Tag Archives: aging

Post COVID Long Term Care Reform

The COVID-19 pandemic must inspire significant changes in how long term care is treated and resourced.

The  COVID-19 pandemic has placed long term care in the spotlight.  Immense challenges have existed for decades, but salt is now in the wound.

Some lawyers see this pandemic as an opportunity to teach the long term care industry a lesson.  In addition, various media outlets see this as a chance to catch the big story of the devastated family member of one who lived in a nursing home.

Others see the realities of this pandemic as an opportunity to bring about reform.  Larry Carlson,  President and Chief Executive for United Methodist Communities writes about the need for more emotional and financial support for the senior housing and healthcare system https://ocnjdaily.com/letter-to-the-editor-senior-living-centers-cant-do-it-alone/.

Katie Smith Sloan is the President, and CEO of LeadingAge- the national voice for aging services providers.  She discusses the “slow-motion catastrophe” that nursing homes were last on the list for federal COVID support. An Open Letter from Katie Smith, president of LeadingAge

The Front Line

Let’s begin by acknowledging Mr. Carlson’s observation about the societal negative narrative about the people who work in long term care.  Facts:

  • 4.5 million direct care workers support older adults and people with disabilities across the U.S
  • Turnover is 40 – 60% because the work is difficult and workers are under-appreciated and under-paid
  • 42% of direct care workers rely on some form of public assistance to make ends meet

Despite the discouraging realities of this work, millions show up every shift, on weekends and holidays, and even during a pandemic.  In addition, they put themselves at risk to do the work that nobody else can or wants to do.

Direct care workers are concerned about the well-being of those in their care.   Feedback from communities trained in Compassionate Touch reveals that despite the stress and time constraints, staff still find time to calm and reassure their residents with Compassionate Touch.  Compassionate Touch®

These workers and the residents they care for deserve better- much better.   They don’t deserve disrespect or to be described as criminals.  Furthermore, they deserve respect, esteem, and wages that reflect the societal value of growing old with dignity and quality care.

I hope that a higher level of respect and helpful attention for aging services will be an outgrowth of this pandemic.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  In addition, she is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Tips for Seniors Living Well

Seniors Living Well

Seniors today are living longer; however, are they living well into old age? The National Wellness Institute tells us that “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Indeed, the choices we make along the way determine the degree of wellness we’ll enjoy as we age. But how can cultivate a healthy, satisfying life?

The National Council for Aging Care offers some tips. First of all, develop healthy eating habits with whole foods and plenty of water. Next, keep your body and brain active. Find a physical activity you enjoy and challenge your mind in creative ways. Learn something new. Another key is to stay connected with others to avoid the pitfalls of social isolation. Reach out for help when life throws you a challenge. Also, pay attention to your appearance and keep up to date on popular culture and discover what’s buzzing with younger people. Finally, take precautions such as regular health check-ups and fall prevention measures in your home

I once was a passenger aboard a Great Lakes cruise ship. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Great Lakes are big enough to cruise on– and then some. What stood out were my fellow passengers– many of whom are in their 80′s. One woman celebrated her 94th birthday, while a couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  At nearly 60, I was almost the youngest person on board.  Now don’t get me wrong; these seniors did not run marathons. Many had physical challenges.  But they didn’t stop them from going on daily excursions and having a great time. One woman with severe scoliosis went on most tours including going down in a copper mine, complete with hard-hat! Another 92-year-old woman told me that she had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer; however, her doctor and family supported her decision to go on this trip. In spite of her illness, her attitude was sunny and positive. It seemed like she was content to stay on the ship taking in the scenery, smiling all the while.

Both of these women are examples of living well in spite of the challenges that may occur along the way. It was inspiring to be with people who didn’t stop living a fulfilling life in their senior years.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Can we Age Well through the Challenges of Aging?

