Tech Talk for Seniors, Family Caregivers & Others Not “Born Digital”

Sometimes even the English language can seem like someone is speaking in a foreign tongue.

Older adults, who lived much of their lives without today’s technology, can feel that tech speak is unintelligible and the whole world is trying to tell them something they don’t understand.

It can be like talking about a new medical condition or the effects of medication with a doctor when they use terms we never heard before.

It would be so nice to learn the words to describe a variety of technology solutions that could benefit them or simply make their life a little easier.

Helping seniors (and their family caregivers) learn at the least the most frequently used tech terminology could be very helpful in getting them comfortable using technology and gaining the benefits it can bring to their lives.

Defining Tech Speak

Here are some of the more common words used by those familiar with technology that many seniors — and family caregivers — may not yet have mastered.

Android – mobile operating system developed by Google and used in almost all non-Apple smartphones and tablet devices.

Apps – app is an abbreviation for the word application, it usually refers to a software program that performs a specific function. The term app refers to mobile devices and a user must download them to use. They open up in the operating system. Examples of apps include mobile banking, games, maps, GPS, business links, health links, etc.

Artificial Intelligence or AI — intelligence demonstrated by a machine that is normally associated with humans, such as the ability to observe a situation and make a decision regarding how to proceed based on the information observed.

Blockchain — a list of records, linked using secure code, that grows with each new record added, with none being deleted. Each record is accessible only to those who have the appropriate key code. A blockchain allows secure records, such as medical records, banking information, contracts, and more to be securely maintained without the need of entities in the middle of the transaction, giving parties much greater security potential than is achieved with current systems.

Bluetooth – short (such as within a room or home) distance wireless interconnection between mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Data is sent over radio waves instead of through wires/cords. Devices that are able to connect have a Bluetooth chip in them.

Broadband Connection — often called just ‘broadband,’ refers to a high speed connection to the internet, whether using DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), Cable modem, or high speed cellular connection.

Data – pieces of information, such as names, phone numbers, medical device readings, whether a light switch is on or off, and much MUCH more.

Download – receiving information or data from one computer or electronic device into the memory of another usually over the internet.

Flash drive – a small portable device for the purpose of storing files or data and can transfer that data to another device as well as be used to back up data. This data storage device is also known as thumb drive, flash stick, memory stick, jump drive, or USB memory.

HDMI cable – a cable that transmits high definition digital audio/visual (compressed or uncompressed) from a source device to another compatible device. For example, connects a computer to a projector to present a video.

HTML – fundamental language used to create webpages; stands for hypertext markup language.

Hub – center of a network. For technology, a hub can be the center of a specific network, such as smart home devices, or the center of USB system that connects peripheral devices. A network hub allows multiple devices the ability to communicate with each other. A USB hub allows multiple devices to be connected to or interface with one computer.

iOS – an operating system for mobile devices manufactured and used by Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones.

IoT – Internet of Things; refers to a system of interrelated electronic and mechanical devices that are connected so that no human contact is required for operation (human to human or human to computer). They connect wirelessly using a hub as point of connectivity. They transmit data amongst devices.

Link – it is an HTML object that allows users to jump to a different web location by clicking it. Links are often attached to images, words, or titles. They can be displayed using blue letters or underlined but this is no longer the default. Term is short for hyperlink.

Operating system – a system that allows software to communicate with hardware in computing to allow programs to run. Examples include Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android.

Phishing — scam that uses email to fraudulently obtain personal data such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers by tricking recipients into thinking they are opening and responding to an email from a known or reputable source.

Platforms – refers to a computers operating system or group of technologies that are used as a base for applications; examples for personal computing are Windows, MacIntosh and tell on which kind of computer system a particular software will work. Social media sites are often described as platforms as well (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Remote access – the ability to use a computer or electronic device from a separate or remote location as well as the ability to control the device or app once the connection is made.

Streaming – transmitting or receiving data over a computer network in such a way that you can begin viewing the data before it is fully transmitted, such as when watching a video.

Strong password – passwords that are harder to hack, which will contain a variety of characters such as lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long (typically longer).

Sync – abbreviation for synchronize; connecting data between devices such as computer and smartphones, typically via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular connections.

Upload – the opposite of downloading, sending data from one electronic device to another. You will upload emails and photos when you send.

USB — Universal Serial Bus, short distance digital communication; USB ports allow connectivity between devices and transfer data over cables.

Wearables – electronic technology device that can be worn, such as exercise trackers, or can be imbedded in clothing or as tattoos directly on the skin. Powered by microprocessors, they are hands-free and can send or receive data via the internet.

Wireless – transmit data without cables or wires using radio waves. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both networks that allow data to transmit without wires. A wireless card or router/modem is used for Wi-Fi and a chip is generally used to enable Bluetooth.

5G — refers to the fifth (next) generation of mobile internet connectivity, which will provide much faster connections and enable much higher volumes of data to be communicated.

Building Comfort with Tech

Seniors may be more comfortable engaging with technology when they are relieved of feeling embarrassed due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of tech and its terminology.

Simply learning some of the technology industry’s language may empower them to get more involved with tech that is beneficial to them and their ability to live independently.

Geek speak shouldn’t be keeping them from using technology.

Keep in mind the objective is building comfort, not making anyone experts in the field.

Learning a few new words shouldn’t be a barrier and it might be fun especially if a tech-savvy or tech geek grandchild is the teacher!

This is a great way for multi-generational interaction to happen that will benefit everyone.

 

 




Share, Learn, and Connect at National Caregiving Conference

We invited Denise M. Brown to author an article for Senior Care Corner® because we believe her conference is a valuable opportunity and resource for family caregivers. In addition, in the article she offers a number of resources family caregivers will find valuable sources of support now and in the future.

Denise began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. She’s the author of several books including The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.

 

We often hear that we need to take regular breaks from our caregiving responsibilities. Often those suggested breaks include ideas for self-care which mostly focus on pampering.

Pampering is more than manicures and pedicures.

Our National Caregiving Conference feels like pampering for your heart and soul. When you join us at our conference, you join a community that understands you and that welcomes you.

Often during our caregiving experience we can feel disconnected, wondering where we belong because our lives feel so much different that our friends, co-workers and neighbors.

At our conference, you connect with others in a similar situation and with those who totally get it.

Connecting and Learning

Because you connect with those who understand, you can develop deep and meaningful relationships with other attendees.

Elizabeth Miller, who helps care for her mom and operates her own business, HappyHealthyCaregiver.com, returns to our conference every year to re-connect with friends she met at our first year conference. She also will present for the third straight year because she wants to share what she learned the hard way about self-care.

Sharon Hall, who cares for her husband and cared for her mom until her mom’s death in March, presents at our conference to share what she’s learned about her husband’s disease, frontotemporal degeneration. She knows how confusing the FTD behavior can be and wants others to know that they can manage the difficulties. If you care for a family member with FTD, networking with Sharon will provide a sense of relief that only someone who truly understands can give.

At our conference, we’re not just educating each other. Professionals and researchers attend to learn from us what caregiving is like. Last year, researchers from Purdue University and Johns Hopkins University attended our sessions to hear directly from family caregivers about their experiences.

We’re the experts in caregiving which is why health care professionals and researchers attend our National Caregiving Conference – to improve their work by receiving our expertise.

This Year’s Conference

This year’s conference, which will take place November 7-10 at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, will honor our amazing difference to our family, our carees, our community and ourselves.

This year, we want to create an experience that leaves you feeling different, either about yourself, your caregiving experience or your future.

We also want you to return home with new relationships which continue to pamper your heart and soul until our next conference in 2020.

Caregiver Resources

We understand that attending our conference can present a financial hardship. Visit CareGiving.com regularly to learn about contests you can enter for a chance to win cash and free nights at our conference hotel. Each year, we’ve given away at least $4,000 to help family caregivers and former family caregivers attend our conference.

In addition, you can check out these organizations if you need to hire or have help for your caree so you can attend:

  • Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to find out about programs which help you get a break.
  • Call the Department of Veterans Affairs National Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
  • Hospice offers a five-day respite benefit so the primary family caregiver can take a break.
  • Contact your local assisted living facilities and nursing homes to learn about short-term placement for your caree while you attend the conference.
  • Disease-specific organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association and ALS Association, may offer respite programs.
  • Easter Seals offers programs for adults and children with disabilities.

If you cannot join us in Chicago, we hope you’ll watch our live, free broadcast of select conference sessions on November 8 and 9. As you watch our live broadcast, you’ll feel connected to a community that understands.

To learn more about our conference, please visit our conference webpage.

 

Gardening That’s Accessible, Convenient and Fun for Seniors (and Everyone)

The arrival of Spring means we get to see daffodils popping to meet the sunshine and crocuses sticking their little heads up to say hello!

Many seniors have shared their joy of gardening with their children and grandchildren over the years.

Having learned from our elders the joy of gardening and nurturing the earth, we carry on the love they’ve given us by planting and growing our own flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

It is now our turn as caregivers to share new, accessible gardens and the fulfillment of getting our hands dirty again with our senior loved ones as they age.

Seniors often find that the effects of aging on joints, muscles, and the freedom of movement have prohibited them from tending to their beloved gardens.

