Holding a Family Caregiver Meeting
Holding a Family Caregiving Meeting
A family caregiving meeting is an essential tool when dealing with the care of an aging loved one. These meetings are beneficial for helping to keep all family members abreast of decisions that need to be made, changes in diagnosis or prognosis, and helps to ensure that all family members feel that they have a voice. Family meetings can also help to keep caregiving responsibilities from falling solely on the shoulders of one family member. In addition, family caregiving meetings can foster cooperation among family members and lessen the stress associated with caring for an aging loved one.
Who should attend a family caregiving meeting?
There are a number of people who should be included in a family caregiving meeting. First and foremost, it is important to include the aging loved one in the meeting whenever possible. This helps the aging loved one to feel that they are being heard and that their opinions and thoughts are being considered. If a spouse is living, the spouse should be included, as well as any children and possibly siblings of the aging person. Some families may choose to include other family members, but this really varies from one family to another. Anyone else involved in care for the person should also be there. This could include paid caregivers, family friends, or neighbors. Depending on family dynamics, a facilitator can be helpful in running the meeting.
When should a family have a caregiving meeting?
First it is important to note that family caregiving meetings are not a one and done event. They must occur on a regular basis. The first family meeting can occur before an aging loved one actually needs care. This can give the person who may eventually need care more say in their future care, but often times this does not occur. Most families find that the initial meeting needs to occur when an aging loved when begins to show signs of needing care or when a diagnosis is given that determines care will soon be needed. In addition, meetings should be scheduled regular to discuss changes in diagnosis, prognosis, or general needs of the loved one or the caregivers.
How can a family hold a successful caregiving meeting?
The key to having a successful caregiving meeting is cooperation. This doesn’t mean that family members will agree on everything, but it is important that all family members are respectfully heard and considered. Families must be willing to compromise and seek the best plan for their aging loved one. Additionally, a smoothly run meeting should have an agenda and families should try to stay focused on the items included on the agenda. When holding a meeting, always put things in writing and be sure that all those involved get a copy of the important information and everyone’s responsibilities.
What challenges do families face in caregiving meetings?
One of the biggest challenges to family caregiving meetings is the family’s history. All families have their own dynamics that can cause problems in a caregiving meeting. There may be members of the family who are at odds with one another. This can become an obstacle to having a successful caregiving meeting. The role that each family member plays can be a challenge. Some members may be overbearing and demand control, while others are peacemakers and do not feel free to share their thoughts. Another challenge is that some family members may be in denial of the severity of an aging loved one’s needs. This may make it difficult to get a consensus for care.
Family caregiving meetings are beneficial and necessary when an aging loved one can no longer care for themselves. These meetings can help to divide the responsibilities of caregiving and reduce stress placed on the family members. It is important that families remember that the meetings are for the care of their loved one and cooperate with one another to help the process to run more smoothly and successfully.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Will Social Security and Medicare Programs Run Out of Money?
Will Social Security and Medicare Programs Run Out of Money?
According to the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), every single day 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 years old. The deluge of aging Americans and the increase in longevity in the already 65 plus population are the main reasons why the Social Security and Medicare programs are expected to have financial insolvency issues in the coming decades. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of baby boomers agree that it is critical to preserve Social Security benefits even if it requires an increase in taxes paid into the system by working Americans. Payroll taxes by far account for the majority of monies available to pay for social security benefits.
The boomer generation is keen to preserve social security benefits as many of them are not well prepared for retirement. The financial retirement picture for nearly half of the younger boomers (ages 55 – 64) is bleak with reportedly no retirement savings at all. The US government is also unprepared to sustain full benefit payments. By the Social Security Administration’s admission in 2034, the program will run out of reserves at which time benefits would have to be reduced by 25% unless the government can fix the programs long-term funding shortfall.
This same group of unprepared boomers also appears to have uncertainty as to how much of their income health care costs are projected to absorb. Health View Services states “HealthView Services’ Retirement Healthcare Cost Index, which calculates the percentage of Social Security benefits required to address total lifetime retirement healthcare expenses, reveals the impact of expected healthcare costs on retirement budgets. The index shows a healthy 66-year-old couple retiring today will need 48% of their lifetime Social Security benefits to address total lifetime healthcare expenses.” Additionally, about half of baby boomers believe Medicare will cover the cost of long-term care, but that is not the case.
How federal government institutions face the challenge of covering the costs of social insurances like Social Security benefits and Medicare costs to a burgeoning boomer population will determine whether many citizens will be able to age successfully. Beyond the more significant problem of funding these social programs, the government is looking to technology to cut costs for senior care. Virtual assisted living that can help families care for older adults and smart devices appear to be some of the technological saviors for the American baby boomer population.
Joseph Coughlin, Ph.D., director of the MIT AgeLab in Cambridge, MA, and others testify before the Senate Special Committee on Aging as debate about policy and program funding for American seniors can no longer be put off. Coughlin recommends that virtual reality (VR) become a standard device among senior living communities, assisted living and nursing homes. Not only did residents engaging with VR have fun, but there is also less depression and more engagement in active conversations with other residents as a by-product of the technology.
Other technologies on display include smartphone apps with health functions, smart glasses that can help prevent accidental falls for seniors with limited eyesight, and a pen that can help people with reduced vision identify items. Using these and other tech devices can create a better aging experience and reduce the need for hospitalization for many seniors. Technology provides a net benefit for programs like Medicare that routinely pay for hospitalization costs that include injuries due to falling, reactions from incorrect prescription dosages, and other emergent care needs that can be avoided with practical technology applications.
While no one can discount the importance of funding social programs that benefit aging Americans, applications of specific technologies for seniors can reduce overall costs associated with the baby boomer generation. As the federal government begins to tackle the issues at hand for seniors, there is a lesson to be learned. Putting off planning for or relying on some other entity to solve retirement and health care issues is a dangerous proposition. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Security and funding uncertainty
Social Security and Funding Uncertainty
Social Security benefits, which are funded through 2 trusts, may not be available for much longer. The US Social Security Administrations funding trusts are known as the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. In their annual report to Congress, the Board of Trustees has published some startling detail about projected insolvency for the Social Security Program. As reported, short term results indicate that beginning in 2020 and all subsequent years after; the program cost will exceed non-interest income. Because the OASI Trust has no authority to borrow money, asset spending will have to occur to cover the costs of social security benefits and deplete the reserves of both OASI and DI trusts. Considering each trust separately, the funds for the OASI Trust will be exhausted by the year 2034 and the DI Trust by 2052.
