Is It Springtime Yet? Creating Warm Weather Indoor Activities with Seniors

Many of us were filled with expectations that we were going to have a mild winter, with primarily rain in most parts of the country.

Little snowfall was to come and envelope us in the winter spirit.

A mild winter leaves us all wondering when spring might arrive because we are just itching to get to more warm weather activities.

Oops, not this year!

Most of us got socked with some winter weather and colder temperatures.

Some of us already had spring bulbs breaking their flower heads up through the ground. They were trying to speed up the springtime too!

Family caregivers who need some spring sunshine to brighten their day can bring a little springtime into their lives with a few new activities.

Springtime Activities

Springtime evokes memories of warmer weather and things we used to do when we were young.

Our senior loved ones have these special memories of growing up and raising a family too and associate them with changing seasons.

Spring is a season connected with many happy and fun activities.

Here are some activities that many of us enjoy and relate to springtime:

  • planting and picking flowers
  • getting a garden started
  • working in the yard
  • taking a walk through nature
  • walking in a rain shower under an umbrella
  • fishing
  • going on a picnic
  • flying a kite
  • picking berries
  • sitting in the sunshine

There are many of these activities that we can recreate in the house especially for senior loved ones with mobility issues, even though it is not yet spring.

Crafting and other activities in the house are good times for multi-generations to spend time together and reminisce about the past.

My granddaughter, who lives in another state, makes me a picnic from her bedroom kitchen and we share the meal and fun over Facetime a few days a week. She is really going to be excited the next time she visits grandma and I have a real picnic basket ready to go to the park and enjoy!

At Home Projects for Springtime

There are many things we can do at home with our senior loved ones (and grandkids) if we want to bring a little spring into all our lives.

The idea of these activities is not to end up with a masterpiece but to open a dialogue with your senior, include other members of the family, reminisce, share experiences and alleviate boredom.

1. Create Some Springtime Indoors

We can bring some flowering shrub branches in from the yard and force them to flower in the house by putting them into a flower vase. Forsythia or honeysuckle will flower in about 2 weeks. Don’t put these branches in direct sunlight until bloomed.

The flowers your senior watches bloom will bring them spring joy as they wait for winter to end.

2. Plan Your Spring Garden

Involve your senior in planting the garden. Begin planning it, talking about what flowers or vegetables would grow well, what type of seeds would be needed, how many plants should you plant in your space, what they grew when they had a garden, looking at seed catalogs, how did they control weeds, and other experiences they had with the garden are great talking points.

Let them draw out a plan if they can or look through gardening books you have already or borrow from the library.

You can begin with a few pots of plant soil and seeds and begin to grow some plants together indoors. It will give them something to care for by watering and watching them growth. Perhaps some herbs or a seed that grows quickly like sunflower would be a good choice to start. Use the bottom of a water bottle to hold the dirt, they can decorate it too.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.

3. Take a Walk in Nature

If the weather cooperates and they are able, take a nature walk, even if it is just in your yard or neighborhood.

Pick up leaves, acorns, rocks, moss or other things you find. Bring those home and use them for craft projects. Talk about the trees in the area, the birds in the trees, the feeling of the moss or anything related to your walk. Listen to music that has birds singing or water rippling to evoke the memories of nature. Make a frame or a wreath with some of your finds.

Use the items you find for tactile sensory stimulation activities.

4. Make a Bird Feeder

Make a feeder for the birds who will soon return to the yard using simple household items, such as a toilet paper roll covered in peanut butter and rolled in sunflower seeds. Hang this with a ribbon or twine in a tree that can be seen from a window and watch as the birds or squirrels enjoy the food.

Talk about the type of birds they see or their favorite songbird.

5. Recreate a Fishing Trip Indoors

Springtime, when the weather warms up, is for many a fun time to go fishing. Can you recreate a fishing game using an old tub and some homemade fish? Construction paper with a little artwork work well to make fish. Pull out a well-loved fishing pole with a red and white sinker and use magnets to catch the fish in the tub.

Talk about their epic fishing trips. Where in the country did they fish? Where would they like to travel to go fishing? Who accompanied them on the fishing trip? Are there family pictures showing a great catch? Did they eat the fish they caught? How did they cook their fish? Can you cook up a fish dinner with one of their favorite recipes? Who would they invite to dinner now?

6. Time for an Indoor Picnic

Make a picnic in the living room. Let them help gather a picnic blanket, some cheerful plates and utensils. Have them plan a menu and help prepare the foods you will serve at the picnic. There are so many options here with pick up foods, sandwiches, cupcakes, pickles and beverages that can open up many avenues of discussion.

Where was their favorite spot to have a picnic? Did they have a picnic basket they enjoyed filling? Do they still have it and can you pack it up for your living room picnic? Who did they share their picnic with in the past or who would they invite now?

Can you call a grandchild on your smartphone and invite them to come virtually? Do they have photos in an album of picnics?

7. Go Fly a Kite

Who doesn’t love to fly a kite in a brisk breeze?

Together you can build a kite from a store or make one at home with tissue paper and an old sheet for a tail. Talk about what it takes to build a kite or get it flying. Wind helps it fly, what does the wind feel like in their face? Who can help them get it off the ground?

Where is the best place to fly a kite? What color is their favorite for a kite? How long should the string be to get up high in the clouds?

8. Go Berry Picking

Do you have a berry picking farm near you? If so, when are the strawberries and blueberries ready to pick? Can you take your senior to the berry patch and pick some?

What would they like to make with the berries they pick? If you can’t pick berries yet, maybe you can buy some from the grocery (fresh or frozen) and together make a special berry recipe like a pie, muffins or a milkshake. What is their favorite berry or pie recipe?

Did they grow berries in their garden? Would they like to plant a blueberry bush?

9. Enjoy the Sun

Sit back and enjoy the sun coming in the window. Maybe you can get a folding chair and sit on the lawn or a blanket.

If you have a porch, can you spend an hour with a refreshing spring beverage like mint tea or lemonade sitting with your face in the sun. Breathe in the fresh air and listen to some fun music or just listen to the birds and the bees buzz.

What are their fondest memories of sitting in the sun on the porch? Did they have a favorite chair or a favorite drink?

The joy is being in the moment with your senior loved one no matter what you choose to do.

Create Special Times in Any Season

Try to take the time to share special times and relive memories of their life.

When they tell you their stories in these unguarded times, they are memories that you will cherish.

You may hear something you never knew about your senior loved one!

It doesn’t take a lot of time, effort or money to bring springtime activities and memories of a simpler time home but will return riches to you and your family.

When a Senior Wants to ‘Go Home’ – What’s a Family Caregiver to Do?

I want to go home.”

It can be heart wrenching when a family caregiver hears their senior loved one say that.

Sometimes you are out at the doctor or running errands, maybe you are visiting them in a senior facility.

They could be in their own home where you give them daily care.

It doesn’t matter where you may be when they utter these words, but most caregivers feel as though they are failing at being a caregiver when they hear them.

Family caregivers want to feel successful when providing care for their seniors. Family caregivers may need reminders to understand that senior’s confusion about place is common especially for seniors who have a cognitive impairment.

