how to pay for assisted livingTime can play tricks on the human mind. When you’re in your 20s or 30s, you focus on building a career and starting a family. Retirement age might as well be a million years in the future, as far as the mind measuring the distance in months and years yet to come. Time marches on, then one day you realize the next birthday moves you closer to retirement than you imagined you’d be.

The wise realize at a young age that it’s better to set money aside, bit by bit, and make time work for them as savings accumulate interest in a 401K and investments hopefully grow in value. After decades of not touching that money, it’s hopefully there waiting to be put toward the cost of long-term care in retirement years so they do not have to keep a job in his or her 60s just to survive.

At senior living communities like Regency Senior Living, this sadly is not always how residents find their path to joining our family. Too often, the move to a retirement community happens as a reaction to some inciting incident that convinces family members that mom or dad are no longer able to live independently and need more specialized attention than they can provide as family caregivers. This is particularly true if an aging parent starts displaying signs of dementia. It’s not unusual for those family members to react with wide eyes when we meet with them about their aging loved one, terrified to realize they haven’t saved nearly enough to provide for their own inevitable retirement needs.

It’s a fear that Jeff Clay, Regency’s Chief Operating Officer, can relate to. “When you’re young, you focus on struggling to get ahead in your job, make house payments, and put your kids through college,” he said. “It can be really hard to even have money you’re able to save for 20, 30, or 40 years in the future.”

Finding ways to do so, however, can be the difference between embracing senior years with calm reassurance and staying awake at night wondering how on earth we are going to pay for long-term care.

Stretching Savings to Last 20 Years or More Past Retirement Age

The average life expectancy in America continues to steadily rise due to improvements in healthcare, advances in medical research, and the expansion of health coverage. According to a United Nations report, the percentage of the population in the United States age 65 and older will rise 20% by 2050. A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3. A woman turning 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6. That can mean making retirement savings last for 20 years beyond that final paycheck. The average American woman who reached age 65 in 2015 had a better than one-in-three chance of seeing her 90th birthday, up from a one-in-four chance 50 years ago.

Those belonging in Generation X can’t count on Social Security to pay for retirement. In 1960, there were approximately 9 workers paying into the system for every individual receiving SS benefits. The ratio of current workers to current SS beneficiaries is half of what it was in 1960.

Consider this your Wake Up Call

We are warned over and over to plan for the future. Whatever the cause, the vast majority of people will be unprepared to shoulder the costs of long-term care when their time comes. Too many people wait until they are in the middle of a crisis situation before they start trying to figure out how the world of long-term care works; people don’t want to discuss it, and it’s a very expensive proposition.

The Good News is there are solutions to help many of those people who failed to plan. Seniors have options, even if they’ve not been the best about saving in the past.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

ElderLife

If the senior is a homeowner, Regency’s Elderlife program can help them get the most out of their home equity and have an easier transition to assisted living. Rising home values seen in recent research can mean a higher quality of life for the senior. Regency receives money up front while the house is on the market, allowing the senior to move in right away to ensure they are safe, secure and cared for. Regency can update and repair the home for better showings without disturbances, allowing realtors to show it more often and without forcing the senior to clean up and leave the home on short notice.

Working While Retired

While not ideal, as long as seniors are physically and mentally capable of still working, “clocking in” may be a way to supplement what they earn from Social Security and retirement savings. For some, the ability to continue going to work is a big plus rather than a burden.

Shared Living Arrangements

In much the same way that college students lower their costs by sharing a dorm room together, seniors can save on the cost of an Assisted Living space. While privacy is the ideal, Assisted Living communities like Regency’s typically offer a variety of spaces so “roomies” do not have to spend every waking moment together. Unless they want to, of course.

Does Medicare pay for assisted living?

Traditionally, the national, government-funded health insurance that Americans receive when we turn 65, Medicare, does NOT cover the costs of assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities. However, Medicare will cover qualified healthcare costs for short-term stays. For example, paying for rehab services prescribed by a doctor. Medicare is more often used to pay for a skilled nursing facility or home health care.

In some states, residents are allowed to use Medicaid, a state/federal assistance program, to cover assisted living communities. Each state has its own guidelines. In Tennessee, for example, residency in a Regency community might be possible based on a resident’s assets, income, and needs. Some conditions may apply such as mandatory companion living, and residents may be required to use private pay until they run out of their own money to pay for residency. The amount paid usually comes with a maximum cap. We recommend speaking with an elder law attorney who can guide you through the application process, ideally several years before you actually transition to an Assisted Living community.

Veterans Aid

Many wartime veterans 65 and older, spouses, and other dependents may be eligible for assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eligibility for pensions and Aid & Attendance Benefits may be impacted by the veteran’s yearly family income and net worth meeting certain limits set by Congress. Net worth includes all personal property owned (except a house, car, and most home furnishings), minus any debt owed. Net worth includes the net worth of a spouse. Generally speaking, veterans approaching retirement years are expected to face a more difficult time than their WWII-era counterparts due to cases of PTSD and anger lingering from treatment following conflicts that were politically-divisive to the country. For more information on applying with the VA, visit https://www.va.gov/pension/how-to-apply/.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Clay, Regency’s COO, reflected on changes over the years and said that this option has become less enticing as insurers have realized how much long-term care can cost. Timing is very important when going this route because if someone starts paying into it at too young of an age, they can end up paying in more than they will get out of it. Clay said age 55 is the prime time to buy a long-term care insurance policy. Beyond then, it becomes more challenging to qualify as young and healthy enough to make premium payments for an undetermined number of years into the future.

Life Insurance Transfer to Long-Term Care Insurance

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. said seniors have a legal right to settle life insurance policies while still alive for the present-day value and receive a significant percentage of the death benefit as a cash-out payment. After years of making premium payments, the owner of the policy can use it to help cover their retirement and long-term care costs. 

Investments in Rental Property

Another option that seniors might consider is acquiring or using a property to create rental dwellings that will work for them over the next 20 years, generating rent from occupants that can be applied toward their own care. It’s important to know before buying an investment property that a large down payment is usually required for financing since mortgage insurance isn’t available for investment properties. The higher the caliber of the tenant, the better the rental rates. Seniors may have to rely on a handyman they can trust for upkeep and repairs, especially when investing in “fixer-uppers” to save on costs.

