3 Ways Good Design Can Help People Who Have Dementia

The design of the environment we live in has a profound impact on our mood and wellbeing, especially for people living with dementia. In this post, we’ll look at some ways that good design can make an impact, from the use of colors and lighting, to making it easy to perform daily tasks, helping you to plan a suitable environment for your loved one, or to identify a care home designed for the needs of people with dementia.

Good use of color

Color choices play an important part in ensuring people with dementia can navigate their surroundings, identify familiar places and affect their mood. Firstly, contrasting colors can be used on furniture, fittings and fixtures to help people navigate and interact with their surroundings. For example, using a light switch that contrasts in color to the wall it’s on can make it easier to identify, avoiding confusion. Similarly, utilizing handrails that contrast to the walls their mounted on makes them easier to find, encouraging people with dementia to explore their surroundings without fear of getting ‘stuck’. Ensuring furniture is a different color to the floor also makes it easier for people to negotiate the room without fear of tripping up, while also making it easier to identify where they are and find their way around.

Using different color doors is another good way to help people with dementia identify different rooms. For example, painting bathroom doors a different color to other doors can help people identify what’s inside them. Colored doors are also used in care homes for residents’ rooms, helping to make them more recognizable and making it less likely for residents with dementia to get lost and enter other people’s rooms accidentally.

Before painting any walls or changing fixtures and furniture, it’s important to remember that color can affect mood. Be aware of any preferences that your loved one may have, for example if they have eye conditions, yellow, orange and red can be easier to see. Others may prefer darker colors like black or dark blue against light backgrounds.

Using lighting correctly

If lighting is not used correctly, it can make it harder to identify objects, create shadows, and change perceptions of the passing of time, all of which can cause confusion and distress for people with dementia.

Natural light is the first important consideration. Not only does natural light provide higher levels of diffused light, which creates soft, unnoticeable shadows, it also helps to show the passing of time as the light source changes throughout the day, making it easier to stick to natural sleeping patterns.

Artificial lighting also plays a part as it can help compensate for poor eyesight, helping people find their way around their home. For example, additional artificial lighting can be used to make it clear that corridors and pathways around rooms are clear and unobstructed, avoiding confusing shadows. The position of lighting needs to be considered, for example to avoid bright light directly over beds, which can make it difficult for people to rest. The choice of lampshade is also important, as these can be used to create diffused light, reducing shadows and creating a uniform level of brightness around a room.

Make it easy to perform day to day tasks

Interior design also plays a part in making day to day tasks easier to perform for those with dementia. Lighting can again play a part here, for example by illuminating the insides of drawers and cupboards when they are open, making it easier to find things.

People with dementia can also struggle to remember where things are kept, for example in the kitchen. A solution is to use transparent cupboard doors allowing the contents to be seen, or use labels to mark what’s inside. Pictures or icons are a good idea, as it can be easier to remember the look of an item than its name.

Icons and signs are also a great way to direct people to certain rooms. For example, signs leading to the bathroom may include pictures or icons representing a shower, toilet and washbasin, to remind users what the bathroom contains. Meanwhile, the dining room door could feature an icon of a knife and fork to represent eating, providing a visual clue to what can be done in this room.

In conclusion

If you’re making changes to someone’s living space or finding a new home for them, it’s important to remember that everyone has different abilities and needs which can change over time. It’s important to take a person-centric approach as a result, ensuring your loved one continues to be able to make their own choices and uphold their dignity.

About the author

Seb Atkinson works for Hallmark Care Homes, a leading provider of dementia care.

Recognizing Verbal Abuse Against Elders in Nursing Homes

Most of us love our parents and want them to have the best possible life in their old age. But we don’t live in a culture that’s very friendly towards older people. They are often left to fend for themselves and not all of them have children who have the time to visit them regularly.

Nursing homes have long been an option for people in such situations. In many cases we keep our elderly family members in nursing homes thinking they will receive the best possible care and treatment there. But unfortunately, things don’t always work out like that.

The truth is that abuse against the elderly in nursing homes is a surprisingly common occurrence in our society. I still remain in dark about the reasons behind this this inhuman practice, but after witnessing a number of such cases and hearing a string of heartbreaking accounts I can safely say that I can identify and recognize elder abuse when I encounter it.

