Fighting Senior Loneliness

Fighting Senior Loneliness
By Kim Williams, Manager of Transportation & Companionship
and Care Manager Assistant

When we think of risk factors that contribute to poor health and disease, most of us think of factors such as obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and genetics. However, science is showing that another major risk factor that contributes to poor health is loneliness.

Studies show that loneliness raises the risk of death by 14 percent, increases the likelihood that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease, weakens the immune system, raises blood pressure, leads to sleep problems, and even causes changes on the genetic level (Source: People Need People, by IlluminAge.com). Further, during the past decade, numerous experts have shown that the human drive to spend time in the company of others is just as strong as hunger and thirst (Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/understanding-loneliness-through-science.html).

Seniors are particularly susceptible to loneliness due to losses and changes that are more likely to affect this age group; loss of a spouse and/or elderly friends, children moving away, retirement, transportation limitations, health challenges, and a sense of feeling left behind in today’s digital age are just some of the factors that can contribute to senior loneliness.

But it’s not all bad news! There are many strategies and resources that can help decrease senior loneliness. Here are some ways seniors can overcome loneliness:

  • Participating in community activities – there are many group activities available to seniors. Senior centers host a variety of programs to pique seniors’ varied interests and abilities. Volunteering may be another avenue to explore.Volunteer Match can be one avenue for finding a volunteering job. And, educational programs for seniors such as OASIS can help connect seniors with others and enrich their lives.
  • Exploring alternatives to driving – one may ask, how can one engage in community activities if driving oneself is not an option? Finding transportation can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Senior centers often have vans to transport participants to their centers.  There are organizations, both private pay and non-profit that can provide transportation specifically for seniors. The Silver Runner provides private pay transportation, outings, and companion services.  Your local Department of Senior Affairs can also make recommendations. Professional in-home caregivers can also help clients get out and about. And remember, it’s okay to ask friends, family, or volunteers from your religious congregation for a ride.
  • For seniors with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, connect with specialized programs – your local Alzheimer’s Association can be put you in touch with various activities tailored for those with dementia. Studies show that even if a person with dementia is unable to remember a visit, the emotional benefit is lasting (Source:People Need People, by IlluminAge.com). Sometimes as the disease progresses, a move to a memory care facility might be the best choice.
  • Considering Retirement Community/Assisted Living  – a move out of one’s home can be extremely difficult, but retirement communities can help seniors from becoming socially isolated. At retirement and assisted living communities, meals are enjoyed together, staff engages with residents, and there are many fun daily activities, including exercise programs for seniors.
  • Considering Home Care/Companionship Services – if moving is not a good option, having a companion come to one’s home regularly can increase social interaction and provide a source of transportation to activities.
  • Activities for those who are more shy and introverted– some of us are social butterflies while others prefer more alone time. Studies show, however, that even people who enjoy solitude and don’t perceive themselves as lonely still benefit by spending time in the presence of others. (Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/understanding-loneliness-through-science.html). Activities that don’t require one to socialize heavily, but focus on providing the participants with a focused activity can be more comfortable.  If a more introverted person doesn’t like to go out, they might consider inviting visitors to their home or apartment.
  • Exploring if depression is contributing to loneliness – some of the above activities may sound good in theory, but what if depression makes it difficult for one to get out? An estimated 20 percent of seniors experience depression (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf). It is certainly not uncommon and nothing to be ashamed about. Talk with your doctor if you or a loved one feels depressed.  Socialization can be a helpful piece of a treatment plan that may include counseling and medication. Consider a support group for both companionship and practical help.
  • Joining the online crowd – some seniors feel left behind when so many people communicate online. Maybe it’s time to join the crowd! Studies show Internet use reduces depression and isolation in older adults. (Source:http://psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/03/25/geronb.gbu018.full). Email, Facebook and Skype can be nice tools for connecting with friends and family and re-establishing connections with friends from one’s past. If using new technology seems intimidating, look into computer classes at the local senior center or ask a young relative to give you some lessons.

If you would like more assistance in overcoming senior lonelinessGeriatric Care Management can help! Please call us at 897-3009. If transportation is a barrier to overcoming isolation, or if you’d like a companion to enjoy your favorite activities with, consider using The Silver Runner Transportation, Errand, and Companionship Servicesat 872-0451. Silver Runner also offers assistance in setting up and using technology!

