Senior Sense


Once your loved one has received a terminal diagnosis, it is imperative that you talk to that person about his or her final wishes, finances, and most importantly, end-of-life care.  This should be done soon after the doctor’s diagnosis but give the patient time to think about what his or her thoughts are and the implications of the diagnosis.  The discussion should occur in a pleasant setting with perhaps one or two family members present.  You could do it after dinner or while enjoying a pleasant summer evening outdoors watching the sunset.  You could start the conversation by asking your family member if he or she has thought any more about the diagnosis and what their wishes are.
Some things to talk about are assuring them of how much you love them and will be there for them, arranging for transportation needs, in other words, giving up the car in a tactful way, disposing of assets and memorabilia, his or her desire of care to be given, and who he or she wishes to handle final matters including funeral arrangements.  Please be aware, this is a lot to discuss, especially for someone who is ill and trying to handle the emotional trauma of failing health.  It would probably be best to have several short discussions which are not as overwhelming.  You might want to reassure this person that you want the best for him or her and that they can talk to you about these things whenever they feel up to it.  One thing not to do is have a heated discussion telling Mom or Dad what they should do.  Remember, this is their life and their assets.  They should be allowed to make their […]


Much has been written about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Wikipedia sites a definition of dementia as a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning… A dementia diagnosis requires a change from a person’s usual mental functioning and a greater decline than one would expect due to aging.  Their source for this information is “Dementia Fact Sheet No. 362.  “” April 2012.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.  However, there are many causes including but not limited to Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.  Some causes of dementia including vitamin B-12 deficiency, hypothyroidism and Lyme disease are reversible, however there is no cure for most types of dementia. Ibid; Solomon, Andrew E. Budson, Paul R. (2011) “Memory Loss: a practical guide for clinicians”. (Edinburgh) ISBN 9781416035978. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, language, depression, wandering, losing one’s attention span and difficulty with problem solving.

Stages of dementia include mild cognitive impairment in which symptoms are just beginning to show, and early stages where symptoms are beginning to interfere with daily activities because of forgetfulness and difficulty with finding words, getting lost and problems with organizational skills.  Middle stage dementia includes worsening of the above symptoms to the point where the patient  requires assistance for personal care including hygiene.  Middle stage dementia patients should not be left alone.  Late stage dementia patients need assistance with all of their personal care.  They usually need 24-hour supervision to ensure their safety and that their basic needs are met.  Changes in eating occur and they usually need a pureed […]


Planning for our care is difficult because we never know what is in our future.  The best laid plans often fail because our jobs change thru no fault of our own, families are forced to move out of the area, often across country to find new employment, or a family member develops a life-changing health problem which can put the entire family in a state of financial chaos. However, early financial planning can ease the burden of such traumatic incidents.
The first principle of financial planning should be to learn to save a small amount of money each pay period.  As we age, we suddenly realize that we will not be able to work much longer at the income level we currently have.  Beside having to downsize our living arrangements, we eventually face having to pay for the cost of help for the things we can no longer do for ourselves.  This can become very expensive and occurs at the time our finances are rapidly depleting.  There are several steps to take to alleviate this situation.  First, as we mentioned before, develop a budget whereby you force yourself to save.  The best way is to set aside a small of moneyfin each pay period for saving.  If you receive a money gift, don’t spend it all.  Save a given amount.  Second, consider insurance.  During your working years, invest in a life insurance policy.  Talk to your insurance advisor or financial planner who can advise you of the best plan for you.  Rates are usually lower if you purchase the plan at a younger age.   Next, consider the health insurance plan which is best for you.  Health insurance is expensive but not having the right coverage […]


March 4, 2010 at approximately 6:30 a.m., I fell and broke my ankle.  I had just gotten up and dressed, then let the dogs out to do their morning thing.  They were behind the garage where I couldn’t see them and barking.  Not wanting to wake the neighbors, I called to them, but the barking continued.  I opened the back door with the intent of running to the back yard to chase them into the house when I missed the step and went down.  As I landed, I felt something let go in my ankle, then horrible pain.  I knew I had done damage.  I managed to drag myself into the house, pull myself up into the chair by my desk and call my step-daughter and son-in-law who live next door to announce that I think I had just broken my ankle.