Physical abuse is usually quite evident, but verbal abuse, while tricky to detect, can be as damaging and dangerous for the health of an elderly person, and needs to be detected and stopped at the earliest.

In this post I tell you how to identify signs that point towards your loved one being mentally tortured and verbally abused in the nursing home you trust to look after them.

Being Expressionless and Lost

So you visit your elderly father in the nursing home and find that instead of being happy to see you he is being inattentive and incoherent. He is talking to you but appears lost and expressionless. He does not have answers to simplest of questions and starts appearing more and more incapable of taking even the smallest of decisions. If you observe such behavior, don’t ignore it thinking it is normal, especially when your father was fine in the beginning. Question yourself why has there been this change in his behavior.

Chances are our elders will not tell us they are facing verbal abuse from the staff as they might feel embarrassed or frightened of the consequences of doing so. Study their behavior instead. Feeling blank, being unusually quiet and painfully lost are all indicators of verbal abuse.

Run a check on the nurses and caregivers dealing with your parent. Talk to other patients and their relatives and ask them if they too are facing similar situations and if they suspect anything.

Not Wanting to Deal with Money

Your father used to love his freedom and financial independence. But now he wants you to not leave any cash in his possession or remove money from a certain bank account citing various and inconsistent reasons. It is likely that somebody within the nursing home is exploiting him and probably even threatening him when he refuses to comply.

Create a secure environment for your dad. Take him along with you and talk to him if he is indeed facing any such abuse. It’s likely that if somebody within the staff is threatening your dad about finances, these threats are manifesting themselves in various other cruel ways as well, like not feeding him properly, delaying his medication, restricting his activities, and falsely imprisoning him.

Being Scared and Asking You Not to Leave

When somebody humiliates you constantly, pokes fun at you, calls you names and uses derogatory language while talking to you, knowing you are the weaker one, you feel all the more helpless and vulnerable. You want to run away from that person and the situation. This is what is happening to your loved one, too. That is why they are fearful and helpless, and constantly asking you to take them home with you.

Sometimes we dismiss their fears and pleadings as irrational or delusional behavior, but most of the times it is anything but.

Check with the authorities soon as you can. Ask your loved one why they want to leave and why they are scared. If they are insisting on you staying back or them leaving, they will most probably also tell you the reason behind it. Take immediate action. Your priority should be to keep your loved one safe.

When You Are Not Allowed to Visit without Supervision

In order to keep you in the dark about the abuse inflicted on your loved one, nursing homes sometimes do not allow you to visit or interact with them without supervision.

Don’t assume this is some weird, twisted rule of the nursing home. Why should your meeting with your loved one be supervised? What are they keeping an eye on? And what about privacy?

Watch the body language and speech of your loved one around them. If there is some problem, the tension in the interaction between the staff and the elderly person will be evident. Pick on that tension and talk to senior authorities. In such cases, verbal abuse is usually accompanied by physical abuse as well. Watch for unsightly marks on your loved one’s body and fight for time alone with him. Talk to him and find out the truth.

The Staff May Not Always be at Fault

The staff is not always responsible for the verbal abuse suffered by people in nursing homes. Aggressive and dominant inmates could also be at fault. They could be threatening, humiliating or embarrassing your loved one by saying mean and menacing things to them.

The moral of the story is that whenever you witness anything that makes you suspicious about the living conditions of your loved one in their nursing home, take immediate action to find out the truth and rescue them and others like them from the oppressive place.

More than half a million elderly Americans get abused each year in the U.S. We cannot just sit back and let this continue. Each one of us has an elderly person to take care of and all of us are going to grow old someday. We need to take action against these erring institutions to fight and prevent elder abuse.

About the Author:

Dan Brown is one of the principle partners and attorney at Brown & Brown Law Office based in St. Louis, MO. He has successfully handled many cases related to nursing home abuse and home assaults. The firm represent individuals from Missouri who are suffering from nursing home abuse and always ready to help personal injury victims.

