Caregiver Pay Rates March 2015

The "Caregiverlist" caregivers submit their recent pay rate upon applying for professional jobs on Caregiverlist's Career Center.

March, 2015, survey results are in and the average caregiver pay rate continues to be $10 per hour.  Remember, all senior caregivers on Caregiverlist are professional caregivers employed with senior care companies paying all payroll taxes and benefits, as required by law.  Employers contribute from $2 to $4 per hour for a caregiver's payroll taxes in addition to providing training, care management and support for the caregiver and the families receiving senior care.

 

 

Honor System Hopes to Marry In-Home Senior Care with Technology

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.

Bipartisan Task Force Seeks to Help Seniors Age in Place

Can senior housing issues stretch across the aisle? The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is banking on it by launching its new Health and Housing Task Force. Leading the effort are democrat Henry Cisneros, HUD secretary during former President Bill Clinton’s administration and republican Mel Martinez , HUD secretary during former President George W. Bush’s administration. Joining them in the effort are former Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.

The task force will look at how senior-friendly, affordable housing might reduce healthcare system costs and, at the same time, allow more seniors to age in place at home. Surveys show that most older Americans would prefer to age in their own communities rather than in institutional settings, such as nursing homes. However, the way things stand now, many homes are not equipped for safe, independent living and communities are ill-prepared to provide much-needed services like transportation for seniors who no longer drive.

At the end of the day, it’s all about potential Medicaid and Medicare savings. The current system won’t be able to sustain the growing elderly population. In-home senior care has proven much more cost-effective than institutional care, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to expand home and community based senior care.

“In 2011, only about half of Medicaid-covered long-term services and supports were provided at home or in the community, even though for most seniors, home and community-based care is preferred and often significantly less expensive,” said task force member Allyson Schwartz, a former congresswoman from Pennsylvania.

The Health and Housing Task force’s one-year effort will:

  • Seek cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors available and safe. Finding potential funding sources will be crucial.
  • Bring attention to best practices on state and local levels for integrating housing, healthcare, and long-term services and supports. The task force will find programs that work and investigate how they can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Determine barriers to offering home- and community-based services and supports through Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Explore opportunities for further collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.

America is an aging nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, projections show the population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. The increase in the number of the “oldest old” will be even more considerable— those 85 and older are projected to more than triple from 5.9 million to 18.2 million, reaching 4.3 percent of the total population. The “oldest old” are those seniors who tend to need senior care most.

Caregiverlist believes that a key element to helping seniors age in place is the well-trained, well-paid in-home caregiver. Let’s hope this bipartisan task force takes into account the issue of fair senior caregiver wages in order to help stem caregiver turnover in an effort to provide the best senior home care.

Seth Rogen's Hilarity for Charity and Home Instead Donate Alzheimer's Care

Hilarity for Charity and Home Instead Senior Care has partnered to provide more than 6,000 hours of care in-home support for more than 130 eligible U.S. and Canadian Alzheimer's families in need through the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant Program.

Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen established Hilarity for Charity to raise money and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the younger people. Both became involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease after Lauren Miller Rogen's mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her 50s.

In a press release, Ms. Miller Rogen said "My family is so fortunate to be able to provide the 24/7 professional care my mother needs. That care allows me to hold on to the precious moments I have with my mother so I can simply be a daughter and not just a caregiver. Our hope is that every family impacted by Alzheimer's disease can have those priceless moments, which is exactly why we created this tremendous program."

Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners pledged more than 37,000 hours of in-home care services, valued at $740,000. Grant recipients will be connected with a Home Instead franchise in their community, which will provide highly-skilled Alzheimer’s CAREGivers. Grants range from short-term in-home care 25 hours to long-term care, based on the needs of the family.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, friends and family of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014, and nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.

Until there’s a cure, there is care. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s other memory diseases can be exhausting and overwhelming. Respite care from a trained in-home caregiver can allow you to take a break and come back to your duties rested and refreshed. But in-home care is not inexpensive and programs like the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant can be a godsend to families who are struggling.

