Ask an Expert Questions & Answers
- Eat Your Fruits & Veggies
- Seasonal Allergies
- Moving an Aging Parent Into Your Home
- Energy-Saving Tips
- Power of Attorney
Eat Your Fruits & Veggies!
In a recent survey, only 14% of Virginians eat the daily recommendation of 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables. People who eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day have reduced risk of diseases like stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. With June being National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, it is the perfect time for you to ask yourself whether you are a healthy eater. If the answer is no, consider making a change to include more fruits and veggies in your daily eating plan.
We aim to help you make better choices about nutrition, including fruit and vegetable intake. For more information and assistance on eating healthy, visit SeniorNavigator’s Aging Well: Healthy Choices Solution Center.
The older I’ve gotten, the worse my allergies have become. With spring upon us, what can I do?
There are definite allergy symptoms specific to this time of year that affect millions of people. Hay fever is triggered by allergens in the air, such as pollen and molds. Since allergies sometimes lead to other chronic conditions such as asthma, they should be taken seriously. The following are a few tips to help lessen your exposure to seasonal allergens:
- Minimize your outdoor activity on the days when the pollen count or humidity level is reported to be high, or on windy days when mold and pollen are blown about.
- Use a paper mask when mowing your lawn or raking which stirs up pollen and molds.
- Take a shower after spending time outdoors to remove pollen and mold from your skin and hair.
- Keep your windows closed at night to prevent pollen or molds from drifting into your home.
- Use an air conditioner and dehumidifier to keep the air in your home clean, cool and dry. Check the filters to make sure they are clean.
- Keep your car windows closed when driving.
- Take medications as prescribed in the recommended dosage. Do not take additional medications to alleviate severe symptoms. See your physician for advice if you feel the medication is not effective.
- Take a beach vacation! The areas nearer to the ocean tend to be more pollen-free.
To ask an expert about your own health and aging concerns, visit the SeniorNavigator website.
As parents get older and need more of my help, I find myself more susceptible to colds and viruses. As a caregiver, what can I do to stay healthy?
Since care giving can be stressful and overwhelming at times, it is important to continue to care for yourself. The following tip will help:
- Get enough rest. Take naps if you are unable to sleep through the night. If you are not rested, you may become cranky, impatient or short-tempered.
- Take breaks throughout the day to stay alert.
- Eat healthy foods and maintain a regular exercise program. Exercise will help you to deal with stress better, improve your mental health and increase your energy level. Regular physical exams and seeing the doctor when you are sick also are important.
- Don't neglect your emotional well-being. You may feel guilt, anger, impatience, love and annoyance all at the same time. Recognize that these feelings are normal. Take opportunities to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
- Recognize the signs of depression such as feelings of sadness or hopelessness, lack of interest in activities or difficulty in concentrating. Consult your physician if you experience any of these signs.
- Recognize that you simply cannot do it all, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Visit the SeniorNavigator website to find organizations or programs that can help with tasks such as grocery shopping, respite care, transportation or cooking.
My mother is no longer able to care for herself. She has difficulty cooking, cleaning and taking medications on time. Should she move in with me?
Before you consider new living arrangements, have your mother undergo a thorough medical and neurological assessment to determine what her medical condition really is. Once the medical evaluation is completed, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of living together, since this is a significant life change for all involved. Consider the following issues:
- Have you and your mother discussed this option? Some older adults prefer not to live with their children for a variety of reasons, such as being close to familiar neighbors or being near their church or synagogue.
- Will your home accommodate another adult? Consider space and privacy, as well as safety. Are stairs an issue? Would you need to install safety bars in the bathroom?
- Do you have an amicable relationship with your parent? If you are both prone to arguing or have had disagreements in the past, chances are that living under the same roof may be unpleasant.
- Your lifestyle may change considerably. Are you prepared to share your personal time and space? Do you have plans for seeking help with care giving?
- Examine all of the options. If your parent is no longer able to live independently, what are the other alternatives, such as in-home services or adult day care programs? Discuss all of the options with the parent and other caregivers.
I'm on a fixed income and last winter's heating bills were really expensive. What can I do to prepare my home and be more energy efficient this year?
There are a wide variety of things you can do to make your home more energy efficient which will help you save money this fall and winter. The following are a few tips:
- Set your thermostat no higher than 68 degrees when you are home and lower the temperature when you go to bed or when you are not at home. This will ensure optimal home heating and save energy.
- Cut annual heating bills by as much as 10 percent a year by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day.
- Weatherize your home by caulking and weather-stripping all doors and windows. Also use locks on your windows to make them tighter and draft resistant.