Honoring and Remembering Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights

By Kim Williams, Manager of Transportation & Care Manager Assistant
and Paul Jayson, Mobility Manager

Happy Holidays from all of us at Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner Transportation and Companionship! For this Holiday Season, we thought we’d explore the tradition of Hanukkah both broadly and personally in honor of our Jewish friends, clients, and colleagues.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day holiday that celebrates the Jewish reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It also pays tribute to the miracle that occurred when the Temple was reclaimed – the one-day supply of candle oil in the Temple that burned for eight days.

According to chabad.org, “More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greeks, who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews (known as the Maccabees) defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, (and) reclaimed the Holy Temple.

When (the Jews) sought to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eight night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.” (Source: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm)

Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil such as potato pancakes, known as latkes, and doughnuts, or sufganiot. Gifts are given to children on each night and children will often play with a dreidel, a spinning top on which is inscribed in Hebrew, “a great miracle happened there.”

These authors both have personal memories related to Hanukkah. Kim Williams recounts, “Growing up with a Christian father and Jewish mother, I was blessed to experience both holidays and remember lighting the menorah candles nightly during Hanukkah. I remember the ritual of first lighting the candle in the center of the menorah, which served the practical purpose of lighting the other candles. While candles were lit, all in attendance recited traditional prayers in Hebrew. Then, the candles were left to burn entirely and were not blown out. I remember carefully watching the candles, hoping for my own Hanukkah miracle – for the candles to stay continually lit! That never occurred, but still, there was a sense of magic in the air.”

Paul Jayson recalls, “Hanukkah to me is a memory of fun and joy, of the mystery of miracles and of the closeness of family. I remember the excitement and anticipation as Hanukkah was approaching – looking to make sure we all knew where the menorah was, making sure we had the right amount of candles, and all the other holiday preparations involved. I remember the fun, not the chore, of scraping the wax drippings off the menorah as the holiday ran its course.

When I was 8 years old, I was old enough to be the one to light the Shamus (the attendant), the main candle. The Shamus is then used to light the additional candles as the evenings of Hanukkah progress. Lighting that candle was my honor, and I remember the pride I felt in reaching that milestone.

My family would recite the prayers of the kindling of the Hanukkah lights and then begin singing the joyous songs of the holiday. We would also be given Hanukkah gelt (Hebrew for money). Gelt usually came in the form of chocolate candy discs wrapped in gold foil and kept in a loosely meshed sachet with a drawstring. The chocolate gelt symbolized coins and commemorated when the Greeks bade the Jews to mint their own currency upon their new won freedom. My parents would also give us silver half dollar and dollar coins on some nights; this was the late 1950’s and early 60’s when those were very special gifts for children to receive!  We also got dreidels, which are small wooden or metal spinning tops. They are four-sided with a different letter on each side. Each letter relates to a gambling game that we played with the gelt. The letters meant: take the pot, match the pot, half the pot, and do nothing. Yes, gambling at a young age! Me being the youngest of all the cousins, I’m sure I was cheated!

The last night of Hanukkah was bittersweet; there was some sadness to that final cleaning and putting away of the menorah in its resting place until the next year. Yes many memories indeed.”

Whatever your Holiday tradition, we at Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner wish you and yours all the best and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

The Healing Power of Music for Those with Dementia

By Kim Williams
Care Manager Assistant & Manager of Transportation

Has a song ever elevated your mood or soothed you during a stressful time? Has music ever helped to validate one of your life experiences? Has a song ever brought back a memory or reminded you of past feelings?

Almost all of us have had these experiences! Why does music have such a powerful effect on us? Biologically speaking, studies show that music stimulates a region of the human brain called the pre-frontal cortex. This region is linked to emotional memory. Therefore, music has the power to go beyond our logical thinking and touch us on an emotional level. We build associations between songs, memories and feelings.

Fortunately, this pre-frontal cortex is the last region of the brain to atrophy in patients with dementia. This may explain the ability of patients with severe memory loss to remember songs from their distant past; those with dementia may not remember the names of their family members but, phenomenally, may still be able to recall song lyrics from their favorite songs, seemingly without any effort.

