Getting to Know Nursing Homes: Some Facts & Myths

When a loved one reaches a point in his or her life in which self-care becomes challenging, the next step may be a little overwhelming; particularly when trying to make the best choice for your loved one and your family. Some families struggle with guilt because it may not be financially, emotionally, or physically feasible for some individuals to become a caregiver. Often times a hired in-home caregiver is only a temporary solution until the aging or ill loved one requires more specialized care. Unfortunately, more often than not, many people are hesitant to choose the most common option of a nursing home facility due to the horror stories or bad reputations they can have.

Although a nursing home can be an intimidating next step, if you know what to look for and monitor closely, your elderly loved one can continue to live a healthy and safe life.

Myth #1: Nursing Homes Mark the “Final Days” of an Elderly Individual

While it is true that many elderly individuals may live their final years in a nursing home, it doesn’t automatically mean that an elder is living his or her last days. A nursing home is not a hospital, as it often mistaken for, but does have medically trained staff available 24 hours a day. Nursing home candidates do not need to be in a hospital, but are no longer to be cared for in their home or cannot take care of themselves. Although a majority of nursing home residents are older seniors, some younger seniors have short stays in a nursing home after a lengthy illness or after a surgery.

Myth #2: “If I move my elderly relative into a nursing home, he’ll lose all of his independence.”

When selecting a nursing home, many are fearful to move someone into a facility out of fear that he or she will have no independence. Many facilities respect and even encourage independence as much as possible. Even if one individual may have mobility issues, the staff will encourage other independent activities such as eating, grooming, and participating in activities. When deciding on whether or not to move your loved one into the appropriate care, keep in mind that the need for assistance is not the result of a loss of independence as we all require help sometimes.

Myth #3: “If my loved one moves into a nursing home, she will be mistreated by staff and there will be nothing I can do.”

We’ve all heard the terrible stories of nursing home abuse or elder abuse. Unfortunately, these stories of physical, emotional, and financial mistreatment are true, but they don’t apply to every nursing home facility across the country. First off, the best way to prevent elder abuse from occurring is by being active in your elder’s life. Before you choose a facility, take a tour, look around, and ask questions because this is the time in which you are interviewing facilities in search of the best possible care your loved one can receive. If anything feels or looks wrong, you don’t have to settle for that particular home. Be sure to educate yourself on how to recognize and respond to any sign mistreatment of your loved one.

Once you have found a suitable home for your elder, visit often, communicate regularly with staff, keep track of any changes to physical appearance and his or her emotional or mental state. Changes could be part of aging, but it could also indicate abuse. If you suspect any abuse, contact authorities immediately. This next chapter in your loved one’s life can be a positive transition and an opportunity to feel confident that they are being provided with the best care and surrounded by friends and family.

Helping Seniors Avoid Isolation

As we age, the tendency to rely solely on ourselves is not uncommon. Relying too heavily on our own person can be isolating though, especially among senior citizens. While relying on the help of family or nursing staff can quickly become frustrating, it can also cause seniors to feel like a burden on others, thus creating the desire to isolate themselves. For this, and many other reasons, it is very important that senior citizens avoid isolation.

There other dangers associated with senior citizens being alone are very serious and include:

  • Risk of injury. A senior citizen may suffer an injury during their time alone. This can be as minor as a cut or bruise, or as serious as a trip and fall accident. If the injury is severe, they may not be able to access a telephone to call for help.
  • Risk of depression. Senior citizens are at risk of suffering from depression, especially if they isolate themselves. Depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, which will require the help of severe medical attention.

How can you help prevent or resolve the issue of senior isolation?

Provide transportation. Senior citizens need a method of transportation to get to the store, to visit a friend, or to simply go for a walk outside. Whether that means picking them up and taking them out or investing in a mobility scooter, provide a way for your senior citizen to get around. There are a number of options when it comes to walking assistance devices, all you have to do is find one that is right for their individual situation.

Visit often. Visits from family mean everything, especially to a senior citizen that lives in some kind of care facility. Even if they are short, 20-minute weeknight pop-ins, a visit is a visit. Spending quality time together allows your senior citizen to feel loved, appreciated, and wanted, and will help keep them busy instead of sitting quietly alone. If you begin to notice that they are isolating themselves more, try to stop by more frequently. If their isolation persists, you may want to have them medically examined, just in case they have slipped into a depression.

Encourage visits to worship. For many seniors, religion has been an integral part of their upbringing. Many people return to their religion in old age because they have more time for it. Senior citizens slipping into a state of isolation should be encouraged to revisit their religion, and extend their practice once again. The sense of purpose that comes with worship can rejuvenate a senior and bring them out of their quiet isolation.

