Conversation with Health Tech Innovator MOCACARE on the Senior Care Corner® Show

Technology with the potential to help our seniors live healthy, safe, and comfortable lives is something for which Senior Care Corner® is always on the lookout to keep family caregivers informed.

MOCAheart really caught our eye at CES® because that definition fits it well.

Many seniors — and family caregivers — can benefit from the ability to monitor heart health simply and conveniently in the comfort of home.

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Innovative Approach to Home Heart Monitoring

SCC mocaheart screenshotWhile there are already devices seniors can use in their homes to take measurements to track heart health, they often sit unused, leaving our senior loved ones at risk for the health problems tracking is meant to reveal.

That leaves an opening for devices that give seniors the ability to easily perform their own monitoring and tracking, avoiding the need to visit the doctor’s office each time.

We were skeptical so tried MOCAheart ourselves and found it performs as advertised and presents results in straightforward terms when paired with their free mobile app.

Our senior testers agreed after trying it themselves so we want to share it with other family caregivers.

Our MOCAheart Conversation

Naama post picIn this Senior Care Corner Show we’re pleased to share our conversation with Naama Stauber Breckler, MBA, the Chief Operating Officer of MOCACARE, the developer of MOCAheart.

We enjoy hearing the stories that drive innovation and Naama did not disappoint, telling us of the need that led to MOCAheart and the development of more solutions to come.

When you listen to our chat, you’ll hear Naama describe how to use MOCAheart, the feedback the device and app together provide, and some of the feedback they’ve received from a range of clients.

One feature we really like is the ability for the senior to arrange for monitoring results be sent, at the senior’s option, to family members or healthcare providers, adding to peace of mind.

We were impressed to learn of the lifetime support MOCACARE offers to those with devices, along with the ability to purchase at online retailers such as Amazon.com as well as directly on the MOCACARE website.

We hope you’ll find our conversation with Naama as interesting as we did and will check out MOCAheart for yourself if your senior loved one — or you — could benefit from the insights it provides.

News Items in this Episode

  • HHS Report Outlines Problems, Potential of Telemedicine
  • High Tech Helps Aging Drivers
  • Will Unloading Shoes Help Your Arthritic Knees?

Don’t miss Kathy’s quick tip on senior immunization time.

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Prepare for the Next Health Checkup – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

As family caregivers, we know the medical checkups our senior loved ones have are important to their health and wellness.

Because our seniors’ abilities to sit and wait are not endless, nor is our time, we need to make the most out of the time we spend with the health care professional.

What do we need to get from our limited time in the doctor’s office?

Family caregivers need to get their questions answered and leave the office with all the pertinent information they need to be the best advocate for their senior’s health.

Caregivers are doing even more tasks for seniors in addition to the day to day chores they do to keep them safe and happy.

They need to get directions, instructions and resources to help them complete these diverse and skilled tasks.

Preparing for the Next Checkup

Here are a few tips to help family caregivers make the next visit to the doctor or any healthcare experience better by being prepared:

  1. Update your family health history to include any new health problems for your senior or any close relatives to be ready to share with your medical team.
  2. Create a list of any recent or new symptoms, issues or questions for your doctor, including any changes other doctors may have made since your last visit with this professional. Don’t assume your senior’s doctors are communicating, though you may find they are doing so.
  3. Bring a full list of the medications your senior is taking, both prescription and over-the-counter.
  4. Make a note of any other changes in eating or sleeping and symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  5. Give some thought to the future, ask what to expect, such as changes in health due to a chronic condition, so you can be prepared. Discuss advance directives if you haven’t yet.
  6. Be ready to face discussions such as quitting smoking, losing weight or health care decisions.

Play through a scenario in your mind, with the help of your senior, of questions that will ensure that you get all the answers you seek and your fears communicated for the benefit of both you and your senior’s well-being.

Don’t be afraid to take with you papers with lists of questions or reports you wish to discuss.

Be mindful of the time you need and be prepared to schedule another appointment without your senior to discuss more in-depth concerns.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional articles family caregivers may find helpful when they are in control of the healthcare visits:

Advance Directives Considerations, Facts & Myth Busting for Caregivers

Do you know what an advance directive is, much less whether your senior (or you) has one somewhere — or should?

