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ElderCare Solutions of MI

When caring for an older adult, there can be many different areas where they need attention and support.  If your family is like most families, the most critical needs get addressed first.  But after that’s done, usually people forget to get back to those less urgent issues, which often include bill paying assistance.

Now I’m not talking about financial need, but rather help with the physical task of sitting down a few times a month to pay bills, keeping an accurate balance in a checkbook, and avoiding finance charges.   Sometimes an older adult’s cognitive functioning can really limit their ability to pay their bills on their own.  We often see people who pay the same bill twice, or mistake a solicitation for a bill.  After all, fundraisers are getting savvy…they put a return address envelope and tear-off pledge sheet right in the envelope so, in fact, it looks like a bill!  Often times an older adult may be paying for a service they don’t even use, such as high speed internet bundled in with their cable tv.

That’s the not so great news.  However, help is available.  If family members want to help by setting critical bills up for auto pay by the bank, that’s a good first step.  But for those who need a little more help, there are services that can step in and take over this responsibility.  The Fiscal Concierge is a company that puts an individual’s bills on a secure web page, viewable by family with an older adult’s permission.  They will check balances, contact the family if a bill is due and there are insufficient funds available thereby avoiding bank fees, and pay bills on time.  For those who prefer a more hands on approach, Daily Money Managers and retired accountants often offer in-home bill paying assistance.  They can set up files and stop in 2-3 times per month to go through the mail and help write checks.  Obviously, security is a number one priority when dealing with finances, so be sure to go with a personal recommendation from a trusted source.

Grabbing my checkbook,


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Living in a time where celebrating your 100th birthday is no longer uncommon, the cost of long term care is often on the minds of older adults, their families, and senior service professionals.  How will we pay for it, should the need arise?  Next week, the Elder Care Chat debuts, and may have an answer for you.

Hosted by Christopher J. Berry, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Veterans Accredited Attorney, the Elder Care Chat is a weekly call and webcast Mondays at 2:00pm, that addresses topics of interest to both those who need elder care services, such as caregivers, as well as those who provide them, such as home care providers, social workers, elder care communities and other senior service professionals.  Chris will  lead the calls each week and will also occasionally feature other experts who work with older adults and their families.  You can join him on the web at,  using the event ID 42786354, or dial (206) 402-0100, and enter ID 670087#.
This Monday, June 24th at 2:00PM,  Chris will give an overview of the 6 ways to pay for long term care, followed by a brief Q & A.  As he is fond of saying, “This is the cheapest time you’ll ever spend with an attorney”!
Putting it on my calendar,
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High summer temperatures and beautiful sunshine create an irresistible temptation to explore and enjoy what we have all waited so long for. However, it can also pose a significant increased risk for wandering, which is defined by the Alzheimer’s Association as “a behavior of people with dementia who move about in ways that may appear aimless, but which are often purposeful.” Up to 69 percent of those with dementia will wander.

            According to Lisa Gardener, Family Service Program Coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Association , Greater Michigan Chapter, while wandering can be dangerous and life threatening, wandering within safe conditions can actually be beneficial. Safe wandering can occur when precautions are taken and boundaries are set to ensure the safety of the individual with memory loss.  There are times when attempting to stop the wandering behavior creates more agitation or anxiety in the person with memory loss. It’s important to look at the benefits of safe wandering. Here are some benefits to safe wandering that are sometimes taken for granted:

  • Provides physical exercise
  • Promotes a sense of freedom and independence
  • Offers a social opportunity between the caregiver and person with memory loss
  • Promotes a sense of independence for the individual with dementia
  • Reduces boredom
  • Can be calming for a person with memory loss
  • May help assist in calming an individual with memory loss who is upset

 Here are some tips to aid an individual with memory loss with safe wandering:

  • Provide a safe environment for them to walk in (example- an enclosed courtyard or hallway)
  • Look into in home devices that can help alert the caregiver when the person with memory loss is trying to leave a safe environment
  • Offer to help them find what they are looking for
  • Offer to take them for a drive, or go be a companion for a walk,  if they insist on leaving the premises
  • Call another friend or family member to come over and assist if needed
  • Find a friend or family member to go visit during these times, which can help in redirecting the individual with memory loss
  • Once the individual with memory loss has been reassured, find a way to redirect their attention

