Caring For Aging Parents

caring for aging parents“The Most Beautiful Home”

In a video that’s sure to require a Kleenex, The Housing and Development Board produced a tear jerking video about a son’s promise to his father.  The promise… “When I grow up, I’ll give you the most beautiful home.”  What we learn from the video is that the home is not just about the place, but the love in the family.  That’s what makes this video so touching, and something that many of you can probably relate to.

The home is not just about the place, but the love in the family.

There are millions of caregivers in the US and abroad.  Many of those caregivers are family members taking care of loved ones.  Make no mistake, it takes a great deal of work (and training) to bathe a loved one, to feed a loved one, and to provide medication management to a loved one.  That’s just 3 of hundreds of duties that caregivers routinely manage on a daily basis.  Caring for aging parents is a very difficult job.

This video is NOT meant to advocate for or against placing someone in a nursing home if your loved one cannot care for themselves.  In many cases, care facilities can provide a fabulous environment for aging adults, while offering safety and care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The key is educating yourself about care needs, and senior housing options BEFORE a crisis hits.

The video certainly is thought provoking, and very well done.  We hope you enjoy it.

Funeral Directors May Not Tell You This

Source: 10 Facts Funeral Directors May Not Tell You | Fox Business

Funeral Directors might not tell you this

Terry Sheridan over at Fox Business wrote an excellent article about making funeral arrangements, and the money you can save by being a better informed consumer.  As with many things, caring for aging parents is infinitely more difficult when a crisis hits.  One of the most difficult issues occurs when we lose the ones we love.  It’s usually at this point when certain things have to be done… and what we really want (and need) to do is grieve.

The average cost of a traditional funeral, including embalming and a metal casket, is almost $6,600, according to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association. Cemetery services, including the gravesite and vault or liner, can cost an additional $3,000, says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. — Terry Sheridan/Fox Business

Nobody wants to think about the death of a loved one.  But planning ahead (as hard as it is) can alleviate a lot of heartache down the road.  Identifying a funeral director that you want to work with before a crisis hits, can really pay off in the end.

Funeral directors are business people, not ministers. But people often think they are quasi-clergy, Slocum says. Make that mistake, and you’ll tend to believe everything they say, he says.”Remember, funeral homes are in business to make money,”– Fox Business

Here are a few tips from the article, but we recommend that you visit Fox Business to get the list in it’s entirety:

Planning For A Funeral

  1. Shopping around can save you thousands (do this ahead of time, before a crisis hits)
  2. You must be given clear prices up front (there is an FTC mandate to do so)
  3. Funeral directors aren’t clergy (they’re business people)
  4. Some “required” services are not required (like embalming or expensive caskets)
  5. Cremation services can save you some money (You can even buy your urn at Costco)
  6. You can buy a casket anywhere (you don’t have to buy one from the funeral director)

The bottom line is to accept the cold hard facts.  We’re all aging, and as hard as it is, we can help prepare for the inevitable.  We can help make preparations for our own funeral if we’re of sound mind and body.  We can also make preparations for the funerals or memorials of our loved ones.  Make yourself an informed consumer on this topic in your local area.  Talk to a few funeral directors, and get a feel for whether you’d like to work with them down the road.  Understanding your loved one’s wishes is important too.  If they want a small service with family only… Or their ashes scattered on their favorite beach… I believe those wishes should be honored.

Do you have experience planning memorial services?  Any tips for our readers?  Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Easter 2015

Happy Easter 2015The staff at The Senior List would like to wish you and your families a wonderful Easter Sunday.  We hope you’re able to spend some quality time with those you love and care for.  If you’re visiting your loved one in a care setting, be sure and extend a greeting, a smile and a hello to others around you.  Please remember that a number of folks may not have any visitors today.

All the best, and Happy Easter!

Top Gadgets For Seniors

Nell Bernstein (senior editor) over at wrote up an informative post on aging in place gadgets.  Many of these gadgets have been highlighted here on The Senior List, but we wanted to share Nell’s list with our readers too. The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level”.  Many of the gadgets listed below can help aging Americans stay in their home longer, and in a safer environment.

Most adults would prefer to age in place—that is, remain in their home of choice as long as possible. In fact, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. One-third of American households are home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older. – Wikipedia on aging in place

Top Gadgets For Seniors

Here are several of our favorite gadgets that can contribute to a safer home environment for your friends or family members:

1.  Big Button Cell PhoneJitterbug 5 Review

Big button cell phones (yup some folks call them dumb phones) have a place in the mobile phone world, especially for aging adults.  When people age their eyes can (and usually do) get worse over time.  This is due to a variety of medical issues like glaucoma, cataracts or (age related) macular degeneration.  Yes, smartphones are all the rage these days, but cell phones like the Jitterbug 5 from Samsung can serve many purposes, including acting as a medical alert system.

