Essential Safety & Warning Devices for Seniors’ Homes

An overwhelming majority of seniors wish to age in place — live in the home of their choice — whether that be in their current home, a smaller living space, with relatives, or in a senior living facility.

The same is true for those of us who are not yet seniors. We often hear statistics that put the number at close to 100% of us who wish to age in place.

But are their homes ready to keep them safe, healthy, and comfortable?

There are many things that we can do to make that a reality, including keeping our bodies as healthy and functional as possible, preventing chronic diseases or managing those diseases that we have while keeping our minds active.

Once you are in the home of your dreams, there are things that can be done to help make the home safe and secure.

Because we know how important these products are to seniors in their homes, we included a selection of each in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Smoke Detectors

A smoke detector/alarm will sense smoke in the area and alert when danger is present either audible, visually or both 24 hours a day.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can be installed in your home, using batteries for power or being wired into your house’s electrical system. If they have batteries, they need to be checked for proper functioning regularly. Even those wired in will have a battery backup system that will need to be checked.

If it is powered by a 9 volt battery, it is recommended to check it every month, replacing the battery yearly and the entire unit every 8-10 years. The same schedule is true for wired alarms. Your senior may hear a characteristic chirp when the battery needs changing.

We are often reminded to change the battery in the smoke alarm. For many a good reminder is to do it each time we change our clocks for daylight saving time.

Smoke detectors/alarms are not expensive and can be installed relatively easily by many do-it-yourselfers. They should be placed in particular areas of your home, including every floor and the basement, near the bedrooms (in each bedroom if practical), and in the kitchen. Fire officials prefer smoke alarms be placed both inside and outside the sleeping area.

Smoke rises so be sure to install the alarms at the proper height according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Some fire departments will install home smoke alarms at no cost to your senior so contact your local department to see if they have such a program.

Fire officials warn that we should never disable a smoke alarm in the kitchen but instead ventilate the area to clear the smoke putting the alarm on ‘hush,’ not off.

If your senior is hard of hearing or would otherwise benefit from a strobe alarm in addition to the high pitched frequency of the usual smoke alarm, those are also available for home use. I

f a strobe would not awaken them if there is a fire at night, there are a growing number of systems that link into a bed shaker to ensure everyone is alerted to the danger.

Fire Extinguishers

Does your senior’s home have a portable fire extinguisher?

Do they know how to use it if needed?

Has it been checked to see if it is still functioning?

A fire extinguisher should be used when the fire is contained and can be controlled. Remember to always evacuate the home and contact the fire department BEFORE trying to put out the fire yourself.

It is recommended to have a portable fire extinguisher near the exit door to ensure that you can leave safely and get help.

Check out our Family Caregiver Video Tip about safety measures and proper techniques for using a fire extinguisher.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These are devices that can detect the presence of carbon monoxide gas in your senior’s home, if applicable (see below), to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. It is very important to install a detector because carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an odorless gas that goes undetected until the damage is done.

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas produced when carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, or wood are burned without enough oxygen. CO poisoning can happen slowly over time when small amounts of gas are present in the air or quickly when an event occurs that releases a great deal of the gas.

Winter months are especially dangerous when portable gas or oil heaters and generators are used without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm when gas is found so that the area can be properly ventilated and the source of the gas repaired. These units can be battery powered or hooked to a source of electricity. If they are powered by batteries, you will need to check the charge, as battery life varies greatly.

There are detectors that are installed directly into heating systems that will contact emergency personnel when CO reaches a level that is dangerous. CO detectors can be purchased in combination with a smoke alarm.

In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage without proper ventilation or insulation to the home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, loss of consciousness, pains in the chest or stomach, difficulty breathing, or vision problems. Long term exposure can result in brain damage.

Radon Testing

Why is radon testing important? “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon.

We think that’s a pretty strong call to action.

Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon and it may be in the air of your senior’s home. One in three homes tested contain higher than acceptable levels of radon, it is found in every state and is estimated to be in 8 million US homes.

