Nutritious Home Delivered Meals for Seniors & Our Take on a New Option

Senior hunger in the U.S. is a very real problem.

In 2014, three million seniors over 65 were victims of food insecurity, which means they did not have reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.

Seniors who live on their own, which is the goal of most, are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.

Too many older adults have limited access to transportation, feel they can’t afford nutritious food, have limited mobility to bring home food or prepare it once in the home and may be depressed as a result of loneliness or isolation all affecting how well they eat.

Being able to have healthy foods delivered right to their door could be the answer to their prayers.

Certainly there are home delivered meal services for seniors such as Meals on Wheels, but they are not available to all seniors and in some areas there may be a waiting list for services or seniors don’t like the foods provided.

These programs are important for many seniors, but what if they or family caregivers want a different option — or currently have no other option available where they live?

Home Delivered Meal Companies

In order to fill a void for seniors who want the convenience of complete meals with little prep other than reheating, companies are springing up to have chef prepared and healthy meals delivered to their door.

The choices, cost and quality of these meals varies widely, as with other products.

Seniors who are willing and able to pay the cost or long distance caregivers who would love to set up home delivered meals that they believe their seniors may actually eat would appreciate meals that were appetizing and easy to prepare, delivered when needed.

Prepared Meals Compare to Other Options

There are online grocery stores that deliver a variety of groceries to seniors and this is a great resource for many seniors. However, buying food and ingredients that need to be handled requires more effort to plan and prepare a meal for one person.

Purchasing and having delivered a full meal that is tasty and already prepared may be more appropriate for many aging in place seniors.

Many local home delivered meals services, such as Meals on Wheels, charge for the food they provide based on a sliding scale. SNAP benefits are beginning to cover the cost of home delivered meals but that money is limited and not enough seniors take advantage of that benefit so may not be receiving it when they could be eligible.

While most of the food is priced reasonably for many of the home delivered meals, cost is a consideration. Family caregivers at a distance may decide purchasing meals online gives them some peace of mind that is worth the expense.

There are a number of companies from which to choose when looking to order meals online or from local restaurants that deliver.

New Home Delivered Meal Offering

Recently we were given the opportunity to test nutritiously balanced meals prepared by a chef and designed by a doctor from a new company called Silver Cuisine by bistroMD. They provide prepared, frozen meals that require nothing more than reheating.

Silver Cuisine also has specialty diet offerings that are low in sodium, heart healthy, gluten-free or diabetic.

We were provided several Silver Cuisine meals by bistroMD for review purposes but received no compensation or conditions for our review. Our opinions about this particular product are our own.

The first step in receiving prepared meals at home is to go online to visit their website and pick a meal. How many meals, days of the week, etc. that you would like is up to you. You can get one meal or as many as you would like per shipment.

There were many, many meals (150 actually) from which to choose, with options such as beef, chicken, seafood, pork entrees, pasta, soup, and breakfast.

Our Taste Test and Findings

The meals from Silver Cuisine by bistroMD would be helpful for many of our senior loved ones who have small appetites because they are pre-portioned and their size is not overwhelming. We would anticipate little waste and no need for leftovers.silver bistro box

The cost of the meals were similar to buying from a restaurant or even other home delivered meal services you might find in your community. AARP members receive a 10% discount on all orders.

Shipping is free only for your first order and then will be added to your total. There are also weekly specials with discounted prices from which to choose. Family caregivers could help cover the cost to ensure their seniors are eating healthy foods every day.

The wide variety means seniors can try out different varieties that they might enjoy.

silver bistro coolerThe meals are packaged well, arrive frozen in dry ice and come right to the door. There are adequate instructions and a booklet comes with the shipment for more information.

The meals need to remain frozen (they can be put in the refrigerator overnight before use) and then microwaved for 2-5 minutes depending on the item, then it is ready to eat.

We found most of the meals to be tasty especially considering that they took little work to simply microwave them. We added salsa, ketchup and other of our favorite condiments on some of the meals, which further enhanced the flavor.

Everyone, after all, has specific taste considerations and preferences.

Seniors should find several of the varieties acceptable compared to other prepackaged items, especially considering the healthy options. The egg white omelet was plenty flavorful with the additional sauce over the top.

silver cuisine mealYour senior loved one will probably want to try different options, since everything may not be acceptable or liked by everyone.

Some of the meals we received we wouldn’t order again but others were very good and something we would welcome the chance to eat in the future.

The portion size of the meals would be enough for some seniors, however some may find the portions waning. They may need to add a dessert, slice of bread or even a salad to fill up if the portion is small for them.

Many of the meal choices are designed to help you and your senior loved one manage their health and stay on their doctor prescribed diet. Heart Healthy meals are less than 600 mg sodium and low in saturated fat. The Diabetic meals are portion controlled with about 25 grams of net carbohydrate per meal.

They also have gluten free diet options if you are looking for that modification.

Caregivers Can Help Provide Adequate Nutrition

Ordering meals and helping seniors who might be at risk of not getting adequate nutrition is one thing family caregivers, whether local or long distance, could do, especially now that there are so many options available to us all.

We like the concept and offerings from Silver Cuisine and feel it is an option many seniors and family caregivers will find attractive. As with any other product you might want for your senior, there are options, so you might want to check out other online delivery systems, look online at your senior’s favorite local restaurant, investigate online grocery delivery, and be open to out of the box ways to help your senior eat right.

Helping our seniors eat well can have far reaching impacts including health, strength, disease management and a sense of being cared for by those they love and who love them.

Facts About Family Caregivers – Who They Are and What They Need

Family caregivers are increasing in numbers across the country, providing essential services to older adults they love.

The need for them is increasing as well.

Are you a family caregiver too? You probably are if you provide care or service to a loved one who is aging or has a disability without receiving payment.

