One of the things that I have done on my own caregiving journey is to be a constant learner. That encompasses going to seminars, reading, and lately, looking on the blogosphere for quality writers that I feel would benefit me.
In my search for such mentors I came across the profile of Amy Blitchok and her website, modern-senior.com.
Amy and I began an online dialogue and there seemed to be a lot of symmetry in our mutual goals and the subject matter that we were covering.
It was at this time I asked her if she would be willing to do a brief interview about herself and she was gracious enough to share…
Q: Tell me about yourself
A: My background is actually in English Literature and writing. I spent 8 years teaching English at various colleges and doing freelance writing on the side. My interest in and focus on aging and eldercare began with a freelance project and snowballed from there.
I also have a passion for health and fitness, so I became especially interested in preventative measures people can take to avoid chronic diseases. Our health problems are a direct result of lifestyle choices and I am trying to do my part to disseminate important information that will help people make better decisions.
Q: What is your education in the elder care field?
A: All of my knowledge about aging and eldercare has come from my own research and personal experiences. With my background in academia, I am familiar with research techniques and standards. Unfortunately, the further I delved into certain topics, the more I found that there is a lack of high quality and comprehensive information available.
It seems that we are really just now starting to look at better ways to care for our elder population. In the past, people just resigned themselves to the fact that they would probably end up in a nursing home. This is the first time in our history that Americans are demanding a better way to age and it couldn’t come at a better time.
We are precariously positioned at the very beginning of the Silver Tsunami and simply based on our current knowledge of aging, we can make great strides in improving the health and longevity of older Americans. The reality is that aging does involve an inevitable amount of deterioration and slowing down, but it doesn’t have to mean a loss of independence or slipping into a state of frailty.
Q: What prompted you to start modern senior?
A: Modern Senior was actually started by a colleague and site gradually fell by the wayside. When I found out about the site, I saw a great opportunity to really focus my efforts and get into this whole blogging thing everyone was talking about.
My classical education including minimal computer training, so there was quite a learning curve. Redesigning and building up Modern Senior took time and effort, but it has been a wonderful learning experience, which has put me in contact with a lot of very caring people. Eldercare is not a glamorous field. For caregivers, financial compensation can be sparse and emotional tolls can be high, so that caliber of people willing to take on these challenges tends to be very high.
Q: What do you see as the future of caregiving?
A: I think that the future of caregiving will involve a lot more communal living and preventative care. While nursing facilities may be the right option for some people, I think that the majority of older Americans would thrive in multigenerational homes or age friendly communities. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
After WWII, the country experienced an economic boom and fulfilling the American Dream meant heading out on your own, often far from family and hometowns and an era that valued multigenerational homes came to an end. The pendulum swung so far that it became taboo to live with your parents. Luckily, we are shifting back in the other direction.
Today, the nation’s largest home builders are specializing in aging in place friendly designs and multi-generational homes that allow for a combination of privacy and community. Zoning laws that mandated single family homes are being revised to allow for multigenerational homes. I think this is a really positive shift in the way we think about family and aging.
Q: With the inevitable pressure on SS and Medicare, what solutions do you feel need to be brought forth to keep these programs solvent?
A: I think that most people look at the fact that Medicare and Social Security will run out and try to find new ways to fund these programs, but another practical solution is to find ways to cut down on expenditures. The Affordable Care Act includes some key changes that have help cut down on costs. By expanding fraud investigations effort, the government has already saved billions of dollars.
Medicare is also now paying competitive prices for medical equipment instead of paying exorbitant fixed prices that did not align with market values. The way pricing was set up before made absolutely no sense and did nothing but rob Medicare and open the door to fraud.
Another way to reduce the demands on the Medicare system is to shift our focus from treatment to prevention. I simply can’t say it enough: we can prevent chronic diseases. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity can all be combated by making health lifestyle decisions. Reducing rates of obesity in America alone would have a huge financial impact our various healthcare systems.
Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to a new caregiver?
A: Being a caregiver is one of the toughest jobs around.
- Make sure you are aware of available resources. There are tools on the market to help you with the practical challenges of caregiving. There are support groups and organizations that can help you feel less isolated and fight avoid the depression that is all too common among caregivers. There are many ways to ease your burden. Do your research and be aware of what is out there so that you don’t end up doing things the hard way.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For some people, caregiving is a non-stop, around the clock job. At some point you are going to need a break. Don’t feel guilty about calling on another family member to relieve you of your duties for a night or two.
- First and foremost, take care of yourself. You cannot care for anyone else if you ignore your own health and well-being.
Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to seniors to help them age gracefully?
A: The key is to stay active and independent while also avoiding isolation. We know that simple things like having pets, exercising, and socializing on a regular basis make a huge difference in quality of life. All the tips we read about how to live a healthy life are applicable at any age:
- Eat clean
- Exercise regularly
- Engage in brain stimulating activities
- Care for a pet
- Get enough sleep
- Life is tough and unpredictable and relentless, but there are things you can do to physically, mentally, and emotionally fortify yourself against inevitable challenges, including aging. My hope is that people of all ages will begin to recognize the importance of self-care and not put their health and well-being on the back burner.
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