A popular retirement plan used to be: invest in a home, wait until the kids move out, sell it and downsize. Some goals included a purchasing a single level home, little to no yard, or paying cash for the new home. Our current economy has proved it isn’t a fail-safe plan.
Even though a large home can become a chore to maintain, down-sizing isn’t the best option for all seniors. Here is a story about a couple who doubled the size of their home, and one of the greatest perks they found was they now have room for the grand-kids.
Another one of the factors for this couple was the locality. As we age, the need for community and activities doesn’t decrease—but sometimes our ability to get there does. Seniors don’t always want to rely on someone else to drive them.
Location is another thing to consider when rightsizing, if the senior loves to be part of the bustle of a city—look for homes within walking distance of parks, community centers or open air markets, etc.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding the “right size” is cost. It may be more equitable to install a stair-lift than to move. If your current home is the right size and just needs some modifications, consider universal design.
Simply put, it means accessible to as many people as possible. If you are planning a remodel, considering universal design is a very profitable provision for your future whether you ever sell it or not. Even if you do not age in place in your home, the resale appeal will specifically target a growing market (an American turns 50 years old every 7 seconds) as well as many others.
AARP.org outlines the most important elements of universal design:
• No-step entry: You should have at least one step-free entrance (either at the front, back, or side of the house) so everyone, including wheelchair users, can enter the home easily and safely.
• Wide doorways and hallways: A doorway that is at least 36 inches wide is great when you’re bringing home a new mattress or couch, but it’s even better when someone you care for, or a regularly visiting friend or family member, is in a wheelchair. Also, hallways that are 42 inches wide are good for multigenerational family members with varying “mobilities.”
• One-floor living: Access to essential rooms without the use of stairs makes life more convenient and safe for residents ages 0 to 100.
• Easily accessible controls and switches: A person in a wheelchair can reach light switches that are 42-48 inches above the floor. Thermostats should be placed no higher than 48 inches off the floor, and electrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor. Keep these measurements in mind when modifying your home.
• Easy-to-use handles: Consider replacing twist/turn doorknobs and faucets with lever-style handles for (painless) ease of use.
Whether your home is large or small, don’t forget to check out our Pinterest account for inspiration to make your space count. You’ll find ideas like turning a closet into an office on our Aging in Place Board.
Watching someone who took care of you decline in health and ability can be a difficult process. During the period you first see signs of mental or physical degeneration you may be tempted to start making or suggesting arrangements for your loved one.
Before you even mention the need for care, assess their situation. Expressing your suspicion can lead to adamant denial or arguments and if your concern is unwarranted, it will hinder future conversation.
E-How has a list of warning signs that elderly parents may need care, here it is:
- Increase in repeating yourself
- Misplacing ordinary items
- Dramatic Mood Changes
- Sudden Decrease in energy, appetites or interests
Keeping a journal or notebook of your concerns will also help you determine if the signs are constant, increasing—or just a single occurrence. Here is a quick link with 100 other benefits of journaling. There are plenty of reasons to write down details as you process this new season in your—and your parent’s—life.
One thing to keep in mind: the thought of losing independence is very scary. Do not consider it lightly—always focus on how you would like to approach the situation if you were the one needing help. You just might be teaching the next generation how to facilitate need for care when your turn comes.
After a lifetime of acquiring opinions and managing individuality, no one wants to be treated as a child. Include them in all parts of the decision-making process, assuring them that they will have control over their situation. Honestly discuss the feasibility of their desires based on finances, locale and any other contributing factors.
This is only the first step; there will be many more conversations to come. To provide love and care during the winter of someone’s life requires sensitivity, patience and a great deal of honesty. For end of life wishes, The Conversation Project provides a free starter kit to help you get going.
Even up to end of life desires–as long as your parents are able to contribute their wishes, do not make decisions without them.
I’d like to welcome Prime Medical Alert to my blog today.
Recently, Psychological Science published a report showing that happiness does in fact increase with age, but that overall wellbeing is determined through the time-period a person is born. At first, this doesn’t make much sense and even seems contradictory, but let me explain.
Researchers used data from thousands of participants spanning a period of thirty years. They factored in variables such as ethnicity, employment, sex, and medication into the study. Originally, when the researchers analyzed the participants’ data, older subjects seemed to have lower levels of happiness than their younger counterparts. When that same data was analyzed by grouping it according to dates of birth, however, an opposite trend was discovered. It appeared that older people showed the greatest increase of happiness throughout their lives. The original appearance of less happiness was because older people started at a lower level of wellbeing than those born more recently. Researchers hypothesized that early life happiness levels are determined by economic prosperity, social program improvements, and educational opportunities.
Another study, performed last year by the University of Warwick, showed that happiness forms a U-curve. Happiness reaches its lowest point at around 45 years old, but then rises again as we age. Dr. Stranges, who ran the study, said one of the reasons happiness may increase with age is that older people have better coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms help deal with hardship or loss that younger people often suffer from. While this fits into the archetype of accumulating wisdom with age and finally becoming comfortable in the universe, there is also a biological reason older people are able to cope more effectively.