If you are 50 years of age or older and have worked, you have been participating in the funding of the Social Security Program for decades expecting protection against economic hardships that sometimes happen in retirement; protection promised to you by the federal government. The current actuarial status means that without significant changes to the OASI Trust, funding for your scheduled benefits is at risk of being reduced or possibly not there at all by 2034. It is a stunning admission by the Trustees of the unsustainability of a federally managed program handling your retirement money.
Many economists have likened social security to a Ponzi scheme, and now that the bulk of the population (baby boomers) are receiving benefits with fewer and fewer participants in younger generations paying into the system the entire program is in jeopardy. Increasing numbers of retirees, increasing longevity, and a shrinking workforce leaves the yearly intake of monies (receipts) and accrued interest less than the outlays to cover scheduled benefits. The law of large numbers works well until the pool of paying participants shrinks.
The current report suggests at the time of depletion of the combined trust reserves the Social Security Administration will be unable to pay scheduled benefits in full and on time in 2035. There is a suggestion in this report that it will suffice to pay between 77 to 80 percent of scheduled social security benefits. Legislative action is required to stop reserve depletion and preserve full payment of scheduled benefits to retiring and already retired Americans who have faithfully paid into the system. There is not a lot of time to get the fix in place because of the scale of the monies involved. Future beneficiaries may have a benefit reduction as a possible strategy to help shore up the program. Raising the rate of payroll taxes that both workers and employers have to pay is also a potential strategy. All of these proposed solutions are not likely to make voters happy since the essence of the fix is for the American taxpayer to receive less and pay more. Currently, the political gridlock in Congress does not give much hope that the social security benefit funding problem it will be quickly resolved.
In the event the OASI Trust becomes insolvent how will that affect your retirement plan? Very soon the federal government will have to take action and make significant changes so that Social Security Administration can continue benefit payments in full. Knowing that the government historically privatizes gains and socializes losses the brunt of the financial burden may well fall to individual Americans.
We help families prepare for retirement, and the possibility of needing long term care. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out by calling us a 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
A simple blood test can check for Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms emerge
A simple blood test can check for Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms emerge
Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent among aging Americans, and there are more aging Americans than ever before. Alzheimer’s disease has three typical biomarkers: plaques of beta-amyloid protein, tangles of tau protein, and loss of connections in the synapses that communicate information between brain cells. Now a simple blood test may be able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s years before any symptoms, like memory and thinking decline, become apparent. The test involves the identification of changes in levels of NfL a neurofilament light chain protein found in the brain. This protein is part of the internal skeleton and resides inside neurons and brain cells, but when damaged or dying NfL leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), it becomes circulated into the bloodstream. CSF provides essential mechanical and immunological protection to the brain inside of the skull.
Prior testing to determine elevated levels of NfL in the cerebrospinal fluid involved a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap which is a procedure many people are reluctant to undergo. Still, this raised level of NfL is a reliable indicator that brain damage has occurred and that the person is at an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s pre-symptomatic stages. Testing of NfL “…could be,” says co-first study author Stephanie A. Schultz, who is a graduate student at Washington University, “a good preclinical biomarker to identify those who will go on to develop clinical symptoms.”
Recent data from the National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s disease fact sheet estimates Alzheimer’s may rank as the third leading cause of death for older people following heart disease and cancer. It is also the most common form of dementia among seniors aged 65 or more. A simple blood test can detect the future state of you and Alzheimer’s but do you want to know? Currently, there is no cure for the disease, and depending on the levels of optimism an individual displays, knowing their NfL status could be a blessing or a curse.
The blood test gives pre-diagnosis years ahead of the onset of symptoms. There is a percentage of seniors who would find this information disheartening and feel burdensome and full of worry for what is about to come. These individuals can receive protection from knowing at their request if the information would make them fearful and angst-ridden. Other seniors might want to have a pre-diagnosis to relish the time that they have left with full faculties. They may want to get their affairs in order, handling day to day living choices and extension of life choices when they are no longer mentally competent to do so. Many components divide the two camps of thought; wanting or not wanting to know. Family structure, faith, financial independence, education level, and general health and well-being typically play a factor in the decision.
What of the family who may want or may need to know of the future advent of Alzheimer’s to plan for the care of their spouse or parent? As a spouse and as a child, it is crucial that medical directives be in place for when their loved one can no longer make a sound decision but can be comforted by the fact that they participated in the planning years before. A spouse must prepare when their loved one enters a full-time care facility they may no longer recall their marriage and their spouse and unknowingly, may strike up a “relationship” with another resident. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor encountered this with her husband and famously became involved in raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 and retired from public life.
Outside of the emotional realm of not having an Alzheimer’s stricken spouse or parent recognize who you are there is a substantial financial component to caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s. For practical and economic reasons, a family should be able to establish the biomarker for a loved one’s likelihood to develop the disease through this simple blood test. To that end, health information is private and protected by law. To ascertain your spouse or parents’ risk of Alzheimer’s requires conversation, acceptance of the blood test, and careful planning with elder counsel for proper legal documentation.
Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning, or call us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crowdsourcing site helps seniors determine where to retire
Crowdsourcing site helps seniors determine where to retire
While aging in place is very popular among the baby boomer generation, about one-third of those retirees would choose to live elsewhere. The family remains the most significant factor when deciding where retirees live, followed by the general livability of an area and desirable weather conditions. The decision about where to live should be a high priority as you approach retirement age. According to www.AgeFriendly.com, two out of three retirees feel they did not do the necessary in-depth research when determining where to live out their retirement years. Three out of four of the same group of retirees indicated that an online tool such as Age Friendly Advisor (a section of www.AgeFriendly.com) would be handy to determine what a location is really like from its current residents. This online crowdsourcing site designed for those aged 50 or more allows the user to tap into advice about good cities to live in, get care, and even get a retirement job to improve and enhance the quality of life.
This user review approach is similar to other sites where consumers can give product reviews and read opinions about the product before purchasing. This approach provides an “upvote” function that allows easier navigation of the more popular and valuable topics addressed. Age Friendly Advisor answers questions for three distinct purposes: everyday living, working and volunteering, and caregiving. The living section helps older adults connect with available resources, engage with one another and communicate with their city or town. The working and volunteering section connects the user to a list of age-friendly employers and businesses including customer/employee reviews and job listings. The caregiving section is for those who opt to age in place while staying connected to their communities. The cities and towns support of the elderly community are assessed and rated by Age Friendly Advisor. As a location becomes responsive to their older citizens, the steps taken to improve their support is recognized.
