How to Choose a Nursing Home

Nursing homes have become an extension of a hospital stay for seniors on Medicare or Medicaid.  When choosing a nursing home for rehabilitation, Medicare pays for a portion of the costs.  Medicare will pay for the daily fee, for the first 20 days, upon pre-approval by a medical doctor and then may pay for days 21 through 100 days, the maximum stay for reimbursement. This means that Medicare’s full benefit upon doctor approval only pays for a little more than 3 months of a nursing home stay.

Medicaid, the low-income version of Medicare, does pay for on-going stays in nursing homes accepting Medicaid as payment.

Tips for Choosing a Nursing Home

1) Organize the senior’s long-term financial capabilities including monthly income and all assets owned including homes and cars.  Review Medicaid financial qualifications for the state where the senior lives.  This allows you to financially prepare for long-term nursing home care needs and possible Medicaid-spend down.

2) Find nursing homes in your area who accept Medicare as payment vs. Medicaid as payment.  Usually nursing homes primarily accepting Medicare or private pay will allow a senior to stay if they spend-down to Medicaid even though they would not accept the senior on Medicaid as a new patient.  As Medicaid reimbursements can be lower, the 100% Medicaid nursing homes may not offer as many amenities.

3) Review Caregiverlist nursing home star-rating which includes the top criteria which impacts quality of care:  Overall Medicare Star-Rating, % of Short-stay Residents with Pressure Sores, Certified Nursing Aide (C.N.A.) hours per resident per day, % of Long-term Residents whose need for help with Daily Activities has increased.  Make special note of the C.N.A. hours per resident as many times nursing homes suggest hiring a private duty caregiver if more care is needed when the staffing ratio is only 1 C.N.A. to 12 or more residents.

4) Review the ownership of the nursing home.   Nursing homes may be owned by hospitals or healthcare groups or equity groups.  This will be an indication of what focus is more important: care or profits?

5) Find licensed senior home care agencies in your area to have as an alternative to nursing home care.  Senior home care agencies provide one-to-one care and often cost less than a nursing home.

Tips for Better Alzheimer’s Care

When the Alzheimer’s diagnosis first hits you, it can feel devastating and overwhelming. Alzheimer’s patients often feel angry and fall into the “Why Me?” syndrome, while caregivers suffer with helplessness and uncertainty about how the disease will progress. For the 5 million patients and their families, Alzheimer care can go on for as many as 20 years, so learning how to cope and seeking education on the matter is crucial.

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

The medical difficulty of Alzheimer’s is that no two patients progress at the same rate or exhibit the same Alzheimer’s symptoms. Some Alzheimer’s patients are prone to wandering off or forget that they are unable to drive a car.

Other earlier signs of Alzheimer’s include misplacing keys, forgetting names and becoming irrationally upset without remembering why. In the worst stages, the patient can no longer speak or recognize friends and family.

“Each individual is so unique, so different, there is no black and white or this is how you take care (of the patient),” says Connie Kudlacek, former director of the Alzheimer’s Association Midlands Chapter. “Instead of focusing on the negatives, we need to look at the positives and find an opportunity to continue to nurture their personality and give them an opportunity for success, even in the later stages.”

The emotional difficulty of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is the “losing and grieving while providing the care because Charlie isn’t Charlie anymore,” relates Professor Jacquelyn Frank at Ulndy’s Center For Aging & Community. She describes the feelings as “anticipatory grief,” which refers to the fear of losing someone before they’ve even died, and “ambiguous loss,” which is the discordant feeling of caring for someone who is physically alive but socially lacking. Frank highlights the importance of airing out emotions in an Alzheimer’s support group to maintain a positive attitude in the face of such isolation and hopelessness.

Create a Reduced Stress Environment

Reducing frustrations is one tactic that will help you provide effective Alzheimer care. At first you may struggle with your loved one trying to bathe or feed them, but over time you’ll get to know their natural schedule of when they are most agreeable.

