Tech for Senior Independence — Conversation with MobileHelp® on Senior Care Corner® Podcast

We have been advocates for technology solutions that support the ability of seniors to successfully age in place since we started Senior Care Corner®.

That includes technology that enables family caregivers to provide the level of care they want while still having time to meet their own needs.

We are not advocating technology for the sake of technology, but because we understand there are many things it can do for seniors in making their lives better, some now but even more in coming years.

Not everyone sees that and many tech companies are newcomers to that vision.

Tech Companies ‘Finding’ the Senior Market

When we saw the needs of seniors being overlooked when we would cover CES® each year, we told tech companies they were making a mistake in assuming older adults wouldn’t buy or use their innovations.

So many times we were told by “experts” and family members of seniors that “older adults won’t use smartphones” and more. Now we are hearing just the opposite, which is reflected in surveys — not to mention observation of older adults everywhere we go.

Now even the largest technology companies are recognizing the potential sales they would be missing by not targeting the senior market. Some are designing products for seniors, but many more are realizing that seniors can and will use the same products they developed with younger consumers in mind.

Many of the products and ideas we have seen and heard will provide real benefits to seniors, but others seem to be solutions in search of problems. Not every innovation is successful, of course.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

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Some Tech Companies Never Needed to ‘Find’ the Senior Market

There are a number of technology companies that never had to find the senior market or realize older adults have real needs that tech can help them meet.

We have encountered and reported on several of these, smaller companies typically started out of a desire by their founders to solve a problem they observed while caring for, or just being with, older family members.

Theirs are not solutions in search of problems, but products developed as labors of love to solve a real problem.

One such company is MobileHelp®, a Florida-based company that says it is America’s leading provider of mobile personal emergency response technology.

Rather than tell you what they do, we will let you hear them explain in their own words. Five years ago we interviewed Chris Otto, who was MobileHelp’s VP of Product Development at the time and is now Senior VP of the Healthcare Division. You can hear that interview as part of an earlier podcast (also linked below). Chris provided us a great introduction to the company, their approach, and their innovative products.

Dennis Boyle, MobileHelp President & COO

Since then we have been following MobileHelp, watching as their products and services evolved, including hearing their presentations at CES. When we heard they have an innovative new product for seniors, we reached out to them to learn more.

We are pleased to be able to share with you our recent conversation with Dennis Boyle, MobileHelp’s President and Chief Operating Officer. He caught us up on what they have been doing and introduced us to the MobileHelp Smart, their mobile medical alert system in a smart watch.

We enjoyed speaking with Dennis and appreciate him taking time out of his schedule to educate us — and you — about the MobileHelp Smart.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

  • For more information about the MobileHelp Smart and their other devices, visit the MobileHelp website
  • To get more information about purchasing a MobileHelp device by phone, call 800-800-1710

 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and found the conversation with Dennis to be as informative as we did.

 

 

 




 

What Seniors Consider to be Successful Aging In Place – The Latest Report

We all want to live the rest of our lives in the home of our dreams. In fact, 3 out of 4 adults want to age in place according to a recent AARP report, 2018 Home and Community Preferences. 

Unfortunately, many adults fear that this won’t be possible for them. Family caregivers worry about their senior loved ones ability to safely and financially age in place.

The AARP report found that “59% anticipate they will be able to stay in their community, either in their current home (46%) or a different home still within their community (13%). “

What are options for you and your senior loved one to remain in either their current home or community that would enable them to age in place as they wish?

Will your senior need accommodations to their current home, downsizing, or renovation? Will in-home care be possible in their current location or would they have availability of family caregivers to help? Can their needs be met in their current community (age-friendly, walkable, or accessible)?

The survey found options that are becoming more viable and desirable, some of which might surprise you.

Non-Traditional Options for Aging in Place

There are many strategies that can be put into place starting right now that will help enable your senior loved one to remain in place as they age.

The AARP report found that seniors are willing to explore these options, including some new ideas that are beginning to gain traction as viable solutions.

They found that adults were willing to try home sharing (32%), building an accessory dwelling unit (31%), and moving to villages that provide services that enable aging in place (56%).

We have heard about NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities); granny pods that can sit on the property of family caregivers to give independence and family support; assisted living facilities which allow for extra care and no home maintenance; and, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) that can give care transitions in one living location as traditional options for seniors who desire a more supportive community as they age.

However, home sharing is a new preference, one that is beginning to catch on, with agencies designed to help you and your senior either share their home or find a suitable home. The costs of living are shared, the space is shared at the same time companionship is gained.

There are older adults who wouldn’t consider home sharing (28%), as well as some who might consider it in the future if the need arose for help with transportation or other tasks (58%). Half would consider this option for the sole purpose of companionship.

We may see those numbers rise in the future, especially among those aging alone.