This website is part of a larger corporate entity known as Age Friendly Ventures, and the use of and information from their websites are free. Age Friendly Ventures operates other retirement friendly sites such as RetirementJobs.com and MatureCaregivers.com. The sites are all geared toward persons age 50 or more and support the mission to fight ageism and provide resources for a successful aging experience. “When managed well, user-contributed reviews reveal an extraordinary wisdom of the crowd,” Age Friendly Ventures founder and CEO Tim Driver said in a statement. “Just as consumers read and give product reviews on Amazon and restaurant and hotel ratings on Yelp and TripAdvisor, Americans can now go to agefriendly.com to read and publish crowd sourced reviews tackling complicated topics around aging.”
Age Friendly Ventures and their subsidiary websites currently enjoy the support of at least one major senior living operator and other corporate entities. More will surely follow as these websites gain traction on influencing the process of and choices about aging. Sponsorship and brand exposure to the baby boomer (and older) community while providing them with a reliable and free set of information services is destined to become more popular as the corporate world chases retirees’ purchasing power and retirement dollars. Finding trusted information about health and wellness, lifestyle and retirement options with the bonus of user reviews can help a senior successfully navigate the many options available to them and make an informed decision.
Gathering trusted peer-reviewed information from sites like agefriendly.com is one of the first steps to take in your plan for successful aging. Your choice may lead you to a new state or just a new town. Wherever it takes you, a trusted elder law attorney can help you review your plan and make any necessary adjustments. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by emailing us at email@example.com or by calling us at 1.800.660.7564.
Startup companies designing user-friendly technologies for seniors
Startup companies designing user-friendly technologies for seniors
It is projected by the US Census Bureau that in the year 2050 there will be 458 million Americans of which 92.1 million will be 65 or older. Senior Americans will constitute slightly over 20 percent of the population as a whole if these projections are accurate. By the year 2030, all of the baby boomers will have moved into the population aged 65 years or more and will also represent 1 in 5 Americans.
The application of technologies for everyday use in senior care will become more prevalent to meet the growing needs of elderly health care. Digital health startup companies receive billions in US funding to specifically design user-friendly interfaces for Americans aged 65 and older. This includes taking into consideration the changes and limitations of fine motor skills and vision as well as memory and cognitive issues. Smart pillboxes, fall detection systems, remote patient monitoring and applications that can provide individualized medical alerts to health care professionals are part of the health care side technologies. The many seniors choosing to age in place are now better protected by technologies that address motion detecting lights, smart thermostats, smart doorbells with video cameras, keyless entry locks to homes and cars, smart home security systems and personal emergency response systems are all being customized to meet the needs of a rapidly aging baby boomer population. The good news is that many seniors currently engage in the world of technology and reap some of its benefits.
The other good news is that corporations are spending billions to customize technologies specifically for the benefit of seniors that are cost-effective and of high quality whether the senior is aging in place, in assisted living or a nursing home. Some of the most notable startups include:
Steadiwear is known for its product “Steadiglove” which is a device that reduces hand tremors in aging patients who in particular have Parkinson’s disease and “essential tremor”, a nervous system disorder that causes rhythmic shaking.
Cake allows elderly patients to communicate via a mobile application to vent their feelings about death. It is a general forum that provides simple answers to complex questions about death and mortality. It also encourages the senior to organize their personal life before their passing. This pay for service is a good start to explore general directions that a senior can then talk over with their elder legal counsel.
Sway is a digital startup responsible for the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) testing system that determines through a motion analysis algorithm if an individual’s stability is compromised and the subsequent probability of an unintended fall. Mobile and cloud-based technology ensure patient data collection from any iOS Athletic Profile data are both reliable and secure.
Hometeam uses mobile technology that empowers a senior to track their medical status by using an iPad. The company is designed for a home care approach an currently provides medical monitoring and care for more than 12 million senior Americans who are unable to afford to be a resident in a nursing home.
Silvernest strives to match the elderly patient population in nursing and retirement homes with younger and livelier roommates as a way to reduce isolation for the more senior “roomie.” Proprietary, extensive background checks can find a mutually beneficial roommate match.
Honor is a shared mobile technology platform that offers high-quality care to its patient base as well as provides a mobile platform that allows loved ones and friends the ability to track their senior’s medical status. It provides tools to assess their medical progress and determine the rate of health improvement.
Rendever is a virtual reality technology company that offers elderly patients the opportunity to experience the outside world using virtual reality (VR) display goggles. Even if the senior is confined to a nursing home or assisted living facility, this VR experience allows the resident the chance to travel the world through the use of virtual reality technology.
Pixiescientific has designed an application to detect any symptoms and signs of a urinary tract infection; diagnosing the problem before it becomes severe. Sensor technology detects abnormalities within the urinary tract of the patient and monitoring provides assessment diagnoses of dehydration and infection which are common among seniors.
Zansors uses sensor technology to monitor an individual’s sleep pattern by data collection of movement while in bed and respiration rates while sleeping. This individualized and accurate biofeedback allows the user to determine how much quality sleep they require to avoid physical fatigue and exhaustion. It is particularly useful for patients who have insomnia.
Myseismic has developed an undergarment “suit” that aids senior muscle strength through tiny motors that act as “electrical muscles” that are integrated into the fabric around the joints of the body via proprietary grips that function like tendons in the human body. Computer sensors track the wearer’s body movement, and software alerts the electrical muscles in the clothing when to activate. This is ideal for seniors who are experiencing an overall decline in energy and muscularization but still want to be able to move and travel freely.
More startups companies and technological advancements are in development. Meta data feedback allows for the continually refinement of existing technology systems. The engine of change for senior health care is digital as it can provide seniors with their best options for successful aging.
If you have questions about what you have read or would like to discuss your own situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The physical challenges of aging in place
The Physical Challenges of Aging in Place
According to AARP aging in place is a goal for 3 out of 4 Americans aged 50 or more. These seniors and near seniors are willing to employ alternative solutions to facilitate this. The alternatives include home sharing (32%), building an additional or accessory dwelling unit (31%) and locating into villages that provide services which enable aging in place (56%). These communities become a source of support and engagement for residents and give a sense of grounding through memories of a long time home environment.
