Are You Putting Off a Move to Assisted Living?

Are You Putting Off a Move to Assisted Living?

A move to an assisted living or senior living community may be one of the best decisions a family can make for a parent or senior loved one’s happiness, health and safety, particularly when they need more care than we can provide or they’re suffering from social isolation.

Lots of families delay this all-important decision, however, feeling helpless as their parent’s needs escalate and their own caregiving stress increases.

Five Reasons That Families Put Off a Move to Assisted Living

Making a decision about assisted living is not easy or straightforward and there are a variety of reasons why families and seniors may try to avoid discussing this difficult topic. The following are five of the most common reasons families might delay a move to senior living, along with some possible solutions for tackling each obstacle:

1. “I live too far away to make a decision.”
Geographic distance — living at a distance or in another state from their loved one — is often cited by family members as a reason for delaying a move of their loved one to an assisted living community. A recent study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving showed that 15% of family caregivers live one or more hours away from their care recipient. Living at a distance poses extra challenges to those searching for assisted living, adding stress and making logistics and timing difficult.

Possible Solution: If you are looking at the possibility of managing your loved one’s care at a distance, you are not alone. To make the process easier, schedule family meetings with other involved loved ones to discuss decisions ahead of time. Make sure to organize all the important documents and paperwork you might need, so everything is in place in case your loved one’s health situation changes unexpectedly. Seek help from online and offline resources and referral services in order to determine what will fit your loved one’s needs and your family’s budget.

2. “I need to talk with my loved ones about assisted living care.”
Many folks will say that they have delayed their loved one’s move to assisted living because they haven’t had the opportunity to talk with family and friends about it first. It’s human nature to put off the decision because it is difficult to coordinate with other family members, or because we want to talk with experienced or trusted friends before figuring out what to do. Of course, it is painful to think about an aging loved one’s declining mental or physical health, which makes it easy to delay having those tough conversations. But doing nothing about it may put our loved one’s health at greater risk. It’s important to discuss issues such as health, logistics, and scheduling before they become real concerns.

Possible Solutions: First, be honest with yourself about your own feelings and why the delay is occurring. Think realistically about what will happen if you do nothing about their situation versus what will happen if they move to assisted living. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a counselor, friend, or support group and…don’t forget to involve your loved ones when it’s time to make a decision. Just don’t put it off forever. If it’s pre-existing family conflicts getting in the way, remember that the focus should be on the welfare of your loved one and set a good example by trying your best to rise above sibling rivalries and making sure everyone’s viewpoints are heard.

3. “I want to do more research.”
In the aforementioned study, the greatest number (27%) said that their top reason for putting off the move to assisted living was to allow them to do more research — from calling communities to driving by the property to looking at websites. Families often worry about the ratings of the community and about what the community offers residents.

Possible Solutions: Researching assisted living care can seem daunting, but there are numerous resources available for families to utilize in evaluating specific communities as well as different types of care. In the Eau Claire area, a very helpful resource is the Eau Claire County Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Their counselors can provide you with excellent advice and insight into the various assisted living communities available nearby. The key is taking that first step toward seeking out help.

4. “I’m concerned about assisted living costs.”
With the media monthly cost of assisted living rising, (typically $4,000 to $5,000 per month on average in the Eau Claire area) it’s no surprise that sticker shock is one of the reasons families and seniors delay the move to assisted living. Again, in the same survey, 13% of respondents cited budget uncertainties or high expenses as a delaying factor.

Possible Solution: An important fact to remember is to check what is included in the monthly cost of assisted living. In many cases, amenities such as housekeeping, meals, utilities, etc. are included. The key is understanding what the costs mean and what value you are getting for your money.

5. “My mom/dad/parents are not ready to leave their home.”
There are a number of specific reasons why a loved one might be reluctant or even afraid to move into senior living. They may worry about losing their independence, they may fear that others won’t care for them properly, or they may worry about being bored. They may not feel they need to be in a “nursing home,” or they may be attached to their current home or pets and be understandably reluctant to consider the idea of parting with treasured possessions and memories in order to move into a smaller space.

