Tuesday, December 20, 2016

10 Commandments for Selling to Seniors, Part II

Here is Part II of the 10 Commandments for Selling to Seniors.  Part I appeared on December 19.

Commandment 5 :  Don't ignore the senior by speaking only to the adult child.  During tours of retirement communities, I've seen marketing directors speak about 80% to the daughter or son and only about 20% to the elder.  "I kept trying to get her to include my dad in the conversation, but she didn't get it," said one daughter.  Ignoring the senior is rude to both customers. 

Commandment 6: Don't fear the "pregnant pause."  That's the lull in the conversation when we're tempted to feel nervous, wondering if we're are getting anywhere.  It's easy to fill in the
silence with our words.  Don't.  Often that silence will bring out information that never would have surfaced otherwise.  Pregnant pauses often come at the end of the meeting or when you're ready to wrap up.  Your client may be relaxed, trusting that you have their best interests in mind.  Suddenly they give you some tidbit that may be the key to their future.

Commandment 7:  Do realize that a senior often makes decisions over time and needs to mull most decisions over and over.  A senior processes information more slowly and needs time to think and rethink.  Whether it's home care or assisted living or even a new walker,  rarely is a decision made automatically.  An exception:  in an emergency, often the adult child decides on the course quickly.

Commandment 8:  Understand the power of the printed word.  Follow up letters after appointments can clarify information that was presented orally.  Brochures can bring to mind key points and pricing that may have been missed in the oral presentation.

Commandment 9:  Don't try to squeeze a senior into a mold that doesn't fit.  Sometimes the service or community you represent will not work for a senior and their family.  It's too expensive, or too fancy, too small or too large.  The best thing you can do is to encourage the family to take another route, working on their own or with a professional such as a Geriatric Care Manager (Aging Life Care Expert) or a Senior Referral Agency (Association of Senior Referral Professional in Washington) such as Silver Age Housing & Care Referrals. 

Commandment  10:  Be persistent but not pushy.  Focusing on the relationship, rather than the sale, will help.

Whether you are an adult child or a senior care professional, can you offer additional tips to help the sales process to seniors and their families?

Monday, December 19, 2016

10 Commandments for Selling to Seniors, Part I

Perhaps you are advocating for an aging family member.  Or the shoe is on the other foot.  You work with seniors and their families daily.  Either way, you recognize good service, and bad service

Here are my 10 commandments for selling to seniors.  These do's and don'ts are culled from 20-plus years working with elders and their families.  I've made mistakes and picked myself up.  I've learned from many mentors along the way.

Commandment 1:  Show up on time or a little early.  Your clients--both adult children and especially seniors--may be willing to wait for a doctor, but you are not a doctor.  I learned the hard way early on that being timely was at least as important as being knowledgeable.

Commandment 2:  Build trust in the first five minutes.  When greeting an elder, it's best to approach the person with a firm handshake, accompanied by a smile. Another tip that conveys respect is a greeting by name:  "Mrs. Smith, I see your first name is Mary.  Which name do you prefer?"  

Commandment 3:  Talk less and listen more.  The old adage, "People don't care what you know; they want to know that you care," is true.  Caring is shown by listening with our ears.  We can also
"listen" by our body language and eye contact.  These ways of listening say,  "You matter.  What you say is important." 

Commandment 4 : Ask open-ended questions.  The question "Tell me about your family" can elicit a broader response than "How many children do you have?"   Asking about favorite pastimes, favorite foods and social activities will show that you care about the client and his or her family.  It also helps you determine if your services or products will be a good fit.

Commandment 5 :  Don't ignore the senior by speaking only to the adult child.  During tours of retirement communities, I've seen marketing directors speak about 80% to the daughter or son and only about 20% to the elder.  "I kept trying to get her to include my dad in the conversation, but she didn't get it," said one daughter.  Ignoring the senior is rude to both customers. 

Look for Commandments 6 through 10 tomorrow. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Respite: Ways a short-term stay can solve a problem

If your aging parent or loved one needs temporary care, a respite stay may help solve a problem.

Respite stays are usually done in assisted living communities.  The community provides a furnished room, meals and care for a limited time period.  In Washington State, a respite stay can't be longer than 30 days.  A respite can work well in the following situations.

