Covering the Global Stage for Innovation — CES 2019 Preview

Technology innovation for independent-living older adults and their family caregivers has come a long way!

Like the rest of tech, it also has a long way to go before the full potential is realized (if there is ANY limit to the possibilities).

Senior Care Corner® has been covering CES®, the largest and most influential technology event, since our first visit in 2011. At that time, there were a relative few companies, mostly small startups, working on devices for older adults as a founding mission.

We had to use our imaginations to envision the potential benefits for older adults and their family caregivers from innovations designed and marketed for younger people.

Since then, the talk at CES has gone from trying to convince most tech companies seniors will actually use technology to companies big and small touting the benefits of their offerings to seniors.

Of course, in the interim it was ‘discovered’ that the senior market is huge and growing fast. That and older adults demonstrated, with the adoption of smartphones by many, they are willing to consider beneficial innovations.

CES Conference Sessions of Interest

Each year since 2011 there have been more and more conference sessions with information of interest to older adults and their family caregivers. Even though the conference schedule is still a work in progress, we are finding many with great information.

These are just a sampling of the most promising sessions from the schedule so far.

  • Service Robots in Daily Life — The discussion of robotics has gone from industrial robots to those that will interact with us in our daily lives. Sessions will discuss robots that will do household chores, others that will cook for us, and robotic caregivers.
  • Connections Summit — This summit looks at strategies to meet the challenges of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart homes. It will have sessions that discuss voice control of home technologies, in-home tech support, and independent living. We are particularly looking forward to that last session, which will look at smart home solutions that deliver life- and cost-saving health solutions at home.
  • Digital Health Summit — The importance of healthcare to older adults – all of us, really – means the Digital Health Summit is always one of the most important places to be at CES. Highlights this year include eradicating chronic illness, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the technologies that will power the future of healthcare.

Add to these conference tracks on wearable technology, the future of transportation, artificial intelligence, and more, our biggest technology need during CES would be one with which we could clone ourselves to cover everything that is important to you.

CES 2019 Exhibitors

As valuable as we find the conference sessions at CES, the heart and soul of the event is the exhibit floor. Floors, actually, as once again CES exhibits will cover floors in several venues, with enough walking required to get in weeks worth of steps for those who are counting.

In addition to technologies that were only being imagined when we started covering CES, there are also several exhibitor categories that weren’t on the map then.

These are some of the categories that will have tech of greatest interest to seniors and family caregivers, along with the number of exhibitors signed up for each one (many appear in the numbers for multiple categories).

  • Accessibility (69)
  • Digital Health (279)
  • Robotics (189)
  • Smart Home (655)
  • Cyber Security and Privacy (69)
  • Wearables (380)

This sampling should give you a hint that we have a lot of walking ahead of us, once again, during CES. All well worth it, of course, as we always seem to find a few exhibits that are pleasant surprises and look forward to reporting back to you on what we find.

Much More to Come

This is but the first of many articles we will write as part of our coverage of CES 2019. As the event nears, we will provide updates on the program and our plans.

One of the most important aspects of CES each year is the people we meet there, some of whom provide great background information for our articles and others who we interview for our podcasts.

Given how busy everyone is at CES, especially conference speakers, some of our best CES interviews don’t take place there but afterward, when everyone is back home.

Please let us know if there is anything or any company specifically you would like to see us cover and we will work to get it on our schedule.

Stay tuned for more of our coverage of CES 2019.

 

 




Insights on Service Dogs for Seniors on The Senior Care Corner® Podcast

Dogs are beloved pets to millions of families throughout the US, each day earning their “best friend” title.

Growing numbers of those dogs are being given “jobs” in addition to their traditional role.

In many seniors’ homes, specially-trained dogs are being asked to perform a variety of tasks including such things as fetching needed items from the bedroom or kitchen, providing alerts, and helping ensure seniors are able to find their way home.

Those are, of course, in addition to being trusted companions.

These “service dogs” are being increasingly sought by family caregivers who want to address specific concerns with aging in place senior loved ones.

Senior Care Corner® has been receiving a lot of inquiries about service dogs from seniors and family caregivers so decided to reach out for some expert insights to share with you.

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

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Expert Insights from the American Kennel Club

Based on our research, we knew the American Kennel Club (AKC) had the expertise needed to educate us on service dogs and arranged a conversation with Mary Burch, PhD., who is Director of the AKC’s Family Dog Division.

Mary Burch, PhD. with Wyn

In our conversation with Mary, which we recorded for this podcast, she answered the questions we have received from many of you about service dogs, including these.

