Category Archives: Independent Living

Decorating For Mom And Dad: Tips To Make Them Feel At Home

There are myriad reasons why your parents may need to move into your family home. These reasons range from one of your parents passing away and the other being unable or unwilling to live alone, to their needing more care than you can provide unless they are under your roof, to their not having enough money saved up to continue to age in place or to move into an assisted living facility. Regardless of the reasons why you are opening your doors to your aging loved ones, you will want to find a way to make them feel welcome and at home in their new living space.

If you find that you’re trying to move your parents from the home in which they’ve lived for decades into a small space – in some cases a spare room in your home – there will likely be the need for downsizing of their possessions. Rather than trying to move all of their belongings from their home into a space at your house, spend some time with them going through their possessions and determining what they absolutely cannot live without or what you may be able to give to another family member as a gift to keep in the family.

Here are some tips to make the transition easier and to make the room in which they will be living in your home more of a home-like feeling for them:

  • If the room is small and they will be using it as a combination living room/bedroom setting you will want to make the best use of the small space. This can be done by painting the room a light color, make it feel brighter by using light, airy curtains and by using light colored bedspreads and furniture coverings.
  • If you’re hanging paintings in the room, forget the rule about hanging them at eye level (this makes a small room feel even more cramped) hang them higher because this creates an illusion of a larger space.
  • Use large, intricate mirrors to make the room seem visually larger. Place a large mirror on a wall opposite a window to “double” the feeling of the space.
  • Using end tables, chairs or beds with legs rather than styles that are chunky and sit on the floor can make a room feel more airy and open.
  • You don’t have to downsize furniture to accommodate a smaller room. Make certain the furniture in the room is comfortable and usable. If your parents like larger pieces of furniture, opt for light colored covers to brighten the space.
  • Resist the urge, or help them resist the urge, to clutter the space up with knick knacks or collectibles. Filling every available space with memorabilia will instantly make it seem smaller.
  • Look for pieces of furniture that can do double duty. For example, look for end tables or ottomans that also provide storage space. Use a bed skirt to conceal storage containers under the bed.
  • Use lighting that is on the wall or ceiling, rather than cluttering up the space with table lamps. If necessary install motion activated lights or those on sensors that will turn off after a specified amount of time.

Moving your aging parents into the family home will certainly take adjustment on everyone’s part but with some thoughtful planning it can be a smooth transition for everyone.


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Successful Aging-In-Place Strategies

Aging is an inevitable fact of life and with aging comes the realization that we may be faced at some point with the inability to live independently. Whether making a move to an assisted living facility or moving into the home of a family member, aging-in-place is a dream that many seniors do not want to give up on.

Are there ways to age “successfully” so that you can stay independent? Are there steps you can take today (regardless of your age) to assure that you are healthy, remain active, and are able to live in your own home for as long as possible? Yes. There are steps you can take, lifestyle changes you can implement and devices you can equip your home with that will make it possible for you to age-in-place for a longer period of time. What does “successful” aging mean? It is a lifestyle that incorporates health and wellness and overall activity into daily routines.

Retirement and aging usually go hand in hand and this can mean a change in household income. Because of diminished income budgeting can become a concern for seniors, but there are ways to successfully age on a budget.

What can you do today, on a budget, that will help you age gracefully? Here are some tips:

  • Keep your mind active. Read books. Do crossword puzzles. Keep up with daily world events and news in the newspaper or on the Internet. Keeping your brain active and involved could help stave off dementia.
  • Save money by growing your own vegetables or herbs. Starting a garden, whether you have a large plot of land or will be undertaking container gardening on a patio means you will have something to do daily with caring for the plants. Growing your own also provides ready access to fresh fruits or vegetables and provides heart healthy options for meal choices.
  • Stay active in your community or church by volunteering and attending activities those groups have planned. Getting out of the house, socializing and being involved in a cause or group you support boosts mental and emotional health and well-being.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family. It’s easy to “forget” to pick up the phone and call your children or grandchildren. Make a weekly date to touch base. Set aside an hour (or more) and settle in for a chat just to catch up. If you’re internet savvy set up, or have a family member set up, a private family Facebook group where you can talk freely and share family photos without the worry of strangers seeing your information.
  • Age-proof your house by clearing out clutter, making certain all carpets and rugs are slip proof. Update or upgrade your bathroom with grab bars and non slip surfaces in the bathtub and bathroom floor.
  • Prepare for health or medical emergencies and offer peace of mind by investing in a home medical monitoring device. Wearing a personal safety device means that at the push of a button, medical help can be summoned. Whether you’re unsteady on your feet or are dealing with other health issues such as diabetes or heart conditions, a medical alert system can be a literal life saver.