Radon comes from a natural breakdown of uranium found in igneous rock and soil and in some cases well water. Radon released into the groundwater, soil and building materials of your senior’s home is in the air and your senior inhales the gas unknowingly exposing themselves to health risk.

Because it takes years to realize you are exposed, the only way to be aware of radon in your senior’s home is through testing. There are radon test kits and monitors you can purchase to check your senior’s home yourself or get a professional to test. If there are unsafe levels found in the home, these can be corrected.

Other Safety Precautions to Consider

There are a number of items to consider for the safety of your senior’s home, including these.

  • Security cameras – seniors can get a good view of who is around the house and you can monitor remotely to be sure that your senior is safe at home alone.
  • Safes and cash boxes – if your senior keeps valuables and cash in the home and you are afraid they may be targets, a safe will keep their valuables secure when other people are in and out of the home to provide services.
  • Motion sensing lights – there are lights that fit into existing sockets that will go on and off with motion. They can be helpful for the front or back porch or in hallways, closets or the basement or wherever your senior may have difficulty getting the light on in the middle of the night causing a fall.
  • Peepholes – easy to add to an existing door at just the right height so your senior can see who is knocking before they open the door to a stranger.
  • Security doors – specially designed door to withstand forced entry if the neighborhood they choose to live in is not as safe as it once was.
  • Medical alerts – signalers that can alert emergency personnel in the event of a fall or medical emergency can be lifesaving. Many personal emergency response systems can be remotely monitored by family members.
  • Programmable Thermostat – once set you can be sure that your senior’s home is maintained at a comfortable and healthy temperature all throughout the year. Many newer devices allow remote setting and monitoring using a smartphone.

Newer technology and advances in consumer electronics mean that we can help our senior loved ones stay healthy, safe, and comfortable at home a longer than ever before.

These are just some of the items you will want to consider and get installed if your senior’s home doesn’t have them or if the existing devices are malfunctioning or you want the additional functionality of the current devices.

All of these devices can be found in most hardware stores and many department stores, as well as online. You can also find a selection in The Shop at Senior Care Corner®, our convenient store tailored to the needs of family caregivers of older adults.

Expanding Senior Care Corner’s Information Offerings with Guest Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Expect in Guest Articles

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

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

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

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

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

Information for Potential Guest Article Writers

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

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

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

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

 

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

Survey Results — Family Caregivers Provide Technology Insights

The results of our technology survey are complete.

That 474 of you who took the time to let us know what you think is truly appreciated!

We are going to spend some time digging into your responses in order to figure out just what we can learn and apply to the future of technology reporting at Senior Care Corner®.

In future articles we will discuss some of the detailed insights from the survey responses and how we’ll apply them. In the meantime, we want to present a summary of responses to each of our questions.

But first a little background discussion . . .

What the Survey Is — and Isn’t

Senior Care Corner has put a focus on technology for seniors and their family caregivers from the beginning. Of course, several years ago there was not nearly as much to cover as there is today.

As we have been reporting for some time, especially after covering CES® 2019, there is a great deal of technology in place and in the pipeline that can and will benefit older adults and their caregivers.

With so much technology available today and more on the way, we know we can’t fully cover all of it in the depth family caregivers need. The survey is our attempt to learn where we should focus our coverage to best meet your needs. We will let you know the specifics of what we learned.

We realize this survey is not a statistically valid sampling of family caregivers or even of those who visit Senior Care Corner. It is, though, an indication of the opinions of those in our audience who were kind enough to take the time to tell us what you think. That is important to us.

We also understand and will take into account that those who responded to the survey — and those who visit Senior Care Corner overall — are already, at a minimum, using the technology needed to connect to the web and may be more attuned to technology than other older adults and family caregivers.

Now onto the results of the survey.

Question 1: Age of Survey Respondents

Responses to the first survey question are consistent with our understanding of the Senior Care Corner audience based on comments and communications we’ve received over time.

