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Love What You Do

August 14, 2019

We love when our team members share their stories, especially when it shows how much their work means to them. Read about David Rearick and why he has stayed with us for over 5 years.

“Was it just answering an ad? Honestly, that’s how it all started. Was it perhaps the best ad I ever responded to? Most definitely! As a steel worker for 30 years, I finally retired and got the opportunity to become a licensed embalmer/funeral director. In truth that is all I ever wanted to do. For many, working with the deceased in not their idea of a dream job, but for me it was an honor to make the person look their very best for the last time. Working closely with families at the worst time of their lives was challenging, but rewarding knowing you had made the entire process just a bit easier for them. Unfortunately, I had no family in the “business” so the decision was made to move in another direction.

I had some knowledge in various maintenance aspects and SeniorCare Network needed a maintenance technician close to my home. While being a tech allows for some resident contact, I always envied the manager having a closer relationship with residents and their families. That is what I would strive for with SeniorCare Network. I was very fortunate that someone took that chance and promoted me to the assistant manager position where I not only learned the manager’s responsibilities, but had the opportunity to interact with the residents too. Now as a manager, resident interaction and satisfaction keep me coming back for more! I have made many new friends all of which have one common goal: to be a part of a resident’s life as they age in place.”

David started his career with us as a maintenance technician for one and a half years and worked his way up to becoming a property manager at Forward Shady apartments in Squirrel Hill.  

He has enjoyed his time as a property manager saying, “There have been many rewarding experiences while working here. Speaking one-on-one with a resident who knows they may need more help performing activities of daily living, and seeing their contentment and happiness when reassuring them they can continue living in their apartment. One of my favorite things is that there is a very diverse group of residents at Forward Shady. I learn something every day about Russia, which is where many of the residents are from, or the Jewish religion or the Holocaust. If you take the time to speak to the residents, they will amaze you with every story they relate to their lives.”

Like David, 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.

When a Parent Dies: Ways to Help Yourself and Your Surviving Parent

August 13, 2019

A grief-support expert shares a letter she wrote to a grieving friend
By Amy Florian

Not too long ago, a dear friend’s dad suffered a major heart attack and died. At the funeral, there was little time for more than a brief exchange of words.

But, given my background in grieving support and education, I wanted to offer some advice to help her and her mom through the grieving process. So, that evening I wrote her a letter. I’m sharing it here because I believe it can be of help to anyone who has recently lost a parent and wants to help their surviving parent through the grief. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Katie,

The way-too-soon and totally unexpected death of your dad has hit you hard. It was clear at the services that your family is reeling, trying to comprehend what happened to you, to understand the enormity of this loss, and to figure out what to do now.

Leave behind the well-meaning compulsion to cheer each other up or keep looking on the bright side.

I’m glad I was able to attend the services to celebrate his life and mourn his death together, and I also know your grief has only begun.

I remember after my husband’s death, a few of the letters that people wrote were extremely helpful — not the ones telling me the writer’s own story of grief, as if I was supposed to experience the same thing and handle it in the same way, but those that contained hard-won wisdom from grieving people.

In that vein, I offer you some input that may be helpful to you and your mom, gleaned from my many years of providing grief education, facilitating grief support groups and counseling grieving people.

If any of this does not apply in your case or is not helpful, then set it aside. Everyone grieves uniquely and you don’t have to meet my (or anyone else’s) expectations.

Grief hurts. We don’t want to face the pain, the loneliness and the void that will never be filled in the same way again. But if we don’t, we won’t heal.

Grief that is suppressed, denied or ignored does not go away. It stays there, it festers and it will find a way to come back out and bite you in physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional ways.

But it also helps to try to set the grief aside sometimes, as if in a box on the shelf, and let yourself smile or enjoy life for a bit. Those times will sustain you.

Don’t be afraid of bringing up your dad, saying his name and telling the stories. Will it cause tears? Yes, sometimes, but that’s not because you brought it up. The tears are there anyway. It is healing to allow them to spill out, whether you are alone or especially when you share those tears with someone else who also loved him, whether it’s your mom or supportive friends who will let you cry with them.

Did you know that there are physiological chemicals in tears that relieve stress? Tears are our natural stress-relief mechanism when we are sad — that’s why we call it “having a good cry.” So, when you cry, you help yourself heal.

One final thing about tears. People often say they can’t start crying because if they do, they will never be able to stop. Do you know that has not happened in the history of humankind? No one has ever not been able to stop crying. Allow the healing to happen, facilitated by allowing tears when they are there.