  • What are the different types of service dogs?
  • What benefits service dogs provide to older adults, especially those living independently?
  • Can existing pets be trained as service dogs?
  • Are some breeds more suited to service?
  • How can seniors and family caregivers choose the right dog?
  • What questions should be answered when determining how (and if) to meet a senior’s needs with a service dog?
  • Are there certification standards for service dogs or trainers?

… and more.

Mary was very generous with her time and did a great job of answering everything we threw at her, for which we are appreciative!

Still, we realize we could only scratch the surface in a conversation like this. In addition, the answer to many questions are specific to the situation of each senior and family. Mary provided us the links below for additional research and guidance.

Mary’s Suggested Links for More Information

 

We hope you enjoy this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and find it as informative as we did.

This episode was designed based on your requests. Please let us know of other topics you would like us to cover or questions for which an expert answer would be helpful.

 

 




Holiday Online Shopping Safety — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Black Friday, the once biggest shopping day in our history which falls on the day after Thanksgiving has been outpaced by Cyber Monday.

Buying online on the Monday after Thanksgiving has become the largest shopping day and it all happens with the use of technology. For some it means shopping on the computer while others will use their smartphones. As a matter of fact, 80% of adults will buy something online with 30% occurring on our mobile devices!

No matter which way you (or your senior loved one) choose to shop for the best holiday deals you can find, security when you are surfing the net should be a number one priority.

What We Do and Buy Online

Many people not only compare products looking for the best prices and features, but also read reviews before buying and even look online standing in the store to see if there is a better deal elsewhere.

This means that we are engaging online for a fair amount of time visiting many different shopping sites and apps which could set us up for security breaches.

According to a Pew Research study, not only are we using technology to buy things, we are buying more technology online too!

We are buying gaming systems, tablets, phones, laptops, appliances, cameras, and the latest Internet of Things (IoT) devices for our increasingly smarter homes online through our technology.

Protecting Online Buying

The experts remind us as we approach the holiday buying season that everything we own or buy that is connected to the internet is at risk for cyber threats, scams, and identity theft.

Older adults who are new to technology or trying a new device should be encouraged by caregivers to learn about cyber hygiene to help protect themselves from people who want to steal something from them not just when they shop but all the time.

While it is important to learn about security, however, it’s important not to throw gasoline on the fire of any existing conceptions of online safety — or lack of it.

Hackers and criminals go on the prowl during the holidays so we should all be on our guard as we shop this season.

Here are some tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to keep you and your senior safer online this holiday and all year long:

  1. Before you shop, be sure your connected device is free of malware by running a scan and updating your apps.
  2. Before you buy, update your passwords and logins to be sure they have double authentication and the strongest passwords you can make.
  3. Learn about the website before you buy. Check out other people’s experiences with reviews to be sure you will not be disappointed or scammed with a purchase.
  4. Avoid links in your social media platforms as cyber criminals can steal your information and infect your devices when you click these links.
  5. Don’t give vendors more information than they need for the transaction. Don’t give more info than the fields they request including passwords, Social Security numbers and other secure information.
  6. Don’t use free WiFi hotspots to buy products as your passwords and information is not secure there. Logging in and using passwords can be exposed. Limit access to your own device whenever using these hotspots.
  7. Don’t fall for online deals that look too good be true — because they probably aren’t. Often you won’t get the product or it will not be what you thought you were getting when you buy from a ‘dealer’ instead of a reputable online retailer.
  8. Be alert to phishing emails that warn you a package you ordered can’t be delivered unless you pay or click on a link. Don’t fall for it!
  9. If you are registering a new account, set up new and unique passwords. 68% of seniors (and many of those who are younger) use the same password for all accounts!
  10. Don’t fall victim to a giving holiday-season heart when the scammers look for donations. Charity scams will prey on your senior’s emotions so check to see if it is legitimate before you give them your savings.
  11. Be wary of emails that say your credit card or bank account has a problem that requires you to divulge personal information, passwords, click a link or pay money. We have gotten them from a bank, credit card, ‘Google Team’, Facebook friends and delivery services which were all fake emails.
  12. When shopping in a store, disable your Bluetooth and WiFi settings on your devices so the stores can’t track your movement.

Here’s a fun quiz you can do with your senior to test your skills spotting online scams. It was created by Home Instead Senior Care in partnership with NCSA.

The old adages have truth for us today: Buyer beware and better safe than sorry!

We hope you use some of these tips to enjoy safe holiday shopping!

 

 




Cybersecurity for Your Senior’s Connected Life, Health, and Home

With the evolution and increase in growth of the use of many connected technologies, cybersecurity threats will follow.

Not might, not could, but will. We need to accept that as fact.

The threat is so real that October is set aside as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month by the Department of Homeland Security and this year we celebrate the 15th year of this initiative.

Their stated goal is to bring together government and industry to ensure that consumers have the resources they need to be secure online in the fight against cyber threats.

