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Aging Wisely June 2014 - Aging Wisely

Questioning the Quality of Long-Term Care Services in Florida


nursing home caregiver

Are Florida’s elders getting shortchanged? As a state with a high elderly population (Florida’s 65+ group makes up over 18% of the population whereas the U.S. average is 13%), many people assume Florida will be at the cutting edge of long-term care services and programs for the elderly and disabled. But, a recent study suggests otherwise.

The scorecard on long-term care services ranks Florida 43rd overall on five measurements, including nursing home affordability, quality of care and support for family caregivers.

States that have more generous Medicaid benefits (the primary benefits program available to help with long-term care costs; Medicare does not cover long-term care), and that spend more on home-based care, did best in these rankings. Florida spends 23.5 percent of its long-term care budget on home-based care, earning it a rank of 40th in the nation. And only 49 percent of low-income disabled Floridians receive Medicaid benefits (39th in the nation).

Minnesota ranked #1 in the study and some examples of what they are doing include:

  • Additional protections for workers who take time off to care for a sick family member
  • More help to enable people in nursing homes who are capable of going home to do so
  • Allowing professional home health aides, to do more medical-related tasks (thus potentially saving costs when nurses are required to do these tasks only).

Each state faces different priorities and challenges, but families are often unaware of this great variation and have very little knowledge of what the options are in their state. It can be quite a shocking process when facing long-term care needs for a family member.

What can you do?

  • Get a basic understanding of what your state offers and how programs work here. Follow local experts’ blogs and publications that cover long-term care and health issues to stay updated.
  • If you have a loved one who needs long-term care or may need help in the near future, get information sooner than later. Begin to understand what is available and the process you will need to go through to access help. Read up on the diagnosis and managing various eldercare issues (hint: we have loads of great senior care links, home care information and free eldercare downloads for you). Even if you think family members can handle everything, knowing what support is available and having good information will better enable you to care for your loved one.
  • Speak up if you have concerns. This might be on an individual or policy level. Don’t take no for an answer without doing some research and finding out if there are alternatives. Hiring an independent advocate (like our expert care managers!) can be a worthwhile way to understand the big picture and find creative solutions. Consider sharing your thoughts with your legislators. Your story and input can help them understand how policy decisions are really affecting constituents.
  • Get help. Florida is offering more and more options, though families sometimes find the system very confusing to navigate. Get some help so you can understand the best options for your family. Little things can become roadblocks to getting services. If you don’t understand timing, forms, and procedures you may be denied an option that could really help. It’s also useful to have an outside party analyze your individual situation to help you look at pros and cons of different choices.

You can sign up to get our monthly Wise Words newsletter for more long-term care and eldercare information, timely news articles and more! Or, contact us for a free needs analysis today.

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Alzheimer’s Planning Considerations for Caregivers


dementia caregivers

As we continue with our theme of Alzheimer’s Awareness, we’re here to share some special tips and resources for dementia caregivers. Caregivers are the unsung heroes in our society, ensuring a better quality of life for loved ones and often sacrificing in so many ways.

  • 15.5 million family and friends provide care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States.
  • In 2013, caregivers provided and estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $220 billion.

Caregiving, can be very rewarding, but dementia care in particular can take its toll. Here are some stats about the impacts on caregivers:

  •  Due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2013.
  • Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression.

Good planning is essential to Alzheimer’s care. Having resources and information can ease your way as a dementia caregiver. If you and your family are facing Alzheimer’s (or even beginning the process of getting a diagnosis for memory problems), don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals and seek advice. Don’t forget, we offer a free eldercare consultation with our Senior Care Consultant!

Essential planning for Alzheimer’s care includes:

