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7 Tips for Being a Successful Snowbird

November 12, 2019

Wintering in warmer climates is not the same as a vacation
By Bart Astor

In the next few months, thousands of northerners — so-called “snowbirds” — will escape their snowy, cold climates to spend the winter in warm, sunny spots in the southern or western part of the United States. My wife and I will be among them. We’ve been swapping our Virginia home for one in Florida for the past four winters and boy, have we made a lot of snowbirding mistakes.

Let me tell you seven lessons we’ve learned. If you’ll be a snowbird this winter, maybe they’ll help you avoid our goofs.

  1. Choose a place that reflects your lifestyle. Often, snowbirds choose areas based on where they’ve vacationed. But here’s the thing: Spending a few months somewhere and living your daily life there is not a vacation. That’s why your snowbird location needs to reflect the kinds of activities and lifestyle you most enjoy doing regularly.

Before you leave home, create automatic payments with your creditors, set up electronic bill pay with your bank and, if your bank doesn’t have a branch where you’ll be, open a checking account near your winter home.

If you’re an active, Type A personality, you won’t be content with a laid-back beach community for long. So, you might want to rethink that isolated beach house and choose an area where you can keep active, go to different restaurants, hang out with others and live a lifestyle similar to the one you have up north.

  1. Don’t go all in the first year. Start your snowbirding experience by renting a place just for a month or two before committing for the full winter. You really won’t know if you love it until you live it and won’t know if you’ve chosen the right place until you’ve spent several weeks or more there. If you’re not happy, try a new area next year.

Once you’re sure you’ve found the right spot, book the whole winter. If you can, talk with the landlord and book the following year before you leave. Good rentals go quickly.

  1. Go electronic with all your bills. Years ago, it was difficult to keep up with the business of your life when you were away from home. You had to rely on the mail to receive and pay bills and get checks, plus keep up with the myriad things you had to do. Technology, however, has made it so much easier.

So, before you leave home for the winter, create automatic payments with your regular creditors, set up electronic bill pay with your bank and, if your regular bank doesn’t have a branch where you’ll be, open a checking account near your winter home. Then, set up the ability to electronically transfer funds back and forth between your banks.

  1. Make new friends! One of the difficult things about being away from home for months at a time is the growing distance you’ll feel with friends and family. You try to stay current — FaceTiming, texting or calling frequently — but it’s not the same. You can’t get together for hours at a time over dinner, for instance.

Fortunately, when you join a new community as a snowbird, you’re likely to find many there just like you. Introduce yourself.

  1. Don’t overbook visitors. Friends and family from up north may want to visit, since you’ll be basking in the sun while they’d be shoveling snow. Just don’t overdo extending open invitations.

We love when our pals and loved ones come to visit. But being a frequent host takes a lot of time and energy. So, schedule those visits in moderation. Otherwise, your winter home will turn into a bed and breakfast (without the income)! Also, try to limit the length of stay for your houseguests. As Ben Franklin said: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

  1. Make your snowbirding home a second home. If you buy a place rather than renting one, it’s quite a bit easier to keep clothes and other necessities there so you don’t have to lug them all back and forth. But even if you’re renting, it’s possible to store some items either in the residence itself (with the landlord’s permission) or in a nearby storage unit. Doing so will make traveling to and from much easier. And having your belongings with you will add to the feeling of your snowbird home feeling like “home.”
  2. Take your time traveling back and forth. For many people driving to their snowbird location, the trip takes two days, maybe three. What’s your hurry? You’ll be there for three or four months. Why not turn your travel into enjoyable road trips of four or five days or longer?

Stop to see places that are “almost” along the way. Visit friends or family you typically only see rarely. Stop in the fun city or national park that you’ve been meaning to see for years. This will make the journey fun and easier on the body.

By Bart Astor

Bart Astor, an expert in life transitions and elder care, is the author of the book AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices About Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle and Pursuing Your Dreams and Baby Boomer’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents. His website is BartAstor.com and he can be reached at Bart@BartAstor.com.@bartastor

6 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

November 4, 2019

Some believe that severe memory loss is a normal part of aging. This is not true. How can you tell the difference between age-related changes and Alzheimer’s disease? Here are six early signs to watch for—and what may just be age-related changes.

  1. Forgetfulness: Is recently learned information, such as today’s weather forecast, more frequently forgotten? Do you or a loved one forget important dates, locations or ask the same questions repeatedly? Age-Related: Sometimes forgetting dates or appointments but remembering them later.
  2. Problem Solving Challenges: Is following a plan or working with numbers more difficult? Is it often harder to make decisions or concentrate on doing familiar, everyday tasks, like driving to work? Age-Related: Making occasional planning or mathematical errors.
  3. Confusion with Time or Place: Do you or a loved one permanently lose track of the date or even forget where you are or how you got there? Age-Related: Losing track of the day of the week but remembering it soon.
  4. Vision Issues: Has judging distance, reading or recognizing color become an issue? Age-Related: Other visual changes, such as those related to cataracts.
  5. Trouble with Words: Is it harder to carry on conversations or find the right words for common topics when speaking or writing? Age-Related: Occasionally searching for the rights words.
  6. Personality Changes: Have you or a loved one started to avoid social activities or hobbies? Do you sometimes feel confused, suspicious, depressed or fearful? Age-Related: Sometimes avoiding social situations or wanting to do things your own way.

