Your Senior Loved One May Need A Hearing Test If…

It is certainly isn’t news that many of our senior loved ones are plagued with multiple health issues that require treatment. Hearing loss is often one issue that doesn’t always get the attention it may deserve because it often comes on gradually or seniors are afraid of the results they may receive. Some may even give it lower priority because they feel other health problems should take priority.

Many people may be hesitant to get their hearing checked because they don’t want to deal with or pay for hearing aids if told they need them. Unfortunately, a hearing impairment can isolate seniors and lead to them withdrawing from social events or avoiding communicating with loved ones.

Of course, many senior and elderly loved ones simply don’t want to admit they need a hearing aid or be seen wearing one. We have to work with them to overcome this so they get the benefits that come with restored hearing.

However, with the advent of new technology and treatments for hearing loss, the time is right to get a checkup. Hearing aids are getting smaller yet working better than the ones around not too long ago.

What are the signs that the time has come to get a hearing test?

  • Is your senior missing the conversation and frequently asking “what?” or “can you repeat that?”
  • Is your senior getting upset because he feels everyone he talks to is mumbling and he can’t understand them clearly?
  • Does your senior pump up the volume of the TV or radio?
  • Does your senior have more difficulty participating and understanding the conversation in a noisy environment like a restaurant or party even though she is sitting next to you?
  • Do you notice that people have begun raising their voices in your senior’s presence?
  • Has your senior begun having “miscommunications” about details she has been told and even missed an appointment because she heard the wrong day?
  • Has your senior retreated from the public or decreased the number of phone calls she is making to friends and family?
  • Does your senior complain of ringing or pain in his ears or feel like he is hearing things underwater?
  • Has your senior been told by his doctor or other healthcare professional that he needs a hearing test or failed one, but has not taken the results seriously so avoided follow-up?

As we age we can expect some decline in our physical wellness, such as vision and hearing, but we can do something to improve our well-being when we have the knowledge that we need to make a change.

Those who have cared for or even spent time with a senior loved one with a hearing loss know that it can make life difficult for all involved. That means everyone, the senior, their family members and friends will all benefit when you help your loved one get that hearing test and follow through with the results.

Vital Heart Health Tips for Seniors (and Their Loved Ones)

Helping senior loved ones reduce their risk of heart disease, the number one killer of women and too high on the list of killers for men as well, is one of the keys to helping them improve their lives. In this episode of the Senior Care Corner we address exactly that.

While there are some heart disease risk factors, such as age and family history, that we can’t change, there are a number of risk factors about which we CAN do something. In this episode you’ll hear actions you can take to improve the chances for many senior loved ones — and maybe to help yourself as well.

The American Heart Association targets February as American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart diseases and heart-healthy actions we and our senior loved ones can take. They put a special focus on women with their Go Red for Women campaign, highlighted by Wear Red Day to raise awareness.

We feel this awareness campaign and the information it provides is important. For that reason, the feature segment of this episode focuses on heart health information we feel family caregivers need to know, both for their senior loved ones and themselves.

Heart Health in Our Feature Segment

  • Facts about heart disease and stroke
  • Heart disease risk factors
  • Reducing risk factors in senior loved ones
  • Heart healthy diet
  • Actions for family caregivers during cardiac and stroke emergencies

We hope you’ll find insights that help you improve the heart health of not only your senior loved ones but yourself as well.

News Items in this Episode Discuss

  • Benefits of computer-aided exercise for seniors
  • 6 ways our senior loved ones can feel happier & healthier
  • Alzheimer’s Disease common in the “oldest old” women
  • How often should older women receive bone scans

Our quick tip addresses vitamin and supplement safety for our senior loved ones.

Links mentioned in this episode

We encourage you to comment on our podcast here or on our Facebook wall, as well as giving us your suggestions for future podcast topics to help us provide the information you need.

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

Triple Decker Sandwich Generation: A #DadChat Recap

This topic has been on our minds for a while, so we were thrilled when Bruce Sallan of the #DadChat Twitter chat — the chat for anyone who is a parent or was a child — asked Barry to co-host to discuss the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation. Here is a VERY brief summary of the discussion…

A fantastic group of people came together on #DadChat to share tales of life in the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation. Huge thanks to host Bruce Sallan for inviting Barry to co-host and drawing such a crowd — not to mention sharing his own story and helping everyone else feel comfortable in doing the same.

Rather than tell you what everyone had to say, we thought we would share some of the highlights in each person’s own words. We can only share a small fraction of what was said, but this will give you a sense for what a great hour it was. So many people shared so much, which was especially challenging in the 140 character limitation of Twitter.

@BruceSallan    @BarryBirkett, you’ve stated that too often we, in the middle of the sandwich, neglect ourselves. Elaborate? #DadChat

@BarryBirkett      So many focus so much on caring for kids & for parents/grandparents they don’t leave any time to take care of their own needs. #DadChat

@LovelyLu     I’ve now joined the group that officially worries about taking care of her parent #Dadchat

@BarryBirkett     It may seem selfless to ignore your own needs to focus on others but over time it impacts your ability to care for them, too. #DadChat

@BruceSallan     My parents are both gone. I was alone in dealing with their multi-year decline. It was NOT easy. #DadChat

@squirleywrath     @barrybirkett I agree Barry. When I don’t take time to relax I get testy, and that can affect how I interact with the family #dadchat

@BarryBirkett     So many of us let stress build, ignore our own relationships & don’t allow selves breaks in caring for loved ones. It wears us down#DadChat

@BruceSallan    @BarryBirkett – I think those breaks in taking care of our elderly parents are ESSENTIAL #DadChat

@harryLfunk    RT @BarryBirkett: @lovelylu It is so hard to know when we are helping them or not, we just want to make it easier for them.#DadChat

@LovelyLu    I’m taking care of both now kids and parent  @SteveCassady @BruceSallan @BarryBirkett #Dadchat

@ManvDadhood    @Sonya_LeanOnUs @brucesallan So… What ARE we talking about? Sandwiches?? #Dadchat

@Sonya_LeanOnUs    RT @BruceSallan: @ManvDadhood – Yes, with us as the meat – taking care of our parents and our kids and neglecting ourselves#DadChat

@lukerushly    @brucesallan @BarryBirkett My wife’s uncle had a building w/ multiple flats where all the fam lived together but separate.#DadChat

@BruceSallan    @LovelyLu – as much as my parents and I loved one another, it was NEVER an option for them to live with us…too much noise!#DadChat
@theflaggagency    @BruceSallan I started waking up 45 minutes earlier since the first of the year specifically to have time for myself! #DadChat

@BarryBirkett    Caregiver needs to realize it’s in interest of all & force self to do things for self. Fun, interaction with others, hobbies. #DadChat

@BarryBirkett    With family caregivers we suggest that other family members offer to fill gap from time to time to let caregiver get away to refuel#DadChat
@squirleywrath    @brucesallan Schedule time for yourself. plan to have coverage if you need it, but commit to it. #dadchat

@LovelyLu    It’s hard when you are worrying about them and they live far away. I’m in NY, mom is in FL #Dadchat

@BarryBirkett    @saskadad So many live far away today. We make an effort to find things people can do to help & give care from distance. #DadChat

@lukerushly    I agree“@ManvDadhood: I like the way every culture outside America does it! The whole family is a unit and cares for one another. #DadChat”

@BruceSallan    @harryLfunk – at least get the legal stuff in order and the medical forms!!! #DadChat

@lukerushly    Our ‘rents still in good health, but we recently laid out end of life decisions like funeral arrngmnts, DNRs, etc. Hard but good.#DadChat

@BarryBirkett    @harrylfunk Many parents grew up taught that finances were not things discussed with kids. Rough talk for some but protects them.#DadChat

@LovelyLu    Or find respite help if you can’t RT @BruceSallan: Hire caregiver to give you a break if YOU are the sole one if you can afford it!#Dadchat

@squirleywrath    @brucesallan hadn’t thought about sibs in making it easier. When fams had 7-10 kids, taking care of parents must have been easier#dadchat

@SaskaDad    @BarryBirkett we try to video chat and have a family page on Facebook. #dadchat

@LovelyLu    Nice to know we’re not alone though! I haven’t talked to anyone about this RT @azmomofmanyhats: Ugh this is a tough topic tonight! #Dadchat
@squirleywrath    @barrybirkett This is good to talk about, to get out in the open and deal with, rather than thinking about it spinning in our heads#dadchat

We want to thank all of these folks and the many more who joined in the discussion — and especially Bruce for suggesting the topic and encouraging such a personal but fulfilling chat!

