ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

Archive for Aging

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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Combating Senior Loneliness During the Holidays

Monday , November 16 , 2020

Combating Senior Loneliness During the Holidays

The holidays are going to look different this year. 

For you or me, that might mean eating Christmas dinner with just our immediate family rather than having a large gathering. 

It might mean losing their one opportunity to see family for the entire year for a senior citizen who lives alone. 

With Covid-19 on the rise once again, older adults are increasingly being forced to spend time alone. Understandably, families are concerned about their older loved ones’ mental and emotional health. 

If you find yourself in this boat, keep reading for a few ways you can help your elderly family and friends feel your love from afar.

Tips for Helping a Senior Deal with Holiday Loneliness 

Growing older can mean children are growing up and moving away, losing friends, chronic illness, hearing loss, and more. 

Because of this, seniors often experience loneliness regularly. This year, the holiday season, in particular, will be much more difficult for many people. 

Here are a few things you can do to help brighten their days: 

  • Practice active listening. Try to fully listen when your loved one wants to talk, even if the topic is negative. An honest conversation may help seniors work through whatever is bothering them and will likely reveal other ways in which you can help. 
  • Send a card. There’s something to be said for a handwritten card or note. Ask family members and friends to send your older loved one a holiday greeting (bonus points for a family photograph or child’s drawing!).
  •  Plan safe activities. If your senior lives in a long-term care facility, check with the activities director to see what they have planned for the residents. Sign your loved one up for any classes or events they may enjoy and encourage them to get to know others in their community.
  • Tap into local resources. Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social or spiritual support. Many organizations provide one-on-one counseling to those who are having difficulties in life, and you may be able to arrange for an online or telephone visit.
  • Help them decorate. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack and arrange seasonal decorations. Help them add festive touches to their home or room with small adornments such as garland, wreaths, or battery-operated candles. Be sure to ask them about the history behind unique pieces and listen to the stories!
  • Make traditional baked goods. Is there a special holiday recipe that’s been passed down in your family from generation to generation? Whip up a batch of those cookies or that bread and hand-deliver it to your older loved one to enjoy on their own.
  • Try new hobbies. Try learning about what your older loved one likes to do to relax or as a hobby. If they don’t already have a hobby, ask if there’s one they’d like to try. Even seemingly solitary hobbies, like knitting or crossword puzzles, often lead to social conversations and increased interaction with others.

Final Thoughts

Remember that many families face tough times this year, and holiday celebrations are likely to look very different. Do what you can to help your older loved one feel involved without stressing yourself. If you put too much on your plate, neither you nor your loved one will likely enjoy the season. 

If you’ve taken steps to address loneliness but feel that your older loved one still needs companionship, consider a home health aide. Our aides can help out by planning and scheduling activities, reading aloud, renting and watching movies, or simply sitting down for a chat. Reach out today to learn more: (908) 927-0500.

Posted in: Aging

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