The Cost of Aging in Place: Peace of Mind

peaceofmindI work with some older adults who continue to live in their homes. Their children are not in the area and I help manage the day-to-day finances as well as minimize their exposure to elder fraud. I get to know both my client and their children and I watch them going through many of the issues my family faced.

Recently, I got a text from the daughter of one of my clients. Her dad (who has some mild cognitive issues) told her that someone was moving in with him on the following day so he was busy getting ready for his new roommate. As you might imagine, she was a little concerned that her dad had rented out his home, and she didn’t know about it. I remember those days when your loved one is so convincing! Is it the truth or is it just something they believe to be the truth?

I found not being able to tell the fact from the fiction incredibly disconcerting. Even after my mom was living in the assisted living and there were more eyes on her, I still didn’t necessarily know if what she said about her day was true. I learned to go along with it instead of pummeling her with 20 questions.

The hardest stage of my parents care was when they were still in their home. Most people want to stay there, but as a loved one watching them wobble on their feet, miss bill payments, or sign predatory home improvement contracts, it was hard to witness, We faced all of those issues.

There are some simple things you can do and it’s relative to the health and fitness of your loved one. A few ideas for some peace of mind:

  • Challenge them with a fitbit. If you could get your loved one to wear the device, you could actually see if they are up and about and how much they are moving every day.
  • Get a fall monitor. There are pendants and wrist bands. Some you have to press a button and others have someone call you is they sense a fall. Unfortunately, if there is a head injury, no one is going to press the button, so I would opt for an option that calls you.
  • Install door alarms. Thank you Mary Smith who shared that they installed door alarms to the front and back doors so that when a door was opened, they would get a phone call.
  • Find a friendly visitor. There are many volunteer and low-cost programs that will send someone to visit your loved one in their home. It would be ideal to have someone check-in with them once a day.
  • Consider hiring a personal care assistant. The biggest issue is isolation. Hiring someone to come in and engage with your loved one can help give you a break from the daily worry.
  • Get a roommate. In my town, we are working on a homesharing program where we would match a young professional or college student with an older homeowner. Ideally, you don’t want to start this if there is a cognitive issue, but matching professionals who can’t afford to rent in our town with single homeowners who are living in 3,000 square foot homes alone seems like a win-win.
  • Contact a local daily money manager. Most of my clients are a result of a conversation with mom or dad after bills are missed or checks are bouncing because they are double-paying invoices. There are some simple ways to let mom or dad stay independent and work with someone who can help them manage the day-to-day issues.
  • Hire an Aging Life Care Manager. If there are complicated health issues or mild cognitive impairment, it will be helpful to have someone who can jump in and assist should there be an acute issue, especially if you live out of town.

On my wish list is a refrigerator monitor that can easily be added to everyone’s home. If the door isn’t opened by a time you set, you would get an alert to contact your loved one.

Are there other options out there that have given you peace of mind?  Let me know. Appreciated. 

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I want to stay in my home.

MemoryBanc Daily Money Management Services

MemoryBanc offers practical assistance to age-in-place.

I dream of a day when we start talking about leaving our homes and moving into communities designed to keep us active and engaged. Most older adults over 70 have an immediate negative reaction to leaving their homes. I personally imagine the freedom of college life when I could easily stop by and visit friends.

Now in my 50s, and after caring for two parents, what I do know is that should there every be a critical incident and you need rehabilitation or skilled nursing, the bed that will be available is probably in a facility you would never want to be. When I share this fact, many clients have been open to at least looking at communities in our area. Most of them have a wait list that you can join for a nominal fee. Once you are on the wait list, should you ever need those services, you have priority at the community and can recuperate in a bed you have chosen.

After touring the local communities, a few clients shared that the amenities and activities offered are things they would enjoy. Most of them just don’t know how much the senior housing business has changed in the last decade.

