The BEST Device for Seniors to Access the Web & Social Media is…

There are many benefits for seniors in accessing social media and the web, but which device is the best one for that purpose out of the many options that are available (a number that is growing all the time)?  That question is one we hear frequently from both elder readers and their family members.  We have built our existing base of knowledge with some additional research and come up with the answer.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that there is no one-size-fits-all. There is often an attempt to broadly call “seniors” a market segment but there are too many older adults with too broad a range of interests to be properly considered a single market whose needs can be met by any one device or group of devices.

In this episode we look at the criteria that are important in selecting the best device for seniors’ use, including:

  • How the device will be used;
  • Available access to the internet;
  • Capabilities of the individual(s) who will be using the device; and,
  • Local computing “support” available to the senior.

Using these criteria, including many factors in each category, we reached a conclusion and will share it with you.

One resource we’d like to share from this episode about photosensitivity and medications is an article by Dr. Oz from AARP The Magazine, “When the Sun Makes You Sick.”  With the extreme heat many are experiencing as this is recorded and posted, we think this is very timely.

We encourage and welcome any suggestions or other feedback you may have.  Please leave a comment on this post or via a note on our Contact page.  We would also love to have you leave a post on the wall of our Senior Care Corner Facebook page.  We are particularly interested in your suggestions for future podcast topics and guests, especially if you are interested in being interviewed for a future podcast episode!

Podcast transcript  (so you can follow along or read at your convenience)

Priceless Family Reminiscing with Seniors

Reminiscing is the recollection and retelling of stories from past experiences and events.  For seniors, it is important to recollect these experiences to affirm who they are and what their life has meant, not to mention the benefits gained from recalling pleasant memories.

Sharing reminisces provides an opportunity for the senior to be mentally stimulated and pull from their intact memories, helping keep those memories alive.  For children, grandchildren and other caregivers, it is priceless to listen to these remembrances and may help improve your ability to care for your senior in the future when you have had this chance to understand them more thoroughly through their life stories.

How Do You Start the Conversation?

Ask open ended questions that will begin the dialogue and then take it from there.

  • Where did you live during the depression?
  • Where were you doing when the first man landed on the moon or when the space shuttle lifted off?
  • Who were you with when you heard that President Kennedy was killed?
  • Tell me about your first job, your first bike, your first vacation?
  • What states, countries, and continents have you visited?

These and other questions will begin a dialogue between you and your senior loved one that will give them purpose and bring you joy in the retelling.  What other questions could you ask that would give you answers you want to hear?

Triggers that Improve the Memories of Seniors

Often certain questions or topics will increase the ability to reminisce for seniors.  Ideas that stimulate their five senses can open up their memories.  Talking about tastes such as their favorite foods, summer treats or holiday cookies will bring smiles to everyone’s face.  The sense of smell such as what odor can you tell a story about-dirty socks from their brother, candles at church, sulfur in the well water or the smell of firework sparklers on the 4th of July should cause your senior to share memories.  Sounds such as their baby’s first cry or the siren at the fire station and sights such as buildings in their travels or pictures of their family members will also bring back memories to create stories.

Capturing your Senior’s Memories for the Future

Spending time with your senior, reminiscing about experiences and moments in time gone by can be chronicled by you to share with other family members, friends and future generations.  You can create a videography during the storytelling or journal their stories over time to create a family book of memories.  This type of precious creation combined with a family tree will be treasured forever.

Benefits of Reminiscing for the Caregiver

Life as a caregiver, especially with someone struggling with dementia, can be isolating.  Loneliness is common even when you spend every day with another person who is no longer the person they used to be or able to communicate as they once did.  Reminiscing and storytelling can open a path to communication with the person you care for and at the same time give meaning to their life.  It can relieve boredom for both you and the one for whom you care.

Be sure to listen attentively no matter what story they tell or if they get lost in the middle.  You can ask questions to allow the senior to keep their memories flowing.  Remembering can tap into details that are still remembered for the senior who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast or if they ate breakfast at all.  It lets them think back to a time when they were active and vibrant and happy.  You might be surprised at what you will learn that you did not know previously.