Well, no payment beyond that feeling you get when you’ve helped make life better for one about whom you care.

It doesn’t matter how small or large an action you feel you’re providing — buying groceries for a neighbor, helping your parent pay their bills, doing laundry or cleaning, giving hands on personal care, cooking, or living with your senior loved one and providing all their daily care.

You are a vital piece of that older adult’s life!

It is no surprise that the care family members provide would cost a staggering amount if it was provided by someone we pay! According to the AARP, in 2013 family caregivers provided the equivalent $470 billion in unpaid care.

Because this is such a huge issue for our country and to be sure we are supporting family caregivers as we should, Pew Research Center investigated this issue and has some data for us to delve into.

Pew Research Center Caregiver Findings

As part of National Family Caregivers Month, the Pew Research Center recently released their findings about the state of the nation’s caregivers.

Some of this data doesn’t appear to be new but, as always, Pew has laid it all out with even more in depth information about each of their key findings.

We will go over each section of the report so that we can understand where we are now, where we are heading and parlay that into some recommendations about what caregivers need to support them in the years ahead so that they can continue providing care.

Unpaid Family Caregivers

  • There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States.

The majority of family caregivers are providing care for their aging relative. This could be parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, spouse, sibling, neighbor or other relative.

The largest number of family caregivers are caring for one of their parents, according to this Pew report with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

70% of those providing care report helping one adult while 22% report caring for two adults.

Almost half of family caregivers have been providing care for two years or less but 15% have been doing it for more than 10 years.

What are they doing to help? The report indicates that they are helping with companionship, housework, medical care and personal care. This is not all as we know family caregivers are chauffeurs, chefs, advisors, appointment schedulers, tech troubleshooters, home repairmen (and women) and yard workers in addition to many more essential duties.

Family caregivers in this study provide care at minimum weekly but many give care daily.

What we also know is that many family caregivers are doing all these things while holding a full-time job (61% are employed, 50% work full-time) or caring for their own children or all of the above. Juggling all their duties can be difficult, stressful and allows no time to care for themselves.

Who Is The Caregiver?

  • Adults ages 45 to 64 are the most likely to be caregivers.

The report finds that 23% of caregivers caring for aging adults are 45-64 years old.

An interesting statistic that is certainly growing is that 17% of family caregivers are over 65 years. Of those caregivers over 65, 33% are caring for a friend or neighbor and 29% are caring for a spouse or partner.

What happens when older adult family caregivers burn themselves out and become too frail to be caregivers? Will they now need a caregiver?

What Are Family Caregivers Providing?

  • Most caregiving for aging parents is not in the form of financial support or personal care.

In the past year, 58% of family caregivers in this report helped with errands, housework or home repairs.

28% helped their aging loved ones financially. Those that help with money say that it was for a special circumstance or expenditure (50%) while others say it was an ongoing expense with which they assisted (43%).

14% say that they help with personal care items such as bathing or dressing. Women help with these tasks at a much greater rate than men.

As our loved ones age, family caregivers will be called upon to do more medical related care and will need more training in not just procedures, medication administration but dealing with aggressive behavior, depression and safety issues.

They will need more training to complete their caregiving tasks especially while juggling their personal duties.

Boosting Morale

  • Emotional support is a big part of caregiving.

Family caregivers, especially so for women, are providing more emotional support for their senior loved ones.

68% say they give emotional support sometimes while 33% say they give support frequently.

Family Caregivers Get Rewarded

  • Most adults who have helped an aging parent see it as rewarding; relatively few say it is stressful.

The stereotype is often that people who are family caregivers, especially when they are caring for their parents, are very stressed out and perhaps even burdened by their new role.

However, this is not supported by the findings in this report. In fact 88% reported stated that they found caregiving for a parent 65 or older to be rewarding.

Only 32% reported it to be stressful.

Only 8% of adults caring for aging parents felt that they were expected to do too much for their parents, more than they could handle. About 75% felt that what they were doing for their parents was the right amount of support for them to give.

Call to Action Takeaways

As our population ages, seniors are going to need more, not less, care in the future and people who will give them the care that they need will continue to be their family members. Few can afford to sustain paid caregiving and the government cannot either.

We have to find ways to support family caregivers so that they can continue to provide care without putting their own health at risk. If they aren’t able to do the caregiving, who will?

Family caregivers need:

  • Training not just in being a caregiver – providing care, transferring safely, conflict resolution, medical procedures, medication administration, technology, and a host of other tasks vital to caregivers, but also in stress management, personal care and health prevention.
  • Help with financial planning for themselves so that they don’t spend their own retirement money caring for their loved ones.
  • On the job support of their role as caregiver. They need employers to understand that they may need some flexibility due to responsibilities associated with caring for an older adult. They may need flex scheduling, paid time off or employee assistance for their own health.
  • Financial or tax incentives when they care for senior loved ones. They may have to cut back work hours, reduce pension savings, or quit jobs altogether to help at home.
  • Support from the healthcare team that cares for their seniors to give them resources, guidance and a listening ear when they need help.
  • A strong network to help them accomplish tasks of caregiving, be a friend and encourage them to care for themselves.
  • To be thanked occasionally for the good work they are doing!

We support you and strive to provide you with information to help you on your caregiving journey.

We also Thank You!

Caring for Home Medical Devices in Emergencies and Every Day

To many seniors, independent living still means a life dependent on medical devices.

To family caregivers, that means to keep them well we must ensure they and all those who care for them are capable of operating their medical devices properly.

That’s true every day, but especially during emergencies, such as a power outage.

Medical devices can be lifesaving, so keeping them in good working condition and powered up all the time is important for our senior loved ones.

Some seniors have to use more than one device, which could make it even more difficult to manage during a power outage.

Are you ready?

