Home For the Holidays: Can a Resident of Assisted Living Visit Home?


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“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” say the lyrics to a popular Christmas song. And as friends and families gather to celebrate their beliefs or enjoy traditional meal around a table, the absence of a family member can be very difficult. Is grandma, grandpa, mom or dad allowed to leave his or her assisted care facility or nursing home to join in the holiday festivities?

Many residents of assisted living facilities and care homes are able to leave the facility for special occasions, as long as family members give notice ahead of time, are able to care for their loved one while he or she is home and the resident is healthy enough to endure travel. Make sure you have wheelchair access if necessary, that you stick to medication schedules and adhere to special diets.

Concern over Medicare Coverage

If your loved one’s stay in a nursing home or care facility is funded in any way by Medicare, you may be concerned that you’ll forfeit Medicare coverage if he or she leaves the facility. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., that is not a necessary concern. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual recognizes that leaving for a short time to attend a religious service, holiday gathering, family occasion or even a trial visit home, does not indicate a resident no longer needs skilled nursing care. Nursing home residents are permitted to leave for a short time without giving up Medicare funding.

Ways to Celebrate In the Assisted Living Facility

Although you may feel like the holidays aren’t the same without grandma or dad at home with the rest of the family, consider whether or not the visit is the right thing for them. Returning home–for just a short time–may trigger feelings of homesickness and loneliness upon their return. Are you having them home to satisfy your need for a family holiday, or theirs?

If it’s not feasible for your loved ones to come home, there are many ways to bring the holidays to them. Share photo albums from holidays past and talk about old memories. If your loved one has special ornaments or decorations, get them out and decorate his or her space. The taste of a favorite food may bring back memories of a happy time or satisfy the need for tradition. And most facilities go to great lengths to help their residents celebrate, inviting church choir groups, children’s groups, other seniors and families to participate in activities.

You may wonder, if your family member has dementia or is suffering from Alzheimer’s, why bother making an effort? Carol Bradley Bursak, editor-in-chief of ElderCareLink, says that even if your loved one is suffering from memory problems or dementia, their short-term memory is often foggy while they are able to remember things from the long-ago past. Ornaments and photos may provide a sense of familiarity and comfort. In fact, new items or recent pictures may add to his or her confusion. At the very heart, including an elderly loved one in your traditions reaffirms their humanity. Make each moment count.

When To Hang Up the Car Keys: Driver Safety and the Elderly

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No one wants to watch his or her independence slip away or be the one to take that independence away from a loved one, and losing the ability to drive oneself at will is a significant loss of independence. It’s not easy, but there comes a time to consider both your loved one’s safety and the safety of other’s on the road when an older driver is behind the wheel.

A recent Harvard study showed that adults aged 40-49 were the age group most likely to worry about a loved one’s driving capabilities. Of those concerned, more than 33 percent had not yet voiced their fears because of worry of a negative reaction, feeling unsure about how to bring the subject up or feeling concern about the lack of alternative transportation.

Physical limitations as a person ages

Not only do physical change to a person’s body and mind occur as he or she ages, but a body 70 years or older is at much higher risk of severe injury or death as a result of a car crash as opposed to a younger person in the same crash.

  • Vision: night vision may decline, sensitivity to daytime glare can increase, it may becomes more difficult to judge of others’ rate of speed and depth perception changes.
  • Hearing: horns, emergency vehicle sirens and other warning signals may be muffled.
  • Slower response time due to limited mobility.
  • Chronic conditions like insomnia, arthritis, heart disease, Parkinson’s may affect a person’s ability to focus attention on the road.
  • Side effects from medications may cause confusion or drowsiness.
  • Dementia and other cognitive problems can lead to confusion on the road.

