5 Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

For many people, aging can sneak up and take them by surprise, and, sometimes, this can make it difficult to plan properly for the problems that can and will arise in the future due to age. Many seniors think they have a plan, but it might not be as complete as necessary. Not planning well for the estate of an elderly loved one could cause problems down the line for family members and friends who will need to decide how to handle things in their end days. It is possible to avoid some of the more common mistakes made during the estate planning process. 

In This Guide

Why Estate Planning?

When caring for an elderly loved one, a family member or close friend will have to think about a lot of complicated things for the future. Estate planning is the best way to ensure proper preparation for when the inevitable happens to a senior. Many people assume that estate planning is about preparing for death when, in reality, it is instructions for how to deal with prolonged illness and providing for those left behind after death.

Estate Planning

A good plan will:

• Ensure protection of assets after a move to a care facility
• Avoid the courts taking possession of the estate
• Help save estate taxes
• Designate appropriate people to take care of legal paperwork when illness or disability make the person incapable
• Appoint a person or people to make medical decisions

1) Not Having a Power of Attorney or Healthcare Directive

When a parent or elderly loved one gets sick, it can be stressful for the adult children and other loved ones who are taking care of them. If there is hospitalization, it can cause even more stress especially if the person becomes incapacitated and incapable of voicing their wishes. This can cause conflict amongst family members when there are disagreements on how to handle paperwork and medical decisions, and it can be costly when family members have to go to court for a decision. The best way to avoid these unnecessary rivalries and expenses is to appoint a power of attorney and have a healthcare directive in the plan.

• A power of attorney allows a senior to designate a trusted loved one or friend to stand in proxy for financial or legal decisions. This benefits family members as it allows access to the checking account and other finances to pay bills, move money, or take other actions when necessary for an incapacitated or hospitalized loved one.

• A healthcare directive can include a power of attorney for healthcare or healthcare proxy, medical wishes and instructions, and a living will. Both a power of attorney for healthcare and a healthcare proxy are people that are chosen to make healthcare decisions for an elderly patient that is incapacitated. A living will includes medical instructions for end-of-life care and answer questions about things like pain medications, life sustaining treatments, and do-not-resuscitate orders.

2) Choosing the Wrong Executor

Executors are appointed when creating the Last Will and Testament of an elderly person. Their job is to be sure that their assets are distributed according to the way they are instructed in the will. Tensions can arise when siblings think that the wrong person was chosen for this duty. Perhaps they feel jealous of their sibling or feel that the one that was appointed is abusing power and not doing their job right.

This can be avoided if the parent adds in a clause to the will that any decisions need to have a majority or unanimous vote as this will keep the appointed executor from abusing their power. Also, a third party executor can be appointed. A third party person can be anyone who does not have a vested interest in the estate. By doing this, a parent can alleviate the tension of the siblings.

Planning

3) Not Pre-Planning Funeral Arrangements

Planning a funeral can be a daunting task for family members after the death of an elderly loved one. If it is not done before one dies, it can leave a lot of questions unanswered about their desires. When the funeral is pre-planned it can make it simple for the family members and beloved friends to be able to know exactly how to prepare for it. Some of the questions to think about are:

• What kind of service: Elaborate or simple?
• What kind of music?
• Should there be prayers?
• What kind of burial: Cremation or casket?

4) No Last Will and Testament

Most people don’t like to think about their own death and what will happen to their things afterwards. However, without legal documentation, it can be up to the living children to be able to decide who gets what. This can cause chaos and arguments amongst siblings when they want the same thing or can’t decide how to divide up possessions equally. It can cause large rifts in families and lead to dissolving relationship in the family.

This chaos can be avoided by making a Last Will and Testament. This will designate an executor and tell what property or asset each person gets. A will is not hard to create, but most people don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves. It might be helpful to hire an estate planning lawyer to draw up this paperwork especially if there are complicated assets involved.

5) Not Discussing Estate Planning Details with Family

Many elderly parents aren’t comfortable discussing estate planning with their family members. It can be uncomfortable to talk about money or talk about when they aren’t there. However, it can be detrimental to the family so that they understand the reasoning behind some decisions. This can be avoided by doing a few simple things like:

• Making sure the executor is comfortable with the duty
• Letting family members know where the will is located
• Discussing end-of-life wishes
• Allowing family members to choose what they would like

 

Top 15 Healthy Snacks for Senior Adults

Nutritional needs change as a person ages; appetite may wane and the ability to chew and digest certain foods may also be effected. Snacks high in vitamins, minerals and fiber are a great way to help your senior loved one get all the calories and nutrients they need in a day. Snacks can also have social value, as they can be a time to share food with friends or family.

The following list of 15 healthy snacks can provide you with some fresh ideas to get your senior interested in supplementing their diet.

In This Guide

1. Fresh fruit

Fresh fruits

This could be in the form of berries or cut-up oranges or apples. Fruit is a great hydrating snack, giving much-need fluids as well as packing a punch of antioxidants and vitamins. Fruit can be put into small Ziploc baggies in the fridge for ease of use for the senior who lives alone. A variety of fresh fruit and berries in season also serves as a great substitute for dessert for those who are not able to eat sweets due to dietary restrictions.

2. Precut veggies

Pre cut Vegiies

These can be prepared ahead and eaten alone or with a tasty dip. A mixed bag of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower pieces and snap peas make a great combination. Add cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices at serving time. Use fresh herbs such as dill or scallions to flavor the dip.

3. Cheese slices served with wholegrain crackers

chesse

The cheese adds an important dairy component to the senior adult’s diet, with much-need calcium as the bonus ingredient. Most senior adult women need more calcium in their daily menu in order to ward off osteoporosis. Wholegrain crackers provide valuable nutrients as well as fiber.

4. Popcorn

popcorn

Made in an air popper or on the stove with a healthy oil such as coconut oil or olive oil. Popped corn is high in fiber and is an inexpensive snack. An easy finger food to eat, and easy to chew, popcorn is a favorite snack of bygone days and enjoyed by most elderly adults. It can be seasoned with cinnamon, salt substitute or any kind of dried herbs.