Until a miracle cure is found to stop, reverse or drastically slow down the aging process,  the news flash of the day is that we will all leave this earth someday.  In our anti-aging driven society of wrinkle reducers and body re-shaping, the fact is that all of us are, shall I say it – AGING!  The question is not that we are aging, but can we age well through the challenges of aging?

Unlike what many marketers would have us believe, aging is not a disease.  Normal aging is associated with changes, some of these being:

  • Vision – decreased depth perception and ability to distinguish dark colors.  Often this includes decreased night vision.
  • Hearing – loss is gradual;  in the 65 – 74 age group 25% hearing loss is average, with men experiencing more than women.
  • Smell – by age 80, 40% of older adults may experience changes in ability to smell.
  • Touch – the number of nerve receptors in skin decrease and difficulty in the ability to discriminate temperature increases with age.
  • Psychosocial – memory and reaction time typically being to decline at about the age of 70, leading to slower response time, decreased reflexes in the feet and learning time takes longer.

These age-related changes can be challenging, especially if we don’t accept these as a reality of normal aging.  For instance, vision changes require that we see our eye doctor on a regular basis so that symptoms such as cataracts can be corrected.  Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.

Other changes are more complex which can be related to a number of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, medications, and dementia.  The “snowball” effect of age-related changes such as falling, depression, memory loss, loss of peripheral vision, weight loss, for example, is not a normal part of aging and needs to be addressed in order to age well.

To age well we:

  1. Must accept the normal changes taking place as we age
  2. Address these changes with regular health care visits
  3. Understand that an unhealthy lifestyle such as lack of physical exercise, unhealthy eating, over-consumption of alcohol, drug or medication misuse,  and lack of social interactions will have a domino effect on normal aging.

Age is the greatest factor in developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological symptoms, heart disease and other chronic illness.  For the 78 million boomers marching toward old age who want to age well, the best first step is to realize that you have the ability to choose if this will be your course of action.  To age well, we must take on the aging challenges intentionally.  Not by ignoring that we are aging, or allowing ourselves to wallow in the woes of aching joints.

“Know that you are a perfect age.  Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once.  Be comfortable with growing older.”                              ….Louise Hay

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live Simulation program.  She may be contacted at pam@ageucate.com

www.AGEucate.com

Considering Retirement? This Might Change Your Mind

I wonder if “retirement” will be one of those words that get’s shelved as such a “twenty-tens” thing.  Why the buzz about nixing retirement?

A study of nearly half a million people in France found that people who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.  It is the largest study done thus far and backs up the theory about brainpower and the benefits of staying mentally (and physically) sharp.  Researchers agree with the findings that working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged.  All of these things are known to help prevent cognitive decline.

“For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent,” said Carole Dufouil, a scientist as INSERM, the French government’s health research agency.

Are we turning the tide on what old age means and when society determines we’re used up?  I certainly hope so!  Famous people such as actress Betty White (95) and Warren Buffett (87) haven’t given up their day jobs, and neither have any intention of doing so!

104 year old Fauja Singh recently ran the UK based Mumbai Marathon and is to date the oldest running marathon runner in the world.  He took up the sport at the spry age of 81!

Certainly we are seeing the tide change, as our health care and  retirement systems reevaluate the worldwide longevity revolution.  Living 30, 40 or more years in “retirement” is neither financially feasible or healthy for many many people,  and it’s stretching federal and state budgets in ways that no one dreamed of decades ago.

So before gazing into your crystal ball and seeking that dreamy “retirement” you would be wise to consider what work brings you in keeping mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually young.  If, after examining your decision, you opt for retirement,  have a plan of filling your days with meaningful activities that are healthy for mind, body and soul.   Follow the advise of professionals on healthy aging:

  • Stay active. Many studies show exercise reduces dementia risk.
  • Stay connected — join a club, travel, volunteer. Social ties boost brain health.
  • Eat right. High cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage, while dark vegetables and fruits may help protect brain cells.
  • Do mentally challenging activities such as word puzzles and other things that stimulate thinking skills.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who care for them.  

www.AGEucate.com