Category Archives: Family Resources

Making Your Senior Years the Best Years of Your Life

As we think about the later year of our lives there seems to be two basic schools of thought on the subject: Those who refer and believe them to be the “Golden Years” and those who stress about their age and supposed decline in health and social life that accompanies it. Here’s a couple of questions for us to consider. First, look back on your life and think about which decade was your best. Is it possible that your senior years can be the best years of your life? Or have you already made up your mind that they will be the worst? Have you made a list of your top five goals  as you move into your senior years? For instance they might include financial security, good health, spending time with family or maybe more travel. It’s probably pretty easy to list more than five goals.

Ok, so you’ve written your list, set your goals. Now what? The surprising truth here is that the most successful seniors, in terms of lifestyle and health, are the ones who obsess about it the least. Those who spend time enjoying their retirement and doing what they’ve been looking forward to all these years don’t have time to worry about fulfilling their bucket list. The key is not to obsess about the list. The most fulfilled seniors just live their lives! Simple, right?

The Power of Positive Thinking

There is a lot to be said for and a lot of research to back up the power of positive thinking. Some agree wholeheartedly with the philosophy and others disregard the evidence. When it relates to aging, it all has to do with the attitude that you bring with you into your seniors years. If you’re mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to embrace your future you will have a much more positive experience than someone who enters their 60’s or 70’s kicking and screaming. The latter group is adding so much stress by trying to look and stay young that they actually do themselves a disservice. While this group is fighting mother nature the more positive thinkers are out having fun and enjoying themselves which results in them actually feeling mentally and physically younger. Plus, you have to wonder how much the worry and stress is taking years off their lives.

What are your expectations as a senior?

Are you anticipating more illness, low energy levels, and a general decline during your older years? If that is what you’re expecting, it’s probably what will happen. This is not because the thoughts themselves have any power but instead because you send  signals to your mind and body that there will be no effort to stay fit and healthy. Because there is not effort made in those directions, poor health and low energy will result. This can be referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seniors who think that they will do well, maintain an active lifestyle and enjoy good health will do just as good as they think they will. Their counterparts with a negative attitude seem to be able to think themselves into illness and old age.

Cause and effect play a huge roll in scheme of things, especially as we age. A common example is someone who is active, gets out more, takes on projects, spends time with others and refuses to let old age get to them are the ones who stay happy and healthy longer and have a better quality of life throughout their retirement years.

Do unto others…

Another paradox of the importance of attitude on the quality of life as a senior has to do with thinking of others more than themselves. Older adults who volunteer and are active in helping others appear to be happier and more successful member so the senior community. Simply put, those who worry about others instead of themselves, benefit the most personally. Conversely, seniors who only worry about themselves have the most to worry about.

So if negativity comes more naturally to you and you’re interested in changing that try seeking better companionship. The old saying, misery loves company, holds true here. To improve your mental attitude hang out with people who are happy and active.  It’s worth it to change your outlook on life after retirement. If your attitude says you will get the best from life as a senior, you will experience just that. In fact, your senior years may end up being the best years of your life!

By: Kristen Sheston

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Manager at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.

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Payment for Assisted Living in Iowa

Private Pay
Some tenants pay cash for Assisted Living services.

Long Term Care Insurance
The Continental at t. Joseph’s in Iowa meets the requirements by Insurance companies to accept Long Term Care insurance. . Often tenants have Long Term Insurance that pays the majority of the Assisted Living costs and the tenant or family pay the balance. The nurse from the insurance company will evaluate the policy holder and make the determination that the tenant requires nursing services. Tenants who need assistance with bathing, dressing, medications, memory gaps, and medical monitoring usually meet the requirements of insurance companies.

Veterans Affairs “Aide and Attendance”
Veterans or spouses of deceased veterans may qualify for as much as $1400 per month to pay for Assisted Living expenses. The applicant cannot have more than $80,000 in cash assets and must have a doctor’s statement verifying that the tenant needs Assisted Living services. Applications can be obtained from the Veterans Affairs office located in the lower level of The Continental at St. Joseph’s. The Veterans Affairs office is open in the mornings Monday through Thursday. Veterans Affairs phone number is 856-6597.

Shared Two Bedroom Option
Individuals with limited monthly incomes may opt to share a two bedroom apartment in order to meet the financial requirements of living at The Continental at St. Joseph’s. Each bedroom has a bathroom, closet, individual temperature control, and cable hook up. In a two bedroom share options, tenants share the apartment living room. Prospects may qualify for Elderly Waiver funds to help pay for their half of the rent.

Individuals and families are encouraged to talk to Pat McAfee or Tara Koestner about alternative financial arrangements.

Why Is Assisted Living For Elderly Better Than Living At Home?

