Outdoor Activities for Senior Citizens

Get Up and Get Out: Ways senior citizens can take advantage of the warm weather

The end of summer is drawing near, so now is the time to get outside and soak up every last ray of sunshine. Who wants to sit cooped up inside all day when the weather outside is gorgeous? Take advantage of the warm temperatures now by getting outside and participating in a fun outdoor activity or by bringing one of your favorite indoor activities out into the fresh air. Here are some outdoor activities for the elderly who are still young at heart!

Enjoy classic games. Find a table or grab a blanket and play cards, checkers or a board game with friends or family. Bring out your competitive side and round up a friendly game of shuffleboard. Pick a partner to play with or cheer on your friends. Make a tournament out of it to really up the ante and become the shuffleboard champion. Gather your friends or family members and create a scavenger hunt for everyone. Come up with a fun theme, split into teams and keep it around the property or make it throughout your senior living facility.

Get out and garden. Put your green thumb to use and do some gardening. Whether your planting your favorite flowers or vegetables, it’s a great activity to get you moving and with a beautiful or tasteful result.

Stretch it out. Grab a yoga mat and get some exercise with outdoor yoga.  There are special programs designed specifically for senior citizens and it is a great way to relax, stretch and meditate. Yoga is a simple way to get moving and give your body and mind some extra love.

Take a walk around the block. A nice stroll can lift moods and reenergize spirits. Take in the scenery and travel down a path you haven’t been down before. Maybe you’ll discover something new while getting your heart rate pumping.

Soak up the sun. Find different ways to spend more time outside. Listen to live music if there is a band playing nearby. Some parks feature outdoor concert series in the summertime so be sure to check if there any happening locally. Lay out a blanket in an open area, pack a few sandwiches and snacks and have a picnic. Enjoy an al fresco dining experience with friends or family in a nostalgic way.

Get inspired by nature. Bring out your inner artist and paint a canvas outdoors. Paint the scenery or see if a class is offered where you could follow a template or copy an image. Crafting is also another option for the outdoors. Paint a beautiful scenery or draw your own creation. Use of color has been linked to improving those who suffer from dementia, so don’t hold back on the bright paints and markers!

As long as the sun is shining, the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless. The activity may need to be determined by your health or mobility, but there are surely plenty of options for everyone. Not only are there physical benefits of being outside but there are mental ones as well. Remember to always stay hydrated while participating in any outdoor activity and if the temperatures are too hot, it may be best to stay inside. While the weather’s still nice, get up, get out and get moving!

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Oakland Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Oakland, NJ.

Safe, Easy Gardening Tips and Tools for Seniors

As a senior citizen, you know how important is to remain active. Being able to go outside to enjoy the fresh air is a great feeling, and a great way to get your daily dose of the great outdoors is gardening. Gardening has many unexpected health benefits and has been known to relieve stress, act as a moderate form of exercise, and even help to cope with depression! While it has a number of great benefits, tending to a garden can put a lot of stress on the body, particularly as we age. Thankfully, there are a lot of great tools and gadgets that make gardening a safe and fun activity for people of all ages!

Tips:

  • Choose plants wisely. Choosing plants that are easy to maintain and able to withstand a variety of conditions is essential for an easy gardening experience. This ultimately makes gardening less strenuous overall. Plants that require the least amount of attention and maintenance include French Lavender, which is a beautiful, fragrant, and low maintenance plant that doesn’t require much water.
  • Use perennials instead of annuals. Planting perennials is recommended because you won’t have to worry about planting more of the same plant each year. If they are properly cared for throughout the season, they will grow back the following year.
  • Think about timing. Timing is important when it comes to gardening. Work early in the morning or later in the evening because these times tend to be cooler and you’ll avoid the harsh summer heat. Also make sure to work in shade as much as possible during a sunny day, and take breaks as you feel necessary to prevent overheating.
  • Garden small. For a more manageable project, try container gardening, which is essentially planting into a pot or a container of your choice. This is beneficial for the elderly especially because the garden can be placed virtually anywhere, and easily accessible at all times. Remember to use light weight containers for extra-easy handling.

