Senior Hunger in the US – A Problem for Americans of All Ages

8.8 million seniors face the threat of hunger in America!

That’s more than one out of every seven people aged 65 and older.

Yes, that’s too many — but then one would be too many.

Could your senior loved one(s) be among those numbers and you don’t know it?

This is a problem that can – and needs to be – solved. The first step in doing so is understanding the problem: how is hunger defined, who are the hungry seniors, where are they, to what groups do they belong?

Using data from the USDA to establish the official food insecurity rates of households in the United States, a newly-released report from the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), The State of Senior Hunger in America 2011, outlines the growing numbers of seniors who are facing the threat of hunger.

Those older adults who are the most vulnerable to being hungry include baby boomers (i.e. the “young old”), grandparents living with grandchildren, women, non-whites (Hispanic and African American seniors) and those who are poor or near poor.

Hunger Defined

The USDA defines food insecurity as “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” This could be caused by several factors, such as juggling whether to purchase medications or food or lack of transportation to access food, as well as other obstacles to obtaining adequate amounts of nutritious food.

According to the NFESH report, the threat of hunger affects those who are marginally food insecure, the risk of hunger occurs when someone is food insecure and facing hunger is when an adult is very food insecure based on answers to specific questions.

Who Are the Seniors Facing Hunger?

There are seniors across the US facing hunger, in every state, age category, ethnic group and income level.

  • 15.2% of seniors, or 8.8 million, face the threat of hunger.
  • There was an 88% increase in those facing hunger since 2001.
  • The majority of seniors facing hunger live above the poverty line, though many are not far above the line.
  • The south and southwest have the highest rates of food insecurity among their seniors.
  • Seniors in the 60-69 age group are the most likely to be hungry, but 13.8% of seniors facing the threat of hunger are over age 80
  • Arkansas had the highest percentage of its seniors facing hunger, approximately one in four, among states while Virginia had the lowest percentage at 8.4% (see the full state by state list)
  • African American seniors face the threat of hunger more than double (134% higher) that of white seniors
  • 34.9% of seniors with grandchildren in the household face the threat of hunger 14.3% without grandchildren
  • The threat of hunger is more than 3 times higher among those unemployed due to disability than who consider themselves to be retired.

What Senior Hunger Means

As we often discuss at Senior Care Corner, proper nutrition is a key to maintaining health.

Because food insecurity is associated with poor nutrition and health outcomes among seniors, this upsurge in seniors facing hunger and food insecurity will likely lead to additional public health challenges for our entire country.

This is, of course, not good news for a US healthcare system already seeing cost increases that are out of control and facing the reality of an aging population that will impose ever-growing requirements.

That means senior hunger isn’t just a problem for older adults but for all of us!

Action Needed

Local and nationwide initiatives are needed to focus on meeting the nutritional needs of our seniors.

We need to encourage at-risk seniors to take part in the programs currently available, such as the SNAP/Food Stamp Program, as currently only 35% of eligible seniors participate. They need help navigating the system to apply for benefits, realize that the benefit can be as much as $102/month, and reduce the stigma of using vouchers at local grocery stores.

Nutrition programs such as congregate meals at local Administration on Aging sites and Meals on Wheels have had reduced funding, both governmental and from contributions, and are thereby unable to meet the needs of the growing senior population. Advocacy for increased funding is needed.

Become an advocate in your community for increased nutrition and financial support for seniors, get volunteers to help nutrition programs that serve the older population – such as church outreach programs, Meals on Wheels and food banks – and speak up to increase awareness of the growing problem posed by the threat of hunger in our seniors.

Let’s make the next report a better one!

11 Benefits Seniors Get When They Volunteer – All While Helping Others

Many seniors have lived lives of helping their communities, their churches, their schools and a variety of organizations. They understand the value of making commitments of time and talents to improve the world around them and provide assistance to others in need.

Volunteerism doesn’t end when retirement begins. For many, in fact, it may well ramp up significantly. Seniors who volunteer provide valuable services to community agencies, school programs, churches, outreach programs, meals on wheels, senior programs, living facilities, libraries, and a multitude of other service opportunities to enhance the lives of others.

John F. Kennedy may have put it best more than 50 years ago when he said “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Many seniors took that to heart in their younger years and carry it with them today.

Senior Volunteerism Insights

  • More than 1 in 3 adults over 55 volunteer, almost 20 million people in 2011.
  • Older volunteers contribute more than 3 billion hours of service, worth an estimated $67 billion, to our communities and nation each year.
  • According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, during 2009-2011 the rate of volunteering for states was 17-39% of senior adults compared to 23% of total population. In 2011, seniors made up 31.2% of the volunteer work force.
  • A University of Michigan study showed that people with ‘many social contacts’ have a tendency to live longer than people who are isolated (The Senior Source)
  • A 2000 national study on giving and volunteering showed that the volunteer workforce represented the equivalent of over 9 million full-time employees at a value of $239 billion. (The Senior Source)
  • Nearly three-quarters (72.4%) of seniors are volunteering informally by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors. This is 10%  higher than the national average. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Benefits for Seniors

It’s a real win-win when seniors exercise their volunteer muscle.

  1. Becoming physically active, even if the volunteer activity requires nothing more than leaving their homes.
  2. Mental stimulation from simply interacting with both information and people.
  3. Growing friendships and socialization from simply working for and with others.
  4. Extension of what is for many seniors a habit of lifelong learning.
  5. Sense of purpose and belonging that can come from being part of something bigger than oneself.
  6. Satisfaction that comes from making a difference in the lives of others.
  7. Reduction of social isolation and loneliness.
  8. Improved sense of well-being, including reducing depression, forgetting your own problems and relieving stress.
  9. Contribution to the management of some chronic diseases, such as arthritis.
  10. Sharing of lifetime skills and knowledge with others.
  11. Addition of years to their lives (due to the positive health aspects of volunteering) while adding life to those years.

Do you have some to add to our list? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Connecting Seniors with Volunteer Opportunities

You can help your senior loved one connect with opportunities to flex their volunteerism muscle. There are many ways to find opportunities – many people and organizations could use some help.

The first step is to decide what type of activity interests your senior. After all, most of us find it easier to stick with things that we enjoy or at least find interesting.

Is there a place they’ve already visit frequently that is in need of help, such as the local library, animal shelter, church or other location?

Need for Volunteers Great

Many places are in great need for volunteers, such as local schools and nursing homes. Activities such as meal on wheels desperately need volunteers. Even those who can’t or would prefer not to drive the meals may be able to help with other functions.

Sharing the seniors’ skills, whether it is paperwork, cooking, organizing, handyman services, reading, computing or any other life experience, can be vital to local agencies strapped for funds.

There are organizations that connect seniors with volunteering opportunities, such as the Corporation for National & Community Service (Senior Service Corps, RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions), AARP Create the Good,, Red Cross and AARP Experience Corps just to name a few.

Whatever the activity or organization with which your senior loved one decides to get involved, she/he – and even you – are likely to  reap rewards and benefits that are immeasurable.

Health, friendship and purpose will bring life to seniors’ years.

There is, after all, truth behind the saying “doing well by doing good“!

Alternatives to Senior Living Facilities Available to Our Senior Loved Ones

Aging in Place is not just a buzzword but represents the preference of a majority of Americans.

As family caregivers, we already know most of our parents and grandparents (and we) want to live in their own homes or a home of their choice that is suitable for aging adults, even if homecare arrangements are needed to make it happen, instead of having to live in a facility intended to seniors.

For those who can remain healthy and strong enough to stay safely in that environment, it can be a reality.

There are options, though, for those seniors who really need a little extra assistance or whose needs could be better met in a community that supports aging in place.

Senior Villages – Option on the Rise

A living concept for seniors known as Villages has been on the rise. Currently there are approximately 100 villages across the country with many more under development or on the drawing board.

The Village is an alternative to a larger house, which might require more upkeep and maintenance than our seniors can handle as they age. It is usually a smaller home but can be in the area where the senior already resides. The smaller home is more manageable, often newer, with more up-to-date features for aging which their current home may not include, such as accessible entries, grab bars, larger doors and hallways and living space on one floor.

Around since early 2000, Villages are a coordinated effort to provide services, socialization and improved quality of life for aging seniors in a community setting. They are self-governing organizations and primarily self-operated (a few are part of a larger parent organization), with members who care for each other.

Villages are typically managed by a paid staff member or director who handles requests for services, manages contracts with providers, and also solicits and organizes volunteers to carry out the requests of its members. Services can be performed by staff, service providers, member to member volunteers, or outside volunteers overseen by the director. Services often include grocery shopping, hosting events for members, transportation, providing educational and volunteer opportunities, technology assistance, companionship, health advocacy, home maintenance, housekeeping, legal assistance and other services desired by the members.

Village membership requires a fee to help offset any costs of the community and for those in need, the membership fee can be discounted.

For more information or to find a Village near your senior, contact Village to Village Network.

NORC – Naturally Occurring Retirement Community

A NORC is generally not intentionally designed to be a community but evolves over time to be an area, neighborhood or building that comes to be populated predominately by those 65 years old and older. It includes a specific geographic area where necessary services and goods are easily accessible to the aging population. It can come about by seniors who naturally age there, seniors who move into a specific area or building or younger people moving out of an area leaving seniors behind.

To fill a need expressed by a NORC, a support system referred to as a NORC support service program (NORC-SSP) is often initiated to promote healthy aging, independence, and community building.  Services include healthcare management, socialization, recreation, volunteer opportunities and proximity to food and services. These services are usually provided by private firms or community agencies with outside public and private funding and meet the needs determined by the community.

Accessory Dwelling Units

A growing number of people are deciding to add an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, to a family member’s home so that the senior loved one can be assisted as needed by family caregivers without the need for travel. It has been referred to as an “in-law” suite but it can be more than renovating the basement. It could also include adding on to an existing house with an additional floor or extension that can house your senior loved one. It should include a sleeping area, kitchen area, bathroom and living area.

There are units – known as granny pods – that are full dwellings which can be placed on the property, giving freedom for seniors to have their own space but provide safety due to the nearness of other family members. These modular units are increasing rapidly in popularity.

Be sure to check with local city zoning laws and any community covenants before you build, renovate or add a modular unit to be sure you are compliant with local ordinances, building codes and the rules of your community.

Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly

This option is not a type of housing but care delivery. About programs for all-inclusive care for the elderly, or PACE, says “PACE manages all of the medical, social, and long-term care services for frail people to remain in their homes and to maintain their quality of life. PACE is available only in states that have chosen to offer it under Medicaid. To be eligible for PACE, you must be age 55 or older, live in the service area of a PACE program, be certified as eligible for nursing home care by the appropriate State agency, and be able to live safely in the community.”

To find out if there is a PACE program near your senior, contact your State Medicaid Office.

Your senior loved one can remain in a place, building or community longer when good planning and appropriate care to meet their needs is available.

As long as their health and safety allow, if their home is where they want to be, then there are options to help them make it happen.

Palliative Care – What Is This Late Life Care Alternative?

We are hearing more and more about death and dying as our society ages. Becoming more comfortable discussing these topics is a positive step, as it is estimated that 60% of people wish to discuss death more.

Talking about options and learning more about what can and can’t be done is empowering for family caregivers and their senior loved ones.

There have been many strides in caring for a person at the end of life. Medical science has advanced greatly, even to the point that it is able to keep people alive past the time when quality of life is what many people would consider “optimal.”

How can we combine a good quality of life with end of life decisions?

A recent study suggests that Americans are living lives that are longer and healthier…until the final few years of our lives, that is, when many are experiencing very poor health with frequent hospitalizations.

Palliative Care Benefits

Palliative care is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an approach that improves quality of life when faced with life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering. Palliative care recognizes death as part of life, attempts to relieve pain, doesn’t postpone or hasten death, includes a team approach for both supporting the person and the family and can be provided in combination with treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

These are some key aspects and insights about palliative care.

  • No terminal diagnosis or imminent death is prerequisite to receive the services of a palliative care plan.
  • It can help you manage symptoms and side effects through the treatment process.
  • It allows one to go on with their day to day activities.
  • Palliative care provides emotional and spiritual support, in addition to education on the disease process and treatment options, to the patient and the entire family.
  • The palliative care team can include doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, dietitians/nutritionists, massage therapists, chaplains, pharmacists, aides, social workers and others.
  • Applicable to patients of any age, for any period of time, and throughout the duration of an illness.
  • Provides for the end of life to be faced with dignity, honoring the patient’s wishes.
  • Helps patients live with a disease through its entire course and not just near the end.
  • Receive homecare where desired and feasible, as well as in an institution.

What can palliative care mean to one of our senior loved ones? A New England Journal of Medicine report states that those taking part in a palliative care program show fewer signs of depression, had improved quality of life and lived an average of 2.7 months longer.

How is Hospice Different From Palliative Care?

Hospice also is an approach to care that focuses on relieving pain and suffering but is effective nearer the end of life when death is within six months. It does not include any curative treatment so is not provided in combination with treatment plans such as chemotherapy and radiation.

The primary focus of hospice is comfort at the end of life not aggressive treatment. Dignity at the end of life is an important focus. Hospice, like palliative care, does not hasten or postpone death and deals with the family unit and provides bereavement services after death in support of the family caregivers. Care under a hospice program is primarily provided in the home but can be administered in an inpatient facility and long term care facility.

Because it is estimated that 90 million Americans are living with a serious and life-threatening illness, there is broad agreement about a pressing need for palliative services and programs.

If you feel that your senior loved one or other family members could benefit from a palliative care program, we encourage you discuss it with your family physician. It is not only the person with the illness that can benefit from such programs, but family caregivers as well.

Simply getting concerns and care options out in open discussion among family members will be beneficial to everyone involved including the senior.

Will That Mobile Health App Help or Hurt? Is Anybody Checking Them Out?

Our mobile world is falling under the control of apps we put on our smartphones and tablets.

Are we putting ourselves in good hands? How do we know?

Thousands of apps fill the search results in the stores for iOS, Android and Windows devices. Sure, most we wouldn’t put on our devices if paid but a lot of them have names or purported functions that at least pique our interest.

Should we? Can we hurt ourselves or our loved ones if we use the apps and follow what they tell us? Most of the time we just don’t know.

Is there somebody looking out for our well-being when it comes to mobile apps, someone verifying the claims when a device says it will tell us what’s wrong with our health or what to do about it?

Buyer Be Aware with Most Apps

For most apps, we are the regulator in that we decide whether apps are downloaded onto our devices and, after that, if they’re used.

Most apps resulting from a “health” search are informational, simply mobile versions of sites we find on the web already. As with websites we view, it’s up to us to decide whether we’re going to use the information we find. Of course, that’s how it works with advice we get from friends, coworkers or even strangers we encounter along the way.

Life tracking in one way or another is another common mobile app function. Want to keep track of how much you ate, how many minutes or miles of exercise you got or your net calorie intake for today? There’s an app – or really hundreds of them – for that. Some may work better than others, but whether one is good or not so good is mostly a matter of personal preference.

Generally, these apps aren’t going to hurt you. They might not give you the best research results or have math problems in calorie conversions, but they won’t make you sick (or sicker).

Apps That Can Impact our Health & Life

What about an app that tells us “if you’ve got X symptoms happening that means Y is wrong with you” or “if you’ve got Y wrong then you should be doing A, B and C to take care of it”? How do we know if those work?

A number of more recent apps connect medical devices to our smartphones or tablets, typically to record results or to communicate between the medical device and our healthcare providers. Sounds like something we really want to work as intended, doesn’t it?

Apps that fall into one of those categories can negatively impact our health if they don’t perform as advertised. Getting an inaccurate diagnosis can lead us to treatments that at best do no harm but could hurt us. An app that garbles the data our smartphone receives from our glucose meter, for example, could lead to dangerous dosages and severe consequences.

Seems as though somebody should be testing those apps to verify their claims, checking to see if they function as needed to perform the tasks for which they’ll be used.

FDA Regulation of Mobile Apps

Enter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government agency whose role is, in part, the protection of public health through ensuring the effectiveness of drugs and medical devices.

“Drugs and medical devices” you might say, “where do mobile apps fall into that”? Believe it or not, apps can be considered medical devices for purposes of regulation by the FDA.

We aren’t experts on FDA regulations and how mobile devices or apps fall under those regulations but, through our membership in the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA, best known as the folks who put on the International CES each January), we have access to the insights of legal experts who work with these regulations every day.

Mobile apps are considered to be medical devices under FDA regulations if they are intended for use in health related diagnosis or treatment. Intent is key, as that demonstrates the purpose for which the developer is putting the app forth to the public. No the FDA doesn’t read minds, but it judges intent by how apps are sold, what is communicated to buyers and other information that indicates how developers intend for their apps to be used.

Intent Makes a Difference

How an app is intended to be used by those who have it on their devices really does matter. We heard a few examples that really drive that home and found one particularly informative.

