What Local Senior Centers Can Mean to Our Senior Loved Ones

Visits to their local senior center can mean a chance to get out of the house, socialize with others, and a whole lot more to aging in place seniors.

Family caregivers can get some peace of mind in knowing their senior loved ones are spending part of the day in the company of others and in safety with supervision.

Not only that, they are offered a nutritious meal each day they participate in a senior center program, a truly meaningful benefit with so many seniors dealing with hunger.

Family caregivers who are living with their senior loved one can get a bit of respite from caregiving during the time their senior is enjoying the activities in the center. Caregivers can get some housework done, make a meal, visit their own doctor, spend time with friends, run errands, or simply sit down for a rest uninterrupted.

A great caregiver benefits is the much needed opportunity to tend to your own needs.

If you are a long distance caregiver, enrolling your senior loved one in a senior day program can give you a sense of relief that they are not isolated or alone every day but hopefully enjoying a bit of fun with others (in addition to a hot meal and safety).

Unfortunately, not as many are taking advantage of these great benefits as could be.

CDC Quick Stats on Participation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report of the statistics on seniors who participated in senior services programs in 2014.

On any given day in 2014 there were about 282,000 seniors enrolled in day programs at their senior center. Considering the number of family caregivers providing care to seniors, many who may benefit seem to be disconnected from this program.

When looking at the disease process of seniors in attendance we see this breakdown, which may or may not be what some of us expected:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure) 44%
  • Alzheimer disease or other dementia 30%
  • Diabetes 30%
  • Intellectual or developmental disability 25%
  • Depression 25%
  • Severe mental illness 10%

Note: some diagnoses will overlap in participants, yielding a total greater than 100%.

Considering the length of time caregivers provide care to seniors with dementia, we would have anticipated the need for assistance and respite among those caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, result in accessing a memory program at the senior center more often in this population.

What Senior Centers Offer

Senior centers are often, but not always, funded and regulated by government to help meet the needs of older adults. Some senior centers are operated by private, non-profit and for-profit organizations.

There are guidelines for operations established by the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA). They set standards, including a ratio of staff to senior as well as what types of professionals should be staffing specific programs.

There are some disease-specific programs that can provide education, activities, diet, medication manager or weight management interventions. The diseases include diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Most centers operate five days a week during usual business hours. You may find special programs that have off hours or other events occurring outside usual hours of service. Seniors should be continent to attend most senior centers but they do accommodate those using adaptive devices such as walkers, canes or wheelchairs.

Some centers may be targeting Alzheimer’s care or specific medical care but others are designed to facilitate interaction between seniors.

Senior centers can be found within a senior loved one’s community so travel is not usually a hindrance to attendance.

Senior centers can:

  • Assist with medications
  • Provide exercise programs
  • Serve meals and snacks
  • Perform medical services such as blood pressure monitoring
  • Schedule activities such as music, crafts, dancing, games, parties, pet therapy, trips, cooking, gardening or reminiscing
  • Host social events
  • Coordinate educational sessions that can teach new skill, review topic of interest or stimulate their brains
  • Link health resources such as therapy or podiatry
  • Offer transportation services
  • Connect with volunteer opportunities
  • Provide counseling services

Is a Senior Center for Them?

Family caregivers are often fearful or feel guilty that they are ‘sending’ their senior loved one to day care.

However, the time will come when your senior loved one would really benefit from the enrichment a senior center day program can offer – – and so will you.

Family caregivers can use the time for personal respite or getting other tasks done that are difficult when supervising or caring for your senior loved one.

Many seniors find themselves isolated and bored when they live alone or miss interacting with their peers. Most enjoy talking with others who have lived through the same history they have or find a patient ear to retell their life stories. Some seniors aren’t safe alone at home and require some supervision.

Many seniors who are at home, whether independently or with family members, can become inactive, leading to muscle loss or loss of balance. This outcome can set them up for falls or other injuries. Attendance at a senior center program will provide them with motivation and enjoyment of getting active again. They can improve their strength and balance with the activities offered at the senior center.

Hopefully they will not only find the activities fun but give them confidence in their physical well-being and keep them safer at home.

A Break for Family Caregivers

Let’s face it, sometimes you just need a break!

Seniors can attend a senior center program once a week, every day or drop in as needed. Being able to give your senior loved one a safe haven where they will enjoy their time and interact with other senior’s while allowing you a little breathing room to recharge your own batteries is invaluable!

Sometimes our senior loved ones may not want to listen to our advice, which they may hear as constant nagging about managing their health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The staff at the senior center are professionals trained to impart expertise to manage chronic health conditions. This may carry more weight with our senior loved ones and encourage them to follow treatment plans better than us trying to push them into adherence. If they can get and keep their health conditions on track, it is definitely worth involving them in the senior center.

Some seniors could really benefit from getting a hot, nutritious meal on a regular basis. Better yet, is having someone to share their meal with instead of eating by themselves.

As you can see, there are many ways seniors and caregivers can benefit from the myriad of services available at the senior center.

Is There a Fee?

There may be a small fee for this, as Medicaid generally doesn’t cover any cost. Some programs may have a sliding scale fee based on your senior’s income. There may be Veteran’s benefits that can help cover this cost. Perhaps a long term care insurance policy can pick up some of the bill if your senior loved one has such a policy.

There may also be state sponsored programs in your area to which you can connect your senior to reduce or avoid costs associated with the care provided.

The government provides Title III funding to states to cover the needs of older people in the community. This funding is allocated to states to provide community based services including support services and nutrition. The Administration on Aging collaborates with state units to coordinate programs. Anyone over 60 is eligible for these services. Depending on your senior’s need, they may be asked to pay some cost to help defray the cost of services. Title III-C covers the nutritional component of meals served at congregate sites such as senior centers.

If you or your senior can’t afford the potential costs, discuss this with the center or your Area on Aging to see if there are grants or other sources of funds to help your senior take advantage of the program for their health and yours.