5. A hard-boiled egg

egg

Can be a filling snack and adds essential protein to the diet. It can be eaten as-is or sliced and served on a slice of wholegrain toast. With only 75 calories, an egg provides 7 grams of high quality protein. They are also one of the lowest-cost nutritionally dense proteins you can buy. Hard-boil a few eggs and keep in fridge for easy senior snacking.

6. Hummus

Hummus

On pita bread or lettuce leaves. This creamy Middle Eastern spread can also be used as a dip for carrot sticks or other veggies. Hummus is made primarily from chickpeas and sesame paste, with herbs, spices and other tasty add-ins.

7. Chocolate-covered raisins

chocolate

Can take the place of candy for the senior with a sweet tooth. This kind of snack shouldn’t be served too often, but adds some variety and excitement once in a while. To lower the sugar content of the snack, mix the chocolate-covered raisins in a bowl with some dry cheerios, unsalted sunflower seeds and dry cranberries. Toss the mixture together and serve a pre-measured portion, such as 1/3 cup.

8. Healthy nuts

healthy nuts

Nuts contain fats, protein, minerals and other nutrients that are a great addition to the diet of the senior adult. Some of the harder nuts may be difficult for the denture-wearing senior to chew. Try out a few different varieties such as almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and cashews.

9. Yogurt mixed with granola

Yogurt

Give the granola some time to soak up the yogurt and soften up. These can even be mixed up ahead of time in small containers and stored in the fridge for your loved one to pull out at snack time. There is no preparation necessary for them when made ahead.

10. Bananas

banana

Provide the necessary potassium most senior adults are lacking in sufficient quantity. Look for snacks that incorporate bananas. They could eat a fresh banana right out of the peel or a banana oatmeal cookie that’s been made ahead. Keep a small sealed bag or container of banana muffins in the fridge or wrap individually and freeze.

11. Avocados

Avocado

Are chock-full of heart healthy monounsaturated fat. They are also a good source of probiotics and protein. Cut one on half, remove the pit and use a spoon to scoop all the goodness out of each half. If your senior parent can’t eat both halves in one sitting, sprinkle lemon juice on the other half and wrap tightly for the next snack.

12.A cup of herb tea

tea

For the aging adult who doesn’t eat much in the evenings but needs something more, a cup of herb tea may just hit the spot. It doesn’t have the caffeine of black tea, which can interfere with sleep. Herb tea contains healthy antioxidants.

13. A simple salad

salad

This may consist of lettuce, cucumbers and radishes, or any combination of a number of different salad greens and vegetables. For a nice change, Cole slaw is a tasty and nutritious snack food. These salads can also be made ahead in individual size servings and kept in the fridge. Don’t add dressing until ready to eat.

14. Seaweed strips or sushi

seaweed

A lot of nutrition is packed into a little bite. The seaweed contains iodine, magnesium, zinc and other important minerals that are a great supplement to a senior’s regular dietary plan.

15. Oatmeal with fruit topping

Oatmeal

Surprisingly, oatmeal is a very satisfying snack. Senior adults grew up on warm breakfasts, cooked cereals and find a small bowl of oatmeal to be a great and filling snack. While it does require a little bit of preparation, a good substitute are the packets of instant oatmeal which only require the use of a kettle to boil water.


What to Say to Someone Who is Dying

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is difficult for both the one who is receiving the news and all of those around them including family members, close friends, and caretakers. When the one giving the care is a family member, it can be much more difficult since they already have a personal investment in the person. Such a diagnosis can bring countless emotions and thoughts about what the future will hold for everyone involved. It can also lead to the need to have some very uncomfortable encounters and conversations while trying to cope with planning the end-of-life care and the grief that goes along with it. 

Most people don’t think about the conversations that one might have until they are in the middle of the crisis, and, therefore, when faced with such a situation, aren’t properly prepared to handle it. Most people, even with the best intentions, don’t know what to say or do and have no idea how to mentally plan for such a discussion. Often, it can be a good idea to consult with someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate who can help address one’s own issues while still caring for the dying person with the dignity, love, and respect that they deserve in such a time.

In This Guide

Follow the Dying Person’s Lead

Everyone is different in how they respond to times of crisis, and it’s no different with people who are facing terminal illness that will eventually end with death. It can take more time for some to process than for others, and it’s important to let them direct the conversations. Sometimes, a person might want to talk about many different things, and, other times, they want to say nothing at all. It’s not as important to say the “right thing” to a patient as it is to know their personal cues and be available when they need listening ear or helping hands.

Gestures can speak volumes to a terminal patient. This means being watchful and aware of all the things that are happening around them in order to understand exactly what they might need. For example, doing things like taking them to the doctor, cleaning house, or fixing a meal. Fun things can be done as well like playing games, watching a movie, or reading a book to or with them. When certain needs are met, they’ll be more willing to discuss some of the tougher things.

Someone Who is Dying

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

When a loved one is dying, it can be very difficult to say those things that have not been said for a very long time. Maybe there was a conflict that never was resolved and there is still anger and resentment present. Perhaps some things are merely assumed that they know, but haven’t actually been spoken verbally for many years. There are four things that a dying person typically wants to hear from a loved one:

• Forgive me. There’s nothing that balms the heart on both sides more than admitting a wrong and asking for forgiveness even if it happened years back.
• I forgive you. On the flip side, forgiving them will tie up loose ends and give freedom to both parties.
• Thank you. This is a crucial statement just to acknowledge the part that person played, and that their life did have purpose.
• I love you. This is one of those “assumed” ideas that, more frequently than not, remains unstated. Don’t wait to say “I love you” when talking to someone who is dying. It may be the very last opportunity that can be missed in a flash.

If it’s not possible to tell them in person, it can be sufficient to email, talk on the phone, or even send a card in the mail.

