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.

 

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.

Family Caregiver Technology Survey — Please Help Us Help You

Supporting family caregivers in your efforts to make better the lives of senior loved ones is the mission of Senior Care Corner®.

One aspect of our work is keeping you informed regarding technology that can, either directly or indirectly, help make seniors’ lives healthier, safer, more comfortable – – or just plain fun.

Through our ongoing coverage of all things technology, including CES® the annual technology innovation showcase, we work to keep you informed regarding tech that is currently available and innovations still in the pipeline.

We have learned over time that the Senior Care Corner audience has a wide range of knowledge, interests, and experience when it comes to technology and thus a variety of needs.

We have developed this short survey to help us better understand your needs and tailor our reporting to better meet those needs. Your response, which should take just a couple of minutes, will be used by us to design our future technology coverage and deliver information to you.

We appreciate your assistance and hope you will pass this along to others as well!

Simply click on your answers below. Please scroll through each of the questions and click “Done” after the last question to submit your responses.

Thank you for your help!

 

Create your own user feedback survey

CES 2019 Recap – Innovation for Everyday Life and Beyond

There were, as expected, many new and interesting tech developments on display at CES® 2019.

Some were interesting albeit not useful a least for home use. A huge appliance taking up otherwise useful space in the home to fold laundry? Really? And who really needs to bake 10 loaves of bread in their kitchen?

But there were also products that continue to advance toward the category of life changing and enabling for seniors to continue to age in place as they desire, with safety and happiness.

Technical buzzwords were flying all over this greatest gathering of technology innovators in the world – CES 2019. This year, it was encouraging how many will specifically impact our seniors and the family caregivers who love them, many of whom may be footing the bill for the new tech and/or responsible for setting up and maintaining it.

Key Observations from CES 2019

We saw a number of buzzwords and trends across CES 2019 that we believe will be important for seniors and family caregivers. We plan to spend more time on these in the future, but want to identify them now to get you, as caregivers, familiar.

  • Tech impacts all aspects of our lives
  • 5G
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Needs of those with hearing loss
  • LIDAR
  • Autonomous vehicles

It’s impossible to cover these topics completely in a few sentences. In fact, some of them will take entire articles to address over time. In this article we will discuss the topics within the context of CES 2019 and expand from there over time.

Tech Impacts All Aspects of our Lives

CES was, for a long time, called the Consumer Electronics Show, which really painted a fairly accurate picture of what was prevalent. We could find televisions, sounds systems, and all sorts of gadgets for nerds.

How things have changed!

This year, for the first time, we got the feeling there is no part of everyday life that was not addressed by the innovation at CES. That will not thrill everyone, of course, but there are benefits in most of it for everyone.

CES had innovation for sleeping, eating, working, relaxing – – even going to the bathroom! There were focuses on tech for babies through the oldest adults for health, fitness, transportation, and, well, everything.

Even more importantly, though, there is tech for every aspect of the lives of our senior loved ones.

5G

5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology promising much faster communications speeds. It is not just for our phones, though.

Improving the speed and viability of connections with 5G in our devices and powering technology doesn’t just mean that the smartphone will work faster or we could download a movie faster, but older adults will be able to access their healthcare professionals, transfer health data, and get the help they need in a more efficient way.

5G will power communications for devices across our homes, including appliances, outlets, switches and so much more, keeping them from bogging down what are already overloaded wireless networks in many homes.

It will also connect digital devices across our communities giving such things as traffic systems, electric grids, first responder systems, and increase communications speed and reliability.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will definitely improve the in-home care received, home sensing systems, and usable medical devices our seniors and us as family caregivers will be able to use.

Check out information about the age of AI in our recent article, Why AI is Important to Seniors and Their Family Caregivers.

As an update to that article, we encountered two companies, CarePredict and Cherry Home, already incorporating AI into monitoring systems for seniors’ homes to personalize the monitoring.

Needs of Those with Hearing Loss

We were pleasantly surprised by the attention and number of solutions we found for those with hearing loss.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, though, as tech companies have realized the buying power of the older adult market and hearing loss is one of the problems faced by those who are aging – – but really those of all ages.

