8 Smart Ideas for Aging in Place

 |  By : 03/05/2015 

For related information, see my post on my work with the WHO on the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities.

Baby boomers have long proclaimed their desire to stay in their homes post-retirement, a practice known as aging in place. They want to stay in the communities where they have friends, know their way around and have a support network. Cities and communities have “heard” them and many places are preparing for the groundswell of what happens when their residents creep up in years. Building a senior citizen center is nice, but clearly there’s more to it than having a place to play Bingo. Here are a few of the programs and trends that are making a difference in the lives of the nation’s aging population.

1. Solve the “driving is my independence” problem once and for all.
Older drivers have slower reaction times and more vision issues. Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But the ability to drive is synonymous with independence and independent living, so many older people are reluctant to give up their automobiles.

Twenty years ago, inspired by a desire to keep unsafe drivers off the road after an 84-year-old motorist struck and seriously injured her toddler son, Katherine Freund started the Independent Transportation Network. ITN was launched in Portland Maine and has now spread to 25 cities. People who are 65 or older (or visually impaired), pay a modest fee and are provided a ride to where they need to go, a door-to-door escort and assistance. Forty-six percent of ITN customers have an annual income of less than $25,000 and only 2 percent found the service too expensive.

Best of all, seniors can trade in their cars and earn ride credits. Rides are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for any purpose.

2. Acknowledge the need to sit down.
Age-Friendly NYC wants to encourage older adults to get out to walk, shop and socialize. So the goal of this program is to install 1,500 park benches throughout the city for people to sit on. Before you scoff, remember that New York is the city that doesn’t sleep. It also doesn’t stop and rest much. There are 1 million people over 65 living in NYC, and by 2030 this number is expected to increase by 50 percent, according to the program’s website. Age-Friendly NYC also connects older New Yorkers to opportunities at NYC-area colleges and universities.

3. Make it easy to keep the brain active.
The Bernard Osher Foundation has established Lifelong Learning Institutes for adults 50 and older on 119 college and university campuses. Many community campuses allow those 65 or older to audit free uncredited courses.

Publications are printing more large print books too. Large-print crossword puzzles and word-solving games are also available.

4. Understand that eating healthy food keeps people healthier.
While everyone knows about Meals On Wheels, which delivers already prepared meals to shut-ins, not everybody wants to stop cooking for themselves. Buying groceries though can involve the need to drive and/or carry heavy bags home. In 2014, the Food For Free programs in Cambridge Massachusetts distributed 1.5 million pounds of food. It began its home delivery program in 2001, serving 12 clients that first year. Now it’s up to about 100 housebound elders. It gives seniors and people with disabilities more control over their meals, while providing a supportive service that helps them to stay in their own homes, says the group’s website. Two 40- to 45-pound food deliveries are made each month to clients and half the food delivered is fresh produce.

And there’s Mom’s Meals, which for less than $7 a meal will deliver freshly made meals that just need to be heated up and can keep up to 14 days. Mom’s Meals ships by FedEx and offer menus for diabetics and heart patients, vegans and those who are gluten-free.

5. Doctors who make house calls.
While doctors making house calls used to be a common practice a few decades ago, it’s practically unheard of now. But it’s enjoying a second life in North Carolina. Doctors Making Housecalls is a medical group of 52 clinicians who make more than 75,000 home visits a year in private residences, retirement communities, apartments and assisted living facilities in North Carolina. This is an idea that’s bound to spread, along with some routine medical procedures being handled online.

6. Encourage the building of more lifelong housing.
Rogue Valley, Oregon, has a “lifelong housing” certification program whereby home builders and sellers can have their homes certified as such. The checklist of desirable housing features includes a no-step entry, a first floor full bath, etc. The certification levels are noted in MLS listings so homebuyers seeking age-friendly/multi-generational housing can more easily find appropriate housing and housing creators will hopefully be more encouraged to create age-friendly housing, says AARP.

7. Build a park and they will come.
A vacant field in Wichita, Kansas, was turned into a grandparents park — an outdoor space that children and grandparent (caregivers) could enjoy together. http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/grandparents-park-wichita-kansas.html

8. Help keep people active.
Brownsville, Texas, has a very poor, overweight population with high diabetes rates. One in four residents is age 50 or older. The city hosts several “CycloBias” a year in which streets are closed off to cars so that people can walk, bicycle and participate in health-targeted activities.

