Veteran’s Benefits for Elderly Care

An elderly, retired marine salutes during a ceremony honoring veterans.

At Maplewood Senior Living we are honored to support many residents who are veterans. Each year we honor the sacrifices they made to protect America with special ceremonies held in celebration of Veteran’s Day across our communities.

Throughout the year we also host a number of educational events aimed at educating veterans and their families about a variety of benefits that are available to them. According to the U.S. Census brief, there are more than 12.4 million veterans aged 65 and older. However, nearly 69% of veterans aren’t aware of the many benefits available to them in their later years. Many of these veterans, most of whom served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and during the Persian Gulf War, are eligible for financial and health-related benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you or your loved one is a veteran, there’s no better time to review Veteran’s benefits for elderly care.

What Services are Available for Veterans?

There are a number of different benefits that may be beneficial to aging veterans, depending on their needs and current living situations. Here are some of the most common benefits used by older veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

• Disability Compensation- Veterans who develop a disease or injury during active military service can be eligible for a tax-free monetary benefit. Those who experience post-service disabilities that are related to the circumstances of their service could also be considered for this financial compensation.

• Pension- A pension is available for older adults aged 65 and older who need assistance with their financial responsibilities and meet net worth limitations.

• Health Care- While many older adults choose to enroll in Medicare, health care plans are available for older adults through the Department of Veterans Affairs. This can assist with specialty appointments, home health care, and medical equipment.

• Insurance- Veterans are eligible to convert their pre-existing Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance policy to a Veteran’s Group Life Insurance policy. This allows veterans to keep their life insurance benefit after they’ve departed from their service.

• Burial- Veteran families are also eligible to receive compensation for funeral expenses. Depending on the situation of each individual, the VA has different levels of compensation available.

Aid and Attendance Benefits for Veterans

While there are many different services available to veterans, one of the most popular benefits amongst older veterans is the Aid and Attendance benefit. For those who are eligible, the Aid and Attendance benefit includes an increased monthly pension. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this benefit is designed to help those who meet one of the following conditions:

• Those who need help with basic daily tasks, such as eating, bathing, dressing, or using the restroom
• Those who are bedridden and non-weight bearing
• Those who are residents in a nursing home because of a physical or mental incapacity such as Alzheimer’s and dementia
• Those who have severe visual impairments including a limited eyesight corrected to 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less
• Those who are housebound, meaning they are substantially confined to an immediate premises because of a permanent disability

Basic Requirements

In addition to meeting certain health conditions, in order to be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, veterans must also meet at least one of these requirements to qualify.
• Be 65 or older with no or limited income
• Have a permanent of total disability
• Receive Supplemental Security Income
• Receive Social Security Disability Insurance
• Reside in a nursing home

Financial Requirements

According to Veteran Aid, in December 2018 the Department of Veterans Affairs set a financial cap for all veterans applying for A&A (Aid and Attendance). This means that all eligible applicants must have a net worth of no more than $123,600, not including automobiles, personal effects, and place of residence. To ensure this, the VA will review three years worth of financial documents to make sure no assets were sold or gifted in order to reduce the net worth below the eligibility limit. In addition to an upper net worth limit, the VA also introduced a limit on monthly countable income, minus expenses like medical bills, prescription costs, and Medicare insurance premiums.

Service Requirements

In collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress defines the wartime dates used to decide if a veteran is eligible for Aid and Attendance. In order to qualify, veterans must have served during one of the following wartime dates:
• World War II between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946
• The Korean Conflict, June 27, 1950- January 31, 1955
• Vietnam between February 1961 and May 7, 1975
• Gulf War between August 2, 1990 through a date to be determined in the future

Health Care Veterans Benefits for Elderly Care

As veterans age, many of them will require healthcare support and assistance from the VA. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of offerings and services available to veterans.

Geriatrics Programs

The VA has established geriatrics programs to support chronically ill veterans and their caregivers. As they move up the continuum of care, their needs will also change, requiring the services of some or all of the geriatrics and extended care services. Here are some of the following programs available for veterans:
• Adult Day Health Care
• Community Residential Care
• Geriatric Evaluation and Management
• Geriatric Primary Care

Residential Settings and Nursing Homes

Many older veterans require either long-term care or daily care assistance. The VA has established a variety of senior living options for veterans such as, community residential care, medical foster homes, adult family homes, and assisted living. While all veterans are eligible for this benefit, they must have a clinical need for it and live in an area where the service is provided.