Seniors who want to reside in a community (aka, age in place) rather than seek residential institutions or nursing homes are mostly dependent on unpaid caregivers and family members for assistance with activities of daily living (ADL). These activities include laundry, self-care actions like bathing and dressing, meal preparation, and transportation. Medicare provides some long-term care services and supports (LTSS); however, the LTSS program falls far short of the need. While the aging population in America is rapidly increasing, lawmakers are slow to respond to the insufficient funding to increase the availability of LTSS for seniors choosing to age in place. The goal of LTSS is not to replace but to supplement the contribution of unpaid family and caregivers. The addition of a Medicare benefit to support family caregivers as they help their loved ones would enable more aging adults to successfully remain in their homes.
Technology has provided some solutions for caregivers, allowing caregivers to monitor their loved one remotely while they stay engaged at work. Smart environmental controls and personal assistants have lightened the load of constant oversight but cannot replace the helping human touch. Nearly 60 percent of seniors who have seriously compromised mobility report being house or apartment bound, while 25 percent of those seniors say they often remain in bed and do not dress daily.
Low tech devices like canes, walkers, ramps, grab bars, shower seats and raised toilets to increase the level of accessibility and safety for aging in place seniors, however, transferring in and out of bed and moving around their homes still provides notable difficulty for many. The senior who wants to age in place is typically independent-minded and therefore have trouble foreseeing a time when help is not a want but a need. Aging adults and their families need to plan to address changing physical capacities before an adverse health event such as an unintended fall or dementia challenges change everything. While aging in place is a great goal for many seniors it requires planning just as if they were planning on moving into an assisted living facility.
Johns Hopkins researchers report 42 percent of older adults who have problems performing ADLs or are living with probable dementia receive no assistance at all from family, friends or paid caregivers. That is a staggering number of unaided seniors. Additionally, twenty-one percent of seniors with a minimum of three chronic conditions and high needs received no assistance at all. LTSS through Medicare will have to make changes to meet the ever-increasing demand for human caregiving.
Approximately 60 percent of at home seniors use at least one low tech device, most commonly for bathing, toileting or in-home movement, throughout their day but their needs multiple as they age. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the expenses of most of these nonmedical devices and services. The resulting problem is seniors near, or at the bottom of the income ladder go without assistance, human or device, putting their daily lives in a very precarious position. Hardships for these seniors on the razor’s edge include the inability to pay medical bills or prescription costs, utilities or rent, and some resort to skipping meals to balance out their unaided lifestyle. At best this is heartbreaking, at worst it is inhumane.
The CHRONIC Care Act will allow Medicare Advantage plans to offer supplemental benefits for seniors to cover devices such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, personal care, and transportation to chronically ill seniors however there are 21 million people who have needs to be met and how this will be paid for is unclear. Meanwhile, the 39 million people enrolled in traditional Medicare are entirely left out of any supplemental benefit. Affordability for at home care is a significant issue on a personal, family, and government level.
Caregivers and assistive low tech devices are an absolute necessity for seniors opting to age in place. The extent of the adjustments senior adults make as their needs become more profound are not well documented. As aging in place is a common strategy now, new solutions and programs must be explored to ensure successful aging.
If your strategy is to age in place, have a discussion early on with trusted counsel and family members to address some of the challenges you will eventually have to overcome. If we can assist you, please don’t hesitate to reach out by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
The Looming Baby Boomer Retirement Crisis
The Looming Baby Boomer Retirement Crisis
A study conducted by The Blackstone Group, an independent research firm, on behalf of Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement outlines some very unsettling data regarding middle-income baby boomer retirement care preparedness. According to the survey above, the bleak financial reality of this demographic is that 79 percent of middle-income baby boomers have NO savings put aside to cover their retirement care. Couple this disaster savings scenario with the US government’s admission that for the first time since 1982 Social Security trust funds are being used to pay current benefits to recipients and Medicare’s reserves are being used to cover the costs of that program as well. It is the perfect storm of a looming retirement insolvency crisis.
Middle-income baby boomers for this study are defined as aged 53 to 72 with an annual income of $30,000 to $100,000 and less than one million dollars in investable assets. For those baby boomers in this demographic, a mere 4 percent of them have more than $100,000 saved for health care retirement planning, long term care, and general retirement preparedness. While 65 percent of these survey respondents prefer to receive retirement care in their current homes only 55 percent of them expected to be able to do so, and there is a disconnect at what age these care services will be required. A full 45 percent thought that assisted living circumstances would be needed between the ages of 71 and 80 while 37 percent said it would be between the ages of 81 and 90. The problem with these hopes is the ever-increasing presence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia which can push retirees younger than ever into the need for assisted living and retirement care.
According to the survey, 40 percent of those surveyed consider retirement care planning to be a low priority or not one at all, 42 percent thought it to be a medium priority and only 18 percent identified retirement care planning as a high or very high priority. Incredibly 56 percent expected that Medicare would pay for retirement care as needed, including long-term care needs which Medicare does not cover. The costs of long-term care policies are cited as the biggest reason for not making the prudent insurance purchase.
Dangerous misperceptions about how much retirement care costs and how to pay for it exist. It may seem incredible, but the truth is that baby boomers are better prepared to die than to live. Among middle-income baby boomers, 81 percent have formally made at least one preparation for when they pass away, usually in the form of a will or trust, while only 32 percent have a plan as to how they will receive retirement health care should it become necessary.
The message is unmistakable; middle-income baby boomers need to address their underfunded retirement plans pronto. There is an overconfidence in this demographic that allows them to think they will be able to manage their and their spouse’s healthcare costs as they continue to age. The reality is that many of them are one bear stock market or health care crisis away from disaster. The federal government and its programs are just as unlikely to be able to stave off the financial crisis brought about by this willful ignorance of the costs of aging successfully.
If you are in these incomes and age brackets, it is time to take a realistic look at what you can do to better prepare yourself for the coming years ahead. Being financially unprepared to age brings stress and family discord at a time when you should be living your best life. Be proactive, contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autism in America
Autism in America
World Autism Awareness Day falls on April 2nd each year and is part of the larger World Autism Month observance. The observance includes hundreds of thousands of landmarks, homes, and buildings worldwide being swathed in light blue to recognize people living with autism. Many educational activities and events will take place to foster understanding and promote acceptance of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, and of course, fundraising will intensify to endow growing research challenges to meet the needs of this highly individualized disorder.
