The Benefits of Aging in Place

The current and upcoming generations of retirees seek options to enhance their lifestyle choices. While many would prefer to retire in a home where they have lived for decades, living active and independent lives. New options in retirement planning allow seniors to age in place within a retirement community. These communities feature the independence of home but with the reassurance of additional assistance through each phase of aging. Nearly two in 10 Americans aged 70 and older state that they either cannot, or find it difficult, to live independently and accomplish daily tasks without help.

Activities for Everyone

Modern retirement communities can help older adults help themselves. Senior living communities enable their residents to experience a wide range of lifestyle choices. Research has found that active and healthy seniors in assisted living communities went outside more than those living in their own homes and engaged more with their peers. Many who move into a retirement community realize that they are living more independently. With a wide range of dining options and social engagement programs, seniors discover that independence means more than just living outside of a retirement community.

These living communities have common areas to encourage socialization and plan activities and outings for residents. Others who have no desire to socialize, enjoy private living in a home setting where they can have guests at their leisure.

No More Chores

Aside from keeping up with social engagements, a retirement community often takes the burden out of dangerous chores, or just those that become more difficult as we age. While most active seniors are capable of small chores, such as sweeping or changing a light bulb, a retirement community provides a full staff for larger tasks, such as mowing the lawn, clearing gutters, or appliance maintenance. Another benefit of having an entire team within a retirement community is that as a seniors’ ability to accomplish chores deteriorates, there is always someone on hand to provide all levels of assistance, without the senior leaving their home within the community.

While staying in a home where one has lived for thirty or forty years might be comfortable, as we age, it might not be as safe as it once was. Stairs could become more complicated, narrow hallways cannot accommodate walkers, tile floors are slippery, and shelves might be harder to reach. Making home renovations to accommodate our abilities as we age can become costly and overwhelming. When living in a retirement community, these features are built into every home and public area. They include ramps for exterior stairs, wider doorways to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, indoor threshold ramps, slip-proof floors, and safety rails. Residents may also choose to install a walk-in shower or bathtub.

How Can We Help?

Prairie Vista Village offers a high level of service and support for active seniors, those who need a little more assistance, and residents who require a higher level of long-term care. Independent living residents can enjoy a productive and engaging social life while moving at one’s own pace and with full maintenance staff, none of the concerns of traditional homeownership. Our pet-friendly residences feature expansive, light-filled floor plans with full kitchens, in-unit laundry, and complimentary outdoor parking. When residents move into a phase of life that requires more assistance, we offer a higher level of support for those daily activities. We can assist with everything from dressing and bathing to around-the-clock skilled nursing care.

The Levels of Care You Need to Know

By the time you finish this sentence, three older Americans have fallen. And those falls are dangerous. According to the CDC, an adult 65 years or older falls each second, and that is the number one cause of injuries and death from injury among older Americans. The financial impact of those falls is shocking — $67.7 billion by 2020. CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “Older adult falls are increasing and, sadly, often herald the end of independence.”

Whether your loved one lives independently and is in good health or your loved one is showing signs of slowing down, you need to know what levels of care are available for them. Eventually, they will need extra help. Maybe not tomorrow. Or next week. But maybe in a few years, your mom or dad will start to forget basic things like the day of the week or who the United States’ president is. This is why you need to know what kind of assistance is available.

There are generally four levels of care: independent living, assisted living, short-term rehab, long-term care. Because your loved one’s needs will eventually change, you need to know the answers to questions like “What’s included in assisted living?” and “What does the day of an independent living resident look like?” With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to help them make the best decisions for their future.

Keep reading to meet June (an independent living resident), John (an assisted living resident), Linda (a short-term rehab resident), and Roger (a long-term care resident).

Independent Living

A Day in the Life — June Wessell, 77 years old

June and her dog, Lady, live in a 1-bedroom apartment inside a senior living community, and her days begin at 7 a.m. After sipping coffee on her small patio, June takes her dog on a walk. During the spring, they walk outside. But if snow is on the ground, they stay indoors. As she passes her neighbors, she often stops to chat about yesterday’s events and the day’s activities. When the two-mile walk is over, June and Lady take a quick break in their apartment before the chapel Bible study at 10 a.m.

At lunch, June sits in her usual seat with her four closest community friends. They reminisce about the good ole days —5¢ Coke drinks and drive-in movies.

At 2 p.m., June listens to a local school’s choir in her community’s event room. Later that afternoon, her two grandchildren visit, and they play their favorite board game Monopoly.

After dinner, June and Lady enjoy reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy before starting the bedtime routine at 8:30 p.m.

The Basics

As you can see from June’s story, independent living residents don’t need any assistance with daily activities. They’re able to exercise, cook, and do anything they want to do all on their own. Most independent living communities offer many activities and encourage their residents to maintain an active lifestyle. With minimal housekeeping and no internal or external maintenance responsibilities, independent living residents can maximize their retirement by not being bogged down with the inconvenient tasks of homeownership.

Since these private living spaces are for older adults who don’t require assistance, you’ll find amenities like a washer and dryer, patio, and a full-service kitchen just like you would find in a small apartment.

