Technology Supported Aging Model — Family Caregiver Tip

As family caregivers look to their communities and technology innovators to help them bring a better quality of life to their aging in place seniors, there are experts trying to improve this model for successful aging with them in mind.

Seniors and their family caregivers have different needs and desires for how they wish to address aging in place.

One senior may be playing golf three times a week while another struggles just to take a walk outside and get the mail.

How can we help each senior and caregiver live life on their own terms as successfully as possible?

Can technology enable improved quality of life for seniors and family caregivers?

Caregivers Guidance System

Periodic Table of Technology-Supported Ageing postIBM created a system to test innovations and tech designs to be sure they will yield person-centered solutions for aging.

According to IBM, the Periodic Table of Technology Supported Ageing was drawn from the experience of hundreds of specialists, research, studies and dozens of deployed capabilities, IBM’s ageing-focused leaders have developed a “periodic table” providing a taxonomy and a common global reference framework for all actors aiming to build successful technologies and tech-enabled services for aging.

Tech for Seniors and Caregivers

IBM’s periodic table highlights some points that family caregivers can use to determine what technology will work best for their seniors.

The table can focus caregivers needs and decisions about what types of technology will help their seniors.

The starting point in this table is the self or person.

Here are topics that will help you narrow down which tech innovations will be helpful.

1. Roles: who will use or innovate

Family, friends, policy makers, providers

2. Objective: what problem needs a solution

Learning, happiness, health, sustainability, safety, inclusion, behavior, recreation, caring

3. Places: where will the technology be used

Family spaces, outdoor, community, medical facilities, workplace

4. Adoption: what will influence its actual use

Relevance, user experience, confidence, value

5. Dimensions: what areas will be targeted

Daily life, mental, financial, physical, spiritual, cognitive, purposeful, social

6. Value tests: what measures will be used to determine success

Human experience, market validation, proof of concept, pilot, design, testing

Solutions for Problems Equal Opportunity

IBM has a history of turning a problem into opportunity.

Family caregivers have many problems that require solutions. These solutions can and will be opportunities for technology innovations and manufacturers in the future (and in the now!).

However, caregivers need to find solutions that fit their senior and improve their personal experience. This is not an easy undertaking for family caregivers with too little time to research the latest gadgets that promise much more than they seemingly deliver.

Giving them strategies to decide what product or innovation will actually yield tangible benefits is vital.

Many family caregivers fear the money some of these technology solutions cost. They more often than not will be the one paying for these solutions.

However, the cost of an item may be insignificant compared to the value it brings into the life of our senior loved ones.

Tech provides no value, as we already know, if our seniors won’t use it.

Adopting it is only the first step. Can it be sustained and is it worthy of daily use?

These are all hefty considerations for family caregivers.

Hopefully this chart will help guide you when making decisions about the who, how, when and where of adopting aging in place technology to improve our seniors’ quality of life.

Additional Resources

Technology for seniors can be daunting for many family caregivers. Here are some more articles about technology that you and your senior may find useful.

 




Helping Our Seniors Join the Tech Revolution – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Tech innovations are everywhere!

Most family caregivers have a phone in one pocket and a laptop or tablet at the ready (perhaps waiting to be charged).

For most younger adults and family caregivers, tech is an integral part of life. You use tech innovations throughout your day in the car, at home and at work.

Are your seniors using technology too?

Have they joined the revolution or are they sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to put it in their hands?

Technology can improve their quality of life, increase their socialization and keep them safe in their home.

So, what are you waiting for? Do you need more information to know which tech products are worth the time and money investment?

Beneficial Tech for Seniors

There are many tech devices currently available that can bring happiness, safety, and health to your senior loved one. There are many more in development set to be released in the next few years.

Many are worth the investment in time and money, as they will bring untold benefits to seniors.

It is true many seniors will need introductions to these products, help getting them set up and reminders to use them.

When they need trouble shooting, family caregivers will be called upon to “get it working right again” but that is a small price to pay for them actually using these products.

