Monday, January 6, 2014

5 Wishes Seniors Have for Themselves by Petra Burdine

Hello there! And Happy 2014! In this new year I will be having guest bloggers discuss different topics having to do with aging in place. They will all be members of Oklahoma Independent Living Resources (also known as OILR, for more information please check out:

Our first guest blogger is Petra Burdine. She is owner and Operations Manager of Assured Help Senior Care, the first licensed companion/sitter service in Oklahoma. Ms. Burdine has a Master's degree Behavioral Science as well as a great deal of experience in case management and social work. You can see her company's complete list of services on their website at Without further ado, here is Petra Burdine:

5 Wishes Seniors Have for Themselves by Petra Burdine

As the owner of a small agency that helps seniors remain in their homes, I hear these 5 wishes most often for seniors and their families.These wishes are the most important things seniors want but take a life time of preparation to make possible. 
The 5 wishes are: Independence, Health, Security, Love & Care and Staying out of a Nursing Home.


Retirement is often the first real opportunity in a person's life to experience true independence not encroached by schedules, responsibilities and obligations. Before retirement, as children, we had to do what grown-ups told us to do and follow family rules. Next, we all had to attend school, learn things that would prepare us for life but made no sense to a 6 or 8 year old. Once we graduated, there was either more schooling or work which we were expected to attend every day to make a living. Then came marriage for most of us, our own family and raising the kids.By the time we reach retirement, we all put in at least 65 years of doing what other people wanted, needed and told us to do. Those of us who looked ahead took this time to build a nest egg and pay additional insurance for a time when it's needed.
At the age of retirement, today, most of us are still young enough to enjoy quite a few years of what we always wanted to do. Maybe we always wanted to see other parts of the country or the world. Maybe there is an artist slumbering in us or a gardener. The possibilities of ways to spend our days are endless.


Before the age of about 40 most of us take health for granted unless we have some genetic predisposition or chronic illness.After 40 it becomes important to remain healthy and take preventative measures. We need to start watching our weight so we can avoid Diabetes and joint problems later on. We watch Cholesterol for arterial well-being and heart health. We need to make sure our bones are strong enough to avoid fractures later and we need to keep fit for overall health and well being. Furthermore, its time to start routine medical exams that can detect early onset of diseases. And we need to start doing all this at a time when most of us are reaching the peak of our careers, have teenagers at home, try to get kids through college, are engaged in the community, prepare for weddings and grandchildren.
It is not an easy task to start living healthy but well worth it by the time we reach 80 and above. And thanks to our modern medicine and increased life expectancy, most of us will reach this age unless we fall victim to a violent crime, fatal illness or a fatal accident. Therefore, its probably wise for all of us to take precautions and start watching our health despite the fact that we can not even imagine being that old.


Security has several components, especially after retirement. But unless we prepare for this time at an early age, we won't have the security we want.
Financial security is probably one of the most important things to work for. We can not depend on Social Security to pay us enough to live care free. Lately, we can not count on the employer we worked for for the past 35 years to supply us with a decent retirement check. And Government programs help only the poorest. Therefore, planning early on for a comfortable retirement has become very important. A financial adviser or financial planner is probably the best person to help in the process. Periodic reviews will help to counteract inflation and keep the planning on target.
Physical security probably is the next important thing. It helps to live in a good neighborhood, have an alarm system and maybe even a furry alarm - a dog.
As we get older in home security and a home that incorporates universal design is also important. The smoke detectors and CO2 detectors need to work. Furniture may need moving because the corner of the one table we always hit may become a health hazard. The bruise we get from that corner table may not heal or even burst open and leave a wound. The throw rug that's always slipped a little can lead to a broken hip or head injury. Double sided tape to hold the rug in place might secure it. Clutter may become a fall risk and needs to be dealt with. Bathrooms with their slick surfaces can be outright scary and need modification.
As we advance in age, medications we take can be a security risk. It is important to take medications as a doctor prescribes them. Forgetting to take the blood pressure medication can have severe consequences. Taking too many pain pills can lead to drowsiness and falls. Antibiotics, if not taken as prescribed can make an infection worse. Pill planners, relatives or friends checking daily or hiring help may guard against medication mishaps.
Personal alarms and cell phones can give some security, but nothing can replace friends and family coming to visit regularly. Human contact every day is important at any age and even more so as we advance in age.
Mental security becomes and issue in advancing age as well. Any number or things can interfere with normal thinking and memory. A senior who is alone too much may not know what day it is anymore and may not eat regularly since nobody reminds him or her. Temporary dementia can be caused by UTI's or pain or Dehydration. All things, if left untreated, can have serious consequences. And if a senior has some forgetfulness, daily contact with friends, family or caregivers may save a life. It is easy to forget to turn off the stove or some other appliance. But it can burn down the house.
Emotional security for a senior is to know that kids, grand kids and family and friends have not forgotten them.
Seniors, as they advance in age, need daily reassurance that they are loved, that they are still important and they matter. It will also become more important as a senior ages, for children to be on time. A son or daughter telling a parent that they will stop by around lunch time, will have the parent in an anxiety attach when he or she shows up and 1:30 telling mom or dad that they took lunch late. Giving a specific time and being on time or 5 minutes early saves a lot of worry.
Spiritual security will move in the foreground the older we get and the question is not anymore, is there a God, but, has my life been good enough to be let into Heaven. The older we get, the more important it will become to us to make peace with everything and everybody around us. Those of us who practiced their believe throughout life, will have a much easier time finding the spiritual security and peace we need before leaving this earth.

