While employing a contractor can feel risky at any age, it can be especially hard for a senior to hire a contractor. Because there is a perception that they are easy to scam, it’s important for loved ones to be especially careful of who is hired and vigilant throughout the process.
From high pressure tactics to trick a senior into paying for “emergency” repairs to taking money for a deposit and disappearing, home improvement scams cost older adults a lot of money. According to the FBI, fraud against seniors totals $3 billion in losses each year. Home repair and improvement scams account for much of it.
So, what can you do if an older adult in your family needs to hire a contractor? We have some safety tips you can use to protect them and their finances.
Screening and Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor
- Be wary of door-to-door salesmen: Don’t hire anyone who shows up on the doorstep offering deep discounts because they are “working in the area.” This is one of the most common scams targeting older adults.
- Know what you want: If you are seeking a contractor for renovation work, spend time listing what you want and need. Are you trying to make improvements for better resale value? Or modifications to keep the senior safer? Have a solid understanding of what you are looking for before meeting with contractors.
- Ask trusted friends for referrals: The best way to find a contractor you can trust is through friends and family. Ask for the names of contractors they have actually used, not just people they know.
- Check with the Agency on Aging: While they tend not to make recommendations, some local offices on aging do keep a list of senior-friendly contractors. That will at least give you a few to call as you begin the search. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging allows you to search for an agency near your senior loved one’s home.
- Get written quotes and proof of insurance: Whenever possible, have a second person available when the senior meets with each potential contractor. Having a second set of eyes and ears is invaluable. Ask each contractor to provide a written quote, copy of their contract, and proof of insurance. Also ask for a list of references.
- Don’t pay upfront: Many contractors require a deposit, but you should never pay the full amount up front. That’s a red flag that the contractor may not be legitimate. If possible, pay by credit card. Doing so gives you some leverage if the project isn’t done correctly or if the contractor disappears. Most credit card companies will work with clients who file a dispute.
- Never rush your decision: Take time to thoughtfully review estimates and check the contractor’s license, references, and proof of insurance. It is usually beneficial to check with the Better Business Bureau and read any online reviews you can find. Be wary if a contractor tries to convince you to use them with warnings about potential price increases or lack of availability.
- Hold on to final payment: Finally, don’t agree to pay the final amount until you and the senior are satisfied with the work. It may be your only recourse for getting the contractor to fix anything you are unhappy with before they move on to a new project.
The AARP has a few templates you might find helpful, including one for interviewing contractors and another for checking references. You can download them at no cost.
Moving to an Assisted Living Community
If you are making home improvements in anticipation of your senior loved one moving to assisted living, you might be struggling to figure out your next steps. At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the process can be overwhelming. 10 Tips for Downsizing and Moving a Senior Loved One might be of interest. It covers topics ranging from decluttering to staying organized.
Since nutrition plays an essential role in overall wellness, it stands to reason that food choices may impact brain health, too. Researchers believe a cleaner, healthier diet may help brain health by warding off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Consider the lifestyle of people living in the Blue Zones as evidence.
Blue Zones and Brain Health
Blue Zones are regions where people experience the longest, healthiest lives. They have lower rates of many life-limiting diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Ikaria, Greece, is one example. Residents there are 75% less likely to develop dementia than their peers in the United States.
While people in Blue Zones are physically active on a daily basis, researchers believe diet might be the key to warding off disease. What do people in the Blue Zones eat that may be protecting brain health? Here’s what researchers say make up the core of a Blue Zone resident’s diet.
Blue Zone Residents’ Diet
- Mostly whole foods: Instead of a diet high in convenience foods or menus that alter the natural state of foods, people in the Blue Zones consume mostly whole foods. Fruits and vegetables make up the bulk of their diet. Healthy nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews, are also staples.
- Less meat: Unlike traditional Western diets, people in Blue Zones eat very little meat. Most consume only two ounces of meat, which includes beef, pork, and chicken, no more than five times a month. Instead, Blue Zone residents eat fish in moderation, primarily sardines, cod, and anchovies.
- Limit eggs: Many healthy eating plans use eggs to replace meat as a protein source. Blue Zone guidelines, however, suggest consuming few eggs. If you do eat eggs, they should have omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 eggs are produced when flaxseed is added to the hens’ diets.
