Better Senior Fall Prevention Programs Through Technology
Better Senior Fall Prevention Programs Through Technology
One of the most common injury producers are seniors experiencing accidental falls. Debilitating injuries range from short-term sprains, bumps, and bruises to fractures and head traumas which may require hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of five falls causes a serious injury and that each year 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries with 800,000 of those requiring hospitalization. Death rates due to an accidental fall as the underlying cause are on the rise.
Technology is providing various ways to combat the problem using balance games fitness programs, diagnosis of potential weak areas of balance and gait, and wearable sensor monitors and boards that measure progress in real time providing feedback as to how well the senior is faring in their overall physical stability.
Nintendo Wii Fit U combined with the Wii balance board was not designed with seniors specifically in mind however several games have been optimized for the needs of seniors and their workouts. One of the great features is that all you need is a TV and the Wii console game system. There is no need for the senior to leave their home and the games do not require a lot of physical space. The balance board allows the game to track your movements and weight distribution, recognizing problems with your form or stance. Immediate feedback enables correction as issues arise. Using the Wii Fit can reduce falls and improve balance in seniors and its fun. Wii Fit U and other game console platforms such as the Microsoft Xbox One with Kinect and Sony PlayStation can provide in-home exercise for seniors that can help avert balance issues and ensuing fall injury. The Wii Fit U, however, is better suited to senior exercise needs and monitoring of progress.
SmartBalance technology by HUR was specifically designed for older adults who experience balance issues and although there are games that are played the user is on a static sensor platform with grab bars, much like a treadmill minus the rotating belt. This technology is best for seniors who have more significant challenges in mobility. The stabilization games are interactive and fun while they help to build core strength and muscle memory. A unique design is available that allows a wheelchair platform access so the user can train without leaving their chair. Test results can be compared to normative data, and progress tracking is visual, intuitive, and motivational as customization of training and comparisons of previous balance tests provide progress assessment which helps to motivate the user.
QTUG, technology created by Kinesis Health Technologies of Ireland, can provide gate and mobility assessment and fall prevention data in as little as five minutes. Mobility parameters divide into five functional categories that include walking, variability, symmetry, transfers, and turning. The user wears inertial sensors that actively and accurately measure gait and mobility as they engage in simple tasks such as rising from a chair, walking 10 feet and turning to sit in a chair again. Results of the tests are delivered to a mobile device like a smartphone via Bluetooth technology, and the senior or care provider can check the score that rates the seniors fall risk as well as their mobility and frailty. This QTUG technology can export all patient results in an Excel format as well as create a comprehensive fall risk and mobility report for each test in a PDF format. All of the resulting data can be uploaded to the cloud for medical interpretation, recommendation or referral. The testing results are automatically backed up, secure and HIPAA compliant.
Older adults and seniors need to be very mindful about their balance and mobility. Catastrophic medical issues can occur with the simplest of falls and sometimes precipitate an earlier than anticipated death. Technology is at the forefront of detailed, individualized diagnoses and corrective exercise programs that when implemented can help prevent accidental falls. To find out which technology best suits your fitness level and needs, speak to trusted counsel who can point you in the right direction to help keep you secure in your physical movement. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Call us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying Mentally Sharp
Staying Mentally Sharp
Age comes with wisdom. Unfortunately, it also comes with some forgetfulness. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep the brain sharp, small daily habits which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Exercise is one such daily habit. It increases blood flow, and thus oxygen to the brain; it also protects brain cells against destructive chemicals in the environment. Exercise also supports the production of new brain cells. Furthermore, research in the 2000s showed a relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s. Anything which can impair blood flow can cause strokes leading to cognitive decline, otherwise known as vascular dementia. The same activities that one would consider as beneficial to the heart, such as regular exercise, can therefore also be effective in protecting the brain. And, of course, there are other benefits to exercising regularly: it helps with energy levels, decreases anxiety and depression, and can help with sleep.
Sleep is another factor to maintaining a healthy mind. But as many as half of adults 60 and older are affected by insomnia, which can result in memory loss, depression, and other symptoms. It’s important, then, to pay attention to sleep hygiene and sleep schedules to ensure sufficient duration and quality. If it takes more than 45 minutes to fall asleep, or you have trouble staying asleep, it may be worth looking into treatment.