Face the Facts and Prepare for the Future

The bottom line is that you don’t want to be surprised when it comes to financing your retirement or the long-term care expenses of an aging loved one. It pays to confront difficult and expensive propositions, and we urge anyone reading this to start preparing if you have not already. Knowing the options, you can keep learning so you can understand the differences between Home Care, Assisted Living and Nursing Home care, and realize what is and is not covered between public and private pay. Speaking with one of Regency Senior Living’s community consultants can help with this process.

Don’t Face Retirement Challenges Alone

For advice on putting financial affairs in order before relocating to Assisted Living, Regency recommends speaking to an attorney with experience in estate planning and elder law like Martin L. Pierce, an attorney with the Pierce Law Firm, PLLC in Chattanooga, Tenn. To learn more about ElderLife and other options for paying for Assisted Living, call us at (615) 598-0245 or visit the Regency Senior Living office at 6711 Mountain View Road #205, Ooltewah, TN 37363. 


Photo: © Steven Stiefel | Riverworks Marketing Group

Blog © 2018 Regency Senior Living 6711 Mountain View Road #205, Ooltewah, TN 37363

New Technology Expands Regency's Mission

 innovative-computer-system-for-seniorsRegency Senior Living employs every tool at our disposal to help our residents spend their golden years enjoying life. In some cases, that involves using technology to help them stay active, avoid boredom, improve cognitive & physical capacities, and strengthen the oh-so-important connections that dictate the quality of their lives. To that end, Regency is implementing the iN2L kiosk system into our communities.

The iN2L system (iN2L stands for “It’s Never Too Late”) has been highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, National Public Radio and dozens of smaller media outlets. While our world does not yet have the flying cars that science fiction promised us, this system is positively futuristic. A picture-based, touch-screen interface allows users to simply ‘touch’ their way to find engaging, educational, spiritual and personalized content that is appropriate to their own level of ability.

Jeff Clay, Regency’s COO, said Regency is making this system a company-wide commitment for our Memory Care residents.

“We just purchased an additional five units for our remaining communities,” he said. “Huntsville has had two iN2L units for 8 months. Tuscaloosa has used one for 6 months. All other communities are receiving their new system now. I have scheduled a companywide training on the new system on November 29th.”

Simplifying Technology for Today's Seniors

Seniors and technology have not always been easy companions, as evidenced by anecdotal stories of visiting grandchildren tasked with setting up gadgets for their elders, but one of the very best aspects of iN2L is the ease of use.

Using a computer to perform the tasks that have become so prevalent in the digital age – email, sharing photos, setting appointments – can now be done with minimal frustration and actually become pleasurable, engaging experiences rather than chores to dread. iN2L integrates the various hardware, software, media, ergonomic and adaptive components necessary to accommodate virtually any person with an interest in using a computer — regardless of background, physical or intellectual abilities. It has adapted the components especially with them in mind.

This “engagement system” packages an easy-to-use touchscreen kiosk that fits in with the décor of our Regency communities. Individually and in groups, residents can connect with friends and family, pursue personal interests, stimulate the senses and have fun. Family can add personalized content remotely and partner with our staff to give loved ones a truly unique experience.

“It’s a portable system, and we can wheel it anywhere that a wheelchair can go,” said Monique Dykstra of Regency in Huntsville, our largest community. “The screen and speaker system are built right in. Residents have used it to email their families, send and receive photos, it can even be used for games like BINGO. One resident has taken great joy in emailing regularly with her son in California. It is a new piece of technology that is rare among senior living communities in this area.”

When friends and family live far away or simply can’t visit in person as often as residents would like, e-mails and webcam sessions are the next best thing. The senior-friendly software and applications encourage brain fitness, education, virtual travel, spirituality, music, games, trivia, exercise, dementia programming, and more.

Another Component in the Regency Formula

“The iN2L system is a great financial investment,” said Jackie Holmes, Regency’s Regional Director of Sales and Marketing. “This is not like going out and buying an $89 tablet. This sort of touchscreen kiosk system is still extremely rare among senior living communities, adding to the list of amenities that make Regency the best choice for retirement living.”

Holmes said she was impressed by how it “addresses all of the dimensions of wellness – the recreational, the spiritual… And it’s superior to just having a dedicated space in the community where residents can use a shared computer because of the physical barriers and difficulty of use. From a physical standpoint, the height of the kiosk can be adjusted so that someone standing or using a wheelchair can use the touchscreen equally well.”

Therapeutic applications are disguised as entertaining games. For example, a resident needing help with hand/eye coordination might touch the screen to “pop” bubbles pixelated before them. A former pilot can relieve the experience of taking off or landing a jet with a flight simulator. Regency staff has become accustomed to smiles of joy as residents discover they can learn new things and restore lost connections.

Using Tech to Better Reach those with Dementia

Of course, it has obvious benefits for those suffering from dementia.

As Clay was researching tech solutions to assist with Memory Care, each system he considered had one specific approach, such as Music and Memory, focusing on downloading specific residents’ favorite artists and songs, or using a Japanese program that focuses employs simple math and grammar flashcards to stimulate seniors’ brain function.

“The iN2L has the ability for families to create a unique resident portal or account where they can download these same artists and favorite songs, plus a plethora of learning activities where they are engaged to participate so it is an all-inclusive program,” Clay said.

“This was a major initiative to test this engagement system at two communities, and we became confident that it was making a difference with our residents -- getting their families involved and making out Activity Directors’ jobs easier. It has been enjoyable and fulfilling to see their residents having a better quality of life! iN2L will be an integral part of all of our Pathways INTENTIONAL Memory Care Neighborhoods.”

These tools are particularly suited for older adults dealing with dementia and other cognitive disorders. The system is utilized for clients who might otherwise be difficult to reach with traditional therapy treatment approaches. With the massive library of content available to them, rehab professionals are finding new ways to engage and treat clients with dementia and cognitive decline like never before.

“It was created with those in Memory Care so that will be our focus at Regency, but because it is a mobile unit and can be connected to large screen TVs, we will take it to Assisted Living residents unwilling to attend activities to hopefully engage them as well,” Clay said.

We are able to use IN2L for Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. Residents can benefit from safety awareness, problem-solving and memory applications.