- Consume beans: Beans are considered a superfood in the Blue Zones. That’s because they tend to be low in calories while high in fiber and protein. Because they are so filling, beans can prevent you from overeating and gaining weight.
- Eat whole grains: Whole grain breads are best, as they contain fiber and other essentials. By contrast, breads and pastas that contain bleached white flour should be avoided. The body converts white flour into sugar, which results in spikes in insulin levels.
- Minimal sugar: Americans have a long-established love of sugar. Sometimes it’s from hidden sources, such as condiments, marinades, dried fruits, and yogurt. Sugar is a leading cause of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to health problems, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
- Avoid dairy: Blue Zone residents swap dairy with foods made from goat’s milk or sheep’s milk. That helps them avoid potential problems with lactose while also reducing sugar and fat intake.
- Stay hydrated: One final tip garnered from Blue Zone diets is to stay hydrated. Blue Zone residents drink mostly water, but also rely on foods with a high water content. Common ones include berries, cucumber, leafy greens, celery, and melon.
As is true of any major lifestyle change, starting slowly and making gradual adjustments to your diet might lead to greater long-term success in the form of brain health.
Follow the Heritage Blog
If you haven’t already done so, bookmark the Heritage blog and stop back often. Each week we post new information focused on aging, nutrition, senior living, and caregiving. It’s an easy way to stay updated on the latest news!
Retirement begins a new chapter in life. It is a time when older adults typically enjoy more freedom and flexibility. One question that often arises soon after retiring is how necessary and practical it is to remain in the family home. While a lot of space may have served you well when you were raising kids, the maintenance and financial upkeep can put a crimp in retirement plans.
Sometimes a senior will move to a smaller home or a condominium. Others move to an apartment or villa that’s part of a retirement community. Wherever they choose to move to, most are surprised to find how much joy comes from rightsizing their lifestyle.
Rightsizing is a term aging professionals coined to refer to the process of aligning your goals for the future with your home space needs. For example, do you still need a big house? Or would a small home, where you are free from the burdens and financial demands of maintaining a large home, be better?
How to Downsize Your Home during Retirement
The process usually begins with decluttering and rehoming items you no longer want or need. If you are considering moving to a smaller home or a senior living community in the months or years ahead, cleaning out your closets, basement, attic, and garage now helps ensure a smoother transition.
So, how can you get started? We have some useful suggestions:
- Start with the easy stuff: Unless you are fastidiously organized, it will help to make a quick pass through every room to eliminate obvious clutter. Keep a trash bag and a box with you. Throw away items you don’t need and can’t give away. Pack items you want to donate in the box as you go. Remember, this isn’t a deep cleaning. It’s just a warm up lap around the house to get started.
- Purge paper goods: Most of us accumulate a shocking amount of paper products around the house. The longer you’ve lived there, the worse it usually is. Old catalogs and magazines, outdated utility bills and credit card statements, and unneeded receipts are a few common types. Shred items with identifying personal information and recycle or dispose of everything else.
- Prevent junk mail: Another battle many households face is keeping up with junk mail. In just a few days, it can really pile up. You can cut down on the amount you receive by signing up for the National Do Not Mail List. Though time-consuming, it also helps to email catalog companies directly and request they remove your name and address from their mailing list.
- Clean closets: Closets often harbor clothing, shoes, and accessories that haven’t been worn in years. Apply the 12-month rule to every item in your closet. If you haven’t worn or used something in the last year, you probably won’t do so ever again. The only exception might be formal wear and seasonal accessories. Donate everything to a local shelter or nonprofit resale shop.
- Pare down linens: Like clothing, linens can accumulate easily. Be honest with yourself about how many sets of sheets and towels you really need. The same holds true for old sets of curtains, blankets, tablecloths, and placemats.
- Scale back holiday décor: Whether it is patriotic decorations, Thanksgiving décor, or Christmas ornaments, seasonal items often take up a lot of space. Many of us periodically buy new without getting rid of the old. This is another area where you need to sort through every box and be realistic about the future use of every item. Veterans’ centers, day care centers, preschools, and women’s shelters usually appreciate receiving these types of gently used donations.