While we are pleased to receive the confirmation, we were hoping to get more feedback from those who are younger in order to understand their needs as well. After all, there are already many younger family caregivers, many of whom may not see themselves as such, and a lot more who will at some point find themselves in that role, supporting parents, grandparents, and other loved ones.

 

Question 2: Caregiving Role of Respondents

This question is part of our effort to better understand the caregiving role, and thus the needs, of our audience. As expected, a large majority of respondents are caregivers to older adults.

Not lost on us are the responses of those who have older family members but don’t consider themselves caregivers. As we know and frequently discuss, those respondents might still be family caregivers without realizing they fill that role for a loved one. They may also have a role in the selection and implementation of technology solutions for senior loved ones.

We also appreciate that we have readers who are receiving care themselves and keep their needs in mind.

 

Question 3: Respondents Level of Tech Use

We weren’t sure what to expect in response to this question and were a little surprised that half of respondents said they are avid users of technology devices. Maybe we should not have been, since tech users may have been more likely to respond, though a significant share are already seniors.

This is consistent with research we have seen from others and our own anecdotal evidence indicating technology use by older adults is growing.

 

Question 4: Respondents Role with Technology

As the chart below reflects, respondents to the survey reflect a broad range of experience and roles with technology in their homes.

We find it interesting that half of the respondents to the survey have very significant roles with technology while a significant number are tech users but rely on others to set up and maintain it. We will continue to strive to meet the needs of both with our reporting.

 

Question 5: Areas of Concern with Technology

We find it interesting that, while respondents report a broad range of concerns with digital technology in their homes, one in four reported having no concerns.

Not surprisingly, the most commonly reported concern was data privacy, which has gotten a lot of discussion over the last year, with significant coverage of what companies such as Facebook and Google do with what they learn about us from our internet activities.

We hope tech companies take note that one in three respondents share concern about the cost of technology.

 

Question 6: Respondents Technology Interest Areas

We were pleased to learn respondents have interest in a broad range of technologies, though that will continue to challenge us in our coverage.

It is not surprising to see the greatest interest in the areas of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and home health devices, as we expect those to be areas providing the greatest benefit to independent-living seniors.

While there is clearly less interest right now in caregiving robots and digital companions, we will likely continue to follow those technology areas, which are still relatively immature and their benefits not yet well developed or publicized. We believe these technologies will take some of the load off family caregivers while improving life for seniors.

 

Question 7: Respondents Learning Preferences

This question was very important to us in planning our future delivery of information on Senior Care Corner.

It does not surprise us that almost two-thirds of our readers prefer their information via written articles and will continue to provide those.

Because half of respondents stated a preference for video delivery of information, we will be moving more in that direction in the future.

We have been evaluating the future of our podcast, so the interest expressed in podcasts by just one in five respondents is valuable to us in that evaluation.

 

Other Feedback We Received

It means a lot to us that 474 of you took the time to respond to our survey. That number is as meaningful to us as any of the survey responses themselves.

Still, not all of the valuable feedback we received was in the form of survey responses.

We received a number of comments, both directly and through social media, indicating there are some who do not see technology as being related to caring for seniors.

While we clearly disagree, we appreciate those comments, as they let us know there is still a need for basic communication of the roles technology can play in the lives of both seniors and their family caregivers.

It is comments such as those that help keep us grounded. We are, after all, not advocates of technology per se, but advocates for the family caregivers of senior loved ones. To the extent technology can help family caregivers make the lives of loved ones safer, healthier, and/or happier, we want to report on that technology.

It is for that reporting we conducted our technology survey and will learn from what you told us to improve our reporting for YOU, the family caregivers.

Aging in Place Technology Roundup 2019 — Background for Family Caregivers

We believe technology advances are the most important innovations for our future lives and continue to provide information on tech so family caregivers are in the best position to help senior loved ones utilize that tech for healthier, safer, and happier lives.