What Makes Caregivers Feel Successful?

Caregivers can feel successful in their role only when certain expectations are met whether by them or through others that help them care for their senior loved ones.

  1. Seniors are safe. They have not fallen, injured themselves or wandered the streets alone recently. The safety interventions they have put in place such as sensors, PERS, or companions have kept their seniors safe from harm.
  2. Seniors are healthy. Caregivers make sure their loved ones take their medicine, visit the doctor, eat healthy food, get some physical activity or keep up with their health prevention schedule, including vaccinations. They are free from illness.
  3. Seniors have not been in the emergency room or the hospital in the past six to twelve months. Family caregivers are overseeing their health and wellness regimen and their safety to prevent health crisis in their senior adults. Caregivers are helping seniors manage their chronic diseases and helping them follow their treatment plans.
  4. Seniors are content. The hope is that seniors will interact with family members, friends and their community to stay socially engaged and free from isolation. Sometimes this is the hardest goal to achieve when the duties of caregiving are overwhelming. Making time for socialization and utilizing technology to keep seniors stimulated can help keep them content.
  5. Seniors are occupied with meaningful activities. Caregivers are frequently challenged by keeping their seniors active with things they enjoy doing and activities that they are still capable of completing without frustration. Doing hobbies, crafts and enjoying music not only passes the day but keeps their minds stimulated preventing boredom and depression.

What Keeps Seniors Content?

We know not every day is a good day and we have peaks and valleys in the course of the week when we are family caregivers.

Few family caregivers have an easy day every day and love what they are doing at all times, but the good outweighs the bad. They know there is purpose and importance to their role.

Not every senior is happy with their current life, even if they are content. Seniors with cognitive impairment are confused and may appear unhappy, related to the progression of their disease.

Some seniors, especially those who may have dementia, may not be able to understand their own emotions or express them to caregivers. We need to look for other signs of discontent and unhappiness.

Family caregivers can do everything possible to provide the best possible care for senior loved ones that meet all five of the topics above. They do a fabulous job, are energetic and creative, think of everything usually ahead of time and keep a balance in their caregiving/family/work life.

Unfortunately, even with the best possible scenario, seniors with dementia will utter those words – “I want to go home.”

Family Caregivers Feel They’re to Blame

Family caregivers who hear that wonder what they are doing wrong, what changes need to be made. They ask themselves if they need to take mom out of this facility and move her somewhere else. They question whether they can care for dad at home by themselves again or wonder what they are doing wrong to make their seniors seem so unhappy.

The truth is that seniors, especially those with dementia, may be unaware of the power of the simple statement they utter. They may not even be referring to the same home that you might think they are.

Oftentimes seniors who ask to go home may mean a home in their memory, perhaps even a home when they were a young child.

People with cognitive impairment at the later stages often revert in their minds to a simpler time, when they were very young. Asking to go ‘home’ when they are in the home with their spouse where they have lived most of their adult life is not uncommon.

What caregivers need to realize is that asking to go home doesn’t mean they are not happy or even content in their current situation and caregivers are not necessarily doing anything wrong that needs to be corrected.

If you were to move your senior from their current living arrangement to bring them where you think their home may be, this may not be where in their mind they want to go.

Tips for Caregivers When Asked to Go Home

Caregivers who are asked ‘take me home’ should reply simplyyou are home.”

It won’t help to confront or argue with your senior loved one, especially if they have a cognitive impairment. It is an argument you won’t win and both sides will just become angry and resentful.

Living in the moment wherever they are and not trying to change their opinion will keep the waters calm.

It is hard for caregivers to hear just “go with the flow” but that is good advice to preserve your own mental well-being. Don’t try to explain reality to your senior loved one. Accept that questions and statements will arise that are easier to not answer, instead redirect their attention to something else.

Accept that you can’t change their minds. If you try to do so, it could inflate their emotions and result in behaviors that may be hard to deal with safely. Agitation and frustration over questioning can lead to aggressive behavior so don’t argue.

Sometimes we need to participate in a technique known as the therapeutic lie. Answer statements such as “I want to go home” with replies such as “ok, we will go after we eat lunch.” Don’t try to convince them that they are already home. In their mind they are not.

Don’t feel guilty about some of the things they may say. It may break your heart when they say things like wanting to go home or if they say hurtful things, but it is their disease process rather than them talking. As hard as that can be to remember when you are faced with these situations, it is important not to let those comments cause you pain or even create uncertainty that you are not doing all you can for them.

Be confident in your ability to be a great caregiver. Stay firm in your plan adding only those things that you know will improve the situation not what is merely a knee jerk reaction to words spoken in confusion.

Rewarding, Difficult and Heartbreaking

Being a family caregiver of a senior can be the most rewarding, most difficult and even at times the most heartbreaking thing you will do.

It is interesting, enjoyable and uplifting for you and them.

It will evoke a myriad of emotions in you.

You have most of the tools you need to be a successful caregiver.

The greatest of these tools is the love you have for your senior loved one and the desire to keep them safe, healthy, happy and engaged.

Dementia Caregivers Connecting in the Community for Self-Care

Dementia affects everyone!

5 million people are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the US and another person is diagnosed every 67 seconds.

1 in 9 adults over 65 has Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory loss is difficult, and not just on the person who is diagnosed and trying to make sense of a world that is changing.

It is also hard on the family caregivers who are helping their loved ones navigate that world.

When a family caregiver begins the journey of dementia, friends often go by the wayside, as do many activities, when the caregiver puts the needs of their loved one above their own.

Taking a Toll on Family Caregivers

As dementia progresses, it may be all a caregiver can manage to get their loved one to his doctor appointments and back home safely.

Caring for a person with dementia takes a toll on caregivers. Unfortunately, the person whose needs are often neglected is the caregiver.

What types of services and programs are available to help family caregivers make this journey less difficult and more rewarding for everyone?

Most caregivers are familiar with support groups but what other options are there to help caregivers?

Where do you find community based resources with which caregivers can connect to help them improve self-care through knowledge, improved skills and handling situations that affect their loved ones?

Dementia Coping Classes

Have you ever considered attending a class or series of classes that can help you cope with dementia?

There are many great offerings around the country that provide caregivers with information, self-care strategies and coping skills for those in the various stages of dementia.

Dementia Dialogues is one such series of classes that helps caregivers. This particular series is offered at no cost to the participant and is funded via grants.

Some of the topics include:

  • Introduction to Dementia
  • Communication skills
  • Safety, activities of daily living, quality of life
  • Challenging behaviors
  • Problem solving

Many family caregivers decide to take these classes to better understand what their senior loved ones are experiencing, become better prepared for the future to handle dementia progression and to learn skills to handle the disease.

Many communities across the country have workshops and classes available for dementia caregivers, typically provided by the local Alzheimer’s Association, Area Agency on Aging program, church outreach or home care company.

Online Resource Options

Dementia training programs can be done in person or online. One source for online training courses that can easily be accessed is the Alzheimer’s Association.

One online program for family caregivers is called CARES Dementia Care for Families. This program is specially designed for families with practical tips on caregiving. There is a fee for this class.

