Brrrrr, It’s Cold Out – Let’s Help Keep Our Seniors Warm in Their Homes

Many of us look forward to winter and the cold, especially after a long hot summer, but too much cold can be harmful to our senior loved ones — and in some cases even deadly.

Being cold outside is one thing, but we need to keep it outside, particularly for senior loved ones who are especially susceptible to its risks.

Dangerously cold weather can occur across the US, even in areas that are typically warmer.

Is your senior loved one prepared for the mercury to drop to dangerous levels? Are you, as their family caregiver, prepared to help them deal with the cold and stay safe?

These tips will help you prepare your senior — and you — to get through whatever cold this winter has in store.

Home Heating System

One of the keys to staying warm is, not surprisingly, the home heating system. No matter what type of system is in your senior’s home, there are steps you can take to help ensure it is ready to keep it warm inside, regardless of the temperature outside.

  • Test the heating system to make sure it is operating properly. It might be helpful to get a maintenance contract to have the system checked regularly and kept in good working order by an HVAC professional.
  • Adjust the thermostat settings to the desired temperature range to keep your loved one comfortable. Consider installing programmable thermostats that can be set to different temperatures as desired (and safe) day or night.
  • Change the filters if needed to assure proper air flow. If in doubt about how long they’ve been there, go ahead and change them. Be sure to write the date on the new ones so next time you’ll know how long they’ve been there.
  • Check air vents to ensure they aren’t covered or blocked.
  • Make sure your loved one has the money to pay the bills — even if you have to pay the bill for them. This is an important point that’s too often overlooked. After all, a working system is no good if your senior loved one doesn’t run it for fear of getting a bill that they don’t feel they can afford to pay. If money is a problem, find out if your senior qualifies for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Many whose homes don’t have working heating systems or who think it is too expensive turn to portable heaters to keep warm. If those are in your senior’s home, review the instructions to ensure they are set up and used properly to prevent a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Help the Home Keep the Cold Outside

Even the best home heating systems can have trouble keeping the home warm — and cost a lot more to do it — if the home is letting in the cold. There are some steps you can take to help your senior loved one’s home keep out the cold air.

  • Make sure all windows are closed tightly. Remember, they may have been opened for the comfortable fall weather. Be sure to check the top and bottom of each one for tight closure.
  • If the house has storm windows, ensure those are properly installed.
  • Check the caulking around windows to make sure the cold outdoor air stays there. Likewise the weatherstripping around both windows and doors.
  • Look for any other places cold air might get in, such as under doors (install door sweeps if needed).

Many local utilities have low or no-cost programs to check leaks in the home and help seal them.

Warm Clothing & Wraps

Dressing warmly in the cold weather is important, whether in the home or outside. With the right clothes and maybe some blankets, your senior loved one can stay warm while keeping the thermostat a bit lower to save money.

  • Check to see if your senior loved one has warm indoor and outdoor clothing that fits. Remember, it may be stored away since last winter.
  • Make sure there are sufficient blankets where your loved one will need them. Remember, carrying large blankets from room to room can create tripping hazards for seniors or may be so inconvenient they simply won’t do it. You may need to help them get more.
  • Get out the slippers and replace them if needed. Warm feet and firm footing are both important.

This is one area in which planning ahead can be helpful, since the selection of warm clothing is often depleted by the time the coldest weather hits. If that’s the situation you face, you might get what you can to help your senior now and make a list to keep in mind when winter clothes hit the stores next time.

Other Important Checks

  • Make sure sprinkler systems are turned off when the weather turns freezing to avoid icy walkways.
  • Arrange help for your loved one in shoveling snow off walkways and driveways, if needed, to avoid over-exertion and exposure to the cold.
  • Check fireplaces for proper ventilation.
  • If your senior loved one lives alone, check in regularly.

You can more information on preparing for extreme cold and winter storms at Ready.gov.

We hope this winter is a safe and enjoyable one for your senior loved ones – and for you!

Technology Beneficial to Seniors Coming to a Store Near You

After years of following innovations in technology hoping to see a focus on aging in place seniors, we realize products that are good for us in our homes are good for our seniors in their homes, too.

Technology that we want in our homes and find useful to make our lives more convenient are what our senior loved ones can use too.

What products are most helpful for seniors and their family caregivers?

What obstacles to adopting tech are still problematic for today’s seniors?

What technology will give caregivers the most effective solutions for their senior’s safety, independence and their own peace of mind?

Retail Technology Solutions

Some of the most effective and helpful products family caregivers can adopt for their aging in place senior loved ones can be purchased from the big box stores in the neighborhood. More and more innovations are coming.

In the past, finding new and inventive products that might be just the right solution for seniors was difficult for family caregivers not only to locate but then purchase for home use.

Many great innovations that have been touted to fill a void by manufacturers haven’t even come to the US market. Many of these we personally saw in past CES® exhibits aren’t available, even though we knew that they would be helpful to seniors in the home.

Getting the technology to the people it can help, especially our seniors, can be a real problem for manufacturers.

Now retail chains are seeing the wisdom of meeting the demand for us all when technology solutions are available.

Senior Tech at Big Box Retailer

Recently Best Buy, a national electronic retailer, announced that it wants to be the go-to place to buy tech for our senior loved ones.

They are now in the business of selling in-home monitoring products that are capable of remotely monitoring seniors for family caregivers and keeping them up to date on their safety.

They have partnered with UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions to help seniors and family caregivers with successfully using technology.

Equipment is available for around $390 and can be installed by the Best Buy Geek Squad for $199. The monthly monitoring fee is $29/month.

The company is piloting this new line for seniors called Assured Living in a few cities but plan to include it in all their locations if it is well received. Best Buy currently stocks competitor products in the aging in place senior market and has for about 10 years. Their hope is that they can focus solely on the needs of seniors through this partnership including their Geek Squad expertise.

Tech Challenges To Overcome

Family caregivers want technology to help fill the gap that they now find in caregiving situations especially for sandwich generation carers who are juggling careers, children, and their senior loved ones care.

They are making use of smartphone apps and even in-home monitoring advancements that give greater help in a less intrusive way than in the past.

There are however many challenges and concerns that family caregivers express when looking to the latest technology innovations that for many are still unsolved.

Ease of Use

The greatest invention is useless if our seniors won’t use it. It has to be unassuming, easy for them to understand how to use, unbreakable in their eyes and secure. How many family caregivers have heard our senior loved one say “I am afraid to use it because I don’t want to break it.” Many seniors still fear breaking the internet when they use their computers or smartphone apps – really!

There has to be a way to easily troubleshoot their user experience so that if they don’t remember a step or need a simple update, that can be easily accomplished before they give up on the technology.

Cost

Who will pay? Is there any insurance that will cover the cost such as long term care policies or medical insurance especially when we think medication management or vital sign monitoring? What happens when seniors can’t afford it, will the financial burden of the most effective caregiving technology solution be born by the family or out of the reach to most seniors?

Interoperability

Is it seamless? Does it need 5 different apps before it gives an alert? Do all the devices communicate with caregivers and each other?

Security

Is the security of health data and personal information finally at a point where we understand and accept that the benefits of the device outweigh the risk?

Utility and Fun Too?

Can technology give our seniors (and family caregivers) a bit of fun along with the utility?

Who wouldn’t enjoy asking your Personal Assistant to play some swing music and instantly hear Glenn Miller playing? Devices like Alexa, Echo, Google Home and other new entries into this market can yield enjoyment for our seniors as they also turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, and monitor our senior’s movement pattern, helping them stay safe in their own home and remain more independent.

What about sharing photos and stories via Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, and a variety of other technologies that seniors are adopting every day? We all love seeing the grandkids everyday even when they live far away or even nearby but are too busy to visit in person as often as grandparents would prefer.

Have you seen the latest wearables that can connect your senior with others to challenge their steps, plays games AND monitor their vital signs? Not to mention they can act as GPS trackers in case of an emergency! They are very stylish and can be a real conversation starter instead of a stigmata that you need more help.

Technology continues to advance to help us all. When we find solutions that work for us, they will ultimately work for our seniors.

The more we demand of our technology to help our caregiving role, the better these products will become to meet our senior’s needs.

We will be reporting on more technology innovations in the coming months as we investigate the latest tech offerings at CES 2018.

Stay tuned!

 




Meal Delivery – Options for Bringing Seniors Nourishment & More

Family caregivers know just how difficult it can be for some seniors to eat right.

Senior loved ones may struggle with purchasing and securing food from the grocery store due to transportation limitations, physical function impairment, and budget considerations.

Once they have food in the home, it is difficult for many to prepare substantial meals due to pain, weakness, fatigue, mobility issues, vision impairment, and lack of desire among other limitations.

