Access for Seniors in an Accessible Hotel Room?

Recently we stayed in a handicapped accessible hotel room. Although we were in the company of a hearing impaired person, we got the room quite by accident. However, it was a very enlightening ‘accident’.

The room was relatively new construction in a new tower of this particular hotel/resort. As such, the room itself was well appointed with stylish details.

Availability of New Technology

In this all handicaps accessible room, there was a feature called Room Valet that is specially designed for hearing impaired people. You can select from a list of options, including a bed alarm via a bed shaker, strobe alert for the phone ringing or the door as well as other choices. For a deaf person traveling alone, this feature could be a lifesaver. We have personally stayed in many rooms in which there were no strobe lights in case of fire.

This room had all the expected accommodations required under new construction, such as strobe lights for emergency alarms and braille markings on the room numbers and elevators. It also had a roll-in shower and plenty of room in the bathroom for transferring on and off the commode from a wheelchair.

There also were handicapped modifications present that you would expect, such as grab bars in the bathroom, lever handles on all doors and faucets, a wheelchair accessible bathroom with wide doorways, high toilet, pull under sink and desk area, thermostat at reachable height, light switches that were reachable, and storage bins for clothes at accessible points. If you were a wheelchair bound senior or hearing impaired person these modifications would be a welcome respite on your travels.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

There were several good features that show great thought for the needs of capable people requiring modifications. As with any new idea, there are areas that cause some head shaking and this room was no exception.

  1. While it contained this wonderful Room Valet, the phone had no way to amplify so if you were notified via an alarm that your phone was ringing, you would be unable to hear anything when answering the call.
  2. It was great to have strobe notification of an emergency such as fire, but there was no documented strategy (or at least instructions we could find) for a wheelchair bound person/senior to be evacuated from the twelfth floor or any high floor when the elevator was out of service for fire.
  3. Also, while there was ample space to get into the shower, there was no assistive device, such as a bench, to help get showered without putting the whole wheelchair inside under the water if you were a senior unsteady on your feet.
  4. The closet was adapted with a lowered shelf and hangers at wheelchair level, but once I put my jacket inside, there was little room for anything else. Perhaps one shirt and one pair of pants could fit in the slim closet but no one traveling with you (the room had two queen sized beds) could use it.
  5. The Room Valet also had no instructions for use. Therefore, a senior would have difficulty, as in fact did I, figuring out how to use it. Also, only one bed had the bed shaker which was not stated anywhere, so whether or not you were awakened would be the luck of the draw if you chose the right bed.
  6.  The room configuration did well to have adequate space for a wheelchair to maneuver to the seating area but would be a tight fit to get between the two beds and still have room to transfer in and out of bed.
  7. There were two full length mirrors, one in the bathroom and one in the entry hall. This would be helpful if your senior was in a wheelchair but the lights were not overhead on either. The closest light was within a few feet and, especially in the dark entry hallway, they did not provide enough task lighting to put on makeup or do any grooming especially for a senior with reduced vision.

Businesses have come a long way trying to meet the needs of all customers but still need to consider how well the accommodations do or don’t work. Consumers can and should provide feedback to further improve access for all.

We would love to hear your travel experiences and the accommodations you found most helpful for your senior loved one.

Who’s Caring for the Caregiver in the Middle of the Triple Decker Sandwich?

So much interest and need for more information has been expressed after our posts about the triple decker sandwich that we decided to take the topic deeper as the feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner podcast.

Many people have told us they identify with being the middle of the triple decker sandwich and we know there are so many more who are in that role but simply don’t take the time to consider their own needs.

The needs of the caregivers in the middle are the focus this time – convincing them that identifying and addressing those needs are key to their continued ability to care for their senior loved ones and children.

Unfortunately, many caregivers feel guilt when they put any thought and effort into themselves, feeling they are somehow cheating those for whom they care. We’ve got to help them realize everyone benefits when the all three decks of the sandwich get attention.

