Caregivers Need to Know … and Record

If you are a loved one or other caregiver of a senior, there are some very important pieces of information that you should have at your fingertips (not literally, but readily available when needed).  All too often, we don’t have this information and we have not thought about gathering it.

Let’s all do it together, the time is now!

Too many people who don’t do it in advance find that at the time it is needed things are just too stressful and rushed to gather and record the information.

In a notebook, jot down this information for the senior loved ones in your life.

  • Full name including middle and maiden names
  • Home address and phone number
  • Social security number
  • Medicare/Medicaid number
  • Doctor’s name and contact information
  • Full list of medications and dosages including prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as supplements/herbals
  • List of allergies
  • List of medical diagnosis and dates of last hospitalization
  • Blood type (if available)
  • List of medical devices used, names, manufacturer and any other pertinent details
  • Where the advance directives copies are stored (if you don’t know, find out and secure a copy; if there are none, try to get  them executed or discuss your senior’s wishes and write down their thoughts here)
  • Other contact numbers of importance such as lawyer, accountant, church leader, financial planner
  • Banking information: account numbers, safety deposit box and key, passwords, PIN
  • Insurance company. policy numbers and contact person and phone number
  • Pre-planned funeral information and contact number (if applicable)
  • Utility companies: list and contact information
  • Poison Control Phone Number

It might take you a little time to get all this information together but once you have it all in one place, you will always be ready for a situation that makes the information necessary!

Keep this notebook handy and safe.  You might want to keep another copy somewhere else or with other family members so everyone is ready in an emergency!  Keep in mind, though, that some of the information is private and could be used for identity theft or other purpose harmful to your loved one!

Have we missed a piece of information that you keep for your loved ones or you feel should be on our list?  Your suggestions are appreciated.

Taking to TV to Promote Alzheimer’s Awareness

Our community, like many others, has a Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which is both a fundraiser and community awareness event.

Kathy has spent a few months working tirelessly on our Walk and had the opportunity to go onto our local morning news to promote the event as well as increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Watch the video and judge for yourself, but I think she did a terrific job!

Hopefully her appearance brings more people to the event.  More importantly, though, each opportunity to get a discussion of Alzheimer’s into public view is a chance to improve awareness and potentially help those with the disease and those loved ones who care for and about them.

Thank you for your efforts, Kathy!

Do you have a story or link to your Alzheimer’s event you can share?

Alzheimer’s Month Interview with a Dementia Practitioner

Alzheimer’s is a mind-robbing illness affecting 1 in 8 adults.  In addition to the patients, this disease impacts the lives of their families and other loved ones.

This episode of Senior Care Corner marks World Alzheimer’s Month with our first special guest, certified dementia practitioner Gina Kaurich of FirstLight HomeCare.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring you our chat with Gina, a registered nurse and professional geriatric manager whose knowledge and passion are clear.  In our discussion, Gina shares some very insightful personal stories and provides valuable information for families and other loved ones of adults with Alzheimer’s.

Information for Families of Alzheimer’s Patients from Gina Kaurich

  • Preventative measures we can take to help reduce the chances we and our loved ones of getting Alzheimer’s;
  • Warning signs and red flags for which families and caregivers should be aware;
  • The unique dementia program of FirstLight HomeCare; and,
  • Resources available to Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

We hope you will find our discussion with Gina to be as insightful and informative as did we.  We hope to get a chance to have her visit with us again in the future.

Links to Information Discussed in This Episode

We hope you enjoy this episode of Senior Care Corner and find it informative.

Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions for future guests, either by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post or on our Facebook wall.

 

Lessons for Families from Webcam 101 for Seniors

YouTube’s current rage is “WebCam 101 for Seniors”, an elderly couple learning the hard way how to tell if their webcam is recording.  It is both as cute and humorous as most anything you will find on You Tube with much younger subjects, whether people or cats.

With this video, though, there are also insights for those of us seeking to get our senior loved ones online and onto social media, be it YouTube, Facebook or other networks.

If you are a regular reader of posts at Senior Care Corner, you know that we are championing the cause of getting senior loved ones onto social media for the benefits for both the seniors and their family members. (if not, here’s one you might want to read)

We hear and read comments from many people that it’s too much for seniors, and especially elderly adults, to learn how to use computers and especially social media sites.  The Huffmans, the couple on the video, should dispel many of those issues — their obvious user issue notwithstanding.

In case you haven’t seen it…

While this cute and loving couple clearly had a bit of trouble figuring out the webcam, there are many positives for those trying to get other seniors onto social media.

  • From the video it is clear that seniors are capable of operating computers.  We hear many people say they just don’t see their parents/grandparents doing that (ours do!).
  • For those of you who claim that your senior loved one either wouldn’t take or wouldn’t benefit from a class on using the computer, did you hear Mrs. Huffman mention the class she took?
  • Using the webcam?  Hey you who said “my grandparents would never want to be recorded on a webcam” – the reason the couple got recorded like that was their desire to get the camera working.

There are more things we can pick up from the video, but you get the point.

What This Means

Our big takeaway from Webcam 101 for Seniors is that we should not assume our senior, and even most elderly, loved ones are either unwilling or unable to use a computer or even social media.  Yes that may be true for some, but we should give those seniors about and for whom we care the benefit of trying to use a computer (or tablet or smartphone) for all the benefits they and we will derive from them doing so.  We owe it not just to them but also ourselves to build that link between them and us, not to mention the rest of the world.

One More Lesson

There is one more lesson we took away from the video.  Be sure your loved ones — and YOU — learn how to set the privacy level of your social networks so others are only able to see those things you want them to see!  Not that it was an issue there, but getting your private moments shared over the internet is not always as cute as this!

 

Monitoring Senior Loved Ones’ Vital Signs Remotely – Coming Soon!

Does your senior loved one have a chronic medical condition that needs to have close vital sign monitoring?  Do you need to take a blood pressure or pulse frequently?

Help is on the way in the form of a skin patch that monitors vital signs remotely.  The patch is the brain child of some University of Illinois scientists and Northwestern University engineers.

The paper thin patch is an engineering marvel, with a remote wireless antenna, sensors, transistors, and solar cells which make it function.

This device will be able to track not only vital signs but also brain wave emissions.

No one will know your senior loved one is wearing this patch since it is so thin and affixes like a tattoo directly on the skin.  It has the possibility of providing information to medical professionals without all the stress and bother that these results currently require.

Unfortunately, the patch will likely need to be replaced every few weeks since it is placed on the skin but its potential value is great!

Other than the need to replace the patch, we realize there are a number of concerns that this type of remote monitoring could generate, such as privacy.  Any implementation will have to address these, which are most certainly on the minds of developers.

We will be on the lookout for more about the development and release of this device and update you when we have news.

Social Media Growth Driven by Older Users!

While our efforts are just beginning to get those in the oldest age groups using social media to achieve benefits for themselves and their loved ones, there is clearly reason for optimism with our future elderly population.

Older adults, those over 55 in this case, are drivers of social network growth according to a newly-released report from Nielsen, “State of the Media: The Social Media Report.”  What you may find surprising is that they are driving this growth by accessing social media sites through mobile devices.

Social Networking on Mobile Devices

It comes as no surprise that older adults are accessing social media through mobile applications, given the convenience of smartphones plus iPads and other tablets.  Still, it is significant that Nielsen found that the number visiting social networking sites from mobile devices more than doubled over the last year, with an increase of 109%!  Granted it is easier to show high growth with lower starting numbers, but that is a meaningful increase for any population group.

Where are internet users going when they’re online?  Why Facebook, of course!  Not surprised, are you?  The time spent on Facebook was more than 3 times that spent on the next most popular website and more than 70 times that spent on the next most popular social networking site.  The report does not break down this statistic by age group, but it is safe to think that Facebook is popular with seniors as well as other age groups.

Friends are on Social Media

What does this mean to you as a loved one or caregiver of a senior adult?  For starters, it means that your seniors are more likely than ever to be using social media already.  If they aren’t, chances are growing that they have friends using it.

