Each year 36 million older adults fall, and falls are the leading cause of injury and fatal injuries in adults 65 or older. Several factors put you at increased risk for falling as you age, but one often overlooked aspect is hazards in your home. At Assured Allies, we are passionate about helping people age with dignity, choice, and independence in the place they call home. Thus, it is important that you know what to look for and how to make your home the safest place it can be. This blog series will take you step by step through different areas of your home and highlight ways you can make your home a safer place for you to age independently. 

The first spotlight in this series is the entrance to your home. Access to your home is one of the most critical areas to consider when looking at ways to make or keep your home safer. Areas to consider: 

  • Path to Main Entrance 

The path to the entrance of your home should be clear of cracks, loose bricks, debris, and/or landscaping, and it should be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate assistive mobility devices such as wheelchairs and walkers. 

  • Threshold:

It’s best to have at least one no-step entrance into your home. Your threshold should be a maximum of a half-inch high. Where possible, install no-step thresholds or threshold ramps.

  • Stairs

If you do need to navigate stairs to enter your home, install sturdy handrails on both sides. Ensure the depth of the stairs is deep enough to fit your whole foot and the stairway’s width is wide enough for assistive mobility devices. 

  • Ramp/Lift

If stairs become too difficult to manage, you might want to consider having a ramp or lift installed. Be sure to work with a professional and check with your town/city to ensure you don’t need any building permits. 

  • Doorway

The width of your doorway to your home should measure at least 32 inches wide. However, doorways that measure 36 inches are the most ideal. Hire a professional to widen your doorways or to install swing clear hinges to make your doorway wider.

  • Lighting

Make sure you have good lighting throughout the pathway to your entrance and at your entrance door. Motion sensor lights can be beneficial to ensure that lights are always on when you need them.

  • Surface

Slick surfaces increase your risk of falling. Install tread, anti-slip paint, or grip tape to stairs and entryway pathways to make these surfaces safer. If you live in an area prone to ice and snow, be sure to have your pathways cleared and use salt to help de-ice your entrance and pathways.

  • Other Things to Consider

Ensure that door hardware such as locks, handles, and peepholes are easy for you to use and placed in accessible places. Have a covered landing at your doorway to provide a surface that is flat and protected from the elements, and add a stool or table on the covered landing to give you an area to place items.

We always recommend you work with qualified professionals when making any modifications or changes to your home. Ensure that all work done to your home is done by an experienced and licensed contractor. Additionally, occupational therapists (OTs) can help evaluate your home and identify modifications and changes specific to your needs. When possible we recommend working with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) professional. These individuals are usually contractors, OT’s or other professionals who are specifically trained to assess homes and make recommendations/modifications for aging in place.  

Stay safe and stay healthy.


If you want more information about COVID-19 testing you can visit the FDA’s webpage on COVID-19 testing basics.

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Katelynn Dornbusch, OTD, OTR/L
Katelynn is a registered occupational therapist. She graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis with her doctorate in occupational therapy in 2018. As an Ally with Assured Allies, she is working directly with members to help them remain independent and meet their goals as they age.

As the year 2020 comes to a close, most of you may be feeling relieved but perhaps also a little stressed. Holiday times ⏤ even during a typical year (which 2020 certainly was anything but!) can feel overwhelming and exhausting. For some, it may bring about feelings of loneliness and sadness. You are not alone. 

Especially in a year where we had to deal with a pandemic, you deserve a break! Here are some simple nutrition and health tips that may help everyone have a holiday season that’s not only less stressful, but enjoyable and memorable. 

Tip #1: Get enough vitamin D from sunshine and mushrooms for a strong immune system

Vitamin D works with calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals in your body to keep your bones strong but also supports a well functioning immune system. During this winter season ⏤ particularly when we are dealing with COVID-19, having a strong immune system is vital.  

So why mushrooms? A recent study has found that zapping mushrooms, from the humble white button mushrooms to other wild or ‘newer’ varieties like maitake or shiitake with a little UV light increases their vitamin D content. You can find these mushrooms with labels that indicate that it’s been treated with UV light but if you don’t see them around, exposing mushrooms (even store bought ones) in sunshine increases their vitamin D level. About 15 minutes in the sun, preferably with the gills up will do the trick. While you’re at it – get some sunshine on your skin too. Sunshine is the best way to boost your vitamin D level. However, since it’s winter, you can also get more of this important vitamin through mushrooms or other foods like fortified plant-based milk, fatty fish, and fortified cereals. Supplements are also ok and may be necessary, but ask your doctor or dietitian to check your current vitamin D level to determine the right amount you should take.  

Tip #2: Add some spice to your meals to release those “feel-good” chemicals 

Spicy foods release endorphins – the chemical produced naturally by our nervous system. It helps us to cope with pain or stress and hence, it’s often called the “feel-good” chemical. Studies show that when capsaicin, found in hot peppers, binds to pain receptors on our nerves, the brain releases endorphins. Capsaicin is associated with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well. Those who eat chili peppers may have a 26% less risk of death from heart disease and are 23% less likely to die of cancer compared to those who do not eat the hot stuff. So add some kick to your recipes to cook up some heart-healthy dishes that will boost your mood and protect you and your loved ones health.   

Tip #4: Drink and be merry with…water and tea! 

