Visitation Rights for Grandparents

Many believe that grandparent should have legal right under most circumstances to visit their grandchildren. Unfortunately, some states are denying visitation rights and only make exceptions on occasions such as the death, divorce or permanent separation of the grandparent’s child. On the opposite side, some states allow anyone in the child’s ‘best interest’ to have the capabilities of obtaining legal visitation rights.

The difference that determines visitation rights is very simple, but their variation from state to state and the procedure of obtaining them can be often complex.

Some states that support more restricted visitation rights support the parent’s decision to choose what is in the best interest of the child, whereas others with more widely accessible visitation rights enable what is just in the best interest of the child. The difference is, the state has the ability to grant people visitation rights that are different than what the parent thinks is best.

For a complete list of the visitation rights by state, click here to download the PDF from the National Bar Association.

Remember that this information can change and just because a state ‘generally’ allows grandparents visitation rights, does not mean that they can and do every time. There are situations in which grandparents that would normally be granted visitation rights are denied. If you think that this may apply to you, we advise you to seek with an elder law professional in your community.

Helping Elderly Parents to Listen to Their Doctor

Time and again, you might be the person that has heard their doctor either say, “Congratulations, you are a healthy human being” or you may be the less fortunate to hear something like, “the tests show that your health has been declining, did you start eating unhealthy foods again?”

After twelve years of education, we can expect that our doctors are correct and should listen to them. However, we cannot always get our elderly parents to admire their professionalism and experience, to the point of doing what they recommend. For whatever reason, some elders just do not want to listen to their doctors.

If your elderly relative appears to be neglecting the doctor’s recommendations, it is important to first understand the reason for it. A good question to ask may be either, “I noticed that you are not doing what the doctor recommended, why is that?” or “is there a reason why you are not [insert doctors recommendations here]?”

Once you have discovered the reason why they are not following the recommendations, use this to explain to them why listening to the doctor can benefit them. Or, that listening to their doctor is important to you and that it hurts you to see them in pain, when they can help to reduce it by listening to a medical professional.

Also consider telling them that other elders are listening to their doctors, while this sounds like your child’s typical excuse to leverage more TV time, it is also called the bandwagon technique and can be effective in some situations.

Remember, every elder and every situation is unique. However, people under normal circumstances should always listen to and carefully follow their doctor’s instructions to live a healthy and productive lifestyle, especially the elderly.

The Elder Helpers Code of Ethics

1. Responsibility must be practiced by always making the best decision to benefit society. We strive to create the best relationships with volunteers and elders, believing that it is our duty to ensure the continuation of our program through your satisfaction.

2. Compassion is at the heart of our operations because we want to make the world a better place and improve the lives of elders across the world.

3. Trust in every aspect of our operations with the public and with respect to international laws and regulations. We not only expect to meet our legal obligations as a non-profit varying across countries, but we have a very high standard for ethics upheld by trust in our daily operations.

4. Generosity of all supporters and staff of our organization which allows us to consistently pursue our mission of connecting elders with volunteers desiring to help them. Without the donations from our respected supporters, our program would not be capable of its consistent growth and expansion.

5. Honor the different cultures, beliefs and practices varying from region to region across the world. Operating on a multi-national scale encourages us to be accepting of all beliefs and backgrounds to provide care for anyone who needs it regardless of their lifestyle.

6. Promise to our supporters that with their help, we will continue to provide assistance to those in need. This means that while you or a loved one is planning for retirement, having access to free care and companionship is one less factor that you need to worry about. Continued support of our mission will ensure the same thing for our volunteers’ future and generations to come.

7. Excellence is put forth in all of our strategies to improve the program for elders and voluntee­­rs. Our volunteers may donate their time to our program, but we encourage a high degree of quality in their work because it helps you to have a more enriching experience and we can achieve our mission.

8. Respect of all citizens, especially volunteers, supporters and the elderly affiliated with our organization is vital. We passionately believe that treating everyone with a high degree of respect is fundamental to our operations.

Exercises for seniors: Moving into a Better Tomorrow

Many people know that exercising can improve the health of an elder, which may be important to reducing the stress from their changing physical condition or increased dependence. Simple movement can also help home bound seniors to get the necessary exercise that they need, without having to leave the home. As a safety precaution, we always recommend that the elders ask their doctor if any exercise is right for them before they begin, but here are some fundamental ways to help the elderly to stay fit and active.

Stretching: Simple yoga can be done to help with stretching, but as daily activities decrease, yoga could become more important and may be the only physical activity that is reasonable for some elders. For stretching exercises, visit this link.