We introduce a new area of focus and discussion for the triple decker sandwich this time, the other children and loved ones of the seniors. While not the primary caregivers, they can play a major role both in convincing the ones in the middle of the sandwich to address their needs and in taking action to help them do so.

News Items in this Senior Care Corner Podcast

  • Aging adults flocking to Facebook
  • Benefit center helps seniors access missing benefits
  • Screening by primary care doctors may spot dementia
  • For injured boomers – knowing when to see the doctor

Links Mentioned in this Podcast

If you have a friend or family member who is in the middle of the triple decker sandwich, we hope you’ll encourage them to spend some time focusing on their own needs because it benefits all involved.

We would love to hear your stories and comments. You may leave them on our site or on our Facebook wall.

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

Monitoring Seniors’ Homes – Embracing the Technology When It’s Time

Home monitoring technology can – and does – help many seniors live longer in the homes of their choice, which we as boomers repeatedly tell survey takers is important for us.

Our first post on the topic went into the why of implementing monitoring, but the more difficult step for many is the how – – not how technically but the people side of it, the senior loved one whose home and life is going to be monitored.

We’re gratified by the number of responses we have gotten to our prior post on the topic, with many of you telling personal stories about your families. We have seen much the same as you discussed, but hearing from you really drove home the impacts.

Most people told us what we have seen and heard elsewhere, that most senior loved ones are at least initially resistant to any sort of monitoring.

Some family caregivers are able to convince their loved ones to accept it, but others press forward despite resistance. While hesitant, they are convinced their actions are in the interest of their loved ones.

We all want to work together with our loved ones in protecting their interests. If and when the time comes that in-home monitoring is a benefit to them, we hope they will not just accept the situation but embrace the technology that helps keep them at home. How do we accomplish that?

Potential Steps in Senior Loved One’s Embracing Monitoring Technology

  • Make sure they see it as their decision and not one your are imposing on them. It’s natural to resist what is forced on us. Lay out the facts that led you to your conclusion and help your senior loved one decide monitoring is better than alternatives – which might include moving to a senior living facility or getting a caregiver in the home.
  • Investigate – together – various systems with different types of monitoring technology so you can both see the range of options available.
  • Ask manufacturers and vendors of selected systems for access to current users of their technology. They should already have lined up customers willing to share their experiences.
  • Obtain input from physicians and other advisers trusted by your loved one.
  • Consider trial implementations of monitoring options, with the information that would normally go to others going only to your senior loved one.

When you pursue the investigation with your loved one, be sure you do so with an open mind. You just might learn something new that reinforces your thinking or changes your mind. Also, going through the process may help you learn something more about your senior loved one – and them about you.

One thing you don’t want out of this process is regrets. Some readers told us they wish they had convinced or even forced loved ones to let them put monitoring technology in their homes because they’re convinced it would have made a real difference in the length and enjoyment of their lives.

We’d love to hear your tips!

Baker’s Dozen Ways to Share Your Caregiving Passion

Caregivers of senior loved ones know how important it is to have support. Having a helping hand can make the day bearable.

As Americans, we know how strength in numbers can achieve amazing things. When people band together for a common cause their impact can be exceptional.

There are many causes that we can get behind as caregivers in big and small ways to make the lives of all elders better.

Of course, there’s that added benefit that we feel better ourselves when we make a difference.

Ways You Can Make Difference

  1. Support Alzheimer’s causes such as the Longest Day or walk in a Memory Walk
  2. Support breast cancer efforts
  3. Advocate for Parkinson’s disease or participate in Moving Day
  4. Volunteer at a favorite organization, such as a senior center, nursing facility, or Area Agency on Aging
  5. Support a hospice foundation near you
  6. Raise funds for your favorite cause
  7. Be an organ donor
  8. Contact your elected officials to support your favorite cause; sign a petition for research funding
  9. Join a community group that advocates for seniors in your area; help clean up a neighborhood or paint a house of seniors in your community
  10. Deliver Meals on Wheels
  11. Donate your gently used items to a local agency servicing homebound seniors
  12. Exercise your passion for elders: become an eldercare advocate or ombudsman
  13. Encourage someone else to get involved!

