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Aging Wisely May 2013 - Aging Wisely

Five Essential Senior Care Questions for Disaster Preparedness


hurricane damage in FloridaBeing a senior care business dedicated to helping elders in Florida, we focus a lot of time and resources on hurricane preparedness this time of year.  Over the years, we have had numerous trainings and informational sessions for our staff and we have developed a process to assist our elder and disabled clients living in Florida with their planning.

As we go through initial planning with our clients, we share our knowledge of some of the ways they can minimize risk and discuss options.  Every client and family makes their own decisions about what risks they are willing to take and what plans they are comfortable with, but our goal is to arm them with better information as they make these decisions.  Aging Wisely also offers a Florida Hurricane Season Preparedness Package for Seniors and People with Special Needs.  If you know someone living in Florida who might need help with preparations and planning, we invite you to share this flier and contact us today.

You can find a number of articles on our site about disaster preparedness for seniors and important senior care issues during hurricane season.  We also recommend reading EasyLiving’s “Disaster Management for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” if you have a friend or loved one with dementia.  While there are many individual factors in planning, there are five essential questions that you should always answer in helping a senior with disaster preparedness plans:

1.  Is the physical structure adequate/reinforced to withstand storms?  Florida offers a wind mitigation handbook, which explains the benefits of mitigation efforts and suggested reinforcements to the home.  The most obvious of these is securing window openings, as we all have the picture in our heads of people putting up shutters or plywood prior to a storm.  Special shatter-resistant glass windows relieve the stress and physical burden of putting up shutters (if your loved one has shutters, it will be important to plan time/help to get them up for any storm), but can be quite expensive.  If windows need replacing in an older home, it may be worth considering though.  Check out the handbook and consider making the appropriate changes if the home has not already been reinforced. In addition to wind, flood risk is the other important area to consider.  This will be based primarily on the flood zone where you reside, though all residents should consider having sand bags on hand and acknowledge that flooding can be quite widespread due to heavy rains in addition to storm surge.

2.  Is the individual storm-ready?  Essentially, this means assessing the person’s risk and ability to self-preserve during/after the storm.  Key considerations include: dementia/memory problems, physical frailty or mobility issues, medical conditions, incontinence or self-care issues.  Remember that the aftermath of the storm is particularly dangerous, when services and supplies may be cut off for some time (and people often attempt repairs or get injured by environmental hazards).  Electricity can be out for weeks during even minor storms.  If the person relies on senior care services, consider alternative options such as staying with a loved one who can help or securing a respite spot in a well-located assisted living facility.

3.  Does the person have adequate supplies?  Put together a hurricane kit of supplies, food and water (we can help with this process for your Tampa Bay loved ones).  Depending on the situation, your loved one likely needs to have an in-home supply kit and a portable evacuation kit/bag.  Have an adequate supply of medications (Florida law allows for early refills to prepare for disasters), a list of medications, diagnoses and key contacts.  Keep an extra stock of any medical supplies or personal care products needed, as well as first aid items.  Check with your provider about medical equipment and what you can do if you are reliant on an electrically powered device (you should also get on the power company’s “priority reconnect list”).  Charged mobile phones (with an extra battery backup, solar charger, etc.) can be an important lifeline, and comfort to communicate to family members.

4.  Do you have realistic expectations about service and supply availability in the aftermath of a storm?  Hopefully, most senior care providers have become more realistic about setting expectations and helping you to understand that they cannot guarantee services during and after emergencies.  Providers must allow their own employees to prepare for and stay safe during storms.  Various agencies and services may have difficulty getting up and running for some time after a storm if infrastructure is damaged.  Groceries, gas and other essentials may be limited. Consider how this might affect your loved one in your planning.  If your loved one resides in an assisted living facility or nursing home, read their (state required) hurricane plan.  Ask questions if you see potential gaps or concerns for your loved one.  Know who to contact/how information will be communicated to you.

5.  What about the emotional toll and comfort issues of surviving a storm?  In addition to the basic supplies, comfort items (comfy pillow, stuffed animal, a favorite snack) and activities (books, puzzle books, games) can provide distraction and be comforting during the stress of a storm.  The preparation and anticipation itself can be very stressful.  Would your loved one be better off visiting with a loved one or friend who can provide comfort as well as help?  Would a group setting be better (we have had clients who actually enjoyed their “mini vacation” to assisted living when evacuating…definitely a more pleasant experience than sitting home in the dark worrying about what will happen).  If you are a caregiver, natural disasters can also be physically and emotionally draining for you.  Preparations can help reduce the strain, but stay aware of your own health and wellbeing.

We hope these questions help you to frame the planning process.  Seniors suffer the greatest injuries and fatalities during natural disasters.  While there is no way to eliminate all the risk of such disasters, it is important to examine ways to minimize risk and to take planning seriously.  If you have questions or need help for a senior in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, give us a call at 727-447-5845.  Our Senior Care Consultant, Sue Talbott, is ready to assist!