In the survey, many older adults expressed a desire to relocate and also downsize specifically because their home requires renovations or maintenance that they aren’t willing to do but would be necessary for aging in place.

What Do Seniors Desire to Age in Place?

The AARP survey also asked adults about the experience of aging in place. What do they need to feel successful and safe?

Some of the results are not surprising, as we have been hearing for some time the importance of some of these factors. The trick is finding what they desire as many cities are still struggling to be age-friendly.

Seniors want affordable housing as they age (60%) and transportation especially for those who are disabled, according to the survey results. Currently, 90% of seniors drive themselves, but they also want public transportation, walking areas, and the ability to be transported by others to get where they want to go. Having all options available as they age is important to consider.

Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option, but only 29% of older respondents report using them, although 94% were familiar with them. Only 68% felt they would use them within the year due to perceived lack of need or safety and privacy concerns. In addition, 88% have heard of driverless cars but are not willing to use autonomous vehicles. We anticipate this statistic will change as the vehicles attain broad familiarity and acceptance.

They also want access to jobs and job training for seniors and people with disabilities.

Half (50%) also say that they would want volunteer opportunities with transportation to those sites.

Being in proximity to a hospital, healthcare professionals, and safe parks were also high on the list of desires.

They would like walkable cities with easy to read traffic signs and well-maintained streets and sidewalks.

33% of adults feel that they have a need for companionship as they age (3 in 10) and feel left out or isolated. Most adults surveyed (94%) reported having someone they knew to call in a time of need day or night.

Family Caregivers Help to Make Dreams a Reality

The wants of our seniors who wish to age in place are really no different from those of younger adults. We all want to live in our homes as long as possible, want access to transportation to remain independent, want accessibility in all things, and to remain socially engaged.

How can this be possible for our seniors? There are things caregivers can do now to help facilitate aging in place.

  1. Begin now to achieve universal design in the home. Thinking ahead about what makes a home livable now and in the future so that you can make changes that will be useful at any age can be done now. Changing to lever handle faucets, installing adequate lighting, maintaining the dwelling so that it isn’t a safety risk, putting the bedroom on the main floor, and other design traits will make the home easier to age in place.
  2. Educate seniors about the benefits of ride sharing and autonomous vehicles so that they will be ready to use these services if the time comes when they could benefit from them. Also discuss the possibility of home sharing if they need support with their finances, companionship or help with daily tasks. There are numerous benefits to home sharing beyond financial to consider.
  3. Connect them with technologies that will allow them to remain safe at home, engage with others to reduce the feeling of social isolation, and give you (the family caregivers) peace of mind through privacy-maintaining monitoring of their health and well-being when you are not present.
  4. Advocate for livable, age-friendly communities. What does their locale need for them to remain in their community as they age and how can you be proactive in helping to achieve that?
  5. Encourage them to stay healthy through physical activity, healthy eating, adopting preventive health habits, and disease management so that they can maintain the highest quality of life to stay independent.
  6. Help them manage their finances and plan for aging in place so that they can afford housing, pay for upkeep of their home, seek appropriate medical care and medications as needed, eat a healthy diet, purchase technology, and pay for home health care as needed.

Successful aging in place takes planning on both your senior’s part and yours as a family caregiver.

Learning about what your senior expects as they age in place so you can help them meet those expectations may be your first step towards helping them achieve their dreams.

 




 

Defeating Falls Before They Defeat Our Seniors – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Little is scarier to a family caregiver of a senior loved one than to watch them fall and feeling helpless.

Rushing to their side and hoping they are not injured is all we can do in the moment.

The numbers of seniors who fall every day is quite astounding. Actually, 1 in 4 people over 65 fall each year.

Falls for older adults can mean injury (such as bone fractures or traumatic brain injury), hospitalization, or even death.

Shockingly, every 20 minutes a senior dies from a fall. That MUST be unacceptable to us!

A real threat to being able to age in place as our seniors age is falling.

Causes of Falls

Older adults are at risk for falling anyplace and anytime. However, there are proven ways to reduce falls.

There are several preventable causes of falls, including physical and environmental factors that are present for most all aging adults.

Physical Culprits

Changes in our seniors’ bodies as they age can lead to falls.

  • Impaired vision and hearing
  • Declining physical health and chronic disease
  • Slower reflexes
  • Loss of sensation in feet
  • Physical pain
  • Dropping blood pressure especially when getting up or changing position (hypotension)
  • Illness
  • Dehydration (leading to confusion)
  • Medication usage – taking more than four medications increases risk. Changing medication – new drugs, increasing or decreasing doses can put seniors at jeopardy.
  • Declining muscle strength and balance can increase the potential for falling

Environmental Culprits

The environment in which they live only adds to the danger when obstacles that cause falls are put in our senior’s path.