As you support your mom, remember your job is not to “fix it” or to make her feel better. Your job is to be her companion, to be there for her whatever she is feeling.

Leave behind the well-meaning compulsion to cheer each other up or keep looking on the bright side. Instead, just keep checking in. Ask what kind of a day it is today — feeling up, down or all over the place?

Talk about when you miss your dad the most. Share your stories about things people say that are helpful, and the well-intentioned things people say that are not! Share what you each wish people knew about what you’re going through. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible, so you can pour your experience out to each other and gain comfort.

Keep in mind that grief takes a very long time. Expect to hit sad periods of time again weeks or months after the death. This is especially true when those “marker days” hit: his birthday (and yours), the wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, the holidays, the monthly and yearly anniversaries of his death.

You will be sad over and over again. You will be happy over and over again, and eventually the happiness will predominate. But expect a roller coaster of emotions — some hours and days will be better, and some will feel like disasters. Hang in there. As long as you continue doing the hard work of grief, you are healing, you will heal and you will get there.

Another word about those “marker days.” Your dad’s absence will be huge, and yet the tendency of most people around you will be to talk about anyone and everything except your dad.

The intention is good — they want to keep you from feeling sad. Yet, these are the times it is most important to say his name, share the memories and keep his legacy alive.

His life and the lessons he taught you are with you forever. His love is with you forever. You are a different person because of him, and no one can ever take that away from you. Keep his name, his stories and your memories alive, even as you let go of all the things that can no longer be.

These are just a few things that I hope can get you on the path to healing. My most fervent hope is that your family may heal, carrying memories and stories of your dad’s life with you even as you move into a future that will be different than you had planned.

I will check in regularly, just to see what’s happening and how you’re doing. I am here for you for the long haul, no matter what.

I hold you and your mom close to my heart. In these crazy, turbulent days, I wish you moments of peace, an occasional smile and continued healing.

Love and hugs,

Amy

By Amy Florian

Amy Florian is an educator, author, public speaker, and Founder/CEO of Corgenius, the first professional training firm to focus on life transition support. With a style that combines grace, good-natured humor and rock solid science, Amy travels the country teaching financial advisors and other business professionals how to better serve clients experiencing loss, grief, and transition. She also educates clergy, hospice staff and volunteers, social workers and others who work with the grieving. Amy serves on the advisory board of Soaring Spirits International, a nonprofit organization that provides support for widowed people around the globe.

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Scams

August 12, 2019

Last week we shared the top 10 scams aimed at seniors, this week we have some helpful tips to avoid scams!

  1. Medicare and Health Care Fraud
  • Protect your Medicare and Social Security numbers and treat your Medicare card like it's a credit card. Don't give your Medicare card or number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.
  • Remember that nothing is ever "free." Don't accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
  • Educate yourself about Medicare. Know your rights and what a provider can and can't bill to Medicare.
  • Be wary of providers who tell you that the item or service isn't usually covered, but they "know how to bill Medicare" so Medicare will pay.
  1. Pyramid Schemes
  • Look out for promises of high returns in a short period of time.
  • Examine whether a genuine product or service is being sold
  • Know where and how your money is being invested
  • Keep track of how the investment is doing
  1. Reverse Mortgage Scams
  • Do not respond to unsolicited advertisements.
  • Be suspicious of anyone claiming that you can own a home with no down payment.
  • Do not sign anything that you do not fully understand.
  • Do not accept payment from individuals for a home you did not purchase.
  • Seek out your own reverse mortgage counselor.
  1. Ponzi Schemes
  • Be skeptical!
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited offers
  • Check out the seller
  • Verify the investment is registered
  • Understand the investment
  • Report Wrongdoing
  1. Financial Adviser Fraud
  • Never Wire Money to a Stranger
  • Don’t Give Out Financial Information
  • Never give out your social security number
  • Never Click on Hyperlinks in Emails
  1. Viatical Settlement Fraud
  • Investigate thoroughly before entering settlement
  • Make sure the insurance agent is credible
  • Only send information to once company
  1. Charitable Gift Annuities
  • Only donate to familiar charities
  • Research charities before donating
  • Watch where our money is deposited to if using a check
  • Be skeptical of new charities
  1. Promissory Note Fraud
  • Before investing with a particular agent contact Pennsylvania Securities commission- (800)600-007 to see if the sales person has been caught selling fraudulent securities or has disciplinary history
  • If it looks too good to be true it probably is
  1. Affinity Fraud
  • Check out everything - no matter how trustworthy the person seems who brings the investment opportunity to your attention
  • Do not fall for investments that promise spectacular profits or "guaranteed" returns.
  • Be skeptical of any investment opportunity that is not in writing.
  • Don't be pressured or rushed into buying an investment before you have a chance to think about - or investigate - the "opportunity."
  1. Internet Fraud
  • Use Tough Passwords
  • Install Antivirus and Spyware Protection
  • Don’t shop with unfamiliar online retailers
  • Don’t download software from Pop-up windows