 Fortunately, Ron and Alice were very level headed and almost immediately I heard pounding on our front door.  Then Alice ran up the driveway, thru the gate and into the back door.  I looked up to see her standing there with a huge towel which she wrapped around my ankle and up my leg for a temporary splint.  Somehow, they managed to get my husband and me into the car and we were off to Urgent Care.  Approximately 1 ½ hours later, I was in an exam room, had x-rays, and the doctor confirmed my ankle was fractured and that I should see an orthopedic doctor.

A temporary soft cast was put on my leg and I was given a pair of crutches to try.  The nurse who bandaged my leg was not very patient and we were in an exam room so tiny […]


Winter is finally over! Instead of snow (granted, we did not get much this year), winter winds and cold, we are now enjoying sunshine, spring breezes and budding trees. Squirrels and bunnies are scampering across the lawns and the migrating birds have returned. Children and college kids are enjoying Spring Break and men are starting to talk about going fishing. Most of us have enjoyed the celebration of Passover and Easter. The world has reawakened after its winter sleep and you can feel it in the air. Oh, the joys of Spring. ‘Tis the season when a young man’s heart turns to love and we seniors hope we can still walk around the block after spending a sedentary winter indoors.Spring is also the season when we get our lawn mowers in shape for the first lawn cutting, decide if we need to roll the lawn, clean our yards from the accumulation of broken twigs, limbs, leaves and trash, prepare the soil and plant our gardens, remove the snow tires, and get our antique cars out of storage. That is all man’s work. As for the women, we turn to spring house cleaning. Closets are rearranged to bring out the summer clothes and pack away the winter coats and clothes, windows are washed, carpets are scrubbed, furniture is polished and walls are washed. It is also time for us women to remind the men which rooms need to be painted and what other fix-it chores need to be done. On the plus side, we can start to bring out our lawn furniture and entertain outdoors. Also, don’t forget to get the barbecue ready and prepare for that first grilled chicken and potato salad. Also, if […]


 As we get older we need to start thinking about how we should prepare for our care in the event we no longer can care for ourselves.  We also need to be prepared to manage the care of a family member who is no longer able to make decisions regarding his or her own care.  The following are some options depending on the level of care needed.  Definitions are obtained from the website About Com. Senior Housing-Glossary of Common Senior Housing Terms.

 Retirement Homes or villages, otherwise called independent living, are designed for active seniors who want to live around people of similar age and interest.  Each person or couple has their own apartment or house, often with a patio and/or small yard.  These are similar to condominiums in that you pay a monthly fee which may cover such items as lawn care, swimming pools, possibly a golf course, meeting or activity rooms, dining rooms and meals and other features.  Residents are free to come and go as they please and entertain within their own units.  Very often the project will offer bus trips to various areas of interest for the residents.  Usually the residents are expected to be able to function with little or no assistance. Usually at least one resident in each unit has to meet age qualification such as “over 55”.

 Assisted living provides some care.  Residents should be able to bathe, dress and ambulate (walk) without the assistance of an aide.  Services provided usually include meals, laundry, housekeeping, medication reminders and taking blood pressure and pulse readings

 Skilled nursing (commonly called a nursing home), is 24hour nursing care with room and board and activities for patients with chronic or long term illnesses.  Regular […]


Anyone who has ever owned a home knows there comes a time, or several times, when work is required on our home.  When this writer was much younger and had a more affluent lifestyle, the practice was to make a different improvement each year-the roof one year, the furnace another and so on.  However, as one gets older and faces retirement income, the realization sets in that these major improvements are difficult, at best, to face.  We now have to set priorities as to what work will be done and when.


The first thing to do is make a list of work that must be done in order to keep the house safe and cost effective.  A knowledgeable and experienced general contractor should be able to help you with this.  Also, your local gas and electric vendors usually provide free efficiency checks.  After consulting with the contractor and vendors, decide on the most necessary projects as well as the means to pay for it.  Remember that many projects run over budget because contractors often estimate a project, then, as they start work, find construction flaws in the building that will cause additional corrective work to be done.  Also, many states have laws governing when contractors can expect payment, however, most laws require that the contractor be able to collect payment on a regular basis in order to provide money for materials and payroll.  Therefore, one needs to make sure enough cash is available before starting the project.  It is probably best to talk to your bank about providing some type of lending as a financial cushion.