The response from these folks and so many more of you to this topic is gratifying. We plan on providing more information and opportunities for discussion in the future.

Are You the Middle of a Triple Decker Sandwich?

Many baby boomers have grown to think of themselves as part of what has been termed the “sandwich generation”, caring for their aging parents or grandparents and their children at the same time. Calling that simply a sandwich overlooks a very important part of the equation, unfortunately the same part many boomers overlook — yourself.

Sharing information about the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation is an attempt to get boomer caregivers to realize the portion of the sandwich in the middle needs care as well. So often we find family caregivers putting their own needs on hold to address the sometime overwhelming needs of their children and senior loved ones.

No one in the multiple layers of the sandwich benefit when a caregiver ignores her or his own needs to focus totally on the needs of others. For some reason, though, we have been taught to feel like we’re being selfish when we think of ourselves. Just the opposite is true however.  When we take time to take care of ourselves, we put ourselves in a better position to give our best to others.

What happens when you shove your needs aside for too long? There are many reports of stress related disease and depression among boomer caregivers. Certainly being the middle “deck” of the sandwich can contribute to that. Focusing on the health care needs of others but ignoring your own can have serious consequences, especially for those entering a time in their lives where medical visits should be growing more – rather than less – frequent.

Being a Caregiver to Yourself

Taking care of that middle deck of the sandwich doesn’t mean simply looking after yourself, but those aspects of your life that are also necessary to your well being.

  • caring for a relationship with a spouse, partner or friends who help complete your life
  • putting appropriate focus on the job that provides the income needed to support the other aspects of your life (and hopefully some fulfillment)
  • hobbies, sports or other activities that let you get away from the rest of your life for a while
  • anything other aspect of your life that is important to you and allows you to decompress

The first step in caring for the middle deck of your family sandwich is to recognize that you and your needs are important and need to be met. Take some time for yourself and think about those needs putting plans in place to address them, just as you do to meet the needs of your children and senior loved ones for whom you care.

How do you care for yourself and your needs when it already feels like there are too few hours in each day? Can you substitute technology for some of the effort you put in already? There are a growing numbers of devices and programs that bright people have developed to meet the needs of people like you. There might just be an app for that!

In order to fully care for yourself to care for your family, you have to give yourself permission to put yourself in the sandwich instead of on the side of the plate. Some days will be harder than others to find time for your needs, but don’t give up. You will feel stronger when you have met your needs and be more able to be a loving and competent caregiver to the rest of the sandwich layers in your life.

We would love to hear how YOU care for the middle of your Triple Decker Sandwich so we can learn from each other.

Keep Senior Brains Sharp – and It’s Fun Too!

Maintaining cognition (awareness, reasoning & judgment) as our senior loved ones age is an important concern for family members and other caregivers.  A decline in mental abilities can often impact the ability of our elders to maintain the independence they desire.

We are often looking for the magic pill that allows us to age gracefully or the fountain of youth that keeps us young.  We try new foods that are touted as ‘super-foods’ that will keep our minds and bodies strong. While magic solutions only exist in advertisements, there are healthy changes that we can help our senior and elderly loved ones make to improve their health and brain function.

Japanese researchers have been looking into the effect of video games on the brain function of seniors.  They have found that playing Brain Age by Nintendo can improve cognitive abilities in seniors. We thought it might be helpful to show you a short video of Brain Age in use. There is another video at the bottom of the post as well.

Seniors were tested to determine their baseline cognition and then asked to play either this game or another video game called Tetris five days a week for fifteen minutes a day for four weeks.  They were then given the same test that was administered at the beginning. Compared to those who played the Tetris game, the seniors who played Brain Age had improved processing speed and executive function.  This means that the organization of thoughts and memory were improved in those who played the game Brain Age.  Brain Age was specifically designed for seniors to increase cognitive function.  The game includes nine different activities including word scrambles, arithmetic questions, reading passages aloud, a virtual piano and more.  All the games have been created to stimulate the part of the brain critical for memory and learning.

While improving brain function, processing speed and potentially memory, the most interesting new finding by these researchers is the short time involved to achieve a noticeable result.  The game players only played for four weeks but showed improvements that were measurable.  We all wonder what improvements and maintenance of these changes might occur with more time spent in brain stimulating activities such as Brain Age.

