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Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.

Carol Marak, Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

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Each year, more and more older adults are making a positive impact in and around their community. Usually this contribution involves the encouragement and even logistics of a family caregiver.

Many older Americans who are family caregivers are themselves contributing to their community simply by caring for their own senior loved ones.

In addition, they act as volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates, and more which offers insight and experience that benefit the entire community.

That’s why Older Americans Month (OAM) has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years when President John F. Kennedy designated May Older Americans Month.

At that time, the President felt it was time to begin to take the needs of the growing older American population. The goal was to recognize their many contributions to our country especially in defending it.

From then until now, led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent as a way to thank them for their gifts to society. They help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

Theme for OAM 2019

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Family caregivers can celebrate OAM by promoting ways that community members of all ages can take part in helping older adults in their community as well as their own senior loved one thrive.

Things to Do In Your Community

There will be many events going on in your senior’s community that will help family caregivers connect, create and contribute.

Here are a few you may want to join:

  1. Participate in your local senior center activities by attending classes on crafts, cooking, lines dancing, yoga, or educational topic.
  2. Volunteer for an organization you support such as the library, animal shelter, school mentorship, litter cleanup or church group.
  3. Attend a health fair and take charge of your health.
  4. Share your skills with others in your community who may need help.
  5. Help a meal delivery program deliver meals to people in your local area.
  6. Join a fall prevention program to build your own strength and balance while meeting new people.
  7. Attend a Senior Day event in your city.
  8. Find a class on technology to help your senior learn about ways to use technology to benefit them as they age in place. Attend the class together.

We encourage you to:

Connect: Encourage older adults and other storytellers to share their experiences

Create: Inspire older adults to express themselves through art, dance, exercise, gardening or other personal enrichment activities.

Contribute: Connect older adults with resources and each other

Things to Do At Home

Family caregivers can take action with their senior loved ones to celebrate OAM with them and other family and friends.

Here are some fun things you can do together:

  • Have a family game night and play their favorites. Have lots of healthy snacks to keep the fun rolling!
  • Take a nature walk with the grandkids. Explore plants and animals in nature, go on a scavenger hunt, share a picnic and watch the birds fly together. Sharing this with kids will benefit all generations.
  • Look through family photo albums together and reminisce about family members who came before you. Discuss their jobs, their military service, where they lived and funny stories of shared hijinks! Maybe this could lead to a family reunion to meet new members and enjoy old members of the family.
  • Store the photos and memories for the future, journal the family stories and create a family tree.
  • Attend an event together. It could simply be the local Farmer’s Market or a fundraising event like a Fashion Show.

This is just a small start to all the places you could go and fun you can share with your senior loved one.

Time spent together is not only enriching for your relationship but also good for your senior’s health.

Physical activity and social engagement can make a positive impact on their quality of life.

These are all great reasons to find ways to celebrate OAM and your senior loved one today!

Additional Resources

Here are some additional articles that you might find helpful when deciding how to share time with our senior loved during OAM and every day.

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It is Better Hearing and Speech month, so we invited Annette Mazevski, Au.D., Ph.D., to author an article for Senior Care Corner®.  Annette is the Manager of Technology Assessment at Oticon, a hearing aid manufacturer. She has more than 15 years of experience as an audiologist and researcher, during which she has guided hearing aid wearers through the fitting process and conducted hearing health research.

Is your loved one having trouble hearing but reluctant to try hearing aids? They’re not alone. Among seniors with hearing loss, fewer than one in three has ever used them.

And that’s unfortunate.

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between untreated hearing loss in older adults and a greater risk of cognitive decline. When hearing is compromised, the brain has to work harder to process information and struggles to fill in unheard consonants and syllables. Conversation becomes more difficult, and your loved one may withdraw from the social connections that are so important to brain health.

This isolation and resulting loneliness can increase their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that a solution as simple as wearing hearing aids can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. Importantly, hearing aids can restore the ability to communicate, so your loved one stays socially active and engages in other brain-stimulating activities.

When seniors actively wear hearing aids, they’re more likely to connect with others, one of the primary ways to stimulate the brain.

