IOA Blog - Lifestyle Discussions on Aging, Senior Care & Being a Caregiver
IOA services enhance the quality of life for adults as they age by enabling them to maintain their health, well being, independence and participation in the community. We offer innovative programs in health, social service, creative arts & education.
One of the most inescapable facts of life is the law. This is often a good thing since lawlessness is usually a pretty bad scene. But it means that, if you have a legal issue and aren’t fortunate enough to have the right kind of lawyer on retainer, you need a representative or a counselor to help you navigate the warrens and mazes of our system.
This is no different for older adults in California. Aging doesn’t mean slowly freeing yourself of the need for representation; indeed, it could be argued that older adults need more help figuring out the legal aspects of health care, end of life issues, and protecting yourselves from scams, abuse, and other insidious problems.
Legal assistance, however, can be costly and in the Bay Area—with rising costs of living, a rapidly aging population, and a large percentage of adults at or under the poverty line—that could be a problem. That’s where the state of California comes in.
For older adults who qualify, there are statewide Legal Service Providers (LSPs) that work through a network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to help you get the advice and counseling you need. These LSPs are found in every country in California, from north to south, and from ocean to desert to mountain.
California leads the nation in taking care of its aging population; know the programs designed to help you, and use them. You can’t escape the rigorous bureaucracy of modern life. But you can get help getting through it so that you can get past legal concerns and enjoy every day.
The Need For Legal Assistance For Older Adults
In the past 30 years, the population over the age of 65 in California has more than doubled. While this creates a growing community with stronger political power, it also means that resources are more scarce. This includes legal resources, and, unfortunately, it means that lawyers will be able to charge more for basic services. Supply and demand and all that.
This could be very bad. After all, as we said, California is expensive and given housing, medical, and other basic living costs, it is especially expensive to be an older adult. A study by the National Institute of Health estimated that, in California, the Federal Poverty Limit wasn’t even a baseline for older adults:
New calculations using the Elder Economic Security Standard (TM) Index (Elder Index) for California show that both singles and couples age 65 or older who rent need more than twice the amount established by the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Guideline to meet basic living expenses..Housing and health care are the primary drivers of the high costs.
That means every penny counts, and for people closer to the economic margins, any legal issues could have a huge impact. And there are a lot of potential issues. Aside from mundane, everyday cases that arise from car accidents, disputes with neighbors, and the like, some legal issues that older adults will face include:
Many of these can be folded into even more complex issues, like family disputes over wills. And of course, there is always the need for criminal attorneys due to charges for which a person might be unprepared. This is true if you are the defense or the prosecution.
But all of this costs money. And if you don’t have it, what do you do?
You look for the Legal Service Provider near you.
Legal Service Providers in California
The Older Americans Act of 1966 established certain guidelines for the legal rights of older adults, who had previously been shunted aside and left tragically vulnerable. Different states treated their obligations differently, but California has always tried to take them very seriously.
One of the primary ways California fulfills its obligations to protect the legal rights of older adults is by setting up Legal Service Providers. These providers are funded in coordination with the California Department of Aging, which works with Area Agencies on Aging to provide the best services. That’s complicated, and yes, bureaucratic. But you don’t have to know every level here. You just should know its mission:
The purpose of the Legal Services Program is to deliver high quality, high-impact, cost-effective services designed to address the unmet legal needs of vulnerable older people throughout the State of California.
By “vulnerable”, here, the state means “people in greatest social or economic need, including but not limited to low-income individuals, minorities, rural elders, and those with limited English proficiency.” This also includes many people with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, people suffering from dementia or other mental conditions, those without access to transportation, and those who are socially isolated.
There is no real exhaustive list, and criteria can vary by jurisdiction. As a general rule of thumb, however, the provisions are for people who fall under those the “greatest economic needs” or “greatest social needs”, and of course these categories overlap. The economic need is defined, generally (though not universally), as being at or below 125% of the poverty line.
Your LSPs, through your AAAs, will help provide you with the legal assistance you need, whether that is cutting through red tape or providing actual lawyers and counselors to represent you. There are 39 different agencies representing all areas. Call the one nearest you.
Institute on Aging and the Importance of Community
It’s nice to know that the state is looking out for older adults. Too often, their needs are neglected, especially if they don’t have money. The vast divide in income means that it is easy to fall through the cracks, as most professionals (understandably) want to cater to the people who can pay them the most.
That’s where the state steps in, helping to distribute resources to everyone. And make no mistake: legal aid is a resource. You need it to plan for the future and live a safe, comfortable life, without a gnawing fear. The richest in California, through the auspices of the state, help those not as fortunate.
That’s what we believe in at IOA. We know that no one is an island, all by themselves. We know no one makes it alone. That’s why we work together, everyone helping each other. It’s why we run the Community Living Fund and Elder Abuse Prevention Program. People who face financial hardships or are being abused are often most in need of assistance. We can’t provide legal support for them, but, along with programs like LSP, we can help get them on their feet. Because we know that life is better if we help each other out.
So if there is a hand extended to you, take it. If you need legal help but can’t afford it, call an AAA near you to see if you qualify. Get the ball rolling. Get the help you need. The only thing you have to lose is frustration, fear, and the red tape that is holding you back. Cut through it, and bound into the rest of your life.
One of the discomfiting contradictions of living in the Information Age is the realization that a surplus of information doesn’t necessarily lead you closer to the truth. We’re constantly bombarded by contradictory sets of facts from every corner of the internet, making it almost impossible to know what is right. Except for maybe politics, this is probably most true in personal health.
