Train your brain to combat stress

by Gina Roberts-Grey

You know that feeling when you’re too mentally exhausted to think straight? Not only can it be problematic because it leaves you feeling frazzled and unable to remember what you need at the grocery store or where you left the car keys, mental exhaustion is toxic, too.

A tired, overwrought brain can lead to stress. That contributes to the formation of bad habits like watching the television instead of watching what you eat and not watching how physically active you are, says Jason Selk EdD, former director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals and the bestselling author of a new book, Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2011).

Selk says you can revitalize your mind to eliminate a lot of stress and boost mental energy with a strong brain. And just like your biceps or abs, your mind can be strengthened.

“A 100-second mental workout is an incredibly powerful tool that will put you in a position to consistently execute at a higher level,” says Selk, who has created an exercise routine that helps your brain relax and recharge. “It that will put you in a position to mentally detox and the great news is that it only takes 100 seconds of your day.”

By making mental workouts a habit, Selk says you will set yourself on a trajectory toward developing mental toughness, focus, and clarity as you have never experienced. “Just as your body responds to consistent strength training, your mind responds to regular mental workouts.”

In 100 seconds, you can think up a crafty Facebook status update, have your favorite barista whip up a latte or boost your brain. “I suggest carving out some time now to try out the 100-second mental workout,” says Selk.


The workout:

Step 1: The centering breath

Take a deep centering breath to get calm and focused. This is a controlled breath where you breathe in for 6 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds, and then slowly exhale for 7 seconds. Selk says the centering breath will control your heart rate and allow your mind to get into a natural and effective work pattern.

Step 2: Identity statement

Think of a personal, financial, professional, etc., goal. “Then state out loud who you are as if you’d already achieved your goal. This statement is essentially a personal mantra that reflects who you are and what you hope to achieve,” says Selk.

An example of an identity statement is ‘I am confident and I thrive on pressure; I am the most focused and successful CEO in the country.’

Step 3: Run your personal highlight reel

“The personal highlight reel is 60 seconds’ worth of visualization in which you spend 30 seconds remembering 3 things done well in the previous 24 hours and then imagining 3 things you are going to do well in the upcoming day,” says Selk.

Doing this will boost your confidence and set your brain off on a path that processes things in a positive manner, rather than getting bogged down with stress.

Step 4: Repeat Step 2

Selk says repeating your statement will further drive home your self-image of success.

Step 5: Repeat Step 1

“Do this to remind yourself of the feeling of being calm and in control,” says Selk. You’ll give the calmness time to ‘take root’ in your brain in order for your mind to fully recharge.

If you should miss a day here or there, don’t panic. “Just like one missed appointment with your trainer won’t sink your overall physical fitness, the occasional missed mental workout won’t kill your progression to clarity and reduced stress,” says Selk. If you do miss a day, simply make the commitment to get back on track the following day.

Jason Selk EdD was director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, when they won their first World Series in 20 years, and when they won it again in 2011. He’s the bestselling author of 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and a new book, Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Trainer of the world’s finest athletes, coaches, and business leaders in Mental Toughness. He’s a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at

Misconceptions About Aging: 4 Important Issues

Don’t let incorrect assumptions hinder the help you offer to aging relatives in their emotional and financial affairs.

As family members age – whether they are spouses, partners, parents or other relatives — those who help manage their affairs want to act with their best interests in mind. But even with the greatest of intentions, common stereotypes about older people can creep into thinking and affect judgment calls — from when it’s time to take away the car keys to conversations about moving into a senior living center or assisted care facility.

Keith Klovee-Smith, Senior Vice President, National Director, and his team of specialists in Wells Fargo Elder Services have seen firsthand how stereotypes concerning aging can lead to tension and even mistakes in care, which family members may later deeply regret. Here are four of the most common misconceptions to be aware of as your family plans for the future.

Misconception No. 1: As we age, the slide to dementia is inevitable. One of the most prevalent stereotypes in America is that aging is a process of inevitable and steady decline in our physical and mental abilities. “Most people believe we have full capacity between ages 20 to 35, and that it’s all downhill from there,” says Klovee-Smith. “It’s such a strongly held stereotype that people start providing care and interactions for older people based on the stereotype instead of the unique human being that’s in front of them.”