In recent years, professionals who work in geriatrics have been using music as a tool to reach out to those with dementia, helping them to re-connect with memories and their sense of self. The documentaryAlive Inside highlights this connection. In the film we meet Dan Cohen, a social worker from New York City, and founder of a non-profit organization called Music & Memory. Dan visits nursing homes and connects patients with iPods that are pre-recorded with the personalized music they once enjoyed. The outcome is stunning. The documentary shows how various nursing home patients with dementia will, at one moment, appear comatose and non-verbal, lost in a world where others cannot reach them, and then, with headphones on, we see them appear to come to life – expression rises to their faces, their eyes brighten, and they begin to sing, move, and talk.

Being able to recall lyrics and associated memories can help those with memory loss feel like they have regained some of their identity back. Oliver Sacks, MD, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University states on a video posted to the Music & Memory website, “In amnesia, whether or not in Alzheimer’s, you lose your life. You have lost your past; you have lost your story; you have lost your identity to a considerable extent.  You can at least get some feel of it and regain it, for a little while, with familiar music.”

Recent research is also showing how music is effective as a therapeutic intervention to treat behaviors and reduce the use of anti-psychotic medications in those with dementia. Nursing home staff involved in personalized music programs report that an overall effect of reduced agitation, improved behavior, and elevated mood occur.  Furthermore, these music programs facilitate a successful interaction between staff and patients, helping patients develop more positive associations and encounters with staff. Those with mental illness are also showing some improvement in well-being through the use of personalized music. When the Cornell Depression Scale was used in recent research, it was clear that people who had music in their lives had a marked decrease in depression.

For more specifics on the findings of recent research, this is a helpful link: http://musicandmemory.org/music-brain-resources/current-research/.

Adding personalized music to your loved one’s life can add a whole new dimension to your family’s ability to connect with and enjoy visiting them.  Some families report being able to listen to the personalized music over a small, in-room speaker and all enjoy singing or reminiscing to the memories inspired by the music.  Some families are able to review old photographs and scrap books, connecting with and exchanging smiles with their loved one.

Do you have a loved one with dementia who you think could benefit from music therapy using personalized playlists? To learn more, the Music & Memory website is a great resource at: https://musicandmemory.org/. Also, The Silver Runner Transportation can help create a personalized playlist for your loved one and then help facilitate the use of their listening device. We can visit them where they live, and join them in the joy of listening to their favorite tunes.

Making Fall a Fall-Free Season

By Kim Williams, BA
Care Manager Assistant and Manager of Transportation

Falls Prevention Awareness Day is celebrated annually on September 23rd, the first day of fall. This is a purposeful play on words to help make this Awareness Day more memorable! The National Council on Aging hosts the celebration with a wide variety of events to promote awareness throughout the country.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One-third of Americans aged 65+ fall each year. Falls jeopardize seniors’ safety and independence and can create a domino effect on their health and quality of life, not to mention their pocketbook from the resulting medical and care-related expenses.

Furthermore, falls, with or without injury, can also carry a psychological impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression and social isolation.

However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging! The National Council on Aging states that through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.

So how can we make our fall season, and all of our seasons, fall-free?

Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns and prevention strategies. With your doctor’s approval and oversight, consider the following strategies, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Get some exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs, thus increasing the chances of falling. Consider gentle exercise activities such as walking, water workouts, and tai chi – which can increase strength and improve balance.
  • Be mindful of medications. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. Having a doctor or pharmacist review all medications can help reduce the chance of risky side effects and drug interactions.
  • Keep your vision sharp. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Older adults should have their eyes checked yearly and wear glasses or contacts with the right prescription strength to ensure the best eyesight possible.
  • Take proper care of your feet and wear proper shoes. It sounds simple but it can make a big difference. Call your doctor if you have calluses or corns on your feet that need to be removed or any other foot issue as these can affect balance. If you wear loose-fitting shoes because of foot problems, you can also lose your balance. Consider wearing sturdy, non-skid footwear that fits properly.  Make sure the heels and soles of your shoes are in good condition.  If the heels are worn down or uneven, you may tilt from one side to another which can make you lose your balance along with causing hip and back pain.
  • Take care of yourself. Keep your bones strong. Talk to your doctor to be sure you are getting enough Vitamin D and Calcium. If you are weak or dizzy, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Eliminate hazards at home.  About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify potential fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting. Consider removing throw rugs or using double-sided tape to keep throw rugs from slipping. Make sure electrical extension cords are underneath furniture or rugs. Keep items you use often in cabinets that you can reach easily without a step stool. Consider installing grab bars inside and next to your tub or shower and next to your toilet. Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors. Improve the lighting in your home.  And lastly, make sure any items left on the ground are not left on stair steps or along any areas in which you walk.

