Elderlink, Inc., Nursing Home Information & Referral, Santa Monica, CA
Licensed by California Department of Public Health
Certified by Department of Social Services
1-800-613-5772 24 Hour Helpline
Menu

Feel Like The Last Friend Standing? Here’s How To Cultivate New Buds As You Age.

Donn Trenner, 91, estimates that two-thirds of his friends are dead.

“That’s a hard one for me,” he said. “I’ve lost a lot of people.”

As baby boomers age, more and more folks will reach their 80s, 90s — and beyond. They will not only lose friends but face the daunting task of making new friends at an advanced age.

Friendship in old age plays a critical role in health and well-being, according to recent findings from the Stanford Center on Longevity’s Sightlines Project. Socially isolated individuals face health risks comparable to those of smokers, and their mortality risk is twice that of obese individuals, the study notes.

Baby boomers are more disengaged with their neighbors and even their loved ones than any other generation, said Dr. Laura Carstensen, who is director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and herself a boomer, in her 60s. “If we’re disengaged, it’s going to be harder to make new friends,” she said.

Trenner knows how that feels. In 2017, right before New Year’s, he tried to reach his longtime friend Rose Marie, former actress and co-star on the 1960s sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Trenner traveled with Rose Marie as a pianist and arranger doing shows at senior centers along the Florida coast more than four decades ago.

“When we were performing, you could hear all the hearing aids screaming in the audience,” he joked.

The news that she’d died shook him to the core.

Although she was a friend who, he said, cannot be replaced, neither her passing nor the deaths of dozens of his other friends and associates will stop Trenner from making new friends.

That’s one reason he still plays, on Monday nights, with the Hartford Jazz Orchestra at the Arch Street Tavern in Hartford, Conn.

For the past 19 years, he’s been the orchestra’s pianist and musical conductor. Often, at least one or two members of the 17-piece orchestra can’t make it to the gig but must arrange for someone to stand in for them. As a result, Trenner said, he not only has regular contact with longtime friends but keeps meeting and making friends with new musicians — most of whom are under 50.

Twice divorced, he also remains good friends with both of his former wives. And not too long ago, Trenner flew to San Diego to visit his best friend, also a musician, who was celebrating his 90th birthday. They’ve known each other since they met at age 18 in the United States Army Air Corps. They still speak almost daily.

“Friendship is not be taken for granted,” said Trenner. “You have to invest in friendship.”

Even in your 90s, the notion of being a sole survivor can seem surprising.

Perhaps that’s why 91-year-old Lucille Simmons of Lakeland, Fla., halts, midsentence, as she traces the multiple losses of friends and family members. She has not only lost her two closest friends, but a granddaughter, a daughter and her husband of 68 years. Although her husband came from a large family of 13 children, his siblings have mostly all vanished.

“There’s only one living sibling — and I’m having dinner with him tonight,” said Simmons.

Five years ago, Simmons left her native Hamilton, Ohio, to move in with her son and his wife, in a gated, 55-and-over community midway between Tampa and Orlando. She had to learn how to make friends all over again. Raised as an only child, she said, she was up to the task.

Simmons takes classes and plays games at her community. She also putters around her community on a golf cart (which she won in a raffle) inviting folks to ride along with her.

For his part, Trenner doesn’t need a golf cart.

His personal formula for making friends is music, laughter and staying active. He makes friends whether he’s performing or attending music events or teaching.

Simmons has her own formula. It’s a roughly 50-50 split of spending quality time with relatives (whom she regards as friends) and non-family friends. The odds are with her. This, after all, is a woman who spent 30 years as the official registrar of vital statistics for Hamilton. In that job, she was responsible for recording every birth — and every death — in the city.

Experts say they’re both doing the right thing by not only remaining open to new friendships but constantly creating new ways to seek them out — even at an advanced age.

Genuine friendships at any age typically require repeated contact, said Dr. Andrea Bonior, author of “The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing and Keeping Up with Your Friends.” She advises older folks to join group exercise classes or knitting or book clubs.

She also suggests that seniors get involved in “altruistic behavior” like volunteering in a soup kitchen or an animal shelter or tutoring English as a second language.

“Friendships don’t happen in a vacuum,” she said. “You don’t meet someone at Starbucks and suddenly become best friends.”

Perhaps few understand the need for friendship in older years better than Carstensen, who, besides directing the Stanford Center on Longevity, is author of “A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity.”

Carstensen said that going back to school can be one of the most successful ways for an older person to make a new friend.

