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Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to a variety of possible diseases. Dementia symptoms include impairments in thought, communication, and memory. Currently, there is no cure for the disease. The best way to combat these is to adopt a healthy lifestyle to hopefully prevent it.
For care providers and family members of the elderly it is important to be aware of early signs of Dementia. Here are the 10 ways to recognize Dementia in your loved one.
1.Memory Loss
A common sign of Dementia is memory loss. Although it is very common to forget the occasional appointment or meeting, someone with Dementia forgets these things more often than they remember them or doesn’t remember them at all when reminded.
2. Difficulty with simple tasks
Another common sign is difficulty with small tasks. The average person may forget to brush their teeth during their morning routine, but someone with Dementia forgets how to brush their teeth. Be sure to look for signs of forgetfulness when it comes to tasks that seem easy.
3. Language problems
Everyone has forgotten the correct word to say from time to time and stumbled through a sentence, but someone with Dementia crafts sentences that don’t make sense, sometimes referred to as a “word salad” or has difficulty understanding the language used by others.
4. Disorientation
We’ve all had that time where we space out and forget where we are, but someone with Dementia feels this constantly and may even have difficulty finding a place they know well, or may believe they are living in a past part of their life.
5. Poor Judgement
Poor judgment is another sign of someone that is experiencing signs of Dementia. While it is common to forget to wear sunscreen on a hot day, or to forget an umbrella on a cloudy day, someone with Dementia may forget to wear a jacket or sweater when they go out into the snow or may bundle up in a snow jacket when it’s 104 degrees.
6. Trouble with Abstract Thinking
Few people truly understand calculus, but someone with Dementia may have difficulty remembering or understanding what numbers are, or how they interact in basic equations. For example, they will forget how old they are or what year they were born.
7. Poor Estimation Skills
For someone with early stages of dementia, they might have trouble with their estimation skills. We all tell the white lie, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes!” when Google Maps actually says it will take 12 minutes. Someone with Dementia says 5 minutes believes it will only be 5 minutes when, in reality, it takes them much longer to arrive.
8. Misplacing Items
Everyone loses their keys at some point in their lives. However, someone with Dementia may lose their keys more often than others or may forget what keys are or what lock the keys are supposed to unlock.
9. Personality Changes
Another common sign of Dementia is a severe personality shift. We all have bad days that cause our personality to change here and there. Someone with Dementia can have rapid mood swings that make them appear suspicious, withdrawn, or confused at random.
10. Loss of Joy in Previously Enjoyed Activities
Although it’s entirely common for someone to occasionally not want to do their favorite activity, someone with Dementia suddenly loses interest in activities they have enjoyed their entire lives or they must be retaught common and routine aspects of that activity.
Here at California Homecare we take our responsibility to care for your loved ones very seriously. Because of this deep commitment, we present the following signs that your loved one may be suffering from Dementia. Although it may be scary, we are here to help you through every part of the process.
While these are common signs of Dementia, only a doctor can diagnose the condition. If you believe your loved one may be exhibiting signs of Dementia with consult a doctor as soon as possible.
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If your loved one lives on their own at home, they may be less safe than you realize. We’ve created a list of things that you can do to make sure that your senior is safe and secure in their home.
The potential for danger magnifies when a person is a senior. Your loved one should feel safe in their home, but as they age, many unexpected things can become potential threats to their safety. It is essential to check up on their home to see if anything needs to be fixed, changed, or added to ensure their safety. We’ve compiled a list of home safety tips for seniors to minimize any potential dangers and ensure that your loved one stays safe at home.
Tip #1: Consider investing in a doorbell with a camera
To make sure that the only people entering your loved one’s home are those who are supposed to be there, a camera doorbell can be a significant investment. The doorbell has a small camera attached and runs a video onto a computer or smartphone so that your loved one can see who is outside their home from the safety of indoors. If they aren’t sure who is at the door, they can ignore the doorbell until the person outside leaves. Additionally, doorbell cameras can be used if packages are stolen from their doorstep to find out who the perpetrator was or if someone is trespassing on his or her property.