Sure a little red wine may help with your mood and health (especially when you enjoy a glass with your loved ones) but today, we’re referring to drinking enough fluid, like water. During the winter season, you may tend to drink less water because you may not feel hot, sweaty, or thirsty. But no matter the season, your body needs hydration to function at its best. Water helps lubricate our joints, keep our blood clean, carry nutrients to the cells, and help regulate our body temperature. 

If you have trouble drinking enough water during the colder seasons, try some warm water with lemon slices. Hot beverages like tea – from ginger, rooibos, mint, green, black, and other delicious herbal types work well too. Just try not to add sugar and limit the amount of coffee, alcohol, and other sugar sweetened beverages or fruit juice so that you can feel your best (and leave a little room for a few scrumptious holiday desserts!). 

Tip #5: Keep moving to keep the joy flowing 

When it’s cold and perhaps even snowy out, it feels more challenging to get out and about. But movement is key to our health and happiness. In addition, engaging in playful or physical activities can help improve our mindset, lower stress, and increase social bonds, which can all add up to a more fulfilling and enjoyable holiday season. 

Find what works for you. Make it enjoyable but keep it simple ⏤ do you have any neighbors that might want to take a walk around the block with you? If you don’t have a dog, why not volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog that may need some exercise? If you’re gathering as a family (of course, in a socially-distanced manner) why not play some outdoor games on the patio like bean bag toss, horseshoes, ring toss…to name a few. Or just moving around the house such as cleaning, going up and down the stairs, using some hand weights or stretch bands, taking a movement break during TV commercials … it all adds up. 


Holiday season is time for unwinding, relaxing, recharging, and yes, indulging a little. With a few health tricks up your sleeve like the ones we shared with you here today, we hope that your winter and holiday season will be filled with joy, health, and connection. May your 2020 end on a happy and enjoyable note! 

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Sahra Pak, MS, RD, CPT, DipACLM
Sahra is a registered dietitian with a focus on plant-based nutrition, lifestyle medicine, public health, and mindfulness. Her personal mission is to work toward increasing equity, wellness, and happiness for all, by contributing to work that promotes the health of both people and the planet.

Over the past month, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States have hit a record high. To stay safe during this time it is essential to know the symptoms of COVID-19, follow CDC recommendations, and to get tested if you are symptomatic or exposed to the virus. However, with all the advances in science and various types of testing it can get confusing to understand the rapidly evolving information about COVID-19 testing.  We hope this article will help you better understand COVID-19 testing. 

Antibody tests 

When it comes to COVID-19 testing, two main categories of tests exist: antibody tests and diagnostic tests. Antibody tests can determine if you have developed antibodies which means you may have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in the past. However, antibody tests cannot tell you if you have an active case of COVID-19. Your doctor can help decide if an antibody test is right for you. An antibody test might be recommended if you had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past and you were not able to get tested, or if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and other types of tests are coming back negative. If you want more information about antibody tests you can read this article on antibody testing from John Hopkins Medicine. 

Diagnostic tests 

Healthcare professionals most often use diagnostic tests to diagnose people with an active case of COVID-19. Fortunately, these tests can now be administered in a number of ways. While many tests are administered by healthcare professionals at a clinic or testing site, some diagnostic tests can now be done at home. Samples are most often taken from a patient’s nose or throat area, but some tests can now use samples of saliva. Results from diagnostic tests can be delivered in minutes (rapid point of care tests), or may take days or even weeks depending on how fast they can be processed in a lab. Rapid point of care tests, often simply referred to as `rapid tests”, have the capability of analyzing patient samples in a clinic or at a doctor’s office. For this reason, results from rapid tests may be available for patients within minutes. Other diagnostic tests that are not rapid tests, send samples to a lab where they are analyzed. Analyzing results in a lab requires increased time and results may not be available for days or weeks. 

One important thing to know, is that diagnostic tests are considered either molecular tests or antigen tests. Antigen tests, sometimes called rapid antigen tests, tend to deliver results more quickly, but are more likely to miss an active case of COVID-19. For this reason, if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and receive a negative antigen test your doctor might recommend that you also get a molecular test to ensure that you do not have an active case of COVID-19. 

What to do?

Most importantly if you think you might have COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 it is important to contact your healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or local health department to find out about testing in your area. You should also make sure you isolate yourself from exposing others until you have confirmed test results.


If you want more information about COVID-19 testing you can visit the FDA’s webpage on COVID-19 testing basics.

Don’t forget to follow Assured Allies on MediumFacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn!

Katelynn Dornbusch, OTD, OTR/L
Katelynn is a registered occupational therapist. She graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis with her doctorate in occupational therapy in 2018. As an Ally with Assured Allies, she is working directly with members to help them remain independent and meet their goals as they age.

The holidays are quickly approaching and that means it is time to start thinking about who and what you want to buy for those closest to you. It can be especially hard trying to find the “perfect gift” for an older adult. 

With the Pandemic continuing to disrupt life as we know it, older adults have been considered the most vulnerable and thus have been required to take precautions to remain safe. As a result of the precautions, older adults have been faced with the loss of socialization and stimulation. To help offset this loss, gifting user-friendly technology that can help users stay engaged and get connected could mean a world of difference. We have put together a list of tech gifts that are simple and enjoyable to utilize. So don’t fret, the gift recipient does not need to be tech-savvy!  

