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!

Staying Independent with Age

The Importance of Independence

By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

Seniors in high school and seniors in their golden years may not like the same music, watch the same movies or show off the same dance moves, but they do have one thing in common. Both groups desire a more independent lifestyle.

Although what it means to live independently can change drastically as we age, independence is an essential part of what it means to be human. It means making your own decisions about how and where you live, who you spend time with, and what you spend time doing. It contributes toward the creation and preservation of our sense of self.

The way we spend our time and energy speaks volumes about who we are as people. And when we no longer have the ability to choose what we do and how we do it, it can be extremely difficult to maintain a sense of ownership over our own lives. However, those who are blessed with longevity will likely require assistance at some point.

One area where independence is keenly sensed, for both teenagers and their elders, is in the area of transportation. Particularly in American culture, driving signifies independent adulthood. A driver’s license is something that is dreamed about and looked forward to by the young, and not relinquished without a fight by the old. It means we can come and go as we please, and that’s certainly something that is hard to give up.

Maintaining an Independent spirit 

Sometimes being independent as we age means finding creative ways to maintain independence despite obstacles. For example, The Silver Runner Transportation service is one creative way for seniors who no longer drive to maintain transportation independence. The Silver Runner offers transportation for errands and appointments as well as group and private outings to help maintain a healthy social life.

Experiencing difficulty with mobility does not mean that you can no longer visit the places that you love. However, it may mean that you need to rethink the way that you visit these places. Enlisting the help of a mobility manager or other cargiver can be a great way to ensure a successful trip. You may also need to talk with a medical professional about how a walker, cane or self-propelling wheelchair could be used to increase your mobility and independence.

Because of new rules in America and across Europe to accommodate those with disabilities, traveling for those who have trouble walking long distances is even more possible than it has ever been. If you or a loved one have trouble getting around, but want to travel, the sky is the limit! To make your vacation a success, be sure to arrange for the assistance you need in airports and consider hiring help with ground travel and luggage.

Lastly, sometimes being independent means knowing when to ask for help. As we age, this may mean hiring an advisor to be your advocate, a person you can consult with to assist with many difficult decisions that must be made. You may also wish to create advance planning documents so that your choices are known and honored in the event that you are unable to express yourself later down the road.

The Geriatric Care Management team is available to listen to what is important to you or your loved one. We value and respect the unique qualities of each aging person, evaluate their needs, and locate the best resources to maximize that person’s level of independence.

Being independent is important at every age. Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner are committed to helping seniors remain as independent as possible, while also receiving a high level of care. Please contact us with questions or to schedule a consultation
(505) 897-3009.

7 Warning Signs That Aging Loved Ones Need Help

As a Record Number of Seniors Are Living Alone, Aging Experts Offer 7 Warning Signs to Look for During Summer Visits to Older Family Members and Friends

As millions of Americans travel during the summer, many adult children will spend time with their aging parents and loved ones. A record number of these older Americans are living alone. A government report found that 12.5 million older Americans — fully half of women age 75 or older — now live by themselves.

If you are traveling to visit family and “checking-in” on older loved ones this summer, it is important to look for signs that aging loved ones need help or attention.

To help, members of the Aging Life Care Association™ compiled this list of key questions to ask and warning signs to look for during your summer visit.

Look for these 7 potential warning signs that could mean your aging loved ones need medical attention or more assistance to continue living independently:

1. Changes in Physical Appearance: Do you notice either significant weight loss or weight gain? Do you notice any bumps or bruises that may indicate they have had falls?

2. Loss of Mobility: Do you notice any increased difficulty in walking or getting in and out of chairs/sofas? Do they appear less steady on their feet?

3. Decline in Home Cleanliness and Repair: Does their home look clean and well maintained or is it in need of cleaning and/or repairs? Is trash and/or clutter accumulating? Does it smell of urine or feces?

4. Reduced Ability to Prepare Healthy Meals: Do you notice a change in the kinds of foods they have (no more fresh fruits/vegetables, more frozen meals and canned goods)? Are their appliances like the stove, microwave and refrigerator in working order? Is there adequate food? Any spoiled food present?

5. Changes in Mood, Memory or Behavior: Do you notice your loved one constantly repeating things? Are you noticing increased confusion? Are you hearing from their friends that something has changed in their mood or behavior? Are they having difficulty carrying on an extended conversation? Are they showing irritability or apathy? Are they reporting more difficulty sleeping?

