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.

[powerpress]

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.

 




Choosing Snacks Seniors Will Eat and That Meet Their Nutrition Needs

Family caregivers visiting their senior loved ones enjoy bringing them something to eat, not only to show their love but also to encourage them to eat.

Many seniors begin to have diminished appetites — whether from boredom, lack of activity, or changes in their sensation of taste — making all foods taste unfamiliar.

When they are left to eat the food someone else makes for them, whether a family or paid caregiver or in a facility, they tend to eat less and less.

It doesn’t matter if they are home getting delivered meals from an organization, living in a facility that supplies their meals in a congregate dining area, or in their room, or trying to prepare their own convenience items at home. They aren’t getting all the nutrition they need.

For many that is a real problem that can affect their nutritional health, physical health, and even their mood.

Caregivers can help fill the gap!

When Aging Changes Nutritional Needs

Seniors nutritional needs change as they age and caregivers can help them meet their needs with a few interventions.

While aging often means fewer calories may be needed, all the nutrients are still in demand by their bodies and some are more essential than ever for bone health, heart health and brain health.

Here are some things that happen which can change what and how much your senior loved one eats:

  1. As they age, chronic diseases can impact their health and how and what they eat. They may be restricting their food intake based on what they have been told years ago about a particular disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, to the point that they are limiting the nutrients they include — many are over-restricting what they eat.
  2. Difficulty with their teeth and gums can affect what food choices they make. Meats are usually the first foods to go when chewing becomes a problem. Whether it is because of poor dentition, poorly fitting dentures, gum disease, mouth sores, dry mouth or missing teeth or due to cognitive loss, chewing nutrient rich foods can be difficult.
  3. Medications can result in increased nutritional needs or a change in eating. Some medications can inhibit their appetite or increase their appetite to the point of poor food choices out of convenience and speed. Some medications cause dry mouth. Some can cause whole groups of foods, such as leafy green vegetables, from being cut out of the diet.
  4. Intake of the nutrients of concern as people age are often under consumed (or poorly absorbed) including calcium, B vitamins, and protein.
  5. Aging skin is not as productive at producing Vitamin D to help keep bones strong. Added to a decrease in dairy intake, for those worried about lactose intolerance, a weakening of bones that lead to fractures can occur.
  6. Decreased ability to absorb specific nutrients like B12 due to gastric acid secretion and the effects of drugs, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors (PPI), used to control stomach acid.
  7. Excessive alcohol intake can cause nutrients that are eaten not to be absorbed properly or the person to eat less, putting them at risk for malnutrition.
  8. Finances can also change what your senior feels comfortable buying when they grocery shop. Cheaper, less nutritious, foods may become staples instead of often more expensive fresh foods.
  9. Functional status can impact what seniors eat as they are less able to shop, prepare and even eat the meals they need for health. Fatigue can limit their ability to cook for themselves. Grief or depression can also impact their desire to make their own meals or eat alone.
  10. Lack of desire for the meals served in the facility or by home delivery. Some seniors are often uninterested in the foods they are given or just want to choose their meals. When this is not the case, they often refuse to eat. Many seniors just want foods they remember or grew up eating which may not be what’s on the menu where they live. They may even have lost some of their sense of taste or smell, which could make meals less than satisfying. Some may want to cook their own food as they once did.

Snacks for Seniors

Family caregivers can supplement the meals their senior’s choose to eat with nutrient dense snacks.

It is important to remember that some snacks should be tailored to their individual needs if they have a medical condition such as diabetes or trouble chewing, so be aware of any chronic condition they may have.

Snacks that are high in salt, sugar, fat or excess calories without nutrition should be avoided.

