How to Create a Safe 'Aging in Place' Home

My husband and I are thinking about making some modifications to our home so we can remain living there for as long as possible. Can you recommend some good resources that can help us with aging in place ideas?

Many retirees, like you and your husband, want to remain in their own home for as long as possible. But, being able to do so will depend on how easy it is to update your home as you get older. Here are some helpful resources to get an idea of the different types of features and improvements you can make that will make your house safer and more convenient as you grow older.

Home Evaluation


A good first step in making your home more age-friendly is to do an assessment. Go through your house, room-by-room, looking for problem areas like potential tripping or slipping hazards and areas that are hard to access or difficult to maintain. To help with this, there are several organizations that have aging in place checklists that point out potential problems in each area of the home, along with potential modifications and solutions.

Rebuild Together, for example, has a short "Safe at Home Checklist" that was created in partnership with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Go to AOTA.org and search for "Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Checklist."

The National Association of Home Builders also has a checklist that offers more than 100 suggestions to help homeowners over age 50 live safely, independently and comfortably. Go to NAHB.org and search for the "Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist."

You may want to check out AARP's excellent resource that is filled with tips and diagrams to make your entire home safer and easier to live in as you age. You can access it at AARP.org, then search for "HomeFit Guide" or call 888-687-2277 and ask them to mail you a free copy.

Personalized Advice


If you want more personalized help, consider getting a professional in-home assessment with an occupational therapist.

An occupational therapist (OT) can evaluate the challenges and shortcomings of your home for aging in place, recommend solutions and introduce you to products and services to help you make improvements.

To find an OT in your area, check with your physician, health insurance provider or local hospital, or seek recommendations from family and friends. Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by your doctor. However, they will not cover the upgrades to the home.

Another option is to contact a builder who is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS are home remodelers and design-build professionals that are knowledgeable about aging in place home modifications and can suggest ways to modify or remodel your home to fit your needs and budget. CAPS are generally paid by the hour or receive a flat fee per visit or project.

To find a CAPS in your area visit the National Association of Home Builders website at NAHB.org/capsdirectory where you can search by state and city.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published November 29, 2019

Donors and Youth Foundation Award Grants

Thanks to generous donors as well as the fundraising efforts of the Washington County Youth Foundation, they are awarding $2000.00 for youth directed community service projects. 

Lions Unified will be receiving a $1375.00 grant to host a Unified Prom.  The prom will help promote inclusion, acceptance, and respect to the special needs community.  Lions Unified determined this is an important community need through their involvement with Special Olympics. 

The Youth Foundation has also awarded a $625.00 matching grant to the Eastern High School Environmental Science Class for a water bottle filler in order to reduce the amount of plastic that is thrown away by the school. 

The Washington County Youth Foundation is a group of students from our county committed to making Washington County a better place to live.  There are currently ten members in the Youth Foundation and they are involved in our community and wish to continue that involvement through efforts in the Youth Foundation.

They learn about philanthropy by awarding grants to youth groups for community service projects.  They also raise money for their fund with the Foundation so this idea can go on forever, and they perform community service.  They are heavily involved in their early literacy project, the Happily Ever After Project and in between, they have a little fun!

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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How to Make Your Kitchen Safer and Easier to Use

What can you recommend that will make a kitchen safer and easier to use? My wife, who loves to cook, has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year. We would like to modify the space to make it safer and more practical.

There are a number of simple modifications and inexpensive add-ons that can transform your kitchen into a safer environment. Depending on your wife’s needs, here are some suggestions for each aspect of the kitchen.

Floors: Replace kitchen throw rugs with non-skid or gel floor mats to reduce tripping or slipping. Gel mats make it more comfortable to stand for long periods of time.

Lights: Replace dim overhead lighting with brighter ceiling lights. Also, consider adding under-cabinet task lighting to brighten up kitchen countertops.

Cabinets and Drawers: Reduce bending or reaching by organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items you use most frequently are within comfortable reach. In addition, you can make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or Lazy Susans. Finally, consider installing D-shaped pull-handles on cabinets and drawers. These handles are more comfortable for arthritic hands than traditional knobs.

