How To Tackle Aging In Place

home care franchiseby guest writer Patrick Young

Fomillions of seniors across America, finding a way to stay in their own home after retirement is a major priority. Some are afraid to feel like a burden to their loved ones, while others simply want the comfort of knowing they can live in a familiar environment well into their golden years. It’s not always that easy, however; many homes require modifications to allow seniors to stay safe and comfortable, and while these can be easy DIY projects, some are better suited for a contractor, and that requires funding.

There are some easy ways to make sure you and your loved one can age in place, however; it just takes some planning and a little research. Safety should always be your first concern, but comfort and ease of mobility will help you get through your daily activities without worry and will keep you active and vital.

Here are a few of the best tips on how to change up your home so you can stay in it for as long as you want.

Add lighting

Many seniors suffer from vision issues, which can lead to trips and falls or other injuries. Adding lighting to your home is relatively inexpensive and will keep you safe, and it will also help boost your mobility so you can stay independent. Whether it’s in closets and pantries or in the bathroom, extra lighting can make a big difference in your everyday life.

Let technology work for you

If you have medical or mobility issues, it might be a good idea to look into medical alert buttons that pair your cell phone with a service to help keep you safe, or you can install a surveillance camera in the most-used area of your home and have the feed sent to a loved one’s smartphone. There are many different types of technology out there to make life easier on seniors; do some research online to find the best ones for your needs.

Think ahead

Even though you’re in good health now, it’s important to think ahead and make considerations for your future health. Many seniors battle mobility issues that require a wheelchair or walker, which might necessitate widening the doorways in your home. All entrances inside your home should be at 32 inches wide to accommodate this equipment; the key here is to find a good contractor who will work with you and your needs. Here is the full list of great tips on how to get started with upgrades.

Ask for help

Living at home after retirement sometimes means asking for help with chores and other household tasks. Look for ways to make your life easier, such as hiring a dog-walker or using online ordering for grocery shopping. Don’t be afraid to look for help, or to ask a friend or loved one to give you a hand once in a while. If there are other seniors in your community, you might consider working out a lawn-mowing trade-off so that you can get a break now and then.

Making home modifications can be a big job, so it’s imperative that you hire the right people to get the work done. You can also look for state or federal funding; there may be grants or loans specifically for seniors that will help offset the cost of the changes your home needs in order to keep you safe and mobile. With a good plan in place and a little help from your loved ones, you can create an environment that will sustain you for years to come.

People with disabilities: Guide helps moving to a new home easier

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 By:  Patrick Young 

 

If you’re disabled, chances are you’ve already got a handle on how to live your life independently. But if moving is on the horizon, you’re entering the same realm of stress as anyone else going through this process. Even so, it’s important to note that there are a few extra precautions — and benefits — to consider as you prepare and execute a move.

Scope out services

Unless you’re living in an assisted living facility, it’s crucial that you check out what type of services— especially in the medical arena — before choosing your next location. Health care aside, consider what’s important to you from a recreational, social and general convenience standpoint before you begin your new life.

Your disability benefits

While you shouldn’t seen any change in your benefits (with Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI) — even if you move to a different state — it may be necessary to inquire further if you’re applying for state supplemental benefits.

Finding the right mover

Before you make a final decision on a mover, ask whether or not they have experience assisting people with disabilities. This can include anything from full packing at your original home to unpacking at your new destination. Be sure to mention to your mover if you requested financial assistance to ensure you have a reduced rate that you can count on for your budget.

Make modifications to new home

There are many considerations to make before randomly choosing a new home. Unless it’s already been inhabited by a disabled individual, you’re going to need to make the necessary changes to ensure your new abode is adaptable to your new life. This includes anything from wheelchair ramps at the entryway to hallways that are at least 42” wide to specialized door knobs in kitchens and bathrooms. It’s crucial that budget be instituted before moving into the proper home (a low-level ranch or bungalow sans stairs is best) before moving in.

Ask for help

While it may feel awkward to ask friends for help, extra assistance can go a long way in terms of physical and mental support. Just don’t wait until the last minute — knowing how much help you have in advance will make it easier to plan the packing and moving process. Make the experience like a fun get-together by providing some food and an energetic playlist.

Utilities services?

Nothing is worse than moving into a new home without proper electricity, gas, heating and air conditioning. This should be done at least one day prior so lack of utilities doesn’t disrupt the move-in process.

Check your new home for safety

Before you move in, make sure that all areas of the home — from the entryway to general living spaces — are safe and free from clutter or any other potential hazards.

