Freelance Contribution by Karen Weeks

Having a conversation with a loved one about their end-of-life arrangements can be overwhelming and can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress for everyone involved. Whether it’s due to a long terminal illness or advanced age, it can be extremely difficult to think about the next phase for your loved one, and it’s never easy to figure out how to begin.

One thing to keep in mind is that this topic should be approached with compassion and care. Remember, too, that there may be many people affected by these arrangements, so it’s important to take them into consideration as well. Think of the best ways to gently broach the subject so that you can help your loved one as much as possible during this difficult time, and remember to include your siblings or other close family members in the conversation when the time is right. If you’re unsure about timing, read this helpful guide.

 

Some ways to get started include:

 

Looking for an opening

You may feel at a loss for how to bring up making arrangements, so think about what your loved one’s needs might be. If they’re ill, ask them if there’s anything they want to talk about, or whether there is anything they need help with. Often, this will open up the path for a frank discussion about the next steps. If your loved one is of an advanced age, it might be helpful to ask whether there is anything they want to take care of or anything you can help them accomplish.

 

Finding comfort

If your loved one finds comfort in the church, talk to the pastor or priest in charge and ask about any ideas they may have about beginning the conversation. They may know of a sermon, song, prayer, or Bible passage that will help your loved one during this difficult time, or they may be able to make a home visit to give your family comfort.

 

Talk…and listen

For individuals who are facing the end of life, there are many conflicting emotions, and some can be overwhelming. They may be worried about how their family members will fare without them, or they may have a long list of things they wanted to accomplish. They may be in pain, either physical or emotional, and not know how to talk about it. Having a conversation with your loved one about their feelings is a great way to help them come to grips with the reality of their situation, but it’s important to listen to them as well. Let them vent, and refrain from using statements that are made purely for comfort, such as “You’re going to be around for a long time.” Doing so will only create false hope and diminish your loved one’s feelings.

 

Consider asking for help

For many people who are living with a terminal illness, hospice care is a wonderful choice. It allows for a measure of dignity while assisting with arrangements and end-of-life care. Do some research into local hospices alongside your loved one and find out about payment options and exactly what they offer.

 

Wills and advance directives

Ask your loved one if they have a will or advance directive in the event of their hospitalization. Having a plan may help them feel that loose ends are tied up and allow them to face the end without stress or anxiety. You can find more information on advance healthcare directives here.

Remember that your loved one may have a hard time talking and thinking about their end-of-life arrangements, so let them guide the conversation after you begin. If it’s too overwhelming for them, allow them to rest before you bring it up again, or try a different approach.

Freelance Contribution by Jessica Walters

After deciding to move your loved one into a nursing home or other assisted living facility, it’s tough for family members not to worry about how the adjustment is going. Even if you have selected a top-rated nursing home in South Carolina, it can still be a difficult process for families to make sure that their loved one has everything he or she needs. Fortunately, there are many simple changes that can be made to a senior citizen’s residents to make life a little easier.

While not all seniors will need to make changes to their new residence, seniors with limited mobility may find that the standard rooms in a nursing home are not easy to navigate and live in. Since mobility is the most common disability in people age 65 and older, with nearly 40% having difficulty walking or climbing, it is imperative that seniors’ spaces in nursing homes are adjusted to being mobility-friendly. When designing an accessible space for seniors, there are certain changes that family members or nursing homes can do to be successful.

Making Updates for Easy Storage 

Seniors with limited mobility essentially have challenges completing the tasks that allow them to get through the day, such as walking across a room or getting out of bed. As a consequence of chronic diseases like arthritis or diabetes, limited mobility can lead to impaired strength and little to no balance. This means that it may be difficult for seniors to do things as simple as reaching things in storage or putting needed items away.

