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Helping Elderly Parents Through Depression During the Holidays

John Johnson No Comments
Holidays with seniors

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la. We’ve all heard the song and we know that we are meant to be happy and jolly during the holidays. However, we know that each of us are often pulled in many directions during this busy time of year with our family and friends.  How are you evaluating your time?  Who are you spending it with?  Is it with your elderly loved one?

Did you know, it isn’t unusual for depression in seniors to be strongest as the holidays approach, especially if this will be the first year they have been away from the home they lived in for so many years?  They may feel displaced and depressed.  Even if they are still in their own home, they may be sad, especially if they have lost their spouse. Getting into the holiday spirit may not seem worth the effort to them.

Chances are that, deep down, they would like to feel that sense of joy and holiday cheer that they had when they spent holidays with family and friends. It is often a time of reflection as they are looking back to the time when they were heavily involved or coordinated family dinners and events.

Here’s where we can help.  Being aware and sensitive to their feelings is extremely important.  Sometimes, we don’t pick up on clues in terms of how our loved ones are feeling. We tend to talk around them without seeing their reactions. Have you noticed that as the holidays approach or are talked about well ahead of time that our elderly loved ones get quite and pull back from joining the conversation? They might even state they don’t want to be included in the usual family traditions. As the time for the holidays grows closer, they might be reluctant to even visit with you at all.

The good news is we can help make the holidays as positive and rewarding as possible. Here are some easy ideas to help you get them involved and pull them out of the holiday blues and into a more receptive state to take a bigger part in holiday festivities.

Holiday memories from the past

Start with gentling urging your elderly parent or loved one to talk about a particular memory that will bring a smile to their face. Choose something you would really like to hear them talk about and something that will foster positive conversations, perhaps taking them down memory lane.

Another idea is if you have some of the decorations from when you grew up, you might choose one that has a lot of sentiment attached to it and show it to your elderly loved one. Ask questions such as- where it came from – if it is one that seems to have been in the family forever.  Really let them talk and share as seniors generally like to talk and be heard.  Of course, if you have a different memory about the decoration, talk about your memory of it and see if they join in and have even more to share.

 Move From Merely Talking to Doing

Once you have your elderly parent talking and remembering, you can move on by asking for their advice as this will help get them motivated to doing more during the holidays. Ask for help in showcasing special decorations or how to make some of the special foods and drinks you remember growing up. Ask them to help you get the ingredients for foods and drinks or the right decorations to complement those special ones from the past.  Including them in activities fosters joy and love.

It really is the “little things” in life that make a difference.  These ideas are just a few that can help you get started. At the Small Assisted Living Coalition, we have many more ideas to help beat the holiday blues in seniors during the holidays. We would love to share them with you.  Please contact us at 813-857-2551 or click here.

Veterans Benefits for Seniors Makes a Difference to Those Who Served

John Johnson No Comments
Veterans benefits for seniors

After serving our country in the military, our senior veterans should get all the benefits they are eligible for. Unfortunately, many do not. This is often because they don’t know what those benefits are or don’t think they are eligible.

Veterans who served in active duty during wartime are entitled to apply for veterans benefits that other veterans don’t qualify for.  Most veterans know about benefits such as:  financial assistance to aid in furthering their education, getting VA loans to buy a home and getting medical care through the VA Hospitals and clinics to help save on costs.  However, there are also veterans benefits for seniors that can provide financial assistance to those who qualify.

If you, your spouse or parent are a veteran, you owe it to yourself to look into the VA pension. It is possible to be eligible and not even realize it. This pension is intended for veterans with little or no income. The allowable income a veteran can have may seem too low to qualify but this income is based on what is called countable income. You can deduct any medical expenses from your gross income, including Medicare premiums and Medicare Supplemental Insurance Premiums which can reduce your countable income. After deducting all eligible expenses from your gross income, it is possible to have a negative countable income. Veterans who served in active duty for a minimum of 90 days and at least one of those days was during an active war and meet one of the following requirements may qualify:

  • Are at least 65 with a qualifying countable income
  • Receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security income
  • Are completely and permanently disabled
  • Are a resident in a nursing home

In addition to the VA Pension, our senior veterans may also be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance. This benefit is for veterans who need help from another person to do ordinary everyday living tasks like preparing meals, eating, taking medication, bathing and dressing. Being bedridden at home, living in a nursing home because of a physical or mental incapacity such as dementia or Alzheimer’s or having severe vision impairment in both eyes (that is at an acuity of 5/200 with corrective lens) are also ways a veteran can be qualified. A veteran who is unable to leave their home without the aid of another person can get homebound benefits as well.