Homemaker and Home Health Aide

These services provide in-home support for veterans who wish to stay at home but need assistance with basic daily functions. Services provided by public and private agencies are available for veterans who qualify for assistance. Caregivers and home health aides help with bathing, dressing, fixing meals, and taking medications. This service is especially beneficial to veterans who might be experiencing isolation or neglect.

Showing Support for Veterans at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we celebrate all veterans and their service to our country. Our senior living services and programs allow all residents and veterans to experience a high-quality of life while receiving the care they require. To learn more about our programs and facilities, please connect with us.

How Much Do You Know About the Health of Your Aging Parents?

As the baby boomer population begins to reach and surpass the age of 65, their adult children find themselves more concerned with the health of their aging parents than ever before. According to an article published by U.S. News, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is age 65 or older, and that proportion is predicted to increase to 18 percent by 2030. As the baby boomers continue on in their retirement years, many of them will require additional care, either in their homes or at a retirement community. While some adult children act as their parent’s caregivers, many of them are navigating changes in their parent’s health from afar.

While caregiving has its challenges, so does maintaining a long-distance relationship with an aging parent. It’s not uncommon for adult children to be surprised with their parent’s condition after going a long period of time in between visits. It’s especially common for an adult child to wonder why their parent never asked for help. While navigating senior health is different for every family, there are a few common themes to keep in mind.

Senior Health: Why Your Aging Parents Aren’t Asking for Help

It’s normal for older adults to experience signs of aging like stiff joints and or muscle weakness. However, after time these aging-related symptoms can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. While it might seem obvious to ask for help, there are a number of reasons your aging parents might not be telling you the whole truth about the state of their health:

They are experiencing cognitive changes
If your parent is developing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they might not realize that their health and safety are being compromised. In addition, it’s not uncommon for adults experiencing cognitive changes to hide their symptoms from their loved ones, especially their children.

They are in denial
We are hard-wired to be able to rationalize any situation. Even if your parent is experiencing changes in their health, they might be in denial that there’s actually a problem. For example, if your parent is having more trouble driving than normal, it’s not uncommon for them to blame others around them.
They are afraid of losing their independence
You parent might be nervous about the consequences their declining health will have on the quality of their life. They might fear losing their homes, their cars, and their overall autonomy.

Senior Health: How to Recognize Problems

If you do notice a health decline in your aging parent, or are unsure if what you’re seeing is a normal sign of aging, here is a list of warning signs to look for published by the Mayo Clinic:

• Your aging parent might be experiencing memory loss if they ask the same questions repeatedly without remembering the answer. If you notice bills going unpaid, rotting food in the refrigerator, or if your parent is forgetting their weekly routine, like going to a workout class or regular appointment, they could be displaying signs of cognitive decline.

• Losing weight without trying to could be a sign that something isn’t right at home. Weight loss could be attributed to loss of dexterity resulting in the inability to cook for themselves, loss of appetite and energy, or difficulty getting to and from the grocery store.

• A lack of energy or depressed behavior is a sign that your parent might be having a problem. If you notice your parent has stopped talking about their friends or hobbies, you might consider asking them about it or approaching their healthcare provider with your concern.

• Losing balance is common in older adults. However, if you notice excessive bruising and scraping, it could indicate that your parent has been falling and should be examined for a balance or mobility problem.

• Your aging parent might be having trouble taking care of themselves if you notice a lack of hygiene, like bathing and brushing teeth. In addition, if you notice your parent is neglecting housework or doing laundry, these could be signs of cognitive decline or other health concerns.

Senior Health: What’s Next?

Knowing how to react once you’ve noticed a decline in your parent’s health can be extremely challenging. Fortunately, the National Institute on Aging published a variety of steps you can take to ensure your parent’s wellbeing, no matter the distance.

Assess your aging parent’s needs
Most importantly, you should start with assessing your parent’s most immediate need. You might consider assessing their current situation by asking questions like, “where can my parent use the most support?” or “how can mom or dad use support while completing basic daily tasks?” Starting here can help guide your next steps.

Communicate strategically
Navigating the health concerns that can come with aging is scary for everyone involved, including your parent. It’s important to communicate in a way that will be well received. Take into account your parent’s cognitive situation and plan your conversation from there. Always remember to reassure your parent that the conversation is stemming from a place of love and concern.

