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.

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!

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.
 
 
 

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/.

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