Awareness during the month of May focuses on older adults and those that care for them. Professional care management is the process of planning and coordinating the care of the elderly and disabled to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence for as long as possible.


A care manager is an aging specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives. They are trained and experienced in, but not limited to nursing, gerontology, social work, or psychology, with a specialized focus on issues related to aging and elder care. In addition, the care manager is an experienced guide and resource for families of older adults and others with chronic needs, including helping those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsons, or dementia.

When you are considering whether you need the services of a care manager, you should evaluate whether you have the time, inclination, or skills to manage the challenges of geriatric care by yourself.

Consider these questions:  

  • Are the problems that you or your loved ones are facing becoming larger and more complex than you can comfortably manage?
  • Are other demands and responsibilities now so great that you are not able to provide the desired level of supervision and attention to your loved one’s problems?

To learn more, visit 
and find a care manager in your area.

Retirement and Being Single

As Americans live longer, the meaning of retirement continues to shift. The wave of aging Baby Boomers ensures more active retirements on the horizon. However, longer-term retirement planning has become more challenging than ever with the downturn of the economy.

Adding to this challenge of planning for a longer retirement are the large numbers of people who will retire single. Reports show that 43 percent1 of seniors over age 65 are single. This growing phenomenon occurs for a number of reasons – midlife divorce, outliving a spouse, or people who choose not to marry. Those in retirement alone face a greater financial burden.

Later Life woman (iStock_000007063690Small)

Despite these challenges, single retirees can address six keys areas to better prepare themselves for retirement.

Plan for retirement as early as possible.
The cost of living for singles is 40 to 50% higher than for married individuals. Single retirees do not have another source of income to act as a financial cushion. Having a financial plan can ensure singles are prepared for retirement.

Build and sustain wealth.
With retirements lasting between 10 to 30 years, financial pressure has increased. Establishing your own independent retirement savings, investing aggressively, and recognizing the impact of inflation can safeguard finances in later life.

Understand your income and expenses.
When income sources and expenses are out of balance in retirement, single retirees use their accumulated savings to meet spending needs. Using reserves can increase the risk of outliving one’s money. 

Consider changes in housing.
Preparing for normal aging changes may include downsizing and moving out of a familiar neighborhood. Housing is expensive, and having a roommate during retirement can be beneficial socially, emotionally, and physically.

Establish a social network for emotional (& physical) well-being.
The transition from working to not working can be tough. Feelings of identity loss and loneliness can be avoided by taking an active role in the community and staying socially connected.

Devise a comprehensive health strategy.
Without the extra resources and care a spouse can provide, single retirees have a greater need to plan for health care expenses. Finding the right insurance and granting medical power of attorney to a trusted friend or family member can protect singles if they should ever be unable to speak for themselves.

Whether single or a couple, pre- and post-retirees can benefit from having a plan for later life to avoid the financial pitfalls of retirement.

1 Data from 2011 U. S. Census Bureau Report

Knowing When to Make a Change

Change is a part of life. How do you know when to make changes? At some point, our own aging requires that we prepare for another stage of life. The normal physical decline of aging coupled with disease conditions require planning to ensure our choices. Decisions made during a crisis are often not the same decisions we would make if planning ahead.

Should I stay in my home or move to a senior residence?

That’s hard to say. If you have vision or mobility problems, your home could become very dangerous. Depending on where you live, getting to and from medical appointments and shopping could become difficult.

Safety is the primary concern. Certain modifications to the home can improve safety and allow you to age in place. If you live with a spouse and one or both of you remain healthy, you may be able to cover for each other. What if one of you is in poor health and has vision, hearing or mobility problems? Would moving to another location be easier for you in the long run?

What happens if the spouse acting as the caregiver becomes sick or dies? Will there be another family member or friend available to help? If the answer is “no,” moving now rather than later may be in your BEST interest.

When should I make these changes?

Each person’s situation is different. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with dementia and are in the early stages, it’s time to make these decisions NOW.

If you have aging diseases like macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, or severe osteoarthritis, progression of these diseases could prevent you from gaining entry to housing areas of your choice.

Senior independent living requires that you are able to pass certain functional tests. Remaining in an independent living situation is much less rigorous. Many of the same functional tests are required for assisted living and must be applied for to those with early and middle stage dementia.