EssentiALZ is another online program for caregivers who wish to learn quality caregiving techniques offered through the Alzheimer’s Association. This course does have a fee.

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers free e-learning workshops that can be done on your schedule. There are a variety of topics that family caregivers would find helpful.

In addition to in-person classes, online classes or e-learning modules, there are DVDs and books that caregivers might find useful and help them handle challenges that arise.

Learning more about dementia caregiving is one way family caregivers can take care of themselves. You can reduce your stress and the effect on your own physical health when you learn dementia specific care strategies from one of the many options available.

Memory Cafés

There are some truly innovative places that welcome family caregivers and people with dementia popping up across the country.

Getting out with other people, socializing and not becoming isolated are things that caregivers of people with dementia need to have a strategy to prevent. Losing the ability to socialize can be detrimental to both caregivers and care recipients.

A dementia, or memory, café is a gathering place for individuals with memory loss. It is a supportive and engaging environment for them, peers and family or friends. It is a place that many go to escape from the disease of dementia for a little while.

There is no fear of ‘misbehaving’ or saying something wrong. Others like you are accepting and supportive. It is a social situation for enjoyment and friendship.

It can be held in a café, museum, library, community center or restaurant. Anywhere where people can come together in comfort.

Memory cafes have been around in other parts of the world since 1997 but have begun gaining popularity in the US where there are an estimated 200 cafes operational.

Interactive and Participatory

Be aware that they are not support groups, lecture classes, respite programs, daycare, happy hours or a way to promote a business. They are supposed to be interactive and participatory for enjoyment!

Here is a locator for a café near you.

If you don’t have one near you, consider getting together with others and create your own! Where there is a need, there will be people willing to join!

You need a location that is comfortable with adequate parking preferably a fun place. Next, spread the word when you plan to get together.

Finally, enjoy the meeting and the fellowship. It will build from the first meeting.

Once established, add your meeting to the national registry so others can find you too!

Day Out Programs

Our local community, and probably yours, includes many people with dementia who are being cared for in the home by family caregivers.

We know this from the numbers that attend two local support groups in the area.

Family caregivers have expressed their desire and their unmet need to have a place that will be stimulating and safe for their senior loved ones to go so that they can do essential activities like go to the doctor themselves, run errands, take a nap or get a chore completed without distraction.

They are in need of a place to go that fits both their needs such as a day out program.

Caregivers Finding Time for Themselves

Family caregivers biggest hurdle can be finding time for themselves!

Finding a program that provides brain stimulation, peer support, socialization and physical activity for their senior loved one is very important for caregivers.

There are adult day care center programs that you might be able to access. Many have health related programs that can accommodate persons with dementia. These programs offer activities, a nutritious meal, and socialization opportunities for your senior loved one.

The centers are safe and the day is structured. Many of the participants have some form of cognitive impairment.

There may be a different center program for people who are more mobile and may be free from other chronic conditions, such as dementia. The name may indicate this difference, for example, senior center versus day care program designed for those with limitations. Be sure to ask the program director if there are restrictions for attendance.

Dementia Specific Programs

There are dementia specific programs that offer services with dementia as the focus. These programs are geared towards people with dementia, activities that meet their needs and which provide even more support for caregivers.

You might want to review this step-by-step guide to choosing day care with tips to get started and a locator.

There may also be day out programs offered in your community by different organizations, including church outreach organizations or senior ministries. These are usually held for a few hours one morning a week and mimic programs offered at the ‘senior center.’ There may be a faith based activity accompanying the program, such as prayer time or devotion. These programs are usually low or no cost to the participant, held in convenient locations or include friends that you trust. Check them out and see if they would work for you and your senior.

Encouraging and facilitating your senior loved one’s attendance in a day program for some period of time during the week will give you, the family caregiver, some much needed respite time.

You both benefit!

Community Involvement Benefits

Family caregivers who already feel pressure to complete everyday tasks just to keep the household running may feel that seeking out and attending community events and programs is one more task too many.

However, there are physical and mental well-being benefits for caregivers who are able to capitalize on community sponsored training and respite programs.

Contact the facilitator of the local support group. This person will know what programs and events are available in the community and can connect you with learning opportunities, sitter recommendations, grant applications, vouchers for respite and more useful information that can help you.

Socialization opportunities, friends, as well as brain stimulating and meaningful activities will all help your senior with dementia have a better quality of life.

It will help you cope as a caregiver while preventing burnout so you can go on being the best caregiver possible!

Stock Market Dive 2016 – Is it Crushing Your Senior Loved Ones?

The stock market hasn’t been a pretty place to have money so far in 2016.

Especially if it is your life savings, money you are using to pay for food, housing, medicine and more.

What you need to live, in other words.

Then it can be a downright scary situation right now, the way it is for too many seniors.

Is your senior loved one among them? Would you know?

Life Changing Market Drop

My husband has Alzheimer’s and is in a memory care facility that we are paying for out of savings. With the market drop, though, we can’t afford his care so he will have to come home but there is no way I can give him the care he needs.”

Unfortunately, that is a real story – and not an isolated situation.

Many of our parents and grandparents are seeing their lives  by the global stock market plunge that greeted the new year.

Often seniors don’t want to be a burden to family members or are too proud to reach out for help.

Without help, what will they do to bridge the gap between what they need and what they can afford?

Savings for Senior Years at Risk

The widespread demise of the traditional pension plan has left many of all ages depending on what they have saved over their employment years to supplement Social Security benefits.

Traditional pensions have been replaced by, depending on the type of employer, 401k, 403b, 457, and Thrift Savings Plans. Instead of those, or maybe in addition, some of us have Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

Regardless of the name, it means the retirement savings many have doesn’t enjoy anywhere near the certainty of those traditional pensions.

It also means, depending on options chosen, the money upon which many are counting to fund elder years is at the mercy of the stock and bond markets.

What’s Going Wrong

The message has long been out to seniors and those approaching retirement age that the stock market might not be the best place for money needed for day to day expenses.

“Don’t put any money into stocks you aren’t able to lose” is wise, if blunt, advice.

That lesson was learned the hard way by millions of all ages when crumbling financial markets led to this millennium’s Great Recession.

Did the lesson not take or was it quickly forgotten?

Keep in mind the general wisdom may not have fit your senior’s situation. Generalizations are no substitute for personalized recommendations.

We have heard a number of reasons individual seniors have put renewed reliance on stock investments, despite the risks.

  • Having to make up for lost ground after the last big stock market drop
  • Counting on a growing nest egg to meet future needs, which was not going to happen with near-zero interest rates of savings
  • Did not save enough while working, for many reasons, and need more retirement savings to supplement Social Security
  • Facing more expenses, especially healthcare and living costs, than anticipated and need more income

Whether due to one of those reasons or others, many seniors have a lot of their money exposed to stock market fluctuations and paid a price in the early days of 2016.

Are Your Senior Loved Ones Feeling New Financial Strain?

Do you know if your senior loved ones are facing financial strain due to the market drop or any other reason?

Have you asked them?

Do you feel you can discuss it with them?

Finances are an awkward topic for many to raise with parents or grandparents, especially when money was never the subject of family discussions.

It may take observing and listening to determine if loved ones are having money problems.

