The Blog

Check back weekly for blog updates

What is Memory Care?

By Benita Hampton

A common misconception about a memory care setting is that it’s the only available option once your loved one has been diagnosed with any type of dementia. Did you see that all important word “misconception”? Because it is absolutely not true! Just because your loved one has dementia it does not automatically mean that they need to reside in a memory care community.

My personal thought, and the philosophy of our agency, is that a resident should be placed in the least restrictive environment possible. We think that memory care is an exceptional tool and can be an excellent option…in some cases.

When we are working with a client that has a pre-disposition to wander, memory care may be the safest option available. When we are working with a client that lacks safety awareness, meaning, they could give a stranger access to their checking account, or potentially step out into a busy street and oncoming traffic, memory care may be the safest option available.

When we are working with a client that is…shall we say “pleasantly confused” I’m not usually a proponent of advocating for a memory care setting as a best-choice option. Here’s why.

Every client that we have the honor to work with is unique. Each situation is different. There are so many different variables that need to be taken into consideration when mapping out a plan for senior care options. There is so much more to take into account than what the senior is able to afford.

Our proprietary assessment tool takes a whole person, person centered approach that allows our team to assess things like the seniors personality traits, their preferences for hobbies and activities, their social history, did they enjoy a robust social life or perhaps prefer the companionship of just a few friends? We look at things beyond food preferences and allergies and determine what will motivate them to dine with others instead of taking meals in the privacy of their apartments. We assess their pain points, what are their fears, their concerns, what brings them joy and causes them to laugh? What type of assistance do they require? How do they prefer a caregiver to assist them with their personal care needs? It’s only after we are armed with this information that we are able to mindfully and thoughtfully recommend living accommodations that will truly be a good fit for your loved one.

Memory Care communities have a special place in my heart. They are designed to reduce discouragement for your loved one. Think about how often you say “no” to your loved one on a daily basis. “No, Mom, don’t touch the stove”. “No, Dad, don’t rearrange the books”. “No, Dear, don’t go outside, it’s dark”. In a memory care community, your loved one is afforded a safe space to wander. They have life stations where books are meant to be rearranged, where stoves are safe, because they are props designed for homemakers to engage in meaningful activities. Your loved one can wander safely because the hallways are designed for just that purpose, and courtyards allow for outdoor excursions without the threat of your loved one wandering off and becoming lost.

But, there is a possibility that an Assisted Living setting may be able to safely accommodate your loved ones needs, yes…even if they have a dementia diagnosis. Again, this will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. There are pros and cons that should be mindfully taken into consideration. We have successfully placed hundreds of clients in memory care and assisted living settings. We provide geriatric care management and oversight of dozens of clients that receive care in their home. All of them are currently thriving. There is no cookie cutter approach. 

Think of the process more like a snowflake. Each unique, each different from any others, all of them beautiful and delicate and special in their own unique way.

Some Dog-Gone Good News!

By Benita Hampton

As our parents age, it can be natural for us to think of ways we are able to help simplify their lives for them. Often, this includes downsizing, maybe going from a house to an apartment, or condo, or even a senior living community.

With these changes, sometimes we consider rehoming our aging parents pets. But what about the benefits that pet ownership can bestow on seniors? In this post, I’ll outline a few tips of the benefits of having a four legged friend as a companion for mom or dad.

Regular Exercise

Pet owners typically achieve the recommended level of physical exercise each week as they take Fido out for at least two walks a day, once in the morning and once again in the evening. This puts them way ahead of the exercise game compared to their non-pet owning counterparts.

Lower Stress & Depression

When mom or dad pets their dog or cat, it can have a positive effect on lowering their blood pressure, which in turn can help effectively manage stress levels. When your loved one receives affection from their pet, there is a notable uptake in both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These are feel-good chemicals and can help stave off depression.

Emotional Health

All pets need care, time and attention. This causes your aging loved one to feel needed, wanted and a sense of responsibility. Everyone wants to feel needed, it will go a long way toward boosting the emotional health of seniors.

Great Ice-Breakers

Pets are excellent conversation starters since they are not concerned about “starting” a new conversation with a stranger! In both neighborhoods and senior living communities, there is a great sense of “community” between pet owners which will create opportunities for your parent to make new friends.