Do you have a glass of red wine every night? That’s very good…unless, of course, it is bad. What about dark chocolate? Eating that is very bad for you, unless, of course, it is good. Here’s a supplement that doctors Don’t Want You To Know About, which, in the amped-up carnival barker argot of internet scams, is a good thing.
One of the areas of contention is iron supplements for older adults. Iron is an important mineral, and iron deficiencies can lead to serious health issues. For that reason, iron supplements are a huge seller and are often pushed toward older adults with the idea that they can prevent anemia and help boost energy.
The problem is that having a surplus of iron is also dangerous, and most older adults get the iron they need from diet alone. So there are many cases where taking iron supplements can actually be bad for your health. In fact, most older adults probably shouldn’t be taking iron supplements at all.
Before we get into more details, we’ll sum up the Golden Rule of IOA health blogs: talk to your doctor. If you believe you have an iron deficiency, find out! Find out if supplements are right for you. Find out if they are dangerous.
Iron deficiency is a real thing. But so is iron surplus. Monitoring your health, talking to your doctor, and taking professional advice is the best way to make sure you don’t suffer from either.
How Much Iron Do I Need?
The first question is: why do we need iron? At the most basic level, iron contributes to the production of red blood cells, which, not to put too fine a medical point to it, are good. When your body is unable to produce the required amount of red blood cells, you could face anemia.
Obviously, not everyone needs the same amount of iron. Oddly, children, especially infants, need a lot of iron, even more than adults. The first year of life and the years between 14 and 18 are important years for both men and women.
The need for iron changes as we age, but once we pass puberty, it remains consistent for most of our adult lives. Men between the ages of 19 and 50 require 8mg of iron a day, with women in that age (prime childbearing years) requiring 18mg. These numbers go up during pregnancy and lactation.
After roughly 50, a man’s requirement stays the same, but a woman’s dramatically drops. After menopause, a woman also requires only as much iron as men do—just 8mg a day.
What Happens If I Get Too Much Iron?
We all know that anemia is bad, of course. But what is the issue with getting too much iron? Why would that be a bad thing?
It has to do with how iron is processed in the body. It is absorbed as necessary as the body cycles through its oxygen-rich red blood cells. While this is a perpetual process, it involves only a finite number of cells. So when there is more iron than actually required, it has to be stored elsewhere, and it generally goes toward the organs.
This isn’t good. Too much iron can be toxic and may damage the liver, the heart, and the pancreas. An excess of iron can also be bad for your joints, leading to arthritis and chronic pain.
Older adults who have unusually high levels of iron are also at increased risk for diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. There have also been correlations found between excess iron and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It is important to note that while there is a correlation, there has not been any direct causation.
Finding the Right Balance
All this being said, we don’t want to give the impression that everyone has enough iron. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that older adults might be more at risk anemia than previously thought. A 2014 study in the journal Mechanisms of Aging and Development, for example, showed that 10% of adults over 65 were anemic, a number that jumps to 20% for those over 85. Both of these numbers are even higher for those in assisted living homes.
The researchers pointed out that older adults with anemia were more likely to suffer from mechanical performance issues and were at an increased risk of falling. It is a real problem.
They blamed two major culprits: inflammation (which, among other things, makes it more difficult for the body to absorb iron) and poor diet. Inflammation can be reduced through a number of mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory drugs, supplements, and even drinking a cup of coffee. Simultaneously, a more iron-rich diet can be introduced, especially if you are living at home and can control your own diet.
What you want the most are foods that are high in iron that is easy to absorb. This includes:
There are also foods that contain a lot of iron but aren’t as easy to absorb. These include:
A good trick is to also eat foods that are rich in Vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron better. This includes most fruits and vegetables.
So, should older adults take iron supplements? The answer is: probably not. While there is no exact iron limit for everyone, there are real dangers in taking too much. Diet is, most of the time, the best way to regulate and moderate your iron intake.
However, there may be cases where an older adult will need to take an iron supplement. Everyone is different. That’s why you should talk to your doctor if you are exhibiting symptoms of anemia. She or he will be able to tell you what is right for you.
Even in confusing times, that’s what it comes down to: seeking out help when you need it and listening to the people who know you best. Listen to your body. If it has signs of too much or too little iron, do something. You know what you need to do to live your happiest, fullest life. You know you need to listen to yourself and your doctors.
Glen describes his stress as “a feeling that someone is gripping the back of my neck tightly. And I’m so tense that I can’t even turn around to see who it is—if I wanted to.” He feels the stress of healthcare expenses, family drama, and even death as he’s dealing with more unfamiliar health challenges than ever before. Maureen, on the other hand, says that when she’s stressed, “I just power through it, focusing only on what needs to get done. But then I crash, and sometimes it takes me days to recover in bed.” She feels the weight of continuing to host a book club in her home each week even after she took a bad fall and has had to use a walker, as well as her husband’s worsening dementia.
Stress can take a heavy toll on our holistic health. Just as other health troubles can be particularly challenging for seniors because our bodies become less resilient with age, so can stress. We’ve examined the signs of stress in seniors so caregivers and family members can be aware of what their aging loved ones may be going through. Now, let’s explore some of the critical action steps and stress management strategies for seniors. With these tools and opportunities in hand, older adults can feel empowered to live life the way they want to without unnecessary distress.
How Can Caregivers Approach Stress Management for Seniors?
Our sources and forms of stress can be as different as each of us individually. Caregivers and family members, especially, can pay attention to the patterns of their aging loved one’s stress to identify what their particular challenges are. In a lot of cases, the strategies for stress management will address the actual sources of stress. But it’s also possible to encourage relaxation and stress relief more broadly. Here are some tips and resources to consider in both directions.