A Healthy Hearing Check Annette Mazevski, AuD PhD

Is a hearing evaluation part of your loved ones’ regular health screenings? If they haven’t had their hearing checked, help them see that they’re missing an important component of everyday health. Talk with them about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care professional. A hearing evaluation conducted by qualified hearing care professional is painless and non-invasive.

During the appointment, the hearing specialist will not only verify if your loved one has hearing loss but also explain the kinds of difficulties they will experience with the severity of their hearing loss. The hearing specialist will then guide them as they choose a hearing solution that is specifically tailored to their hearing loss and preferences.

Your loved one may be surprised to find that today’s hearing aids offer a range of discreet styles and attractive benefits. The newest technology in hearing aids is designed to carefully process speech, so it is presented to the brain as clearly and accurately as possible – the way the brain is best able to understand it. Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing technology support the hard work the brain does, enabling people to hear better, with less effort so they can participate more actively in life.

Your loved one can also choose from a variety of advanced hearing aid features and functionalities, such as the ability to connect to cell phones, stream music and integrate with smart home devices.

Support Your Loved One with Hearing Loss

As people grow older, the shift from hearing well to hearing difficulties can be so gradual, they may not realize how much they are missing. They may unconsciously adjust their everyday activities and social interactions to cope with hearing difficulties, gradually diminishing their ability to live their life to its fullest.

You can be a valuable ally in helping your loved one see the benefits of better hearing. Regular hearing healthcare and actively wearing hearing aids can help your loved one stay engaged in life and connected to the people and activities they love.

It will be a win-win for all of you!

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Sometimes even the English language can seem like someone is speaking in a foreign tongue.

Older adults, who lived much of their lives without today’s technology, can feel that tech speak is unintelligible and the whole world is trying to tell them something they don’t understand.

It can be like talking about a new medical condition or the effects of medication with a doctor when they use terms we never heard before.

It would be so nice to learn the words to describe a variety of technology solutions that could benefit them or simply make their life a little easier.

Helping seniors (and their family caregivers) learn at the least the most frequently used tech terminology could be very helpful in getting them comfortable using technology and gaining the benefits it can bring to their lives.

Defining Tech Speak

Here are some of the more common words used by those familiar with technology that many seniors — and family caregivers — may not yet have mastered.

Android – mobile operating system developed by Google and used in almost all non-Apple smartphones and tablet devices.

Apps – app is an abbreviation for the word application, it usually refers to a software program that performs a specific function. The term app refers to mobile devices and a user must download them to use. They open up in the operating system. Examples of apps include mobile banking, games, maps, GPS, business links, health links, etc.

Artificial Intelligence or AI — intelligence demonstrated by a machine that is normally associated with humans, such as the ability to observe a situation and make a decision regarding how to proceed based on the information observed.

Blockchain — a list of records, linked using secure code, that grows with each new record added, with none being deleted. Each record is accessible only to those who have the appropriate key code. A blockchain allows secure records, such as medical records, banking information, contracts, and more to be securely maintained without the need of entities in the middle of the transaction, giving parties much greater security potential than is achieved with current systems.

Bluetooth – short (such as within a room or home) distance wireless interconnection between mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Data is sent over radio waves instead of through wires/cords. Devices that are able to connect have a Bluetooth chip in them.

Broadband Connection — often called just ‘broadband,’ refers to a high speed connection to the internet, whether using DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), Cable modem, or high speed cellular connection.

Data – pieces of information, such as names, phone numbers, medical device readings, whether a light switch is on or off, and much MUCH more.

Download – receiving information or data from one computer or electronic device into the memory of another usually over the internet.

Flash drive – a small portable device for the purpose of storing files or data and can transfer that data to another device as well as be used to back up data. This data storage device is also known as thumb drive, flash stick, memory stick, jump drive, or USB memory.

HDMI cable – a cable that transmits high definition digital audio/visual (compressed or uncompressed) from a source device to another compatible device. For example, connects a computer to a projector to present a video.

HTML – fundamental language used to create webpages; stands for hypertext markup language.

Hub – center of a network. For technology, a hub can be the center of a specific network, such as smart home devices, or the center of USB system that connects peripheral devices. A network hub allows multiple devices the ability to communicate with each other. A USB hub allows multiple devices to be connected to or interface with one computer.

iOS – an operating system for mobile devices manufactured and used by Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones.

