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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine Right for You?

From massage to St. John’s wort, older adults are trying out non-traditional methods of healing in increasing numbers. 

As Americans age, they are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to relieve pain and find cures for what ails them. The flower children of the 60s are the baby boomers of today, and they may be more comfortable using alternate therapies than previous generations. These therapies are a lot easier to find nowadays, with herbal remedies in every Natural Grocers and Costco Wholesale store, while it only takes a quick search on the internet to find a local chiropractor.

Watch Out for Supplements

Many people take over-the-counter supplements, such as herbs, to improve their health. A little ginkgo biloba for the brain, a little St. John’s wort to avoid depression. What could go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out. First, the amount and source of active herb contained in each pill or capsule are only loosely regulated — as food, not as drugs. Second, the herbs may interfere with other medications or supplements you may be taking. Some herbs dampen clotting factors in the blood, others can make critical drugs less effective. For a partial list of drug interactions, go here.

Fortunately, pharmacists are being trained to counsel patients on potential problems after the demand for supplements skyrocketed in recent years. But they can’t dispense advice when they don’t know what supplements a patient is taking, and people are often hesitant to reveal that they are self-medicating, even to their doctor. Even if you’re just taking daily vitamins, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist every treatment you are taking so they can help you steer clear of potential problems.

Is Cannabidiol (CBD) Legal?

CBD is quickly becoming popular for a variety of uses, including pain relief. It does not produce the high of marijuana. However, its legality can be a bit confusing. Here’s a rundown:
  • All hemp-derived CBD that has 0.3% or less THC is legal under federal law. 
  • States have different laws regarding CBD’s legality, so confirm with your state.
  • Marijuana and hemp CBD laws are not the same; some states allow both, one, or neither.
  • Federally allowed CBD can be legally mailed to all 50 states.
  • There are many options for legally purchasing CBD, including online.

A recent survey of 31,000 adults in the U.S. found that 70% had used at least one kind of CAM treatment at some point. That makes it one of the quickest growing fields of healthcare. The same survey found that the most commonly treated conditions are:
Back pain and back problems
Neck pain and other neck issues
General joint pain and stiffness
Anxiety and depression

Most adults (88%) elected to self-treat, which is not surprising considering insurers usually do not cover CAM. One reason people turn to CAM is that they feel that conventional medicine is too expensive. 

What is CAM?

Complementary and alternative medicine covers a wide range of practices that are meant to enhance or replace Western medicine. While conventional medicine concentrates on treating the disease, such as attacking a virus or bacteria, CAM looks at the whole person: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social components. Often, the goal is to prevent illness before it starts. Treatments are highly individualized and designed to support the body’s natural healing processes. 

Complementary medicine is usually defined as augmenting traditional practices, while alternative treatments may replace Western medicine. So, someone may use meditation to help with the pain of cancer while being treated in a hospital (complementary) or elect to seek out a “natural” cure in place of traditional treatment (alternative). 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) classifies therapies into five groups:
  1. Alternative medical systems. These are complete systems of health theory and practice. Examples are Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), homeopathy, and naturopathy.
  2. Biological medicine. This therapy uses things found in nature to promote health and healing. Examples are herbs, foods, and vitamins.
  3. Energy medicine. This type uses energy fields to heal. One branch seeks to influence fields surrounding the body. Examples are Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and qi gong. Another branch, known as bioelectromagnetic-based medicine, employs electromagnetic fields. An example is electroacupuncture.
  4. Manual medicine. Manipulation and movement of body parts are believed to improve health. Examples include physical therapy, massage, chiropractic work, Feldenkrais, and reflexology. 
  5. Mind/Body medicine. This discipline uses techniques to help the mind influence the body. They include biofeedback, deep relaxation, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, meditation, prayer, support groups, and yoga.

Traditional medicine is increasingly embracing CAM. Integrative medicine combines standard practices with safe and effective CAM techniques. Universities such as Stanford and Harvard have M.D. programs for integrative medicine as more and more patients seek multiple therapies to address the mental, physical, and spiritual sides of their health. 

Many practitioners were first trained in mainstream medicine but have switched to other modes of treatment. Examples of actual professionals include an anesthesiologist who has transitioned to acupuncture and a physical therapist (PT) who is tired of letting insurers guide her practice — so she now combines Pilates and yoga with more traditional PT treatments. 