Established routines can help make the day less unpredictable and more manageable for the Alzheimer’s patient and you. Limiting difficult decision-making is very helpful for the Alzheimer’s caregiver. For instance, a closet full of clothes may be intimidating, whereas a choice between two outfits may be totally do-able.

Remain Patient During Alzheimer’s care

You may sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells when communicating with a loved one who requires Alzheimer’s care. Frustrations can flare up tempers and it can be hard to understand the root of the problem. Sometimes Alzheimer’s patients forget words or substitute incorrect words. They can lose their train of thought; require more time deciphering your words or they may curse incessantly.

The stages of Alzheimer’s can change suddenly, without warning. You can help by remaining patient, making eye contact while listening, using visual cues and keeping your language simple, as well as avoiding criticism, interrupting and arguing.


There are many different Alzheimer care treatment options, depending on the severity of the illness and your budget. Many caregivers try to keep their loved one at home for as long as possible, looking into products that may safeguard them from an accident or heightened confusion. Other family members may try splitting their time with the patient so he or she is never left alone.

What are your options for help? There are businesses that specialize in home senior care that can provide assistance a few hours per/week, per/day or even overnight. There are adult day care centers, which allow family members to continue working their normal schedules while the Alzheimer patient receives care or participates in planned activities. Lastly, there are long term care facilities that fully address the needs of Alzheimer’s patients 24/7.

Tips for Seniors Looking to Avoid the Flu This Season

As many people have already heard, the strain of the active flu vaccine that is prevalent this season is more dangerous than ever. Many people have been getting very sick this season and babies and seniors are at the highest risk of succumbing to this strain. Unfortunately, while many people have the flu vaccine, this year’s vaccine is only about 25% effective. This can be troubling for any senior looking to stay safe and healthy this season while the flu runs rampant.

While there is no surefire way to completely prevent the flu from taking over, there are things that seniors, and any person can do in order to lessen their chances of getting the flu. Here are just a few things that seniors may want to consider this time of year, while the flu is still being spread around.

Keep Your Immune System Healthy

The more you can do to boost your immune system, the better. Seniors who want to keep their immune systems healthy during cold and flu season should make sure to drink plenty of water and to start adding vitamin C into their daily regimen. Vitamin C is great for boosting the immune system and can not only be found in fruits and vegetables, but in vitamins as well.

Seniors who exercise, should stay with their exercise routine, and make sure they are eating a balanced, healthy diet. All of these things help keep the immune system up and running.

Practice Good Hygiene

Washing your hands may seem like a really small step in staying healthy, but it can really help, especially during flu season. Washing your hands with hot, soapy water several times per day is a great preventative measure to stay safe. If you are out in public in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or grocery stores, make sure to take the time to wash your hands when you leave to keep germs at bay.

Limit Personal Contact

This is an important step for seniors who may already be sick or have weakened immune systems, and while it can be hard it can really help lower your risks of catching the virus. Seniors need to remember that the flu is extremely contagious, so kissing, hugging and shaking hands with others is an easy way to spread the virus.

Don’t Touch the Face

This is something most seniors, and most people in general, don’t realize they are doing. An easy way to spread the virus is to touch your face. Say you pick it up touching a vending machine with your hand. If you then put your hand near your mouth, you are quickly transferring the virus and are much more likely to get sick.

The more healthy steps you can take this time of year to help lessen your chances of getting the flu, the better. Remember, the flu is still active and it can be caught at any time of the year, so seniors will need to continue to stay safe even after the winter has passed.

How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency in Seniors

During the colder months, all people, particularly seniors are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. During this time of year, in the winter so many people don’t realize how little they get in the sun and low little vitamin D they are getting. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a real problem for all people, particularly seniors. While many people don’t automatically think of vitamin D deficiencies as being an issue, they can actually come with a number of side effects. The more you know about vitamin D deficiency and how they may impact your health—the better.

How Does Vitamin D Impact Healthy Aging?

