All posts by Samantha Colaianni

Before Turning on the Faucet: Alzheimer’s Disease and Bathing

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. In order to support the mission of raising awareness and providing education about Alzheimer’s, the Aging Life Care Association will be publishing articles that discuss different aspects of the disease. You can learn more about World Alzheimer’s Month at https://www.worldalzmonth.org.

It may be at the beginning when an Aging Life Care Manager® does an initial assessment of the person with Alzheimer’s disease; or it may come up as the dementia progresses; or it may never come up. The task is bathing, and for reasons discussed below, it is an undertaking that has its unique challenges.

For some, a bath or a shower is uneventful. But for others in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, he or she may be accustomed to bathing independently. Now that independence is disrupted. There may be an aide or family member standing in the bathroom or right outside the door. Privacy is compromised and the need for safety trumps a long history of modesty. It can be especially challenging when the aide is female and her client a male.  If this new bathing protocol were not enough, the cognitively impaired person may not recognize that anything is wrong, so she becomes verbally and physically abusive as she staves off the invasion of helpers and disruption to her customary routine.

With the progression of the dementia, the senses are the triggers for the challenge to bathing. Seeing the water rush out of the spout or shower head may be anxiety provoking; the sound of the water may illicit a similar response. Multiple mirrors in the bathroom may give a “house of mirrors” effect. Good in an amusement park, but not the bathroom. If it is a bath the person is taking, he may view the tub and water as bottomless and be afraid to enter it.

While the explanations are as varied as the person partaking of the bath or shower, the following five strategies can be helpful in reducing the stress for the caregiver and family member:

  1. Choose the right time of day. If a person is experiencing sundowning, a shower in the late afternoon or evening may not be the right time.
  2. Assess the level of help needed by the individual and then coach the person accordingly. A strength based approach will help the person to have a greater feeling of security and independence.
  3. As the caregiver, be aware of how you are feeling as you approach bathing. People with dementia are sensitive to the moods of others. If you are tired after a long day, put off the bath or shower for another time.
  4. If there is resistance, use a reward-based approach: “We’ll take a very short shower and then we’re going to have coffee and those chocolate chip cookies you like.”
  5. If these strategies prove unsuccessful, try a sponge bath or use a non-rinse body soap and shampoo. These items are available in drug stores and online.

As Aging Life Care Managers®, we suggest approaches that will insure minimum stress for the caregiver and the desired hygiene outcome for the cognitively impaired person. It is a customized approach that recognizes the unique needs of each family member.


MIRIAM ZUCKER, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM is the founder of Directions in Aging, based in New Rochelle, New York. She previously worked as the Program Director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Westchester County, New York and has served on the faculty of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging of Hunter College.  Ms. Zucker can be reached at: mzucker@directionsinaging.com

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Engagement with the Arts Enhances Well-Being in Alzheimer’s Patients

Photo Credit: here:now art-making class. Photo by Lou Daprile

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. In order to support the mission of raising awareness and providing education about Alzheimer’s, the Aging Life Care Association will be publishing articles that discuss different aspects of the disease. You can learn more about World Alzheimer’s Month at https://www.worldalzmonth.org.

Engagement with the Arts Enhances Well-Being

By Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager

One recent afternoon in Seattle, a group of older adults gathered for iced tea, coffee and snacks in the café at the Frye Art Museum. Lively conversation ensued, like a gathering of old friends. Strummed on a guitar was a familiar tune. Carmen Ficarra, the musician and a teaching artist at the Frye, led them in song. It was joyful.

This gathering was of the Frye’s monthly Alzheimer’s Café, the newest of their Creative Aging Programs. Dementia-friendly programming at the museum is the innovation of Mary Jane Knecht, Manager, Creative Aging Programs, who along with her then-Director, Jill Rullkoetter. first proposed the concept nine years ago.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to reduce the feelings of isolation and stigma, which are often challenges for people who are living with dementia,” says Knecht. “We want the Frye to be a safe, supportive, and inspiring environment where participants can be social and feel welcome in a public place.

Creative Aging

The Frye’s first program — here:now — is an arts engagement program developed specifically for adults living with dementia and their care partners, where they can enjoy conversation, works of art, and artmaking in a supportive setting. The Frye also offers a quarterly film program – Meet Me at the Movies – where movie clips are shown, followed by facilitated audience discussion. Additionally, Knecht developed a program called Bridges, which brings art to the residences of individuals in the latter stages of dementia through one-on-one art discussion and art-making experiences.