Also, independent living residents are typically offered:

  • Restaurant-style lunch & continental breakfast
  • Emergency response pendant system
  • Transportation to scheduled activity outings
  • All-inclusive utilities (except phone)
  • Washer and dryer
  • Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
  • Weekly housekeeping
  • Storage unit
  • Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
  • Full kitchen with modern appliances
  • Daily activities

A Word from a Team Member

Chelsea Freie, the marketing director at Terrace Glen Village, says, “Our independent living residents are full of energy and always involved in community events. Many of them do some of our best marketing work by telling their friends about us because they love living here. Occasionally they’ll need assistance when their television stops working or a light bulb that needs replacing is out of reach. But, for the most part, they live their own lives and have a lot of activities outside of this community.”

To learn about independent living options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.

Assisted Living

A Day in the Life — John Greene, 89

In his 553 sq. ft., 1-bedroom apartment, John begins each day by watching the morning news. Sometimes he forgets where he last placed the remote so when a nurse checks in on him every morning, they help John find it. He eats breakfast in the assisted living dining room and usually eats cheerios, yogurt, or scrambled eggs.

John loves the morning activities so you can typically find him in the activity room making a new knickknack or craft. At lunchtime, a certified medication aide helps John take his diabetes medicines with the appropriate amount of liquids and food. In the afternoon, John rides to his doctor’s apartment via the community bus where he and the bus driver usually have the same conversation each trip.

Throughout the day, John keeps his emergency response pendant system around his neck in case he needs immediate help because he does struggle with dementia. While he’s out of his apartment, community team members go into his apartment and wash his clothes, replace the linens, and clean and dust. John needs assistance bathing and dressing so a nurse always helps him take care of those needs.

The Basics

Assisted living residents need some help with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and taking the right medications at the right times. Although these residents are given more assistance than independent living residents, they’re still encouraged to be as independent as possible.

Most communities offer the following amenities for assisted living residents:

  • Spacious 1- or 2-bedroom apartments
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Emergency response pendant system
  • Wellness checks and a service plan supervised by a registered nurse
  • Kitchenette with a refrigerator and a microwave
  • Transportation to scheduled activity outings and appointments
  • All-inclusive utilities ( (except phone)
  • Weekly housekeeping, laundry, and linen services
  • Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
  • Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
  • Daily activities

A Word from a Team Member

Jill Lamb, the marketing director at Colonial Village, says, “Some of our most active residents live in the assisted living part of our campus. Just because they need help with a few tasks doesn’t mean they aren’t active and engaged. If you’re thinking about moving your loved one into an assisted living community, don’t think you would be limiting their independence. In an assisted living community, they have more independence with a team member’s help, and they can enjoy life more.”

To learn about assisted living options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.

Short-Term Rehab

A Day in the Life — Linda Blackburn, 58

Linda lives in a three-story house with her husband of 31 years, but she fell and broke her leg while walking down the front porch steps on an icy day. So after successful surgery, Linda was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in hopes to return home within a few weeks. At this facility, Linda works through physical therapy each day with a licensed physical therapist. She receives three daily meals and is visited by the community medical doctor each week.

Since this facility is Medicare-approved and certified, Linda will only pay for her stay after the 20th day (as long as she is making progress). After five weeks of slow and steady improvement, Linda returned home.

The Basics

While the above example is very specific, short-term rehabilitation offers other kinds of therapy like occupational and speech therapy. Each therapist works with the patient on their specific needs and goals because everyone’s rehab situation is different.

Most communities offer the following amenities for short-term rehab residents:

  • Private, semi-private, enhanced semi-private rooms
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Daily activities
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Individually tailored goals

A Word from a Team Member

Judy Baxter, the marketing director at Westchester Village of Lenexa, says, “I’m so thankful our community offers short-term rehabilitation because I am inspired by those who work hard in their therapy to eventually return home. The nice thing about a continuing care retirement community where short-term rehab is included is that an independent living resident who might fall and break a bone can receive rehab right down the hall — they don’t have to worry about moving to a new community because it’s all under one roof.”

To learn about short-term rehab options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.

Long-Term Care

A Day in the Life — Roger Hutchins, 84

Roger’s stroke made daily tasks like showering, trips to the restroom, eating, and changing clothes especially difficult. His stroke also worsened his Alzheimer’s symptoms. So Roger’s family moved him to a long-term care facility where the staff could give him 24-hour skilled nursing care. Each day, Roger uses their help to eat, bathe, and change clothes.

His favorite part of the day is the afternoon walk in the courtyard. A nurse will help Roger transfer to a wheelchair, and Roger is pushed through the courtyard for about 20 minutes. The facility does a great job scheduling events for their long-term care residents, and Roger enjoys those events every day before dinner. He especially loves listening to the local elementary school choir sing holiday songs each December.

The Basics

Long-term care is for those who are unable to perform daily activities on their own like eating, bathing, dressing, etc. Ultimately, the purpose of long-term care is to help the resident maintain their lifestyle as they age. Medicare usually does not cover long-term care costs.

