Family Caregiver Food Safety Tips from Detective Foodsafe™

September is National Food Safety Education Month. We have an expert who will share how to keep family caregivers and your loved ones safe from food poisoning (and everyone who wants to avoid becoming the victim of food borne illness).

Detective Foodsafe™ explores the mysteries of food contamination and food handling mishaps that can happen when you least expect it. Her mission is to keep everyone safe from the dangers of foodborne illness.

Detective Foodsafe will help family caregivers not only ensure that seniors are eating right, but also avoid becoming victims of food poisoning (foodborne illness).

We are all concerned about eating foods that are healthy and provide nourishment for our bodies. As we age, we definitely want to eat foods that will keep us well and manage our chronic medical conditions.

Seniors are already at increased risk from contracting foodborne illness due to suppressed immune systems, medications and chronic diseases. How their food is handled can add to the danger.

Why Are Seniors at Risk?

It is important to understand the full effect of foodborne illness on our senior population so family caregivers know how vital it is to prevent it.

For younger adults, they may suffer a gastrointestinal illness (albeit a terrible experience), but for older adults, hospitalization and even death could be the outcome when they contract food poisoning. Seniors are more susceptible to complications resulting from foodborne illness.

When seniors eat foods that may contain harmful bacteria, it takes their gastrointestinal system longer to expel it. Excretion of food through the stomach and intestines takes longer as we age. This allows more time for harmful pathogens to infect seniors.

In addition to the timing of the GI tract, a seniors’ liver and kidneys may not be functioning as efficiently as in the past resulting in a reduced ability to clear the body of toxins which cause food poisoning.

Older adults’ bodies are more susceptible to the effects of microorganisms and have a more difficult time fighting illness. Because immune systems are also aging, they may be weakened therefore less able to mount a strong defense.

Seniors with multiple chronic diseases including diabetes, kidney and heart disease have more trouble responding to food pathogens.

Multiple medications, especially those designed to reduce stomach acid (which can reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the GI tract), can make matters worse for seniors.

When seniors do contract foodborne illness, not only do they get sicker, they also take longer to recover than a younger person.

Even though food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria does not taste, smell or look different, seniors often have a decreased sense of taste and smell which can impact their ability to distinguish when a food may be spoiled and potentially unfit to eat.

Foods Seniors Should Avoid

“There are several foods that can make seniors ill and it is best to avoid them” says Detective Foodsafe.

Foods that are more prone to microorganism contamination are:

  • Sprouts
  • Unwashed raw fruits and vegetables
  • Soft cheese, made from unpasteurized milk like brie, Camembert, feta, queso fresco
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk and juice
  • Raw or under cooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Luncheon meat and deli salads
  • Unpasteurized pates and meat spreads

What Caregivers Can Do

Family caregivers can take action to prevent food poisoning occurring in their senior loved ones.

Detective Foodsafe recommends you do these things:

  1. Look in the kitchen pantry and refrigerator to see if there is any spoiled or expired food that needs to be tossed out every time you visit. Sometimes the print is too small for seniors to read and they don’t realize it is expired or that it is important to throw out foods that have passed the Use By date.
  2. Encourage frequent handwashing; launder kitchen cloths and towels in hot water regularly
  3. Monitor their ability to prepare foods safely. Can they wash all fruits and vegetables before eating or keep the equipment/surfaces disinfected? A functional decline in some seniors may mean that they aren’t physically able to handle food and meal preparation safely anymore.
  4. Purchase ergonomic kitchen gadgets that can make it easier to work in the kitchen to handle food safely. Vegetable brushes or knives that can be held onto with stiff fingers, foods within reach so that they aren’t left to spoil, magnifying glass to read labels for expiration dates and other products that might make working in the kitchen easier and safer.
  5. Encourage them to abandon lifelong habits of keeping butter and cheese (and other perishable foods) out on the counter.
  6. Be sure the microwave is working correctly heating thoroughly so that they can reheat leftovers and fully cook food to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria. Do they have a food thermometer they can read easily to check for doneness? A digital thermometer may be easier to read than a dial version.
  7. Foods they bring home from restaurants in a doggy bag should be refrigerated promptly (within 2 hours) and heated thoroughly before eating.
  8. When using home delivered meals, be sure all food is stored promptly at the proper temperature so that it won’t reach the temperature danger zone where bacteria grows rapidly. Always reheat any delivered meals to 165 degrees F to be sure bacteria is destroyed.
  9. Check the functioning of the refrigerator and freezer to be sure they are chilling food to the proper temperature. Repair or replace any units that are not keeping food safe. Keep a thermometer inside both the refrigerator and freezer to be sure it is working properly.