However, it is important for us to remember that we all have a share in the responsibility of cybersecurity, even if we are simply smartphone users.

Did you know that 10% of all iTunes downloads are for health and medical apps? That involves some of our most sensitive personal data.

We are all in some way dependent on a digital system rife with networks that open our seniors up to cyber risk.

In many cases, family caregivers are the ones who will protect their senior loved ones from risk when using all of their connected devices that bring them so many benefits.

By 2020, the market for connected devices will be 200 billion units.

Perform a Connected Device Survey

The first step toward device security is know which devices in your senior’s home need to be secured.

Most of us realize our computers, tablets, and smartphones are connected to the web and need to be protected, but our other connected devices may not be so obvious to us.

Which devices in your senior’s (or your own) home may be “connected”?

  • Computing devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones (yes, these are computing devices)
  • E-book readers
  • Smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home
  • Smart thermostats, such as Ecobee and Nest
  • Fitness trackers
  • Smart watches
  • Health devices that provide data via smartphone apps, such as heart rate and blood pressure monitors, pill organizers, bathroom scales, and more
  • Smart outlets, such as might be used to control lamps and other equipment via app
  • Bluetooth wireless headsets
  • Smart TVs and devices connected to TVs, such as Tivo, Apple TV, and Roku
  • Smart kitchen appliances and laundry equipment
  • Home security and monitoring systems and cameras

…and more, with the number of connected devices for the home growing all the time.

When thinking about the connected computing devices in a home, don’t forget the devices of guests who are allowed to connect to the home’s WiFi service (and even neighbors, if the WiFi is not secured).

How do you determine which devices in the home are connected to the web? Almost all are connected via the home’s WiFi network, cellular network, or via Bluetooth connection to one of the other connected devices, typically a smartphone.

WiFi Routers

Many devices are connected to the web via the WiFi router in the home. A list of these devices can be found on the router’s network map, which can be found by logging into the router via a browser on the device connected to it or the mobile app many new routers provide.

If you don’t know how to do this, it’s a good thing to learn, as the router is a primary hub for keeping all the connected devices in the home secure.

While looking at the router, check to see if there is a firmware update available and, if so, update it when you have a few minutes when connection to the web isn’t needed. Firmware functions like the operating system of your smartphone, playing a big role in the security of your network.

Bluetooth Devices

You can identify the devices connected by Bluetooth to smartphones, tablets, and even computers by checking the Bluetooth settings in the devices.

Those setting will show which devices have “registered” via Bluetooth with the computer device in the past and which, if any, are actively connected.

Once the connected devices in the home are identified, you can set out to ensure they’re secure, or at least as secure as practical.

What Should Caregivers Know About Medical Device Security

Medical devices, just as your senior’s computer or smartphone, are connected devices that are at risk for security breaches.

Did you know many medical devices have an expected lifespan of up to 30 years but the software itself may be obsolete in only 2 to 10 years — and maybe even less?

There are two potential areas of worry when it comes to cyber security with medical devices. One dangerous risk is the failure of the device to work as it was intended and the other danger is the loss of personal information that could be used for ID theft.

The FDA approves most medical devices in use today but only that their benefits outweigh their security risk. This doesn’t mean that there are no risks if a devices is approved. They do not test products for security risk but leave that voluntarily to the manufacturer. They are more concerned with the efficacious functioning of the device to do as it is intended such as pump your heart, register your blood sugar or administer IV medications.

Experts believe that only 51% of manufacturers are following the FDA guidelines for risk mitigation.

The problem with vulnerable connected health devices is that their breaches can result in potentially harmful failures of the safety and effectiveness of the very devices our seniors need to manage and treat chronic health conditions.

When the medical devices are connected to healthcare systems for monitoring, it is incumbent upon the healthcare system to put in place security measures to prevent cyber security issues from occurring on their network especially when securing your senior’s personal data.

Malware is considered one of the most serious threats to medical devices at this time. A device that has been infected with malware could malfunction, giving inaccurate data that could cause a harmful situation for your senior’s health.

Security experts say hacking of medical devices seems to be less of a concern currently.

The most vulnerable area in cyber security for a medical device is the user authentication, according to industry experts. This is where the hacker enters the picture.

Hackers are known for draining the battery of medical devices, which could lead to failure, especially in pacemakers and wearables. Experts encourage users to set up passwords on these devices and don’t keep the initial defaults established with the device’s use to block authentication troubles and hacking.

These devices also need their firmware updated regularly and potential security upgrades patched in when necessary. When you and your senior are prompted to do so, be sure to update the software.