While traditional hearing aids were on display at CES, highlights for us were advances in cochlear implants and the adaptation of earbuds to be hearing enhancement devices. Now there is a full range of products for those with hearing loss, starting at price points that are much more attractive than in the past.

LIDAR

We heard about LIDAR (think radar using lasers) all over CES. This is the technology that is going to let our devices, from cars to home monitors and more, “see” what is needed to operate effectively.

We saw a number of LIDAR-generated images in different contexts – they looked like pictures out of The Matrix – and it is amazing how well defined the nature and dimensions of the digital pictures are without providing privacy-invading personal detail.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles continue to be improved and in the next 5-10 years (optimistic) experts agree we could all be involved in driving in the backseat. In the meantime, how would you feel about ‘autopilot’?

It seems that the auto industry will be able to take more baby steps in the direction of vehicle assisted driving as we are seeing in the technology in our cars right now like lane assistance and parallel parking, automatic braking, and more. The sensors and systems being installed in our cars now will only continue to advance to provide for greater safety.

Tech for Seniors and Caregivers Abundant

There are many products that we found roaming the 3 million square feet of show floor packed full with exhibits.

Here is just a sampling of some of the helpful things we found that we see as viable for our senior loved ones as they age in place and family caregivers who seek to facilitate the highest possible care we can provide.

  1. Home monitoring systems — including AI-enabled systems from CarePredict and Cherry Home that learn about seniors and incorporate what they learned into the monitoring processes
  2. Connected home — devices that not only engage the senior but talk among themselves too
  3. Digital health and eHealth improving devices
  4. Voice first communications — using Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and all the home products that are partnering with these assistants to bring a truly connected ecosystem to the home
  5. Home medical diagnostics — including connected home devices for blood pressure monitoring, home EKG, ultrasound, medication management, blood clotting prevention, Omron BP watch, hearing tests, and MORE
  6. Wearables — not just fitness and GPS trackers but now hearables; devices are also becoming truly “wearable” being incorporated into clothing
  7. Home security — this remains a big area, with the number of both vendor and DIY systems expanding as are their capabilities
  8. Caregiving robots — many people may envision the Jetson’s Rosie but the reality of caregiving robotics is more simple and ultimately in the future more accessible than that. No one, even the developers, anticipate it should or will replace human caregivers but instead augment a shortage of caregivers and relieve family caregivers of at least some burden.
  9. Telepresence devices — such as OhmniLabs product are built not only to give necessary services and connections to alleviate loneliness or isolation of aging in place seniors but to be affordable. The inventor said he scaled down design knowing that cost to caregivers is key to getting the product in use. We agree.

There are many other robotic applications currently providing companionship which is in itself welcome therapy. In the future we expect to see more hands on care given such as medication dispensing or simply fetching a glass of water. Eventually, in the years ahead, we may see physical caregiving and ADL assistance performed but that is not a goal in the foreseeable future.

Combating loneliness, providing supervision and another set of “eyes” that can ease the mind for working family caregivers while being a hub to coordinate reminders and treatments are true near term solutions that robotics can offer seniors and family caregivers. We already see them being used in items like Joy for All and MobileHelp.

Tech Future Looking Caregiver-Friendly

The greatest advance that we see is that family caregivers will have more access to tech devices that are are being manufactured to work together.

Going away are the days that each device stood alone with its own app. Now we will have hubs that make having a connected home a one stop destination. Not only will family caregivers be able to use them more efficiently and remotely, but seniors themselves will be able to comfortably use these devices.

Another great improvement for family caregivers to helping their seniors gain benefit from technology is the DIY aspect of technology devices. They will be easier to purchase from big box stores such as Best Buy and to install via Bluetooth.

We won’t need to run wires all over the home to connect security systems or safety sensors but instead use the air waves to connect. We may still need help from companies to totally convert homes but adding a few specific devices can be done ourselves.

Data and Security Big Considerations

Discussions around CES delved into access to broadband, use of data collected, and the security of the systems used for data collection and storage.

Having access to broadband in all homes, regardless of their physical location (urban vs. rural) will be key to success. Cost of broadband service will hopefully not price seniors out of the market and deny them benefit from technology.