Most communities offer the following amenities for long-term care residents:

  • Private, semi-private, enhanced semi-private rooms
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Daily activities
  • Electronic medical charting
  • Enclosed courtyard

A Word from a Team Member

Summer English, the marketing director at Northridge Village, says, “Even though our long-term care residents need a lot of assistance in their daily lives, they still share so much joy. They teach me each day how to enjoy life to the fullest.”

To learn about long-term care options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.

5 Things To Do For A Happy Thanksgiving with Dementia

Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and share a meal, to reminisce about old memories and make new ones. However, when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, some past family traditions might cause anxiety and confusion for a loved one, not to mention the additional stress put on a caregiver. Here are some tips to make your holiday celebrations more enjoyable for your loved one, as well as the entire family.

1. Arrange A Quiet Space

Your loved one with dementia can become easily confused and anxious with a crowded space and relatives that may now be unfamiliar to them. Make sure they have a quiet space away from the holiday commotion if they become overwhelmed or exhausted with the day’s activities. If possible, try to host your holiday in a familiar home and reduce travel. Ask that family members come to the home of your loved one or their caregivers. If your loved one resides in a long-term care facility, consider bringing a bit of Thanksgiving to them, instead of checking them out to travel to a relative’s home that they may not be entirely familiar with.

2. Involve Friends & Family

You might have guests in the home who are not aware of the current situation with a family member with Alzheimer’s. It’s important to make everyone who will be joining you for the day aware of your loved one’s condition and status, especially if it is a new diagnosis or their condition has progressed greatly since the last time everyone was together. The added stress of planning Thanksgiving festivities can take a toll on a caregiver. Take advantage of the additional family members in the home for the holiday. Delegate tasks, like cooking or setting up for the meal to other family members to lighten your workload. Or come up with activities for family members to participate in with your loved one with dementia, so the sole responsibility of looking after them doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of one person for the day.

3. Celebrate Earlier in the Day

As the day transitions from afternoon to evening, it can have negative effects on those living with dementia. This is known as Sundown syndrome, which can manifest itself in a variety of behaviors, like anger or confusion. One way to reduce its effect on your day is to schedule your primary Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day. If you’ve always celebrated at dinner time, consider moving your holiday meal to lunch or brunch. Not only will this reduce added stress for your loved one, it might even create a new holiday meal tradition.

4. Find Ways to Engage Your Loved One with Dementia

Depending on their mental capacity and physical ability, find small tasks for them to focus on throughout the day. There is much to be done when preparing a large family meal, and there should be some small task for everyone, including your loved one. Can they stir the potatoes? Set the table? Keeping them busy with a familiar task can help calm them down and distract from the unfamiliar aspects of the day. If the usual Thanksgiving preparation tasks aren’t possible for your loved one, establish new traditions that will make them comfortable or reduce their stress level. Have everyone share memories from past holidays, engaging your loved one about what they remember from growing up, or previous celebrations. Look at old photo albums and ask them questions about the past. It’s important to remember to be an active and engaged listener in these situations. Do not interrupt or correct them if they don’t remember the exact version of past events or repeat themselves.

5. Forget the Pressure of the Perfect Holiday

Maybe Thanksgiving this year doesn’t look like it always has, but that’s okay. Your family might not look like it always has either. Instead of focusing on what is different about this year, or how you might be moving away from past traditions, focus on the new traditions you can create.

Traditions and delicious food aside, what Thanksgiving truly comes down to is gratitude and spending time with family and friends, which can be accomplished a variety of ways. It’s important for family to celebrate and not focus on what might have been lost, but instead to celebrate what remains, and remain optimistic about what is to come. If you or someone you know finds themselves struggling with the holiday and caring for a loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association has a helpline that is staffed by clinicians all day, every day (yes, even on Thanksgiving) who can offer support. The number is 800-272-3900.

5 Warning Signs of Dementia You Need To Know

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5 Warning Signs of Dementia You Need To Know

How to tell if your memory loss is normal or a sign of Alzheimer’s

The term “senior moment” was aptly coined because the truth is we get forgetful as we age. This is a completely normal part of being an aging human, and shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern. Unless memory loss is extreme or persistent, it is not considered a sign of Alzheimer’s.

It’s important to remember that memory loss can be caused by numerous situations and diseases. Even if you aren’t concerned its dementia, it could be worth chatting with a doctor to see if your memory loss is a symptom of something treatable.

Common causes of memory loss in seniors include:

  • Aging – change of hormone levels, physical deterioration, decreased blood flow
  • Medication side effects
  • Stroke
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Nutritional deficiency

If you’ve ruled out the above but can’t shake the feeling your memory loss is more serious than simple aging, keep reading. We’ve compiled 5 of the most common signs of dementia. Hopefully, this list will put you at ease, but if the more severe examples sound like you or a loved one, it is a good idea to meet with a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

 

Potential Warning Signs of Dementia:

1) Memory loss that impedes function in daily life

Short term memory loss, misplacing objects, and struggling to complete everyday tasks can all be signs of dementia.

Aging seniors sometimes find themselves forgetting the name of a person they just met, losing their keys, or fumbling with their internet browser because they’ve forgotten how it works.

