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Guide to Oral Care

Caregivers Guide to Oral Care

Dr. Alisa Kaufman, a dentist specializing in geriatric care, shares her expertise to help caregivers become more confident in providing daily oral care to seniors — whether by brushing, flossing and using picks, or removing and cleaning full or partial dentures. Below is first in a two-part series of a caregivers guide to oral care.

 

Part One: A How-To Guide for Brushing Teeth of an Elderly Person

by Dr. Alisa Kaufman – Geriatric House Call Dentistry, an ALCA Corporate Partner

 

Due to the growing geriatric population worldwide, I decided to limit my practice of dentistry to the elderly and frail who are homebound. I have been practicing geriatric house call dentistry for almost 35 years and have decided to share my expertise with caregivers to help provide the necessary quality care to this under-served population.

With advanced training in geriatrics, hospice care, and all forms of dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, my goal is to triage the situation to ensure the patient is receiving proper nutrition for their overall health and to ensure that they are not having any pain stemming from their teeth or ill-fitting dentures.

Recently, I have solved the issue of how to treat these patients and revolutionized the field of home health care dentistry with my geriatric dental consulting practice. I want to share my expertise so that caregivers are more confident in daily oral care whether it is with brushing, flossing and using picks, or removing and cleaning full or partial dentures.

 

Individuals with Teeth

If you are the caregiver for your aging loved one or the other individual, you have a multitude of daily chores that are necessary to keep their quality of life up to par. You need to wash, toilet, and feed them daily. You also want to keep them stimulated so that they have something to do and something to look forward to every day. That is your responsibility. Life needs to continue, and everyone deserves to live their best lives.

One thing you do on your own since childhood is wake up and brush your teeth. And the last thing you do before going to bed (you should be doing this but not everyone was taught this ritual!) is to brush and, hopefully, floss your teeth. So why can’t we continue this daily routine forever?

Because this is one of the first chores neglected when, unfortunately, dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease occurs. And it isn’t easy to brush when you aren’t brushing your very own teeth and perhaps the person isn’t willing to cooperate. There are other diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS that also make it difficult for individuals to brush effectively on their own.

Tools to Brush Their Teeth
  • The Sponge – The sponge lollipop tool (usually used in the hospital) to clean the patient’s gums who have no teeth. Note: Only use this to clean the soft tissues in the mouth of those who have no teeth.
  • Baby Toothbrush –The same toothbrush used on babies is effective yet gentle enough to use on the elderly.
  • Adult Toothbrush – Always look for a toothbrush with extremely soft bristles like the baby toothbrush. And choose one where the toothbrush head has a cushion – called a tongue scraper – against the hard plastic in case they accidentally bite on it. You don’t want them to bite down and crack a tooth or break a filling.
How To Properly Brush Their Teeth
  • You MUST brush their teeth every day, twice a day.
  • Position the toothbrush so that the first row of bristles are touching below the gum line. There is a small “pocket” between your tooth and gum (you can feel that area in your own mouth with a toothpick) that needs to be cleaned. This is what prevents gum disease, also referred to as gingivitis (inflammation or the redness you see at the gum line that scares you when they bleed) that eventually progresses to periodontitis (gums bleed, teeth become mobile then painful and eventually fall out).
  • Brush their teeth twice a day and use soft picks (if they allow) for food caught between teeth or under bridges. Flossing should be done but not if they don’t allow (you don’t want to get bitten). The individual floss swords are great, and I recommend them for those who allow you to help them. If they are grinding or physically hurting themselves by biting or sucking their cheek or lip, a dental evaluation is necessary so that this behavior can be modified to prevent further damage.
  • You may or may not be able to incorporate a mouthwash or fluoride rinse. Remember: as soon as they start to swallow these, you MUST discontinue the products that cannot be swallowed and switch to those that can.
  • Don’t stop brushing if you see the gums bleeding. If the bleeding is profuse (or perhaps they are on blood thinners), you must check with a dentist.
  • Get a full set of X-rays taken before dementia progresses and if this already occurred get the newest ones taken from the last dentist visits. Either have them sent to you digitally or pick them up for safekeeping.