Boost self-confidence. Fostering friendships is one way to do this. Encourage your loved one to participate in the activities that their facility offers. Having a friend their age to confide in and share with will certainly boost their self-worth. Another simple way to boost self-confidence this is to encourage a senior to participate in daily physical activity. The endorphin rush, along with a more toned physique, can really amp up their confidence levels.

Make their home a special place. This is perhaps one of the best ways to pull a senior citizen out of their anti-social slump. Many senior citizens live in assisted care facilities or nursing homes that can feel dreary at times. Help to turn the space into a place of their own with pictures, indoor plants, and other memorabilia. This might spark them to invite friends from their facility into their space, encouraging conversation and helping to foster relationships.

About The Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Briarwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Needham, MA.

Dealing With Elderly Depression

When a person is suffering with depression, it is tough to sit idly by and watch. This is even tougher to do when it is one of your parents. Watching the people who have guided you throughout life suffer in any way can be difficult to deal with, especially when you know how happy and lively they were prior to this onset. You may wonder where their depression and/or lack of self-esteem stems from, but there are many things that can cause it when a person is aging.

Here are some of the common signs to look out for if you think someone you love is suffering from depression:

Mood swings.  If your loved one is happy and energetic one minute, but somber and sad the next, there could be an underlying issue, especially if you feel like the change in mood wasn’t really brought on by anything specific.

Changes in appearance. Sudden messy hair, no makeup, dirty clothes and the overall lack of care about one’s physical appearance can be a tell-tale sign of depression.

Antisocial behavior. Was your loved one the life of the family parties before and now you can barely even get them to attend? Staying indoors all day and not wanting company to come over can be another sign of depression in aging seniors.

Aging in general. Doctors appointments, sore muscles and joints, and memory loss can all play a toll on a person. Thinking about all the things they could do in their youth that they can’t do now, or just dealing with everyday aches and pains in general is another thing that can wear a person down.

Loss of a loved one. This is hard on anyone at any age, but can be especially difficult for the elderly, especially if it’s the loss of a spouse or child. When your children are finally grown and out of the house, it’s just you and your spouse. When they pass away, loneliness and depression is not uncommon. The loss of a child is not expected by any parent, so this is usually the toughest loss to cope with.

If you think one of your elderly relatives is suffering from depression, here are some of the ways you can help:

Create a support system. Make sure they know you are there for them. Stop by for dinners, play card games, watch television or just chat with them. If they are constantly being reminded of much they are loved and cared for, this may help pull them out of their slump.

Seek medication. Although they may put up a fight and it can seem like this is just another pill for them to add to their daily regimen, mental medication can be very beneficial. As long as their dosages are administered properly, medication can boost their moods and help them manage their depression.

Encourage their attendance at therapy. Venting to a professional can lift the weight off of a person’s shoulders. If your loved one doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about their problems or thinks that they would be too much of a burden, seeking the help of a professional is a great idea. It allows them time to air their grievances and also gets them out of their home or living facility.

Avoid smothering them. It’s one thing to be there for your loved ones when they want to talk, but it’s another thing when you start taking over their daily tasks. Many older people like to continue to do their own chores and take care of their responsibilities. Offer to help them out, but don’t take over and do everything for them.

Set goals. Sit down with your loved one and create a list of small goals that they can achieve to help overcome their depression. Work together to create the list and these goals will give them something to look forward to.

In general, you do not want to let your loved one suffer or think that they are suffering alone. If you see any signs or symptoms of depression, do not ignore them. Do what you think is most appropriate for your loved one and definitely get them help. While some may be able to snap out of it on their own, this is not always the case and it’s better to be proactive.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Blueberry Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Beverly, MA.

Reverse Mortgages: What Seniors Have to Say

Although the idea of retirement may conjure up happy thoughts of enjoying your favorite activities and freedom from a stressful workplace, it may also mean the loss of a growing salary.  Your usual earnings may be replaced with a fixed income, and yet, you may still have the same existing mortgage, credit card debt, and monthly bills you have always had to pay.  If you think this sounds daunting, you are not alone.  In fact, according to an annual survey by the Insured Retirement Institute, 29% of baby boomers are not confident that they will have enough money saved to live comfortably throughout their entire retirement.  Fortunately for homeowners over the age of 62, there is a powerful financial tool available that allows them to access a portion of home equity and help them continue to age in the comfort of their homes throughout their golden years.

Introducing the Reverse Mortgage Loan

Senior homeowners in retirement have enjoyed the benefits of reverse mortgage loans since their inception in the early 1960′s.  With a reverse mortgage, borrowers eliminate house payments and can settle credit card debt.  In a report by the National Council on Aging, 23% of seniors age 62-75 with debt do not believe that they will ever be able to pay it off, while 11% never expect to pay off their mortgages.  However, armed with reverse mortgage proceeds, these homeowners may no longer have to worry.  As long as all loan terms, such as paying property taxes and homeowners insurance are met, they may be able to enjoy the type of financial freedom that comes with their new-found increased cash flow and no monthly mortgage payments.