The Museum is part of a larger collective of organizations known as Momentia Seattle, a “grassroots movement empowering persons with memory loss and their loved ones to remain connected and active in the community.” Momentia partners offer activities, programs and events including zoo and garden walks, talent shows, summer camps, field trips, improv, folk dancing, yoga, book clubs, and music, in addition to cafés and art classes.

The Arts are Transformative

In our work as Aging Life Care Professionals®, we believe in the transformative nature of arts and cultural engagement. We have seen this, when part of a care plan and tailored to each client, bring a new light through attendance at the theater, movies, concerts, and museums. An afternoon spent in an arts studio or getting social with new friends means someone is engaging socially, artistically, emotionally and mentally.

These arts and cultural experiences are an enriching, non-pharmacological approach that research shows can help improve mood, lessen anxiety and agitation, build relationships, make social connections, and improve overall quality of life for older adults living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Most communities have some level of programming focused on arts for older adults, be it through senior or community centers, arts organizations, parks and recreation departments, churches, adult day centers, the Alzheimer’s Association or an Area Agency on Aging. There are also professionals such as recreational therapists and activities specialists who work directly with individuals.

How Can an Aging Life Care Professional® Help?

The responsibilities of taking care of your parent, spouse or family member can be very stressful. As Aging Life Care Professionals, we take a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing ongoing health challenges. We help families navigate a path forward. Sometimes that path includes the arts and cultural engagement.

How do you know if you need an Aging Life Care Professional? Are you?:

  • Feeling both blessed and burdened helping your loved one?
  • At the end of your rope trying to balance the needs of your immediate family, a job and caring for an older loved one?
  • Concerned for your parents’ safety, well-being and independence, and it’s keeping you awake at night?
  • Noticing worrisome changes in your parent, contrary to what he or she tells you?
  • Living far from older family members and overwhelmed by caring for them long-distance?

Aging Life Care Professionals bring a positive outlook, years of experience, an objective perspective and responsive engagement to enable clarity, stability and a way ahead. Providing tools and resources to make informed choices, our guidance and expertise leads families to decisions and actions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress and time off of work for family caregivers. We are well-acquainted with programs, services and supports in our service areas and can help match your loved one with activities and events that will be fulfilling and contribute to their health and well-being.

To find an Aging Life Care Professional in your community that can help connect you and your loved one to service, supports and programs, please visit the Aging Life Care Association website at http://aginglifecare.org.


Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, is the founder of Aging Wisdom, a care management and consulting practice in Seattle, an Aging Life Care™ consulting, care management and creative engagement practice that strives to bring peace of mind to families by both directly improving the quality of life for aging family members, and by providing consultation and coaching services for their families. She is president-elect of the Aging Life Care Association and a Fellow Certified Care Manager.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Planning for the Future: Long Term Care

Planning for the Future: Long Term Care

Andrea Zaite, MSSA, LMSW, CMC, C-ASWCM

How Will I Pay?

I want to introduce you to the web site run by the federal government called https://longtermcare.acl.gov/.  Long term care is defined as receiving assistance in the areas of daily living such as bathing, incontinence care, cooking, shopping, medication reminders, etc.  The website is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  This site covers some topics I think are important to those looking to plan for the future or to help pay for the care of a loved one recently in need, but without the financial means to write the check.

We know from experience that Medicare, Medicare replacement and commercial insurances do not pay for these services.  They are not considered medical care so they are not covered.  I agree that most chronically ill and elderly patients would benefit from these services as a part of care to prevent re-hospitalization, however Medicare doesn’t see it that way.  I have found many people wading through the myriad of services provided in the handbooks come across home care and assume this is the same.  The Medicare, Medicare replacement plans and commercial insurance are talking about medical home health ordered by a physician.  Home health is a medical service which includes a weekly nurse visit called skilled nursing care that may last 15-30 minutes to take vitals and deal with any medical problems and education; Occupational Therapy for upper body; and Physical Therapy for lower body and ambulation. Temporary bathing aid can be ordered for several visits to ensure patient can safely bathe. Home health is meant to be a bridge from illness to recovery; from hospital to home. There are restrictions as well; a patient must be home bound, and is usually time limited with the need to show improvement.