For those looking to get the best care regardless of what insurance may dictate, and who are willing to pay out-of-pocket for the privilege, seeking out CAM practitioners can result in the broadest, and perhaps the best, overall care.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Is a Reverse Mortgage for You?

Reverse mortgages are not what they used to be. You may be surprised to learn how one could benefit you.

If you still think reverse mortgages should always be avoided, you haven’t kept up to date. These financial instruments have a variety of uses, including shouldering the weight of providing income when a portfolio has a bad year. That’s right: the optimal use of a reverse mortgage is likely not as an instrument of last resort. But let’s look at what they are and what they have to offer.

Reverse mortgages take equity that is in your home and convert it to payments to you. You don’t have to pay back the money while you live in the home, as long as you keep it in good repair, pay HOA and utilities, and maintain home insurance. This money is not taxable and won’t affect Social Security or Medicare benefits. 

There are three types of reverse mortgages:
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Federally insured and backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), these are the most common and can be used for any purpose. 
  • Single-Purpose. These are the least expensive and not available everywhere. The lender specifies how it will be used, such as to pay for repairs or property taxes.
  • Proprietary. These private loans are backed by the companies that develop them. They enable borrowers with higher appraised home values to qualify for more funds. 

For our purposes, we will continue by discussing HECMs.

How much you can borrow depends on:
  • Your age. The older you are, the more you can borrow — but you must be at least 62.
  • The appraised value of your home. The higher the appraised value, the more you can borrow.
  • Current interest rates
  • A financial assessment. This looks at your willingness and ability to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance. 
  • How much you owe. The greater the equity, the more you can borrow.

What you should know:
  • There are fees and costs. These vary by lender and it’s important to shop around. Generally, for HECMs, lenders charge an origination fee, closing costs, servicing fees for the life of the mortgage, and mortgage insurance premiums.
  • You will owe more as time goes on. Interest is added to your balance each month.
  • Interest rates may change. Most reverse mortgages have variable rates tied to a financial index. HECMs may offer fixed rates, but often require taking the money as a lump sum at closing. 
  • Interest is not tax deductible annually. Interest is only deductible when the loan is paid off, whether partially or in full. 
  • You must pay costs related to your home. You keep the title to your home, and you are responsible for property taxes, insurance, utilities, fuel, maintenance, etc. Otherwise, the lender can require you to repay your loan.
  • Your spouse might be able to continue living in the home. If your spouse did not sign HECM paperwork, he or she may continue to live in the house after you die if he or she pays taxes and insurance and maintains the property. But your spouse will not get any payments since he or she was not on the loan.
  • You can live in a nursing facility for 12 consecutive months before the loan must be repaid. With HECMs, the borrower can usually live in a nursing center or medical facility for 12 months before the loan must be repaid. The home must be maintained during this period, and taxes and insurance paid.
  • You can’t owe more than the lesser of the loan value or the value of the property. A HECM is a non-recourse loan. The borrower or his/her estate will never owe more than the property is worth, and no assets other than the home must be used to repay the debt. 

Learn more about reverse mortgages at the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site. If you take one out, be sure to include it as part of your estate plan and let your heir(s) know about its existence. Reverse mortgages can be costly. Costs vary by lender and it’s very important to shop around. Do your homework. Start by reading the “Shopping for a Reverse Loan” section at the Consumer Information site linked at the beginning of this paragraph. If you are considering a reverse mortgage, run the idea by your financial advisor. She/he may be able to recommend a different product, such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or other solution in some circumstances. 

Grow Your Retirement Nest Egg With a Reverse Mortgage

In the age of low interest rates, many retirees are electing to keep paying a 3-4% mortgage so the money can be put to work in the markets, which earn about 7% after inflation, on average. Seems like a good strategy, right? 

But it’s not without risk. What if markets drop or produce low returns for a time? And those ongoing payments create a sequence of return risk to the new retiree who must pull the money out of the portfolio month after month, year after year. 

Retirees might do better to consider a reverse mortgage instead. There is no obligation to take money in good times, and it can help retirees in bad markets by providing living expenses so they don’t have to touch investments. Read about this strategy here

There are more good reasons to open a reverse mortgage early on. Financial guru Wade Pfau, who developed the course Fitting Home Equity into a Retirement Income Strategy outlines them here. He argues that using a reverse mortgage as a last resort (a common occurrence) offers the least probability of success as part of an overall portfolio strategy to make money last through retirement. Pfau demonstrates that HECMs can be beneficial to the middle class/middle income market as well as wealthier individuals. In fact, the benefits are increasingly greater when the equity in the home is close to the value of the portfolio. 

