Sense of Purpose Equals Happier Seniors

BeingMortalEventPicI’m involved in the local village for my town. We hosted an event with Dr. Atul Gawande, the best-selling author of Being Mortal. Over 300 residents joined us to watch Dr. Gawande talk and discuss how we can prepare my home town of McLean, VA for the rest of our lives. There is no simple answer.

Every adult should read his book. Not only does it frame the issues we face as caregivers, it gives us the facts about how to better plan for the rest of our lives.

Story after story discussed how simple things like caring for a pet, a plant, being able to make bad choices for yourself, all enhance the lives of those that need help with the activities of daily living. Just because someone needs help getting dressed, or reminders to help them navigate their day, doesn’t mean they no longer have the need to be needed.

The book delves into how many communities focus on safety, which is what the kids/loved one might want in a community. However, the person that is moving wants autonomy. And often, those interests conflict.

Several papers have recently run the story by Judith Graham “Retirees with a sense of purpose seem to do better health-wise as they age”. Apparently, dozens of studies have shown that seniors with a sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, disabilities, heat attacks or strokes, and more likely to live longer than people without an underlying motivation to “give purpose to their life.” The article goes on to discuss that most often what is lost is the opportunity to contribute meaningfully, rather than the interest to do so.

For those of us caring for loved ones, are their ways we can incorporate more responsibility into their lives? If mom gives up her car keys — can you make sure she can still volunteer at church? If you move dad from his home, can he take his dog and still care for him? Instead of doing it all for them because it’s quicker, are there things you can give them to tackle? Sorting socks, folding towels, watering plants?

For most American’s, “independence will become impossible” (Being Mortal). Unless we have an instant death, someone is going to have to speak for us and the statistics say 9 out of 10 Americans will need someone to speak on their behalf before they die (Veteran’s Administration & NIH Study.) Are we even ready for the rest of our lives?

It’s time we reconsider how to have a good life all the way to the end. Is there a way you can help make this difference in someone’s life now?  Challenged.

** If you are looking for resources to help you, check to see if there is a local village in your area. They not only have social opportunities, and vetted resources, but also might be able to offer some ways to volunteer back into your own neighborhood. You can visit this page to see if there is a village near you. 

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Elder Fraud: The Silent Epidemic

elderfraudstoryFinancial fraud is stealing $36 billion from our elders every year. So often, they don’t recognize it or they are too ashamed to tell family members for fear of repercussions. The Equifax breach is just one more in a long line of complications. One of the things you might do for yourself and your loved ones is to put a lock on your credit. When you need it, you can unlock it, so it will require an extra step … but that is GOOD!

To learn more about getting a free credit report and how to put a lock on your credit, visit this site hosted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. 

For those worried about loved one, I found doing things for myself first and talking about it or asking advice was one way to have a discussion with my parent’s about what might be an uncomfortable topic. When we needed to redo the Durable Power of Attorney for my parents, I first talked about who I listed and why. Even with a diagnosis of dementia, both of my parent’s were deemed to have decisional capacity by a doctor. And we could and did have a conversation about the issue and it resulted in making changes that they understood and were comfortable with.

It might be a good time to bring this up with a parent you are concerned about. After you go through the process yourself, you could suggest it for mom and/or dad, and let them know how easy it was.

The first step is to take a look at your credit report. As I recently shared, I found that accounts of my deceased mother were listed on my credit report. You never know what you might find! The next step is to consider putting a lock on your credit. It won’t protect your or your loved ones from exploitation, but anything you can do to minimize yours, and your loved ones risk, is a good thing.

To learn more about some of the scams you can watch this CNBC report. Shared. 


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When an Independent Living Community isn’t always the Right Solution

choiceThe 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.

However, what most people don’t truly understand, or interview the community about, is how the community will be able to support the resident. The daughter was thinking “phew, we got him into the community,” but Independent Living is just that — there is no safety net. The dad was probably forgetful at home, and that won’t change, but will most likely increase after the move. Are there options to hire support for this while he is living Independently? Will he accept it?