IoT – Internet of Things; refers to a system of interrelated electronic and mechanical devices that are connected so that no human contact is required for operation (human to human or human to computer). They connect wirelessly using a hub as point of connectivity. They transmit data amongst devices.

Link – it is an HTML object that allows users to jump to a different web location by clicking it. Links are often attached to images, words, or titles. They can be displayed using blue letters or underlined but this is no longer the default. Term is short for hyperlink.

Operating system – a system that allows software to communicate with hardware in computing to allow programs to run. Examples include Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android.

Phishing — scam that uses email to fraudulently obtain personal data such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers by tricking recipients into thinking they are opening and responding to an email from a known or reputable source.

Platforms – refers to a computers operating system or group of technologies that are used as a base for applications; examples for personal computing are Windows, MacIntosh and tell on which kind of computer system a particular software will work. Social media sites are often described as platforms as well (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Remote access – the ability to use a computer or electronic device from a separate or remote location as well as the ability to control the device or app once the connection is made.

Streaming – transmitting or receiving data over a computer network in such a way that you can begin viewing the data before it is fully transmitted, such as when watching a video.

Strong password – passwords that are harder to hack, which will contain a variety of characters such as lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long (typically longer).

Sync – abbreviation for synchronize; connecting data between devices such as computer and smartphones, typically via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular connections.

Upload – the opposite of downloading, sending data from one electronic device to another. You will upload emails and photos when you send.

USB — Universal Serial Bus, short distance digital communication; USB ports allow connectivity between devices and transfer data over cables.

Wearables – electronic technology device that can be worn, such as exercise trackers, or can be imbedded in clothing or as tattoos directly on the skin. Powered by microprocessors, they are hands-free and can send or receive data via the internet.

Wireless – transmit data without cables or wires using radio waves. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both networks that allow data to transmit without wires. A wireless card or router/modem is used for Wi-Fi and a chip is generally used to enable Bluetooth.

5G — refers to the fifth (next) generation of mobile internet connectivity, which will provide much faster connections and enable much higher volumes of data to be communicated.

Building Comfort with Tech

Seniors may be more comfortable engaging with technology when they are relieved of feeling embarrassed due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of tech and its terminology.

Simply learning some of the technology industry’s language may empower them to get more involved with tech that is beneficial to them and their ability to live independently.

Geek speak shouldn’t be keeping them from using technology.

Keep in mind the objective is building comfort, not making anyone experts in the field.

Learning a few new words shouldn’t be a barrier and it might be fun especially if a tech-savvy or tech geek grandchild is the teacher!

This is a great way for multi-generational interaction to happen that will benefit everyone.




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We invited Denise M. Brown to author an article for Senior Care Corner® because we believe her conference is a valuable opportunity and resource for family caregivers. In addition, in the article she offers a number of resources family caregivers will find valuable sources of support now and in the future.

Denise began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. She’s the author of several books including The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.

We often hear that we need to take regular breaks from our caregiving responsibilities. Often those suggested breaks include ideas for self-care which mostly focus on pampering.

Pampering is more than manicures and pedicures.

Our National Caregiving Conference feels like pampering for your heart and soul. When you join us at our conference, you join a community that understands you and that welcomes you.

Often during our caregiving experience we can feel disconnected, wondering where we belong because our lives feel so much different that our friends, co-workers and neighbors.

At our conference, you connect with others in a similar situation and with those who totally get it.

Connecting and Learning

Because you connect with those who understand, you can develop deep and meaningful relationships with other attendees.

Elizabeth Miller, who helps care for her mom and operates her own business, HappyHealthyCaregiver.com, returns to our conference every year to re-connect with friends she met at our first year conference. She also will present for the third straight year because she wants to share what she learned the hard way about self-care.

Sharon Hall, who cares for her husband and cared for her mom until her mom’s death in March, presents at our conference to share what she’s learned about her husband’s disease, frontotemporal degeneration. She knows how confusing the FTD behavior can be and wants others to know that they can manage the difficulties. If you care for a family member with FTD, networking with Sharon will provide a sense of relief that only someone who truly understands can give.