Tip #2: Have a list of emergency numbers nearby
In the instance that disaster strikes and your loved one needs to contact someone for help, it is a wise idea to have a list of emergency numbers next to the phone. In the heat of the moment, they may forget a phone number, and so having it written there can be a huge help. Some important numbers to have are 911, poison control (1-800-222-1222), emergency contacts such as family members and friends, and their healthcare provider’s office.
Tip #3: Make Modifications
Make sure that their house is safe, home modifications for seniors can become necessary, especially if they are in a wheelchair or are a fall risk.
Some adaptations that can be of great help are:
A waterproof seat in the showerA stair climberNo-slip strips in the bathtubWide doorways and hallsControls and switches that are reachable from a wheelchair or bedRailings
Some things to get rid of:
Wheels on chairsRubber-backed bath matsLocks on the bedroom and bathroom doorsElectric cords and clutter
Tip #4: Alarms and Sensors
To prevent fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in your loved one’s bedroom and around the house. Make sure that the stove and oven are always turned off, as seniors sometimes may be forgetful with things like this. Installing automatic devices that will turn off the oven and stove or even installing an induction cooktop that turns off when a pot is removed from the burner can be beneficial as well. Have a fire extinguisher within reach in case. Furthermore, if they are prone to wandering, it could be a good idea to install monitors and sensor alarms that will alert someone if they unexpectedly leave the house without any supervision. This can help prevent wandering for elders and makes sure that they are accounted for at all times.
Tip #5: Keep walking aids within reach
If your loved one needs assistance walking whether it be with a cane, walker, or wheelchair, make sure that their walking aid is always nearby to avoid falls for the elderly. Also, have them store a flashlight or nightlight near their bed so that they can see where they are going at night to prevent falls furthermore.
Tip #6: First Aid Kit
A first aid kit should be readily accessible at all times in case they become injured. Some good products to include are band-aids, antibacterial cream, gauze, and so on.
After following these tips, your senior’s home should be a much safer place for them to live. It is a beautiful thing for them to continue to be independent later in their lives, but if their homes are not safe, their independence will dwindle. If you’ve done everything you can to make their house more safe for them and they still seem to be struggling to live alone, consider hiring a care provider who can come to their home and check up on them on a regular basis.
Care providers for seniors can be a great compromise if they don’t feel ready for assisted living but still require little extra help when needed. At Homecare California, we’ve cared for folks like this for years who want little extra assistance, and offer a wide variety of types of care for your loved ones. Their safety is always our number one priority, and we want to do everything we can to help them as well as you stay that way.
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It’s a sad reality in today’s world that many seniors are vulnerable to financial scams. The Bloomberg reports that the elderly collectively lose $37 billion annually as a result of scams, as scammers often prey upon them due to their vulnerability. They are targeted by faux telemarketers claiming they’ve won a prize that can only be claimed by sending over their information and money by online scammers, fake insurance companies, and even their own families. Seniors often have difficulty protecting themselves against these scams, as they may have trouble determining whether someone is legitimate or merely trying to get their money.
One of the worst stories comes from a woman named Marjorie Jones, an 82-year-old blind woman who lived alone and had hundreds of thousands of dollars, her entire life savings, stolen from her as a result of a financial scam. She first received a call telling her that she had won a prize and could earn her prize once she had paid a certain fee. However, over the next couple of weeks, the calls kept coming, and she ended up draining all of her savings as a result of the scam. Marjorie was one of the 5 million seniors in America who are annually exploited financially.
The term “Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability” was coined to define the unwise financial decisions that certain seniors tend to make that ultimately put them at risk for financial losses that may alter their quality of life. Even if your loved one was financially savvy when they were younger, as they age their financial judgment may dwindle before their everyday judgment does. So also if they appear to be fully capable of making sound day-to-day decisions, their capability for making sound financial decisions may not be as strong. Financial security for seniors is an incredibly important thing, and so you must ensure that your loved ones do not become vulnerable.