Since getting things out of storage and putting things away requires mobility, it is beneficial to adjust a senior citizen’s room in a nursing home to include easy storage. Some improvements that can be made include:

o   Hanging shelves, coat or towel hooks, and towel racks lower on the walls

o   Put most-used cookware on the easy-to-reach shelves (often the lower shelves)

o   Make emergency items (flashlights, first aid kits, fire extinguishers) easy to access

o   Install shelves that can be pulled out, instead of having to reach far inside cabinets

There are also many new technological innovations that can ease daily tasks and pains from arthritis, like reach-extenders (claw-like grabbers) and easy can openers or lid-turning gadgets. By researching tools for the home that are designed to ease aches and pains, you can replace all of the items you use on a daily basis with an easier, senior-friendly version. While making these adjustments may not seem like a huge undertaking, it will greatly improve a senior’s independence, giving them the chance to complete small tasks throughout the day more easily.

Installing Additional Modifications to Bathroom

Another area of focus that can be improved for the sake of seniors with limited mobility is the bathroom. While most nursing homes will incorporate easily accessible bathrooms, complete with grab bars along the bathtubs and lowered toilets, there are still other modifications that can be installed to make a senior’s life even easier.

For one, if seniors with limited mobility have the option of renovating their bathroom, it might make sense to install a walk-in shower instead of having a bathtub. This will eliminate the barrier that requires seniors to step over the edge of the tub, which can lead to falls. Depending on the parameters of your renovation, you can also install a bench or seat in the shower so that the senior does not have to stand while bathing. Adding non-slip appliqué to the floor is another great idea for increased safety.

Additionally, one of the most impressive bathroom innovations that has been developed to make seniors lives easier is aging-in-place toilets. Though some models can be quite costly, these toilets are designed to automatically raise and lower the lid, washing areas within the bowl that are hard to reach, and even heat the seat. These toilets are growing in popularity and can improve a senior’s safety when bending down or reaching over to use the toilet. 

Upon moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility, there are certain updates that you can make to simplify day-to-day tasks that might be otherwise be difficult for seniors with limited mobility.

Freelance Contribution by Jessica Walter

 

Medicaid is the poor man’s insurance in the US and if Medicaid cuts will be implemented, seniors are part of vulnerable groups that will be hit the hardest. South Carolina has been identified as the state that will experience tough times. The recent Kaiser Analysis revealed that the state, along with 10 others will be in trouble should a $834 funding be slashed in the next decade. Most of the resources of Medicaid is spent on elderly care and people with disabilities.  At present, seniors 65 years and above comprise 16.7% of the state’s population.

 

Over 50 Million Americans Rely on Medicaid

 

Millions of Americans rely on Medicaid as an accessible form of health insurance. It covers low-income groups as well as vulnerable groups such as handicapped people, the elderly, children and pregnant women. Funded jointly by the federal states and the government, the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage differs from state to state according to factors such as income levels. Its eligibility is determined by using the supplemental security income (SSI) for individuals 65 years and older, or who have a disability or blindness. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are covered by Medicaid. It covers 2/3 of the nation’s nursing homes. As such, it is the biggest expense to Medicaid.

 

Dental coverage can be included in Medicaid but each state is governed by different rules.  15 states will cover dental insurance when it is an emergency dental service and necessary dental procedures. It is up to the state to determine what is necessary and an emergency.  Dental benefits for SC residents were available on December 1, 2014 to pay for cleaning, fillings and extractions with a $750 per annum cap and $3.4 co-pay. This move benefited seniors with disabilities or who are on low incomes.

 

Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act

 

President Trump and Congress are trying to scrap the Affordable Care Act. After the elections, efforts were directed at cutting funding to Medicaid by a fifth. The Trump administration also mandated states to impose work requirements as a condition for eligibility to receive Medicaid assistance. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has already approved work requirements in Indiana and Kentucky and 8 states are going to follow. Proponents of the work requirements as conditions for Medicaid assistance say that this move will only target those who are not working, actively seeking work or unable to work because of an illness/disability. With work requirements, access to healthcare by low-income families and disadvantaged groups is reduced.