 

Sources: 

https://health.usnews.com/health-care/health-insurance/articles/2018-11-13/how-to-avoid-medicare-scams

https://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-a-Pyramid-Scheme

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/reverse-mortgage-scams

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/041515/10-tips-avoid-common-financial-scams.asp

http://www.wallstreetfraud.com/fraud_promissory.html

Manchester Commons Residents Have Green Thumbs!

August 9, 2019

As you drive up to Manchester Commons, one of our campuses in Erie, your eyes are pulled to the beautiful flowers that are in planters all across the front entrance. Most would think these were purchased and planted by a landscaper, but in fact they were designed and planted by two of our residents, Betty May and Pat Brogdon. Both ladies have lived at Manchester Commons for five years, and each year their green thumbs cease to amaze everyone. 

Pat and Betty are part of the Gardening Club on campus. The club, created by Kara Donofrio, Director of Lifestyle Engagement at Manchester Commons, plays a big part in the beautification of the campus.

Kara says, “After reviewing the Life Histories, I have found that many of our residents grew up on farms or cared for a garden at some time in their life. I thought a little bit of garden therapy would be enjoyable for many of our residents that I have found watering plants around the campus. I wanted to create a way to allow the residents to garden throughout the spring and summer months, and provide an opportunity for them to take the reins on what they could do."

The flowers at the front entrance were chosen by those in the Garden Club. Pat says, “Everyone agreed on their favorite plants – short and colorful! We wanted plants that would not over grow too fast and that wouldn't need watered too often."

When asked why she wanted to be a part of the Club, Pat responded, “I've been gardening my whole life. I remember a time as a young girl when I went to my aunts beautiful garden. She loved all of the flowers and everything was so much taller than her!" Before moving to Manchester Commons, Pat and her husband used to grow tomatoes, green beans, squash and many other types of veggies, so when they moved to Manchester, she wanted to continue gardening.

Pat hopes more people will continue to join their group for how fun it is to all work together.

Thank you to the Garden Club – the planters looks beautiful!

Why People in Their 50s Should Understand Stroke Symptoms and Risk

August 6, 2019

Most people, including doctors, associate it with older adults
By Debbie Koenig

The big statistic most of us hear about stroke is that our risk doubles every decade after age 55. But earlier this year, actor Luke Perry and director John Singleton died of stroke. Perry was 52, Singleton just 51.

Last year, Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson — once known as “the fastest man in the world”— survived a stroke at age 50. So, it appears waiting until age 55 to think about stroke could be deadly.

Are More Midlife Adults Having Strokes?

A 2017 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System’s Department of Neurology in Ann Arbor, Mich., found that among people age 45 to 54, the rate of hospitalization for the most common type of stroke rose more than 20% from 2003 to 2012.

But the study’s finding doesn’t necessarily mean that more people are having strokes younger, says Dr. Koto Ishida, medical director at the New York University Langone’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. “Rates aren’t necessarily increasing, but awareness is,” she says.

About 80% of first-time stroke victims of any age have high blood pressure.

In 2003, the American Stroke Association launched a warning signs awareness campaign. With increased awareness, more potential stroke victims know to seek help sooner.

Also, Ishida says, diagnostic methods changed during the Michigan study’s time period, so some 2012 stroke victims might have been classified as something else in 2003.

One thing that does seem to be happening in people at younger ages: more risk factors for stroke, including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, coronary artery disease and diabetes. The Michigan study found that the number of stroke victims age 45 to 54 with three to five risk factors rose by more than 70%.

“We’re definitely seeing these risk factors younger,” says Ishida. “We call many of them ‘silent killers.’ A lot of people come to us in their forties and fifties believing they were healthy until now. But you could’ve had high blood pressure for ten years and not known it.” About 80% of first-time stroke victims of any age have high blood pressure.

Stroke Risk and Prevention

Because risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol don’t show symptoms until something like a stroke hits, an annual physical exam is the most important thing people can do to prevent one, Ishida says. That gives your doctor the chance to monitor you and help you lower elevated blood pressure or cholesterol to a less risky level.