Addressing Stress at the Source
When you can identify that an older adult is struggling against some particular stressor in life, you may be able to introduce solutions that diminish or dissolve that burden. When these sources of stress are no longer in control and aging adults are no longer at the whim of external pressures, it’s an empowering development. And, together, you may be able to prevent stress more proactively and efficiently into the future. Consider these tips and resources for addressing challenges that are common sources of stress for seniors:
Lifestyle. Lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, or they can have a negative one. Caregivers can help an aging loved one to re-evaluate and revitalize daily routines, such as nutrition and diet.
Health. For a lot of people, age brings new and challenging health problems. Unfortunately, these problems can inspire stress, and stress can make these problems worse. The best strategy is to get ahead of the challenges by having a cooperative relationship with a geriatric doctor and being open to making those lifestyle adjustments that can promote health in later years.
Advocacy. When it comes to health challenges later in life, many older adults feel overwhelmed by communicating with practitioners and insurance companies and keeping track of the information that piles up in the process. Caregivers can serve as important advocates to support communication and planning.
Substance Use. Just like health generally, substance use among seniors can stem from stress, and it can contribute to it. Discover how you can help prevent senior substance abuse and address these issues if they already exist for your loved one.
Activity. When an aging adult is isolated or feels prohibitively limited by disability or other barriers, it can become a slippery slope toward even greater isolation and stress. Incorporating interesting activities on a daily or weekly basis can help to reverse this trend.
Organization. Paperwork, financial responsibilities, communication, and other burdens can weigh heavily on older adults—especially when these pressures build up over time. A caregiver’s fresh perspective can go a long way toward introducing organization and systems that an older adult can participate in successfully.
Clutter. Likewise, when clutter builds up in an older adult’s home, they can feel weighed down and stressed out by it. Caregivers and families can work together to declutter and tidy a loved one’s space and set up systems for organization and more graceful living.
Independence. As adults age and begin to lose some of their independent abilities, the transition can be extremely difficult and stressful, especially as they may be trying to understand their identity in a new way. In many cases, having professional in-home assistance can help them strike a graceful balance between dependence and independence.
Socialization and Community. Isolation is a common and important red flag in seniors. Prolonged isolation can lead to depression and even physical health problems. But opportunities for socialization and community involvement are accessible if you can help your aging loved one to get connected.
There are also ways to ease stress from the inside out. Relaxation techniques can empower aging adults to live the life they want to live despite outside pressures and limitations. These activities and positive ways of perceiving are flexible and accessible, so you as a caregiver can help an aging loved one to practice relaxation right at home and almost anywhere else. Encourage an older adult to give some of these different opportunities a try to discover what piques their interest and inspires stress relief.
Yoga. Yoga practices help to ease stress in the body and the mind. It also prepares an aging body to be more supple and ready for physical activity. As an adaptable exercise, you can practice yoga in a chair, and it can be modified for particular challenges such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Meditation. Meditation also serves as a powerful stress reliever, especially when older adults discover the meditation techniques that resonate with them. These relaxation practices can be personalized for your loved one—like this mindfulness practice for dementia.
Exercise. The benefits of exercise for older adults are immense: physical activity can improve health and motivation, enhance balance and confidence, and be a great way for people to connect and socialize.
New Hobbies. Trying new hobbies, even right at home, can reinvigorate seniors. The possibilities are endless, even when limited by arthritis and other challenges.
Researchers have discovered that stress has a powerful impact on our health overall. Even our stressful thoughts begin to wear on our bodies and speed up the aging process. The good news is that our efforts to keep stress in check through enlightened perspective, taking action, getting support, and practicing relaxation techniques can also have a powerful impact. It’s never too late to introduce these positive practices for your aging loved one—and, indeed, for yourself as a caregiver prone to stress and burnout. We may feel too stressed out to take action against the stress, but there is nothing more important for our health. And none of us has to approach it alone.
“So, mom and dad, thanks for having me over for dinner. I wanted to talk to you about a few things. To start things off, I want you to think about how you’re going to die someday, probably not long from now. And with that out of the way, let’s talk about money.”
That’s…not a great way to have a conversation. In fact, that’s a conversation that no one wants to have. But although very few people would actually be so blunt, that’s the seeming subtext anytime you talk to your parents or other aging loved ones about wills and estate planning.
There’s a reason people are so reluctant to bring up these topics, and it has to do with obvious overlapping social niceties.
We don’t like talking about money
We don’t want to seem like we are greedy or grasping
We don’t want to think about our parents dying
We don’t want to remind our parents that they are going to die
We certainly don’t want them to think we’re already planning—or even hoping—for their deaths.
And although few parents would actually think that, the idea that you are acting like a stereotypical money-grubbing character is enough to prevent people from ever broaching what is, in fact, a deeply important subject that must be broached.
But despite the discomfort, is very important to talk to your parents about their estate planning. And it is important for you to know that you can do so without being cringe-inducing or ghoulish, without seeming like you are already itemizing funeral costs against inheritance.
If you approach it with love, respect, and their best interests at heart, you can not only help them overcome a burden, but put their minds at ease as they enter a new stage of life. When you plan for the future, you can put the stress of this conversation in the past.
Why Your Parents Might Be Reluctant to Estate Plan
An older fellow I knew never wanted to write a will or plan his estate, despite the fact that he was a man of not-inconsiderable means. He always told me that it wasn’t time because he wasn’t ready to go yet.
As you can probably tell by the verb tense, he is no longer with us, and he left a genuinely terrible mess for his wife and kids to sort through. They’ve been tied up in different courts for years, and the strain has hurt their once-tight family.
This is a very dramatic scenario; most people don’t have the questionable blessings of wealth. But the major factor isn’t amounts. It’s that any amount of money can make people go slightly nuts, unfortunately, and people will go to court for years over even relatively small amounts of money.