It’s important to brush even when it is difficult. Freedom from tooth pain or gum disease improves quality of life and keeps chewing and swallowing status quo. Food caught between the teeth is painful, and we use floss or picks when it happens to us. As a caregiver you need to be extremely proactive and help with this chore if you notice the individual picking at their teeth after a meal.

It saddens me to hear from the caregiver or family member the same story over and over again… the individual took impeccable care of their teeth diligently brushing, flossing, and six-month visits to the hygienist and dentist. Now they can’t do anything themselves and their mouth is FALLING APART! Please help! I hope this guide to oral care will help you in caring for the oral health of your aging loved one or client.

 

About the author: Dr. Kauffman limited her practice in 1995 to Geriatrics and is currently the Director of Geriatric Dental Care at three nursing homes. She also lectures in Geriatrics at Penn Dental Medicine and is the founder of the Dental LIFE program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.  Geriatric House Call Dentistry is  proud to be an ALCA Corporate Partner. Visit our website to learn more about our team, our dentists, and our resources: www.geriatrichousecalldentistry.com


Disclaimer: 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.

holidays with dementia

Dementia and the Holidays: Tips for a Comfortable Celebration

The holidays can often be filled with high expectations, requiring lots of energy and engagement in non-stop activities. For the individuals living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and their families, holidays can be challenging and a time of high anxiety. Festivities can agitate, confuse, and overstimulate persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, and lonely.

 

Seven Tips for Celebrating the Holidays with Dementia

by Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Aging Life Care Professional® and Fellow of the ALCA Leadership Academy

To minimize the anxiety and encourage a happy, comfortable holiday season for the entire family, a little advanced thought and planning can go a long way in ensuring everyone has a wonderful time. Remembering that the holidays, at their best, are a time for enjoying one another’s company and sharing gratitude for each other can make some advanced planning go a long way.

Here are some stress busters that have worked for other families and might prove successful for your celebrations:

  • Let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, it’s likely family and friends won’t notice any changes. The person with middle or late stage dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disability and not the person. Understanding, acceptance, and patience go a long way.
  • Adjust expectations. The challenges of caregiving responsibilities combined with holiday expectations can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a conversation ahead of time. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine, or making modifications to plans to minimize holiday stress. The goal here is time together. Your loved one will enjoy the company of friends and family. Let their presence be their present!
  • Be good to YOU! This is often the hardest step. But giving yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself. If you’ve always had a large group at your home, consider having only a few guests for a simple meal. Let others participate by having a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. This is the time to be especially gentle and kind with yourself. This is also a great time to practice saying “no” and pace yourself.
  • Involve the person with dementia. Focus on activities, traditions, and memories that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. Involve the person in holiday preparation. As abilities allow, invite him or her to help you decorate, prepare food, set the table, wrap packages, or address holiday cards.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming overly stressful or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest. Make sure to have favorites at the ready: holiday music, movies, clothing, and food. All these familiar favorites can bring comfort and build enjoyment into a holiday celebration.
  • Use the buddy system. Plan ahead to have family and friends take turns being the buddy to your loved one. This is a great way to encourage one-on-one time as well as to shield the individual with dementia from distress. It also gives a break to the primary caregiver.
  • Engage an Aging Life Care Professional®. Aging Life Care Professionals are the experts in aging well®.  We understand dementia, aging, family systems, and the myriad of challenges and obstacles that families experience in caring for a loved one.  An Aging Life Care™ expert can help anticipate issues and address them before they happen, offering the options and wise counsel on how to navigate the holidays successfully. Our focus is on the well-being of the older adults in your life, while also helping you to care for yourself.  By engaging an Aging Life Care Professional, you are working with someone who takes a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you.