Love & Care

When we were born, hopefully, we were lucky enough to have the love and care of parents who laid the foundation for us to pass on love and care to our own families and friends. Parents loved us, fed us, kept us clean, clothed and happy. Parents taught us the many lessons we needed to learn before setting out on out own and we appreciated their efforts in varying degrees.
As a senior gets older and some abilities to care for him or herself are lost, the same love and care we needed at the beginning of life's journey, is needed again.
Lucky are those seniors who have family close by or even living with them and providing care. In today's mobile society, children are often hundreds of miles away and can not just abandon their own lives to take care of mom or dad. And even when the senior's children live close by, it is often difficult for them to take care of mom or dad. It takes two people working today to keep a family afloat. The adult children of the aging senior have their careers, children and often grandchildren of their own, and only 24 hours in each day.
A savvy senior anticipated those late year needs at a younger age and has the money or insurance to pay for a caregiver who will help the senior remain independent. A good caregiver will take care of the senior like they would care for their own loved ones. Caregivers will keep the house clean, keep up the laundry, do the cooking, provide activities and help frail seniors live their life as independent as possible. Caregivers, when family can not be there, will add to the quality of life a senior has and give peace of mind to the family, knowing that their mom or dad is cared for. And when the family can come for a visit, they do not have to worry about the laundry, cooking, cleaning etc., they can sit down and enjoy their visit.

Staying out of Nursing Homes (and other institutions)

When talking to seniors, nursing homes are a last resort. Every senior is afraid of ending up in one of "those" places. Nursing Homes, even the best, with the most caring staff, are still just institutions. Having to move to a nursing home means for a senior that they have to give up their independence, control and individuality.
With advanced planning, the move to a nursing home can be avoided. When younger people are planning for retirement, the smart ones do that in their 30's, a good long term care insurance that takes inflation into account, is affordable and can build enough capital to afford seniors to stay at home to their last day. Other services, such as Home Health Care or Hospice Care aid in that wish and together with family and licensed senior care agencies make it possible for a senior to get their wish.

For more info and to find ethical, licensed professionals that are always willing to help with advise, problem solving and hands on, visit

Friday, August 23, 2013

the changer II

So, we were off to a good start, rapport and credibility established.  But, where to start?! There were so many things to address!! Ok, let's see...what is important to her? Her only access to the outside world was her computer.  To use her computer, she had to pull forward and backwards about 16 times (I counted one day) to position herself sideways next to a little desk at the end of her bed, then twist to her right to attempt to type on the keyboard and use the mouse pad.  Now, keep in mind she has SEVERE ataxia.  This means every time she tries to tell her hand to do something, the message gets lost on the way from her brain to her hand due to the location of the strokes.  (they were in her brain stem, which is a very narrow space to have damage)  The results are very spastic movements of her arm and hand while she tries to get it to do what she wants.  I decided this was the first thing we were going to tackle and she agreed!  We got her Dad's permission to build a raised desk top that we could attach to the wall for stability.  We turned it to face her approach, so she could drive straight up to it, rather than sideways.  We cut it out so she could get up close to the keyboard and padded the right side so she could stabilize her arm.  He actually built this for her over the weekend after we had figured out the design, with plywood and pipe.  That thing was sturdy, which matters, because she bangs into things pretty hard.  She was so happy when I walked in.   She could access her computer with one attempt rather than 16 times.  She could use the keyboard and mouse pad with much less erratic movement.  Her mom said she has been on the computer non stop since her Dad put it up.  Not only did it help Angie, but her parents were so happy to be able to do something to help her too. This was so exciting to all of us, it was empowering to be able to change simple things that made her life better. We couldn't wait to see what else we could come up with.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Launch day!

We had a great turnout today for our first presentation on aging in place. We presented as OILR (Oklahoma Independent Living Resources) to a group of 65 people at Norman Regional Hospital. We partnered with AARP, OSHBA, and NRH to start providing information on this very important topic. According to those present it was a success:)!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

She calls me “the changer” with a groan and a smile.  I have been her occupational therapist over the last year.  We have been through a lot together.  I have rearranged her room untold numbers of times, we have designed and implemented custom equipment, we have removed walls, changed habits, heck, we even restructured her left ankle! OK, well, technically, her orthopedic surgeon did the work but we initiated it!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me give you some background first.
Angie's Room
Angie has a cavernous malformation of a major blood vessel. It is located in her brain stem.  There isn’t a lot of room for error in a brain stem.  She has had 4 surgeries to stop the bleeding, each time fighting her way back to functioning at her highest level of independence.  Did I mention she is only 39 , a single parent with 2 teenage boys?!  Thank goodness she is physically in great shape, has crazy determination and a wicked sense of humor!! And by wicked, I mean she scares me for fun!! Luckily, her parents are made of the same stuff (humor, determination) and take amazing care of her.  Between the four of us, we have come up with some pretty cool solutions to her challenges.

It all started on a summer day last year, I remember it well. As her mother walked me in through the equipment graveyard of their garage, she said “don’t even mention a power wheelchair!!” She had been through a lot of therapists by this time (Angie had her first bleed about 8 years ago). The first visit I met the family, Angie and assessed the situation.  I noticed the shower chair had not been adjusted and mentioned it might be easier to transfer her if you raise it to the same height as her scooter.  I said the same thing about the bed side commode over the toilet.  When I came back for the second visit, her mom said, OK, what you said works…she trusts you, so we will try whatever you want.  And that’s when they released “The changer”!!!