Elder Care Abuse: How to Know and When to Act

Elder abuse is something that occurs in the United States more frequently than many of us know.  According to Elder Abuse Daily in 2010, there are almost 6 million elder abuse cases every year.  This estimate demonstrates a growth since the American Psychological Association reported in 1999 that an average of over 2.1 million elder abuse cases occur every year.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, elder abuse is the, “knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”  The administration states that these are the common abuse types:

  1. Physical Abuse is the infliction of “physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.”
  2. Sexual Abuse is the “non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.”
  3. Neglect is “the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.”
  4. Exploitation is “the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.”
  5. Emotional Abuse is the infliction of “mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.”
  6. Abandonment is the “desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.”

According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), emotional abuse, financial abuse, and neglect are the most prevalent of all elder abuses.

Unfortunately, elder abuse is not a crime commonly reported.  The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 83 percent of elder abuse cases never get reported.  According to a 2009 NIJ research report, the majority of the elderly’s abusers are people they know.  Through surveys, the NIJ found that the elderly are most likely to underrepresent abuses:

  • That happened more than a year ago.
  • That they did not report them to the police.
  • If the abuser was not a stranger.

Sadly, the unwillingness of the elderly to properly represent or report these abuses is detrimental; the majority of elders surveyed by the NIJ had been abused over a year ago, had not reported the abuse to police, and knew their abuser/s.

How to Protect the Elderly from Abuse

In order to protect your elderly loved one from abuse, you must:

  1. Ensure he/she is in a quality elder care program.
  2. Do research.
  3. Ask the elder care facilities that you visit for their state survey reports.
  4. Visit, inspect, and ask questions.
  5. Ensure that your chosen facility has a proper staff-resident ratio. According to the Health and Human Services (HHS), 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed. Nursing home staffs spend less than 3 hours total with residents each day (HHS) despite about 4 hours being what the government and expert recommendation for patient care each day.
  6. Check on your loved one frequently.Visit your loved one as much as possible to ensure he/she is receiving sufficient senior care.
  7. Physically check your loved one for signs of abuse. A list of abuse symptoms can be found on the NIJ website.
  8. Know your loved one’s rights as a resident. You can view these rights on the website below or by asking your loved one’s care facility for a copy of your state’s “Resident’s Bill of Rights.”

About the Author: Amber Paley is a guest blogger and article writer specializing in elder abuse prevention. Amber spends much of her professional life writing about abuse in nursing homes.

Photo credit: pedrosimoes7

An Elder Care Conversation About Senior Activities Done Right

During my research on assisted living communities and elder care, I met a woman whom I consider to be the model activities director. Her name is Terri Glimcher and she is the Life Enrichment Coordinator for Emeritus Senior Living. In addition to her duties at Oak Park Assisted Living in Clermont, Florida, she also serves as a trainer for many other local communities. If her techniques were universally adopted, this chapter would be completely unnecessary.

I’ve spoken to Terri several times during the course of my research, as she is a true expert in her field. She gets it!

To reword our discussion would not serve her great work justice, so I’ve included the entire transcript of our discussion.

RYAN: Thanks for spending the time with me, Terri. The work you’ve done at Emeritus has been amazing.
TERRI: Thanks for the kind words.
RYAN: Let’s go ahead and get started. What is your role at the company?
TERRI: I am the Life Enrichment Coordinator for Summerville at Oak Park Assisted Living, an Emeritus Senior Living property in Clermont Florida. I am also on the marketing team here at Oak Park.
RYAN: Sounds like a lot of hats! Being a marketing guy from a previous life I know what you’re going through. I’d like to focus on the activities portion of your responsibilities. Would that be okay?
TERRI: Sure.

RYAN: What is the role of “activities” in an assisted living environment?
TERRI: Great question! Activities play a very important role in assisted living. It is very important to keep the mind and body challenged and stimulated throughout the day. More importantly, however, is the socialization that comes with activities. It is very important for your loved one to feel connected in their new residence. Activities will help to do this. Activities also help the resident continue to enjoy many things they used to do. This consistency helps with the overall transition to assisted living.

RYAN: That makes a lot of sense. I know it was tough for my mom to transition to assisted living, because she was so active before.
TERRI: What did she do?
RYAN: She was involved in women’s club, some charities and card parties with her lady friends. She missed all that when she got into assisted living, as she remembered what is was like before her stroke.
TERRI: That sounds tough.

