What You Should Know About Anxiety in Older Adults

Your aging loved ones may require advanced care as they face greater physical issues, but as family members, you should also be aware of potential mental indicators that your loved one is struggling. This may be in the form of symptoms of depression, anxiety, or isolation. No matter how these signs prevent, they can have a serious impact on your loved one’s ability to live independently. Existing mental concerns can also amplify physical conditions.

Anxiety in older adults is more common than you might think. While anxiety that makes it difficult for an elderly individual to get through the day is not a typical part of aging, up to 14% of older adults already meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. According to research published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, nearly 30% of older individuals currently receiving care from a provider will have anxiety symptoms outside of a disorder that make day-to-day life difficult.

The most common anxiety disorders affecting the elderly include social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. If you begin noticing that your loved one is withdrawn or not engaging in activities he or she previously enjoyed, it may be time to sit down and discuss anxiety-specific care.

If you are an adult helping an elderly loved one cope with physical or mental concerns tied to aging, you may also benefit from setting up a meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney. Talk to a lawyer now about the tools and strategies that can help you plan ahead with a loved one.

Tips for Avoiding Social Isolation with Seniors

Whether you’re an adult child concerned about an aging parent or growing concerned about your own social isolation, recognizing the signs and symptoms is often the first step to be taken to protect yourself.

Sadly, isolation for senior citizens is a relatively common issue. It’s something that family members and the senior should pay attention to. Family members can play a crucial role in supporting an elderly loved one by being aware of the risks and signals of isolation and by stepping in to help with transportation.

Here are several tips that can help avoid social isolation:

  • Make sure that a loved one who has maintained church attendance continues to do so by identifying carpool opportunities or making other transportation available
  • Keep neighbors in the loop for regular check-ins and encourage weekly or regular social gatherings or meals.
  • Attend regular vision and hearing tests, as many seniors may be avoiding social interaction due to embarrassment about being able to see or hear properly. Making these tests easily accessible with transportation can be very helpful for a loved one.
  • Plan regular family interactions that include the elderly loved one. A weekly check-in or Sunday night dinner can give a senior something to look forward to and it’s a chance for family members to monitor health and nutrition issues in the elderly loved one.

Social isolation, when ignored, could lead to anxiety and depression. It can also amplify the impacts of cognitive and other healthcare issues.

If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one and want to ensure that he or she has properly planned for the future, consult with an experienced elder law attorney.

Your area Council on Aging might also offer programs to assist with these issues and some even offer free or reduced transportation. The following resources may be a great place to start:

Arlington

Woburn

Winchester

Key Steps for Preventing Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a pervasive problem not just in Massachusetts but all over the country. Often the elderly, and especially those who are afflicted with severe conditions are unable to protect themselves or even speak up for themselves. This is why it is imperative for friends and family members to understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect.  Eldery home care

Follow these tips below to take a stand against elder abuse:

  • Give a break to a caregiver so that you can check in on your loved one
  • Visit or call an elderly loved one and make sure to ask how he or she is doing
  • Make notes of your visits with your loved one and record any details out of the ordinary
  • Ask for copies of your loved one’s medical records if you believe that signs of the abuse may be filed there
  • Know the signs of elder abuse and neglect so that you can raise concerns to an elder abuse attorney or an elder law attorney if you believe something is out of the ordinary. Understanding the signs of elder abuse and neglect can help stop abuse early on in the process and prevent others from becoming a victim.

Here is a link to the elder abuse hotline for more information- //www.mass.gov/elders/service-orgs-advocates/protective-services-program.html

Making the decision about how to care for your elderly parents is a challenging one but it is one that must be undertaken with a particular level of care and compassion. Consult with a Massachusetts elder law attorney today to learn more. Noreen Murphy is passionate about helping seniors with their elder law needs. She was recently inducted into the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Hall of Fame for her efforts.

Living Longer

Senior woman portraitRecently, President and Mrs. Obama made news when they enjoyed a visit and short dance with a 106-year-old woman from Washington D.C.

Virginia McLaurin, told reporters she had waited all her life to see a black man in the White House and had launched her own social media campaign two years ago, to visit the President before he left office. Her quote, after, seeing herself on You Tube was simply, “I can die with a smile on my face now.”