An advance directive is defined as a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.

Helping your senior loved one execute an advance directive, or doing it for yourself or with your spouse/significant other, is important for everyone involved.

It won’t be helpful to wait until a crisis occurs to decide one might be necessary.

Setting them in advance of the need is the best way to ensure the desired care decisions are made.

As a matter of fact, it will be too late if you wait until it is needed.

Advance Directive Considerations

When an individual is contemplating preparing advance directives, there are some things to consider.

  • Who do they want to make decisions for them if they become unable to express their own wishes for care and treatment?
  • Is there a second person they would choose to act as alternate in case the first person is unable, unwilling or unreachable when an emergency occurs?
  • What kind of decisions do they want their representative to make? Legal? Financial? Medical? Do they prefer different people make different ones, such as different children?
  • What do they want done if they become a victim of illness or trauma? How in depth do they want to be treated?
  • If they are in a coma, what care do they want performed? Artificial respiration? Feeding tubes? For how long? Resuscitated? Put on life support? Physician’s assessments?
  • If they become disabled and their representative deems, based on medical advice, they will have a poor quality of life, do they want to be revived?
  • If they are put onto life support, how would they want the decision made to remove it, if at all?
  • If they are dying, what kind of care do they want? Comfort care and pain control only? Intensive care? Care at home? Do they want to be transferred to a hospital?
  • Are there facilities where they prefer — or refuse — to go for treatment?
  • If they are dying, do they want pain relief even if it reduces their alertness or makes them unaware of their surroundings?
  • Do they want someone with them when they are dying? If so, who?
  • What kind funeral and burial arrangements do they want? Are there specific desires such as clothing, burial location, music or prayers that they want?

Types of Advance Directives

There are several types of advance directives. You should consider checking with an elder law attorney to ensure that they are executed according to the laws in your state. For example, witnesses are needed but each state varies on number and relationships to your senior, so get the information you need before these documents are executed.

Living Will

The most well known and oldest type of advance directive is the living will. This document directs the physician to withdraw or not perform medical interventions if your senior is in a terminal condition and unable to make decisions about their own medical treatment.

Some living wills are specific to treatment modalities, such as tube feeding for nutrition or IVs for hydration, and others are non-specific.

They may read something to this effect: life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong my dying be withheld or discontinued.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Another type of advance directive is the power of attorney for healthcare or healthcare proxy. In this document one designates a person to make health care decisions if they are temporarily or permanently unable to make their own decisions.

Your senior doesn’t have to be in a terminal condition for the representative to be asked to make decisions. The person designated needs to be informed about what is desired and strong enough to dictate to health professionals that the wishes be upheld.

Not everyone can be strong in a crisis so this person should be chosen carefully.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney differs from a healthcare power of attorney in that it often includes the ability to perform financial transactions in addition to medical decisions.

This power can be helpful if this person needs to apply for benefits for your senior such as Medicaid while your senior is medically compromised.

The Five Wishes

A list of wishes outside the realm of legal medical wishes is The Five Wishes. This is a special document that goes more indepth about what your senior (or you) would want to happen in a variety of instances, such as having the family pet on their bed at the end of life or who should be called to their bedside, what type of music they want played in the room, and a myriad of other desires for comfort and peace in addition to the medical wishes.

The Five Wishes is a loving picture of the person your senior loved one is, how they want to face the end of their life, and how they want their family to be part of this journey.

Busting Advance Directives Myths

Many people across the country, no matter their culture or upbringing, hold misconceptions about end of life and advance directives. Let’s dispel some of those misconceptions — and myths — now.