1.  Your parent and you live far apart, but you desire to move him or her closer to you.  You may not be aware of all their care needs, especially if they have dementia.  A respite stay, either in their current location, or more likely, close to you, can give staff time to assess your parent's needs.  It also gives you time to search for the right long-term placement.

2.  Respite works when a caregiver needs a break.  We who do caregiving full or part-time know the drain on energy this role entails.  One of my clients named Karen came to me tired after caring for her husband for 9 years.  We discussed the respite idea.  Soon afterward she got the opportunity to go on a "girls" weekend to Canada with her daughters and sister.  I helped the family find an assisted living community which would do a respite stay.  At the end of the trip Karen returned refreshed.  So did her family and her husband.

3. Respite can help you and/or you parent make up their mind on a permanent placement.  If your parent hesitates about moving to an assisted living community, a 30-day respite "trial" may help you both decide if this is a good fit.  In most retirement and assisted living communities, a permanent move-in requires a community fee, which is generally several thousands of dollars.  A respite stay allows your parent to postpone the community fee until they decide to move in permanently.  If they don't stay past the end of the respite stay, they forfeit nothing.

4.  Respite stays help seniors who finish their rehab time after hospitalization but are not ready to return home.  They can receive some therapies plus tender, loving care to help them get stronger.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Why Your Aging Parent Hates 'the Home'

"Don't put me in 'the home'!"
"I'm never going to 'that place'!"

Perhaps you've heard your aging parent say something similar.  Why make such a fuss, especially in light of the gorgeous assisted living communities sprinkled throughout the land?  Private apartments, choices about food, activities and outings all make this type of living much more than "the home."

Here's a possible explanation for your parent's reluctance to entertain the idea of assisted living. Assisted living communities are relatively new, first introduced in about 1990.  The movement didn't get into full swing until about 2000.  Before that, there were few options:  mostly nursing homes, which started in great numbers in the 1950s.  Patterned after hospitals, they featured long, dark halls, med carts, bad smells, and people moaning and groaning.

Guess what?  Your parent's first memories of long term care were likely in a nursing home. He or she may remember visiting a parent in a setting that was less than first rate.  It was scary!

Today, your parent can visit beautiful assisted living communities, to see friends or relatives and perhaps to toy with the idea of moving there"one day."

Deep down inside, though, it's probably still "the home."

What can you do?  Give your parent information, but most of all, empathize.   And don't, whatever you do, contradict them when they call it "the home."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Your Aging Parent Needs Connection, Especially When Facing Loss

"Forty percent of people moving into our retirement community come from out of state."  That number from marketing staff at University House Issaquah isn't surprising.  Their community is participating in a nationwide trend.

We Boomers want our aging parents to be close to us.  Even though the move is the "right thing" and we are able to visit more often,  our parent can still experience loneliness and social isolation  

Take Doris who describes herself this way: "I was a lost soul."  An 80-something woman, Doris had moved into a new retirement community a few months before.  She was now close to her daughter but far from friends and familiar things.  Doris was afraid to leave her apartment.  She couldn't find her first friend.

Deborah Skovron, CSA, met Doris while doing research on loneliness and isolation.  She presented her findings in "Keeping It Human:  Strategies to Enhance a Sense of Purpose,  Meaning and Connection for an Engaged Life."

Why is the longing for connection so important?  Skovron says, "Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of cognitive decline and depression.  Lonely people are twice as likely to get Alzheimers." 

On the flip side, people with the largest social networks had 39% less cognitive decline than others, says Skovron.

She has developed a program called "Circle Talk," which aims to facilitate person-to-person engagement, belonging, connection and ultimately community.  Circle Talk  is good for people who are new to a community or have recently lost a partner.  It's offered weekly for 12 weeks.

The program's steps include:  A welcome; a warmup fun activity, such as naming their favorite color or childhood activity, a recap of last week's topic, a main theme such as talking about a cherished childhood memory, regret or rejection, and making connections.

The aim is to create common ground, Skovron says.  She quotes Desmond Tutu:  "A person is a person through other people.  It is not 'I think, therefore I am.'  I am human because I belong, I participate, I share."

Friday, September 30, 2016

Eldercare Nursing Assessments: Why? How? And the Cost?