Address any safety issues
When it comes to monitoring your parent’s health, their safety is definitely a priority. If your parent is still living alone, you might consider evaluating their home for fall-risks and ensure they have the proper tools, like safety bars in the restroom.

Explore your options
Once you’ve determined your parent’s needs, the next step is to explore all of your senior health options. Whether this means researching nearby assisted living or memory care communities or looking for in-home help, it’s important to do your research before making a decision.

Explore Options for Aging Parents at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know you want the best for your aging parents. That’s why we offer care and support for every stage of life, ensuring your loved ones live a high-quality life throughout their retirement years. If you’re still unsure of your parents’ health needs, you might consider taking this quiz, or reach out to one of our staff members to learn more about our communities.

Long-Term Care Insurance: Do I Need It?

 Access to affordable and high-quality healthcare is a priority for many people, especially as we age. While we do have access to testing and tracing family health history, knowing exactly how you will age is a bit of a mystery. That’s where long-term care insurance comes into the picture. Long-term care insurance helps older adults pay for healthcare options such as assisted living, skilled nursing, and specialized care and caregivers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 70% of people age 65 and older will require long-term care at some point in their retirement, and more than 40% will require skilled nursing care.

Long-term care insurance allows older adults access the care they need without depleting their savings account in order to pay for it. However, just like automobile insurance, long-term care insurance policies don’t reimburse you if you don’t use your coverage. Long-term care insurance helps protect your assets and can give you great coverage if you need it. However, it’s important to do your research before you buy a plan.

What’s Covered Under Long-Term Care?

While traditional senior healthcare insurance policies help pay for immediate medical expenses, such as a doctor’s visit or a surgery, long-term care policies cover basic needs over an extended period of time. This is important especially for people who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and need help with everyday tasks.
Whether you need coverage at home or in an assisted living setting, long-term care insurance covers out-of-pocket expenses, but usually require a certain waiting period until your benefits begin to cover those costs. Most policies are comprehensive which means they cover you in a variety of settings. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, here’s what you can expect to find in your long-term care insurance:

• Adult day service centers
• Hospice care
• Respite care
• Assisted living facilities
• Nursing homes
• Specialized care facilities, such as Alzheimer’s care
• Skilled nursing
• Occupational, speech, and physical therapy
• Personal care assistance

Cost of Long-Term Senior Care

This is where the debate on whether or not to buy long-term care insurance can get controversial. In general, the cost of senior care is very expensive. There’s no exception when it comes to long-term care insurance, and it gets more expensive the longer you wait to purchase a policy.

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a policy can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $7,500 depending on your situation:
Age 55 (single)
An average cost of insurance for a person in this situation, depending on where they live and their current health condition, can start at $1,764 and go as high as $3,446 per year. However, as you age the value of your policy’s coverage also increases. With an immediate value of $170,000, a policy could reach $418,000 by the time you reach the age of 85.
Age 55 (couple)
Essentially, the price for a couple in this situation would double in cost, rising from $1,764 and going from anywhere between $2,027 and $3,574.
Age 60 (couple)
Depending on the insurance provider, long-term care can cost a 60 year old couple anywhere from $2,700 to $4,204 with an average price of $3,335. You could expect to see a policy value of $708,000 by the time you are 85 years old.
Age 65 (couple)
A couple who waits until they are both at the age of 65 can expect to see long-term care insurance as expensive as $7,129, with an average cost of $4,433. At the age of 85, the value would be estimated at $611,000.
Why is it so expensive?
Simply put, long-term care insurance is costly because providing it can be risky for an insurer. Predicting the complexity and the duration of care for an insured individual is extremely difficult. On average, someone who lives in a private room in a nursing home pays $253 a day, averaging $92, 345 a year.
When should I buy?
If long-term care insurance is a good option for you, it’s best to sign up for it by the time you are 60 years old. This way, coverage for your care is there when you need it, and premiums are generally lower the younger you buy. However, if you never medically qualify for care, you do not get reimbursed.

Alternatives to Long-Term Care

If you decide that long-term care insurance isn’t a good fit for you, there are some senior healthcare alternatives available that could give you the coverage you’re looking for. You might consider these other options to help inform your decision-making process:
• Whole life insurance policies with a chronic illness rider are becoming more popular amongst older adults. With this option, if you do need long-term care insurance, you can use your death benefit to cover your expenses, tax free. If you don’t need to cash in on long-term care, your beneficiaries can receive your benefit at the time of your death.