Home Medical Device

According to the Food and Drug Administration, a home medical device is any equipment intended for use, in any environment (not just a hospital), that can be used by any user with proper training for safety.

A medical device is equipment or a product that is used to diagnose and treat a condition or disease, or to cure or prevent disease.

Medical devices can be something simple, such as a tongue depressor, bedpan or hearing aid, all the way up to feeding pumps, CPAP machines, oxygen tanks and pacemakers — and many things in between.

Your senior may be using many different kinds of medical devices in their home to treat and prevent chronic conditions. Some of these may be basic but others that run using electricity can get complicated.

It is important to learn all you can about how the devices operate, using them safely, cleaning them, and keeping them in good working condition so they function well.

However, it is critical to take all the necessary steps to have an action plan ready to go in the case of power outages.

Loss of power can happen at any time day or night and doesn’t always happen during a storm. If someone hits a power pole in your senior’s neighborhood, they could lose power for some time. Utility equipment can also malfunction or some other unusual occurrence could mean a loss of power to a crucial medical device.

How will you and your senior react to it?

Using Home Medical Devices

Because they may use more than one device or a new device is being used or the durable medical equipment (DME) provider changes out a device for something different, it is important to stay informed about the devices your senior uses.

Does your senior have the instruction books for all their medical devices, especially those powered with electricity? These should be kept in a place that can be accessed in case of emergency and to troubleshoot in case they cease functioning properly.

Not only should they be handy, but someone should read them to be sure they are fully understood. There may be regular maintenance or other safety precautions that need to be taken for each medical device.

Some newer medical devices require internet connections so that health data can be transmitted to healthcare professionals for monitoring and treatment adjustments.

We all know how enjoyable reading owner’s manuals can be, but this device can mean the difference between health and real trouble for your senior loved one so we should know how they operate.

The following information should be available to everyone in the household who operates the equipment:

  1. Name of device manufacturer
  2. Who supplied the device – company, pharmacy, DME company, healthcare provider
  3. What supplies are needed for proper functioning such as tubing, filter, batteries, etc.
  4. Instructions for cleaning it thoroughly
  5. Directions to keep it fully charged in case of power outage if backup battery is included

Learning About Medical Devices

If your senior’s home medical devices require electricity to work, it is important to know a little bit about the devices and how they operate.

Be sure you and all caregivers (unpaid and paid) have read the instruction manual and operating information.

  • Will a power surge hurt the operations or even cause it to stop working?
  • Should the device be connected to a surge protector to prevent harm if there is an electric power surge?
  • Is there a backup power source and how long will it run the device if power is lost? Can it work with regular batteries? If so, what type and how many will be needed?
  • Can the medical device be connected to another source of power, such as a generator, without harming its function or safety?
  • What is the physical consequence if the medical device stops working? Should someone call 911 or can your senior wait a short time until it is repaired, replaced or re-powered?
  • If the medical device malfunctions, are there other supplies that are needed and are they in the home ready to use? 3 days of provisions should be kept on hand if supplies are needed.
  • Does everyone know what the alerts and messages mean and how to correctly resolve them for safe operation?
  • Who should be called and what is the contact number if there is a problem or question about proper functioning of your senior’s medical device? What if the device fails after working hours – what emergency number should be called?
  • Is there some type of special cleaning product needed to keep the device working correctly?
  • Is a refrigerator needed for the device or supplies in the case of power failure or a cooler with an adequate ice supply to keep the device components or medications at the proper temperature?
  • Is there a working flashlight in the home so that someone can manage the medical device in the dark in case of power outage?
  • What steps should be taken when the power goes out?
  • What steps should NOT be taken when the power goes out?
  • Does your senior or a home caregiver need instructions and training on the use of the device?
  • Is there access to a fully charged cellphone to call for help if needed?

Plan Ahead – Alert Officials

Seniors who require medical devices at home powered by electricity should alert the local utility company that they have devices that need to be powered. They can be sure to restore power as quickly as possible in the event of power failure when they know someone dependent on electricity for medical devices is in the area.

Caregivers should also alert the local first responders to the fact that there is a medical device in use in the neighborhood that requires power to operate. They will want to know in the event of an emergency or natural disaster so that they can be sure to check out the well-being of your senior.

In the case of extended power outage, prepare for your senior loved one to take shelter in the community or with family who have power so that their medical needs can be met.

Home medical devices are designed to improve not only the health of our senior loved ones but also their quality of life. For many they are life sustaining.

We all need to be ready to care for their equipment everyday but especially when a power outage threatens their well-being.

Holiday Gatherings – Successful Visits when Alzheimer’s Joins the Family

As families make plans to visit relatives for holiday festivities, understanding strategies about how to make the most out of visits with our senior loved ones who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is an important part of the planning.

Often we need a few strategies to make the most of family visits and holiday reunions.

These strategies will vary with the stage of the disease, early or more advanced.

Because Alzheimer’s disease affects so many older adults, this disease may be joining your family too, if it hasn’t already.

There are few families unaffected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Helping Family Members Cope

Learning all you can about the disease, its progression, what to expect at each stage along the journey and how to handle the duties of caregiving will help you but also help you make other family members understand the challenges of providing care.

During the holidays it is a good time to increase awareness of long distance family members and siblings who haven’t had to deal with the day to day tasks and even the many changes in your senior loved one.

Children and teens in the family should be informed about what to expect when they visit and how to handle situations that might arise. Children are usually empathetic and nurturing to seniors but if they can be prepared for their visit, they will be able to react more appropriately.

Have activities planned that children and teens can do to engage with the loved one with dementia. No one wants the kids to feel embarrassed to be with these older adults or afraid that they may have ‘made them worse’.