Family caregivers can be Detective Foodsafe germ fighters helping reduce the likelihood that their seniors will become victims of foodborne illness.

You can check out more Detective Foodsafe tips and resources here.

Seniorization of Your Home – Caregivers Make Home Safe for Aging

Our population is aging quickly!

According to The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, the older population in 2030 is projected to grow from 35 million to 74 million and represent 21% of the total U.S. population.

Today’s seniors are healthier than ever in our history. Aging, however, presents our robust seniors with challenges to remaining independent in their homes as they age. Home safety is a major concern for family caregivers.

Many people want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they age, whether for financial reasons or because they simply love their current home and neighborhood.

Going to live in any type of congregate living situation such as a retirement home, assisted living facility or nursing home is not a dream for most seniors. Most of the time, transitioning to a care facility occurs because seniors and their family caregivers are unable to overcome the physical or medical challenges of aging.

Until that time comes, remaining at home is the goal for most who are currently aging in place.

Staying Safe Aging in Place

Aging in place especially when the home is older can present safety concerns for seniors and their family caregivers.

Unfortunately, the same homes that seniors have enjoyed and in which they have found comfort for years may not be suited to the needs of a senior adult. These homes are not always maintained in the safest condition for those whose need to reach for objects or have diminished movement and balance from aging. Functional decline may require home modifications, whether small or large, to improve home safety for seniors once again.

Family caregivers need to intervene for their seniors to be sure that every part of their living situation is as safe as can be for them. Overcoming and adapting to changes brought on by aging can be done to make their home as safe and livable as possible.

But what can family caregivers do?

On what areas of the house should you focus and where do you start?

Starting now even before you see gaps that need filling will make your senior loved one’s aging in place journey more successful.

Home Seniorization Checklist

Senior Care Corner has created a checklist to help you “seniorize” your loved one’s home.

It will help you consider small and large changes in the home environment that can be done by you and/or home repair and renovation experts before the need for modifications becomes a crisis.

You can download this valuable tool here.

Being proactive to improve aspects of home safety is important for family caregivers to keep seniors safe and living in the home of their dreams as long as possible.

Choosing Urgent Care Or Emergency Room — Tips For Caregivers

Medical emergencies are not uncommon for our senior loved ones who are aging in place. Family caregivers are always at the ready to help their older adults navigate the options for emergency care and get the help they need quickly. Our guest contributor is Traci Blake a senior digital marketing consultant for MultiCare Retail Health based in Washington state. With more than 15 years of experience running digital marketing efforts for healthcare organizations, Traci would like to share her expert tips on how to select which facility can best meet your senior’s emergency medical needs for optimum results.

When you get into a pickle as a senior, it’s essential you get the proper healthcare you deserve. After all, it’s not uncommon for a small issue to get out of hand quickly. But if an accident or other medical concern occurs outside of your primary care provider’s normal hours, you might not know what to do.

Luckily, you typically have two choices: an urgent care center or the emergency room. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences that separate these healthcare facilities from each other. How to choose between the two often relies on the level of care they provide and the type of medical concern you’re experiencing. These factors often dictate which location you should visit.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that only 40% of seniors say they’re health is in very good or excellent condition. Regardless, a sudden spill or trip can be serious enough to put anyone in a hospital bed.

As a senior, it’s vital you get the care you deserve. Here’s how to identify which location is right for whatever medical malady might come your way.