Eating well is another way to protect the mind. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. The USDA and the HHS describe two eating plans: the USDA food patterns or the DASH Eating Plan. Foods like nuts, fish, and wine have also been linked to a healthy brain.
Art, music, reading, writing, learning, and puzzles… these are also good for keeping the brain sharp. Art has been used as an Alzheimer’s treatment and to restore memory; and arts maintain and improve dexterity and fine motor skills! Adult coloring books have become popular in recent years, and can be found in many stores and online; watercolors and pastels are also relaxing. Meanwhile, music has been linked to improved memory and cognition, and can both elevate your mood and lower blood pressure. Learning and intellectual challenges like puzzles exercise the brain and improve its capacity. Mental exercise is thought to maintain and stimulate brain cells. This includes pursuit of hobby, learning new skills, using brain training apps, or taking on other new kinds of projects at work.
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84+ billion in annual tech spending for those aged 50 or older by 2030
84+ billion in annual tech spending for those aged 50 or older by 2030
It isn’t just assisted living and nursing home workers employing the latest technology to improve caregiving for elder Americans. According to an AARP Survey upwards of 84 billion dollars will be spent annually on technology products for personal self-care use by the 132 million Americans aged 50 or more by the year 2030. While 84 billion dollars is a lot of money it does not account for additional discretionary spending for technology purchases such as gifts for children or grandchildren; therefore the number of dollars spent on technology by seniors could be significantly higher than already projected. A significant portion of the personal needs purchases will be to address privacy and security issues as fewer than one in four senior adults trust online retailers, telecom service providers, and even the federal government.
Though concerns regarding privacy are in the forefront of technology purchasing, counter-intuitively another significant portion of projected purchases will be for personal home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, which allow passive “spying” on home environments. Currently, of those Americans, aged 50 plus, one in seven owns a personal assistant and the projected sales increases in this demographic is growing at a very rapid pace. Additionally, technology products such as smartphones, smart TVs, smart cars (nearly 1 in 4 view advanced driver assistance technology like lane change monitoring, collision avoidance, automatic parking, and emergency braking as important) and virtual reality devices are also increasing as are smart environmental control devices for thermostats, lighting, refrigerator door and stove monitors, and front doorbell audio/video capabilities.
Upwards of 23 percent of aging adults are embracing the benefits of lifelong learning through technology-enabled classrooms, certification programs or tutorials which may, in turn, lead to seniors providing more online content and blogs specifically geared for aging Americans written by aging Americans. Sixty-three percent of seniors use computers or smartphones to play games and 57 percent watch TV or movies while more than 90 percent use technology to stay in daily contact with family and friends. Already, a full 13 percent of 50 plus adults use virtual reality, and it is increasing at a healthy 4 percent a year despite it being a relatively new technology for commercial use. Current smartphone and computer device usage for those ages 50 to 64 rank the same as the average American; 83 percent employ smartphones while 91 percent use computers.
The number of new consumers in the American population is growing at less than 1 percent a year which means that the aging American market is a sweet spot of spending for corporations seeking to generate revenue. The fact that these elder Americans are online where their information can be absorbed, data mined, and target marketed will increase profits outside of the simple purchase of a technology product. Sales of technology products are now being monetized post-purchase by collecting personal data and reselling the information to advertisers, marketers, and even government agencies.
By 2030 it is projected that there will be more than 132 million Americans aged 50 plus which is an increase of more than 17 million in that demographic. These Americans represent the bulk of purchasing power as well as the growing need to address successful aging strategies through the implementation of technology products. There are just not enough younger people to be employed in the caregiver industry to address all of the future aging needs the baby boomer generation represents.
Aging Americans can expect a lot of commercial technology products specifically tailored to their needs in the coming years because they have so much money to spend. Seniors want life-enhancing and protecting technology products, and corporations want to make money so the senior technology product market will become an increasingly important segment of the technology sector.