  • No one, including healthcare personnel, can force your senior loved one to complete an advance directive. It is a voluntary action.
  • Doctors and healthcare personnel will not stop treatment or refuse life saving measures, such as antibiotics or intravenous fluids, because there may be a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. If something can be done without heroic measures, they will do it. Advance directives do not mean “do not treat.”
  • A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order means that if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing, no chest compressions or other heroic measures, such as intubation, will be performed. CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, will be done in the absence of a DNR order. In many states, EMS will perform CPR in transit.
  • Advance directives are not irrevocably written in stone and can be rescinded if the subject of the directives has a change of mind in the future. Advance directives are documents detailing healthcare wishes — and wishes may change. (Actually, it is a good idea to review advance directives on a regular basis to be sure they continue to be appropriate. Does your senior still want to be buried or do they now wish to be cremated? Do they want the firstborn to be in charge or the youngest child?)
  • The personal representative can be changed if life changes occur, such as divorce, death or conflict. The person just needs to properly update their advance directive as needed.
  • Family members can not interpret what your senior loved one “meant” in their advance directives. The physician must decide the wishes of your senior based on the document so be sure wishes are clearly stated and the family knows what is expected.
  • It is true that without any advance directives, a physician may choose to perform any interventions and make critical decisions for your senior or a court may appoint a guardian who is unfamiliar with their values and wishes. This may lead to some treatment that they do not want.

Importance of Advance Directives

Advance directives allow your senior loved one the right to die with dignity, using their definition of dignity.

Once seniors have decided what they would like to happen as they age and are near the end of life, ensure family caregivers and family members know your senior’s wishes so they can carry them out without confusion or indecision.

It is also important to provide copies to key individuals such as the power of attorney, family members and physician. The forms should be accessible in case of emergency.

Being prepared is the ultimate gift to the whole family and to oneself.

Getting and Staying Active are Keys to Healthy and Happy Aging

Life isn’t living without movement.

Aristotle said “happiness is a state of activity.”

Seniors and their caregivers are encouraged by experts in health and wellness (and Senior Care Corner®) to get active and stay active.

We say it all the time — find something that you and your senior loved one enjoy doing and make it part of your routine.

Movement and physical activity must become priorities and part of your daily lifestyle for it to become inherent in your day.

There is no question about the positive physical and mental health benefits both seniors and family caregivers can reap when they get active, but we still aren’t doing it!

Researchers have begun trying to uncover the cause of our complacency so they can help us finally get on the right track.

Studying Our Physical Activity

A recent report conducted for AARP Research, called the 2016 Survey on Physical Activity, tried to determine how much we (all those over 40 years) are participating in physical activity pursuits, what we are doing to be active, what are our perceived barriers to activity and how our movement parlays into brain health.

Over 1,500 people were surveyed across the country to create a representative and diverse sample of participants.

They found:

  • 75% believe exercise would improve their health and quality of life
  • 56% report participating in any physical activity during the week
  • 34% meet the guidelines of being active 150 minutes a week in moderate to vigorous activity
  • 53% state their activity of choice is walking
  • 15% report strength training
  • 8% report running or jogging
  • 34% were described as ‘contemplators’ who thought about beginning to exercise in some way
  • One in ten report satisfaction being sedentary
  • 24% saw no reason to exercise
  • Two in ten say they are planning to exercise in some activity in the near future
  • 30% are tracking their health measures via a computer, app, or wearable device

Benefits of Movement

Most experts agree that regular physical activity can make seniors’ mood better by reducing depression, relieving stress, sidelining anger, and giving them a feel-good sensation.

It can alleviate boredom too.

Most importantly, it improves health and well-being. The American Heart Association tells us that adults who watch more than 4 hours of television a day have a 46% increased risk of death from any cause and an 80% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Those surveyed who are actively engaged in physical activity report their brain health is better compared to those respondents who don’t move.

The group of exercisers also reported that their brain health and mental abilities increased over the past five years compared to non-exercisers.

Perceived improvements in brain health include wisdom, life satisfaction, managing stress, problem solving, decision making, learning something new, paying attention, focus, and remembering things.

Those surveyed realize these benefits of regular physical activity:

  1. Better overall health
  2. Greater fitness
  3. Improved quality of life
  4. Help reaching weight goals
  5. Improved appearance
  6. Reduced levels of chronic disease
  7. Improve self-esteem
  8. Improve brain health and sharpness
  9. Improve mood
  10. Help social interactions

What Blocks Staying Active?

In the AARP Research study, respondents reported that they don’t enjoy activity. 68% agree that getting enough physical activity is completely in their control. They state they have little desire or will power to begin or keep doing it once started.

29% say they aren’t the ‘exercise type’. Some reported they don’t feel comfortable being active around others.