Connecting with someone with dementia is not always easy — iN2L gives our staff the tools to make a difference in the lives of the people in our care. Programs and games designed for residents with dementia serve to reduce anxiety, engage to refocus, entertain to redirect or stimulate reminiscing conversations. Content is designed by experts in the field of dementia care to reach a range of function levels and interests.

Clay said the tech alone is useful, but for maximum benefit, Regency is integrating training from Teepa Snow, an internationally known trainer and speaker from Alabama regarding Alzheimer’s care. “We plan to employ her comprehensive videos into our training programs for our caregivers,” he said. “These videos cover everything from unique approaches to engaging our residents into participating in planned activities or redirecting a resident that’s having some challenging behaviors.”

At Regency Senior Living, the future of senior care has arrived.

Best Places for Seniors to Live

best places for seniors to liveIf you or a parent are empty nesters looking for the next adventure in life, it can be exciting to research the best places for retired people to live and consider making such a move. Unless you&rsquore REALLY adventurous and plan to pick up and move to the first place your finger touches on a map while blindfolded, you’ll want to put some thought into destinations before boxing up your belongings and starting this new adventure. In this month's blog, we look at some of the communities identified by SeniorLiving.org, AARP and other sources as being the best cities for retirees to live.  

Best Places for Seniors to Retire: Things to Consider when Planning to Relocate

Family and Friends

For most seniors -- but not all – where we choose to live depends greatly on the proximity to our existing family and friends. Perhaps a grown son or daughter gets a great job in another city. No parent wants to be the reason they’d turn down a fabulous opportunity to achieve their dreams and earn more money while they are still in their working years. It’s only natural to want to live reasonably close to our loved ones so there are more opportunities to spend quality time with grandchildren and avoid making the holidays a time spent mostly in airports or rest areas along the highway.

Plus, we all want to feel moored to a support system that we can count on and rest assured that if, for example, we have a surprise overnight stay in the hospital, that there will be someone to help us cope. Assisted Living communities like the ones operated by Regency Senior Living offer a great option for seniors who want to be in the same community as family members, yet retain their own lifestyle and independence by moving into an apartment where peers of the same age group are around, along with help to make sure everyone has peace of mind that they’re well cared for and secure.

Cost of Living

No doubt about it: Retirement living can be expensive anywhere, so affordability becomes a very important factor when deciding where to live. Some research is wise to determine whether a state taxes IRAs or pensions and what the total state and local tax burden is. “States often make up for (lack of a state income tax) with higher sales and real estate taxes, which can fall disproportionately harder on seniors than income levies,” Forbes magazine pointed out in an April 2018 article.

Some seniors planning to work part-time to supplement their retirement savings will be interested in the local unemployment rate in a city. Whatever the case may be, seniors want to get the highest quality of living for the lowest price to achieve it. Six of the 10 cheapest cities to retire in the US, according to AARP, are located in the South: Birmingham (AL), Jackson (MS), Memphis (TN), Brownsville (TX), Augusta (GA), and Montgomery (AL).

Regency Senior Living operates a great community in the Homewood section of Birmingham (where the annual individual cost to live as a senior is an estimated $33,219 to live comfortably in retirement -- the cost of living in Birmingham is 27.4 percent lower than the national average). Founded in 1871, “the Magic City” is an industrial and cultural hub for the region with a rich Civil Rights history, numerous art galleries, and home to the state’s major ballet, opera and symphony orchestra companies. Standing guard above the city is Vulcan, a cast-iron statue atop Red Mountain representing the Roman god of fire, iron and blacksmiths.

You can live on less than $42,000 a year in the nearby Alabama city of Huntsville, where the cost of living is 8.6 percent lower than the national average. Nicknamed the “Rocket City”, Huntsville continues to play an important role in military and technology initiatives. Huntsville has the second largest technology and research park in the nation, and ranks among the top 25 most educated cities in the nation. It is considered in the top of the nation's high-tech hotspots, and one of the best Southern cities for defense jobs. It is the number one location for happy engineers, with high average salary and low median gross rent. You may very well find a rocket scientist living on our 30-acre Huntsville campus.

Just slightly more expensive than Huntsville is our third Alabama retirement community in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama football is the nation's best and the Median Home Cost is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference, according to a cost of living index on BestPlaces.net. Regency Retirement Village of Tuscaloosa offers a range of options for senior residents, including independent living garden homes and the Veteran-specific program Haven for Heroes.

Regency Senior Living is based from Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has a cost of living 12.5 percent below the national average, along with health costs that are lower than in most of the cheapest places to retire. Located 15-minutes from downtown Chattanooga, The Rosewood of Fort Oglethorpe in North Georgia is a continuum of care retirement facility conveniently located a short distance from the best of shopping, restaurants, entertainment, hospitals, and more.

Rome GA is considered 1% cheaper than Chattanooga TN, mostly due, again, to median home cost. In this North Georgia community, we operate Riverwood Senior Living. It's a great option for seniors who want to live near family working as professionals down in Atlanta. 

Knoxville in East Tennessee offers an affordable cost of living along with plenty of amenities, as does Memphis, where cost of living is 26 percent lower than the national average. Near these cities, you can find two more of our thriving retirement communities, the 9-acre Regency Retirement Village Morristown and the 4-acre Regency Retirement Village of Jackson TN.

Activities

We all want to live affordably, but it’s also important to live well. What’s a senior to do with free time on his or her hands? A little research online can point us in the direction of information about a community, the people living in it, local clubs, recreational possibilities, fun attractions, opportunities for volunteering for good causes, sporting events to enjoy, and a lot more. At Regency, we schedule regular outings for shopping and dining excursions in the communities we serve. When you visit the websites for our communities or arrange to visit in person, you’ll find a busy calendar of activities that all residents can enjoy, from physical exercise programs to tours of local stadiums and museums.

Climate

The South can be very appealing for seniors tired of enduring decades of cold, wet winters. We experience warm summers, mild winters, and abundant rain. During the winter, you’re likely to experience 40+ days with temperatures at or below freezing, the exact number varying from city to city. Freezing ice events are more likely to happen than snow events during a typical winter. The spring and fall months are pleasant, but residents of the region do experience occasional thunderstorms and tornadoes.

 

A warm climate and affordable cost of living make the South a great retirement choice. Feel free to browse our communities to find one that offers the amenities you want to get the most out of retirement living. 