If you are wondering why vitamin D is so important, one of the main reasons is that it plays a role in healthy aging. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin D, it can be a risk for a number of health issues, including the following:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Insomnia
  • Cognitive issues including memory loss and confusion
  • Muscle pain and fatigue
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Frequent bone fractures
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain cancers including breast, thyroid and lung cancer

While a vitamin D deficiency isn’t necessarily going to cause these issues, it can increase the risk of seniors developing these conditions.

How Do You Know That Someone Has a Vitamin D Deficiency?

If you are looking after a senior, you should always be on the lookout for some of the signs of a vitamin D deficiency. While the symptoms can be vague, here are some of the signs that someone may be struggling with a lack of vitamin D in their system.

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating from the head, while feeling cold everywhere else
  • Signs of depression
  • Joint pain or joint stiffness
  • Consistent lack of energy that doesn’t change after sleeping

If you are noticing these signs, it may be time to take your loved one to a doctor. Especially during this time of year or when you know your loved one has not been outdoors in a long time.

Treating a Vitamin D Deficiency

Before you can start helping seniors treat their vitamin D deficiency, it is important that they get an accurate diagnosis first. A blood test can indicate if there is a vitamin D deficiency. From there, the doctor may suggest a vitamin D prescription or an over-the-counter supplement.

There are also a few things that seniors can do on their own to help bring more vitamin D into their bodies, including:

  • Beef liver
  • Salmon, mackerel or other wild-caught fish
  • Canned tuna
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Almond milk
  • Shitake mushrooms

It is important to remember that vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, but the aforementioned foods are a great start. It is also a great way to prevent vitamin D deficiencies from happening in the first place—especially during this time of year, when seniors aren’t getting enough vitamin D from the sun.

Cholesterol Basics for Seniors

High cholesterol has become extremely common in the United States today. In fact, more than 50% of adults in the US are suffering from high cholesterol—and seniors age 65 and older are at the greatest risk of suffering from this condition.

What is most alarming, is that those with high cholesterol are at a high risk of having a stroke or heart attack. One of the scariest things about high cholesterol is that it typically doesn’t present any symptoms, so many people don’t know they have high cholesterol until they visit their doctor to get their cholesterol levels checked.

Since high cholesterol issues can be hard to detect, it is important that all seniors are aware of some of the basics of cholesterol, how it works and why high cholesterol is so dangerous. Here are the basics of what every senior should know.

There Are Different Types of Cholesterol

Before anyone can really understand their own issues with high cholesterol, it is essential to know some of the basics of cholesterol. There are actually three different types of fat in the blood stream that can be measured during a cholesterol screening.

  • LDL or Bad Cholesterol- You want low levels of this cholesterol, preferably less than 100 mg/dL. This is the type of cholesterol that puts you at risk for things like heart disease and stroke. Typically, medication is required to help people with high LDL levels manage their cholesterol, but diet and lifestyle changes can help.
  • HDL or Good Cholesterol- This type of cholesterol actually attaches itself to the LDL and pushes the bad cholesterol to the liver so it can be filtered out of the body. You need at least 60 mg/dL of HDL. If you have too low numbers of HDL it can actually put you at risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides- These are also measured in a cholesterol screening. Triglycerides can typically be managed with a healthy diet. You want to have less than 100 mg/dL ideally. These are easy to control, but if you have extremely high levels such as 199 mg/dL, it can put you at risk for cardiovascular issues and even type 2 diabetes.

You Can Manage Cholesterol Levels

One of the most important things to remember about cholesterol, is that there are things that you can do to manage your cholesterol levels. There are cholesterol medications available, but there are also other lifestyle changes that seniors can make not only to help lower their current, high cholesterol, but to prevent their cholesterol from getting high to begin with.

The two most important things that seniors can do is to exercise regularly and maintain a good diet. When it comes to exercise, seniors should do exercises that work for them, and that don’t stress out their bodies too much. This can include exercises like swimming, yoga, stretching and walking.

