Cyber Attack Prevention for Personal Medical Devices and Data – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Protecting our senior’s digital footprint has been a growing concern for many family caregivers.

Lately a new menace has emerged which can be life-threatening for seniors (and caregivers) – cyber attacks of medical identity and the very medical devices that, in some instances, keep our seniors alive.

We recently discussed cyber security with a former U.S. Secret Service deputy director, who stated that identity threat should not be our primary concern anymore. He stated medical data breaches were more dangerous, cyber criminals stealing your health records. A social security number will sell on the dark web for 50 cents, but your medical record can be sold for $50, so is much more desirable by criminals.

The statistics are frightening. A medical data theft will occur at healthcare systems, though they are currently working hard to protect your data. In a recent survey, 91% of the healthcare organizations surveyed had one data breach during the past two years, 39% experienced two to five breaches, and 40% had more than five.

No Alerts for Stolen or Altered Health Data

Unlike an identity theft, no bank or credit card will alert you when your data has been stolen. Seniors will only uncover this particular theft when an emergency strikes and they need medical care, only to discover that their health data has been altered without their knowledge.

How will they know this? It could be only at the worst possible time, such as when your senior gets an emergency blood transfusion with the wrong blood type, is given a medication to which they are allergic, or are not resuscitated when they wanted everything done, because some criminal has stolen their health identity to get drugs illegally and changed your senior’s data to suit their needs.

Unfortunately, one of these or many other potential situations could be life threatening if the wrong treatment — or no treatment — is given based on bogus information in your senior’s medical record.

Blockchain technology put in place by healthcare systems may be the best way to counteract health data breaches but that is still in the future.

Another threat is hacking of their medical devices, especially those intended to keep them alive such as pacemakers or continuous delivery insulin pumps. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with manufacturers to prevent criminals from easily breaching medical devices, with the help of researchers who have already found loopholes which allowed hacking.

While no specific incident of medical device hacking injuring a person has been reported, one FDA official has said that any internet connected device is capable of being hacked and security measures must be implemented to protect consumers.

What can seniors and family caregivers do to protect them from becoming victims of this harmful type of cyber crime?

FDA’s Advice to Mitigate Cybersecurity Risk

The FDA has these warnings to consumers and tips to help us all lessen the risk of criminals hacking our medical devices.

  1. Don’t just turn on a connected medical device and use it without reading the instructions carefully. Make note of how the device looks in normal operation, such as indicator lights or readouts, and when it is not working as intended. Keep the instructions handy or bookmark them in your browser for quick reference.
  2. Be sure any medical device has been fully updated (firmware, operating system, or software) and continues to receive new updates, which can protect it from cyber attacks. Contact the physician who has prescribed or implanted devices for more information about needed updates.
  3. Be aware of firmware updates with security patches and watch for premature battery depletion, which could signal unusual activity levels and indicate malfunction/hacking.
  4. If your senior has any medical devices, don’t neglect routine care and follow-up healthcare appointments to check the effectiveness and safety of the devices to ensure proper functioning.
  5. Seek medical care immediately for any symptoms of dizziness, chest pain, or loss of consciousness.
  6. Do not ignore device alerts.
  7. If using specific types of insulin pumps, deactivate the remote bolus options which could allow hackers in close proximity to override the pump options and control insulin delivery. This was not a factory default, meaning it was added by the user. FDA warns to deactivate this option for added security.

Medical devices are life saving for many seniors but malicious activity could cause them to turn on the very people we want them to protect.

Family caregivers can protect their loved ones’ safety while using these devices. It takes a little diligence and regular updating, but shouldn’t be too difficult compared to the benefits.

 

 




 

Healthy Eating for Those with Diabetes — a Diabetes Month Discussion

Diabetes affects millions of Americans. In fact, 1 in 4 older adults has diabetes.

To commemorate National Diabetes Month, it is important to remember the impact of healthy eating on the management of diabetes for our senior loved ones.

Some of us may think that older adults can eat whatever they desire because they have earned the right with age to do so.

Unfortunately, what they eat influences their health. Managing blood sugar and diabetes involves a complete treatment plan including eating healthy.

Seniors will be putting their health and successful aging at risk when they don’t find ways to improve their diet.

Diabetic Diets Are Not Easy

Following a diabetic diet is not the easiest thing in the world, nor is it the most difficult. The alternative is constantly elevated blood sugar, potentially needing more medications and more frequent hospitalizations. When blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day everyday due to poor management, feeling bad all the time becomes the norm.

Who wants to feel bad every day?

Sometimes eating better to control blood sugar isn’t the only thing the doctor will prescribe. For some seniors, losing weight is also on the agenda.

Those two can go hand in hand!

When following a restricted diet for weight loss or just to control blood sugar, it is important to avoid shortchanging nutrition, which can lead to poorer health.

Slow, steady weight loss and a varied diet is the key to health.

Which Diet Is Best for Your Senior?

