The stereotype of the grumpy senior citizen is not a fair representation of how a person should feel when they get older. While some conditions can lead to mental health changes, these should not be ignored. It’s important to seek help if you or a senior you love is exhibiting signs of depression.
More than 19 million people in the U.S. are affected by depression each year. Out of the approximately 34 million Americans who are 65 or over, more than two million suffer from depression.
The mental health disorder can appear on its own due to life changes or with a co-occurring illness like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
The older a person gets, the more likely they are to go through difficult life events, like the death of someone they love. One-third of windows and widowers show signs of depression during the first month after losing a spouse. Half of those individuals remain clinically depressed for the following year.
Depression can also lead to thoughts of suicide. It’s considered a significant predictor of suicide in older adults. People over age 65 account for around 20% of suicide deaths. White males who are over age 85 have nearly six times the suicide rate in the United States with 65.3 deaths per 100,000.
People with depression may also face increased financial costs because of the disorder. Healthcare costs are around 50% higher for older adults who show signs of depression compared to those who do not.
Understanding the disorder makes a big difference in the life of a senior with depression.
According to a National Mental Health Association survey conducted in 1996, around 68% of participants over age 65 knew little to nothing about depression. Only 38% of respondents agreed that depression is a health problem. And only 42% said they would seek support from a medical professional if they experience depression. The rest reported that they would try to “handle it themselves.”
What’s worse is that over half of participants, approximately 58%, believed that depression is just a normal part of getting older.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Depression is a disorder and should not be considered a normal way to go through life at any age. That’s why everyone – especially seniors – should know the signs of depression.
Becoming Pessimistic or Feeling Hopeless
Seniors who exhibit personality changes, like becoming pessimistic, should be evaluated immediately. Pessimism and feeling hopeless are common signs of depression. Personality changes can also indicate another underlying problem, like dementia.
These changes should be evaluated by a medical professional. Seniors should talk to their healthcare provider and be honest about changes to ensure that they receive the care they need.
Feelings of Helplessness, Worthlessness, or Guilt
Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty are also common signs of depression. Many people with the condition engage in self-blame, even in situations that they have no control over or did nothing wrong. Others report feeling like they have nothing to offer the world.
Self-blame often comes with over-generalization of situations to reflect the patient’s mental state. For example, a depressed person may think that if they fail at one activity, it means that they are a complete failure. They take one external situation and turn it into a general, internal thought that coincides with their negative outlook.
A person who is experiencing these feelings should focus on being kind to themselves and avoid negative thinking. Situations should be reframed to be more realistic and positive. It is not easy but will gradually get easier the more you do it. This is a good method to share with seniors who have depression and experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
Losing Interest in Once-Loved Activities
Anhedonia refers to a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed or a decreased ability to experience pleasure. It isn’t exclusive to depression but is considered a core symptom of it.
Seniors with depression may suddenly become disinterested in their favorite pastimes. The physical limitations of aging can make it impossible for someone to do things they once enjoyed, which can cause or worsen depression. In other cases, they may be physically capable of engaging in a hobby but simply choose not to do so.
Patients may be advised to schedule a consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist to diagnose and treat the condition. Visits with a therapist can also help.
Lower Energy Levels and Fatigue
Decreased energy and fatigue are also common signs of depression. This can occur due to the condition or as a result of its other symptoms, like poor diet, inactivity, and insomnia. Inactivity caused by depression can lead to physical discomfort like joint pain and stiffness.
Exercise is beneficial in staving off depression in seniors. Finding a senior-friendly exercise routine is a good first step. Physical activity releases endorphins that make a person feel good. It also helps build strength, endurance, and energy. Staying fit improves cognitive function as well.
Make sure the workout routine you or your loved one chooses is suitable based on their age and mobility. Even adding short sessions throughout the week can have a positive effect.
Unexplained Change in Appetite
Over and under eating can be a sign of depression in seniors. This is because many of the regions in the brain that are used to generate appetitive responses are also associated with depression.
Poor eating habits will lead to other health concerns, so they should be addressed right away. Eating a nutritious diet and making sure the recommended daily quantities are adhered to is a good start. You or your loved one should also consult a doctor to seek treatment for depression and to ensure that no other health issues are contributing to the situation.
Difficulty Remembering or Making Decisions
Depression can affect cognitive abilities. A person with the disorder may have difficulty processing and remembering information. It can also cause indecisiveness.
Seniors with depression may exhibit an inability to adapt to changing situations. They also may show poor executive functioning, meaning they have trouble completing all steps to accomplish a task or reach a goal.
A senior experiencing these symptoms should be evaluated by a medical professional. They will also need additional support and understanding from loved ones while they find treatment.
Too Much or Too Little Sleep
Depression shares a close connection with sleep. Almost all patients diagnosed with depression also report problems with their sleep patterns. This is one of the first things many doctors look for when determining if a patient has the disorder.
Sleep and depression share a bidirectional relationship. That means that they build off each other. Depression can cause problems with sleep while poor sleep contributes to depression.
