My great uncle lives alone in northern Michigan. Since his wife passed away, he’s been getting increasingly isolated. While I visit as often as possible, my home is almost three hours away. He’s finally decided he would be better off in a senior living community. We are going to start searching for potential options with a goal of moving in the spring.
A colleague told me his father qualified for special financial assistance because he is a veteran like my uncle. How can I learn more about this program? My uncle has always been careful with his money, but he could benefit from a little help paying for care.
Veterans Benefits for Senior Care
Thank you for asking this question! It provides me with an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite programs. Like you, many veterans and their families aren’t aware of it. Commonly referred to as the Aid and Attendance benefit, it was created to ensure that those who served our nation and their surviving spouses receive the care they need.
Your uncle must meet certain eligibility criteria, including having served 90 days of active-duty service. At least one day of that service must have been during a recognized period of war.
Other eligibility requirements veterans such as your uncle must meet include:
- Age or disability: To receive this benefit, a veteran must be at least 65 years old or be totally and permanently disabled. Seniors who live in a nursing home or receive skilled nursing care may be eligible, as can veterans who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Financial criteria: There are both income and asset thresholds for veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The Veterans Administration will look at the veteran’s overall net worth when determining eligibility.
- Physical condition: The veteran and/or their surviving spouse must also meet one of these conditions to be eligible:
- Be bedridden
- Live in a nursing home due to mental or physical limitations
- Be blind or nearly blind
- Require the aid of another person to perform everyday living tasks (e.g., dressing, bathing, feeding, toileting)
While families might think the process is too complicated, it’s important to know it can make a significant difference to veterans who qualify. The financial rewards change every year or two, but can range from $14,761 a year for a surviving spouse to $27,194 for a veteran with a spouse or child.
You can learn more by visiting the Pension Benefits area of the US Department of Veterans Affairs online. The staff at Heritage Senior Communities will also be happy to help answer questions. Call the community nearest you today!
Best of luck in your search, Nicole!
2020 has been quite a year! From political drama to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are a nation struggling to manage stress. News reports show negative behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse, are on the rise. When you are caring for a loved one with declining health, the days can be even more tumultuous. Finding productive ways to manage caregiver stress is essential, especially when you are a caregiver.
As we head toward a new year, it’s a good time to learn more about caregiver stress and explore positive ways to reduce it.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more adults are stepping into the caregiver role. As the average age of our population continues to rise, the number of family caregivers climbs with it. In fact, nearly 39.8 million adults in this country are caregivers for a friend or family member. That equates to almost 16% of the adult population.
An unfortunate consequence is caregivers are more likely to suffer a medical crisis of their own. Oftentimes, it is because they miss the warning signs of burnout. If you are a caregiver, review these common signals that indicate you need to make changes:
- Overwhelming anxiety
- Unintended weight gain or loss
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Stomachaches or other digestive problems
- Change in personality or disposition
- Fatigue that doesn’t improve with quality sleep
- Quick to anger or tearfulness
- Backaches and headaches
- Developing or escalating unhealthy habits (i.e., smoking or drinking)
- Losing touch with family, friends, social groups, and favorite hobbies
If these symptoms describe your current situation, it’s likely time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They can perform a physical examination to assess your physical and mental well-being and offer suggestions for getting healthy.
Preventing and Managing Caregiver Stress
If you haven’t reached the point of caregiver burnout but know you need to make changes, these tips can help.
- Practice mindfulness: Science shows meditation, yoga, or similar activities that focus on good breathing and mindfulness can help you manage stress and anxiety. Taking even ten minutes to perform chair yoga or meditate can help you maintain better health. Apps like Calm and 10% Happier make it easier to meditate or practice yoga on the go.
- Eat well: Eating healthy usually takes more time than relying on convenience or fast foods. For busy caregivers, preparing healthy meals often seems impossible. Even grocery shopping can be a challenge. A home-delivered meal service, like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Freshly, might be a solution. Another option is to sign up for a local grocery store’s home delivery program or a national service, like Shipt. These options will save you time and provide fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.
