elders painting class

#TrueNorthElderhood and #NALW

What does it mean to be a True North Elder? 

Elders are pushing boundaries and shaking things up every day. Stories are plentiful of elders that are meeting at the gym, playing on basketball teams, or earning their high school diplomas at age 92. They teach us that we as humans can always learn, grow, adapt, and overcome the changes of aging. This is a True North Elder to us. Connecting with these experienced individuals brings us a sense of joy, love, and feeling of reward that is greater than the money we may earn by caring for them. They become part of our families–not by blood, but by relationship. Maya Angelou once said:

Family isn’t always blood, its the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

Celebrating our ‘family’

This week is National Assisted Living Week® and Compass Senior Living communities are participating by celebrating this year’s theme Family is Forever. Employees, residents, and families are spending time embracing this found family and the True North Elders in our midst. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing stories, tidbits of wisdom and photos from the events that take place each day– and the lessons that our elder families can teach us.

We invite you to join us for events in your area and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates and use #TrueNorthElderhood to share your story about an elder in your life that is a True North Elder in your family–however that may be defined!

Tax Deduction Tips for Assisted Living Costs 2016

Did you know that if you are an elder adult or a caregiver for one, there are ways to get a tax deduction for assisted living costs?  In order for assisted living expenses to be tax deductible, the resident must be considered “chronically ill.” This means a doctor or nurse has certified that the resident either:

  • cannot perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, continence care, transferring, bath, or dressing; or
  • requires supervision due to a cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia).

Elders who are not chronically ill may still deduct the portion of their expenses that are attributable to medical care, including entrance or move in fees.

What is the criteria to claim the tax deduction for assisted living costs?

  • The medical expenses have to be more than 10 percent of the resident’s adjusted gross income. (For taxpayers 65 and older, this threshold will be 7.5 percent through 2016.)
  • In addition, only expenses paid during the year can be deducted, regardless of when the services were provided.
  • Expenses are not deductible if they are reimbursable by insurance.

Which Expenses can be deducted?

  • Room and board for assisted living if the resident is certified chronically ill by a healthcare professional and following a prescribed plan of care. Typically this means that they are unable to perform two activities of daily living (ADLs) or require supervision due to Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions.
  • Entrance or move-in fees for Assisted living.
  • Cost of prescription drugs.
  • Personal care items, such as disposable briefs and foods for a special diet or nutritional supplements.
  • Cost of travel to and from medical appointments.
  • Premiums paid for insurance policies that cover medical care are deductible, unless the premiums are paid with pretax dollars. Generally, the payroll tax paid for Medicare Part A is not deductible, but Medicare Part B premiums are deductible.
  • Payments made for nursing services. An actual nurse does not need to perform the services as long as the services are those generally performed by a nurse.
  • Fees from doctors, laboratories, home health care and hospitals.
  • The cost of long-term care in a nursing home or rehabilitation center, including housing, food, and other personal costs, if the person is chronically ill.
  • Home modifications costs such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars and handrails.
  • The cost of dental treatment.

For a full list of allowable medical expenses, see IRS Publication 502. Read about the rules that govern deductions and for more tax tips for elder adults and their caregivers.

My parent lives in my home with me.  Can I qualify for a dependency deduction?

If you care for an elder parent in your home, your parent may qualify as your dependent, resulting in additional tax benefits for you. Once you determine that both of you meet IRS criteria, you can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return.

To qualify for a dependency deduction, you must pay for more than 50% of your qualifying relative’s support costs. The relative only qualifies as a dependent if he or she meets the gross income and the joint return test. If your relative doesn’t qualify as a dependent because of these tests, you cannot claim a dependency deduction, but you can still claim his or her medical expenses. For more information, read page 20 – 21 (Support test to be a qualifying relative) of the IRS Publication 501 on tax exemptions.

See the 5-minute video below for more details about the dependency deduction.

By nature, tax rules are complex. It’s important to consult a tax attorney or accountant versed in eldercare tax issues about your specific situation before finalizing your taxes. The AARP also offers free assistance and tax tips for elder adults through its Tax-Aide program.

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

Campground Conversations – Elder storyteller

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”– Rudyard Kipling

Every year, my son and I celebrate by doing something we both love…camping, kayaking, being in nature, and experiencing things together for just 24-36 hours a year!  This year, after work, we headed up to Door County Peninsula Park in Wisconsin.