Sleep issues that often appear with depression include hypersomnia, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea. Insomnia is most common and occurs in an estimated 75% of adults with depression. Only about 20% experience obstructive sleep apnea and 15% experience hypersomnia.
The way sleep is affected can change. For example, a single period of depression can switch between hypersomnia and insomnia. Finding treatment for depression is the best way to stop or reduce sleep-related symptoms.
Thoughts of Suicide or Attempted Suicide
If you or a senior you love express thoughts of suicide or attempts suicide, seek professional help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
Thoughts and threats of suicide should always be taken seriously. While seeking help, the patient should be placed in a safe environment. If they are at home, that means removing anything that could be used to harm themselves, like pills or weapons.
While therapy may be the initial approach to treating depression, it may not be enough. Patients who feel suicidal should be evaluated and may require antidepressant medication. A medical professional can determine the best course of action to protect the patient and help them find treatment.
Senior depression is a serious issue that can appear regardless of health status, living situation, or lifestyle. Assisted living residents should let staff know if they experience any of the symptoms outlined above.
Visit Vista Living Senior Care to learn more about senior health and wellness.
Staying fit should be a top priority for every senior citizen. When your body is in good shape, you will live more comfortably with fewer limitations. A healthy person is better able to fight off illness and recover from injuries. Improved strength and balance will reduce a senior’s fall risk.
Exercise also improves mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity releases endorphins that boost mood. Regular workouts improve cognitive function and motor skills, lowering the risk of dementia.
Sometimes, going outside or leaving your home isn’t an option. Bad weather makes travel dangerous while social distancing can force seniors to remain in their homes. When this happens, you should have a plan to continue your exercise routine indoors.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42.5% of people ages 65 to 74 met the federal guidelines for aerobic activity. Approximately 30.9% of people ages 75 to 84 met the guidelines. Those were improvements from previous years, which were around 35.7% and 24.5% respectively for each age group. These numbers should continue to increase as more seniors focus on their health.
Overall, a regular workout routine can improve your quality of life and help you remain independent for longer. The key is knowing how to safely exercise, even if you cannot leave home. The following list will help you build a senior-friendly indoor workout routine.
Walking Around at Home
Walking is a basic form of exercise that is beneficial at any age. It improves cardiovascular health, leading to better circulation and lower blood pressure. Studies conducted at the University of Tennessee and University of Colorado found that walking reduced the risk of stroke for older women.
A Harvard study of 12,000 people found that those who walked briskly for about one hour a day were less likely to experience the effects of over 30 obesity-promoting genes.
The easiest way to get started is to have a planned route through your home. You can increase distance by doing more laps, walking around the perimeter of each room, and by walking around furniture.
Assuming you have no limiting health issues, you should try to get in around 2.5 hours of walking per week. That translates to approximately 30 minutes of daily walking on most days of the week. If you can jog instead, then you can reduce that duration to 1 hour and 15 minutes weekly.
Before you begin, make sure you have cleared away any tripping hazards like low-sitting furniture and rugs. You should have a clear, even path to follow.
Housework Keeps You Fit
You can get things done and stay fit by working chores into your exercise routine. Doing things around the house also burns calories and uses your muscles. The effectiveness of each session will depend on what you are doing, so this might be harder to measure. However, it’s still beneficial in the end.
Have a plan to do as much of the housework as you safely can. You should only do things that you can do based on your mobility and health status. For example, if you have back problems, then carrying a heavy basket of laundry may not be a good idea. However, you could stand and fold the laundry once it’s done to get more time on your feet.
Vacuuming and sweeping floors are also great for physical health because it requires you to both stand and move your arms.
If you have questions about staying safe, talk to your doctor. They can assess your health and mobility and let you know if there are any chores you should avoid.
Low-Impact Yoga or Tai Chi
Tai Chi and Yoga are popular exercises for seniors. They are similar, both being low-impact and gentle on the body. They also introduce a mental component that encourages peace and calmness.
The internet is a great resource for seniors who want to expand their at-home exercise routine with one or both practices. You can search for free online videos that discuss how to get started. You can also connect with instructors that offer virtual classes for a more interactive experience.
Don’t forget to check in with your assisted living events coordinator to find out if they will be offering Yoga or Tai Chi classes or something similar. If you live in a retirement community, then you may have access to group workouts that don’t require travel to an off-site studio or gym.
When learning Tai Chi, Yoga, or any other new workout routine, remember to start slowly. Let yourself learn how to perform each move correctly for maximum benefit and to minimize the risk of injury.
If you are participating in a virtual class, remember that you should focus on personal progress rather than what those around you are doing. Everyone starts at a different ability level, so you should work to improve upon where you were rather than trying to catch up with others. This is the best way to stay motivated and push yourself to do better without getting frustrated or risking injury.
Strength and Balance Exercises
Good strength and balance are essential for senior citizens. Both have an impact on your daily activities. They play a role in your quality of life and significantly influence your fall risk.
A fall injury can be devastating for an older adult. Every year, around 3 million people go to the emergency room due to a fall. At least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized for hip fractures annually. Over 95% of those fractures are caused by a fall. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Anything that you can do to reduce your fall risk is a smart move.