2.  House Cleaning Robots

gadgets for seniorsActually we care do differ from Nell a little bit on this one.  Having a fun little “robot” vacuum cleaner like the iRobot Roomba are very cool devices, and we like them a lot.  But let’s face it, vacuum cleaners aren’t all that complex, or difficult to operate (at least not all of them yet).  The key to keeping a clean home, free of dust and/or dander is regular cleaning.  So having an easy-to-use vacuum of any kind is useful.  It should be light, and located in an accessible location.  Also, it might be a good idea to have a cleaning service come in once a month for a deep clean (if one can be afforded).

3.  Automatic Pill Reminders

Medication management systems are a great idea. As people age, they typically end up on a variety of medications like cholesterol lowering agents, high blood pressure meds, and more!  The fact that these medications must be managed for many aging adults accounts for a huge percent of nursing home admissions.  Medication management systems range from simple plastic pill boxes all the way up to smart (electronic) medication management systems that remind users when to take their meds.

4.  Medical Alert Systems

Top Gadgets for SeniorsMedical alert systems are something we know a great deal about.  These handy devices come in all shapes and sizes, but the most common is a pendant style alert system.  These have a single push button that alerts a call center when a person feels like they’re having a medical emergency (or any emergency for that matter).  Some of these devices also come packed with automatic fall detection which senses when an aging adult has fallen down.  If they’re unresponsive the medical alert system will notify the call center automatically.  Medical alert systems with fall detection usually cost a bit more, but they can be worth it in certain situations.  If you need help picking out the right medical alert system, we’ve created a handy medical alert system buyers guide to help navigate you through the many choices offered today.

There a number of other handy gadgets for seniors that can help one stay in the home longer, and be safer as well.  Head on over to Nell’s article for the full list.  Do you have any additions that you’d add to our list?  Any suggestions that you’ve implemented in a home?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Caregiving And The Toll It Takes

Caregiving and avoiding burnoutIf you’re a caregiver or you know someone who is, chances are you know that what a difficult job this can be day in and day out. Caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are real issues to deal with, especially when dealing with memory problems in the elderly. Debbie Cool of the Washington Area Agency on Aging talks about caregivers that care for people with memory problems; “The demands on the caregiver grow continuously and often they end up becoming ill because they’re no longer paying attention to their own needs“.

Because caregiver burnout is real, and can lead to real health consequences it’s important to understand how to take care of oneself.  We wrote about this a couple of years ago in a post titled the “Self Care Plan for Caregivers“.  This self care plan notes that caregivers must care for themselves first.  They must exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.  These seem like little things, but doing the little things can keep caregivers out of harms way.  Caregivers are no good to others if they can’t take care of themselves.

It’s true that caregiving brings with it a stress load that can threaten the health and well-being of the caregiver. That’s why so many experts—me included— so strongly advocate for caregivers to engage in active self-care. A self care plan for caregivers is a must. – Joanne Reynolds (caregiving expert, author, teacher)

Here’s a great video produced by the Washington Area Agency on Aging that discusses the issues that caregivers face today, and the toll it can take on their own health. If you know a person suffering from caregiver burnout, send this post along so they know a) they’re not alone, and b) there’s something they can do about it!

Senior Housing Trends For 2015

Senior Housing Trends in 2015As you can imagine, senior housing is an important topic for boomers and seniors today.  Where to live and perhaps more importantly, how to live, are important considerations when one is no longer able to live independently in their own home.  The senior housing (or as some call it, senior living) industry is also BIG business for some.  There are big bets being placed on what regional markets will be the next best city where you can retire for less, and how to provide services that meet local demands.

One of the interesting trends we’re seeing is the movement out of the suburbs and into the cities for some retirees.  Unfortunately for those that want to move in close, there is much demand but little supply.  The Washington Post reports; “Today, relatively few viable residential options for seniors exist within central cities or densely developed urban areas near city centers. Most senior housing is located instead in low-density suburbs or in small towns, where land is cheap and development costs are lower.”  That means that both private and public investment will begin to focus on this area as the incredibly affluent boomer market will begin to force their hand.

Senior Housing Trends

A recent report by Senior Housing News also identified some interesting senior housing trends for 2015, most notably:

  • The role of technology and services that allow people to live independently will skyrocket.  (See our reports on medical alert systems for an example of technology in demand.)
  • Cost effective senior living solutions are more important than ever.  As folks live longer, their savings become stretched and stretched.  Many are unprepared for the high cost of senior housing, and the role of inflation on their budgets.
  • Remote monitoring technology for those that are aging-in-place will continue to grow.  These solutions provide connectivity to those that choose to remain at home, and/or live independently. The “services market” around connectivity solutions like GrandCare Systems, HealthSense (and others) is going to explode.
  • Employee turnover at senior housing facilities matters.  Not only can it affect the bottom line (employee recruiting, training/re-training), but it also affects the moral of the residents, AND can adversely affect patient care.
  • Brand management is a bigger deal than ever before.  Consumer trust today is paramount, and the internet makes it easy to help or hurt a senior housing community’s reputation in the local (or national) landscape.