Reverse Mortgage Questions Answered

Why would seniors get a reverse mortgage and how has it helped?

One key feature of a reverse mortgage loan is that there are no restrictions on the borrower as to how loan proceeds may be used.  This flexibility, combined with the elimination of monthly mortgage payments, helps retirees supplement their income to cover expenses that may have previously been a stretch for them.  Here are some common ways reverse mortgage borrowers use their proceeds:

  • Pay off existing mortgage (required as part of the loan)
  • Settle credit card debt
  • Cover bills
  • Supplement income for daily expenses
  • Afford medical procedures or medications
  • Renovate, modify and repair the home
  • Afford in-home care
  • Take vacations and travel
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Live an independent lifestyle

For example, Dyann B. of Bradford, Pennsylvania was able to use a reverse mortgage to remain financially independent.  Before she applied, the cost of her medications had increased and she was unsure if she would be able to continue paying for them.  She knew she may have to ask her children for money – a burden she never imagined having to place on them.  Fortunately, she learned about reverse mortgages and closed her loan with enough money to pay for her medications as well as afford repairs, updates, and maintenance on her home.

Are seniors happy they got a reverse mortgage and would they recommend it to others?

While not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can solve many significant financial challenges that seniors face today. This viable financial tool has earned high praise and endorsement from lenders, financial advisors, and seniors alike.  Actually, 84% of borrowers from American Advisors Group, the current leading reverse mortgage lender, say their lives have improved since closing their loan. Particularly with the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), many borrowers feel secure knowing that their reverse mortgage is government-insured, and relieved that their financial goals can be met.

For Ellen K. of Sterling, Colorado, her main goal was to pay off the $18,000 left on her existing mortgage.  When her monthly expenses continued to rise, the burden of her mortgage payment prevented her from staying within budget.  Finally, with her new reverse mortgage loan, she was able to pay off her existing mortgage without dipping into her other investments.  Now, the freedom she feels from not having a monthly mortgage payment is something she wants others to enjoy.  As such, Ellen frequently recommends reverse mortgages to other seniors.

For many borrowers in retirement, reverse mortgages may offer a number of features that make it an attractive financial option to consider.  If you are contemplating this loan, make sure to conduct as much research as you can to learn about the benefits and risks.  To get an even clearer understanding of its details, speak with a reverse mortgage professional from an established and credible lender.  He or she can help you find out how much equity is built in your home and calculate an estimate of how much money may be available to you.  With a bit of research and a strong financial plan, you just may join the thousands of senior homeowners who enjoy the financial freedom that comes with a reverse mortgage loan. 

Sources:

Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2014: Fourth Annual Report on the Retirement Preparedness of the Boomer Generation.  The Insured Retirement Institute.  2014.  Print.

Changing Attitudes, Changing Motives: The MetLife Study of How Aging Homeowners Use Reverse Mortgages.  Metlife Mature Market Institute and National Council on Aging.  New York.  2013. Print.

“Do I Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?  The Questions You Should Ask and the Requirements You Need to Know.”  Homefinder.com.  ND.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.  http://www.homefinder.com/research/reverse-mortgage-requirements

Lim, Alberta.  “Debunking Myths about Reverse Mortgages.”  Equities.com.  18 June 2015.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.  http://www.equities.com/editors-desk/personal-finance/real-estate/debunking-myths-about-reverse-mortgages

Lim, Alberta.  “What Seniors Should Know About Reverse Mortgages.”  GriswoldHomeCare.com.  23 July 2015.  Griswold Home Care.  Web.  28 July 2015.  http://www.griswoldhomecare.com/blog/what-seniors-should-know-about-reverse-mortgages/

Understanding the Pros and Cons of a Reverse Mortgage.”  AAG.com.  American Advisors Group.  ND.  Web.  28 June 2015.  https://www.aag.com/news/the-pros-and-cons-reverse-mortgages

About American Advisors Group

American Advisors Group, the nation’s leader in reverse mortgage lending, is dedicated to helping American seniors convert a portion of their home equity, a largely untapped asset, to help fund their retirement needs. To learn if a reverse mortgage can work for you, visit https://www.aag.com/reverse-mortgage-calculator/ to use the  AAG reverse mortgage calculator.

American Advisors Group is proud of its  A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, and 97% customer satisfaction rating, and is a proud member of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA). To learn more about reverse mortgages and American Advisors Group, please visit www.aag.com. 

About The Author

As a writer for American Advisors Group, the leading U.S. reverse mortgage lender, Alberta Lim is committed to sharing news and information seniors can use to improve their quality of life.