We have been telling you a lot about what we saw and heard at CES® 2019 on current innovations and those in the pipeline. Today, though, we want to step back and provide some background.

We also want to ask you to help us help you with our technology coverage and hope you’ll take our two-minute survey to help shape our directions with regard to tech and innovation overall.

For family caregivers and older adults, the goal now for technology is to improve the aging experience. It isn’t enough to make a call on a cell phone or play cards on the computer.

How will technology improve quality of life, independence and safety for our senior loved ones?

That is the measuring stick family caregivers are now using when considering adding technology to their senior’s life.

We have come a long way with what is possible and available that can fill gaps and help caregivers meet the needs of their loved ones but there is still more coming that many will find priceless.

Here are some of the latest trends we found that might help family caregivers and older adults learn more about what is possible for them to live their best lives.

Trends and Updates in Technology Useful for Seniors

Innovations in technology are coming at a fast and furious pace. That means family caregivers can find it difficult to keep on top of what devices and gadgets can help them.

It is up to you and your family to decide what problem needs a solution, how to pay for it (some LTC policies may help with the cost) and how best to put it into daily practice. But all that will be worth it with some of these tech solutions.

Here are some you may or may not have heard about yet.

Robotics

Caregivers know companionship and fighting loneliness can be a constant battle. You can’t be there 24/7 to interact or entertain seniors. Robotics may help provide company at the same time they fill a need such as safety or connectivity to you and the rest of their friends and family.

One such companion robot that is coming is called MiRo. It is a social robot, hybrid animal shaped companion robot which operates as a reactive pet. It has 3D eyesight, is both light and touch sensitive, has echo location, stereo hearing packaged in a distinct personality. It will interact easily with your senior. The MiRo Project is from Consequential Robotics.

We thought this short video would provide some valuable insight.

Other companion robots are also available, such as Hector who works with smart home technology to facilitate aging in place independence for seniors.

There are telepresence devices that act as iPhones or tablets on a moving figure such as Buddy, Lynx, PAL, Ohmni Labs or Beam to name just a few of the robots that are out there right now.

Game Playing

How many times have you seen an older adult sitting with their tablet in their lap playing a game? Maybe solitaire, crosswords, puzzles, or Tetris? Perhaps some of the newer games that their grandchildren have downloaded for them like World of Warcraft are their new favorites. How about words with friends playing against and with family members and friends to see who can get the word faster?

We often hear people say playing games is a real time waster and drain on productive time which is often true.

However, research from Simon Fraser University in the Connect Play project shows that digital games bring health benefits to our senior loved ones. Sounds like it is time to play! Study participants played online Scrabble, mahjong, chess, and solitaire.

Apparently needing to play with strategy can improve cognition. Games like Angry Bird can improve their functional status and reaction time in addition to cognition.

Social engagement and cognitive stimulation are improved with gaming. Researchers point out that it is important to not only slow down mental decline with age but also improve social connectedness.

They found that playing games using technology can fight loneliness, isolation and depression that often accompany aging in place older adults even while playing alone since only 30% report playing with others.

Researcher Andrew Sixsmith, who is Professor of Gerontology and Scientific Director of Age-Well, states that devices and games need to be easier to use and more accessible to people.