  1. First on our list is the Grandpad, a tablet designed specifically for older adults. This subscription service includes a tablet pre-loaded with the user’s preferences and contacts. It allows users to connect with loved ones through a simple video chat platform, send videos, photos, or voice emails through the easy to use large text applications. In addition, there is customized music and popular games to ensure the user has plenty of opportunities to stay engaged.  
  1. Great Call, a company whose focus is on providing older adults with health and safety products, has developed cell phones specifically for them. The Jitterbug Smart2 is a top pick this year, with features including a large 5.5” screen, voice typing text, a clear-named list based menu, and a long-lasting battery life. It also has mobile internet access and the ability to video chat with loved ones. In addition to being a cell phone, consumers can turn their phone into a personal safety device at an additional cost, by choosing a Lively Health & Safety Package upon purchase. This device currently has a 4.1 out of 5-star review. 
  1. For the older adults in your life who enjoy reading books, but have difficulty doing so, Amazon’s Kindle is an ideal gift. The Amazon Kindle has a few versions with different price points. We recommend the new Kindle Oasis. This model is waterproof, has an adjustable warm light, a side space with page turn buttons, and the ability to adjust the size of the text. Also, for individuals who have eyesight impairments, the kindle can be paired with Bluetooth headphones and be used aside Audible so that listening to books is just a click and connection away. 
  1. Oftentimes when we think about wearable technology, we think of watches that can accept phone calls, read text messages and overall simplify our lives. A smartwatch that can monitor an individual’s heart rate, provide personalized health metric information and notify emergency responders if it detects a sudden fall or an irregular heartbeat are all features incorporated in the Apple Watch Series 6
  1. We know vacations and plans to travel have been canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19. However, it does not necessarily mean that eye-opening experiences we would normally see upon traveling need to be missed out on. Virtual reality headsets are allowing older adults to experience the world from the comfort of their homes. MyndVR has created an in-home virtual reality package where older adults have access to the largest library of senior-friendly virtual reality content through the use of a headset and corresponding tablet. The tablet, with a high definition screen and simple user interface for easy navigation, is used to pick the video of choice while the lightweight ultra high definition display headset provides the viewer with the ultimate visual experience. Chose from a trip to a country you have never visited or take dive with dolphins.

We hope found some ideas in our suggestions. Do let us know what you end up getting for the older adult in your life, and what they thought of the gift. Happy holidays!

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Angelina Portuense, B.S.
Angelina a case manager who has been working in the senior care field for over 5 years. Her passion for working with older adults started in her teenage years when she became a family caregiver.

Caregiving is stressful. Caregiving during the holiday season is even more stressful. Now throw a global pandemic into the mix, and caregivers will undoubtedly face new levels of stress never previously experienced. 

November is National Caregivers Month, so we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of family caregivers, and provide support to caregivers, who are providing care during unprecedented times.

As news of successful vaccines provides a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, we also enter into the holiday season during a time of record-high numbers of Covid-19 cases. With so much going on in the world, it is easy for caregivers to forget about taking care of themselves, something that will have an adverse effect on many older adults in need of help. 

Here are a few tips for self-care during the holidays, in the time of Covid-19:

  1. Accept help. Caregivers balance a lot in their day-to-day lives, and the holiday season is often a busy time of year with lots of items on the to-do list. Covid-19 has made everything more difficult, and this may also mean that help for caregivers may look different. Maybe a friend or family member can arrange to have groceries or prepared meals delivered to the caregiver or person being cared for. Have a family member or friend go for a socially distanced walk or have a socially distanced visit with the person being cared for to give the caregiver a break.
  2. Get connected. Caregivers often feel alone in their role, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time for them. Covid-19 is making everyone feel more lonely, with restrictions on gatherings and canceled activities. But as we adapt to the “new normal,” many caregiver support services have become virtual, including caregiver support groups and other community programming for caregivers. Check out this list from Care.com of virtual support groups. You may also want to contact your local Council on Aging or Area Agency on Aging to find out what virtual support programs are available in your community.
  3. Seek social support. Just as caregiver support programs have become virtual, so have most of our interactions with family and friends, who provide important emotional support to caregivers. The holidays are usually a time for gathering with extended family, but this year the CDC recommends celebrating virtually or only with people in your household. Although we cannot gather in person, caregivers can still take the opportunity while celebrating virtually to check in with extended family members and seek additional support if needed.
  4. Plan ahead. Now more than ever we see how uncertain the future can be. To help reduce some of the anxiety around caregiving during a pandemic, caregivers may want to consider planning ahead. What will happen if the caregiver gets sick? What will happen if the person you are caring for gets sick? What happens if other care providers, such as an adult day program or respite, become modified or unavailable? Put a plan together for any of these questions now so that you are prepared later.
  5. Celebrate the holidays a little differently. During normal times, caregiving during the holidays can be difficult because of the physical and/or cognitive limitations of the person receiving care. Maybe they are easily overstimulated or have a hard time getting around. This year, take the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a new, and simpler, way, focusing on what is most meaningful to you. Although it might be sad to think about doing a Zoom Thanksgiving rather than an in-person celebration, Zoom holidays may be easier on the caregivers (less cooking, traveling, etc.) and on the person receiving care. Take advantage of some of the new holiday activities in your community, like drive-through light displays, or watching holiday concerts or movies on TV.  
  6. Fill your tank. Caregivers are constantly giving themselves to others, especially during the holiday season. “All that giving can leave you running on empty,” cautions AARP. Find ways to “fill your tank,” like getting lots of sleep, exercising, and enjoying holiday traditions like decorating the house, baking, or listening to holiday music. Try to bring a little joy back into a time that has been full of anxiety and loss. 