Technology is becoming increasingly popular as a means for providing or delivering care to seniors. We help seniors and their families plan for the possibility of needing care in the future, and would be happy to discuss how we can help you do the same by calling us at 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emotional Support Animals and Seniors
Emotional Support Animals and Seniors
Most of us know what a service animal is, but the use of emotional support animals is becoming more and more common. So, what is an emotional support animal? An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides benefits to a person who has an emotional or mental health disorder. In order to be characterized as an emotional support animal, documentation from a health professional must be obtained for the animal. Mostly commonly, these animals are dogs, but other animals can serve as emotional support animals. It is becoming more evident that these emotional support animals can provide some real benefits to the health and wellness of the senior population. Whether depressed, dealing with ongoing disabilities, or chronic illnesses, emotional support animals can be one of the best treatment options out there.
Emotional Support Animals and Physical Health
Emotional support animals can provide a reason for seniors to get out and remain active. For example, a dog needs to be walked. Walking the dog, provides the senior with physical exercise. Exercise is a much-needed part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors and can even improve mobility. The American Heart Association has even stated that people with heart disease who own a dog outlive those who do not. Similar health benefits can be found for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes. In arthritis sufferers, petting an animal can help to work out the arm.
Emotional Support Animals and Mental Health
Having an emotional support animal also helps to reduce depression and anxiety. It can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase serotonin, a feel-good hormone. Major triggers for depression in elderly people are loneliness and isolation. With an emotional support animal, many seniors often find companionship and friendship that helps them to cope with loneliness and isolation, and can alleviate depression for the senior. It can also help in coping with a loss of a spouse.
In addition, having an emotional support animal can provide mental stimulation for seniors. This can come in the form of talking about animals or even reading about them. This is of great benefit to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Often those with dementia or Alzheimer’s suffer from bouts of agitation, emotional support dogs can help to calm them down. Those who suffer from loss of appetite due to these diseases have had improved appetite having an emotional support animal.
Types of Emotional Support Animals
As previously stated, dogs are the most common of the emotional support animals, but there are other options. Cats, like dogs, are a fairly common choice. Birds can be an option for people who do not have a lot of space. Birds also do not require a lot of maintenance which makes them ideal for seniors. Birds come in many varieties, so be sure to research to find the right bird. Fish are an option for people who may be allergic to furry pets. The companionship offered by other pets is not there, but watching the fish can be calming and relaxing. Smaller furry animals such as rabbits, hamsters, mice, and even domestic rats. These animals also don’t require a lot of space, but can be handled and many are affectionate animals, good for companionship.
The support for emotional support animals and seniors is fairly recent, but studies on the effectiveness of these animals continue to be surfacing. Service animals have proven to be of great service to people with disabilities over the years, but the benefits do not stop with service animals. If you or a senior loved one is experiencing chronic illness or mental disorders, consider talking to the family and doctor about getting an emotional support animal. This can greatly improve quality of life and increase the length of life.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 1.800.660.7564.
Solo aging, independent living and housemates
Solo aging in the baby boomer generation is becoming more prevalent, but many Americans are running out of family caregivers to assist them in their quest for elderly living independence. The ratio of caregivers to care recipients has fallen and is projected to continue to do so for the next forty years. According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of childlessness among baby boomers is about 20 percent. That number is double the previous generation. Additionally, these boomers who are aging solo, without a spouse or partner and have children living more than 500 miles away, bring the total of solo agers in America to nearly 40 percent of adults over the age of 65.
Because solo agers who own their own home prefer to reside there, many of them are finding creative ways to share costs as well as reduce the workload, stress, and isolation of living alone. Welcome to your new housemate, but don’t call them that and don’t call them roommate either. The boomer generation is adopting the term “POSSSLQ,” (pronounced “possle-cue”) short for People of Similar Sensibilities Sharing Living Quarters. This moniker is a wink at the former US Census Bureau designation for unmarried couples; “Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.” Whatever the preferred terminology, this new housemate trend is a demographic and economic shift which is redefining the “golden years” of retirement.
It is no surprise that at a historic shortage of homes pushing up housing costs coupled with the fact that many boomers realize they have not saved nearly enough for retirement has fueled this housemate solution. Some of the best ground rules to follow are to find someone you may already know, perhaps of similar background. Also, keep your “POSSSLQ” in a narrow age range to your own. Seniors who are looking to be housemates and are of a certain age can find each other on websites, some of which are Roommates4Boomers and Let’s Share Housing. It is a great way to stretch retirement dollars and still have independence in a shared living experience without loneliness or feeling like a burden to family.