But, her performance brought to the fore a long held belief about the life expectancy difference between men and women. All over the globe, people have just assumed that it was something in the makeup of the female anatomy that allowed them to live longer.

But, according to scientists, that has only been true since the end of the 19th century.

A University of Wisconsin researcher studied deaths going back 200 years in 13 countries across North America and Europe. When combined with mortality data from the World Health Organization, they found that women and men had roughly the same life expectancy. Overall their lives were short, due to a number of factors, including lack of access to clean water and food as well as modern antibiotics.

But once those factors were available to everyone, women began to gain a longevity edge. For people born between 1900 and 1935, men were two or three times more likely to die in their 50’s and 60’s than their female counter parts.

For the first part of the 20th century smoking was much more common in men which accounted for some of the differences, but according to the study the gap really widened when people started eating more animal fats. A high-fat diet may do more damage to your system and since men tend to eat more animal fat that may account for the difference in mortality rates.

I’m not an expert in health and wellness but I know that you need to be prepared for the end of life regardless of sex or age. I am Noreen Murphy and would be happy to help you with Elder Care advice or Estate Planning guidance.

Can Banks Help You Care for Aging Parents?

E22Did you know that the fastest-growing group in the United States is seniors aged 85 and older? Or that in the next two to three decades, America will have more than 75 million people who are 60 or older?

Those statistics appear in an intriguing new article in Barron’s, which makes a claim you might have a hard time believing — if you’re struggling to care for your aging parents, the big banks might be able to help you.

As it turns out, banks have been polling their wealthy clients for quite some time about the issues that mean the most to them. College savings, tax returns, and investments used to top the list. Not anymore.

These days, banks say their clientele are more anxious about long-term care for their parents than any other financial challenge.

That’s why Bank of America set up its Eldercare Planning Services program in 2012. And they aren’t the only ones. Barron’s reports that Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Northern Trust are among the many major banks now offering some form of elder care service.

Mind you, the banks aren’t actually paying for your bills. In fact, their services primarily target only their wealthiest accountholders. But they can help make the transactions themselves a little easier.

The Barron’s article even describes one episode in which U.S. Trust helped its customer arrange for dialysis appointments at various cities throughout Europe so that they could take one last global vacation together.

Any time you’re talking about banks, though, it’s best to proceed with caution. Many of the services available through your bank’s elder care office can be even more easily achieved outside the big-bank system. As a matter of fact, I help many of my clients with those some kinds of arrangements all the time.

Still, if you’re looking at substantial long-term costs in your future, you will need a bank account, and it might be a good idea to choose a bank that offers some sort of elder-oriented service.

Ultimately, the best advice is to get good advice before you sign on the dotted line for financial services of any kind. And when it comes to advice on elder law, I’m always happy to help. Feel free to give me a call.

Growing Old Together: What It Looks Like

Growing old together: it’s the dream that drives many couples toward marriage. The idea of two people so in love that they can’t wait to live out forever together is about as lovely an idea as I can think of.Senior couple face to face

Now just imagine that you could fast-forward to the future with your significant other in the blink of an eye. One lucky couple got to do just that.

Just last month, in St. Louis, a young couple was given the chance to see and feel what forever looks like just before they tied the knot. The idea came from The Cut, a popular fashion channel on YouTube, renowned for its incredible work in the hair and makeup department.

The Cut team asked two soon-to-be-marrieds, a young man and woman named Tavis and Kristie, to pose for a little aesthetic enhancement. They proposed to age the two from their current ages (late 20s) to three future milestones in life: ages 50, 70, and 90.

They put the whole thing together in a video, and it just might be the most poignant thing you’ll see all week.

In just under six minutes, we witness Tavis and Kirstie’s transformation before our eyes. At each stage along the way, they react with emotional candor to the changes they see in front of them. It’s incredibly touching to see the couple reflect on what kind of life might have led them there.

Plenty of laughs are shared, but it’s the tears that really reveal how powerful this couple’s love is.