You are not alone!
We hope these tips have been helpful, and we want to remind you that you are not alone, even though it might feel like it sometimes. Many caregivers have a hard time asking for help and may end up feeling depressed and isolated. During this global pandemic, even those of us who are not caregivers are feeling this way, so it’s even more important for caregivers to seek support. The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “caregiving around the clock,” acknowledging the reality that caregivers never truly get a break from caregiving. For additional caregiving resources, check out Mental Health America, the Caregiver Action Network, The Family Caregiver Alliance, AARP, and the National Institute on Aging.

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Marissa Badler, LICSW, C-ASWCM, CCM
Marissa is a licensed independent clinical social worker. She also has certifications in case management and is a Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Trainer®. She leads quality assurance and training on the team.

The holidays are quickly approaching. There is no question that Covid 19 will test our patience, bring fears to the surface, and increase what is already a stressful experience for many. The key to success is how we plan so it is successful and safe for everyone. I have not seen my 84 year old parents since last Thanksgiving and while Zoom has been a great benefit, it does not check the boxes.

Here are 6 steps for a successful holiday experience that I am taking:

  1. Communicate:  It is critical everybody understands the others concerns and fears.  Talk openly about them. What is behind them? Define the “Musts Haves” versus the “Wants.” Understand the implications of each person’s view.
  2. Align on a plan: Do not try to convince others of what you want. Focus on the “Must Haves” first then work the plan to meet the wants as best as possible.
  3. Stop and think: Give everyone a chance to reflect on the plan and the tradeoffs they may be required to make.  
  4. Adjust to new information from anyone in the group:  This is not a negotiation trying to convince others you are right and they are wrong and convince them to “Just go with it.” This is a time to – if possible –  build around the most restrictive needs.
  5. Be willing to cancel at the last minute:  Last minute concerns can arise and things can change quickly. Be willing to accept that without holding it against anyone.
  6. Take recommended precautions while you are together.

In reality, this is what our plan looks like based on the steps above: My wife and oldest son, who is 24 years old are driving from Boston to Virginia to pick-up my college daughter then heading two more hours south to my parents in Virginia. The three of us all work from home and have been symptom free. My college daughter gets tested every week and has also been clear. We will all be tested a day before we leave and will quarantine before heading to my parents. We will drive straight, only stopping for gas andestrooms. Our plan is to spend 6 days with my parents. Other than outside at a social distance, we will not see others while visiting. We will drive back in one day. 

This may sound arduous and complicated, but the benefits from such a well-planned trip are tremendous. The virus has isolated many of us, and making this effort will reunite our family for some much needed bonding. I do hope you get to see your family as well. Be safe and sound when doing so.

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Mark Freeman
Mark leads the member-facing areas of Assured Allies, where he ensures the case management, support and all related back office areas work together internally and across our national network of partners.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our society, and its effects ripple through all areas of life. We know that COVID-19 has caused many issues for older adults, a group that is at particularly high risk. However, we also know that there are strategies and resources that can be helpful in managing the new challenges presented by the pandemic.

Through our research and work with older adults, we have found the following to be the most common challenges being faced by older adults since the start of COVID-19:

  • Fears and concerns/anxiety
  • Feelings of depression
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Difficulty keeping up with medical needs
  • Increased difficulty caring for self or others
  • Uncertainty in planning for the future

This post will help you address any of these challenges that you, or someone in your life, may face.

Fears and concerns

The uncertainty and fear associated with COVID-19 could take a significant toll on people’s mental health. If fear and concerns begin to impact your quality of life, help might be needed.

The following are a list of resources you may find helpful:

  • This page from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walks you through how to find a mental health professional. Check with your healthcare payer to see if these services are covered.
  • Many healthcare providers operate telehealth services — so there is no need to worry about contracting COVID-19 by attending in-person appointments.
  • Call the 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1–800–985–5990 or text “TalkWithUs”to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The helpline offers crisis counseling, support, information, and tips for coping to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters.
  • Engaging in activities known to reduce anxiety: yoga, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises. You can find videos online that guide you through these types of activities on sites including AARP and Silver Sneakers. You can participate in daily mindfulness activities here.
  • Taking a break from the news. Constant exposure to news stories about the pandemic can be upsetting and increase anxiety
  • Talking with people about your fears and concerns — see how others are dealing with their concerns.

Feelings of Depression

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Even during non-pandemic times, aging adults experience many losses, which can contribute to depression. COVID-19 is exacerbating those feelings for many people. Some of the common symptoms of depression include: difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, fatigue, a feeling of hopelessness, lack of energy and sadness.

If you feel any of these symptoms, the following are a list of resources you may find helpful:

  • To learn more about how to find a mental health professional, visit this page from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Check with your healthcare insurer to determine if these services are covered.
  • Many healthcare providers offer telehealth services — so there is no need to worry about increasing your risk of contracting COVID-19 by attending in-person appointments.
  • Talk with people you love about your feelings. You may find that others are feeling the same way. Talking with others can help you come up with ways for managing these feelings, and it might help to know that you are not alone in how you are feeling.
  • Call the 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1–800–985–5990 or text “TalkWithUs”to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The helpline offers crisis counseling, support, information, and tips for coping to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters.
Matthew Reynold, Lead Health Communication Specialist, CDC, shares recommendations on how to manage anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isolation

Isolation has long been a common issue among older adults. With stay at home orders, closing of businesses, and recommended safety precautions during the time of COVID-19, isolation has become an even greater problem for many older adults. People are now spending more time home alone and are not able to engage in the activities that have provided meaning and joy in the past.