Here are some examples of nutritious snacks your senior may like:

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Sandwiches made with deli meat like chicken breast or salads like chicken salad
  • Granola bars especially softer varieties such as Nutrigrain or KIND nut butter bars or breakfast bars
  • Fruit or fruit/vegetable juice blend beverages
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Vegetables (parboil the veggies if they have trouble chewing raw) and dip
  • Smoothie or milkshake with fruit/vegetables
  • Pudding or gelatin snack cups
  • Fruit cups packed in their own juice
  • String cheese sticks
  • Raisins, yogurt covered raisins, craisins, dates, or figs
  • Real fruit snacks
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Stewed prunes, dried fruit such as apricots
  • Fig newtons
  • Hummus and pita
  • Homemade leftover dinner (small portion)
  • Custard
  • Ice cream or fruit juice bar
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Wheat or fruit muffins
  • Glass of chocolate milk or buttermilk
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Bowl of cereal or oatmeal with berries
  • Avocado on toast
  • Pate on crackers
  • Nutritional supplement including fortified fruit juice or clear supplement for a change

If you are bringing snacks to a facility, check ahead to be sure any perishable food can have refrigeration if they don’t eat it quickly.

Tips for Improved Nutrition In a Care Facility

When your senior loved one is living in a care facility and you are worried they may not be eating enough of the most nutritious foods, bringing some of these snacks with you whenever you visit will greatly increase their intake.

  1. The foods that are perishable should be eaten while you are there and disposed of by you to prevent food poisoning. Be sure the snacks you bring are healthy and will not spoil if left on the counter or bedside table until your next visit.
  2. Sit with your senior while they snack. Many seniors don’t eat as much because they are often eating by themselves and need someone with whom to socialize while they eat.
  3. Take the opportunity to observe them eating. Are they having a problem with the teeth or swallowing that might need an evaluation? Is the food consistency still appropriate or would soft, even chopped food be better tolerated?
  4. Are they drinking enough fluids? Offer them a beverage or simply a glass of water while you visit.
  5. Do they need a multivitamin or supplement to help them get all the nutrition they need or perhaps a short term appetite stimulant to get them back on the right track?
  6. It might be a good time to discuss their medical diet with the staff. Determine if it is still needed so that you can advocate for your senior to reducing their restrictive diet which might be inhibiting a good appetite. You can also discuss with the healthcare team if a possible drug review is appropriate to see if there are any changes that can be made to improve their appetite, eating or reduce any food-drug interactions.
  7. If your senior is not eating the facility food, perhaps it is time to talk with the staff to see what can be done to offer alternates at meals or find ways to increase the seasoning in the food to make it more palatable. Maybe the food isn’t as hot as they prefer and a change in meal time or location (in main dining room versus their room) would help. Perhaps they would eat better if their food could be prepared for them to pick up instead of using a utensil, this is known as finger foods.

Poor nutrition can lead to functional decline, increased falls, loss of muscle, weakened bones and a reduced quality of life for our seniors.

It couldn’t hurt to include bringing healthy snacks every visit to encourage your senior’s appetite and can potentially improve their well-being.

 

 




Easter Baskets for Seniors Full of Special Treats & Memories

Springtime again! Many trees are sporting flowers and others have leaves busting out.

It’s time to gather together our woven baskets and multi-colored plastic straw hay!

For many seniors it means the grandkids are coming to search for goodies to celebrate spring on Easter Sunday, whether it’s celebrated as a religious holiday or simply happiness that the seasons are changing (and maybe a few days off from school).

We love to hide brightly colored eggs with hidden surprises inside for the children. The love to find a coin, a chocolate treat, a marshmallow peep, or the golden ticket!

Memories of Easters Past

Even adults enjoy treats, surprises, and special goodies from time to time – particularly on days that hold fond memories, such as Easter. Special treats can bring back cherished memories of childhood, some adulthood holidays, and the special people with whom they shared the day.

They might remember getting all dressed up in their finest bib and tucker or getting a new outfit – or special hat – for the special day.

Many will never forget the white patent leather Mary Jane shoes they would wear for the day and then not again until summer, at least until after Memorial Day!

Senior Easter Basket Wishes

What do you get for your senior loved ones’ Easter basket? You know them best, of course, but here are some ideas to get you thinking.