Tools:

  • Small Seat. Use a stool or a chair that will save your legs from having to squat down and plant.
  • Tape Seed. This handy tape is made from biodegradable paper and contains seeds that are already perfectly spaced out, saving you time and energy.
  • Marked Tools. Make the handles of each gardening tool stand out from each other for easy identification. Wrapping colored tape around them is an easy solution.
  • Handle Grips. Use tools that are lightweight with longer handles that have some sort of grip to them. This will help prevent arm, shoulder, and back injuries and make use easier for those with arthritis.
  • Garden Caddy. Using a garden caddy with wheels makes it easier to store tools and transport them from one area to another. Make sure the caddy is lightweight and easy to carry or push through grass and dirt.
  • Watering Gear. Use a hose to water your plants to avoid carrying around a heavy watering can, which can cause injury to the back, arms and shoulders. Find a hose head that has a number of settings to make watering as simple as possible.

Whether in a backyard or window boxes at a nursing home, senior citizens of all walks of life can take part in the activity of gardening this season safely and effectively. Always remember to know your limit and stop when you get tired, but most of all, have fun and enjoy all the benefits of gardening!

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for West Gate Hills Rehab, a Baltimore, MD nursing home and senior care center.

Senior Living Spring Activities

When the winter weather finally breaks and those first signs of spring begin to show, everybody wants to be outside.  Many senior citizens are confined to staying indoors during the harsh winter months due to the potential dangers posed by the extreme weather conditions, and once the sun starts shining, some fresh air is exactly what they need. Below are a list of some fun activities seniors can take part in this spring!

  • Take a walk. Stroll around the block and take in the scenery. Studies have shown that even ten minutes of walking a day can help senior citizens maintain their strength and agility. Walking, along with various other types of physical activity, gets the blood pumping through the body and helps oxygen flow to the brain. Take a stroll this spring, and don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way!
  • Go to a sporting event. Whether it’s catching a Major League Baseball game or a grandchild’s soccer match, a sporting event can energize anyone. Attending a game also means time to socialize, which is great for senior citizens who have been stuck inside most of the winter.
  • Have a picnic. Enjoying a meal outdoors is a nice change of scene when the weather’s appropriate. Make a plan with the family and have lunch outdoors. Enjoy watching the grandkids play and catching up with your children. If hosting a picnic seems like too much, plan a day out with your closest friends to a restaurant with outdoor seating. You’ll still be enjoying the outdoors but without all the work!
  • Start a garden. The responsibility of maintaining the plants will keep you outside all season long! Plant some colorful flowers and watch them bloom, or try your hand at growing some vegetables. Once they’ve matured, you can use them in your cooking and share them with friends and loved ones.
  • Do some exercise. Many people think that senior citizens should avoid physical activity to help prevent injury. There are a lot of misconceptions revolving around this issue, but the fact of the matter is that senior citizens need exercise just as much as anyone else! When the weather’s nice enough, go for a swim or participate in an outdoor fitness class, like yoga for seniors. It’s especially important to stay physically active in your later years so that your body will remain functioning. As the old adage goes, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!
  • Play a game. Bring a board game or a deck of cards outside and challenge a friend or family member. Engaging your brain will help keep you sharp. If board games aren’t in your wheelhouse, try participating in some friendly shuffleboard or tennis. Playing a sport can even double as your physical activity for the day.
  • Take a field trip. Whether you head out to a local tourist spot or to your favorite diner for a bite to eat, the spring weather is perfect to travel in. Visit a local park to take in the scenery and get your legs moving. Visit a museum to experience the arts,  or attend an outdoor concert with your family. The caregivers at senior homes across the country recommend checking with your local visiting center or the activities board at your senior care facility to see what’s currently happening in your town.

Being outside is a natural stress reliever and always brings an increased sense of vitality and energy for seniors. With the season’s shifting, longer periods of daylight, and warmer weather ahead, seniors and their families can enjoy the great outdoors these fun spring activities!

About The Author

Ruthie Folger Weiss loves writing for Signature Senior Living, an elder care community in Brooklyn, NYC.