Here are some possible solutions and suggestions:

  • The Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line — This crisis line is specifically for older adults and will make ongoing outreach calls, offering a caring ear and a friendly conversation.
  • Connecting with family and friends: While being together in person may not be possible, that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to connect. Schedule regular calls with friends and family, and consider trying out video conferencing technology, like ZoomGoogle Meet or FaceTime. To learn more about these technologies visit here to view our how-to guides for popular video conferencing technology.
  • Connecting with your community: Many communities have come up with innovative responses to COVID-19, including new ways to connect from a distance, such as new outdoor dining options, outdoor concerts, drive-in movies, and other events. Mutual Aid organizations are also popping up in many communities to help community members connect and get their needs met.
  • The AARP Community Connections webpage can help you find a Mutual Aid organization in your area.
  • The website Nextdoor also helps connect community members and serves as a platform for sharing ideas and information about events in your local community.
  • Taking advantage of the world of technology: There are many opportunities for engagement online, such as virtual museum or zoo tours, online classes, and concert streaming.

Some examples include:


Difficulty keeping up with medical needs

Many people have not wanted or been able to see medical professionals in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, not keeping up with medical needs can cause our health to deteriorate quicker.

Healthcare systems throughout the country have adapted their protocols to operate in a COVID world. You should not avoid hospitals in cases of emergencies. Speak with your doctor about diagnostic and other appointments to determine when in-person visits are necessary. For other needs, there are options to address medical needs without increasing the risk of contracting the virus:

  • Many medical providers are now providing telehealth or even video appointments for new and ongoing health needs. Call your doctor’s office to see if they are offering telehealth services. If not, you can call your health insurance company to find out if they cover telehealth services, such as Teladoc.
  • Medication mail delivery services will typically work with your doctors to get the right prescriptions, and will even send the medications organized and packaged by day. Amazon’s PillPack Or MedMinder are good options for medication delivery. Many other large pharmacies, such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart also have medication delivery options.
  • Some appointments do require in-person visits, but there are steps you can take to safely attend doctors’ visits during COVID-19. Learn more here.

Increased Difficulty Caring for Self or Others

COVID-19 has made life more difficult for everyone and has impacted our day-to-day lives in so many ways. Tasks that we once took for granted, like grocery shopping, going to the bank, preparing meals, and going to the pharmacy, have become much more challenging for many people, who are afraid or unable to leave their homes. If you are caring for another person, like a spouse or sibling, the activities you were doing for someone else may also be impacted.

Here are a few ideas to consider in helping you better care for yourself and others in the time of COVID-19:

  • Groceries: There are grocery delivery services available online. We recommend InstacartPeapod through Stop & Shop, and Amazon Fresh. You can create an account and place your order online. Many volunteer groups are also popping up in communities. Mutual Aid organizations, which are discussed above in the Isolation section, are a good place to look for volunteers who may be able to go grocery shopping for you.
  • Banking: Nowadays, most banking can be done online through your bank’s website or app. You can deposit checks, pay bills, and transfer money between accounts without having to go to the bank. There are also payment apps you can use to transfer money to someone without having to physically exchange cash. Some popular apps include VenmoPayPal and CashApp.
  • Medications: Like going to the grocery store, going to the pharmacy can also be risky. Medication delivery services are a good way to avoid exposure at a pharmacy. many pharmacies, including CVS, Walmart, Costco and Walgreens offer medication delivery. Amazon’s PillPack is another option for medication delivery. Read more about this in our post about medication management devices. Some of the devices, like Hero and Medminder, also offer mail delivery and pharmacy services. These devices may also be a good option if you’re caring for someone, and you need additional support in managing their medications.
  • Meal delivery: Many older people receive support in meal preparation from family members, friends, or community services who bring ready-made meals. You may also have been bringing meals to someone you are caring for, and are now not able to do so. Although grocery delivery services are enough for some people, others may be unable to cook and need prepared meals. Restaurant delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats will deliver food from local restaurants. Many restaurants are also offering delivery themselves.
  • Caregiving stress: If you are caring for someone else and experiencing stress related to caregiving, visit here to explore the resource center we have built for caregivers, which covers a number of caregiving topics, including how-to guides, caregiver balance, health and finding local resources.

“Find ways to reduce your stress to help yourself and the people you care about.”

— Matthew Reynold, MA, Lead Health Communication Specialist, CDC.


Uncertainty in planning for the future

Many older adults have thought about where and how they want to live as they get older. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may have thrown a wrench into those plans. People are reconsidering many aspects of their plan, including where they want to live, how close they are to family, and how to use their financial resources. Some older adults who may have previously considered moving to senior living communities are now reconsidering this plan, given the highly contagious nature of COVID-19. Other older adults who do not live near family may now consider moving closer to them so they can have a more accessible lifeline during difficult times. If your plan for the future is being affected by COVID-19, the following resources may help you adapt:

  • In the Assured Allies Webinar, we provide 7 steps to creating a plan for the future taking into consideration the current pandemic.
  • If you need help thinking through a plan for aging, we recommend completing the National Aging in Place Council’s questionnaire. It will walk you through essential issues for sustaining a safe and secure lifestyle in your home.