Veterans benefits also includes help with the cost of nursing home care, assisted living or memory care.  Only independent living facilities would not be covered, however, if care is not available in the independent living facility and is provided by a third party, it may be eligible for coverage.

At the Small Assisted Living Coalition, we understand the benefits that our senior veterans are entitled to.  We want to ensure that those that quality are getting all the benefits they deserve.  We can assist by directing you to either an Elder Law Attorney or help you get in touch with your VA regional office, the VFW, the American Legion or the DAV (Disabled American Veteran) to get you started with the documents needed for processing.  Call us at 813-857-2551 or click here to contact us.

Tips to Help Seniors Cope with Loneliness

John Johnson No Comments
Elderly Lonliness

Loneliness is a major concern for seniors and families of seniors whether they are living in their home or moving into a senior care facility. For seniors living in their own home, feelings of loneliness is often a result of changes in their lifestyle.  For example, they may now be living alone or they may be dealing with a sickness or perhaps a new medical condition.

Moving into a senior care facility seems like the perfect solution to help combat loneliness, however, it is not uncommon for loneliness to be felt even more so, at least at first, when a life changing event occurs. Unfamiliar surroundings and unknown people often make seniors feel even lonelier. Elderly aging and loneliness seem to go hand in hand but there are ways to cope and ease the loneliness both at home and in an assisted living or nursing home facility.

Keepsakes and special items.

To help seniors cope with loneliness, find something for them to keep with or near them that is a reminder of earlier times of happiness. Something that lifts their spirits each time they look at it and hold it. It can be a picture or a special memento that has meaning and conjures a feeling of closeness.

You may also be thinking that just having other people their age around will automatically make any loneliness disappear but this is not usually the case. Being in an unfamiliar place with people who are new or strangers can make them feel even lonelier. It takes time to adjust, get familiar with the new surroundings and become acquainted with the people in their new community.

Replicate or recreate their former home.

Another tip that can help seniors adjust to their new surroundings, is to make their room or new home feel as much like their former home as possible. For example, have furniture from their previous home brought in to furnish their new living space. Familiar, loved items such as pictures of family, favorite knick-knacks, etc. will make it more comfortable for them and give them a place that feels like a safe haven.

Especially at first, visit frequently and spend time in the community areas with your loved one versus them spending a lot of time isolated in their room. Get to know others living there yourself so you also become part of their community. As you do, so will your senior family members. You will find that not only does your relative benefit but you also benefit. A smaller community setting makes this much easier as it can be more relaxed and easier to get the one-on-one care and attention that may be needed to help with the adjustment. The unfamiliar becomes familiar much faster as it is less likely to become overwhelming.

Active Listening.

Find out what will make your loved one feel less lonely. This is best done simply by asking questions, listening to them and paying attention to what they react to and how. Listening by itself is a major factor in easing loneliness. Nothing makes a person feel lonely more than the feeling that no one listens.

Sometimes, the loneliness doesn’t seem to lift much no matter what you try and do. When this happens, it may be more than just loneliness. Depression is not unusual and often is mistaken for loneliness. Talk to the staff about it as they can evaluate the situation and consult with a therapist to distinguish between just feeling lonely or having depression. Often, depression is situational and will pass but sometimes it goes beyond situational and needs treatment that may be long term.

Change is hard for our aging family members to cope with. Even when our elderly remain at home, aging brings changes in the way they live. Loneliness often comes with that change. We can find ways of helping seniors cope with loneliness and change and it starts with listening.

As always, if we can be of assistance in any way, please contact us at www.smallalfcoaliton.com/contact-us.

