Five Ways to Create a Safe Environment for Your Golden Years

As we age, our homes can simultaneously be a sanctuary and a source of danger. What was once simple can become challenging or even hazardous. If you want to age in place, as many of us do, here are some modifications to keep your home safe and welcoming.

Bathroom Risks

One of the most hazardous rooms, at any age, is the bathroom, so it’s wise to find waysto address any potential risks. Our biggest danger is that of falling, especially in the tub. Grab bars are an easy-to-install solution, they’re inexpensive, and they can be combined with a chair or bench. A walk-in or zero-entry shower can provide more security and stability, and many add an attractive aestheticto our bathrooms. These are not the only hazards, as there is also the danger of falling near the toilet. You may want to consider a raised seat paired with grab bars, and non-slip mats both in the tub and out of it. Most changes should be reasonably priced, but even those that cost a pretty penny are worth it as they may save our lives.

Kitchen Dangers

After the bathroom, the kitchen may be the next most dangerous area for us as we age. Like the bathroom, we run the risk of slipping, but also may suffer appliance-related injuries orfires. Many of thechangeswe can make are largely positional; for example, keep cords off of the ground and add non-slip mats to secure flooring. Don’t put heavy objects up high — no matter how infrequently you use them — as you could increase the likelihood of injury. In fact, if you can avoid it, keep things within easy reach, so you don't need to use a stool to get anything. You can decrease your risk of fires by making it a policy to never walk away from the stove when in use. Also, always maintain clean cooking surfaces since spills can quickly catch alight.

Altering the Bedroom

Unfortunately, most bedroomhazardsinvolve our furniture. The paths we’ve left ourselves may be too narrow or dark at night, while our beds could be too low or high. You may not need to move things around immediately, but it’s better to rearrange them early to get used to the new layout. One thing you can add is a goodnight light. You may be hesitant as light can keep one awake, but you can get a motion-detecting version that won't come on until you move. This way, you can sleep deeply but still be safe if you need to get up in the middle of the night.

Walkways and Entryways

When thinking of aiding movement, don’t stop at the bedroom — look to theentrywaysand halls in your home as well. You can widen doorways to make them easier to traverse simply by swapping out your current hinges for offset ones. If you have stairs, adding an extension to your handrail to include the bottom can provide safety by providing stability on that crucial last step. We are also likely to trip at the entrance to our house and over carpeting. By putting in both low-pile carpet and a grab bar at the front door, your home can become a safer environment.

Look at Living Spaces

Our living areas need to be functional and practical. Whenarrangingfurniture, look to maximize walking space without sacrificing design. If you spend most of your time in the living room chatting with family and friends, orient your furniture to encourage conversation without compromising safety. Otherwise, consider using the television or fireplace as a focal point so no one strains their neck as they unwind after work. Further, like with other areas, keep walkways clear by bolting cords out of the way and removing loose rugs to limit tripping risks.

Don’t let your home become a danger to your health. You deserve to feel safe and to find comfort — not strain — in your property. There are many ways you can make small, or large, alterations to ensure your house continues to be a sanctuary.

By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors,

Courses offered have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc.

Image courtesy of: Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay by Geralt

Coping with the Costs of Alzheimer's Disease

Covering the costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating for many seniors and their families. Even with health insurance, it can be difficult to handle the many medical bills that can come with a diagnosis, as insurance and Medicare don’t cover everything. It’s imperative to get familiar with your policies so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll be responsible for and how to budget accordingly.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be an overwhelming endeavor. By formulating a good plan, you can ensure that your needs will be taken care of so that you can focus on your health. You may have to face some hard decisions, such as buying final expense insurance to take care of your end-of-life needs, but in the long run, it will be the best thing for you and your family members.

Keep reading for some helpful tips on how to pay for the costs of Alzheimer’s disease

Think of Your Family

Your family may have trouble paying for medical bills or for your final arrangements down the road, so consider looking for final expense insurance to help cover those costs. This can be a difficult topic to think about and discuss, but planning ahead now could really save your family members a lot of heartache in the future. In most cases, this type of insurance is easy to qualify for and has low monthly premiums.