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Clutter
  • Too much furniture
  • Electric cords
  • Throw rugs
  • Slippery flooring
  • Spills or wet spots
  • Small pets and their toys
  • Steps

Quick Tips To Reduce Home Hazards to Defeat Falls

No particular action can guarantee that your senior won’t fall.

However, everything you do to overcome dangers — physical and environmental — will reduce the likelihood of falls and the injuries that can result.

  • Remove clutter and throw rugs (or tape them down securely)
  • Install adequate lighting, including motion activated lights, nightlights
  • Install grab bars
  • Put handrails on both sides of stairs in home and porches
  • Complete home repairs, especially uneven flooring, wobbly railings, or broken walkways
  • Place everyday items in their reach, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Clean spills immediately, repair any leaks that result in wet floors
  • Remove ladders and step stools
  • Wear shoes, non-skid socks, or slippers in house
  • Move electrical cords out of walkways and any place they could get under foot
  • Get your senior’s vision and hearing checked and encourage use of adaptive aids
  • Encourage adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration and related confusion
  • Monitor medication administration for safety, throw away all expired and unneeded medicines
  • Help them participate in balance training exercises
  • Set up an exercise plan that incorporates activities they love, weight bearing activity, and core strength building
  • Help them eat well to maintain strong bones and muscles
  • Remind them to use any assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, and ensure they are using them correctly
  • Encourage them to get enough sleep at night
  • Reminders and, potentially, more presence by others, especially during times of the day when at greater risk

Family caregivers can be helped to keep their seniors safer in their homes by using technology. There are many devices, including home monitoring, fall mats, medication reminders, home alerts, water temperature alerts to prevent scalding, automatic shutoff devices for stoves, and other devices that can sync with your smartphone to give you more peace of mind. More are on the way, too.

Some are specifically designed to help prevent falls and others are to keep them safe when completing tasks independently at home.

All types can make every day tasks easier, reduce fatigue, and limit seniors from situations that could leave to falls.

If your senior does have a fall, be careful assisting them up so that you don’t compound any injury. Check out our video on how to properly get a senior up after a fall.

While you can’t prevent every fall, you can be proactive in reducing and hopefully defeating falls!

 




 

Alzheimer’s Disease Update for Family Caregivers on World Alzheimer’s Day

Every September 21 for the past 7 years we have marked World Alzheimer’s Day.

The campaign hopes to further raise awareness of a disease that has affected millions worldwide and impacted families who face the daily challenges it causes.

Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia, but the most common. Dementia, a neurodegenerative disease, impairs cognitive function, ultimately impacting functional abilities.

It is irreversible, incurable, and has no effective treatment. Researchers believe the root of the disease is a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

Hallmarks of the disease include:

  • Memory loss
  • Language difficulty
  • Poor executive (brain) function
  • Behavioral symptoms including delusions, agitation and depression
  • Decline in functional status – inability to complete self-care and activities of daily living such as eating, toileting and grooming

Eventually the person afflicted with dementia will lose the ability to remain independent and care for themselves. Therefore, caregivers will be a necessity.

Partners in Alzheimer’s Care

While it is vitally important that family caregivers provide much needed care to persons with dementia, the research and health communities must also partner together to ensure that people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers are supported.

Here are a few ways that partners are joining the fight:

  1. Healthy Brain Initiative — a multifaceted approach to cognitive health. Their Road Map prepares all communities to act quickly and strategically by stimulating changes in policies, systems, and environment. They have a Complete Care Plan that can be used to help caregivers.
  2. National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) — Created by Congress in 1990 to “compile, archive, and disseminate information concerning Alzheimer’s disease” for health professionals, people with AD and their families, and the public.
  3. Alzheimer’s Association — their stated mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and, to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
  4. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America — provides education and support to individuals and family caregivers living with Alzheimer’s disease; funds research
  5. Research — around the globe researchers are studying the cause, potential treatments, and prevention strategies for dementia. It is largely funded via public sources, but many private foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and individual donors are adding to the funds being used to learn more. Sharing data will help advance our knowledge. Participating in clinical trials will also help researchers learn more hopefully for effective treatments and an eventual cure.

There are of course, many agencies, organizations and universities that are active in not just researching the disease, but supporting caregivers with education, training and resources. They are too numerous to mention but their work is heralded.

Hopefully, caregivers are participating in education and benefiting from support services in their local communities.

Learning more about dementia, understanding its trajectory and receiving emotional support from others will help caregivers on their journey.

 




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Inspiring Family Caregivers to Make a Difference, One Senior at a Time

Family caregivers often find themselves in need of inspiration when challenges of providing care seem overwhelming.

On good days, the caregiving road is smoothly paved with no bumps and we can move quickly, enjoying the path that we travel.