Disaster Preparedness

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of planning for unexpected times of disruption. It is important to be prepared for anything from unexpected medical emergencies to pandemics to weather events. It is never too late to start planning. To help you start planning for disaster situations, we recommend that you:

  • Take the Assured Allies COVID-19 Risk Assessment. The assessment will help you determine the impact of the current crisis on your individual situation. After completing the assessment, you will receive a written summary of your results, which will help you identify and prioritize the most critical areas of need to address during the current crisis. This summary will also help you think through creating a plan for future crises.
  • Read the Age Assured Care in a Crisis blog post. This post will walk you through the steps you can take to create a plan for managing crisis situations.

Final Thoughts

We are truly living in unprecedented times for which no one has a road map to navigate. We are all figuring things out as we go. Any feeling you are experiencing in this situation is okay, whether it’s fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness…

There are resources out there to help people cope with whatever they are going through during this period of uncertainty. We hope you can find something useful in the resources and strategies we have discussed above to help you better manage the challenges you are facing in your individual situation.


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Mark Freeman
Mark leads the member-facing areas of Assured Allies, where he ensures the case management, support and all related back office areas work together internally and across our national network of partners.

As communities and businesses continue to reopen nationwide, many older adults are wondering how best to approach this “new normal.” In this post, we will share some thoughts about what to consider when venturing back out into society and resuming activities that are a part of your daily life.

As a reminder, if you have COVID-19, are having symptoms associated with COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it is important to stay home and away from others. If you do decide to go out, continue to protect yourself by practicing prevention measures such as hand washing, social distancing, wearing a face covering and sanitizing/disinfecting surfaces.


What to Consider Before Going Out

Whether it is going to the grocery store, restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, etc., there are some important factors to consider when venturing out. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are some questions you may consider when determining your level of risk in going out in the community:

How many people will you interact with?

  • The more people you interact with, the greater risk
  • Engaging with new people (those you do not live with) raises your risk
  • Being in a group of people who are not social distancing and/or wearing face coverings raises your risk

Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others? Will you be outdoors or indoors?

  • Following the recommended social distancing guidelines is especially important for people who are at higher risk for illness (older adults and those with preexisting medical conditions)
  • There is greater risk for infection in indoor spaces as there is less ventilation and it may be harder to be socially distant

What’s the length of time that you will be interacting with people?

  • Spending more time with people who may be infected increases your risk of becoming infected
  • Spending more time with people may increase their risk of becoming infected if there is any chance that you are already infected

Getting Medications and Doctor Visits

Having access to your medications and continuing regular doctor visits are both key factors to healthy aging. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made this difficult for many aging adults. Whenever possible, it is highly encouraged that aging adults seek their treatment virtually and through delivery services.

If it is necessary to see a doctor in person or go to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, it is important to protect yourself and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following recommendations:

  • If you think you may have COVID-19, be sure to notify your provider prior to your appointment and follow their instructions
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others while inside the office/pharmacy
  • Wear a face covering
  • Use a contactless payment method if possible. If this is not possible, sanitize your hands after paying with a credit card, cash or check
  • Check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to determine if you are able to get a larger supply of your medications, so you do not need to visit the pharmacy as often
  • Plan to order and pick up all of your medications at the same time

Staying Informed

Regulations related to COVID-19 are primarily being handled at the state-level. Stay-at-home orders and business re-openings vary by state, so it is important to stay up to date on your state’s regulations. The CDC provides a directory of State & Territorial Health Department Websites, which will help you determine the most up-to-date COVID-19 information in your area. It is also important to monitor the number of cases and death tolls in your state; please visit the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker to explore the data by state/county.

This map shows COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by U.S. states, the District of Columbia, New York City, and other U.S.-affiliated jurisdictions as of June 29, 2020. To see the updated number of cases and deaths reported in each jurisdiction, click here and hover over your desired state. Image Source: CDC

Again, if you are having symptoms associated with COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should self isolate and contact your healthcare provider to discuss next steps. The following are a list of nationwide testing site locators:

Community Based Testing Sites

COVID-19 Testing Site Finder by Address

COVID-19 Testing Site Finder by State


Moving Forward

We understand that some of you may be just starting to consider venturing back out into the community and some of you may have already started this process. Wherever you are in this journey, we hope to help guide you in making the best decisions for yourself and those around you. Each and every person has a different level of comfort during this pandemic. It is important to be kind to yourself and others, and to remember that we are all learning during this time. For more information, support and resources regarding aging adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our additional blog posts: COVID-19: What Older Adults Need to Know and Care in Crisis.

Don’t forget to follow Assured Allies on MediumFacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn!

Marissa Badler, LICSW, C-ASWCM, CCM
Marissa is a licensed independent clinical social worker. She also has certifications in case management and is a Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Trainer®. She leads quality assurance and training on the team.

Over the past three years, I have written extensively on the criticality of being informed and prepared and at no time has the need for this been more apparent than now. Many have contacted me asking, “What do I do now?” “Is it too late to be prepared?” The answer is it is never to late to start to put plans in place. There is an immediate need to plan for the ongoing impact and disruption in our lives and of those entrusted to our care.

For Seniors this is a “Must do” versus a “Nice to do.” The World Health Organization has extensively written on the roles and risks for the aging population in times of emergency. Loss of independence or even a loss of life occurred way too often in many of the crises in the last decade. With the evidence from Italy and China, the impact of coronavirus on the elderly population will be even more significant.