  • Do they resist going places, such as movies or shopping, where they would spend money and had done enthusiastically in the past?
  • Are their eating habits changing, such as eating out less or buying less expensive (or just plain less) food?
  • Is the thermostat in their home set to less comfortable temperatures than they typically use?

You get the idea . . . are they saying or doing anything to indicate money is tighter, or worse?

What Family Caregivers Can Do

We can’t tell you what to do if your senior loved ones’ financial resources are falling short of needs. That’s a personal situation for you and your family.

If they aren’t making ends meet, though, you might determine if they are availing themselves of benefits available to them, as we discussed in this article.

Whether or not seniors are feeling pain from the current market situation, it may be wise to ensure they have the information and/or advice they need to manage their investments in a manner consistent with their financial objectives.

Would consulting with a qualified financial adviser provide them answers they need and advice they would feel confident following?

Is there research you could do with them that would provide the information they need? The web, after all, is full of resources. Not all provide sound advice and some may be harmful, so stick to sources in which you have confidence.

After all, while money may not buy happiness it pays for a lot of the things our senior loved ones need to be healthy and safe.

Transform Family Caregivers’ Future – Caregiving Innovation Frontiers

It’s less a question of “if” than “when” most of us will become family caregivers to our senior loved ones.

For those who aren’t family caregivers already, that is.

And MANY are!

According to the latest survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, 40 million Americans are providing unpaid care, 25% of them millennials and 50% under the age of 50.

Finding ways to make the role of caregiver easier will be vital as we face a future with more people needing care than those available to provide it.

We need to look for solutions that will help family caregivers continue to work, care for their young families and also care for themselves if we hope for them to take on those duties.

A new report called Caregiving Innovation Frontiers, published January 2016, examines technology solutions and ways to help family caregivers moving forward.

Report Goals and Findings

Many caregivers admit that they would love to incorporate the latest technology in the daily lives of their senior loved ones because they realize the benefits that can be achieved according to the report.

Despite the availability of numerous types of home monitoring devices, of the 67% of caregivers who report wanting to use them, only one tenth of caregivers have begun to use these systems.

The report found that many systems on the market are fragmented, underused and not directed toward the caregivers but instead toward recipients, which means they aren’t hitting the most effective target.

This report from AARP and Park Associates is designed to:

  • Encourage manufacturers, investors, and businesses to define their customers, understand who really comprises their market
  • Examine in depth the real needs and challenges family caregivers might be looking at and seeing the problem from their perspective
  • Review problems associated with current solutions to find lessons for future solutions
  • Find gaps between what is available and what might be needed in this sector
  • Demonstrate areas of opportunities in the caregiving market in need of solutions that might be ripe for innovations and potential business growth

Areas of Opportunity

The report, using data from existing sources on technology usage and new survey results, identified six areas of opportunities for innovation of systems to be useful for caregivers.

Let’s look at each area and the potential needs caregivers may find solutions through technology.

  1. Daily Activities

Completing the essential tasks of daily living for seniors and their caregivers take a great deal of time each day.

Getting help with some of these tasks could free caregivers up to do other important things, including caring for themselves. Not just personal care tasks but also home repairs, scheduling appointments, transportation, and managing paperwork can drain caregivers time.

Home care, modifications and renovations and simple maintenance are big areas where caregivers are looking for solutions, since 90% of seniors plan to stay in their homes as they age.

This will see the largest number of technology solutions in the coming years in areas such as home delivery, telehealth, digital inclusion and life enrichment. The way these home services are being offered is also changing with platforms that allow communication between devices and not just alerting caregivers.

Transportation services such as Uber Senior and Lyft will help caregivers get seniors out and about without doing the driving themselves.

Home delivery of meals that meet their doctor prescribed dietary restrictions and are acceptable for their likes and palates will increase with many companies beginning to provide nutritious offerings of not only groceries but prepared meals.

  1. Health and Safety Awareness

We are all concerned about preventive health, lifestyle changes and managing our chronic diseases including caregivers and seniors.

There are many tech products that can help us track our fitness but also our heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, oxygenation, medication administration, movement patterns and mobility, hydration, safety, nutrition and vital signs. All this data can then be sent directly to the healthcare team and remote family caregivers.

This health data can be helpful to manage symptoms and keep our seniors out of the hospital because treating a condition before it becomes critical can be achieved with proper management and monitoring.

Telehealth could be lifesaving for rural or homebound seniors who have limited access to healthcare. Being able to talk with the doctor and nurse using video programs will be added as more risk bearing entities, such as insurers, see the value in closer health monitoring for seniors.

These devices are getting smarter, easier to use and talk amongst themselves so that you won’t need 8 apps on your smartphone to follow 8 different problems when one platform will achieve successful monitoring of all 8.

The report states that caregivers’ concerns are high: 60% worry about falling and not being able to get up, 55% are afraid seniors will hurt themselves doing their daily activities, 40% worry that seniors aren’t following doctor prescribed diets that could result in poor health and 35% think their seniors will miss checking important vital signs.

  1. Care Coordination

Strategies to improve time spent on coordinating all the medical and personal care required by a senior loved one are needed to relieve caregiver stress.

Allowing healthcare systems and medical portals to communicate with each other so that a doctor visit to a clinic can be viewed by the family physician in a different system will improve overall health care delivery.

The systems are currently siloed for a variety of reasons but need to become open so that caregivers can assure their seniors are getting medical care without costly out-of-pocket expenses for duplication of services or, even worse, delay of care in an emergency when valuable health data can’t be accessed.

Caregivers are shouldering the cost of the current technology for care coordination they believe will make it easier for them to stay in control of their senior’s plan of care.

  1. Transition Support

Getting the most accurate information with which to make important life decisions for senior loved ones is a concern for caregivers.

  • When is it best to transition out of the home into a facility?
  • What do I need to know about potential facilities for the benefit of my senior?
  • How will progressive dementia play a part in this transition?
  • How and when can they access hospice care?

Caregivers who seek help from technology and professionals to help make these transitions will pay for the services themselves. Remodeling current homes to help seniors stay home as long as possible is also funded by many family caregivers.

Family caregivers often are responsible for funeral expenses when senior loved ones pass away. Legal services for important transitions, end of life planning and document preparation will be sought by caregivers as well.

Financial assistance as well as planning for the future and the transitions that may be necessary are important strategies needed by caregivers.

  1. Social Well-being

Online communities, gaming, video chatting, photo sharing platforms, as well as other types of products, can keep seniors and even caregivers connected to others. This will reduce their feelings of isolation and depression and also stimulate their mental health through social sharing.

Solutions, including digital companions, are needed to improve socialization, especially since 50% of women older than 75 live alone.

Technology has made socialization more personalized and available for seniors and their caregivers. Social media use continues to grow among seniors as they become more comfortable with using technology.

As with other technology, ease of use and simplicity will make them more accepting of it in order to gain the benefits. 

  1. Caregiver Quality of Life

The needs of caregivers are often unmet, largely because caregivers don’t ask for help with their struggles. They are not seeking solutions to make their own health and daily life better.