- Insulate or increase the amount of insulation in your attic, basement and outside walls. Also cover through-the-wall air conditioners to prevent cold air from leaking into your home.
- Reducing air leaks could cut 10 percent from an average household's monthly energy bill. The most common places where air escapes homes are: floors, walls, ceilings, ducts, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans, vents, and electrical outlets.
- Keep shades and curtains open during the day on the south side of your home to allow solar heating. Close them at night to retain heat.
- Don't block your radiators or heating vents with furniture or draperies. Keep your radiators, registers, and baseboard heaters dirt and dust free. Close vents and doors in unused rooms.
- Have your heating system serviced yearly and regularly replace furnace filters. During the heating season, change or clean furnace filters each month.
- Use Energy Star-labeled lighting for outdoor fixtures and other lights left on for more than four hours.
- Close the fireplace damper when not in use.
- Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to save money on your electricity bill. If you have children in the house, this is also a safety measure. Install water-flow restrictors in shower heads and faucets.
If two siblings have co-power of attorney for their parent, can one of them make a decision, such as selling a house, without the consent of the other?
The degree to which each sibling has the ability to act, and in what manner, depends on how the power of attorney is written. The words "and" or "or" become very important. Often, the power of attorney document may clarify the situation with specific language that says either may act or both must act together. The document must be reviewed for the specific language of appointment:
- Joint appointment - all must act. Example: "I appoint John and Sylvia to be my agents."
- Alternative appointment- either may act. Example: "I appoint John or Sylvia to be my agent."
Be advised that if there is a conflict between two fiduciaries, it would be wise to refrain from acting until the issue is resolved. To find an elder-law attorney to help work through these issues, visit the SeniorNavigator website and type in the topic "Lawyer" and your ZIP code.
In 2006, my father became very ill and was hospitalized for approximately six months. His daughter (my sister) began handling his affairs as his Power of Attorney (POA). My father is now well and has resumed handling all of his affairs.
My father wants the POA revoked, but my sister is not responding to his request. She has access to all of his account information. How can my father obtain the required documents to revoke the Power of Attorney?
As long as the principal (your father) is competent, the POA can be revoked at any time. The principal is presumed competent unless there is a court judgment that establishes a guardianship.
The daughter that continues to act should be sent a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, that says:
Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested
Dear Name of Daughter,
I, Name of Father, revoke the power of attorney that I gave you. I will hold you financially responsible for any unauthorized act by you. Copies of this letter are being sent to my bank and my accounts.
(Signed By Your Father)
If the bank will not cooperate, close the account and open a new account in another bank with only the signature authority desired by your father. Copies of the letter should be sent to any bank or business that the father is, has, or will do business with.
If this has become a family argument with one child battling with another child and your father does not want to be in the middle of the situation, mediation may be an option.
A case manager at the local Area Aging Agency or Adult Protective Services at the local Department of Social Services may be able to help locate a mediator. Also, a pastor or mutually trusted family friend may also serve as mediator.
To ask an expert about your legal concerns, visit the SeniorNavigator website.
My mother is 80 years old and has just begun to take new medications prescribed by her doctors. I am concerned because she has taken very little medication in her lifetime. She tells me that she is feeling a bit off balance, and I am concerned about her taking a fall. Is her safety at risk taking several drugs at the same time?
You may have reason to be concerned -- medications can be an important contributor to falls. The total number of medications is a significant factor, with increased risk associated with taking four or more drugs.
The risk of a fall is especially increased when medications have been changed within the past couple of weeks. Adverse drug effects, particularly sedation and dizziness, are usually greater at the initiation of treatment before the body begins to become tolerant to the side effects. Patients and their families can reduce fall risk due to medications by:
- Informing each prescriber/doctor and pharmacist of all of the medications being taken, including non-prescription products.
- Consulting the prescriber whenever an adverse drug reaction may be occurring, especially when confusion or loss of balance is noted.
- Problems attributed to normal aging may actually be medication side effects.
- Consulting a doctor or pharmacist when choosing non-prescription products.
- Exercising caution in the activities of daily living when starting a new medication, especially those that cause sedation, loss of balance, or low blood pressure.
- Working with the prescriber to reduce the total number of prescription and non-prescription medications.
There are other factors that come into play and contribute to falls. Individual characteristics, such as, disabilities, diseases, or age-related changes in vision may be playing a role. At times, there are environmental causes, i.e., poor lighting or obstacles on the floor.
For additional information on fall prevention and medication management, visit the SeniorNavigator website.