Category Archives: Baby Boomers

Why I’m Investing in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s

In every part of the world, people are living longer than they used to. Thanks to scientific advancements, fewer people die young from heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. It’s no longer unusual for a person to live well into their 80s and beyond. My dad will celebrate his 92nd birthday in a couple weeks, a milestone that was practically unimaginable when he was born.

This fact—that people are living longer than ever before—should always be a wonderful thing. But what happens when it’s not?

The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop a chronic condition. Your risk of getting arthritis, Parkinson’s, or another non-infectious disease that diminishes your quality of life increases with each year. But of all the disorders that plague us late in life, one stands out as a particularly big threat to society: Alzheimer’s disease.

You have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s. In the United States, it is the only cause of death in the top 10 without any meaningful treatments that becomes more prevalent each year. That trend will likely continue as baby boomers age, which means that more families will watch their loved ones suffer from cognitive decline and slowly disappear. Despite this growing burden, scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain.

I first became interested in Alzheimer’s because of its costs—both emotional and economic—to families and healthcare systems. The financial burden of the disease is much easier to quantify. A person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition. Unlike those with many chronic diseases, people with Alzheimer’s incur long-term care costs as well as direct medical expenses. If you get the disease in your 60s or 70s, you might require expensive care for decades.

These costs represent one of the fastest growing burdens on healthcare systems in developed countries. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Americans will spend $259 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2017. Absent a major breakthrough, expenditures will continue to squeeze healthcare budgets in the years and decades to come. This is something that governments all over the world need to be thinking about, including in low- and middle-income countries where life expectancies are catching up to the global average and the number of people with dementia is on the rise.

The human cost of Alzheimer’s is much more difficult to put into numbers. It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones. This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.

My family history isn’t the sole reason behind my interest in Alzheimer’s. But my personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease. We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.

I’ve spent considerable time over the last year learning about the disease and the progress made to date. There’s a lot of amazing work being done in this field to delay Alzheimer’s and reduce its cognitive impact. What I’ve heard from researchers, academics, funders, and industry experts makes me hopeful that we can substantially alter the course of Alzheimer’s if we make progress in five areas:

  • We need to better understand how Alzheimer’s unfolds. The brain is a complicated organ. Because it’s so difficult to study while patients are alive, we know very little about how it ages normally and how Alzheimer’s disrupts that process. Our understanding of what happens in the brain is based largely on autopsies, which show only the late stages of the disease and don’t explain many of its lingering mysteries. For example, we don’t fully understand why you are more likely to get Alzheimer’s if you’re African American or Latino than if you’re white. If we’re going to make progress, we need a better grasp on its underlying causes and biology.
  • We need to detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier. Since the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s definitively is through an autopsy after death, it’s difficult to identify the disease definitively early in its progression. Cognitive tests exist but often have a high variance. If you didn’t sleep well the night before, that might skew your results. A more reliable, affordable, and accessible diagnostic—such as a blood test—would make it easier to see how Alzheimer’s progresses and track how effective new drugs are.
  • We need more approaches to stopping the disease. There are many ways an Alzheimer’s drug might help prevent or slow down the disease. Most drug trials to date have targeted amyloid and tau, two proteins that cause plaques and tangles in the brain. I hope those approaches succeed, but we need to back scientists with different, less mainstream ideas in case they don’t. A more diverse drug pipeline increases our odds of discovering a breakthrough.
  • We need to make it easier to get people enrolled in clinical trials. The pace of innovation is partly determined by how quickly we can do clinical trials. Since we don’t yet have a good understanding of the disease or a reliable diagnostic, it’s difficult to find qualified people early enough in the disease’s progression willing to participate. It can sometimes take years to enroll enough patients. If we could develop a process to pre-qualify participants and create efficient registries, we could start new trials more quickly.
  • We need to use data better. Every time a pharmaceutical company or a research lab does a study, they gather lots of information. We should compile this data in a common form, so that we get a better sense of how the disease progresses, how that progression is determined by gender and age, and how genetics determines your likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s. This would make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment.

By improving in each of these areas, I think we can develop an intervention that drastically reduces the impact of Alzheimer’s. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our chances: our understanding of the brain and the disease is advancing a great deal. We’re already making progress—but we need to do more.

I want to support the brilliant minds doing this work. As a first step, I’ve invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund—a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline and identify new targets for treatment. Most of the major pharmaceutical companies continue to pursue the amyloid and tau pathways. DDF complements their work by supporting startups as they explore less mainstream approaches to treating dementia.