At our conference, we’re not just educating each other. Professionals and researchers attend to learn from us what caregiving is like. Last year, researchers from Purdue University and Johns Hopkins University attended our sessions to hear directly from family caregivers about their experiences.

We’re the experts in caregiving which is why health care professionals and researchers attend our National Caregiving Conference – to improve their work by receiving our expertise.

This Year’s Conference

This year’s conference, which will take place November 7-10 at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, will honor our amazing difference to our family, our carees, our community and ourselves.

This year, we want to create an experience that leaves you feeling different, either about yourself, your caregiving experience or your future.

We also want you to return home with new relationships which continue to pamper your heart and soul until our next conference in 2020.

Caregiver Resources

We understand that attending our conference can present a financial hardship. Visit CareGiving.com regularly to learn about contests you can enter for a chance to win cash and free nights at our conference hotel. Each year, we’ve given away at least $4,000 to help family caregivers and former family caregivers attend our conference.

In addition, you can check out these organizations if you need to hire or have help for your caree so you can attend:

  • Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to find out about programs which help you get a break.
  • Call the Department of Veterans Affairs National Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
  • Hospice offers a five-day respite benefit so the primary family caregiver can take a break.
  • Contact your local assisted living facilities and nursing homes to learn about short-term placement for your caree while you attend the conference.
  • Disease-specific organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association and ALS Association, may offer respite programs.
  • Easter Seals offers programs for adults and children with disabilities.

If you cannot join us in Chicago, we hope you’ll watch our live, free broadcast of select conference sessions on November 8 and 9. As you watch our live broadcast, you’ll feel connected to a community that understands.

To learn more about our conference, please visit our conference webpage.

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The arrival of Spring means we get to see daffodils popping to meet the sunshine and crocuses sticking their little heads up to say hello!

Many seniors have shared their joy of gardening with their children and grandchildren over the years.

Having learned from our elders the joy of gardening and nurturing the earth, we carry on the love they’ve given us by planting and growing our own flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

It is now our turn as caregivers to share new, accessible gardens and the fulfillment of getting our hands dirty again with our senior loved ones as they age.

Seniors often find that the effects of aging on joints, muscles, and the freedom of movement have prohibited them from tending to their beloved gardens.

Family caregivers can help change that.

Making Senior Friendly Gardens Grow

Bringing the garden to a senior is a good way to get them involved in a meaningful activity, one through which many benefits can be gained.

Here are some ideas for you to create friendly garden spaces and some tools you and your senior will need to be safe and accessible.

  • Growing vertically – plants that we grow vertically are more easily accessible for those with mobility limitations. There are different kinds of commercially available products that can grow in hanging containers, upside down, trellises or using garden towers.
  • Growing in raised beds – an advantage is that they are easy to reach, even from a wheelchair or seated position, if balance or endurance is a problem. Garden boxes can be elevated on legs or built up beds lined with materials, such as railroad timbers, that allow space for a seat for gardeners to work and rest. Two to three feet in height is typically ideal for easiest accessibility.
  • Planting container gardens – if space or mobility is limited, use a container to grow specific items, such as flowers, herbs, or vegetables, from patios or porches for accessibility.
  • Plant in found items, such as a pallet – an old wooden pallet is transformed with herbs and flowers — even vegetables — interspersed between slats and stands on its side for easy reach. This video shows how to re-purpose a discarded pallet into a thriving garden.

Building a Vertical Pallet Garden - YouTube

  • Maintenance friendly commercially available planting soil – using this specially prepared soil will reduce the need for weeding, tilling hard soil and other labor intensive preparation. They also have the ability to hold and disperse water to the plant roots more effectively.
  • Self-watering containers – some garden containers that are commercially available have a capacity to self-water so if seniors are unable to water daily the plants will still continue to grow well. You can also fashion your own self-watering containers using reservoirs, drip hoses and garden hoses. You can find directions to make your own watering system on YouTube too.
  • If going outside is not an option, try using inside plant stands with fluorescent lighting. It will provide the same benefits of physical and mental activity in a more convenient form. You can purchase specially made indoor gardens that will provide light and growing trays.
  • Don’t forget adequate shade areas, garden hats with wide brims, garden gloves to protect sensitive skin, seating, convenient portable stools, knee pads, ergonomic garden tools, and easy-to-maneuver paths so that everyone can enjoy the activity.
Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Gardening can bring multiple benefits beyond the food they can grow that will improve their quality of life.