When You Should Go to the Emergency Room

You should visit the emergency room if you’re experiencing a life-threatening issue or an issue you deem life-threatening. When it comes to your health, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you’re concerned an illness or accident necessitates emergency care, you should always go to the emergency room.

The staff at your local emergency room are adept at treating a range of serious issues, whether you’re a baby or a senior. This includes anything from a serious fall to a sudden heart attack. The staff here are board-certified professionals who use the most up-to-date pieces of technology and medical equipment to treat you for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Common conditions that are treated by emergency rooms include:

  • Head injuries, including concussions and other forms of trauma
  • Automobile accidents
  • Chest pains and difficulty breathing
  • Symptoms of a heart attack
  • Serious falls that have caused multiple injuries
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Strokes or stroke symptoms
  • Severe or excessive bleeding
  • Loss of vision or loss of consciousness

The CDC also notes that up to 136.9 million people visited an emergency just last year. However, only 9% of these patients were actually admitted to the hospital. This just goes to show that the vast majority of these emergency room visits can also be treated elsewhere. This is when you should visit an urgent care clinic.

When You Should Visit an Urgent Care Facility

An urgent care center should be visited when you aren’t experiencing a life-threatening issue, but you are unable to visit your primary doctor. This could be because your doctor isn’t open, or you simply need timely care that your doctor can’t provide on short notice. Because urgent care centers typically have shorter wait times, this makes them a popular option for urgent health care needs.

Urgent care centers generally treat minor injuries and illnesses. For example, you wouldn’t go to the ER if you had symptoms of strep, but you might visit your local urgent care. As such, these locations are not often open all day and all night, but they usually keep extended hours during the day. Here are some of the most common reasons seniors might visit an urgent care clinic:

  • Minor fractures, strains, sprains, or pains
  • Small burns, cuts, or bruises
  • Cold and flu symptoms, including nausea, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Any minor issue that might require a lab test or X-ray
  • Seasonal allergy issues

As you grow older, you may find that it’s difficult to maintain your health in the way that you’re used to. While a slip in your 30s might not have spurred a second thought, something seemingly as innocuous is certainly liable to cause more trouble in your 70s. You want to make sure that in case something like this does cause trouble, you’re prepared to enlist the proper care.

If you’re struggling to identify which healthcare location you should visit, this guide will help you get the medical service you need when you need it most.

As with any medical condition, consult with your healthcare team to discuss what is best for your senior loved one so that you are prepared in the case of an emergency.

Additional Resources

For many family caregivers of seniors, a trip to a medical facility or even a doctor appointment can be upsetting. You may enjoy these articles to help you prepare to spend time in the Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center and possibly prevent emergencies in the home.

 

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

 

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.

Carol Marak, Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Celebrating Older Americans Month 2019: Connect, Create, Contribute

Each year, more and more older adults are making a positive impact in and around their community. Usually this contribution involves the encouragement and even logistics of a family caregiver.

Many older Americans who are family caregivers are themselves contributing to their community simply by caring for their own senior loved ones.

In addition, they act as volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates, and more which offers insight and experience that benefit the entire community.

That’s why Older Americans Month (OAM) has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years when President John F. Kennedy designated May Older Americans Month.

At that time, the President felt it was time to begin to take the needs of the growing older American population. The goal was to recognize their many contributions to our country especially in defending it.

From then until now, led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent as a way to thank them for their gifts to society. They help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

Theme for OAM 2019

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Family caregivers can celebrate OAM by promoting ways that community members of all ages can take part in helping older adults in their community as well as their own senior loved one thrive.

Things to Do In Your Community

There will be many events going on in your senior’s community that will help family caregivers connect, create and contribute.

Here are a few you may want to join:

  1. Participate in your local senior center activities by attending classes on crafts, cooking, lines dancing, yoga, or educational topic.
  2. Volunteer for an organization you support such as the library, animal shelter, school mentorship, litter cleanup or church group.
  3. Attend a health fair and take charge of your health.
  4. Share your skills with others in your community who may need help.
  5. Help a meal delivery program deliver meals to people in your local area.
  6. Join a fall prevention program to build your own strength and balance while meeting new people.
  7. Attend a Senior Day event in your city.
  8. Find a class on technology to help your senior learn about ways to use technology to benefit them as they age in place. Attend the class together.