Steps for Caregivers to Secure Seniors’ Tech

Caregivers, once they understand the risks that are inherent with connected devices, especially for health, can take steps to protect the security of their senior’s (and their own) devices.

Here are some things you both should be doing to stay safe and avoid becoming a victim of cyber criminals:

  1. Lock your devices, including phone and tablets, to keep prying eyes out and criminals away.
  2. Install malware protection apps or software to do all you can to keep your connected devices ‘clean’ and more secure.
  3. Conduct regular scans on your internet connected devices to check for viruses or spyware and keep your software up to date (don’t ignore the update alerts on your computer, tablet, or smartphone).
  4. If you use USB external devices, scan those for viruses and malware too.
  5. Use strong passwords that aren’t easy for others to guess. Remember, criminals look at your social media and know your pet’s name and your birthdate! Write them down in a safe place away from the device. Better yet, use a secure password vault-type app.
  6. Be sure you are using the latest biometrics and two-part authentication systems to further strengthen your security for all connected devices.
  7. Clean out any unused apps and ensure the ones you keep have been regularly updated, along with your smartphone operating system.
  8. Try not to use public WiFi at all, opting instead to use cellular data. Yes, it may be more expensive but can save you a great deal in security. If you must, use extreme caution if you link with free wireless hotspots where your connection can be easily compromised and your personal information taken or spyware implanted.
  9. Don’t open emailed documents or links or text message links from people, even those you know or think you know like a bank, IRS, or package delivery company (they often aren’t real!) unless you are expecting that specific person to send you the document or link
  10. Have you cleaned out digital files on your computer lately? Are there things on there you no longer need but could divulge personal information to someone untrustworthy if you lose the device or it is stolen? Time to declutter the desktop, laptop or smartphone.
  11. Before you toss out any digital device (USBs, external hard drives, flash memory, wearables and even printers), ensure you know that they have been “shredded” correctly to remove any traces of your personal information. This is important for all devices not just computers and phones.
  12. Empty your trash file regularly but also use a program that will permanently wipe your data off your device making it irretrievable.
  13. Keep all IoT smart home connected devices – such as thermostats, toys and home assistants – up to date with the latest firmware and any available security software.
  14. The internet is still in ink so be careful about the information that is posted on social media platforms which could compromise your cyber security in the future.
  15. Secure your home WiFi Router with a strong password to keep unwelcome visitors out.
  16. Disable Bluetooth and WiFi when out of the house since some places track your movements on your devices when you are within range.

The only way to be fully secure is not to connect your device to the web — or maybe even to avoid turning it on. From a practical standpoint, though, in this age of technology, it has become almost impossible to not be connected.

All the wonderful benefits your senior can get from using innovative technology for health, safety, and aging in place independence bring with them risks associated with being connected to the web. We can help our loved ones minimize those risks and use their devices safely and securely.

Many of our senior loved ones won’t use connected devices if they live in fear the devices are not safe.

That puts it in our hands as family caregivers to address that fear and, hopefully, put it to rest.

 

 




Free Rides for Seniors Can Lead to Improved Quality of Life

We all know the importance of getting where you want to go when you want (and need) to go to our sense of independence and freedom.

Imagine if you are an older adult trying to get to the doctor or pharmacy to get essential prescription medications but you can’t get there.

For our senior loved ones, it isn’t that same as a joy ride in the country to view the fall leaves or going to the ice cream shop for an ice-cold treat. It’s your life and health.

Accessible transportation – or the lack thereof – is important to seniors’ ability to successfully age in place.

Depending on others for a ride when they need it, including family caregivers or senior transportation that can be undependable, isn’t a perfect solution for many seniors. In some instances, paying for transportation to get basic needs met is out of reach for many older adults.

What is the solution?

For many seniors, ridesharing companies that have spread like wildfire across the nation can help them do what needs to be done and more.

Impact of Ridesharing

It is estimated that in 2015, 54% of seniors had difficulty accessing transportation, even in cities such as New York with wide ranging public transportation systems. In fact, 40% of rural people (37 million) living in 1,200 counties across the nation have no public transportation.

It is amazing to learn that as many as 20% of seniors (nearly 7 million people) over 65 don’t drive at all.

One solution to this problem is exploring how ridesharing can fill the void providing seniors with dependable transportation.

A study by AARP found that 20% of seniors over 75 use ridesharing and 40% of those over 85 do as well.

In collaboration with United Healthcare, the AARP Foundation gave a $1 million grant to Keck Medicine of USC to test the impact of providing free Lyft rides on the health of elderly USC patients within the greater Los Angeles area.

Researchers showed how unlimited free Lyft rides (ridesharing) can improve seniors’ quality of life by 90%. The research was part of a pilot program between Lyft and the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing, which studied and connected senior citizens with this form of transportation.

