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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.

Balancing Your Career and Your Aging Parents

September 17, 2019

Advice for women from "Working Daughter" author Liz O'Donnell
By Richard Eisenberg

It often isn’t easy to balance holding down a paying job and being a part-time caregiver for a parent. In a new Home Instead survey of 1,100 employed people who also care for a parent or in-law, 59% felt they must choose between being a good employee and a good daughter or son; that’s up from 47% in 2017. Liz O’Donnell, author of the new book Working Daughter, knows the struggle well — personally and professionally.

A Boston-based marketing executive, in recent years O’Donnell helped manage care for her late mother with ovarian cancer and her late father with Alzheimer’s. In 2018, she became a caregiver for her husband, Kevin, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; he died in March 2019. These experiences led O’Donnell to write the useful book and launch the supportive, content-heavy Workingdaughter.com site and 2,291-member Working Daughter Facebook community group.

“When you go to websites that say ‘It’s a blessing to be a caregiver,’ you feel like you are the only one having terrible thoughts.”

I interviewed O’Donnell to hear what she learned from the elder care attorneys, hospice nurses and working daughters she interviewed for the book and to get her guidance for women — and men — juggling care and career:

Next Avenue: Why did you write the book?

Liz O’Donnell, author of ‘Working Daughter’

Liz O’Donnell: I was seeking help because my parents needed more and more care. I had stress insomnia and was waking up at 3 in the morning, looking in Google to find how to balance career and care. The web sources were either sickly sweet — saying things like, ‘Just convene a family meeting,’ which is fine for the perfect family, but how many of us are in one? — and the government websites said: ‘Click here for assisted living.’ I couldn’t find what I needed.

So, I started to build a working daughter website and then a Facebook group for women to ask each other questions and vent and cry. And then I wrote the book.

I wanted caregivers to know they weren’t alone and that there was help available even for people whose families weren’t perfect. And I wanted caregivers to know that it was perfectly normal to have thoughts like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ or ‘I can’t take it.’ When you go to websites that say ‘It’s a blessing to be a caregiver,’ you feel like you are the only one having terrible thoughts.

Why is the book called Working Daughters and not Working Daughters and Sons? Women aren’t the only one balancing jobs and caregiving.

I was working full-time and caring and had to focus on what I knew. And I’d always written to a female audience. Also, I wanted to focus on issues that women face, like not earning the same salary as men due to taking off time for raising kids or scaling back hours to care for parents.

Would your advice for men be any different than what you advise women?

Some of the issues that come up are universal, like making space for your life and figuring out what matters most to you and balancing your career with that.

How difficult is it for women with paying jobs to do their work and also provide caregiving for loved ones?

It’s really challenging. I hope the more we talk about it, the easier it might become.

When you have a child, you know roughly when you will be out of work and you can set up for that time with maternity and paternity leave. You know when your child will go to preschool and for how many hours. You know what time the bus is coming, and you know when summer vacations are. With elder care, the phone could ring at work at any moment.

And there are so many factors for elder care that are different from in the past. Families are often dispersed, and people are having fewer children, so the caregiving responsibility often falls on one person.

What are the biggest challenges?

The unpredictability, and learning how to exit with grace [during the day] with all your work covered.

Another thing I hear in the working-daughter community is the mentality that caregiving has interrupted their lives and put their lives on hold. I went through that myself. One of the messages I try to share with women is we have to accept our lives as they are.

It means staying networked even if we’re not at work, so when we’re ready to go back, we’re still connected to people who can help us. And it means staying relevant, so we’re up-to-date on technology and on what’s happening in our industry, even if we’re not active in it.

Your first chapter is called ‘Accept.’ What do you mean by that?

I’m the youngest of three daughters and didn’t feel suited to be a caregiver for my parents. I had this attitude of: ‘Why me?’ Eventually, I shifted from resisting. The only way to go through the caregiving experience is to deal with it.

Another chapter is ‘Prioritize.’ What do you mean and how should women do it?

One of the things that exists in abundance in the working-daughter world is guilt. I get it. There’s always more you can be doing.

It’s important to say to yourself: ‘What are the parts of my life that really matter to me?’

Which are you going to prioritize and where are you going to glide? Don’t feel bad about stuff that takes a back seat.

How well do you think employers deal with employees who have family caregiving duties?

They want to do the right thing. Where I see it break down sometimes is at the line manager perspective. It’s important for companies to make sure caregiving policies are part of their culture and that middle managers are trained to work with employees around their care lives.

Another thing is training employees to say things like: ‘I need to leave Wednesday at three and here’s how I’m going to cover and when you can expect me back.’ As opposed to: ‘My mother’s sick. Do you mind if I leave?’

Are employers getting better at this?

Elder care benefits are on the decline, which is alarming.

What I’m hearing anecdotally from the working-daughter community runs the gamut from ‘My employer is cold-hearted and doesn’t get it’ to “I have the most amazing boss and that’s what makes it possible for me to do the caregiving.’

Do you see any reason to think employers will do better in the future for employees who are also family caregivers?

I’m hopeful.

By Richard Eisenberg

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

Share My Story: Going Above and Beyond

September 13, 2019

We love when our team members share their stories, especially when it shows the passion of our team towards their work.

Read about Carrie Karns and why she has stayed with us for over three years.

“This past Christmas Eve I was able to adjust the schedule to send one of my team members home early, knowing that she was behind on her Christmas preparations. Since we are a small department, that left me to complete the tasks for the day. After returning from a Walmart run for supplies, I had planned to deliver the mail for the day and start my vacation early. Planning to leave at 2 pm, after several interruptions and last minute things happening, it was quickly 4 pm and I had not delivered the mail yet. I went to the main office to discover several packages and 40+ holiday cards that needed delivered. With a small sigh, I began to separate the mail by neighborhoods and started my delivery. I helped several residents open packages and had nearly all of the cards delivered when I came to the last envelope. It was a larger envelope that I could tell had pictures in it. I asked the resident if she would like me to open it and help her read it. With excitement she said, “Yes, I’ve been expecting something from my brother in California.” Upon opening the envelope, I saw a folded up piece of paper, front and back, typed in small print. It was a “year in review” from her brother’s family. I have to be 100% honest, at this point I looked at my watch…’after 5 pm?!’ was what went through my mind. As I began to read I noticed right away how much this Christmas Eve package meant to her. The letter told of their travels abroad and updates on her grandchildren. There was also a hand written note from her brother. As I read the words, so elegantly written to his beloved sister we both began to tear up. She then asked to read it again herself. I sat 10 minutes before desperately wanting to run for my car to enjoy my own Christmas Eve. I now found myself at a loss for time, not worried about MY plans and what I was late for. As I rushed to make it to Christmas Eve service I thought about how I was called to stay late that night, and how much that resident needed me for those 20 minutes. It’s moments like that which define what we do at Presbyterian SeniorCare Network and I am blessed to share my story.”

Carrie has been working at the Oil City campus for over three years as the Director of Lifestyle Engagement. She has found that one of her favorite parts of her work is building connections with the residents at Oakwood Heights.

She says, “I got very close to a resident on our Gardens neighborhood who was withdrawn and spent most of her days reading in her room or sitting in the corner of the lounge doing a puzzle. I’m not sure how, or why, but I started sitting with her every day. Sometimes it was five minutes, sometimes thirty. If a day went by that I didn’t stop over she would send a team member to check on me and make sure that I was okay. She even said to me one day, “I don’t know how we became friends, but we are.” She passed away about 8 months after we became friends. The pastor who did her service spoke about her love of puzzles and made the statement, “It’s not about the puzzles, it’s about the people.” I couldn’t agree more.”

Carrie said that she enjoys making sure that each residents feels special and appreciated by the team members at Oakwood Heights.

Like Carrie, 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.

Ready, Set, Go – Starting an Exercise Routine Now May Extend Your Lifespan

September 12, 2019

Whether you’ve done it for years or are just getting started, a new study suggests that maintaining the recommended physical activity level may extend your lifespan.

We all know that getting a good workout in regularly is beneficial to your overall health. However, a recent study from The BMJ has concluded that it’s not too late for those who haven’t yet prescribed to the recommended two to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise.

The population-based study took a look at over 14,000 middle-aged and older people’s baseline physical activity. Then, over the course of approximately 12.5 years, it compared those who maintained, increased or decreased their physical activity level with causes of mortality, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

The findings?

“Middle aged and older adults, including those with cardiovascular disease and cancer, stand to gain substantial longevity benefits by becoming more physically active, irrespective of past physical activity levels and established risk factors—including overall diet quality, body mass index, blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Maintaining or increasing physical activity levels from a baseline equivalent to meeting the minimum public health recommendations has the greatest population health impact,” stated research program leader Soren Brage, Ph.D., the University of Cambridge.

At Longwood at Oakmont, our successful living retirement community, we help our residents thrive by offering a variety of wellness options to choose from. We are here to help keep your physical, intellectual, social and spiritual pillars active and growing. We offer many options for different levels of fitness and are always exploring new choices for our residents. To learn more about what Longwood at Oakmont offers, head here.

You can find the rest of The BMJ study and more details on the results here. 

Learning New Things: No Audience Required

September 10, 2019

For writer Elaine Soloway, improving on later-life skills is best done solo
By Elaine Soloway

As the instructor was assembling foam dumbbells for her upcoming water aerobics class, I was grateful her busyness kept her from looking my way.

Because I was wearing goggles instead of my eyeglasses, her image had a soft blur, as if she were a figure in an impressionist painting. But there was no mistaking the steel grey hair, her body as slim and muscled as someone decades younger, and her air of drill sergeant.

“Please don’t watch me,” I sent silently through the moist air of the indoor pool. For I knew if she did, my long-ago YMCA Beginning Swim teacher wouldn’t be able to resist striding over to tell me what I was doing wrong.

As I lowered myself into the pool, I was relieved the instructor had settled into a lounge chair far from my lane. “Surely, she can’t see me here,” I told myself as I took a calming breath and ducked under the water.

My reluctance to be viewed, to perform for others, moves out of water to my bench at the piano keyboard.

Without her eyes on me, I slid slowly through my lane, reminding myself to face the pool’s bottom as if it were a mirror, and pretend I was laying my head on my left arm as my face lifted out to the right. Then, I sent myself a REMEMBER to close your mouth after an intake of air, and once under water, blow out through mouth AND nose.

The Lecture I Hoped to Avoid

This was my inelegant stroke, taught to me by a coach I discovered two years ago who helped me learn to swim at age 78, after my many attempts with other coaches, including the taskmaster lounging nearby. After several lengths, I emerged and quickly wrapped myself in towels, grateful my iWatch had credited me for the 30-minute routine.

As I removed my cap, goggles and fins, I heard: “You’ve got to move your left arm more, Elaine.” It came from a sharp voice on a lounge chair. How had she seen me from that distance?

“Um, I have arthritis in that shoulder,” I said, as apologetic as a student who had once again forgotten homework.

By now, she had risen from her chair and delivered the lecture I had hoped to avoid: How that pained arm would only get worse if I didn’t activate it, how uneven my stroke would be without a powerful left arm, how awkward….

“Oh, okay, sure,” I mumbled as I gathered my gear and waved goodbye.

Expertise Was Never My Zenith

Back home, after playing the film of our morning’s encounter in my head, I realized I loathe anyone watching me when I perform any of my lifetime goals, which are: to swim and breathe on one side, play Rodgers and Hart on the piano and speak Spanish in the first tense.

As long as I can remember, I envied those who could perform that trio of tasks and wondered why they didn’t crow about their achievements — that’s how glorious I thought these talents are.

Of course, those individuals had skills that were much more proficient than the basement level targets I set. But I never aspired to reach their levels. Expertise was never my zenith. Mediocrity would satisfy me, just as much as a slim slice of my favorite pecan pie.

My reluctance to be viewed, to perform for others, moves out of water to the bench at my piano keyboard. I AM playing Rodgers and Hart, but likely quite differently than they envisioned when the lyrics and notes danced through their talented heads. Often, although the sheet music calls for F Major 7, I may decide to have only the A and C link hands. And sometimes, just to see if I can hear a difference, I’ll allow the F to stand alone.

Not as Shy as You Might Think

As for Spanish language, I’ve come up with the ideal way to practice and improve — sans teacher or classmates swiveling their heads to signal errors. Every evening, seated with a glass of wine, a spiral notebook and a pen, and my Apple device open to Google Translate, I record my daily activities in Spanish. Because I tend to do the same things most days, I learn how to write and read vocabulary that applies to me.  Desperté a las 4 am después de un buen sueño.  (“I woke up at 4 a.m. after a good sleep.”) You get the idea.

Based on my seeming embarrassment to be viewed as I splash, tap and roll my R’s, you might tag me as shy. But you’d be wrong. Read my close-to-the- bone writing, or listen to me at an event where I’m a saucy, but comfortable, speaker.

The difference between those scenarios and my undercover endeavors is that my late-in-life trio was hard-won and too precious to risk abandonment if critiqued. I won’t take that chance.

By Elaine Soloway

Elaine Soloway is a PR consultant, writing coach and tech tutor, and the author of Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud and Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss. The Emmy Award-winning television series 'Transparent' was created by Elaine Soloway's daughter Jill and inspired by their family. Follow Elaine on Facebook, Twitter @elainesoloway and Instagram.

Memory Café: Savoring Special Moments

September 6, 2019

Respect for our elders is a canon we all try to be mindful of, but in today’s society, older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias often find themselves isolated from mainstream society as they lose their ability to follow “customary” social rules.

This often results in loneliness. Trips outside the home go from fun shopping trips and visits to a favorite restaurant, to only a trip to the doctor to address their disease. The fun seems to disappear and the individual living with the disease, and their caregiver, do not get enough interactions with others who genuinely understand their journey.

The good news is that there are places created specifically for these older adults and their caregivers to connect with other people who are on the same path. Where? At a Memory Café. These Memory Cafés provide important social interaction in an environment that everyone can enjoy.

Coming Together

In 1997, Dutch psychiatrist Bere Miesen introduced the idea of a place where those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias can intermingle and enjoy life in a warm and safe environment. The concept of Memory Cafés spread throughout Europe and were so well received that they eventually made their way to the U.S. In 2008, nationally renowned Alzheimer’s specialist Dr. Jytte Fogh Lokvig opened the first Alzheimer’s Café in Santa Fe, NM.

What is a Memory Café?

Those affected by memory loss and their care partners gather to talk, share and take a much needed break from the disease in an accepting, casual environment. Cafes are made up of a group of like-minded individuals run by compassionate volunteers and/or those who work in the field of dementia care. As of 2013, more than 85 Cafés are helping people enjoy more special moments together throughout the U.S., and that number continues to grow.

Although these Cafes all share the same fundamental goal of providing a fulfilling, enjoyable experience, no two Memory Cafés are exactly alike. That’s because each Café is a grassroots effort organized, operated and maintained by the people who attend them, giving every Cafe its own personality and flavor!

For instance, Memory Cafés offer a variety of fun, stimulating activities, from singing to crafting. Laughter, camaraderie and relaxation are mainstays, all to provide support for both caregivers and those who are cared for.

While each Café is different, they all serve an important role in our society today. Alzheimer’s diagnoses are multiplying annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In the U.S., there are already more than 5.4 million people living with the disease today. While it can severely affect the individual with the diagnosis, memory loss also touches the lives of their caregivers and all of those who love them.

Find out if there is a Memory Café near you!

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network hosts free monthly Memory Cafes in three locations. These Cafes are designed exclusively for individuals with dementia and their caregivers and feature a casual, supportive environment full of conversation and meaningful connections.

Washington area

  • Where: Eat’n Park, 320 Oak Spring Rd, Washington, PA 15301 (reserved room)
  • When: Held on the 3rd Saturday of each month starting May 20
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • RSVP not required – just pop on in! Coffee and cookies provided.

Oakmont area

  • Where: Somma Pizza, 380 Route 909, Verona, PA 15147 (private area)
  • When: Held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month starting June 14
  • Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • RSVP not required – just pop on in! Snacks provided.

Erie area

  • Where: Lincoln Community Center Library, 1255 Manchester Road, Erie, PA 16505
  • When: Held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month (hosted in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Association)  
  • Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • RSVP not required – just pop on in! Snacks provided

For more information, visit www.SrCare.org/cafe.

 

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