Tips for Visiting Persons with Dementia

Because family members want to visit as often as possible but may not have been able to for some time, they may be surprised at how quickly a person with dementia can change. Your senior loved one may not be the same as they were upon their last visit.

Helping each visiting family member and friend understand the changes and what to expect will help their visit be more enjoyable for everyone.

There are things that the primary family caregiver can do to help facilitate visits and holiday events when there is a person with dementia included in the fun.

Here are some suggestions for how to prepare not only the family but the situation to safeguard your senior loved one and help make the holidays a pleasant memory.

  1. Limit crowds – try to keep large gatherings to a minimum. Instead, opt for small group visits with 2-5 people only. Large crowds that are noisy can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. It is too hard to keep up with the questions, conversation and movement of a large group.
  2. Schedule rest breaks – be sure your senior loved one has a chance and a soothing place to take a break from the festivities. This might mean scheduling a nap and even asking guests to leave for nap time. Getting overtired and overstimulated can be a recipe for disaster, aggressive behavior and confusion for seniors with dementia.
  3. Keep the daily schedule close to everyday routine – whenever possible maintain your senior loved one’s schedule as near normal as usual. They should get up, eat meals, take baths and go to bed around the same time as usual. Disturbances in their normal pattern can also lead to behavior issues.
  4. Let people come to them, not forcing travel – for those with advanced dementia, their familiar environment is a better place to meet and greet family and friends. Invite a few over at a time and include a few for meals. Driving around to strange locations and not being able to wander around their own living environment can create confusion. Having a place to escape during a stimulating situation like holiday parties will help your senior with dementia.
  5. Let everyone know recent changes and what might be expected – behavior, memory, might not recognize them, repetitive questions, aggression, swearing, or sundowning. Explain about conversing with your senior loved one, avoid conflict and confrontation. Tell them to enter their reality and don’t correct their story telling, join in with them instead. Some people may not be happy that their senior loved one can’t remember them and would be better off being prepared.
  6. Observe for signs of overstimulation – when the crowd and the conversation gets too hard to handle for your senior loved one, it’s probably time for an exit strategy.
  7. Involve the loved one with dementia in activity – have enough to do to keep them occupied, be sure the activities are appropriate for their abilities to avoid frustration.
  8. Reminisce and recreate pleasant memories of holidays from the past – serve familiar foods, play music they enjoy, bring out decorations from their past, show family photos or play family friendly games to strike memories and allow for reminiscing.
  9. Tell family which gifts are appropriate and desired – in addition, don’t hesitate to ask for items that will help you as a caregiver throughout the upcoming year.
  10. Ask for respite during the holidays so caregivers can rest or do things during the holiday season that they enjoy away from the loved one with dementia; for example, can someone sit with your senior while you take a needed break, clean gutters, hang outside decorations, rake leaves, or clean windows at some point during their visit because you simply can’t do those type of jobs while caregiving. Maybe they can hire a weekly housekeeper so that you can spend time caring for yourself or just being with your senior loved one without worry about laundry or vacuuming.
  11. Include their favorite holiday music in the events, don’t just play today’s hits. Do members of the family play musical instruments? Did your senior play an instrument that you can offer for fun?
  12. Prepare for any traveling that you and the person with dementia will do during the season – if you have to travel or wish to, plan ahead for obstacles and prepare the way ahead to make the trip as easy as it can be for everyone who goes including the person with dementia.

Make Holidays Special for All

Most families are happy to learn about and do whatever they can to make the holidays special for their senior loved ones, especially family caregivers.

So many sandwich generation adults are spending time, not just during the holidays but all through the year, caring for their senior loved ones who need them to take on the role of caregiver.

Instead of spending time with friends, children and grandchildren, or traveling, they are caring for someone with dementia. Naturally they are happy to do it because their family members have given so much to them over the years and now they can give back.

However, it takes a little know how to achieve a reduced stress holiday that is enjoyable for everyone in the family when Alzheimer’s and dementia join the family dynamic.

Can a Technology Solution Help Seniors Prevent Dehydration?

Technology can provide our seniors with so many great benefits that can help them age in place and maintain their independence.

More and more applications for technology are being developed, with many having real potential to improve the health and wellness of our seniors, often lightening the load for family caregivers.

Recently we spotted a new tech innovation that could help our seniors recognize hydration through their skin.

The future for wearable technology is promising and now includes automatic body monitors that can read our hydration status using sensors in the band. Well, these are just becoming ready for use.

Another device that might help alert seniors when they are getting dehydrated is a skin hydration sensing sticker.

You may be asking . . . is dehydration really that great a problem for seniors that they need technology to help solve it?

Dehydration in Seniors

We hear that term often but do we all really understand what it means and how it can greatly it can affect our seniors?

Dehydration is actually a physical result of consuming less fluid than the body requires for proper functioning.

Our bodies naturally lose water each day through breathing, sweating, urination and bowel movements. Certain other physical conditions can increase our need for water, such as vomiting, diarrhea or wounds.

We need to replace all the fluid that we lose each day. When we don’t our bodies get unbalanced.

The physical symptoms of dehydration range from minor to severe and include:

  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Increased thirst
  • Weakness
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Reduced urination
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Death

Sometimes you can spot dehydration through the color of your senior’s urine, especially if it changes to become a deeper, more concentrated color such as deep yellow or amber.

New Skin Sensing Technology

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are testing an electronic devices that will allow wireless data transmission and storage for different applications, including medical identifiers in a wearable form.

One of their wearables is designed to continuously collect and transmit data from the body.

They are partnering with L’Oréal USA, a cosmetic company, as they try to understand the skin. They are investigating what makes the skin healthy as well as beautiful.

Their wearable device measures changes in the temperature of the skin caused by changes in the blood flow but doesn’t change the condition of the skin itself.

This data can be tracked over time, just like fitness data from wearables to monitor skin health.