Once financial arrangements are made, start considering the projects.  Depending on the age and condition of the roof this might […]


Laughter is perhaps the best medicine.  Do you remember watching the late Victor Borge on television?  How about Liberace, Carol Burnett, Lucy or any of the great comedians?   As the cameras panned out over the live audiences, you would see people wiping tears from their eyes because of laughter.  Studies have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. [I]

Elizabeth Scott, MS is a stress management consultant who has written many articles.  She states that laughter has many health benefits.  It relieves stress.  Researchers at Loma Linda University studied the cortisol, epinephrine and dopac levels of volunteers before, during and after a humorous event they were anticipating.  They found that all levels of these stress hormones were reduced substantially by just anticipating the event.  Dr. Lee Berk, lead researcher for the team stated, “our findings lead us to believe that by seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh we can do a lot with our physiology to stay well”.  Ms. Scott continues by saying that laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, and other negative emotions.  Laughter also has social benefits in that it is contagious and connects us with others.[ii]

Laughter exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and works out the shoulders.   It even produces a good workout for the heart.  It brings the focus away from anger and negative emotions.  Laughter connects us with others. If you find more humor in your life, you can help others laugh more and realize these benefits

Laughter even was mentioned in numerous places in the Bible.  King David spoke of laughter in Ps. 126:2,3 when he wrote: Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: […]

Senior Falls

The Centers For Disease Control reports that each year one out of three persons over the age of 65 fall.  Less than half tell their doctor.  Statistics on falls include: one out of five falls causes a serious injury, over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, each year, 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures, and adjusted for inflation, medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually. [i]


As seniors age, they may have difficulty walking or lose their sense of balance.  They may have dizzy spells.  Vision problems are a cause of falling.  And of course, there are home and other hazards.


Some suggestions to prevent falls are:


Have eyes checked annually, more often if you notice vision problems;
Do strength and balance exercises.  Many senior centers offer Tai Chai classes;
If having balance issues, use a cane or walker;
Put railings on both sides of stairs, indoors and outdoors.  You may want to look into installing a ramp outdoors instead of stairs;
Make sure all railings are sturdy;
Add grab bars in tub and shower and next to toilet.  Substitute grab bars for towel racks;
Install railings in long hallways and other areas where there is nothing to grab onto;
Make sure the home has lots of light and light switches in heavily trafficked areas.  Falls often are caused by tripping over something in the dark;
Train pets not to walk in front of or brush against a person walking, also not to jump on a senior when standing or bending;
Remove all “trip hazards”, i.e., electric cords strung across a walk area, paper clips, rubber bands, papers, TV remotes, dishes and beverage holders, canes lying on the floor, or any other items the senior might not […]

Don’t Be Scammed

I almost was but I was smarter than they were.  I heard about their tricks and knew what to do.

A few mornings ago, my phone rang.  I answered the call and heard an urgent female voice telling me that I.R.S. was about to seize my money and there were things I needed to do right away.  Her voice was so urgent it was scary.  No one wants to be in that predicament and I am sure most people fear any mention of I.R.S.  The purpose of this call is for you to listen to instructions to contact the caller and reveal certain financial information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers or other personal information, thus enabling them to withdraw money from your bank account or to charge against your bank credit accounts.  They prey on seniors knowing that many of us are afraid to admit to anyone that this has happened to them.   Their usual method of operation is to tell you the cost of protecting you is several thousand dollars.  You think, “oh know, I don’t have that kind of money” or the amount they are demanding is so large that it will seriously affect your life savings and that which you hope to leave to your children. Then they will tell you that because you are a senior and they realize you don’t have much money, they can reduce the fees to a specified amount.  You quickly agree to their terms.  The next thing you know, your bank account has been debited to at best, the fee agreed to and at worse, completely cleaned out.  You also find out the claim about I.R.S. was untrue, there was no threat of […]