For instance, he says sometimes it is assumed an older person is suffering from dementia when really an infection may be causing him or her to act or appear confused. Other common ailments that can masquerade as diminished mental capability include low blood pressure, thyroid problems, clinical depression, and medication side effects or interactions.

“We train our team members to pay attention to what’s really going on with the person,” says Klovee-Smith, who oversees the Wells Fargo Elder Services specialists who work with older clients and their families.

Countering this misconception: Be vigilant about obtaining accurate diagnoses of dementia and other illnesses. Make sure you, your spouse and older generations have adequate health coverage to cover needed tests and visits to specialists.

Misconception No. 2: You need to “age in place.” The notion of “aging in place,” or living at home for as long as possible, has become part of the lexicon of retirement planning; many adults manage their finances to make it a reality .

“Aging in place has become a norm as a way to talk about the goals for retirement,” Klovee-Smith says. “The problem with it? It sounds nice, but it’s not the best thing for some adults. Every situation is unique.”

Klovee-Smith tried to make aging in place work for his mother. “I built more and more services around her,” he says. “I had somebody cooking for her, cleaning for her. But what I actually did was socially isolate my mother. She had all the services, but she didn’t have one of the things aging adults need most — other people’s company.”

After he helped her move to an assisted living facility, he says color came back to her cheeks. She enjoyed the activities provided by the facility and needed fewer medications. “She was actually a much happier individual,” he says.

Countering this misconception: Set aside the concept of “aging in place” and instead talk about the goal of independence for your loved ones and (when the time comes) for yourself. “If you can build services in an environment that offers many of the benefits perceived as part of aging in place, that’s the goal, wherever they may be living,” Klovee-Smith says. As you help older loved ones plan for the future, consider involving the whole family in the planning as appropriate. “We work with whoever the family wants to be part of planning,” Klovee-Smith says.

Misconception No. 3: Older people just focus on the past. Often, people talk to older family members about decades-old events — their childhood, World War II — as if they’ve lost interest in the present and don’t think about the future because they’ve aged. That’s simply not the case. We all think about the past, present and future, no matter what age we are.

Klovee-Smith says one of his Wells Fargo team members once asked a 90-year-old client to imagine what her life would be like in 10 years. She laughed and joked about whether she’d be around for the next two years. But then, she turned serious and began to describe her hopes and dreams.

Countering this misconception: Realize your loved ones have a future and need to plan for it just as much as you do — not just financially but emotionally, as well.

Misconception No. 4: After “big birthdays,” assistance is mandatory. The aging process isn’t set in stone. It’s readily accepted that some 20-year-olds are more mature than other 20-year-olds, but many times, society can forget that such differences occur in the 65+ crowd, too. Some 90-year-olds still cook gourmet meals for special events; others had to give up responsibilities in the kitchen decades earlier.

Chronological age differs from internal age, and the two rarely synch up. Might a 45-year-old think of herself as perpetually 33? Could a 70-year-old forget she’s a septuagenarian, having fixed her internal clock to 55? Try not to project your idea of what it means to be 80 onto your loved one.

Countering this misconception: Klovee-Smith notes that there’s a spectrum of moving from capacity to incapacity, and people move along it at vastly different rates throughout their lives — not just at retirement age. Use insights from your or your loved ones’ vibrant years to map out the right options for now and the future.

Understanding and Combating Age-Related Eyesight Problems

As we age, it’s not uncommon for our eyesight to become impaired. A significant portion of seniors rely on glasses in order to see, but glasses alone shouldn’t be relied on to care for and maintain the health of your eyes. No one appreciates eyesight problems, of course, but for seniors looking to keep their independence, eye problems pose an especially difficult challenge.

By understanding common age-related eyesight afflictions, we can be better prepared to take proactive measures to minimize impairment.