In the town in which I live, we are working on developing resources for home sharing, which is the exchange of housing for help in the home. A home owner, typically an older person with a spare room, offers free or low-cost accommodation to another person in exchange for an agreed level of support. The support may include companionship, shopping, household tasks, gardening, care of pets and, increasingly, help to use the computer. It could just be to have a home- or pet-sitter while you might be traveling. Home share thus provides a solution to the needs of two groups of people – those in need of affordable housing, often younger people, and those who would benefit from some support in the home, typically older people.

My town is facing a shortage of teachers, fire fighters, police, and social workers who can’t afford to live near their work and must deal with long commutes. Currently, a one bedroom apartment would require annual income of $66,000 with little or no debt. Our hope is to match home owners, with young professionals and even graduate students, in exchange for affordable housing.

Let me know if you have any successful models working in your community. I would love to be able to help all adults re-imagine the ideal of aging in place. Dreamed.



A Robotic Assistant? Sounds Good to Me!

robotA recent story about a robot that can help remind you to take a medication, shut the refrigerator door, and even detect diseases as they develop, made me hopeful that there are different ways to preserve independence as well as provide safety and wellness. One of the things the robot will do is monitor your health and would be able to detect diseases such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease by noting changes in behavior via different patterns of physical movement. HOORAY!

I imagine that I might be more likely to take feedback from a robot than I might my husband or kids. Please give me credit for at least admitting it! Am I alone on this one?

I think I believe the robot might be impartial, while my loved ones won’t be. It’s not incorporating years of history but looking at the facts independent of love, frustration, and maybe even over control.

Would my defense of “Not that not’s true” work on the robot who could list each incident that I forgot to take a medication on schedule, asked the same question repeatedly, or had issues with my balance?

A robot will NEVER replace the need for human contact, interaction, and help. They won’t really solve the problem, but will they at least help an older adult accept there might be one? Wondered. 

Would you consider a robot if it was affordable?



Alcohol Consumption and Brain Health

redwineApparently, even one glass of red-wine now is out. For those of us who are caring for or who have cared for someone with dementia, brain health is more than a casual interest. At least, it is for me.

A story in the Health Section of The Washington Post shared the results of a study from BMJ reporting that Even moderate drinking is linked to pathological changes in the brain.  The words they used were atrophy. Now that doesn’t sound good at all. The report tracked 550 adults for 30 years and found that testing showed that people who drank the most during the three decades had a faster and greater decline in cognitive functioning than those who consumed less alcohol.

The only caveat I saw that made me hopeful was that the study only included men (however that still impacts many people I love). The outcome was that the study basically drew the line between someone who drinks and someone that doesn’t. One 12-ounce beer, one five-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce drink of 80-proof liquor. One.

This is a topic that interests me as well as many older adults. What are you doing to have better brain health?

I focus on the biggies: Physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, as well as challenging my brain with new activities. I am also now very afraid to ever “retire” and tell myself that I will work in some form until I can no longer contribute. This is a question I repeatedly am asked and will spend a few blogs over the summer sharing the research behind what you can do.

Please reach out if you have found some data to suggest something that has a positive impact on our brain health. Asked. 


Is Driving a Battle Worth Having? YES!

The choices you are faced with when you are stepping in to help are many and varied. One adult child was telling me how she just got her dad to move into an independent living community and dad was still driving. She shared that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so they wanted to get him somewhere and he seemed to be doing pretty well. I understand the hope to at least get them into a place that is more attuned to help, and that offers other levels of care when needed.

She also mentioned that she worried about him continuing to drive. However, most of us might just accept the move as a win and move on. I know, I was in that situation. For this daughter, just getting him into the community was a victory. The next issue was going to be the driving.

You would hope that the doctor that diagnosed “Alzheimer’s” would help, but in many cases, they don’t discuss how it might impact things like driving and managing the finances.

The daughter was happy that he agreed to move out of his home and into the Life Care Community. When should she bring up the issue of driving?

According to a the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the youngest and oldest drivers have much higher rates of highway crashes and deaths than any other age group, according to 2008 government mileage data, the latest available. Drivers ages 16 and 17 are involved in more crashes, and fatality rates rise steeply for those older than 65, with drivers older than 80 being the most vulnerable.