Talk About How They Are Feeling (and Listen)

Terminal patients have feelings, too, and, as a caregiver, family member, or friend, it is vital to acknowledge those things that they consider important in order to let them know they are truly significant in this life. Truly listening to them is the first step to giving them the care that they need. It’s okay to ask them what they need the most, how they are feeling, and how they can get the best care possible. This can also mean going above and beyond what their words say they want and do so much more for them even when it might be inconvenient or seem unnecessary.

Ask Them to Share Memories and End-of-life Goals

Terminally ill and dying people all view their mortality differently and will take different approaches to handling the loose ends in their lives. Some of them might see it more important to mend relationships while others might find it more important to talk about life accomplishments and regrets. The best gift to give these people is the gift of time that is spent talking about all of these things, but it’s also important to encourage them to talk to them about things that make them feel like they’re important. Have conversations about:

• Things they’ve learned
• Legacies they’ve left
• Shared memories
• Memorial plans
• Hope for loved ones

What to say

Be Honest, but Considerate

There’s no reason to avoid the topics of death with a dying loved one. In fact, in order to plan properly, it can be a very vital part of the conversation. It doesn’t mean there will always be an understanding of how to respond to every question or comment, and there may even be questions as to how to feel about any given circumstance. It can be necessary to be frank during the discussion, but it’s also just as necessary to be considerate of their physical, mental, and emotional needs.

What to Avoid Saying

When dealing with a crisis situation, it is critical to understand that not everything that is thought or felt needs to be said. There are some things that a dying person does not need to hear as they will never improve the situation. A few of things that should not be a part of these conversations are:

• Giving false assurances
• Provoking conversion
• Forcing conversation

Some of the words and phrases that would be better left unsaid might include:

• “It must be God’s will”
• “Everything happens for a reason”
• “It’ll be ok”
• “You’re strong”
• “You’ll get through this”

Saying these things can be insensitive to their feelings about the situation, and it can overwhelm them with feelings that are not their own. They need to have the space to feel their personal fears and work through them on their own timeline.

Having these discussions can be very difficult, but, when done with the right preparation and heart behind them, it can be a very beautiful thing when two wounded hearts reach out and touch each other.

 

Top 15 Gift Ideas for Seniors

The elderly senior is probably the most difficult one to buy a gift for when the occasion rolls around. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, special occasion or holiday, the following 15 suggestions will give you some great ideas to please the special senior loved one in your life.

In This Guide

1. Custom Gift Basket

Custom Gift Basket

This gift is assembled from items you purchase that are specific to the needs or wants of your senior family members. Think of a hobby or a favorite food they enjoy and center the basket on that theme. For example, cheese and crackers and wine, instant hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, mugs and cookies or a basket of fresh fruit for the foodies. Or how about craft items for those who enjoy working with their hands.

2. Coffee or Tea

tea

Gourmet hot drink mixes and blends are always welcome. Try a variety of favorite flavors or surprise them with something new they haven’t tried before, just for a change. How about a fancy coffee maker or single-serving ones designed for those who live alone.

3. Tablet or iPad

Ipad

This gift is usually very well received, even for seniors who aren’t very computer savvy. With a fairly easy to learn operating system, the elderly family member can use their device to view pictures sent by friends and family, view videos, read eBooks, and surf the web. It helps them to feel connected even when they can’t see their loved ones in person as often as they would like to. Along with this gift, offer some hours of instruction so they can get set up with an email address as well as learn to communicate with family and friends on social media. 

4. Subscription Box

Subscription Box

A heartwarming gift that keeps on coming, every month. Your senior loved one gets a “care package” each month, full of personalized items including pictures and letters you send the company to include in the box. Filled with goodies to please almost everyone, a subscription box usually comes with a theme for the month. Fun and useful items accompany a special treat. For example, a fall box may include Thanksgiving items such as a roasted pumpkin seed snack, a cranberry scented candle, a small book on gratitude, a cup coaster in the shape of a fall leaf and some pictures of family. 

5. Classic Movie or Album

Classic movie

Does your senior loved one have a favorite film from yester-year? Go online and locate the movie or series they once loved and surprise them with the ability to watch it again. Include a snack and the offer to join them so they have company. Purchase some of their favorite music and set it up on an iPod shuffle or other device that’s easy for your senior to operate. They can enjoy their favorite songs anytime. 

6. Digital Photo Frame

Digital Photo

These bring joy into the heart of most seniors. The ability to see bright and lively pictures of their beloved children and grandchildren adds happiness to their day and helps them feel connected. 

7. Audio Books

audio

Great idea for elderly seniors who have vision challenges, they are also a great choice for seniors who live alone and enjoy hearing someone else’s voice. They can also be purchased in follow-along versions, with text and audio.

8. Magazine Subscription

Audio Books

Most people have a favorite magazine they love to read. The elderly family member is no exception. Ordering a magazine for their gift is another type of present that keeps on giving. It’s a lot of fun for them to look forward to mail coming in the mailbox.

9. Blankets or Throws

blankets

Look for fleece styles, as they provide softness and warmth without the weight of cotton quilts. The fleece folds neatly around their legs and feet to keep senior toes warm and cozy while sitting. 

10. Loc8tor

loc8tor

A handy location device where the senior loved one can set a tag on items that keep getting misplaced. The homing device then uses wireless technology to locate the item and provides a signal to help in its location. This is handy for items such as eyeglasses, TV remotes, and other things that are easy to set down and forget where they were put.

11. Game Books

game books

Some of the more popular ones include Crossword puzzles, Word find, Sudoku, etc. Seniors who grew up without electronics used these types of puzzles and games for entertainment and to pass the time. They often enjoy going back to familiar activities such as these.

12. New Clothes 

clothes

It’s difficult for most elderly persons to go out and do some shopping. It’s a very tiring activity and they may have difficulty finding what they are looking for. Buying them some new clothes helps them feel special as well as avoid the stress of shopping.
 

