Seniors and Drug Abuse

Many seniors are from a generation that, on the whole, still scorn drug abuse and stigmatize those people who engage in such activities. However, as the baby boomer numbers increase in senior living environments, they bring with them a more freewheeling attitude about drug use and misuse rooted in the culture of the 1960s and onward. Many of the senior baby boomers have experienced illegal drugs first hand, and because of a sense of nostalgia, their views may be more tolerant to the overuse or abuse of drugs.

The opioid epidemic in America is now firmly rooted in the senior population. Statistics indicate that opioid addiction has been growing as fast or even faster among seniors compared to other age groups. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 115 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids and according to 2014 report by the government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate of hospitalization for opioid overuse among those people 65 and older has increased over five-fold since 1993, and continues to worsen.

The crisis has grown mainly from doctors prescribing opioids like OxyContin much more frequently beginning in the mid-1990s under guidelines and assurances from pharmaceutical companies that opioid pain relievers were not as addictive as previously reported. However, this opioid class of drug is highly addictive, and many patients prescribed the medication end up abusing their prescriptions. Based on controversial research in 2009, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) announced that they were in favor of prescribing opioids, asking doctors to consider opioids for any senior with moderate or severe pain. Since seniors often have multiple chronic pain conditions, it is easy to see how addiction rates can skyrocket among the senior population. But, it is more than just opioids.

According to the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, of the 63% of senior study participants who had an alcoholic drink over the course of one month, 13% had engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a single session of imbibing. Bars and pubs are becoming one of the new normal amenities in life plan communities, and it can put seniors at significant risk. Stumbling and falling after having too much to drink or driving a small golf cart while impaired can have disastrous consequences. There is also a danger of mixing prescription medications with alcohol, which can be fatal.

Beyond opioids and alcohol, there is marijuana. As more and more states legalize medicinal (and recreational) marijuana and provide them in edible forms, more seniors are turning to pot as a painkiller and anti-nausea treatment. Contrary to what many believe it is not harmless, especially in a geriatric patient. The strains of marijuana available are potent and can create confusion, delirium, and even psychotic episodes in seniors and its interactions with legally prescribed medications are often hard to assess.

Professional staff in the aging services industry are trained to look for signs of drug misuse and abuse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now recommending doctors to opt for short-term, fast-acting medications instead of long-lasting drugs and prescriptions.  But seniors who experience multiple, chronic pains may find this means they take more pills as their conditions are usually degenerative.

The best way to solve the problem is through education. As a senior, one should be aware of their medications and the proper doses to take. Encourage each doctor to prescribe the lowest necessary dose and look to alternative options to address pain. Never exceed the recommended dose as prescribed and follow the instructions given by the doctor.  Do not take prescription medication with alcohol. If a senior is having trouble understanding their medications or gets confused with the dosage, encourage them to talk to a trusted family member. Consider drafting a medical power of attorney document that will allow someone the senior trusts to be their advocate for a safe and happy senior life.  Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Solo aging, independent living and housemates

Solo aging in the baby boomer generation is becoming more prevalent, but many Americans are running out of family caregivers to assist them in their quest for elderly living independence. The ratio of caregivers to care recipients has fallen and is projected to continue to do so for the next forty years. According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of childlessness among baby boomers is about 20 percent. That number is double the previous generation. Additionally, these boomers who are aging solo, without a spouse or partner and have children living more than 500 miles away, bring the total of solo agers in America to nearly 40 percent of adults over the age of 65.

Because solo agers who own their own home prefer to reside there, many of them are finding creative ways to share costs as well as reduce the workload, stress, and isolation of living alone. Welcome to your new housemate, but don’t call them that and don’t call them roommate either. The boomer generation is adopting the term “POSSSLQ,” (pronounced “possle-cue”) short for People of Similar Sensibilities Sharing Living Quarters. This moniker is a wink at the former US Census Bureau designation for unmarried couples; “Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.” Whatever the preferred terminology, this new housemate trend is a demographic and economic shift which is redefining the “golden years” of retirement.

It is no surprise that at a historic shortage of homes pushing up housing costs coupled with the fact that many boomers realize they have not saved nearly enough for retirement has fueled this housemate solution. Some of the best ground rules to follow are to find someone you may already know, perhaps of similar background. Also, keep your “POSSSLQ” in a narrow age range to your own. Seniors who are looking to be housemates and are of a certain age can find each other on websites, some of which are Roommates4Boomers and Let’s Share Housing. It is a great way to stretch retirement dollars and still have independence in a shared living experience without loneliness or feeling like a burden to family.