Of vision-impairing diseases, the most common is the cataract. This disease occurs when the lens of the eye, which is typically transparent, becomes opaque or cloudy. Cataracts can be a challenge to detect because they generally develop slowly. Symptoms can include:

  • Blurry, cloudy, yellow or dimmed vision
  • Heightened sensitivity to light
  • Faded colors
  • Frequent changes to glasses prescription
  • Double vision

While age is the most common risk factor associated with cataracts, there are other notable risks – including smoking, eye injuries, tanning, diabetes and steroid use. It is crucial to visit an ophthalmologist once a year to monitor eye health and take proactive steps to avoid vision degradation. To minimize your risk of developing cataracts, it is also recommended to avoid tanning booths and quit smoking. Certain glasses can help with cataracts, but the only true treatment is surgery, in which an artificial lens replaces the cloudy lens.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Among adults over the age of 70, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of vision impairment. A degenerative disease, ARMD affects the macula, which is the small spot in the center of the eye that provides sharpness and clarity in the center of the field of vision. Accordingly, those with ARMD are likely to experience blurred vision or blind spots. People with heightened risk of ARMD include adults over 75, smokers, women, people with high cholesterol and people with a family history of the disease. There is no definitive treatment for ARMD yet, but some cases can be treated or slowed with laser eye surgery.


Glaucoma is signified by pressure buildup in the eye which causes damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is considered one of the hardest eyesight diseases to diagnose because most people do not display any symptoms, but if it is detected in its early stages, excessive vision loss can be prevented through surgery. To be safe, it is advised to have your eyes checked regularly – especially if you are 60 or older, have diabetes or have a family history of glaucoma.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Approximately 80% of people who have had diabetes for at least 15 years develop diabetic eye disease. This affliction causes diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the eye’s blood vessels. Annual eye exams are critical in detecting this disease early and preserving eyesight. Diabetics who are successful in keeping their blood sugar levels under control are also less likely to experience diabetic eye disease.
Eye health is closely tied to other areas of physical well-being, so annual medical check-ups are an important way to detect and treat other problems that can lead to eyesight issues. Additionally, you can help preserve your sight in your senior years by maintaining a healthy diet that includes dark greens, wearing UV protective sunglasses when outdoors and of course by getting your eyes checked regularly.

Author Bio

Charlie Nadler is a community education writer for Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services. CMSS is the most extensive senior services network on Chicago’s north side, providing services such as senior home care, assisted living, and more.


What Sort of Exercises are Suitable for the Elderly?

Maintaining a regular exercise regimen is essential to staying healthy and living a long life. In fact, a study performed by Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute found that the more people exercise, the longer they tend to live. A mere 150 minutes per week of brisk walking can add roughly 3.4 years to one’s lifespan.

However, regular fitness is especially important for the elderly. People in this age group are more prone to accidents and health problems than the younger population, but exercise can significantly reduce these risks. Furthermore, it can help them to maintain their independence and quality of life. Unfortunately, not all types of exercise are suitable for older men and women. As people age, their strength and stamina naturally decline, preventing them from training as rigorously. Regardless, there are still many kinds of exercise that are suitable for the elderly.


Swimming is a gentle, impact-free exercise that is ideal for the elderly. It doesn’t place strain on the joints and can actually improve their flexibility and range of motion. Due to the cool water, this activity may also help reduce joint pain and inflammation. Swimming can also help prevent age-related muscle loss. Because it works nearly all of the muscle groups, including the stabilizing muscles, it may help the elderly maintain the physical strength and balance needed to stay independent.

Another favorable aspect of swimming is its benefit to cardiovascular health. It gives the heart a workout, keeps blood vessels supple and helps clear plaque from the walls of arteries. In addition, swimming increases blood circulation throughout the body. This results in faster healing, reduced inflammation, better digestion and improved cognitive ability.

Many community fitness centers, such as the YMCA, provide swimming activity meets for the elderly. These often focus on water exercises specifically designed for the physical needs of older people and may be free or low-cost.


Walking is an ideal method of exercise for elderly people. It costs nothing, is readily available and can be done by nearly anyone regardless of their health status. Plus, there’s nothing for the spirit quite like fresh air and sunshine. In fact, they’re quite necessary. Exposure to sunshine improves levels of vitamin D, a very important nutrient. The body is unable absorb calcium without it. Furthermore, vitamin D has been shown to be a strong preventer of many cancers. Meanwhile, getting plenty of fresh air can reduce the symptoms of allergies and respiratory illnesses.

Walking also possesses benefits for the muscles. The legs are the largest of the body’s muscle groups, and perhaps one of the most important. By working these muscles, there is a significant anabolic benefit. Metabolism rises, aiding fat loss and muscle growth as well as providing a mood boost. Walking also helps improve the strength of stabilizing muscles in the hips, back, core and ankles, meaning better support and balance. This can go a long way toward preventing the falls and broken hips that are so common in the elderly.