Wandering becomes a problem when it puts the person with memory loss or other people in a life threatening situation, and it’s important to be prepared if the situation ever arises. The Alzheimer’s Association has a Medic Alert + Safe Return program which has a 98.9 percent success rate of finding a lost individual within the first 24 Hours. If you would like more information regarding the Medic Alert + Safe Return/ Comfort Zone program, call their 24 Hour Harry L. Nelson Helpline at 1-800-272-3900, or visit Alternatively, several personal emergency response systems have a GPS feature which can be helpful locating someone who is wandering.  Whichever option you choose, keeping your loved one safe is what matters.

Going for a walk,


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Now that spring has arrived and summer is around the corner, I often find myself refilling my water bottle several times throughout the day.  And unlike me, my clients usually don’t have a water blottle with them when we’re out and about.  As we get older we become less aware of thirst, so I thought this beautiful weather week would be a great time for a quick dehydration reminder.  Many times dehydration is caused by inadequate water intake, but that’s not the only cause.  Other culprits include medication side effects, sweating or diarrhea.  

If you’re not sure of the signs of dehydration, here is a list from The Mayo Clinic:

  • Dry, sticky mouth with thick saliva
  • Sleepiness, weakness or a general feeling of being unwell
  • Decreased urine output with a dark or deep yellow color
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Cramping in the limbs
  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Low blood pressure
  • Acute confusion

While water is the best option for hydration, here are other ways to increase fluids in the body:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Flavored gelatin
  • Watered down juices
  • Sparkling or flavored water
  • Soups
  • Ice pops
  • Limit salt intake
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Minimize the number of beverages with caffeine.

The goal is not to change your loved one’s behavior, but to be creative in finding ways to keep them hydrated.  As they say, timing is everything.  It is best to drink often instead of in large amounts.  After a trip outdoors, during meals and with snacks are all good times to offer a beverage.  While most older adults may not think to  ask for a drink, if you offer them one while getting one for yourself they’ll most likely agree, and remember, every sip counts! 

Don’t forget, if you have questions, concerns or suspect dehydration be sure to check with their doctor.

Refilling already,


Contributing author Christie Schoenwald

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I do not sell long term care insurance.  In fact, I do not sell insurance of any kind.  I am a social worker.  However, during my work with older adults and their families I often need to advocate for clients who are fortunate enough to have long term care insurance policies, and have written several blogs on the topic. Recent inquiries made me realize that it is time to revisit the topic!

I am always amazed at how proactive some people were in order to have bought policies many years ago when the idea was not so popular.  But the reality is that many of us will need help either to remain in our own homes as we age, or to receive care in a senior community, and the costs can add up very quickly.  Similar to when choosing any other type of insurance,  it is important to understand exactly what you are getting because policies vary tremendously in terms of how much they reimburse, the method of payment, qualifying waiting periods etc.   But there is one critical factor to consider whose importance is often underestimated…the insurance company itself.

Some insurance companies are very easy to work with.  Their claims processes can be initiated with just a telephone call and a nurse will come out to assess the need.  Others have a claims processes that are so paperwork intensive, require multiple follow up calls, and can be so frustrating to work with that you may end up feeling as if their processes are designed more to deny people’s claims rather than approve them.  And some insurance companies that sold policies many years ago, found themselves unable to keep up with the financial demands.

So when you’re comparing policies, being sure that you’re comparing apples to apples, remember to do your due diligence with regards to the companies you are considering.  Ask your insurance agent which companies are easier to work with when it is time to file a claim (as long as he/she doesn’t represent only one company).  Ask your doctor’s office if they’ve ever had contact with any companies and what their impressions were.  A home health care company is often on the front lines and may be able to tell you which companies are easier to work with.  Believe me; you’ll be glad you asked around!

Calling my agent,


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The holidays are a much anticipated time of year for most of us.  Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, chances are you’ll be seeing family this time of year.  However, for some the holidays bring unexpected surprises if they live out of town and haven’t seen the older adults in their life for some time.

