Specialized Mental Health Care for Older Adults

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Windward Life Care consultant, Dr. Hossein Samadi, is a geropsychiatrist, a physician trained to work with older adults and their unique mental health needs. As part of our commitment to caring for the whole person, we have arranged for Dr. Samadi to see Windward Life Care clients who can benefit from psychiatric care at our office on a monthly basis. This allows our clients quick access to quality mental health services in a comfortable and familiar setting. We asked Dr. Samadi a few questions recently about mental health and older adults.

Dr. Hossein Samadi

Q: What mental health diagnoses do you see most commonly in your older patients?
A: This can be broken down into three categories: mood disorders, cognitive disorders, and psychotic disorders. Among the mood disorders, the most common are depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The cognitive disorders vary by cause: Alzheimer’s disease; vascular dementia; frontal-temporal dementia; and others. Finally, though more rare in presentation, the psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, delusional disorder and dementia-related psychosis.

Q: What keeps older adults from accessing mental health treatment and services?
A: Several things, foremost being stigma, both on the part of the individual and society at large. Other factors include denial of illness, lack of access to competent providers, and direct and indirect costs of care.

Q: Are there misconceptions about older adults and mental health?
A; Yes. The most common misconception is that older adults necessarily have neurocognitive impairment or can’t make decisions independently. Other misconceptions include that older adults bounce back quickly from life stressors such as the death of loved ones or that they don’t experience financial difficulties.

Q: Is suicide a concern for older adults?
A; Unfortunately, yes. Suicide risk actually increases with age for both men and women after the age of 40. Risk factors include: prior suicide attempts, access to lethal means, male/single/non-religious demographic, feelings of hopelessness and recent interpersonal loss.

Q: What about family caregivers? What thoughts do you have about their mental health?
A: Caregiver burnout is a real problem and will only grow with the aging population. The first priority needs to be taking care of the caregiver, as their physical and mental health is often overlooked in favor of the needs of the patient.

Q: What advice do you have for older adults who want to maintain good mental health?
A: Get back to basics: maintain a balanced diet, exercise, socialize, and never stop learning. If a problem arises, seek professional help sooner rather than later.

At Windward Life Care, we are committed to helping you find the right resources to meet your needs. If you are looking for more information about healthcare for mental or physical concerns, talk to us to locate the best providers for your situation. We’re here to help!


World Cancer Day: 5 Tips for Early Detection and Prevention

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February 4th is world cancer day: a reminder for people of all ages to minimize the risk of cancer by improving healthy habits. Even though cancer is an increasing concern around the world, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Tips for Lowering Your Risk of Cancer

Today, we are sharing tips from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control to help you make incremental changes that will decrease the risk of cancer:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Did you know that obesity is linked with the development of cancer? Not only does it feel good to maintain a healthy weight, but losing weight is beneficial to avoid life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Choose a healthy diet and maintain a consistent exercise routine to let go of the excess pounds.
  2. Sun Protection: The most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. UV rays from the sun can damage the skin and lead to cancerous growth. Never use tanning beds and be careful when spending time outdoors. In the mid-day, look for shady areas, wear clothing that offers sun protection, and apply sunscreen every 60 – 90 minutes.
  3. Avoid Tobacco: Researchers estimate that 80 – 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes. Additionally, the risk of many other types of cancer increases for smokers: throat, mouth, stomach, colon, bladder, cervix, kidney, liver, larynx (voice box), and more. Quit smoking to be proactive in avoiding a cancer diagnosis. Also, stay away from secondhand smoke whenever possible.
  4. Limit Alcohol: Links have been found between alcohol consumption and various types of cancers: voice box, mouth, throat, liver, and breast cancer. Minimize alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether.
  5. Vaccinations: Hepatitis C has been connected to the development of liver cancer. This disease causes inflammation in the liver, leading to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. An easy solution to prevent liver cancer is to stay current with vaccinations to prevent Hep C.

Age is another factor that can affect the development of cancer. Everyone ages, so this factor can’t be avoided. But it is important to tap into resources that are available for assistance if you are facing cancer treatments in the later years of life. Our team at Windward Life Care is here to help you locate the best resources for your needs. Contact us to learn about the services that are available.


