What Is an Annual Wellness Visit and Why Is It Important?

Individuals are living longer, and often maintaining relatively good health well into old age. One aspect of maintaining optimal health among seniors is an annual wellness visit. Along with a physical, an annual wellness visit represents an opportunity for medical caregivers to evaluate the best course for maintaining the best possible health outcomes for their senior patients.

What Is an Annual Wellness Visit?

First and foremost, an annual wellness visit is NOT a physical, although the two may be combined. Instead, an annual wellness visit is a comprehensive conversation between a patient and a physician, nurse or nurse practitioner. An annual visit conversation covers a range of topics, including general health and family history, medications, including over-the-counter medications, health concerns, treatments with other health care professionals, including mental health treatments and immunization records. The conversation might consider whether changes in medication are called for or cover health concerns that may arise in the future.

Elements of an Annual Wellness Appointment

HIPPA laws prohibit the sharing of medical information concerning patients without their permission. Therefore, it is essential to bring copies of all relevant medical records to the appointment. Important documents and information include the following:

  • Diagnostic Test History
  • Medication List
  • Immunizations
  • Smoking, Drinking, (Illegal) Drug Use
  • Mental Health Assessment
  • Recommended Wellness Screenings
  • Instructions for Advance Directives

The Personal Health Record

The result of an annual wellness assessment is a comprehensive dossier known as a Personal Health Record, a copy of which can be supplied to the patient after the appointment has concluded. A Personal Health Record can be useful in consultations with other physicians, clinics and health care providers – thereby avoiding possible obstacles to receiving care due to HIPPA regulations. The patient’s adult children should also be provided with a copy in case emergency care is needed in the future.

A Proactive Approach to Healthcare

An annual wellness visit represents an important aspect of maintaining good health. Along with an annual physical and maintaining healthy diet and exercise, an annual wellness visit represents a proactive approach to maintaining good health.

Delirium or Dementia? Know the Difference

Delirium and dementia are both frightening to sufferers and caregivers alike, and often manifest themselves in similar ways. However, the two conditions are very different, and mistaking one for the other can have serious adverse consequences. Learning to recognize the distinctions between dementia and delirium can ensure that the patient receives the best care possible in a timely manner.

Causes and Symptoms of Delirium 

Delirium is an acute condition. Symptoms often appear suddenly and cause dramatic behavior changes. Symptoms of delirium include hallucinations, nonsense speech, disorientation and difficulty following normal conversation. Delirium has a number of causes; finding the right cause is often the key to effective treatment. Common causes of delirium are listed below:

  • Acute illness such as influenza or infections
  • Brain injuries, including stroke and head trauma
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Alcohol, narcotics or prescription drug withdrawal (the DTs or delirium tremens)
  • Adverse reactions to medication or multiple medications
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Malnutrition or dehydration

The good news is that in many cases, delirium can be reversed with timely and effective treatment. The bad news is delirium is often misdiagnosed. Even worse is that delirium can occur in combination with dementia — and that untreated delirium can deteriorate into dementia.



Causes and Symptoms of Dementia 

Unlike delirium, dementia occurs gradually, often going unnoticed until significant decline in cognitive function has occurred. Risk factors for dementia are listed below:

  • Age — the risk increases to up to 30% for seniors over age 85
  • Gender — Females are more prone than men, perhaps due to menopause-related hormonal changes
  • Genetic mutations that occur either early or late in life
  • Brain damage from alcoholism, AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease
  • Vascular damage from stroke, diabetes or high blood pressure

The most obvious symptoms of dementia involve memory loss. Except in rare cases, dementia is irreversible. Unfortunately, many dementia patients also develop delirium when they are hospitalized.


Suzette Lindemuth

Founder, Senior Living Systems


To learn more about dealing with delirium and dementia, and the Senior Living Systems philosophy of ageless living, contact us today!

Brain Awareness Week

We’ve all heard the phrase “Use it or lose it.” That phrase is particularly true when it comes to cognitive health and brain function. Studies have regularly shown that daily intellectual challenges and other “brain fitness” activities can dramatically improve overall cerebral health while also staving off the mental decline typically seen in aging adults. That’s why events like the annual Brain Awareness Week that takes place every March are so important.

No More Brain Drain 

BAW was launched in 1995 by the Society for Neuroscience and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives along with International Brain Bee contest and other organizations. Over the years, more than 55 countries have hosted over 1,000 BAW-related events. As the Society for Neuroscience explains, BAW events are “limited only by the organizers’ imaginations.”

