Friday, March 30, 2018

Adult family homes, assisted living: good but not like heaven

"This side of heaven, you won't find a perfect home."

Some 20 years ago I heard that statement.  And it certainly rings true, today.  At Silver Age Housing & Care Referrals, where I work helping families find quality housing and care, chiefly assisted living and adult family homes, we do our level best to rise to the standard of the heavenlies.  But the truth is:  no one can find the perfect home.

That doesn't keep us from trying.  We take our "matchmaker" job seriously, to find homes that will be good fits.  Together with the family, we search for a home that will make their loved one feel comfortable and cared for.

The search isn't always easy.  Take Rick and his family.  At 63, he was one of our youngest clients.  He had suffered Traumatic Brain Injury as a result of a motorcycle accident at age 22.  For the next 41 years, he lived with his parents, until their physician told them, "No more."  The stress was building; they needed a break from caregiving. 

What does Traumatic Brain Injury look like?  That depends on what part of the brain is injured.  Some people have seizures.  For others, behavior and personality are affected.  Anger erupts for seemingly no reason.  And nearly all TBI patients have short-term memory loss.

That was Rick's issue.   He remembers his high school days in detail, and events up to the time of the motorcycle accident.  Today he is pleasant and polite, but won't remember any conversation 15 minutes later.

He and his parents talked about his needs for a new home in what we describe as an intake.  It's a key part of our process, because we can't find the best home for anyone unless we discover not only their diagnoses and medications, but what makes them tick.

So we drew up a list of must-haves:  1.  The chosen home had to fit the family's budget.  2.  It had to be within 15 minutes  from the family home.  3.  It needed caregivers who were highly experienced and who could learn more about Traumatic Brain Injury and how it compares with dementia.  4. Preferably there would be one or two younger residents and at least one male caregiver. 5.  It must allow smoking outside.

 I looked for these qualities in the homes I researched and visited. The top three homes were the ones we toured together.  Rick and his family liked one home especially, and two weeks later, he moved in.

Today I visited.  Rick seemed happy.  He didn't remember seeing me before, but that's part of the condition.  He walks outside from time to time, something he had always enjoyed.  He likes the food.  And he has bonded with the male caregiver.

Is this adult family home heaven?  Of course not. He has only been there two weeks.  Give him two more weeks, and he will feel more and more at home.  In the meantime, the caregivers are enjoying him.  He helps with the laundry, folds and puts away his clean clothes, and looks for other things to.  "I like to help," he says.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why Loneliness Kills Seniors--and Some Ways to Combat It

What is the greatest health threat in the aging population?
  • Smoking?  No, but don't start the habit now.
  • Obesity?  Bad, but it doesn't rise to the top.
  • Cancer?  Very dangerous, but something else has it beat.
The answer:  Loneliness. 

Surprised?

Bruce Frankel isn't.  He explored the topic last December in a presentation "The Loneliness Epidemic" for a national group called The Society of Certified Senior Advisors.  If you work with seniors, have an older parent or relative or you are a senior yourself, this information could help change a life.

"Isolation and loneliness constitute the greatest public health hazard for the aging," said Frankel, quoting John Cacioppo, who headed the University of Chicago's Center for Cognition and Social Neuroscience until his death earlier this year.

Some 42.6 million seniors suffer from chronic loneliness, caused by factors including a loss of social confidence, and a loss of friends and social contacts as their world shrinks, Frankel says.

Here are frightening results of loneliness:

1.  Lonely people have a 50% greater risk of early death compared to those who have social connection.

2.  Loneliness increases the risk of stroke by 32%, dementia by 64.9%.

3.  Loneliness affects the body's physiology:  it increases cortisol, damages white blood cells, impairs the immune system and increases inflammation.

More affects of loneliness, according to Frankel:  "When we're lonely, we become hypervigilant.  We perceive more danger than we otherwise do.  We become hypervigilant to signs of rejection and judge our relationships weaker than they are.  We are more defensive, more aloof."

Steps Away From Loneliness:

1.  Don't deny it.

2.  Understand what it does to the body and especially the brain, and how it interferes with interactions with others.

3.  Respond.  Find at least one person to trust.  As you move forward, seek out like-minded people to connect with. Consider volunteering.

4.  Expect the best. 

Do you have personal experience with loneliness?  How do you and/or others combat it?
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