Women account for most of these new housemate living arrangements. Women tend to live longer and have less in retirement savings as compared to their male counterparts. Women also tend to be more adept at making a home and creating companionable spaces in which to cohabitate.
The rules of roommates are usually broad and general. Some specific ground rules may be non-negotiable such as pets, loud music, or romantic sleepovers; however many women have a more flexible approach and often work out smaller details in day to day conversation. Often the secret to housemate living is to embrace its unexpected nature so long as an established basic framework remains intact. These boomer housemates are expressing creativity in problem-solving issues related to their golden years and want their focus to be on living life rather than the end of life planning.
The cautionary tale of baby boomer housemate living is to be confident you enter into the relationship with a legal document that outlines home ownership, household expenses, chore responsibilities, house rules, as well as identification of objects you already own in your home (if the owner) or what you may bring into the house (as the new housemate). Remember that you spend the first half of your life trying to get something and the second half of your life trying to keep it. Another issue to discuss and lay legal ground rules for is what happens in the case a housemate gets a diagnosis of dementia? A housemate living situation should not evolve into a caretaker situation.
Whether you are the homeowner or the housemate, it is imperative to have a legal document signed and notarized defining the living arrangement. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with the planning and execution of a housemate agreement.
Making Sure Your Estate Plan Reflects Your Wishes
Make Sure Your Estate Plan Reflects Your Wishes
Jack and Doris wanted to divide their property equally between their three children. The house should to go to daughter Mary who loved it, and the rest of their estate should be apportioned equally between sons Bob and Francis.
Jack and Doris’s attorney drafted a will distributing the modest remainder to the sons and the attorney filed a beneficiary deed leaving the house to Mary. A beneficiary deed – or transfer-on-death deed – is a useful and efficient way to leave real estate to heirs without going through expensive and protracted probate proceedings.
Years passed. Jack died and, late in life, Doris was diagnosed with cancer. She had forgotten about the earlier plan. She wrote out a will leaving her property equally to her three children.
After Doris died, the children were unhappy to discover a conflict between the old beneficiary deed and the new handwritten will. The will was legally binding but, because beneficiary deeds take precedence, Mary ended up getting more than her parents had intended. She got the house through the beneficiary deed and then an additional one-third of the remaining property through the will. This was not what Jack and Doris had wanted and the inequity strained the relationship between the children.
Remember: Your estate plan is not a time capsule, preserving relics for future discovery. Be sure to talk to an attorney to update your plan in the event of illness or change in circumstances. Please feel free to contact us – we would be happy to help.
Senior Living Options When Care is Needed
Senior Living Options When Care is Needed
As Americans age, living options can become a concern. Available options are tied to the resources a senior has to cover living costs, and vary widely in cost, assistance, and care provided. In addition to budget considerations, seniors must also realistically consider the needs they have and what senior living option best fits those needs.
Nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities, are one option for senior living. These facilities are for seniors who can no longer live independently. They provide care for seniors with illnesses or mental conditions that cause them to require monitoring and medical care on a full-time basis. For example, many nursing home patients have dementia, are confined to a wheelchair, or spend most of their time in bed. Their conditions require that medical attention be available around the clock.
Nursing homes also provide the option for short term care, where patients come and stay for a limited time after major medical events such as strokes or heart attacks. In these facilities, the residents generally live in semi-private rooms and all meals are provided. Medicare may help cover the cost of skilled nursing facilities, assuming the resident meets certain financial requirements. Long term care insurance may also pay for nursing home care. Otherwise, a nursing home resident pays privately, which can often bring financial hardship upon the family. As a result, many families work with an elder law attorney to discuss care options as well as payment options for that care.
Assisted Living Facilities
Another option for senior living is assisted living facilities. These facilities are ideal for seniors who are still independent but may need some assistance with activities of daily living, as well as meals, cleaning, or other daily self-care tasks. These facilities usually offer a more private living conditions. Since residents may be fairly independent, assisted living facilities are an appealing option because they often offer a variety of activities and opportunities for seniors to interact with one another and to stay active. Assisted living facilities are generally paid for privately with a few exceptions, including long term care insurance or partial assistance from Medicaid.