What senior housing trends are you seeing in your local communities?  Tell us in the comments below!

The Future of Senior Care: Villages & Robots

Paro Robot Seal future of senior care

Photo Credit-

For the last decade, I have worked closely with families who are trying to find the best senior care facility for a loved one. I am fortunate to work in an area (Portland, OR) that offers a plethora of senior housing options, from traditional Retirement Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care Communities. Portland also boasts an impressive 900+ Adult Care Homes (aka Adult Foster Care or Adult Family Homes) for folks who want/ need a smaller family-style setting.

Future of Senior Care

People often ask me what I think the future holds for elder care. I suspect this question stems from fears of what their own future holds or (most likely) that they are terrified of facing their later years in the current senior care model (which is becoming quickly outdated by the social and medical needs of the boomer generation).  The following ideas and companies are my picks for the “out of the box” thinkers, movers and shakers, and emerging models that are redefining the world of senior care.

Sharing is Caring: Elder CoHousing

While not a new model by any means, cohousing and elder cohousing continues to grow. Cohousing, at it’s core, is intentional, collaborative living in which residents participate in the planning, design, and daily operations of sharing indoor and outdoor spaces.   Cohousing creates strong communities, reduces costs, builds sustainability, and enhances the quality of life for those who can fully immerse themselves into a world of sharing.   Elder cohousing can assure residents that they will be fully supported in the later years by a community that has been established and is prepared to to meet the medical and social needs of the last 20-30 years of life.  To find a cohousing community near you, check out the directory of  I was surprised to see how much this list has grown in just the last five years.  To learn more about cohousing check out the following resources:

Keeping it Normal: Dementia Village

Dementia Village is a community specially designed (think “The Truman Show”) to incorporate all the concepts of normal daily life for seniors with mid-to-late stage dementia.  This beautiful space is located in the town of Weesp near Amsterdam, Netherlands.  It was built in 2009 and has 160 residents.  The residents are broken up into groups of 7 who have similar lifestyles, interests and backgrounds.  Each group manages their own “house” and residents have their own private space.  Daily tasks like grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking and participating in the lifestyle in which the resident has been accustomed to all happen with the assistance of permanent staff for each house.  A theater, supermarket, restaurant and an out-patient care unit are all elements that keep the residents leading busy, normal lives with a dementia diagnosis.  One very unique element from a traditional “memory care” setting is that residents are allowed to move freely inside and outside of the house and through the village, while remaining within a protected environment.  You can see pictures and learn more at the Hogeweyk Dementia Village website.  I was very excited to learn that the first U.S. location for Dementia Village is underway in the SLO, CA area.  It will be called Mahal Cielo Village and will be the first of its kind in the U.S.  The video below is an extensive inside look at Dementia Village.

Resident Centered: Elite Care

Perhaps models like Elite Care exist in other parts of the country, if they do, I am unaware of them.  Elite Care is a Portland, OR based senior housing company who has redefined how senior care is delivered in my neck of the woods.  Elite Care communities are built with the resident in the driving seat, not the staff or company stockholders. Similar to elements of Dementia Village, the mid-sized communities are broken up into small “houses” that are designed to promote safety with autonomy.  While not a “locked” memory care, residents are supervised and monitored through technology, small settings,  and free-to-roam campuses.  In addition, Elite Care puts great emphasis on family involvement through monthly gatherings, free visitor meals, and rooms to rent for out-of-town guests. Walking paths, resident-maintained edible gardens, and on-site chickens are also stand-outs in an industry of structure, regulation and corporate policies.   Elite Care also made my “Best of Portland, Oregon” list last year based on online reviews.

Coming Very, Very Soon: Robots

I write about technology that keeps seniors as independent as possible in their home.  The aging-in-place drumbeat gets louder with each new company and piece of equipment that becomes available.  From medical alert systems, appliance sensors (my review on these coming soon), to full-house activity hubs and interactive software, the list is growing for senior care technology options in the home.  And very soon, Robots.  Robots are already being used in places like Europe and Japan for senior care.