If you’ve got an app that helps with weight loss, and there are at least a few of those, it might or might not be considered a regulated medical device under FDA regulations.

  • If the app is marketed indicating it is to be used by individuals for weight management it would likely not fit the definition of medical device.
  • If marketed to help users overcome obesity, the app might well be considered a regulated medical device because it’s intended to treat the disease of obesity.

Same code, different marketing, different view under the law. Yes, this is an overly simplified example but the complications are why so many lawyers deal with this as a career. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it.

FDA Trying to Reduce Regulatory Burden

The FDA knows it’s regulations weren’t written with smartphones, tablets or their apps in mind. But then, the regulations were written in 1976 and much has changed with technology since then.

In the briefing we received through CEA, we learned the FDA has been trying for some time to clarify the regulatory reach on mobile apps and reduce the burden many developers have to meet.

Essentially, the FDA is attempting to draw the line for regulation based, at least in part, on HOW an app is used. If only the device owner interacts with and uses the information provided by the app then it would not be subject to regulation but it would if a healthcare provider is involved. This might be an app that communicates data between another healthcare device and a doctor’s office, for example or which involves communication between a healthcare provider and the individual who purchased the app for their own care or (for example) a family caregiver receiving information on behalf of a senior loved one.

It sounds like this FDA clarification is being held up by a broad effort to manage regulation across the federal government. Hopefully it will shake loose soon, as app developers need the guidance – and many people are waiting for the benefits to be delivered by the apps currently on hold or in the pipeline.

Homework Required

Regardless of the pending FDA clarification, it’s apparent we’re on our own with the vast majority of health apps. That means doing our own homework before downloading and using an app.

Check out the reviews, both in the app’s store and online, keeping in mind that not all reviews are unbiased and can be trusted. Don’t stop there, though, but go further and learn about the developer’s reputation and history with other apps.

Most of all, if you have questions about health, either your own or that of a loved one, check with healthcare professionals. Until a mobile app has proven itself, do you want to bet your life or that of a loved one on it?

Drug Safety in Seniors’ Medicine Cabinets – Family Caregiver Video Tip

One potential danger zone that’s often overlooked when family caregivers survey the safety of senior loved ones’ homes is the medicine cabinet.

We work hard to ensure their homes are free of hazards so they can age in place safely and comfortably as long as they wish to do so. Checking their medicine cabinets should be on the list of review items.

As Kathy explains in this Family Caregiver Video Tip, an added benefit of these checks is ensuring the medications our senior loved ones are taking are not out of date and thus safe and at their most effective.

Medicine Cabinet Safety Check

Kathy goes into a number of areas to review and provides some great tips family caregivers can use to help improve not just the safety but potentially also the health of seniors.

  • Check out the dates on over the counter medications, such as pain relievers and cold formulas, and dispose of those that are beyond the date on the container.
  • Don’t forget to look wherever seniors would use and store medicine, including under the sink or even in the kitchen.
  • Track prescription medications seniors are taking using a form such as this medications form we found on the website of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
  • Properly dispose of prescription medications that are out of date. You might want to check out the medication disposal information discussed in an episode of the Senior Care Corner Show.
  • Where there’s more than one senior living in the home, check the name listed on any prescription medicine containers to ensure they are all being taken by the correct person.

Marking Medication Bottles

One especially helpful tip from Kathy addresses the safety issues inherent in the tiny print on the containers of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Print so small is difficult to read for many people, let alone older adults with vision that has seen better days. It often seems a real “prescription” for a harmful dosing error.

Enter Kathy and her permanent marker with a great suggestion, not just for seniors’ homes but also those of family caregivers. Watch in the video how she has marked the medication containers with the information older adults need to know in order to use the contents safely.

Please Give Us Your Thoughts

We enjoy putting together these Family Caregiver Video Tips and hope you find them helpful. We have a list of topics in development but want to give priority to needs you identify.

If there is a topic you would like us to cover in one of our videos or in longer form in a future Senior Care Corner Show, please leave us a comment to this post or send us an email through our contact page.

Don’t forget to sign up to receive our updates so you don’t miss a single one of our Family Caregiver Video Tips or any of our future posts!

Heart Failure Treatment for Seniors – Featuring Mobile Health Technology

Heart failure. Does your senior loved one have it – and it them?

Have repeated hospital admissions plagued them over the past year due to congestive heart failure?