Talk with your family members so they are aware of your desire to age-in-place and work with them to make this dream a reality.


Senior Safety Tips And Advice

As we age, some individuals can become the target for a financial crime, identity theft, home break-in or some other scam.  Boomers raised in an era where being rude to a solicitor on the phone or door to door can actually put them in a more vulnerable position.  In some cases, those who would perpetrate a crime against the elderly will either rely on charm or bullying tactics to get the information that they seek. While a financial crime is a devastating time for anyone, it can be even worse for the elderly as they may not only question their ability to remain independent but will become fearful of living alone.

As a caregiver, there are steps you can take to protect your elderly loved ones:

  1.  Make sure the home is secure. Check the locks on doors and windows. Install a home alarm system with motion detectors and automatic indoor & outdoor lights. Make sure to post signs alerting vandals to the fact that the home has a security system. Another safety measure is to equip your relatives with a emergency medical device; these medical alert pendants provide a lifeline to outside help and assistance in the time of need.
  2. Trim all bushes around the house to eliminate any potential hiding places for a would-be burglar. Install doors with peepholes and advise them to not open the door to strangers. Never put keys under a door mat or other outdoor hiding spot. These are too easily discovered. Ask a trusted neighbor or friend that lives close to hold onto the extra key.
  3. Make certain the house number is painted in bright colors and large numbers to make it easy to find if emergency responders need to visit.
  4. Make certain additional cash isn’t left lying around the house. Keep enough cash on hand for daily needs, but keep large sums in the bank.
  5. Warn your elderly relatives to never give any personal or financial information over the phone. Make sure they are aware that no one – other than a family member – would ever be calling to solicit financial information. If your relatives are tech savvy and have signed up for online banking, make sure they are knowledgeable about the scams where it looks like their financial institution is asking them to sign in using the provided link. Their bank would never make this request, it is a scam.
  6. Don’t let your relatives make deals with door-to-door sales people. The scams perpetrated on the elderly involve everything from being overcharged for putting a new roof on the home to sealing the driveway to simply letting someone into the house so they can get the “lay of the land” and break in later. If, for example, your relatives need a new vacuum cleaner or a roof or driveway work, they should talk to you to help them get estimates from reputable contractors or take them to the store to make their purchases.
  7. If your relatives are still mobile and drive themselves to their appointments make sure they never carry more cash with them than what they need for that excursion. Also, advise them to not travel into areas with which they aren’t familiar. They should also always lock their car doors each time they get out. In some cases, it’s a good idea to lock the doors when driving along in unfamiliar locations.

These safety tips that will provide both the caregiver and the aging relative with peace of mind as they continue to age in place.


Health Tips For Preventing Falls In The Elderly

Because falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the elderly, it is crucial that steps are taken to prevent both falls and the health issues that could lead to a fall. It’s also estimated that close to three million people, aged 65 and older, are treated in the emergency room for falls annually.

Death rates from falls in the elderly rose more than 55% between 1993 and 2003 and that could be because people are living longer, living alone, and are more frail, all factors which increase the likelihood of falls. One of the main reasons cited for admission into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because of a fall.

