Making critical decisions for yourself or a loved one can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to discuss your preferences in advance. Planning for your Legal, Medical, Financial and Personal needs can give a person peace of mind.
These important steps can make all the difference:
1.Start discussions with your loved ones early while everyone can still help make decisions.
2.Create documents that will communicate and protect your wishes based on your legal, medical, financial and personal preferences.
3.Review these plans regularly. It is common for circumstances to change over time. Remember to update your documents to reflect these changes.
4.Put important documents in one place and make sure a trusted family member or friend knows of their location.
5.Make copies of healthcare directives for each doctor or health facility you visit.
6.Give permission in advance for medical providers to share information directly with a caregiver as needed.
Preparation can truly be one of the best gifts you can give. A Lifestage Legacy Review workbook will help you navigate the many aspects of preparing your legal, medical, financial and personal needs in a way that will provide peace of mind for you and your family. Once you complete your legacy review workbook encourage your family and friends to consider making the same gift for their loved ones.
Communicating with your doctor is one of the most important things you can do to remain healthy. Ideally you and your doctor will work as a team in order to achieve the best outcomes for your health and wellness. Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world it is easy to feel rushed and to forget about important issues you may want to bring up. Having plan can help you make the most of your appointment.
Make a list of what you want to discuss
Do you have any new symptoms? Are you experiencing any reactions to new medications? Are you concerned about how a treatment is affecting your daily life? If you have multiple concerns be sure to write them down so you don’t forget to bring them up.
Update your Doctor
Let your doctor know about any changes that have occurred since your last visit. Have you been to the hospital or emergency room? Have you noticed any changes in vision, hearing, appetite, sleep or weight? Have you had any new medications prescribed by other doctors?
Have a list of medications handy
Your doctor will want to know what medications you are currently taking and if there have been any changes recently. Don’t forget to include any over the counter medications or supplements you take. Be sure to include the dose you are taking and how often you take it.
Bring other important Information
It is always helpful to have your insurance cards handy at an appointment. You may also want to bring the names and contact information for any other doctors or specialists you see. If you have recently been to the hospital or emergency room bring the discharge papers for your doctor to review.
Bring a friend or family member
A friend or family member can help remind you of topics you want to address and can take important notes during the appointment, so nothing gets missed. Be sure to let the friend or family member know in advance what you hope to accomplish during the visit.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
What side effects could you experience from a new medication? What type of diagnostic tests are being used and what do you need to do to prepare? How long will it take for results? Are there any alternative treatments available? If you don’t understand a recommendation be sure to ask for additional information or clarification.
Thinking about these topics ahead of time can make a doctor’s appointment more productive and less stressful. It may also be helpful to download and print a FREE Lifestage Physician Appointment Planner. The planner is a great tool to help you organize your thoughts ahead of an appointment and capture the information your doctor shares with you during your visit.
Physician Appointment Planner
The Lifestage Physician Appointment Planner is an excellent tool to help you with talking to your doctor.
Communicating with your doctor is one of the most important things you can do to remain healthy. Ideally you and your doctor will work as a team in order to achieve the best outcomes for your health and wellness. Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world it is easy to feel rushed and to forget about important issues you may want to bring up. The Lifestage Physician Appointment Planner will help you organize your thoughts, discuss changes, address questions and document recommendations during your visit.
Unfortunately, even during a crisis there are unscrupulous people who use fear and misinformation to try to enrich themselves. Although anyone could become a victim of a scam at any time it is common for scammers to target senior citizens and to use a crisis like the corona virus pandemic to separate honest people from their money. Here are a few things to look out for in order to protect yourself.
Fake charities: When a major event happens, it’s natural to look for ways to help. Unfortunately, scammers use these events to take advantage of your generosity. Some scammers use names that sound very similar to names of real charities. It is always a good idea to do some research before giving.
Emails, texts and phishing scams: Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or login IDs and passwords. They use your information to steal your money, your identity, or both. Scammers will often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know.