Another big concern is security. Where does your senior’s health and personal data go once collected? Who has the ability to use their data and do we approve of this as a fair trade off for its benefits are questions, not only for family caregivers but consumers in general.

Unfortunately the jury may still be out on the regulatory aspects, which may stall manufacturers from working to secure their products. Until someone tells them they must, will they? Transparency concerns of the general public may drive manufacturers to more tightly control security of the data measured in all tech devices and that is our hope.

Innovation Focus

Whew, we had a tough time covering the entire exhibit floor at CES 2019 and can’t adequately cover all the innovation we found in one article – – or even in a series of articles.

Coming soon is a whole new site-within-a-site for Senior Care Corner®, to focus on innovation that improves the lives of seniors and their family caregivers. That includes technology, services, care, and each area in which we find innovation about which caregivers would benefit from knowing.

Stay tuned to learn more soon . . .

 

 

CES 2019 to Showcase Tech Impacts Throughout Everyday Life

It’s two days before CES® 2019 officially opens so things are quiet, right? Not so fast!

Media events started today, meaning lines, crowded rooms – – and the beginning of the information flow from the greatest show in tech.

More than that, really, as CES 2019 looks more than ever to give us insight into the world of our everyday lives of tomorrow.

If Walt Disney were designing EPCOT right now, he would be at CES learning about the innovations that will define our world of tomorrow.

We hear much about technology trends today, but saw one event that may be one of the biggest signs to come out of CES 2019.

Proctor and Gamble, maybe the name most associated with everyday life, is exhibiting at CES for the first time and held a press event today. That a traditional consumer products company, one we would not associate with technology, is here truly speaks to the connection between the innovation on display at CES and our lives.

Tech Trending in Our Everyday Lives

Sure, technology has always impacted our everyday live and CES has always been a showcase for tech such as TVs, computers, audio systems, appliances, and more.

Things are different this year, though, with the innovations on display and being discussed at CES addressing more areas of our lives than we have seen previously.

Here are but a few of the areas of impact we saw on display on the first day of CES activities.

Healthcare

Yes, technology innovations in healthcare have been part of CES for some time, but this year they are addressing more and broader areas of our lives, with more of the solutions intended for consumers rather than provider of care. These are just some of the topics addressed.

  • There is more than ever before about mental health, a needed focus area of late in healthcare overall.
  • Innovation addressing brain health, with recognition of the devastating impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Telehealth, changing the way care is providing and increasing access to care for many.
  • Advances in home health devices, making it possible for more seniors and others with chronic illness to live independently.

Even Smarter Homes

For years we have been seeing and hearing how many aspects of our interactions with our homes have been changing as they become connected to us digitally. That continues to advance.

This year, though, the smart home focus seems to be turning more to devices communicating directly with each other, reducing the need for human interaction to provide us benefits.

Sure, some will see these advances, with our homes becoming not just connected but intelligent, as unnecessary conveniences and even intrusive, but for many of our senior loved ones these advances will mean the ability to live independently even longer.

Digital Privacy and Security

Our increasingly connected world has resulted in the creation of more data on us in the last few years than has been generated in all the year that have come before.

Unfortunately the abundance of data has led to well-founded concerns about how that data is used and how secure it is in the hands of those collecting and keeping it.

This slide, part of the “CES 2019 Trends to Watch” presentation from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) shows the interaction of many of our new technologies and how we see them in the marketplace, with part of the impact on us being our security and privacy in the digital world.

Continuing Evolution of Technology

Once concept we found particularly interesting was the idea put forth by the CTA that we are entering a new age of technology, the data age.

Thinking about it, we do take being connected to each other and the world around us by technology for granted. We don’t, for example, think about our broadband internet connections until they are not performing as expected or even not keeping us connected at all.

With everything and (hopefully) everyone being connected, technology will be defined more and more by the data about us and our lives that is being created and how that data is being used to make our lives better.

Oh, yes, and how we are protecting that data from being misused to our detriment.

One Product to Remember

There were MANY things that caught our eyes as we moved from table to table in CES Unveiled today. Learning about each was like trying to work in a room full of squirrels, as there was always something in the corner of our eyes.

We encountered one innovative product that we think will be of interested to family caregivers with loved ones who have chronic heart failure. You may be surprised to hear it is a t-shirt! No, this is not just any t-shirt, but a true wearable.

