When Should Memory Care Patients Stop Driving?

Is there a good rule of thumb on when memory care patients should stop driving? My 82-year-old mom has early stage Alzheimer's disease but still drives herself around town just fine.

Most doctors agree that people with moderate to severe dementia should never get behind the wheel. However, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, the determining factor should be driving performance, not the disease itself.

With that said, it is important to realize that as your mom's driving skills deteriorate over time from the disease, she might not recognize she has a problem. It is very important that you work closely with her doctor to monitor her driving and help her stop when it is no longer safe for her to drive. Here are some additional tips that can help you.

Watch for Warning Signs


The best way to keep tabs on your mom's driving is to take frequent rides with her and be on alert for key warning signs. For example: Does she have trouble remembering routes to familiar places? Does she drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate, drift between lanes or fail to observe traffic signs? Does she react slowly or make poor driving decisions? Has your mom had any fender benders or tickets lately, or have you noticed any dents or scrapes on her vehicle? All of these are red flags.

If you need some assessment help, hire a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate older drivers. Visit AOTA.org/older-driver or ADED.net to locate one in your area.

Transition Tips


Through your assessments, if you believe it is still safe for your mom to drive, you should start recommending some simple adjustments to ensure her safety. For example, she should only drive in daylight, on familiar routes, and avoid busy roads and bad weather. Also, ask her to sign an Alzheimer's "driving contract" (visit ALZ.org/driving to print one). This contract designates someone to tell her when it is no longer safe to drive.

You may also want to consider getting a GPS car tracking device (such as MotoSafety.com or AutoBrain.com) to help you oversee her driving. These devices will let you track where she is driving and allow you to set up parameters for zones and speed limits. You can receive alerts on your smartphone when she exits a specific area, if she is driving too fast or braking harshly.

Time to Quit


When your mom can no longer drive safely, you will need to talk to her. It is actually best to start having these conversations in the early stages of the disease, before she needs to quit driving, so she can be prepared.

You also need to have a plan for alternative transportation (including a list of family, friends and local transportation options) that will help your mom after she can no longer drive.

For tips on how to talk to your mom, the Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence offers a helpful guide called "At the Crossroads: Family Conversations About Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia and Driving." You can get the guide at TheHartford.com/Publications-on-Aging.

Refusing to Quit


If your mom refuses to quit, you have several options. First, suggest a visit to her doctor who can give her a medical evaluation and prescribe that she stops driving. Older people will often listen to their doctor before they will listen to their own family.

If she still refuses, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if they can help. Some states require doctors to report new dementia cases to the DMV, who can revoke the person's license.

If these fail, consider hiding her keys or just take them away. You could also disable her vehicle by disconnecting the battery. Alternatively, you can park her car in another location so she cannot see it or have access to it.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published February 21, 2020

Youth Foundation Now Recruiting

The Washington County Youth Foundation is now recruiting new members for the 2020-2021 school year.  The Youth Foundation is a group of students from Washington County committed to making our community a better place to live.  The group has members who are sophomores, juniors and seniors in any area high school or are home schooled. 

The Youth Foundation averages one meeting a month.  Times and location will vary; however, most meetings occur on Sunday afternoons.  During the school year the Washington County Youth Foundation will offer one grant cycle, several community service activities and one peer community awareness/asset development event.  Also, Washington County Youth Foundation members will be expected to be volunteers in the Happily Ever After Project.  All members make financial contributions to support the service activities of the Youth Foundation.    

Application, permission slip and more information can be downloaded from the Washington County Community Foundation’s website at www.wccf.biz.  Additionally, information can be obtained from current Washington County Youth Foundation members or by calling the Foundation office at 883-7334.   Applications are due by 4:00 pm on April 15, 2020.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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WCCF offering $40,000.00 in Spring Grant Cycle

WCCF has opened their Spring Grant Cycle.  Funds for the $40,000 grant cycle are made possible through our generous donors and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds.