Robocalls: Scammers are using robocalls to sell fake Corona virus treatments or to put you on a fake waiting list for a vaccine that doesn’t exist. If you get one of these calls hang up. Do not press any numbers even though it might say pressing a number will remove you from the list, in reality this may lead to more robocalls.
Misinformation: Scammers, and sometimes even well-intentioned people, share information that may not be true. Before you pay someone or share your personal information, do some fact checking by contacting trusted sources.
If you have been a victim of a scam or believe you have spotted a scam you can report it to the federal trade commission. The Federal Trade Commission is the nation's consumer protection agency and can helps stop these types of scams and frauds. To file a complaint, go to ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-help.
Each assisted living community is unique unto itself. Many are beautifully appointed, and it is easy to be enamored by the glitz and the glam but there are many other factors to consider before deciding if the community will be a good fit for you or a loved one.
1. Is the group of residents a good match for you or your loved one?
Many assisted living communities have their own niche. Some offer higher levels of care, some have younger more active retirees. It’s important to consider if the mix of residents are a good match.
2. Will this community be able accommodate changing health needs?
It is common for an individual’s health needs to change over time. You will want to consider if the community will be able to meet those needs as they arise. Anticipating these changes may eliminate the need to move again in the future.
3. What does the community look like?
Its important to look past the fancy entry way. Is the building clean? Do you notice any strange smells? Are the grounds cared for? Are there signs of deferred maintenance like worn out furniture or carpeting?
4. How far is the community from other amenities?
It is natural to consider how close a community is to doctors or hospitals but you may also want to think about what is nearby in terms of shopping, community centers, parks, friends and relatives.
5. What activities are offered?
While bingo and puzzles can be fun its likely a person will need more to keep them entertained. Find out what activities are regularly offered within the facility and if they schedule outings to do things in the community at large.
6. How is the food?
A great deal of social life takes place around a good meal. Visit during lunch and sample the food. While there take a look around to see how residents interact with each other and how staff interact with the residents.
7. What safety measures are in place?
Are there call buttons or emergency pendants available. Are there had rails in the hallways? Are walkways wide enough for two people to pass one another with wheelchairs or walkers? How often is staff checking up on residents? What hours is a nurse available?
8. What outdoor spaces are available?
No one wants to be cooped up indoors all day long. Even a simple patio space, park benches or a small pond can make the overall community much more enjoyable and will allow you to get a breath of fresh air when desired.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes if you are visiting multiple communities. Keeping an eye out for these things can help ensure the assisted living community you choose will be a good fit for a long time to come.
If you're looking for an appropriate assisted senior living setting for a loved one chances are you have a lot of questions. Navigating the various aspects of senior living can be confusing. Each setting has its own unique benefits and no two are exactly alike. Here are a few of the most common types of senior living settings:
Independent living communities are designed to enable healthy independent seniors to enjoy a low maintenance lifestyle filled with recreational and social activities among other seniors of a similar same age. These communities are generally restricted to people over the age of 55. Independent living communities do not offer health care services on campus.
Assisted living communities provide a combination of housing and healthcare services to seniors who may need addition support to managing typical activities of daily living. Assisted living facilities offer assistance with meals, bathing, medication and housekeeping. Additional features usually available include social gathering spaces, pools, exercise rooms, regular activities and outings. Some assisted living communities offer specialized services such as memory care for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Adult Family Home
An adult family home offers many of the benefits of assisted living such as help with medication, bathing and other activities of daily living but on a much smaller scale. These homes are generally run by independent operators caring for up to six residents at a time. Care is often provided within the care givers own home. This is a very intimate home like setting that offers much more individualized attention.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are a type of retirement community that provides seniors with the full spectrum of options from independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all on one campus. Continuing care retirement communities offer the ability to age in place and eliminate the need to move from one facility to another as health care needs progress.