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association

My Second Act: Starting a Newsletter

October 30, 2019

Financial journalist Vera Gibbons on her risks and rewards launching it
By Kerry Hannon

It’s 7 a.m., and, like clockwork, the Nonpolitical News digital newsletter lands in my email inbox. I’m a subscriber.

After slogging through my daily morning news reading — mostly from national media outlets and my Twitter feed — this free newsletter is a breath of fresh air. It’s filled with short, breezy news highlights and stuffed with links to “some need-to-know news, some nice-to-know and some ‘who knew?” as Vera Gibbons, the second-act founder and editor of NonPoliticalNews.com (NoPo) described it to me in an interview.

The 52-year-old TV financial journalist launched NoPo newsletter —“for those who are sick and tired of the political headlines” she told me — last year because she felt she needed to make a career switch.

“There came a point when the political climate became so relevant, and that’s all anybody was covering (on TV). My air time got slashed by fifty percent. I was at a crossroads,” she said. “I don’t talk politics. They really only wanted political people on air either pro or con. It was, ‘Well, I’m going to have to do something different, if I want to keep working. I’ve been in the news business forever. So, it was a logical next step for me.”

I know news. I love the news. To transfer my skills over was a slam dunk. It was an easy transition.

Gibbons is a former financial contributor to CBS’ The Early Show and has worked as a correspondent for CNBC’s High Net Worth and MSNBC. She still appears on national news networks and writes freelance articles.

Risks and Rewards of a Midlife Career Change

Gibbons told me she’s well aware of the risks and challenges of a midlife career change. But she was frustrated by the changing news business and looking for a way to remain relevant in a field she’s passionate about.

Each of the newsletter’s sections — Consumer/Personal Finance, Health/Wellness, Fashion/Beauty and Fitness/Diet — has five to seven links to the latest news ranging from, say, Walmart unveiling a rewards credit card to how to find the perfect workout for your personality.

Gibbons is fortunate. She’s a saver and built up enough of a financial cushion to take a leap of faith and self-fund her venture. Meantime, she has enough freelance business on the side to help pay some bills while building the newsletter to the point where she can pay herself.

Here are excerpts from my conversation with Vera Gibbons about starting a newsletter business as a second act in midlife:

Kerry Hannon: There seems to be plenty of competition in the newsletter arena, particularly The Skimm, the current-events newsletter for millennial women. Who is your target audience?

Vera Gibbons: My audience, which is now twenty-five thousand subscribers from New York to Dubai to Hong Kong and Los Angeles, is more for my age — for Skimm parents, if you will. They are smart, educated, sophisticated and many are news junkies like me.

Another differentiator: They’re explaining the news; I’m exposing it — all the stuff that isn’t getting covered due to the heavy political coverage.

I often say about second acts that you’re not reinventing yourself, but often redeploying skills from your previous career. How is that true with your experience?

That is so true for me. I know news. I love the news. To transfer my skills over was a slam dunk. It was an easy transition.

Who do you consider your competitors?

There are lots of other newsletters out there. We are the only ones doing nonpolitical news only. I do like Morning Brew and read that regularly just to see what they’re up to. I also read Market Snacks, but they, like the others, are explainers. Then there are explainers like The New York Times, CNN, Huff Po;  but they only use their own stories, of course.

What have you learned trying to start a newsletter in midlife? What’s been your biggest challenge?

I’ve learned the importance of having a team as dedicated as you are to the service.

The biggest challenge has been finding the right people to have on my team. You really need people as devoted and committed as you are. We only have news junkies helping us out who are crazy and spirited and love news as much as I do.

They’re volunteering their time at this stage. They provide a lot of the stories over the course of the day. I get up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to curate what they have given me, and I turn the TV on to see if there’s anything that’s more relevant.

I’m trying not to bite off more than I can chew. Now people are saying ‘You need a podcast.’ I’m focused on doing one thing, and doing it very well.

And what have been the rewards of becoming an entrepreneur in midlife?

At this stage in my career, I know the news business and have a network of people who trust my judgment. I have television news show bookers and producers and anchors opening the newsletter every single day. They know I’m a reliable source. The biggest reward is seeing the growth of the product.

Getting the thumbs up from subscribers means the world to me.

What’s your advice to others who want to launch a start up at this stage in their lives?

Go slowly. You have to test the waters and see if there’s a market.

I started on Facebook, posting items as updates. It was almost a hobby at first. And I kept getting more and more Likes, and people saying I should really do more with it.

I began solo, but currently have a team of six, who all work remotely. I work out of my home office, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

What’s a ballpark figure for what you’ve invested in your venture?

I’ve invested probably fifty thousand dollars of my own money and have been bootstrapping up to this point.

The legal fees are the most expensive. Trademark searches alone were about ten thousand dollars. My next big expense is my techie, who is on retainer. He handles delivery issues, website, design, promotions and hosting.

I do have venture capital firms calling and have met with potential investors. But for now, I would like to focus on the growth of newsletter. Taking on investors is a different ballpark. Now I have control of the content and can put in the stories I want.