Traveling Tips for Seniors

Seeing the wonders of the world and exploring little known hamlets and villages ranks high on most people’s to-do lists. As a senior, you have more time than most, but you will also face a few additional challenges even as you engage in all kinds of fun activities. But there’s no need for these challenges to keep you from your dreams of travel and exploration. Whether you want to travel abroad during the holidays, meet up with family in faraway places or are just stopping in for a visit, these tips can help you make the most of your travel time.

Set Up a Designated Travel Account

Identity theft and pickpocketing are both big problems for travelers, regardless of where you are. You can get special protective plans that will provide you with the coverage that you need as well as a number of helpful monitoring services. The catch to this, though, is that these services are typically on a per card basis, and they can quickly add up. According to USA Today, protection for a single card could cost anywhere $10 – $30 a month, depending on the package that you choose. However, if you use multiple cards, the costs for protecting each one can pile up and the service may become less effective. Instead, make sure that you have a Mastercard or Visa, or another card that will be accepted at most locations. Opt for extra protection on this card, and only carry it when you travel. You should also carry a small amount of cash to help you in an emergency. Just make sure that you carry it in a separate location from your credit card.

Be Prepared

A number of challenges that come from traveling as a senior revolve around increased medical and special needs. Even if you aren’t planning on more than a day trip, you’ll want to make sure that you have everything that you might need, particularly when it’s necessary for your health. For medications, make sure that you carry a full period’s dosage for however long you are going to be gone plus one more. For oxygen tanks, you can purchase a portable oxygen concentrator to allow you greater mobility.

Always Call Ahead

Traveling with a scooter or any other form of mobility assistance adds a few challenges of its own. Increased security, as well as other procedures for getting in and out of secure locations, can easily add hours onto your travel plans. Rather than risk missing the train or plane, find out in advance what security needs from you and what you can do to make it as quick as possible. Also bear in mind that, depending on where you’re traveling, the facilities you are using may not actually have room for scooters, wheelchairs and the like. Since these tickets are often nonrefundable, you need to make sure that they can accommodate you before you hand over your money.

Never Leave Without Travel Insurance

Even when you’re trying to cut costs in other ways, travel insurance is the one thing you don’t want to go without. You will probably have an item or two that you have to take with you and that is quite valuable. Travel insurance policies protect your belongings and even you in your travels. In some cases, you can even obtain travel insurance that will cover medical and health

expenses. Remember that most health insurance policies are often limited to the United States or have significantly longer claims processes for medical emergencies overseas. Travel insurance is designed to provide you with the emergency funds you need as you need them and to get you through.

Consider a Home Rental Agreement for Your Tour

Staying in hotels can be quite expensive, and that cost can decrease the amount of time that you have to spend with your loved ones. One of the ways that you can help save yourself money is to rent a house during your time. You’ll want to follow the same evaluation on these rental houses as you would on a regular one, even though you’ll only be staying for a week or so at a time. The added benefit of renting a home for your vacation is the fact that you will have greater flexibility and adaptability in your living. You can even store the Christmas presents that you might be bringing for your friends and family in the extra space you’ll have.

Hire a Travel Assistant

Caregivers are best known for assisting people at home, but you can also sometimes hire them to come with you on your travels. In some cases, the ideal person might be a family member or a younger friend. But you may feel more comfortable hiring someone to handle the travel arrangements, help you carry the equipment, and so on. If you have more advanced medical needs, then you will want to hire someone with sufficient medical skills to assist you. Finding such an individual is often best done by contacting your travel insurance agency, and this may even be covered in a senior-specific travel plan. Bear in mind that such coverage will significantly increase the premium, though.

Have a Doctor’s Name for Every Location You Will Be Staying In

You never know when you might need a doctor, and there are few things more terrifying than being in a foreign country or a strange place, getting sick, and not knowing who to call. Before you travel, get a list of names of doctors written down on paper, including phone numbers and addresses. Coordinate these with doctors or hospitals listed on your travel insurance or health insurance if possible. This way, if something happens, you have the information you need.