By setting realistic expectations, involving others, maintaining a routine, and keeping activities and traditions to a select few, you can ensure yourself, your loved one, and family and friends a low stress, memorable, and successful holiday season.

For more dementia  information and resources, visit ALCA’s alliance organization the Dementia Society of America®.

About the author: Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager, founded Aging Wisdom® in 2003. She is trained and licensed as a mental health counselor, geriatric mental health specialist, and is a certified Aging Life Care Professional®. Lisa brings over two decades of experience supporting and finding hope for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. She is a trained mediator and helps families find common ground when they might not agree on the best approach to supporting their aging parents. Lisa has a passion for helping baby boomers navigate unexpected health changes and proactively plan for their future.


Disclaimer: 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.

warning signs to look for during holiday visits

What to Look for When Visiting Aging Loved Ones this Thanksgiving

During the holiday season families and friends often make special visits to aging loved ones. Aging Life Care Managers® suggest you use this time to take note of any changes in health, behavior, or physical appearance. You may discover your aging loved one now needs more help or attention.

 

Is it Time for Help? Knowing When Your Aging Loved One Can’t Go it Alone Anymore 

 

Aging Life Care Managers® across the country notice an increase of inquiry calls during and immediately after the holiday season.  

Amidst the hustle and bustle, families should take time to observe any changes in an aging loved one’s behaviors or lifestyle, says Florida based Aging Life Care Manager Liz Barlowe.  These changes may vary widely. Bruises or cuts may indicate a recent fall, while a damaged car may indicate difficulty driving.

“These signs show serious and immediate risk for the individual as well as others around them,” states Barlowe. “But taking stock of general, subtle signs of decline is important too.” 

“For many families, the holidays are the first visit they’ve had with an aging relative in a year or longer,” says Kate Granigan an Aging Life Care Manager practicing in Boston, MA. “It’s the first time they can see that their mother’s house is more cluttered than before, or that she’s shuffling more down the hallway or has strategically placed furniture to hold onto for balance.”  

Here are four key areas to examine during your holiday visits: 

  • Environment: is there damage or disrepair around the house; are there piles of unopen mail; does the car have dents or scratches?  
  • Food: is there adequate food; do you notice weight-loss or extreme weight gain?  
  • Mood or behavior: do you notice increased confusion; have they given up hobbies or social outings; do you notice increased irritability or apathy?  
  • Personal hygiene: do they not dress like they used to; do clothes seem unkempt or dirty; have they lost interest in personal grooming? 
What happens after the holidays?

Social isolation for seniors is a big concern, especially after the holidays Barlowe adds. The attention and activities around the holidays quickly fades and many aging relatives are left alone until the next big family event. “Loneliness and seclusion can be just as harmful to an aging adult as unhealthy habits.”  

So how do you start a conversation with your loved one that they consider outside help? Granigan suggests to take the cues of what may be challenging them without confronting them. Ask questions about how their life could be easier or more enjoyable and then you can gently lead into a service you learned about to help out-source challenging tasks or to be a go-to assistant for support. “Not pressuring but leaving the door open with a ‘let’s think about it’ tone allows you to revisit the subject.” 

These are just a few warning signs that your aging loved one needs assistance. By initiating conversation and reaching out for support and information, you can help your loved ones as they navigate this new stage of their lives. 

For more information or to find an Aging Life Care Manager near you visit aginglifecare.org.


Disclaimer: 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.

Dial 988 for suicide and crisis lifeline

Warning Signs of Suicide Among Older Adults

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), suicidal behavior is common in older adults for a number of reasons with loneliness topping the list. Many seniors are homebound and live on their own; are grieving the loss of a spouse or friend; lack nearby family; or have lost vital social connections during the Pandemic. These triggers can lead to severe depression that may increase thoughts of suicide. 