If falls are a concern to you, Geriatric Care Management can provide a home safety evaluation and can connect you with resources that can make your home a safer environment and you less fall-prone.

Let the first day of fall remind us all to take measures to prevent falls!

Come on, Get Happy!

Come on, Get Happy!

A Positive Attitude Can Change Your Life

Everywhere we look today, advertisements promise that once we are “successful enough”, we will “arrive” and finally experience true happiness.

Many of us are led to believe that once we get the perfect house, job or when we retire,  we will finally reach a place of happiness. But what if happiness isn’t a place that we arrive, at all? What if instead, real happiness—the kind that brings peace and gratitude along for the ride– is a choice?

The truth is that to a large degree we can choose to be happy, and much of this choice has to do with the small decisions we make each day.  In many ways, happiness is a state of mind–and we control our mind, our thoughts, and our outlook.

Positivity pitfalls
Some people seem to be natural-born optimists. For them, the glass is always half full. But for those who are tempted to see their glass as half empty (and full of mud), read on for ideas to navigate your way out of the most common positivity pitfalls.

1. Molehills and mountains.
“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” We’ve probably all heard that expression directed at us at some point. But sometimes, it’s hard not to over-react when bad things happen.
READ MORE ABOUT FINDING PERSPECTIVE

2. Avoid the discontentment trap
Keeping up with The Jones’ is as American as apple pie. But in the last twenty years, the Jones family has stockpiled a lot more stuff to keep up with.
READ MORE ABOUT CONTENTMENT

3. Stay connected
We humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted people need some form of connection to thrive. And that can be a real challenge for those who are advancing in years (especially if you do not have family who live close to you.)
READ MORE ABOUT COMMUNITY
Positively happy
Remember, happiness is a choice. So the next time you catch yourself feeling down, ask yourself if you’ve fallen into a positivity pitfall, and consider changing your perspective. With practice, being positive will become your new habit, and you’ll soon discover that glass is, after all, half full.

Continue reading 
Marty’s Musings on positive thinking.

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ABQ BioPark Aquarium
Under the sea! Sharks, Jellyfish, and Sea Turtles await you, along with lunch at the café.
Saturday, Feb. 8
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Arte en la Charreria:
The Artisanship of Mexican Equestrian Culture

The Albuquerque Museum of Art and Culture
This exhibition emphasizes the rich legacy of tradition and valor, honor and custom and war and peace that surrounds the Mexican charro; the life of revered horsemen.
Saturday, Feb. 15
1-4pm, $55
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My Favorite Year (the musical) and Dinner
El Pinto and Adobe Theatre

Benjy Stone is a 1950’s sketch writer for a live television variety show. The task of keeping the show’s celebrities sober and celibate until airtime falls to Benjy, who soon finds himself involved in a series of shenanigans.
Friday, Feb. 21
5-11pm
$150, cost does not include dinner
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The Loretto Chapel
and Lunch at The Shed, Santa Fe

The sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph to help find a solution to the seating problem. A man appeared on the ninth day with a donkey and a toolbox, looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. Some people concluded that he was St. Joseph himself!
Sunday, March, 1
11am-4pm
$100, cost of lunch not included
Register by: Feb. 22

Marty’s Musings on Positive Thinking

There has been a lot of talk lately about how a positive attitude can influence business success, but our February e-newsletter will focus more on what a positive attitude can do to improve quality of life.

When I think about this topic, I’m reminded of the time when I was the Director of a Foster Grandparent program many years ago. Many of the older people who had applied were required to have 40 hours of training before they could be assigned to work 20 hours per week with special needs children. They would often tell me they did not think they could make the commitment because they had so much chronic pain due to arthritis or knee or hip pain.