When do you expect to be able to pay yourself?

Hopefully in 2020.

By Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is the author of Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life. She  has covered personal finance, retirement and careers for The New York Times, Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among other publications. She is the author of a dozen books including Money Confidence: Really Smart Financial Moves for Newly Single Women and What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. Her website is kerryhannon.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

How to Find a Good Estate Planner

October 25, 2019

If you've put off getting a will drafted, here's help in hiring a pro
By Elizabeth Alterman


Estate planning is a critical part of financial planning, but something many Americans procrastinate about. Yet drafting a will and a health care proxy or power of attorney, maybe creating a trust, and maximizing your loved ones’ inheritances by minimizing taxes are all important matters you don’t want to leave to chance.

Taking care of these key tasks properly limits the potential for family turmoil and possible legal battles should you become incapacitated, as well as after your death. An estate planner can help you prevent crucial missteps and assist you in adjusting your plans as your circumstances, and laws, change.

Here are a few tips for finding one:

Look For a Specialist

Not all attorneys specialize in estate planning. So, you’ll want to find one whose primary focus is estate and trust law in your state.

If you don’t know where to begin the search, ask around, says Paul T. Joseph, an estate planning attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and founder of Joseph & Joseph Tax & Payroll in Williamston, Mich.

“You need to determine if the attorney typically deals with estates that are similar to your unique situation.”

“Talk to family members and friends to see if they can recommend anyone with whom they’ve worked,” advises Joseph. “Speak with other professionals that you work with to see if they have anyone they can recommend.”

You can also look at the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils’ website and the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys site to find an accredited estate planner in your area.

Once you’ve found a few possibilities, don’t hesitate to ask the estate planner for references. Speak to those clients to get a feel of what it will be like to work with this pro, as well as the quality of the planner’s work.

Ask About the Attorney’s Experience

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, inquire about the exact nature of the attorney’s trusts-and-estates experience.

“You need to determine if the attorney typically deals with estates that are similar to your unique situation,” says David Reischer, estate planning attorney and CEO of Legal Advice.com. “Some attorneys manage complex business estates, while others cater to small businesses and families.”If you have an aging parent, you may want to hire an estate planner who focuses on elder law.”

Experience is critically important.

“I recommend a three-year minimum in estate planning,” says Jessica Campbell, a CPA and financial adviser at the personal finance website, End Thrive. “That knowledge and specialized experience comes with being well-versed and up-to-date with the laws of your state. Otherwise, your estate plan could be deemed invalid by the court.”

Ask What, and How, the Estate Planner Charges

The amount you’ll spend depends on the complexity of your needs, your location and your attorney’s experience level. Fees for wills can range from about $100 for a simple will to several hundreds for an in-depth will, notes Joseph.

Add on a trust, and the cost tends to get much steeper. A trust can help save on estate taxes, avoid probate (proving in court that a will is valid), save on time and court fees and put conditions on the disposition of your assets after you die.

“Often, having a will and trust drafted can cost several thousand dollars,” says Joseph. “I have seen fees in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred dollars all the way up to ten thousand dollars or even more, depending on the complexity of the documents.”

If you need an estate-planning attorney to draft a power of attorney (authorizing someone to make financial or legal decisions for you when you can’t) and other advance directives, that might cost about $1,100 or so alone. When combined with a will, a single person might figure on paying closer to  $2,600, says Eric R. Goldberg of NJ Elder Law Center at Mandelbaum Salsburg in Roseland, N.J.

When interviewing potential candidates, ask them what they’d charge you and how you’d be charged. (Some offer a free consultation for this first visit; others will charge you, but then apply that amount toward your total cost if you choose to hire them.)

Many estate-planning attorneys charge a flat fee. “For a will, the range could be as low as a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars,” says Joseph.

If you meet with a flat-fee attorney, find out exactly what the cost includes and ask if it’s based on a set number of visits or just a certain time period. Additionally, determine which documents are covered by the fee and whether the fee includes the cost of any future updates.

Some estate-planning attorneys charge by the hour. As a rule of thumb, these lawyers typically have hourly fees of $250 to $550.

If you’ll use one who charges this way, ask approximately how long the process will take, so you have an idea of the total cost from the outset.

Neither option is necessarily better than the other. But, says attorney Steven M. Zelinger of Philadelphia, “Most estate planning can and should be done on a flat-fee basis with the understanding that updates are needed over the years as your situation — or even the law — changes.”

You might be able to save some money by using a junior lawyer at the firm. “Typically, junior lawyers in a large firm charge less than the senior lawyers,” says Joseph. And, Goldberg notes, “all junior attorneys are supervised by partners.”

But, Joseph advises, “depending on the complexity of your estate, you may be better served by hiring someone who has substantial experience, even though it may cost you more.”

Recognize This Is an Ongoing Relationship

While interviewing estate planners, be certain that you’ll feel comfortable with the person you choose, says Campbell.

“Since you’ll be sharing personal details of your life and your concerns with your estate planner, you’ll want to feel comfortable and listened to,” she notes. “A good estate planner should pay attention to even the smallest details and ask questions about your situation to tailor a plan unique to you and your needs.”

