ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

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2020 in Review

Monday , January 4 , 2021

2020 in Review

“And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

For years I’ve thought fondly of the quote from Rilke whenever January rolled around. The words “things that have never been” sound so full of promise. But this past year, much of what the new year brought us looked more like the evils swooshing out of Pandora’s box than things of wonder.

In 2020 we had to deal with world-wild pestilence and with civil strife. We’ve been denied comforts, such as the presence of friends and hugging loved ones. We’ve been denied joys, such as concerts, ball games, dancing, and travel. We’ve had to manage anxiety, fear, economic harm, and no end of the upheaval of our plans and routines.

It hasn’t been easy for anyone. But still, a new year has come around yet again, and, looking back, I do find a few things to be deeply grateful for.

Our quick-thinking, committed nursing staff!
In early spring, as soon as we realized what we were dealing with, our RNs put their heads together and devised ways of keeping everyone as safe as possible in a situation for which we’ve had no precedent or preparation. By the third week in March, they had created a system for daily reports from each employee documenting their temperature, any symptoms they might be experiencing, and any exposure they may have had.

They sent out letters to every client and caregiver outlining infection control protocols and our expectations concerning mask-wearing, hand-washing and distancing within the home care setting. They began using video calls with our home health aides to accomplish their annual skills assessments remotely.

Equally committed help from our office staff
By the end of March, we had driven all over Somerset and Middlesex Counties, delivering masks, instructions, and hand sanitizers to our clients and staff. We switched gears to have far fewer people in the office on any given day and added four Hepa air purifiers.

We learned ways to do parts of our hiring process remotely
Caring, brave home health aides and understanding clients
Running a business that requires closeness and physical contact during a pandemic is a challenge. Some clients and some caregivers understandably decided to take some time off. But many adapted and found new ways to work together as safely as possible. Many clients expressed to us how relieved they were that they could get the care they need in their homes’ relative safety.

Science!
No, health professionals, doctors, and scientists are not omniscient. They had much to learn about this new virus. But I’m profoundly grateful for the expertise and dedication they brought to the urgent task of finding ways to keep us safe. We humans can be pretty proud of what we have been able to accomplish.

At ComForCare we are in the process of working on getting as many staff as possible vaccinated so that we can begin to return to something closer to normal. As home care workers who interact with a vulnerable population, we can receive our vaccinations now, and I’m getting mine on January 7.

Understandably, some people have qualms about taking a new vaccine, but the cost-benefit trade-off is clear for me. As I get my vaccination, I won’t be thinking about possible side effects. I’ll be thinking about visiting clients with less fear of spreading infection, of being able to hug my daughter and mother-in-law, of being able to visit and laugh again with my brother and his family.

At the bottom of Pandora’s mythic box, hope was hiding. In 2021, hope might look a lot like a medical technician bearing a needle.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Posted in: Aging

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Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

Monday , December 21 , 2020

Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

The financial exploitation of aging adults is an increasingly large problem in the United States. In fact, The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that one in twenty seniors have indicated some form of perceived financial abuse in the last year.

According to some experts, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is going to make things even worse.

Why does this happen? Scammers view the elderly as easy prey–especially now that social distancing measures have cut them off from family, friends, community centers, and other interactions with people who care for them.

To help protect yourself or a loved one from becoming the victim of a financial crime, it’s important to recognize the warning signs and know what to do if you spot them.

What is elder financial abuse?
As defined by the Older Americans Act of 2006, elder financial abuse is:

The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. 

In other words, it’s taking advantage of an elderly person for financial gain. Usually, it is in the context of a relationship where trust is expected, and it causes harm (both financial and emotional) to the older person involved.

Who is at risk?
According to 2017 study from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the people hit hardest by financial scams (for an average loss of $45,300) were ages 70 to 79, while people aged 80 and over suffered the second highest losses. All older adults can fall victim to financial abuse, however.

Scott Rahm, managing partner at RMO, LLP, says that these days “the economic strain of quarantine leads people to take advantage of others. It’s a perfect storm, with economic pressure on one side and economic opportunity on the other. Right now, these storm clouds are colliding.”

Issues that may leave your loved ones vulnerable include:

  • They may have mental disabilities or cognitive disorders
  • They are socially isolated
  • They may be unfamiliar with technology and not realize what they are granting access to or signing off on
  • They often have predictable financial patterns (for instance, they receive their Social Security check at the same time every month)
  • Perpetrators may assume that the elderly person will be too embarrassed to confront them or go to authorities

Who commits these crimes?
Typically, the perpetrator of financial crimes against the elderly is someone they know, such as a spouse or caretaker. They may feel as though what the elderly person has is “rightfully theirs” or that they are owed something.