Everyone with a diagnosis of diabetes should be following some type of ‘diet.’ Does that mean they have to weigh and measure every bite eaten? No!

Being knowledgeable about what will work best for your senior loved one and how you as a caregiver can support them in their diabetes journey is desirable instead of being overly restrictive, which often leads to non-adherence.

Sometimes the most challenging part of eating well to control diabetes for many seniors is making changes to lifelong habits. Throwing out all their favorite foods and pushing unfamiliar foods on them won’t work.

There are several eating patterns (diets) that are built upon science and health outcomes and some that are just hype, with short term success but unsustainable for most seniors (and the rest of us).

Many popular diets are based on excluding large groups of foods, such as carbs or white foods. This may mean your senior loved one is also leaving out important nutrients for which their body hungers. This can be dangerous for them and not helpful for controlling their diabetes.

There are several more healthful approaches that will lead to positive benefits and success.

Top 5 Eating Plans for Diabetes

Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center has reviewed forty diet programs to determine if they meet the nutritional needs and contain appropriate science-based components within the framework of the particular program and if the diets are safe. You can find the entire article here which details what works and what doesn’t which eat of the top diets or eating plans.

The best diets for healthy eating from her review have been ranked with a score from 1 to 5 for nutritional content and safety based on their effectiveness to prevent or maintain diabetes.

The highest marks went to Mediterranean, DASH, Flexitarian, Mayo Clinic, and Weight Watchers meal programs.

“The ones that get high scores in safety and in nutritional value — they’re very similar to each other”.

All these diets are similar in the fact that they are largely plant based, with lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and occasional treats. They also all stress the importance of regular physical activity as a part of the plan.

  1. Mediterranean – an eating pattern based on lean protein, limited red meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seasonings instead of salt, fish, and seafood a few times a week, cheese/eggs/milk/poultry in moderation, and limit sweets. Filling up on fiber from whole grains and plants will help with weight control.
  2. DASH – (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) encourages eating fruits/vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy foods while discouraging foods high in saturated fat like red meat, full-fat dairy, tropical oils, and sugar sweetened foods and beverages. Small daily changes, such as adding a fruit or vegetable per meal, using seasonings instead of salt, and avoiding added sugars, is the basis of this eating plan so that it can be sustainable.
  3. A tie: Flexitarian – a flexible plan, vegetarian at its core. Like the other plans, it emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains packed with fiber, non-meat protein, dairy, and seasonings. You should eat more vegetables than meat. The total plan generally totals 1,500 calories a day with 300 calories at Breakfast, 400 at lunch and 500 at dinner. There are also two snacks during the day with 150 calories each. Mayo Clinic – this plan helps to replace poor eating habits with better ones and includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats while avoiding added sugar. You should eat lower calorie foods to feel full. No counting calories but food selections are important; also no eating in front of the TV, portion control, limited dining out, and making healthy habits part of your routine. Weight Watchers – this meal plan is structured with point counting. Each food has designated points that add up to a daily allotment. On the newest program, many foods are 0 points, including fruits and vegetables. There is support for your changes in the form of in-person or online health guides. It is up to the person to choose wisely.

The lower scoring diets were often too restrictive, lacking in essential nutrients or cooked in such a way that would make them unsafe.

All healthy diabetes treatment plans include physical activity. Don’t overlook activity as an important part of your senior’s daily routine.

If your senior loved one suffers from diabetes and has been told to lose some weight or do more to control their blood sugar through a healthy eating plan, seek sound medical advice from your doctor or registered dietitian to help plan a meal program that will continue to help manage blood sugar, control weight and provide all the essential nutrients needed everyday.

Don’t gamble with their health.

 

 




Medicaid Recipients Fall Short in Getting Needed Nutrition

Medicaid is the largest provider of health insurance for low-income people — children, adults and seniors, as well as those with disabilities.

It is a vital service for 1 in 5 Americans or 66 million people. Of these, 4.6 million are low-income seniors (also enrolled in Medicare, known as dually covered).

New research shows that these individuals have significant food insecurity challenges to overcome.

Because older adults can already be at a disadvantage due to limiting factors of chronic disease, fixed incomes, lack of transportation, or declining functional abilities, that those who qualify for assistance through Medicaid face additional challenges securing healthy food that impacts their well-being is unfortunate and upsetting.

Vulnerable Population of Seniors

Researchers from the Root Cause Coalition found that Medicaid beneficiaries struggle to purchase food in general and even more so when selecting healthier options.

They surveyed over 1,000 Medicaid recipients aging from 18-80 years and found:

28% of Medicaid beneficiaries purchase less food than they need due to financial problems.

32% purchase less healthy food due to lack of money

27% report they worry their food will run out before they get money to buy more

43% of Medicaid members say they often skip at least one meal a day. However, participants report that they want to improve their overall health and nutritional habits, as well as reduce their weight through diet.

38% of Medicaid members say their health is excellent, 28% have high blood pressure, and 34% say they feel stress when shopping for food.