To learn more about how to tackle this with your senior, we suggest downloading The Benevolent Society’s Reminiscing Handbook.

We look forward to hearing how you engaged your senior in a tale of reminiscing.  How did you start the story?

 Here are a few things we’ve found helpful in reminiscing, with affiliate links to Amazon.com for more info & purchase:

 

Seniors at Risk in Power Outages as They Age in Place

Does your senior rely on a home medical device powered by energy?

A medical device is equipment used to cure, treat or prevent a disease.  It is often used in the home by a person who has been trained to use it such as a healthcare provider, caregiver or the person using the equipment themselves.  These devices need to function properly for safety and effectiveness.

What will happen to your senior who uses a medical device if the power goes out during a storm or other event?  You should have a plan in place to handle any breaks in power service whether for just a short time or for a longer than expected time.

As soon as an essential medical device is put in service in the home, the local electric utility (and sometimes other authorities) should be notified of its existence and need.  This will put your loved one on a list for immediate attention during a power outage.

Preparing a document for each medical device and creating a book kept on hand for easy access will help you, your senior or any other person who comes to your senior’s aid during an emergency.

What to Put in Your Senior’s Book

Your senior’s book should include:

  1. The phone number of all utility companies including power, gas and water.  Also include emergency numbers such as the fire department, police, healthcare provider and the company that services your senior’s medical devices.  Quick access to these phone numbers is invaluable.  Don’t forget to keep your name and phone number in this book in case it is needed by a responder.
  2. The name, model # and instructions for using the medical device.
  3. A list of your senior’s medication and pharmacy contact.
  4. Your senior’s insurance card and any other important paperwork such as your senior’s power of attorney and advance directives.
  5. A list of information specific about each device such as will it run without power, does it have a battery backup, how long the battery is expected to last, how many batteries does it use and can a lay person replace them, where the replacement batteries can be found, what will happen during a power surge to the equipment, how is it restarted, can the device operate on an alternate power source, can your senior be off the equipment for a period of time and how long would that be.
  6. Information about the treatment the device provides:  What needs to be done if the power is lost in the middle of a treatment? When the power returns, is the treatment started again or finished for that time?
  7. Location where medical supplies are kept.  Is there enough for at least three days?
  8. Does the device or supplies need to be kept at a certain temperature, will it need a cooler and ice to function properly?
  9. Instructions for how the device should be cleaned and where the supplies to clean it are stored.
  10. Where are flashlights and batteries stored?
  11. Instructions on the safe use of supplies: don’t use if package is torn, wet or contaminated, if it is too hot/cold, or if pieces are broken or missing.
  12. Instructions for settings of medical device.

If your senior has to relocate during a storm or power outage, be sure he takes his equipment, any supplies needed, batteries and this book of information wherever he goes.

Being prepared for an emergency will help you and your senior weather the storm.

We look forward to hearing your ideas for care of all medical devices so we can share with others.

Tips for Hearing Aid Care to Help Senior Loved Ones Stay Engaged

Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is the most common chronic health condition for our seniors.

As the population ages, it is expected that there will be  28 million boomers with age-related hearing loss by 2030. Unfortunately, this condition is not curable — but may be treatable with hearing aids.

Untreated hearing loss can lead to depression and isolation in seniors so this is not something to leave alone if we have concerns our loved ones are effected.

