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.

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.
 
 
 

Trendy and deadly

Why you shouldn’t follow the crowd when it comes to your health

By Kimberly Gyle, MSW, MSG, CMC

 
I recently attended a conference in which an expert shared the following two statistics.
 
1. In the United States, 29 million people are diagnosed with diabetes
2. Another 86 million people have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes.

What is Prediabetes and are you at risk?

People with prediabetes, formerly called borderline diabetes, have glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to indicate diabetes. Although most people with prediabetes don’t have symptoms, they are at higher risk of developing heart disease.
 
A healthy body produces a hormone called insulin, which helps your cells use the energy (glucose) found in food. However with diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t efficiently use the insulin it does produce. When glucose builds up in the blood, it can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, heart, eyes and nervous system.
 
In a person with prediabetes, the subtle balance between glucose and insulin has been thrown off. If you have prediabetes, you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as the serious medical problems associated with diabetes, including heart disease and stroke. People with prediabetes have a 50% higher risk of heart disease and stroke than someone who does not have prediabetes. For more sobering statistics http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/.
 
Often, prediabetes has no signs or symptoms. But without intervention, prediabetes is likely to become type 2 diabetes in 10 years or fewer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become part of this popular trend. So that got me thinking, what I can I do to not become one of the 86 million?
 
In a large research study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, the following lifestyle changes reduced the development of diabetes over three years by 58%.  For people age 60 or older, the reduction was an even greater 71%. 
 

  • Weight Control:  Losing 5 – 10% of excess body weight can help.
  • Exercises:  Studies have shown that moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, such as cycling, swimming or brisk walking, helps prevent and manage diabetes.
  • Nutrition:  Healthy meals that mix a balance of low-fat protein, vegetables, and whole grains can help prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes.  Calorie control, portion sizes, and low sugar, low carbohydrate choices are key.  Eating adequate fiber every day helps also.  For more information on a healthy diet, seehttp://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/eating_ez/

For more information on the Diabetes Prevention Program, visit http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/preventionprogram/. And to learn more about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association:www.diabetes.org.
 

We can help

A Geriatric Care Manager can help coordinate care and services when someone is diagnosed with a chronic condition like diabetes. Geriatric Care Managers can attend doctor’s appointments, assist in life style changes and act as a lifestyle coach. They research various tools to help with the adjustment to a new diagnosis of a chronic condition. For more information, please call Geriatric Care Management at (505) 897 – 3009.