I’m making this investment on my own, not through the foundation. The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries.

But before we can even begin to think about how we do that, we need lots of scientific breakthroughs. With all of the new tools and theories in development, I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s R&D. Now is the right time to accelerate that progress before the major costs hit countries that can’t afford high priced therapies and where exposure to the kind of budget implications of an Alzheimer’s epidemic could bankrupt health systems.

This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life. It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough. People should be able to enjoy their later years—and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that. I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.

This article was published November 13, 2017 in LinkedIn under the group, “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Topics”.

 

10 Bathroom Safety Tips for Older Adults

Safety in the bathroom is critical when it comes to the prevention of falls for older adults. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), 80 percent of senior falls that occur in the home happen in the bathroom.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shares that a staggering 1.6 million seniors seek emergency assistance due to falls each year. The cause of a fall could be lack of balance, an obstacle on the floor that causes tripping, or slippery surfaces.

Injuries due to bathroom falls range from mild injuries to serious injuries. These types of accidents can be avoided by taking steps toward preventing falls. By implementing safety precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances of injury due to slips, trips, and falls.

Preventing Falls and Injuries with these Quick Tips

Here are a few bathroom safety tips for seniors to help avoid injury:

Tip #1 – Install Grab Bars: By installing grab bars in your tub or shower, older adults have something to grasp when entering and exiting the bathtub or shower. This can reduce the chances of a slip and/or fall during bathing. Grab bars can also be installed near the toilet to aid with leverage and balance.

Tip #2 – Nonslip Strips: In addition to the installation of grab bars, an affordable way to increase and improve bathroom safety is by putting nonslip strips in the bottom of the tub or shower. You could also consider a non-slip bathmat or non-slip tiles. You can find non-slip strips in many different home and department stores. Not only are these safe, but they can also make a fun and decorative addition to the bathroom.

Tip #3 – Avoid Throw Rugs: Eliminate throw rugs in the bathroom to avoid trips and falls, or consider installing rugs with grips on the bottom. However, to be extra safe, remove bathroom rugs all together as they are a tripping hazard.

Tip #4 – Lighting: Make sure the bathroom has ample lighting is key for preventing falls or other injuries. By keeping the room well lit, it’s easier to see if there’s anything on the floor that could become a hazard. Lighting is particularly important for seniors with vision problems or balance issues.

Tip #5 – Bath Seating: Bath seating in a shower or tub is a great bathroom safety tactic – and they can be easy to install. For extra safety, consider adding bath seating as well as a grab-bar, making it easy to enjoy a shower without the fear of falling. Bath seating is available in various styles to meet the needs of all seniors.

Tip #6 – Hand-Held Shower Handle: Consider investing in a hand-held shower handle in addition to bath seating for a shower that’s stress-free and safe. Shower handles improve bathroom safety, and also come with various settings for optimum relaxation and enjoyment in the shower or tub.

Tip #7 – Toilet Seat Riser: Toilet seat risers are great for toilets with low seating. By raising the seat with a toilet seat riser, you may prevent falling when using the restroom. These make wonderful additions to grab bars near the toilet area.

Tip #8 – Keep the Floor Clear: Make sure that the floor is kept clear and free of any debris or clothing that could become a hazard or cause a fall.

Tip #9 – Keep the Floor Dry: Keeping the floor dry in the bathroom is one of the simplest and most important things that you can do to maintain bathroom safety for older adults. If the floors are wet or damp, this becomes a hazard that could create a very dangerous situation.

Tip #10 – Don’t Rush: What’s the hurry? When we rush in life, we put ourselves at greater risk for falls or injury. Take your time in the bathroom.

If you don’t own your home or apartment, always refer to your tenant guide or landlord before installing equipment in your bathroom.

Anneliese Peterson wrote this blog. She is with Walker Methodist is a faith-based, non-profit senior living organization that’s been serving older adults since 1945.

For more information about living life to the fullest and transitioning to life as an older adult, visit our website at www.homefreemods.com . We can help to make your bathroom safer. For a FREE bathroom evaluation, call us at 770-939-0747, or email us at info@homefreemods.com .

 

Baby Boomers Remodeling to Age in Place Will be the Trend: Harvard Study

With a national housing recovery under way, a distinct trend has emerged among baby

boomers in the wake of the housing crisis: remodeling to age in place. The finding is

according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard

University.

