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.

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.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Finding Balance
By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

We often hear about the importance of achieving balance in our daily lives. We know that we need to find work-life balance. We need to slow down and weigh the significance of our activities. We need to balance others’ expectations with our own ability to meet them. We should eat healthy, balanced meals.

However, there is one kind of balance that you may not be thinking about as much as you should be—your ability to maintain physical balance.

When was the last time you paid attention to how well you can, for example, stand on one foot? If your answer is sometime in a distant high school physical education class, pay attention. It turns out that this skill is more important to our health than it seems. And this is especially true as we age.

According to the National Institute on Health, each year more than one third of people older than 65 fall. And fall-related injuries, such as hip fractures, can have a serious life impact. Falls can limit activities and make it hard, even impossible, to live independently.

For this reason, we at Geriatric Care Management want to encourage everyone, especially seniors, to evaluate their balance. We urge you to take charge of this vital component to a long, healthy and independent life. To improve and maintain good balance, we suggest involving your physician in the evaluation process. You may also want to request a physical therapy evaluation.

It’s important to realize that most of us are not as agile as we were in our younger days, and we should be realistic with our own limitations to avoid physical risks that would limit us even further. A medical professional can help you to determine which exercises are right for you. You may also want to include some of the following simple exercises from the National Institute on Aging in your journey to a more balanced life.

Simple exercises to improve balance:

Stand on one foot.
Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
Hold position for up to 10 seconds.
Repeat 10-15 times.
Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
Do 10-15 sets on each leg.
Heel to toe walk.
Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot.
Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance walk.
Raise arms to sides, shoulder height.
Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.
As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for one second before stepping forward.
Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

For a slideshow of more balance-related exercises to try, visit the MAYO clinic website.
And please contact us if you or a loved one need any assistance. We are here to help. Visit us on the web, or call us at 505-897-3009.

How Do I Get There From Here?

Featured

Handing over the keys

By Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

We Americans love our cars. We love the romance of the open road, the wind in our hair. We have a love affair with road trips, car camping and drive-in movies. And getting your driver’s license is a right of passage in most young Americans’ lives. It’s part of the American dream, part of who we are. But that’s because a car isn’t just a car to us. It represents something so much more significant; it represents our freedom and independence. For some, it’s even a part of their identity.
 
Maybe that’s why losing the ability to drive hits American seniors so hard. It isn’t merely about the loss of transportation. Losing the ability to drive represents a major life change. Unless you live in a densely populated urban city, giving up your driving rights essentially means giving away your independence. It means relying on others in a way that you haven’t before. It means you can’t just hop in the car and go – now you have to schedule and coordinate transportation ahead of time for your everyday activities. It can also affect one’s identity. Sometimes the type of car a person drives makes that person feel set apart. Living without a car, for some, means blending into the background.
 
“Driving a car is a symbol of independence and competence and is closely tied to an individual’s identity. It also represents freedom and control and allows older adults to gain easy access to social connections, health care, shopping, activities and even employment,” says Kristine Dwyer from caregiver.com.
 
Sometimes giving up driving comes in stages. Seniors might first begin driving only in a certain radius or only during certain hours. Then they may gradually begin to go out of the way to make only right hand turns–to avoid cutting across traffic. They might also find themselves not driving on the highway any longer, or not driving at night. Still, at some point, most Americans have to turn in their keys. And this transitional moment in an elderly person’s life can sometimes lead to isolation and depression.

What drives you?

Living in an assisted-living community with available transportation is helpful if you are unable to drive yourself around. However, after a lifetime of driving independence and spontaneity, it can be frustrating to be limited by someone else’s timetable and location list. And too often, seniors have to wait long periods of time to be dropped off and picked up. It can also be confusing, time consuming, and tedious to coordinate transportation to appointments, errands, and to attend social events. This may help to explain why elderly people sometimes stop making the effort to maintain vital social connections; it’s just too much work. But those social connections are essential to our emotional and mental health.
 
In fact, according to Harvard researcher Shari S. Bassuk, ScD, “Social disengagement is a risk factor for cognitive impairment among elderly persons.”  In other words, seniors need to maintain social interaction, even after they hand over the keys in order to maintain optimal brain health.
 