Unfortunately, caregivers tend to neglect their own personal needs in favor of their loved ones. It is estimated that 50% of working caregivers don’t tell their employers about their caregiving situations.

Caregivers will often spend 2 to 6 years as a caregiver for a senior loved one. 85% of caregivers don’t receive any respite from their duties while 4 in 10 caregivers report that their situation is highly stressful.

What Business is Learning

The technology innovations we see available now and on the horizon to make the life of seniors and their caregivers easier are largely being purchased by the family caregiver.

Medication management, home monitoring, safety interventions, sensors, and other home systems are of interest to caregivers. We will find more health entities, such as health systems, insurers and even employers, assisting caregivers in obtaining these products.

In 2016, only 14.8% of the $42.9 billion spent on health tech will be paid by reimbursement, 22.7% will be spent by caregivers and 57.5% by the care recipients themselves. Those numbers are not projected to change much by 2020 according to this report.

The real change by then is that amount spent jumps to $72.2 billion with the percentages of who is buying remaining static.

Business developers who want to reach the senior market are learning that their products must be usable by seniors. The products themselves could be the answer to all of life’s problems, but if they are hard to use they will sit in a drawer collecting dust. Simple solutions are necessary.

Affordability is also a must for caregivers who seek solutions but have limited resources.

Find What Works for Seniors & Family Caregivers

We will see more companies joining together to create solutions that can be served to seniors and caregivers across the country not just in one location as well as providing broader solutions instead of meeting only one or two areas of concern. They will meet many needs at one time in one system when they collaborate.

Changes in governmental regulations on the horizon will allow more healthcare professionals to join the telehealth market. How they are reimbursed is an important question for professionals as well as if their licenses will cover them across state lines.

Family caregivers who are able to understand their current and future needs and who are able to seek innovative solutions, including technology, will have an easier time maintaining a work-life balance and their own health.

We need to continue to advocate for options that meet caregiver’s needs and are either funded by insurers or more affordable to use.

Including seniors in technology use by making products more simple and interoperable will help caregivers too!

Denture Care Tips for Family Caregivers – A Key to Senior Health

Family caregivers of senior adults can find themselves tackling situations that are foreign to them on a daily basis.

One caregiving task that might be unique for you as a caregiver of an elder family member is caring for their dentures.

Yes, someone else’s teeth!

“No way,” you say?

Dentures require special care to keep them clean, in good repair, free from damage and fitting well.

Failure to care for dentures properly can yield consequences that are very dangerous for your senior loved one.

Health Implications of Dentures

Did you know that elders who require dentures are more likely to suffer malnutrition?

Seniors who have had their natural teeth removed for whatever reason and now have dentures are much more likely to have difficulty at some point in the future getting adequate nutrition, especially as a result of difficulty chewing food.

Often times this leads to elimination of nutritious foods from their diets because they become too difficult to bother chewing.

Unfortunately, the first foods that are eliminated are often meats, the major source of essential protein for many. In addition, studies suggest that seniors who have lost their natural teeth have a decrease in micronutrient intake (vitamin and minerals) as well.

This unintentional dietary change as a result of their dentition has a great potential to result in unhealthy weight loss.

Concerns About Teeth

Many of our seniors find that their natural teeth have begun to fail them.

Over time and perhaps because they have not gotten adequate dental care over their lifetimes, teeth can begin to lose their strength and break down.

Dental caries, abscesses and gum disease can lead to removal of the natural teeth. Dentures are a great solution for many seniors who have problems with their dentition.

What many seniors may not consider is that their dentures are not meant to last their lifetime without proper care and attention.

As our seniors’ weight changes, so does the profile of their gums and supporting structures of the mouth leaving the current dentures ill-fitting.

Denture Fit is Important

Ill-fitting dentures for seniors can lead to serious health concerns.

When dentures no longer fit well, seniors look for ways to modify their diets and change the textures of the foods they choose to help make chewing easier and less painful. Many healthy foods that have a tough, course or crunchy texture or leave behind seeds or other fibers are quickly dropped from the diet in favor of easy to masticate foods like soup and desserts.

When we stop eating the high quality nutritional foods our bodies require, we will have a shortfall in protein (essential for strong muscles and balance), vitamins, minerals, fiber and even water which can lead to malnutrition.

Seniors who are not eating well because of problems chewing their food can suffer from loss of muscle strength, bone strength and nutrients to fight off opportunistic infections.

It is important to pay attention to their teeth and gums but also the mouths of our seniors who already have dentures. They need care too to prevent nutrition and health concerns.

Other Denture Concerns

There are many area of concern about which family caregivers need to be aware when it comes to dentures.

  • If your senior’s denture fits, adhesive can be used for added stability. If the denture is loose, adding adhesive to fill the gaps can lead to tissue damage in your senior’s mouth so the plates should be taken to a dentist for repairs.
  • Examine your senior’s mouth and gums for any signs of irritation or mouth sores as a result of ill-fitting and rubbing denture plates. Ill-fitting dentures can cause gums to bleed or become painful and sores can form. When they become painful, most seniors either stop eating or stop using their dentures and change the foods they eat.
  • Never adjust or repair a denture yourself, always visit a dentist. Do-it-yourself repair kits can sometimes damage your senior’s denture to a point where a permanent fix can’t be made.
  • Often new dentures (or those newly repaired) will take a little time to adjust to for your senior. Remind your senior to chew well, eat slowly and take smaller bites to prevent choking.
  • Don’t use toothpicks on dentures.
  • Dentures shouldn’t click when your loved one eats or talks and, if they do, may need repair.
  • If your senior has a dry mouth condition and their dentures fit well, they may benefit from using an adhesive.
  • Dentures are not once in a lifetime appliances. They will need to be relined or remade because of normal wear and tear or whenever there are any changes to your senior’s face, jaw or weight. Any loose dentures need to be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Regular dental visits are important and should be made even when your senior has full dentures.

9 Tricks to Care for Dentures

Caregivers should feel comfortable providing care to seniors’ dentures and inspect their mouths from time to time. It is not the most pleasant of tasks for some caregivers, but must be done. If they resist you, enlist help so that they can receive appropriate mouth care.

Be sure that any paid caregivers are paying close attention to your loved ones dentures and mouth too!

  1. Your senior loved ones’ dentures need to be cleaned every day. They should be brushed with a soft bristled brush designed for dentures to remove debris and food plaque. It is best to rinse off dentures after eating.
  2. When you are cleaning dentures or partials, be careful not to drop them. If you clean them over a towel you can help prevent breakage if they drop in the sink or onto the floor.
  3. Don’t use regular toothpaste on your dentures! These are too abrasive and may damage dentures. Don’t use bleach to remove any stains because it could discolor the pink portion.
  4. You can use mild dishwashing liquid to clean dentures if commercial dental cleansers are not available.
  5. Ultrasonic cleaners can be helpful to thoroughly clean dentures without damage. Don’t forget, daily brushing for debris is still needed.
  6. Never use hot water for dentures since they could warp.
  7. Always store dentures in a denture container with water to keep moist, they should not be allowed to get dry or lose their shape.
  8. Gums, tongue and palate need to be brushed to keep them clean and free from potential irritants every morning before dentures are worn.
  9. Use a minimum amount of denture adhesive, if needed. Be sure to remove any remaining adhesive daily as you clean.

