Seniors: Have You Secured Your Future?

When the time comes, do you know who will be there to make important decisions for you?

We recently visited Advance Health Care Directives, living wills, power of attorney (POA) and POLST. These are all legal documents put in place to ensure decisions regarding your health align with your preferences when you are no longer capable of communicating your desires. When not prepared for this last phase in life, you could end up with a court appointed conservator who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

As you now know, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is someone who will make decisions regarding your healthcare when you are no longer able to. But did you know powers of attorney have different levels of authority and can serve other areas of your life?power-of-attorney

  • Financial Power of Attorney allows your agent to make decisions regarding your finances and property.
  • General Power of Attorney has a broader scope, giving your agent the ability to make any and all personal decisions and healthcare choices.
  • Limited Power of Attorney has limited authority on the types on decisions you would like them to make.
  • Durable Power of Attorney is given the ability to make decisions for you both now and if you become incapacitated.
  • Springing Power of Attorney only has authority when you become incapacitated.

judge-hammer1If no POA is named, your family members may decide to file a petition with the court if they feel you are unable to meet certain requirements for your health and safety, or if you lack the capacity to manage your financial affairs. A conservatorship is comparable to an individual given legal guardianship over a minor.
There are two types of conservators:

  • Conservatorship of the Person – conservator makes personal decisions for the conservatoree
  • Conservatorship of the Estate – conservator makes financial decisions for the conservatoree

Often times, the court appoints the same person to act in both capacities. This may or may not be the person you would have chosen, were you able to make that decision.

Does one have any advantages over the other?
Power of Attorney is a relatively low-cost and private way of naming a trusted individual to carry out your wishes. In regards to a conservatorship, the court proceeding is not only costly, but the person named as your conservator might not be the same individual you would have chosen.

You can save your loved ones from headaches and guessing games by having open conversations with them about what you want and deciding on your Advance Health Care Directives.MeandGrandma

Coming up, we’ll discuss how to go about choosing a healthcare proxy.

 

 

 

Sources

  • http://www.elderattorneyoffice.com/cda.aspx?content_type_id=8169
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303

 

 

A New Prescription: Giving Thanks

Recently, we discussed current efforts to eliminate stigma against mental health, including the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act on mental healthcare in the United States. This week, we will see how gratitude, a deeply humanistic emotion, can improve your mental and physical health.

gratefulheartOn March 3, 2008, my father experienced a minor heart attack. My family rushed to the ICU and crowded around his bed. We feared that he would sustain lasting damage to his heart. Surprisingly, he was in great spirits, and thanked us for coming to visit him! As soon as he left the hospital, my dad started to perform daily ‘gratitude meditations,’ in which he reflected upon the things in his life for which he was grateful. This simple act helped to relieve him of the stress associated with recovery.

Physiological Effects of Gratitude
My father’s story illustrates that feeling grateful can influence not only our psychology, but also our physiology. In fact, just 2 minutes of intensive gratitude meditation can reduce heart rate and negate stress. Higher gratitude levels can also lead to:

  • Increased quality of life, even in patients with debilitating neuromuscular diseases
  • Improved immune function
  • Higher energy levels
  • Better quality and duration of sleep
  • Higher levels of happiness and optimism, which in turn have powerful effects on the chemical regulation of our brains. Happiness and optimism have been linked with a lower lifetime burden of disease and improved familial relationships.

Our emotions can pass on to our children
Increased gratitude levels may even carry over to our children. Recent research has focused on how epigenetic modification of DNA resulting from long term depression may be inherited. In essence, our emotions and grat checkexperiences, if strong enough, may be passed down to the next generation in the form of DNA modification. This offers a powerful explanation for why depression seems to run in some families, but happiness in others. Taken as a whole, these studies demonstrate the holistic effect of positive thinking on the human body and bring a new meaning to Descartes’ famous conclusion, “I think; therefore, I am.”

It is difficult to imagine how one can feel grateful in the face of adversity. However, as Dr. Robert Emmons, a positive psychology researcher at the UC Davis explains, “in the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” Though it may not be easy to feel grateful during trying circumstances, focusing on the positive aspects of one’s life can help us through the worst of situations. See our Weekly Gratitude Activities Checklist for ideas on how to bring gratitude into your lifestyle.

Expressing one’s gratitude has been enumerated by the world’s major religions for thousands of years. Not only does it improve interpersonal relationships and bring out the best in others, it also provides us with numerous health benefits. There is never a better time than now to start reaping the benefits of thanking those who are important in our lives.

So, in the spirit of gratitude, the staff at Aarris Homecare thanks you for choosing our services!

Works Cited
Dunavold, P. “Happiness, Hope, and Optimism.” CSU Northridge, 1997 (http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/students/happy.html)

Emmons, R. “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times.” Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, UC Berkeley, 2013 (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_help_you_through_hard_times)

Emmons, R & McCullough, ME. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, Vol. 84, No. 2, 377–389

Emmons, R & Stern, R. “Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention.” J. Clin. Psychol: In Session, 2013 Vol. 69, pg. 846–855

Braunstein, D. “Pass the Gratitude: Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving.” Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glenn-d-braunstein-md/gratitude-health_b_2131450.html)

Levinson, DF & Nichols, WE. “Major Depression and Genetics.” Stanford School of Medicine 2014 (http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html)

Nestler, EJ. “Epigenetic Inheritance: Fact or Fiction?” Fishberg Department of Neuroscience and Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2013