RYAN: It was. Anyway, let me ask you another question. What do most assisted living communities do wrong with regard to activities?
TERRI: I only know from many that I have observed that they do not meet the needs of ALL residents. They focus on the mainstream population and often have activities that people with special needs such as physical, visual or hearing cannot participate in. In my community, we make sure that adaptive equipment is in place so that all residents can participate in any activity.
RYAN: That great to hear…
TERRI: I also firmly believe that the residents should have choices in their schedule, which is why a resident council should be in place. This is their home and activities should be available at all times for residents to participate in as a group or individually. That piece lacks in many communities. Another important factor is that the assisted living community should be connected to the local community. Many times residents feel isolated because their whole world revolves around the community. The community is very open to seniors and it is a great way to keep them connected.

RYAN: Your approach sounds really unique. What have you planned that is unique?
TERRI: I really believe that most of my activities are unique in that age never plays a role in what I plan. We are always involved in a community service project of some kind. My knitting class made baby hats for the neonatal unit at our local hospital. We donated 150 hats. They were also involved in the Give a Kid a Backpack Program here. The residents hand-craft a beautiful teddy bear to go in each backpack received by the children. We have made soldier caps that were sent to Iraq, we raised money for breast cancer awareness and many more. Seniors enjoy giving back. They feel a part of a bigger picture.

RYAN: That’s really amazing. This is the kind of thing that probably makes a big difference to the residents. It seems like having a purpose is often missing for many of the assisted living residents I’ve met.
TERRI: Absolutely. In talking with the residents, I learned that not working and not having responsibilities was the hardest part for them. In hearing that, I came up with a list of jobs within our building and held a huge job fair for the residents. Each resident who wanted a job came down dressed up, filled out an application for the position, and was interviewed by me. This gave them a chance to tell me about their former careers and what it was like to work when they were growing up. It was wonderful. They all got the jobs they applied for — floral committee, taking statistics, welcome committee, sending get well cards, watering plants etc. I can tell you that for three years, every one of them has taken their job very seriously. We are a family here, and it takes a family to make it work. They receive $100.00 a week funny money and shop at our General Store.

TERRI: I also started the Bridging the Generations program with all the local high schools. This is ongoing for three years now. The high school kids come to Oak Park and are paired up with the residents. They do projects together, cook together, etc. We celebrate holidays with the students. I bring the residents into the high school so that students learn about the aging process. The students play their instruments for the residents and work on their science fair projects with them. The residents are truly mentors for these students. We have been recognized by the Orlando Sentinel many times for outstanding programs here. One of our greatest activities was “Biker Day” at Oak Park. A local merchant brought their Harley’s to Oak Park. Each resident dressed up in leathers with headbands and posed for pictures on the bikes. We sent pictures to the families saying “And you thought your loved one was at home knitting!” We got a huge response of laughter from all involved. It was a blast!

RYAN: (Laughs) That sounds incredible. You really owe yourself a pat on the back for such great work! Can you please send me a picture of Biker Day? That sounds awesome!
TERRI: Sure, no problem.
RYAN: So, in your opinion, how have the residents benefited from those unique activities?
TERRI: The residents feel a part of the community. They truly see that they make a difference. They are loved and respected by so many people in this community. The merchants come here to do activities with them. The local florist does flower arranging, Home Depot does workshops with them, Ritters Frozen Custard makes sundaes here, and we have a merchant that sets up a fruit stand in our lobby with fresh fruits and veggies that the residents can choose at no charge. They feel very connected. It’s not just being part of their residence, but still maintaining a sense of community. That is important factor in maintaining good emotional health.

RYAN: Very cool. How do you mix physical and cognitive activities?
TERRI: I do a lot of physical and cognitive activities. I run a cooking class. We have measuring, kneading, peeling, cutting, those are all good ways to combined both physical and cognitive. We bowl and golf both in the community and out. The residents keep the score. We play twister with word games. Scavenger hunts, walking club, following a map to the destination. Most of the activities have both components as a part of it.
RYAN: I really appreciate your spending so much time with me. I am learning so much. I have a couple more questions if that is okay?
TERRI: Sure, happy to spend the time with someone who’s so passionate about it.

