Rate a CCRC.com is live!

My new website, Rate a CCRC.com is now up!  I’ve got a few initial ratings, and I’ll be adding more over the coming months!  Check it out, and let me know what you think!

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Free, unbiased, continuing care retirement community ratings.

We are an independent, objective rating site for continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). We use public data to compile a picture of a retirement community’s policies and finances. We’re providing basic ratings for consumers and their advisors.

What are some easy things that seniors can do on their own to improve their home’s safety?

This post is part of a series of Q&A’s with AccessibleConstruction.comIf you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

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There are quite a few things seniors can do on their own to make their home safer, often costing little or no money:

  • One of first areas to examine is walkways. This includes the area at the front door of the home, the hallways inside, stairways, and general walking areas in all of the rooms. Make sure there is a clear path in all of these areas being careful to look for things that might cause somebody to trip and fall. Tack down loose carpets or rugs, (we often use double-sided carpet tape). remove cords, and general clutter that may impede safe movement around the home. Remove tables or objects in the path of travel that have pointed corners or sharp edges.
  • Proper lighting is a must, as many seniors can’t see as well as when they were younger. Sometimes it’s necessary to use brighter light bulbs to increase lighting, or adding new lights in dark areas. Nightlights should be used in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Non-slip Shower Strips are very affordable and easy to install in the bathtub, or shower floors, and help prevent slipping while in the shower or bathtub.
  • Furniture Risers lift chairs, sofas, or beds up a few inches to make it easier to stand up and sit down and they can be installed easily without incurring a big cost.
  • Store frequently used items in the kitchen and other rooms lower down to prevent reaching and straining.
  • A shower chair with a high back is recommended in the shower as a safety measure. It allows the person to sit down if they have balance issues or feel light-headed, instead of standing in the shower.
  • Keep a telephone in the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in case of a fall or other emergency. An emergency call service (such a Life Alert) is always a good thing to consider.
  • A Bedrail/Cane combo is easy to install and not only keeps seniors from falling out of bed in the middle of the night but the cane portion of the rail also assists them in getting into and out of bed.

Accessible Design & Consulting is California’s leading Barrier-Free Specialist; they provide residential and commercial barrier-free designs and accessories for seniors and people with disabilities. Contact Accessible for more information about your next renovation: (866) 902-9800 (Toll Free) or (310) 215-3332 (Local).

Talking to Your Aging Loved Ones About Finances

Note: This post originally appeared at AlexisAbramson.com. If you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, PhD

Dr. Alexis

If you act too interested in your parents’ finances, they may get uneasy.  But it’s never too early to find out what you can – particularly if you expect to have to support one or both of your parents in the future.  The best time to start talking finances is when your parents still appear to be managing their money properly.  Bring up the subject by telling them that you need some key financial information – such as income, assets, expenses and the location of financial papers and their safe deposit box – so that you can help them if they ever need you to do so.  Also, be sure that you’re a co-signer on their accounts so that you can access their safe deposit box or write checks at a later date, if necessary.

If your parents fight you, ask them to reconsider giving you the information, especially if they appear to be having financial troubles.  If they still don’t budge, ask again at a later date – when both you and your parents are relaxed.  Try not get upset or insist that they give you the information.  Just let them know you’re available to help when and if they need you.

As my friend Christine’s parents reached their mid-seventies, she asked several times about their finances – with little luck.  “They said they could manage their own money, thank you, and would let me know if they needed my help,” she told me.

About five years later, when Christine’s mother ran up a $5,000 tab with a cable shopping channel and her parents’ electricity was turned off because her father had repeatedly forgotten to pay the electric bill, Christine’s father called her.  She was able to get their electric service restored, return many of her mother’s TV purchases and get their finances back on track.  She also worked with them to develop a budget they could stick with and then helped them twice a month with their bills.

Some older people, like Christine’s parents, will seek financial help when they need it; others may keep financial troubles to themselves, either out of embarrassment or hesitation to give up control of their money.  If your parents’ medical bills start to mount, if creditors call, or if their house is filled with frivolous purchases while their bills remain unpaid, you’ll need to intervene – whether they ask you to or not.  At that point, your parents may be secretly relieved that you have taken charge.  In fact, you may face more opposition from siblings or other family members – who believe they should be the ones handling your aging loved ones finances – than from your parents themselves.

To conduct business on your parents’ behalf, you’ll need to see a lawyer and draw up a durable power of attorney.  Be sure to consult with your siblings first, as this will avoid conflict later.  If they protest, you might want to seek family counseling or hire a professional financial advisor to help with big financial decisions.  Either way, consulting a financial advisor can help you find ways to make the most of what money your parents have.

If you do speak with your parents about hiring a financial advisor, be comforting.  Tell them you’ve hired a professional who can help them pay off their bills, stop creditors from calling and see that they’ll have as much money as possible to pay for their care.  Just as important, let them know that you won’t control all of the money – just what is needed for major purchases and essential living expenses, both now and in the future.  Assure them that they will still have some money to do with as they wish.

