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Live Life On Your Own Terms

running optAccording to a 2002 National Institutes of Health study, false negative perceptions of aging can take an average of 7½ years off a person’s life. They can also cost elders and their families large expenditures for senior care that’s not needed. And according to writer and activist Ashton Applewhite, too many people have been “brainwashed by negative myths and stereotypes.” In her new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, she marshals statistics from the NIH study to debunk them.

Myth #1: Most seniors end up in nursing homes.

Fact: only 2½ percent of Americans over 65 – and 9 percent of those 85 and older – are in nursing homes. Low as they are, those percentages are dropping.

Myth #2: We’re in the middle of a dementia epidemic.

Fact: The real epidemic is fear of Alzheimer’s memory loss. Today, only one in ten people over 65 has Alzheimer’s dementia. And while our population is growing older, that already low rate is falling significantly, according to a 2017 Journal of the American Medical Association report, with people being diagnosed at older and older ages.

Myth #3: Aging means being feeble, sick and helpless.

Fact: More than half of our “oldest old” (i.e., 85+) can dress themselves, wash themselves, cook for themselves, shop for themselves, find their own glasses, and go about their everyday activities without any outside help. They may do all this a bit more slowly than they used to, but they can do it all by themselves, thank you.

Myth #4: Being old means being lonely and depressed.

Fact: You may worry, justifiably, about your parents being socially isolated. But statistically, they’re likely to be happier than you are. In a 2018 survey by Cigna health insurance, while 25 percent of Americans over 70 said they felt lonely, so did 43 percent of people ages 45-49. The loneliest group was Generation Z (18-22 years old).

Myth #5: Older people are an economic burden.

Fact: The 35 percent of the population that’s over 50 accounts for 43 percent of the total US GDP – $7.4 trillion. And that figure could very well be higher if it weren’t for…

Myth #6: Older workers are unproductive.

Fact: More than half of older US workers (56 percent) get pushed out of longtime jobs and into retirement before they want to retire. The irreversible financial damage is bad enough, but nowhere near as devastating as the loss of self-worth that comes with it.

Fact: Elders who don’t fall for these myths live longer. According to that NIH study, people who can see beyond the negative myths and stereotypes about aging live an average of 7½ years longer. They suffer from fewer debilitating stresses and anxieties. They walk faster, heal quicker, and are less likely to develop dementia (even if genetically disposed to it). Their added years are healthier, happier ones. And they’re not burdened by huge out-of-pocket costs for senior care they may not need.

The thorough, three-part assessment that’s part of our holistic senior care shows what your physical, psychosocial and mental status really is, rather than what the stereotypes might say it is. If it turns out there is a need for caregiving help, we can advise you, neutrally and objectively, exactly what’s needed – and what isn’t. Knowing this helps preserve not only seniors’ independence and sense of self-worth, but also their health and their life savings.

rob loweIn the decade before winning his first Screen Actors Guild Award, actor Rob Lowe was cast in a different role. “When I was in my thirties,” he wrote in USA Today, “my brothers and I cared for our mother throughout her stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis. It’s not a role I was expecting to land, it didn’t come with much preparation, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done – and, undeniably, one of the most difficult."

“Often,” he adds, “that means you’ll skip your social obligations, wreck your diet, suffer sleep deprivation, and even risk your career, all to help a loved one through the most difficult time of their life.”

According to National Alliance for Caregiving estimates, 43.5 million Americans selflessly serve as unpaid family caregivers for loved ones. Of those, 85% are caring for a relative, 60% are women. On the average, their caregiving occupies 24.4 hours a week of their time as they do “everything from housework to advocating with health care professionals to complex medical/nursing tasks.”

No wonder 70% of US caregivers feel tired most of the time, 57% suffer from sleep trouble, 49% from feelings of depression and 46% from weight fluctuation – to say nothing of the financial stress resulting from sacrificing an aggregate of nearly $3 trillion in lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits and averaging $7000 a year in out-of-pocket caregiving expenses.

Take care of yourselves.

 

Based on his own caregiving, Lowe has four important words of advice for caregivers:

  • “From my own experience, I know that if you don’t take the time to care for yourself, you won’t have the strength, the patience and the emotional reserves to care for anyone else,” he explains.
  • Find help – Caregivers are called on to provide holistic senior care, often with no idea how to or even what kind of care is needed. Websites about your loved one’s condition can give you valuable information, as can online support groups and forums here caregivers help each other by sharing advice. In addition, our detailed three-part assessment of seniors’ physical, psychosocial and mental status defines what kind of care is needed – and what isn’t.
  • Talk about it – Talk to friends, family and co-workers about your caregiving challenges. At the very least, you’ll blow off some steam. At best, the people you talk to will ask questions and maybe find ways to lend a hand. And if you contact us for a free half-hour senior care consultation, you might learn about some solutions that could cost less than the income you’d sacrifice by doing everything yourself.
  • Just be there – Caregiving, Lowe says, can “make each day feel as if you’re scaling a mountain of stress.” But when the caregiving ends, “you’ll want to look back and see that you did the most important thing: simply helping someone you love know that they weren’t alone.”

choose the right al optWhat happens if our three-part needs assessment – of physical, psychosocial and mental status – shows that it’s time to move to an assisted living facility?

Then, the question is, which one? And it’s a tough one. As a former executive director of assisted living communities, I know just how confusing, how complex, how segmented, and how seemingly endless the array of senior care assisted living options can be.

