Pet Care Advice for Seniors

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According to some statistics, the rate of pet ownership stays consistent for people aged 25 to 54 (around percent), but then drops off for older adults (down to 32 percent for people over 65). That may be due to the decreased capacity among some senior citizens. Yet it’s worth noting that having a pet is good for all of us, but perhaps especially so for seniors.

On its website, the National Council for Aging Care cites a 2015 study that claims that spending just 15 minutes with a pet provides a range of health benefits. These include lowered heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure. Over the long term, being around pets can decrease cholesterol, fight depression, and protect you against stroke and heart disease. So if you’re a senior thinking about getting a pet, here are a few pointers to consider along the way.

Where to Adopt

The best place to adopt a pet from will hinge on a variety of factors, including where you live and what kind of pet you want. Some websites even run on a platform of matching pets with senior citizens or provide incentives for people who adopt a rescue pet. If you are thinking about getting a rescue pet, remember that it might have come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household, and it takes a while to ease it into trusting you. So it might be less stressful to get an elderly pet. You can find a number of programs out there geared toward matching “seniors for seniors.” The idea here is that getting a puppy or a kitten might wear out someone who’s older, and both elderly animal and owner will be moving along the same rhythm. Moreover, senior animals are often trained and calmer, quieter, and gentler than younger pets.

Letting a New Pet Settle in Your Home

Helping your pet feel comfortable in its new digs is pretty much the same for older adults as it is for the rest of us. When you bring your pet home, stay calm. There’s a certain temptation to overwhelm it with affection, but hold off for now. Make sure it’s fully adjusted before you lavish it with nuzzles under the chin. Also, take it from room to room so that it’s familiar with the basic blueprint of its new surroundings. Take it outside, too, so that it gets a hang out of the backyard, (if there is one). Designate a certain area to be its sleeping quarters. That could mean a dog-bed or an especially fluffy pile of pillows that everyone knows is the cat’s domain. What’s important here is that your pet feels like it’s part of the household but can also retreat into its own little nook whenever it needs to sleep or be alone.

Keeping Your Home Safe for a Pet

Since the 1970s, homeownership has undergone a steady trend of bigger houses and smaller lawns. But if you are fortunate enough to have an ample yard, consider installing a fence (even an electric fence) or a dog run in your backyard to give your pet extra room to romp and roam safely. The benefits of having a fence are that it keeps your pets protected from strangers and trespassers. The downsides include the cost to put it up (usually a few thousand dollars) and to maintain it afterward. But whatever you do outside, make sure you pet-proof your home inside, too. That means putting away food left out, storing away cleaning products, taping up wires and computer cords, and always picking up small objects like pins and hair ties. Be sure to declutter your home to minimize the risk of falls, and to make your animal companion as safe as possible.

Seniors who wish to adopt a pet should strongly consider getting an older pet. However, just because the dog or cat you adopt is up in age doesn’t mean it doesn’t require the amount of work. Consider fencing in your yard, give them space, and pet-proof your home. Before long, you and your new companion will become best friends.

Posted in Of Special Interest

Metro Senior SmarTrip® Cards

The bright yellow Senior SmarTrip® card for citizens age 65 and older enables seniors to get the discounted fare on Metrobus and Metrorail. A SmarTrip® card is easy to use and faster than a farecard. Just touch it to the target on a faregate or farebox. Reduced fare will automatically be deducted. SmarTrip® eliminates the need to carry cash, coins, and transfers. You don’t lose the value of a registered SmarTrip® card if the card is lost or damaged. For a $2 replacement fee, you’ll get a new card with the value of the lost card at the time you notify Metro.

The Senior SmarTrip® card costs $2. To purchase the card, seniors need to show a valid government issued photo ID with proof of age at either the Metro sales office at Metro Center station (enter at 12th & F Streets), commuter stores, or selected public libraries located in Montgomery County.  For additional information, call SmarTrip® Customer Service at 1-888-762-7874 or TTY 703-620-8782.

Please note: Reduced fare SmarTrip® cards for senior citizens are not sold in vending machines located in Metro stations nor are parking fees reduced. The below are convenient Metro Connector Store locations where you can to apply for Senior SmarTrip cards.

Connector Store at Franconia-Springfield Metro Station
6880 Frontier Drive
(located on the pedestrian bridge next to the Metrorail entrance)
Springfield , VA 22150
Monday – Friday 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Connector Store at Tysons-West Park Transit Station
8300 Jones Branch Drive
McLean , VA 22102
Monday – Friday 10:00am – 6:00pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Posted in Of Special Interest

How to Create a Care Plan for an Aging Family Member

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When you’re caring for another person, every day presents new challenges. From changes in health status to changes in mood, caregivers must be ready to respond and adapt at a moment’s notice. But when you’re racing against the clock to prepare meals, organize medications, and keep house, it’s easy to miss the little things. That’s why it’s so important for family caregivers to develop a care plan that details daily caregiving needs. Only by being organized and methodical can caregivers can keep their days on track and manage their loved one’s evolving needs.

Creating a Care Plan

A care plan is an organizational tool that identifies, schedules, and assigns essential caregiving tasks. It should address routine needs like meals and medications as well as long-term objectives for your loved one’s wellbeing.