With normal forgetfulness, these memories will come back to you later once you’ve retraced your steps or jogged your memory with a sticky note.

There is cause for concern, however, if you are consistently finding yourself forgetting details about your life or how things work. People who have dementia find that they are dependent on other people or memory tools to function day-to-day.

2) Increase in poor decision-making

Poor decision-making certainly isn’t a trait uniquely attributed to those with dementia, it is a problem that can plague all ages.

This can be an indication of a more serious condition, however, when the poor decision-making is a personality change or if the poor decisions are extreme. Suddenly losing consistency with hygiene or making highly irresponsible financial decisions can be signs of dementia.

3) Difficulty with communication

This goes beyond the common feeling of trying to grasp an evasive word. If something feels like it’s on the tip of your tongue, it probably is.

Questions of dementia come into play when someone has trouble following a conversation. They lose track of where they are in the discussion, either by skipping important elements of the topic or repeating themselves without awareness. They can also have a hard time with vocabulary, both by forgetting common words or simply using incorrect words.

4) Confusion with time or place

Forgetting what day of the week it is or why you went into the kitchen are examples of a normal memory fault. These little memory hiccups usually resolve themselves when the answer comes back to you a few minutes later.

A sign of dementia is when you lose track of what year it is, don’t recognize the passing of seasons, or get confused by timelines. Experiencing the past as the present or displaying confusion if things aren’t happening immediately are common behaviors of a person with dementia.

5) Change of personality

There can be many causes for a change in personality, and many of them are common amongst seniors and have nothing to do with dementia. While not the most definitive sign of dementia, it is important to keep an eye on behavioral change when it happens alongside memory loss.

Because of the difficulty in holding a conversation, the challenge of remembering the rules of a game, or the frustration with not being able to remember how to navigate simple daily tasks, people with dementia can often withdraw from family, friends, and hobbies. Fear, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and confusion can also accompany dementia.

So, what do you do if you recognize some of the more indicative signs of dementia in your behavior or the behavior of someone you love? It is important not to delay in meeting with a doctor. Early detection is important in diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Bring someone along with you who can offer support, but who can also help you make sense of what is being discussed. Whether or not dementia is diagnosed, it is worth getting a definitive answer from a medical professional if you’re concerned.

Technology for Seniors

Technology is such a large part of life these days. We are spoiled for choice, and often the noise of too many options can be overwhelming. The tech space is producing some real benefits for people of all ages.

Seniors now have access to devices and apps that improve social connections and cognitive function, as well as keeping them safe and giving a hand with little things that can sometimes be a challenge as we age.

Take a look at the list below, which has curated some beneficial technology options for seniors. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it can get you started navigating the world of tech and discovering for yourself the many ways it can improve your daily life.

Smartphone / Tablet

The features of the smartphone and tablet go way beyond phone calls and emails. There are endless apps that can be downloaded, many of which are free. There are also settings on these devices that allow you to set your text to a larger setting, as well as a voice-to-text feature that types what you speak if your hands are unsteady with the keyboard.

  • Magnifying Glass with Light – hover it over text and read the larger words on your screen. Perfect for restaurant menus with tiny text.
  • Pill Reminder by Medisafe – reminds you to take medication and sends alerts to caregivers if a dosage has been missed.
  • Kindle – download your favorite books on the screen. You can zoom in, highlight, and take notes as well.
  • GPS – the maps feature can help you find your way home if you’ve gotten lost taking the scenic route. You can also share your location with friends and family.
  • Words With Friends – Scrabble for the screen. Get your friends an family on the app as well and play each other.
  • Duolingo – learn one of many languages on offer and keep your brain sharp.
  • Memory games – there are endless options here, but these can help maintain and improve cognitive function.
  • Social Media – pick your poison here, popular ones to connect with family and friends are facebook and instagram.
  • Facetime – a call feature that allows you to video chat with loved ones. Great for feeling close when you’re far away.

Medical Alert Systems

A medical alert system is often a wearable necklace or bracelet that is connected to a cellular or home line. These systems give you the ability to alert a call center, 911, or family member in the case of an emergency with the click of a button. There are many offerings of this service depending on your lifestyle and needs.

Video Games

Video games are not just stationary any more: they can get you up and moving! Nintendo Wii, Dance Dance Revolution, and Guitar Hero are some of the more popular games that actually interact with your movements in the real world. Get up and exercise, dance, play a game of golf, or play the guitar solo of a popular song and see your results on the screen.

Fitbit

A Fitbit is a bracelet that will help you stay on top of your exercise goals. Some features of these activity trackers are counting steps taken, calories burned, and sleep quality. Smartwatches also have these features if you want a watch that can do even more.

Roomba

The Roomba is a hands-free circular vacuum cleaner that cleans the floor all by itself. This is a great idea if your back gives you trouble when you bend over to do the vacuuming.

Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing apps allow you to call a ride to your exact location through it’s GPS services. It saves your payment details so there is no exchange of money at the end of the ride. You can read reviews on the drivers before you get in the car and share your moment-by-moment location with friends and family in transit. There are starting to be endless phone apps for ride-sharing, and it’s hard to know which is better. Uber and Lyft still seem to be the most popular, so it’s best to see which one has the most options in your town.