Strength: As we get older and decrease our activity, our muscles may tend to also decrease in mass and we may become weaker. Muscle mass is important to achieving stability, so that we can prevent falls from occurring and be capable of more exercises or public activities. You can view some strength training exercises in a video, by visiting this link.

Balance: This brings it all together and may be among the most important to helping the elder achieve more mobility and keeping them safer at home. A simple fall can result in serious injury that might have been caused because of reduced balance. Some elderly diseases such as osteoporosis, reduces the elders balance and increases the necessity of balance exercises. For videos on improving the elderly’s balance, visit this link.

Veterans Benefits: A Simplified Overview

Obtaining veterans assistance can be a challenging task, let alone sifting through the different websites and complicated government lingo to understand what benefits are available to veterans. This post is dedicated to helping people understand and obtain veterans benefits easier.

To apply for any of these benefits, click the title to file the claim form: 

Life Insurance

There are six life insurance options, each with different qualifications and benefits that the veteran may be able to receive. Life insurance benefits will be presented in a future post.

Home Loan & Home Improvements

Veterans with qualifying service are eligible for home loan services, including guaranteed loans for the purchase or building of a home and certain types of condominiums. Some disabled veterans receive grants to have their homes adapted to their needs.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

Helps veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find and keep suitable employment such as job search, career exploration, and education/job training.

These benefits can also improve the ability of living as independently as possible for serious service-connected disabilities including rehabilitation services.  To qualify, veterans usually must file within 12 years of service.

Education 

There are a variety of education and training programs up to 36 months, provided to veterans with varying qualification requirements and benefits. Specific programs will be presented in another blog post.

Disability Compensation

The VA pays monthly compensation to veterans for disabilities incurred or aggravated during military service. The veteran is entitled to these benefits from the date of separation, but the claim of disabilities incurred while on military service must be filed within one year or separation from service. You can follow the link above to see all of the disability benefits available, they are all organized by the specific disability title.

Disability Pension

This is an income-based benefit paid to veterans with honorable wartime service who are permanently and totally disabled for any reason or are age 65 or older.

Medical

A wide range of health care services is available to veterans with medical problems directly resulting from a war. Generally, veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system to receive care.

Dental

Within 180 days of separation, veterans may receive one-time dental treatment if they were not provided treatment within 90 days of separation from active duty. This time limit does not apply to veterans with dental conditions resulting from service-connected injuries.

More Information

We are confident that these simplified benefits have effectively provided you with a simplified understanding of what some veterans may be entitled to. It is important that the veteran files any claims as soon as possible after he or she has finished the service, as some benefits can expire if claims are not filed within the break from active service.  If you have any questions about veteran’s assistance, you may contact help@elderhelpers.org.

Top Board Games for seniors

What comes to mind when you think of board games? For many of us, it is fun and non-electronic games that we remember playing in our youth at school. Today, many board games exist that can be fun for people of all ages. We will share what we believe to be the best games for elders:

Scrabble: We are sure that you have heard of this classic game, scrabble consists of a series of small letters in the form of squares that the players can arrange to make words, in order to score points. It is fun to play on a rainy day with a good friend, or when volunteering for seniors or sharing time with a caregiver. 

Pictionary: The best thing about this game is the worse of an artist that you are, the more challenging that it can be. The friends for seniors can play without purchasing the game, by simply selecting random and well known words from the dictionary and drawing them within one minute to see if the other player can guess the object.

Charades: Because this game often goes off the table and can require extra space, some question its ‘authenticity’ as a board game. However, it is still a fun word-based game that operates like Pictionary, except you act the words instead of drawing.  Seniors should consult a medical professional before engaging in any physical activities.

Checkers: For some, checkers is a fun guessing game where the outcome is solely based on chance. For other more competitive and strategic players, it can be a game of strategy and skill. This game is enjoyable to people of all skill levels and is a timeless classic.

Backgammon: You can rest assured that the seniors knows about this classic board game as many people believe that it was invented over 5,000 years ago. The objective is very simple, move your pieces across the board determined by the roll of dice. The person that removes all of their pieces first wins.

Chess: This often seems like a profound strategy game that few people are good at , I have heard some of the most educated people that I know doubt their chess skills. That is because to be very good at the game, it requires memory and learning different ‘strategies’ like the Italian Game, the French or Sicilian Defense. It is not necessary to learn these, in fact, some find improvising the entire game more enjoyable to share with a good friend.

Card Games: How many card games do you know? There is almost never a good excuse to not learning another one. By learning new things, you can help preserve the elder’s memory and help them and yourself to feel a since of accomplishment by working together to learn something new. Learn about many different card games, by visiting this link.