Faucet: If you have a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with a single handle faucet. They are easier to use, especially for people with arthritis or limited hand strength. There are also kitchen faucets on the market today that will turn themselves on and off by simply touching the base or moving your hand over a motion sensor. For safety purposes, set your hot water tank to 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.

Microwave and Stove: If your microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to a countertop. This makes it safer and easier to reach. If you are concerned about your wife remembering to turn the stove off, there are automatic stove shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire.

If you are looking to upgrade some of your appliances, here are some different features you should look for when shopping.

Refrigerator and Freezer: Side-by-side doors are convenient because frequently used items can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Also, look for refrigerators that feature pullout adjustable height shelves and water/ice dispensers on the outside of the refrigerator door for added convenience.

Stove or Cooktop: Look for a stove with controls on the front, so you will not have to reach over hot burners to turn it off. Also, ask about automatic shut-off burners. Make sure the controls on the stove are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners are great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. For gas stoves, continuous grates are good for this purpose as well.

Oven: For an oven that is easier to maintain, consider purchasing a self-cleaning oven. Ovens that feature a side-swing door are easier to use because you do not have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven, installed at your wife’s preferred height, so she does not have to bend over.

Dishwasher: Consider a dishwasher with drawers that slide in and out and is installed on a 6-10-inch raised platform. These require less bending to load and unload.

Washer and Dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10-15 inches are also back-savers and easy to access.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published November 22, 2019

 Free Basketball Tickets for Students of Salem Community Schools

Due to the generosity of Stanley Colglazier and his daughter, Sara Colglazier, to the Washington County Community Foundation, students of Salem Community Schools will receive free tickets to the January 17, 2020 JV and Varsity basketball games versus the Scottsburg Warriors.  Students may enter through any door accessible to the gymnasium and will need to sign-in for entrance to the game.   Salem students are strongly encouraged to wear Salem or black and gold attire.  The tickets are available for students attending Salem Community Schools in grades K-12; however, students in elementary school are required to be accompanied by an adult.  Be sure to take advantage of these free tickets as the Lions face off against Scottsburg.  For questions regarding tickets, please call the Washington County Community Foundation at 883-7334 or SHS athletic director, Hank Weedin at 883-3904. 

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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How to Create a Family Health Portrait

How do I go about making a family health history? Most of my relatives have died before age 65. My doctor suggested I create a family history to help identify my own genetic vulnerabilities.

An accurate family health history remains one of the most important tools to maintain your health as you age. The holidays may be an opportune time to discuss a family health portrait. Here are some things you should know, along with some tips and tools to help you create one.

Know Your Genes


Just as you can inherit your father's height or your mother's eye color, you can also inherit their genetic risk for diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For example, if one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to also have high blood pressure. Tracing the health ailments suffered by your relatives can help you and your doctor predict things you may be at risk for, so you can take action to keep yourself healthy.

To create a family health history, you will need to start by collecting some basic medical information on your first-degree relatives, which includes your parents, siblings and children. You may also want to include your grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins.

You should find out the specific ages of when a relative developed health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, depression, etc. If family members are deceased, you should try to find out when and how they died. If possible, include lifestyle information as well, such as diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol use.

Some relatives may not want to share their medical history or they may not know their family history. Typically, any information you discover will be helpful for creating a family health portrait.

You may be able to get information on deceased relatives by ordering a copy of their death certificate. The certificate will list their cause of death and their age at death. To get a death certificate, contact the vital records office in the state where your relative died, or go to VitalChek.com.

If you were adopted, the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search, ChildWelfare.gov/nfcad, may be able to help you locate your biological parents so you can get their medical history.

Helpful Tools


To get help putting together your family health history, the U.S. Surgeon General created a free web-based tool called "My Family Health Portrait," which can be accessed at phgkb.cdc.gov/FHH/html. The tool can help you collect, organize and understand your genetic risks. You may choose to share the information with your family members and doctors.

