Silvers Summit 2011

We at Senior Care Corner were excited to be a part of the Silvers Summit at the Consumer Electronics Show.  The Silvers Summit section is an arm of this international technology conference that focuses on the technology advances specific to our seniors.

We had the pleasure to learn about the latest information from experts in the field of technology.  They were all very passionate about their areas and the benefits of the latest technology.

As caregivers we are looking for gadgets that will help us help our seniors whether we live with them, nearby or far away.  We have made it clear that we want devices that will give us peace of mind that our seniors get the help they need with daily activities such as medication administration, socialization and safety; the ability to stay in their homes as long as possible; and  getting emergency assistance as quickly as possible.

The Silvers Summits Points of Interest

  • Any new or existing technology aimed at our boomers should decrease the burden of caregiving on their loved ones
  • New items should have a common goal: make our seniors safe and secure in their setting
  • New technology should be appropriately priced, especially since insurance and Medicare do not yet cover them
  • New advances will meet the needs more of the caregiver than the senior and will be marketed to you not the senior
  • All gadgets should be accessible to seniors with disabilities
  • All technology created should be integrated across the spectrum of devices so that they are usable  together and make it unnecessary to have multiple devices that don’t connect
  • New technology should be accessible to seniors and caregivers who are middle and low income

As we all become consumers of this new technology and gadgets it will be important for us to give our feedback about what we need and want for our seniors.  These manufacturers want to be sure their products fulfill our needs.  Therefore, let us not hesitate to share our opinions about how these products work in our environments, what their limitations are and how they are successful.  We look forward to hearing about your experiences with these devices so that we can all benefit.

We will be highlighting some of the products we feel could benefit us all as caregivers on future posts.  If you have interest in a specific product or type of need, let us know and we will track it down for you.

Home Design Trends for Aging in Place

Whether they stay in your home or relocate to another home, more of our parents want to stay out of facilities and in the home of their choosing.

The homes in which aging adults have raised their families, and even most homes built more recently, probably weren’t designed with seniors’ needs in mind. A remodel or relocation may be in order for them to do as they desire so the live in a home that is equipped to accommodate the needs of aging bodies and minds.

Design Trends for Seniors Aging in Place

  1. One floor living with clear movement in the living space.  It is desirable that there are no steps to climb for bedrooms, living areas or garage entry.
  2. Entry into the house from the garage and front door with no steps. It might mean that a ramp will be needed. An awning or cover over the door is preferred.
  3. Maintenance free dwellings. Little or no outside work, living spaces that are easy to clean, and newer appliances.
  4. More storage especially in the kitchen that is more accessible. High cabinets that are difficult to reach are undesirable.
  5. Appliances that are placed at comfortable heights to avoid bending over.
  6. Drawers instead of cabinets which are easier to access.
  7. Cabinet hardware that allows doors to hide away while in use.
  8. Tall knee height counters in the bathroom to allow sitting down for tasks.
  9. Raised toilet seats
  10. No threshold showers that allow open access

Many of us could use these modifications in our homes anyway, but the seniors for whom we care especially could benefit from these changes to their homes as they would make it possible to live more safely and comfortably while aging in place.

Do you have other items on your wish list so that your parents can stay put?  We would love you to share with us today.

Quick Reminder: Catch Medicare Open Enrollment Before It Closes

Medicare’s Open Enrollment period for 2011 benefits closes at the end of the year and along with it the opportunity for seniors to review and update benefits.  Is there a senior for or about whom you care who could use some help making choices?  Each year plans change and benefits change — as do the needs of many of the seniors covered by Medicare.  The plan that may have been right last year or for several years might not still be the plan that best meets your loved one’s needs.

What plan and options are right for your loved one?  There are a number of factors that go into that answer.  Medicare breaks down the decision for you at Medicare.gov, with a plan finder that asks the right questions.  Only you and your loved one can weigh the trade-offs associated with the three C’s — coverage, cost and convenience.

Choose now to make sure the right plan is in place for 2011!

Don’t Get Stung by the High Cost of Care

Is your loved one living in an assisted living facility or nursing home or staying in their home?

Are you paying, or helping to pay, the bill or overseeing their care?

If so, then you have felt firsthand the pinch as costs for caring for an older person in a facility or at home have risen.  We hear and read about the cost of medical care skyrocketing, but as many seniors and their families are learning, the cost of long term care is going up just as fast or even faster.