TV Ears

This technology is for seniors that have a hard time hearing the television. Think of these as personal headphones that allow you to hear the television at your own volume. You set the sound to the level that makes you comfortable without having to disrupt your family or neighbors with your television on too loud.

Nixplay

This is a digital photo frame that is connected to a smartphone app. It allows you to send photos from your phone to the frame. The frame, which you can set up anywhere in your house, rotates through the photos. You can also have friends share photos to your Nixplay device. If you aren’t savvy with smartphones, have a friend or family member set up an account on your behalf. This can be a great way for the family to send photo updates to you through a picture frame in your own home.

If reading this has inspired you to infuse a little more tech into your life, be sure you do some homework in picking out the right product and service. And if you are new to the tech world, please read through our tips to avoid senior scams. Technology is full of possibilities, and being informed helps you enjoy your tech safely.

Being a Good Neighbor in Senior Living Communities

Tips for a happy, healthy relationship with your fellow seniors

Senior communities are a great place to make connections, age in place, and feel a sense of safety and ease navigating daily life and healthcare regimes. But to get the most out of what senior living has to offer, it’s important to note that you have to do some of the work. Social isolation can be a common occurrence in senior living communities, which can lead to more concerning problems than simple boredom. Social isolation has been linked to depression and more rapid advancement of the illness. 

So how do we counteract this to make sure your senior living experience matches the promises of the brochure? Well, like anything in life, you get out of something what you put into it. It may be time to make sure you are doing everything you can to be a good neighbor.

Whether you live in independent living, assisted living, or a healthcare community, many of the opportunities we’ve provided for great neighbor interaction will apply to you. Take a look and freshen up on what it takes to be a friendly neighborhood resident!

 

Read the rules

There is often a document of some sort governing how shared-living spaces work. Don’t be that person who doesn’t know the rules. All obvious reasons for knowing the regulations of your residence aside, if you inadvertently tread over a boundary usually recognized by your neighbors, the unnecessary faux pas can be socially isolating. Pull out your reading glasses and make sure you understand the quirks of your particular home.

 

Respect shared spaces

This is a good arena in which to know the rules: do you need to book a shared space if you have family visiting? Are there restrictions about when visitors can come? Are there certain quiet hours of the day best undisturbed by your enthusiastic two-year-old grandson? If you can’t find regulations, chat with your neighbors! Keep them aware of your plans and give them the opportunity to share preferences or concerns.

Sometimes, using your own space can be disruptive to shared spaces as well. Be mindful if using your outdoor space is creating too much noise, or if your TV is up too loud at night.

It’s also worth mentioning to respect other people’s private spaces as well. Living in close quarters can encourage fast friendship, but people often do like to have visitors announced. Don’t forget the courtesy call before stopping by an acquaintance’s place for a catch-up. 

 

Safety first

Whether you live in a shared complex or an independent living facility, your safety is closely tied to the safety of the other residents.

 

  • If you see something suspicious, tell someone.
  • Keep your doors locked.
  • If anything is broken around your home or around the facility, tell someone.
  • Get the contact details for your neighbors and their families, and share yours as well.
  • Set a timer when cooking! A fire alarm being set off in your home can quickly become a community-wide incident.

 

Don’t forget the staff!

Your peers aren’t the only people you are in close proximity with. Whether or not you connect with the staff in any social manner, they will be a presence in your life day in and day out. When people enjoy their interactions at work, they tend to be more cheerful and take more care with their job. These benefits, along with the potential for conversations with an interesting, multi-generational population, are reason enough to make sure to say thank you and ask a few questions about a staff member’s day.

 

Be a friend

Making new friends is a completely different skill set than maintaining long-term friendships. Any of the small acts below could open up the possibility of further interaction and potentially new friendships.

  • Introduce yourself! Someone has to make the first move.
  • Participate in the social activities organized by your community.
  • Welcome newcomers with local tips, a dinner invite, and your contact details.
  • Lend a hand – pick up someone’s mail, help them with their extra bags, hold the door open. A little gesture goes a long way.
  • Make an extra effort with withdrawn neighbors. They may just need more time to open up.
  • Enjoy common areas rather than locking yourself in at home.
  • Organize activities specific to neighbors’ needs – A playdate with similar-aged grandkids so the adults can chat? A less-competitive game of cards with a patient who needs memory care on a night the more competitive game isn’t scheduled?
  • Join committees or clubs in alignment with your interests or skills. If there isn’t one, start one!
  • Build a community garden.
  • Return things you borrow promptly and in the same condition it was given. Was it a dish of food? Fill it with something else to return to the giver with a treat!
  • Don’t gossip. It’s a quick way to start a conversation, but it is also poison in a group and will diminish other’s trust in you in the long run.

Being neighborly may not be something you’ve focused much on in the past. It may have come naturally, with the local kids bringing together the families on the street and the homeowner’s association looping you in with their regulations and newsletters. Or maybe everyone in your neighborhood kept mostly to themselves, which feels rather normal these days in the suburbs. 