All of these obstacles result in poor nutritional intake, muscle loss, and the potential for falls that could limit their ability to live independently.

It is a very slippery slope, one that family caregivers struggle to help their loved ones avoid.

Fortunately, there are some new and accessible options to get senior loved ones meals that they will find appealing and that will bolster their physical well-being and independent lifestyle.

Uber EATS Program

Most of us have heard about Uber, a ride sharing company seniors can call for a ride using an app on their smartphone or tablet. This service is available in a large number of cities, big and small, across the country and can fill a void for seniors who have difficulty securing transportation when they no longer drive themselves.

Enter Uber EATS food delivery platform. This is a program with which anyone can order food from local restaurants, which are partnering with Uber, and get home delivery on demand. The food usually arrives within 35 minutes of placing the order.

Cities across the US — and around the world — have programs already in progress which means they may be operating where your senior loved one lives or will be in the future as they expand service areas.

Using the app, your senior can view the restaurant menu and select their order. There is a delivery fee added, of course, as the Uber driver delivers your senior’s meal. Tips are not required or expected, according to Uber EATS.

In the app, your senior can include any special instructions in their order, such as any allergies, or preparation directions like dressing on the side, no sauce or gravy, etc. The order can also be tracked from preparation through pickup right up to delivery using the app.

Credits can be added to your senior’s account and the meal can be paid from the credit again using the app. Family and friends can load the account to help offset the cost for seniors or to avoid them overcharging a credit card by feeding the neighborhood!

There are hundreds of restaurants partnering with Uber EATS so that different cuisines, locales, and costs can be accommodated.

The company suggests that if it isn’t currently available in your area, checking back regularly as more and more cities and restaurants are added.

Additional Options for Meals

There are other options to get food on the table too that could help homebound seniors who need a good meal each day.

Family caregivers can initiate these solutions for their senior loved ones who may need us to do it for them.

Here are some ways family caregivers can connect seniors with nutritious meals (links to specific options are affiliate links):

  1. Home delivered meals through agencies such as Meals on Wheels. In some areas, there may be a waiting list for this service, so plan ahead to meet their need. The beauty of this program is that your senior will get a daily check in with the delivery person so that you can feel assured they are safe. Companionship from the person delivering the meal is also cited as a benefit for this type of program. Meals on Wheels can also bring food for pets!
  2. Meal kit delivery companies such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and many others. Look for simple to prepare foods that your seniors will enjoy eating and can tolerate. It won’t help if the food delivered is too trendy for their personal enjoyment or too difficult for them to prepare.
  3. Prepared meals ready to eat such as Silver Cuisine. This is a frozen meal delivered from a wide selection of options. They delivery breakfast, lunch, and dinner on order sent in an ice chest so that they are easy to heat and eat.
  4. Grocery delivery services such a PeaPod, Amazon, and other large companies that take online orders and deliver to their door. The variety of food products enable seniors to get the supplies they need including personal care or home items. Instacart is an online grocery delivery service using an Android app on your smartphone which may be convenient for caregivers to use.
  5. Online ordering ready for you to pick up such as Walmart. Order more than food, such as paper goods, cleaning products, or anything else Walmart sells. The delivery is free. Other large retailers will do this too so look in your area for large chains such as Safeway that will deliver.
  6. Set up senior center visits where they will get a nourishing meal each day in addition to all the other benefits provided by the neighborhood senior center. Many provide transportation.
  7. Organize friends and family to take turns preparing and then joining your senior loved one for dinner; schedule each night or at least several times a week. Perhaps this could entail taking your senior out to their favorite restaurant sometimes too.
  8. Call or order online from local restaurants for deliveries such as a pizza or other takeout meals that come right to their door.

More Than A Meal

It is true that being well nourished includes mental as well as physical health.

Homebound seniors need to have socialization with their hot meal to avoid isolation and depression. When family and friends include a visit to eat with them, talk, and share time together will help seniors feel loved and help with mood and a sense of belonging that will nourish them mentally in addition to the nutritious hot meal.

Many seniors become lonely when eating alone day after day, resulting in a decreased intake. They may miss children who live far away or a spouse who is no longer there, creating a feeling of loneliness that hits harder at meal times. Maybe you can set up a virtual visit via FaceTime or Skype timed during meals so that they aren’t always eating alone!