“As baby boomers move into retirement, they are increasing demand for aging-in-place

retrofits,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint

Center. “A decade ago, homeowners over 55 accounted for less than one third of all

home improvement spending. By 2011, this share had already grown to over 45

percent. And generations behind the baby boomers will help fuel future spending growth

since echo boomers are projected to outnumber baby boomers by more than twelve

million as they begin to enter their peak remodeling years over the next decade.”

Further bolstering remodeling potential is the buildup of distressed properties that will

come back to the market as home values climb back toward their pre-crisis levels.

“With about three million more foreclosures and short sales in the pipeline, there is

even more such spending ahead of us,” says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the

Joint Center.

The implications are “immense,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies notes, with the

trend by older homeowners toward remodeling being followed only by the next

population surge in the echo boom generation.

HomeFree Home Modification can assist you with your desire to “age in place” at home. By offering a FREE home assessment, we can help you determine the things that need to be done to your home that will allow you to have more safety & independence. You can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com .

 

Is there a company or organization that can inspect my 85-year-old mother-in-law’s home and advise us about how it can be made safer, especially the bathroom?

While almost all of us want to stay in our homes for as long as we can, it’s important to consider home safety when making that decision. Fortunately, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in conjunction with AARP, has developed the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) training designation for remodelers and contractors. These specialists have been trained in design modifications that can make homes safe for a lifetime. They can do a room-by-room assessment of the home and make recommendations for modifications. To find a CAPS certified contractor near you, go to NAHB’s website.

This article was written for the AARP magazine by Elinor Ginzler, a member of the AARP Caregiving Advisory Panel, and is senior director of the Center for Supportive Services at the Jewish Council for the Aging. She is also coauthor of Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide.

Dennis Lippy and Rick Thaxton with HomeFree Home Modification both have the  CAPS designation, and would be delighted to assist you in answering any questions you may have in making your home more safe, and giving you a greater degree of independence. As we like to say “our ideas are FREE”, as we will come out to your home and provide a NO COST home assessment, to help you determine if your home is “safe for a lifetime”. You can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com

Drink Coffee, Live Longer

As many as four cups a day could provide a health boost

by Austin O’Connor, AARP, July 11, 2017

A pair of new studies show drinking more coffee offers life-extending benefits.

Good news (in a venti cup!) for those who love coffee: Two new studies show that drinking more java could help you live a longer life.

The health effects of drinking coffee have been a point of debate over the years, with some studies showing negative effects and others positive. These just-released studies should calm the jitters for those who rely on their daily jolt — or jolts — of caffeine to get through the day. The first study, conducted by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Imperial College London, surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it the largest study on the correlation between coffee and mortality ever conducted in a European population. Its finding: Drinking more coffee significantly reduces the risk of death.

A second, separate study funded by the National Cancer Institute included a diverse set of subjects, surveying more than 185,000 adults from a range of  ethnicities, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese Americans, Latinos and whites. It found that the mortality boost provided by coffee extended across all races included.

Both studies were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The European study found that drinking coffee lowered people’s risk of liver, digestive and circulatory disease, and also lessened the rate of suicide in men and cancer in women. The survey also found that the more coffee you drink, the bigger the health boost. Subjects who drank three cups had a lower risk of all-cause death than those who did not drink coffee.

By focusing on various European countries, where coffee is prepared in many different ways, the study aimed to prove that positive health effects of coffee endure, regardless of preparation and serving style.

“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that it’s something about coffee, rather than something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it’s drunk,” said Marc Gunter, a principal investigator with the international research agency.

The second study echoed those findings, revealing that those who drank two to four cups a day had an 18 percent lower risk of death than those who did not drink coffee.

“Given these very diverse populations, all these people have different lifestyles. They have very different dietary habits and different susceptibilities — and we still find similar patterns,” said study leader Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Not to drop a cloud in your coffee, but doctors caution that people should still practice moderation when it comes to their daily indulgence, and nutritionists warn that adding flavorings such as heavy cream and sugar can increase your caloric intake and nullify many of the health benefits of black coffee.

*This article was taken from the July issue of AARP magazine.

HomeFree Home Modification can help you live longer in your home by providing things like #grab bars, #wider doors, #ramps, & #walk in showers, etc., just to name a few. These things will also make your home safer and give you more #independence. To get a FREE home assessment, you can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com

 

10 Things You Should Know About Medicare Insurance

A Guide to Out of Pocket Medical Costs

Did you know that about 51 million Americans are covered under Medicare today? That number is set to explode, however, as the baby boomers turn 65. By 2020, another 13 million will have signed up. If you’re one of them (or even if you already have Medicare), here’s what you need to know about Medicare insurance.