The prevalence of autism is on the rise in the US. Because the condition first manifests itself before the age of 3, the majority of people receiving new diagnoses are under the age of 6. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of behavioral conditions that include challenges with social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication as well as repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimate that autism affects 1 in 59 children in the United States. That number has been steadily increasing in the past decade.
Autism is a very plural condition as there are many subtypes, primarily influenced by the environmental and genetic factors and has varying degrees of severity. Individuals coping with autism have distinct sets of strengths and challenges. That is why people are characterized as being on an autism spectrum because the individual scale of learning, thinking and problem-solving skills can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be able to live entirely independently while others may require some to significant support in their daily lives.
Federal and state programs help assist families with children and young adults who have ASD. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal law outlines rights and regulations for US students who require special education. The US Department of Education website outlines the basics of IDEA in simple terms. Are these services available until the young adult reaches the age of 22 and then what? There is a vast continuum of diagnosed and undiagnosed adults who are struggling to make sense of life while living with ASD.
Autism Speaks is an organization that calls on legislators and public health agencies like the National Institute of Health to promote research and advancements in understanding the increased prevalence of and complex medical needs that often accompany a person with autism. There has recently been a call to double the budget to advance research and create policies that better provide individual support and services as autistic children transition to adulthood and need employment and residential options.
For people afflicted, autism is a lifelong condition and there is an unacceptable gap in our awareness of their needs particularly as children age out of federal school programs at 22 and are left to struggle with areas of basic life skills such as employment, housing, and social inclusion. Children with autism eventually become adults with autism. While some autistic adults become very successful, even famous for their success in arts and sciences (Albert Einstein, Dan Aykroyd, and others) others languish in their inability to navigate a complex world.
Wherever an adult finds themselves in the autism spectrum, there are specific basic needs which mirror those adults without the challenge of ASD, and they are friendship, support, and opportunity. The mechanisms and interpretation of communication may differ but the human need is the same. Reliance on tax-funded programs is not always the best way to approach the needs to sustain them as funding and programs come and go. The real solution to meet the needs of adults with autism is essentially the same as the needs of children with autism. People in their families and communities must help their autistic loved one to make sense of and live in a complex world. The collective belief that they have abilities and strengths are can help reduce their anxieties. Accommodating support in ASD sufferer’s efforts to meet challenges and their own special needs can go a long way in assisting them to live more independent and successful lives.
Are federal and state programs available? Are there community outreach programs that help young adults transition to independent living past the age of 22? Adults with autism differ from one another just as it is for children on the spectrum.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
The Changing Landscape of Memory Care
The Changing Landscape of Memory Care
Projected demographics indicate that memory care is about to become a booming market of opportunity for facilities and their construction that tend to developing specialized memory care needs. While some facilities are stand-alone solutions for memory care patients, others will offer care that is already integrated into existing facilities that cover more than just the memory care sector. Lisa McCracken, senior vice president of senior living research and development at Ziegler says “With the projected increases in individuals who have cognitive impairments, and the decreasing number of caregivers, we do not expect that this pattern will go away anytime soon.”
Some of the fundamental changes include inventive care settings that are vastly different than existing dementia support floors and secure units. Some of the care settings have not yet been realized as research and understanding of cognitive impairment continues forward. The fact is there will be a broader array of options to choose from in the near future. The “small house” model is becoming increasingly popular. The small house model is an intimate setting within existing nursing communities consisting of 10 enclosed, secure units and is designed for couples facing memory challenges. A small scale affordable housing model partially funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is typically available to low-income seniors.
Those seniors who can afford private pay for their memory care are being aided by assisted living facilities that design dementia care units like a neighborhood from an earlier time in the patient’s life. Often, dementia patients readily recall memories from long ago and these centers, designed to look like a community, are replete with porches, rocking chairs, carpet that mimics grass, and a fiber optic ceiling that allows transitional lighting creating a sense of the day and night sky. Other elements like aromatherapy can aide in calming residents or stimulating appetite depending on the selection of oils integrated into the therapy. All of these elements help reduce anger, anxiety, and depression which are hallmarks of seniors who suffer from dementia illnesses.
Full continuum care is improving as it meets the increasing numbers of its resident base with memory care issues. Many facilities are tapping into the expertise of geriatric psychiatry“ … also known as geropsychiatry, psychogeriatrics or psychiatry of old age is a subspecialty of psychiatry dealing with the study, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders in humans with old age.” This field of study can enhance a memory care facility and improve the problems of anger, depression, and anxiety with medical components that address dementia. The techniques include a person-centered approach focusing on fostering autonomy, developing empathy with residents and even focusing on humor to help alleviate stress and increase the quality of life.
Professional caregivers will receive specialization in treating resident with dementia. Formal memory care education will become a more commonplace accreditation as the numbers of patients in need continue to increase. Rather than a certified nursing assistant (CNA) dementia patients will be tended to more frequently by certified dementia care nursing assistants (CDNAs). This change in credentialing will be driven by rising consumer expectation as well as tighter regulations that govern memory care.
Dementia illness is more prevalent than ever before, and so is the understanding that the disease has a long preclinical phase. Intervention and healthy lifestyle modification can continue to delay the onset of dementia in its clinical phase. Physical activity, social engagement, and brain fitness through smart devices and computer applications are wonderful cognitive compensation strategies that protect executive brain function, particularly in the preclinical phase of the disease. Beyond the known technology that already aides in the staving off of dementia, new cutting edge work can also help seniors compensate for memory loss allowing them to remain at home longer as well as enable senior facility operators to refine their services.
Wearable cameras that have artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition capabilities can provide a patient with the name of the person who is approaching them. AI can also help a senior’s cognitive load; helping them stay informed regarding day to day decisions. Newly developed website interfaces are making it easier for memory care patients to use and video, audio and sensor technologies can help detect depression or alert, through predictive analytics, a patient having a bad day or an increased risk of falling due to a change in gait. The potential for technology applications in memory care is seemingly endless and there is more research and development in the works.
Do you or your loved one have a plan in place in the event you become a memory care patient? Are you aware of the changing options available for living arrangements? Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. or call us at 1.800.660.7564.
