 minutes) about the challenges faced by older adults when they are marginalized by a society that values youth above all things.
ALFA’s goal in sponsoring this Short Films on Ageism competition is to:
- Demonstrate the destructive forces of ageism in society and/or
- Raise public awareness of how ageism is expressed in direct or subtle ways and/or
- Demonstrate how individuals can change their attitudes and behavior towards older adults.
Keith Rivers, principal/creative director at Workhouse Creative! won the 2014 ALFA Short Film Competition on Ageism with his short story documentary, Salt & Pepper.
Second place winner was A Father to Dye For , directed by Lena Nozizwe and starring retired history professor, Hulme Thamsanqa Siwundhla, Ph.D.
ALFA is the largest national association dedicated to senior living communities and the seniors and families they serve. Since 1990, ALFA has championed choice, accessibility, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all seniors.
ALFA is now accepting entries for the 2015 Short Film Competition. The submission deadline is 5:00 p.m. EST on March 30, 2015.
Seniors are using technology in all its aspects to improve their lives. Cell phones can also be medical alert devices. Email is a way to keep in touch with family and friends far away. Skype is the video phone promised in yesterday’s sci-fi movies.
It’s no wonder that seniors are now one of the fastest growing demographics in the online dating game. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, US-based technology advisory company iTOK sent out a survey asking their members to discuss their online dating habits. Their findings? 1 in 5 seniors have tried online dating, with the largest group of respondents ( 36%) falling between 66 and 75 years old. And they’re not necessarily looking for lasting love, either. Seniors seeking companionship and casual relationships found their way primarily to Match.com, eHarmony, and OurTime (a dating site that caters to singles 50 and older). Fifty percent of iTOK responders were already married; 19% reported being widowed, 18% divorced, 11% single, and 2% currently dating.
Here’s their infographic:
AARP got into the game when they partnered with an online dating service and came up with HowAboutWe. As in, “How about we” take in a movie tonight? Take a baking class together? Although in my experience, most of the men seem to be under 40 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, they are all so good looking according to their online profile photos, I have a hard time believing that a 32 year-old Javier Bardem-looking Jared would want to “hang out and hear bluegrass while drinking whiskey” with a 50-year-old woman. But perhaps I’m wrong. Certainly my Valentine’s-addled mind would love to think so.
At the risk of sounding alarmist, I might even run a background check on someone before I committed to a relationship. I know, I’m a hopeless romantic. There are a lot of scammers out there. I strongly advise to take care in all things — especially matters of the heart, where the head tends to lose.
For the second time during his tenure, Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker is proposing to cut the state’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program by requiring Wisconsin's seniors to first enroll in the federal government’s Medicare Part D prescription coverage.
The majority of elderly in Wisconsin like the system the way it is. Some 85,000 SeniorCare members across Wisconsin pay a yearly $30 enrollment fee as well as co-pays of $5 for generic drugs and $15 for name-brand drugs, with no gaps in coverage. Medicare Part D can cost $30-$40 monthly and many plans include deductibles.
Governor Walker’s office disagrees. "In some cases, SeniorCare deductibles are higher than Medicare Part D," Laurel Patrick, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker, wrote in a statement to 27 News, Madison, WI. "Also there is a provision under SeniorCare that requires some individuals to spend down their income, which means they need to pay for prescription drugs out-of-pocket in order to reach eligibility levels, that makes it less beneficial for many seniors."
The governor’s plan calls for seniors to first enroll in a Medicare Part D plan and SeniorCare would supplement coverage for any drugs not covered by the federal plan. His office estimates a $15 million, or 40 percent savings over the next two years in the state’s budget for the prescription drug program for low-income seniors.
Gov. Walker first proposed a similar plan in 2011. At that time, the proposal was dropped when it faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.
It’s interesting that when so many want less federal intervention and more statewide control, a state program with so much local support, especially when, during fall campaigns, elected lawmakers voiced their "commitment(ment) to fully fund SeniorCare."
Currently, Democrats Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Eric Genrich are launching a petition to drop the proposal. They suggest the Republican governor is "putting the interests of big pharma above Wisconsin's seniors." AARP also denounces the plan, urging Wisconsin members to contact state legislators to encourage them to remove the provisions from the governor’s proposed budget.
The image of a typical nursing home, right or wrong, inspires fear in the hearts of many seniors. They picture dark, dank living spaces, rife with an uncaring, or worse, malicious staff, and, perhaps most of all, they fear becoming isolated and forgotten. It’s no wonder, then, that the idea of aging in place, at home, is a popular option for elders in America. And as the baby boom gives way to the elder boom, we realize that whatever viable options are put in place for seniors today will become our aging options in the not-too-distant future.
In her book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, 2014 MacArthur Fellow Ai-jen Poo discusses the need to provide an environment whereby the increasingly aging population can stay in their own homes if they choose. But finding a competent careforce will be the primary challenge. Tackling that imminent problem is Ms. Poo’s primary focus.
Living longer is a good thing, as long as there are systems in place to care for the aged. By 2035 there will be 11.5 million Americans over the age of 85, more than double today's five million. Right now, those who need long-term care, nearly 79%, live at home or in community settings, not in institutions, and 90% would prefer to age at home. Currently, the lion’s share of home care is provided free of charge by informal or family caregivers.