Diet is another great way to make sure that you are keeping your cholesterol levels under control. A healthy diet should include more foods that are high in fiber, such as beans and oatmeal. Seniors with high cholesterol should also avoid foods that are filled with saturated fats.

Little lifestyle changes like this can go a long way in helping any senior maintain a healthy life and healthy cholesterol levels not only now, but for years to come.

Easy Home Remedies for Seniors Struggling With Arthritis

For the many seniors today who already struggle with arthritis, the winter months can be even more devastating. The cold weather often causes people with arthritis to experience even more pain than normal, and for the 50 million people who struggle with this joint issue, it can be almost too much to bear.

While there are arthritis medications out there, they aren’t for everyone. They can cause swelling, upset stomach and even bone loss—leaving many seniors wary about taking these medications. Plus, many arthritis medications only have a minimal effect on the senior’s level of pain and discomfort. This is why it is so important to know about some of the easy tips and home remedies that are available for seniors who may be struggling with arthritis.

  1. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight- It may be difficult to want to exercise while you are struggling with arthritis, but it is important, as it can help keep joints limber. It can also help seniors maintain a healthy weight. Every extra pound a senior has on their body, is four pounds of pressure on their knees. That means losing that last five pounds can mean 20 pounds of pressure relief.
  2. Try Green Tea- Green tea is a powerful and popular form of tea and one that is thought to block the chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. Less inflammation means less joint pain.
  3. Apply a Hot to Cold Treatment- Many people with arthritis have found that alternating between hot and cold can really help with their painful joints. Start with ice packs, then alternate to a heating pad. The cold application from the ice pack will lessen swelling, while the heat can help provide pain relief.
  4. Eat the Right Diet- There are a number of foods that are actually known for causing inflammation. Make sure to avoid refined sugars and refined carbs that can cause inflammation. The right diet isn’t just about avoiding the wrong foods, but about eating the right ones. Pineapple, nuts, fish, berries, tomatoes and grapes are all known for helping to reduce inflammation.
  5. Take Vitamin C Daily- Did you know that vitamin C can actually help the body produce collagen, which is extremely important in joint health? It can also help remove destructive free radicals that are harmful to joints. Make sure to take vitamin C frequently throughout the day because your body won’t absorb it.
  6. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids- You can find these fatty acids in fish, or take some vitamins to help relieve inflammation and sooth your joints.
  7. Go for a Swim- Swimming is one of the best activities for those with arthritis. It helps loosen up the joints and get them moving, but since you are in water, you don’t have to worry about extra pain-causing pressure.

Whether you are suffering from arthritis, or are helping to care for someone that is, remember these easy tips and effective home remedies to help keep arthritis pain at bay.

How New Parkinson’s Caregivers Can Help Their Loved Ones Through This Illness

If you are helping care for a loved one who has been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the responsibility of helping them through this difficult time can be overwhelming to stay the least. There is still so much to learn about this progressive condition, and there is still not a cure for this disease. One of the most interesting things about Parkinson’s disease is that it is actually different for everyone, so as a caregiver, you need to be focused on what you can do for your loved one’s individual journey with this disease.

Here are just a few of the things that new caregivers can do in order to make the best out of their journey with this difficult disease.

Join Support Groups

Parkinson’s Disease is such a difficult condition and it is one that can completely change a person’s life from the moment they are diagnosed. This is why support groups are so important. Caregivers should consider joining their own support group of other Parkinson’s caregivers, while individuals with this disease can have support groups of their own. A strong community of supporters is a great thing to have as you start on this journey.

Get Yourself Organized

Being a Parkinson’s disease caregiver requires a lot of planning and dedication. There will be numerous medications, different therapies that come with different changing symptoms and lots of doctor’s appointments. Get yourself a planner right away and try to stay as organized as possible, it will make all of the new demands and responsibilities that come your way easier to handle.