Strength Training

Weight-bearing exercise, even with a small amount of weight, is one of the best exercises that older people can engage in. Challenging the muscles helps to increase functional strength, which is an essential part of staying active and independent. It will also cause hormonal and neurotransmitter increases that enhance mood, improve cognitive function and make one feel more youthful.

Another benefit of strength training is its ability to increase bone density. Any activity that places impact or pressure on the bones causes them to become stronger in response. This can go a long way toward discouraging breaks and fractures, making it safer and easier to stay independent.

Strength training is especially beneficial for aging males. Testosterone levels tend to decline with age, leading to depression, reduced strength, low libido, low energy and fat gain. Low testosterone also carries with it a higher risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and diabetes. Maintaining a regular strength training routine can boost testosterone levels considerably, thus reducing susceptibility to the aforementioned symptoms and risks.

Stretching Exercises

As people age, it’s important to maintain good flexibility and range of motion. This can help prevent muscle strains and torn ligaments as well as joint problems. Fitness practices like yoga, tai chi and qigong are ideal for this purpose. They’re low-impact, easy to learn and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Although the physical purpose of these exercises is to stretch and loosen the muscles and provide a better range of motion, they also carry mood benefits.

The strong focus on the connection between the mind and body, as well as controlled breathing, have been found in studies to reduce stress and enhance feelings of well-being. This can lead to a more positive and healthy attitude, which is known to increase lifespan and reduce the risk of many diseases.

Although physical activity is good for health and function, it’s important for people not to push their physical limitations. Elderly people, particularly those with known health issues, are encouraged to speak with their health care practitioner before starting a fitness regimen.

Author Bio

Nisha represents a site called

Seniors: Don’t Settle for Less Sleep!

It doesn’t take a room full of researchers to tell you that if you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel well. And yet, many people drag on day after day with insufficient sleep, thinking, “I’m getting older, I guess this is part of it.”

A lack of sleep is not something you should just accept as normal for aging. It’s not! Experts say older people should be getting about the same amount of sleep they did as adolescents: between 7 to 9 hours each night. You can blame poor sleep on aging, to an extent, but don’t let it be your burden to bear.

How Sleep Changes As We Age

Older people don’t spend as much time in deep sleep as younger people. For one, aging bodies produce less melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Also, older people experience a change in their circadian rhythm, their body’s natural cycles, making them more likely to feel sleepy earlier in the evening and, therefore, ready to wake earlier in the morning.

Other sleep disturbances or disorders are likely to affect older people as well, including:

  • Health conditions including chronic pain or restless leg syndrome as well as side effects from medications can interfere with sleep.
  • Alzheimer’s or other neurological problems. Not surprisingly, people without serious medical problems or psychological illness report better sleep.
  • Consumption of alcohol or caffeine in excess–or even at all.
  • Sedentary lifestyles. Not moving enough during the day lulls your body into lethargy. The benefits of stretching muscles and increasing your heart rate are numerous.
  • Frequent urination at night is tough to ignore, often attributed to prostate issues in men and incontinence in women.

Tips for Getting Better Sleep

First, seek treatment for medical problems. An article on WebMD described a man who felt continuously tired, even after sleeping more than 10 hours a night. A diagnosis of both sleep apnea, which caused his body to wake frequently all night, and an irregular heart rhythm were keeping his body from getting the rest it needed. Medical intervention, including a pacemaker and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, help him sleep soundly again.

Lifestyle changes are key. Limit or do away with caffeine and alcohol. Make sure you’re not eating large meals or snacks right before bedtime, and work physical activity into your daily schedule.

Seek daylight during daylight hours. Exposing your body to sunshine boosts your vitamin D counts and also helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Do activities, even if it’s reading or crossword puzzles in any room besides your bedroom. Save that space only for intimacy and sleeping.

Don’t wait to fall asleep. According to the National Institute of Health, research has shown that in adults over 65, 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Try reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm shower or bath to help yourself feel relaxed.

Sleep deprivation at any age can cause health issues, from attention and memory problems to depression and regular nighttime trips to the bathroom put the elderly at an increased risk for falls. Don’t chalk the restless nights or groggy days to old age. Do you know your sleep stuff? Test your sleep IQ.

