Empowering Seniors to Go Where They Want, When They Want

Driving a car enables a senior to be independent as they age.

They can travel where they want, when they want until they can no longer safely remain behind the wheel.

What then?

Depending on someone else, especially a family caregiver, to get them where they need or want to go becomes a way of life no senior really desires.

The US Department of Transportation estimates that, since 1999, the number of seniors on the road has increased 50% to more than 40 million people.

A National Council on Aging (NCOA) survey reports that safe driving is among the top ten concerns for seniors aging in place.

Unfortunately, conditions such as cognitive loss and impaired vision increases their risk for a fatal crash.

When the decision is made to give up the keys for safety, how will your senior loved one remain independent?

Helping Seniors Get Around Town

Just like family caregivers, seniors often have many places to go each day.

They need to visit healthcare professionals, go grocery shopping, visit the pharmacy, go out with friends, go to church, get their haircut, volunteer in the community, go to community events, watch a movie, go to the bank, and many other socialization opportunities to stay physically and mentally healthy.

When they can’t just jump into an automobile, how will they get to all these places and stay engaged?

Did you know that nearly 20% of those over 65 (7 million people) don’t drive at all?

There are some options for them to get places but will probably need the help of family caregivers to help them connect with all these different types of conveyances.

Seniors’ Transportation Options

  1. As a pedestrian – walking on sidewalks or trails designated safe for people to walk to restaurants, shops, grocery stores, services, doctors or parks. Many big cities have become ‘walkable’ so that their citizens can safely interact with the community.
  2. Biking – whether with two or three wheels, seniors can get around on a bicycle using accessible city byways. They can even have baskets attached to help carry their belongings.
  3. Public transportation – riding a bus, rapid rail or subway around town to and from important locations can get them back and forth. Many cities have systems but unfortunately not all.
  4. Trains – when getting from one town to the next is more than a walk away.
  5. Taxis – whether on the road or on the water; some cities have subsidized taxi services for their older citizens.
  6. Ride sharing – Uber, Lyft, and other for-a-fee rides that are available on call to get from one location to the next, no advance scheduling required.
  7. Family and friends – depending on another to drive where and when you need it. This usually takes communication ahead of time to schedule rides, especially when family caregivers are employed.
  8. Medical transport – fee for service medical transport for seniors who have mobility limitations. Most of these need to be scheduled days in advance and often leave seniors waiting for pickups.
  9. Volunteers – there are organizations who fund volunteers who will transport seniors to their destination. It gives the volunteer a sense a purpose while giving a senior in need a free ride. Many such groups work specifically with veterans using veteran volunteers who want to help fellow soldiers.
  10. Self-driving cars!! Many people are still skeptical about autonomous cars, but they are on the way. Manufacturers think they may be here in the next few years, in fact. Fully autonomous cars may come further in the future than some current seniors will need. Did you know that the SELF DRIVE Act specifically says that self-driving cars have the potential to help seniors live independently and is a primary benefit of these cars?

Investigate Your Senior’s Options

The transportation options for your senior loved one will depend, in part, on the community in which they live.

For rural seniors, for example, public transportation is not always available as well as some other services that those in bigger cities are able to connect to for transport. These rural seniors may be forced to move to a different home where more transportation options are available so that they can remain independent especially accessing healthcare.

Family caregivers want their seniors to remain in the home of their choice and be independent as long as possible. Unfortunately, gaining access to transportation is one piece of the puzzle that needs to be considered for successful aging in place.

Enabling our senior loved ones to live their life fully will involve empowering them to get where they want — or need — to go, when they want to get there.

As family caregivers, we need to ensure that doesn’t end when our seniors stop driving.

 




Life-Changing Technology – #CES2018 Preview for Family Caregivers and Seniors

We found only one reference to the special needs of seniors in the conference schedule for CES® 2018 — and this year that’s a good thing.

During the early years that Senior Care Corner® covered CES, we saw little to no mention of seniors, as if technology innovation did not apply to them, nor the role of family caregivers.

Over time we saw not only more recognition of the needs of older adults, but there was a conference track specifically addressing how technology innovation could meet those needs.