Another measurement is skin hydration. It can help to determine when lotions or emollients would benefit the skin.

Patents are forthcoming and the device could be available as soon as next year. The sensors are expected to be low in cost and are made to be worn on any part of the skin and are the size of a dime. Similar to other wearables, the data is synced by Bluetooth to devices such as a smartphone.

Because this particular sensor is flexible, unlike bands, they are more accurate at measuring the skin.

Despite the fact that these wearables are being tested to determine if lotions are impacting skin health, older adults can certainly use this information to determine if they are at risk for dehydration. Unhealthy skin in need of hydration begins from within.

Researchers see a future when these flexible sensors can perform a variety of medical measurements, including vital signs, and even measure brain waves.

Treating Dehydration Now

While these tech innovations sound like they will solve many medical problems for monitoring not only our senior loved ones but people of all ages, they aren’t ready yet.

Until they are ready, we are going to have to be observant to signs of dehydration in our seniors now and take steps to prevent or treat dehydration.

Family caregivers’ interventions should include:

  1. Encouraging seniors to drink more fluids, drinking smaller amounts more frequently
  2. Having seniors take a drink every time they use the bathroom (replacement principle)
  3. Keeping fluids within reach so they don’t have to seek them out
  4. Giving foods that are good sources of fluids, such as melons, popsicles, soup, gelatin
  5. Supplementing with special fluids, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade, when dehydration is a concern
  6. Using a straw if fluid is better tolerated without spilling
  7. Avoiding excessive activity (reduce sweating)
  8. Wearing light clothing
  9. Avoiding sun exposure at peak hours of day
  10. Reviewing medications to be sure none are contributing to dehydration
  11. Don’t rely on thirst in seniors, monitor how much fluid is taken each day and encourage adequate amounts
  12. Checking color of urine –pale straw color or clear is the goal
  13. Reducing caffeine or alcohol as they can contribute to inadequate hydration
  14. Not letting a fear of incontinence or falling in the bathroom lead to lack of fluid intake

Physical Considerations for Adequate Hydration

It is interesting to learn that, as we age, our total body water content declines. A man can drop from 60% to 52% and a woman from 52% to 46% in body water with age. What that means is that someone who is over 60 has less water to lose before they become dehydrated.

It is even more important to be sure your senior loved one gets enough to drink and avoids exertion or heat.

When your senior is ill with vomiting, diarrhea or other illness, it is very important to replace any fluid losses to prevent dehydration that can make their illness even worse perhaps resulting in a hospital stay.

It has been found that older adults who don’t drink enough liquid not only become dehydrated, they also have a greater risk of constipation, urinary tract infection, respiratory tract infection, kidney stones and medicine toxicity. Being dehydrated can also increase falls, falls with injury and the need to recuperate in a rehab facility.

A glass of water seems like such a simple thing that has the power to keep our seniors independent with an improved quality of life.

It’s a habit worth developing!

It’s Not Too Late to Be A Quitter – Great American Smokeout

Time again for the Great American Smokeout!

This annual event presented by the American Cancer Society happens on November 19.

Will your senior (or you) ‘Quit Like a Champion’ this year?

It is amazing that almost 42 million people in the United States still smoke when so many places have become smoke free.

Can you believe it has been 25 years since we stopped smoking in airplanes? It has also been a year since CVS Caremark stopped selling tobacco.

Not only is smoking inconvenient and costly, smoking is also the single most preventable cause of disease and death in the US!

Those are pretty convincing reasons to finally stop smoking this year.

It’s not too late for our seniors’ health to benefit from smoking cessation!

Smoking Is Risky Behavior

The dangers are clear and we have known for many years the harmful effect smoking has on our overall health.

It is estimated that half of those people who smoke will die because of smoking. However, even if a person over 80 quits smoking he will live a healthier life with immediate health benefits.

The American Cancer Society found that almost half (48.5%) of the deaths from 12 different types of cancer can be linked to cigarette smoking.

Second hand smoke can be dangerous to those around you who never smoked but whose health is negatively impacted.  Second hand smoke causes 41,000 deaths a year. In fact, even short term exposure to second hand smoke can result in increased risk of heart attack.

It is also especially harmful for children, which should be of particular concern to grandparents.

Kids who start using e-cigarettes are six times more likely to adopt conventional cigarettes and also were less likely to quit either, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

It is admittedly easier to never start than it is to quit.

Quitting After 50

Our senior loved ones struggle with smoking cessation for a variety of reasons.

Many feel the effort won’t be worth the benefits but research tells us that the benefits will be felt within 20 minutes of the last cigarette, when your senior’s blood pressure and heart rate drop.

Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in their blood returns to normal. In 2 weeks, both circulation and lung function will improve. Breathing will be easier, doing daily tasks are easier and they will feel better.

Then there is the fresh breath!

Your senior might also find that they are able to taste their food now. That is a definite plus!

Quitting will not only lower your senior’s risk for developing a variety of cancers, including lung cancer, but it will lower risks for heart attack, stroke and lung disease.

Many people over 50 may be hesitant to quit now because they have tried before and failed. Also, the habit of smoking for so many years may be so overwhelming that it stops them in their tracks.

Strategies for Quitting

There are strategies that can help your senior loved one be a champion quitter now!