Sylvia Besson and her family received some much-needed respite care for her father. Home Instead CAREgiver Melissa Barnstable is one of the many in-home caregivers specially trained to work with Alzheimer’s patients. “I enjoy bringing clarity, enthusiasm, and kindness into their day.

For more information about the Alzheimer's Care Grant Program, including how you can donate or apply for future respite care grants, visit www.HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com.

Discounts for Seniors

The poverty rate among seniors in America is already high and growing. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the poverty rate for Americans 65 and older rose (albeit slightly) from 8.9 percent in 2009 to 9.0 percent in 2010. The growing cost of food, housing, and especially medical care, which tends to increase as we age, adds to economic instability for many of our elderly.

Sure, Social Security is a net to help prevent seniors from abject poverty, but recent economic recessions have forced many older Americans, those without employment income, to live hand-to-mouth. In many instances, seniors deplete their savings to a point that they are outliving their money.

Former Caregiverlist Sherpa Vera Perekoteyeva, who is always on the lookout for ways to help seniors and their caregivers, passed along this link from MOGUL that lists discounts available for older consumers; some discounts apply for those as young as 50 years old.

While senior discounts won’t cure the ill of elderly poverty, every dollar saved is a win. Discounts can be had across the board of consumer goods and services. Many times the only prerequisite for savings (besides age) is you have to ASK for the senior discount.

Senior discounts for restaurants tend to be found in fast-food and chain establishments. Caregiverlist is a great proponent of aging well which includes nutritious eating. Remember  that you can find healthy dining options, even at fast-food restaurants.

Here are the top senior discounts for 2015 making their rounds on the web (caveat — this list is found on many sites all over the web; I have not verified these discounts, if you ask for them and are met with a blank stare, don’t shoot the messenger!):

RESTAURANTS:

  • Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
  • Arby’s: 10% off (55+)
  • Ben & Jerry’s: 10% off (60+)
  • Bennigan’s: discount varies by location (60+)
  • Bob’s Big Boy: discount varies by location (60+)
  • Boston Market: 10% off (65+)
  • Burger King: 10% off (60+)
  • Chick-Fil-A: 10% off or free small drink or coffee (55+)
  • Chili’s: 10% off (55+)
  • CiCi’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
  • Denny’s: 10% off, 20% off for AARP members (55+)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free coffee (55+)
  • Einstein’s Bagels: 10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
  • Fuddrucker’s: 10% off any senior platter (55+)
  • Gatti’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
  • Golden Corral: 10% off (60+)
  • Hardee’s: $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
  • IHOP: 10% off (55+)
  • Jack in the Box: up to 20% off (55+)
  • KFC: free small drink with any meal (55+)
  • Long John Silver’s: various discounts at locations (55+)
  • McDonald’s: discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
  • Mrs. Fields: 10% off at participating locations (60+)
  • Shoney’s: 10% off Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+)
  • Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
  • Subway: 10% off (60+)
  • Sweet Tomatoes: 10% off (62+)
  • Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
  • TCBY: 10% off (55+)
  • Tea Room Cafe: 10% off (50+)
  • Village Inn: 10% off (60+)
  • Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60+)
  • Wendy’s: 10% off (55+)
  • White Castle: 10% off (62+)

RETAIL & APPAREL:

  • Banana Republic: 10% off (50+)
  • Bealls: 20% off first Tuesday of each month (55+)
  • Belk’s: 15% off first Tuesday of every month (55+)
  • Bon-Ton Department Stores: 15% off on senior discount days (55+)
  • C.J. Banks: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • Clarks: 10% off (62+)
  • Dress Barn: 10% off (55+)
  • Goodwill: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Hallmark: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Kohl’s: 15% off (60+)
  • Marshall’s: 20% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods: 10% off
  • Rite Aid: 10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions
  • Ross Stores: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • TJ Maxx: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • The Salvation Army Thrift Stores: up to 50% off (55+)
  • Stein Mart: 20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month (55+)

GROCERY:

  • Albertson’s: 10% off first Wednesday of each month (55+)
  • American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50+)
  • Compare Foods Supermarket: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • DeCicco Family Markets: 5% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • Fry’s Supermarket: free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday (55+)
  • Great Valu Food Store: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Gristedes Supermarket: 10% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Harris Teeter: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Hy-Vee: 5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Kroger: 10% off (date varies by location)
  • Morton Williams Supermarket: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • The Plant Shed: 10% off every Tuesday (50+)
  • Publix: 5% off every Wednesday (55+)
  • Rogers Marketplace: 5% off every Thursday (60+)
  • Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace: 5% off (62+)

TRAVEL:
Airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines: 10% off (65+)
  • American Airlines: various discounts for 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • Continental Airlines: no initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
  • Southwest Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • United Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • U.S. Airways: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • Amtrak: 15% off (62+)
  • Greyhound: 5% off (62+)
  • Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+

Car Rental:

  • Alamo Car Rental: up to 25% off for AARP members
  • Avis: up to 25% off for AARP members Best Western: 10% off (55+)
  • Budget Rental Cars: 10% off; up to 20% off for AARP members (50+)
  • Dollar Rent-A-Car: 10% off (50+)
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 5% off for AARP members
  • Hertz: up to 25% off for AARP members
  • National Rent-A-Car: up to 30% off for AARP members

Hotels:

  • Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Econo Lodge: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Hampton Inns & Suites: 10% off when booked 72 hours in advance
  • Holiday Inn: 10%-30% off depending on location (62+)
  • Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
  • InterContinental Hotels Group: various discounts at all hotels (65+)
  • Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Marriott Hotels: 15% off (62+)
  • Motel 6: 10% off (60+)
  • Myrtle Beach Resort: 10% off (55+)
  • Quality Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Sleep Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT:

  • AMC Theaters: up to 30% off (55+)
  • Bally Total Fitness: up to $100 off memberships (62+)
  • Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)
  • Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
  • Cinemark/Century Theaters: up to 35% off
  • U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
  • Regal Cinemas: 30% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket (55+)
  • SeaWorld Orlando, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)

CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS:

  • AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $29.99/month (65+)
  • Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service (50+)
  • Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+)

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Great Clips: $3 off hair cuts (60+)
  • Super Cuts: $2 off haircuts (60+)

The serious issue of senior poverty won’t be resolved with 10 percent discounts. If you are in or near Chicago over the next few days, The Aging in America Conference will be held from March 23-27 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where over 2,500 attendees from across the nation and abroad will discuss issues of aging and quality of life for older adults. On Thursday, March 26, from 9-10am, Paul Nathanson, JD, Special Counsel, National Senior Citizens Law Center will present Let’s Talk Senior Poverty: What Are We Doing About It? Learn more about ASA’s Aging in America Conference here.

What Caring for My Mother Teaches My Children (and Vise Versa)

I’m part of the “Sandwich Generation,” a term that is used to describe those of us who care for their children as well as their aging parents. According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of American adults in their 40s and 50s are raising a young child or children (or financially supporting a child over 18) and have a living parent age 65 or older. Longer life expectancies and delayed childbearing means we baby-boomers experience the emotional, physical, and financial challenges of family caregiving across generations.

Since there’s just no getting around my double-whammy caregiving situation, I (uncharacteristically) try to keep an optimistic attitude and a little sense of humor when I feel pulled in so many directions at once. Caring for children is not all that different from caring for seniors and as care-recipients, they have a lot to learn from each other.

Patience, patience, patience
Are you trying to get out of the house on time? Start an hour early. Trying to decide on which cereal to buy? Be prepared to look at every box. Whatever time you think you need to complete a task, double it. That’s just the way it is. If you as the caregiver begin to show signs of stress and impatience, those in your care will respond with agitation and frustration. Those tasks that seem to take an interminably long time will take even longer. There have been times when I’ve been pushed to my limit, and here’s something interesting — if I raise my voice to my mother, she gets the same look on her face as my children do when I yell at them — and it’s not a good look. I’ve learned to breathe deeply, count to 10 (or 100), smile, and go scream into a pillow.

You can be active without being at a full-run
There’s nothing wrong with watching television or (more in the case of kids than of mom) playing video games. Sometimes we need that passive entertainment. But it’s important to balance those things with mind-engaging activities. Puzzles and games help with logic, thinking, and memory. Meandering strolls in the park not only help with your large motor skills (and I’m there to make sure you don’t fall!), but it gives us the opportunity to get away from all of life’s distractions, look at the world around us, and maybe have some great conversations.