Laundry List of Current and Future Tech Solutions

  1. Transportation needs met with ride sharing even when seniors don’t or won’t use an app. GoGoGrandparent.com is a service to call a ride using any phone – no smartphone or app needed.
  2. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) has been around for many years but now it are more user friendly and the devices are attractive. Many are invisible to others, as they look like jewelry which reduces their stigma so that seniors will actually use them. Broadband connectivity has also allowed these devices to be used out in the community not just at home which is a great benefit!
  3. Internet of Things, where an ever-increasing variety of devices are connected and work together to make function in a way to make a home’s residents healthier, safer, and more comfortable, as well as communicate with caregivers remotely. Now the devices talk to each other better too!
  4. Apple Watch, which can track health (even taking an EKG), monitor falls, send emails, and make calls!
  5. Voice controlled devices — a growing multitude of devices can be controlled by voice with Alexa or Google — can help seniors get information, music, control home devices, and get emergency help without needing to push buttons.
  6. Medication reminders and pill dispensers help ensure medicine is taken in the proper amounts at the doctor-directed times.
  7. AbleData is a site maintained for the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to help learn more about specific products; “database for unbiased, comprehensive information on products, solutions and resources to improve productivity and ease life’s tasks.”
  8. Pathway lighting with remote or motion activated light sensors adds safety around the home.
  9. Dragon voice activated device control program to help type or fill out forms or do email online. Can use with iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for text messages, emails or note files. There is also a version to help control the home PC.
  10. Siri or other voice activated assistants on smartphones or tablets can help with starting apps and getting things done without needing hands-on control.
  11. Technology enhanced rehabilitation programs to improve hand=eye coordination.
  12. Vital sign monitoring devices, such as smart scales, glucose sensors, blood pressure monitor, etc., that link to healthcare professionals and caregivers.
  13. iPad loaded to give medication reminders by audio or face to face check ins with providers.
  14. Home sensors that pattern behavior and monitor connected devices, like medication boxes reporting abnormal activity to caregiver remotely.
  15. Smart clothing that monitors health and sends alerts to caregivers if any changes occur.
  16. Virtual pets, such as GeriJoy and Joy For All pets, in a tablet or robotic form that provide companionship and socialization.
  17. Autonomous vehicles, which will one day help seniors and others get where they need to go without having to drive or rely on others.

Creating Senior Technology They Need and Want

Seniors are the fastest growing group of new computer users right now, as it did take them a bit longer to adopt technology compared to younger adults. But boy are they catching up fast!

One survey found that 71% of caregivers are interested in technology to support their caregiving tasks but only 7% are currently using available technology.

Most caregivers responded that they don’t know what is best for them because there are many options. Increasing knowledge and awareness of the products on the market and how it can improve caregiving.

They might use individual solutions but really want a platform to encompass more devices. They also want peace of mind, they want to be able to check in to see if seniors are safe and don’t yet trust that the current devices are worth the expense.

But have we asked the senior what they want in order to make the effort to use technology?

The Aging 2.0 tech conference entitled “Seniors Shaping Technology: Your Opinion Matters” was a giant leap forward for those in the field of aging who promote connectivity and the latest tech innovations for older adults.

The time has finally come when seniors can have a voice in influencing tech devices and what will actually come to market to fill a need for older adults. In an expo format, each product was reviewed by the seniors for usability, desirability or not interested.

Do they have enough knowledge to even know if they would benefit before they reviewed each item? That is a question that will be answered in the future as more seniors adopt technology and give feedback on their experiences.

There is no question that technology is here to stay and it can help family caregivers improve the quality of life of their senior loved ones. Now is the time to learn more about what is available and how it can help your family.

We will continue to bring you more information and keep on top of the trends in technology helpful for seniors and family caregivers.

Before you go, we really hope you’ll take a couple minutes to complete our survey and help tailor our future technology coverage here at Senior Care Corner®. Thank you for helping us help you!

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

Recipe for a Happy Family Caregiver Holiday

As family caregivers, our love and devotion to our senior loved ones shows through in our actions every day.

As we complete each of our caregiving activities day in and day out, we show our commitment to improving our loved ones’ quality of life.

Yes, our caring shows.

We may be driving to the doctor, doing the laundry, cooking a meal, or giving a bath to our senior — maybe just doing it all from soup to nuts!

We may be the glue that helps hold our loved ones’ lives together.

It is during the holidays that we can take a step back and bask in the glow of the knowledge that what we do is making a difference!

We are special!

During the holidays we get the opportunity to reconnect with other family members, share the load a little and hopefully take a much needed break.

Special Recipe for Your Holiday Together

seniors grandchildren holiday

As we head into the thick of this year’s holiday season, we would like to share with you a little reminder of the importance of our families and making memories every step of the way, while remembering the bygone times.