Whatever your family situation, your parents possibly have the same reluctance to plan. They don’t want to plan for a few reasons.
They don’t want to think about dying. It might not be strictly logical, but it is clear that if you plan for what happens after you die, you accede to the reality of death. The flipside of that is that if you don’t plan, you don’t have to worry. Like I said, not strictly logical.
They don’t want to think about how to divide their holdings. Many people, especially in the Bay Area, have complicated estates and holdings. Investments, heirlooms, real estate: it’s complex. And going over it seems like a complicated undertaking, especially if you are already looking at the clock with a bit more urgency.
They don’t want conflict. Once you start planning your estate, it is easy to start imagining what happens next. Will Kevin and Meghan fight over jewelry? Does the better-off sibling need a full share? It’s hard, and it is the sort of hypothetical conflict that many try to avoid.
So there are solid (if not always sensical) reasons for your parents to avoid estate planning. But none of that reduces its actual importance.
The Why and How of Talking Your Parents About Their Will
The importance of talking about estate planning is pretty clear. The longer your parents go without dealing with it, the more time they spend potentially worrying about it, and the less time spent enjoying life. And worst-case scenario, the less time they have to ensure assets are distributed in a way that reflects their wishes and avoids conflict.
This is doubly true if, as often happens, one partner outlives the other. Then the other partner has to deal with the headaches of an unsettled estate or plan it all on their own. It isn’t easy. And you don’t want that to happen to both or either or your parents…or, for that matter, to you.
So it is best for everyone involved if you make sure your parents have everything in order, whether they’re managing their finances independently or with the help of specialized financial services for aging adults. And you can talk to them without asking for things. There are a lot of facets to this situation that you have to cover, but in every conversation, honesty and empathy should be present in equal proportions.
Here are a few issues which inevitably come up in estate planning:
Money is obviously the most common form of inheritance, often in cash or stocks or bonds. Make sure your parents have a clear grasp on all their investments and savings. It’s their money, and they should go into planning with a full accounting.
As we discussed in our last article, your parents don’t have to tell you what to expect. They can, but don’t ask them. Don’t pressure them. Remember that patience and honesty are the signs of the healthiest relationships. If your parents want to talk to you, they will.
This isn’t about finding out what you are getting, or if the roustabout brother is being cut out. It’s about helping your parents prepare. By just helping them and making sure that they are taking everything into account, you’ll be doing them a huge kindness.
Now, this is where things can get more tricky. There might be a piece of jewelry that can’t be split up. Or, your parents may want to give you something that you just don’t want. The tangibility and non-fungible sentimentality of heirlooms and collections make them extremely difficult for estate planning, and I think it is ok to talk about these assets.
Again, be honest. If there is something you want, it is ok to speak your mind, as long as you let your parents know you aren’t trying to change their mind. But can actually be helpful to them to have a full accounting of who wants what, and who doesn’t, so that they can decide what to about their physical assets with all the needed information.
(Note: this can include property, but obviously that is much bigger, worth a lot more, and can often have sentimental value to many parties. It is the same sort of conversation, though.)
Their legacy wishes
This is where you can do perhaps the most significant kindness. I know many parents who want to start a cat shelter, or give to their religious institution, or build a playground in the nearby park, or start a mentoring program in the neighborhood from which they came. But they don’t want to make their kids unhappy.
This to me is a chance to do a great service. Talk to your parents about the kind of legacy donations or planned giving they wish to make. Help them feel comfortable with the idea. And approach it with an open heart, so you know where they are coming from.
It is very common to want to give back, and to leave a legacy of yourself, a plaque that people will read and appreciate, a scholarship bearing your name. Every situation is different, but it is rarely fair to try to get in the way of that.
Where is everything?
Finally, your conversation should ask where important financial items and documents are. Unexpected death, or just the gradual unmooring of dementia, could make these items disappear, locking out assets that could become very important. It’s one of the main reasons to have these conversations sooner rather than later: life can never, ever be predicted.
The last one reminds me of why this is so important. A cousin of mine said he asked his mom for information on her financial advisor, and she replied that she didn’t have one. She hadn’t done any planning (despite having some means) and hadn’t even talked to anyone about how to do so.
That’s why you want to have these talks. Maybe your parents are very prepared. Maybe they haven’t started planning at all. Maybe they simply don’t want to or can’t. Either way, you are being a good and caring child by setting their minds to the task.
It isn’t greedy. It isn’t callous. It certainly isn’t cruel. Talking to your parents about their wills and estate planning is an act of love and one that can make sure their last days—and, indeed. their legacies—aren’t clouded by paperwork and controversy. Helping them take these steps allows them to step more freely into the rest of their lives.
At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.
Too often when we talk about the disabled population, we focus on what they can’t do. But much more important is what they can do, and that list of possibilities grows all the time as new technologies reverse impossibilities and courageous people blaze new trails. But for those people with disabilities who are not connected to the many opportunities or who lack the confidence to dive in, life can be isolating and limiting.
Ed Gallagher’s advice from firsthand experience? Don’t just play it safe. Get active. It would be a mistake to assume there aren’t ways and opportunities to be active, have fun, and feel a resilient sense of purpose, regardless of the nature of your disabilities.
What Is the Bay Area Association of Sailors with Disabilities?