Possible Solution: Get informed about the most common fears associated with assisted living and other retirement housing options and learn what you can do to openly acknowledge and discuss these fears rather than letting them derail the conversation. Once your loved one can articulate his or her worries and feel like they are being heard, you can take steps to alleviate their fears. Then you can work together to discuss senior living options that value residents’ dignity, independence and privacy. Talking to a loved one about downsizing their possessions can be difficult, but once the conversation is open, you can encourage them to enlist trusted family and friends or even a professional move manager.

While these aren’t the only reasons families delay a move to assisted living, they are definitely some of the most common. Being prepared and having realistic expectations will help you avoid potential roadblocks.

Tracking Possible Alzheimer’s Behaviors in Your Parents

Tracking Possible Alzheimer’s Behaviors in Your Parents

An Aging Parent’s Behavior

Are you concerned about an aging parent’s cognitive skills? If you have concerns about an aging parent’s behavior or memory, you’ve probably wondered if they have Alzheimer’s or another dementia. What should you do about your worries? Tell the doctor.

If you’d like to share your concerns with your parent’s doctor but are worried about upsetting your parent, send the doctor your concerns in writing. No HIPAA authorization is needed for you to share your concerns with a parent’s health professional.

However, if you, your parent and your parent’s doctor truly want to get to the bottom of things, you take a simple approach that is incredibly effective: start taking notes on the behaviors known to correspond with Alzheimer’s.

By doing so, you’ll be gathering the kind of detailed information that doctors need in order to confirm cognitive issues and likely detect the disease.

Eight Alzheimer’s Behaviors to Track

• There are eight Alzheimer’s behaviors to track and for each of the behaviors, it’s important to take down the following:
• What kinds of problems you see your parent having now
• When you — or another person — first noticed problems, and what you observed
• Whether there’s been a change or decline compared to the way your parent used to be
• Whether this seems to be due to memory and thinking, versus physical limitations such as pain, shortness of breath, or physical disabilities

Note: If you don’t notice a problem in any of the following areas, be specific in documenting this, e.g. “no problem detected.” That way, you and your family will know you didn’t forget to consider that behavior.

1. Daily Struggles with Memory or Thinking
It’s normal for older adults to have a lapse here and there. But if your parent seems to experience a memory or thinking problem every day, make a note of this. It’s a good idea to add specific examples describing what you or another person observed.

2. Difficulty Learning to Use Something New
Any difficulty learning to use a new appliance or new gadget, such as a smartphone? Make note of what your parent has difficulty adapting to and how he or she tried to manage.

3. Difficulty Managing Finances
Have you noticed any problems managing bills, expenses, or taxes? You might have to ask your parents about this if you aren’t usually involved in their finances.

4. Forgetting the Month or Year
Any difficulty keeping track of the current year or month? If it happens more than once, make a note of that especially.

5. Poor Judgment
Have you noticed any behaviors or situations that seem to indicate bad decisions? Any excessive or unusual spending? Or perhaps a poor understanding of safety concerns that everyone else is worried about? Write down anything you or another person close to your parents has observed.

6. Problems With Appointments and Commitments
Has your parent missed any appointments or forgotten about a get-together that you’d planned? Everyone forgets something occasionally, but if this happened repeatedly, be sure to document when it started and how bad it’s gotten.

7. Reduced Interest in Leisure Activities
Have you noticed that your parent no longer seems interested or involved in any hobbies? For example, did your mother read voraciously but now seems disinterested in even picking up a book? Any change in hobbies or leisure activities should be noted, especially if such a change doesn’t seem to be related to a problem with physical health.

8. Repeating Oneself
Any repeating of stories? Any asking the same questions repeatedly? Has your parent been declaring the same thing, e.g. “I really love those roses you gave me!” over and over again? If so, write it down.

How to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease

The eight behaviors previously mentioned correspond to the brain’s ability to learn or manage memory and judgment. To diagnose Alzheimer’s or another dementia, your parent’s doctors must document that your parent has been having persistent difficulties in two or more areas related to brain function. (This is necessary but not sufficient for diagnosis as doctors must also rule out other causes for thinking problems).