 

Medicaid cuts to South Carolina will affect its beneficiaries including seniors since it has the fourth highest federal match rate. That means for every $1 the state spends, the federal government gives $2.5. Budget cuts will affect everyone because there is no money to spare. It will limit access to healthcare and reduce further the number of people who can see doctors. The elderly will find it difficult to maintain mental, physical and emotional health. Overall wellbeing will diminish.

Managing the health care systems properly is important to provide access to services for the poor and senior groups. Without Medicaid, there are very little options available for mature adults especially those who need long term care or for those with no families to take care of them. Even towards the end of life, this means that the elderly are denied a dignified life without medical and health care.

Freelance Contribution by Karen Weeks

Losing weight tends to be a universal goal, but did you know that your age plays a factor in how you go about it? Our bodies tend to age a lot faster than our mind, so seniors looking to lose weight and get their health on track need to follow some safety precautions to ensure they are doing so in a healthy manner. If you are trying to slim down and lead a healthier lifestyle, check out these tips before diving in.

 

How Much Do You Need?

 

Recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that each week seniors should strive for either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, paired with at least two days of targeted muscle strengthening. By meeting the requirements, you can fight back against some of the most common aging ailments such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Furthermore, you can get a mental health boost, too.

 

According to Qunomedical, the incidences of depression are at their highest in seniors and is often the result of the loss of mental and physical abilities, independence, family members and friends. Regular exercise not only maintains and improves physical abilities, but the accompanying release of feel-good neurotransmitters gives you surge of energy and a mood boost.

 

Adjust Your Mindset

 

If you are under the impression that weight gain is a normal part of aging, then it’s time for you to change your mindset. Why? Well, it simply isn’t true, and by thinking this you could be preventing yourself from meeting your weight-loss goals. Come up with a positive mantra and say it to yourself daily. You might find it helps to join together with other seniors looking to improve their health, giving you a source of support as well as someone to hold you accountable. With patience and dedication, losing weight is possible at any age, you just might have to take things down a notch.

 

Perhaps you have to walk instead of run on the treadmill, or lift half the weight you did when you were younger, but that’s OK. Pushing yourself too far, too fast can lead to injury, putting a serious hiccup in your weight-loss journey.

 

Maintain/Build Muscle Mass

 

Muscle mass is crucial for seniors to be able to maintain their physical independence and prevent disability. In order to lose weight while still maintaining or building up muscle mass, resistance training is highly recommended in order to achieve the right balance. According to a study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University, seniors who dieted, along with weight lifting (resistance training) and walking lost more fat.

 

In addition, the group who participated in resistance exercises kept more muscle mass, losing only 1.7 pounds compared with 3.5 and 2.2 pounds respectively in the groups who dieted/walked and dieted only. A great way to build up muscle includes lifting weights and using resistance bands, but less intense physical activity such as yoga or gardening work just as well. Check out these great strengthening exercises that are perfect for seniors and incorporate them into your routine.

 

Adjust Your Diet

 

When it comes to adjusting your diet, the importance of maintaining muscle and bone mass again comes into play. Be sure to eat foods with plenty of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. In addition, watch your portion sizes. The general consensus is that with each passing decade, you need 100 few calories to stay at your current weight. However, keep in mind that your body needs fuel, so cutting out too much will leave you feeling sluggish and can be detrimental to your health. If you are serious about switching up your diet, talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about the best way to do so to be sure that you are still getting the proper vitamins and nutrients based on your age. Make small changes such as eating grilled instead of fried or using a smaller plate.

 

It doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s never too late to shed a few pounds and get your health in order. Following the recommended weekly exercise amounts, get in the right mindset, focus on maintaining mass and make small changes to your diet to maximize your weight loss. Just like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

 

The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging (ABA Commission) is taking inventory of elder/adult abuse fatality review teams (EAFRTs) across the United States.

The ABA Commission has created a survey to seek information about multidisciplinary teams that review deaths that were or might have been related to elder abuse, domestic violence in later life, or abuse of adults with disabilities. The project focuses on learning about teams that are currently functioning, are no longer functioning, or are in development.  