BAADs started out as a one-boat program about 30 years ago on Lake Merritt in Oakland. Today, it is a 40-boat force on the San Francisco Bay, committed to challenging the boundaries that stand between disabled people and an active, full life. Gallagher explains, “That’s what we emphasize in BAADS: for people to extend their possibilities and push everything to the limit. Because it’s the only way you learn, and it’s so easy to become complacent.” BAADS, he says, is a teaching school, and students with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities are out on the Bay every weekend learning how to sail. The water of the San Francisco Bay is challenging to ride and to navigate, but BAADS is committed to instilling confidence in even brand-new sailors. “They say, if you can sail in San Francisco, you can sail in any place in the world,” Gallagher adds.
At BAADS, students begin by learning the fundamentals of sailing in a classroom on the ground and then get comfortable in a boat designed with assistive technology to gain experience on the Bay. Some students have never sailed before. Some have never even been in a boat. Others were sailing their whole lives before disability set in, and they are having to learn new skills and make use of new technologies in order to set sail once again.
Gallagher, for example, developed a love of sailing very early in life and was an avid sailor until he lost his vision. He thought this incredible passion was lost until the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) helped connect him with BAADS, and he started experimenting with camera technology, enlisting a friend who was remotely watching through the camera to be his eyes. With the camera attached to Gallagher’s bicycle helmet, his ally on the ground was able to tell him, “Do this. Go that way. Watch out for this.” Gallagher learned how to sail in a whole new way and now teaches and empowers others to take that leap and discover what they’re really capable of. “With the advent of new technology,” he reflects, “people all over the world are able to function on par with their able-bodied counterparts.”
BAADS is now one of the largest sailing schools for people with disabilities in the country. Whether you are paraplegic, quadriplegic, blind, have no arms or legs, there is a space in a boat for you. One of the biggest advantages that comes out of this program is that participants develop greater confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their community by being immersed in a supportive environment where they can feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Another powerful advantage is that participants learn effective communication skills, especially as they are interacting with people of varying abilities and discovering creative ways to relate to each other while navigating sailboats on the water. This experience also connects participants with the natural environment, which can be an important influence if they have previously been isolated and experiencing only the limitations of home. With BAADS, Gallagher found a community he wanted to be involved with that reversed the experience of isolation that is so common among people with disabilities. He was able to reconnect with his original passion for sailing in a new way, as well as to become a teacher and a leader guiding others to discover their own interest and passion.
Taking Advantage of the Best Things to Do in San Francisco for Disabled People
Sometimes, all it takes to wake up your passion for life is to find an activity that draws you out of your comfort zone. Gallagher remembers one young woman who lives across the street from the yacht club where BAADS is based. She was passing by in her wheelchair one day when members were holding a meeting. When they noticed her, they asked if she was looking for BAADS, but she had never heard of it. She discovered the opportunity entirely by accident.
Born with no arms or legs, she had put herself through law school and achieved incredible feats in that area but had never been on a boat before. She went through the BAADS training there at the marina, learning how to sail with the motion of her head. She now sails competitively and has served in leadership positions in the organization. “She just blossomed!” Gallagher remembers, and he explains that her whole family recognized the evolution that took place with this new passion that calls her to stretch beyond her seeming limitations and become an active member of the San Francisco sailing community.
Learning to sail, particularly with disabilities, is a great journey into the unknown. The self-confidence and other diverse skills that people pick up tend to transform all aspects of their lives. Opening up to this experience encourages participants to open up more and more to life in general. When you experience a disability, you may need to rely more on others and put greater trust in technology. It’s not easy to do—to extend that willing trust—but if you can, a whole world of opportunities appears.
Activities for disabled people, such as sailing with BAADS, can help you to develop that trust in yourself and the world around you and to say “yes” to really living. Gallagher insists that persistence is the key to unlocking opportunities: “With perseverance, you just don’t give up; you don’t quit,” he says. “Edison had made three thousand different light bulbs before he got one that worked. And that’s persistence.” New technologies and supportive communities will continue to create opportunities for people with disabilities, and those people will have the choice to say “yes” and expand their horizons, despite the challenges.
My father, with his well-earned wisdom, would often talk to me about his estate planning. “My son,” he would say, “I don’t plan to have any estate.” That was his basic philosophy when it came to life. He and my mom would help us out while they were alive, but he intended to enjoy the money he made.
His motto in it all? “If we have anything left over, we’ve made a mistake.”
While I admired that, it isn’t that simple for everyone. Estate planning and will creation can be emotionally stressful and fraught, in addition to being logistically difficult. With all the paperwork comes the question of how you want to leave your legacy, for whom you want to provide, and what money will do to your family.
We all know that money is maybe the most difficult subject, and the fights or unresolved tensions about inheritance can tear a family apart for years. It is clear you don’t want that to be your legacy, which is why it is vitally important to talk to your children about your estate planning and will.
Being honest throughout the process might not always be easy, but openness is the best way to deal with issues before they arise, which is often too late for you to handle them. It’s vital to manage your children’s expectations and explain your thoughts. Doing so can make a complex and emotionally-fraught situation much more manageable.
Understanding Your Own Thoughts on Estate Planning
There are a lot of logistical steps you have to take to make sure your estate planning goes as, well, planned. These include:
But those are the bureaucratic issues, in some ways little different than a change of address form or anything else. They might be a little stranger, but in the end, it is just paperwork.
The emotional issues, of course, are far more important and far more difficult. Because you aren’t just changing addresses: you’re altering the course of people’s lives in ways small or great. That’s why it is important for you to consider a few things when thinking about estate planning and your will. You have to understand your own thoughts.
Here are some important issues to consider. (Note: we’re going to simplify things and use “money” throughout, but that can be understood as real estate, investments, other assets, etc.)
Do I want to leave my money to family, to other things that are important to me, or both?
Do I want to leave an endowment so that my name lives on in something I believe in?
How much is too much to give someone?
How much is too little?
