Seniors Onboard the Web Revolution – Help Them Navigate it Safely

Does your senior surf the net?

Does your senior shop online?

Is your senior a Facebook fan?

Do they tweet?

If you can answer yes to any or all of the above questions, your senior is part of the revolution!

If your senior is familiar with the words used above – good for them, but it’s time to start getting more involved!

If your senior doesn’t know what those questions mean, you can help them get on board and join the revolution!

Many seniors find using technology and accessing the internet can stimulate their brains and help maintain their cognition. Exercising their minds is a definite benefit to getting connected for many seniors.

The Latest Trend

Seniors are adopting — and adapting too — technology, using the internet more and more and finding social media has many perks.

In fact, a Pew research study found, that from 2009 to 2011, internet use among seniors 65 and older grew 150%!

Of seniors who use the internet, 71% go online daily and 34% are using social media, such as Facebook.

The latest trend shows that as the numbers of seniors using Facebook is increasing, the number of younger users decreases.

How are seniors using Facebook?

You might think that they are using the web to connect with family and friends, share photos with far away families, and keep up to date on the lives of their family members.

It is true, but they are doing much more!

The internet can reach lonely seniors who are isolated without the friends they meet and with whom they talk online.

One study found that 44% of seniors over 65 are using social media and the internet because they find it user friendly, others their age are doing it, and it is useful to them.

In addition to socialization, they are increasingly using it to gather health information and to talk about their own health problems.

Even better is the fact that many health professionals are recognizing this use of the internet and joining them online to become an informational source for patients. Connecting with their current and future patients is a great use of social media and the internet.

Seniors are also using the internet to share and learn about their medical conditions. Support from others who are living with the same issues is growing.

Other Favorite Internet Uses

Some of us are so accustomed to doing things on the web that we can’t fathom why seniors who did not grow up with a computer on their lap or a phone in their pocket are not doing it all on the internet.

Their slower adoption should be understandable when you think that the learning curve for technology is great.

They struggle with how to turn on a computer, fear of breaking the internet or pushing the wrong button and deleting it all.

But seniors are coming around to using all kinds of devices from e-readers, tablets, smartphones and lap tops. Many are even using health wearables to track their own health. Connected health devices are seeing a great rise in senior users.

Many of us might find it very surprising that in a survey published in October 2009 a shocking number of seniors reported that they shopped online – 77% of those 65 years or older. 94% regularly use email, 71% seek health information online, and 59% conduct financial business online.

Our stereotype is that seniors are not getting connected, but that is not the reality.

Amazing how quickly things can change! For the better!

Seniors are also using Skype, FaceTime and Twitter to connect with people they know and love.

Using the internet for a wide variety of things from shopping, online support, couponing, sharing photos, learning a new skill, telemedicine, playing a game or any other of the millions of things you can do on the internet is benefiting the quality of life of our seniors.

Seniors and family caregivers are also taking advantage of the wealth of information available to them about options such as senior living, researching home care providers, and talking to others about their aging services experiences.

Many of these seniors are using Pinterest to connect with others, learn new things, shop, and just be part of the conversation.

Safety Concerns

Some seniors and family caregivers may cringe at the opportunity for security breaches that can occur when using the internet, social media and emailing.

They may fear that their senior loved one’s personal information, especially health data, is subject to HIPPA violations or misuse.

Scammers are out there as we all know waiting for your senior to share too much information.

Protecting your senior from risk on the internet can be done with education, reminders, security setup, and password safety. We have to help our seniors navigate the web safely.

If your senior loved one is uncomfortable with the computer or needs someone to help navigate or troubleshoot once they are connected, there are many classes they can take to help them join the revolution!

Most would concur that seniors are finding the internet an invaluable personal connection to shopping and services previously not accessible especially for those with mobility impairments or lack of transportation.

How great your senior will feel when he or she receives an email from a grandchild, sees them playing a game via FaceTime, checks out family pictures on the wall of a granddaughter’s Facebook page, gets a package in the mail that they bought online without the hassle of a department store line and many more experiences.

Continue the revolution by signing up for our newsletter today and we will connect with you on this and other topics of interest to YOU and your senior loved ones!