Advocates raise awareness, fundraise, grow support for the cause, urge for government funding and research, help others, and improve care and services in whatever organization or cause they wish to join. Caregivers are very aware of the need for advocates and know the value of improvements and assistance they can receive. Caregivers make great advocates!

When you share your passion for helping your senior loved ones, it will pay off for many others for years to come!

Thank you for your advocacy!  Care to share? We look forward to hearing how you advocate for elders!

Will Our Senior Loved Ones Accept Home Monitoring Technology?

Home automation is going to give our senior loved ones the ability to live in their homes more safely, enjoyably and comfortably, many well into their elder years.

Home monitoring using video and motion detectors is going to give family members and other caregivers peace of mind, knowing the seniors about whom we care are safe and well – and that they’ll get notification quickly if not.

The exhibition floor at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) included many devices and systems that carry the promise of letting seniors live independently at home, often without the need for regular caregiver support, for longer than previously thought practical.

Not only is living out our lives in the home of our choice, known as aging in place, a desire of many adults but it is also typically a far less expensive way to live than in senior living facilities. With savings and retirement plans strained and the future fate of Social Security uncertain, being less expensive is an added attraction of aging in place.

So, all is great, right – or is it?

Despite doubts expressed by some family members and some “experts”, we expect most seniors will eventually not only accept but also embrace home technology that makes life more comfortable and enjoyable. After all, the next set of surveys is likely to show that a majority of seniors are online, using computers, smartphones and tablets to surf the web, use social media and much more. Also, the senior population includes a growing number of boomers. While they didn’t grow up with technology in the same way as younger generations, the technology grew up with the boomers.

When it comes to in-home monitoring technology, will our senior loved ones embrace, accept or even tolerate it? Will we when our time comes?

Home technology can and will be able to give family caregivers peace of mind by letting them know that

  • mom is getting out of bed each day,
  • grandpa is going into the kitchen to eat, or
  • the senior loved one developing Alzheimer’s is not wandering out of the house alone.

That same technology, though, may also be seen by senior loved ones as intruding on their privacy and taking away their independence in a way that even a live-in caregiver might not. Sleeping late because you socialized late the night before or not wanting lunch because you had a big breakfast are not indications of problems, but may draw questions from your family because the monitoring system was triggered.

Both would be seeing the same thing, of course, but from different perspectives. Who’s right? If the objective is to improve the lives of senior loved ones, we hope THEY feel their lives have been improved. That means we have to put ourselves in their shoes and seek technology solutions that can be embraced.

What’s the solution? Certainly there will be cases where the well being of a senior loved one outweighs what they want, but maybe that step can be avoided with efforts up front. After all, remote controls, computers, cell phones and other devices were all new to them at some point and have been embraced by most.

We care enough to want to do it right.

Coming next, potential steps to get senior loved ones to embrace monitoring technology. Check back here or sign up for our updates so you don’t miss it.

10 Food Safety Tips for Seniors’ (and Family Caregivers’) Health

We worry about the safety of our food and want to do everything we can to store and prepare our food to keep our families safe.

Getting sick from the food we eat is never fun and can be dangerous for our senior loved ones.

As our seniors age, they become more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses – especially in their food.

One reason our elders are more susceptible is that their immune systems become weakened, making it more difficult to fight illnesses. In addition, with age comes a decreased production of stomach acid, which helps our bodies destroy the bacteria we eat.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and kidney disease can make our senior loved ones even more prone to contracting food related illness.

Foodborne Illness

We can help keep these food related illnesses from attacking our seniors by taking precautions every day.

Food poisoning or foodborne illness can strike anytime, but proper food handling will reduce risks.

Unfortunately, foods that are contaminated usually do not smell or taste differently and you can’t see the bacteria.

Seniors can be affected by bacteria in foods as soon as 20 minutes or as long as 6 weeks after eating something contaminated. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to identify the food culprit.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches, diarrhea, and headache, often mimicking other illnesses. Check with their doctor if you think your senior has been afflicted.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, you and your senior loved ones should practice safe food handling procedures.

10 Tips for Safe Food Handling for Seniors (and all of us)

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently, especially before and after handling foods, coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom or when you touch a nonfood surface.
  2. Clean surfaces, including counters, tables, cutting boards and utensils and sanitize periodically.  Use clean towels and cloths replacing soiled ones frequently or use paper which can be discarded when soiled.
  3. Clean all produce in water and use a brush for visible dirt.
  4. Keep raw and cooked foods separate, using clean cutting boards, utensils, dishes, pans and washing hands between each to prevent cross contamination.
  5. Use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked thoroughly, to the proper internal temperature. Be sure foods cooked in a microwave don’t have cold spots that may contain bacteria.
  6. Store leftovers promptly and reheat thoroughly.
  7. Keep your refrigerator and freezer set at the proper temperatures and check them with an internal thermometer to maintain safe temperatures.
  8. Thaw your foods safely in the refrigerator-never on the counter.
  9. Throw away any food not stored at the proper temperature for more than 2 hours.
  10. If in doubt, throw it out!

Foods Seniors Should Approach with Caution or Avoid

  • Raw fish
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meat unless heated to safe temperature
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk or fruit/vegetable juice (most have warning labels)
  • Refrigerated pates or smoked fish (canned or shelf stable products are safe)
  • Raw or lightly cooked eggs
  • Raw meat or poultry
  • Raw sprouts

You can learn more about food safety from the Food and Drug Administration using their toll free hotline 1-888-SAFEFOOD or online.

Your senior’s health is worth an ounce (or thousand) of prevention.

Who’s Hanging Out on Your Senior Loved Ones’ Family Tree?

Have you seen that TV program Who Do You Think You Are?  It traces the genealogy of celebrities and uncovers some very interesting stories. According to the show’s website, people “embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees” and “reveal the fabric of humanity through everyone’s place in history.”

We all have interesting stories branching from our family tree if only we are able to spend time uncovering the pirates, pilgrims and heroes. Many of us don’t know much about our ancestors beyond, perhaps, our own grandparents. Oftentimes, our senior loved ones have forgotten what they knew about “the family” or their own parents didn’t know or pass on these interesting family stories.

It is true for most Americans that our families have come from other countries and found their way to America at some point in the past. We have great-great-great grandparents who shaped America and even other countries around the globe. Certainly there are fantastic and unbelievable stories to bring to light. Just knowing what occupations they held, how many children they had or property they owned can be extremely interesting.

Learning about those who came before us helps us to understand ourselves today.  As we have seen on a few of these TV shows, the celebrities uncover grandparents many times removed with similar characteristics to themselves without knowing how their genes have ultimately influenced them. They learn in their journey about family members who were resistors of oppression while they themselves have fought for equal rights. The similarities between the current generation and the ancestors can be quite shocking.

We can also learn about the health and longevity of our ancestors and what might be our own potential health concerns when we undertake a tour of our family tree.

Would you like to learn more?  If you would, we encourage you to try out Ancestry.com to help you uncover your family roots.  It would be wonderful to share this information with your senior loved ones.  We have included a link here to get your personal journey started.

We hope you find what you search for and would love to hear your families stories!

Smartphone Apps for Seniors and Their Family Caregivers

Seniors are using smartphones in rapidly increasing numbers, as are their family caregivers. That leads to even more questions about the best apps to use.

There are a number of smartphone apps seniors can use to manage their lives and which family caregivers can use along with their senior loved ones to make the lives of those seniors safer, more enjoyable and — for many — more independent.