So, bottom line, finding (or keeping) a Fido may be just what your Mom or Dad needs, and as an extra bonus, there are many shelter animals in need of great homes, so please, consider pet adoption…it could just be a match made in heaven.

The Messy Middle

By Benita Hampton

One of our caregiver coaching clients recently described caregiving during COVID like “being on speakerphone while juggling your fine china and walking barefoot across your wet kitchen floor…while blindfolded”. While the description was meant to elicit a chuckle out of the small group session (and it did) I couldn’t help but notice that there were quite a few heads nodding in agreement in their little brady bunch boxes in the land of Zoom group coaching.

It caused me to want to dig a little deeper, to ask some probing questions, to unpack things a bit. What part of caregiving, specifically, feels that way? Do you feel that way on a daily basis? Or just when you are having a rough day? What surprised me, is how animated the ENTIRE group became and started shooting rapid fire responses to my questions.

The general consensus was that they needed a break. These women are tired. They miss their pre-COVID life.

Caregiving is exhausting work, we know that, but caregiving during a COVID pandemic added some crazy dynamics to the mix. When I asked about everyone’s respite care plan (which was actually homework from our last session) I was met with…crickets. Absolute silence.

Interesting…So then, I really had to dig. Why was this group of fairly animated, type A personalities all of a sudden quiet when I brought up respite care? When I asked, I was met with several answers, but the majority of them could be summed up as “My children wouldn’t approve”.


After some honest discussion with the group, it seemed that the concerns that their families had really had very little to do with the risk of COVID, and focused more on feelings of abandonment. In every case, there was a concern that their spouse or dad would feel like they were being “dumped” off at a facility, or abandoned and left alone with a stranger if a home care agency was their option of choice.

Wow. As a coach, this was exciting stuff. We were on the cusp of the “messy middle”…that’s the good stuff, that’s where the magic happens folks! So we talked about our feelings. We talked about our insecurities. We talked about expectations and disappointments and how life can be unfair and cruel and beautiful all at the same time. The more we talked the more obvious it became that the objections started right here, not with our sons or daughters or siblings. We were the hurdles.

I’m so proud to say that six strong women wrote their respite care plans for their loved ones that day. Three of them have scheduled respite care and two others have virtual tours set up for this week.

We put in the work during this session! I think everyone was exhausted after this one. Putting in the work is not easy. Self-reflection is not easy. But it’s necessary, and after you go through the messy middle, you come out on the other side and you feel strong, and empowered and proud. I am so very proud of these ladies.

And I hope that this inspires you.

If you know that you need to get a plan together for your aging loved one, but you don’t know where to start, please reach out. Our team is here and we would be honored to help.

Poor Decisions

by Benita Hampton

You know that feeling you get when someone comes to you seeking advice and you really go out of your way to give them honest feedback, and (not tooting your own horn, but toot toot) you gave them some really great advice! That they didn’t take. It frustrates us because we took the time to provide insight and we shared our knowledge, or experience, so we feel…invested.

Sometimes it’s hard to see clearly when we are so close to a situation. But what about when they don’t take the advice? Maybe they made a decision that was completely the opposite of the advice that you gave. We think to ourselves that we won’t waste our time next time they come to us. We think that they made a poor decision, but now they are going to have to live with the consequences. #toughlove

As much as its not what we want to hear, we do have to remember that people have a right to make a bad decision. They have a right to make a bad decision even if everybody except for them knows what the outcome will eventually be. It can be a really hard thing watch.

Especially when it is your parent that is making the bad decisions.

Whoa, now that just notched up the dynamic by 100%, am I right? So what do you do when the roles reverse and you have to become the rule enforcer, the bad guy, the parent?

Well, the same rule applies, Mom or Dad have the right to make bad decisions, with one caveat, as long as they have the mental capability to make decisions for themselves. What does that mean? If they have been diagnosed, by a physician and on paper, then that’s a game changer.

Let’s say for this post’s sake, that there is no cognitive impairment at play, let’s just say it’s a dose of good old fashioned stubbornness that you’re up against. What do you do if Mom is “investing” money with the business project her friend’s granddaughter is involved with? Or what happens when Dad needs a caregiver but refuses to accept help?