13. A Family Trip

family trip

The prospect of going on a trip together is exciting for family members of all ages. Young ones jump for joy when they find out “Grandma” or “Grampa” is coming on the trip. It’s a great way for all family members to spend quality time together while relaxing and getting away from it all. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive trip or going to a remote place. Even a weekend getaway is a welcome change for your senior loved one.
 

14. Terrarium

terraium

These resemble a jungle in a bottle. They are fairly simple to care for and provide some nice greenery for your elderly parent to enjoy all year long. They provide beauty as well as freshen the air in the room.

15. Your Time

time

This is probably the most valuable gift you could possibly give to your aging parent. They would love nothing more than to enjoy your company as you spend time together or engage in an activity you both love. A great way to give this gift is to make them a personal coupon book. Each coupon in the book is good for a certain number of hours spent together or a specified activity you both participate in.


Sleep Apnea in the Elderly

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing is briefly interrupted many times throughout sleep. The term “apnea” is referring to a pause in breathing of at least 10 seconds. This disorder impacts millions of people of all ages around the world and is often undiagnosed. However, it is more common in older people as found by a study done by the National Institute on Aging and reports that more than half the respondents over age 65 said they have sleep problems and daytime sleepiness. 

The most common trait of sleep apnea is the lack of breathing while sleeping. Those who have this disorder may not get an adequate night sleep because their breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. When a person has difficulty falling to sleep, staying asleep, and not getting the deep sleep necessary, it can result in a poor quality of life and increase the health risks in elderly people. However, with the right testing and treatment plan, it is possible to get a good night’s sleep again so that overall health for the senior can be vastly improved.

In This Guide

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Those with either type of apnea will temporarily stop breathing at least 5 times each hour for a minimum of 10 seconds at a time. Even if a person is asleep, they must gasp for breath in order to start to breathe again.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type of apnea, and it is caused by the airway being blocked or obstructed. Usually the obstruction happens when the muscles in the throat and air passage relax during deep sleep and causes the soft tissues in the back of the throat to collapse. This decreases or cuts off the air supply to the lungs causing breathing to stop for a short period of time.

sleep apnea

Central Sleep apnea is a less common form of apnea caused by faulty respiratory control in the brain. Those that suffer from this type of apnea fail to get the signal from their brain to breathe. As a result, they may have several episodes every night and miss valuable, restful sleep.

There are many things that can increase the risk of either type of apnea like:

• Small upper airway: Large tongue, uvula, or tonsils can also contribute.
• Obesity: Overweight patients have a larger portion of fat in their neck that restricts the airways.
• Age: The elderly are at a higher risk, because muscle tone weakens with age.
• Alcohol use or smoking: These can restrict air flow or slow the brain processes.
• Certain Ethnic groups: African-Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific-Islanders are at greater risk.
• Genetics: Sleep apnea can run in families.

Sign & Symptoms

Since sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed for many years, many people who suffer from it don’t even know it until there is a crisis. In an elderly person, it might be mistaken for symptoms of other things like medication side effects or because of body aches and pains. Those that don’t sleep with someone else might go many years without being aware that they stop breathing in the night when they sleep.

The biggest sign of apnea is snoring, and, if a senior snores, they should be checked out by a doctor. Some of the other symptoms are:

• Depression
• Irritability
• Extreme daytime sleepiness
• Morning headache
• Difficulty concentrating
• Falling asleep while doing important things like driving or working

Treatments

The first thing any senior should do if they suspect sleep apnea is to see a doctor. The most common way to diagnose it is by doing a sleep study. This is done by sending the patient to a sleep center where they monitor normal functions of the body like eye movement, sleep state, airflow, oxygen levels, and more. A sleep doctor not only determines if there is apnea, they can also determine the severity, and treatment can sometimes be started while at the sleep center.

After other things have been considered, the treatment of choice for sleep apnea in seniors is a continuous positive airway pressure device or CPAP. This machine has a mask that covers the mouth and nose and blows continuous air into the back of the throat and keeps air passages open all night long. Most people find immediate relief after the first night’s sleep with a CPAP machine. Some seniors might also find it easier to sleep with the CPAP in an adjustable bed where they can elevate their head to help with breathing, and there can also be the extra benefit of putting their feet up for other medical issues.

Sleep Apnea

There are ways to treat the apnea by making simple life style changes. These changes might include:

• Dental appliances to reposition the jaw
• Weight loss
• Alcohol avoidance
• Smoking cessation
• Side sleeping

For severe cases, surgery to remove whatever is obstructing the airway may be considered when all other options have failed to help.

Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

When a senior faces the battle of sleep apnea, it can lead to a greater risk of other, more serious illnesses if it’s not diagnosed and treated properly. These risks can include:

• High blood pressure
• Heart arrhythmia
• Congestive heart failure
• Stroke
• Diabetes
• Depression, anxiety, or personality disorders
• Dementia


Seniors typically have more health challenges that they must learn to handle. However, when there is a concerted effort made towards proper diagnosis, treatment, and healthy lifestyle changes, they have a much better chance of a long and fulfilling life.

Medical Alert Systems for Seniors

The concept of medical alert systems began to emerge in the 1970s after some work done by Wilhelm Hormann in Germany. He developed the idea of the “home alert”, a way for elderly or disabled persons who live alone to communicate their needs to emergency responders or family members. Technology in this area has made impressive advances over the past 4 decades, and now there are a wide variety of medical alert system options available for use by elderly family members.

If an accident or emergency occurs, a senior who lives alone needs to have a connection to the outside world so they can instantly contact emergency responders. There are various medical jewelry and tags that can be worn at all times in case the elderly person can’t reach the phone to call for help.

In This Guide

Types of Medical Alert Systems and How They Work

Basically, the system is comprised of a base unit and an accompanying alert button. The base is located in the home and can either be connected via traditional landline or operate on a cellular connection. The button may be on something like a wristband, pendant or tag. Automatic fall detection is an option available with some units, but it has been known to cause false alarms, so that’s important to be aware of while you are comparing features.