Some days this very same road is riddled with potholes that sprout up without warning, stalling our progress.

On too many days, the road contains nothing but obstacles that stop us in our tracks.

It is on these troubling days that family caregivers require some inspiration to get them back on smooth footing.

A Story of Inspiration

Reminders that family caregivers are doing not just the best that they can but fulfilling a promise to another human being that they will care for them lovingly.

Every day things may not go just right and you may question your actions and decisions. But these moments of trepidation should be fleeting so that you can move on and continue to give care.

Because caregivers may need a little more inspiration to forge ahead, here is a story you may find inspiring.

It was written by Loren Eiseley in 1969 as part of a 16 page essay entitled the Star Thrower. The original story describes the narrator walking along the beach early one morning in the predawn twilight, when he sees a man picking up a starfish off the sand and throwing it into the sea. The narrator is observant and subtle, but skeptical; he has seen many “collectors” on the beach, killing countless sea creatures for their shells.

It has been adapted by many over the proceeding years to what we most often hear.

Despite it’s origins, it fits today’s caregiving!

The Starfish Story

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked: “Young man, what are you doing?

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.

The man laughed to himself and said, “do you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference.

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the surf, then smiling at the man, he said: “I made a difference to that one.

We really like this story and have heard from many caregivers is has meaning to them. That’s why The Shop at Senior Care Corner® includes gifts for family caregivers that were inspired by the Starfish Story.

Importance of Family Caregiving

Family caregivers are making real differences in the lives of their senior loved ones — just as you are.

Without you there to coordinate their healthcare, provide for their personal needs, maintain their safety, or perform countless other tasks large and small, they may have no choice but to move from their beloved home to a facility.

You are not just meeting their care needs, but also brightening their day and relieving their boredom, sometimes even preventing depression.

According to Pew Research, there are 40.4 million unpaid family caregivers. The 2015 Report of Family Caregivers from AARP found the average caregiver provides about 24 hours of care each week. This amount of caregiving would cost an estimated $470 billion in 2013 if you weren’t there according to Family Caregiver Alliance. These statistics show the value in time and money that caregivers provide for older adults.

It is vital that family caregivers care for themselves so that they can continue to be there for their seniors. You may not think you have time for yourself or that it is selfish to put yourself on the list, but your senior needs you.

Care recipients might not thank you regularly (or even at all), but you are making a difference in their lives, just as the boy on the beach was making a difference in the life of each starfish.

On those days when it seems nothing is going right or all the decisions you must make seem more than you can handle, remember the boy and the starfish — what you are doing is important!

You are the difference to your senior loved one!

Lifestyle Medicine for Prevention and Wellness – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Lifestyle medicine — are you familiar with it?

Is this something new? Is it something helpful for older adults and therefore should family caregivers encourage this intervention?

According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, “Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to preventing, treating and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones — such as eating healthfully, being physically active, managing stress, avoiding risky substance abuse, adequate sleep and having a strong support system.”

The goal of lifestyle medicine is to put the person in the driver’s seat to control their own health by addressing the cause of disease instead of just the symptoms.

Avoiding the side effects of chronic disease treatment by preventing the disease in the first place is what lifestyle medicine tries to achieve. Lifestyle medicine can begin healing the body toward health.

Prevention is key.

Prevention Leads to Wellness

Most would agree that prevention is the better option than diagnosis and treatment. Researchers have found that changing our lifestyle by smoking cessation, healthy eating, and becoming physically active could prevent 80% of chronic disease.

Lifestyle medicine, when properly used, is said to to improve purposefulness, increase energy, and give you a positive outlook on life, according to physician’s who prescribe these interventions.

Lifestyle medicine interventions can impact:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive function
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Weight management
  • Telomeres

Recommendations from major scientific bodies, including the American Cancer Society, the Diabetes Prevention Program, the American Heart Association, and the national Cholesterol Education Program, focus on lifestyle improvements as a means for prevention.

Foundation of Lifestyle Medicine – Tips for Change

There are six key areas for improvements in our lifestyles that will improve our health at any age.

These are the areas caregivers and their senior loved ones should implement change for their health.

  1. Nutrition – eat a balance at each meal including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products. Meet the bodies’ need for nutrients by including a variety of foods, especially those the nutrients of concern, because they are often eaten in inadequate amounts such as fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A,D, E, and C
  2. Physical Activity – move it or lose it, 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, choose something you enjoy so you will keep doing it
  3. Sleep – repair and heal our bodies during sleep which needs adequate time and sleep quality
  4. Tobacco Cessation – large cause of death, time to stop
  5. Stress Management – managing and recovering from stress
  6. Healthy Relationships/Socialization – connections impact our health

Experts now agree that genetics are not as important as a healthy lifestyle when improving our health.

