CES 2019 Recap – Innovation for Everyday Life and Beyond

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

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

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

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

Key Observations from CES 2019

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

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

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

Tech Impacts All Aspects of our Lives

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

How things have changed!

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

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

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

5G

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

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

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

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

Artificial Intelligence

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

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

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

Needs of Those with Hearing Loss

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

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

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

LIDAR

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

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

Autonomous Vehicles

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

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

Tech for Seniors and Caregivers Abundant

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Future Looking Caregiver-Friendly

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

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

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

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

Data and Security Big Considerations

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

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

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

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

Innovation Focus

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

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

Stay tuned to learn more soon . . .

 

 

CES 2019 to Showcase Tech Impacts Throughout Everyday Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Trending in Our Everyday Lives

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

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

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

Healthcare

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

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

Even Smarter Homes

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

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

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

Digital Privacy and Security

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

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

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

Continuing Evolution of Technology

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

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

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

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

One Product to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

More to Come from CES 2019

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

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

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

We are CES Ready!

 

Eating Well While Growing Older – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

As we age, many older adults tend to change the way they eat. This change may be intentional for many and while for others it is done unknowingly.

Many will eat less thinking their bodies don’t need as much food because they aren’t as physically active as they once were.

This way of thinking may be true for overall number of calories but not for nutritional content.

Some older adults experience more trouble with chewing and swallowing foods when they eat, taste foods differently, don’t feel like preparing meals for one, feel lonesome during meal times, fear ‘healthier’ foods are too expensive, or overly restrict what they eat because they are trying to control a chronic disease.

One or all of these reasons may be influencing what your senior loved one is eating (or not eating) and impacting not only their health but, also unknowingly, their quality of life.

Caregivers can help by identifying potential gaps in their senior loved ones’ nutrition and then filling those gaps for their health.

Aging and Impaired Nutrition

A large percentage of older adults (those over 65) have multiple chronic diseases that can affect their nutritional status. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 80% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more.

A poor diet while aging can lead to frailty which results in becoming nutritionally compromised, making it harder for older adults to fight sickness or stress. Reduced muscle mass leading to impaired functional status and even malnutrition (undernutrition) can also occur.

A loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to falls. A senior falls every 11 seconds. Unfortunately, falls are the leading cause of fractures, head trauma, hospitalization and injury deaths for older adults, per the NCOA.

Cognitive impairment can worsen nutritional health because unintentional weight loss is common in those with dementia. Lower food intake, increased physical movement (pacing, etc.), reduced resting energy expenditure (metabolism), or a combination contribute to weight loss and impaired nutrition.

Getting enough healthy food, especially foods that include protein and essential nutrients, such as calcium and B vitamins, can make independence harder to maintain as our senior loved ones age.

Caregivers Can Help

Older adults may need help staying healthy, especially when their appetites begin to wane.

Family caregivers can help older adults stay on track, eat nutrient dense foods, shop for healthy foods on a budget, and facilitate putting meals on the table when they can’t always do it for themselves.

Here are ways family caregivers can help seniors eating well everyday from the National Institute of Aging and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (association of Registered Dietitians). Get them to…

  1. Eat a variety of foods from all food groups, don’t skip important foods
  2. Choose fruits and vegetables at each meal. Use fresh, frozen, or canned to stay in budget and make preparation as easy as possible.
  3. Eat a rainbow of foods to get the maximum amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.
  4. Include whole grains, protein, and dairy foods at each meal.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids, including water. As we age, our sense of thirst diminishes so we need to drink often. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages.
  6. Invite friends and families to share a meal to reduce loneliness and boredom. Most seniors will eat more when they have someone join them.
  7. Flavor food with herbs and spices instead of salt. The tastier a food is, the more they may eat.
  8. If dental problems are keeping your senior from eating a variety of foods, it is time for a dental checkup.
  9. If they aren’t eating enough, talk with the doctor about starting a nutritional/vitamin/mineral supplement.

Additional Resources

Caregivers can get creative when helping seniors eat a more nutritious diet.

Here are more ways you can help your senior avoid malnutrition that could keep them from aging in place successfully.

 

 




Robotic Assistants for Dementia Family Caregivers — Here Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dementia Decline Impacted by Robot Interaction

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

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

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

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

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

Change in Chronic Disease Needs Technology Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost Versus Benefit of Technology Interventions

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

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

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

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

UBTECH Lynx (at Amazon)

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

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

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

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

Technology to Defeat Dementia

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

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

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

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

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

Robotics Doesn’t Replace but Enhance Caregiving

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

This has never been the intention.

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

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

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

 

Improving Health Through Participation in Clinical Trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barriers To Clinical Trial Participation

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

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

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

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

Plain-Language Summaries Improve Understanding and Transparency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plain-Language Summaries Encourage Participation

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Answer Before Joining

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

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

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

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

Giving Holiday Magic to Seniors in Need, Now & Throughout the Year

The holiday season often leads to thoughts of what we can do to assist others in need, especially when we have what we need for our own senior loved ones.

