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Things to Do When Visiting Aging Parents During the Holidays

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 19, 2018

Spring Arbor - VA, NC, SCDuring the holidays, many of us will be visiting aging parents. It’s a perfect time to observe them in their “natural habitat” – you’ll see how they’re really doing . Plus, these tips help you focus on important details that will make a big difference in the long run.

1. Discreetly check on independent parents

When your parents are living independently, the holidays are a great time to discreetly check on them. If you do this every year and keep a few notes, you’ll be able to spot changes more easily in the future.

Try and evaluate any changes in their physical, mental, and emotional health.

2. Spend an afternoon on home safety updates

While you’re visiting, you might have an opportunity to make a few simple safety updates. These easy fixes don’t take much time and will help your parents avoid common accidents so they can stay independent longer. They don’t take a lot of time, but they’re very effective.

If their bath mats are slippery (a real hazard!), replace them with these stylish low-profile, non-slip mats

3. Have meaningful conversations about the future

When family gets together over the holidays, it’s a good opportunity for meaningful conversations. If you haven’t already started talking about aging and plans for the future, consider bringing up the subject at a strategic time. You might be surprised – many parents appreciate having these conversation and will be grateful that you brought it up.

Use these tips to prepare for a successful conversation and keep these conversation starters in your back pocket to make it easier to get the ball rolling.

Bottom line

This year, use some of your time at home to do 3 things: make sure your parents are doing well, make simple home safety updates, and start important conversations about the future.

For more information on care for aging parents, contact Spring Arbor.


Reasons to Retire in Virginia

Joseph Coupal - Friday, November 09, 2018

Spring Arbor - VA, NCThe Retirees deliberating a destination tend to consider only the most well-known retirement states, places like Florida and Arizona. But there are some retirement gems among the Mid-Atlantic states, too, including Virginia. Need convincing? Consider these reasons to retire in Virginia.

Virginia is tax-friendly for retirees

An important part of your retirement decision will be taxes. They can sneak up on you quickly, and it’s a good idea to be prepared if you’ll be living on a fixed income. Fortunately, Virginia has some of the lowest overall tax rates in the nation, which makes it very attractive to retirees.

In Virginia, all Social Security income is exempt from income tax, as is earned income that totals less than $12,000 per year. The average property tax rate is under 1%, and the maximum possible sales tax is 6%. Taxes on groceries come in at 2.5%. Meanwhile, prescription drugs, as well as most over-the-counter drugs, are tax-exempt. Taken all together, that makes Virginia a great place to retire as far as taxes are concerned.

Virginia has communities for every income level

The average cost of living in Virginia is 9.4% above the national average. That might sound scary at first, but some cities have higher costs than others. For instance, though it’s a popular retirement city, Williamsburg has a cost of living that is 31.6% above the national average. You’ll find lower costs nearby if you consider retiring in Virginia Beach or Norfolk.

If you’re interested in retiring in the Washington, D.C area, know that Northern Virginia, outside Washington, also tends to be expensive. That’s especially true in suburbs close to the nation’s capital such as Alexandria and Arlington. But you’ll find less expensive small cities farther from Washington, in areas around Richmond and Roanoke, and in the lovely Shenandoah Valley.

Crime rates are low in Virginia

When it comes to public safety, Virginia knows exactly what it’s doing. The Old Dominion has maintained one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. for many years. In fact, Virginia has the third lowest violent crime rate in the nation, as well as the fifth lowest overall crime rate. In addition, only 8% of crime in Virginia is violent crime. That compares with 12% average nationally.

Virginia blends city and country lifestyles

In Virginia, you’re never far from the city buzz or country leisure; both experiences are an important part of living in the commonwealth. You can have a great time living in Richmond, an urban city with a population of 223,000, and decide to take a day trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, a gorgeous portion of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia.

Virginia offers a wealth of history

Virginia was founded in 1607 and was one of the original 13 United States colonies. This beautiful state is an undeniable part of U.S. history. Historic landmarks include the Jamestowne colony, Revolutionary Yorktown, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and Civil War sites such as Appomattox Court House. History buffs and their visiting grandchildren won’t run out of places to visit and explore in Virginia.

Virginians enjoy countless festivals

Virginia has all kinds of festivals year-round, making it easy to experience something new and exciting every week. The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival runs in April, with widely loved events that draw hundreds of thousands of people. July marks the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim, a nearly 100-year-old tradition that corresponds with a Fireman Carnival for some good old-fashioned fair fun. In September, head to Hampton for Bay Days, featuring fireworks, beer tasting, and a car show.

Medical care is easy to access in Virginia

Despite Virginia’s smaller size, the state boasts 89 hospitals, making it a great place for continuing medical care. You’ll find geriatrics and gerontology centers in Blacksburg, Richmond, and Norfolk. If you’re a military retiree, the Department of Veterans Affairs has medical centers in Hampton, Richmond, and Salem. Statewide in Virginia, there are 127 primary care physicians per 10,000 residents, a higher rate than the national average. Clearly, Virginia can be a great state for staying healthy as you age.

Are you ready to retire in Virginia? Contact Spring Arbor.