Here are the 6 critical Objectives for Orchestrating Care in a Crisis

1. Define basic needs

2. Be connected to the world at large

3. Maintain your lifelines to others / engage in Life

4. Create a safe and secure space

5. Document what is going on

6. Create a disaster plan and know when to implement


1. Define basic needs

Know your basic needs and your primary needs and devise a back up strategy for both. We recommend a focus on the following 13 areas.

Can you:

1. Get bills paid

2. Get groceries / household supplies

3. Have meals prepared

4. Get help if needed

5. Get laundry done

6. Take garbage out

7. Maintain clean food preparation space

8. Get house cleaned

9. Get transportation to necessary places

10. Use the phone

11. Have general mobility in the living environment and in places critical to visit

12. Get Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) met (e.g. bathing, grooming, toileting, ambulation, etc)

13. Manage your medical condition (get meds, dose meds, take as prescribed, manage vitals within defined parameters and escalate if needed.)


2. Be connected to the world at large

The importance of a plan B is paramount in times of disruption. For most, plan B and often Plan C, also known as “Uh oh, now what,” relies on being able to quickly navigate many options on a moment’s notice. Think about our reliance today on the internet to get things done. Whether a home-based connection or via a mobile phone or tablet, connectivity is a necessity in today’s world. That said many, especially Seniors, do not have sufficient connection.

Over the past two years, my home care agency and our franchisor have sought various technology-based care enhancements for our clients. Our goal was simple; can we provide a greater level of care or oversight at a lower cost through the use of technology to separate care? The results were quite surprising. While nearly everyone had smart (or smarter) phones and could text, facetime or the equivalent, a surprising number (over half) did not have active internet service in their home. The challenges of our Covid19 day-to-day existence have clearly demonstrated internet access is a necessity.

Review the 13 basic needs above, how could you ensure these were adequately met without internet access? It would be possible, but it would be difficult — particularly in times of mass need and disruption as we face today.


3. Maintain your lifelines / Engage in Life

Per AARP, “Social distancing shouldn’t mean shutting out the world. We all need human connection, particularly in a crisis and especially with those who understand and care about us. Research has shown just how emotionally and physically harmful social isolation can be. Fortunately, we live in a miraculous age when we have a myriad of technological means — including telephone, email, texting, video chat and social media — to keep our friends and family members present in our lives. That may be the best available solace for all of us until this crisis passes.”

Three types of needed lifeline connections

1. A responsible person who can escalate on your behalf: Set a specific person who you speak to each day at a specific time. Have a daily check in and give basic information so they can intervene if necessary or, if you fail to check in, know to call 911 on your behalf. The three areas we recommend are:

a. Your well being — BE HONEST about your ability to meet your 13 basic needs.

b. Your state as it relates to other needs that you are having trouble meeting

c. Changes they should be aware of (i.e., medication routines, appointments, etc.)

2. Connection to professionals you may need to access. Increasingly our medical professionals are communicating by dedicated websites or applications on our phones that allow us to communicate with them and for them to respond. The general ability to get a doctor or their staff, even in an emergency, is difficult and in a peak demand due to a crisis — likely impossible. These applications and sites ensure your doctor will get your message and can respond.

3. General connection to others: Stay connected to your friends and loved ones. Set call times up — make a plan. Set up a video chat or even a group one. These things are quite easy if someone shows you how. Email or social media is a great way to stay in touch and find out how things are going. AARP wrote: “Share moments of mutual enjoyment and meaning”. Even in coronavirus confinement, upbeat instances still go some ways toward offsetting frictions both small and large. Put on the old movies or music that you always enjoyed together. Bring out the photo albums to remind you of wonderful vacations and family gatherings of the past. Make and savor the recipe that was always a family favorite. Sit together on the living room couch in silence holding hands.

(Note the importance of a reliable internet connection in maintaining lifelines especially in times of social distancing or sheltering in place. )


4. Create a safe and secure space that allows separation

I have written about the 144 potential safety risks in the home. Now is the time to minimize these risks. Not all of us or our environment have the full list but here is a way to think about it:

1. The Bathroom: Remove un-necessary clutter. Make sure non-slip tape is where it needs to be and that assistive devices are in place — grab bars. Make sure the things your need are in easy reach.

2. The Bedroom: Remove un-necessary clutter. Pick up loose items on the floor. Please consider removing things that could pose a fall risk. For example, loose throw rug or things that are hard to see in the dark.

3. The kitchen: Remove un-necessary clutter. Make sure basic kitchen / food prep needs are in reach so you can avoid the use of a stool to get things. Have food storage needs in place (Ziploc bags, resealable containers). It is recommended that staple canned goods are available — not hoarding quantities — but to have if needed.

4. Separation: If the size of your world has shrunk to the confines of your home, then it is crucial to figure out ways to carve out time and space that’s still yours. Taking 20 minutes to go to a separate room from the person you’re caring for or living with helps you clear your mind and recover a little. Even if you must be in the same room all the time, there may be ways to focus on your own needs. Read a book or listen to calming music with headphones as an example. There are many small ways to be present and available but also separate and self-contained.


5. Document what is going on

Remember when we were kids. Many kept a diary or a log of the most significant and or insignificant things going on. Keep a diary but keep it focused. Document how your day is, how you feel, who you spoke to. Capture what you are concerned about and who you should discuss it with. (Remember your daily calls — don’t leave the important stuff out.). During times of chaos and stress, it is always best to have detailed notes to refer to rather than rely solely on memory. Document all these things so you have a good record.