Seniors in the study were tracked using a wearable device to determine their behavior. They used a smartphone app or were able to call for a ride. All the seniors had transportation barriers and lived alone.

Benefits to Seniors Demonstrated

Given unlimited free access for three months, the older adults averaged taking a ride daily. They showed an increase of 35% in out of the home activity over the time studied. Not only did they go to medical appointments but began socializing, visiting friends and engaging in the community. 74% reported an increase in social visits.

An added bonus, 97% of the respondents reported getting more comfortable with the technology, actually ‘embracing’ it, and were using smartphones with apps at the end of the study.

The cost of the rides averaged about $400 per month, which is more than many seniors could afford, according to researchers. Lyft promises more partnerships to meet the needs of elders and to determine how best to meet these needs economically.

It’s true that millions of older adults miss their scheduled doctor appointments due to lack of transportation according to these researchers. But, more importantly, the lack of independence and mobility to move around their communities for any reason inhibits a senior’s quality of life.

Socialization is a key determinant of successful aging in place. Staying home and not interacting with others because of inaccessible transportation can negatively impact seniors’ lives.

Obstacles and Solutions for Seniors to Hail a Rideshare

Many seniors struggle to connect with ridesharing companies because they are unable, untrained, or unwilling to use an app to call for a ride.

Some seniors, especially rural ones, may not have broadband service or a smartphone yet.

Others may not be comfortable using an app or remember how to do it. Some seniors still shy away from this technology in case they should ‘break’ it. Others are fearful of security breaches with an app like this.

It is up to family caregivers to help facilitate this process and help senior loved ones get connected with ridesharing.

Older adults don’t have to use a smartphone to call a ride. Both the major ridesharing companies can be called using a computer instead of a smartphone app. Family caregivers can set up a computer to be used to get a ride, show the senior how to do it, and establish an account for them.

Lyft Concierge has made it possible to get a ride using the telephone, with no need for a smartphone or a computer. They have partnered with  community-based companies to provide rides. For many seniors, picking up the phone and making a call to get a ride may give them more confidence than using an app or the computer. These rides can be on demand or scheduled for appointments.

Caregivers near or far can also call to set up rides for their senior loved ones using this program. Payment is made via credit card so no money is required.

Ridesharing Changes Lives

Ridesharing companies are working together with senior living communities to make ridesharing more accessible for seniors. If your older adult is in a facility, you may want to discuss connecting your senior with this service.

Helping seniors remain as independent as possible and engaged in the community by focusing efforts on obtaining adequate transportation services unquestionably will improve the quality of their aging in place experience.

This will ultimately benefit family caregivers too!

 




 

Smartphone Safety and Security – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

More and more seniors have been sporting smartphones (who said they wouldn’t adopt this beneficial technology? Not us!).

In 2016, there were 1.5 billion smartphones sold worldwide and 70% of Americans own smartphones!

This is great news for family caregivers who are introducing their senior loved ones to a variety of apps for safety, fun, and remote health monitoring.

But what about keeping them secure when using their smartphone?

Security Tips to Avoid Scams

Is setting up strong passwords and limiting their public presence in social media enough to keep them from becoming victims of technology abuse and scams?

No. There are no guarantees in this connected world, when so much of our information is under the control of others. We can, however, make it as difficult as possible for someone who intends to do our senior loved one or us harm in the digital world.

Here are some tips for family caregivers, items for which we could be on the lookout and inform/remind our senior loved ones about potential pitfalls that could put them in the path of criminals looking to steal their identity and their nest egg.

  1. Spam text messages – people report responding to spam on their cell phones more often than they would on a computer. Examples of spam text messages include: cheap medications, free gift cards, and winning items. Once your senior clicks on the link for these ‘too good to be true’ offers, they are infected with malware that will collect sensitive information in order to steal their identity.

TIP: Experts say don’t follow links, click on items or respond with NO or STOP as directed, which only gives the scammer access. Install anti-malware on their smartphone.

  1. Bank messages – receiving a text message or email from your bank or credit card company indicating your account has a problem and please click this link and then directs you to add your account information and login – don’t do it! Your bank will usually call you if there is a problem and if they send an email, will already have your account information so won’t ask for it again.

TIP: Don’t give anyone by text, email, or phone your bank or credit account information unless you initiate the communication using a phone number, web address, or other contact information you have independent of the text message or email.

  1. Voice message – if someone your senior doesn’t know calls their smartphone letting it ring only once or disconnecting upon them answering and leaves a voice message stating they won something, don’t respond. Many people are intrigued and will call back only to be charged fees for a premium connection to an international number and other charges.

TIP: Don’t respond to any phone calls or voice messages from people your senior doesn’t know. Program the phone with names of all potential callers, no known name, no answer.