If you have or know of an EAFRT, participate in this survey to accurately reflect the extent of elder abuse in this country.

Freelance Contribution by Jessica Walter

 

Up to 20% of all American adults aged 55 or older experience a mental health concern. Despite these statistics, most seniors in the USA do not receive the necessary mental health care, with less than 3% having seen a medical or mental health practitioner. Reasons for failing to seek professional assistance include a lack of funding, a denial of the problems at hand and the stigma surrounding mental illness.

As we grow older we are faced with an increasing number of health problems which affects both our physical and mental wellbeing. There are numerous mental health concerns that are prevalent amongst the elderly and that should be addressed with the utmost of compassion and care.  

Of these conditions, depression and dementia are the most common while others such as psychosis and schizophrenia also require regular intervention and treatment.  A closer look at some of these can provide both the elderly and their caretakers with valuable insight into these conditions, resulting in greater understanding and care.

Depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as many of 5% of the beloved elderly population in America is affected by depression. It is very unfortunate that many cases of depression remain untreated due to misdiagnosis that stem from the depression mimicking normal age-related problems. It is in our human nature to be reluctant to talk about our feelings, making a much-needed diagnosis even harder. For those seniors that live independently it becomes even harder to reach out due to their isolation. Depression manifests itself in various ways such as insomnia, a loss of energy and appetite, overwhelming feelings of guilt and even suicidal thoughts. While anti-depressants are commonly used to treat the condition and have a reasonable success rate, psychotherapy is also often prescribed. Love and support from family and friends can also be of significant help in treating depression in the elderly.

Dementia

Dementia is a very general term that refers to a decline in mental ability so severe that it interferes with the senior’s daily life. The most common type of dementia among seniors is Alzheimer’s which accounts for between 60% and 80% of all cases. Severe memory loss on a daily basis may be a sign of impending dementia although professional medical assistance is needed for an accurate diagnosis. As a caretaker to an elderly person it is important to look out for the often subtle signs that may point to the early stage of dementia. These signs include slight vocal and focus impairments as well as recurring episodes of apathy and listlessness.

Mental health issues are not always easy to discuss, especially for seniors who do not want to burden anyone with their problems, making it imperative for caretakers and family members to be alert to the various signs and symptoms pointing to a decline in mental health. As bitter a pill as it may be t swallow it is vitally important to remember that most conditions can be addressed fairly easily, ensuring a good quality life for the senior involved.

New Castle News reported the guilty plea of Ashley N. Wilcox, a nurse’s aide, employed at Golden Hill Nursing Home.  She entered a plea to charges that accused her of abusing dementia patients.  Wilcox had said at the time of her arrest that she had worked 10 months at Golden Hill before she was terminated in May, 2016. The charges were brought against her on May 2, 2016, following an investigation into reports from Wilcox’s co-workers about the allegations against her.

The sentence recommended by assistant district Attorney Jonathan Miller is three consecutive 90-day terms of probation. Her plea was to three summary charges of harassment for subjecting others to physical contact. Miller noted those represent one count for each of three victims.  Wilcox will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. March 28 in Cox’s court.

The 13 other counts against her, which include six misdemeanors each of stalking and simple assault, and three other summary offenses, will be dropped as part of the plea agreement.

As a result of the charges and Wilcox’s termination from employment, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Nursing Care Facilities conducted an administrative hearing on Aug. 10, 2016, and on July 25, 2017, concluded that “this nurse aide has substantiated findings on file with the Pennsylvania Nurse Aide Registry. Because there are substantiated findings on file, this nurse aide cannot work in a long-term care facility in Pennsylvania.”

 

The owner of Orianna Health Systems, a national for-profit chain, filed for bankruptcy last week.  Orianna will still own and operate the facilities during the bankruptcy proceedings.  See http://www.omnimgt.com for more information.

Orianna owes $52 million in rent to Omega, a real estate investment trust or REIT, and $67 million to vendors and “related entities,” according to court records. Orianna is Omega’s largest tenant, according to securities filings. Omega has agreed to provide Orianna with up to $30 million in financing as the company goes through bankruptcy proceedings.