Advertisements

Impact on Family Care Partners

Families who help care for a person with dementia are the unsung heroes in the global fight against dementia. They carry out the majority of care-related tasks, often unpaid, and often for several years.

If you know someone who is a carer, lend a helping hand! Start with 30 minutes of easy chatting, help them with laundry, offer to wash the dishes or to bring over dinner, clean out their car, or just let them know that they can call on you for support – ANYTHING will help 🙂 You can also read more tips in my post on Helping the Helpers.

As AARP says;

The unpaid contributions of family caregivers to the person being cared for and to society are huge. Yet the health risks and financial hardships that may accompany the caregiving role are substantial and well documented. Thus, there is strong interest in improving family caregivers’ experiences and outcomes, which may include helping to delay or prevent nursing home use or unnecessary hospitalizations of the care recipient.

Continue reading

Combating ageism in disaster relief

With the tragic earthquake in Nepal earlier this week, I have been thinking a lot about the older adults in the area who are affected. My husband is currently doing his PhD on satellite imaging for disaster response and he probably is getting tired of me repeatedly redirecting conversations towards aging issues in his field 🙂

I came across several AARP articles on elderly and disaster relief after the Haiti earthquake in 2014 and thought it was timely to share it in light of the recent earthquakes. By the way, you can check out the latest earthquakes through this site.

When disaster strikes, older people face unique challenges that are often neglected, if not overlooked entirely. While many organizations are set up to meet the needs of children and younger adults, they are often ill-equipped to address the distinct needs of older people. Unfortunately, seniors are too often relegated to the sidelines, their plight undermined by their age, desensitizing others to their value along the spectrum of life.

Want to make a difference? Great! Check out AARP Foundation’s Emergency Fund page where you can directly donate to help the elderly in Nepal after the earthquake.

EMERGENCY: Help older victims of the Nepal earthquake – all gifts matched up to $225,000

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal and neighboring countries with devastating force, killing thousands of people, injuring thousands more, and causing widespread destruction.

AARP Foundation has created a relief fund to help the victims of this disaster – especially the 600,000 people over age 60 who are expected to be affected. There is strong evidence that seniors experience disproportionate harm in the aftermath of natural disasters, and the impact for older people in Nepal is likely to be severe.

Continue reading

Safety tips for traveling alone

I came across this article on the AARP website. It must be a frightening thing to drop off a loved one with dementia at the airport, not knowing what is going to happen until they are picked up on the other side. This article is about making it as safe as you can for loved ones with dementia who are traveling alone. The tips can help the travel go smoothy and safely.  Hope these tips can help!

7 Tips for Safety When Loved Ones Travel Alone

If your older loved ones are traveling alone, there are precautions and services you, as their supporters and caregivers, can take advantage of to ensure their safety.

Continue reading

Drugs that can cause memory loss

Drugs

10 Drugs that can cause memory problems

For a long time doctors dismissed forgetfulness and mental confusion as a normal part of aging. But scientists now know that memory loss as you get older is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the brain can grow new brain cells and reshape their connections throughout life.

Most people are familiar with at least some of the things that can impair memory, including alcohol and drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, head injuries, stroke, sleep deprivation, severe stress, vitamin B12 deficiency, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Forgetful? Your prescription meds could be interfering with your memory. — Larry Williams/Corbis

But what many people don’t realize is that many commonly prescribed drugs also can interfere with memory. Here are 10 of the top types of offenders.

Continue reading

How Watertown, WI Became Dementia-Friendly

Read how one town became dementia-friendly and get ideas to improve your community! Reposted from Home Care Assistance blog.

Watertown, Wis. is the latest town to make efforts to become dementia-friendly. With increasing numbers of residents experiencing symptoms of dementia, the community implemented a training program to help employees of local businesses recognize and assist caregivers and elderly dealing with dementia. Currently, nine local businesses have been trained in the dementia-awareness program. Small purple angels hanging in the windows help residents identify these dementia-friendly businesses. For the original article, please click here, otherwise you can read it below.