There are some risk factors that you can’t change, however, like your family history. “Younger strokes and younger risk factors run in families,” Ishida says, adding that you should tell your doctor if younger people in your family have died of stroke, so they will know to start screening you sooner.

Race also matters when it comes to stroke: The risk of stroke among blacks is nearly twice as high as for whites, and blacks tend to have strokes younger.

Gender is another factor: The Michigan study found that among people age 45 to 54, nearly 30% more men than women were hospitalized for stroke.

But the good news is, up to 80% of strokes in the U.S. are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These lifestyle changes can lower your risk of stroke:

  • Quit smoking. Smokers are two to four times more likely than non-smokers to have a stroke.
  • Lose weight. Obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and other key risk factors for stroke.
  • Drink less alcohol. It can raise your blood pressure. The CDC recommends men have no more than two drinks a day, and women just one.

‘BE FAST’ Could Save a Life

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., but far more people survive stroke than die of it. As many as nine out of 10 survivors have some paralysis immediately after.

Thanks to medical advances in emergency treatment, recognizing a stroke immediately could make the difference between a full recovery and decades of living with a stroke-related disability. But for people under 55, stroke isn’t often top of mind.

“Every minute when you have complete blockage of blood flow to the brain, two million brain cells are irreversibly killed,” Ishida says. “If you wait and come in the next morning, it takes treatments off the table.”

The sudden onset of symptoms is a hallmark of stroke — there aren’t a lot of other things that happen so quickly, says Ishida. A sudden severe headache can be a symptom, but otherwise there usually isn’t much pain. “That’s a downside for us in the stroke world,” Ishida says. “Pain is a good motivator to get people to the ER.”

The American Stroke Association and National Stroke Association both suggest the acronym “FAST” to help you remember the key symptoms of stroke:

  • Face: Try to smile. Is one side droopy?
  • Arms: Lift both arms. Is one side weaker than the other?
  • Speech: Are you having trouble getting words out, slurring or having difficulty understanding others?
  • Time: Get treatment as quickly as possible. If the answer is Yes to any of the above questions, call 911 immediately.

While FAST is handy, it’s far from complete. Ishida likes to add the word BE before FAST to cover more possible signs:

  • Balance: Are you feeling dizzy or struggling to keep your body steady?
  • Eyes: Do you have a sudden problem with one or both eyes or double vision?

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to treat symptoms yourself. The two primary types of stroke have identical symptoms but do virtually opposite things to your brain.

The most common type, ischemic, happens when a blood clot cuts off blood flow to your brain.

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and blood floods into surrounding brain tissue. Since you don’t know what type of stroke you’re facing, guessing at treatment could be catastrophic.

Bottom line, says Ishida: “If you’re having sudden onset of one of those symptoms, stroke should be top of mind, no matter your age.”

By Debbie Koenig

Debbie Koenig is a writer and the author of the cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents. She lives in Queens with her family.

10 Common Scams Aimed at Senior Citizens

August 5, 2019

Did you know seniors are one of the biggest targets for scammers? 

Scams to watch out for:

  1. Medicare and Health Care Fraud
  • Scammers will pose as representatives from Medicare and ask for personal information from older citizens.
  • Scammers will convince seniors to invest in fraudulent health care industry products, such as insurance coverage and prescription drug benefits.
  1. Pyramid Schemes
  • A form of investment fraud where investors will only make money by recruiting new investors into the scam.
  • Convincing seniors to invest in and sell a product. Also to recruit new people to become licensed sellers too.
  • The product are usually just a way to get more people into the scheme.
  • The amount of people willing to invest begins to dwindle and are then left with huge financial losses.
  1. Reverse Mortgage Scams
  • A type of home loan that allows seniors to receive regular payments in exchange for slowly relinquishing their home equity.
  • A real reverse mortgage is insured by the government.
  1. Ponzi Schemes
  • A type of investment fraud where early investors are paid back using the funds provided by later investors.
  • When the stream of investors runs out, the rest of the scheme will fail.
  1. Financial Adviser Fraud
  • Charging excessive investment fees.
  • Selling unsuitable investments to earn high commissions.
  • Unauthorized trading.
  • Negligence and embezzlement.
  1. Viatical Settlement Fraud
  • Arrangement where one sells their life insurance policy to a third party for less than its actual value.
  • Allows the person to benefit from some proceeds of the policy during their life.
  • Buyers and sellers become targets for the fraud.
  1. Charitable Gift Annuities
  • Fraudsters will pose as representatives of a charitable organization, or will create a fake organization to try to sell senior investors annuities to help benefit themselves and the charity.
  • The fraudsters is stealing the money for their personal benefit.
  1. Promissory Note Fraud
  • A signed document that promises to pay a person a certain amount of money on a certain date or certain interval.
  • Scammers present themselves as legitimate and obtain notes to secure investments from seniors.
  • The vast majority of corporations DO NOT offer Promissory Notes to the general public.
  1. Affinity Fraud
  • Any investment scam targeted at a particular group.
  • Fraudsters pretend to be a member of the group or actually are a member.
  • Scammer uses their status to create trust and comfort to perpetrate the fraud.
  1. Internet Fraud
  • Scammers use the web to perpetrate schemes, set up fake investing websites, commit identity fraud, create fake IT scams and many more.
  • Avoid posting financial or personal information over the internet.