Prepare Early to Manage Seniors’ Money when Alzheimer’s Progresses

Going to the doctor to discuss concerns of your senior loved one’s memory impairment and learning they have Alzheimer’s disease is something caregivers dread.

No one wants to believe it is happening to someone we love.

There are actions you will want to take after you come to grips with the diagnosis.

High among those actions is addressing your senior’s financial matters.

After the Diagnosis

Once your senior loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, it is time to make some plans for the future.

We have a variety of informative tips for you in our post After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis: Family Caregivers Planning for the Future but now we will focus on finances because of its importance.

The first step in protecting financial accounts of someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia is to create legal documents while they are still legally competent to execute them.

Yes, “legally competent” sounds harsh and impersonal, but it’s one concept with which family members of a senior with Alzheimer’s need to become familiar.

It is important that a durable power of attorney which includes finances and healthcare is created so that there will be a person designated to act on behalf of your senior loved one at the time they are no longer capable of managing their money.

Who Should Make Decisions?

It may be difficult for your senior to decide who is the most appropriate person to make decisions for them when the time comes.

Who do they trust with their money?

Who will be in the best position to do what is needed?

Who can they depend on to honor their wishes?

The person they choose ideally should live nearby and not be a long distance caregiver, if possible, because of the need to act quickly and be available if needed to sign paperwork, be familiar with the financial institutions or oversee an issue.

Yes, much today can be done electronically, but there are still benefits to being physically available.

This person doesn’t have to be a family member. A close friend or advisor will work as well.

It is very important for your senior loved one to be clear, open and honest about their wishes from the beginning so that their proxy can follow their wishes without any confusion. Remember that your senior loved one is proud and won’t want to be viewed as out of control of their abilities.

This person should also be told the details of your senior’s finances, such as where all accounts are located (banking, stocks, trusts, etc.), any passwords if banking done online, all retirement fund information, insurance policies, elements of their will, which bills need to be paid from the account and how they get paid, and where the paperwork can be found in the home. For example, are the statements received in paper form or online? Can the proxy access these statements?

Signs Your Senior Can No Longer Handle Money

How do you know when your senior loved one with dementia is no longer able to handle their own finances, pay their own bills, or is incapable of accessing their financial accounts?

Managing finances is often one of the first skills of daily living that seniors with dementia lose as the disease progresses. Unfortunately, people with dementia are also targets of criminals looking to gain easy access to their money.

There are some signs to be alert to as a caregiver so that you will be able to step in and protect their finances:

  1. Difficulty counting change
  2. Trouble calculating the tip
  3. Buying unnecessary items perhaps expensive ones
  4. Giving excessive donations to various causes or people
  5. Overdue bill notices or bank overdrafts
  6. They look for missing money from wallet or accounts
  7. Paranoia about funds, accusing others of stealing their money
  8. They avoid handling money or accounts

How Caregivers Can Protect Loved Ones’ Finances

It is important that family caregivers realize there will be a problem for the person with dementia handling money. It may not be right now, but it will come.

Sometimes caregivers don’t see the problem when it first strikes because the person with dementia is good at hiding their failing capabilities. They are often afraid of being caught not remembering or knowing how to do a task so will try to keep it a secret, oftentimes until it is too late and the money is truly missing.

To protect their money and keep them safer from people who want to defraud them, there are a few steps caregivers can take:

  • A caregiver, especially if they are the power of attorney for finances, should be monitoring the accounts. A person can be designated to keep tabs on a bank account as a third party, read-only status without ability to access the account. This is a good middle step towards taking it over altogether but allows the caregiver to see what is coming in and going out of the bank accounts. You can talk with your senior’s bank about this plan.
  • It is a good idea to discretely identify your senior loved one as a person diagnosed with dementia with the appropriate person at the bank. It is not uncommon for bank tellers to be the first ones to spot financial abuse of seniors. Once you tell the bank about the dementia, you can discuss the options they can take and with which you can assist to keep their money safe.
  • Your senior can put a freeze on their credit report so no one can fraudulently set up new credit cards or steal their identity and give the unfreeze code to a trusted someone. Read their credit reports at least annually to be sure there has been no fraudulent activity in their name.
  • Place your senior’s phone number on the national Do Not Call registry to reduce the likelihood of them getting scammed over the phone.