In 2018, it appears seniors aren’t being overlooked or carved out as a special segment but seen as people who can benefit from technology, along with other age groups.

In fact, we found only one conference session focused on the needs of older adults, a session in the Smart Homes track, on the benefits and challenges of smart home technologies for those living independently at home. Recognition of seniors in the context of smart homes was a wish we expressed in our early CES days.

Yes, we think that’s a good thing.

Overwhelming Technology on Tap at CES 2018

Reviewing the conference program and exhibitor list for CES 2018 is overwhelming for us because there is just so much to see and do that we at Senior Care Corner can’t possibly hope to cover as much of it as we would like.

There are many conference areas beyond the Smart Home track that will address technology that will benefit seniors and their family caregivers, as well as some that is already providing benefits.

CONNECTIONS™ Summit, which is put on by our friends at Parks Associates, will address several important aspects of smart homes.

One topic we see of particular interest to seniors living independently at home is voice control, which will help make smart home technology an essential part of aging and enable many to live independently longer.

Also of great interest is the planned discussion on the integration of health and wellness solutions into connected homes, which will provide benefits not just to seniors but to family caregivers of all ages.

The Digital Health Summit will, as it does each year, cover many areas in which technology is providing advances important to the health of both seniors and family caregivers. These are just a few of those.

Caregiving will be the focus of one section the Digital Health Summit, discussing how digital health technologies will provide solutions to help caregivers in shouldering their load.

The impacts of technology on brain health are important to those of all ages, especially as our aging population means more of us will be at risk for Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain.

Digital health advances are putting patients at the center of healthcare, where they belong. Several speakers will discuss aspects of this transition.

The Smart Cities track is one that discusses advances important to older adults without specifically focusing on their needs. As we have discussed previously at Senior Care Corner, smart cities will provide services and an environment to enable many more adults to live independently longer than they can today.

The title of the Disruptive Innovations of Healthcare track says it all. One session, Please Disrupt the Doctor, will discuss how digital is disrupting the chronic care that so many seniors find vital to their lives.

Many more conference tracks address topics important to family caregivers and seniors, from the connected vehicles that will help older adults maintain the independence their own cars provide to home robotics, which will help aging in place seniors fulfill many daily living tasks – – and so much more.

Our biggest CES challenge will be to figure out which of the conference sessions, keynote addresses, and other programs to attend.

Exhibits at CES 2018

Impressive as the conference program is, the heart of each year’s CES is the exhibit floor. Actually, that should be floors, as CES 2018 attendees will find near 4,000 exhibitors spread across 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space in several hotels, the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center, and Sands Expo facilities.

Just taking in all the exhibit areas will leave too little time for interviews and conference sessions.

These are some of the categories we expect will have technologies of greatest interest to seniors and family caregivers, along with the number of companies who indicated their exhibits will cover each area.

  • Health and Biotech – 300 exhibitors
  • Smart Home / Appliances / Energy Management – 677 exhibitors
  • Accessibility – 58 exhibitors
  • Smart Cities – 190 exhibitors
  • Automotive / Vehicle Technology – 370 exhibitors
  • Robotics – 170 exhibitors
  • Wearables – 426 exhibitors
  • Safety & Security Products – 304 exhibitors

… and so much more in other technology areas to see and do.

Planning Senior Care Corner’s Coverage of CES 2018

Planning our week at CES begins for Senior Care Corner with the release of the conference program and continues almost up to the time we depart CES for our trip home, as we have learned our schedule is but a guide for the week.

During our past few CES visits, we have scheduled a lot of interviews with exhibitors, which limited our ability to take in exhibits and conference sessions. We are going to cut back on the interviews this year, instead seeking to soak in as much of the innovation as we can and leaving some interviews for later.

Our CES coverage is to help us keep you informed, through what we consider our unique perspective and voice. We’d love to hear from you about technology areas on which you would like us to focus or companies about which you’d like to learn more.

We look forward to sharing our CES 2018 experience with you!

 




How Are YOU, Family Caregiver — Are You Caring for Yourself?