What are the warning signs for someone at risk of suicide?

by Lisa Conway, RN, CCM – Aging Life Care Association®

 

This question has never been more important, as depression and anxiety are rising from the pandemic, unemployment, and other stressors. Since 2000, suicide rates have increased in all 50 states. Here’s a startling fact: Someone in the U.S. dies from suicide every 12 minutes.  It is the second leading cause of death in our youth and the 10th leading cause of death overall for adults, particularly white men in late middle age (CDC, 2019).

Risk factors for suicide include depression, prior suicide attempts, substance abuse, weapons in the home, physical illness, or a family history of suicide.  Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that while men are more likely to die by suicide, women are more likely to make the attempt. Still, people of any gender, age or ethnicity can be at risk.

There is some good news: The vast majority of people who attempt suicide — 9 in 10 — do not ultimately die by suicide. And everyone has a role to play in prevention.

If you are feeling suicidal, talk with a therapist, a support group, or your faith leader.  All can provide perspective and a sense of hope, meaning and purpose. Just talking with someone can help you feel better and improve your mental health.

Develop a personal safety plan to help you through a crisis: Make a list of your personal warning signs, determine your best coping strategies, be around supportive people, contact a mental health professional, and ensure that your environment is safe.

Here are the warning signs of a person at risk for suicide:

  • talking about wanting to die or suicide
  • feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • feelings of being trapped or a burden to others
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • withdrawing or isolating
  • giving away belongings
  • extreme mood swings

If someone you know is exhibiting warning signs, it is important to talk with them directly. Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. Listen without judging and show that you care. If you determine that they are actively planning suicide, remove any objects that could be used in an attempt. Lastly, call 911 if you feel the person may be in imminent danger.

If you — or someone that you know — need help with feelings of suicide or depression, call 988. 988 is a new universal dialing code created to broaden access to lifesaving suicide prevention and crisis services. The code was made available to everyone across the U.S. on July 16, 2022. Dialing 988 connects people in crisis (or concerned friends, family, and caregivers) directly to the 988 SUICIDE & CRISIS LIFELINE (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK), where counselors provide free, unbiased, and confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Dialing 988 is just like dialing 911 for emergency response or 411 for information services. There’s no need to dial any other digits besides those three.

 

About the Author: Lisa Conway, RN, CCM is the Vice President of Care Services for Senior Partner Care Services in Brevard County, Florida. In addition to her 25+ years of nursing experience, Lisa is ALF Core Trained and a Certified Care Manager. As an Aging Life Care Professional®, Lisa guides and advocates for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. You can contact Lisa at lisa@oneseniorplace.com.


Disclaimer: 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.

medical alert system

The Basics of Medical Alert Systems

Thinking about using a Medical Alert System / Personal Emergency Response System? ALCA Corporate Partner David Michaels shares the basics of Medical Alert Systems to help determine the best system for you or your aging loved one.

What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Medical Alert System

by David Michaels, Aging Life Care Association® Corporate Partner

The Medical Alert System – also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS)– was created in the early 1970’s by Wilhelm Hormann as a way to relay urgent biomedical data and social communication. In 1975, American International Telephone Corporation offered the first medical alert system – a pendant worn by a person who when in distress pushed a button and it called a set of preprogrammed phone numbers. In the 1980’s we all became familiar with the saying “I’ve fallen and can’t get up.”

Medical Alert Systems provide protection when no one is around or close by to lend a hand. Technology has drastically changed and improved the device since its early days now offering a selection of pendants, watches, and even systems that do not require wearing a pendant or wristband.

Medical Alert Systems help individuals maintain quality of life while reassuring their families that they are safe.  Medical Alert Systems are separated into two major categories: In the home and On the Go. Here are a few of the features and benefits of the two categories of units:

In the Home

  • Units are ideal for anyone who is home bound or just needs a little extra protection when at home – singles are a great example
  • Use either a traditional landline or cellular connections
  • Waterproof
  • Fall Detection is available
  • 24/7 Emergency Help available

On the Go

  • Watches or Pendants
  • Wi-Fi and GPS location technology
  • Apps for tracking a loved one
  • Water Resistant
  • Work anywhere in the United States
  • Fall Detection is available
  • 24/7 Emergency Help available

GPS and Medical Alert System / PERS

One question often asked is does the Medical Alert System have GPS? Every PERs dealer and the manufacture of the PERs knows where the system is located. An advanced combination of GPS and WIFI technology are used, depending on the area, to locate the individual system.