  1. There are four parts to Medicare Insurance (Parts A-D).
  • Part A covers inpatient hospitalization, hospice care, blood products, and short-term care in a skilled nursing facility, and some home health services.
  • Part B covers all outpatient services, such as doctor visits, ambulatory surgery, durable medical equipment, and home health services.
  • Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is the managed care form of Medicare run by private insurance companies. It covers the same services as Parts A and B, except for hospice care and participation in certain clinical research studies.
  • Part D covers prescription drugs.
  1. “Original” Medicare is one type of Medicare Insurance coverage.

Under original Medicare, you can see any provider who accepts Medicare. You pay premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance or co-payments for most services. If you want drug coverage, you have to purchase a plan separately. There is no limit on your annual out-of-pocket costs.

  1. Medicare Advantage is the other type of Medicare Insurance coverage.

Medicare Advantage is run by private insurance companies and includes all benefits covered under Parts A and B. These plans may have limited provider networks and may require specialist referrals. They may also have premiums, deductibles, and co-payments or coinsurance, although annual out-of-pocket costs are capped. Most plans cover prescription drugs and benefits not covered by Medicare, such as vision, dental, and hearing services.

  1. You have deadlines to meet.

You’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65 if you’re getting Social Security and paid Medicare payroll taxes while employed. If you’re not getting Social Security, you have to sign up for Medicare. To avoid paying a penalty, sign up during the seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65. You can enroll between January 1 and March 31 each year, with coverage beginning July 1.

  1. Your monthly premiums depend on your income.

Most people don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A (sometimes called “premium-free Part A”). If you buy Part A, you’ll pay up to $413 each month. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters, the standard Part A premium is $413. If you paid Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, the standard Part A premium is $227.

The standard Part B premium amount is $134 (or higher depending on your income). However, most people who get Social Security benefits will pay less than this amount ($109 on average).

The Part C monthly premium varies by plan. Compare costs for specific Part C plans.

The Part D monthly premium varies by plan (higher-income consumers may pay more). Compare costs for specific Part D plans.

  1. Some Medicare Advantage plans are better than others.

Medicare Advantage plans are evaluated based on criteria such as customer satisfaction and quality of care. Plans receive between one and five stars, depending on their scores. Five-star plans have the highest scores, and you can switch into a five-star plan most of the year—not just during open enrollment. Learn how the plans in your area rank here .

  1. You will probably need Medigap insurance.

You can rack up some hefty out-of-pocket costs with the deductibles and co-payments required under original Medicare. For instance, a 10-day hospital stay could cost you more than $12,000. A supplemental insurance policy, called Medigap, helps pay for the unpaid balance of Medicare charges. These secondary insurance policies only reimburses for charges that Medicare (the primary coverage) approved, including deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance. However, you can’t use a Medigap plan to pay for Medicare Advantage plan costs.

  1. You should check to see whether your drugs are covered.

All prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans have drug formularies, which list the medications they cover. The drugs are sorted into tiers based on their cost and effectiveness. The higher the tier, the higher your co-payment. To learn whether your medication is covered—and how much it will cost—contact your prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage company. Many plans post their formularies online.

  1.  You have protections and rights under Medicare Insurance.

These include the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, to be protected from discrimination, and to have your personal and health information kept private. You can also get emergency care when and where you need it, appeal payment or coverage decisions, and file complaints if you’re unhappy with the care you receive.

  1. Medicare Insurance doesn’t cover long-term care.

70% of us will need long-term care at some point. This includes help with daily activities, like bathing and cooking, as well as some medical care. Neither Medicare nor most health insurance plans, including Medigap, cover this type of care. If you’re worried about costs, check into long-term care insurance. Most people who can’t afford long-term care eventually qualify for Medicaid, government health insurance for the poor.

Although we are not experts on Medicare, we are experts on home modification, allowing you to remain in your home with more independence and safety. Please call us at 770-939-0747, or email at info@homefreemods.com to receive a FREE in home assessment. We will respond within 24 hours.

 

 

Baby Boomers Lead by Example in Knowing What’s Important

Steve Charnes works out at a senior center in Columbia, S.C., in 2014. Experts say that baby boomers want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. A way to do that is with the “village concept,” which is catching on in South Carolina. Virtual villages are member-run associations set up to help members with transportation, home repairs, and social connections. (Bruce Smith/AP).

What is in the hearts and souls of baby boomers in 2017?

Many boomers are looking for the path forward; it’s a generation with a rich history; most of them today are looking for health and happiness — in the here and now.