A “global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of bain research,” BAW partners with organizations around the world for “a celebration of the brain.” This year’s BAW takes place from March 12-18, and several events are already in the works, including conferences and forums, workshops, exhibits, and even a Brain-a-Palooza at an Alabama elementary school.

By bringing much-needed exposure to the issues of brain performance, function, and health, organizers hope to provide the general public with valuable information on how to keep their minds clear and capable, regardless of age or education.

Seniors and Senility 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Every 60 seconds someone in the U.S. develops this disease. The healthcare costs associated with the care and treatment of dementia sufferers could reach $1.1 trillion by 2050, and as baby boomers age and as modern science extends lifespans, deaths related to Alzheimer’s and its associated diseases have increased by 80%. This disease kills more Americans than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

While research is making headway towards developing preventative measures, currently one of the best ways to manage age-related memory issues is through proactive strategies. Some ways to improve brain function include participating in physical activity and brain-training games, reducing stress, improving sleep hygiene, and strengthening social connections. Seniors who are open to new experiences, demonstrate curiosity and creativity, and participate in mindfulness meditation also show improved cognitive function as they age.

Brain Awareness Week is a fantastic opportunity for senior living providers and caregivers to educate residents and their families about all the ways to improve cerebral health and mental function. Senior living providers interested in participating in BAW should check out the organization’s website for more information. BAW offers an event planning page that provides tips and guidelines for organizing a BAW event.

Contact us to learn more about ageless living!

National Nutrition Month

In addition to causing a few extra wrinkles and unexpected aches and pains, getting older also impacts metabolism and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Because the way the body processes food changes as we age, nutrition becomes vitally important. For older adults, eating the right foods can not only improve health, but also protect against preventable diseases and even enhance quality of life. As with most health-related issues, the first step towards developing better nutrition is awareness. That’s why events like the annual National Nutrition Month are so important.

Each March, National Nutrition Month kicks off with the intention of bringing attention to “the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” Initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week by the Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians, the movement evolved into a month-long observance in 1980.

This year, National Nutrition Month’s slogan is “Go Further with Food,” with the idea that “learning how to manage food resources at home will help you ‘Go Further with Food,’ while saving both nutrients and money.” To aid in that effort, the National Nutrition Month website includes articles, recipes, videos, and a whole host of educational resources with the goal of promoting healthier eating habits and a more active lifestyle. Additional information, activities, and opportunities to participate can also be found on the Academy’s social media channels through the hashtag #NationalNutritionMonth.

National Nutrition Month encourages consumers to “Go Further with Food” by using these key strategies:

  1. Regularly include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups in your diet.
  2. Consider the foods you have on hand before buying more at the store.
  3. Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and plan ways to use leftovers later in the week.
  4. Be mindful of portion sizes.
  5. Find activities that you enjoy and aim to be physically active most days of the week.
  6. Realize the benefits of healthy eating by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs.

Changing Bodies, Changing Needs

While eating well is vital at any age, for seniors, adequate nutrition is critical to vitality, health, and overall quality of life. Seniors face a unique set of challenges when it comes to maintaining a well-rounded diet, including perceptual changes in hearing, smell, and taste, all of which can influence appetite. Physiological changes like decreased kidney function, reduced metabolic rate, and fluctuations in the nervous system are another reason older adults need to watch what they eat. Finally, physical ailments like dental problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and general malaise can all adversely affect a senior’s ability to eat the right foods in the right amounts.

National Nutrition Month is a fantastic opportunity for senior living providers and caregivers to educate residents and their families about all the ways they can improve eating habits and maintain proper nutrition. Senior living providers interested in participating in National Nutrition Month should check out the organization’s website for more information.

Contact us to learn more about ageless living!

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Random Acts of Kindness Week

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air, and you can get a jump start on spreading joy and affection by participating in Random Acts of Kindness Week (RAK), February 11-17. During this seven-day celebration, participants are urged to make that extra effort by helping others, partnering with local community efforts, and making sure to spread the word on how love, compassion, and – of course – kindness can help make the world a better place.

According to the Random of Acts of Kindness Foundation, the event is “simply an opportunity to leave the world better than we found it and inspire others to do the same.”