16% say they are afraid of hurting themselves. Some feel they don’t know which exercise or activity would be the most beneficial so don’t do any.

32% reported that if their doctor told them to get that much exercise, they would do it.

Only 21% report that people who are important to them are being active. Sounds like a good way for family caregivers to find ways to be active together, encouraging and supporting each other’s healthy lifestyles. 28% said that if they had a friend being active, they would do it too.

Some say they don’t have the energy to exercise. 29% say they feel too tired.

27% report that they can’t afford to exercise and that it costs too much money.

21% say they would love to go outside and exercise but their community makes it a challenge.

Do We Know Value of Activity?

Time might also be thought of as a barrier but more than likely prioritizing their time is more to the point. 65% of the respondents agree that they would give up watching TV or movies in order to get active. 20% reported that getting physical took too much time.

Of the survey group, most recognized that their physical health was not as sharp as their mental health.

In other words, they know they need more activity but continue to watch TV instead of going for a walk.

Despite the fact that almost 60% of those asked stated that they weigh more than they should for their height, only half of them track their weight and one third track their diet and sleep.

Does that mean we would rather not know, denial may improve our health?

Researchers were left with the impression that many respondents didn’t know if the benefits of exercise outweighed the expenditure — cost, time or potential injury.

Movement Seniors Are Doing

In this study, participants tracked their own physical activity and the activities they enjoyed doing.

The activity most seniors did was walk, whether it was near home or in some other location.

Some took their pets and others did not. They would walk for their own health not just to care for a pet.

40% reported doing gardening or yard work regularly.

Some report participating in flexibility exercises, cardio workout machines, weight training, Pilates, strength training, calisthenics such as jumping jacks, and running.

They also reported participating in these sports but in low numbers less than 7%: dancing, yoga, tai chi, hiking, golfing, fishing, bowling, skiing, aerobics, non-stationary biking, team sports, martial arts, or racket sports.

Caregivers as Buddies

There are a wide variety of physical activities and ways to get moving that can bring improved physical health along with improved balance, friendships, socialization opportunities and a better mood or outlook on life.

It is easier for many of us to get moving when we have a buddy to share the experience.

Caregivers are poised to help their seniors do just that and could also benefit from physical activity so that they can continue providing care and living their own healthy and happy lives.

Time to get moving!

Eating Inflammation Fighting Foods – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Inflammation is a physical condition in which a particular part of our body will become reddened, swollen, warm to the touch, or painful, usually as a result of an infection or an injury.

However, we are learning more and more that our bodies are also inflamed from the inside out too. Our bodies can be injured inside, where we can’t see it.

Inflammation is a way our immune system responds to heal us. It helps us fight invaders such as bacteria and viruses.

Inflammation

Inflammation can be acute or chronic in nature.

A scraped knee with redness and pain that heals within a few days is acute.

The inflammation of our intestines that often comes with Crohn’s Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome that occurs for a lengthy period of time is chronic.

Inflammation that is chronic is thought to be resulting from a wear and tear effect of certain medical factors such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise or stress.

It has been shown through research that inflammation in our bodies can lead to health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, bone health and cancer.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips

For chronic inflammation, eating foods that can help reduce inflammation will improve health, especially for specific lifestyle conditions such as arthritis.

There are some foods that we can include on our menu to fight inflammation and improve aging health.

  1. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, which are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. (You could also include a fish oil supplement rich in Omega 3s if your doctor advises)
  2. Use olive and canola oil to cook for their Omega 3 fatty acid benefits
  3. Whole grains due to their fiber content; Grains such as bulgur, quinoa and brown rice too. Whole grain should be the first ingredient in baked goods
  4. Dark leafy green vegetables containing vitamin E such as kale, spinach, broccoli and greens
  5. Nuts especially almonds and walnuts due to vitamin E and fiber content
  6. Edamame and soy milk due to the isoflavones they contain.
  7. Lycopene containing foods, such as watermelon and tomatoes
  8. Colorful vegetables like beets, peppers, avocado, and garlic also contain compounds that fight inflammation
  9. Deep red fruits such as in berries have helpful anthocyanins; this would include red wine
  10. Some spices including nutmeg, cloves or turmeric are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties

Adding some of these foods to your daily meals can help your overall health in many ways and they taste good too!