Know the Different Types of Care

These days, Alzheimer’s patients have a ton of options when it comes to getting care. From hiring a nurse to come and help out at home to staying long-term in a nursing facility, you have many choices when you’re ready. The key to paying for your care is to educate yourself about the different types and what the costs typically are. Look over your insurance policy to figure out what it might pay for, as coverage differs depending on what sort of care you’re getting.

Make Your Health a Priority

Stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on your health, so it’s important to focus on taking care of yourself after a diagnosis. Eat well-balanced meals, stay social with friends and loved ones, exercise regularly, and stay hydrated. Doing activities that are good for your brain health are a good idea, as well; you might put together puzzles, play word games, or practice a hobby such as knitting or gardening.

Find Out What Medicare Will Cover

Medicare is wonderful for many seniors, but it doesn’t cover everything, and often the costs associated with Alzheimer’s care can be too much, even with help. Knowing exactly what your insurance will cover and how to add supplemental insurance to the policy will ensure your out-of-pocket responsibilities don’t become overwhelming.

Find Out About Flexibility

When it comes to long-term care, which many individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eventually need, it’s a good idea to find out about flexibility in regard to assisted living facilities. Sometimes, there are move-in incentives that can help you pay for a portion of your stay, or they may be willing to work with you on the monthly costs.

Coping with the costs of Alzheimer’s disease can be tough, especially if you have other existing health conditions. Paying for care and treatment can be extremely stressful, so it’s important to make sure you have a good plan in place. Preparing now can help you avoid difficulties down the road, so talk to your family members about the best place to start.

One of the great things about the Bring Smiles program is when students get involved to make a difference. A big thank you to Amber for doing research for her own grandmother to find information about keeping seniors active. Her passion for her grandmother led to her discovering information that we are happy to share with others about exercise that seniors can do to help them stay healthy. Amber, we appreciate your helping us connect the circle of life!

Assisted Living Research Institute

One common challenge that our veterans and those living with disabilities face is finding proper care options. Assisted Living is a community organization that prioritizes helping those that are disabled and the elderly fully enjoy their healthy years and age gracefully. Assisted Living creates and publishes comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. In addition, they have been featured on the Parkinson's Foundation, US Department of Health and Human Services - Health Finder, Global Healthspan Policy Institute, and is referenced by many governmental agencies and organizations across the web. To access their site click on the link below:

How Caregivers Can Stay Healthy With Basic Self-Care Habits

Are you a caregiver for patients or a loved one? Do you make time in your busy schedule for essential self-care? If you answered “no” to the last question, you could be setting yourself up for some negative mental and physical health consequences. Self-care is critical for keeping yourself afloat in such a stressful, strenuous role. To make self-care easier, follow these basic practices that caregivers should incorporate into their lives.

Remove Sources of Tension From Your Home

When you are providing care for a patient or loved one, finding ways to de-stress is important. Caregiver stress can be overwhelming and lead to burnout, depression, or other severe health consequences if left unchecked. One way to prevent this is to create waysto reduce stress in your home. Go room by room and check for sources of tension, and make sure your living spaces are set up to inspire relaxation, such as soothing lighting in your bathroom.

Create a Sleep Routine to Recharge

If you are having a hard time sleeping, you could have a harder time providing quality care. Lack of sleep is similar to the impairmentcaused by alcohol consumption and can leave you feeling less focused and energized. So, set up a routinethat allows you to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time to get yourself into better sleep habits and establish a routine. You should also avoid screens that emit blue light if you are having a hard time sleeping. Blue light can send a jolt to your brain that signals it awake, so take televisions, laptops, and smartphones out of your bedtime habits.

Make Time to Get Outside for Fresh Air

Caregivers tend to spend a lot of time indoors. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, taking a break in nature could help you feel better. According to Business Insider, studies showthat workers who spend time outside have more focus at work. These same workers also have lower levels of stress and anxiety. You can reap the benefits of fresh air by making some time for a morning walk or maybe having your coffee or breakfast on a patio.

Nurture Yourself with Nourishing Foods

Nutrition is essential to maintaining your physical health. However, food can also be tied to your mental health and emotions as well. Some people have discovered foods that improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as healthy fat sources and lean proteins. Since these issues are common among caregivers, sticking to a balanced diet could help you take better care of yourself. If you’re short on time, look into meal prepping and other waysto make sure you are sticking to a healthy eating plan, even when you are insanely busy.