Another free resource that provides similar assistance can be found on the Genetic Alliance's website, FamilyHealthHistory.org. The online tool entitled "Does it run in the family?" allows you to create a customized guide of your family health history.

Handling the Results


If you uncover serious health risks that run in your family, do not despair. While you cannot change your genes, you can change your habits to increase your chances of a healthy future. By eating a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking, you can offset and sometimes even neutralize your genetic vulnerabilities. This is especially true for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

A family medical history can also alert you to get early and frequent screening tests. This can help detect other problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancers including breast, ovarian, skin, prostate and colon cancer, in their early stages when they are most treatable.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published November 15, 2019

How to Choose a Walk-in Bathtub

Because of my mobility problems, I am thinking about getting a walk-in bathtub that’s easy to get into and out of but could use some help selecting one. What can you tell me about walk-in tubs, and can you recommend some good companies that make and install them?

Walk-in tubs are a good option for mobility challenged seniors because they are much easier to get into and out of than a standard tub. They may help prevent slips, trips and falls. Here is what you should know.

The Basics


Walk-in bathtubs are uniquely designed with a watertight, hinged door built into the side of the tub that provides a much lower threshold to step over, usually 2.5 to 7 inches, in comparison with a standard tub threshold of 15 inches.

In addition to the low threshold, many walk-in tubs also have built-in seats, grab bars, anti-slip floors, anti-scald valves and handheld showerheads. Many higher-end models offer therapeutic spa-like features that are great for seniors with arthritis and other ailments.

The kind of tub you choose will depend on your needs, preferences and budget, and the size and layout of your bathroom. The cost of a walk-in tub with professional installation ranges from approximately $3,000 to $10,000.

Here are some other things you should consider:

Tub size: Walk-in bathtubs vary in size. Most models have high walls between three and four feet high and are between 28 and 32 inches wide, but will fit into the same spaces as your standard tub without having to reconfigure the room. There are also bariatric walk-in tubs that have wider door openings and larger seats to accommodate people over 300 pounds.

Wheelchair-accessible: Most walk-in tubs have an inward opening door, but if you use a wheelchair, an outward opening door may be a better option because they are easier to access.

Tub options: The most basic and least expensive type of walk-in tub you can get is a simple soaker tub. But, there are many other options available. There are aero therapy (air jets) tubs, hydrotherapy (whirlpool water jets) tubs, aromatherapy tubs that mix fragrant essential oils with the water or combination tubs with multiple upgraded features. Tubs with an in-line heating system will keep your bathwater warm while you soak. Tubs with self-cleaning systems may also be a priority.

Fast fill and drain: One drawback to using a walk-in bathtub is that the bather must sit in the tub as it fills and drains, which can make for a chilly experience. To help with this, consider a tub that has fast-filling faucets and pump-assisted drainage systems, which significantly speed up the process. These options may require some plumbing modifications to your bathroom.

Warranty: The best walk-in bathtubs on the market today are made in the USA. Look for companies offering a lifetime “leak-proof” door seal warranty and lengthy warranties on both the tub and the operating system.

Where to shop: To get started, contact a few companies that will send a local dealer to your home to assess your bathroom and give you product options and estimates for free. Most companies offer financing with monthly payment plans.

Unfortunately, original Medicare does not cover walk-in bathtubs nor do Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policies. However, some Medicare Advantage plans may help with the cost. There are also many states that offer Medicaid waivers that will help pay for the purchase and installation of a walk-in tub to those that qualify. The VA offers some programs that provide financial aid too.

 

Published November 8, 2019

How to Create an Ethical Will

Can you write a column on ethical wills and how to make one? The attorney that made up my will recently suggested I write a letter as a tool to explain the intentions of my will, as well as express my thoughts and feelings, but I am not sure where to start.

An ethical will – also referred to as a legacy letter – can be a valuable complement to your legal will, as well as a wonderful gift to your family or other loved ones. Here are some things you should know and some tips to help you make one.