Organize as you unpack

Perhaps one of the best things you can do to when unpacking is to organize as you go. This means setting up your home to meet the needs of your schedule, as well as your disability. Make sure necessities are easy to reach and in a safe place.

Moving can be an exciting milestone, but it certainly comes with its fair share of weight. There are many details to consider, so it’s not a bad idea to create a timeline and checklist to alleviate as much stress as possible. By the time you move  into your new home, you’ll be able to get settled faster and begin the next chapter of your life.

 

Patrick Young created AbleUSA to offer resources to people with disabilities and offer advice about navigating various aspect of life.  Thanks for your contribution, Patrick! 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Keeping it Simple

By Chris Perna

 

Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom are silent killers. The “three plagues”, as we call them, exist in all sorts of places, but they are particularly evident wherever elders live. Unfortunately, our society with its ageist tendencies has segregated our elders into nursing homes and other living situations where these three plagues are rampant. The results aren’t pretty. Just close your eyes and think about a lonely elder sitting alone in a quiet room with no human interaction, no purpose, and no reason to live.

Now let’s imagine how it can be different. I bet you’ve never heard of The Eden Alternative. We’ve been written about in many magazines and books over the past 25 years, but usually in the context of nursing home care. Yikes! If you want to make people run the other way, start talking about nursing homes. So, I’m never surprised when someone tells me they’ve never heard of The Eden Alternative.

Now let me tell you what The Eden Alternative is and why you should want to know about it. It is a philosophy based on a very simple premise. If you can eliminate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom from someone’s life, their quality of life and state of well-being go way up. Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom or the “three plagues” as I mentioned earlier are insidious and deadly. They destroy quality of life and well-being and the end result is life just isn’t worth living.

Armed with a philosophy based on 10 simple principles, we teach people how to create a life worth living for elders no matter where they happen to live, in a nursing home or in the family homestead.  We teach about creating a “human habitat” where there is variety and spontaneity to daily life; where plants, animals, and children offer elders the opportunity to give as well as receive care; where elders can experience an ongoing sense of purpose by engaging in activities that they enjoy and find meaningful; and where elders can continue to grow and share their wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom with their family and neighbors. Aren’t these all things most of us would want in our daily lives no matter our age?

None of this is rocket science. In fact, it is amazingly simple. So why do we get it wrong so much of the time by isolating our elders into living situations that we would never accept? It’s an important question that we should all be asking ourselves and others around us as we witness the silver tsunami happening all around us. I hope you come to the same conclusion as those of us at The Eden Alternative…it can be different!

 

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Chris Perna joined The Eden Alternative, Inc. as its CEO in June, 2010. For the prior ten years Chris was president of MedAmerica Insurance Company, a long-term care insurance company based in Rochester, NY. Transitioning into Eden Alternative from MedAmerica was a natural progression for Chris who had developed expertise in the financing of long term care and wanted to learn more about care delivery.

Since joining The Eden Alternative Chris has led the organization to expand their training and educational offerings and most recently has led the organization’s efforts to grow through large grant projects funded through CMP funds. In another exciting development Chris has led the expansion of the Eden Registry to include providers across the continuum of care including home and community-based service providers as well as providers of residential care for individuals with special needs. Under his leadership The Eden Alternative has developed the most complete package of person-directed tools and trainings available in the market today to support deep organizational culture change across the continuum of care.

Chris was recently profiled as one of “20 To Watch” long term care professionals in Provider Magazine published by AHCA/NCAL.  Chris is a regular speaker and exhibitor at industry events and conferences. He is an advocate for elders as a member of the board of Pioneer Network and as a leader of the Dementia Action Alliance. He is also a board member of Minuteman Health Plan, a cooperative health plan created under the Affordable Care Act, and a former board member of AHIP.

 

When the Caregiver Is Sicker Than the Loved One

Caregiving is difficult, making it vital that caregivers focus on themselves at times

By Toula Wootan

 

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Have you ever asked someone you know who is caring for a loved one how they are, only to hear the standard response, ”Everything is fine, I’m doing well,” when you know that’s not really true?

To be honest, I understand that response. I’ve been there myself.

I am the primary caregiver for both of my parents. Two years ago, I was in the middle of a caregiving crisis for months. My parents were still living by themselves at home, but mom was hospitalized twice that year for high blood sugar — four times the normal level.

Dad was doing his best to care for her, but the stress of caring for someone with dementia coupled with other illnesses was wearing on him. He had a previous stroke, so I worried about his blood pressure. He called me frequently at work, exasperated, asking for help. Then he fell and hurt his hip. He was hospitalized for several days.

