Senior Home Safety Issues — What Family Caregivers Can Do

Falls are always a concern for family caregivers of seniors, with good reason.

There are 29 million falls each year and they are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults. More than 7 million older adults require medical treatment or restricted activity following a fall.

Falls are a primary cause for lack of independence, which can result in seniors no longer living at home.

Did you know that the home in which your senior loved one chooses to live as they age may be contributing to falls that could lead to injury, moving, or even their death?

Older homes often haven’t aged well and can cause senior loved ones to be unsafe in the very home in which they choose to age in place.

Worn out homes can lead to falls for seniors when they become unsafe, even when the senior is steady on their feet.

Failures of Aging Homes

There are many drawbacks to aging homes that may make it difficult, expensive, and even unsafe for our senior loved ones to continue to live in their home.

Here are a few items that family caregivers can check and repair as needed:

  • Outdated electric outlets and wiring; use of extension cords
  • Uneven floors
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Insufficient funds to maintain or repair a home
  • Peeling paint
  • Inferior insulation
  • Nonfunctioning heating or air conditioning units

These are some items that can make that home more livable for older residents:

  • Installation of grab bars, ramps, curbless showers, lever handles
  • Utilization of available tax credits for repairs; programs to do repairs like rebuilding together, volunteer helpers
  • Room for mobility using assistive devices like walkers and wheelchairs
  • Main floor living and sleeping
  • Zero step entry

Who will observe these unsafe housing conditions?

Who can help your senior loved one repair, renovate, or replace items in their “forever” home?

Recent Study of Seniors’ Homes

Meals on Wheels, which is in a position to observe the home environment of millions of seniors across the country, has created a report entitled Older Adults and In-Home Safety and published in 2017. This report exposes common home hazards as well as interventions that can keep seniors safer while reducing falls in the home.

Often it is up to family caregivers to improve the health not only of their senior loved ones but also of the homes in which they choose to live.

Family members should to work together with senior loved ones to discuss what needs to be repaired or replaced and how best to accomplish it for their safety.

According to the report:

“About three in ten Americans age 45 and over say they are very or somewhat concerned about…”

  • Being able to afford home modifications that will enable them to remain at home (30%)
  • Finding reliable contractors or handymen, should they need to modify their home (28%)
  • Being forced to move to a nursing home because they have trouble getting around their own home (31%)

We think those numbers would be higher if more people realized what they will face as they age.

Obstacles to Home Upgrades and Maintenance

Many older adults haven’t maintained or upgraded their homes because:

  • they feel they can’t do the work themselves
  • they feel they can’t afford it
  • they seem to lack knowledge about what changes to make
  • don’t know how to find a contractor
  • they want someone else to do it all for them
  • they don’t trust contractors, afraid of scams

Adding to the obstacles is the rise in the number of people with disabilities as they age making it difficult to do their own maintenance, even if they know how to do it.

By 2035, it is estimated that 31.2 million older households will include a member with a disability.

Observations of Researchers

The home visitors for Meals on Wheels who completed the survey report found disturbing sights inside and outside the homes of seniors who had applied for Meals on Wheels delivery.

Many of the hazards they encountered were directly related to fall risk for the homeowner who is aging in place.

The hazards include:

  • Peeling or flaking paint
  • Evidence of pests
  • Broken furniture and lamps
  • Flooring in need of repair
  • Tripping hazards
  • Broken or boarded up windows
  • Crumbling foundation
  • Open holes
  • Missing bricks, siding or other outside materials
  • Roof problems
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Inability to reach shelves
  • Inability to transfer in and out of shower, house, toilet
  • Inability to walk up stairs

Are any of these hazards present in your senior loved one’s home? Should you check their home to see?

Can you help them correct any of these conditions?

Help for Family Caregivers and Seniors

There are solutions to the gaps in aging homes that can make the environment more livable for your senior loved one.

Identifying what needs to be repaired, renovated, or replaced — as well being aware about the areas in which your senior struggles to accomplish activities of daily living without modifications — is the first step for solving these issues.

There are professionals who can help upgrade a senior’s home, including handypersons, renovation specialists, certified aging in place specialists (CAPS), universal design interior designers, and even family DIYers.

Evaluation and recommendations by an occupational therapist can help determine if your senior loved one needs modifications to complete activities of daily living such as bathing or cooking.

There are also agencies that can help with costs and expertise to help update and modify living environments for safety that caregivers can contact including Rebuilding Together, Habitat for Humanity, Home Depot Foundation, Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, AARP, National Council on Aging (NCOA), Area Agencies on Aging, faith based communities, university volunteers, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Weatherization Assistance program (WAP), Section 504 home repair program of the USDA grant, long term care insurance policies, state tax credits, and state funded organizations.

“There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.”  Rosalynn Carter

 




Family Caregivers of Seniors — What Makes Somebody One & What Do They Look Like?