Information pulled from Senior Directories, website www.seniordirectories.com

Network Interns Attend LeadingAge PA Conference!

August 2, 2019

In June, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network had two interns attend the LeadingAge PA Conference. The conference is designed for professionals in long-term care to hear from industry experts, take advantage of continuous education opportunities, and more.

Kaleb Behanna and Ritu Pathak, the two interns that attended the conference, benefitted from many learning opportunities, as well as fun breakout sessions, morning meetings and networking opportunities designed to get them out of their comfort zones and ready for the long-term care industry.

Kaleb (pictured right) is an intern at the Oakmont campus in the Dementia 360 program. Kaleb is going into his second year at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a Masters in Health Administration. His undergraduate degree was earned at Penn State. Kaleb views this conference as a great help towards his career stating that the experience he gained from the speakers helped bring a new perspective to his job. He was able to network with other people in long-term care communities throughout the conference. “We got to stand outside of conference rooms and check people in, which was really cool because we spent most of the time networking and pretty much 'speed recruiting' as we let people in. I got to meet so many great people."

When asked what “speed recruiting" was, Kaleb explained that it was his way of referring to the quick conversations he had when signing people into the conferences, almost like speed dating, but for networking. Kaleb was able to talk with everyone he signed into the conference and learn about their job. This helped him create connections with professionals throughout the conference

He is enjoying his time at Presbyterian SeniorCare Network saying that the people he works with have been great! 

Ritu (pictured left) is an intern at the Washington campus working in Process Improvement. Ritu really enjoyed the LeadingAge PA conference, and appreciated the opportunity to sit in during each session after scanning attendees in for credit and getting the speakers settled in. This later allowed her to exchange ideas and views about the sessions, making memorable connections with the other conference attendees.

Ritu says that the conference helped her put herself out there, meet new people and experience firsthand the variety of new ideas and ways that process improvement could benefit long-term care.

The most valuable piece of the conference for Ritu was seeing how employee satisfaction helped culture change, retention rate, as well as improved care for the residents. “We always think of the customer first and what their needs are, but to be the best organization we possibly can, we need to ensure we are thinking of all stakeholders, caregivers and residents alike."

Ritu earned her bachelor's degree in biological sciences and is currently pursuing Masters in Health Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. Post undergrad, Ritu worked for the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with UPMC as a Liver Cancer Center research coordinator for nearly two years. Ritu enjoys working at the Presbyterian SeniorCare Network for its welcoming culture; everyone's friendly demeanor quickly made her feel a part of the team.

Thanks to Kaleb and Ritu for sharing your experiences from the LeadingAge PA Conference. We look forward to seeing what these young professionals will accomplish in their careers!

What to Do When You Inherit a House

July 30, 2019

How not to lose money when your parents leave you their home
May 13, 2019

Recovering boat owners often say a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money. Much the same could be said for a house you inherit.

When a parent or other relative dies and you take possession of his or her house, it can be easy to think you’ve hit the jackpot. But another casino metaphor might be more appropriate when you go to sell an inherited house: Your goal should be to leave the (closing) table with money in your pocket.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to lose money along the way. To avoid making big mistakes after you inherit a house, here’s advice from longtime real estate professionals Doug Myers, a broker with Semonin Realtors in Louisville and Kes Stadler, a broker with Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage:

  1. Dealing With the Stuff in the House

The first, and most emotionally draining, step in selling a house is dealing with the contents.

“People tend to overestimate the value of the furnishings,” says Myers. “The house is usually filled with stuff that has a tremendous sentimental value to only a few.”