We’ve provided you with our best financial advice for seniors by compiling a list of some of the most common scams that target them. Being able to distinguish these scams and knowing what you can do to prevent them from happening will help you keep your loved one safe and financially secure.
1. Health Insurance Scams
One of the leading financial scams that seniors are targets for is Medicare or other health insurance scams. Because every US citizen over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare, many scammers conduct Medicare scams and will go after them to try to get their money or information for a fake insurance plan. Sometimes they will go door-to-door, place phone calls, or even send emails, and so it is essential to be vigilant and look for warning signs that they are a fraud. If your loved one is asked that they need to share their Social Security number, pay a specific fee, or if there seems to be anything potentially suspicious, they may be being scammed. To ensure their safety, make sure to thoroughly research and investigate any new health insurance plans or Medicare technicalities beforehand.
2. At Home Scams
Seniors can also fall victim to scams surrounding their homes, whether it’s through mortgage scams or contractors who overcharge for unnecessary work. For mortgage scams, scammers will offer the senior a property assessment to determine the value of their home. However, they will only “access” their homes after the senior has paid a fee, and once they’ve received the money, no real assessment takes place. Another type of scam occurs when contractors offer to do repairs on a senior’s home, claiming that there is something that needs immediate fixing. They count on elderly folks simply trusting them and allowing them to “repair” something that may have been just fine before. Then, the contractors often increase the price of the bill, thinking that the seniors won’t catch that they’re being overcharged. If your loved one mentions that they need something in their house fixed or are looking to have their property reassessed, make sure that the people they’re using are legitimate and trustworthy and genuinely have your loved one’s best interest in mind.
3. The Grandparent Scam
Probably one of the worst of them all, the grandparent scam preys upon seniors who merely want to look after their family. Many seniors will do anything to help their family, and so they are vulnerable to scammers who use their love for their family and manipulate it as a way to get money from an unsuspecting grandparent. Often, the senior will receive a call from an unknown number with the person on the other line saying “Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who I am?” Assuming that the senior will say a name, thus giving the scammer a fake identity and established trust. Then, the “grandchild” will ask their grandparent for money for something that they claim their parents can’t know about, and the senior, who wants to help out their grandchild, will send over the money to the scammer. If your loved one receives a call or even an email from a supposed family member asking for money, have them double check with that family member.
While it’s very upsetting that scammers may try to take advantage of your loved ones, you still have the power to do everything you can to make sure that they don’t fall victim to these scammers.
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While many of us picture the summer as a time for having fun outdoors, for the elderly, the summer heat can be quite a risk and even dangerous. But don’t fret! With our five tips for beating the summer heat, you and your loved ones will be ready for a summer free from stress.
Tip #1: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
As we age, we become more susceptible to dehydration. Especially in the summer with the addition of heat, a risk for dehydration increases. Be sure to look out for signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, sleepiness, headaches, dizziness. To avoid dehydration, doctors suggest consuming around 6-8 cups of water each day.
Tip #2: Enjoy The Great Indoors
Consider enjoying the beauty of the summer from the comfort of your living room! Going outside in direct sunlight during the summer can be particularly taxing, especially during the hottest time of the day, which is around 3 pm. Instead, opt to stay inside and crack open a window while reading a great book, playing cards, or just relaxing in the cold, air-conditioned air.
Tip #3: Shield Yourself
Be prepared when you plan to go outside during an unusually hot summer day! A 2009 study found that older skin is more at risk to skin cancer, so when going outside, be sure to wear protective clothing such as a hat, sunglasses, and even an umbrella to keep yourself out of the sun’s rays. And always remember sunscreen! Doctors recommend wearing SPF 30 on all exposed areas, no matter whether you’re inside or out.
Tip #4: Check Yourself
Some medications can cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to consult with your doctor if you’re noticing symptoms of this. If you do have a medication that makes you more sensitive to the sun, don’t fret! Check out tip #2 for ways to enjoy your summer from the safety of indoors.
Tip #5: Say No To Heat Stroke
Older adults don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, so susceptibility to heat stroke with elders can be much higher. Know the tell-tale signs of heat stroke such as a headache, elevated body temperature, hot and dry flushed skin, dizziness, and disorientation.