Many talked about how they were often immobilized due to weather, waiting for medications to take effect, and the inordinate amount of time and struggle just to get dressed. But in every case, once they started working one-on-one with their assigned special needs child, they told me the time flew by and they couldn’t believe when their four hour volunteer work with the child was over. They were so focused on providing love and encouragement to their child that they totally forgot about their own pain and discomfort.

They were amazed that their chronic disease or their constant worries and anxieties had somehow fallen into the background of their being. Many older people are isolated, living alone in their homes or apartments, happy to have some of their most meaningful possessions with them, but far from family. And due to mobility and/or transportation problems, don’t see others to interact with or actively participate in watching activities.

My own mother-in-law is just an amazing example of a positive attitude improving quality of life. At age 99, she is blind in one eye and walks very slowly with stand-by assistance only, has difficulty hearing, and has no teeth. Yet she says she’s grateful for what she has.  She can still eat; she can see well out of one eye to watch sports on TV, watch her great grandchildren, feel the sunshine, walk and climb stairs, and talk a little on the phone.  She says, “What good would it do to complain.

It wouldn’t change anything, except to make me feel bad and prevent me from enjoying what I have, while I still have it.”  “If I can go up the stairs now only once to the bedroom at night and come down and spend the day downstairs, at least I can still do that.”

Doing things we enjoy, while it may be difficult, gives us another outlook, another perspective.

Just making the effort can make all the difference.  For example, going to a museum, an art gallery, a concert or a musical, or even to have someone take you for a drive and coffee out in a cafe can change one’s attitude not just for that hour or two but sometimes, for the whole week.

A Home Within A Home- Guest Post!

Many thanks to Mary Lynn Pannen, RN, BSN, CCM, Owner and President of Sound Options for this wonderful article about creating space for aging parents living with adult children.


A Home Within a Home

According to AgingCare.com, 34 million Americans are personally providing care for older family members. As an aging society, more and more adult children are meeting the challenges of elder care by opening their homes to aging parents and in-laws. Whether it is a short-term solution or a long-term plan, here are a few important tips for making a home within a home, reducing conflicts, and setting expectations:

1. Sacred Space: Make sure your elderly loved one has their own defined space. Much of the house will be common area, but it is a crucial part of autonomy to have your own sacred space that you have control over and can go into at any time.

2. Personalize Space: Help your loved one feel at home by adding photos and objects that are special and important to them. Every space should tell the story of the individual living there. A few well-chosen objects such as a piece of art, a family quilt, or favorite books, can really redefine a room.

3. Family Dynamics: Setting up ground rules, boundaries, and a schedule such as quiet hours, family dinners, and expectations of how spaces will be used is really important for navigating the transition. Especially if you are part of the sandwich generation and still have children at home, posting expectations will help them adjust to the changes.

4. Meal Planning: Allow input and make sure expectations are set around food preparation including dietary restrictions. Setting expectations of who will be contributing financially will also help reduce stress and conflict later. Often tasks of daily living are difficult for aging adults to give up. Compromise and look for ways they can make decisions and contribute.

5. In-Home Care & Care Management Services: Create a plan for increased care needs and relief care for adult children providing care and management for loved ones. Often it is not apparent what the role will entail or feel like until you are in the middle of it. Make a plan if care becomes too much or if an emergency arises before you need it.

6. Common Spaces: Set expectations for common areas such as laundry room, kitchen, TV room, garage, outdoor spaces. Placing simple instructions around the house on new appliances such as the washer/dryer or TV remote/ etc. can help orient an aging loved one to the new space.

7. Safety: Making small changes to the home dramatically reduces the risk of falls and injury in the home. Consider the following modifications: Remove small area rugs, install grab bars and anti-slip mats in the bathroom, make sure walkways are free from clutter, furniture arrangements should accommodate mobility devices, and repair outdoor areas with loose handrails or walkways that are uneven and cracking.

8. Taxes: Consult your tax advisor to ensure that you’re taking advantage of appropriate tax deductions such as claiming a parent as a dependent or deducting other expenses related to care.

9. Relationships: Impacts on relationships and dynamics within the home are inevitable. Make sure that you have a regular family meeting to discuss concerns and questions with everyone living in the home. It is important that relationships with your own family members do not come at the expense of helping mom and dad.