Many exercises that can help in this area. You can try walking heel to toe, putting one foot in front of the other so that your heel and toes touch each time you step. Walk 20 steps this way.
You can also try a single-limb stance. Hold on to the back of a sturdy chair. Lift your right foot and hold that position for as long as you can before switching to your left foot. You should work toward being able to perform this exercise with both legs for one minute without holding the chair.
Wall push-ups are another senior-safe exercise option. Stand one arm length away from a wall. Lean forward and put your palms on the wall at the same height and width as your shoulders. Next, slowly lower your body toward the wall and push back up. It works just like a regular push-up but without having to get on the floor.
Seated Exercises for Senior Citizens
Seniors with mobility limitations may prefer to try seated exercises. These involve sitting in a chair. It’s a better choice for people with back or balance issues. You can still burn calories and build muscle without risking your safety.
Always use a sturdy chair that doesn’t have wheels. You can warm up by doing 30 to 60 seconds of marching while seated followed by 30 seconds of arm circles. Repeat this process for 3 to 5 minutes before moving on.
Next, you can choose exercises based on your needs. If you want to build leg strength, try pillow squeezes. Place a pillow between your thighs or knees and squeeze using your inner thigh muscles. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds before releasing. You should repeat this exercise 12 times.
If you want more of a challenge, add dumbbells to your seated workout. While sitting, hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them to shoulder height. Next, raise your arms as high as you can then return them to your shoulder height again. Do this at least 12 times.
There are many ways to stay fit while at home. Come up with a workout routine that suits your needs without risking your safety. If you have questions, your doctor can provide more insight into what an ideal exercise regimen looks like for you.
Many assisted living communities offer exercise classes and fitness opportunities to residents. If you are interested in learning more about senior care, visit Vista Living.
Moving into an assisted living community can feel like a big change for older adults. Some view it as an end to living independently and a reminder of a person’s increasing age.
Many benefits come with moving into assisted living. There are around one million Americans in some type of senior community right now. That number is expected to double by 2030. As our healthcare services improve, so does our longevity. Today’s seniors live active, healthy lives. Many now believe that 80 is the new 65 thanks to innovations in medicine and senior care.
Assisted living communities can enrich a person’s life. They provide opportunities for socializing. They also reduce the burden placed on family members, who otherwise may have to care for aging relatives at home without the resources of an assisted living community.
The difficult part is knowing when it is time to make the move. You should not wait until something bad happens. It is best to begin this chapter in your life sooner when the signs of old age are starting to show but before they become a health risk.
If any of the following apply to you, then it may be time to consider assisted living.
Changes in Mobility and Increased Fall Risk
Our physical capabilities tend to change as we get older. If you notice trouble with balance and strength, this could be a sign that you need assistance. This is especially true if you have had a fall or almost fell in the recent past.
Fall injuries are particularly damaging for older people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls causes serious injury. At least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized because of hip fractures each year. Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
You should speak to your doctor about fall risk concerns. They can evaluate you and recommend ways to reduce your risk. Assisted living facilities are already equipped with devices and railings that are used to prevent seniors from falling.
Inability to Perform Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living include all the skills needed to do the basic things a person does every day. These include keeping up with grooming, dressing, and personal hygiene as well as using the bathroom, eating meals, and moving throughout your home.
If you have trouble in any of these areas, you should learn more about assisted living. These communities have staff available to assist to ensure that you stay clean and healthy. You can talk to the facility about your health status and physical ability to ensure that you retain as much independence as possible while receiving the support you need.
Prolonged Periods of Illness and Recovery
Older adults take longer to recover after an injury or illness. This can occur due to an underlying health issue, like diabetes. It can also happen because of reduced skin elasticity and delayed inflammatory response.
If you take longer to get back to normal after an injury or illness, it may be time to consider a senior-friendly living situation.
Difficulty Managing Household Finances
Financial troubles can also indicate that a person needs additional assistance. Age-related conditions can affect cognitive ability. This can lead to poor money management and make a person more vulnerable to scams.
If you are struggling to pay bills and manage household finances, seek assistance. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you while you decide if it’s time to move into an assisted living community.
Home That is Not Cleaned or Maintained
Is your house beginning to look poorly maintained or dirty despite your best efforts? This is another clear sign that you need help.
This situation can occur if your physical or mental status has changed or after losing a spouse or loved one who handled the tasks that are going undone. You don’t have to try and do it all alone. Assisted living communities hire cleaning staff that handles everything so you can thrive in a hygienic environment.
Signs of Depression or Social Isolation
Depression is a concern for older people. It is considered a significant predictor of suicide in the elderly. Many things can cause a person to become depressed as they age. Seniors may face a chronic illness or mourn the loss of loved ones. Others may struggle to cope with the inability to drive, work, or do the things that they once enjoyed.
If you experience restlessness, anxiety, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, poor decision making, changes in sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of emptiness, or unexplained aches and pains, you could be depressed.
Depression can also lead to thoughts of suicide and drug or alcohol abuse. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical advice immediately.
Exhibiting Dangerous or Unusual Behaviors
If you exhibit dangerous or unusual behaviors, it may be time to consider assisted living. Worrying Behaviors include things like wandering inside or outside for no reason or letting candles burn when you leave the home.