How often does someone ask you how you are?

Certainly, people ask you how your senior loved one has been, if they are doing well, are they healthy and happy?

Oftentimes friends and families don’t even think to ask family caregivers how they are holding up. But family caregivers may need to be asked.

Getting some support for your caregiving journey, even if it just a simple “how are you doing?”, may be enough to keep you going some days.

Caring for our senior loved ones is not a burden. It’s a privilege to be able to care for them at a time when they need us the most.

Unfortunately, being a caregiver, especially a sandwich generation carer, is overflowing with stress and has been said to be emotionally, physically, and financially draining for family caregivers.

As the population continues to age, being a family caregiver under stress is not limited to a few people but numbers in the tens of millions (estimated around 44 million). That means the stress leading to burnout is a growing problem.

During National Family Caregivers Month, the nation hopes to support family caregivers and educate them about the importance of caring for themselves.

Health Risks for Family Caregivers

The health and well-being of family caregivers has been called the next public health crisis facing our nation.

We depend on family caregivers to meet the needs of aging, community dwelling seniors. Without family caregivers, the healthcare system could not handle senior’s long-term health needs.

Our nation is not caring for family caregivers as we should as can be seen in the prevalence of poor health and increased health risks among family caregivers. The health risk statistics are overwhelming for unpaid family caregivers.

Here are some of the many mounting health concerns shared by family caregivers:

  • Increased risk of depression – overwhelming responsibilities, lack of support, isolation, fatigue, grief over senior loved one’s decline and other factors can negatively impact the mental health of family caregivers.
  • Emotional well-being is overlooked when caregiving. Common emotions include anger, frustration, guilt, sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness.
  • When caring for a person with dementia, the risk of depression is even greater due to the increased burden of caregiving as functional status of your loved one declines.
  • Untreated depression can lead to substance abuse, self-neglect, and suicide in family caregivers.
  • Chronic diseases are also occurring with greater frequency for family caregivers who aren’t taking time to take care of themselves. They avoid their own healthcare, aren’t eating right, sleep poorly, suffer from stress and don’t get adequate physical activity.
  • Caregivers are less likely to see the doctor for regular checkups and don’t fill their prescriptions as they should to help them stay well.
  • A lowered immune response causes family caregiver to have a higher rate of infection and illnesses. Their antibody response is lower while their stress hormones are higher. Caregivers also have a reduced wound healing ability due to impaired immune response.
  • Twice the incidence of chronic diseases such as heart attack, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes among caregivers compared to their non-caregiver peers.
  • Chronic stress of caregiving can lead to cognitive loss in the caregiver including short term memory loss and attention deficits.
  • Greater dependence on substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs and psychotropic drugs for mood.
  • Higher levels of pain. Caregiving duties put a physical strain on body – muscles and skeleton.
  • Increase in obesity rates among family caregivers.
  • Caregivers are more likely to smoke.

All these concerns and more are why Senior Care Corner® cannot stress enough the need for family caregivers to pay attention to care for their own needs as well.

Caregiver Self-Help Tips

It is easier said than done – it’s true!

Taking care of yourself should be one of your top priorities. You’ve heard the saying, put on your own oxygen before helping others but do you practice that every day?

Caring for yourself will help you avoid burnout.

Why do we worry about burnout? Because if you burn out, who will care for your senior loved one and the others who depend on you each day?

Here are some things you can do to help yourself stay strong:

  1. Ask for help when you need it. No one expects you to do it all by yourself and you are not alone!
  2. Don’t say “no thanks” when someone offers you help. Keep a list of tasks you would love to get done but don’t seem like there is ever time to complete. Be ready to dole these jobs out when you get an offer of help.
  3. Take time to stay engaged with your friends — go out for lunch, go shopping, talk on the phone and just stay connected. Don’t allow yourself to lose your own identity as you care for others.
  4. Schedule “me time” – Do nothing, take a bath, read a book, get your hair or nails done, or treat yourself to a massage. Actually put your own name on the calendar and stick to it.
  5. Take care of your personal health by visiting the doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc. regularly. Get your preventive health checks and immunizations to keep yourself healthy.
  6. Join a support group either in person, online, chat room or twitter chat to learn more caregiver tips and get the inspiration you need to improve your caregiving journey.
  7. Get respite care so you can get a much needed break for an hour, a day, a weekend or longer if needed. There are options for you to get the respite you need to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.
  8. Thank yourself in case no one else does!