We can use the season to bring some joy into our senior loved ones’ lives through memories and reminiscing activities.

As we get caught up in planning everything we need to do — all the shopping, cooking, visiting, caregiving and the rest that is on the agenda — we found one more recipe for you.

This is not something to cook but a reminder to cook up the holiday that we want and for which we often wish.

Recipe for a Happy Holiday

(author unknown)

4 cups of good memories
2 Tablespoons of JOY
1 cup of relaxation
3 Teaspoons of anticipation
A dash of faith
2 ½ cups of “jolly” beans
A splash of eggnog
1 Barrel of good cheer
An assortment of good friends & loving family

Preparation:
  1. seniors family christmasTake good memories and joy, mix thoroughly
  2. Add relaxation
  3. Blend anticipation and faith
  4. Fold in “jolly” beans and eggnog
  5. Sprinkle abundantly with good cheer
  6. Garnish with friends and family
  7. Bake with love

Serving size: Makes enough to last the whole year!

Senior Care Corner® wishes you all the best memories, love and serenity this holiday season!

When Assisted Living is Right for Your Senior – Choosing the Right Assisted Living Facility

Independent living in their own home is the preference stated by most seniors.

Is your senior loved one ready for more care than they can receive in their home? Despite our attempts to keep them at home as long as possible, at some point family caregivers may need to help find a new housing arrangement to meet the needs of their senior loved ones.

Assisted living is a solution that gives care in an apartment setting. The Assisted Living Federation of America defines an assisted living facility (ALF) as “a housing and health-care option that combines independence and personal care in a residential setting.”

Seniors remain independent but receive more support such as meals, medication administration, bathing, dressing, transportation, activities, and socialization.

There are approximately three quarters of a million older adults living in assisted living facilities, 40% of whom received three or more activities of daily of living assistance from the facility.

It is the fastest growing option for long-term care for independent seniors who still need some assistance or supervision.

Is assisted living on the list of options your senior would consider for their future?

Should it be?

Would an assisted living facility be the right next home for your senior?

If this becomes an option for your senior, what should you look for in a facility, what will meet your senior’s needs, how can they afford an ALF, and how can your senior and family select the best facility?

Assisted Living Facility Features

An assisted living facility provides care for seniors who need more help with dressing, grooming, taking medications, preparing meals, doing housework, and other activities but does not usually offer skilled nursing services or medical care that a long term care facility (nursing home) would provide.

When activities of daily living become more than a person can safely complete in their home, the next step is often a move to assisted living.

Here are some of the features you can expect to find in an assisted living facility:

  • Provide a long term living situation to meet the individual needs of each senior
  • Depending on what is needed, these facilities can provide assistance with activities of daily living such as medication dispensing, bathing, grooming, household chores; congregate meals; activities to relieve boredom; socialization with peers; spiritual events; transportation; physical activities and social engagement; housekeeping and laundry
  • Most provide health monitoring
  • Involve families in the care and progress of their senior loved ones
  • Improve the independence of seniors as they transition from the home setting with increased assistance to improve their function
  • Provide transportation to nearby shopping, health professionals and community entertainment
  • Some provide memory care services for those requiring more safe spaces, one-on-one care and assistance
  • Provide home-like setting with comfort and style maintaining privacy combined with a variety of amenities
  • 24 hour assistance provided, which may include security around the clock
  • Cost will vary depending on the services your senior requires; the more they need-the more it will cost

Assisted Living Facility Selection Considerations

There are many factors to consider when looking for the right assisted facility for your senior’s new home.