So what’s the solution? Taxis are expensive and may not be able to provide the care that an elderly person needs to safely attend appointments and social events. Cabs are also impersonal and drivers do not accommodate any extra needs. They show up, curbside, honk and wait. And on the return, even if you are carrying things, they drop you off, literally, curbside.  A personal driver would be great, but for most people that isn’t practical financially. What’s really needed is a driver with experience in elder care who can be scheduled according to your individual needs.

The Silver Runner solution

New transportation services are cropping up in our community to address the needs of seniors who require assistance and transportation. The Silver Runner Mobility Managers recognize the specific attention, compassion and reliability that is required when transporting our community’s aging adults.
 
Scheduling services in advance allows us to guarantee punctuality. Our highly trained Mobility Managers provide quality transportation and care with our “door-through-door” service. Mobility Managers ensure that needs are met and that the entire Silver Runner experience is pleasant and timely.
 
Putting independence back in your life is what The Silver Runner is all about.  You don’t have to depend on friends, family, or volunteers to take you to do the essentials – keep appointments, grocery shop, and do errands. You can now be in charge of arranging to go wherever you’d like, including scenic drives, taking a class at Oasis, going to a museum or concert, or heading up to Santa Fe for the day.
 
To help foster social connections among seniors in our area, we also offer regularly scheduled group outings each month. If you or someone you care for is learning to live without their car keys, please call us today at 505-872-0451, or visit our website www.TheSilverRunner.com for more information and a full list of our scheduled outings. You can also create your own individual or group outings.
 
 
 

Caring from a distance

When parents need help, and you’re far away.

Jennifer Kilgore, GCM Consultant

 
Question: My parents are in their nineties, and live two states away from my brother and me. They are both living with significant age-related limitations.
 
My mother has used a walker for years and is now relying more on her wheelchair to get around. My father is recovering from a recent heart surgery. Both have severe arthritis, macular degeneration, and I suspect some loss in cognitive function—perhaps even the beginnings of dementia.
 
Despite our pleas, they won’t even consider moving closer to us, either to live in my home or in an assisted living facility near my brother and me. This has become a significant financial and relational drain on our families, as we alternate visiting every-other-weekend.  The stress and guilt we feel is overwhelming.  It is difficult for us to give our families and our parents the time and attention they deserve.  I always feel like we are forgetting something important regarding their care, it’s so hard to keep track of all their bills, health conditions and various health issues, and house upkeep. We need help!
 
Answer: 
 
The financial and emotional stress of traveling to visit your parents twice monthly is significant, and you are concerned about not being able to properly care for them.  In addition, being away from your own family causes more stress, guilt and burdens.  Utilizing the services of a Geriatric Care Manager will allow you and your brother to be able to be your parents’ children, not a caregiver. This will also free up time to be with your immediate family.
 
You mentioned that your parents do not want to move near to you, I wonder if that is because they are afraid to be a burden. It may also be that it’s difficult for them to accept that they are no longer able to be as independent as they once were.  Change is always difficult.
 
Because you and your brother are both overwhelmed, I recommend finding a Professional Geriatric Care Manager near your parents. A Geriatric Care Manager can assess the situation and provide resources to you and your parents. They are trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services to older family members and their families. Geriatric Care Managers are skilled at having difficult discussions and discovering fears and concerns. Once everyone’s concerns are understood, a Geriatric Care Manager is trained to address those concerns and develop a plan that all are comfortable with.

Geriatric Care Managers can provide the peace-of-mind that you need, while helping to maintain your parent’s independence, safety and dignity.  They communicate as often as agreed upon so that you feel that you are aware of what is going on in your parents’ lives, while being able to live your own life.  Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager can help you all live the lives you hope for while continuing to be a loving, caring family.
 
Visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website for helpful articles, local providers and other information.  You can also contact us at Geriatric Care Management and we will be happy to answer your questions, set up a consultation and provide you with resources.
 

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.

Sign up today for Silver Runner Events! 505.872.0451
ABQ BioPark Aquarium
Under the sea! Sharks, Jellyfish, and Sea Turtles await you, along with lunch at the café.
Saturday, Feb. 8
11am-2pm
$55, includes lunch
Register by: Feb. 4
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
Register by: Feb. 8
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
Register by: Feb. 14
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.