Reflections on Windward’s 15 Year Anniversary

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The story of the company now known as Windward Life Care really began over 37 years ago in 1982 when geriatric expert B.J. Curry Spitler started one of the first care management companies, Age Concerns, here in San Diego. Age Concerns had an “integrated model” of care in which geriatric care managers directly supervised in-home caregivers to create great client outcomes. Amy Abrams and I worked together at Age Concerns, along with Susan (Soest) Valoff, and were trained in the model of care that Dr. Spitler developed.

Susan Valoff, Norman Hannay, Amy Abrams

Later, when Age Concerns was sold in 2003, Amy and I felt we could continue the lessons learned from Dr. Spitler and extend the care management/home care integrated model in San Diego. We formed our company in 2004 which was first known as Elder Care Guides. Susan joined our team in 2009, later becoming a partner in the business. In 2016 we changed the name to Windward Life Care. We started our business with a handful of employees in 2004 and now employ over 150 office and caregiving staff. We are proud to have on our team so many people who are passionate about caring for older and disabled people.

Much has changed since 2004 and much remains the same. The home care and health care landscapes has gone through many changes, including the advent of Home Care Organization licensure in California in 2016. New technologies are a big factor in how we navigate out in the world and communicate with families. Geriatric care managers are now known as Aging Life Care Professionals. But, for the most part, the challenges of aging remain the same: families are still spread out over long distances; dementia still poses tremendous challenges to those who live with the symptoms as well as those caring for them; and clients and families continue to need help navigating the complex health care and long-term care systems.

Fostering the growth of Windward Life Care has meant we have been able to extend our reach to many more clients and families in San Diego County, allowing many people to reach their goal of aging in  place in their own homes. We remain dedicated to helping our clients age well, honoring their individual goals, and supporting loved ones and involved professionals in making decisions that enhance the client’s quality of life. We appreciate the chance to work with you. — Norman Hannay, MPS, CMC, President

The early years of bringing the vision of Elder Care Guides to life were so exciting. Norman and I knew we could deliver care management services in a distinctly professional and personalized way, if we could get our message in front of the right people. And I’ll never forget the first time the phone rang with our first opportunity to be of service. The client was a frail older gentleman living alone with dementia, whose only family lived thousands of miles away and was growing concerned about his safety, repeated episodes of wandering, and encounters with law enforcement. I felt a deep honor that his health system case manager had entrusted us with her referral, and that his family entrusted us with his care. We built a support system that centered around his personal habits and preferences, matched him with just the right companion, and slowly gained his trust, while ensuring that an appropriate safety net was in place. Elder Care Guides was built on the social work principles of starting where your client is and focusing on their strengths rather than their deficits, and it all came together for that client, who continued to live life on his own terms throughout the progression of his disease. Our reputation as a company that could – and would – handle the most challenging and delicate of situations grew from there, and I’m happy to see that it continues today.  ~  Amy Abrams, MSW, MPH


A brief history of Windward Life Care:
May 12, 2004 – opened for business in La Jolla and hired the first employee, Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH
January 2008 – office moved to Liberty Station in Pt. Loma
March 2009 – Susan (Soest) Valoff joined the team as Director of Clinical Services
March 2013 – Office moved to 1st Avenue in Banker’s Hill
March 2014 – Acquired Senior Care Management
April 2016 – Changed company name to Windward Life Care
June 2016 – Obtained California Home Care Organization license
August 2017 – Acquired Lifeline Care at Home
August 2018 – Opened North County recruiting office


Today is the Day: Ensuring Your Estate Plan is In Order

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Estate planning is used to manage future concerns: tax strategy, retirement savings, inheritance management, and more. Since these plans are for the future, it is easy to get trapped in procrastination and fear. Even if retirement seems far away, right now is the time to take action so that you are ready no matter what happens.

Creating a good estate plan reduces or eliminates worry and stress. Often, people find that estate planning seems like an impossible task, only to discover that they breathe a sigh of relief after meeting with a professional. It is “normal” to want to delay or avoid this process. But the best thing you can do is act now to prevent future anxiety for yourself and your family.

Tips for a Complete Estate Plan

An easy, effective solution is to have an experienced attorney assist with creating an estate plan. While there are DIY guides out there, a legal professional is especially important for those with significant assets, or complex family or financial situations. Your attorney will guide the conversation, manage the paperwork, and assist with the details that need to be addressed.