Medical Alert Systems

  • Jewelry – These take the form of a piece of jewelry the elderly person can wear. Options include bracelets or necklaces. There is usually a single button the senior can push if they are having trouble and need some assistance. There are two different types of responses; the button may signal the local authorities that there’s an emergency or if it has the speaker option, the elderly person can speak directly with emergency response personnel. Jewelry styles should be worn at all times.
  • Tags – these devices usually appeal to men, as they are less likely to want to wear the jewelry systems. They can be pinned directly to your parent’s clothing, and they also have a push button. Like the jewelry systems, the button can either sound an alarm to emergency services or it can be equipped with a speaker to allow voice communication. These should also be worn at all times.

Does my Parent Need A Medical Alert System?

Most seniors strive to remain as independent as possible for as long as they can. Initially, they may not like the thought of wearing a safety device because they don’t think an accident is going to happen to them. Medical alert systems can actually increase their independence because it means they can remain at home rather than moving into assisted living. Having a connection to the outside world to call for help gives them a sense of safety and security, especially when living alone.

Are you trying to determine if it’s the right time for your elderly parent to have one of these systems? If you can answer yes to most of the following points, then having a medical alert system would be a big benefit to your senior’s sense of well-being as well as giving you some peace of mind.

  1. Is your parent living alone or spending several hours a day alone?
  2. Is your parent dealing with a serious medical illness?
  3. Does your elderly loved one want to live independently while having the security of being able to easily call for help in case of an emergency?
  4. Is your parent living with mobility issues and requires a walker, cane or wheelchair to move around?
  5. Has there been a past incident of a fall or emergency medical assistance needed?
  6. Does your parent experience difficulties with balance, eyesight or memory?
  7. Is your parent on daily medications?

Features to Consider When Comparing Services

Along with the advances in technology have come a list of different options you can consider when making your choice of which system or service to purchase. The following list will provide you with some of the most common features you can compare:

Medical Alert Systems

  • Fall detection – Detects when a fall has occurred. It automatically sends a signal for an emergency response team. This is a great option if the person has been knocked unconscious and can’t press a button. However, it can also have a tendency for sending false alarms.
  • GPS tracking – A great option for seniors who may wander away from home.
  • Contract duration, activation/cancellation fees – Look for a balance between minimum contract times and fees to pay. For example, you may consider paying a small activation or cancellation fee in order to avoid signing a 3 year contract.
  • Range and battery life – The range is based on how far away the pendant is from the home base. It’s recommended to place the base unit in a central location of the home, so the pendant can stay within range limits no matter where you parent is in their house. Batteries have approximately 2 – 2.5 years of life. The base unit should have battery back-up in case the power goes down.
  • Fire/smoke detection – This is a handy feature for seniors who struggle with memory and may forget to turn off the stove.
  • Monitoring services – It’s essential to look for a monitoring service that operates 24/7, because you can’t predict when your senior loved one will need emergency assistance. Another factor may be language. Does your parent require multilingual service? If your senior parent will require a translator for communication, make sure your provider knows this ahead of time so it can be listed on your parent’s profile.

How Much does it Cost?

As families start to consider getting some kind of medic alert system for their aging parents, one of the first concerns is cost. Will there be a large initial investment? What are the monthly fees? While the price does vary from one provider to another and is largely dependent upon the features you have chosen, it may surprise you to find out that cost is not as great as you may think.

For example, you can spend as little as $28 per month, with $0 down, to get a system with a push button. If you want to add fall detection, the price rises to approximately $33 per month. Additional features tend to increase the cost. You may be required to pay for the first 3 months upfront and then pay monthly after that.


4 Alert Systems in Canada

Currently there are 5 top alert systems available in Canada. A brief description of each is as follows:

  1. AlarmCare by Alarm Force – Based in Toronto Ont., this company has been in business since 1988. They operate their own monitoring facility.
  2. Lifeline.ca – Part of the Philips brand, Lifeline specializes in pushbutton pendants.
  3. LifeCall.ca – This Canadian operated company was founded in 1989 and is a division of ADT Canada. They use ULC-listed monitoring centers.
  4. DirectAlert.ca – Company headquarters are located in Montreal, PQ.

 

 

 

Helping Elderly Parents Downsize: The Complete Guide

Moving can be intrinsically difficult for anyone whether it’s down the street or across the country. It means the inevitable task of organizing, discarding, donating, and the myriad of paperwork involved. There is often the conflict between wanting to stay and experience life the way it’s always been or moving into new opportunities, relationships, and endeavors for the future. 

For an elderly person, this transition can be even more difficult. It can mean moving to a place where there’s less clutter, fewer chores, and more people. However, many times, a move for an older person means downsizing and getting rid of many things that have a family story or memory attached to it. For an adult child who is helping their elderly parent move, it can be detrimental to be prepared for the battle. One way to do that is to be sure to know how to help them when the time comes when their health no longer allows them to take care of their home properly.

In This Guide

Do They Need to Downsize?

When a person lives in a home for many years, they grow attached to it on both a physical and emotional level. Usually when someone has lived in a place that long, they have accumulated a lot of things and can have a very hard time thinking about getting rid of it. Many of them know they have too much. In fact, a study done by the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, found that 30% of the respondents over age 70 had done little to give away anything over the previous 12 months, yet more than 50% of all participants reported having more than they needed.

Elderly Parents Downsize

This isn’t merely a problem of denial for these people. These things have been a part of their identity for many years, and giving them up means giving up who they are. This is their memories from their past, and some of these things remind them of the hardships and the good times that might help them get through yet another stage of life. In the extreme cases, a person who has so many things that it becomes difficult to function could be struggling with elderly hoarder disorder.

Where to Start – Planning Ahead

When moving an elderly parent to a new home, there are several things that can be done before the move ever takes place. When certain things are already done, it can make the move go much more smoothly.