Quick Tip: People with no children can take out a reverse mortgage so the house doesn’t sit idle when they move out or die, since the house would revert back to the lender. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book Clubs Meet Many Needs

If you’ve been looking for some safe social interaction combined with intellectual stimulation, a book club — or two or three! — could be the perfect answer.

Maybe you were always interested in a book club, but you were just too busy during your career, and now you’re retired. Or you tried one long ago, but you didn’t like the type of books that were chosen, or the members at the meetings. Perhaps you just don’t feel like braving the Delta variant by gathering in members’ homes, even though a book club sounds like a lot of fun. We have an answer for you!

A book club can be structured any way you choose. Maybe you want to meet in members’ homes and enjoy a meal together, or you might prefer the anonymity of a Zoom call-in. After all, you can be in your pajamas and point the camera at your face, and no one will know! Your local library will have book groups, but perhaps you’d prefer the perspective of a national or international group. Or you might want to read nothing but science fiction, or history, or National Book Award finalists. 

If you choose to go online, there are a plethora of options. Do a search for specific themes or check out Facebook groups. Or try one of these tried-and-true options:
  • New York Public Library and WNYC Virtual Book Club. Launched during the pandemic, this book club is the project of the massive NYC library system and public radio station WNYC. Picks tend to be thought-provoking and powerful and are often newer (so watch for when they come out to get on your library’s hold list if you don’t want to spend on a purchase). No matter where you live, you can also check for “book discussions” on the online calendar for the 88 neighborhood branches of the NYC public library system.
  • Oprah’s Book Club. She’s been making selections for years, turning titles into best-sellers. Oprah Winfrey has remarkably savvy taste in literature, having picked such stunners as Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, a true story about a family with 12 children, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Oprah offers the added benefit of a book club newsletter, and videos of herself chatting with the author and pertinent guests on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Apple TV+. 
  • Read With Jenna. Presidential daughter and Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager is a natural fit for a book club host; her mother, Laura Bush, launched a foundation to help America’s libraries. Bush ranges her selections from literary stalwarts to newbie writers across a variety of topics, all under the Today show umbrella. She includes author interviews, discussion questions, and further reading recommendations. See her book comments on Facebook and Instagram and sign up to comment at #ReadWithJenna.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Club. Based on the West Coast, this club often features a California angle. Hosted by news editor and author Donna Wares, the club hosts a community event with every author that is live-streamed on YouTube and the Time’s Facebook page. The April 2020 selection featured the book Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories, by Fanny Singer, daughter of famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters. Sign up for a newsletter on the book club site.
  • Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club. Ninety million members discuss a cornucopia of books that they love — or hate! Online groups focus on topics from romance to travel, and everything in between. If you prefer a broader mix and don’t need a small group, the 13,000-member Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club is for you. To join, start or add a discussion thread on the site. 
  • Andrew Luck Book Club. This former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has a penchant for reading, and he offers everything from classics to personal picks. He’s even got selections for “rookies” (young readers). Luck interviews authors for a podcast that is linked to the home page. It’s easy, you don’t even have to join — post comments about the books by using the hashtag #ALBookClub on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 
  • The Girlfriend Book Club. Born from AARP’s newsletter and website for women 40 and up, this club offers a private Facebook group of 5,000 members open to anyone. Picks are chosen via a group poll, and authors join a live chat on the third Tuesday of each month. Members are talkative and willing to offer suggestions to those looking for their next great read. As an added bonus, there are often free book giveaways. 
  • Now Read This. This collaboration between the New York Times and PBS NewsHour chooses one fiction or nonfiction book each month “that helps us make sense of today’s world.” Picks are historical in nature and usually are already out in paperback, making them affordable if you can’t get them from your local library in time. Online discussion guides and author profiles are useful if you’re convening in a smaller, local group. Join by signing up for the newsletter or on Facebook.

You may want to use books from one or several of these clubs but host your own group in person. For extensive tips on starting your own book club, check out Bookriot’s guide. It covers where to hold meetings, how often to gather, who to invite, how to choose the book, and a host of other questions you haven’t even considered! Remember that you can make adjustments as you go. The main objective is to have fun and make friends or deepen your relationship with old ones. One useful tip is to spend the first hour or so just chatting and catching up with each other, so members will be ready to concentrate on discussing the book afterward. 