Chronolife has developed a wearable solution that discretely tracks patient data while they go about their everyday lives. Through the user’s smartphone, data is sent to the healthcare provider, who is able to monitor patients in between office visits.

Tracking alone would be a meaningful solution, but Chronolife’s wearable goes further, with predictive capabilities that allow for action to be taken before the next event occurs.

This device will not be available directly to consumers, but will be prescribed by healthcare providers along with instructions for its use. By making family caregivers aware of it, we hope to provide information about a potential solution you and your senior loved one can discuss with their doctor.

More to Come from CES 2019

The half day of media activities at CES 2019 whet our appetites even more for what is to come.

We look forward to sharing more with you throughout the event and afterward.

For real-time updates on items we feel are noteworthy for family caregivers, follow our tweets on @SrCareCorner.

We are CES Ready!

 

Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!

There have been many technological innovations that help family caregivers as they care for older adults.

Do we always love — or even use — them when we get them? Nope!

When it comes to older adults, the population is quickly becoming larger than the number of those available to care for them. Many family caregivers can’t stop working, for financial reasons, to become full-time caregivers, have other immediate family needs raising their children, or live at a great distance away all, any of which may prevent them from being full-time caregivers.

What about the number of seniors who have no family members, never had children, or have outlived their family members? What can they do to get their aging needs met?

This is a prime reason that technology to fill the gaps of caregiving is here to stay and will only continue to increase in breath and scope of devices and innovations.

Non-traditional solutions need to be embraced by caregivers and older adults, as well as made useable and practical by tech companies.

Many seniors have been slow to adopt new technology and many caregivers have stalled getting technology in place because they feel overwhelmed and undereducated about what is best for their senior loved one. Both of those must be overcome for caregivers and seniors to get the benefits of technology.

Smart home technology, voice activated assistants, and remote medical monitoring are all at the forefront in technology becoming part of daily life for our seniors.

Are we giving due consideration to robotics and the promise of great things to help manage chronic disease, reduce loneliness and improve the well-being of people living with dementia?

Dementia Decline Impacted by Robot Interaction

A new project has been focused on the effects that robots can have on the decline associated with dementia’s progress.

Advanced Brain Monitoring Inc (ABM) has introduced a robot companion that will interact with a person with dementia to determine if it can mitigate cognitive decline. ABM has received a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH to carry out this study using socially assistive robot interventions. You can read more about it in this article.

Caregivers have been searching for strategies to meet the needs of their older loved ones and keep them mentally stimulated and engaged.

ABM used a socially assistive robot named Mabu from Catalia Health to interact with people with dementia in their own homes. The ABM team states, “We foresee the potential for the robot intervention to be used alone or in combination with other treatments for dementia.”

Mabu will ask questions, get answers, and give reminders as desired. It can be voice activated or directed using a touchscreen tablet. Daily conversations of only a few minutes at a time are individualized to the person and their needs. Although not mobile, the head and eyes move to interact with the person and follows their face to engage.

Change in Chronic Disease Needs Technology Solutions

Seniors today typically suffer from chronic diseases instead of an acute medical diagnosis that ends in their quick demise, as it did in the last century. The struggle then becomes managing chronic disease (and often more than one at a time) for optimal aging and independence that will allow aging in place.

Unfortunately, with the growth in the older population combined with the decline in number of people who can be caregivers to this population of elders, family caregivers will need to depend more on innovative technology to face health and aging challenges.

Success of technology to improve the life of our older adults will require engagement with this technology. That will mean, in a sense, having a relationship with our tech devices and staying engaged over time without abandoning it.

Clearly, if our seniors stop using a device, there is no benefit.

What if there was a technology that was engaging, effective, and acted as a companion that would become meaningful enough to achieve results of engagement that leads to true disease management and medication administration?

Technology such as this could keep a senior connected over a long period of time instead of being discarded. One that becomes almost a buddy.

Cost Versus Benefit of Technology Interventions

Many seniors who have begun needing additional care, but want to remain at home, need a helping hand.

Particularly for those older adults who live alone, a companion robot that interacts on a daily (even more than once a day) basis and is there to confirm they are following their treatment plan is very important to not only their medical status and quality of life, but also for the senior’s mental health to reduce loneliness.