Are they closely following their treatment plan?

Everyday monitoring by their healthcare team become part of her or his routine?

What should family caregivers know to help senior loved ones with heart failure?

Heart Failure – What is It?

Heart failure, also referred to as congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.

The heart becomes too weak over time as a result of many causes such as narrowing arteries, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and excess weight. Blood and fluid can back up around your heart, lungs and other organs.

Symptoms include being short of breath, edema (swelling, typically in the feet, ankles and legs), fatigue, weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, sudden weight gain related to fluid retention, and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment Plan for Heart Failure

Medications can improve heart failure and allow your senior to participate in daily activities and live for a longer time.

However, lifestyle changes can also improve your senior’s health and quality of life. These changes can include such things as physical activity, weight loss, smoking cessation, cutting back on the salt in the diet, and controlling stress.

Your senior’s healthcare team may prescribe a treatment plan that includes some or all of the following steps.

  1. Daily weight checks – reporting a weight gain of greater than a specified level to the team, keeping a log of daily weights and bringing it to doctor appointments.
  2. Taking medications as prescribed – it may seem like many medications but all should be taken as the doctor recommends. Your senior should talk with the healthcare team if they can’t afford all prescribed medications so part of the treatment isn’t missed without the team’s knowledge.
  3. Reduce the salt in the diet – most people should restrict their sodium to 2,000 mg or fewer per day, but the doctor may suggest going as low as 1,500 mg. Removing the salt shaker may help to resist temptation and consider the use of alternate seasonings. Don’t forget to have the senior read food labels, since most sodium is found in foods already prepared.
  4. Stay physically active everyday – participate in moderate activities for at least 30 minutes for best benefit, checking first with the doctor about which type of activity and exertion can be safely tolerated.
  5. Reduce stress calming and relaxing can help your senior loved one avoid adding pressure to his/her heart.
  6. Sleep through the night – prop the pillow to maintain head elevation and take any prescribed diuretic earlier in the day to avoid frequent bathroom trips.
  7. Find time during the day to elevate the feet
  8. Stop smoking

Mobile Technology to the Rescue

Many healthcare organizations across the US have begun new programs to benefit those seniors who suffer from heart failure and are at risk for frequent hospitalizations due to CHF.

Hospitals have been penalized with monetary sanctions under the new healthcare law for people who are readmitted within 30 days. The goal of this legislation was to reduce the risk of a disease that can be managed to prevent worsening symptoms and crisis care, which costs Medicare what is estimated to be billions of dollars each year. In an effort to avoid a monetary penalty, many healthcare organizations are implementing innovative solutions, through the use of technology, aimed at preventing seniors with CHF from needing readmission for a flare-up of their condition.

Several programs have provided seniors with a scale to be used to take a daily weight that is connected via the internet to the physician’s office. Each morning when the senior steps on the scale, their weight is sent directly to the computer in the doctor’s office, where changes can be monitored. If even a one or two pound gain appears, the nurse can contact the senior via telephone and discuss what has been happening and assess whether the treatment plan should be updated.

Interventions can include such things as increasing a dose of diuretics to reduce fluid retention, ensuring that medications for blood pressure are taken and supply is up to date, and scheduling an office visit if needed. Blood pressure can also be monitored remotely and results sent directly to the doctor’s office and family caregiver for close monitoring.

Personal Attention & Technology – A Beneficial Combination

One on one personal attention is invaluable in preventing a worsening of CHF but can also impact depression in these vulnerable seniors. Keeping our seniors healthier and out of the hospital is good for the senior, family members and even the health care system.

This type of technology, which can keep fragile seniors connected to the services they need, has been shown to cost effective. The minimal cost of the devices is a small price to pay when compared to a hospitalization, which could cost more than $6,000-$10,000 each month when CHF is not controlled.

We look forward to more healthcare organizations connecting our seniors to valuable health resources and home monitoring for not only heart failure but brittle diabetes, asthma, COPD and many other chronic diseases which could prevent our seniors from aging in place where so many of them want to live.

Home monitoring of medical conditions and compliance to treatment plans using the latest technology can keep our seniors safe at home longer and living a better quality of life.

If your senior is connected to their healthcare team, we would love to hear your story.

If they aren’t, perhaps you can advocate for them to get connected and ride the wave of the future – to help give them a better future!