 

Healthcare

As we near retirement age, the quality of health care close by becomes a larger concern. A small town in the middle of nowhere may offer serenity, but what if an emergency prompts a need for more urgent medical attention? A major benefit of Regency communities is the staffing we offer by skilled personnel who can respond 24/7 for those with chronic medical needs, as well as those who simply like having someone else around to remind them when it’s time to take any prescribed medicines they take. A private house may offer solitude that some crave, but when living in a retirement community, there’s less reliance on the kindness and concern of neighbors to check in to make sure a senior living inside hasn’t fallen and broken a hip, for example.

Even if a senior is fit and independent enough to be self-reliant, we should think ahead to future months and years when age does become more of a factor. It’s good to know that if an ambulance is ever needed, the EMT drivers are familiar with where a senior living community is and how to get there to respond fast. Regency’s residence and service options range from Independent Living to Assisted Living to Memory Care.

Make Regency Your New Home

We feel that the Southeastern USA is the ideal region for retirees to settle for all of the reasons mentioned above. Our communities offer the best option for seniors who want to enjoy everything these fine cities and our staff operating there bring to providing a high quality of retirement living.

If you are a senior looking for a community to make a fresh start to begin a new chapter in your retirement years, we encourage you to check out all that these cities have to offer and why you should choose to join us in calling one of them your new home.

 


Photo: © Steven Stiefel/Riverworks Marketing Group

Blog © 2018 Regency Senior Living Ooltewah TN 37363

When is it time for Assisted Living?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 21:07

When do you need assisted living?

when is it time for assisted livingIt’s a moment we all dread, and it stirs alarm when it arrives. We’re referring to the first inkling that a family member of advanced age may exhibit early symptoms of dementia.

Perhaps it is when a mother repeats herself, forgetting the nearly identical conversation she had with you the day or week before. Or when your father exhibits personality or behavior changes.

It can be challenging to distinguish between a normal “senior moment” of confusion and a symptom of something more serious. Family may react with concern toward potential early warning signs of dementia, fearing that the disturbing development is just the first act of a progressive condition that marks possible trouble ahead. Such events can be very subtle and vague.

It is usually these moments that prompt a senior or his/her family members to question whether the time has arrived to seek extra help to do everyday tasks. Is it, they wonder, time to begin considering moving to an Assisted Living community like Regency Senior Living? In this month’s blog, we look at strategies to assess a senior’s needs and make the process of transitioning to the next stage of life easier.

How do you know when it’s time to move into Assisted Living?

A senior does not necessarily have to exhibit symptoms like memory loss, disorientation, mood disorders, and so forth for the move to a retirement community to happen. Many people happily leave empty nests and enjoy the newfound freedom and leisure that come with having no more dishes or clothes to wash, a yard to mow, etc. That’s the best way for moving from the home to a shared community to happen.

Unfortunately, instead, there’s often an inciting event that leads to an unpleasant confrontation that might cause a parent to get pressured to seek help out of necessity.

The catalyst may instead be poor health rather than dementia. Poor vision, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, COPD, cancer, and strokes give us plenty else to worry about affect a mother or father’s ability to remain self-reliant. Illnesses can result from years of obesity, poor diet, smoking, or a combination thereof. If family caregivers can’t step up to keep a closer eye on mom or dad, checking into Assisted Living moves the whole clan toward a heightened peace of mind. The senior may not recognize what everyone sees and become confused, suspicious and withdrawn.

Experts recommend slowly looking into Assisted Living as something to eventually do in the future rather than an immediate change to be forced upon them against their will. “Shop around” and “weigh options” for future needs. Arrange visits to check out your local retirement communities – the senior may find comfort in speaking to residents about their daily experiences and be relieved that the cold, clinical nursing home setting that they perhaps expected is not what awaits them at all.

It’s also important to consult the senior’s doctor to eliminate treatable conditions that can have similar symptoms to dementia. If the physician examines the senior and finds that the events are, indeed, likely the early signs of Alzheimer’s, this can often give them a nudge toward accepting what might otherwise be dismissed without a professional assessment.

Is assisted living the same as a nursing home?

As stated, many seniors are pleasantly surprised to discover the gap between Assisted Living and nursing home care.

There’s really no need for expensive around-the-clock medical care for someone who simply needs a little help with the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and grooming.

How does Senior Assisted Living Work?

Facilities can range in terms of the level of personal care offered and available resident amenities. Living spaces may depend on how independent the senior is when arriving. For many, an apartment with a kitchen included may strike the right balance, while others may want or need to rely completely on prepared meals served in a common dining area. As with anything in life, the living situation depends on what the senior and his/her family can afford.

Assisted living residences may vary greatly in size, appearance, cost, and services offered, but most will include basic housekeeping and medication reminders. Concerns about the senior’s ability to safely drive are alleviated by furnished transportation and certain health services that eliminate the need to get out as often for doctor’s appointments.

Assisted Living usually strikes a balance between the need for privacy and freedom vs the security of 24-hour supervision.

How Old Do You Have to Be for Assisted Living?

According to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the average assisted living resident is 87 years old. Of course, that also means that half of residents are younger than that. Most residents are female and Caucasian. Most assisted living residents previously lived independently according to a Centers for Disease Control report: 70% of new residents move from a home or apartment to the community. 

How to move a parent with dementia to Assisted Living

Strategies to Ease the Transition of Moving a Parent to Assisted Living

One of the hardest things a person will ever do is force an unwilling parent to move into a senior living facility. Even after the move is completed, the loved one may experience feelings of intense grief. The website WorkingDaughter.com recommends the following to make things easier:

• Allow 3-6 months for the senior to adjust to the new living arrangement. Just like those homesick feelings we experience during our first year of college, it’s natural for a new resident to struggle to make friends and fit at home in a new place. Scheduled activities and encouraging participation in group activities can ease this time. Anticipating setbacks as normal and expected makes them easier to overcome.

• Visit the parent frequently so they do not feel abandoned or lonely. Regency makes this easy with opportunities for shared dining.

• Acknowledge the senior’s feelings. “Listen to their fears and concerns and acknowledge them. Then help them get through it. They will be more likely to listen to what you have to say if they feel like you’ve listened to what they had to say,” the website reads.

• Limit the New while Inserting the Familiar. Downsizing before a move can mean parting with a lifetime of possessions. As much as possible, the new space should be decorated with familiar furniture with photographs of family and friends, photo albums, favorite books, and a familiar piece of artwork following them to the new living space. At the same time, the website advises “Don’t overwhelm your parents with a new phone or remote control for the television, or a fancy new coffee maker. Limit the amount of new things they need to learn.” 