Start building your care plan by assessing activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

ADLs are the basic tasks required for daily functioning. They include:

  • Bathing and grooming
  • Using the toilet
  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Walking

A senior who struggles with activities of daily living will require more hands-on, round-the-clock care than a senior who can meet their ADLs independently.

IADLs include more complex tasks, such as:

  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Preparing meals and shopping
  • Managing medications
  • Managing finances
  • Using the telephone
  • Using transportation (personal or public)

A person may be able to complete some IADLs independently while requiring help with others. For example, a senior in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be able to keep up with housework but struggle to balance the checkbook and pay bills. Other seniors may be able to cook if ingredients are provided, or manage light chores but not heavier housekeeping. The University of Florida offers a helpful checklist that caregivers can use to assess their family member’s level of functioning.

In addition to the activities of daily living, a care plan should address long-term goals for your loved one’s wellbeing. Big picture goals might include losing or gaining weight, increasing social activity, or stabilizing a health condition. It’s OK to aim high, but make sure goals are realistic and achievable.

Building a Care Team

Caregiving is a big job that’s best shared across several people. Even if you’re the primary caregiver, family and friends can help out in big or small ways to relieve some of the workload. Perhaps a sibling can cook dinner one night a week or a neighbor kid can take the trash to the curb. Consider far-away relatives too. Even if someone can’t help in person, they may be able to lend a hand managing finances, scheduling appointments, or other tasks that can be done remotely. Every job that someone else can do is something off your own plate, and there’s no job that’s too small to make a difference.

Even if family and friends aren’t available to help, you still have options. You can hire a weekly housekeeper to handle deep cleaning, a companion to engage your loved one in meaningful activities, or a personal care attendant to assist with bathing and grooming. Hiring in-home help preserves your energy so you can remain patient and present when your loved one needs you most.

Finding Help

Being a full-time caregiver can be incredibly isolating, but you’re not alone. There is a wide range of services available to help family caregivers, from social services to support groups. In addition to hiring in-home help, caregivers should make the most of the following services:

  • Adult day services or adult day care
  • Caregiver support groups
  • Meal providers
  • Occupational therapy
  • Senior and medical transportation
  • Respite care

The Eldercare Locator can help you find services in your local community.

As a family caregiver, you’re instrumental to your loved one’s ability to age in place. However, the day-to-day demands of caregiving can be tedious and tiring, and burnout is common. By organizing duties into a care plan and utilizing the help available to you, you can manage your own stress while ensuring the highest quality of care for your family member.

Posted in Of Special Interest

Driving Safety Tips for Seniors

Despite older drivers having a higher accident rate, many senior are keen to keep hold of their license for as long as possible. And understandably so.  Driving can be a wonderful experience and is often the key to staying independent. But the stark reality is that as we age our driving changes and unfortunately, not always for the better. But there are some simple ways you can stay safe and enjoy worry-free driving for as long as possible.

Keep up to date with hearing and sight tests

Being a driver is all about reacting to what happens around you. To be able to do this, you need to make sure that you are in the best physical health possible, and this includes attending all appointments for hearing and sight tests when required. This gives you the chance to ensure that you are in optimum control of your vehicle, and you will notice if there is ever a problem.

Be aware of your limitations

Although you will, of course, want to drive as much as possible, you should be aware and accepting of what you can and can’t do. For example, if you know that you feel uncomfortable due to stiffening joints after half an hour behind the wheel, you should limit journeys to this length, or at least schedule regular breaks. Driving when you know there is something causing a problem for you can cause accidents, as it may take some of your attention away from the road.

Keep your employer informed 

There are many jobs that might require you to drive for a living, and if you want to remain at work rather than taking retirement it is vital that you make sure you are safe behind the wheel.  Having an open conversation with your employer is a great way to start this, as it means that they can understand any issues you might have with driving, and help you to solve them. There may be a way to adjust your workload to make it more suited to your driving abilities, and this means you can stay in work safely.

Take a refresher course

The roads are changing all the time, and because of this, it is always a good idea to take a refresher course. This can give you the confidence to drive as you wish without worrying, and the reassurance of a professional can help you to be as comfortable as possible while behind the wheel in the future.

For many seniors, driving is a crucial part of staying active and independent as they get older. It is important however that you recognize how your driving ability can change significantly as you age. But by looking after your health, keeping up-to-date with all your appointments and always being honest with yourself, you can ensure you stay safe on the road.

Posted in Of Special Interest

Day Trip to The Cold War Museum


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Board the bus at 9:30 am to Warrenton, VA to see and hear about rare artifacts not seen elsewhere from the Cold War. A private tour of the museum will be narrated by retired counter intelligence tour guides.

Lunch will be on your own at a local restaurant and return will be at 3:30 pm.

Cost is $35 for transportation and private tour.  Call 703-941-1419 for details and to reserve your seat now!

Posted in Day Trips

Inclement Weather Policy

If Fairfax County schools are delayed or closed due to weather, Shepherd Center activities will be canceled for that day.

Posted in Programs

SCAS 10th Anniversary Luncheon

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