Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Facing critical decline of geriatricians - how this will impact our aging parents

A recent NY Times article highlights the critical decline of geriatricians.
There are only 300 new geriatricians trained each year. "Yet the number of people over 65 will double in the next 20 years". And, these doctors are the worse paid doctors in health care.

Why is this important to you and your aging parents?
Most elderly persons have multiple health problems, many of which are chronic illnesses. Geriatric doctors (or at least additional geriatric training as part of medical school/professional development) are required. Such training emphasizes the need to spend more time listening to the patient, knowledge of illnesses unique to the aged, coordinated care, and educating/involving the patient's family.

The article describes an attempt to address the shortage with a Baltimore team project in which geriatric-trained nurses help physicians by going into the homes of the most at-risk older adults. "The nurses go to patients’ homes, develop comprehensive care plans, help the patients in self-monitoring, help them overcome obstacles to self-care and connect patients and their families to community agencies." By keeping such patients out of the hospital provides the quality of life we all want for our aging parents, as well as reducing costs for Medicare.

On a personal note...
One of the biggest benefits my mother has experienced in her retirement community is their Wellness Center concept, in which her overall medical health is monitored and comprehensive health record maintained. She is seen by geriatric-trained specialists on-site in this integrated care environment. In just 6 months, we all are amazed at how her health has improved.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if such Elderly Wellness Centers could be established in each community, so those "aging in place" could benefit from the same concept? Does anyone know of such entities?

The complete NYTimes article is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/health/30bbox.html?partner=rss

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas idea if you're apart from your aging parent

This year my mom decided to stay put in her retirement community and spend the time with her friends. I can't make the 600 mile trek back because all of our grown children and grandchildren are uniting at our home.

How can we all stay in touch? Yes, we'll definitely call her and have a nice chat, and stay on the line as she opens the gifts we mailed her.

But, how about giving the gift that keeps giving...after Christmas?

We plan to take all our Christmas photos this year and create a wonderful DVD "photo show" to send to Mom shortly after the holidays. I've created DVDs for her in the past, and they've become a real favorite.

See the site I used: http://www.photoshow.com/home/start
With it, you upload your photos. The free software walks you through the entire process of creating a DVD. You select template, music and can also add titles, transition slides, speed of playback. You can include up to a maximum 150 pictures on each DVD.

Create a DVD and your aging parent will have Christmas memories within a week after Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More great gift ideas for aging parents

This site is sure to have something that will delight your aging parent!
Good news --- there is a Rush order phone number for last minute purchases.

Here are 3 great gift ideas --- found at http://www.goldviolin.com/

1. Check out "HP Printing Mailbox with Presto Service" for reduced price of $50. "You communicate the way you prefer-- by email, and your loved ones get what they want-- printed letters and photos without the learning curve or expense of a computer or Internet connection."
Type "HP Printing Mailbox" in the Search Box of the website.
(Also, here's a helpful link describing how the product works. http://www.presto.com/wip_HowPrestoWorks.aspx)

2. For the garden lover, check out the only garden gloves endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation, "Designed by an orthopedic surgeon to give your hands the padding and support to easily grip tools and handles, while eliminating blisters and hand fatigue". Type "Bionic Garden Gloves" in the Search Box of the website.

3. Check out the category of Gift Ideas/Games. My mother is not a reader but she loves crossword puzzles, Suduko and games of all sorts. Good selection and sale prices!

If you're an AARP member, you get 10% off on purchases (http://www.aarp.org/aarp_benefits/offer_gifts/gold_violin.html)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 10 list - moving into a retirement community

Here is my list of the top 10 changes I saw in Mom after she moved into a retirement community (Fairhaven, Sykesville, MD http://www.fairhavenccrc.org )

It seems like only yesterday, but Mom has now been in her new home/retirement community for 6 months!

For those of you (and your aging parents) who are considering the retirement community option, please read on... my top 10 list:

1. Mom ditched her walker and now enjoys walking with her friends. Not only is this great for her health but also for her spirit!

2. Her doctor has been able to cut back all her medications due to healthier eating, exercise and weight loss. Her doctor is thrilled that she has lost 40 (unhealthy) pounds and she is also proud of her appearance.

3. Mom enjoys and takes advantage of the wide variety of healthy and delicious food served in the dining rooms. They usually have her favorite dessert: sugar-free butter pecan ice cream. This puts a real smile on her face.

4. She proactively sought out the onsite nutritionist to understand what foods and how much she should eat, given her diabetes. In the past, my mother had been passive, letting life happen to her. This is a new and good change for her to start asking for things on her own.

5. She has access to many of her life-long doctors right on site; and the Wellness Center ensures she stays on track with all her check-ups. The only two things she goes off site for is mammogram and her specialist at Johns Hopkins. She likes having the convenience of on-site but also the need to go off-site sometimes.

6. Her mood and outlook on life have gone from sad to joyful. I can hear this even in her conversation. She used to speak in short phrases in a monotone. Now, she sounds like a different person. She articulates, is descriptive in her language and has the cutest lift in her voice.

7. Before moving to the retirement community, her network of friends had dwindled down to two dear ladies who had health problems themselves. She had been housebound due to health problems. Now she has a wonderful new group of friends, who truly look out for each other. She loves to tell me about conversations down in the laundry room...and how their floor has decided to sit together at the New Year's Eve dinner party. Yes, they plan to stay until midnight, partying!!!