How to Encourage a Senior to Enter Assisted Living

Convincing mom or dad to willingly trade in their home for what they imagine will be an “old folks’ rest home” is rarely easy.

Some people are considerate enough to spare their families future hardship by prearranging their funerals, creating a Living Will, and other wise getting their affairs in order, but most do not. The same can be said for those who react with stubborn resistance to the whole idea that planning an eventual move means taking steps closer to death.

Many of our residents at Regency Senior Living find the exact opposite to be the case. Their move represents an exciting new stage of life where they enjoy a more carefree existence and make new friends. It’s nice to know there’s freedom to be alone, but also lots of chances to enjoy company as well.

Looking into the social aspects of a good assisted living community while stressing the peace of mind gained from increased safety measures will make you both feel better about the move.

If Mom expresses sadness that she never gets visits from her friends anymore, take the opportunity to suggest Assisted Living as the solution.

The website AgingCare.com suggests checking around to “see if anyone you know has a loved one who is already thriving in a local assisted living community” because it can offer great comfort to have a familiar face around. Many of our communities offer a financial incentive if a senior refers a friend to join us. 

When the Time is Right, Make the Call

A move to Assisted Living, under ideal conditions, starts with research and a tour of facilities BEFORE any disturbing signs of cognitive decline. Seniors and their families should take the time to learn what’s ahead and make sure the parent’s wants and needs factor into what happens next – when the time arrives.

If you’re a senior looking for a great community to begin the next stage of life or the family member of someone who could benefit from living with us, please get in touch with us so we can schedule a tour with no obligation. Meanwhile, learn more about our assisted living communities on this website.

Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

Written by Steven Stiefel

Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy

importance of social connections in chattanooga tn retirement communities

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that seniors who experience close social connections live longer and enjoy a better quality of life, but there’s plenty of science to back up the importance of staying socially active for seniors. Many seniors live alone in isolation, which can lead to depression and loneliness. But Chattanooga TN retirement communities offer a solution to keep aging loved ones active and happy.

Research Points to a Strong Link Between the Strength and Quantity of Social Connections and the Health Among Seniors

The results of a 17-year study of senior citizens in Alameda County, California suggest that social connection and leisure-time physical activity can improve the mortality rate regardless of age, race, socioeconomic position, and other behavioral risk factors, and baseline health status.

The study began in 1965 with 6,928 adults ages 20 or older completing an extensive questionnaire about behavioral, social, and psychological aspects of their lives. This enabled the researchers to compare the findings for those ages 60-94 with several younger age groups. Participants self-reported a variety of conditions, symptoms, and disabilities experienced during the 17 years.

Ties with close friends and/or relatives assume greater importance for those ages 60 or older, pointing to the critical importance of social network ties. Analyses of the findings have shown that such ties are significant predictors of lower 9-year mortality risk for persons aged less than 70 years. Social ties are also significant predictors of lower mortality risks for those aged 70 and older after adjusting for age, sex, race, baseline health status, perceived health, depression, and health practices.

Other Studies Back Up the Health Benefits of Social Connections

Another study of 5,151 seniors found that people are more likely (by almost one-half) to live longer and healthier lives if they participate in some form of social interaction. Social activities like visiting or talking with friends or relatives decreased their likelihood of mortality. Those with a greater number of social ties experience reduced levels of functional decline.

Research from 1992-96 in Barcelona, Spain revealed that among females, in particular, the existence of support from neighbors, the size of the family network, the number of contacts with the community network and the situation of living with someone else were related increased life spans. The support of neighbors was found to have a significant relationship to their longevity.

Research Looked at the Health Benefits of Social Interaction for Seniors

The Alameda County study and research it has inspired achieve similar conclusions: It is likely that social engagement exerts a protective influence on health. It is possible that by encouraging older adults to participate socially and to maintain their social engagement, they will be more likely to consider themselves healthy at a later stage in life.

Scientific research repeatedly demonstrates that social engagement significantly predicts future subjective health. Even when prior subjective health is taken account of, those who are more socially engaged report higher levels of personal health than those with lower levels of social engagement.

Retirement Communities offer a great alternative to living alone

At our Assisted Living in Chattanooga, seniors follow a calendar of scheduled activities that keep them busy and create opportunities for socializing. Regular entertainers perform songs that evoke memories of shared generational moments. Meals, craft workshops, and worship programs all offer chances for seniors to engage in conversations, and our programs attend to both their physical and mental wellbeing. Regency Senior Living offers regular physical activity to keep blood flowing, relieve tension, and to improve stamina, strength, and heart health. Those living alone often feel less motivation to exert themselves. Seniors can also keep their minds sharp with activities and games.

Regency’s amenities create a care-free environment where seniors no longer worry about most of the daily chores that keep us running ragged, yet they can still stay connected with people and exert their energy on things that matter to them. We provide transportation to go shopping or visit their doctor. They no longer worry themselves with housekeeping and cooking meals (or the cleanup!). Seniors still want to feel useful and needed. We encourage our residents to get involved in a hobby or to volunteer with their church, community, or charity groups.

Regency Encourages Family and Friends to Remain a Big Part of a Senior’s Life

We surround our residents with people their age, as well as compassionate caregivers who they can connect with on a personal level and consider friends. However, a person’s family will always matter most to a senior. Unlike the isolated grandmother whose sole companion most nights is a television, people who live with us enjoy an active social life independent of family involvement while also creating excellent opportunities for the family to visit and bond.

Families join us for dinner and special events. Many grown children take them out regularly for time together away from our community. Regency is there for Seniors in today’s busy world. Residents enjoy the freedom to come and go as they please, yet their families feel the peace of mind that they’re safe and secure.

With medication reminders, regular activities, and social moments planned and carried out, there’s no comparison to what a senior experiences when living alone at home.
Regency offers access to technology so seniors can take their real-life social connections and relationships online as their grandkids do. Computers connected to the Internet allow residents to research things and play games. Seniors living in our community are undoubtedly safer than those living alone and vulnerable to scam artists and thieves.

