Do you Have a Plan for Your Future Health Care Needs?

First published on Sixty and Me.

Knowing how to recognize a good opportunity to start looking for long-term care options can be difficult. Whether we are looking for ourselves, a family member or a loved one, considering senior care can often signal an unwanted decline in our or their health.

In many cases, admitting that it is time to look for additional support is the hardest step. Ultimately, however, this is the best decision people can make for themselves and their family.

There are a few ways we can make this process a bit easier for ourselves and our loved ones. All it takes is a bit of research and planning to understand the senior care options in the area, even if we don’t plan on using these services for a couple of years.

Having a plan and a basic understanding of your options will make for easier decision making if our loved ones – or we – need senior care services sooner than expected.

Also, understanding our choices before we need them is the best way to ensure all parties involved feel at peace with the decision. The number of senior care options is growing, so no matter what our ideal age in place model is, there is certainly an option.

Below are three tips on how to get started!

Research Care Options in your Community

In-Home Care

In recent years, the demand to age in place has created a booming market for in-home care services. There are a variety of care services available to consumers ranging from need base to hospice care.

As we decide to age in place, it is feasible that we may require some, if not all, of these services over time. There is a difference between a Home Care Agency and a Home Care Individual business. Check out caring.com for a full overview of each.

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you know you would like to remain in the area of your current home, you can start by reaching out to local assisted living facilities or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).

Although the thought of moving to a nursing home is not always pleasant, there are several reasons why this could be the right option for you. Nursing homes will provide around the clock skilled care and assistance whenever you need it, which takes the responsibility of care off of family caregivers.

Area on Aging

If you are living in the States, a great place to start your research is with your local Area on Aging. They will have an abundance of resources and knowledge of your surrounding area and point you in the right direction.

You can easily google search your county name area on aging or use the Paying for Senior Care tool.

Have Conversations with Close Friends and Family

A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that only 40 percent of Americans aged 40 to 65 think it’s likely that they will need long-term health care services.

When asked who would provide their care if they needed it, many people based their answer on current living arrangements, which did not account for changes in family dynamics or children moving away.

Taking such a critical need for granted can do a disservice to you and your family members. Making assumptions about your future needs, without discussing with those involved, could result in an unwanted change to your plan.

To start, have a conversation with friends and family to see if they have considered their future health care needs. Most of us don’t, so “no, I haven’t” is a reasonable response.

This makes sense – it is hard to think that there will come a time when we would actually need help doing our everyday tasks. But, asking this question can help all parties narrow down options and create a feasible plan that you all could agree upon.

Write Down Your Plan and Tell It to Whoever Will Listen

Once you have identified the right plan for you, write it down. Having your wishes written down on paper is just an added security that your future health care choices are honored.

This process doesn’t even have to be formal, so don’t worry about calling a lawyer (unless you want to). If you would like to have some formality, you can sign your letter in front of a witness (who can be a close friend or family member).

Communicating our plan with our loved ones is an excellent way of ensuring that they will know what to do if ever in a situation where they must make decisions for you.

These types of conversations are also beneficial because they normalize the process. Too often we are afraid to broach the conversation about senior care. However, it is a highly important conversation to have if we would like to have a say in the way we age.

Preparing for A Piece of Mind

Aging is a natural part of life, and if we are lucky enough to experience it, there are still many things to learn and be involved with even in our later years.

There may come a time, however, that we will be unable to make decisions for ourselves. This might sound scary, but if we prepare for this ahead of time, there is no reason why we can’t age in a place we feel comfortable and at home.

Celebrating Residents Rights Month: Awareness of dignity, respect and the value of every Nursing Home Resident

Happy Resident’s Rights Month!! The National Consumer Voice has designated 2017 as “It’s All About Me: My Life, My Care, My Choices.” For great ideas on how to celebrate and promote the rights of our resident’s living in care homes check out their site here http://theconsumervoice.org/events/residents-rights-month-2017.

Resident’s Rights Month is an excellent opportunity for care homes to celebrate and recognize the rights of older adults, the rights that stemmed from the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. In recognition, I wanted to revisit a blog that I wrote last year during this time.

Over the year, I’ve thought a lot about how we could expand these rights to those living in Home Health Care. Notably, extending the rights to privacy and dignity. Home Health Care does not have regulations, in the same way, our nursing homes do, which of course has its pros and cons (and starts a whole new and maybe a longer conversation for another time). But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate these fundamental human rights to our older adults in home health care!

As my background is in long-term care, however, I’m excited to hear about how nursing homes are celebrating this month, and if your care home has a jam-packed Resident’s Rights Celebration on the October Calendar I would love to feature you on the blog!!

Share your calendar or event idea with the #theupsidetoaging, and I’ll add a link to your site here!!

Check out our post from last years celebrations for some fun ways to celebrate!!