  • Accessible and non-strenuous way to give seniors a way to share their gardening expertise, get some physical activity, spend some time outdoors, and have an improved quality of life. It is a great conversation starter and wonderful way to give seniors a way to engage with others in a meaningful way.
  • Growing a garden, whether big or small, will attract birds and butterflies to their home. They can spend time being an observer or even a participant with nature.
  • Having a new garden or being able to use their existing garden more efficiently and safely will add to their aging in place experience.
  • It can give them a purpose and feel part of the life around them, not just as an observer. It keeps them engaged!
  • Stimulate seniors’ brains by having them plan what plants they would like to grow, when to plant, when to weed, and when to harvest can keep their minds active as well as their bodies.
  • Growing some of their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs will improve their nutritional intake and encourage healthy eating.
  • Home gardens will allow them to mentor future generations. Multi-generational experiences improve the quality of life, not just for seniors but from all family members.
  • Sharing the harvest with family, friends, and neighbors will keep seniors connected with their ‘community.’

Aging shouldn’t be the reason your senior stops enjoying a lifelong activity – at least not without a fight. Helping to give your senior a way to continue to engage in gardening, either on a small or somewhat larger scale, can provide many benefits for the entire family.

We hope you are able to try some of these ideas and enjoy the harvest!

We would love to hear how you made it possible for your senior to get their hands dirty!

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Danielle Kunkle Roberts authored this article as a guest of Senior Care Corner®. She is the co-owner of Boomer Benefits and a Forbes.com Contributor. Her licensed insurance agency specializes in Medicare-insurance related products, helping tens of thousands of clients across 47 states.

The number of unpaid caregivers in the United States has reached over 40 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Often, a caregiving role falls upon a family member whether or not they are prepared to take on the difficult job.

The need for caregivers to have a break by way of respite care is well known amongst senior advocacy groups. Congress heard the plead for respite coverage and acted by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. One of the bill’s many additions to Medicare Advantage plans is respite care.

Medicare’s coverage of respite care will depend greatly upon what kind of Medicare plan a patient has. Let’s look at how both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will cover respite care in 2019.

Original Medicare and Respite Care

Original Medicare’s coverage of respite care was not changed by the 2018 legislation from Congress. Medicare strictly states that it will cover respite care if the patient has a terminal illness with 6 months or less to live. Meaning, a patient must be receiving hospice benefits to get their respite care covered.

Hospice Respite Care

Original Medicare will cover short-term respite care for up to 5 consecutive days. According to Medicare.gov, they will cover additional stays in the case they are not too frequent.

To be covered, the respite care will need to be provided in a Medicare-approved facility such as a hospice facility, hospital, or a nursing home.

Additionally, the care will generally be provided under the following circumstances:

  • The caregiver is facing physical or emotional fatigue
  • The caregiver has an appointment, obligation, or event to attend to
  • The caregiver is ill and can no longer take care of the patient on their own
Cost with Original Medicare

Fortunately, if the patient meets Medicare’s criteria, Part A will foot most of the respite care bill.  Typically, the patient will only be responsible for covering 5% of the Medicare-approved amount.

To break down an example of this, if Medicare approves $100 per day for inpatient respite care, this would leave only $5 per day for the patient to pay while Medicare picked up the rest.

Beneficiaries enrolled in Medigap plans may find that their plan covers the 5% coinsurance for them.

Medicare Advantage and Respite Care

Notably, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have seen the biggest change from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Respite care is one of the additions now allowed. If a carrier decides to include some of these new supplemental benefits to its plan design, it will usually allocate a set dollar amount and/or credit a certain number of hours of respite care that will be covered.

The respite care options that can be covered by some Medicare Advantage plans include:

Short-term residential facilities

Many assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospice centers offer short-term respite care as a service. There are typically rooms in these facilities that are specifically designed for temporary stays by their respite patients.

In-home respite care

In-home respite care is a great option for caregivers that need a temporary break but are in a situation where the patient cannot leave the home.

Adult day care

Caregivers can schedule respite care through an adult day care on occasion or a set schedule. This is a great change of pace and scenery for the patient while giving the caregiver a temporary break.