Exercise for the Elderly: Good for the Body, Good for the Soul

As we age, few things become more apparent than how much slower we move or more forgetful we are than we were 20 years ago.  Unless, of course, you’re Demi Moore and your body is literally incapable of aging past the age of 21.  If you are fortunate enough to have no genetic predispositions to disease or chronic health conditions, you have my congratulations. (Just don’t gloat to the rest of us, okay?)

Let’s face it: We’re not going to be in the same physical condition at 75 as we are at 45. People are living longer thanks to advances in medications, treatments and technology, but that’s also leading to an increase in health problems. The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, is growing at a rapid pace—and a big reason for that is a longer life expectancy.

While genetic factors play a significant role in how we age, there are some key proactive approaches that can help our bodies and minds age gracefully. Exercise is one of the most important influential lifestyle factors that we can control, and it boosts the health of not only our bodies, but our minds as well.

Exercise is Key

Someone once asked me, “As you age, would you rather have your body give out or your mind go?”

I recall my answer vividly. I immediately blurted out, “I would rather my mind go so that I’m not aware of what’s going on with my body!”

Exercise for the mind and the body is imperative to the aging process. It increases our quality of life both now and in the future. Hoping to get out of it by saying it’s too late; you’re past middle age and any exercise you do now won’t do any good? Not so fast: Research proves that it’s never too late to start.

Why is Muscle Mass So Important?

Inevitably, muscle mass deteriorates as we age. According to, we lose three to five percent of our muscle density per decade, beginning in the fourth decade of life. It continues to decline one to two percent every year after the age of 50. Muscle is vital to keeping bodies strong and balanced.  Muscle mass reduces the risks from major injuries, such as a hip fracture and also aids in mobility.

Muscles can–and do–react to low-intensity activities such as walking, dancing and gardening as well as light weight lifting.  These activities reduce the deterioration of muscle mass and aid in rebuilding muscle mass that has already been lost. Exercising can also reduce the risk of broken bones, which can become increasingly common with age. Women, for instance, may be affected by osteoporosis after menopause which leads to easily fractured bones; exercise can help improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures.

Does Exercise Help Cognitive Function?

Brain tissue density also deteriorates as we age. A substantial decline in brain tissue occurs after age 55 and involves the tissue responsible for thinking and memory. The decline in brain tissue has also been linked to cardiovascular health or fitness.

Brain neurons are the cells responsible for thought, movement and basic bodily functions, and they’re also involved in memory. So far research has shown that these neurons actually increase in number after just a few days or weeks of regular activity. Studies indicate that the fittest individuals have higher scores on tasks like coordination, scheduling, planning and memory, according to article on Senior Exercise on Simply put, the more physically fit you are, the more brain tissue you may have.

What Type of Exercise Should I Do?

The American Heart Association regularly publishes guidelines for the recommended amount and frequency of physical activity in older adults. Here are some of the current recommendations:

  • Aerobic exercise which includes walking, jogging, dancing, biking and swimming. To promote and maintain health, older adults need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days each week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days each week.
  • Resistance exercise which includes weight lifting and calisthenics. To promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance. This can include brisk walks, water aerobics or similar activities at least two days per week.
  • Flexibility exercises, such as Pilates. To maintain the flexibility necessary for regular physical activity and daily life, older adults should perform activities that maintain or increase flexibility at least two days each week for at least 10 minutes per session.
  • Balance exercises to reduce risk of injury from falls.  Older adults with a substantial risk of falls, such as those with frequent falls or mobility problems, should perform exercises that maintain or improve balance. One simple activity is to use the back of a chair to balance your body, then balancing on one leg at a time without using the chair for support. Or do some dynamic walking in your living room; simply walk in a straight line while slowly turning your head from right to left simultaneously.

Exercise is tremendously beneficial for both the body and mind, and it’s never too late to start. All it takes are some simple exercises and workouts a few times each week to start building muscle mass, slim down your frame, improve your balance and even boost your brain function. Don’t like to exercise? Find yourself an exercise buddy so you can motivate each other. It only takes 21 days to form a new habit, and you may be surprised by how much you actually enjoy it.

Image by johnnyberg on Stock.xchng


Home Help for the Elderly: Is it Right for Your Loved One?