Utilizing technology for Seniors

John Johnson No Comments
Elderly Medical Alert Technologies

In continuation of providing tips and resources for seniors and their families, this article is devoted to providing you with five technologies to put your mind at ease. Below are great ideas for utilizing technology for Seniors.

Modern technologies are paving the way for our older population to stay independent for longer. With the advent of sensors, gadgets, and other ‘smart’ devices, our loved ones can thrive while their caregivers can maintain their peace of mind.  Let’s take a brief survey of these technologies.

Location Devices

Through the use of radio detection technology, LoJack has developed SafetyNet, a device which can be used for wandering loved ones.  If the older person gets lost, they can be found through the use of wearable ankle device that hones in on their location.

For those who aren’t fond of putting on bracelets or other new devices, there is the GPS SmartSole.  This can be inserted directly into your loved one’s shoes so their movements and activities can be monitored.  If the person goes outside of a ‘geo-fence,’ then the caregiver is notified.

Medical Alert Bracelets and Pendants

Medical alert bracelets and pendants have come a long way since their inception over 30 years ago.  The response ranges have gotten much larger. There are some medical alert systems which even have a two-way communication device right on the pendant so that the user can speak directly with someone on the other end of the line without being near the base station.

Health Monitoring

Health monitoring is not simply a fad for those who want to know their heart rate and caloric intake, it’s become a vital tool for our loved ones to stay in touch with their health care professionals and caregivers.

The telehealth monitoring system offered by Philips is able to get a person’s vital signs and then transmit them via a secure server to a health care professional.  The professional can then assess and make recommendations without our loved one having to leave the home. We are gradually moving toward the time where dime-sized chips can be implanted inside the body that can transmit the same information to doctors, caregivers, and other healthcare providers.

Active Monitoring

One thing which is putting many caretakers at ease is the ability to monitor and record their loved one’s activities in real time.  By being able to watch what’s going on, emergencies can be reacted to immediately. iWatchLife is a service where camera ‘hotspots’ can be placed throughout the home.  With this ability to monitor, the caregiver is warned of activities and motions which are out of the ordinary, actions which might prompt action.

We would be remiss if we didn’t also talk about grandCARE, a caregiving tool which claims that it is a comprehensive care solution.  It provides caregivers and other healthcare providers the ability to monitor and communicate with the loved one (or patient) with an easy-to-use interface.

Medication Reminders

Forgetting to take pills once in a while happens to all of us, but forgetting to take them on a regular basis can be a sign of more serious issues.  There are a few technologies available which can help people remember to take their pills.

The MedMinder has several options for its users, including a non-locked pill dispenser for every day drugs and a locked pill dispenser for medications that can be dangerous if taken in excess.  The pillbox informs the caregiver if medication has not been taken.

There are many technologies available for keeping our loved ones safe and active.  Caregivers want to have peace of mind when taking care of their loved ones.  These technologies can help both caregiver and loved one stay connected and healthy.


Charlie Kimball is a Chief Communications Officer at MedicalCareAlert.com, a Michigan-based company providing home care monitoring for family members who choose to stay at home despite medical challenges. She also blogs for her company.

The Small Assisted Living Coalition: Senior Care Services

John Johnson No Comments
Assisted Living Services

Making the Right Care Choices for Your Elderly Loved Ones

There once was a time when the only choices were to move senior family members in with you or into a nursing home. Now there are more choices, including finding the right assisted living service or other senior care service for your needs. Getting help and advice from someone who knows and understands the various options is so important since it is someone you love who needs the best and most appropriate care possible.

With choices such as home care, independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing home care, it can be a confusing maze of choices. As loving, sometimes over protective family members, we can be too subjective as far as the needs of our elderly are concerned. It helps to have someone who can be more objective yet caring to evaluate the needs of not only your loved ones but also the entire family. On one hand, we can be in denial of how much care is needed but on the other, we might think they need more than they do. This can be especially true when it is both parents needing senior care services.

Working with the Small ALF Coalition, you will find caring people to help you assess the degree of care needed and to find the right community to provide the assisted living or senior service needed. As much as possible, the senior loved ones’ are included in the process since it is they who will be most affected. For as long as possible, they should be part of any decisions regarding their living situation and care. It makes a big difference in how well they adjust to the changes and how they do overall.