Millions of us are family caregivers to senior loved ones and the numbers are growing rapidly with the senior population.

No, we’re not going to talk statistics here, in part because we think the official numbers well undercount the real number of family caregivers.

More importantly, though, talking about “millions” misses the point that being a family caregiver is a personal thing for each one of us and the loved one for and about whom we care.

When talking with others, we often hear confusion — or at least differences in definition — about what makes somebody a family caregiver and whether they, themselves, “qualify” based on the role they fill for their loved one.

What Makes Someone a Family Caregiver?

As Kathy noted in an earlier article (“AHA! The Moment You Realize You’re a Family Caregiver to an Aging Loved One“), many don’t foresee becoming a caregiver to a senior loved one or, if they do, can’t predict when their care will first be needed.

Some family caregivers are abruptly thrust into the role, such as in response to a sudden illness of, or serious fall by, a parent or grandparent. Often, though, they realize their role of caregiver has grown gradually, based on their senior loved one’s needs.

Just what does it mean, though, to be providing care for a senior loved one? We use a broad definition, one that encompasses most anything a family member might do to make their senior loved one’s life safer, healthier, more comfortable, or more enjoyable.

That’s right, even making their life more fun!

These are activities that can make you a family caregiver if you perform them for senior loved ones.

  • Helping them get out of bed and dressed for the coming day
  • Preparing meals, even if just the occasional meal you bring by their house
  • Driving them to a doctor’s appointment, shopping, or a social activity
  • Cutting their lawn because they are not able to do it themselves
  • Teaching them how to set up their smartphone and conduct video calls with loved ones
  • Chatting with them from time to time on video calls
  • Stopping by to chat, play games, or even join them in watching their favorite TV show
  • Installing grab bars in their home or taking other actions to make it more accommodating to their needs

There are many, many more things that would qualify one as a family caregiver, but hopefully you get the idea.

Several years ago, we made a short video with a tongue in cheek listing of caregiving activities. Our intentions were two: getting people to think more broadly about what might make them a family caregiver and bringing a smile to family caregivers and (hopefully) brightening their day.

See what you think:

We hope you liked it and that it made you think a little.

Why it’s Important to Realize You’re a Family Caregiver

First — THANK YOU for being a caregiver!

It is fulfilling to know you are making a difference to the life of an older loved one, but can also present challenges to your own life.

Many family caregivers have jobs, businesses, or school from which caregiving takes them away.

Others find themselves in a caregiving sandwich, also providing care to their children or grandchildren.

Often caregivers encounter financial challenges due to helping loved ones financially and/or reductions in income because of time spent providing care.

Family caregivers of all ages prioritize their own health below providing care, even while prodding their seniors to attend to their own healthcare needs.

It’s important that family caregivers set aside time to address their own needs, if not for themselves, then to be able to continue putting all they want into continuing to care for loved ones.

First, though, it is important to realize you ARE a family caregiver and recognize the potential impacts providing care is having on you.

What Does a Family Caregiver Look Like?

Many of you may look at yourselves in the mirror but don’t see a “family caregiver” looking back. You are just a family member doing what you think is right.

After all, you don’t look like a family caregiver, right?

But just what does a caregiver look like?

The truth is that anyone could see a family caregiver staring back at them in the mirror. Caregiving knows no demographic bounds.

You’re not too young, too old, or too anything to make a difference in the life of a senior loved one.

As Mother Teresa once said, “it is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”

 




 

What’s Next After Aging in Place and How to Transition – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Yes, our senior loved ones – like us — want to live at home as they age.

Sometimes that home may be a new location or the home in which they have lived most of their adult lives.

Comfort with our belongings, familiarity with the community, closeness of family or friends, access to trusted healthcare providers, or an aversion to change are some of the many reasons seniors and family caregivers prefer to stay ‘at home.’

The reality for some older adults is that home, or at least their preferred home, may not be the best choice as their aging needs change. Their independence may be threatened by health, mobility, cognition, finances, or lack of caregiving support.

In fact, about two-thirds of people over 65 need some type of long term care health services as they age.

What comes next?

How can family caregivers help their senior loved ones transition to the next chapter in their lives?

When Independence Is No Longer Possible

No one wants to leave their home, but sometimes the safety and well-being of our senior loved ones means this is the best choice for them.

Family caregivers have not failed if a transition becomes necessary but instead are being proactive.

A crisis is not the time to be making decisions of this importance. Planning and preparation can help ease the impact and ensure ours seniors’ wants and needs are met in their new ‘home.’

