Thursday, November 9, 2017

Caring for the Elderly

Dear Friends,

It's been some time since I've written, and you might recall it wasn't my intention to write a lot of posts but concentrate on bringing you some useful websites.

I've found that addressing things that are popping up in our lives is one way to help illustrate what happens as we age and as we care for elderly family members.

Here are a few observations and I hope they help you. I should tell you I'm very pragmatic and wouldn't deny myself glasses when I need them or hearing aids or a cane or any other help I eventually need.

Physical Health

There are many changes we hear about and others that are new and strange to us. It could be vision problems, maybe you've been pumping up the volume on the TV a bit too much. Are you having UTI's? (Urinary tract infections: see this link to the Mayo Clinic for information.) Do you feel lightheaded or dizzy? Those ads about "I've fallen and I can't get up" are out there for a reason. There are other changes that lead us to need adult diapers. I took my relative to the urologist who said most women will eventually need these diapers and pads so if you notice changes, confirm with your doctor and go shopping.

As we age our bodies and various parts outside and inside change and you have to be attuned to your body to know when something is changing, and if you note something different, act right away. We don't bounce back as we did while in our 20's or 30's and the ramifications of waiting too long can be costly.

Mental Health

I have a terrible memory and have joked that it'll be hard to know when my memory starts going! Observing my family member mentioned in early posts, we can see some changes such as searching for words, substituting other words, confusion over details, scheduling challenges, and feeling upset, angry, confused or upset about these challenges.

I read that distraction is helpful when your loved one is upset and my family member's experience is that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I was taking someone to the doctor and she was upset about the appointment, so I asked about her family members and what color eyes and hair they had when they were young. In that case, distraction worked and we passed the time talking about those early memories.

Some people make photo albums with large pictures of family and friends and labels in large font, useful for reviewing prior to visits and nice to just reminisce.

I think that when we start to become more uncertain of recent memories and tasks, it's helpful and soothing to talk about things we know well such as childhood experiences. The person is on steadier ground than trying to remember everything a doctor says in a long appointment or any of the other demanding tasks one faces.

Social Isolation

Each doctor, nurse, caretaker, social worker and other experts we met talked about the studies indicating how important being social is, especially as we age. 

It isn't enough to greet another, we must join activities and make friendships with other people. It helps exercise your brain and keeps you in touch with other people. How many friends do you have? Do you get together often? Is it activity oriented or do you have real time to talk? We humans seem to decline when we don't have this stimulation and friendship. I should add that in one article, a house-bound gentleman said he learned how to use Facebook and now chats with people, enjoys learning about their opinions and activities and feels less lonely.

I hope these short tips are helpful and encourage you to go to relevant websites and read more about specific conditions. I have links on the Health and Safety page and that's a start. You can ask your doctor for other tips and information, and I encourage you to add your own tips in the comments section.

Take care,

Marcia

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Change of Plans, Dealing with Disappointment and Moving Forward

Dear Friends,

How are you doing? Are you staying busy and engaged, having fun and seeing friends?


We've all had changes and disappointments in life and it's a good thing. It teaches us how to cope with and overcome additional difficulties or disappointments.


We (me a little more so) had been thinking about our future and where we might want to live when we retire. Not only the physical location and home, but our activities and interests. I've been daydreaming about this for some time.


I mentioned in earlier posts about an elderly relative who needs some help, and this need comes ahead of everything else. This altered our timeline and therefore just about everything else you can think about.


I am concerned and upset about this person's needs. I take "Terry" to all medical appointments and sit in the room to ask questions and take notes. I schedule appointments and help when asked with the checkbook and other needs. Some weeks it's a small amount of time and other weeks it's many hours and it's taxing emotionally. 


It was my decision to help in this way and I think it's the right thing to do and I want to be sure things are on track for Terry.


Now having said that, I'm going to admit that when this all happened and our plans were suddenly changed, I went into an angry, resentful period in which I was grieving our delayed plans. I basically threw myself a pity party. Although I did not show this side to Terry, my husband knew from some comments I made how upset I was. 


As we age, and we're in great health now, there is an unpredictability that comes along with the process and our good health is not assured. I knew I could indulge myself for just so long and then I'd need to get past it and get on with life, a different life than I had in mind.