Critical care or critical illness insurance offers lump-sum payments to people who are diagnosed with life-altering illnesses such as cancer or who suffer a heart-attack or stroke. However, you should do your research before buying this type of senior healthcare coverage to see how long your coverage lasts and how much it will cover.

• Most short-term care insurance plans will cover long-term care for a specified amount of time, usually between 180 and 360 days. This is great for people who are predicted to recover from their illness or disease. This will decrease the cost of your premium since there is a fixed amount of time you can receive long-term care.

Navigating the Cost of Senior Care with Maplewood Senior Living

Navigating healthcare for your later years can be difficult no matter your circumstance. Remember that if you currently have a long-term care insurance policy, they are all different. At Maplewood Senior Living, we understand the complexity of these decisions, and offer our support in many different ways. We are happy to review your policy with you and help determine what is covered for assisted living. If you’re interested in learning more about your options, please don’t hesitate to call us or schedule a tour.

Medicare Open Enrollment for Senior Living

Learn more about Medicare enrollment how the coverage can help seniors cover medical costs.

Many older adults do their best to financially plan for their retirement. However, senior care is enough to break any budget, especially when unexpected illnesses are involved. That’s why many adults choose to take advantage of Medicare coverage, a national, government-funded health insurance that’s available to adults aged 65 and older.
Medicare coverage allows adults to reduce their risk of high out-of-pocket costs by taking advantage of free preventative services while shopping around for what best suits their needs. With open-enrollment right around the corner (October 15th through December 7th), it’s important to do your research before choosing a Medicare enrollment plan.

What Do I Need to Know about Medicare Coverage?

Depending on the plan and the parts of Medicare you are signing up for, the enrollment periods can be different. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have a wide variety of resources available on their website. Here’s what they say about the different Medicare enrollment periods.

Initial Medicare Enrollment
This period is for enrollment of parts A and B (see below). Adults are eligible to enroll three months before the month of their 65th birthday and three months after. However, those who are already taking their Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in parts A and B.

General Medicare Enrollment
Don’t worry if you miss out on initial enrollment. General enrollment for parts A and B allow adults to enroll from January 1 to March 31 each year. However, just be aware that the longer you wait, the more you have to pay in premiums. It’s possible that your premiums can increase by 10% or more the longer you wait to enroll.

Annual Medicare Open Enrollment
If you are joining plans or changing parts C and D, you can do so between October 15 and December 7 of each year. This is great for adults whose healthcare needs have changed.

Four Main Parts of Medicare Coverage

There are four main parts that make up a Medicare coverage plan. Within each part there are different options that meet various needs. Adults who are eligible for Medicare are allowed to choose any combination of these plans depending on the coverage they need.
• Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, and home health care. If you’ve paid Medicare payroll taxes for at least 10 years, the cost for this coverage is free, plus deductible.
• Part B includes doctor visits, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventative care. A monthly premium is calculated depending on your yearly earnings, plus a deductible, copay, and coinsurance.
• Part D adds prescription drug coverage to your plan of choice. The cost for Part D includes your monthly premium, deductible, copay, and coinsurance.
• Part C is called Medicare Advantage, which is offered through private insurance companies. You might think of this as an all in one plan that usually bundles parts A, B, and D.

Tips for Enrolling in Medicare

Whether you’re enrolling for the first time or have been covered by Medicare for years, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your plan each autumn season before open enrollment. As you consider your needs for the upcoming year, keep these tips in mind.

Check Changes
Part D, which covers prescription drugs, can change from year to year. This means that medications that were covered previously, might not be covered by your plan the next year. You might consider checking to see if all of your medications will be covered in the coming year. If they aren’t, you can make changes on the Medicare website.

Request Pharmacy Pricing
In our current economic and political climate, pharmacies and the cost of medications can be unpredictable. In order to get the best prices for your medications, you have to do your research. The Medicare website allows you to search your specific prescriptions and pharmacy options.

Purchase a Supplemental Policy
Not all of your medical needs will be covered by Medicare. Many older adults choose to purchase a Medigap supplemental plan to cover the difference. These supplemental plans can cover anything from hearing aids and vision care to international coverage.

Medicare Coverage Advantage Plan
Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and offer comprehensive health coverage. These plans are especially helpful as you age and your healthcare needs begin to increase. They offer greater benefits such as hospital care, dental, hearing, and drug coverage.