Even when a fee is involved, senior centers offer real benefits to senior loved one and family caregivers that can make them well worth the cost.

Diabetes / Dementia Connection – Cause & Effect or Coincidence?

More information has been coming to light through research that links diabetes and dementia.

We are uncovering information regarding the contribution high blood sugar makes on the death of nerve cells in the brain.

Does diabetes cause dementia?

Does dementia cause diabetes?

Is there something specific to lifestyle choices that predispose a person to both?

Can we prevent either?

Are family caregivers of a person with dementia more at risk for developing diabetes or dementia?

These are all questions, and there are still more, that family caregivers would love to hear answered when they care for aging seniors.

Most people would be happy to make some changes in habits, activity or diet that could prevent either of these diseases in our senior loved ones or even themselves. But what is really known or is it all just speculation at this point to grab headlines?

Tangles Increased in Diabetics

A study recently published in Neurology found that people who were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes had a greater number of tangles in the brain, even in the absence of a diagnosis of dementia.

An increase in tangles could increase their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers.

The researchers of this study are quick to say the appearance of more tangles in those with diabetes does not indicate if the diabetes or high blood sugar was the cause of increased formation of these brain deposits.

Obesity may also contribute to the formation of tangles especially since many people with Type 2 Diabetes are also overweight.

Can High Blood Sugar Lead to Tangles?

There is also a potential that chronically high blood sugar can affect the circulatory system, especially in the brain, that can also lead to these tangle accumulations.

Researchers of this study encourage better control of blood sugar to help prevent tangles from being formed. One suggestion is that sugar molecules in the blood attach to protein resulting in the tangles (glycation).

It has also been shown that those with diabetes are at twice the risk of developing dementia but the exact cause is unknown.

Another possibility that can increase brain deterioration leading to tangles is inflammation found throughout the body.

Alzheimer’s – the New Type 3 Diabetes?

There was a surge in information that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease were highly similar to those with diabetes.

When researchers further examined the cell structure they found that insulin resistance and insulin deficiency in the brain was a precursor to Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration.

One study pursued this line of investigation, as there has been conflicting data as to the impact of metabolic syndrome and obesity to this neurodegeneration and insulin may not be the only cause.

Researchers looked at post mortem brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease examining them for various abnormalities.

They have concluded that the term “type 3 diabetes” accurately reflects the fact that Alzheimer’s represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain.

Insulin Produced by the Brain, Too

Other researchers from Brown Medical School found that insulin is produced by the brain in addition to the pancreas. Obesity has a role to play in insulin resistance in the brain as well but they felt it was a modest contributor.

Type 2 diabetes was also felt to be a factor. In itself it’s not enough to cause Alzheimer’s disease but could encourage its progression.

Brain impairment as a result of insulin resistance was also influenced by inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell dysfunction.

What does that mean – type 3 diabetes? These researchers felt that there is a specific form of diabetes mellitus that afflicts the brain and that cognitive improvement can be seen when the person is treated with intranasal insulin.

Ongoing Research Into Blood Sugar Control and Dementia

Researchers have found that Alzheimer’s disease can begin without hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in the brain but that resistance to insulin is a part of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

If a person has insulin resistance such as those with Type 2 diabetes, the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease is 50-65% greater.

Other researchers found that poorly controlled blood sugar was linked to poor performance on cognitive tests administered. They will need to study whether these people could have improvement in their cognition once their blood sugars were controlled with disease management strategies.

Will Diet Changes Improve Cognition?

According to the available data, it appears there is a connection with insulin resistance, diabetes, blood sugar control and dementia. Obesity is part of the problem too.

If people can control their blood sugar, get to a healthy weight, be physically active and be aware of the risk for diabetes and get tested as needed, there may be some dementia cases that could be prevented or their progression slowed down.

It is possible to reduce the risk for dementia and diabetes with appropriate diet and lifestyle changes.

Here are some recommendations for all of us to incorporate to prevent health problems:

  • Eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep our brains stimulated
  • Meet our bodies’ nutritional needs with nutrient dense foods that are goods sources of vitamins, including vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins and antioxidants
  • Choose heart healthy foods to benefit the heart and brain, avoid high fat foods; the Mediterranean diet principles might guide our meal choices
  • Avoid sugary foods, including soda and added sugar
  • Avoid processed meats with nitrates, including bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meat, and ham

More Reason to Adopt Healthy Lifestyles

Some researchers point out the fact that ‘junk’ food is not good for the brain and may contribute to insulin resistance in the brain, worsening Alzheimer’s disease (type 3 diabetes).

Diabetes has not been shown to cause Alzheimer’s disease but they are now both thought to have the same connection – insulin resistance.

Future investigation will continue, with more information forthcoming to help us all understand the impact our overall health has on dementia.

This is just more fuel on the fire encouraging us all to eat better, become more active and engage our brains.

Family caregivers can encourage their senior loved ones to make changes because it is never too late to protect our brains!

Uber Can Give Seniors Their Wheels, Flexibility and Independence Back

Driving to the doctor, the supermarket, to visit friends or just to see the change in seasons through Mother Nature’s eyes is something many of us take for granted.

When our senior loved ones no longer drive, whether they are no longer safe behind the wheel, choose to give up their keys, or can’t afford to own a car, they still need to get from one place to another.

How can they get to essential services like the grocery store or just to places that will help them enjoy life, like visiting friends or the ice cream shop, especially if they live in suburban or rural cities without a transportation infrastructure?

Not being able to get where they need to go or having to rely on family or friends to get there, can rob seniors of their independence and maybe even the ability to age in place.

Some who are lucky enough to live in a city that is walkable, with the places they need within safe walking distance, will be able to live independently without transportation worries.

Others may live in a city with accessible public transportation to help get them from here to there.

Many Seniors Need Alternative Transportation

Unfortunately, a large majority of community dwelling seniors have no access to public transportation or walkable city services and need to find a solution to meeting their needs without a car to rely on each day.