Making a Town Dementia-Friendly

How Watertown, Wis., is improving the lives of an often-neglected group

In Watertown, Wis., the windows of nine businesses display small purple angels. The decals indicate that the employees inside have been trained in how to recognize customers with dementia and how to best assist them and their caregivers.

In the Connection Cafe, for example, baristas might encourage patrons with memory loss to simply point to which size of coffee they want. And employees at the State Bank of Reeseville have been trained to look for signs that customers have been scammed.

It’s part of a broader effort to educate the town’s 24,000 residents about dementia and to keep those who have the condition engaged in the community by providing the services they need.

The concept of making communities dementia-friendly is spreading in Europe but is just beginning to take hold in the United States, notably in Minnesota. AARP Minnesota has joined more than 50 groups in the ACT on Alzheimer’s collaboration to help communities prepare for growing numbers of residents with dementia. (The AARP online Caregiving Resource Center is one of the resources recommended on the ACT on Alzheimer’s website.)

“We have to get rid of this fear of admitting that ‘I’ve got dementia’ or ‘My loved one has dementia,’ ” says Jan Zimmerman, a nurse and administrator at the Heritage Homes senior living community who initiated the effort in Watertown last year. “We’re hoping to raise awareness so this is not something that hides in the closet.”

Lori La Bey, executive director of Alzheimer’s Speaks, an advocacy group in St. Paul, Minn., helped launch the Watertown movement. At the Connection Cafe she asked people with dementia and their caregivers to share their “blessings and bummers.” One sweet, shy resident of the Heritage Homes memory care wing was the first to answer. “I hate this disease and what it’s done to my family,” she said, choking back tears. “And my blessing is my daughter here. She’s my lifeline.” La Bey calls the Watertown effort “phenomenal.”

“I think it’s going to continue to expand,” she says. “People are seeing the need, and this does not have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.”

Elizabeth Agnvall is a writer and features editor for AARP Media.

Businesses To Go Dementia Friendly In Watertown, Wisconsin

Businesses Go Dementia Friendly in Watertown, Wisconsin to Serve Rapidly Growing Segment of Consumer Market

Watertown, WI – What would you do if you were diagnosed with a disease that would eventually rob you of your memory? What if there was no cure and no timetable for how long you would live with the disease. The friends and family you know and love would become strangers. Simple tasks such as going to the grocery store, the bank or even out to a restaurant would become an ordeal and frustrating; maybe even humiliating.

Based on statistics published by the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.3 million Americans (and 35.6 million people worldwide) living with Alzheimer’s disease this year and a new diagnosis is made every 70 seconds. In WI alone, there is an estimated 110,000. With the first baby boomers soon entering the pool of those at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), there are many challenges ahead. By 2050 the number is expected to reach 16 million in the U.S.

The way Jan Zimmerman, RN, Administrator of Heritage Homes Assisted Living and Memory Care in Watertown, WI and Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks see it, we have a choice – we can either sit idly by or we can change the way society views those who have the dementia.

Zimmerman and La Bey a global expert on dementia from Minnesota; will kick off a “Dementia Friendly Campaign.” On October 15, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at Madison College located on 1300 West Main Street in Watertown, an educational session will be offered free to the community to let people know why it is important to be aware of the needs of someone living with dementia and tips on how they can be a part of a dementia friendly community.

On October 16, 2013 at 10 a.m. at Connections Café in Watertown, La Bey will attend the grand opening of the Memory Café, an informal social gathering where those with dementia and those who support them can gather to enjoy the camaraderie of others with dementia.

“Our goal is to create awareness among business owners and employees that people who have dementia are still a vital part of community,” Zimmerman says. “The only thing that is unique is that they may have to be approached in a more sensitive manner.”

Zimmerman and her staff will provide education to Watertown’s business community to give business owners and employees the tools to effectively assist those with dementia. For example, Zimmerman will educate restaurant workers to limit the number of choices that are presented to a guest.

“Think about what the average person goes through at a restaurant,” Zimmerman says. “The server introduces him or herself, asks if we want a glass of wine or perhaps a beer or soft drink, then they might tell us about that day’s specials. That’s a lot of information to take in even if you don’t have dementia. If you do have dementia, it’s way too much to process.”