8. Her view has now changed from being focused on her ailments to more of a world view. She'd much rather talk to me about the economy, politics or her new friends. She says she takes advantage of every lecture / performance that's offered. She was quite excited about seeing her first opera with sub-titles.

9. There is no longer a threat of her safety (of her falling in her home or on the ice as she walked to her mailbox). And, she feels so much more secure. A presentation was made last week, informing residents of what exactly happened if they had to be taken to the hospital. She said it took all the fear out of an unknown situation.

10. Mom feels respected and loved in a community of her peers. But, she still attends her church and stays in contact with friends, often attending outside lunch events with them. It is important to her to keep her feet in both worlds and stay connected with her community outside.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Launch of new website for Caregivers

I just discovered a new website launched last month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, designed specifically for caregivers. It is estimated there are 1 million long-distance caregivers. We are in need of a place to go for trustworthy information about programs, services and benefits.

This is so much more than just a website. It's an invaluable portal to a wealth of resources. It is definitely worth your time to take a few minutes to look at this site and bookmark it for future reference.

This new "Ask Medicare" website provides easy-to-find links to resources and partner organizations. It includes four content areas:
* Billing (how to read a Medicare summary; how to file a claim, appeal, grievance; how to report fraud
* Navigating Medicare (how to enroll; how to compare drug, health and Medigap plans; how to find in-home services)
* Care Options (how to compare in-home versus nursing home alternatives; how to compare facilities)
* Getting Help -- (their "Caregiving Exchange". How caregivers can get financial help and find local support. Also, included are a list of related message boards, newsletters and stories of other caregivers.)

If you're still reading, don't stop now!!! Click on the following links and view this wonderful resource. Also, take a moment to check out the "Caregiving Exchange" and sign up for their bimonthly newsletter update.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

In honor of Amy Clark's Big Give to the Elkhart IN community

I dedicate this entry to Amy Clark (founder of MomAdvice.com).
She has been working diligently on her "Big Give" for Faith Mission Homeless Shelter in Elkhart, IN.

These are the items she has collected and plans to present this Saturday morning at the Shelter:
1. $7,500 worth of Kenmore appliances
2. 100 welcome kits for residents
3. assorted gloves, hats, clothing....
4. a Nintendo Wii (donated by Amy's family)

See her entire article about this wonderful project -

Amy is indeed a hero and role model for her community....and an angel to the Mission.
Thank you Amy!!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Help your aging parents choose options before crisis strikes

I have read many emails recently in which daughters and sons are trying desperately to find and afford a quality retirement community for their elderly parents. The stories are heart-wrenching. For many, their parents have fallen into frail health; many are at the end of their funds. Options are extremely limited. Everyone struggles and suffers.

So, for all the baby boomers out there, READ THIS!!!

Prepare yourself with education and communication, before your parents encounter a crisis situation. Similar to the way in which you research(ed) all the issues surrounding your children's selection/choice of college, use due diligence as you "partner" with your parents in researching options for their retirement. Bring the issues out in the open, talk about their preferences and perceptions. Oftentimes, we take myth to be fact without investigating. My mother believed she would have to turn over all her money and personal belongings to the retirement community. This is absolutely NOT true.

Yes, our lives are extremely busy. But, when a crisis situation with a parent hits, you will have to act decisively in the best interest of your parent. Know that it will likely be an emotional and exhausting time for everyone involved.

Fortunately my mother recovered from her health crisis last March but we continued to pursue a retirement community option for her. We sat down and talked about how the next crisis might actually prevent her from passing the required physical and psychological exams for getting into independent living in the place of her choice. Facing realism is hard. This is not easy territory to traverse. I helped Mom by listing the pros, the cons and all the factors on a sheet of paper. This helped us take the emotion out of it. We made ourselves think long-term.

So educate yourself now!!

One big lesson we learned was about "Continuing Care Retirement Communities".
If at all possible, seek this out. It is a retirement community for the remainder of one's life, with a choice of services and living situations. Residents can move between independent living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Home care. Your parent would sign a long-term contract that provides for housing, services and nursing care, all in one location. My mother purchased her apartment and her monthly fee will never change (except for small inflation increase) regardless of how much care she needs. She retained total control of all her assets. If she runs out of funds after her life expectancy age is reached, an endowment established by her retirement community will cover all her needs.

The real benefit of a place such as this is that it becomes a wonderful network of support with other residents, extended families of residents and all the staff. Her contract is all-inclusive, including all her meals, medical appointments, cleaning services, etc. My mother calls me every day to share upcoming afternoon and evening activities. She sits in on board meetings and reaches out to other residents in need. It is truly amazing to see her strength and spirit restored.

In looking for a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community), look for these things
1. Find out if the CCCR is accredited by CARF
2. Seek to understand the community's mission
3. Determine if the community will meet your lifestyle and financial situation
4. See if you can spend a night and a day at the site and fully participate in all activities, meals

When you visit, check these things out
1. If your parent has a pet, will it be allowed (my mother loves the many cats and dogs that people have)
2. What kinds of social, cultural activities are offered? Is there bus service to local spots, such as malls, churches, theater?
3. Does your parent like the food? (take advantage of the "free" complimentary meals as you visit these communities)
4. Is the staff responsive and friendly? At my mother's community, every staff member knows every resident's name and addresses each resident. This means so much to my mother.
5. What types of health care services are available on site?

I always felt a sense of joy watching our children launch their careers and raise their families. I get a similar sense of joy now watching my mother "grow and flourish" in her new home. What a legacy we can all leave as our parents age!