Severe Memory Loss and Dementia Symptoms
Severe memory loss and dementia can make living on your own a challenge. Seniors may experience difficulty using language, misplacing objects, poor judgment, rapid mood swings, and personality changes. Some patients also report lacking initiative, excessive sleeping, and loss of interest in things they used to love.
If you notice the symptoms of memory loss or dementia, you should go to your doctor first. They can evaluate you and provide more insight into your condition and how to treat it. Next, you should consider moving into an assisted living community that provides memory care.
Poor Medication Management
You should be taking your prescribed medications in the right doses at the right times to stay on top of health issues. Poor medication management is dangerous at any age. You may not get enough of what you need, or you could accidentally overdose.
If you find yourself missing doses or forgetting if you took one, it may be time to consider assisted living.
Pets That Appear Neglected
People of all ages own pets. Our animal companions make our lives happier. However, an older person may begin to have difficulty taking care of their pet. If your beloved dog or cat looks underfed, overfed, or otherwise neglected, this could be a sign that you are in need of daily assistance.
Experiences Sundown Syndrome
Sundown syndrome, or sundowning, is a term used to describe changes in dementia patients that occur in the late afternoon or early evening. Patients may experience anxiety, sadness, mood swings, restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, delusions, or even energy surges during this time.
These feelings can cause behaviors that are difficult to manage, like disorientation, crying, screaming, rocking, pacing, resistance, or aggression.
Concern from Friends, Family, or Neighbors
The people around you may pick up on changes before you do. If you have had family, friends, or neighbors express concern over your wellbeing, it may be time to listen to what they have to say.
These are people who care about you and likely know your normal routines. One comment may not mean anything, but if you have had multiple people share concerns, it is likely time to re-evaluate your living situation.
Visit Vista Living Senior Care to learn more about assisted living for older adults.
For family members looking for a home for a loved one, this is always a very tough question to ask, but an essential one, and a question that we often get asked. A full-service assisted living homes (with an excellent management team, nurse on staff, and trained caregivers) can handle most of the end-of-life care situations that arise, but not all the medical conditions that can materialize. Often loved ones want to minimize the chance that a move to another facility will be necessary before end-of-life.
What a Full-Service Residential Assisted Living Home Can Handle:
- Oxygen therapy – There are no specific best practices for the use of oxygen therapy during end-of-life care. However, if oxygen is prescribed by the person’s medical provider, assisted living homes can adequately administer and monitor its use.
- Some wound care with the help of a specialist who comes into the home. Often wound that require complex dressing changes or wound vacuum care is best suited for long-term care facilities.
- Sliding scale insulin requires close monitoring by an LPN or RN and can usually be handled.
- Antimicrobial therapy – This is commonly used to relieve symptoms associated with the end of life. Approximately half of the patients receiving end-of-life care have an infection. Assisted living care homes can work with medical practitioners to determine when antimicrobial therapy is an essential part of end-of-life care.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) – Having COPD can make end-of-life breathing difficulties more severe. Assisted living homes are equipped to handle most cases of end-stage COPD through the use of oxygen and pain medication, as prescribed by a medical professional.
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – is another condition that can be monitored well in an assisted living home. It may be appropriate for hospice care to be included when the patient reaches the final stages of CHF.
- Renal failure – Renal failure usually requires dialysis to deal with decreasing kidney function. Managing chronic illnesses such as renal failure is a specialty associated with assisted living. Many can partner with nearby dialysis centers to provide in-house dialysis/ palliative dialysis with treatment goals being aimed at quality of life rather than medical parameters.
- Acute phase of strokes – Stroke patients benefit from a structure in how end-of-life care is administered. Assisted living homes are capable of providing the level of is needed, and the consistency of delivering that care.
- Dementia – Caring for anyone at the end of life is difficult, but it can be even more challenging if the person has dementia. Assisted living homes are equipped to handle these increased needs and provide the patient with the dignity and respect they deserve.
- Cirrhosis/liver failure – Pain control and the relief of symptoms associated with liver failure during end-of-life care are easily managed by assisted living homes.
- Progressive weight loss – Also called a “failure to thrive,” it is a hallmark of the end of life. It is especially concerning for patients with dementia. Assisted living homes can monitor weight loss and administer appropriate care as directed by medical providers.
- Medication administered by oral route – Assisted living homes are trained to administer oral medications to help manage end of life conditions and symptoms.
When Can An Assisted Living Not Handle End-of-Life Care
As previously mentioned, it is not always appropriate for assisted living homes to care for a patient at the end of life. There are times when a person will require care elsewhere:
- Significant wound care that involves complex wound dressing changes is best suited for long-term care facilities.
- Continuous or intermittent IV is better suited for rehabilitation facilities and long-term care facilities.
- Usually, tubes and jejunostomy tubes are better suited for long-term care facilities due to the requirement for cleaning and monitoring the tubes to prevent infection.
- CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilators require a level of care that is not appropriate for assisted living homes. End-of-life patients with these devices are better suited for long-term care.