Now, doctors can assess the different aspects of brain function through certain office-based thinking tests. However, research has found that asking family members about the behaviors above can be just as effective when it comes to spotting probable dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting this type of observational information from family members helps doctors determine whether the behavior is a persisting, and maybe even worsening, problem. This matters because a single office-based test only provides a snapshot of how your parent’s brain is doing on that particular day.

As a rule, most doctors appreciate getting these kinds of behavioral observations from families because it provides very practical information related to people’s daily lives. By knowing more about what kinds of problems an older person has been experiencing, doctors can make useful recommendations right away to help families with family conflicts, independence, and safety.

Ways to Help Your Parents Get the Right Care

Doctors who are knowledgeable about dementia will ask a family about problems related to the eight behaviors above. Unfortunately, many primary care doctors aren’t experienced in evaluating dementia. It’s not unusual for a physician to wave off concerns or tell the family that this is just what happens when people age. This can often easily happen partly because families are often a bit vague when they voice concerns. This means the doctor has to do more work in investigating the concern and in documenting specific problems that can help diagnose Alzheimer’s. Some doctors will do this work, but since office visits are often rushed, many of them won’t get around to it.

Unless that is, you bring detailed information to help the doctors take further action. The more specifics you can share regarding what you’ve observed, the more likely you’ll get the help your parent and your family need. Plus, whether or not Alzheimer’s caused these behaviors, they often cause anxiety and frustration within families. So it’s important to bring them up to a doctor so that you can get help understanding the cause and learn what to do next.

Don’t go on for too long with the worrying and the wondering. Take notes so that you can then take better action.

Four Things Siblings Feud Over Regarding Their Parent’s Estate

Four Things Siblings Feud Over Regarding Their Parent’s Estate

Many people think sibling feuds only occur when we are young. In some cases, this is true, but for some brother and sisters this feud can continue into adulthood, tearing families apart.

Caring for an elderly parent or selling their estate once they have passed can sometime create a tenuous situation or add to an already existing one. When parents divide their assets to their children, they don’t expect such fights to occur, but it can be the case.

The following is a list of common concerns along with solutions to prevent a major feud from occurring.

1. No Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney
When a parent gets sick it can be stressful, especially if they need to be hospitalized for an extended period of time. This can become more challenging if their situation becomes critical and they are unable to voice their healthcare or financial wishes. If a parent does not have a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney, their loved ones are forced to make the decisions for themselves. This can cause conflict between siblings if they are unable to agree on a decision. In some circumstances, siblings have even taken each other to court to fight for their side. This can cause a rift in their relationship, costly court fees, and lost time that instead could be better spent in caring for their parent.

To avoid this conflict, parents should create Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney:

A Healthcare Directive specifies your wishes for medical treatments, and allows you to appoint someone to carry out your wishes if there is ever a time when you are no longer able to communicate or provide consent.

A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs such as your property, while you are in the hospital.

2. No Last Will or Testament
If both parents pass away without a Last Will and Testament, a family can be faced with chaos. In some jurisdictions it will be up to the children to decide who gets family heirlooms, household objects, and other family possessions. This can cause fights between siblings if they want the same thing or can’t agree on how to equally divide the items. With their parents not around to decide who gets what, siblings may become resentful to each other, which can lead to their relationship dissolving.

Parents should create a Last Will and Testament and specify who gets what. They can identify items and give them as gifts to their children. Creating a Last Will and Testament not only ensures your loved ones are looked after, but it decreases the chance of siblings fighting over material possessions.

3. Lack of Communication
In some cases, having a Last Will and Testament is not enough to stop sibling feuds from occurring. For instance, parents may decide to give one child a precious family heirloom, or more money because they were their sole caregiver. This can cause the other sibling or siblings to feel jealous and neglected. A lot of times, parents don’t discuss their will with their children as it can be uncomfortable talking about money or when they won’t be around. However, this lack of communication can cause more problems between siblings because it is too late to hear their parents’ reasoning.

Parents should communicate with their children about their will so they are aware of the contents and are able to have an open discussion. When deciding about heirlooms or possessions many people use the “sticker method.” The sticker method allows siblings to take turns in deciding what they want by placing their sticker on an item.