When I decide to make a change, what are my options?

Whether staying at home or making another transition, care managers can coordinate a plan and make the transition smoother. 

1) Modify home environment to safely age in place.

2) Purchase services privately.

1) Garden home (one level)

2) Senior housing with support services
      a. Independent living (Apartments/Studios)
b. Assisted living

3) Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
a. Independent Housing (Apartment/Studio/Homes)
b. Assisted Living
c. Nursing Home

Happy Valentine’s Day


All of us at Marca Life Planning wish you a happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for your support and thoughtful readership of our Aging in Alabama blog!

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How Does Your Heart Age?

In a typical day, your heart beats 100,000 times. And in a lifetime, it beats more than 2.5 billion times. February is American Heart Month, a time to battle cardiovascular disease and educate ourselves on what we can do to live heart-healthy lives. Heart disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for men over age 45 and women over age 55 in the United States.

How Does Your Heart Age?
The cardiovascular system, including the heart and arteries, undergoes normal changes as we age. 

  • Your heart muscle becomes less efficient and must work harder to pump the same amount of blood through your body.
  • The ability to form new blood vessels declines in small arteries.
  • Blood vessels lose some of their elasticity and hardened fatty deposits may form on the inner walls, making your arteries stiffer.
  • Even the healthiest of hearts may lose up to 30% of cells (myocytes) as it ages. Evidence suggests that loss of a significant number of heart cells may contribute to the decline in cardiovascular health in older people.

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How Can I Improve Heart Health?
Leading an overall healthy lifestyle will help improve your heart health.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other physical activities.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Excessive sodium raises blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit. Your risk of heart disease will begin to fall almost immediately.
  • Don’t let stress get out of control. Develop an action plan to immediately start reducing your stress levels.
  • If you’re a caregiver, take time for yourself and your well-being. To give the best care, you must be in the best possible health yourself.

Being a Long-Distance Caregiver

Long-distance caregiving takes many forms. Many caregivers act as information coordinators by helping older adults understand the health care system and insurance. Approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers, caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away.

More and more older people are living alone far from their families. When you live many miles away from your loved one, the separation can complicate caregiving. Concerns about safety, nutrition, and health can be overwhelming.

Following these 5 simple tips can ease the burden and potential guilt of living away from your aging loved one.

  • Seek help from people in the community. Build a list of contacts such as the next door neighbor, the primary doctor, and local church.
  • Search for local resources to help you coordinate care. Geriatric care managers specialize in assessing and monitoring the needs of older adults.
  • Create a list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, along with dosing instructions. Keep it updated for emergency situations.
  • When you visit, check the home for possible hazards and safety concerns. Clearing out clutter that can cause a fall or adding grab bars to the bathroom can lower the risk of accidents.
  • Find out if your parent has an advance directive stating his or her health care treatment preferences. Elder-law attorneys help older clients with legal documents for healthcare, legal, and financial decisions.


Many older adults want to remain in their own homes and community. Few long-distance caregivers are able to spend as much time with their loved one as they would like. By using your time efficiently and asking for help, your aging loved one can remain independent for as long as possible.

What is Normal Aging?

Aging is a natural process. We all age differently, but similarities exist that can guide you toward a better aging experience. Knowing what changes to expect can enhance your aging experience, leading to a happier and healthier life.

What happens as we age?

Natural Effect of Aging

Potential Experience

Lens and retinal changes cause slower vision

Takes longer for the eye to focus; difficulty seeing objects in dim light and close up

Changes to the neurons
in the ear

Harder to distinguish between words that sound alike (Ex. “dead” may sound like “bed”; “park” may sound like “bark”)

Number of taste buds decline

Food tastes bland or bitter

Fewer nerve endings

Pain sensation declines

Vitamin D & Calcium absorption declines

Weakened bones

Body fat increases and redistributes
to other areas

Fat accumulates around the abdomen

Slight reduction in some mental functions

Forgetful, especially short term; slower learning and word recall

*The table above lists only a few changes that occur in the aging process.

Resolve to take action in 2012, educate yourself about proper diet and exercise, and make the most of your life!