Seniors Continue Embracing Technology
Seniors Continue Embracing Technology
Technology is providing seniors with a multitude of applications to improve their health, lifestyle, safety, and entertainment. While the younger generations may think these older Americans are the equivalent of technology dinosaurs, the truth is mid-life, and older Americans are becoming more digitally connected than ever before. The largest tech participating group of these seniors is generally more affluent and has higher degrees of education than their counterparts. Seniors with more limited incomes and lower levels of educational attainment are the most notably absent group in the digital divide between younger and older technology users.
Smartphone ownership and its associated application (app) usage, social media, and online gaming continue to increase at a rapid pace with a full 91 percent of technology users 50 or more saying they use personal technology devices to stay in touch with family and friends. Texting by seniors (86%) has become as pervasive as email (87%). Smartphones are also a handy tool for planning optimal routes to and from locations as well as receiving up to the minute traffic information. Simply put, older Americans now leverage smartphone use in much the same ways that its younger counterparts do and in some ways, seniors (aged 60 – 69) are leading the charge in smartphone use to manage their medical care. Online banking and money management are becoming more prevalent with senior users as they become educated about and employ privacy mechanisms to protect their identity and assets in an online and cloud storage world.
Online learning is prevalent in the senior demographic. An AARP survey shows 23 percent of older adults embrace online learning by taking classes for certificates, obtaining degrees, and how to Do It Yourself (DIY) tutorials. This percent of seniors in online learning is likely to continue its increase as mental agility and longevity become increasingly important due to the alarming rise of dementia disease in the aging population. While there is no direct evidence linking online learning to the staving off of dementia, it cannot hurt a senior to continue with lifelong learning as it may provide a sense of control and well being during their good years.
The use of virtual reality in VE, virtual environment, is also on the rise for seniors. The growth rate is currently about 4 percent a year with 13 percent of adults aged 50 or more engaging in the technology. Nearly 90 percent of all virtual reality headsets are smart and mobile phone based. The ease of porting a smartphone into a headset which operates as the screen makes virtual reality a compelling tool for aging seniors. While it provides immersive realities for gaming entertainment, it also can give extensive exploration opportunities for those seniors with limited mobility. Imagine a senior who cannot walk being able to experience a tour of the ancient Greek site the Acropolis, enjoying a virtual scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef, or taking part in a guided tour through a faraway museum without ever leaving their home, wheel chair, or bed. The mental stimulation and joy it can bring are just beginning to be tapped for the senior market. Virtual reality (VR) is projected to impact the gaming industry more profoundly than any other industry, and gamers include the senior market in a balanced way comparative to different age groups.
Wearable technology is gaining popularity among the senior market. They include products like smart watches, smart jewelry, fitness trackers, even smart clothing. While being worn, they provide intelligent assistance that can augment memory, intellect, communication, creativity, and physical abilities and senses. They also come replete with challenges such as interface interferences, power requirements, network resources, and privacy concerns. Wearable fitness trackers are becoming commonplace in assisted living, and nursing facilities as the technology will alert medical staff when a patient’s vitals are outside of their norm even if that worker is engaged in other tasks.
Worldwide, corporations are very interested in wearable technologies, particularly as it relates to medical issues. Some seniors who would not qualify for implant surgery because of pre-existing health conditions might be able to use a wearable pacemaker rather than having a surgical implant procedure. Other techniques for nonsurgical intervention include smart patches and electronic tattoos that can regulate dysfunctional systems in the body. For those seniors who can tolerate implant surgeries, new and innovative ideas for micro device implants are bringing forward the concept of the trans-human. Trans-human is defined as a standard biological human being who is augmented by implants that might provide improved intelligence, awareness, strength, or durability. Even in the absence of a serious health issue, implants may soon be able to enhance the medical monitoring of seniors in their daily lives. Think of it as a highly accurate fitness tracker implant. These implants in “trans-humans” may be able to observe developing physiological and psychological trends and predict adequate responses to health changes in aging adults.
Finally, the video game industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the US economy. Annual sales in the gaming vertical of “techenomics” have reached $23 billion and are projected to continue to increase. While some of the games seniors are playing online are in the hopes of keeping memory and brain function in good working order, 38 percent of adults aged 50 or more are video gamers purely for entertainment purposes. While these games may provide entertainment and human connection (in situ or online), they also may share cognitive, and brain benefits as well as the senior adapts to ever-changing game scenarios, updated versions and expansions of online games.
It is projected that seniors will continue to increase their exposure to and use of technologies at many levels. Development to meet the demands of senior needs coupled with their purchasing power will drive the technology industry for decades to come in ways that are not even imagined yet. For now, aging Americans are embracing technology and the benefits it brings to their lives. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
US Justice Department Elder Fraud Sweep
US Justice Department Elder Fraud Sweep
In the largest ever nationwide elder fraud sweep the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has identified more than 260 defendants in fraud accounting for more than 750 million dollars. In each case, the defendants allegedly engaged in financial tactics that either specifically targeted or mostly affected seniors. The fraud operations are evident in every federal district in the United States.
Fake drug discount cards, remote access to computers under the guise of technical support, relative in distress needing cash stories (the so-called “grandparents scheme”), insurance fees to collect nonexistent sweepstakes prizes, mass mailings and money mule fraud, and posing as debt collectors are some of the more prevalent schemes used by con artists. In one of the most horrific cases an 83-year-old woman was defrauded of her life savings by her caregiver; with no means to afford her retirement home bills, the woman sadly took her own life.
In earlier decades fraud schemes were not uncommon. Snail mail and phone scams however reached more limited victims. Now that digital technology, the internet, email, and social media is pervasive, transnational criminal organizations are “all in” to defraud the elderly of their money at a time when the cost to a senior’s life is frequently “catastrophic and irreversible” according to Attorney General William P. Barr. The Justice Department has vowed to prosecute these despicable crimes with an all-out attack against these swindlers and it’s a good thing as the numbers of incidence continue to rise. The current sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, twice the amount of fraud victims and 28 percent more in elder monetary losses. In total, over 2 million older adults were affected by the current alleged fraud crimes.
The transnational component of elderly fraud cannot be understated. The Office of International Affairs through the DOJ is working with numerous countries to secure evidence and capture defendants. Extraditions from Canada, The Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Poland are all part of this latest sweep of elderly fraud cases. Law enforcement partnerships such as the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG) is a network of criminal and civil law enforcement agencies including Belgium, Canada, Europol, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. By sharing information and providing avenues for criminal extradition this international body is a model of cooperation against specific threats that endanger the financial well being of member country’s residents.
