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Aging Wisely July 2014 - Aging Wisely

Simplify Your Life: Spend Less Time on Paperwork


Coming up in the first week of August, we will join others in celebrating Simplify Your Life Week. Join us on our EasyLiving Facebook page for daily tips to make life simpler (and share yours)!

When a person has multiple medical conditions or a chronic disease, paperwork really piles up and dealing with medical bills, records and correspondence becomes a big part of life. Caregivers often find themselves spending a lot of time dealing with mail, bill paying and contacting insurance companies or providers.

caregiver stress; medical advocacy

Our patient advocates are experts at dealing with this type of red tape. Today, we’ll share some of their tips to simplify and spend less time (and hassle) on paperwork.

  1. Start by getting organized with a system. This will help you easily access what you need at any time. Create a logical filing method and consider using an online system. There are great caregiver systems and electronic medical/personal record systems that allow you to store key information and have the details that providers will need, which will reduce errors and future problems. We use Caregivers Touch for our clients and you can read our review about choosing an electronic personal health records system.
  2. Make sure you have the key documents and information you need. Check out our Document Locator list for an idea of some of the most important financial/life documents (if you are healthy right now and mange everything on your own, let your designated representative know where to find these documents at least). In addition, you should keep a medical record that includes information such as: medical providers and contact information (plus specialty/what they are treating you for), diagnoses (and when diagnosed), medications (including allergies and medications that did not work or caused significant side effects, surgeries/medical history, immediate family history, allergies, and current treatments. Many people have not kept track of this information over the years and caregivers may find it hard to piece together a history and current picture. If you need help, our care management assessment can solve this issue for you!
  3. Keep good records so you can respond effectively to inquiries, bills, etc. The more information you have, the better you can identify errors and provide needed information to keep billing accurate and ensure better insurance coverage, etc.
  4. Know what to disregard, and prioritize. Learn to distinguish between bills and explanation of benefits/statements. Or, hire a patient advocate to help you on a regular basis to simplify and get you the best results. This may also allow you more time with your loved one and a better ability to balance. Some tasks are best delegated. Also, during a crisis, it is okay to let some things slip. You will never regret the time you spent by your loved one’s bedside, but you might regret spending time away from him/her to deal with paperwork or call the insurance company.

explanation of benefits (EOB)

Need help? Our patient advocates are here to assist with anything from a comprehensive assessment and creating an organized caregiving system to advocating with Medicare, insurance companies and medical providers. Call us at 727-447-5845 for a free needs analysis and caregiver tips today!

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Dealing with an Elderly Parent’s Alcoholism


drinking problem in elderly parent

Are you concerned about increasing drinking in your elderly parent? Has your senior loved one had falls or other health and safety concerns, possibly related to drinking? Did you find out after a recent hospitalization that your elder relative was suffering from withdrawal?

Concerns over drinking are often hidden or overlooked in the older population for a variety of reasons. But, when you become aware of a concern or realize that something really needs to be done, where do you turn and how can you get your loved one help?

First, let’s dispel a couple myths about alcoholism in seniors:

  1. An elderly person is too old and settled to change his/her ways. Older people actually have the highest recovery rates of any age group.You can “teach an old dog new tricks” and because of the particularly negative effects of drinking on elders (and long-term drinking), elders can experience many benefits from giving up drinking. Family support has been shown to be one of the biggest factors in success.
  2. It wouldn’t be fair to take away this pleasure from Mom/Dad (or he/she needs the alcohol to deal with pain, loss, or declining health). Alcohol is a depressant, so there is every likelihood that drinking is not bringing happiness to the person. When older adults give up drinking, it not only improves health and safety but they also overwhelmingly express positive sentiments about their new happiness and better life.
  3. Dad’s functioned all his life this way; what’s the point of intervening now? The effects of long-term drinking and the compounding effects of age, health and medications mean that drinking is especially problematic for the older adult. Some older adults also begin drinking more heavily after losses or due to other life events so drinking may be more of a problem than ever. Even at a late age, recovery could provide better health and quality of life for the person’s remaining years.

Hazelden, a non-profit recovery organization, offers a great tip sheet about talking to older loved ones and getting help. They provide general guidelines to keep in mind, along with specific examples/sample wording.

