Texas Talks

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Texas Talks

Sparking Conversations about Aging and Living Well

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Most people will help take care of an older family member or friend at some point in their lives. According to a 2020 AARP research report, approximately 48 million Americans will provide unpaid care and will spend about 4.5 years providing care for an adult loved one. Sixty-one percent of people providing care are also employed in other jobs.
Discussing aging needs and issues with older adult family members and friends is a great way to begin preparing for the future. The Texas Talks campaign was created to help you feel more comfortable initiating these conversations about aging and making plans for any situation that might arise. To learn more about having these conversations, read the Texas Talks Tips (PDF).
Texas Talks takes place each year during November and December and encourages families to use the holiday season as an opportunity to begin or continue conversations about aging. Texas Talks highlights different aging-related topics and provides facts and resources to include in your conversations with loved ones. If you want to receive the 2021 Texas Talks resources, email Texas Talks.
The 2021 Texas Talks campaign provides you with information on the following topics. Worksheets are provided for each topic to help focus your conversations.

Nutrition

While food can bring us together through the sharing of meals, celebrating important milestones and connecting us to our heritage, it can also impact our overall health. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for healthy aging. However, up to one out of two older adults is at risk for malnutrition, which can lead to more frequent and longer hospital stays, increase fall risk and morbidity. The good news is that incorporating healthy eating habits can improve overall health and quality of life at any age. Talking with older loved ones about healthy eating habits for healthy aging can assist them in aging and living well.

An open and honest conversation about nutritional health with your loved one can provide them with the opportunity to assess their current eating habits and identify healthy ones they can incorporate into their routine. It can also allow them to share how they want to be supported in making these behavior changes. Your older loved one might have barriers to healthy eating, including limited budget, limited mobility, change in taste buds, etc. If your loved one identifies barriers to healthy eating, brainstorm together ways to overcome them. Talking about eating habits can be a sensitive topic, as food plays a role in our culture, socialization, celebrations, coping mechanisms and budgets. Sharing why healthy eating habits are important for overall health and how it can be accomplished on any budget can help make the conversation more approachable for your loved one. Be sure to listen with empathy and recognize that behavior changes take work and time.

Learning about the risk factors (e.g., food insecurity, loss of appetite, social isolation, etc.) and the signs and symptoms (e.g., unplanned or unexplained weight loss, loss of muscle mass, increase in illness or infection, etc.) of malnutrition can help you assess if your loved one is at risk. It can also help guide you on whether to encourage your loved one to request a nutritional screening by their primary care physician.

Be sure to end the conversation on a positive note — healthy eating for healthy aging is possible! Reiterate that making small, healthy changes can make huge impacts to overall health and quality of life. Connect your loved one to resources that can support them in adopting healthy eating habits.

Learn More

  • Texercise has helpful physical activity and nutrition resources specifically designed for older adults.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has information about the SNAP food assistance program.
  • This National Council on Aging webpage has information on the signs and symptoms of malnutrition.
  • Area Agencies on Aging help Texans 60 and older and their caregivers access information and locate services. Call toll-free at 800-252-9240 to find the AAA near you.
  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers provide information and referrals to long-term care services. Call toll-free at 855-937-2372 to find the ADRC near you.

Texas Talks Resource

Pain Management

Chronic pain impacts the lives of many Texans and may become more challenging to manage as we age. Proactive family discussions can help your loved ones live their lives to the fullest while safely managing pain. Open conversations about pain management can help reduce invalidation or isolation, which may lead to lower levels of stress and pain over time.

A study from the Journal of Gerontological Nursing found that older adults (age 50–64) are experiencing the fastest growing rate of misuse and abuse of prescription opioids. People living with chronic pain may be prescribed opioids to help them cope with the pain, however, this creates a risk for misuse. A report from the Administration for Community Living showed that opioids affect people differently as they age because medications may have stronger effects and stay in the body for longer. An issue brief from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Administration on Aging outlines that older adults are known to experience more severe side effects related to opioid use, such as extreme sleepiness, difficulty breathing, impaired vision and coordination, and an increased risk of injury and death.

Talking with your older loved ones about their chronic pain could save a life. Another report found that people living with chronic pain may experience invalidation and judgement from self-critical thoughts, health care professionals, or belittling and disbelief from others. To support your loved one living with persistent pain, be open-minded and let them know you care. Focus on validating and understanding their experience while reinforcing your loved one’s strengths and supports.