- Total parenteral nutrition infusions are common for patients dying of cancer and other terminal illnesses. A long-term care facility best manages it.
What is End-of-Life Care?
End-of-life care, sometimes referred to as late-stage care, is the clinical term to describe the ongoing emotional support and medical care an individual receives during the time leading up to their death. The person may be in the final stages of a terminal illness, succumbing to a lifelong disease, or in the natural stages of the dying process. The length of care is dependent on the reason the person requires it and can last a few days, weeks, or even months.
Regardless of why a person needs end-of-life care, the goal is to help them live as comfortably as possible in the time they have left. Quality end-of-life care also includes:
- Management of physical symptoms to ensure comfort
- Emotional support for the person receiving the care and their family members
- Expectations for the person receiving the care and their family and friends about the process of late-stage care and the dying process
- Financial support, as needed
- Assistance in drafting a will
Knowing when it is time to consider late-stage care is an integral part of the process.
Individuals dealing with terminal illnesses or diseases with a high mortality rate are candidates for this type of care. If the person already resides at an assisted living care facility, the staff may approach family and caregivers when it is time to transition to end-of-life care and support.
Other signs it is time to consider late-stage care include:
- Multiple trips to the emergency room for the treatment and stabilization of an ongoing condition. The condition rapidly worsens between ER trips, and the person’s quality of life is not improving.
- Multiple admissions to the hospital in the same year for the same condition with worsening symptoms
- The decision to discontinue treatment for a terminal illness
What to Expect When End of Life is Near
No two people are the same, but there are some common physical symptoms experienced when the end of life is near. Breathing difficulty, digestive issues, fatigue, and pain are all normal parts of the dying process. Watching a loved one experience these symptoms can be difficult, but it is essential to stay calm so that the patient will feel at peace.
While each person is different, there are some commonalities associated with the body as it begins to break down during the end-of-life stage. What to expect:
- 1 to 3 months before death – The dying person may take more frequent naps and sleep for more extended periods; have a diminished hunger and thirst; begin to withdraw from friends and family; communicate less; stop engaging in previously-enjoyed activities.
- 1 to 2 weeks before death – Changes in sleep patterns and decreased appetite and thirst are the most noticeable signs of this stage. The dying person will also have less urine output and fewer bowel movements, increased pain; congested breathing; and changes in their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. It is not uncommon for the dying person to appear confused.
What Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility About End-of-Life Care
Create a list of questions to have on hand when touring an assisted living facility to ensure it matches your loved one’s needs. Some of the things to ask are:
- What is your patient to staff ratio?
- What type of training does your care staff receive?
- Is your staff trained in Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-care needs?
- Are staff members on-site 24/7?
- Are staff members trained to administer medication?
- Do you have in-house nurses and doctors on staff?
- What are your security measures?
- Are there additional services available if care needs change?
- Do you offer end-of-life care?
- Can you provide references?
There are red flags to watch for when asking your questions and touring assisted living facilities. The biggest red flag is a lack of respect. Pay attention to how staff members interact with residents and with one another. Are they spending more time socializing with each other than caring for the residents?
Other red flags include:
- Managers are unavailable to answer questions on request. If they are missing in action during your visit, it may be a sign they are overworked or inattentive.
- The facility lacks choices for everyday living needs, such as your loved one’s choice of food, clothing, and sleeping time. While some routine needs to occur, you don’t want your loved one to feel like they are in prison.
- The facility is located in an unsafe neighborhood.
- The staff is rude to you or uncaring toward residents.
- The residents do not look well cared for, and the facility is cluttered or dirty.
- There are violations or complaints against the facility.
- The administration avoids discussing fees for services.
With Which End-of-Life Conditions Can Assisted Living Provide Comfort?
Some assisted living communities do not provide end-of-life care. For those that do, there are conditions with which they can provide comfort and support.
1. Pain and discomfort
Pain and discomfort are common at the end of life, especially during the final weeks leading to a person’s death. It can be difficult for loved ones to watch, but there are things assisted living providers can do to help.
Because there is no need to worry about the long-term effects of pain medication – including addiction – pain medication will be administered to ensure the patient is comfortable and with pain management in mind. Morphine is commonly prescribed during the end of life, but other pain medications can be used. Assisted living providers can work with palliative medical specialists to find the right fit.
2. Breathing problems/shortness of breath
Just as it can be challenging to see a loved one in pain, it also is painful to watch them struggle to breathe. Shortness of breath and the ability to take a deep breath is common during the end of life. Sometimes it may even sound like rattling in the chest. This is caused by fluid collecting in the dying person’s throat. Assisted living providers can ease breathing difficulty by elevating the patient, using a humidifier, and using a fan to circulate the air in the room.
3. Skin irritation/skin breakdown
As we age, our skin naturally becomes drier. Once a dying person begins to experience a diminished desire to eat and drink, dry skin can worsen. Sitting or lying in one position for too long also can cause bed sores. Assisted living care teams can use lotions to help keep the dying person’s skin moisturized. Shifting their position throughout the day will help to prevent bedsores.