Ask About Support Staff and Succession Planning

As you’re selecting your estate planner, inquire about the practice’s support staff, too. Is there a highly skilled team to ensure the quick turnaround of documents and timely communication with you as well as your loved ones?

Zelinger also stresses the importance of looking ahead. “I think it’s a good idea to ask about the age and succession plan of the lawyer,” he says. “I am on the younger side (42), so I will be around for many years. But what if I die or retire early?”

Some people prefer a larger firm, knowing that no matter what happens to their particular lawyer, someone will be there to take over, if necessary.

By Elizabeth Alterman

Elizabeth Alterman is a freelance writer with more than 20 years' experience in digital and print media. Her writing has appeared on Forbes, The New York Times, Newsweek, Mashable, The Muse.com and Realtor.com.

Staying Mobile in the Hospital Helps to Get Better and Get Out

October 22, 2019

It’s counterintuitive to some, but activity is proven to make all the difference
By Edie Grossfield

Part of the Age-Friendly Health Care Special Report

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a series for The John A. Hartford Foundation.)

In her work as the chief nursing officer for Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md., Barbara Jacobs recently found herself dodging a lot of patients walking in the corridor as she made her way down the hall.

“There were so many people up and moving, and that was a good problem to have,” she recalls. Jacobs is pleased that the hospital’s initiative of the past two years to keep patients — especially older ones — mobile during their time there is working.

Because staying mobile helps maintain muscle function and overall healing, it also reduces the risk of falls.

Like many hospitals around the country, Anne Arundel is recognizing the important role mobility plays in healing, reducing the risk of medical complications and ensuring that older patients will be able to return home after they’re discharged, rather than having to go a nursing home or rehabilitation facility.

Immobility Leads to Problems

“One of the things that is absolute is when a person becomes immobile, the loss of muscle tone is very, very quick — the actual loss of muscle mass is quick,” Jacobs says. “So, when a person comes into the hospital and becomes immobile, it’s significant — even if you’re young, you will go out feeling weak.”

And weakening muscles is just one of the negatives of being in a hospital bed for days.

“When we lay in a bed, our lungs are laying back against the back of our body,” Jacobs explains. “For maximum performance of our lungs, you’re supposed to be standing or sitting, where gravity is helping open our lungs. So, we’re more prone to developing pneumonia (and other respiratory illnesses) because our lungs are not in the position that they should be if we leave you in bed all day long.”

Immobility during a hospital stay is connected to a number of other problems, including frailty, falls and even death, “even after controlling for illness severity and comorbidity,” according to a 2018 article in the journal Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.

Hospitalized older adults who remain mostly in bed are 34 times more likely to die and six times more likely to end up in nursing homes after their hospital stays than those who move around at least twice per day, according to research that included nearly 500 people age 70 and older.

Mobility Priority at Anne Arundel

In 2017, Anne Arundel Medical Center began its new mobility practices in the hospital’s geriatrics unit, which is an Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) unit. Anne Arundel’s ACE unit is part of the hospital’s “age-friendly” initiative, with the goal of aligning care to what matters most to each patient.

Patients of all ages, inside and outside the ACE unit, who are able to get out of bed and move are encouraged to do so — ideally at least three times per day.

“It depends on the patient, obviously,” Jacobs says. “There are times when the person is too sick to get up. But for most people, they should be getting up and mobilizing as far as they can every day.”

That means doing some walking, even if it’s only a short distance.

“If the farthest you can get is walking from your bed to the door, great,” Jacobs says. “If you only go from the bed to the door two times today, but the next day you go fifty feet, that’s great.”

To help get patients moving, Anne Arundel has people called “mobility quality technicians,” whose main job is to ensure that patients who are able to move do so daily.

Movement and Socialization With ACErcise

The ACE unit also launched “ACErcise,” a group exercise program that Jacobs says is popular with patients. The groups do chair exercises and walk to and from their hospital rooms. Other hospitals around the country with ACE units have similar programs.

“Part of what makes it great is the socialization of being together,” Jacobs says. “Then, we had some (patients) who said, ‘Can we just eat together?’ So, after ACErcise, we put up a table and they can eat together.”

This emphasis on mobility has been important to patient Cline Warren’s recovery, says his wife Martha Warren. The couple live in southern Anne Arundel County. Cline Warren, 91, who has dementia, was brought into the hospital after he accidentally ingested a caustic substance.

“He’s much better,” Martha Warren says, adding that along with the exercise, the socialization aspects have been especially helpful. “It certainly contributes to being less bored — you know, being in your room alone. And (it helps to) be able to focus on other patients or the activity director.”

Patients ‘MOVE’

At St. Mary Mercy Livonia, a hospital in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, hospitalized patients have been staying active through “Mobility Optimizes Virtually Everything,” or MOVE, since 2017.

“As I was researching this topic prior to implementation of MOVE, I found out that every day a person spends in the hospital bed can take up to four days to regain their strength,” said program manager Belinda Dokic, adding that the hospital implemented MOVE because “mobility can also be a medicine.”

As part of MOVE, each patient receives “personalized mobility goals,” which nurses and aides review daily with patients.