Uncomfortable Conversations May Be Needed

It is true that many families, especially older adults, don’t like to discuss their finances, but once a diagnosis of dementia occurs it is important that caregivers be informed about finances and take steps to be in control of documents and passwords so that they can monitor the safety of the money!

It might be a good idea to have seniors work with a financial adviser if they don’t feel comfortable talking about money with you. The adviser can oversee their accounts too but don’t have the family connection. Be sure to choose one that is reputable.

It will be helpful to discuss all the options and decisions while your senior is still mentally competent and put plans in place for that time in the future when help will be needed.

Uncomfortable though it may be, protecting your senior’s money up front is easier than trying to recover funds after some unscrupulous person victimizes them.

Planning for Dream Retirement Life – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

The ‘golden years’ used to mean a time in life after working, retirement.

For many this time is coming later than it might have for their parents and grandparents.

Most seniors have in their minds a dream life they hope to achieve as they age.

Perhaps they want to take trips, fish every day, play golf, or live near their grandkids.

Unfortunately, many of our senior loved ones’ dreams won’t become a reality without sound financial planning.

Retirement accounts for many seniors have taken hits from the ups and downs of the economy.

Others didn’t have a chance to save and had expected that social security and now-vanished pensions would fund their dreams.

Combine that with ever-increasing cost of living and cost of healthcare for current and future needs.

Financial Planning for Your Senior’s Successful Aging

Being sure your senior loved one has enough of a nest egg set aside to make their dreams a reality will require careful planning.

If they haven’t done that planning already, the best time to start is now.

It is important to have a vision for what your senior’s future should be so that you can help them plan to achieve it.

Will they want to travel, remodel their home, live on a golf course or just meet their living or healthcare needs?

Here are some tips for your senior’s finances:

  1. Hire a financial planner to help decide how best to set up a budget for the future. Find a fee-only planner versus one who makes a commission from your investments to ensure your senior’s interests are their priority.
  2. Pay off debt. Go into retirement with zero consumer debt if possible.
  3. Make a budget. Expect to spend 4% of savings the first year you retire, though that percentage will vary senior to senior.
  4. Carefully consider a reverse mortgage and understand all its ramifications with your senior before they enter into one; it works for some but not all.
  5. Hold off taking Social Security as long as possible to maximize the income it provides.
  6. Keep investing in retirement, maintain savings.
  7. Consider whether part time employment or self-employment in retirement needs to be part of the plans to achieve long term dreams.

Your senior can live their dreams if they are sufficiently prepared to make them happen.

Additional Resources

Here are some extra posts that you might like covering topics of money and finances for aging seniors:

Technology and Renovations Make Aging at Home the New Standard

The aging in place revolution is no longer a future concept but standard practice for older adults.

Staying in the home of their choice, whether it is their lifelong adult home or a smaller version in an age-friendly community or a walkable city, is where seniors want to live.

Some seniors may opt to move just to be closer to family caregivers.

Others may want to downsize to reduce the amount of home maintenance required.

Many seniors may decide modifying their lifelong adult home to become one that can accommodate their changing needs for mobility and ease of care through home renovation and remodeling is their ticket to aging in place.

Wherever your senior loved one desires to “age in place,” there are many things that should be considered for not only their future needs but their safety as well.

Whitehouse Advisors’ Recommendations To Meet Future Needs

The Whitehouse has technology advisers, President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST), who are busy seeking out technology solutions for aging adults so they can remain at home safely as long as possible.

This is a concern because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 an unprecedented 15% of the total U.S. population was over the age of 65 – more than 46 million Americans.

They reviewed technologies that are currently available or will be in the near future. They wanted to be sure our seniors’ social connectivity, emotional health, cognitive ability, and physical ability needs were met.