Bonior recommends that seniors embrace social media. These social media connections can help older people strike up new friendships with nieces, nephews and even grandchildren, said Alan Wolfelt, an author, educator and founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition.

“It’s important to create support systems that don’t isolate you with your own generation.”

Many older folks count their children as their best friends — and Carstensen said this can be a big positive on several levels.

“I don’t think it matters who your friends are,” she said. “It’s the quality of the relationship that matters most.”

 

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Signs It’s Time to Get Help For Your Aging Loved One

Admitting the need for help is difficult at any age and one of the most difficult things to judge is exactly when someone may no longer be able to care for themselves by themselves. This may be especially when that person is your closest loved ones.

But the responsibility often falls on family members to recognize the signs that an aging loved one might need more support with daily living tasks. So how do you know when it is time to get help?

The answer is likely right in front of your eyes – in their appearance and around their house. Not sure what to signs look for? Some common red flags are listed below:

Personal Appearance and Hygiene

  • Difficulty standing up straight, frequently bent over or leaning to one side
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Shuffling when walking rather than stepping
  • Infrequent showering or bathing
  • The smell of urine within the house or on clothing
  • Difficulty with clothing, including using buttons and zippers
  • Trouble getting up from a seated position
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • New or numerous marks or wear on walls, door jams, furniture and other items that may be used to assist with stability and walking throughout the home
  • Mental Status

  • Difficulty keeping track of time, such as sleeping for most of the day
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Forgetfulness, such as forgetting to take medications or taking incorrect dosages
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Consistent use of poor judgment, such as falling for scams or giving away money to sketchy sources
  • Household Chores and Responsibilities

  • Increased clutter or difficulty putting things away the way they used to be
  • Medication is no longer stored properly and may not be taken as prescribed
  • Decreased amount of fresh food and/or increased amount of spoiled food in the refrigerator
  • Dirty laundry pilling up or difficulty using the washer/dryer
  • Piles of unopened mail or overflowing mailbox
  • Unpaid bills, late payment notices, bounced checks or checks written to pay bills but never sent
  • Lack of food in refrigerator and pantries
  • Increased amount of stains on furniture or carpet
  • Decreased maintenance inside and outside home, such as not replacing burned out light bulbs, lawn is not mowed
  • Vehicle and Driving

  • Unexplained dents and scratches on the car
  • Vehicle not properly maintained, such as lapse in registration, large discrepancy between change-oil sticker vs. current mileage
  • Difficulty getting in and out of the vehicle
  • Driving too slowly, decreased reaction time
  • Confusion or forgetting route or destination
  • Trouble parking
  • Lack of confidence driving, especially driving at highway speed and/or at night
  • Care Options
    Even if you see the aforementioned signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is required to move your loved one into assisted living or a nursing home. However, these red flags do indicate that more supportive care is needed. The signs should be used as a guide and a starting point in the process of determining whether home care or a higher level of care would be best and to help you make informed and confident decisions.

    Our caring and knowledgeable staff at ElderLink can help you determine exactly the level and what kind of support your loved one needs as well as help you find elder care services providers throughout California.

    Lifting Therapy Caps Is A Load Off Medicare Patients’ Shoulders

    Physical therapy helps Leon Beers, 73, get out of bed in the morning and maneuver around his home using his walker. Other treatment strengthens his throat muscles so that he can communicate and swallow food, said his sister Karen Morse. But in mid-January, his home health care agency told Morse it could no longer provide these services because he had used all his therapy benefits allowed under Medicare for the year.

    Beers, a retired railroad engineer who lives outside Sacramento, Calif., has a form of Parkinson’s disease. The treatments slow its destructive progress and “he will need it for the rest of his life,” Morse said.

    But under a recent change in federal law, people who qualify for Medicare’s therapy services will no longer lose them because they used too much.

    “It is a great idea,” said Beers. “It will help me get back to walking.”

    The federal budget agreement Congress approved last month removes annual caps on how much Medicare pays for physical, occupational or speech therapy and streamlines the medical review process. It applies to people in traditional Medicare as well as those with private Medicare Advantage policies.

    As of Jan. 1, Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for therapy indefinitely as long as their doctor — or in some states, physician assistant, clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner — confirms their need for therapy and they continue to meet other requirements. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last month notified health care providers about the change.

    And under a 2013 court settlement, they won’t lose coverage simply because they have a chronic disease that doesn’t get better.