MOVE began in St. Mary Mercy’s observation unit. This included adding full-time ambulation aides who were trained by the hospital’s physical therapists on how to safely move patients to avoid falls and injuries. Toward the end of 2018, the hospital added MOVE to its medical/surgical unit.

The goal of MOVE is to walk patients twice per day. Patients who are unable to walk are encouraged and helped to at least move from their bed to a chair for some period of time during the day.

“Any movement is good.” Dokic says. “Even if the patient is laying in bed and we (adjust) the bed for them to sit up and eat (a meal) that way, or we move them from bed to chair or even help them walk from a chair to the shower — all of this is considered movement.”

Mobility Helps With Fall Prevention, Too

Because staying mobile helps maintain muscle function and overall healing, it also reduces the risk of falls. This is something Dokic has seen at St. Mary Mercy, where the patient falls rate in the two units with the MOVE program decreased from 2.7% to zero from the last quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018.

For some, more movement brings concern of more risk of falls, but a study led by Johns Hopkins Hospital researchers in 2016 found that increasing patient mobility did not increase the number of patient falls with injuries.

St. Mary Mercy carefully trains its ambulation aides, Dokic says. “I think it was four hours of training, where they were shown how exactly to move the patients without putting them at risk to have a fall,” she says.

Patient and Family Buy-In

Nurses and other staff working on mobility programs occasionally encounter concerned family members who believe their parent or other loved one shouldn’t be moving around while in the hospital.

“The family member might say, ‘Well mom’s been sick. Just let her rest in bed,’” Jacobs says. “But we’re actually not helping mom if we just let her rest in bed the whole time. So we have to actually say to the families, ‘No, this is an important part of your mother’s healing, that we get up and ambulate with your mom.’”

Staff also encounter patients who would rather not get up, understandably, because they don’t feel well. In that case, Jacobs says, it’s important to remind patients and families that remaining immobile could lead to a longer hospital stay, or worse.

“There’s a question we ask everybody every day (in the ACE unit), and that’s ‘What is it that really matters to you?’ This is part of our age-friendly work,” Jacobs says. “And the majority of patients answer that they want to get home. Well, the best thing we can do to get you home is to keep you moving. So, if that’s your plan, let us help get you there.”

By Edie Grossfield

Edie is Next Avenue’s health and caregiving editor. In this role, she reports on the information people need to make sound decisions about caregiving, their health and the health of their loved ones. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. Edie has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Reach her by email at egrossfield@nextavenue.org.

When’s the best time to start thinking about long-term care?

October 10, 2019

You may or may not need long-term care. But an unexpected illness or injury can change your needs—sometimes suddenly. The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it.

Long-term care is a range of services and supports older adults may need to meet their personal care requirements. Most long-term care is not medical care but rather assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, eating and bathroom tasks and supportive services, such as taking medication, doing housework, shopping and preparing and cleaning up after meals. 

The best time to start planning for the possibility of long-term care is before you need it, and no time is better than the present. Consider this: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 10 million people currently need some form of long-term care in our country. Of this population, 63 percent are over the age of 65 and 37 percent are under 65. Although one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care, one-fifth of them will need it for longer than five years—and women, on average, need care longer than men.

But although most seniors will need long-term care, many have not yet thought about what they may need and fewer still have a good understanding of how they’ll pay for it.  Consumer surveys show misconceptions on what Medicare will pay for. Fully 25 percent of people said they’d let Medicare pay for their long-term care—a major problem since, in the vast majority of cases, Medicare does not pay for long-term care costs.

The website longtermcare.gov explains that Medicare only pays for long-term care if you need skilled nursing or rehabilitation in a nursing home, for a maximum of 100 days (although the average Medicare-covered stay is 22 days) or at home if you are also receiving skilled home health or other skilled in-home services, and usually only for a short period of time.

Medicare does not pay for non-skilled assistance with ADLs, which make up the majority of long-term care services; so if you do not have a private insurance program in addition to Medicare, you will have bear the expense of these services yourself.

Medicaid, the nation’s health program for the low-income and disabled, will pay for long-term care but it requires seniors to spend nearly all of their assets beforehand. These days, nearly half of all long-term care in the United States is paid for by Medicaid—a huge burden that is only going to grow as millions of baby boomers reach their 80s.

Clearly, thinking ahead about the type of long-term care you might need and putting a plan in place early on is important for both you and your family members. And people with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairment should begin their planning as soon as possible.

Planning for the possibility of long-term care gives you time to learn about the services available in your community and what they cost. And it helps you to consider all your options so you can make informed decisions on such things as housing, medical care, legal documentation and finances while you are still able.

One innovative long-term care planning option offered by Presbyterian SeniorCare is called Longwood at Home.™  Licensed by the PA Department of Insurance, Longwood at Home offers services for healthy older adults that help them stay in their own homes and age in place.   

Longwood at Home provides adults ages 60 and up the opportunity for a lifetime of continuing care without giving up the comfort of—or investment in—their homes. Members are offered care coordination, wellness programs, medical transportation, social events and asset protection, as well as the assurance that a total package of long-term care services—from private duty to nursing facility care—will be available to them if needed, at a fraction of the cost of paying for the services privately.