- Exercise: When you are tired and busy, exercise might not be a priority. However, engaging in a regular fitness program can actually improve your energy level and promote better sleep. While physicians usually recommend thirty minutes of exercise a day, you can break it up into smaller blocks. For example, begin your day with ten minutes of Pilates or yoga, take a brisk, ten-minute walk at lunch, and finish the day with ten minutes of resistance bands or stretching.
- Say “no”: Setting realistic expectations is important for all of us, but especially for caregivers. Give yourself permission to say “no” to activities you don’t have time for right now. Whether it’s coordinating a fundraiser at your church or synagogue or organizing the class reunion, remind yourself it’s okay to say “no” and focus on your family.
- Talk about or journal your feelings: Getting your feelings out can help you work through difficulties. Some people find it helpful to join an online caregiver support group. Others say journaling before bed helps them work through the emotional and physical demands of the day.
- Explore assisted living: If caregiver stress is putting your own health at risk, it might be time to consider assisted living. These communities allow residents to enjoy their best quality of life. From medication management programs to an environment designed with safety in mind, it’s worth exploring.
Bookmark the Heritage Blog
If you are a caregiver looking for ways to manage this demanding role, we encourage you to bookmark and visit this blog often. It’s an easy way to stay on top of trends and new research on aging, dementia, caregiving, and senior living.
Winter can be a beautiful time of year in Michigan and Indiana. Snowy days spent inside by the fire are serene and peaceful. However, ice and snow can cause difficulties, especially for older adults.
Storms can knock out power. Icy roads might make it tough to get to the grocery store or pharmacy. That’s why it’s important for family caregivers to help their senior loved ones prepare for the months ahead. If you aren’t sure how and where to get started, we have a few useful tips.
Senior Safety: Preparing for Winter in the Midwest
- Create a snow removal plan.
Icy, snowy drives and walkways present a serious fall risk for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are a leading cause of injury among seniors. Before the worst of winter’s fury is upon us, make sure your loved one has a plan to keep their driveway and sidewalks cleared. If you aren’t able to assist them and don’t know a reliable contractor, call the local agency on aging. They often maintain a list of trustworthy companies.
- Stock the pantry.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how essential it is to keep the pantry well stocked. Winter reinforces that need. Having a storm-ready pantry means your older loved one (and you!) can safely remain indoors when a winter storm is brewing. Pack a box of staples that should only be opened during an emergency. In addition to food and water, make sure it contains extra medication and any necessary medical supplies, flashlights, batteries, and food for pets.
- Inspect the furnace.
The danger of monoxide poisoning escalates in the winter. If you haven’t already checked the furnace, it’s not too late. Call a nearby furnace company to schedule an inspection. Make sure the house has a carbon monoxide detector in good working condition. Also test the smoke detectors. Fire prevention specialists recommend placing a smoke detector on every level of a home, as well as near bedrooms. Read Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know to learn more.
- Check vehicles.
If your senior loved one is still driving, review the condition of their car and confirm it is up to date with required maintenance. It’s easy to overlook simple tasks, such as an oil change, when you aren’t driving much. Make sure your family elder keeps a phone charger in the vehicle. Another good idea is to put together a bag with a flashlight, batteries, energy bars, bottled water, and a blanket or two. In the event your family member is stranded on the road in bad weather, they’ll have some supplies.
Finally, consider whether the senior is still a safe driver. For older adults who are nervous behind the wheel of a car, winter can be especially tough. Talking with an Older Driver about Hanging Up the Car Keys offers tips to initiate the conversation.
You might be surprised to discover that your loved one has become a reluctant driver, but isn’t sure what other option they have. In fact, transportation is one of the most utilized services offered by senior living communities. New residents may initially continue driving, but are soon willing to give up the expenses and worries associated with owning a car. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more about our transportation programs.