Sometimes you need a little help
There’s no shame in asking for help now and then. It doesn’t mean you are weak or needy, it means that with someone’s help, you can do essential tasks quicker and safer.  Both children and the elderly need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene (I swear if he doesn’t do it more often, I’m going to floss my son’s teeth for him.) I stoop to tie shoes and a climb to reach things that are too high. My children feel no loss of dignity when they realize they need my help, neither should my mother.

There’s nothing that a hug won’t help
Hugs can’t fix everything, but many studies show that there’s a physiological change that occurs when someone gets a supportive touch. Hugs and hand-holding have been shown to help release a person’s oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, known as the “feel good hormones.” Touch has been known to lower blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease, and alleviate anxieties and fears. And remember, as you are giving, so are you getting. Hugs work both ways.

I don’t know how much longer I will have to care for my mother, and my children will grow up and away from me before I’m ready. Yes, multi-generational caregiving can be exhausting and stressful, but it doesn’t last forever and I need to remind myself of that every day. I’ve chosen the child-rearing, parent-caregiving path (or it chose me) and strength of character is often determined by how one handles challenging situations. And when my “strength of character” threatens to bail (as it does for everyone), babysitters and professional senior caregivers are there to provide respite and help me keep sane.

Sundowner's Syndrome: Sundowning and Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time — every year I hear more and louder voices insisting we do away with springing ahead, when we are forced to lose that precious hour of sleep. I don’t hear quite so many voices in the fall, when we “gain” an hour, except for many of my friends in the senior caregiving community.

Sundown Syndrome occurs in approximately 25 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When someone is “sundowning”, they can become hostile and agitated, angry and confused. Experts speculate that Sundowner’s can be triggered by end-of-day exhaustion, when all the stimulus from the day overwhelms the senses. In institutional settings, like nursing homes, Sundown Syndrome can occur during evening shift change, when there is a lot of commotion.  Although the causes of sundowning are largely unknown, it seems to happen to many late in the day, when afternoon turns to dusk. In the evening, shadows can be confusing, and people can become upset when they can’t see in the dark.

Spring Daylight Saving Time means there’s an extra hour of light at the end of our day. I wonder if this is helpful to caregivers working with those who experience Sundowner's. Even though I couldn’t find any data to suggest that Sundowners experience fewer symptoms when we “spring ahead,” I found plenty of anecdotal evidence that those with Sundown Syndrome experience it more acutely during the fall time change, when it gets dark much earlier. 

In any case, Daylight Saving Time messes with the natural rhythm of sleep, which can also trigger or exacerbate Sundowner’s symptoms and the stress they cause in elderly and caregivers alike.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time has roots in ancient civilizations, where the sun’s schedule set daily routines. Benjamin Franklin in 1784, proposed the notion jokingly to the editor of The Journal of Paris in “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” pointing out that Parisians could save money on candles by extending the hours of natural daylight. The U.S. implemented DST on and off since 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. But it wasn’t until Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that America reached a DST standard. Today, over 70 countries have adopted DST, including the United States (except for Hawaii and most of Arizona.)

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are some coping strategies you can employ if you care for someone with Sundowner’s:

  • Keep the home well lit in the evening.
  • Keep the sleep environment comfortable and safe. The temperature should be comfortable and nightlights provided for safety when a person gets up in the middle of the night.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of waking, bedtime and meals.
  • Avoid big dinners, nicotine, alcohol, and restrict sweets and caffeine so as not to interfere with restful sleep.   
  • Plan more active days and discourage afternoon naps..
  • As a caregiver, if you are feeling stressed late in the day, the person may pick up on it. Make sure you get respite help.
  • Share your experience with others.

For those of you who care for Sundown seniors, do you find that extra hour of sunlight helpful? Have you found  any sundowning therapies particularly useful? Share your caregiving strategies for coping with Sundown Syndrome in Caregiverlist’s Caregiver Stories or in the Comments section below.

