Picking the right skilled-nursing facility

Picking the right skilled-nursing facility

An individual typically takes one of two paths to a skilled nursing facility: straight from the hospital or from home when they become too frail or sick to care for themselves.

In the first case, when the stay is for temporary doctor-ordered rehabilitation, the patient rarely has a say about which facility they’re transferred to. Instead, the decision is based upon bed availability, which facilities have connections to the hospital and the patient’s insurance plan.

In the second case, patients, most often seniors, do have a choice—if they do their planning and research.

Begin by figuring out which skilled-nursing facilities are covered by your Medicare plan. My parents, for example, have a Medicare HMO plan. With most HMO plans, you can go only to doctors, healthcare providers or hospitals on the plan’s list, except in an emergency.

Since my father will soon be living at a skilled-nursing facility and may need medical care there in the future, it’s important that he’s able to use his Medicare coverage plan to pay for treatment.

Dealing with the most difficult transition

Dealing with the most difficult transition

Next week we begin the heart-wrenching steps to place my father in a skilled-nursing facility in New Hampshire.

Parkinson’s disease has taken its toll on him and on my mother, his caregiver. I am thankful this day was so long in coming— over 20 years from the date of his diagnosis—but still too soon for all of us.

Over the past month my father has lost his ability to assist with his care, especially transfer r ing f rom bed to chair to commode and back. On a good day, or moment, my sister and mother can help him make the short trip. On a bad day, like a few weeks ago, my sister and my mother struggled for an hour to get my father—upon returning from getting his flu shot—out of the car and back into the house, even with the help of a third person.

In the best sense of the word, my mother is a martyr, having sacrificed her own pleasure and well-being for years to ensure my father lives with the greatest level of dignity and enjoyment.

Widows may see benefits in shared housing

Widows may see benefits in shared housing

Today, widowed persons make up fully one-third of the U.S. population age 65 and older. The vast majority of them are women. Women are more likely than men to be widowed for two reasons.

First, women live longer than men. And second, women tend to marry older men, although the gap has been narrowing.

For several decades, the proportion of our senior population living alone has been increasing, especially among those age 85 and older, and more people are living alone now than at any point in the country’s history.

Losing a spouse is one of the most traumatic events that can occur in a person’s life. Oftentimes there is a snowball effect—first the trauma of losing the life partner and then the trauma of living alone.

According to “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century,” authors Drs. Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz cite studies that living alone increases social isolation as well as loneliness and results in reduced happiness, health and longevity.

New rituals for an aging society

New rituals for an aging society

Rituals are as old as humankind, and they transform over time as our culture changes.

Consider the days when girls were considered the property of their fathers. Marriage was less about love than it was a business transaction—the father giving his daughter to another man and the man promising to support her.

We still see remnants of this ritual in today’s traditional wedding ceremonies, with the father of the bride walking his daughter down the aisle to “give her away” to the groom.

Rituals often involve a rite of passage, a marking of an important stage in someone’s life. We have birth rituals like naming ceremonies, wedding rituals like walking the bride down the aisle and death rituals like a wake or a funeral.

Rituals are a way to publicly acknowledge a change in status or a new stage of life.

But what happens when we don’t have rituals for the new normal in our society?

Twitter meme shows changing times

Twitter meme shows changing times

I recently heard about a Twitter meme called #firstsevenjobs. A meme, if you don’t know, is an activity or image spread rapidly by internet users.

The objective with this particular meme is to list your first seven jobs, starting from the first time you received pay from someone other than your parents.

Some of the lists show how far we’ve come as a society. Here is Buzz Aldrin’s list:

“Dishwasher. Camp counselor. Fighter pilot. Astronaut. Commandant. Speaker. Author . . . now Global Space Statesman!”

How the world has changed since Aldrin’s first job in the late 1940s, when man only dreamed of walking on the moon, to today, when we actually have a call for a global space statesman.

