Go Do Good: Volunteering Senior Care

We know there is a great shortage of senior caregivers. That looming need for qualified home health aide caregivers is a topic I’ll address in depth in a New Year blogpost, but for now I’ll address some of the abundant opportunities to help the elderly within your community.

Meal Delivery
I have a friend who works with a food pantry delivering meals monthly to homebound seniors in senior housing not far from her house. This month, she included in her deliveries a small three-dollar poinsettia. She said that the gratitude for not only the meal but the extra gift was immeasurable. She also said that the deliveries would have gone much quicker and easier with more hands. If you’d like to volunteer to prepare and/or deliver a meal to a senior, the Meals on Wheels program caters (pun intended) to seniors around the country through their local communities.

Relieve Isolation and Loneliness
According to the Census Bureau (2010), in Chicago, 1 in 3 householders over 65 years of age lives alone. Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly has made it their mission to make sure no senior lives in isolation if they don’t want to be alone. It’s a national network of non-profit volunteer-based organizations committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. (They) offer to people of goodwill the opportunity to join the elderly in friendship and celebration of life. Contact your local chapter to investigate opportunities to visit an elder in person or by phone.

Share Your Skills
Many nursing homes and assisted living communities are always interested in hearing from potential volunteers to help with activities and programs. Usually after passing a background check, a TB test, and signing a confidentiality agreement, volunteers are welcome to help with social activities, lead arts, crafts, music, drama, and educational programs. While you won't be able to help withe Activities of Daily Living (that's reserved for trained professional caregivers,) you can share your expertise to help better lives. Technology can help bring long-distance family together, so sharing your computer knowledge can assist a senior in keeping connected. If you have video skills, help a senior center go viral! You have so much to offer share where it will be appreciated most.

As my meal-delivering friend said, “It’s amazing how much a little interaction brightens the day of the senior crowd.” Keep the great holiday feeling going all year long. Perhaps make it a New Year’s resolution to bring a little light to a senior’s life by volunteering just a little bit of your time.

And from me and Caregiverlist, Happy Holidays!

Modern Family: Rise of the Multi-Generational Household

“Grampa is coming to live with us.” “Mom, I’m moving back home.” A struggling economy and an aging society is creating a new living dynamic in American — the three- (and sometimes four-) generation home.

We know that people are living longer and, while long-distance family caregiving is still common, it is also expensive. Families may use senior home care agencies to provide professional care to assist their elderly relatives with activities of daily living. Costs can skyrocket in times of crisis when a son or daughter finds themselves scrambling to make last-minute travel plans and miss work. Senior care costs such as those for nursing homes and assisted living communities continue to increase,  and many families may find it more economical to take a parent or parents into their own home.

According to the Pew Research Center, 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population lived in multi-generational family households in 2012. That number has doubled since 1980. Why the uptick? Many factors come into play, but The Great Recession of 2007-2009 has had a huge effect in the change in living arrangements. Many families lost their homes in the collapse of the housing bubble, forcing them to combine households. Young adults aged 25 to 34 have become a new demographic; known as the “boomerang youth’, they find themselves returning to the family home when it’s no longer economically viable to live on their own.

I’m part of the “Sandwich Generation”. I care for my children as well as an aging parent. The time and effort (and money) I spend supporting two households could be minimized if I could just combine them. I might also be able to claim my parent as a dependent if I pay more than half of their financial support. As a dependent, my parent’s exemption will be worth $4,000 in 2015.

Multigenerational living is not a new concept by any means. In fact, prior to WWII, it was the norm. But prosperity and suburban sprawl gave way to the migration of the nuclear family. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1940, about a quarter of the population lived in a multi-generational home; by 1980, just 12% did.

The trend reversal has benefits that extend beyond the financial. If the grandparent is healthy, they can provide free childcare to the working parent(s). Many find that daily contact between grandparent and grandchild to be invaluable. And, of course, senior isolation is nonexistent. However, there are drawbacks.

The only way to make it work, according to many multi generational families who live together, is to find a space that provides separation and retrofitting existing living spaces to accommodate the elderly. This means building an addition to a current home to provide an “in-law” apartment, or adding an elevator to ease access to multiple floors.