We also recommend considering a geriatric care management assessment in this process. This can be done as an overall health and well-being assessment, which can confirm your concerns and help you get a better picture of the situation. Then, the care manager can assist you in presenting the information to your loved one and having a conversation about the concerns and options. Having an outside party provides perspective and an expert can provide guidance about best approaches. Or, an assessment can be a suggested starting point. The assessment can serve as a neutral, professional evaluation of the drinking in context of the person’s overall health and lifestyle. For help with the best ways to get this conversation started, our Senior Care Consultant does complimentary phone or in-person consultations.

It is best to be prepared for the conversation rather than having an impromptu confrontation. You can read up on the suggestions above and/or talk to a professional yourself. You may want to attend an Al-Anon or other family support group. Denial is one symptom of addiction, so it is quite possible your attempts to help may be rebuffed or dismissed. If there aren’t immediate health and safety dangers, you may need to approach your loved one again at a later time, or plan a more formal intervention or get outside help.

If your loved one is open to help, there are programs and counselors that have experience working with older adults (or are particularly designed for elders). The Hanley Center in Florida is a pioneer in older adult and generation-specific programs. Any intervention for an elderly parent should go hand-in-hand with a comprehensive plan. A full assessment and care plan should address the person’s holistic needs, including health, safety, medications, emotional well-being, support, cognitive issues, and more.

Contact Aging Wisely at 727-447-5845 to discuss your concerns, find resources and get help for any caregiving and aging issues. We’re here to help!


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Alcoholism and the Elderly


spilled red wine

A study of senior health by the United Health Foundation ranked Florida 28th in the nation for providing healthcare for those over age 65. The study evaluated more than 30 areas of healthcare and health management. Florida does very well with issues like diabetes management, but fares less well on availability of home health care workers, especially in comparison to the number of seniors with multiple, chronic conditions. Another area of concern is alcohol use. Florida ranks 44th in chronic drinking. A total of 187,000 Florida seniors admitted to chronic alcohol consumption.

Studies and experience indicate that these numbers likely underestimate the nature of the problem. Excessive drinking in elders is often hidden or overlooked. Many families don’t know what, if anything, should be done about a loved one’s drinking. Stories range from the Dad who always drank, but the family does not notice the issue is worsening until a bad fall  to an elderly aunt who drank very little but began drinking to help her fall asleep at night or to deal with her husband’s death. The New York Times published a great article on  this growing, and often hidden, issue and some of its particular complexities.

Studies suggest that about 2/3 of older alcoholics are what could be described as “early onset”, in other words they have probably been alcoholics for some time. The other 1/3 are termed “late onset”, developing a drinking problem in their late 40s or 50s (or later). This group tends to be highly educated and drinking is often precipitated or exacerbated by a stressful life event.

Reasons alcohol use is a particular concern for elders:

  • Alcohol may act differently in older adults. The body’s ability to metabolize the alcohol may not be the same and other health conditions and medications may interact/exacerbate the effects.
  • Drinking is a risk factor for falls and injuries and long-term drinking can damage the body’s balance system.
  • Drinking alcohol over time may:
    • Lead to some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage.
    • Worsen some health conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and ulcers.
    • Make some medical problems hard for doctors to identify and treat. For example, alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels and these changes can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack.
    • Cause some older people to be forgetful and confused.
  • Medication mixed with alcohol can be particularly dangerous. Many older adults take at least one medication. Some of the particular concerns related to mixing medication and alcohol include:
    • Aspirin and drinking increases your risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding.
    • When combined with alcohol, cold and allergy medicines (antihistamines) cause drowsiness.
    • Alcohol used with acetaminophen may cause liver damage.
    • Some medicines (such as cough syrups and laxatives) can have a high alcohol content.
    • Alcohol can be particularly deadly used with some sleeping pills, pain pills, or anxiety/anti-depression medicine.

How do I know if alcohol use is a problem in my elderly loved one?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that people over age 65 should have no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three drinks on any one day. Of course, with medical conditions and medications, some older people may be in danger from even small amounts of alcohol. There isn’t really an easy answer to this question, but drinking certainly may be a concern if you are wondering about it or if it has already caused issues like falling or visits to the emergency room.

It is always best to be honest with your medical practitioners about drinking, but this is especially true for elders with chronic conditions. It is vital that doctors know about drinking patterns when prescribing medications and treatments. It can also be a big concern when a senior is hospitalized or going into surgery and no one realizes withdrawal will be an issue. The alcohol use may be causing falls, medical problems and cognitive issues, and not knowing the cause can lead to misdiagnoses and worse.