More Years in Our Senior Loved Ones’ Lives – and More Life in Their Years

We want to live long, happy lives and hope for the same for our senior loved ones — maybe even more than for ourselves.

What we don’t want is for them or us to live those long years in sickness, weak and infirm.

We want our seniors and ourselves to stay healthy through the aging process and have a good quality of life.

We don’t just want years in our senior loved ones’ lives – we want them to have life in their years!

Study: 90 Year Olds Improving with Time

A new study reports that our current 90 year olds are mentally sharper than those who were 90 only a decade ago. That’s great news for a population that continues to grow older in average age!

This finding disputes what many of us believe (or fear), that the older we live the more frail we become in body and mind.

Over 3,800 elders (2262 now/1584 then) were studied by testing mental acuity, such as recall ability, and signs of depression as well as with “performance tests,” which measured their ability to complete their own activities of daily living such as grooming, dressing, bathing, transferring and eating.  Researchers found that the current 90 year olds were more likely to reach the age of 95 and also scored higher on all tests performed compared to the elders in the previous decade.

What that means is that the current 90 year olds had a higher functional ability than the prior 90 year olds. Also found in the current group was that 40% had dementia.

The researchers stated that the higher level of quality of life is due in part to better living conditions, improvements in health care and, to a lesser degree, improvements in education.

Factors such as nutrition, burden of infectious disease, work environment, intellectual stimulation and general living conditions also play an important part in the improvement of cognitive functioning,” according to the study’s authors.

Keeping Life in Our Years

  • Get and stay physically active
  • Stay mentally active and engaged
  • Eat healthy foods that are nutritious and low in fat
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • Lose some pounds and maintain a healthy weight

How successfully we age is a concern for us all because, according to the 2010 census, there are 425,000 Americans age 95 and older at the present time and the numbers are growing. It will be the responsibility for the current “younger” generations to care for these seniors.

Encouraging and promoting health and wellness for everyone will improve the life in their years – – and maybe add even more years to their lives!

You Can Be a Long Distance Family Caregiver – Senior Care Corner Show

Family caregiver of senior loved ones is a role that knows no bounds of gender, age or ability — requiring only that one care enough to take actions that make better the lives of aging family members.

It isn’t even necessary to be in the senior’s home, city or state to provide valuable senior care. That’s fortunate, because families are so dispersed today. As millions of Americans demonstrate daily, providing care to a senior loved one is possible across distances near and far.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not applicable to those who are — or want to be — long distance family caregivers. The opposite is often true, with the worry, stress and guilt felt by many being a factor that impact their own lives and ability to care for their children, other loved ones and themselves.

Providing Care from a Distance

We’re using the feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner Show to tell distant family members they CAN be effective caregivers and discuss a few of the many, many ways they can take meaningful action from afar that makes better the lives of senior loved ones. Here are some of those we discuss.

  • “Being there” for senior loved ones from a distance, including video calling, text messaging, social media and more ways made possible by digital technology.
  • Using video and voice calls to monitor the health and well-being of senior loved ones, including those things for which we can look and listen and how to take action when there are indications of health or safety issues or other problems, such as elder abuse.
  • Assisting senior loved ones in obtaining and understanding their healthcare and advocating for their care needs as well assisting with their finance management.
  • Contributing in areas that match the senior’s needs with the family caregiver’s skills, knowledge or interest.
  • Supporting family caregivers local to the senior loved one by using vacation or holiday time to give them breaks from their caregiving roles and other assistance.

Long Distance Caregivers Need Care Too

It’s important for long distance family caregivers to remember that they ARE caregivers and may have many of the same physical, mental and financial impacts as their local counterparts when it comes to the senior care they provide.

Caregivers need to put a priority on their own needs in addition to those of the ones under their care so they keep themselves able to give their best to loved ones.

News Items in This Episode

  • Anemia in Old Age Linked to Dementia
  • We Shrink as We Age, But There are Ways to Avoid It
  • Many Doctors Don’t Discuss Dietary Supplements
  • Could Hot Cocoa Improve Brain Power in Seniors?

In her quick tip for this episode, Kathy follows up on the news item regarding anemia with tips family caregivers can use to help seniors prevent anemia.

Link Mentioned in this Episode

We hope you enjoy this episode of the Senior Care Corner show and find the information helpful. Please let us know what you would like to hear us cover in a future episode of the show so we can make it a valuable resource for you.

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