A social network is more than just something owned by a billionaire in Silicon Valley. It’s the key to getting more enjoyment and purpose from life. The research backs it up, giving us the mission to carry out for their wellness. Regency’s communities and programs set the stage for seniors to engage with friends from their own generation as well as our skilled caregivers. Combined with enduring ties to old friends and their families, the social circle is complete.

This sense of connection leads to a positive view of life. Combined with regular doctor check-ups and activities to keep days filled, a loved one can live a long, healthy life full of purpose, laughs, and joy.

Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

Written by Steven Stiefel

 

assisted living communities aid those with Parkinson'sParkinson's Disease is a condition that affects many seniors, yet it is talked about far less often than Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias. No two people experience Parkinson's precisely the same way, yet there are some commonalities. Parkinson's affects about one million people in the United States and 10 million worldwide. It's a condition we frequently see in Assisted Living Communities like Regency Senior Living.

The brain disorder causes a gradual loss of muscle control. Distinctive signs of the disease include tremors, stiffness, slowed body movements, and poor balance. Actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali developed Parkinson's early in life, at ages 30 and 42 respectively. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone with Parkinson's has a tremor like these celebrities giving a face to the disease.

The symptoms of Parkinson's tend to be mild at first and can sometimes be overlooked as they develop slowly over about 20 years, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. The symptoms may not be apparent for a while. Experts say the life expectancy for those with Parkinson's is about the same as those without the condition.

Some early signs of Parkinson's can be confused with other conditions. These include a rhythmic shaking of fingers or hands while in use, along with stiffness, difficulty getting out of a chair, stooped posture, or a frozen expression on the face. Slowed movement or suddenly freezing in place can also be a sign of the impairment, although usually in the advanced stages. Doctors use these progressive stages to determine the best treatment.
A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson's disease called Micrographia. Writing can naturally change as you get older due to stiff hands or fingers or poor vision impacting your ability to hold a pen and see well.

"If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's," advises the Parkinson's Foundation website. "Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking."

All seniors can be affected by balance problems that pose the risk of falling, but this is especially true for someone with Parkinson's, which develops as a stooped posture with drooping shoulders. The rigidity of muscles is another sign of Parkinson's and one of the things that doctors examine. He or she may refer you to a neurologist, along with an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist.

It's essential that someone who has Parkinson's live in an environment where things they can trip on, such as rugs or cords, are removed and grab bars help with mobility in the bathroom. For these reasons, an Assisted Living environment can be a good match for a person with Parkinson's who needs help with simple tasks as motor skills decline.

Beyond the more obvious physical symptoms, people with Parkinson's may sometimes experience difficulty swallowing, confusion and memory problems, restless sleep, daytime fatigue, slurred speech, constipation, oily skin, and dandruff. Mood changes in the form of anxiety and depression also make things more challenging for those with Parkinson's, as well as their caregivers.

A diagnosis from a medical professional can determine whether tremors are from Parkinson's or another condition. A more common source of shaking known as "essential tremor" is distinguished from Parkinson's by getting worse when a hand is in motion, as opposed to stationary.
Experts from the National Parkinson Foundation say the average person with Parkinson's gets the condition at age 62. Males and those with a family history are more likely to have it. Parkinson's occurs when part of the brain stem stops making a chemical called dopamine that helps nerve cells communicate. The disruption causes a failure of the brain to control movement usually.

A drug called Levodopa has been used since the 1970s to treat Parkinson's. Side effects of the drug after long-term use include nausea, drowsiness, hallucinations, paranoia, vomiting, and involuntary movements. Other medications can mimic dopamine. Regular monitoring of the liver may be needed, as well as avoidance of certain antidepressants. In extreme cases, electrodes may be surgically implanted in the brain or radio-frequency energy used to destroy parts of the brain stem associated with tremors, rigidity or bradykinesia.

As with many conditions, a well-balanced diet can positively impact the condition. Calcium and vitamin D help with bone strength while high-fiber meals alleviate constipation. Researchers continue to investigate possible supplements or substances to protect the neurons damaged by Parkinson's.
Exercise also helps to ease the condition by allowing the brain to use dopamine more efficiently, plus getting more exercise improves coordination and balance. The treatment for Parkinson's depends on managing the specific symptoms that manifest since there is no single magic pill to cover everything at this time.

Assisting living communities staffed with compassionate caregivers and grab bars to prevent falls can make life easier and preserve more independence for those living with Parkinson's disease.

To learn more about Parkinson's, visit http://parkinson.org/ To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Copyright: vampy1 / 123RF Stock Photo

living wills and legal trustsIt’s important, when seniors put their legal affairs in order, to consider what is in their best interest when transitioning to an Assisted Living community.

It is important that a trusted person is given the authority to make decisions regarding the financial matters of the senior before something happens to incapacitate the resident. When left in question, families may split apart and battle within the probate court system over who has the legal right to make important decisions for the senior.

It’s not easy discussing the inevitability of death with an aging parent, but it happens to everyone eventually, so there are advantages to having a conversation about their wishes on such things as:

  • Who they want to handle their financial and legal affairs if they become incapacitated, along with managing healthcare decisions.
  • The final wishes of the senior and who is appointed to carry them out.
  • How assets are to be transferred to beneficiaries after death.
  • Decisions about advance directives for life support and organ donation.

Having a clear idea, in writing, of what happens next often avoids future disputes.

While an aging or disabled person still has the capacity to make decisions about who to trust with such authority, a legal document called “Power of Attorney” is drafted to give the designated party the power to act on his or her behalf. It may be limited to certain activities, such as filing taxes. If no such document has been drafted and the senior loses the capacity to manage his or her own affairs, the courts may grant what’s called a “Conservatorship” to a responsible party seeking to handle such matters on behalf of the senior.

A person is considered incapacitated if, for reasons other than being a minor, he or she is unable to make decisions and cannot adequately take care of their own health care, nutritional needs and the like. Incapacitation may be as a result of mental illness or injury that resulted in brain damage. There may, of course, be instances where the senior can mostly function independently but needs assistance with finances. A failure to properly manage bills can often be the impetus for a family transitioning a senior to Assisted Living.

Martin L. Pierce, an attorney with the Pierce Law Firm, PLLC in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a Certified Estate Planning Specialist through the ABA-accredited National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. An AV Preeminent-rated lawyer with Martindale-Hubbell, he is also a Mid-South Super Lawyer® in the areas of Estate Planning and Elder Law, was selected to Best Lawyers in America for Trusts and Estates, and is an AVVO Top-Rated Lawyer. He is also a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and he is an Accredited Attorney with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is an Accredited Estate Planner® by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. These credentials make him an authority on estate planning and elder law.