Women account for most of these new housemate living arrangements. Women tend to live longer and have less in retirement savings as compared to their male counterparts. Women also tend to be more adept at making a home and creating companionable spaces in which to cohabitate.

The rules of roommates are usually broad and general. Some specific ground rules may be non-negotiable such as pets, loud music, or romantic sleepovers; however many women have a more flexible approach and often work out smaller details in day to day conversation. Often the secret to housemate living is to embrace its unexpected nature so long as an established basic framework remains intact. These boomer housemates are expressing creativity in problem-solving issues related to their golden years and want their focus to be on living life rather than the end of life planning.

The cautionary tale of baby boomer housemate living is to be confident you enter into the relationship with a legal document that outlines home ownership, household expenses, chore responsibilities, house rules, as well as identification of objects you already own in your home (if the owner) or what you may bring into the house (as the new housemate). Remember that you spend the first half of your life trying to get something and the second half of your life trying to keep it. Another issue to discuss and lay legal ground rules for is what happens in the case a housemate gets a diagnosis of dementia? A housemate living situation should not evolve into a caretaker situation.

Whether you are the homeowner or the housemate, it is imperative to have a legal document signed and notarized defining the living arrangement. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with the planning and execution of a housemate agreement.

Everyday Devices that can be Hacked

The internet of things (IoT) is responsible for many conveniences via embedded electronic devices, and many seniors are making use of these technologies. It is becoming increasingly common for everyday items like refrigerators, thermostats, and doorbells to be internet-connected making our homes and personal information subject to hacking. A hacker will subvert computer security for malicious purposes. Seniors who employ IoT devices for safety and convenience may be less wary of all the ways their devices can be compromised. If you are a senior or have a loved one who is, it is imperative to have them, or a trusted friend, update software from device manufacturers and routinely monitor their devices.  

A Smart TV provides many hacking opportunities. The problem can be an annoying prankster blasting the volume control, switching channels, or even ordering movies you did not select. Or the hacker can also compromise your security and safety as your Smart TV is a gateway to other internet-connected devices in your home. TV apps can be data mined for credit card payment information since many manufacturers reuse default passwords, and users neglect to change them. Even companies who sell Smart TVs are now post-purchase monetizing the Smart TV by harvesting your information via data collection and using it for advertising and direct sales of entertainment to the consumer.

Digital Thermostats are a great way to keep heating and cooling costs down. However, a hacker who takes control of your thermostat can crank up the heat or cooling until the owner pays a ransom to regain control of the device. An older person can experience health consequences due to extremes temperatures as well as the anxiety and fear it breeds. Baby monitors are often connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network for the convenience of a mobile app to check the display at any time. Many homes use these monitors for seniors instead of small children. Typically, people do not change the default password on the monitor, meaning that it is visible to the network. A hacker can scan transmitting internet protocol or IP addresses (numerical labels assigned to every device that connects to a computer). Once they have your IP data, they can find the baby monitor and watch you or your loved one at any time. For better protection shop for baby monitors that are made to be invisible to scans. If you have a Samsung smart refrigerator, it can be hacked. The wiring in the fridge leaves the new owner’s Google login credentials out in the wild for a hacker to grab and then infiltrate your home’s IoT devices.

Smart cameras have vulnerability issues allowing a hacker to remotely access audio and video feeds. Be sure to keep track of all of your IoT devices that are network connected. Actively seek out all software and firmware updates for maximum protection against hackers. Smart voice-activated speakers like Alexa, Google, Echo, and many more open up every conversation you have in your home to be monitored by a hacker. Without even being aware, you can divulge sensitive information like doctor appointments, luncheon dates, and upcoming trips. Even your bank account and credit card information can be compromised. If your home security system is connected to your voice-activated speaker, a hacker can turn it off and enter your home.

Even pacemakers are subject to hacking however improbable that might seem. Anyone with bad intentions toward you can remotely change the pace of your heartbeat, which can even result in your death. Implanted medical devices, in general, are now subject to more stringent controls that use code to secure data and instructions in these devices and monitor them in real-time. Talk with your medical professional to know that you are protected against medical hackers.

