Take Action for Seniors’ Health, Happiness & Hope in the New Year

 

New year …

new opportunities …

new challenges …

new hope!

 

What does the tolling of midnight and the opening of a new calendar mean to family caregivers and our senior loved ones?

Better yet, what can we make it mean?

Sure, there are some things beyond our control but so many things that we can at least influence by taking action. That goes for those on all sides of the senior care equation.

Only you know which actions can have meaning to you and those for whom you provide care, but we want to get the thought process started for you.

New Opportunities

There are many resources and tools available to seniors and family caregivers that can make life better for those aging independently. Some of them may already be in use by your family, by you and/or your senior loved one, and already providing benefits — but others may not.

  • Activate a connection to the world – and each other – through computers or mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Chances are those reading this are connected already (like the old “if you’re within the sound of my voice” from radio), but are there seniors or other family members in your life who are missing out? Much can be accomplished by taking this first step. Remember, though, it’s not enough to have a device; take responsibility for helping set up a new device to ensure each is able to put theirs to use!
  • Become active on social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter. Put your digital devices to work connecting with friends, family, community and the world. We talk often about the benefits to seniors of social media and networking sites but it’s just as important for family caregivers to stay connected and not isolate themselves while throwing themselves into the giving of senior care.
  • Get active, period. Exercise, even walking, can work wonders for the life and health of seniors and caregivers alike. Make some time each day to break away from other activities. You might do something along with your senior loved one and both benefit, such as a class, walk in the park or even a visit to the mall (you don’t have to spend money there!).
  • Purchase and activate new wearable devices (think Fitbit and others) to help measure and monitor weight, fitness, sleep and other activities for both you and your senior loved one. Beyond the specific functions and benefits you get from the device today, the biggest benefit may come from helping your senior loved one become comfortable and prepare for the coming wearable devices and monitors that will help them live independently and enjoyably longer than possible today.
  • Take up an activity – maybe a hobby, a class, team sport or volunteer assignment. Yes, this can be both you and seniors in the family; whether the same activity or something different is up to you.

Sense a common theme in these ideas? Making the most of opportunities requires that we act. Have any ideas of your own? There must be something that works for you and your senior loved one. Again, it doesn’t have to be the same something for both of you.

New Challenges

Opportunities, challenges — are they the same to you? We know they are to many. Face it, if we didn’t find many of them challenging, we’d be doing them already and they would be opportunities for us, right.

The difference might just be in how we approach those things within our reach if we stretch. Maybe we don’t make that stretch if it’s just an opportunity out there but we really push ourselves that extra amount needed.

Challenge yourself (no, we’re not talking about that “R” word that is abused around New Year’s) to put in that extra effort, to take the action to turn the opportunities into benefits. Help senior loved ones change themselves as well.

Even better, challenge each other. It’s often more motivating to commit to our action in front of others. Entering into a joint challenge with seniors for whom we care has the added benefit of building one more bond, not to mention adding a new and different element to our caregiving role.

New Hope

Yes, New Years is a time of hope for better things, times, health and life in the days and months ahead, but we’re talking even more than that.

Taking action to reach for opportunities, challenging ourselves, and joining loved ones in the pursuit of their challenges cause us to not just build hope but also help us make that for which we are hoping a reality.

The Senior Care Corner family hopes we can help make the coming year one of health and happiness for the seniors in your life — and for the family caregivers in their lives!

Healthy Habit for the New Year – Laughter! No Copay or Deductible!

Laughter is the best medicine, or so we’ve heard all our lives — and it turns out it is true!

There are real positive benefits to our health from laughter, all without the need to pay a premium, fill out a form or even make an appointment.

Maybe it is the physical movement we get when we laugh, the way it involves all our muscles, that helps make us healthier.

It could be the positive mental outlook that we just can’t help but have when we laugh that makes us feel better physically too.

It could be both or something altogether different — but it really doesn’t matter as long as it works!

As we begin a new year, one resolution we can all make and keep as the year marches on is laughing more!

Benefits of Laughter

There are many real benefits we get from simply laughing. These are but a few.

  1. Stretching muscles in our cheeks, mouth, diaphragm, arms, legs and belly
  2. Taking deeper breaths and getting oxygen to all the cells of our body
  3. Elevated heart rate and improved blood flow
  4. Strong laughter can burn calories
  5. As we de-stress, our immune system gets a natural boost
  6. As we relax, our sleep can be better
  7. Because of its social nature, we strengthen our relationships with others
  8. Improved mental attitude and lessened depression

Can you think of more? How do you feel when you laugh?

Activities That Will Make You Laugh

We all agree, laughing is better than crying, especially for your health. Here are a few ideas that can get you and your senior belly laughing every day!

  • Jokes – Tell each other a joke that you already know, has made you laugh in the past, a family joke or a new joke from a book that gives you one a day to share. Any kind of joke will do from knock knock jokes or standbys like “why was six scared of seven”? A: “Because seven “ate” nine.” Set up a specific time of the day such as lunchtime or afternoon when you always tell a joke to allow your senior time to think of one or expect one from your then sprinkle them in throughout the day to keep humor flowing.
  • Watch a funny movie – Find your favorite funny movies, classic or new ones that give you many belly laughs. A few suggestions include “The Nutty Professor”, “Adam’s Rib”, “Blazing Saddles”, ‘Some Like It Hot” or any of the “Marx Brothers” films. Find ones your senior especially enjoys either at the store, library or online rentals.
  • Find a favorite comedic TV program – There are many funny TV shows that you can watch on some channels, on DVD or via online streaming. A few your senior may enjoy are M*A*S*H, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Andy Griffith, Seinfeld or a favorite game show.
  • Think of something funny and share it – Your senior’s have many life stories that will amuse. Ask leading questions to spark their memories such as tell me about the time you and mom went camping or remember when we drove cross country in the old station wagon?
  • Have a smile contest – See who can smile the longest, the biggest, the crookedest or anything you can imagine that will get the laughter flowing.
  • Make funny faces – Who doesn’t love watching other people look silly? I bet your senior can make a good funny face. Take a picture, maybe even a selfie, and share it with others or use it to start a story (see #4) to share next week.
  • Laugh at yourself – We all do things that are really funny. Support an environment where your senior feels comfortable to laugh at your or him or herself whenever the mood strikes them. Did you look silly when you dropped the towel or when you were struggling to get the dog to do something like put on the leash? There are any number of situations that arise every day that can bring on the giggles.

Healthy Sense of Humor

Aging doesn’t diminish our sense of humor. We just have to find the right vehicle to tickle our senior’s funny bones.

We hope this year you and your senior will resolve to include laughter into your daily routine in the New Year and gain the benefits to your health!

Turns out the term “healthy sense of humor” really isn’t a joke!

Hey, have you heard the one about….

Senior Road Trip – Or Better Not? Helping Them Maintain Independence

Hitting the open road at the wheel of a car has been a symbol of independence for generations of Americans.

Unfortunately, no longer being able to hit the road is often seen as losing that independence — and many of our senior loved ones may be clinging to their last piece of freedom.

Family caregivers worry over the question “are they still safe behind the wheel”?

Sometimes it is quite clear that they are no longer safe — to themselves, their passengers or others on the road. Their reaction time may be impaired, their ability to remember where they are going or how to get home, or their mobility may be impaired to the point where they can no longer turn the wheel or find the wipers or other controls.

For many others, however, they just need a few interventions to allow them to continue driving for a little more time and maintain their independence and ability to age in place as desired.

Obstacles to Safe Driving & How to Overcome Them

  • Do they physically fit in their car in order to be in control of it?
    • Can they see over the steering wheel? We all have these images of an elderly person low behind the wheel unable to see the traffic light. We cringe at the thought of these seniors on the road, worried that they might not be able to see the road – or us on it.
    • We should be looking at the car that our seniors are driving to see if they fit in the seat correctly and comfortably enough to operate the vehicle safely.
    • Do they need the seat adjusted, the steering wheel tilted, the mirrors adjusted or an appropriate cushion?
    • Is the seat height appropriate so that they can see ten feet in front of their car? We may need to adjust things for them to ensure their safety.
    • Would adaptations to their current vehicle make the car easier and safer to drive, such as pedal extenders, hand controls or knobs on the steering wheel?
  • Is their vehicle the best choice to meet their needs?
    • Would they be able to drive better and more safely with a different type of vehicle? There are many innovative features in safety and comfort in various newer models that might benefit your senior.
    • Is their car well maintained–are the tires in road ready condition, do the windshield wipers work and wiper fluid full, has the oil been changed lately, do the brakes hold firmly and routine maintenance performed to avoid car trouble that could lead to accidents?
  • Can they see well enough to drive? If not, making whatever corrections are necessary to improve their vision can help them stay safe on the road.
    • Has their vision been checked in the past one to two years? Are they wearing the correct eyeglass prescription? Are their glasses clean?
    • Are the windshield and headlights clean — the mirrors too?
    • Do they wear anti-glare sunglasses while driving?
    • Do they drive in the dark or in low light levels or unsafe conditions such as rain or snow?
    • Do they have cataracts or diminished peripheral vision that may make it difficult to see anything clearly, whether it be road signs, pedestrians, the odometer, the gas gauge, the lines on the road or other important keys to safe driving?
  • Do they have hearing loss which could make it difficult to recognize trouble, such as emergency vehicles, train whistles, sirens, horns or instructions from passengers? Those who have been deaf or hard of hearing most or all of their lives typically have no issues with driving but those accustomed to relying on sound may have issues when that is lost. Can assistive listening devices such as hearing aids or other steps help them?
  • Are they taking medications that might impair their driving and reaction time? Do their medications cause drowsiness, dizziness or even nausea which could make them distracted? You may want to have your pharmacist review the medications and timing of any that might impair their abilities. Perhaps there can be modifications in the medication schedule to allow driving during the day without impairment. Maybe, however, at least a  temporary curtailment of driving is the wise course.
  • Are they able to judge distance? If they have an impairment at this task it could lead to failure to yield the right of way or stop at stop signs, accidents involving pedestrians, or inability to read road signs in time to make lane changes. They may not realize that they are not staying in their own lane or whether they are driving the correct speed.
  • Do they have a medical condition that could impair their driving skills, such as Parkinson’s disease tremors or arthritis, that limits their movement and range of motion? If so, ask the doctor if driving is still safe.
  • Would they benefit from a defensive driving course or other training to get refreshers and tips for safer driving and modifications they can make to increase the time they are safe to drive?
    • Are they staying physically active while not driving that will help them perform better behind the wheel?
    • Would they complete a road test so that you know for sure their level of ability?
    • Would it be beneficial to work with a driver rehabilitation specialist who can help improve skills with training?

Family Caregiver Attention May Help

None of us who drive want to be forced to seek alternate means of transportation to get to doctor appointments, beauty shop, grocery store or church. Family caregivers do not want to be the one to put on the brakes for seniors’ driving.

If caregivers take a little time to observe and make any necessary changes such as we discussed above, our seniors may be able to stay on the road a little longer and be safer when they drive. We don’t want them to become a statistic or carry the burden of hurting others on the road.

We would love to hear your experiences with your senior loved one and driving strategies! What have you done when their ability to hit the road — and their independence — was threatened?

Tablet or Other Digital Device Under Seniors’ Tree? Include Setup in the Gift!

Seniors going digital? It sounds that way, though maybe “seniors getting digital” is more accurate this holiday season, getting digital devices as gifts that is.

From what we’ve heard and read, a lot of people are giving their senior loved ones digital devices, including tablets, smartphones, computers — even video games and wearable fitness devices. That is in addition to the many seniors who are buying those devices for themselves.

We are thrilled to hear that because there are so many benefits for seniors in those devices, many ways it can make their lives better — safer, healthier, and more enjoyable…

Once they’re set up and put in use, that is!

Device Setup Key to Regular Use

How many times have we given senior loved ones a gift, or even gotten something for ourselves, that never really got put to use because it took too much time to learn or was difficult to set up?

I think we all have some of those stories: the new game with lots of rules nobody take the time to learn, the “assembly required” gift nobody finds time to assemble, or the new gadget with complicated instructions that look just too difficult to learn.

Don’t let that digital device you’re giving the senior in your life suffer the same fate. Why not give setup and maybe a personal usage tutorial as part of the gift? You might just find it ends up being a gift for both of you!

But what things should you set up to get them started? It seems like we have done it so much with our own devices it has become automatic to us. A pain the neck, maybe, but something we do without giving it a lot of thought.

Setup Steps to Consider as Part of Your Gift

Setup will be particular to the type and brand of the tablet or other device but there are a number of steps applicable to many that are important to your senior loved one getting the most out of your gift. These should help get you started.

  • Complete any special log-in steps or registration needed to use the device, such as setting up an account with iTunes, Google or Windows. Be sure you write down the passwords you create, as your senior loved one will need them later.
  • Activate the device on the cellular carrier’s system if it is a smartphone or tablet that has cellular data capability. Keep in mind that many others may be activating devices at the same time and it might take a little longer than you expect. You might even want to complete this step before the rest of setup so you don’t get sidetracked during the delay.
  • Connect the device to the primary WiFi your senior will be using, if any. If they are away from home when you set up the device, show them how it’s done. Equipping them with the information they will need when they get home will help ensure the device isn’t put aside and forgotten.
  • If it’s a device on which they will be using email, be sure to set up their accounts so they can send and receive mail from the start.
  • Set up apps for – or bookmark on the web browser, if appropriate – primary activities for which they’ll use the device. This might include
    • Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
    • The banking or other financial companies with which they can do business online
    • Kindle or other reading app they will use, including an Amazon account if they plan to access books there
    • Newspapers or magazines they read regularly (many subscriptions provide for digital access through apps or the web as well)
    • Use your imagination for others!

Don’t forget proper security settings when you’re setting up apps or online access!

Digital Togetherness – A Great Holiday Experience

It may be tempting to sneak away to a quiet area to set up the device but consider the benefits of doing with with your senior loved one instead. Not only do they get experience they can use to do it themselves the next time but you both get wonderful one-on-one time together — a commodity that grows more precious.

As long as you are working on the device together, consider going beyond simple setup to give them some hands-on tips that will serve them well.

Show how to change the size of the type on the screen so they can adjust it themselves if something is hard to read. Pinching a touchscreen comes naturally if you have done it for a while but those who haven’t seen one may have no idea how easy (and fun) it is.

Teach some of the little things that may frustrate all of us until we learn, such as there being no SEND button when commenting on a Facebook post — we just hit ENTER.

If they have an iOS (Apple) mobile device and friends or family do as well, show them how easy it is to link up with others using Facetime. For those who have other devices with a webcam, walk through initiation of a Skype video call. Both are capable of enriching seniors’ lives immensely.

Follow Up is Important

You’ll know what of your own tips to pass along to help them, but much of it will take multiple attempts for seniors to learn, just like it did for us when we got our first digital devices. Be a resource for follow up advice as well.

If you live locally or will be visiting with your senior loved one for a while, check back after they have used their new toy for a while to see if they have any questions or have run into problems. Here, too, you can be a hero that makes their experience (and teacher) valuable to them.

Don’t let distance get in the way of providing them with “tech support” either. Check in by phone and arrange some interactive online time so you can give them immediate feedback. Give them some “exercises” they can perform to develop and test their new tech skills. Practice does, after all, develop memory.

Keep in mind that a tablet, smartphone, computer or other device is only as valuable to your senior loved one as what they get from using it.

By helping them set up and learn to use the device, you will increase the benefit they get from it — and build a new memory with them while doing so!

7 Family Activities to Help Seniors Fend Off Holiday Blues & Depression

Most of us anticipate with a feeling of excitement the opportunity to share the holidays with our loved ones near and far, even if we aren’t there with them.

We celebrate traditions, special meals, holiday treats and catching up with our family members who travel great (or small) distances to be together and reach out to those with whom we can’t be together.

Unfortunately it is not all moments of cheer for some, often particularly our senior loved ones. Far too many of our seniors find the holiday season to be a time of remembering loss and feeling sad or depressed.

Impact of Depression

Not to get you down over the holidays, but to make you aware of what might be happening around you, here are some statistics on depression.

  • 15 out of 100 adults over 65 suffer from depression impacting 6 million Americans over 65
  • 15-20% of older adults who live in our communities suffer from depression
  • 25-35% of older adults who live in long term care facilities have symptoms of depression, this number has been estimated to actually be nearer 50%
  • An estimated 2 million adults over 65 in the US have a diagnosable clinical depression
  • 25% of those with chronic disease suffer from depression

Depression, however, is NOT a result of aging as many people believe. We can age without becoming depressed.  Depression can happen to anyone, at any time and any age. Many people don’t seek help because they may feel that it won’t help because whatever is causing the depression will continue. Depression can have many causes such as the death of a spouse or close family member, a severe illness or chronic pain, loss in independence, and loneliness.

Untreated depression in the elderly can lead to a variety of problems, including alcoholism, substance abuse and even suicide. Someone living with severe pain and depression is four times more likely to attempt suicide.

Every 100 minutes an older adult dies by suicide – – the highest overall death rate of any age group.

Family Activities to Keep the Blues Away

We can help keep our senior loved ones from being part of the statistics by helping them fight off depression over the holidays.

  1. While the family is together, bring out old family movies and photo albums. Tell stories about the good times and talk about the loved ones who have been lost. Have conversations and storytelling to turn the sad memories into fun memories. Honor the family and the memories instead of letting those thoughts of loss creep into the forefront.
  2. Play favorite music and classic movies during the holiday season when the family is together and when your senior may be alone to bring smiles instead of frowns.
  3. Keep your senior busy! Find fun things to do to occupy them throughout the season and shortly afterward so that they don’t have time to let their mind dwell on sad times or losses they experience. Make cookies, take a nature walk, write holiday cards and notes, play a game, visit a museum, go to a local event like a parade or church choir, take in a holiday movie, drive around the neighborhood looking at holiday lights and decorations, do a craft project, plan the family meal and shop together. Don’t leave them out of any activity no matter how boring including household chores— remember the goal is to keep them busy!
  4. Set up Skype video calls with family members who can’t visit for the holidays so that your senior can have the opportunity to speak ‘face to face’ with long distance family members. Let them share stories and find out what is happening.
  5. Watch old comedy shows that bring a chuckle, like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners or Laurel and Hardy. Many of these shows can be found on the TV, in DVD form or streamed from the internet. Ask senior loved ones about their favorites and find those. Talk about why they liked them so much, did they have a car like the one in the program, did they wear clothes like that, and did dad wear a hat everywhere he went and mom wear gloves? Use these programs to open dialogue to engage their mind and relive memories to help distract them from other brooding thoughts.
  6. Get physical! Go for a walk, dance, hula hoop, play a Wii game, go bowling, toss around a ball, chase your dog, or any other physical activity your senior can safely participate with other family members. Make it a habit, not just one you do during the holiday. Staying physically active will help keep your senior mentally fit as well.
  7. If you feel that your efforts on keeping your senior engaged, busy and uplifted are not improving their mood and mental outlook, you may want to visit your senior’s doctor or speak to a professional counselor or religious adviser. They may need more intervention than you and the family can provide to help them through a trying time.

Remember, depression can have real, negative physical effects on our senior loved ones, including fatigue, withdrawing from activities, sadness, abnormal sleep patterns, anxiety or irritability, use of alcohol or drugs, or suicidal thoughts. We can help them avoid it, though.

Keeping your senior engaged, being observant to signs of depression and seeking help when it is needed will keep the blues away not just during the holidays but all year long!

Vitality & Vitamins: Is Your Senior’s B12 Level Getting Them Down?

Your senior loved one feeling a bit sluggish lately?

Does he or she feel tired and weak?

Do they say “no thanks” when you ask them to get up and do something with you like take a walk or even take a shower?

Are they complaining about other aches and pains or looking a bit paler than usual?

You may attribute that simply to growing older, but it could be something more. They may need to have their blood work checked at the doctor and see if their B12 level is normal.

A B12 deficiency usually occurs over time but can come on suddenly in some people. A blood test is required to determine if your senior is deficient and could benefit from a treatment plan.

Symptoms of B12 Deficiency

These are symptoms that may indicate a B12 deficiency. Many, of course, are also associated with other causes.

  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles, tingling in hands, feet and legs
  • Difficulty with walking or with overall balance
  • Joint pain
  • Short of breath
  • Depression
  • Memory loss or cognitive impairment
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation

A new study has shown that older men with lower levels of B12 are at increased risk for bone fractures. Those with the lowest levels of B12 were 70% more likely to suffer a bone fracture especially in the lumbar spine than the other study participants. These men would benefit from smoking cessation and daily physical activity to strengthen bones according to researchers.

It has been shown in other studies that long term use of proton pump inhibiting antacids that suppress the production of gastric acid such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium can cause a deficiency in Vitamin B12. After taking an antacid for two years, the risk was 65% greater for a B12 deficiency. The body needs acid from the stomach to extract B12 from the foods we eat.

People who are vegetarian can often suffer from a B12 deficiency because the primary source for B12 is from animal products. Older people are also often at increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to malabsorption or even malnutrition. In aging seniors, the gastric lining can thin, gastric acid reduced and dietary sources of animal products are inadequate leading to a deficiency.

Increasing B12 Levels Naturally

Since vitamin B12 is not made by our body but is actually taken in from the food or supplements that we eat, being sure we are eating a variety of foods is important. These are some foods we should include to get adequate amounts of B12 every day.

  1. Eggs
  2. Poultry
  3. Meats
  4. Fish and seafood
  5. Milk and Milk products
  6. Cheese
  7. Fortified foods including grains and breakfast cereals
  8. Multivitamin supplements

Your senior’s doctor may also prescribe B12 injections to quickly improve blood levels of the vitamin or high dose B12 pills if a severe deficiency is verified. A mild B12 deficiency can usually be improved with a basic multivitamin, though.

B12 deficiency can be treated once it is identified by your senior’s doctor. If you think this may be a potential concern for your senior, schedule an appointment with the doctor and if needed, get a blood test. Beginning a treatment plan will help your senior feel better and continue to enjoy every day!

Savings and Information: A Program Helping Family Caregivers Help Seniors

We can all use a boost, a helping hand or a new idea, especially when caring for others is a big part of our lives.

That’s why Senior Care Corner is here.

We’re always on the lookout for technology, devices, tips and programs – both here now and coming in the future – that will help family caregivers of senior adults in their mission to make better the lives of their loved ones.

There continue to be many new things we find that could make a difference to help you on your caregiving journey. We look forward to sharing what we learn.

(Note: This post is based on research by Senior Care Corner and we are solely responsible for its content. We want you to know Rite Aid provided the gift cards used for the contest discussed below but otherwise had no role nor provided compensation.)

Wellness65+ Program from Rite Aid

We recently came across Rite Aid’s Wellness65+ Program and feel that the benefits you could reap for the senior adult in your life could be of value, not just to them but also to you as a family caregiver who worries about, and may even help them with, their finances and healthcare.

Our own parents, who are over 65 and shop at Rite Aid, didn’t realize that there was a benefit program just for them so we thought others may not be familiar either.

The program is for Wellness+ members aged 65 and older. It is a free wellness+ program created just for seniors, with benefits designed to help them enjoy every day of their life. The benefits include 20% off on wellness65+ Wednesdays, a FREE pharmacist consultation and so much more, geared specifically for those trying to age successfully.

The program includes free consultations with a pharmacist for medication reviews and medication questions, blood pressure screening, Medicare Part D information specific to your senior’s health needs, immunizations and discounts.

Your senior can earn an extra 20% off non-prescription purchases throughout the store on the first Wednesday of the month called Wellness 65+ Wednesdays. These special days are dedicated to in-store senior events and savings such as 20% off purchases, monthly health topics of interest and featured products geared for seniors.

When you pick up your senior’s prescriptions from Rite Aid using your Wellness65+ membership, your senior earns 1 Wellness+ POINT for every $1 in co-pay under Part D in addition to the 25 POINTS per government funded prescription which leads to more bonus savings.

A Little Extra Help

gift card purchases 300

To help introduce Wellness65+ (and Senior Care Corner) to more family caregivers and their senior loved ones, we are offering the chance to win one of three $25 Rite Aid Gift Cards (provided by Rite Aid) to buy items your senior needs! To the right you can see the three prize gift cards plus what we purchased with our own.

What do you need to do to win? We wanted to keep it simple and in line with families gathering for the holiday season…so simply send us a picture of you and one of your senior loved ones. There can be more family members in it, but at least a senior and a younger adult (submissions from adults only, please).

We will draw three entries at random from those we receive, with each getting one of the gift cards. We will post the winners’ pictures to our Facebook page (by entering you are giving permission for this) and delete the rest. None of the pictures will be used for any other purpose.

Send us your photo via Twitter @SrCareCorner or email to Contest (at)  SeniorCareCorner.com no later than December 31 at 11:59 pm ET to enter. We will contact the winners afterward to get your mailing addresses.

We know that even a few extra savings when we buy the items that our senior’s need can make a big difference when on a tight budget. Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes, which means every penny counts. An added bonus with the Rite Aid program is the information sharing, health events, immunizations, and pharmacist advice that comes along with the program.

As we always say — knowledge is power! Saving money is pretty good too!

Wearable Health & Fitness Devices Can Help More Seniors & Family Caregivers

How am I doing managing my blood pressure? Did I get enough sleep last night? Was my physical activity today enough to burn my target number of calories?

Those are just a few of the many questions people hope to answer through the use of wearable health and fitness devices.

Wearable health and fitness is one area of technology we see as a big part of the future, not just for our senior loved ones but also their family caregivers. We don’t have to wait for the future to receive benefits from it, though, as there are a number of devices available today — primarily fitness devices — and many are already getting answers to some of their questions.

We’re looking forward to getting a glimpse into the future, both near and a little further out, at the 2014 International CES, at which wearables will be featured prominently in conference sessions and on the exhibit floor. Yes, the future promises a lot but there is much about which to be excited today.

CEA Research Study on Wearable Health and Fitness

CES is just the most visible aspect of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) mission to grow the electronics industry.  They also aim to be the industry authority on market research, which is one of the key reasons we are CEA members. We use a lot of their research here at Senior Care Corner in our efforts to educate and inform family caregivers, including a recent report aimed a building understanding of the market among consumers for wearable health and fitness devices.

Not surprisingly, young adults make up the largest group of wearable fitness device consumers, with one third of those from 25 to 34 years old indicating they currently own a device and a third expressing intent to purchase one in the next year.  In contrast, only one in nine of those aged 55 and above currently own a device and even fewer express purchase intent.

While most current owners of wearable fitness devices say they use them for motivation or to monitor their physical activity and goals, many state as reasons stress monitoring and reduction, food guidance, or that their doctor recommended they do so.

Among those planning a device purchase, almost all said it was important that the device track their heart rate, calories burned and steps taken. Many also said measuring blood pressure, cholesterol, or level of sedentary behavior were important.

Clearly there is a lot we can learn from and do with current wearable devices, as well as hints about the many applications we should see in the future.

Interesting information, you might be saying, but it doesn’t address why we feel wearable health and fitness devices are valuable to seniors and family caregivers today. Let’s look at them separately.

Wearable Health & Fitness Device Benefits for Seniors

There are a number of benefits already available to seniors through the use of wearable devices, even if they’re considered “fitness” devices.  We often talk about the importance to seniors of getting regular exercise, not just for physical benefits but also to keep brains healthy. Being able to set goals and track progress, not just for time spent but actual activity, can help our senior loved ones know if they are getting the exercise they need. There are also real benefits to be achieved in understanding more about sleep patterns for those of all ages.

While we see monitoring devices being important to seniors in the future and helping many live independently, we know many don’t like the idea of being monitored and having their data sent to healthcare providers or even family members. This makes the current crop of wearables good “starter” devices for seniors, letting them find out whether the devices themselves are an intrusion on their lives while keeping the data the devices produce to themselves if they prefer.

Seeing benefits from wearable health and fitness devices today and making them a part of seniors’ lives on their own terms hopefully can pave the way for monitors even more critical to health and lifestyle in the future.

Wearable Health & Fitness Devices Benefits for Family Caregivers

Many family caregivers lament their inability to exercise because of the time demands of providing care to senior loved ones and/or their children and don’t realize how much activity is part of their caregiving. Wearable fitness devices can help them understand the level of benefit they get from all of the walking, stair climbing and other physical activities and, hopefully, help alleviate some of their stress over not doing more formal exercise.

Caregiving can take a toll on the health and well being of family caregivers, with many not realizing just how much damage they do to themselves while helping loved ones. Today’s wearable devices can help them understand the impact it is having on their blood pressure, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. Just knowing doesn’t guarantee they’ll do something about it, of course, but it is the first step to taking action.

Do you know a family caregiver who could benefit from a device that shows them signs of the toll their devotion to loved ones is having on her or his health? Encourage them to get – and use – one of the wearable fitness devices to monitor themselves. You might even show you care by getting one for them. Don’t stop there, though. Take action based on what they learn through monitoring to get them breaks, encourage doctor visits and even vacations where needed, and build support networks so they can offload some of their burden.