If they are still active give them ample spending money or speak to your credit card company about getting them a companion card on your account with a low limit.  That way, your parents can make small purchases without the danger of losing cash or charging big-ticket items they neither want nor need.  With a companion card on your account, the bill comes directly to you so that you can pay it yourself and monitor purchases, if necessary.  Because managing one’s own money is equated with independence and security in our society, having control over at least some of their money is clearly going to be important to your parents.

ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two
highly acclaimed books – The Caregivers 
Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors.  For more information go to www.alexisabramson.com.

Vaccination questions, alternative medicine, Alzheimer’s and Boomers aren’t healthy

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Your vaccine questions answered.

If you’re using alternative medicine, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.

We could soon have an Alzheimer’s epidemic on our hands.

Baby Boomers aren’t very healthy (they’re heavier and less active than the prior generation).

Syringe” © 2008 Andres Rueda, Attribution 3.0 Generic http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Aging in Place: Friend or Foe?

In case you missed it the first time, here’s an overview of “aging in place,” a popular offering at retirement communities:

The term “aging in place” became popular several years ago to describe a particular type of senior housing whereby residents were allowed to remain in their independent living apartments, even though they required higher levels of care.

The main benefit of aging in place is that you don’t have to move if you become sick. Your bedroom remains your bedroom. You don’t have to worry about moving to a smaller assisted living apartment. It is a huge benefit for seniors that might need to make several moves during the last years of their lives. Once they move into the community, their apartment becomes their home.

The main disadvantage of aging in place is that communities have trouble marketing units that turned over (in other words, the units vacated due to resident death). Aging in place is an attractive marketing technique for younger communities that attract younger residents, but it is very difficult for a community that has been open for several years to resell units to younger residents.

Imagine this: You go into a CCRC, and during the tour, you notice health care workers coming in and out of the rooms. In the hallway are seniors that would normally be in a nursing home. They are all sitting in wheelchairs, and most of them are asleep. Would you want to move in here?

When the independent living residents are mixed with the assisted living residents, it makes it hard for the community to sell units to younger seniors. If the community is known as being an aging in place community, then it is probably fine. Most Holiday Retirement Communities, Sunrise, Belmont, and Atria communities (which are not usually CCRC’s) are marketed for independent living and assisted living needs and allow residents to remain in their apartments as long as their needs do not become too acute.

But, if you are considering a CCRC that markets aging in place, make sure the community has some policies that help attract younger residents to fill vacated units. Otherwise, you run the risk that your estate might have a long delay in receiving the refund portion of your entrance fee (while the community tries to resell your unit).

In summary, there is no problem with aging in place. It is a fine idea, and it creates a lot of security for seniors that are worried about being bused from place to place as their needs progress. However, the policy can be detrimental to CCRC’s that are trying to maintain a young, vibrant resident population.

What makes a home dangerous for seniors?

This post is part of a series of Q&A’s with AccessibleConstruction.comIf you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

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Many times it’s a combination of the physical and mental abilities of the person, coupled with the layout and design of the home or rooms in the house that can make a home dangerous for a senior.

Younger people in good physical shape have no problem going up and down stairs or getting in and out of the shower safely. Seniors have diminished eyesight, balance, and stepping abilities, which can make stairways difficult to use, and slippery bathroom floors problematic. Getting out of bed can be difficult for seniors with limited mobility and tripping over loose area rugs is another concern.

Most accidents in the home happen in the bathroom followed by kitchens, stairs and hallways. Even one or two steps leading into the home from the outside can pose a serious challenge if balance, eyesight, and mobility are impaired. While there are many areas in the home to consider, bathrooms, stairs, kitchens and hallways are usually considered the most dangerous areas of a home.

Accessible Design & Consulting is California’s leading Barrier-Free Specialist; they provide residential and commercial barrier-free designs and accessories for seniors and people with disabilities. Contact Accessible for more information about your next renovation: (866) 902-9800 (Toll Free) or (310) 215-3332 (Local).

Aging-in-place ideas for your bedroom

Note: This post originally appeared at AccessibleConstruction.com. If you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

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When remodeling a home for aging challenges, the bathroom is an obvious first place to start, followed by the kitchen. These rooms are extremely important because most of the accidents in the home happen there.  Yet, bedrooms also pose a challenge for aging residents.  Here are several ways to make bedroom safer for occupants:

Add a touch light next to the bed. When getting up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night to get out of bed, chances are good the lights are off and its difficult to see. Keep a touch light next to the bed that is easy to reach and find in the dark.

Create a pathway. Speaking of walking in the dark, always have a clear pathway for walking around the bedroom. It’s easy to see area rugs and carpets during the day but at night they’re a tripping accident waiting to happen. Keep them out of the bedroom if at all possible.

Rest before standing.  Even for people with few mobility issues, getting out of bed from a sleep or rest can cause blood pressure spikes or dips and can be accompanied by dizziness. Always take a moment to sit up for a minute before standing.