6. Changes in Routine: Do you notice stacks of unopened mail? Are bills not getting paid? Are medications being taken? Are prescriptions not being refilled? Are medical appointments being missed or follow-ups not being made? Have they cut back on outside/social activities.

7. Decline in Personal Hygiene: Are you noticing your loved one is unkempt, not dressing during the day like they used to; not showering and wearing dirty clothing when they do get dressed?

These are just a few warning signs that an older adult may need medical attention or other assistance. If one or more of these warning signs are detected, it might be time to bring in a professional to help.

Aging Life Care Professionals™ are an important resource to older adults and families who need assistance. With expertise and day-to-day experience in the community, Aging Life Care Professionals can guide aging adults and their families to the best decisions and best solutions.  Beginning with an in-depth assessment, a care plan is created by the Aging Life Care Professional and family. Together, they arrive at the best possible options.

It is difficult for many adult children to navigate through the myriad of options, especially when they are at a distance, working, and/or raising their own children. Find an Aging Life Care™ Expert at aginglifecare.org so that you don’t have to go it alone.


This blog is used with permission from Aging Life Care Association and is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Announcing NMGA 6th Annual Symposium!

 

Join us for the NMGA Annual Symposium and enjoy keynote speaker Cynthia Geppert, MD, Psychiatrist and Ethicist, specializing in capacity assessments; VAMC. Her topic is Beyond Cognition: Guardianship for Functional Incapacity. We will also hear from many other distinguished speakers, enjoy panel discussions and more!
We hope to see you there and also, that you’ll share this opportunity with those you know who may be interested.
Early Bird Registration discount (ends August 17).
  • NMGA Member – Professional  $115.00
  • Non-member – Professional     $140.00
  • Family Guardian                        $ 45.00
  • After August 17                         $165.00.
10% discount for 3 registrations or more from same family or organization.
If you are interested in Sponsorship, please let us know.

Worried About your Memory? Is it Dementia? Alzheimer’s?

Guest Post by Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Aging Life Care Association™ member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy

We all have bouts of forgetfulness. We drive past the exit we wanted, we forget the name of a neighbor we have known for years, or we go to the market and buy everything but the milk we went for! If you find yourself forgetting names, places, dates, or appointments, you might think you have  dementia like like Alzheimer’s.

But stress, dehydration, multi-tasking, being a caregiver for another, and numerous other situations can all contribute to forgetfulness. Before you panic or before you just chalk it up to being overtired, consult with a professional to discuss your specific situation.

Aging Life Care Professionals™ can help guide you to appropriate resources that can evaluate your individual situation and provide answers or possible diagnosis. The Aging Life Care Professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, is a conduit to the appropriate medical or psychological referrals that may be necessary.

Some memory loss can be attributed to other illnesses such as depression, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, and several other medical diagnosis. This is why symptoms should not be ignored, but brought to the attention of your physician immediately.

The benefit of getting a diagnosis of a dementia early is that you may be a candidate for medication that can help slow down, or reverse, your symptoms. These medications may enable you to function independently, longer.

Finding out early that you have a dementia gives you a chance to modify your lifestyle, eat healthy foods, stay engaged and exercise more. You can design the care you want and make the necessary legal and financial decisions to support your wishes.

Pro-actively working with an Aging Life Care Professional ensures that the plan and resources in place respect your values, fit in your budget and meet your current and future needs.

Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Founder and President of Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek, CA. She is also a partner of the VillagePlan Linda is a Fellow level member and Past President of the Aging Life Care Association. Linda has over 30 years experience working as a Care Manager. You can reach her at linda@EldercareAnswers.com, or connect with her via social media: FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

 

Talking to Elderly Parents about Falling

In his blog for the Huffington Post, Jim T. Miller, NBC contributor and Creator of SavySenior.org states:

It’s an unfortunate reality, but every year, one in three older Americans fall, making it the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors age 65 and older.

A simple fall can cause a serious hip fracture, broken bone or head injury, which can lead to hospital stays, disability, loss of independence and even death. But even falls without a major injury can cause seniors to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active.

 

We couldn’t agree more. Fall prevention is one of the most crucial aspects of Aging life care. Learn more about fall prevention by reading Miller’s blog post.  Or read about how gardening improves balance!

Alzheimer’s and Hallucinations

Many are unaware of the fact that it’s common for Alzheimer’s patients to hallucinate—to see things that are not really there. This fascinating interview with a man living with the disease provides an inside look into what life with Alzheimer’s can be like. Read about it or listen to the audio interview at NPR.