Things to Consider About Medicare Coverage

Choosing your Medicare coverage can be a lot to dissect. However, doing your research and thinking about your needs will help you in the long run. Consider using the items below to inform your decision-making process.
Cost- The cost of healthcare coverage can add up quickly. While you’re evaluating your coverage, pay close attention to the cost of each element such as your hospital stays, yearly limits, premiums, and deductibles.

Coverage– Make sure your plan will cover the services you know you will need like medical services and supplies.

Prescription Drugs– If you take medications, you should consider Medicare Part D closely. It can be helpful to ask questions such like, is there a penalty if you join a drug plan after enrollment? What’s your plan’s rating? What are the cost of your prescriptions?

Doctor and Hospitals– If you feel strongly about keeping the same doctors or visiting the same facilities, make sure they are covered by your potential plans. Many plans have restrictions and preferred care providers.

Quality of Care– If you weren’t satisfied with the quality of your care in previous years, you should consider changing plans. If you’re new to Medicare, you can search plan ratings from people with the same coverage.

Travel– If you frequently travel out of the country and need healthcare coverage, a Medicare Advantage might be a good fit. The Original Medicare plans do not cover international travel.

Navigating Your Journey at Maplewood Senior Living

Healthcare coverage is an expensive part of aging. However, Medicare coverage was designed to carry some of the burden so older adults have access to the care and services they need. At Maplewood Senior Living, we know aging can be a challenging journey. We are here for our residents and their families as they face these complex transitions and navigate the costs associated with senior living. To learn more about our communities, don’t hesitate to contact us.Learn more about Medicare enrollment how the coverage can help seniors cover medical costs.

Is it Normal Aging? Knowing the Signs of Dementia

Group of seniors with dementia and caregiver playing with puzzle in retirement home

Our bodies go through a lot of changes as we age. Many people notice changes in their physical capabilities, appearances, and even their cognitive abilities as they age. But, not all of these changes are things to worry about. As we get older, we might experience forgetfulness or minor memory loss and mistake them for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Before you worry about these memory diseases, you should be aware of the normal signs of aging and the signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Typical Age-Related Changes and Memory Loss

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signs of aging can actually start as young as 30 years old. The CDC published a list of ways aging can show up in our bodies.

Bones
Our bodies go through a lot of wear and tear throughout our lifetimes. It’s no surprise that our bones shrink, making them more fragile as we get older. The cartilage that protects our joints from rubbing together can start to wear down, causing pain and stiffness.

Heart and Blood Vessels
The arteries and blood vessels that pump blood to our hearts can stiffen with old age, causing our hearts to work harder. This means that physical activities like walking or climbing stairs can become much more difficult.

Muscles
According to the CDC, our muscles mass actually decreases 3-5% every decade after we reach the age of 30. This will cause the muscles to become less toned, and less able to contract and become more rigid.

Bladder and Bowels
Our bladder and bowel’s ability to stretch and then go back can decrease after time. This can cause more trips to the restroom, constipation, and leakage.

Skin
As we age, our skin can lose its elasticity, causing wrinkles and loose skin. A loss of elasticity can also make the skin more prone to bruising, scrapes, and cuts.

Vision
Aging can cause the lens in our eyes to harden, causing far-sightedness and cataracts. Cataracts can cause blurry vision and even blindness. If you sense any changes in your vision, make sure to consult your doctor right away.

Forgetfulness
It’s normal to experience forgetfulness and mild memory loss with aging, especially as our brain’s processing becomes slower. It’s not uncommon to forget appointments, when bills are due, or where you’ve put your eyeglasses. However, there is a difference between the symptoms of normal aging and the signs of dementia.

Common Signs of Dementia

Dementia is an overall term given to diseases and conditions involving severe memory loss. While forgetfulness is an expected part of aging, it can often be confused with the symptoms of dementia related diseases. If you’re having trouble differentiating between age-related forgetfulness and dementia, the NIA has published a list of warning signs.

Normal Aging Memory Loss:

  • Sporadic errors in decision-making
  • Occasionally missing payments on a bill
  • Forgetting which day it is
  • Misplacing common items such as keys or glasses

Signs of Dementia:

  • Making poor judgments most of the time
  • Forgetting to pay bills all of the time
  • Forgetting which day it is and being unable to recall it
  • Trouble with communicating needs or wants
  • Misplacing things and forgetting about them

Factors Influencing Memory Loss

While many older adults are affected by dementia, it’s not the only reason for changes in memory. In fact, memory loss can be attributed to a number of different factors.