To avoid heat stroke, stay hydrated (see tip #1), stay indoors during extreme heat (see tip #2), and stay protected when outside (see tip #3).
Make sure that you and your loved ones can enjoy the heat while also staying safe this summer by following these tips! By taking the proper measures to avoid things like dehydration or heat stroke, you’ll be sure to have a fun and safe summer.
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Music is an incredibly powerful force. Listening to the opening notes from a song can bring you back to the first time you heard it, what you were doing, where you were, how you felt and so on. Because of this, music therapy for seniors has become a tool to help them with cognition, as well as, with physical activity and temperament. Playing music for your loved one has a multitude of benefits for seniors and is a great practice to incorporate into their daily routine.
1. Memory Benefits
Music therapy for seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia has become popular as it is often easier to remember songs or melodies than traditional memories. Being able to recognize a song is a beautiful feat for folks who struggle to remember names, events, and other significant things.
How exactly does music affect the brains of the elderly? Listening to music stimulates the prefrontal cortex of the brain especially when the music triggers a specific emotion, time or event. Music can help enhance memory and bring them back to a particular time when they listened to that same song or how that song used to make them feel. Music can also be a tool to help them communicate and engage with those around them.
2. Movement Benefits
Listening to music often causes people to tap their toes or clap their hands, activities that release pent-up mental and physical stress. Dancing to music is also an incredibly beneficial activity for seniors as it acts as a form of exercise that can lower blood pressure and stimulate the body's organs. And on another note, a room that has a group of seniors singing along to a song while clapping their hands, stomping their feet, or dancing is a room filled with energy and cheer.
3. Mood Benefits
Music is a beautiful way to liven up a senior's day and can help alleviate boredom, sadness, nervousness and a host of other problems. Something as simple as listening to a song that they used to love when they were younger can instantly lift their mood and remind them of all the wonderful times they've had. Or if your loved one is feeling restless or anxious, classical music, in particular, can be used as a soothing force to help them relax and release their stress.
So how can you help your loved one experience the many benefits of music?
Talk to them about what their favorite songs were back in the day and listen to them with them or even sing them together. We've curated a playlistfor seniors with classics by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and many more on spotify! Now you and your loved one can listen to the classics and connect over the powerful bond of music. Happy listening!
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The Benefit of Veterans Programs
12 million American veterans over 65 that served during a time of a foreign war. This makes them eligible for care assistance. My 87 year old fater in law receives over $600 per month and that goes a long way in defraying the total cost of his care.
It is highly possible that your loved one may meet the eligibility for veteran administration programs as well. It is a "needs based program" that looks at a person’s assets and income to determine eligibility. It is a very viable option for seniors whose family is supporting them financially but would welcome financial assistance. In our case, we were able to get the paperwork done within a few months. Had I not been in the business of caring for seniors, I probably would have never known about the programs.
Types of Benefit Programs for Veterans
There are two programs offered - Aid & Attendance and Homebound - which have care need,, military service, and financial requirements that demonstrate need. These two programs are actually additional benefits to a VA pension and have their own set of eligibility criteria. To qualify, the individual had to serve at least 90 days of active duty, with one of those days being during active wartime. The recipient must then also fit one of the following criteria:
Be age 65 or older with limited or no incomeBe totally and permanently disabledBe a patient in a nursing homeBe receiving Social Security Disability InsuranceBe receiving Supplemental Security Income
Aid & Attendance Program
According to the VA your loved one (or their spouse) must have served during a time of foreign war and have the following needs:
Your loved one requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting his or herself from the hazards of your daily environmentThey are bedridden, in that their disability or disabilities requires that they remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatmentThey are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacityTheir eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
Homebound Program
This applies when your parent is substantially confined to their immediate premises because of a permanent disability.
https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/aid_attendance_housebound.asp
How to Get Started
The process is paperwork intensive but considering the value, it's well worth exploring. There are companies that charge you for filing the paperwork (in our case they wanted $1,000 up front), but it's not that difficult. You have to pull together most of the supporting paperwork anyway.