Stadler counsels his clients to first remove items with significant sentimental or monetary value. Then, he says, hire a company to conduct an estate sale. Insist that whatever that business can’t sell it then take to a charitable organization, so you won’t have to deal with it.

Before a house is emptied, says Stadler, get a photographer to shoot pictures of the furnished rooms (assuming they show well). That way, when you’re ready to list the house for sale, posting the pictures will help prospective buyers visualize the home with furniture in place.

  1. Controlling Ongoing Expenses of the Inherited House

While you’ll want to cancel unnecessary services like internet access, cable TV and telephone, it’s important to keep the electricity, gas and water on. People touring the house will need them. So will pre-sale inspectors.

Be sure to watch for spikes in utility bills, which can happen in vacant houses.

“If you have workers come over and do anything —say, lay carpet — they’re going to fiddle with the thermostat,” Myers says. That’s one of the things he checks on his regular visits to his vacant properties, a service any real estate professional you hire should provide.

Water is a special case. In colder climates, you may want to winterize the house by turning off the main valve in the basement or crawl space. That will prevent frozen pipes. But doing so can also create a problem if an agent or contractor uses a toilet and can’t flush it.

“When you come in two days later and the whole house smells like a cesspool, your buyers are going to instantly walk out,” Stadler says. So, he advises, “if you’re going to winterize the house, you’ve got to make sure you tape the toilet seat lids down and let everybody know it’s been winterized.”

He also recommends cancelling alarm-system monitoring if the house is empty, to prevent false alarms. If you do so, however, it’s doubly important that someone — you, your real estate pro or a neighbor — check the property on a regular basis.

  1. Deciding on Repairs and Upgrades

Virtually every house needs some work done before you can plant a for-sale sign in the yard. That can be especially true for one that hasn’t been updated in decades. Deciding what to fix and how much to spend is perhaps the biggest financial challenge sellers of inherited homes face.

Myers recommends a fresh coat of paint and new carpet, as well as simple repairs to things like doors.

To avoid overspending, Myers says, take a look at Remodeling’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report site. It shows how much money sellers are likely to recoup from popular upgrades like a kitchen remodel or a garage door replacement. (Spoiler alert: It’s almost always less than what they’ll spend.)

When redecorating, keep things simple and appealing to all prospects. Stadler recommends “boring builder beige” for walls and carpets. “If you have walls that have any kind of color to them, you’re going to chase off some people,” he says.

How much to spend to fix up the house depends on local conditions. You may need to pay more to entice buyers in a slow housing market; in a hot market, you might not need to do anything at all.

“We have certain areas here where people are buying the homes to tear them down,” Stadler says. “If you put in carpet, wallpaper and this, that and the other, they’re just going to tear it down and you threw away money.”

  1. Managing Your Expenses

Since maintaining an inherited house and preparing it for sale can cost you a lot of money (don’t forget the cost of travel, meals and lodging) if you live far away, look for ways you can cut corners.

Instead of spending money for a car hauling china to antique dealers or dropping off clothes at a thrift store, consider holding a yard sale. You’ll thank yourself.

By Mark Ray

Mark Ray is a freelance writer who has written for Scouting, Eagles’ Call, Presbyterians Today, Kentucky Homes & Gardens and other publications. He has also written, edited and/or contributed to a dozen books for the Boy Scouts and the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches.

The Many Colors of an Artist’s Life

July 23, 2019

Creating art is always on Marilynne Bradley's mind
By Patricia Corrigan

Daffodils — that’s the assignment on a recent evening at “Wet and Wild Watercolors,” a weekly class at The Green Door Art Gallery  in a suburb of St. Louis. In a back room, 10 students, including regulars and drop-ins, choose seats and settle in.

Watercolor artist Marilynne Bradley, 81, is the teacher, and she has provided a vase of the yellow flowers for inspiration. “Each week, I present two examples on a theme: one painted the traditional way and one rendered in a simpler way, and I specify techniques that will make all the students successful,” Bradley explains later. “I try to reach each person, get them to relate, teach them how to see.”

Bradley isn’t new to teaching. For decades, she has led classes and workshops for art institutes, galleries, watercolor societies, colleges and high schools and through city parks departments. Some of her students have become well-known artists, Bradley says, and others have used their gifts to teach.

“My art doesn’t look like anybody else’s because I’ve experimented so much.”

Over the past five years, Bradley’s students at the small gallery have ranged from age 10 to 80-plus. Jane Killeen, 71, has shown up to paint every week for more than three years.