It is estimated that by the age of 75, 31% of seniors need to find alternative forms of transportation because they no longer drive.

There may be taxi cabs or senior bus services but these can be costly and inconvenient for some seniors.

Senior based transportation services are not always as reliable as needed and could result in missed appointments, especially if living in a rural area.

There is a way for our senior loved ones to get on the road again!

Yes, we are talking about Uber.

Mobile App Required

Do they have a smartphone or tablet?

Can they get the app or will they need some guidance from you or someone who helps them with this and other tech applications? Grandchildren can be great for this!

Once the app is installed and a quick tutorial about how to use it is completed, your senior loved one can become one of the estimated 40% of Uber riders who are seniors.

It has been reported that using the app to get a ride is growing among seniors and that those who are currently using it are teaching other seniors how to do it too!

A recent report from the Consumer Electronics Association indicates 46% of senior households have smartphones and 40% have tablets, so the number who could find a solution to their transportation quandary is growing.

How often seniors need a ride each week will vary but some may need at least one ride a day or even more, depending on how many appointments or errands they need outside their walking distance.

Be aware when you install the Uber app you will be asked to share your location (so they can find you), register using email and a password and you will need to set up a payment method for future use in order to be able to become a Uber rider.

You can get a ride estimate from where you are to where you want to go so you will be able to decide if that is the option for you. It will automatically charge your method of payment including a tip so no cash is needed.

Benefits of Uber for Seniors

Getting transportation that is easy to access and reliable for seniors who no longer drive can mean that they will be able to live independently a bit longer. Seniors can also enjoy their life knowing they aren’t at the mercy of public transportation or a senior van. On demand ridesharing is meeting the needs of many seniors and more to come.

How seniors benefit from ridesharing:

  1. Seniors can get a ride when they want it directly to and from where they want to go.
  2. Seniors don’t have to schedule a senior bus (paratransit) days ahead of their need.
  3. Seniors don’t have to stop at multiple stops picking and dropping off others on their way to their own destination when riding a senior bus.
  4. The rideshare car is reliable, sometimes the senior van is late or doesn’t arrive at all making the senior miss an appointment, an opportunity to visit friends or even miss a medication dosage when delayed.
  5. Seniors don’t want to burden their family members (at least not every time they need a ride).
  6. Seniors don’t want to rely on a taxicab that might show up or not when they need a ride, especially in an unfamiliar area or after dark.
  7. In general, an Uber ride costs less that a taxicab.
  8. Seniors don’t have to carry cash to pay for a ride, since they are charged via the app.
  9. In non-urban settings, there are many fewer options for seniors to get around. Uber is often found in areas where other public transportation is nonexistent.

A new wrinkle on the Uber market is that seniors who are retired and want a little something to do are becoming Uber drivers. They can earn a little extra money and do it when they want.

Uber has announced that they will provide free classes for seniors who want to connect to the technology required to get Uber rides. They have also agreed to provide free rides for seniors at specific senior centers and retirement communities in certain cities as part of some pilot program partnerships.

Uber ASSIST

If your senior loved one has a disability that requires a little help to get into and out of the car, needs a wheelchair or other device, Uber ASSIST can be selected on the smartphone app that will give you a specially trained driver who can help your senior loved one with the transfer. They are also trained to handle and store their device.

Your senior just needs to select the ASSIST in the promotions section of the app. The cost of this special service is the same as a ride chosen from UberX.

There are other ridesharing services depending on the area of the country where your senior resides.

One rideshare service located in San Francisco, Lift Hero, is designed specifically for seniors. More rideshare services are available including Shuddle (for kids and seniors), Lyft and Sidecar.

Future of Transportation

What if some of our seniors live in an area of the country where there is no public transportation established (or it doesn’t go where they need to go) or there is no company running a ridesharing program?

Worse yet, they have no nearby family caregivers who can drive them to important destinations — or don’t want to rely on family?

There is one organization, actually a coalition called Transportation for America (T4 America), working to encourage the federal government to use tax dollars to create transportation systems that will work for everyone. T4 America believes the number of Americans who are aging in place will need an alternative transportation system to help them maintain their independence. Lacking a system to get where they have to and want to go will result in isolation, economic hardship and a reduced quality of life.

The Department of Transportation does provide some support for states to improve rural transit for seniors and people with disabilities but the need for rural public transportation is growing.

Metropolitan areas have begun to recognize and work toward meeting the mobility needs of seniors with improving public transportation access to buses, vans, jitneys, ridesharing, ferries, trains and also becoming walkable cities where pedestrians are safe to walk.

Suburban and rural locations will have to get creative with solutions that meet the needs of their seniors by adopting best practices, such as partnering with community organizations.

Hopefully all seniors in need will be able to gain access to some form of transportation to allow them to stay in the home and city of their dreams living independently and happily!


Myths of Aging Holding Seniors Back? Don’t Let Preconceptions Limit Them

There are many myths of aging — beliefs that, while widely held, are not true.

Many people have preconceived notions about how we should or shouldn’t be aging and how our bodies should reflect our aging.

Multiple media messages that tell us to do this activity to avoid aging or take this pill to stop the signs of aging bombard us daily.

Do we really need to stop the signs of aging or should we want them to stop?

Prevention of a disease that can change your life is certainly a goal for us all.

Aging is not a disease, though. We are likely not going to halt aging, no matter what choices we make.

Aging is a simply growing older. As George Burns said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” That should be more our goal in life – avoiding getting old.

Let’s dispel some myths of aging and hopefully help ourselves and our senior loved ones move toward staying well to avoid getting ‘old.’

Aging Myths

There are many myths or preconceived notions that we have about aging. Some people seem to fear aging based on their unsubstantiated beliefs. This fear could be keeping us from being proactive to stay healthy and well as we age.

Here are some common myths:

  1. We are going to lose our teeth and will need dentures.

Truth: We can take steps to prevent poor dentition with regular checkups and daily oral care.