If your aging parent needs care, chances are you'll hear the word assessment.  And possibly something about a charge.   I've had several clients recently ask, "What's with the extra cost?  I'm already paying a big monthly fee."

Here's the skinny on assessments: why, how and cost.

WHY?  Assessments are like entrance exams for services and care.  That includes in-home care, assisted living, adult family homes and nursing homes. 

HOW?  A professional, usually a Registered Nurse or a Social Worker, asks key questions about your parent's care and medical history.  Some samples: Is your parent incontinent?  Does your parent have memory loss and if so, how does that affect day to day life?  Does he or she need help with bathing, dressing or transferring from a chair to standing?  What kind of care, if any, is he or she receiving now?

The assessor also obtains information from your parent's doctor and from recent hospitalizations and nursing home stays.

Your parent gets to chime in, too, if that is appropriate.  If at all possible, the assessment is done in person.

Gathering information helps determine the amount of care needed, whether the provider can meet those needs, and if so, what will be the cost.

COST?  For in-home care through an agency, there is no cost.for an assessment. For assisted living, the community's nurse does the assessment at no direct charge, although it may be part of a required move-in fee.  No assessment fee for nursing homes, either.  Adult family homes in Washington State also require assessments.  Currently assessing nurses charge between $350 and $400 to do an in-person visit as well as inputting information into a State-mandated document.

Another word in your eldercare vocabulary mastered!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Amazing Grace: At Life's End, It Makes Magic

I love the word Grace.  In pastoral circles, it's defined as God's unmerited favor.  I think there's another way to think of it.  It's love and acceptance with no strings attached.

Often grace appears almost magically at the end of life. People tie up loose ends.  They say things they need to say.  They offer and receive forgiveness.  And sometimes the most unlikely people are the instruments of grace:  strangers, professionals and caregivers.

So if your aging parent is at life's end, pay attention.  Be prepared for grace to surprise you.

How do I know? I work with families every day. I see grace at work.  One day two sisters spoke of needing to place their 92-year-old mother in an adult family home.  Her care needs and confusion were increasing.  As I started the process of helping them find a home, the two daughters agreed on what was most important."Our mother needs a place where she can feel safe."

Their mother Lois had been abused as a child and had married an abuser, staying with him until he died.  Even afterward, she suffered from nightmares and anxiety. She needed to heal. 

The daughters found an adult family home provider named Olga who personified motherhood.  She spoke in gentle tones.  She engaged Lois and the other residents in conversation.  Soon Lois began to feel she belonged.

Lois died just four months after arriving in the adult family home.  I expressed my condolences to one of the daughters. She said, "One night I saw Olga putting Mother to bed.  She sang her lullabies.  Afterwards, Mother said, 'Thank you, Mother.'  For the first time, Mother felt safe."

Grace, pure grace.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eldercare Referral Agencies: Frequently Asked Questions

Living on the East or West Coasts?  Or in a highly populated area elsewhere?  Eldercare referral agencies are available to help you find good care for your aging parent.

Washington State has some great referral agencies, including Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work.  Here are some frequently asked questions about this service.

1.  How does a senior referral service help families?

Senior referral agencies are like realtors, teachers and social workers rolled into one.  They know the elder housing and care options in the geographic areas they serve. They understand funding programs such as the Veterans Aid and Attendance and Medicaid, and can refer to professionals who are experts in these areas.  Most important, they have years of professional experience working with families and understanding the emotional stresses involved.  The task is difficult; a referral agent can make it easier.

2.  How does the process work?

Finding good care is a team effort.  Family members are experts on their loved one.  They know his or her favorite foods, hobbies and preferred schedule.  They know the care issues involved. The referral agent knows the providers and pays visits to ensure quality.  The goal is to find a home that is a good fit for the elder and their family in terms of finances, social opportunities, and care. The agent and the family tour together.  Armed with knowledge, the family can make an informed choice.

3.  What are the specific steps?

First, the referral agent does an intake:  gathering information from the family, the elder himself if appropriate, and other medical sources.   Next, the agent researches the available options he or she has checked out previously to determine what will be a good fit.  Third, the agent and family tour together.  The family makes the choice; a nursing assessment is done and the elder moves in.