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet and how it can impact your senior’s health and well-being, you might want to read these articles:

Social Security Benefits – When Should Your Senior Start Them?

About 8,000 of us turn 65 each day, according to predictions from AARP.

Others estimate this number nearer to 10,000 a day and will continue through 2030.

Either way, there are a lot of people turning 65 each day!

Turning 65 is a real milestone for our senior loved ones and us as their family caregivers.

To face the coming years, many of those turning 65 will have only their Social Security income to depend upon as they age in place.

More than 78% of us have saved less than $100,000 for retirement and 52% of us have saved less than $10,000.

Combine those savings with the disappearance of the once-traditional defined benefits pension plans and Social Security benefits play a key role for many seniors.

It is important, then, for our seniors to make the most of electing when to enroll in benefits to best meet their financial obligations, especially healthcare, as they age.

When To Elect Benefits

When is the best time to begin social security benefits?

For those retiring or planning retirement, this can be a critical decision.

A question many seniors ask themselves is whether it is better to begin their benefits as early as possible and earn a smaller amount or wait longer to increase the amount they receive.

The amount of your senior’s monthly benefit will be directly related to what age they elect to begin their benefits. There is a handy calculator to help determine the best retirement age.

Depending on the choice your senior makes, it could mean the difference in several thousand dollars of retirement income.

Unfortunately, there is no one answer right for everyone who may be debating about what to do.

When Does Retirement Begin?

According to the Social Security Administration, full retirement age begins based on the year one was born, starting from 65 years and two months to 67 years.

One can begin collecting social security benefits at 62 years old, which is called early retirement by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but your senior will receive a lower monthly rate than what they will earn at full retirement age.

If they delay their benefits until age 70, known as delayed retirement by the SSA, they will earn an even higher monthly benefit.

The difference in early benefits can be 6.7% to 30% lower than what they will receive at full retirement age.

The benefit amount based on retirement age will remain the same for the entire benefit period, so this is a decision that requires careful thought and financial planning on the part of your senior.

Calculating Needs and Benefits

Benefits are currently based on your senior’s average earnings throughout their lifetime, using an average of the highest earning 35 years of work. If there is a break in work history, those years will also be averaged to achieve a 35 year span.

Over the years, when you work and pay social security taxes, you earn credits toward earning your benefits.

Your senior will receive an annual earnings statement from the Social Security Administration that explains the amount of benefits they are eligible to receive at early retirement, full retirement age, and 70 years old.

Your senior should review (maybe with your help?) this statement very carefully to help make informed decisions regarding how much income they will need or if their current spending will need to be adjusted.

While financial needs vary by senior, the rule of thumb is that 60-70% of pre-retirement income is needed after retirement. Be aware that Social Security benefits are likely to provide 40% or less of pre-retirement income.

Some things for your senior to include in their needs calculations include:

  • whether they plan to continue to working after “retirement” (full, part or intermittent) and after they begin collecting benefits
  • your senior’s health history and potential future healthcare needs
  • the amount of pension benefits, savings or other assets available to them

Also consider if there is supplemental or long term care insurance benefits available that would help offset future out of pocket medical costs.

Don’t forget, when your senior becomes eligible for full benefits depends on the year of birth.

Some people advise, if you think you are likely to live a long life, delaying receipt of benefits, perhaps even to age 70.

If your senior decides to defer benefits to later in life, it may be a good time to initiate and follow a budget, keeping debt low so that any unforeseen expenses can be handled.

Most people hope to get as much from their Social Security as possible, but each person’s situation is different and will require a slightly different approach.

Applying for Benefits

Remember, if your senior decides it is time to take their Social Security benefits, they should apply about three months before they wish to receive these benefits.

To get more information when your senior is ready to make this important decision, you both can consult the Social Security Administration benefits planner website. You will find tools to help you calculate your benefits.

If your senior is ready to apply for their benefits, it can be done at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.

One important reminder from the Social Security Administration: if you plan to delay receiving benefits, you’ll still need to sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65.