Elderly who are able to do many things for themselves may do best with home care or independent living. When a bit more care is needed than those options can provide, assisted living is a better option as it still allows seniors more control over their care than more institutional options. Elderly with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia would be better served with memory care. They would have services especially designed to keep their minds as healthy as possible as they are given tasks and opportunities to engage with others. When our loved ones can no longer care for themselves at all and family members are not able to give the twenty-four hour dedicated care they may need, it may be time to consider a nursing home to provide the skilled care needed for the health and safety of our elderly.

With so many factors to consider, it is a relief to know that this is what the Small ALF Coalition does all with the goal of helping you and your family make the best decision. The Small ALF Coalition provides the help you need at no cost to you.  We know the senior care services industry inside and out and have built solid reputations for providing the best care possible for families and their senior loved ones.   Please contact us at www.smallalfcoalition/contact-us for more information.  We would be honored to assist you.

Fall Prevention: Helping the Elderly Stay at Home Longer

John Johnson No Comments
Elderly Falls

We all want to protect our elderly family members and help them stay safe, secure, and independent. Knowing how to reduce the risk of falling, a leading cause of injury, is a step toward this goal. Fall prevention and additional measures should be taken to reduce the risks of injury from falls. Doing so, will allow our loved ones to remain in their homes longer with fewer injuries and will increase their quality of life significantly.

Based on studies by the Center for Disease Control, moderate to severe injuries are sustained by 20 to 30 percent of people who fall. These injuries may include hip fractures, lacerations and head trauma. The CDC also shows that the most common cause of traumatic brain injury is falling.

Even when a fall is without injury, many elderly become afraid of falling. As a result, they avoid many activities they think might cause them to fall. This leads to a reduction in their physical fitness and mobility, which only increases their chances of falling.

Tips to Reduce the Chances of Falling

You can play an active role in risk management by preventing the chances of a senior member falling by being aware and taking action to help protect older adults.

  • Medications – Over medicating is one of the biggest causes of falls. Going over all medications, whether prescription or over the counter is the first step in decreasing the risk of falls. Some medications’ side effects increase falls because of drowsiness or dizziness. Some will interact in such a way that seniors lose their balance easily and become dizzy when certain medications are taken together. Anti-depressants and sleeping medications are particular medications to be mindful of when taken together. Additionally, some medications may not be necessary and should be eliminated. Others may need more definitive directions on when to take and the potential side effects associated.
  • Vision check – Failing eye sight is another factor that may contribute to falling. To keep vision at its best, be sure your elderly loved ones have yearly eye exams, more often if necessary, and eyeglasses are kept updated with the most recent prescription at all times. When vision is clearer, tripping is less likely.
  • Exercise – Though exercise is important for everyone, it is especially important for the elderly. It does not have to be strenuous but it does need to focus on keeping the legs as strong as possible. Certain exercises help improve balance. When balance and leg strength is improved, falling is less likely.
  • Eliminate hazards at home – Take a good look around the house with a focus on anything that could be a tripping hazard. Add lighting in areas where your loved one may need more light for better visibility of obstacles that can’t be moved. If the home has an upstairs, be sure the stairway has railings on both sides. Be sure sturdy grab bars are installed by the toilet that are within easy reach and ensure both inside and outside of the shower or bathtub have grab bars as well.

While the risk of falling can be greatly reduced by following the tips above, some falls may still happen.  To make sure every possibility is covered, we suggest making a checklist to follow. This list isn’t a onetime list but rather should be reviewed often so nothing slips through the cracks.

Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment

Schedule a doctor appointment and be there with your elderly family member so you can be sure the doctor has all the necessary information and the right questions are asked. Take a list of all medications, including all over the counter ones that are currently being taken. If you can take the containers, do so as that will give the doctor all the information needed for each medication.

Talk to the doctor about any previous falls or instances of almost falling. Give as much detail about this instances as possible so the doctor can help with developing prevention strategies.

Also, discuss any health conditions that could be a contributor to a potential fall. Be as complete as possible in talking about dizziness, numbness, joint pain and breathing difficulties. The doctor may test balance, muscle strength and how the elderly person walks.