10. Asses Care Needs Regularly: Make sure that you plan for changes and discuss wishes and options before they are needed. It is crucial that you create a plan for difficult decisions such as driving, end-of-life care, and setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. Consider keeping a simple journal to track changes in behavior, habits, mobility, and other observations that may change over time.

11. Storage: Discuss what will happen to items that will not be coming into the home. A combination of storage, purging, gifting, and donations can be important during any transition. Help a loved one choose a few items to have around them at any given time.

12. Finances: This can be the most crucial aspect to discuss and set expectations on when considering moving a parent into your home. Discuss expectations of who will contribute to care costs and how finances will be managed. It can be very difficult to surrender control of finances to an adult child, but it may be necessary if bills are going unpaid or late.

13. Dementia: If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementias it is crucial that you have appropriate training and education to equip yourself with knowledge and expectations of care. Close monitoring by a physician will be important for optimum safety for your loved one. Consider joining a support group and be open with your workplace about your changing responsibilities.

 Weighing the Options

The right care choices for every person and every family are different. What may feel right for one family may not be the right option for another. What is important is that you weigh the pros and cons and honor your choice as difficult as it may be to make.

 PROS

  • If you’re a part of the sandwich generation and have younger children in the home, they will be able to witness firsthand the aging and care process.
  • If you are the primary caregiver, it can be helpful to not waste time commuting to or managing two separate households.
  • Especially if a loved one is ill or actively dying, the time spent in the home can foster invaluable memories and moments together.

CONS

  •  Financial and time strains on family and work can be great
  •  Family caregivers often have lower quality health and are at risk for burnout.
  •  Family relationships can be strained in this role reversal of a child caring for a parent.

 

Eldercare Coaching

If you are considering or are in the process of moving an aging parent into your home, an excellent option at the outset of this transition is to sit down with an eldercare expert for a one hour consultation. As an RN or MSW, a Geriatric Care Manager is able to make recommendations for your specific situation and help create a game plan for your family. They are a wonderful resource to lean on for crisis management and long-term planning to ensure that your loved one remains safe and that everyone involved enjoys a high quality of life. You can find a Professional Geriatric Care Manager anywhere in the country at http://www.caremanager.org/ and here in the Puget Sound region at http://www.soundoptions.com/.

sound

 

Here’s to a Less Taxing New Year!

GCM_and_Silver_Runner.1.2.jpg

How the Elderly Dependent Care Credit can make your New Year less taxing. As we begin a new year, we also begin a new tax season. And while almost no one enjoys organizing paperwork and paying their taxes, it has to be done. Death and taxes, right?
But there is some good news. If you provide care for an aging family member, you may be eligible for more than $3,000 in deductions this year.“Many families are not aware that, when prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider, professional geriatric care management services can be tax deductible,” says Martha Brown, MSW, Certified Care Manager, National Certified Guardian, Founder and CEO of Geriatric Care Management, LLC.

There are two main types of deductions that you may be able to claim. The first deduction, called a Dependency Deduction or Elderly Dependent Care Tax Credit, may apply to you if you claim your elderly loved as a dependent and they meet the income requirement. If you qualify for this, you could deductGeriatric Care Management’s services as medical and caregiving expenses.
The second deductible area has to do with the amount of financial assistance that you provide for your elderly family member’s medical and caregiving services. Again, the medical and caregiving services offered by Geriatric Care Management’sservices can be deductible under this provision.

Are you eligible for a dependency deduction?
Wondering if you’re eligible for the Dependency Deduction/Elderly Dependent Care Tax Credit? Here are some important factors to consider when determining whether you can claim the credit:

  1. You must claim the person you care for as a dependent on your tax return. If you do this, you can deduct $3,900 from your taxable income if the dependent’s income is less than $3,900 for 2013. Nontaxable Social Security and disability payments don’t count toward that income total.
  2. You must provide more than 50 percent of your dependent’s cost for housing, transportation, food, dental care, and other similar living expenses. The IRS also allows deductions for care not covered by a long-term care insurance or health care plans such as hospital care, prescription drug costs, dental care, copays, deductibles, ambulances, bandages, eyeglasses and certain long-term care services.
    Not sure if you provide 50 percent? A good way to determine your possible eligibility for credits in this area is to estimate the entire amount your relative receives from all sources of support, if you are providing 50 percent or more of this amount, you probably qualify. Geriatric care management services are deductible if the person receiving care is chronically ill (including dementia) and a physician has prescribed a plan of care.“You can’t just do it on your own, and argue that Aunt Jane needed to be watched,” said Saul Brenner, a CPA with Berdon to FORBES magazine, “You’ve got to bring the relative to a physician and say, ‘We need you to prescribe a plan of care for our relative.’”
    Geriatric Care Managers can help ease this process by working with family members to draft a comprehensive care-management plan for the physician to review and approve.
  3.  Your loved one doesn’t need to live with you, but if they do, you can include a percentage of your mortgage and other household expenses toward the amount you claim for their support.

What if my dependent exceeds the income requirement?
Let’s say that you provide more than 50 percent of your aging parent’s support, but they make more than $3,900 per year, so you are not eligible for the Dependency Deduction. You still may qualify for a deduction of their medical costs if you are able to itemize deductions on your taxes this year. This deduction is limited to medical, dental and long-tem care expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for people younger than 65, and 7.5 percent of your AGI for those older than 65.

Long term care expenses include costs such as long-term care insurance, home health care, and money spent to renovate housing for a current condition. It also includes wages and employment taxes that you pay to a medically-necessary (as determined by a physician) caregiver. It is important to note that according to the IRS, medical care expenses must be “primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental defect or illness.” Cosmetic or voluntary procedures don’t count. The care services or procedures must be determined to be medically necessary by a licensed healthcare provider. For example, geriatric care management services, if prescribed by your relative’s physician, would count toward this deduction, however, getting mom a facelift for her birthday, wouldn’t.

Are there any other types of financial assistance available?
There may be additional tax deductions available to you depending on where you live. Some states offer additional incentives for caregivers. To take advantage of all the credits and deductions available, check your state’s tax agency or a qualified local tax professional.

Tax laws are complex, constantly changing and notoriously confusing. It’s easy to make mistakes. We recommend that family members consult with a tax expert before finalizing their taxes.
AARP has a Tax-Aide program.  They provide free tax preparation and counseling information to all low and middle-income taxpayers, even if you are not an AARP member. To locate a Tax-Aide site call 1-888-227-7669 or visitwww.aarp.org/taxaide.

The purpose of this article is to provide basic awareness about tax credits. Please speak with your tax professional for information specific to your situation.

January Silver Runner Events

Call 505-897-3009 to register!

Winter Bird and Bat Festival
Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center Park

Saturday, January 11 , 10am-3pm
$100 includes transportation, snacks, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager, and park admission. Admission to the Park. Register by January 9.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Popejoy Hall

Friday, January 24 , 6:30-11:30pm
$250.00 includes transportation, snacks, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager, and tickets to the play.
Register by January 18.

Australian Shepherd, and AKC Agility Shows
Expo NM

Sunday, January 26, 1-4pm
$65.00 includes transportation, snacks, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager and entrance fee
Register by January 20.

 

 

How can Professional Geriatric Care Managers help family caregivers?

The PGCM helps families solve problems, find ways to meet their own needs, and find ways to balance caregiving and work place demands.

Roles of a PGCM are:

  • Problem solver
  • Mediator
  • Resource coordinator
  • Goal keeper
  • Data collector
  • Services manager
  • HCPOA or Guardian
  • Negotiator
  • Advisor
  • Counselor
  • Consultant
  • Documenter
  • Advocate
  • Coordinator
  • Health and Long Term Care Insurance Claim facilitator
  • Reviewer of legal documents to refer to legal counsel as needed
  • On-Call 24/7 for support, safety, advice and reassurance.

Home for the holidays?

A time for gifts, a time for family sharing, a time to really notice how Mom and Dad are doing. This holiday season, take time to listen, observe, and evaluate.

When you call on the phone, your parents may say everything is going just fine. But if you don’t regularly see your aging parents, it can be hard to know what “fine” really means. The holidays are the perfect time to identify how things really are, and to address if changes need to be made. If it’s been awhile since your last visit, you may find changes in mental and/or emotional status and physical ability.

While you are visiting, consider the following list to help you assess their ability to live independently.