There are three things at play for those born between 1946 and 1964:

  1. The way we were
  2. The events of our time
  3. The vision, mission, goals, and objectives of our future

As part of their fund raising efforts, PBS recently aired a documentary on The Mamas and the Papas. The music was rich, the songs still wonderful, and the memories of the times were pronounced.

Baby boomers viewing this documentary must have felt as if they had been temporarily transported back to a different time.

The schedule of daily life as a typical baby boomer today may begin with getting up early to exercise, followed by calling one’s elderly mother to see how she is doing. This is just part of the care giving mode of operation for many boomers today.

Yet, something is missing from this snapshot of modern day life for baby boomers; where the main focus is on the present with an occasional glance back to the past.

What is missing are the hopes and dreams of baby boomers’ ever elusive bucket list.

Once upon a time, boomers got up, went to work, and thought to themselves, “When I retire or work less, or maybe even after a second career, I will be outlining all the places I want to go. I will then travel and see the world.”

You realized that maybe it won’t be in a Chevrolet, as the advertising slogan once recited, but you thought that you’d find a way to see all the places that were in your dreams.

However, a new culprit in the lineup for baby boomers seems to be interfering with the fulfillment of these dreams, it’s . . . being overwhelmed.

The inability to relax and the continued measures of responsibility are making life less about “Trivago,” and more about “A Place for Mom.”

Of course, baby boomers are not defined by one size fit all.

As an example, there is the woman from Ohio — who is not just the typical grandmother — she is actually raising her 3 year old granddaughter as if she were the mother.

And then there is the molecular biologist from California who is no longer doing ground breaking research or trying to plan out a dream trip to Patagonia, because she is now caregiver in chief.

This brilliant scientist is a wonderful researcher, and her hiking passion remains fierce, but her love for her elderly mother makes this boomer’s life about one key priority: the well-being of her mother, the woman who is responsible for making this baby boomer the woman she is today.

As baby boomer couples look at the map of life (or perhaps more accurately, life with GPS), they wonder, “Will I be able to go on that special fall trip this year?” “Will we be able to stay in our home?” These questions do not result from financial difficulty, but from the need to move in with and take care of that elderly parent.

Many between the ages of 53 and 71 are in the battle for the heart and soul of their generation. It is a battle for the way they want to live versus what they simply feel they need to do.

Baby boomers dispel rumors that they are selfish. In fact, many baby boomers are more accurately defined as selfless.

Baby boomers clearly show that they don’t run away from responsibility.

They are focused on the need to do the right thing for elderly parents, for their children, for their grandchildren — and for all of their loved ones.

Somehow baby boomers will find the fabric of their generation.

Once upon a time, it was about the Mama’s and the Papa’s “California Dreaming.”

These days, “Monday, Monday” is in play. Whether it is the song, or simply getting up every Monday for the greater good.

As baby boomers read this column, they know that whatever issue they are facing; whatever responsibility they are involved with — they are not alone.

Baby boomers have heart and a soul. And they fully know what’s important in life!

By Rick Bava ,Thursday, 06 Apr 2017. Bava founded and was CEO of the Bava Group, which became the premier communications consulting firm serving the Fortune 500 community. Bava became known for his popular blog columns “Rick Bava on the Baby Boomer Generation.” He is the author of “In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation.”

HomeFree Home Modification has been helping “baby boomers” to remain at home with more safety and independence since 2010. We will come out to your home and provide a FREE home assessment to determine how to tailor your home with modifications to suit your specific needs. Please call us at 770-939-0747, or email at info@homefreemods.com .

 

Georgia Tech researchers to test effectiveness of senior services

By Laura Berrios – For the AJC

The National Aging in Place Council is looking to Atlanta to help change the way people think about growing old.

First of all, members want to put some weight behind the buzz phrase: aging in place. It’s used often when speaking of the elderly, but it is rarely understood, council leaders say.

“People say, ‘What is it?’ Well, to us, it’s more than a cliche. It’s a system,” says National Aging in Place Council Executive Director Marty Bell.

Proving this system is where Atlanta comes in.

The national council, based in Washington, D.C., is partnering with Georgia Tech Research Institute’s HomeLab for a pilot program here that will track outcomes from older adults who use services and information available to help them remain independent as they age. These seniors will be compared with those who choose not to access services.

Georgia Tech researchers will follow the seniors for at least a year initially, and then longer, to see if older adults who utilize services and information have better outcomes than those who make do on their own.

“Most people want to ignore that they are aging. We believe, and want to prove, that if you plan, you can have a better outcome,” Bell said.