Grant applications for the spring grant cycle are available at the WCCF office located on Shelby Street in the Learning Center complex or by calling the WCCF office.  The application deadline will be 3:30pm, April 15, 2020.  For more information or to request an application, you may call Judy Johnson or Lindsey Wade-Swift at the Foundation office.  The number is 883-7334.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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Jinny Scifres Memorial Scholarship Applications Available

The Washington County Community Foundation will be accepting applications for the Jinny Scifres Scholarship.  The scholarship is for any individual planning to attend a post-secondary accredited institution in the 2020-2021 school year and plans to pursue studies in the medical field.  The number and dollar amount of scholarships will be determined by the committee.  Preference may be given to non-traditional nursing students who may be returning to school after starting a family or career, as did Jinny. 

After starting a family, Jinny made the tough decision to return to school and study nursing.  After graduation, she began her nursing career at Washington County Memorial Hospital as an Emergency Room Nurse.  Jinny’s love of nursing eventually lead her to several promotions and back to school once again.  She eventually became the Director of Patient Care Services.

Jinny died in the fall of 2000, after bravely battling bone cancer.  Her family and many friends established this scholarship fund in her memory, to assist others who, like Jinny, return to school to study nursing after starting a family or career.  

For questions or an application, please contact Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334 or program.officer@wccf.biz.  Applications are due by April 15, 2020 at 3:30.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease

What are the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease? I was just diagnosed with it after noticing hand tremors for nearly a year, but looking back, I am wondering if I missed any other early warning signs.

As with any progressive disease, early diagnosis is important to start effective treatment before irreversible damage has occurred. Recognizing the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease is challenging because they are usually subtle and can be easily overlooked, dismissed or even misdiagnosed.

Parkinson’s disease, which afflicts around one million Americans, is a degenerative disorder that occurs when the brain’s dopamine-producing neurons die or become impaired. This happens in the part of the brain that controls movement. It can cause tremors (or shaking), stiffness and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination.

The symptoms usually begin gradually and get worse over time. The progression of symptoms is often different from one person to another. Some people with Parkinson’s become severely disabled, while others may experience only minor motor disruptions.

While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, scientists believe genetics and environmental factors such as exposure to certain toxins play a key role. Most people with Parkinson’s first develop the disease around age 60 or older. Men are more likely than women to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Early Warning Signs


Parkinson’s disease is difficult to diagnose because there is no definitive test to confirm it. Doctors, usually neurologists, will do an examination and evaluate a combination of warning signs, but symptoms can vary greatly by patient which often leads to confusion and misdiagnosis. That said, here are some of the key signs and symptoms everyone should know:

Trouble sleeping: Nighttime symptoms include thrashing around in bed or acting out dreams, such as kicking or punching when asleep. This is a REM sleep behavior disorder and one of the strongest and earliest pre-diagnostic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Loss of smell: Another early symptom is not being able to smell certain foods very well like bananas, dill pickles or licorice.

Constipation: Problems with digestion and bowel movements are a big problem for people with Parkinson’s. This is an early sign that can occur up to 20 years before this disease is diagnosed.

Changes in handwriting: Writing may become more difficult and your handwriting may appear much smaller than it has in the past.

Tremors: Slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin. The tremor usually happens at rest and it may disappear when you move the extremity. This is the most common and recognizable outward sign of Parkinson’s disease. Typically, by the time tremors start, the brain has already lost more than half of its dopamine-producing cells.

Slowed movement: Over time, Parkinson’s disease can slow movements, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.

Speech changes: Symptoms include speaking softly, quickly, slurring or hesitating before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.

Loss of automatic movements: Patients also exhibit a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, like blinking, smiling or swinging arms while walking.

Impaired posture and balance: Stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, and/or balance problems can all be early signs of Parkinson’s.