Lifestyle medicine is simply lifestyle as medicine. It should be the first line of treatment where you work with healthcare professionals who help you make changes.

Continuing an unhealthy lifestyle will rob you of the life in your (and your senior loved one’s) years!

 




Seniors and Technology — Are They Ready for Each Other?

Are seniors and technology ready for each other?

Yes . . . and no.

We often hear that older adults just won’t warm up to and adopt technology and that the technology companies are not developing products and solutions to meet the needs of seniors.

Both statements are overly broad generalizations that ignore reality, like many stereotypes. They are also becoming further from the truth every day.

The statements do a great disservice to seniors and their family caregivers (tech companies will do fine without us defending them).

The question of seniors and technology is important for both, so we will address it in more depth.

Seniors are Individuals, Not a Homogeneous Group

I don’t like it when I hear or read “seniors won’t do” this or “seniors don’t want” that because it implies seniors are of like mind, with similar interests and needs. I know most people don’t realize that is true, but too many people in positions to meet the needs and solve the problems of older adults feel that way, or at least act as if they do.

There are more than 50 million ‘seniors’ in the US, ranging in age from 65 to over 100 years old. Among them are, according to Census Bureau numbers, more than 6 million people who are least 85 and more than 80,000 who are 100 or older.

Not only do they have a broad range of ages, each senior has needs, interests, living situations, problems, and more factors makes her or him unique.

As with other age groups and the population in general, older adults can be grouped into segments with similar characteristics, many shared with individuals in other age groups in addition to seniors.

Calling someone a senior, older adult, or whatever label and categorizing them based on that label treats them as an age, even if age has no real impact on what an individual is seeking to accomplish. For example, saying “she is a senior so she won’t use a smartphone” does both the senior and the person doing the categorizing a disservice.

We have seen more eyes opening to this in the last few years but there are many more to go.

Importance of Technology to Seniors

Regular followers of Senior Care Corner® know we discuss what we see as the growing importance of technology to older adults, including providing specific examples.

These are just a sample of the articles that Senior Care Corner has created to show the benefits of technology for seniors, some of what you will find if you search for ‘technology’ on our website.

The wishes of older adults and two realities are together driving the tremendous potential benefit for seniors from the adoption of technology, both current technology and that to come.

Seniors — and future seniors — are increasingly expressing a desire to age in place independently in the home of their choice rather than in a senior living facility or with family. When you combine that desire with the facts (1) more Americans are living to older ages that ever before and (2) there will be fewer and fewer younger people to care for the growing number of seniors, we NEED technology to fill the gaps.

We see technology doing more than filling the gaps, though, as we foresee innovations playing a big role in the ability of seniors to not just live longer, but for the longer lives to be healthier, safer, and filled with more enjoyment than was possible for prior generations.

Importance of Seniors to the Tech World

Right now, 1 in 5 adults (18 or older) in the US is a senior. That is projected to be 1 in 4 before 2030.

If you are a technology company — or in most other industries — ruling 25% of the adult population out of your target market simply because of a number that may have no impact on their need or desire for a product really makes no sense.

We have seen many reasons to be comfortable that seniors of all ages are ready, willing, able — and anxious — to try out and use technology innovations that will help make their lives better.

To be fair, at CES® and elsewhere we have seen much evidence of late that many in the tech industry get it, but not nearly all yet.

The understanding of seniors would be aided if there was more research that looked at age segments within the 65+ population rather than grouping this wide-ranging group into one 40+ year bucket.

This goes to the Consumer Technology Association itself. Some of the best research we have seen comes from this trade association for the consumer technology industry, but even their annual study on tech ownership and purchase intentions lumps all seniors with a lot of future seniors into a 55+ bucket.

Yes, there is more work to be done for the tech world.

Seniors & Technology ARE Ready for Each Other

We have seen many signs older adults and the tech industry are ready for each other, even if they don’t realize it or even think about it.

Despite still hearing some say seniors won’t even adopt smartphones, the foundation upon which much of the technology from which they will benefit will be built, we see and hear of those in their 80’s and even 90’s using smartphones and tablets regularly. It has become routine from many to text, video chat, read, take pictures, watch video, listen to music, and play games on these devices, just like their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

That is just the beginning of “ready.” These are but a handful of the reasons we go beyond that in saying seniors are ready for tech:

  • While many of all ages are currently both anxious for and wary of autonomous cars, seniors are in the age group with the most to gain from this technology when it is ready. When the independence mobility provides no longer depends on being able to drive oneself, a gap that currently holds back many older adults will be bridged.
  • Healthcare may be the industry most in need of the revolution technology will (yes, will) provide and seniors are the biggest customers of that industry. The ability to get much of the routine care they need in the comfort of home — without having to travel to a provider’s office and sit patiently in waiting rooms for 5 minute visits — will be most welcome.
  • The security of knowing (and family caregivers knowing) help is available quickly when it is needed without feeling open to privacy invading questions like “why didn’t you go to the bathroom this morning” or even “who was that spending the night with you” is something for which many aging in place seniors are ready.
  • While thankful for the assistance they receive from family caregivers, many seniors feel guilty their loved ones have to spend so much of their lives providing care. Technology that enables family members to fill their caregiving roles without dedicating so much of their lives to those roles will be appreciated by seniors.