  1. Is it located close to family and friends so that they can visit regularly?
  2. What are the available desired amenities and features, such as beauty shop, meals that meet your senior’s needs, caring staff, comfortable apartments, pleasing atmosphere, welcoming staff, cleanliness, free of odors, well maintained grounds and common areas, and how emergencies are handled.
  3. Does the facility desire to maintain dignity and respect as well as the highest level of quality of life for your senior? Is your senior involved with the plan of care?
  4. Will your senior’s privacy be maintained?
  5. Do they offer choices to your senior, including meals, activities, and desired amenities to maintain their independence? Read the activity calendar and see if the social events are of interest. Are there appropriate spiritual events for your loved one or you?
  6. Is the facility and its location safe?
  7. Do you understand and agree with the fees charged and facility policies? Ask what is included in the basic rate and what services will be extra (and how much).
  8. Are you fully aware of what might constitute unplanned discharge from the facility? What functional or behavioral changes will result in a discharge?
  9. Can seniors bring their own furniture and mementos?
  10. Are pets allowed? If so, what are the limitations? What costs are associated with pets?
  11. Does the dining program adjust for medical needs? Are between-meal snacks offered? Can they eat when hungry or are there set meal times or choices of meal offerings?
  12. What do you foresee your senior’s needs will be in the future and can this facility meet those needs?
  13. Can your senior stay there if he/she becomes cognitively impaired? (Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
  14. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been made, as well as simply searching the web using the facility’s name.

You can’t assume each facility offers the services your senior needs or will need in the future.

Planning for the Cost of Assisted Living

The cost of assisted living is usually paid by the elder or their family caregivers, but some long term care insurance policies will pay a portion of the cost. Sometimes financial assistance is available from the facility or, if your senior qualifies, Medicaid can help, though the facilities that accept Medicaid are limited.

You can expect to pay less for an assisted living facility than a nursing home, but it is still likely to be expensive.

You typically get what you pay for, so a cheaper fee may mean fewer services or even care below your standards.

In 2018, Genworth Financial completed a survey of the cost of assisted living and found that the fees have spiked up 6.7%. The cost has risen largely due to a national staffing shortage (which is likely only to become worse).

The average cost is now $4,000/month for a one-bedroom unit which is $48,000 per year. The costs vary slightly across the country, with a daily rate averaging $132.

Federal and state government programs generally do not cover the cost of assisted living. Therefore, sound financial planning is key. At the current time, only half of adults have a financial plan in place.

Caregivers may end up paying out of their own pockets (often out of their own retirement savings) to pay for the care of older adults who did not plan for the cost of long term support services (LTSS).

When seniors wait longer to enter an assisted living facility, they often have greater needs, which translate into a higher cost for that care. Therefore, be aware of the additional costs for care your senior may have when comparing different facilities.

Seniors who have dementia may be living longer with care needs. This should also be considered when financial planning is done as well as deciding on placement options.

Seniors Like the Change – Really!

We speak with many seniors who are very happy and enjoying themselves in assisted living facilities.

They are relieved of the burden of maintaining their home, cooking their own meals, or feeling lonely.

There are fun activities and new people to spend time with every day.

Although it is true that many of our seniors wish to age in place, there are also many who are struggling living alone and need more assistance to stay safely independent.

Whether you call it an assisted living facility, continuing care retirement facility, retirement home, residential care facility, congregate living facility, personal care home, or community residence, you may find that your senior will be happy to have made a change.

Careful investigation of facilities near you, visiting each center and speaking with staff and residents, and including your senior in the decision will make it a smoother transition for the entire family.

Assisted living facilities can offer you and your loved ones a safe, caring, friendly environment full of fun activities.

These facilities can bridge the gap between independent and dependent living situations when staying in the home is no longer the best option.

We wish you and your senior well as you plan home transitions!

 

 




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.

 

 




Free Rides for Seniors Can Lead to Improved Quality of Life

We all know the importance of getting where you want to go when you want (and need) to go to our sense of independence and freedom.

Imagine if you are an older adult trying to get to the doctor or pharmacy to get essential prescription medications but you can’t get there.

For our senior loved ones, it isn’t that same as a joy ride in the country to view the fall leaves or going to the ice cream shop for an ice-cold treat. It’s your life and health.