    “Put those two things together and it means that if the care is ordered by a doctor and it is medically necessary to have a skilled person provide the services to maintain the patient’s condition, prevent or slow decline, there is not an arbitrary limit on how long or how much Medicare will pay for that,” said Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

    But don’t be surprised if the Medicare website doesn’t mention the change. Information on the website will be revised “as soon as possible,” said a spokesman, who declined to be identified. However, information from the 800-Medicare helpline has been updated.

    Until then, patients can refer to the CMS update posted last month for providers.

    Lifting the therapy caps is just one of the important changes Congress made for the 59 million people enrolled in Medicare. Here are two others:

    Shrinking The ‘Doughnut Hole’

    Beneficiaries have long complained about a coverage gap, the so-called doughnut hole, in Medicare drug plans. That’s when the initial coverage phase ends — this year, that happens after the beneficiaries and their insurers have paid $3,750 for covered drugs. When it happens, a patient’s share of prescription costs shoots up. This year, when people hit this stage, they are responsible for paying up to 35 percent of brand-name drug costs.

    When beneficiaries’ total yearly drug expenses reach a certain amount ($5,000 this year), they enter the catastrophic coverage stage and pay just 5 percent of the costs. But studies have shown that fewer than 10 percent of beneficiaries spend enough to reach that last stage.

    Beers relied on Medicare for physical therapy and other forms of therapy to help slow the progression of his Parkinson’s disease. (Bert Johnson for KHN)

    The Affordable Care Act had called for the patient’s doughnut hole share to be narrowed to 25 percent by 2020, but the budget deal moved up that adjustment to 2019.

    Much of the drug cost will be shouldered by pharmaceutical companies. And those payments by drugmakers will also count as money paid by patients, which will help them progress to the catastrophic level more quickly, said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere Health, a research firm.

    The deal could have an added attraction. “Premiums will come down because the drug plans are not being required to cover as much as they used to,” Pearson added.

    Lower premiums will also save money for the government because it will spend less on subsidies for low-income beneficiaries.

    Expanding Medicare Advantage Benefits

    Another important change allows private Medicare Advantage plans in 2020 to offer special benefits to members who have a chronic illness and meet other criteria.

    Currently, these private insurance plans, which limit members to a network of providers, treat all members the same.

    But under the budget law, benefits targeting those with chronic diseases do not have to be primarily health-related and need have only a “reasonable expectation” of improving health. Some examples that CMS has suggested include devices and services that assist people with disabilities, minimize the impact of health problems or avoid emergency room visits.

    This wider range of benefits might help people remain at home, increase their quality of life and reduce unnecessary medical expenses. “We’re really excited that the law is catching up with what plans have known for a long time,” said Mark Hamelburg, senior vice president of federal programs at America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry association.

    But the changes will affect only those beneficiaries enrolled in these private plans, about a third of the Medicare population. “We would like to see some of these innovations happen in the traditional Medicare program as well, so that all beneficiaries would be able to reap these benefits,” said Lindsey Copeland, federal policy director at the Medicare Rights Center.

    by Susan Jaffe | Republished Courtesy of Kaiser Health News

    Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    Aging in Place Tips

    Many seniors prefer to stay in their own homes as they age – or “age in place” – but not all homes are set up to accommodate the physical challenges of aging adults. If you or your loved one would like to remain in your home, there is good news. Often just several small changes can have a big impact on successfully aging in place and by utilizing the principles of Universal Design (UD), homes can be adapted to be more accessible, more functional and safer.

    Small changes in the home can actually make a big difference, such as changing lighting to reduce glare, installing handrails on staircases or smoothing thresholds. These changes make the living environment easier and safer for all ages, from toddlers to seniors.

    Depending upon the current set up on the home, some changes may involve select remodeling, such as updating a bathroom with roll-in shower or removing loose rugs and installing wall-to-wall carpeting instead. These types of Universal Design elements require a monetary investment but it would be less expensive and less disruptive than moving into an assisted living facility.

    If you planning on building a home, consider incorporate UD elements in your new space no matter what your current age and physically ability is. With the aging populations, incorporating features such as hallways wide enough for wheelchairs or walkers, low light switches, higher electrical outlets and installing blocks behind walls to accommodate grab bars later can add great resale value to the home.

    You may also want to consult with interior designers and home builders who are Certified Aging in Place (CAP) specialists. These professionals can help determine which UD elements to bring into your current home or incorporate into your new home’s blueprints.