With Longwood at Home, seniors get the peace-of-mind of knowing that the services and care they may need will be there when they need it, while remaining at home for as long as possible.

For more information, visit www.longwoodathome.org.

Share My Story: Cheers!

October 7, 2019

We love when our team members share their stories, especially when it shows growth within their career at Presbyterian SeniorCare Network. Read about Annette Hart and why she has stayed with us for over four years.

“The reason I started working at Oakwood Heights is because of my mom. For five years I took care of her at my home. One day she just became so ill I could no longer do it. I’d heard good things about the Oakwood Heights community, so we brought her here. I was here all of the time with her. I joked, ‘I should get a job, I’m here so much!’ So, I did. When she passed, there was no reason for me to stay. Except, that I loved my job, my co-workers and mostly my residents. We have our ups and downs, but I love everything about Oakwood Heights. I believe that all of my life, God has prepared me for my job.”

Annette is currently the Dining Services Manager at Oakwood Heights.

“There are so many memories. I’m very outgoing so I love to get out there and just have a good time. Today I ran into a lady outside of the kitchen. She asked where I had been as she noticed I hadn’t been out to talk to anyone lately. I told her that I missed her too, but that I have been busy and working different shifts. That made me realize that the residents enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. I told her that I will get back into the habit of going out at meals, no matter what I have on my desk. She said that she would hold me to that. It’s kind of like the television show Cheers, when I walk in they all say my name. I love that.”

Like Annette, do you have a story about Presbyterian SeniorCare Network that you would like to share? Share My Story is a fun way for team members, residents, and family members to share their personal experience about a moment with our organization that has touched their heart. To share your story, visit www.srcare.org/moments.

Should You Move Near Your Grown Child When You Retire?

October 4, 2019

Don't start packing until you answer these key questions
By Debra Witt

Dan and Alice Smith, both 64, have never shied away from change — that includes a change of address. When Dan was a marketing executive for an oil company in the 1970s, relocations came with the territory. After switching to the auto industry in the early 1980s, he and Alice, who was a retail manager, firmed up the family roots in Louisville, Ky. and then stayed for about 25 years, raising kids Sam and Sarah. But in 2015, as the Smiths began plotting their retirement years, the idea of following Sam and his growing family to Seattle became more and more appealing.

“The timing was right, that area of the country was interesting to us and we wanted to be closer to Sam and [his wife] Adrienne,” said Dan. “That all made it worth the effort to make a big move and gamble on trying to make a go of it in Seattle.”

The Smiths, who’ve called Seattle home since 2016, aren’t alone in relocating for retirement to be near one or more kids. But retirement planning experts caution that such long-distance moves aren’t right for all parents and shouldn’t be done on a whim.

Regretting a Retirement Relocation Decision

“I’ve seen many retirees make snap decisions about where they’ll live and regret it,” said Jill Schlesinger, CBS business analyst and author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money. “They thought it would be wonderful to be closer to their kids and grandkids. What could go wrong? But this kind of a move can be dangerous for retirees, and not just because of the financial components.”

“Your kids may have very different expectations and ideas about how your lives will merge.”

There are a host of emotional factors to consider before pulling up stakes. “Of course, you want to know that you can afford such a move, but of equal importance is figuring out ahead of time whether or not leaving the community you know so well is going to be right for you long term,” said Schlesinger.

Retirement expert Nancy K. Schlossberg, author of Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work and Play as You Age, agrees. “As with so many aspects of retirement, there are problems and possibilities regarding moving,” she says, “If you do your emotional work upfront, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your final decision.”

That means asking yourself some key questions.

Go Deeper than ‘Why?’

The Why? is the easy question — you want to be close to your family so you won’t miss out on all the fun birthdays, graduations and smaller life celebrations, like a grandchild’s first soccer goal or spelling bee. But what you really want to be thinking about are the days and weeks in between those events.

The better question to ask upfront, experts say, is: What role do I want to play in my child’s life?

Once you’ve answered that question for yourself, you need to articulate it to your son or daughter. Schlossberg calls this an Expectation Exchange. “Your kids may have very different expectations and ideas about how your lives will merge,” said Schlossberg.

To get the conversation started you might say something like: “By the way, what I’m most looking forward to is helping you out more with the kids, maybe picking them up from school a few days a week. What do you think?”

This is also the ideal time to broach prickly subjects, like whether you’d like to be paid to watch the grandkids on a regular basis or how often you’d like to see your child’s family each week or month.

Schlossberg warns: You want your kids to be honest with you, so your feelings might get hurt. But it’s better to have these negotiations before any move because the answer may make you decide not to relocate after all.

Try a Test Run

Another question you’ll want to ask yourself: Would I really like to live in the area my child has chosen?

“Vacationing somewhere and loving it doesn’t automatically translate to moving somewhere and loving it,” said Schlesinger.

She encourages people considering such a move to do a trial run for a month or more before making a decision, if possible. When doing so, pay close attention to everything from the weather and traffic to the availability of religious institutions (if that’s important to you), social activities and the types of people who already live there.

Your child can help you locate things like the YMCA, doctors and community centers, but it’s going to be up to you to forge new friendships.