“Marilynne has a distinctive background, with her work known all over the world,” Killeen says. “My style is different from hers, but you can learn from somebody so well versed in painting. Also, I so appreciate her input and personal guidance, and the class offers a real sense of camaraderie.”

‘My Whole House Is a Studio’

Each year, Bradley’s work is accepted in about 20 major national juried competitions. Her watercolors also are on display in many galleries and museums and are included in major corporate collections in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and Tahiti. Bradley has illustrated books and brochures, received more than 50 awards and has been featured at some 150 solo exhibits.

Artist Marilynne Bradley at home in Webster Groves, surrounded by her artwork. She likes working seated on the floor and is currently creating work that has a geometric pattern.

“My art doesn’t look like anybody else’s because I’ve experimented so much. My work is more intense, brighter,” Bradley says. An experienced draftswoman, Bradley often incorporates architectural design elements in her art, particularly evident in her 600-plus paintings of iconic landmarks past and present in metropolitan St. Louis. Many are featured in her book, St. Louis in Watercolor: The Architecture of a City.

Bradley’s studio, filled with natural light, is off the kitchen in her two-story home in suburban St. Louis County. On one wall is a beautiful rendering of the zigzag bridge in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Additional artwork is stacked among file boxes and folders in the rooms on the ground floor. “Actually, my whole house is a studio,” she says, laughing. “I paint too much!”

Bradley’s two grown children have inherited her artistic abilities: one is a graphic artist who teaches art and the other is a theater set designer.

Growing up in Rockford, Ill., Bradley was a child prodigy on the cello. Many years later, she performed with the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, but her career plans never included music.

“My junior year in high school, I had a part-time job in the pathology lab at a local hospital,” Bradley recalls. “A doctor writing a book needed sketches, and though I had never taken an art class, I did them. That was fun, and I remember thinking that maybe I would become a medical illustrator.”

A Winding Path from Music to Medicine to Art

Instead, she enrolled in pre-med courses at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was awarded a scholarship in chemistry and recruited as a cellist for the school orchestra. There, Bradley took her first art class and discovered an affinity for painting, so she went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She received a Master of Arts in teaching from nearby Webster University and later, a Master of Fine Arts from Syracuse University in New York.

Marilynne Bradley takes time to show Mary Phelan how to do Sumie, the art of Japanese calligraphy, during class Wednesday night at the Green Door Gallery.

Bradley’s first job was in architecture illustration, which required perfecting watercolor painting. At the time, watercolors were still viewed as sketching tools, but Bradley enjoyed the medium and has stuck with it, painting many a landscape and still life. Her style has evolved over the years, and 30 of her newest works reflect a new direction.

Pointing out a painting of boats in a marina, Bradley says, “I’m painting what I call geometric transformations. I’ll take a photo and transpose the image into lines and transits, kind of an evolution of Piet Mondrian’s work.”

She adds, “The lines cause the eye to go into the picture to a point of interest. I’m using color techniques that relate to lights and darks, and that also leads you in.”

On any given day, Bradley may be painting something new, packing up her work for exhibits and shows all over the country, fulfilling a commission, entering or evaluating others’ work for a juried show, gathering illustrations for a new book, evaluating manufacturers’ new art supplies or some combination of all that.

“Work is on my mind all the time,” she says. “I’ve always got something I have to get done, a goal to meet.”

Credit: Karen Elshout

Artist Marilynne Bradley at home in Webster Groves, working on a painting. A close up of her paints that she prefers.

By Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a journalist and the author of numerous books, including a guide to San Francisco that expresses her great joy in her adopted city. Visit her blog here.

Could a Smarter Home Help You Age in Place?

July 18, 2019

A tour of The Thrive Center reveals four innovative products
By Mark Ray

In the heart of Louisville’s Innovation District sits the Thrive Center, a 7,500-square-foot space dedicated to showing how technology can enhance the lives of older adults. And in the center of the center is the prototype of a smart home — including kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom — that demonstrates how technology can help older adults age in place and allow their caregivers and loved ones to keep a virtual eye on them.

I visited the Thrive Center recently for a tour with executive director Sheri Rose, who talked about why aging in place will become increasingly important as more and more boomers need care.

After my visit to the Thrive Center, I can easily see how a combination of standard and special-purpose technologies can increase safety for older adults and offer peace of mind to their loved ones.

According to Rose, one of the issues will be affordability of facilities. “When you look at skilled care today, it’s about $9,000 to $10,000 a month, but when you look at 2040, it’s projected to be $18,000 to $20,000 a month,” she says.