Orianna operates skilled nursing facilities in seven states, with around 4,500 beds and 5,000 employees.  Clearly the owners siphoned off too much money to allow the facilities to operate properly.  There is no reason a chain should go bankrupt unless mismanagement occurred.

4 West Holdings Inc, which operates as Orianna’s operating agent, reached a deal with its landlord Omega Healthcare Investors Inc and agreed to transfer 23 facilities to a new operator and provide for the sale of 19 others, according to court records.

Freelance Contribution by Anna Kucirkova, for Bay Alarm Medical

Originally Published: October 2, 2017

It’s an unfortunate reality that many seniors find themselves terribly isolated. After a spouse passes away or a debilitating illness hits, it’s common for a senior to be cut off from both friends and family for extended periods of time. Obviously, this isn’t intentional on anyone’s part – it’s simply a disheartening reality.

Isolation is not limited to just a few seniors – it’s a significant, widespread problem. As Sarah Stevenson writes:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone at the time of the census.

As people get older, their likelihood of living alone only increases. Additionally, more and more older adults do not have children, reports the AARP, and that means fewer family members to provide company and care as those adults become seniors.

Additionally, living in isolation cause serious problems for older adults:

  • Increased risk of death
  • Mental and physical health problems
  • Possibility of elder abuse
  • Long term illness
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy behaviors
  • And more

It’s a problem that can’t be ignored, but it also presents some significant challenges. If you’re caring for an older adult, how you ensure they receive regular connection with other people? How can they live alone without constantly feeling alone?

Here are 6 simple ways to help older adults feel connected.

Arrange Transportation To and From Social Activities

Perhaps the biggest challenge for many seniors is transportation. As they get older, their eyesight often dims and their reflexes slow. They may voluntarily choose to stop driving or be forced to. And while this may make the roads safer for others, it causes them to keenly feel how alone they are and prevents them from being with friends.

One of the most effective ways you can help the older adult in your life is by making transportation available to them. This can be done in a number of simple ways:

  • If you live near them, offer to regularly drive them to and from different social functions.
  • Create a network of friends who are willing to occasionally drive them to events. Schedule this transportation to ensure it happens on a regular basis.
  • Help them learn the ins and outs of public transportation.
  • Find out if community or senior centers offer support services.

Lisa Esposito writes:

If you’re concerned that a neighbor – or distant family member – is at risk for isolation, contacting the town’s senior center is a good starting point. Many senior centers have social workers to put it all together by determining people’s needs and plugging into the right resources. States offer a variety of services for seniors. “In Massachusetts, we have aging service access points,” [geriatric worker Carrie] Johnson says. Following an assessment, people are connected to Meals on Wheels, homemaker services (which vary by state but may encompass chores like cleaning, laundry and maintenance), grocery-shopping and other programs. They might need personal care assistants to help with bathing. All these providers add to a person’s support system, Johnson says, “both social and kind of eyes on the ground.”

Given that transportation is one of, if not the biggest challenge, meeting this need alone can go a long way toward solving the isolation issue.

Encourage Attendance At Places Of Worship

While this one will only apply to older adults who are religious, it’s certainly a healthy practice. Given the weekly rhythms of most places of worship, they offer a constant, positive place to find social interaction.

Additionally, many attendees of these places are more than willing to help transport seniors to and from their functions. They see it as a way of caring for those in their midst.

Finally, some churches will have ministries specifically geared toward older adults, including transportation to functions, visits from members, and more. You can help the senior in your life avoid isolation by connecting them to a church, mosque, synagogue, or other place of worship where they’re comfortable.

Encourage Ownership

One of the great challenges of growing older is that you aren’t caring for others as much. When you were younger, you took care of kids or a spouse or house or employees, but as you get older those things tend to fade. The only person depending on you is you.

This can cause older adults to feel unimportant, not needed or wanted, and purposeless. They no longer have anyone depending on them, which can cause them to feel apathetic.