What are my internal family dynamics that can be exacerbated or smoothed over by handling this correctly?
What matters most to me?
Ultimately, Question 6 encapsulates all the other questions, because while we are literally talking about value, we are really talking about values. We’re talking about what you want to survive beyond you, your memory and the wisdom you’ve imparted.
Do you want to leave money to a college fund for your grandkids? Do you want to fund the animal shelter that gave you so much joy? Do you want to create a new charity, or endow your alma mater, or send it to the world’s poorest?
Do you have a family where people have different income levels and could use help to differing degrees? Is that understood, or would it cause resentment? Would the more successful feel they are being punished for getting less, or would the less-successful feel slighted for receiving an equal share?
Are there second marriages that might be a source of tension? Are there people who, in the end, you just don’t want to support?
There are no easy answers. But these are the questions you have to be thinking about before you talk to your kids. Because if any of these issues are existing, they will come up at some point. It is best if they do while you are alive.
The Importance of Communicating With Your Children About Your Will
I understand why most people would be reluctant to talk to their kids. It’s hard enough to think about or to talk about dying. You might not want to think about it, and your kids might not want to either.
But above and beyond that, talking about estate planning is hard to do. After all, if there is any potential tension, it could boil over. You don’t want there to be resentment and anger in your golden years. But at some point, you may want to discuss it in order to set expectations.
Having these conversations means being able to talk things over while you still can. It means hearing from all sides, and getting their point of view. It means knowing where they are coming from, and it means sharing your thoughts.
Of course, at the end of the day, having the conversation is your choice. There are arguments against it: setting people up for an inheritance might cause them to count on it even though the market could crash or something else untoward could happen. You might be pressured in a way that could tarnish your final years. Or you might just feel it is no one’s business but your own; after all, it’s your estate and, ultimately, your decision.
Those are all valid, and they are important factors to take into consideration. But if you decide to have a conversation, you may be surprised at what happens with communication. You might learn something you didn’t know.
You might be scared the successful daughter will resent you leaving more to the struggling son, but she is happy to do so, as she wishes she could help him more. You might learn that your grandkids wanted to set up a foundation for the animals you loved so much, but you were worried about not leaving them enough. You never know.
That’s why these conversations are so important. You’ll learn, you’ll grow, and you’ll take advantage of the most precious asset of all: time.
You’ll have the time to change, or to explain, or to understand. You’ll have the time to remember that what keeps you together is far more valuable than what can tear you apart. You’ll have the time to remind everyone that your legacy is one of love and that if that is all you have to give, that is more than enough.
Home care is a precious resource that helps aging adults age gracefully and comfortably in their own homes while preserving their dignity and helping them maintain a good quality of life. With home care, aging adults are able to easily carry out activities of daily living, receive help with food prep and medication management, and keep their home safe and tidy all for a fraction of the cost of living in a nursing home. As more and more aging adults opt to remain living at home into old age, home care is becoming a highly sought-after service.
But all home care services aren’t created equal. Quality of care and services offered can range dramatically from one care provider to the next. That’s why it can be difficult to choose a home care provider for your aging loved one. Thankfully, there are ways to distinguish top-notch home care services from the rest.
Home Care Pulse, an independent satisfaction research firm, assesses the quality of home care service providers to help people ensure their aging loved ones receive care they can trust. This year, Home Care Pulse named Institute on Aging one of the best home care providers in the nation.
What Does It Mean to Win Home Care Pulse Award?
If you’ve ever done a search for home care services in your area for your aging loved one, you know how stressful and confusing it can be to choose the right one. While many of them claim to provide the best care, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes from the service providers themselves.
Home Care Pulse makes it easier for you to choose a trusted home care provider by collecting information from home care recipients about their satisfaction with services. Since the interviews are conducted over the phone by an unbiased third party, one can be certain that the results are truthful and accurate.
The areas evaluated by clients include timeliness of caregivers, services being provided as promised, compassion of caregivers, and overall quality of care. Once the results are received, Home Care Pulse interprets the data and awards high-scoring home care agencies with a Certified-Trusted Provider designation.
Top-scoring home care providers who have been Certified-Trusted Providers for more than 6 consecutive months are then eligible to receive the coveted Best of Home Care – Provider of Choice award. Institute on Aging is proud to be named one of the few home care providers across the country who consistently provide the best quality of care to clients.
“We want to congratulate Institute on Aging on receiving the Best of Home Care – Provider of Choice Award,” says Aaron Marcum, CEO and founder of Home Care Pulse. “Since this award is based on client feedback, it demonstrates their dedication to providing the highest quality of care with a focus on client satisfaction. We are pleased to recognize Institute on Aging’s dedication to quality professionalism and expertise in home care.”
Institute on Aging’s Award-Winning Home Care Program
At IOA, we make it our mission to help aging adults live safely and independently in the community and avoid institutionalization. Our home care services align with this mission by providing personal care to adults in the comfort of their own homes.
Together with our clients and their families, our expert caregivers and program directors work to devise personalized home care plans uniquely suited to each individual. The services we provide are completely customizable, allowing our clients to choose which services they need. Some of the services we provide include:
Escorted transportation and assistance with errands
We take pride in the quality of service that our caregivers provide. Each staff member is carefully screened, bonded, and insured. Our caregivers are also encouraged to partake in continuing education courses to ensure that their knowledge and skills are constantly being upgraded and expanded.
While many home care providers experience high turnover of their caregivers, IOA provides plenty of incentives and benefits for our employees, making it attractive to stay and grow with our organization. Our low turnover rate also means that your aging loved one will have consistency in their care, allowing them to build important connections.