Based on this experience in both holistic senior care and the assisted living industry, and knowing your specific needs, we can give you and your family a neutral analysis of your options, complete with each one’s advantages and drawbacks.

But the decision itself is yours, and it needs to be based on your own first-hand observations. Here are some tips for evaluating each option.

What to look for

It’s a good idea to visit an assisted care facility you’re considering twice – once for a scheduled tour and later for a surprise visit.

On the day your tour is scheduled, get there 10 minutes early. Look around and get an overall feel for the place. On the tour itself, try to chat with residents and families. Ask how they feel about the home and if they’d recommend it. At the end of the tour, ask to see the community’s most recent staff survey.

After the tour, if you’re still seriously interested in the home, come back for a surprise visit, preferably during a meal or scheduled activity. Do things look the same as on the tour? Talk to residents and family members, without a staff member there, to find out how they like the home.

What to ask

Once you have an overall idea of the place, ask questions to drill down to the specifics:

  • Level of service – Do your services include social work? Therapy? Pharmacy?
  • Costs ­– Do you have a buy-in fee? If so, how much? Do you charge extra for services such as medication management?
  • How do you welcome newcomers? Is there a welcoming committee? Does it include residents as well as staff? Is there a “buddy system” to help newcomers meet new people, adjust well, etc.?
  • How do you get to know newcomers? Do you have a formal questionnaire? Do you talk with newcomers and their families about their preferences and interests? How do you help the rest of the staff get to know them?
  • How do you develop a resident’s service plan? What input do residents have?
  • How consistent are caregiver assignments?
  • Do residents choose their own sleep and wakeup times? And is breakfast available throughout the morning?
  • If residents need bathing assistance, how and when do they get it? Do you accommodate their personal bathing schedule?
  • What kind of meal service do you have? Is it restaurant, buffet, family style, or a choice of all three? How many menu choices are there for each meal? What input do residents have into meal planning? Do you have proper utensils for people with eating difficulty? Can individual residents get a snack 24 hours a day?
  • What kind of activities do you have? What’s on the monthly schedule? Do your activities include intellectual stimulation? Physical engagement? New learning? Conversation? Spirituality? Are they off-site as well as on-site? What if residents want activities that aren’t on the schedule?
  • How do you maintain social activity? What opportunities are there for residents to get together with each other? With staff? To maintain ties with the outside community? Are family members and friends welcome at meals, celebrations and events?
  • What input do residents have on how things are done? And how often?
  • How much access do family members have? Can they visit anytime? Take part in activities? Talk to staff members?
  • How do you measure resident and family satisfaction? With group meetings? With annual surveys? If the latter, ask to see the most recent survey form and, if possible, the results.

To learn more about assisted living, or anything else about holistic senior care, please click here for a free 30-minute consultation.

It’s a great way to make the difference between an assisted living facility and an assisted living home.

who needs assisted livingAccording to the Family Caregiver Alliance there’s a 68 percent probability that a disability will keep people 65 or older from performing at least two Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) during the rest of their lives. These ADLs include bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, oral hygiene, grooming, and walking from place to place.

And according to the National Center for Assisted Living, more than 735,000 Americans live in assisted living settings, which combine homelike living, a social setting, and ADL assistance. In a 2010 CDC national survey, some 70 percent of residents reported needing help with bathing, just under 60 percent with going outside, and about 45 percent with dressing. Yet, almost one-third of respondents to the same survey reported receiving no ADL assistance at all.

So the first question for yourself, a parent or an older family member is, how much assistance, of what kind, is needed. That’s why our holistic senior care management starts with a detailed three-part assessment – with seniors and their families – of physical, psychosocial and mental status. Then you’ll know what kind of care you need and where it’s needed.

It may be that assistance is needed not for ADLs, but for Instrumental (i.e., non-basic) Activities of Daily Living (IDLs), such as managing money, basic housework, shopping, preparing and cleaning up after meals, and using phones, televisions and computers. For those, we can help you to either provide the needed help yourself or hire someone for significantly less than the cost of an assisted living facility. We can also suggest devices that help seniors perform ADLs at home, such as:

  • Long-handled sponges for bathing
  • Splints to help stabilize wrists and ankles
  • Dinnerware like nonskid bowls, soft-grip utensils and plate guards for meals
  • Dressing sticks and long-handled shoehorns for dressing without having to bend over

And if our assessment shows that an assisted living facility is, in fact, what’s needed, we can give you honest, objective input about locally available choices.

So please email us or phone 804-270-3619 for a free 30-minute consultation. It’s a great option for learning more about all your senior care options.

healthcare advocate optDoctors and hospitals, even the very best, are neither infallible nor omniscient. Moreover, since they see you only from time to time, none has as intimate and up-to-date knowledge of your own body as you do.

That’s why, to ensure proper care, everybody needs a healthcare advocate. And why the older you are – with more health issues, more different doctors and doctor visits, and more prescriptions– the more you need one.

Your healthcare advocate can be a family member, a friend, a volunteer from your religious congregation, or a social worker. It can be a patient advocate from a hospital or Medicare Advantage Plan (though most are there for you at the time of discharge from a hospital, residential rehab center or skilled nursing facility, rather than continuously). It can be a nonprofit advocacy organization or a professional healthcare advocacy consultant.