RYAN: Thanks! Ok, so what would you recommend from an activities perspective to readers evaluating assisted living communities?
TERRI: I think it’s very important to ask a lot of questions. You want to make sure that there are activities going on all day that include, physical activities, crafts that include a product that the residents can take to their rooms, outings, and cognitive activities. You want your loved one to be able to make choices in his or her schedule. A big component is to find out how they will help your family member connect when they first come in to the community. “What can you do to help my mom or dad connect if they do not want to come out of their room?” You should also make sure that there are outings outside of the community and that there is community involvement consistently. If people are sitting in the lobby with no activity, chances are that is the way it will be when your loved one lives there. Look for resident participation – talk to the residents. They are the best indicators of what truly goes on in the assisted living community. They will tell you if they are active or not. Stimulation is very important. If you don’t use all your faculties, you begin to lose them. Make sure each and every part of your loved one is being challenged daily.

RYAN: Last question. Do you have any other advice for the readers?
TERRI: Take the time to look around at different communities. Talk to residents; request a report from the Department on Aging for the state survey of the community. You can request it from the community as well. They have to show it to you. That is the law. This will give you the information on any violations the community has had. It covers resident care as well as dietary issues. This is an important piece of information to have. There are agencies that are able to help with the cost of assisted living. If you are a spouse of a veteran or a veteran yourself, there are ways to receive help. Look in to all options before making your decision. Remember, this is your family member’s home. It should not have a community feel but the feel of being home.

Terri’s activities plan is not the norm, although I wish it were. However, it should serve as an example of the kinds of things available to your loved one.

Unfortunately, many assisted living communities follow our typical day example rather than the fine example Terri has described. Do not be lazy about finding a community with good activities. It is a major social and emotional outlet for your loved one.

Photo credit: visual.dichotomy

Senior Care and The Importance of Staying Physically and Mentally Active

Before Mom got sick, she was an active lady. By active, I don’t mean she walked every morning. Rather, she was involved in almost every woman’s club in town, dedicated time to fundraising and countless local charities and took a deep level of interest in her family’s lives.

I vividly recall the first community I visited. As the admissions director walked me through the amenities during the tour, I drifted thinking about whether my mom would be bored there. I asked the admissions director what their most unique activity was. She responded: “armchair exercises.”

She proudly told me about the activity and suggested that I stay 30 minutes for the start of the next session. I was intrigued, so I stayed.

Slowly a few residents arrived, most of them with the help of a community caregiver and a wheelchair. Once seated in a semi-circle, the activities coordinator began walking the residents through a number of arm and leg motions.

The concept was solid. The problem: the activities director either didn’t notice or didn’t care that the residents weren’t participating. Many residents had a scowl on the face, evidence of the fact that they did not want to be there. Others went through the motions as best they could.

I remember thinking to myself when I left the community: armchair exercise is not an activity!

The point of my story is not to be sarcastic, but rather to illustrate something important. Activities represent an important part of your loved one’s day. They should be engaging both physically and mentally.

Being physically active can prevent and help treat many of the most common chronic medical conditions associated with old age. Physical activity is one of the most important steps older adults can take to maintain physical and mental health and quality of life. Yet today, more than 60% of older adults are inactive – and this number is probably much higher for residents of assisted living communities. Many are sedentary, physically unfit, and experience disability from chronic medical conditions as they age.

Community administration and staff members hear many reasons from residents as to why they are not active:

  • It’sboring.
  • It doesn’t feel good.
  • It makes my arthritic joints hurt.
  • It takes too much time.

However, they need physical activity more today than they care to admit. In fact, without physical exercise they will continue to suffer the loss of strength and stamina.

Walking groups and physical activity programs can help residents become and remain active.

Strength training is recommended for all adults, but it is a vital link to health for older adults. The reason is that strength training prevents sarcopenia, the muscle deterioration that comes with aging, and also helps maintain bone mass. “Stronger people have better health outcomes,” noted Dr. David Buchner, Chief of CDC’s Physical Activity and Health Branch and renowned Gerontologist. However, some elderly people avoid physical activity and become sedentary out of fear of falling and fracturing a bone. Dr. Buchner added that emerging data indicate that physical activity can prevent falls by improving strength, balance, and endurance.

Keeping Young at Heart aerobic activity, which is cardiorespiratory or cardiovascular endurance activity, is also important. It keeps the heart strong, lowers blood pressure, and relieves anxiety and depression. Even when the activities in a program such as this one are too strenuous, older adults can obtain significant health benefits with moderate physical activity, such as walking or gardening.

