Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
In her much needed recently published book, Making the Golden Years Golden (AuthorHouse) Dr. Eva Mor offers strategies and resource information to help make one’s senior years safe, secure and enjoyable. “If you prepare ahead of time there’s no reason you can’t have a good and rich retirement,” said Dr. Mor.
Among other topics, she covers government health-related programs, different residential and insurance costs and options, prescription drugs, recognizing and dealing with illnesses that affect the elderly, financial planning, protecting against elder fraud and reinventing retirement.
The Jewish Press recently spoke with Dr. Mor.
The Jewish Press: I was impressed with the stories in your book about how the right intervention allows a person to live at home and thrive. How do you navigate the fine line between maintaining a person’s independence and offering help?
Dr. Mor: “Communication” is the key word. Sometimes you have to approach the elderly persons in increments. Aging is a complicated issue. Don’t talk down to them – talk with them. The message to send is “I want to help you. You guide me.”
You can give an example of someone else’s parents who never invested in long-term insurance. Now it’s eating up their savings. Ask them, “How about you? Do you have long-term insurance? Do you need such a big house?” You can bring in a third impartial person to the conversation – a rabbi, friend or doctor.
You write about how important it is, when controlling older peoples’ finances, to allow them to have some money in their wallet. But what if they’re confused?
I know an Alzheimer’s patient who is very generous. He’s given some money to have in his wallet. When he goes to a doughnut store with his aide and sees [a few dollars] in his wallet he can buy people a doughnut. It makes him feel so good. He tells the cashier, “Keep the change.”
For what age group did you write this book? How can different age groups benefit?
I originally I wrote with my father in mind. There was no book like this. When I began writing I saw it was also for caregivers of the elderly, including the “sandwich generation” – people that deal with issues with their parents and with their children. This whole society is not ready for aging. We plan our vacations at length, but not our aging.
On the whole, how aware do you think seniors are of what services are available?
There’s very little awareness and very poor advertising. We have not prepared ourselves [regarding aging] personally or as a society. There are programs such as the Medicare drug plan that nobody understands including the people who wrote it. There are not enough geriatric doctors, nurses and social workers. The aging issue has been marginalized.
You’re a specialist in gerontology. What attracted you to this field?
I was born to Holocaust survivors and never had grandparents. In Israel I adopted friend’s grandparents. They were so wonderful, a source of unconditional love. They never said “No.”
Your book has a realistic, yet optimistic tone to it. You note, “Society…still offers a very rich life for us as we age.” What does it mean to make the golden years truly golden?
It’s important to live safely and free of stress. Theoretically you should not have to have the sense of running for financial security. With proper investments financial security should be there and you can live comfortably. You could do all of the things you wanted to do but couldn’t do before when you didn’t have the time…This is the time to do it. You could play golf, have hobbies, and travel. You’re not worrying about depleting assets because you’re set up.
Is living in the comfort of one’s home always the best option when possible?
If you’re safe at home, there’s nothing like being at home. The community should be a little more involved. If you haven’t seen a neighbor in a long time, knock on the door.
Where do you stand on health care reform? Is there anything the Israeli health care system is doing that you think could be helpful for the U.S.?
I like what Israel does. They have a combination of private and public. It’s harder to do that here as the insurance companies are so entrenched. In 1995 there was an Israeli law that guaranteed that everyone gets a basic package. On top of that you could pay more for extras. In Israel every person is covered from birth to death. There, you never have to worry that if you get a disease you won’t be able to afford treatment. They’re very strong on geriatric treatment and services.
Here [in the U.S.], Medicare Part D eliminated coverage (up until $3,000 and then beyond $6,000, called a “doughnut hole”). They cut medication in half. Some people don’t take their medication or they give up food. In America, there are 47 million people without insurance. We need to make the first step [for change] and then other steps are made. When Social Security and Medicare were born there were many fights, yet they are very successful and life-saving programs.
How should a person and family prepare for placement in a nursing home or another senior living venue?
Prepare yourself ahead of time…Know what’s available. If you don’t use it, you don’t need it. Make sure it offers amenities and programs that the person likes. If there’s a synagogue, meet the rabbi. Make an agreement that the home is for a month’s trial. That way a person might be more receptive, knowing he or she is involved in the decision
How do you talk with a person who has Alzheimer’s or shows signs of confusion?
Often, when talking with people with Alzheimer’s one assumes they don’t understand. Let’s go on the assumption that they do. When speaking with them, don’t talk down to them.
Instead of saying, “You want to do something,” say “Would you like to do something?” Talk on an eye level. Don’t speak loudly. Not every elderly person is deaf.
You say in your book, “We are at a turning point in our society.” What do you mean?
The demographic structure is changing. We are senior heavy. We have to accommodate them. These baby boomers are voters. The politicians are open to their needs. We should use this power to achieve better living conditions and better services.
What benefits do seniors get from volunteering?
They see that they are still active and contributing members of society. They have so much knowledge and time. When you work, your schedule is set. Now [in retirement] your schedule is flexible. This can be very joyful. In volunteering, the sense of satisfaction is greater then when you work for pay, for there you have to.
How has working with the elderly, in your own words, “enriched” your life and taught you “a great deal?”
Very few professions will provide you with such a sense of satisfaction in making a difference to another human being. I’m very lucky. I’ve learned that life is precious and that we owe it to ourselves to protect the elderly and give back to them, because they gave…to us.”
Do you have any concluding words?
Aging can be a very positive process and if you’re safe and protected you can age well.
Dr. Mor is an epidemiologist and specialist in gerontology and health-care management and she has worked with the elderly for 23 years in long-term facilities, acute-care hospitals and centers for chronic disease.
The book is available from Barnes and Noble bookstores and on Amazon (online). Also, you can order the book by calling the publisher at 888/280-7715, ext. 5022. More information is available at www.goldenyearsgolden.com
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