Hospice as a Positive Alternative

      Death is usually an uncomfortable topic to think about, let alone plan. Fortunately there are services that can help you receive the most comfortable care possible personalized to your wishes. If you were to find out you only had six months to live, would you prefer taking aggressive drugs hoping for a small chance to live? It may unfortunately be accepted those last few days would be drawn out in the hospital undergoing even more intensive treatments. I know, it’s not necessary to go too far into that scenario. Another option many older folks have chosen is hospice. Unlike a common misconception, hospice is not necessarily a place, but rather a form of care. As laid out by Chang’s article “Development of Hospice and Palliative Care in the United States”, hospice is probably the most sensitive approach, allowing many patients to be taken care of at home, as comfortably as possible3.

      Hospitals focus on curative care, meaning fighting against the cause of sickness in order to come closer toward a cure or remission. The only problem with this approach is that some people may not have a probable cure for their illness. Hospices on the other hand, focus on reducing pain during the inevitable final stage of life1. This is called palliative care, when lessening the pain and preserving independence are the redirected goals toward enjoying your last experiences. This is an alternative to physician care, initially most popular among cancer patients, but now expanding across all different conditions2. As hospice care grows popularity and availability, it is becoming better known for its holistic approach. There are many services available including medical treatment, home health aide visits, spiritual and nutrition counseling, and bereavement support for the family. It not only focuses on the body, but the mind and spirit as well3.

      Unfortunately hospice has a negative connotation for those who are less familiar to the alternative option.The American Hospice website addresses some of these viewpoints. Some people think that hospice is only for the individuals themselves who are dying2. In fact, it is an inclusive healing practice for the loved one’s family. Not only is illness more bearable to manage in the company of friends and family, but friends and family supporting one another as well. There are special grievance support services as part of the care plan 2. Some people may get the impression that hospice is expensive. Actually since this form of care was mainly supported by volunteers in the beginning, many have maintained their non-profit systems. In fact, almost two thirds of hospices are non-profit 2. Additionally, Medicare plans can cover 95% of your fees, and many hospices have been known to decline the 5% copayment 3. Perhaps the philosophy and morale of this service may be a contributing factor to recipient satisfaction.

      Now I am keeping in mind that many of you are still healthy, active, and not so concerned about death at the moment. In fact there will be a few readers who are healthier now in their older years than they have been most of there life! The importance here is considering ahead of time what kind of care you wish to receive should you not be able to make the decision later. With the misconceptions pertaining to hospice, it is possible your family is unaware of this option and It is a never too early to start this dialogue with your family. You would not only be contributing your own wishes, but you can find other family member’s preferences for themselves. I really recommend that you explore the citations I have included.

1 Connor, S. (2009). Development of Hospice and Palliative Care in the United States. In H. Cox (Ed.), Annual Editions: Aging (pp. 86-90). Indiana State University: McGraw Hill.
2 Naierman, N. (2001). Debunking the Myths of Hospice. Retrieved from http://www.americanhospice.org/articles-mainmenu-8/about-hospice-mainmenu-7/36-debunking-the-myths-of-hospice
3 Naierman, N. (2001). The medicare hospice benefit: A good fit with managed care. Retrieved from http://www.americanhospice.org/articles-mainmenu-8/about-hospice-mainmenu-7/42-the-medicare-hospice-benefit-a-good-fit-with-managed-care

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How You Can Benefit from Volunteering

The laughing handyman.jpg
    Did you know that the number of seniors who are volunteering is rapidly increasing? Believe it or not, based on US Census, the number of volunteers 65 and older are predicted to increase my 50% over the next thirteen years. This is posted in a report by the Corporation for National & Community Service entitled. Furthermore, this statistic is predicted to rise even higher as the youngest baby boomers will not reach age 65 until the year 2029. I’m sure many of you may be skeptical as to the benefits in volunteering. “I’ve worked forty-plus years of my life already, what more do you expect!” some may exclaim. Well actually, a study assessing life satisfaction in older adults found that those who volunteer strongly correlated with this important factor, and showed significantly higher life satisfaction rates than those who continued to work for pay. Now this is neither a suggestion to “quit your day job” nor is it to force yourself back into the work force for free. This is rather a suggestion to take a couple hours out of your week to help others for the sake of their wellbeing (and even your own!)

    Volunteering is a way in which you serve a community or a particular population in need that may not have otherwise been able to find assistance. There are opportunities as short as one time services, or upwards beyond a one year commitment. In the middle range, you may sign up for a program in which you meet once a week on a particular day, or only attend special events when they occur. There is bound to be a commitment that is right for you with these endless possibilities. Next you will want to consider what kinds of communities, populations, or issues would you like to work towards? Maybe kids, seniors, pets, disabled, the environment, education, health access, immigrants, or the homeless? Write down a list of some of your interests, and perhaps some populations in which you have had little exposure. You will probably be surprised with all that you come up with!