How to know when it’s time

The Office of Aging lists warning signs pointing to unsafe driving in older adults. Does the driver:

  • have difficulty maintaining posted speeds
  • find it uncomfortable or intimidating to drive at night
  • show erratic movements such as abrupt lane changes, jolted acceleration or confusion between gas and brake pedals
  • get lost easily
  • feel easily taken off guard by a car or pedestrian that “wasn’t there a second ago”
  • have difficulty reading signs
  • demonstrate a failure to use turn signals or obey other rules of the road
  • drift into other lanes or hit curbs
  • incur traffic citations
  • have difficulty looking over shoulder because of limited range of movement

These are signs that driving is becoming difficult and potentially dangerous.

How you can help

Your loved one likely won’t  hand the keys over without resistance, but the suggestion is easier to hear from a family member or close friend rather than the DMV or a court order. Here are a few tips on making the conversation go a little easier:

  • Be empathetic–this is a hard transition!
  • Help figure out alternative transportation or develop a schedule so that your loved one doesn’t feel helpless or stranded.
  • Use resources like the free online course offered by AARP, The Hartford and MIT Age Lab called We Need To Talk, providing information on fostering meaningful conversation between family members about adult safety issues.
  • Seek outside expertise from a Comprehensive Driving Evaluation. Evaluations are given by an occupational therapist who can provide a clinical assessment of vision, cognition, reaction time as well as a behind-the-wheel assessment of driving skills. For a list of occupational therapists, visit the American Occupational Therapist’s website.

In general, older adults have high seatbelt usage and low citations for driving under the influence, reckless driving and speeding. So if medications or clear cognitive issues are not problematic, consider a trial of self-imposed limitations. Don’t drive at night or in bad weather conditions and avoid rush-hour traffic times.

The key is safety, for your loved one, for the drivers’ passengers and others on the road. As difficult as the conversation may be, a tragic result will be even more difficult to handle. Consider using family time together over the holidays as a time to observe and possibly talk to your loved one about retiring the car keys.

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 MedicineNet.com, 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 MedicineNet.com. 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.

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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 Geograph.org.uk 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.

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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.

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Top 20 College Courses for Senior Care

top senior care collegesIn universities and colleges across the country, courses and degree programs in gerontology, the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging, are on the rise. By 2030, the Administration in Aging predicts there will be more than 72 million senior citizens in the United States–up from 39 million in 2009. Demand for senior care professionals is already strong, and as baby boomers grow older, the need for qualified caregivers, policy makers, researchers and providers of elder care services will only grow.

Opportunities for new and returning students to study gerontology are abounding. Interdisciplinary in nature, courses range from nutrition to psychology, administration and policy to financial longevity. Listed in no particular order, here are college classes in gerontology, social work, or public health majors, Master’s and Ph.D. programs.

1. Gerontology 101 — San Diego State University

The San Diego State University’s School of Social Work offers an array of courses for the Major in Gerontology, but all students must  begin with Gerontology 101. Overall, the school’s goal is to provide comprehensive coursework to educate students on the impact of society’s changing demographics on every aspect of their social and work lives.

2. Fieldwork in Gerontology — Ithaca College

The aging studies program at Ithaca College’s Gerontology Institute enjoys both a national and international reputation of excellence. Partnering with a nearby adult residential facility, the program provides students a unique learning experience. Courses ranging from Fieldwork in Gerontology to The Long-Term Care system give students a well-rounded look at the hot topics in the field of gerontology and senior care today.

3. Functional Performance Assessment & Programming for Older Adults — California State University, Fullerton

Students enrolled in the Gerokinesiology advising track at California State University – Fullerton learn both background knowledge and skills necessary to develop and teach fitness, mobility and mobility enhancement classes, as well as personal training and rehabilitation programs for older adults. Students at California State have a unique opportunity to practice their skills through internships with the school’s Center for Successful Aging.

4. Physical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability — University of North Texas

Rehabilitation Studies within the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of North Texas prepares students for a range of possible careers, including aging programs, independent living facilities, community living centers and other human service agencies. For the 17th straight year, the University of North Texas was named  one of America’s Best 100 College Buys by Institutional Research & Evaluation, Inc., designating the school as an affordable place to earn a top-notch education.