As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remain cognizant of the most common reasons the elderly suffer a fall, they are:

  • Medications that can cause disorientation, sleepiness or sleeplessness and dizziness
  • Visual impairment caused  by cataracts or glaucoma
  • Cognitive impairments caused by either Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Balance issues which could be caused by mobility issues, loss of muscle strength or diminished      flexibility
  • Blood sugar or blood pressure issues that could lead to dizziness upon standing

If your relatives are determined to remain independent and age in place, there are steps they can take, and you can help them with, to make that a possibility. Here are some steps you can take to help them avoid a fall and help maintain a stronger body:

  • Eating a balanced diet and drinking milk or getting calcium or Vitamin D from the foods they eat will help keep their bones strong.
  • Bone-strength building exercises such as walking, dancing, aerobic exercise or resistance training helps build both bone and muscle strength. You should check with their physician first to see if they are healthy enough to undertake an exercise routine. Even if your elderly relatives use a walker or a cane they can still become more active simply by getting up and moving every hour.
  • Balance can be improved by practicing yoga and daily stretches
  • Annual hearing and vision exams will detect any issues before they cause a trip or fall accident.
  • Ask the pharmacist whether any of the medications they take can cause any dizziness issues, especially when used in combination with each other.
  • Avoid using alcohol as it can interact with medications and add to drowsiness or dizziness

As part of your elderly relatives aging in place, make certain the home has been age-proofed to prevent trips or falls. Here are some measures to take:

  • Make certain hallways and closets are well lit. Install motion sensor lights with timers that will turn on and off upon entering or leaving a room.
  • Keep all walkways clear of clutter and power cords
  • All rugs should be secured to the floor with non-slip tape
  • A lamp should be next to the bed where it can be easily reached during the night. A touch lamp is a great option and prevents having to fumble around in the dark to find the switch.
  • All stairways should be in good repair and should have non skid treads on them.
  • Handrails should be installed on all stairways and even next to the toilet.
  • Grab bars should be installed in the shower and bathtub.
  • The bathroom should also have non skid rubber floor mats to prevent stepping onto a wet floor.
  • Put items that you use regularly within easy reach. Waist height is ideal placement for items in the kitchen and bathroom.

Helping your elderly relatives age-in-place if a gift for all family members. You can also help your relatives remain independent by offering them a home medical alert device. These devices can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a trip or fall or other health emergency.

Five Areas Of Concern For Families With Aging Relatives

Remaining independent and aging in place is usually a goal for all adults. Being able to live in the family home and take care of the finances and other household chores is important for both mind and body for the aging senior and their adult children. There may come a time though when the adult children begin to notice signs that their parents are unable to live alone and steps must be taken.

The steps don’t necessarily need to be as drastic as downsizing to a retirement home, but could be as simple as equipping the home with a medical monitoring device. These devices help seniors remain independent for much longer because they not only offer peace of mind but provide access to medical care at the push of a button.

Here are five warning signs that adult children should be aware of and address:

  • Are the bills delinquent? If there is money available to pay the bills, but they aren’t getting paid on time, there could be any number of reasons. Remaining current on bills, especially the utility bills could mean the difference between having heat and electricity or not. If there has been the loss of one of the spouses, you may find that the deceased spouse had been the one responsible for paying the bills and the remaining spouse is not equipped to take on the role.
  • Are they spending their money wisely? There are many individuals out there who prey on the elderly either by conning them out of their money or by convincing them to buy goods or services that they simply don’t need. Impress upon your aging parents the fact that they shouldn’t buy anything from anyone that is going door-to-door. They should also not fall prey to individuals that call them and ask for their personal financial information.
  • Is the house falling into disrepair or is it becoming cluttered? If your parents were at one time scrupulous about keeping the interior and exterior of the home properly maintained and that is no longer happening, it may mean they are in need of assistance with both inside and outside help. If a family member can’t take on the role of caregiver or maintenance person, you may need to hire an individual to take on the task. Check references before hiring anyone and trusting them with your relatives.
  • Are they making changes to financial accounts? If your parents are opening or closing bank accounts and adding other individuals to these accounts, this should raise a red flag. Also, make certain they are not purchasing or cancelling insurance policies – again these are scams perpetrated on seniors by con artists. There have also been instances where an in-home caregiver has bilked the senior out of funds through fraudulent means. Impress upon your parents the fact that no changes should be made to bank accounts or insurance policies without first talking to family members.
  • Take the time to run an annual (free) credit report on your parents behalf; this is a great way to monitor their credit for unusual activities and make certain they haven’t been the victim of any identity theft.

It may not be an easy conversation to have with your aging parents as they will want you to believe they are still able to live independently, but if you let them know you’re concerned, chances are you can have an open and honest conversation about their finances and living arrangements.  As long as they are aware that you have their best interests at heart, they will be forthcoming.