Here are some key areas for solutions and recommendations they are currently looking favorably upon to help our senior loved ones age in place:

  1. Ensure older adults have broadband Internet access at home so they can be engaged, stay mentally active, and access telehealth services in addition to regular connection to caregivers; support training programs that are accessible to seniors
  2. FEMA should establish communication for emergency information to isolated and vulnerable seniors
  3. Collaboration between multiple agencies to develop a roadmap to improve wheelchair functional capabilities
  4. Protecting seniors from financial fraud for products without proven benefits, bank scams and give caregivers access to financial oversight

Barriers to Achieving Technology Adoption

PCAST’s recommendations encompass wearable sensors, prosthetics, cognitive training apps, and policy changes to make mobility solutions like electric wheelchairs more accessible to seniors. Some may require financial assistance to purchase technology that could benefit them.

Caregivers were also a consideration in the PCAST report. They realize the importance of family caregivers and the need to give them technology solutions that work to help them keep on providing hands on care as it is needed.

They feel that awareness, accessibility and training are barriers to using technology for caregivers and seniors.

These are areas they feel need improvement and support for continued innovation:

  • Monitoring technology that is secure but easy for seniors to use
  • Teach seniors to use the technology
  • Robotic technology – more affordable and accessible
  • Communication in emergencies
  • Fraud prevention technology
  • Interoperability of medical information
  • Consistent interface of medical devices
  • Cognitive training products should be regulated and enforced to provide proven benefits
  • Innovation in telehealth to allow healthcare professionals to practice interstate and support payment policies that encourage telehealth
  • Senior friendly packaging for technology
  • Higher functioning wheelchairs that can be purchased under Medicare

What Might Be Needed to Age In Place?

Seniors who wish to stay in their home as long as possible may need more assistance to manage day to day activities. This could be personal care, financial management, medication management, accessibility, technology or all of the above.

These are some ideas to consider in order to decide what technology or renovations might be needed to help make things easier for your senior and caregivers who are aging in place or considering it:

  • Do they need help cooking and shopping for food?
  • Do they need help keeping the house clean?
  • Do they need help with laundry?
  • Do they need help with personal care such as bathing?
  • Do they need help with your medications and can they manage them safely?
  • Do they need transportation to get to doctors, pharmacy, or other errands?
  • Are their surroundings safe?
  • Can they afford to stay in their home or pay for remodeling?
  • Do they have a medical condition that would limit staying at home?
  • Do they have family or community support to help when it is needed?
  • Do they have access to the internet for communication, telehealth and social interaction?
  • Are they will to learn to use technology?
  • Do they need remodeling such as more lighting, wider doorways and accessible bathrooms?
  • Can they manage their money or are they highly vulnerable to scams?
  • Are they near family and friends?
  • Is their city walkable or resources for transportation available when they can no longer drive?

There are many options, resources and services available to family caregivers to help improve your senior loved ones home to age in place successfully.

Every situation is different and requires different solutions but planning ahead will make these questions easier to answer and solutions easier to initiate for their well-being.

Does Your Senior Have a Bucket List? Are You Helping Accomplish It?

We all have dreams and desires.

We dream about a sunny day when it is raining, we dream of the smell of our favorite cookie when we are hungry, we dream of faraway places, and we dream of bygone times.

Do you know what your senior may be dreaming?

Many people dream of completing what they call their “bucket list.”

Does your senior loved one have some dreams left undone that they might enjoy fulfilling?

Dreaming Dreams

Completing items on a bucket list, things a person would like to do before they die, gives us all a way to dream.

It allows us to look to the future with a bit more hope, with more life ahead of us yet to be lived.

For some, this act of setting goals for the future helps give us direction.

If we want to travel, we need a passport and some funds.

If we dream to record our life’s story for our heirs, then we need to go through scrapbooks of photos, gather our writing implements and begin to journal our history.

To achieve our goals, or bucket list, we need to do some planning and then take action.

Sometimes we need a little help in doing so.

Bucket List Items You Can Help Them Accomplish

Different people with different life experiences will dream different dreams.

Some may be easy to accomplish and others may be out of their reach.

Here are a few kinds of dreams your senior loved one might have:

  1. Learn a new language
  2. Support a charity
  3. Help people in the community with lifelong skills
  4. Learn something new like crocheting
  5. Play a musical instrument like the piano
  6. Travel to a nearby city
  7. Try a certain new food like bison
  8. Read a particular book, such as ‘War and Peace’
  9. Redecorate a room
  10. Get a pet
  11. Paint a masterpiece
  12. Write your history

Using Technology To Achieve Your Dreams

As our seniors age, they become less able to do some of the things they dreamed about doing in the past.

