Friday, July 25, 2014

Choose well – Avoid common mistakes with Assisted Living

Choosing an assisted living facility
should not be done in panic mode.

It happens all the time.  A crisis takes place, an accident, a fall or an illness forces the issue to the forefront.  No one in the family had a real plan on what to do when Mom or Dad needed help on a daily basis and suddenly decisions have to be made and have to be made now.  In a panic to find an immediate solution, siblings debate care options and charge out to tour facilities.  In the rush to find a place, often very basic questions are not asked and future possibilities are not considered.  Knowing how to prepare, what questions to ask and what to look for can save your aging loved ones and the entire family a lot of heartache down the road.  Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Not having the conversation
It is unfortunate that most families get caught off guard about their aging loved one’s future care needs.  The practical decisions of providing care, in most families, have not been clearly mapped out ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect.  This often leaves the adult children in the family in conflict with each other and scrambling to find a care solution when their aging parent suddenly needs daily help.  Wise seniors and their families will realize that it is better to have a plan in place than go through the rush and stress of making a major life decision in panic mode.

Have the conversation ahead of time and get a clear plan set down that the entire family can work with.   Do the research now and make general decisions about how care will be provided once needed.  Create a short list of facilities and service providers to turn to in the future.  Organize a list of things to be taken and things to be passed along to family members when the time comes to move.  Discuss parent preferences of who in the family will take on managing the finances and who will make care decisions in case they can’t.  Get the legal paperwork set up so it is just a matter of activating the decision once the time is right.  These are serious and often uncomfortable issues that all families with aging parents must deal with and putting off having the conversation and making decisions is being short sighted.

Not being realistic about the future
When shopping for a care facility it is important to be realistic about current and future care needs.  Most families look at an assisted living facility with an eye on location, cleanliness, decor and activities but fail to consider if the facility can provide the level of care needed for possible future health and cognitive issues.  Assisted living facilities are strictly regulated by state governments and fall into different categories which determine what level of health care they are allowed to provide.  For example in the State of Wisconsin, there are three different levels of assisted living facilities: community-based residential facilities (CBRF), adult family homes (AFH) and residential care apartment complexes (RCAC).  Out of these three categories only CBRF facilities can provide significant health care on site. In addition, within the CBRF category there are various classifications which determine who they can and cannot serve.  Pay attention to the facility’s classification and ask specific questions on if they provide up to end of life care as well as if and when they would ever require a Resident to move.

As the elder ages and health needs change, some facilities will be forced to evict Residents when they no longer can provide the level of care required. So it is important to consider future decline in health and cognitive abilities when choosing an assisted living facility.  Moving a loved one from facility to facility is costly as well as emotionally and physically difficult for the elder so it is better to be realistic about the future care needs now.

Not understanding the fine print
Even though moving into an assisted living facility is usually a health care decision rather than a real estate decision, there will still be contracts involved.  Most facilities have straightforward contracts which need to be read in detail.  When choosing between facilities, one of the main sources of confusion is the various pricing structures which should be explained in detail in the contract.  In addition to admission fees, facilities will have diverse systems set up to determine monthly costs.  Some facilities have base rates for room rental and meals and then charge extra fees for cares.  Others may charge for each service provided a la carte or they may rank the level of care needed on a sliding scale and increase the monthly charges according to how many cares the person needs.  With a scale system, Residents start at a lower cost but should expect monthly rates to increase as care needs increase.  Other facilities lock a rate at admission and will honor that rate regardless of increase of care needs due to aging, only to address the fees again if there is a major change in health. Since each assisted living community sets up rates differently, it is important to understand and compare upfront costs and how they may change over time.

Knowing about these common pitfalls can save the entire family stress and regret and allows everyone to focus on making the transition to an assisted living facility easier for your loved one when the time comes.

Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations for HomeAid Health Care which provides services for the elderly and disabled who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is sister company to Prairie Home Assisted Living (Class C, CBRF) which has served the physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their Residents since 1999.  Together the two family owned companies provide comprehensive care for the elderly and disabled in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease

Pro-actively reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease

The numbers are scary.  Currently there are over 5 million people in the USA suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  This condition affects one out of eight people over 65 and one out of two for those over 85.  This progressive disease slowly destroys the connections between brain cells, leaving holes in the brain tissue.  It steals memories and the ability to communicate and respond to one’s environment and eventually leads to death.  It is the sixth leading cause of death in the country now and is expected to affect more and more people as our population ages.  World-wide it is estimated that there will be about 135.5 million people with Alzheimer’s by 2050. 

In the beginning, Alzheimer’s usually presents itself as a mild form of forgetfulness or short term memory loss.  At the early stages of cognitive problems there may be time to delay the onset of future memory issues.  The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation believes that memory loss is not a normal or natural part of aging.  With proper preventative action, the brain can be rejuvenated and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s greatly reduced.  For those already diagnosed with Early Cognitive Impairment, studies show that actively working the brain can elevate symptoms and actually reverse some of the damage caused by the disease, as well as delay further damage to the brain.

The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation promotes “Four Pillars to Alzheimer’s Prevention”.  These preventative measures are for all seniors and elderly who wish to be proactive about their cognitive health.  For those already diagnosed with Early Cognitive Impairment or dementia, these measures can actively slow down the progression of the disease and provide a longer, healthier life prolonging the onset of disabling symptoms.  The ARPF suggests focusing on these four areas of prevention:

1.      Diet and Supplements
2.      Stress Management
3.      Exercise
4.      Prescription Medications

Diet and Supplements
Lifestyle has a direct impact on developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Beyond genetic predisposition, a person’s chance of being diagnosed with any form of dementia is greatly influenced by diet.  Eating correctly to promote better memory, prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive impairment is an excellent place to start.  An Alzheimer’s prevention diet is comprised of

·         20% good fat - extra virgin olive oil, avocado, flax seed oil and Omega-3 fish  oils
·        40% lean protein – fish, chicken, turkey and soy
·        40% complex carbohydrates – fresh fruit & vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
·       Super food for the brain – blueberries, spinach, walnuts, wheat germ and flax, etc.

Beyond diet, vitamin and minerals play an important role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.  Taking a basic multiple vitamin and mineral supplement with folic acid is a good place to start.  Vitamin C taken with Vitamin E has been proven to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 20%.  Other supplements to boost memory include ginkgo biloba, phosphatidyl serine, Omega-3 Oils, acetyl-L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid.

Stress Management
It has been proven that high levels of stress play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.  There is a relationship between high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high cortisol levels and the onset of Alzheimer’s.  This means that balancing stress is vital to prevention of these conditions, which often leads to onset of Alzheimer’s as one ages.  Stress relaxation techniques lower cortisol levels which improve mental functions.  Although many types of stress reducing techniques are helpful, the ARPF promotes a yoga meditation called Kirtan Kriya shows a profound effect on the brain and memory as well as other aspects of overall health.

Being active both physically and mentally is essential to an Alzheimer’s prevention program.  Physical exercise reduces the risk of developing this disease by 50% and regular exercise in women aged 40-60 shows a notable reduction in cognitive decline compared to those who do not exercise.  Studies show that 150 minutes a week of a combination of cardio and strength training boost brain size and strength as well as benefit general health.

Mental exercise reduces chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease by 50-70%.  Spending at least 20 minutes a day challenging the brain with new or different tasks improves brain function significantly.  Moreover a combination of physical exercise immediately followed by mental stimulation such as a crossword puzzle or word game gets the best possible outcomes.

Prescription Medications
Early detection and prompt medical treatment of memory problems can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.  In fact those with a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment have a high risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s unless a pro-active program is put in place.  A combination of prescription medications along with a holistic medical program has been proven to have the best results. Pharmaceutical medications, Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and over the counter supplements should always be taken under the guidance of physician who is an expert in Alzheimer’s disease.  

Taking action by following the ARPF’s Four Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention will maximize brain size and ability and reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’ disease. 

Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations for HomeAid Health Care which provides services for the elderly who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is sister company to Prairie Home Assisted Living which has served the physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their Residents since 1999.  Together the two family owned companies provide comprehensive care for the elderly in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin.

“The Four Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention” brochure. Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation.