Posted on | February 25, 2014
I think there’s a common tendency to write off people with dementia, to assume that they are on a downward spiral without any chance for improvement. I know from experience that this simply is not true. A mentally, physically, and socially engaging lifestyle works wonders for someone with memory impairment. In fact, such a lifestyle is critical to slowing the progression of the disease and helping someone maintain their independence and cognitive functioning for longer.
In particular, I’ve found singing to be an effective approach to helping individuals with memory impairment. At the memory care community I work at, Bridges by EPOCH at Westford, we frequently host live performances with local musicians. These performers do an excellent job engaging our residents, especially those who play hits and classics from our residents’ youth.
Someone who struggles to remember their grand kids’ names, perhaps to even remember their grand kids at all, can recall the lyrics of an old favorite and sing along. It’s touching to see the way song kick starts their memories, and to see their faces light up with joy.
While listening to music is certainly helping for stimulating the brain, it’s singing that really boosts cognitive function. Researchers have found this time to be true time and again, by testing dementia patients’ cognitive performance before and after group singing sessions. One study, presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego last November, found this to be true even for people with moderate to severe dementia.
Even after many memories have faded or grown increasingly difficult to recall, individuals with dementia are often still able to remember the words to their favorite songs. This makes singing one of the best ways to engage and stimulate people with memory impairment. I recommend daily music therapy – whether singing along to a recording or live performer, or even creating some music of their own – for anyone suffering from memory impairment, no matter what stage they’re at.
About the Author
Jennifer Connolly is the Life Enrichment Director of Bridges by EPOCH at Westford a memory care assisted living community in Westford, MA. She has more than 20 years’ experience in senior living and memory care. Jennifer has helped build extensive activity programs at Bridges and other communities, with the goals of enriching the lives of people with dementia and delaying the progression of memory impairment. For more information about senior living at EPOCH at Westford pl call 978-692-9541
Posted on | February 25, 2014
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of a long term care is a nursing home. Long term care and nursing home is usually associated. However, the aging seniors are usually adamant talking about moving to a nursing home. Leaving our own home for another place is not a pleasant thought. Yet, a nursing home is not the only place for an aging senior who need a long term care. There are several options besides nursing home placement. But before making any move, you need to gather enough information to come up to a right decision.
The following will discuss some of nursing home alternatives:
- Home and Community Services. You can choose to stay at home and connect with variety of community services for assistance. In the community, there are some volunteer groups who are actively involved in helping seniors. You can check the community services near you and see how much assistance they offer. Services like laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning are often the senior’s needs. Also, you may be able to get assistance from your family members, friends, or church members. Some services may be available with a certain cost, and it is worth checking it. Check to see if your community has Adult Day Care, Meal Programs, Senior Centers and other related services. This option is for seniors who only need assistance but has no complicated medical needs.
- Home Care. Rather than moving to a nursing home, you can choose hiring a health care provider at home. A health aid or a caregiver can assist you at home. They are trained to give health care and as well as assistance to activities of daily living (ADLs). Seniors with chronic illness and expected to worsen anytime may need health professionals. Then, this option may not be the best.
- ADU Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This is a good option for seniors who want to be independent but want to be near to a family home. If you have a family home, or a relative with a single unit home, you can ask to add an ADU or sometimes called accessory apartment or a “second unit”. ADU is designed to have a separate living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom for a senior to live independently. But you still have to check your local zoning if it is allowed in your area. This will allow the senior to live by himself with the assistance of the family members.
- Government Subsidized Senior Housing. For seniors who have low and moderate income, a government subsidized senior housing is an option. It is a federal and state program that helps seniors like them. It is usually an apartment complex whom the residents pay the rent in a minimal amount. Rent payments are usually a percentage of their income. Services like meals, housekeeping, shopping, and laundry are also available to those who cannot manage. You can check local housing authority or local agency on aging for inquiries.
- Board and Care Homes. A living arrangement called board and care homes are also available to seniors who cannot live independently. Board and care homes or group homes provide services like bathing, toileting, grooming and other activities of daily living. Like subsidized senior housing, the monthly charge of board and care homes is also a percentage of your income. It will cover the costs of rent, meals and other services.
- Assisted Living. Assisted living is another alternative for a nursing home. It is best for seniors who need close monitoring and supervision from skilled staff yet want to maintain their independent life. Assistance on ADLs, meals, laundry and scheduled shopping are provided. They also provide social and recreational programs for the residents. Cost on assisted living varies depending on the level of care you need, choice of apartment and its location. You can check your local assisted living facilities for more information.
- Continuing Care Communities. It is a retirement communities that offer several services for seniors. They usually have their own nursing home or they are affiliated to a nursing home within the community. It consists of individual homes, apartments, or high rises or private cottages for residents. These communities typically offer a lifetime residence and wide range of services. It requires a large amount of down payment then a monthly charges. You can contact your state office for aging for your inquiries.
The alternatives discussed above are for you to make the right choice. In making decision, your budget, the level of care you need, your present and future needs and personal preference should be considered. You can tour to this places then ask questions, read contracts and observe the place and residents to come up with a right choice.
Posted on | February 12, 2014
Recently, Stanford and Aging 2.0 announced the finalists for the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge – a contest to create products that help people with memory impairment maintain independence. It came as little surprise that two of the finalists designed products that address nutrition challenges. Dementia and eating problems often go hand in hand. Overcoming barriers to eating is essential to optimizing good nutrition for someone with dementia.
One product, Taste+, designed by Huabin Kok from Singapore National University, is a spoon designed to make food taste better. With the simple push of a button, you’d be able to enhance the flavors on your spoon.
Many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia experience a diminished sense of smell and taste, compromising their ability to enjoy a meal. Someone with memory impairment will be less inclined to eat their food if it doesn’t smell or taste as good as it once did, which could lead to malnutrition. Until such a spoon is available, you can try using more herbs and spices in foods to enhance smells and flavors, but try to avoid adding salt. Damage to specific parts of the brain or a change in taste perception may mean some people now enjoy tastes they never did, or dislike foods they always liked, so don’t be afraid to try new foods.
Another winning design, Eatwell, created by Sha Yao from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, is a seven-piece tableware set that helps people with dementia maintain dignity while they eat. Anti-slip bowls makes it easier to get food on spoons, and cups with rubber mats and extended handles reduce the likelihood of spilling or dropping the cup.
If someone with dementia is presented with a barrier to eating – whether they struggle to get food on a fork or spoon or can’t clearly distinguish a white plate from a white tablecloth – he or she is more likely to push their meal away than ask for help. If you’re a caregiver of someone with dementia, helping to reduce such barriers will help ensure the person receives the nutrition they need. Try making more colorful foods and serving them on different color plates and tablecloths to create more visual contrast.
It’s also common for someone with early stage memory impairment to simply forget to eat or forget how to prepare proper meals. You can help by reminding them when to eat, scheduling regular meal times, and assisting them with food preparation.
As you’re preparing food, know that a full plate of food can be distracting and overwhelming, so place just one type of food at a time on the plate and cut food into bite-sized portions. Additionally, six small meals a day may be more manageable than three.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, poor nutrition can aggravate confusion and lead to physical weakness, as well as other health concerns, so it’s important to help someone with dementia overcome obstacles to proper nutrition.
About the Author:
Michelle Cormier, LPN, is the Wellness Director of Bridges by EPOCH at Westford, a memory care assisted living community in Westford, MA. She has 10+ years’ experience in health and elder care, with a focus on working with people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. Michelle also works with families to educate and support their needs when caring for a loved with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Posted on | November 26, 2013
Medicare Facts That You Should Know if You Are a Medicare Participant
For people who are 65 years or older, or younger people with disabilities, or people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), Medicare plays a vital role in their lives. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for these kind of people. Without health insurance, their lives will be difficult and personal finances will slowly disappear. Thus, if you are a person who is looking forward for the Medicare’s benefits now or in the future, you need to learn some facts about Medicare. These facts will guide you, so you can get the most of its benefits and services. Here are some ideas:
- In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office gave approximate 15% share of the federal budget to Medicare to provide health insurance to elderly and disabled Americans across all income levels.
- In 2010 statistics, 50% of Medicare beneficiaries had low incomes that is below 22,000 dollars. Income that includes Social security, pension, earnings and other sources.
- Medicare does not cover the cost of a nursing home or other long-term care services and supports. Medicare provides coverage for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility following an inpatient hospital stay. It also provides home health services in some circumstances.
- Statistics show that generally there are 9 out of 10 medical beneficiaries suffer with one or more chronic conditions. In 2008, forty five percents (45%) of Medicare beneficiaries have three or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or osteoporosis. The most common chronic diseases are hypertension and arthritis which affects 61 % to 64% of the Medicare beneficiaries.
- Medicare program does not place an annual limit on out-of-pocket spending for inpatient hospital, physician visits, and other medical services covered under Medicare Parts A and B. However, starting 2011, Medicare put a limit on Part D prescription drug plans. The most out-of pocket expenses should not exceed to $6,700 per year. It will include spending for deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for outpatient and hospital-related services (Medicare Parts A and B)
- Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to pay the same premium regardless of their income. In 2012, Medicare charges most beneficiaries the same Part B premium for physician and outpatient services – about $100 per month. However, higher-income beneficiaries with annual incomes over $85,000 and couples with annual income over $170,000 are required to pay higher. In 2012, they were required to pay between $140 to $320 per month depending on their income. For low income beneficiaries, they can apply for Medicaid eligibility.
- Medicare spending is expected to grow slower from 2010 to 2019 compared to private health insurance companies, per beneficiary. This low growth rate is because of the 2010 health reform law. It includes reductions in annual payment updates to hospitals and other health care providers and reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans.
- In 2011, 25% of Medicare population has a Medicare Advantage plan. Advantage plans is the Medicare Part D premium. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) are the plan types under the Advantage plan. It is reported to have nearly 12 million of the 49 million people under Medicare Advantage plan.
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- The new health reform law is looking forward to close the “doughnut hole” as they describe it. The doughnut hole is referring to the prescription drug or Medicare Part D that usually keep the seniors from buying it so they will not exceed to a certain amount. If you hit the doughnut hole in 2011, you’ll receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs. Since 2010, the new health care law has started to close the gap and will gradually decrease by 2020 up to 25 percent. The same share they pay on average prior to reaching the gap.