They may have mobility issues that make it impossible to travel the world.

Perhaps they no longer have adequate finances to do some of the things on their list.

Technology can help them not only visualize but also achieve some of their dreams from their own home.

Apps on tablets, computers and even a smart TV can help your senior loved one connect with the item on their bucket list in a virtual world.

  • Using an app such as Rosetta Stone or a multitude of other free apps that could help stimulate a love of foreign languages.
  • Can you help them support their favorite charity through donations of time or treasure or getting others to do it on their behalf?
  • Learning something new, such as crocheting, knitting, or quilting, can be done using a computer, tablet or TV while accessing do it yourself videos on YouTube. Your senior can also use an app for that too at little or no cost for the app.
  • Playing the piano can be done from home without even having a piano. A virtual keyboard on their smartphone or tablet can be used to play the piano for enjoyment without a real piano!
  • As you might imagine, there are so many ways to provide the experience of travel without every leaving home.
    • Going to the library and getting large picture books of different parts of the world, travel books, and even videos can make them feel like they are somewhere else.
    • You both can go online or use the smart TV for a larger experience to stream travel videos or destination images. You can even get movies of foreign places to enjoy.
    • How about serving a traditional meal while you watch from a country you view to make the experience more hands on!
    • You can also get some world maps or old atlases and plan a journey through cities and vistas wherever they want to visit!
    • Can you make a mock passport and stamp it for every destination they experience this way?
  • If able, you can load up the car and take a day trip to a nearby city together. Even if your senior isn’t mobile enough to walk the streets, you can drive around the sights and stop somewhere for some local cuisine without too much exertion.
  • If there is some special food they want to sample such as bison, New York cheesecake or southwest chili, you can always order it online. Just about anything is available online.
  • The library is a great place to find classic books as well as downloading them onto an e-reader or tablet so that the font size can be adjusted according to needs. Help them find a quiet time and a comfortable place to read the novel of their dreams.
  • Sometimes seniors have lived for so many years in a home with décor from a much earlier decade. The couch may be uncomfortable, the colors faded or style no longer to their taste. You can help them find new items for a living room or bedroom through online shopping, Pinterest boards and sale circulars. It may be fairly simple to update accessories and not necessary to replace it all but the impact will be large.
  • Is it finally time to adopt a pet? Maybe rescuing an older pet will work for your senior and provide them with the companionship they desire.
  • Have they ever painted or done some other craft that is able to help them express their emotions? Gathering together the materials and media they need to become a Picasso can help them check this off the list! Online art classes or tutorials from YouTube might be fun to learn a new technique too!
  • A true family affair that may satisfy more than one person’s bucket list item is creating the family history. Putting together a scrapbook on paper or digitally with family pictures, names and dates that can memorialize the history of the family. You can add their favorite music and set it to video. Use some elements of the time period too, such as newspaper headlines, military medals or other memorabilia they own. You can make it as in depth as you dare but everyone will enjoy this project for years to come!

Caregivers Lend Support

As a family caregiver, it is important to be aware of the dreams of your seniors to help them have the best quality of life and enjoyment of their ‘golden years’.

Communicate openly about what dreams they may have and if they feel unfulfilled with what they haven’t yet accomplished.

You can share their goals while you help them make achievement of those goals reality.

Fiber, It’s Not Just for Regularity – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Most of us don’t get enough fiber each day.

Maybe we aren’t sure how much is enough or which foods will add fiber to our plate.

It is especially important for seniors to include fiber in their diet, not only to maintain bowel health but also to reduce the risk of developing or worsening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and colon cancer.

Adequate fiber can help lower cholesterol in our blood.

Seniors (and everyone over 50 years old) need about 30 grams for men and for 21 grams for women per day.

That could involve planning plus label reading to get enough fiber each day.

Let’s Add Fiber

Fiber has many benefits in addition to keeping bowels regular.