Many people overlook the importance of keeping their teeth and gums in good health. It has been estimated that only a third of older adults see a dentist. We know that dental care is not covered under Medicare and hopefully this will change in the future so that seniors can stay healthy.

Poor dental care can lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, muscle loss and malnutrition. Even ill-fitting dentures or dentures that aren’t cleaned properly can lead to health trouble. Quality of life can be negatively affected when our seniors’ teeth are not in good condition.

Seniors need to brush and floss daily to prevent cavities, gum problems and missing teeth.

Poor dentition, including improperly fitting dentures, can cause seniors to have difficulty eating, which will lead to poor nutrition, weight loss and ill health.

  1. Eye health in aging eyes can’t be benefited by eating healthy foods.

Truth: Aging eyes that get adequate amounts of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxantin found in colorful fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of macular degeneration, which can lead to loss of vision.

Age related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss in seniors. Good nutrition was found to help reduce vision loss in people over 50.

  1. Confusion or cognitive impairment is inevitable.

Truth: Cognitive function will not spontaneously decline with age.

As we age our bodies may slow down but our brains, which grow older along with our bodies, don’t slow down unless there is a specific reason. Confusion has a cause that should be examined and treated.

There are a variety of potential causes for cognitive decline and confusion in older adults, including dehydration, pain, constipation, infection, head injury, medications, inadequate nutrition, and chronic diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

The aging brain can learn new things and enjoys being stimulated with activity.

  1. Muscle loss is unavoidable as we get older.

Truth: Sarcopenia or muscle loss associated with aging is not a foregone conclusion.

Recent research has shown that we tend to slowly lose muscle mass, as much as 8%, as we age, but if we maintain our physical activity and get recommended amounts of exercise we can prevent this loss. One study showed that the loss of muscle as we get older was not the consequence of aging but instead inactivity.

The loss of muscle comes with loss of strength, which can lead to falls for our seniors. Unfortunately, it could mean a loss of independence.

Physical activity and good nutrition go hand in hand to maintain our strength as we age.

  1. Depression is a normal part of aging.

Truth: Depression is not a regular consequence of aging.

Depression often comes after a person suffers a tragedy, such as a loss of a spouse or close family member like a child, stress, pain, certain medications, isolation, lack of fulfillment, retirement or a loss of independence that might change the course of their life.

The problem with people thinking depression is ‘normal’ is that they don’t seek help to overcome it. Untreated depression puts a senior at risk for health complications and can negatively impact their current quality of life.

Untreated depression can also lead to suicide, which is the highest in those people over the age of 75.

  1. Older bodies don’t heal after injuries.

Truth: Older bodies take longer to fully heal after being injured but they will heal with time.

As we age, our bodies have more difficulty healing from injury quickly because they have a slower response to the need to rebuild injured tissue.

That doesn’t mean that older bodies won’t heal.

Still, it is important to prevent injuries as we age so we don’t have to overtax our bodies function to heal injury.

  1. It’s too late to change my lifestyle and help my health because what I do won’t make a difference at my age.

Truth: We are never too old to make positive changes that improve our health. Lifestyle changes we make today can enhance mobility, balance, creativity, social engagement and sense of purpose as we age.

Having the best quality of life, putting life in our years, is important for us at any age. The choices we make now and as we age will influence our quality of life.

We can impact our longevity with healthy choices in eating, socialization, physical activity and health prevention activities. Getting our vaccinations, connecting with our communities and feeling a sense of purpose through engagement are as important as eating right, quitting smoking, reducing stress and taking our medications as prescribed.

Health maintenance as we age must be deliberate on our parts, it won’t just happen.

Lifestyle Matters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that our lifestyle choices have a greater impact on our successful aging than our genetics.

It is important that we shatter these myths so that we can all take action to preserve our health and well-being and sail into our golden years with the greatest quality of life as possible.

Family caregivers can help their seniors achieve successful aging by helping them adopt healthy lifestyle habits and by modeling healthy habits.

We can make a difference in how we age – it’s never too late (or too early) to make a positive change!

“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” ― Robert Browning

It’s Our Birthday! Celebrating 8 Years Caring for Seniors’ Family Caregivers

Our mission was simple when we began. We wanted to give support and information to caregivers of seniors because we found little when we needed it most.

We had some knowledge and experience to share with others at a time when support for family caregivers was lacking. What could we do to help those in need, just as we wished someone could have done for us?

Senior Care Corner® was born! Now we celebrate 8 years in our labor of love bringing information and guidance to caregivers of our most beloved seniors!

From then to now we have worked hard to bring forward tips and strategies to make things easier on caregivers.

And we’re still going strong!

Challenge of Family Caregiving

We know caregivers of seniors are challenged because they are often caring for their own families at the same time or their spouses at a time when they thought they would be enjoying their own retirement. Trying to support each other as we find ways to lighten the load of caregiving is something we try to do week in and week out.

The best way to be a good caregiver for the years to come is to care for oneself, which is another way we try to encourage caregivers through knowledge and empathy!

Caregivers are providing an invaluable resource to our aging loved ones and need to be supported so that they can better meet their own, their seniors and their families’ needs long into the future.

We have evolved over the last 8 years at Senior Care Corner and will continue to do so as we connect with caregivers in a variety of ways including face to face, twitter chats, our Radio Show, Facebook postings, media panels, and of course our blog. We love every opportunity we get to meet other family caregivers, listen to their stories and try to support them in any way possible.

Speaking to groups of seniors and listening to what they desire as they age brings joy to Kathy while Barry immerses himself in technology and the innovations that will benefit us all through our lives as we age.

Together we strive to bring you great blogs that are informative and inspiring and hope to do so for many years to come.