Do you have advice, tips or want to share your experience? Your comments are welcome.

Are Your Seniors Gamers? If Not, They’re Missing Out on Benefits

Many of our seniors didn’t have a lot of experience playing games — at least not the games our kids play today.

Kids can play games anywhere and anytime (sometimes it seems like all the time) using a variety of consoles, computers and mobile devices.

Guess what – so can our senior loved ones!

There are benefits to gaming that could mean it is time to introduce your senior to games that will give them enjoyment, brain stimulation and connections to others.

It’s also a great way to gain comfort with the digital technology that can mean so much to their lives in other ways.

New Study About Gaming Over 50

AARP partnered with the Entertainment Software Association to survey almost 3,000 people over 50. Their ages ranged from 50 to over 70 with a mean age of 63 years.

They were asked questions about how often they game, what devices they use and what their attitudes were toward playing games.

It turns out our seniors are playing games more than you might imagine.

The Survey Says…

A gamer in this study is a person who has a tech device or system that they personally used at least once a month to play a game.

Four in ten adults over 50 are considered gamers.

More women than men are gamers – 40% versus 35% — and they play more frequently, too.

The majority of those surveyed, 59%, are using their computer or laptop to access games.

However, many are using mobile devices to play games.

This report also found that senior gamers don’t play just once a month, but as often as weekly, with three quarters stating they play that often. Four in ten say they play every day.

It might be surprising to us to learn that, in fact, more seniors over 60 are gamers compared to younger seniors. 43% of those over 60 play daily compared to 37% of those 50-60 years old.

Older gamers are playing an average of 5 hours a week. Those using a tablet seem to play longer than those using a smartphone or game console.

Favorite Games

Seniors polled in this survey stated a preference for specific types of games.

Card or tile games such as solitaire were played by the majority of respondents at 46%.

Next more often played games included puzzle or logic games by 44% of those asked.

Other games seniors enjoy include trivia, word games and traditional board games.

The older the person, the more likely they were to play card and tile games.

Who’s Getting Them Connected?

You may find it surprising that most seniors are purchasing their own games according to their own desires.

77% of them report buying their own games in the past six months.

Many seniors also purchase games for others.

Why Do They Want To Play?

What do our seniors feel is the ultimate reason for playing online games? Most will say simply to have fun.

Of those surveyed, 26% report fun is extremely important and 52% report fun is very important when playing an online game.

However, if those seniors are over 70, they report mental stimulation as the main reason they play games. The expect to stay mentally sharp when playing these games.

Gamers more often respond that games will help them improve brain health compared to those seniors who don’t play games.

They play most often between six and nine PM, but will play any time of the day.

Playing Solo, Offline Games

Most seniors aren’t connecting with others when they play, as 86% report that they play alone. However, most report their children or grandchildren are major influencers of them being gamers. They teach them to play, advise them on which games to purchase and help them with new technology.

It is interesting that older gamers have played games on and off since they began playing video games, most often in their 30s.

Not only do they wish to play for fun and brain stimulation, seniors report gaming relieves boredom, allows them to spend time with their family and friends, challenges them mentally, teaches them something new, keeps them healthy and gives them a connection.

Where Are They Playing ?

By and large, seniors play games at home.

They may play on devices they themselves own or owned by someone else in the home.

89% of those seniors asked report that they own a phone or other mobile device. 42% say they have a regular phone while about 25% own a smartphone (either Android or IOS). The phone used for gaming is an even split between iPhone and Android devices.

However, not all seniors use their phones to play games. They also use other tech devices.

The device or system most often used to play games is the computer or laptop at 59% as the majority of seniors own a computer or laptop – 87%.

Many also report tablet ownership themselves or someone in the household as well as portable digital music players and smart watches.

For gaming, they are using phones and mobile devices such as tablets at 57% and video game consoles at 15%.

Few Own Gaming Consoles

Only 22% of the respondents reported owning a game console such as Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation. A Nintendo Wii tops the models seniors own. Some (6%) also say they own a portable game such as Game Boy Sony PSP or the most popular Nintendo DS.

Other systems reported as being used by seniors for game playing include Apple TV or Plug and Play, but the numbers of owners/users is low.