    Now looking at your list, you may still be wondering how you would go about starting your community service. Actually, you are probably still wondering why you should go out of your way to even initiate such an endeavor. A news article on Naples News stated several benefits that you may find very appealing. First off, you are likely to engage in a larger social circle than if you didn’t have this connection to other volunteers. I am going to speak from experience here. When I started volunteering myself, I found that those I worked with shared many of the same values that I did. They cared about their education and thinking reflectively, the core values of our service at the Community Involvement Center on campus. Most importantly though, they really just felt like “real” people who actually cared to hear about how you are doing. Think about it. Community service would mainly attract those people who care to do something toward a larger purpose outside of themselves. I find it to be very special to be surrounded around this positive energy.

    Another health benefit that stems from this mindset would be the lower levels of stress anxiety that volunteers encounter. This probably is in part from the social support you would likely build, and the fact that you are getting out of the house to try new things! Activity keeps your body and your mind in its top acuity. Additionally, those who volunteered had a better sense of purpose and accomplishment compared to those who did not. This is pretty self explanatory. It is also noted that there are lower mortality rates in those over 70 who volunteer more than 100 hours annually. This is only two hours a week, and it has such a substantial effect!

    Now, as for where you can go about finding places to volunteer, there are many resources on the internet. You may try Servenet.org or volunteermatch.org. Both of these use precise search techniques to narrow down your options based upon your qualifications and interests. SeniorCorps is another option that assists those 55 and older in finding an ideal volunteer site. There have been over 500,000 seniors who have used SeniorCorps’ services successfully. Another option I want to bring mention to that is very different from others, are volunteer vacations. This is where you travel abroad to a location of your choice to do a combination of sightseeing, relaxing, and helping the community. You can find this at Hands up Holidays among some other “voluntourism” agencies. Of course this option is just as expensive as a vacation on its own, however you additionally receive the healing benefits of volunteering, for yourself.

    It’s easy to get caught in a rut of all the mundane tasks that take up our day, and the subpar ways we hope to entertain ourselves. I dare you to take a step out of your comfort zone to try something new! You will feel better in ways you didn’t realize you would. Many people underestimate the positive affect community service can bring.

Video: Volunteer Keeping Seniors Healthier, Happier

Growing Population and Us

Singapore New Year 2010 Fireworks

      As we enter the 21st century, the baby boomer population advances in age as well. In fact, with the large mass of baby boomers now approaching senior citizenship, we are expecting there to soon be more 85 year olds than 5 year olds1. Additionally, there are likely to be more females than males in proportion1. Right now, there are 41 males for every 100 females most likely due to health factors. This means that there is bound to be a large number of widowed or single senior women.

      Often, women have had to care for others their whole lives. Many got married at a very young age and had children shortly after. As time moves along, our children, spouse, and other people we care for mature out of our hands’ reach sometimes leaving us without the sense of identity we once had set for ourselves. Not only are children growing up, but we have more women than ever who have chosen to not have children. This makes it even more important to look after oneself, and to rediscover what life has to offer. Taking value in this second half of life also can lead you to enjoy it longer than our parents did. The findings to these studies show that there are going to be a growing number of single older women than there have been in the past. It is up to us to find the emotional support that we need in one another.

      Now, I know you have probably come across many articles discussing how to live a longer life through diet and exercise. With all of the one sided, conflicting arguments, many of us have become so sick of trying to make sense of it all. I want to soon discuss with you different ways you will likely improve your health physically, and also mentally and emotionally. Having there be a growing community of aged single women alongside our growing technology of information and communication, this is a perfect opportunity to come together and support your older years. There are some women who use this time to meet others and do activities they never would have been able to do caring after a husband or family. This can be exhilarating while also beneficial to your health at the same time. The best way to unlock a new healthy life is to get to connect with other women and provide information for one another from valuable sources.

      Emotionally, and mentally, it is important to take time to relax with yourself. Even though you may not be working or raising a family, it is still possible to become stressed. Likewise, it is equally important that you take time for yourself to take a bath or listen to calming music every now and then. Don’t have too high expectations for yourself. This is mainly a quick introduction to my soon to be informational blog, but I really hope you find as much of an interest in optimistic aging as I do. I want to hear your questions and ideas, as I will be posting relevant news articles and psychological studies to help us learn together this phenomenon of aging.

1Cox, H. (2012). Annual editions: aging 11/12. (24 ed., pp. 3-6). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.