67% say this stress is directly related to the price of food.

Insufficient Nutrition Education is Key

Education appears to be a key for improvement in this group, as it is for most of the general population. While recipients report discussing their health and eating habits with their doctor, only 32% say they can name a food or nutrient that will help their most pressing health concern.

Doctors can provide some guidance, but the researchers found that only 59% of recipients got this information. When they did receive nutritional advice from their healthcare provider, 79% report making changes to their eating habits.

Because nutrition-related health conditions are more prevalent in this population, much more education is needed. We recommend this health information comes from registered dietitians who are experts in counseling people to make health changes based on science and tailoring the information to the needs and culture of the person in their care.

Experts find that 1 in 2 seniors are at risk for or are already malnourished. Seniors who are food insecure have more emergency department visits, require more hospitalizations, and spend longer in the hospital when ill.

The unfortunate truth is that seniors with low incomes who qualify for Medicaid are making tough choices between purchasing food and basic necessities. They are more likely to experience health problems that require medical services with little income to pay for these services, including doctor visits and prescriptions.

Nutrition Education to Help Seniors

This isn’t meant to make caregivers afraid for the health of their senior loved ones but instead to recognize that their older adult may need more help and guidance to remain healthy.

Determining if a senior will meet eligibility requirements to become a beneficiary of Medicaid is a good first step. Each state is different when it comes to providing Medicaid. It is best to check with an elder law attorney or other expert to discuss their options and eligibility status.

If your senior loved one is financially unable to provide for their medical and living expenses, it might help them fill the gap.

After you take this step, it is important to help keep them healthy through improving their food choices. Almost anyone can make choices to allow them to eat better on a limited income or food budget.

If you need more information, we encourage you to seek out a registered dietitian to help them choose healthier foods to manage chronic disease and avoid functional decline from poor nutrition.

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

  1. Plan meals ahead and use a grocery list to reduce impulse purchases. Keep a list all week so you buy what you need.
  2. Shop with the sales. Help your senior plan a week’s menus based on the items for sale in their grocery store each week. Buying food when it is discounted will help them get more for their money. Look for frozen vegetables on sale and stock up to eat when fresh is too expensive.
  3. Buy fresh produce in season. Avoiding watermelon during the winter and oranges in the summer when these items are not at their most abundant and therefore affordable can avoid driving up up the cost of food. Pick fruit and vegetables in season, experimenting with varieties they may never have tried before like acorn squash in the winter or fresh spinach in the summer.
  4. Use coupons for the items regularly purchaseed and pick generic items that are usually cheaper per ounce than name brands. Carefully compare prices before using the coupon, sometimes the store brand is cheaper even when you have a coupon. Learn how to read the unit pricing on the shelf, sometimes bigger or even on sale isn’t the cheapest per ounce.
  5. Prepare your own foods. Buying foods already made, pre-cut and processed increases the price per portion of meals. Cut your own fruit, portion your own fresh snacks like apple wedges instead of grabbing salty snacks and cook your own meals.
  6. Substitute lower cost proteins instead of eliminating protein from the diet. Use eggs, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, dry beans, cottage cheese, and nuts in the place of expensive cuts of beef or pork.
  7. Don’t overbuy and eat what you have on hand before it expires. Food waste will harm your budget causing you to throw away money. Use a first in – first out strategy to store foods so that you use up food before it spoils.
  8. Include whole grains in meal planning because rice and pasta are budget friendly, as is oatmeal.
  9. Skip snack foods, soda, and candy which add cost and calories but few nutrients!

Healthy Advice for Seniors and Caregivers

It is important for successful aging in place for seniors to do the following to maintain their health:

  • Don’t skip meals
  • Choose healthy, nutrient rich foods
  • Exercise daily especially strength and balance activities to help prevent falls and maintain functional abilities
  • Eat balanced meals that include protein to maintain strong muscles
  • Drink enough water each day for proper hydration
  • Get regular dental visits for tooth care (poor dental quality negatively affects eating)

Family caregivers can help their older adults achieve optimal health when we pay attention to what is in the cupboard and on their plate!

Insights on Service Dogs for Seniors on The Senior Care Corner® Podcast

Dogs are beloved pets to millions of families throughout the US, each day earning their “best friend” title.

Growing numbers of those dogs are being given “jobs” in addition to their traditional role.

In many seniors’ homes, specially-trained dogs are being asked to perform a variety of tasks including such things as fetching needed items from the bedroom or kitchen, providing alerts, and helping ensure seniors are able to find their way home.

Those are, of course, in addition to being trusted companions.

These “service dogs” are being increasingly sought by family caregivers who want to address specific concerns with aging in place senior loved ones.

Senior Care Corner® has been receiving a lot of inquiries about service dogs from seniors and family caregivers so decided to reach out for some expert insights to share with you.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

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Expert Insights from the American Kennel Club

Based on our research, we knew the American Kennel Club (AKC) had the expertise needed to educate us on service dogs and arranged a conversation with Mary Burch, PhD., who is Director of the AKC’s Family Dog Division.