“We need to make physical activity part of the daily routine for older adults,” said Dr. Buchner. To that end, you should search for a community that has an active, diverse fitness program. Or, should the community you select have less-than-desirable physical activity programs, become instrumental in developing them.

What about Mental Fitness?

A large-scale study of women aged 65 and older found that cognitive decline was least common in those who were most physically active, while a large-scale study of men aged 71 and older found that those who walked less than a quarter of a mile a day were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those who walked more than two miles a day.

Basically then, aerobic exercise appears to improve higher cognitive functions (planning, organization and working memory) in the elderly. Another way physical training may help cognitive function in the elderly is by increasing their confidence in their abilities.

A small 14-day study found that those following a memory improvement plan that included memory training, a healthy diet, physical exercise, and stress reduction, showed a better performance on a cognitive measure controlled by this brain region, and participants reported that they felt their memory had improved.

The memory training involved doing brainteasers, crossword puzzles and memory exercises. Diet involved eating 5 small meals daily (to prevent fluctuations in blood glucose levels) that were rich in omega-3 fats, low-glycemic index carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains) and anti-oxidants. Physical exercise involved brisk walking and stretching, and stress reduction involved stretching and relaxation exercises.

Photo credit: brad montgomery

Assistive Technology Like Microsoft Health Vault Improved Quality of Life

Assistive technology (AT) is defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. It can be almost no-tech items like canes, dressing sticks, effortless can openers, or low-tech, like rolling walkers, walk-in bathtubs, height-adjustable kitchen countertops for wheelchairs, automatic shut-off faucets and stoves,  etc. Examples of high-tech items include: voice activated microwaves, stair-lift chairs, stair-climbing wheelchairs, smart home monitoring systems, remote health monitoring machines, or robot-nurses.

Assistive Technology Improves Quality of Life

Assistive Technology helps seniors maintain their efficacy, independence, and a sense of control over their lives. Assistive Technology is not a new concept, walking aids like the cane or wheelchair have been around for centuries; but there is an enormous need for new and innovative products that improve the quality of life the aging population. Assistive technology can make up for the shrinking number of caregivers and the skyrocketing institutional care costs. The number of adult caregivers for each person needing care is shrinking thus we need assistive technology to supplement personal care. In 1990 there were 11 caregivers for every 1 older adult. By 2050, the ratio of caregivers to older adults will be one to one. Assistive technology prolongs aging in place thus curbing institutional care costs that can cost about 70,000 a year.

Microsoft Health Vault: An Online Database of Personal Health Records.

Microsoft Health Vault is an emerging technology which empowers consumers to control their personal health records. This technology allows consumers to organize and store their health information in one place, to access their health records whenever and wherever they want to (which is particularly useful in an emergency), and to learn from data to help them make informed decisions. Microsoft HealthVault is free to consumers and it has compatible remote monitoring devices, such as blood pressure monitor, glucose meter, pedometer, and weight scale. These tools allow consumers to upload vital sign data to HealthVault to share with caregivers and care providers.

For more information please visit   www.healthvault.com

If looking for an assistive device for you or a loved one, AssistiveTech.net is a website that finds and compares over 22,000 assistive devices and links people to vendors’ websites to purchase merchandize. Simply go to www.assistivetech.net

Note: The previous definitions and statistics were provided by personal correspondence with Dr Echo Chang lead researcher of the first Microsoft HealthVault study at California State University, Fullerton.

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder of Inside Elder Care and author of the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living. He regularly speaks and advises families about how to improve their aging loved one’s quality of life. Ryan is also the president of SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency that helps companies increase leads, customers and influence. You can read more from Ryan on the SmartBug Media blog or follow him on Twitter.