“Employees in the food industry, financial services or banking – really any business that has a high number of transactions that take place rapidly – need to recognize someone with dementia, slow down, and limit that number of questions and choices.”

Zimmerman adds that part of her vision is to have identification cards available for those with dementia or their support persons, which can be presented when at a restaurant or bank, for example, so employees will instantly know they need to change their service approach. It is a more subtle way to let people know that additional help is needed should the person wish to share that information.

To achieve this goal, Zimmerman is hoping to create a vibrant, active coalition of businesses, those living with dementia and community members who support those with dementia. The Watertown Dementia Aware Coalition is one of the first steps to creating an inclusive community.

Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks says, “Changing how communities and businesses approach and work with someone with dementia will have a huge impact not only for the person with dementia, but family caregivers and employees as well.  Better service is good for everyone involved.”

“Imagine being limited as to where you can go because of a disease.  We have built ramps for those with mobility issues, now it is time to build ramps on an emotional and psychological basis to allow those with dementia to engage in their communities.”

To help businesses start the journey to becoming one of the first dementia aware communities in the United States, Heritage Homes is hosting the free event, “Watertown: Dementia Aware, Dementia Friendly”. The goal is to let businesses know what they can do to remove the stigma of having a diagnosis of dementia and enabling those with dementia remain a vital part of the community. Heritage Homes is asking businesses to:

  1. Sign a pledge committing the business to learning more about how to help employees become more dementia aware.
  1. Assess their business environment to see how it can be made more dementia friendly and easier to navigate for a person with memory loss.
  1. Join the Watertown Dementia Awareness Coalition to let people know that the business supports those with dementia and the persons who support them.
  1. Display The Purple Angel in the business windows to let people know that the business is dementia aware and dementia friendly.
  1. Encourage employees to attend training sessions and read informational material by the Watertown Dementia Awareness Coalition.

About Heritage Homes

Heritage Homes offers independent living and assisted living. There is a dedicated unit for those with dementia and other related memory loss diagnoses.  Located at 700 Welsh Road in Watertown, Heritage Homes is owned and operated by The Lutheran Home Association. For more information, please visit http://www.myheritagehomes.org or http://www.tlha.org.

About Alzheimer’s Speaks

Alzheimer’s Speaks is US based advocacy group that provides education and support for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Their vision is to shift caregiving from crisis to comfort by removing the fear and providing economical services, tools, concepts and products to those in need.  Alzheimer’s Speaks believes collaborative and alternative approaches push society forward in search for answers and so they provide a variety of platforms and forums to educate and shift our dementia care culture for professionals, family caregivers and the public at large.  By working together and sharing knowledge, Alzheimer’s Speaks feels we can win the battle against this disease. For more information please visit http://www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com

Home Care Assistance

Watertown, Wis. is the latest town to make efforts to become dementia-friendly. With increasing numbers of residents experiencing symptoms of dementia, the community implemented a training program to help employees of local businesses recognize and assist caregivers and elderly dealing with dementia. Currently, nine local businesses have been trained in the dementia-awareness program. Small purple angels hanging in the windows help residents identify these dementia-friendly businesses. For the full article, please click here

View original post

Does your workplace allow for caregiving?

A fitting article from Crisis Prevention, where they focus on training and consulting in behavior management and dementia care: Workplace Flexibility | CPI. This article is about a (thankfully) growing trend in workplaces allowing more flexibility for people who are caring for family members.

Why is this important?

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), caregivers not only contribute from their own personal expenses for care, but caregiving also affects the economy through the paid workforce (L. Feinberg, SC Reinhard, A Hourser, and R Choula, “Valuing the Invaluable:  2011 Update. The growing contributions and costs of family caregiving,” Washington, DC, AARP Public Policy Institute 2011):

  • 58% of caregivers are currently employed either full-time or part-time, balancing work with their caregiving role
  • 69% of caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving, including arriving late/leaving early, taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely
  • Caregivers who live with their loved one are most likely to adjust their paid employment or leave the workforce
  • Not only may they lose foregone earnings and Social Security benefits, but they also can lose job security and career mobility, and employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings

Continue reading

The biggest barriers for taking dementia on vacation

We all enjoy getting away and having a break from the normal day-to-day. Including people with dementia.