When a family member or caregiver wants to find the individual, if they are a wanderer for example, then a system with real time tracking is recommend and utilized.

Monitored vs Non-Monitored Systems

Another great question often asked is why use a monitored system versus a non-monitored system?

  • The first reason is simple – monitored systems always answer. When a loved one pushes their PERS button at 3 AM – when most people are sound asleep – the emergency contact most likely will not hear their phone ring.  This means mom may lie on the floor in distress for hours until someone wakes up and looks at the phone.  A professionally monitored system will always answer.
  • Second reason is technology updates. A medical alert received through a dealer will always have the latest technology and provide it to you or your clients free of charge. An example happening now with 3G being terminated. All dealers are upgrading their clients to new 4G units for free. If you purchased a self-monitored unit, you will be forced to upgrade it or it will not work come the end of the year.
  • Third reason is location. Anyone who has called 911 in an emergency knows they always ask you for your location. Why? Because many 911 centers use old and outdated CAD software (simply no room in the budget for updates). Basically, this means if you need help and are not able to respond to 911’s location question, 911 might not be able to find you. However, response centers used by medical alert companies all use the most up-to-date software and know where the device is and who the person is pushing the button.

The following  Redditt post is a powerful example of  why a monitored Medical Alert System: “Now, it also depends on the device in question and the infrastructure in the area as to how the call is handled. No voice call from an Apple watch? Very low chance of attendance in any sort of timely manner – just far too many false activations. A no voice call from a dedicated welfare device stating a duress condition or – in the case of eldercare technology – a possible fall – those are attended to in an immediate fashion.”

The main reason people chose a non-monitored or self-monitored system is cost, but for less than a $1 a day, one can have all the protection needed with a monitored system.

At the end of the day, Medical Alert Systems save lives from catastrophe one in every 11 minutes.

Before purchasing a Medical Alert system, it’s always best to discuss the specifics with your loved ones or an Aging Life Care Manager as they are familiar with many systems and know the expert providers of the systems. To locate an Aging Life Care Manager in your area, search aginglifecare.org. To find an ALCA Corporate Partner that specializes in Medical Alert Systems, click here.

About the author: David Michaels is the VP of Sales at Personal Living Alert. He has nearly a decade of experience in the medical alert field and has spoken at many events and written articles on medical alerts.  Personal Living Alert is an ALCA Corporate Partner and can be reached at 1-833-563-0040.


Disclaimer: 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.

beat the heat

Beat the Heat: 7 Safety Tips for Aging Adults

It’s been a challenging year, with social isolation, a worldwide pandemic, and having to be confined indoors.  Now that it’s Summer, and most of the outdoor restrictions have been lifted, it is exciting to finally be able to venture outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather, the blossoming flowers, and the abundant sunshine! However, there are safety risks to keep in mind when we venture outdoors. It’s important to take precautions when taking aging adults out into the sun and heat. 

Tips for Keeping Aging Adults Safe in the Sun

by Elyse Weber-Sacks, MSW, LSW, CMC – Aging Life Care Professional®

 

Older adults are more vulnerable to heat stroke as are those with heart, lung, or kidney disease. These seven safety tips will help beat the heat and keep you and your aging loved one safe outside this summer:

  1. Wear Sunscreen. It doesn’t matter if you will be outside for a half-hour or all day, sunscreen use is essential for skin health and blocking sun rays (it’s a good idea to read the label to ensure you are getting adequate sun protection from UVA and UVB rays).
  2. Bring sunglasses. Especially if you’re driving on a sunny day, glare can obstruct vision. It’s a good idea to have an extra pair of sunglasses in the car or in your bag.
  3. Bring water. Reusable water bottles are a great investment. Not only are they environmentally friendly, they are portable and most do a great job at keeping water nice and cool. Don’t leave the house without a supply of water and remember to frequently drink even if you’re not feeling thirsty. Try to avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol which can be dehydrating.
  4. Dress appropriately. When the weather is unpredictable, wear layers. In warm weather try to wear fabrics that breathe and avoid heavy bulky fabrics such as synthetic materials or wool. You can also bring a light sweater/jacket to put on if you get chilly.
  5. Don’t forget the chance of rain. In summer months, storms can sneak right up on us and no one likes getting caught in the rain. Consider investing in a small portable umbrella to keep in your car/purse.
  6. Be mindful of overdoing it. Heatstroke can occur when we exert ourselves too much without proper hydration, or perhaps in conjunction with medical/physical issues. Be very aware of your physical symptoms. If you start to feel dizzy, exhausted, nauseous, excessively sweaty, or get out of breath…stop! Try to find a shaded spot, indoors if possible, and sit down. Drink and, if possible, splash cool water on your face, neck, and wrists. Rest and rehydrate until you feel steady again. Seek medical attention if you do not improve or lose consciousness. Also learn to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke so that if you are with someone showing the symptoms you can assist them in getting immediate medical attention. Heat stroke symptoms can include: fainting or loss of consciousness, dizziness, behavioral changes (confusion, irritability), flushed skin, and weak pulse.
  7. Check-in on older loved ones when it is especially hot. Make sure they have enough to drink, aren’t exerting themselves, and have access to a comfortable environment. If they don’t have air conditioning, suggest they visit a friend who does, or that they go into a shopping center, library, or senior center to sit and cool off.

With these precautions in mind, we can all enjoy the great outdoors safely and comfortably.

About the author: Elyse Weber-Sacks, MSW, LSW, CMC is the president of  Connie Rosenberg & Associates Care Management – celebrating 35 years seniors and the disabled. She is a licensed social worker in both New York and New Jersey. Elyse is certified as a Geriatric Care Manager by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers and is an Aging Life Care Professional®. She is a past president of the New Jersey Chapter of ALCA and was the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Chapter member award. In January 2020, Elyse was elected to the Board of Directors of the Aging Life Care Association®.


Disclaimer: 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.

faces of LGBTQ+ elderly people of different backgrounds

Gray is a Color of the Rainbow

This Pride Month, Aging Life Care Professionals across the country join in celebrating and honoring LGBTQ+ elders. Included in this celebration is understanding the unique needs of LGBTQ+ elders and creating care plans that support and enhance their individual lifestyles. According to SAGE, LGBTQ+ elders are:

  • Twice as likely to be single and live alone
  • Four times less likely to have children

If you are an LGBTQ+ elder or know of one in need of support in the aging journey, Aging Life Care Professionals are an excellent source for building a care network.

 

Though Improving, LGBTQ+ Elders Still Face Unique Obstacles

by Anne Sansevero, RN, MA, GNP, CCM – Aging Life Care Professional®

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate and affirm the diverse mosaic of our humanity. Part of this rainbow coalition includes a growing number of LGBTQIA+ elders. Conservative estimates are that there are over 3 million LGBTQIA+ people over 50 living in the US today. According to SAGE, an advocacy organization for the older LGBTQIA+ community, that number is expected to grow to over 7 million by 2030. LGBTQIA+ adults (ages 65 and older) came of age during the McCarthy Era when their identity was severely stigmatized and criminalized. They had to deny who they were and live under a blanket of silence or risk verbal or physical assaults, job loss, discrimination, and ostracization. Since then, several hard-won victories, such as the Equality Act, bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