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A Team Approach to Senior Care Management


team approach to care managementWe advocate a team approach to senior care management in all aspects.  A team approach can help reduce caregiver burnout, add different perspectives and fresh ideas and ultimately, provide a more comprehensive approach for better senior care.  Your senior care team might be larger than you think…from your siblings to Mom’s church community and neighbors as well as all the medical and direct care professional who might help.  Rallying that team support can make a big difference to you and your loved one.

When it comes to geriatric care management, Aging Wisely also uses this team approach we advocate.  First, we believe care management is a comprehensive process as reflected in our mission to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.  We feel we serve our clients best by working cooperatively with a care team that includes not only the client and family but the many professionals who can help the client.  This also means we spend a lot of time getting to know fellow professionals in the community to understand how they can help clients and building important relationships.  This enables us to be prepared to help you in a wide array of situations.  It is also makes life a lot easier for you, so that all you have to do is reach out to us as one point of contact for many solutions.

The second aspect of our team approach is how we support each other as an internal team in caring for clients.  This means you benefit from the expertise of our diverse team.  Here’s an overview of the team approach to geriatric care management work at Aging Wisely:

  1. Our team does case reviews and brainstorming to get input on specific case needs or challenges.
  2. Our management team reviews cases several times per week to ensure we are most effectively managing client needs and to assist each other to be able to handle the varying needs of clients and crises.
  3. When your primary care manager takes time off, she provides an update and outline of needs during that time to the team members who will be covering. Your needs are met consistently during vacation or illness.
  4. Our team uses our client system, Caregivers Touch, to maintain updated client records and notes available to all team members.
  5. Our team includes a designated “On Call Care Manager” to cover nights and weekends for our clients.
  6. We work in conjunction with our EasyLiving home health team to coordinate high quality home caregiver services (in-home care, hospital sitters, transportation and more) when you need them.

What are some of the benefits to the client and family of this team approach to geriatric care management?

  1. You get the combined experience of our entire care management team to potentially offer unique solutions and approaches to your needs.  Our team members have worked in different settings, gained extra expertise in certain topics and approach problem solving differently–all of which goes in to helping you.
  2. Having a dedicated On-Call Care Manager helps ensure you have a professional ready to assist whenever a crisis arises and gives our team members the rest they need to maintain work-life balance and be fresh and ready to best help you.
  3. You get consistent care from our professional care managers (only our team members, not outside substitutes) without interruption.
  4. Most importantly, you get the peace of mind knowing you have a winning team by your side through whatever challenges you face.

If you have questions about how our geriatric care management team can help your family, we welcome your calls at 727-447-5845.

Aging Wisely Geriatric Care Management serves clients in the Tampa Bay area including Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties with senior care and disability concerns.

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Geriatric Care Manager Month: When a Florida Care Manager Can Help


Geriatric Care Managers monthMay is designated as National Geriatric Care Manager month. Though we are always working on eldercare education, May is a special time for us to highlight the benefits of working with a geriatric care manager.  At Aging Wisely, we do a lot of outreach to make sure caregiving families know their options and where to turn for help.  We invite you to share and spread the word!

As Florida geriatric care managers, we have worked with many families since we began in 1998.  Florida has been on the forefront of the “age wave” due to its demographics.  For many years, Florida has been a haven for retirees looking for a warm sunny climate and beautiful beaches.  St. Petersburg, Clearwater and the many small towns of Pinellas County have attracted many retirees with a laid back beach environment and affordable cost if living.  Now, our local towns see many of these retirees aging in place, often far from other relatives and family caregivers.

Over the years, we have worked with many of these Florida retirees who are now in their 80s and 90s.  Having a geriatric care manager locally has been a lifeline for many of the family caregivers who are doing their best to provide help from afar.

In case you are in that situation, we’ll share a bit about how geriatric care managers help long-distance caregivers especially (much of which applies if you live close by as well).  We encourage you to reach out to talk to a geriatric care manager–you can click here to contact us (phone: 727-447-5845) or visit for care managers outside of Tampa Bay.

Geriatric Care Managers give families customized, professional recommendations and one point of contact to get comprehensive advice.  What this means is that you can stop the exhausting process of calling around, trying to find sound advice and help from various sources, probably going down the wrong path many times and wasting a lot of time on things that don’t work or don’t apply to your Mom or Dad.  This is one of the biggest frustrations that motivates many family caregiver to reach out to a care manager.  Family caregivers often spend hours searching the internet and making phone calls from a distance, while at work and balancing other tasks.  As geriatric care managers, we make the recommendations we know fit your needs and tell you specific resources to solve your concerns.

Working with a geriatric care manager means knowing your family has an advocate on your side.  Families often tell us that one of the biggest benefits to working with a care manager is peace of mind.  Doesn’t it sound like a huge relief to know you have a local, knowledgeable person you can contact at any time?  You gain a professional “team member” who knows your family, your loved one and the local resource to help…and is hired by you, for you, to get the best results for you.

The process of ongoing, professional evaluation catches issues before they become larger crises and can help increase safety and quality of life.  We often say “we’re your eyes and ears locally” but it is more than that…our geriatric care managers have skills and expertise in evaluating elders, which means we often spot issues that even other professionals or family members do not.  The combination of personalized service and professional expertise can mean the difference between taking a small preventative step and facing a major medical crisis.  It is often these relatively small things that can lead to bigger issues which derail a senior’s and family’s plans and hopes.

