Friday, 17 August 2018

GUEST POST - 6 Ways Technology Helps Family Caregivers


The wealth of online resources makes it possible for almost anyone to gather a great deal of information about medical problems and treatment on her own. Pew reports that just under 3 out of 4 caregivers conduct their own health research online and over half engage in health-related social activity online.

It’s clear that the transformative power of technology in health care extends beyond high-tech hospital settings to include everyday senior and hospice care. Read on to learn about 6 tech trends that help family caregivers support the health and quality of life of seniors and others under their supervision.

1.   Med Monitors

A number of digital tools, such as MedMinder and TabSafe, are designed to remind seniors and caregivers to take or administer prescription medication. And the same functionality is available on the go with apps for iPhone and iPad like MedCoach.

2.   Wireless Safety Nets

Another way to monitor a senior’s health and wellness status, while helping them lead active and independent lives, is via sensor-based home monitoring systems like Canary Care and TruSense. These and similar systems alert caregivers or emergency personnel when warning signs, such as long periods of inactivity by a senior at home, arise.

3.   (Virtual) Fellowship

Loneliness and social isolation are particularly acute risk factors for elderly folks given their greater likelihood of reduced mobility and loss of loved ones. In-person interactions are ideal, but when they are not possible, email and video correspondence can be helpful stopgaps. Indeed, encouraging research has shown that social media use is associated with reduced loneliness and improved mental and physical health outcomes.

4.   Picking up the Pace

Like anyone, seniors need regular exercise to reach their full potential for living capably and independently. Technology can help put them in motion and keep them active. Wearable fitness trackers help seniors and their caregivers mark progress toward wellness goals and document encouraging results.

5.   “Telehealth”

Thanks to the emerging tools of telemedicine, obtaining professional consultations no longer requires leaving the comfort and security of home. Senior and hospice patients can arrange virtual visits with physicians and other healthcare professionals. In discussion with U.S. News & World Report, Medical Director of Telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Dr. Andrew R. Watson emphasized telemedicine’s positive impact on health outcomes and patient engagement.

The benefits of telehealth tools for patients and healthcare providers include reduced costs, fewer hospital readmissions, improved diagnosis and treatments, and stronger relationships between doctors and patients, especially in rural areas.

6.    Brain Benefits

Finally, it turns out that healthy amounts of screen time don’t rot your brain. On the contrary, internet browsing and even video games, the brain decay boogeyman of yesteryear, increase elderly brain function and help reverse the bad mental effects of aging. The takeaway here is that, quite apart from the other benefits we’ve discussed, technology offers direct cognitive advantages to senior and hospice patients.

Digital tech is not the most critical line of defense against health setbacks for the elderly and hospice patients, let alone a cure-all. But as we have seen, it provides a wealth of resources supporting family caregivers in their efforts to promote the best possible outcomes for those in their capable hands.



Contributed by: Christian Golden, PhD
_____________________________________________

Christian Golden, PhD, writes about tips and trends in digital marketing and social media for TrustRadius. He is a philosopher by day who loves teaching and digging into the big questions. His extracurricular interests include making music, reading comics, watching (really old) movies, and being in the great outdoors. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

GUEST POST - Planning and Paying for Long-Term Care: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers


Regardless of age, preparing and planning for long-term care isn’t something most people think about. But, for a person over the age of 65, it’s an important conversation to have. There is a 52 percent chance that they will need long-term support and services. That means it is never too soon to start planning how you want to handle that situation—for yourself and for loved ones.

Planning for long-term care is one step, deciding how to pay for it is another. For seniors, preparing for this is crucial to enjoying your golden years with independence and dignity. For family members, planning for long-term care can help you understand your role as a caregiver. In 2013, unpaid caregivers — mostly comprised of family members — spent 37 billion hours providing long-term care. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but can often be stressful and physically draining.

“Being a kind, compassionate caregiver is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a senior loved one,” says June Duncan, co-founder of Rise Up for Caregivers and author of the upcoming book The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. While family caregivers play an essential role in our society, they often do so without much-needed support and guidance. June’s book fills that gap by offering a helping hand on everything from how to assess your loved one’s medical needs to how to work self-care into your busy days.