Fiber also makes bowel movements easier to pass, therefore reducing hemorrhoids, lowers cholesterol, helps maintain weight, slows absorption of sugar, thereby maintaining blood sugar levels, and keeps you feeling full longer.

Here are some ideas to increase the fiber in your senior’s diet:

  1. Choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal — 5 or more grams of fiber per serving or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran, granola bites or ground flax seed to your favorite cereal.
  2. Switch to whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat or whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient on the label and have at least 2-3 grams of dietary fiber per serving slice. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, and whole-wheat pasta. Don’t forget whole grain dinner rolls or pita for sandwiches. Other whole grains include quinoa, popcorn, oats, and barley.
  3. Mix veggies into the meal. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  4. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or toss on a green salad. Add beans to other foods such as casseroles in pureed form. Use a variety of beans as a side dish.
  5. Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber. Sprinkle dried fruits on to cereals, yogurts, salads or other foods. Substitute the whole fruit instead of a glass of fruit juice.
  6. Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, nuts and low-fat popcorn are all good choices.
  7. Leave the skins on! Whether it is fruit or vegetables, the skins add fiber.
  8. Add vegetables to your sandwich – slice of tomato, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers or onions.

Try to help your senior include more of these items in his or her diet every day.

Remember they need to get enough water to drink when increasing the fiber in their diet to keep things moving regularly — 8 glasses a day will help!

Additional Resources

Here are a few more articles about our senior’s gut health that you might find informative:

Will Nutritious Meals Be Part of Your Senior’s Hospital Discharge Plan?

Poor nutrition among our senior loved ones is a concern for many family caregivers.

Did you know it is estimated that one in six seniors in the nation are hungry every day?

That’s a real call for action!

Unfortunately, hunger may be a problem for many seniors whose family members don’t realize it so aren’t reaching out to help them.

Lack of proper nutrition carries physical and medical consequences for our seniors, including unhealthy weight loss, muscle loss or sarcopenia, falls, fractures, confusion, fatigue, dehydration, and poorly controlled chronic diseases.

These conditions can lead to hospitalization for our senior loved ones and may be even a loss of independence.

Malnutrition in Seniors

A recent study reported that as many as 29% of seniors living in the community, versus a care facility, had sarcopenia, which is defined by the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength that occurs with advancing age.

It is important for seniors’ health to eat a wide variety of foods, including nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy while limiting added sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Seniors need adequate calories to provide energy to fuel their body as well as nutrients of concern, such as vitamin D, B6, B12 and folate. Calcium is important, as well as adequate protein, to prevent muscle loss.

If your senior decides they need to take supplemental vitamins and minerals to help with any shortfall in nutritional intake, be sure they don’t exceed recommended amounts as too much can be dangerous and may interfere with their prescription medications.

Getting a variety of foods and nutrients in their daily diet is a priority. Supplements should only be used as enhancements — not substitutes for a healthy diet.

Many Contributors to Senior Malnutrition

Other factors also contribute to malnutrition for aging seniors such as:

  • Poor dental care, ill-fitting dentures, mouth pain
  • Poor appetite due to multiple medications, chronic disease
  • Lack of safe transportation to purchase food
  • Lack of financial resources to buy nutrient dense, fresh foods
  • Inability to prepare their own meals due to immobility, confusion, or fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment that interferes with ability to sequence task of cooking or impaired safety
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Depression, loneliness
  • Altered taste perception
  • Need for diet restrictions due to disease (Note: 61% of seniors have multiple chronic diseases)

New Collaborations Provide Nutrition for Seniors

One agency which understands the specific nutritional needs of our seniors and the lack of good nutrition for many community dwelling older adults is Meals on Wheels.

Connecting healthcare professionals with the notion that a healthy, nutritious meal could be as important as a drug prescription for seniors leaving the hospital to return home is the goal for one Meals on Wheels Program in Spokane Washington.

They are working to not only help seniors stay healthy once they return home after a hospital stay, they hope by improving health through nutrition, they can help keep these seniors from returning to the hospital.

A full recovery and health with the resources to eat right can help prevent malnutrition for seniors at risk for hospitalizations and loss of independent living at home.