Many older adults desire to stay in their homes as long as possible, avoiding placement into an assisted living or senior living setting. This can be a viable option as long as an elderly parent or loved on has adequate help in the home as additional care and support becomes necessary.  It is important however, to research the range of options available to maintain this desired lifestyle. There are different levels and types of care which can be offered in the home depending on your loved one’s needs.

Make Decisions Early

All too often, families don’t have discussions or make these decisions until  a catastrophic event occurs and it becomes absolutely necessary. Other family members (in cooperation with physicians and other healthcare providers) are then faced with determining whether arrangements can be made for their loved one to remain in her home or whether an alternative living arrangement, such as nursing home placement, will be necessary.

Home care can be more affordable than residential senior living settings, depending on how much care your loved one requires. But home help providers can’t provide more complex services, and non-medical in-home care is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid in most cases.

Evaluating Your Options

There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering hiring at-home care for an aging loved one. These questions will help guide you in making the right decisions for your family.

  • What support do you have available? Do you have family, friends or neighbors, and how willing are they to become involved? Are there people in your life who can and will step in when needed to help with the lighter aspects, such as house cleaning, errand running, or providing a respite for the caregiver?
  • Do you have the financial ability to pay for care? Obtaining help now or in the future is something you should budget for. Also, look into what the financial obligations are when using a home health or private agency so you can create a financial plan in advance. Call your local office of aging and inquire about what services they provide and about income guidelines.
  • What are your loved ones medical needs? Does your elderly loved one have chronic medical conditions that will inevitably worsen over time? This is specific area of concern when evaluating your options. Consider mobility and health concerns,  possible future complications and how you might handle them.

Finding the Right Home Care Services

Once you have determined your needs, it’s time to evaluate what services your loved one will require to help maintain her independence. It’s time to look for outside providers. Ask among your network of friends and family to find out what local services might be available. Sometimes the best referrals come from your personal network.

Older adult resources such as the Area Agencies on Aging, eldercare specialists such as geriatric care managers, and senior centers can also be great places to start. When it comes to home health care, your physician will also be able to help with the referral process and may have recommendations or advice.  . Insurance providers will sometimes cover a portion of the costs associated with homecare services, if the care is necessary due to a medical condition.

Full-Service Agencies  vs. Independent Providers

There are two main types of in home care available to seniors: Full-service agencies and independent providers.

  • Full Service agencies typically range from companion services to complete nursing services. They can be more expensive but the trade-off is their caregivers have often been carefully screened with extensive background checks. This provides a little peace of mind and helps you feel comfortable with the caregiver in your home. Most states require these caregivers to be certified according to specific state standards, such as taking an examination to become a CNA.  And if a caregiver is unable to work due to illness or emergency, a replacement is typically sent to the home when using the full-service option.
  • Independent Providers are often less expensive.  However, you’ll want to do the legwork to carefully screen your employee. It’s also a good idea to check backgrounds and verify identities. The other downside is not having a readily available replacement should your employee is unable to work on any given day.

Home care can be a viable option for helping your loved one remain independent and in her own home. It’s not right for everyone, however; some seniors prefer the socialization and activities available in senior living settings, and not all families can afford the costs associated with in-home care. Finally, your loved one’s needs may eventually exceed what the agency is able to provide, making a move to a residential senior care facility necessary.

Image via and is licensed under the Creative Commons license.

Legal Services for the Elderly: Where and When to Start

Older adults will eventually encounter age-specific issues which can require legal services. But at what point should you seek legal advice, and for which situations? Is it to make end-of-life decisions or for income-related advice and support? Perhaps it is due to hardships related to consumer-related problems because unfortunately, many seniors fall prey to scams such as fraud, identity theft and other crimes. Seniors are faced with important and often vital end-of-life decisions that require the expertise of a professional.

When is it time?

Older people occasionally, sometimes more often, have to rely on others for things related to their daily activities. This can make the elderly more susceptible to things such as elder abuse, which can be in the form of physical abuse, neglect, or even telephone scams designed to take advantage of vulnerable older adults. Fortunately, there are laws that protect the elderly from such abuse, and if you or a loved one ends up in a situation like this, it’s time to call a lawyer.