It seems that they aren’t connecting to WiFi when playing, as 41% report not accessing WiFi. Of those who do connect, laptops are the device of choice.

What About the Seniors Who Don’t Play?

Seniors who report that they don’t play online games, say they find them boring.

Many in this group feel that they are for younger people, not them.

A few report fears of security and privacy when online.

Others are just unsure about the technology and don’t know how to access it.

Seniors get many benefits whether they realize it or not while playing.

Family caregivers of those not yet playing games might want to introduce some gaming into their life to give them an opportunity for improved socialization, mental stimulation and FUN!

Safety for Seniors on Blood Thinners – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Many seniors take anticoagulants, medication to keep blood thin by preventing clots that may lead to heart attack, DVTs or stroke.

Without anticoagulants, blood clots could form and travel to other parts of the body, causing other health problems.

In reality, your senior’s blood is not ‘thinner’ but blood clots have more difficulty forming when anticoagulants are used.

Using these medications is serious business, too.

It is important to follow safety precautions when taking any form of blood thinner.

Taking a medication to thin your blood means your senior is at higher risk of bleeding, even with simple things such as brushing their teeth.

Your senior may also bruise more easily and feel cold as a result of these medications.

Blood Thinner Safety

Blood thinners are often associated with changes to the foods our seniors can eat, but there are other safety precautions that are very important to follow.

Here are some reminders for your senior:

  1. Prevent bleeding by wearing shoes indoors and outdoors
  2. Wear gloves while doing yard work
  3. Use scissors or knives carefully
  4. Use an electric razor or hair removal cream instead of razor blades
  5. Don’t use toothpicks instead use a waxed dental floss
  6. Use a soft bristle toothbrush
  7. Use caution when cutting finger and toe nails
  8. Be sure every doctor or pharmacist knows you are taking blood thinners
  9. Get your blood tested on schedule according to your doctors instructions
  10. Ask your pharmacist about over the counter and prescription medications that can interfere with blood thinners
  11. Avoid certain foods, nutritional supplements and alcohol, which could interact with your anticoagulant
  12. Be sure everyone that treats your senior is aware that they are taking these medications including dentist or doctors and before any medical procedures

You may want to be sure your senior loved one wears an identification bracelet that states they are taking an anticoagulant in case of emergency.

Additional Resources

Here are more articles about medication safety and our senior loved ones that you might find informative.

Is Depression Negatively Impacting Your Senior’s Quality of Life?

A full, happy life is a goal of most Americans.

Being fully engaged in our day to day activities, our communities and our families is the foundation of a balanced life.

Unfortunately, studies tell us that a large number of seniors are not leading fully engaged, happy lives and actually feel a sense of loss of all joy.

Many seniors are depressed. Not just a sense of sadness from time to time, but depression.

Why should caregivers be concerned about depression in their senior loved ones?

Often depression can impair your senior’s ability to complete their daily tasks, care for themselves, interact with family and friends thereby reducing their quality of life.

When Depression Strikes

Depression can happen to anyone, at any time and any age and is not an outcome of aging itself.

We can age without becoming depressed.

As many as 5% of seniors who are otherwise healthy are estimated to be depressed. More than two million of the 34 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some form of depression.

13% of older adults who have home health care and are aging in place are depressed.

15-20% of older adults who live in our communities suffer from depression.

25-35% of older adults who live in long term care facilities have symptoms of depression.

Older adults with symptoms of depression have about 50% higher healthcare costs than non-depressed seniors. However, only 40% of depressed seniors seek treatment.

Depression is NOT a result of aging as many people might believe.

What Can Cause Senior Depression?

Depression is a medical condition that can be treated just like any other disease process if seniors and family caregivers recognize it and get the treatment needed.

There are contributing factors that can increase the likelihood that your senior loved one will be depressed including:

  • medications, especially multiple medications
  • loss of independence or retirement
  • grief, especially after the death of a spouse, child or beloved pet
  • transitions such as leaving their home or moving to a new town
  • illness, chronic medical diseases
  • isolation, aloneness
  • financial worries
  • chronic pain
  • awareness of increased confusion or memory problems

Outcomes of Depression in Seniors

Depression can put your senior loved one at risk in many ways.