Shouting It Out to the World

Here’s how we decided to tell the world it’s our birthday via a press release:

Senior Care Corner® Celebrates 8 Years Helping Family Caregivers Improve the Lives of Senior Loved Ones

SENECA, S.C., Oct. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Caring for parents in their senior years is a role reversal for which most family caregivers find themselves unprepared from knowledge and emotional standpoints. Knowing senior loved ones need help in living the lives they want but not knowing how to give them that help is frustrating and can be harmful for both the senior and caring family member. Eight years ago Senior Care Corner® was a startup with a mission of filling those gaps, an effort that is still going strong today.

Motivated by needs identified through personal experience and conversations with other family caregivers, Senior Care Corner arrived on the web in 2007 with their premier article discussing ways to make the homes of senior loved ones friendlier to their needs.

From that start have come thousands of articles, Internet radio show episodes, and social media posts addressing a wide range of topics covering the needs of seniors and the family members caring for and about them.

Thanks and other feedback from many of the more than 5,000 monthly visitors to the “Corner” inspire co-founders Kathy and Barry Birkett, family caregivers themselves, to publish three articles weekly and reach out to other caregivers through social media.

“We love all the comments and thanks we get from our visitors,” says Kathy Birkett. “It makes all the work worthwhile when they tell us how we’ve helped them improve some aspects of their senior loved ones’ lives.”

In addition to direct feedback they receive, Senior Care Corner’s outreach is extended through the pickup of their articles by websites across the web and requests to participate in online panels and contribute to the publications of other experts.

Areas of emphasis covered by Senior Care Corner include Aging in Place, Technology for Seniors and Caregivers, Senior Health and Nutrition, Alzheimer’s Disease, End of Life Considerations, and Caring for the Family Caregiver.

“Innovations in technology are rapidly changing the lives of everyone and will be key to seniors’ ability to live safely and happily in their homes longer than ever before,” says Barry Birkett, Senior Care Corner’s Technology Editor. “At the same time, technology presents challenges in implementation that family caregivers are uniquely positioned to address if given the right resources, which we aim to do.”

Senior Care Corner is a labor of love for the Birketts, who would like to see their work become financially self-supporting. As Kathy explains, “we are hopeful of attracting sponsorship that would allow us to fill even more needs of family caregivers, including educational materials and a forum for sharing experiences.”

“With the ranks of family caregivers continuing to grow along with the senior population and their need for care,” she continues, “we are looking forward to many more years of helping to improve the lives of both.”

Thank You for Your Support!

We want to thank you for your continued support of our mission and hope that you will connect with us too!

We love to hear your suggestions, comments or questions about what we are currently discussing or what you would like us to discuss. You can connect with us in a variety of ways – whichever works best for you!

Connect on our blog through your comments or our Contact page.

Listen to our Radio Show by downloading your favorite topics (PS, it’s free!).

Tweet with us @SrCareCorner or @BarryBirkett and join us as we chat with caregivers and experts.

Fan us on Facebook.

Most of all, keep coming back so we can keep you informed!

Telehealth and Technology News – Good for Senior Health and Wellness

We want to be healthy, energetic and happy as we age.

We want to live life as fully as possible, realizing it’s not about the years in our life but the life in our years.

Not just us but our seniors too!

The way to stay healthy is to avoid chronic disease and stay physically active as we age.

But what can we do to help our seniors age well, stay healthy, or control the chronic diseases which they have already been diagnosed?

Technology may be a key for our seniors and us as family caregivers trying to help them.

There is a growing volume of research currently being conducted into how we can use technology to improve our seniors’ health and safety at home.

In the past several years, numerous devices and smartphone apps have been developed with this goal in mind. But do they work? How can we ensure our investment of time and money in these will pay off in dividends?

Health Assist from Technology

The use of technology in medicine has been growing and is poised to accelerate with the advent of more devices and improvements in training, adoption, and breaking down barriers to adoption for physicians.

How can healthcare be delivered through technology for the benefit of our seniors? Let’s look at current interventions.

Telemedicine is the practice of medicine at a distance instead of in the same physical location. Such services include telestroke care during the most critical point in a stroke — the first hours. A doctor can direct care in the ambulance or other remote location to improve outcomes. Another telemedicine application is teleradiology, where images are sent elsewhere for reading by a physician in another location.

Telehealth allows people to obtain services, such as health education and monitoring, online. Monitoring vital signs remotely by health professionals will continue to grow as we try to control cost while providing medical care to everyone despite their location. It can help reduce hospital readmissions when health parameters can be remotely monitored and action taken quickly to prevent adverse events. Videoconferencing with a doctor or team is another way to use technology for health.

Mobile health (often called mHealth) occurs when we use mobile devices to obtain or improve health care delivery. We can use health apps to monitor our vital signs, connect with our healthcare team, send emails, receive alerts and reminders and learn more about our drugs or diseases.

Connected health encompasses all these terms.

Seniors and family caregivers may find benefits from utilizing each of these forms of connected health. Let’s look at some of the recent research that shows how our senior loved ones can benefit.

Heart Disease Improved with Apps

Heart disease continues to be the number one killer of men and women in America.

It kills more people than all types of cancer combined.

In the US, someone will have a heart attack every 34 seconds and someone will die from a heart disease-related event every 60 seconds.

Prevention strategies, including lifestyle changes and medication to reduce those statistics, are vital for our seniors and us, too.

A recent study from researchers in Australia was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). They found that regular text message reminders via smartphones can help people adhere to lifestyle changes that can improve cholesterol, blood pressure and weight for healthier living.

Encouragement via Technology

People who got regular automated text messages throughout the week were able to improve their bad LDL cholesterol level, blood pressure, weight and helped them quit smoking.

The text messages gave people motivation and encouragement, in addition to advice and education, to make behavior changes following a heart attack.

Half of the participants received four text messages each week for six months.  The tips were geared to their individual risk factors, such as smoking or weight loss. They were often personalized with the individuals name as well. An example of a message is “Hi Mike, don’t forget physical activity is good for you!”

After the six months, LDL cholesterol levels were lower in those receiving the text message compared to the control group which did not receive any messages. Their blood pressures and BMIs were also lower. The smokers in the text message group went from 53% to 26% as well while the non-text message group only went from 53% to 43%.

