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A study in ‘The Gerontologist’ states that, “approximately one-third of 65-year-olds are single.” That’s a 50% increase since 1980 according to the U.S. Census.

Aging with family and friends has been shown to result in improved health of seniors, including lower chances of cognitive impairment, and hospitalization. Research shows that socialization, companionship and hobby-building has great benefits for seniors: older adults who are surrounded by others are at a decreased risk of both cardiovascular and cognitive decline.

For some seniors, moving into an Assisted Living Community is the first step they can take to help maintain or increase the quality of life as they grow older. In reputable communities, experts in the field of long-term care help coordinate between activities to create communities where older adults are able to create new memories with one another. Residents take on scheduled group hobbies such as yoga, cooking, and artistry while pursing passions both new and old. Assisted Living Communities can act as a hub for seniors to connect and make new friends.

Our advice for making friends in a community? Participate and try out all the opportunities that are available. The goal is to foster an natural feeling of community with residents similar in age and circumstances.

contractThree important legal documents that every adult should have are a will, a living trust and a living will.  Each document defines your decisions for the different areas of your estate and will save your loved ones time, money and stress when you are gone.  These documents are easy to draw up, or you could have a lawyer prepare the documents for a nominal fee.

A WILL dictates how your estate and property is to be distributed after your death and can also designate guardians for children and self should you become incapable or pass away. A regular will must pass through probate court in most states before your estate can be passed on to your heirs. Most state laws do not require that you use a lawyer to prepare your will; you can use a will kit at home.  Probate court can take some time if there are any disputes, so make sure your wishes are clear when writing your will.

A LIVING WILL defines your wish to be kept or not kept alive by artificial life support in the event of terminal illness or injury. A living will also gives you the ability to set limits on your hospital, medical and funeral costs that can easily drain your estate and leave your loved ones with the bills. If you express your wishes beforehand, it will make the process much less stressful for those involved in your care and the execution of your final wishes.

A LIVING TRUST is quite similar to a regular will, but they are different at the core.  Unlike a regular will that cannot be changed after it is written, a living trust can be amended at any time.  A living trust takes effect while you are alive, whereas a will takes effect after you pass. You can put property into your living trust at any time before your death and afterward your estate goes directly to your heirs without passing through probate court. If you ever change your mind about the definitions of your will, you can change or revoke how your estate will be divided at any time by using a living trust. A living trust, will also save money and time later on because your loved ones won’t have to go through probate first.

helping dementia patients remember medicationFor seniors in delicate health, forgetting to take medication or taking it improperly can have more dire consequences than one might think. The federal government estimates that 10% of hospital admissions are due to taking medication incorrectly, and over 125,000 people die each year as a result of this problem. Almost a quarter of nursing home admissions might be due to seniors having trouble with taking their medication. Unfortunately, this is an alarmingly common problem, with over half of all seniors taking medication incorrectly. Half of those in turn make the kind of mistakes that could have serious ramifications! When we consider this information in light of the challenges of seniors with dementia, it’s clear that this is a problem caregivers and family members need to be alert for.

There are many devices and solutions available to help keep loved ones on track. One simple remedy is buying a pill dispenser or similar device. Your local drug store probably carries basic versions that will both organize pills and sound some kind of alarm or other reminder. There are also more elaborate and expensive systems that might, for example, call a designated caregiver if the senior has missed a dose. There are even smartphone apps for this issue. Drug companies themselves are also trying to help, with phone calls to seniors who are taking their products.

However, studies have shown that these methods don’t solve the problem. Sometimes this is because the devices are too complicated for seniors to use, or because they are not equipped to handle the typical senior’s complex medication regimen. And these systems often require input from a senior who may no longer be organized or independent enough to do what’s needed. Even if a loved one sets up the system initially, snafus like dead batteries or a malfunction could cause that effort to be useless.

For this reason, the best solution is to have a family member or other caregiver help the senior with managing their prescriptions. A human helper can also address when forgetfulness is not the issue so much as unwillingness or lack of understanding about why a particular medication is important. This can be a particular concern for dementia sufferers who are determined to hang on to control and demonstrate their independence. Ideally, there would be some kind of gadget or gizmo to make this problem go away, but this is one issue that requires a human touch.