Hearing Aid Care

With so many seniors facing hearing loss, caregivers often have another thing to worry about—hearing aids.  Hearing aids need regular care and maintenance to work properly.  Here are some tips for you to keep your senior’s “ears” in shape:

  1. Avoid getting hearing aids wet.  Remember to remove them in the bath or shower and when your senior goes swimming. Take them off in the rain or cover to protect them from moisture.  Don’t store the aids in the bathroom.  If your senior is sweating a lot, dry the area of the ears frequently to reduce moisture exposure.
  2. Avoid getting the hearing aids dirty.  Be sure your hands are clean and dry when you take the hearing aids in and out, store them, change the batteries or care for them.
  3. Be careful when they are put in or taken out to prevent them from falling on a hard surface to reduce the likelihood that they will get damaged.
  4. Regularly remove moisture with a dryer specially designed for hearing aids.  We have many years of experience with the Dry and Store Professional.
  5. Protect them from heat sources such as direct sun, heaters, radiators or hair dryers.
  6. Keep them safe from pets that might be attracted to their sound and enjoy chewing them to pieces or putting them in their favorite hiding place.
  7. Check the batteries regularly and recycle old batteries.
  8. Clean the aids regularly removing any built up wax or oil.
  9. Have the aids checked by an audiologist or technician every six months or so to have the tubing replaced if they are over the ear aids.  The tubing can dry out and crack, reducing their effectiveness.  Ear molds need to be remade when they get dry to prevent hurting the ear canal.
  10. Store the aids in a safe and dry place every time they are removed, the same place each time to avoid losing them.  Don’t let your senior put in his pocket to avoid running them through the washing machine.
  11. Check your senior’s ears for excessive wax buildup that might cause discomfort and reduce the effectiveness of the hearing aids.  The doctor may need to check your senior’s ear health during a scheduled visit.
  12. If you are afraid your senior may lose them, there are devices that hold the hearing aid onto eyeglass frames so that won’t get lost.

Hearing aids work best when they are in good condition and when they are actually worn.  The gain your senior receives from the use of his hearing aids will benefit him and you every day.

We look forward to hearing your experiences and tips for caring for and keeping your senior’s hearing aids on.

More on Dry and Store

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of keeping hearing aids dry and, as we mentioned, have used the Dry & Store Professional for many years.  While it has been discontinued, you should consider the Dry and Store Global II model, about which we have heard and read good things, and their Zephyr travel version.  Key to all of three is the Dry-Brik II Desiccant Blocks , which absorbs the moisture that hearing aids pick up from usage.

Seniors Going Gluten Free

Caregivers of seniors are often responsible for providing their loved one with foods that are nourishing, healthy and satisfying.  Sometimes that means keeping them away from foods that are not healthy for them.

Recently there have been an increased number of Americans who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, numbering approximately 2 million affected people — 1 in 133 people.  This condition requires following a gluten free meal plan for the rest of our senior’s life to remain symptom free.  However, those of us with affected seniors may not really understand how to incorporate gluten free foods into the daily lives of their seniors.

What is celiac disease?

It is a condition that damages the villi in the lining of the small intestine keeping your senior from absorbing parts of the food that they eat.  A reaction to the gluten in certain items can cause physical symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, inability to absorb nutrients and weight loss.

Where do our seniors get gluten?

Gluten is found in food, medications and fluids that our seniors ingest.  Choosing a gluten free diet requires new eating habits.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats that are mixed with wheat during processing as well as most grain, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods.  Not only is gluten found in many processed foods we all eat, but also some medications we take and some other products we may use such as lipstick .

What can your senior eat?

Your senior can enjoy a healthy and balanced meal plan using potatoes, rice, soy, tapioca, amaranth, nuts, legumes, quinoa, cassava, corn, millet, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats and bean flour.  You can select gluten free items which are now more readily available in local grocery stores including gluten free bread, gluten free baking flour mix, and gluten free pasta.  They can eat meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that do not contain sauces or coatings made from wheat flour.

It is important to read food labels when shopping which are required to list wheat as an ingredient and many are specifically labeled “gluten free”.  You should also ask how food is prepared whenever you eat out to be sure it is allergy free.  Many restaurants are aware of this special food allergy and have gluten free foods available.  Your pharmacist can help you find medications that are gluten free to substitute for those that your senior now takes.

In your role as caregiver, you may want to seek out a support group in your area where you can learn a wealth of tips and strategies to deal with this disease and help others too with your knowledge!

We would love to hear how you overcome this food allergy so other caregivers can help their seniors.

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!