Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Resolve to Brush and Floss

So many New Year’s resolutions are tall orders: start a business, lose weight, check an item off your bucket list. Why not give yourself an easy resolution this year? Simply commit to flossing your teeth daily. It sounds funny, but humor can make the lifelong process of oral health a rewarding daily practice. It is essential to establish good daily dental practices that can lead to years of healthy teeth and gums.

smileAs we age, it is more important to take good care of our teeth when there are specific concerns and issues that can arise. For example, many medications can lead to dry mouth which can in turn to lead to faster gum recession which make teeth more susceptible to cavities. Daily brushing and flossing are important and senior dental services can make it easier to keep dental disease at bay. For people who cannot get to the dentist because of decreased mobility and chronic conditions, there are in home options to consider that address the specific dental conditions that come with age.

In home dental providers are available to fill this gap and treat the dental issues specific to this population. Make sure that you or a loved one receive the best in senior home dental care by reviewing this expert checklist:

1. Getting into a dentist’s office can be difficult for an elder adult. A mobile dental provider will bring the office directly to the patient’s familiar environment, easing any worries about making it to an appointment and sitting in the dentist’s chair.

2. Ask the visiting dentist if there are any affordable dental plans or specialized discounts to help the senior patient save money on dental treatments, procedures and services. Keep in mind that in some instances there might be a slightly higher cost for the convenience and comfort of a home visit from the dentist.

3. Verify that the dentist coming to your home has the latest training in geriatric dentistry and the latest tools to make the dental process easier and less painful.

4. Be sure to ask the dental care provider about issues affecting seniors like dry mouth, gingivitis, and cavities and have them educate you about unique conditions for older adults.

5. Whether you or a loved one is uninsured or under-insured, the home dental provider should be able to meet your need with no pre-existing condition exclusions.

Gabrielle Mahler, DMD, was trained at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She went on to do her residency in the Advanced Education of General Dentistry at Columbia University. She has been providing mobile geriatric dentistry to the senior community for 8 years. The warm and loving manner with which she treats patients makes her a favorite practitioner among the families that she works with.

Heart Attack at 25: The Struggle of Getting Better

Guest Blog by Jeffrey Wolf, Content Writer for Homewatch International, Inc.

I was the youngest person there by at least 20 years, possibly by 40 – that’s what the nurses told me my third day in. At 25, I was among the youngest adult patients admitted to the cardiac wing of the hospital in a long time. A man in his 20s shouldn’t need cardiac care and shouldn’t have a heart attack. For several days, the doctors even danced around the term “heart attack,” saying they needed more tests to be sure.

But yes, I’d had a heart attack while lying on my bed reading the latest “Harry Potter” novel. I wasn’t your typical cardiac patient. I wasn’t an 80-year-old man in need of elder care, I wasn’t morbidly obese (although I was overweight), I didn’t have high blood pressure, and I didn’t smoke or take recreational drugs. My heart attack happened because I had a very rare illness as a baby called Kawasaki disease. I believe I was the 47th case in the country. In 50 percent of patients, Kawasaki causes cardiac problems later in life. So by the flip of a coin, my heart suddenly sped up on a July afternoon and I finished the new Harry Potter book that night in a hospital bed.

While I am decades younger than other cardiac patients, many things are the same. I take many of the same medications and I have an internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD) in my chest. The medications and my condition mean I have to eat a different diet. The blood thinners mean I can’t have too much vitamin K – the vitamin found in green, leafy vegetables. While I can eat asparagus, broccoli and spinach, I can’t overdo it. If I do, I get a splitting headache. It could also cause uncontrolled bleeding or even a stroke. It’s the same with alcohol, because that also manipulates what blood thinners do. While I miss having a drink with friends, the headache isn’t worth the booze.

Additionally, I have four stents in my heart. These little lattice-work cylinders keep an artery open and blood flowing properly. The blood thinners ensure the red blood cells don’t get caught and cause a blockage. I also take blood pressure medication, so I have to avoid foods high in salt. One of my favorite things to eat in the world is chips and salsa. But I don’t buy chips anymore because of the sodium. I sometimes indulge myself at Mexican restaurants, but I avoid the chip aisle at the grocery store.