If you haven’t given your role as a neighbor much scrutiny in the past, as a resident of a senior living community, it may be time to dig in. A little effort goes a long way in your living situation being everything you were counting on when you moved in.  

How To Start The Conversation

A helpful guide for navigating a tricky conversation around senior living

There are a handful of conversations we have at different phases of life that carry a stigma. Talking to an aged parent(s) about moving to a nursing home is definitely on that list. The fear of this conversation is understandable and may be keeping you from striking it up. But it is in everyone’s best interest to have the conversation, and have it with care. Here’s a guide of things to consider that may make this conversation much easier to approach.

 

Start the conversation early

Start it too early. Start it when it feels like it’s relevance is way down the line. This offers an opportunity to have the seed planted long before there is any threat of eventuality raising the emotion of the conversation. Find out what is important to them as a couple, as individuals, and for their family. This way, your parent(s) has the chance to freely share their wishes and you can be armed with that information when the right time comes.

Maybe they already have a specific location in mind! Inquire about waiting lists long before you need them so you’re not in the position of choosing a place based on availability when crisis strikes.

 

Assess the right time

At some point, the conversation about moving to assisted living becomes a necessity. This looks different for every family, but hopefully you’re able to make this decision a priority before there is a disaster at home.

One great way to identify the right time is to volunteer to come around the house for a project, something extensive like landscaping or cleaning the house, so you can see their range of motion and the state of the household. It will give you an idea of how your parents are faring with the upkeep of their residence while also laying a foundation of good will and trust that could be the opening for a future conversation.

 

Do your research

Having information prepared always makes a hard conversation less challenging. Hopefully you know your parents’ wishes, but even if you weren’t able to start the conversation early, you know your parents.

Do they want to be closer to family? Do they care about having access to a kitchen to make family favorites? Do they want to live in assisted or independent living? What is the future of their illness? Do they have a pet or furniture they want to bring along?

These are concerns they will raise when the conversation comes, so knowing what their options are that address these needs can be a real lifesaver when presenting the option of aged care.

 

Consider your language

Often times, family dynamics can be the hardest part of a conversation like this. Even your own assumption that this conversation will be hard can make the conversation hard. Enter into the conversation in a positive and helpful way. Ask questions about how your parent is doing. Present your concerns directly, but also offer a balanced amount of optimism about the benefits of the communities they might consider. Use your knowledge of what matters to them to frame these benefits.

This conversation could bring up a lot of feelings for your parent. Be sure to acknowledge whatever your parent communicates to you, whether positive or negative. People want to be heard, and not only will affirming their concerns let them know you understand them but it will also give you insight into what may be holding them back so you can help them overcome their objections.

And, perhaps most importantly, take it slow. You don’t have to make a decision in a day. This is a huge life change for you parent. Let it simmer for a bit to give them time to adjust.

 

Personalize it

Mention how much your friend’s mom loves the social aspect of her new home, or how you ran into the son of your parent’s old colleague who says his dad couldn’t be more thrilled about being off the hook for yard work.

If they don’t buy the anecdotes, take your parent to check out places out together! Sometimes seeing a senior community in person can dispel an unsavory preconception. Especially if you can take them somewhere where they already have friends! Seeing the a place up close can help your parents actually envision themselves there.

 

It’s their decision

As long as it is safely possible, this needs to be their decision and they need to know that you know that. If they’re not ready right away, offer other solutions that bridge the gap and buy them the time they need to adjust on their own. Gift them a cleaning service, update some safety features of their home, or organize home care.

Not forcing the issue and letting your parent decide will make you a safe sounding board for your parent as they processes this idea, but also will make their adjustment when they finally decide to move much smoother and happier.

You may be surprised to find out your parent is more amenable than you imagined, and giving them their own space to decide what their life will look like will make them feel even better about their decision to move forward into this next phase.

 

Bring in help

If it is getting dangerous at home and you aren’t making any headway, consider bringing in a friend, spiritual leader, or another trusted person to help have the conversation. The truth is, no matter how well intentioned, the adult children of aging parents aren’t always the best person for this conversation. Your road block isn’t the end of the road, often a third party can pave the way when you thought the conversation was going nowhere. Don’t take this personally, let the help you’ve enlisted move the conversation forward and you can focus on being a support system and maintaining your relationship with your family.

 

Service Dogs for Seniors

Exploring the benefits and regulations around owning service dogs

Many people are familiar with the concept of Guide Dogs, specifically referring to helpful hounds that aid the blind in everyday tasks. What is a little less understood is the parameters of other types of service animals. Everything from the legality of taking them into restaurants or on planes, to questions about what they can or can’t help with and how they are trained.

The senior population has a range of needs regarding health, safety, and lifestyle. The level of assistance needed and the cost involved in acquiring the right guide dog will be different for each person. However, it would be pretty easy to claim that most seniors could benefit from a service animal at some point. At the very least, simply owning an animal has amazing benefits for seniors. But beyond the more well-known reasons why people invest time in their furry friends, a closer look at attributes service animals possess may have you considering adopting your own.