Default passwords need to change in order to protect your devices from hackers. Most internet-connected devices have simple default passwords, and a search run on the name brand of a device will often yield the manufacturer’s default password. When you change your password, make it very strong, and use unique passwords for each device. Out of convenience, many seniors will use the same password for everything. In this case, if a hacker gets into one device, they can be in all of them if you do not use different passwords.

Cell phones, home Wi-Fi routers, and even landline voicemail are susceptible to hacking. Inexpensive signal-proof cases are good to use for protection when you are out in public. It is possible for a hacker to clone your phone in seconds while standing next to you and they will get everything you store on your phone. Home Wi-Fi routers must be up to date on all software and firmware, and a unique, strong password can help protect you from hackers. Once a hacker gains access, all of your devices connected via the internet of things have been compromised as the router is the nerve center of your digital footprint. Many seniors still like to have a landline telephone and its associated voicemail. Passwords to access voicemail must be very secure, or a hacker can listen in to your conversations as well as delete potentially important messages.

All senior grandparents love pictures of their family to be proudly displayed. Picture frames that are digital and allow you to scroll through photos or change an art display with the swipe of a hand are vulnerable. If your frame becomes hacked, a thief can discern non-active times in your home by the frame’s ambient light sensors and can plan a robbery while you are away. 

Garage door openers are also able to be hacked if you have a newer smart version device. A hacker can monitor garage door activity and identify times when you are not at home. It is very convenient for a burglar to avoid encountering people during a robbery. Be sure to update a manufacturer’s default password setting to something difficult to break, and a would-be robber will move to an easier target.

Cars and Self-driving cars can be hacked. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to break into and start a vehicle, even disabling the alarm system. Car thieves now employ sophisticated hacking technology, especially when they must bypass the electronic anti-theft systems. If a self-driving car is hacked, the attacker can take direct control over the throttle, brake, and steering while remaining anonymous as to their identity and location creating a very dangerous scenario.

Convenience comes at a cost to your privacy when using the internet of things. Taking the necessary steps to protect your devices from hackers is of paramount importance. Once secure procedures are in place, it is crucial to monitor for suspicious activity that can lead to robbery, electronic banking theft, and more. Taking control of your internet-enabled devices is essential to protect your home and your strategy for aging successfully. No one wants to be victimized by unwanted hackers. If you have questions or would like to talk about your legal needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Simple tips for saving money while aging well

Your senior years should not be plagued with money woes. The stress that money problems bring not only ruins your aging experience but can also be disastrous to your health. Rising health care costs and your increased need for health care can add up to big bills that can further tax your health. To age well, you must use sound financial judgment as well as make healthy choices for your body and mind. The goal is to remain as healthy as you can for as long as you can and have a healthy bank account to support those goals. Beyond the obvious, such as choosing the right insurance plan and saving money for retirement, there are other strategies you can implement to further a successful and happy retirement.

Chronic stress is known to worsen health problems and can also accelerate the aging process. Though everyone experiences and handles stress differently, it is important to identify the specific stresses in your life and hone in on its source to be able to address it adequately. Relationship stress, family stress, and work stress can be treated through meditation and gentle yoga. The more you practice, the more significant the mental and physical benefits you experience. 

In the case of financial stress, meditation will not save you. You need a concrete plan to approach your problem. Develop a budget that will address which debts you need to pay off first and stick to the program. Learn to avoid excessive spending that puts you in a debt cycle. Once you are as debt free as reasonably possible, learn ways to increase your savings.

An easy way to lower your expenditures and increase your savings is to view the world as your gym. Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week in your neighborhood is excellent for your body and your mind. Bring your cell phone, but only use it in the event of an emergency. Take in the outdoors around you and let your mind be free. You can be active doing leg extensions or squats in your own home. You can do several ballet plies while cooking a meal and toe raises while brushing your teeth. Before you get out of bed in the morning move your pillow out of the way and stretch out your spine; arms overhead and extending through your toes. The idea is to connect your daily routine activities to a specific exercise and do it every time you enter into that everyday behavior. If you have physical limitations, talk to your doctor before implementing at home exercises or neighborhood walks.