6. Create a disaster plan

No matter where you live, have a disaster plan ready for you and those you care for.

Your plan should include a written list of current needs, routines and impairments. It should include all identifying information (date of birth, Social Security number and a current photo) as well as allergies, medications and diagnoses. Prepare a biography of your loved one that will better inform providers of their personality, interests and background. This is especially important for medical conditions where you or a loved one relies on others to be their “voice.”

Consider where you could relocate in the event of need. Most importantly confirm its availability to you and how they can communicate if availability changes. Ensure they can meet your needs not just your shelter.


Some final thoughts

These are trying times. We are all managing stress, anxiety, uncertainty. When we have enforced round-the-clock together time it is easy for things to escalate. There are everyday frictions both small and large that all have the potential to escalate — resist the urge. I find myself saying I’m sorry a lot — it is sincere, even when I am not sure what I have done. I am sorry that I did something that caused stress on the other person. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t put down others.

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life, so let’s all remember not to judge and most importantly to be kind. Viruses are contagious but so is bad attitude and aggression. But more importantly, so is kindness, empathy and support. Pay it forward, because you just don’t know how the return can positively impact you or your loved one.

Let’s all leave good footprints where we tread!


Mark Freeman
Mark leads the member-facing areas of Assured Allies, where he ensures the case management, support and all related back office areas work together internally and across our national network of partners.

The situation around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing rapidly. As we come together as a society to try to stop the spread, we at Assured Allies want to do what we can to help ensure the health and safety of the public, especially those at increased risk.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease have a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

There is a lot of information out there about COVID-19, and it can be difficult to determine what is reliable and what is not. Below, we want to share with you the latest resources and information for older adults and their caregivers, from sources we trust. We will continue updating this information as things continue to develop.


Coronavirus: What you need to know

The websites for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and your state health department contain the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about COVID-19.

This page from the CDC provides specific information for older adults and other high risk individuals. The CDC recommends that older adults:

  • Take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick, like maintaining distance between yourself and others, washing your hands often, avoiding crowds, avoiding cruise and air travel, and staying home as much as possible.
  • Have supplies on hand, including extra prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and medical supplies, and household items and groceries, in case you need to stay home for an extended period of time.
  • Take everyday precautions, like avoiding people who are sick, washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, avoiding travel, avoiding crowds, cleaning and disinfecting your home (especially frequently touched surfaces), and avoiding touching high-touch surfaces in public places (like elevator buttons, handrails, and door handles).

Symptoms

Watch for symptoms and warning signs of COVID-19. Symptoms include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel you are developing symptoms, call your doctor before seeking medical treatment, UNLESS you are experiencing emergency warning signs, which may include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face. If you experience any of these emergency warning signs, you should seek medical help immediately.

Jay Butler, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at CDC, describes preventative measures to help protect older adults from COVID-19. Source: CDC


Other tips for seniors

  • Use mail-order pharmacies: Consider using mail delivery for prescriptions so you don’t have to go out to the pharmacy. Your current pharmacy should be able to help you figure out how to set up a delivery service.
  • Ask for help: Reach out to family, friends, or neighbors for assistance with getting things like groceries, meals, and household essentials.
  • Stay connected: Social isolation is a risk for seniors when we are not in the midst of a pandemic. Make an effort to stay socially connected during this stressful time by making phone and/or video calls to friends and family. Stay physically and mentally active by going for a walk, doing yard work, taking an online class, doing an online workout, reading, doing puzzles, etc.
  • Consider delivery options: Although online delivery is in high demand, consider trying to order groceries and other items online. Many restaurants are also offering free delivery during this time, and may offer discounts for older adults.
  • Use local resources: Find out what’s available in your community. Many communities are taking steps to help those most at risk. Some grocery stores are opening early for seniors. Volunteers and food pantries may also be available to drop off items or run errands.

Ideas for how to support older adults in your lives and community:

As we all work to practice social distancing it is critical to ensure that we continue to provide the care and support needed for older adults in our own families and communities. While it may not be best to physically be together with at risk older adults, there are things all can to help:

  • Daily check-ins: A quick call to an aging parent, grandparent, relative, or neighbor to see how they are doing can go a long way. For those with young children, using technology like FaceTime, email, text messages, or even sending a photo or video of your kids can go a long way to put a smile on someone’s face.
  • Offer to help: Even if someone says they are ok, a simple offer to help set up online groceries, or a quick run to the pharmacy will help remind people in your lives that you are here for them.
  • Familiarize yourself with guidelines and follow them: Younger people with coronavirus might experience no symptoms or mild symptoms, and be unaware that they are spreading the disease to vulnerable individuals. One of the simplest ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home. Make sure you read and follow the CDC’s guidelines for protecting yourself and others. If you do decide to visit older loved ones, make sure you wash your hands when you arrive, and limit physical contact. If you are feeling even the slightest bit sick, stay home!

COVID-19 Resources for Older Adults:

We will continue to update this list of resources as we identify new materials that we believe are of value. If you have other resources to share, please let us know.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Administration for Community Living (ACL)

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

AARP

Kaiser Health News

Next Avenue (PBS’ Online News Platform for Older Adults)

Alzheimer’s Association

Marissa Badler, LICSW, C-ASWCM, CCM
Marissa is a licensed independent clinical social worker. She also has certifications in case management and is a Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Trainer®. She leads quality assurance and training on the team.