4. Wrong Executor
When creating a Last Will and Testament, parents will have to appoint an executor. An executor will distribute their assets of the estate in accordance with the direction of the will.

Parents sometimes appoint only one child to be their executor. Since the executor has the power to make decisions it can create some tension between siblings. Arguments can arise because they may feel jealous that their sibling is the executor or that their sibling is abusing their power and not carrying out their responsibilities.

Parents can add a clause in their will that decisions cannot be made unless there is a majority or a unanimous vote. This will allow the family member who is the executor to not abuse their power for their personal interest.

Parents can also select a third party as their executor. This can help alleviate tension between siblings as the executor is impartial and has no personal interest to the estate.

Getting Started

Dealing with an ill parent or their estate once they pass can be difficult, and having support through your siblings is important. However, sibling feuds can get in the way and cause conflicts during this time. Having your parents’ estate planning documents in order not only ensures their health care, finance and estate decisions are being taken care of, but that siblings are able to be there for each other instead of fighting.

Getting started is easier than you may think as there are many resources available. Check out the website: www.LawDepot.com, a leading publisher of do-it-yourself legal documents, which offers planning documents and a free, one-week trial which is available to help get you started.

Why More & More Seniors Are Preferring Senior Living Communities

Why More & More Seniors Are Preferring Senior Living Communities

Today’s senior communities can range from homelike to the luxury of a high-end hotel. One thing that they don’t feel like is institutional. Most seniors who have moved to an independent or assisted living community report that they definitely prefer life at their new home vs. living alone in their own home.

Here are some common reasons why:

1. An End to Stressful Driving
Driving can become more stressful as we age and our driving abilities may not be what they once were either. For these reasons, many residents prefer to take advantage of the access to transportation offered by assisted living communities. There’s no need to rely on a car any longer, although parking is typically available for residents who still drive.

2. Better Food
There are many seniors who are used to living alone and may not currently be eating right. At senior living communities, residents don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or meal preparation. Instead, they can enjoy a fine dining experience every day of the week. The food tastes good, alternative meals are almost always offered and special diets can ordinarily be accommodated. It’s common for new residents, who had been eating poorly before they moved, to experience improvements in their health and well-being just from having access to three square meals per day.

3. Feeling Like Myself Again
Living alone, we may not be able to participate in activities and games we enjoyed, that were fun and helped keep us sharp. But senior communities offer a wealth of opportunities to keep us engaged. This can include activities like favorite card games, chess, cribbage, or even Nintendo Wii and corn hole bag toss. Engaging reading and discussion groups, classes, and lectures on a myriad of topics are also available.

4. Feeling Safe
Residents can rest easy knowing that they are secured from ne’er-do-wells. Furthermore, residents enjoy the peace of mind that comes from the emergency response systems that are in each apartment, or in many cases on the resident’s person as safety pendant. This alleviates fears about falling and becoming trapped for hours or even days, a scenario that’s all too common for senior’s residing alone. Certainly, there are seniors who live alone and are just fine. While senior communities aren’t for everyone, there is without a doubt vast numbers of seniors living alone in unsafe or unhealthy situations who would benefit immensely from life in a senior community.

5. Improved Family Relationships
Older folks frequently become dependent on their grown children, or other close family members, for help of all kinds. Unnatural role reversals can strain relationships and foster unhealthy feelings of resentment, both by parents and their children. Younger family members are liberated from the role of full-time caregivers and are able to assure that time with their older loved one is high-quality and meaningful. Older residents are glad to return to the role of family matriarch or patriarch and often pleased that their grown children no longer have to “parent the parent.”

6. New Friends
Older adults who live alone often become isolated, which is unhealthy at any age. At senior communities, individuals can make new friends and share meals with each other. On the other hand, persons who are more introverted appreciate that their privacy is respected, but are still glad to have folks around.

7. No Stress Home Maintenance or Yard Work
Keeping up a home is hard, especially for those persons who have developed physical ailments. Mowing the lawn, shoveling/blowing snow, pulling weeds, vacuuming — these become things of the past. If you are a green thumb, many communities have gardens or raised planters that allows you to “adopt” a garden.