If you know someone who is interested in starting a group in a living facility, check out the suggestions here. No one is too old to join. Members with sight issues can listen to books on tape. Free selections are available from the National Library Service.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Home Security Systems

Cameras, motion sensors, do-it-yourself or professional: there are so many home security options, it’s tough to know where to start. Here’s a simple guide to the best systems.

Buying a home security system these days can seem more complicated than purchasing your home. They’re all a little different, and it’s not like comparing apples to apples when pricing, systems, set-up, and monitoring are all so different. But older adults want to feel safe. We break down the basics and then give you the lowdown on some of the top-rated systems.

First, you need to think about what features you’d like. Here’s a list of common products you may need or want:
  • Video doorbell. Great for knowing when a package has arrived, or who is at the door.
  • Nanny camera. Watch pets or check in with a caretaker or aging parents.
  • Spotlight camera. Record video clips when motion is detected to catch intruders or simply light your path in the dark.
  • Door/Window sensor. Tells you when a door or window is opened to guard entrances. It can also alert you when a cabinet is opened, for example when someone accesses medications. 
  • Panic pendant. Wearable pendant that can send out an alert when pushed to let others know of a fall or other mishap.
  • Glass break sensor. This will protect you from anyone trying to enter via a window by setting off an alarm when glass is broken.
  • Motion sensor. You can use a motion sensor to know if an older adult is following his or her usual routine, such as getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • Smart home integration. Allows the security system to team up with smart home devices so you can control everything with a single app.
  • Wireless monitoring. Uses radio signals to connect home devices, sending alerts to a base station and then pushing a notification to your cell or monitoring center. Simplifies installation and gives continued service during power outages.
  • Two-way talk. Turns a control panel or security camera into an intercom, so you can tell a salesperson to leave, shoo the dog off the couch, or call for help with certain systems.
  • Carbon monoxide detector. Senses carbon monoxide and sets off an alarm. 
  • Flood sensor. Alerts you about pooling water to catch plumbing and appliance issues or flooding.
  • Freeze sensor. Alerts when temperature drops to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Fire and smoke alarm. Senses fire, smoke, or heat to prevent home fires from spreading.
  • Professional monitoring. Whether or not you install the system, you can elect to have a call center take emergency alerts. You’ll have a calm person to guide you and alert fire or police.

Next is figuring out whether you want to install the system yourself or have a professional do the job. 

Systems like SimpliSafe or Frontpoint come preprogrammed and ready to go. They will not have as many options as professional systems, but they are budget-friendly. Most of the equipment sticks on your walls, doors, and windows, so you don’t have to be an Einstein to set it up.

Professional installation can cost a pretty penny, but you can let someone else do the work. Companies like Vivint and ADT send someone out (usually as a free consultation) to discuss priorities, cost, and expectations.

Six Systems That Make the Grade

We went to the internet to find the top six systems:

Vivint Smart Home sells for $599 and $29.99 and up per month for monitoring. You’ll get professional installation with no contract, a trial period of three days, and a warranty that will last as long as your service agreement. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

SimpliSafe stands out in the DIY category. At $229 and up initially then $14.99 and up, it’s affordable and there’s no contract. You get 60 days to try it out, and it comes with a three-year warranty. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Cove offers either DIY or professional installation for an initial $219 and up, and then $14.99 and up per month, depending on options. There’s no contract, a 60-day trial period, and a lifetime warranty. It’s compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Frontpoint starts at $326.96, and you install it yourself. It’s $49.99 monthly with no contract and a 39-day trial period. It comes with a three-year warranty and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Abode is a DIY product that starts at $229 and as little as $6 per month for a very affordable option. There’s no contract, you’ll have a 30-day trial period and a one-year warranty. It’s compatible with not only Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but for all you Apple fans it also works with Apple Homekit.

ADT is the biggest professional in the business. Their kit may cost you nothing up front, with monthly monitoring at $27.99. However, it does require a contract so make sure that’s what you want from the get-go. ADT does offer a no-contract product labeled Blue by ADT that starts at $199.15 and $19.99 monthly. It is DIY. Both work with Amazon and Google voice assistants.

