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Archive for Aging

Driving Safety for Older Adults   

Monday , April 19 , 2021

Driving Safety for Older Adults  

Driving a car represents freedom and independence to many older adults. Yet as we age, many of us begin to experience unavoidable physical and mental changes that can affect our ability to safely drive.

It’s vital to be aware of how these changes to your health may impact your driving skills so you don’t risk hurting yourself or others. Keep reading to learn about conditions that may impact your driving and how to deal with them safely:

Trouble Seeing

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, roughly 12% of Americans aged 65 – 74 suffer from severe eye problems as compared to 5% of adults aged 18 – 44. Many experience vision problems so serious, they impact the ability to complete simple daily tasks. This problem is only expected to grow as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your eye doctor every year.
  • If you need glasses or contacts to see far away, always wear them when driving.
  • Avoid driving in the dark, during sunrise and sunset, or during bad weather.

Trouble Hearing 

As we get older, hearing can change. In fact, nearly one in three people between 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. This can impact our ability to hear horns, sirens, or even sounds coming from our own car.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Have your hearing checked at least every 3 years after age 50.
  • If you have hearing concerns, speak to your doctor.
  • Try to limit sound, such as music or podcasts, inside your car.

Slow Reaction Time and Reflexes 

As we age, loss of brain connections slows reaction time and reflexes. This can make it harder to handle more than one task at a time, more difficult to steer or use foot pedals, and tricky to respond quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Start braking early when you need to stop.
  • Avoid rush hour and heavy traffic areas when possible.
  • Stay in the right hand lane when on the highway.

Stiff Joints and Muscles 

As we get older, joints get stiff, and muscles weaken. Problems such as arthritis and spinal stenosis can make it more difficult to turn your head, turn the steering wheel, or brake quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your doctor if pain or stiffness seem to impact your driving.
  • Be physically active to keep and improve muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Consider hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals.

Memory Loss 

Memory loss is a concern for many people as they grow older. In fact, about 40% of people aged 65 or older have age-related memory impairment. Often, people with memory loss don’t even realize they are having driving problems, so it’s up to family and friends to act. If decision-making skills are impacted, the individual must stop driving. 

More Safe Driving Tips 

  • Take a defensive driving course. Organizations like AARPAmerican Automobile Association (AAA), or your car insurance company can help you find a class near you.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your health problems or medications might make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • Don’t drive when you are stressed or tired.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers wear their seatbelts, too.
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving.
  • Avoid distractions, such as eating or chatting.

What if I Have to Stop Driving?

Are you worried that you won’t be able to get around if you can no longer drive? There are more ways to travel than you think! Many areas provide free or low-cost transportation options for senior citizens, religious and civic groups often have volunteers that will drive you, and most senior living communities offer shuttles to supermarkets, doctors, and more.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for help finding services near you: 1-800-677-1116 or

Posted in: Aging

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National Health Care Decision Day

Monday , April 5 , 2021

National Health Care Decision Day

April is full of significant days: “National Autism Awareness Day,” “National Siblings Day,” and “National Administrative Professionals Day” (April 21), to name a few. At ComForCare, we like to focus on “National Health Care Decision Day,” which takes place every year on April 16.

The goal of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is “to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning” – something we care very deeply about.

Thinking about death and the possibility of declining health is hard. It’s no surprise that many people avoid it at all costs. But making these decisions ahead of time can be one of the kindest things we can do for our families. Taking the burden of making these wrenching decisions from their shoulders can be a tremendous help during a stressful time.

What is National Healthcare Decisions Day?

National Healthcare Decisions Day aims to educate and empower the public to take part in important advance care planning initiatives. Hundreds of different national, state, and local organizations take part in the annual program, now in it’s 11th year. Participating groups emphasize the importance of advance directives, ensuring that the information, opportunity, and resources needed to document health care decisions are available to all adult U.S. citizens with decision-making capacity.

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, I encourage you to:

Understand your options

There are different types of advance directives and they can vary based on state law. In the past, we’ve discussed two important documents that we should all be aware of: advanced directives (also known as living wills) and Do Not Resuscitate orders.

These documents typically include instructions about your health care decisions. For example, you can specify that you do not wish to be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest or other catastrophic health failure. An advance directive can also be used to specify how you’d like your health care handled should you develop a condition like Alzheimer’s Disease or become unconscious for an extended period of time.

Other types of directives include the 5 Wishes form (legally recognized in 42 states), Do Not Resuscitate order, and physician orders for life sustaining treatment (POLST).

Talk to others about your wishes

Bottom line: if your loved ones aren’t aware of your wishes, they can’t carry them out. Advance care planning starts with talking with your family, friends, and healthcare providers to make your desires known. Let them know if you have a living will, DNR, or other end-of-life plans and give those closest to you copies of any important documents. This will relieve them of the need of trying to guess what you would want if you are ever faced with a medical crisis.