The next question and road block to obtaining this care is the cost. Long term care is expensive by the nature of the care required and location of services.  Most private duty home care can range from $12.00 – $25.00 an hour with some company’s requiring a 3-4 hour minimum.  Average monthly cost whether provided at home or in an assisted living, board and care home, or nursing home, can average as high as $5,000.00 to $6,000.00, with home care usually the least expensive if the home is in good condition and the home is owned outright.

OPTIONS FOR PAYING:

The options to pay for your long-term care have improved over the past 10 years because the need for this type of care has increase so dramatically.  These options include:

  • Long term care insurance
  • Combination Life/Long term care products
  • Accelerated death benefits
  • Life settlements
  • Viatical Settlements
  • Reverse Mortgages
  • Home equity loans
  • Annuities

Long Term Care Policies are generally obtained by those in the planning phase as they are less expensive the younger you are.  These policies can be activated once an individual is determined to have 3 deficits in the area of activities of daily living skills.  Most policies cover private duty home care, assisted living, and long-term nursing home care.  Policies have a 3-month waiting period and require an evaluation by a care manager that either works for the insurance company or is contracted by the recipient.  The evaluation is to determine the need for services and determine the 3 main deficits in the Activities of Daily Living Skills.  I have discovered that there are families and clients that don’t realize they may have these policies either because this was not discussed with the children or often the wife didn’t know her husband purchased the policy.  Many private duty home care companies and assisted living facilities will help you activate the policies if needed.  Some insurance policies will reimburse you for the cost incurred during the 3 month waiting period others consider that to be an out of pocket cost.

Combination Products are for those persons who would like a guaranteed return on their investment by combining life insurance with a long-term care plan so if you don’t use the long-term care component you can still collect on the life insurance or at least your beneficiaries can.  Many of the same rules apply as for long term care.

Accelerated death benefit feature of a policy allows you to receive a tax-free advance on your life insurance death benefit while you are still alive.  You may have to pay for the option to have this feature or it may be part of the policy.  There is the stipulation that you are terminally ill or have a life-threatening diagnosis or need long term care for an extended period of time verified by a physician.  This feature is usually capped at 50% of death benefit.  This type of policy is limited but can be a helpful in an emergent situation.

Life settlement option of a policy allows you to sell your insurance policy for its present value to raise cash for any reason.  This option is usually only available to women age 74 and older or to men 70 and older.  The down side is the income generated may be taxed as capital gains but the up side is you need not exam and no doctor statement.

Viatical settlements option allows you to sell your life insurance to a third party.  This option is like a life settlement but is only available to those who are terminally ill or have a life expectancy or 2 years or less.  The payments are based on life expectancy limitation due to illness or injury that must be verified by your physician.  The payment percentage is based on this number so for example someone with a life expectancy of 1 – 6 months may have a payout of 80% of benefit and someone with a life expectancy of 6 – 12 months would receive 70% of benefit and so on.

Reverse Mortgages are a good option if you have a home that is paid off.  You should go to a reputable mortgage company or bank to discuss this option.  Many reverse mortgages allow you to choose between a lump sum payment, a monthly payment, or a line of credit.  You continue t live in you home but you are responsible for up keep, taxes and insurance.  The stipulations to this option include being 62 years of age or older, and this must be your primary residence.  Your spouse can continue to live in the home after you die and there is an option to pay back the mortgage if your family decides they want the home.

Annuities seem like the least popular option as they can have an effect on your taxes and affect your eligibility for Medicaid.  There are 2 types of annuities; immediate and deferred long term care annuities.  Trust can be drawn up to help disperse the funds and protect them from Medicaid regulations.  This should be discussed with an elder care attorney.

The options discussed above and other related subjects can be found on the long-term care website.  I also recommend you visit another website called lifecarefunding.com.  This company has been doing business since 2007 in response to the Medicaid spend down for senior to qualify for long term care.  They help convert policies into living benefits.  Several agencies and assisted living facilities use and recommend them.

An Aging Life Care Professional® can help you to evaluate your circumstances and develop a plan that is right for you and your loved one.   They can also recommend and refer you to elder care attorneys, financial planners, ad insurance companies to help navigate the waters of long term care.


About the Author: Andrea Zaite, LMSW, C-ASWCM, CMC, is an Aging Life Care Association Advanced Professional member and a Board Member of the South Central Chapter.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

What is an Aging Life Care Professional?

What Does It Mean to be an Aging Life Care Professional®?