Family caregivers can help change that.

Making Senior Friendly Gardens Grow

Bringing the garden to a senior is a good way to get them involved in a meaningful activity, one through which many benefits can be gained.

Here are some ideas for you to create friendly garden spaces and some tools you and your senior will need to be safe and accessible.

  • Growing vertically – plants that we grow vertically are more easily accessible for those with mobility limitations. There are different kinds of commercially available products that can grow in hanging containers, upside down, trellises or using garden towers.
  • Growing in raised beds – an advantage is that they are easy to reach, even from a wheelchair or seated position, if balance or endurance is a problem. Garden boxes can be elevated on legs or built up beds lined with materials, such as railroad timbers, that allow space for a seat for gardeners to work and rest. Two to three feet in height is typically ideal for easiest accessibility.
  • Planting container gardens – if space or mobility is limited, use a container to grow specific items, such as flowers, herbs, or vegetables, from patios or porches for accessibility.
  • Plant in found items, such as a pallet – an old wooden pallet is transformed with herbs and flowers — even vegetables — interspersed between slats and stands on its side for easy reach. This video shows how to re-purpose a discarded pallet into a thriving garden.

  • Maintenance friendly commercially available planting soil – using this specially prepared soil will reduce the need for weeding, tilling hard soil and other labor intensive preparation. They also have the ability to hold and disperse water to the plant roots more effectively.
  • Self-watering containers – some garden containers that are commercially available have a capacity to self-water so if seniors are unable to water daily the plants will still continue to grow well. You can also fashion your own self-watering containers using reservoirs, drip hoses and garden hoses. You can find directions to make your own watering system on YouTube too.
  • If going outside is not an option, try using inside plant stands with fluorescent lighting. It will provide the same benefits of physical and mental activity in a more convenient form. You can purchase specially made indoor gardens that will provide light and growing trays.
  • Don’t forget adequate shade areas, garden hats with wide brims, garden gloves to protect sensitive skin, seating, convenient portable stools, knee pads, ergonomic garden tools, and easy-to-maneuver paths so that everyone can enjoy the activity.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Gardening can bring multiple benefits beyond the food they can grow that will improve their quality of life.

  • Accessible and non-strenuous way to give seniors a way to share their gardening expertise, get some physical activity, spend some time outdoors, and have an improved quality of life. It is a great conversation starter and wonderful way to give seniors a way to engage with others in a meaningful way.
  • Growing a garden, whether big or small, will attract birds and butterflies to their home. They can spend time being an observer or even a participant with nature.
  • Having a new garden or being able to use their existing garden more efficiently and safely will add to their aging in place experience.
  • It can give them a purpose and feel part of the life around them, not just as an observer. It keeps them engaged!
  • Stimulate seniors’ brains by having them plan what plants they would like to grow, when to plant, when to weed, and when to harvest can keep their minds active as well as their bodies.
  • Growing some of their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs will improve their nutritional intake and encourage healthy eating.
  • Home gardens will allow them to mentor future generations. Multi-generational experiences improve the quality of life, not just for seniors but from all family members.
  • Sharing the harvest with family, friends, and neighbors will keep seniors connected with their ‘community.’

Aging shouldn’t be the reason your senior stops enjoying a lifelong activity – at least not without a fight. Helping to give your senior a way to continue to engage in gardening, either on a small or somewhat larger scale, can provide many benefits for the entire family.

We hope you are able to try some of these ideas and enjoy the harvest!

We would love to hear how you made it possible for your senior to get their hands dirty!

Medicare’s Coverage of Respite Care in 2019

Danielle Kunkle Roberts authored this article as a guest of Senior Care Corner®. She is the co-owner of Boomer Benefits and a Forbes.com Contributor. Her licensed insurance agency specializes in Medicare-insurance related products, helping tens of thousands of clients across 47 states.

The number of unpaid caregivers in the United States has reached over 40 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Often, a caregiving role falls upon a family member whether or not they are prepared to take on the difficult job.

The need for caregivers to have a break by way of respite care is well known amongst senior advocacy groups. Congress heard the plead for respite coverage and acted by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. One of the bill’s many additions to Medicare Advantage plans is respite care.

Medicare’s coverage of respite care will depend greatly upon what kind of Medicare plan a patient has. Let’s look at how both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will cover respite care in 2019.

Original Medicare and Respite Care

Original Medicare’s coverage of respite care was not changed by the 2018 legislation from Congress. Medicare strictly states that it will cover respite care if the patient has a terminal illness with 6 months or less to live. Meaning, a patient must be receiving hospice benefits to get their respite care covered.