Here are some considerations if you are facing this transition decision:

  1. The variety of options available to your senior, such as in-home care, senior living community, assisted living center, long term care facility, continuing care retirement community, independent living, memory care center, or adult group home/personal care home can be complex. Each has benefits and drawbacks and may or may not be a good fit for your senior.
  2. What financial arrangements are needed for the option which meets your senior’s needs? Are there funds available to finance their choice? Is there a home that can be sold to help pay for the next place, pension income, personal savings, long term care insurance, or Veterans Aid that can be used to pay? Most of these options are private pay and not funded by Medicare. Each setting has a different pay structure and you may find some are not affordable for your senior unless adequate funds have been set aside for care.
  3. When deciding on the next phase of living, include your senior loved one in the decision-making process as much as possible.
  4. Visit locations, investigate staffing, check the menu and activities calendar, and any other amenities that are important for your senior and the rest of the family. Does the location feel comfortable and welcoming? Is it clean, are the residents well kept, is safety a priority, will transportation be available, who manages medications, can you bring a pet, is a beauty shop on premises, who pays for phone and cable, is broadband available for technology, is smoking allowed (especially if your senior doesn’t want it), and can you have visitors, including overnight guests?
  5. What are their rules? Is there a complaint process? Is there a bill of rights posted? What happens if your senior doesn’t continue to qualify due to decline, what is the process for moving to the next level, is eviction possible?

You can compare different facilities in your area using www.medicare.gov and select the type and quality of the facility you desire. This could help narrow down the list before you make your visits.

The National Center for Assisted Living has a Checklist for Consumers and Prospective Residents that is very detailed. It can help family caregivers determine which questions to ask in any facility type you are considering and how to evaluate the options.

Planning ahead to leave a beloved home when independence is no longer possible and reacting before a crisis occurs will help make an often difficult and stressful transition smoother for seniors and their family caregivers.

 




5G is Coming — Why It’s Important to Seniors & Family Caregivers

There has been a lot of talk lately about 5G mobile networks, touting faster speeds and higher capacities, and it was one of the hottest topics at CES® 2018.

5G technology will be important to seniors, especially those living independently.

That means it will be important to family caregivers of those seniors.

What’s that, you say your senior loved ones don’t have access to high speed internet or it isn’t practical to them?

5G might be even more important, then, to you — and them.

Without getting into the technical detail or jargon (well, maybe a little of the jargon) associated with the technology, let’s take a look at 5G and what it will mean.

Next Evolution in Mobile Networks

First, why 5G? That part’s straightforward because “5G” means the 5th generation of mobile communications technology.

Keep in mind that the next generation network is likely to have differences between providers, just as now exist with the current 3G and 4G networks, but they will have key characteristics in common.

As we heard it described, 5G won’t be just a small improvement over the current 4G, but a revolutionary improvement in capability, with data rates 20 times those of today.

Another evolutionary improvement is in what is called latency, the delay that occurs in network data transmissions. While 4G has a latency of approximately 10 milliseconds, the latency of 5G networks will be less than 1 millisecond.

How fast is a millisecond? If you are driving 60 miles per hour, in one millisecond you will travel one inch.

We’ll discuss why latency is important to seniors and family caregivers later in this article.

Another area of real improvement is the security of 5G networks over the current 4G. The importance of added security is clear.

Why 5G is Needed

If you’re think your current mobile service is fast enough that there is no need for the capabilities of 5G, you’re not alone, as we have read about and heard a number of people saying the same thing.

5G’s additional speed, though, means the network will be able to move a lot more data. That means more capability to handle all of the connected devices that will be in our homes in coming years, devices which will be important (as we often discuss at Senior Care Corner®) to the ability of our senior loved ones to live independently longer — which also makes those devices important to us as family caregivers.

These are some of the many current and future applications that will benefit from the capabilities of 5G.

  • Home health devices and telehealth “visits” by healthcare providers
  • Video communications between seniors and family, friends, and others in the community
  • Smarthome devices, including those providing safety, security, convenience, and comfort
  • Self-driving cars
  • Streaming entertainment

What about those seniors who live where they can’t get a signal on mobile devices or broadband internet is unavailable or impractical for them? 5G is expected to make it easier to address those situations as well, by making it less expensive to get high speed communications into more areas than today.

Importance of Low Latency

Low latency is often discussed as one of the most important gains in the evolution from 4G to 5G, but some clarification is needed to understand why milliseconds make a difference. I have heard two great examples that highlight the importance.

If your senior loved one riding in — or driving next to — a self-driving car that encounters an unfamiliar situation, any delay in communications can result in an dangerous incident. Wouldn’t you feel more confident in that situation knowing your senior’s car — or the one beside them — is instantaneously getting the information it needs?

Picture your senior loved one on an operating table. They live in a community that doesn’t have the specialist they need but that specialist is operating remotely using a robotic arm in the operating room. Any delay in the surgeon’s directions being followed by robot or visual feedback getting to the surgeon would be unacceptable to you, wouldn’t it?

Those life-or-death examples are just two of many reasons low latency is one of the important aspects of 5G to seniors, caregivers, and everyone.

When We’ll See 5G

Soon, but full implementation and realization of the benefits will likely take several years.

Pilot implementations of 5G are growing in numbers, with the number of communications companies involved growing.

Larger scale implementation of the network equipment will start after those pilots are completed. As with other new generations of mobile networks, the evolution won’t be cheap and will likely take time — and the network is only one side of the equation.

We will also need devices compatible with 5G in order to connect to new networks. The first 5G smartphones are expected to be released in 2019, so we will have to upgrade our own devices to get the 5G benefits.

Fortunately, we won’t have to replace all our existing smarthome equipment and computers for the 5G networks, as it should only take a compatible router to connect our devices.

The bottom line is that 5G is coming and is expected to provide big benefits for independent-living seniors and their family caregivers.

Stay tuned to Senior Care Corner for updates to be ready for the technology and its benefits.

 




Good Dementia Care Defined – How It Can Help Family Caregivers

Losing our memory is something we all fear, including our senior loved ones. We want to stay as sharp-minded as possible as we age and hope that our senior loved ones do as well.

We are now realizing that some of our personal habits can influence our cognition as we age.

Even when our senior loved ones make lifestyle changes for prevention of memory loss, unfortunately, they can still get diagnosed with cognitive loss and their caregivers will need solutions to help with caregiving.

Unpaid caregiving for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias continues to grow and is currently estimated by the latest Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report to be a total of 16.1 million people. These family caregivers provide 18.4 Billion hours of care to the tune of $232 Billion a year.

What do family caregivers of people with dementia need and want from caregiving support?

Principles of Good Dementia Care

Good dementia care for families has been studied by researchers and their findings were summarized into 14 components.

These 14 components, or standards, were created using scientific evidence and expert opinions, including recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality National Guidelines Clearinghouse, discipline-specific professional associations, and Alzheimer’s Association recommendations for health care professionals.

All members of the team will contribute to one or many of the fourteen components including family, the person with cognitive issues, healthcare providers, health professionals, end of life specialists, pharmacists, direct care workers, and anyone involved throughout the span of the disease.

14 Components:

  1. Detection of dementia – Examine for cognitive impairment when there is a decline from previous function in daily activities, occupational ability, or social engagement.
  2. Diagnosis – Obtain a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis from a qualified provider when cognitive impairment is suspected.
  3. Assessment and ongoing reassessment – Assess cognitive status, functional abilities, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, medical status, living environment, and safety. Reassess regularly and when there is a significant change in condition.
  4. Care planning – Design a care plan that will meet care goals, satisfy the person’s needs, and maximize independence.
  5. Medical management – Deliver timely, individualized medical care to the person with dementia, including prescribing medication and managing comorbid medical conditions in the context of the person’s dementia.
  6. Information, education, informed and supported decision making – Provide information and education about dementia to support informed decision making, including end-of-life decisions.
  7. Acknowledgement and emotional support for the person with dementia – Acknowledge and support the person with dementia. Allow the person’s values and preferences to guide all aspects of the care. Balance family involvement with individual autonomy and choice.
  8. Assistance for the person with dementia for daily functioning and activities – Ensure that persons with dementia have sufficient assistance to perform essential health-related and personal care activities and to participate in activities that reflect their preferences and remaining strengths; help to maintain cognitive, physical, and social functioning for as long as possible; and support quality of life. Provide help as needed with medication management and pain control.
  9. Involvement, emotional support and assistance for family caregivers – Involve caregivers in evaluation, decision making, and care planning, encouraging regular contact with providers. Provide culturally sensitive emotional support and assistance for the family caregivers.
  10. Prevention and mitigation of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia – Identify the causes of behavioral and psychological symptoms, using non-pharmacological approaches first to address those causes. Avoid use of anti-psychotics and other medications unless the symptoms are severe, create safety risks for the person or others, and have not responded to other approaches. Avoid physical restraints except in emergencies.
  11. Safety for the person with dementia – Ensure safety for the person with dementia. Counsel the person and family as appropriate about risks associated with wandering, driving, and emergency preparedness. Monitor for evidence of abuse and neglect.
  12. Therapeutic environment, including modifications to the physical and social environment of the person with dementia – Create a comfortable environment, including physical and social aspects, that feels familiar and predictable to the person with dementia and support functioning, a sustained sense of self, mobility, independence, and quality of life.
  13. Care transitions – Ensure appropriate and effective transitions across providers and care settings.
  14. Referral and coordination of care and services that match the needs of the person with dementia and family caregivers and collaboration among agencies and providers – Facilitate connections of persons with dementia and their family caregivers to individualized, culturally and linguistically appropriate care and services, including medical, other health-related, residential, and home and community-based services. When more than 1 agency or provider is caring for a person with dementia, collaborate among the various agencies and providers to plan and deliver coordinated care.