By Spencer Brown, CMC, LNFA, MSG

My introduction to the field of aging was shaped heavily by having close relationships with all four of my grandparents and seeing my parents in a caregiving role.  As a college freshman in the town where one set of grandparents lived, I spent even more time with them.  In the first three months of collegiate life, my grandfather had a significant stroke and my grandmother called me to report a change and asked me to come to the house. Over the next five months as a “boots on the ground” resource until my grandfather’s death I spent a lot of time assisting in simple ways while my mom and uncle dealt with the challenges of long-distance caregiving.

One day while on the phone with my parents and I were talking and my dad said, “Your mother and I have picked a career for you.”  While I always appreciate my parents’ perspective I paused with a bit of skepticism. My reply was terse when I asked “what?”   Then my dad said gerontology to which I replied “What’s that?”  After some explanation my dad said he and my mother had observed in their regular trips to Texas how I interfaced with my grandparents and that they saw in me a demeanor that seemed to lend itself to work with older adults.

While not sure what to make of the career path guidance, I began exploring the field of aging.  First I volunteered at an adult care center after my first year of college.  Then other opportunities came up such as participation in the college ministry to a nursing home where I played the piano most weeks.  Along the way I took an introduction to gerontology course where I met my lead professional in the graduate program I would enroll in later.   I also met an executive director/administrator of a senior living community via a connection through my dad’s civic involvement.  It was meeting someone who knew about the residents, their stories and seemed to care about the well-being of older adults where I first said, “I want to do that.”

The rest, I tell people, is history.  As I completed a Master’s degree in gerontology, I concurrently became a licensed nursing facility administrator in Texas.  My full-time career began managing nursing homes and evolved to opportunities managing assisted living and independent living communities.  What engaged me for many years was being of service to residents and their families who were often stressed about the challenges in aging.  As an executive in various settings, my ability to help these families navigate issues was often limited.  Knowing I was in a burnout profession I told myself early on that I would keep doing what I was doing as long as I didn’t see any other service opportunity.  Then one day I couldn’t say definitely I wanted to remain on this path and contemplated leaving the field of aging altogether.

My experience with the field of Aging Life Care™ was very limited but I interacted with some care managers who were assisting residents in communities that I managed.  When I was part of a company reorganization where my position was being restructured I told a professional whom I respect that I was considering an opportunity in geriatric care management. This person then told me Accountable Aging Care Management® was hiring in their San Antonio market.  Within one month I was working as an Aging Life Care Professional®.

During my years as a care manager, three key aspects of this work have motivated me.

  1. Humility – Given all of the issues in aging I realize that it is humbling for our team to partner with families who are in the middle of very complex and emotional issues with their loved ones. The opportunity to be right with families at pivotal moments is an honor.  Walking alongside them, providing coaching, coordination and management support is not something to take lightly.
  2. Learning – One of the traits discovered about myself is a desire to learn. Working in Aging Life Care allows me to learn every day. More than any other position in my career, the continuous learning process has never been more evident than now.  Not all client situations are the same and I thrive off discovering appropriate resources for clients and helping a plan of care work efficiently.
  3. Variety – When I entered the profession I thought that all I would be doing was work with older adults. Quickly I learned that there are all kinds of adult aging issues where a care manager can make difference.  Working simultaneously with two almost 18-year old clients with an array of issues and needs early on my career changed my thought process completely about who is a typical client.  When ALCA rebranded the profession, I was so grateful because Aging Life Care in my client work has really meant any adult aging issue regardless of chronological age.

I view myself as an ambassador to help promote the profession so that others will understand that there are organizations across the country to help family caregivers who find themselves in a new role of coordinating care and navigating the maze of options.  We have much to be done but as a larger profession Accountable Aging Care Management and many companies across the nation have a rich opportunity to partner and serve many.

Spencer Brown, CMC, LNFA, MSG, is a care manager at Accountable Aging Care Management in San Antonio, TX. He was named as the Aging Life Care Association South Central Chapter 2017 Member of the Year.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

It’s Just Stuff…Right? Learning to Manage the Emotions of Downsizing

It’s Just Stuff…Right?

By Darcy Thiel, MA, LMHC

One of my businesses is called “Less Mess, Less Stress.” When I first started, it would be what I envisioned- helping people clean out that junk room, or maybe the garage so it could be parked in. For a while, it became more hoarding or condemned houses. Sometimes I would hire an entire crew and would literally have to shovel the house out.