Mary Burch, PhD. with Wyn

In our conversation with Mary, which we recorded for this podcast, she answered the questions we have received from many of you about service dogs, including these.

  • What are the different types of service dogs?
  • What benefits service dogs provide to older adults, especially those living independently?
  • Can existing pets be trained as service dogs?
  • Are some breeds more suited to service?
  • How can seniors and family caregivers choose the right dog?
  • What questions should be answered when determining how (and if) to meet a senior’s needs with a service dog?
  • Are there certification standards for service dogs or trainers?

… and more.

Mary was very generous with her time and did a great job of answering everything we threw at her, for which we are appreciative!

Still, we realize we could only scratch the surface in a conversation like this. In addition, the answer to many questions are specific to the situation of each senior and family. Mary provided us the links below for additional research and guidance.

Mary’s Suggested Links for More Information

 

We hope you enjoy this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and find it as informative as we did.

This episode was designed based on your requests. Please let us know of other topics you would like us to cover or questions for which an expert answer would be helpful.

 

 




Holiday Online Shopping Safety — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Black Friday, the once biggest shopping day in our history which falls on the day after Thanksgiving has been outpaced by Cyber Monday.

Buying online on the Monday after Thanksgiving has become the largest shopping day and it all happens with the use of technology. For some it means shopping on the computer while others will use their smartphones. As a matter of fact, 80% of adults will buy something online with 30% occurring on our mobile devices!

No matter which way you (or your senior loved one) choose to shop for the best holiday deals you can find, security when you are surfing the net should be a number one priority.

What We Do and Buy Online

Many people not only compare products looking for the best prices and features, but also read reviews before buying and even look online standing in the store to see if there is a better deal elsewhere.

This means that we are engaging online for a fair amount of time visiting many different shopping sites and apps which could set us up for security breaches.

According to a Pew Research study, not only are we using technology to buy things, we are buying more technology online too!

We are buying gaming systems, tablets, phones, laptops, appliances, cameras, and the latest Internet of Things (IoT) devices for our increasingly smarter homes online through our technology.

Protecting Online Buying

The experts remind us as we approach the holiday buying season that everything we own or buy that is connected to the internet is at risk for cyber threats, scams, and identity theft.

Older adults who are new to technology or trying a new device should be encouraged by caregivers to learn about cyber hygiene to help protect themselves from people who want to steal something from them not just when they shop but all the time.

While it is important to learn about security, however, it’s important not to throw gasoline on the fire of any existing conceptions of online safety — or lack of it.

Hackers and criminals go on the prowl during the holidays so we should all be on our guard as we shop this season.

Here are some tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to keep you and your senior safer online this holiday and all year long:

  1. Before you shop, be sure your connected device is free of malware by running a scan and updating your apps.
  2. Before you buy, update your passwords and logins to be sure they have double authentication and the strongest passwords you can make.
  3. Learn about the website before you buy. Check out other people’s experiences with reviews to be sure you will not be disappointed or scammed with a purchase.
  4. Avoid links in your social media platforms as cyber criminals can steal your information and infect your devices when you click these links.
  5. Don’t give vendors more information than they need for the transaction. Don’t give more info than the fields they request including passwords, Social Security numbers and other secure information.
  6. Don’t use free WiFi hotspots to buy products as your passwords and information is not secure there. Logging in and using passwords can be exposed. Limit access to your own device whenever using these hotspots.
  7. Don’t fall for online deals that look too good be true — because they probably aren’t. Often you won’t get the product or it will not be what you thought you were getting when you buy from a ‘dealer’ instead of a reputable online retailer.
  8. Be alert to phishing emails that warn you a package you ordered can’t be delivered unless you pay or click on a link. Don’t fall for it!
  9. If you are registering a new account, set up new and unique passwords. 68% of seniors (and many of those who are younger) use the same password for all accounts!
  10. Don’t fall victim to a giving holiday-season heart when the scammers look for donations. Charity scams will prey on your senior’s emotions so check to see if it is legitimate before you give them your savings.
  11. Be wary of emails that say your credit card or bank account has a problem that requires you to divulge personal information, passwords, click a link or pay money. We have gotten them from a bank, credit card, ‘Google Team’, Facebook friends and delivery services which were all fake emails.
  12. When shopping in a store, disable your Bluetooth and WiFi settings on your devices so the stores can’t track your movement.

Here’s a fun quiz you can do with your senior to test your skills spotting online scams. It was created by Home Instead Senior Care in partnership with NCSA.

The old adages have truth for us today: Buyer beware and better safe than sorry!

We hope you use some of these tips to enjoy safe holiday shopping!

 

 




Cybersecurity for Your Senior’s Connected Life, Health, and Home

With the evolution and increase in growth of the use of many connected technologies, cybersecurity threats will follow.