By improving senior loved ones’ socialization at the same time you improve their access to nutritious meals, you will improve their quality of life that can help them remain independent as long as possible.

Feeding people is often our way of expressing our love.

Let’s all be sure our senior’s feel the love and nourishment they need every day!

 




6 Tips to Avoid Unhappy Holidays While Shopping on the Web

Holiday shopping does not have to mean fighting the crowds and traffic any more — not in the same way, at least.

In fact, for a growing number of shoppers (including me), online shopping is the preferred way of “going to the mall.”

Fighting mall crowds for limited supplies of coveted gifts or deep discounts has turned into being among the first to click when the items are posted to the online store.

One of the great things about online shopping is that seniors (and those who care for or about them) who can’t or don’t want to go out to the stores no longer have to settle for paying higher prices or finding a poor selection. In fact, some of the lowest prices are available from online stores — and you can choose from thousands of stores, not just the hundred or so in and around the mall.

Caution Still Needed While Shopping

While we’re not facing traffic and other hazards of brick and mortar shopping, there are cautions to keep in mind to ensure online shopping does not become a negative part of your holiday season.

A too well-known reality about the web is that the technology that lets us shop from anywhere makes it possible for crooks to do their work from around the globe as well.

However, just as the crooks prowling the mall parking lots did not keep us from getting our shopping done in the past, their online counterparts should not keep us from those online deals either. Safe shopping habits are just as important on the web as in the mall, maybe even more so.

Six Tips for Happy Online Holiday Shopping

  1. Stick with stores you know or that are recommended by someone whose opinion you trust. The busy holiday season is a risky time to take a chance on a new retailer with a teaser ad or fantastic price. Sticking with stores we know is the best way to assure our purchases don’t arrive after Christmas, if at all. Even worse, that store with a great price could be a sham, set up to steal the identity of unfortunate shoppers.
  2. Avoid shopping from a public computer or wireless hotspot. Sadly, there are people who put snooping software on public access computers, despite the best efforts of schools, libraries and other convenient access places. They are just waiting for us to type in credit card numbers or passwords so they can make them their own. Likewise, don’t use that free wireless connection at the coffee shop or fast food outlet, where it is too easy for the wrong people to see everything you type.
  3. Don’t click on email links to visit a store. Many of the emails we get for retailers are cleverly disguised “phishing” messages, luring us to their fake store website to get us to enter our information, even when the link looks like it is taking us to the real store. Yes, there are ways to check to see if an email is legitimate, but why take a chance? The little extra time it takes to open the web browser and visit the store’s site may save us a lot of time and trouble later.
  4. Don’t buy gift cards from unfamiliar web stores online auction sites. Many people have thought they got great online deals on those gift cards they bought for friends and loved ones only to find out what they bought was an empty card or, worse, the recipient of their gift finds out it is empty. Purchase gift cards from reputable outlets to avoid fraud and embarrassment – – and keep your receipts, just in case.
  5. Move on when the deal looks too good to be true. This is one place to trust your instincts and an adage that long predates the web. Yes, the holidays are a good time to find great prices, sometimes surprisingly so, but that TOO good price might just be bait to reel you into the wrong website for what turns out to be a bad deal, often with no recourse.
  6. Check the return policy first. Yes, returns are a part of the holidays, for better and worse. Before buying that gift online, check the retailer’s return policy in case the purchase is the wrong color or size – or the intended gift simply was not what the recipient wanted. While many retailers allow online purchases to be returned to their bricks and mortar stores, some web stores make returns difficult or don’t accept them at all.

Bonus Tip: Shopping Within Our Means

Even the best prices may not be a good deal if we can’t afford to buy that gift. The happiness we get from buying and giving gifts shouldn’t translate to pain later when we get the credit card bills.

How would the recipients of our presents feel if they know buying those gifts caused us lasting financial pain? Happiness over a treasured gift can turn to guilt that we should we needed to overspend to make them happy.

Experts advise us to start shopping with a budget, both overall and for each gift. That can be hard to when we aren’t quite sure what to get each person on our list and then see that great gift while shopping. Fortunately, the web is a tool that can help us here as well.

Like a huge shelf of catalogs, the web gives us an opportunity to make our gift list and ensure we are within our budget before we start purchasing, avoiding bigger bills than we can handle later.

 

Do you have online shopping tips and stories for the holidays? We’d love to hear and pass them along.

Happy shopping this holiday!