Products that are beneficial for your senior and are here now include:

  1. Tablets to use for Skype and emailing
  2. Apps for the tablets (or smartphones) that they will like and use such as Facebook, TV guide, and games
  3. Smartphone to use for FaceTime
  4. Medication reminders that alert missed doses and actually dispense the pill at the right time
  5. Music streaming and Audible (audio books) for entertainment
  6. Virtual pets such as Hasbro Kitty that will soothe and provide companionship without the upkeep of a live pet
  7. Safety devices that will alert family caregivers when things go sideways, such as fall monitors, wandering alerts, stove shut offs, automatic thermostats for temperature control, remote door locks, doorbell that alerts on smartphone, and more
  8. “Social robots” like Cortana, Siri, Amazon Echo and Alexa and Google Home that can interact and help with tasks — or just be there with them
  9. Connected health devices and apps that will monitor a variety of vitals and send info to caregivers and healthcare providers

While seniors are not typically first adopters of technology, we have found they are open to using technology given the right guidance and support from family caregivers.

It will certainly be one of those things that they didn’t know they needed but don’t know how they lived without it for so long!

Additional Resources

We have many helpful articles about technology and the benefits that seniors can receive when they have access to the latest innovations. Here are a few you might find informative when looking for solutions for the health and safety of your senior loved one.

 




Home Safe Aging In Place – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Aging in place is no longer just a dream, but actually reality for most seniors.

Often family caregivers support their senior loved ones’ ability to age in place.

Safety is often a worry, especially for long distance caregivers. Not just seniors’ safety inside the home, but safety from those accessing their homes who might wish them harm.

Did you know that a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds — or more often! (Safewise.com estimates a burglary happens every 13 seconds!)

Older adults are frequent targets because they usually own valuables that criminals want. They are actually the second most targeted group for burglars, behind single females.

30% of home burglaries happen when someone is home.

July and August have the most frequent number of break-ins.

Home security is a concern for family caregivers and, fortunately, there are steps to take to help our seniors be more secure while aging in place.

Senior Victim Prevention

Keeping your senior’s home secure when you can’t be there requires a few planning steps but they are all achievable.

Here is a list of some items for you to check-off to keep them safe:

  1. Keep the doors locked. A heavy-duty deadbolt works best. Remind your senior to keep things locked up.
  2. Install a wide view peephole or video door bell system so your senior can see who is out front or back.
  3. Insert wooden dowel or pole in sliding door tracks to secure them.
  4. Latch windows and install double locking systems on easily accessible windows.
  5. Urge your senior to become friendly with the neighbors, watch each other’s homes. Remind them to call 9-1-1 to report any suspicious neighborhood activity.
  6. Keep newspapers, deliveries and mail picked up, put trash out on trash day, and return empty cans to house promptly
  7. Secure adequate lighting around all sides of the home’s exterior. Motion detector lights can scare away would-be burglars.
  8. Because only 17% of homes in the US have security systems and burglars violate homes without security systems 300% more often than those with a system, installing a home security system may be beneficial.
  9. Don’t keep a ladder, garden tools or spare key on the outside for use by a burglar.
  10. Clear dense shrubs from around house that may inadvertently hide burglars as they enter.
  11. Ask local law enforcement to conduct a home inspection to highlight any areas of concern that need improvement.
  12. Use a personal emergency alert system that can be activated, not just in personal emergencies but also for security breaches.

Additional Resources

Here are a few more articles that family caregivers might find helpful to keep their senior loved ones safe.

 




Web and Tech Use by Seniors Growing But Challenges Remain

Digital technology and the web are already improving life for seniors living independently and there is much more to come.

In order to realize many of the benefits tech has to offer, however, seniors have to be using connected devices. That’s why Senior Care Corner® has long advocated that family caregivers urge their senior loved ones using smartphones, tablets, the web, and social networking apps.

A recent report from Pew Research, Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults, tells us much progress has been made but also that there is much left to do, especially for family caregivers of older seniors.

We’ll take a look at some of the facts from the Pew report and then discuss how caregivers can address some of the challenges that remain.

