How We Help Families With Transitioning Seniors

How We Help Families With Transitioning Seniors

By Mark Viergutz & the ALC Staff
Assisted Living Connections

Families With Transitioning Seniors
We previously wrote about noticing changes in your parents over the holidays. In summary, it became clear your mom or dad may not be safe without some kind of assistance and care on a regular basis. What kind of assistance? How much will it cost?

Identifying The Problems
At some point, most adult children confront this problem with their aging parents. If you have not made plans or spoken with your parents, you may need to find the answers to a lot of questions. This time of transition will present you with several hurdles to overcome, including some difficult emotions and stress. As in many life situations, confronting this issue sooner can give you more options.

What if one or both of your parents are reluctant to confront the changes that will have to take place? What if you have a sibling or a relative who does not agree with your assessment of your parents’ needs? Family dynamics make a challenging situation even more daunting and difficult.

Reaching Out For Help
Assisted Living Connections deals with these situations on a daily basis seven days a week. The process usually begins with a call from a family member wanting information or too often desperate for a solution. We immediately return phone calls, listen attentively and provide guidance, support, and resources to find the best solution. We provide a counselor to assist you in what can be an uncomfortable conversation with your parents or siblings. Our services are completely free.

During this initial phone call we conduct an in-depth assessment to evaluate you or your loved one’s physical and psychological profile. We ask about specific care needs, lifestyle considerations, and available resources. Once completed, the assessment becomes a roadmap leading to the appropriate levels of home care, assisted living or memory care.

Determining the Level of Care and Community
Once the appropriate care options are established, we contact the communities or care providers to find out who has openings and can work within the budget. A list of suitable and available options will be sent to you to visit and tour. When possible, Assisted Living Connections will accompany you to support you on the tour.

It is always up to you and your loved ones to make the final decision. We will remain available to answer questions and address concerns. Even after the move, we will always be available to you for as long as needed.

Mark ViergutzMark Viergutz assists with Technology, Marketing, & Client Support for Assisted Living Connections
If you have more questions for Mark he can be reached at:
Mark’s office # is: 805-467-6875

Did You Notice Something Wasn’t Right About Your Parents Over The Holidays?

Did You Notice Something Wasn’t Right About Your Parents Over The Holidays?

By Mark Viergutz & the ALC Staff
Assisted Living Connections

Something Wasn’t Right About Your Parents Over The Holidays
The holidays are an opportunity to be with family including your elderly parents, often for a rare extended period of time. What was supposed to be a joyous reunion became the realization that something wasn’t right about your mom or dad. Or perhaps you noticed a worsening of symptoms from a year ago, something your parents may not be aware of because the changes were incremental.

Perhaps you saw behavioral lapses, reduced mental functioning, or physical unsteadiness. There might have been other signs: Unopened mail. An unkempt house. Unexplained bruises. Unsteady walking or standing. Medications not being taken. An empty refrigerator. Wearing the same clothes, often stained or dirty. These changes caused you to wonder: Is Mom as safe as I want her to be? Is Dad putting himself in danger?

Your mom or dad may have reached a threshold that needs to be crossed: He or she is no longer capable of properly caring for themselves.

7 Signs Your Aging Parents Need Extra Help:

Some adult children are more “fortunate” than others in that they live close by, perhaps in the same community. Others live hours away and it can become even more challenging to figure out how to keep your parents healthy and safe.

At a minimum, aging parents may require some kind of regular caregiving. But what kind and at what expense?

The first step is to recognize that your parents may not be safe living by themselves and may be needing some assistance. To understand this may require a visit to their primary care physician to discuss your concerns and have them evaluated. An assessment will determine whether your parents can manage with home caregiving help (referred to as home care) or if they need to be relocated into the right type of assisted living facility.

If this can’t be done, the next option (and perhaps an easier one) is to contact a caregiving agency that can send a professional over to evaluate your parent’s situation. An assessment will determine whether your parents can manage with home caregiving help or if they need to be relocated into the right type of assisted living facility.