Once they hit their 90s, the two are asked a profoundly personal series of questions, including what their last words to one another might be. With tears in both their eyes (and admittedly mine), Tavis and Kristie say exactly what the other needs to hear — before it’s too late.

We all know that they’re just 20-somethings in wigs and makeup, but for a brief shining second, the two become the age they see.

Then Kristie brings us back to reality when she mentions, “We should write these down because we’re writing our own vows.” And just like that, we suddenly remember that they aren’t even married. Still, we somehow feel that we lived a whole life with them.

Watching the video, I’m truly reminded how beautiful a thing aging really is. Whether with a companion or on our own, we all deserve a full and meaningful life in each of the years ahead. I’m proud to play a part in securing that kind of future for so many of my clients, and I hope that this video inspires some joyful reflection for many of you too. Watch it here.

Nursing Homes Replacing Hospitals for Primary Senior Care

We always hear about the rising number of Americans who turn to hospitals (particularly Emergency Rooms) as their primary source of healthcare. Likewise, we hear a lot about the constantly rising costs of nursing homes in America — especially here in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

I was struck, then, by a recent New York Times article that makes a surprising report: senior citizens are increasingly less reliant on hospitals for healthcare, as nursing homes are able to step up to the plate in their place.

Why the shift? Here are a few factors:

  • Healthcare Mobility — As the Times notes, many complex procedures like blood transfusions used to require several days spent in an outpatient hospital wing. These days, those same procedures can practically be done on the go. Nursing homes can give their residents a quick lift to a nearby medical center for a transfusion in a matter of hours. All of the follow-up care, including IV therapy, can be done back in the resident’s own room.
  • Risk of Injury and Infection— Despite popular belief, the hospital isn’t the safest place for the elderly. Falls, bedsores, depression, and hospital-acquired infections are all dangerous and increasingly common risks of any hospital stay. While those perils are present in nursing homes too, the rates of occurrence tend to be a little lower there.
  • Costs — Nursing homes are extremely expensive, but so are hospitals. Regularly relying on hospital clinics or Emergency Rooms can prove even more financially taxing than the monthly nursing home bill. That fact has insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid urging nursing homes to ramp up their roster of hospital-like services.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Amazingly, many of today’s nursing homes still don’t staff registered nurses 24/7, and not all homes offer the same easy access to nearby outpatient clinics.

It is encouraging to know, though, that alternative approaches to senior care are developing quickly. Within the next few years, we may see seniors spend less and less time in hospitals, and that should hopefully translate to financial savings, fewer infections, and a lower rate of hospital-related injury.

Naturally, though, paying for nursing home care remains a real challenge, regardless of how much additional time gets spent in a hospital. Fortunately, proactive planning can make those costs much more manageable. To that end, my office can be of some help. Give me a call today to talk about setting up a plan that makes sense for you.

10 Ways to Live Longer (And They’re Easier Than You Think)

I write a lot in this blog about the ever-expanding lifespan of the average American, and much of that is thanks to truly incredible developments in medical science over the past few years. But living longer can be a personal victory too.

Medical Daily recently published a list of ten easy practices we can all put in place to earn a longer life. Many of them are common sense, but the important thing is to bundle them all together in the same lifestyle. When carried out in concert, these simple “life improvements” have been proven to lead to a longer and more fulfilling life.

  • Exercise — The more the better, but even a little walking and standing can help. This one’s at the top of the list because it’s more effective than all the rest.
  • Don’t Smoke (or Stop Smoking Now) — Every month you quit could add a year onto your life!
  • Avoid Drinking & Hard Drugs — It’s no secret that illicit drugs can ruin the body and brain in no time, but it’s important to remember that “softer” drugs like alcohol take nearly the same toll when consumed in excess.
  • Feel Young— Research shows that people who feel younger inside actually live longer. Mind over matter!
  • Stop Sitting So Much — Some studies show that a sedentary lifestyle can be as deadly as smoking. For reasons we don’t entirely understand just yet, the physical act of sitting is almost toxic to the body. Do as little of it as possible.
  • Eat Well — Fruit, vegetables, whole foods, etc. Whether you go organic, Mediterranean, or even adopt a diet all your own, be sure to avoid excessive sugar, calories, chemicals, processed foods, and all those other tempting vices. Opt for heart-healthy foods!
  • Keep Your Mind Sharp — People who stay mentally active into old age are known to have substantially lower rates of dementia.
  • Stay Social— Loneliness isn’t just depressing; it’s deadly. Some studies find that loneliness and obesity yield identical early-death rates.
  • Maintain Positivity & Purpose — People who maintain a positive outlook and a sense of purpose have drastically lower levels of stress. Since stress is a major source of internal bodily damage, avoiding it can extend your life considerably.