Technology Impacts Lifestyle Changes

Researchers were pleased with the results indicating that technology has an impact on lifestyle changes and can help doctors better guide their patients in making healthy choices.

There are many health apps in the marketplace and few have been studied to show that their use can make a difference.

This study is a step in the right direction to understand the importance of technology for empowering us to make lifestyle choices we need to be healthier.

Researchers remind us that once the text messaging stopped, it is unknown whether the changes were sustainable and that in the future it would be important to continue to update the messages to be motivating and effective over time until the changes became habit.

E-pillboxes Improve Medication Adherence

According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists:

  • On average, adults 65 to 69 years old take nearly 14 prescriptions per year and adults aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year;
  • Adverse drug reactions and noncompliance to medication regimens result in 28% of hospitalizations for seniors, with 11% of those due to non-adherence; and,
  • 32% of seniors suffer hip fractures caused by medication-related problems.

Medication mismanagement has been linked with up to 23% of nursing home admissions as seniors become unable to self-manage prescription medications at home.

A new study found that people who received electronic reminders to take their medication were less likely to miss a dose.

These alerts give visual, audio and tactile cues via a smartphone app that reminds a person that it is time to take prescribed medications.

Some of the study participants received a text message, some only alerts and a third group received both text messages and alerts. A control group received no reminders.

One in five patients who received no reminders missed doses. Those receiving only text messages didn’t have more success taking medications properly. However those that received both texts and alerts took their medications more correctly.

This study was performed in patients with TB whose medications are usually administered only in person with a health professional to ensure compliance with the treatment plan. Due to remote locations with access issues, it was necessary to test a new way of delivering medications that would result in adherence.

If this can work in this population, imagine what it can do with seniors who may not remember to take their medications properly?

Healthcare Future is Now

The future is now with regards to technology, connected health and telehealth innovations that can help our senior loved ones live a healthy and safe life independently as they age.

We need to help them adopt these devices and apps that can give them control over their healthy aging and advocate for them with their healthcare team to help them connect using available technology.

Family caregivers need to take the lead in modeling and promoting technology adoption.

Therapy Dogs Improve Quality of Life for Seniors and Family Caregivers

Have you ever owned a pet, stroked a dog’s fur or thrown a ball with a rambunctious dog?

If you have, you have likely experienced the joy of unconditional love only a pet can give.

Many of our senior loved ones have also felt this kinship and love for pets as they grew up and even when they were raising their own families.

Unfortunately, as seniors get older so do their pets. They may have lost them through the years or are no longer able to care for them as they need. Perhaps your senior loved one is now living in a home where a dog or cat is not allowed.

Pets provide a special bond to those who love them, even if the bond is based on their memory of the pet.

Family caregivers can help bring the love and companionship of pets to their senior loved ones through the use of therapy dogs.

Benefits for Seniors

Therapy dogs are used by many different types of facilities and organizations including senior living facilities. They bring our senior loved ones companionship, fun and even health benefits.

There have been several studies that show the multitude of benefits that therapy dogs can have on seniors they visit.

One such study was conducted by Therapy Dogs International, a nonprofit organization that trains and certifies dogs and their handlers. They surveyed staff from facilities that had a therapy dog program.

The staff reported observing an increase in a variety of factors among the seniors including:

  • Socialization
  • Verbalization
  • Alertness
  • Positive mood
  • Sparks memories, reminiscing
  • Reason to look forward
  • Reduced pain
  • Tactile – give and receive a personal touch
  • Visual stimulation
  • Decreased aggression and resistance
  • Decreased loneliness

The staff themselves reported improved morale as they witnessed their residents interacting in a positive manner with the therapy dogs. Not only did the staff get a quick break from their routine and decreased their stress but it also allowed increased communication between staff and residents.

Definitely a win-win for seniors and caregivers!

Therapy Dog Survey

Their survey found that visits from the dogs occurred in group as well as individual settings. Visits occurred weekly, monthly or twice a month.

Over 60% of the people responding to the survey reported that they wished the visits were more frequent regardless of the current schedule. Some wanted more dogs and even other types of pets like birds and cats to visit.

“Animals have long been recognized as a positive addition to the healing process. In facilities, visits from Therapy Dogs have shown an increased happiness, calmness, and overall emotional well-being. Studies have shown a decrease in blood pressure and stress levels during Therapy Dog visits. Therapy Dogs provide a break from the daily routine of illness and loneliness for residents, visitors, and staff.”

source: Therapy Dogs International

Other research found that pairing dogs with people improved the quality of life of those adults who interacted with the dogs. The benefits were found in psychological, physical and social levels with the adults.

Scientists tell us that as little as fifteen minutes spent with an animal releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel better. The chemical reaction can lower blood pressure, heart rate and relieve stress. Heart disease and stroke can be decreased, cholesterol lowered, brains stimulated and even depression can be avoided.

Specially Trained Dogs

Dogs are trained by professionals and connected with a handler who is also specially trained.

The dogs themselves have to meet certain criteria to ensure that they will be the best fit to perform the caring services required of therapy dogs.

Dogs should be at least 1 year old. Their temperaments are tested as well as how they handle certain situations, including crowds and people with adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers.

The dogs must be in good health and certified to be on an ongoing basis by a veterinarian.

Therapy dogs come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, ages and personalities.

There are also specific pet therapy programs which use only senior dogs who act as companions for seniors in facilities and other organizations. One program uses senior dogs rescued from shelters and then trained.

Future Programs for Therapy Pets

More senior living facilities and seniors they serve could benefit from the use of therapy dogs (and other pets). Both the residents and the staff will gain from the experience.

Why don’t more take advantage of this type of program?

Perhaps lack of knowledge about such a program, fear of allergies, not wanting to include in their daily schedule, or fear of the pets scaring the residents may all play a role in why facilities aren’t open to starting such a program.