Many of these board games for the elderly can be enjoyed both by seniors in need of assistance and their volunteer caregivers. They have been specifically chosen because they may help to improve memory in older adults by having to learn new things and think logically, or keeping home-bound seniors fit with Charades when providing home-care and companionship for the elderly.

Depression & The Elderly

Depression in seniors in not uncommon, but that does not mean that it lacks seriousness or should be taken lightly. By definition, depression is a prolonged state of sadness that is different from grieving and can last a very long time. In this post, we will help you to understand if you or an elder you know has depression. It can sometimes be difficult to determine this, as many aging diseases or other aging traits can be perceived as symptoms of depression. The good news is that you can take steps to help reduce the stressors in the senior’s life or get them professional assistance to help them feel better.

Common symptoms of depression

Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Restlessness/IrritabilityInsomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

Overeating or appetite loss

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

What you can do to help

If the elder that you care for experiences these symptoms, it may alert you that they could have depression. You may instinctively want to help them or change it, but the best things that you can do for is being a faithful friend or seeking professional help. Sometimes people like to talk about their feelings, but in most cases, discussing it only makes it worse and can cause anger towards your attempts to help. If you know the person well enough that they like to openly express their feelings, you can subtly ask them if there is anything that they would like to talk about or that has been bothering them. To not be persistent or aggressive, if they want to talk they will when they are ready.

Depending on the severity, attempting to get an able-bodied homebound senior outdoors and interacting with other people may help. Doing light exercises like water aerobics can also do a great deal of good, provided that the senior is willing and their doctor enables the activity. If the depression is more serous and the senior denies the opportunity to do any activities because he or she no longer finds them enjoyable or ‘worthwhile’, you should contact a medical professional. Their extensive experience in having elderly patients with depression gives them expertise and the elder’s doctor may know private information about their health that could be linked to the depression.

Depression is not an easy thing watch a loved one experience. With a watchful eye and caring heart, it can be spotted early and its chances of getting worse can decrease. Just be careful not to assume too quickly or ask too many personal questions, as some of the symptoms can be the result of an aging disease and not depression. You should never, under any circumstances recommend or give the senior any medication that is not prescribed by their doctor. Medication is very complex and when it is taken in combination with others or not under professional circumstances, the consequences can be very negative physically for the senior and legally for the person that recommends the medication.

Caregiver’s Guilt: Recognition and Acceptance

Every task in our lives with value carries with it some inherent challenges and problems. As students, we had the dreaded homework. If we chose to participate in sports, we had to practice, even when we did not wish to. As parents, we had those days when we really wished we had decided not to have children. If we did not do our homework, skipped practice, or took a break away from our children, we felt guilty. Guilt seemed to move on with us as the situation changed. 

Taking care of an elderly person, whether they are a parent, a friend, or someone for whom we have assumed responsibility is a valuable life experience. And, just as with any other experience with value, there are challenges and difficulties. Our responses to the daily activities we engage in as we provide for elder care needs can breed that old, familiar feeling of guilt. It helps if we recognize the reasons for elder guilt and accept them as normal.

Everyone has difficult days, and this is especially true for the elderly, who have aches and pains, may be lonely, or suffer from memory loss or confusion. Dealing with changing needs and moods can be difficult and, no matter how hard we try to stay positive, resentment can creep in and then we feel guilt. Such feelings are normal. Here are three ways you can deal with elder guilt:

  1. Be honest about your feelings. If you admit to them, that is the first step in moving on. It may help to discuss your feelings honestly with someone else involved in elder care.
  2. Take a break. Just as with child-rearing, sport practice, and homework, some time away from what is causing the stress and resultant guilt can help allay those feelings. You may only be able to step into the kitchen to retrieve a cool drink of water, but when you get there, take a deep breath and relax, then return.
  3. Learn to deal realistically with expectations – yours and the person for whom you are caring. You cannot meet every need and requirement for care, no matter how hard you try. Be happy with doing your best. Also, realize that some desires expressed by the elder in your care simply cannot be met. If they wish to eat something prohibited by their doctor that is a need you cannot meet. Be content to do what you can to keep the person in your care as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Elder care is a valuable life experience. However, there are days when everything feels overwhelming and we may not be proud of our response. When elder guilt sets in, admitting honestly to the feeling, taking a break, and realistically dealing with daily challenges and problems, can help those moments pass and make our elder care experience even more rewarding.