  1. IRS calling – someone identifying themselves as an IRS investigator calls and claims an arrest will be made if they don’t pay thousands of dollars in fines. Instructions for loading gift cards with increments of $500 and then giving the caller the code numbers to activate these cards.

TIP: IRS will not call your senior demanding payment information. Do not give anyone gift card codes for payment.

  1. Local government – receiving a call from the local sheriff or other law enforcement saying your senior missed jury duty and now owes a penalty of $1,000 (or some other amount) and requesting immediate payment.

TIP: Law enforcement will never call for payment for fines, including jury duty. Contact law enforcement to report this scam.

Actions for Caregivers

Caregivers can take actions to help keep their seniors’ smartphones more secure with these actions.

  • Install protection with a strong PIN or use a fingerprint to open the smartphone in order to protect it in case it is lost or stolen. The latest technology, on several phones now, allows for facial recognition or retinal scanning, which gives more protection.
  • Activate Find My Phone – if your senior’s smartphone is lost, accidentally left somewhere or where other people could take it, being able to locate it using this app will help caregivers locate their older adult’s phone. Misplacing a smartphone is not uncommon.
  • When the smartphone might be misplaced inside the home, keep the ringer on so that if the phone’s location is forgotten, another could call the number in order to uncover its hiding place with less effort.

There are so many great benefits from increased communication, safety, health, and remote monitoring for older adults that come with the use of smartphones, not to mention how they will become the hub for smart home features in the future. This is why it will be important for family caregivers to create a safe environment for seniors to accept them and use them securely.

Small precautions will help gain huge paybacks for caregivers and seniors!

 

 




Medicare Open Enrollment Time — Is It Time for a Change?

It is Medicare Open Enrollment time again and seems like a year passed fast, doesn’t it?

Every October it is time for family caregivers to assist their senior loved ones eligible for Medicare in determining whether they are getting the best insurance policy to protect their health and pocket book in the coming year.

Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7. If your senior is already part of Medicare, it is time to look at their coverage to determine if it continues to meet their current needs and their potential needs in 2019, should there should be a change in their health status or medication list.

For many, no changes will be necessary but, for other seniors, tweaking the policy or adding a supplement to cover out-of-pocket Medicare expenses might be just what the doctor ordered.

But you won’t know unless you do a little research with and for them about what is in their best interest.

What Caregivers Should Know During Open Enrollment

Family caregivers want to support and guide their seniors to help them make the best decisions regarding their health insurance so they will continue to seek medical treatment when needed and be able to afford their medications.

Medicare participation is growing daily, as more older adults become eligible for this medical insurance program. There are currently 60 million seniors on the plan, with almost 10,000 more enrolling each day.

What do all the parts cover?

  • Part A covers hospital inpatient care, home health, skilled nursing care, hospice care
  • Part B covers outpatient care, home health care, medical equipment, doctor and other health care provider services (like therapists), routine vaccinations (flu, pneumonia)
  • Part D covers prescription drugs including shingles vaccine
  • Part C is Medicare Advantage which is a bundled plan that substitutes for Medicare Part A, B and D and includes things not covered by original Medicare such as vision, hearing and dental.
  • A Medicare Supplement helps to pay the out-of-pocket or coinsurance bills under original Medicare

It is important to know which services your senior now receives, what drugs they currently take, and what you foresee that they may need in the future. Will they need more home support, certain medical procedures, medical equipment, or home upgrades? Can they benefit by using more technology?

You can’t see into the future, but you may be able to anticipate some of their future or currently unmet needs to help determine if more or different insurance coverage would be beneficial or even essential. This is especially important for prescription drug coverage under Part D where there can be a wide difference in out-of-pocket expenses depending on the selected plan.

Family caregivers should read the information that was sent in the mail to their senior loved ones. It will help to answer questions and clarify any concerns. Caregivers can also check out the Medicare.gov/find-a-plan website to learn more including accessing the toolkits available to compare drug plans and Advantage plans available.

When looking at a Part D prescription drug plan, it is important to understand what drugs your senior is currently taking to pick the optimal coverage.

Examine the plans available and the coverage they provide across the board not just a few benefits for any unmet or future needs which may help the decision-making process clearer.

Remind your senior throughout the year to participate in all preventive health services fully covered under Medicare to be proactive about their health and avoid medical crises.

Changes in 2019

  1. Congress passed a spending bill in March that will close the donut hole in the Part D Prescription Plan for brand-name drugs in 2019. The gap closes for generic drugs in 2020.

This is good news for seniors with high cost medications who have had to pay out-of-pocket after a threshold was reached until a second amount was hit and coverage resumed. The donut hole was a financial obstacle for some older adults and resulted in medication adherence issues when monthly income couldn’t cover this cost.