Ethical Wills


A last will and testament tells your loved ones and the probate court how you would like your assets to be distributed. An ethical will is not a legal document, but a legacy letter that many people use to express their feelings and explain the elements in their last will and testament.

A legacy letter is a heartfelt letter that you write to your loved ones sharing with them your feelings, wishes, regrets, gratitude and advice. Usually a legacy letter is no more than a few pages. The process of writing an ethical will can actually be quite satisfying. Be careful that you do not contradict any aspects of your legal will or estate plan. If you are having trouble with writing an ethical will, there are resources available to help. You can also choose to express yourself through an audio or video recording.

Where to Start


To craft an ethical will, start by jotting down some notes about what is really important to you and what you want your loved ones to know. Take your time and remember that you are not trying to write for the Pulitzer Prize. This letter is a gift written for those you love.

After you have gathered your thoughts you can start drafting your letter. You can also revise or rewrite it at any time. Your ethical will should be kept with your other legal documents in a secure location but be sure your executor has access to it. A fireproof filing cabinet or safe in your home is often a good choice.

Get Help


If you need some help, there are numerous resources available on the internet. There are various websites that offer how-to information and examples of ethical wills. Many websites also offer resource books, including do-it-yourself guidebooks that are available for purchase.

You may find local organizations or companies that offer ethical will writing classes and workshops. They may also offer personalized services like coaching, editing, writing or recording your ethical will. Prices will vary depending on the services you choose and your location.

Many individuals choose to share their ethical will with their family and friends while they are still living so they can observe their reactions, while others believe it should be read after their death. This is a very personal choice.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

 

How to Help Aging Parents Manage their Medications

What tips or tools can you recommend to help seniors and their caregivers keep up with medications? My mother, who lives alone, is supposed to take several different medications at various times of the day but often forgets.

Anyone who juggles multiple medications can relate to the problem of forgetting to take their medicine, or not remembering whether they already took it. This is especially true for older adults who take medications at varying times of the day. Here are some different product and service solutions that may help.

Being organized and setting reminders are the two keys to staying on top of a medication schedule. To help your mom achieve this, there are a wide variety of pillboxes, medication organizers, vibrating watches, beeping pill bottles and dispensers with audio alerts that can make all the difference.

Simple Medication Helpers


You can help your mom stay organized by creating a simple medication list that breaks down exactly what she should take and when she should take it. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has a free printable resource. You can download and print a copy of “My Medicine List” at SafeMedication.com.

Smart Pill Boxes


There are also a variety of “smart” pill boxes on the market today that will remind your mom when she needs to take her medicine. It will also send family members and caregivers notifications if she forgets to take her pills or accidentally takes the wrong ones.

A few smart pill box options include Tricella, PillDrill and MedMinder. The prices range from approximately $200 to $300 or monthly subscriptions ranging from $40 to $65 a month. Some smart pill boxes require monthly subscription services. Most smart pill boxes require connectivity with a smart phone or tablet with either a data plan or Wi-Fi access. The more expensive models provide comprehensive pill tracking which helps for those on a strict medication schedule.

Convenient Packaging


Another way to help simplify your mom’s medicine is to find a pharmacy that offers prescriptions in single-dose packets. This packaging option may allow her in also include vitamins and over-the-counter drugs. Typically the single-dose packets are organized by date and the time of day they should be taken. This does away with all the pill bottles and pill sorting if you find a pharmacy that offers the service.

Apps and Calling Services


If your mom has a smartphone, there are apps she could use to help her keep up with her medication. One of the top rated apps is Medisafe which is a free app offered on Apple and Android phones. Medisafe will track your mom’s pill schedule, send her timely notifications to take her meds and send her reminders to fill her prescriptions.

Caregivers can also connect with the Medisafe app to receieve notifications about when it is time for their loved ones to take their medication and they can see whether or not it has been marked as taken.