Finding the right home security system can take time. Do some research online, shop around, and see if you can find any special deals offered by podcasters, bloggers, or at the company site. The time you put into doing your homework will reward you in the end!


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Want To Live Longer? Move.

A new study has found that older adults who move from low-longevity areas to high ones can increase their lifespan by more than a year. 

Where you decide to live at age 65 can make a measurable difference in how long you can expect to live, according to a new study. “There’s a substantively important causal effect of where you live as an elderly adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States,” says Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics and co-author of the paper that lays out the team’s findings. 

Health Capital vs. Place-Based Factors

Researchers have known for a long time that lifespan is greater in certain parts of the U.S., a fact generally attributed to “health capital,” or links with smoking, obesity, and related factors in the regionalized population. However, scientists were able to account for those differences and still quantify for the location itself and its impact on longevity. Their report, published in the August 2021 issue of American Economic Review, is titled “Place-Based Drivers of Mortality: Evidence of Migration.”

“We wanted to separate out the role of people’s prior experiences and behaviors — or health capital — from the role of place or environment,” Finkelstein says. 

Zip Codes Matter

A couple years back, researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paired up to look at how life expectancy varied on a micro level between individual zip codes. Their groundbreaking work found that in some cities, the gulf between dying in your fifties or dying in your eighties was separated by only a few blocks.

Factors like income, social class, and overall health appeared to be the drivers for the difference. Income and life expectancy are inextricably linked, although it varies substantially across different areas.

The study utilized Medicare records from 1999 to 2014 to examine U.S. residents from 65 to 99 years old, or 6.3 million beneficiaries. It looked at the 2 million people who had moved from one commuting zone (of which the U.S. Census Bureau defines about 700 across the nation) to another in the 15-year time frame. The researchers were able to account for a wide range of diseases and conditions using a standard mortality risk model.

One way to do that was to compare the outcome for two people who had moved from the same place to two different places. “The idea is to take two elderly people from a given origin, say, Boston. One moves to low-mortality Minneapolis, one moves to high-mortality Houston. We then compare how long each lives after they move,” says Finkelstein.


So where did people live the longest? Perhaps surprisingly, coastal urban centers such as New York City, Miami, and San Francisco had positive effects on lifespan. Some urban Midwestern cities, such as Chicago, also scored high. 

By contrast, many Southern states fared poorly, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and northern Florida. Older adults also didn’t live as long in the Southwest, including in certain areas of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. 

All told, researchers estimated that the health capital component was responsible for about 70 percent of the geographical difference in longevity, while location effects accounted for 15 percent. “Yes, health capital is important, but yes, place effects also matter,” says Finkelstein. 

The Charlotte Effect

While conducting the study, economists uncovered another unexpected pattern. Certain places with overall low life expectancy, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, have a positive effect on longevity for those who move there. Conversely, other areas with high life expectancy, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico, had low effects on improving lifespan for older adults who moved there. 

“Our [hard] evidence is about the role of place,” Finkelstein says, while noting that the next logical step in this vein of research is to look for the specific factors at work. “We know something about Charlotte, North Carolina, makes a difference, but we don’t yet know what.” Further studies are underway. 

One hypothesis is that regional health care practices may impact place-based norms. Health care utilization may also play an important role. “Differences in health care across places are large and potentially important,” Finkelstein says. “But there are also differences in pollution, weather, [and] other aspects. … What we need to do now is get inside the black box of ‘the place’ and figure out what it is about them that matters for longevity.”

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 13 - Alain Ducasse, chef

Want to cook like the famous Alain Ducasse? Americans can sign up for the cuisine of the Riviera at his tony cooking school in Paris, mon ami, for a mere $247.98! (Airfare, transportation, and hotel not included). Why? Ducasse made a name for himself when Le Louis XV, where he was head chef, became the first hotel restaurant to merit three Michelin stars, the highest honor possible. He was 33. In 2012, Ducasse held 21 Michelin stars, earning him a second place ranking just ahead of Gordon Ramsay. He was the first chef to own three restaurants in three cities awarded three Michelin stars at the same time.

Check out this Food & Wine article for some at-home versions of his famous dishes. Born in southwestern France, Ducasse grew up on a goose and duck farm, suckling on foie gras and exotic wild mushrooms. At the age of 16 he began his career and quickly garnered success. Perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to pivot from chef to manager and then expand his reach to cooking schools (separate ones for professionals and everybody else) and a portfolio of restaurants around the world. The entrepreneur has also initiated projects such as “Good France”, created “to celebrate the identity, vitality, tradition and diversity of French cuisine and lifestyle.”