  • Advance care and legal planning: completing advance directives such as a living will and healthcare surrogate/healthcare POA; estate planning and financial documents such as a will/trust and durable power of attorney; discussing care wishes and decision-making. **These items are key to aging planning in general and should be completed in adulthood and regularly reviewed. However, if the person has not done this prior to a dementia diagnosis, it may still be possible to complete the documents (the person likely has the level of competency/understanding needed in the early stages of the disease). Do this as soon as possible.
  • Assessing needs and developing a care plan: this provides a solid baseline of the situation and person’s needs and sets out a strategy for what needs to be done now, what areas need to be addressed and how to handle them. A good assessment also prioritizes and anticipates future needs to minimize the impact of crises.
  • Rallying the care team: this is the time to understand who can do what (and find out where there are gaps). This includes family, friends, professional caregivers and community resources. It also includes building a good medical team: identifying providers and specialists and starting relationships with them.
  • Creating a resource bank: bookmark or make a list of quality websites (and consider following relevant blogs/social media accounts or signing up for newsletters, which can be easier than constantly seeking out the information), find good books and articles on Alzheimer’s and related topics and put together a list of contact information for relevant organizations/resources. It is so much easier to know you have that phone number when something comes up, rather than scrambling in an emergency. Online tools can make access easier, especially if you’re at a distance or might be traveling when you need the information.

Looking for a way to help an Alzheimer’s caregiver? Have people asking you what they can do to help you with caregiving? Doing some research and putting together resources is a great way that almost anyone can help. Your tech-savvy friend or family member could help do searches online and perhaps even identify and set up an electronic health record or care community for you. Check out a few of our tech recommendations for caregivers and tools for eldercare management.

If you are dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or dementia care issues, we welcome your calls at 727-447-5845. We offer resources, information and the solutions you need!



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Five Tips for Successful Caregiver Respite


caregiver for elderly Mom

Who can you trust to take care of your dear loved one while you take a vacation or attend a family event? How can you get other tasks accomplished as a full-time caregiver for an elderly parent or spouse? Caregivers need to rest and recharge, and there are many times when necessity pulls a caregiver away from their care recipient as well.

Respite is defined as a period of rest or a break. For caregivers, this might mean a vacation or taking a few days to attend an important event, or daily or weekly opportunities to continue with outside activities, run errands, etc. But, guilt and anxiety often keep caregivers from taking a vacation or even a short break. Or, you might have had a horrible experience in the past trying to take such a break and now you feel it is not worth the trouble. Over the years, we have worked with many families to arrange for respite with the peace of mind that everything is set up to go as smoothly as possible. We promise, it can be done!

Here are our eldercare experts’ tips on setting up a successful caregiver respite:

  1. Put a trustworthy, experienced care team in to place. This is the piece to handle most carefully. If you have loved ones or friends who will help out, consider support they might need and challenges they might face. Just because you handle everything for Mom does not mean your sister will be so well-equipped to do so. You might want to spend a few days together first going over things and having your loved one observe what you do before deciding if additional support is needed. If you hire caregivers to help, research carefully and know the reputation of the company (and, yes, we do emphasize company, because we believe the protections and backup you get with a company is the best way to ensure successful care). Talk to the company about how they will handle different situations and what they do to ensure their caregivers understand how to take care of your loved one.
  2. Think through your routine and what someone coming in fresh would need to know to do your job. There are a lot of things you do for your loved one that you might not even think about anymore. It really helps substitute caregivers to understand the routine and little things about your loved one and their care.
  3. Get organized. Make sure you leave a list of contact information, a complete medication list and history. You will need to leave copies of advance directives and local/alternative contacts (particularly if you are traveling someone where you might be inaccessible or difficult to reach due to timing). Can substitute caregivers easily access everything they might need while you are gone?
  4. Consider having a “manager”. If you are doing a short, local break this may not be much of an issue, but for longer trips and times when you may be further away (and to ensure you get a “real” break), you should consider putting someone else temporarily “in charge”. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be contacted if there’s a major emergency, but it can be useful to empower someone to oversee things and handle any immediate needs that arise. You will need to talk to providers ahead of time about permission for someone else to be involved with care (i.e. if your sister is coming in to help but does not usually attend your Mom’s doctor’s appointments). You can also hire a geriatric care manager for the respite period; they are experienced in handling this sort of situation and can give you great peace of mind. The care manager can also help you prepare and anticipate potential concerns to make things go smoothly.
  5. Practice. It may help to take a quick break or try to just run some errands locally to “test the waters”. This gives substitute caregivers the chance to come up with any questions and you and your loved one the chance to get comfortable with the situation (or realize something that needs to be changed). Regular respite can be a good idea for you to keep revitalized as a caregiver, but also to help you and your loved one build a relationship with a care team. We’ve found this to be a great solution for families. We have worked with many over the years where we help out regularly so that they can enjoy their breaks with someone they know and trust is in place to manage things.