  • Medications – shown to double the success in quitting. There are 7 different over-the-counter or prescription medications that can help ease symptoms to help quit including nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, nasal sprays, and Chantix or Zyban. Talk these options over with your senior’s doctor.
  • Cessation Classes – attending a class in the area will help support quitting goals with face to face help and information. There is also an online cessation program offered by the American Lung Association called Freedom From Smoking
  • Toll-free Information Line – you can call to get more information that will help your senior create a quitting plan at 1-800-LUNGUSA.
  • Apps – there are a multitude of apps for smartphones or tablets that seniors can use to help them be successful at cessation. The apps have numerous functions that assist a person such as texts, alerts, information, support, tracking cigarette savings, help you make a plan, manage other health behaviors such as activity and healthy eating, chat live online, manage cravings and moods, and even more help. There are several available including, Quit For Life, Livestrong MyQuit Coaching, Quit Smoking, Quit Now! that you can check out.
  • Counseling – seek out advice from someone who can support this change, whether it is a health care provider, support group, former smokers, or health insurer.
  • Electronic cigarettes – this is not recommended, although some anecdotal comments say it can help break the habit. Beware that some of these e-cigarettes can be harmful.

Caregiver Role

Caregivers can help their senior loved ones become Champions and quit to win!

  1. If you are yourself a smoker, join your senior in the fight to quit. Don’t let them do it alone! You can be more than a supportive person for them in their quitting plan by being a good role model too.
  2. You can be a cheerleader if you don’t smoke now to help your senior stick to their plan and be successful this time around.
  3. Caregivers can help set up the technology needed to connect with smoking cessation apps. Teach them to use them and reinforce the importance of connecting with them daily. You may need to re-train them along the way for them to get the maximum benefit from one of these apps.
  4. Can you help them find a smoking cessation class or support group in their area and see to it that they can take advantage of the program with transportation or reminders?
  5. Do you know a former smoker who can guide your senior loved one on their quitting journey?
  6. Help your senior with their medication options if needed by talking with the doctor with them about all the possibilities and help them use them appropriately.
  7. Bring your senior items that are healthy and could help them replace the cigarette in their mouth, such as sugar free gum, carrot sticks or sunflower seeds.
  8. If they are struggling, help them by providing emotional support, a walking buddy or someone to call when the urge to smoke strikes.
  9. Help them avoid places where smoking is happening or where they might want to smoke.
  10. Keep them active!

Every smoker can quit with a commitment, good plan and support — no matter their age.

Your senior (and you) can become a champion too!

Mindfully Adopting Eating Well Into Diabetes Control for Diabetes Month

Diabetes is a disease that is growing rapidly, with more Americans affected each day.

That makes Diabetes Month one of the most important ‘awareness’ months for our health and wellness.

In addition to this month’s awareness efforts, this year we mark the 75th Anniversary of the American Diabetes Association.

Spreading the word about preventing the development of diabetes in our senior loved ones, getting tested because millions are unaware of their status, and taking charge of controlling diabetes for maximum health are all vitally important.

Currently, almost 30 million people have diabetes in the United States. That’s nearly 10% of us!

86 million more have prediabetes, which could become type 2 diabetes if not controlled. More could have diabetes but are not yet diagnosed.

In 2012, 8.1 million people were undiagnosed.

Someone new is diagnosed with diabetes every 19 seconds.

Serious Concern for Family Caregivers

Seniors over 65 are a group who are affected in great numbers – almost 26%, or about 12 million, of those who have diabetes are seniors.

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death.

Got your attention?

We found a great infographic on diabetes basis from the CDC, which you can find here.

Act Against Diabetes

The theme this year is “Eat Well, America!”

We love to eat! Eating is social activity, not just a physical or biological activity.

Eating doesn’t just fill our bellies and nourish our bodies, it also nurtures our quality of life by inviting us to savor our food with all our senses – vision, smell, taste and touch.

It can be a pleasurable experience to share a good meal with family and friends.

Eating is also the foundation of our wellness, especially surrounding diabetes care. We need a good foundation of eating to prevent or control diabetes.

Eating well for diabetes management doesn’t mean that we have to give up eating as a source of pleasure in our lives. We just have to learn to merge eating well with enjoying the food we love to achieve sustainable action.

Eating Well

Sometimes eating well is more than picking the ‘right’ foods that are allowed on your senior loved one’s diabetic diet.

When your senior is trying to manage diabetes or prediabetes so it doesn’t progress into something more, it is important to understand the feelings associated with eating, not just the act of eating.

Most people with diabetes should be following a healthy eating plan with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and less sugar, fat and salt.

Eating the right foods is important for their health, even more so than typical because of their diabetes.

Eating right includes eating well, which encompasses how we approach the food we eat. Savoring it, being aware of it in a mindful way is one approach which brings together the body and the mind.

Have you ever heard about mindful eating?

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is when you are in charge of your eating, you are present and attentive in the moment of eating. You begin to listen to what you want, how much you want, and when you want to eat staying in control.

One study found that adopting a mindful eating approach helped people with type 2 diabetes improve their health. They were able to make better food choices and even lose weight eating more appropriate portion sizes, resulting in a lower A1C.

These are key questions in becoming mindful when eating:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I sitting down to eat?
  • Is this the food I desire or is it just handy? Am I eating what I like?
  • Do I look at the food or smell it before tasting it?
  • How does this taste to me? Do I like it?
  • Am I chewing it slowly or quickly?
  • Do I really want to eat or am I doing it because I’m bored, sad, lonely or tired?
  • Am I eating because everyone else is doing so or am I really hungry?
  • If I eat this now, do I have to change something later, such as a smaller meal or more activity? Is that particular food or meal worth it?
  • Am I eating too quickly or savoring every bite, taking time to listen to the body’s fullness cues? It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain one is full.
  • Do I ever put my fork down during the meal to enjoy the company of the other diners or to slow down?
  • Do i need that snack or will something else satisfy that yearning I feel?
  • Am I limiting distractions such as the TV or technology devices.

Mindful About More Than Eating

And it isn’t just about eating. We can be mindful about other health behaviors that impact our seniors’ diabetes control, such as getting more physically activity, losing weight and following the medical treatment plan by testing blood sugar and taking medications.