  • Giraff: Think of a mobile Skype robot.  The robot is one part of a complete home-based system that uses a network of sensors to monitor activity.  As of 2014 Giraff is being tested in real homes around Europe.
  • Paro Therapeutic Robot: Cute, cuddly, and oh! those eyes.  Paro is an interactive robot that espouses the benefits of animal therapy.  The robotic seal has several kinds of sensors that can detect sound, being touched, light, and temperature. You can purchase your own Paro for $6,000.
  • “Hector” from The Companion Able Project: Another integrated home robot that interacts with its human about medication reminders, to-do lists, and social interaction prompts like missed calls from loved ones.  Trials and demonstrations currently ongoing in Europe.

Have you seen the future of senior care?  I want to hear about it- leave your comments below!

Healthy Diet For MS Patients Lowers Risk

Healthy diet for MS patients: Eat Seven Fruits and Vegetables per DayI first learned about Dr. Terry Wahls this morning on my favorite radio station,  The morning host had just finished her book and was remarking about this woman who had cured her multiple sclerosis (MS), discarded her wheelchair, and had done it all with food, not drugs.  In addition, she went on to say that a new study has been released that directly links the amount of  fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet to lifespan.

Eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day was linked to a 42% lower risk of death from all causes.  This strongly suggests the importance of the healthy diet for MS patients.

Yes, you read that right- seven portions, not the usual five we have heard about for the last several years.  As a self-proclaimed food-nut myself, I was very interested to read about Dr. Wahls and her health transformation from changing how and what she ate.

You can read about the Seven Fruits and Vegetables Study here.  Another interesting note from the study is that canned fruits and vegetables seemed to increase the risk of death by 17%!  Yikes!  Not surprisingly, the amount of sugar, especially in canned fruits seems to be to blame.

It may seem unrealistic (and can be expensive) to increase fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, but our takeaway is that some is better than none, at any age.  If you are getting  three servings,  try increasing it to four, then, five, and eventually up to seven.  I find that making a smoothie first thing in the morning helps me knock 2-3 servings out.  Here are some great recipe ideas for smoothies that I found helpful when I was just getting started.

Have you found easy ways to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption?  We want to hear about it!  Comment below!

November is National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and this caregiving stuff is hard work!  And it’s usually not funny… Until Jeff Foxworthy and caregiver  Peter Rosenberger teamed up with AARP to provide some comic relief on the subject.

Across the country 42 million people, primarily women, between the ages 40 – 60 are faced with the challenge of providing care to their older family members and friends each and every day.

These are the unsung heros of today.  These caregivers support the people we all love.  Caregivers take on a variety of roles as providing this care can come in all forms.   From taking mom to the doctor’s office, to managing medications, to total care of a loved one.  New research from AARP suggests that caregiver’s personal health and overall well-being can be greatly affected by the physical and emotional strain of caregiving, but many caregivers are reluctant to ask for help.  The Ad Council has released a series of new Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) that explore the many roles caregivers take on and provide resources to help them cope with their daily responsibilities.

Here are some resources to share to help recognize caregivers everywhere for the important work they do:

  • The new website,, where you can share a message of thanks with a caregiver you know and post it publicly alongside other messages from people across the country to illustrate the number of caregivers nationwide.
  • A new online quiz to help identify if you are a caregiver: click here for online quiz
  • If you or a caregiver you know needs support, a caregiver support group is imperative for the health and wellbeing of the caregiver.

If you are a caregiver, or you know someone who is, please be a part of this important campaign. Visit for more tools and resources.  And hug a caregiver today.

Long Term Care Insurance Advice: Video

Last year Suze Orman reported that she was paying around $30,000 per month for 2 full time in-home care nurses.  She’s doing this for her (then 96 year old) mother because she loves her very much, AND because she can afford it.  In this brief video, Suze offers advice on Long Term Care Insurance, and recommends that you get involved with your older parents money before it’s too late.

 “If you have older parents, and they’re not talking to you about what they’re doing… I’m asking you to get involved with they’re money!” — Suze Orman

What is Long Term Care Insurance?

Wikipedia has a tight and concise definition that I like: “Long-term care insurance (LTC or LTCI), an insurance product sold in the United States and United Kingdom, helps provide for the cost of long-term care beyond a predetermined period. Long-term care insurance covers care generally not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.”

“Long-term care insurance generally covers home care, assisted living, adult daycare, respite care, hospice care, nursing home and Alzheimer’s facilities. If home care coverage is purchased, long-term care insurance can pay for home care, often from the first day it is needed. It will pay for a visiting or live-in caregiver, companion, housekeeper, therapist or private duty nurse up to seven days a week, 24 hours a day (up to the policy benefit maximum).” — Wikipedia on the benefits of LTC Insurance

Long Term Care Statistics

According to the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance:

  • 8.1 Million Americans are protected with long-term care insurance.
  • 322,000 new Americans obtain LTC insurance coverage in 2012.
  • $6.6 Billion in LTC insurance claims paid (2012).
  • Over 264,000 individuals received LTC insurance benefits (2012).