Dog tasks

Before deciding to get a service dog, it’s important to understand what sorts of tasks dogs can be trained to help with. Traditional Guide Dogs have been an extra set of eyes for the blind, but there is so much more a dog can help with when trained appropriately for your condition.

Dogs can be trained to be your ears:
• They can come to get you when the doorbell rings
• They can nudge you until you wake up when your alarm goes off in the morning
• They can come to get you if your partner is in distress

Dogs can be trained to be your legs:
• They can bring you a glass of water to help you take your pills
• They can lift a lever to open the door when the bell rings
• They can bring you the phone in an emergency

Dogs can be trained to be your voice:
• They can deliver notes on your behalf when you wish to communicate
• They can learn to call 911
• They can get go out and get help when you need it

Dogs can be trained to be your memory:
• They can get your attention at the same time each day, reminding you to take your medicine

Dogs can be trained to detect danger:
• They can let you know when your sugar levels drop
• They can warn you when you are about to have an epileptic seizure

Dogs can simply reduce anxiety.

Service animal regulations

A *service animal is a dog who is trained to help someone with the day to day realities of a diagnosed condition. This would include tasks supporting people with deafness, blindness, diabetes, epilepsy, and more. If trained properly and supporting its owner with a defined disability, these dogs are able to accompany their human friend into restaurants, shops, or anywhere else they may need assistance.

There is a broader usage of the term “service animal” that extends beyond the more traditional definition. This is where you see emotional support animals coming in to play. While doctors can write notes recommending patients be accompanied by animals for any host of reasons, there are different laws from state to state that apply when using a more general definition of a service animal.

It is important to know what type of animal you have and where you fall within the law. Understanding your own needs and the letter of the law will make sure you find yourself in a helpful relationship with your service animal and your community. As you do your research, please stick to trustworthy information. There are websites willing to sell you a service dog certification or registration which may not be legally valid. Going through the appropriate channels will help ensure you and your service animal are recognized wherever you go.

And if your needs aren’t consistent with legislation’s definition of a service animal, then you have an amazing pet whose benefits you can enjoy. Not every dog has to be a service animal. It does, however, have to tick all of the right boxes in order to be a service animal.

Training

This element is crucial. Training is what gives the animals the skills they need to be your support system. Training is what allows the dog to be classified as a service animal, which protects you and your service animal under the law. Training is also where the largest part of the investment in a service animal lies.

Whether you are having your own dog trained for the job or adopting a new one, there will be costs involved in getting their skills up to snuff. Keep in mind that it can be a long process and many dog breeds are not cut out for the job, so it is best to engage a professional for at least a consult if you are considering moving forward with a service animal of your own.

Please do your research before diving in. You want to make sure that your animal is trained in an ethical way, in a way that is compliant with your state’s rules and regulations, and in a way that will keep you safe. There are many programs out there that can help you get started on this journey if it interests you.

If you are taking on a new dog, you may consider working with a rescue animal. A mature aged dog will appreciate a happy home and may have an energy level that is more consistent with your environment. Keep in mind that you’ll also want the proper certifications and registrations in order to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act if applicable.

Whether you consider yourself in need of a service animal or simply someone whose life may be improved with a hand from a furry companion, it’s worth a dig into the benefits of having an extra set of paws around the house. At the end of the day, animals provide company and assistance, which we could all use at any stage in life. But, always remember that an animal is as much a commitment as a companion. A well-considered decision to take on a new partner could be the best one you’ve ever made.

Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

A look at a range of cellular plan options to fit seniors’ needs

There is much to consider when looking at the best cell phone plans for seniors. Most importantly is that all seniors are different. There are some who only turn on their phones when they need to make an emergency call from the road and require basic service. But of the 85% of seniors who own a cell phone, 46% of them own a smartphone which means many seniors require a more comprehensive plan.

Geography will also play a large role in which plans are best suited for which senior. Some deals are location specific, and some providers don’t even service certain areas. Paired with misleading marketing and confusing terms and conditions, it can be hard to navigate the marketplace to select the right plan for the right time of your life.

The list we’ve compiled below will focus on a wide spread of plans from different service providers to cover a range of senior priorities and a range of coverage maps available to help make finding the right plan a little easier.

Things to consider before picking a plan

Ask local friends and family how they find the customer service and the cell service of their providers. There is no point in choosing a plan with all the right features at the right price when you’ll have a poor connection or won’t be able to get ahold of anyone helpful when you have questions. No-one local to give advice? Most providers’ websites have coverage maps you can look at, or you can read reviews online.

The other consideration before you strike out on your own is a family plan. See if anyone in your family has one active because often times you can hop on for a small monthly fee while retaining the benefits of the original plan. This can be a huge money saving exercise for families who don’t mind sharing.

 

Types of plans

Free

Yes, you read that right. The cheapest plan out there is the free plan from Freedompop. This plan is not too good to be true, but it does come with its terms and conditions. You have 200 minutes and 500 texts with 500MB data each month.