According to the “Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs” by MetLife

  1. Nursing home private room rate national average in 2010 is $229 and semi-private $205; it was $219 and $198 in 2009.
  2. Assisted Living monthly fee base rate national average in 2010 is $3,293; it was $3,131 in 2009.
  3. In home care for a trained aid in 2010: from an agency $21/hour, homemaker $19/hour; often there is a minimum number of hours required
  4. Adult day care services average cost per day in 2010: $30-$150; sliding scale rates apply

These are just some of the costs that are mounting.  We also have many out of pocket expenses that we pay for the care of our older family members including basic necessities like housing, medications, food and clothing that continue to increase sometimes beyond our reach.

Financial planning for aging and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent chronic diseases become even more important if we want to be able to help our loved ones live out their life as they desire.  It almost always costs less for your loved one to live at home through the aging process (called “aging in place”) and a healthy lifestyle may make that possible for longer.

Even if the desire is to live at home, seniors and those helping them plan need to consider the possibility of needing to live in a residential care facility of some sort.  Being able to choose where you live means having sufficient funds of some sort, being savings or long term care insurance, to afford your choice.

We would love to hear your suggestions!

Pets Improve Health of Seniors

Man’s best friend is more than a cliché.

How many of us have pets that are part of the family?

Seniors have a lot of love for pets whether they are their own or animals belonging to others.

Research proves that interaction with animals can improve the health and well being of seniors.

Pets don’t judge but provide physical contact and stimulation to any person but especially a lonesome elder. Elders want to love, protect and nurture the soft animals who snuggle up for attention. They have an innate need to care for others and be needed as well.

Animals can fulfill that need for seniors. Animals of any kind can act as a substitute for the nurturing desire of an elder for someone they may have loved and lost in their lifetime.

Owning a pet can reduce blood pressure and lipid levels, and increase activity and socialization in its owner.

Many worry about a small animal causing falls which can happen when an older person isn’t cautious. However, the benefits are numerous.

Alzheimer’s patients are often calmed by pets when the pets are regular visitors. They can have reduced confusion, anxiety and agitation as well as increased communication in the presence of pets.

Many Alzheimer’s patients can get isolated in their disease but pets often lead to conversation and reconnection to their world. Pets don’t care if the wrong word is said or you forget a thought, they love the attention no matter what.

The best pets are those that allow petting and loving without getting aggressive. Animals that are not loud or overly active that won’t threaten or scare elders or increase their anxiety are good choices.  Be sure that the older person was not fearful of certain animals before you bring them into their environment.

If they were afraid of dogs all their life, they are still going to be fearful and should be avoided.

Nursing homes have had pet therapy programs for many years and see how the residents brighten up when the pets arrive. The animals usually visit routinely and include pets such as rabbits, dogs, birds, goats and other farm animals. Some nursing homes have pets such as cats, dogs and birds which live full time in a facility and are cared for by the seniors.

Whether they have been in the home for years, newly adopted, family visitors or part of pet therapy in living facilities, all types of animals can improve the quality of life for older adults.

Future of Healthcare: Medical Home Model

With the advent of healthcare reform and the need to treat the aging population who have chronic medical conditions without bankrupting the payment system, new ideas to treat all Americans are coming to the forefront.

One such strategy which hopes to close the gap in the nation’s healthcare is called the medical home care model.

This is a patient centered approach which treats individuals from one central medical practice. The medical practice includes all health professionals a person would need to access to treat their health conditions.

If care is needed by providers outside of the medical home, it would be coordinated with other caregivers through the medical home. All treatment is tracked by the medical home so that this information would be self contained and accessible to the healthcare provider.

Electronic medical record data linked to various healthcare arenas, email communication with health professionals, open scheduling, and monitoring of health outcomes are advantages of this approach.

This idea could mean a higher level of care for you with great improvements in preventative care. Potentially, the risks of chronic complications can be reduced with closer contact to your team of healthcare providers who are informed about your specific medical needs and a team who is striving to help you prevent complications.

Ideally it would fit well within the healthcare reform plan with fee for service payments and coordination of fees when providers are needed outside the medical home.

The medical home would also gain monetary advantages for maintaining quality standards and positive outcomes.

The patient will be the center of attention in the medical home model.

This means that you must be an active participant in your care, your treatment plan and your lifestyle changes.  You will be engaged in your own health and medical outcomes.

What are your thoughts about this new approach to healthcare?

We would love to hear your ideas about how this model will meet your needs.

Fight Elder Abuse

Elder abuse either in the form of exploitation; neglect; physical, sexual or emotional harm or abandonment by trusted caregivers can happen to any elder including your own loved one.