Engage others in conversation

End-of-life planning is important no matter how old you are or whatever your station in life. Talk to others about why advance directives and other types of planning are vital and help them to understand their options. By making others aware, we can help ensure that their healthcare wishes are met and help spare their family the stress of uncertainty.

Not sure how to bring up this sensitive topic? The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association has suggestions on how to get the conversation going on their website.

Consider your legacy

Thinking ahead to the end of life isn’t just about planning for health care. It also offers us opportunities to enrich our lives and to leave something meaningful for the next generations–something more valuable than money or property.

What do you want your friends and family to remember about you when you’re gone? What stories would you like told by generations to come? None of know how long our life might be, but we can actively engage every single day and act with meaning and purpose. By living a life in a way that is meaningful for us, we can leave the legacy we desire.

Here are some other ways you can leave lasting memories for those you love:

  • Be honest: Be your authentic self and share your failings as well as your victories. A life lived with transparency and openness will set a wonderful example for the generations to come.
  • Share the gift of time: At the end of your life, your loved ones are going to remember the times you spent together more than anything else. Commit yourself to sharing meaningful experiences with your friends and family, even if it’s something as simple as a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Tell your story: My grandfather used to share stories of growing up on the farm with his brothers and sisters. I remember those stories as if I was there myself, even though they happened far before I was ever born. By sharing your stories, you will give your children and grandchildren tales they can enjoy well into adulthood.
  • Talk about your vision for life after you’ve departed: Let your children, grandchildren, and other loved ones know what you’d like to see happen for them in the future. Those thoughts might help steer them through difficult times one day. After all, there likely isn’t one among us that hasn’t asked, “What would dad have done?” at least once.

Further resources

For more ideas on how to leave a legacy, see the below sources:

  • Grand Magazine: Words of wisdom on how to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren to cherish.
  • AARP: Information on ethical wills–a way to share your values, blessing, and life’s lessons with your family, friends and community.
  • Talk of a Lifetime: Tips for making sure that you collect all the memories you need to make this book special for everyone.

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Understanding the Three Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression

Monday , March 22 , 2021

Understanding the Three Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression

Older adults are at high risk for depression and cognitive disorders such as dementia and delirium. Clarifying the diagnosis is the first step to effective treatment – but it’s not always easy. 

Delirium and depression can cause cognitive changes that may be mistaken for dementia, such as poor memory. And people who have dementia often develop signs of depression, like poor appetite and low self-esteem. 

There is also the genuine possibility that an older adult may have a combination of all three issues concurrently. 

So, how can you tell the difference between dementia, delirium, and depression in older people, to ensure they receive the proper care? Keep reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of each condition. And make sure to sign up for our “Understanding the 3 Ds” webinar at the bottom! 


Delirium is a neuropsychiatric syndrome that causes sudden changes to a person’s thinking and attention, causing them to become confused. Episodes of delirium are common among older adults, especially those who are ill, in the hospital, or recovering from surgery. The condition develops acutely and is temporary and reversible. 

The most common symptom is inattention, though a person experiencing delirium may also suffer from difficulty with orientation, memory, or language and thought. Hallucinations or illusions may also be present. 


Depression is a common mood disorder. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, over more than 264 million people suffer from the illness, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide. 

The diagnosis of depression depends on the presence of two main symptoms: persistent and pervasive low mood and loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. Other signs include: 

  • Increased fatigue and sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability (primarily in men)
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Uncontrolled emotions

Symptoms are of clinical significance when they interfere with everyday activities and last for at least two weeks. 

Along with apathy, depression is one of the most common symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease – especially those with Lewy bodies. 


Dementia is not a single disease but an umbrella term covering a wide range of medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.”

Signs of dementia can vary greatly, but some common examples include: 

  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Increased confusion
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Depression or apathy

Complications in Diagnosis

Symptoms of delirium, depression, and dementia can be pretty similar. For instance, delirium and depression may present with apathy and withdrawal, while delirium and dementia are characterized by confusion and disorientation. 

To further complicate matters, delirium and depression often occur in a person with dementia, so it is common to have all three issues at once. 

Differentiating delirium from depression and dementia requires knowing the characteristic features of each condition and knowing the patient’s history (either personally or from a family member or friend). 

The Victoria State Government has a helpful chart with a side-by-side analysis of all three conditions and their key features. 

Attend a FREE ComForCare Workshop

ComForCare is offering a free virtual workshop on Wednesday, March 31st, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm. 

The workshop entitled “Understanding the 3 Ds: Dementia, Delirium, and Depression” will count as one continuing education credit for social workers and case managers and 1.5 contact hours for RNs/LPNs.

By the end of the program, participants will be able to: 

  • Distinguish between dementia, delirium, and depression and the causes and prevalence of each
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms that overlap across all three conditions, as well as the differences that set them apart
  • Identify common scenarios in which combinations of conditions may occur
  • Explain why people need a thorough evaluation of any changes in mental status, including those already diagnosed with dementia
  • Take the appropriate actions to connect families and individuals to evaluations and resources if dementia, delirium, or depression are suspected

Go to to sign up today! 

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