Is it safe for him to continue driving? You would hope that his doctor would help with this issue, but in many cases, the doctor doesn’t have time to discuss it. Dad is going to need to go get groceries, will he be able to find his way safely from the new location?

When and how does the community help make sure the Dad is in the right environment.? Some communities offer day programs for people with memory loss, while others will force a move into Assisted Living.

My parents were in Assisted Living. After my dad passed away, my mom was very isolated because most of the other residents didn’t want to sit with the lady who couldn’t remember their name or that she had already ordered lunch. We ended up moving mom into a Memory Care community outside of the community she lived in because in her community most of the memory care residents were at the end stage of the disease. My mom wanted to walk and be active, but she needed cues and help getting dressed, and some one to make sure she ate.

The reality is that when there is cognitive decline, making changes earlier gives your loved one a better chance at adapting to the new environment.  You just want to make sure that it will also be the right place after the move in.

However, please recognize that you also have the option to help them stay in their home with assistance, and then find an Assisted Living or Memory Care community that is best for them as they are moving into a later stage of their disease.

Life Care communities (or Continue Care Retirement Communities) usually require a large down-payment. Will they really be able to live out there years in that community?

If you are at this juncture, I recommend finding a local Aging Life Care Manager who can help discuss the options in your area. It will save you hours of time, could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars, and help ensure you find the right community for your loved one and be prepared for the changes that will come. Experienced.


Some related blogs include:

We were forced by the community to move my parents.  My parents refused to move from their apartment until the community threatened to evict them from their apartment.

Making the transition to Assisted Living when your parents refuse. The process we went through to move my parents when they refused.






My deceased mom’s accounts were listed on my credit report.

creditreportexpIn the wake of the Equifax breach … which joins a long line of security breaks … I suggest you take a look at your own credit report now.

I often talk about how to help mom and dad and manage through being the adult family caregiver, and often one of the best things you can do is to lead by example.

You can get a free copy from the three major bureaus once a year, and it’s worth doing. When I recently ran my own reports, I found that my mom was listed along with some of her credit history. My mom passed away almost two years ago.

To get your report, visit: AnnualCreditReport.com 

You should not have to pay ANYTHING, so if you are being prompted to pay, you are on the wrong site. If you are just doing a check up, I would request all three. When I did this for myself recently, on the first one from Equifax, everything appeared to be in order. When I got to Experian, it provided more details and showed some accounts from my mom, who is now deceased. It also had several misspellings and listed former work addresses as former residences. It took around 45 minutes to get through the customer service system to the person that could help me. I found the same errors on the TransUnion report. They were very helpful in getting the issues corrected.

The good news is that corrections get shared with the other credit bureaus, and Experian is going to send me a note when the updates have been made and shared with the other bureaus.

In the wake of the breach, you might also consider putting a lock on your credit and recommending that to mom or dad as well. It won’t prevent the exploitation that is rampant and costs seniors $17 Billion a year, but at least it’s a start to having a positive discussion with your loved one. Hoped. 



What can you do when your help is not wanted?

lifesaverIn the course of a few days, I talked with two different adult children who are trying to help loved ones but being told their help is not needed. This stage is the worst in my opinion for many reasons. The first is that it is the time when changes can be made to extend the life the individual or couple wants. Cognitive issues don’t go away by ignoring them, and early action offers the most opportunities to make choices and find good solutions for continuing to enjoy life. Unfortunately, you may have to wait until there is a critical failure before you can step into help.

In both cases, the husband is caring for a wife that clearly has some form of dementia. To the husband, I believe they are trying to maintain the life they have been leading and not recognizing how much the quality of life for the spouse, or for them, has changed. First, see if you can step into the spouse’s shoes. What is it that they are afraid will change if they try to get the care their spouse will need? This is the time when they fight hardest to maintain their lives.