  • A new hat (maybe one you pick together) or perhaps take an older hat and add embellishments onto together as a multi-generational project)
  • A new piece of jewelry, such as a beaded necklace or brooch (something they could wear to church or family gatherings and show off)
  • A new floral perfume (reminiscent of a bygone scent or a favorite flower in the garden would be especially nice)
  • A family photo (perhaps a recent one of the grandkids or an older version with those no longer with us)
  • Chocolate bunny candy or cream filled eggs (my family loved maple candy that was a special and rare treat)
  • An Easter lily (this is a tradition I remember from my earliest childhood, we never went to grandma’s house without a lily!)
  • A handmade card (one made by the kids with messages of endearment or glued on macaroni)
  • Jelly beans (the quintessential Easter treat — who could forget or resist!)
  • Coupons (ones from their favorite restaurant, local business, grocery item or handmade for unique gifts like washing the windows or polishing the silver)
  • Personal items they might find useful, like hearing aid batteries, glass cleaning cloth, denture paste, a favorite skin lotion, new nail polish or lipstick, lip balm, aftershave, a backscratcher, nail file, sunscreen or any item that shows you are paying attention to what they need and those things they like.

Make the Basket Personal

The key running through the ideas above is that the contents of the basket for your senior should have personal meaning to them rather than being one of the ready-made packages we see all over the stores.

We are sure you can think of other things that might make special gifts, such as a new sweater or lightweight jacket, a book, slippers, or other items.

Think how much fun it would be to put these smaller items into a pretty new wicker basket with a big pastel bow and remind your senior of how it felt to be young waiting for the Easter bunny!

Enjoy your family moments and reminiscing about fun times in years past. After all, those memories can be the most special treats of all!

 

 




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.

Expanding Senior Care Corner’s Information Offerings with Guest Articles

Senior Care Corner was born nine years ago as a labor of love by Kathy and me to fill what we saw as an information gap for family caregivers of older adults.

More than 1,000 articles (well, 1,031, but who’s counting), 74 podcasts, and several videos later, everything you read, hear, and see at Senior Care Corner, other than resources we provide in articles for your information, was produced by us.

Nine years later, Senior Care Corner is still a labor of love for us and we are proud of the feedback we get from readers who have found our site helpful and has made a difference to them and their senior loved ones.

We are working on a redesign of our home page to one that implements our early vision and reason we chose the name Senior Care Corner.

When we started the site, we envisioned an intersection of sorts, with resources for family caregivers on all four corners. That was the basis for the road sign logo.

With our upcoming home page redesign, that intersection will be front and center, with three resource areas we have now, plus a new area:

  • Our current Senior Care Corner information site;
  • Technology Corner, our new focus area for family caregivers;
  • The Shop at Senior Care Corner, which offers shopping tailored to the needs of family caregivers; and,
  • The Guest Article Corner, offering articles of interest to family caregivers, written by other experts.

We are excited about the possibilities the third corner may bring and the information resources other voices can provide.

What to Expect in Guest Articles

We have long considered offering an outlet for other voices at Senior Care Corner, but have been hesitant to do so. We receive multiple requests each day from those wishing to submit articles, many from writers we don’t recognize as experts able to provide you greater insights.

Guest articles you see at Senior Care Corner will offer resources, insights, or perspectives to enhance what we have provided over the years. They will be from writers or organizations most of you will recognize and whose expertise we have verified.

We will accept and publish articles from businesses we feel offer information or solutions of value to seniors and/or family caregivers, but will not allow blatant commercials.

Guest articles will not be edited for content by us, but we will not publish anything we feel is inappropriate or does not provide value to family caregivers of older adults.

We are hopeful this fourth corner will be just as vibrant and valuable to you as the other three and thus will feature all four on our soon to be redesigned home page.

Information for Potential Guest Article Writers

We welcome proposals for guest articles to be published on Senior Care Corner and have some guidelines for those considering doing so in order to ensure all content provides value to family caregivers of older adults.

  • Guest article must be appropriate for and relevant to the Senior Care Corner audience. Please review the articles on our site for insight into topics and tone.
  • All articles must be unique, written specifically for Senior Care Corner, and not be published elsewhere on the web.
  • Guest articles will only be accepted from individuals and organizations who are verifiable experts bringing unique expertise, resources, or insights to family caregivers.
  • Please submit proposals before sending articles, as we are respectful of your time and efforts. We will not accept or read articles that are unsolicited or otherwise sent without prior discussions and agreement.
  • While commercial products or services may be portrayed in an article as a solution to a problem faced by seniors and/or family caregivers, articles that are perceived as commercial in nature, in the sole judgment of Senior Care Corner, will not be published.
  • Articles should be at least 500 words in length and generally no more than 1,000 words. The focus should be on effective communication of your ideas rather than length.
  • Guest articles will not be edited by Senior Care Corner. However, writers will be required to revise any language that is determined to be unacceptable, for any reason, prior to publication.

