Ask Doctor Alexis

ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. “Doctor Alexis” is an inspiring speaker, corporate consultant, successful author and award-winning entrepreneur and journalist. Her commitment to boomers and mature adults has been featured in many national publications including TIME, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and People magazines. Doctor Alexis has appeared as an on-air expert Gerontologist for NBC’s Today show and Weekend Today.

For more information, go to www.AlexisAbramson.com

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Doctor Alexis Q&A’s:

Q: My husband was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I’m lost.  What are some tasks I should take care of in advance so that I can be the best caregiver possible?

A.  I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s diagnosis, I wish you all the best on your caregiving journey.  The first thing you must do is get all of your papers and financial affairs in order.  This seems to be a common-sense type of thing but it’s one that is often put off until it’s too late.  At some point during his illness your husband will no longer be able to sign for himself and if you wait until then the situation will become much more complex. It is important not to just get a will made and signed, but to take care of all the other paper work. Mortgages and all debts should be caught up. You should consult with an experienced eldercare lawyer about the disposition of assets while your spouse is still considered legally competent. Also, make sure that you have other legal documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) filled out for both you and your spouse. Without a durable POA you may have to go and get a guardianship later in order to speak for your spouse and protect your spouse’s rights.  For more detailed information about how to prepare for your role as a spousal caregiver I suggest that you consult the Alzheimer Foundations website at www.alz.org or call their toll free number (800) 272-3900.

Q.  I will be 62 this year and I’m working part time, can I apply for Social Security benefits?

A.  You can apply as early as 62 for these benefits, but the amount you receive each month will be less than if you wait until full retirement (also called “normal retirement age”).  If you want to keep working while collecting Social Security, your payments may be reduced depending on the amount you earn from your job.  Once you reach full retirement age, there is no limit on the amount you can earn from working while collecting Social Security benefits.  For more information on estimating your potential benefit amounts using different retirement dates and levels of future earnings, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call 800-772-1213.

Q. My parents are moving in with me and I’m trying to make my home more “senior-friendly” for them.  I’ve heard the most dangerous place in the home for older adults is the bathroom – what can I do to make it safer?

A.  The bathroom is one of the most hazardous places in the home for accidents; as a matter of fact the majority of broken hips are the result of slipping in the bathtub. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there are more than 300,000 bathroom accidents each year and that 2.5 million adults over the age of 65 need special assistance in bathing.  Here is a list of things you can do to help prevent these bathroom accidents:

  • Install grab bars on the bathroom walls near the toilet and along the bathtub or shower.
  • Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe exit and entry.
  • Mount a liquid soap dispenser on the bathtub/shower wall.
  • Place nonskid adhesive textured strips on the bathtub/shower floor.
  • A combination safety seat/transfer bench can be used in the bathroom to provide additional stability and comfort for transition in and out of the bathtub.
  • Create a more stable toilet by using either a raised seat or a special toilet seat with armrests.
  • Replace glass shower enclosures with non-shattering material.
  •  Place night lights between the bathroom and bedroom to help for safe maneuvering at night.

Q.  My 87 year old mother-in-law still lives in the house that she grew up in.  The house has very steep stairs, a small doorway and is not “senior-friendly.”  My husband and I want to help her move to a retirement community, but she’s scared – how can we ease the transition for her?

A.  Having just moved to a different home – I completely understand how she feels – moving is something that is very hard for all us and it can be especially difficult for someone who has lived in a particular neighborhood or house for a lifetime!  But fear not, because there are “senior relocation specialists” who focus on helping older adults move with ease.  They start with a pre-move consultation to help come up with a plan as to the best items to keep and those your aging loved one might consider leaving behind.  The specialist makes it a very positive experience for the individual involved and makes sure they bring all of their sentimental belongings to their new home.  The specialist then sets the older adult up in the new home and creates a look and feel as similar as possible to their previous home.  This helps make the individual “feel at home.”  Go online and google “senior relocation specialists” and you will find a specialist in your mother-in-laws area.