Not might, not could, but will. We need to accept that as fact.

The threat is so real that October is set aside as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month by the Department of Homeland Security and this year we celebrate the 15th year of this initiative.

Their stated goal is to bring together government and industry to ensure that consumers have the resources they need to be secure online in the fight against cyber threats.

However, it is important for us to remember that we all have a share in the responsibility of cybersecurity, even if we are simply smartphone users.

Did you know that 10% of all iTunes downloads are for health and medical apps? That involves some of our most sensitive personal data.

We are all in some way dependent on a digital system rife with networks that open our seniors up to cyber risk.

In many cases, family caregivers are the ones who will protect their senior loved ones from risk when using all of their connected devices that bring them so many benefits.

By 2020, the market for connected devices will be 200 billion units.

Perform a Connected Device Survey

The first step toward device security is know which devices in your senior’s home need to be secured.

Most of us realize our computers, tablets, and smartphones are connected to the web and need to be protected, but our other connected devices may not be so obvious to us.

Which devices in your senior’s (or your own) home may be “connected”?

  • Computing devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones (yes, these are computing devices)
  • E-book readers
  • Smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home
  • Smart thermostats, such as Ecobee and Nest
  • Fitness trackers
  • Smart watches
  • Health devices that provide data via smartphone apps, such as heart rate and blood pressure monitors, pill organizers, bathroom scales, and more
  • Smart outlets, such as might be used to control lamps and other equipment via app
  • Bluetooth wireless headsets
  • Smart TVs and devices connected to TVs, such as Tivo, Apple TV, and Roku
  • Smart kitchen appliances and laundry equipment
  • Home security and monitoring systems and cameras

…and more, with the number of connected devices for the home growing all the time.

When thinking about the connected computing devices in a home, don’t forget the devices of guests who are allowed to connect to the home’s WiFi service (and even neighbors, if the WiFi is not secured).

How do you determine which devices in the home are connected to the web? Almost all are connected via the home’s WiFi network, cellular network, or via Bluetooth connection to one of the other connected devices, typically a smartphone.

WiFi Routers

Many devices are connected to the web via the WiFi router in the home. A list of these devices can be found on the router’s network map, which can be found by logging into the router via a browser on the device connected to it or the mobile app many new routers provide.

If you don’t know how to do this, it’s a good thing to learn, as the router is a primary hub for keeping all the connected devices in the home secure.

While looking at the router, check to see if there is a firmware update available and, if so, update it when you have a few minutes when connection to the web isn’t needed. Firmware functions like the operating system of your smartphone, playing a big role in the security of your network.

Bluetooth Devices

You can identify the devices connected by Bluetooth to smartphones, tablets, and even computers by checking the Bluetooth settings in the devices.

Those setting will show which devices have “registered” via Bluetooth with the computer device in the past and which, if any, are actively connected.

Once the connected devices in the home are identified, you can set out to ensure they’re secure, or at least as secure as practical.

What Should Caregivers Know About Medical Device Security

Medical devices, just as your senior’s computer or smartphone, are connected devices that are at risk for security breaches.

Did you know many medical devices have an expected lifespan of up to 30 years but the software itself may be obsolete in only 2 to 10 years — and maybe even less?

There are two potential areas of worry when it comes to cyber security with medical devices. One dangerous risk is the failure of the device to work as it was intended and the other danger is the loss of personal information that could be used for ID theft.

The FDA approves most medical devices in use today but only that their benefits outweigh their security risk. This doesn’t mean that there are no risks if a devices is approved. They do not test products for security risk but leave that voluntarily to the manufacturer. They are more concerned with the efficacious functioning of the device to do as it is intended such as pump your heart, register your blood sugar or administer IV medications.

Experts believe that only 51% of manufacturers are following the FDA guidelines for risk mitigation.

The problem with vulnerable connected health devices is that their breaches can result in potentially harmful failures of the safety and effectiveness of the very devices our seniors need to manage and treat chronic health conditions.

When the medical devices are connected to healthcare systems for monitoring, it is incumbent upon the healthcare system to put in place security measures to prevent cyber security issues from occurring on their network especially when securing your senior’s personal data.

Malware is considered one of the most serious threats to medical devices at this time. A device that has been infected with malware could malfunction, giving inaccurate data that could cause a harmful situation for your senior’s health.

Security experts say hacking of medical devices seems to be less of a concern currently.

The most vulnerable area in cyber security for a medical device is the user authentication, according to industry experts. This is where the hacker enters the picture.

Hackers are known for draining the battery of medical devices, which could lead to failure, especially in pacemakers and wearables. Experts encourage users to set up passwords on these devices and don’t keep the initial defaults established with the device’s use to block authentication troubles and hacking.

These devices also need their firmware updated regularly and potential security upgrades patched in when necessary. When you and your senior are prompted to do so, be sure to update the software.