It was a dark and rainy evening. We arrived at our campground by Rowley’s Bay, WI. The wonderful ladies who checked us in told us everything we needed or wanted to know about what was in the area and where we could grab a great meal.

Unfortunately, we didn’t think we would make the renowned Fish Boil and performance that was down the road via a trail through the woods. After settling in, we decided to head down the trail, (the rain had stopped for us) and at least get the dinner if we missed the “performance”.

We arrived at the Inn,  and walked inside, quietly joining the crowd that was intently listening to the story that was being told.

In the center of this crowd was a man sitting backwards on his roller walker. We caught the last third of the story, but we looked at each other and knew—we had stumbled into something really awesome and special. This story telling gentleman was filling the space  with his rich voice and using his hands to help envision what he was sharing. My son and I became instantly enthralled with his story and his large capable hands that showed all the signs of an experienced, full life.


He told the story of the history of the bay and surrounding area. He was a descendant of the original family who settled the area. He told the story about the beginnings of a fish boil and what to expect once we all gathered outside around the cauldron.

I don’t remember how old he said he was,it didn’t matter.  What mattered was my son and I were able to have this memorable experience together–witnessing the amazing gift of a wise and talented story teller – way up north at the end of the Door County peninsula, at a campground—in a Yurt.

Now this unforgettable elder is part of our story.

Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Our storytelling ability, a uniquely ancient human trait, has been with us as long as we’ve been able to speak and listen. Not only do people love to tell stories, people love to hear stories!

I work at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton, WI.  We have an exciting opportunity to harvest the wisdom, the humor, and memories we hear every day. We live and work beside elders who have journeyed almost a full century on this planet. Through their stories, we connect with one another while giving our resident storytellers the gift of reconnecting   with us, their children, and grandchildren for generations to come.

We are preserving stories in audio, video, and written form to cherish these precious moments!

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama

Learn more about legacy collection and the Tiny Stories project!     Watch and listen to this 50 second Tiny Story gift from Nancy Youngans, who tells us about her trip to Verona Italy, and what she learned.

About the author:  Eileen English is the administrator at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton Wisconsin.  (Carolina is part of the Compass Senior Living family)

Eileen  has worked with elders for more than 40 years and feels her work is a passion, not a job. She was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and later became a Coast Guard wife – eileen-wilsonwhich took her all over the country. She has lived in many states but is happy to now be in Wisconsin near two of her grandchildren. In her free time, Eileen enjoys being outside hiking, kayaking and camping, and spending time with her two sons and three grandchildren.

What I have learned so far – Be ignited, or be gone.

What I Have Learned So Far:
by Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, age 81 inspires young and old with her poetry.

A private person by nature, and born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems.  As a young woman Mary Oliver lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

As Mary Oliver has entered elderhood, she maintains her fiery passion  for life, and continues to write poetry that inspires all ages. Now at age 81, Oliver has published “Upstream”, a book of essays that provides deep insights and delightful anecdotes as she examines her role as a writer, reader and a spiritual seeker who constantly practices what she describes as the redemptive art of true effort.

As I work with young people and older people considering a career in eldercare,  many tell me how passionate they are about the opportunities to support the continued growth and purpose of  elders that we are honored to learn from and with.   The very nature of caring rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intentional, intimate, and sacred work requiring a code of ethics, dignity, respect, empathy, intelligence and kindness.  The work of  supporting elders with these physical acts allows them  to focus on self-actualization and spiritual and emotional growth, so they may harvest their legacy and wisdom for future generations.

And I remember Mary Oliver’s words when talking to those who have chosen eldercare as a career.  Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.”    This is hard work, important work, human work – inspiring courageous efforts.

The work of upholding the ideals of a person-centered, elder-directed culture requires leaders and care team members  with the passion, the skills,  and the willingness to put their hearts and hands into the work.

Elderhood is about the gifts that age bestows; gifts unique to those who have lived long enough to have learned much of what life is all about, and remain curious about what’s yet to come.   All of us are elders, or elders-in-waiting! We are defining our own future elderhood.  Let us now passionately promote  and embrace a culture that encourages the wisdom of elders to guide us.   Let us ignite, or be gone.

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.