Keep in mind that this company makes its money on overage charges, so keep an eye on your usage. You have the option of adding an overage credit bank to your account, from which your overage will be deducted at cost, or you will be charged a minimum, $20 fee automatically for going over if you don’t have an overage bank.

You can bring your own Sprint device with you, or unlocked GTE AT&T or Tmobile device. You also have the option to purchase a phone through them, with their lowest-cost phone at $49.99. You can’t lease a phone through them, however, so you do pay upfront for all phone costs.

There are no contracts, you can cancel or change any time. This makes Freedompop a potential risk-free option, as long as you keep an eye on your usage. They do have some well-priced prepaid plans if their free plan is too restrictive or you are worried about the overage charges.

 

Pay as you go

This can be a game-changer for seniors who know they won’t get much use out of their phone. With the T-Mobile Pay as you Go, prices start at $3 a month! This includes any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 text messages up to 30 total, with a flat rate of 10 cents per minute/message after that. You can upgrade to a package with unlimited data for $10 a week with 2GB LTE.

You can purchase a device through T-Mobile or bring your own compatible device, which would be an unlocked GSM phone. If you are new to T-Mobile, you will need to purchase a SIM card to activate as well. If you bring your own phone, there are no contracts or commitments with the prepaid plan and you can change or cancel any time.

As with all plans, there are a few finer details to note. This price does not include all taxes and fees and may vary depending on your location. Also remember that if you go over your 30 minutes/texts, the low flat fee for overages will add up quickly if you don’t keep track of your usage.

Worried about keeping track of your 30 minutes/messages? There is an unlimited pay as you go plan with T Mobile starting at $40 a month to keep it simple.

 

Flexible

Consumer Cellular is a company that specifically markets its product to seniors. There are mixed reviews about their signal strength, but there’s no denying their flexible plan options are fantastic for discerning seniors.

On their website, their plan page has easily customizable options where you only pay for what you need. The basic package is just for calls, starting at $15 a month for 250 minutes, but you can add on more minutes and add data if you need. You can even add a second line. Their transparent pricing updates as you select your needs from their options. AARP members also get a 5% discount on their plan. This is also a contract-free plan you can cancel or change any time.

You can bring your own phone with this plan and the SIM card is free! Compatible phones are any that were previously used with T-Mobile and AT&T or any unlocked GSM phone. You can also purchase a phone through Consumer Cellular, starting at $30 for a basic flip phone.

If you’re not happy during the free trial payment, you can cancel and pay nothing. You don’t even pay postage to send back your phone! This makes trying out this company a risk-free option for seniors interested in giving it a try.

 

Basic

The AT&T Senior Nation plan is a great option for the budget-conscious senior who wants a straight forward plan with no frills. This plan is for customers 65 and over and includes 200 anytime minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes, 500 night and weekend minutes, and no roaming or long distance charges for $29.99 per month. Keep in mind, overtime minutes are charged at 45 cents per minute.

To lock in this deal, seniors have to go to an AT&T store and show ID to prove date of birth and must be the primary account holder. There is the option to purchase a phone or bring your own device, but make sure the device is compatible. Only basic phones work with this plan, so no tablets or smartphones.

 

Unlimited

Sometimes, more is better. Especially if you are a high-phone user or you just want simplicity. Boost Mobile has unlimited data, talk, and text plan for $50 a month. Unlimited means you can reach for your phone for all your phone calls, texts, and data needs and never have to worry about overage costs. Keep in mind that international calls are often not included in international plans, so if that’s something you need be sure to ask about fees before signing up.

Unlimited does come at a cost, but this plan’s cost is one of the most reasonable in the market. First of all, $50 a month does include all monthly taxes and fees so you should see the same amount on your bill each month regardless of your domestic minutes or data used. They also allow 12 gigs of hotspot use, which means you can power your tablet or laptop as well!

You can bring in your own phone or buy one through Boost. Bring your unlocked phone into Boost for assistance, or use their website to check your phone’s compatibility. You will need to purchase a Boost SIM card to switch to the plan unless you were previously with Sprint which sometimes works already on the Boost network. If you go to a Boost store, you’ll pay a $15-$25 fee for activation, but if you buy a SIM from a local Walmart/Walgreens etc. for around $9.99, Boost customer service will activate for free over the phone.

Buying a new phone through them starts at $69.99, but they occasionally run deals in-store. For example, if you bring your number from a different provider they’ll give you a free phone with no commitment or contract required. If you want an upgrade, they also have an option to lease a phone on an 18-month contract once you’ve been with the company for 2 months. This allows you to get a fancy new phone without paying up front. Otherwise, this is a prepaid service which means no contracts and no fees for changing or canceling.

 

Discounts for seniors

ALWAYS ASK. AARP members and veterans are offered discounts through numerous providers. There are also several companies that offer senior-specific plans. There can be a lot of fussy terms and conditions, especially around customer location, but these can be a great option when looking at the more mainstream providers who offer pristine service coverage at a cost normally prohibitive to some seniors. Business Insider has a great list of seniors-only plans as well. Remember, this information is always changing so it never hurts to ask if you qualify for a discount when enquiring with a new company.