Steps for Caregivers to Secure Seniors’ Tech

Caregivers, once they understand the risks that are inherent with connected devices, especially for health, can take steps to protect the security of their senior’s (and their own) devices.

Here are some things you both should be doing to stay safe and avoid becoming a victim of cyber criminals:

  1. Lock your devices, including phone and tablets, to keep prying eyes out and criminals away.
  2. Install malware protection apps or software to do all you can to keep your connected devices ‘clean’ and more secure.
  3. Conduct regular scans on your internet connected devices to check for viruses or spyware and keep your software up to date (don’t ignore the update alerts on your computer, tablet, or smartphone).
  4. If you use USB external devices, scan those for viruses and malware too.
  5. Use strong passwords that aren’t easy for others to guess. Remember, criminals look at your social media and know your pet’s name and your birthdate! Write them down in a safe place away from the device. Better yet, use a secure password vault-type app.
  6. Be sure you are using the latest biometrics and two-part authentication systems to further strengthen your security for all connected devices.
  7. Clean out any unused apps and ensure the ones you keep have been regularly updated, along with your smartphone operating system.
  8. Try not to use public WiFi at all, opting instead to use cellular data. Yes, it may be more expensive but can save you a great deal in security. If you must, use extreme caution if you link with free wireless hotspots where your connection can be easily compromised and your personal information taken or spyware implanted.
  9. Don’t open emailed documents or links or text message links from people, even those you know or think you know like a bank, IRS, or package delivery company (they often aren’t real!) unless you are expecting that specific person to send you the document or link
  10. Have you cleaned out digital files on your computer lately? Are there things on there you no longer need but could divulge personal information to someone untrustworthy if you lose the device or it is stolen? Time to declutter the desktop, laptop or smartphone.
  11. Before you toss out any digital device (USBs, external hard drives, flash memory, wearables and even printers), ensure you know that they have been “shredded” correctly to remove any traces of your personal information. This is important for all devices not just computers and phones.
  12. Empty your trash file regularly but also use a program that will permanently wipe your data off your device making it irretrievable.
  13. Keep all IoT smart home connected devices – such as thermostats, toys and home assistants – up to date with the latest firmware and any available security software.
  14. The internet is still in ink so be careful about the information that is posted on social media platforms which could compromise your cyber security in the future.
  15. Secure your home WiFi Router with a strong password to keep unwelcome visitors out.
  16. Disable Bluetooth and WiFi when out of the house since some places track your movements on your devices when you are within range.

The only way to be fully secure is not to connect your device to the web — or maybe even to avoid turning it on. From a practical standpoint, though, in this age of technology, it has become almost impossible to not be connected.

All the wonderful benefits your senior can get from using innovative technology for health, safety, and aging in place independence bring with them risks associated with being connected to the web. We can help our loved ones minimize those risks and use their devices safely and securely.

Many of our senior loved ones won’t use connected devices if they live in fear the devices are not safe.

That puts it in our hands as family caregivers to address that fear and, hopefully, put it to rest.

 

 




Smartphone Safety and Security – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

More and more seniors have been sporting smartphones (who said they wouldn’t adopt this beneficial technology? Not us!).

In 2016, there were 1.5 billion smartphones sold worldwide and 70% of Americans own smartphones!

This is great news for family caregivers who are introducing their senior loved ones to a variety of apps for safety, fun, and remote health monitoring.

But what about keeping them secure when using their smartphone?

Security Tips to Avoid Scams

Is setting up strong passwords and limiting their public presence in social media enough to keep them from becoming victims of technology abuse and scams?

No. There are no guarantees in this connected world, when so much of our information is under the control of others. We can, however, make it as difficult as possible for someone who intends to do our senior loved one or us harm in the digital world.

Here are some tips for family caregivers, items for which we could be on the lookout and inform/remind our senior loved ones about potential pitfalls that could put them in the path of criminals looking to steal their identity and their nest egg.

  1. Spam text messages – people report responding to spam on their cell phones more often than they would on a computer. Examples of spam text messages include: cheap medications, free gift cards, and winning items. Once your senior clicks on the link for these ‘too good to be true’ offers, they are infected with malware that will collect sensitive information in order to steal their identity.

TIP: Experts say don’t follow links, click on items or respond with NO or STOP as directed, which only gives the scammer access. Install anti-malware on their smartphone.

  1. Bank messages – receiving a text message or email from your bank or credit card company indicating your account has a problem and please click this link and then directs you to add your account information and login – don’t do it! Your bank will usually call you if there is a problem and if they send an email, will already have your account information so won’t ask for it again.

TIP: Don’t give anyone by text, email, or phone your bank or credit account information unless you initiate the communication using a phone number, web address, or other contact information you have independent of the text message or email.

  1. Voice message – if someone your senior doesn’t know calls their smartphone letting it ring only once or disconnecting upon them answering and leaves a voice message stating they won something, don’t respond. Many people are intrigued and will call back only to be charged fees for a premium connection to an international number and other charges.