Communicating Effectively with Seniors

Many elderly or disabled people struggle with hearing, reading, writing and general communication skills. We cannot verbally or non-verbally communicate with them the same way we do with our peers. It is important to understand that as people grow older, they often become more difficult to understand and changes in their environment may influence their communication.

Do not communicate quickly with the elderly or disabled when communicating, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly and directly to them. We may sometimes get in the habit of multitasking while speaking with our peers, resulting in a weaker message or conveying the message that we are not interested in what they have to say. Our peers understand and are accustomed to this communication method, however, elders not so much. They don’t live in as fast a pace world as the younger generations.

Elders may demand extra attention in conversations to not convey that you respect what they have to say, but also to ensure that they receive your message clearly. Another important factor is to communicate as simply as possible using small words, short sentences and visual aids. Many elderly or disabled people have short-term memory loss, which means that they may struggle to remember recent events or conversations that you may have had with them.

If an elder makes a statement that you do not agree with, do not argue with them or attempt to instill your logic. While you may be able to have casual arguments with your younger friends and family, elderly adults can also be very close to their beliefs and you should not get them overly exited. It may be fine to have relaxed discussions about events, but disputing personal beliefs and values is rarely accepted in any social context.

To help elders recall what you are communicating to them, you should re-state key ideas of the topic frequently. Some believe that repeating key points three times helps people to remember the points later on. Many authors use this same technique by stating the key points in the introduction and conclusion.

Professional authors are presenting the important features of the overall message that they want their readers to recall. This may not always be important when communicating with the elderly and some may find it offensive. It is a helpful technique if you notice that the elder has difficulty remembering the key points of your conversations.Elder_Communication

Listening to elders can also play an essential role in the communication process; communication is a give-and-take relationship. Sometimes, we may be focusing on our own thoughts and responses and do not pay enough attention to the other person’s message. By taking the time to listen and asking the elder questions, you may find that all other aspects of communication improve as well. The elderly are not the only ones who want to be listened to and heard, although it is especially important that they are. In today’s conversations with our peers, some have come to expect that the person is not fully engaged in our conversation.

Making sure that you receive the sender’s message is essential to have an appropriate response, sometimes we may be thinking about our response while the other person is still talking. By listening intently, we can often understand communication on a greater level, respect the sender and learn more about them.

You may find that this technique of communication will carry over into all aspects of your life. If you have ever watched an interview on television,you can observe how intently the interviewer appears to be listening to the interviewee. Expert communicators have developed great listening skills, because they understand how important listening is when speaking with someone.

It is important to allow extra time for the elder to ask questions when you are communicating and express their reaction to what has been said. Elders have a tendency to struggle when conveying their thoughts and feelings; sometimes there is a time lapse that is longer than younger adults.

Although waiting for a response can be trying at times, it should not prevent you from asking questions. Keeping elders engaged in the conversation helps you to understand them better, strengthens your relationship and gives them confidence. By taking measures to improve message quality and using the basic principles of communication, you can enrich all conversations with the elderly.

The positive aspects of good communication are present in all social environments and mastering them will help you to convey your messages more effectively. By using some of the same techniques to communicate as the professionals do, you can enhance the elder’s chances or receiving your message and improve the relationship.

Key Points

1. Be patient when communicating.

2. Keep messages short, simple and to the point.

3. Focus on listening and interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication.

4. Use non-verbal gestures to complement your verbal message.

5. Summarize and repeat key points if necessary.

6. Never dispute beliefs or argue with the elderly.

Elder Law Information: Disability Planning

This is the first post on disability planning, is first in a series on free elder law advice designed to provide you with legal counsel for the elderly. Disability planning can be a complex process and add anxiety to your life. Our organization strives to reduce the worry and enhance the lives of elders and relatives. We will be presenting simple information on what social security is, if the elder is eligible and how he or she can obtain it.

Social security exists in the United States, serving as a ‘safety net’ for the elderly, disabled and blind. The amount of money that one can receive typically increases each year and depends on if the person is single or married. As of January 2012, an individual would receive $698 in social security per month and a couple would receive $1,048 per month. Some states supplement the social security amount with additional payments; click this linkto see if this applies to that state that the elder resides in.Social security does not depend on how long or if a person has worked, so long as they meet the criteria:

  1. Be 65 or older, blind or disabled.
  2. Be a long term resident of the United States or a United States citizen.
  3. Have a monthly income below the limit determined by the elder’s state of residence.
  4. Have less than $2,000 in assets of currency, stocks and bonds.

If you meet the qualifications for social security assistance and would like to apply, you may do so by visiting your local social security administration office. Click this link to locate a branch near your zip cod