Often referred to as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities provide 24 hour nursing care for those who need more direct daily care that is provided in a supportive living environment. Skilled nursing is often short term after a hospital stay but can be long term for those who need high levels of care. These facilities may also have specialized care such as physical therapy or occupational therapy.
What is the difference between Home Care and Home Health? Sometimes the names are used interchangeably and that can be confusing but there are distinct differences. Basically Home Care is a non medical service and Home Health is a medically based service. So let's take a closer look:
Home Health is paid for by Medicare, you have to have a doctors prescription and it's for a limited period of time. In order to qualify there will be an assessment that will be done to determine your needs. Home Health is often prescribed when somebody is leaving the hospital or a rehab facility and they need some additional care at home. It is limited so you may only get a few visits a week. This service does not fulfill the role of a primary caregiver. Home Health care can send out physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, wound care specialists etc. to help you acclimate back to home life. For example if someone had a stroke and their speech was affected Home Health care can send a speech therapist to the person in need of help instead of that person going to a facility for rehabilitation.
Home Care can help with many of the day-to-day activities such as getting dressed, taking a shower, going to the grocery store, taking you to doctors appointments taking out the garbage and other little things around the house that may have become challenging. Home Care which is non medical and it is usually private pay so you pay out of your pocket. In some cases benefits like the veterans administration aid and attendance program or long term care insurance may help cover some of these costs.
While Home Health and Home Care are two very different services there could be instances in which you need both of them together at the same time. For instance, physical therapy following a hip surgery may limit your ability to keep up with regular household chores. In this case Home Health would be there for the physical therapy and Home Care will be there to help with the other everyday tasks. Friends, family and spouses can only do so much and often have obligations of their own aside from acting as a care giver. Bringing in a little help can relieve a great deal of stress for everyone involved.
Recognizing when a loved one may need assistance can play a huge roll in their quality of life and may make all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding an emergency situation in the future. Here are a few things to look for when deciding if it is time to seek assistance.
1. The home becomes increasingly messy and basic maintenance goes ignored.
It can be as simple as a sink full of dishes, stacks of unopened mail, an overgrown lawn or peeling paint. Aging can make it increasingly difficult to keep up regular household chores. Memory issues or dementia often contribute to the deferred maintenance and unpaid bills as the individual may not recognize or remember the need to take action. Unsanitary conditions can of course lead to additional health issues and clutter can easily increase the risk of falling.
2. Neglecting self care.
Unkempt hair, body odor, bad breath and long/dirty fingernails are all obvious signs that an individual is not keeping up with their personal hygiene. Unless you are visiting regularly it may be more difficult to notice signs like not eating regularly, wight loss, not changing cloths and skipping medications. Physical limitations, dementia, social isolation and depression are just a few of the underlying factors that may contribute to these issues. Identifying these warning signs and talking with your loved one about their needs or struggles can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
3. Difficulty standing and walking or falling during everyday activities.
Approximately one third of adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall. The medical costs associated with fall related injuries exceeds $31 billion annually and is likely to increase as our population ages. These falls are the number one cause of unintentional injury among the elderly and approximately 10% of these falls result in significant injury leading to health decline, additional falls or admission to a nursing facility. Fear of falling can lead to a lack of confidence and social isolation. These figures sourced from US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
4. Social Isolation.
Most people need a certain amount of social interaction to feel fulfilled in their lives. Many of the factors mentioned above may lead a person to withdraw from others but even those who may be perfectly capable of keeping up with all the normal activities of daily living may suffer from isolation or depression. Warning signs may include rarely leaving the house or withdrawing from social activities they formerly enjoyed.
Recognizing and combating these issues can make all the difference in the quality of life for seniors. How to approach these needs can be as varied and nuanced as the individual themselves. With so many options available it can be difficult to know where to start. We at Lifestage focus on the four pillars of aging; Medical, Legal, financial and social. As with most things having a plan in place before it becomes an emergency will relieve a great deal of stress for everyone involved.
Ty Strahl is the areas leading senior adviser. Her job is to help you navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.