And the technology companies? Whether they have considered it or not, much of the technology in the above list is/was not developed for older adults, but for the population in general. Well, in reality, much we have seen, at least until fairly recently, was developed with the needs of younger people in mind. Seniors still get the benefits, though, and that is what’s important.

Bringing Seniors and Technology Together

There is no big secret involved in bringing seniors and technology together. What’s needed?

  1. Develop technology products that provide meaningful benefits to older adults.
  2. Let seniors see those benefits for themselves.

The key word in both of those points is “benefits.” So often, especially in technology, what we hear discussed are the features.

Don’t tell us a device has low latency, interoperability, or Bluetooth low energy. Rather, that our data will be transferred to our healthcare provider instantaneously, that we can control your device with the same home equipment and smartphone app we already use, and we can maintain connection as we move around the house.

How do tech companies determine what benefits seniors need? They ask!

We have noted a growing number of companies including seniors in their development processes. It can’t be just for show, though, and should include seniors with a range of tech interest and aptitude, as is typically done with other age groups.

We were dismayed when we heard at one meeting that a tech company was including in their process a senior who seemed anti-technology. They didn’t say if other seniors were also included, but we hoped so, as we would hate to see products beneficial to many seniors left on the drawing board because they didn’t pass this one tech skeptic’s filter.

Don’t Overlook the Roles of Family Caregivers

As technology companies are considering their approach to seniors, they are shortchanging themselves — and seniors — if they don’t consider the roles of family caregivers in the process.

While the roles vary with different seniors and family caregivers, in many cases the family members are involved in the selection or even purchase of technology. For many seniors they may have a good feel, based on experience, what their senior loved one will adopt and what would simply go in a drawer, unused.

Family caregivers are often “tech support” for seniors, even if located a distance away, so they want to be comfortable with any technology they recommended or purchase for their loved one.

As family caregivers, we will do whatever we can to help our seniors enjoy lives that are more healthy, safe, and happy.

Bringing seniors and technology together will help us do that.

 

 




Don’t Let Poor Vision Impact Seniors’ Quality of Life

Is your senior loved one pulling away from tasks and events because of loss of vision?

Are they telling you that their eyesight has become so impaired that they are finding things that used to come easily almost impossible now?

Are you becoming worried that they won’t be able to remain living independently?

What was once an activity that passed the time, brought enjoyment or achieved a specific purpose, is now a frustration due to vision loss.

Vision loss can take a variety of forms for adults as they age. It is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Low Vision in Aging Adults

Most seniors can suffer from some type of vision problem as a natural part of aging.

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eyes and are quite common. By the time people are 80, half have either had cataract surgery or have cataracts. Not being able to see well at night, blurry vision, double vision, faded colors, and glare are symptoms of cataracts.

Cataracts are easily treated with surgery to replace the lenses but there are other interventions that can help before surgery, such as anti-glare sunglasses, bright lights, and new eyeglasses.

Glaucoma is another eye disease often experienced by older adults. It is characterized by optic nerve damage from increased pressure in the eyes. Many seniors do not realize they have glaucoma. While there is no cure for glaucoma, there is treatment with eye drops and surgery, if needed.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older adults and affects as many as 15 million Americans. It is a progressive disease therefore worsens over time. Vision in the center of your eye is impacted which can make tasks like driving, self-care or reading very difficult. There is usually no pain associated with the disease. If caught early through regular eye exams, treatment can begin. Some research indicates vitamins and minerals can help slow the progression.

Vision Rehabilitation Clinics

In addition to medical treatment, there are many clinics that specialize in maximizing existing vision and teaching coping skills in people who have lost vision. They can’t give back vision that is lost especially with macular degeneration, but they can help. If you have a clinic such as this in your location, it would be worthwhile to see if they can help your senior loved one make sense of their world, so they can hold on to their independence as long as possible.

Agencies can also make a home visit and help determine what changes could improve accomplishing daily tasks.

These clinics can be operated by private eye centers or state or non-profit agencies. Some accept Medicare. VisionAware.org can help locate one near you. This is a website created by the American Foundation for the Blind and contains information helpful to those with vision loss.

There are also low vision support groups with which the clinics can connect your senior loved one. Learning from the experience of others and knowing that you are not alone in this can be helpful for both caregivers and seniors.