Seniors Bridging Digital Gap

After hearing and reading for years that seniors simply won’t adopt smartphones and other connected devices or become active uses of the internet, it’s great to see seniors putting that thinking to rest.

While our own experiences with family and community told us it could happen, we’re thrilled to see it confirmed by Pew.

Would it be a surprise to hear that 21% of seniors prefer to be early adopters of technology?

These are some of the key results of their surveys:

  • 67% of seniors are internet users, including 82% of those from 65 to 69
  • Three fourths of senior internet users report going online at least once per day, with the majority doing so several times daily
  • 42% of all seniors have smartphones, a significant increase from the 18% who reported doing so in 2013; 91% of those report going online at least daily
  • One third of seniors use tablets (such as Apple’s iPad or the Amazon Fire)
  • The one third of seniors reporting they use social media are half the level of all adults

While the increases reflected in those results are encouraging for the future of aging in place, there are some large gaps between the results for younger and older seniors. That is especially important today, since older seniors are the fastest growing segment of the US population.

  • Smartphone usage among those 75 and older is barely half those of the youngest seniors, as is tablet usage
  • Seniors who are 75 and older, those most likely to be isolated if living independently, are less than half as likely as younger seniors to use social media

The gaps that exist for the oldest seniors is one of the biggest challenges to overcome for family caregivers.

While there have been advances in technology usage by seniors, there are barriers reported that affect even tech users.

Barriers to Senior Tech and Web Usage

We have long discussed that many seniors have physical limitations, some age related and others due to health issues, that impact their ability to use digital devices.

Fortunately, there are a number of devices tailored to those seniors. Even more encouraging is that even developers of mainstream devices address usability concerns to make their devices practical for many seniors.

There are other factors we need to address in getting our senior loved ones to use tech and the web.

For example, three fourths of seniors using the web indicated they are less than very confident when using digital devices, with one third saying they have little or no confidence in doing so.

Something we have long recognized is that seniors are more likely than younger adults to need help using their new digital devices. Three out of four admitted to Pew that applies to them.

That’s a role many family caregivers fill and an opportunity for others to do so.

Rising to the Challenge to Benefit Seniors

Family caregivers have played a role in the adoption of technology by many seniors and can help bridge the gaps for even more.

We have found may family members who doubted their senior loved ones would use a smartphone and the web turned into believers after rising to the challenge and introducing technology to their seniors.

Device

The first step is the device itself. While some family caregivers simply purchase a smartphone or tablet for their senior loved one, involving them in the selection can be a first step in building their confidence with using it.

When choosing the right device, consider whether your senior’s needs or interests make a device tailored for seniors a good choice.

Another consideration could be the devices used by the senior’s family and friends. It may be easiest to learn to use a smartphone or tablet when others have experience with the same device and can offer tips.

Support

Once our senior loved ones have a device, the role of family caregivers is just beginning. Just having the device doesn’t ensure they’ll benefit, of course, so initial startup is a key aspect of support.

If this is their first smartphone, for example, they may need some help with basic setup (don’t forget security), choosing the right apps, and a little hands-on training.

It’s also important to establish up front where the senior will turn for help when they have a question or run into an issue, as we don’t want frustration to drive them to toss the device in a drawer. It might be a neighbor or distant family member who can respond with the right answer when needed, or even a friendly, knowledgeable staffer down at the mobile provider’s store where the device was purchased.

Internet Access

Having and know how to use technology is essential, but we can’t overlook the importance of fast, reliable access to the web for our senior loved ones. Seniors recognize that as well, with 9 out of 10 telling Pew they view having high-speed internet access at home as either important or essential.

Family caregivers can help senior loved ones evaluate and select the right high-speed access for their needs and budget. Budget is important, too, since internet access is only useful if affordable.

As many younger adults have found, the best high-speed answer may be wireless via the mobile provider. Here it pays to shop, as there are many plans from different providers. In addition, it may make sense to add senior loved ones to a family plan along with family caregivers.