You can discuss the pain symptoms they experience, how chronic pain impacts their life or what factors affect their pain. Together, you can identify if any additional support is needed to ensure your loved one is able to take an active role in their health and safely manage their pain. According to a report from the Administration for Community Living, opioids are not the primary treatment for chronic pain as other therapies may be able to manage pain more effectively over a longer period of time. The Journal of Gerontological Nursing published a report that found longer-term holistic and integrative approaches to pain management can allow older adults to take a more active role in their health. Alternative preferred pain-management strategies for older adults include yoga and massage.

Finally, make a long-term plan to monitor your loved one’s pain symptoms, opioid use and any side effects or worsening symptoms. Communicating with their health care team can help safely manage pain with medication, over-the-counter aids or dietary supplements. Collaborating with a physician or nurse can help everyone work together to screen for any potential negative interactions or side effects. If multiple health care professionals are involved, make sure each one is aware of all the medications, over-the-counter aids and dietary supplements being taken.

Learn More

  • The Oregon Pain Guidance has a pain education toolkit with tools that can be used to manage pain.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has helpful resources on mental health and substance use treatment.
  • Area Agencies on Aging help Texans 60 and older and their caregivers access information and locate services. Many AAAs have evidence-based classes on chronic disease self-management. Call toll-free at 800-252-9240 to find the AAA near you.

Texas Talks Resource

Virtual Connection

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the value of connection. The distancing necessary is an important disease prevention tool, but for some older adults, it also exacerbated the loneliness they felt as a result of the social isolation. Recent research has shown that the isolation experienced by older adults caused negative mental and physical effects. Anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity were some of reported negative health outcomes. Even before the pandemic, older adults were at an increased risk for social isolation and loneliness. Reports have found that approximately 25% of U.S. older adults were socially isolated and 43% of adults over the age of 60 identified as feeling lonely.

The good news is that social engagement and connection have been shown to help reduce loneliness for many people. Because connection is so important, having multiple avenues for staying connected to others is vital. When gathering in person with family and friends is not possible, having options to engage virtually can be lifesaving.

During the past year, organizations across the country expanded their virtual offerings. With a secure internet connection, people can take free classes, meet new people, volunteer and more. Start a conversation with your loved one about virtual connection and engagement. Explore how much your loved one was connected with others during the pandemic. Did they use technology to connect with others and were there barriers they encountered? Brainstorm together ways to help your loved one become and stay connected. If they are new to technology, offer your support and share information about staying safe online.

Learn More

Use the following resources to help your loved one connect with others, learn something new and give back.

Texas Talks Resource

Housing

According to Housing And Health: An Overview of the Literature, ensuring older adults have a safe place to live as they age is key to supporting their health and well-being. Start the conversation with your loved one about where they would like live as they age. Look over all housing options available to your loved one. Are they interested in staying where they are living now, would they prefer to move closer to family or friends, or maybe downsize? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging-in-place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.” If your loved one is interested in aging-in-place, discuss what supports might be needed to help maintain this desire.

Even if your loved one does not currently need help, it is possible they will need support in the future. Will they need modifications, such as a ramp, grab bars or railings, to their current home? Home and community-based services, such as home health services, transportation assistance, home modifications and home-delivered meals, allow many older adults to remain independent. Explore the options available to your loved one by contacting their local Aging and Disability Resource Center or Area Agency on Aging to find out what services and supports are available. Doing a little research now can help to lessen stress in the future.

In addition to support services, there are a number of affordable housing options that may be a helpful for some older adults. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides funding to local Public Housing Authorities to administer tenant-based and project-based housing rental assistance programs. Texas has over 400 local PHAs that accept applications, manage waiting lists and administer rent and utility assistance.

Some older adults may choose to pursue home sharing, where older adults share a house or apartment. A recent study found that there can be many benefits to a home sharing arrangement, including increased companionship, assistance with daily tasks and financial support. Some older adults may be interested in exploring with a family member or close friend the option of an Accessory Dwelling Unit, which is a small house built on the same lot as a single-family home. ADUs allow older adults to live in their own space while being close to the community.

Because of the housing challenges older adults may face as they age, it’s important to begin planning as soon as possible for housing in later life. Identifying the options available in your community is a good first step. Make a plan with your loved one to evaluate their current housing situation and brainstorm the services they might need as they age.

Learn More

  • Area Agencies on Aging help Texans 60 and older and their caregivers access information and locate services. Call toll-free at 800-252-9240 to find the AAA near you.
  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers provide information and referrals to long-term care services. Call toll-free at 855-937-2372 to find the ADRC near you.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides housing support for low-income individuals and families.
  • The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has a vacancy clearinghouse that lists reduced rent apartment complexes  that are funded by TDHCA.
  • Low Income Housing Search is a private search engine that lists low-income housing options by state.
  • Senior Housing Net is a housing search engine that provides all housing options (not only low-income) for older adults.

Texas Talks Resource

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