Aldrin’s career trajectory was fairly linear — not a lot of weaving but rather rocket-ship-like propulsion to astronaut status and beyond. The career progression of most of us is not that direct.

Senior Concerns’ services have grown with population

Senior Concerns’ services have grown with population

Certain charitable organizations are even more vital today than they were 20 years ago.

For example, brain disorder nonprofits like the Alzheimer’s Association orAutism Speaks are serving a much larger percentage of the population today than when they were founded.

Whether the originators of these organizations were visionary or were simply responding to a need at the time, we’re fortunate to have nonprofits that are focused on growing challenges in our communities.

Early on, the founders of Senior Concerns realized an unmet need for nutrition for homebound seniors. Over the ensuing years, the organization grew to meet a large variety of needs of aging seniors and their families.

I’m fairly certain those founders hadn’t imagined the demographic and longevity changes that would take place over the years, but never has an organization been more relevant to a community. We have begun to experience substantial growth in our older population, which will continue over the next 30 years.

Sole searching for comfort

Sole searching for comfort

My cocker spaniel, Rolo, has gradually lost most of his eyesight. When I’m in the kitchen, he stares intently at my feet because his vision is so poor. If I walk toward the refrigerator or the pantry he knows there might be a treat for him.

I’m thankful no humans stare that closely at my feet because I say with a hint of regret that I am now consigned to wearing “comfort shoes.”

Until recently I didn’t know there was such a term.

While I never was a fashionista, what I did know is that it seemed harder and harder to find comfortable stylish shoes and sandals.

I walk through shoe departments and sigh at all the lovely styles that will just not work for me—heels too high, toe box too narrow, slippery soles and flats with no arch support.

At almost 60, why is shoe shopping such a challenge?

Matching gifts are often overlooked

Matching gifts are often overlooked

Paid vacations, sick leave, health insurance and retirement plans are benefits companies commonly offer their employees.

But, as part of their commitment to corporate philanthropy, many employers offer another benefit that is frequently overlooked: a matching gift program designed to support the nonprofits their employees are passionate about.

Today, one-third of all employees in America are baby boomers (age 52 and older). Nearly half say they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older, and 10 percent say they will never retire.

Not only are boomers a large population of the workforce, but they are one of the largest charitable donor generations.

According to Blackbaud, a supplier of donor management software, 72 percent of baby boomers donate to charity, with the average boomer giving $1,212 to an average of 4.5 charities.

The yin and yang of caregiving

The yin and yang of caregiving

On a recent trip home to New Hampshire I felt the yin and yang of family caregiving or, more specifically, the interconnected and sometimes opposing forces of the local family caregiver and the long-distance ones.

While my mother is the primary caregiver for my father, my sister Carla, who lives less than 5 miles from my parents, assists them with all their needs. She picks up groceries, accompanies my parents to appointments, sits with my father so my mother can run an errand, attends doctor appointments and joins my mother on her respite outings.

She’s also the one who is enlisted to help transfer my father when he falls, fix the internet or TV when my mother’s skills are outmatched or interpret complex insurance and financial forms.

About four years ago, as my parents realized their needs exceeded their abilities, all three daughters suggested Mom and Dad move closer. Their choices included New HampshireConnecticut and California.

Give milestone gifts with meaning

Last week my sister asked me for a gift idea for a friend who was turning 50.

As I began to brainstorm with her, my thoughts turned to how a person might feel on the occasion of a milestone birthday, whether it be 50, 60, 70, 80 or beyond.

Do milestone birthdays change the way people evaluate their lives? And should we think about this in our gift giving?

Studies show that our outlook on life is affected by milestone birthdays. It is at those times that we take stock of our existence and become more thoughtful about our satisfaction with life.

Approaching a milestone age has recently been shown to drive people toward a search for meaning, purpose and health.

While I’m sure many would enjoy a bottle of wine, a piece of jewelry or a new tech gadget for one these significant