Because of my earlier challenges in life, some much harder than others, I knew I could get through this cycle, reinvent the dream, find a way to be more content with life as it is. I had to give myself a little time and leaned on some dear friends. It helped a lot. I have a way to go but think I'm on the right path. 


On one forum, someone wrote about a book called "This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live" by Melody Warnick. Others in the forum also recommended it. One person wrote that she and her husband thought they needed to move to be closer to activities they enjoy, but they had to change their plans. Thanks to this book, they started exploring little shops and cafes nearby that they hadn't visited previously and they are finding themselves to be more content with their lives. It opened their eyes.

Even though I'm feeling much better, I'm going to read this book after the 10 or so other books on my list. Let me know if you have read it or if you have other ideas.

Take care,

Marcia

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friendship Update and Two Videos for You

Dear Friends,

I hope you're well.

In my last post I wrote about friendship. Recently, I attended a meeting for job seekers with an interesting speaker. I'm not looking but I heard he was great so I wanted to hear the latest. At my table sat a woman who, during lunch, asked the most interesting and best questions of another attendee. As I was leaving, she said she'd like to get together for coffee and gave me her card.

We later went for coffee and stayed for about 4 hours of talk! We had a wonderful time and I know I've found a new terrific friend. 

It all could have been different. She might not have spoken up, maybe just given me her card, but she gave me an invitation and I accepted. Isn't it interesting how one small choice or the ability to take a chance can enrich you so?

I've found loads of funny animal videos and some good ones with grown-ups, as well. Here's one that's humorous and it's called "Things Not to Say To An Old Person." I also enjoy the TED Talks and am linking a top-rated talk by Amy Cuddy called "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are."

Enjoy!

Best wishes,

Marcia

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Making New Friends and Losing Old Ones

Dear Friends,

I hope you're well.

When my aunt was in her 60's, I asked what she found hard about getting older. She said she could deal with physical changes but losing family and friends was hard. She advised me to always stay busy and involved and keep meeting new people and making friends of different ages. As some move or die, you will still have friends to call.

This advice stayed with me and I've always enjoyed meeting people both in and outside of my age group.

I've always had only a couple of really good friends, a lot of nice friends but not as close, and then a lot of acquaintances I call friends. I've had some great friends who float in and out of my life, seeing each other rarely but enjoying the heck out of our time together. And I have had some great friends who just drift away, like our time together was intense and then done. 

And all of that is okay.

We've lived in a townhouse complex for years and our habit was to pull into the garage after long workdays and go directly inside. 

I didn't make friends here.

Thanks to a political dust-up with our homeowners association, I talked with various neighbors. One neighbor had lived 3 doors away from us for around 17 years. Let's call her "Sue." I guess because our kids were out of the house that we finally had time for ourselves and we hit it off. We shared a similar worldview and sense of humor, both of us crazy about the movies and other interests. She became a dear friend. 

Sue and her husband had been thinking about moving and just didn't know where they would go until one weekend when they visited friends in another area of California. They loved the place and within a couple of months their house was sold and they were gone.

During their last weeks here, Sue said she had told her husband she would miss me. He pointed out that one great thing this proved was that we are not "too old" to make new friends and we can find people right under our noses that we'd enjoy being around.

I've thought about that a lot and appreciate that her husband said the right words and I received them second-hand and they meant something to me. I also know that realizing they would be gone soon, we both talked about things that were deep in our hearts, worries and experiences, joys and hopes. It's rare to have those types of conversations.

Now I want to mention loss. I know a woman who developed memory problems at a far too young age. Her friends miss the person she was and will never be again. I know that this will happen to many friends and maybe family in our future.

A former colleague, mentor and friend died suddenly in an accident and although it has been a few years, I still miss him. Some people are so special and irreplaceable. And that's life, too.

I hope you go out on a limb and meet new people. Be brave and put yourself out there and see what you have in common and what you can learn from others.

I wish you friendship. 

Best wishes,

Marcia

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Guest Minda Cutcher: Getting Prepared to File Your Tax Return

Hi, Friends.

How's your year going so far? We've been busy, keeping out of trouble. 

Minda Cutcher is a financial advocate for seniors in the San Jose area of Northern California. She gave us information that was very helpful when we were helping Terry move.