Medical
Issues with blood flow, such as tumors and blood clots, can cause infections in the brain. Complications with medications, especially when consuming more than one type, can cause memory loss and confusion.

Emotional
We all go through trying times. But, it’s not uncommon to forget the affect they can have on our physical and mental states. Anxiety, depression, and stress can make us feel more forgetful. These symptoms can mirror those that come with dementia.

Genetics
While dementia and Alzheimer’s can be difficult to predict, researchers suggest that those who have a family history of memory disease are at a higher risk of developing a form of dementia themselves.

Cholesterol
High levels of cholesterol could increase your chances of developing dementia. Researchers suggest eating a balanced diet and discussing your heart-health with your healthcare provider.

Symptoms to Watch For

While the severity of dementia can vary in each person, there are some common symptoms that present themselves in dementia patients. The University of California San Francisco published a list of the most common dementia symptoms:

  • Getting lost even in familiar places
  • Asking repetitive questions
  • Unusual behaviors
  • Changes in personality
  • Inability to express feelings and emotions
  • Change in ability to comprehend
  • Forgetting recent events
  • Change in diet and appetite

Approaching a Loved One About Their Symptoms

Starting a conversation with a loved one about their signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be extremely difficult. If your loved one is showing patterns of behavioral change, knowing how they will react to the conversation can be hard to predict. You might consider some following these tips to help guide your conversation:

Plan how you will start the conversation
Starting the conversation can be the hardest part. You might consider starting with, “I’ve noticed some changes in your behavior and I was wondering if you noticed anything too?”

Start the conversation early
You should have this conversation when you start noticing obvious behavioral changes. Approaching this conversation when your loved one’s cognitive function is at its highest will help you make decisions according to your loved one’s wishes.

Know who should be there
If your loved one is especially close with a family member or friend, you might consider asking them to be a part of the conversation.

Offer your support
This can be a scary time for the whole family. Offering your love and support to your loved one can go a long way.

Finding Support in Your Journey at Maplewood Senior Living

Navigating the complexities of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss can be really scary. If you’re still unsure if you’re experiencing the signs of dementia, check out our tip sheet. Our staff and caregivers at all of our Maplewood Senior Living communities strive to give our residents and their families the care and support they need. To learn more about our communities and our wide variety of offerings, schedule a tour or contact us here.

Maplewood Senior Living Walks to End Alzheimer’s

What You Should Know about Alzheimer’s Disease

The month of September is designated as World’s Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just a national problem, it’s a global issue that affects nearly 44 million people worldwide. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a memory disease, under the umbrella of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. As symptoms worsen, Alzheimer’s can ultimately affect a person’s ability to complete basic human tasks like speaking and eating.  The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to rapidly increase in the next 30 years— from 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today to 14 million by 2050. As the threat of the Alzheimer’s epidemic increases, so do campaigns that spread awareness and raise funds devoted to finding a cure. The first step in spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s is to educate people on the causes of the disease.

Contributing Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

While it would be impossible to identify just one cause of Alzheimer’s, researchers and scientists do believe there are a few leading causes of the disease. Some of the causes and factors can’t necessarily be changed, but some of them, like lifestyle and environment, can help inform our daily lives and decrease our chances of being diagnosed. Listed below are the associated causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Age

While most people with Alzheimer’s get diagnosed after the age of 65, 10% of patients are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s between the ages of 30 and 60. Age isn’t directly correlated with the disease, however the risk of being diagnosed doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Family History and Genetics

Adults who have immediate family members with Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk for being diagnosed than compared with families without a history of the disease. Researchers and scientists believe that the risk increases with each family member who has the disease. The reason behind this can possibly be attributed to genetics and environment.

According to the National Institute on Aging, researchers haven’t identified a specific gene known to cause the disease. However, many experts believe that those who carry a form of the APOE gene are more at risk of developing the disease than those who do not.

Environment and Lifestyle

Those who study Alzheimer’s believe there is a connection between the brain and the heart, which can ultimately influence the risk of developing the disease. This means that those who experience high-blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, or heart disease should be aware of the symptoms of the disease and consult with their healthcare provider. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising daily will decrease your risk of heart disease, ultimately decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Brain health is also a factor when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s. Falls and brain trauma are also known to be underlying factors to the disease. Protecting your brain by wearing your seatbelt and decluttering your home to decrease your risk of falling, can help protect you from Alzheimer’s dementia.