Please send requests for more information and proposals for guest articles to Info@SeniorCareCorner.com.

We are looking forward to bringing you even more knowledge and practical insights from Senior Care Corner for your caregiving journey.

 

Stay tuned for our home page redesign and publication of our initial guest articles!

Seniors with Hearing Loss are Now a Tech Industry Focus

Did you see that comedy sketch / movie scene / television episode making fun of the senior with hearing loss?

It’s really no laughing matter!

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three older adults between 65 and 74 years old have hearing loss and nearly half of those who are 75 or older have difficulty hearing.

Because hearing loss in older adults can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression, solutions are important to the well-being of our senior loved ones, especially those who want to age in place.

Unfortunately, fear of being seen as one of those humorous “old people” — and even seen as having diminished mental capabilities — make many seniors hesitant to admit their hearing issues.

Of course, a fear of having to spend thousands on traditional hearing aids feeds the denial of many.

There must be solutions acceptable to more seniors, right?

New Tech Hearing Solutions

We have long been interested in solutions for those with hearing loss after seeing up close what loss of that sense can mean to individuals’ lives.

Fortunately the tech industry, as we saw all over CES 2019, is finally recognizing hearing loss as a problem they can address creatively – – and, for many seniors, at a lower cost.

There is even a buzzword for it – – “hearables.”

Traditional Hearing Aids

Yes, the traditional hearing aid companies were there, with continued advancements in their products. Digital technology has enabled hearing aids to do so much more in providing clarity and bringing returning hearing to those with severe and profound losses.

In addition to high prices (Medicare does not cover them, though some supplemental plans may), the requirement to purchase most hearing aids through hearing specialists rather than online holds some back from buying them. While the arguments for professional assistance with these complicated devices make sense, this process also is seen as keeping the cost of hearing aids high.

Those who checked out hearing aids before and decided they weren’t right for them might want to take another look. New aids have better sound quality and some are nearly invisible, addressing two of the concerns we have heard most.

Earbud Functionality for Hearing Loss

What we found most interesting were the innovation approaches of several developers of ear buds, those headphone replacements that go right into the ear of users, not unlike traditional hearing aids.

Those developers were touting the ability of their devices to enhance sound for those with hearing loss, often through a companion smartphone app (yet another way smartphones are making themselves essential to seniors’ lives).

Not lost on us is the irony that devices seen as causing hearing loss in many can be used to overcome that loss.

We love the idea seniors — or those of any age with hearing loss — can overcome their loss with devices that have become almost ubiquitous instead of needing a hearing solution they may see as coming with a stigma attached (we hate acknowledging a stigma, which we see as wrong and narrow minded, but we have been told by many they don’t want to be seen wearing hearing aids for that reason).

This is an area we want to investigate further and hope to test some devices and report further to you on their effectiveness. They seem like a solution that will find appeal with many and will hopefully provide real benefits.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants have long been a solution for those of all ages with moderate to profound hearing loss who are not getting sufficient benefit from hearing aids.

Have you heard of them before? Rather than amplify sound, as hearing aids do, cochlear implants replace the function of the damaged parts of the inner ear and send sound signals to the brain.

Advances in digital technology have also done much for cochlear implants, providing gains in functionality while also improving the visual aspects of the devices.

We have followed these devices for many years and think they are worth considering for those who can’t get the quality of sound they want from other devices.

Excited About the Future of Hearing Tech

We are excited to see so much attention given to solutions for hearing loss by the technology industry. Older adults and those who care for and about them will benefit.

Sure, it’s easy to say the tech industry is finally recognizing the exploding market size and buying power wielded by older adults. That’s what it takes to get the investment that leads to innovation and products to solve problems.

We look forward to seeing, at CES 2020, the solutions another year innovation in hearables brings to older adults with hearing loss.

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!