It is important to stress that not every MA plan will offer respite care coverage. There are still many plans that have yet to offer this coverage. With 2019 being the first year that plans can offer this coverage, analysts believe many more plans will offer the benefit in the future.

Summary

Respite care is a practical and necessary break for caregivers. This unpaid role can feel daunting to the caregiver at times and even cause stress on the patient. The newly available coverage of respite care through Medicare Advantage plans will be a welcome benefit to many beneficiaries and their family members.

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Springtime again! Many trees are sporting flowers and others have leaves busting out.

It’s time to gather together our woven baskets and multi-colored plastic straw hay!

For many seniors it means the grandkids are coming to search for goodies to celebrate spring on Easter Sunday, whether it’s celebrated as a religious holiday or simply happiness that the seasons are changing (and maybe a few days off from school).

We love to hide brightly colored eggs with hidden surprises inside for the children. The love to find a coin, a chocolate treat, a marshmallow peep, or the golden ticket!

Memories of Easters Past

Even adults enjoy treats, surprises, and special goodies from time to time – particularly on days that hold fond memories, such as Easter. Special treats can bring back cherished memories of childhood, some adulthood holidays, and the special people with whom they shared the day.

They might remember getting all dressed up in their finest bib and tucker or getting a new outfit – or special hat – for the special day.

Many will never forget the white patent leather Mary Jane shoes they would wear for the day and then not again until summer, at least until after Memorial Day!

Senior Easter Basket Wishes

What do you get for your senior loved ones’ Easter basket? You know them best, of course, but here are some ideas to get you thinking.

  • A new hat (maybe one you pick together) or perhaps take an older hat and add embellishments onto together as a multi-generational project)
  • A new piece of jewelry, such as a beaded necklace or brooch (something they could wear to church or family gatherings and show off)
  • A new floral perfume (reminiscent of a bygone scent or a favorite flower in the garden would be especially nice)
  • A family photo (perhaps a recent one of the grandkids or an older version with those no longer with us)
  • Chocolate bunny candy or cream filled eggs (my family loved maple candy that was a special and rare treat)
  • An Easter lily (this is a tradition I remember from my earliest childhood, we never went to grandma’s house without a lily!)
  • A handmade card (one made by the kids with messages of endearment or glued on macaroni)
  • Jelly beans (the quintessential Easter treat — who could forget or resist!)
  • Coupons (ones from their favorite restaurant, local business, grocery item or handmade for unique gifts like washing the windows or polishing the silver)
  • Personal items they might find useful, like hearing aid batteries, glass cleaning cloth, denture paste, a favorite skin lotion, new nail polish or lipstick, lip balm, aftershave, a backscratcher, nail file, sunscreen or any item that shows you are paying attention to what they need and those things they like.
Make the Basket Personal

The key running through the ideas above is that the contents of the basket for your senior should have personal meaning to them rather than being one of the ready-made packages we see all over the stores.

We are sure you can think of other things that might make special gifts, such as a new sweater or lightweight jacket, a book, slippers, or other items.

Think how much fun it would be to put these smaller items into a pretty new wicker basket with a big pastel bow and remind your senior of how it felt to be young waiting for the Easter bunny!

Enjoy your family moments and reminiscing about fun times in years past. After all, those memories can be the most special treats of all!




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An overwhelming majority of seniors wish to age in place — live in the home of their choice — whether that be in their current home, a smaller living space, with relatives, or in a senior living facility.

The same is true for those of us who are not yet seniors. We often hear statistics that put the number at 80% of us or higher who wish to age in place.

But are their homes ready to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable?

There are many things that we can do to make that a reality, including keeping our bodies as healthy and functional as possible, preventing chronic diseases or managing those diseases that we have while keeping our minds active.

Once you are in the home of your dreams, there are things that can be done to help make the home safe and secure.

Because we know how important these products are to seniors in their homes, we included a selection of each in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector/alarm will sense smoke in the area and alert when danger is present either audible, visually or both 24 hours a day.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can be installed in your home, using batteries for power or being wired into your house’s electrical system. If they have batteries, they need to be checked for proper functioning regularly. Even those wired in will have a battery backup system that will need to be checked.