4. Digestive problems
It is not uncommon for people near the end of life to lose their appetite. The natural result can be nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Pain medication can make constipation and nausea worse. Assisted living care staff can work with the patient’s medical providers to find a balance of pain medication and other intervention measures to ease these symptoms. Assisted living centers may suggest offering smaller meals to the patient to help encourage eating, prevent dehydration, and help the person to eat if they feel too weak to feed themselves.
5. Temperature sensitivity
Shifting from being too hot to too cold is common at the end of life. If the patient is constantly kicking off a blanket, they may be trying to tell you they are too warm. Shivering can be a sign the person is too cold. Assisted living facilities capable of handling end-of-life patients are trained to watch for these signs and ensure they are comfortable.
When we do not eat or drink as frequently as we once did, fatigue is natural. Assisted living care staff can help ease fatigue by keeping activities simple for the person. This may mean switching to sponge baths instead of showers and placing a portable toilet next to the person’s bed to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom.
How to Evaluate if an Assisted Living Home is Equipped to Handle End-of-Life Care
When it comes to evaluating whether an assisted living home is equipped to handle end of life care, safety is the bottom line. You can ask questions to determine if an assisted living home is the right choice for you:
What can I expect from end-of-life care in your home?
- Who will be administering the care? What are their qualifications?
- Do you have a plan for the administration of my care?
- How will my pain be managed?
- How will you communicate with my family about my care and ongoing needs?
Assisted living homes that fail to answer questions of this nature, or offer only vague answers are incapable of providing the quality care you deserve during the end of life.
Comparing End-of-Life Options
Assisted living homes are not your only end-of-life option. It is best to compare all of your choices before making a decision.
Both hospice and palliative care provide comfort. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and occur in conjunction with treatment. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it becomes clear the person will not survive the illness. Hospice care is generally recommended for persons with six months or less to live and can be provided at home or at an assisted living home under the guidance of a hospice physician and nurse.
Other options for care include:
- Home-based care is possible but depending on the level of care the person requires, it may not be ideal. Caregivers involved with an in-home care situation will need to be well organized and consistent. The benefit is the person will feel more comfortable in their home environment. A significant drawback is the lack of access to the kind of medical equipment that can make end-of-life care easier for all involved.
- Long-term residential facilities are ideal for end-of-life care that requires access to a variety of medical and personal care services.
- Hospital-based care should be reserved for only those who require intensive levels that frequently require the supervision of medical professionals.
Choosing Vista Living as the Right Assisted Living Facility for You
Vista Living’s caring and compassionate staff understand the stress and anxiety involved with end-of-life care. We ensure the dying person and their loved ones are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve through every step of the process. Contact us today to learn more about how Vista Living can help your loved transition.
According to a recent report, about 40.2 percent of retired American workers rely solely on their Social Security benefits in retirement — while around 6.8 percent receive money from Social Security, pensions, and retirement savings accounts. However, even those who receive money from all three sources can expect to earn a median annual income of just $37,440.
Whether you’re living on Social Security benefits alone or you’re fortunate enough to have other retirement savings like an IRA or 401(k), living on a fixed income can be a challenge — especially when you’re used to getting raises, promotions, and racking up overtime on occasion.
However, it’s possible to live on a fixed income without skimping out on your golden years — and we’ll tell you how to do it below!
Reduce Monthly Expenses
Within the first two years of retiring from the workforce, nearly 50 percent of households end up spending more money than they did before they retired — which isn’t ideal when you’re living on a fixed income. From entertainment and travel expenses to higher health insurance premiums, your retirement years can cost you a whole lot more than you’d expect. However, you can reduce spending in retirement while still filling your time with travel, entertainment, and other leisurely activities if you:
● Shop around for affordable health insurance coverage.
● Sell your vehicle or shop around for lower automobile insurance rates.
● Look for senior discounts whenever you shop, dine out, or pay for a service.
● Buy clothing, furniture, and home goods from local thrift stores.
To help you cut costs each month and save money while living on a fixed income, you’ll also want to create a retirement budget. The Balance has some practical tips on its website to help you get started.
Supplement Your Income
In addition to creating a budget and reducing your monthly expenses, you could supplement your retirement income with a side gig that allows you to work from home and set your own hours. If you pursue freelance work during retirement, for instance, you can use your skills to earn money from home — giving you the flexibility and cash you need to live your senior years
to the fullest. Moreover, freelance opportunities are available in a variety of industries — including writing, customer service, administrative support, and accounting. If you have writing experience, for instance, you could work as a freelance ghostwriter, copywriter, or web content writer. Or, you could use your customer service skills to work as a freelance customer service representative or phone support specialist. Before working in retirement, however, you’ll want to determine whether your earnings would affect your Social Security benefit amount.
Downsize Your Home
If you’re living on Social Security benefits alone, your current mortgage payment could easily exceed your retirement earnings. However, downsizing into something smaller, less expensive, and more manageable could save you money each month and reduce the amount you’re spending on home maintenance and emergency repairs. Plus, you could save even more in retirement if you move somewhere affordable like Wenatchee, WA, Summerville, SC, or Colorado Springs, CO.