What Do the Components Mean for Family Caregivers?

Family caregivers who detect a change in the mentation of a senior loved one are usually the first ones who see a difference and begin seeking information and a reason for the changes they observe.

At this point, there are no groups or agencies assessing or screening the general population to determine whether there may or may not be cognitive loss to meet component number one.

Most family caregivers become suspicious and seek out answers from their medical provider which will begin the caring continuum under number two — diagnosis.

Experts in the field of dementia, especially clinical trial researchers, wish that the diagnosis could be made earlier in the disease process to make a difference in the trajectory of the disease and allow families time to make crucial decisions before cognition inhibits expression of wishes.

Perhaps a more general screening program would be helpful for family caregivers to be proactive about dealing with dementia.

The remaining components are good ways for family caregivers who finally receive a diagnosis and are referred to community programs to evaluate different programs available and make choices in their care.

Does a program fulfill some or all of the components especially essential to your family? For instance, is your senior encountering behavior issues or do you fear for their safety?

Would a home visit by an occupational therapist help you find ways to improve the independence of your senior loved one to complete their own activities of daily living such as personal care?

Do you need financial resources or more caregiver training? Can you request it from your medical team or get referrals to help you fill any gaps in caregiving?

Do they offer respite so family caregivers can practice self-care?

Will they review medications to be sure there are no contraindicated medications being prescribed as some medications should not be used for people with dementia?

Does the program offer dementia training to all staff in contact with the person with dementia or just hands on care staff?

Do they support you as family caregiver?

Expert Evaluations of Programs

When experts used these 14 components to determine the effectiveness of current local and national programs, they found that most had access to resources to give to caregivers or links to find pertinent information.

When the programs were part of a residential program, interaction was naturally heightened between professionals and people with dementia. Other programs had less interaction.

It has been shown that caregiver’s burden is lightened when there are more interventions available to assist them.

Most programs attempt to empower caregivers which can be done with training and resources.

Helping caregivers practice good self-care is vital for those caring for people with dementia. The caregiving road is long with little day-to-day relief for family caregivers.

Awareness of the resources and options available for family caregivers and the person with dementia as the disease progresses is the first step in getting your needs fulfilled.

We hope this guide about what is possible to help you on your caregiving journey will help you seek and find support before, during, and after the diagnosis of dementia.

 




What Being A Caregiver Has Taught Me About My Own Aging

Being a family caregiver is an experience that will bring many moments of joy, sadness, frustration, and wisdom.

Living this journey can be life-affirming for many family caregivers. It is what you were meant to do – care for someone who once cared for you.

It can have its challenging moments but also brings clarity of purpose and insights if you pay attention.

What will you take away from your caregiving experience that will help you age successfully?

Lessons Learned as a Caregiver

Finding the silver lining in a every cloud, whether it has rain or emanates a rainbow is said to yield a positive outcome for the person who is willing to look for it.

Learning from experience and improving your personal aging experience are worthy goals for family caregivers.

Once you identify the areas which challenge you caring for a senior loved one, you can create an action plan for your own aging to allow you a more successful path in aging.

As I have learned, there are many aspects to that plan.

“I want to stay in my own home”

So you have decided you would prefer to live in your own home as long as possible as you age. Now is a good time to start incorporating universal design in your own home.

Modifying your home for aging needs every time you renovate or redecorate will make aging in place easier for you as your function changes.

For example, exchanging broken fixtures for age-friendly ones will put you ahead of the game and make it easier for your own caregivers.

If your home or your location is not ideal, perhaps now is the time to determine if a move, downsize, or a walkable city is in your best interest.

“I want to be financially prepared for the future and all my needs for aging”

Because you know first-hand from your role as a family caregiver just how expensive aging can be, you know having a sound financial plan will make your future easier.

Rising healthcare costs, limited retirement accounts, cost of living expanding greater than fixed incomes, and outliving the years of funds in the nest egg can be overcome with more informed financial planning.

Are you putting enough money away, do you have a long-term insurance plan, have you maintained a budget and paid off large debt so that you will be ready for the future? We all want to age in place but not enough of us have made the appropriate financial plans to maintain our desired way of living.

It is not too early to seek the advice of a financial planner to help you make a plan for your own future.

“I want to use technology for my benefit and for the ease of my caregivers”

In this digital age, most family caregivers can see that technology has already provided many benefits for seniors who live at home. There are devices and apps that will help keep us safe at home, connected to the community and allow us to manage our personal data.

The best is yet to come!

These innovations will only continue to be created and improved so that when we are ready, there will be no hesitation to employing as much technology as available.

Staying aware of the innovations and using technology now will help in the future.

“I want to live near my kids and grandkids”

You know how important it is, as a family caregiver, to be accessible to your senior loved one. You will also want this because chances are your kids will be your caregivers as you are with your parents.

Being near them will be best for you both.