Formally recognized in 1995, the seven-day RAK celebration plays upon the idea that kindness can be contagious. From schools to private companies to senior living facilities, RAK Week allows individuals and organizations to not just help others, but to encourage friends, colleagues, family, and friends to do the same.

For the senior living community, RAK Week can help forge stronger connections between caregivers, residents, and the community. For many older adults, isolation and a sense of aimlessness can lead to depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other health issues. For caregivers and families, providing care and support for an older family member or patient can be stressful and alienating.

Events like RAK Week can help seniors – and the people who care for them – feel happier and healthier. It is well known that helping others isn’t just beneficial to the recipient, but also brings joy and satisfaction to the giver. In fact, studies have shown that doing good for others can considerably improve mood and boost emotional well-being by reducing isolation, shifting perspectives, and triggering similar behavior in others.

In other words, happiness can be contagious!

One of the most essential aspects of RAK Week is that every effort, no matter how small, can have a tremendous impact. For seniors who may not have ample financial resources or who lack mobility, RAK Week is a chance to participate in a broader community effort without requiring a substantial commitment of time or money. Some activities appropriate for senior residents include sewing or knitting items for a local homeless shelter, reading to children, or sending thank you notes to volunteer organizations (like the local food bank) and first responders.

For senior living communities, RAK Week can be a time to encourage group activities, reach out to area schools and organizations for partnership opportunities, or even just hold a small celebration for residents. A potluck with visiting family members, a small concert, or even a game night can add just a little extra spark to the week and make residents feel more connected to the world around them.

Currently, the RAK Foundation boasts 15,708 registered RAKtivists from 87 countries ranging in age from 14-89. These world changers are educators, business executives, children, and – of course – retirees. They may come from diverse backgrounds and live wildly different lives, but they all have one thing in common: a commitment to spreading kindness and motivating others to do the same.

To learn more about Random Acts of Kindness Week, please click here.

Contact us to learn more about ageless living!

Tips to Save on Prescription Costs

Even with good health insurance, many individuals find it difficult to afford expensive prescription medications. In fact, according to a recent report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), spending for prescription drugs over the past seven years has skyrocketed to 73 percent. As a result, many patients resort to do-it-yourself pill splitting and skipping doses in an attempt to stretch their prescription dollars.


A driving force behind prescription drug prices is the high cost of patent-protected drugs. For instance, although patent-protected prescription drugs made up less than 10 percent of all prescriptions filled, they accounted for 63 percent of drug spending. By contrast, a whopping 83 percent of prescriptions filled were for generic drugs, only 37 percent of prescription drug spending, according to the report.




Opt for Generics whenever Possible

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are identical in dosage, strength, intended use, effectiveness, safety and quality to brand-name drugs, yet cost significantly less. Two generic examples listed from the BCBSA report each cost a fraction of their brand-name equivalents: atorvastatin – better known as Lipitor and irbesartan – marketed under the brand name Avapro. Whenever possible, medical care providers should prescribe or recommend generic drugs. Likewise, patients should ask pharmacists about the availability of generic alternatives to brand-name drugs.


Safe Pill Splitting

Although DIY pill-splitting can be detrimental to patients’ health, Patients may be able to save on prescription drugs by obtaining higher strength prescriptions from their doctors of medications that can safely be split. If so, patients can obtain two lower doses at a reduced cost. However, as mentioned above, DIY pill splitting is not advisable. Many such medications are frequently pre-scored for splitting, and pill splitters can be obtained inexpensively at local drug stores.


Mail Order Meds

Many insurance providers allow patients to opt for mail-order prescription medications at significant savings. However, mail order meds should be ordered from pharmacies located in the United States that are licensed by the state board of pharmacy and which have a licensed pharmacist on staff to answer questions, according to the FDA. The pharmacy should also require a prescription from a doctor before selling prescriptions. (A list of state boards of pharmacy can be found at


Other Cost-Saving Strategies

Patients should ask their physicians for 90-day prescriptions whenever possible. This allows patients to obtain a three-month supply of meds with a single co-pay. Finally, patients and doctors should review prescriptions every six months to determine whether some medications can be reduced or dropped.


Have questions or want further advice? Contact us today!

Talking to Aging Parents About Money

Conversations about money can be awkward, even more so when the discussion involves talking to your aging parents about their finances. Unfortunately, silence about money matters can be costly, both in terms of funds and in future challenges facilitating the adequate care and comfort of loved ones headed towards retirement and beyond. Here are some things to consider when talking to your parents about their finances.