Family caregivers can help facilitate getting the proper diagnosis, treatment, and accommodations so that senior loved ones can cope with their low vision to the best of their ability.

Home Accommodations for Low Vision

Family caregivers can also help their senior loved ones make changes or adaptations to their home, purchase products, and link seniors to technology that can help them manage more easily and safely so that they can remain independent.

These days it is so much more than large print books and magnifying glasses (thank goodness)!

Bathroom safety

  • Color contrast on the floor in the bathroom to help know where surface begins and ends, such as shower and threshold
  • Contrasting bath mats and even towels so that they can be seen on the floor
  • Install grab bars for safety
  • Contrasting toilet seat and cover
  • Install temperature regulator or alerts to prevent scalding

Kitchen safety

  • Colored equipment that contrasts, such as cutting boards, plates, and shelf liners
  • Put raised dots on appliance controls, especially microwave numbers, to distinguish controls
  • Use alerts on ovens, cook tops, and pots to prevent boil overs or inadvertently leaving the heat on
  • Keep everything in its place with a place for everything so that things are easy to find when needed

Home Safety

  • Black switch plate to distinguish light switch from wall
  • Door frames and knobs in contrasting colors
  • Put contrast in color and texture at stairs and thresholds
  • Adequate lighting without glare
  • Install lighting that falls on, rather than away from, object in all closets and tight spaces
  • Window blinds or curtains that control light levels and glare
  • Clutter free walkways and reduced clutter in general
  • Trip resistant floors and rugs, remove throw rugs
  • Extend handrails beyond top and bottom of stairs
  • Use non-glare polish and cleaners on floors
  • Keep belongings organized and easy to locate

Technology

  • Voice activated technology such as Alexa, Echo Dot, Google Home and others to give verbal commands
  • Use assistive settings on computers and tablets to allow for larger print and some voice control
  • Audio books
  • Money identifiers to differentiate bills
  • Programmable thermostat, especially one that can be set with a smartphone or table
  • Pill reminders
  • Screen readers and document scanners

You can find several handy products for your senior to help them adapt to vision loss in The Shop at Senior Care Corner.

Identify and Overcome Vision Issues

Family caregivers can make a big difference in the life of senior loved ones by identifying the problem and helping them to overcome it as much as possible.

Small changes can give older adults more confidence and keep them safer when aging in place with vision impairments.

Improvement in their quality of life is worth the effort!




Convenient Exercise for Family Caregivers While Multitasking in the Living Room

Exercise, get active, and keep moving!

That is what we all hear constantly, especially family caregivers who need to care for themselves.

Most will answer “who has time to ‘get physical’ during the hectic day of caring for a senior loved one, other family members, and a job?”

We all know that experts recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity to help us all stay healthy or manage chronic disease. Caregivers can break this time up into shorter bursts and still gain benefits.

Physical activity that yields health benefits is described as movement by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. Exercise is a structured type of physical activity that improves or maintains our physical fitness.

Getting to the gym three times a week to exercise seems to be an insurmountable challenge for many family caregivers, so they just give up and give in. Physical fitness and healthy movement aren’t part of many family caregivers’ routine anymore, which can negatively impact the health of caregivers.

Wouldn’t you love the opportunity to get much needed physical activity in the comfort of your own home and at a convenient time for you and your caregiving schedule?

Even better, what if that activity could be accomplished without taking time away from your other activities?

Exercise Solution for Caregivers

Recently we learned about a product that we thought could help bring physical health and activity back into the lives of many family caregivers.

[DISCLOSURE: We were provided a Desk Bike V9 by Flexispot with a request to provide our review of their product. There was no additional compensation. This article reflects our impressions of the Desk Bike in our words, without prior review or approval by Flexispot. The product link below was provided by them.]

Family caregivers are busy — but we don’t have to tell you that!

Caregivers schedule appointments, keep up with finances and insurance information, keep extended family members informed about what is going on with senior loved ones, use social media to support their journey, manage remote apps from connected devices, and often work either away from or in the home.

Being able to combine these tasks with getting much needed physical exercise would seem to be a no-brainer for many family caregivers. No longer would we have to put our physical health on the back burner due to time.

But is that possible?

Can you be active while you do normally sedentary things like supervise your senior loved one, watch TV together or answer your emails?

The answer is yes and that is exactly what we found!

How about a stationery bicycle with a workspace for a computer, beverage, snacks, book, or craft project? A Flexispot Desk Bike V9 combines the benefits of a stationary bike with a standing desk and is designed with ample room to get things done.

Work meets workout. Multitasking has never been this easy. Balance work and wellness, anytime and anywhere” according to its creators.

Intriguing! So much so it was honored at the 2018 CES with an Innovation Award.

We were truly intrigued when offered the chance to try one out and also asked a few seniors to give it a whirl too to see what they thought about it and if they would use it.