Traveling is a wonderful way to spend time, whether with family or during the holidays. You’ll want to make sure that you are adequately prepared for the trip. Making the proper preparations is essential for getting the most out of your trip. Just make sure that you’re safe. Few things ruin a vacation or trip abroad more than sickness or injury.

About the Author

Scott Ridl has been with Oxygen Concentrator Store since 2008 and is passionate about topics relating oxygen and oxygen therapy. He enjoys sharing his knowledge about oxygen to help educate patients on the options they have.

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

3 At-A-Glance Guides for Assisted Living

There are many details involved in choosing an assisted living facility that will work for your loved one. The process involves navigating the terminology and verbiage of health insurance policies and also figuring out what a day-in-the-life would be like at a facility.

Here are three at-a-glance guides to help illustrate what long term care insurance is, clarify key insurance terms and show what a typical day at an assisted living facility should look like.

1. Long Term Care Insurance

You may hear a lot about long term care insurance, but how do you know if it is the right choice for your family? Below we’ll outline the target market indicators for long term care insurance, to help give you a better sense if these types of policies would be a good fit for you.

Who needs long term care insurance?

  • People who have assets they want to protect
  • People who want to maintain their financial independence.
  • People who are concerned about having a choice in the quality of care they will receive in the future.
  • The average age of people who buy long- term care insurance is about 65.
  • Married people with assets of above $100,000 (not including a house).
  • Single people with assets above $ 50,000. Otherwise a client would probably deplete their assets before the insurance kicks in, making them eligible for Medicaid.
  • Since women live longer then men,they have a greater chance of ending up in a nursing home. According to a 1997 study by the Health Insurance Association of America, half of all women who live to age 65 will need a nursing home at least once during their life, compared to about one- third of men.

2. Key Health Insurance Terms

Insurance is a major factor in today’s eldercare system. I advise you to contact an insurance advisor who specializes in working with older adults and their families. Here are some basic terms you’ll need to be familiar with:

  • Medicare: A federally-funded health program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. It is available to all Americans over the age of 65. It is made up of two parts.
  • Part A: This is available to everyone, and covers inpatient care and some aspects of in-home care.
  • Part B: This is optional and requires a monthly premium. It covers many outpatient services.
    Both Part A and B include deductibles and co- payments, and exclude certain services. You may choose to purchase Medigap insurance to cover the “gaps” in coverage by Medicare.
  • Medicaid: This is also known as Medical Assistance, and covers health care services for low-income Americans. Funded by federal, state and local governments; this program requires that applicants meet stringent income and asset requirements. While it covers some inpatient services in hospitals or certified institutions, it rarely covers in-home care.
  • Secondary Insurance: Purchased privately, these policies do not cover long-term health care costs, and rarely cover long-term in-home care. This insurance is designed to supplement Medicare.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Such a policy covers both in-home and residential services (including nursing homes) over an extended period of time. Often prohibitively expensive.

3.  A Typical Assisted Living Schedule

When you begin to tour assisted living communities, pay attention to the daily schedule of activities, as physical and mental stimulation will help keep your loved one happy and well.

Planned correctly, activities will become the cherished part of your loved one’s day. To set our frame of reference, let’s look at a typical assisted living day from the perspective of the resident:

  • 6:45 – 7:30am: Have breakfast and receive assistance for a shower from the aide that I’m already comfortable with
  • 7:30 – 9:00am: Make my way down to breakfast. An aide will assisted me to the dining room if necessary, and the medication technician will provide my medications for the day.
  • 9:30 – 10:30am: Morning exercises in the activity room include some stretches, leg lifts and rubber band exercises.
  • 10:30 – 11:30am: Choice of a scenic drive or reading a book by the fireplace. If I take the scenic drive, the van will be wheelchair-accessible.
  • 11:30 – 1:00pm: Lunch and return to my apartment to rest for a while.
  • 2:30 – 4:30pm: Different things happen on different days. During a week, I’ll usually see education presentation, musical performances or craft demonstrations. Nothing is required if I am tired.
  • 4:30 – 6:00pm: Dinner.
  • 6:00 – Bedtime: Evenings can bring visits from family and friends, outings in the community van, or quiet time at home.