• Make a List. Keep a notebook to keep all of the move information in one place. Write down anything related to the move like to-do lists, a calendar, questions, floor plans, and whatever else that comes to mind.
• Enlist help from others. Having help from trusted family or friends can be huge for an elderly person who is downsizing. It can make the process less painful and, at the same time, get things done a little faster.
• Declutter the house before it’s time to move. This can be done 6 months to a year before a prospective move as it gives processing time and makes moving day much easier.
• Set a date for the move and get estimates from moving companies. When people know what to expect, they might be more willing to set aside the time to help.
• Make a floor plan of the new place, and consider where major furniture might be placed. Take measurements of all rooms and furniture and be sure they’re accurate.
• Consider hiring a move manager, senior relocation specialist, or organizer if finances allow. This can be a big help when it comes to decision making, packing and sorting, arranging for donation pick-ups, and organizing the new home.
• Take care of legal documents like the driver’s license, bank accounts, post office, and voter registration.

How to Sort

Sorting through things can be a very overwhelming task. However, if taken one step at a time, it can be much simpler.

• Don’t do it all at once. Do one room or one project at a time. Take two hours every day in order not to wear everyone out. This is not necessarily the time to sort papers and photos.
• Divide furniture and possessions into keep, might keep, give away, and throw away categories.
• “Might keep” items should be pared down. The less decisive they are about it, the more attached they’ll become to it.
• Give time to reminisce. As they sort, they’ll have all sorts of memories to share. Let them share.
• Encourage them to keep only what they use daily and let the rest go.

Helping Elderly Parents

Unneeded Items

Once everything is sorted, one might be left wondering what to do with all of the unneeded “donate” and “throw away” items. Here are a few suggestions.

– What to Do with Treasures

• Keep representative items, not the whole collection.
• Take photos of all sentimental items, papers, and images that can be put on DVD later.
• Give them the option of choosing the favorite of two or three items.
• If it’s meant to be passed down as a legacy gift, encourage them to give it now.

– How to Sell

• Get an appraisal for high value items in order to sell them at a reasonable rate.
• Sell items on Craigslist, eBay, a garage sale, or an estate sale.
• Items can also be auctioned or sold to antique dealers.

– How to Donate

• Give items that are designated to someone to the target group or person.
• Arrange for charity donation pick-ups or take items to the charity.
• Put things outside with a “Free” sign or list it on Freecycle so that others can benefit from it.

– What to Discard

• Toss anything that is broken, chipped, or stained.
• Get rid of replaceable items like junk mail, old spices, old magazines, candles, and any of the content of the junk drawer.
• Hire someone to haul it away.


Packing

When everything is done right, packing can be fast and methodical. Don’t forget to welcome those that are there to help with the packing process.

• Get boxes from moving companies or other sources.
• Label boxes with the destination room.
• Pack “open first” boxes with things like toiletries, night clothes, towel, and a set of dishes.
• Pack those things needed during the move like keys, medications, legal documents, money, and cell phone.

Moving

Some of the things that will make moving run smoothly are:

• Be sure to have a written contract with the moving company that clearly lists their policy for damaged or lost items, and don’t forget to get a firm idea of arrival time at both addresses.
• Check inventory lists and payment options.
• Assign someone with a key to be there at arrival time.
• Open the “open first” boxes.
• Unpack all the boxes.

After the move, be prepared to spend the time necessary to organize the new home. This should be done as quickly as possible in order to make the elderly parent feel comfortable and at home in the new place.

 

Grieving Before A Death: Signs of Anticipatory Grief

Life happens, and so does death as it is also a part of life. Moreover, often, some of us will have to go through the experience of anticipating death in ourselves or in a loved one as opposed to having a sudden death in the family. In other words, both the family and the person involved start to grieve, even before the parting actually takes place.

Humanity has long experienced grief after death; however, only recently has the realm of anticipatory or preparatory grieving been explored to any degree. Our article below covers several aspects that may help those going through such a life event recognize the most common underlying symptoms and understand the process. Hopefully, it will help not only the families affected, but the very loved one that soon will not be a part of the family unit as well.

In This Guide

 

Grief, if not dealt with properly, many times develops into a state of Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). In this state, severe symptoms of grief are experienced for at least six months after the passing – sometimes longer.

Severe responses to loss effect from 10 to 15 percent of the people after their spouse departs. Depression may even effect people before death of a loved occurs. Other statistics reveal that a high percentage of widows develop some form of illness within the first two to three years after a spousal loss.

Anticipatory Grief

What Is Anticipatory Grief?

Anticipatory grief, as opposed to the more commonly documented, conventional form of grief, can be turned into an experience that does not necessarily have to bring depression, withdrawal or cessation of lifestyle. Simply put, it can be turned into a positive experience for all parties involved.

Similar to conventional after-the-event grieving, preparatory grief is a unique experience in several ways. Anger may be evident and general loss of emotional control as well. It is a time of uncertainty and unfamiliarity with the transition that is taking place before the person’s eyes or that of the family. There’s a sensitive and tender balance that everyone goes through in trying to hold on, yet let go at the same time.

One particular study in Sweden rated grief before the loss as being even more severe than that taking place after the loss. More than 40 percent of the women studied admitted that the pre-loss phase was more severe than the post-death experience. It is estimated that 22 to 75 percent of patients who are dying experience some clinical depression; however, depression is not clinically considered a normal part of the dying process.

Signs & Symptoms

In actuality, there are several manners that preparatory grief manifests including:

  • Sadness, melancholy, tearfulness and frequently being sorry for what was done, and wasn’t done, are typical manifestations during this time.
  • Fear: About almost anything and everything that involves change.
  • Irritability and loss of emotional control: This occurs not only in the family, but also in the person waiting for death to occur.
  • Loneliness: A fear that it’s not socially correct to speak of such intimate matters may lead to feelings of being isolated.
  • Anxiety and guilt: “Am I doing enough?” is one common question asked by caregivers.
  • Rehearsal of the impending event: Over and over again the mind envisions life without the loved one. If you are the dying person, you may start to visualize what life will be like for those who remain behind.
  • Physical problems manifesting: Many times taking the form of insomnia, memory problems, disorientation and even cancer in some form.