A Taste of What’s to Come

Yes, we’re excited about what the future has to offer in the way of health devices for seniors and are looking forward to learning more. In the meantime, though, we hope seniors and family caregivers will take advantage of the innovations available today and the benefits they offer.

Health is key to enjoying our lives, no matter what our age. Technology that helps understand and improve health will continue to grow in importance, especially to the majority of seniors who want to live independently as long as possible.

Let’s help them make “as long as possible” even longer than they imagine!

End of Life Planning & Considerations – Wrestling with Needed Decisions

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” ~  Isaac Asimov

For many of us this quote hits home, for we are struggling with end of life issues for the ones about whom we care. We should also think about these options for ourselves as caregivers so that the senior loved one in your life is protected if they should lose you as caregiver.

Decisions surrounding what course to take during this difficult time may be the hardest ones we face.

Whether to remain aggressive with healthcare decisions or provide comfort and dignity for a natural course can be an overwhelming decision for many families. It is even harder for those who have not expressed any wishes about what they would like to happen when end of life is near and families are asked to make a fast choice.

Perhaps we fool ourselves into thinking that it won’t happen to us but it is inevitable that we will all face death. We may think it is not our time yet or we’ll think about putting our desires down on paper when the time comes, then the time comes without warning.  There may be those people who think that taking action to make their wishes known will jinx something into happening that they aren’t ready for yet. Sometimes a glimmer of hope from the healthcare team causes us to question even those decisions we have already made.

Views of End of Life Decisions

A recent Pew Research study examined our views, including us caregivers, about end of life decisions and the healthcare team. They found that the majority of us (66%) feel that under certain circumstances, the healthcare team should allow a person to die. At the same time, a growing minority of us (31%) state that a person should have everything done to prolong life no matter what the circumstances.

How do you feel about that question?

The research showed:

  • If you had an incurable disease with a great deal of pain, 57% would want to stop treatment and be allowed to die.
  • If you had an incurable disease and were totally dependent on a caregiver for all your needs, 52% would want to stop treatment and be allowed to die.
  • About six-in-ten adults (62%) say that a person suffering a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement has a moral right to commit suicide.
  • We remain divided down the middle, 47% approve and 49% disapprove, about whether a physician should assist with suicide.
  • Researchers found strong influencers of our opinions about death and dying were religious affiliation, race and ethnicity.

It is not surprising to most people, especially those who work closely with seniors and their family caregivers, 27% of us have given no thought to our end of life wishes and only 37% have given it a great deal of thought. Even more alarming is that 22% those aged 75 or older have neither documented nor even discussed their end of life wishes with anyone.

Only a third of all adults have documented their wishes in the form of advance directives or even merely just a letter to family.

The majority of us have known or cared for someone with a terminal diagnosis or in a coma and have firsthand experience dealing with death and dying yet few still have taken action to communicate their wishes.

While it is true that our healthcare system has become adept at prolonging our lives through medical advances and medical treatments leading to an increase in our life expectancy to 78.7 years, it is a personal decision whether or not you want to accept the treatment plan.

End of Life Considerations

If you and your senior loved ones are wrestling with how you want to chart your final years, here are a few things to think over:

  1. Goals of your treatment plan: what medication do you want or not want including chemotherapy, pain control, or other life sustaining options; what type of aggressive procedures do you want such as CPR, mechanical ventilation, artificial feeding, or palliative surgery; and what is involved in treatment such as travel, time, pain and suffering, or caregiving needs.
  2. Where do you want to spend your final days? Do you want to stay in the comfort of your home or do you want to be in a hospital or other care facility?
  3. Who do you want around you when the time comes? Do you want certain family members or do you want professional caregivers to do personal care for you?
  4. Have you lived a complete life or do you still have unfinished business? Have you made your peace with everyone or do you need to soothe old hurts?

There are many helpful tools to use to state your wishes that we encourage you and your senior to review such as Five Wishes and legal forms such as a durable power of attorney and living will.

It is also important that family caregivers make a plan in the event that something should happen to you before the person for whom you care which might leave them without a caregiver or possibly a safe place to live.

Being prepared for what is to come does not mean you have to give up hope! Enjoy each moment to the fullest, you will never know what tomorrow brings!