The pilot program is expected to start sometime in 2016, but donations are still needed to fund the research and subsequent marketing efforts. Bell said he will meet with “a lot of companies” during the first quarter of the year to raise money to get the program underway.

The National Aging in Place Council of Greater Atlanta will take the lead role in overseeing the project, with the Atlanta Regional Commission and other area aging advocates joining in the efforts. Bell said he wanted to get the whole city involved and hopes the pilot will become a model program that can be replicated around the country.

Georgia Tech’s HomeLab takes on projects that track older adults to help evaluate perceptions of aging. Researchers frequently test products to determine what adults 50 years of age and older want or need. HomeLab has a volunteer network of more than 600 seniors across a 10-county region in Georgia, and these participants will be engaged in the pilot study.

Showing positive outcomes of age planning leads to the organization’s other focus: getting people to talk about the subject much earlier than they ever thought they needed to.

In short, the aging conversation should be as natural and non-threatening as talking about retirement. In fact, said Bell, it should be part of the same conversation. And, like retirement, aging in place also should be planned.

“Traditionally, retirement planning has focused on finances and funding, but it has to be much broader than that,” Bell said. Retirement plans should also include housing, health care, transportation, personal finances and social interaction, among others.

MaryLea Quinn, chair of the National Aging in Place Council’s Greater Atlanta chapter, agreed the organization has to do a better job of getting the information out so that people can plan earlier for what they want their lifestyle to be as they get older.

“These are decisions you need to make ahead of time, and not in a crisis,” she said.

One problem is the generational divide in how adults view aging. According to research by the Georgia Tech School of Psychology, the Depression-era seniors believe aging is inevitable, and they feel fortunate to have lived so long. Their boomer children are likely to be in age denial. They want to stay healthy and keep growing, and don’t want to look or act old.

Because their expectations are different, the approach to aging in place also has to be different, Quinn said.

“Boomers are more open to technological advances and won’t be afraid to use innovative methods when aging in place. But at the same time, we still have to meet the needs of the Depression-era seniors,” she said.

GENERATION INFLUENCES: Silent Generation (1922-1945), Formative influences: WWII, GI Bill, civil rights movement, Core values: respect for authority, conformity, discipline, Key value: family/community, Work: livelihood, Money: save, Attitude toward own aging: fortunate; inevitable, Baby boomers (1946-1964)

We can help you to “age in place”. For a FREE home assessment, call 770-939-0747, or email info@homefreemods.com

 

Is Your Television The Future of Healthcare Innovation?

After all the angst generated by the Affordable Care Act, and all the punditry, noise, and debate that accompanied its rollout, you might conclude that there are no practical solutions to our healthcare challenges. But, of course, there are new answers and solutions and new, creative approaches to solving healthcare problems. You just have to look at innovative, private sector enterprises. And if you do, you might find one of the more innovative answers to eldercare right there in your old-fashioned television set. Just ask Kian Saneii, CEO of Independa.

But first, a little background. One of the more troubling and difficult areas of healthcare is the growing needs of the elderly, including both preventive care and the management of long-term, chronic illnesses. This has been a well-understood fact for quite some time. Saneii and the Independa team he began assembling in 2009 set out to find practical real-world solutions to these challenges. How they did this is an instructive case study in innovation, pragmatism and common sense.
The challenge that Saneii and Independa faced was grounded in four observations:

 The U. S. population is aging . . . fast. The 65+ age group is the largest population in the United States, and this segment will double by 2040.  Overwhelmingly – and hardly surprising – the elderly want to stay in their own home, in their own communities, as long as possible.  Long-term care costs have increased dramatically. In California, for example, nearly two thirds of the elderly could not afford three months of nursing home care; over forty percent couldn’t afford one month.  But, technology is converging in the growing area of telecare in such a way as to offer affordable, life-enhancing, and practical approaches to at-home care for at-risk populations.

“One of the things that struck me as we began thinking about this challenge,” Saneii says, “was this: There were (and still are) lots of point solutions in the area of telecare and eldercare, but no one was addressing the whole person. No one was looking to figure out how you put together multiple information streams, multiple data points and multiple inputs to monitor, treat and care for the individual. Point solutions were all aimed at individual symptoms, not individuals. The result was a partial, disconnected and incomplete system that neglected the human being who was being treated.

“For me, it just seemed that given twenty-first century technology, there had to be a better way to take care of my grandma living at home, and a better way to ensure she could continue living at home for as long as possible.”
At the heart of Independa’s strategy for eldercare is a simple assumption: The longer those who are aging or who have a chronic illness can stay at their current residence, be it their home or senior living community, the better. This is both a humane approach to healthcare delivery, and a key driver of reducing costs. Today, over 25.0% of the entire Medicare budget is spent in the last year of life, and 30.0% of those dollars are concentrated in the last month prior to death. And over 80.0% of that expenditure is in the hospital. The total costs – in dollars, in family stress, in unnecessary hospitalizations, in reduced quality of life – are staggering. A significant portion of these costs is driven by inefficient delivery and the absence of simple information flows, which in turn lead to missed medications, unnecessary hospitalizations and significant strain on care givers.

This is not where the elderly and chronically ill want to spend their time.

Saneii saw the opportunity to address the needs of the individual and the individual’s family. He recognized the positive upside of social engagement for the elderly as a means of ameliorating the costs and complexities that loneliness and isolation bring to the individual and their loved ones. And he saw telecare as an opportunity to improve the entire healthcare system, while dramatically increasing quality of life. So he and his team set out to create an experience, rather than a set of treatments, and a holistic approach to delivering care that takes into account the whole person.

“Although things are never as simple as we want,” Saneii says, “they might be simpler than we think. What we deliver is a total person-centric, not patient-centric, experience that reduces isolation and loneliness and improves quality of life for the elderly and chronically ill. In doing that, we also reduce family stress, family expense and wear and tear on family caregivers. The way to do that is to acquire high-quality information about the person’s status and make that available to family and caregivers: Things like medication and appointment reminders, activity monitoring, social engagement, and physical monitoring of health and wellness indicators.”

The Independa approach links the elderly person to their caregiver network, personal and professional, and provides the critical information flows necessary to preserve and extend independence, as well as to ease the day-to-day worries of the caregiver. The results of even the most basic information sharing can be surprising.

Consider the simple act of ensuring that medications are taken on schedule. One of the most frustrating challenges in caring for the elderly is prescription regimen. The AARP estimates that nearly 1 in 4 adults sixty-five or older will skip a medication or fail to refill a prescription, with serious consequences. For example, failure to follow the prescribed regimen and dosage for medication leads to a 50% increase in falls. The simple act of creating easy to use programs to ensure prescriptions are filled and taken on schedule reduces falls, reduces hospitalizations and doctor visits and prolongs independence.

“What we set out to do was a lot more than just develop a healthcare technology,” Saneii says. “We wanted to do something that would result in happier, more independent care recipients, and provide peace of mind for family caregivers. That’s really our measure of success.”

And now, enter the television set. Saneii and his team recognized that the elderly may very well be less likely to adopt new technologies, and prefer working with technology they already know. So, they partnered with an industry leader in commercial TVs to embed their solution directly into their TVs, a service seniors can access, no training needed, through the most recognizable of tools, their remote control. There it is: innovation in a television set.

As the U. S. population continues to age, and as healthcare becomes more available, there is an ever-increasing need to do things better, to provide smart approaches that both improve quality and reduce cost. Care of the elderly and chronically ill presents the most difficult challenges, but at the same time has the most potential upside for improving care. “In this world of elderly and chronically ill care delivery,” Saneii says, “just providing a technology, or a device, or a point solution is not enough. You have to think about the individual and that individual’s family. More than anything else we want to support independence, individual dignity and peace of mind. Why else would you be in this business?”

*This article was written by Henry Doss is a venture capitalist with T2VC, a volunteer in higher education, and a student and musician.

This article stresses the importance of seniors remaining at home to effectively receive better health care and reduce the cost. HomeFree Home Modification can help you to remain at home with more independence and safety. To receive a NO COST home assessment, please call us at 770-939-0747, or email at info@homefreemods.com

How to grow old in your own home

Five success factors for you and your loved ones or caregivers to keep in mind.

When Marguerite Sullivan’s spouse passed away, the 78-year-old had no interest in moving. She’s healthy, has many friends, and her two sons live nearby. Plus, she’s a confident driver and gets herself to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store.

Those are all important prerequisites for people who want to stay in their homes as they grow older, or “age in place.”

According to an AARP survey, nearly 90% of those over age 65 want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. But Sullivan and others, who want to stay put as they grow older, “need to have a plan—and a support system—in place that allows them to stay in their community, ideally in their home, as long as possible, and to ensure that they’re living safely and independently,” explains Suzanne Schmitt, vice president for family engagement at Fidelity.

Here are five things that aging singles or couples—and their children, other family members, or caregivers—should keep in mind when assessing the living situation. For more detail, read our new “Aging well: A planning, conversation, and resource guide.”