“There are definitely big differences between Power of Attorney, Conservatorship, Irrevocable Trust, etc.,” Pierce said. “There are slight differences, particularly in terminology, in different states or localities. ‘Conservatorship’ and ‘guardianship’ are basically interchangeable, for example.”

Pierce said the bottom line is that seniors and their families need to have plans in place to cover things like insurance and personal finances. In some cases, a senior may have a designated person with Power of Attorney, yet another family member may challenge this role and petition with the court for a conservatorship if the POA agent is not properly managing the senior’s assets or the senior needs additional help with something the POA agent is not equipped to provide.

It can be tragic when families take sides over a dispute about money or health care decisions after Alzheimer’s or another debilitating condition has robbed the aging parent of his or her ability to make important decisions. Grown children may express differences of opinion over what degree of retirement living or medical care is appropriate for the parent with its attendant impact on spending “their future inheritance.”

“We each have to consider what may become of our finances, belongings, and even ourselves if we become incapacitated or when we pass away,” Pierce said. “As uncomfortable as these ideas are, they are critical to see through so that our loved ones are not left with unnecessary burdens they may be unprepared or ill-suited to handling. These matters can be difficult and complicated. A good place to start is understanding the different types of legal documents every senior should have.”

He said a Durable Financial Power of Attorney can avoid a legal Conservatorship or Guardianship, which is an expensive and time-consuming process accomplished through the Probate Court. A Conservatorship requires Court approval of expenditures, investments and sales of assets, and it requires annual accountings filed with the Court of every item of income and expense. It can be effective immediately or upon proof of incapacity.

Another term discussed is a “Revocable Trust”, which may be referred to as a “Living Trust” because it contains instructions on the management of property during the lifetime.

“In my experience, I have found that relatively few people, including a very high percentage of non-estate planning attorneys, actually know how such a trust works,” Pierce said. “Asking a trial lawyer if they know how a Revocable Trust works is sort of like asking the average person if they know how an automobile works. And the answer you may get is: ‘Sure, you just get in, start the car and drive it where you want to go.’ To which you might reply, ‘No. That’s not what I mean. I mean, can you take a car apart and put it back together again?’ So, if you are going to use a Revocable Trust as the basic document of your estate plan, you at least need to know how to get in, start it up and steer it where you want it to go.”

“You have to actually change the legal title and ownership of each and every asset you want subject to the terms of the trust by giving those assets to the Trustee. This point is made over and over again to clients when they sign their Revocable Trusts,” Pierce said.

A Revocable Trust is important for two very good reasons. “The first, which is obvious, is that you can make any changes when you like to the trust -- or do away with the trust -- as long as you are alive and competent,” Pierce said. “This comes in handy if you were to change spouses or decide you want to disinherit your children and leave your estate to a charity. The second reason is that, because you retain the power to completely revoke or change the trust, Uncle Sam ignores it for income and gift tax purposes. In other words, you file an income tax return (Form 1040) as if the trust did not exist and you do not have to report the transfer of any property to the trust on a gift tax return.”

Tax implications are a key consideration in determining the best choice.

“Because the funding of a Revocable Trust is in effect simply a retitling of your assets without giving up any control over them, such assets are includable in your estate for estate and inheritance tax purposes. This does not mean that you will necessarily have to pay these taxes, it simply means that the assets in a Revocable Trust must be reported. A surprising number of people have acquired the mistaken notion that a Revocable Trust somehow avoids taxes, possibly confusing it with an ‘Irrevocable Insurance Trust’, which is designed to avoid these taxes.”

Let’s say you have created and actually funded a Revocable Trust with absolutely every asset you own. Why do you still need a Will?

“Remember, everybody needs a Will because you cannot completely control whether you will die without property subject to probate,” Pierce said. “So, when you create a Revocable Trust, you should also make a Will which says, in effect, that any property which you may own at the time of your death which is subject to probate (that is, not titled in the Trust) should be distributed to the Trustee of your Revocable Trust and added to it so that the Trustee can distribute it as you have directed in the trust. This type of Will is known as a ‘Pourover Will’ because it pours any unanticipated assets in your name alone at the time of your death over to your trust.”

Seniors and their families looking at options should explore the various options when planning for elder care. Pierce suggests discussing the tax consequences of any distributions with him or an accountant before distributions are made. To learn more about elder law, call Martin Pierce at (423) 648-4303. To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Photo Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

assisted living chattanoogaThe Miracles of Modern Medicine

As we age, it is natural for the human body to become more susceptible to a range of chronic health conditions, both due to the accumulation of risk factors and natural changes brought about by time. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases are now leading causes of death due to increased life expectancy, but the good news is that science equips us to manage these chronic conditions better than ever through a combination of medication and lifestyle choices.

Assisted Living communities cater to both of these, keeping residents physically active to reduce obesity and also helping them to manage the variety of medications that seniors frequently need to take on a regular basis to manage these conditions. These prescriptions may be used to treat concurrent medical conditions, posing an increased risk of drug interactions if not taken as directed by a physician.

The benefits of modern medications are impressive – pain relievers lessen arthritis so the senior can continue buttoning his or her own shirt, for example -- but with the benefits come potential hazards. Toxicity and adverse drug interactions pose a constant threat to anyone taking medications, particularly older adults who often take multiple prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

The Dangers of Poor Medication Management

Some incident involving their medication can often be what triggers a senior’s initial move to an Assisted Living community. Perhaps Mom or Dad forgot they’d just taken their pills a few moments earlier and double-dosed or skipped taking doses, leading to an aggravation of their chronic condition. It’s hard for people of any age to remember to take their medications at set times to completion, as prescribed, but the risks can be elevated for aging parents. A third of emergency room visits by older adults are caused by adverse drug events, according to a white paper from the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living.

When the senior transitions to retirement living, families gain peace of mind knowing their loved one gains the “safety net” of services such as medication reminders while still enjoying the independence of their own apartment, as well as transportation to and from their doctor.