The dying person experiences a change in self-image seeing his-self or her-self as weak and dependent on others for even the most simplest activities such as personal hygiene.

Worldwide, the estimated cost of dementia care is $279.3 billion and has gone beyond the costs associated with cancer care. Both diseases, however, can attribute the costs to the strain of care and lost employment, emotional exhaustion and further financial complications.

Anticipatory

How to Cope With Anticipatory Grief

We all prepare for death in different ways, however, the thing to remember is to let go and not try to respond to the event according to anyone’s expectations. Following are some bits of advice to help navigate this eventual life event.

1- Allow yourself to simply express your built-in emotional response to simply grieve the way you need to grieve. Likewise, allow your loved one to do the same.

2- Express your pain to those who are close to you as no one needs to go through this process alone. If you can’t find someone who can lend an understanding ear, then find a support group such as a part of a church fellowship or hospice-sponsored group.

Keeping your feelings pent-up often results in feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. Especially important is finding someone that does not try to put a “quick fix” to the process.

3- Spending time together with the dying person should be encouraged as a gradual means to say goodbye. Don’t ever force the dying person to participate in what makes it easy for you; make them as comfortable as possible, and don’t demand too much from them.

4- Children also need inclusion in the experience as many times they are excluded from expressing themselves.

One research study noted that sometimes, the parent was not even aware of how distressed their children were throughout the experience of letting go. In contrast, the same study reported that some children actually valued the experience as it gave them an opportunity to appreciate the many blessings in life that many times go unrecognized.

5- Throughout history, people have been able to cope with various stages of grief by simply keeping a journal or writing a letter to themselves, their loved one or to someone else part of an intimate circle of friends.

6- Think of holistic methods to reconnect with your emotions, and look forward to the future, for there always is a future. Some holistic therapies such as meditation, prayer, art expression, massage therapy, Tai Chi C’huan and music, plus being alone when space is needed, all help families make the transition a simpler and less difficult life event.

7- Letting your spirit soar, either gradually or when you feel you need to let it soar, helps both you and your loved when a spiritual element exists. Spirituality can be the make it or break it factor in how well you and your loved one undergo this transition. Prayer, meditation, taking nature walks, cuddling a pet companion or simply listening to soothing music can help enhance one’s spiritual side.
8- Forgiveness and letting are necessary during this difficult time. While not always possible, it is a wonderful way to say goodbye by all the parties involved.

All in all, anticipatory grief can be even more stressful than grief after the fact, however, it can also be a rewarding and beneficial experience, if done properly and in the right spirit. It is a perfect time to bring closure to one’s life and life’s meanings. For everyone involved, it is a chance to say goodbye.

 

Caregiving Support and Help: How to Take Care of Yourself

It takes a special act of kindness and love to care for a loved one that is in need, and, yet, so many family members who take on the role of caretaker are not prepared or trained for the task. Whether taking care of a handicapped spouse, an aging parent, or an ill child, it can be a daunting and exhausting endeavor. However, despite how overwhelming the job can seem, it is still possible to remain effective and loving without sacrificing oneself to do it. 

In This Guide

Make Small Changes – One at a Time

When taking on a new challenge, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the big picture, but one must realize that it won’t happen all at once. It happens step by step, and it’s very important to understand that large changes are difficult for everyone involved in the process. New caregivers are encouraged make two to three changes at a time. Some examples of such changes might be:

• Finding more creative ways to move like adding a 10-minute brisk walk or a new stretching routine
• Modifying favorite recipes by substituting healthy options or limit snacks to nuts, fruit, and vegetables
• Spending at least five minutes a day reflecting or meditating in the midst of other activities
• Pushing forward with an accountability partner who will help keep motivation high

Ask for Help

It can be very difficult for a caretaker to admit that they cannot do it on their own. However, the reality is that one person cannot do it all, and it’s not a sign of weakness to ask. There are many people in the community that can help like churches, friends, family, and support groups. It can also be very beneficial to talk to other caregivers that might have similar issues and be able to give tips to make the job less overwhelming.

There might be people who are willing to help out and might ask how they can help in this specific situation. For instance, a friend could give rides to doctor appointments, a relative could help fill out paperwork, or a neighbor could pick up a few groceries from the store. Keep in mind that every person that can help has special interests and abilities, so utilize each one accordingly.

Physical Needs

When caring for a loved one, one’s own health can go by the wayside. Researchers have found that, because of the high demands placed on them, caregivers of loved ones between the ages of 66 and 96 that are under emotional stress are at 63% more risk of early death than those that don’t take care of loved ones. They’re also at a higher risk for depression, alcoholism, and drug use as well as experiencing chronic and debilitating illness.

Some things that might help decrease these risks are:

• Getting proper exercise. A 30-minute workout three times a week can relieve stress and boost energy levels
• Eating healthy meals three times a day increase energy and clears the mind
• Getting at least eight hours of sleep a night will improve productivity and the capability to handle the stresses of the job.
• Not self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. These can cloud reasoning and judgment.
• Keeping up with medical care by going to the doctor and dentist regularly.

Social Needs

Family and friends are an important part of making it through the tough days and hard times of caregiving. Don’t grow distant and isolate from relationships because of the overwhelming workload. It’s best not to give up work and hobbies that were once enjoyed because they can help keep sanity levels up and stress levels down. Take frequent breaks in order to not grow exhausted, and find a community such as a church, community club, or civic organization to help maintain balance in life.