I always say that this job overlaps quite a bit with my counseling profession. People’s relationship to their belongings is often very emotional. Especially when there is grief involved because of a deceased person’s belongings, my counseling skills come in handy. It is my job to help people let go of things. The vast majority of Americans need to downsize. You don’t need more space, you need less stuff!

The aging population must face this issue, especially when moving into a different type of living space than they are accustomed to. Recently, we’ve been helping my dad make the big decision about living in a smaller place where there isn’t so much upkeep. It’s not only a decision about housing, but about aging, which is almost always about acceptance. And aging is about approaching death as well, which is also about acceptance. It’s emotional for Dad, but also for all us kids too.

After months of no, no, no, Dad has decided he’s ready to move. And when he is ready, he means now. We have been trying to sell the house, find him an apartment, downsize his belongings, and everything in between. Some of the most fun times for us as a family have been going through cupboards and reminiscing. And some of the most tense times have been going through cupboards and disagreeing whole heartedly about how to help Dad make the shift.

That’s where I have to remember I’m a daughter before an organizer. No one in my family has hired me to take this on. I’m used to doing it though so sometimes I get a bit bossy. I also think that initially Dad (like all of us) needed a little nudging to move forward. Now there is no stopping him and the rest of us can’t keep up. It has been interesting to observe how he has changed over the years.

We have gone through various memories and belongings and initially so many things were untouchable. They were sacred. No one could bear to part with anything that belonged to our family members we had already lost. Just looking at things would cause us to tear up or cry. Now time has gone by. I ask Dad about certain things and he looks at me like, “Why would I want that?” I know without a doubt that he still deeply misses and loves all those people he has lost. But he is moving on. I want to be that way too. We don’t need boxes of things and pictures galore to remember our loved ones. I see it as growth. After all, it’s just stuff, right? Well, that all depends on what year you are asking! Good thing to remember when helping people navigate through this time of change.

Darcy Thiel, MA is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in NY State and a new Aging Life Care Manager.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.  She is also an accomplished speaker and presenter on various topics throughout the Western NY area. She is the proud author of Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey with Cancer, the prequel to Life After Death, on This Side of Heaven.  To learn more about Ms. Thiel, visit her website at www.darcythiel.com or marriageandfamilycounseling.net. If you enjoyed her blog, she writes weekly at helpforhealing.wordpress.com.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

The Secret Life of the Refrigerator

The Secret Life of the Refrigerator

by Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

“Ins and outs,” are what Aging Life Care Specialists™ often do during our initial walk thru a client’s home. The “ins” are such things as medication dispensers, grab bars and smoke detectors.  The “outs,” are unsecured throw rugs, old newspapers and magazines, and expired medications.  While these areas tend to be more apparent to the care manager, a visit to the kitchen may tell a story of mystery and concealment. It’s the secret life of the refrigerator.

Like opening your mouth in the dentist’s chair, opening the door of the refrigerator can reveal important information.

The first piece of information is obtained by simply opening the door of the adult senior’s refrigerator. Are you greeted by a fragrance-free refrigerator or is there the waft of soured milk?

The second piece of information is what is known as the “refrigerator rainbow effect.”  Ideally, this would mean an array of all those brightly colored fruits and vegetables. But for Aging Life Care Specialist, observing such color often represents mold and rot on foods that should have been thrown out long ago.

The third piece of information is opening the refrigerator, and none of the above characteristics are present.  There is little or nothing in the refrigerator and food in the freezer expired months or even a year ago.

For the Aging Life Care Specialist, the secrets of the refrigerator make it vibrantly clear that immediate attention is required.  Diagnosis and remediation must occur concomitantly. The refrigerator and freezer must be cleaned, expired food removed and fresh food and beverages brought in. At the same time, Aging Life Care Specialists must question why this unsafe condition has been allowed to develop. There are five primary questions we ask:

  • Are there family, neighbors, friends or social service agencies involved?
  • Is there altered cognition? Is the older adult forgetting to shop? Going shopping and not bringing money? Forgetting to eat?
  • Is the adult senior hoarding food? This often is observed with our clients who lived through the Great Depression and will not part with food no matter what its condition.
  • Is there clinical depression which is preventing a client from having an interest in eating or shopping?
  • What foods are our clients living on? What do the kitchen cabinets reveal?

For each of our clients, the response will be different. It is our responsibility as Aging Life Care Specialists to promptly assess what the refrigerator has revealed, and take the appropriate steps to return the refrigerator to a safe zone and make sure our clients are not malnourished, dehydrated or experiencing other conditions associated with improper nutrition.