When Early-Onset Alzheimer's Symptoms Begin Before Age 65

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 05, 2018

Spring Arbor - VA, NCEarly-onset Alzheimer's disease is a rare form of dementia that presents unique challenges. Learn more about causes, diagnosis and how to cope.

What is early-onset Alzheimer's?

Early-onset Alzheimer's is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. Of all the people who have Alzheimer's disease, about 5 percent develop symptoms before age 65. So if 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, at least 200,000 people have the early-onset form of the disease.

Most people with early-onset Alzheimer's develop symptoms of the disease in their 40s and 50s.


Some people with early-onset Alzheimer's have the most common form of the disease. Experts don't know why these people get the disease at a younger age than others do.

But others with early-onset Alzheimer's have a type of the disease called "familial Alzheimer's disease." They're likely to have a parent or grandparent who also developed Alzheimer's at a younger age.

Early-onset Alzheimer's that runs in families is linked to three genes—the APP, PSEN 1, and PSEN 2—that differ from the APOE gene that can increase your risk of Alzheimer's in general.

Together, these three genes account for less than 1 percent of all Alzheimer's disease cases but about 60 to 70 percent of early-onset Alzheimer's cases. If you have a genetic mutation in one of those three genes, you may develop Alzheimer's before age 65.

Genetic testing for these mutations is available, but anyone who's considering it should pursue genetic counseling—to examine the pros and cons beforehand.

For example, it may be helpful to consider how a positive test may affect your eligibility for long-term care, disability, and life insurance.

On the other hand, if you know you carry a form of the early-onset genes, you may be able to take steps to make it easier for you and your loved ones to cope with the effects of the disease.

If you have early-onset Alzheimer's linked to one of the three genes or carry a form of these genes without symptoms, talk to your doctor about participating in a research study. By studying the early-onset form of Alzheimer's, researchers hope to learn more about the causes and progression of the disease and develop new treatments.

Accurate diagnosis critical

An accurate diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's is crucial for medical reasons to rule out other potential issues and get the most appropriate treatment as well as for personal and professional reasons.

For you and your family, the diagnosis is fundamental in helping the family respond with appropriate understanding and compassion. It can also give you and your family more time to make important decisions about financial and legal issues.

At work, it can allow you to explain your condition to your employer and perhaps arrange a lighter workload or more convenient schedule.

How to cope with early-onset Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease has a tremendous impact at any age. But people with early-onset Alzheimer's disease may face some unique challenges.

They may face stigmas and stereotypes about the disease. Due to their young age, people may not believe they have the disease or question the diagnosis.

People with early-onset Alzheimer's may lose relationships or jobs instead as a consequence of this misunderstanding rather than being identified as medically ill or disabled.

They may also face a loss of income from being diagnosed while still working.

What to do at work

Before your condition significantly affects your ability to do your job, talk to your employer. What you can do:

  • Find out if you can switch to a position that better suits your emerging limitations.
  • Familiarize yourself and your spouse, partner, or caregiver with your benefits, and find out whether an employee assistance program is available.
  • Explore what benefits may be offered to you under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and COBRA.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, consider reducing your hours or taking time off.

Coping tips for couples

After a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's, spouses or partners often feel a sense of loneliness or loss as they face the possibility of spending many years without an active partner.

Losing the romantic component and changing to a caregiver status also complicates the relationship. Try to:

  • Talk about what kind of help you need from each other. Communicate about changes you're experiencing and ways in which your needs also may have changed. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Continue participating in as many activities with your partner that you currently enjoy and adapt as necessary. Or find new activities that you can enjoy together.
  • Keep a folder of resources you may need as the disease progresses.
  • Find a counselor who works with couples facing issues you feel challenged by, such as sexuality and changing roles in the relationship.

How to involve kids

A diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's can also be difficult for children, who may not understand. Children may blame themselves, become angry, or react in any number of ways. Try to:

  • Find activities you can enjoy together.
  • Stay engaged and talk with your children honestly about what you're experiencing.
  • Find a support group for children, and invite your kids to some of your counseling sessions. Make your child's school counselor and social worker aware of your condition.
  • Keep a written, video or audio record of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences for your children. They'll appreciate your sharing your wisdom and memories.

Financial issues

People with early-onset Alzheimer's often have to quit work, and this loss of income is a serious concern. Finances get even tighter if spouses or partners also quit their jobs to become full-time caregivers.

Some medical benefits and many social-support programs won't provide assistance unless the person with Alzheimer's is older than age 65. Younger people may need special waivers to get into such programs. What you can do:

  • Talk with a financial planner and an attorney to help you plan for your future financial needs.
  • Ask your employer whether early retirement is an option.
  • Explore what benefits may be available to you through Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • Organize your financial documents and make sure your spouse or partner understands and can manage your family's finances.

Resources for support

Key elements of Alzheimer's care are education and support. This is especially true given the unique challenges of early-onset Alzheimer's. Getting connected to services such as support groups can help you identify resources, gain a deeper understanding of the disability, and learn ways to adapt.

Remember, you're not alone. Many resources are available to assist you, your family, and caregivers to cope with this disease. Options for support may vary depending on where you live.

In the early stages of the disease, be sure that you and your spouse or partner do research and establish a plan for managing the progression of your condition. Knowing you have a plan and have identified support and resources will help everyone in the future.

For more information on Alzheimer's care, contact Spring Arbor.