When it comes to aging, we understand that every situation is unique. We also know how beneficial aging in place can be and how possible it is with the right supports in place. With top-quality, compassionate care, your aging loved one can age peacefully, comfortably, and gracefully in the comfort of their own home.
At Institute on Aging, we are committed to helping your aging loved one live independently in their home. To learn more about our services and discuss the needs of your loved one, contact us today.
When an older adult has a caregiver come to their home to assist them with everyday tasks, the possibilities for staying and aging at home are greatly extended. With the help of client service managers, homes can be updated for safety and accessibility, medical needs and appointments can be consolidated to minimize and simplify care, nutritious meals can be prepared or delivered, and an in-home caregiver can be present for as many hours as needed to offer an older adult companionship and assistance. These services can ensure each client—and each family—has what they need for successful aging in place because care plans are designed specifically for each individual’s unique situation.
Stewart lives in Memphis, far from his aging mother in San Francisco. It’s important to her to continue living at home, and it’s important to him that she has everything she needs to live safely, actively, happily.
Helen, on the other hand, lives only eight minutes away from her aging mother in the East Bay. Helen works long hours and has no other family to rely on to help care for her mother, who still lives alone in an apartment.
Both Stewart and Helen are in need of reliable Bay Area home care so their parents can continue to live and thrive in place. Helen may be nearby and Stewart may be far away, but the process and quality of care won’t look too different. The care plans will be personalized, however, so that each of the older women will feel supported in the ways that they want and need to remain at home.
What Does Professional Home Care Entail?
A great home care program starts with a comprehensive care assessment. A professional Client Service Manager oversees this evaluation and considers the individual circumstances of an older adult living at home. This means taking into account a broad spectrum of considerations, including medical, nutritional, emotional, functional, safety-related, economical, and end-of-life issues in order to foster a holistic approach to care. Because every case is different, these professional evaluations result in thoughtfully crafted, individualized care plans.
Throughout this process, the Client Service Manager will include family members, caregivers, and especially the aging adult themselves in discussions about the kind of care necessary to support each client. Today, these inclusive conversations can even take place remotely, on the phone or through video conferencing, if a family member lives far away, as in Stewart’s case.
The goal of these home care plans is to facilitate the safest, healthiest, and most fulfilling home conditions for an aging loved one—but also to prevent isolation and promote opportunities for socialization and community involvement around the Bay Area. To the greatest extent possible, a Client Service Manager wants to nourish a senior’s independence. High-quality assistance programs, as well as technological advances, can help create an empowering situation where an older adult can continue living independently for as long as possible.
The services provided by home care programs might include:
Specific recommendations for home safety improvements
These services can be provided on a part-time or full-time and overnight basis depending on the needs of each individual. In all cases, the aging adult will be carefully matched with a home caregiver who has the skills and the temperament to offer a client the best care and companionship.
Why Bay Area Home Care is the Best Choice for Your Family
It’s commonly the case that older adults would prefer to remain at home after retirement and through other transitional phases rather than be uprooted to an assisted-living community. Not all families have the ability to give the necessary care themselves for aging in place, but creative solutions abound and the leading professional home care programs in the Bay Area can help you to create a supportive environment for graceful aging at home.
Getting connected with local home care services also means opportunities for socialization and community involvement. Having a regular home care companion for an aging loved one to bond with can pave the way for activities to promote physical, emotional, and social health. Social day programs are another great opportunity for an older adult to socialize with other adults going through similar transitions, challenges, and joys. These on-site programs offer an alternative to home care in some cases but can also just be a weekly chance be involved with the local community and to make friends.
Ultimately, an individualized care plan can be the most compassionate and well-rounded approach to aging in place. The Bay Area is a great location for aging adults to thrive because of the dedicated services and resources available. Not only is it possible for your aging loved one to continue living at home with the right home care assistance, but it is also likely that they can lead a more bright and rewarding life than you might expect.
Ray loved his home. He’d lived there with his wife Doreen for over 50 years. He knew every creaky spot on the hardwood floor, every crack in the walls, and every mark on the bathroom door where Doreen had recorded the heights of his growing children.
Since Doreen’s passing, Ray’s children had been discussing talking to their father about moving to a place closer to them that was smaller and didn’t require so much maintenance. Ray was getting older, after all, and he certainly had more trouble cleaning the house, navigating the stairs, and tending to the yard than he once did.
Ray’s children knew, however, that the thought of leaving his precious home would cause him distress. The last thing they wanted to do was make their father upset. So, after doing some research about talking with seniors about moving, Ray’s children felt more equipped to have a positive conversation with their father.
Talking with seniors about moving is usually not an easy task. But if your aging loved one is living in a home that is too large and difficult for them to maintain or navigate, it may be time to consider moving to a smaller, safer, more manageable home, closer to family and services. So let’s explore some tips for how to go about having that conversation in a loving and respectful way.
Tips for Talking with Seniors About Moving from their Home
Downsizing is a logical, practical step for most aging adults. The large homes that were ideal in their younger years require a lot of upkeep and can often present challenges for aging in place, including risks to safety. Plus, as your loved one ages it is nice to have them live closer to you so that you can spend more time with them and assist in caretaking. The problem, however, is that many aging adults—like anyone—may be resistant to the idea of moving from the home they so love.
If the conversation about moving isn’t approached in the right way your aging loved one may not respond well to the idea. Since it is such a sensitive subject, it’s a good idea to proceed gently in a way that won’t make your loved one upset. Here are a few tips for talking with seniors about moving from their home to a smaller dwelling that can help make the conversation smoother:
Get Involved: From your aging loved one’s perspective, it may seem unfair to hear that they should move if you aren’t familiar with how they live. It’s important that you understand the challenges they face in their home if you are planning on suggesting that they move. If you don’t know much about your loved one’s living conditions and daily routine, offer to help spend more time with them in their home in order to get a better sense of how they live. They are much more likely to listen to the conversation about moving if they know you’ve witnessed their struggles.