5. Fundamentals of Epidemiology — University of Georgia

The University of Georgia’s Institute of Gerontology is the school’s hub for coordinating and conducting education, research and outreach services associated with the study of aging and older adults. Long life is a direct result of public health, says the department, and Fundamentals of Epidemiology is the cornerstone class of public health studies.

6. Physiology of Aging — University of California

A requirement for any Gerontology major at the University of California, Physiology of Aging is essential for students wanting to study, manage and learn how to heal the body across the lifespan. The UC Davis School is the oldest and largest school of Gerontology in the world, offering the most comprehensive selection of Gerontology degree programs, from undergraduate to specialized Master and Ph.D. programs.

7. Social Services for the Aging — Brigham Young University

Social Services for the Aging is an elective course in the Masters of Social Work curriculum at Brigham Young University. The BYU Master of Social Work is one of the strongest Clinical Social Work programs in the nation, especially preparing students for research and Ph.D. programs.

8. Lifespan Development — Loyola University of Maryland/Johns Hopkins

Lifespan Development is one course included in the Loyola/Johns Hopkins 5-Year Dual Degree Nursing program. A unique program, the dual degree allows students at Loyola to pursue a career in nursing within the context of a liberal arts education, merging clinical skills earned at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing with an education in sociology from Loyola University Maryland.

9. Psychology of Aging — Virginia Commonwealth University

The Virginia Commonwealth University‘s psychogeriatrics track within their Department of Gerontology is unique in the field of geriatrics. Psychology of Aging teaches research methods related to optimal aging, psychological adjustment in late life, development of personality, cognitive function and emotional aspects of the aging process.

10. Ethics — Wayne State University

Ranked number one by the Gourman Report since 1995, the Bachelor of Social Work degree program at Michigan’s Wayne State University within the school’s Institute of Gerontology prepares students both with a strong curriculum and field work. Ethics is one required course for the degree, which can lead students on a specialized Gerontology Certificate.

11. Aging Policy & Services — Georgia State University

Within the Gerontology Institute at the Georgia State University are a host of classes for undergraduates, Master’s and certificate programs. Aging Policy & Services focuses on an important aspect of gerontology study, which is policy making. Over the past 30 years, more than 500 students have graduated from the Georgia State University’s Gerontology Institute, making differences in this changing society.

12. Family Practice, Community-based Geriatrics — University of Kansas

The University of Kansas’ Graduate Program in Gerontology emphasizes social and behavioral gerontology. Interdisciplinary in nature, faculty include members of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Architecture and Urban Design, Allied Health, Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Welfare. Community-based geriatric courses are affiliated with KU’s Landon Center of Aging.

13. Adult Development in Aging — University of Nevada – Las Vegas

The Gerontology Minor program at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas is about as diverse as any, ranked by the 2013 U.S. News and World Report as the eighth most diverse campus in the nation. Their coursework for a minor in gerontology ranges from counseling to nutrition to Adult Development in Aging, which explores the physical and psychophysiologic developmental patterns in adulthood and normal aging.

14. Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling — Boston College

The Boston College University Institute on Aging takes a holistic approach to the challenges and opportunities of aging in the 21st Century. Their theology and ministry coursework addresses issues like family counseling, violence, crisis ministry, depression, substance abuse and boundaries in ministry.

15. Death, Loss and Grief — St. Francis College

An often uncomfortable and difficult topic, death and all it brings is a necessary component of an education in gerontology. The Health Promotion and Sciences major at St. Francis College in New York City prepares students for either graduate work or careers in local, state and national community health agencies, city and state government agencies, hospitals, schools and assisted living facilities.

16. Family Caregiving and Dementias — Barton College

Barton College in Wilson, NC, offers a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology that affords students both in-classroom learning and hands-on fieldwork. In the gerontology program, students play a significant role in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk and in the Caregiver Education Conference conducted by the Alzheimer’s North Carolina Inc., the Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging and Barton College.