Timing is Everything 

With a talk this important, make sure you set aside a specific time to discuss everything, so no one is rushed or distracted. Decide who will participate ahead of time, including siblings and other respected family members as well as clergy, financial advisers or legal counsel. Set the tone at the beginning by choosing someone to start the conversation who is trusted and can put your parents at ease. Begin by setting out the goals and parameters in advance, so that everyone involved will know what to expect and can prepare accordingly. Finally, make sure to get everything in writing and distribute a summary afterwards to everyone involved. Communication is key at this early stage in the process, so make the extra effort to keep everyone on the same page.

It’s Not Just the Money

It can be challenging to get everyone in the same room at the same time, so when you schedule your initial get-together, take the opportunity to prepare all essential documents, including power of attorney, healthcare proxy, wills, insurance and debt records. If possible, make copies of critical materials, and make sure more than one person knows where all original paperwork is stored so it can be easily accessed in case of death or an emergency. Now’s the time to also broach the subject of ongoing assistance as well. Ask if your parents are currently managing their bills and other accounting tasks easily or if they need help. Employing an accountant or elder law attorney can allow concerned family members to trust some of the more complicated aspects of estate management to unbiased third parties.


Sharing is Caring 

Throughout the entire process, it’s essential you keep your parents in the loop. Make sure they understand every step of the process. Many seniors resist this discussion precisely because they fear giving up control of their money and their life. With those concerns in mind, take the time to talk about how sharing this information will allow them to have a better idea about their budget, and give them peace of mind regarding how finances will be handled in the case of illness or incapacitation. Finally, explain how settling matters now will make it easier for the rest of the family to deal with possible future crises by establishing clear roles and strategies for handling any emergency that may occur.

Keep it Personal 

Stories can be a fantastic way to begin a tough conversation. One way to get past an uncomfortable impasse and bypass emotional ambivalence is to make it personal by telling your own story. Maybe explain how an appointment with your own estate planner prompted some concerns or relate an anecdote about a friend or loved one who faced a similar situation. Share your personal concerns and worries and be as specific as possible about the complications or challenges you predict your family may face moving forward. Always allow your parents to express their own fears and anxieties and don’t dismiss any worries they relate.

One Step at a Time

Begin knowing you will not resolve every issue in one consultation. Talking about money with your aging parents will take time and resolve. Not only will new problems appear as your parents get older, but speaking about money can take some practice. Having an open dialog and ongoing conversations can make all the difference in making everyone feel comfortable talking about this. Ultimately, it’s the fear of the unknown that often dooms these dialogues before they even start. By being proactive, and making the extra effort to ease communication between everyone involved, can help your family overcome that initial reluctance and establish a plan that helps you, and your parents, feel comfortable and calm about what lies ahead.

Book Review: Being Mortal

At Senior Living Systems, our mission is aging well. In support of that mission, we love to share some of the books that we feel speak to a positive and dynamic approach to aging, and help support the concept of ageless living.

Today, we’d like to share with you Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Atul Gawande is a surgeon and a writer. In this, his fourth book, he writes about the struggles and limitations of medicine as we age and our lives draws to a close. He then shares the work and ideas of Bill Thomas, a young doctor who had a radical idea in the early 1990’s: treat old people like people.


This book explores the idea that medicine and society often treat aging and death as one more clinical problem to address, which often causes suffering rather than bringing about healing. Gawande shares stories of the experiences his patients have had as they’ve aged – including medical problems from dementia to broken hips, loss of their independence, and even loneliness. He discusses the medicalization of aging and mortality – where our healthcare system spends billions of dollars on medical treatments that often make patients miserable and keep them isolated from family and home. Gawande even shares his own experiences as a physician – discussing how the inability of many physicians to confront the fact of death often prevents them from counseling patients wisely.


He explores the work and ideas of those who have challenged the medical status quo, including Bill Thomas and other geriatric and palliative care specialists, who are pioneering the idea that medicine should be about providing people with options for balancing their desire to live longer with their desire to live better. As medicine continues to evolve towards making end of life a more enriching and inclusive experience, and not the cold, one-size-fits-all process that it has been in the past, Being Mortal gives us a glimpse into what end-of-life care has been, and what it could be.

Contact us today to learn more about ageless living!