If it is powered by a 9 volt battery, it is recommended to check it every month, replacing the battery yearly and the entire unit every 8-10 years. The same schedule is true for wired alarms. Your senior may hear a characteristic chirp when the battery needs changing.

We are often reminded to change the battery in the smoke alarm. For many a good reminder is to do it each time we change our clocks for daylight saving time.

Smoke detectors/alarms are not expensive and can be installed relatively easily by many do-it-yourselfers. They should be placed in particular areas of your home, including every floor and the basement, near the bedrooms (in each bedroom if practical), and in the kitchen. Fire officials prefer smoke alarms be placed both inside and outside the sleeping area.

Smoke rises so be sure to install the alarms at the proper height according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Some fire departments will install home smoke alarms at no cost to your senior so contact your local department to see if they have such a program.

Fire officials warn that we should never disable a smoke alarm in the kitchen but instead ventilate the area to clear the smoke putting the alarm on ‘hush,’ not off.

If your senior is hard of hearing or would otherwise benefit from a strobe alarm in addition to the high pitched frequency of the usual smoke alarm, those are also available for home use. I

f a strobe would not awaken them if there is a fire at night, there are a growing number of systems that link into a bed shaker to ensure everyone is alerted to the danger.

Fire Extinguishers

Does your senior’s home have a portable fire extinguisher?

Do they know how to use it if needed?

Has it been checked to see if it is still functioning?

A fire extinguisher should be used when the fire is contained and can be controlled. Remember to always evacuate the home and contact the fire department BEFORE trying to put out the fire yourself.

It is recommended to have a portable fire extinguisher near the exit door to ensure that you can leave safely and get help.

Check out our Family Caregiver Video Tip about safety measures and proper techniques for using a fire extinguisher.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are devices that can detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in your senior’s home, if applicable (see below), to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It is very important to install a detector because carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an odorless gas that goes undetected until the damage is done.

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced when carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, or wood are burned without enough oxygen. CO poisoning can happen slowly over time when small amounts of gas are present in the air or quickly when an event occurs that releases a great deal of the gas.

Winter months are especially dangerous when portable gas or oil heaters and generators are used without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm when gas is found so that the area can be properly ventilated and the source of the gas repaired. These units can be battery powered or hooked to a source of electricity. If they are powered by batteries, you will need to check the charge, as battery life varies greatly.

There are detectors that are installed directly into heating systems that will contact emergency personnel when CO reaches a level that is dangerous. CO detectors can be purchased in combination with a smoke alarm.

In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage without proper ventilation or insulation to the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, loss of consciousness, pains in the chest or stomach, difficulty breathing, or vision problems. Long term exposure can result in brain damage.

Radon Testing

Why is radon testing important? “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.”

We think that’s a pretty strong call to action.

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon and it may be in the air of your senior’s home. One in three homes tested contain higher than acceptable levels of radon, it is found in every state and is estimated to be in 8 million US homes.

Radon comes from a natural breakdown of uranium found in igneous rock and soil and in some cases well water. Radon released into the groundwater, soil and building materials of your senior’s home is in the air and your senior inhales the gas unknowingly exposing themselves to health risk.

Because it takes years to realize you are exposed, the only way to be aware of radon in your senior’s home is through testing. There are radon test kits and monitors you can purchase to check your senior’s home yourself or get a professional to test. If there are unsafe levels found in the home, these can be corrected.

Other Safety Precautions to Consider

There are a number of items to consider for the safety of your senior’s home, including these.

  • Security cameras – seniors can get a good view of who is around the house and you can monitor remotely to be sure that your senior is safe at home alone.
  • Safes and cash boxes – if your senior keeps valuables and cash in the home and you are afraid they may be targets, a safe will keep their valuables secure when other people are in and out of the home to provide services.
  • Motion sensing lights – there are lights that fit into existing sockets that will go on and off with motion. They can be helpful for the front or back porch or in hallways, closets or the basement or wherever your senior may have difficulty getting the light on in the middle of the night causing a fall.
  • Peepholes – easy to add to an existing door at just the right height so your senior can see who is knocking before they open the door to a stranger.
  • Security doors – specially designed door to withstand forced entry if the neighborhood they choose to live in is not as safe as it once was.
  • Medical alerts – signalers that can alert emergency personnel in the event of a fall or medical emergency can be lifesaving. Many personal emergency response systems can be remotely monitored by family members.
  • Programmable Thermostat – once set you can be sure that your senior’s home is maintained at a comfortable and healthy temperature all throughout the year. Many newer devices allow remote setting and monitoring using a smartphone.