Learn to limit the portions of food you eat. We are a nation of overeaters. In many countries around the world, it is unheard of to have a “to go” box from a lunch or dinner that is too big for consumption in one sitting. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend active men over 65 need 2,600 calories daily, while sedentary men require just 2,000; for women it’s 2,000 if active, and 1,600 daily calories if sedentary. Pass on the heaping helping and pass on a second helping. By limiting the amount of food you eat, you can maintain a more healthy weight, which in turn can improve your health and longevity, as well as save money. 

If you have room in your yard, start a vegetable garden, plant some fruit trees, and involve your friends to share in the workload and the resulting produce. If you don’t have a yard, join a community garden. Growing your food is an excellent way to increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat and has the added benefits of making you physically active and socially engaged. By making a garden a group effort, you can prevent isolation which for many older adults is a risk factor for everything from depression to hypertension. If you have problems kneeling or being down on the ground, try using raised garden beds or even try gutter gardening. Gutter gardens are a simple way to grow vegetables that have minimal roots in gutters that are affixed to an outside wall at a height that is comfortable for you. Gutter gardens also remove the problem of bugs in the soil. A fruit and vegetable garden will lower your grocery bill and shift your eating habits to a more healthful plant-based diet.  Learn how to can or freeze your produce if you have a short growing season where you live. 

Make a small investment to solve a significant problem. A grab bar in the shower or lowering the height of your bed can help you prevent a range of serious injuries from a fall. Fractures and head traumas often result in a rapid health decline and even death. Improve your balance with gentle tai chi exercises. Be sure you have adequate lighting in your home. Fix uneven floorboards and get rid of throw rugs. By being mindful of how you move through your home you can avoid an unnecessary fall which will save you money by avoiding medical treatment and might even save your life.

Kick bad habits and start with smoking. Just because you have not already developed lung cancer after decades of smoking does not mean you won’t, nor will it help prevent other lung problems like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Replace a bad habit with a good one as proposed above. If you drink alcohol on a daily basis or sometimes to excess, consider cutting back or quitting altogether. Alcohol contributes to unsteadiness on your feet and can precipitate you to fall. Do not take more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications and never mix them with alcohol. It is easy to become addicted to these drugs as you age because often they are used in the treatment of chronic conditions. You can build a tolerance to them and need progressively stronger doses. Try to find alternative ways to address your pain or anxiety. Cut back on sugar and fatty foods. 

If your day is not structured, create a schedule. Try to eat at regular times as well as have a predictable bedtime and wake up call. Your body will appreciate the regularity of life. Kicking bad habits to the curb can help you enjoy your retirement years with greater energy and health as well as save you a lot of money on bad habits that are expensive. Don’t tax your wallet and your well being.

There are many techniques for aging well and preserving your bank account. Some methods are simple while others require guidance by trusted counsel. Reduce the financial stresses of your retirement and contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Future of Assisted Living

With changes in medicine, technology, and socioeconomics, it’s no surprise that that assisted living is changing, too. The rising cost of assisted living means that some families are looking to new alternatives, while those who consider traditional assisted living have new options to consider.

Alternatives to assisted living include multigenerational housing and in-home care. As these options become more popular due to the rising costs associated with other, traditional options, the home health care industry will boom in response; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 70% in the next ten years for personal care aides and home health care professionals. Technology designed to assist in senior care will likewise play a role in alternatives to assisted living, from computer systems tracking medicine intake and remotes for windows, lights, and thermostats to reminiscence therapy and memory care to assist those suffering from dementia. And not only will technology designed for individual use continue to develop, so will platforms for home care agencies and other professionals engaged in the long term care process.

Meanwhile, the nursing home model of care will continue to decline, while other forms of senior living will take its place. These will include cultural- and lifestyle-based communities, green senior housing like LEED-certified homes and communities, senior-friendly neighborhoods in city centers, and senior co-housing with shared spaces and shared duties. Assisted communities are likely going to emphasize meaningful socialization and recreational activities, while the buildings themselves are likely going to include amenities that remind Boomers of home and improve their independence, such as kitchenettes. Certain design trends may arise for enriched living experience and wellness enhancement, from restaurant-style dining to wellness centers. 

These changes are a part of the trend of a widening gap between the increasingly pricey assisted living options, and what people can pay for their long term care. As life expectancy lengthens and the quality (and therefore price) of assisted living rises, many will find the costs post-retirement to be beyond their means. That is one of many reasons why it is so important to plan in advance! There may be government programs available that can help with the costs of long term care. Give us a call to discuss your options.

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