Improving Health & Quality of Life

Too many Americans expect illness, disability, and dementia to accompany advancing age. Elderly people who base their view of old age on the experience of their parents may expect poor health and never try to improve their health once it begins to deteriorate.

Poor health and loss of independence are not inevitable consequences of aging. Taking ownership of your health along with social support is effective in improving quality of life as you age.

Healthy lifestyles. Research shows the cumulative effect of a healthy lifestyle (e.g. being physically active and not smoking) is more influential than genetic factors in helping older people avoid the deterioration traditionally associated with aging.

Early detection of illness and diseases. Screening to detect chronic diseases early, when they are most treatable, can save lives. However, many older adults have not had all of the recommended screenings. About 36,000 people aged 65 or older die each year of flu. Immunizations can reduce a person’s risk for hospitalization and death from these diseases.

Injury prevention. Falls are the most common cause of injuries to older adults. More than one-third of adults age 65 or older fall each year with 20 to 30% of the falls causing moderate to severe injuries. These injuries decrease mobility and can rob older adults of their independence.

Financial preparation. Later life planning is financial planning focused on the goals in later life such as finding significance after retirement and maintaining independence and personal choice to the end of life.

End of life issues. End of life issues are important because of the substantial burden and impact of dying persons on their family members and society.

Do I Need Long-Term Care?

With the Obama administration’s recent decision to halt the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, the issue of long-term care is more important than ever. CLASS provided basic long-term care insurance at an affordable cost.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 70 percent of individuals age 65 and older will require some type of long-term care services during their lifetimes. Women are more at risk than men, with 79 percent of women turning 65 and needing some long-term care.

Most people do not understand why long term care insurance is needed and only a small percentage has purchased coverage. They do not see long term care as something to plan for in advance. Either they deny that they will need long-term care or they believe, incorrectly, that Social Security, Medicare, or their existing health insurance will cover the costs.

Medical vs. Nonmedical LTC
Long-term care encompasses many levels of assistance and support. These include both medical and nonmedical care. Though long-term care may include advanced medical care, it often consists simply of hands-on assistance by others.

Medical long-term care might include medical support services for people with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, or Alzheimer's disease. Nonmedical long-term care is designed to assist people with daily tasks such as bathing, eating, dressing, and similar activities. Therefore, long-term care services can vary from helping a 50-year-old stroke victim relearn grooming skills to providing 24-hour skilled nursing care for a 90-year old suffering kidney failure.                                                                             Elderly Couple Holding Hands                               

In other words, long-term care
helps to meet both health and personal needs. Whenever a chronic condition, trauma, or illness limits an individual’s ability to carry out basic tasks of self care, long-term care is necessary.

Keeping Your Financial House in Order

With 35% of the nation’s wealth held by those over age 65, being aware of how your aging loved one manages his or her finances is important. Financial problems can result from financial abuse or money mistakes from the elder themselves.


The Face of Financial Abuse
Older Americans lose $2.9 billion a year from financial abuse. Half of elder financial abuse comes from cons and robbery by strangers. Sadly, 34% of the culprits are family, friends, and neighbors. The most common crimes are check forgery, stolen credit cards, and asset transfers without consent. Rounding out the perpetrators are the business sector (12%) and Medicare & Medicaid fraud (4%).

Women tend to be more vulnerable and are twice as likely to be victims. The common profile is older adults ages 80 to 89 who live alone and require health or home maintenance.

Just a Mistake?
While one-time oversights can be innocent, multiple mistakes with finances can be warning signs of a bigger problem. Difficulty with financial management can indicate mild cognitive impairment or the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Common problems include forgetting to pay bills, paying bills twice, difficulty with simple math, new interest in get-rich-quick schemes, and inability to understand concepts such as interest rates.

Ways to Protect Finances

  • Automatic bill pay and deposit of checks
  • Protection on bank accounts against transfers exceeding a certain amount without a co-signer
  • Overdraft protection
  • Durable power of attorney for finances and medical needs
  • Living trust to pay the person’s living expenses 

When addressing the issues, join with other family members for a united approach. Explain to your loved ones that you want the best for them and to keep their finances safe. Since older adults are not in a position to replace their lost money, have the conversation sooner rather than later. Your vigilance can protect your loved ones from the deceit of financial abuse and keep them focused on enjoying their later years.

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