2.  Who pays the agent's fee?

Many referral agencies do not charge the client (family or individual).  They receive compensation from the retirement/assisted living community or adult family home upon move-in.  However, there are some agencies that hire out their services at an hourly rate to the family.

3.  How quickly can a referral agency find care for my loved one?

Many referral agencies, including Silver Age, can help people find care within 24 hours.  Or they can work for a year or more with elders who are not ready to move but who want to know the options and perhaps get on a waiting list.

Have you had experience with referral agencies?  Tell us about them.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More on Deep Breathing for Caregivers: Breath Prayers

Deep breathing can help people under stress relax.  If you're a caregiver of an aging parent or spouse, or if you work in the senior health care field, you know about stress.  Deep breathing, which I discussed in an earlier post, can move us from "flight or flight" to calm.

Early Christian fathers took breathing seriously.  So seriously that they created "breath" prayers:  short prayers they could repeat during the day to keep their focus on God rather than on the problems they faced, or even on the blessings or answers God might give them.

Breath prayers feature a phrase, usually about six to eight syllables long.  That phase is repeated in tandem with taking a breath. The first set of words is repeated as we inhale; the second set as we exhale.  Some words I've used in my breath prayers are "Lord have mercy," and "Teach me to pray." Breath prayers can be spoken or silent.  And they are highly personal.

The concept was introduced to me in 1994 at a prayer retreat led by Bishop Rueben Job, of the United Methodist Church.

"Ask God for the prayer; and practice words until the prayer fits," he said, sending us outside to walk the trails of the retreat center.  I walked, and breathed, and finally the right words came. 

"Lord, teach me to play."  That was my breath prayer then, and it still fits me now, when I take myself and my work too seriously.

Other religions have somewhat similar practices that combine deep breathing and meditation.

Breath prayers don't substitute for other forms of prayer.  But for me, they have turned off my brain, allowed me to relax and give my work, my family and myself--through my breath--to God.

Thoughts may be overrated, said my physician Dr. Henry Hochberg at my recent physical exam.

"People can live without thinking. Not very well, but they can live.  But no one can live without breathing," he says.

How true!  And as a corollary, for people of faith, "No one can live without prayer."

For the technique of deep breathing, see:  http://boomersguidetoeldercare.blogspot.com/2016/07/caregivers-senior-professionals-deep.html

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Caregivers, Senior Professionals: Deep Breathing Helps Us Relax!

Deep breathing.  It helped me bring our third child into the world 34 years ago.  Mirroring my husband's breaths, I kept the pain at bay.

Today and over the years, both as a caregiver and as a professional working with families with aging parents, I've seen  the value of deep breathing.

If you fall into one of those categories, caregiver or senior care professional, deep breathing can do wonders for your body. It can help you relax, focus, escape overthinking and fall asleep or go back to sleep. I've also personally experienced the effectiveness of deep breathing in combating "compassion fatigue," when I over-identify with clients and their struggles.  And yes, that happens!

Deep breathing takes practice.  It emphasizes the nose, rather than the mouth.  Here's how:
  • Lay down, stand, or sit upright as you breathe. It's more difficult to draw in a full breath if you're in a slouched position.
  • Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest, as you inhale. You can tell you're breathing deeply and properly if the hand on your belly rises out further than the one on your chest as you inhale.
  • Let out your breath slowly through your nose. As you breath out, pull in your belly toward your spine. Exhale all of the breath in your lungs. After you exhale, take in another deep breath through your nose and continue breathing deeply. Try to exhale for twice as long as you inhale, and fully expel the air. [3]
Good luck with deep breathing!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

When Regular Assisted Living Doesn't Work, What to do?

If you care for an aging parent, you may wonder, "What happens when assisted living no longer works?"  When care needs, either physical or cognitive, grow beyond the ability of staff to safely manage, what is the answer?  Memory care?  An adult family home?  A nursing home?

In Washington State, several assisted living communities have begun another option which for many, is a good alternative.  One name for this is a Transitional Program.