Help Your Loved One Exercise

Exercise has always been a common recommendation for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. However, recent research reported by has discovered that community dance programs specifically have a unique benefit for those with this condition. Group dance not only provides individuals with Parkinson’s with the physical therapy and exercise they need to stay as active as possible, but it can also provide individuals with this condition with the ability to connect to others with their disease. Even dancing alone, at home or with a home DVD can provide individuals with Parkinson’s with the therapy they need to not only get up and get moving, but to feel like themselves again.

Stay Focused on Mental Health

So many suggestions regarding Parkinson’s disease have to do with exercise and while exercise is a great way to help slow down the progression of this disease and some of its symptoms, it isn’t the only thing that you need to focus on with your loved one. It is important that you watch your loved one’s mental health. Whether you are an occasional or part-time caregiver, or a full-time caregiver, you are going to be spending more time with your loved one than the average person—meaning you are going to be able to spot mental health issues more easily than others.

If you notice any signs of anxiety or depression or extreme changes in mood, behavior or interests, it is important to talk to your loved one’s doctor right away, so they can get the help they need. Depression isn’t only common in serious disease like this, but the changes in the brain that happen with Parkinson’s may also trigger symptoms of depression as well.

There is still not standard treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. However, lifestyle changes such as getting more rest and more exercise are highly effective in helping people with this condition to manage their symptoms. As a new caregiver to someone with Parkinson’s disease, the more you can do to help your loved one make these smart lifestyle changes, the better off they will be until we find a cure.

Signs Your Senior Loved One Needs Help

Admitting that you need help can be difficult for anyone, particularly for seniors. If you have an elderly loved one in your life, then you need to be on the lookout for signs that they are in need of help with completing their daily tasks. There are many seniors who find that with time, they start to need a little support in getting through their day-to-day responsibilities. This is a very normal part of aging for many seniors. However, many seniors are unable to recognize these signs on their own. This is why they need the help of a family member or loved one to step in and recognize they need some help.

Here are some of the most recognizable signs that a senior living on their own needs a little additional support.

  • Neglecting their personal hygiene. This can include infrequent bathing, unpleasant body odor or failing to keep up with their personal grooming habits.
  • Increase in incontinence issues. One of the major signs that seniors need help has to do with incontinence. If you have noticed a strong smell or urine in the house or on your loved one’s clothes, there may be a problem.
  • Failing to attend to household responsibilities. If your loved one has a dirty home, extreme clutter, has laundry piling up, this may be a sign of a problem.
  • Issues with food. If you have noticed there is little or no fresh food in the fridge, or that your loved one has spoiled food that isn’t getting thrown away, this is a sign they may need help.
  • Failing to address their mail. This can include stacks of unopened mail, overflowing mailboxes or late payment notices.
  • Changes in physical health. This includes your loved one losing or gaining weight for no reason, has difficulty getting up, struggles to walk or has an unexplained bruise or injury.
  • Changes in personality. If your loved one’s mental health seems to be changing, if they are sleeping for most of the day, experiencing changes in mood or have uncertainty or confusion when performing familiar tasks, it is often a sign they need help.

These signs don’t necessarily mean your loved one needs to go to a nursing home or assisted living community. However, it may be a sign that you need to consider part-time, occasional or at-home care. Some families may even choose to step in themselves and either help their loved one or move them in to their own homes.

What is most important is that you are able to recognize the signs that your loved one needs help in the first place so you can step in and help them improve their quality of life and make sure they get the support they need.

Stress Management Techniques for Seniors

While many people assume that retirement means the end of their stress and worries, for many seniors feeling of stress and anxiety only get worse when they enter into their golden years. There are so many new concerns that can develop with aging, ranging from loss of independence to managing your health and dealing with feels of loneliness and isolation.

This is why seniors need to understand some of the most proven stress management techniques out there that specially work on managing these types of stress. Here are some of the most valuable tips that every senior should follow.

  1. Start With the Short-Term Solutions

When dealing with serious issues related to stress, it can be easy to fall into a spiral of worry about the future and about things that you simply cannot control. One way that seniors can help manage this type of stress is to stop and think about what they can do now to remedy the situation. Finding short term solutions to problems and starting to work in the moment to get rid of the stress can help put anyone at ease.