Hospice Respite Care

Original Medicare will cover short-term respite care for up to 5 consecutive days. According to Medicare.gov, they will cover additional stays in the case they are not too frequent.

To be covered, the respite care will need to be provided in a Medicare-approved facility such as a hospice facility, hospital, or a nursing home.

Additionally, the care will generally be provided under the following circumstances:

  • The caregiver is facing physical or emotional fatigue
  • The caregiver has an appointment, obligation, or event to attend to
  • The caregiver is ill and can no longer take care of the patient on their own

Cost with Original Medicare

Fortunately, if the patient meets Medicare’s criteria, Part A will foot most of the respite care bill.  Typically, the patient will only be responsible for covering 5% of the Medicare-approved amount.

To break down an example of this, if Medicare approves $100 per day for inpatient respite care, this would leave only $5 per day for the patient to pay while Medicare picked up the rest.

Beneficiaries enrolled in Medigap plans may find that their plan covers the 5% coinsurance for them.

Medicare Advantage and Respite Care

Notably, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have seen the biggest change from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Respite care is one of the additions now allowed. If a carrier decides to include some of these new supplemental benefits to its plan design, it will usually allocate a set dollar amount and/or credit a certain number of hours of respite care that will be covered.

The respite care options that can be covered by some Medicare Advantage plans include:

Short-term residential facilities

Many assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospice centers offer short-term respite care as a service. There are typically rooms in these facilities that are specifically designed for temporary stays by their respite patients.

In-home respite care

In-home respite care is a great option for caregivers that need a temporary break but are in a situation where the patient cannot leave the home.

Adult day care

Caregivers can schedule respite care through an adult day care on occasion or a set schedule. This is a great change of pace and scenery for the patient while giving the caregiver a temporary break.

It is important to stress that not every MA plan will offer respite care coverage. There are still many plans that have yet to offer this coverage. With 2019 being the first year that plans can offer this coverage, analysts believe many more plans will offer the benefit in the future.

Summary

Respite care is a practical and necessary break for caregivers. This unpaid role can feel daunting to the caregiver at times and even cause stress on the patient. The newly available coverage of respite care through Medicare Advantage plans will be a welcome benefit to many beneficiaries and their family members.

End of Life Decisions: Has Your Senior Loved One Made Them? Have You?

What kind of healthcare treatment would you and your senior loved ones want to be given at the end of your life — or would you want any at all?

End of life care is something about which most adults in the US have heard and maybe even considered — thanks in part to television shows — with many having also heard about living wills.

Most have not taken things past the “thinking about it” stage, however, to having serious conversations with family or actually doing something to ensure their wishes are honored.

Enter National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), an effort to educate and inspire individuals to formally express their wishes regarding healthcare and encourage healthcare providers and facilities to honor those wishes.

We thought this year’s NHDD would be a good time to revisit an episode of the Senior Care Corner® Radio Show from a few years ago, one in which we talk about NHDD and use it as a springboard to encourage family caregivers and their senior loved ones to have their own family healthcare decisions day.

Not only is it important for family caregivers to ensure senior loved ones express their wish, but the caregivers need to make their own end of live decisions.

Family Healthcare Decisions

First, I guess we should explain what we mean by the “healthcare decisions” families should discuss.

We’re talking about the type of care an individual wishes to receive — and the care she or he does not wish to receive — when potentially at the end of life, at a time when ongoing life depends on the measures performed.

Examples of these measures include receiving CPR, being placed on a ventilator, or being fed via a tube.

Why are we taking about this now?

Putting aside that we frequently talk about the need for living wills, advance directives, and the family conversations that help make those decisions, we want to get families planning to have these discussions when they gather from their scattered homes for family spring and summer events.

Listen to the feature segment in this episode for our discussion of family healthcare decision making, including reasons why it’s important and how families may approach the conversation.

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Preparing for the Family End of Life Care Discussion

Preparation can help families better face the elephant in the room and have a more successful discussion of end of life options.

  • Learn about what “advance directives” means. We don’t just mean the term but, more importantly, the implications for those making and formalizing the decisions, as well as their family members.
  • Research what is required in your state, or states for dispersed family members, and which decisions are covered.
  • Gain an understanding of various means of life support to give a better understanding of what is involved with the decisions to be made.
  • Consider consulting an elderlaw attorney or other legal reference source to determine what the necessary forms look like, what information is needed to complete them, and the steps to take to ensure they are enforceable.

Catch the full discussion in this episode of the Senior Care Corner Radio Show.

Additional Healthcare Decisions Resources

We hope you like this trip back to a prior episode of the Senior Care Corner Show and find it helpful to you and your family. We have also prepared this transcript – so you can follow along with the recording or read it at your convenience.