To achieve this goal, the Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels program has begun working with other community nutrition organizations to figure out how to integrate nutrition into health care systems.

Doctors and hospitals don’t often consider how a senior will get nourishing and restorative foods once they return home. The lack of proper nutrition can impede their recovery and keep them from quickly returning to the hospital.

Community based nutrition programs are encouraging the healthcare system to screen for malnutrition risk and help reduce it by connecting seniors with the community resources available for their well-being.

This program reminds us that 1 in 3 seniors are malnourished when they enter the hospital. One in every five Medicare patients sent to the hospital ends up returning within a month.

In 2014 the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition reported that disease-associated malnutrition in the US costs $157 billion each year.

This program and others like it are building bridges to collaborate with healthcare systems to get meals to seniors who need them. By providing seniors with the nourishing food they need, the goal is to keep them healthy to remain at home which will ultimately reduce healthcare costs.

What Can Caregivers Do?

It is important for family caregivers to be aware of the effect poor nutrition has on the overall health and quality of life of our seniors.

A pattern of poor intake can impact their physical and mental health but caregivers can step in to prevent a health crisis.

When you are visiting, be sure to check their pantry and refrigerator to determine if they have good quality foods in an appropriate variety.

It is important to know if they are eating the healthy foods that are in their kitchen or if they end up throwing it away when it spoils.

Observe them for any physical changes such as weight loss or a change in their gait which could signal muscle loss.

  • Do they complain of hunger, mouth pain or being too weak to prepare their meals?

Try to determine the best way to help them get and eat the foods that will nourish them.

Perhaps you could help with the grocery shopping, meal preparation, or suggest specific foods or changes in texture that will enable them to eat more.

  • Do they need to visit the dentist?
  • Would they be more likely to eat complete meals if they were in a senior center during the day with their peers or if a pre-made meal were delivered to their door.
  • Are they lonely and in need of a meal companion to alleviate loneliness?
  • Will their budget stretch to allow them to buy the foods they should be eating?
  • Can they get to the grocery store and then bring home their purchases without help or a ride?
  • Are they mobile enough to prepare their own food or need some assistance or adaptive equipment to make the job easier?

Caregivers can diagnose and treat many obstacles that could be true roadblocks to seniors getting the nutrition that they need.

When you are able to observe, investigate and correct any of these roadblocks to good nutrition, your senior’s independence and quality of life can be improved!

Diabetes Management Medication Safety – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Taking medication properly is vital for our senior loved ones with chronic disease, especially when treating diabetes.

Medication is essential in controlling diabetes, so it is important seniors and their caregivers know how to take it, understand what type of drug is being prescribed, how medications impact eating and activity, and other health concerns.

Some seniors will take more than one medication to help manage their diabetes. Combination therapy can help some seniors get better control of their diabetes.

This means that there will be multiple medications to manage as your senior is likely also taking medications for other health conditions such as high blood pressure as well as over the counter medications too.

Be observant and make note of any new side effects your senior experiences while taking medications and seek the advice of their healthcare professional before stopping any of their prescriptions.

Understanding Medication Safety

It is important that you and your senior loved one fully understand their medicines and how to take them safely.

The American Diabetes Association offers these questions for our seniors and caregivers to ask the doctor:

  1. Could any of my medications cause low blood sugar? (or high blood sugar)
  2. When should I take my diabetes medication? (there are specific best times for some of these medications)
  3. How much medication should I take? (ask if you don’t understand the dosing of insulin especially)
  4. Should I continue to take my diabetes medications when I am sick? (what other information do I need to know if I am sick such as when do I call you and what do I eat or drink?)
  5. Do I need to adjust my medications before I exercise? (do I need to take a blood sugar reading before or after exercise)
  6. Do I need to adjust my medications if I skip a meal? (avoid skipping a meal!)
  7. How do I properly store my medication? (some types require refrigeration or to kept out of the heat or moisture)

Medications, diet and weight management are key areas of treatment for diabetes.

Your senior will be healthier if all parts of the puzzle are managed with your help.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional articles that you might find helpful about prescription medications and diabetes:

Aquatic Exercises — One Strategy To Keep Seniors Strong and Mobile

Physical activity is one of the health goals we are all being encouraged to strive to make a part of our every day lives.