When I got out of the hospital I went through cardiac rehab for several weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive during that time, so friends and family drove me there three or four times a week. One time I took the bus. Several of the others in cardiac rehab also took public transportation, but I could tell it put stress on them. At the start of each class, old men surrounded me as technicians hooked up heart monitors to our chests. Then we’d exercise while they monitored us. Some of the men struggled and could barely go above a shuffle as we all built up our stamina. It wasn’t just the old men who had trouble. A heart attack, like any sort of heart disease, drains you. For weeks afterward I got tired very easily.

As we walked on our treadmills, the techs played videos about cardiac health, showing us what to do if something went wrong. Have nitroglycerin ready; make sure you take all your medications; eat well and exercise. It was stuff you always hear on TV, but now I was just like these old men, a very depressing realization. I found myself dwelling on the things I couldn’t do any more and the new limitations on my life because my body failed me. It didn’t help that some of the men in the class were on their second or even third time around. Is this what lay in store for me? I was only 25, not 85.

When you feel this way, you want to rely on friends and family, but the heart attack hurts them as well. My parents were fits of worry – my mom paced when I was around and my father couldn’t sleep. My friends shrugged awkwardly and didn’t know what to say. Many people around me treated me like glass.

I eventually got out of my funk and I am very happy now. The medications help keep me healthy and I exercise daily. But I still think about the old men who walked beside me on the treadmills. I was a young man and my friends weren’t 85 and sick like me. My family hadn’t moved out of town. What’s it like for the older heart patients who don’t have that type of support system? Now that I work for Homewatch CareGivers, I know that we can create a circle of support for those older people so they don’t have to recover alone.

A heart attack doesn’t stop when they stabilize your heartbeat in the emergency room. You always remember it and it changes how you live. You have a scar on your chest and a pill case in your pocket. You feel lonely, even if you have friends and family around who can help. But what if you don’t have that? It’s important to know there are trained caregivers who can help, giving you what you don’t even know you need. Seven years ago, my life changed on a Saturday in July when all I wanted to do was read how Harry Potter overcame his next challenge. It changes for heart patients every day, but it’s not something you have to face alone.

Jeffrey Wolf is the Content Writer for Homewatch International, Inc. in Denver, Colorado.

I Thought It Was My Job – The Stress of Caring for Mom

When I started taking care of my mom I thought it was something that I needed to do. You can’t make up for all that parents do for you in a lifetime in just a few short years so I saw it as a calling. I thought it was my job. In life, there’s a kind of symmetry. You’re supposed to care downward for your kids and upwards for your parents.

It was running me ragged but I didn’t feel like I was getting burned out. I never asked for help directly, but my friends told me I was going to burn out. Thanks to them, I got help and I’m so glad for it.

Let me go back a bit and kind of fill in the background. My name is Chris and I’m the father of two boys. Gabriel is 9 and turns 10 in October and Nash just turned 5. My mom, whose name is Natalie (and the kids call Grandma), will turn 88 in August. We lost my father two years ago mid-June. He spent two weeks in the ICU after having a heart attack. They were all set to put in a pacemaker, and he had woken up and was talking, when they discovered he had a septic infection on the morning of the surgery. They lost him.

It was tough and it was kind of a rollercoaster.

Once we got his service taken care of and life got back to “normal,” Mom finally went into the tests we’d been putting off. She’d been having chest pains and just two months after we lost Dad, the doctors decided Mom needed quadruple-bypass surgery. She spent the next few months recovering.

Ideally someone in her situation would exercise as much as possible, and she did the required rehab – but only 36 weeks is covered by insurance. As a result we’re just trying to maintain. I don’t expect we’re going to see any marathon running in her future.

Mom now spends most of her time in bed. She has a lot of pain management issues – her hips and back hurt when she puts weight on them – even sitting up can cause her pain. So she spends most of her time horizontal. The pain meds also make her tired and drowsy because she’s on so much of them. I think she sleeps a lot.