Before downsizing your home in retirement, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. For instance, you’ll need to determine whether you’re going to sell your home or rent it out, buy a new house with a lower mortgage payment, or move into a residential care community.
At Vista Living, we feel that independent living and retirement communities are worthwhile options to consider when downsizing your home, but you’ll want to run the numbers before making any decisions.
Living on a fixed income can be a challenge after so many years of working and earning a living, especially if your sole source of retirement income is from Social Security. With some budgeting and financial tweaking, however, you can get by on a fixed income without skimping out on the many wonderful luxuries your retirement years have to offer.
For many individuals today who strive to retain as much independence as possible while still enjoying a high quality of life, the decision is between assisted living and in-home care. Will we choose in-home care while we age in place, or will we relocate to an assisted living community capable of helping with our daily living needs?
The atmosphere and the level of care seniors experience during in-home care are considerably different than in an assisted living home. There are many factors involved with the decision, including financial ones. Answering the following three questions can help narrow down the decision:
- How much help do I need with my daily living activities?
- How much does each option cost (in-home and assisted living)?
- How much money do I have in my budget to pay for the type of assistance I prefer?
Once you have the answers, you should thoroughly evaluate additional information about the level of care and services provided by each option. Keep reading to learn more about each option to determine the best choice to meet your needs.
What Is Assisted Living?
Assisted living homes, when done well, are designed for seniors who require various levels of medical and personal care (and is available 24/7 when needed). . Assisted living homes hope to preserve many parts of someone’s independent living for as long as possible. As more help is needed, a caregiver is available to help with daily living activities and memory care. Homes also help seniors connect with others and participate in activities like the larger facilities.
Seniors who opt for one of Vista Living Senior Care’s assisted living homes often need help with many aspects of daily living, such as:
- Housekeeping and laundry
- Medication management
- Meal preparation
- Daily living activities (bathing, toileting)
- Mobile doctors and medical services
- Social activities
- Health and wellness programs and services
- Round-the-clock security
Assisted living facilities differ in some of the amenities they offer, so it is best to check what your top choices provide. That way you can evaluate your options fairly and choose wisely.
Who Can Benefit From Assisted Living?
Seniors who know they require some extra help to complete everyday tasks but who still wish to maintain a level of independence will benefit the most from an assisted living home. There are tell-tale signs that it may be time to make the transition into assisted living.
1. Feeling isolated or lonely
Everyone feels lonely or isolated sometimes. But if this situation has turned into an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, it is a warning sign that a change is needed. Lack of community and a feeling of connection is linked to depression, which in turn can lead to chronic health conditions such as dementia and heart disease.
2. Declining health
Chronic conditions can become more prevalent as we age, requiring a more consistent level of care. With more than 70 million Americans aged 50 and older dealing with at least one chronic medical condition, the likelihood of needing additional care as they age increases. Seniors who have required frequent care for a chronic condition for several months are ideal candidates for the extra support and supervision provided by assisted living.
3. Mismanaging finances
A piling up of unpaid bills or other signs of financial distress can be early signs that a senior is struggling to manage on their own. Seniors who live alone also are more susceptible to financial scams, which can put their retirement and other savings at risk.
Hoarding is not exclusive to seniors, but it can pose unique risks and challenges if they are engaging in the practice. It is a sign that they may no longer be able to live on their own. Seniors who hoard are more likely to suffer from falls and other related injuries. Hoarding can make access to emergency personnel difficult or impossible.
5. Practicing poor hygiene
Maintaining good hygiene is important in preventing illness. As we age, the fear of falling in the bath can inhibit us from engaging in proper hygiene practices. The fear is not unfounded, with 80 percent of all falls happening in the bathroom. If you or your loved one is having difficulty with a personal care routine, assisted living can help.
What Is In-Home Care?
In-home care is exactly what it sounds like: personal aide, caregiver and/or nurse visit seniors in their homes to assist with everyday living essentials. The biggest benefit of in-home care is that it allows seniors to age in place in the comfort of their own homes.
Services included with in-home care vary by agency. Some of the more common features of in-home care are:
- Assistance with personal hygiene (bathing, toileting)
- Grocery shopping and meal preparation
- Light housekeeping
- Running errands
- Transportation to appointments
In-home care services can be extremely limited and may not provide the same level of 24/7 care that’s available with assisted living homes. Those that do are quite expensive and may not fit into your monthly budget. Some insurance plans include coverage for long-term care, and there is always the option of buying long-term care insurance plans or insurance policies with riders for long-term care if you qualify.
Who Can Benefit From In-Home Care?
Seniors who are mostly able to manage their own daily living needs will benefit the most from receiving in-home care. It is extremely beneficial to those who wish to remain in familiar surroundings or who desire to be close to family and friends.
In-home care is ideal for those who have insurance that covers the costs of the service or those who have enough money budgeted for the expense associated with this level of care. The cost of in-home care averages around $25 per hour, according to the Administration on Aging, if the aid is hired through an agency. Independent caregivers typically charge $18-30 per hour.
Seniors who desire or require one-to-one attention and consistency in the caregiver who is providing the services would most benefit from in-home care.
How Much Help Do You Need?