Portrait of a smiling elderly woman.Quality of Care and Quality of Life for Every Resident

Photo Credit: http://rosenspearslaw.com/resident-rights-month/

October is Resident’s Rights Month!

Since 1981, Nursing homes across the country have dedicated a week in October to Resident Rights. The celebration was expanded to the whole month in 2011 by the National Consumer Voice.  And this year’s focus is My Vote Matters! 

Celebrating Resident Rights is an excellent way to empower and educate both residents and staff on such an important topic. But it also serves as a good reminder to us all that when we work in or visit a Long-term care unit, we are a visitor in someone’s home.

On many  long-term care units, a regular staff to resident ratio is 1 to 5.  In order to provide care for everyone, this ratio requires staff to be task and time oriented. Such limitation allows little time for engagement outside of the checklist…

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Culture Change, Shifting the Conversation from Fall Prevention to Increased Mobility

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It’s hard not to talk about falls when we speak about the care of older adults.  Falls are a frequent topic of concern for both family and professional caregivers.  And for a good reason, they can cause serious injury, render a person immobile, and will often leave the individual fearful that they will fall again. In addition to the safety concerns of the individual, fall prevention has become a top priority in almost all care communities. Because of severe consequences and even law suits that are taken against professional caregivers when an older adult falls while in their care.

And yet, with so much attention on the topic and so many preventative measures in place, falls of older adults still occur both in and out of the professional care setting. So is it possible to ever really eliminate this issue? On September 11, 2017, I had the pleasure of attending an event that worked towards offering answers to this question.  Entitled the Unintended Consequences of Good Intentions: Balancing Improved Mobility with the Risk of Falls, this workshop was organized by the Advancing Excellence in Long-Term Care Collaborative and hosted by Forest Hill of D.C., and it was truly a meeting of the minds.

Facilitator Anna Ortigara, RN, MS, FAAN, Organizational Change Consultant, PHI, started us off with a question, how many of us in the room had shown up to learn about fall prevention? Almost all of us raised our hand. She then asked, what if I told you we aren’t going to talk about fall prevention but rather increased mobility? Although it may sound like just another name for the same issue, the thoughtful discussion that took place through this new lens reflects how critical attention to language is while creating programs and policies for our older adults.

An Interdisciplinary Panel

Panelist Members

  • Physical Therapist, Hilary G. Forman PT, RAC-CTSVP of Clinical Strategies Division, Healthpro-Heritage
  • Risk Manager, Paul A. Greve Jr. JD RPLU Executive Vice President, Willis Towers Watson Health Care Practice
  • CNA, Iye Jalloh, Fores Hills of DC
  • Executive Director/Administrator, Mary Savoy MS, LNHA, Executive Director/Administrator, Forest Hill of DC
  • Family Member, Janice Dabney

The expert panelist assembled for the facilitated discussion represented all sectors of health care. And each viewed the concept of increased mobility through a different lens and shared the opportunities and challenges in embracing this new model of care.

Obstacles to Maintaining Mobility

There was overwhelming agreement that the Culture in skilled nursing slows the move towards increased mobility.   Mary Savoy notes that there is a culture of protectionism among care workers many who are concerned with the repercussions of a fall. Often over protecting to keep their residents safe. Hilary Forman furthered this idea by making a note of the reactive culture in care homes often handling issues as they occur rather than proactively seeking solutions before they arise.

There was also a consensus that federal regulations can sometimes hinder the process. Established to protect residents from harm, rules take very few situational details into consideration. And to meet the documentation and statistical ratings to keep care homes in good standing takes time away from an organizations ability to concentrate on much else.

What change can we make? “Accept falls,” says Forman.  The more time we spend preventing falls means, the less time we can devote to keeping the resident mobile and physically active. It’s only when we accept falls that we can move forward and create systems that support mobility.

The Family’s Role, How do you Talk to Families about Mobility and Falls? 

Paul Greve referred to the need for care homes to prioritize conversations with family members.   Noting that if family members were offered more information and awareness on the benefits of mobility, they could be more accepting of the risks of falls and less likely to pursue a law suit.

Janice Dabney agreed that communication with staff and building relationships with her mom’s care workers made a world of difference in her perception of the home and her understanding of fall risks.  But also noted the importance of the physical lay out of the facility, low staff to resident ratios, and a culture of teamwork were all excellent ways to promote mobility.

Savoy noted that breaching this topic is difficult because we want families to feel confident in the care that we are providing for their loved ones. But Iye Jalloh believes relationships with the resident and consistency in staff assignments are the best way to care for residents, promote their mobility, but also develop relationships with families.

Accepting Falls and Mitigating Risks

The conversations that occurred by both the panel and the attendees offers hope that a future of increased mobility for our residents in care homes is possible. As a field, we should all start having open conversations about the realities of falls and ways we can mitigate risk. Involving family members, as well as federal and state regulatory bodies, are essential to this conversation. We all have the same end goal, to keep residents safe while increasing and maintaining their mobility.