I don’t think we’d be in the spot we are now if Dad hadn’t died. They were very symbiotic. They went everywhere and did everything together. This wasn’t because they needed to, it’s because they wanted to. My mom commented one time that she was not a woman’s woman. She said, I never had knitting clubs or bridge clubs – your father and I did things together. He didn’t do those things either – he never really went out with the boys or things like that. They weren’t clingy, but just liked each other’s company. I invited Dad to lunch one and day and he said, let me see what your mom’s doing. I kind of thought maybe it would be just him and me and he told me: “I’m not going to go anywhere without your mother.”

I don’t really mind doing things for my mom and I’m not a stranger to stress. I’m an air traffic controller in Kansas City. It’s the kind of job that has periods of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror. My father was a flight instructor in the Navy in WWII and I started flying lessons in college. He and I flew together. Aviation is something I enjoy and that helps make my job less stressful.

Once again – I thought caring for Mom was my job. She liked it too. I’m an only child and I think she’d rather I do everything around her house. She’d rather have me changing her sheets instead of a stranger. She’d rather have me go grocery shopping instead of a stranger.

After Dad died and she got sick we looked at moving her into a facility. A friend of mine helps to run one so we went and visited but it didn’t fit for a couple of reasons. First, Mom is still a fairly private person and, whether she is right or wrong on this, her perception in living in a large building with essentially 300 apartments in it and coming to a community area to eat was a loss of privacy. Second, the apartments were about a third of the size of the place she’s in now. She wasn’t sure she wanted to downsize and she also didn’t want to go through the emotions of moving and getting rid of things. Also, she’s not an invalid. She still drives her car. She can get in and out of the bathtub and bed. She cooks her own food and can go to the bathroom on her own.

But my friends knew I needed help. I was with my boys, tromping around the woods in a park. We were literally wading through creeks and chasing frogs when my friend texted me about an in-home care option. I said, sure, it’s worth learning about. Within five minutes, a text rang in from Patty Garrett asking when we could get together. In case you don’t know, Patty runs the Homewatch CareGivers in Kansas City.

Since Patty has come into out lives I think it’s turned out to be a great benefit. The time that mom and I spend together is now is quality time – it’s not just being together while I’m taking out the trash or cooking or whatnot. Mom used to say, why don’t you sit down? And it’s because I had a short amount of time to get a lot done.

The woman coming in is also a good person for mom to talk to. If I was not there – Mom kind of said she didn’t have a reason to get up.

Our caregiver comes in for four hours a day three days a week. They’ve inventoried her pantry and fridge, cleaned and folded the laundry, gone shopping. Sometimes they just sit out on the patio together and watch the world go by.

This is way better than having her in a facility. I think moving her at this point would be a lot of upheaval and this staves that off for a while. And this keeps her in her home.

I traveled for work last week for the first time in a long time and it was nice to know that somebody was going to check in on Mom.

Patty used to say, we’re anxious to give you back your relationship and I thought that was touchy feely, but that’s exactly what’s it’s been.


Chris Followell and his family live in Kansas City where he works as an air traffic controller.

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Long-Term Care Insurance Facts Few People Know

Chances are you are as tired reading the same old articles about long term care insurance as I am writing them.  So, I have decided to reveal some little-known facts about long term care insurance planning that I have discovered over the past 20 years.  Hope you find them new, refreshing and of value.

What They Never Tell Single Women
Women know they generally outlive men and as a result are far more likely to need long-term care. And, indeed each year women receive two thirds of all LTC insurance claim benefits paid by insurers.

But, here’s the fact rarely shared with women who are single, or as I prefer to call it, living alone: a single woman pays the same for long term care insurance as a single man.

Here’s a way of explaining the importance of this fact.  If we were talking about car insurance, it would be equivalent to someone with four accidents and a DUI paying the same as the driver who only takes the car out on Sunday.   For single women, the unisex pricing for long term care insurance makes this one of the few real planning bargains for women.

Why You Need To Start Planning Before Turning 65
There is no perfect age to start looking into long-term care insurance.   But there’s a really good reason to start the process prior to age 65.

Every year, millions of Americans celebrate their 65th birthday.  And, what’s the best present they get?  Medicare qualification.  That’s important because for the year (or so) leading up to that important milestone, these adults put off non-emergency doctor visits knowing they can wait until after getting that magic card.