  1. The cap on therapy coverage for outpatient services provided by skilled therapists – physical, occupational and speech, was repealed.

In the past, this cap could mean the cost of therapy had to be paid out-of-pocket by the senior (or family caregivers) or the therapy wasn’t provided, which could help seniors remain independent physically to remain at home to age in place.

  1. Improved resources to help seniors and family caregivers navigate the services beneficiaries will receive and tools to compare out-of-pocket costs as well as options to compare supplemental insurance plans available.
  2. In 2019 the services and reimbursement for telehealth/telemedicine will broaden so that seniors and family caregivers will be able to capitalize on the use of technology to receive medical care and treatment. Follow-up and monitoring of medications and vitals signs as well as virtual visits will be more accessible via telehealth.
  3. Medicare Advantage supplemental plans will be able to increase the services covered under their programs to include home delivered meals, transportation to medical appointments and home upgrades for safety. A medical provider must recommend these services before they can be received, but now they will be covered.

For seniors who have not opted for a supplemental health plan, this is one good reason to determine if the possible cost of coverage will be beneficial based on services now available and reduction in more out-of-pocket expenses traditionally paid by seniors and family caregivers.

  1. Medicare Advantage plans will also be allowed to pay for home health care, not just for medical treatment but also for help with daily tasks such as dressing, eating, and personal care.

Those Who Hesitate…

Family caregivers and seniors have time to consider the details but don’t let the time sneak up on you. You don’t want to miss the deadline for making changes which will benefit your senior.

When you help them evaluate the options, balance the cost of premiums against out-of-pocket expenses and drug costs to help them get the most for their money, a little tweaking now could give them a big payoff over the course of the year.

 

 




10 Cancer Prevention Tips Based on Trusted Research

We used to call it the “Big C.” The word cancer put fear into our hearts!

Cancer is a group of diseases, not one particular kind. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. This unchecked growth can lead to death. The treatment is directed at removing or stopping the spread of these malignant cells.

We know a lot more about cancer prevention and see cure as expected in most cases, though not nearly all.

The cause of cancer is not always known but the risk factors are more clear. Many are modifiable through lifestyle changes.

As of January 2016, there were 15.5 million people with a history of cancer and still alive (survivors). Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the US after heart disease.

The evidence that we should put into practice the latest recommendations has been called by experts and researchers to be “compelling.” That is a pretty serious word in the scientific community and not used lightly.

The American Cancer Society estimates that at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are preventable with lifestyle behavior change.

Some of these recommendations we have heard for many years over and over again. But, when will we take heed and begin to actually make the necessary changes for our overall health and in particular, to prevent cancer?

Hopefully now!

These are admittedly simple steps that we can all begin taking toward health.

Family caregivers can encourage and intervene to help their senior loved ones adopt some of these guidelines for a healthier lifestyle. You are never too old for health!

Latest Cancer Research

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective report produced by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is described as the most comprehensive scientific report to date.

Here are their key findings:

  1. Being overweight or obese is a cause of 12 cancers. There appears to be an overwhelming link between body fat and cancer.
  2. Drinking alcohol is a cause of six cancers, even one glass of alcohol a day can increase your risk of getting some cancers.
  3. Physical activity can help protect you from 3 cancers and also helps you manage your weight. Activity can give powerful protection against cancer development.
  4. Healthy eating can reduce cancer risk as well as aiding weight management.
  5. Lifestyle factors can also impact survival rates after a cancer diagnosis including the effect of the cancer treatment.

Caregivers’ Tips for Cancer Prevention

Here are the latest guidelines for prevention backed by scientific evidence that we can all follow – caregivers and seniors.

AICR/WCRF Cancer Prevention Recommendations:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight – stay within the healthy range and preferably at the lower end of the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart range and avoid weight gain in adult life. Body fat triggers hormones that can produce cancer growth.
  2. Become and stay physically active – walk more, sit less every day. Exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week can help keep hormone levels in check. Sitting for extended periods can increase cancer risk so get up every hour for a walk.
  3. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans – plant foods rich in fiber and nutrients reduce the risk of cancer. Plant foods also contain phytochemicals which protect cells from damage.
  4. Limit fast foods and other processed foods which are high in fat, starches or sugars – also helps manage weight.
  5. Limit red and processed meat – eat only moderate amounts of red meat, pork and lamb and limit processed meat. More than 12-18 ounces of red meat (considered a moderate amount) shows convincing evidence of increasing colorectal cancer risk.
  6. Limit sugar sweetened drinks – choose water or unsweetened drinks. Helps with weight management.
  7. Limit alcohol consumption – despite potential protective effect against heart disease, evidence is clear that alcohol in any form is linked to cancer.
  8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention – a healthy diet and other lifestyle factors are more beneficial. Some high dose supplements can increase risk for cancer.
  9. Breastfeed your baby if you can – evidence that breastfeeding can protect mother against breast cancer.
  10. After a cancer diagnosis and treatment: follow these recommendations.