Typically, the largest barriers for taking someone with dementia on vacation or other travel include:

  • Mobility difficulties, like getting in and out of vehicles
  • Anxiety, not knowing where they are going or why
  • Care issues, that they need full-time care while on vacation
  • Financial constraints, because it is expensive to hire a caregiver to come on vacation with them
  • Lack of appropriate places to go on vacation, because people with dementia will have different needs than a traditional vacation spot – stairs or uneven surfaces, confusing hallways, bathrooms that are too small, crowds, and over stimulation are very real concerns when taking a person out in a community

These are some of the primary concerns that caregivers and family members have when planning a getaway with someone with dementia.

But, there is hope!!

Trees in Nørresundby Kirkegård

Trees springing to life in Nørresundby cemetary

Many researchers and professionals who deeply care about making life better for people with dementia (myself included!) are working on ways to keep them integrated into the family and society. There are even international efforts to promote that places be accessible for all people – including those with dementia.

And you can help!

Since there are very few places that are designated as vacation destinations for people with dementia, most of our understanding on the barriers to vacations with dementia are based on what families and caregivers find out the hard way. If you have been on a vacation or traveling with someone with dementia, I would really appreciate if you shared your experiences. If you are thinking of traveling with someone with dementia, I would also appreciate if you shared your concerns and hesitations. Even though I have worked as a caregiver for several years, I know that the full-time, family caregivers (often a wife or daughter) are the true experts in dementia care.

Speaking up about dementia, sharing our experiences, and voicing our concerns are one of the fastest ways to break down stigmas surrounding dementia and caregiving AND to ensure that services designed for them are addressing the real issues.

AgeCAP is an app that is being developed so that users can rate the age-friendliness of a location or service. Users can also read the ratings to find suitable places. (I have downloaded this app for Android and it doesn’t seem to be fully functioning yet – I will be sure to update this post once it is). You can read about their work (and participate in a research study in the Toronto area) on their website. Age-CAP is a free download in iTunes and Google Play (the links will take you directly to the app).

Age-CAP is a cross-platform smart phone application which aims to create a crowd-sourced database of age-friendly locations. It consists of survey-style forms which allow users to quickly rate the age-friendliness of a location or service. The criteria for rating was developed using the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities guidelines (which I also worked on during my internship with the WHO in Copenhagen), and age-friendly community initiatives in other North American cities. Users are also able to browse submitted ratings to assess the age-friendliness of locations in their neighborhood, providing them with information that would otherwise be unavailable.

You can read more about the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and the cities that have joined. Heck, if you want to really make a difference in the lives of others, write your local mayor and suggest your city join the network!

“An age-friendly environment fosters active ageing by optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age”

Similarly, the AARP has a guide on age-friendly communities, and serves as the coordinating point for the USA in the Global Network of Age-friendly Cities.

Dementia Adventure (no connection with this blog, other than a passion for improving the lives of people with dementia) is an organization that lists dementia-friendly venues (all in the UK, for the moment). They also offer consulting and training services, so that locations can become more dementia-friendly. Truly, a up-and-coming social service!!

Thanks for reading this post, and please take a minute to answer the poll or to post your experiences and concerns in the comments. I will even get the ball rolling…..

When I was a caregiver in Denmark, we (myself and another caregiver) accompanied the woman on holiday in Spain. It was a great trip, we had a lot of fun, enjoyed getting away and seeing new things, trying new foods, watching new people. The largest barrier we faced was that many places weren’t wheelchair accessible. This meant we had to lift the chair up stairs to get into restaurants or bathrooms, carry the person up flights of stairs and then go back down for the wheelchair and luggage, and we even found the elevators were out of order at the train station when we first arrived! (This was one time when Danish women were a little happy for the Spanish machismo) – After about 3 flights of stairs and another 3 to go to get above ground, I welcomed the help! Looking back, I would do it all over again. We all had a good time and these challenges in public spaces are kind of part of the job – plus they really opened my eyes to barriers I hadn’t noticed before. It was hard work, but there were no major meltdowns, no one got sick, and no one was any worse for the wear. We all had a good joke that we “needed” our nightly ice cream so we didn’t work ourselves to the bone 😉