Loneliness, which affects as many as one third of our seniors, has been shown to be a predictor of poor health.

The cost of most of this new technology rivals that of once a week in-home care. While the cost of care will likely rise over time due to supply and demand impacts, the cost of technology typically declines.

UBTECH Lynx (at Amazon)

Cost reductions in avoiding a medical crisis or hospitalization, home safety interventions, proper medication management, reduction in depression and loneliness, and the time given back to family caregivers far outweigh over the long-term other costs of facility or even routine home care.

Digital companions who interact with seniors and the healthcare team can help avoid health crises that lead to hospitalizations. It can also reduce the number of in-home visits needed when chronic diseases are monitored more closely and routinely using digital companions. Non-adherence to the treatment plan is a real barrier to health for many seniors.

Robots on the market and coming to market soon are not intended to take the place of in-home caregivers but to supplement the care they provide based on each senior’s situation.

It is important to note that many of these social robotic companions do not store health data. Any information relayed to a healthcare provider is encrypted, HIPPA compliant and secure.

Technology to Defeat Dementia

Robotics are being used with people with dementia in order to get their attention, engage them with companionship and stimulate them.

There are several of these robots either on the market in specific sectors or available to the consumer including MABU, ElliQ, CareCoach GeriJoy, Buddy, Paro the seal, and Hasbro’s Joy for All pets.

Robotic pets cost in the $100 range and are easily accessible. One of these would be a great gift for many seniors!

The sad truth is the level of frustration and anger family caregivers have when caring for elders in the advanced stages of dementia who ask repetitive questions and need constant redirection at tasks. It is human nature to react when someone asks 15 times in a row what time it is.

Robot companions, however, don’t react with judgment or frustration and are able to maintain a constant tone of voice. This interaction may help avoid conflict which could escalate behaviors in the person with dementia. A robotic companion can relieve a daily caregiver when seniors need constant conversation.

Robotics Doesn’t Replace but Enhance Caregiving

Many caregivers will balk at the thought of machines taking over the caregiving role and replacing the human touch.

This has never been the intention.

Everyone we have seen and heard in the field of robotic research and those implementing digital companions with seniors agree that a human caregiver is essential. Robots are to be used to enhance the experience of aging and augment the capabilities of busy caregivers not replace it.

You are the most important caregiver for your senior loved one, but you need help.

Socially assistive companion robots could help you improve the quality of life for your senior while helping you be able to continue to be a strong caregiver!

 

Improving Health Through Participation in Clinical Trials

How many people do you know who have participated in a clinical trial?

A clinical trial or research study involves human volunteers (also called participants) and is intended to add to medical knowledge. There are two main types of clinical studies: clinical trials and observational studies.

Family caregivers may not realize that clinical trials/studies not only help their own older adults learn more about their disease process but can help others when science is advanced toward improved treatments and even cures.

People who may qualify to enter clinical trials don’t have to be at the end of their life, grasping for a miracle.

Clinical trial research can help learn more about diseases affecting older loved ones, including dementia, Parkinson’s, pain, migraines, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease, to name only a few studies currently ongoing.

With so many opportunities available, what keeps many of us from joining the fight to help those suffering from chronic diseases or at risk in the future?

Barriers To Clinical Trial Participation

Speaking to caregivers and those who could benefit from research studies, it becomes clear there is not only misinformation about research studies but also fear of participating that keeps many from becoming a part of a study.

  • Awareness of what to expect, time involvement in both duration of the study and travel, potential risks and benefits, how your data is protected, and lack of learning about how you have impacted change are often cited as reasons that keep people from joining.
  • There may also be a lingering belief that trials are only for those with end-stage medical diagnosis, such as terminal cancer. This is no longer the case, as science yearns to discover the cause of disease, how to prevent illness, how to best treat specific diagnosis, how family members of someone with a chronic disease such as dementia may progress themselves, best courses of action to adjust pharmaceutical interventions, or test non-pharmacological means such as lifestyle changes, formulating vaccines for prevention, or cures to stop debilitating diseases in their tracks.
  • Technology and global scientific collaboration have done much to advance scientific knowledge of disease and treatment. But are they effectively communicating with potential participants?
  • Frustration with clinical trials for those who have once participated because they never heard from researchers again once their piece of the process was completed may keep others away from joining too. Perhaps someone you know never heard if the medication or treatment worked or will be used to treat others. Most people want to know the outcome, but researchers often don’t share the data or results with participants once the trial is closed.
  • Oftentimes, reading research trial information about eligibility requirements and actual involvement in the trial (what it hopes to accomplish and how it will be achieved) can be confusing and difficult for most people to understand, which keeps them from moving forward to join.