An example: Tahoma Landing at the Chateau Pacific in Lynnwood, offers more physical care and more cognitive care than regular assisted living. People with mild memory loss can live here instead of moving to memory care.  Residents who are cognitively sharp but have physical issues can also live here and receive help with transfers, fall prevention devices, etc.  How doe this work? Tahoma Landing is located in the regular assisted living area, but apartments are close to the nursing station.  Everything is easier:  Higher staffing ratios allow residents with memory issues to receive the cuing and oversight they need.  Those with physical needs can get help with their unique health issues.

The two other Chateau Retirement Communities in Bothell and Renton are slated to have the Tahoma Landing program, as well.

Overlake Terrace Assisted Living in Bellevue has had a transitional program for several years.  This is primarily for those with some memory loss but who are not appropriate for memory care.  Higher staffing gives needed attention.  A smaller setting offers comfort. 

Still other communities offer some flexibility for residents to spend the day in a higher care setting while sleeping in the regular assisted living.

Other spinoffs on transitional care are bound to appear on the horizon. And that could be good news for your aging parent.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eldercare Q-A: What's the WORST mistake to make when seeking care?

A client asked me that question not long ago.  She phrased it this way:  "Finding a good home for my 90-year-old mother is one of the most difficult things I've undertaken.  What is the one thing I should avoid doing or saying during this process?"

I wasn't used to giving advice to adult children.  But I answered as best as I could."You're the customer. Remember that.  And this is your mother you're looking after.  The position you're in is most likely outside your comfort zone.  So relax, and don't worry about making a mistake."

I could tell she didn't like my answer.  "But what behaviors should we avoid?"

Two things came to mind.  This is what I said:

First, don't hide anything in talking about your mother.  Marketing people and administrators need to know as much as possible about her likes, dislikes, diagnoses, peculiarities, finances, etc. That way they can help you determine whether their services or community will be a good fit for your parent and your family.

Second, don't choose in-home services, retirement or assisted living or an adult family home based on YOUR desires or preferences.  Your parent may have other ideas, and it will be his or her home, not yours. Think back on your vacations growing up.  Did your parents take you to a grand hotel?  To a seaside resort?  To a cabin in the woods?  Or did you go camping?  If your parent moves to a retirement or assisted living community, he or she will be on an extended vacation. Will she want the 20-foot ceilings and chandeliers?  Will small and cozy feel better?  If in doubt, ask your parent.

Good luck.  And relax.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To move, or not to move? Think SAFETY

It's a huge decision, all right.  Moving from your home is hard at any age, but especially for an older person.  Specifically, your aging parent.

Karin Miller, Geriatric Care Manager, suggests you and your parent look at the possibility through the eyes of SAFETY.  Consider:

Safety in the house
  • Is the house accessible?  Stairs?  Bathroom, Laundry on the main floor, Throw rugs,  grab bars...
  • Is home maintenance too much to deal with?
Safety from the outside
  • Is your parent in danger of being taken advantage of?
  • Driving safely?
Safety of person
  • Is there memory loss?  What about the ability to reason and make decisions?
  • Does he or she know what to do in emergencies?
  • Still cook a meal?  Take a shower safely?
  • Socialization and isolation--Will he or she enjoy being with others in a group setting?
Make a plan
  • List what is safe and unsafe
  • Gather information
  • Hire help--this gives you another set of eyes to see what's going on and to make sure basic needs are met.
  • Discuss the ongoing situation with family
  • Consider objections and realistic alternatives
  • Make a plan now and expect it to change.
This is a journey.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

One Woman's Voice: Mom's Mental Illness is So, So Sad!

If your aging parent or loved one suffers from mental illness, you suffer, too.  Listen to Kathy's story:

"My mother is 90.  Twenty-three years ago she moved from Washington to Arizona.  About the same time, she began exhibiting extreme paranoid behavior. Looking back, though, her illness may have started in her 40s."

Kathy and her family have attempted to reach out to her mother in many ways:  through contacting neighbors, sending cards and pictures of children and grandchildren and even visits, or attempted visits.

"I visited four times.  Each time she yelled through the screen door, 'Leave me alone!  You're only here to give me those medications.  And I don't want them.'"

The neighbors say they see her drive, and get in and out of the car, without talking to anyone.  When twin granddaughters were born, she did fly to the Seattle area to see them, but stayed only one day and avoided the rest of the family.

"I have nightmares about her dying alone and not having anyone know," Kathy said, adding, "I feel powerless, with no copy of a power of attorney or will."