TIP: Don’t respond to any phone calls or voice messages from people your senior doesn’t know. Program the phone with names of all potential callers, no known name, no answer.

  1. IRS calling – someone identifying themselves as an IRS investigator calls and claims an arrest will be made if they don’t pay thousands of dollars in fines. Instructions for loading gift cards with increments of $500 and then giving the caller the code numbers to activate these cards.

TIP: IRS will not call your senior demanding payment information. Do not give anyone gift card codes for payment.

  1. Local government – receiving a call from the local sheriff or other law enforcement saying your senior missed jury duty and now owes a penalty of $1,000 (or some other amount) and requesting immediate payment.

TIP: Law enforcement will never call for payment for fines, including jury duty. Contact law enforcement to report this scam.

Actions for Caregivers

Caregivers can take actions to help keep their seniors’ smartphones more secure with these actions.

  • Install protection with a strong PIN or use a fingerprint to open the smartphone in order to protect it in case it is lost or stolen. The latest technology, on several phones now, allows for facial recognition or retinal scanning, which gives more protection.
  • Activate Find My Phone – if your senior’s smartphone is lost, accidentally left somewhere or where other people could take it, being able to locate it using this app will help caregivers locate their older adult’s phone. Misplacing a smartphone is not uncommon.
  • When the smartphone might be misplaced inside the home, keep the ringer on so that if the phone’s location is forgotten, another could call the number in order to uncover its hiding place with less effort.

There are so many great benefits from increased communication, safety, health, and remote monitoring for older adults that come with the use of smartphones, not to mention how they will become the hub for smart home features in the future. This is why it will be important for family caregivers to create a safe environment for seniors to accept them and use them securely.

Small precautions will help gain huge paybacks for caregivers and seniors!

 

 




Tech for Senior Independence — Conversation with MobileHelp® on Senior Care Corner® Podcast

We have been advocates for technology solutions that support the ability of seniors to successfully age in place since we started Senior Care Corner®.

That includes technology that enables family caregivers to provide the level of care they want while still having time to meet their own needs.

We are not advocating technology for the sake of technology, but because we understand there are many things it can do for seniors in making their lives better, some now but even more in coming years.

Not everyone sees that and many tech companies are newcomers to that vision.

Tech Companies ‘Finding’ the Senior Market

When we saw the needs of seniors being overlooked when we would cover CES® each year, we told tech companies they were making a mistake in assuming older adults wouldn’t buy or use their innovations.

So many times we were told by “experts” and family members of seniors that “older adults won’t use smartphones” and more. Now we are hearing just the opposite, which is reflected in surveys — not to mention observation of older adults everywhere we go.

Now even the largest technology companies are recognizing the potential sales they would be missing by not targeting the senior market. Some are designing products for seniors, but many more are realizing that seniors can and will use the same products they developed with younger consumers in mind.

Many of the products and ideas we have seen and heard will provide real benefits to seniors, but others seem to be solutions in search of problems. Not every innovation is successful, of course.

Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)

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Some Tech Companies Never Needed to ‘Find’ the Senior Market

There are a number of technology companies that never had to find the senior market or realize older adults have real needs that tech can help them meet.

We have encountered and reported on several of these, smaller companies typically started out of a desire by their founders to solve a problem they observed while caring for, or just being with, older family members.

Theirs are not solutions in search of problems, but products developed as labors of love to solve a real problem.

One such company is MobileHelp®, a Florida-based company that says it is America’s leading provider of mobile personal emergency response technology.

Rather than tell you what they do, we will let you hear them explain in their own words. Five years ago we interviewed Chris Otto, who was MobileHelp’s VP of Product Development at the time and is now Senior VP of the Healthcare Division. You can hear that interview as part of an earlier podcast (also linked below). Chris provided us a great introduction to the company, their approach, and their innovative products.

Dennis Boyle, MobileHelp President & COO

Since then we have been following MobileHelp, watching as their products and services evolved, including hearing their presentations at CES. When we heard they have an innovative new product for seniors, we reached out to them to learn more.

We are pleased to be able to share with you our recent conversation with Dennis Boyle, MobileHelp’s President and Chief Operating Officer. He caught us up on what they have been doing and introduced us to the MobileHelp Smart, their mobile medical alert system in a smart watch.

We enjoyed speaking with Dennis and appreciate him taking time out of his schedule to educate us — and you — about the MobileHelp Smart.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

  • For more information about the MobileHelp Smart and their other devices, visit the MobileHelp website
  • To get more information about purchasing a MobileHelp device by phone, call 800-800-1710

 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast and found the conversation with Dennis to be as informative as we did.

 

 

 




 

What Seniors Consider to be Successful Aging In Place – The Latest Report

We all want to live the rest of our lives in the home of our dreams. In fact, 3 out of 4 adults want to age in place according to a recent AARP report, 2018 Home and Community Preferences. 

Unfortunately, many adults fear that this won’t be possible for them. Family caregivers worry about their senior loved ones ability to safely and financially age in place.