What can you do at home to help protect yourself or a loved one from financial scams? Education is critical as to how these fraud operations function. A scammer will try to evoke a strong emotional response in their targeted senior to persuade them to part with their money. For example, a senior experiencing a high arousal emotion like excitement or anger makes them more susceptible to opt in on a risky decision. So a senior should not make what is called a “first flush” decision. Allow 24 hours to pass before opting in on an enticing scheme if you are becoming overly excited and feel pressure to make a quick decision shut down your contact with the person or organization and wait.
One of the easiest ways to avoid scams is never giving out personal information to unknown entities. Ask for credentials, speak to supervisors, do a background check, get another trusted individual in your life involved in what you are considering BEFORE making any decisions. Have systems in place for a trusted family member or financial professional to approve of financial transactions when they are outside the scope of your normal daily purchases or bill payments. Also, review any auto deductions in your bank account monthly. Scammers often start with a small withdrawal to see if there is oversight in the account that targets fraud or identity theft.
Consumers can file elder fraud complaints with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime. Get educated; learn more ways to protect yourself by connecting with trusted counsel.
If you have questions or would like to discuss anything you’ve read, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memory Care and the Epidemic of Alzheimer’s
Memory Care and the Epidemic of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease typically with a long pre-clinical phase which gradually worsens. Initial symptoms are often mistaken for normal aging and include problems with language, mood swings, disorientation, loss of motivation, poor self-care and behavioral issues. There are no treatments to stop or reverse the disease progression. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases and is one of the most financially costly diseases. Usually, the disease onset occurs in seniors over the age of 65, and the average life expectancy is 3 to 9 years though the speed of the disease’s progression can vary.
Estimates are that more than 14 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050 and the financial cost to the United States will total more than 1.1 trillion dollars. Memory and medical care for those who have Alzheimer’s will also create challenges for their families starting with the most basic of questions about memory care, understanding what it is, and what it entails.
Currently, memory care for seniors with advanced Alzheimer’s is best provided in state-licensed assisted living residences or nursing homes with a secure unit designed specifically for memory patients. The unit may be a floor or separate building with security and other cueing devices to help prevent a patient from wandering. Memory care facilities offer programs that are designed to keep executive brain function active and engaged and also offer cognitive behavioral therapies designed specifically for those with memory challenges. However, these facilities are expensive, and with the Alzheimer’s survival rate of 3 to 9 years post diagnosis, many families are not able to pay the associated costs of memory care.
Because of these costs, many families become unpaid caregivers to their loved ones. In the earlier stages of the disease progression it is a workable situation, but before long this selfless act and huge undertaking can take a toll on the caregiver leading to inadequate care for the patient. It is during this family caregiver stage that exploring the longer term options for memory care becomes critical as there will come a time professional memory care will become necessary. There are several options to consider regarding paying for memory care which on average costs nearly 5 times more than seniors who do not require memory care.
Is your loved one a US Veteran? Research about the Aid & Attendance benefits available to them. Not a veteran? Then explore options for long term care health insurance. Another option is to learn how to spend down assets to qualify for Medicaid. However this must be done very carefully and with the understanding that even with Medicaid there are, and will continue to be, long waiting lists to get into memory care facilities. If you are fortunate enough to be able to private pay for memory care, it is still important to investigate options to identify the right facility for your loved one.
How will you know when professional memory care is needed? Some of the more common indicators are when someone who has Alzheimer’s forgets to take their medication or forgets the codes to alarms or neglects to lock doors. When a person living with dementia forgets their basic house chores or forgets to eat meals, shower, change clothes or groom themselves that is a sign that memory care may be in order. Finally, psychological changes occur such as consistent feelings of anger or confusion, withdrawal or depression, even personality changes such as mistrusting others are indicators that professional memory care is needed.
All people living with dementia should make plans with their family and attorney in the early stages of disease progression as to how they want to be handled medically in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. It is much better to have this discussion very early on as it can provide a sense of relief to the patient knowing things will proceed as documented.
In the absence of a cure for Alzheimer’s all seniors should proactively plan with their family and a trusted elder law attorney to create a plan in the event memory care becomes necessary. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Simple Tips for Saving Money While Aging Well
Simple Tips for Saving Money While Aging Well
Your senior years should not be plagued with money woes. The stress that money problems bring not only ruins your aging experience but can also be disastrous to your health. Rising health care costs and your increased need for health care can add up to big bills that can further tax your health. To age well, you must use sound financial judgment as well as make healthy choices for your body and mind. The goal is to remain as healthy as you can for as long as you can and have a healthy bank account to support those goals. Beyond the obvious, such as choosing the right insurance plan and saving money for retirement, there are other strategies you can implement to further a successful and happy retirement.
Chronic stress is known to worsen health problems and can also accelerate the aging process. Though everyone experiences and handles stress differently, it is important to identify the specific stresses in your life and hone in on its source to be able to address it adequately. Relationship stress, family stress, and work stress can be treated through meditation and gentle yoga. The more you practice, the more significant the mental and physical benefits you experience.
In the case of financial stress, meditation will not save you. You need a concrete plan to approach your problem. Develop a budget that will address which debts you need to pay off first and stick to the program. Learn to avoid excessive spending that puts you in a debt cycle. Once you are as debt free as reasonably possible, learn ways to increase your savings.
An easy way to lower your expenditures and increase your savings is to view the world as your gym. Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week in your neighborhood is excellent for your body and your mind. Bring your cell phone, but only use it in the event of an emergency. Take in the outdoors around you and let your mind be free. You can be active doing leg extensions or squats in your own home. You can do several ballet plies while cooking a meal and toe raises while brushing your teeth. Before you get out of bed in the morning move your pillow out of the way and stretch out your spine; arms overhead and extending through your toes. The idea is to connect your daily routine activities to a specific exercise and do it every time you enter into that everyday behavior. If you have physical limitations, talk to your doctor before implementing at home exercises or neighborhood walks.
Learn to limit the portions of food you eat. We are a nation of overeaters. In many countries around the world, it is unheard of to have a “to go” box from a lunch or dinner that is too big for consumption in one sitting. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend active men over 65 need 2,600 calories daily, while sedentary men require just 2,000; for women it’s 2,000 if active, and 1,600 daily calories if sedentary. Pass on the heaping helping and pass on a second helping. By limiting the amount of food you eat, you can maintain a more healthy weight, which in turn can improve your health and longevity, as well as save money.