Continue reading “Maplewood Senior Living Walks to End Alzheimer’s”

Sparking Creativity

Each year, with the help of the National Center for Assisted Living, we dedicate one week to celebrate the people and residents who make assisted living special. This year’s theme, “A Spark of Creativity” invites us to explore the role of art in senior communities and the way it encourages communication and self-expression. While there are many different forms of creativity, one of the most common amongst the senior population is art therapy. This type of therapy uses art as a way to address specific conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, while gaining healing benefits. As art therapy gains popularity within senior living communities, research suggests that there are benefits for many older adults, not only those who are diagnosed with memory disorders.

Benefits of Art therapy for Older Adults

 Serves as an alternative method of communication

 As adults age, nearly 40% will be diagnosed with an age related memory impairment. When memory impairment worsens, many adults will experience a loss of language or difficulty in recalling words and building sentences. This can make communicating with family and loved ones extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. However, art therapy gives these older adults an alternative way to communicate. The techniques used in art therapy stem from parts of the brain that language and communication do not. Not only does this enable self-expression, but it also enables families to connect to their loved one in new ways.

Improves mood

As we age, we can experience a number of changes in our physical abilities. While many older adults experience a loss of memory, others experience a loss of hearing, low vision, or other physical handicaps that can take away one’s autonomy. Oftentimes, this loss of independence can lead to feelings of depression. Art therapy, however, encourages socialization, reduces boredom and leaves older adults feeling accomplished and proud. As an added bonus, many adults find they have true artistic talent!

Advances cognitive abilities

Many older adults, even those who don’t suffer from memory disorders, lose some of their cognitive abilities as they age. Art therapy, while known for its psychological benefits, can actually improve cognition after time. Many art therapy techniques use sensory items, like holding a paintbrush, or squeezing clay, to complete art projects. These repeated movements can encourage the body to remember basic movements and improve their function.

A way to rediscover yourself

Regardless of memory loss or physical handicaps, the foundation of art therapy encourages older adults to connect to their emotions in ways they haven’t already pursued. By using a different part of the brain, art therapy students are able to express their emotions not only through their completed project, but also within the process. Art therapy goes beyond physical artwork and dives into the importance of self-autonomy. As adults lose their independence, art therapy reinforces their individuality by connecting with their emotions and expressing them though art and motion.

Continue reading “Sparking Creativity”

Live-In Home Care Vs. Assisted Living

We have addressed a number of care levels available to seniors in our recent articles – independent living, assisted living, and private duty caregiving. However, to this point, we’ve not yet mentioned “Live-in Home Care.

Live-in home care is a unique care situation where an agency will provide a person to “live” with your loved one. Of course the appeal with any ‘in-home care’ is that the senior is able to remain in their own home, which is something that appeals to a vast majority of seniors. There are also many things to consider with regard to your loved one’s healthcare needs, and if remaining in their home, even with someone living with them, is the best option. Keep in mind, there are usually quite a few ‘rules’ with agencies who provide ‘live-in’ aides. Some of these include: the caregiver must be able to sleep for a minimum of 8 hours per day, they must be able to have a ‘day off’ every so many days, they must be provided a private area in your loved one’s home where they are able to sleep, dress, etc. There may be other rules involved, but this can vary from one home care provider to the next. You’ll also want to inquire as to how you will be billed for this service.

It is also important to ask key questions before bringing a private duty caregiver into your loved one’s home. Do they background check and drug test their aides? Are the aides bonded and insured by the agency? Are they trained in first aid? How long have they worked for the agency? Can they provide names/contact information of families that have used the service in the past? What is the plan if the aide that is living with your loved one becomes ill and can’t work? What happens if the aide gets injured while on your loved one’s property?  Not all states require home care agencies to obtain a license to go in to business, therefore it is important to do your research before hiring this type of service.

Comparing this level of care to assisted living, where you have access to multiple aides around the clock, many of these single-aide concerns go away. And assisted living guidelines require the aforementioned items such as: drug tests, background checks, worker’s compensation to be submitted/provided to all employees.

If you’re considering either one of these levels of care, we would encourage you to read the following article, with advice from our Maplewood Senior Living Medical Director, Dr. Susann Varano. Also weighing in on this subject is Eleonora Tornatore-Mikesh, Chief Experience and Memory Care Officer at Inspīr, the newest Maplewood Senior Living project, which is underway in Manhattan.

Click here to read the article in US World and News Report by Elaine K. Howeley.