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a viable option for giving seniors the quality of life they deserve and it empowers them to live life on their terms. There is no standard definition for Assisted Living centers. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s (CSJ), we define Assisted Living, as “independent apartment living with some assistance with daily activities.” Tara Koestner, Administrator, states, “Assisted Living communities are designed to help disabled or senior adults bridge the gap between living at home and long term nursing care.” Assisted Living centers do not provide nursing home-type services. Independence and choice are the key operating principles in Assisted Living communities. Just like living at home, tenants are free to come and go as they please. They have freedom to decorate and personalize their apartments and they choose to participate in activities and outings. Assisted Living centers do offer assistance with household chores, personal care, and professional nurse monitoring. Think of Assisted Living as a place designed for people who are able to care for themselves except for assistance with a few activities of daily living. Tenants maintain personal privacy and independence in a setting that also offers numerous opportunities to build friendships. New tenants often comment, “I should have moved here years ago!”

The primary difference between living in an apartment at The Continental at St. Joseph’s Assisted Living community and living at home is peace of mind. Peace comes knowing that help is available 24 hours a day with a simple push of a button. Caring and knowledgeable staff are always there to provide help when needed. Routinely, CSJ staff cooks meals, cleans apartments, does laundry, shops for tenants, transports tenants to medical appointments, and most importantly makes sure that tenants take their medications on time. Professional nurses are on staff to talk to tenants about any health concerns and communicate with doctors, pharmacists, or therapists to ensure that tenant’s health concerns are addressed. No one can predict what challenges any of us may face in the future. When unpredictable situations arise, tenants do not have to worry. They will not face these challenges alone. Qualified, caring personnel are moments away ready to help.

Comparing the Costs: Living at Home, Assisted Living, or Long Term Care

“When comparing the cost of daily assistance for a health challenged senior adult, Assisted Living centers compare very favorability when it comes to quality, convenience, and affordability.” states Tara Koestner, Administrator, The Continental at St Joseph’s Assisted Living Center. Of course, everyone wants to live in their own home as long as possible. This is understandable and always the ideal situation as long as the aging adult is able to maintain a reasonable quality of life at home. Gradually, over time, subtle signs appear that indicate that aging adult may not be doing as well at home alone as the family would hope. Lora Lyons, Healthcare Coordinator at CSJ recommends that the family look for the following signs of unsafe behavior:

  • Falling and unable to get up without assistance.
  • Missed doses of medications and out of date medications.
  • Gradual loss of weight.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Unable to hear the phone or call for help.
  • Inability or unwillingness to leave their home.
  • Gets lost or looses objects frequently.
  • Living space shrinking to a space around the favorite chair.
  • Periodic little driving accidents.

All of the above behaviors happen normally with age and individually do not necessarily indicate unsafe behavior.. However, when an ongoing trend starts to appear, it is time for the family to consider making arrangement to assist this adult. There comes a point in time in this process where Assisted Living becomes the most cost effective means of providing quality of life assistance for a loved one.

When comparing the cost of Assisted Living and living at home, families need to take into consideration the following costs:

  • Rent, or mortgage, property taxes, and insurance.
  • Utility costs including: gas, electric, water, trash pick-up.
  • Home maintenance including; furnace maintenance, lawn care, snow removal, and home repairs. Consider the inconvenience of arranging maintenance and waiting for repairs.
  • Cost of food and/or meal delivery. Consider the quality of nutrition and the lack of enjoyment eating alone.
  • Cost of outside assistance for housekeeping, laundry services, transportation to medical appointments, or home health.
  • Cost of technology, such as cable TV, Life Line, and medical monitoring devices.
  • Concerns about management of medical issues, for example; oxygen use and obtaining oxygen supplies, diabetes management and obtaining diabetic supplies, and proper incontinent management.

When considering all of the costs associated with living at home, Assisted Living Centers like The Continental at St. Joseph’s, become more affordable than one might initially think, especially when long term care insurance could pay most if not all of the costs. If you compare the cost of living in an Assisted Living apartment compared to the cost of living in a Long Term Care facility, Assisted Living Centers costs less.

According to Tara Koestner, “Assisted Living Centers are places where senior adults thrive not simply exist.” A daily social interactions, outings, physical exercise, etc. keep seniors mentally sharp and physically strong. Monthly tenants can enjoy social activities, like Bingo or Wii Bowling, and musical entertainment. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s, all of these ammenities are included in the basic rent, in addition to weekly shopping, transportation to and from local appointments, and three well-balanced meals each and every day. Most important to families is the peace of mind that comes with the healthcare monitoring services. of 24 hour security services and daily onsite health aide visits which most seniors just don’t have at home.

The main thing to remember here is quality of life. Our loved ones have worked very hard to get to where they are. Don’t they deserve every opportunity to relax and enjoy this phase of their lives? Why not let someone else do the things that they don’t enjoy so that there is more time for them to do the things they love. Assisted living is a unique environment where seniors can do just that.