 

MIRIAM ZUCKER, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM is the founder of Directions in Aging, based in Westchester County, New York. she has been as an Aging Life Care Specialist for over two decades. she can be reached at: mzucker@directionsinaging.com.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Aging Life Care Month

Stories from National Aging Life Care Month

Aging Life Care Professionals® across the country celebrated National Aging Life Care™ Month by providing seminars, webinars, special events, open houses, and other educational activities for the public.

Many took to social media to share Aging Life Care stories via selfies and videos. Each week, ALCA asked members to share something from their world as Aging Life Care Professionals. During the month, several common themes emerged – a passion for helping families through difficult times, an appreciation for the wisdom of an older generation, resiliency, advocacy, care, and the need for daily hope and laughter.  Below is a look at some of  the photos shared during #AgingLifeCareMonth.

As our population ages, it becomes more and more important to plan for the many years ahead. The entire reason for National Aging Life Care Month is not only to bring awareness about aging well, but to celebrate those who have dedicated their lives to helping older adults and their families. We celebrate Aging Life Care Professionals, because they bring kindness, heart, and compassion to the field. Without them, ALCA wouldn’t be the incredible organization that it is.

To learn more about Aging Life Care™ and to find an expert in aging well, visit aginglifecare.org.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

may is Aging Life Care Month

May Is National Aging Life Care™ Month

The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) – the nonprofit association representing 2,000 leaders in Aging Life Care™ / care management – will celebrate the profession during the month of May. Special events come on the heels of a professional conference in Chicago, where presenters and participants tackled the toughest issues related to aging today.

What is Aging Life Care™ and Why Should I Care?

While the practice and profession of Aging Life Care is not new, there is more attention being paid to the impact our aging population has on communities and resources. Aging Life Care plays an important role as these professionals are prepared to help aging adults plan for and face age-related challenges.

Aging Life Care is a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing health challenges. The Aging Life Care Professional® is a health and human services specialist who is a guide, advocate, and resource for families caring for an older relative or disabled adult. Working with families, the expertise of Aging Life Care Professionals provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Their guidance leads families to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress and time off of work for family caregivers.

housing, crisis, advocacy, legal, communication, financial, health and disabilityThey have extensive knowledge about the costs, quality, and availability of resources in their communities. Aging Life Care Professionals are members of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA), must meet stringent education, experience, and certification requirements of the organization, and all members are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice.

Aging Life Care Professionals throughout the country will celebrate National Aging Life Care Month by providing seminars, webinars, special events, open houses, and other educational activities for the public. For more information, and locations of Aging Life Care Professionals, visit ALCA’s website aginglifecare.org.

The association was formed in 1985 by a group of about 50 members – mainly social workers and nurses –  who came together to build a profession from the ground up. “Our association was the first to represent the pioneers in a growing and developing field,” said ALCA CEO Kaaren Boothroyd.

“ALCA recognizes the vulnerable population our professionals serve, so we have developed the highest standards by which to hold our members accountable – for both the protection of the client and the public.”

Aging Life Care Professionals may be trained in any of a number of fields related to long-term care. These include counseling, gerontology, mental health, nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, social work, and other allied health professions, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Why I Became an Aging Life Care Professional®

by Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC

When I was a toddler, my family, including my grandparents, emigrated to the United States from Bosnia in 1993. We were the first Bosnian family to live in Edmonds, Washington, just north of Seattle.

HELPING OTHERS

My grandfather had been a social worker in Bosnia. My mother, very much a social worker at heart, worked hard to learn English so that she could help other Bosnian families who were emigrating to the area. My family has always helped others.

Growing up, my parents both worked, and my grandparents helped raise me and my siblings. We kids were happy to do our share to support our family and other families. As my grandparents grew older, it was natural for me to pitch in.  One of my grandmothers had ALS, and my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. When I was in high school, I often took my grandfather to doctor’s appointments, on errands, and eventually I assisted him with daily care tasks. I was comfortable being around older adults and helping them in ways my peers might not.

CHOOSING A CAREER PATH

Initially, I had set my sights on becoming a nurse. While completing my undergraduate requirements for nursing school, I worked as a receptionist at a nursing home, and became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  Even though nursing was my original goal, I always found myself gravitating towards the work of the social workers. It soon dawned on me that my talents lay elsewhere, so I shifted my studies to social work.