When deciding between in-home care and assisted living, an important factor is the level of help needed by the person who will be using the services. There are several questions seniors (or their loved ones) can ask to determine the appropriate level of care.
1. Is it difficult for me to maintain my current home?
Keeping up with a house or apartment is tedious work, but it has the potential to become even more burdensome as you age. Large yards that require landscaping, flights of stairs that are becoming difficult to navigate, and extra rooms that are never used but still require tidying up are all reasons to consider downsizing from your current living quarters. If your current home has gotten to be too much responsibility, choosing to transition to assisted living is a great option.
2. Is it difficult for me to get to the places I need to go?
Transportation is one of the biggest driving factors in seniors choosing in-home care or assisted living. Homes can help senior’s families coordinate transportation to get to medical appointments, social engagements, or to run errands. If it is no longer safe for you to drive on your own and access to public transportation is limited where you live, it is time to consider in-home or assisted living.
3. Is it difficult for me to stay connected with others?
Social isolation is a very real concern as we age. If you no longer drive and if access to public transportation is limited, connecting with friends and family can be challenging. Many seniors find assisted living communities to be a great resource for social opportunities and fostering a sense of community.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Assisted Living and In-Home Care?
There are numerous pros of assisted living. The biggest benefit is the affordability factor for the 24/7 care available in assisted living homes. Round-the-clock care is possible with in-home care, but it is significantly more expensive.
Other pros include:
- Care needs become a secondary thought, allowing family and friends to focus on spending quality time with their loved ones.
- Seniors have many opportunities for socialization and activities with other residents.
- Family members can stop worrying about hiring, scheduling, and managing caregivers and leave that hassle to the assisted living staff.
- The level of care can be adjusted as needs change.
- Consistency of care: a good assisted living home can keep their caregivers for long periods of time, and in-home care can be more of a revolving door of caregivers.
There are cons with assisted living as well. One-on-one care might not be immediately available at all times. The quality of the care received is dependent on the staff. Some seniors do not enjoy living in an assisted living environment, so that can also be a disadvantage to this kind of setup.
The disadvantages of in-home care include the cost, which can be exorbitant if 24/7 care is required. In-home care also increases the chances a senior will feel isolated.
Need-to-Know Tips to Help You Make the Right Choice
Choosing between in-home care and assisted living is often a personal choice. When making the decision, it is important to listen to the wants and needs of the person who will be benefiting from the care. It is important to weigh all the factors. Some need-to-know tips to help you make the right choice:
- Make sure the in-home care option (agency, individual) or assisted living facility meets your specific needs.
- Compare costs for both: in-home care, especially if needed 24/7, is more expensive than assisted living.
The most important tip is to choose the option that makes the person using it the happiest. Everyone deserves to live out their golden years with dignity and respect and should have the final say in which option is chosen.
The Importance of Socialization
Social isolation is a real concern as we age. Connecting with others is a basic human desire, and when we are denied socialization, the results can be devastating. Groundbreaking research by the late John Cacioppo determined that mental anguish caused by chronic loneliness is real and can be quite devastating to mental and physical well-being.
In-home care is not the best option for seniors who want to increase their social opportunities. Assisted living homes are more equipped to help seniors plug in quickly to their new environment and to take full advantage of the amenities designed to promote socialization.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or in need of dementia care require extra assistance that may not be ideal for an in-home setting.
At Vista Living Senior Care, our staff is trained to provide 24/7 support services designed to help our Alzheimer’s and dementia care residents thrive. Residents enjoy daily activities and socialization opportunities that are therapeutic and uplifting. Family members can rest assured their loved ones will have the attention and support needed. Contact us to schedule a tour of our Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities and speak with a member of our team who can answer any questions.
Staff and Specialty Care
It is imperative to choose an assisted living community with certified staff members who are compassionate and available on-site for round-the-clock care. At Vista Living Senior Care, our staff is comprised of caring individuals who are dedicated to the health and well-being of our residents.
Our full-time nurse and staff goes the extra mile to ensure families are apprised of the level of care needed for their loved one and receive regular progress updates. Our caregivers are highly skilled and have extensive experience in supervisory, personal, and directed levels of care. The caregiver ratio is 1 for every 5 residents.
Help Finding a Senior Living Community at Vista Living
All of the senior living communities at Vista Living feature private suite bedrooms with bathrooms, a kitchen with island seating, and open common areas that encourage socialization. A beauty salon, rehabilitation and workout room, and patio equipped with a BBQ grill are additional amenities offered at Vista Living Senior Care.
We have several levels of care:
- Assisted Living is for seniors who just need extra help with their daily activities.
- Memory Care is ideal for our residents with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related conditions.
- Dementia Care focuses on providing residents with additional assistance with everyday activities while preserving the independent-living model.
- Alzheimer’s Care offers a high level of physical and emotional support for residents who require this additional assistance.
Seniors and their loved ones who are considering one of our communities at Vista Living Senior Care are encouraged to reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our team members. We can answer any questions you may have about our communities and help you choose the best option to suit your individual needs.
Want to check out your options from the comfort of your home? Our virtual tours feature 360-degree views of the facilities and amenities offered at each of our sites.