You can check out a Nintendo DS game system as well as the Brain Age and Brain Age 2 games in the Senior Care Corner Bookstore under the Software tab.  There are also other products to help stimulate your senior’s brain that you might enjoy. We would love to hear what activities you use to keep you and your senior’s brain active!

We want to leave you with another short video of Brain Age in use by a senior.

10 Timeless Rules for Good Health

Modern medicine has advanced far beyond what was done in the past and there is nothing we can borrow from the past to improve the lives of our senior loved ones, right? Don’t be so sure. Here is a case where the modern and detailed may not be able to beat the traditional and simple.

In 1928, Dr. George W. Calver became the first appointed attending physician to the US Congress to help our government officials stay healthy. The need for someone in his position was seen because many Members of Congress and Senators were dying each year.

One of Dr. Calver’s first acts on the job was the creation of the following list, which he called The 10 Commandments of Health. He gave copies of the list to the Representatives and Senators and posted it throughout the halls of Congress to remind everyone about healthy habits.

We call these rules “timeless” because, as you will see, they continue to be appropriate and timely as we help our senior loved ones – and ourselves – stay healthy in 2012!

The 10 Commandments of Health~~Dr. George Calver

  1. Eat Wisely
  2. Drink Plentifully
  3. Eliminate Thoroughly
  4. Bathe Cleanly
  5. Exercise Rationally
  6. Accept Inevitables
  7. Play Enthusiastically
  8. Relax Completely
  9. Sleep Sufficiently
  10. Check Up Occasionally

We would like to add a few words to clarify a few commandments on the list:

  • drink plentifully of water (which is probably what the doctor intended)
  • accept inevitables – don’t worry about those things you cannot change, be happy every day

In addition to being timeless, these rules are simple. “Too simple” you say? Not at all. We hear from many people how hard it is to know what to do to stay healthy with some many sets of guidelines and with each so-called expert telling us something different. Time and time again we get reminders that simpler is sometimes better. This might be one of those situations.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Seniors: Trendsetters in Food Industry for 2012

Boomers, or at least the elder ones, are crossing the threshold into seniordom and as a result the population growth among seniors is expected to, well, boom in the years to come.

Now we are learning that this senior population group has power, purchasing power that is. Despite the hit to their retirement funds taken by many retirees and near-retirees over the past few years, it is clear seniors, and family caregivers purchasing on their behalf, have the ability to buy more than the basics.

The senior population is poised to increase in numbers quickly according to statistics from the Administration on Aging:

The older population — persons 65 years or older — numbered  39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans.  By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their  number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000  but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030.”

There is indeed strength in numbers, especially when those numbers have buying power, and seniors are demanding goods and services to meet their needs.

According to recent trending identified by the Leatherhead Research Company, senior boomers are influencing the food we will see on grocery store shelves and served at local restaurants in the near future.

The need for healthier foods that can help control and manage chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes will result in foods which meet these needs.  Foods with health claims are already making their way to our local grocery stores.

What food products can we look for this year directed at seniors?

  • food items containing glucosamine to help with stiff, sore joints
  • foods with added omega 3 fatty acids to help improve brain health
  • reduced sodium foods to aid management of heart disease and hypertension as well as more kinds of reduced fat and lower calorie items; more strongly flavored foods with bolder flavors will come to market as salt is replaced with other seasonings
  • artery cleaning products
  • gluten free products to help control the effects of celiac disease
  • foods that are “free”: dairy free, soy free, and nut free due to increased food allergies and also those wishing for healthier products
  • decreased amounts of food packaging to maintain the “green” initiative
  • expect to see a reduction in exaggerated food claims and a shift to more natural products

With the demand for healthier foods that appeal to health conscious seniors, the manufacturers are pushing their research teams hard to create products to meet this demand.  A shift to healthier and more flavorful food choices will benefit us all.  Thank you seniors!

Let us know what types of food products you would like to see for your senior, we would love to hear your ideas!

Promise of CES 2012: Better Lives for Seniors and Their Loved Ones

The biggest and best-attended International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) so far also held the most promise for improving the health, safety, comfort and enjoyment of the lives of seniors and their loved ones. At the same time, the technology industry in general is still not focusing enough attention — translating into products and services — on the needs of seniors, the elderly and the sizable market they and the family caregivers and other loved ones who purchase for them represent.

Senior Care Corner took in the full of CES, as promised, to bring back to you what the conferences and exhibits had to offer. There were some highlights in the exhibits for seniors and their loved ones, but more in the promise held in the discussions of the conferences, most notably the Digital Health Summit and Silvers Summit. In this episode of the Senior Care Corner podcast, we offer our overall impressions of CES and delve into some specific points we found interesting and think you might as well.

“Bells and whistles” can’t begin to describe the exhibition floors at CES. It is hard to imagine more television screens in one place, with lots being exhibited but many, many more being used for display purposes, entire walls and ceilings comprised of TVs in some areas.  Even that doesn’t adequately describe the sights and sounds of CES. Still, the best parts of the Show to us were some of the conference sessions. As expected, the Digital Health Summit and Silvers Summit were the CES stars to us.

We heard speakers share their thoughts on why technology developers are not doing more to meet the needs of seniors and why the digital health effort in the healthcare industry is lagging the tech efforts in other areas. Even more important — and very encouraging — is what we heard about efforts in both areas to reduce the gap.

It was a privilege to hear Martin Cooper, the father of the cell phone, talk about technological innovation past and present as well as give advice for success in the future. We also especially enjoyed hearing John Scully talk about what is needed for digital health to achieve what is needed and the words of Dr. Leslie Saxon and many others who are working to make it happen.

We will be sharing in upcoming blog posts and podcast episodes more information and details about some of the products and services we encountered at CES, including interviews with some of those bringing exciting products to market so you can hear everything in their words.

One thing you’ll hear in this episode is that technology developers need to hear from seniors and their family caregivers about the future they see for themselves and the innovations that are needed to realize their visions. Make your voices known. Leave your thoughts with us, either as a comment to this post or on the wall of our Facebook page, and we will pass them along to the developers we met at CES.

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



Journal Your Senior Loved One’s Memories

Most of us have heard our senior loved one telling stories about certain things, usually funny, that happened to them in their life. For instance, my kids have heard frequently from their mom about potatoes for dinner every night or how their dad swung from the back porch from a rope growing up.

However, what we often don’t hear about from our senior loved ones are what towns/houses/cities they lived in, what jobs they had throughout their life, not just the job from which they retired, what pets they had when they were growing up, their family tree, what caused their parents/grandparents death or many other rich details of their life that make them who they are.

How many of us family caregivers know that dad started out selling newspapers while driving a family car that was falling apart or that mom kept a rabbit in her room? Did our parents ever travel and where did they go? What are the names of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and their siblings? Did anyone come through Ellis Island? What is their medical history or blood type?

How will our children and grandchildren know these details?

One way you can capture these precious family memories is beginning now to create a family journal. Take some time daily, weekly, or monthly with your senior loved one, asking them specific questions and allowing them to reminisce. Record these thoughts, information and your impressions in a journal that can be shared with other members of the family. Others in the family can add any knowledge they have about the family in the journal too. Family documents and photos can be added in a scrapbook fashion to enhance the memories.

Tips for Getting Started

  1. Take your time, this is a journey of love.
  2. Get a pen, paper and a notebook of your choosing.
  3. Organize it as you wish separating it into various sections such as family tree, my father/mother, medical history, photos, documents, fun facts, etc.  Whatever fits your family’s needs.
  4. At the top of each piece of paper that will become a page in the journal write a question to be answered and expanded upon such as:

    Where were you born? Where were your parents born? (country, city, hospital, home)

    What was your first job?  What was your favorite job and why?

    What was your fondest memory growing up?
    Where did you travel as a kid?  Adult? Where was your favorite place to visit? Where was the farthest place you went?
    What is your family health history-mom, dad, great-grandparents?
    Where are deceased family member buried?
    What pets did you have growing up?
    Where did you meet mom/dad? Where were you married? Who was in the ceremony?
  5. Review family photos, include them in the journal with thoughts about each one and include who the people are and details about the photos.
  6. Collect family documents like marriage licenses, military records, etc. and include in your keepsake.

Resources You May Like to Guide Your Journaling

This journal will offer you, your family and your senior loved one a way to connect, record family memories that can be shared with generations to come and give a new respect for the lives they lived.  Some of their answers may surprise you!

We would love to hear about your experiences with journaling family memories; please share with all of us.