Fighting to Prevent Cancer

Prevention is the first step to fight cancer. These lifestyle changes are imperative for our health.

Avoiding smoking and time in the sun unprotected are also ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.

It is also vital to participate in early screening tests to detect cancer and get treatment for a cure.

We can’t prevent all cancers, but given the devastating effect they can have, both on those afflicted and their loved ones, we should do all we can for prevention and early screening to get treatment to be survivors.

Vanquishing UTIs — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) repeatedly seems to be common for many seniors. Some seem to overcome one only to get another infection quickly.

In most cases, with effective management they should be preventable.

Even older adults who are incontinent should be able to remain UTI-free, according to healthcare professionals.

What can family caregivers do to prevent UTIs from making their senior loved ones sick and at risk for falls or worse?

Prevalence and Causes of Recurrent UTIs

The number of older adults who are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection is staggering! Over 10% of women over 65 and 30% of women over 85 have reported a UTI in the past year.

Urinary tract infections, infections of the urinary system, are the most common infection in older adults. When the infection spreads to the kidneys, it can lead to sepsis and hospitalization for seniors.

Older adults with compromised immune responses, exposure to pathogens, and multiple chronic diseases have higher incidence of UTIs.

Taking greater than 6 medications can also increase the risk of developing a UTI especially certain drugs such as diuretics or sedatives.

Having a history of UTIs is a major factor in future development, as much as a four times greater risk than those without a history.

Urinary retention, high post-void residual, BPH diagnosis, and urinary stasis are also common causes for frequent UTI rates.

Urinary incontinence can lead to infections, but it is not inevitable. Bowel incontinence can lead to UTI if good pericare is not followed. Using good handwashing and cleaning techniques as well as other toileting procedures can help prevent frequent infections.

Unfortunately for seniors, when germs enter the body due to improper or infrequent handwashing or poor cleaning technique after urinating, frequent UTIs are the result.

Symptoms of a UTI

Your senior may exhibit one or more of these symptoms if they have, or are developing, a UTI. Contact their healthcare provider to discuss their symptoms because, if left untreated, it could lead to more severe illness or even hospitalization.

  • Dysuria – painful or difficulty urinating, burning sensation
  • Urinary frequency and urgency
  • Nocturia – nighttime urinary urgency
  • Cloudy or foul smelling urine
  • Fever
  • Pelvic tenderness
  • Pyuria – pus in urine
  • Hematuria – blood in urine
  • Altered mental status – confusion, dizziness, disorientation
  • Falling
  • Potentially lower back pain or constipation

Treatment and Prevention Tips for Caregivers

Many seniors who have been diagnosed with UTI will be given an antibiotic, which may clear the infection. Unfortunately, it may set them up for drug resistance in the future.

There are other preventive treatments that can help lower the risk of UTIs:

  1. Closely monitor your senior for any of the symptoms listed above. If the changes come quickly, contact their healthcare provider
  2. Encourage adequate hydration – fluid intake throughout the day, 30-35 ml of fluids/kg/day

For the average 150# older adult = 2045-2385 ml = 69-80 ounces a day (8 ½ – 10 cups)

  1. Observe for signs of dehydration, such as dry tongue, dry mouth, decreased urinary output, or drier than normal skin
  2. Encourage cranberry products in the diet or ask the doctor about cranberry tablets
  3. Remove any physical limitations inhibiting seniors from getting to bathroom, especially at night; install way finding lights to help them get to bathroom at night
  4. Learn and practice proper cleaning techniques to thoroughly clean entire area with warm water and cloth, rinse, pat dry; avoid back to front wiping after having a bowel movement to prevent spread of germs, especially E. Coli.
  5. Encourage them to toilet regularly, as often as every few hours, and to take the time to empty their bladder fully
  6. Discuss concerns with the doctor to ensure all evaluations and treatments have been done to prevent recurrence
  7. Change soiled undergarments or incontinence products promptly to avoid contact with infection-causing pathogens.

Getting the proper cleaning products and incontinence supplies is one important way family caregivers can help prevent recurrence of UTI symptoms. For your convenience, we have set up a department in The Shop at Senior Care Corner with some of the supplies your senior loved one may need, with online ordering and home delivery.

Becoming a victim of a UTI should not be considered a part of normal aging but something for which to be alert and take steps to prevent.

You can help vanquish them with these tips!

 

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