Consumer Reports Dangerous Drivers 10-12

I am not sure if I’m more worried about the issue of causing a fatality, or the risk of losing all of your life savings should an older adult be sued or charged with a crime. In our litigious society, I don’t think it will be long before someone will prove that an individual diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s” or even “cognitive impairment” was reckless by making the choice to drive after a medical diagnosis.

Do you wait for the accident to happen?
As I have reiterated on this blog, when their is cognitive impairment, you often find that you have to wait for a failure. It actually has a medical term. Anosognosia is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can’t perceive their condition accurately.  Anosognosia affects up to 81% of people with Alzheimer’s and some studies show up to 77% of patients suffer anosognosia after a stroke. So can your loved one accurately assess their driving ability? How many of us without a diagnosis over-rate some of our abilities?

Some rehab centers offer assessments, but it’s not so easy to find and in reality, who wants to go pay for a test to learn they might not be safe on the road anymore?

As the adult child, my siblings and I discussed it with our parent’s before the doctor submitted the paperwork to revoke their licenses. We were seeing a lot of dents and dings on the car that were multiplying at an alarming rate before this happened. In the end, we had to hide the cars when they continued to drive after their driving privileges were suspended by the state. I had also retrieved them a few times when they got lost driving to familiar locations. To read more about how we managed through this stage, you can read my posts from back in 2012 called Operation Safety Net.

The car keys represent freedom and independence. Most people don’t want to let that go. However, it’s a battle that is worth fighting for everyone’s safety. Believed. 


  1. Check out your local community to see if you have a Village that can provide a ride.
  2. Contact your county Agency for Aging that can refer you to discounted coupon packages or other discounted local ride services.
  3. Contact a home care agency to set up permanent rides to the grocery, mall, or drugstore.
  4. Check with neighbors or church members who might be interested and available to help out.
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How to Screen Out Crooked Callers

crankcallsI often get asked how to stop the pesky telemarketing calls in my job as a daily money manager. Most of us have all put our names on the National Do Not Call Registry, but the people calling aren’t typically playing by the rules. After you register, other types of organizations may still call you, such as charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys. If you continue to get calls after being on the list for 31 days, you can report them to the FTC here.

Unfortunately, for seniors, the biggest complaint is about the number of charities that are calling. They are exempted from the National Do Not Call Registry. If you have asked that they remove you from their call list, and they continue to call, here are a few things you can do to help stop nuisance calls:

  1. Sign up for a automated service for your landline to block calls. Nomorobo is free service I can get from my local carrier, Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area. I implemented it at home and it has made a big difference. When we moved in 17 years ago, we opted for the unlisted number–that USED to work at keeping callers at bay. 
  2. If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.
  3. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. When you answer, they know they have a valid number. Asking to be removed, or selecting the dial option they offer typically won’t yield a positive results.
  4. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. It will reject calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.


When I was in elementary school, we were getting calls at home that were personally threatening. This was in the 70’s before all the other technology options and rules existed. My parent’s put whistles by the phones, and I was told to blow it in the phone should I answer and find the person on the other end of phone is threatening me. I haven’t instituted this in my own home, but wonder if the calls would stop more quickly if we all choose the whistle option. Mischievously Wondered. 

 ** I will follow-up on what you can do if you are being pestered on your cell-phone. 


Three Common Senior Scams

checkbookI found that my parent’s were writing checks to charities on a regular basis, which was a new habit. When I realized that I didn’t recognize many of them, and then saw the amount of mail coming in doubling, the alarm bells went off.

I work with a variety of seniors. Most still live at home, have children who don’t live in the area, and need some simple help keeping track of cash flow and their bill payments. I was recently interviewed for a story on the three common senior scams and hope that you will find some tips on help to help your loved ones avoid becoming a victim to the hideous people hoping to separate them from their savings. Referred.


Related Stories:
– “Be on Guard: 3 Common Senior Scams” by Amy Fontinelle

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