9 Tips to Keep Seniors From Falling This Winter

Before winter hits in earnest across the country, with snow and ice starting to build up on our senior loved ones’ sidewalks, paths and driveways, we want to be sure we’ve taken every precaution to prevent them from slipping and falling.

We know that many seniors – far too many – will be laid up for some time or even hospitalized this winter following a slip and fall during or after inclement weather.

Many elders will suffer a bone fracture of one kind or another, especially hips, ankles, shoulders and wrist fractures. For many of our senior loved ones, these fractures can unfortunately be life changing.

Winter Tips to Keep Loved Ones Safe

  1. Be sure your senior loved one wears the correct footwear, wearing shoes and boots that are not worn out and still provide good traction on the heels and soles and also include special anti-skid materials to prevent slips and falls.
  2. Keep the sidewalks and driveways clear of ice; have someone (hopefully NOT an at-risk senior) blow or shovel the snow away as needed, apply de-icing material such as salt to reduce the ice buildup on walkways.
  3. Be sure the steps leading up to the house are in good repair and are not weak or wobbly as they will be even more difficult to navigate safely when there may be snow, water and ice buildup.
  4. Caution your senior loved one to take his or her time when moving from one location to another and to step carefully when they can’t tell if the path is clear and have your senior walk with someone to help keep him upright.
  5. Be sure all walkways have a steady handrail that can be used to help your senior keep her balance.
  6. Remind your loved ones to eat foods or take supplements in adequate amounts that will keep their bones strong to prevent breaks if they do fall. These supplements may include those such as calcium, vitamin D and dairy products — or whatever their doctors recommend.
  7. Have your senior loved one stay active all year to maintain the muscles that will help move freely and maintain balance on all walking surfaces, especially ice.
  8. Be sure they know not to be afraid to ask for help if needed.
  9. Prepare your senior for an emergency if he or she does fall.  Who will she call, how will she get to a phone, who will check on him daily to be sure he is safe?  Is it time for an alert system that can assist in an emergency? Consider implementing planned check in times when the weather creates extra risks.

Prevention takes a little planning and possibly some acceptance that the risk IS higher. You may not be able to keep your senior loved from falling this winter, but when you follow these tips you may be able to prevent a serious injury from occurring or provide help before a simple fall becomes something more serious in the cold.

Do you have more tips to prevent falls on the ice this winter you can share with us?  We would love to hear from you.

Being Face to Face with Senior Loved Ones — When You Can’t Be There

Many seniors and their families are fortunate enough to spend each holiday season together. Other families are not in the same situation and are unable, for any of a multitude of reasons, to spend the holidays with their senior loved ones.

Most long distance family caregivers we’ve encountered want to spend quality, personal time with their older and elderly loved ones and are saddened when a holiday trip is not possible.

One way you can be up close and personal with your senior this holiday (and throughout the year) is through the use of Skype!

Making calls with Skype is relatively easy and can often by done with equipment you and your loved one already have on hand.

What is Skype?

Skype is a software application that provides for voice and video calls over the internet.  If both you and the party you are calling have a webcam or computer, tablet or smartphone with a camera, you can see the face of the person you are talking with (as well as everything near them in the room) and they can see your face (and – WARNING – possibly everything around you as well) .  They can see every big smile and teardrop during the conversation while you can see their reaction! All those expressions and reactions you miss with a voice call now seem so close you can reach out and touch them.

What Do You & Your Senior Loved Ones Need to Connect on Skype?

  • A computer, smartphone or tablet device
  • Downloadable Skype software or app
  • Skype accounts for both you and the person you are calling
  • Camera, either built into your device or connected (for video calls)
  • Microphone built into or connected to your device (headsets are even better)

What Will it Cost to Connect via Skype?

There is a lot you can accomplish on Skype for free, including one to one video calls. Skype also features premium services at a price.

Hidden Benefits of Year Round Skype Communications

There are many potential benefits in addition to the closeness that comes with video calls — which may certainly be enough alone to make it worthwhile.

You can see for yourself how your senior loved ones are doing.

  • Do they look like they’re keeping themselves well?
  • Do appear to be losing weight, which may be a sign they are not eating well?
  • Are there any outward signs of illness?
  • Can you see behind them to see if the house is well maintained?
  • Depending on where you set up this computer system, you can get a look into their living space to check up on whatever might concern you in your absence.

We hope you try this fun way to feel like you are sitting in a room together with your senior loved ones if you are not already.  We hope you take the opportunity to enjoy reminiscing with them and maybe even other remote family members this holiday and seeing the joy on their faces when grandchildren and children come into view!

If you are using Skype already we’d love to have you share your experiences with others in our community!

Help Our Seniors Enjoy a Good Story Again

Our senior loved ones have spent many a happy time over the years reading a good story — and maybe even reading a story to us!

After all, before the internet (and, some would say, even with it) our elders found the pages of good books to be the best way without leaving home of visiting places, meeting new people and learning new things.

One of the unfortunate consequences of growing older for many is the impairment of their vision.

Many of our older loved ones, especially those most elderly, have put down their books out of frustration.

It is simply too hard to see the words to make the effort worthwhile. Or at least it was…

Books are even more accessible than ever to seniors, however, because of the technologies available for their enjoyment (yes, the paper kind are adapting too).

There are many options that we as family members and/or caregivers can bring to our senior loved ones to renew their love of reading and losing themselves in a good story.

Options for Connecting Seniors with a Good Story

  1. Large print books – You probably already know about them but may not have sought them out. They aren’t seen around as often as regular print books but they are available in more and more titles.
  2. Downloadable audio editions of their favorite books – Electronic books they can download instantly and play on their computer, tablet or MP3 player (including many smartphones). Many are read by the author or a famous person whose voice can make a story even more enjoyable. Our favorite source is Audible Audiobooks from Amazon.com.
  3. Books on tape or CD – Electronic audio books that come loaded onto CDs and cassette tapes and playable like recorded music in those formats. You’ll probably find the cassette format only available for older favorites, most commonly through lending libraries.
  4. E-readers such as Kindle or Nook – These electronic devices can be set with larger fonts so that most people with diminished vision can read their favorite stories. Many new and favorite titles are available for these e-readers and some libraries also have e-books available for lending.
  5. Podcasts – Free recordings playable on iPods or other MP3 players and available on a wide variety of topics, from news to special interest to entertainment. Many news organizations make podcasts available from their news broadcasts for listeners to play at their convenience. You can find podcasts on some of your favorite websites and through iTunes.com.

Where Can We Find These Books & Stories?

  • Local bookstores, which are good for browsing and meeting other book lovers
  • Department stores, thrift stores, grocery stores, and other retail outlets
  • Libraries, where you just have to love the price
  • Online bookstores from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble
  • Many of their – or your – favorite websites, including news and information sites
  • Many senior centers have their own lending libraries
  • iTunes

With the rapidly increasing technology, there are more ways than ever to listen to (or read) a good story, with options fitting most every budget.  Don’t let your senior loved one give up a favorite pastime just because the way they have always read a story is not possible or enjoyable for them anymore.

You don’t have to be a senior to enjoy these, either. We find technology has made it easier and more convenient for us to enjoy books than was ever possible with traditional printed versions. This is a GREAT time to be a reader — or become one!

We would love to hear how you reconnected your senior loved one to a good story!

Gift of Poetry: Alzheimer’s Patient’s Prayer

Families are coming together to celebrate the holidays. Infants to elderly are gathering to share memories and make new ones.

A growing number of families include one or more seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease, cherished loved ones who find it increasingly difficult to recall those life events that are the family’s special memories.

If yours is one of these families, you may find it difficult to comprehend how your parent, grandparent or special elder feels and how they see their life. We know your frustration.

Our gift to you, to help you understand and hopefully make their holidays and yours a little better, is this wonderful poem by Carolyn Haynali. Whether it’s an introduction or a reminder, these words may help you make more special memories this holiday season.

Alzheimer’s Patient’s Prayer 

Pray for me I was once like you.

Be kind and loving to me that’s how I would have treated you.

Remember I was once someone’s parent or spouse.

I had a life and a dream for the future.

Speak to me, I can hear you even if I don’t understand what you are saying.

Speak to me of things in my past of which I can still relate.

Be considerate of me, my days are such a struggle.

Think of my feelings because I still have them and can feel pain.

Treat me with respect because I would have treated you that way.

Think of how I was before I got Alzheimer’s;

I was full of life, I had a life, laughed and loved you.

Think of how I am now, my disease distorts my thinking, my feelings, and my ability to respond, but I still love you even if I can’t tell you.

Think about my future because I used to.

Remember I was full of hope for the future just like you are now.

Think how it would be to have things locked in your mind and can’t let them out.

I need you to understand and not blame me, but Alzheimer’s.

I still need the compassion and the touching and most of all I still need you to love me.

Keep me in your prayers because I am between life and death.

The love you give will be a blessing from God and both of use will live forever.

How you live and what you do today will always be remembered

in the heart of the Alzheimer’s Patient.

 

New Resource to Help Protect Our Senior Loved Ones’ Finances

Retirement savings and home values took a beating in the financial meltdown from which the US is still trying to recover. For many of our senior loved ones, especially those who are elderly, “retirement savings” is the money used to live and “home value” is the financial asset expected to be the cushion for hard times. That means it was the ability to pay for life that took a beating for many seniors.

The US Congress, as part of its response to the financial meltdown, included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (which we won’t begin to discuss here) the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB.  The stated mission of the CFPB is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans.

Older Americans comprise one of the groups specifically targeted for protection by the CFPB by Dodd-Frank. The Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans (yes, Washington likes long, descriptive titles) was set up to give seniors information and tools to help them navigate financial challenges.

Functions of the OFPBA

  • help seniors prevent the taking of their savings or home
  • improve the understanding of financial decisions faced when a spouse dies
  • point seniors in the right direction when seeking information
  • provide information regarding financial choices
  • provide access to tools helpful in the achievement of financial goals

If you go to the website of the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans you won’t find a lot of information, rather you’ll see links to find information on other federal government sites and in other resources.  The CFPB is a very young government agency whose function will likely grow as it receives political guidance.  In the meantime, they do suggest five things to do in order to protect what belongs to you.

5 Ways for Seniors to Protect What’s Theirs

  1. Ask Questions – before signing anything make sure its understood and in the senior’s interest; don’t be afraid to ask others if help is needed or there is uncertainty.
  2. Protect Personal Information – don’t give out personal information such as account or social security numbers online or on the phone unless the requester is known and the information is truly needed.
  3. Plan Ahead for Retirement – yes, this is a little late for seniors but still good to consider for those not yet retired or those of us who are family members planning our own futures.
  4. Don’t Lose Your House – fully understand and be comfortable with implications before putting the house on the line as security for a loan or any other purpose; be careful when considering a reverse mortgage (a future Senior Care Corner topic).
  5. Learn to Say No – as we’ve discussed before, polite people like our elderly loved ones are targeted by scammers because they don’t like to say no, which costs so many seniors a lot of money.

We wholeheartedly endorse these points, which can’t be repeated enough. If you have trouble talking about such financial topics with your senior loved ones or they have trouble taking advice from you, sit down with them and walk through the points in this post – let Senior Care Corner be the messenger, with you there to discuss and interpret.

Remember, the government and others may offer tools and assistance with financial issues, but they are still our parents, grandparent and loved ones. We are the ones who most want to keep them from being hurt!

8 Ways to Brighten Lonely Holidays for Senior Loved Ones

The holidays give us a time to come together as families and share news and memories with distant loved ones we don’t get to see often enough.

Sometimes, however, we can’t visit our senior loved ones as we would like and they have to spend holidays alone, or at least without family around.

We have some ideas for family members and other caregivers to bring some life, joy and reminising to your senior loved one this holiday season. We hope you’ll like them — because that special senior in your life is sure to appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Ways to Brighten the Holiday

  1. Send a greeting card to your elder loved one today and everyday through New Year’s. Each day the card could be either a greeting card for the holidays, a wish we were there card, thanks for being there for me card, a handwritten note, a funny card, a card your child drew, a postcard or any type of card you think he would like to receive.
  2. In your card include a family photo, a comic strip cut from the newspaper, a bookmark, a hand cut snowflake or anything handmade she would enjoy.
  3. Send a box of homemade cookies, candy or some other treat like sugared nuts — choose a favorite of theirs.  Include a note that says something like “I remember when I was a child and we made these cookies together.  I miss you but wanted to share this special memory with you.  Enjoy every bite! Will see you soon…”
  4. Send an object that brings to mind a special fragrance such as cinnamon, oranges and cloves or evergreen.  It could be a sprig from a tree, an actual spiced orange, a sachet, a room freshener or a seasoned tea.  Include a card that says something like this…”When I was growing up, my favorite holiday memory was cutting down our tree in the woods with you and dad. I thought this sprig would remind you of our holidays. We look forward to seeing you soon.”
  5. Send a small live evergreen tree that your senior loved one can put on a table, a seasonal flower arrangement, a poinsettia or a fresh wreath to enjoy the season.  Oftentimes if older people are spending the holidays alone, they will not decorate, so a special delivery like this will surely bring sparkle to their season.
  6. Send a box to celebrate New Year’s including a party hat, noisemaker and paper popper!
  7. Send a holiday music CD or holiday video that they would enjoy.
  8. Call them and remind them that they are not alone and you are thinking of them!

We wish you, your senior loved ones and your entire family a wonderful holiday season!

 

Who Provides the Long Term Care to Our Senior Loved Ones?

You’re visiting your senior loved one in their long term care facility and marveling at all the activity you see. She loves the level of care she is getting and everyone stops in to say hi.

Who are all these people and what are their roles?

It may seem overwhelming at times to know what each person is doing to provide care and how they are advocating for the best care for your loved one.

Each person brings a unique point of view to the well-being of the elderly residents.  This special group of people is known as the interdisciplinary care team.

Members of the Interdisciplinary Care Team

Primary care nurse: responsible for the medical care of your senior; administers all medications and treatments for your senior staying in close contact with the physician.  She or he communicates with you about any changes occurring in your senior’s medical  status.

Nursing assistant: responsible for the day to day care of your senior, helps them to the bathroom, assists them in getting dressed, helps them eat, gets them where they need to go and lovingly provides for their needs even before your senior loved one asks.

Social worker: responsible for the emotional well-being of your senior loved one; this is the elderly resident’s advocate for advance directives, advising you about your senior’s rights and options for care.

Dietitian: responsible for each senior’s nutritional health; tracks their intake of food and fluids, monitors their weights, makes sure the food that is served is appetizing and palatable, ensures that the doctor’s diet prescription is followed and recommends supplements if needed.  She or he works with the speech therapist to be sure that the texture of the food is easy to chew and swallow safely.

Activities Director/Assistants: these people provide stimulating activities to keep your senior loved one active and free from boredom.  They provide books, movies, word search, puzzles, games, bingo, nail polish, newspapers and a wide variety of fun things to add life to their lives.

MDS Coordinator: responsible for creating a plan of care for each resident of an elder care facility, which directs every team member in how to care for your senior loved one.  This is the person who schedules meetings with you and your senior every three months to keep you informed.

Therapists: these people provide skilled therapy services (physical, occupational or speech) to your senior to help maintain their physical function and safety.

There are other people that you will meet in the facility that interact with your loved one in addition to the team.  They include the administrator, director of nursing, housekeepers, dietary staff, facility maintenance staff, and volunteers.  They all are concerned about and have a role in your senior’s well-being.

Each one of these people has a role to play (and sometimes more than one) in the smooth running of their facility and is happy to give comfort and friendship to your senior while meeting their needs.  Get to know these caregivers; they would love to talk with you about your senior and their role in providing care.

These are the people to thank for the great care your loved one is receiving!

When Your Senior Loved One Needs Eating Assistance

For family caregivers who love aging adults, concerns about how well they are eating often seems to be a high health priority and source for concern.

As seniors age, and especially if they suffer from dementia, Parkinson’s disease or have had a stroke, eating skills can be affected. What may be seen as a lack of interest in food is a sign of frustration. It may not be that their appetite is poor but rather that they are simply having difficulty getting the food they want to eat into their mouths.

There are tools, known as adaptive eating devices, specially designed for people who need some assistance in eating. They are similar in concept to using a walker or cane to assist in walking and can make a big difference in how much your senior is able to eat.

Adaptive Eating Tips & Devices

  1. Using a nonskid mat under your loved one’s plate to help her keep it from scooting across the table. Using a bold colored plate or placemat to create a better visual field will also be helpful when vision is reduced.
  2. A specially-made plate that is divided or an attachment on the plate called a plate guard can help your senior to push food onto his utensil.  There is also a plate called a scoop plate that can help elderly eaters scoop the food onto the spoon by pushing against the side of the plate.
  3. Sometimes a person suffering from a stroke or Parkinson’s has tremors in his hands that result in food being spilled off the spoon or fork before he can get it into his mouth. There are utensils with handles that are weighted that can help steady their hands to get the food safely into their mouths.  Sometimes using a soup spoon instead of a teaspoon can help as well.
  4. If your senior has trouble manipulating her hands, in grabbing the handle of her utensil and wrapping it securely into her grasp, there are utensils that have handles that are larger or built-up.  Some foam wraps that slip onto your utensils are available that can give a better grip.
  5. Cups with two handles are easier for many seniors to safely grasp and control.  Also, using a cup with a lid such as found on travel mugs can make it safer and keep hot beverages from spilling and causing potential injury.
  6. There are cups that have cutouts on the side for those seniors who have difficulty bending their necks. These cups help keep them from spilling beverages out the side and down their cheeks.

If your senior loved one is having difficulty eating and drinking, you may want to find an occupational therapist that can help you find the right device to make mealtime more successful.

If you are interested in trying any of the above devices, you can find them at the Senior Care Bookstore.

Being able to eat independently, safely and effectively will help your senior stay healthy as he or she ages.

6 Aging in Place Considerations for Your Senior Loved Ones

Aging in place, living in a home environment of your choice as you age, is continuing to grow in popularity as an alternative to senior living facilities. Senior Care Corner covers aging in place as an emphasis area to keep families of seniors up to date and informed.

As more seniors state a preference for living in their own homes, they and their families may find the home that served them for years will not longer meet their needs, especially as they move into their elderly years.

This episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast explores 6 considerations seniors and their families should take into account when evaluating a current or potential home as a candidate for aging in place.

Aging in Place Considerations

  1. Location
  2. Needed services
  3. Transportation requirements
  4. Available activities
  5. Finances
  6. Nearby family support

We discuss what goes into each of these considerations to help family members assure their senior loved ones age in place in a home that meets their needs.

Aging in place will continue to be a major coverage area for us and will be the subject of another podcast episode in January, as we report on the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show and some of the devices that make living at home safer and more enjoyable for seniors.

Links Mentioned in This Episode

We hope you find this episode informative. Please let us know if you have comments or questions.

Podcast Transcript (so you can follow along or read at your convenience)