Continue reading “Live-In Home Care Vs. Assisted Living”

Long Distance Caregiving

You may not have anticipated becoming a long-distance caregiver, but if you are helping a loved one that lives more than an hour away, it is a reality. It can be challenging to know how best to help but don’t panic; there are some steps you can take that will make things easier now and down the road.

Make a Plan

This may seem obvious, but it’s an important first step to take, while everyone is cognitively aware. If you are the caregiver for a parent, ask questions now about their healthcare, medications, doctors and any other information that you might need to assist with later on. Take the time to understand and document any desires they may have for today and for future care. Health situations can change quickly, so having your loved one’s details and wishes documented will relieve stress and make decision-making easier.

Get Help

Although an hour may seem like a long distance for some, the reality is that many adult children are acting as caregivers across states. If so, is it imperative to drop everything and jump on a plane to take care of your loved one? Not necessarily. Sometimes leaving your own family and job may not be feasible, even though you want to make sure your parent or family member is being well cared for. If that is your situation, consider hiring a geriatric care manager.

What is a geriatric care manager?

The National Institute on Aging defines a geriatric care manager this way, “A geriatric care manager, usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics, is a sort of “professional relative” who can help you and your family to identify needs and find ways to meet your needs.” Simply put, these professionals can help stand-in for your parent even when you’re not there. Whether helping with complex medical concerns or assessing daily physical and emotional needs, these individuals can care for your loved ones and help you stay connected. They also allow loved ones to maintain independence.

 How Can I Find One?

To find a geriatric care manager, reach out to local senior organizations near where your loved one is living and ask for recommendations. You can also check online at https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx.

Consider Assisted Living

If your loved one needs more dedicated care, you can begin the process of choosing an assisted living community even if you’re not close by. While a visit may be necessary at some point, there are a lot of things you can do to begin the process. Before starting your search, understand your budget, and assess the financial feasibility for any community.

Once costs have been determined, narrow the options down from your initial three to five picks. It’s equally important that care needs are considered along with budget. This can be difficult to do if you are unsure of your parent’s current health considerations and is another area where a geriatric care manager is helpful.

Continue reading “Long Distance Caregiving”

Food for Thought

The culinary experience at Maplewood Senior Living is one that will leave your taste buds craving more. Through partnerships with local farms, and our own farm in Easton, Connecticut, we’re able to provide fresh seasonal produce that our chefs use to create delicious meals morning, noon and night. Because of this, our residents enjoy the vibrant tastes of each season and reap the long list of health benefits that come from eating freshly harvested fruits and vegetable.

We sat down with Mary Ellen Greenfield, Corporate Director of Culinary Services, to learn more about the benefits of utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients and here is what we learned.

Aside from supporting the local economy, sourcing our foods locally allows for produce to arrive at our communities shortly after being harvested. There are a couple of health benefits that come from reducing transport time. The first is a lowered risk of contamination. As food moves across states or changes hands, the possibility of bacteria exposure increases.

Additionally, the more time that passes between the food being collected and being eaten, the more fruits and vegetables lose valuable nutrients. The best time to eat food is right after it’s picked, when the nutritional value is highest. For that reason, transporting food locally, as opposed to across multiple states, can significantly improve the nutritional value to the consumer.

Fresh produce also taste better, which is important for our residents. Appetites often decrease with age, and yet the need for nutrient-rich food remains. We want to provide the best-tasting dishes that our residents are excited to try. With fresh, tasty ingredients, we can offer delicious options, even for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have limited ability to eat a three-course meal.

At Maplewood, our connection to farms, including our own, means we utilize fresh foods that grow naturally for the season. Flavors are richer and nutrient levels are at their highest. This close connection to the supply allows our culinary team to design recipes around the freshest ingredients.

An example of these unique recipes is shared below from Giovanni Dillard, Chef at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. This particular summer kale and carrot salad recipe utilizes kale grown at our Maplewood farm in Easton, Connecticut and is favorite among residents.

Kale and Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

1lb Purple kale

1lb Green kale

2c Golden raisins

4c Shredded carrot

2c Light mayonnaise

2tsp Garlic powder

2tsp Apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Chop kale into bit size pieces. Toss shredded carrot, golden raisins, and kale with light mayo.

Lastly season with garlic powder and apple cider vinegar.

Refrigerate till ready to use to let flavors combine.

Download Recipe: Kale and Carrot Salad Recipe

  Continue reading “Food for Thought”