Stick to a Relaxing Workout Plan

Another area of self-care you may be lacking is exercise. Working out on a regular basis will help keep your muscles conditioned and prevent potential injuries from lifting patients and performing other tasks. Exercise, however, can also be an incredibly effective mood booster. When you get your heart rate up, you are also pumping endorphins through your brain and body. Since endorphins are the chemicals that help you stay in a positive mood and reduce pain, caregivers should aim to make exercise a regular self-care habit.

Know Where to Turn for Financial Support

Sometimes, caregiver stress does not come from physical or mental responsibilities. Caregivers are often left stressed about how to make ends meet when so much of their time is spent giving care. This is especially true if you are taking care of a family member who has minimal financial resources. Getting your finances in order and finding helpful caregiver resourcescan be a self-care step that is easily overlooked, but there are resources available to help you out.

You spend so much of your time caring for the health and welfare of others, but try not to let caring for others get in the way of caring for yourself. You deserve to make self-care a normal part of your life, so commit to some basic habits that will keep you healthy and happy.

Photo Credit: Pexels

About the Author: Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support

Photo by: Pixabay

Yoga and Meditation: The Two Activities Seniors and Caregivers Can Benefit From

Growing older brings its own set of stresses and struggles, from changes in mobility to limited independence and the onset of more wrinkles. Caregivers experience stress as well and are at risk for burnout. What if there was an activity the two of you could enjoy together that not only provided stress relief, but offered other mental and physical benefits, too? Look no further; yoga and meditation are here to save the day.

The Benefits from a Senior Perspective

Yoga is about much more than contorting your body into pretzel-like positions and standing on your head—neither of which are recommended. So, what benefit could it possibly provide you? Well, yoga has several physical benefits, one of which is improved joint health and flexibility. As you get older, you’ve probably noticed that your joints feel stiff, and you may experience aches and pains. Yoga is a low-impact way to loosen your muscles, improve range of motion, and build strength to prevent falls. Practicing yoga has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety, and promote mindfulness. Meditation is a less physical practice, but the mental benefits are outstanding. According to U.S. News, regular meditation practice has seen seniors show improvement in memory, cognitive functioning, digestion, stress, and chronic pain.

The Benefits from a Caregiver Perspective

As a caregiver, yoga is a great activity to explore what your body can do, but stretching into unimaginable yoga poses isn’t required. In fact, yoga can simply be a way to restore balance and relax pent-up tension. Caregiving is a huge responsibility, but yoga can help you take a moment to focus on your own needs while experiencing helpful benefits, such as reduced stress and depression, and better sleep quality. Meditation is another activity worth looking into, especially once you know the perks. Mindfulness meditation does just what it says: It helps you become more mindful of your thoughts and emotions, and serves as a healthy way to calm them—as opposed to reaching for food or alcohol.

Getting Started with Yoga

The two of you are likely beginners when it comes to yoga, so the key is to start slow and ease into it. When you first start out, it is best to take a class so you can learn the proper poses and reduce the risk of injury. In addition, an instructor will be able to help you safely modify poses should the need arise. Opt for classes that are gentle, such as Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga is a great option too because it uses props to make poses easier, in addition to Kripalu and Viniyoga, which focus on tailoring the postures to each individual. If your senior loved one struggles with mobility or flexibility, a more adaptive approach may be the ticket, such as chair yoga. Once the two of you are feeling confident, you can enjoy a yoga session and various other indoor exercises at home using technology, such as Youtube videos, fitness apps, or even Wii games. Yoga can be practiced anywhere and at a time that works best for you.

Getting Started with Meditation

Meditationis simpler than yoga in that it doesn’t require formal instruction to practice safely. However, don’t let its simplicity lead you to believe it doesn’t offer just as many benefits as yoga. There are various types of meditation, with some using guided imagery, but all focus on breathing and clearing the mind. Simply take a seat, whether on the floor or in a comfy chair, and follow along to the meditation video of your choosing. Once you learn the technique, you and your loved one are free to practice whenever and wherever.

Both seniors and their caregivers can benefit from yoga and meditation. The best part of both is that you can do it together, so the stress of finding time isn’t an issue. Take a breath, relax, and enjoy this new adventure together.