If your mom does not use a smartphone, there are also calling services, which provide medication reminding calls. These types of services will call your mom at the scheduled times to reminder her that she needs to take her medication. If she fails to answer or acknowledge the call, a family member or caregiver will be contacted. Services like this typically cost between $15 and $20 per month.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 25, 2019
 

How to Stop Unwanted Junk Mail and Guard Against Mail Fraud

My father receives over 100 pieces of junk mail every week and I just discovered that he has given away nearly $5,000 over the past few months to many of the solicitors who mail him this junk. Can you offer any tips on how can I stop this?

Millions of Americans get bombarded with unwanted junk mail these days, including “mail fraud” schemes that you and your dad need should be careful to guard against. Here are some tips that may help.

Mail Fraud Alert


While junk mail comes in many different forms—credit card applications, sweepstakes entries, magazine offers, coupon mailers, donation requests, political fliers, catalogs and more—the most troublesome type is mail fraud. This type of junk mail comes from con artists who are trying to take your money.

Mail fraud can be tricky to detect because there are many different types of schemes out there that may seem legitimate. Some of the most common mail scams targeting seniors today are phony sweepstakes, foreign lotteries, free prizes, vacation scams, fake checks (see FakeChecks.org), donation requests from fake charities or government agencies that do not exist, get-rich chain letters, work-at-home schemes and inheritance and investment scams.

If your dad is getting any type of junk mail requesting money in exchange for a free gift or if he is receiving checks that require him to wire money, you need to call the U.S. Postal Inspector Service at 877-876-2455 and report it.

Unfortunately, once a person’s name and contact information is included on these mail fraud lists, it is very difficult to be removed from the list. This is because criminals regularly trade and sell mailing lists of people who they believe to be susceptible to fraud and the scammers will not remove names when they are requested to do so.

Knowing this, a good first step to help protect your dad is to alert him to the different types of mail fraud and what to watch for. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service can help you with this. They offer a list of the different mail fraud schemes at PostalInspectors.uspis.gov.

Another option is to see if your dad would be willing to let you sort through his mail before he opens it so you can weed out the junk. You may want to have the post office forward his mail directly to you to ensure this.

If your dad feels compelled to donate to certain charities, ask him to let you check them out first to make sure they are legitimate. You can do this at charity watchdog sites like CharityNavigator.org and Give.org.

Reduce Junk Mail


While scam artists are not likely to take your dad’s name off their mailing lists, most legitimate mail-order businesses will. To do this, start with the Direct Marketing Association, which offers a consumer opt-out service at DMAchoice.org. This will not eliminate all his junk mail, but it will reduce it. The opt-out service is $2 for 10 years if you register online or $3 if you register by mail.

Then, to put a stop to the credit card and insurance offers he gets, call the consumer credit reporting industry opt-out service at 888-567-8688 and follow the automated prompts. He will be able to choose to either opt out for five years or to opt out permanently. Be prepared to give his Social Security number and date of birth. You can also do this online at OptOutPrescreen.com. If you choose the permanent opt-out, you will have to send a form in the mail.

You should also make sure your dad’s home and cell phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov, 888-382-1222) to reduce the number of telemarketing calls he receives.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published October 18, 2019

Our Donors Awarded Over $20K in Grants

Thanks to our generous donors and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds, Washington County nonprofits will be receiving over $20,000 in grants.

The Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded a grant in the amount of $2966.00 to replace a 10-year old AED with two additional compliant AEDs.

A grant for $726.00 was awarded to the YMCA of Washington County for afterschool outings for the THRIVE mentoring program.  The mentors and mentees will meet twice per school year (in addition to weekly mentor/mentee meetings) outside of school hours in a safe space that will provide additional interaction.

Blue River Services has been awarded a $2899.00 grant for improved vocational training for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The funds will be used to purchase a smartboard.

Junior Achievement will once again receive a grant for educational programming in Washington County.  The $2500.00 grant will be used to teach youth economic and financial literacy.

A $6500.0 grant has been awarded to Dare to Care to continue the Backpack Buddy program.  The program provides nutritious, kid-friendly food to children for the weekends where they may otherwise go hungry. 

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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