Deciding whether to choose assisted living or home care is tough, and many emotions come up which influence the decision-making process. When you realize that you or a loved one needs some outside help, which option will work better? The answer of course is different for each individual and family, but there are certain considerations that tend to come up again and again.

Two of the key features of assisted living facilities are that they’re designed so that seniors can be as independent as possible while remaining safe, and that they provide services in a cost-efficient manner (since they are shared by several or more people). On the other hand, home care has the undeniable advantage of the senior being able to remain in their home and/or with loved ones.

However, the coziness of home care can also be one of its disadvantages. Having someone in the household with such extensive needs can be a burden for others in the family. We all want to feel like we’re doing as much as we can for aging loved ones, but caregiver burn-out is a real issue. Remember that before you can help others, you must help yourself: if you’re stressed or feeling negative, the senior in your life isn’t getting the best help. Allowing assisted living to take on the chores of daily care may allow you to spend the time connecting with your loved one and enjoying each other’s company.

Another major issue that you should consider is the cost of the two options. Assisted living can be a very affordable solution that gives you a lot of value for your money. Just about all of life’s needs are taken care of in one fee: housing, food, utilities, housekeeping, and social activities, plus the care and assistance that helps the senior get through daily life. Many feel that a lot of worries have been taken off their shoulders when they move to assisted living.

With home care, though, you’re paying on an hourly basis. The average cost of home care in California is $20 per hour, so that adds up quickly even before you throw in other needs like food and housing. Since you are managing home care yourself, you’ll need to have a plan when a hired caregiver cannot come in due to illness or any other reason. This can be addressed by using an agency, but the agency will charge higher-than-average fees for the convenience of knowing someone will always be there.

Again, be sure to take into account your individual needs. There are some situations in which home care may be more appropriate. Before committing to one choice or the other, do thorough research on the actual cost and make sure you truly understand your options. Then this challenging decision may become a little more clear.

Few things can brighten a senior’s day like a visit from their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These visits can help add purpose to a senior’s life and help them maintain a connection to a world outside the facility and to the family. It also gives the grandchildren a valuable chance to get to know the grandparent. Being able to see how much they mean to older family members is an important experience for the child. But it can be challenging to think of ways to make this time meaningful and enjoyable.

The first step is to prepare the child for visiting the facility. Describe what it’s like and perhaps even show pictures. Explain the purpose of assisted living and why the family decided grandma or grandpa should be there. Explain what behavior will be expected. Be sure to emphasize how happy the senior will be to see the child, but also make sure they know that their grandparent may not be feeling well that day.

What to do during the visit can be a challenge. If everyone just sits around in grandma’s room, it will be boring for the children and unsatisfying for the senior. Instead, have a plan. Here are some ideas:

  • Bring children at a time when the residents are socializing. That way, the senior can introduce the child to friends and have a chance to show off their wonderful grandchildren.
  • Wear Halloween costumes so that the grandparent can see in person how cute they look and what creative ideas everyone came up with. There may be other holidays where the children are dressing up, such as Purim or Christmas, and they can show their grandparent their special outfits for these times too.
  • Have children bring a recent school project that they can show to their grandparent. Seniors are likely to be very interested in seeing what kids are learning in school these days. If the project is about something the senior doesn’t know about, that gives the child a chance to be the teacher.
  • Play games. The child can bring a favorite game to share with the grandparent, and it’s likely that the grandparent has a favorite game of their own that they can teach the child.
  • Decorate the senior’s room for an upcoming holiday. Decorations often bring out lots of excitement in children, and seniors will feel loved and have a reminder of the visit after the children have left.
  • Share riddles and jokes and silly songs. Children might be very interested to hear some of the songs the grandparent remembers from when they were the child’s age.
  • Bring photographs or video of a recent event in the child’s life, such as a chorus concert, ball game, or scouting trip. Have the child tell the grandparent stories about what happened.
  • If you’re willing to take on a bigger project, talk to the assisted living facility and the child’s school about arranging a class visit. The children could sing for the seniors or perform a skit. Another idea is to have children interview the seniors about their lives, and use the information to write short biographies that can be compiled into a collection for both seniors and the children to keep.

Seniors will be especially delighted to receive gifts, and children will feel good preparing something for them. Have children draw a picture or make a card for their grandparent. You also might consider baking sweets or making some other kind of favorite food with the child that they can then give to the senior.