Ducasse has furthermore put his stamp on a handful of inns and authored several cookbooks, including the famed Alain Ducasse Culinary Encyclopedia. His foodie empire has thrived, in part due to its founder’s business savvy. The French national became a citizen of Monaco to take advantage of that country’s less onerous tax code. But don’t expect a plate load of butter in Ducasse’s creations; he emphasizes local sourcing for meals focused on sustainability, health, and wellness. Salut!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 16 - David Copperfield, illusionist

Performing more than 500 sets per year all over the world, you may have seen magician David Copperfield in person. But did you know that he owns a string of islands in the Bahamas, or that he was engaged (for six years!) to supermodel Claudia Schiffer? That he was robbed at gunpoint but used sleight of hand to hide all his cash, ID, and cell phone? Or that he nearly died in 1984 while rehearsing the “Escape From Death” illusion in a tank of water when he got tangled in chains? All true.

Copperfield, born David Kotkin, began performing when he was only 10. At 12, he was the youngest child allowed to join the American Society of Magicians. By the time he was 16, he was teaching a class in magic at prestigious New York University. Two years later, he took the lead role in The Magic Man, the longest-running musical ever in Chicago. He created many of the illusions done in the show.

The famous magician also owns the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. It contains not only Houdini’s water torture cabinet and metamorphosis trunk, but the world’s largest collection of “Houdiniana” — more than the Houdini Museum in New York. Wait, you’ve never heard of it? That’s because it isn’t open to the public. Tours are only available to “colleagues, fellow magicians, and serious collectors.” It’s accessed via a secret door in Copperfield’s Las Vegas headquarters. Notes Copperfield, "If a scholar or journalist needs a piece of magic history, it's there.”


Image Source: Wikipedia

September 22 - Debby Boone, singer

Remember the 70s? “You Light Up My Life” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks, and singer Debby Boone won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1978 following its release. While she never commandeered the pop charts with that strength again, Boone went on to a successful career in country and Christian music, touring with several musical theatre productions and co-authoring books for children along with husband Gabriel Ferrer. She also had such honors as taping “Christmas in Washington” with President Ronald Reagan and other luminaries.

Boone was born into a musical family. Her father is singer/actor Pat Boone, and her mother is the daughter of country music legend Red Foley. When she was 14, Boone began touring with her family, first as The Pat Boone Family and then as the Boones or Boone Girls with her two sisters. The sibling group reached the Billboard charts twice, first with a remake of a Supremes song and later with a cover track from ABBA. 

Boone married in 1979 and has four children. Husband Gabriel Ferrer is an ordained Episcopalian priest and is well-connected in Tinseltown: he’s the son of José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, brother to actors Miguel and Rafael Ferrer, nephew of journalist Nick Clooney and (drumroll, please) cousin of actor George Clooney. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 26 - Linda Hamilton, actress

Terminator fans will forever remember Linda Hamilton in the role of Sarah Connor, one the actress reprised in the movie’s sequels. The actress was also nominated for a pair of Golden Globes and an Emmy Award for playing Catherine Chandler on the small screen in Beauty and the Beast. Most recently, the actress could be seen inhabiting the persona of Mary Elizabeth Bartowski on NBC’s Chuck

Hamilton grew up reading books “voraciously.” Her doctor father died when she was five, and she later acquired a stepfather who was chief of police in Salisbury, Maryland. She switched to studying acting after a couple of years in traditional university, but her acting professor had a dim view of her prospects, once telling her she had no hope of earning a living in the profession. However, she became one of twelve “Promising New Actors of 1982” after an appearance in the big-screen thriller TAG: The Assassination Game.

Hamilton has been married and divorced two times, once to Bruce Abbott and the second time to film director James Cameron. She has two children and has said that both marriages ended due to her depression and a then-untreated bipolar disorder that triggered violent mood swings. She has since gotten therapy for the condition. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Modifying Your Home for a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregivers are lifesavers who give of their own time to care for loved ones. If you’re a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you face unique, daily challenges. Modifying your home for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, whether a parent, grandparent, spouse, or sibling, takes patience, and additional changes may need to be made as the disease progresses in your loved one. However, there are a few things you can do now to prepare for the future.