One final tip is to frequently drop off donations to the charity of your choice. Waiting until you finish a room or two can easily result in items finding their way back into a closet or drawer.
Selling Your Home during Retirement
If you or a senior loved one has decided to sell your home, we have some tips to help make the process a little easier. How to Prepare a Senior’s Home to Sell covers topics ranging from starting early to making inexpensive updates to increase the selling price.
Should you have questions about senior living, we encourage you to call the Heritage community nearest you. We’ll be happy to help!
Grandmothers play important roles in all of our lives. They are our confidante, our side kick on adventures, and some of the people who love us most in the world. Today we’re helping you plan a Mother’s Day gift that will really wow that extra-special lady—grandma!
Here are 7 ways to celebrate the grandmothers in your life this Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Grandma
- Custom puzzles
This is not just a fun activity. Putting together a puzzle can actually help reduce the risk of dementia as well as slow down its progression. This goes for most mind games and puzzles. For Mother’s Day, choose a favorite picture of the grandkids and upload it to a picture printing site. The puzzle can be shipped to you or directly to grandma as a sweet surprise.
- Give her a book
71% of seniors say that one of their favorite daily activities is reading, so what better gift than a book? If she has a favorite genre, there’s a clear choice. If not, you can give her a book written and illustrated by the grandkids. She’ll read it over and over again.
- Donate in her honor
What do you give the matriarch who has everything? Maybe give to someone less fortunate in her honor. If she’s an animal lover, make a donation to the local animal shelter. Or what about the local soup kitchen? Whatever her interests, there’s a charity you can donate to. And this doesn’t have to be a surprise. Tell grandma your plans and write down her interests or her favorite charities. You can pick one that you both support, or even her top three.
- Instead of flowers, succulents!
These plants are similar to a cactus and are the darlings of the flora family right now. Very trendy and easy to care for, succulents come in a variety of shapes and colors. Plan a terrarium party with the whole family—have everyone pick a glass container, soil, and succulents of their choosing.
Bring some seashells, small twigs, or other tiny objects to make decorating fun and expressive. You’ll all have fun as you create and get your daily dose of nature. And succulents just need a little bit of water once a week. Your grandma will appreciate this low-maintenance addition to her home.
- Homemade cards from the grandkids
Save some money and keep the kids occupied for the afternoon, all while creating something thoughtful for their grandmother. Supplies can be simple: colored papers, markers or crayons, scissors, glue, and anything the little ones want to decorate with. If their grandmother’s house is now in a senior living community, the kids can also make some extra cards for the other grandmas there, too.
- Mail a hug
If the grandmother in your family lives far away, mail her a hug! Yes, really—trace the outline of your kids’ hands on a piece of paper and cut them out. Then, cut a long piece of string and glue one end of the string to one hand and the other end to the other hand. This little project is quick, easy to mail, and can make even the longest of distances feel shorter.
- Plan an outing
While senior living communities plan abundant social events and special outings for their residents, it is still important for a senior’s family to stay involved and plan events specifically for their loved one. It might be a family outing to the movies or a special lunch outing for the whole family. You could also plan a picnic at a local park. Sunshine makes everyone happy.
Mother’s Day When a Senior Has Dementia
Keep in mind, if you’re visiting a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia that it is important to try to keep her schedule as consistent as possible. Plan your Mother’s Day celebration around her best and worst times of day.
A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by even during the best of times, especially for older adults. Insomnia and aging seem to go hand-in-hand. Some seniors may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Research shows that from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, as much as 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. As concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic linger, some seniors are also experiencing anxiety that may disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.
When it comes to solving sleep issues, people may simply give up on getting a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, it’s not something you should just try to live with. There are many negative health consequences associated with a lack of quality sleep, including:
- Weakened immune system that puts you at higher risk for colds and viruses
- Poor nutrition, which often contributes to unintended weight gain and greater incidences of diabetes
- Change in disposition (quick to anger or easily tearful) because the body doesn’t have enough time to refresh itself
- Sedentary lifestyle, which is believed to be as dangerous as smoking
- Increased chance of experiencing falls, which are a leading cause of disability
6 Ways to Beat Insomnia as You Age
- Exercise every day: When you feel tired, you are more likely to develop bad habits that lead to a sedentary lifestyle. And a lack of exercise is linked to poor sleep. It’s something of a vicious cycle. By staying active throughout the day, you’ll likely sleep better at night. Walking, chair yoga, swimming, and gardening benefit the body, mind, and spirit.