11 Signs Your Parent May Be Ready for Assisted Living:

If additional help is warranted, contact an assisted living referral agency located — and specializing — in the area where you prefer your parents to live. Sometimes that is the community where they already live. Sometimes that is where you live.

Assisted Living Connections, serving Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley, provides all the resources for determining the best options for you and your parents. In our next post, we will describe our process and detail the services and resources available, all at no cost to you.

Mark ViergutzMark Viergutz assists with Technology, Marketing, & Client Support for Assisted Living Connections
If you have more questions for Mark he can be reached at:
Mark’s office # is: 805-467-6875

Picking The Right Skilled Nursing Facility

Picking The Right Skilled Nursing Facility

By Andrea Gallagher, CSA
President of Senior Concerns

Picking The Right Skilled Nursing FacilityAn individual typically takes one of two paths to a skilled nursing facility: straight from the hospital or from home when they become too frail or sick to care for themselves.

In the first case, when the stay is for temporary doctor-ordered rehabilitation, the patient rarely has a say about which facility they’re transferred to. Instead, the decision is based upon bed availability, which facilities have connections to the hospital and the patient’s insurance plan.

In the second case, patients, most often seniors, do have a choice—if they do their planning and research.

Begin by figuring out which skilled-nursing facilities are covered by your Medicare plan. My parents, for example, have a Medicare HMO plan. With most HMO plans, you can go only to doctors, healthcare providers or hospitals on the plan’s list, except in an emergency.

Since my father will soon be living at a skilled-nursing facility and may need medical care there in the future, it’s important that he’s able to use his Medicare coverage plan to pay for treatment.

My parents live in New Hampshire, very close to the Massachusetts border. In their specific case, their HMO plan covers no nursing facilities in New Hampshire and only three or four in Massachusetts that are less than an hour’s drive from my parents’ home.

So the facilities covered by your insurance are your first consideration, even if you plan to pay for room and board out of pocket.

For some help in comparing one skilled-nursing facility with the next, I suggest the Nursing Home Compare Tool found on the Medicare website: .

On the site, SNFs are rated on a five-star scale. Individual scores are also provided for health inspection, staffing and quality measures.

According to this tool, there are four skilled-nursing facilities in Thousand Oaks and a total of 331 beds: Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Homes in Newbury Park, Oakview Skilled Nursing (part of University Village) in Thousand Oaks, Thousand Oaks Healthcare Center and Windsor Terrace of Westlake Village.

Two of them—Mary Health of the Sick and Oakview—have a five-star overall rating. All four are rated four or five stars on quality and staffing measures, but Thousand Oaks Healthcare and Windsor Terrace received one star on health inspection.

The site allows you to look at the number of complaints for each facility as well as outcomes for short-stay and long-stay residents.

With insurance coverage and ratings in hand, the next step is a tour. The Medicare website has an excellent checklist to use when you go. It can be found at:

It’s important to note that old views about nursing facilities as inhospitable and dreary are changing. Over the past several years SNFs have advanced in terms of residents’ rights, quality improvements and the overall approach to the needs and wants of residents and patients.

Many such facilities have a resident council that you may ask to visit to learn more about life in the facility.

Armed with the facts, smart seniors and their families can determine which facility is right for them.

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher, CSA, is president of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties. For more information, visit, and for comments or questions, email

How To Help a Loved One Deal With Memory Loss

How To Help a Loved One Deal With Memory Loss

By Melody Stopher
Clinical Manager for Adventist Health Home Care Services
at Simi Valley Hospital.

Help a Loved One Deal With Memory LossIf you have an aging parent, friend or other loved one, you are well aware of the inner struggle between respecting the person’s privacy and making the decision to step in when you see potential danger in their future.

One common circumstance that gives rise to this dilemma is when you realize your loved one’s lapses of memory or bouts of forgetfulness may be pointing toward a more serious issue.

Any one of the following signs should prompt you to seek medical help for your friend or family member:

Problems with word-finding.
The person often struggles to remember common, basic words or substitutes words that are close but not correct.