However, many older adults in the community still face unique obstacles. Elderly LGBTQIA+ adults are less likely to have had the opportunities to parent, reduce their support system, and increase their likelihood of living alone. The resulting isolation has often led to financial insecurity. As they age, they are much more likely to be caregivers for their friends in the LGBTQIA+ community. Because they have experienced many challenges throughout their lives, they have higher incidences of depression, substance abuse, and HIV. Many older LGBTQIA+ adults experience high levels of discrimination in accessing assisted living or affordable housing. In fact, a transition into senior living for many can mean going back “into the closet” as they do not have confidence that senior residences can accommodate their care and safety needs. This is compounded if they have memory issues. Many same-sex partners are still denied visitation rights in hospitals and long-term care residences. Many LGBTQIA+ elders are not candid about their sexual orientation for fear of receiving inferior care from medical providers.

Some positive developments are on the horizon. There are now an increasing number of senior living residences and aging in place communities that are creating more welcoming and inclusive environments. More and more people realize that LGBTQIA+ cultural competency training for a medical, facility, and home care staff is key to developing affirming and inclusive care. On advocacy, we must continue to pressure federal, state, and local governments to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections in existing housing laws. Senior housing providers must be pushed to adopt anti-discrimination policies (SAGE LGBTQIA-friendly housing resources). On a broader level, the community’s unique needs need to be integrated into systems of care across the continuum so that services for older adults are assessed on their ability to be both welcoming for people who are older and who identify as LGBTQIA+. As we continue to evolve into a more inclusive society, it is past time to show our LGBTQIA+ elders who fought for equality the dignity and respect they deserve and acknowledge and affirm that their dreams for aging well matter.

 

About the Author:  Anne C. Sansevero, RN, MA, GNP, CCM is the founder and CEO of HealthSense LLC, an Aging Life Care™ management consulting practice. She is a master’s prepared geriatric nurse practitioner, and a seasoned nursing professional with over 30 years of experience in the field. Anne has a sub-specialty in neurological disorders and is well versed in all aspects of geriatric nursing. She has particular expertise with communication disorders relating to stroke and dementia and has developed a number of innovative nursing assessment tools and standards to improve the nursing care for frail elders. Anne is a member of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA) and Fellow of the Aging Life Care Leadership Academy. She is currently serving on the board of the ALCA, and is President of ALCA’s New York Chapter. In addition, Anne is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the Nurse Practitioners of New York. Anne is a registered nurse, certified care manager, and a master’s prepared geriatric nurse practitioner.

This blog originally appeared on the HealthSense blog.


Disclaimer: 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.

National Aging Life Care™ Month Highlights Solution for Overwhelmed Caregivers

As the aging population continues to grow, so does the demand for caregivers. During National Aging Life Care™ Month this May, the Aging Life Care Association is raising awareness around a solution for caregivers and families of aging adults — Aging Life Care Managers®. This network of professionals are experts in aging, helping ensure a client’s optimal quality of life while reducing stress, worry and time away from work for family caregivers.

Solution for Overwhelmed Caregivers

For the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the numerous caregiving challenges faced across generations. The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP’s recently released Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 reveals an increase of 9.5 million in the number of family caregivers in the United States 2015 to 2020. As the aging population continues to rise, so does the demand for caregivers.

The Aging Life Care Association® launched National Aging Life Care Month in May eleven years ago to raise awareness of a solution for families and caregivers supporting aging loved ones. Aging Life Care™ is a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults, dependent adults, and others facing ongoing health challenges. Aging Life Care Managers®, sometimes called geriatric care managers, are strategic planners with key knowledge in crisis intervention, housing, health and disability, advocacy, family legal needs, and financial and local resources.

“Aging Life Care Managers collaborate with families and professionals to ensure the needs of vulnerable seniors are met and optimal quality of life is obtained,” says Debbie Feldman, ALCA President and Chicago-land Aging Life Care Manager. “We help navigate through the medical, financial, legal, and social challenges that are part of the aging journey.”

As Feldman watched the Pandemic separate families and isolate aging adults, she knew that her job as an Aging Life Care Manager was essential to the lives of her clients. “Families could not travel to check on their out-of-town loved ones; long-term care facilities shut their doors to the outside; and medical care became virtual,” Feldman reflects. “Aging Life Care Managers became essential workers and the lifeline to isolated, aging adults.”