About the Author: Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Image via Unsplash

Planning and Paying for Your Long-Term Care Needs

Most seniors end up needing some kind of long-term care during their retirement. Whether it’s short-term custodial care after a procedure or injury or admittance to a nursing home as dementia symptomsprogress, these long-term care options are not covered by Medicare. The federal insurance program will provide for one to two months in a skilled nursing facilityafter a hospital stay, but even this coverage has its limitations.

To get the kind of care you want, it’s important to come up with planson how to approach long-term care needs when the time comes as well as how to pay for them.

Planning for Long-Term Care Needs

The likelihood of a person needing long-term care is pretty high. The rate of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s continues to rise, and the American population is only growing older. With that being said, there are things you can do to decrease your chance of needing long-term care by reducing the risk of injury or onset of illness.

It’s never too late to start an exercise regimen -- even in your senior years. Working out regularly helps reduce muscle loss due to age while improving cardiovascular health. Furthermore, some studies show that exercise can slow the onset of dementia symptoms. By using a combination of fitness techniques, including balance exercises, seniors also reduce their risk of falling, which can have dangerous or even deadly consequences.

Most seniors want to age in place within their current home. Not only is it a more comfortable environment, but hiring in-home caregivers is also more affordable than admittance into an assisted living facility. With this in mind, it helps to make accessibility renovationsthat will be of use down the line. Be sure to do things like installing railings on both sides of stairs, utilizing automatic night lights, and removing any loose carpeting or rugs that could be a trip hazard.

Ramps over steps, a shower bench, and wider hallways are just some of the features to consider when thinking about aging in place. Stairs can be difficult to navigate as age affects coordination and balance. Having a non-slick ramp makes it easier for seniors to get around homes that have limited elevations between rooms. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. A shower bench makes it easy for seniors to bathe safely. Finally, while wider hallways may sound unnecessary, they make it much easier for people in wheelchairs or with walkers to get around within the house.

Paying for Long-Term Care

The further you are from retirement, the more options you have when it comes to paying for long-term care. For instance, long-term care insurancedoes exactly what it sounds like -- it covers whatever costs regarding long-term care you may incur. However, premiums for long-term care insurance can be pretty expensive. Since the population continues to age and the cost of healthcare gradually increases, insurance companies know there is a good chance you will make good of use your policy -- and that’s why they have to charge so much for premiums. However, the younger you are, the less you will be charged because you have a longer period of time to put money into the company.

If long-term care insurance isn’t an option, there are other ways to access funds for custodial care. Individuals who own property can look into a reverse mortgagethat borrows against their home’s value for a cash settlement. After the property owner is deceased, the family can either sell the home to pay back the lender or use other assets to do so.

Even though most seniors end up needing long-term care at some point, many do not know how to plan or pay for it when needed. To reduce your chances of needing custodial care, embrace good habits such as daily exercise that keep the mind and body healthy. If in-home care seems like a better option over an assisted living facility, it helps to make renovations that create accessibility within the home. Finally, long-term care insurance may be expensive, but you are basically paying into something that will cover an extreme cost in the future. If long-term care insurance isn’t an option, look into alternative funding options like a reverse mortgage.

By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors,

Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

The Best Exercise Advice to Reduce the Risk of Falls for Seniors

by: Sharon Wagner

As you grow older your risk for falls increases. Even more disturbing, falling can lead to serious injuries. With a handful of basic exercises added to your routine, you can greatly lower that risk.

Scary Statistics

Age brings a number of health-related concerns, and falling is one of the biggest. In fact, according to the

National Council on Aging, falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. American emergency rooms treat an older American every 11 seconds due to fall-related injuries. Some experts feel the fear of falling can even affect seniors’ quality of life in other ways, such as causing depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. However, it’s important to understand that falling is not an unavoidable result of growing older. An exercise routine that engages balance, step, and strength exercises can be a key to lowering your risk for falls.

Stay Balanced

As US News & World Report explains, a number of changes can cause older adults to lose balance and stability. As we age, we can lose the ability to perceive our body’s position. When combined with any nerve damage due to medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes in our legs and feet, the result can be a tumble. What’s more, with reduced strength in our legs, arms, and core to catch ourselves as we go down, the ability to stay upright can become nearly impossible. Exercising can improve neurological function, boost blood flow to lower extremities, and enhance strength, bettering to your ability to stay balanced. Through exercises such as alternating lunges, single-leg stands, and slow toe touches, you can improve balance and stability.