The simplest way to get the ball rolling is to call the VA’s Pension phone number listed below and begin the conversation. You should be able to get a sense of the financial requirements such as income level and assets to see if you are in the ballpark. The best thing is that benefits start based upon one’s eligibility date based upon the paperwork submitted. You may have to wait several months before you get final approval but they will send you an initial check with previous month’s benefits back to the date of eligibility. If you need additional outside assistance it is available for free from any one of the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) such as the American Legion, American Red Cross, etc. which are listed here.
VA Pension Phone Number 1-800-827-1000
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The Risks are Real: Mixing Medications
At 53 years of age, I am fortunate to only have to take two medications once per day. As hard as I try, I am not organized enough to put my medications into weekly pill boxes to ensure that I've taken my medicine. Old habits are hard to break. Fortunately, I can miss a day or two of my pills and it doesn't affect me. Now imagine you are a 84 year old senior and your memory is starting to fade. On average, American seniors are taking a whopping fourteen different medications per day, many of those medications multiple times throughout the day. The complexity is quite scaryl.
But imagine you are a 84 year old senior and your memory is starting to fade. On average, American seniors are taking a whopping fourteen different medications per day, many of those medications multiple times throughout the day. The complexity is quite scary.
When older adults take five or more medicines, it is called “polypharmacy.” With polypharmacy, the medicines can interact with each other in harmful ways. For example, the medications can increase negative side effects. It can increase frailty which can result in instability, weakness, and less endurance. This increases the risk of falls and other symptoms such as delirium that can result in hospitalization. It's no wonder that lack of medication compliance and adverse drug interactions are one of the single largest causes of hospitalization for seniors.
How To Better Manage Medications
So what can you do to lower their risks? The key is assisting your loved one in getting control over their medication which begins with taking a record of what they are currently using. Then proceed to the next step of putting controls in place so that medications are dosed and taken in compliance with their prescription.
If you plan to assist your loved one with their medications, be sure to seek the input of their physicians before making any changes.
1. Create a list of current medications and times they are taken
Make a list of all medications taken (name, dosage, frequency, reason for medication, known side effects), etc. Here is the AARP's Personal Medication Record you can download for free.
After writing them down, do two things:
1. Check the medications to learn about them - their uses, side effects, etc... WebMD's medication web page is one of many good resources to get you up to speed.
2. Then
use this drug interaction checker from WebMD to educate yourself about the drugs and get a sense if any of these drugs have known adverse interactions. This is a way to find out if any combination of medications could have any negative effects.
Take good notes and discuss all of your finding with your physician's office, ask for an understanding of the reasons for the medication, the dosage amount, and discuss the other medications your loved one is taking - including any risks. This can be a little tricky because the prescriptions are often written by different physicians. If there is a primary care physician or geriatrician that oversees their medical care, he or she is likely the best person to ask in sorting things out.
Never make a decision on your own to change your loved one's medications. Only do so in conjunction with their physicians office and carefully at that. Always be aware ahead of time what the reactions to changes might be. Be careful to not fix something that isn't necessarily broken in the first place.
2. Ways To Organize
Pill organizers, especially those that handle medications taken multiple times per day, work well. If you want to set them up for a month at a time, the monthly organizer shown below supports 31 days for dosages taken many times throughout the day.The less expensive alternative is to set up multiple weekly pill organizers (4 will handle 28 days) and mark the weeks of the month they pertain to with a permanent marker.
3. Ongoing Compliance and Monitoring
Setting up the medications in well-organized pill dispensers is just half the process. Making sure they are regularly taken and documented is of equal, or greater importance.
I've created a link here to a medication management spreadsheet that you can save as your own medication log, fill in and print out. Any time medications change, you can change the information in the spreadsheet, save and print.
With a small investment of time, you can help prevent unnecessary injuries and hospitalizations related to medication issues.