This dynamic is unsustainable according to demographics and to a changing society, as Ms. Poo points out in the book. Whereas the women in the family were traditionally expected to provide care for aging parents, dual-income American family households means there is no one at home full-time to absorb those duties. Households with fewer children and more elderly begins to look a little like something from Roald Dahl’s imagination.
The answer, clearly, is a vital, supported profession senior care workforce. Ms. Poo fights for the rights of domestic workers across the nation. Fair wages along with comprehensive senior care training would go a long way to help stem the high caregiver turnover rate and provide consistency for seniors, their families, and for the workers themselves. But paying for in-home care is already a challenge for most seniors and their families. Ms. Poo proposes that this nation needs to face and tackle these challenges now, so that all seniors and their families have access to the care they deserve.
Ms. Poo recently worked with the Department of Labor to include senior caregivers in federal minimum wage and overtime protections (which has since been delayed.). She is a vital part of Caring Across Generations who believe that this country has “an unprecedented opportunity to bring care back home—where we feel most safe and secure, and surrounded by love – and to create much needed jobs in the process.”
The Age of Dignity provides a positive roadmap to becoming a more caring nation while addressing our fraying safety net and the limited opportunities for women and immigrants in the workforce.
Eleanor is 85 years old and spends many of her days in various doctors’ offices. Her osteopath checks her progress after a recent hip replacement. Her rheumatologist helps manage her arthritis pain. She sees her cardiologist after a mild heart episode and her primary care physician treats her hypertension. No one has yet addressed her depression. With each visit, Eleanor receives prescriptions, instructions, and tests — so many that she feels overwhelmed and underinformed.
Many seniors seeking medical care have multiple chronic conditions. In fact, it’s estimated that three in four older Americans live with MCC. That figure is only going to increase as baby boomers age. This challenges has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They are initiating federal programs to prevent and manage MCC.
As one of those programs, Medicare is now paying primary care doctors to coordinate care for their elderly patients. Typically, when seniors see so many different doctors, their care is quite fragmented. MRIs and x-rays can be duplicated (and costly) and results aren’t shared between the various specialists. Dangerous drug interactions can adversely affect patient, leading to more doctor visits and deteriorating health.
Primary care physicians are ideally situated to oversee their patients overall health. Services include non-face-to-face planning and management for patients with two or more chronic conditions. To collect the new fee, doctors would have to create a care plan for their MCC patients and spend time each month working with their various specialty physicians.
"We're hoping to spur change, getting physicians to be much more willing to spend time working on the needs of these patients without necessitating the patient to come into the office," Sean Cavanaugh, deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told The Associated Press.
Critics of the plan say the proposed $40 per qualified patient per month is not enough to entice doctors to take on the extra work involved. They suggest it opens the door for even more Medicare fraud. But many doctors, especially those in smaller communities, have for years coordinated care for their senior patients with no compensation. "Quite honestly, I just didn't get paid for it," said Dr. Robert Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians told the AP. Dr. Wergin spends about 2 hours a day calling on his older patients who can’t make it into his office.
Many times, caregivers also play the part of care coordinator, especially if they accompany their senior to many of their doctor visits. However, it is no doubt helpful if a professional oversees medication prescriptions, possible test duplications, and the coordination of specialists. It’s the hope of Medicare to not only increase the quality of life for patients by strengthening primary care but also, let’s face it, save money on hospital stays, emergency room visits, and post-acute care.
Do you as a caregiver coordinate any of the care for your senior? If so, how involved are you? Do doctors welcome your care coordination? Have you utilized the Caregiverlist Care Consierge to create your own Senior Care Plan? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
I’m at that age where misplaced keys or a forgotten word gives me pause. I write so much about Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory loss diseases, I know the havoc they wreak, not only on the patient, but on their entire family. That’s why I take a proactive approach in decreasing my odds of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Keeping active—both mentally and physically—can go a long way in keeping those diseases at bay. Research now shows there are certain foods that can also help or hurt brain health.
AARP suggests the following foods may lower your risk of dementia. Remember, whole foods are better than supplements for nutritive value, but supplements are better than nothing, so I’ve listed the foods and their corresponding vitamins/minerals. Time to stock up your fridge and pantry with these goodies:
- Beans and green peas (vitamin B-1 and folic acid)
- Citrus fruits and berries (vitamin C)
- Almonds (vitamin E)
- Fatty cold-water fish like salmon, cod, mackerel, and herring (omega-3 oil)
- Spinach (flavonoids, vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron)
- Coffee and chocolate (caffeine)
From the Alzheimer’s Association, here are some foods that contain toxins. The resulting inflammation can lead to a build-up of plaques in the brain resulting in impaired cognitive function. They should be avoided as we age.
- Processed cheeses such as American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz and spray cheese (causes protein and plaque build-up)
- Processed meats like bacon, smoked meats, hot dogs (nitrosamines)
- White foods like white bread, white rice, pasta, white sugar (causes insulin spikes)
- Microwave popcorn (diacetyl)
- Beer (nitrates)
If you are a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, have you seen a change in the disease severity when you’ve altered their diet? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section.
Also, be sure to watch the Golden Globe Awards, for which Julianne Moore is nominated as Best Actress in a Drama for her star turn in “Still Alice”, the story of a woman, a brilliant professor, wife, and mother, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.