We encourage you to:

Connect: Encourage older adults and other storytellers to share their experiences

Create: Inspire older adults to express themselves through art, dance, exercise, gardening or other personal enrichment activities.

Contribute: Connect older adults with resources and each other

Things to Do At Home

Family caregivers can take action with their senior loved ones to celebrate OAM with them and other family and friends.

Here are some fun things you can do together:

  • Have a family game night and play their favorites. Have lots of healthy snacks to keep the fun rolling!
  • Take a nature walk with the grandkids. Explore plants and animals in nature, go on a scavenger hunt, share a picnic and watch the birds fly together. Sharing this with kids will benefit all generations.
  • Look through family photo albums together and reminisce about family members who came before you. Discuss their jobs, their military service, where they lived and funny stories of shared hijinks! Maybe this could lead to a family reunion to meet new members and enjoy old members of the family.
  • Store the photos and memories for the future, journal the family stories and create a family tree.
  • Attend an event together. It could simply be the local Farmer’s Market or a fundraising event like a Fashion Show.

This is just a small start to all the places you could go and fun you can share with your senior loved one.

Time spent together is not only enriching for your relationship but also good for your senior’s health.

Physical activity and social engagement can make a positive impact on their quality of life.

These are all great reasons to find ways to celebrate OAM and your senior loved one today!

Additional Resources

Here are some additional articles that you might find helpful when deciding how to share time with our senior loved during OAM and every day.

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.

 

 




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!

Essential Safety & Warning Devices for Seniors’ Homes

An overwhelming majority of seniors wish to age in place — live in the home of their choice — whether that be in their current home, a smaller living space, with relatives, or in a senior living facility.

The same is true for those of us who are not yet seniors. We often hear statistics that put the number at close to 100% of us who wish to age in place.

But are their homes ready to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable?

There are many things that we can do to make that a reality, including keeping our bodies as healthy and functional as possible, preventing chronic diseases or managing those diseases that we have while keeping our minds active.

Once you are in the home of your dreams, there are things that can be done to help make the home safe and secure.

Because we know how important these products are to seniors in their homes, we included a selection of each in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector/alarm will sense smoke in the area and alert when danger is present either audible, visually or both 24 hours a day.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can be installed in your home, using batteries for power or being wired into your house’s electrical system. If they have batteries, they need to be checked for proper functioning regularly. Even those wired in will have a battery backup system that will need to be checked.

If it is powered by a 9 volt battery, it is recommended to check it every month, replacing the battery yearly and the entire unit every 8-10 years. The same schedule is true for wired alarms. Your senior may hear a characteristic chirp when the battery needs changing.

We are often reminded to change the battery in the smoke alarm. For many a good reminder is to do it each time we change our clocks for daylight saving time.

Smoke detectors/alarms are not expensive and can be installed relatively easily by many do-it-yourselfers. They should be placed in particular areas of your home, including every floor and the basement, near the bedrooms (in each bedroom if practical), and in the kitchen. Fire officials prefer smoke alarms be placed both inside and outside the sleeping area.

Smoke rises so be sure to install the alarms at the proper height according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Some fire departments will install home smoke alarms at no cost to your senior so contact your local department to see if they have such a program.

Fire officials warn that we should never disable a smoke alarm in the kitchen but instead ventilate the area to clear the smoke putting the alarm on ‘hush,’ not off.

If your senior is hard of hearing or would otherwise benefit from a strobe alarm in addition to the high pitched frequency of the usual smoke alarm, those are also available for home use. I

f a strobe would not awaken them if there is a fire at night, there are a growing number of systems that link into a bed shaker to ensure everyone is alerted to the danger.

Fire Extinguishers

Does your senior’s home have a portable fire extinguisher?

Do they know how to use it if needed?

Has it been checked to see if it is still functioning?

A fire extinguisher should be used when the fire is contained and can be controlled. Remember to always evacuate the home and contact the fire department BEFORE trying to put out the fire yourself.

It is recommended to have a portable fire extinguisher near the exit door to ensure that you can leave safely and get help.

Check out our Family Caregiver Video Tip about safety measures and proper techniques for using a fire extinguisher.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are devices that can detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in your senior’s home, if applicable (see below), to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It is very important to install a detector because carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an odorless gas that goes undetected until the damage is done.

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced when carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, or wood are burned without enough oxygen. CO poisoning can happen slowly over time when small amounts of gas are present in the air or quickly when an event occurs that releases a great deal of the gas.

Winter months are especially dangerous when portable gas or oil heaters and generators are used without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm when gas is found so that the area can be properly ventilated and the source of the gas repaired. These units can be battery powered or hooked to a source of electricity. If they are powered by batteries, you will need to check the charge, as battery life varies greatly.

There are detectors that are installed directly into heating systems that will contact emergency personnel when CO reaches a level that is dangerous. CO detectors can be purchased in combination with a smoke alarm.

In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage without proper ventilation or insulation to the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, loss of consciousness, pains in the chest or stomach, difficulty breathing, or vision problems. Long term exposure can result in brain damage.

Radon Testing

Why is radon testing important? “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.

We think that’s a pretty strong call to action.

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon and it may be in the air of your senior’s home. One in three homes tested contain higher than acceptable levels of radon, it is found in every state and is estimated to be in 8 million US homes.

Radon comes from a natural breakdown of uranium found in igneous rock and soil and in some cases well water. Radon released into the groundwater, soil and building materials of your senior’s home is in the air and your senior inhales the gas unknowingly exposing themselves to health risk.

Because it takes years to realize you are exposed, the only way to be aware of radon in your senior’s home is through testing. There are radon test kits and monitors you can purchase to check your senior’s home yourself or get a professional to test. If there are unsafe levels found in the home, these can be corrected.

Other Safety Precautions to Consider

There are a number of items to consider for the safety of your senior’s home, including these.

  • Security cameras – seniors can get a good view of who is around the house and you can monitor remotely to be sure that your senior is safe at home alone.
  • Safes and cash boxes – if your senior keeps valuables and cash in the home and you are afraid they may be targets, a safe will keep their valuables secure when other people are in and out of the home to provide services.
  • Motion sensing lights – there are lights that fit into existing sockets that will go on and off with motion. They can be helpful for the front or back porch or in hallways, closets or the basement or wherever your senior may have difficulty getting the light on in the middle of the night causing a fall.
  • Peepholes – easy to add to an existing door at just the right height so your senior can see who is knocking before they open the door to a stranger.
  • Security doors – specially designed door to withstand forced entry if the neighborhood they choose to live in is not as safe as it once was.
  • Medical alerts – signalers that can alert emergency personnel in the event of a fall or medical emergency can be lifesaving. Many personal emergency response systems can be remotely monitored by family members.
  • Programmable Thermostat – once set you can be sure that your senior’s home is maintained at a comfortable and healthy temperature all throughout the year. Many newer devices allow remote setting and monitoring using a smartphone.

Newer technology and advances in consumer electronics mean that we can help our senior loved ones stay healthy, safe, and comfortable at home a longer than ever before.

These are just some of the items you will want to consider and get installed if your senior’s home doesn’t have them or if the existing devices are malfunctioning or you want the additional functionality of the current devices.

All of these devices can be found in most hardware stores and many department stores, as well as online. You can also find a selection in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Survey Closer Look — Insights on Tech from Seniors Who Are Caregivers

As we often hear and read, the senior (65+) population is growing rapidly, more so than any other age group.

What you may not realize is that the number of senior family caregivers is also rising rapidly.

One in five adult caregivers, or more than 8 million in all, are seniors, according to the 2015 report Caregiving in the US from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Yet we seldom — if ever — see any research that considers the needs of older caregivers.

Even a recent report from the Consumer Technology Association, which we feel has been making real strides in consideration of older adults in their research, capped the age on the “caregivers” segment of their study at 64.