Maybe they just don’t know how to connect to trained dogs and handlers who could visit their facility on a regular basis.

Family caregivers can encourage the facilities or organizations in their community to make the connection with therapy dogs working in the community for the benefit of not only their own senior loved one but others in the location.

Can you advocate to bring therapy pets into the senior center or nursing home where you know seniors would gain from their visits?

Dogs (and other pets too) add so much to their day! How can you resist?

Overcoming Resistance by Senior Loved Ones to the Care They Need

Family caregivers experience at one time or another senior loved ones who don’t want to do what they are being asked to do. This resistance could lead to aggression and even injury for them or a caregiver.

There are many instances throughout the day when personal care is needed or another task needs to be completed when our seniors just don’t want to do it for one reason or another.

In general, if we can wait a little bit and try again, we might just get a better outcome. After letting our seniors do something else, distracting them with something they enjoy, getting a snack or a drink and then returning to the task that needs to be done, we may find our senior loved one ready and less resistant.

Our approach to them, especially if we think it may be something that will be met with resistance, is very important. Getting all the implements ready, clearing the way, getting a chair and talking calmly will help gain their trust and speed the task along.

Being prepared will be half the battle.

Frustration Often Breeds Resistance

If we are frustrated, tired, angry, fearful of their reaction and get short tempered, we are more likely to be met with resistance because they are picking up on your own attitude.

Calm voice, gentle movements, clear directions and a smile will help you and them.

Try to understand what might be motivating their resistance – are they sad, scared, depressed over loss of independence, in pain, fear of expense, or suffering from memory loss impeding daily care?

Understanding is just the first step.

Let’s talk about some common caregiving areas that can be met with resistance in your senior loved one.

Resisting Dental Care and Daily Tooth Brushing

Who would really want someone else (outside the dentist’s office) to push a toothbrush around in their mouth?

That’s what happens for some seniors on a daily basis. Perhaps they don’t remember to do it themselves, have decided they don’t want to do it or just can’t remember the steps to finish the task at hand and need someone to do the brushing for them. Maybe they have had a lifelong fear of the dentist and don’t want to visit one now either.

Unfortunately, when someone else tries to brush your teeth or use instruments in your mouth it can be very uncomfortable. Not only is that person violating your senior’s personal space when they get close enough to hold the brush or tool in a senior’s mouth, but they may be going too fast or too hard with the motion of the brush hoping to finish the job more quickly.

This can be scary, not to mention painful.

This leads to resistance and at times an even more aggressive response, fighting back against the caregiver. Many seniors close their lips and teeth so that the toothbrush or dental tools won’t even cross into their mouths. Biting and spitting is not uncommon either.

Work Together to Overcome Resistance

So how can family caregivers overcome this resistance in order to be sure that their senior loved ones dental health and in the end their physical health is maintained?

Remember, poor oral care can lead to painful problems that can result in difficulties chewing and poor nutrition. We don’t realize how important oral care is to our health, as not caring for teeth and gums can be the start of an overall physical decline.

It is a good idea to let your senior do as much for themselves as they can. Maybe they can hold the brush while you put on toothpaste and get started with the brushing. Then you can finish it up. Giving them a special cup to hold on to while you brush may give them the sense that they are helping. Sometimes a wider handle brush can allow them to get a better hold for themselves.

Positioning yourself at their level, not standing above them, will help – maybe you can both sit on a chair facing each other.

Offering instructions, explanations and words of encouragement helps too. If there is a better time of day to do the tooth brushing, do it then. Don’t brush when they just woke up and are not fully alert or if they are ready for a nap. Selecting the best mood and level of alertness will help make the task go more smoothly.

Will it help for you to be the role model and brush your teeth first or at the same time?

An electric toothbrush could make the job easier, allowing you to get more of the teeth cleaned before the resistance sets in.

Getting an annual dental checkup is also important for proper dental health. Find a dentist and hygienist who are skilled in caring for elders, who won’t make you wait too long, and can work in a calm manner for the best interest of your senior.

Resisting Home Care Providers

Having strangers in their home can often lead to resistance to home care providers for many seniors.

Sometimes it is the spouse of the person who needs care who can be resistant, believing the caregivers aren’t needed, are too expensive or that they, themselves, aren’t seen as doing a good job and will now be usurped.

Family caregivers need to discuss the reasons caregivers are needed with the adults in the home (person needing care and spouses). Try to have everyone agree it is important to get assistance and reassure your senior that this person is skilled and trustworthy. Again, knowing their concern and trying to work through it might help you ease the way.

Introduce the new person and let them spend some time together so your senior can get to know them before the start of personal care. That often will help put your senior loved one at ease. It is important that this person is accepted and there is some rapport built so that you can breakdown any perceived barriers to receiving care from a stranger.

It will also be important that your senior be prepared if the home care agency sends a replacement of the usual care provider. It might be best to postpone care for a day if there might be a problem with accepting a new person in the home, especially if you aren’t able to be there to smooth the transition.

Resistance to Safety Warnings, Such As No Driving

Knowing your senior is doing something that could be dangerous for them or others, such as driving when they are no longer safe, might be one of the scariest concerns for family caregivers.

It is also one of the hardest behaviors to overcome. Telling a senior loved one they can no longer be independent and drive themselves wherever they want to go, when they want to get there, because they aren’t safe behind the wheel doesn’t go over well.

Seniors refuse to give up some dangerous habits that could put them in harm’s way due to quickly declining abilities. Driving, climbing ladders, getting on the roof, operating power tools, cooking, or doing other things that can be very harmful for aging seniors.

It might be a case of not realizing or remembering that some of these tasks are now out of their reach.

Their Care is Worth Our Effort

Keeping seniors safe is a main goal and one for which family caregivers often need to overcome resistance.

Taking away the keys, disabling the vehicle, unplugging the stove, and removing the ladder or tools from the house might help to keep them safe — at least until you can help them realize the danger in what they want to do.