If you or someone you know is working hard to take care of Mom or Dad, worrying about an aging loved one or concerned about your own medical and care needs, here are just a few of the many questions we get asked and issues we assist with every day:

  1. How can I stay in my own home when I start to need some help?  How do I find help?  What resources are available?  How do I make my home safer?
  2. When (or why) should I consider an Assisted Living Facility?  How do I find a good one?  What will it cost?  Is there financial help available? What are these different “levels of care” and what’s the difference between a nursing home and assisted living?
  3. How do I know if my Mom can manage her medications?  How can I be sure she is handling her medical appointments and following up?
  4. What do we do if my siblings and I can’t agree?  How do we help Mom when we can’t get along?  What do I do if I think my brother is taking advantage of Dad?
  5. What should I be looking for to know if my aunt is still doing okay at home?  How do we know when Dad should stop driving? What can I do if I see signs Mom is falling but she refuses to acknowledge it or get help?
  6. How do I know if I’m on the best Medicare plan?  How do I figure out what types of programs could help me?  What practical and legal issues should I be thinking about now that I have some medical problems?

These are just a few of the questions we answer and solutions we provide as geriatric care managers.  When you’re looking for elder care assistance in the Tampa Bay area, we’re only a phone call away at 727-447-5845. 

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Elder Care Resources: At Home Fitness


Staying fit means even more as we age.  It can mean the difference between healthy, independent living at home versus being susceptible to accidents like falls and needing additional elder care support.  Good “home fitness” means maximizing your level of functioning and wellbeing based on your situation.  You may not be training for a marathon, but the results for your quality of life could be equally amazing.

elderly in home fitnessAt Aging Wisely, our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.  This means when our geriatric care managers work with a client we are focused on helping them live a life that is most fulfilling to them, given their circumstances and options.  We do this through a holistic and personalized approach.  This is based on the understanding of how much different areas of wellbeing intersect.  For example, greater fitness can bring reduced pain and decreased depression.  The ability to stay engaged and continue favorite activities can improve your mental wellbeing and help you stay connected to your community.

When we do a geriatric care management home assessment, we assess everything from the physical environment to nutrition concerns, fitness and safety needs to medication management and your elder care support system.  We make recommendations we know can make a difference for you. Our care managers know about a lot of special elder care resources in our local community, as well as how to best navigate the options available.

When it comes to in home fitness, we often spot issues for which you might benefit from some home health physical therapy.  We can work with your doctor on getting that prescribed and covered by Medicare.  There might be some easy adaptations to your home that could also increase your ease of getting around while decreasing safety hazards.  Another favorite resource we often recommend is a great Pinellas County company called At Home Fitness.

At Home Fitness specializes in personal training for older adults throughout Pinellas County. The owner, Kelly Carson, spent many years working as a physical therapy assistant in home healthcare (in addition to other settings like nursing homes and sports medicine clinics).  This gave her a unique insight in to the needs of older clients, as well as a passion for helping.  What she noticed especially was that clients wanted and needed ongoing services (beyond the short term rehabilitation typically provided via Medicare) to provide a strong basis of fitness.

The At Home Fitness trainers create a custom plan for each client to enhance their fitness and compliment other eldercare services.  This might include a strengthening program prior to surgery to enable you to get better results and tolerate rehabilitation better and/or assistance after rehabilitation to continue your good results.  A fitness program can result in clients having better balance, improved strength and stamina, reduced pain and greater flexibility.  All of these things can not only keep you safe, but make life a lot more pleasant.

Here are a couple quick examples of how their services have benefited Aging Wisely’s clients:

  • Kelly has helped a disabled client of Aging Wisely’s who really benefits from regular exercise to maximize her mobility and maintain good balance.  It has most certainly kept her from falling and given her a higher level of independence.  The client also looks forward to the visits as part of her routine and social interaction.
  • Another client had previously loved swimming.  She’d had a series of very serious health issues and moved in to an assisted living facility.  At Home Fitness created an aquatic routine with her and visits to assist her in the pool weekly.  She has been so thrilled to enjoy her time in the pool, to say nothing of what it has done for her health.
  • One client never “worked out” even though she led a very fit life, walking a lot and being very active.  When she had physical therapy, she found it to be quite a chore.  We asked her to meet Kelly to “give it a test run” and she was surprised how much she enjoyed her and the workout.  Her doctor has been astonished at her health improvements, especially as she has been so reluctant to make changes in the past.

A personal trainer may not be the first resource you think of when you are caring for an aging loved one with health problems.  These are the types of insights a professional care manager can offer to enhance the life of your loved one.

Contact us online or at 727-447-5845 for an eldercare consultation or geriatric care management assessment in the Tampa Bay area.  We serve Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties…from St. Petersburg and Clearwater through New Port Richey and Tampa.  If you want to locate a care manager outside of that area, you can visit to search for certified care managers.

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Mission Statement

Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.