Today caregivers are facing more challenges, says Julie Wagner, Aging Life Care Association CEO. “With the ‘great resignation’ and the demands on unpaid family caregivers, we are seeing an increased demand for Aging Life Care Manager services, and we want families to know that help is available.”

The Aging Life Care Association hopes National Aging Life Care Month will not only increase awareness of the professional services available, but also bring more people into the growing profession. Aging Life Care Managers come from a variety of backgrounds in the health and human services fields, including social work, nursing, gerontology, mental health, as well as occupational, physical, and recreational therapies. To locate an Aging Life Care Manager, visit aginglifecare.org for a nationwide directory of professionals.


Disclaimer: 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.

National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day: More Than One Day

“National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.” – The Conversation Project

Make your healthcare decisions and choices known…start the conversation today

by Tiffany Webster LCSW, CMC – Aging Life Care Association®

Through past efforts of national, state, and community organizations, the importance of advance healthcare decision-making was highlighted and led to the formal designation of April 16th as National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). This day exists to encourage each of us to express our wishes regarding healthcare and to empower all of us to see the importance of advanced care planning.

Do you know what healthcare treatments you would and would not want if you could not speak for yourself? Do other people know what your wishes are? The difference starts with us, we must lead by example. Each of us, need to be sure to have thoughtfully considered and made our own healthcare decisions known.

Why plan ahead? It is important to plan ahead to leave a guide of your wishes for loved ones to follow. This gives loved ones’ peace of mind. They do not have to question what you would want regarding your health. By planning ahead fewer families and health care providers will have to struggle with making difficult healthcare decisions in the absence of guidance.

The process of advance care planning seems difficult and time consuming, but if broken into steps it is not as overwhelming.

  • Start with thoughtful consideration of one’s values and learn about treatment options.
  • Talk with those that are important in your life about what your want at the end of life.
  • Think about who would uphold what you would want at end of life and follow your wishes. Speak with them about being your Healthcare Agent.
  • Complete legal documents.
  • Share documents and wishes with family of choice, friends, healthcare providers, and anyone that you think should know your wishes.

What can we do as Aging Life Care Managers®? As stated above, lead by example and make your healthcare decisions known by completing your own advance care planning. Be an encourager by encouraging those you serve to discuss advance care planning. Be an educator and educate those you serve on advance care planning and link with available resources. Be an advocate and empower those around you and in the community to have needed conversations and start advance care planning. Rally your community by having an event, participate in a podcast or on the radio, or share information about advance care planning on social media.

For additional information on ALCA’s standpoint and resources visit aginglifecare.org and read  ALCA’s position paper on “Health Care Decision Making.”

Additional Resources

This article originally appeared in the ALCA Midwest Chapter’s Spring 2022 Newsletter. 

About the author: Tiffany Webster of Private Home Care in St. Louis, MO is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Care Manager with over 20 years of experience in the mental health field and geriatrics. She is passionate about improving the care and quality of life for elderly individuals and promoting collaboration between health care providers, community educators, and organizations.


Disclaimer: 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 Manager

Is a Career in Aging Life Care™ Right for You?

If you are in the health and human service fields and looking for a career where you make a difference in people’s lives, stop here and watch this video. Aging Life Care Management is a fast-growing, in-demand profession where your guidance can lead 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 through: assessment and monitoring; planning and problem-solving; education and advocacy; and family caregiver coaching.

People come from a variety of disciplines to find a career in Aging Life Care. What Aging Life Care Professionals have in common is commitment to the highest Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

 

Aging Life Care Professionals® are members of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA) and differ from Patient Advocates, Senior Advisors, Senior Navigators, and Elder Advocates. ALCA members 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 . For more information on membership requirements, please visit the Join ALCA section of aginglifecare.org .


Disclaimer: 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.