My undergraduate practicum was with Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care company in Seattle.  I was accepted into the accelerated MSW program, during which I also interned at Aging Wisdom and was able to eventually take on clients of my own with leadership oversight and mentoring. Three months before school was finished, I was offered a job upon graduation. That was the best decision I ever made. My practicum and intern experiences helped me recognize that becoming an Aging Life Care Professional was the ideal career path since it combined my love of social work with my passion for helping older adults.

Working with older adults is where there is such great need. I see that demand growing.

As for Aging Life Care as a profession, it is challenging and exhausting and exhilarating and satisfying all at once. I love that what I do can make such a positive difference in a person’s life, and in the lives of that person’s family, friends and community. My clients have so much to teach me too.

AGING LIFE CARE IS MORE THAN MEDICAL

One of my current clients is a wonderful example of what Aging Life Care professionals can do to promote well-being and personhood. This particular client, whom I’ll refer to as Doc A, is a retired physician. He never married.

His single-family home, a classic 1940s two-story house here in Seattle, set on a small hill, had a treacherous, crumbling 20-step walkway to the front door. Inside, the stairs from the first floor to the second, where his bedroom was located, were steep, winding, and narrow, and not particularly supportive of an unsteady, 80+ year old living with dementia. Unfortunately, the house was difficult to adapt to the changing needs of Doc A, but we did our best.

When I started, the house needed attention. I helped ensure that his broken-down appliances were replaced, got the air conditioning repaired, hired landscapers to regularly maintain the yard and set up a housekeeping service. I also hired a contractor to improve the home’s overall safety. Because it often takes a village to support an older person in their home, I introduced myself to Doc A’s neighbors to enlist their support. These are the sorts of things I never imagined myself doing as an Aging Life Care Manager, but it’s more common than I’d thought, and so helpful to the overall care of our clients. It’s part of the holistic approach we take to support and care for each client.

WORKING CLOSELY WITH ALLIED PROFESSIONALS

We also worked closely with the home care agency that had been hired following Doc A’s return home from a hospital stay after he’d fallen at home.  We worked hard to stabilize staffing, enhance the flow of communication between all parties involved in his care, as well as with his health care team, and addressed concerns about his inadequate nutrition. The overall affect was positive. Doc A was able to continue living in his home longer than expected.

As we’ve worked with Doc A, we’ve gotten to know him on a personal level. He frequently entertains me with his tales about hiking mountains in the Pacific Northwest, his time playing in a local orchestra and his volunteer medical work for local neighborhood clinics. Our Aging Life Care practice includes Creative Engagement Specialists, and we matched him with my colleague Amy, who visits frequently to makes sure that Doc A remains engaged in life with scenic drives and visits to the symphony and ballet, even as his abilities change.

Eventually, the time came when Doc A’s home could no longer optimally support him.  We worked with a placement specialist and helped him to move to an environment that could better meet his needs. Throughout my time working with Doc A, he has come to trust and rely upon me. I was allowed the freedom to help find his next home. I thought carefully about the best setting for him and when the time came to move, he accepted it, settled in and started a brave, new chapter of his life.

GRATITUDE FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY

For me, being an Aging Life Care Professional means focusing on the big picture while at the same time paying attention to the small details in an effort to ensure each client’s quality of life is the best it can be.  I love the part of our Code of Ethics that inspires us to treat each client as a “complete individual with their own history, narrative and unique cultural identity.”

I’m filled with gratitude to be doing this work, to be in a position where families trust us to come into a loved one’s life, get to know them, and help make decisions and work with other professionals to make the lives of our clients happier, safer, more nurturing and purposeful. I’m honored to be entrusted with the opportunity.


Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC is a Certified Care Manager with Aging Wisdom. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare and a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a focus on Multigenerational practice from the University of Washington. Harisa is a co-chair of the Aging Life Care Association’s Seattle Unit Group. She grew up in the suburbs of Seattle where her family still lives. In her free time, Harisa serves as the fundraising chair of Seattle City Rotaract and also participates in a youth mentoring program at the King County Juvenile Detention Center. Harisa is a student in Leadership Tomorrow, a program designed to enhance civic participation of emerging leaders within the Puget Sound region – Seattle class of 2018.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

4 Helpful Tips for Coping with a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. The Aging Life Care Association® will be featuring articles that raise awareness of  Parkinson’s Disease and the ways Aging Life Care Professionals® can support clients and families affected.

by Lisa Laney, MSW, CMC 

Receiving the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease was the first major hurdle. Now, you are faced with another obstacle course as you plan for a life with Parkinson’s.   Here are four tips for managing the road ahead.