6 Senior Care Consumer Advocacy Groups To Know

There are many consumer advocacy groups both on a state and national level whose mission is to protect the rights and benefits of seniors or anyone who requires long-term care.  They are:

Health Information, Counseling, and Advocacy Program (HICAP): An independent resource established by the California Department of Aging that provides free counseling and advice about Medicare and healthcare insurance options to senior citizens.  To find counseling services in your area go to: www.cahealthadvocates.org/HICAP/

The Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living (CCAL): A national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of assisted living patients, their families and their caregivers. CCAL assists consumers with education about their choices for assisted living environments.  www.ccal.org

American Health Care Association (AHCA): The nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers.  They advocate for quality care and services for frail, elderly and disabled Americans. Their mission is to improve service and administration of nursing homes. www.ahcancal.org

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR): A statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy organization, is committed to improving the choices, care and quality of life for long term care patients. Their mission is to educate and support consumers and advocates regarding their legal rights and be a voice long term care reform and humane alternatives to institutionalization.  www.canhr.org/

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care (NCCNHR):  Formerly the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, NCCNHR is a national nonprofit organization of consumers and advocates dedicated to improving care for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.  www.nccnhr.org/

Long-Term Care Ombudsman: An ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. They provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system. To locate state agencies and citizen advocacy groups by state:  http://www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman

To find additional U.S. government information regarding senior consumers, go to http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors/Consumer.shtml

Photo credit: ktylerconk

How to Background Check Your Home Care Provider

Whether you are a family member trying to choose the right home care company for your loved one, or you are a provider interviewing potential applicants, background checking is critical.

Eldercare abuse comes in many forms: financial, emotional and physical.  Being proactive about the selecting a home care provider can help you avoid worry, heartache and financial and potential legal action.

Example: Check-Cashing Fraud

Within months of hiring an in-home caregiver for her two aging parents, a woman in San Diego was notified by the Sheriff’s Department that the caregiver had opened 30 credit card accounts in the parent’s name and purchased three vehicles worth $50,000 with those credit cards. In addition, the caregiver had also convinced the elderly couple to provide her with power of attorney and then managed to have them sign over ownership of their house, valued at $650,000.  Further investigation of the individual revealed she had prior convictions for check-cashing fraud 10 years ago.  However, the background check only covered the prior 7 years of criminal history.

Knowing your home care provider does background checks is just the beginning. Not all background checks are the same and not all companies exclude potentially dangerous applicants based on the same criteria.

Questions to Ask Your Home Care Provider

  • How many years back in the person’s history does the check cover?
  • Does the check reflect both criminal and civil records?
  • Does the company check licensing status across state jurisdictions?
  • Are credit reports run?
  • Are Department of Motor Vehicles records obtained?
  • Are gaps in employment history verified?
  • Do they make the phone calls to references or are they outsourced?
  • Is evidence of education provided and confirmed?
  • What criteria does the company use to deny employment?  What offenses are tolerated?

Choose the provider with the most stringent background checking protocol.  If the provider cannot answer these questions, find another provider.

New Federal Database of Dangerous Caregivers

More than two decades ago, Congress demanded that a national database be available for hospitals to check for disciplinary actions taken throughout the country against nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and other licensed health professionals.   The database became available as of March 1st but there is some skepticism regarding the thoroughness and accuracy of the records.  When the information on this federal list was compared to the individual state records, they did not match up.  The reason for this inconsistency is due to the fact that some states filed incomplete records.

Although both the state and federal agencies continue to push for strong regulations of home care providers, you need to take an active role in making sure the right questions are being asked and the screening process is up to your standards.

Photo: ivers

What to Look for in Staff Training Part 4: Consumer Questions

QuestionnaireBRING THIS QUESTIONNAIRE TO YOUR NEXT ELDERCARE FACILITY TOUR

  1. How does the staff interact with the residents?   Is there an overall climate of respect?
  2. Does the staff look content?   Are they rushed or irritated?
  3. Do they address the residents by their names?   Calling an elder “honey” or “sweetie” is not acceptable, unless that is the resident’s preferred nickname.
  4. How much training has the staff received?   Ask to see the training logs.  Do they have some measure of competency showing that not only did staff attend a training session, they actually understood the material?   Pressure ulcer prevention, elder abuse education and dementia care are essentials that all staff should master.
  5. How is training delivered?  Is it lecture or computer-based “PowerPoint”?  Is there a hands-on or a multimedia computer program that brings life to the training sessions?
  6. What is the staff turnover rate in the facility?   Is it more than 30% per year?  More than 50%?  How does this compare to other facilities in the region?
  7. Is there potential for good employees to move up the ladder?  How does good work get rewarded?

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