How to Discuss a Family’s Concerns about the Safety of Your Aging Loved One

Plan to Talk about Future Living Arrangements

Deciding when and how to discuss a family’s concerns about the safety of your aging loved one is difficult at best. Family and friends recognize signs that tell them their aging parent should no longer be living alone, but how does the family address their concerns with the parent? How do you talk to your father about his ability to continue to drive safely? Avoiding these difficult topics does not make the situation go away and family dynamics become tense.

Tara Koestner, Administrator, of The Continental at St. Joseph’s (CSJ) Assisted Living Center advises families to start these discussions early while aging family members are still doing well. By having sensitive discussions while the aging adult is still doing well, the family improves their chances of a smooth transition from independence to increasing dependence. Ideally, the family can develop a plan that respects the wishes of their senior family member as to where they will live when they become frail. The most important step is getting the discussion started. Tara recommends having a plan to start the conversation. She has developed the follow list of tips to assist family members feel more comfortable discussing their concerns about their loved ones future health and living arrangements:

Tips for Initiating a Conversation

Extended family decision makers need to agree in principal.

Although extended family members may not agree as to when their loved one should have assistance with daily living, hopefully, they can agree on the type of help (home health, assisted living, skilled care, or long term care) would be appropriate when assistance is required. The Continental at St. Joseph’s administration recommends that the family elect one person to be the healthcare “manager” and other family members agree to support the manager’s efforts. Tara Koestner states, “If extended family members can agree in principal first, the decision making process regarding when changes are needed to keep senior adults safe goes smoother.

Approach the subject of alternative living arrangements indirectly.

Use an example of someone else their age and a problem that they are dealing with. Ask your loved one, “What would you do in that situation?” Or try to offer some small tips, like using a pill organizer, to manage medications.

Watch for openings to the conversation.

Senior adult comments about difficulties or sarcastic remarks about “being put away” may be subtle statements indicating that more help is needed. Listen for hints of frustrations or worries your family member may have.

Share your feelings about their changing life. Assure them that they can always ask you for help when they need it.

Be direct, but non-confrontational.

You want to get your point across without making your loved one feel like they’re being interrogated. Use a matter of fact approach with as little emotion as possible.

Make a list.

The Continental at St. Joseph’s management suggests that families consider giving the aging adult a list of questions and concerns and schedule a time to discuss it them. This gives the senior adult time to prepare for the discussion and a chance to think about the types of help that they would be open to considering. Focus your list on key points. Let your loved one know that you do not want to guess about the type of assistance they may want in future. Guessing can lead to serious mistakes and hard feelings. Discuss with them their concerns about their current condition and their feelings about the future. Tell them the list includes subjects are you worry about and you need to know their thoughts on the subjects. Try to cover these topics:

  • Current housing: Is their housing accommodations still ok? Would some simple modifications help?
  • Daily activities: Do they need help with house work, laundry, meal preparation, or bathing? Can they hear the door bell and telephone ring? Are they still able to socialize with friends?
  • Mobility: Are they experiencing any difficulty with balance, walking, or getting out of the chair? Have they considered using a cane or walker? Can they still see well enough to drive? Are they able to park the car with ease? Are they able to react safely to varying road situations? Are they getting where they need to go?
  • Health: When did they see the doctor last and what did the doctor say? Are prescriptions current? Do they remember to take their medications on time? Would installing a Life Alert system make them feel safe?
  • Finances: Does their insurance coverage provide for home health care? Would they consider letting a home health aide come to their home to assist them? Do they have long term care insurance? Are they or their deceased spouse a Veteran and eligible for VA financial assistance to help pay for assisted living expenses? Do they need to consider making an application for Elderly Waiver Assistance through the State Human Resources Department? Would it be a good time for a family member to be added to the bank account to pay bill should an emergency arise? Who is the financial power of attorney?

Tara Koestner warns families to expect some resistance to discussing these issues. This is normal. Senior adults may try to reassure family members telling them that everything is fine or telling you to mind your own business. But remind them that the family will be dealing with these issues sooner or later, it is best to plan ahead by learning what the senior adult may see as appropriate for their future so you can respect their wishes:

  • Respect their feelings. If they are clearly avoiding the subject, try again later.
  • Push the issues of health and safety, while keeping in mind that they are in charge of their own lives.
  • Act firmly, but with compassion. If you decide that it can’t wait any longer, tell them that the situation has to be dealt with immediately.
  • Involve other people that they turn to and trust such as a minister, doctor, lawyer or family friend.
  • Get information from community resources such as home health care, meals on wheels or a transit bus to get where they need to go. Share these options with them.

Most importantly, keep the conversation positive. Try not to ‘parent’ your parents. Continue to treat them as important decision makers. As long as their judgment is not impaired, they should be able to make their own decisions. Discuss all of the alternatives, home health care and assisted living centers are viable options for helping senior adults bridge the gap from independence to accepting help.