Proper care and treatment of your senior loved one’s teeth will help keep their whole body healthy — and that’s one of our missions as family caregivers!

Coming Soon to A Senior Near You – House Calls by Healthcare Providers

Our senior loved ones may remember, from their own childhoods, a time when the doctor came to their house to provide medical care and treatment during times of illness in the family.

Perhaps the doctor came at the end to help prepare a loved one who passed away.

It was common to see a doctor in the house.

We may now get the opportunity to visit with a doctor in our own homes, as the trend toward house calls once again begins to increase.

In the 1930s, about 40% of doctor visits were in the home. By 1980 that number had dropped to only 1%.  That number is slowly rising, with the expectation that even more in-home visits will become the norm as our population ages and the medical community searches for a new way to provide medical care.

Even though we might all want to be able to get a visit from the doctor to save us from the ‘enjoyment’ of their waiting room, seniors are most likely to be the ones to gain the advantages from a doctor who comes to call.

Doctor House Calls on the Rise

When healthcare shifted to an office or facility-based treatment model that accommodated more than 40 patient visits a day, the number of house calls declined markedly.

Doctors couldn’t sustain their practices seeing fewer patients as insurance reimbursement rates – and thus the compensation for them and their practices – changed.

In recent years, doctors have responded to the needs of their aging patients and begun going back to house calls to seniors. Some doctors have made special trips to the homes of older adults for a few years now in special circumstances, but the number of physicians who are making it a large part of their practice is on the rise.

Some doctor groups specialize in house calls.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, there are benefits to not only the senior who won’t have to spend their day waiting to get routine medical care or be placed in a facility instead of getting care at home but also to the government in terms of Medicare healthcare savings.

It is estimated that only about 13% of family physicians made regular house calls in 2013 but others made a few each month for seniors in their practices.

Most house call physicians who do ongoing visits are part of a practice primarily treating in-home patients.

House Calls Take Special Skills

Being a doctor that participates in house calls takes a special skill set, different from what is needed to see patients in an office setting.

Fortunately, the ability to practice in a person’s home is made easier with technology and access to devices that can monitor vital signs and health data.

Doctors who provide a house call practice need other team members to help them provide the best care, such as nurse practitioners and social workers who can link seniors to needed resources. Doctors and nurse practitioners come regularly to take senior’s blood pressure, talk about their medications and check other vital signs.

When house calls replace facility placement, it is important that seniors have access to someone who can be available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This requires a team approach.

Benefits of House Calls

There are many benefits that are far reaching when we are able to keep seniors at home and provide them the medical care they require to remain healthy.

  1. No waiting in waiting rooms, which can expose vulnerable seniors to other illnesses
  2. No driving to the doctor’s office or paying for non-emergent ambulance service or wheelchair transport; caregivers don’t have to transfer a weak senior in and out of the car or even out of the house
  3. Individualized, personalized care; senior are more likely to feel someone cares about them and their health
  4. Doctor’s attention focused on senior, not other distractions in the office
  5. Doctors can see for themselves that the patients’ homes are in livable condition, appropriate food is available, and seniors are well kept
  6. Improved quality of life, as seniors are able to remain in their home longer and don’t see themselves as ‘sick’
  7. Vital signs measured, timely instructions on diet or medications can be given by the doctor
  8. Many supports also can be done in-home, such as x-rays, blood work, therapy and even home health care
  9. No missed appointments because the can’t arrange transportation or simply forget
  10. Decreased need for emergency room visits or hospitalizations
  11. Improved patient and caregiver satisfaction with the healthcare they are receiving
  12. Medicare savings

As this list indicates, not only do our senior loved ones benefit, but there are benefits for providers, caregivers and the healthcare system itself.

Medicare Changes with the Affordable Care Act

Many experts worry that Medicare will not be able to meet the healthcare demands of the growing numbers of seniors.

There are programs that many have begun to create to find ways to keep seniors healthy, at home where the cost of care is more manageable compared to facility care and to lower the overall cost of care through reduced hospitalizations and proper medication management.

Studies found that house calls have the potential to save the government billions of dollars. Treating seniors in their homes can save Medicare large amounts of money that would otherwise be spent on inpatient and residential care.

It has been estimated that in-home care can save Medicare an estimated $21 billion to $34 billion over 10 years, according to an analysis by Jen Associates that was commissioned by the American Academy of Home Care Medicine (AAHCM). Without home care this money would be spent on hospitals, short-term nursing homes and other costs.

Independence at Home Act

In 2012, the Independence at Home (IAH) Act, which was started under the Affordable Care Act, works to make more doctor house calls available to seniors across the country.

To help achieve that goal, a three-year pilot program using 17 practices in selected states around the country was begun in 2012. The initial results were promising, so much so that Congress voted to extend it another two years for 14 of the practices.

In the first year of the pilot, Medicare participants saved more than $25 million — an average of $3,070 per beneficiary, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Beneficiaries had fewer hospital readmissions and fewer hospital visits.

Unfortunately, in our current medical care model it is easiers for healthcare professionals to discharge a senior to a nursing home than to set up a home-care program. It has been estimated that 2/3 of people in nursing homes probably no longer need to be there because they don’t need 24 hour nursing care.

Doctor house calls can help seniors get back into the community or to prevent new ones from coming into facilities who might not need to.

Here is a graphic that shows which states are currently piloting the Medicare house call program.

medicare housecall pilot

House Call Via Technology

Seniors who can benefit from doctor house calls but who may not be in a region of the country where doctors actually make house calls due to distance can still benefit from in-home care when using technology.

Telemedicine can fill the gap for many seniors who have mobility impairments or transportation issues that keep them out of the doctor office for routine care. The lack of this routine care and follow-up treatment for seniors can often lead to serious illness requiring emergency care when a doctor visit could have corrected the medical problem sooner.

Virtual doctor visits and vital signs monitoring using mHealth technology currently readily available would benefit many seniors. You can learn more about telehealth assisting seniors and caregivers in our article.

The future holds many new programs for seniors and family caregivers especially with healthcare and technology innovations.

The more we learn as family caregivers, the better care our senior loved ones can access.

TVs, Drones, Phones & Much for Aging in Place – Our CES 2016 Wrap

Every year we anticipate new and useful technology innovations that will enable seniors to age in place longer and family caregivers to help family caregivers live safer, healthier and happier lives.

Of course, those innovations are just a small — but growing — part of the seemingly endless exhibit space, spanning sites across Las Vegas.

Wading through the also seemingly endless crowds leads to encounters with everything from TVs having ever more brilliant pictures to drones of all sizes (including one that could let us fly over traffic) to robots that are the forerunners of much needed future caregiving assistants to…well, this could go on for a while.

The devices and services we saw at CES 2016 showed us that innovators and tech companies are making great strides in usability and have begun listening to consumers, especially seniors and their family caregivers.

This is great to see and gives us real hope for what the future will bring.

CES 2016 Facts

The largest technology trade show included experts, innovators, manufacturers, financeers and consumers from across the globe. The number of attendees was phenomenal. There were so many people and so many new inventions to see that they needed to use several venues to house all the categories of technology devices.