Maybe its time to think about end-of-life arrangements such as an advanced directive, a living will, power of attorney, funeral planning, or estate planning. Whether it’s a living will, which specifies what healthcare-related actions you want taken if you’re unable to make decisions due to  temporary or permanent incapacitation, or whether you want to plan for the future financially, an attorney who specializes in elder law should be contacted.

Living wills and advance planning for the elderly

It’s wise to protect your property and assets by having a will even if you don’t have a large estate or a lot of money. The main reason is to ensure that your property and valuables go to the person or persons that you choose. If a will has not been drafted, the property can be distributed according to their state’s laws.

Preplanning for a funeral can take a huge burden off of family members; it offers emotional and financial security for seniors and their loved ones. Since 2000, The National Funeral Directors Association now follow a Bill of Rights for funeral contracts, which serves as a resource to understand what to expect from preplanning your funeral. However, before signing any funeral arrangement contracts it is important to have a legal professional look over the documents.

Where do I Look for Legal Advice?

Where are the experts that can help a senior with end-of life-concerns? In the early 2000’s the specialty of Elder Law surfaced, which is devoted to the issues that seniors face. Elder law encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness and incapacity such as:

  • Health and personal care planning, which includes powers of attorney and living wills, lifetime planning and family issues.
  • Fiduciary (financial) representation, financial planning, housing opportunities and financing, income, estate, and gift tax matters.
  • Planning for a well spouse when the other spouse requires long term care, asset protection, public benefits such as Medicaid and insurance, and Veterans’ benefits.
  • Capacity, guardianship and guardianship avoidance.
  • Resident rights in long-term care facilities and nursing home claims.
  • Employment and retirement matters, age or disability discrimination and grandparents’ rights.
  • Will and trust planning, planning for minor or adult special needs children.

There are a number of situations in which you may find yourself in need of an elder law attorney. In general, however, the sooner the better is the rule when it comes to making plans for the future. It’s wise to sit down with an attorney even in mid-life or sooner to discuss things such as advance directives and wills in case of unforeseen events. The better prepared you are now, the more you can enjoy your golden years knowing all your end-of-life decisions will be carried out.

Image by otiep on Stock.xchng

Role Reversal: Cohabitating with an Elderly Parent

As the population continues to age, few things become more apparent than seniors’ desire for independence coupled with wanting to stay in their own homes. It’s a comfort thing: Most people want to grow old in their home, surrounded by their personal belongings and memories. Not to mention, the exorbitant costs associated with care outside of the home either in a long-term setting or assisted living facilities seems far out of reach for many of today’s families.

Nowadays, there are more and more adult children who end up cohabitating with their aging parents, whether that means the child returns home to get back on his feet or an elderly parent moves in with a child’s family to downsize or when it becomes unsafe for them to live alone. In the last 15 years, the number of seniors living with an adult child has skyrocketed, thanks in part to the high costs associated with getting outside help.

Living with elderly parents
Families provide the bulk of long-term care

It’s estimated that over 10 million adults over the age of 50 are responsible for the care of an aging parent. That’s about one in five Americans taking over the responsibility of a parent either in their home or paying for their care, according to the most recent statistics from the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA).

What’s more, Focus on the Family reports that families–not institutions–are providing 80 percent of long term care, meaning there are a lot of family caregivers out there providing the bulk of caregiving services for today’s elderly population. . As baby boomers are living longer and having healthier lives, any care that is needed for the aging parents typically becomes the children’s responsibility.

As people grow older, there are many ailments and conditions which may lead to the need for outside help. Cohabitating with aging parents can take the place of some, if not much, of the need for this assistance. A cohabitating arrangement can prove beneficial and rewarding, but it could also create plenty of complications.

Talk out the details first

Most children have good intentions when they decide living with an elderly parent is the best option. However, these situations can go south very rapidly if all the details weren’t given much thought before the decision was made.

Addressing every topic beforehand, such as finances, and evaluating how to establish unity among everyone involved can ease much of the tension associated with living with aging parents. Here are a few topics that should be considered prior to cohabitating with mom or dad:

  • Who will pay the bills? Will your parent be expected to contribute financially?
  • Are there young children involved, and how can they be prepared for this change? Be sure to discuss the situation and explain, even to very young children, why Grandma or Grandpa is moving in and what it means for them.
  • Do you need ground rules for young children? The roles can get mixed when multiple generations live under the same roof; be upfront about disciplinary roles and expectations to avoid hurtful confrontations.
  • What medical needs does your elderly parent have? Who will be responsible for taking care of any care needs, appointments and supplies?
  • Is it safe for your aging parent to be alone during the day? If not, who will be caring for her while your family is away? Look into options such as adult day care if needed.