When you put yourself first, you will be better able to care for your senior loved one when you are in the peak of health physically and emotionally.

As we strongly encourage you to care for yourself, we want to thank you for all you do to improve the lives of senior adults.

 




8 Actions to Reduce Dementia Risk – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Everyone, whether they are currently caring for someone with dementia or concerned that they are at risk of developing it themselves, is seeking a magic bullet to stop it in its tracks.

The unfortunate reality is that there is currently no cure and little in the way of treatment. In addition, little is known to prevent dementia.

But, the good news is that there is a great deal of research hoping to provide viable treatment, a cure, and even prevention!

Is prevention in the cards for you now?

Let’s check out the latest news about dementia.

Lifestyle Factors Impacting Dementia

A new report presented recently at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) states that there are nine lifestyle factors that can impact our risk for developing dementia. These nine factors reportedly are responsible for 35% of dementias.

This report, published in The Lancet, was a meta-analysis review of literature in the field of dementia.

The nine factors are:

  1. Failure to complete secondary education in early life
  2. Hypertension
  3. Obesity
  4. Hearing loss in midlife – doubled the risk of developing dementia 9 to 17 years later
  5. Smoking
  6. Depression
  7. Physical inactivity
  8. Social isolation
  9. Diabetes in later life

The researchers want us all to know — “our results show it is never too early or never too late to make lifestyle changes that will make a difference.”

How can family caregivers act to lessen the risks of these factors, not just for themselves, but also their senior loved ones?

Actions on Dementia Risk Factors

Experts encourage us to do something to lower our risks. We can all take action to improve some of these factors to become healthier and try to prevent the development of cognitive impairment.

  1. Get treatment for hypertension. Get your blood pressure checked to determine your numbers then do everything in your treatment plan such as medications, monitoring, dietary changes, and exercise to lower your blood pressure to the normal range.
  2. Participate in regular physical activity! Get moving, find an activity you enjoy, find a buddy to do it with you, and stay active every day.
  3. Evaluate and treat hearing loss as soon as possible. Find a hearing aid that works for you and wear it. This will help you and your senior loved one stay socially engaged. Many with hearing loss isolate themselves leading to cognitive loss.
  4. Engage with others! Continue to participate with others either in person or via technology. Socialization is essential for cognitive health. Join a group, attend community events, talk with someone on the phone or via technology, attend faith services, get a pet (real or virtual), dine with others, and find ways to interact with multi-generations. There may be obstacles that need to be overcome to achieve these goals such as transportation, incontinence, technology, accessibility, or hearing, but once identified can be surmounted.
  5. Stop smoking! There are many forms of smoking cessation aids to reduce the struggle, such as medications, apps, and support.
  6. Recognize and treat depression. Don’t be afraid to admit you have a problem because that will become an obstacle to treatment. Family caregivers are at increased risk for depression, so don’t ignore the symptoms.
  7. Manage your blood sugar. Often going hand in hand with obesity, diabetes is a disease that continues to increase. Many people don’t know that they have abnormal blood sugar yet the damage is occurring. Elevated blood sugar, especially for long periods of time, impacts heart and brain health. Learn your numbers and begin a treatment plan to control those numbers.
  8. Manage your weight. If you or your senior loved one are overweight or obese, work on a healthy eating plan that will facilitate your weight management. If you need help, seek out a Registered Dietitian, who is the nutrition expert and can help you find ways to achieve your health goals.

Experts also believe that managing stress, eating a heart healthy diet and learning new things will also help lower your risk of developing dementia as you age.

Additional Resources

Dementia affects millions in the US and around the globe. Preventing dementia is our common goal so family caregivers can continue to be supportive caregivers.

Here are some additional articles that can help caregivers learn more about the disease.