A Moment of Truth

As I was trying my best to give them the care they needed and still meet my work responsibilities, I realized that I, too, was suffering. The stress I was under caused me to have a careless accident; thankfully, the injury was minor. I had also missed several medical appointments of my own that year.

The accident was my wakeup call. I decided to take some of the advice I give caregivers all the time in my role as a radio show host for caregivers to “take care of yourself so that you can take care of your loved one.” (Too bad I had to experience this to realize that my words of encouragement were accurate.)

Caring for someone is an act of love. With the rapid aging of our population, it is a role that will touch all of our lives like no other social issue yet. Because we are all living longer, the caregiving years can last up to 20 years or more. It is not uncommon these days to encounter caregivers in their early 80s still caring for a parent.

The Emotional and Physical Cost of Caregiving

Caring for a family member often takes a tremendous toll on the health and well-being of the caregiver. Research bears out that many caregivers neglect their own health while caring for their loved one. It fact, studies show that caregivers are at a much higher risk than others for diabetes, depression, stroke and other illnesses.

An oft-cited 1999 study found that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and according to Stanford University, 40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the patient dies.

Those percentages alarm me. Why is this happening?

Putting Your Needs Second

I believe there are several factors at play. Many caregivers find it hard to carve out time for themselves, to go to their doctor or to other medical appointments. I’ve talked to so many who have told me, “Sometimes it’s just easier to ‘back burner’ my own health; I’ll take better care of myself when I’m no longer caring for my loved one.”

Let’s face it, when you’ve been to eight or nine  medical appointments in a month for your loved one, the idea of going to another, even for yourself, is sometimes just too much. (Yes, I’m guilty.)

When you’re working full time and caring for aging relatives, you ask yourself “How much more time can I take off from work?”

For many, caregiving is a 24/7 role, one that encompasses all aspects of their lives. For those over 70, spousal caregiving is most common. It is this group that often suffers the most.

‘Didn’t Know Where to Start Looking’

I recently talked to a 93-year-old man who had been caring for his wife for five years in their home, following her devastating stroke. He never went anywhere other than to her medical appointments or the grocery store. He had no outside assistance, and didn’t know where to start looking.  

Like many spouses caring for their loved ones, he had illnesses that he was ignoring. It was difficult, but I finally managed to get him to agree to have an outside agency come into the home and support him.  

Sadly, even with this assistance, he died before his wife. I often wonder if the outcome would have been different if he had been able to get help earlier, and find the time to care for himself.

So, how can we help caregivers who are not doing well themselves, yet are determined to stay the course and care for their loved ones no matter what?

Doctors: Listen to the Caregivers

My first recommendation is for doctors to listen to the voice of the caregiver when he or she brings a loved one in. The caregiver can provide valuable information that may not otherwise be apparent or that the patient may not choose to divulge.

Treatment should be a collaborative process, or to put it another way, “patient- and family- centered.” There should be open sharing of information and shared decision-making. The family should be supported.

Physicians and other health care professionals must look beyond the patient, to the caregiver. They should ask how the caregiver is doing and what the caregiver needs. Often, it’s just assumed that the caregiver chose this role and wants to continue in it. An assessment from the caregiver may reveal something entirely different.

Prepare Caregivers Better

Secondly, since most caregivers don’t have time to plan this role, but are thrust into it, it would be great to see hospitals and other health care organizations give proper instruction on how to care for their loved ones. In that way, they could be better prepared.

Lastly, I’d like to see preventative care for caregivers. It could be as simple as classes on how to cope with the stress of being a caregiver, emphasizing self-care and respite. There is an excellent opportunity for private, public and nonprofit institutions to engage in pro-active partnerships to address this need.

To quote Susan Reinhard with AARP Public Policy Institute, “We have to do something to address the needs of caregivers in our nation. If we don’t, we may be headed towards a new public health crisis.”

 

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Toula Wootan founded the Caregiver Coalition of Northeast Florida in 2008. The Caregiver Coalition is now comprised of 15 nonprofits that combine resources to provide free “Caring for the Caregiver“ conferences, an annual Caregiver Expo, “Caregiver Connections" newsletter, a robust website and more. She works closely with local, state and national organizations and with elder care professionals to continue this important work. Since 2010, Toula’s weekly radio show, “Toula’s Tips for Caregivers,” has offered advice to caregivers. It can be heard on I-Heart: https://www.iheart.com/show/53-Toulas-Tips-for-Caregivers/and http://www.toulastipsforcaregivers.com/. Toula is also the primary caregiver for her parents.

 

 

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