1. Explore the benefits of staying put.

There are many reasons why aging in place can be a win. For starters, “it may be financially advantageous,” Schmitt says. For instance, depending on the situation, staying in a home can be less expensive than moving to an assisted-living community. There are the upfront costs of moving, an often steep entrance fee, and monthly payments for room and board, which can easily top $3,000 a month.

Even more important are the psychological payoffs of not moving away from one’s established community of friends, medical professionals, and faith community. Though these factors are hard to place a financial value on, they are a vital component of healthy aging.

“The single most predictive factor of whether you’re going to age well—meaning be able to be independent and live a long and healthy life—isn’t money,” says Schmitt. “And it isn’t even necessarily your health. It’s your social connections, which may get lost [if you move], because many people focus more on their finances.”

2. Do a home safety check.

The first step in an “aging in place” plan is to run a complete safety check of your home. “Many people don’t know what to look for,” says Schmitt. “There are some hazards that you might take for granted—for example, furniture obstructing pathways or stairs.”

Sullivan’s children did just that. They walked around her house with an eye for any potential hazards that might cause trouble should her vision or mobility begin to deteriorate. Then they hired a home modification professional to help make needed changes.

The good news is that many of the improvements that may make it easier to stay in your house—such as raising electrical outlets to make them more accessible, and installing brighter outdoor lighting—aren’t expensive.

Sullivan’s home was retrofitted by installing secure handrails alongside the stairs to the front door, switching doorknobs to levers, adding automatic lights to hallways, removing rugs that might become tripping hazards, and placing grab bars in the shower.

“There are plenty of easy options to modify a home,” says Schmitt. “The sooner you start preparing, the better.”

3. Assess transportation.

“Driving may be your lifeline and independence,” Schmitt points out. “Coming to the ‘I don’t think I can drive’ moment is tough, but it can’t be avoided.”

And, although driving might not be a concern now, it may ultimately become one.

If you are at the point that you can no longer drive or walk to the grocery store or reach other important services, consider other transportation options. “If you have public transit, great, but it doesn’t exist in a lot of places,” explains Schmitt. In that case, you may need to make other arrangements, such as ride sharing with friends and neighbors, or transportation assistance that many companion-care services may offer. When it comes to groceries and getting things like prescriptions filled, automatic delivery or online delivery can be a great option. A family or friend can help manage orders and accounts and can track order history to help make sure you are getting what you need.

4. Ensure a supportive community or network.

This is a linchpin: Communications—social connectivity. Think about how supportive the community is where you live.

Isolation can be a stumbling block to aging well. And it can creep up slowly. No matter how safe the inside of a home is, if there isn’t enough interaction with a community, a plan can fall apart.

Are you lonely? Part of aging in place successfully is being able to stay connected, and not fall into the depression that many people experience because they are isolated,” says Schmitt.

Are you comfortable on a computer? Can you connect online with your children, grandkids, and others?

You might also investigate some of the companionship services available in the community, through websites such as Caregiving.org.

Start to pull together a list of people and professionals who can step in and help if you need someone to go along to a doctor’s appointment, or someone to help with errands, or for lunch or dinner dates. If your family doesn’t live nearby, you may want to have a pipeline to neighbors you can call for periodic checkups.

A growing number of communities use the “village” concept for services and support to seniors. The idea, originating in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, is to create a nonprofit organization that arranges for services—including transportation, home repair, and social activities—for a fee.

5. Make it an ongoing process.

“One of the myths is that people think they can make a plan once, and they’re done,” says Schmitt. “This is something that needs to be reviewed regularly by you and your family member or caregiver.”

Once the home is retrofitted, keep an eye open to see if you are having trouble. Friends and family members may want to look out for any unexplained bruising on the aging person’s arms or legs. “It can be an indicator that they may be having trouble moving around,” Schmitt notes. Also, look around the home when you visit. Is there a pile of mail? Are things in disarray? Check the refrigerator. Is it bare? Is food spoiling?

What if you experience a health event, such as a bout of pneumonia that requires a lengthy hospital stay, or a fall that affects your cognitive ability or mobility. These are going to be very important points when you have to take a look at whether the plan you put in place is still going to work going forward.

“In ideal world, we will age gracefully in place, but that doesn’t happen very often without careful preparation,” says Schmitt. “Take the time to sit down and get the aging-in-place conversation going.”

HomeFree Home Modification can help you to “Grow Old in Your Own Home” with greater independence and safety. We provide a FREE home evaluation. You can call us at 770-939-0747, or email at info@homefreemods.com .