Self-care is just one aspect of planning for long-term care. Planning out the potential steps can be a huge benefit to seniors and their loved ones, even if they don’t wind up needing care at all. You can plan for long-term care by:
       Assessing the likelihood you or a loved one will require long-term care. There are a few reasons long-term care could be in your future. For example, if someone in your family suffered from hereditary illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, you may be at a higher risk. Be sure to plan for in-home care or pick out an assisted living facility to help care for your needs.
       Making lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of injury or onset of illness. Regular exercise, a good diet and consistent good sleep are three lifestyle choices that are critical for healthy seniors. From prolonging the onset of dementia to promoting healthy knees, hips and joints, all three impact your physical and mental health. Start walking, join a gym or sign up for yoga classes.
       Plan for future home modifications you need to make. Most seniors want to age in-place, meaning they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Planning for long-term care means planning for independence and safety. If the house is two-story, consider moving all essential rooms to the first floor. Install non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. These modifications will prevent accidents that could make long-term care a reality, as well as create a home environment that supports independent living.

Planning for long-term care also involves insight into the costs involved. Some ways to pay for long-term care include:
       Retirement options. If you can, consider postponing retirement and staying on at work for another year to boost up your savings. You can also take out an additional retirement policy specifically to cover potential health care issues.
       Purchasing long-term care insurance. Many insurance companies offer special long-term care insurance policies. Keep in mind— the younger and healthier you are when you purchase this type of insurance, the lower your premiums will be.
       Selling a life insurance policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care. This can give you cash in hand to cover the costs of an in-home caregiver, home modifications or medical equipment you need that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Planning for long-term care is not a simple conversation to have, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated if you start talking about it now. Make sure your family and friends know your wishes, so that, if the time comes, you’ll receive the care you want and deserve.
______________________

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.


Friday, 20 July 2018

GUEST POST - Senior Wellness and Loss: Coping With the Death of a Spouse


Couples who have been married for a long time find ways to cope with the idea that death will leave one of them bereaved and alone at some point. Some ignore the thought; others keep the grief and pain of such an event at arm’s length, seeing it as something that’s too far off to concern them. It’s a shock no matter when that day comes, regardless of how well prepared you might be. The sense of loss is so large and profound that it can be difficult to comprehend and appreciate. But as the magnitude of what’s happened sets in, the feeling of grief becomes  overwhelming. And it can take a long time before a grieving senior is able to come to grips with his or her loss. Some never quite get there.
Grief exacts an emotional and physical toll heavy enough to undermine a senior’s well-being and frame of mind if left unaddressed. It can produce a state of depression so deep that it affects the ability to carry out the simplest everyday tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing. It may feel as though there’s no point in carrying on with a life suddenly bereft of meaning. Once you reach this point, friends and family members play an important role in helping seniors work through their grief and achieve a sense of wellness.
Finding support
Your ability to resume your quality of life depends on how successfully you cope with your loss. If a year has come and gone and grief hasn’t dissipated, it’s time to seek the support of others, perhaps someone close to you or individuals who can relate to what you’re experiencing. Social interaction occupies your mind and prevents your loss from consuming you. There’s a therapeutic quality to sharing thoughts and feelings with other people. Seek out a support group with people who understand how difficult it is to get over the loneliness you’re feeling. Sometimes, just talking things through can help you acquire a new perspective that makes all the difference.

Day to day
Feeling lost and depressed makes it very hard to function from day to day. A bereaved person may neglect their appearance, hygiene, and everyday responsibilities that used to come easy. If you’re struggling, seek out a loved one who can help with paying bills, shopping for groceries, and seeing that your house is cleaned. Or you might want to hire someone who can take care of the essentials for a while. If things continue to worsen, consult your doctor about your grief and the problems it’s creating in your life.
Self-care
Grieving spouses often neglect their own health and well-being. Given the way you’re feeling, it may seem pointless to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and get exercise. But self-care is essential if you’re to find the strength to work through your grief and emerge a stronger person. Try to avoid eating alone. It can accentuate your loneliness, so seek out people to eat out with or invite over for a meal that you prepare together. It will give you something to do and someone to socialize with.
Losing a spouse to addiction
Grief can be complicated when you’ve lost a spouse to addiction. Feelings of anger toward your departed partner, guilt for not being able to help, and a deep-seated longing for the life you’ve known may hit all at once. Seek help so that you’re equipped to cope with the doubt that leaves you wondering what more you could have done.
Transition
The loss of a spouse produces a torrent of emotion and conflicting thoughts. How well you deal with the sorrow, anger, depression, guilt, and loneliness that follows has a lot to do with how successfully you make the transition to a new life. Remember that taking care of yourself and seeking help when you need it can give you the strength to carry on.
____________________________
Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net

Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

GUEST POST - Tips for Getting Better Sleep as you Age

Sleep is a necessary part of maintaining your health even for seniors, who often sleep only a few hours a night. Experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night for people over the age of 64, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Senior Care Corner agrees, writing that some of the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep as you age include:

      Possibly lowering risk of mental decline
      Improved cognitive abilities
      Better memory and concentration

Unfortunately, nearly one-third of seniors report sleeping less than seven hours per night. If this is you, what can you do get more sleep?

Finding the Right Mattress

The first step to a good night’s sleep is finding the right mattress for your needs, and that’s why it’s a good idea to try the mattress first. If you are looking to save money by purchasing a mattress online, CNET recommends you find a brand with a long history that comes with a money-back guarantee. Some places will let you try a mattress in your home for 30, 60, or even 120 days.

You should make sure your mattress addresses any problems you have. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may want to read this post from Spine Health. If you get too hot when you sleep, you might want to investigate buying a “cool” mattress, like these options from Sleep Advisor.

Preparing for Sleep

Adults, like kids, should have a nighttime routine that helps them wind down. Reading is one option, but don’t use an electronic device before bed. It emits light that can disturb your sleep patterns unless you use a blue light blocker found on many tablets or phones. Learn more about blue light at The Sleep Doctor.

You should also make sure that your room is set up to promote adequate sleep. Try room-darkening blinds if you have a bright light source outside your bedroom. Make sure your room is the right temperature and get a good pillow that supports your neck. You might also want to try a white noise machine if you wake up frequently.

How Diet and Exercise Impact Sleep

Diet and exercise can improve your sleep habits as well:

      Regular exercise and activity work your body, but it also helps you feel tired at night and allows you to sleep more soundly.
      Caffeine and spicy foods can keep you up, but research suggests that other foods, such as milk products, fish, fruit, and vegetables, may promote sleep. More research needs to be done to confirm this, but you may want to consider these healthy choices for your dinner.
      Halting liquids after 7:00 pm may reduce the problem of frequent nighttime bathroom visits. However, if this is a persistent problem, talk to your doctor to ensure there isn’t a medical issue.

Napping Helps Cognition

Another way to get adequate sleep is napping. Research indicates several benefits of napping, including better focus and improvement in mood and performance. However, naps should not be longer than 30 minutes; the longer the nap, the higher the risk of falling into a deep sleep, making it very hard for you to wake up. On the other hand, naps of at least 10 to 15 minutes have been shown to improve alertness and cognition.

When Sleep Becomes a Struggle

If you’ve been struggling to get or stay asleep for several months, it’s likely time to see your doctor for help. Prolonged reduced sleep can impair your brain functioning as well as your physical health. Learn more about possible sleep disorders from Harvard Medical’s Healthy Sleep website.

If you are having sleep issues, try these recommendations or consult with your physician for more help.

____________________________________
Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net


Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Celebrating Seniors

Every June is Seniors Month in Ontario. June 2018 is the 34th year we celebrate seniors and their contributions to our province and our lives through a month of activities and events geared to highlight and involve seniors and their families. Every year the government announces a theme and this year is no different. "Now's the time to start something new," highlights how aging does not prevent any of us from leading fulfilling lives. Seniors continue to contribute to our community and we can all benefit from their wisdom, friendship, and experience. "  (from www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario). 

If you have a senior in your life, encourage them to attend or participate in activities in their community. If that is not possible, or in addition, have your own private celebration with them. While celebrating our senior loved ones is something we should do every day, its nice to have a reminder every now and then and an excuse to do something special for them. 