  • 3,800 exhibitors unveiled their latest technologies
  • 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space
  • More than 170,000 industry professionals, including more than 50,000 from outside the U.S.
  • Attendees traveled from more than 150 countries
  • The goal of many attendees, inventors and collaborators was to inspire products and services to improve our world and bring us all hope
  • 500 startup companies in the Eureka Park Marketplace showcasing the latest ideas
  • Government officials from a variety of agencies were represented, including Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Transportation, White House Office of Science and Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration
  • Social media was active in spreading the technology news, with 1,278,870 mentions of the #CES2016 hashtag and 15.2 billion total potential social media impressions from January 5-9

Whether we’re young or old, technology touches all of our lives in some way. It is certain to continue to do so in the coming years.

Positive Improvements Technology Has Produced

In the past few years we have seen advances in how our lives are connected to technology. Here are just some of the observations and discussions that CES2016 produced:

  1. Technology is easier to use, devices are easier to read and technology is more accessible to us all including our seniors
  2. Bluetooth innovations increase range for devices which is important especially for home monitoring of wandering seniors
  3. Costs for devices and platforms with multiple devices are coming down due to lower cost sourcing of components, volume savings of certain devices is being passed to consumer
  4. Increasing awareness of the benefits for tele-health among risk bearing entities such as insurers and ACOs to prevent health crises, reducing hospitalizations or avoiding penalties for healthcare systems in reimbursement will result in more devices getting to seniors as cost/benefit for long term health maintenance
  5. Increase in acceptability among seniors with respect to adoption of devices, they are more willing to use them when they are simpler to use, devices are not as intrusive as they once were
  6. More thinking about the needs of caregivers, reality of reduced numbers of caregivers in the future will demand solutions and alternatives to facility placement, it is vital to reduce stressers for caregivers and give them time to pursue their own health and financial security without compromising the well-being of their seniors
  7. More open mindedness on part of manufacturers to seek out opinions of seniors and caregivers about what they need, including them in product development instead of creating something and pushing it upon them
  8. Devices are not just connecting with the internet but are more often connecting to each other

From these points alone you can see why we are so positive about CES.

Aging in Place Benefits for Seniors & Family Caregivers

More Movement Toward Smarter / Connected Homes

‘Smart home’ has been a hard label for us to accept in past years because one needed multiple apps and even systems to control all the devices in the home that could be connected.

How many of us will find it convenient to have lights, thermostat, ceiling fans, and more connected and controllable if that control is more difficult than using the manual method?

ces connected homeAt CES 2016 we found the industry getting closer to having our connected home devices, or at least many of them, working together, but it typically means limiting our options to only those devices in a common system when we might have a few favorites spread out among different systems without the ability to pick and choose.

Hopefully that is going to change sooner rather than later so we are able to choose our favorites among all connected devices – – and our seniors’ homes can truly be smart.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

PERS have been around for a while (think “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”) but have not been favored by many seniors because, well, they’ve looked like what they are. Also many seniors don’t feel like they are ‘old’ and don’t place value in being stigmatized by such solutions.

At CES we found many companies making PERS devices that look more like jewelry, something a wearer would not be embarrassed to wear.

Improvements in PERS are also giving them wider connectivity, enabling them to track seniors outside of home and connect with help if needed, while still providing reports and alerts to caregivers as desired.

We also noted a trend away from PERS with dedicated dashboards, moving instead to smartphone or mobile applications that are portable, faster and more interoperable with other systems in the home, such as apps for entertainment and socialization.

Connected Home Health Devices

Home health devices are moving closer to facilitating greater independence from the doctor’s office, or at least reducing the need for visits.

ces myecgAt CES we found multiple connected health devices using one app for a variety of devices, though primarily one manufacturer, but devices by other manufacturers don’t talk with each other yet. Some great suites of products are coming but are still not yet available in the US such as BeWell.

Info given directly to caregivers is still important, they want and need alerts and updates. Patterning behavior invisibly so long distance caregiver knows if their senior has moved around or taken food from the refrigerator during the day or may be facing a health crisis so that preventive action can be taken before injury or hospitalization seems to be gaining a market with less invasive devices.

Identifying who is the customer, is it the senior or the healthcare system or the insurance payer or the caregiver, continues to be unanswered for many providers. Each entity has different needs and agendas that need to be addressed and product design needs to match that need.

Less Charging Required

Many devices are improved due to better components, such as processors that use less power resulting in longer battery life. Some don’t require daily recharging or docking to work.

There are many items we found that have long life batteries as much as 10 years or more. Some batteries may last as long as the devices themselves without needing to be recharged.

Some devices are being designed to have replaceable batteries that once dead get replaced never needing to remember to recharge or the device itself gets replaced.

This could prove to be a game changer for continued use of devices instead of tossing them into a drawer when they won’t turn on especially for seniors.

Multi-Function Wearables

ces multi health device appSeniors who are active and their caregivers may prefer to have more health data recorded, not just their steps. Wearables that can provide more data help them not only monitor but improve their health and give them real time coaching tips to make adjustments for the benefit of their health will prove more useful. Adding a GPS component to senior wearables could really help peace of mind for caregivers.

Connecting the measured data to family caregivers and the healthcare team will be vital. Who owns this data is another question being tackled by the experts. We found some products don’t store your data while others do.

Some of the products we encountered that are geared for seniors may be too simplistic, single function devices that look like monitors despite the manufacturers’ hopes they do not. They also claim as a benefit being connected 24/7 to their response center, but monthly costs for that benefit can be steep. The hope is we can balance use, results and cost for the benefit of seniors.

Some manufacturers are adding gamification (making interaction with their device game-like) so that seniors will engage more readily with the apps. When they use the fitness app, for example, they can earn points for rewards and show people how far they have traveled through pictures around the world.

Is This What Caregivers and Seniors Really Want?

What do seniors really want? Is a tablet the right device? A smartphone? How about a more mid-range device to be able to read all the data their connected devices now manage?

What does a caregiver need to help keep their senior safe, social and healthy? Is that different depending on whether they live nearby or far away?

Does a caregiver who is a spouse need something different because they themselves are aged compared to someone with young children? What are the needs of a sandwich generation caregiver who has aging parents for whom they care, a full time job with pending retirement income to protect, an adult child who lives at home still (or again), a spouse/partner to attend and their own well being desire from technology?

What will they find most useful if they aren’t the ones paying for it?

Who will teach seniors how to use their new devices accurately and troubleshoot them when needed (more often than we might realize)? Seniors and older caregivers need help to select, purchase, set up, learn how to use and troubleshoot when problems in connectivity arise.

Great Devices, But Who Will Pay?

Who will pay for these new devices? We heard several experts state that the ‘risk bearing entities’ such as private insurers, Medicare, Accountable Care Organizations and healthcare systems, whose models for reimbursement are changing from fee for service to reward for good results, will be forced to provide devices that can improve the health and wellness of seniors.

Devices show results for seniors in reduction of hospitalization, ability to stay longer at home rather than institutions, and help for caregivers to continue to provide care more effectively. In these scenarios everyone wins!

