Seminar alerts seniors to important choices, issues

Anna Belle Stephens, 83, of Fort Valley, listens to a panelist during the Senior Choices event held Thursday at the Woodstock Moose. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — More than 100 area seniors gathered at a seminar on Thursday to learn about medical and financial issues they may be facing.

The program, “Senior Choices: Are you ready for your future?” was held at the Moose Lodge and hosted by the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce and a committee of senior care providers.

Professionals at the seminar discussed issues such as diabetes, dementia, financing and end-of-life decisions.

Dr. Jennifer Cunningham, of the Mount Jackson Family Health Center, spoke about controlling diabetes.

“It’s a big problem, but it’s a manageable disease,” she said. “There is only one person who can manage your diabetes, and it’s you.”

Dr. Dale Schulz, psychologist, speaks to senior ciizens about dementia. Rich Cooley/Daily

Diet, exercise, regular eye exams and checking sugar intake are all ways to take control of diabetes. If not managed, she said, complications such as blindness, amputations and even death can occur.

Dr. Dale Schulz, a psychologist, told those gathered for the seminar that Alzheimer’s disease is a concern among many seniors who worry they’ll forget their loved ones. He said there are ways to prevent and manage dementia.

According to Schulz, forgetting little details aren’t the issue with the disease. “The hallmark is when you can’t problem solve.”

Eating healthy, staying active and continually learning will reduce symptoms of the disease, he said.

Schulz debunked a common misconception that death is imminent for those with Alzheimer’s. He said the average person lives an additional eight to 10 years after the onset of the disease, and some live much longer.

Dr. Jennifer D. Cunningham speaks on the importance of controlling diabetes. Rich Cooley/Daily

Disease isn’t the only worry among the elderly. Financial security is a growing concern as costs of providing long-term health care increase each year.

Barry Fadely, a financial adviser and partner with Madison Financial Strategies LLC, said, “There’s a tremendous need for education.”

People are living longer than ever before. According to data shown by Fadely, in 1950 only 2,300 people lived to be 100 years old. Today that number has risen to 80,000. In 50 years, 600,000 have been projected.

“We have to prepare for a longer life,” Fadely said, along with rising costs in health care.

Fadely said that 70 percent of people over age 65 will need long-term health care. Current annual costs of nursing care in the U.S. are $84,000. In 20 years, the projection is $212,000 a year.

Shirley Leake, 87, of Woodstock, listens to one of the panelists speak during the Senior Choices event Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Fadely said many people assume family will provide help when long-term care is required. But he said that the family network is disintegrating. Children are moving away from home and losing touch with parents.

But family conversations still need to take place, especially when it comes to how you choose to live out your final hours, he said.

Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment is a form seniors should fill out about end-of-life treatment, said Dodie Owens, nurse practitioner with Shenandoah Medicine and Consulate Healthcare.

It’s about “what you want at the end of your life,” Owens said.

According to Owens, seniors need to communicate with family about what they want them to do when medical decisions must be made.

Barry Fadely, a financial adviser, speaks to the seniors about longevity planning. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I’ve seen many different journeys at the end of life,” Owens added. Everyone has to decide what is best for them and ensure their wishes are carried out.

In addition to the speakers, SouthernCare Hospice on Thursday gave a $500 donation to the Shenandoah County Senior Center.

Closing out the program was Terrance Lyon, executive chef of Joe’s Steakhouse in Front Royal. He offered a diabetic-friendly tasting of various foods.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com