Some builders like Lennar with their NextGen homes, are creating “homes within homes” — complete with bedroom, full bath, kitchenette, living room, laundry room and separate entrance.
Be prepared to see more of these types of living situations. It looks like I may have to give it a go in the near future. And while I’ve always dreamed of living on the Kennedy compound, I have a feeling my multigenerational family home will look a lot more like the Waltons.

WSJ: Research Debunks Myths of Aging

“I hate growing old,” says everyone, “but it’s better than the alternative.” We tend to see aging as this inevitable decline in physical and mental capability. In American society especially, we see the elderly as somehow lesser than their younger selves -- weaker, sadder, lonelier. On November 30, Anne Tergesen wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal, backed by some solid scientific evidence, that shows that everything we believe about aging may just be wrong.

Myth #1: The Elderly Tend to be More Depressed
Are seniors more depressed? Not according to the research. Participant of a long term study conducted by research scientists at Heidelberg University, among others, older people focus on positive rather than negative emotions. “Contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time of life, the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade,” Prof. Laura Carstensen, director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity says.

Myth #2: Cognitive Decline is Inescapable
With age comes wisdom. With age come experience and knowledge. Barring dementia, studies show that older people tend to see problems from multiple perspectives. Also good news? Studies have shown that older adults can improve memory by learning new skills. Old dog --meet new tricks.

Myth #3: We Become Less Productive as We Age
Fewer older workers can retire early, thanks to our economy. According to the Department of Labor, workers 55 or older make up 22% of the American labor force. That’s up from 12% in 1992. Older workers have the edge over their younger counterparts due to experience and tend to make fewer errors in their work.

Myth #4: The Aged are More Prone to Loneliness
The elderly have shown that when it comes to people they feel close to, they prefer quality over quantity. Closer ties with loved ones means that seniors value their inner circle more and shed the relationships they find problematic. Of course, loneliness is still a problem for some elderly, especially if they are isolated but, on average, research shows that older adults are less lonely than younger adults.

Myth #5: Creativity Declines With Age
This one I love: academic studies dating far back into the 19th century show that many artists are most prolific in their 40s, 50s and 60s. David Galenson, a professor at the University of Chicago, conducted research that showed artists who “rely on wisdome, which increases with age” take years to perfect their style. He cites Mark Twain, Paul Cézanne, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Frost and Virginia Woolf as just a few of the artists who did their best work later in life.

Myth #6: More Exercise Produces Better Results
While getting some exercise is key to healthy aging, too vigorous activity can cause “overuse injury” to the heart. Dr. James O’Keefe, professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City recommends sticking to a “moderate cardiovascular workout of no more than 30 miles a week or 50 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, and taking at least one day off each week.”

We here at Caregiverlist are firm believers in healthy aging. With proper nutrition, exercise, and preventative measures, we know that we can enjoy life much longer than ever before. And it doesn’t hurt to follow the advice of the late Ms. Besse Cooper who made it to 116 years old. During an interview with the Guinness Book of World Records, when asked her advice on living a long, healthy life Ms. Cooper responded, “I mind my own business. And I don’t eat junk food.”

Take the time to read the full Wall St. Journal article, along with the substantiating data.

Medicare Open Enrollment Ends December 7th: What You Should Know

Medicare, the health insurance program for America's seniors, makes sure everyone in the U.S.A. receives health care as they age.  Medicare does NOT pay for ongoing long-term care in a nursing home.  However, Medicare offers all seniors the peace of mind of health insurance coverage and provides a few options which can be changed each year.

As Medicare's open enrollment ends in just a few days, here are items you should consider.  You must be age 65 or above to enroll in Medicare health insurance.

First, Medicaid replaces Medicare for very low-income seniors. You may review the Medicaid financial requirements in your state on Caregiverlist's By-State directory.

October 15th through December 7th Medicare Open Enrollment allows all seniors with Medicare to change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014.

Medicare has a separate plan for health insurance vs. drug coverage.

Medicare's website allows you to research the type of plan that will be the best fit for you plus they have added a feature that allows you to plug in the type of test or item you may need, such as diabetes test strips, to see if they are covered by your Medicare plan.