Does that mean you need to move closer to them? Is a family conversation in order to decide if there is a chance they will relocate after you move to be near them making it necessary for you to move again?

Is it possible for you to move in with them and share a household? Does it make better sense to both find a property that allows you both privacy but proximity?

There are many more options now than in the past such as granny pods that can make living together but separately more cost effective.

“I want to have all my legal documents in order now!”

Experts believe that two-thirds of adults have not created legal documents that express their wishes or created a will that dictates where their assets will go after they die.

This situation leaves family caregivers guessing what to do as end-of-life approaches and often stuck in the middle of other family members who try to fight for their piece of the pie.

Executing advance directives, such as a living will or a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) before you need it and then discussing your wishes with your loved ones will help make you an informed care recipient and not put your caregivers in a difficult position, as you might feel you are currently in with your own senior loved ones.

Having time to contemplate your wishes, filing accurate documents, and sharing this with those who need them instead of trying to do it all quickly in an emergency will allow you to make the best choices and create action plans, including funeral arrangements, to reduce the stress on your future caregivers.

“I want to downsize and declutter”

You may be struggling with the thought of having to dispose of your senior loved ones’ fifty years of possessions. What is the most important to save, what is worth selling, and what is just junk?

Most of us have piles and boxes of stuff stored that we may not even remember we have. Imagine storing this for many, many years. This is what many caregivers are staring in the face right now.

It makes us realize we don’t want to do this to our future caregivers. Now is a good time to start decluttering the basement and garage and closets throughout your home so you can donate or sell the belongings you have that you no longer need so no one else will have to later.

Depending on your personal caregiving situation, there may be more lessons you learn to help you age more successfully.

Can you add a few to our list?

What would you put on your own list?

The important idea is that we take action when we see a problem that we need to fix for ourselves instead of getting frustrated that your senior loved ones haven’t prepared well.

The time is now to start preparing for your future!

 




Tech Support Tool for Family Caregivers — TeamViewer Review

Personal computers and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are the communications and smarthome hubs that will connect seniors to the world around them.

At Senior Care Corner®, we urge family caregivers to encourage and assist senior loved ones in obtaining and using these devices and the others they will help maintain their independent lives in safety, health, and comfort.

When those devices are working, that is.

Computers, smartphones, and tablets — whether they belong to our senior loved ones, our children, or ourselves — don’t always work as they should, though.

Devices that aren’t working right can be a challenge for any of us, but often more so for those who are new to the devices, maybe even to technology in general.

Family Caregiver Tech Support

As family caregivers, we often find ourselves called upon to provide “tech support” for loved ones whose devices aren’t working properly, or at least not the way expected.

Some issues can be addressed over the phone but often, it seems, a phone call won’t do it and a visit is required. That may be inconvenient if you live nearby, but that’s part of being a family caregiver.

If there is distance separating them, though, a device problem is a prescription for frustration for both seniors and family caregivers.

Even worse than the distance we cross to fix something, though, is the concern our senior loved ones won’t reach out to us, instead putting the device in a drawer where it won’t do them any good.

We have been looking for an answer and found one that works for us and, we hope, will work for you as well.

TeamViewer for Personal Tech Support

(Note: This review is based on use of the same free TeamViewer software available to others and, other than downloading the software from their website, we have not had contact with the company or been compensated in any way.)

Some research and a recommendation from a trusted IT professional led us to give TeamViewer a try.

TeamViewer is software that allows users — with appropriate permissions — to remotely operate other devices on which the software resides. Family caregivers can use this remote operation to provide tech support to senior loved ones’ devices without having hands on those devices.

TeamViewer software, we learned, is used by a number of large companies and IT firms to provide tech support to users. While they pay for the right to use the software, TeamViewer is “completely free for personal use.”

What is personal use? According to the TeamView site, “personal use is limited to computers and devices that are not being used for business or other commercial tasks.”

Why do they offer it free? They indicate one of the reasons is the positive word-of-mouth recommendations that come from personal users. I guess this article falls into that category.

Using TeamViewer

The first step is to download and install TeamViewer on the devices that will use it, including the devices used to provide support and the ones being supported.

  • For personal computers it can be downloaded from their website, which automatically detects the computer’s operating system and provides the correct version.
  • For mobile devices, the app can be installed from the App Store and Google Play.

There is a straightforward setup process for each device. When installing it on your loved one’s device(s) to be supported, be sure to write down the ID and password for their device, as these will be needed when providing support.

When support is needed, ensure the device to be supported is turned on and connected to the internet, then simply launch TeamViewer on your device and enter the ID of the device needing support. Once in, you have remote control of the other device, as if you are sitting in front of it.

Rest up to You

Keep in mind that TeamView only puts you in position to address whatever issues exist on the device you’re supporting – – it’s up to you to actually fix what’s wrong.

TeamView sure makes it more convenient, though.