Keep the Numbers Growing

Each year’s visit to CES® demonstrates to us the meaning technology will have to seniors in the future, especially those living independently at home.

In order for that technology to help our senior loved ones, though, it has to be something they choose to allow in their homes and actually use.

That means the effort we put in today to get our seniors using digital devices and the web is likely to pay dividends over the rest of their lives.

Let’s ensure our senior loved ones are among the numbers of those who will receive the health, safety, and comfort benefits promised by technology!

 




10 Gift Ideas for the Next Visit to Your Senior – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

For family caregivers whose seniors live in senior living facilities, visiting your loved ones is probably the highlight of their day!

They enjoy when you come as much as – or maybe more than — you do!

Naturally we can’t go without bearing gifts. These gifts come from the heart.

You search for things they might like or perhaps something you think they need.

All too often our gifts take the form of goodies that may not be the healthiest for your senior loved one.

Our gifts should be enriching, not harmful, so what really are the best types of gifts family caregivers can bring?

Gifts to Avoid

Seniors can be vulnerable to some of our gifts so the short-term pleasure may not be worth the risk.

  • Avoid food gifts that are perishable. Oftentimes seniors living in facilities don’t have the proper storage areas for foods and treats that need refrigeration or airtight storage. The result could be food poisoning for seniors who are more at risk than you might think due to weakened immune systems and chronic diseases.
  • When you bring food gifts, it is important to remember travel time and the fact that the temperature of a meal you prepared or picked up on the way may not be safe by the time you get there and the food is actually eaten.
  • Be aware if you are bringing food that must be refrigerated or reheated when it is time to eat it that some seniors living in a facility may not have the means to achieve that after you are gone.
  • Bringing treats that may be against their doctor-prescribed diet, such as high salt, fat, or sugar type snacks could cause them to suffer a setback in their chronic disease.
  • Your aging senior may also have trouble chewing and swallowing so that certain treats may be difficult, or even dangerous, for them to eat. A hard candy piece can easily get lodged in the throat of many elders.
  • Bringing candies or other treats that are not properly sealed in containers can draw bugs in the facility, which is something no one wants.

Gift Ideas Sure to Please

There are many different kinds of gifts that seniors and family caregivers can appreciate when given.

Here are some ideas for some that will be cherished:

  1. Your time and attention when you visit.
  2. Handmade cards, especially when created by children and/or with the latest family photos.
  3. Help them connect to family via technology such as Skype, FaceTime, or with a smartphone.
  4. Special hand lotion or cologne to make them feel treasured each time they use it.
  5. Something they need, like a new pair of warm socks, a box of soft tissues, hand wipes, or lip balm
  6. A good book with large print. Can they use an audiobook?
  7. Music of their era in CD, MP3, or other format that they can turn on themselves whenever they wish to listen.
  8. A TV viewing guide with their favorite shows highlighted with days and times so they don’t miss a thing!
  9. If able, take them out to dinner.
  10. Bring in their favorite film on DVD or take them out to a movie theater and enjoy the film together.

Additional Resources

Spending quality time making memories instead of bringing food treats that might be harmful for their health and well-being is a great way to stay connected with the family and show your love. Here are some other articles family caregivers might like to get creative with seniors.

 




Importance of Protein in Minding Your Muscles for Aging in Place

Senior Care Corner® is a sponsored blog partner of Ensure® but the opinions in this article are ours alone. Please see below for additional disclosures.

Living well is a hope many family caregivers hold for their senior loved ones as they age in place.

The reality for aging in place adults is that staying healthy is not always easy to achieve.

With aging comes obstacles to good health that seniors may need the help of family caregivers to overcome.

Eating adequate amounts of nourishing foods, staying physically active, remaining mentally engaged, maintaining health with regular disease management, and avoiding situations that put them at risk are points that concern family caregivers and seniors.

How can family caregivers and seniors do all those things? Will old habits need to be broken and new healthier lifestyle choices be made to remain well?

The well-being of family caregivers is important – and too often overlooked. They must stay at the peak of health to care for the older adults they love, as well as other family, and often career, responsibilities.