We become the drivers of our health by understanding how the choices we mindfully make affect our diabetes control and overall health.

This requires your senior to learn about diet and other parts of their treatment plan so that they can make the best choices for themselves in the moment that presents itself.

Some research suggests that in the course of a day we make over 200 food related decisions. That is a lot of thinking to do!

Learn About the Right Foods

Understanding the foods that make up a healthy meal for someone with diabetes is an important step to health.

Each type of food contributes to our overall wellness, especially with diabetes, so it is a good idea to learn about the foods that fit, plan what you will eat, purchase the foods that fit into the plan so they are available, prepare the foods in recipes you will enjoy, and serve them in an appealing manner.

Eating right to control diabetes is something that requires thought, planning and mindfulness.

You and your senior can attend a diabetes self-management class in their area that can help everyone learn which foods fit and other topics for controlling diabetes. Ask their doctor for a referral. Learning about diabetes management is a benefit under Medicare of which too few seniors take advantage.

It is important for us all to learn how to be in charge of our blood sugar to prevent prediabetes and diabetes from ruining our quality of life.

Living with diabetes can be challenging, especially for older adults, but being informed and aware of choices can make a difference in how we choose to live.

Let’s all Eat Well to Live Well this month and all year long!

Achieve Successful Aging in Place With a Little Help from Friends

Independently aging in place while living in the home of their choice is the stated preference of adults in all age groups in survey after survey.

Saying that’s what seniors want is a no-brainer.

What’s also desired is to be able to do what they want, enjoy the company of friends and family, and feel fulfilled.

Nobody wants to be a burden to anyone else. Instead, their desire is to have enough money to meet needs and keep from worrying about paying the bills each month.

In order to help our senior loved ones make those dreams a reality, family caregivers may need to make some plans with and sometimes even for them.

The Census Bureau estimates the number of seniors living in their own home by 2030 could be 68 million!

Our senior loved ones might need a little help to stay in their forever homes!

Seniors Help Seniors Stay Home

Seniors can be important in helping other seniors remain in the home of their choice in the community of their choosing. In doing so, they often help themselves as well.

While independent, most want to stay socially engaged. They also want to be in control of what happens in their environment and maintain their freedom.

There is one community, called Capitol Hill Village in Washington, that formed to achieve this goal. A group of seniors joined together to be each other’s support.

They volunteer to do what needs doing for each other, including transportation, home maintenance or repair, socialization such as book clubs and outings, gardening, and friendships.

They give each other assistance in areas where they have life skills such as handyman help or tech support. They call on each other before they outsource the job.

Sometimes It Takes a Village

Not only do they get help on a task that might be more than each could handle or afford on their own, but they also get the opportunity to help others giving them their own fulfillment — all while being able to live independently.

This is just one example of community dwelling seniors who are leaning on each other in order to successfully age in place.

Another way many seniors help their peers is by volunteering to help homebound seniors by performing tasks such as delivering meals and checking up on them as part of an organized program like Meals on Wheels.

Seniors living in NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) across the country band together to offer help. It is estimated that 27% of seniors currently live in a NORC. They can lend a hand with referrals for services, providing maintenance, teaching a skill, giving transportation, and socializing.

They organize themselves in their village.

Staying Home Means Renovation

For many seniors, having a support network of friends, such as in the villages and NORCs, isn’t quite enough.

They will need home renovations and remodeling in order to stay in their homes, work that even they and their friends can’t accomplish on their own.

It’s often a good idea for family caregivers to help senior loved ones think ahead for future needs in a home that might need repairs, modifications in hallway or doorway size, updated appliances, step in showers, ramps and handrails at entryways, better lighting, and more safety features.

If your senior needs to remodel their home in order to make it accessible as they age and their mobility becomes a concern, it might be a good time to consider what technology innovations can be installed such as connected home features could be done at the same time.

Family Support for Home Improvements

Family caregivers may be the one responsible for home improvements to facilitate aging in place for their senior loved one.

A recent aging in place report published by Home Advisor indicates that more than one half of home renovations for aging-related items is done by people younger than 65 and 10% are younger than 50. They estimate that 70% of home remodeling involves aging-related improvements. Often the daughter is the one who contacts the contractor.

When the renovations are done, more than half request home automation, such as security and thermostats. 14% add assistive technology for ease of use, such as automatic drop down kitchen shelving for easy reach, and 10% install in-home health monitoring including fall monitoring.

It may be necessary for family caregivers and seniors to find home remodelers that can provide the necessary aging in place resources and knowledge. The report states that two thirds of the professionals don’t know the term ‘universal design’ and 72% don’t have materials related to aging in place improvements.

The most popular projects include installing grab bars and ramps or adding a personal alert system but there is so much more than can be done to help seniors live independently and safely!

Communicating to Stay Connected

One concern for family caregivers when their seniors are aging in place and living alone is isolation. Caregivers fear that their seniors are cut off from others and may not be getting the socialization that will improve their health and quality of life.

One way to help our seniors be connected with others in their community and across the country (even the world) is connecting them to social media technology.

Online communication with family, friends and new acquaintances with common interests through social media benefits our seniors.

It isn’t just about chatting or staying up on all the family news, but social media connections can also aid our seniors with valuable information in case of an emergency. They can get updates, shelter information, and safety precautions to help them weather the storm.

Seniors can also use social networking to reach out for help. In an emergency, a neighbor found and connected through social media may be the best person to help seniors in need.

Meeting Through Social Networking

Pew Research in 2010, reported that only 28% of us know a single neighbor by name. That can be changed through social media, at least as a first step. Seniors can find neighbors through community sponsored social media sites and connect with public safety agencies.

Technology can be so much more than keeping their Facebook wall pictures up to date!

Family caregivers can help seniors age in place by helping them find the right housing location, updating their dwelling to include universal design projects with important technology innovations and setting them up with social media.