Visit: www.Medicare.gov

Or, you may actually call Medicare to receive help:  Call 1-800-MEDICARE

Plan ahead for any long-term care needs by researching ahead of time the nursing homes in your area and choosing the ones with the highest ratings and most appropriate costs for your budget.  Remember, Medicare may pay for a portion of nursing home care for up to 100 days and beyond this time period, you will need to privately pay for your senior care at a nursing home, assisted living community or with professional in-home senior care services.  Request a plan of care for your area to be prepared and visit your state's nursing home costs and ratings guide.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Paratha Rolls: Leave Your Leftovers Cold-Turkey

The days following Thanksgiving are notorious for leftover kitchen concoctions -- turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, mashed potato pie -- but sooner or later you'll be left with a hole in your appetite and no stuffing to fill it. While personal feast withdrawals are hard enough to handle, Caregivers have the added responsibility of keeping seniors healthy and happy. Fortunately a great way to color a client's palate and help fend off withdrawals is to whip up these Chicken Paratha Rolls.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 kilogram Boneless Chicken 1-inch cubes 

• 2 tablespoon Raw Papaya Paste 

• 1 tablespoon Ginger paste 

• 1 tablespoon Garlic paste

• 1/2 teaspoon Green Chili paste

• 1/2 teaspoon Red Chili powder 

• 1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala powder 

• Salt to taste

• 1/4 cup Butter melted 

• Onion rings as required

• Green chutney as required

• 2 cups of flour

• 2 tbsp oil

• Water as required

Directions:

1. Mix together the papaya, ginger, garlic and green chili pastes with chili powder, garam masala powder, and salt. Apply this on the cubes of the chicken. Set aside in the refrigerator for three hours to marinate. 

2. Pressure-cook the marinated chicken cubes with one cup of water till the pressure is released.

3. Remove the lid when the pressure reduces and check if there is any liquid remaining. If yes, then cook till all the water evaporates. Remove from the pressure cooker and set aside.

4. Heat a grill and grill the chicken cubes till completely cooked. Baste with melted butter from time to time so that mutton does not dry out.

5. Combine all the dry ingredients for the dough. Add water, oil and form smooth dough. Add more water or oil if required. Cover the dough and keep aside. The dough should be pliable and soft, not hard.

6. Roll the paratha into a disc of 3-4 inch diameter. Make sure to put flour on the area you’re rolling, so it doesn’t stick. 

7. Fry the paratha on griddle with oil. Don’t fry the paratha on low heat otherwise they will become hard. The griddle should also be hot enough before you put paratha for frying.

8. Lastly, take the paratha and spread a thin layer of green chutney, sprinkle some onions and add the mutton on top. Roll the paratha roll evenly on both sides. Take a bite and enjoy!

 

How Long Should We Live?

Recently and rather infamously, Ezekiel Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and brother to Chicago’s own mayor Rahm Emanuel, wrote a piece for the Atlantic entitled Why I Hope to Die at 75.

Citing the physical and mental degeneration that often accompanies old age, Dr. Emanuel asserts in his essay that he will forego not only life-sustaining interventions such as dialysis, ventilators and defibrillators after the age of 75, but also simple diagnostic and preventative measures, like colonoscopies and flu shots.

Reading his essay, one gets the distinct impression that Dr. Emanuel doesn’t buy the notion of aging well — the idea that as we increase our lifespans, diet and exercise (both mental and physical) can delay the decline and disabilities we face as we age. Instead of what he calls “American immortality,” Dr. Emanuel espouses his “75 and no more” philosophy.

It was like the shot heard ‘round the world, prompting responses and rebuttals from all over the web. As you can imagine, such a provocative essay hit people where they live (pun intended.) When one imagines a long life, it comes with the caveat of being able to continue functioning fully, without descending into frailty or senility.

What got me, however, was Dr. Emanuel’s supposition that your creativity declines as you age — his assertion that the elderly have nothing left to give to society. I disagree. Heartily. And I am not alone. Our friends at Homecare Together, a Dublin-based quality home care agency, sent me this wonderful infographic, Life Begins at 60+, which presents examples of seniors who changed direction, reinvented themselves, gave back to the community, and prospered well into later-stage life.

 

Of course, not all of us will enjoy such a run, but it won’t happen without trying. I may not take drastic measures to prolong my life after 75, but I hope by the time I get there, with the help of an exceptional senior caregiver ( or perhaps a robot companion), an aged quality life full of vim, vigor, and creativity will be the rule and not the exception.

"Do not go gentle into that good night... Rage, rage against the dying of the light" — Dylan Thomas

Thanksgiving with Seniors: Checking for Signs of Dementia

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.

Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.

If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.

Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.

How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.

In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?

Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.

If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.

From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Out of Middle Class Reach

It's all excitement around here as we await the release of the movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, in which our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), leads the have-nots of Panem’s districts in a rebellion against the haves of The Capitol.

Dystopian views of a future society, in books and in movies, often feature a missing element of the population — the middle class. In these communities, only the very rich and very poor have access to services, the former is afforded private (superior) services, the latter, inferior, government-provided resources. Like it or not, America is beginning to look a lot like those futuristic civilizations where you are either very rich (and in the ruling minority) or very poor (the rest of us.)

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ recent report, Housing America's Older Adults—Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population, shows that affordable elder housing will be one of the single biggest challenges we face in the near future.

Housing is the largest expense in many household budgets. Even though the majority of seniors prefer to age in place, many older Americans find that the high cost of housing expenses make it necessary to cut spending in other areas such as groceries and healthcare. In fact, over 37 percent of Americans aged 80 or older put more than 30 percent of their income toward housing expenses. And those are the property owners — the lucky ones.

In Joel Kotkin’s book The New Class Conflict, the author points out a “doomed” middle class.  In the wake of the housing bust, U.S. homeownership, which peaked in 2002 at nearly 70 percent, has since dropped to 65 percent in 2013, the lowest in almost two decades, according to the U.S. Census.

How does that affect senior housing? Even if you have the financial wherewithal to age in place, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 37 percent of those aged 65 and over will receive care in some sort of institutional setting at some point, with an average stay of one year.

Nursing home and assisted living costs are always increasing. The recent (Nov. 2014) Caregiverlist® Index reported the average annual cost for an Illinois nursing home is $72,631.35. Of course, quality of care usually decreases at lower cost points. The national average for assisted living base rates was $3,550 per month in 2012.
    
The typical homeowner aged 65 and over has enough wealth to cover nursing home costs for 42 months and enough non-housing wealth to last 15 months. The median older renter will not be able to afford even one month in a nursing home or in assisted living.

As a society, we will be facing these challenges together to make sure that the aging population, whether they be the Jeffersonian ideal “small landholders” or increasingly-numbered  “lower middle-class” have access to the similar quality housing and services in order to age with security and dignity.    

INFOGRAPHIC: Housing America
 

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!)

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

White House Plans Conference on Aging in 2015

Americans are living longer than ever. One hundred years ago, in 1914, a man’s life expectancy was 52 years, a woman’s almost 57. If you are 65 years old in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as a man, you will live to about 83 and if you are a woman, your life expectancy is about 80 ½  years old.

In order to address the needs and concerns of an aging population, the White House is gearing up for its sixth White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), to be held in 2015. The first conference was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences held each decade since.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act. It’s also the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to look at these programs and see what public policies need to be implemented to understand the issues facing older Americans, their families and their caregivers.

WHCoA in 2015 will address four main issues: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and elder justice.

Financial security for retirees has changed in the last few decades, with fewer employers providing pensions. The future of Social Security is always in question and the need to protect that benefit is crucial to U.S. citizens retiring with dignity. Many older Americans have seen their retirement savings fall with the economy. The question of when to retire is being replaced with IF to retire. The conference will address “improving wages and benefits for all American workers—especially older workers—and ensuring opportunities for older Americans who choose to remain in the workforce, can provide additional avenues for income security in retirement.”

Healthy aging is made possible with better life choices including healthy eating, exercise, health screenings and supportive communities.

Senior care costs continue to escalate and it’s a fact that as we live longer, many of us will need assistance with the activities of daily living, whether it be through home care, assisted living, or nursing homes. Less than three percent of Americans currently have a long-term care insurance policy. WHCoA will explore new options to help Americans in preparing for their long-term care needs as they age.

The elderly are one of the most vulnerable segments of our society. Scam artists are just waiting to bilk people out of their savings. Physical and emotional neglect and abuse cut across economic, racial and ethnic lines, affecting seniors regardless of where they live.

Americans are encouraged to participate in the discussions. The White House is being more inclusive than ever before, bringing the conference online at www.WhiteHouseConferenceOnAging.gov, which will provide regular updates on Conference events and activities. You can get involved by signing up for weekly emails, or sharing your thoughts on elder issues or stories celebrating the contributions of older Americans.

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