Working out in the gym may not fit into the lifestyle or even abilities of many of our senior loved ones but…

Who wouldn’t want to do exercises while enjoying a refreshing swim at the same time?

Pool Exercises

Seniors are jumping into the pool to get moving for their health but are finding there are far more benefits!

In Seattle, Occupational Therapist Jeanne Shepard works with a group of women aged 60 to 80 years old to improve their balance through a variety of exercises in the pool.

The local YMCA aquatic center houses the hour long class.

The unique mixture of moves they perform is helping to prevent falls.The water naturally allows them to mimic the motion of falling and learn to manage their balance.

Fear of Falling Evaporates in the Water

By falling in the buoyant water and working against the water’s resistance, the participants are overcoming their fears of falling and most especially their fear of potential loss of independence.

This addresses one of the greatest concerns as more seniors desire to age in place, the potential impact falling may have on their safety.

The consequence of falls has troubled many family members and caregivers. Aquatic activity could help allay their fears.

The numbers are staggering.

Did you know:

  • falls are the 2nd leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide (yes, deaths)
  • every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall
  • falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, making it the leading cause of visits (21.3%)
  • fractures are the most serious consequences of falls and occur in 5% of all people who fall
  • hip fractures are the most serious fractures from falls and lead to the greatest health problems and number of deaths
  • according to the CDC, in 2005 more than 15,000 people over the age of 65 died as a result of a fall
  • 50% of all older adults who are hospitalized for hip fractures cannot return home or live independently after the fracture

Inactivity can lead to falls, with injury as a senior’s muscles lose strength resulting in impaired balance.

It is estimated that, by 2020, the population of older adults will double, resulting in even greater numbers of falls and/or hospitalizations as more seniors age in place.

Keeping active with age by joining this type of program can help your senior keep strong muscles, maintain balance and allow them to stay safe at home and community as long as possible.

Test Your Balance

Experiencing problems with balance (or equilibrium) is not uncommon in seniors who have lost muscle mass as they age.

Weak skeletal muscles make it hard for seniors to maintain their posture and can lead to falls.

Here is one way your senior can easily test their own balance. The shorter your balance time, the “older” your equilibrium is and the greater your fall risk.

1. Stand next to a firm surface such as a counter or chair back.
2. Hold your hands above the surface in case you need support.
3. Close your eyes and lift one foot off the ground.
4. Balance on the other foot.
5. Count out loud the number of seconds you are able to balance.

Increasing Muscle Strength

Improving muscle strength through specific activities can help our senior loved ones prevent falls.

Participating in aquatic exercises, such as the program in Seattle, is one way to build strength.

There are also other activities that seniors can do to help them build muscle including:

  • swimming
  • water aerobics
  • tai chi
  • resistant exercises, such as weight lifting of light weights
  • balance exercises
  • climbing stairs
  • get up and down in a chair without using your arms
  • biking
  • yoga
  • stay active in general
  • eat right with adequate protein and nutrients to prevent muscle loss

STEADI Program

Because falls should not automatically be a part of aging, healthcare providers have become part of the prevention solution.

Healthcare providers are trying to identify seniors who may be at risk for falls when they perform medical exams.

Through the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) program created by researchers at CDC’s Injury Center, doctors are performing specific tests on seniors to determine their level of risk including mobility tests, endurance, leg strength and balance.

When determined to be needed, they are referring seniors to the appropriate community resources to help them build strength, balance and reduce their fall risk.

Doctors may also review medication lists to see if there are any prescriptions that might be contributing to falls. They may also prescribe nutritional supplements such as calcium and vitamin D to protect bones from fractures if a senior does fall.

More Fall Prevention Steps

In addition to talking to your senior’s doctor about their fall risk, your senior can do some other things to help them prevent falls.

  • Get vision checked and use prescription eye correction
  • Treat foot pain when experienced and wear proper footwear, even when indoors
  • Correct any home hazards or dangers

You and your senior can act to help them improve their balance through specific activities, talk with the doctor about potential risk and create the safest environment in their home to prevent falls that could lead to not just fear of falling but injuries, hospitalizations and death.