When you are controlling a device remotely, it will be known by anyone looking at that device. That’s not an issue, of course, since we would not advocate accessing your senior loved one’s device without their invitation to do so.

One thing we have found, though, is that it gets confusing when both the remote and local users are attempting to control a device, which can happen when the local user is trying to demonstrate what’s wrong. We resolved these coordination issues by talking on the phone at the same time.

Bottom Line

We have found TeamViewer to be very valuable in providing remote tech support and can wholeheartedly recommend it to other family caregivers.

Free is, of course, an attractive price. After using the software several times, though, we would gladly pay for it – – but please don’t tell the folks at TeamViewer!

 




Aging in America 2018 Wrap-up — A Valuable Information Overload

3,000 people attended Aging in America 2018, representing tens of millions more who care for and about older adults.

The conference covered a wide range of topics of interest to those who are aging — that’s all of us, right? — and those who care for older adults.

We met many people and companies with ideas, products, and services that intrigued us enough that we will cover more in depth over the coming months at Senior Care Corner®, including some we will bring you in future episodes of the Senior Care Corner Show.

There were a number of eye-opening presentations, including the emotional discussion by Brian Kursonis (withALZmyHeart), a 56 year old who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago after a year-long battle to get doctors to identify the cause of his symptoms.

We also heard a number of speakers who left us shaking our heads, some whose outlook seemed too narrow, a few who didn’t seem to want to hear views that differed from their own, and others who simply seemed out of touch with the times. In other words, a real cross-section of people and perspectives.

All of whom cared deeply about the needs of seniors and those helping to meet their needs.

Aging in America Topics

Aging in America 2018, often referred to as AiA18, covered a broad range of topics regarding older adults and those who care for them. Discussing each, even listing them, would take several articles — and we found a great deal of inspiration at AiA18 for topics to address in coming months — so we are going to briefly discuss several of the major topic areas.

There were 537 separate events on the AiA18 schedule so, no, we can’t begin to address all of them — nor could we attend many of them. Fortunately, we are able to get copies of many of the presentations we missed so can catch up on much of what we missed.

These are some of what we saw as the topic areas of greatest interest to family caregivers.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be a significant topic at Aging in America until a cure is finally found because of the impact on seniors and those around them.

We heard discussions of ongoing research toward cures — there are many ongoing efforts — and guidance for caregivers of those with dementia to help them give seniors with the disease the best life possible.

One innovative area about which we were pleased to learn is the development of memory cafes. A memory cafe is a safe environment created for those with dementia to socialize and make connections in a community of those with like needs. We expect to hear and write more about these in the future.

Needs of Family Caregivers

This is another topic area about which we often write at Senior Care Corner and which, fortunately, is getting much more attention in conferences and other venues. There is broad recognition of the essential roles of family caregivers and helping them fulfill those roles is important to seniors’ quality of life.

We were pleased to see the value of technology to the work of family caregivers discussed in sessions. There was broad acknowledgement of the importance of the human aspects of caregiving, with technology — especially in the future — seen as freeing up more of family caregivers’ time to spend with their senior loved ones.

With the senior population growing much faster than the numbers of potential caregivers, the reliance on family caregivers to meet older adults’ needs is only going to grow. Because of that, we anticipate seeing the focus on caregivers’ needs growing in coming years.

Diversity of the Senior Population

The diversity of the senior population is a multi-faceted subject that was woven throughout AiA18. We often talk about seniors not being a single homogeneous group and speakers at the conference really broke down many of the different segments, along with some of the needs and issues of those segments.

  • Seniors of different races and ethnicities
  • LGBT seniors
  • Differences in financial health disparity
  • Seniors living in rural areas vs. cities

The point of discussing the diversity of seniors is to aid in understanding their perspectives and the problems that must be solved in order for each segment to have optimal quality of life.

Benefits (or Not??) of Technology for Seniors

Technology of all kinds related to the needs of seniors was discussed at Aging in America. Tech topics ran the gamut from push-button emergency response wearables to such things as the capabilities provided by smartphone technology, tele-health, smarthome technologies of all kinds, and more.

There were more discussions of the privacy issues associated with home monitoring, for example, with perspectives ranging from “no way” to “no problem” and the ways monitoring itself may evolve to address the concerns of many seniors while still enabling their ability to live independently longer.

As we discussed in our article during AiA18, we were left shaking our heads a few times at some of the perspectives on technology. We realize, though, the conference had a broad range of speakers with varying experiences with technology themselves. Our issues came when experiences and sentiments of one segment of the senior population, of a limited number of seniors, or of the speakers themselves were used to represent the whole body of older adults.

It was encouraging to see so many in the audience at technology sessions who were there to learn more about the benefits of tech for seniors and caregivers. Those people are important to the future of tech for seniors, both in the guidance they provide technology companies in developing and marketing of their products and in helping seniors understand the benefits tech can provide through learning about and using technology themselves.