Neglect of basic safety precautions.
The person may habitually leave the stove or iron on after using it. Another example is someone driving somewhere then realizing they have no idea where they are or how they got there.

Sleep disorders or interruptions.
You may discover your loved one wandering around at night instead of sleeping. Often, the person may not even be aware they should be in bed or that it is the time of day when they should be sleeping.

Loss of focus regarding self-care.
You may find that your loved one is not practicing basic hygiene, such as showering, shaving, brushing their teeth or putting on clean clothing.

Some people even forget to eat.

Avoiding questions— or getting angry.
You find your loved one responding to noncontroversial questions (such as, “What is the name of the street you live on?” or “What month is this?”) with a vague answer such as “I don’t care about that” instead of “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”

The person may respond with anger when pressed or when asked questions they don’t have an answer for. Keep in mind that their long-term memory may still be good. They may clearly remember events from 50 years ago but not be able to tell you if they had breakfast that morning.

Problem-solving difficulties.
The person is unable to correctly answer hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if a pan on your stove caught on fire?” This issue also manifests itself in piles of unopened mail (including unpaid bills). In addition, the person may not be able to accomplish simple, multistep processes, such as following a recipe or doing the laundry.

It is important to note that a number of issues can contribute to memory loss. It’s not always about Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

That’s why it is critical to see a physician, who can run tests and do other evaluations that help diagnose the source of the problem.

At times, changes in medication, treatment of underlying health problems, lifestyle modification or counseling can correct memory issues.

Seniors often neglect having annual physicals—even those who consistently saw their physician earlier in life. As a caregiver or concerned friend, you can help by making regular physician visits a habit for your loved one.

Even though it may be a delicate issue to approach or the person may resist at first, it is worth your effort to help to avert a potentially dangerous or deadly situation for your loved one as well as for anyone who might be injured by his or her actions.

If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, things can be done to help your loved one—and you—make the best of the time ahead. For instance, although there is no cure, there are excellent medications that can slow the progress of the disease.

In addition, an enormous amount of support is available in the form of agencies such as Simi Valley Hospital’s Home Health Services.

In these agencies, a team of medical professionals with special expertise in caring for elderly patients will coordinate their efforts with your loved one’s physician to ensure that everyone involved receives the education and support they need. These teams typically include nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers.

It’s unsettling to discover that someone you care about is experiencing significant memory loss. However, by facing the issue head-on you can make a positive difference in your loved one’s future.

Melody StropherMelody Stopher is the Clinical Manager for Adventist Health Home Care Services at Simi Valley Hospital.

For more information, visit:
Simi Valley Hospital
(805) 955-6000

Think Before Setting a Password

Think Before Setting a Password

By Andrea Gallagher, CSA
President of Senior Concerns

If you are internet savvy, you are mindful that you should not click on an email link from an unknown source. You are wary of online ads for items that are too good to be true, like that miracle anti-aging cure or the financial investment that will earn you millions overnight. You ignore email requests to enter your full Social Security number on an online site.

Think Before Setting a PasswordAnd you know that it is probably unlikely you won the Zimbabwe lottery (since you never entered in the first place), so you won’t be paying them the small fee to collect your winnings.

But new online security threats abound, especially when it comes to email addresses and passwords.

Recently I was one of millions of people who received an email from LinkedIn informing us of a security breach and asking us to change our password. LinkedIn is a social networking service primarily used for business networking. An individual’s profile may include details of their career—companies they worked for and dates of employment—as well as their geographic location and their network of contacts.

LinkedIn’s security breach actually occurred in 2012, but last week it was discovered the breach was much larger than first reported. The stolen data included 117 million email and password combinations that are currently up for sale by the hackers.

Changing passwords is one way to thwart a hacker’s attempt to enter your LinkedIn profile.

The real danger here is not someone gaining access to your LinkedIn account, because at most they can change your profile or access your contacts, but access to your email and password combination.