An estate plan should include more than your will, financial information, and inheritance details. Everyone 18 and older should have a healthcare advance directive and also look at other services to support the plan. A complete estate plan contains a number of elements involving health and finances. There’s no reason to delay this planning. Instead, set a goal to get started with estate planning as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that creating a plan is just the first step. Regular reviews ensure that your plan is current and relevant as life changes over the years. Experts suggest an estate plan be reviewed by an experienced attorney every three to five years. It is also smart to schedule a legal consultation if there is a significant life change, such as the death of a partner, divorce, marriage, and more.

At Windward Life Care, we understand the importance of using professional services for all aspects of life planning. Our team is here to help you find local resources to assist with your needs.


Holiday Gift Ideas for Elderly Loved Ones

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With the holiday season underway, it can be a challenge to come up with creative and meaningful gifts for our loved ones. We understand that it can be difficult to choose a meaningful gift for an elderly family member. Our team has put together a gift-giving guide to help with your holiday shopping.

Considering the Needs of Elderly Family Members

The holidays offer the perfect season for gathering and creating memories together. However, if someone is affected by health problems, then this time of year can be a challenge for everyone involved. Whether your loved one is suffering from dementia or another health concern, choose gifts that are appropriate for their circumstances.

Small gifts might be the right solution to help the person simplify life at home. Or, look for options to offer entertainment or comfort.

Gift Ideas for Older Adults

Here are some of the most popular gifts for seniors this year:

  • Digital Photo Frame: Upload photos of the family, including children and grandchildren. Don’t forget to include photos of friends and neighbors. These digital photos can rotate in the frame to show the person the familiar faces of loved ones. Another option is to design a traditional photo album if the digital movement is difficult for the person to watch.
  • Walking Shoes: Good, supportive shoes are important to ensure comfort and safety. The right pair of shoes can help the senior maintain an active lifestyle.
  • Weighted Blanket: Not only does this blanket offer warmth, but it also gives the feeling of being cuddled or hugged. A blanket, such as My Calm Blanket uses Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation to help with the regulation of mood and improve relaxation.
  • Tickets: Spending time together is a great gift. Consider purchasing tickets to a movie, symphony or play.
  • Music: Sound can be stimulating and comforting, especially if the person is feeling lonely. Choose a CD or create a custom playlist of the person’s favorite artists.
  • Magazine Subscription: Ongoing entertainment and reading that is delivered to the mailbox each month. Find a genre to match a person’s interests and hobbies.
  • Stationery: Nothing beats a hand-written note from a loved one. Gift a nice set of stationary or cards. Don’t forget to include the stamps!
  • Custom Calendar: Design a personalized calendar with photos of the family. Include all of the important dates that need to be remembered, including anniversaries, birthdays, and more.

Feel free to contact us at Windward Life Care if you have questions about resources that are available to support the needs of your loved one.


Windward’s Aging Life Care Managers Receive Certification

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Congratulations to our Aging Life Care Managers who recently passed their Care Manager Certification (CMC) exam. Jill Bansberg, MSW, Denise Callas, RN, and Janai Quintana, MSW just received their CMC designation from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers which is also recognized by the Aging Life Care Association®.

Care managers applying for the Care Manager Certification from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM) must meet specific criteria. Applicants with a master’s in a field related to care management must obtain at least one year of supervised case management experience and pass a certification exam. Applicants with a bachelor’s in a field related to care management must have two years of supervised experience in order to sit for the exam. The exam covers key topics related to care management including: clinical approaches and theories; dementia care; benefits and entitlements; legal issues affecting older adults; and professional ethics. Certification is a sign to consumers that their Aging Life Care Manager® is experienced and committed to professionalism in the field.

Windward Life Care’s clinical team of Aging Life Care Managers have the CMC or are working towards it. As part of their continuing education and clinical support, they meet weekly with our Director of Clinical Services, who has worked in the field of aging for 35 years. Windward also provides monthly educational meetings covering a wide range of topics from dementia care to working with the LGBTQ community.

You can meet all of our team members including Jill, Denise, and Janai here on our Meet Our Team page.

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