Wear stable footwear

Be sure shoes are always worn. Avoid shoes with high heels, have slick soles, or are considered sandals or slippers. Shoes that fit well, have nonskid soles and designed to help maintain balance are best.

Keep moving

Staying as active as possible is necessary in reducing the risk of falling.  Any type of exercise is recommended, whether it is a water activity or simply some form of walking.  Continual movement will help muscle strength and mobility.

More than ever before, most falls can be prevented.  Being informed and aware of the tools available, will allow your senior loves to be able to live happy and independently in their homes for much longer.  Please contact us at SmallALFCoalition.com/contact-us if we can be of assistance to you.  We would be happy to share more knowledge and tips with you that may be unique to your circumstances.

How to Make the Holidays Special for Seniors

John Johnson No Comments
Create holiday memories with Seniors

The holidays are hectic and can be a stressful time of year. With all the hustle and bustle and activity going on during the holiday season, it’s important to remember why we celebrate and to spend time with your elderly loved one or that special senior in your life. As many have lost a spouse or friends through the years, this time of year is often difficult for them. Make the holidays special for seniors.

This year, give the gift of your time by simply spending time with the seniors in your life. There are many ways to include the seniors in your holiday festivities, here are a just a few:

Help Put Up Decorations for the Holidays

If your elderly loved one doesn’t live in your home, they may not put up decorations themselves as it’s too much trouble or they are not physically able. That doesn’t mean they don’t want them up. Gather the family, get a tree and decorations and help put them up in their home or place of residence.

Jewish families can decorate for Chanukah. Set up a Menorah and table decorations in blue and gold featuring dreidles and gelt. On the first night of Chanukah, bring some latkes and sufganiyot made from your loved one’s favorite recipes and have a festive party to light the first candle.

Make Tree Decorations

Your loved one may remember making homemade decorations for their Christmas tree when they were young. Go through some craft books or search online and find a few that you can make together. When the decorations are finished, hang them on the tree and take a photo to capture the memory.

Have a Holiday Sing-a-long

Invite other family members and close friends over for a night of singing carols and having refreshments.  Record or video the sing-a-long as a special keepsake.

Have a Story Night

Seniors often have entertaining stories about the holidays when they were growing up. This is a good time for your children to learn what holidays were like years ago before the digital age. Encourage questions so your elderly loved one can share the wealth of knowledge they have. To add to the specialness of this time, serve cookies, pie or whatever you like along with hot cocoa or hot spiced apple cider. If your senior family member is capable, have them help make these treats using their favorite recipes.

Take a Drive to See Lights and Holiday Decorations

This is typically a holiday favorite as everyone enjoys driving around and seeing all the colorful holiday lights around town.  Seniors often miss out on this, especially if they no longer drive. Invite your loved one to go with you to see the lights around town and in the neighborhoods. Afterwards, stop for a hot beverage and talk about the different decorations you saw on your ride. Or, if a car ride isn’t possible, take photos of the lights in your area that can be shared with them.

Go to a Holiday Concert or Pageant

During the holidays, pageants and concerts are held almost nightly. Get a listing of the events in your area and let your loved one choose one or two to attend. Make it an event for the whole family or just a special time for just you and your loved one to spend time together. Afterward, remiss about a special holiday event that is near and dear to their heart.

We hope you take one or all of these ideas to make this holiday season extra special with your special senior in your life. As always, if we can be of assistance, please contact us today.  We wish you and your family a blessed holiday season.

Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Find Senior Care in Florida

John Johnson No Comments
Senior Living in Florida

Taking care of a parent is a reality for one out of eight Americans today. Luckily as caregivers, we have many senior living options and services available to find the next home for our loved one. It’s common knowledge that senior adults want to remain in their home as long as possible. It’s confirmed by an AARP study that 89% of people choose to age at home if given this choice. However, there are some telling signs to look for to help recognize when it’s time for assisted living or a new senior living residence. A few examples are:

  • Wandering
  • Lapses in memory
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Home safety issues
  • Escalating care needs
  • Caregiver stress

As you are considering your senior living options, we have provided you with helpful information on how to find Senior Care in Florida and tips to make the decision making process easier.  We understand that it can be difficult to navigate and shuffle through all your choices – we are here to help you.