To put a name to all the symptoms that have been accumulating for years is the first step along a new path which leads to an unfamiliar terrain full of blind curves, steep climbs, and unexpected declines, interspersed with fairly level courses.

Most people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s have experienced an array of odd symptoms — loss of smell, walking stiffly without normal arm swing motion, a slight twitch in the hand or chin — for as long as ten years before finally receiving a name for their troubles.

Obtaining a diagnosis is the first mystery solved.  How to plan a life with Parkinson’s is the largest undertaking for those with Parkinson’s  to tackle.  As a ten-year facilitator for the Parkinson’s support group in my community, combined with experience as an Aging Life Care Professional™ (also known as a geriatric care manager), I have seen a pattern of actions and tools that provide the most support to those with this disease and their loved ones.

1. Connect with a neurologist with whom you feel good chemistry

This is a roller coaster type of disease (that can last decades) with many symptoms that are unusual — some people experience nightmares or extreme dreams, significant constipation, and/or depression.   Each person has a unique experience with the disease, so finding a neurologist who is easily available for unscheduled appointments, who takes time with patients, and who is a good listener and a good teacher are vital.

2.  Become a student ~ information is gold
  • Read, Read, Read.  Search Amazon for books and follow national groups, such as the National Parkinson’s Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation
  • Go to every seminar you can find.  Medical communities often provide day-long or several-day seminars.  Terrific high-caliber speakers will keep you abreast of the ever-changing treatments;  and sponsorship by companies who have useful resources will connect you to supplies, equipment, and technology.
  • Join a local support group.  This is useful for the caregiver and for the person with Parkinson’s as well.  Like finding the right neurologist, it is important to find the group the suits you most comfortably.  Groups vary in their styles, sizes, and personalities.
3. Exercise

Dance…Walk… Play Tennis…Bicycle…Golf…Stretch. This component cannot be emphasized enough. Consistent appropriate exercise is life-changing for the person with Parkinson’s.  DO NOT THINK THAT YOU CANNOT BECOME AN EXERCISER AT THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE...no matter your age or the level of severity of your disease, incorporating the right type of exercise will provide physical benefit and noticeable improvement with memory and mood. Amazing positive effect of bicycling in reduction of tremors was discovered accidentally (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/253197.php ).  

4. Add specialized professionals to your team

Elder Care Attorney… Estate Planner…Certified Professional Accountant…Aging Life Care Professional.Start planning early so that you are not caught in a crisis without the compass you need to navigate through unfamiliar territory.  Although all of us should have a workable knowledge and actual plans and documents in place as we age or manage a disease, it is more crucial for the family who is managing Parkinson’s.  This is the case due to possible changes in cognitive function impeding  decision-making or financial management. And sudden physical changes mandating the need for rehabilitation, caregivers, or medical equipment.

Parkinson’s is a complex disease that is made more manageable when you have created a useful and available team. In my area of expertise,  I often find all the professionals listed above serving together and communicating  in tandem with the client who has Parkinson’s.

More about the Aging Life Care Professional

All you have read above comes from the experience of an Aging Life Care Professional.  Connecting with one of these professionals will make your journey more manageable, with fewer dead ends, and quicker connection to resources, support, doctors, caregivers, and even equipment.

This professional can provide a one-time consultation to get you started with understanding various points to prepare as you begin living with Parkinson’s and be available to you through the years on and off as you need, or can be active on your team ongoing and as involved as you desire.

Not only do  individuals with Parkinson’s and their immediate support persons appreciate the relief of having a professional to lean upon, but adult children also express gratitude  knowing there is a local person providing support as the terrain becomes more rugged, serving as the resource for knowledge and direction as they support parents along this path.

To find an Aging Life Care Professional near you, search our directory of experts at aginglifecare.org.

About the author: Lisa Laney, MSW, CMC is the owner of Mountain Premier Care Navigation in Asheville, North Carolina, and has worked with the aging population in the healthcare system since 1988. She serves as the facilitator for the Asheville Parkinson’s Support Group and is on the Board of Directors for the Aging Life Care Association.  She can be reached at lisa@premiercarenavigation.com or on Facebook


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.