Our feature segment in this episode explores some areas in which apps can help family caregivers improve the lives of their senior loved ones.

Before considering apps, though, family caregivers and seniors need to consider the security of the personal information many of these apps hold, information that can put the financial and even physical safety of seniors at risk if the phone falls into the hands of those with criminal intent.

This is not one of the typical smartphone app posts, discussing the features and benefits of specific apps. Because there are so many good options, with more being added all the time, this episode discusses categories of apps family members can use to improve the lives of their senior loved ones.

Senior & Family Caregiver App Categories Covered

  • Calendar apps
  • List and document sharing apps
  • Navigation apps
  • E-reader apps
  • Banking and financial apps
  • Pharmacy apps

In addition, we discuss a bonus utility app category that we find particularly handy.

Two categories of apps we don’t cover in this episode are those specifically tailored for seniors and healthcare apps. Like many areas of the technology market, app developers are just discovering seniors and we feel the number and quality of apps will be increasing greatly.

On the healthcare side, there are many apps already but the quality of their information, as on the web, is uneven. This should be changing as well, with major providers becoming more involved with content. We will certainly be addressing both these categories in the future.

News Items in This Episode

  • Alzheimer’s research funding grows in proposed federal budget
  • Tai Chi participation may help Parkinson’s patients
  • Millions of Americans have artificial knees, with repeat likely for many
  • Memory strategies can make a difference in working memories in seniors
  • Music training may delay hearing and memory loss

Any suggestions along the lines of apps we cover in this episode? Leave them in a comment on this post or on our Facebook wall so we can cover them in the future.

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

Happier Seniors are Healthier Seniors

How they feel not only affects our senior loved ones in the moment, but also for years to come.

We found an article from AARP that highlights two recent studies that delve into the effect our seniors’ mood has on their physical health.

One study in the Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests that a positive attitude can protect our elders against poor health later and may be an antidote to stress, pain and illness.

Another study, in Psychology: Health and Well-Being, found that happy people tend to live longer.

We know that if we eat right, get enough physical activity and stop smoking we can improve our health, but how do we change our attitude?  “Happiness is not the magic bullet” states the author, Illinois psychologist Ed Diener, but being happy can change your senior’s risk of poor health.

6 Suggestions to Help Your Senior Loved One be Happier

  1. Adopt an Animal to keep your senior company – pets give more than companionship. Studies show that pet owners feel closer to their pets than they do to their own family members. Pets listen attentively and love unconditionally.  97% of pet owners report that they talk to their pets and it is said the other 3% lied. Having a pet is calming for most seniors.   If your senior doesn’t want to care for a pet, perhaps he can volunteer at an animal shelter or zoo, walk someone’s dog or try a bird.
  2. Turn up the music – soothing, familiar sounds can reduce stress and provide comfort. Playing soothing music can help your senior fall asleep. It also triggers memory, reduces anxiety and agitation and can promote healing by reducing stress hormones.
  3. Have a good laugh – a strong belly laugh can dull pain and boost energy for your senior. It can allow blood vessels to open, which is good for your senior loved one’s heart. Your senior needs to laugh every day (and so do you as a caregiver).
  4. Get back to nature – going outside can boost your senior loved one’s mood. It can decrease her stress, depression and tension. Natural settings stimulate the mind. Being outdoors can help seniors concentrate, improve their memory and just restore them. Of course, getting more physically active helps also by walking, gardening, fishing, or cycling while we enjoy the sunshine.
  5. Help themselves by helping others – if your senior volunteers in the community or with friends, relatives or neighbors, they report more happiness than those who don’t. We know staying engaged with the community keep our senior’s minds sharp too. Volunteers report greater life satisfaction.
  6. Try tai chi – this activity reduces anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure and can relieve chronic pain.  It helps seniors focus on their breathing, body and mind.

As the article so succinctly puts it, “if you rarely walk on the sunny side of the street, now’s the time to cross over.”