“Really check the place out,” said Schlesinger. “You want to see if there’s a community you think you can plug into.”

The Smiths fell in love with Seattle in 2014 when they helped Sam and Adrienne move from Ann Arbor, Mich. Over the next year, they made the trip at least five times. And with each visit, the couple says, the desire to relocate grew stronger.

Once they made up their minds, in May 2015, the couple scheduled more trips to scope out neighborhoods and check out places to live.

Plot Your Daily Time

After weighing the pros and cons of the new location and your expectations, the next question you’ll want to answer is: How do I want to spend my time?

“Retirees thinking about moving need to realize that in order to be happy, they need to get a life,” said Schlossberg. “You cannot depend on your adult children for your social life.”

Start by thinking about what will let you feel emotionally fulfilled in retirement, said Schlesinger. Decide, for instance, whether you’d like to travel, pursue a hobby in earnest, volunteer or even start a second career.

As Schlossberg noted, “Moving closer to kids is a big deal, but perhaps the bigger deal is filling your days once you’re settled.”

“Later on, a Certified Financial Planner can help you find ways to match your goals with your finances,” Schlesinger added.

Don’t Forget the What-Ifs

The last questions to ponder aren’t going to be fun, but they’re a must: What if I have a health scare? And what if my child needs to relocate after I’ve moved?

“So many families run into trouble when something bad unexpectedly happens. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your kids about the What-Ifs,” said Schlesinger.

Regarding a potential health scare, at the very least you’ll want to know about the doctors and health system in the new community. But it’s also a good idea to look into the types of services offered to older residents, including transportation to health facilities.

And if you’d be leaving behind a host of friends and neighbors you could rely on in a pinch, you’ll also need to explore various possible caregiving scenarios in your new location.

The What-If about your child deciding to move again is important to consider because today’s economy frequently prompts job changes.

Schlesinger recalls working with a retired couple who moved from the Pittsburgh area to be near their grown child in suburban Atlanta. After they did, the child relocated to Savannah for work. “It was such a bummer for [the couple],” Schlesinger said. “They felt stranded.” Ultimately, the pair decided to make another move — to Savannah.

Money Matters to Weigh Before Moving Near Your Child

Schlesinger said retirees considering moving closer to their adult child should also follow this financial checklist before relocating:

Do a cost-of-living comparison. Your child can give you a sense of local prices for things like gasoline, utilities, internet service and other miscellaneous expenses. But you’ll also want to look into things like local real estate prices and rents (websites like Zillow.com can help), car insurance rates (start with your current insurer and check with a few competitors) and health care expenses (begin by asking your current insurer how your coverage and costs might change or visit sites like Leapfroggroup.org to research local hospital data.)

Free online cost-of-living calculators, like the calculator from CNNMoney, can give you a quick side-by-side comparison of two cities using your current income.

Explore differences in state and local taxes. They might vary widely from what you currently pay. You’ll not only want to look into sales, property, estate and state income taxes, but also whether you’d be taxed by the new state on your retirement income and benefits. The state’s revenue office can answer your tax questions and a trusted tax pro can help you run the numbers. Also, the IRS site has useful tax information for retirees.

Find out about local resources for retirees. Some communities, for example, offer low-cost or free public transportation to people over a certain age. A good place to start your research is by checking the state’s department of aging site. It will likely have information about regional Area Agencies on Aging as well as local community centers. Your child’s social network may also have helpful information for you.

Meet with a Certified Financial Planner. This pro can walk you through what the relocation would mean for your money and how you might want to adjust your finances accordingly.

By Debra Witt

Debra Witt is an Allentown, Pa.-based freelance writer who frequently covers health, fitness and other lifestyle topics.

UPRITE Fall Prevention Education Program in our Care Communities

September 23, 2019

September 23 is Fall Prevention Awareness Day!

Learn more about our fall prevention efforts in our care communities.

Every community that serves the older population is looking for ways to reduce falls. There is no one concrete way to prevent falls. "Knowing this, we take special precaution to keep our residents as safe as possible while they are in our care, and one way we do that is through the UPRITE Fall Prevention Education Program,” says Ginny Burke, director of clinical education and quality.

The main focus on the UPRITE Fall Prevention Education is that everyone in the community, from nursing to housekeeping to maintenance, can help prevent falls. In fact, UPRITE stands for YoU help Prevent Resident Incidents with Team Effort!

“All team members who work in the neighborhoods in our skilled nursing and personal care communities know the residents just as well as a nurse does, so we have trained different disciplines to be looking, watching, and pointing out any potential fall risks,” says Ginny.

“UPRITE really focuses on the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you. If a team member is passing through a neighborhood and notices someone is trying to get up alone, they assist them or get a team member that can. If they notice a call light is on, they will pop their head in – a resident may need something that is just out of reach such as the television remote or a tissue. It’s the little things like this that can prevent bigger things from happening,” Ginny says.

In our care communities, we have a larger number of residents who are wheelchair bound, or who use walkers to get around. Because the mobility of some of our residents is limited, they often experience weakened legs and muscles due to inactivity. Ginny says, “In order to assist those residents who have limited mobility, we encourage our team members to frequently ask if there is anything the resident needs, even if they have just helped them or are just checking in. We have found that rounding consistently has improved resident satisfaction and safety.”