These are just a few ideas as to how you can create wonderful memories from children’s visits. Just because a grandparent is now in assisted living, their relationship with the family doesn’t have to suffer. In the process, children will learn valuable lessons about giving and bringing cheer to others, and they will get to enjoy precious time with their grandparent that they’ll be able to remember one day when they’re gone.

Seniors entering assisted living may need help with daily tasks due to the physical limitations of old age, but often their minds are still relatively healthy. These seniors can benefit from taking simple actions that will help them continue to maintain their mental abilities.

1. Take on puzzles and games. Exercise the mind with logic challenges to keep it active. Card games are a great example: those seniors who enjoy bridge, even without realizing it, are doing more for themselves than simply having a good time enjoying competition with friends. Board games like monopoly are good choices too, and don’t forget the ever-popular Bingo (play with multiple cards to get the most brain-stimulating challenge)! Sodoku and crossword puzzles work well. The best benefit from games comes when there’s a social aspect to them: interacting with others provides additional stimulation and challenge.

2. Be social. If you’re not someone who enjoys games, even social interaction itself can benefit the mind. Talk to other residents and get to know them. Take an interest in the staff members you come into contact with and ask them about their lives outside of work–with their demanding and sometimes emotionally draining jobs, many caregivers will appreciate the chance to make a personal connection and be recognized. Check out activites being offered by the community. Social interaction has had documented positive effects not just on the mind, but on overall health as well. Seniors in assisted living, who have a community readily available, are well-situated to take advantage of these benefits.

3. Eat properly. Good nutrition and regular meals are good for both the body and the brain. Your assisted living facility can be a big help with this, providing healthy food on schedule without you having to worry about it. Eat a variety of things and for mental benefits specifically focus on colorful fruit, leafy green vegetables, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids like nuts and fish. Drink water often: seniors are more likely to become dehydrated than younger adults.

4. Move. We think of exercise as benefiting the body, but our minds thrive on it too. Don’t shy away from the chance to be active. Coordinated movements, especially dancing, can be great for keeping yourself sharp. Line dancing, for example, forces you to use your memory to learn and remember the steps. Another option is to go for a walk, even if it’s just around the hallways of the facility. Seniors have been shown to benefit from light strength training and low-impact aerobic exercises designed for them. Physical activity increases your oxygen use and blood flow to your brain. Whatever exercise you choose, to get the benefits it’s important that you be consistent.

One of the hardest things for seniors living on their own is having meals that are both nutritious and enjoyable. Cooking for one person is tough enough when you’re young and energetic, but when everyday tasks are more difficult and you move more slowly, it’s that much more difficult. Some seniors can’t get out to the grocery store to even get food to begin with. Especially when it comes to men and others who may not have done much cooking earlier in their lives, making your own meals can seem like an impossible task. In these situations, seniors tend to go for what’s quick and easy, not what would be the most ideal choice from a health standpoint.

In addition, seniors living by themselves eat alone much of the time. Having dinner with only the TV for company can be pretty lonely. Even if the senior lives with family, how often in busy homes with kids does everyone come together to share a meal? Despite the living situation the end result may be the same: a microwave dinner in front of the evening news while children stay late to deal with work responsibilities and grandchildren attend basketball practice or reherse for the school play. This scenario may make the senior feel even more cast aside.

To be fair, some seniors are still excellent cooks and can fend for themselves. But the chances are good that sooner or later, food will become an issue. When it does, it can contribute to making a senior’s delicate health even worse. Poor nuturition makes people more likely to get sick, can exacerbate conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and can lead to depression.

Those who are concerned about their older loved ones should not wait for the senior to ask for help, as sometimes they will fear the loss of their independence and hide problems. Watch for clues like excessive weight loss or a refrigerator with barren shelves or expired food. Consider whether getting to the grocery store is a challenge: does the senior have trouble getting outside his or her home? You also may want to ask if he or she is having problems with swallowing or chewing or if they’re experiencing a loss of appetite.

This is one area in which assisted living can make a big difference in a senior’s life. Assisted living residents do not have to worry about cooking for themselves. They get to have regular mealtimes within a community and experience the comfort of gathering together with people they know. A good assisted living facility will make sure the senior gets the proper diet for his or her specific health issues.

We all feel happier when eating well and enjoying good company. Attention to this area can be a huge boost in a senior’s quality of life.