17. Gender and Aging — Miami University

The Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford,OH, emphasizes research and multidisciplinary education in gerontology. Researchers and educators provide technical assistance, service to the community, planners, providers, policy makers and other professionals, enabling the next generation of students to do the same.

18. Financing Longevity: Topics in Insurance — University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Offered at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a gerontology degree with concentration in Aging and Business requires that students learn about the financial issues of growing old, a topical issue in today’s world. Students explore personal, governmental and private-sector roles in financing longevity in the United States, discussing insurance, people’s choices and policy options within the Gerontology Masters Program.

19. Nutrition and the Elderly — Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA, offers a gerontology certificate program that partners up with a variety of majors, including nursing, psychology, pastoral care, social work, nutrition or business. Nutrition and the Elderly is one of six required courses for the certification.

20. Long-Term Care Administration — University of Nebraska, Omaha

Calling it an “education for the 21st century,” the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska Omaha offers a wide range of options for students looking to specialize in the field. A graduate course, Long-Term Care Administration especially prepares students for the issue facing administrators today and in the future.


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Startling Statistics Concerning Suicide among Elderly Men

Studies have shown a startling trend in the increase of suicides among older adults, which has brought the subject of elderly mental health into the spotlight. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that suicide among older adults is more common than most realize and more disproportionate to suicides committed by any other age group.

Depression among elderly men may go unnoticed.

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Adults over the age of 65 represent only 12% of the people in the United States, but they represent 16 – 25 percent of all suicides that occur in this country. What is surprising is that four out of five suicides are committed by elderly men. The numbers increase drastically for white men over the age of 85 to 50 occurrences out of 100,000 men.

No Previous Warning

What is even more disturbing is the majority of elderly suicide victims gave no indication that they were considering suicide and had no outward signs of depression. Many had been seen by their doctors in the month and even days before their deaths. Even though practitioners are trained to recognize symptoms of depression, which can be crucial in preventing suicides, often there are no signs exhibited by their patients.

Concern for Elderly Men

While depression plays a large part in many of these cases, other elderly health issues can increase feelings of hopelessness and not having anything left to live for. Social isolation can increase these feelings also. This is the case for many elderly men who tend to become more socially isolated than women do. The risk increases for elderly widowers because their wives managed many of their social connections. Once their wives has passed, these social connections may be greatly reduced or totally cease.

Elderly men may also find themselves losing a sense of purpose because they were poorly prepared for retirement and now do not know what to do with themselves. This is especially true if they have never developed interests or hobbies outside of work. The added stress of being alone may become too much to bear and they feel they would be better off dead.

Risks and Signs to Watch For

As with so many elderly health concerns, if an older man finds himself facing the prospect of going through a major health crisis such as cancer alone, this can become overwhelming. This is one major risk in which to be aware. Returning home after a stay in the hospital can be a trying time for many and can increase the risk of suicide.

One signal that may suggest depression is taking hold of one’s life may be drastic weight loss. This is often because they have stopped eating as their will to live fades. They may also stop taking their medications and sleep more often. They may also appear very sad and say such things about being a burden on others, and how their family would be better off if they were gone. This is not a normal stage of aging; this is a sign that help is needed, and now.

What Can You Do?

The key to helping to prevent depression and suicide among the elderly is to help them remain socially active and involved in activities. These activities could be of any type whether joining a senior center or a book club. Getting the person involved in volunteering for their church or local school or museum will give them a sense of they are making a contribution and have a purpose.

If you suspect that an elderly person you know is exhibiting signs of depression, take steps to stop them from becoming a statistic. Help find mental health services geared toward the elderly for them immediately. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, contact your local hospital for an immediate referral.

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7 Tech Gadgets for Seniors

Maybe it’s getting a little more difficult to run the vacuum or uncork a bottle of your favorite wine, but every day, developers are working to make tasks easier, life safer and just a little more fun for seniors. Here are seven gadgets that can enable seniors to be independent and active for longer.