No matter why your senior refuses to comply with your goals for them or how they may react, some things need to be completed. No one wants seniors to be hurt. Understanding why they are reacting in a certain way and trying new techniques and approaches to completing daily tasks will help you care for them without as much resistance.

Family caregivers may need to get creative to overcome the resistance of their senior loved ones so that their health and well-being can be protected.

Sure, it may be difficult and emotionally draining — but their health and safety is worth it!

A Good Night Sleep and Our Seniors: Can Technology Help Them Meet?

Sleep is important to us at all ages, but to seniors it can be a matter of health and safety.

Yes, safety. Too many of our senior loved ones are injured, some with long term impacts, by falls that might not have happened if they had been sleeping well.

Getting enough sleep is more than just a matter of not feeling tired.

We have discussed seniors and sleep in a number of articles here at Senior Care Corner®, helping family caregivers to understand and address this important aspect of daily life. If it matters to our senior loved ones, after all, it matters to us.

Technology and sleep is a topic we haven’t addressed, even though we talk often about what tech can mean to seniors and caregivers.

Thanks to a new report from the Consumer Electronics Association and National Sleep Foundation, we have some information to bridge that gap.

Technology and Sleep Research

The new report, Consumer Awareness and Perceptions of Sleep Technology, covers a broad range of tech that can impact sleep. It covers adults of all ages, but our focus is on the data related to those 65 and older (thank you, CEA, for breaking out that age group!).

It was helpful to get some broader insight on the technology habits of the seniors who were part of the study and we were pleased and the progress the results reflect.

According to the statistics in the report, seniors are not far behind younger adults now in their adoption of devices we consider part of a technology foundation.

  • 62% of seniors reported having desktop computers, compared to 71% of all adults
  • just over half of seniors and all adults indicated having notebook computers or netbooks
  • almost half use smartphones, compared to 7 in 10 adults overall
  • 40% of seniors have tablets, while half of adults overall do so

There are some areas where seniors lag other age groups in technology adoption, though not as key as those above.

  • seniors are only one third as likely to have video game equipment
  • one in ten seniors has a digital media streaming device (Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, etc) compared to one in six adults overall
  • in one relevant area, seniors trail in the use of wearable fitness technology, 11% to 4%

Overall, we are pleased with the current data on seniors’ tech adoption, as it makes us optimistic about their adoption of other technology that may be important to their lives.

What Seniors Say About Their Sleep

Interestingly, more seniors (64%) than adults overall (52%) feel they get enough sleep already. This seems to contradict what many of us hear from our own loved ones about their sleep.

One in five seniors say they track their sleep as a part of their routines, versus one in four adults of all ages. It would be interesting to know if they don’t see a need to track or if younger adults are more likely to track aspects of their lives.

While seniors indicated needing slightly less sleep than other age groups, eight in ten seniors and all adults say they need at least 7 hours a night to feel restored.

We know from a lot of other research that sleep habits and needs change with age – – and from anecdotal evidence many of our own loved ones would like to get better sleep.

Is this one area where technology can help?

Technology to Aid Sleep

Before reading the report, we were part of the overwhelming majority of adults who have seen or heard little about technology for sleep.

sleep tracking from fitbitYes, we’ve used the sleep monitoring aspects of fitness trackers to see how we sleep, but that was as much curiosity as anything, especially since we had little idea how to act on the data we saw.

Few adults overall and even fewer seniors reported using the trackers’ sleep related capabilities, but then similar numbers don’t use wearable trackers at all.

The study sought feedback on respondents’ use of specific sleep tech, including Beddit, Withings Aura, and Hello Sense. No, I haven’t heard of those either — but maybe I should.

Interestingly, the study asked about use of smart home technology to improve the sleep environment. Examples include smart thermostats, automatic blinds, and air quality monitors. While few seniors reported doing so, one in six adults overall said they had, indicating tech doesn’t have to be sleep-specific to contribute to a better night’s sleep.

On the low tech side, small percentages of seniors and all adults reported using earplugs or sleep masks regularly to enhance their sleep.

Okay, so not many of us – and few seniors – are using sleep technology. Are we missing something?

Feedback from Users of Sleep Technology

Maybe the rest of us are missing out on something, at least based on the responses of those – including both seniors and all adults – who use sleep technology.

Most importantly, six in ten seniors and other adults said technology improved the quality of their sleep.

Half even indicated feeling healthier because of the sleep that resulted from their tech use.

When it comes to the monitoring of their sleep patterns, only a small minority said they didn’t benefit at all. Most said their technology made them more aware of the patterns of their sleep.

This leads us to believe there could be benefits of sleep technology for many seniors — and their family caregivers.

That’s only if they, and we, use it of course.

Getting Seniors to Use Sleep Technology

There were hints in the report that can help us understand how to get more using sleep tech to help our seniors and a good night sleep meet.

Most seniors, though, indicated not having a sleep problem to address. While that could be seen as a problem, family caregivers could seek to have senior loved ones treat their current sleep as a baseline and use technology to learn if a negative change in pattern happens. That would allow corrective action to be taken early.

One obstacle for tech developers to address is comfort, as two thirds of seniors using wearable sleep tech said it was uncomfortable. Even the perception can be harmful, but real discomfort can offset many benefits to sleep.

Understanding where seniors turn for advice on sleep technology is important, too. Healthcare providers are considered a trusted source for insight more than family members or friends. Based on this study, marketers will get nowhere trying to use celebrity endorsers.

Awareness Before Adoption

Before we can get senior loved ones to try it, though, they and family caregivers need to be made more aware of what technology can do for their sleep. We will pass along more as information – and results indicating success – become available.

What can family caregivers do in the meantime? Seniors’ comfort with technology overall is important to their adoption of innovations that can benefit their health. Yes, more are adopting smartphones and other devices all the time, but still many are yet to see what technology can do for them.

We are looking forward to learning about more technology in the pipeline that can provide benefits to the health of our senior loved ones and all of us.