Buy the right accessories. There are plenty of ways to make a bedroom barrier-free. If you’re planning to live in your own home for years to come, here are a few products that can help:

  • Bed Cane Bed Rail. There are plenty of products that can be used near the bed to aid in standing or sitting. One of our favorites is a combination Bed Cane Bed Rail. It serves as a bed rail when sleeping to keep from falling out of bed. It also swivels out to act as a bed cane to help with standing.
  • Designer Hospital Bed Rails. Designer Hospital Bed Rails serve the same purpose – to keep you in bed. People get used to staying in bed when they have a hospital visit and the beds are all equipped with bed rails. Most people don’t think about it but you can have the same protection at home.
  • Designer Hi-Low Hospital Bed. On the subject of hospital beds, we’ve been offering Designer Hi-Low Hospital Bed to our customers for years. They function just the same as what you use in an actual hospital but the quality is top notch. There’s a reason hospitals use this type of bed and it will serve you well at home too.
  • Bed Caddie Bed Pull-up Strap.  If you don’t have a hospital bed or lifting mechanism but have trouble sitting up, the Bed Caddie Bed Pull-up Strap aids in sitting up in bed or even simply rolling over. Some even use it for light exercise. It’s very inexpensive, easy to install, and provides something to grab when trying to sit up in bed.
  • Super Pole – Floor to Ceiling Support Pole. The Super Pole can actually be used in any room in the home but we see it used in the bedroom more than any other room. It works great for getting in and out of bed but can be outfitted with a bedside tray or trapeze bar for added functionality. It won the Supplier’s Choice Award at Medtrade in Atlanta in 1996 and 1997.
  • Bedroom Overhead Ceiling Lift. For those who need quite a bit of help getting out of bed, a Bedroom Overhead Ceiling Lift is a lifting mechanism that supports an entire person. While some use it to aid themselves, it can be used by a caregiver for moving a person in and out of bed completely. We’ve done installations that can lift a person out of bed and move them to a bathroom for bathing and then back to bed again. The entire system runs on an overhead ceiling track.
  • Pull Down Closet Rack. Do you have trouble reaching clothes in the bedroom closet? A Pull Down Closet Rack brings the clothes down to your level for easy reach. When finished just move the clothes back up to their original position. This can be used for a closet in any room and is popular with people confined to wheelchairs.
  • Offset Door Hinges. This is an item that can be installed on any doorway in the home to widen it an extra two inches just by changing door hinges. Widening every doorway probably isn’t necessary but if a wheelchair or scooter is needed to move in and out of the bedroom, you will probably need to widen the doorway. It’s usually easy to see by checking the door or doorway for scrapes where the wheels or handrests fit through. Offset Door Hinges are a cheap and easy alternative to tearing out the doorway.

There are so many products available to making a bedroom safer and more accessible. These are some of our favorites and many can be installed without expert help. Take a look around at your own bedroom or the bedroom of your parents to see where things could be improved.

Accessible Design & Consulting is California’s leading Barrier-Free Specialist; they provide legant residential and commercial barrier-free designs and accessories for seniors and people with disabilities. Contact Accessible for more information about your next renovation: (866) 902-9800 (Toll Free) or (310) 215-3332 (Local).

Coughs & doctors, mild depression, helping friends with Alzheimer’s, and joining a Village retirement community

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Signs that you might need to visit a doctor about your cough.

Should mild depression be treated as a medical condition?

The New Old Age blog discusses how some old friends helped to include a friend who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

How do you get the best of senior housing without having to leave your home?  Join a Village.

Day 59, Project 365 – 12.18.09” © 2009 William Brawley, Attribution 3.0 Generic http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All AVAILABLE IN PRINT

If you’re still holding out on your Kindle purchase, have no fear.  The book is now available in print.  (Check it out on Amazon.com!)

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Continuing care retirement communities (called “CCRCs” by industry insiders) are retirement communities that offer multiple living options (independent living, assisted living, and nursing). In exchange for an entrance fee and ongoing monthly fees, CCRC’s agree to care for residents for the rest of their lives.

Written by a former senior housing consultant, “Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All” is a sweeping overview of the popular senior housing product. The book shows you:

• What services are offered for seniors
• How to find communities in your area
• What to look for during your visit
• How to read the contracts and disclosure statements
• Why some communities go bankrupt
• Some warning signs for potential residents of CCRC’s

You deserve the best coach when searching for the community of your dreams! “Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All” shows you the good and the bad in the industry and offers advice on how to make the most of your move into senior housing.

Hearing checks, PTSD in caregivers, blended families, and bills of rights for CCRC residents

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Another reason to go get your hearing checked!

Do caregivers get PTSD?

Blended families (step-fathers and step-mothers) have a hard time making caregiving work.

Massachusetts has a bill out now to ensure rights for CCRC residents.

A communal hearing aid at the Hotel Parsifal, Ravello” © 2012 Ninian Reed, Attribution 3.0 Generic http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/