    Helpful Universal Design Elements:

    • Motion detector lights
    • Reduced or no-glare lights for general lighting, task lighting for tasks
    • Handrails on both sides of stairs
    • Electric outlets that can be reached from a wheelchair
    • Lowered light switches that can be reached from a wheelchair
    • Programmable thermostats
    • Drawers instead of cabinets in kitchen
    • D-shaped cabinet and drawer pulls
    • Wall-to-wall carpet instead of rugs
    • Wires neatly managed, off floors or behind walls
    • Grab bars by toilets and in showers
    • Roll-in showers and room for shower seat
    • Hand-held shower heads on glides
    • Non-slip, low-maintenance floors in bathrooms
    • Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry on same floor (ground level or accessible by elevator)
    • Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
    • Accessible from wheelchair/counter height dishwasher, microwave, stove and oven
    • Flat cook top/range with front controls
    • Varied counter heights so cooks can sit or stand
    • Beveled corners on counters, furniture and walls
    • Front-load, front-control washer and dryer
    • 36-inch-wide doorways and hallways

    Visit the National Aging In Place Council to learn more about how you can age in place and visit The National Association of Home Builders to find a Certified Aging in Place (CAP) specialist.

    If the time has come when your aging loved one is no longer able to live independently, please contact the knowledgeable staff at ElderLink to help you find elder care services or an assisted living facility within California that is customized for your family.

    Understanding Home Health Care Part II

    In Part One of Understanding Home Health Care, we explained the most common differences between home health and home care. In this second part of the series, we will provide brief summaries of the trained professionals that you may encounter when working with a home health care agency.

    It is important to remember that unlike home care agencies, home health agencies provide services and treatment that are prescribed by a doctor and are usually part of a transition from a hospital stay back into a home environment. Therefore, home health agency fees are usually covered by medical insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

    The type of care provided by health care professional will depend on the needs of each individual and may occur in-home through a home health agency or may occur on an outpatient basis.

    HOME HEALTH AIDES/ASSISTANCE ADLS

    Individuals trained to assist with personal care needs and activities of daily living (ADL). ADL are the essential self-care tasks, such as bathing, ability feed oneself, dressing, toileting, transferring from a bed to a chair, etc. Additional tasks and responsibilities may be assigned to aides depending upon the agreement between the home health aid agency and the family. Home health aide’s assistance may range from a few hours per week up to 24-hour care, either on a temporary or long-term basis.

    SKILLED NURSING

    Skilled nursing refers to the services performed by a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and these nurses are registered with the State Board of Nursing in their respective state. Skilled Nurses provide medical care as prescribed by physician and may also provide patient assessments, performance of prescribed medical treatments and administration of prescribed medications. Additional services may also include education for the patient and the caregiver to the disease process as well as treatment options, health measures and medication management.

    PHYSICAL THERAPY (PT)

    Physical therapists assess and treat large motor function skills when prescribed by a doctor. Depending upon the needs and mobility of the patient, PT may be conducted on an outpatient or in-home basis. Physical therapists will create a treatment plan with goals and utilize rehabilitative techniques, which may include exercise, gait training, prosthetics and heat to restore the highest functional level of strength, range of motion and mobility based on the individual abilities of the client.

    OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (OT)

    Often prescribed along with physical therapy (PT), occupational therapists (OT) assess and treat small motor function. Occupational therapists will design a treatment plan designed to increase the client’s ability to carry out their regular day-to-day activities, such as feeding, dressing, grooming and performing household tasks. Using rehabilitative techniques such as exercise, splinting and assistive devices, the OT guides the client through specialized regimes, exercises and activities to increase function, sensory and muscle strength.

    SPEECH THERAPY (ST)

    If an individual has difficulty with speaking or swallowing, a speech therapist will be called in to assess and treats speech and swallowing disorders that may have been caused by a stroke, head injury, laryngectomy, voice disorders or cognitive deficits. Individually designed treatment programs will be created by the speech therapist to maximize communicative effectiveness for the client.

    These are the most common types of agencies to provide in-home or outpatient care. In case of injury, such as a broken hip or knee replacement, in-home care may only be needed for several weeks. Navigating the system of elder care services and agencies can be confusing for anyone. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Finding the appropriate level of care and caregivers you can trust can take time but it is time well spent.

    If the time has come when your aging loved one is no longer able to live independently, please contact the knowledgeable staff at ElderLink. We will help you find elder care services or an assisted living facility within California that is customized for the requirements of your family.