Interested in learning more about fall prevention? Check out this article for stats and other facts about fall prevention.

How to Successfully Adopt a New Healthy Habit

September 20, 2019

Experts offer tips to increase your chances of sticking to it
By Patricia Corrigan

Tell my massage therapist you’re struggling to stick with a healthy habit of any kind and her reply sounds like something your dental hygienist would say: “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.”

That’s a spin, of course, on “use it or lose it.” If you want a strong body, a calm mind and an elastic brain — not to mention clean teeth — you’ll want to tend to them all in turn. Plus, remember to eat your vegetables, work on your balance and go to bed at the same time every night, too.

Bernice Brandmeyer, 86, of Creve Coeur, Mo., admits that sticking with healthy habits isn’t easy. “Right now I’m out of the habit of going to my water exercise class,” she says. “I’m gradually forcing myself back into it by having my pool bag ready at the door. When it’s time to leave for class, I don’t think about it, or I’ll stay home. I just go.”

Deciding to Change and Following Through

Forming new habits or reinstating ones we’ve let slide is tricky, according to Wendy Wood, a social psychologist and provost professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California. “We underestimate how complicated the change process is,” she says. “We’re impressed when we just make an initial decision to establish a new habit, but then we have to follow through — and that’s hard.”

“Once you make a decision to form a new habit, figure out a way to make it fun, because the initial motivation is hard to maintain.”

Wood has a few tips for establishing healthy habits that stick:

Assess your environment. “Our actions are closely tied to our environment, so explore opportunities to make desired changes easier,” Wood says. “Having a TV or laptop in the bedroom makes it harder to turn off the screen and stick to your plan of going to bed earlier.” If your goal is to incorporate more exercise into your day, place some of the equipment in plain sight, such as dumbbells or a yoga mat, so they become part of your environment and remind you to do it.

Some years ago, a Weight Watchers leader told me that you don’t need will power to establish healthy eating habits — you need a strategy. My friend, Susan French, 69, of San Francisco, applied that wisdom to her exercise routine.

“I decided I was done going to the gym,” she says. “I’ve been going a long time, and I’m tired of putting on my sports bra and my yoga pants and going out the door. It’s a long walk there and back.”

Now she exercises at home, working out for an hour six days a week with an aerobics class on the computer. “I really, really like this,” French says, “and I’ve been doing it for over two months.” How confident is she that she will keep it up? She laughs and replies, “Yesterday, I canceled my gym membership.”

Make change fun. “People are likely to repeat behaviors they find rewarding, so once you make a decision to form a new habit, figure out a way to make it fun, because the initial motivation is hard to maintain,” Wood says.

Gail Pennington, 70, of University City, Mo., finds learning new languages fun. “I’m on my two hundred and ninety-ninth day of learning Italian,” she says. “I have no plans to go to Italy, but this entertains me, and it’s good exercise for my brain.”

Pennington is going to Quebec later this year, so she’s also refreshing her French. “A shopkeeper in Paris once complimented my French, and speaking to a native speaker and being understood makes me happy,” she says.

That good feeling comes from a release of dopamine in the brain, Wood says. “If the brain responds to an activity with dopamine, that makes a stable memory trace and cements what you did to get that reward. That’s your brain enabling you to repeat what was rewarded in the past and makes it easier next time.”

Be patient. Experts say it takes two to nine months to establish a new behavior as a habit. “Many behaviors we try to make habitual have multiple steps to them — complicated steps that involve decision-making and some habitual response,” Wood says. “If you make a new behavior easy and fun, then it will be something you keep doing. As that practice accumulates, it becomes a habit.”

One mind trick that works for me is to put my qigong (a mind-body-spirit practice) sessions and aqua yoga classes on my calendar; I schedule them just as I would for lunch with a friend or an appointment. I consider these classes commitments, and when my phone “dings” to remind me it’s time to get ready, I do.

‘Prove to Your Brain That You’ve Got This’

Marcia Reynolds, a behavioral scientist based in Phoenix, recommends talking about changes you want to make. “Say it aloud, ask for help from family and friends; that makes you more accountable,” she says.

A leadership coach and author of the book Outsmart Your Brain, Reynolds also believes in posting quotes or pictures in places where you will regularly see them to remind you of your goal as you work to establish a new habit. She also cautions against beating yourself up when you don’t always live up to your new expectations.

“We often focus on where we lapsed, what we didn’t do,” she says. “As we move toward change, the brain needs evidence that we will be successful, so, remember to look at what you did well, even when it’s just one thing. Prove to your brain that you’ve got this.”

Whether you want to start meditating, stop smoking or practice random acts of kindness, Reynolds recommends making these or other changes for personal reasons. “If you’re doing it for a family member or for your doctor, that’s not good enough,” she says. “For the best end result, a strong emotional launch requires a deep personal desire.”

By Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a professional journalist, with decades of experience as a reporter and columnist at a metropolitan daily newspaper, and a book author. She now enjoys a lively freelance career, writing for numerous print and on-line publications. Read more from Patricia on her blog.

 
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