Prices like that make the home’s $2,600 Samsung smart refrigerator seem like a bargain to me.

Rethinking Aging Technology

Often, our conception of aging-in-place technology doesn’t extend past the LifeAlert medical alert pendant, which gave us the familiar tagline “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” back in 1989. But much has changed in 30 years. After my visit to the Thrive Center, I can easily see how a combination of standard and special-purpose technologies can increase safety for older adults and offer peace of mind to their loved ones. And all for less than the cost of a month in a skilled-nursing facility.

Here are four innovations which could impact the future of aging in place (some are available now, some are not):

Credit: Samsung

Family Hub

  1. Samsung Family Hub™Refrigerator

Smart refrigerators are typically marketed to families on the go, but they can be just as useful to older adults who are staying put. How? For one thing, inside is a camera that lets you view the contents from anywhere with an internet connection. That means a loved one could check to see if there’s any food in the fridge or if that gallon of milk has been moved in a week.

But what’s on the outside may be even more important. The door of the Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator includes what is effectively an oversized tablet PC that can serve as a command center for Samsung’s SmartThings home-automation system. Prices start at approximately $2,700.  It can also connect to Billy, the next technology Rose showed me.

  1. Billy

Australia-based Billy uses Samsung SmartThings sensors and proprietary software to create a home-monitoring system for older adults that learns a person’s habits and sounds the alarm — actually, triggers a smartphone alert — when those habits change. The basic kit includes six battery-operated sensors that track room temperature, movement, motion and opening and closing doors.  The kit costs $279, which includes three months of service. From there, service is $60 per month, without a contract, and can be canceled at any time.

In the Thrive Center kitchen, sensors silently note when the refrigerator or a cabinet has been opened and when someone walks through the living room. The idea is to let caregivers monitor older adults without spying on them — and without having to play detective each time they visit the home. “Walking into someone’s home for most caregivers is kind of a private-eye experience,” Steve Hopkins, the company’s former CEO, told me in a later phone interview.

(Billy, by the way, was named after the founders’ grandfather’s dog. As the website explains, “As their grandpa got older — and they couldn’t always be with him — they often felt like his dog, Billy, knew more about how he was doing than they did!”)

Billy is expected to hit the commercial market in the U.S. later this year.

  1. Samsung Induction Cooktop

Another appliance in the Thrive Center kitchen is the Samsung Induction Cooktop which only gets hot when a pan is in place — and doesn’t get as hot as a traditional cooktop. Again, aging in place isn’t the main reason such cooktops exist, but Rose thinks they can help protect older adults who might trip and put a hand on the cooktop to steady themselves.

“I always think of my mother, who will park her walker to the side,” Rose said. “She’s going to feel her way along her countertops all the way to the kitchen.” With an induction cooktop, she’s unlikely to sustain a burn.

Induction cooktops,, which start at approximately $1,800, have advantages and disadvantages, as spotlighted in this story in Consumer Reports.

  1. Luna Lights

Another product that does focus on older adults, whether they live at home or in a congregate-care facilities, is Luna Lights, which combines a pressure-sensitive pad on the bed with wall-mounted path lights. Luna Lights is set up in the Thrive Center’s bedroom and bathroom.

Here’s how the product works: When a person gets out of bed at, say, 2 a.m. to use the bathroom, the lights come on automatically; when he or she returns to bed, they automatically go off. “It’s fully automated,” CEO Donovan Morrison told me later by phone. “There’s nothing to wear, no buttons to press.”

Luna Lights currently works with about two dozen senior-living facilities and there are plans to release a home-based version later this year. Morrison said client sites have seen reductions in nighttime fall rates of 29% or better, which is important given that falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging.

But path lighting is just part of what Luna Lights offers. (Otherwise, why not just use nightlights?) Like Billy, it learns people’s habits and can alert caregivers if those habits change. The idea is that someone who suddenly starts making six trips to the bathroom each night might have a urinary tract infection or another health condition, something caregivers need to know. Loved ones can also receive an alert if a person gets out of bed and doesn’t return after, say, 20 minutes.

“The majority of falls happen in the middle of the night when people get up to go to the bathroom,” Rose said. “You want to find them right away because what you hear so often is they lie there all night.”

By Mark Ray

Mark Ray is a freelance writer who has written for Scouting, Eagles’ Call, Presbyterians Today, Kentucky Homes & Gardens and other publications. He has also written, edited and/or contributed to a dozen books for the Boy Scouts and the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches.

 
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