But how long will it really take before health insurers, including Medicare, will provide technology devices that can help seniors and caregivers when so many other basic pieces of equipment and life changing medications are not readily accessible to many seniors?

Should seniors and family caregivers hold back from purchasing devices that can meaningfully impact their lives while waiting for insurance reimbursement that may not happen? Should they wait for improvements in tech devices when the products are needed now because they have to pay and are afraid they will be obsolete quickly after the money is spent?

CES as a Venue for Idea Sharing and Cultivation

CES has always been a home for discussions of innovation and what it means – and will mean – to our world and is growing with the reach of technology into our lives.

Innovators and regulators shared their thoughts on protecting our privacy and security as technology opens windows to all aspects of our homes and lives.

internet of medical thingsDoctors, insurers and marketers discussed options to overcome barriers and make the most of the vast potential of technology to improve our healthcare.

One aspect of technology that has everyone talking is the massive amounts of data that is and will be generated, making best use of that data, and protecting sensitive information from being misused. The next hurdle will be who owns our health data.

The growing number of connected home health devices, for example, will produce mass amounts of data in the form of our blood pressure, heart rate, weight and so much more.

That data will help improve the care provided to seniors by family caregivers and healthcare providers but has to be protected against misuse that harms our seniors. It also has to be protected against hoarding by interests competing to use data ownership as a tool for profit rather than sharing in the interest of providing the best care.

Recognizing What Innovation Means to Consumers

Innovation is about much more than the technology that results – – it is about what that technology can mean to peoples’ lives.

This year’s CES shone a brighter light on that than we have seen before.

Sure, more advanced TVs should provide greater entertainment than prior generations of the technology, but we are talking about meeting more basic needs.

The talk isn’t about technological advance for the sake of better devices, but better health, greater safety, making life easier for those with physical limitations, and SO much more.

That’s what we call meaningful innovation!

We can’t wait to see what CES 2017 has to offer.

Seniors Learning What Social Media Can Mean to Their Lives

We have come to a point where using social media platforms has become commonplace for those of all ages.

It isn’t just millennials who use social media, older adults have adopted it and are enjoying spending time connecting with family, friends and other people around the globe.

Certainly we see many people using social media to express their unique viewpoints on Twitter, celebrities sharing perhaps too much on Instagram and lots of food on Pinterest! We also know about many seniors who are using social media, especially Facebook, to connect with long distance family and long lost friends.

We’ve seen great things happening for seniors who have begun using social media.

According to the latest Pew Research report on social media, “usage among those 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010, when 11% used social media. Today, 35% of all those 65 and older report using social media, compared with just 2% in 2005.”

Social Media Explained

What exactly is social media for those who may not be using it to its fullest? Social media is a term used to describe a multitude of online communication channels. It includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and many more. They are often referred to as social networking platforms.


Twitter is used for short snippets of information because messages are limited to 140 characters per tweet (rumored to be increased soon).

People of all ages use it for communicating, expressing opinions, broadcasting information of all kinds, and companies use it for advertising and marketing.

Users need only set up an account for free and use “@” for account names called handles and “#” (hashtags) to find streams (or categories) of information you will find most useful. Hashtags can also be just for fun like #homesweethome.


Many find Facebook to be a more interactive platform, with the ability to share more than is possible with Twitter. It is an easier way to converse compared to Twitter.

Each person sets up their individual profile and becomes friends with others, including family, friends, businesses, groups and community organizations.

This social media platform is the most widely used according to the Nielsen Group and other researchers.

Users can upload pictures, videos and messages of any length.


Instagram is a way to share photos with others. It doesn’t use text for communication, just photos.

Pictures are tagged using “#” to describe thoughts surrounding the picture like #dogsofinstragram. Many are using a variety of photographic techniques or filters to augment their photos.

A new trend is to upload videos on Instagram.


Pinterest is used to share images (photos) and save them in ‘boards’ for future use. You can follow what others are doing and pin images you enjoy.

Many people use this platform for pinning craft ideas, DIY project guides and recipes.


Google+ is a social networking platform created by Google, though it has not caught on as strongly as some of the other platforms.

It is used by many to share with others in ‘circles’ you create and you can find a large variety of information, including social interactions, information and images.


LinkedIn’s popularity is primarily in the business world. Working people – or those seeking employment – share information and articles of interest to their profession. They can link with others or network to find jobs, hire others or learn about new opportunities.

It also offers a forum for business people to discuss theories, new programs and the latest research in their field.


YouTube is a hugely popular video platform, where users share videos they have created.

Businesses use this platform to share information and educational videos to teach us to do something new such as play the piano. People also share funny things to entertain us like cats dancing (YouTube is famous for cat videos).

Users can ‘subscribe’ to channels of interest, such as Senior Care Corner or the National Institute on Aging. Whenever a new video is posted you are alerted.

Social media is about creating and nurturing a community of people with whom you want to interact. The goal is to have a means to build relationships.

It can be a way to stay socially stimulated, with as little or as much time commitment as you desire.

Benefits of Social Media for Seniors

Using social media for our senior loved ones will often be a new skill. They need to be comfortable with technology. They will be using a computer, tablet or smartphone to access social media platforms, which takes some education for many first-timers.

Once they have learned the basics of computing, they are ready to connect there are benefits for them throughout their tech journey.

  1. Learning a new skill such as computing stimulates their cognitive capacity.
  2. Mastering this new skill makes seniors confident in their ability to learn.
  3. Re-connecting with long lost friends after 40 or more years!
  4. Being a part of the life of grandkids and great-grandkids sharing messages, FaceTime, photos and updates, or just feeling a part of the action instead of being isolated from the younger family members.
  5. Improving mood when being able to stay connected with loved ones. Being alone and isolated can lead to depression and sadness but being together remotely helps feelings of happiness.
  6. Some seniors stated that it ‘brought fun’ into their lives again
  7. Couponing! Seniors can get discounts to local retail stores, restaurants and groceries from national companies.
  8. Some seniors find connecting via social media invigorating to the point that they update their appearance to put their best face forward for connections.
  9. Gathering credible medical information and prevention tips for better health can help seniors improve their own health.
  10. Increasing social engagement has been shown to aid seniors to live more independently longer as they were able to lower their disability level when their social activity spurred physical activity.

Getting Them Started

Naturally it will take a little bit of convincing for some senior loved ones, at least at first, that this is something they will love. Once your senior has agreed to give it a try, it will take a little more of your time to get them going.

Getting the right device is an important first step. Help them choose one they feel comfortable using, one that is easy to manipulate for their aging eyes and hands and connecting them to broadband services.

Once you have the device in their hands, the apps installed and your senior’s security settings created, you can help them get connected.

We suggest you start with an email account. Once that is done you can start teaching them how to use social media.

Facebook is more enjoyable for many seniors, who enjoy seeing photos and updates from family members. Pinterest is also very enjoyable as there are unlimited friends to find, new and old, and images to sift through. They will love looking at recipes, get ideas to share with grandkids and reminisce about the past through photos.

Social media can educate, inspire, connect and just simply be fun for aging in place seniors.

It is time to get started!