Newer technology and advances in consumer electronics mean that we can help our senior loved ones stay healthy, safe, and comfortable at home a longer than ever before.

These are just some of the items you will want to consider and get installed if your senior’s home doesn’t have them or if the existing devices are malfunctioning or you want the additional functionality of the current devices.

All of these devices can be found in most hardware stores and many department stores, as well as online. You can also find a selection in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

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Senior Care Corner was born nine years ago as a labor of love by Kathy and me to fill what we saw as an information gap for family caregivers of older adults.

More than 1,000 articles (well, 1,031, but who’s counting), 74 podcasts, and several videos later, everything you read, hear, and see at Senior Care Corner, other than resources we provide in articles for your information, was produced by us.

Nine years later, Senior Care Corner is still a labor of love for us and we are proud of the feedback we get from readers who have found our site helpful and has made a difference to them and their senior loved ones.

We are working on a redesign of our home page to one that implements our early vision and reason we chose the name Senior Care Corner.

When we started the site, we envisioned an intersection of sorts, with resources for family caregivers on all four corners. That was the basis for the road sign logo.

With our upcoming home page redesign, that intersection will be front and center, with three resource areas we have now, plus a new area:

  • Our current Senior Care Corner information site;
  • Technology Corner, our new focus area for family caregivers;
  • The Shop at Senior Care Corner, which offers shopping tailored to the needs of family caregivers; and,
  • The Guest Article Corner, offering articles of interest to family caregivers, written by other experts.

We are excited about the possibilities the third corner may bring and the information resources other voices can provide.

What to Expect in Guest Articles

We have long considered offering an outlet for other voices at Senior Care Corner, but have been hesitant to do so. We receive multiple requests each day from those wishing to submit articles, many from writers we don’t recognize as experts able to provide you greater insights.

Guest articles you see at Senior Care Corner will offer resources, insights, or perspectives to enhance what we have provided over the years. They will be from writers or organizations most of you will recognize and whose expertise we have verified.

We will accept and publish articles from businesses we feel offer information or solutions of value to seniors and/or family caregivers, but will not allow blatant commercials.

Guest articles will not be edited for content by us, but we will not publish anything we feel is inappropriate or does not provide value to family caregivers of older adults.

We are hopeful this fourth corner will be just as vibrant and valuable to you as the other three and thus will feature all four on our soon to be redesigned home page.

Information for Potential Guest Article Writers

We welcome proposals for guest articles to be published on Senior Care Corner and have some guidelines for those considering doing so in order to ensure all content provides value to family caregivers of older adults.

  • Guest article must be appropriate for and relevant to the Senior Care Corner audience. Please review the articles on our site for insight into topics and tone.
  • All articles must be unique, written specifically for Senior Care Corner, and not be published elsewhere on the web.
  • Guest articles will only be accepted from individuals and organizations who are verifiable experts bringing unique expertise, resources, or insights to family caregivers.
  • Please submit proposals before sending articles, as we are respectful of your time and efforts. We will not accept or read articles that are unsolicited or otherwise sent without prior discussions and agreement.
  • While commercial products or services may be portrayed in an article as a solution to a problem faced by seniors and/or family caregivers, articles that are perceived as commercial in nature, in the sole judgment of Senior Care Corner, will not be published.
  • Articles should be at least 500 words in length and generally no more than 1,000 words. The focus should be on effective communication of your ideas rather than length.
  • Guest articles will not be edited by Senior Care Corner. However, writers will be required to revise any language that is determined to be unacceptable, for any reason, prior to publication.

Please send requests for more information and proposals for guest articles to GuestArticleEditor@SeniorCareCorner.com.

We are looking forward to bringing you even more knowledge and practical insights from Senior Care Corner for your caregiving journey.

Stay tuned for our home page redesign and publication of our initial guest articles!

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