Chances are, you’re doing a lot of these already. Why not make a couple of changes so you can score a perfect 10 out of 10? The proof is in the pudding, after all. These little changes make a big difference!

Apple and the Tech Giants Want to Revolutionize Elder Care

Giants are on the loose, and they have their eyes set on seniors… in a good way.

The titans of the tech industry, Apple and Google among them, have decided to make elder care one of their next big targets for technological integration. That might seem like a curious choice. The elderly have never been poster children for next-gen apps, Internet connectivity, or electronics. Studies tell us that many seniors haven’t even adopted smartphones yet (though that’s quickly beginning to change).

So why’s Silicon Valley so interested?

Well, for one thing, the mobile adoption rate is changing… and fast. Developers see the writing on the wall. The mobile industry is set to witness unprecedented growth in senior device adoption over the next couple of years. It’s an untapped market that the big tech companies are ready to make the most of.

There’s also the “cool” factor. Smartphone developers and medical scientists have teamed up to develop some amazing, revolutionary, and potentially life-saving technologies for mobile devices. Already, people can use their phones to check heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and a host of other vital signs in real time. And that’s only scratching the surface.

We’ve seen other developers come up with communication platforms that give seniors instant access to health care providers, emergency responders, family members, and close friends.

MarketWatch reports that “tons” of promising startups are on the horizon too — companies determined to develop platforms that will piggyback on multi-billion-dollar investments in the elder care marketplace by the likes of Apple, Google, and IBM.

In fact, CEOs Tim Cook (Apple) and Virginia Rometty (IBM) have even pledged to “disrupt” senior care (a trendy term for fundamentally changing the way things work). As part of that, they’ve just rolled out an initiative to put elder-oriented technology in the hands of Japan’s seniors.

All of this in a matter of mere months. Imagine where we might be a few years from now. Technology has never been so exciting. It’s all fun and games until it saves a life, and then it starts to really matter.

What Senior Care Looked Like Sixty Years Ago

Nearly 60 years ago, in 1959, LIFE magazine ran a four-part photo essay that spawned national outrage and spurred the country toward change. Billed as a real-life kind of horror show, the magazine captured in stunning detail the harrowing experience of America’s senior citizens.

This was before Medicare, before Medicaid, before our modern medical advances, and just a couple of decades into Social Security. If the elderly are still fighting for visibility in today’s society, they were all but veiled then. Most Americans were blissfully unaware of the typical conditions in a senior care facility, which were far worse than the still-lacking nursing homes we know today.

Shot in haunting black and white, the pictures shook readers to their cores. There was nothing especially graphic or grotesque in them, but the stifling unhappiness of these people’s lives was nearly tangible. LIFE challenged readers to picture their own parents or grandparents “stored away like vegetables,” reminding the young that a similar fate awaited them, too.

Then the editors went beyond merely showcasing the problem. They called for action and solutions. Looking back, we might consider it one of the many impetuses for Medicare and Medicaid. Indeed, in a new retrospective on the original photo essay, TIME/LIFE credits Medicare with much of the change we’ve seen since then.

Unfortunately, Medicare and Medicaid still don’t solve all of senior’s problems, and securing their benefits can prove entirely too difficult. In my office, I work with the elderly and their families every day to ensure that their own senior-care experience paints a much better picture. With the right strategies and plans in place, there is no reason that today’s elderly can’t enjoy extremely happy and fulfilling lives throughout old age.

If you’d like to look back into the past, you can view many of the 1959 photos on the TIME/LIFE website. Meanwhile, if you’d like some help with your own senior care planning here in the present day, please feel free to give me a call. I’m here to help.