The data from the last census tells us that one in six seniors lives below the federal poverty level. At 16%, the proportion of seniors living in poverty is also higher than the proportion of all Americans in poverty according the data.

The bottom line is that millions of seniors are suffering while trying to meet their basic needs.

Many of us are familiar with the work done by food banks, soup kitchens and those who provide holiday meals in shelters that are found across the country. But what about those seniors who are homebound, have no access to transportation to get to these sites, are disabled, or have no family to provide enhancements whether they are living at home or in a facility?

Who is thinking about helping them or giving them some treats of the season?

How about you? Do you have time or money to give to help seniors in your community during the holiday season but don’t know where to look?

Programs Helping Seniors in Need

There are many programs we have found that are reaching out to seniors who might be alone and in need of a little extra attention (and supplies) during the holidays.

There are seniors in your area who are in need of help and outreach projects that are serving them, but here are just a few examples of programs to which you can offer your support.

The Humanitarian Service Project –  Senior Citizen Project

This project serves seniors in DuPage County, Illinois who have limited access to transportation and few, if any, family ties. The Senior Citizen Project delivers to seniors over 100 pounds of nutritious food each month. Fresh produce includes 15 assorted fruits and vegetables, 7 different frozen meats, fresh bread, 6 bags of non-perishable food, and paper products including toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue.

Seniors also receive household products, personal care items, and special gifts from their Secret Pals. Volunteers deliver these items right to the homes of the needy seniors at no cost to them.

The wish list program invites the senior to request items like televisions, microwaves, couches, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners to make everyday living more comfortable, or medical assistive devices such as wheelchairs, etc.

DOROT’s Thanksgiving Meal Delivery

DOROT’s holiday meal delivery program “Brighten the day of a senior! Deliver a traditional Thanksgiving meal along with a gift to an older person and visit for about an hour.” Located in New York.

Volunteers needed to help elderly live with dignity at home, generation to generation caregiving.

Seniors have the option of coming to share a meal with the group at the center or have a meal delivered to their home for Thanksgiving.

Seasonal Home Maintenance at Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for Seniors (HOME)

In the city of Chicago you can help weatherize the house of a senior in need with the H.O.M.E. program. Help seniors prepare their home for the harsh winter to come. Training and materials are provided.

The goal of this program is to facilitate aging in place as long as possible and practical for each senior.

The Angel Tree Program

The Salvation Army’s highest profile Christmas effort was created in 1979 by Majors Charles and Shirley White. This program can be found throughout the country and serves not only children but seniors in need as well.

You select an angel from the tree for a senior which include their wish list. You fulfill the wish and return the gifts it to the site of the tree. Volunteers then deliver the gifts near the holidays.

Look for an angel tree in your community or contact your local Salvation Army for more details.

Catholic Charities

The programs sponsored by Catholic Charities in your area also sponsor families and seniors who are in need of some Christmas cheer. You can locate the agency nearest you to see if you can assist their program.

Holiday Dinner Baskets for Homebound Seniors

This program from So Others May Eat (SOME) says “Would you like to help a homebound senior this holiday season? You can provide holiday food baskets! Filled with all of the trimmings, these baskets will be delivered to low-income seniors.”

This group works in Washington DC. You make the food basket using the list they provide and drop off to them for distribution.

Meals on Wheels

Through Meals on Wheels, across the country meals are provided to homebound seniors throughout the year. Volunteers deliver meals and socialize with the seniors they serve.

At the holiday, usually special holiday meals and even treats are given through this program. Contact your local program to see how you can help using this locator.

Support Senior Programs in Your Community

The programs we discussed above are just a sampling of programs that have caught our eye over time. There are many, many more great ones providing benefit to seniors across the country.

We urge you to seek out and support programs in your own community. These programs are only going to see more demand for their services as the senior population grows and puts a greater strain on all the resources available to serve them.

As with many things, you might learn the most about what is in your community with a quick Google search. Of course, local government agencies and senior centers might also point you in the right direction, but you may get the most full picture from a web search. Keep in mind. some programs operate on a shoestring budget and may not have a web presence, but most today are at least on Facebook, if they don’t have standalone sites, finding being online is needed in many eyes to have credibility.

As with donating to any cause, you should check out senior programs before you lend your support. Visit them or ask around to ensure the program is legitimate and one you will feel good supporting.

Keep in mind, too, that money is not the only way you can support local programs. They may find any time you can give them even more valuable than money!

Holidays Aren’t the Only Time of Need

During the holidays, we want to share the spirit of the season with those in need of some help. However, it is nice to remember that most of the programs that help vulnerable seniors could use our help at other times during the year. Most food banks give meals every week, Meals on Wheels are delivered daily during the week, and aging service organizations have opportunities to volunteer in many ways.

If you have the time, you could share your talents (or treasure) with organizations near you that help our seniors.

Family caregivers are very busy people who don’t always have extra time for other ‘jobs’ and could often use help themselves. Still, if you have the resources and desire to help seniors you will be reminded that in giving to others we end up being the recipients of something special ourselves.

Happy Holidays to you and your senior loved one!

 

 




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.

 

 




 

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!

 

 




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.