(https://www.dana.org/Publications/ReportOnProgress/Epigenetic_Inheritance_Fact_or_Fiction/)
Rimer, S & Drexler, M. “Happiness & Health.” Harvard School of Public Health, Winter 2011

(http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/happiness-stress-heart-disease/)

Scott, E. “Family Connection and Happiness—Fostering A Closer Relationship With Your Family.” Stress.about.com, 2007 (http://stress.about.com/od/familystress/qt/family.htm)

Heartmath Institute: http://www.heartmath.org/templates/ihm/e-newsletter/publication/2013/spring/appreciation-is-good-for-you.php
WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost

Mentally Ill Seniors—America’s Black Sheep

Depression affects over 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 and older, and yet only 10% of them are receiving treatment for the condition. This indicates a deep failure on the part of our healthcare system to recognize and treat mental health problems in older adults. While numerous problems contribute to this failure, underlying assumptions about elderly people cause social, self-, and institutionalized stigmas that complicate the ability of older people with mental illnesses to seek treatment for psychiatric diseases.
Let’s briefly discuss some of the different types of stigmas based around mental illness in the elderly:

Social Stigma
• Social stigma against mental illness in the elderly is closely related to ageism, or the idea that older people are not stigmaas able to contribute to society as younger people.
Oftentimes, depression and related mental illnesses are seen as normal aspects of the aging process. Events such as retirement, the death of loved ones, medical problems, and increased isolation can evince feelings of sadness and grief, but do not directly cause depression. With strong support from one’s family or therapist, these distressing events may be successfully overcome. However, dismissing depression as an unavoidable side effect of aging drastically reduces the chances obtaining treatment for depression and related mental illnesses and can exacerbate the severity of the illness.
The media commonly portrays elderly people with mental illnesses as childish, stubborn, and resistant to change. While this representation may stem from the self-stigma (discussed below), this portrayal only reinforces existing stereotypes of mental illnesses by imposing judgments on afflicted individuals rather than highlighting the need for change. In this sense, the media contributes to the problem.

Self-Stigma
cycle• Self-stigma occurs for a variety of reasons, including fear of financial repercussions, embarrassment, isolation, and/or distrust of mental health services. At worst, elderly patients fear being institutionalized in psychiatric wards or old-age homes and where they will be cut off from their families and friends.
• The baby boomers’ emphasis on self-reliance in the face of difficulty also contributes to self-stigma. As such, self-stigma is directly caused by and contributes to social stigma.

Institutional Stigma
• Assumptions about older people based on the above stigmas can lead to misguided policy that in effect punishes the mentally ill. For example, Medicaid does not cover services for those suffering from mental illnesses, which means that patients are often forced to find more expensive healthcare plans. To complicate the issue further, many states are cutting funding for mental health services in an effort to balance the budget even while 1 in 6 Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness.

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Each stigma is engendered by and reinforces the others.

Next week, we will discuss existing barriers to eliminating these stigmas and current efforts to bring awareness to the state of mental health services in America.

Sources

  • Depression in Older Adults & the Elderly—http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_elderly.htm
  • Goodell et al. “Health Policy Brief—Mental Health Parity.” Health Affairs, April 3, 2014. http://healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief_pdfs/healthpolicybrief_112.pdf
  • Mentally Healthy Aging: A Report on Overcoming Stigma for Older Americans. DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 05-3988. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2005.
  • Persky, T. “Overlooked and Underserved: Elders in Need of Mental Health Care.” http://www.mhaging.org/info/olus.html
  • Tomasky, M. “The Great GOP Mental Health Hypocrisy.” The Daily Beast, Politics, 9/20/2013. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/20/the-great-gop-mental-health-hypocrisy.html

Beating the Burnout

“I’m taking care of them all by myself.” “I don’t want to burden anyone else with this.” “I’m not getting any rest” “I need help, but who can I turn to?”

balance

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. About 30% of adults age provide some type of formal or informal care to a family member or friend.This means these caregivers are spending over 20 hours per week, on average, with the arduous task of giving care, while still juggling other responsibilities like children, job, spouse, and managing a household.

As a family caregiver, you may have found yourself faced with several unfamiliar or even intimidating tasks, along with feelings of being overwhelmed. These feelings that come with the role of being a caregiver can place you at high risk for depression, fatigue, anxiety, neglect of your own needs, and ultimately, caregiver burnout. This is the state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that comes from unrelieved stress.

elder_care_stress

Because it is so vital that both you and you elderly or ill loved one stay in the best possible health, here are 3 key points to help you manage and prevent caregiver burnout.

• Reach Out For Help
This is where we can help. At Aarris, we believe in providing your family with quality homecare to help you provide for your loved ones. Through handpicked and personalized caregivers based on expertise and your needs, we’ll be able to help you in the areas you need most; Care for them, peace of mind for you.

Computer-2 • Learn As Much as You Can about your loved one’s illness or condition(s) as well as their needs, especially on a day to day basis from both a family as well as a caregiver perspective. The more you know, the less anxiety you’ll feel about the new role in your loved one’s life and the more effective you can be when communicating with caregivers, other family members, and physicians.

• Take Care of Your Health
In order to provide the best care for your loved one, it’s important to give your best care to yourself and your own health. Try to get some physical activity for at least 20-30 minutes, two or three times per week. A balanced diet coupled with consistent and adequate sleep will help you, your loved one or patient, and caregiver work together to provide the best care and experience for your entire family.