Independent Living Communities
An independent living community is another viable option for senior living. These communities are for independent, active seniors who enjoy the idea of living in a community. Independent living communities are much like living in a condo or as a part of a community with an HOA. Often maintenance, housekeeping, and landscaping are part of what is included with living in these retirement communities. Many seniors choose this type of community when they are no longer able or no longer wish to maintain a home. The housing options for independent living communities range from detached homes to apartments. Another benefit of retirement communities is the wide range of amenities and activities available. Seniors are often lonely and living among other seniors can provide friendship and companionship. Residents in independent living communities pay privately, and the cost varies from one community to another.
Memory care facilities provide a more specialized senior living option for seniors who have serious cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These facilities are much like assisted living facilities, but cater to cognitive impairments. They may even be a specialized part of an existing assisted living facility. The staff at memory care facilities have specialized training that helps them better assist residents with cognitive impairments. They are often planned intuitively to help patients who may become easily disoriented. These facilities also give extra consideration to security for residents who may wander due to their cognitive impairment. If a senior needs this kind of care, it is important to plan and look for facilities that provide it ahead of time.
Senior living options vary greatly in care and cost. It is important that seniors have conversations with their families about the needs they have or may have in the future, as well as the cost of the type of care they wish to have. The earlier the planning begins, the better off the senior and the family will be when the time comes to seek alternative living options. This planning should be a part of the overall legal and financial plan of the senior. If you have any questions, please contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or visit our website: www.covertlaw.com.
Middle and Low Income Seniors Facing Affordable Housing Shortage
Middle and Low Income Seniors Facing Affordable Housing Shortage
There is a growing need for affordable senior housing that is only starting to be addressed by businesses that build for this market. If you have a lot of money you typically have a lot of options. At the other end of the spectrum if you have nothing you can qualify for government assistance though these programs, but most often include wait times, years of wait times, due to lack of available housing. The truth is many seniors, nearly 40%, have less than $50,000 in savings, not including the value of their homes, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and Harvard University. That doesn’t make them poor but it doesn’t make them rich either. Middle income seniors are stuck in the middle and the statistics are indicative of a looming senior housing crisis. By 2035 one in three households will be headed by someone aged sixty-five or more years and the population aged eighty or more years will have doubled to 24 million.
The truth is that thoughtfully designed housing for senior adults is not being created on a scale that reflects the growing need and the need is palpable. Many aging adults don’t even want to project that one day they will no longer be able to live in their current home. When asked about their forward living plans it usually consists of some variant of “the plan is to die in my home.” Sadly, it is impossible to script your passing and while you might hope it happens gently in your home it is more likely that an adverse event, such as a fall, will change everything and you will require some level of care. The Social Security Administration estimates that if you turn 65 today, you will live to 84.3 if you are a man, and to 86.6 for women. Added SSA: “And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of ten will live past age 95.” (https://www.thestreet.com/story/13640644/1/inside-the-nation-s-looming-senior-housing-crisis.html) Those numbers of longevity represent staggering costs when you consider the likelihood that those oldest years will require the most significant care.
That “significant care” costs serious money. According to “A Place for Mom,” the average national cost for a private assisted living facility is almost $4,000 per month. If you want private nursing home care that cost increases to more than $6,000 per month, depending on where you live. If you compare these costs with the fact that nearly 50% of adults aged sixty-five or older have just enough income to afford basic expenses you can intuit it is a recipe for disaster. The only thing left is to spend assets pay for care. That is not a good option for several reasons. First, you will likely run out of assets quickly due to the current costs of care. Second, you would be unable to leave a legacy to children or continue to provide for a spouse after you are gone.
That is why the understanding of aging is facing a paradigm shift – many companies that design and build for retirement communities want the word “senior” dropped altogether. Innovative technology companies and non-profits are sounding the alarm and changing the discussion from challenge to opportunity, from health care to health, wellness, and lifestyle, and bringing entrepreneurial ideas to create a positive change. It is a step in the right direction but it does not change the current reality – there is a shortage of affordable senior housing and there is a continuing increase in need for senior residency.
What is your housing reality and future? Do you have a plan in place to handle the changes that most likely will affect you and your living environment? It is important to have this discussion with your family, and with a professional elder law attorney. Proactive planning is in your best interest. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.
Covert | Law
Covert | Law
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NEIL R. COVERT, Attorney at Law
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