These factors can become obstacles that people, especially family caregivers, don’t have time or energy to try to overcome, especially because long-term benefit of doing so is hard to assess.

Fortunately, there are ways to learn more about clinical trials and their benefits that don’t require us to be scientists to understand.

Plain-Language Summaries Improve Understanding and Transparency

Medical jargon and scientific terms can be difficult to the point of being unreadable for many people, limiting their enrollment in research studies or even impacting their effective participation once enrolled.

There is a movement to make information sharing about clinical research trials accessible to every person and it is called plain-language summaries (PLS). These summaries are written so that the pages of scientific terminology in a research study are condensed into a short form that is easier to understand.

PLS provide the lay public with information about clinical research in language that is easy to understand and are required by law in the European Union (EU), although not currently in the United States.

In the EU, plain-language summaries must be provided for one year after the close of the trial. They are required to be provided in all languages of the countries in the union, as are the materials provided at the start of the study, with inclusion of an English version for all.

In the US, it is up to trial sponsors to provide plain-language summaries, and many are now making this information available to increase participation so that the study can yield meaningful results. But not all researchers do so, which means helpful (and hopeful) clinical trials are still not accessible by some due to the inability to be aware of and comfortable about the particular study.

Some truly beneficial studies may even be hard to find, as the use of jargon instead of everyday speech impedes their discovery.

Plain-Language Summaries Encourage Participation

Many people are disappointed when they are not fully informed or able to understand the results of the trial they helped or to be provided any information once the study closes. However, PLS can offer understandable results after the close of a study, which most participants appreciate.

According to a 2017 Perception and Insight Study by The Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP), ninety-one percent of study participants indicated that wanting to learn the results of the study is very important. Unfortunately, only about half of participants are told the results once they are done.

A PLS will contain information for potential participants or their family caregivers in digestible chunks, in an easy-to-understand format. Everyday language, instead of medical or scientific terminology, is used. There are also often images to help explain or illustrate information for better understanding.

If more trials had PLS, it is very likely that more caregivers and seniors would feel comfortable and in control of their decision about entering a trial, as well as sharing their experiences with others to encourage them to do the same.

Having information that reduces fear and increases awareness will hopefully increase the participation rate, yielding benefits that can be achieved when clinical trials get the amount and diversity of participants that are needed to successfully run a research study.

Questions to Answer Before Joining

If you or someone you know is interested in joining a clinical trial, here are some questions from CureClick (adapted from resources provided by ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the National Institutes of Health) you may find helpful to aid in your understanding of the program and the importance of your participation.

  • What is being studied?
  • Why do researchers believe the intervention being tested might be effective?
  • Why might it not be effective? Has it been tested before?
  • What are the possible interventions that I might receive during the trial?
  • How will it be determined which interventions I receive (for example, by random selection)?
  • Who will know which intervention I receive during the trial? Will I know? Will members of the
    research team know?
  • How do the possible risks, side effects, and benefits of this trial compare with those of my current treatment?
  • What will I have to do?
  • What tests and procedures are involved?
  • How often will I have to visit the hospital or clinic?
  • Will hospitalization be required?
  • How long will the study last?
  • Who will pay for my participation?
  • Will I be reimbursed for other expenses?
  • What type of long‐term follow‐up care is part of this trial?
  • If I benefit from the intervention, will I be allowed to continue receiving it after the trial ends?
  • Will results of the study be provided to me?
  • Who will oversee my medical care while I am in the trial?

There are many diseases that family caregivers and seniors would like to see an end to in their lifetimes.

Through participation in clinical trials that advance science to find effective prevention, treatments, and cures, we all benefit.