Step It Up

Step exercises are a key to enhancing your mobility in your senior years. Reuters points out that a step-training program can increase your balance and strength, as well as enhance physical functioning. When everyday slips and missteps occur, thanks to a step-training program, you can recover your balance more easily and reduce the chance you’ll take a fall. It improves response time, snap decision-making, and your bodily reaction to becoming off-balance. Simply adding walking to your regimen is the key to your step training. Perform exercises while walking, such as tandem walking, shifting weight from one foot to the other, and stepping on a variety of surfaces.

Build Strength

While any form of exercising offers some level of strength building, using body-weight exercises or lifting weights can be particularly beneficial. Some professionals point out that a strength-training program can keep you more independent, help you stay more social, reverse some symptoms of aging, and boost your energy levels. Strength training can reduce the symptoms of several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, depression, and back pain. If you’re new to strength training, one recommendation is to begin by focusing on your form. You can gradually add weights or resistance bands to your routine.

Making Your Plan

It’s important to avoid injury when you’re jumping into any new exercise regimen. Any time you’re beginning a new workout program, you should ease into it. You should also talk with your physician about any issues you have that will require personalizing your workout routine. You don’t want to overdo things or become injured in your effort to be more healthy. Some easy exercises for seniors include stretching, indoor walking, balance exercises and swimming. One suggestion is to have another adult assist you with your exercises initially. The important thing is to ensure you get started in a way that allows you to feel good and stay safe.

Strong and Stable

Reduce your risk of falling with a smart fitness plan added to your lifestyle. Do some balance, step, and strength exercises. You can be more confident, healthy, and strong throughout your senior years!

Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc. 

How Seniors Can Prepare for and Get Through the Grief of Losing a Spouse

Grieving for a deceased spouse is a completely normal and healthy part of life. This doesn’t make the process any easier, however. A senior going through the spouse-loss journey is going through one of the hardest moments in their life, and the moment can last for weeks, months, and even years. Here’s what you can do when the time comes.

First things first: make the passing as peaceful as possible

For most seniors, passing at home is the preferred way. You must do what you can to help them create a peaceful environment at home. This may involve home modifications, depending on the type of medical equipment they need for their palliative care. You will need to help your senior loved one set up a space for in-home hospice care. In the end, you want the space to be clean but not sterile. It should be warm and full of the things they know and love.

Seek help in the immediate aftermath

Even when you’re dealing with a prolonged illness, the moment you lose your spouse is a shocking and traumatic event. Unfortunately, you can’t just begin to grieve. There are multitudes of things you must do immediately following the death of your spouse. This includes, but is not limited to, making funeral arrangements, settling governmental accounts, handling life insurance, contacting banks, handling real estate and assets, and reviewing final wills and testaments. It’s a lot. You shouldn’t attempt to do it alone. Seek help among family first and then begin to assemble a team of friends, church members, attorneys, etc. to spread out the tasks.

Focus on your physical health first

When you’re grieving a lost loved one, there are a lot of things that are outside of your control—mainly your emotions. Focus on what you can control. You can make sure you stay well by being mindful of your diet and activity level. Grief can cause some people to comfort eat and others to lose their appetites completely. Try to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day―even if it just means walking around your neighborhood. The combination of good food in and solid energy out will help you cope.

Stay social

Grief is a personal emotion, but it doesn’t have to be an isolating one. You may not feel like hanging out with friends and family every day after your spouse is gone, and that’s ok. But completely cutting yourself off from social interaction in an attempt to heal yourself is misguided. Being social is a tenant of overall mental well-being.

Not only that, but you are allowed to be happy, and you are allowed to laugh. Science has shown the healing power of laughter in grave situations. Smiling and laughing while reminiscing about your lost loved one is even more important. One research study showed decreased levels of anxiety and depression in widows/widowers who were able to be positive in memory of their spouses.

It’s okay to grieve for whatever amount of time it takes you. Some say you never actually stop grieving the loss of a spouse. What you can’t do is let that grief prevent you from enjoying the rest of your life. If you’re struggling to figure out how to get yourself well following this tragic event, there are online wellness courses available that can help. Beyond that, you should never be wary of asking for help. People love you, and it is not their burden to guide you through this difficult time; it is their privilege.

By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors,

Photo by Christian Langballe on Unsplash

Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc. 

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