We are sure you’ve heard the motto “live life to the fullest.”  With warm weather and many choices of living arrangements for seniors, Florida is an ideal haven for senior living.  To help put this in perspective, did you know:

  • Florida has the highest 50+ density in the U.S. and continues to be the number one destination of retirees according to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
  • Population in Florida age 60+ is 4,454,625; one-third of the population are senior citizens
  • Florida has the highest percentage of elderly where 19% of residents are seniors
  • Sun City Center, Florida is the home to the 55+ market; with more than 20,000 private homes and 14 facilities offering unique community lifestyle:
    • All-volunteer community with age restrictions requiring at least one resident per household to have reached 55 years of age.
    • Many families own a golf cart as the city has been given special permission to drive unlicensed golf carts on the streets.
  • In the 2014 Cost of Care Survey conducted by Genworth Financial, Florida ranks in the top 3 amongst the lowest cost for a one-bedroom, single-occupancy assisted living apartment.

We realize that there are many variables that come into play when considering the geographical location for your loved one and Florida may not be the ideal location for you.  Our reach extends beyond Florida so rest assured that we can be of assistance to you.  Nonetheless, Florida is a great option if it meets your needs.

You may be asking, where do I start or what do I do next?  We are a resource and service for you, free of charge.  We believe in information sharing and providing you with what you need to ease the decision making process.  In addition to the services and information listed on the Small Assisted Living Coalition website, a few additional resources are:

Assisted Living Federation of America

National Caregivers Library

Please let us know how we can help you by calling us at (813) 857-2551 or contact us through the website.

Small ALF Coalition Founders

John Johnson No Comments
Small Assisted Living Coalition logo

Meet the Small ALF Coalition Founders, John and Angelett Johnson

As founders of the Small Assisted Living Coalition and as owners of a small assisted living facility (small ALF), we are excited to share industry insights, tips and our experiences with you as we embark on a new online journey together. But, first we would like our readers to get to know us, what we offer the community and why we are passionate about the senior industry.  Our goal is to build a relationship with our readers and support your business endeavors in any way we can.

Growing up in Chicago and being a “grandma’s boy,” I learned early on that I’m protective, loving and am compassionate for helping the elderly. I saw these characteristics as “gifts” and hoped that one day I would have the opportunity to service the senior community and bring smiles and joy to the elderly. My wife, Angelett, was born and raised in Tampa and has always had a heavy heart for helping seniors in need and has enjoyed establishing strong ties within the community. Together, we knew we had something unique to give back and offer the community.

In 2009, my wife and I embarked on a decision that transformed our lives and that was to become a small ALF owner. Our first resident had dementia (which is often associated with memory loss) which allowed us to work first hand to provide care for someone with this condition. Working with this resident lead us to become active in the Alzheimer’s Association as we wanted to give back where we could.

Over the next few years, we saw a vision and an opportunity to make a difference in servicing the community by coming together as one to share resources, insights and to help one another. As the old saying goes, “Two is always better than one.” With that, the Small ALF Coalition was formed and has grown two-fold.

The Small ALF Coalition prides itself in offering the following:

  • Placement of your family members into an environment that aligns with their lifestyle.
  • Assistance with navigating financial funding and providing resources.
  • Offering personal care services to meet your unique needs.
  • Partners with both small and large facilities.

Additionally, we provide a forum for all assisted living facility owners to come together as a community to help one another. We encourage you to become a member if you are not already.

Please continue to follow our blog as we provide tips and insights and become your online resource for staying abreast about what is happening in the senior industry.  For instance, did you know that almost 42% of facility residents have some form of dementia, and about one-third of them are being cared for either in specialty homes or in designated unites of larger institutions?  One-third have heart disease and half suffer from three or more chronic illnesses. These are just some of the findings from a recent study by the federal National Center for Health Statistics.

Are you intrigued? We look forward to embarking on this journey and building an online relationship with you.  Please contact the Small Assisted Living Coalition at (813) 857-2551 or use our contact form to discuss how we can help you.

-John and Angelett Johnson

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