Accessible transportation – or the lack thereof – is important to seniors’ ability to successfully age in place.

Depending on others for a ride when they need it, including family caregivers or senior transportation that can be undependable, isn’t a perfect solution for many seniors. In some instances, paying for transportation to get basic needs met is out of reach for many older adults.

What is the solution?

For many seniors, ridesharing companies that have spread like wildfire across the nation can help them do what needs to be done and more.

Impact of Ridesharing

It is estimated that in 2015, 54% of seniors had difficulty accessing transportation, even in cities such as New York with wide ranging public transportation systems. In fact, 40% of rural people (37 million) living in 1,200 counties across the nation have no public transportation.

It is amazing to learn that as many as 20% of seniors (nearly 7 million people) over 65 don’t drive at all.

One solution to this problem is exploring how ridesharing can fill the void providing seniors with dependable transportation.

A study by AARP found that 20% of seniors over 75 use ridesharing and 40% of those over 85 do as well.

In collaboration with United Healthcare, the AARP Foundation gave a $1 million grant to Keck Medicine of USC to test the impact of providing free Lyft rides on the health of elderly USC patients within the greater Los Angeles area.

Researchers showed how unlimited free Lyft rides (ridesharing) can improve seniors’ quality of life by 90%. The research was part of a pilot program between Lyft and the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing, which studied and connected senior citizens with this form of transportation.

Seniors in the study were tracked using a wearable device to determine their behavior. They used a smartphone app or were able to call for a ride. All the seniors had transportation barriers and lived alone.

Benefits to Seniors Demonstrated

Given unlimited free access for three months, the older adults averaged taking a ride daily. They showed an increase of 35% in out of the home activity over the time studied. Not only did they go to medical appointments but began socializing, visiting friends and engaging in the community. 74% reported an increase in social visits.

An added bonus, 97% of the respondents reported getting more comfortable with the technology, actually ‘embracing’ it, and were using smartphones with apps at the end of the study.

The cost of the rides averaged about $400 per month, which is more than many seniors could afford, according to researchers. Lyft promises more partnerships to meet the needs of elders and to determine how best to meet these needs economically.

It’s true that millions of older adults miss their scheduled doctor appointments due to lack of transportation according to these researchers. But, more importantly, the lack of independence and mobility to move around their communities for any reason inhibits a senior’s quality of life.

Socialization is a key determinant of successful aging in place. Staying home and not interacting with others because of inaccessible transportation can negatively impact seniors’ lives.

Obstacles and Solutions for Seniors to Hail a Rideshare

Many seniors struggle to connect with ridesharing companies because they are unable, untrained, or unwilling to use an app to call for a ride.

Some seniors, especially rural ones, may not have broadband service or a smartphone yet.

Others may not be comfortable using an app or remember how to do it. Some seniors still shy away from this technology in case they should ‘break’ it. Others are fearful of security breaches with an app like this.

It is up to family caregivers to help facilitate this process and help senior loved ones get connected with ridesharing.

Older adults don’t have to use a smartphone to call a ride. Both the major ridesharing companies can be called using a computer instead of a smartphone app. Family caregivers can set up a computer to be used to get a ride, show the senior how to do it, and establish an account for them.

Lyft Concierge has made it possible to get a ride using the telephone, with no need for a smartphone or a computer. They have partnered with  community-based companies to provide rides. For many seniors, picking up the phone and making a call to get a ride may give them more confidence than using an app or the computer. These rides can be on demand or scheduled for appointments.

Caregivers near or far can also call to set up rides for their senior loved ones using this program. Payment is made via credit card so no money is required.

Ridesharing Changes Lives

Ridesharing companies are working together with senior living communities to make ridesharing more accessible for seniors. If your older adult is in a facility, you may want to discuss connecting your senior with this service.

Helping seniors remain as independent as possible and engaged in the community by focusing efforts on obtaining adequate transportation services unquestionably will improve the quality of their aging in place experience.

This will ultimately benefit family caregivers too!