One simple way to help seniors avoid isolation and give them a sense of being needed is to give them a pet. The pet provides companionship and is dependent on the owner for feeding, hygiene, and exercise.

Aging Care notes:

Psychologist Penny B. Donnenfeld, who brings her golden retriever mix Sandee to her New York City office, has even witnessed animals’ ability to rev up elder owners’ memories. “I’ve seen those with memory loss interact and access memories from long ago,” she says. “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

Additionally, having a pet can create new social connections. It’s not uncommon for one dog owner to stop and talk to another dog owner, which can sometimes lead to friendship.

By giving an older adult a pet, you can give them have a fresh sense of being needed, which can infuse life and energy back into them.

Help Them Volunteer

One wonderful way to connect isolated seniors with people is to ask them for help. Volunteering allows them to meaningfully contribute to the lives of others, which can give them a renewed sense of purpose and worth.

The volunteering doesn’t need to be complex. Depending on the health of the person, some options include:

  • Local schools
  • The local library
  • The humane society
  • The local hospital
  • Religious places of worship
  • The Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts

If they have a particular skillset, such as accounting or counseling, connect them those who need help in these areas.

There are hundreds of needs that aren’t being met, and older adults can easily fill those gaps.

Encourage Their Health

Fewer things create more isolation than poor health. When an older adult has an ongoing health problem, they’re much less likely to maintain social contact, often because of discomfort. Additionally, hearing and vision loss can make it challenging and even embarrassing for them to interact with others, causing them to stay away.

One simple way to combat this is to encourage their health in as many ways as possible. Regularly check in on them, asking them how they feel and then paying close attention to any symptoms you notice. Ensure they have a way to get to doctor’s appointments and help them get hearing and vision tests.

If they need adaptive technology, such as a walker, hearing aid, or wheelchair, do everything in your power to provide this for them.

Encouraging exercise can also give them enormous benefits. Allison Miller notes:

Research shows multiple benefits of increased physical activity for older adults. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed older adults’ physical activity longitudinally over 18 years (Stessman, Hammerman-Rozenberg, Cohen, Ein-Mor, & Jacobs, 2009).

The research showed that older adults who exercise not only have an increased life span but also experienced a decrease in falls, fractures, and joint and musculoskeletal pain –

(Stessman et al., 2009). In addition, research shows that balance training decreases fall occurrences (Sherrington et al., 2008). Stessman et al.’s (2009) research also demonstrated that as little as 4 hours per week is as effective as more intensive and time-consuming exercise.

By nurturing their health, you can prevent loneliness.

Stay In Touch With Neighbors

Neighbors can be a helpful safety net for seniors. They can keep an eye out for any unexpected problems, check in on the person, and even help with simple household chores. Additionally, the neighbors can help get the senior involved in the community, which can be especially helpful if you live some distance away.

Connecting the senior with the those around them can put extra eyes on them in case something goes wrong.

Conclusion

Getting older can be difficult, especially if you’re alone. Loneliness and isolation can create health problems, a sense of purposelessness, depression, and a host of other issues. It’s something to be taken seriously.

Thankfully, there are actions that can be taken to ensure the seniors in your life don’t experience those things. These actions don’t need to be complicated or labor intensive. They simply require some thought and intention.

Betty Friedan said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”

We wholeheartedly agree.

A while back, we published a post about Seniors and Sleep detailing the adverse effects of not getting enough sleep and the sleep problems seniors face. Today, we bring you another look into seniors and sleep, with an article from Candace Osmond. This page details sleep problems and solutions. See below for an excerpt.


When you’re struggling to drop off, or if you’re battling the demands of work and home life, you can find yourself wondering how much sleep you can get away with. Is it ok to have just four or five hours or must you get a solid eight or nine hours every night?

If you’re suffering from insomnia, or just the demands of a newborn baby, you may be wondering – how much sleep do you need?

No matter what your circumstances, we’ve answered that question and given you all the information and facts you need to make sure you get the right amount of sleep every night.

For more information about sleep, read the full article here.