Staying connected on all levels, physically and socially, is a goal we all share — not just for our senior loved ones but for ourselves!

Connected Seniors – Proving the Web is a Destination for All Ages

We believe there are great benefits for our senior loved ones who get more connected with technology.

Many have done just that and are using the internet and the latest tech devices to find information, connect with people, view family photos, get coupons, travel, offer expertise in specific communities, volunteer, and stay mentally engaged as they socialize.

Family caregivers want their seniors to get connected, as many boomers have already done. They know that their senior loved ones can improve their mental health, reduce their isolation and hopefully avoid depression by engaging online.

There are benefits in being more involved with family members and friends who may be at a distance. Building a peer network online via social media can be uplifting for many seniors.

Learning something new, interacting with their community, even participating in the senior center remotely via the internet can really add some joy to their day!

Knowing how today’s boomers currently interact online so that family caregivers can mirror some of their success will help guide us when we try to get our own senior started.

Boomers Going Online

Many people feel technology adoption is largely for the younger generation. One poll (Fifty Plus Booms Online) conducted by McAfee security in 2013 of current internet users reported that those over 50 were spending, on average, five hours and forty two minutes a day on the internet. Surprisingly, of that group, those 62-75 spent four hours and thirty six minutes online.

No, it’s not just for the young!

The Pew Research Institute found that 47% of seniors have broadband at home.

Another study, conducted in 2013 by Ipsos and Google, found that seniors over 65 spent only 30 more minutes watching TV than they spent online. Boomers actually spent more time on the web than TV time.

What are they doing when they spend so much time online?

  • Online banking: 8 in 10 accessed their bank account, 75% paid bills online
  • Shopping: 9 in 10 bought something online, to the tune of $7 billion
  • Couponing: Groupon was used by 35% of those 55+, compared to 43% of 35-54 year olds as of October 2014, 40% search online for coupons
  • Information: 2/3 of seniors got news and weather on the internet
  • Twitter: 1 in 5 twitter users are over 50
  • Social media: 1 in 3 online seniors use social media
  • Facebook: 49% of online seniors have a Facebook account
  • Travel: Seniors comprise 70% of online spending for luxury travel, 8 in 10 older users plan and book travel online
  • Accessing health information
  • Watching TV and videos
  • Video chat with Skype or FaceTime
  • Writing blogs or books

The boomers who were asked reported experiencing increased comfort doing these activities online, which is good to know since many older adults feel that security is a great barrier to online connections.

Security Online

Because so many boomers (45-64) and seniors (65+) are going online for a variety of reasons, security is a concern especially for their family caregivers.

  • What are they doing?
  • With whom are they connecting?
  • Are they giving out private information or money?
  • Are they oversharing?

Facebook is the most popular social media site for seniors. Unfortunately, this opens them up to the opportunity to overshare, which could put them at risk for becoming victims.

Identity theft and fraud are real concerns, especially for our seniors who may be inadvertently oversharing personal information on the web on a daily basis.

Two out of three seniors surveyed admitted to sharing their contact information on social media. A third said they were comfortable sharing personal photos or personal data, including information about their significant others.

Also, half of seniors used an online dating site where they gave detailed personal information.

Trust in the sites they seek to provide them information varies among seniors. They tend not to trust pharmaceutical companies about drug information or health information but will readily seek out WebMD for their medical information. If a doctor recommends a pharma website, 6 in 10 seniors will then seek it.

How They Access the Web

There may be differences between seniors and younger internet users, not with what they do and the important benefits they reap from using the internet, but simply with the devices they use to access it.

Younger adults are using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, more often than seniors. Seniors in the poll reported predominantly using either a desktop computer or laptop computer to do their online surfing.

Devices those over 50 were using:

  1. 53% used a desktop
  2. 35% used Laptops
  3. 6% used tablets
  4. 4% used smartphones

Tablets Versus Laptops

For many seniors who want to begin using the internet or taking advantage of even more than they have so far, using a tablet might be a way to encourage their internet use.

Many seniors find they have barriers to using a computer, including vision, dexterity, and overall ease of use.

Tablets can help because they are easier to navigate using large icons. Seniors can touch the screen to open apps. Better yet they don’t have to deal with a mouse, which can be confusing.

Some seniors may find it confusing to use a mouse, right clicking or double clicking can be frustrating. A computer often requires multiple steps to turn on, get connected, open apps or files and use. A tablet is much more straightforward to use.

And don’t underestimate the importance of portability. A tablet is much easier to carry and hold than a laptop computer due to weight and size.

Using a tablet with arthritic fingers or trembling hands is a bit easier than trying to manipulate a smartphone or a computer mouse for many seniors.

If family caregivers help to select and set up apps that are of interest to a senior loved one, show them how to use the apps and are there for troubleshooting support, a senior has been shown to feel more comfortable using a tablet and is more likely to be consistent using the internet.

Seniors Who Need a Helping Hand

The definition of aging, who is a boomer or a senior, is changing.

Gone are (or should be) the stereotypes that seniors aren’t interested in tech or find it incomprehensible.

Seniors and boomers are active – mentally and physically — for the most part. Unfortunately, not all are and family caregivers are bridging the gap for those seniors who need more support to gain benefits from technology and the internet.

Each older person is an individual with different talents and needs. Many boomers are already there, but many seniors are not and those are the ones who need help to navigate the digital world, set up their tech for them and teach them how to use it.

We applaud those boomers who worked with technology, feel it is a part of their daily life, and find themselves unable to imagine what it would be without their devices in the same way millennials do.

But we can’t overlook the many seniors who are yet unconnected to technology but could be getting benefits for their health and quality of life as they strive to live independently.

Helping them get there is a great role for family caregivers!