Most of us are tempted to use the same log-in information (email and passcode) for sites requiring us to establish a log-in, but that practice puts us at greater risk for hacking.

How many times have you used the same password and email address to create accounts? For example, do you use the same email address and passcode combination to access your online banking account and your Amazon account? Do you use it to access your healthcare account and online investment site?

Once the hacker has your email and password combination and can see via LinkedIn where you work, they can attempt to use your log-in information to enter your workplace computer, potentially jeopardizing your company assets in addition to your own.

As a way to foil hackers, a number of the more secure online sites now require a two-step process for authentication. You may enter your email address and passcode and then be asked to set up a security question that must be successfully answered to gain access.

If you are concerned about your online vulnerability, the first step is to create a strong password for your account. According to Microsoft, a strong password is one that is at least eight characters long; does not contain your username, real name or company name; does not contain a complete word; is significantly different from previous passwords; and contains a combination of upper – and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

But keep in mind: It’s not all about password strength. If you reuse your password at multiple locations, it may be hacked and people may use that password to access your other accounts.

Change all your passwords immediately if you have any reason to believe that someone else had access to any or has broken into your account.

And consider changing your passwords periodically, ideally at least every six months.

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher, CSA, is President of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties.

For more information, visit:

For comments or questions, email:

Scam and Fraud Alerts: Tips to Help Seniors!

Scam and Fraud Alerts: Tips to Help Seniors!

By Zane Widdes
Co-Owner of Senior Real Estate Advantage – Transition Planning

Seniors are often the targets of scam and fraud
Recently, I received a call from a friend. She heard our company Senior Real Estate Advantage offered monitoring to Seniors. She asked what that meant. She was asking for a friend. I explained “As a Free service… we offer monitoring and periodically check the title to your real estate holdings, just like you check your credit reports.”

I offered to demonstrate on their property. I researched their property and found a $500,000 home equity line of credit recorded against their home. I found that odd as she and her real estate attorney husband are old-fashioned and may consider that high risk. She was unaware of the home equity line of credit and asked me to call her husband. He was surprised to hear about my findings. Looking deeper at the documents I found that the last two digits of their address were transposed. The loan should have been recorded against their neighbor’s property. This was human error, however, an excellent example of why your property should be monitored. Another equally telling story. We found a quit claim deed recorded against the owner’s property by a tenant to a third-party.

At Senior Real Estate Advantage, we know that there are many different methods of “scamming” someone out of their personal possessions, including their own homes. Later in life, the last thing someone should be concerned about is being taken advantage of. We are here to address these concerns as well as share any resources with you that might be beneficial. Please feel free to browse our links regarding scams and fraud, specifically in the Real Estate industry at: Senior Real Estate Advantage.

Senior Real Estate Advantage is a person-centered service company and that translate to an Individual Real-Care Plan. ‘Personal rather than universal’. The Individual Real-Care Plan starts with the No-Obligation Home Visit. Senior Real Estate Advantage Consultants work closely with 55+ clients and their families to help determine their goals and needs. It might mean a contractor adapting a home so the client can age in place and it could mean a recommendation to a resource partner for housing solutions, estate planning, reverse mortgages, trusts & wills and of course Senior Real Estate Specialists if needed.

Please checkout additional links about financial fraud alerts on

Zane WiddesZane Widdes is Co-Owner of Senior Real Estate Advantage – Transition Planning
If you have more questions for Zane he can be reached at:
Zane’s Mobile # is: 818.665.5652
His office # is 877-817-1814
SRES, IRES Certified | BRE# 01034516

Hidden Problem Drugs: Their Burden On and Damage to the Body

Hidden Problem Drugs: Their Burdon On and Damage to the Body

By Linda Mac Dougall, M.A., HHP, CMT

Hidden Problem Drugs Medications have side effects. Often, additional drugs are given to deal with the side effects of a primary medication. Even some supplements and foods interact with drugs. The consequences of taking many drugs can also mean quick nutritional depletion. So it is fairly safe to say that larger amounts of drugs mean larger overall health problems.  That is unless you know what you need to replenish your body, and how and when to replenish it.