Most believe one in ten seniors is affected but due to limited reporting of abuse, which is thought to be only one in five cases, no one is sure exactly how widespread the problem is.

Risk factors include dementia, substance abuse by both victims and caregivers and isolation. More women are affected than men at this time.

The fifth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness day is June 15, 2010.

Agencies across the nation will be scheduling events to make more people aware of signs to look for, ways to report suspected abuse and what to do to prevent abuse.

Movie theaters across the nation will show a trailer called the NCEA Elder Abuse Piece which highlights elder abuse.

According to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), abuse warning signs include:

  • Physical Abuse ‐ Slap marks, unexplained bruises, most pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters, such as cigarette burns
  • Neglect Pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Emotional Abuse Withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes
  • Sexual Abuse Bruises around the breasts or genital area and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or “gifts,” and loss of property

For more information, visit  www.ncea.aoa.gov

Have you seen abuse? Do you suspect someone you know has been abused?

Take action now and learn more.

Assistive Technology – Can You Benefit?

Do you need a little more help to do some of the many things you used to do easily?

Are there tasks that you still want to accomplish on your own but just can’t quite do them?

Help is on the way in the form of assistive technology.

A variety of adaptive devices can help you maintain your independence for as long as possible allowing you to “age in place” without moving to the next level of care too quickly.

There are several different categories of assistive devices that can make a difference from a simple walker to an amplification system for the phone.

  • Home-construction in your home such as building ramps; installing grab bars or reconfiguring doorways to help overcome barriers or recover from an injury, anything to allow you to remain independent in your home
  • Daily activity-devices that help with tasks of daily living such as bathing, eating, grooming, holding, reaching, or toileting. The goal is to remain independent for as long as possible.
  • Mobility-electric wheelchair, walker, cane, wheelchair lift or stair elevator and any device/equipment that allows you to move about safely and independently
  • Communication-telephone amplifiers, hearing aids, auditory receivers, computer devices, alert systems and any device that allows you to send or receive information
  • Sensory enhancements for those with vision or hearing impairments-devices that allow you to engage in your environment such as television captioning, large print documents/books, voice activated devices, bed shaking alarms, magnification, time, travel, writing and reading in Braille and lighted doorbells
  • Therapy-access to all types of therapists to help you recover or regain optimum physical functioning as well as orthotic devices to help you control limbs and joints or amputation sites
  • Switches-allow you to turn on, off or adjust equipment such as air conditioners, computers, lights or answering machines; these can be voice activated or mouth activated

Carefully determine what you need before you purchase any device as most insurance companies and Medicare will not cover these devices unless they are determined to be durable medical equipment (necessary only for those who have an illness or injury and serve a medical purpose).

If you are a veteran, you may be able to receive adaptive devices from VA services. Another source of help is your local area agency for aging services that can often assist you with low-cost equipment.

Ask yourself if this device will help you continue to be independent. Seek the advice of your doctor, medical team, therapist, audiologist or family members. As more older Americans and their families try to remain in their home setting as long as possible, the use of assistive technology can make all the difference.

Health Care Reform Highlights

President Obama has signed into law a healthcare reform bill that created both controversy and confusion among lawmakers and citizens.

It promises to provide healthcare to all citizens by 2014 as well as a myriad of other amendments.

Many seniors worry what the outcome of this legislation will be on their current Medicare coverage as well as how this might raise the cost of their out of pocket expenses for healthcare on fixed incomes.

Highlights

  1. Close the hole in Medicare prescription drug plan by 2020. Seniors who hit the donut hole by 2010 will receive a $250 rebate.
  2. Government funding to Medicare Advantage private insurers will be cut $132 billion over 10 years which might mean the loss of additional services from these policyholders not available through current Medicare coverage.
  3. Medicare will begin covering annual Wellness visits not currently included.
  4. Beginning in 2011, seniors in the gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. The bill also includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade.
  5. The creation of a national insurance trust for long-term care insurance, known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.
  6. Eliminates insurance companies’ ability to refuse coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.
  7. Provide access to insurance coverage for all uninsured Americans estimated at 32 million currently.  It will fine anyone not opting to enroll in a healthcare plan $695.
  8. Fine large companies $2,000 per employee for not providing healthcare coverage.
  9. Mandate that restaurants or vending machine operations with 20 or more locations provide nutrition information on menu boards, drive through lanes and printed menus and any other nutrition information requested by consumers.
  10. Adult children up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ insurance policy.

 We will all have to wait and see what these sweeping changes will mean to our health, well being and pocketbooks.