I’ll stand on my soapbox and say it out loud. You cannot argue with them. Neither of you will win. I recommend trying to move the needle forward with several mini conversations over a period of time. When your parent becomes defensive, move on to another topic. This shows them that you are not going to push, but you are most certainly going to persist.

If you find that you are not making progress, reach out to our team for help. One of our Geriatric Care Managers can step in and help facilitate a conversation. Sometimes difficult conversations have better outcomes when there is an unbiased third party involved. Our Care Managers are well versed with dynamic situations so give us a call, we’re here to help.

Let's Talk...

by Benita Hampton

Let’s talk…

Those two little words carry such weight, don’t they? You hear them and your stomach immediately gives way to butterflies. As humans, we typically try to avoid discomfort of any sort. We don’t like to be the one to say, “Let’s Talk” and we don’t like to be on the receiving end of the words either.

But what about when the “talk” is really necessary? What about when the person on the receiving end of that phrase is an aging loved one…a spouse, or maybe a parent?

A question that we get asked a lot is “How do I tell my mom/dad/husband/wife that it’s time to look at assisted living as a care option?” “What do I say”? “How do I say it?” “They’re going to be so upset with me!”. These are all completely valid questions and concerns and they beg answers.

The first misconception that many people have about “The Talk” is just that…that it is just one talk. You envision sitting down with your loved one, having an emotional discussion that is fraught with tears, accusations, anger and the appropriate amount of tissues, runny makeup, and red noses. Here’s a little secret I want to let you in on…” The Talk” shouldn’t be one conversation, it should be many little conversations spread out over time. This makes the situation far less stressful for all parties involved and allows your loved one time to ponder the mini conversation in their own time instead of feeling pressured to make an immediate decision, or worse, feel as if they have no voice and the decisions are being made for them instead of with them.  Make sense?

The second misconception is that there is only one correct outcome and that it must be immediately followed. The decision to explore care options for your loved one is not a one size fits all decision. Just because your best friend’s, next door neighbor’s sister’s mom moved into the assisted living community down the street and immediately fell in love with her new life does not mean that your mom will be happy there. Maybe in-home care is what is best for your loved one right now. Perhaps a large community bustling with activities is the best fit, or maybe a small community that offers a home-like, family-oriented atmosphere is just the ticket. There are so many options, and they should all be explored.

A Placement Specialist is a skilled professional that will assist you and your loved one with outlining care options and making qualifying recommendations based on your unique situation.

You would not hop on an airplane without a skilled pilot at the controls, right? Or call an auto mechanic to help you with your financial investment portfolio, so why would you try to navigate senior care options without a trained expert to guide the way?

Don’t hesitate to contact our team if we can be of service.  We will even help you with “The Talk”.

Financial Assistance for Veteran's and their Surviving Spouses

by John Vasinda

The Aid and Attendance pension program provides benefits for veterans or surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of other personal care needs. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Care given in an assisted living facility may also qualify.

The Aid and Attendance pension may provide up to $1,881 monthly to a single veteran, $1,209 monthly for a surviving spouse and $2,230 per month for two married veterans. (Income, assets and medical expenses will be used to determine eligibility.)

Any wartime veteran with at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day of service during a recognized wartime is eligible to apply for the Aid and Attendance pension. A surviving spouse of a wartime veteran may also apply. The individual applying for the pension must qualify both medically and financially.

There is information that must be gathered and prepared when applying for Aid and Attendance pension. 

 The following documents/information will be needed.

• Discharge/Separation papers (DD214)

• Copy of marriage certificate (for surviving spouse applicants)

• Copy of any divorce decrees (veteran and/or surviving spouse)

• Copy of death certificate (for surviving spouse applicants)

• Information showing income from all sources

• Asset information (bank statements, CD's, Trusts, Stocks, Bonds, etc.

• Listing of all medical expenses including insurance premiums, medications, medical bills, care costs and any other medical expenses not reimbursed by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

• Banking information for direct deposit of Aid and Attendance payment

How do I Apply?

Contact us so that we can discuss your particular case and assist you with the application process.

Do you know of a senior that needs assistance applying for VA benefits?

Let's Talk






Copyright © 2019-2021, Texas Senior Advocates. All Rights Reserved.