We will address more about this issue in future blog posts, including ways to address the problem and resources. You can subscribe to our newsletter for updates and we encourage your comments and questions. Need help or want to discuss you concerns confidentially with a professional? Call our Senior Care Consultant at 727-447-5845 for a free consultation.

You can read more and find resources from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on older adults and drinking.


 *Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane,
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The Role of the Assessment in Accessing Public Benefits


florida medicaid

Paying for long-term care services is a top financial concern for a majority of consumers today (research from the nonprofit LIFE foundation and LIMRA). Families often struggle to navigate the various long-term care options, while trying to match these choices up with their budget or access financial help. Although states, including Florida, have worked to make accessing long-term care easier for individuals and families, the public benefits system remains confusing for families, especially in times of turmoil.

For all these reasons and more, families should consider getting a geriatric care management assessment when eldercare issues begin to arise. The earlier in the process a family accesses this help, the more opportunity there is to play an active role in choices and save valuable time and money.

How does the geriatric care management assessment help specifically with paying for long-term care?

  • It gives you, your family and the professionals helping you a better picture of the situation (and your preferences) to pursue the right options and save time pursuing unrealistic options.
  • It helps define the costs associated with those options and the resources you have to cover costs and needs (including non-financial resources like assistance from friends, families, non-profit groups, etc.) and possibly creates a budget (and alternative budgets for comparison).
  • It explains the related public benefits you might need to access and the steps to take. Timing and details can be very important to the eligibility process, so understanding those before you get started gives you the best chance to avoid problems. It also makes recommendations for planning professionals and resources, so you have the opportunity to plan ahead.
  • It  takes all the puzzle pieces of a fractured system and puts them together. Geriatric care managers created the profession for this reason. Many of them helped clients in specific settings or with a specific concern, but there was really no one for the family to rely on to bring things together and offer continuity. For most people, long-term care is a journey during which they access different types of care, make various transitions (if not in actual place they receive care, then in the types of services accessed) and have varying needs. The medical, financial, familial and personal situation evolves and often requires multiple resources at any given time to cover the needs. A specific service or provider may conduct an assessment but it tends to only be focused on one aspect or perspective of that long-term care journey.

We have been working on our upcoming presentation for the Florida Conference on Aging, which further details how the assessment can play a valuable role for both families and practitioners, especially as it relates to Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program. Under this program, Floridians now receive Medicaid-covered long-term care services from private, managed care companies. This adds another layer of decision making for individuals and families, furthering the need for the assessment. The independent assessment can also provide valuable information to the care providers involved and help families make more informed choices, which saves time and difficulties for everyone involved.

For those of you who might be attending the 2014 Florida Conference on Aging, we hope to see you at our session! Our workshop, conducted by Senior Care Consultant Susan Talbott, is tentatively scheduled as follows:

Public-Private Partnership: Why an Independent Level of Care Assessment Benefits Providers and Clients

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

8:30 AM – 9:30 AM

You can find the conference information on the Florida Conference on Aging website.

For help with Florida Medicaid and other long-term care needs or to inquire about a geriatric care assessment, give us a call at 727-447-5845 anytime!


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Alzheimer’s Awareness and Dementia Caregiver Resources


Our team has been promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness throughout June (Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month). This past week we officially kicked off our journey to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, during which we will continue our educational campaign and hold various events for fundraising and awareness. On October 25th our team will join colleagues, friends and families in the Pinellas County Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease.

Please check out our schedule below and join us on Facebook for regular updates and ways to get involved.

alzheimer's awareness Aging Wisely

For the five million Americans with dementia and their families, raising awareness and funding is so vital to getting them the help they need. For all of us, funding is essential to helping understand disease causes, find treatments, and hopefully discovering a cure so that we can see all see the realization of the Alzheimer’s Association’s vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

If you are struggling with dementia or want to learn more, here are some helpful Alzheimer’s and dementia care resources:

Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch® is a free, easy-to-use clinical studies matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians with current studies.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center

ALZConnected: community and message boards run by the Alzheimer’s Association

Aging Wisely’s Care Management Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia (with links to resources)

Recommended Reading Related to Dementia

EasyLiving’s Alzheimer’s Specialty Care in Pinellas and Pasco Counties

Contact our senior care team at 727-447-5845 if you need help today, have questions or simply want to find out how to participate in our Alzheimer’s awareness and fundraising campaign.

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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.