Our Evaluation of the Flexispot Desk Bike V9

We found the Desk Bike V9 to be easy and enjoyable to use right away but wanted to see if that was due to its novelty and went away with time. After weeks in our living room, it has not! There is every indication it has a permanent place there.

Our evaluation and observations below are based on our use of the Desk Bike V9 as well as that by other

Highlights of the Desk Bike V9

There were many positive attributes of the Flexispot, based on our observations and feedback from testers.

  • Riders found that the desk height was very comfortable, even for a short person. It was easy to adjust between riders of different sizes, too.
  • If you want to use the desk without riding, it is also easy to use from a standing position without having to readjust everything. This made it easy to keep a laptop on the desk and use it for quick tasks without moving it around or having to ride the bike.
  • One of the most important considerations for many people who use a stationary bicycle is the feeling of the seat. Can you sit for extended periods of time without becoming sore? Our riders found the seat to be comfortable for long periods of time, such as during the time it took to watch a movie. They advertise the most comfortable seat on the market and we found no reason to dispute that.
  • The bike was easy to assemble and easy to move around in the home as needed on the wheels provided. Even though it was on wheels, it never felt as though it was going to move, either while riding or while getting on and off.
  • Our bike was placed in the family room in order to be able to watch the TV while biking and working. If visitors came over, it would be easy to quickly move out of the room or just out of the way.
  • It will definitely help get 10,000 steps a day. A daily reset of the instrument panel made it straightforward to know how much I have done. We could ride 10 to 20 minutes at a time and by the end of the day it truly adds up.
  • The more you use it, the higher the resistance you can achieve to maximize your tracking daily goals for miles, time, or even a calorie burn simple to achieve.
  • The resistance feature goes from 0 to 8. The more resistance you use, the more calories you burn and muscle you build to achieve your goals. The knob control moved easily between skill level of different riders.

This bike gives you many useful features such as:

  1. Desktop that holds laptop, cup, TV remote and smartphone all at one time (PHOTO)
  2. Resistance control from 0 to 8 giving you the option of increasing workout potential
  3. Adjustable desk height that slides forward and backward easily
  4. Adjustable seat
  5. Comfortable seat
  6. Exercise time tracking
  7. Speed you exercised
  8. Distance traveled per session
  9. Calories burned each session
  10. Cup holder
  11. Pedal covers for barefoot riding

Riders found that they could get the physical benefits of exercise while using the Flexispot as any other stationery bike, that is increased heart rate and muscle strengthening over time. The longer they rode, steadily increasing resistance and time spent each session yielded notable physical benefits. They also spent time with senior loved ones and other family members as well as completing tasks on the desktop.

The bike while in motion was quiet and did not disturb others in the room watching TV or doing other activities in the family room alongside the bike rider.

Concerns Noted in Using the Desk Bike V9

While it had many more positives than negatives according to our riders, there were a few things to note.

  • It is important to get all the benefits the bike can provide by paying attention to both whatever is being done on the desktop or the TV and the functioning of the bike as you pedal. Riders sometimes forgot and stopped pedaling. It seems when doing something mindless like watching TV, it was not as difficult to remember to keep the pedaling pace up. However, when a rider’s attention was riveted on the computer or other task, it was more difficult to lose track of their feet! That really isn’t a function of the bike as much as it is the rider.
  • While assembly was straighforward and quick, the bike itself was very heavy and will require at least two people to get it out of the box and put together, simply due to its weight. Once assembled, the wheels allow it to be rolled wherever it needs to go easily by one person. Negotiating stairs with it would be another thing altogether.
  • You must be careful to adjust the desk to a level that allows you to maintain good posture, which may mean readjusting each time there is a change of rider. Before we learned this, some riders were slouching over the desk which could, over time, result in back soreness and a quicker fatigue factor. Proper positioning of the desk and seat height is important for each individual rider.
  • Like any physical activity, riding this bike and getting the greatest benefit will require you to build your stamina. Doing exercise time in short amounts building up the total time spent and gradually increasing the resistance will allow the rider to gain momentum without stressing joints and muscles.
  • While riders of all ages found the bike comfortable once appropriate seat and desk adjustments were made, shorter riders may find it beneficial to use a step up to the seat when mounting the bike.

Recommendation

We like the Flexispot Desk Bike V9 and recommend family caregivers consider it for their own homes and the homes of senior loved ones for whom they care.

Family caregivers who find their own health being shortchanged with all the demands on their time may find real benefit in the ability it gives them to combine work or entertainment with exercise from the comfort of their own living room!

We recommend the bike because caring for yourself and staying healthy should be a priority for family caregivers.

As with any physical activity, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an individual exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with physical activity, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Happy exercise/work/entertainment multitasking!