I'm not a trained counselor or therapist.  I am the daughter of a woman who was diagnosed with mental illness in midlife and who suffered profoundly. 

I can understand Kathy's pain.  I feel so sorry for her family!  She has done so much to try to reach out to her mother.  My suggestions were for her to contact Arizona Adult Protective Services so they could check on her mother for possible self-abuse.  And also to contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for information on support groups and classes.  Sharing with others often eases the pain.

Kathy also allowed me to share her story with you, in the hopes that you might have some ideas for her situation. 

Do you have experience with mental illness in an older adult (parent or other)?  Could you offer Kathy encouragement or any steps she might take to help herself, her family and her mother?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Medicaid Q-A: Can Mom keep her benefits if she moves here from another state?

This is a tough one.  I have a client who wants to move her 90-year-old mother from New York to Washington State.  She's in a nursing home there.  If Mom moves, can she transfer her benefits?

The answer:  It's possible, but not easy.  Medicaid programs are funded through a combination of federal and state funds, and each state has its own program, setting rules regarding eligibility and the application process.

In order for Mom to receive benefits in her new state, she must disenroll in the state where she has lived.  That means someone on her behalf connects with DSHS to tell them about the move so her benefits will be stopped. 

For Mom to receive Medicaid in her new state, Washington, she must establish residency.  She can submit her Medicaid application on day one, when she moves in. (That assumes someone has completed it on her behalf.) The application process isn't immediate.  According to DSHS, applications are taking about two months to process.  The approval includes establishing financial and medical need.

What happens during that waiting period?  Sometimes an adult child can afford to pay privately for care--usually in an adult family home, until benefits are approved.  Another possibility is to bring Mom into the family home temporarily until Medicaid funding is sure.

During that interim time, her medical benefits will be limited until Medicaid kicks in.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Medicaid in Washington State: Application Tips

Fifteen years ago Medicaid applications were a snap. You picked up a paper application at a DSHS office.  Or at an assisted living community or nursing home. You filled it out based on your aging parent's information, submitted it to the same office with documentation, and waited....

Not so today. My friend Gary is applying on behalf of his mother for COPES, the assisted living version of Medicaid.  It's similar to the nursing home Medicaid program but provided in a lesser care setting. Gary went on line, googling a number of phrases that might work:  applying for Medicaid in Washington State, Medicaid application, on-line Medicaid application, etc.

No dice. Gary called me.  After a few minutes of frustration, googling in vain, I suggested that he go to the DSHS office to get one.  "I'll have to take a couple of hours of work to do that," he said.  True.  We both agreed there had to be a better solution.

Ta da!  Two online documents, "Questions and Answers on Medicaid for Nursing Home Residents" and "Questions and Answers on the COPES Program," both published by Columbia Legal Services, have the Medicaid application process on their front page. 

Apply online for both programs at www.washingtonconnection.org/home/.   The page is general, not specific to Medicaid.  Complete the profile, answering the questions as if you were your parent.

Or obtain a paper application online for both programs at Washington Apple Health Application for Long-Term Care/Aged,Blind, Disabled Coverage.  I'm not sure why long-term care coverage is named Apple Health.  But it is.

And you can still obtain a paper application at a DSHS office.

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

To Move, or Not to Move: A Multifaceted Quesion

You and your aging parent have started talking about the possibility of moving from home.  But when is a good time?

Here are some choices:

1.  Don't move at all.  Approximately 92% of today's seniors say they never want to leave their home.   They have their stuff, their schedule, their neighborhood.  Home care works well for many, if their needs can be scheduled, such as a shower at 10 am and meal preparation beginning at 11:30 am.  Home care costs roughly $30 an hour for a four-hour shift. As care needs rise,  so do the costs  (home care in the Seattle area runs about $325 for a 24-hour shift.)  At some point, usually 6-8 hours of care a day, staying at home becomes more expensive than moving to assisted living or an adult family home.  For some people, the cost is worth the comfort and the security of one on one care.  If an elder has dementia, however, home care may not be safe unless there is a caregiver in the home all day or possibly 24/7.
2.  Move earlier while in good health.  A certain segment of the senior population moves to a simpler lifestyle in a retirement community while they can still enjoy the activities, trips and socialization, knowing that help is available as their needs change.
3.  Move for the sake of a caregiver spouse.  Caregiving causes stress to soar.  Often a caregiving spouse blossoms when the couple moves to a retirement community or when the ill spouse is placed in care. The caregiver spouse can now get away for activities and fellowship with others.  Their domestic duties are fewer now, as are their responsibilities for their spouse's care. The well spouse drops the caregiver role, allowing him or her to focus on the relationship.
4.  Move following a medical emergency, such as a hospitalization, or because a physician says 24-hour care is needed. 