It can affect every aspect of a senior’s life including eating, sleeping, self-care, social interactions and their health.

Untreated depression in older adults can lead to a variety of problems, including alcoholism, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Many people don’t seek help because they may feel that it won’t help because whatever is causing the depression will continue.

Someone living with severe pain and depression is four times more likely to attempt suicide.

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

What Can Caregivers Do?

Encourage your senior loved one to talk to someone if they feel unhappy. You might need to facilitate these interactions with someone who can help.

Symptoms of depression can include fatigue, withdrawing from activities, sadness, worry, restlessness, abnormal sleep patterns, anxiety or irritability, use of alcohol or drugs, or suicidal thoughts. Seek help from your doctor, family members, religious leaders, or counselors.

If you spot these symptoms in your senior loved one, you may need to offer help even if he/she doesn’t ask.

Most older adults come from a time when mental illness was a bad thing that you didn’t want to admit, there still is a stigma for many to admit they are depressed and need help.

Other seniors are more preoccupied with medical conditions and don’t pay attention to emotional issues. Sometimes these feelings cause seniors to blame themselves and therefore don’t seek treatment.

They will need your help to get the intervention they need.

Tips to Help Seniors

As a family caregiver, your influence will be vital to their happiness.

You can not only strongly encourage interventions but also be a role model and a buddy, facilitate activities and schedule professional help as needed.

Here are some areas where caregivers can intervene:

  1. Reduce their isolation. Get them busy within the community, perhaps with a senior center, church group or volunteer opportunity. Set up a visiting schedule with family and friends so that they will stay engaged. This can be not only in person but via FaceTime or Skype.
  2. Help them learn something new. Find ways for them to get a new hobby that can occupy their time. Learn a new skill, something that they wanted to do but never actually did such as painting, playing the piano, or recording their life story. There are many avenues to learn something new, especially through the use of technology, that don’t require transportation or even a lot of money.
  3. Doing something for others. Help your senior find a new sense of purpose. What can they do to help someone in the neighborhood, community or local agency? Can they interact at the local school reading to kids or teaching kids to read? Would they enjoy helping in the library or museum?
  4. Get them physically active. Put activity into their routine. Take a walk, find a place to swim, dance or other activity your senior enjoys to get them moving! This is best done with a buddy who can keep them on schedule or make the activity more enjoyable.
  5. Ask for a medication review. Ask the pharmacist or doctor to review your senior’s medication list to determine if something they take is causing depression to take hold. Interactions or dosages can be contributing to their change in feelings. Some medications, such as antidepressants or sleep aides, can make things worse, so consult with your senior’s doctor about what is right for them.
  6. Help them sleep well. Improving the environment for sleep and helping seniors get a good, restful night’s sleep will help their outlook and their health. This may mean watching what they eat and drink in the evening, limiting daytime naps, and changing things in the bedroom including the mattress, curtains or temperature.
  7. Urge them to eat for health. Being well nourished so that your senior loved one’s body has the nutrition it needs to function properly will help both their physical and mental well-being. Eating a variety of wholesome foods, including protein sources, and limiting added sugar that could be causing blood sugar spikes. Make each meal well balanced. Don’t skip meals. Eat every few hours to keep energy and nutrient intake at its peak.
  8. Arrange counseling with a professional. Don’t let your senior keep their feelings to themselves, as this could lead to more problems, such as suicide. Sometimes talking about what worries us can help lighten our load. A mental health professional may help your senior express their feelings in order to determine root causes and work on solutions. Seek out support groups, peers and faith based support who might be able to help. If depression is triggered by social issues such as lack of resources, contact a social worker or case manager to help fill the gaps in resources.

Help Improve Seniors’ Quality of Life

Family caregivers can help accomplish these interventions to improve your senior’s quality of life.

You can speak with their doctor, observe them more closely, help them get involved by taking them out to eat or shop and keep in contact with them more often.

Taking and sharing meals to reduce isolation and improve nutrition, sharing activity time, asking friends to visit, connecting them with technology for socialization and activities, and arranging transportation to the senior center are things you can do to help them alleviate and reduce depression symptoms or prevent worsening.

You will notice a difference when you help them escape depression.