If you have someone in your life that you wish to honor in some way, have a look at the site 
www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario for links to information on the award nomination process for the Ontario Senior Achievement Award and the Ontario Senior of the Year Award. There is also information on that website about how you can request congratulatory messages for a milestone occasion from the Queen, Lieutenant Governor, PM of Canada and Premier of Ontario.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Technology and Seniors

Is technology isolating seniors? Is the very thing that makes the lives easier for younger people actually making life increasingly difficult for the older generation? I read an article today indicating that with advances in technology, and a need for us to be 'connected' to do things like banking and accessing other types of services, seniors who are not tech-savvy are becoming isolated. If you start paying attenition to things around us that we need and use technology for, it does become apparent that those who are not willing or able to learn how to use it, can have a harder time functioning in today's world.
We get calls all the time from seniors who do not have access to a computer or know how to use one. Even seniors who do have computers may be unable to do anything beyond email and Facebook. Navigating websites are beyond challenging for some people and many don't want to put sensitive banking or credit card information into a website. Many scams target seniors through email and it makes many wary of the internet and computers and all that goes with it.
That being said, there are wonderful advances that can make life easier for seniors, keeping them safe in their home and connected to family that live far away and can't visit regularly. Unfortunately, many are afraid or think that they are too old to learn something new.
The solution may be as simple as offering opportunities to learn about technology in venues that seniors frequent. Community Centres, libraries and Senior's Centres are all perfect locations to offer up introductory courses. Encouraging seniors to take simple courses and perhaps showing them how you can do things easily on a laptop or tablet, might make all the differnce to them. For those who run seniors venues, consider offering courses on using email, using Facebook and Skype, using banking websites and other targeted technology /computer related topics. As we move towards more 'age-friendly' communities and initiatives, introducing seniors to technology and helping them learn the benefits should be one of the priorities under consideration.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

GUEST POST - Ways to Provide Long-Distance Senior Care


Whether you’ve moved or your parents have relocated to a retirement or nursing home, caring for them from afar provides a means of staying connected. There are some ways to make the best of your circumstances and ensure that your loved ones are well-taken care of, even if you live hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Stay In Touch

No matter how old you get, you’ll always be a child in your parent’s eyes. They’ve raised you, and though you are living on your own, it's important to give back by taking the time to communicate with them as often as you can. According to Psychology Today, estrangement is more common than we may think. As many as 7 percent of children are estranged from their mothers, while 27 percent don’t communicate with their fathers. Approximately 60 percent of the estranged parents and children wish to procure a relationship with their relatives, according to The Spruce.

Regardless of the type of relationship you have, communication is key. Thanks to modern technology, we can easily talk on the phone, on Skype, via instant message or through social media. Apps such as AARP Caregiving allow you to stay in touch and keep track of health records and other services (like doctor’s visits) all in one easy place so you can juggle important tasks all at once. Other modes of communication, such as the lost art of letter writing, shows a more intimate means of displaying affection for your loved ones. Remember, even if your loved ones are living in a senior community, they want to hear from you.

Seek Help From Others

You may have your own family to look after while you also take long-distance care of an elderly relative, which makes it difficult to do it all alone. Even if they receive care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, enlist the help of friends, family and even healthcare providers to ease some of the burden.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that your parent has an adequate ride to and from their residence. Even if they receive assistance from their care facility with errands like picking up medication and groceries, your loved one should have a way to leave for social outings. There are many options available, such as public transportation services, Lyft/Uber and even senior shuttles, that will provide transportation at a discount so your loved one will be able to maintain his or her independence. 

Nutrition and Fitness

If your loved one resides in a senior living community, they should have plenty of options for eating healthful meals and getting physical activity. You can further ensure their overall wellness by arming them with healthy-living tools from afar. For example, you can send your mother who is reluctant to attend her water aerobics classes, seeds, soil, flower pots, and a spade so she can burn some calories through gardening. If your father’s freezer is loaded with sodium-filled TV dinners, sign him up for a meal or grocery delivery service to encourage him to eat and if possible, cook healthy (and delicious) meals.

Ensuring that your loved one’s life remains as fulfilling as possible even when you aren’t physically there can be tricky. It’s important to consider your time and be open to the help of others so that your elderly parent remains as happy and healthy as possible.

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.