Reminisce: Talk to your aging loved one about their home to get a sense of what it means to them. Not only is this is helpful in gauging the future conversation about moving, it’s also important to acknowledge how important their home is. If you get a sense of what features or aspects of their home are important to them, you may be more successful at helping them find a dwelling that shares some of those features. If they love their neighborhood, for instance, you could consider looking for more liveable condos or apartments close by.
Present the Benefits: If your loved one is resistant to moving, chances are high that they only see the disadvantages. It’s up to you to present potential benefits to them. Perhaps they could move closer to their grandchildren, or maybe they could find a place with a view of the waterfront. Discuss how much less upkeep a smaller condo or apartment would be for them, and how much easier it would be to navigate a place without stairs. Of course, the financial incentive for them to sell their house and downsize may also not be something they’ve considered but could make a big difference for their future.
It is important to make sure that you involve your aging loved one in the apartment or condo-hunting process too. Offer to take them to showings and help them find something they love. While it may be tempting to want to rush your aging loved one into making a decision about moving, it’s important that you give them time to consider their options. The gentler and more patient you are, the better the chance that they will be open to your suggestions. Also, remember that they may have needs you haven’t considered and it’s critical to listen to them and respect their preferences; being older doesn’t mean you stop having control of your own life. Remember that moving at any age is stressful, but moving in old age can be even more difficult.
Alternative Ideas for Aging in Place
If you’ve tried all of the above suggestions and you still find that your aging loved one is resistant to the idea of moving, perhaps there are ways you can support your aging loved one in staying in their home. Modifying accommodations for safety and comfort, for example, can help ensure your loved one’s home is more appropriate for aging in place. Adding handrails to staircases, improving lighting, and upgrading the kitchen for aging in place are just a few things you can do that will make it easier for them to live in their home. Regular home safety evaluations can also be a great way to protect your loved one and give you peace of mind that they will be safe.
You may also want to consider home care or programs and services that help your aging loved one with daily living tasks. Some programs and services, like Institute on Aging’s Community Living Services, encourage independent living by coordinating local services for aging adults so that they can stay connected to their community while living independently.
As reluctant as he was to move from his home at first, Ray eventually came around to the idea of moving to a smaller condo near his children. While the transition took some getting used to, Ray loved being able to see his grandkids every day, having meals with his family, and making friends in his new neighborhood. Even at his age, starting fresh felt good.
Of the many timeless forms of universal human expression, play tops the list, eliciting the brightest experiences of joy and abandon in the present moment. As a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, play can help infuse otherwise routine days with laughter and fun. But don’t just take our word for it; empirical research supports the benefits of play for people living with neurodegenerative conditions. According to a study published in The Gerontologist journal, for example, “Play is not used to infantilize and trivialize people living with dementia but as a way to explore potential for expression, meaning-making, and relationship-building in later life.”
Part of the reason play is critical for older adults with dementia is that they often find themselves striving. They strive to remember, to belong in the moment, and to grasp their own sense of identity. But play doesn’t necessarily demand these potentially distressing efforts. With sensory stimulation, free movement of the body, social interaction without pressure, an older adult with dementia can relax into their own enjoyment.
Try Out Some Spring Activities for Seniors with Dementia in the Bay Area
The best way to discover whether your aging loved one might connect with and feel enlivened by creative spring activities that invite a sense of play is by giving them a try. You can participate in these opportunities with them, so they won’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed getting started.
Listen to Music
Music is a special kind of language that doesn’t require any specific memories or understanding. Some older adults with dementia may remember tunes and even lyrics of old favorite songs even though they may not remember things like family members’ names and their daily routines. The familiarity inspired by music can help an aging adult feel more relaxed and experience a sense of belonging in the moment. You can encourage them to sing, dance, or make sounds with a shaker or a bell or by tapping on a table or other surface to foster a sense of playfulness as they immerse themselves in the music. Discover some events and opportunities to enjoy music together in the Bay Area.
Especially for older adults who have been physically active throughout their lives, movement can wake up the bodies and perhaps even tap into some muscle memories. In fact, movement therapy can be a great activity for seniors with dementia: “There is no right or wrong in movement therapy: the entire point is to enjoy moving your body however you desire. In this way, it creates feelings of freedom, relaxation, and sometimes even catharsis in participants.” Movement therapy classes can also be a great opportunity for connection and socialization among peers and friends as it evokes a sense of playfulness and energy.
The San Francisco Bay Area offers remarkable venues for getting outside and playing in nature. From the wide-open, windy coast to the dense and humid redwoods, there are diverse choices so you can try out different environments to pique an older adult’s curiosity. Take a walk around the neighborhood, or walk along some of the Bay Area’s beautiful trails. You could even just visit your nearest park. People watch, plant watch, bird watch—get creative. Before or even during your park visit, listen to this guided meditation for spring renewal together.
The more you can encourage your loved one to get involved in their daily life and activities, the more grounded they’ll feel. Dementia changes the lens through which they see the world. You can help them connect more closely with that lens so they won’t have to feel as if they don’t belong in their own experiences. Think of each new morning together as an opportunity for spring renewal, and take advantage of the possibilities of play.
Remember that you don’t have to navigate the journey of aging or caretaking alone. Institute on Aging offers programs, services, and resources to support seniors, their families, and caregivers. Browse our blog for more ideas of activities you can enjoy with your aging loved one. And contact us today at 415-750-4111 to find out how we can greet spring together.