The AARP report found that “59% anticipate they will be able to stay in their community, either in their current home (46%) or a different home still within their community (13%). “

What are options for you and your senior loved one to remain in either their current home or community that would enable them to age in place as they wish?

Will your senior need accommodations to their current home, downsizing, or renovation? Will in-home care be possible in their current location or would they have availability of family caregivers to help? Can their needs be met in their current community (age-friendly, walkable, or accessible)?

The survey found options that are becoming more viable and desirable, some of which might surprise you.

Non-Traditional Options for Aging in Place

There are many strategies that can be put into place starting right now that will help enable your senior loved one to remain in place as they age.

The AARP report found that seniors are willing to explore these options, including some new ideas that are beginning to gain traction as viable solutions.

They found that adults were willing to try home sharing (32%), building an accessory dwelling unit (31%), and moving to villages that provide services that enable aging in place (56%).

We have heard about NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities); granny pods that can sit on the property of family caregivers to give independence and family support; assisted living facilities which allow for extra care and no home maintenance; and, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) that can give care transitions in one living location as traditional options for seniors who desire a more supportive community as they age.

However, home sharing is a new preference, one that is beginning to catch on, with agencies designed to help you and your senior either share their home or find a suitable home. The costs of living are shared, the space is shared at the same time companionship is gained.

There are older adults who wouldn’t consider home sharing (28%), as well as some who might consider it in the future if the need arose for help with transportation or other tasks (58%). Half would consider this option for the sole purpose of companionship.

We may see those numbers rise in the future, especially among those aging alone.

In the survey, many older adults expressed a desire to relocate and also downsize specifically because their home requires renovations or maintenance that they aren’t willing to do but would be necessary for aging in place.

What Do Seniors Desire to Age in Place?

The AARP survey also asked adults about the experience of aging in place. What do they need to feel successful and safe?

Some of the results are not surprising, as we have been hearing for some time the importance of some of these factors. The trick is finding what they desire as many cities are still struggling to be age-friendly.

Seniors want affordable housing as they age (60%) and transportation especially for those who are disabled, according to the survey results. Currently, 90% of seniors drive themselves, but they also want public transportation, walking areas, and the ability to be transported by others to get where they want to go. Having all options available as they age is important to consider.

Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option, but only 29% of older respondents report using them, although 94% were familiar with them. Only 68% felt they would use them within the year due to perceived lack of need or safety and privacy concerns. In addition, 88% have heard of driverless cars but are not willing to use autonomous vehicles. We anticipate this statistic will change as the vehicles attain broad familiarity and acceptance.

They also want access to jobs and job training for seniors and people with disabilities.

Half (50%) also say that they would want volunteer opportunities with transportation to those sites.

Being in proximity to a hospital, healthcare professionals, and safe parks were also high on the list of desires.

They would like walkable cities with easy to read traffic signs and well-maintained streets and sidewalks.

33% of adults feel that they have a need for companionship as they age (3 in 10) and feel left out or isolated. Most adults surveyed (94%) reported having someone they knew to call in a time of need day or night.

Family Caregivers Help to Make Dreams a Reality

The wants of our seniors who wish to age in place are really no different from those of younger adults. We all want to live in our homes as long as possible, want access to transportation to remain independent, want accessibility in all things, and to remain socially engaged.

How can this be possible for our seniors? There are things caregivers can do now to help facilitate aging in place.

  1. Begin now to achieve universal design in the home. Thinking ahead about what makes a home livable now and in the future so that you can make changes that will be useful at any age can be done now. Changing to lever handle faucets, installing adequate lighting, maintaining the dwelling so that it isn’t a safety risk, putting the bedroom on the main floor, and other design traits will make the home easier to age in place.
  2. Educate seniors about the benefits of ride sharing and autonomous vehicles so that they will be ready to use these services if the time comes when they could benefit from them. Also discuss the possibility of home sharing if they need support with their finances, companionship or help with daily tasks. There are numerous benefits to home sharing beyond financial to consider.
  3. Connect them with technologies that will allow them to remain safe at home, engage with others to reduce the feeling of social isolation, and give you (the family caregivers) peace of mind through privacy-maintaining monitoring of their health and well-being when you are not present.
  4. Advocate for livable, age-friendly communities. What does their locale need for them to remain in their community as they age and how can you be proactive in helping to achieve that?
  5. Encourage them to stay healthy through physical activity, healthy eating, adopting preventive health habits, and disease management so that they can maintain the highest quality of life to stay independent.
  6. Help them manage their finances and plan for aging in place so that they can afford housing, pay for upkeep of their home, seek appropriate medical care and medications as needed, eat a healthy diet, purchase technology, and pay for home health care as needed.

Successful aging in place takes planning on both your senior’s part and yours as a family caregiver.

Learning about what your senior expects as they age in place so you can help them meet those expectations may be your first step towards helping them achieve their dreams.