Offenders can include:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Bankers or investment professionals
  • Health care workers
  • And more

How do you know if your loved one is being taken advantage of?
Just as physical abuse against elders has signs and clues, so does financial abuse. Just one indicator doesn’t mean that your older adult is being scammed, but if you notice several of the following, you might want to take a closer look:

  • Unexplained bank withdraws or transfers
  • Unpaid bills or utilities being disconnected due to nonpayment
  • Eviction notices
  • Lack of amenities the person could normally afford (food, clothing, outings, etc.)
  • Cancelled checks made out to an unfamiliar name
  • Forgeries on legal documents, including powers of attorney or last will and testaments
  • Loans or credit cards being opened in the older adult’s name
  • The elderly adult complains of missing belongings or cash

How is elder financial abuse carried out?
There are countless ways in which elder financial abuse is perpetrated. Here are some of the most common:

  • An acquaintance coerces the older adult into signing over power of attorney and then uses that designation to acquire money and assets
  • A caretaker who has access to a senior’s bank card or checks uses them to make purchases for themselves
  • Loved ones or friends may threaten to withhold care until they receive money
  • A scammer may tell the elderly adult that they won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they can’t claim the prize until they send in money to cover taxes
  • Thieves may pretend to be law enforcement, utilities workers, or building maintenance people in order to gain access to the senior’s home and steal physical belongings or cash
  • A perpetrator may claim to work for a charity foundation in order to collect donations
  • Scammers may pretend to be the elderly adult’s grandchild or other loved one and ask to borrow money due to an unexpected hardship

It happened to us: My husband’s stepfather was temporarily taken in by a smooth-talking guy who promised a wonderful investment opportunity. Luckily, he wizened up and didn’t send the money–but that didn’t stop the scammer from calling back several times and threatening to come to the house to collect his cash.

What to do if you suspect the financial abuse of an elder
These days, more than ever, it’s vital to check in our elderly loved ones. The earlier you spot the signs of financial abuse, the better. The first thing to do is discuss your concerns with your loved one but be patient: they are likely to be embarrassed about the situation. If the perpetrator is someone you know, ask them questions in a non-confrontational way–often just knowing that someone is on to them is enough to deter further activity.

If matters seem out of hand, contact the authorities. Medicare Advantage has a wonderful list of both state and national resources that can help if someone you know has fallen victim.

Tell us: have any older adults in your life been the victim of a financial scam?

Originally published February 2019, updated December 2020

Posted in: Aging

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Improving Balance to Prevent Falls

Monday , December 14 , 2020

Improving Balance to Prevent Falls

Seniors are at high risk of severe falls. According to the CDC, about 36 million older adults fall each year, resulting in 32,000 deaths.

How does this happen?

As people age, gradual physical changes, such as decreased strength and loss of flexibility, lead to a greater risk of accidents. These falls can lead to more significant health problems than they would in a younger adult and may impact a senior’s ability to lead an active, independent life.

Fortunately, exercises that focus on improving balance can help.

Keep reading to learn more:

Facts About Older Adult Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death in adults aged 65 and over in the U.S.

According to the National Council on Aging, an older adult is treated for a fall in the emergency room every 11 seconds, and the average health care cost for each of these falls is approximately $35,000 per patient.

Other notable statistics include:

  • One out of every five falls results in an injury, such as a broken bone or head wound
  • Every year, at least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized for a fall-related hip fracture
  • Women fall more often than men and account for three-quarters of all hip fractures

However, it’s important to note that falls are NOT a normal part of aging, and there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Balance Exercises

The risk of falls in older adults is usually related to various factors, including balance and/or walking problems. For many seniors, activities such as standing up from a chair or getting out of bed at night to go to the bathroom can pose a risk.

While it’s impossible to eliminate the possibility of falls completely, exercises that focus on balance can reduce the risk.

These five exercises from Synergy Sports and Rehab can help:

Standing March: Alternate lifting one knee at a time as high as comfortable, for up to 30 seconds. Vary the surface on which you march (i.e., hard floor to the back yard) for more of a challenge. A sturdy countertop, table, or chair back can be used for support if necessary.

Heel to Toe: Starting with both heels touching the wall, put one foot in front of the other, so the heel touches the toes of the opposite foot. Repeat with the other foot, as if you’re walking a chalk line. Hold your arms out to the sides for balance and repeat for up to 20 seconds.

Weight Shifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally distributed on both legs. Shift your weight to one side, lifting your other foot off the floor just a few inches. Hold this pose for as long as you can maintain good form, then shift and hold on to the other leg.

Single-Leg Balance: Starting with the same stance as above, lift one leg off the floor, bending it back at the knee. Hold for as long as you can maintain form, up to 30 seconds, then do the same with the other leg.

Try Yoga: Balancing poses in yoga, such as balancing mountain and tree pose, can improve stability, endurance, and confidence. Find a local class or look online for a beginner series and amp up your practice as you become more comfortable.

Final Thoughts

Balance training is an essential tool to help prevent falls and subsequent injury or loss of function. As always, if you are new to exercising or suffer from a chronic condition, check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new program.

Good luck on your fitness journey. Stay happy and stay healthy!

Posted in: Health

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