But, long-term care insurance is only issued to those who can “medically qualify”.   The diagnosis and prescription written by your doctor could make you ineligible for insurance coverage, no matter how much you’d be willing to pay.  So, apply before the end of your 64th year, earlier if you can.

This Is Nursing Home Avoidance Insurance
The first long term care insurance policies were issued in the 1980s and originally all they paid for was skilled nursing home care.  And it really is unfortunate that for so many years insurance companies have effectively associated this product with nursing home costs and nursing home stays.

Because the truth of the matter is that a primary benefit of long-term care insurance is that it pays for care at home or in an assisted living community.  I refer to it as nursing home avoidance protection because having the available funds to remain in your own home is a primary reason people buy this protection.
And, just half (49%) of newly opened long term care insurance claims beginning in 2010 were for home care.  A fourth (24%) were for assisted living and 27 percent were for skilled nursing home care.

Why Pay Double For The Same Benefit
I’m not as cute as Flo the television spokeswoman for Progressive insurance.  But just as the pricing for car insurance varies from one insurer to another, so too does the pricing for long-term care insurance.

Every year the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance compares prices from leading insurers for virtually identical coverage.  According to our 2011 study, a couple age 55 could pay as little as $2,085 or as much as $3,970 annually for the same coverage.  That’s almost double.  The average cost was $2,350 for coverage worth $338,000 immediately and as much as $821,500 at age 85.

The difference is due to different actuarial assumptions and available discounts as well as different profit targets.  But because once you buy long term care insurance, it almost never pays to switch companies and start over at your new attained age, this is one time when it really does pay to shop around and make sure the insurance professional you work with has done some comparing for you.

About the Author

Jesse Slome is executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Click here to read two online guides with tips for reducing long term care insurance costs. No sign-in information is required.  For more long term care insurance information visit the Association’s website.


The Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Every year the Alzheimer’s Association draws national attention to its cause to end Alzheimer’s disease with the national Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser. And Homewatch CareGivers is there every step of the way with a team of people to participate.

Carla Tressell, a software administrator who works at Homewatch International in Denver, did her third walk this year. Ms. Tressel’s own mother is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease so it is a very personal and moving experience for her to be part of the walk.

“It was a beautiful sunny day,” she said of the Saturday in September when the walk was held in Denver’s City Park. “We were each given a pinwheel flower, with the different colors representing our relationship to Alzheimer’s disease—if we are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, if we had lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease, and so on.”

Ms. Tressel said it was a special moment when an estimated 6,000 people simultaneously raised the purple, orange, blue and yellow pinwheel flowers. “As we were beginning the walk, the flower expressed how each were affected by Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Then when we all held up our flowers it was a beautiful garden of everybody supporting the fight against the disease.”

Despite dealing with her mother’s diagnosis of the disease (“She kept repeating the same phrases over and over again,” she said of her family’s realization of Alzheimer’s disease.), Ms. Tressel found the 3.1-mile walk to be a happy experience.

“I felt that the mood was really upbeat,” she said. “There were a lot of people who care who came out to show their support. Even if there is no cure, hopefully future generations will be able to detect it earlier and slow down the progression of the disease.”

Ms. Tressel has since put her pinwheel flower in her garden as a reminder of that walk. “I remember the purpose of it,” she said. “It makes me think of Alzheimer’s even more each time I see it.”

National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is just around the corner in November. The purpose of a month devoted to this disease, which is sixth leading cause of death in the nation, is to raise awareness and funding for research.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has created a National Memory Screening Day during November to coincide with National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. “On one day we collaborate with hundreds of sites across the country to create one concentrated day with extreme focus on raising awareness of memory problems,” said Carol Steinberg, executive vice president of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “We have expanded it because of increased demand.”

Homewatch CareGivers participates in National Memory Screening Day and offers the free, non-invasive tests at various locations.

“The tests are for people who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ms. Steinberg said. “They are modeled after diabetes or blood pressure screenings. Most of our audience is older adults, but unfortunately there are people in their 30s and 40s who can develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

Memory screenings and fundraising walks are just a couple examples of the many resources available to people whose lives are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association website provides everything from personal stories to the latest research news on the disease.