Minda's website has a lot of great information about her services and some articles of interest on her blog page. With her permission, I'm posting one of her articles as taxes may be on your mind.

"One of the things I do for clients is help them gather and organize documents needed to prepare their income tax return, or to provide to their tax professional. With April 15 on the horizon, I thought it might be helpful to do a little refresher on the basic documents needed for taxes, especially as it applies to seniors.

Since nearly 60% of taxpayers use professional help to prepare their taxes, I’ve also included some information about the different types of tax professionals, and resources where seniors can get free tax advice and return preparation.
Tax Documents
Hopefully, after my last two blogs about managing critical documents, you’ll be able to assemble these rather quickly.  Everyone’s tax situation is different, so you may find you need additional documents to the basic ones listed here. A good place to start is by looking at your return for last year.  Check with your tax professional if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Income statements, including W-2s, 1099s, 1099-R, Form SSA-1099, Form RRB-1099, 1099B. These statements are supposed to be sent out by February 1. If you have misplaced your SSA-1099, you can request another one using your online social security account.
  • Documents related to the purchase or sale of a home, such as closing costs, etc. Some moving expenses or modifications to a home to make it safe and accessible for an elderly person MAY be deductible as well.  Gather the receipts, and check with your tax professional.
  • Receipts for any tax deductible expenses, donations, etc.
  • Records of deductible mileage, for example a log of miles driven for medical purposes or volunteer activity for qualified charitable organizations.
  • Medical bills – receipts for co-pays from doctors, dentists and other medical professionals; In home care agencies or private pay caregiver costs; patient portions (responsibility) for hospital stays, prescriptions, medical supplies, prescription eye-wear, hearing aids, etc.
  • Health and/or long term care insurance premiums – don’t forget if your parent is living in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility some or all of their “rent” could be deductible as a medical expense
  • Auto registration statement (a portion of your fees may be deductible)
Choosing a tax professional
The best type of tax professional for you – Enrolled agent, CPA, or Tax Preparer (see each described below) – depends on your particular situation.
Enrolled agent. Enrolled agents are licensed to practice by the federal government (“enrolled”) and authorized to appear on behalf of the taxpayer (“agent”) before the IRS. Enrolled agents advise, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any other entities with tax-reporting requirements. Enrolled agents earn their license by passing a comprehensive tax code examination, or by having worked at the IRS for at least five years in a position that regularly interprets and applies the tax code and its regulations.  Additionally, to maintain their status, Enrolled Agents are required to complete 72 hours of continuing education, reported every three years.  Prior to being licensed, Enrolled Agents must also go through a rigorous background check by the IRS.
CPA. CPAs are licensed by state boards of accountancy and may or may not specialize in taxation. CPAs have completed a course of study in accounting at a college or university and have passed the Uniform CPA Examination. They must also have met the experience and good character requirements set by their state board of accountancy, and must comply with ethical standards and continuing education requirements to maintain their active CPA license. Like Enrolled Agents, CPAs have unlimited representation rights, which means they may represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.
Tax Preparer. Unlike Enrolled Agents and CPAs, non-credentialed tax preparers have only limited representation rights for their clients.  As of January 1 this year, only tax preparers who have completed an 18-hour voluntary program –the Annual Filing Season Program – will have any representation rights at all. Participants who complete the program, which includes a 6-hour federal tax law refresher course with test, receive an Annual Filing Season Record of Completion from the IRS and are included in a public database of return preparers.
Free tax resources for seniors
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly provide free help for low-income taxpayers and taxpayers age 60 and older to fill in and file their returns.  AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) also offers free tax assistance at their Tax-Aide sites, located across the country.
Whomever you choose, keep these things in mind:
  1. Check their qualifications. All paid tax return preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). This is a number issued by the IRS that tax preparers must renew and pay a fee for annually.
  2. Check for disciplinary actions and license status via the Better Business Bureau, state board of accountancy or IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (Enrolled Agents).
  3. Review the entire return with the person who prepared it before signing it. Be sure you understand everything. Ask questions if you don’t.
  4. Be sure that the person you hire to prepare your return signs the tax form and includes their PTIN. This is required by law.
  5. Remember that you are legally responsible for what’s on your return even it if is prepared by someone else."
I hope this information is useful for you. Please check on Minda's site for additional articles. 