In the book, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers claims that elderly people are unwittingly participating in self-deception as a coping mechanism. He claims older adults prefer positive appearances, ignore negative stimuli, and by contrast, focus more attentively on positive stimuli. This is not by choice, Trivers writes, but rather a natural evolutionary process. Since the primary dangers in old age include germs, diseases, cancer, and general degeneration, a positive outlook boosts the immune system and acts as a defense. Conversely, younger people instead focus on external negative stimuli to maximize their reproductive availability. Since reproductive concern diminishes with age, the body focuses instead on a healthier immune system, which in turn produces happiness, and vice versa.
Now, there are reasons to be happy beyond these strictly scientific explanations. With age comes more control, stability, leisure, and most importantly, extra time for loved ones. It is nice to know, however, that our bodies are working in conjunction with our desire for happiness and rather than fear the aging process, our bodies welcome it.
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Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding or disposophobia) is the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them), even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Compulsive
hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping.
It is not clear whether compulsive hoarding is an isolated disorder, or rather a symptom of another condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Helping people who hoard understand how their problem interferes in living the life they desire can be a powerful motivator, especially as it pertains to being able to live independently. Some suggest the inability to maintain a safe living environment is a reason to consider an assisted living facility. But since an estimated 80% of seniors desire independence, here are some sensitive solutions to help.
- Don’t use judgmental language. Like anyone else, individuals with hoarding will not be receptive to negative comments about the state of their home, their character, or their possessions (e.g., “What a mess!” “What kind of person lives like this?” “This is nothing but junk!”).
- Use motivational language. In communicating with people who hoard about the consequences of hoarding, use language that reduces defensiveness and increases motivation to solve the problem (e.g., “I see that you have a pathway from your front door to your living room. That’s great that you’ve kept things out of the way so that you don’t slip or fall.”)
- Don’t try to persuade or argue with the person. Efforts to persuade individuals to make a change in their home or behavior often have the opposite effect—the person actually talks himself into keeping the items.
When it comes time to sort through the mess, this blog post suggests four steps, including a professional cleaning crew.
We welcome a guest blogger today — Lorenzo Mejia, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Qualified Dementia Care Specialist
The BBC reports an exciting finding in the ongoing battle to understand and diagnose Alzheimer’s. Researchers in Britain are looking at markers in blood that could lead to a diagnosis in the disease’s earliest stages. This would mean that it could be caught decades earlier, which could result in better treatment all around.
The test would look for proteins that are linked to Alzheimer’s. In addition, researchers say that they have identified other markers — linked to inflammation — that show potentially high correlation. This latter element comes at no surprise. In all the reading I have done, it appears that the inflammation process in our bodies is akin to aging and overall body deterioration. If any of you have read the recent book, The Alzheimer’s Diet, you will find the same concept …. that an anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet.
The researchers note that it may be several years before a simple blood test is commercially available to detect the presence of Alzheimer’s in seniors, but the suggestion that diagnosis via simple blood test is possible is a wonderful news for those of us that have experienced the disease in our lives.
See the full details here
Just as we require a day off weekly and several days of rest annually, primary caregivers should require respite.
Caregivers, especially unpaid family members, often need an interval of relief more—but utilize it less. One factor is the emotions tied up in the act of caregiving. You may feel you are the only one who can truly provide adequate care—or that seeking respite shows either weakness or lack of care. You might also worry that you cannot afford assistance or that no one would help if you asked.
According to HelpGuide.org, “Those with strong support systems, creative respite arrangements, and regular time away not only fare better, they also find more satisfaction in their caretaking roles.”
The alternative? Caregiver burnout. This includes depression, illness and inability to continue your caregiving role. This is what it comes down to: respite so you can continue to care.
The National Institute on Aging has some tips for asking for help, here they are:
- It’s okay to ask for help from family, friends, and others. I don’t have to do everything myself.
- Ask people to help out in specific ways like making a meal, visiting the person, or taking the person out for a short time.
- Join a support group to share advice and understanding with other caregivers.
- Call for help from home health care or adult day care services when you need it.
- Use national and local resources to find out how to pay for some of this help
Additionally, here is our resource page “Options to Pay for Care.”
Contact the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Idaho Chapter and seek out a support group. Beyond finding others who can empathize, you will have access to numerous ideas and resources. If you know others in similar situations, for instance: at your church, create your own support network. You need to care for yourself spiritually as much as emotionally and physically.
Is it time for a stress check? Answer this quick questionnaire online at ALZ.org.
Remember, the most loving thing you can do is take precautions which enable you to continue caregiving.
According to WebMD.com, it is untrue that seniors need less sleep than younger adults. Even though getting to sleep and staying asleep becomes more difficult as we grow older, adults of all ages need between seven and a half and nine hours of sleep per night. In the elderly, this rest is vital for everything from improving concentration and memory to preventing disease.
Whether you are a caregiver or trying to encourage a loved one to get more sleep, there are several ways to set the stage for a good night’s rest.