There's no magical time, but circumstances and key people in one's life will help them tell whether the time is right.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stumped about finding care for a parent? Think "where" before "when"

Decisions, decisions. The falls, the frailty, the forgetfulness may have you convinced that your aging parent may need help sooner than you had imagined.

"Tomorrow this must happen," you think.  But unless your parent has dementia, is in danger, or in the hospital or rehab and can no longer live safely alone, I'd suggest you pull back mentally and consider the "where" before the "when" of obtaining in-home care or moving from their home.

Your parent is competent?  If so, you might have a conversation that begins like this:

 "Where do you see yourself  living when home becomes difficult to manage?"  Many answers are possible, but the most frequent response--that of 92% of Americans--is "I want to stay home, with help, if needed.  But home, definitely."

If HOME answers the "where" question, you and your parent can plan how to make the home safer and how to research home care options WHEN it's needed.  And perhaps talk with others in their neighborhood about good providers.

But suppose your parent has another idea such as "I want to live where I can get meals, housekeeping, transportation and help with care if needed.  But I'm not ready now."

Choosing the specific WHERE makes the WHEN question easier to navigate.  To help your parent find the specific location, you can do any number of the following:
  • Together, make a list of the "must-have's" in terms of location, cost, levels of care, affiliation, etc.
  • Do some online research to eliminate communities that don't seem to fit your criteria.
  • Tour several communities and ask lots of questions of the marketing director.  Talk to residents, too, to see how they like living there.
  • Do repeat tours to any communities that are especially appealing.
  • If your parent wants to "save a spot," he or she may put down a deposit for a waiting list.  The deposit is usually refundable.  It works to sustain interest.  And waiting list members are often invited to community events and even free weekends so they can sample community life.
For seniors who are mentally competent but becoming frail, the WHEN decision can be lengthy as they sort through the options and finally decide.

Starting with the WHERE can give you and your parent peace of mind.  If an emergency arises, you've talked through the options ahead of time.  Less panic and more peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

On Giving Up Worrying (About My Aging Parent) for Lent

Worry.  Specifically over our aging parent.  It robs us of sleep, it saps our energy; it kills our effectiveness.

One year as Lent approached, I asked myself, "Could I give up worry for Lent--one moment at a time?"

After all, one year I'd given up chocolate for Lent.  When I announced my goal, my kids' reaction was disbelief, "You'll never make it.  You're the worst chocoholic ever.  Worse than Ruby."

Ruby, our Hungarian hunting dog, sniffed out chocolate anywhere and everywhere.  She wolfed down an entire chocolate cake one Halloween and a half dozen fundraising chocolate bars on another day. 

But yes, I managed to live without chocolate for 40 days.  But could I live without worry?  This was a pattern ingrained in me, worse as I thought about my dad, who struggled with late-stage Parkinson's. But worry wasn't doing me any good, or anyone else, for that matter.

My strategy was simple.  I tied a rubber band around my left wrist.  Every time I experienced a "worrying" thought, I snapped the rubber band.  Not to punish myself, but to give a gentle reminder that my worries didn't produce anything productive. I also let a couple of people know about my plan so they could hold me accountable.

I'd like to say the rubber band therapy totally cured me of worry.  But it didn't.  It did bring to light the extent of my issue so I could work on it. One thing that helped tremendously was to add a simple prayer, "Help me!" as I found myself in the worry mode.

Easter came.  And the end of rubber band therapy.  Did the worrying end?  Not totally.  I no longer wear a rubber band bracelet.  But the prayer, "Lord, help me!" is still with me, to pull out and use, not just during Lent, but all year long.