Please recognize that the individual with cognitive issues often don’t recognize they have a problem. It’s a medical condition called Anosognosia and what you might not be privy too is how much the husband tried to point out these issues only to create a fight with his wife. He might feel like he is keeping the peace and protecting his spouse.

If there are other adult children, can you get all them together to present a united front? Do the have good friends who might join you or neighbors they trust that have reached out with concerns? My siblings and I did this twice. Our parent’s politely declined our suggestions both times. My siblings all followed up these visits (they flew in from different parts of the country) with letters. Both my parents had cognitive issues and no short term memory, so they truly believed we were making up the issues we cited.

If you have siblings that won’t help, or encouraging your parent to ignore the feedback from the other kids, you most likely have to wait for the critical failure.

I realized that my frequent visits to stop-gap the issues my parents were having (turning back on the water, showing up to get dad off the floor on a regular basis, meeting the police when they broke into their home and called them to report a burglary) was enabling them to continue leading their lives. The decision to not show up one night and my suggestion that my mom call “911” resulted in my dad ending up in the hospital and helped us implement some better solutions for their health and safety for the time being.

If you feel they are neglecting their loved one, you might consider calling in Adult Protective Services. I would at least call them to see if they have some suggestions. Typically they are unable to help unless there is imminent danger.

The reality is most likely that the spouse feels terribly alone and has no one to talk to. They want to protect their privacy and often won’t bring this to the attention of their physicians. Most doctor’s don’t have the time to even help someone navigate a what it means to have mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

So what can you do?

  1. Listen, suggest, offer. But back off if you get no.
  2. Wait for the failure, and be ready to help when you are invited in.

I wish I had more suggestions, but sometimes you can make someone else do what you believe is right, they have to be ready. Witnessed. 


For some other articles related to this topic:

Sometimes you just have to be sneaky: After meeting with my parents, this is what the retirement community psychologist suggested when my parents refused to accept the help they obviously needed.

Someone broke into your house? What happened the night my parent’s call the police to report a break-in.




We don’t fully grow up ’til we lose a parent


With my parents and siblings in San Diego.

I am permanently and notably different after the loss of both my parents. Over the course of five years, I learned how to cry, how to bend, how to allow the emotions in front of me to matter. As an Army brat that moved around, I had a built and worn a shell that made me unapologetically gruff to some, while others just felt I was incredibly aloof and detached.

For those that made it into my friend zone, they saw that I had those thoughts and emotions, but it was not often that they were on display. For the inner-sanctum, they have found pure entertainment in my gruff reactions to the smallest of matters.

There is no turning back now. Some days I am frustrated by my new-found humanity. I can’t believe why something as simple as a comment about  “nana or pop-pop” will bring tears to my eyes. I miss them, I wish things would have gone better for us all, and I want to make sure I do a better job for the sake of me, my husband, and my kids.

I knew my parents as an adult, so I had many opportunities to talk about many things that mattered. But I do recognize how their loss permanently etched some details on me that will remain.

The headline of the the post came from a story I saved in a blog draft from 2015. This son didn’t really get to know his mom until the final days of her life.  But he did a wonderful job of honoring her memory. 

I needed to change to be a better care partner to my parents. I’m still adapting to figure out to use all those lessons to be a better person. Humbled.


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Males Most Susceptible to Scams

According to the BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, Males are the most susceptible to 7 of the top 10 scams they studied. While I think the reports on scams are hard to pin down because from what I’ve witnessed, many people that have been exploited didn’t even recognize it. This report summarized over 32,000 scam reports reported to the BBB with the top scam being home improvement. It might just be that more males report being taken advantage of than females.


The reality is that there are too many people that make a living by cheating others out of their money. The best way to combat these concerns is to start thinking about how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim. One of the ways I suggest to clients when they find out they were taken advantage of is to reflect back on the offer. Was it too good to be true?  Should an offer for something free require your credit card? Did your gut hurt because you felt pressured into making a decision?

I know it seems silly to suggest using your stomach as a guide, but most often our basic human instincts still exist to protect from all kinds of trouble. Suggested. 

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