Photo Credit: Jan Krömer

Seniors and Caregivers Connect Online

There’s a pervasive notion out there that older people can’t, or don’t want to, use computers.  Facebook fan pages like I Hate Teaching Old People How To Use Computers, boasting over 200 members, Yahoo! chat forums, the Lifestyle section of some newspapers and guests at cocktail parties can all be counted on for stories of someone’s mother/grandfather/elderly neighbor messing up when it comes to computers and getting online.  These anecdotes spread and grow and eventually morph into a general perception that seniors and technology don’t mix.  The reality, however, isn’t so clear-cut.

Given the opportunity, seniors can and will use computer technology in much the same way their younger counterparts do.  A 2004 study, for example, found that older US Web users do product research (66%), purchase goods (47%), make travel reservations (41%), visit government Web sites (100%), look up religious and spiritual information (26%) and do online banking (20%).

What does set older and younger computer users apart, however, is their ability to get-online in the first place.  Seniors are much more likely to be grappling with vision loss, hearing loss, cognitive impairment and diminished motor skills, all of which create barriers to getting online.

Why Is It So Important That Seniors Get Online?

When Cora McCune’s husband passed away, her family became worried about her being on her own.  Phone conversations were beginning to get difficult for Cora yet her children needed an easy way to check in with her everyday.  The solution was to set Cora up with a computer and email account.

Connected individuals are healthier and happier than their non-Internet using counterparts.  The evidence is compelling.  Those who connect with family, friends and the wider community via email and the Internet are less likely to suffer from depression.  Age-related dementia can be slowed, and possibly reversed, when seniors take advantage of computer-based brain-fitness games.  Self-esteem goes up when individuals learn something new.  And some studies suggest that those who take advantage of what the Internet has to offer stay independent longer.  The list goes on and on.

Cora’s computer became her link to the outside world.  It was both a source of entertainment and communication.  When Cora wasn’t using it to play games, do puzzles or read the online version of the local paper, she was emailing her children and grandchildren.  And her grandchildren, who were more comfortable connecting online than picking up the phone, emailed back.  Cora’s computer was like a friend in her room.

Caregivers Benefit When Their Loved One Is Online

Cora’s daughter Sheila was a two-hour drive from her mom.  Being able to check in with her mom every day, even when she couldn’t physically be there, was a godsend.  Being able to videophone her mom using Skype™ technology was especially useful.  “It let me monitor the room,” says Sheila.  “I can listen in, for example, when the TV repair man visits.  And there’s something more intimate about being able to see her.  It’s one thing to talk to someone but being able to actually see how they look is even better.”

There’s also an economic benefit.  In a May 2010 study done by Volunteers of America, 48% of women surveyed say the recent economic downturn has made it harder for them to care for loved ones.   And nearly 80% of those same women believe people should receive paid leave-of-absence to care for an elderly family member.  In Canada, individuals providing four hours or more of care per week were more likely to reduce their work hours, change their work patterns or turn down a job offer or promotion. (From Balancing Career and Care.)

While email, video phone and Internet connections are no substitute for personal interaction, they can provide a cushion that allows caregivers to keep working a little longer while still caring for aging parents.

About the author: Karen Hamilton is a writer and blogger with PointerWare Innovations Ltd. PointerWare is an easy to use computer platform that helps anyone get online and stay connected with family and the wider world. Using PointerWare, anyone can send email messages to loved ones, play brain-fitness games, organize photos and see and talk to their children and grandchildren with voice and video conferencing.  For more information, visit their website at www.PointerWare.com

Assisted Living Senior Prom: Behind the Scenes

On February 26, the high school students at Ocoee High School and East Ridge high school made the senior residents at Oak Park’s dream of having a ” Senior Prom” come true.

Every resident had a prom date from the high school. The residents were picked up at 5:30 p.m at their apartments, pinned with corsages and escorted to the photographer where prom pictures of the couples were taken. Following the photos the residents were escorted to the lobby where DJ Larry spun the tunes for the evening. I would like to share with you some of the ” behind-the-scenes-secrets” prior to and following the prom. [Read more...]