If you have room in your yard, start a vegetable garden, plant some fruit trees, and involve your friends to share in the workload and the resulting produce. If you don’t have a yard, join a community garden. Growing your food is an excellent way to increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat and has the added benefits of making you physically active and socially engaged. By making a garden a group effort, you can prevent isolation which for many older adults is a risk factor for everything from depression to hypertension. If you have problems kneeling or being down on the ground, try using raised garden beds or even try gutter gardening. Gutter gardens are a simple way to grow vegetables that have minimal roots in gutters that are affixed to an outside wall at a height that is comfortable for you. Gutter gardens also remove the problem of bugs in the soil. A fruit and vegetable garden will lower your grocery bill and shift your eating habits to a more healthful plant-based diet. Learn how to can or freeze your produce if you have a short growing season where you live.
Make a small investment to solve a significant problem. A grab bar in the shower or lowering the height of your bed can help you prevent a range of serious injuries from a fall. Fractures and head traumas often result in a rapid health decline and even death. Improve your balance with gentle tai chi exercises. Be sure you have adequate lighting in your home. Fix uneven floorboards and get rid of throw rugs. By being mindful of how you move through your home you can avoid an unnecessary fall which will save you money by avoiding medical treatment and might even save your life.
Kick bad habits and start with smoking. Just because you have not already developed lung cancer after decades of smoking does not mean you won’t, nor will it help prevent other lung problems like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Replace a bad habit with a good one as proposed above. If you drink alcohol on a daily basis or sometimes to excess, consider cutting back or quitting altogether. Alcohol contributes to unsteadiness on your feet and can precipitate you to fall. Do not take more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications and never mix them with alcohol. It is easy to become addicted to these drugs as you age because often they are used in the treatment of chronic conditions. You can build a tolerance to them and need progressively stronger doses. Try to find alternative ways to address your pain or anxiety. Cut back on sugar and fatty foods.
If your day is not structured, create a schedule. Try to eat at regular times as well as have a predictable bedtime and wake up call. Your body will appreciate the regularity of life. Kicking bad habits to the curb can help you enjoy your retirement years with greater energy and health as well as save you a lot of money on bad habits that are expensive. Don’t tax your wallet and your well being.
There are many techniques for aging well and preserving your bank account. Some methods are simple while others require guidance by trusted counsel. Reduce the financial stresses of your retirement and contact our office today and schedule an appointment at our Clearwater, Lakewood Ranch, Fort Myers or Naples offices to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterans, home health care and technology
Veterans, Home Health Care and Technology
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has become an unlikely and innovative pioneer in the quest to provide cost-effective, quality in-home care for veterans. Although the agency has long been mired in controversies surrounding its programs, particularly arbitrary caregiver dismissals, the home health services sector of the VA has long been touted as an overall success story. As Thomas Edes, director of comprehensive geriatrics and palliative care programs for the VA puts it, “We’re working in this environment of challenging budget constraints, and at the same time, we’re a very mission-driven organization. Put those together and what happens? That really pushes us to innovate.”
This innovation has seen home-based primary care for veterans quadruple since 2000, and all VA medical centers throughout the US now have a palliative care program as well. The VA Medical Foster Home program care has expanded from a pilot to a national program, recognized in at least 45 states and providing veterans housing as well as in-home care. These success stories are great news for veterans and a must for the Veterans Administration partially because the median age of a veteran is now 64 and the US aging veteran population is growing even faster than the senior civilian population.
It is not just the “newcomer” seniors straining the VA health care system. Nationwide the 85 plus population is on track to increase 70% from 2000 to 2020 according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The overall unsustainability of the US health care system has forced the hand of the VA, and there is no more cost-effective way than through subsidized, at home family and community-centered health care and technology to meet veterans’ care needs.
The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Telehealth is revolutionizing veteran care and providing high-quality treatment for them. The VA Video on Demand is delivering convenient, accessible health care particularly to those 24 plus percent of veterans who live in rural and remote access locations. Telehealth is also important for those veterans who are disabled. Although a veteran might live in a city they might be unable to get themselves to a medical center for an appointment.
Assisted living technologies for veterans include assistive mobility equipment which is an ever-expanding category including wheelchairs, all-terrain vehicles, exoskeletons, and in-home ceiling track mobility systems continue to be refined and specialized to meet the individual veteran’s needs. The Veterans Administration awards grants to develop technology to assist veterans and service members in modifying their homes. Adapted computer access and electronic aids to daily living and environment control units (personal assistants) provide customized interactive abilities for veterans.
Electronic cognitive devices help veterans who struggle with activities of daily living (ADL). These devices include personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, pocket personal computers (pocket PCs) and other handheld devices, global positioning systems (GPS), reminder watches, pagers with reminder features, and digital voice recorders. The use of these devices helps a veteran stay on schedule with medications as well as stay connected with family, friends, and their medical monitoring community. Those veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are further helped with their ADLs when robots with artificial intelligence (AI) are introduced into their environment. These AI “tech bots” are capable of reading human facial expressions and can identify when a veteran is feeling particularly stressed, isolated, angry, or depressed. The robot can upload the information to the veteran’s caregivers thus alerting them to the need for human intervention. Wearable sensors can also alert a caregiver or medical professional when vital signs are outside of a normal, healthy range.
The VA will provide a payment to disabled veterans toward the purchase of a car or other transportation and additionally will pay for adaptive equipment, repair, reinstallation or replacement of necessary equipment due to disability. If a veteran has lost the use of at least one foot, hand, or has a permanent impairment to their vision or severe burn injuries or immobile joints that their limit mobility the VA will help to fund the adaptation of the vehicle to make it fully operational to the veteran. The same holds with regards to some sports and recreation equipment as well.
While the latest technology brings benefits to all seniors opting to age in place, the veteran community is especially helped. Many veterans would like the luxury of aging without combat or noncombat injury so inherent to military service. Some of the aging in place obstacles they must overcome are extreme, commensurate with the injuries (psychological and physical) they have endured. Navigating the benefits that are available to a senior veteran is complicated if you are not well versed in the process. Getting enrolled in the correct program and receiving benefits can also be a lengthy process, so it is best to seek professional advice before wasting valuable time.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Covert | Law
Covert | Law
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