An older adult’s level of functioning can change significantly over the course of a few months, even more so if it’s been longer since you were last together.  Here are some potential red flags that might indicate more support is needed:

  • Stacks of unopened mail
  • A fridge full of old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt
  • Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  • An older adult seems to:
    • have more difficulty walking
    • have precarious balance
    • have less energy
    • tire easily
    • be confused or forgetful

It can feel overwhelming when you first realize that all is not well, but there’s no need to handle it on your own.  Their physician might be a resource, and a Geriatric Care Manager can help you identify and put in place local resources that will make it easier for you to board that plane for your return flight.

Happy Holidays,

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There are so many conversations we’d rather avoid than have…conversations about finances or about someone’s inability to drive to name just a few.  But by far the most universally avoided topic has got to be end of life wishes.  On the surface this seems like such a silly problem.  I mean, most of us do truly know that someday we will die.  But do our children know our wishes?  Do they know the specific interventions we do and don’t want?  Have we given anyone the legal power to make medical decisions for us if we are unable to do so ourselves?

Clearly not, because statistics show that 70% of people wish to live out their lives and die at home, yet 70% of all deaths occur in hospitals.  The good news, however, is that there are tools available to help us navigate this potentially difficult topic.  There is a website, that has a free downloadable starter kit to help you start thinking about what is important to you regarding end of life care.  Unpleasant topic? Perhaps, but at least it’s free!

Downloading as we speak,


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As Geriatric Care Managers we often talk about helping improve quality of life for our clients, many of whom have dementia.  And often times this involves providing companionship and offering choices.  But yesterday, while attending a networking meeting for professionals who work with seniors, I heard about a program that is a tangible quality of life enhancement and I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!

The Detroit Institute of Arts, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, is offering a free 6 week program called Minds on Art for people living with Alzheimer’s and their companions.  The program will offer the opportunity to engage socially, cognitively and artistically, and will be held at the DIA.  The format includes a one hour gallery tour and discussion followed by a short break, and then time in the art studio.  The program will be led by DIA staff and volunteers, and a member of the Alzheimer’s Association staff will be there as well.  This program struck a powerful chord for me because I have worked with several clients living with dementia, for whom artistic expression remains a source of joy, long after the onset of dementia.

The sessions will be offered on Mondays for people in the mid-stage of dementia and their companions, and on Tuesdays for those in the early stages.  The 6 week courses begin in April and run through the end of the year, however space will be limited as these are very small group activities.  To register or for more information please contact Jean Barnas at (800)272-3900 or

Calling my clients with the news,


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There are a few givens in life…we are all born and eventually we all must die. How we plan for the events in the middle depends not only on financial resources but also on who we know.

Creating strong and meaningful relationships is critical to finding the best resources and information. We rely on our friends and family for referrals and places to eat and shop all the time. Why not reach out to them when we are in need? In my professional and personal life, I am constantly  building and maintaining relationships with my peers. Knowing who to call not only saves time and money but it is priceless in a stressful situation. So the mantra – “It is not what you know but who you know” is very accurate!

Keep this in mind as you go about your daily business. ElderCare Solutions is your go-to for all of your needs dealing with issues with aging. 

Time for me to return some calls… Is your phone ringing?

Becky Eizen, Geriatric Care Manager

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It was another week full of great seminars…I felt so fortunate to be sitting in the audience, listening as two different attorneys spoke about changes to the laws that effect estate planning, and I can assure you I made a few notes for my own information!  But what made the strongest impression on me was the discussion about Veteran’s Benefits.

Many of us know someone who is a veteran.  But many of them are unaware of the different types of VA benefits they may be eligible for.  Depending on need, veterans can receive medical care and medications through the VA, but less well known is the Aid and Attendance benefit, which provides monthly income to help offset the high cost of care for aging vets.  There are eligibility criteria to meet, however many people who may be eligible are declined because they don’t know the ins and outs of the process.  It is very specialized area of expertise.

So if someone you know defended our country and now needs care, urge them to contact an attorney who specializes in veterans benefits.

Spreading the word,


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March 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th 2012

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When to Call

  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
  • Are local family members overwhelmed and need help?
  • Is an older adult about to be discharged from the hospital or rehabilitation center?
  • Do family members have differences of opinion regarding a senior's care?
  • Is a senior living in an environment that needs aging-in-place modifications?

If the answer to any of these is "yes," ElderCare Solutions of Michigan can help. Call us today.

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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.