|Consumer Newsletter – July 2012
Seniors Real Estate Specialist Newsletter – Helping Seniors Live Better!
By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau
Fend Off Loneliness
Caretakers of elderly parents and relatives often feel relieved once they’ve resolved the housing and aging-in-place challenges. But a key missing piece of that care puzzle could be the seniors’ social and mental well-being.
Study results released in June 2012 by the University of California San Francisco (www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/12184/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly) show a direct correlation between loneliness and poor health among the elderly.
It found that loneliness can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities, such as upper extremity tasks, climbing stairs, and walking. Moreover, people who identified themselves as lonely had a 59 percent greater risk of decline and a 45 percent greater risk of death.
If you suspect that your loved ones are lonely, getting them out and involved could help them fend off boredom, isolation, and loneliness.
Here are eight ideas:
1. Art as therapy. Try an art class, but one that isn’t strictly for seniors. Your loved ones will meet people of all ages, broaden their social horizon, and learn a new skill. And just because someone can’t draw doesn’t mean they can’t be a successful artist. Other media include pottery, printmaking, and fiber arts.
2. Computer literacy. Widen your parents’ and elderly relatives’ world by teaching them how to use a computer, and introduce them to Facebook, blogging and Twitter.
A Pew Research report (www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Older-adults-and-internet-use/Main-Report/Internet-adoption.aspx) found that seniors really take to the online life. For many, using the internet and e-mail has become a daily habit.
Before they make their online debut, be sure that seniors know the risks and what precautions to take to protect their accounts and their privacy.
Provide some basics on searching for sites specific to their interests. There’s www.anobii.com for bookworms, www.ravelry.com for knitters, and www.care2.com for eco-minded people.
3. Meet-ups. The site, www.Meetup.com, lets people interested in a given topic or activity find one another online then organize in-person get-togethers. You can find book clubs, art outings, and political activism events, as well as people who are interested in discussing Shakespeare and practicing ballroom dancing.
4. Man’s best friend. There’s a reason that dogs are called man’s best friend. They bring joy and laughter, they’re affectionate, and they provide companionship. In addition, daily walks with dogs force seniors to get all-important exercise and help them connect with other dog owners.
Just take a look at local parks during dog-walking hours. You see dogs romping and pet owners schmoozing. A dog could be the gateway to better health and stronger social connections for your loved one.
5. Mind share. Suggest volunteering, but not at a place where there are sad, distressed people. Hospitals, for example, might not be the place to lift a persons’ spirit.
But zoos, conservatories, and kid-centered activities all can be uplifting. And if your relatives have special talents to share, help them find places where they can teach their skills to others. Search for volunteer opportunities at www.seniorcorps.gov/Default.asp.
6. Tutoring. Your relatives’ knowledge could be helpful for tutoring programs for kids needing math and reading help or to participants in adult literacy programs. Plus, the one-on-one relationship that develops can be satisfying and beneficial for both parties.
Find opportunities by getting in touch with local schools and religious institutions or search for U.S. opportunities at www.volunteermatch.org. In Canada, visit www.volunteer.ca and www.getinvolved.ca. Or search your province for regional and city-specific organizations, such as British Columbia’s www.volunteerbc.bc.ca and Ottawa’s www.volunteerottawa.ca. Also, such sites help you locate volunteer activities beyond tutoring.
7. Political activism. This is an election year in the United States, so campaigns are on the hunt for volunteers. If your relatives are politically active, there’s likely a campaign that can tap their skills over the coming months.
8. Inclusive celebrations. Invite elderly neighbors to dinner parties, backyard BBQs and neighborhood social events. If transportation or walking is a problem, they may decline. So when you extend the invitation, offer to pick them up and take them home.
A place to vent
Who hasn’t had a bad experience dealing with a credit card problem? Typically you’re left to resolve problems on your own with your financial institution.
And you think your issue is an isolated incident.
But now there’s a place to find out that you’re not alone. And to complain.
Just this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (www.consumerfinance.gov) gave the public access to a beta version of a database that tracks credit card complaints.
Visitors can get a sense of the most common consumer gripes, the card issuers that people are complaining about, and they can also see how effectively financial institutions resolve problems.
The CFPB also lets consumers log complaints and find resolutions to the credit card problems that plague them. CFPB accepts, screens, and investigates consumer complaints and forwards them to the financial institution. Those institutions have a set period to respond to and resolve the problem.
Submit a complaint at and search the database, www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase, to get more insight on common complaints. Billing disputes and disagreements about APR and interest rates top CFPB’s list of gripes.
One aim of the database is greater transparency, and it also can help you when you’re deciding which institutions to do business with.
Though this database is focused on credit cards, the CFPB is considering developing similar databases for other consumer financial products and services.
Coming home from the hospital
Doctors do a great job of explaining the medical aspects of recovery from surgical procedures.
But they’re not always great about outlining the practical day-to-day challenges that caregivers need to address. To make your patient’s recovery easier in the days after a surgery, be sure to understand and plan for the non-medical aspects of daily care.
Here are some considerations:
1. Gear. Find out what extra things to have on hand to keep the person comfortable. Small pillows may be needed to prop up an arm or an ankle. Towels can be rolled up to support the back. Cloth baby diapers can prevent chafing and neck strain when someone is wearing a sling.
The bathroom can be especially dangerous, so consider adding grab bars or renting stools and shower chairs. Also, ask about the strategies and other devices that will boost your patient’s comfort and safety.
2. Clothing. Zippers and buttons suddenly become difficult to operate when you’ve had certain surgeries. Think about the clothes that will be easiest to get on and off and which garments will afford your loved ones the greatest independence.
An arm injury, for example, can make putting on t-shirts and pullover sweaters impossible. So think oversized shirts with Velcro closures as an alternative.
3. Safe house. Even if your spouse or parent normally is nimble, surgery can temporarily diminish their agility. Be certain that the house is safe for them to navigate, especially if they’ll be taking pain medications that cause grogginess or if they’ll be using a wheelchair or walker.
Move furniture they can bump into, pick up throw rugs that can cause trips, and remove delicate decorative items from tables.
4. Medical-related duties. You could be charged with changing bandages, taking slings on and off, and managing other medical devices. Be certain that you get some lessons on carrying out your duties before you leave the medical center.
5. Smooth moves. Talk to nurses and physical therapists about the proper placement and bracing of walkers and other assistive devices. Helping patients in and out of bed and up from chairs doesn’t entail brute force. Learn to protect your body when you’re moving and shifting patients and understand how best to provide support.