1. 5 Star Responder


Remember, as a kid, when we were told to use the buddy system? As older adults, we can’t always rely on a buddy to be nearby. The 5Star Responder is an electronic buddy, a small unit, like a cell phone, that clips on to your belt or pocket, a keychain, or backpack, and uses GPS technology to locate and connect you with a certified 5Star Agent at any time. With the push of a button, you’ll reach an agent who will identify and locate you, assess your situation, conference in a family member or friend, send help if necessary, connect you with a live, registered nurse or contact 9-1-1, in an emergency. With a 5-second hold of the button, you can also bypass the agent and connect directly with 9-1-1.

Other features include the ability to program personal details including emergency contacts, doctors and medical conditions. The service, available in 100 languages, is $14.99 a month with no contract or cancellation fee, and a one-time activation fee, discounted if you activate online. First month is free for Amazon customers.

2. Hands-Free Vacuum  

Some of the high-end vacuum cleaners these days are lightweight and deft, but still require you to push them. The iRobot is a smart, self-guided vacuum cleaner–no need to push! As it scoots around the house, the iRobot’s improved fine-filtration system traps dust, pollen, crumbs, pet hair and dirt, automatically adjusting from carpet to tile, linoleum and rugs. Armed with an anti-tangle technology, the unit will reverse when it encounters rug fringe or cords, and the built-in cliff sensors ensure that it won’t tumble down stairs or off other steep drop-offs. Return it to the Home Base dock when the job is done for a re-charge, or when the battery is low.

Smart is not an overstatement. The iRobot scans a room before getting started, taking in the dimensions, obstacles and dirty spots. The user can set up virtual walls if an area of the house is off limits. Then with just a quick push of a button, the self-navigated sweeper is on the job.


3. Automatic Pill Dispenser

There are many automatic pill dispensers on the market today, some as much as $800. But not all tech gadgets need to carry a high price tag to be effective. The Med-E-Lert Automatic Pill Dispenser comes in around $40 on Amazon.

Some of the main features of the Med-E-Lert Automatic Pill Dispenser include a large capacity of one week’s supply of pills up to four times a day, 28 compartments that hold up to 18 Aspirin-sized pills and a long duration buzzer that persists until the pills are removed.


4. Large Print Keyboard

Featuring bright yellow keys and black letters, a large-print keyboard is ideal for people with visual impairment or low vision, or for folks working in low-light situations. The Keys U See Large Print Keyboard offers the largest typeface available on a full-sized keyboard, making computer use easier. Plus, it maintains the standard 104-key layout, so there’s no need to re-learn how to type, and hot keys jump you directly to search commands, the Internet or email functions.


5. Digital Handheld Emergency Alert Radio

The state of today’s world can make anyone anxious, and feeling cut-off from emergency news and alerts heightens that sense of anxiety. A digital handheld emergency alert radio is a small, useful tool to include in an emergency preparedness toolkit. Made by Oregon Scientific, the WR202 Digital Emergency Radio includes an alert function directly from the National Weather Service that issues Imminent Weather or Civil Emergency warnings in your area. A hand crank and solar panel provide alternate energy to keep the LED flashlight, siren and radio powered up. The handy unit also includes a USB-compatible cell phone charging port.


6. Electronic Corkscrew

Physical limitation shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a good glass of wine with a fine meal. An electric corkscrew makes uncorking a bottle quick and easy. Designed to fit all traditional wine bottles, the Oster Electronic Bottle Opener includes a foil cutter and a simple one-button operation to gradually remove the cork. The cordless corkscrew is lightweight and ergonomically designed to be comfortable to handle. It rests in a charging base when not in use and comes in three colors to jazz up your kitchen space.


7. Hands-Free Game Console

Difficulty holding onto a controller or manipulating buttons may take the fun out of gaming. With a hands-free system, seniors can join the action without having to work a small controller. The Kinect by Microsoft gets you up and moving, whether you’re playing a game of golf, tennis or learning a new low-impact fitness routine in your living room. The system works off the Xbox platform, directly out of the box. No difficult programming or wiring necessary.