Treatments


Currently, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are a variety of medications that can provide relief from the symptoms. In some later cases, surgery may be advised. Other treatments include lifestyle modifications, such as getting more rest and exercise.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Helpful Tips for Tax Filing Season

What are the IRS income tax filing requirements for seniors this year? I did not file a tax return last year because my 2018 income was below the filing requirements, but I got a part-time job late in 2019, so I am wondering if I need to file this year.

Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year depends not only on how much you earned last year (2019), but also the source of that income, as well as your age and your filing status.

Here is a rundown of the IRS tax filing requirement thresholds for the 2019 tax year. For most people, this is pretty straightforward. If your 2019 gross income – which includes all taxable income, except your Social Security benefits, unless you are married and filing separately – was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you may not have to file. But if it is over the threshold, you are required to file.
  • Single: $12,200 ($13,850 if you reached age 65 before Jan. 1, 2020)
  • Married filing jointly: $24,400 ($25,700 if you or your spouse are 65 or older; or $27,000 if you are both over age 65)
  • Married filing separately: $12,200 at any age
  • Head of household: $18,350 ($20,000 if age 65 or older)
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child: $24,400 ($25,700 if age 65 or older)
To get a detailed breakdown on federal filing requirements, along with information on taxable and nontaxable income, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of the "Tax Guide for Seniors" (publication 554) or see IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p554.pdf.

Check Here Too


There are some other financial situations that can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirements. For example, if you earned more than $400 from self-employment in 2019, owe any special taxes like an alternative minimum tax or get premium tax credits because you, your spouse or a dependent is enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, you will need to file.

You will also need to file if you are receiving Social Security benefits and one-half of your benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest exceeds $25,000, or $32,000 if you are married and filing jointly.

To figure all this out, the IRS offers an interactive tax assistant tool on their website that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you are required to file or if you should file because you are due a refund. It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

You can access this tool at IRS.gov/help/ita – click on the "Do I Need to File a Tax Return?" link. You can get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040. You can also get face-to-face help at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. See IRS.gov/localcontacts or call 800-829-1040 to locate a center near you.

Check Your State


If you are not required to file a federal tax return this year, do not assume that you are also excused from filing state income taxes. The rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency before concluding that you are entirely in the clear.

Tax Preparation Help


If you find that you do need to file a tax return this year, you can get help through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, the TCE provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit IRS.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to locate a service near you.

Check with AARP, a participant in the TCE program that provides free tax preparation at more than 4,800 sites nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or visit AARP.org/findtaxhelp. You do not have to be an AARP member to use this service.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published February 7, 2020

IRS Introduces a Tax Form Created for Older Taxpayers

A couple months back I read that the IRS will be offering a new senior-friendly tax form this tax season that will be easier to use. What can you tell me about this?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has created a new federal income tax form specifically designed for taxpayers age 65 and older. This form should make filing a little easier this year, particularly for those who do not file electronically. Here is what you should know.

Form 1040-SR


Created by the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act, the new two-page simplified federal income tax form is called the 1040-SR. Similar in style to the old 1040-EZ form that the IRS discontinued last year, the new 1040-SR has larger print and better color contrast that makes it easier to read.

In addition, it also includes a chart to help older taxpayers calculate their standard deduction, which may help ensure that more seniors take the additional standard deduction available to them. For 2019, the additional deduction for those 65 or older or the blind is $1,300.

The 1040-SR form also has specific lines for retirement income streams such as Social Security benefits, IRA distributions, pensions and annuities, along with earned income from work wages and tips. It also allows a child tax credit for seniors who are taking care of a dependent child or grandchild.

The form allows taxpayers to report capital gains and losses, as well as interest and dividends. Any of the tax schedules available to those using the standard form 1040 may also be used with the 1040-SR.

Form 1040-SR does not put a limit on interest, dividends or capital gains. Nor does it cap overall income like the old Form 1040-EZ did. Taxpayers who itemizes because of deductions for state and local taxes or charitable giving will not be able to use the new Form 1040-SR.