Best wishes,

Marcia

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Don't Make Me Raise My Voice All Day

Dear Friends,

How are you? Are you finding ways to learn new things, keep busy, stay active, meet new people and talk with old friends?

In my October 2016 posts about Terry, an elderly relative, I mentioned some health issues. One thing we noticed for years was Terry's hearing problems. Terry misunderstood things we were saying and we had to repeat ourselves and project our voices. Frankly, at the end of a visit, we were tired and aggravated. 

Terry had enjoyed a conversation with other elderly relatives who were happy to have hearing aids. Following a family event where Terry sat quietly and didn't engage in conversation, we had a conversation that seemed to hit home. 

We talked about how much you miss in life when you can't hear people around you, have to have the TV at a very loud volume, miss out on music, can't hear sounds indicating danger such as a smoke alarm.

Although we thought that was enough to make one take action, nothing happened. We all went to lunch and Terry couldn't hear her son talk and had to have a lot more help than necessary just because of this correctable hearing issue. 

Finally Terry got a prescription and went to Costco for hearing aids. (Not all Costcos have this specialty department so check their website.) Terry had learned from a friend and the audiologist that Costco had the best prices.

Because I drove Terry to Costco for the selection and returned to get the hearing aids and learn how to work with them, I was in for a real surprise.

There are many types of hearing aids and Terry chose the smallest ones. These are expensive, but the real surprise was that the battery door has to be opened every night and batteries must be changed weekly. There is a small rubber tip at the ends of the wires that go into the ear, and those tiny tips accumulate wax and must be cleaned regularly. There is a tool that comes with the kit and there are replacement tips to insert into the device.

In Terry's case and people of that age, you're giving complex instructions to people who may have cognitive issues, arthritis or trembling hands. I can't understand what the manufacturers are thinking.

If you or someone you know is going to get hearing aids, be sure to first understand the various device options and requirements, and see if the owner can remember instructions and take care of this device.

When the batteries are changed and the tips are clean, Terry enjoys hearing conversation and being able to participate more fully in activities.

There is an excellent page about age-related hearing loss on the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders page including a quiz to see if you may have a hearing problem. You can click on the main page for additional information. I've included the link on this page on our site.

Take care,

Marcia

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are you lucid or losing it?

Dear Friends,

As I write, it's the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

I know several people who keep lists and think every day about the things in their lives that are good. My family and I enjoy good health. We're fairly happy and content. We have a lot of great things in our lives, and one of those great things is that we're on top of our lives and current events. 

One of my big fears is that I'll start "losing it." That my mind won't function as it has, that I'll lose memories, that I'll not recognize people.

I have a funky memory. I have a hard time remembering names and I've joked that my family should wear name tags but they refuse. On the other hand, I can outline a 2-day training session including exercises and deliver most of it with a bare-bones outline. 

I've also told my husband it might be hard to know if my memory is slipping. I take a lot of notes and make checklists, and contacts and calendars are in my phone. I'm not exercising that part of my brain as I once did, freeing it up for writing and other tasks.

I lost a lot of my childhood memories, and my suspicion is that some of it is tied to reminiscing with others. My parents were young when they died and so was I. Dad was 45 and I was almost 13 and Mom was 50 and I was 21. 

When Mom was alive, we didn't sit around and talk about our family times that had passed. It was too sad to bring up and I didn't want to upset her. My sisters and I did not often discuss our childhood and our parents nor did we look at many photos. It was too painful in the beginning and as time went on, we had other things to discuss: our kids, our travels, what movies we've seen and so on. Life moved on without those discussions so I did lose a lot.

If you have family or friends who would enjoy reminiscing, it would be a pleasant thing to do. I think it'd be good to find some balance between talking about the past and talking about the present.

I've learned from my experience with "Terry" [I wrote about this person in previous entries] that socializing is so important to our well-being. Each medical care person talked about how important it is to be around and interact with others as we age. This helps keep our minds sharp and may prevent dementia. You can go to Google and search for "socializing as we age" to bring up a variety of links and articles about it. 

The Alzheimer's Association has a lot of information about dementia and Alzheimer's, and that is a great starting point to learn more about these issues.

Best wishes to you all, and happy socializing!

Take care,

Marcia