- Limit caffeine: Being overcaffeinated is another cycle that is easy to fall into when you are tired. While caffeinated beverages might give you a temporary pop of energy, more than a cup or two a day actually exacerbates sleep problems. Limiting your intake of candy, tea, soda, and even hot cocoa may improve sleep quality.
- Create a sleep space: Creating a dark, peaceful sleep environment might also help you beat insomnia. Turn off the television, smart phone, and other devices at least one hour before bedtime. Turn down the thermostat. If you can’t relax when it’s too quiet, try using a white noise machine or a fan.
- Be consistent: Sleep specialists often suggest a strict sleep schedule. Have set times to wake up and go to bed. An irregular sleep schedule interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. If you have to, set an alarm so you rise at a similar time each day, including on weekends.
- Skip the alcohol: People often think a glass or two of wine at bedtime will help them relax and unwind, making it easier to sleep. In reality, alcohol disrupts melatonin in the body. That can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycles. It also worsens snoring and sleep apnea, both of which contribute to poor sleep.
- See your doctor: Despite your best efforts at overcoming insomnia, sleep may remain elusive. Sometimes an undiagnosed medical condition is the cause. You may want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They might be able to figure out what the problem is or refer you to a specialist for a sleep study.
Sleep is just one factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. To stay updated on the latest news on wellness and aging, we encourage you to bookmark our blog, The Senior Community Lifestyle, and visit often. We talk about issues ranging from nutrition and exercise to friendships and volunteering!
As the number of adults in this country who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine continues to climb, concerns about its safety and effectiveness linger. From cost to side effects, people still have many questions.
To help you and a senior loved one make an informed decision about getting vaccinated, we pulled together some commonly asked questions. We share answers from public health experts.
5 Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines
- Since the vaccines were approved so quickly, are they safe?
The first two vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, were indeed rolled out quickly. But both met the criteria for receiving an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Simply put, that means each vaccine went through a three-phase clinical trial and at least half of the phase three participants were followed for two months or more after the trial’s completion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more information on their website. Visit Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained to learn more.
- How much will I have to pay for the vaccine?
Unlike other recommended vaccines, this one is available at no cost. According to the CDC, that’s because the COVID-19 vaccine doses were purchased using taxpayer money.
Vaccine providers, however, may charge an administration fee for giving a patient the shot. According to the CDC, a vaccine clinic host organization “can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.”
- Does the vaccine use a live virus to build immunity?
This is a myth that keeps people from getting vaccines. No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus. While you may experience minor side effects for a day or two after being vaccinated, it is usually means the body is building immunity.
The most common side effects include some swelling and redness at the injection site, fever and chills, or fatigue. These symptoms last for a few hours or up to a few days. Some people have experienced severe allergic reactions.
- Do you need the vaccine if you had the coronavirus?
Because the science isn’t clear yet on how long natural immunity lasts after a person has had the coronavirus, the general recommendation is yes. You should still be vaccinated unless your primary care physician advises against it.
Researchers seem to believe the body’s natural immunity varies from person to person and may not last more than a few months. As we learn more about COVID-19, this recommendation may change.
- Do you still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?
Yes, you will still need to wear a mask. While the vaccine offers you protection, experts don’t know if you can still transmit it to others if you are exposed. This is another area of ongoing research and recommendations from the CDC may change as scientists learn more.
Learn More about COVID-19
The CDC has a dedicated COVID-19 resource center on their website. You will find guidelines on topics ranging from whether you need to quarantine to where to find vaccine clinics in your area.
Residents and staff at Heritage Senior Communities were fortunate to begin receiving their vaccines in January and February. Visit our Facebook page to see how excited our residents were to be vaccinated and why. From wanting to see a new great-grandchild to being able to volunteer at the community again, you’ll see a lot of smiling faces as vaccines are administered!