Paper Filing Advantage


Seniors who use tax-preparation software to file their taxes will be able to generate a 1040-SR, but the new form will provide the most significant benefit to taxpayers who still fill out and file their returns on paper. Last year, about 88% of the 153 million individual federal tax returns filed to the IRS were filed electronically. About 5% were prepared using tax software, then printed out and mailed to the agency, while about 7% were prepared and submitted on paper.

To use the new 1040-SR tax form for the 2019 filing year, taxpayers, including both spouses if filing jointly, must be at least age 65 before Jan. 1, 2020. To see the 2019 version of the new 1040-SR form, go to https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040s.pdf.

Tax Preparation Help


If you need help filing your tax returns this year, consider contacting the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. Sponsored by the IRS, TCE provides free tax preparation and counseling to middle and low-income taxpayers, age 60 and older. Call 800-906-9887 or visit IRS.treasury.gov/freetaxprep to locate a service near you.

AARP is a participant in the TCE program that provides free tax preparation at more than 4,800 sites nationwide. To locate an AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or visit AARP.org/findtaxhelp. You do not have to be an AARP member to use this service.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published January 31, 2020

IU Center for Rural Engagement to expand innovative collaboration with Washington County

SALEM, Ind. – Building upon the energy of nearly two years of arts, cultural and quality-of-place planning and programming with the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement, Washington County will partner with the center’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative to connect faculty and students with community-identified projects.

A year-long engaged teaching collaboration, the center’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative harnesses more than 20 IU Bloomington courses and the energy of hundreds of students to address projects ranging from health and wellness to infrastructure planning to natural resource management. This initiative received international recognition as the 2019 Outstanding Program of the Year from the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities-Network (EPIC-N).

“We are so excited to partner with the Center for Rural Engagement,” said Judy Johnson, executive director of the Washington County Community Foundation. “Over the last year, we have had many community meetings and opportunities for our citizens to express their ideas for creating our preferred future in Washington County. I think the timing is perfect for Washington County, as we begin a new decade we have the opportunity to work together to make our community an amazing place to live, work, play and raise a family.”

Approximately 50 miles southeast of the Indiana University Bloomington campus, Washington County is home to 28,415 residents, vast natural resources including a portion of the state’s longest hiking trail--the Knobstone Trail--and historic sites such as the John Hay Center Complex and Beck’s Mill. The county’s economy is rooted in agriculture and the metal and lumber industry. Washington County will be the fourth county to partner with the center on the SHC initiative.

With the center’s launch in 2018, Washington County established strategic effort with a focus on quality of place, including an ongoing rural arts series involving the Jacobs School of Music, IU Cinema, the Department of English, and other Arts and Humanities Council campus partners.

“The IU Center for Rural Engagement welcomes this opportunity to deepen our partnership with Washington County during the 2020-21 academic year,” said Kerry Thomson, the center’s executive director. “This engaged teaching initiative will connect a breadth of resources to projects that meet the community’s goals and continue to expand local capacity for new initiatives with an intensive, comprehensive approach.”

Community meetings to generate ideas, feedback, and discuss possible projects and plans will be held throughout the county in February:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

5:30-7:30 p.m.

Campbellsburg Community Building

21 W. Oak Street

Campbellsburg, IN 47108

Thursday, February 6, 2020

5:30-7:30 p.m.

Pekin Park Community Building

325 E. Karnes Court

New Pekin, IN 47165

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

5:30-7:30 p.m.

Senior Citizen Center

1705 N. Shelby Street

Salem, IN 47167

These meetings are open to the public and light refreshments will be served. Residents are encouraged to attend any of the scheduled sessions for a full discussion and planning activities. Residents are also welcome to contact the Washington County Community Foundation at 812-883-7334 or email Judy Johnson at director@wccf.biz to share ideas and learn more about this partnership.

For more information about the center’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities program and past projects, visit shc.indiana.edu.

WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students

The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative. 