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Depression Meets Its Match
This is the story of Frank, an 89 year-old man whose life was completely changed by one small but incredibly significant thing that his daughter did for him. Frank has progressive macular degeneration and is now legally blind. Because of this, he has experienced a more rapid loss of independence than he had expected in his life. As a result, Frank's mental health has suffered and he fell victim to significant depression.
Being blind makes the challenges of aging considerably more daunting. Many of the things Frank loved - fixing things, making things, etc. were no longer possible. His daughter lived far away from Frank but visited every 4-6 weeks or so. Every time she left, it was bitter sweet - she enjoyed the visits but hated to leave her dad alone. She struggled for ways to curb his sadness and depression. None of the various things she tried work. Every time she left to come back to California, she left with a heavy heart.
Close to Home
Frank isn't one of our clients. Frank is actually my wife Lisa's father whom she has called "Daddy Frank" ever since her mother married him when she was 6 years old. She called him "Mr. Frank" when they were dating, but once Frank and her mom got married, naturally he became Daddy Frank. Frank lives 3,000 miles away in Louisiana. Lisa is an only child and therefore the sole family member taking care of her father, and so she needs to frequently visit Frank as well as coordinate most aspects of his life - paying bills, filling insurance claims, coordinating caregivers, and going to doctors visits. But the one thing she couldn't effectively fix was his mood - more specifically his depression. And his depression was starting to cause a downward slide in his physical health.
One day during a visit, Lisa was cleaning out a closet and came upon a bird cage that the family had for years. Her family had birds throughout her life growing up and her father had loved canaries. He loved listening to them sing, especially every morning. The lightbulb went off. She had to get her Dad a canary. Ironically, there were no canaries in her mid-sized town pet stores so she called her sister in Houston, asked her to buy one and drive it to Louisiana.
Milton Becomes More Than a Beloved Pet
Lisa knew that her father would enjoy the canary but she had no idea how it would dramatically change his mental health and ultimately how that improvement would lead to improvement in his physical health. It was a small thing, but it made a HUGE impact.
Frank named his canary Milton. Every morning he is greeted with Milton peeping for him to lift his overnight cover so he can come alive and sing. Sometimes Milton doesn't wait and just starts singing with his cage cover on, gently waking Frank up with his sweet song. Milton sings throughout the day and Frank puts him to bed at night by placing the cover over his cage. Frank has a constant companion in Milton and has someone that HE can take care of.
Lisa calls her dad every day to check in from California. Conversations regarding his depression and loneliness have given way to stories about Milton, his caregivers and all of the things going on in his life. In essence he is living again. And while she still recognizes his aging in his voice, his personality has returned. Milton not only changed Daddy Frank's life, its changed his daughters as well because she once again hears joy in her father's voice.
At Homecare California, we always talk about the quality of life of our clients. The tasks that our caregivers perform are what they do. But its not the tasks that have the most value. Its the way their interactions make our clients feel. Its not just making a meal, its the companionship that goes along with the meal.
What can you do in your parent or aging loved ones life to bring back the joys and happiness of years gone by? For Frank it was a bird but for others it may be something else. Talk with your parents, go through their closet, see what's missing in their life - things given up many years ago that just might bring joy back into their life. I can't guarantee it, but there's a good chance it will have a greater impact than you might imagine.
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Problems Faced with Long Term Care Insurance
Even though they are highly regulated, insurance companies are in business to make a profit. Premiums across companies are fairly competitive so the way they make a profit is holding on as tightly to your money as they can. This usually means that when you have a claim, they make you jump through hoops to get your benefit. There are exclusions for this that you may of not been aware of. It can be maddening.
We have dealt with a lot of long term care insurance companies. In fact about 25-30% of our clients have long term care insurance. And for the most part they play by the rules. But I advise my clients to make sure they understand their loved one’s policy before they make a claim. Getting authorized to get your benefits from a long term care policy differs across policies and what they pay for differs as well. Some pay only for care at home, others both assisted living and home. Others won’t pay for care at a nursing home.