Emotional Needs

This job can be very emotionally draining, and it can lead to feelings of depression, worthless feelings, frustration, and eventually complete burn out. There are a few things that can be done to prevent these feelings and boost mental well-being. They are:

• Talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend or a therapist, it can really help to talk about the things that are stressful and heavy. They might be able to give you pointers and ideas on how to make sense of the situation.
• Relax. Find different ways to distress and cope with stressful situations.
• Write. Keeping a journal can be a way to express thoughts and feelings that can’t be said verbally. A possible example might be to write a list of all the things that went well and all the things that did not. This can be a great way to see progress through problems.
• Know the signs. Watch out for signs of depression or burnout. These can require professional help if necessary. Perhaps there needs to be a change of some sort.
Make Use of Community Services

There are many free or low cost services available to help make the caregiver’s job easier, and there are a few things that insurance might cover. Take advantage of these resources as they can give the break that is necessary, and put the pressure of care onto someone else for a little while. Some of the services that can be helpful are:

• Local senior centers or family services
• Veteran care programs
• Free or low-cost transportation services
• Home health aides
• Adult day care
• Meal programs

Build a Support Network

Having a support network can be detrimental to the survival of caring for a loved one. Staying connected can involve a little more effort, but it is possible. These networks can include family, friends, church or religious organizations, counselors, support groups, and national organizations that specialize in a particular illness or disability. The most important people to connect with are other caretakers that can understand the feelings and stresses of the job.

 

8 Best Apps for Caregivers

A caregiver must juggle many things every day. Caregiver apps for smartphones were created and designed to help users organize schedules and store information, providing a great benefit for busy caregivers. There are doctor’s appointments, medicine reminders, phone numbers, schedules, insurance information, recipes, first aid, contact information and so many other details that a simple app can handle with relative ease.

It’s a good idea to look at the features available on the 8 best apps for caregivers on the market and compare what they have to offer before making a choice. The cost for any of them is very low, ranging from about $1 to $5. Those with web capabilities often require a monthly or yearly subscription fee. Because of the time and energy required to learn and implement a new system, the following information provides you with some basics and features each app offers.

In This Guide

1. Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Just as the name suggests, this app has been designed specifically for caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s.

Balance

Benefits:

  • Emotional and behavioral changes of the senior loved one can be tracked and shared with doctors or other caregivers.
  • Provides information, research and news in regards to Alzheimer’s.
  • Includes a very useful medication management component.
  • Take notes that are pertinent to share with other caregivers, family members or medical personnel.
  • Keep track of doctor’s appointments.
  • Made for iPhone and iPad, this app is not Android or Web available yet.

2. Caregiver’s Touch.

This app boasts a calendar where all caregivers can place information. Its strengths lie in its collaboration features.

Caregivers

Benefits:

  • A great information storage portal protected by solid security.
  • Can coordinate responsibilities between several people relating to the care of the elderly senior.
  • Create up to 6 profiles for easy collaboration between people.
  • Available in an iPhone app or a monthly or yearly subscription for the full web access.

3. CareZone

. One of the free apps, this option can store the senior’s information for easy access with just a few clicks.

Carezone

Benefits:

  • Store notes taken at physician’s appointments.
  • Easy access to medical information.
  • Organizes schedules and keeps track of chores needed to be done each day.
  • Ability to connect with other caregivers or senior’s family members who also have this app.
  • Ability to share essential information regarding care or schedules with selected individuals.
  • Option of leaving a voice message to yourself or send it to someone else.
  • Easy for family members of the elderly senior to use.
  • Ability to upload photos.
  • Capable of sending a voice message to groups of up to 100 who are on the app’s profile.

4. Caring Ties

This is a web app only, free service. It offers most of the same features you find in the other top rated apps.

caring times

Benefits:

  • Reminders for testing blood sugar levels.
  • Lists the elderly person’s medications and dosages and times.
  • Ability to record notes on the senior’s well-being.
  • Keep track of essential medical information; for example blood pressure readings.
  • Ability to share information, and allow different levels of access for different people.

5. Elder 411

Based on the extensive experience of geriatric care manager Marion Somers, Ph.D. This app is more of a self-help and informational tool than an organizer.

Elder

Benefits:

  • Audio tips and informational videos for caregivers.
  • Over 500 items of information and advice about caregiving.
  • Dr. Marion gives useful and thoughtful responses to questions.
  • Ability to share content with relatives and friends.
  • Can add personal notes to the content.
  • Great mobile resource for information. Doesn’t provide scheduling features.

6. Unfrazzle.

This is one of the few top-rated apps available on the Android system. It is also made for iPhone and iPad but not yet for web use. There is no cost for this time and activity manager.

unfrazzle

Benefits:

  • Customizable time manager.
  • Highly technical; requires some time to learn how to set up and use.
  • Powerful task organizer can handle several categories at once, for example pain management, tasks for different caregivers, activity level, and exercise and sleep schedules.
  • Specialized time and activity manager. Can track medication, amount of food eaten, pain and behavior of the elderly loved one.
  • Create and upkeep a journal about anything related to caregiving.
  • Complex yet highly flexible.
  • Constant improvements from the developer.

7. CareCoach.

Can be used on both iPhone and Android system, this app is available at no cost.

Carecoach

Benefits:

  • Keep track of doctor’s appointments
  • Ability to record what the physician says at the appointment
  • Helps multiple caregivers collaborate with each other in regards to information stored on the online account. Users can choose who this information is available to.
  • Main highlight of this app is to co-ordinate the recordings taken at doctor’s visits with all the members of the group who are part of the online profile. For example, family members and all carers or caregivers.

8. Lotsa Helping Hands

. A calendar is the foundation for coordinating the efforts of all the caregivers involved in the senior’s care program. This app differs from some of the others available in that it specializes in organizing the team of carers who are in charge of the senior family member.

Lotsa

Benefits:

  • Requests for support can be posted on the calendar.
  • Records the schedule for the caregiving team.
  • Tracks contact information about all the registered carers.
  • Availability of a message board all carers can see so they can leave messages of encouragement for each other.
  • All versions of this app are available at no charge to the consumer.
  • Photo gallery, custom sections, help calendar, community building features, message boards are included.
  • Other features such as a newsletter and stories of other caregivers are a bonus with the app.