Happy Easter!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Senior Care Professioals: the Why of What We Do

Once in awhile a client--an adult child--grills me about ME.  Wait!  Aren't I the one who asks the questions to discover their parent's needs, desires, goals, dreams, plus diagnoses, medications, etc. etc.?  Aren't I the one to take that information and help the adult child make good care choices?

Yes.  So when an inquiring client starts asking ME questions, I'm taken aback.  Their queries remind me of those asked at a job interview.  And goodness knows, I've had enough of those for a lifetime.

Last week I was peppered with questions from an adult child seeking care for her 92-year-old mother. 

"How did you get started in the senior care business?"

"What makes you keep working with families who can be stressed out over finding care for their loved one?"

"Do you like your job?"

Underlying these questions were:  "Do you have a passion for what  you do?  Will that passion keep you going even on difficult days? and "Will you bring that passion with you to work on Mom's behalf?

Passion informs the WHY of our work with seniors and their families.  Passion keeps us doing the right thing, even when no one else is looking.  It keeps us seeking the best options for a senior even if we end up with a lower commission--or none at all.

I still prefer asking the questions, rather than answering them.  But when the shoe is on the other foot, and I squirm a bit, I need to remember to dance.  Passionately.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Your parent has dementia? Walk the walk, safely, that is

It's better to be safe than sorry.  If your parent has Alzheimer's or other dementia, walking can present some challenges.  Here are tips to help you and your parent exercise with care.

1.  Avoid walking on shiny surfaces, as these can appear icy or slick to people with dementia.

2.  Leaving a crowded place can also be difficult, as the person with dementia may become frightened by all the movement and want to hold back.

3.  Getting out of a car can take longer, and walking into a building can become slower.  Telling a person with Alzheimer's to "hurry up" doesn't help.  You'll need to keep track of them and slow your pace to match theirs.

4.  Try mall walking, and bring along a friend or two.  Your loved one can walk with one friend while you get some needed respite.

5.  Be alert for a loss of balance when going up or down the stairs.  Stumbling can be a huge problem.

These tips were taken from A Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease:  300 Tips forMaking Life Easier.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mom's Giving Up Driving?: Create a Transportation Fund

You look at your aging parent and see an unsafe driver.  He or she sees a dismal future.
"I'll be stuck in this house all the time!"
"Getting transportation will cost a fortune!" 

That's why it's important to devise a plan to provide transportation that won't break the bank, and won't put your parent back in the driver's seat.

Jeannine C. White, RN, MSN  calls the solution a "transportation fund." Basically your aging parent takes the funds he or she would normally spend monthly on driving a car and applies the money toward establishing a fund for reasonably priced transportation.

1.  Step One:  Create the fund.  It will have more money than you might anticipate.
  • Selling your parent's car could bring in several thousands of dollars.  That money goes into the fund.
  • Compute the future monthly savings on auto insurance.  Those dollars will go into the fund.
  • Calculate the monthly cost of gasoline and maintenance.  That money will be available for the fund.
  • Add up the monthly average parking and toll costs.
  • Think of other monthly auto-associated costs that will be saved by giving up a car.

2.  Step Two:  Decide how many trips your parent needs a month.  Include doctor visits, shopping, going to church and other social gatherings, visiting friends and family and anything else you can think of.

3.  Step Three:  Research the various transportation options in your area.
  • Family and friends. 
  • Free and low-cost transportation in your area.  Contacting your local senior center will give you information on paratransit programs (public transportation for those who can't ride a regular bus because  of disabilities),  volunteer drivers (often through churches).
  • Hired drivers.  The Eldercare Locator ,  can help you learn the going rate for a driver through an in-home care agency in your parent's area. It can also be reached by calling 800-677-1116 (9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST).
  • TIP:  Before hiring a driver, make sure you see a copy of his driver's license and proof of insurance, and go for at least one drive with the candidate. Check references. If a driver is using the older adult's car, or yours,  check with your insurance company about coverage.
  • Taxis.  This is the most comfortable and the most expensive option.   
4. Step Four:  Help your parent schedule the trips, use funds from the transportation fund and mixing free and paid transportation, if possible.

Have you had experience obtaining transportation for your aging parent when driving is no longer possible?  Have you come up with any creative ways of solving the transportation issue?
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