How to Better Prepare Yourself Before Making a Claim
We created our "Long Term Care Insurance Guide: Your guide to getting the benefits that you’ve paid for"to provide long term care insurance advice and tips that give you guidance on things like elimination periods (sort of like a time based deductible), what activities of daily living can you demonstrate you have needs performing, what are the dollar limits on coverage per day, week, month, etc.
So download your guide by clicking here on the cover below and make sure you're prepared when you go to file your claim.
Have more questions? Contact our specialists here.
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More Than Just a Funny Punchline
"Help. I've fallen and I cant get up." This famous, memorable line from TV advertising for life alert in the 1980's has become part of many comedy routines over the years. It was so poorly done that, yes, it was comical. But the subject it dealt with isn't.
Medical alert systems have been around since the 1970's and have saved thousands of seniors from unnecessary suffering and sometimes fatal medical situations. Medical alert systems for seniors, also known as personal emergency response systems, offer a fast and easy way for seniors who live alone to get help during an emergency such as a fall, a medical issue or other event that requires an immediate response. Most plans offer a 24/7 call center as well as notification of designated contacts when incidents occur.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Medical Alert Pendant
Unlike back in the 70's when there was only one option, today you have numerous services to choose from and features tailored to your specific situation. Here are some factors to consider when researching services:
At Home or On-the-Go
At Home or On-the-Go The biggest decision is where the pendant will work. Base models rely on a telephone landline and are limited to use in the home (and sometimes outside in the yard). Two-way communication is limited to the user's proximity to the receiver base unit (which is plugged into the phone outlet) in order to communicate back and forth with the call center. I view this as a significant limitation that diminishes the value of the service.
Alternatively, an on-the-go solution allows the system to work wherever your loved one goes where there is cell service. It uses its own cellular service plan and is about $10 extra per month. The other benefit is that most support two-way communication without the need for proximity to the base station. An additional benefit of an on the go solution is a GPS tracker that helps locate your loved one. This is particularly helpful for those that may wander away from home due to dementia.
Note: Ask the provider what cellular network the company uses and whether your location is supported. This is especially important for rural clients where cellular connections are severely limited.
Automatic Fall Detection
Most base models do not include this feature which is actually very important in most situations. We have found that with many of our clients after a fall, they become confused, disoriented, injured or unconscious. In this type of situation, the injured person is unable to push the call button, but the detection system alerts a call center of the fall. They can then attempt communication with the client and determine the best course of action from there.
Pendant or Bracelet?
This is really a personal choice. Each has their own pros and cons, but it does appear that some on-the-go solutions require the pendant and do not support a wrist bracelet. Do your research to determine the best option for your particular situation.
Transmitter Range & Battery
At-home, landline-based systems have to communicate with a base station and therefore have a limited range from pendant to the base station. This range may be encumbered by walls in the home despite the distance, so it's important to test the system if you go with one of these base models. On-the-go solutions do not require a base station and therefore the only range limitation is the quality of the cellular coverage.
Battery life of the pendant is an issue regardless of the solution which unfortunately is one of the drawbacks of these systems. When removed from the body to recharge, seniors often fail to put the device back on. It is not uncommon for seniors that have medical response systems to not be wearing them at the time of a fall. To assure the user is always wearing their device an option is to purchase a second pendant so that one is always being worn while the other is charging. It's a worthwhile investment to improve the probability that the pendant will be functioning properly in an emergency.
What are the Associated Costs?
Shipping, Installation, Monthly Cost, Contract lengthMost plans range from $25-$55/month depending on the features. In today's competitive market, you should be able to get free shipping, support on installation and you should never need to sign a long-term contract. Price breaks are sometimes given to those willing to commit to a year or more, although billing usually remains monthly. Many companies will allow for a 30-day full refund to try the service.
An Easier Way to Obtain a Medical Alert Pendant with Homecare California
Homecare California qualifying clients are reimbursed up to $35. We work with Stanford Hospital's Local Lifeline program. We believe it's one of the best solutions available in the Bay Area. Even if you don't use our services, you should seriously consider a system for your elderly loved one. We would be happy to facilitate coordination with Stanford Hospital's program if you want to explore a Lifeline service.

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