Nutritional choices are key to remaining healthy but one area where we often find gaps that put health at risk for all of us. Some may think making healthier choices means big changes, such as giving up your favorite foods, but filling some of those gaps is probably easier than you think.

One option that is not only simple but tasty too is drinking Ensure High Protein Shakes. This choice can benefit your nutritional health.

Meeting Nutritional Needs As We Age

Getting older doesn’t mean that we don’t need to eat right to get the nutrients our bodies need for health.

As we age, nutrient needs for protein, vitamins, minerals, and water may actually increase as our bodies become less efficient in utilizing the nutrients we consume.

Did you know that the Institute of Medicine recommends the same amount of protein for older adults as for younger adults? Experts estimate that about one third of adults over 50 years of age fail to meet the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for protein!

The RDA for protein for people of all ages is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight but more research has shown that 1.0-1.5 grams per kilogram of protein will help prevent muscle loss and functional decline as we age.

That means a person who weighs 180 pounds should eat 65 to 80 or 120 grams of protein per day. The best way to use this protein is to be sure to eat it evenly throughout the day at each meal and snack. An easy guide is to eat 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein per meal.

One nutritious and tasty option to help you or your loved one increase protein intake is to add Ensure High Protein shakes to your day for a snack or drink. They have 16 grams of protein and 23 essential vitamins and minerals in an 8 oz. shake.

Obstacles to Adequate Nutrient Absorption

There are several barriers for older adults to getting enough nutrients even when seniors or family caregivers are eating a good variety of foods.

  • multiple medications or food-drug interactions could cause a ‘wasting’ of nutrients
  • reduced physically activity combined with a slower metabolism often leads to fewer calories needed and eaten resulting in inadequate nutrient intake
  • fewer nutrients absorbed and utilized due to impaired gastrointestinal tract, more or different foods may be necessary

Research shows a better diet helps physical health, cognitive status, bone health, eye health, vascular function, and immune system as we get older.

Consequences of Inadequate Nutrition

Not getting all the nutrients our bodies need can negatively impact our well-being.

Good nutrition helps aging in place seniors to maintain their independent functional abilities to complete activities of daily living such as self-care and mobility.

It is not uncommon for seniors to suffer from sarcopenia when they don’t get enough protein in their diet. Sarcopenia is defined as the unintentional loss of skeletal muscle tissue with age. It is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. It affects 1 in 3 people over 60 years and more than half of those over 80 years.

Researchers have found that for every year over age 50 we lose 1% of our lean body mass. This equals up to 25% of our muscle mass by the time we are 70 years old!

We’ve all heard ‘when you don’t use it, you lose it’ and that is true of our muscles. The lack of physical activity changes our muscle mass but so does inadequate nutrition.

A consequence of inadequate protein intake is loss of muscle mass which can contribute to falls potentially leading to the loss of independent living.

Minding Your Muscles

Your body is 50-60% comprised of muscle!

Protein is essential to repair and build muscle. To keep our muscles from wasting away, seniors and family caregivers should be including enough protein to meet their daily requirements.

Here are ways to mind your muscles to get enough protein each day:

  1. Include a source of protein at each meal such as eggs, beef, poultry, pork, fish, beans or dairy.

3-ounce piece of meat contains about 21 grams of protein; 1 cup of milk contains about 8 grams of protein; and 1 cup of dry beans contains about 16 grams of protein

  1. Drink cow’s milk with meals (some soy and nut milks don’t contain protein equal to cow’s milk).
  2. Include snacks that have protein such as cheese, nuts, hummus, or Greek yogurt.
  3. When food sources of protein aren’t enough, add a nutritional supplement such as Ensure High Protein to provide needed protein, vitamins, and minerals. Ensure is the #1 Doctor recommended brand* and is formulated to help older adults stay active and strong.

Aging in place requires seniors to remain independent, healthy and functional. Eating right and including enough of the building blocks for good nutrition will help you and your senior loved one live strong!

*Among doctors who recommend liquid nutritional products to their patients.

 

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