Given all of this, it was particularly gratifying to us that half of the responses to our recent technology survey were from seniors who consider themselves to be caregivers.

We feel the insights from and needs of these senior caregivers are important enough to merit a closer look on their own.

What the Survey Is — and Isn’t

This survey was conducted to provide us insight into our readership for purposes of planning our future technology coverage. As such, we make no claims that it is a statistically valid sampling of family caregivers — or even of those who visit Senior Care Corner®.

It is, though, an indication of the opinions of those in our audience who were kind enough to take the time to tell us what they think.

That is important to us and very much appreciated.

We also understand and will take into account that those who responded to the survey — and those who visit Senior Care Corner overall — are already, at a minimum, using the technology needed to connect to the web and may be more attuned to tech than other older adults and family caregivers.

Now that we have an understanding, onto the results of the survey.

The following survey results reflect those respondents who were 65+ and identified as family caregivers.

Question 3: Respondents Level of Tech Use

We were somewhat surprised to see just over half of the senior caregivers consider themselves to be avid users of digital technology, slightly more than the younger survey respondents.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, since tech users may have been more likely to respond to our online survey, but it is inconsistent with the widely held perception seniors and tech are not a good mix.

Then again, we have been saying for a while that perception is wrong.

Question 4: Respondents Role with Technology

As the chart below reflects, the senior caregiver survey respondents reflect a broad range of experience and roles with technology in their homes.

Just about half of those responding indicated they are the primary purchasers and implementers of technology in their own homes, as well as the troubleshooters, with a fair number indicating they have the same role in the homes of others.

The flip side is that about half of the respondents rely on someone else to take the lead on technology in their homes.

These responses tell us we have to keep in mind the full range of roles in our technology reporting.

Question 5: Areas of Concern with Technology

With 2 of 5 senior caregivers listing it, in line with respondents overall, data privacy is clearly the greatest technology concern. There is good reason for that, of course, but security concerns do not seem to have deterred them from using tech.

Interestingly, these caregivers are a third less likely to say technology costs too much than are younger respondents. They are also less than half as likely to feel tech is too complicated.

Given their responses, including the 1 in 4 who have no concerns, senior caregivers should be on the radar of tech companies.

This is not to ignore the data privacy issue, which we all share. We plan to respond to the survey feedback by providing more information on safe and secure use of digital technology.

Question 6: Respondents’ Technology Interest Areas

While senior caregivers expressed interest in learning more about the full range of technologies in the survey, their interests were clearly focused in the areas of smartphones and tablets, home health devices, and home security. These are the areas that are currently the most developed of the tech areas and provide readily-identifiable benefits to both senior caregivers and those for whom they care.

Given that senior caregivers express receptivity to using tech overall, it may be they will need only to see a demonstration of the benefits of other technologies for their interest to rise. We will continue reporting on these areas to give them a chance to decide for themselves.

Question 7: Respondents’ Learning Preferences

This question was very important to us in planning our future delivery of information on Senior Care Corner, as we want to present information in a way that is preferred by our audience and therefore most beneficial to them.

Senior caregivers expressed clear preferences for information communicated in written articles and video. According to these responses, our podcast was not the best way to reach this older group.

The senior caregivers’ preference for articles and videos is consistent with what younger respondents told us, while the seniors’ interest in podcasts and webinars was much lower.

What We Learned from Senior Caregivers

While we are keeping in mind the survey is not scientific, we can’t help but be excited about the responses from the senior caregivers.

Clearly there are many in this group who are both users of technology and interested in learning more. We plan on continuing to feed their interest with our tech coverage with practical insights that will provide benefits for both them and those for whom they care.

Also in mind is the reality there are likely other senior caregivers who did not respond and whose need to see technology’s benefits may be even greater. Hopefully we will get their feedback over time.

We hope the positive response to technology of senior caregivers is also being noticed by the tech companies, which will hopefully be further motivated to develop solutions to the problems of this group and demonstrate the benefits of those solutions.

Senior Care Corner looks forward to learning about those solutions and keeping you up to date!