First Off… Find Financing

Modifying your home for your loved one comes with a price tag, leaving you wondering how in the world you are going to afford the changes. However, there are various financing options, some of which are quite popular, like selling your loved one’s home or car, renting their home, or getting a home equity loan for your own home. There are other options as well, one of which you might not have thought of but is reasonably practicable under the right circumstances – a life settlement. These funds can be used to make home modifications or provide funds for medical expenses and daily living assistance. According to Paying for Senior Care, there are pros and cons to making this choice, so weigh the option carefully before committing to it.  

Other financing options to look into include HUD property improvement loans, community development block grants, funds from the Older Americans Act, or basic bank loans.

Small, DIY Changes

DIY projects might not be your forte, but don’t let the letters DIY lead you to think of failed Pinterest projects. Instead, think of it as small adjustments you can make on your own to your home to increase safety and livability for your loved one. For example, lighting can be a problem area for those with Alzheimer’s; shadows can cause hallucinations, and the lack of natural light can cause “sundowning” in the late evening, resulting in irritability, agitation, and confusion. By replacing your current bulbs with a cool temperature bulb that bares a close resemblance to natural light, you can compensate for the loss of light as the day wears on.

The Caregiver’s Voice notes clutter is another area that can cause stress for both caregivers and their declining loved ones. In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, your senior is easily confused and might feel as though he or she needs to constantly find something to keep occupied with, creating a state of chaos. Plus, piles of stuff make it easy for important items to be misplaced and for them to become tripping hazards. 

Spend some time decluttering so you can get organized and provide your loved one with helpful memory aids, such as labels on rooms, cabinets, and drawers with words or pictures to state what is in this room/in this drawer. The type of memory aid depends most on the stage of the disease in your loved one.

Tackle the Big Stuff

Break out the screwdrivers, hammers, tape measures, and levels to focus on renovating the big stuff of your home. Go room by room and focus both on what you can do to improve the safety and quality of life for your senior loved one. 

The combination of smooth surfaces, water, and soap make bathrooms particularly hazardous for seniors, so start there. Install safety products for help, such as grab bars, raised toilet seats, and motion-activated night lights. Add non-slip mats and a shower stool to make bathing easier on your loved one. Also check that the water heater does not go above 120 degrees to avoid burns when your loved one is bathing or showering without assistance. 

As for the bedroom, install additional lighting here as well and remove any tripping hazards. If your loved one is still somewhat independent but requires assistance with dressing, bathing, or toileting, you can use a bell or intercom system; you can even use a smart home assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home as an intercom.

The kitchen can be an especially dangerous place for your loved one, so you’ll need to modify this room as well. Start by locking away all items that could potentially pose a danger to your loved one, such as cleaning supplies, medications, scissors, knives, and small appliances. Cooking may still be a beloved habit of your loved one, but he or she might not be able to safely use the stove unsupervised. Have a shut-off valve or lock-out switch installed, depending on whether your stove is gas or electric; you might even consider upgrading to smart appliances that you can control with an app. If over time you notice a particular item causing confusion for your loved one, modify it if possible or remove it completely.

Outdoor Safety

People with Alzheimer’s or other memory-loss conditions are often prone to wandering, so making modifications with this issue in mind is a must. You might want to install window and door alarms to alert you if your senior should stray. For outside, there will be times that soaking up sunshine and fresh air is a welcomed joy to your senior, so consider connecting with a fencing company nearby to install a physical boundary in your yard to keep your senior home and safe. 

Contractors are notorious for scams, but you may need a pro for major projects like fencing. Learn what red flags to look for, read through reviews and ratings, and check licensing and insurance before you hire someone so you avoid becoming a victim.  Bigger modifications to your home can not only provide the safety and security you need, but when done properly, they can be aesthetically pleasing and can boost your home value if and when you sell.

Being a caregiver is often a thankless job, but the work you are doing is truly remarkable. Alzheimer’s makes taking care of your loved one difficult and overwhelming at times, but some joy can come from it also. You can’t stop the disease, but modifying your home makes life a whole lot easier for you and your loved one.

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors provides comprehensive classes and training for people in personal and professional caregiving roles. For more information or to subscribe to their newsletter, call 800.653.1785.

About the Author
Claire Wentz is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years.