Living with mom or dad

Share responsibilities with siblings

If your aging loved one requires a great deal of care, enlisting other siblings to help can be a good idea. If you have adult siblings who live close enough to help with daily activities or transportation to doctor appointments, it can alleviate the amount of stress placed on the child with whom the aging parent resides.

Make plans in advance and discuss these options with your elderly parent and any siblings who will be participating in care. Again, advance planning goes a long way in avoiding unpleasant disputes down the road.

Check into community resources

Researching all the options available in your community, such as respite care can also help alleviate some of the burden. It’s important for families entering into a cohabitating arrangement with an elderly loved one to know all their options and have ample support. Ancillary resources that can help include:

Living with elderly parents can and does work, provided there is sufficient space, privacy and boundaries for everyone involved. Mutual respect and a place to go when one has had enough family time are also crucial to a successful cohabitating arrangement.  Cooperation, advance planning and flexibility are all critical to the family’s happiness.

Images via and  InAweofGod via Flickr

Movember: Raising Awareness for Men’s Health, One Moustache at a Time!

Photo credit:

As the month of November rolls along, you may begin to notice more moustaches. That’s because it’s Movember–a month-long grassroots movement to raise awareness about men’s health issues, including mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. By simply growing a moustache, men’s faces become walking billboards touting the importance of men’s health.

Men’s life expectancies are shorter than women’s, currently 77 as opposed to women’s 82. Is it because men’s health issues are swept under the rug? Studies show that men are less likely to call for a doctor’s appointments when they don’t feel well, or schedule routine check-ups, and as a result, fail to benefit from early detection and preventative measures. It seems a long-standing tradition for men to shy away from talking openly about sensitive health issues or to “man-up” and assume things will be just fine.

According to Movember & Sons, the website that promotes Movember, men don’t get regular health checks for these reasons:

  • Fear that a regular check-up will lead to a hospital stay
  • Discomfort or embarrassment to talk about a health issue
  • Busy schedules preventing getting a doctor’s visit on the calendar
  • Not wanting to be bothered to make an appointment

These “old-school” presentiments about men’s health have led to a less healthy population of senior citizens. Some of the statistics are frightening. One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. About a third of the nearly 572,000 cancer deaths will be attributed to preventable issues like obesity, poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity. What can be done?

The Importance of Annual Check-Ups

For men in their 60s and 70s, annual check ups should include the following:

  • colorectal cancer screening
  • skin cancer screening–keep tabs on your body and tell the doctor if your skin changes
  • prostate cancer screening
  • blood pressure check
  • cholesterol screening
  • vision and hearing screenings
  • dental check-up

Get Your Immunizations Up To Date

Are your immunizations up to date? The following immunizations are important for men as you age:

  • tetanus-diptheria booster if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years
  • annual flu vaccination
  • shingles/herpes zoster annually after age 60
  • pneumococcal vaccine annually after age 65

Know Your Health History

Family history affects your risks for diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The Department of Health and Human Services offers a free online tool called “My Family Health Portrait” which allows you to enter and track necessary information about your health and the health history of your family members. It can be both a useful tool to manage your own health, and a valuable resource for your children and grand-children.

Join the Movember Movement!

Spreading the word about men’s health issues is not a job only for the younger generations. By promoting the “Mo” movement in senior centers, assisted living centers, and retirement communities, members of those communities can benefit from awareness of men’s health issues, be encouraged to schedule regular check-ups, strike up conversations with the community at large about Movember and begin to tackle statistics that are impacting the overall health of men. Is it working? More than 855,000 people worldwide participated in Movember in 2011. Research specific to Movember’s impact in the U.S. showed that

  • 69% of participants had a general check up with their doctor
  • 79% discussed their health with friends, family and colleagues
  • 70% talked about specific men’s health issues
  • 67% recommended that someone else see a doctor
  • 43% became more aware and educated about the health risks they face

Movember & Sons provides a place to register and free educational resources about men’s health.