Education Matters is a regional undertaking organized by the community foundations that serve Washington, Scott, Harrison, Clark and Floyd counties to try to increase the number of working adults in our region who started but never completed some form of post-secondary education – education that extends beyond high school.

You might be surprised to learn that in Southeast Indiana, only 25% of our workforce has an associate’s, bachelors or professional degree, compared to 38% nationally. Yet one in four of our community’s adult workers has earned some college credits! That’s over 3,100 people in Washington County!  For whatever reason, they started but never completed their post-secondary education. This represents a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our community.

The community foundations that created Education Matters have elected to concentrate on a small sliver of the overall issue, those one in four of our adult workers who have some post-secondary credits but did not complete their degrees or certifications. This population of people who started but didn’t finish their education is where the Washington County Community Foundation sees opportunity to implement immediate changes that can drive our educational attainment numbers up, ultimately having real impact on our community.

The following criteria have been established for this first round of scholarships:  

  • Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve-month period.
  • Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  • Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  • Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  • The application deadline is 3:30 on April 15, 2020. No exceptions.
  • Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  • Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email program.officer@wccf.biz to request an application or for more information.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community. 

Monitoring Solutions for Loved Ones with Dementia

My husband, who lives at home, has dementia and I worry about him wandering off and not being able to get back. Can you recommend some monitoring technology devices or any other solutions that can help me keep tabs on him?

This is a concern for millions of Americans caring for a loved one with dementia at home. According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 60% of people who suffer from dementia wander at some point.

For caregivers, this can be frightening because many of those who wander end up confused and lost, even in their own neighborhood. Additionally, they are unable to communicate who they are or where they live. Here are some product and service solutions that may help.

Simple Solutions


For starters, there are a number of simple home modification solutions to keep your husband from wandering away. Some solutions include adding an extra lock on the top or bottom of the exterior doors out of the line of sight or installing door alarms on the exterior doors that let you know when they are opened. Also, you should keep your car keys in a secure location if you are concerned that he will try to drive. There are a variety of product solutions in this category.

You should alert your neighbors that your husband may wander so they can keep an eye out. Have a recent picture of him on hand to show around the neighborhood or to the police if he does get lost.

Monitoring Technology


For high-tech solutions, there are a variety of wearable GPS tracking devices that can help you keep tabs on him. Some popular options to consider include AngelSense, which can be attached to clothing or worn around the waist; wristwatches like the Theora Connect or NurtureWatch; and the GPS SmartSole, which is a shoe insole tracker.

All of these types of products come with smartphone apps that would alert you if your husband were to wander beyond a pre-established safe area and would let you know where to find him if he did. These products, with the exception of the GPS SmartSole, also provide two-way voice communication and auto pickup speakerphone so you can talk to him if he wanders.

Locating Services


If the previously listed options do not work for you, there are also locating services – like the MedicAlert + Safe Return program and Vitals Aware Services – that can help you in these situations.

The MedicAlert + Safe Return program comes with a personalized ID bracelet that would have your husband's medical information engraved on it, along with his membership number and the toll-free MedicAlert emergency phone number. If he goes missing, you would call 911 and report it to the local police department who would begin a search, and then report it to MedicAlert. If a Good Samaritan or police officer were to find him, they could call the MedicAlert number to get him back home.

The Vitals Aware Service works a bit differently. This is a free app-based network system that comes with a small beacon that your husband would wear. If he did go missing, anyone in the Vitals app network community that came within 80 feet of him would receive an alert and information about him so they could contact you.

Another option that could help, depending on where you live, is a radio frequency locater service like SafetyNet and Project Lifesaver, which are offered by some local law enforcement agencies. With these services, your husband would wear a wristband that contains a radio transmitter that emits tracking signals. If he goes missing, you would contact the local authorities who would send out rescue personnel who will use their tracking equipment to locate him. Visit SafetyNetTracking.com and Projectlifesaver.org to see if these services are available in your community.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published January 24, 2020

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