When you combine growing use by their peers with use by family members, it is hopefully getting easier to get even the eldest of those for and about whom we care using social media.

Why WE Care So Much About Social Media Use

Regular visitors to Senior Care Corner have certainly noticed a number of posts and podcast episodes on topics related to getting senior loved ones together with technology and social media (at the bottom of this post is a list of some of those) — and those who return will see these topics featured regularly.

We know there are benefits many senior loved ones can get from social media, including:

  • socialization with communities of people;
  • access to information; and, maybe most importantly for many,
  • greater interaction with distant and/or busy family members.

Yes, we consider getting our senior loved ones onto social media (ours are there!) to be a special cause that we will continue to pursue.  You can expect to find us talking more about specific technology, interviewing providers and other experts and making available tools and other information to help in the understanding and use of social networks and technologies by seniors.  Bookmark our page, get our RSS feed, “like” our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to keep up with what we do — or just be sure to come back regularly!

If you have questions or if there is specific information that would be helpful, please let us know by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook wall.

 

Activities for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

As part of our recognition of World Alzheimer’s Month, we want to provide tips to help those wonderful people caring for loved ones with the disease.

Are you a caregiver of a senior loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease?

Are there some days when the frustration of entertaining your senior makes you want to pull your hair out?

We have all been there and know that focusing their attention on a task that sparks their interest can really make the day go more smoothly.

Activities that Many Seniors Love!

  • Plant a small garden: one that can be enjoyed more than one time, you will be able to water the plants together, watch them grow and harvest a treat!  Try an herb garden using small pots, plant a window garden with flowers you can cut, plant some favorites in pots that you can keep on the porch and watch grow everyday.  You may even be able to spot some bugs or butterflies enjoying your plants too and can start a conversation about that.
  • Have fun with memory games: play a game anywhere that involves completing the sentence such as “a stitch in time….saves nine”, “a bird in the hand…is worth two in the bush”; play the game memory using a simple deck of cards where you have to turnover number or face card matches or with the board game Original Memory ; try games in this book:  Keep Your Brain Alive; try this book: Brainfit: 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind & Memory (each of these available at a low price on Amazon.com).
  • Give your senior a hand massage using her favorite smelling lotion or give him a foot massage and apply a moisturizing lotion.  Play some relaxing music to set the mood.
  • Make lemonade, squeeze your own lemons.  Have your senior measure all the ingredients and pick a favorite pitcher and glasses.  Talk about when your senior was a kid and had a lemonade stand or when they helped you set up a lemonade stand.  How much did a glass cost back then?  Create a stand in the kitchen for family and friends.
  • Feed the birds in your yard, neighborhood or go to the nearest pond and feed the ducks some old bread crusts.
  • Rake leaves in the autumn then have a cup of hot chocolate.  Play in the leaves if desired!
  • Set a fancy table with linen and china.  Invite a few friends or family members for a meal.
  • Go on a picnic to your own backyard or a nearby park.  Pack a picnic basket with some favorite pick up foods.
  • Make a scrapbook using old family photos and colorful paper or jot down your family tree.  Use it as a time to allow your senior to reminisce about family loved ones, they may tell you a story you never heard before (it doesn’t matter if it isn’t real).
  • Fold laundry together.
  • Cut out shapes from the newspaper, magazines or construction paper. You can also use old wrapping paper with pictures.  Make a paper chain with scraps.
  • Make a daisy crown from flowers you pick around your neighborhood or in the park.
  • Arrange flowers in a vase, make a bouquet from wildflowers you pick together.
  • Take a nature walk. Talk about what you see, pick up interesting objects to save for future projects.  Watch the birds, see how many you can name.
  • Decorate cookies, cupcakes or a cake. Buy refrigerator cookies or a pound cake from the bakery so it is not too much trouble for you.  If you can, bake with your senior in the morning and decorate in the afternoon.
  • Read a favorite story or chapter from a favorite book aloud.  Read bible scriptures together.  Find a sunny spot to share the moment.
  • Sing songs or listen to music together.  Dance to the beat!
  • Make funny faces at each other and smile, smile, smile!