You can get more great tips from EasyLiving’s “What is Respite Care?” post (including a checklist you can use to set up and prepare for respite care). Contact our Senior Care Consultant to set up respite care, hire a care manager to help organize and oversee your break and for any eldercare concerns or questions.

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Alzheimer’s Awareness and a Visit from the Memory Mobile


Alzheimer's Association memory mobile

As we prepare for “The Longest Day” and our participation in this fall’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, we continue our Alzheimer’s awareness activities. Today, our team had a visit from the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Mobile.

Program Specialist, Karla Lindeen, welcomed individuals to come on board and take a 15 minute memory screening. The results of which were given to the individual so that they could share them with their physician. Our care managers were also invited to participate to take the memory screening and learn more about the benefits of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The Florida Gulf Coast Chapter’s Memory Mobile is the only mobile support, prevention and education service delivery vehicle in the country. The Memory Mobile provides outreach education, care consultations, memory screenings and caregiver education targeting targeting low income, rural, isolated and/or inner city people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. To learn when the Memory Mobile will be near you or to schedule the Memory Mobile for an event, call 1.800.272.3900.” You can read more about other services of the local Alzheimer’s Association here.

Aging Wisely is looking forward to participate in the Clearwater Walk to End Alzheimer on October 25, 2014 to help raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Join us in supporting this worthwhile organization: check out the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s page.

Florida Gulf Coast Alzheimer's Association

If you or a loved one is concerned about memory loss or dementia, please contact our team at 727-447-5845 for help. We can connect you to great resources such as those offered by our local Alzheimer’s Association and ensure you get the answers and help you need now and in the future.

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In the News: Senior Driving Safety


elderly driver safety

One of the topics we frequently address, both from an educational perspective and in helping families, is the issue of when it’s time for an elderly parent to stop driving. This topic occasionally hits the news, as it did recently in our area when a 87-year old Seminole woman was hit by an 88-year old backing up in a parking lot. Unfortunately, the woman who was hit sustained serious injuries and the investigation is ongoing. It is a sad situation for both the elders and their families and whatever the outcome, it reminds us of the potential hazards for senior drivers.

Seniors are generally a very safe group of drivers. However, there are sensory and other age-related changes which can affect driving abilities. Additionally, certain medical conditions and medications make it inadvisable to drive. For these reasons:

  • Older drivers have much higher rates of highway crashes and deaths than all other age groups with the exception of teens. Fatality rates rise steeply for those over 65.
  • People 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-­aged drivers.
  • Accidents tend to be more fatal for older drivers due to their fragility.

How do I know if it’s time for my elderly parent to stop driving?

  • If you have concerns based on observations or your parent’s health condition, those concerns are likely valid. Age alone does not determine if someone is safe to continue driving; a healthy senior may be a safe driver until a very late age. But, if you are noticing changes, it is worth getting an assessment and beginning the discussion with your loved one.
  • A care manager can help you: assess the situation, set up an official driver safety evaluation, and approach the subject.
  • A professional driver safety evaluation provides an objective assessment of the driver’s abilities.

What can I do if I feel my elderly Mom (or Dad) shouldn’t be driving?

We believe it is very important to act on your concerns. For the safety of your loved one and others, you don’t want to regret your inaction. Think about what is concerning you and make notes about your observations or worries. It can be a difficult process, however, and your loved one might not agree with your opinion. Depending on the situation, you may need help with the evaluation, conversation and decision process. You can get more detailed advice and resources in our handout Taking Away the Car Keys and our experienced care management team can help you with your specific circumstances.

There are also modifications that may allow your loved one to continue driving for some time. Your concerns may point to the need for new eyeglasses or further medical evaluation. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it is especially important to monitor this issue as driving requires complex thinking skills compromised by dementia.

When the decision is made to stop driving, a “post-driving plan” should be made. Too often seniors become isolated and depressed when they feel their freedom has been taken away. The person may not wish to “be a burden” to friends and family for transportation needs and may be uncomfortable with alternative transportation. Check out EasyLiving’s article, Thriving without Driving, and let us help you approach the discussion and decision in the best way possible.

Contact our expert eldercare team for help with: senior driving safety evaluations, tips for having the conversation, support through the decision making process and creating a “post-driving” plan that ensures a continued quality of life.

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Payment Concerns
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How to keep a loved one safe at home, and when it may be time to consider assisted living.

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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.