Legal & Political Issues for Seniors

There was much discussion at AiA18 of the politics surrounding meeting the needs of older adults, which we anticipated. It was, after all, a gathering of those motivated to address seniors’ needs and problems — exactly the ones most likely to be mobilized to press for political action.

Protection of seniors from scams and financial abuse (often by those they trust) is another important legal area that received attention at the conference. Once again, there is too much to discuss in meaningful detail here so you can count on more in future articles.

Solo Aging

With so much recognition on the important contributions of family caregivers, there is growing attention being given to the needs of seniors who are aging on their own for whatever reason.

These solo aging seniors, also called elder orphans by some, have their own challenges that must be addressed. This is an area we recognize as important and will discuss further at Senior Care Corner.

Poster Presentations

In addition to the many speaker presentations during conference sessions, many companies, agencies, academics, and others presented short topic discussions backed by posters, of which there were enough to fill a large conference room. We found that an innovative approach to giving exposure to ideas so captured some of those posters to pass along to you here.

The posters attempted to convey a lot of information in a small space so most had text too small to convey on even a standalone basis here, but we thought these would give an idea of the different topics represented and the work that went into them.

 

Who Goes to Aging in America

The attendees at Aging in America 2018 were as diverse as the topics covered by the conference. There were women and men (okay, a lot more women than men) from local, state, and federal government agencies, non-profits, and businesses large and small at AiA18, as well as a number of family caregivers seeking to learn more.

Those we encountered included corporate CEOs, senior level government officials, agency directors, people working directly with seniors in the field, and more — all very committed to meeting the needs of seniors and caregivers.

One thing we noted at Aging in America was the age of the speakers, with many we encountered being seniors themselves. Many have been on the front lines of advocacy for the needs of older adults for many years. We appreciated their insights but are also looking forward to hearing what the next generation of leaders on senior issues will have to say.

What’s Next Boomer Business Summit

While at Aging in America, we covered the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, which is focused on individuals and organizations working in — or that want to work in — the aging marketplace. This was a day of presentations about the current and future older adult markets and doing business within those markets.

The Boomer Business Summit addressed what is increasingly being called the “longevity market,” the rapidly growing 50+ population segment. We’ve read and heard a lot lately about businesses recognizing this segment as the most lucrative market for products and services, given the spending power many older adults are taking into their senior years.

These are some of the topics included in the Summit.

CEOs Tom Riley of Seniorlink and David Inns of GreatCall in panel discussion
  • Voice of the consumer as the future of healthcare and wellness
  • Technology, design, and longevity as reflected in the future senior housing markets
  • Memory care issues
  • Trends driving sales and marketing in the longevity market
  • Putting caregivers at the center of caregiving technology
  • Future of voice-first technology (think Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant)

As you see, there was a range of discussions at the Summit, with several discussing aspects of technology in the care of older adults.

Speakers included companies providing innovative technologies, providers of services built around technology, and even some expert opinions that seemed less than optimistic about the acceptance of technology by older adults.

It will be interesting to see how topics at the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit evolve as the longevity economy rapidly develops with the growing number of baby boomer retirees.

Definitions of Terms Can Impact Communication

As is often the case when a variety of people are brought together, whether from across industries or different perspectives and roles on issues, differences in uses of terms can impact understanding and reaching common solutions.

One prominent example we encountered at Aging in America is the term “aging in place,” which is widely used to discuss senior living. It is an important term because a large majority of seniors and future seniors express a desire to age in place.

At Senior Care Corner, we use “aging in place” as applying to seniors’ ability to live in the home of their choice. That home may be the one in which they lived for many years and raised their families, a home into which they have downsized, or anywhere else they choose to live independently. While many in generations past lived in one home for 50 years or more, that is becoming less common, with families often living in multiple homes — sometimes in multiple states — before seniors reach their retirement years.

Some we encountered at AiA18 defined aging in place more narrowly, as seniors living in the same homes for as long as 50 years, or even longer, in communities that had evolved to the point where they may no longer be suitable for residences, particularly those of older adults with mobility challenges.

Understanding how a person is using a term can make it easier to understand the position they are taking. For example, while aging in place may be appropriate for a high percentage of older adults under the first definition, it may make less sense under the second.

Definitional differences such this can also impede advocacy efforts. After all, when politicians encounter those advocating for the needs of older adults using key terms in different ways, it may make it more difficult for them to understand the arguments being made – – and easier to avoid taking the desired action.

AiA18 — A Wonderful Experience

This was the first time Senior Care Corner covered Aging in America — and certainly not the last.

There was a lot from which family caregivers can benefit, with only the tip of the iceberg discussed in this article. We look forward to following up on many topics from the conference and bringing it to you in future articles.

We are already looking forward to AiA2019!