Who looks at the nutritional depletion of the drugs they take and the supplements needed to compensate? Some natural doctors do, but the best defense is a good offense, and a good offense here is to take excellent care of yourself so your exposure to the drug store shelf or to prescription medications is limited.

Bodies are like cars. They have parts that wear out, get clogged, run out of fuel or get seriously injured. There is only so much we can do to keep the body running and spare parts are seldom an option.  Medications are quite often how we keep the body functioning. But for how long?

To give you an idea of how widespread this ‘nutrient depletion because of drugs’ is and why it is Aspirinimportant to replace the diminished vitamins and minerals, let’s talk about aspirin. Most households have this common drug in their medicine cabinets. Some people take these every day.

Aspirin takes out folic acid; a B vitamin in a group called folates. In pregnant women, they recommend taking 400 mcg – 800 mcg a day of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in the newborn. This is a nerve defect. Folate is needed for healthy new cell growth.

There have been a couple of studies that claim taking this nutrient diminishes the chances of autism. Other studies for other benefits have shown very mixed results. More has to be learned.

A lack of folic acid can cause immune problems, gut flora problems, fatigue, blood cell production issues, brain function abnormalities and depression. Much of what we get of folic acid is from food additives consisting of synthetic folic acid and from low-cost vitamin supplements. These forms of the vitamin are not well used by the body.

Folic Acid Folic acid is also just one part of a multi-part B vitamin called folate.  Science seems to like to take individual parts of more complex groups that work together and isolate them from the group. That is not always the best thing to do when they act synergistically and are balanced as a group.

As with all supplements, you need to know the forms of the vitamins that are best absorbed and used by the body. To lower homocysteine levels you need to have good levels of this form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, in your blood. So the methyl form of both folate and B12 is great.

Synthetic forms are often less Vitaminsavailable to us biologically than the folate form nature packaged in foods. Leafy greens, some beans especially garbanzo, some fruits including common citrus, and peanuts are all great sources of folate. With the addition of folic acid in wheat, cereals, and other grocery store items you can get too much of it and it can interfere with the utilization of folate. Like with all things in nature, it is all about balance and imbalance. Read your labels.

Aspirin affects both COX1 and COX2 enzymes. Many deaths occurred every year from regular use of full strength aspirin until the medical establishment cut the doses prescribed. Deaths still occur, just not as many. COX1 is an enzyme that maintains the lining of the stomach, and digestive track.  By inhibiting COX1, the areas that usually have a thick mucous coating for protection suffer, sometimes to the point of internal bleeding and even death.

By inhibiting COX2, which triggers inflammation and pain, the blood vessels fail to expand well and the blood forms clots more easily.  Research into other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have shown that when COX2 is inhibited there are more strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure.

Aspirin also depletes potassium. Potassium is a mineral that keeps your heart pumping along with a regular beat so if it is low, your heartbeat can become unstable. Your heart is a muscle, and this mineral also assists with muscle contractions. When you get leg cramps that may be at least a part of the cause.

Our bodies have a balance between acid and alkaline to maintain. Potassium is critical to this balance. Our diets can obviously affect this balance. The intake of too much salt can flush potassium out of the system. Again, it is a delicate dance of balance between these two minerals that keeps us running smoothly. And licorice in large amounts can also eliminate potassium from the body.

Potassium is also important for the blood vessels and can be a factor in high blood pressure. Too little in your system and the blood transport arteries and veins fail to loosen. When the vessels stay tight, the pressure stays high which over time causes damage to the entire circulatory system.

Stomach Ache Low potassium also affects fluid balance in cells and throughout the body. This can be a factor in constipation, digestion, and kidney function. Kidneys function best when there is a balance of liquids coming in and going out. Kidney stones can be avoided with the correct form of potassium…potassium citrate.