  1. Write Down What You’re Thankful For

In times of stress, it can be easy for seniors to get overwhelmed with feelings of depression or anxiety in their time of need. This is normal. However, instead of falling into those depressing feelings, a great solution is to start writing down and thinking about what you are thankful for. Many seniors have so many great things, such as family members, grandchildren and a life full of memories to be appreciative of. This little exercise can do wonders to help put life in perspective and keep feelings of stress at bay.

  1. Meditation

There are many seniors who subscribe to the art of meditation. This is because it really works. Meditation can help manage feelings of stress and anxiety and can help seniors refocus and feel at peace. Plus, meditation is simple. You just need 15 minutes per day in a quiet spot, without distractions to see the benefits.

  1. Get Outside

For many seniors who struggle with mobility, getting outside can be difficult. However, getting out of the house can be essential when feelings of stress start to take over. A simple walk outdoors, or even sitting out in the fresh air can do wonders for the mind and the soul.

  1. Find Someone to Talk to

It doesn’t need to be a professional, just someone you care about. Many seniors deal with issues related to loneliness and isolation. This paired with stress can be a serious problem for many elderly adults and make feelings of stress even worse. Finding someone to talk to about these stressors, even if it is a loved one is a great first-step. Many seniors understandably don’t like to show that they are weak, stressed or in need of help. However, reaching out to someone for a helping hand is so important and can do wonders for any senior’s stress levels.

Breaking Down All of the Different Senior Care Options Available Today

When it comes to navigating the waters of senior care, most families today find they are overwhelmed by the different options available for their aging loved ones. There are eight primary forms of senior care options available today and no easy way to determine which one is best for your loved one. After all, every senior is unique and has their own unique care needs. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Independent Living Communities

Also known as senior apartments or retirement homes, this is often the first step seniors take into the world of senior care. These communities can range from apartments to free-standing homes and often are equipped with a number of amenities. These communities are great for seniors who are still independent, yet want to socialize and be around their peers. This is a great step for seniors who want to downsize from their normal homes but don’t need assisted living yet.

  1. Assisted Living Communities

These facilities often have private rooms, or small apartments available for seniors and offer a number of amenities. These amenities typically include communal dining, programs, transportation services, along with housekeeping and maintenance services. These communities are ideal for seniors who are no longer able to live at home safely on their own, but who still don’t need a lot of care.

  1. Nursing Homes

In nursing homes, seniors typically have either a private or shared room and can enjoy central dining and a number of different senior-friendly activities. This type of facility is designed for elderly or disabled individuals who require 24 hour skilled assistance and help getting in and out of bed. These nursing homes also offer rehabilitative care and are often used for seniors who are recovering from surgery or illness.

  1. Memory Care

Also known as dementia care, these communities are geared directly towards seniors who are struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s. These communities provide communal eating facilities, activities and a unique design to prevent residents from wandering off.

  1. Respire Care

This type of senior care, also known as short-term care or adult day care are not meant to be permanent care solutions, but temporary options for seniors when their families, primary care givers or loved ones cannot provide them with care. Sometimes respite care happens when caregivers need a break or vacation, or it comes in the form of adult day care while the family is at work.

  1. Residential Care Homes

These communities are sometimes known as Board and Care Homes, Group Homes or Adult Family Homes. They are similar settings as in-home care settings. There are still recreation activities and dining options, and are more private feeling than other settings. Plus, many seniors feel more at ease in a home-type setting.

  1. Home Care Companies

Known as home health care or in-home personal care, these companies dispatch trained in home care providers to come look after seniors in their comfort of their own home or in their loved one’s homes.

  1. Hospice Care

Hospice care, or end of life care is designed to help seniors get the comfort or care they need in the final stages of battling an incurable disease. The focus of hospice care is not on extending the length of life but on the quality of the life that the senior has.