These activities might sound like a lot of work to add to your already busy day, but a little planning with some help from friends and family members can make a big difference.  Enlist your family, give them one of the items on the list for them to do and giving you a day off to recuperate!

Being a caregiver is a true calling.  We hope these suggestions will add to your joy.  If you have more suggestions and ideas to share with others, we would love to hear them and try them out!

Senior – & Family – Futures Clouded by Debt?

“Debt Hobbles Older Americans” caught my eye in the news today.  Since it was a Wall Street Journal headline, I guess someone did her/his job!  Beneath the headline is a story that was at once dismaying but not a surprise – and which serves notice to the families of seniors that a watchful eye and assistance may be needed.

It it certainly not news that the turmoil in the financial markets and exploding unemployment have more seniors relying earlier in their lives on retirement savings that are smaller than planned — if indeed there are any savings left at all.  What is most dismaying about the WSJ article is the magnitude of debt that seniors are taking with them into what were planned to be non-working years and the implications that debt has for the future elderly population and their families.

Mountainous Mortgages

Spending levels exceeding income has driven all kinds of debt for older Americans, but mortgage debt is especially troubling.  We tend to think of having our mortgages paid off when we retire, but 39% of households in the 60 to 64 age group had primary mortgages and 20% had second mortgages in 2010, both almost double the numbers from 1994.

While Americans over all have focused on reducing debt over the last 4 years, seniors are having more trouble than others digging out.  That debt will certainly have an impact on a population that expects to live ever longer — not to mention those who love and care for them.

Slowing of Savings

Adding to the the mountain of debt more seniors are facing is a reduction in savings, which should be no surprise since much of the debt is driven by spending money we don’t have.  Of course, the double whammy of falling stock markets and low interest rates has resulted in little growth, and even losses, in the savings already in place, including IRAs and 401Ks.

For many seniors we realize the “savings” are in their homes.  Many have planned to sell their homes and use the equity as the heart of their retirement savings.  Falling home prices have not only wiped out much of that savings but in many cases resulted in negative equity that has made it impossible for seniors to sell their homes.  Without the ability to sell, the mortgage becomes a continuing drain, keeping many working well beyond the time they had planned to relax.

Time for Families to Talk Money

I suspect many families of seniors in the position described above will be surprised to learn of the situation.  After all, parents typically don’t discuss such issues with their children and grandchildren.  It is time to raise this issue!

It will be hard for many seniors to admit they have dug themselves a hole and need help, especially to children and grandchildren.  In fact, senior couples may not even discuss it themselves, with only the “money manager” partner aware of the situation.  It will be harder still to admit that help is needed, but that may be the case.  Getting the situation out in the open will not only help family members provide advice in dealing with it now, but also help those family members plan ahead for financial assistance that may be needed in the future.

The first step to solving a problem is understanding the problem, so that is where we start with our senior loved ones and their finances.

Have you had this discussion in your family yet?  If so, we’d love to hear your experience so we can all learn!

 

Preparing Aging in Place Senior Loved Ones for the Next Storm

Recent events in the US have reinforced the need for storm readiness, particularly for the elderly and those who care about them. We can’t stop storms but we can put our loved ones in the best position to weather the storm safely and soundly.

Making sure our senior loved ones are prepared is even more important to those of us who live at a distance and can’t be there to aid in their preparations ourselves. While we might not be able to avoid that helpless feeling when a storm strikes, there are steps we can take up front to know that we have put our loved ones in a position to make it through safely.

Many storms in summer and winter strike with too little warning for preparations and even those that come with advance warning – such as hurricanes and major winter snow storms – don’t leave enough time to prepare for seniors living on their own or their loved ones caring for and about them from a distance. That means we can’t wait for them to get here – – the time is now to make our preparations.

In this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast we discuss

  • Advanced storm planning
  • Actions to take as the storm approaches
  • Storm aftermath
  • Communications among senior loved ones and family members

Links to Aid in Preparations

We hope you find this episode helpful!

Please let us know if you want to learn more or if you have your own story to share with the Senior Care Corner community. Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post or on our Facebook Wall.