Potassium can also affect the nerves. Too little and you may feel weak and suffer from fatigue.  Since potassium is helpful to nerve conduction, a lack of it may have those nerves tingling. Nerves transmit signals to the body via the sodium-potassium pump action of the cells. Again, balance between the two mineral electrolytes is critical to that pump correctly functioning.

Most of us know that bananas haveBananas Are A Source Of Potassium potassium, but other good sources are peanuts, avocados, oranges, spinach, kiwi, carrots, beans, and peas to name a few. Eating as much organic produce as possible will ensure you have the highest levels of nutrients from the foods you eat without pesticides or genetic modifications.

Taking aspirin causes potassium loss or, if the person has poor kidney function, potassium retention. Aspirin tends to be sodium retentive which can disturb the balance of these two electrolytes.

Either too much or too little potassium causes problems you want to avoid. Aspirin also has been found to interfere with thyroid function, bringing on thyroid dysfunction.

Aspirin takes vitamin C from the body. Research suggests that aspirin blocks the availability of vitamin C to the body. The vitamin is simply excreted when it can’t be used. If you are taking high doses of vitamin c with aspirin, it can cause the drug to stay in your system longer. Some formulas combine aspirin and vitamin C. The thinking is that the vitamin will buffer the effects of the aspirin in the gastrointestinal tract.

Vitamin C plays important roles in our health and maintains the framework of collagen-dependent structures that keep us glued together. Because vitamin c is water based, it goes to every cell and is a major antioxidant. This antioxidant behavior also works to keep our vessels clean, and our blood free flowing. Our immune system also depends on vitamin C to keep it strong and alert to dangers.

Citrus Humans don’t make vitamin C. We don’t store it, either. Vitamin C has to be ingested daily. If we take aspirin often and it is blocking the use of this vitamin, we are compromising many systems that support our well-being.

No one is deficient in aspirin, but being deficient in vitamin C can be damaging to every cell in your body. Give some good thought to what you put in your body and for how long. Know how it works and what it takes from you and your health, any alternatives, and how best to maintain your health if you do have to take some drug. It is your health, your decision.

And lastly, aspirin, especially if taken over time, causes small, consistent blood loss and with that, iron loss. Diet, sex, and age can make this loss important.

Meat eaters usually get enough iron. Iron is also found in eggs, beans, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. Women need it for their menstrual cycle, but after menopause, they need less. Too much is even possible for them at this time. But for both sexes, aging can also be a time of digestive issues because of a diminishing amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This acid is needed to make use of iron in the body.

When we have issues with digestion, we are often told to take antacids. These call a host of other problems to the party. I tell clients to take lemon juice or vinegar before or during a meal to see whether that helps their distress. If it does, then that indicates a need for more acid, not less. Antacids, by limiting stomach acid, also limit iron absorption, as well as the absorption of other nutrients.

Too little iron causes weakness and fatigue. When I was a teenager, my mother took me for testing because all I could do was sit around. Once iron was given, I was fine again. To this day, I can still feel when I need iron. When I need it, I head for organic chicken or beef liver.

Both too little or too much iron can cause an irregular heartbeat and too much can be part of a heart attack picture as can magnesium and potassium, if out of balance. Many more iron related issues can surface as well. If you have a poor ability to absorb iron, your doctor may have to give you injections.

I hope by this explanation of a drug we all take for granted, that you have an idea of why there should be greater concern in even taking over-the-counter drugs. There may be a medical necessity for a drug or two in your life. But know, too, that what they deplete from the body needs to be replaced in an intelligent manner, and that the side effects you experience may be nutrient depletion symptoms that could be avoided.

Linda Mac DougallLinda Mac Dougall, M.A., HHP, CMT
To begin on this journey of understanding more about drugs and nutrient loss, I would love for you to join my website and get a free report when you do.

Go now to:
and get “Your Posture: Your Freedom or Your Pain” as a gift.

Linda has an M.A. in psychology, is a Holistic Health Practitioner, a certified massage therapist specializing in our seniors, an author, and a speaker.

Linda’s massage website is