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a “circadian clock” in the brain and the body’s need to balance both sleep time and wake time. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help with sleep onset at night.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games, or family problem-solving.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Check the room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring, light, and a dry or hot environment. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise,” humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows. The mattress one has been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy—which is about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens and objects that might cause a slip or a fall if having to get up during the night.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If a particular activity or item is associated with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from the bedtime routine. For example, if looking at a bedroom clock causes anxiety about how much time remains before getting up, move the clock out of sight.
Caregivers, don’t forget that sleep is just as important for you to maintain the best possible level of care. If you are unable to maintain your own health and well-being, your ability to care becomes nonexistent. Click here to download a pdf with other tips to prevent caregiver burnout. If you want to know how to support your caregiver The Huffington Post has some tips.
It is estimated that one in three adults age 65 and older fall each year. Older adults are hospitalized five times more frequently for falling related injuries than any other cause. Accidental falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths and non-fatal falls shown in one study estimated the average cost of falling to be $19,440 per person.
In addition to the injuries, many older adults develop a fear of falling and limit their activity. This actually decreases their mobility and increases their chance of falling.
What you can do to help an older adult prevent falls -
First of all, because it doesn’t cost anything and can be done immediately, look around their living space. At least one third of falls involve environmental hazards in the home. Can you remove clutter? Simple organization will greatly decrease risk. Pay special attention to throw rugs and bathroom mats, anything on the floor. Moving furniture to create wider paths is also helpful.
For minimal cost you can highlight or paint any steps or floor-height changes. Increase lighting in all living spaces and add nightlights to hallways and bathrooms. Install handrails on stairs and in the bathroom. Select well-fitting nonskid slippers or shoes rather than socks and soft slippers.
Secondly, speak to elder’s health care provider or pharmacist about their medication. Some pharmaceuticals contribute to dizziness, sleepiness and vision impairment. Ask them to pay special attention to medicine combinations for these possible side effects.
Thirdly, have the elder’s eyes checked regularly.
Lastly, regular exercise will increase confidence, mobility, strength and flexibility. There are many low impact, strength and resistance training options like Tai Chi and water aerobics. You can even get started right now from your chair:
If you have lately found yourself reaching for carbohydrate-rich foods, desiring more sleep/feeling fatigued or decreased levels of energy, you may be experiencing some symptoms of “Winter Blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Web MD, people with SAD have many of the normal signs of depression.
Other symptoms may include:
- Desire to sleep more/Decreased levels of energy/Fatigue
- Overeating/ Increase in appetite
- Craving of sweets
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawing from social activities/Increased desire to be alone
- Feeling anxious
- Being unusually irritable
- Loss of desire for physical activity
Family caregivers are particularly at risk because both the emotional and physical demands of caregiving combined with prolonged stress. It is not the caregiving which causes depression, but according to the Family Caregiving Alliance (FCA), family caregivers are at a higher risk of neglecting self-care, regardless of age, income, race, etc.
Self-care inadequacies include:
- sleep deprivation
- poor eating habits
- failure to exercise
- failure to stay in bed when ill
- postponement of or failure to make medical appointments.
The FCA also reports that family caregivers are also at increased risk for excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as well as depression.
Some of the SAD indicators may contribute to other symptoms. For example, the overeating and loss of desire for physical activities cause weight gain. Also, withdrawing from social activities can make you feel lonely. The first thing to do is try to assess yourself:
— Are you simply tired because you are not sleeping enough?
— Are you withdrawing from activities because of the dropping temperatures or is it because of feelings of sadness, negativity, anxiousness and depression?
If you think you may be experiencing any SAD symptoms, please discuss these feelings with your Certified Health Practitioner. Your health professional is the best person to determine your level of need and seek appropriate treatment.
Here is an interactive tool to help you discover your risk for depression.
To help prevent the Winter Blues, become proactive. One of the largest contributors to winter seasonal depression is lack of light. Sit by a bright window or try to find access to natural light at least once per day. Watch what you eat. The sweets may temporarily give you a jolt of pleasure, but if they contribute to weight gain and headaches you will stay in the cycle of not feeling well. Set weight management and exercise goals. Something as simple as a walk outdoors, once per day could eliminate the symptoms. Do not neglect this part of your health as it factors into every faucet of your life.
A stroke can cause vision problems, paralysis to one side of the body, and memory loss. Therefore, communication with a stroke victim is not always easy. The following techniques can help you to communicate effectively with your loved one.
• Keep in mind that it may be difficult for your loved one to speak clearly due to effects from the stroke.
• Accept whatever form of communication works for your loved one, even if it is simply making hand gestures.
• Educate yourself on your loved one’s condition through information from the doctor, online resources and support groups so that you better understand what he/she may be experiencing.
• Join a support group, whether that be online or in person, to learn how others have dealt with communication issues.
• Be a good and patient listener.
• If communication is an issue, talk more slowly–NOT more loudly.
• Never “talk down” to your loved one.
• It is common for stroke survivors to experience strong emotions. Seek help from a professional if emotions become too much to handle.