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Volunteering Is Good For Your Health And Well-Being

Studies show that individuals who remain active and involved have an improved brain function and an overall sense of well-being. For many individuals, retirement brings with it a wealth of free-time but may also bring a feeling of being disconnected. Because people spend so many years juggling family, careers and other daily responsibilities, the downtime associated with retirement may lead to despair and depression. A way to combat this lack of purpose that comes with retirement is by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are myriad and include the sense of well-being from helping others as well as having a sense of purpose cannot be discounted.

Some of the benefits of volunteering include:

  • Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s: Because volunteers feel a greater satisfaction with their lives and have a higher quality of life than those who don’t volunteer, the risk of Alzheimer’s can be lessened.
  • Lower rate of mortality: Getting up and out of the house on a semi-regular basis not only benefits the charity or place they volunteer but it also benefits him or her by keeping them active, social and engaged in the community.
  • Keeping bones and joints strong. UCLA researchers found that “productive activities” could prevent the onset of frailty, a condition marked by low energy, low strength, weight loss and lowered physical activity. Reducing the impact of frailty could help a senior avoid a trip or fall accident which befalls many seniors over the age of 65.
  • Brain function improvements: Seniors that participate in activities remain more alert and cognizant and this can help them age in place for more years than those who don’t participate in outside activities.

In addition to the benefits listed, volunteering offers immediate satisfaction by imparting a sense of accomplishment, purpose, enhanced social skills and helping by staying connected and involved. As a caregiver it may be a good idea to discuss the possibility of volunteering with the seniors in your life. Help them find an organization that is a good fit for their skills and abilities. Helping keep them active will enhance their ability to remain active and enable them to live independently.

Can Your Parents Live Independently?

There will likely come a time when your elderly parents can no longer care for themselves and when it does, it’s a time filled with some difficult decisions. You will have to determine whether they can continue to age at home or if they need an assisted living facility. Taking their needs into consideration as much as possible is something that the family will want to do, but safety and security needs to be your primary motivating factor in making decisions for and with them.

Moving out of the family home may not a decision welcomed by your parents and can oftentimes generate sadness on the part of the entire family.  It’s a big change, after all!

When making a determination on whether your parents can remain at home there are myriad factors to take into consideration including:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Financial issues
  • Assisted living facilities in your community
  • Senior citizen/elderly programs available in community
  • Family ability to help out and care for them in their home

If your family decides that your aging relatives can continue to live at home, you may need to consider hiring an in home healthcare aide. If someone can come to the home two or three hours a day it will not only provide a chance for outside conversation but a healthcare aide can see to your parent’s hygiene and even help with light housekeeping and cooking meals. If you have enough siblings or other family members in the area, ask if they would be willing to share in the duties of taking care of them.

To further extend the amount of time your elderly relatives can live independently you should consider equipping their home with a home medical monitoring device from LifeFone. These services provide a medical alert pendant to wear at all times. In the event of a medical emergency or a slip or fall, all they need to do is press the button on the medical alert pendant or bracelet and a signal is sent to the home base medical monitoring system and emergency medical personnel will be dispatched and/or phone call made on their behalf.

In addition to asking your aging relatives what they want to do, you need to do an assessment of their independent living skills. These skills include: shopping, taking care of bill paying, cooking, keeping up with personal hygiene, light housekeeping, etc.

Be observant when interacting with your relatives, notice if there are particular tasks that they can no longer perform, look for lapses in memory, are they eating properly, are they getting forgetful when it comes to taking medications or scheduling doctor’s appointments. Can they still safely operate a vehicle on their own?

Talk with your aging parents and have an honest conversation with them on what you’ve seen and what they feel they can still do on their own. Chances are, you might not need to hire a full time caregiver but you and your siblings may be able to meet their needs. You will need to realize that there will likely come a time when they can no longer live independently and when that time comes, you and siblings need to be prepared. Looking into assisted living situations should be done while you have the leisure time to find one that will suit their needs—it’s not a decision you want to make in a panic. Keep in mind, too that once they move into an assisted living facility, their home medical alert device can move right along with them to add to their peace of mind and help add an additional layer of protection and security.