Look for changes in behavior
Questions to consider:

•   Do they frequently repeat themselves?
•   Are they agitated, anxious or depressed?
•   How is their social life?
•   Are they having trouble sleeping?

Look for physical changes
Things to consider:

•   Weight loss can be a sign of illness, depression, or malnourishment.
•   Are they keeping medical appointments?
•   Do you notice any changes in stability or balance?
•   Do they appropriately use safety equipment such as: canes, walkers,
shower/tub bench and bathroom grab bars?
•   Have there been falls in the last six months,
and were these falls reported to their physician?

Look for signs of self-care
Questions to consider:

•   Are they clean? Do they need more help bathing?
•   Are they neatly dressed?
•   Are they drinking more alcohol?
•   Are their prescriptions current?
•   Are they managing medications as directed by their physician?
•   Which over the counter medications and/or supplements are they taking?
•   Do you find expired medications?
•   Are their toenails trimmed?
•   Do you notice any bruises?
•   Are shoes fitting properly and in good repair? (Are they loose and pose a fall risk?
Are heels worn that could cause a balance problem or back pain?)

Look for signs of domestic order
Questions to consider:

•   Are they keeping up with phone messages?
•   Is the kitchen clean and well-stocked with healthy food?
•   Are the oven and microwave clean, and is the kitchen free of burn marks?
•   Are light bulbs working?
•   Is there good lighting?
•   Are smoke detectors working?
•   Is the living space generally clean and safe?
•   Are houseplants dying?
•   Are doors and windows closed and locked?
•   Does the car have new dents?
•   Are windows or doors leaking air?

Look for signs of money management
Questions to consider:

•   Is their check register current and reconciled with the bank statement?
•   Do you notice any payments made to people or organizations
that you are unfamiliar with?
•   Are there any delinquent or unpaid bills lying around?
•   Are they sending checks to any sweepstakes?
•   Are taxes current?
•   Are there un-cashed checks?
•   Is their driver’s license current?
•   Are car insurance and license plates current?

While you’re home it’s also a good idea to either write down important information or make copies of driver’s license, social security number, insurance policies, names of treating physicians, medication list (including dosages and frequencies, pharmacy information), as well as information regarding local home repair organizations.

Gifts that give peace of mind
It may not seem very festive, but taking note of how your elderly loved ones are managing is important. Consider gifts such as: changing the light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. You might also arrange for needed home repairs, or for the installation of safety items such as ramps or grab bars.

Two other gifts that could provide on-going assistance and improve your loved ones quality of life, are:
1)  Hiring transportation services such as The Silver Runner for appointments, special holiday outings, and leisure outings throughout the year.
2)  Hiring a Professional Geriatric Care Manager. Professional Geriatric Care Managers do a thorough assessment, make recommendations, arrange for and monitor the provision of care to ensure that your parents receive the care they may need. They also can identify and assist with hiring a reputable and reliable homecare agency that would provide caregivers to do the “jack-of-all trades” type of things that most people need.  During the holidays, these caregivers can help make the holidays special by assisting your loved one with decorating, baking, and preparing a nice holiday meal. The Professional Geriatric Care Manager can develop specific caregiver tasks to be done on a scheduled basis, coordinate with your parents as well as communicate with you so that you are kept up-to-date. This can help prevent a crisis, and having a local professional who is on-call, will give everyone peace of mind.

Silver Runner
December Events
 Call 505-897-3009 to register!

Miracle on 34th Street
Albuquerque Little Theatre

Date: Sunday, Dec. 7

Time: 10am-2pm

Cost: $80

Register by: Dec. 2

Transportation, snacks and beverages, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager and tickets are included in the fee.

Curator’s Coffee:
Paleontology of
the Panama Canal

New Mexico Museum of History and Science
Gary Morgan, Curator

Date: Wed., Dec. 11

Time: 9am-1pm

Cost: $60

Register by: Dec. 5

Transportation, snacks and beverages, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager and tickets are included in the fee.

Nutcracker Ballet

Kimo Theatre

Date: Sun., Dec. 15

Time: 1pm-5pm

Cost: $80

Register by: Dec. 8

Transportation, snacks and beverages, accompaniment by a Mobility Manager and tickets are included in the fee.

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Geriatric Care Management

2730 San Pedro NE
Suite E
Albuquerque, NM 87110