Assisted Living: Balancing Quality of Life with Enhanced Safety

The great thing about Assisted Living is that it is a more affordable alternative to nursing home care, which is intended for those needing around-the-clock medical care. Residents no doubt prefer living in a home-like environment, opposed to the clinical setting of a nursing home. Increased quality-of-life is a major area of focus, balanced with the senior’s need to remain safe and secure.

Regency care providers work to make sure residents are given their medications at the right times and at the correct dosages. Treatment can include reaching a physician to obtain or verify a prescription. Challenges include coordinating complicated medication regimens from multiple prescribers and healthcare providers, some of whom may not specialize in geriatrics. Further complicating things, the resident may have impaired cognition and communicate in a confused state. Managing the accuracy and confidentiality of health records is another facet of providing care to our residents.

Because of all these factors, the importance of training our people cannot be overemphasized. We work to provide the resources that are necessary to help staff provide quality and excellence in care.

Other Ways Regency Encourages Healthier Seniors

It has also been said that the food we eat is a medicine within itself. In that sense, Regency communities consult nutritionists/dietitians to ensure meals are not only tasty but cater to the management of chronic health conditions. Diabetic residents, for example, must have their condition factored into meal preparation.

Finally, Assisted Living communities like Regency’s offer scheduled activities to keep residents moving because this encourages longevity and better health, as well as creating opportunities for social interaction that science suggest may be critical to long life and happiness.

To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.

Healthy Eating for Seniors

Monday, 25 September 2017 13:07

We all have different dietary needs, especially as we age and might develop different health conditions. Today, we will discuss those needs and share healthy eating for seniors to adhere to, that can help maintain their health and prevent some common ailments that sometimes come with age. One challenge for many seniors is keeping up with cooking, which can be time consuming, tiring, and even dangerous if you have issues with mobility, coordination, or balance. That’s yet another great reason to consider retirement living—the help with meal times alone can offer enormous peace of mind and transform breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a source of stress to the pleasurable social activity eating can be at its best.

healthy eating for seniorsA senior care community makes it easier than ever for seniors to eat as often as they should and make sure each meal is not only delicious, but nutritious, too. It’s easy for seniors who struggle with meal prep and cleanup to turn to processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium, and preservatives. By enjoying three meals a day with their friends and neighbors at the retirement home, there doesn’t need to be as much worry about malnutrition, or getting the right amount of calories, vitamins, and minerals.

Seniors typically benefit from eating several small meals a day. That helps maintain insulin levels, keeps blood sugar steady, aids calorie intake, and prevents you from missing a meal if you were too tired at the end of the day to, say, enjoy an enormous dinner. Dishes like soups and stews can be rich in vegetables, protein, and carbs while packing a lot of flavor—and hydrating liquid. That can be ideal for addressing some of the most common health complaints for seniors that are easily treated with a change in diet, rather than prescription medications and supplements (though those can help, too!).

Sipping small amounts of liquid throughout the day can help you stay hydrated. If you have a health condition like diabetes that means you need to be mindful of sugars, avoid sodas, fruit juices, and naturally sweetened seltzers. Instead, drink plain water with a squeeze of lemon, sparkling water, dairy or nut milks, or herbal tea. Other drinks that are becoming more popular lately include kombucha and coconut water, though those can sometimes be sweetened.

In addition to staying hydrated, enjoy whole foods high in protein and fiber like whole grains, beans, peas, peanuts, boiled or baked potatoes, lean meats, and nut butters. Protein is a major building block for the body’s muscles and organs. It can be easy to tend towards eating too many carbs and not enough protein, so make sure you get some protein in at every meal. Fiber can help you avoid constipation, highs and lows with your blood sugar, or feeling hungry throughout the day. Vegetables are a great way to get plenty of fiber, including salads, cooked greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, and more. Many of the most fibrous vegetables out there are also vitamin powerhouses, too, meaning you get even more bang for your buck.

At Regency, it’s our top priority to help you live your very best life, whether it’s arranging fun activities for residents, having a caring, conscientious staff available, or preparing top-quality meals that will fuel all your favorite things to do, from playing with the grand kids to taking a walk outside to a rousing game of bingo. With the right foods, nothing can slow you down.

Written by: Meghan O'Dea

Chattanooga dementia care activitiesReminiscence can be a powerful tool for some people experiencing dementia, but sometimes it can feel frustratingly out of reach. When you can’t quite connect the dots between faces, names, and your own experiences, it can feel isolating, confusing, and embarrassing. Sometimes in our quest to help our loved ones, we accidentally put too much emphasis on helping them be the person they once were, instead of honoring who they are today, Alzheimer’s and all. Fortunately there’s another technique to try— storytelling. It engages the brain in similar ways, and helps seniors socialize and express themselves in ways similar to reminiscence, without the pressure of relying on memory to share.

Alzheimer’s patients can find an outlet for communication in creativity.

Creativity of all kinds can provide an outlet to share thoughts and feelings, to explore the self and relationships with others, and find context for a variety of roles and experiences. It’s a great way to share with friends and neighbors at a retirement home or memory care facility. Storytelling can be fairly traditional, like coming up with a narrative based on a written prompt or image, kind of like the old campfire game where everyone adds a sentence to the story in turn. Or it can look like dance, painting, drawing, or other visual, creative expressions.

One study out of Northwestern University has even found success with engaging seniors in improv comedy. In improv, actors don’t have to memorize lines, but instead get to perform extemporaneously based on simple rules of the game and the power of suggestion. Ann Basting, a gerontologist who developed a creative protocol for those with dementia called TimeSlips, noted that, "Theater is an especially powerful medium of expression for people with Alzheimer's, because it enables them to stand up in front of an audience and tell the people, both who care for them and who love them, how they feel.”

That can be challenging for patients, who might have trouble finding the words they need or the context for the disorienting experience of wandering off, forgetting who people are, or losing everyday objects. But focusing on the present can be hugely therapeutic, and help bridge the gap between a senior with dementia and his or her caregivers, whether they are family or neighbors and staff at an assisted living community.  "It's about making it up in the moment, not about remembering the chronology of a life,” said Basting of the benefits of creativity over reminiscence. 

Living in the moment is one of the things that keeps us young and connects us to one another. Studies have shown that everyone cab benefit from these creative exercises! Imagination and creativity aren't just for patients with dementia, but can be shared by those of all ages, tapping into what makes us most human. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing a loved one happy, laughing, dreaming, and sharing pieces of themselves? 

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

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