Great Gifts for At-Home Seniors Who Have Everything

It won’t be long before we start making our holiday gift lists. Inevitably, we will all have someone who is hard to shop for either because they don’t ask for anything or they already have everything. Although it is the thought that counts, we all want to make sure the gifts we give are not only appreciated by practical for the designated recipient.
Sometimes, shopping for our aging loved ones can prove to be difficult. You may find they are content with their favorite, worn-in sweaters and slipper and aren’t interested in the latest trends. But, we’ve put together 8 Great Gifts for the elderly to help put a smile on their face and give you satisfaction of finding the perfect gift.

Here are 8 great gifts for the elderly:

1.Snapfon ezONE-C Senior Cell Phone with Big Buttons and Easy to Use

Remember when cell phones were just for making phone calls? This no-contract phone reverts back to that simple premise making it easy to use for your loved one. Using pay-as-you-go phone services nursing home residents can easily make and receive private phone calls anywhere, at any time. The large buttons make it easy to dial and the simplicity of the phone helps to eliminate confusion. This is the perfect phone for anybody looking for an easy-to-use cell phone. The Snapfon ezONE-C Senior Cell Phone is available through Amazon.com and calling cards can be purchased through a variety of retailers.

2 and 3. WII and WII Fit Plus with Balance Board

Gaming is getting more and more popular with seniors, so get your loved one off the couch and enjoying a friendly game of virtual bowling with Nintendo’s WII. This gaming platform is not only fun but provides seniors with easy, non-impact exercises to help strengthen their stamina, balance and even can even get their blood pumping a bit. For the experienced WII bowler, you can upgrade their system by introducing them to the WII Fit Plus with Balance Board where they can do yoga or snowboard with Shaun White.

4. Movie Collections from the “Good Ole Days”

It’s no surprise to anyone to hear of complaints about the movies and television shows that are on today. Reality TV has dominated leaving many yearning for the classics. Turner Classics Movies is making it easy to bring the greats back to life with a series of movies that celebrate some of the best films of all times. Whether it’s musicals, mysteries or love stories, there’s something for everyone.

5. VHS to DVD—bringing memories into the digital age

Long gone are the days of VHS recorders. Most VCRs have seen better days, but the library of home movies is filled with memories your loved one may want to relive. A great gift (although it may take some time) would be to help convert those home movies to DVD. The best part is you can also make copies to share with the rest of the family to watch whenever they want. Amazon has several different types of converting software available, but the VHS to DVD 4.0 gets the best reviews.

6. Dominoes, Sequence and other Great Games

Many seniors love to spend time playing games with their friends and family, but after years of use, many of their games are showing the wear and tear. A great way to share in the love of their favorite game is to bring it back to life with the newest version or commemorative addition, like with this Scrabble Deluxe Wood Edition with storage cabinet. But, don’t just give them the game; make sure you take the time to play a few games too. Sitting down to a game of dominoes is sure to put a smile on a loved one’s face.

7. Single Brew Coffee Makers

Kureig Coffee Machines are all the rage. No more wasting coffee or waiting on the tea kettle to boil with these single-, quick-serve beverage makers. Don’t forget to include the K-cups, which will allow your loved one to make his or her favorite blend of coffee or tea. Flavors range from dark roast coffees to herbal teas and hot chocolates. You can also include a carousel or tray to hold the various types of coffees and teas.

8. Help around the house

Robotic help that is. There is now an entire line of robotic appliances to help make day to day life a little easier. The makers of the iRobot (from the same company that makes the original robotic vacuum, the Roomba), have perfected both a hard wood cleaner and a carpet cleaner. No more scrubbing on your hands and knees, just a push of a button and your chores are done. Really adventurous gift givers could even look into the LawnBot, which remotely and effortlessly mows the lawn.

What gifts have you given that have brought smiles to your elderly loved ones?


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