8. Vanquishing Boredom
Residents need never be bored at a senior living community. There’s something for everyone. All kinds of activities and entertainment are offered, both on-site and in the local community. Entertainment can range from visiting musicians and performers, to day trips that might include local landmarks, forays into nature, or just an outing to a local park.

Redirecting a Loved One With Dementia

Redirecting a Loved One With Dementia

Redirecting a Loved One With Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which affect memory and other cognitive abilities, can create anger, anxiety, confusion and fear for a person living with the disease. It doesn’t help that explaining and reasoning with person dementia probably won’t ease their frustration.

An approach called “redirection” however, frequently helps. Redirection is a technique that is used to shift a distressed person’s attention away from the situation that is causing anger, anxiety, fear, or dangerous and unsafe behavior to a more pleasant emotion or situation.

How to Redirect a Parent or Senior Loved One

It’s happening again. Even though you’ve explained many times to mom, who has dementia, that she can’t call her sister Marie, who passed away five years ago, mom insists on calling her right now.

To make matters worse, she’s become agitated, even paranoid. “What have you done with Marie? Why won’t you let me call her?” mom asks. At this point, you are at a total loss as to what to do to calm her down.

When a person has dementia, he or she is unable to process information like they used to. That’s because dementia’s impairments aren’t restricted to memory loss. Those diseases also compromise the “executive functioning” capabilities of insight, judgment and reasoning. As a result, your loved one with dementia can be incapable of telling the difference between a hallucination and reality. Trying to explain why that person’s perceived reality isn’t true is pointless. Such an explanation can escalate already strong emotions.

Steps to Consider When Redirecting a Loved One With Dementia

It is possible to find ways to still stay connected to your loved one with dementia so they don’t feel that you’re trying to bully or push — which can easily backfire. Instead, try to understand that your loved one’s anxiety, fear, or other emotion probably stems from frustration or feeling out of control. For example, a person with dementia may ask the same question again and again because they have trouble processing the answer.

Fortunately, redirection can sometimes alleviate frustration for both the person with dementia and their family caregiver.

The following tips provide advice on how to redirect a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia:
 

  1. Assess the environment.
  2. Is the room too hot or cold, but your loved one can’t find the words to express that? Is the space calm and comforting or noisy? Sometimes, it’s the environment itself that needs redirection.

  3. Don’t try to explain or reason.
  4. If mom keeps pushing furniture against a door and insists that someone is trying to break in, explaining that no one is attempting to get in probably won’t ease her fear. Instead, try responding to the emotions behind the actions. You don’t have to say, “I believe this is happening,” but you can say, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” You might also say, “Mom, I really want you to feel safe. How can I help you feel safe?” In this scenario, you realize what is causing your loved one’s agitation and redirect her feelings from a place of insecurity to one of security because she feels like you finally believe her and are on her side.

  5. Go outside.
  6. Try to step outside for some fresh air and a change of environment if you can. Light and sunshine are healthy and help redirect the brain.

  7. Keep it simple.
  8. Try to keep conversations simple and direct. For example, if the person resists bathing, instead of saying, “I need you to come to the bathroom so you can take a bath and shave and I can wash your hair,” a simple “Dad, we’re going to the bathroom” is easier to comprehend. Asking for one thing at a time helps keep things simple.

  9. Use bridge phrases to put the focus back on the person.
  10. If Mom won’t eat and says she’s not hungry, you don’t have to push. Instead, try a ‘bridge phrase’ that moves the conversation to a different place. For example, you can tell Mom how much you always loved her fried chicken and ask her if she remembers how the house used to smell while it cooked or how she prepared the meal. Then a little later, maybe return with, “hey, how about we both have a bite of this sandwich?”

  11. Use touch to calm and focus.
  12. Not everyone with dementia feels comforted by touch. However, if the person is okay with it, touching that person’s arm or shoulder or gently hold their hand can be comforting and grounding. With redirection, keep in mind that one technique may work fine one time but not the next, so it’s a good idea to have several options on hand. The whole idea of redirection is that you want the person to feel cared about and listened to and make sure they’re in a safe situation.

     
    If you or your loved one are considering a memory care facility, learn more about Eau Claire memory care here. Our professional memory care team can answer your questions and help you navigate your situation.