Assisted Living Costs Ranked Nationally

Did you know that the term “assisted living” is the most popular Google search term for senior housing? Certainly more so than “nursing homes” and “senior living”, according to a new senior care analysis.

It’s no wonder. Studies show that in 2013, 45% of those who needed long term care and could not age in place chose an Assisted Living Facility (ALF), compared with 20% in 1996. ALFs provide a safe and secure social environment for an aging population.

But what is the cost? A recent Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey showed that, while the national median average for one Bedroom–single occupancy apartment in an assisted living community is $42,000 per year, that cost can can be much higher (or lower). What drives the difference in cost? Location, location, location.

The ten most expensive states for assisted living are:

$82,674 — Washington, D.C.           
$66,000 — Alaska
$66,000 — Delaware
$65,160 — New Jersey
$63,468 — Connecticut
$59,400 — Maine
$58,740 — Rhode Island
$57,000 — Hawaii
$52,470 — New Hampshire
$51,000 — Washington

The average cost increase over 2013 is 1.45% and the survey estimates a 5-year cost increase of 4.29%, based on the compound annual growth rate for surveys conducted from 2009 to 2014.

Assisted living is for seniors who cannot live independently. ALFs don’t provide the level of medical services found in nursing homes, but, generally speaking, most assisted living facilities may provide:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Central dining programs that include two or three meals a day
  • Lectures and educational activities
  • Emergency call systems
  • Exercise activities
  • Wellness programs
  • Health services, medication administration
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Laundry services
  • Organized recreational activities and “field trips”
  • Social services and religious activities
  • Transportation arrangements
  • 24-hour security

Keep in mind that costs vary within state regions, so be sure to look closely at the costs of assisted living in your specific area.

Is assisted living in your future? Tell us what you look for in a facility and if the higher cost is worth the location.

Bracing for the Elder Boom in America

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.

 

 

Seniors and Snow Removal

Winter Storm Linus dragged its blanket of snow across the North and Northeast portions of the United States earlier this week. Many spent long hours digging out and when, as we here in Chicago experienced, city snowplows couldn’t get to side streets, many of us were trapped in the middle of the road, tires spinning. It’s then that we had to rely on the kindness of strangers to help shovel us out of a mess.

Even for the hale and hearty, navigating treacherous sidewalks, getting from point A to point B, prove to be quite a challenge. Major municipalities like Boston, Chicago have city ordinances that make it a finable offense to neglect clearing snow and ice from property sidewalks.

Most city ordinances require snow removal within a certain period of time (usually within 3-4 hours of snowfall ending) and for a minimum path size in order to accommodate pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, strollers, students walking to and from school, individuals with assistive devices and, ironically, seniors.

These senior homeowners are the same who are compelled to clear their own sidewalk or face considerable fines. The snow that Linus dropped was wet and heavy and fell intermittently all day. Shoveling is hard work and can take a quick toll on the body at any age, but especially if that body is older.

According to a study that appeared in the January 2011 issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, cardiac-related injuries accounted for only 7 percent of the total number of cases, but they were the most serious. More than half of the hospitalizations and 100 percent of the 1,647 fatalities occurred while shoveling snow  Patients 55 years of age and older were 4.25 times more likely than younger patients to experience heart attack symptoms while shoveling snow, and men were twice as likely as women to exhibit cardiac-related symptoms.

The City of Chicago provides a volunteer snow-shoveling service called the Snow Corps, which seniors and those with disabilities can contact by calling 311, filling out an online Service Request, or by contacting their Ward office.

Some programs like the Snow Sergeant program in Lansing, MI pair screened and pre-approved High School students needing community volunteer hours with local seniors who need snow removal services.

The Chore Corps Program in Madison, WI is operated by Independent Living, Inc., a local not-for-profit multi-service organization. Following snow storms, volunteers shovel sidewalks and driveways for seniors, allowing the seniors to safely enter and exit their homes.
The volunteers also provide a meals-on-wheels service for independent living seniors.

Caregivers are urged to discourage seniors from clearing their own sidewalks when it would be dangerous for them to do so. Instead, keep them safely inside, warm and well-fed, and contact local authorities for needed support in order to prevent incurring any fines. Living independently is preferred by most seniors, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a little assistance.

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